Apathy is not a problem, it’s a symptom and a solution


Almost all of my posts are directed to LDS who are not in leadership positions.  But with this one post, I want to talk about, and perhaps even to, the leaders.

Apathy is not a result of bad members,
it’s a result of uninspired leadership

Apathy in the church is a manifestation of a problem with the leadership, not the members.  Inspired leaders do not preside over apathic congregations.  Take Ammon and his brethren:

And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them—yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away.  (Alma 23: 6)

The converts of Ammon (and his brethren) remained 100% active throughout the rest of their lives.  Apathy never became an issue.  Why?

Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained?  To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.  And then received ye spirits which ye could not understand, and received them to be of God; and in this are ye justified?  Behold ye shall answer this question yourselves; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto you; he that is weak among you hereafter shall be made strong.  Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?  And if it be by some other way it is not of God.  And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?  If it be some other way it is not of God.  Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?  Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.  And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.  (D&C 50: 13-23)

Ammon preached to the Lamanites by the Spirit of truth, which resulted in the edification of both parties.  In other words, he preached by the gifts and powers of the Holy Ghost and the (non-member) Lamanites who eventually converted received the word he preached also by the gifts (see D&C 46: 14) and powers of the Holy Ghost. They continued this same process and no one became apathetic.  But no one can receive the word by the Spirit of truth unless it is preached by the same Spirit.  Therefore, uninspired leadership alone is to blame for apathy in the church.

Ah, but surely the receivers carry some of the blame, too, right?

Wrong.  We are talking of members of the church, not non-members, so these are people who have already received the word and who are already willing to receive more of the word.  They believe in the word, they believe the word will be at church and they go to church to receive it.  They expect and believe their leaders will give them the word in the Spirit of truth, meaning that it will be dispersed “according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy,” by the gifts and powers of the Holy Ghost, “the power of God working miracles in them”, just as Ammon spread the word.  If, though, after they go and listen to their leaders, they remain apathetic, it is entirely their leaders’ fault.  The leaders are uninspired.  Period.

Without the manifestations of the Spirit, boredom sets in

Anyone who has experienced manifestations of the Spirit knows that any “religious” experience in which the Spirit is not manifesting itself is not really a religious experience.  It is just going through the motions.  When the Spirit is present, a religious gathering can last all day long and one still can’t get enough.  Without the Spirit, boredom quickly sets in and ten minutes becomes an eternity.  Many will say that it is up to the members to bring the Spirit to a meeting, in other words, that you get what you put into it.  This, though, is a cop-out to try to remove the responsibility of the leaders from ministering the gospel as the scriptures direct: in the Spirit of truth.

In other religious denominations, in which pastors are paid, the members do not simply suffer through boredom-filled meetings.  If the pastor does not bring the Spirit, they either fire him or the members go elsewhere, to a pastor that they feel does possess the Spirit. Not so with the LDS.  We do like the Puritans and consider it saintly to suffer through week after week of boredom.  (See The Title of Insufferable, Self-Righteous Prigs.)

Motivation is not the issue

The typical tactic used by uninspired leaders is to try to motivate the members to do their duty, as if motivation were the problem.  For example, not a single Sunday will go by without an elder’s quorum president striving to remind, encourage and motivate his quorum to do home teaching.  Success stories will be drawn from talks of GA’s and such, showing that home teaching is important and effective.  Week after week the elders’ ears will grow more and more weary with hearing the broken “home teaching” record play.  In one ward that I was a part of, one of the elders got so tired of hearing it that when the bishop sent one of his counselors to deliver a special bishopric message to our quorum of elders, and it turned out to be about home teaching, this elder stormed off in anger and didn’t return again to the quorum until he was finally coaxed gently back.

