Do I Have to Live the LDS Word of Wisdom or Pay Tithing to Be Baptized?

Absolutely not!

It can be argued that the clear commandments of God in scripture could be used to require that a person repent of specific sins before being allowed to be baptized, but in the case of the Word of Wisdom, the Lord expressly stated it was to be “without commandment or restraint” (D&C 89:1-3), making it a subject off limits for baptismal requirements.

Regarding tithing, it is a “standing law unto the church” (D&C 119:4). It is commonly thought that baptism makes one a member of the LDS Church. While valid and sincere baptism defines a member of Christ’s church, and establishes a relationship between the convert and the Lord, the association of that convert with other individuals requires that they be confirmed to an office called “member” and that they subscribe to the code of conduct of that body of believers. Confirmation can rightly require agreement to a code of conduct (including the paying of tithes to be considered a member in good standing), but baptism cannot specifically require anything other than the broad requirement of “repent of all your sins”, being those sins that you are aware of, and being that you forsake in your heart and confess the behavior as sinful, and not that you fully have modified your behavior yet (see our posts here and here).

Such modification comes after assistance from the Holy Ghost, or mind of God, as it is bestowed more fully upon the person who is baptized. Can’t you see how repentance only requires facing the right direction, and the heavy lifting comes from the Lord after one exercises their faith to be baptized? To expect a false interpretation of “forsaking sin” beyond merely a change of heart is to require the sinner to fully reform before having the grace of God to be able to do so. It is oppressive, and ungodly. To require a commitment to tithe before one is baptized (as opposed to requiring it before confirmation only) is to run close to priestcraft, and charging for ordinances. But, the LDS have merged baptism and confirmation as one ordinance, so hence the confusion (see our post here).

The novel (and more scripturally correct) idea is that you can be baptized first, and then confirmed much later if you are slow to reform your behavior after getting the mind of God. Confirmation needs a godly walk and conversation after baptism. The church articles are clear:

The duty of the members after they are received by baptism—The elders or priests are to have a sufficient time to expound all things concerning the church of Christ to their understanding, previous to their partaking of the sacrament and being confirmed by the laying on of the hands of the elders, so that all things may be done in order. And the members shall manifest before the church, and also before the elders, by a godly walk and conversation, that they are worthy of it, that there may be works and faith agreeable to the holy scriptures—walking in holiness before the Lord. D&C 20:68-69.

But, you can still be saved even if you are slow and don’t rise up to be a member yet. Therefore, get baptized and don’t fear! Let the increase of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost assist you in your quest to become more like God! Don’t worry about member status and obligations until you are ready. Consider also, that the Lord never intended the Word of Wisdom to be a requirement for membership, or temple attendance.

Advertisements

If My Temple Recommend is Revoked, How Do I Worship?

The scriptures about the ancient kingdoms of Israel are illustrative for answering this question. They were originally one kingdom through the reigns of Kings David and Solomon, but after Solomon’s reign, they divided into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

The Kingdom of Judah, who governed the temple of Solomon and had official priests and a line of authority, were idolatrous by worshiping their leaders. Jeremiah proclaimed that Jehovah himself pointed this out and said that when they prophesied, pretending it was from Him, it was more like it was from Baal instead:

The priests said not, Where is the Lord? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit. (Jeremiah 2:8).

The Kingdom of Israel rebelled against Solomon’s royal line and worshiped in high places and in groves.  They were idolatrous by worshiping the hosts of heaven instead of God alone:

And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only. (2 Kings 17:16-18).

Eventually, the Kingdom of Judah gave up all pretenses, and after an insincere and feigned return to Jehovah worship during King Josiah’s reign, they became involved in full blown idolatry by worshiping the hosts of heaven as well:

¶The Lord said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord. And the Lord said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah. (Jeremiah 3:6-11).

In both cases, God rejected them when they got it wrong, including the Jews when their temple worship missed the mark (you only have to skim Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel and other prophets to catch that theme). But, He also supported them both when they got it right, even though the Deuteronomists and King Josiah’s reformers in the Southern Kingdom of Judah modified the sacred record to reflect a condemnation of all worship in high places outside of the central temple in Jerusalem (see this scripture search for “high places” to notice the parenthetical insertions with the pattern: “But the high places were not taken away” throughout the book of the 2 Kings, for starters). The hypocrisy of Judah condemning Israel for worshiping outside of the temple manifested itself by Judah turning fully to idolatry themselves. They were just as bad, and eventually they stopped covering it up with the cloak of the official religion laid down by Moses.

