Church and State

General Musings

Audio File: MP3 (57:17)

Two organizations existed side-by-side in the early 19th century that were unique in the world. Both organizations were born of the fire of liberty in the human heart with Nature’s God recognized as the ultimate sovereign. Both taught the stewardship of man* and the responsibility for each to select an individual path of endeavor. Both were approved by God.

The similarities of each are too coincidental to be ignored. The first organization was necessary to create an environment where the second could be formed and then survive even for the few years it did before succumbing to forces which would murder its founder. Then, significantly, much of what was left was altered because the remaining leadership did not comprehend the doctrine or were unwilling to seek answers from the Lord. There is also the consideration that they were disobedient by not completing the Nauvoo temple and, therefore, were not given all they might have gained. After only a few decades, both organizations degenerated into something far different than their beginnings and potential.

*(Those who are independent thinkers and not shackled by the current “politically correct” conditioning (brainwashing) nonsense, understand that the term “man” here is equivalent to “man and/or woman” based on this context. One simply has to notice the spelling of each to understand. Those familiar with the true concept of “Celestial Marriage,” (“…a man…” “…a wife…” as in singular for each; D&C 132:18, 19, 26), further understand that “the man is not without the woman in the Lord.” (1 Cor 11:11) In an eternal sense, the two cannot be separated into opposing forces. Such an attitude is purely Telestial, or worse, in nature.)

A New Nation

The first organization was formed from a group of 13 geographically related but  independent sovereign states which, collectively, fought a war to extricate themselves from foreign rule. Those at the heart of the effort were influenced by a variety of political, philosophical and religious, and legal thinkers whose thoughts coalesced into unique and distinctive documents of freedom, and a new nation. 

The states of America voluntarily united in twenty very specific “enumerated powers” to be administered by a “general” government. All other governing authority was left to the States and the people. This arrangement was unprecedented among the world’s governing authorities. This melding of a central authority with specifically authorized powers, and no more, with otherwise independent and geographically scattered governing authorities and the people, themselves, retaining all other authority, was an experiment dependent on those so governed. Two Founders gave profound warnings on the matter:

“…we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (John Adams, in a message to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts in 1798.)

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters. ” (Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to his dear  friends the Abbots Chalut and Arnoux in 1787.)

However, even with the emphasis on morality and religion in general, no specific or official religion would need be established as various religions were well instituted among the people. Unlike other countries where state and religion were one and the same, this government allowed all to worship as they desired, without interference. Hence the creation of an environment where the Lord could establish His organization without legal threat.

Latter-day Restoration

The second organization had its beginnings several decades later when a young man was befuddled by various preachers and their professed religious philosophies. Intensely interested in the subject but confused by the contention he found, the young man relied on a scriptural passage from James suggesting that God would solve the mystery for the asking. God did exactly that when He appeared to the young man who, in a prayer expressed in the woods, asked which of the various churches he should join. The answer was none and after a period of time God established His Church through this young man, Joseph Smith, Jr.

Joseph taught that correct principles were the key to all knowledge and if you knew and abided by them, you would find success before God and relative success before man. One of Joseph’s most oft quoted revelations concerns this pattern:

"Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.  And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated." D&C 130:18-21

Far from man being helpless, Joseph learned that God had given man two gifts: a direct connection to His Spirit and therefore, guiding inspiration, and, the ability to choose one path or another, called agency. Man was to use these gifts to build self-reliance and confidence before God and recognize these gifts in others and allow them the same privilege.

