Is Denver Snuffer a Prophet?

That depends on how you define the term.

The LDS people have their own definition of what a prophet is. They use, as their standard, a statement made by one of their church presidents:

The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2., included as a footnote to Official Declaration 1).

They also refer to a parenthetical insertion in verse 7 of the revelation contained in D&C 132, which states:

(…there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred). (D&C 132:7).

They use this reference to tie the role of a prophet to that of the president of their church exclusively, and create a hierarchy of the role that makes all other prophets, including their own apostles and seventies, subordinate to their one true “Prophet”. They suggest that only the president of their church can be a fully active “Prophet”, while all others are either barred from using the gift of prophecy, or are only allowed to use it if it doesn’t contradict the President, or if the use of it is constrained within the confines of their limited roles, callings, or within their own family.

Neither Official Declaration 1, nor the footnotes from addresses made by Wilford Woodruff, have been accepted by the LDS Church as canonized scripture, despite the text being published as appendages within their standard works. Publishing them there, however, has caused the membership to regard those declarations and writings as scripture without officially voting them as such.

There is evidence also that the parenthetical insertion in D&C 132:7 was added later at the request of Brigham Young, but that’s beyond the scope of this post. Instead, simply contrast that parenthetical afterthought with an earlier revelation given by Joseph Smith, where the Lord appoints Hyrum Smith to hold the sealing blessings of the church while Joseph Smith continued to be a prophet to the church:

First, I give unto you Hyrum Smith to be a patriarch unto you, to hold the sealing blessings of my church, even the Holy Spirit of promise, whereby ye are sealed up unto the day of redemption, that ye may not fall notwithstanding the hour of temptation that may come upon you. I give unto you my servant Joseph to be a presiding elder over all my church, to be a translator, a revelator, a seer, and prophet. (D&C 124:124-125).

Despite the plainness of language in the D&C 124 revelation, the LDS have created a complex practice of delegation where “sealers” in LDS temples act only under the authority of the highest ranking priesthood holder in their church. Because of their confusion about the Lord’s intentions for the role as revealed through Joseph Smith, the LDS have projected modern organizational concepts onto past practices, and have convinced themselves that Hyrum and Joseph held roles similar to ones defined today to support their acceptance and interpretation of D&C 132:7 as it stands in their version of the Doctrine and Covenants.

On the other hand, the scriptures outline the role of prophets and their status as the seed of Christ with an important clarification. Abinadi says the prophets are the seed of Christ if they have not fallen into transgression (Mosiah 15:13). So, in Abinadi’s definition, a prophet cannot be permanently considered the seed of Christ until they have finished their course on this earth and have avoided falling into transgression. Denver has agreed with this assessment of the title and its application throughout his writings and lectures:

In my view, the word and the title of “Prophet,” is something hallowed and sacred. Like the name of the Son of God, it is something that ought not to be repeated too often. And I don’t think you can take the measure of a man until he finally lays his life down. How he lays his life down matters in the aggregate, as well. I don’t think someone who fares sumptuously and receives accolades during his lifetime is ever much in a position to understand the rigors of obeying God and the difficulties of being thought as merely a wild man, or preposterous, or everything that you are not. Read Paul’s description of the prophets: “―And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were astoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Heb. 11: 36-38.) If Joseph suffered prison and was slain for the faith he worked to restore, it takes more than we generally give to have the same faith as the ancients. This is why I spoke of Faith in Idaho Falls. The conditions are the same in every dispensation. So when we use the term “Prophet” casually, to me, it seems to take something that ought to be spoken of with a great deal of care and turns it into something like a mere calling card. I find it offensive. I think it cheapens something, and it troubles me. When I think of the word “beloved,” I think of it exclusively in the context of our Savior. “This is my Beloved Son.” The One doing the loving in that context is the Father. This makes the term all the more something to be used with extraordinary delicacy and reserve. When you take those two words and you couple them together (“Beloved Prophet”), my sensibilities are such at this point in my life, that when you use the terms in that manner you are not appealing to me. Instead, you are repulsing me. You are not persuading me, you are offending me. You are not converting me, you are driving me away. I don’t say this to be critical of anyone. I say this because despite everything that I would like to be able to tolerate, despite my best efforts to try and make allowances, there are some things which when I hear, I simply cannot control. My repugnance at the notion that there is one who walks among us, who ought to be called “Beloved Prophet,” is something that I just cannot control. I don’t invite you to join me in that, but I want you to understand that in some respects we talk across a gulf. I say it in part to try to influence those who use the term to be more circumspect. I think the general population would be more persuaded by our missionaries if the terms were used with more caution. I also think applying extraordinary titles are less impressive than having a man preach the truth. If the content of his sermon is prophetic, then everyone can decide for themselves the measure of the messenger.(Denver Snuffer, 40 Years In Mormonism: Zion, p. 24).

Although I can’t find the references now, I remember reading that Joseph Smith and his family often refused the title “Prophet” for Joseph, depending on the context of the use of the title, but either way, in our estimation, he certainly earned the title at his martyrdom. On the other hand, Balaam had the spirit of prophecy and spoke with the Lord (Numbers 22-25), and prophesied true prophecies concerning Shiloh (Numbers 24:15-19), but he was not considered the seed of Christ. Peter described Balaam as someone who proved to love the wages of unrighteousness as opposed to being a true prophet (see 2 Peter 2:15).

Despite Denver and Joseph’s hesitancy to apply the title to themselves, the scriptures use the term “prophet” more generally, as in the Lord’s parable about fruits of true versus false prophets (3 Nephi 14:15-20). The Old Testament even provides us this advice for testing each and every saying from a prophet:

And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. (Numbers 18:21-22).

And the Lord Himself defines the limited role of a prophet by contrasting their function to Moses’ role at the time:

And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? (Numbers 12:6-8).

