Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Beware of False Prophets

Joseph Smith received divine Priesthood authority from God. We are specifically warned, however, that there “are many false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth deceiving the world” (D&C 50:2; 1835 17:1) and that we must beware of “deceivers and hypocrites” (D&C 50:6; 1835 17:2) who will at times profess gifts and revelations “and yet be not of God” (D&C 46:27; 1835 16:7). Among the keys which the Lord has given to avoid deception are the revelations and commandments in the Doctrine and Covenants. “Thou shalt take the things which thou hast received, which have been given unto thee in my scriptures for a law, to be my law to govern my church; And he that doeth according to these things shall be saved, and he that doeth them not shall be damned if he so continue” (D&C 42:59-60; 1835 13:16). Like judges sitting on a hill the saints in the church are to judge the nations and “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” (D&C 64:37-39; 1835 21:7).

Joseph Smith wrote to a brother in Missouri in 1833, “Respecting the vision you speak of we do not consider ourselves bound to receive any revelation from any one man or woman without his being legally constituted and ordained to that authority, and giving sufficient proof of it. I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves; therefore you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them; but if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction; for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom” (Joseph Smith to Brother Carter, 13 April, 1833, TPJS 21. Emphasis added).

From time to time, some individuals who make dubious prophetic claims cite one passage in support of their claims. This passage reads, “For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before, to teach those revelations, which you have received and shall receive through him whom I have appointed” (D&C 43:7; 1835 14:2). This is presented by some false teachers to support the claim that any or all future leaders of the Church must be personally selected by Joseph Smith again and ordained by angels, but that is not what the revelations say. To be ordained “as I have told you before” refers back to D&C 42:11, which the Lord had just given previously.

“Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by someone who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church (D&C 42:11).

That is, they must be ordained, not again at the hand of angels, but by “someone who has authority” and it must be “known to the church that he has authority” and he must be “regularly ordained by the heads of the church.”  

James C. Brewster, was a young man living in Kirtland who later claimed that when he was ten he was visited by the angel Moroni who showed him a table full of ancient records that he was to translate. In 1837, following this vision, Brewster and his followers “presented to the High Council a plan for the better organization of the Church in temporal affairs, stating that Moroni had appeared to Collins Brewster” (History of the Church, 2:525). The High Council concluded that it “was a trick of the devil” and that Brewster and those who supported him had followed “a vain and delusive spirit.” Some of these followers that they “thought some put to[o] much stress on the priesthood.” The High Council decided that Brewster and his followers had acted “contrary to the order of the church” (Kirtland High Council Minutes, 20 November, 1837).  This did not stop Brewster from putting forth additional claims to revelation. Joseph Smith said that Brewster’s revelations were not of God. “Brewster showed me the Manuscripts,” wrote the Prophet, “I enquired of the Lord and the Lord told me the book was not true. It was not of him. If God ever cal[l]ed me, or spoke by my mouth, or gave me a revelation, he never gave revelations to the Brewster Boy or any of the Brewster race” (Joseph Smith Journal, 31 December, 1842, Faulring, 265). Brewster claimed to have his own seer stone and the gift of translation. After being cut off from the church he claimed to translated many ancient records, not from Jeraneck, but from the prophets Esdras, Nathan, Enoch, Alciba, Zenoch, and Neum and others, all of which he said were a part of his lost “Book of Esdras. “ He also claimed to be able to translate Mayan hieroglyphics, mid-western stone inscriptions and the Kinderhook Plates, which he said contained a “History of the Altewanians” by one “Varamenta, the last of the Altewanians” who were descendants of Japheth and were destroyed in warfare. Although he had a small following for a time, his followers eventually scattered and came to nothing.

Francis Gladden Bishop is another notorious example from the early history of the Church. Shortly after joining the Church in 1833, Bishop claimed he had a vision where an angel ordained him a high priest or to the high priesthood and told that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet and that he, Bishop, should lead the Church. Through the years he claimed to be “the Branch” or one of the two witnesses spoken of in the book of Revelation. According to one complain, “Bishop frequently told of women falling in love with him, that he observed frequently when passing people that they felt his spirit” and that “he ought not to travel and preach on account of the women so often falling in love with him” (Kirtland High Council Minutes, 26 September, 1835). Later Bishop claimed that one of the three Nephites appeared to him and showed him the plates and the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim and the Liahona. When he excommunicated for the last and final time in 1842, the High Council, Presided over by Joseph Smith carefully reviewed his claims. Wilford Woodruff who was present at his trial wrote, “Gladden had set himself up as some great thing for 8 or 9 years & the church had been so much troubled with him by his foolish conduct that he had been cut off a number of times from the Church & restored, & he had now set himself up as a prophet & Revelator to the church & a number of his revelations were brought forward & red before the congregations & it was the greatest Bundle of Nonsens ever put together. It would have taken Gladden Bishop ten thousand Years to have accomplished the work which he said in his pretended revelations he should perform. He took the name of God in vain & his crime was so great in his Blaspheming God in his pretended revelations that Joseph the Seer said that nothing would excuse him in the sight of God & angels in commiting the unpardonable sin ownly because he was a fool & had not sens sufficient for the Holy Ghost to enlighten him” (Wilford Woodruff Journal, 11 March, 1842).

