Book of Mormon Covenant Conference, South Carolina, Jan 12-13, 2019
In order to advance clarifications and present the Lectures of Repentance and the message it contains, I’ve been asked by my fellowship to do presentations on each lecture. Here is the audio and video of all of the presentations. The lectures start with #8 and continue through #14, adding 7 lectures to the 7 in Joseph Smith’s Lectures of Faith.
Here are my conclusions after lengthy study of the submission process surrounding the Lectures of Repentance. First: a review. Here are some of our past statements about our involvement with the Lord on these lectures:
“We testify that He has asked us to write these lectures and share them this way,” Lectures of Repentance, Preface.
This statement holds true. Only, take note of exactly what we said:
“These lectures have been prepared carefully through the application of the spirit of prophecy and revelation as best as we have been able to do so through fasting and prayer, but I could not have written them without having so complete a framework from which to draw from, as laid down by the Prophet and Seer, Joseph Smith, Jr. I do not count myself his equal. I haven’t seen the Lord. I see through a glass darkly at this point, but through the assistance of the “Lectures on Faith,” which have acted as a Urim and Thummim, or lights and perfections, the “Lectures of Repentance” have developed in the most natural way, like the dews on the grass in the morning. There was given line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little, oftentimes only one or two phrases or paragraphs being produced in a day, and it caused me to marvel.” Preface, Lectures of Repentance
The way which the Lord asked me in answer to my prayers was through impressions (not personal visits), and to write that I see through a glass darkly. The process was a careful application, but not devoid of human weakness.
Next, here are the answers I gave to the scripture committee:
Scripture Committee Submission Criteria Question and Answers:
- Have you gone to the Lord to verify that what you received is from Him? Yes.
- Have you asked the Lord if what you have written is correct? Yes.
- Have you asked the Lord if what you have written is intended for you/your family only or is for a wider audience? If it’s for a wider audience, who is that audience? Yes, the world.
- Have you asked the Lord if you should submit this to be added to the scriptures? Yes. See explanation of how I received them above, and the future vision in my mind’s eye that I had of their inclusion before the scripture project was even contemplated.
Those are a sufficient portion of the questions that deal with the most controversial aspects. They are still true as well in the context of how I presented information in the Preface:
“Judge for yourselves if the thoughts contained in these lectures are from the mind of God or not. Test them point by point. If the ‘Lectures on Faith’ give us the springboard from which to know about God, and then advise us how to begin to know Him in reality and not just in theory, then it will be as easy to test if these lectures are good or not, as it is to tell the day from the night. They testify of Christ, and I testify of Him by the small portion of the Holy Ghost within me, and from what limited knowledge I have of God at this point in my life as I have conversed with Him through a veil only. If there are mistakes in the ‘Lectures of Repentance’, then it will be proven in time by others who have more of the mind of God than I do, but it won’t be by peer review or endless debate. If what is written is sufficient to outline the true points of Christ’s doctrine concerning repentance, as it follows the inspired conclusions and expounds upon the ‘Lectures on Faith,’ then so be it.”
Someone on the scripture committee read the line, “If there are mistakes in the ‘Lectures of Repentance’, then it will be proven in time by others who have more of the mind of God than I do, but it won’t be by peer review or endless debate,” as very confrontational. It wasn’t intended to be. It was an honest remark and expectation that chosen vessels of the Lord would have to vet what I’ve written and make corrections to parts I don’t have experience with. Those who know the Lord personally, who have seen Him, and have a commission to determine the correct tests for what is scriptural and what is not can more accurately judge those parts I wrote to the best of my ability as an unredeemed person. My efforts on these lectures equate more to Sidney Rigdon’s contributions to the Lectures on Faith than to Joseph Smith’s, and I freely admit that in the tenor of the comments in the preface. My answers to the above four questions to the scripture committee about my thoughts on the Lord’s answers to my prayers are also seeing through a glass darkly. Here is what I have learned since.
John Pratt’s article as a sign on my submission:
“Today is 1 Dog on the Sacred Round, the day on which the laws of Moses found in Deuteronomy were given. It is also one of the holiest days this year, being holy on 8 sacred calendars. To celebrate, an article identifying the laws we are supposed to be following has been posted at http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/2017/laws_of_god.html .
Enjoy (or repent, whichever applies),
“Wow! I just submitted the Lectures of Repentance for consideration to be included in the new restoration scriptures project and I had no idea of the significance of the day!”