Yet, we often want absolutes and fail-safes. The LDS Church uses the term “Prophet” with the implication that they are incapable of falling into transgression, or at least incapable of transgressing to the point of losing their favored status. So in effect, they believe their prophets qualify for Abinadi’s final definition of who can be called the seed of Christ, while denying Abinadi’s clause about their ability to fall into damning transgression.

For sake of brevity, let’s say the LDS use the term “Prophet” with a capital “P”, meaning someone who earns the title indefinitely, who is protected from falling. And, let’s say “prophet” with a lowercase “p” means anyone who exhibits the gift of prophecy, who might lose or re-gain the gift as time goes on, according to their righteousness. Moses hoped we all could be called “prophets” among equals (Numbers 11:29), so Moses’ use of the word in that instance would be “prophet” with a lowercase “p”.

The LDS have applied a near-permanent status for the term “Prophet”, and consider it the role of their sitting president while he is living. Perhaps to avoid the baggage that goes along with the term, Denver Snuffer has avoided calling himself that kind of “Prophet”. But, if we were using the “prophet among equals” term, perhaps Denver would agree to the designation. This might be what he meant when he said:

Do I consider myself “a prophet?” The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy. (Revelation 19: 10.) I have the testimony of Jesus. (Denver Snuffer, Clearing Off Some Pending Questions).

The LDS don’t use the term “prophet” like Moses did, so it seems better not to confuse Denver with the LDS version of “Prophet”, which is more like the term “Pope”, and for which the LDS have all sorts of confusion about. “Servant” seems more fitting for a title for Denver. Despite outside speculation, Denver Snuffer also categorically rejects the title of “the One Mighty and Strong” (see Denver Snuffer, Preserving the Restoration, pp. 403-404). There are too many references in his writings to worry about defending on that point.

Regardless, one of the big debates surrounding Denver is the claim that he said if you disagree with him you will be damned. The alleged source for this claim is the transcript of Denver’s 10th talk in Mesa, but a word search for “damned” or “damn” only produces a reference to Joseph Smith talking about John the Baptist and to the scripture in 3 Nephi 11 where one is damned for not listening to the Lord’s command to be baptized. In that talk, Denver did say the following, however:

I have never said this publicly, but because of what I think will ensue after this talk I am going to say it, not for my sake, and certainly not for the sake of anyone who believes the truth or who has the Spirit, but I say it only to benefit those who may view things completely otherwise. The Lord has said to me in His own voice, ‘I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.’ Therefore, I want to caution those who disagree with me, to feel free, to feel absolutely free to make the case against what I say. Feel free to disagree, and make your contrary arguments. If you believe I err, then expose the error and denounce it. But take care; take care about what you say concerning me for your sake, not for mine. I live with constant criticism. I can take it. But I do not want you provoking Divine ire by unfortunately chosen words if I can persuade you against it. (Denver Snuffer, 40 Years in Mormonism: Preserving the Restoration, p. 4).

Whether or not anyone believes that the Lord actually said that to him is besides the point. In this quote, Denver says to feel free to disagree with him, contradicting the common claim against him mentioned above.

Others have issues with how Denver Snuffer expounds scriptures, such as when he learns more and updates his views on tangential topics like polygamy (but it should be noted, he has been against it throughout), or when he suggests non-traditional interpretations of old passages. Their problems stem from the idea that it is the role of a prophet to speak in absolutes at all times, and that he must be as knowledgable as the God he has met and/or talked with. Because of the glaring absence of this absolute in the scriptures (besides the footnotes that the the LDS reference from Wilford Woodruff above), this argument is weak. True prophets often challenge a culture steeped in degraded traditions, and their arguments resist popular opinions and interpretations. If we take John the Baptist as an example of proper expounding, the record shows that he taught things very similar to the Sermon on the Mount, which was radical in his day for suggesting what the true intent of the Law of Moses was on all of the commandments he covered (see Luke 3). It appears the Lord honored John’s “wild” expounding by making it a large part of His central teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, showing that He, the Lord, had the same mind as John on the subjects that he expounded on. Concerning the relationship between the mind of God and the spirit of prophecy manifested by the prophets when they appropriately expound on scripture, it is enough to understand the following quote from the Lord in Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Because of Denver Snuffer’s exposition on the scriptures and his sharing of the spirit of prophecy given to him, some who fellowship together in the way Denver has suggested can’t help but call him a “Prophet” with a capital “P”. This may be zeal without knowledge. It is certainly an impulse that is carried over from LDS culture. As LDS, we have done the same to LDS General Conference addresses and the speakers there, and it is easy enough to see that some are just doing the same to Denver now, despite Denver’s repeated rejection of that type of adulation. When the Lord has given Denver Snuffer or any other prophet something with which to expound on, it should be evident enough to those who know the voice of the Good Shepherd, but how well Denver or anyone else relays that content in their weak state as mortals remains to be seen by the test of time. Many do not consider it possible that a true prophet could make the following claim about their teachings (which again stems from their assertion that a prophet must be infallible, which is, as we have seen, a false premise):

Although what I say this evening represents my current thinking on the material, I could not have given this talk ten years ago. Nor do I expect that ten years from now I would give the same talk. My understanding changes over time, and this is a snapshot of my understanding taken from a moving picture. I hope it is useful to you. (Denver Snuffer, A Talk About the First Three Words Spoken Spoken By The Players In the Endowment, p. 1).

