Friday, August 22, 2014

Question on preceding post...

QUESTION:
“Levitical priesthood is almost universally available to every male alive today, no matter their ethnicity.”
 Do yo mean that, by virtue of lineage, almost all men already have the right to OFFICIATE in Aaronic priesthood ordinances, or just that almost all men have the right to RECEIVE the Aaronic priesthood?  I.e., they all HAVE it or they all have a RIGHT to it?  If the former, why did John the Baptist have to confer it on Joseph and Oliver?
(Related topic: If Joseph held the higher priesthood from before the foundation of the world, why did John the Baptist confer upon him a smaller portion of the larger whole he already had?)
“I think ‘hot drinks’ refers to ‘strong drink’ meaning whiskey, bourbon, and similarly ‘hot’ drinks (one time called ‘fire water’ by Native Americans). (D&C 89: 5, 7, 9.) I do not think it refers to coffee or tea.”
Could you elaborate on how you came to this conclusion?  a) Why would the Lord come back to the topic 4 verses later and introduce a new term for the same thing?  b) What about the supposed interpretive statements by Joseph ("I understand that some of the people are excusing themselves in using tea and coffee, because the Lord only said 'hot drinks' in the revelation of the Word of Wisdom. Tea and coffee are what the Lord meant when he said 'hot drinks' ") and Hyrum ("There are many who wonder what this can mean, whether it refers to tea or coffee, or not. I say it does refer to tea and coffee.")
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MY RESPONSE:
There is always an "ordination" involved. It is twofold, as I explained in the Orem talk. One is done by man (or an angel) and the other by God. Both are required.
Lineage qualifies, foreordaination is necessary, ordination here is required, and heaven must confirm or ratify the ordination. All are necessary.
-Lineage is almost universal.
-Foreordination is known only to God and revealed by our experience.
-Ordination is easily accomplished and has been widely performed.
-Heaven, however, is the final arbiter of whether a person will be authorized to perform beyond the merely outward ordinances and officiate in fulfilling God's work of redemption in the fullest sense.

Read Section 89 and pay attention to the "and again"--then ask yourself if "and again" is a return to the topic discussed before. If it is, then these "and again" references are to alcoholic drinks. I know what Hyrum said. He offered it as his opinion. No one has ever said what God meant, including Joseph. They offered their interpretation. However, if you were to give strong alcohol to a child, the child's reaction would be to call it "hot"-- because that is the normal first reaction.

Laying On Hands, Part 3

On the topic of receiving the Holy Ghost, there is more said and far more claims made about the “priesthood” than the scriptures justify. As I have explained, the lowest form of priesthood was given primarily to condemn those who received it. It involves performing outward ordinances, and regulates physical conduct. I will add that because of intermarriage, there is almost no one alive today who does not have Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Judah and Levi in their ancestry. Levitical priesthood is almost universally available to every male alive today, no matter their ethnicity. The bloodlines are there, even if the man is unaware of it. This is why declaring a lineage in LDS Patriarchal Blessings is appropriate and invariably merely selecting one out of twelve (thirteen if you separate Manasseh and Ephraim) possibilities.

If you go back far enough, there is a tradition in my family that we had a line of Rabbi’s on the German side. I’ve been back through the 1400's and so far haven’t identified any Rabbinical predecessors. WWII destroyed much of the records from the time before that. My Scottish side seems safely Ephraimite in their ancestry. There are so many mixtures in all of our ancestries that I doubt you can find someone alive who is not part-Israelite. Ironically, because of the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests, almost all of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan are more Israelite than the nation of Israel today, because the Diaspora put Jews into all parts of the globe. These "Arabs" and "Persians" reject and fight against their own bloodline.

Higher priesthood is a rare thing, appearing only intermittently in scripture and history; never persistent or widespread. The greatest success, from Adam to Melchizedek, involved ten generations and was the longest single perpetuation of the authority. However, those Patriarchs served among a small, righteous population overshadowed by the larger, wicked population. By time Adam came to his end of days, all the righteous could gather into a single valley.

The purpose of these Patriarch's original priesthood was (and is) to bless and protect. The temptation to use authority in ways that would offend God makes this original priesthood (belonging to the Patriarchs) something few men have ever been given and easily forfeited for the protection of the recipient and mankind generally. The original twenty-three given high priesthood in June 1831 distinguished themselves by near-uniform failure.

We must learn from this recent history. We must avoid repeating what clearly cannot work. If we take the same path, the destination will not change. Zion must be found by traveling in a different direction.

The Holy Ghost is not controlled by man. Even when the High Priesthood is given by God to a man, that man must obtain heaven’s approval before conferring any blessing. He must not ask for something based on self-will, ambition or personal glory. He must be a servant. He must be like our Lord, in that sense, or his ordination will be revoked.

Returning to the original question (in the first of these three posts):
Because the Book of Mormon was restored through Joseph Smith, I think it is necessary to respect his status as a messenger used by God to do a work. But the question "Should you have to believe in Joseph Smith to be baptized" was phrased such that I have a problem with answering “yes.” I do not think anyone needs to “believe in Joseph Smith” because that implies men are worthy of our “belief.” It is God alone who is the object of our adoration, belief and faith. Joseph was an instrument, and therefore belief in him will not yield anything of value and could well be an impediment to developing faith in God.

