Poll: Who is the most prophetic?


We all know that President Thomas S. Monson will become the new President of the High Priesthood now that President Gordon B. Hinckley has passed on to the other side. The apostles will all unanimously vote for him and then the body of the LDS will all unanimously raise their hands to sustain that vote. If there are any dissenters, it will not be among the apostles, but among the body and it will be a small minority, nowhere near the 51% needed to stop the appointment. So, Monson is going to have this office. This is a no-brainer.

What I wonder, though, is who the average LDS would really choose if they could choose the “most prophetic person” for this position. By most prophetic, I mean the person most filled with the spirit of prophecy and revelation.

So, first, some background facts, and then the poll.

  • The 12 apostles must unanimously choose the same person to fill the office of President of the High Priesthood. If there is one dissenting vote, the appointment does not go through. (See D&C 107: 25-29 below.)
  • They may choose any male church member to fill that office. They need not choose the senior apostle. In fact, they need not choose an apostle, at all. Any male member of the church can be chosen, regardless of whether he has the priesthood or not. If he doesn’t have the priesthood, or holds the priesthood of Aaron, he can have the Melchizedek priesthood conferred upon him and qualify for the office. If he has the priesthood, but is an ordained elder, seventy or patriarch, he can be ordained a high priest and qualify for the office. Even a non-member can be selected, baptized, have the priesthood conferred upon him and then be ordained a high priest to qualify for the office, so in theory (if not in practice) the entire male population of the world is a potential candidate for this (or any other priesthood) office.
  • The only ones who are barred from this office are women.
  • Although the quorum of the twelve vote for the new President of the High Priesthood, the majority of the body of the saints (51%) must sustain the calling by vote, using the law of common consent. If 51% or more raise their hands in approval, the appointment goes through. If, however, 51% or more raise their hands in disapproval, the appointment does not go through and the apostles need to choose another man for the office, which then requires another sustaining vote from the members.
  • Traditionally, the apostles always choose the senior apostle of Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the President of the Quorum) and then the members all vote unanimously to sustain that vote. No one ever breaks from this tradition, ever.

Now for the poll. Of all the people you know, who would make the most prophetic President of the High Priesthood? Again, I’m defining most prophetic as “most filled with the spirit of prophecy and revelation.” You can name anyone you want, whether an apostle, seventy, patriarch, elder, bishop, priest, teacher, deacon, un-ordained male or even a non-member who, in your opinion, is filled with the Spirit, as all of these people are potential candidates.

I am curious as to whether the body of members, if they could vote for the most prophetic person, would inevitably pick President Monson, or if they would choose someone else. To help, I will list the 14 apostles here, in case the person you would choose is among them, but you can list anyone you want.

Lastly, keep in mind that you should not give your opinion as to whom you think the Lord would pick, but only as to whom you personally consider the “most prophetic” person.

Thomas S. Monson

Henry B. Eyring

Boyd K. Packer

L. Tom Perry

Russell M. Nelson

Dallin H. Oaks

M. Russell Ballard

Joseph B. Wirthlin

Richard G. Scott

Robert D. Hales

Jeffrey R. Holland

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

David A. Bednar

Quentin L. Cook

The Seventy are also called to preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling. And they form a quorum, equal in authority to that of the Twelve special witnesses or Apostles just named. And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other—a majority may form a quorum when circumstances render it impossible to be otherwise—unless this is the case, their decisions are not entitled to the same blessings which the decisions of a quorum of three presidents were anciently, who were ordained after the order of Melchizedek, and were righteous and holy men. (D&C 107: 25-29, emphasis mine.)

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The law governing confession


Confession and repentance are linked. Talking to the elders of the church (see D&C 58: 1), the Lord said, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” (D&C 58: 42-43.)

This means that unless a man confesses his sin, he hasn’t truly repented of it, even if he forsook (stopped doing) the sin. The sin must be confessed before repentance is complete and before it is blotted out and forgotten by the Lord. This brings us to the all important question:

To whom are we to confess?

There are three classes of people to whom we are to confess, depending on the circumstances. There is the Offended Party, the offended party and also the non-offended party.

Confession to the Offended Party (God)

The first class is God himself.

If any shall offend in secret, he or she shall be rebuked in secret, that he or she may have opportunity to confess in secret to him or her whom he or she has offended, and to God, that the church may not speak reproachfully of him or her. (D&C 42: 92)

But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord. (D&C 59: 12)

Nevertheless, he has sinned; but verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, forgive sins unto those who confess their sins before me and ask forgiveness, who have not sinned unto death. (D&C 64: 7)

All sins offend God and thus we are required to confess all sins to him in prayer. Sometimes, only God is the Offended Party, no other person being involved in the sin. Such “private sins” require only confession to God in order to obtain forgiveness.

Confession to the offended party (man)

Other sins, however, offend or hurt or cause damage to other people and we must also confess these sins to these people in order to obtain forgiveness from the Lord.

But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord. (D&C 59: 12)

If any shall offend in secret, he or she shall be rebuked in secret, that he or she may have opportunity to confess in secret to him or her whom he or she has offended, and to God, that the church may not speak reproachfully of him or her. (D&C 42: 92)

Reconciliation

If a man has sinned only against God and repents (confesses to God and forsakes the sin), God almost always forgives him.

There are those among you who have sinned; but verily I say, for this once, for mine own glory, and for the salvation of souls, I have forgiven you your sins. I will be merciful unto you, for I have given unto you the kingdom. And the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom shall not be taken from my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., through the means I have appointed, while he liveth, inasmuch as he obeyeth mine ordinances. There are those who have sought occasion against him without cause; nevertheless, he has sinned; but verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, forgive sins unto those who confess their sins before me and ask forgiveness, who have not sinned unto death. (D&C 64: 3-7)

If a man has sinned against another man and repents (confesses to God and to the offended man and forsakes the sin), God almost always forgives him but the offended man is required to always forgive him.

