LDS Members Persecuted For Reading Books

KeepCalmReadABookIn light of the excommunication of several LDS Church members recently for apostasy, and one in particular for simply reading a book, I’d like to discuss a couple of the temple recommend questions, which the church makes available on their website. The two questions deal with sustaining our leaders and agreeing with individuals who teach or write what is not found in the official curriculum of the church. In other words, those who go beyond the basics in their writings.

Standard disclaimer: This is all my opinion

Please remember I’m not a scholar, theologian, attorney or an expert at philosophical arguments. I’m just a regular old member of the church who likes to read books and write book reviews. The temple recommend questions I linked to above are from LDS Tech, an official LDS website. Technically, they are the questions on the Melchizedek Priesthood Ordination Record, but are almost exactly the same minus two questions about keeping covenants and wearing garments.

Deviating From Temple Recommend Questions

I know this has been discussed in many forums and websites, notably on the Stay LDS site. I’m not sensing a purge going on, but wonder why more and more of my readers and online friends have written me privately about their discussions with Bishops or Stake Presidents. They are being asked probing questions that go beyond the specific ones that are supposed to be asked in the temple recommend interview. By so doing these leaders are not following the Handbooks.

This is the Kingdom of God on the Earth

It has been standard policy for over thirty years that leaders “…should never deviate from or go beyond the specific questions contained in the temple recommend book…(First Presidency letter, 5 January 1982).” Let’s take the easy question first. I consider it cut and dry because it deals with the kingdom of God on earth, NOT the kingdom of God in heaven. If you keep that distinction in mind, you should have no problem answering yes to the question without any elaboration at all.

This Earthly Kingdom is Only Temporary

“Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys?” The church is an earthly institution. According to section 65, the purpose of the church is to prepare us to join with the Kingdom of Heaven. The church is the Kingdom of God on the earth. It is temporary. It will be absorbed into the Kingdom of Heaven.

The LDS Church Has Certain Keys

Therefore, I have no problem affirming that the man we sustain or uphold as the President of the earthly institution holds priesthood keys or authority to preach the gospel, publish scripture, collect tithing, build and maintain temples and meetinghouses and perform, through delegation, a myriad of other tasks and activities that will build the Kingdom of God on the earth. I also affirm that permission or those earthly keys can be and were passed on from the prophet Joseph Smith.

Difference Between Authority and Power

This includes the right to perform ordinances, including the exercise of the sealing power, albeit a limited kind of sealing power, that are invitations to go and get the real thing. Everyone knows this from the prophet and apostles on down. President Packer has taught this repeatedly – there is a world of difference between earthly authority to act in the church and heavenly sealing power. Earthly sealing power is not the same as heavenly sealing power. You and I should know this.

Seek Ratification From Holy Spirit of Promise

Don’t confuse the Kingdom of God on the Earth with the Kingdom of God in Heaven. Don’t forget what we’ve been taught about the Holy Spirit of Promise. Our ordinances are simply not complete until they are ratified by the Holy Spirit of Promise. I’m concerned too many leaders in our church don’t understand or teach this. I know this because so many members don’t get it. We focus way too much on getting people to the temple without teaching them what to do after that.

Keeping the Church Free From Polygamy

I’m going to skip down to the other, more troubling question: “Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” Everyone knows why this question was placed in the interview process. It was and is still intended to weed out those who practice plural marriage. It was not included to keep us from reading non-LDS books or going to lectures.

Criticized and Disciplined For What One Believes

I wrote previously how deeply troubled I felt upon learning of online friends being harassed by being placed on informal or formal probation or officially disciplined through disfellowshipment and even excommunicated – all for reading a book or going to a lecture. This is crazy. This is wrong. This is not righteous exercise of priesthood authority. It is unrighteousness dominion. No LDS leader has the right to tell a member of his congregation what he should or shouldn’t read (see discussion in comments).

Trying to Control Reading Material is Wrong

In the selected policies of the church, we are encouraged to read the King James version of the Bible as opposed to other editions, to read the church magazines and to read the weekly lesson material assignments in advance. Other than that, I could find nothing in the handbook that says “Though shalt not read anything from Signature Books,” or “Thou shalt only buy and read books from Deseret Book.” It especially does not refer to reading D. Michael Quinn or Denver Snuffer.

We Have the Right to Read What we Choose

So what if they have been excommunicated from the church? Big deal. We’re all adults here. If I want to read what Michael Quinn had to say about our history, then that’s my prerogative. Yes, I know it’s contrary to what we’re taught in the official curriculum, but that’s the beauty of it. I get other viewpoints and additional information to help me understand our history. The same thing goes for reading Denver Snuffer’s Passing the Heavenly Gift. It’s just a man’s different opinion.

Multiple Points of View is Healthy

I’ve received private emails from readers who say they have been persecuted for reading Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman, a faithful LDS member and temple sealer. Why are some LDS leaders afraid of opening their minds to other possibilities and interpretations of our LDS history? So what if it differs from the official material we receive in the classrooms on Sunday or in Seminary, Institute and church university religion classes? That just seems so closed-minded.

The Temple Recommend Question is Flawed

Paraphrasing the second temple recommend question we’re discussing, it could be read as “Do you agree with any individual who teaches a different version of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” In my opinion this question is wrong and should be changed to simply read, “Do you practice plural marriage?” Strangely enough, the doctrine of plural marriage is still accepted by the church and found in our scriptures. We just don’t teach it.

The Church Has Already Given Guidelines

This is my blog so I’ll express my opinion a little more forcefully as if I were speaking directly to some Bishops and Stake Presidents who have excommunicated some of my readers. I would tell them to seriously back off and stop prying into the personal reading habits of their members. It’s none of their business. That 1982 letter included this line about sex: “you…should never inquire into personal, intimate matters involving marital relations between a man and his wife.”