Unless they are quoting the Lord directly (for instance, Denver has proven he intends to portray even the bad grammar the Lord condescends to use, when he corrected the record after mis-quoting one word from the Lord once, see 40 Years In Mormonism: Christ, p. 6), we have to rely upon Denver or any other prophet to accurately convey the information they have been given when they put things into their own words, and teaching is a much more difficult task than one might think. We call the Lord the “Master Teacher” because the rest of us are quite sub-par in this category, including all the prophets and all current servants. Denver seems to rely on the scriptures a lot to avoid the disconnect, and invites us to get the original message for ourselves from the Lord, unsullied, and pure. We have probably read James 1:5 by now, and have hopefully become aware of the benefits, as well as the limitations, of scriptures and messages through messengers, which only cause us to “think” we have eternal life (see John 5:39). If Denver doesn’t portray the content the Lord has provided for him correctly, he says the Holy Ghost will be the last witness to determine that for you:

First, I explained in everything I’ve written, beginning with The Second Comforter, that it is the role of the Holy Ghost to prepare and bring us to Christ. Without the Holy Ghost we cannot come to Christ. Further, in that same book I acknowledged the Holy Ghost’s foundational role by telling the reader that they must receive a witness from the Holy Ghost as they read the book or they do not have the required two witnesses. Without the Holy Ghost’s ratifying confirmation, I tell the reader to discard what I’ve written. Far from denegrating the Holy Ghost’s role, I have made it a central part of the process, without it no person can come unto Christ. (http://denversnuffer.com/2011/09/response-to-question/).

For myself, I have attended almost every lecture of his 40 Years Series, re-read the transcripts, and read the book “Preserving the Restoration” which removes the personal anecdotes and focuses on the scriptures and the interpretations. I’ve made myself a personal index of all the claims I find important, and I’ve asked the Lord if he vouches for Denver as His servant and if the course the lectures outline for us to pursue to preserve the restoration is pleasing to His will, after experimenting upon it for over a year now, and longer if you count prior books. I have heard from the Lord that it is pleasing to Him, and Denver is an authorized servant. As far as Denver’s mistakes and updates on historical facts, (especially considering that all of us are subject to sources that have been tampered with as an LDS cover-up until the more recent Joseph Smith Papers project has exposed the original record more), “if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ” (Book of Mormon title page, and see http://denversnuffer.com/2014/05/damned-again/). If anyone searches Denver’s claims as seriously as they hope an investigator would search the Book of Mormon, they could know the same thing. If the Holy Ghost doesn’t confirm it, discard it. But, if you take a lazy approach, and make a man an offender for a word even after a long reading session mixed with skimming, and don’t experiment and sacrifice to learn about it, then you may not have given it a fair shake. You might end up like the CES instructor that finds contradictions all over the scriptures and has given up his faith in God, saying about the contradictions, in effect, “They can’t be explained.”

We’ll close with just one final note about what fruit to be looking for in a true prophet: Joseph Smith possessed the principle of love, and gathered many Saints, and to this day, even though the LDS Church is in apostasy, the LDS are good hearted, virtuous people. Perhaps it is more appropriate to say that the Book of Mormon is the fruit of the ancient Nephite and Lamanite prophets, while Joseph Smith’s fruit is his own labor of love for Christ and His people. That is Joseph’s fruit. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). That is how Christ identified his disciples, as those who love one another (John 13:34). Even the RLDS are great folks. The Fundamentalists are not short on their own virtues as well, and even though they are largely Brigham Young’s fruit, many are opening up to the Lord’s word through Joseph Smith instead because of their good hearts, as they discover Brigham’s mistakes in representing what Joseph Smith said. It is those who practice priest-craft in any of the off-shoots who have become hardened. However, those who have taken the message of the true prophets to look to Christ have become Christ’s fruit, who loves us all (see Mosiah 15:10-12). No one “follows” Denver without suffering the same fate as those who follow any man (see 2 Nephi 4:34). The scriptures speak for themselves and Denver is not very important beyond a certain level. With God’s approval, we can all preach and teach like John the Baptist, correct ourselves when we learn more truth, and move on in faith. Besides, the meekness characteristic of a prophet compels them to guard their words carefully so as not to take the name of the Lord in vain, and to establish when they are speaking opinions or provoking inquiry and thought. Casual perusal of Denver’s writings clearly evidences this pattern of meekness. We ought to be careful not to become accusers, which is Satan’s role. Errors in doctrine may be discussed and corrected, but a man’s character ought not to be questioned except by positive evidence of misconduct.

A priesthood holder has authority to do whatever God commands, and any ordinance when commanded, except they can’t do any ordinance on behalf of the LDS Church unless they have an office in that Church (see our posts herehere and here). The fruits are the improved lives of the people, as opposed to a Pharisaical evidence-test that a prophet teaches completely without error. Because of a fear of making mistakes in teaching, the LDS correlate everything and demand compliance. As a consequence, outsiders are often nicer to them than they are to themselves. There are none who dare to molest or make afraid in their congregations. A true prophet, on the other hand, possesses the principle of love, and a pure love of Christ, and adherence, as a minimum, to the doctrine of Christ in 3 Nephi 11. But, true prophets are also fallible men, and they may make many teaching errors when exploring the vast resource of knowledge which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Joseph Smith said the following concerning an excommunication trial drummed up against an elder with strange interpretations of the book of Revelation:

I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:340).

And, Joseph Smith said the following about relying on a prophet too much leading to a darkened mind:

President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Five 1842-43, p.237).

Any casual observer of LDS General Conferences can see that General Authorities make as many teaching errors as LDS lay members do in their congregations. If perfect teaching were the standard, then all General Authorities ought to be excommunicated for saying they are prophets and teaching errors. As for Denver Snuffer, we rejoice when God condescends to use a servant to expound the true meaning of the scriptures revealed in our day as the Standard Works, and pray to God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!

A great article on the topic of the role of a prophet is by Robert Sonntag, and is well worth the read: What is a Prophet – 10.30.2014.

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What Do We Do About Callings, Missions, Endowments, and Temple Marriages, etc?

Several years ago, the LDS church president spoke of their ambition to make things less complicated in their church:

I need not tell you that we have become a very large and complex Church. Our program is so vast and our reach is so extensive that it is difficult to comprehend. We are a Church of lay leadership. What a remarkable and wonderful thing that is. It must ever remain so. It must never move in the direction of an extensive paid ministry. But we know that the administrative load is very heavy on our bishops and stake presidents, as well as some others. An awareness of that fact has led the Presidency and the Twelve to hold a number of meetings, some of them long and interesting, in which in effect we have taken the Church apart and then put it together again. Our objective has been to see whether there might be some programs we could do away with. But as we have analyzed these, we have not seen much that could be dropped. To drop one is like giving away one of your children. You haven’t the heart to do it. But I wish to assure you that we are aware of the burdens you carry and the time you spend. In this priesthood meeting I wish to mention a few of the items we have discussed. I think you will note that we have made some progress, although it may be small. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “To Men of the Priesthood,” October 2002 General Conference Priesthood Session).