The above interaction shows the anecdotal signs I believe in that prove to me that I did the right thing in submitting the material for consideration in the scriptures. But, I do not pretend to know all the reasons why, nor do I assume more about their meaning than the simple idea that I should take note and ponder their meaning. The scripture project is an evolving thing, and we all needed to go through this process to get to the point we are at now in discovering the scope the Lord wants on the project. My submission was part of that learning process, and it was good to bring these things to the light to be scrutinized.
Negative Reactions and My Response:
One commenter wrote that the language and style were off-putting, and found it contradicted scripture. He didn’t get around to mentioning exactly how. I wasn’t persuaded. Others have read it, including children, and been benefited. Perhaps it needed the benefit of presentations like I have started on this blog, explaining my motivations, and relating the scriptures and the message. Many have had the same reaction to the Lectures on Faith until they have become more popular of late, but the style is more like a teacher’s manual than it is simple statements. The message is plain, but it covers a lot of area in a small space. My use of older language (although it is not thee’s and thou’s, but similar technical sounding theological arguments), was before Denver Snuffer’s Testimony of John project highlighted that it was ok to cast scripture in modern language that wasn’t more formal, but in addition to that, the format of the lectures is instructive for providing a familiar layout.
A close friend of mine had some thoughts settle on him overnight after I mentioned the request for feedback about submitting them. He thought the format was clumsy, but he read through the material. He felt the timing was off, and more important parts of the scripture project needed to be focused on. I took his input seriously. He has since asked me to elaborate on the meanings in the Lectures in video / audio presentations, and I will continue to do that. I wasn’t persuaded about his comment that it could seem like I was being presumptuous. I think the Lord can speak for his own involvement in the Lectures and I never intended to be presumptuous. I just know God was involved in some way, and as I said, I see through a glass darkly on exactly how and why. All I can do is expound on a teaching level with the best of my understanding.
Which brings me to the scripture committee and the scope of the scripture project: They have been kind and I think we have learned similarly that less is more at this point in providing a set of scriptures that the Lord can accept, and in return give us a covenant in relation to it. I do not believe that seeing the Lord is the only criteria for judging if a person is a valid source of revelation. So, it is possible that the Lectures belong in the scriptures in some format, whether just as I have written them, or in a corrected form. But, we don’t have a good set of criteria that we have all learned as a group for what qualifies. Seeing the Lord is important in some way in relation to scripture writing, but he sometimes gives words to many different people in different ways. I don’t know to judge what rises to a level of scripture beyond saying it should conform to God’s character and attributes as outlined in the Lectures on Faith. But, who but those who really know God face to face can say they understand enough of God’s character to write legitimate scripture? For someone like myself, I can write by applying the spirit of prophesy and revelation as best as I can, but it takes someone more knowledgeable of God than me to judge if I did that well enough.
Impressions from Answers to Prayer
In conclusion, I haven’t been persuaded by the naysayers. Their arguments have some validity, which I have weighed out, but in the end, something was off in each of their arguments against the Lectures. They are just as blind as I am on these points, it seems. I have labored to try and dispel misunderstanding and ambiguities.
However, neither have I been persuaded by the praise I have received. Inspired teaching has reached the level of scripture at times. These lectures could be that. But, just because I am outside of the scripture committee circle, and just because I have taken long efforts to write this, doesn’t mean it ought to be in the scriptures on those points alone. Both of those praises have been advanced by some who have not even read what I wrote yet.
Later, I was talking to a friend about the process of submitting them, and he didn’t take a stance on the Lectures. While we were talking, I distinctly felt impressions in my mind about my lack of qualification to say whether these Lectures should be in the scriptures or not. They may be worthy of that designation, but in keeping with my preface that I see through a glass darkly, I am still a blind guide. I just don’t know if they should be, and I’ve only ever said I believe they should, and I envisioned them that way. I have fulfilled the obligation I had with my best impressions that I should submit them, and I have learned a little bit more as I’ve gone along. The Lectures seem to be outside of the scope of this scripture project, although not for the reasons I have heard from others so far. I can even answer the recorder’s questions positively enough to think they should be admitted on those grounds, but given the other impressions I’ve had about my lack of ability to say they should be accepted, I wonder if I am flawed in my judgment of those areas as well, or those criteria are insufficient (on their own) for determining scripture. I think we all still have a lot to learn, and these are interesting questions worth deep pondering for sure. God bless. Below are the answers to the recorder’s questions (which were put in the area on his site designated as his personal, non-official, thoughts), but again, I am not persuaded to take those answers and use them to promote the inclusion of the Lectures of Repentance in the scriptures.
