Voting on Scriptures

I was moved and persuaded by Chris Hamill’s exposition on the way we’ve added scriptures to the canon by voting here. I agree that we do not need a mechanism that is different. The Lord has already accepted scripture additions by this humble method. I would like to add something to the conversation that I think will be useful.

Here is some brief background about me and my interest in this topic and I know I sound like a broken record for others, but it helps my point and I have limited experience to draw from anyway. I participated in the formation of the scriptural canon we have recently accepted. I did this like anyone else in helping the scripture committee where I could by voting on submissions, contributing to the guide and standard discussions, and proofreading a little. In the early stages of the scripture project, I also submitted something I wrote to be considered scripture with one caveat: I thought Denver could correct it as needed considering he has a dispensation which may include prerogatives in this regard. When I found out the scripture committee was not working this way, I removed my submission from consideration. It did not get voted on. I do not think I am capable in my own station of writing scripture. I thought Joseph Smith intended to include lectures on repentance in the scriptures and that I could do some initial leg work towards that goal. I do not have proof for that. I only have impressions from sketchy historical evidence. Regardless, my tenuous submission experience highlights the one area of concern Chris neglected to address in his post.

Many of us know trusting in the arm of flesh is condemned and have learned this lesson through painful experience following the LDS church presidents as supposed prophets by default. I think we have done a good job securing a proper witness from God that Denver is vouched for in his status as a servant. I think we have done a good job seeking for only the words of the Lord through Denver to add to scripture. I think we also understand Denver stands as a fellow saint with us who has the right to teach and preach and be responsible for his own mistakes any time that he is not delivering one of the Lord’s messages for us. I know we sometimes still have anxiety about how well we are doing with this and I do not mean to flatter us away from diligent effort to separate Denver’s opinions from messages sent by God. The simple vote for adding messages through Denver has proven effective and God has revealed his acceptance of those types of efforts so far.

However, we do not yet know how to deal with scripture submissions from the mass body where anyone, redeemed or unredeemed, sincere or charlatan, deluded or inspired, may suggest a vote, like I did above. I offer my failed experience in submitting my own writings for scripture as illustrative of the complicated nature of this issue, and not out of an ambition to turn the tables towards adding my own two cents to the canon. The point is still relevant. There is evidence that Joseph Smith taught in Nauvoo about the keys to ask and get an answer, and to vet scripture submissions so as to avoid the saints being imposed upon by false spirits. We know through most of Joseph’s career as church president, he had all things vetted through him. There is evidence in Nauvoo that Joseph was trying to advance to a stage where the keys were understood by others so as to make the people more independent and less reliant on the prophet because it darkened their minds if they did otherwise. Let me explain how this relates to our current circumstances.

I am not suggesting we complicate the mechanism for voting for scriptures. But, let us consider Joseph’s unfinished actions in Nauvoo and take an example from the early days of the Constitutional Conventions. A straight democracy by vote is subject to the tyranny of a faulty mass vote. A simple republic establishes a base rule of law and a bill of rights that cannot be overturned by democratic vote—no matter how large the majority or super majority. The Lord has asked us to adopt a guide and standard as a people, largely in part (I believe) to establish similar principles of basic doctrine and standards that majority vote cannot persuade people against, in the cases where a simple majority chooses something that is wrong. I know the Lord has a kingdom and not a republic, but either way, and I could be wrong and limited in my view, before we just say that we can accept simple votes for future additions to the canon, we must be clear as a body on whether we all agree that either 1) only messages through Denver or new findings from Joseph Smith’s writings will be considered, or 2) we all understand by what standards God vets true from false revelations so the body has a rule of law to consider when doing simple votes. Personally, I have felt the character and attributes of God mentioned in the Lectures on Faith provide keys to understanding what messages come from him and what do not, but I only offer that as illustrative of a start to understanding how false revelations might be detected. It may be that we understand the whole canon to be instructive in this regard and what I am saying is good to remember and requires no new standard to be developed, received, etc. I only wish to highlight the concern that I have heard many express, and to help us avoid being imposed upon and avoid having the canon hijacked by any future tyranny of the masses.

So, what I am suggesting is that before we move beyond accepting Denver or Joseph’s revelations, we need to come to an understanding of what the Lord’s standards are for what is worthy of being added to the scriptures, and what constitutes his voice over all the false spirits that are abroad in the earth. Understanding is different than adopting new procedures. I do not know if the guide and standard already does this and provides us this key of knowledge. Perhaps it does. Assuming so, it would work as the rule of law for submissions without there needing to be any change of process in the simple voting procedure. It would guide voters in discerning what comes from God and what does not and would allow us to open submissions to receive the word of the Lord from any person other than Denver. At this point, this may be a welcome step or a huge problem.