Member missionary work is another area that is treated like a motivation problem.  Members generally are excited about the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ and do not need motivation.  They do, however, need inspired leadership.  Bringing a non-member friend to a boring meeting is not something everyone is willing to do.  If the leadership is inspired and the gathering of the saints are occasions in which the Spirit is poured out and manifestations are regular, members naturally spread the word.  This is true of all cultures and religions.  For example, in the Catholic religion and regions of the world, when someone has witnessed a virgin appear somewhere, word spreads like wildfire and everyone goes to see what Spiritual manifestation is occurring.  The miraculous is widely held as a sign of the divine working, or as the Savior puts it, “the works of the Father.”  If you remove the works of the Father from any church, even one that carries the name of Christ, you are left with a church of man.  So, “the power of God working miracles in” leaders is very important.

Uninspired leaders are not sanctified

The Lord has made it plain that all leaders are to be sanctified.  If they are not sanctified, they are not to be leaders, or “teachers” of the word.  (See Scriptural Discussion #5: Teachers—Must Be Sanctified.)  Sanctified leaders possess the spirit of prophecy and revelation, yet, how many leaders have actually prophesied in the church?  How many leaders have actually received a revelation, not just inspiration, but the type that can be written down?  Go and ask your leader if he or she has ever prophesied or ever received a revelation from the Lord and see for yourself.

Unsanctified leaders are more like managers than leaders.  No one wants to be “managed.”  Heck, no one wants to be led, either, unless the Holy Ghost is doing the leading, then everyone wants to be led.  Unless a leader is sanctified and thus possesses the guidance, gifts and powers of the Holy Ghost, those who follow his leadership are being led by just a man.

Apathy is a good thing

If you touch a hot iron, you feel pain.  That pain may seem like a bad thing, but it really is a good thing as it alerts you to the danger of the hot iron so that you can remove your hand and avoid further damage to your body.  All symptoms of illness, then, although they don’t feel good, are but signals to us that there is a problem.

Leadership will often see apathy not as a signal that there is a problem, but as the problem itself. The apathy itself is then addressed, not its cause.  The members will be preached to and made to feel guilty for not doing their duty.  They will be encouraged and motivated and every other trick in the book to get them to do something that they would naturally do anyway, without any external influence, if only they heard the word preached to them in the Spirit of truth.

An argument could be made that uninspired leadership should not be encouraged by acting on it.  Only inspired leadership should be acted upon.  After all, if the membership acted upon uninspired leadership and brought their friends to boring church meetings in droves, what would be the result?  However, such an argument is not necessary because man, by nature, negates uninspired leadership with the solution of apathy.  Apathy, therefore, is not a problem, but a solution to uninspired leadership. It is an apathetic membership which should inspire the leaders to sanctify themselves and obtain the powers, gifts and fruits of the Spirit with which to minister in righteousness among the Lord’s people.  Only the Spirit can cure apathy, or enliven a sleepy body.

How to encourage leadership to repent: inspired, intentional apathy

If your ward or stake leaders are uninspired and you notice that your ward or stake is full of apathetic members, the answer is not to fight them or call them to repentance.  The Lord will take care of His leaders and will chastise them in His own due time.  It is not the duty of the membership to steady the ark.  We members did not call them, although we did sustain them through our vote. And that (sustaining) is the key.

Sustain inspired leaders and withdraw support from uninspired leaders

The proper, scriptural way that the Lord has set up whereby membership can “modify the misbehavior of the leadership” is by withdrawing a sustaining vote.  Most people feel that once a vote is cast, it must remain cast until the end of the term of office.  The election of California Governor Schwarzenegger should have put an end to that line of thinking.  Just as the Lord giveth and taketh away, so the membership has the power to sustain and withdraw support.

I might suggest a couple of important things to keep in mind when withdrawing support from an uninspired leader.  First, this is not a way to punish him, but to encourage him to sanctify himself so that he may again have your support.  And second, keep firmly in mind the difference between what are the commandments of God and the counsels or petitions of an uninspired man.  As long as you continue to keep the commandments of God, you will remain on safe ground.

For example, having entered baptism and made a covenant with God, we are to partake of the sacrament each week.  So, not attending a ward that has an uninspired bishop is not an option.  However, just attending the portion in which the sacrament is passed, partaking and then skipping the rest of the meeting, might be.  On my mission, many baptized members did just that, as they had covenanted to partake of the sacrament each week, not listen to every talk given in that meeting.