Recorder’s Personal Writings about the Criteria, and My Answers (But Still Not Sufficient)
. Does the scripture emphasize a hierarchal or institutional structure rather than an equality among individuals? If the answer is yes, cast it out.
No, the lectures don’t do that
. Is the scripture to or about an individual without any other relevance to the body of the church as a whole? If the answer is yes, cast it out.
No, the lectures are for a general audience, as all mankind that is accountable needs repentance.
. Is the scripture revelatory or doctrinal in such a way that advances the reader’s knowledge of Jesus Christ and his desire to keep His commandments? If the answer is yes, keep it in.
Yes, the desire to keep his commandments is clearly evident in the intent to believe in God’s character and attributes and the connection that is made in the lectures between how keeping his commandments is a natural outcome of believing in the perfections of his character and attributes.
. Is the scripture historical without revelatory or doctrinal content? Nephi had two books; one on which he wrote the heads of the things given of the Spirit, which he should teach the people, and the other which contained the more part of the doings of the people and their wars and contentions. Same principle here. If the answer is yes, cast it out.
No, the lectures are based on scriptural teachings and the doctrine of Christ concerning spiritual matters.
. Does the scripture teach Terrestrial and Celestial principles, practices, and doctrines? If the answer is yes, keep it in. We need all this we can get.
Not sure what the exact differences are, or what definitions this question includes.
. Does the scripture contain anything pertaining to a covenant of land for the development of the New Jerusalem? If the answer is yes, keep it in.
. Does the scripture develop understanding of the Patriarchal Order? If the answer is yes, keep it in, because that which was in the beginning concerning government and priesthood will also be part of this covenant.
. Does the scripture develop a more complete understanding of the ordinances of Baptism, Sacrament, Marriage and Priesthood Ordination applicable to this new dispensation?
Yes, Keith in fact said there would be more revelation on the two types of baptism and Lecture 14 speaks on this topic and references Keith’s post on that idea. The approaches to baptism and sacrament are consistent with all that Denver Snuffer has mentioned expounding scripture on those topics.
To recap, I won’t be advocating that these lectures be included in the scriptures. They were submitted, but it may be wise to exclude them from the voting list. I just don’t know. That is out of my hands. Maybe someone who knows the Lord better will vet them and make corrections if needed. Maybe they are just useful teaching lessons. Maybe there is a better way to present the material. I will continue to do presentations on them to aid in understanding the message that includes things the Lord helped in illuminating for me. At this level, I still have a right to teach, preach, expound, and exhort all to come unto Christ, which is done through weak people like myself. There are also those who are chosen beyond that level to convey Christ’s words and put His name on it, and we are learning we want those messages in the scripture set for this project to take back to Him for approval. I do not know if these lectures rise to that level. That will be for others to determine, or improve them so they can be claimed as such.
I was interviewed on Shawn McCraney’s “Heart of the Matter” internet TV show about this site and the fellowship movement.
As promised, the agreed upon delay with Amazon has passed and download of Lectures of Repentance on pdf and e-reader is now available for free here.
Books can still be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Lectures-Repentance-Brian-F-Zang/dp/1537298984/ with the price set as low as Amazon will let me (basically at cost) with whatever small proceeds going to the fellowships and charity, if there are any.
“Fellowship” is the preferred term because it more appropriately describes the activity involved, and relegates it to close-knit gatherings of family and friends. Don’t you fellowship in family reunions, but still attend your own churches? Do you consider your family reunions a “church”?
Even so, it can definitely be called the church of Christ by definition of that term as well, even if they are not organized as a corporate church structure:
Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. And now, remember the words of him who is the life and light of the world, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Amen. (D&C 10:67-70).
There is no need for another corporate church structure:
True religion, when it is present on the earth, always existed in a community of believers. If we do not have community then we cannot be willing to mourn with those that mourn. We cannot comfort those that stand in need of comfort. We cannot stand as a witness to one another of God at all times and of all places. We cannot bear one another’s burdens so they may be light, as is required by the gospel and the covenant of baptism. None of this can be done without fellowship between believers. However, we do not need a new corporate church. The only thing we need is a community to fellowship one another. Whether called a ‘community,’ or ‘fellowship’ or ‘society’ it does not matter. Legal entities, whenever formed, become prey to the law. Men can gain control over legal entities. Legal entities are vulnerable to sycophants willing to do whatever is required to show they are desperately submissive to those in power. Hierarchies invite abuse. Aspiring men can always corrupt whatever is organized on the earth. (Denver Snuffer, Preserving the Restoration, pp. 504-505, see also the crucial and illuminating footnotes on those pages).