If we wanted to move in the direction of accepting any scripture submission, we would need to be sure that the standard for doing so is clear and unmistakable in its ability to illuminate truth from error for the common voter, or else we will never be united in accepting anything other than messages through Denver Snuffer. Maybe that is the way God intends it—to only add scriptures through one mouthpiece. I am amenable to that if that is God’s will. But we know that this is also a day when we will move past being taught to know the Lord to all knowing the Lord (Jeremiah 12:9). True, we do not need to rush things and assume we can accept scriptures from any source before people know the Lord, but this issue does present itself as a concern if we accept the simple vote as the means to add any more scripture. God’s house is not a straight democracy, either. What Chris’s exposition neglects to address is the assumption that many have that only Denver can receive messages that can be voted on in the first place. Again, this may be proper, but taken at face value, accepting Chris’s explanation without also agreeing to this assumption invites any person to call for a vote for a scripture submission without any collective understanding on how to handle such a submission. Ambitious souls will be less inclined to withdraw their submission like I was willing to do and instead seek to drum up a majority vote support for their faulty revelation and corrupt the canon if we do not have a standard by which to vet such things. Even if the vote fails, remember the problem with the king men in the Book of Mormon?

Lessons on How to Keep the Book of Mormon as a Covenant

Book of Mormon as Covenant PowerPoint (Download for it to work, it doesn’t view well in a browser).

Book of Mormon as Covenant PDF

You can see the pattern and follow it for the whole Book of Mormon.

Look for commands, find definitions (1828 Webster’s dictionary is helpful for definitions at the time the Book of Mormon was published) and word histories (etymonline.com is great), and carry out the instructions as you read along.

You can also reduce the verb imperatives you look for if you categorize them by level of importance (as in, look only for “know” commands, and skip over “behold” commands). Also, recognize that imperative commands given to the reader establish obligations for the reader. Imperative commands from one person in the story to another person in the story are not necessarily directed to the reader.

LDS Temple Changes, Sexism, and Racism

I was thinking about the LDS temple changes (see here), and the problem of alleged sexism in the ordinances. The issue should end at the statement that God is no respecter of persons, male or female (incidentally, the racism question should end with the statement that God is no respecter of persons black or white, and the class question should end when he says neither bond nor free, meaning employed worker or business owner). Yet, there are other things involved that seem to show a disparity between practice and teachings. So, looking at it first from the standpoint of not judging God, and taking the assumption that IF we have correct translations of scriptures, and the overriding characteristic of God is he is no respecter of persons, then there MUST be a non-sexist, non-racist, non-class biased view of seemingly problematic passages and ordinances.

Taking that line of reasoning, one could argue that feminist theory is reducing all patriarchal systems to simplistic terms in order to blanket accuse them of sexism. If we grant that most patriarchal systems tend to become sexist, but there is one possible version that is non-sexist, what would it look like? Would it look like a system of priesthood designed to create a servitude for men to eradicate the natural man tendencies? Why would women want to enslave themselves in that portion of the priesthood meant to enslave men’s baser nature?

Next, would not the allegorical elements in the Garden of Eden story need to be prefigured with the reality that God was outlining a fallen condition for man? If God states fallen conditions as a de-evolved relationship for man and woman (as in, before the fall, men and women were equal, but after, in a state of nature, the woman would desire the protection of the husband when she was burdened with the trauma of childbearing to reproduce the race), then there is no harm in the ordinances relating that symbolic fact of fallenness. Only, the LDS leaders jealously guarded the second anointing ceremonies as a power play to reward institutional loyalty, making the redemptive balance women had in the drama hidden. Only women can make kings and validate that a man has overcome the fallen nature. The first shall be last and the last first.

Without understanding this, the LDS have caved to accusations from ignorant and faulty feminist theory and have removed the drama that shows WHY sexism is prevalent, and HOW to overcome it. There is an interdependence between the sexes that feminist theory, in part, ignores and hates. Neither is the man without the woman and the woman without the man, in the Lord (individual exceptions due to uncontrollable circumstances aside).

Instead of 12 men deciding if you should receive the second anointing with a spouse, it is probably more accurate to say a council of 7 women, including the wife, decide when a man has risen from the fallen conditions, after learning from the man’s accurate revelations what the order of the priesthood means for their responsibilities to do so. Just some speculations. There is also the possibility that we have some things translated incorrectly in the Bible, and the Book of Mormon is more accurate in these regards. My speculations try to harmonize things first assuming we have enough corrections in the scripture translations to deal with this issue.