Dissenters and Defectors

In a talk given on November 8, 1977 Elder Neal A Maxwell observed:

"Some insist upon studying the Church only through the eyes of its defectors--like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus. Defectors always tell us more about themselves than about that from which they have departed. Some others patiently feed their pet peeve about the Church without realizing that such a pet will not only bite the hands of him who feeds it, but it will swallow his whole soul."

[Neal A Maxwell, "All Hell is Moved," 3]

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Twelve Apostles and the Keys of the Kingdom

A prophet is someone who speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost and has the testimony of Jesus Christ. They may or may not predict future events. In fact prediction is not the most important criteria for a prophet since false prophets can also sometimes tell the future and even perform miracles. Any true minister of God who has the testimony of Jesus and the gift and power of the Holy Ghost is a prophet since in speaking by the Holy Ghost, they speak the word and will of God. While the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a prophet, he is not the only prophet, since all of God’s true ministers are prophets. As Joseph Smith taught, “No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a Prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 160). When he was asked if he was believed he was a prophet,”  Joseph Smith responded, “Yes, and every other man who has the testimony of Jesus. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.—Revelation, xix:10th verse” (Teachings, 119). This is why the Lord called his school the “school of the prophets, established for their instruction in all things that are expedient  for them, even for all the officers of the church, or in other words, those who are called to the ministry in the church, beginning at the high priests, even down to the deacons” (D&C 88:127; 1835 7:39). The President of the Church, however, is more than just a prophet. He is, significantly, an apostle.  The Lord set apostles first in the Church before prophets (1 Corinthians 12:28). The President of the Church is also the only prophet authorized to receive revelation for the whole Church.

In order to more fully appreciate the essential role of Apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints it is helpful to understand how their role was established through the leadership and direction of the Lord and the prophet of the Restoration Joseph Smith.

The Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon were commanded in revelation by God to seek out and choose the Twelve Apostles (D&C 18:27-40; 1835 43:5-6).  In 1835, they fulfilled this commandment and the Twelve  were chosen and ordained by Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris and they were confirmed as such under the hand of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith taught them that they were next to the First Presidency in terms of over all authority in the Church and he also taught, “If the Twelve erred they were accountable only to the General Council of the whole Church, according to the revelations” (HC 2:285). He also taught, “The Twelve are not subject to any other than the first Presidency, viz., `myself,’ said the Prophet, `Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, who are now my Counselors” (HC 2:374). The Lord outlined their duties and responsibilities in the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. The Twelve were a quorum equal in authority to the Quorum the First Presidency, and also held the keys of the kingdom, but were to act under their direction. On March 27, 1836, in a solemn assembly during the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith, the quorum of the First Presidency and the quorum of the Twelve Apostles were all acknowledged as “prophets and seers.” The record says:
Presdt Rigdon . . . . called upon the several quorums commencing with the presidency, to manifest by rising up, their willingness to acknowledge me as a prophet and seer and uphold me as such by their p[r]ayers of faith, all their quorums in turn, cheerfully complied with this request he then called upon all the congregation of Saints, also to give their assent by rising on their feet which they did unanimously . . . .
I then made a short address and called upon the several quorums, and all the congregation of saints to acknowledge the presidency as Prophets and Seers, and uphold them by their prayers, they all covenanted to do so by rising; I then called upon the quorums and congregation of saints to acknowledge the 12 Apostles who were present as Prophets and Seers and special witnesses to all the nations of the earth, holding the keys of the kingdom, to unlock it or cause it to be done among all nations them; and uphold them by their prayers, which they assented to do by rising (Joseph Smith Journal, 27 March, 1836, in Dean C. Jesse, Ronald K. Esplin and Richard Lyman Bushman, eds., The Papers of Joseph Smith. Journals Volume 1:1832-1839. The Church Historian’s Press, 2008, 203-4. Emphasis added). As the Book of Mormon says, “a seer is a revelator and a prophet also” (Mosiah 8:16-17). 

