The doctrine against dissent


I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine. (D&C 38:27)

Unity is required of the saints

We are commanded to “be one” (D&C 51:9) in Christ, even “as [Jesus is] one in the Father” (D&C 35:2), for the gospel principle of unity is patterned after the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, “which is one Eternal God” (Alma 11:44). The required oneness is to “be perfect” (2 Cor. 13:11), the saints being commanded to be “of one mind” (1 Pet. 3:8), “of one heart and of one soul” (Acts 4:32), “of one accord” (Philip. 2:2), of “one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity” (Mosiah 18:21), as “one body in Christ” (Rom. 12:5), being “united in all things” (2 Ne. 1:21) and “united in mighty prayer and fasting” (3 Ne. 27:1).

The “one body in Christ” refers to the church of God, meaning that the saints have a “duty to unite with the true church” (D&C 23:7), to worship as a group and “agree upon [God’s] word” (D&C 41:2). This is a physical gathering of saints in which they are to “meet together often” (D&C 20:55,75).

Just as the resurrection of the dead will dress the naked spirits again, restoring the body “unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided, that they might receive a fulness of joy” (D&C 138:17), so the physically gathered church, or corporate body of the church, is designed to never be divided into schisms, so that it becomes “a whole and complete and perfect union” (D&C 128:18).

Such unity is only to be of like things, thus the saints have been taught by Paul “that a believer should not be united to an unbeliever” (D&C 74:5) and every man of the church has been commanded by the Lord to “be alike among this people, and receive alike” (D&C 51:9).

The commandment to be one makes dissenting behavior a sin

There are nine instances of the word dissent in the scriptures, all of which occur in the Book of Mormon. The word never appears as a noun, only as a verb. It is also always portrayed as a sin.

For the modern reader, using modern dictionaries, the idea of dissenting behavior being a sin makes no sense, whatsoever. A review of the modern definitions and the definitions at the time of the publication of the Book of Mormon (taken from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary) will quickly show why there is so much confusion on this issue.

According to the modern definition of the intransitive verb to dissent, it means “to withhold assent” or “to differ in opinion.” (Assent means “an act of agreeing to something especially after thoughtful consideration : an act of assenting : acquiescence, agreement”.) The verb has no religious connotation, however if we look at the noun dissent, we find that although it can be used generally to mean a “difference of opinion”, it also can be used more specifically to mean either “religious nonconformity,” “a justice’s nonconcurrence with a decision of the majority,” or “political opposition to a government or its policies.”

The current religious meaning (“religious nonconformity”) is a nonspecific version of what the word used to mean during the times of Joseph Smith. In Joseph’s time, to religiously dissent specifically meant “to differ from an established church, in regard to doctrines, rites or government.”

So, for example, if all the men who attend my ward dress in white shirts and ties (not because of church doctrines, rites or government, but just because that is the customary attire) and I attend wearing a blue shirt with no tie, I am guilty of nonconformity (and some might call it religious nonconformity since it is nonconformity to a custom that occurs in a religious setting), but not guilty of differing from the established doctrines, rites or government of my ward, for none of that gives a dress code for attending the ward. Dissent in the modern sense could be any religious nonconformity, regardless of how insignificant it is, whereas dissenting behavior in Joseph’s time specifically meant nonconformity to the doctrines, rites or government of an established church.

No one can righteously dissent from the true church of God

The scriptures brought forth by Joseph Smith teach that dissenting behavior is a sin, but this must be understood by the definition used in Joseph’s time. Here are all nine instances in which the word dissent is used in the scriptures, all of which are found only in the Book of Mormon:

And the people of Ammon did give unto the Nephites a large portion of their substance to support their armies; and thus the Nephites were compelled, alone, to withstand against the Lamanites, who were a compound of Laman and Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael, and all those who had dissented from the Nephites, who were Amalekites and Zoramites, and the descendants of the priests of Noah. (Alma 43:13)

And there were many in the church who believed in the flattering words of Amalickiah, therefore they dissented even from the church; and thus were the affairs of the people of Nephi exceedingly precarious and dangerous, notwithstanding their great victory which they had had over the Lamanites, and their great rejoicings which they had had because of their deliverance by the hand of the Lord. (Alma 46:7)

And now who knoweth but what the remnant of the seed of Joseph, which shall perish as his garment, are those who have dissented from us? Yea, and even it shall be ourselves if we do not stand fast in the faith of Christ.

And now it came to pass that when Moroni had said these words he went forth, and also sent forth in all the parts of the land where there were dissensions, and gathered together all the people who were desirous to maintain their liberty, to stand against Amalickiah and those who had dissented, who were called Amalickiahites. (Alma 46:27-28)

Nevertheless, they could not suffer to lay down their lives, that their wives and their children should be massacred by the barbarous cruelty of those who were once their brethren, yea, and had dissented from their church, and had left them and had gone to destroy them by joining the Lamanites. (Alma 48:24)

Behold, can you suppose that the Lord will spare you and come out in judgment against the Lamanites, when it is the tradition of their fathers that has caused their hatred, yea, and it has been redoubled by those who have dissented from us, while your iniquity is for the cause of your love of glory and the vain things of the world? (Alma 60:32)

And I write this epistle unto you, Lachoneus, and I hope that ye will deliver up your lands and your possessions, without the shedding of blood, that this my people may recover their rights and government, who have dissented away from you because of your wickedness in retaining from them their rights of government, and except ye do this, I will avenge their wrongs. I am Giddianhi.

And now it came to pass when Lachoneus received this epistle he was exceedingly astonished, because of the boldness of Giddianhi demanding the possession of the land of the Nephites, and also of threatening the people and avenging the wrongs of those that had received no wrong, save it were they had wronged themselves by dissenting away unto those wicked and abominable robbers. (3 Ne. 3:10-11)

Now there was one among them who was a Nephite by birth, who had once belonged to the church of God but had dissented from them. (Hel. 5:35)

All dissenters from the true church of God are sinners

According to our modern dictionaries, a dissenter is “one that dissents”, and since we know what it means to religiously dissent, that means that a religious dissenter is one that does not religiously conform. But in the time of Joseph Smith, a dissenter was “one who separates from the service and worship of any established church.”

The words dissent and dissenters, as found in the standard works, carry the meanings the words had during the time of Joseph Smith. So, when we read in the Book of Mormon that there were people in the church who dissented, it doesn’t mean that there was a difference of opinion or general religious nonconformity, but that those who dissented were advocating a change in the church’s doctrines, rites or government. And when we read of dissenters from the church in the same record, it does not mean that they were just people who had a difference of opinion, but that they were people who had separated from the church and had begun performing worship services that were different from those of the church.

Unbelief is the cause of dissenting behavior

Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers. They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ.

And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened. And they would not be baptized; neither would they join the church. And they were a separate people as to their faith, and remained so ever after, even in their carnal and sinful state; for they would not call upon the Lord their God. (Mosiah 26:1-4)

Although the above scripture speaks of non-members who never ended up joining the church, the dissenting process is the same for members of God’s church. Any believing member who chooses to begin to doubt the word of God will begin to dissent in his heart, meaning that he will begin to desire that the doctrines, rites and/or government of the church of God be changed (in conformity with his new belief system). This state of heart, in which the man spiritually separates himself from those who choose to not doubt the word of God, can lead to contention and disputations, and if not resolved by a restoration of belief (through repentance), ultimately will end in the member becoming a dissenter, so that he now physically separates from the body of the church and engages in worship services of another church or belief system. The Zoramites present a prime example of this process:

And it came to pass that as he [Korihor] went forth among the people, yea, among a people who had separated themselves from the Nephites and called themselves Zoramites, being led by a man whose name was Zoram—and as he went forth amongst them, behold, he was run upon and trodden down, even until he was dead. (Alma 30:59)

Now it came to pass that after the end of Korihor, Alma having received tidings that the Zoramites were perverting the ways of the Lord, and that Zoram, who was their leader, was leading the hearts of the people to bow down to dumb idols, his heart again began to sicken because of the iniquity of the people. (Alma 31:1)

Now the Zoramites were dissenters from the Nephites; therefore they had had the word of God preached unto them. But they had fallen into great errors, for they would not observe to keep the commandments of God, and his statutes, according to the law of Moses. Neither would they observe the performances of the church, to continue in prayer and supplication to God daily, that they might not enter into temptation. Yea, in fine, they did pervert the ways of the Lord in very many instances; therefore, for this cause, Alma and his brethren went into the land to preach the word unto them. (Alma 31:8-11)

We see from this that Zoramite dissenters had separated themselves from both the church of God and also the Nephite nation itself, creating a new religion which rejected the established doctrines, rites and government of God. This separation occurred because they stopped believing in the things of God, as taught and practiced by God’s church:

Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ. (Alma 31:16)

All dissenters from the church of God make the same claim: that the church of God is apostate and thus its doctrines, rites or government must be modified in order to bring it back into God’s good graces. This claim may be made because the church does not sufficiently change with the times or it may be made because the church has made a change that the dissenters feel was not authorized by God. When the saints of God inevitably refuse to permit the dissenters from altering God’s current callings, laws and ordinances to conform to a more modern philosophy or to a more ancient or earlier practice, the dissenters separate and do their own thing, becoming a law unto themselves.

Now, from the perspective of the church body, to dissent is to advocate heresy and thus a dissenter is an apostate heretic (someone who advocates heresy and has separated from the church), whereas from the perspective of the dissenter, the church is too corrupt (apostate) to improve and thus must be abandoned and perhaps even actively criticized and fought.

We see from this that both sides make, essentially, the same claim: that the other party is in error and refuses to be corrected.

Unrepentant dissenters must be silenced and cut off

Unbelief is an infectious plague, that if left unchecked will affect the entire church body, causing both spiritual and temporal destruction to come upon the church. Spiritual destruction happens because unbelief and dissenting behavior are sins, thus subjecting the man to the devil’s power and captivation. And temporal destruction happens because the church body no longer qualifies for temporal deliverance from the Lord, which requires unity.

Because of these real dangers to the church, when a dissenting voice is heard among the church, it must be silenced as soon as possible. Thus we read,

And it came to pass that after there had been false Christs, and their mouths had been shut, and they punished according to their crimes; and after there had been false prophets, and false preachers and teachers among the people, and all these having been punished according to their crimes (WoM 1:15-16)

False Christs, false prophets, false preachers and false teachers cause people to doubt the word of God, creating dissenting behavior, which could grow into church schisms, in which people become dissenters, separating from the church of God. There are three valid (authorized) ways that men of God use to silence dissenting voices.

And there were no contentions, save it were a few that began to preach, endeavoring to prove by the scriptures that it was no more expedient to observe the law of Moses. Now in this thing they did err, having not understood the scriptures. But it came to pass that they soon became converted, and were convinced of the error which they were in, for it was made known unto them that the law was not yet fulfilled, and that it must be fulfilled in every whit; yea, the word came unto them that it must be fulfilled; yea, that one jot or tittle should not pass away till it should all be fulfilled; therefore in this same year were they brought to a knowledge of their error and did confess their faults. (3 Nephi 1:24-25)

So, the first way to silence false ideas and teachings is to have the high priests correct the errors, showing them their faults, so that such people repent of their sins and turn from their errors and become, again, converted to the true faith and doctrines and rites and government of God, confessing their faults. This first step allows people who made honest, doctrinal mistakes to self-correct and remain in safety with the body of the saints.

If, however, the false teachers do not repent, but persist in their dissenting behavior, endeavoring to preach and teach the same errors (heresies) to other members of the church, the high priests are required to shut their mouths by cutting them off from the church. Although the now non-member is free to preach as he sees fit to the members, excommunication removes his legitimacy in the eyes of the body, so that they may more readily see that the false teacher is in error, and thus should not be listened to.

Repentance, disfellowship or excommunication

In the modern church of God, the saints have been give three ways to deal with dissenting behavior: the leadership can correct the errors and those who dissent can repent and be restored to full fellowship, or, if the dissenter needs more time to repent and come to a proper understanding of the word of God, he may be disfellowshipped, so that he is not permitted to teach false doctrine to the church, until such time as he fully repents and becomes, again, a believer in God’s word, understanding it by the Spirit. Disfellowship really is for those who are still confused over the word of God, but who desire to come to an understanding that allows them to remain with the church. The last way is excommunication, which is for dissenters who refuse to repent or even acknowledge that they have done anything wrong.

The door is left open to return to the flock

Jesus told His twelve disciples, concerning the member of the church that was unworthy of partaking of the sacrament, because of transgression,

But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people, for behold I know my sheep, and they are numbered. Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them. Therefore, keep these sayings which I have commanded you that ye come not under condemnation; for wo unto him whom the Father condemneth. (3 Nephi 18:31-33)

Excommunication, then, is a true principle of the gospel, one which must be performed on all those church members who do not repent of their sins after they have been admonished of them. Following this commandment keeps those who are in charge of regulating the church justified before the Lord, and also keeps the flock safer from the effects of false teachings and bad examples, which effects or fruit is spiritual and temporal destruction. The commandment to excommunicate unrepentant sinners was also given to the modern church, with the same promise of justification for the leadership if they obey the same.

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)

So, even if the judges (who are charged to judge whether the sinner will remain in the church) forgive the man who refuses to repent of his sins, and would rather release him without any discipline applied, doing so would break the commandment given to the leadership, of excommunicating (cutting off) unrepentant sinners. The only way to remain justified before the Lord is to obey the commandment and cut off all those who refuse to repent, regardless of what the sin is.

Nevertheless, after being cut off, they (the leadership) must keep an open door policy, allowing the dissenters who repent of their sins to come back into the fold.

A difference of opinion does not constitute dissenting behavior

Scriptural dissenting behavior deals only with church doctrines, rites and government. Some people, though, cannot differentiate between scriptural dissenting behavior and the modern, generic definition of dissent, which merely means “a difference of opinion.” So any censuring they see, of any kind, is viewed as morally wrong, a violation of one’s right to free speech, as put down in the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The problem with that view, is that a church is not a public institution, but a private one, and like all private institutions, it has certain rules which its membership is expected to obey.

We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world’s goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship. (D&C 134:10)

A case in point: Korihor

In December of 2011, I wrote on the Times and Seasons blog the following:

Korihor was not a religious freedom advocate battling an oppressive central government.

Korihor was a liar couching his lies under the guise of belief. He did this because liars were punished, it being against the law to lie (see Alma 1:16-17.) So, he pretended to preach according to his belief. Everyone who heard him preach, knew he was lying, for he told blatant lies (see Alma 30:35) but pretended it was merely his belief. He was repeatedly bound and taken before the authorities because it was obvious to everyone that he was breaking the law by lying, but no one knew what to do with him because of his stubbornness in always couching it in belief, for the law had no hold upon anyone for their belief. In other words, atheists had freedom in their society, but not pretended atheists, only people who truly believed that there was no God. Korihor, though, from his speech, revealed himself to be a liar and showed that his intention was to merely deceive the people.

Now the text clearly shows that this was Korihor’s crime: lies. Repeatedly when questioned by Alma, the topic of lies is brought up. He is on trial for lying, or intentionally deceiving people, which was a punishable crime among them. The people of Ammon, who first bound him, “were more wise” (Alma 30:20) than those at Zarahemla because they were more righteous. The Nephites at Zarahemla could see that he was a liar and deceiver, but they just let him go about breaking the law and deceiving the people. Not so with the Lamanite people of Ammon.