I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. (D&C 64: 10)

And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled. (D&C 42: 88 )

For all the non-death sins (see D&C 64: 7), the sinner becomes reconciled to God and to the offended party when confession to both parties takes place.

Confession to be done privately (in secret)

Whether confessing to God in private, personal prayer or confessing to an offended mortal party, all confessions are to be done in secret (privately.) Only the repentant sinner and the offended parties are to hear the confession.

And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled. (D&C 42: 88 )

If any shall offend in secret, he or she shall be rebuked in secret, that he or she may have opportunity to confess in secret to him or her whom he or she has offended, and to God, that the church may not speak reproachfully of him or her. (D&C 42: 92)

Even when confession takes place among un-offended parties (ecclesiastical authorities, which I’ll address in a moment), it is to be done privately, not publicly.

And if he or she confess not thou shalt deliver him or her up unto the church, not to the members, but to the elders. And it shall be done in a meeting, and that not before the world. (D&C 42: 89)

Not forgiving confessed sin brings condemnation

The offended party is required to forgive the sinner who confesses his sin and asks forgiveness, no matter how many times this occurs.

And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled. (D&C 42: 88 )

If reconciliation does not occur after a genuine confession, the offending party commits sin and requires repentance (confessing the sin to the unforgiven sinner.) This law applies equally whether the unforgiven sinner is LDS

My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened. Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds. (D&C 64: 8-11)

or whether he is non-LDS

And again, verily I say unto you, if after thine enemy has come upon thee the first time, he repent and come unto thee praying thy forgiveness, thou shalt forgive him, and shalt hold it no more as a testimony against thine enemy—and so on unto the second and third time; and as oft as thine enemy repenteth of the trespass wherewith he has trespassed against thee, thou shalt forgive him, until seventy times seven. (D&C 98: 39-40)

As long as an offended party remains unrepentant of his unwillingness to forgive the repentant offender, his sins remain unforgiven by the Lord.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, my servants, that inasmuch as you have forgiven one another your trespasses, even so I, the Lord, forgive you. (D&C 82: 1)

Confession to un-offended parties (ecclesiastical authorities)

Only when a sinner refuses to repent, offering no confession of guilt to the party offended, are the ecclesiastical authorities to be informed of the sin.

And him that repenteth not of his sins, and confesseth them not, ye shall bring before the church, and do with him as the scripture saith unto you, either by commandment or by revelation. And this ye shall do that God may be glorified—not because ye forgive not, having not compassion, but that ye may be justified in the eyes of the law, that ye may not offend him who is your lawgiver—verily I say, for this cause ye shall do these things. (D&C 64: 12-14)

And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled. And if he or she confess not thou shalt deliver him or her up unto the church, not to the members, but to the elders. And it shall be done in a meeting, and that not before the world. (D&C 42: 88-89)

The purpose of reporting is two-fold: 1) to help the sinner repent of the sin by confessing to the offended parties (D&C 42: 92) and 2) to keep the church free from unrepentant sinners.

And him that repenteth not of his sins, and confesseth them not, ye shall bring before the church, and do with him as the scripture saith unto you, either by commandment or by revelation. And this ye shall do that God may be glorified—not because ye forgive not, having not compassion, but that ye may be justified in the eyes of the law, that ye may not offend him who is your lawgiver—verily I say, for this cause ye shall do these things. (D&C 64: 12-14)

As the church is composed of repentant sinners (justified people), in order for it to remain justified the sinners that compose it must remain repentant. If the church ever becomes composed of unrepentant sinners (unjustified people), the church itself becomes unjustified.

A process, then, of cleaning house has been set up by the Lord. The unrepentant sinners are brought to the ecclesiastical authorities and if they repent by confessing and forsaking their sins, no judgment is pronounced upon them. If, however, they refuse to repent, they are cast out of the church (excommunicated), thereby keeping the church justified.

The law of witnesses

Although a man may be accused by someone of committing an unrepentant sin and may be reported to his ecclesiastical authority, he is always innocent until proven guilty. He need not respond to the accusations. Even if a bishop asks him point blank, “Did you or did you not commit such and such a sin?” he is under no obligation to respond to such questioning, whether he be innocent or guilty.

The onus is on the testimonies of the two or more witnesses. And these must be bona fide witnesses, having personal knowledge that a) he committed the sin and b) he did not repent of it by appropriate confession to the offended parties and by forsaking it. Hearsay testimony does not constitute a witness.

The ecclesiastical authority obtains jurisdiction as a judge only when there are two or more witnesses. Since the ecclesiastical authority is not an offended party and does not have personal knowledge of the unrepentant sins in question, he must rely upon at least two LDS witnesses who are shown to be trustworthy, otherwise no judgment can happen.

And it came to pass that Alma did not know concerning them; but there were many witnesses against them; yea, the people stood and testified of their iniquity in abundance. (Mosiah 26: 9)

The only reason LDS should be reported to the ecclesiastical authority is because they do not repent. Merely having knowledge of a sin is not enough. A witness must have knowledge that the sin has not been confessed to the offending parties and forsaken.

And he said unto the king: Behold, here are many whom we have brought before thee, who are accused of their brethren; yea, and they have been taken in divers iniquities. And they do not repent of their iniquities; therefore we have brought them before thee, that thou mayest judge them according to their crimes. (Mosiah 26: 11)

One witness is insufficient to convict (or condemn) because it is merely one man’s word against another’s. But two or more LDS witnesses empower a bishop or other ecclesiastical authority to pass judgment.