The fact that God called prophets in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, most notably Elijah with his worship at an altar out in the open at Mount Carmel (see 1 Kings 18), proves that God recognizes worship outside of the temples built by religious establishments and the priestly class. The Kingdom of Israel had no temple, so all of its prophets were unofficial in terms of “authorized” temple worship.

Joseph Smith explained how both forms of worship–in a temple and on the mountain top–could be appropriate:

I preached in the grove on the keys of the Kingdom, Charity &c The keys are certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages may be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed–The rich can only get them in the Temple–the poor may get them on the Mountain top as did Moses. The rich cannot be saved without Charity, giving to feed the poor when and how God requires as well as building. There are signs in heaven, earth, and hell, the Elders must know them all to be endowed with power, to finish their work and prevent imposition. The devil knows many signs but does not know the sign of the Son of Man, or Jesus. No one can truly say he knows God until he has handled something, and this can only be in the Holiest of Holies. (Manuscript History of the Church, 1 May 1842, Sunday Morning, Grove, Ehat, Andrew F., and Cook, Lyndon W., Words of Joseph Smith, pp.120-121)

Furthermore, Alma in the Book of Mormon asserts:

Behold thy brother hath said, What shall we do?—for we are cast out of our synagogues, that we cannot worship our God. Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only? And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week? I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn wisdom; for it is necessary that ye should learn wisdom; for it is because that ye are cast out, that ye are despised of your brethren because of your exceeding poverty, that ye are brought to a lowliness of heart; for ye are necessarily brought to be humble. (Alma 32:9-12).

So therefore, the LDS are much like the Kingdom of Judah, and the residue that have left the LDS Church to worship on their own are much like the Kingdom of Israel. Both scenarios can have excesses and insincere, unaccepted worship, as well as sincere and true worship. So, contrary to the prejudices of many active Latter-day Saints, non-members can legitimately worship outside of LDS temples, and still worship appropriately in the spirit of the temple.

On February 22, 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith mentioned worship on the mountaintops when he instructed concerning an exploration of the West for a settlement of the Saints. He said:

I want every man that goes to be a king and a priest. When he gets on the mountains he may want to talk with his God (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 224).

The Lord cuts a path between the extremists of the two by seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (see John 4:23), whether they be in the temple or on the mountains, or at a home altar. In “spirit” because His word is spirit, as the mind of God lays an unseen path before the believer to follow; and in “truth” because the faith and action of the believer brings the realities of the spirit (or the mind of God) into existence in the natural world when they elect to follow His commands. The realities of the spirit are only real if God has truly ordained it as opposed to it coming from a frenzied mind and heated imagination, and only if the believer has followed God’s words and guidance correctly.

And then received ye spirits which ye could not understand, and received them to be of God; and in this are ye justified? Behold ye shall answer this question yourselves; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto you; he that is weak among you hereafter shall be made strong. . . . And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? If it be some other way it is not of God. (D&C 50:15-16,19-20). And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come. (D&C 93:24).

Can an LDS Baptism Still Be Valid After April 2014 Conference?

We have mentioned that the LDS Church has lost its rights to the Priesthood of God as a collective body, but individuals may maintain a connection to heaven if they consistently qualify themselves in the Lord’s eyes. (See posts here and here).

Those who baptize as representatives of the LDS Church have common consent to use their priesthood within an LDS Church setting, so if they are properly ordained (see here and read the comments on the post here) and follow the Lord’s instructions (see here) while ignoring the LDS Handbook of Instructions when it contradicts the scriptures, (as Boyd K. Packer admonished in the training meeting on the handbook –see 2010 Worldwide Training Meeting – Concluding Remarks, and as our Lord and Savior showed by his example against the Pharisees of his day –see Matthew 23), then you can be confident the Lord will acknowledge such faith, even within an LDS setting, and signs will follow those that believe (see Ether 4:18).