Let the Members Work Out Their Own Doubts

I wonder if we need another letter from the First Presidency stating, “Do not ask your members what books they are reading or if they are attending lectures that are not put on by the church.” If a member says no to the second question we’re discussing, then leave it alone and go on with the next question, even if you have heard stories that the member is struggling with the standard narrative of the church when it comes to our history. Let them work it out with their own agency.

Not All Members Fit Into the Same Mold

I know these leaders justify their inappropriate questioning in the guise of love, claiming they simply want to help their members, but they do more harm than good when they try to mold all members into their idea of what a good Latter-day Saint should be like as far as what they read. Sure, we can all preach against the evils of porn but are we going to tell our sisters they can’t read romance novels? You would have half the church up in arms over that, including my wife.

Inappropriate Reasons to Deny a Temple Recommend

Just because a person reads Denver Snuffer and happens to agree with some of his viewpoints is no reason to deny them a temple recommend. Reading Denver Snuffer does not make someone an apostate. I’ve written about apostasy previously here on my blog: It’s defined as deliberate and open opposition to the Church or its leaders, teaching as doctrine something that is not Church doctrine or to belong to an apostate sect, such as those that practice plural marriage.

Temple Recommends Not Used in Heaven

A temple recommend is simply an earthly receipt used by the LDS Church to show that you have paid tithing. You’re not going to need a temple recommend in heaven. They’re not used there. Trying to control what a man believes about our history is not righteous behavior. Threatening a man with church discipline because he tells a few friends his opinion of a book and recommends they also read it is simply not right. Leaders who do this are abusing the priesthood of God.

Face it: We Failed the Test in Nauvoo

To say that someone needs to be disciplined because they have a difference of opinion over how to interpret a document is the worst kind of priestcraft. If this really is the Kingdom of God on the earth we will be looking for ways to include more people, not exclude them for what they read or believe. We’ve got to stop being so sensitive about what happened in Nauvoo. We failed the test, didn’t build the temple in time and suffered hardships for the next four generations.

The Gathering of the Elect of God

With the passing of our last patriarch, Eldred G. Smith, those four generations have passed now. The Lord has put forth his hand again and is gathering the elect through the angels. They are ministering to men and women upon the earth, teaching and preparing them to come into the presence of the Lord. There are many members of the LDS Church quietly doing the Lord’s bidding as asked by Him or as assigned by His angels. This is contrary to the traditional hierarchal institution model.

The Angels Are Inviting and Teaching

I’ve written enough. I hope you can tell I’m a little bit passionate about this subject. I simply cannot believe the church I love and have been a member of all my life would persecute its own members for claiming to have received the Lord or assignments from angels. It’s almost as if the church is jealous of its own members who exhibit spiritual gifts that bless and edify others. The hierarchy of the church cannot control who joins the Kingdom of Heaven. The angels do that.

I’m Interested in Your Feedback

What do you think? Is it right for LDS leaders to deviate from the temple recommend questions? Is it OK for them to ask you what kinds of books or authors you read? Should they be allowed to ask you what you believe beyond the first three basic testimony questions? If you would rather share your story privately, feel free to email me at tmalonemcse @ God bless us all.

A few links to articles on the Temple Recommend Interview process:

Wikipedia article on LDS worthiness interviews

An Ensign article on being worthy to enter the temple

Frequently asked questions from on temple interviews

Excerpt from the 1982 First Presidency letter from Upward Thought Blog

Article from The New Era on Temple Recommend Interview

Lesson from Young Men's manual on Recommend Interviews

Lesson from Temple Preparation class on Recommend Interviews


Angelina said…

I'm just going to take my phone and this post to my TRI4TIMMI and have them read it.

If that doesn't do the trick then I'll take it to my Council of Love.

If that doesn't do the trick I'll have the Savior read this and he'll look up from the Smart Phone & declare "Tim is an animal. He Rocks the Free World. Couldn't have said it better myself. " :)

(TRI4TIMMI = Temple Recommend Interview for Totally Irrelevant Measurable & Marketable Information)
Good Will said…
Thanks, Tim. Unfortunately, my bishop and stake president don't read your blog. ;o)
Hi Will. There are plenty of (current and former) Bishops, Stake Presidents and even a few General Authorities who do read my blog. Maybe it will do some good for someone someday. At least I pray so.
Wish I had a like button for comments. Thanks Angelina. Cheers.
Roy L Barrus said…
I agree with you.
I sustain the eclisiastcal leaders of the church as having the authority to direct missionary work and administer the ordinances essential for each individual to realize the intended endowment through following the plan as outlined by the ordinances.

Because of your example to me I have initiated a blog to document my journey and experiences as I seek the second comforter 7n this life.

Thank you for all you have shared.
Bob said…
Honest question. How does my sustaining anyone as a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator actually make them one?
mjcunningham said…
Amen and pass the peanut butter! You have a way with words, my friend! If I ever need to--heaven forbid--I am going to print up this post and read it word for word! Thank you! I LOVE your blog!
Adrian said…
This wouldn't have anything to do with the meeting you had with your Stake President on Sunday would it? Just wonderin'...

As for the question about supporting, affiliating with, etc.--the statement refers specifically to those "whose teachings are contrary to those accepted by the church..."

Well, the way I look at it, the teachings accepted by the church are first and foremost those things taught in scripture. Right?

Everything else beyond scripture is somewhat more ambiguous and subject to change. In fact, it changes all the time. (Africans and priesthood, anyone?) But the scriptures are our unchanging standard.

Therefore, I can honestly answer that I do not support, affiliate with, or agree with any such person or group (though I do sit through their classes every Sunday, listen to their talks, and read their manuals--sorry, couldn't resist. But seriously--most of the false things I hear, I hear at church!)

If the church believes the scriptures and I believe the scriptures, then we ought to believe the same teachings, right?

Denver Snuffer doesn't teach anything contrary to the scriptures. Therefore, I can't see any problem with accepting his teachings.