That having been said, God’s message through Joseph Smith is something we need to believe. There was no coherent statement of Christ’s Gospel in existence before Joseph Smith’s ministry. Therefore, to know how to obtain salvation, we need to “hear the True Shepherd’s voice” in the ministry of Joseph Smith. We are saved no faster than we gain knowledge. We cannot ignore the knowledge restored through Joseph.

Joseph was flawed. But God used him to accomplish some necessary things. It is the Lord’s message, using Joseph, we must believe.

The other question (Should you have to stop drinking coffee and tea to be baptized) involves the Word of Wisdom which was not given “by commandment or constraint.” (D&C 89: 2.) Therefore, it need not be obeyed as a condition of baptism. It would be wise to do so, but not as a mandatory condition prior to baptism. In saying this, I refer only to the scriptures and language of Section 89, not to the mandates of the LDS Church. To be baptized by a representative of the LDS Church you must stop drinking coffee and tea, because that is how they manage their organization.

I think “hot drinks” refers to “strong drink” meaning whiskey, bourbon, and similarly “hot” drinks (one time called “fire water” by Native Americans). (D&C 89: 5, 7, 9.) I do not think it refers to coffee or tea. Pioneers were expected to include coffee and tea in their supplies. Even handcarts had space for hauling coffee and tea.

I think “mild drinks” using barley and grain refers to beer, and that is approved in Section 89. (D&C 89: 17.) Likewise, “wine” refers to alcoholic wine, not grape juice. (D&C 89: 5.)  In New Testament times the presence of alcohol in the drink was hygienic, and purified the water by killing unwanted organisms. Praise for the quality of the “wine” produced by Christ in John’s account of the wedding at Canan, is praise for an alcoholic drink of quality and effect. (John 2: 1-10.)

I think wine is to be used for “sacraments” (plural, see D&C 89: 5) which include wedding celebrations, an association the New Testament makes. (John 2: 3.) It makes for conviviality and joy in celebration. We are prudish about this because of our history of amending the Constitution to adopt Prohibition. LDS sermons delivered in support of the amendment and opposing its repeal are how we became prohibitionist teetotalers, not because of the scriptures.

That having been said, I also believe “wine is a mocker” (Proverbs 20: 1) and alcohol can do a great deal of damage if used improperly and in excess. The drunken fight in the Kirtland Temple, for example, was something those involved regretted. They used wine for the “sacrament” and “drank to their fill” after fasting all day beforehand. It proved to be a foolish combination and resulted in fist fighting in the newly completed temple. Therefore I conclude that if we must choose between making ourselves foolish or being a teetotaler it is best to adopt the LDS Church stance and refrain altogether. If a person can use wine and mild drinks moderately, prudently and not in excess, then there is nothing in the Word of Wisdom to condemn it. There is language which recommends it. But let me reiterate, this is what the scriptures say, not what the LDS Church says. If you belong to that organization, you ought to respect their rules and do as they expect as a condition for receiving their fellowship, Temple Recommend, etc.

I do not believe, however, the scriptures can be used to support a requirement to avoid coffee, tea (at all) or avoid alcohol in wine and beer as a pre-condition for baptism.

Understanding the scriptures sometimes requires more than just study. In my case I gained understanding by experience which then reshaped my understanding of scripture. I received the Holy Ghost immediately following baptism on September 10, 1973 as I knelt on the cold beach sand beside the Atlantic Ocean. It has departed briefly only on two occasions (when I failed to testify of the truth and was rebuked by its withdrawal).

When excommunicated forty years to the day from baptism, I wondered if the church's proceeding would have an effect on my access to the Holy Ghost. It did not. In many respects the series of talks I have given this year required a greater outpouring of the Holy Ghost. It has been given.

It took life's experiences for me to look deeper into the scriptures to understand in what way my own experiences were consistent with the pattern there. Had these experiences not been given I would not have looked and found the truth of these matters. As things unfold, they become rather self-evident.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Laying On Hands, Part 2

The best explanation of the relationship between baptism and the Holy Ghost comes from Alma's record. He is an odd source, however, because he had been “consecrated a priest” by the wicked King Noah. King Noah chose him because he was “lifted up in the pride of his heart.” (Mosiah 11: 5.) Therefore, using some of our present false belief system we would conclude his “authority” was compromised and his heart too hard for God’s purposes.

Repentance is a wonderful thing. Clearly it was Alma’s repentance which then qualified him to be useful to the Lord. Although he was one of King Noah’s priests (Mosiah 17: 1-2), when he heard the testimony of God’s messenger, Abinadi, he knew what he heard was true. (Id.) Therefore he knew he must respond to it, despite his record of wickedness and unbelief.

Alma recorded Abinadi’s testimony, and then taught it to others as the truth. When a small number began to believe, Alma followed the pattern we saw in the last post. He asked God for the necessary authority for his own (and those who believed him) to repent. He asked God to recognize their baptism as a sign of repentance, and to send the Holy Ghost to be with them:

And he did teach them, and did preach unto them repentance, and redemption, and faith on the Lord. And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life— Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you? And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts. And now it came to pass that Alma took Helam, he being one of the first, and went and stood forth in the water, and cried, saying: O Lord, pour out thy Spirit upon thy servant, that he may do this work with holiness of heart. And when he had said these words, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he said: Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world. And after Alma had said these words, both Alma and Helam were buried in the water; and they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit. And again, Alma took another, and went forth a second time into the water, and baptized him according to the first, only he did not bury himself again in the water. And after this manner he did baptize every one that went forth to the place of Mormon; and they were in number about two hundred and four souls; yea, and they were baptized in the waters of Mormon, and were filled with the grace of God. (Mosiah 18: 7-16.)