For example, missionaries (or those who baptize) should not make baptism dependent on answering the question “Do you believe that [current Church President] is a prophet of God?” (Preach My Gospel Manual, pp. 203-212). See our post here and the post entitled “Baptism is Mandatory” here. Otherwise, the scriptures make it very clear that “anything more or less than this cometh of evil” (see 3 Nephi 11:40), with “this” referring to the doctrine of Christ, requiring only believing in Him and repenting of your sins to be qualified to be baptized (see post here).

 

Why Aren’t Baptisms By the Priesthood Outside of Church Followed By Confirmation?

The Fourth Article of Faith for Mormons states:

“We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Articles of Faith 1:4)

Jesus calls the gift of the Holy Ghost, “the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost”. (D&C 20:41)

There seems to be three ways in the scriptures in which the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost is received:

  1. After offering a broken heart and a contrite spirit. 3 Nephi 9:20 and Moroni 8:26. In this case, the recipient may not know they have received the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, and they may never become official members of any earthly extension of the church in this life but still be members of Christ’s heavenly church as defined in D&C 10:69.
  2. Believe in Christ, repent, and be baptized by immersion. 3 Nephi 11:22-41 (the doctrine of Christ) and 2 Nephi 31. There is no mention of the laying on of hands in these scriptures . . . just baptism and repentance and belief in Christ.
  3. By the laying on of hands by someone who has been touched by Jesus and given power to confer the gift. 3 Nephi 18:36-37 and Moroni 2.

What does the LDS confirmation ordinance mean, then? In my opinion, I see the LDS confirmation as honoring the above 3 scenarios by commanding the new member to “Receive the Holy Ghost”, and it is an ordinance that can be done by those who have not been touched by Jesus yet. However, contrary to tradition, it does NOT confer the gift of the Holy Ghost in and of itself without one of the three conditions above being met at the same time. See D&C 20:38-43, also see Oliver Cowdery’s Apostle’s charge below:

“It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven to yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God. That is more than the testimony of an angel. When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out; although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven.  Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid his hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. If the Savior in former days laid his hands upon his disciples, why not in latter days? . . .  The time is coming when you will be perfectly familiar with the things of God. . . . You have our best wishes, you have our most fervent prayers, that you may be able to bear this testimony, that you have seen the face of God. Therefore call upon him in faith in mighty prayer till you prevail, for it is your duty and your privilege to bear such a testimony for yourselves.” (Documentary History of the Church, 2:196.)

Taking the point from Cowdery’s charge, with a two part process wherein an elder/apostle is ordained and then has his ordination completed by having hands laid on him by the Savior, it stands to reason that the LDS Church, considering the interim between the two events, innovated an ordinance that inadvertently highlights the fact that some elders don’t have power to confer the Holy Ghost, but allows for the possibility that another one of the conditions might be met and the gift might actually be bestowed anyway. In fact, in a revelation to Ezra Thayre and Northrup Sweet before either of them had received the high priesthood, the Lord anticipated this disparity and said to these two elders (whose ordinations were incomplete), “And whoso having faith you shall confirm in my church, by the laying on of the hands, and I will bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost upon them,” (D&C 33:15). In this verse, it is the Lord who bestows the gift in a separate way, reminiscent of scenarios 1 and 2 above. The laying on of hands in this revelation deals only with confirming someone a member of the organization, which is similar to the current LDS practice today.

The language with the verbal command to “receive” puts the burden on the recipient, rather than on the minister as in Moroni 2. It appears the LDS Church has quite forgotten any of the reasoning behind the ordinance’s ambiguous language, however, and we are stuck having to reverse-engineer it to consider things.

Additionally, one very interesting historical point (if I have a correct understanding of what was happening at the time) is found in contrasting D&C 20:68-69 with D&C 52:10-11.

D&C 20:68-69 “The duty of the members after they are received by baptism—The elders or priests are to have a sufficient time to expound all things concerning the church of Christ to their understanding, previous to their partaking of the sacrament and being confirmed by the laying on of the hands of the elders, so that all things may be done in order. And the members shall manifest before the church, and also before the elders, by a godly walk and conversation, that they are worthy of it, that there may be works and faith agreeable to the holy scriptures—walking in holiness before the Lord.”

D&C 52:10-11 “Let them go two by two, and thus let them preach by the way in every congregation, baptizing by water, and the laying on of the hands by the water’s side. For thus saith the Lord, I will cut my work short in righteousness, for the days come that I will send forth judgment unto victory.”