If any leader wants to push the issue in an interview, I will stand on the scriptures. If I am to be denied a temple recommend for believing what is written there, then I will leave that in the Lord's hands.

I can answer the questions with a clear conscience and pure intent. I would give the same answer to the Lord in person. And I still believe what Snuffer has written.

I am so thankful I don't have the terrible responsibility of sitting in judgment of another's "worthiness." What a weighty responsibility to bear. The men who must do so have my gratitude, prayers, and pity. Surely, the Lord's eyes are upon them as they discharge this duty.
Rick said…
Nice post Tim! I'm beginning to wonder if the TR questions are intended to keep most people out of the temple. Which seems to be the opposite intention of what the Savior wants.
Brian B said…

I'm a first time commenter, but have enjoyed reading your blog for many months. Your comment, " It’s almost as if the church is jealous of its own members who exhibit spiritual gifts that bless and edify others." is scriptural:

Yea, it shall come in a day when the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts; yea, even in a day when LEADERS OF CHURCHES and teachers shall rise in the pride of their hearts, EVEN TO THE ENVYING OF THEM WHO BELONG TO THEIR CHURCHES. (Mormon 8:28).

Perilous times, indeed.
jmhiatt said…
My feedback: I totally agree with you Tim.
Nonrandom Set said…
I'm not aware of anyone who was excommunicated or even informally disciplined for reading a book. The examples I've seen on your blog in the past went beyond merely reading a book.

Whether what they did rises to the level of apostasy is certainly arguable, but I don't think it's fair to imply that they were ex'ed for reading the book.
William said…
Hello Tim,

In my stake they also add to the Temple recommend questions. Only one question...they ask the men if they have a problem with masturbation. Although this may be a good question that would give them insight to the members worthiness(maybe), it is still outside the accepted set of questions and it has always bothered me that they ask this when they do not ask specific questions about others forms of sinfulness. I fully agree that all the questions (besides one) are subjective questions anyway. I enjoyed your comments about controlling what we read and study. If they are going to try and control what we read, will they also try to control what we watch, listen to, and say? Isn't control all about the plan someone else proposed?
Adrian said…
I find this question troubling on many levels. I have researched the question extensively, and have not found any scriptural evidence at all that masturbation is the terrible, sinful thing our puritan culture has made it out to be. The statistics are that in and out of the church 90+ percent of men, particularly young men, do it with varying degrees of frequency. (There is also a surprisingly large percentage of women who masturbate. But somehow we only view this as a men's issue. As William noted, only the men are asked.)

This means that a huge majority of men and young men are lying to their ecclesiastical leaders, and dealing with terrible shame and guilt that they hide from everyone. They are convinced they are unworthy and terrible people, but they have to still put on a white shirt and play the part because of cultural pressure. They are convinced they are rejected of God and going to Hell.

The mixture of secrecy, suppressed sexuality, and shame are the perfect environment for pornography, by the way. The problem starts with our unhealthy response to masturbation.

My son recently admitted to a counselor in the bishopric, who had no business asking, that he had masturbated. That takes incredible guts and honesty for a young man of 15. The counselor told him that he would be barred from the youth temple trip, that there would be a waiting period before he could participate in priesthood duties, and that the bishop would set up an appointment to help him.

So his friends who lied about masturbation went on the temple trip, he never got a bishop's appointment, and he felt horrible, damned, and rejected of God for months, alone in his agony. He finally talked to me, and I talked to the bishop.

Is this the gospel of Jesus Christ? Can you show me an example of the Lord rejecting the sinner in agony of guilt?

If masturbation were such a terrible sin, it was very sneaky of the Lord to never mention it in scripture. He mentions other types of serious sins, but is silent on this one. Yet his church feels at liberty to destroy young men over it.

It is inappropriate for leaders to ask, and their response borders on child abuse. They are lay people with no professional training, or even training in pastoral counseling, asking deeply personal sexual questions of children in private. Comfortable with that?

My bishop now understands he is not at liberty to discus sexuality with my children without me present, and he agrees. (He's a great guy.) It's my job as their parent to discuss and teach them about these things, and I do it in a way that teaches truth, rather than harming them.

Months later, my son is still struggling with feelings of unworthiness and rejection by the church.

Sorry, but if my stake president asked me, I would tell him it's none of his business and ask him to show me in any manual or scripture otherwise. I would also ask if it's appropriate for him to make up his own temple recommend questions. I would point out that it's even been removed from the most recent edition of For the Strength of Youth.

Incidentally, the source of all this masturbation issue seems to be The Miracle of Forgiveness, where Spencer Kimball stated his completely ill-informed opinion that masturbation led to homosexuality. Everything else grew from there, not from any statement from a prophet or scripture.

(Sorry Tim, I know this isn't a blog about masturbation, and it's a sensitive issue. But William's post is appalling and deserves a response. Too much harm is being done.)
Kevin said…
A timely, relevant post, Tim. You'd hope an awareness that thousands of folks are turning away from the Church™ filters down to the local leaders. Sadly, local leaders sometimes bear down on us with misplaced good intentions. The truth and the gospel don't need defending and enforcing, but rather they invite us fallible human beings to embrace them.

If the question about sympathizing or affiliating with the wrong folks was specifically written to weed out polygamists its general framing provides a convenient net to go fishing for anything else deemed heretical. You can't help but think this will not end well. Imagine a church purged of independent thinkers and seekers. Could the Lord bring Zion with such a diminished, two-dimensional body? Seems unlikely.
Kevin said…
LOL Angelina. The temple recommend seems to serve a variety of purposes only some of which connect us with our highest form of worship and service.
mjcunningham said…
My guess is the place where people encounter trouble is that they think if they believe DS is "prophet" then the general authorities who lead our church can't be, and when they go in for a temple recommend interview, they confess their feelings honestly, which, when confessed to a bishop might sound very disturbing. Most people, after first studying DS feel as though they've slammed into something they cannot explain. They only know it's powerful, wonderful, and possibly terrifying.