Again, Korihor was bound and sent up to the authorities with testimony of his lies, for there must be witnesses. Nevertheless, they couldn’t do anything to him because he pretended he was entitled to his own beliefs, therefore, he was, each time, set free, outside of the lands that he preached among, until he finally came to Alma, who, through the power of God, put a stop to his destructive work of lies.

I could have worded that a bit better than I did, but it’s good enough for the point I am trying to make, which is that once you break the laws of a society, whether it is a public society like the Nephites or a private society like the church of God, you become subject to whatever penalty is attached to that broken law. In the case of religious dissenting behavior and dissenters, freedom of speech or of the press is allowed only insofar as you do not transgress the laws of God by your speech or writings. Once you are found promoting wickedness or falsehoods by your spoken or written words, the church has jurisdiction over you and also a responsibility to censure you (to shut your mouth) in the prescribed, scriptural manner (correction and repentance, disfellowship or excommunication). In public society, freedom of speech or of the press does not grant you the right to commit slander or libel.

What saints do when unrepentant sinners are around

We are free, then, to use our agency to do good, but when we use it to commit evil by our speech and the words we write, we come under condemnation of God and it is every saint’s duty to denounce and resist all the evils that are observed by them. This is why the witnesses came forth during the first trial of the original Mormon church:

And now in the reign of Mosiah they [the unbelievers] were not half so numerous as the people of God; but because of the dissensions among the brethren they became more numerous.

For it came to pass that they did deceive many with their flattering words, who were in the church, and did cause them to commit many sins; therefore it became expedient that those who committed sin, that were in the church, should be admonished by the church.

And it came to pass that they were brought before the priests, and delivered up unto the priests by the teachers; and the priests brought them before Alma, who was the high priest.

Now king Mosiah had given Alma the authority over the church.

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 26:5-9)

Now, I will unfold this saintly duty and peculiarity a little farther down in this post, as it cannot be overemphasized.

Pahoran wrote:

Therefore, my beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God. (Alma 61:14)

But Jesus commanded:

But I say unto you, that ye shall not resist evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also (3 Ne. 12:39)

Which instructions are the saints of God supposed to obey? Both. (I only mention this in case some commenter says, “But Jesus said to not resist evil! So Pahoran was wrong!”) I will not explain this seeming contradiction as that is not the topic of this post. Just suffice it to say that a saint typically does not shut his mouth at iniquity, unless the Holy Ghost constrains him not to speak.

The following instructions were given to saints:

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.

And if thy brother or sister offend many, he or she shall be chastened before many.

And if any one offend openly, he or she shall be rebuked openly, that he or she may be ashamed. And if he or she confess not, he or she shall be delivered up unto the law of God.

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.

And thus shall ye conduct in all things. (D&C 42:88-93)

Who does the chastening? Who does the rebuking? Who determines who has offended publicly or in secret? Who delivers the unrepentant sinners to the law of God? The saints do. More on this later.

Re: those who learn and obey the whats only if the whys suit them

And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them (Abr. 3:25)

Doing all things that the Lord commands includes bridling the tongue (see James 3), which means that the spoken and written word must likewise be put under gospel constraints. Intentionally false (heretical) teachings, then, break the commandments.

Some people in the church say that mortality is a school to learn the things of God, as if it were knowledge that saved us. They emphasize that we ought not to be blindly obedient, but ought to obey rationally, with understanding of why we are commanded to do whatever it is we are commanded to do. They are more concerned with the why than with the what.

Such people, if they cannot understand the reason behind a commandment or doctrine, may end up openly questioning its divinity. In other words, they may start to propose a theory that the doctrine or commandment has a non-divine source and begin to teach it among the people. If confronted by a saint and told that the alternate teaching is heretical, the proponent may do as Korihor and say it is merely a belief or a hypothesis which may or may not be true, and that there is no harm in questioning things which may be false. In other words, he or she will claim, like Korihor, that this is not a teaching, but just an interesting idea: to consider that a doctrine or commandment or teaching of the church is man-made and not divinely given.

Ye say that those ancient prophecies are true. Behold, I say that ye do not know that they are true….And ye also say that Christ shall come. But behold, I say that ye do not know that there shall be a Christ…I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe that there is a God; and I say also, that ye do not know that there is a God; and except ye show me a sign, I will not believe. (Alma 30:24,26,48)

Such heresies come from putting knowledge before faith and requiring that one know and understand something before one will believe it to be true.

Although it is true that man is here to learn, he is only here to learn obedience to God.

And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer. (D&C 105:6)

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered (Heb. 5:8)

Separating goats from sheep is a gospel principle based on obedience

Obedience to the whats, not knowledge of the whys, is the deciding factor in determining where we go.

and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate (Abr. 3:26)

So God separates those who keep His commandments from those who don’t, and puts them into separate kingdoms. This is why the church is charged with excommunicating all those who do not repent of their sins. This separation, or division, is based upon the heavenly pattern. Just as there was a separation in heaven between the 1/3 and the 2/3, and the 1/3 were cast out, so here on earth more separation is commanded to occur, for those who transgress the law of God and do not repent.

But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted (Alma 42:22)

Once you break the law, the punishment is not immediately inflicted, but you are granted a space to repent, resulting in two sets of commandments. The first commandment is to keep the law, which, if you disobey, you then get a second commandment, which is to repent. Only when you refuse to take advantage of repentance and the atonement, does the law require that you be cut off from the church by excommunication.

Cutting off the people by excommunication furthers the work of division that the Savior spoke of.

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. (Matt. 10:34)

Jesus gathers his elect into one body and then uses his sword to divide the sheep from the goats, and the wheat from the tares, pruning the body from time to time as fruit withers upon the branch, showing its true nature. In other words, the gospel net draws all sorts of fish into the church, and then it gets sorted, according to what type of fish it shows itself to be. If a man appears to be a sheep, or wheat, or good fish or fruit, he is to remain with the saints, but if he shows himself as a goat, a tare, rotten fruit or spoiled fish, he is to be cast out. The test of goathood, or tarehood, or rottenness is two-fold: does the man obey the commandments? If yes, he stays. If no, does he repent of his sins? If yes, he stays. If no, he must be cast off.

Pruning (excommunication) is to take place on an as needed basis, in order that the gospel tree does not perish.

Church trials

Before anyone can be excommunicated in this church, they must first be tried for their membership. As everyone is considered innocent before being proven guilty, the Lord has given in His scriptures the divine pattern of church trials and courts.

There are three types of church courts or trials that the scriptures speak of, and six types of judges.  The pattern is designed around checks and balances, in order that power is not concentrated in the hands of any one person or group and so that everyone who is accused has a fair, balanced trial, in which everyone’s rights are upheld.

The six types of judges

The witnesses

Two or three (or more) church members in good standing become judges when they act as witnesses. This is the law of witnesses and it is based upon the righteousness and holiness of a saint. It is the saints who will judge the nations and all things pertaining to Zion, for they are sanctified (holy) and are duly qualified to determine whether someone has transgressed.

The bishop

The bishop judges the good standing of the membership, and thus the saints, because a bishop is to receive an accounting of everyone’s stewardship.

The two elders

The two elders judge the case laid before them by the two or three (or more) saintly witnesses, the bishop attesting to their good standing. If there are sufficient witnesses, the two elders judge whether the accused has confessed and repented. If the accused refuses, then the elders pass judgment upon the accused, as required by the scriptures.

The church congregation

After the two elders come to a guilty verdict, they must lay the case before the congregation, which then must take a vote to sustain the action or oppose it. If the majority agrees, the decision is ratified and valid and the accused is excommunicated. If the majority disagrees, no action is taken. The congregation, then, judges the decision of the two elders, and decides whether it was correct or not.

The stake president

The stake president, like the two elders, judges the case laid before him by the witnesses and makes a decision concerning which party is right or whether both are wrong.

The high council

The twelve high council members vote to ratify (make valid) the decision of the president. If a majority does not agree with his decision, it does not go through.

The three types of church courts or councils

Bishop’s court or council

The bishop is to receive an accounting of everyone’s stewardship and is to know who is consecrating properties and moneys, or donating funds as tithing or fast offerings, etc., to the Lord. This gives him a unique perspective into who is and is not a wise and just steward. Nevertheless, his judgment and jurisdiction are not independent but only activate with just testimony.

And whoso standeth in this mission is appointed to be a judge in Israel, like as it was in ancient days, to divide the lands of the heritage of God unto his children; and to judge his people by the testimony of the just, and by the assistance of his counselors, according to the laws of the kingdom which are given by the prophets of God. (D&C 58:17-18)

And it shall come to pass, that after they are laid before the bishop of my church, and after that he has received these testimonies concerning the consecration of the properties of my church (D&C 42:32)

And also to be a judge in Israel, to do the business of the church, to sit in judgment upon transgressors upon testimony as it shall be laid before him according to the laws, by the assistance of his counselors, whom he has chosen or will choose among the elders of the church. (D&C 107:72)

Because of this, a sinner who confesses to a bishop cannot be tried by the bishop, nor his testimony used against him, because the testimony is of a sinner, not a saint. In other words, only the testimony of the just (someone who hasn’t broken the laws) can be used in trials. Nevertheless, with just testimony, the bishop and bishopric are authorized to judge only whether someone is in good standing or not, and is contributing to the upkeep of the poor and the kingdom. In other words, the bishop’s jurisdiction deals primarily in temporal matters.

Elder’s court or council

The elders’ jurisdiction to judge is activated by witnesses coming forth and testifying of the wickedness of some member. The bishop, if available, is required to be present that he may attest to the good standing of the witnesses. If two witnesses in good standing testify against a member, that is sufficient to condemn. If there is no confession and repentance afterward, the elders must lay it before the members, to ratify the excommunication. The elder’s council is designed to be used for matters of transgression only, to try a person for his or her membership.

High priests’ court or council

This court, known as a high council, is to settle difficult and important matters, and like the other courts, only receives jurisdiction when two or more saints testify as witnesses. For example, if there is a property dispute, one saying that his property line extends 15 feet down the hill and his neighbor saying that it only extends 10 feet, the high council can be used to address these matters, if there are sufficient witnesses.

Scriptural patterns are no longer followed

The above are the scriptural patterns, which are no longer precisely followed. For example, the elder’s council has been completely done away with. Instead, the high council now tries the men of the church who have had Melchizedek priesthood conferred on them, and the bishopric tries everyone else, for membership. Nothing outside of transgression is brought to trial anymore. You can’t take a property dispute to the church courts and receive a judgment. Instead, everyone is told to settle the matter amongst themselves, or to use the man-made court system.

The checks and balances that were present in the three-court pattern have been removed and power has been concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. Many of the rights guaranteed to all the members have been weakened or altogether removed. If we compare the scripturally revealed pattern of church courts with today’s current practice, it can plainly be seen that today’s practice and procedure makes the word of God, as written in the scriptures, of none effect, effectively removing the justice that was inherent in the original pattern. In other words, the current church court system is no longer based upon just principles, but is corrupt.

Church courts and the rights of a member

Disfellowship and excommunication is to occur in the church according to prescribed laws given of God in the scriptures. The procedure itself is divine and designed to preserve the rights of every accused member in the church, that justice prevail at all times. As I explained in another post, the Bill of Rights may be used in a church setting to protect one’s rights:

Because the Lord has approved of, or justified, the Bill of Rights, latter-day saints are fully authorized to include it as part of their scriptural canon. This is not to say that it is scripture, for it was not written by the power of the Holy Ghost, nor does it contain the revealed words of God, nevertheless, as an inspired and approved writing, it may be used to defend or safeguard one’s rights in a church setting.

The Fifth Amendment says,

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The twelve high councilors are, essentially, a type of grand jury, charged with investigating the merits of any accusations, witnesses and evidence. Their duty is to judge whatever is presented to them according to the canonized word of God. Church courts, then, were intended by God to incorporate this principle.

An accused latter-day saint cannot be a witness against himself because according to the law of God, only church members in good standing can act as witnesses. A confession, then, is insufficient to convict. Church courts, as detailed in the scriptures, cannot use someone’s confessed testimony as evidence against them, yet that is exactly what is done today by the church bishops, and also for high councils (disciplinary councils), if the accused allows the testimony into evidence. Such practices are completely at odds with the word of God.

The Wikipedia says this about due process:

Due process is the legal requirement that the state must respect all of the legal rights that are owed to a person. Typically, “Due process” means 1) NOTICE, generally written, but some courts have determined, in rare circumstances, other types of notice suffice. Notice should provide sufficient detail to fully inform the individual of the decision or activity that will have an effect on his/her rights or property or person. 2) right to GRIEVE (that being the right to complain or to disagree with the governmental actor/entity which has decision making authority) and 3) the right to APPEAL if not satisfied with the outcome of the grievance procedure. Due process balances the power of law of the land and protects the individual person from it. When a government harms a person without following the exact course of the law, this constitutes a due-process violation, which offends against the rule of law.

The church court system is supposed to incorporate the principals of due process, requiring notice, granting a right to grieve and also to appeal. Current practice has kept these safeguards more or less intact. Now let’s turn to the Sixth Amendment.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

All of these principles are supposed to be incorporated into church courts. The trials are supposed to be speedy and are supposed to be public (when they are presented to the church congregation for a sustaining or opposing vote, which no longer happens). The jury, which is the 12 high councilors, are supposed to be impartial, which is often no longer the case. The accused is to be tried locally, in his branch, ward or stake, where the sins were allegedly committed. (Trials are still local, but accusations may come from outside of the branch, ward or stake, such as from Salt Lake.) The accused is to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation. (This still happens.) The witnesses are to testify in front of the accused during the trial. (The law of witnesses, to my knowledge, has been almost completely phased out.) The accused has the right to call witnesses in his favor. (This is still allowed.) And lastly, one half of the high councilors that speak are to be the advocates of the accused. (This no longer happens.)

There is also the Seventh Amendment:

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

All high councils were designed to be, in fact, trials by jury, requiring a ratification vote by the high councilors to validate the president’s decision. This is no longer the case. In current practice, the stake president can convict regardless of what the other men say about the case. Therefore, the right to trial by jury has been denied to the saints. But this right is found in the scriptural pattern, like the others listed above.

So, we see from this that the church court system, as detailed in the revelations, incorporates many of the same principles found in the Bill of Rights.

D&C 42 and D&C 102

The patterns of the two main court (trial) systems, the elders’ council and the high council, are given in D&C 42 and 102.

D&C 42:78-93

Section 42 gives the pattern for the elders’ council, which dealt specifically with transgression, beginning with verse 78 through verse 93.

Verse 78 states that every church member must obey the church commandments and keep their church covenants.