Alma did not baptize until he first, just as Christ instructed His twelve to do, prayed in “mighty prayer” asking for God’s acceptance and approval. God gave it to Alma as He would later do with the twelve disciples. Then, with the Spirit of the Lord upon him, Alma had God’s authority to act. Or in other words he was qualified by God’s priesthood to proceed. Thereupon “having authority from Almighty God” Alma baptized. The efficacy of the ordinance was proven by the result it achieved: Helam came out of the water "being filled with the Spirit.” Or, in other words, the baptism resulted in the gift of the Holy Ghost.

This ordinance performed by Alma was exactly as Christ’s ordinance at the hands of John the Baptist. a baptism that was recognized and accepted by heaven and proven effective because the Holy Ghost was the witness.

The 4th Article of Faith says: “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” We do believe that, don’t we? However, the way the “Laying on of hands” is to happen must be in conformity with the Gospel of Christ. Meaning that if Christ lays hands on a man and commissions him to do this work, and then instructs him to pray to the Father in mighty prayer to be authorized to proceed, and the man follows through and obtains that authorization from the Father, it is possible for him to then “lay on hands” and bestow the gift. If it were otherwise we would have a “changeable God” (Moroni 8: 18) and He would “cease to be God” because He cannot change. (Mormon 9: 19.)

Christ’s Gospel requires man to connect with God for it to be effective. Baptism is an ordinance belonging to heaven, and is designed to reconnect man to heaven. Baptism does not induct a person into an organization. It is between the individual and God.

The LDS Church may perform baptisms, but when a candidate has been baptized they are not yet a member of the LDS Church. It requires a “confirmation” to induct the person into the LDS Church. If it were otherwise, then participation in the organization would be paramount to salvation, It is not.

Baptism remains independent of organizational membership and participation. A person could be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and never belong to any earthly church organization (LDS, RLDS, COC, FLDS, etc.). This is in spite of what all these organizations may claim for themselves or how much they may want to control people, beliefs, and the resources of believers. Believers and converts may be told there is a need to belong to an earthly organization, but that is not required if the Book of Mormon is true. Saving belief is predicated on a relationship between the individual and God. Baptism demonstrates this is the case. Even an LDS Church baptism demonstrates this truth. If a convert were baptized, and then refused to be confirmed a member, they would still be baptized. If they were repentant and had faith in Christ, they would still receive the Holy Ghost. However, they would not be a member of the LDS Church if they are not "confirmed" as a member.

Now in the case of Alma above and in Christ’s instructions about baptism (3 Ne. 11: 25), the ordinance is performed by someone who has “authority” given to them from Christ. The ordinance as Christ directed it to be performed requires these words: “Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” (Id.)

In contrast, the baptism rites of the LDS Church do not use these words, but substitutes the word “commission” for “authority.” The LDS ordinance is as follows: “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” (D&C 20: 73.)

This LDS baptism can be effective, if the conditions of repentance and faith in Christ are met by the candidate. However, it is not effective if these conditions are not met. The same Section of the D&C describe the conditions to be qualified for baptism: “All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.” (D&C 20: 37.) These are the same conditions Alma referred to before he performed baptisms at the Waters of Mormon.

The “confirmation” process used by the LDS Church requires laying on hands to “confirm [you] a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” and is accompanied by the admonition to “receive the Holy Ghost.” This is done by church elders holding the office of “elder” through common consent.

There is no such thing as “elder” priesthood. Elder is a church office. It is obtained by common consent, just like relief society president, and sunday school teacher, and scout leader. There is no priesthood called “teacher” or “deacon” or “patriarch” or “seventy” or any of the other offices in the church associated with priesthood. There are three kinds of priesthood. The LDS Church claims to have two: Melchizedek and Aaronic (including the Levitical) priesthoods. This is based on the language in Section 107 describing the priesthood that was in the LDS Church at the time the revelation was given: “There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood.” (D&C 107: 1.)

This statement in Section 107 would be akin to saying: "Obama is the President of the United States." It is true - at this moment. It will not be true after January 2017. But it is true at this moment. Likewise, it was true in April 1835 that there were, at that moment, some people in the church as then constituted who had been given the Melchizedek Priesthood, and others who had been given the Aaronic Priesthood. But it is equally true that not EVERY member of the church in April 1835 had one or the other. Nor is it true that the condition of the church in April 1835 is the same as it is at this moment. Something that is a fact at one moment can change in the next. It is not appropriate to quote a statement about April 1835 to claim something in August 2014.

In the preceding post is a list of the twenty-three men who received High Priesthood (later called Melchizedek Priesthood) in June 1831. Their history shows that most of them abandoned their right to High Priesthood. If they could lose it, then anyone could. If you doubt that then you do not believe the scriptures. Do you really think Section 121 is untrue? Do you really believe once it is conferred it cannot be lost? Have you not likewise learned by sad experience that it is the nature of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority as they suppose, will begin to immediately exercise unrighteous dominion? Do you think they remain approved by the Powers of Heaven when they exercise control, dominion and compulsion on the souls of men? If you believe the conditions in the LDS Church today are exactly the same as in April 1835, or was even was the same on the morning of June 28, 1844 when we lost Joseph and Hyrum, then you do not understand the scriptures. (D&C 121: 34-41.)

