Friday, November 21, 2014

A Treasure from the Past: Elder Henry B. Eyring's on the Mission of FARMS

[Over the years, as my family and friends well know, I have been involved in research and writing on the Book of Mormon, some of which has been published by FARMS (the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies), in 2006 renamed the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. One memory which I will always treasure is the opportunity to have many supporters address us and provide encouragement and support for what we do.  These included scholars such as Truman Madsen, Hugh Nibley, and Church leaders such as Elder Neal A. Maxwell in 1991 (after whom the organization would subsequently be named), Elder Dallin H. Oaks in 1992, Elder Henry B. Eyring in 1994, and in subsequent years Elder L. Tom Perry, and others. More especially, I hold sacred the memory of those Church leaders and what they said to us.

Some time ago an associate of mine indicated to me that Elder Eyring had once given a talk to FARMS in the early 1990s in which he had been critical of our activities that in some way  had brought shame upon the Church. Many years had passed. I told him I could not remember such a thing or where a record of it might be found. All I had was a brief report on the event published in the November 1994 issue of our newsletter Insights: An Ancient Window. Although I was very much involved with FARMS from 1988 until the present (2014), first as a student worker and later as a full time employee I could not recall anything that Elder Eyring had presented to us that so much as suggested a hint of disappointment or reproof.

Ether's Cave is blog primarily for my friends and family, where I like to share my thoughts and those of others which I think are of good report and praiseworthy in regards to the Book of Mormon and other scriptures. It also seems a convenient medium to correct some misunderstandings when appropriate. Recently the Maxwell Institute did a great service in making these remarks accessible on their website. In order to correct rumors which have circulated I have reproduced the transcript of Elder Eyring's remarks below in order to provide an accurate account here for my family, friends, and any other interested parties to counter false claims  that the organization in which I have invested and devoted so much of my life had been under some kind of condemnation by Church authorities. I feel that I have every right correct false rumors and misrepresentations which circulate which could reflect negatively upon me and my reputation, or by those who would either carelessly or deliberately represent my Book of Mormon scholarship to be something that it is not. I also wanted to share a treasured and meaningful memory. For this purpose those remarks are presented below  in their entirety with only a slight change in format from the transcript now available through the Maxwell Institute].

Elder Henry B. Eyring, “The Marketplace of Ideas": An Address Delivered at the Annual FARMS Banquet, 13 October 1994].

For fifteen years, FARMS has been creating and publishing ideas, primarily about the Book of Mormon. There are now hundreds of people, almost all volunteers, who are part of this independent and thriving enterprise. Not only have you prospered in the gifted people who have joined with you, but you are being recognized as a resource by others with interests as diverse as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the archaeology of Mesoamerica. Your organization's history is to me a series of miracles, not the least of which is that it does not include a bankruptcy. You must know the failure rate of new ventures which have tried even to approach your rate of growth. The double-meaning of "talents" in the scripture has been true for you: your faithfulness has allowed heaven to multiply both your personal abilities and your financial accounts. I hope you never cease to give thanks for a generous Providence. I join you in that.

In fact, your history seemed so remarkable to me that I was ready to declare it a miracle. But then I thought better of that, because of what you do. Your primary work is to study the Book of Mormon. The origin of that book fits the definition of a miracle: it surpasses human powers and must be ascribed to God. So, I realized that I was talking to people who have learned how to make wise assertions about miracles. I've pondered what you have written and tried to see what you have done well. Here is my report.

In the first place, you have clearly realized that the Book of Mormon's power to change lives stems from the method of proof it contains within it, in the tenth chapter of Moroni:

And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you. Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is. And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever (Moroni 10:2-7).

You have seen not only that the book requires no other proof but that its power to change lives comes to those who read it and apply that method of testing. It would have less value if some method of proof were available which did not require personal, submissive communication with God, since the reader might then miss the experience of learning how the Holy Ghost leads to knowing the truth of all things.

You have recognized the value which physical evidence and its thoughtful use can add. What you have done and are doing so well follows closely the experience the Church has had with the accretion of physical evidence about the Word of Wisdom, contained in what is now the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. It is described as a revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet. It is dated 27 February 1833. Here is part of it:

Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—

That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.

And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.

And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.

And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.

And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly" (D&C 89:4-9).