Confession to a bishop without witnesses or inquiry is non-scriptural

There isn’t a single passage of scripture that states or even hints that to receive forgiveness a LDS must seek out his bishop and confess to him a sin he has committed if there are no witnesses testifying of his impenitence or if there are no inquiries regarding his spiritual state. Forgiveness of sin is granted by the Lord alone and hinges upon a person’s repentance (confession to the offended parties and forsaking of the sin) and whether the sin is a “sin unto death.”

Confession during trials

After a trial is set up and two witnesses testify and condemn the man, if he confesses, the judgment must be stayed. He is to be forgiven and all parties reconciled. This is the law.

Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also. Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me. And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor’s trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation. • • • And whosoever repented of their sins and did confess them, them he did number among the people of the church; (Mosiah 26: 29-31, 35)

Only when he still refuses to confess, even in the face of witnesses, is his name to be blotted out.

Now I say unto you, Go; and whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people; and this shall be observed from this time forward. • • • And those that would not confess their sins and repent of their iniquity, the same were not numbered among the people of the church, and their names were blotted out. (Mosiah 26: 32, 36)

The special sin of adultery

Adultery, like other sins, requires confession to God and to the offended parties, in order to be forgiven. It does not require automatic confession to the ecclesiastical authority.

Only in cases of unrepentant adultery, where witnesses give irrefutable evidence of both the sin and the unrepentant state of the sinner, is the case to be brought to the ecclesiastical authority for judgment. This is the first time spoken in the scriptures. But if the adulterer or adulteress confesses, he or she is to be forgiven.

Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also. Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me. And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor’s trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation. • • • And whosoever repented of their sins and did confess them, them he did number among the people of the church; (Mosiah 26: 29-31, 35)

But he that has committed adultery and repents with all his heart, and forsaketh it, and doeth it no more, thou shalt forgive; (D&C 42: 25)

However, if the man or woman is again taken in adultery, with witnesses testifying of both the sin and the unrepentant nature (lack of confession) and is brought to his or her ecclesiastical authority for judgment a second time, regardless of the second time confession, he or she is to be cast out.

But he that has committed adultery and repents with all his heart, and forsaketh it, and doeth it no more, thou shalt forgive; but if he doeth it again, he shall not be forgiven, but shall be cast out. (D&C 42: 25-26)

This is the two strikes and you’re out rule of adultery. It does not apply to those who commit adultery and then confess to the offended parties, never being brought by witnesses to trial. The rule applies only to adulterers and adulteresses who are dragged by witnesses to the ecclesiastical authority to be judged for their unrepentant nature and lack of confession TWICE. The first time, if they then confess, they are forgiven, but the second time, even if they confess, they are to be cast out.

When inquiries are made

Inquiries are made when people are desirous to be baptized, as to whether they have committed and repented of their sins. This is entirely scriptural.

Behold, verily I say unto you, that whatever persons among you, having put away their companions for the cause of fornication, or in other words, if they shall testify before you in all lowliness of heart that this is the case, ye shall not cast them out from among you; but if ye shall find that any persons have left their companions for the sake of adultery, and they themselves are the offenders, and their companions are living, they shall be cast out from among you. And again, I say unto you, that ye shall be watchful and careful, with all inquiry, that ye receive none such among you if they are married; and if they are not married, they shall repent of all their sins or ye shall not receive them. (D&C 42: 74-77)

Inquiries are also made for temple recommends and priesthood ordination. A simple “yes” or “no” to each question is a sufficient response. No elaboration is required.

Silence is also your right, should you decide to use it. Silence does not indicate that you are guilty, only of your unwillingness to answer the question. Both Alma and Amulek employed such a tactic (see Alma 14: 17) as well as the Lord himself, when he was questioned by the ecclesiastical authorities of the church of his time (see Matthew 26: 62-63; Mark 15: 3; etc.)

As all accused are innocent until proven guilty and the burden of proof is upon the witnesses and judge, no one in the church has to prove his or her innocence. So, when faced with false accusations, it is within the right of every LDS to shut their mouths and remain silent.

Witch hunts: the danger of non-scriptural confessions

Witch hunts can and do happen in this day and age, even in the church. People in authority are naturally disposed to abuse it.

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. (D&C 121: 39)

Because of this, the jurisdiction of ecclesiastical authorities was designed by the Lord to be established by two or more witnesses. If a bishop, a police officer or a Child Protection Services agent is anonymously tipped off that you are doing something sinful or illegal, the natural tendency is to view you with suspicion and to engage in a witch hunt and inquiry to get you to blab and reveal some dirt that can and will be used against you. Such people will use the garb of authority to intrude on your life and invade your privacy. This particular brand of tyranny is especially bad when ecclesiastical authorities engage in this practice because they are using their priesthood illegitimately.

The modern trend of ecclesiastical authorities is to obtain jurisdiction over members through voluntary confession of sins. The members are taught by their leaders that certain sins are bad enough to warrant a talk and perhaps discipline from church leaders and cannot be forgiven by the Lord unless the sins are first voluntarily confessed to the appropriate ecclesiastical authority.

It is understandable why leaders follow this practice. Obtaining witnesses is a hard, often futile process. Nevertheless, it is also the only scriptural way to obtain the jurisdiction to judge a member’s spiritual standing in the church. When the law of witnesses is circumvented, the ecclesiastical authorities set themselves up as both witness, judge, jury and executioner, as the sinner’s confession to them is thought to both establish jurisdiction and to convict (condemn.) This sets up a conflict of interest (the loss of impartiality) and puts an enormous amount of power in the hands of one man, power that was never meant to be there. It also conflicts with established scriptural order, as once someone confesses to a sin and shows remorse, they are to be forgiven, and thus no discipline could or should ever take place.