We lost Joseph and Hyrum June 27, 1844. This changed the authority inside the church. The survivors thought they needed a leader. They voted to follow Brigham Young and the Twelve. No one attempted to resolve the question by revelation from God. Once they gave common consent, we forever after have proceeded on the assumption that was enough to keep intact everything heaven gave through Joseph Smith. Even more, we thought we could then forget, ignore, discard, contradict and/or change what heaven gave to us through Joseph Smith, even when the revelations commanded us not to do so.

The offices of the LDS Church have been filled by common consent, and the office holders have gone forward relying on a “commission” from Jesus Christ to perform LDS Church ordinances for nearly two centuries. When a candidate comes forward repenting of their sins, believing in Christ, and asking for God’s approval of their baptism, they qualify for baptism. Then the gift of the Holy Ghost comes upon them and they can progress in truth and light by obedience to the principles of the Gospel of Christ. This is His Gospel.

Baptism and the Holy Ghost happen prior to and independent of membership in any church institution, even in the LDS Church's process. The organization does not get to assert itself until the person is “confirmed” into the church. Once that happens, the person is entitled to all the benefits of membership in the organization, including common consent voting to fill offices in the church. However, removing them from membership cannot affect baptism. That ordinance came before their confirmation and before they are members of the LDS Church. Throwing a person out of the church may remove entitlement to vote in common consent proceedings, but cannot affect the person’s repentance, gift of the Holy Ghost, or standing before God. Some LDS Church members have conflated all these things into one and then allow the hierarchy to insert themselves between them and their salvation. That is Telestial, false and will damn those who believe it, and greatly condemn those who teach it. Ultimately they will suffer God’s wrath on this earth and eternal fire when dead, being filled with regret for their misbehavior. (D&C 76: 99-104.)

The Gospel requires God's direct involvement. It always has and always will. Commandments and promises given to others in the New Testament do not belong to us. Likewise, specific individuals given specific promises by God in Joseph's day do not belong to us. We do not "inherit" covenants belonging to others. We must have God's covenant given to us if we are going to be saved. Otherwise we are no different than the Lutherans, Presbyterians and Catholics denounced by Christ as teaching for doctrine the commandments of men, only having a form of godliness lacking power. (JS-H 1: 19.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Laying On Hands

An interesting question:

Are you familiar with when the church decided to combine receiving the gift of the holy ghost by the laying on of hands and confirmation into the church? Reading 2 Nephi 31 I do not understand why these 2 are linked. I know Joseph explained that being baptized and not receiving the Gift of Holy Ghost  it is like baptizing a bag of sand. But was he talking about conformation? or receiving the commission to receive the holy ghost? Or did Joseph truly have the power to give the Holy Ghost (because of his true priesthoods) and it is different now because we only act as ordainers and do not truly have the power thereof? The reason I wonder these things is because I feel that the church is damning itself and the missionaries by having them go out and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and then set forth rules to be baptized because not only are you being baptized but joining the organization. Should the 2 go together? Should you have to believe in
Joseph Smith to be baptized unto repentance? Should you have to stop drinking coffee and tea to be baptized for the remission of your sins? To me baptism, receiving the holy ghost, and confirmation into the church should be separate. But what do I know?

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Baptism and the Holy Ghost have always been linked together, but laying on hands has not always been included. Baptism and the Holy Ghost are linked whether or not there is someone who can lay on hands to give the gift. Understanding the scriptures and our history is necessary. The answer will contradict the traditional narrative. For many, traditions are preferred. Speaking the truth makes people uncomfortable, afraid and accusatory. If you replace the traditions with studied truth and give an answer that challenges the false tradition then you are "preaching false doctrine", or you are ignorant. Those who believe false traditions think everyone is as ignorant as they are. Those people never take the opportunity to study and discover the truth.

Baptism precedes the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost always follows if the baptism was proper. The only condition for receiving the Holy Ghost is sincere repentance before baptism. If a person is sincere, then the gift follows automatically.

Nephi taught this plainly. His teaching was based on a dialogue between him (Nephi) and Christ and Christ’s Father. [The fact this conversation involved all three tells us a great deal about Nephi’s ascent up Jacob’s Ladder, because conversing with both Christ and the Father is only possible once a man has made the ascent. Another topic.]

On baptism and the Holy Ghost, Nephi relayed the truth: And he [Christ] said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son. And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel. But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me. And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. (2 Ne. 31: 10-15.)

Therefore, according to Christ and the Father, as reported by Nephi, the steps are:
1. Repent
2. Be willing to take upon you the name of Christ
3. Be baptized
4. If you do then the Holy Ghost will come upon you.

There is no mention of laying on of hands because the process and promise given by Christ and the Father does not require laying on hands. It only requires exactly what Nephi reported from conversing with Christ and the Father.

Likewise, in modern revelation the Lord explained His Gospel while omitting any requirement for laying on hands for the Holy Ghost: And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me. And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom. (D&C 39: 5-6.)

Similar to Nephi’s explanation, Christ makes no mention of laying on of hands in this revelation to Joseph because it is not required.