In the absence of organized physical evidence, people of faith were left to follow living prophets in accepting those warnings as the will of the Lord. Even though reason might have led them to think it could be true, they tried the test in Moroni and learned that the assertion was from God and was true. As the physical evidence accumulated, more people had grounds to think it might be true and so to pray about it. Now the physical evidence is so compelling that laws limit smoking and many choose not to smoke because of the evidence alone. The accumulation of evidence has been a blessing to those whose health is now at less risk. They get the physical benefit. But those who from the physical evidence have felt a desire to ask God about it have received both the physical and a far greater blessing. They are far more likely to get this remarkable result:

And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures" (D&C 89:18-19).

There are at least two quite different objectives in presenting physical evidence. One is to eliminate the need for faith. The other is to lead people to exercise it. It seems to me that you have chosen the better way. And in the process you have developed a method of using evidence to make it more likely that people might choose to experience God's way of revealing truth, a way which changes people and lifts them towards Him.

That seems to me to have helped you reach the audience for whom you can do the most good. You have realized that those who know the Book of Mormon's origin by revelation find comfort in your work, but that the audience for whom you can do the most good are those who have not yet succeeded in using the test enjoined by Moroni. That has shaped the way you work. And it seems to me that your way of working not only blesses those who wish to know of the truth of the Book of Mormon but can be of great worth to the wider community of scholars who pursue questions far afield from the Book of Mormon. Let me set the stage to explain why I think this is so by telling you of an incident.

A few months ago, a professor from a university in the eastern part of the United States called me. I did not know him, but he knew that I was the Church's commissioner of education. I gathered that he was a member. He called to object to what he saw as the repression of free inquiry by the Church. I have forgotten the incident which raised his ire, but I have not been able to forget his closing argument. It was this: He admitted that whomever he was defending might be wrong, but then said, "Surely, the best way to handle these things is to leave it to the marketplace of ideas." He was amazed when I expressed my doubt that the marketplace of ideas was working very well lately. His amazement led me to think long and hard about what troubled me in the very phrase "marketplace of ideas" and what scholars might do to improve the way they test ideas together.

Sadly, the marketplace of ideas in much of academic life has become just that—a marketplace. As a result, a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education summarized the argument of two natural scientists who felt compelled to defend science against those demanding that it become more "democratic," opening up its rules of proof to the force of opinion. The two writers complained that the critics misunderstood the whole basis of science, which is the assumption that there can be statements made whose truth is subject to test which is independent of prejudice or personal opinion. They correctly described the shift of what they called the academic "left" toward a process like a marketplace, where the opinions of many buyers set the value for a product offered (see "The Perils of Democratizing Science," 5 Oct. 1994, B1).

Now, I see your work having in it an assumption which could benefit the broader community of scholars, as well as those seeking to know if the Book of Mormon is what we claim it is. You proceed on the basis that there is important objective truth to be discovered, that Joseph Smith either received plates from an angel and translated them by the gift and power of God or he did not. You show confidence that the truth can be discovered. And you show confidence that the truth can be known by a process as certain as repeated controlled experiments and of greater value. That is an important reminder to the larger community of scholars: there is objective, verifiable truth, not subject to opinion. They may not perform the experiment of faith correctly and so may not come to know the truth that matters most, but they will be blessed by the influence of your confidence that there is truth for the finding and that it is of inestimable worth.

You have, it seems to me, had your writing touched by your confidence in the existence and value of truth. In that, you have at your best followed the example of Joseph Smith, as described by Arthur Henry King, in a talk published in his book, The Abundance of the Heart. In that book, Professor King recounted his experience in first reading of the First Vision as it appears in the Pearl of Great Price. Arthur Henry King reminds us that he was not a member of the Church at that time and that his education had taught him to be critical. He thus represents the very people to whom you may be most helpful. This is what he said:

"I wasn't inclined to be impressed. As a stylistician, I have spent my life being disinclined to be impressed. So when I read his story, I thought to myself, this is an extraordinary thing. This is an astonishingly matter-of-fact and cool account. This man is not trying to persuade me of anything. He doesn't feel the need to. He is stating what happened to him, and he is stating it, not enthusiastically, but in quite a matter-of-fact way. He is not trying to make me cry or feel ecstatic. That struck me, and that began to build my testimony, for I could see that this man was telling the truth" (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1986, pp. 200—201).

A clear declaration of the truth is powerful enough, because truth exists and there is a Spirit of truth to confirm it. Because you believe that, your writing shows a trust in the clear declarative statement, without jargon, that would bless scholars and their readers in every field.