I went through this same thought process and in the mean time had to "pass" the temple recommend interview. I answered the questions correctly (for lack of a better word--without talking about DS) but a part of me felt like I was lying. Since then, after much pondering and praying, I do not feel I lied. I support my church leaders, who, like DS said, are no more perfect or flawed than the original twelve the Lord picked. I do believe they are doing their best. When I listen to general conference, I feel the spirit.

So, I will follow my heart and keep my testimony strong, keeping critical judgments out as best I can, and will keep studying "meat" wherever I can find it.
Hi Bob. It doesn't. Only the Lord can make someone a Prophet, Seer or Revelator. Your sustaining vote indicates that you accept their claim to be one. Wow, that puts a lot of burden on those fifteen men. I would not want to make that claim unless 1) I had been personally visited by the Lord and 2) he had ordained me as such. There are administrative apostles and then there are apostles who know the Lord and can bear personal witness of Him. I mean flat out say, "I have seen Him. He has ministered to me. This is the message he wants us to hear today..."
Hi Adrian. I meet with the Stake Presidency each month to report on the financial status of the stake and wards, to review the financial statements and budget reports with them, to report on assignments from the most recent audit, to accept assignments that they would like to delegate to me and do what whatever administrative task I'm asked to do. It's just a part of administering that needs to be done in every stake. I don't particularly enjoy it because it reminds me of working in the business world as opposed to ministering in a church. is one way I can and do serve because I love these brethren with whom I serve and want to make their burden lighter. They are all good men.
Thanks Brian. I thought it sounded familiar when I wrote it. I'm teasing. I knew it was. I'm glad you provided the reference. It's an amazing thing to me to see it applied to our own church. I never would have thought that up until recently as I have witnessed it for myself.
Yep. I also went through the same thing. I accept Denver as a prophet, yet I also sustain the fifteen men that lead this church as prophets. Anyone with the testimony of Jesus can be considered a prophet according to the scriptures. A simple yes to the temple recommend question is sufficient and honest - at least as I have prayed about it.
Annalea said…
Kevin, the temple worship is wonderful. I have had so many amazing, teaching, spiritual, supernatural experiences there. I learn and grow, and I love the ability I have to reflect quietly for two full hours. It's precious.

But the temple and/or temple rites are not, by any stretch of my imagination, the highest form of worship. That happens directly between me and my God . . . no temple required. It can be anything from silent meditation to the loudest joyful noise you can imagine, from the stillness of my knees to running or dancing. Our God is incredibly varied, fully-endowed with all of the wonderful emotions we have. He rejoices with us, and pours out His Spirit upon those who reach out to Him in whatever innocent way lets them let go of all of their fears and strongholds and throw themselves into His love.

The highest form of worship happens when a heart wholly abandoned to and fully invested in Jesus. That is theoretically possible in the temple, for individuals. The constraints of near-silence and stillness are a huge obstacle for me, personally. The highest forms of worship can happen almost anywhere. Restricting deep worship as something that can only be facilitated by a ticket to a building (no matter how sacred it may actually be), which ticket is granted by mortal men, is not in line with the words of Christ that have bid all to come unto Him, and to feast and drink our fill without money and without price.
Annalea said…
Angelina, you know Jesus, don't you? I can totally hear Him saying exactly that. lol
Annalea said…
Skipping over the vast majority of the comments (I hope to read them all soon, though), one sentence *really* stood out to me. It's something you just said in passing, Tim, as it's absolutely true, really not thought about much by members, but is so, so sad to me:

"A temple recommend is simply an earthly receipt used by the LDS Church to show that you have paid tithing"

How very, very far we have come. :o( It feels like we're living Mormon 8:32:

"Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins."

And in answer to your final questions:

1) Is it right for LDS leaders to deviate from the temple recommend questions?

Nope. If they insist on beating me with the handbook and instructions from church leaders, they'd better abide by them. ;) There's no having it both ways.

2) Is it OK for them to ask you what kinds of books or authors you read?

Only if we're already friends, and they're not going to go all Satan's plan on me. In plainer words: only if the intents of their heart are innocent of any intent to coerce, regardless of whether or not it's in the name of a twisted version of love. (Love that coerces isn't love.)

3) Should they be allowed to ask you what you believe beyond the first three basic testimony questions?

Not in the context of a recommend interview. The answer to #2 applies here, as well.
ann said…
Tim, please don't tell me you think that blogger was excommunicated for reading a book. If you had followed his blogs over the years you might see things in a different light. Things are not always what they seem. We most times only hear one side of the story. My greatest concern is that many of those claiming to have direct communication are hardly Christlike in their speaking with no respect for others convictions. As for Denver, I have read his works and heard him speak. He has a lot of truth, but I would never give up my own conviction for him. He is still the arm of flesh. Just like every other mortal here on earth. There may be some unwise leaders on the local level, but most of them have the spirit of the Lord with them.
Nonrandom Set: Agreed. Perhaps I took liberties in characterizing what happened to Brent as the result of reading a book. As all of us know, I was not there and the church will not share details, as, of course, is appropriate.

However, I have received and continue to receive private emails from readers who tell me they have been called in to explain themselves because they recommended someone read Denver's or Daymon's books.
Hi Ann. Good comment. Thanks for adding to the dialog. Yes, I know that being excommunicated for reading a book is not the real issue. It's submissiveness to priesthood authority. Open belligerence or not doing as directed is usually the real reason for apostasy excommunications.

As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I have received multiple private emails from readers who tell me they are being called in to "have their loyalty checked" because they mention in church they read Denver or Daymon or others. That concerns me. Thus, the title of the post.