Rather than coercive political governance, this organization was concerned with facilitating the functional activities of people gathering to abide by spiritual principles and participate in ordinances authorized by God. Like the country, this was a voluntary union. At the heart of this effort was a recognition that salvation cannot come by group effort. It can be achieved only by individual faith and exertion, and humble petitioning of God to accept both. Groups are only valuable as a means to provide common participation and service. Governance, for the success of that effort, must be by persuasion alone. These were God’s instructions. (See D&C 121:41)

Blessed by God

Liberty was the heart and soul of both organizations. Initially, the new country bloomed  in an environment where men were mostly left to their own creative energy without the stifling hand of coercive government hindering their way. There were exceptions, but there always are where men are concerned. The new church also flourished as a doctrine of individual worth and progression, fettered only by sin, spurred its members to prosper in their various endeavors. The country and church were, seemingly, made for each other with God applying His “seal of approval,” (with conditions), on the country in the following scripture:

“And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land; And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.” D&C 98:5-7

And on the church with this:

"And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually…" D&C 1:30

Another foundational principle of the new church was a recognition of the existence of opposition. “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.” (2 Nephi 2:11) Both organizations suffered opposition from the beginning. Examples abound. Generally the crowd in the government that has come to be known as the “Jeffersonians” but, really, could be called the “Paines” or others, cherished the idea of individual liberty and power centered in local government far more than the Hamiltonians who preferred more centrally organized authority—and, even, a king.

These two factions of the new government contended with one another in skirmishes regarding both international and domestic trade restrictions, taxes, banking and monetary policies, government funding of private endeavors including railroads, and other matters of individual liberty versus government intervention and cronyism. The culmination of these skirmishes came in mid-century as the Hamiltonians won the debate and the united States became the United States. More about that later.

Opposition Wins The Day

The Restorationist movement which was prevalent in the 1820 period of American religious history, had many adherents among whom were Sidney Rigdon, a Baptist minister of the Campbellite persuasion. He believed that the Old Testament church was inferior to that of the New Testament, which should be used as a model to establish a, then, modern church. With his conversion to Mormonism and considerable influence in the Baptist community, many who worshipped with Rigdon followed him into the Mormon flock. This swelled the ranks of the fledgling church with those who felt like they had found their “New Testament” church. With them came traditions inconsistent with the Restored Gospel.

Joseph Smith founded the movement not on a model of the New Testament church but on that which the New Testament church was founded. Rigdon and his followers did not understand that the twelve apostles were representative of the twelve tribes of Israel among other comparisons. Joseph’s church was based on the original church God founded with Adam and which progressed through apostasies and communities of Zion until the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, (who became Israel and hence his sons became the twelve tribes of Israel), and eventually, through to Joseph who was sold into slavery by Jacob’s other eleven sons and became second only to the Pharaoh, and a prophet.

Although Abraham rescued the Priesthood, from the apostasy of his day, another apostasy occurred prior to the birth of Jesus who, yet again, revived what was as old as the earth. (Unbeknownst to the Christians of 1820, Christianity, or rather, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, didn’t have its beginning with the birth of Jesus on the earth. It had been around from the beginning.) That church, after the Savior’s restoration, again, apostatized until Joseph Smith, as prophesied by Joseph of Egypt as a “choice seer,” (2Ne 3:7,15) was commissioned by the Lord to restore it one more time preparatory to the final gathering of Zion and the Lord’s return in the last days of this mortal creation. Rigdon had a much more short-sighted vision than did Joseph and the Lord. What Rigdon had in mind was far less glorious.

Scarcely six months before his death, Joseph voiced frustration in his attempts to teach the greater depths of the Gospel to the saints:

“I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six 1843-44 Pg.331; Jan. 20, 1844 DHC 6:183-185)

These and other issues caused rifts to appear between Joseph and the early Mormons. Many of whom shared Sidney Rigdon’s short-sighted viewpoint and some who became jealous and plotted against Joseph. There is much detail omitted here, of course, but with Joseph’s murder, there was no clear and well-understood path for the church and rather than take the matter to the Lord for resolution, Sidney and Brigham Young, the two political front-runners to replace Joseph as church president, vied for that position. Sidney’s health was not up to the task and Brigham won the day with the suggestion that the twelve apostles rule the church until Joseph’s son was old enough to take the reigns. Several years later Brigham forgot that part of the deal and, after lobbying for the position, was elected by the church to take Joseph’s place.