And again, every person who belongeth to this church of Christ, shall observe to keep all the commandments and covenants of the church.  (D&C 42:78)

Now, that is the standard (obeying commandments and keeping covenants). But what does the church do if it transgresses? The previous section (41) said the following, but did not give the procedure for how one should be cast out or judged unworthy:

He that receiveth my law and doeth it, the same is my disciple; and he that saith he receiveth it and doeth it not, the same is not my disciple, and shall be cast out from among you; for it is not meet that the things which belong to the children of the kingdom should be given to them that are not worthy, or to dogs, or the pearls to be cast before swine. (D&C 41:5-6)

So, the rest of section 42 gives instructions on what the church should do when someone transgresses, or how to go about casting him or her off. We learn in verses 80-82 that when there is transgression in the church, the transgressors are to be tried in a church court trial before two elders of the church, and that if there are two church witnesses, that the accused shall be (not may be) condemned, and that after condemnation the congregation is to be informed of the case and of the decision and they are to vote on the matter by the raising of their hands, the Lord expecting them to uphold the decision and testimony of the witnesses:

And if any man or woman shall commit adultery, he or she shall be tried before two elders of the church, or more, and every word shall be established against him or her by two witnesses of the church, and not of the enemy; but if there are more than two witnesses it is better. But he or she shall be condemned by the mouth of two witnesses; and the elders shall lay the case before the church, and the church shall lift up their hands against him or her, that they may be dealt with according to the law of God. And if it can be, it is necessary that the bishop be present also.  (D&C 42:80-82)

We also learn that the bishop needs to be present, if possible.

The next verse (83) basically says that verses 80-82 is the pattern for all church trials for membership.

And thus ye shall do in all cases which shall come before you.  (D&C 42:83)

Verses 79-87 give the pattern for dealing with transgression in the church as follows: if a man breaks a law of the land, he is to be delivered up unto the law of the land, and if he breaks the law of God, he is to be tried in a church court.

Verses 88-89 explain that no member is to be tried in a church court unless he has offended someone and been confronted and rebuked and has refused to confess, repent and be reconciled. Also, that the first part of the trial is to take place in a private meeting with the elders, so that the accused has an opportunity to confess, repent and seek reconciliation, avoiding any judgment and embarrassment in front of the congregation. The second part of the trial (in front of the congregation) only takes place if the accused refuses to repent.

Verses 90-92 explain that public or open offenses require public or open rebuking, while secret offenses require secret rebuking.

Lastly, verse 93 says that this is the pattern in all things for behavior concerning rebuking, chastisement, offenses, confession, repenting, reconciliation, and church trials.

And thus shall ye conduct in all things.  (D&C 42:93)

D&C 102

Trials for membership due to transgression were designed by the Lord to be the jurisdiction of the local elders and congregation, since they would have much more knowledge about the individuals involved (accused and accusers) than would the high councilors and stake president, who potentially could live elsewhere, in another part of the stake. On the other hand, trials about other matters, such as property disputes and other similar matters, were designed by the Lord to be the jurisdiction of the high council because they would not have intimate knowledge of the details of the local disputes, and therefore would be more likely to be impartial judges, the outcomes not affecting them one way or another.

That said, let’s examine section 102. The heading to Doctrine and Covenants section 102 reads:

Minutes of the organization of the first high council of the Church, at Kirtland, Ohio, February 17, 1834. The original minutes were recorded by Elders Oliver Cowdery and Orson Hyde. The Prophet revised the minutes the following day, and the next day the corrected minutes were unanimously accepted by the high council as “a form and constitution of the high council” of the Church. Verses 30 through 32, having to do with the Council of the Twelve Apostles, were added in 1835 under Joseph Smith’s direction when this section was prepared for publication in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Although D&C 102 is not a revelation, it contains the information on how the first high council was organized and operated, which organization came of revelation, and which operation was given by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. So, although we don’t have the pattern dictated directly by the Spirit, we do have a recording of the pattern (the minutes) as witnessed by two men who were present when the pattern was shown. The minutes were later corrected by Joseph, so we can be sure they are reliable.

As I said before, the modern procedures for how church disciplinary councils are operated render the word of God of none effect, making modern courts fundamentally unjust. The error comes from a misreading of section 102, which gives the “form and constitution of the high council”, to be followed by all high councils.

Okay, so let me unfold the errors.

Modern church disciplinary councils operate under color of law

The following document,

Church Disciplinary Councils

gives the current procedures used in these courts. Here are a couple of quotes which manifest the errors:

“In a stake disciplinary council, the stake president is assisted by twelve high councilors. Their role is easily misunderstood. Uninformed persons are tempted to liken the high council to a jury. In view of the not well understood instructions in section 102 of the Doctrine and Covenants, there is also a tendency to view individual high councilors as prosecutors or defenders. Neither of these comparisons is appropriate. Members of the high council are present to “stand up in behalf of the accused, and prevent insult and injustice’ (Doc. & Cov 102:17). In other words, they are to give added assurance that the evidence is examined in its true light and that the procedures and treatment of the accused are consistent with equity and justice. Their roles are illumination and persuasion, not advocacy or decision.” (Dallin H. Oaks)

“After hearing any additional comments from the high council, the stake presidency withdraws from the council room to confer in private. After consultation and prayer, the stake president makes the decision and invites his counselors to sustain it. The stake presidency then returns and announces the decision to the high council. The stake president asks the high councilors as a group to sustain his decision. The high council cannot veto the decision; it is binding even if it is not sustained unanimously.” (Church Handbook of Instructions)

Neither of these quotes is correct. Or, in other words, they are correct in that the modern church procedure operates as they state it does, but they are not correct in that the procedure they use is entirely at odds with the written word of God.

Here is what the section actually says,

Whenever a high council of the church of Christ is regularly organized, according to the foregoing pattern, it shall be the duty of the twelve councilors to cast lots by numbers, and thereby ascertain who of the twelve shall speak first, commencing with number one and so in succession to number twelve.

Whenever this council convenes to act upon any case, the twelve councilors shall consider whether it is a difficult one or not; if it is not, two only of the councilors shall speak upon it, according to the form above written.

But if it is thought to be difficult, four shall be appointed; and if more difficult, six; but in no case shall more than six be appointed to speak. (D&C 102:12-14)

So everybody picks a number out of a hat, from one to twelve. If the case is easy, just two men speak; if difficult, four men speak; and if really difficult, six speak. The rest do not speak, but just listen.

The accused, in all cases, has a right to one-half of the council, to prevent insult or injustice.

And the councilors appointed to speak before the council are to present the case, after the evidence is examined, in its true light before the council; and every man is to speak according to equity and justice.

Those councilors who draw even numbers, that is, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12, are the individuals who are to stand up in behalf of the accused, and prevent insult and injustice. (D&C 102:15-17)

In behalf of

Now, here is where brother Dallin gets it wrong (and shame on him!, since he’s supposed to be a lawyer). The expression “to stand up in behalf of the accused” means “to stand up as an advocate of the accused.”

BEHALF, n. behaf. [See Behoof.]

1. Favor; advantage; convenience, profit; support, defense, vindication. The advocate pleads in behalf of the prisoner. The patriot suffers in behalf of his country.
2. Part; side; noting substitution, or the act of taking the part of another; as, the agent appeared in behalf of his constituents, and entered a claim.

AD’VOCATE, n. [L. advocatus, from advoco, to call for, to plead for; of ad and voco, to call. See Vocal.]

1. Advocate, in its primary sense, signifies, one who pleads the cause of another in a court of civil law. Hence,
2. One who pleads the cause of another before any tribunal or judicial court, as a barrister in the English courts. We say, a man is a learned lawyer and an able advocate.
3. One who defends, vindicates, or espouses a cause, by argument; one who is friendly to; as, an advocate for peace, or for the oppressed.

AD’VOCATE, v.t. To plead in favor of; to defend by argument, before a tribunal; to support or vindicate.

All of that is from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, showing that this is the very meaning of the phrase, contrary to what brother Dallin would have us believe.

The reason why brother Dallin and the other church leaders feel the need to wrest this scripture into saying something it isn’t saying is because they have transfigured the high council into something it was never intended to be: a church court dealing with transgression and trials for church membership. So, they cannot conceive of a righteous man advocating the cause of someone who could be an unrepentant sinner, like the lawyers do. (Jesus is our advocate with the Father only if we are penitent, for the impenitent do not have Him as their advocate.)  The thought of advocating impenitence, then, is understandably repulsive to them, so they simply interpret the scripture another way, to make it work according to their procedure. But the very words themselves do not fit.

High councilors could advocate the cause of the accused because these were not meant to be matters dealing with transgression, but merely “important difficulties.” In other words, disputes over this and that private matter. In such cases, the accused may be right, or may be wrong. The high councilors who were chosen by lot to speak, could put themselves in the place of the accused, for they weren’t attempting to excuse sin, but to show a private matter from the perspective of the accused.

Veto power

The CHI says that the high council cannot veto the stake president’s decision, but that is flat out wrong.

After the evidences are heard, the councilors, accuser and accused have spoken, the president shall give a decision according to the understanding which he shall have of the case, and call upon the twelve councilors to sanction the same by their vote.

But should the remaining councilors, who have not spoken, or any one of them, after hearing the evidences and pleadings impartially, discover an error in the decision of the president, they can manifest it, and the case shall have a re-hearing.

And if, after a careful re-hearing, any additional light is shown upon the case, the decision shall be altered accordingly.

But in case no additional light is given, the first decision shall stand, the majority of the council having power to determine the same. (D&C 102:19-22)

Here is the meaning of the word sanction, from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:

SANC’TION, v.t. To ratify; to confirm; to give validity or authority to.

Thus, the twelve high councilors vote to ratify, confirm, give validity or authority to the stake president’s decision. Without such validation, the president’s decision is non-binding. That is what ratification is all about.

Unanimity is not required for ratification, only a majority vote. In other words, the majority of the council has power to determine whether the first decision shall stand, as well as whether there is no additional light given. The reason for the re-hearing is not because some councilors disagree, or even that one councilor disagrees, with the president’s decision, but because one or more of them think there may have been an error, meaning that the stake president overlooked something. This is why the section talks about additional light.

Impartiality

But should the remaining councilors, who have not spoken, or any one of them, after hearing the evidences and pleadings impartially, discover an error in the decision of the president, they can manifest it, and the case shall have a re-hearing. (D&C 102:20)

IMP`ARTIAL, a. [in and partial, from part, L. pars.]

1. Not partial; not biased in favor of one party more than another; indifferent; unprejudiced; disinterested; as an impartial judge or arbitrator.
2. Not favoring one party more than another; equitable; just; as an impartial judgment or decision; an impartial opinion.

Current church practice in church courts creates a conflict of interest. The witnesses who present evidence or who make accusations and bear testimony, are biased, but the high council and stake presidency is supposed to be unbiased and impartial. That requires that none of them can act as witnesses, nor make accusations. Any church court that has any of the councilors or any of the stake presidency acting as a witness or making accusations, in any degree of bias, cannot be called impartial and thus is nothing but a farce.

Guilty until proven penitent is a bastardization of the law

Another practice in the church court system is the assumption of guilt upon the accused. In the Lord’s law, every saint is innocent until proven guilty, but the modern church court procedure assumes the accused is guilty and thus that the accused, in order to be in God’s good graces, must confess his sin and show penitence before the council, otherwise the council will see him as an impenitent sinner, instead of as a penitent sinner, and will have to apply the penalty the Lord’s law requires. This practice makes all those who say they are innocent of any charges appear impenitent, even if they really are innocent.

Evidence alone is not enough

It is called the law of witnesses for a reason. Evidence of wrongdoing, without an eyewitness testifying, is insufficient. The witnesses are the saints and it takes a saint to condemn anyone. Also, every word must be established by two or three witnesses. So if someone in the church, for example, publishes some literature or book, but none of the saints are offended by it or bring up accusations against the author, the high council has no jurisdiction to lay charges against the author, nor does the stake presidency, nor the bishopric. Charges or accusations can only come from a saint’s testimony and it requires two saints’ testimonies for any of these men to obtain jurisdiction to bring a judgment against a member. The Lord made it this way because it is the jurisdiction of His saints to have the first and final word, judging both the nations of the earth and also Zion.

Behold, I, the Lord, have made my church in these last days like unto a judge sitting on a hill, or in a high place, to judge the nations.

For it shall come to pass that the inhabitants of Zion shall judge all things pertaining to Zion.

And liars and hypocrites shall be proved by them, and they who are not apostles and prophets shall be known.

And even the bishop, who is a judge, and his counselors, if they are not faithful in their stewardships shall be condemned, and others shall be planted in their stead. (D&C 64:37-40)

The saints are given free reign to judge all things, both inside and outside the church, including all the leaders from top (apostles and prophets) to the bottom (bishops). The word of two or more saints against any man, woman or child of age in this church condemns that person, regardless of his or her office.

Excommunication is supposed to be a congregational affair

Excommunication (cutting off a person from the church) is in similitude to the cutting off from the presence of the Lord which will happen to all the sons of perdition at the last day. Since that last act of cutting off is, in actuality, a spiritual death, even a second death, cutting off is representative of death. In other words, excommunication represents the death penalty, or capital punishment. Only those who do not repent receive this penalty.

The authority to inflict (the similitude of) death upon a sinner was never meant or designed by God to be in the hands of one man (a stake president) nor three men (the stake presidency), nor twelve men (the high council). The final decision was meant to be in the hands of the saints who make up the congregation.

But he or she shall be condemned by the mouth of two witnesses; and the elders shall lay the case before the church, and the church shall lift up their hands against him or her, that they may be dealt with according to the law of God. (D&C 42:81)

Without such congregational ratification, we end up with secret trials like those of the Gadianton robbers.

Now there were many of those who testified of the things pertaining to Christ who testified boldly, who were taken and put to death secretly by the judges, that the knowledge of their death came not unto the governor of the land until after their death. (3 Ne. 6:23)

Let the saints do their duty

It is the duty of a saint to lay charges, make accusations and bear witness against all wickedness they see. If they see (scripturally-defined) dissenting behavior, they will resist it and seek to silence it. They are the Lord’s anointed and the only ones authorized to condemn; not the bishop, or high council or stake presidency. (See Evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed.)

And they were strict to observe that there should be no iniquity among them; and whoso was found to commit iniquity, and three witnesses of the church did condemn them before the elders, and if they repented not, and confessed not, their names were blotted out, and they were not numbered among the people of Christ. (Moroni 6:7)

And if any man or woman shall commit adultery, he or she shall be tried before two elders of the church, or more, and every word shall be established against him or her by two witnesses of the church, and not of the enemy; but if there are more than two witnesses it is better. But he or she shall be condemned by the mouth of two witnesses; and the elders shall lay the case before the church, and the church shall lift up their hands against him or her, that they may be dealt with according to the law of God. (D&C 42:80-81)

It is right and proper for them to prune the church and bear witness against unrepentant sinners. They would be remiss in their duty if they shut their mouths at the sight of wickedness. So do not harp on them or put obstacles in the way of their duty, otherwise they will end up condemning you.

The purpose of this post

I wrote this post to show that, according to the scriptural definition, there is no such thing as a sinless dissenter; that the church is commanded to be one; that dissenters should be silenced; and that excommunication is a divine principle. I never expected to get into the unrighteousness of current church court procedure. I never expected or intended to judge the courts and find them “wanting in the balance” (see Dan. 5:27). But I did and that’s that. Nevertheless, despite the courts being corrupt because they do not conform to the divine pattern, to dissent is still a sin, all dissenters still should be silenced, unrepentant sinners still must be cut off from the church and excommunication of unrepentant sinners is still a righteous thing to do.