By the way, I agree with you that Denver is the arm of flesh, as are we all. He has repeated over and over he wants no followers and does not want anyone to use the term "Snufferite," or characterize themselves as disciples of Denver Snuffer in any way. We follow Jesus Christ.
mmmmm1234 said…
This post from Upward Thought seems relevant:
mmmmm1234 said…
This month marks my two anniversary of discovering Snuffer (and other inspired writings) via Tim's blog. Thank you for sharing your journey so publicly. Your friend, Matthew
Nathan Shackelford said…
Are we being prepared for additional changes to temple recommend interview questions?

"Are you now, or have you ever in the past, played with matches?"

So yes, Keep Calm & Read a Book :)
It is indeed relevant. I read it as part of my research for this post. There are many good things on Upward Thought. Thanks Matthew.
Well, I can tell you from years of speaking and teaching in this church, people always enjoy a good story and a good storyteller. Isn't President Monson one of the best? And I mean that sincerely. The ability to tell a good uplifting story from real life helps build rapport with an audience. So many in the church are new in their faith.

I am grateful the church has been focusing on helping those recent converts. I simply pray it will let us old timers move on to the meat of the gospel without being penalized for reading books that are controversial or present different opinions on how things went down in our history or a different interpretation of scripture.

I know it's been discussed all over the Internet, but the idea of who has the right to interpret scripture has been weighing heavily on my mind recently. What if I privately disagree with what the Brethren say the scriptures mean? By private I mean I keep it to my blog and NEVER deviate from the basic curriculum in our classrooms or from the pulpit.

You've got me thinking Nathan. Thanks for adding to the dialog.
Thank you Matthew. I wish there was something more I could do for my readers. I am so grateful to share my thoughts and receive feedback and yes, criticism. My goal is to increase in spirituality, understand the doctrine better and be more willing to do as the Lord asks.

The real trick is to learn how to interpret his voice among all the other voices I hear. Sometimes - no, often - the Lord leaves me to figure out what he wants me to do with the impressions I receive - to put words to the ideas. Writing these posts for me is a spiritual experience.

Thanks for letting me share and for being my friend.
Joe Gardner said…
I want to testify of one of the last things Tim wrote:

It’s almost as if the church is jealous of its own members who exhibit spiritual gifts that bless and edify others. The hierarchy of the church cannot control who joins the Kingdom of Heaven. The angels do that.

My wife and I have been on an incredible spiritual journey over the last 18 months or so and as we have tried to make Christ the center of our lives, not the church or its programs, we have felt the heavens open to us. We have prayed to God to show us our individual spiritual gifts and upon learning from Him through the Holy Ghost we then prayed for help as we struggled to develop them. As we developed them we could see that our gifts complimented each other in a divine way. We have truly and sincerely experienced miracles, have felt the presence of numerous angels, and felt the light of Christ in our home so much more than at any point in the past.

I have pondered why there appears to be so few manifestations of spiritual gifts in our wards and it seems to me there is a tremendous connection between what we are supposed to be teaching from manuals and the lack of spiritual development in our wards. How can we expect to develop our divinely given spiritual gifts if we are not pushing ourselves as much as we can in our lessons? How can we push ourselves if we are not constantly sharing experiences of angelic visits, incredible experiences of discernment, revelation and prophesy?

For years I would attend elder's quorum and think to myself, why are we talking about this again? Certainly, blame can be placed on my shoulders for my attitude regarding the constant repetitive nature of the lessons but I also learned some of the teachers, I being one of them, found it intimidating that the church seemed to lead by fear. The fear was that if you taught outside of the manual you were doing something wrong.

It is my testimony that if we abandon fear, embrace the Holy Ghost as our guide who will "teach us the truth of all things," we will be led to a map of our divine potential, our spiritual gifts, and then we can bless the lives of others who are slowly awakening from the "deep sleep."
Annalea said…
Joe, I stand as a hearty second witness to what you've said. Amen!
Sally K said…
I think there is a big fear of trusting that someone is actually having spiritual experiences. I have actually seen schizophrenics and other people with unstable personalities join the church and claim to have these experiences. The unfortunate result is that people are then afraid to admit if they have seen an angel or received a revelation.for fear of being regarded as one of the "crazies". Perhaps the church should more abundantly assist with mental health services? Many years ago, people with severe mental illnesses were institutionalized; now they are in the mainstream. In my opinion, the Government Mental Health Services are not adequately working for the needs of these people. I would like to see a higher proportion of our tithes and fast offerings going towards this problem among our members, so that people sound of mind won't have to be afraid to talk about their genuine heavenly communications.
Sally: Sadly, I have seen the same thing. I'm sure we all can recall Fast and Testimony meetings where someone got up to share what they felt the Lord wanted them to share, which upon hearing was obviously false. I've seen Bishopric members wince, consult with each other in hushed tones and sometimes stand up to help the brother or sister sharing at the pulpit. Gratefully, I've never had to do that when I was conducting a meeting. I always deferred to the Bishop, as is customary.
log said…
The unfortunate result is that people are then afraid to admit if they have seen an angel or received a revelation.for fear of being regarded as one of the “crazies”.

This comment deserves more attention.

Moroni 7
30 For behold, [angels] are subject unto [Christ], to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.

31 And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him.

32 And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men.

Those of a strong faith and firm mind in every form of godliness do not fear men more than God.

That the ministration of angels is but hearsay or rumor, or speciously associated with mental problems, in the modern Gentile church, is because there are apparently few, or none, having strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.

That is quite an indictment.
EKB said…
Very thoughtful comment. It got me thinking about how to handle this issue as my children enter their teenage years.
Shyloh said…
That's so sad. I can't help but think, though, that 'we' helped create part of that problem. While I genuinely believe in Mental Illnesses, I honestly wonder, with the huge numbers of people suffering from these problems, how many cases of mental illness are brought on or aggravated by evil or unclean spirits working within us? Any time we are not following the commandments, we open ourselves up to the adversary's power. His minions can be very deceptive. Just about half the recorded miracles the Savior performed involved casting out devils. Why do 'we' not do this today? Those few people I know who do cast out the evil from around or within themselves are often viewed as nut jobs by mainstream members. It's sad, because we are even taught how to do this in the temple, but most members reject the notion.

