I was interviewed on Shawn McCraney’s “Heart of the Matter” internet TV show about this site and the fellowship movement.
I was interviewed on Shawn McCraney’s “Heart of the Matter” internet TV show about this site and the fellowship movement.
For today’s post-LDS gospel dispensation, the servant of the Lord instructed: “How does the authority to baptize come? Because John the Baptist laid his hand on Joseph and Oliver, we have continued the practice to lay hands to confer Aaronic Priesthood. We should continue to respect that tradition. No one should baptize until they have had Aaronic priesthood conferred on them by someone who can trace their authority back to John the Baptist, through Joseph and Oliver.” (Denver Snuffer, “Preserving the Restoration,” p. 508).
The LDS Church doesn’t keep a record of Aaronic Priesthood lines of authority; nor does it keep a record of the date of the conferral of a particular priesthood, only the record of significant ordinations to office, which are subsequently traced as their version of a line of authority (see https://www.lds.org/help/support/request-a-priesthood-line-of-authority?lang=eng). An ordination to an office often occurs on the same day and at the same time as the conferral of priesthood. As the LDS typically ordain men first to the office of “elder” when conferring the Melchizedek Priesthood, the line of authority for an elder will be the one closest to their priesthood conferral date, as opposed to an ordaining as a seventy, high priest, apostle, or patriarch. If you have record of a pre-April 2014 LDS priesthood conferral for Aaronic Priesthood and want to use that for your entry in the line, then that would seem sufficient. You will likely have trouble obtaining the dates for all of your prior line members for the same, however, because of what was mentioned above about the lack of records for Aaronic Priesthood lines.
However, in beautiful parallelism and in somewhat of a chiasmus, the LDS temple ceremony used to call the Aaronic Priesthood the “lower level of the Melchizedek Priesthood,” at the same time as calling their Melchizedek Priesthood the “higher level of the Aaronic Priesthood” (see Anderson, Devery Scott, “Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History,” p. xxxiii). This is, of course, in a different context than Denver Snuffer’s descriptions of priesthood categories in chapter 5 of “Preserving the Restoration” titled “Priesthood,” but it is fitting for the context of this post. Therefore, the date when one obtained what the LDS call “Melchizedek Priesthood,” (again, provided this is before April 2014 general conference), could be considered the culmination of their receipt of the Aaronic Priesthood (and, of course, only in terms of it being an authoritative invitation to obtain power from God to perform service in his name). The notes in our post here describe how to confer the priesthood with authority subsequent to the LDS Church’s apostasy, and won’t be repeated here.
But, as far as passing on a line of authority goes, if someone in the line was ordained legitimately in the LDS Church, one could reckon their date from their latest office ordination (as the LDS Church does), or choose the date for their ordination as an elder to tie it closer to the latest conferral of priesthood, or choose the date of the Aaronic Priesthood office, if that is all that is available (or, if that is what is considered preferable). Then, at Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery’s level in the line, tie the line to the conferral of the Aaronic Priesthood through John the Baptist, or to the date at which the voice of God conferred on them the Melchizedek Priesthood in the chamber of old Father Whitmer in June 1829 (see D&C 128:20-21 and History, 1838-1856, volume A-1 [23 Dec 1805 – 30 Aug 1834], pp. 26-29), or mention both.
Such a line would look something like this:
LINE OF AUTHORITY
BRIAN ZANG received the Melchizedek Priesthood and was ordained an elder February 22, 1998.
[Full name] was ordained an elder …1977.
[Full name] was ordained an elder …1967.
[Full name] was ordained a high priest …1952.
LE GRAND RICHARDS was ordained an apostle April 10, 1952.
DAVID O. McKAY was ordained an apostle April 9, 1906.
JOSEPH F. SMITH was ordained an apostle July 1, 1866.
BRIGHAM YOUNG was ordained an apostle February 14, 1835.
THE THREE WITNESSES, OLIVER COWDERY, DAVID WHITMER, and MARTIN HARRIS were called by revelation to choose the twelve apostles February 14, 1835 (D&C 18; http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/minute-book-1/153).
JOSEPH SMITH, JR. and OLIVER COWDERY received the Aaronic Priesthood on the banks of the Susquehanna River on May 15, 1829 from John the Baptist (JS-History 1:68-72).