The question that remains, then, is what do we do about the courts? How can they be reclaimed and made right and just again, according to God’s revealed pattern? What steps must be taken by saints, working in unison (as one in Christ) within the stakes and acting on the promptings of the Holy Ghost, to administer “judicial reform” and bring the courts back into conformity with God’s laws? I don’t, as yet, have an answer to these questions. But there is one thing that I am certain of: although the institutionalization of the current church court procedures, in defiance of the written word, poses an obstacle to change, God’s saints have power through faith to rebuke anything they deem offensive, and correct anything they deem incorrect, whether within or without the church, for it is their duty and prerogative to judge all things. So I guess it just comes down to this: will they also judge the church courts and find them wanting?

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Paul and the church at Judea


I was reading through the resurrection narratives in the four gospels, thinking about writing something about Mary Magdalene because of some comments I wrote on a Wheat & Tares post by Mormon Heretic [Smearing Mary Magdalene].

I was writing down the order of appearences made by Jesus after he resurrects from the grave, as given by each of the four witnesses that we have canonized currently.

The four gospel narratives:

Mark

  • Mary Magdelene, out of whom Jesus had cast seven devils
  • two of them as they walked and went into the country
  • the eleven

Luke

  • Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with him
  • two of them on the road to a village called Emmaus
  • Simon
  • the eleven

Matthew

  • Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
  • the eleven

John

  • Mary Magdalene
  • the disciples
  • Thomas

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

Though we think of Paul as coming later in chronology — in terms of historical dates for the written records — the authenticated letters of Paul are the earliest written Christian documents of the bible.  In other words, what got written down into [e.g.] Corinthian epistles was physically put to paper before the words that got written down as the Mark, Matthew, Luke, or John narratives.

1 Corinthians 15:5-8, then, gives what is the earliest [historically-speaking] written account of post-mortal appearances of Jesus, given as testimony that he did indeed resurrect from the grave.  Paul writes the appearances in this order:

  • Cephas
  • the twelve
  • over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present but some are fallen asleep
  • James
  • all the apostles
  • Paul himself

Of interest in Paul’s list is that the order is unlike anything seen in the four gospel narratives.  The risen Jesus is seen by Peter first — not Mary [she’s not there at all].

Then he is seen by “the twelve” — not the “eleven” [implying Judas was not counted out of the number of the quorum].

Then there is a large event where over 500 men see him at one time.  This would have undoubtably been a miraculous account, if only our canon contained it.  Paul was obviously using that appearance to lend the most verifiable credibility to his own testimony — because he makes it a point to mention that many of those men are still alive today — as if to say to the readers, “You can go ask them if you doubt me, they’re still around.”

Then James is mentioned separate from “the twelve” — presumably because this is “James, the Lord’s brother“, rather than the apostle who was John’s brother.  Also it is interesting to note that Peter, the twelve, and James are all mentioned as separate from “all the apostles.”  This suggests that what Paul considered an “apostle” is different from the Quorum of twelve male key-holders that we currently think of when we use that word:

salute Andronicus
and Junia
my kin
and my fellowprisoners
who are noteworthy apostles
who also were in christ before me

[Romans 16:7]

Paul’s bound-less concept of the gospel:

I was thinking of some reasons why this would be.  Paul seems to have thought about the church of Christ in terms that were broader in scope and more “bound-less” in understanding than did the brethren at Jerusalem.  It was his radical idea that if it is indeed true that every one is justified, sanctified, and purified by faith in the blood of Christ alone — then:

there is neither jew nor greek
there is neither bond nor free
there is neither male nor female
for ye are all one
in christ
Jesus

[Galatians 3:28]

… a message of a gospel of uncircumcision — egalitarian tribal anarchy — or complete liberty in Christ.

Paul, in fact, did not seem to quorum with the twelve at Jerusalem and Peter at all.  He makes it a point in his letter to the Galatian church to state that the gospel he delivered to them was given to him straight from the mouth of Jesus — and not from the oral tradition and records of the men at Jerusalem:

Paul
an apostle not of men, neither by man
but by Jesus christ, and god the father, who raised him from the dead
unto the churches of Galatia
I certify you
brethren
that the gospel which was preached of me
is not after man
for I neither received it of man
neither was I taught it
but it came by the revelation of Jesus christ

but when it pleased god
to reveal his son in me
that I might preach him among the gentiles
immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood
neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me
after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter
and abode with him fifteen days
but I saw none of the other apostles
save James the Lord’s brother
I was unknown by face unto the churches of Christ in Judea

[Galatians 1]

Paul also describes how Peter acted with “stiffneckedness and unbelief” [3 Nephi 15:18]:

when the brethren at Jerusalem saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me
as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter
[…]
and when James, Cephas, and John
who seemed to be pillars
perceived the grace that was given unto me
they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship
that we should go unto the gentiles
and they unto the circumcision

but when Peter was come to Antioch
I withstood him to the face
because he was to be blamed
for […] he did eat with the Gentiles
but when they were come [from Judea]
he withdrew and separated himself fearing them which were of the circumcision

but when I saw that they walked not uprightly
according to the truth of the gospel
I said unto Peter before them all
if thou, being a jew, livest after the manner of gentiles […] why compellest thou the gentiles to live as do the jews?
[…]
knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law
but by the faith of Jesus christ
even we have believed in Jesus christ
that we might be justified by the faith of christ
and not by the works of the law
for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified

[Galatians 2]

In fact, the undisputedly authentic letters of Paul [Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, and 1 Thessalonians] are never addressed to:

  • “Bishop So-and-so, of the church at ______”

or to

  • “The elders of the church at _______”

etc.

But are always addressed to just “the church”, as a leaderless body of equals who gather together for worship.  It’s not until the disputed letters of Paul [1 and 2 Timothy and Titus] that you start to see a leadership hierarchy being given direction that they are to pass on to the lay-members.

The church of Christ in Judea went through all three stages of the church of God:

It started in stage one, built on the miraculous works of the Father:

and when the day of pentecost was fully come
they were all with one accord in one place
and suddenly there came a sound from heaven
as of a rushing mighty wind
and it filled all the house where they were sitting
and there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire
and it sat upon each of them
and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost
and began to speak with other tongues
as the Spirit gave them utterance

[Acts 2:1-4]

The church of Christ multiplied greatly, the word of God was preached with authority and power, the community of believers lived as Zion, etc.

By the time we get to the time at which Paul begins writing his letters [~40-50’s AD], the church of Christ has entered the stage two, built on the works of men.

The church in Judea governs according to their Judean culture, instead of the purity of the truth of the gospel alone.  The “stiffneckedness and unbelief” that Jesus mentioned to the Nephite church began to exert itself until manifestations of power began leaving the church.

The church of Christ begins to solidify into a hierarchy of religious brokers — who see themselves as having the jurisdiction over who experiences Jesus and how.

In the gospel of Mary Magdelene, it reads:

When Mary had [told the twelve what Jesus taught to her], she fell silent, since it was to this point that the Savior had spoken with her.

But Andrew answered and said to the brethren:  “Say what you wish to say about what she has said. I at least do not believe that the Savior said this. For certainly these teachings are strange ideas.”

Peter answered and spoke concerning the same things.  He questioned them about the Savior, saying:  “Did He really speak privately with a woman and not openly to us?  Are we to turn about and all listen to her?  Did He prefer her to us?”

Then Mary wept and said to Peter: “My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I have thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?”

Levi answered and said to Peter:  “Peter you have always been hot tempered.  Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries.  But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her?  Surely the Savior knows her very well.”

Finally the history of the church of Christ passes through stage three [built on the works of the devil] — where at some point, it is wholly rejected by the Lord and ceased to have any power or authority.

Next Article by Justin: Intimacy as the Opposite of Sin

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What’s the recipe for healing?

How to receive what you ask for


It is a gospel law that if you ask God for something that is good and right, in the name of Jesus, in faith, believing that you will receive, doubting nothing, you will receive what you ask for.

A new investigation

Lately I have been perplexed by the lack of spiritual best gifts among the church of God. In my interactions with church members, I had come to the conclusion that we do not have the gifts “because [we] ask not, neither do [we] knock” (2 Ne. 32: 4), after all, Jesus said that “every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened” (3 Ne. 14: 8.) Nevertheless, with over 13 million members of record, I found it awfully strange that not even one person sought these gifts. I mean, what are the odds of that?

That got me thinking that in all likelihood the truth was that while the vast majority of the membership no longer sought the gifts, a small minority did. Yet even among them the gifts are absent. I wondered, why haven’t these people received what they are asking for?

Moroni records Jesus as saying, “Whoso shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him I will confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth” (Mormon 9: 25.) He also gives his own prophecy, “Whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth” (Mormon 9: 21.) God cannot speak a lie and still remain a God of truth. This means that for the entire gospel to be true, all its individual parts must also be true, including this promise, because the principle is that God “never doth vary from that which he hath said” (Mosiah 2: 22; also Alma 7: 20 and D&C 3: 2.)

I decided, then, that I would put Moroni’s promise to the test and follow the prescribed steps so that Jesus would have to confirm His words to me. I believed the word of God to be true and had full confidence that I would receive what I asked for. Specifically, I was going to ask for a spiritual best gift, for the gifts of the Spirit are things that are right and good, which is one of the qualifications necessary for the promise to be fulfilled. (See 3 Ne. 18: 20 and Moroni 7: 26.)

I began my trial sometime between the 19th and 26th of January, 2011, and have continued it to this very day. This post contains what I have so far learned from this ongoing experiment with the word of God.

Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith

And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. (Ether 12: 6)

A trial is a proof. A proof is “any effort, process, or operation designed to establish or discover a fact or truth; an act of testing; test; trial; as to put in proof.” The trial of your faith, then, is the proof of your faith, or an effort, process or operation designed to establish or discover whether or not you have faith.

The “effort, process, or operation” that is used to establish that we have faith is a very specific type of prayer. By praying in a specific way, our faith will be instantly put in proof and we will immediately know whether we have faith.

How to pray, part one

For the purposes of this experiment, we shall attempt to obtain one of the gifts of God. In particular, we will seek a gift that is easily recognizable as having been received. Of the three lists of gifts in the scriptures, the list given to the Lamanites is the only one that contains the gift of the beholding of angels (see Moroni 10: 14 and The role of angels in Nephite preaching.) So, this is the gift we will seek, for once an angel of light appears and is discerned (see D&C 129: 4-9), there is no doubt that the gift has been received.

The instructions of how to ask God for one of His gifts, which were given by Jesus and Moroni (in Mormon 9: 21, 25; 3 Ne. 18: 19-20; and Moroni 7: 26), are summarized in the following manner:

Ask the Father

Ask in the name of Christ

Believe in Christ

Believe in the name of Christ

Ask for something good and right (the gift of the beholding of angels qualifies)

Ask in faith

Believe you shall receive

Doubt nothing

The promise is that if the above steps are followed by anyone, it shall be granted/done/given and Jesus’ words will be confirmed.

Let’s write up a sample prayer based upon the above instructions.

My heavenly Father, your name be blessed. Show mercy upon me and hear my words. Baptize me in the Spirit and cause that I speak the words of this prayer by the power of the Holy Ghost. I thank you for the gospel and your Beloved Son: His life, suffering, death and resurrection. Grant me belief in Him and in His holy name. Give me faith in your Son. Bestow upon me the belief that I will receive what I ask you for in this prayer. Take away my doubt so that I pray, doubting nothing. Confirm Jesus’ words to me. Send your angel to me. Let me behold his face. Allow me to converse with him. Have him declare the word of Christ to me. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

A deadline

On the surface, the above prayer seems to serve its purpose of putting our faith in proof. If you have faith, the angel will appear. If you do not have faith, the angel will not appear. What it lacks, though, is an element of time. When does the angel have to appear? The prayer does not specify. The time frame is left up to the Lord. If the Lord decides to send the angel at the end of your life, 60 years from now, how does this tell you now whether or not you have faith? It doesn’t. What if the Lord decides not to send an angel because you didn’t exercise faith, would you know? Nope.

Prayers that don’t have an element of time in them are insufficient to put your faith in proof. A deadline, such as a day and time, must be included so as to make a discovery of faith (or lack thereof.) If the deadline comes and goes, with no result, you didn’t pray in faith. If the deadline arrives with an angel, you now have passed the trial of your faith and have received your witness.

Here is the same prayer altered slightly so that it serves as a trial of faith:

My heavenly Father, your name be blessed. Show mercy upon me and hear my words. Baptize me in the Spirit and cause that I speak the words of this prayer by the power of the Holy Ghost. I thank you for the gospel and your Beloved Son: His life, suffering, death and resurrection. Grant me belief in Him and in His holy name. Give me faith in your Son. Bestow upon me the belief that I will receive what I ask you for in this prayer. Take away my doubt so that I pray, doubting nothing. Confirm Jesus’ words to me. Send your angel to me right now. Let me behold his face. Allow me to converse with him. Have him declare the word of Christ to me. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

All things can be asked for

Notice in the above prayers that I asked for everything. I didn’t say, “Give me this according to the faith that I have,” I said, “Give me faith in your Son.” I didn’t say, “I believe that I will receive what I ask you for in this prayer,” I said, “Bestow upon me the belief that I will receive what I ask you for in this prayer.” I didn’t say, “I have no doubts whatsoever,” I said, “Take away my doubts.” The Lord has everything I need to make a prayer work. If I lack anything, He can make up for it, if I ask Him for it.

O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. (Mormon 9: 27)

Different amounts of faith

To move mountains, you need faith the size of a mustard seed. Jesus told Peter that he had little faith. The scriptures speak of having the gift of exceedingly great faith. All of this shows that faith comes in different amounts. Depending on what you are asking for, you will need a greater or lesser amount of faith.

The mere act of asking God for something, believing that you are going to receive, is an act of faith. How much faith? No one but God knows. However, if you ask, believing that you will receive, and do not receive what you ask for—and you know for a fact that you have not received what you asked for because you asked in the manner detailed above, using an element of time so that the prayer creates a trial of faith—it causes you to confront your false beliefs. You must then admit to yourself that the belief that you had that you would receive what you asked for was false. Again, you may indeed have asked in faith, because the very act of asking is an act of faith, but it was of an insufficient quantity to receive what you asked for, therefore your belief that you would receive was false.

When a man is faced with a false belief—not determined by someone else, but determined by the man himself—the natural tendency is to discard the belief. You will no longer wish to follow Jesus’ instructions to believe that you will receive, because your mind, shown by direct evidence, will tell you that that belief is false. The evidence will be incontrovertible. In order for you to pray again, again believing that you will receive, you will have to completely ignore the evidence. You will have to call black white and white black. You will have to act totally irrationally. You will have to step into the unknown. You will have to close your eyes and walk blindly in darkness. You will have to face the fear and trembling spoken of in the scriptures and work out your own salvation under these conditions.

If you are able to get back on your knees and offer another prayer, asking again for something with a deadline, so that the prayer becomes another trial of your faith, and with the (irrational) belief that you will receive, the very act of attempting the experiment again requires more faith than your first attempt.

Each subsequent attempt will again naturally increase your faith. But each time you fail to receive, you will be faced again with a religious crisis that can only be overcome by faith.

The theory in all of this is that eventually, continuing on in this manner, you will finally arrive at the amount of faith required for what you are asking for, and you will then receive the gift you seek, obtaining the witness promised in the scriptures, which comes after the trial of your faith.