I wonder, what is "done" when someone says something false in such a situation? Does the bishop or whoever correct the doctrine on the spot? Is the person counseled? I've never experienced that situation myself.
Nathan Shackelford said…
"I think there is a big fear of trusting that someone is actually having spiritual experiences."

While this reply is not specific to you, Sally, it is interesting to me that there are so many that vibrate under fear. I'm sure this is for a couple of reasons. But I just wanted to point out, who cares whether or not someone is actually having a spiritual experience? Does it really matter if any other person is receiving Christ, angels, or demons, for that matter?

By personal experience, it appears to me that the bigger question would be I am receiving Christ? Am i receiving angels? Is my own behavior, internal process, or relationships with others engaging the demonic realm?

Christ boldly taught don't judge, period! Receive all things with gratitude and thankfulness! Fear not! Be filled with charity! Become like Him!

Somehow, I feel we forget this, in our lives or even when others take to the stand (presiding or lay person)? What does it matter if the bishop, or anybody gets up and starts saying this or that, or "an angel came to me and..."?

We aren't seeking Bishop so-and-so, we are following Bro or Sis?

Even in the realm of the spirit, don't the teachings of Christ, His example, His qualities, His attributes ... don't these things continue to apply here as well?

While I don't have Mendenhall's (Conquering Spiritual Evil) book right in front of me at this moment, there is a powerful sentence, line towards the beginning of the book that says that everything in his entire book is only to help us until we are filled with Christ's love, embody and manifest His qualities and attributes. That's it! That's the key! We can spend years and years judging, casting, fighting, contending ... spirits, brethren, neighbors, whoever / whatever ... but is our awareness and focus where is should be? The issues aren't "out there".

"Angels" / "Demons" ... they are all messengers. All of them teach and if understood, in reality, all bring us to Christ, if we understand that, our experience in sacrament meeting, with leaderships and whoever else steps to the stand becomes very different.

In the end, my responsibility is not to judge, to love, to develop and manifest the qualities of Moroni 7, D&C 4, D&C 121... it is their path, their "spiritual experience" and the more that I am in that space, the space of those qualities and attributes ... well then, mmm ... that is my relationship with Christ :)
Annalea said…
Well-said, Nathan. :-)

I would add, as regarding the fear of others questioning what, to me, is sacred, which then used to make me question, asking, "Did God really say . . .?", that the first one to use that line of questioning stood in the Garden with Eve, offering her some fruit, saying "For ye shall not surely die . . ."

"God didn't *really* mean you'll die. . ."

There is one accuser: Lucifer. And I refuse to do his work.
Toni said…
Very well said, Angelina. I hereby dub you our official spokesperson.
jason said…
Tim, I've enjoyed reading your blog for about 2 years now. And you make a ton of excellent points. Thanks for all your insights. They've helped me a great deal.

I'm a pretty easy-going guy. I've never "fit the LDS mold" either. In fact, I went inactive for over 12 years because I felt I was too much of an outsider. So, I agree with a lot of your points.

However, I vehemently disagree with your statement that "no LDS leader has the right to tell a member of his congregation what he should or shouldn’t read". That is absolutely false. They have EVERY right to tell their congregation what they should and should not read. That is part of their function as a steward (whether bishop, prophet, or deacon's quorum president). And that's exactly what they should do.

If my bishop told our ward, "The Lord has asked me to warn you to not read the following authors/books...", I would listen and do what he says. His declaration does not affect my agency in any way because I'm *choosing* to obey his counsel. I can choose to heed or not heed it. It's up to me and every other person in the congregation to choose for themselves. If we go by your statement, then the 10 Commandments are false as well because they "take away our agency by telling us what to do or not do". That's true also of whatever the Prophet tells us. He warns and instructs, and we choose to obey or not. Sometimes our disobeying is cause for excommunication if things get out of hand.

I agree that no one should be excommunicated over reading a book in and of itself. But, obviously, there are many other circumstances at work here. We need to be more willing to obey our leaders, not less. We need to quit worrying about whether or not we "fit in" with the classic Mormon member template. In the end, none of it matters but our willingness to obey and submit to the Lord. Right now, as you've stated, the Lord is working thru the temporary establishment of the Church--which is of course flawed because it's currently run by mortals. But the obedience will never be stricken from the Book. Obedience--even if we completely, wholeheartedly disagree, is what the Lord will count toward or against us.

I hope my comments made sense and help in some way. I must thank you once again for all your posts. You've changed my life by introducing me to some wonderful books. I'll always be in your debt for that. I look forward to more reading!
Hi Jason,

I can accept your statements. You make a good argument. I agree with the concept and the practice of obedience, but to whom? I know it's a covenant and I know with whom I made that covenant. There's your answer. I like your example of a bishop warning a ward. I had to laugh (not at you) but because I know what would happen if a bishop made such a statement. Half his congregation would go read the book because he said not to do so :-)

I read back over the statement with which you disagreed. Your response is correct. I misstated my intent. I should have said, "No LDS leader has the right to enforce his opinion of what he thinks members of his congregation should or should not read." Listen, I didn't tell anyone this, and I'm not breaking any confidences here, but that is exactly what is happening in the real world. I have several specific examples I can cite in private emails from readers.

I think what I'm talking about is unrighteous dominion. Section 121 tells us the consequences of that. Unless they've changed the temple recommend questions, and I won't find out until July when I renew mine, I don't think a priesthood leader should be asking members if they read books written by former members of the church. That just can't be right. Am I way out of line here? Yet, that is exactly what is happening in some of our wards and stakes.