JOHN THE BAPTIST (D&C 84:27-28).
JOSEPH SMITH, JR. and OLIVER COWDERY received the Melchizedek Priesthood in the chamber of Old Father Whitmer and were ordained apostles by the voice of God in June, 1829 (JST, Genesis 14:25-29, History, 1838-1856, volume A-1 [23 Dec 1805 – 30 Aug 1834], pp. 26-29; D&C 18; D&C 128:20-21).
GOD THE FATHER.
You can also include places if you want, and each line above has unique elements that can be adjusted for each member of the line given the information you have (such as conferred priesthood, or ordained office, or date and place, who each person was ordained by as opposed to just listing the officiator on the next line, etc.). In the above example, it is not known which of the Three Witnesses were voice in ordaining Brigham Young, although it appears all three had a hand in ordaining him. If your priesthood line goes through another apostle, the reference above may include more details for them. At this point, there is no uniformity in describing priesthood lines of authority besides what the LDS Church has inherited through their traditions, so all lines will of necessity reflect that tradition to some extent, seeing that they maintained an authoritative commission for a period of time. Given the new dispensations’ emphasis on a few principles, such as the durability of the Aaronic Priesthood, the different categorization of Melchizedek Priesthood to align more closely with the scriptural teachings about its receipt by the voice of God alone (see JST, Genesis 14:25-29), and new ordinations being conferrals to the Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God (with God deciding which degree of priesthood power is conferred in each case), the preceding recommendations have been made as suggestions for language that hopefully begins to move towards a new standard. This is a minor procedural matter and could be rightly taken up as a short topic of discussion for common consent in a future general conference of the fellowships, if diversity in opinion ever becomes problematic. Hopefully, though, the principles involved here will be self-evident and the lines of authority produced and passed on in current ordinations sufficient to defend our claims to priesthood conferral. If there is any room for doubt about your full line of authority back to John the Baptist or God Himself, you can always get re-ordained in the fellowships and receive a new line from the authorized administrator.
During my LDS mission, a line of reasoning was advanced from an experience of Orson F. Whitney that was quoted in LeGrand Richard’s book, “A Marvelous Work and a Wonder,”
“Many years ago a learned man, a member of the Roman Catholic Church, came to Utah and spoke from the stand of the Salt Lake Tabernacle. I became well-acquainted with him, and we conversed freely and frankly. A great scholar, with perhaps a dozen languages at his tongue’s end, he seemed to know all about theology, law, literature, science and philosophy. One day he said to me: ‘You Mormons are all ignoramuses. You don’t even know the strength of your own position. It is so strong that there is only one other tenable in the whole Christian world, and that is the position of the Catholic Church. The issue is between Catholicism and Mormonism. If we are right, you are wrong; if you are right, we are wrong; and that’s all there is to it. The Protestants haven’t a leg to stand on. For, if we are wrong, they are wrong with us, since they were a part of us and went out from us; while if we are right, they are apostates whom we cut off long ago. If we have the apostolic succession from St. Peter, as we claim, there is no need of Joseph Smith and Mormonism; but if we have not that succession, then such a man as Joseph Smith was necessary, and Mormonism’s attitude is the only consistent one. It is either the perpetuation of the gospel from ancient times, or the restoration of the gospel in latter days.’” (LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder [Deseret Book Co., 1950], pp. 3–4.)
This line of reasoning tries to prove a valid point about the need for a gospel restoration with a false premise. The so-called learned Catholic here assumes that their church has the authority to remove priesthood when they excommunicate someone. The LDS Church assumes the same power. However, God has not given such power, only the right of churches to remove individuals from offices particular to their organization. Even if their church had a hand in conferring priesthood on an individual, the relationship that is established thereafter is between the individual and God alone. If a church deems it necessary to cut off a priest, for instance, then that priest may lose membership in that church, as well as the right to serve as a priest in their congregations, but their priesthood continues. If the church cut them off for good reason, meaning the priest was wicked, then the only thing that would follow them as a result of the church’s decision would be “the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption” (D&C 104:9), which, when duly considered, includes the rightful shame they would have acquired from being out of favor with their fellow man (which is likely what Satan will mock them about). If, however, the church cut them off unjustly, then they would be merely suffering persecution, and their priesthood would continue even if they were unrighteously denied membership and/or priestly status. The only way priesthood is lost is as explained in D&C 121:36-44: that is, according to principles of righteousness, as an individual departs therefrom, and God alone judges it to be so, which maintains a proper balance of power, or else mankind could use priesthood removal to threaten the righteous into submission.