By obeying the proper protocols of repentance and confession and exercising one’s right to silence, as explained in the Lord’s scripture, such tyranny is nipped in the bud and all attempts at usurpation of priesthood authority will be quashed.

Previous Repentance article: Are we commanded to confess to ecclesiastical authorities without witnesses?

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What did Jesus Christ look like?


For most people, the answer is, “No one knows.” Such an answer seems acceptable as there were no known portraits made of him in his lifetime and the photograph wasn’t invented, yet. Even for religious people, unless they’ve had a vision of Jesus (which does happen from time to time), most religionists just don’t know. Surely we’ll just have to wait until the Second Coming or Judgment day to find out, right?

Maybe not. Maybe we already have the image of Jesus Christ.

what4anarchy recently brought me a DVD entitled, The Fabric of Time. It was a documentary that presented the results of all the scientific studies done on the Shroud of Turin, a burial cloth that contains an image of a crucified man in the fibers of the cloth itself. No one knows how the image was created; it is not a painting. Despite intense scientific examination, scientists are still baffled. However, we do know the following:

  • It is not a painting
  • It is of an estimated 5′ 11″-6′ 2″ semitic man in his thirties, who weighed approximately 170 pounds
  • The man was crucified
  • The man was scourged in a manner exactly corresponding to Roman techniques
  • The man had long hair and a beard, part of which appears “plucked out”
  • There are head wounds consistent with the damage inflicted by a crown of thorns
  • There is a right side wound consistent with a spear thrust
  • Scrapes on the knees and shoulders are apparent
  • Bruises on the face are apparent
  • The wrists had wounds that are consistent with Roman crucifixion, i.e. as if nails had pierced them
  • The thumbs curled under, consistent with a wound inflicted by nail insertion at the wrists
  • Two coins were placed over the eyes, one on each eye and from their markings they can be traced to Jerusalem, being struck in 29 AD
  • The coins were of equal value to the widow’s mites
  • A plaque was placed over the neck in burial with four Hebrew letters written on it, which together mean, “Abba” or Father.
  • Images of flowers were also found on the cloth
  • The flowers were determined to be those found only in the Jerusalem area, only blooming during March and April, the time around the death of Christ
  • The cloth (the Shroud of Turin) is fourteen feet long, half covering the bottom of the body and the other half covering the top of the body
  • The image was transferred to both top and bottom parts of the cloth, so that half of the cloth shows the anterior of the body and the other half of the cloth shows the posterior
  • Both anterior and posterior images of the crucified man are perfect, meaning the image was impressed upon the cloth while the body was suspended in mid-air and while the cloth was pulled perfectly taut
  • 2-d photographic images taken of the cloth have recently been processed and converted into 3-d images, allowing the image of the man to be viewed in 3 dimensions
  • Testing is undergoing to determine whether the fibers of the cloth itself are actually holograms, which, if this proves true, will allow complete reconstruction of the entire image (parts of which were lost due to fire damage in the Middle Ages)
  • The few dissenting scientific opinions (concerning paint particles and Carbon-14 dating) have been scientifically disputed in peer-review journals, for very good reason
  • I’m still working my way through all the bonus features, but I could have sworn that expert, scientific testimony also stated that the body had no broken bones

All in all, the evidence is overwhelming that the Shroud of Turin contains an actual image of the full body and face of Jesus Christ, front and back, processed in some yet unknown way. The mystery of the anomalies of the cloth—for example, the apparent position of the body when the image was impressed upon the cloth (hovering or levitating over the stone slab, instead of resting upon it)—leads the more religious of the scientists to theorize that this image may have been created at the moment of Christ’s resurrection.

I invite other LDS to look into this for themselves. If you haven’t yet seen Jesus in vision, this may be the opportunity to do so. In addition to the above DVD documentary, you may want to visit The Shroud of Turin web site, which also contains the latest research.

Previous Jesus Christ article: How the atonement of Jesus Christ solves the “victim” problem

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Are we commanded to confess to ecclesiastical authorities without witnesses?


This is probably going to stir the pot a bit, but I want to bring it up anyway.

Back in November ’07, I came across a blog article called, “Which Sins Do You Confess To The Bishop?” Most of the comments followed the presupposition that there were certain sins that members were required to confess to their bishop on their own, in order to obtain forgiveness from the Lord. My comments (which you can read on that page, beginning with comment #33) were based upon a reading of the scripture (D&C 42) that showed no concrete command to the church to confess to their ecclesiastical authorities if no witnesses were testifying against them (or if no inquiry was made.)

The general rule, as I read it, is to confess to the person who has been offended, and to God, but in cases of denial and impenitence, witnesses could bring a sinner to the ecclesiastical authority and testify of his or her sin and unrepentant state, thus requiring him or her to confess and repent in order to avoid a judgment by the ecclesiastical authority. This keeps the church clean of unrepentant sinners.

There is only so much that can be said in a comments section and I wrote my understanding about as briefly as I could. In postings back and forth, I finally decided that I would take up D&C 42 and fully analyze it, expounding it according to my understanding. I have, since then, read and re-read it, but I have yet to begin writing my analysis and exposition.

I expect most LDS to think I am wrong in my estimation of this scripture. I expect that even what4anarchy may disagree with me. We have been taught from the time we are baptized and even before (for those who were brought up in the church) that some sins must be confessed to the bishop, even if there are no witnesses or inquiries made. But that does not mean that such teaching is entirely scriptural.