In another revelation it is revealed: Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; (D&C 33: 10-12.)

Three verses following this, the laying on hands to confirm into the church is then mentioned, along with the Holy Ghost. But the formula given in the verses above is not changed by confirmation.

This was the pattern when Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were baptized. The JS-H account makes it clear when they received authority from John the Baptist that it had no authority to lay on hands for the Holy Ghost.

He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me. (JS-H 1: 70.)

Despite this, when they were baptized both Joseph and Oliver immediately received the Holy Ghost (without the laying on of hands).

Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation. (JS-H 1: 73.)

This leads then to the question asked about laying on hands to give the Holy Ghost. This practice does appear in the Book of Mormon, and did start during the restoration. In the Book of Mormon it began when Christ personally laid hands on His Twelve and gave them this authority.

And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of these sayings, he touched with his hand the disciples whom he had chosen, one by one, even until he had touched them all, and spake unto them as he touched them. And the multitude heard not the words which he spake, therefore they did not bear record; but the disciples bare record that he gave them power to give the Holy Ghost. (3 Ne. 18: 36-37.)

What Christ said to these Twelve is later reported by Moroni.
The words of Christ, which he spake unto his disciples, the twelve whom he had chosen, as he laid his hands upon them—And he called them by name, saying: Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles. Now Christ spake these words unto them at the time of his first appearing; and the multitude heard it not, but the disciples heard it; and on as many as they laid their hands, fell the Holy Ghost. (Moroni 2: 1-3.)

Even when Christ gave this “authority” it was conditional and required the Twelve to take these steps before they could act on this commission:
-Call upon the Father
-Using Christ’s name
-In mighty prayer
-Only then could they have the right to give the gift (through authorization from Christ’s Father).

If you understand what is involved it makes sense for this right to come directly from both the Father and the Son. The Holy Ghost is the “mind of the Father and the Son.”

...possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit that bears record of the Father and the Son. These three are one; or, in other words, these three constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things. (Lecture 5, P. 2.)

Christ set the example. He was baptized and immediately received the Holy Ghost. No one laid hands on Him. The gift was given because of His qualification for baptism. But there have been those who were given conditional authority to bestow the gift. They could only do so by consulting with the Father and Christ beforehand to insure it was God's decision, not man's, to give the gift.

In the restoration, the practice of laying on hands began in June 1831, the same month the “High Priesthood” was restored. The “High Priesthood” was restored in a meeting of elders that month, but was only later called the Melchizedek Priesthood. At the time of the conference it was correctly called the “High Priesthood.”

This event has been misinterpreted by the LDS Church, and re-characterized as restoring the office of High Priest. That is wrong. The office of High Priest has always been an Aaronic Priesthood office, held throughout the Dispensation of Moses by the eldest sons of Aaron in a line of succession. By New Testament times it was a political office, bought and sold by Roman influence, and belonged to the house of Caiaphus. This Aaronic Priesthood office had one occupant at a time. He presided over all the Aaronic and Levitical priesthood holders and ran the Temple at Jerusalem. Sidney Rigdon wanted the office of High Priest. According to David Whitmer, Sidney Rigdon persuaded Joseph to incorporate it into the church as an office which could be held by many, not just the presiding Aaronic Priesthood official. So today there are numerous “High Priests” in the LDS Church, all claiming they are of the Melchizedek Priesthood order, completely contrary to the Old and New Testaments. Another topic.

As to the laying on of hands, when the High Priesthood (later called Melchizedek Priesthood) was restored in June 1831, Joseph Smith recorded: “The authority of the Melchizedek priesthood was manifested and conferred, for the first time, upon several of the elders” at the June 1831 conference. (See JS Papers, Documents Vol. 1, p. 320, citing JS History Vol. A1, p. 118.)  This also clarifies that “elder” is a church office (not related to the High Priesthood because these church “elders” were already serving in their church offices before the High Priesthood was restored. Another subject.)

In the June 1831 Conference Joseph Smith ordained five, and Lyman Wight ordained eighteen, for a total of twenty-three. The results which followed were not altogether satisfactory. Subsequent performance by the ones ordained did not prove to mirror Melchizedek or Enoch. Of the five Joseph ordained,
-Lyman Wight was excommunicated in 1848
-Harvey Whitlock was excommunicated in 1835
-Thomas Marsh left the church in 1838, signed an affidavit against Joseph and contributed to his imprisonment by Missouri and was excommunicated in 1839
-Parley Pratt apostatized and was excommunicated in 1842, but reinstated in 1843.

Of the eighteen Lyman Wight ordained,
-John Whitmer was excommunicated in March 1838
-Sidney Rigdon was excommunicated in September 1844
-Edward Partridge died in 1840
-Ezra Thayer refused to follow the Twelve following Joseph’s and Hyrum’s deaths
-Joseph Wakefield was excommunicated in January 1834
-John Corrill was excommunicated in 1839
-Jacob Scott denied the faith
-Wheeler Baldwin joined the RLDS Church in 1859
-Martin Harris left the LDS Church, followed James Strang, but returned to the LDS Church and was rebaptized in 1870.

It is apparent that “ordination” to even the High Priesthood cannot guarantee a recipient will have faith sufficient to gain power in the priesthood. For that, like every other blessing, it is always required for the man to obtain it directly from heaven. The priesthood is predicated on a relationship with “the powers of heaven." If the one ordained does not secure such a relationship with the Powers of Heaven, then the ordination will not produce the expected results.