The veil of unbelief

The Lord prophesied that the people of our day would have a veil of unbelief, which, unless rent, would keep us in a state of wickedness, blindness of mind and hardness of heart, and He would withhold the greater things from us.

Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel. (Ether 4: 15)

The purpose of the veil of unbelief is to hide “the great and marvelous things” of God from us. As long as it is upon us, we can pray until we are blue in the face to see angels or obtain the powers and gifts of the Spirit and we will forever remain in the dark about such things, never tasting of the goodness of God, nor feasting upon his fatness. Only those who pray to God “with a broken heart and a contrite spirit” are the ones who rend the veil of unbelief and partake of the greater things, such as the ministration of angels. To all others, the heavens are closed.

God has power to cast away the veil of unbelief from our minds

Now, this was what Ammon desired, for he knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God— (Alma 19: 6)

Anyone can ask for the same blessing from the Lord.

It is extremely important that the veil of unbelief be removed, because it will prohibit us from exercising faith.

And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust. (Mormon 9: 20)

Using disappointment to rend one’s soul

…when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief… (Ether 4: 15)

The disappointment of not receiving what we ask for, as promised in the scriptures, is a heart-wrenching experience. If repeated over and over again, using back-to-back deadline prayers, it feels like your whole soul is being ripped apart. This might be the reason why the Lord chose the word “rend” when speaking of what to do with the veil of unbelief.

To rend means “to part, tear off, or take away, by force.” It also means “to separate into parts with force or sudden violence; to tear asunder; to split; burst; tear; to affect as if tearing asunder; as, ‘powder rends a rock in blasting; lightning rends an oak; a lion rends its prey; to rend one’s garments; the nation was rent by discord; a heart rent with grief.’” So, there is nothing gradual or subtle about rending the veil of unbelief. It is supposed to be done suddenly and violently, creating rapid change in the individual.

What the veil is

Man cannot perceive the veil of unbelief that covers him. The word veil is used to describe it because it feels very much like a thick piece of cloth that envelops the spirit. We can’t see out through it and, in fact, can’t even feel that it is there. However, once a part of the veil is rent, suddenly we can perceive that something real (an actual thing) is covering us, like a cocoon that gets cracked, letting the airy breeze in. The breeze feels good to us and the contrast between the exposed and covered parts (where the veil is still intact) enables us to finally perceive the veil.

The first perception of the veil is an alarming experience. The initial reaction is, “Get this off of me!” It feels like an uncomfortable, alien, spiritual cloth. And indeed it is. The veil of unbelief is Satan’s spiritual garment that he imperceptibly places upon all mankind when they arrive at the age of accountability and sin. Its purpose is to reduce agency, faith, knowledge, wisdom, etc. It allows him to more easily deceive us and lead us to destruction. It is the counterpart of the garment of the priesthood.

The veil of unbelief appears to be an extension of the spirit of the devil and not an individual thing placed upon each person. The result of being subject to it is damnation (see Damnation.) Once you can perceive that it is on you, you want it off of you immediately, because you can perceive that it is not a part of you and that it has been placed there without you even realizing it and that it is stopping you from spiritually progressing. In other words, you can perceive that an enemy put it there.

Even if one goes through all the ordinances of the gospel and wears the physical priesthood garment, etc., as long as Satan’s spiritual garment (the veil of unbelief) is still being worn, spiritual progress will be stunted and the gifts of the Spirit will remain off-limits. The gospel teaches that the proper order is to first rend the veil of unbelief and take it off, and then we are to put on gospel covenants and clothing. But even if things have been done out of their proper order, it is of utmost importance that Satan’s veil be removed.

The chains of hell

The chains of hell are twin filaments of spirit matter (plasma) that twist and revolve around each other in a pattern that looks like the links of a chain.

One end of the chain leads to, and is held by, Satan (see Moses 7: 26.) The other end of the chain leads to the veil of unbelief. It is attached to the veil at the back and base of the skull. One filament is attached to the half of the veil that goes over a man’s left brain hemisphere (the mind) and the other filament is attached to the half of the veil that goes over a man’s right brain hemisphere (the heart.)

There are three modes of plasma discharge: glow, arc and dark. The chains of hell are twin filaments of plasma discharging in dark mode.

The mind operates in arc mode, while the heart operates in dark mode. The mind is designed to believe what it sees, therefore it is designed to be lit up so that it can see everything and thus believe everything. The mind is also designed to be firm or fixed. When illuminated, it clearly can see where everything is and instantly can fixate upon what it sees without any wavering. When minds are darkened, it cannot clearly see things or where things are and must waver in order to try to find its way in the darkness, just as a blind man moves his cane left and right to figure out where things are.

When a chain of hell is attached to a veil of unbelief, the dark mode discharging filament that goes into the half of the veil of unbelief that encases the mind causes the mind to go into dark mode. The mind becomes darkened, and undergoes a state of blindness. It begins to waver. As it cannot see anything or much at all, it does not believe much either, or it begins to doubt or exhibit unbelief. Wickedness is simply a state which goes against the purpose God designed. It is a perversion. The mind was designed to operate in arc mode, in a digital manner. The veil of unbelief causes it to operate in dark mode, in an analog manner. The mind is now in a state of wickedness.

As stated above, the heart operates in dark mode. It is designed to operate in this mode and is designed by God to be soft and malleable, or easily entreated. When the other filament of the chain of hell goes into the half of the veil of unbelief that covers the heart, it cannot change the discharge mode of the heart, because the chain of hell is also in dark mode. However, it does have an effect upon the organ of the heart: it causes the heart to become hard or fixed. So now, instead of feeling its way around its environment like a blind man, as it was intended to do, the heart functions like a mind, fixating on individual emotions, instead of expanding to encompass the infinite gradations of feelings. In other words, the heart is designed to embrace the infinite, or feel an infinite variety of feelings and emotions. When the veil of unbelief, powered by the chains of hell, covers the heart, it becomes selective in what it feels, acting in a digital manner instead of the analog manner it was designed to operate in. It, too, is now in a state of wickedness.

Satan is able to deceive mankind through his chains of hell and the veils of unbelief that are attached to all sinners. Through sin, the veil of unbelief and its chain becomes attached to man around the age of eight. Through continual sin, it becomes increasingly more difficult to be removed.

The chains of hell not only look like chains, but also function as chains. If a man does not, while in mortality, repent and shake off the chains of hell and rend the veil of unbelief that is attached to his mind and heart, when he dies he becomes exposed to the full captivating power of Satan. Satan has power to pull on his chains, dragging the souls down to hell, but he has no power to pull the spirits into hell while they are still in their physical, mortal bodies. Only when the spirit leaves its body can the devil pull the helpless souls into hell. The body serves as a temporary protection from the devil in this manner. Once in hell, the devil can fully subject the spirits to him, through his spirit (the chains of hell and veils of darkness). (See Alma 34: 33-35.)

Having an understanding of these things is extremely important, in order that we can work out our salvation with fear and trembling before God. (See Alma 34: 37.)

A tare sown

The chains of hell and the veil of unbelief, if turned upside down, look like a plant stalk with roots going into the heart and mind of man. This is, in actuality, the tare that is sown by the enemy. The tare seed is planted in the heart of man first (see Moses 6: 55) and then takes root in both heart and mind. In other words, the first plasma filament of a chain of hell first begins its connection to man in the heart, then the second filament connects to the mind, creating the veil of unbelief which encompasses the mind and heart of man.

(Note: the veil of unbelief only covers the heart and mind of man, not any other part of his spirit body.)

Secret works of darkness

Man cannot discover the chains of hell, nor the veil of unbelief that is upon him. If it were not for the word of God, which reveals the secret works of darkness of the evil one, no man would ever know that actual chains of hell exist, nor that veils of unbelief are secretly placed upon all mankind. These invisible plasma filaments (chains of hell) and plasma coverings (veils of unbelief) can only be detected by a manifestation of the gift of the discerning of spirits, for these are extensions of the spirit of the devil.

Satan operates in secret. As long as we have no knowledge of what he is doing to us, or what he has done or plans to do, he can work his destruction upon us with impunity. The word of God ruins his plans, because it fully exposes the danger the devil poses to us. Once a man knows that he is in chains of hell and covered in a veil of unbelief, secretly put there by the devil upon reaching the age of accountability and sinning, man can use his agency to fight it and attempt to get it off of him by calling on the power of Christ to help him. This puts a clog in the works of the devil, so he has always attempted to destroy the scriptures, or corrupt them, or get people to disbelieve them or misinterpret them. For those of us that have uncorrupted scriptures (the Book of Mormon), the devil’s strategy to stop us from liberating ourselves with the power of Christ is to deceive men into believing that all is figurative in the scriptures, or at least the parts that pertain to him. So, the expression “chains of hell” is not considered a real thing that binds man. And the “veil of unbelief” is not considered a real thing that covers the heart and mind of man. They are thought to be just figurative expressions of states of mind, not actual things that must be actively sought to be removed from one’s spirit body.

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord

O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him. (Mormon 9: 27)

Most LDS interpret this scriptural expression as referring to respect. In other words, when we fear God, we don’t actually exhibit fear of Him, meaning that we are frightened by Him, but accord Him the respect that He deserves. However, this expression does not refer to respect. Such an interpretation is a deception of the devil, a snare meant to blind the minds and harden the hearts of the church of God.

What fear in the expression actually means

The word fear in the expression “fear and trembling” signifies actual fear, as in fright or horror. It is the fear of being cast off forever.

And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them, for they were the very vilest of sinners. And the Lord saw fit in his infinite mercy to spare them; nevertheless they suffered much anguish of soul because of their iniquities, suffering much and fearing that they should be cast off forever. (Mosiah 28: 4)

Such fear is instilled in a person when the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached in its fulness and purity (see Alma 16: 21), meaning that those parts of the gospel which reveal the power and captivity of the devilthe reality of death and hell, the chains of hell, the darkness and blindness of minds, the hardness of hearts, the state of wickedness, the fallen, evil nature and nothingness of man, the bands of death, the doctrine of damnation and endless torment, the spirit of the devil, the mists of darkness and temptations of the devil, the veil of unbelief, the wavering state of the mind, the lake of fire and brimstone, the flaming sword of justice, the rivers of filthy water, etc.such parts of the gospel sink home into the heart and mind of a man, and this new awareness causes him to fear to die because of the knowledge that the instant he leaves his mortal body he will be “taken home to that God who gave him life” (Alma 40: 11) and, being found unclean and possessed by the spirit of the devil (for the chains of hell are still attached), will then be cast off into hell (Alma 40: 13), to be kept in captivity by the devil, because of his sins.

Again, this is according to the power and captivity of the devil, which the Lord respects:

And again, doth a man take an ass which belongeth to his neighbor, and keep him? I say unto you, Nay; he will not even suffer that he shall feed among his flocks, but will drive him away, and cast him out. I say unto you, that even so shall it be among you if ye know not the name by which ye are called. (Mosiah 5: 14)

Satan possesses all who have his chains of hell upon them. We are his property and the Lord respects that and will respect that so long as we have a chain upon us sealing us as the devil’s. This is why we are cast off when we return to that God who gave us life and cannot enter paradise or the gates of righteousness. The chains of hell are still attached to us, the veil of unbelief remains intact and our minds are still in a state of blindness or darkness, or “filthiness” and “uncleanness.” No unclean thing can enter the gates of righteousness, otherwise paradise would also be unclean. So, we are cast off and dragged down to hell.

What trembling in the expression actually means

The trembling is both physical and spiritual, or the trembling of the entire soul when a man is confronted with his deepest, darkest and most horrifying fear, that of being cast off forever. Trembling happens when a man is conscious of his own guilt before God, having transgressed His laws and commandments.

Now Alma, seeing that the words of Amulek had silenced Zeezrom, for he beheld that Amulek had caught him in his lying and deceiving to destroy him, and seeing that he began to tremble under a consciousness of his guilt, he opened his mouth and began to speak unto him, and to establish the words of Amulek, and to explain things beyond, or to unfold the scriptures beyond that which Amulek had done. (Alma 12: 1)

Shaking loose the chains and rending the veil

Fear and trembling before the Lord causes man to be confronted with the realization that he does not have faith unto salvation, unto repentance, unto redemption. It is faith that saves a man from the hell that is prepared for him. The realization that he does not have faith plunges his soul into its own personal hell, where darkness envelops him and hell fires scorch and burn him up, in a process that, if the man learns to trust the Lord, repent of all his sins and continue on through the darkness and fires, will sanctify him, for these are the refiner’s fires, which are meant to consume the impurities found within his heart and mind, his very soul.

The trembling and shaking is not a mental process alone, but also a physical one. When it is discovered that the devil has actual chains upon his spirit, with an actual veil of unbelief upon his mind and heart, the spirit of man reacts violently against the foreign spirit of the devil, of which the chains of hell and veil of unbelief are a part, and attempts to shake it off itself. As the spirit of man is connected to his physical body, when the spirit suffers in anguish because of the awareness of the presence and attachment of the spirit of the devil,―and such suffering is known as “the pains of hell”―and then attempts to shake the chains of hell loose, the physical body likewise begins to shake uncontrollably. (See 2 Ne. 1: 13, 23; 9: 45 and Alma 5: 9-10; 26: 14.)

Faith unto repentance brings relief and liberation

If a man is able to obtain faith unto repentance, by offering to the Lord a broken heart and contrite spirit, the fear of being cast off forever and his trembling under a consciousness of guilt is turned into the joy of the saints, knowing that the Lord has redeemed his soul from hell and forgiven his sins. This happens when the chains of hell have finally been shaken off and the veil of unbelief has been rent by all the fearing, trembling and crying to the Lord with a broken heart and contrite spirit. The man is now free from the power and captivity of the devil and can worship the Lord free from the guilt of his sins, with the understanding that Jesus has taken them away and that should he die this instant, he will go to paradise and not hell.

“O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell!” (Alma 19: 29. These were the first words king Lamoni’s wife said, when she arose and stood upon her feet, after having been under the power of God.) The relief of liberation from the devil and deliverance from hell is the first thing on everyone’s mind.

In this state, the man is now justified (guiltless), purified (having no more desire to sin and, in fact, looking upon sin with abhorrence), and sanctified (having desires to do only good continually). He can now ask the Lord for a gift or power of the Spirit, with faith in Christ, believing he will receive, doubting nothing, and the Lord will grant his request.

Fear and trembling, part two

“O blessed God, have mercy on this people!” (Alma 19: 29; which were the second words that king Lamoni’s wife said after arising and standing upon her feet.)

Once free from sin, the liberated man turns his attention to those around him and his now acute knowledge of the power and captivity of the devil, and how narrowly he was able to escape his grasp and hell, causes him to fear and tremble for others. He begins to fear that those around him will be cast off forever and he begins to tremble and quake at the thought that if his fellowmen do not go through the same process that he just did, liberating themselves by faith on the word of Christ, that they will perish.

Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble. (Mosiah 28: 3)

The man of God, having been born as a new creature, even born of God, now desires that all should have the same privilege. Instead of fearing and trembling before the Lord because of his own sins, he now fears and trembles for the sins of others. If the man’s heart remains broken and his spirit contrite, he will continue in this purified, sanctified and justified state, working tirelessly to save as many souls from hell as he can, by exercising his faith to obtain and use the powers and gifts of God to benefit others and to help them also liberate themselves from Satan’s grasp.