The purpose of this post is to invite discussion from visitors. Open your scriptures and show me, if you wish, where it is written that we must confess our sins to the ecclesiastical authorities when there are no witnesses or when there are no inquiries made. Or, put another way, is there anywhere in the scriptures that states that in order to receive forgiveness of sins, we must confess to our ecclesiastical authorities in cases in which there are not two or more persons witnessing against us?

This is not to argue with others over points of doctrine, but to view the scriptural basis other LDS use for voluntary, “witness-less” and “inquiry-less” confessions to bishops. By this I mean that an individual commits a sin and feels it is necessary to confess to his bishop in order to receive forgiveness from the Lord. I will post a follow-up article explaining what I understand D&C 42 to say in this regard.

Next Repentance article: The law governing confession

Previous Repentance article: Daily repentance

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How the atonement of Jesus Christ solves the “victim” problem


After I wrote The Compassionate Empathy Model of the Atonement, I started surfing around looking for other atonement theories that I hadn’t heard of yet and I came across a Christian blog article that reviewed a book on the atonement and where the penal-substitution theory fit into it. What got me really thinking were the three direct quotes from the book that the reviewer posted, especially the one about penal-substitution being a useful story to tell victims, people who have been wronged by others who have never received justice in mortality.

I thought, why would penal substitution theory be useful for victims? Here’s a sin scenario I dreamed up to test the penal-substitution theory:

Let’s say Harry raped Sarah and Sarah was too embarrassed to report him. Then their lives split up, Harry moving away to another city and Sarah staying put. But one day Sarah gets into a car accident and dies. Harry, though, finds Christ and fully repents of all his sins, even looking up Sarah to apologize and make whatever restitution he can. Unfortunately, Sarah is already dead and Harry learns that from the time of the rape to her death, Sarah lived with the emotional trauma of that occurrence and her life was really messed up.

Now, fast-forward to the day of judgment. Harry is there and so is Sarah. Harry is a fully repentant man and is destined to enter into the rest of his Lord. While he is going over his life, the incident with Sarah comes up and Sarah is called forth. Naturally, Sarah is still upset over what Harry did to her and demands that justice be exacted from Harry. “I don’t care about the good that he did later in life,” she says. “Look at the gross injustice this man did to me!”

Now, justice must be served, but how can you exact eye-for-an-eye justice from resurrected Harry? Can he go back into mortality and be raped just like Sarah was and live the guilt and emotional pain she experienced until the end of her life and even beyond? Eye-for-an-eye justice doesn’t work in this case. Besides, Harry is fully repentant and sorry for his actions and has received the Holy Ghost into his life and is a saint, so he must escape all punishments, including the specific punishment for this sin: the second death.

Supposedly, penal-substitution works because Sarah is then told that Jesus suffered in the place of Harry and has received the penalty that Harry would have received. Susan though, doesn’t call this justice, but a travesty. She doesn’t want Jesus, an innocent, to suffer, she wants Harry, the guilty party, to get his just deserts. She still demands that justice be served. She demands that Harry be denied entrance into the rest of his Lord.

Now, let’s assume that penal-substitution is a myth (which it is) and that the atonement works on the principle of compassionate empathy.

Harry is still on trial, or being judged, and this unfortunate incident of his life comes up for inspection, but he is repentant. Sarah is called to come forth because all accusers must have their accusations satisfied and their demands of justice must be met. Sarah demands justice and is told that Jesus has atoned for Harry’s sins. She doesn’t care and demands that justice be exacted from Harry, meaning that he receive the second death.

Jesus then says, “Let me show you what I suffered for Harry’s sake, and for yours,” and shows his atonement to Sarah, she perceiving it by the power of the Spirit. Sarah is instantly overcome by the infinite suffering she witnesses and is filled with compassion towards Jesus, empathizing with him. He then says, “You have seen my suffering. Spare Harry, who has repented of his sins and followed me and whom I have forgiven all his trespasses. Do you still demand that justice be served upon him?” Sarah weakly answers, “No, my Lord. It is enough. Let the suffering cease.”

What just happened? Sarah has forgiven Harry. The atonement of Jesus Christ is not penal-substitution; it is a way in which accusers stop making accusations. It is a way for people to forgive one another their trespasses. (Our weekly ritual of partaking of the sacrament while remembering the atonement of Christ comes to mind, constantly reminding us of the one thing that has the power to completely change our hearts.)

Everyone has the right to press charges, but everyone also has the right to drop the charges. When we are in the offended state, what we most want is justice and we demand it emphatically. But there are other states of human existence, including the state of compassion. The atonement gets us into that state of compassion where we no longer make any demands of justice, but we drop all charges, allowing forgiveness to manifest itself.

As a parent with multiple children, I know the number of offenses that can accumulate when children are left unsupervised for any length of time. If they haven’t killed each other by the time their parents enter their presence again, they utilize every moment to accuse the others of offenses and wrongdoing. It is unrealistic to think that the day of final judgment will be otherwise.

We are children of Father in heaven living here on Earth, unsupervised. Left to our own devices, the list of offenses throughout our lives will inevitably be long. In the day of judgment, we will have a perfect recollection of everything that has occurred in our lives, including all the offenses we have received at the hands of others. For all those claimed by Christ, something must be done about the accusations and demands of justice which will be made about their (forgiven) sinful acts. Undoubtedly, there will be many accusers. The atonement is the only thing that can get the penitent off the hook. It is the only thing that will cause the accusers to drop all the charges.

For the impenitent, though, Jesus doesn’t own them and delivers them to the Judge and the accusers, with no showing of the atonement and no empathy or compassion or forgiveness expressed. These poor souls must suffer the penalty and appease the demands of justice themselves, which require that they be expelled into outer darkness.