Brigham Young was not among those who received this authority.

The first mention of the practice of laying on of hands to give the Holy Ghost followed the June 1831 Conference when, on June 14th, convert WW Phelps was told he would receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. (See JS Papers, Documents Vol. 1, p. 337, D&C Section 55.) This was because he was given the gift by one having the authority.

WW Phelps was promised the Holy Ghost (he was to receive it from one of those who received the authority earlier that month). But he was also told he would be ordained a church elder, and then he could likewise conditionally give the Holy Ghost to others if they repented and were first baptized and “were contrite” before God. (JS Papers, Documents Vol. 1, p. 339, D&C Section 55.)

The High Priesthood had been forfeited by the LDS Church (but not by Joseph Smith) as of January 1841. (See D&C 124: 28.)

Today church elders “confirm” new members and admonish them to “receive” the Holy Ghost. This is much like WW Phelps was told he could do in June 1831. For a man to hold the right to confer it, however, it must come by being given to the man by Christ and then confirmed by Father following "mighty prayer."

In D&C 20 this right is confined to “an Apostle”– meaning one who qualified like the Twelve during Christ’s ministry to the Nephites. It says: An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize; And to ordain other elders, priests, teachers, and deacons; And to administer bread and wine—the emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ— And to confirm those who are baptized into the church, by the laying on of hands for the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, according to the scriptures; And to teach, expound, exhort, baptize, and watch over the church; And to confirm the church by the laying on of the hands, and the giving of the Holy Ghost; And to take the lead of all meetings. (D&C 20: 38-44.)

The LDS Church does not read that as limiting the power to do this to “an Apostle,” but instead focuses on “an elder,” and then extends the right to every man holding the church office of an elder. However, the Gospel, like God, is the same yesterday, today and forever. The language in Section 20 should be read to mean what is reported in 1 Nephi (in the dialogue between Nephi, Christ and the Father), 3 Nephi and Moroni, as set out above. Otherwise the Gospel changes.

In any event, the “gift” as given today by LDS elders is entirely conditional. It is an admonition to the newly confirmed member to “receive” the influence. It is much like what is available to anyone, anywhere, including investigators. If the Holy Ghost were not available to everyone then the promise in Moroni 10: 4 would not be given. No one could pray and get an answer about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon by the power of the Holy Ghost if they were required to first have hands laid upon them.

There is no single denomination and no valid incantation that provides access to the Holy Ghost. No authority can remove it from the honest in heart. Nor is there authority, apart from that given by Christ and the Father (following mighty prayer and supplication) which can confer the blessing as a gift to a recipient. But the commandment to be baptized, when done in faith following repentance, will bring this gift to everyone. This is Christ’s Gospel.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sunstone Q&A

Below is a transcription of the Q & A from Sunstone. It will make more sense if you have read the paper first (which is on Scrib'd and titled Cutting Down the Tree of Life to Build a Wooden Bridge) because the questions were provoked by the presentation. These questions were asked and these answers given immediately following the paper and response:


Cutting Down the Tree of Life to Build a Wooden Bridge
Question & Answer - Sunstone Symposium
8-2-14  Denver Snuffer


[NOTE: This is the question and answer period that was held following Denver Snuffer’s talk and after Dan Witherspoon's rebuttal. I chose not to transcribe Dan's rebuttal because I do not have his permission to do so and therefore leave it out. I insert some clarifying words in brackets to make what was meant more clear.]

Tim Malone: Dan, thank you for focusing on the fruit of the Tree of Life. I was looking for that in Denver's remarks, but let me ask this question of Denver. My take away is that you stated that the LDS Church has changed fundamental doctrine, is changing, and will continue to change because of submission to social and governmental pressure for fear of losing tax status. Is that a correct take away?

Denver: The definition of fundamental doctrine is not something that I applied to the Church, it's what the Church has advocated (or defined) on its own (and for itself). I'm contrasting what the Church said at one time was fundamental doctrine, with what it has done to abrogate, denounce, renounce and even condemn unequivocally out of their own mouth, their prior practice. Their motivation for accomplishing that transition was the focus of the paper. I'm not trying to make a moral judgment. I'm trying to understand the events against the backdrop of why the events took place. Why change when they said it would be right or wrong (to do so), when they said it in the name of Jesus Christ, like the comment of Brigham Young that I read. I read his claim on purpose because he was stating, "I'm telling you this as my status as a prophet of God. I'm telling you this in the name of Jesus Christ, and I'm telling you this will never change," and (it has been subsequently) changed. And now the Church, after making the changes, has turned around and said, "We unequivocally condemn that." That's the purpose of the paper and also to highlight the fact that institutionally, this is a problem. The problem is that truth and love and purity does exist, but it exists primarily in a form that is not (and cannot be) institutional. According to the scriptures, there are only two ways, “there are save but two Churches only.” And one church, if it's going to subject itself to institutional control, vagaries of the law, the pressure of the tax code, and everything else; that church will necessarily become sullied and soiled, tossed and pulled, and ultimately wind up contradicting itself. But there is another church that can remain pure, unsullied, untouched, untaxed, and unregulated. That purity can exist in your heart. That purity can be found between you and God. I think any institution is going to suffer the exact same history.