This ended Joseph’s effort to bring to the earth, again, the government of God and the  family connections begun by Adam through Seth down to Melchizedek, who was Shem (son of Noah), and by adoption through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. These were the Fathers to whom the great promises of Gospel restoration and Christ’s return with the Powers of Heaven were given and, to which, we are to turn our hearts. (D&C 2:1-3; JS History 1:39) A further explanation comes from Joseph:

"I wish you to understand this subject, for it is important; and if you receive it, this is the spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven, and seal up our dead to come forth in the first resurrection; and here we want the power of Elijah to seal those who dwell on earth to those who dwell in heaven. This is the power of Elijah and the keys of the kingdom of Jehovah." Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six 1843-44 Pg.337 (Italics mine.)

"The spirit power & calling of Elijah is that ye have power to hold the keys of the revelations ordinances, oracles powers & endowments of the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood & of the Kingdom of God on the Earth & to receive, obtain and perform all the ordinances belonging to the Kingdom of God even unto the sealing of the hearts of the fathers unto the children & the hearts of the children unto the fathers even those who are in heaven." Words of Joseph Smith, p.329

To restore this “Family of God” on the earth was the task Joseph Smith was after when he was murdered. This was the central theme of the Nauvoo temple. This is what Joseph  was up to by being sealed to other women. He did not marry them for time (or for procreation) but was sealed for eternity to each. Because God had sealed Joseph to the Fathers in Heaven, (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.), Joseph’s sealing to other women created a link between those women and their families, and the Fathers in Heaven. This was the beginning of the Family of God on earth. It is what would have been expanded in the Nauvoo temple had it been finished and the saints been righteous enough to receive it.

This part of the Restoration of the Gospel was lost with Joseph. From this point, Brigham became a mostly temporal general to the Latter-day Saints and herded them, condemnations and all, out to the Salt Lake Valley and their future. He thereafter built upon Josephs foundation, a religion which made adultery a centerpiece doctrine, embraced a confused policy of bigotry, and fabricated various strange doctrines and controlling practices. His expansion of power both geographically and personally is virtually without parallel in the history of the American west. As a result, Joseph’s work was buried under a mass of corrupted dogma and disregarded, and replaced with a centralized power structure using coercion and much unrighteous dominion.

A New Day, A New Story

From Brigham’s time onward, the church-approved subject of Nauvoo became centered on the Saint’s tireless trek to the west and many sacrifices to build up their society in Salt Lake and beyond. Never mentioned, (and, by many, vehemently denied), was the true reason they had to leave. The false reason was forever blamed on the mobs and a government unwilling to restrain those mobs. The truth, however, lies in a deadline the Lord gave them to which the Nauvoo Saints refused to respond. Due to the unwillingness of the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo to finish the temple within the Lord’s time constraints, He promised the following:

“And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfill the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord. For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practice before me, saith the Lord. And the iniquity and transgression of my holy laws and commandments I will visit upon the heads of those who hindered my work, unto the third and fourth generation, so long as they repent not, and hate me, saith the Lord God.” (D&C 124:47-48, 50)

Due to the Lord’s wrath, not until the 5th generation after Nauvoo was a hint of Joseph’s original doctrine rediscovered and acknowledged. That time is now and those who have become aware of the problems of Nauvoo and the façade of historical revisionism promoted by the proud descendents of Nauvoo and the church leaders chief among them, realize their responsibility to regain the Lord’s trust by their current efforts. These efforts center on becoming worthy to be gathered to Zion. Unfortunately, the consolidation of power in the residue of the LDS church, which exists in Salt Lake City, has a militantly deaf ear to true history.

A personal note at this point in the narrative might be useful. It has been said that whether they be LDS apologists or otherwise, historians recounting a period of church history must be investigated for any agenda or motivation behind whatever attitude they take in their narrative. I will now expose my own bias with regard to the topic of the Nauvoo Saints.