In section 20, we see the rule set down by the Lord in the church articles, that there is to be a “sufficient time” for “the members after they are received by baptism…previous to their partaking of the sacrament and being confirmed by the laying on of hands of the elders, so that all things may be done in order” (my emphasis).

Yet, during a conference in Kirtland in 1831, when the high priesthood was first conferred on members of the Church, the Lord explained that, for the purpose of “cut[ting] my work short in righteousness,” they were to go “two by two…baptizing by water, and the laying on of the hands by the water’s side.” There was to be no delay between baptism and confirmation. This was obviously an exception to the rule set out in the church articles, and a special revelation designated it was expedient to do so, yet the exception has become the rule without any indication of whether or not the Lord wanted the exception ended at some point. Perhaps the Lord wanted the church built up quickly with voting members to prepare for the Kirtland temple, or some other righteous purpose.

Today, Mission Presidents and Stake Presidents seem confused as to whether or not they should confirm right away, or wait until fast and testimony meeting at least, and there is no indication that a long period of, say, a year or more, would be considered as an appropriate waiting time between baptism and confirmation, like the scriptures suggest. They cite evidence of losing new members who, within the week’s time between baptism and confirmation, have somehow fallen prey to the adversary, assuming it is because they didn’t get the Holy Ghost in time to secure their membership. If such a fear were valid, then D&C 20:68-69 would never have been written, and the Lamanites referred to in 3 Nephi 9, would never have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost (see Helaman 5).

I’ll leave that for your consideration, because I’m sure there is much more to learn about the subject, but suffice it to say, we don’t confirm by the laying on of hands, seeing that we don’t have any command from the Lord to do so outside of a church context, and not having authority yet to do so, and not having been touched by Jesus ourselves yet. For now we look for the gift by way of the three scriptural precedents above.

But, in an LDS context, confirmation is also used to confirm someone a member of the LDS Church, and it is wholly appropriate to charge the newly confirmed member to receive the Holy Ghost from God in one of the above mentioned ways, as charging someone to receive something is different than bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost itself.

Outside of the LDS Church, we are only baptizing and re-baptizing others, and not confirming anyone as members of Christ’s church, since there is no new church being formed. See my post here to learn about the extension of Christ’s church beyond the boundaries of the LDS institution, and such a definition of Christ’s church requires one to be authorized to confirm members into it, which authority we do not claim to possess at this time. With the LDS Church losing Priesthood authority, we consider the church of Christ as having entered into the “wilderness” again, or in other words, membership in Christ’s church stands as a status between the individual and the Lord, with no earthly extension of the Lord’s church being organized at this time, although a person can belong to the church of the Lamb by definition.

Certainly a worthy Priesthood holder (see the post here and read the comments) could confirm someone a member of Christ’s heavenly church by the laying on of hands (as explained above, an ordinance preliminary to the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, commanding the recipient merely “receive the Holy Ghost” as a future endeavor) if so directed by him, but such an ordinance would not make the person a member of the institution of the LDS Church led by Salt Lake, as that ordinance requires their common consent.

 

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.

Am I Violating My Temple Covenants If I’m Failing In My Church Calling, etc.?

This question assumes a certain definition of “failing” in a calling given by church leaders, presuming also that the calling has come from God, but let’s break things down a little further.

In this post where we addressed what God authorizes and allows an individual to do, and whether or not an individual can do what Latter-day Saints do on their own, we said we would address the issue that not all things that the Latter-day Saints do are approved of God. This ties into the opposite concern about what God does not authorize someone to do. The obvious answer to this concern lies in what he has revealed we should not do, contained in all of the “thou shalt not’s” that we are familiar with in the commandments.

Of particular importance to this post are the commands to keep the Sabbath day holy, and to “not do any work” therein (Exodus 20:10), and to “not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

The LDS Church claims inspiration from God in callings given to members. The command to not take the name of the Lord in vain presumes that an authority figure CAN make a mistake in claiming that a particular call has come from God. It certainly may be inspired, but it also may be for personal motives, or to get a job done, or to gather like-minded individuals into quorums and presidencies to affect a personal agenda they want to implement. Whatever the reasons, it is evident that some of the motives for calling individuals are not of God.