When he said, “in effect we have taken the Church apart and then put it together again,” although outwardly a commendable notion, there is no consideration to the idea that programs could well be chosen and administered, or abandoned altogether, on the local level without central oversight.

Speaking to his twelve disciples of old, the Lord said:

The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (Luke 22:25-27).

Perhaps it is for this reason that the only result of the LDS meetings to reorganize their structure was, “…that we have made some progress, although it may be small.” Progress towards what end? Perhaps it could be said, instead, that giving up one of their centrally correlated programs was like giving up one of their idols…which throughout history has been ironically difficult for mankind to do, despite the absurdity of worshiping vain things that cannot provide salvation. Without fail, religions that once thrived from direct blessings from heaven, have all eventually dwindled to the point of clinging to their buildings, programs, structures, and traditions when apostasy has set in.

It is evident from the scriptures that the Gospel of Jesus Christ includes sacred oral traditions replete with ceremony, ordinances, and consistency (see Alma 12:9-11). But, care should be taken with temple rites, as much mischief can be done by their misuse (consider Cain vs. Abel, Brigham Young’s polygamy and blood oaths, and see Helaman 6). But, in the proper context, correct rituals can be uplifting, and even essential for our exaltation:

Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles. (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 308).

An altered form of the oral tradition that Joseph Smith began in Nauvoo is available in LDS temples or online for review (see caution below). Because it has been altered over the years, it stands in the category of apocrypha, along with many other works that give insight into the ancient oral tradition of the Gospel (see Masonic rituals, and The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, especially his work on the Lord’s 40 day ministry, and the Egyptian Endowment, etc).

I used to be a Free and Accepted Mason, and I can say I believe Joseph Smith translated Masonry and restored what principles were lost into the beginnings of a format for use by the Priesthood in the last days, much like he translated the King James Version of the Bible…but we have lost much of what Joseph has restored.

There are no “keys” that give any man authority to change ordinances instituted before the foundation of the world, for the Priesthood, that are not intended to be changed. Therefore, changes in the endowment ceremony by definition make the ceremonies, to the degree of change involved, apocryphal, and inclusive of “interpolations by the hands of men” (D&C 91). The word history/definition of the verb form of “interpolation” is:

interpolate (v.) 1610s, “to alter or enlarge (a writing) by inserting new material,” from Latin interpolatus, past participle of interpolare “alter, freshen up, polish;” of writing, “falsify,” from inter- “among, between” (see inter-) + polare, which is related to polire “to smoothe, polish.”  Sense evolved in Latin from “refurbish,” to “alter appearance of,” to “falsify (especially by adding new material).” Middle English had interpolen (early 15c.) in a similar sense. Related: Interpolated; interpolating. (see here).

Section 91 expresses principles revealed by the Lord on how to treat Apocrypha, and is worthy of a careful review before attempting to study any text about temple rituals, or to attend an LDS temple itself. In fact, because the rituals are intended to be transmitted in person with heaven’s approval, care should also be taken in reviewing online or written materials. For those who have already received ordinances with heaven’s approval, they can be a useful way to review, especially if the LDS Church has unjustly taken away your temple recommend.

The best current resources for getting at the truth of what is contained in the Gospel’s oral tradition is to read the standard works, Joseph Smith’s teachings, and Denver Snuffer’s teachings (See Denver’s posts here and here where he says in part, “I’m acquainted with all the changes. I have found them all and studied them all. I know all of the many differences.”). Within their teachings are the Savior’s principles that must be applied first in order to prepare for higher, sacred knowledge. That is enough to build upon today. We cannot have more if we do not appreciate and live what we have already been given (see 3 Nephi 26:9 and D&C 88:33). In the chapter entitled “Preserving the Restoration” in Denver’s book of the same title, he says:

There is nothing special about us, but there can be. We do not need hundreds of temples, but will need one to which Christ can come. We will not need to perform endless work for the dead until there has been a covenant made by God with us. We must be first connected to the fathers in heaven. Only then can we do something to liberate the dead. (pp.526-527).

Having activities for youth are great and wonderful, but become an encumbrance and a hindrance to righteous living when idolatry is involved. Parents are not excused from their responsibility to be the primary teachers of the gospel to their children, so any other wholesome program for youth can be substituted for LDS Church programs as the parents supplement with Gospel teaching on their own. If you choose to wade through the idolatry included in LDS youth programs (that encourage youth to “follow the prophet” and to follow LDS leaders), then you face the challenge of contradicting their errors and persuading your children with truth from the scriptures to combat the evil influence of those programs. But, such a course may be worthwhile if you simultaneously want to take advantage of the good left in those programs. The choice is yours. Many parents organize activities for their youth with their friends in fellowships that are just as uplifting and productive. With many having served in LDS callings for years, it is easy to reproduce only the good parts of activities that are developed from wise, divinely inspired orderliness that the LDS have now commercialized and promoted to yield high tithing receipts and participation. It is perfectly OK to opt out of the LDS Church corporation’s versions of the programs and recreate them on your own, according to God’s will. Then you can pick and choose the parts that are the most uplifting and leave behind the dross.