The race question in Mormonism goes generally as follows: Noah was a real man who really had three sons. Noah held a position as president of the entire human race. It was a position only passed from father to son, so yes, a Patriarchal reign. Only, it had strict conditions for passing it down to a worthy heir, one where righteousness preempted any qualifications gained from birth order and being the firstborn. One of Noah’s sons, Ham, mimicked the royal process and established some kind of order with his son Canaan that represented a flawed system with no safeguards against unrighteous rule. Although the first Pharaoh and others were righteous, the system was corrupt, and Noah rightly prophesied their corrupt system was a curse and would lead to their children becoming enslaved.

Noah never said it was good for their children to be enslaved, it was just the natural result of their behavior if they didn’t forsake their attempts at faulty kingdom making. The tribalism in Africa has led to such fractures and power imbalances that the worse scourge of slavery eventually caught up with them. Slavery was not a “just” or a “righteous” punishment. It was a scourge. God is merciful and always works to free men from slavery. We get caught up in circumstances where wicked and greedy people take advantage of our small errors. By small and simple things are great things (bad and good) brought to pass. That doesn’t make slavery right or a fair punishment, it is the nature of a fallen world that God continually seeks to save us from. If we take his advice with small course corrections, we can spare ourselves from huge, unfair, consequences that wicked people inflict on other portions of the human race. At the end of the probationary periods, God comes out in swift judgment against the wicked who enslave others and rewards all those who suffer unfairly. More speculative thoughts based on using explanations of God’s character and attributes to guide the interpretation of scripture.

Spiritual Experiences in the Netherlands and Ireland

I went to the Netherlands to present some of my scholarly findings on early Mormon enjoyment of popular culture in Nauvoo. In addition to the school conference in Middelburg, I had the thought to rededicate Europe and Ireland (I had a long layover in Dublin) for preaching the gospel as well as gathering in the good from any other sheep that have heard Christ’s voice over time and in the present.

I remembered Denver mentioning that when Moses took off his sandals, it was to make the ground holy and not necessarily the reverse. I found private spots and took my shoes and socks off and planted my feet down on soil in the Netherlands and Dublin and gave the prayers I received and wrote down prior to rededicating the lands. I wasn’t thinking I was holy enough to make the lands holy with my feet, but thought it was a fitting part of the ordinance in memorial of Moses’ and other’s acts. It also seemed an appropriate introductory bookend to get soil on my feet for a land opened to preaching if there is also a closing ordinance wiping the dust off of one’s feet when a land loses the blessing and the people are cut off from preaching (hopefully the latter is never necessary).

Here are the prayers:

11-18-18 Dedication of Europe at Middelburg, Netherlands:

It’s Sunday, November 18 at 3:50 P.M. in Middelburg, Netherlands, sitting in front of a statue called “de Ringrijder.” [the Ring Rider] in front of the main church which has a red royal crown at the top of a huge steeple by the third tree from the church that has concrete around it. I just put my bare feet on the soil here—planted down.

O Father, this is your servant Brian, answering your prompting to rededicate this land. There are other servants more worthy than I who would perform this work if given the chance, and perhaps someone already has. I recognize there is goodness in the peoples here to learn from. There are still many treasures of wisdom to appreciate and gather, while those of us who have consented to your covenant are still weak, unlearned, and sometimes less virtuous and less righteous than others. But you have said you would show forth your wisdom through the weak things of the earth in the Teachings and Commandments section 141 verse 1. Therefore, on this spot in Middelburg, Netherlands at the tree I described on November 18 at 3:53 P.M. in 2018, having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I dedicate and rededicate this land and continent of Europe for the preaching of the gospel of Christ and for learning from any other sheep who already hear his voice on this land, that all things may be gathered in one in Christ, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

I said this prayer while kneeling on my right knee.

11-20-18 Dedication of Ireland at Santry Demense on the path towards the Walled Garden, Dublin, Ireland:

[I put my bare feet on the soil here as well, next to the first bench in the park from the entrance across from the Holiday Inn Express where I stayed.]

I’m here in Dublin, Ireland at Santry Demense, a park near the Walled Garden.

O Father, this is your servant Brian, answering your prompting to rededicate this land in Ireland where my prominent ancestral homeland [is] that gave rise to my grandmother’s line who introduced us to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ revealed through your servant, Joseph Smith, Jr. I recognize there is goodness in these peoples as well to learn from and still many treasures of wisdom to appreciate and gather. Therefore, on this spot in Dublin, Ireland at 7:51 A.M. on Wednesday, November 20, 2018, having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I dedicate and rededicate this land of Ireland for the preaching of the gospel of Christ and for learning from any other sheep who already hear his voice on this land, that all things may be gathered in one in Christ, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

[I said this prayer while kneeling on my right knee as well.]