Therefore, the above story is a compelling set of logical arguments, but wrong in its assumptions of jurisdiction and authority. There is a third option to the learned man’s propositions: if the Protestants in question lived during a time when the Roman Catholic Church had a commission from God to confer authority (if it ever did), then the Roman Catholic Church could’ve cut off righteous Protestants, and their right to claim the priesthood would’ve continued outside of the Catholic Church, because a false excommunication would not be recognized by God against a righteous priesthood holder. The only thing God would honor is the Catholic Church’s wishes that those priesthood holders no longer minister in their church, and they would likely be called to minister elsewhere where they were accepted.
These are quotes from Denver Snuffer’s book “Preserving the Restoration” and are used by permission. The arrangement does not necessarily reflect the views of the author. We hate to think of anything being divorced from context, but to an audience that has hopefully already read the book, we think this will be a useful reference. Some of the comments on a particular category were located here and there and it’s nice to have the points all in one spot. Certainly reading the book first is important for the backdrop of context, but we included a lot of the reference material intended for each point.
“D&C 63:9-10; meaning God determines when a ‘sign’ will be given. He determined an earthquake would accompany my talk in Ephraim, Utah, rain would fall while I spoke in the drought-afflicted communities of Las Vegas, Nevada, and St. George, Utah, and record rainfall and a flood would happen at the final venue in Phoenix as signs.” p. 127, fn. 307.
“When the Lord first spoke to me, He expounded the scriptures.” p. 299.
“Faith in Him comes by hearing the word of God, delivered as He authorizes, by whomever He chooses to deliver it. If we receive God’s word preached by someone He sends, then we can have faith in the Son of God. We can receive Him. But if we harden our heart, blind our mind and refuse to receive what He offers us today, then we do not and cannot have faith in Him. We fall short of the faith required by His sons and daughters. This has always been the test. This will always be the test. I have been sent and God is proving you. Joseph Smith testified to these things and I am now a second witness. Therefore two proclaim the same doctrine.” p. 329.
“Society covets position, rank and authority. Christ held no such things. He came ‘beneath all things’ and therefore society had no regard for His authority. He was a renegade, an outsider, easy to dismiss. His society said, in effect, ‘You are too risky to believe.’ Like others sent before, I am now sent to declare faith in Christ. I am His witness in this day, sent by Him. I would not blame you for thinking I only want attention. That is not true, but it is the obvious accusation. If what I declare to you is truth and light, how you respond is important. I ask for your sake to not falsely accuse me. You do not need to like me. But if what I teach is the truth, you need to respond to it. That is between you and God, not you and me.” p. 333.
“Please heed the scriptures, the words of Joseph, and believe that Christ is approachable. I am a witness of that. His work and glory culminates in our redemption. He came, suffered, lived, and died all to lift this creation. Trust that. Receive Him. It may start slowly, small, and distant. Act and it will grow. We will never wind up in the company of Gods and angels if we are unwilling to have faith in the first things given. Ask. Then go and do as He responds. Hearken to the word of the Lord. He will not leave you comfortless, but He will come and take up His abode with you. The idea that this is only to happen ‘in your heart’ is an old sectarian notion, and is false.” p. 348.
“God came as a weak thing in this world. The only invitation you will receive will come through another weak man, speaking in weakness, trying to persuade. It does not matter how earnest I am, because I know my standing before God. What matters is your willingness to be persuaded. I simply put the case as the Lord has put it to me, in the hope that what He has to offer, and what He asked I say to you will get through to your heart. Your relationship and your accountability are not to me, but to Him. Therefore, be persuaded, for your own sake.” p. 381.