Nothing needs to be chartered and officially sanctioned unless it involves more people than your immediate family. Follow wise principles and get heaven’s consent before important endeavors, and if you do involve a larger portion of the community, get their common consent and avoid getting trapped into false traditions and bureaucratic excesses. Be smart, be safe, be frugal, and be free. If you were once willing to put forth great effort for a calling and to get the praise of leaders, do it again for your family and for the Lord, where not much of your effort will get recognized publicly. This can include ordaining your young men (or old men) to the Priesthood outside of the LDS Church (see Denver Snuffer, Preserving the Restoration, pp. 509-515) and encouraging proper preaching, teaching, expounding, and exhorting (see 3 Nephi 14:6). The Lord may call them to service in good and worthwhile organizations that can take them on similar assignments paralleling LDS missionary service (see our post here). The Lord may inspire them to preach in ways more powerful than the limited approach of the LDS for their youth (see Denver Snuffer, Preserving the Restoration, pp. 519). Remember that this movement started with a 14 year old boy being visited by the Father and the Son, who became a 22 year old who began and finished the translation of ancient scripture.

Much of LDS missionary work is babysitting unconverted missionaries. It is an affront to the Lord and a compulsion for some who have no desires to serve God, but seek only to fulfill a family and cultural obligation. The notion that a mission is what a youth needs to get converted is a false and damnable idea. The pattern the Lord outlined is simple and profound: “If ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work” (D&C 4). If there is no desire, there is no call. That being said, there are still sincere, and miraculous efforts in the LDS missionary program from those who truly desire to serve the Lord, but remember, there was no MTC in Joseph Smith’s day, and what was likely Joseph’s sealing to Emma was outside of temple walls (see Denver Snuffer, Passing the Heavenly Gift, footnote 10, p. 18).

Although these are general guidelines, and not specific answers to some of the topics in the question, it should be evident by now in our posts that we do not seek to be the final answer on these questions, but to direct the learner to the scriptures and to the Lord. Hopefully you will see the spirit of the scriptures in these posts, and recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd when it has been evident, and be able to face God correctly in your journey forward.

Here are some other noteworthy resources, including a piece about sincere missionary work and inspired resources on how to conduct marriages approved by heaven, matching earlier practices of Latter-day Saints in Joseph Smith’s day:

(Rock Waterman, Where I Went Wrong On My Mission)

(Article on Marriage from the 1835 D&C, section 101)

(Keith Henderson, Marriage and Denver Snuffer, Comments on Marriage)

As other conditions arise that require direction from heaven on how to proceed, such as what to do about Patriarchal blessings, and other important items, heaven can be sought and revelation obtained as God grants it.

Concerning callings, the restraint and balance required of Hyrum Smith by the Lord in regards to preaching is noteworthy in D&C 11, but service to our fellowman is always commendable (See Rock Waterman, The Refiner’s Fire, and D&C 58:26-33).

How Do I Keep the Sabbath Day Holy If I No Longer Attend Church?

The scriptures give the commandment concerning the Sabbath day, which Abinadi reiterated in the Book of Mormon:

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work;
But the seventh day, the sabbath of the Lord thy God, thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates;
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Mosiah 13:16-19).

Breaking the Sabbath used to be a capital crime. A person could be sentenced to death for violating it.

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. (Exodus 31:13).

Why such a serious offense?

The Lord explained it best when he said “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Therefore, a day of rest and peace is intended to be one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind in this fallen world. It would follow that the logic surrounding the death penalty for its abuse would be geared towards protecting the innocent worker. Since the commandment includes not asking your servants to work on the Sabbath either, than it seems that the Lord is saying He really intends to prevent abuse of the innocent. He will make sure no one is forced to work this day, if it means that He has to implement death for the employers who so spite Him. It is obvious in the New Testament that a poor worker who finds his ox in the mire is not in violation of the Sabbath when he proceeds to pull him out (Luke 14:3-6). The intent of the commandment, therefore, seems clear.

Following this logic, it becomes clearer which statement in the Sermon on the Mount is potentially Jesus expounding on the importance of the spirit of Sabbath worship. Without mentioning the Sabbath, Jesus seems to be assuming it is well known what kind of activity goes on on that day, knowing that His hearers will know what He is talking about. We are so fallen into secular blindness that we don’t relate to His sayings that well these days, but the connection is nevertheless clearer after walking through it as we have above:

Verily, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor; but take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven. Therefore, when ye shall do your alms do not sound a trumpet before you, as will hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. (3 Nephi 13:1-2).

The Sabbath is a day of peace for all, a day of brotherhood, and of forgiving of debts; a day to give alms to the poor; a day to return to the Garden of Eden and its innocence. What do the employers do if they can’t, under penalty of death, force their employees to work on the Sabbath? They go to the opposite extreme and give large gifts to charity, but only for the purpose of networking and making themselves look to be a profitable employer to work for, and thus still pervert sincere intent. These corrupted organizations and individuals still can’t keep the Sabbath even when they participate in the almsgiving of that day. They remain hypocrites. What will they do when the whole workweek becomes a holy day and we enter into the rest of the Lord (Alma 34:33; JST Luke 12:44; Matthew 25:6)? They will go their own way, not interested in the party, where there will be found weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth (D&C 63:54) for these oppressors who hate a God who gives gifts to the poor in spirit (3 Nephi 12:3).

Even after being chastened in Babylon for seventy years, many Jews returned to Israel with a culture against Sabbath worship. Nehemiah proclaimed:

In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. (Nehemiah 13:15).

Instead, our God delivers from bondage, and frees us from labor on the Sabbath in commemoration of his promise of mercy and redemption. The purpose of deliverance from labor on the Sabbath seems to be a symbol of deliverance from sin (Mosiah 25:16).

It is to this end that the following scriptures elaborate on individual Sabbath worship:

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 58:13-14).

And the following:

I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God. (Ezekiel 20:19-20).

After reviewing the way the scriptures describe the Lord’s original intent for keeping the Sabbath holy, it should be obvious that even devoted church service can brake the Sabbath day. Ask yourselves, does the institution I belong to posture their church service opportunities on the Sabbath as a means to network, prove their institution is worth working for and being loyal to, sound a trumpet about their charitable acts in the name of marketing their brand of religion, or promote greetings in the marketplace and competitive habits concerning piety, dress, or codes of conduct (see Luke 20:46)? If so, you may be looking at a business conglomerate masquerading as a religion, hypocritical in their pretenses of promoting the very commandment they cause their members to break through excessive and vain meetings and busy-work callings.