And because you proceed from confidence in the power of truth, your work with the Book of Mormon also leads you to exemplify another quality of great potential value to the world of scholars. That is modesty. Because you know that the Book of Mormon does not require your proof, you have been far more cautious than you might have been in offering evidence in its support. You know that few things could harm truth more than to defend it with a bad argument. And that has led you to be careful both in the evidence you have presented and in the conclusions you have drawn from it. You have sublimated the desire for personal recognition, which so often leads people to claim too much too soon. Much time and wrangling could be saved in the world of scholars if they could avoid the controversy so often engendered by attempts to be first in the race for the rewards of possible recognition or even riches. You are blessed to sense the value in getting what you do right, which drives you to labor long, and the tragic price of getting it wrong, which gives you the patience to go back to check it again and again.

Because you know that the value of your work lies less in convincing and more in inviting people to seek truth by prayer, you have exemplified another virtue. You have tried to be models of kindness in your dialogue with others, especially with those with whom you disagree. You know that a spirit of contention will drive away the very influence by which they can know truth. That has led you to shun ridicule. It has led you to avoid the temptation of playing to the already converted, seeking their applause by trying to make your adversary appear the fool. It is easy to gain the laughter of an appreciative crowd who delight to see the truth defended with boldness and strength, but you have remembered that the heart you wish to touch may hear derision in that laughter and so turn away. Your civility and gentleness could bless all associations of scholars, whatever they may be studying together.

The Lord himself has described a company of students following such lofty and effective rules. Listen to his directions:

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God; . . .

Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege.

See that ye love one another; cease to be covetous; learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires.

Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.

And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.

Pray always, that ye may not faint, until I come. Behold, and lo, I will come quickly, and receive you unto myself. Amen" (D&C 88:118-119, 122-26).

With confidence that there is truth which can edify, with humility which will protect your integrity, and with kindness toward each other and those you hope to invite rather than to vanquish, you will continue to prosper in receiving the help of heaven and you will be an example for good among scholars everywhere.

I testify to you that there is truth, that God our Father lives and loves us, that his Son is the Savior of the world, and that the Holy Ghost testifies to men and women of truth. Joseph Smith told the truth about the origin and purpose of the Book of Mormon. Howard W. Hunter is the Lord's prophet today. He holds the keys restored to Joseph by those who received them from the Savior. And because those things are true, you can continue in your work with confidence, with modesty, and with kindness.

Your work of highest value is to lead the children of God to discover the true origin of the Book of Mormon and thus let its message of Jesus Christ change their lives. Because of that, my hope would be that you will keep your focus on that scripture and on the aspects of it which are significant to the question: "Should I pray to know if this book is truly the word of God, written and abridged by prophets on plates delivered by an angel to a boy who could only have translated them by the power of God?"

Joseph Smith's account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is miraculous. The only place to go to verify a miracle is to God. I pray that your work and your example will lead many to go to Him in the earnest prayer of faith, in the name of his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Resurrection: "In its perfect form" (Alma 11:43).

President Lorenzo Snow taught:

"In the next life we will have our bodies glorified and free from sickness and death. Nothing is so beautiful as a person in a resurrected and glorified condition. There is nothing more lovely than to be in this condition and have our wives and children and friends with us."

[Lorenzo Snow, Conference Report, October 1900, 63].

Friday, October 24, 2014

In Memoriam of Matthew Brown (1964-2011)

[The following are some brief remarks I gave  at the "Temples on Mount Zion" Conference in held at the Provo City Library in Provo, Utah on September 22. 2012. This annual scholarly conference was conceived and initiated by my friend Matthew Brown, who passed away in October 2011].

    This Conference was originally conceived and organized by Matthew B. Brown. Matt, who passed away in October 2011 hoped that events such as these would help to promote faithful Latter-day Saint scholarship and increase understanding about the Temple. On behalf of Matt’s wife Jamie, thank you to all those who have helped to bring this event to fruition. Matt had a deep love for the truths of the restored Gospel. As a scholar, an author and an able defender of the kingdom, Matt brought an enthusiasm and excitement to his research that were contagious. I saw reflected in his life and activities a deep respect for the Prophet Joseph Smith and a sense of wonder and love for the ordinances of the Lord’s House.

    In one of his parables, the Savior speaks of disciple-scholars who seek to more fully understand and expound the wonders of the Gospel. “Every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old” (Matthew 13:52). Matt, like the householder in the Savior’s parable was blessed with an intuitive gift for research and insights into the Temple and other aspects of the Restoration. Happily, he was able to combine this gift with a genuine respect for sacred things and the added ability to sensitively express these things in writing for the benefit of others. Such contributions are a treasure and a blessing to the Saints.