“God’s house is a house of order. He does it according to patterns. It is not God’s purpose to abandon the restoration, but it is His purpose to preserve it, which at this moment is in terrible jeopardy. The restoration must be rescued and preserved. Those who cannot detect the terrible changes it has undergone and is now undergoing, are blind indeed. Shall God forget the work He began with Joseph Smith? Shall the downward course be permitted without Him raising His hand to save it? Or should a kind and merciful God give us a chance to preserve it, with His assistance, if we choose to act? There are many willing to act. We only need some indication from God of how to do so. Thankfully, the pattern was given through Joseph Smith.” p. 502.
“Baptism has always been required from the days of Adam until the present. Baptism is always the sign of acceptance of what God is doing in each generation. If He acted again now (and He is), then we need to recognize it by responding. Baptism is a mandatory sign of penitence and turning to face God, and then walking in a new path. It began in the days of Adam and it will continue through the end of the millennium. Whenever there are people of faith on earth, they have always been invited to perform the ordinance of baptism as a sign of their faith.” pp. 502-503.
“Christ gave instructions for baptism. This is in 3 Nephi 11:19-21. [3 Nephi 11:19-21.] Because it is not required to confer this authority, Christ did not touch them. He only said to them, ‘I give you power to baptize.’ Although the record is incomplete, these disciples in all likelihood had been ordained previously. But Christ was renewing His church. All that was needed to obtain the power to baptize was (and is) for Christ to tell you it is given.” p. 506.
“Christ continues His instruction in 3 Nephi 11:22: [3 Nephi 11:22-23]. This living ordinance should be performed in living water, if possible. Connect with God by using the things He provides. [3 Nephi 11:23-25]. When someone has received power to baptize directly from heaven, the words should be as Christ commanded: ‘Having authority given me of Jesus Christ…’ [3 Nephi 11:26-28]. I tell you in the name of the Lord that He renews this commandment. He expects us to follow His pattern and obey this to receive a remission of sins. [3 Nephi 11:28-30]. Do not fight or quarrel, but invite and persuade. The Lord’s parable foretells that most who are invited will refuse to come to the wedding feast. He will judge between them and us. There is no need to harbor ill will and to fight with people. Any who want to be baptized should be. If you have this power given by Christ and anyone comes to be baptized, do not refuse them. Freely give what has been received from God. Never charge to perform an ordinance. The ordinance is between them and God. They need it performed for them by someone God has asked to do it. We must rise up to become the people God asks and empowers. Before baptism, teach the Doctrine of Christ. Christ explained His Doctrine immediately following His instruction on baptism. [3 Nephi 11:31-41].” pp. 515-518.
“A record needs to be kept of the names of those baptized. Only names. Therefore, after you have power to baptize, and have taught the Doctrine of Christ and a person has repented, baptize them.” p. 521.
Receiving the Holy Ghost and The Laying on of Hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost
“All that was needed to obtain the power to baptize was (and is) for Christ to tell you it is given. This is in contrast to the power given by Christ to lay on hands for the Holy Ghost. For power to do that, Christ must touch a man. Later in the record, when Christ actually gives power to give the Holy Ghost, the account stresses Him touching them: [3 Nephi 18:36-37]. (Emphasis added.) The promise to show ‘hereafter’ was written by Moroni: [Moroni 2:2]. [Laying on hands for the Holy Ghost is an ordinance belonging to an ‘apostle’ or witness to whom Christ has ministered (Acts 1:22; see also Oliver Cowdery’s February 1835 charge to the twelve found at DHC 2:192-198,) and empowered.] In our dispensation the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost was likewise an ordinance to be performed by an ‘apostle’ upon whom Christ laid hands: [D&C 20:38, 41]. [When the revelation was given, the elders of the church called themselves ‘apostles’ of Jesus Christ. That practice changed when a quorum of twelve was organized. The quorum of twelve were chosen by the Three Witnesses and ordained to their office by them. Oliver Cowdery’s charge cautioned them it was necessary to have Christ lay hands on them to complete their ordination. LDS practice does not limit the laying on of hands to those whom Christ has touched, resulting in many Latter-day Saints struggling with whether they have ever been baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost.]” pp. 506-508.