This principle applies even to those who overcome the world and are translated, becoming sanctified in the flesh. Such persons still “suffer…sorrow…for the sins of the world.” (See 3 Ne. 28: 38.)

Fear and trembling, part three

The unrepentant man, whose soul is cast into hell, quickly finds himself in torment, with no apparent means of escape, bound to the devil by the chains of hell, which he can now plainly see are attached to his spirit, along with the veil of unbelief, in an environment of darkness, filthy rivers, magma, mists of darkness, surrounded by souls who are weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth, in continuous anguish and misery.

He sees his situation as hopeless. Although he walks in every imaginable direction, hell appears to be endless and its gates are all one way. Souls continually enter but none have power to leave. There is no relief to his torment. Not even death can get him out of this prison, for he cannot die. Finding himself literally in hell, which appears to him to be a never-ending prison, he begins to fear and tremble uncontrollably and without cease, which causes him to enter a state of misery and indescribable suffering. The fearing and trembling, however, that the damned soul in hell goes through, is insufficient to shake loose the chains of hell that bind him, because he still has no faith, hope or charity. Unless he is able to obtain the word of Christ and plant it in his heart, and go through the process of repentance, by which he exercises faith unto repentance, he must remain chained as a possession of the devil and be subjected to the devil’s power to make him miserable.

All must fear and tremble

All men who arrive at the age of accountability and have chains of hell placed upon them because of their transgressions must eventually fear and tremble. A man can either do it voluntarily before the Lord during mortality and allow the hellish process to work out his own salvation, purify his heart and shake off the devil’s chains, through faith on the Son of God, thereby causing the gates of hell to be shut before him, or he can be compelled by the devil to fear and tremble while he resides within the confines of hell.

Fearing and trembling before the Lord in mortality is the same process as that in hell, except that you have a physical body. The body makes it much easier and quicker to shake off the chains of hell and rend the veil of unbelief. The fearing and trembling occurs before the Lord, in prayer, as you wrestle with the understanding that there is a satanic veil covering your mind and heart, with a chain attached to it that leads directly to the devil himself. And this veil and chain is causing you to remain in a state of wickedness, blindness of mind and hardness of heart. It is deceiving you and not allowing you to exercise faith. And unless you exercise faith, you aren’t, can’t and won’t be saved. And if you were to die this instant, with this satanic spirit attached to you, this same spirit would possess you and drag you down to hell and cause you to be in subjection to it and all would be lost. (See Alma 34: 34-35.)

These are scary thoughts, the thought that you are unsaved and doomed to hell unless you can rend the veil of unbelief. This fear, when it works its way into a frenzy, causes your spirit and physical body to start shaking uncontrollably.

Again, it is the trembling of the spirit that leads to the veil of unbelief being rent and cast away and the chain of hell being loosened and shaken off. This is how all the ancients worked out their own salvation. It is a personal trip to hell done in the presence of the Lord, where the fires of hell sanctify the person by causing him to fear and tremble, which eventually frees the man from the bonds of hell that held him tight. Mind you, these aren’t the literal fires of hell (magma), but the spirit fires of hell (the twin plasma filaments discharging into our human spirits in dark mode, known as the chains of hell.) Hell, in a very literal way, is already attached to all of sinning mankind, by way of the spirit of the devil (the veil) that is rooted in us. The spiritual fires of hell is the spiritual torment a man feels knowing that he is not saved. It is a reaction by the spirit host (the man) to the alien, devilish symbiote (the veil and chain).

No one, except it be little children, will escape the fear and trembling of hell. When little children die, they go straight to paradise, avoiding hell altogether, and while little children are alive, they are sinless and have no chains of hell placed upon them, therefore they need not go through any fear and trembling. The repentant saints of God, though, must go through hell on earth, by which they work out their own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord. This allows them to enter paradise when they die, thus avoiding the gates of hell. The unrepentant wicked, on the other hand, do not go through this process on earth, therefore they must go to literal hell when they die, where they do not work out their own salvation, yet still fear and tremble under Satan’s power.

Suffering and sorrow is what it is all about

Suffering and sorrow are the sanctifying, purifying and justifying principles of the gospel. Fearing, trembling and having a broken heart and contrite spirit are the three principles that bring us to the Lord. The fear of being cast off forever, or, in the case of the righteous, the fear of other people being cast off forever, is a form of suffering. Trembling under a consciousness of one’s own guilt, or, in the case of the righteous, trembling under a consciousness of other people’s guilt (because of the knowledge that they will perish unless they repent), is also a form of suffering. And a broken heart and a contrite spirit is sorrow for one’s own sin (demonstrated by uncontrollable weeping), or, in the case of the righteous, sorrow for other people’s sins.

All of this suffering and sorrow is over, or about the consequences of, sin. It is sin-centric suffering and sorrow. If we go through suffering and sorrow about anything else that is not sin-centric, such as an illness, or failure at a relationship, or poverty, etc., none of such things does us any good whatsoever in the process of working out our own salvation. Only suffering and sorrow for sin sanctifies, purifies and justifies.

Deceptions of the devil

It is the intent of the devil to have all mankind fear and tremble in literal hell, under his satanic power, and not in mortality under the power of the Holy Ghost. The doctrine of working out one’s salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord destroys the devil’s captivating power, therefore, he inspires mortal men who are under his evil spirit to preach against this doctrine. One such individual was Nehor.

And he also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life. (Alma 1: 4)

Nehor’s preaching had devastating effect among the church of God, leading many members into sin and many were excommunicated. Since the time of Nehor, however, the devil has changed strategies, but the result is the same. Now, instead of getting the church of God to believe that the doctrine of fearing and trembling before the Lord is false or unnecessary, the devil has caused the church to re-interpret it as something other than what it is. Now the church believes it is merely showing respect towards the Lord by striving to keep His commandments, with no spiritual and physical suffering needed. This new strategy of the devil is more effective, at least for our time, because the church actually believes that they are working out their own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord, without going through any of the steps of the real doctrine.

Again, although the strategy has changed, the end result is the same. No one goes through the process of fearing that they will be cast off forever. No one goes through the spiritual and physical shaking and trembling under a consciousness of his guilt. And no one manifests the uncontrollable weeping associated with profound sorrow for one’s sins, known as a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

The doctrine of working out one’s own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord requires that a knowledge of the chains of hell, of death, hell and the devil, of the captivity and power of the devil, and of all things associated with Satan and hell and sin and death be explained to a person. Unless a person understands that he is in the devil’s grasp and is going to hell if he does not repent, he can never fear and tremble before the Lord in mortality, and if he never fears and trembles before the Lord in mortality, he must fear and tremble before the devil in hell.

Owing to the necessity of teaching the doctrine of hell and the captivating powers of the devil as part of the plan of salvation, the devil has enacted a plan whereby he now gets the church of God to avoid all mention of hell, death, the devil, fear, sin, trembling and any other “negative” emotional state. We focus on heaven and salvation and avoid all mention of damnation and hell. Fear is never, ever mentioned, at all, and when it is mentioned, it is immediately struck down as a barbaric relic of old-time religion. (For example, see this comment.)

Nephi saw our day (as well as the days to come) and saw the strategies that would be employed by the devil to emasculate the doctrine of fearing and trembling before God:

For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger, and perish; for behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.

And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.

Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell; and death, and hell, and the devil, and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God, and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment. (2 Nephi 28: 19-23)

Nephi said that “the kingdom of the devil must shake.” He understood completely the doctrine of fearing and trembling before the Lord. Also, he foresaw that hell would no longer be considered an actual place (see Teachings on hell and the spirit world), but a state of mind, as if people could release themselves from the misery of hell merely by thinking a different thought. Such deceptions are already upon us, and even greater deceptions are to come.

The gospel has already been compromised

The Book of Mormon preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ in purity. If you look at every preacher found within that book’s pages, you will notice that when they preached Christ, they also preached the devil and hell. When they preached salvation through Christ, they also preached damnation through the devil. When they preached liberation through the Son of God, they also preached captivity through the devil. When they preached of the Holy Ghost, they also preached of the evil spirit of the devil. They preached the gospel in its fulness and purity.

Now compare that to how the Gentile church of God preaches. We leave out fully one-half of the gospel when we preach it. We never talk of damnation, or captivity or hell, etc. When we talk of the atonement, we briefly mention sin and death and how the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ liberates us from that and then move on. There is no mention of fear, trembling, or any other thing that people might consider “too negative.” We focus on the positive and largely discard anything negative from our minds and conversations. As a result, we have stopped preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, for, like a scale, balanced coverage must be given to both sides in order for a man or woman to repent of their sins.

Truth be told, even the half that we do preach isn’t preached all that much. The vast majority of our conversation is centered on prophets and apostles, obedience to leaders and commandments, blessings of paying tithing, attending church and temple, and every other conceivable topic that has nothing, whatsoever, to do with Jesus Christ’s suffering, death, resurrection and judgment upon all mankind.

Now, I normally put the blame of all things wrong with the church of God on the member’s backs, but this time I point the finger at the church leadership. They are not teaching the gospel and instead of getting the people to repent, they are causing the hearts of the people to become more and more hardened.

The plan of salvation has also been compromised

The Gentile church has likewise modified the scriptural plan of salvation. The plan is, in a word, Christ. It is not a flip-chart with circles representing kingdoms of glory, earth and the Spirit World. Christ is the plan. He was sent to deliver us from death, hell and the devil. Through faith on the power of His deliverance He can blot out our transgressions, all our afflictions, all our pain, take away our temptations and even blot out death, in other words, everything that causes a tear of sadness to fall from the eyes of man. He took all this upon Himself so that He could blot it all out.

Without Christ we are subject to the devil. We are not subject to sin, but to the devil. This is an important distinction to make. Sin and death are but tools of the devil. The real danger is the devil. The plan of salvation is a plan to save us from the devil. For example, death is a problem because

“…if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself…” (2 Ne. 9: 8-9.)

And sin likewise causes us to become subject to him, so that, were there no plan of salvation, “our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils,” even angels to a devil. So, Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection is designed to save us from the devil for he is the one holding all the chains of hell.

When we focus on sin and death and leave out the devil, we destroy the plan of salvation and faith. If sin were just a nebulous concept, without an actual being of power behind it, we could all be Buddhists or of any other religion and not need Christ. But this is not the case. No one can break Satan’s chains of hell. No Buddhist, no Muslim, no religion or philosophy of men. Only faith in Christ can. He, and He alone is the plan of salvation and we need saving from Satan and Satan alone. Christ and Satan must go hand in hand when presenting the plan of salvation, otherwise, it is no longer the plan of salvation and is of none effect to save men.

The Gentile church of God has pretty much divorced sin from the power and captivity of Satan. For example, if you look at the Mormon.org page on “Jesus Christ,” sin is mentioned 24 times with no mention of the devil. (A little better is that site’s page, “God’s Plan of Happiness,” which mentions sin 7 times, with Satan mentioned twice.) As a result, no one can properly exercise faith as a principle of power. Instead, we get hit and miss manifestations and no gifts.

Also, the focus of the plan of salvation is no longer Christ. Now when we think of the plan of salvation, instead of viewing the sufferings, death and resurrection of Christ, we think of three degrees of glory and of exaltation in the celestial kingdom. And we most certainly do not think of the devil and hell. In fact, we don’t even use the word hell anymore, having replaced it with the more politically correct term, “spirit prison.” Yet, even with that term, we do not see it as an actual prison, with real shackles upon a person. All has become figurative states of mind.

All fear is negative and bad and inspired by me,” says the devil

All of this is according to the deceptions, plans and power of the evil one, for it is his intent to remove both Christ and himself from our conversations. As long as he remains out of sight and out of mind, he is free to go about destroying souls.

In this way, the people are deceived and never realize the danger they are in, nor do they learn the process by which to go about removing themselves from that danger. They are deceived into thinking that fear, meaning actual fear, as in fright, is contrary to the gospel, and that fear can only be inspired by the devil. So, they never enter the process by which all the ancient saints went through to shake off the chains of hell and rend the veil of unbelief and save themselves, which is the process of fearing and trembling and crying before the Lord.

Again, what is it that we are to fear in this process? We are to fear being cast off forever. (See Mosiah 28: 4.) It is this fear that causes the body and spirit to tremble. And, why should we fear this? Because as long as the chains and veil are attached to us, we cannot exercise faith, cannot be saved and will be dragged down to hell once we leave our physical bodies, to become subject to, and possessed by, the devil’s spirit. Once people learn of these things, they begin to fear death, while the righteous, who have been liberated from this captivity, have no fear of death.

To be clearer in writing, no one can be saved without faith in Christ and no one can exercise faith in Christ unless they go through the process of fearing, trembling and crying before the Lord. So, to ascribe all fear as inspired of the devil is to commit spiritual suicide, for you will then never be able to exercise faith unto salvation.

The scriptures explain these things in plainness, so that people can understand that they ought to go through this process right now, this very moment, while they are still alive. Such plainness necessitates Satan’s strategy to get us to misinterpret these real things as mere symbols.

The one mighty and strong is a deception

There are many who are waiting for “one mighty and strong” to show up and save the day, performing miracles and wonders and signs. Such a doctrine is inspired of the devil. I’m not saying that there will not be one or more persons arriving who will be mighty and strong and manifest miracles and perform great works. Of course there will be. However, the waiting for such a man or men to arrive is inspired by the evil one, that he might keep all those who believe such a doctrine in the status quo and ever relying upon the arm of flesh and looking for someone to lead them.

The true doctrine of Christ is that every man and woman is to repent of their sins and harden not their hearts, receiving a remission of their sins, and then asking God in faith to obtain the gifts and powers of the Spirit, so as to work miracles themselves, and not to wait for miracle workers to show up. Those who wait for miracle workers to show up, without learning how to work miracles themselves, will end up being deceived, for Satan will send miracle workers with the intent to deceive such people.

We are to obtain the gifts ourselves so that we are not deceived (see D&C 46: 8.) If you do not obtain the gifts, but merely wait for a savior to arrive, you will get a savior, but he will be sent from the evil one.

Pray against the power of the devil

The scriptures indicate that we must pray always and not faint, that we be not led into temptation. In other words, we are to pray against the power of the devil, against his power to tempt and deceive us and others.

Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness. (Alma 34: 21.)

The Lord will grant us what we ask for in faith, but if we do not ask for something, He will not grant it. The ancients always prayed against the devil’s power and taught all men to do so. The Gentile church typically neglects this duty.

The ordinance of prayer

Prayer is an ordinance (see New thoughts on prayer) by which we offer a sacrifice to the Lord. He only accepts one type of sacrifice: that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. A broken heart and contrite spirit is a heart that is inundated with sorrow for sin. Initially, it is sorrow for one’s own sins. Later, when forgiveness through faith on Christ has come, it is sorrow for the sins of the world.

Prayer only works if this sacrifice is offered up. If any man or woman prays to God without presenting before Him the required sacrifice, which is the only sacrifice He will accept, the prayer is counted as evil and profits the man nothing. (See Moroni 7: 6-9.) Just as Cain brought the wrong sacrifice to the Lord and was rejected by Him, while Abel brought the right sacrifice and was accepted, so if we pray to God without a broken heart and contrite spirit, our prayers will not be answered, or will be of no profit to us.