I'll say it again: Like most of you, I have made a covenant to obey my Heavenly Father. I have also made a covenant to consecrate my all to the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth. Oh, I'll go ahead and say it: I'm not revealing anything you can't find on the Internet anyway. That last covenant was changed. If someone really wants to know and can't find it, I'll go get the book off the shelf and quote it. I guess I'm getting a little crotchety in my old age. I don't like to read stories of good brethren being called in and grilled for reading books.

You want more details? Email me privately.

God bless you Jason, and thanks for adding your comments.
log said…
D&C 50
17 Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?

18 And if it be by some other way it is not of God.

19 And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?

20 If it be some other way it is not of God.

21 Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?

22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.

23 And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.

24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

Unless a man speaks by the power of God, he has no authority in what he says. If he speaks by the power of God, he has all authority in what he says.

And there is no calling in the Church which guarantees a man is speaking by the power of God; to even suppose such is to deny that man's agency (which is his God-given right to follow after whatsoever spirit he listeth to obey and receive his wages of him).

That is why it is given as a commandment:

D&C 42
12 And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel.

13 And they shall observe the covenants and church articles to do them, and these shall be their teachings, as they shall be directed by the Spirit.

14 And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.
log said…

D&C 63
60 Behold, I am Alpha and Omega, even Jesus Christ.

61 Wherefore, let all men beware how they take my name in their lips—

62 For behold, verily I say, that many there be who are under this condemnation, who use the name of the Lord, and use it in vain, having not authority.

Therefore, even uttering the incantation "thus saith the Lord," "the Lord asked me to do thus-and-thus," or even "in the name of Jesus Christ," do not establish any particular man is speaking in the name of the Lord, which is to say, by the Spirit of the Lord, which is the Comforter.

JST, Mark 9:40–48.

40 Therefore, if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; or if thy brother offend thee and confess not and forsake not, he shall be cut off. It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go into hell.

41 For it is better for thee to enter into life without thy brother, than for thee and thy brother to be cast into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

42 And again, if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; for he that is thy standard, by whom thou walkest, if he become a transgressor, he shall be cut off.

43 It is better for thee, to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched.

44 Therefore, let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or not trusting another.

45 Seek unto my Father, and it shall be done in that very moment what ye shall ask, if ye ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive.

46 And if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to show thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out.

47 It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God, with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

48 For it is better that thyself should be saved, than to be cast into hell with thy brother, where their worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched.

In ecclesiastical matters, I do not know there is any merit to doing what any man says, save the Lord witnesses to me that I had ought to obey that man in what he says. I do not know there is any merit in teaching that any other man should be obeyed save it be under the condition that the Spirit witnesses to them that that man should be obeyed - but that is to say one should obey the Spirit in all things (2 Nephi 32:1-5). And if the Spirit witnesses to me that I ought to obey a certain man, how is that generalizable to other men, unless the Spirit tells me to teach that? Would not the opposite course be sheer arrogance and presumption?

But unless I know by the Spirit that any particular man is acting outside of his authority, I do not consider it wise to accuse or condemn him.

I believe wisdom is to hold my peace until the Lord shall make all things known to me.
Annalea said…
Jason, I appreciate where you're coming from, and what you're trying to say. I also appreciate what Elder Oaks is trying to accomplish in the talk you quoted. Addressing problems directly, with the people they concern, is the best way to honor the other person's feelings, show respect, and come to a good conclusion. God counseled us to do that, and to show an increase of love in all things.

He did not, however, tell us to just keep it to ourselves. He said "if a brother offend thee," and then followed with instructions on how to approach it. Ignoring differences is the best way to stagnate and die spiritually. We don't learn from homogeny, but from challenges to what we believe, what we think, what we have always done. When someone is different from ourselves, we're presented with the opportunity to examine what we are, what we choose, in light of that difference, and see what additional illumination can discover. When the light of challenge shines on us, we can see more clearly why something works, or why it doesn't; we humans often don't take the time to examine things until they're questioned, so differences and clashes can be tremendous blessings.

I also feel a strong undercurrent of secrecy and top-down militaristic rule in some of what Elder Oaks said. The idea that, if you accept a calling, you are duty-bound to obey whoever it is that presides over your position is one that cries out against the full nature of agency. Agency does not mean "You choose to accept the calling, and now you're bound to obey your hierarchical leader in all things," but rather "If you accept a calling, you now are free to receive inspiration and fulfill it in the way God directs you to." We have gone from a culture of "that which is not prohibited is permitted" to "that which is not permitted is prohibited."

This idea of church members being bound to obey their leaders because we all need to have unity has been turned into a doctrine of devils. It has been pushed and pushed in the wrong ways, used to make coercion acceptable in what is supposed to be an organization that teaches and endows its members with greater liberty through Jesus Christ. Instead of everyone being given the same right to receive revelation, encouraged to all obtain for ourselves the mind of God, we are told that leaders get to receive revelation, and we as members are only allowed to receive affirmative answers when we ask if what our leaders are doing is pleasing in the sight of God.

I recognize that the odds are heavily against what being what you were trying to say, Jason. I just wanted to out this elephant that lurks under the pews, as I am one who allowed it to control my life for far, far too long. All truly are alike unto God, and the sooner we all understand that, "leader" and "member" alike, the sooner we can actually start to become more aware of Jesus Christ, and allow Him to work miracles, daily, in our lives and congregations. And I'm not talking about little "tender mercy" miracles. I'm talking about MIRACLES. Healings. People receiving salvation. Astounding things. We are the limiting factor here, and we can change it.
Jason said…
Thanks for your reply!

I must admit to being very concerned. I see a very cynical point of view creeping ever so steadily into the hearts of the members. It starts with a bit of caution or somebody being a little bit upset about something and then it tends to turn into scripture quoting and the like. (I even debated whether I should post Elder Oaks' talk for a while because I didn't want to add to that.)

I was raised in the Church and have definitely had my ups and downs (I was very bitter for many years). In all that time, and even during the years I actually hated the Church body (I felt I did not fit in with the "cookie-cutter mold" everyone else seemed to be in and I was a "sinner" because of it), I've never had any problems trusting my leaders. They always fill me with the Spirit--even when I've thought, "Wow... I really, really don't want to do this". I haven't obeyed every time, but each time I've listened, my life was blessed.