“The Doctrine of Christ is connected to the ordinance of baptism. Once baptized, we can receive the Father’s testimony of His Son by the power of the Holy Ghost. It comes as a result of baptism. If Christ lays hands on any of us, then we can also confer the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Even in the absence of such an ordained man, the Holy Ghost is given according to the Doctrine of Christ to any who repent and are baptized following His direction.” p. 517.
“There is coming distress. Those who believe Christ’s doctrine will need the required baptism to survive the judgments to come. This is the only way to face Him when He comes again. A record needs to be kept of the names of those baptized. Only names. Therefore, after you have power to baptize, and have taught the Doctrine of Christ and a person has repented, baptize them. Record their name and submit them to the central recorder through the central recorder’s clearinghouse [the website is: recordersclearinghouse.com]. A single volume with names will be deposited in a temple to be built before the Lord’s return.” p. 521.
Using the Priesthood
“The Powers of Heaven, wherever they are on Jacob’s ladder, are all appropriately called ‘Powers.’ The real definition of priesthood is an association between mankind on the one hand, and those on the other side of the veil. It is a brotherhood. It is also potentially a sisterhood. It is a fellowship wherein mortals are connected with the ‘Powers of Heaven.’ Anyone can form a fellowship, and have priesthood among them. Even Lucifer organizes fellowships. The LDS church has ordained various fellowships, called elders quorums, and high priest groups, teachers quorums, and quorum of the twelve. They are all a form of priesthood. Any group in fellowship with others is a priesthood. The scriptures refer to a relationship between the Powers of Heaven and the few men who qualify to associate with them. That priesthood has power because of the association with the Powers of Heaven. When the Powers of Heaven are offended, they withdraw from the fellowship, and when they withdraw, ‘Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man’ (D&C 121:37). Nothing done thereafter is approved by heaven. Men are left to their own vain ambition at that point and they become part of the great whore, or church of the devil. [D&C 121:36-37]. [An association with heaven is critical to obtain power in the priesthood.] The same revelation explains how this heavenly authority can be used. It is what distinguishes the pretenders from actual priests endowed by heaven. Pretenders almost always work outside the bounds heaven permits, using tools explicitly condemned: [D&C 121:41-42]. Those, who like Melchizedek, are endowed with this priesthood, will only persuade others; not demand or control them. Their only call is to administer spiritual things, and not control others. They are not even to call for a meeting of elders without the consent of the elders themselves (see JS Papers, Documents, Vol. 3, p.61, and pp. 59-64). Like Enoch, they use knowledge of the truth to invite others to believe (See Moses 7:10-12). Like Christ, they will act as servants, elevating others and not themselves (Matthew 20:25-28). Their words will be filled with new truth and shed light on what is dark or mysterious. Those with such authority abide in light and truth. The reason authority is given is to make men more like God; to lift and to elevate them. Those with this priesthood will produce a flood of new truths. They are revelators.” pp. 173-175.
“Authority to baptize was restored as part of the ministry of Joseph Smith and should be retained. In fact, everything accomplished by the Lord through Joseph should be remembered, preserved, and respected. We should neither abandon nor neglect anything given or commanded by heaven. The prophecy of Zenos preserved by Jacob in the Book of Mormon foretells of the last effort in the Lord’s vineyard. The vineyard is the world. The trees are the various efforts to reconnect mankind with God. The ‘roots’ are God’s family and include the religion of God ministered to mankind by angels. Fruit worthy to be laid up against the harvest are those who belong to God’s family, having been sealed to salvation by covenant and by the Holy Spirit of Promise. The ‘roots’ of the restoration include the many ‘dispensations, rights, keys, honors, majesty, glory and priesthood’ [See D&C 128:21] returned through Joseph Smith. God intends to preserve what He began through Joseph and Hyrum (Jacob 5:52-54). The priesthood restored through them must not be abandoned. God will now use other servants to likewise labor in His vineyard to prune and care for His people (Id., vs. 62-64). There will be a ‘last time’ when labor is done, and the Lord will be directly involved with His servants (Id., vs. 71-73). This final time must produce ‘fruit’ that is ‘good’ so the entire vineyard will not be lost (Id., vs. 73-75). We must not neglect what God restored through Joseph. It is a sign ingratitude when we forget and neglect what He has given. We must repent, return and reclaim the priesthood by building on the ordinations given us by the laying on hands. Power comes by petitioning heaven to give us power to baptize. The Power of Heaven must associate again with mortal men. ” pp. 503-504.