Thus, the victims of penitent sinners cease their demands for justice through the witnessing of Christ’s atonement and his plea for mercy, whereas the victims of impenitent sinners have their demands fulfilled by the penalty affixed to the law: the lake of fire and brimstone. In this way, God gets to be both a just God, and a merciful God, too.

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The Compassionate Empathy Model of the Atonement


I recently read a blog article entitled, Theories on the Atonement of Christ – An Overview and didn’t see my particular theory among the list. (What a surprise!) So, I thought maybe it was time to publish an article explaining my understanding of how the atonement of Jesus Christ actually works to get us sinners off the hook, despite the justice of God which requires that the sinner be punished for his own sins.

On the 22nd of October, 2007, on another blog, I posted a comment which explained a little about this theory. The article I responded to was titled, BH Roberts: Atonement in Harmony with Inexorable Law and I wasn’t completely in agreement with Roberts’ views of the atonement, and more especially of his idea of “inexorable law,” so I felt inspired to post a comment. Here is what I said:

It seems to me that the obstacle that people seem to be having with this topic is the definition of eternal law. Roberts calls it “inexorable.” From the comments, it almost seems like certain people think that eternal law is some written text in heaven, like we have here on earth. D&C 88: 7-13 pretty clearly shows what the eternal law is and also shows that that law is alive. It’s a living thing. Living things are capable of compassion and mercy and this is why the atonement of Christ works, despite the fact that one man cannot justifiably pay the penalty of another. When we repent, Christ shows his suffering and death, and makes his plea to the Father and the entire created Universe, which are demanding that the law be executed. As soon as the tremendous suffering of Christ is manifested to the ensemble, discerned by the Spirit, all creation’s bowels are filled with compassion and they change their minds. The sin of the person is then forgiven. Christ illustrated this principle in 3 Ne. 17: 4-7 when he was about to leave but looked around and saw that they desired that he stay. His bowels were filled with compassion and he stayed instead of leaving. This is what happens on a Universal scale concerning sin and forgiveness. The magnitude of suffering of the Christ had to be such that not a single living thing in the Universe would not be moved to compassion and change its mind concerning the inflicted penalty.

Another illustration is this: John 8: 10-11. There must be someone who accuses someone else of wrongdoing, otherwise, the law’s penalty cannot be executed. Christ’s atonement effectively takes away every accuser (for the penitent,) leaving the sinner free to go.

After my comment, the blog owner (Eric Nielson) responded with the following question:

If I understand right, you are forwarding an empathy model, that satisfies the law from the persepective of all possible accusers?

I answered his question with this:

I guess you can call it that. In any court, there must be a judge, the accused and the accuser(s). There may also be lawyers present, representing the accused and/or the accusers. In our heavenly “court case,” those who repent get a lawyer, Jesus, who essentially says, “Hey, look at me. I did no wrong, yet I suffered severely in this manner. [Shows his suffering and death.] Do not accuse this man (or woman.) Let my suffering suffice for the penalty required by the law.” The accusers, upon gazing upon his suffering and discerning the intensity of it by the Spirit, are moved to compassion. The Father (the judge) calls forth the accusers and no one shows. No one makes an accusation. There is no case. The Father then releases the [un-]accused into the custody of Jesus, who then passes a judgment on us (he becomes our Judge) and assigns us one of the three degrees of glory.

On the other hand, the unrepentant show up for their case and Jesus doesn’t own them, he doesn’t represent them. They are on their own. The Father calls for the accusations against them and the Universe accuses and shows the evidence, which the accused cannot deny. The penalty is inflicted: expulsion from the kingdoms of glory (inner light) into outer darkness. (There is only one penalty for disobeying the laws of the Universe, the second death.)

In this way, the Father gets to show both justice and mercy by using the death and suffering of his Son to manifest the mercy.

Unfortunately, of the two people who responded to these comments, one said he needed time to digest this model and come to any conclusion and the other flatly said he didn’t buy it.

Also on the 22nd of October (same blog, different article), I posted another comment about this model. The article I responded to was entitled, The Efficacy of Vicarious Atonement. Here is what I wrote:

J. Stapley asked, “What about the atonement gave Christ the ability to heal the penitent?”

My understanding is that the laws of the Universe demand the second death as the penalty for the breaking of any of those laws. It was the suffering (and death and resurrection) of Christ that allows everything to happen. When we are penitent, Christ’s suffering is, essentially, shown to the created Universe and the Father, along with Christ’s plea, “Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.”

The greatness of the suffering of the innocent Christ was of such magnitude that all creation, the whole Universe, cannot help but say, “Okay. It is enough. Do not apply the rule of justice. Allow mercy to be extended to the individual in question. Christ hath suffered and paid the penalty for him.” The penitent then can receive forgiveness from Christ, which is merely a communication of the knowledge that the Father and all the Universe no longer holds that individual guilty. In other words, he is justified. Once he realizes he is forgiven and justified, the burden of sin is lifted, as the penalty will not be applied to him.

We came into this created Universe (2 Ne. 2: 14) from outer darkness (the uncreated Universe, i.e. the “compound in one” – 2 Ne. 2: 11) and we remain here by obedience to the laws of this Universe. The breaking of any of the laws requires expulsion from the Universe back to where we were brought from. Christ’s suffering allows us to overcome the breaking of any of these laws through our repentance and the forgiveness of our sins, allowing us to remain in the Universe in a resurrected body as inheritors of one of the three kingdoms of glory. The only ones who will “return again to their own place” (D&C 88: 32) from whence we all came will be the filthy still, which are those who refuse to repent, even after a thousand years of anguish and suffering, which suffering and anguish is to merely help these people to repent, so that they can remain in the Universe, and not to punish them.