My great-great grandfather, (my mother’s mother’s father’s father), was Edwin Dilworth Woolley, Sr. He and his family converted to the LDS faith in East Rochester, Ohio in 1837 and shortly was called to lead the branch of the church there. By 1840 the family settled in Nauvoo where Edwin became a prominent businessman and close associate of Joseph Smith, loaning money to the church when needed. They left with the Saints to Winter Quarters staying two years there preparing to head west as Edwin was called to gather supplies from St. Louis and other points east. 

Edwin’s first wife, Mary, was compassionate and served the sisters at Winter Quarters while their husbands were away in the Mormon Battalion, on missions, or other duties. She was so well loved that Eliza R. Snow wrote a beautiful poem to her which I shall save for another post. 

The family left with the second major group to leave for Salt Lake and were met on the way by Brigham Young returning to lead the second group to the Valley. The following years saw Edwin take his place as bishop of the 13th ward in Salt Lake City, Brigham Young’s business manager, and a host of church responsibilities including the Salt Lake High Council and political offices.

My point in relating this is simple: If anyone has a stake in preserving the honor and reputation of the Nauvoo Saints it is I. These are my people. I could relate other ancestors on my father’s side of the family that were also in Nauvoo. Suffice it to say that I am as pure a Nauvoo stock as it comes. And I, frankly, would rather have the truth of the story told than a bunch of white-washed mumbo-jumbo to satisfy some organization of Utah somebody-or-others that are offended if you even suggest that their troubles might, from the outset, be their own disobedient fault. As the man said, “I want the truth.” And the church that I love and revere responds, “You can’t handle the truth.” To which I respond, “Poppycock.”

And so I write from the standpoint of one who has every motivation to preserve an honorable ancestry insofar as that is possible however I will not do that at the expense of the truth. Let the chips fall where they may. And let the elitist Boyd K. Packers of the world roll over in their assorted resting spots. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is glorious in its spiritual and intellectual beauty. The history of imperfect people does not detract from that beauty in any way. Those who think that church history should be limited to teary-eyed tales of kumbaya around the campfire seek to asphyxiate the truth and hobble the education of inquisitive Saints.

I have heard it said that church history should always be faith-promoting and testimony-building and point out where the hand of the Lord assisted His children in their endeavors. Far better, in my view, has the historian simply describing what happened and allowing the Spirit to inspire the correct interpretation. Of course, those who seek control, desire to mold the interpretation to their narrow view. As I have said in other posts: I abhor that kind of coercive unrighteous dominion. According to D&C 121:35-39 the Lord agrees. So ends my personal note.

Another New Story

Power consolidation in the united States was sealed by the middle of its first century of existence by the actions of the crony industrialists and corrupt politicians of the northern States. Thinking they could monopolize the southern State’s market for a variety of newly invented farm implements and other goods, they established high prices for these products and lobbied, and won, prohibitive tariffs on similar foreign goods. Rather than succumbing, the southern States decided that, rather than being browbeaten by the elitist northern industrialists and the congressmen in their pockets, they simply decided to leave the voluntary union.

Some revisionist historians have suggested that the union of States called America was not voluntary and that secession was not available to the States. For an in-depth discussion of this concept please see this two-part article: Part 1  https://mises.org/library/secession-specifically-american-principle; Part 2 https://mises.org/library/voluntary-federation. It is an historical fact that, at times, even New England States threatened secession over various issues. There was no question, at the time, that America was a voluntary union.

As would be expected in a fledgling government, cordial debate could be exercised on either side of an issue and consensus reached until the one deal-breaker entered the picture: “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” (D&C 121:39)

The industrialists and politicians  of the north sought to exercise economic unrighteous dominion over the south using government as a weapon. President Lincoln used that weapon to bring the southern States into submission. The issue was not slavery. In his first inaugural address, Lincoln promised the south:

“I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” 

Instead, Lincoln, being the consummate Hamiltonian, simply wanted to destroy any semblance of the rights of the individual States over the federal government. Thomas DiLorenzo enlightens us in the introduction of his book, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War:

“…the War Between the States so fundamentally transformed the nature of American government. Before the war, government in America was the highly decentralized, limited government established by the founding fathers. The war created the highly centralized state that Americans labor under today. The purpose of American government was transformed from the defense of individual liberty to the quest for empire. . . . Lincoln thought of himself as the heir to the Hamiltonian political tradition, which sought a much more centralized governmental system, one that would plan economic development with corporate subsidies financed by protectionist tariffs and the printing of money by the central government…A war was not necessary to free the slaves, but it was necessary to destroy the most significant check on the powers of the central government: the right of secession…He essentially invented a new theory—that the federal government created the states, which were therefore not sovereign—and waged the bloodiest war in world history up to that point to prove himself right.” 

This disposition to centralized control is contagious. Whether it be orthodox church leaders who “circle the wagons” and become hardened to exposing the realities of past mistakes by leadership (and members) for the safety of historical revisionism, or government authorities threatened by the dispersion and decrease of coercive power, the results are the same. Authority tends to build walls and moats to protect its ability to “exercise unrighteous dominion.”

Unrighteous Dominion vs. Persuasion

Boiled to its lowest common characteristic, unrighteous dominion consists of coercive power and compulsion over others. This is the opposite of persuasion which requires patience, kindness, and the willingness and humility to extend to others their right to disagree, and recognition of the concept that there might just be more to the equation than originally thought. When disagreements are objectively analyzed and opposing arguments humbly considered, there can rise a resulting harmony of the best and most agreeable ideas having been distilled into consensus. At the heart of it comes an adage: “The relationship is more important than anyone’s opinion.”

This process is messy at best and may, at the outset, appear hopeless to those accustomed to strict control and rigid organization. However, if the goal of all is to reach a pinnacle of pure and right knowledge about an issue, with all jealousy, fear, and struggles for power dissipated by a mutual yearning for common truth, a dim light will grow at the end of the tunnel of discussion until that pinnacle is reached. At the heart of the matter for all, is the faith each must exert to reach such a pinnacle, together. Not singly, but together. This exercise dispatches prideful  contention and disputation and replaces it with good will and harmony.

This process is also inefficient when compared to the speed with which a king, for instance, can accomplish his ends. However, kings tend to be the most extreme example of unrighteous dominion, to the dismay of their subjects. So the question lies open for all to see: Are we more interested in the efficiencies of coercive power or the relaxed and unaffected environment of individual authority and persuasion? Can a guileless, unpretentious, and spontaneous society exist? I sincerely hope so. Something even akin to such a non-government would, as existed in the very early days of the united States, foster individual success and prosperity for all. Such a church would invite the Savior’s presence.

Opposing Influences

Men are not, however, left to themselves in matters of governance. Influences also appear in opposites. God loves agency because that is the “natural” condition of creation. The “things to act” (2 Nephi 2:14) do so of their own agency. God governs with absolutely exquisite perfection in dispensing His justice, mercy, and love; the entirety of creation trusts that condition. These attributes and perfections of God constitute His honor and power which Satan desired to have without effort. (D&C 29:36; D&C 65:6; D&C 84:102; Moses 4:1) Creation obeys God because those “things to act” which constitute creation, honor Him as One who successfully climbed Jacob’s ladder and reached the level of an Elohim (which, by the way, is a plural noun—remember, the man is not without the woman—man and woman climb together). 

There are some exceptions to the statement that “creation obeys God.” We, for instance, are not always obedient—by design. We are the offspring of God, not merely His “creations.” In His presence, in our pre-mortal life, we were taught the theory. Now, mortality is our lab and testing area and we learn, by experience, the good from the evil (2 Nephi 2:4-7) and must choose for ourselves which we will obey. Opposing voices are continually in our ears. This is the place to test the theories of happiness, intelligence, and growth toward Godhood. 

This condition presents a problem for governance. Those who seek to govern, generally do so because they seek power which is both an enticing siren and corrupting influence. Lord Acton, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887 wrote: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." This sentiment is certainly corroborated by D&C 121:39 and presents a significant difficulty with political office since men must seek and fight for these positions. The traits required to obtain political office are precisely those which are undesirable for those occupying such positions.