The 5th Article of Faith accepted by the LDS Church says:

“We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.” (Articles of Faith 1:5)

What most LDS members don’t understand is that the prophecy inherent in the call in this verse is to the individual as much as it is to the authority figure making the call. The authority figure’s prerogative and right is addressed in the prophetic call being confirmed by them, as it says: “by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority”. This allows for the authority figure(s) to have a check against imposition from calls that are not from God. But in the case of a legitimate call from God to service, the prophecy comes to the individual: “Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work” (D&C 4:3). The subject that receives the desires and the call is the individual. It does not say, “if the elders of the church have desires for you to serve God, ye are called to the work.” If you are to take the position that the desire comes to the individual and the call comes from the authorities upon their notice of an individual’s desires, then you still need to account for the inspired desire that God says must be in the individual. There are many individuals who receive a call who don’t want to do it at all. It is one thing to want to serve God at first and then change your mind after, but it is another thing to not have any desire to do what a leader proposes in the first place. There must be a balance.

It is entirely possible that lacking a desire to do as a leader asks is not an indication of laziness or insubordination at all. It may be your conscience telling you that what they are asking of you is not inspired by God, and that they are using the name of the Lord in vain. As a member of the LDS Church, you not only have the obligation to consider what the leaders ask of you, but you have the obligation to your God according to these scriptures to consider whether or not God has inspired in you a desire to do that particular task as well. If after cleansing your heart from impurity, the inspiration and desire still doesn’t come, don’t do it. Don’t sacrifice your conscience in the name of obeying a leader.

With the clarity of purpose for the commandments that Jesus expounded in his Sermon on the Mount, no one has any excuse for not understanding what God asks of us and what God forbids. In the Sermon and elsewhere, he has commanded that there should be no priestcrafts, which are that someone sets themselves up for a light to get gain and the praise of the world (2 Nephi 26:29). Any agenda in a church meeting fitting this description is forbidden by God. We are not authorized by God to support meetings or individuals when they cross this line. We can support them in good endeavors, but we must have our own moral compass to make a stand against unrighteous and vain endeavors.

The definition that the Lord gives of the church that we covenant to support is the same as his doctrine: “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” (D&C 10:67-68). We are authorized to build up this definition of the church, especially within the LDS Church if we can. The two are not necessarily synonymous, though, because as soon as any agenda in any church meeting runs contrary to helping people repent of sin and come into Christ’s presence in this life, that meeting is not a meeting of Christ’s church as defined by him. On the other hand, even outside of the LDS institution, where two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, there he will be also, and there is his church (Matthew 18:20). If one were to draw a Venn diagram, the LDS Church and the Lord’s Church might have some overlap, but it would still be a Venn diagram nonetheless, with the definition of the Lord’s church necessarily encompassing a much broader scope than what an earthly institution can offer.

Therefore, we are not authorized to labor on a Sunday, especially if that labor is a vain meeting imposed on us by a calling or assignment not from God. Contrarily, if a calling or assignment is from God and requires legitimate service to your fellow man, you will be filled with righteous desire and can confidently offer up your vows on the Sabbath or any other day, even if a church leader disagrees with your behavior. One only needs to skim the New Testament to see that the Lord Himself contradicted his own church leaders on what he decided to do on the Sabbath or in any other context (see Matthew 9:11, Matthew 12:2, and Matthew 12:12-13 for instance) and what he refused to do even when pressed by authority figures (see Luke 22:67).

Because some have mistakenly equated the institution as synonymous with the church of Christ in every moment and every circumstance, they have been led astray by language in secret covenants that imply complete devotion to the institution. Much vain labor, and even wicked practice, has been indulged in “for the oath’s sake” (see Moses 5:50), and without regard to whether or not it was a righteous thing to do. If the definition of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is taken to mean those who repent and come unto Christ as outlined in D&C 10, and referring to those of us today who are or who are attempting to be Saints in these latest days in contrast to those Saints of former days, then the covenant can be fulfilled without regard to any earthly institution, even institutions claiming to protect or be the true church of Christ. One only need to concern themselves with the words and their meaning as opposed to an organization putting those words together as its title.