What we refer to as the “LDS Church” is a legal entity. Fellowships are “churches” in the generic use of the term. When you read D&C 10, do you consider Christ was referring to an earthly legal entity, or the generic use of the term applied to the conditions he specified?
Consider also, though, that the fellowships are not fully organized as the church of Christ might be, seeing that much of the labor needed in the fellowships is at this time decidedly left to the angels to sort out later (see D&C 20, D&C 42, and JST Matthew 13:39-44). Therefore, a portion of the organizational boundaries for our “church” encompasses the powers of heaven beyond the veil. On this side of the veil in the fellowships, we don’t necessarily exclude others by reference to church articles, nor do we necessarily exclude others from taking the sacrament. We are promised in scripture the following, when all necessary church politics will be sorted out by those angels and Christ Himself:
And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:1-14; see also Luke 14:15-24).
As Christ says, we don’t destroy the law or the prophets (3 Nephi 12:17) or any church articles, but we seek to live the true intent of them, and not one jot or tittle shall pass away, but shall all be fulfilled in their due time, even if in our limited mortal perspective things look out of place, or out of order. God wills it, and so we must invite all to the wedding feast from the highways and the byways without judgment. These small and simple things will have a great impact, and we refuse to strain at the gnats, because thereby we might swallow the camel (Matthew 23:24). The doctrine of Christ is our priority now. It is useless to build up a superstructure that has no heart and soul. It becomes an empty shell, and the revelations that the early Saints pressed Joseph for were largely premature for them, or missing the mark concerning God’s priorities for the Restoration. But, they were given what they asked for. Even so, all things, including the elaborate church structure contained in the D&C, testify of Christ, and have their place in the Gospel (see Moses 6:63).
As before explained, the “doctrine” in the Doctrine and Covenants was the Lectures on Faith which were removed by the LDS Church in 1920. The “covenants” were not all covenants between God and man, but also covenants between themselves as a church. The early Latter-day Saints believed “in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church”. So do we, but we do not covenant with each other to be so governed in the fellowships. There are no offices. We covenant to pattern in a way that allows the fulness to return, which is less administrative outwardly, and more administered in one’s heart, with the law written on people’s hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3). It is a higher standard befitting friends and family–if we can be so called, and if we avoid contention significantly enough. If not, we devolve into the need for offices and presiding authorities.
The following statement from Denver Snuffer is instructive: “An unchanging God has an unchanging gospel. Rather than taking pride in our ordinances, we should view ourselves in our lost and fallen state. Rebuild faith through repentance. Once the inward part has been cleansed there will be time to worry about the outward part.” (Denver Snuffer, Preserving the Restoration, p. 230).
Who is a wise and a just servant? (see JST, Luke 12:41-57).
The publication date on Amazon says Aug 30, because they take a few days to setup the page, but the date printed in the book is Sept 3, 2016.
I asked John Pratt back in April when the Jewish New Year was this year (Rosh Hashanah, or Feast of Trumpets). He mentioned that on his “Perpetual Hebrew Calendar” it falls on today’s date. His calendar accounts for the biblical description of the Jewish calendar a little better, and I thought it would be interesting if I finished the lectures by then. I have been working on them since 2012 in my spare time. I still had about three more lectures to write by then, but they came along smoothly.
If the Feast of Trumpets begins at sundown on Friday, Sept 2 (John, you can correct me on that), and includes Saturday, Sept 3, then Yom Kippur would follow ten days after, using the date of the 2nd as the count of the first day, and would fall on Sunday the 11th, at end of the general conference in Boise. It seems quite fitting to have a series on repentance available during the time when, traditionally, the observant Jew would prepare for ten days for the great Day of Atonement, inspecting their soul for anything amiss and turning to face God on that great day.
We hope you will find the lectures useful! Feel free to spread the word in your circles!
I would post a pdf copy for free here, but although its independent publishing, Amazon does have its rules for certain options, so I will put up the pdf after the 90 day waiting period.