It is noteworthy that only the First Presidency and the Twelve were acknowledged as prophets and seers. Unlike the First Presidency, however, the primary mission of the Twelve was to travel abroad preaching the Gospel, opening the door of the Lord’s kingdom in all nations. After they were called in 1835, they were told that their business at first was not to serve in Zion in Missouri or the stakes, but to go out into the world and build up the Church abroad. In a revelation given in 1837, the Lord told the Twelve that they were not to trouble themselves about the affairs of the kingdom in the stake in Kirtland, but were then to go abroad in the world and preach the Gospel (D&C 112:27-29). The Lord also told Thomas B. Marsh, who was then President of the Quorum of the Twelve, “thou art the man whom I have chosen to hold the keys of my kingdom as pertaining to the Twelve, abroad among all nations—That thou mayest be my servant to unlock the door of the kingdom in all places where my servant Joseph and my servant Sidney, and my servant Hyrum, cannot come. For on them have I laid the burden of all he churches for a little season” (D&C 112:16-18). The Lord thereby indicated that, while the primary duty of the Twelve was to preach, testify and build up the kingdom abroad, that there might be circumstances in which their duties would be expanded to “all places” where the First Presidency, for whatever reason, could not or may not be able to go. The Lord also said that the current assignment of responsibilities was “for a little season” further suggesting that after a time the Twelve might be called upon to share some of the burden which at that time was only assigned to and carried by the First Presidency (Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith and Sidney Rigdon).
This was in fact soon the case during the difficulties in Missouri where the entire First Presidency suffered in prison for months, while the saints were being driven from the state. In a letter written to Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, the Prophet wrote, “In as much as we are in prison and for a little season if need be the management of the affairs of the Church devolves on you that is the Twelve . . . . It will be necessary for you to get the Twelve together ordain such as have not been ordained, or at least such of them as you can get. And proceed to regulate the Elders as the Lord may give you wisdom . . . . Appoint the oldest of those Twelve who were first appointed, to be President of your Quorum. (Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Hyrum Smith to Heber C. Kimball and Brigham Young, 16 January, 1839, Jesse, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 2002, 423-425). During this time, when the First Presidency could not be there, the Twelve, under their direction, took on an expanded burden of responsibility in accordance with previous revelation. Also with the death of David W. Patten and the apostasy and excommunication of Thomas B. Marsh, Brigham Young was now the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the presiding authority over that quorum. The Twelve, in fact did go abroad and preach the Gospel as they were commanded to do and had great success in Great Britain between 1837 and 1841, resulting in the conversion of thousands and opening up the way for the conversion and eventual immigration of tens of thousands to the United States. 

Upon their return, the Prophet received a revelation naming the Twelve including Brigham Young as President of that Quorum and they were approved in their offices at a subsequent conference of the Church. The Prophet then put them to work, expanding their responsibilities to include regulating and overseeing Church business at Church headquarters in Nauvoo. This marked an expansion of responsibilities for the Twelve under the Prophet's inspired direction. On August 10, 1841, “I spent the day in council with Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor, Orson Pratt, and George A. Smith, and appointed a special conference for the 16th instant. I directed them to send missionaries to New Orleans; Charleston, South Carolina; Salem, Massachusetts; Baltimore, Maryland; and Washington, District of Columbia. I also requested the Twelve to take the burden of the business of the Church in Nauvoo, and especially as pertaining to the selling of Church lands (HC 4:400). On August 16, in compliance with the Prophet’s request, a special conference of the Church was held in order to explain this to the Saints. The record states:
The time had come when the Twelve should be called upon to stand in their place next to the First Presidency, and attend to the settling of emigrants and the business of the Church at the stakes, and assist to bear off the kingdom victoriously to the nations, and as they had been faithful, and had borne the burden in the heat of the day, that it was right that they should have an opportunity of providing something for themselves and families, and at the same time relieve him, so that he might attend to the business of translating. Moved, seconded and carried, that the conference approve the instructions of President Smith in relation to the Twelve, and that they proceed accordingly to attend to the duties of their office. . . . Moved, that the conference accept the doings of the Twelve, in designating certain individuals to certain cities, &c.: when President Smith remarked that the conference had already sanctioned the doings of the Twelve; and it belonged to their office to transact such business, with the approbation of the First Presidency (HC 2:403-4. Emphasis added).
So again, this expansion of responsibility came about under prophetic direction and was approved by the voice of the Church. 