    The Redeeming life and work of Jesus Christ have always been central to Latter-day Saint temple worship."Each of the ordinances of the Lord's house,” explained David B. Haight, “bears witness of him who triumphed over the grave--of the reality of his atonement and his resurrection. We are taught of immortality and eternal life through his atonement. We are blessed by covenants and ordinances to prepare us to eventually reenter his divine presence" (David B. Haight, "Come to the House of the Lord," Ensign 22/5 (May 1992): 17).  "Even in the endowments," according to Heber C. Kimball "there is not a solitary thing but what is an imitation of the Son or the Father in some way or other; and all this is done to keep us in remembrance of him" (Journal of Discourses 10:44). If one cannot see the work of Christ in the ordinances of the temple, one has simply not understood Latter-day Saint temple worship.

    Shortly before Matt passed away last October, David Keller expressed the following personal reflections which I shared with his permission at Matt’s funeral service.

    "I have recently been thinking that the process of writing for publication is like composing a song. The notes, or ideas, are inspired by research and analysis, but often are jumbled inside my head. Only with great care can these notes be selected and arranged in a proper sequence to create a symphony that will resonate with others.
    "As Elder Cook spoke last conference (Quentin L. Cook, “The Songs they could not sing,” Ensign 41/11 [November 2011]: 104-107), I thought of my friend Matthew Brown, condition ever worsening, with his faithful wife at his side, soon to pass to the other side of the veil. I mourned the loss of not being able to hear any more songs from Matt . . . .
    "I recall frequently encountering Matt in the religion and family history section of the Harold B. Lee Library. While I would casually work on blogs and articles on priesthood, revelation, marriage and temples, Matthew would be furiously working to meet one book or article deadline after another on much the same topics. We would give each other updates and encouragement on each other’s projects. Once I expressed frustration about how long it was taking me to complete an assignment dealing with priesthood and the apostasy, and how I wished he could take over. To rephrase his response using Elder Cook’s metaphor, “I already know what songs I have been called to sing and I don’t have enough time as it is.” His encouragement helped me believe that I was still up for the task.

    "I remember seeing Matt meeting his wife, Jamie, for the drive home at the end of a long day. It dawned on me that Matt could not possibly be receiving adequate compensation for all the writing he was doing to explain and defend the Church. Matt’s family was clearly sacrificing greatly as he was, yet when I looked for any hint of complaint from Jamie, I saw none, Instead her countenance quickly shed its world-weariness and lit up as she was reunited with her husband. I could sense she took pride in his accomplishments as we were introduced. As I watched them ascend, side by side, from the library’s underworld into the glass pavilion illuminated by the sunset above, I had the impression I was witnessing the ascension of a king and his queen such as might be found in a scene from one of Matt’s books on ancient temples. As they passed by the security guards standing as sentinels above, I marveled at the rock their relationship was built upon and which will no doubt prevail against a temporary separation caused by death."

    Latter-day Saint temple worship is a source of tremendous comfort to the Saints. John A Widtsoe explained that the blessings of the temple “bestow great honor upon a person who can understand” as “realities are exhibited in figures, and those who have the Spirit and understand, derive great comfort and consolation from that source."“No man or woman can come out of the temple endowed as he should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the mighty realities for which the symbols stand" (John A. Widtsoe, "Temple Worship," Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine [April 1921]: 62). Paramount among these are Christ’s victory over sin and death – His redeeming life and the power of His redemption in our own lives as we seek to follow him and keep His Gospel covenants. Recognition of the reality of that power, restored through the Lord’s faithful servant Joseph Smith and faithfully administered by apostolic authority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today is a reason for hope which extends beyond the grave and throughout eternity. Thus, while with Alma, we “truly mourn for the loss” of our friends and kindred,” yet we also “rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness” (Alma 28:12).

Thanks Matt for your scholarship, your service and helping us to more fully appreciate the treasures both old and new.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Catholic Reminiscence on Joseph Smith

"During the life-time of their prophet Joe Smith, Catholic Bishops and priests were courteously received and hospitably entertained by him, whenever they had occasion to visit his growing city of Nauvoo; and they often spoke in praise of his personal kindliness and generosity."

[Life and Scenery in Missouri: Reminiscences of a Missionary Priest. Dublin: James Duffy & Company, 1890, 122].

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.