Interestingly, David O. McKay summarized (or directly quoted) the covenant in question in a speech to departing missionaries as “I will consecrate my life, my time, my talents to the advancement of the Kingdom of God,” (Anderson, Devery S. editor, The Development of LDS Temple Worship: 1846-2000, A Documentary History, Signature Books: SLC, 2011, p. 268), suggesting that the language of the covenant may’ve been altered some time after this 1941 speech to include the name of the Church. Since many LDS members and leaders view the “kingdom of God” as synonymous with the LDS Church as well, this may be a moot point in persuading them to look at the scriptures differently. Regardless, it can be seen that definitions matter in how one perceives if they have “failed” in their callings, and whether or not those calls to service are from God or not. Failing in an assignment that was vain to begin with, might very well be doing service to God as you fill your time with more meaningful purposes.

An institution that believes it is the sole provider of authoritative ordinances from God and continuously regards itself as being the only true church upon the face of the whole earth, irrespective of its shifting doctrines and irregardless of whether or not it actually is built upon Christ’s Gospel at any given moment in time (see 3 Nephi 27:8), will definitely have agendas from time to time that are not of God. In such instances of departure from Christ’s Gospel, these institutions will more likely resemble a corporation trying to retain employees that makes them do unauthorized labors on the Sabbath day, all while claiming in vain that the Lord instructed the false service and sacrifice they have demanded of you. Refusing such impositions is not failing in your calling or your obligations to God at all. Realistically, it is honoring the institution you belong to just as much as it is for a child to refuse to do wrong even if their parent tells them to. When an institution fails to meet up to its own standards, honor the best version of that institution instead. If it really does claim to be of God, they ought to thank you for that if and when they come to their senses. Honor God.

Is the LDS Church the Only Resource For Authoritative Ordinances?

The answer is a resounding “no”.

We’ve touched on this briefly in other posts (see here and here), but it deserves further treatment.

In the post about exercising faith outside of any church, we didn’t elaborate on this much, but it is implied and inclusive in the quote from the Lectures on Faith about individual faith:

“…the extent of their knowledge, respecting his character and glory, will depend upon their diligence and faithfulness in seeking after him…” (Lectures on Faith L2 ¶55)

There is more than one way to obtain knowledge respecting God’s character and glory than just reading the revelations God has given man. In a revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1832, the Lord said:

“And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.” (D&C 84:19-22)

Ordinances are a ritualistic communication of symbols and ideas through experiential ceremony. Everyone understands that sign language can convey as much meaning, if not more, than the spoken or written word. The concept is no different for ordinances. Ordinances represent a legitimate way by which abstract concepts concerning God’s character can be communicated through concrete symbols and allusions. But, who can guarantee that a representation, or even a revelation for that matter, is from God, and properly reflective of what he wants to reveal about himself?

The issue of authority is one of trust in the individual conveying the message, as well as trust in the content of the message.

-Is the individual in question sent by God to convey the message or ordinance? and,

-Is the information accurately conveyed?

Both questions are vitally important to get an accurate view of something revealed by God through others. In addition to this, God can and does reveal himself without intermediaries (see James 1:5), speaking straight to individuals. This all goes to the heart of our conversation about these topics. When priesthood is viewed as a legitimate relationship between the true and living God and a messenger OR an individual, the phrase, “without the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh,” makes sense. It is a plain statement of an obvious conclusion. The “authority” lies in whether or not an individual or messenger truly has spoken with God, at each event and communication in question.

Read this scriptural thought again like so: “without the authority of [an actual communication or connection with heaven], the power of godliness is not [communicated] unto men in the flesh.” It is so obvious as to seem ludicrous to have to mention it, but still, the obvious is sometimes not-so-obvious for those with selfish ambitions. The point of such a statement is to highlight the fact that God himself governs any and all communications about himself, and forbids anyone to take his name in vain, and say they are representing knowledge about him when he hasn’t asked them to. The only way to know if another person is properly authorized by God to convey a message is to have a communication from God yourself about the content of that message.