Douglas French, former president of the Mises Institute, in a talk given at the Mises Circle in Colorado Springs on September 18, 2010 said the following:

“Those wishing to get elected and stay elected must be prepared to break every moral rule they have ever known if the ends justify it. Economist Frank Knight notes that those in authority, "would have to do these things whether they wanted to or not: and the probability of the people in power being individuals who would dislike the possession and exercise of power is on a level with the probability that an extremely tender-hearted person would get the job of whipping master in a slave plantation…

“And there is no accountability: the higher the office, the more criminal wrongdoing a person can get away with…

"Thus, it becomes 'a psychic impossibility for a gentleman to hold office under the Federal Union,' wrote Mencken…”

“Augustine was pessimistic of human nature, believing men weren't inclined toward righteousness, but instead had a tendency towards doing evil "as the result of Adam's fall, pride, vanity, and libido domini — the lust for domination — entice men towards waging wars and committing all manner of violence," explains John Mark Mattox in Saint Augustine and the Theory of the Just War

“Judge Andrew Napolitano made the point during a speech at Mises University that libido domini is the thing in human nature that attracts people into government, in order that they may dominate their fellow man—that the same men who founded the United States government wrote laws as repugnant as the Alien and Sedition Acts.”

Better Church Leadership?

The church, however, should be immune to these difficulties since those occupying high position are called by those who have been inspired by God to ask them to serve. Joseph Smith was instructed by God to form the organizational leadership of the church in four distinct and separate groups. These groups filled vacancies from the general church membership and not from each other’s ranks. 

The groups were the First Presidency, consisting of a president (selected by revelation, (see D&C 107:22-26; 36),  and two councilors, a travelling Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to organize new areas for the church, the Seventy to assist the apostles, and High Councils to manage each organized stake in the church. Each group held all the keys  to independently organize and run the church and were equal in authority while having individual duties. (D&C 107:22-26, 36)

This division of authority (and power) might have solved, or at least mitigated, the unrighteous dominion (libido domini) problem if it had been kept. After the murder of Joseph Smith, all power and authority was moved to the Quorum of the Twelve with no presidency. Eventually, a new presidency was formed by election (rather than revelation) with Brigham Young having lobbied for and won the post. (This certainly sounds like the problems of secular politics beginning its work of contamination.)  A new tradition was instated that the senior apostle would assume the presidency upon the death of the current president. We have skipped over much historical and corporate detail here but for our purposes this will suffice. There is much written on this transition. Rock Waterman has an excellent post here: 

http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2016/12/did-lord-choose-not-to-anoint-lords.html

It is sufficient to say that the organizational structure of the current LDS church is not at all what the Lord restored through Joseph Smith and we ought to be alarmed that the current leaders have chosen to offer the rank and file of the church, a revisionist history of a wholly different sort. With all church authority currently residing in the hands of men who are clearly unwilling to abide by the will of the Lord in these matters, we ought to question much more than we do if we are to be freed from the consequences of their disobedience. They are more like Paul describes himself prior to his conversion, in Galatians 1:13-14: 

“For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” 

Like the traditions of Paul’s fathers, those of our current church leaders are traditions of power and control. These leaders hail from high positions in business and/or church ancestry seeking to mimic the organizational structure and control of the world and, unlike King Benjamin, rob the people of their liberty with correlation, and tax them by calling it tithing. (“A rose by any other name” describes the church’s “living allowance” it provides to general authorities rather than calling it “salary.” The church would counter saying such comes from “business income” when, according to scripture, (Matt. 25:27), it all belongs to the Lord. Paying legitimate expenses is one thing. Call them what you will, salaries, living allowances, or stipends all constitute priestcraft.) Again, the example of King Benjamin comes to mind.

Gone are the independent presidency, quorums, and councils replaced by incestuous and correlated power structures with members bowing to tenure over truth, (recall Boyd Packer’s statement that “Some things that are true are not very useful…”)*, not to mention the influence of a corporate church with an estimated net worth of between $40-60 billion and annual tithing income of between $4-5 billion. That’s a lot of influence. 