The Resurrection also plays into this, but that is a topic for another discussion.

There was no response to this comment. Taken altogether, either people didn’t read these comments, or they read them and either didn’t care about them (or thought they were too preposterous to comment and correct my erroneous conclusions) or they didn’t understand them. I’m thinking a combination of all three scenarios is probable. So, I am left to wonder, are the above three comments sufficient to explain this model?

Also, I suppose I ought to name this “theory,” right? I think Eric hit the nail on the head when he said it was an empathy model. The dictionary defines empathy as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.” So, empathy fits as a description, but there is also the element of compassion. When the suffering of Jesus is observed and experienced vicariously, it generates compassion in those who view it. Therefore, I have labeled this “theory” the Compassionate Empathy Model of the Atonement.

Some of the key scriptures to this model are Alma 34: 15 (“to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice”) and Alma 42: 15 (“to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice.”) The term “bowels of mercy” refers to compassion. First it is Jesus that has compassion towards us, insomuch that he both goes through the Atonement for us and then becomes our Mediator at the day of judgment (for those who repent.) Secondly, it is the Father (and all the Universe) who is filled with compassion towards Jesus when Jesus shows him his suffering and pleads our cause before him. (See D&C 45: 3-5.) He then grants Jesus’ request that we be spared.

Just as Amulek explained, the atonement of Jesus Christ “overpowers” justice. It doesn’t rob it (Alma 42: 25) or destroy it (Alma 42: 13), it “overpowers” it and “appeases” its demands. What this means, in even plainer language than the scriptures themselves, is that justice stops making its demands when the atonement is presented. The accusers who are making the demands of justice are suddenly, upon seeing the suffering of Christ, presented with such an intense scene of suffering (even infinite suffering that is perceived by the power of the Spirit) that they are overcome with compassion towards Jesus and in this state of compassion and mercy, when Jesus requests that the sinners be spared, they can’t help but consent to Jesus’ demands of mercy!

The key to the mystery of the atonement, therefore, is that it is able to stop justice from making demands, long enough for Christ to make his own demands of mercy. You will find the word “demands” almost always linked to justice and whenever justice is spoken of alone, it is always with the assumption of it making demands.

The other atonement theories miss the mark, so to speak, in that they try to complicate the matter more than it really is. The Ransom Theory (purporting that the atonement of Christ was a ransom paid by God to the devil) doesn’t work because the devil isn’t owed anything. The Satisfaction or Commerical Theory (that the atonement of Christ was a debt paid to God on behalf of sinners) doesn’t work because King Benjamin (in Mosiah 2: 23-24) busts it wide open with his statement that we will forever be in God’s debt, even with the atonement. The Penal-Substitution Theory (that Christ paid the penalty for our sins by suffering and dying) doesn’t work because justice demands that we sinners be expelled from the kingdom (meaning that we suffer the second death, or are cast into outer darkness) and it is impossible to substitute the demands of justice for something else and still remain just. Amulek shattered this theory with these words:

Amulek said, “And now, behold, I will testify unto you of myself that these things are true. Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it. For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made. For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice. Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay. But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world. (Alma 34: 8-12)

Amulek makes it very plain that a) one man can’t atone for the sins of another, b) penal-substitution is unjust, c) that just laws demand (or as he puts it, “require”) that the one who breaks the law must suffer the penalty. Those who buy into the Penal-Substitution Theory are doing so by saying that infinite and eternal suffering, like Christ’s, can make penal-substitution just, or, in other words, that infinite and eternal penal-substitution works, whereas finite penal substitution doesn’t. This is akin to saying that the laws of physics only work here on this planet, but “over there” the same laws don’t apply. The Penal-Substitution Theory, then, relies on magic and the thought that “we don’t understand how it works, but somehow it works on an infinite level.” But Amulek emphatically and purposely explains that penal-substitution is unjust, so that we understand that the atonement of Jesus Christ doesn’t work according to penal-substitution! Those who espouse this theory, miss this point entirely.

The Moral Example Theory (that Christ’s death was merely to motivate us to greater righteousness) doesn’t work because even with greater righteousness, we still have our sins that must be paid (by us) when justice gets around to demanding that the penalty be inflicted (the second death.) The Government Theory doesn’t work because God does indeed exact strict judgment (the second death) to all those who do not repent, so the atonement was not just a token or demonstration of God’s displeasure at man’s sin, as this theory holds.

There is one other theory mentioned on the theory list: Blake Ostler’s Compassion Theory of the Atonement. Unfortunately, this theory is not explained so I do not know how it explains the atonement. In fact, I don’t even know who Blake Ostler is. If there is anyone out there who is familiar with him and his model, you can tell me how it compares with my own Compassionate Empathy Model of the Atonement.

Now, I think I’ve sufficiently explained the model. What are your thoughts?

Next Jesus Christ article: How the atonement of Jesus Christ solves the “victim” problem

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The tribal nature of the gospel


Those people who accept the gospel through faith, repentance, baptism and confirmation are automatically put into a tribe of Israel by the Lord, which tribe they ultimately find out when they receive their patriarchal blessing. In fact, the main purpose of a patriarchal blessing, or the only real unique feature of it, is that it names your tribe. Any other blessing given by any other priesthood holder may contain revelations on your past, present and future (prophecies), but all other blessings are to leave the naming of your tribe alone, as that is the jurisdiction of a patriarch.

Why the importance of being in a tribe?

Old Testament Tribes

From the Old Testament, we don’t know much about the saints who lived before Abraham, whether they were put by the Lord into tribes or not, but we do know that Abraham lived among people who were grouped into tribes or clans (the tribes of the earth.) So, tribes and clans are the norm of the world, unless a State is formed, which always has the tendency to shatter tribal allegiances. (See Book of Mormon Anarchy.)