During sustaining votes, especial care might be taken as to who you vote for, or even if you vote at all.  (See Is our procedure for sustaining a rubberstamp?)  Just as there are many ways to sustain a leader, there are probably as many ways to withhold support.

Inspired apathy is a solution

Inspired apathy can be a great tool in the hands of those who wield it with a proper understanding of its effect on leadership.  Although apathy is often seen as a thing to be avoided, a bad thing, it can be a means of generating humble leaders who are guided by the Holy Ghost and not just by their egos.

Next Common Consent article: The voice of the people signifies a majority

Previous Common Consent article: Anarchy in action: congregational nullification

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Anarchy in action: congregational nullification


Jury Nullification

Jury nullification means making a law void by jury decision, in other words “the process whereby a jury in a criminal case effectively nullifies a law by acquitting a defendant regardless of the weight of evidence against him or her.”

Jury nullification is more specifically any rendering of a verdict by a trial jury, acquitting a criminal defendant despite the defendant’s violation of the letter of the law. This verdict need not disagree with the instructions by the judge concerning what the law is, but may disagree with an instruction, if given by the judge, that the jury is required to apply the law to the defendant if certain facts are found.

Although a jury’s refusal relates only to the particular case before it, if a pattern of such verdicts develops in response to repeated attempts to prosecute a statutory offense, it can have the practical effect of disabling the enforcement of the statute. “Jury nullification” is thus a means for the people to express opposition to an unpopular legislative enactment.

The jury system was established because it was felt that a panel of citizens, drawn at random from the community, and serving for too short a time to be corrupted, would be more likely to render a just verdict, through judging both the accused and the law, than officials who may be unduly influenced to follow merely the established law. Jury nullification is a reminder that the right to trial by one’s peers affords the public an opportunity to take a dissenting view about the justness of a statute or official practices.

(Taken from the Jury Nullification entry of the Wikipedia. See the entire entry for more information.)

Jury nullification occurs when a jury judges both the facts of a case and the law it is based upon. In modern times it doesn’t occur very often, perhaps because juries are not aware that they have this common law right or power due to modern judges not informing them of the entire jurisdiction of a jury. In fact, judges often do the opposite and give them instructions that they must apply the law. However, the truth is that juries do have this power regardless of what a corrupt judge may say.

Congregational Juries

Our system of church government consists of judges, courts and councils, with witnesses and advocacy, but apparently without juries. However, as all appointments/callings must be approved by the congregation through common consent vote before an appointment/calling is solidified, in reality and practice the congregational members are the juries of the church.

Again, any calling in the church needs to be ratified by the congregational jury. A name is read and a call to ratify is made to the members, who raise their hands in approbation or in opposition, or who do not raise their hands, at all. A count is made and if the voice of the people (the majority) is for the appointment, it goes through. If the voice of the people is against it, it does not go through. In this way the congregational jury renders a verdict of their approval or disapproval of the various appointments/callings. We call this vote sustaining. Nothing in the church happens, nor can happen, without a sustaining vote of the members of the congregation, as that would be tyranny and a usurpation of powers, because all things must be done with the consent of the congregation.

Congregational Nullification

There is, however, another way that the congregational jury renders a verdict. Sometimes policies or instructions are handed out to the members from their leaders without taking a vote. For example, recent First Presidency letters read in sacrament meeting contained instructions to the members concerning the passage of a constitutional amendment on marriage (for California saints) and sacrament meeting behavior, specifically, not using visual aids or asking the congregation to turn to a scripture while giving a talk. These instructions are similar to those received by trial juries from the presiding judge concerning how they are to apply the law to the case. In both instances, neither jury is instructed that they can pass judgment upon the judge’s instructions and discard them if wisdom so dictates.

Many saints get offended when instructions they feel are overbearing or tyrannical come down from their leaders. To prove their point, they’ll sometimes take actions that end up pitting the church against them, such as taking a public stand against the church. This is not the wisest course to take and may lead to their being disfellowshipped, excommunicated or even them just leaving on their own.