“How does the authority to baptize come? Because John the Baptist laid his hand on Joseph and Oliver, we have continued the practice to lay hands to confer Aaronic Priesthood. We should continue to respect that tradition. No one should baptize until they have had Aaronic priesthood conferred on them by someone who can trace their authority back to John the Baptist, through Joseph and Oliver. Importantly, however, before baptizing , one should obtain Christ’s ‘word’ through the Spirit. This is the same thing Alma did in Mosiah chapter 18:12 before baptizing. [Mosiah 18:12]. He may have previously been ordained in King Noah’s court, but Alma got the power to baptize from the Spirit. To perform a baptism, no matter what we have been taught and from whom, ask God to give you the power. Get His ‘word’ through the Spirit, just as Alma did. His example is in the scriptures to teach us the way. We have lost it, and need to reclaim it. If we get power to baptize, we get it from Him and then we are not dependent on someone else. Power is required. It must come from Christ. The pattern must be followed. Alma had been previously ordained as one of the priests in the court of the wicked King Noah. Alma had been ordained because he was wicked, an idolator, lifted up in pride, and flattering those who listened to him. Noah wanted him as a priest because he was corrupt. After Alma repented, but before using authority to baptize, he asked God to give him power. God, seeing his repentance, accepted it, and poured out His Spirit upon Alma to give him power to baptize. The proof of God’s approval was in Alma’s experience and the effect the ordinance on both Helam and Alma. When John the Baptist restored the authority he promised [JS-H 1:69, The gospel of repentance is turning to face God. Baptism by immersion is for the remission of sins.] John the Baptist did not say this authority would not be taken from the church, but that it would not be taken from ‘the earth.’ It was restored and will remain on the earth. It will be preserved by a faithful few until sons of Levi offer a righteous offering. It is still here, though it has been much neglected and much abused. It can be renewed using Alma’s example. Alma was just like Christ’s disciples. All got authority from His ‘word’ spoken by the power of the Spirit.” pp. 508-509.
How Not to Use the Priesthood
“One great sin is described in 2 Nephi 26:29: [2 Nephi 26:29]. [Zion can only come through consecration and sacrifice. Priestcraft interferes.] Alma 1:26 explains how it should work: [Alma 1:26]. [This ideal prohibits a professional clergy. Professional ministers interfere with equality. An unpaid ministry guards against pride, vanity and ambition. It requires sacrifice.] D&C 52:39-40 says: [D&C 52:39-40]. [To ‘labor with their own hands’ means they are not professionals paid for preaching. People tend to idolize professional clergy. To avoid idolatry, professional ministers are forbidden. This keeps people from the temptation of obtaining blessings at the hands of a compensated professional.] The prohibition on professional clergy is so ‘[t]hat there be no idolatry nor wickedness practiced.’ [‘Wickedness’ because when you have people elevated to professional status, religious authority leads to control. Control leads inexorably to abuse (See D&C 121:39). Contrariwise, if ministers can only persuade, they have little success, as most are never persuaded. This respects agency and requires the ministers to meekly accept their limitation.] ‘And remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things , the same is not my disciple.’ [In both Alma and modern revelation the principles are: First, no professional clergy, second, ‘remember the poor, remember the needy.’ This is no happenstance. A professional clergy diverts funds from the poor.]” pp. 486-488.
“Never charge to perform an ordinance. The ordinance is between them and God. They need it performed for them by someone God has asked to do it. We must rise up to become the people God asks and empowers.” pp. 516-517.
“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. What then can remain pure? Consider the following as three things that can remain unmolested and uncorrupted: 1. The truth, which is fixed and cannot be touched by us. 2. God’s love, which is free and available to all. (Neither the truth nor God’s love requires effort on our part.) 3. Our desires. (That, however, requires effort. Nevertheless, it is possible our desires can be pure.) We need not leave behind anything that is good, noble or virtuous. But we do not need another legal entity. However, to preserve the restoration, the pattern of scripture needs to be more closely followed. This is no revolution, only a recollection. It is not abandoning anything, only preserving the essential foundation of true religion.” pp. 504-506.