Concerning church tribes though, we know that from Abraham came Isaac, and from Isaac came Jacob, and from Jacob came the twelve sons of Israel, who became tribes. These tribes were then enslaved by the Egyptians and later freed by Moses, who gave them a tribal law, the law of Moses, whereby they could live in tribal anarchy.

That tribal anarchy lasted only so long, until the tribes demanded that a king be anointed, turning the self-government which they had had into an earthly monarchy, like the nations around them. But, despite the change of affairs, they still remained in tribes, and continued to refer to themselves as part of a tribe, even to this very day. That, in itself, may not be so surprising, as it concerns the descendants of Jacob and their traditional designations, but after the gospel went to the Gentiles, during the times of the New Testament, the New Testament writers continued to stress the tribal nature of the gospel.

New Testament Tribes

There are only two types of tribes mentioned in the New Testament: the tribes of the earth, which, according to Matthew 24: 30, shall mourn when the Second Coming of the Lord occurs, and the twelve tribes of Israel. There is no mention of any other division of the people. Either you are one of the twelve tribes of Israel, or you are one of the tribes of the earth. This is how the text reads. The New Testament writers mentioned both past tribes (Old Testament), present tribes (New Testament) and future tribes (latter-day and last days.)

Some of the references to future tribes (post New Testament) are the following: The twelve apostles of the Lord are to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, according to Matthew 19: 28 and Luke 22: 30; the 144,000 will be chosen among the twelve tribes of Israel according to Revelation 7: 4-8; and the future holy city of Jerusalem will have twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written upon them according to Revelation 21: 12.

Furthermore, the General Epistle of James was written to the twelve tribes scattered abroad. (See James 1: 1.) These twelve tribes were church members, again emphasizing the tribal nature of the gospel and that all who enter it are put, by the Lord, into one of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Book of Mormon Tribes

In the Book of Mormon, there is mention made that the Nephites and Lamanites were of some of the standard tribes of Israel: Lehi and descendants were of Manasseh, Ishmael and descendants were of Ephraim and Mulek and descendants were of Judah. But in addition to these standard tribes of Israel, the Book of Mormon people further divided themselves into seven, more particular tribes: Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites and Ishmaelites. This makes sense as the law of Moses, which was used by the Nephites, was tribal in nature, meaning that it was written and meant to serve tribes, even the tribes of Israel.

After the Lord’s visit to the American continent, the people all converted to the Lord and 4 Nephi 1: 17 makes mention that there were no more -ites in the land, but this doesn’t mean that they no longer kept track of who was of what tribe, merely that no one was called by the tribal or class distinctions, as they were all one people, even the children of Christ. Evidence that they still kept track of their tribal affiliations is found in 4 Nephi 1: 36-38, when they departed from their oneness and started calling themselves and others according to the tribal designations. This shows that even in times of great oneness, tribal affiliations were important.

The prophet Mormon, quoting the Lord Jesus (in 3 Nephi 30: 2), explained the great mystery, still not comprehended by the Gentile Christians of today, that when a Gentile converts to the Lord via faith, repentance, baptism and the reception of the Holy Ghost, they are numbered among the house of Israel from that point on, meaning that they are no longer part of the “tribes of the earth” but are part of the tribes of Israel. As Israel is composed of twelve tribes, these Gentile converts are placed by the Lord into one of these tribes. This is why the General Epistle of James, written to the twelve tribes of Israel, applies to all members of the church, whether Israelites by birth or Gentile converts.

The great Jaredite prophet Ether, whose people had no affiliation whatsoever with the bloodline of the house of Israel, Israel residing in the Old World and the Jaredites residing in the New World, nevertheless thought it important to prophesy to the Jaredites (some of which prophecies are recorded in Ether 13) all about the house of Israel and their cities of Jerusalem, and especially the New Jerusalem which would be built up by the remnant of the seed of Joseph, who are of the house of Israel, upon this (the American) continent, and which would come down out of heaven. All of the Jaredites, from the time of Jared and his brother down to the time of Ether, were all part of Jareditish tribes, meaning part of the tribes of the earth, but those Jaredites who came unto Christ and converted renounced their wordly “citizenship” and became numbered among one of the tribes of the house of Israel, whether they lived before the time of Israel (Jacob) or afterward, it mattered not.

The principle, then, is that tribal affiliations naturally exist on this planet (when States do not exist to break them up) and these tribes and tribal affiliations are worldly, or the tribes of the earth. But the Lord, using the same natural order of tribes, chose for himself an earthly family to represent the tribal affiliations of his people, even the house of Israel. As the tribes of the earth have their own laws, so the Lord’s tribes (the twelve tribes of Israel) have their own laws, given to them by the Lord, their tribal Chief (or King.) Just as the lower law of Moses, given by the Lord, was tribal in nature, so the more excellent law of Christ, given by the same Lord, is tribal in nature.

Tribes in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is engaged in gathering the tribes of Israel. This is what missionary work is all about. Everyone who comes unto Christ, whether of the direct bloodline of Israel (Jacob) or not (a Gentile), is automatically numbered among the house of Israel. The keys to this gathering were delivered by Moses to Joseph and Oliver (D&C 110: 11) and are used by each successive prophet to direct the missionary work.

So, the scriptures taken as a whole, emphasize the tribal nature of the gospel. We, the people of the Lord, are not just numbered by the Lord among the house of Israel, we are numbered among one of the tribes of the house of Israel. All of this is in anticipation of the coming of “the kingdom of heaven” (D&C 65: 6) , meaning the system of government that exists in heaven, which is tribal anarchy.

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