The Lord has given us the means to nip all tyranny in His church in the bud via the law of common consent. Just as trial jury nullification exists as a common law right, it also exists as a right of the congregational juries. Simply ignoring all instructions deemed to be unjust, unwise, overbearing, tyrannical or humiliating nullifies the instructions. End of story.

Most instructions given today by leaders are called “counsel.” When members are asked to do something, usually that is the very word used: ask. Anybody can ask anything they want of you. Asking you to do or not to do something does not rob you of your agency. It also does not obligate you to do the thing asked. Like trial juries, congregational juries have the choice to obey instructions received by them from the leaders without another thought, or they can render the instructions null and void by ignoring them.

Anarchy in Action

Both congregational nullification and the raising of the hands in approval/disapproval during a sustaining vote is anarchy in action. Ultimately, always, the people decide all matters of the church. The leaders can do nothing without the consent of the people.

Taking the two examples given above, for those saints who agree with the First Presidency letter on the marriage bill, they can sustain the letter’s instructions by donating time, means and effort to that cause. For those saints who disagree with the letter’s instructions, they can ignore the petition entirely and donate no time, means or effort to it. Just as during sustaining votes, members do not campaign other members to sway votes in favor of or against particular church callings, campaigning need not occur for non-voting uses of the law of common consent. Everything remains peaceful, ordered and anarchic, each man, woman and child of the church casting a verdict on the instructions by their actions.

In the second instance mentioned above, congregational nullification can also occur, should the people think the instructions are unneccessary or unjust. Or, congregational ratification can occur should the people think the instructions are wise and timely. All that is necessary is that each speaker either obey the instructions and stop using visual aids or asking the audience to open their scriptures, or disregard the instructions and use visual aids and ask the congregation to turn to such-and-such a verse.

The bishop or other leaders may attempt to correct a single person who ignores counsel or instruction, but if that person continues to ignore the counsel, or if more than one person ignores the counsel and it becomes apparent that the congregation has passed a verdict against the counsel, by ignoring it, then congregational nullification has occurred and that counsel is now null and void. There is nothing a leader can do with a group of people who refuse to ratify an instruction by obedience to it.

In my own experience, eventually even the most power-tripping leaders will throw up their hands in frustration because peaceful, ordered, anarchic congregational nullification cannot be stopped. No one can be tried for ignoring counsel or petitions. There is no law against it in the church. There are only laws against sin.

Use of Common Consent Stops Tyranny

Jury nullification drives leaders up the wall with frustration, as it limits their power and control over a congregation, but it is one of the means the Lord has set up to stop tyranny in His church. Used as a proper check to usurpation of power, it properly balances the church and puts all saints, leaders and members alike, on equal ground.

So, the next time you receive instructions from your religious leaders you do not agree with, even after prayer and fasting, instead of publicly fighting them and becoming an apostate, instead of striving to get other members in your camp and pit member against member or member against leader, or instead of trying to win the leader over to your cause (which never works), just apply the principle of congregational nullification and ignore the instructions.

Next Anarchism/Anarchy article: Anarchy in Education

Previous Anarchism/Anarchy article: The dissolution of the corporate LDS Church via “gay marriage”

Next Common Consent article: Apathy is not a problem, it’s a symptom and a solution

Previous Common Consent article: Power of the Law of Common Consent

Complete List of Articles authored by LDS Anarchist

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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Book of Mormon Anarchy


In 3 Nephi chapter 7 there is the very interesting account of the destruction of the Nephite government and the introduction of tribal-based anarchy. A quick summary: The chief judge is murdered by the secret combination (v. 1) and it causes a great contention in the land, causing virtually everyone to become wicked (v. 7); the government and its regulations are destroyed (v. 2, 6); the people separate (v. 2, 14) into exceedingly large tribes (v. 4) with appointed leaders or chiefs (v. 3) consisting of family, kindred and friends (v. 2, 4, 14); the tribes have their own separate laws (v. 11, 14) including laws on how to interact with other tribes (v. 14); the tribes have no wars among them (v.5) and are united, but not according to their laws (v. 11, 14); the secret combination forms a monarchy with king Jacob as the monarch (v. 9-10); the tribes are united in their hatred of the kingdom of Jacob (v. 11) ; king Jacob and his subjects escape to the north (v. 12-13); the tribes stone and cast out any prophets that come among them (v. 14); Nephi ministers with great power and authority to the tribes, making but few converts, who also witness of their conversion through signs and miracles (v. 15-22.)