I am highly, HIGHLY concerned that so many people are starting to question the 12 and think of them as "dictators" of sorts. Perhaps they are tightening the leash (so to speak), but perhaps they're doing that because we are getting so close to the Lord's return and it's required! That's just a guess, but it doesn't matter if I'm wrong or right, the cynical attitude toward them needs to be put aside for all our sakes.

I've been seeing another disturbing trend the last few years as well. It goes something like this: The Brethren are men so they are fallible! I only answer to the Lord, not to men!

This is a highly dangerous way to think of things--especially in this last dispensation. The Lord himself has told us many, many times that listening to and heeding the Brethren is the same exact thing as obeying Him. It is no different.

I would rather follow the Brethren (even when mistakes get made) than anyone who is trying to get me to doubt them.
Jason said…
By the way, Annalea, I should've also stated how much I liked what you had to say in your last paragraph. We are definitely the limiting factor. We have the right to so many more blessings if only we'd change our lives to make it happen. I completely agree.
Jason said…
I really appreciate your reply, Log.

But I think I've miscommunicated my message.

I am not saying to rely on the Brethren for all things. I am well aware we each need to receive our own revelations and personal guidance.

I am speaking about trusting in the Brethren for these types of particular issues (excommunications and other serious matters that seem to stir up the Church body). People are getting upset over these things and 1) It's nobody's business but the few involved to begin with, and 2) they are not trusting in the Lord that the Brethren are doing what should be done. (And, as I said, if the Brethren do make a mistake--Christ will sort it out, just have faith in Him.)

We are told to obey the Brethren in these matters as if it was Christ Himself. They have been given stewardship over the Church for these matters by God Himself. Again, I am speaking specifically for matters such as excommunication. I am not advocating that people rely on them for all things and not seek out their own guidance from the Spirit.
Adrian said…
Hi Jason,

I've been following this thread with interest, and I appreciate your careful responses and clarifications. I have a question, and it's sincere; I'm not attempting to argue or be flippant, but I truly want to know, and correct my ignorance if I am indeed ignorant, so I hope you'll take it in that spirit.

A couple of times you have made statements about Christ requiring us to obey other men as if they were Christ, even if they are misled or in error. I'm specifically referring to the following statements:

"We are told to obey the Brethren in these matters as if it was Christ Himself."


"The Lord himself has told us many, many times that listening to and heeding the Brethren is the same exact thing as obeying Him. It is no different.
I would rather follow the Brethren (even when mistakes get made) than anyone who is trying to get me to doubt them."

I would appreciate knowing where and when the Lord made these statements. By "The Lord" I'm referring to either our scriptures, or statements by Joseph Smith, regarding whom the Lord DID tell us to receive his word as if from the Lord Himself. (D&C 5:9-10, D&C 21:5).

Other statements by mortals, telling us to follow them and trust them, are simply circular. I need to hear it from the Lord. Though they may say such things many, many times, they also admit they have made mistakes--mistakes severe enough that the church officially disavows and condemns statements by past prophets, denies past doctrines, and even straight up contradicts accepted scripture.

Needless to say, it can be confusing for us average members, and a bit disheartening as well. Clearly our leaders do not always speak Christ's word as if from his own mouth. Trusting in the arm of flesh is getting more tricky, and too much is at stake to get it wrong.

Can you help me out? I'll have a lot more peace of mind if I can hang my hat on a statement from the Lord alleviating me of the responsibility of discerning truth from error for myself.

Again, though my opinion is clear from the above, I genuinely want to know if I'm wrong or if I've missed something. I'm hoping you can help me understand the matter more clearly.
log said…
[People] are not trusting in the Lord that the Brethren are doing what should be done.

Nor should they, unless the Spirit says so to them. Hence the explicit teaching of the Lord: "Therefore, let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or not trusting another."

After all, "cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm."

After all, "Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord."

I'm not sure how much more explicitly this can be stated.

To be cursed is to have that darkened mind Joseph said the Church was laboring under, lacking the gift of the Holy Ghost, because they depend upon men and not God.

We are told to obey the Brethren in these matters as if it was Christ Himself.

We are told many things - but this notion does not arise from the scriptures.

Indeed, the teaching is quite clear: "Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost."

D&C 68
2 And, behold, and lo, this is an ensample unto all those who were ordained unto this priesthood, whose mission is appointed unto them to go forth—

3 And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost.

4 And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.

And, the other side of the coin: "the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach."

How can we tell if their precepts are given by the power of the Holy Ghost?

D&C 50
17 Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?

18 And if it be by some other way it is not of God.

19 And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?

20 If it be some other way it is not of God.

21 Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?

22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.

23 And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.

24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

So, in sum, the leaders (or any man) are acting in the place of Christ if, and only if, they are acting as moved upon by the Holy Ghost - and we are not to blindly trust that they are acting as moved upon by the Holy Ghost, but only as the Spirit witnesses to us that they are speaking God's word, or doing God's will.
jenheadjenJen said…
"It’s almost as if the church is jealous of its own members who exhibit spiritual gifts that bless and edify others." said a Hammer to his friend, Nail.

When we create a "club" that points to eternal salvation as their M-O, and at very least involves members' whole livelihoods, culture, traditions, friends, and families, getting quickly, rudely, and bluntly kicked out from the club is not something that one would naturally want to wait for Christ to sort out. Any good friend, or even stranger, when seeing this sort of hasty judgment would stand up to defend the cause. We're taught to do so by our friend Moroni. Wave the flag! The time of our "probation" is now.

"Hey Alma, don't worry about what that dude Abinadi said... he's an apostate! Listening to anything he said will just lead you away from the church."

Sorry if this is late to the convo. :) God bless!

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