On January 28, the Prophet recorded a revelation which said:

“Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph, go and say unto the Twelve, that it is my will to have them take in hand the editorial department of the Times and Seasons, according to the manifestation which shall be given unto them by the power of my Holy Spirit in the midst of their counsel, saith the Lord. Amen" (HC 4:503).
Note here that it was the Prophet Joseph Smith himself who authorized the Twelve to officiate in business of the Church at the stakes, including Church headquarters at Nauvoo, even though earlier instructions had not permitted this. In this change, the Twelve were not usurping local authority, but were simply fulfilling an expanded responsibility given them by the prophet and by revelation to “regulate” and “set in order” all the affairs of the Church in all the world under the direction of the First Presidency. Brigham Young and the Twelve were acknowledged in their apostolic authority according to God’s law of common consent in the revelations. They had already been called of God to be the Twelve Apostles by revelation to Joseph Smith and were fulfilling their duties as apostles to take the lead when there are no higher authorities present (D&C 20:38-45, 49-50, 56). Joseph was now no longer present. Brigham Young and the Twelve had also already been previously acknowledged as prophets and seers and given the keys of the kingdom along with the First Presidency. Sidney Rigdon had served as a counselor to Joseph Smith in the First Presidency, but with Joseph Smith dead and the other counselor, William Law excommunicated for apostasy, there was no longer a quorum of the First Presidency equal in power and authority to the Twelve in their acts and decisions (D&C 107:27-32). The Twelve, who had been previously called, appointed, and ordained by Joseph Smith and sustained in their offices by the law of common consent were the ones authorized to regulate all the affairs of the Church and to ordain and set in order all other officers of the same in all the world (D&C 107:58).

"Through you shall the oracles be given unto another, yea even unto the church" (D&C 90:4).

The Lord’s house is a house of order and the revelations in the scriptures provide safeguards and protections to the Saints against deception and false prophets. Before they could organize the Church of Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the keys of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood which was bestowed upon them by Divine messenger sent from heaven for the last time and which was to remain on the earth thereafter (D&C 13:1; 27:8:12-13). In the early days of the Church, before the Church was fully organized the Lord taught  that Joseph Smith would hold the keys “until he be taken” (D&C 43:3; 1835 14:1) or “until I shall appoint another in his stead” (D&C 28:7; 1835 51:2). Second, the Lord also had an early provision in case Joseph Smith proved unfaithful or should fall into transgression. If he should not “abide in me” or fall, the Lord said that the gifts and powers bestowed upon him would be taken away from him and the Lord would plant another in his stead (D&C 35:18; 1835 11:4). If that should occur, the Lord said, “none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead” (D&C 43:4). This would be done, however, through the means the Lord had appointed (D&C 64:5), and in accordance with the laws of the Church regarding common consent and ordination of church officers (D&C 26:2; 28:13; 42:11; 43:7; 1835 49:1; 51:4; 13:4; 14:2).

That was early on in 1830 and 1831. But in 1833 the Lord indicated that Joseph Smith would prove faithful and that “the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come” so the second issue became moot; “nevertheless,” the Lord said to Joseph Smith, “through you shall the oracles be given to another, yea, even unto the church” (D&C 90:3-4). That is, the keys revealed to Joseph, including to keys to receive revelation and reveal ancient scripture to the Church were now to be given to the Church. How? Those keys were to be bestowed upon the entire First Presidency who were then “accounted as equal with” Joseph Smith in “holding the keys of this last kingdom.” On March 18 1833, Joseph Smith fulfilled this commandment “and ordained them [his two counselors] by the laying on of the hands to be equal with him in holding the keys of the Kingdom and also the Presidency of the High Priesthood” (Kirtland Council Minute Books, 18 March 1833). So by early 1833, Joseph had given the keys unto “another,” just as the Lord commanded him to do in an earlier revelation, “yea, even unto the Church” by bestowing them upon the entire First Presidency of the Church so that there could be others on the earth who held them when he was “taken” or “in the world to come.” Two years later, in 1835, the Twelve Apostles were called by revelation and ordained to receive these same keys. The quorum of the Twelve were then to be considered “equal in authority and power” with the First Presidency to act under their direction (D&C 107:23-24, 33).

Both the First Presidency, the Twelve were acknowledged as “Prophets and Seers” and as holding the “keys of the kingdom” by the Church in the dedicatory services in the Kirtland Temple and this was reaffirmed in a revelation in 1837, “For unto you, the Twelve, and those of the First Presidency, who are appointed with you to be your counselors and your leaders, is the power of this priesthood given, for the last days and for the last time” (D&C 112:30). So with their ordination as apostles in 1835, the Twelve also held the “keys of the kingdom” and the apostolic authority to, among other things, “ordain and set in order all the other officers of the church” (D&C 107:58). So again, in accordance with previous revelations and the law of the Church, which says that all officers must be “regularly ordained by the heads of the church, it was the Twelve, after 1835, whose duty it was “ordain and set in order all the other officers of the church,” including any future President of the High Priesthood after Joseph was taken. So the earlier revelations about Joseph Smith’s appointment of another to serve on the earth when he was “taken” or “in the world to come” were fulfilled by Joseph Smith when he ordained the First Presidency in 1833 and the Twelve Apostles in 1835 and gave them the keys of the Kingdom.