On the other hand, the sincere in heart can always find ways to be of true service to their fellow beings, even if they find themselves in the midst of corruption and spiritual wickedness in high places (see Ephesians 6:12). Even still, good advice concerning the Sabbath comes from churches that have self-preservation as an interest; and not all leadership, direction, callings, or Sabbath-day meetings are faulty.

For those who don’t have a church to attend, but only fellowship amongst close family and friends, the spirit of the Sabbath is easy to discover in the scriptures quoted above. Are your activities on the Sabbath a sign to the Lord of your remembrance of his statutes and judgments, and that you wish to know that He is the Lord your God? Said the Lord, “And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you” (3 Nephi 18:7).

 

Can I Belong to Another Church or Religion If I Am Baptized?

Generally speaking, yes. The Lord’s baptism as outlined in 3 Nephi 11 has no conditions against it.

The obvious contradiction would be joining a religion that is openly against Christ and his doctrine to the point you feel it would be counter-productive to your own faith and belief. You may decide on your own what the appropriate particulars are on that, but it is in the spirit of the Book of Mormon to serve others and then you will be in the service of your God (Mosiah 2:17).

Consider the example of Ammon (Alma chapters 17-20), who submitted himself to be a servant of a Lamanite king who supported an apostate system of beliefs. Ammon was able to believe as he wished and yet be willing “to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die” (Alma 17:23), even while considering, “the baseness of the traditions of their fathers, which were not correct” (Alma 17:9). Because of the incorrect traditions of the Lamanites, the Lord told Ammon, “ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me” (Alma 17:10).

You may hear the call of your Lord to serve among the Catholics, any of the Protestant denominations, or the Evangelicals; the Muslims, the Jews, the Baha’i’s, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Amish, the RLDS, or stay LDS, or serve in the Mormon Christian fellowships, or others.

Interestingly, the LDS Church used to (and may still) include as part of their definition of apostasy to “Formally join another church” (See p. 110 at https://file.wikileaks.org/file/mormon-handbook-of-instructions-2006.pdf ). So, if you are LDS, you may be subject to excommunication and being branded as an apostate if you join another church simultaneously.

But again, consider that you just may be considered in good company with the likes of Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner, and Himni, who served among the apostate Lamanites.

Within the other religions, you doubtless will face opposition with false creeds and requirements that challenge your commitment to the doctrine of Christ; but it is a “big brother” attitude, and falsely condemning, for the LDS Church to assume that its members are too immature in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be able to face those challenges resolutely if they were also members of other churches. As we see with Ammon, there are legitimate, Christ-centered reasons to serve others by becoming one of them. After all, God came among us as one of us. Simply put, it is NOT apostasy to formally join another church. As Jesus said, be as wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove (see Matthew 10:16).

How Do I Pay Tithing and Fast Offerings, and How Do I Live the Law of Consecration?

In looking for strictly scriptural guidance on how to pay proper tithes and offerings, the first scripture we came to was the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 14, found after the Bible Dictionary in the LDS scriptures:

And this Melchizedek, having thus established righteousness, was called the king of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the King of peace. And he lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram, being the high priest, and the keeper of the storehouse of God; Him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor. Wherefore, Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need. (JST Genesis 14:36-39)

Tithing in Abraham’s day was defined as “[that] which God had given him more than that which he had need.” It was not a tenth, but more accurately, the “surplus”. This accords with D&C 119, but of course, D&C 119 introduces a change in policy that shifted the responsibility of part of the surplus administration…

O! Lord, show unto thy servents how much thou requirest of the properties of thy people  for a Tithing?
Answer. Verrily thus saith  the Lord I require all their surpluss, property to be put into the hands of the Bishop of my  Church of Zion, for the building of mine house and for the Laying the foundation of Zion, and for the priesthood, and for the debts of the presidency of my Church, and this shall be the begining of the tithing of my people, and  after that, those, who have thus been tithed, shall pay one tenth of all their interest anually, And this shall be a standing Law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood saith the Lord, Verrily I say unto you, it shall  come to pass, that all those who gather unto  the land of Zion, shall be tithed of their surpluss properties, and shall observe this Law, or they shall not be found worthy to abide among you. and I say unto you, If my people observe not this Law, to keep it holy, and by this law sanctify the Land of Zion unto me, that my Statutes and my Judgements, may be kept thereon that it may be most holy, behold verrily I say unto you, it shall not be a land of Zion unto you, and this shall be an ensample unto all the stakes of Zion, even so Amen. (D&C 119, spelling as in earliest manuscript Revelation, Far West, MO, 8 July 1838; in JS, Journal, Mar.–Sept. 1838, p.56; handwriting of George W. Robinson; CHL).

In the historical context included in prior revelations in the D&C, tithing maintained the definition of all surplus properties as administered in United Orders through the Law of Consecration. Because of the abuses of John Whitmer, William W. Phelps, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and other leaders (the Missouri Presidency and committee members who spent the tithing/surplus monies to buy land in Far West, who sold properties in Independence against the express command of the Lord, and pocketed some of the land sale proceeds for themselves; see Minute Book 2, The Far West Record, beginning with 7 Apr 1837 entry until the 5-6 Oct 1838 Conference entry), the Lord gave D&C 119 to reduce the law to the following:

  1. Instead of all surplus properties being given to the leadership of the church as a tithe, (since they royally screwed things up such that these abuses were cited in many of their excommunication trials), the Lord dissolved the United Order in Missouri and…
  2. Instead required the Saints to make one more surplus contribution (see D&C 119:1-3), and then…
  3. The Lord removed from the leadership the responsibility of administering the surplus amounts on an ongoing basis and instead retained the requirement for individuals to administer to the poor of their surplus on their own, and…
  4. The Lord required for the members to only have to contribute a tenth of their surplus to the church for the poor who appealed to the church itself for relief (D&C 119:4, and also verse 1 which lists the first instruction for both the contributed initial surplus, and the tenth thereafter to be put into the hands of the bishop of the church, who in Joseph Smith’s day only administered the storehouse for the poor. Verse 2 also includes the stated purpose of “laying the foundation of Zion,” which if the leaders understood the scriptures, expressly includes having no poor among them), and for other legitimate debts, to be governed by “the voice of the Lord” to the council on the disposition of the tithes (D&C 120).