The Son of God is “quick to hear the cries of his people and to answer their prayers” (Alma 9: 26), but only if they offer the required sacrifice. If they go to the prayer altar and offer up nothing, or some substitute sacrifice, they have no such promise.

If you are not weeping, you are not broken-hearted

The Lord has given us a key whereby we might know if we have a broken heart and contrite spirit: the crying of tears of sorrow. When we are crying tears of sorrow for our own sins, or for others’ sins, then we are broken-hearted. If we have not, as yet, reached that point, our hearts are still hard.

Yea, his weeping for Zion I have seen (D&C 21: 8 – The Lord, speaking of Joseph Smith, Jun.)

For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry. (2 Ne. 33: 3 – Nephi)

There is a reason why the scriptures tell us to “cry unto the Lord.” The word cry can mean “to make a loud call or cry, as in an effort to be heard, in prayer or supplication, in pain or anger, etc.; to call out or exclaim vehemently or earnestly; to shout; to vociferate.” But it can also mean “to utter lamentations; to lament audibly; to express pain, grief, or distress, by weeping and sobbing; to wail; to shed tears with or without making a sound; to weep.” It is the latter type of crying that demonstrates a broken heart and contrite spirit.

When we cry to the Lord, with uncontrollable weeping for our sins, the Lord is “quick to hear the cries.” Only those who have a broken heart and contrite spiritwho are they that are truly penitent and sorry for their sinshave access to the atonement of Jesus Christ, “and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered” (2 Ne. 2: 7.) This means that unless you are brought to tears for your own sins, or for the sins of the world, you are currently in a state of damnation, because your heart is still hard, the veil of unbelief is still intact, the chains of hell are still attached to you and you are still in subjection to the devil, being an enemy to God.

The condition of the heart

It all comes down to our hearts. Our hearts are hard, like a stone. This is the reason, the only reason, why those of us who ask God for a gift of the Spirit, do so in vain. This is the reason why we do not receive.

No one can exercise faith while in a state of damnation. No one can be saved in his sins. He must be saved from his sins. A hard heart is a wicked heart. As long as his heart is hard, a man is still in his sins. The heart must be broken before salvation goes forth. Before Christ can forgive anyone of any sins, there must be the all-important sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Simply saying you are sorry for your sins does not cut it. You must feel sorrow for your sins. And this must be the sorrow unto repentance spoken of in the scriptures. This is sorrow that is accompanied by tears, by uncontrollable weeping. It is this sorrow that causes you to turn from (repent of) your sins.

And for those of us who have turned from our sins without the accompanying sorrow for sin (the weeping of a broken heart), such “repentance” is but a change of lifestyle and profits us nothing in the afterlife. The Lord looks upon the heart. Regardless of how one has stopped using drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and breaking the law of chastity and other laws of God, if the heart is still hard, that man is still in a state of wickedness, with veil of unbelief firmly attached, and has no faith unto salvation, which is why he cannot perform any miracle and will find himself in hell upon his death if he continues in the iniquity of his heart. So, it is sorrow for sin (the broken heart and contrite spirit) that is the first and chief gift of God that one needs to be saved.

But before you can attain to that state of sorrow, you must understand the consequences of sin. You must have a proper understanding of death, hell, and the devil and the captivity of the devil. And this understanding must work in you until you fear being cast off and tremble under a consciousness of your guilt before God. Only then can you come close to obtaining a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

All of this brings us to the role of the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon is the solution

The word of God, found in the Book of Mormon, contains everything necessary to bring people to repentance, to the broken heart and contrite spirit required before miracles can go forth. This volume of scripture is designed to “pull down all the pride” (see Alma 4: 19) of the church of God. The opposite of pride is humility, meekness, lowliness of heart. These words refer to the broken heart and contrite spirit, not to mere “teachableness” as many LDS would interpret them to mean.

The church of God is currently in a rising pride cycle, which means that it does not desire to repent, nor feels the need to. It enjoys the status quo just fine. It resembles the Nehor perversion in certain aspects.

(The order of Nehors created exceedingly hard-hearted people. It was the Nehors of Ammonihah who murdered the women and children believers by fire. See Alma 14. It was also mostly the Nehors who slew the Anti-Nephi-Lehies who were prostrate and praying to God. See Alma 24.)

So, many members no longer care about obtaining the gifts. But even the members that are concerned about the lack of gifts, and that attempt to receive them, are incapable of doing so because they “are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” In short, the devil has the entire world under darkness, both within and without the church.

The Book of Mormon is the Lord’s solution to this problem. It is intended to give us the word of God in purity so that we can learn everything we need to know about Christ’s atonement and His power of deliverance, as well as the devil’s power of captivity. It continually calls us to repentance and shows us exactly what to do to escape the grasp of the devil and avoid entering hell, how to obtain a glorious resurrection, how to repent and receive forgiveness of sin, and how to obtain any gift or power that God has ever given to any saint of any age. In short, it gives us exactly what we need to gain the victory over the devil and overcome the world by faith.

Enos and Amulek as our models

Enos knelt before his Maker and “cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication” for his own soul, “all the day long.” And when the night came, he did still raise his voice in prayer. And then the Lord spoke to him and told him his sins were forgiven.

It took Enos less than 24 hours of “crying to the Lord,” or less than the waking hours of a day, before the Lord finally spoke to him and he obtained a remission of his sins. It was accomplished in a single day.

Amulek said:

Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you. (Alma 34: 31)

Again, the implication is that it takes but one day to obtain forgiveness.

How to pray, part two

Remember the list of steps? Pray to the Father, in the name of Christ, with faith in Christ, believing that we will receive, doubting nothing, for something good and right? Well, if you pray that way without a broken heart and a contrite spirit, you won’t receive a damn thing.

Before approaching the Lord in prayer to obtain the gifts of the Spirit, you must first obtain a remission of your sins, and before that you must first obtain a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And to do that you need to be harrowed up with guilt, you need to tremble and fear before the Lord, and nothing does that like the pure gospel of Jesus Christ, even the word of God as written in the Book of Mormon. The broken heart is the first thing to ask for. With prayer and the word of God, as found in the Book of Mormon, pride will eventually be pulled down and your heart will be softened and the tears will flow for your sins.

At that point, you must pray to God for forgiveness, while in your state of tears, or broken-heartedness, for as long as it takes. As demonstrated by Enos, it won’t take longer than a day, for the Lord is quick to hear the cries of His people. When you finally receive forgiveness of sin and have had your sorrow wiped away and replaced by joy, being full of the Holy Spirit and being baptized with fire, with the ability to speak the tongue of angels, etc., then, and only then, will you be able to ask and receive whatever you want.

Right after Enos received a forgiveness of sins, he got back onto his knees and poured out his whole soul to God for his brethren the Nephites. His broken-heartedness was in their behalf. Again, the Lord spoke to him. Later, he again prayed in this same manner, this time asking for something specific regarding the preservation of their records. He received what He asked for, because once again, he prayed with a broken heart and contrite spirit.

This is the grand key to the doctrine of ask and receive. If you have a hard heart, you receive the lesser portion until you know nothing and are taken captive by the devil. If you do not harden your heart, but keep it broken, you receive the greater portion of the word until you know the mysteries in full. (See Alma 12: 10-11.) Again, the key to know if you have a hard or soft heart is whether you weep over sin.

The Atonement has power to melt hearts

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me. (Alma 7: 11-13)

The suffering that Jesus went through is designed to move the Universe to tears, compassion and forgiveness. All mankind would unavoidably perish were it not for the redemption of Christ, and He came down to save us, not to save Himself, because He loves us and does not want the workmanship of His hands to perish. So, this was a completely selfless sacrifice. Both the reasons for the sacrifice and the intensity of it work on all who plant this word in their hearts.

This means that when we plant this word in our hearts and believe it, viewing the cross of Christ and all the suffering that He underwent, we, too, can be moved to tears, compassion and forgiveness. In other words, the atonement has power to take away our stony hearts and give us a heart of flesh. For this reason, studying the word of God tends to pull down pride and humble us to the dust, making it easier for us to obtain a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

For those of us who find that we cannot cry to the Lord, meaning that we cannot feel the sorrow for sin necessary to obtain blessings from the Lord, because the tears do not come, the Lord, in His infinite foreknowledge and mercy, knowing that the preaching of the word in purity has power to break hearts and that the Gentile church would not preach the word in purity, began the foundation of the church with the Book of Mormon, for the Book of Mormon prophets preached it in purity. In this way, anyone who desired to obtain a broken heart and a contrite spirit, could do so by reading the Book of Mormon with a believing heart. This would be as effective as hearing the pure word preached in power.

A doctrine of two atonements

The process of working out your own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord, and of calling upon the name of the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit is an atonement. To be saved, two atonements are required. The infinite atonement of Christ in which He feared that we would all be cast off, trembled with a perfect consciousness of all our guilt, and sorrowed under the enormous weight of our sins, was the first one, without which no one would be saved. But a second one, a finite one, in which each person must also go through this process of fearing, trembling and sorrowing, is necessary to activate the first one.

A sense of our own nothingness

Ammon said, “Yea, I know that I am nothing” (Alma 26: 12.) Mormon said, “O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth” (Helaman 12: 7.) And king Benjamin said, “The knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state” (Mosiah 4: 5.)

The broken heart and contrite spirit is attendant with a sense of our own nothingness. Lehi preached the nothingness of man to his children (see Deep Waters: Lehi’s model of the universe) who then kept up the teaching throughout their generations to the end of their civilization. We are, quite literally, nothing, having come from the nothingness. All that we are and possess has been given to us, or leased to us, by the generosity and charity of God. If we do not turn the lease into a permanent ownership, by filling our hearts with charity, which is the love of God, our lease will end and we will return to the nothingness from whence we came. Just as from dust we are taken and to dust we shall return, so from nothing we come and to nothing we shall return, unless we take advantage of the atonement of Christ.

Even before obtaining a broken heart and a contrite spirit, getting a sense of one’s own nothingness assists in softening the heart, for the contrast between God’s absolute greatness, being a possessor of all things, and our nothingness, causes us to quake and tremble. Shaking, quaking and trembling are helpful in softening the heart. And after the broken heart is received, always remembering one’s nothingness and the greatness of God keeps everything in a proper perspective, so that it becomes that much easier to retain a remission of sin.

Retaining a remission of sins

And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel. And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true. (Mosiah 4: 11-12)

The key to retaining a remission of sins, given by king Benjamin, is to continually perform the ordinance of prayer, offering a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, which is the required sacrifice or atonement that is acceptable to the Lord. Doing so will fill us with the love of God (charity) so that it will be well with us at the last day, for whoever does not possess charity is counted as nothing and must return to the nothingness from whence they came, while those who do possess charity remain in the kingdom and receive an inheritance.

It is imperative, then, that we pray always and do not faint, after the prescribed manner.

There is no going back

To those who wish to use the information in this post, know going into it that once you start the fearing and the trembling, there is no going back. The pure gospel awakens you from the sleep of hell into a state of torment, even the pains of hell. The realization that you do not have faith will torment you as if your soul has been set on fire, for without faith no man can be saved.

One option (temporary at best) is to reject the gospel altogether and to believe that the promises of the Lord are false and thus the plan of salvation is a sham. But that will only work until you die and then you will find yourself in hell, in your unsaved condition. So death does not bring relief from this misery.

If you make an agency choice to continue to believe that what the Lord has promised in the scriptures is true, and that all who ask in faith, believing they will receive, nothing doubting, will indeed receive, then you must remain in your miserable, faithless state until you obtain the promised witness.

The very misery you find yourself in, then, knowing that you have no faith sufficient to save yourself, will either impel you forward to ask again and strive to obtain the witness, or drive you backward to reject the entire gospel. In this way, all who arrive at the trial of faith must make a choice. There is no middle ground. It is all or nothing.

Closing summary: A gospel prescription

Just as one goes to a doctor who then prescribes a medication or procedure to cure the ailment, so we can write a prescription based upon the above information to “cure” the world of a deficiency of gifts and miracles.

There are three steps to receiving what you ask God for. The first is the fear of being cast off forever. The second is a trembling under a consciousness of your own guilt before God. The third is a broken heart and a contrite spirit, which is extreme sorrow for your sins, manifested by uncontrollable weeping.

Once a man has the fear we are speaking of, this automatically leads him to trembling. The fear and trembling, if they are continued through prayer and studying the word of God, will eventually lead to a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

It is the broken heart and contrite spirit that rends the veil of unbelief, shakes off the chains of hell and casts away every doubt. Once a person has a broken heart and a contrite spirit, he can pray to God for forgiveness of his sins and within a single day of prayer become justified, sanctified and purified. This is because God is quick to hear the cries of those that have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

After his sins are remitted, the man must continue in prayer and fasting, praying against the power of the devil, acknowledging the greatness, goodness and long-suffering of God and His hand in all things, and always remembering his own nothingness, and by so doing, he will always retain a remission of his sins.

Such a man, whose sins are now remitted due to his broken heart and contrite spirit, can ask the Lord for any gift or power of the Spirit and it will be granted him. So long as he remains broken-hearted and with a contrite spirit, he will grow in the knowledge of the glory of God, and partake of as many gifts, marvels, signs, wonders and powers as he asks for.

Now, backing up a bit: the first step is fear. To obtain this fear, a man must have the gospel preached to him in its purity, so that he has a good understanding of the power and captivity of the devil, of hell and of death, and also of the power and deliverance of the Son of God, of heaven and of the resurrection and judgment. The volume of scripture that God has given to us to preach the gospel in purity is the Book of Mormon. Therefore, to all who are serious about obtaining and exercising faith and receiving the gifts and miracles of God into their lives, may I make a suggestion?

Put every other book you are currently reading and studying aside and just read the Book of Mormon, preferably out loud, so that you actually hear it preached. Every available moment that you have, read from its pages, with the above understanding in mind, and allow it to soften and affect your heart, afflict your soul, harrow you up with your sins, instill fear in you and cause you to tremble under a consciousness of your own guilt. This can only be accomplished if you believe everything that you read and apply all the sermons of repentance to you, as if they were spoken directly to you and with you in mind. Do this until your pride has been pulled down by the word of God and you have obtained the broken heart and contrite spirit that you seek.

Also, pray to God in the above prescribed manner, using a deadline so that each prayer becomes a trial of your faith. In this way, you will be able to plainly see that you do not have faith, which will cause you to fear and tremble exceedingly.

Continue on with these prayers and scripture readings, and petition the Lord for the broken heart and contrite spirit and to rend the veil of unbelief and shake loose the chains of hell. Use every available moment to do these things and submit yourself fully to the fearful and trembling pains of hell. Eventually, the Lord will take away your stony heart and replace it with a heart of flesh and you will finally feel the relief that comes from uncontrollably sobbing because of your sins. You will finally be able to feel sorrow for your sins, instead of just saying you are sorry and not really feeling it.

When those tears come, continue crying (with tears) to God, in your broken heart and contrite spirit, asking for forgiveness of your sins until you obtain forgiveness.

Once you obtain forgiveness, you can now ask God to see an angel or a vision or whatever, and it will be given to you. Then go and bear testimony to others of what you have seen so that they can exercise faith to see the same things. This is how it works.