One of the arguments against anarchy, made chiefly by statists, is that anarchy cannot exist without a totally moral people. They argue, essentially, that since the natural man is an enemy to God, people living in anarchy would murder, rape, steal and do other very wicked deeds without a government to check their wicked ways. Nevertheless, 3 Nephi chapter 7 flies in the face of that logic, showing that even wicked people living under anarchy had “in some degree…peace in the land” (v. 14.) Obviously, “some degree of peace” applied to a temporal sense, as spiritually, these people were completely devoid of the peace of Jesus.

People normally learn about anarchy from statists, who have a vested interest to vilify and smear anarchy, because anarchy is the natural enemy of statism. Thus, a statist will say that anarchy breeds violence and chaos. Yet the Book of Mormon account of anarchy, an admitted account of a wicked people that stoned prophets of God, is one of an ordered society that, although separated into tribes, were still united and had strict agreements (treaties) between the tribes.

Some believe that once a government is removed and the natural anarchic order is allowed to settle in, family ties are strengthened exceedingly and families naturally start to coalesce into clans. (See the articles that Mary Ruwart and Phillip E. Jacobson have written on this very subject.) This is based upon historical, non-Book of Mormon data. However, the ancient books of scripture used by the LDS add to the body of evidence for this belief. Both the Bible and Book of Mormon examples of anarchy are tribal-based, a tribe essentially being a clan, or a very large clan. Tribal or clan-based anarchy appears to be the natural order of anarchy.

Jacob and his followers were king-men, attempting to establish a monarchy so that they could rule over the souls of men. These were die-hard statists and it is telling that as soon as the government was dissolved, they grouped together and created their own little state, a kingdom with a monarch (Jacob, not Jesus) to rule over them.

Another interesting point to note is that Mormon explains that it was the dividing of the people and their separation into tribes that destroyed the government (v. 2.) On the surface this might not seem like enough to destroy a government, but when you live in a tribe of your family, kindred and friends and your tribe has laws, your allegiances become torn. As they say, blood is thicker than water. These people are your relatives. To which laws do you owe your allegiance, the government or your tribe, if there is a conflict between the two sets of regulations? As long as families are nuclear and small (a mother, a father and children,) the power and pull of a family will be small and the power and pull of government will be large, but when families group together in common biological or friendship links (blood brothers), the power of a tribal family becomes large. The allegiance to it also increases. This may be why organized crime Mafia clans, which have blood ties and their own laws, command greater allegiance from their members than the legal government around them does. So, if you take the entire country, the USA, for example, and suddenly have everyone placed into a family clan or family tribe, suddenly the government loses all power, as allegiance to the government goes down to zero and allegiance to family, clan and tribe becomes all important.

A last thought: Before I learned anarchy from anarchists, I learned anarchy from state propaganda. I, like most, thought of anarchy as a great evil, to be avoided at all costs. I thought that any government was better than no government at all. Reading verse 5 of 3 Nephi chapter 7 seemed to solidify the propaganda. When Mormon used the phrase “all this iniquity,” I just figured he was talking about the anarchic, empowered tribal state, in other words, the destruction of the government. Now, though, I realize that tribes are not intrinsically evil. In fact, as LDS, we are placed into one of 12 tribes. So, Mormon was talking of different iniquities and not the ones that my state propaganda-ized mind was assigning, the iniquities of which he explains in this and the preceding chapter.

Next Anarchism/Anarchy article: Stateless in Somalia: How Clannish Anarchy Works

Previous Anarchism/Anarchy article: Biblical Anarchism

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