D&C 120 reads:

Revelation Given the same day July 8th 1838
Making known the disposition of the properties  tithed, as named in the preceeding revelation—
Verrily thus saith the Lord, the time has now  come that it shall be disposed of, by a council  composed of the first Presidency of my Church and of the Bishop and his council and by <my> high Council, and <by> mine own voice unto them saith the Lord, even so Amen. (D&C 120, spelling as in earliest manuscript Revelation, Far West, MO, 8 July 1838; in JS, Journal, Mar.–Sept. 1838, p. 57; handwriting of George W. Robinson; CHL.)

Obviously the poor have no surplus, and hence no requirement to give anything to the church, and “interest” is defined in Webster’s 1828 dictionary of that era as being synonymous with “surplus” and not “income”.

This accords with Numbers 18:25-32:

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the Lord, even a tenth part of the tithe. And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress. Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the Lord of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the Lord’s heave offering to Aaron the priest. Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the Lord, of all the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it. Therefore thou shalt say unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of the winepress. And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation. And ye shall bear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved from it the best of it: neither shall ye pollute the holy things of the children of Israel, lest ye die. (Numbers 18:25-32)

Therefore the people paid a tenth of the tithe, or a tenth of their surplus, to the priests who made use of this tenth for the poor, the Lord’s house, and other legitimate church debts.

Contrary to current LDS practice, however, legitimate church debts do not include a paid ministry, which is priestcraft, and shouldn’t be seen as covering living expenses, but would be the equivalent of getting a free temple cafeteria dinner only while you worked your shift as a temple worker. The Levites and Priests still would have to work for their own support on their off time. This is a much misunderstood principle which the Book of Mormon corrects and makes abundantly clear (see Mosiah 18:25-29 and Alma 1:26-31 for instance).

After giving a tenth of the surplus to a community storehouse for the poor, the rest of the surplus, or the other 90% of one’s increase, is to be used first to increase your own stewardship if needed (such as buying new equipment to produce your marketable items next year, see D&C 42:29-39), then the rest is to be distributed to the poor as well (see D&C 73). If you don’t need certain items in your stewardship for the next year, then instead of taking from the 90% of your increase, you add more to the surplus. All of the 90% (plus or minus your stewardship adjustments) are to be given to the poor. You do not need to belong to a United Order to live the Law of Consecration (see Lectures on Faith, L6). All it takes is one person willing to live these principles who has faith that, whatever they give up one year when it is not needed, will be obtainable another year, even if it has to come through a miracle in your view. An old proverb in Ecclesiastes says, “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1). You can give 90% of your net increase to the poor on your own and tithe 10% to a fellowship in your community or to another worthy charitable organization. The argument that you would pay on your net increase and not your gross is well documented in the scriptures concerning consecration after providing first for your own legitimate wants and needs (see D&C 42:32-33).

Denver Snuffer outlined ways in which anyone can participate in paying tithing, no matter what denomination or faith they belong to:

“I talked about paying and administering your own tithes in Grand Junction. I want to remind you that if you do that, none of it should go to the priests. None of it should go to anything other than helping the poor” (Denver Snuffer, Preserving the Restoration, p.4).

“In Grand Junction I spoke about tithing. I talked about organizing yourselves, collecting your own tithing and managing it yourselves, to assist the poor who are among you, and to do this by the voice of your own local group. Do it by common consent. Provide for those who need housing, food, clothing, healthcare, education and transportation. Do it by the voice of united agreement of you all in small groups in which all know one another. Since that time there have been several groups that have begun. Two groups are assisting single mothers with their needs. One group is assisting a family. One group has no needy among them, and they’ve accumulated for large charitable purposes, and they bought for a quadriplegic, a sophisticated electric wheelchair with the tithing money that they gathered.

I have also heard of some failing experiments, where frustration and contention have been problems. As the scriptures warn, and I discussed in Grand Junction, we must overcome ‘jarrings,’ ‘contentions,’ ‘envyings,’ ‘strifes,’ ‘lusts’ meaning ambitions, and ‘covetous desires.’ These conflicts need to be worked out before any gathering. All of the social ills of our day are in the churches of our day. Every denomination that came from Joseph Smith’s ministry is plagued with the same shortcomings. Before any gathering, we must be put through a refining process. We must grow; we must rise up first, before God will gather us to Zion.

There is no reason to pay for priesthood service. Serving should always require sacrifice. Do not pay for ministers. I would recommend if you choose to participate in a tithing group, you do it in the same manner described in Grand Junction. Do it voluntarily among yourselves. Community is necessary. I do not know how you can bear one another’s burdens without administering your own tithes, administering your own fast offerings, doing things to help those people who are in need.