Hopefully, one has enough trustworthy information from others about God to enable them to get an answer from the true and living God concerning other messages he sends or communicates. Fortunately, God has endowed man with common sense and reason to begin to form their first opinions concerning the legitimacy of messages about God’s character. Anti-Christs have twisted reason to appeal to this basic, fundamental skill of all intelligent beings (see Helaman 16:18), but that doesn’t mean we ought to throw out the use of all good reason. As the Lectures on Faith point out in general, it is not reasonable to assume that any being could obtain and preserve power in the universe without being just, merciful, loving, truthful, faithful, AND fair, or else some other more desirable figure would have at some point dethroned him. Therefore, after obtaining the idea that such a being as a God actually exists, any rational, intelligent soul can exercise faith in such a being so as to obtain answers from Him directly. Messengers can and do offer a benefit to others, but all messages can be independently obtained, and in fact must be, to be verified as coming from God.

This connection to heaven, or “priesthood” as the scriptures denote it, is the essential authority needed for seeking out the Lord through faith, so as to obtain the foundation of knowledge concerning his character and attributes upon which salvation is obtained. All of this is done and described in scripture without any reference to church membership. Only the authority of the priesthood, or connection to heaven, is required.

The LDS Church necessarily has common sense protections against the imposition of claims to “priesthood” or connections with heaven upon its members. However, such protections extend only to the group’s common consent to allow any communication to stand as the accepted voice of the group, and to reject any communication as a group. Can you see how unreasonable it is to suggest that one individual can claim that a private communication is acceptable to the group without the group’s consent? An individual can claim to have a message for a group, but it is up to the group to decide if it accepts or rejects that message as having come from God. An imposition comes if an individual claims their message is accepted by a group before the group decides to accept it.

In the case of the LDS Church, one man has been appointed to have the final say as to what the group accepts, and this man is the President of the Church. The members have long since given up their rights to confirm what that one man proposes, and instead they only sustain it after it is decided, but that is besides the point. Others may deliver messages from God to the group, but according to what the LDS have agreed upon, only one man can decide if the group accepts or rejects the message (according to their interpretation of D&C 43:5-7). Individuals in the group must decide if they accept or sustain that man’s decisions for the group. D&C 43:5-7 does not mean that no one can deliver messages to the group other than the President of the Church. Even the LDS interpretation of that passage only means that no one but the President can claim on behalf of the group that the message is a revelation from God to the group. If the LDS allowed for it, the President could accept revelations from others, even non-members, as binding upon the group as revelations to the group, but with traditional LDS interpretations of “the gate” as being only an LDS baptism, and “ordination” as being only an LDS ordination, it is unlikely that will ever happen.

Despite their faulty interpretations of D&C 43, a message can still be shared by an outsider, and it may in fact come from God. What the Lord advised the LDS people to be looking for was a messenger who had entered into the scriptural “gate” and had been “ordained” as the scriptures outline, whether they be a church member or not. The President of the LDS Church is accountable if he rejects a true message from God and refuses to give it the status of “revelation for the group” if it has indeed come from God from an outside source. It is possible that the terms “gate” and “ordination” in D&C 43 can refer to the works of God independent of any other servant’s authority, but by God himself (see 2 Nephi 9:41 and JST, Genesis 14:25-29 for other possible scriptural interpretations as to what God meant in D&C 43 when he said “as I have told you before” concerning the manner of entering in by the gate and receiving ordination).

Can you also see how unreasonable it is for the group to likewise suggest that what they have consented to as coming from God for the group is imposing on all individuals, except as those individual are involved in group practices? The group can claim to have a message for all individuals (like the Family Proclamation to the world), but it is up to individuals to accept or reject that message as authoritative. The group and the individual stand independent of one another and accountable to God for what they accept or reject. But by the same token, neither have a monopoly on God’s communications and ordinances (see 2 Nephi 29:8-11 , and read it carefully, likening it to the Latter-day Saints or yourself).

Therefore, the LDS Church is not the only resource for authoritative ordinances. Those who have a legitimate connection to heaven, or who have priesthood, are resources for communications and ordinances from God, as God directs. Likewise, obtaining communication from God yourself is equally available to test and vet communications from others. No priesthood holder (whether they belong to any church or not) can impose their messages on a group without the group’s consent, and neither can a group claim to have sole communication rights with heaven. Joseph Smith himself was a priesthood holder without a church for quite some time before the church was organized, as were many scriptural examples such as John the Beloved, Lehi in the wilderness, and so on. It is God who rules over all, and who requires us to be one in these matters (D&C 38:27), without contention (3 Nephi 11:29).