Voice: My question is, if the fruit of the Tree of Life is not available to homosexuals and to women once they are embraced within the Church, what will they find instead?

Denver: The problem addressed in the paper, and the turf upon which I feel very comfortable discussing, is the problem of Church doctrine, with fundamental positions being taken as if they were out of the mouth God Himself, and then contradicted (by church presidents) later. That is done to illustrate the problem of the institution. I don't think that I can, or ever should, have looked for institutional approval for my relationship with God. There was a time I did. There was a time I cared a great deal about that. But the institution has rendered that now an impossibility, because I can't serve within the church. That hasn't done a thing to deter my conviction, my relationship, my fidelity to God. Likewise, I think in every individual's life, this world is a terrible place, and this world is a wonderful place. It is precisely wonderful because it is so terrible. It doesn't matter what circumstances you find yourself in, everything down here is going to pull away at you. Eventually everything is going to wear out, and break down. There are going to be disappointments, challenges, disagreements and arguments. The comfort that you find, like Joseph Smith in Liberty jail, "Peace my son, this is only going to be for a small moment, and if you endure it well your going to be rewarded on high." I don't think that an institution can embrace with love, everyone, because some of us hate some others of us, and the institution would like to (claim that it) love(s) us all. And those who get control, get to use the bully pulpit for their purposes, and those that don't have it, get to resent it. I don't think, ultimately, that the fix will be institutional. I think it will be personal, and I think it will be individual, and I think there will be a gathering, and that gathering will be called Zion, and it will happen because the prophecies foretell it. But I don't think it's going to be after the fashion of something that can regulate or take control of others, because anytime you manage to get control, you wind up in politics and economics.

Dan: His (Denver's) fear of institutions, I argue the same sort of thing. But it's important that we work these things out in community with each other. So the fact that we have an institution that provides the buildings, that provides some of the structures in which we meet and interact with each other and learn from each other, to me, shouldn't be outweighed simply by this. But again, I think both of us would be in agreement, no matter what is said there, it's you and your relationship with God. It's you and your relationship with the fire yourself, that has to be able to drive it, to not be simply interacting with it so far down the mountain where it's cooled, and that you can hardly tell that's it's there. So I do want to shout out that it's important that the primary actors in the world are not institutions, the primary actors in the world are people, and we're complex, and we go forward and we go backwards, and we halt and we run fast, and we stumble. When I see an institution changing the way the Mormon Church is, even though it's frustrating that it's not changing anywhere near the direction I want, and when they say stupid things that just make me want to go crazy, I still see it as an advance, because we as people are advancing. We are meeting each other, we are learning from each other, we're engaging, we are understanding what's going on, and this is sure revelation. This is sure revelation simply unfolding in a messier way. So again, I want to get us together as often as possible.

Voice: I think we can learn a lot from the community process, and discuss things, but that's not revelation. My question is, usually the best we can do with personal revelation, whether it is lay members or leaders, is a yes or no, magic eight ball kind of a thing. And I don't want to denigrate that, I'll take what I can get, but how do you move from that, to getting a complete sentence out of the Lord? [laughter]

Dan: I don't think it's possible. I don't think the Lord speaks in sentences. Seriously.  Every powerful spiritual experience I've had has been so overwhelming, so much bigger, and beyond any kind of language. It's the downhill, it's the explaining it to you, to my friend, to my congregation or something, is where we put the words on it. And that's why it's so important to go back and constantly do the dialog. I honor Isaiah,  I honor Abraham, and I admire them because they're examples to us of going straight to the Lord and having that face-to-face relationship that Genesis describes Adam had with God in the Garden. I'm with that process, but just as I don't accept the cosmology of a flat earth, sitting on waters below and a firmament held up by the pillars of heaven, I don't except Abraham's pronouncements on cosmology. I don't feel the need to honor everything that they say. I honor their interaction with God, and I try to look at that as a model for my own life. And even in an institutional setting, we have to remember this, we have to go straight to the source.

Denver: You know, I was raised by a Baptist mother and got Bible verses read at me every morning before I went to school throughout my childhood. When Mormon missionaries came and told me about the Joseph Smith story, and when Mormon missionaries assured me that Joseph saw God, and that, if you follow James 1:5 and you ask God, He will give you an answer, and if you will pray about the Book of Mormon, God will make it known to you whether it's true or not. I accepted that. I was young, I was still a teenager, but I accepted that as literal. I accepted that as possible. I had faith that that could happen. I'm not a theologian, but I do believe God not only talks in sentences, but can make himself known to man. Literally! I believe all that. I believe that God did appear to Joseph. I believe that He did appear to Isaiah. So having that understanding, I did not think that there was anything unusual when an angel appeared to me, because an angel did appear to me. I thought that was the normal, usual, every day way that Mormon religion was practiced. Sitting in a Ward as a teenager, looking out at all these experienced Mormons, listening to the General Authorities, I thought they all were talking to God in the temple every Thursday. I thought this was common, ordinary stuff. I presumed that was what everyone (experienced and therefore) walked around with (as their religion). It took a long time before I mentioned anything about any of the experience that I had had, before I realized that that's not usual, that's not normal, and that's not customary. And so, I'm (now) trying to make it usual, I'm trying to make it customary, I'm trying to say, Yes God is real! Because if I have seen Him, I think you can see Him, and (likewise) ought to. I think everyone should make the fiery ascent to God's presence. I think it should not be limited to an occasional "here," or an occasional "there." I think we should have an abundance of witnesses.  And the prophecy that Moroni spoke to Joseph Smith, that the time is going to come when no one needs to say to anyone else, "Know ye the Lord, for they shall all know Him," needs to be fulfilled. It is lying dormant (still and should not be). [applause]