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The Will of God and Faith


Romans 9: 6-24 [English Standard Version]:

…it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”

And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad — in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls — she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written [in Malachi], “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

What shall we say then?  Is there injustice on God’s part?  By no means!  For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will? But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?  Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this? Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory — even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

The two historical cases:

Looking at Paul’s logic — because God chose one of Abraham’s spouses over the others, it follows that claiming descent from Abraham was not sufficient to make one an heir to God’s promise:

And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Further because God chose one of Rebekah’s twins over the other, claiming descent from Isaac was not sufficient to make one an heir to God’s promise.

And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.  And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the Lord.  And the Lord said unto her, two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

NOTE:  However, Rebekah was told that the older would serve the younger.  Given the Lord’s vernacular for presidency/leadership as voluntary servitude – perhaps this was a misunderstood revelation, and that misunderstanding led things to play out the way they did.  Just a thought.

The extrapolated case:

From these two historical cases, Paul theroizes that it is then likewise true that claiming to be “of Israel” cannot demonstrate that a person is right with God [or justified].

The implication made by using Abraham and Isaac as examples, is that being a justified believer is still a function of God’s choice [like choosing Sarah’s son over Hagar’s, and choosing one of Rebekah’s sons over the other].   He either made you for glory or for wrath and you are in no place to dispute His choice for you.

This is the Calvinistic doctrine of “irresistible grace” — wherein they conclude that it is not possible for humans to have any role in justification — because how could we do anything more than God could do Himself?

What about faith?

However, Paul consistently stresses “faith” as the means of access to God and to a justified state with Him:

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.  Is he the God of the Jews only?  is he not also of the Gentiles?  Yes, of the Gentiles also:  Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

and

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

and

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

and

But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

and

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Faith = Word of God + Belief + the Spirit:

So, if humans have access to God by virtue of faith — then it must still be God’s irresistible choice as to who “gets faith” and who does not — right?  To answer this question, it requires one to look at Alma’s preaching on the subject of faith that is found in Alma 32:

Now, we will compare the word unto a seed.

Equating the word of God with a seed is also done in Luke 8: 11;  1 Peter  1: 23; Romans 10: 17; and Galatians 3: 2-9.  The farmer analogy is quite accurate.  The right-brain-hearts of humans are soil, which can be at varying degrees of receptiveness for the seeds, which are the various doctrines of God, the devil, and of men.  The faith that will justify a person with respect to God comes as the ever-good seed is allowed to germinate and grow in the right-brain-heart.

Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart,

This “place” is given in the right-brain-heart.  It involves the concept of yielding [Mosiah 3:19] or being lowly, humble, and teachable.  Broken soil [or a softened right-brain-heart] is a result of a person humbling him/herself — thereby having a broken heart or contrite spirit.  This is equivalent to being “poor in heart” — which Alma observed that the Zoramites were:

of whom were poor in heart, because of their poverty as to the things of the world.

In their case, worldly poverty had brought them to this “lowliness of heart” state:

And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?

Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed — yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty.

So, Alma describes two options for softening the right-brain-heart:  a person may wait for certain circumstances to bring about a state of humility [or soft ground], which will make him/her open and receptive to the word — or a person may exercise self-motivation by virtue of the power of the word alone [motivated by the promises of the Lord], and give place for that seed on his/her own.

Also, if a person’s circumstances do not cause him/her to be humble and they cannot seem to humble themselves before the Lord, then the Lord provides another tool for a man or woman to obtain the required humility:  fasting and prayer.

Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.

This is how the ancients did it, because this is how it is done.

Continuing one with Alma’s preaching in chapter 32:

behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed,

The seed Alma spoke of was:

the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works.

This is the ever-good seed.  Any seed that is planted and persuades a person to believe in and plant this ever-good seed, is also a good seed.  While any seed that is planted and persuades a person not to believe in and plant the ever-good seed, is not a good seed.  None of this has anything to do with religion or churches.  All seeds are judged to be good or evil by how they measure up to the ever-good seed and whether they point people towards, or away from, it:

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

Continuing on in Alma 32:

if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord,

Unbelief is equated by Alma with resistance.  Resistance requires effort or work.  It means to oppose with force. The opposite of resisting would be to bow, give in, submit, succumb, surrender, or yield.  All of these words imply a lack of effort or ceasing to work.

As belief is an entirely passive act, any effort whatsoever on a person’s part will stand as an obstacle or impediment to the formula for obtaining faith.  It is like someone pushing you and simply allowing yourself to be pushed — or being in a river that is pushing you downriver and allowing yourself to be carried along.  No effort.  This is belief.

The moment there is resistance [in the slightest degree] to that push, even to just change the direction of travel one inch, it will decrease belief — ultimately turning it into its opposite [disbelief or doubt], which is a state of resistance to the Spirit of the Lord.

behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves — It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

This is a formula — akin to a scientific equation or cooking recipe.  Following the steps with the outlined ingredients will always produce the same result.  If a person varies one step or another — or rationalizes that a certain step is not required — or puts in some of their own effort into the formula — anything different causes “user error” and faith will not result.

The desire to believe:

But what can a person a person do if he/she is having problems with the formula?  There are certain signs following them that believe.  The purpose of these signs is to give the professed believer [and also the church] a means to discern justified believers in Christ [saints, who possess faith] from non-justified believers in Christ [Christians, who do not possess faith] — this is the fruit by which you may know them.  If one finds that he/she is not able to:

In my name they shall do many wonderful works; In my name they shall cast out devils; In my name they shall heal the sick; In my name they shall open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf; And the tongue of the dumb shall speak; And if any man shall administer poison unto them it shall not hurt them; And the poison of a serpent shall not have power to harm them.

or

And these signs shall follow them that believe — in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover; And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth.

Then Alma advises that:

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words

What will “awake and arouse your faculties”?  This was mentioned earlier in describing how to soften the soil:

  • One could be compelled by circumstances to have a desire to believe.
  • One could be motivated by virtue of the promises of the Lord in His word to desire to believe.
  • One could fast and pray until a desire to believe stirs in his/her right-brain-heart.

Again, “let this desire work in you” is the same as being in that river of water that is pushing you downriver, and instead of resisting, just allowing yourself to be carried along.

God’s will is your faith:

God works according to the faith of the children of men — meaning according to the formula outlined above.  Thus, the doctrine of God saving people by virtue of His will and choice is true.  However, that He works according to our faith means that His “choice” cannot be outside the bounds of an agent’s faith.

There is no such thing as something operating solely according to the will of God without the context of our faith.  Things operate solely according to the faith of agents — and this is God’s will.  This is why, for example, when Alma and Amulek were beholding the destruction of the saints by fire — and Amulek says to Alma:

How can we witness this awful scene?  Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us [which power comes by faith], and save them from the flames.

we read that Alma replies:

The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand.

Because Alma and Amulek had the faith to stop the destruction — the Spirit needed to tell them that they should not use their gift because there was a wiser purpose in letting the saints die.  Should it be the case that God’s will can be done without regard for an agent’s faith — then there would have been no purpose in the Spirit telling Alma anything.  Alma would have just stretched forth his hand and watched as the flames kept on burning [Much like what many LDS experience with priesthood healings, etc.].

The principle is that God must act where there is faith, so the Spirit had to tell Alma not extend his hand [not to exercise his faith] so that the destruction would not stop.

Also, there are two examples from Paul.  In 1 Corinthians 14, he gives a command that members of the church who possess the gift of tongues refrain from using their gift in church meetings whenever a member with the gift of interpretation of tongues is not present:

…let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church;

No such instruction would be needed unless the gifts are available to be used at will by those who have faith.  If the gifts worked according to God’s will and choice alone, then the Spirit would simply not manifest tongues in cases when an interpreter was absent — and no one would need instruction from Paul.

Also, in Acts 21, we see Paul in a similar circumstance as Alma and Amulek.  Paul is told twice, through the gift of prophecy, not to go to Jerusalem.  In the wording of the Alma 14 story we could say:  “The Spirit constraineth Paul that he must not go forth unto Jerusalem.

And finding disciples, we tarried [at Tyre] seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.

and

And as we tarried [at Ptolemais] many days, there came down from Judæa a certain prophet, named Agabus.  And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.  And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.

Yet, while Alma and Amulek chose to submit their faith to what the Spirit had told them — Paul chooses otherwise.  Exercising his faith — Paul feels it better to die at Jerusalem for the name of Jesus Christ.  When the people saw that Paul could not be persuaded, they acknowledged that:

The will of the Lord be done.

And His will is done — in these examples and in the example of exercising faith unto salvation.  It is God’s will that people work according to their faith — and His will is done when faith is used.  With respect to salvation, God chooses every person that He has the power to choose — and He only has power where there is faith.  Thus He “chooses” all those who have faith.

Next Article by Justin:

Previous Article by Justin:  The Tribal Church

See also:  The Faith of God Series, FPR post on LDS Cessationism, T&S post on LDS Cessationism, and W&T post on Alma 32

The oath and covenant of the priesthood


The Lord said, “Therefore, as I said concerning the sons of Moses—for the sons of Moses and also the sons of Aaron shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord, which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the consecrated spot as I have appointed—and the sons of Moses and of Aaron shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, upon Mount Zion in the Lord’s house, whose sons are ye; and also many whom I have called and sent forth to build up my church. For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God. And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; for he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; and he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood. Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved. But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come. And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens; and even I have given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you. And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life. For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.” (D&C 84: 31-44)

There have been a gazillion talks in the church on the oath and covenant of the priesthood. Virtually all of them state the same thing. I have a different take. Here is my understanding of this scripture:

The sons of Moses are the Melchizedek priesthood holders who are sanctified. The sons of Aaron are the holders of the priesthood of Aaron who are sanctified. The Lord explains that “whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods…and…are sanctified by the Spirit…become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and…the elect of God.” (See D&C 84: 33-34.) Also, the elect (chosen) of God is defined as the sanctified.

There has been a day of calling, but the time has come for a day of choosing; and let those be chosen that are worthy. And it shall be manifest unto my servant, by the voice of the Spirit, those that are chosen; and they shall be sanctified; and inasmuch as they follow the counsel which they receive, they shall have power after many days to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion. (D&C 105: 35-37)

So, if we have obtained the two priesthoods but have not been sanctified by the Spirit, we are not the sons of Moses and of Aaron, nor are we the elect.

The Lord said, “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.” (D&C 84: 33)

Most GAs and other speakers interpret the above scripture to mean that if we magnify our calling, we will become sanctified by the Spirit. Then they talk of ways we can magnify our calling so that we can become sanctified. I, however, do not share this view.

The Lord is explaining in this verse how to discern between a faithful priesthood holder who is magnifying his calling, and a faithless priesthood holder who is not magnifying his calling. The key to that discernment is in the last phrase: the faithful ones are sanctified by the Spirit.

Sanctification by the Spirit is always attendant with the powers and gifts of the Spirit. This is why the Lord said that “the sons of Moses and of Aaron shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” in D&C 84: 32. This is why the Lord said the chosen “shall have power” in D&C 105: 37.  Sanctification by the Spirit with attendant powers and gifts is the key to determine the faith of the saints or the faith of the priesthood holders. This is why there are signs that follow those that believe on the Lord, so that we may determine who has faith and who does not.

Mormon said, “For behold, thus said Jesus Christ, the Son of God, unto his disciples who should tarry, yea, and also to all his disciples, in the hearing of the multitude: Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature; and he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned; and these signs shall follow them that believe—in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover; and whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth. (Mormon 9: 22-25)

This is why the very definition of good works, the scriptural definition, is to work by the power and gifts of God, in other words, good works are the work of the sanctified, who are attended with the powers, gifts and fruits of the Spirit and the signs of true believers in Christ. Only the sanctified do good, as they exercise faith as a principle of power, as “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Hebrews 11: 6.) All others are in a state of unbelief, with no attendant powers of heaven to magnify their calling.

Moroni said, “And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief. And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one. For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God” (Moroni 10: 24-25)

So, the magnifying of our calling comes from working by the powers and gifts of God, which comes from being sanctified by the Spirit and not the other way around. We first become “sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 27: 20) and are then enabled to magnify our calling by working by the powers and gifts of the Spirit.

Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 16)

Magnifying a calling means making it easier to see. The light we are shining are the good works, which is defined as the powers and gifts of God. So, when we magnify our calling, men can witness the powers and gifts of the Spirit and then turn and glorify God. This is the meaning of the scripture, but before any of this happens, we must be sanctified by the Spirit.

“All they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord” in D&C 84: 35. The expression “receive this priesthood” is defined in verse 33 as those who obtain the priesthoods and who are sanctified, which santification magnifies their calling. The unsanctified do not “receive the priesthood,” they only have the priesthood conferred upon them. Two vital elements must be present for one to “receive the priesthood”: the priesthood must be conferred and sanctification by the Spirit must have happened.

Only the sanctified priesthood holders receive the oath and covenant of the Father. Only the sanctified priesthood holders receive the promised blessings: receiving Jesus, receiving the Father and finally, receiving the Father’s kingdom, which means receiving all the Father hath. And only the sanctified priesthood holders receive the penalty for breaking the covenant and altogether turning therefrom, the penalty being the second death, meaning that they “shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.”

So, what, then, is the covenant of the priesthood? The Lord said, “All those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father.” The covenant is to “receive the priesthood” as defined in verse 33, meaning to obtain the two priesthoods and to become sanctified by the reception of the Spirit unto the renewing of one’s body. If those two parts aren’t completed, you don’t receive the priesthood, nor do you receive (or enter into) the covenant of the priesthood. The covenant is part of the priesthood, it is connected to it, or, as the Lord says, the “covenant…belongeth to the priesthood.” The covenant of the priesthood is received or entered into when you “receive the priesthood.” As a covenant is an agreement between two persons, in this case, between a mortal son of God and God himself, if you keep your end of the agreement, which is to keep receiving the priesthood, or, in plainer words, to continue to possess and use the priesthood in a sanctified state, the Father promises with an oath that you will receive what he says you will receive (all that he hath.)

The final verses that are often quoted (43 and 44 of section 84) are not the covenant of the priesthood, as many will proclaim. The covenant is found in verse 33. The oath is found in verse 38. Verses 43 and 44 are a warning and a commandment, as the Lord has just finished explaining that the sanctified priesthood holders can receive the second death if they break and altogether abandon the covenant and also that those who do not “receive the priesthood” are also in big trouble, as they have no oath or promise of the Father. So, the Lord is giving very helpful instructions to those who haven’t received it, yet, and to those who have received it already, namely, “to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life…[and]…to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.”

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Scriptural Discussion #11: Gifts And Power Of The Spirit—Defined As Good Works


GIFTS AND POWER OF THE SPIRIT—DEFINED AS GOOD WORKS

Moroni said, “And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief. And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one. For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God.” (Moroni 10: 24-25)

Discuss.

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Scriptural Discussion #10: Faith—Living By, Better Than Living By Knowledge


FAITH—LIVING BY, BETTER THAN LIVING BY KNOWLEDGE

Alma said, “And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved. And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word? Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed—yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty. Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe.” (Alma 32: 13-16)

Jesus said, “And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am. And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.” (3 Nephi 12:1-2)

Discuss.

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