*(The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect, Elder Boyd K. Packer Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, CES Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History, 22 August 1981, Brigham Young University. The obvious question back to Buddy Boyd would be: “Useful to whom?”)

Concentrated Power and Authority

Whether it be in political or religious governance, the more power and authority is concentrated, the more likely the result will be unrighteous and benefit fewer at the cost of many. This uninspired concentration of power by the LDS church after the death of its founder is one of a major set of milestones which have taken us to this point in our religious history. Over the years, the autonomy of wards and stakes and the various church departments was, and is increasingly, overshadowed by a rigid orthodoxy overseen by the Salt Lake City based Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The Church arrived at the 1950s and David O. McKay occupied the top spot. He became President of the church in 1951 succeeding George Albert Smith and remaining President until his death in 1970. By all accounts, President McKay was a man who greatly valued the principles detailed in D&C 121:34-46. In those days you heard things like:

"Let men and women everywhere keep their eyes upon him who ever shines as a Light to all the world—for Christ is the Way, the Truth, the Life, the only safe Guide to that haven of peace for which people the wide world over are earnestly praying." (David O. McKay,  Walk in the Light, Improvement Era, Apr. 1954, 222)

President McKay taught us to follow the Savior. Our eyes were to be upon Him and not upon any man. This was the same instruction the Savior gave to the “certain ruler” who sought the way to eternal life. (Luke 18:22) This is the way a church thinks and ought to act. However, by the 1960s, the LDS church had grown beyond a million members and there were those who began to think the church ought to be run more like a business. Harold B. Lee was one of those. However, President McKay thought: “Men must learn that in presiding over the Church we are dealing with human hearts, that individual rights are sacred, and the human soul is tender. We cannot run the Church as we would a business.” (David O. McKay Diaries, May 17, 1962)

After President McKay’s death, you began to hear thoughts like: “In all our priesthood callings we must never forget that the business of the church and kingdom of God is to save souls…” A quote from Harold B. Lee attributed to an Area Conference Report in Mexico City in 1972 and again used in church lesson manuals and other places. “The business of the church” casts an attitude quite different than previous iterations of the church. Many have written about the effect of correlation on the church including this writer in my post, Inerrancy vs Reality. Suffice it to say that David O. McKay was correct in his assessment that correlation, as envisioned by Harold B. Lee, could lead to apostasy. In my view, it did exactly that.

But more than that, it corrupted a group of otherwise good spiritual leaders into men who became more concerned with not ruffling the feathers of those senior to them rather than in what they believed the truth to be. Honesty took a back seat to internal politics and power struggles. Those who held the chief seats misused their power to coerce the juniors into agreeing with their opinions rather than operating as equals. They completely disregarded the fact that the Lord is “no respecter of persons.” (Acts 10:34; D&C 1:35 and 38:16) The following passage provides a poignant view into this pernicious problem among, especially, the top 15 general authorities.

"Even if you were in the First Presidency at one point, if you ignore the Twelve, eventually it's at your peril" said Hugh B. Brown after his release from the First Presidency and return "as a junior member of the Quorum of the Twelve—the first time since the death of Brigham Young in 1877 that a counselor in the First Presidency was released." (Gregory A. Prince, Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History, pg 361)

Hugh B. Brown had strongly disagreed with Harold B. Lee who was his senior in the Quorum of the Twelve and, even though he had risen to the First Presidency, his unwillingness to bow to Elder Lee caused his demotion. 

Such petty politics was found among the apostles in the upper room and the Savior’s rebuke and kind lesson about true leadership as He washed their feet is, obviously, missed by our modern general authorities. Operating the church as a business turns otherwise meek and humble men into ambitious businessmen.

There are enough examples of contentious behavior among and between the 15 top executives of the church to fill volumes—and have. Suffice it to say these men are many times so convinced of their opinion that they become examples of the old adage, “Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind’s made up.” 