Some are giving tithing to an organization that is purchasing commercial and residential real estate, farms, and developing shopping centers, but has little left by comparison to give to the poor. Even though they give money to help the poor, billions spent in commercial ventures dwarf the amount. If you choose to participate that, that is up to you, but try and care for those among you who have needs. Try to participate in helping others and fellowshipping with them.” (Denver Snuffer, Preserving the Restoration, p.21)

Fast Offerings are another way someone can give more to the poor…not through the increase they have earned or produced, but through sacrifice. Therefore, fast offerings can even be for when you don’t have any increase one year, but want to live your religion of giving to the poor. You can always sacrifice something you need in order to give to those even less fortunate than yourself. It is how you can still give out of your own free will and good desires even if you have a loss one year, or for many years, so you don’t lose the habit of living that pure religion that is undefiled (see James 1:27). In acknowledging this option for the poor, we emphasize that there is no scriptural support for tithing, or even fast offerings, being required by the Lord of the poor, or at least, no support for priests or any leaders to have any authority to require it. In fact, there are many scriptures that suggest that the poor are only to receive, unless they sacrifice through freewill offerings to be able to give some small amount themselves, or to make reconciliation for crimes committed in a much discounted way proportionate to what they are able to afford (see Leviticus 5:7,11; Leviticus 23:22; Matthew 12:1-9). And, concerning the latter, the Lord quoted scripture and said, “But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless” (Matthew 12:7).

How Do You Cope With the Shaming?

It’s patronizing to have people assume you have troubles in your life because of leaving the LDS Church, but we understand the sentiment. We have felt the same way before as members sometimes act towards us now. Wickedness never was happiness (Alma 41:10), and it is assumed leaving the LDS Church is a wicked thing to do.

It can be, but isn’t always.

Turning against the light and knowledge you’ve gained is a wicked thing (D&C 93:39). Sometimes leaving the LDS Church is synonymous with turning against light and truth, depending on your circumstances. But, the Gospel path is a lonely and difficult road, full of persecution when you are learning more and getting closer to God (3 Nephi 12:10-12). In such cases, leaving the LDS Church could be equated to Lehi leaving Jerusalem (1 Nephi 2:2), Abinadi preaching against the wicked priests (Mosiah 12), or Christ before the Jewish council (Matthew 22:66-71), if what you are learning is higher knowledge than what the priests in your day have received (3 Nephi 7:18).

If you are truly on a higher path, it doesn’t make you better than anyone else, just more believing. You will still make just as many mistakes and sin as often as others, but perhaps in different ways than them as you reject old sins that are no longer desirable. True belief is villainized, ridiculed, and thought to be impossible to achieve. Very few others believe.

Ironically, gross errors and wild imaginations are also rarely believed, and rightly rejected by others, leading some to think those forbidden paths are the “correct” paths simply because they are not popular. The phenomenon looks the same as true belief. People who indulge in wild fantasies are as heavily persecuted as those who truly believe in God and the resurrection of Christ, and who love His appearing. But, those who indulge in fantasy sometimes believe they are on the right path simply because they are being persecuted. It will always be this way, so that our faith might be tested and true. You cannot detect a true path simply because it involves being persecuted, or is a lonely path in and of itself (3 Nephi 12:10-11 says that the only ones who are blessed are those who are persecuted for “[Christ’s] name’s sake” or “[Christ’s] sake”. No one is blessed for being persecuted for any other reason). Likewise, while on the true path, there is no escaping the shame of the world, there is only the opportunity to despise their shame, and reject it and move forward in faith (Hebrews 12:2 and 2 Nephi 9:18), but you must also test the path you are on to make sure you are pleasing God and truly following His ways.

Remember, “blessed art thou if men shall revile you and persecute you for MY NAME’S SAKE.” The formula does not work for being persecuted for any other reason or system of belief. You are only blessed for being persecuted for Christ’s name and belief system.

To truly follow God’s ways, one must know the character of God. That is why Joseph Smith called the Lectures on Faith the “leading items of our religion” (see Preface to the 1835 ed of the D&C), as they contain the tests whereby you may know if any communication is from God or not, being that you begin to understand his character, perfections, and attributes in such a way as to not be deceived by any other communication below the standard of absolute love, power, truth, justice, mercy, and judgment. Conversely, many follow after blind guides dressed in white robes (1 Nephi 8:5-8). Both the blind guides and those that follow them shall fall into the ditch (Matthew 15:14). It is interesting to note that when Lehi realized what the man in white was doing, he beheld that he had led him into a lone and dreary waste. It took Lehi pleading with the Lord for his tender mercies to get himself out of such a predicament. He also beheld that those who didn’t follow the true path set themselves up in a large and spacious building, wore costly apparel, and mocked and pointed the finger at those who found the tree of life (1 Nephi 8:26-28).

It is just that sort of mocking that the scriptures inform us we must expect, and then despise it, being an example of the believers (1 Timothy 4:12) and never reviling against those that revile (D&C 31:9).

After all is said and done in being Christian towards those that shame you, it is important to fellowship with those who have similar beliefs in the doctrine of Christ. Kids benefit from a community of fellow believers as well (see our post here and find a fellowship here).

Don’t Independent Study Groups Lead to Apostasy?

They certainly can.

See this post here. There isn’t a better summary we could come up with about the dangers study groups can present.

Yet, there are legitimate reasons to gather outside of church that can be uplifting and serve God’s purposes.

Assembling together in conferences outside of church allows for:

  • Fellowshipping on the doctrine of Christ,
  • Studying the scriptures in fellowships and families,
  • Teaching as opposed to debating,
  • Performing Priesthood ordinances such as Sacrament and Baptism (see here and here and here), and
  • Serving others and sharing our means to relieve the poor.

As long as the group doesn’t replace our individual duties to study things out on our own and gain salvation from God on our own, groups can be a source of inspiration and fellowship. Without a group, we cannot bare one anothers’ burdens and mourn with those that mourn (Mosiah 18:8-10). These group meetings do not have to be within church meetings alone. And, just because getting together as a group outside of church has its pitfalls, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done in the right way as well. Close friends and family can and often do worship together in righteousness (Matthew 18:20), without regards to LDS Church jurisdictional constraints.

To find such a fellowship or learn how to start your own, see here. A link to the fellowship locator will remain in the sidebar as well. A fellowship that does not encourage apostasy from the Lord cannot be called an apostate group (for a scriptural definition of apostasy, see Mosiah 35). However, some LDS Church leaders mistakenly equate disagreement with the ever-changing church handbook of instructions to be equivalent to apostasy, so beware of such leaders should you wish to also meet with a fellowship.