Dan: You can go with your symbol system, you are going to go with your expectations. A Buddhist will never have the experience with the angel, with Jesus, and things like that. What Denver is having is not the same experience as what Hershel had, what Mohammed had, and things like this. And so when we talk about whether God speaks in sentences, what language does He speak in?  He speaks in the systems of ours that open up to this sort of level of presence. A deep dive through one symbol system is wonderful and it's pretty hard to get out of it, but I think we need to stay aware that there are so many people diving and meeting God, meeting the divine and so many other different ways. I honor Denver's experience, but I can't limit God to that single system. I'm with Mormonism's expensive views.

Denver: This much I know: The angel said, "On the first day, of the third month, in nine years, your ministry will begin, and so you must prepare." Those are the words! I can quote them still. He spoke in a sentence.

Voice: The more these situations are going on, I feel so strongly, more and more, I just keep getting that this is all about unity, and it's an opportunity for us. And if unity is about "agreeing" then frankly God did a terrible job. So the more I see of this, what I keep going to is, the quest for Zion seems to me, to be the quest for open heartedness, and charity, and unity. And so when I see one side that says, An actively gay person will never come into the presence of God. This person will go to hell. And then on the other side, I see a person who is an active Mormon, or a person who doesn't approve of homosexuality, who is an awful person because he's a hater. And I see those two things. And I see Christians say that Mormons are going to hell. It seems to me that we more dig our feet in and say, I'm right, and I'm trying to push this agenda…we are working away from God, and away from Zion. More and more I think that if we could say, This is my experience, this is what I believe, and let me hear where you are, and what you believe, and let's talk and consider. I think that's great. Even though I may disagree with you and think you're wrong, I trust God to lead you to what is right, and I trust the atonement of Christ to take care of whatever you've got wrong, just like I trust that for me. I think that truth exists, but I think when we all know all truth, we'll all agree. And in the meantime we are trying to find a way. So my question is, first of all, is that possible? I mean do you agree?

Denver: I agree very much. In the first book I wrote I said, "Religion was intended to be applied internally only."  

Voice: Thank you. My other question is, my theology for the issue of our day, homosexuality, is that I believe that homosexuals are a gift to us, to teach us great things. I think we need to learn charity. I also believe that God does have a standard, but I want to know if those two things can coexist. Can we say, I truly love you, I'm thankful for you, I accept you, but this is my theology and morality. Can we be in this place where we love each other and seek unity without agreement?

Denver: I grew up in a little town in Idaho. Homosexuality in the 1960s was almost a nonexistent issue (and even though it existed, it was not a source of fighting). There was a restaurant in Mountain Home, Idaho that was owned by a gay man and his boyfriend, who lived together (in a house about two blocks away from my parents’ home). Everyone knew that they were "funny." They were comfortable living in a community that was full of a bunch of retired military and active military people in Idaho in the 1960s, where I suppose, they were just as Republican then as they are in Idaho now. It was known, it was not talked about, I mean there might be a passing reference, but that was it. I worked in those guys’ restaurant. One of my first jobs was washing dishes in a restaurant owned by a gay fellow and his live-in lover. It was no big deal. There was no politics involved, there was no agitating on the issue.
One of my law school classmates is here. A few years ago he wound up on a drive (to a business meeting in) Idaho with a fellow who was gay. (The gay fellow) announced (to my classmate) that he was attracted to him. It was one of those awkward moments. [laughter] 
When (he and I subsequently talked about it), we kind of chuckled about it. But the fact of the matter was that both he and I had a business relationship with that fellow and (his announcement) was essentially a nonevent. It was strange. It a was, (however, merely) "Thanks, but no."
I think we ought to be ginger about the way in which we deal with one another's weaknesses and problems. I think we ought to be firm in what we believe, and apply it rigorously internally, and then have compassion on every idiot you are going to meet-- because we are all idiots, myself included. I agree with you.

Dan: I agree with you too, but where you pushed to be a little too far is when you said, "I love you but these are my standards" To me, I'm simply willing to say, I'm going to hear you, I'm going to be with you, I'll see as much of your life as you will show to me without trying to have a resolution. When I talked about the Hegelian dialectic, it's a process, and I'm completely fine for it taking forever in my own heart.


Cathleen Gilbert (Moderator): We are out of time. Thank you to Denver Snuffer and Dan Witherspoon. [Applause]

Thursday, August 14, 2014

St. George Transcript

The St. George transcript is up on Scribd. Because of some trouble with Blogger, I am unable to create a DS Talks link. I will have that done as soon as the problem is fixed.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

September 9 Mesa Location

The final talk will be held:

Sept. 9, 2014
9:30 AM
Rockin' R Ranch
6136 E. Baseline Road
Mesa, AZ  85206

This location holds 700, plus, and is a semi-outdoor location. You might want to bring a pillow, as the seating will be at picnic tables.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sunstone 2014

Cutting Down the Tree of Life to Build a Wooden  is up on Scribd. You can find the link on the right side of the blog under DS Talks.

Enjoy.