Early Policy Errors

After Brigham Young took over, policies were instituted such as Blacks not holding the priesthood, plural wives for time (meaning for procreation during mortality), presidential succession, and a variety of others. These policies were the result of the prejudice, lusts, and pursuit of power common to all mankind. No revelations were sought after or received regarding these issues, they were simply instituted.

The details of these matters are analyzed in more detail in many books on church history but for our purposes we will simply bring up one matter on changing church “policy” without a direct revelation. Since the policy was created without a revelation it did not need one to revoke it. He who is commanded in all things the same is a slothful servant would seem to be relevant.

The traditions of men can be overwhelmingly controlling to an organization that finds institutional error to be intolerable. Even into the 1970 decade, the debate about Blacks not being ordained to the priesthood raged on. The theater surrounding the alleged “revelation” abandoning that church policy was as emotional as it was ludicrous. All that had to be done was admit that Brigham made an error and fix it. But far easier it was to just have the Lord get us off the hook. If He did, He certainly did it only to break the logjam and get these ineffectual leaders moving.

I have never been aware that the warning about all this in the Doctrine and Covenants was ever rescinded by the Lord.

“That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

“That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” (D&C 121:36-37)

A cursory look at the situation reveals that failing to recognize an error by the president of the church which caused many thousands of worthy men to have priesthood ordination needlessly withheld over the many decades since and then refusing to acknowledge that error certainly constitutes a sin. Whether the original action was a sin, I can’t say. Perhaps just a simpler transgression. Nonetheless, covering up the original policy error and then blaming its continuation on the Lord most certainly must be classified as sin.

What Authority?

In light of this and other such policies that have since been reversed but never acknowledged as having been errors from the start, might we then recognize the grieving of the Spirit of the Lord? Might we also take the Lord at His word and declare that those who perpetuated these covering sins have said a long ago goodbye to their priesthood and authority? Will the saints of today ever come to this realization? Actually, many are coming to that very realization where the fire of true testimony burns in the bosom of those who love the Lord first and foremost. As for the rest, it appears that most of the saints of today will also “fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all.”

In like manner, our political governing bodies at the highest levels have spent enormous efforts and funds covering up an entire catalog of sins. They are, of course, orders of magnitude more numerous than we have room to discuss here but the comparisons between such sins of covering up blatant sins and transgressions cause great discomfort and alarm as each organization attempts to paint its history as patriotic or testimony building.

Both organizations have come to a point in history where we can only wonder how long the charade can be maintained. In each case, the emperor has no clothes and the wizard is trying hard to keep his drape shut. (References to an old Hans Christian Andersen tale and the Wizard of Oz for you youngsters educated in government schools.) America has become the world’s bankrupt bully and the church is positioned as a major financial institution with little regard for spirituality. Both are a far reach from their beginnings.

We return to the Doctrine and Covenants for final condemnation: The Lord approved of laws “supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges” and further warned that “whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.” There can be little debate by those who love and recognize liberty that a large body of our laws do not meet the Lord’s test and, therefore, our nation has largely “cometh of evil.” 

In like manner, many will quote D&C 1:30 in maintaining their opinion that the current LDS church is “true and living.” The Lord made it quite clear that establishment of a “true and living” church is possible but that those who were to lead “might” have power to bring about this eventuality. He never said they “would” have power. It was never a foregone conclusion. If, as is the presented supposition, those leaders have lost both priesthood and authority, then there can be no promise of an existing “true and living” church. 

Those of us who look forward to the Lord’s promise of gathering His righteous to a Zion yet to be built are not particularly surprised at the current state of affairs of either America or the church. The demise of both is foretold in scripture. However, it is difficult to watch otherwise good people adhere to either organization with their misguided patriotism or blind obedience and disregard of scripture without shedding at least a tear or two. In many cases they also are plagued by their personal policy of “Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind’s made up.”

I say to both organizations: “So long, it’s been good to know ya.”

In The General Musings Category
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