“Meetings can be anywhere.” p. 513.
Sustaining to the Priesthood and Recording
“Because of the potential and actual abuse by some priesthood holding men, I asked the Lord to extend priesthood to women. I was told as to public rites, ‘priesthood is confined to men because of the Fall and the conditions ordained at that time’ [Moses 4:22; Gen. 3:16].Until things are reversed at the Millennium, it will remain for men alone to perform the public ordinances thus far given to us. This order is not going to change until the Millennium. I asked the Lord that if only men were to hold priesthood for public ordinances, then could only women vote to sustain them. This pleased the Lord, for it was already in His heart. But He added: ‘There shall be a minimum of seven women to sustain the man in any vote, and if the man is married, his wife shall be one of them.’ If you have already been ordained then you have the right to continue to minister to your family as a matter of right. But outside your family it is different. Even though already ordained, a community needs to recognize and authorize anyone to minister for them. For any who would qualify to minister outside his family, he must meet in a community and obtain a sustaining vote of a minimum of seven women [This is information provided to me by the Lord on the morning of July 27, 2014 only after the talk given in St. George, Utah the day before]. When that is done, all seven women who vote to sustain should sign a certificate. The JS Papers show copies of the certificates given in the early church. These were handwritten certificates to function as authorization. Among your own fellowships, do as they did in the early church. If the man is married, his wife must be among the seven women. If his wife will not sustain him, he is unworthy to provide priesthood service for the fellowship. There is nothing implied in the word regarding a man’s standing before God. Within the community of fellowship, until his wife is prepared to support him acting outside the family, his effort should be within his family. Husbands and wives are one flesh. The struggle to live that kind of oneness is godly, noble and elevating. The word ‘unworthy’ is not a statement of condemnation, but only of qualification. It was the word the Lord used and therefore I do not feel at liberty to change it. In all such matters it has been my experience that, with time, how the Lord orders things proves to be exceptionally wise, even if we do not immediately see it. As to single men, there is no impediment to following the pattern and being ordained in the absence of having a wife. But he should marry a woman willing to sustain him if he intends to use priesthood in a community of believers.” pp. 509-511.
Removing Authority to Act Within a Community or Fellowship
“Sustaining is by women, and removing authority to act within a community or fellowship is likewise to be done by the vote of women. If a man’s worthiness to function is called into question, then a conference can be convened to deal with the question. In removing authority, at least two witnesses should speak against the accused, and he should be allowed to speak on his behalf and call such witnesses as he chooses. Men can be witnesses, but only women are allowed to vote. Removal should be by unanimous vote [If a woman is present and cannot judge the matter she may abstain, and the vote of the remaining women, if unanimous and there are 12 votes, will be sufficient] of the women present, with at least 12 votes against a man to end his authority to act in the fellowship community. As for his family, he is free to do as he chooses, but he cannot act in the community until restored by the vote of a conference of that community.” pp. 511-512.
“According to Christ, in Mark 10:2-9 divorce is a false precept, [Mark 10:2-9].” p. 512.
First Time Ordinations and Lines of Authority
“Joseph Smith was commanded by God to establish The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph’s followers, like ancient Israel with Moses, failed to obtain the fullness [D&C 124:28]. The LDS Church has operated under a commission from the time they rejected the fullness offered through Joseph, with limited authority, just as Israel did after Moses was taken. God decided when and how He would bring an end to the authority of the leaders of the LDS Church, just as He has ended the kingdom of the Jews through John. Once God acts, our doubt about it does not change what He has done. God is now free to proceed with another chapter in His ‘strange act.’ His house is a house of order, but since the days of Abraham, God’s house has included things about which mankind retained very little knowledge.” pp. 496-497.
“How does the authority to baptize come? Because John the Baptist laid his hand on Joseph and Oliver, we have continued the practice to lay hands to confer Aaronic Priesthood. We should continue to respect that tradition. No one should baptize until they have had Aaronic priesthood conferred on them by someone who can trace their authority back to John the Baptist, through Joseph and Oliver. Importantly, however, before baptizing , one should obtain Christ’s ‘word’ through the Spirit.” p. 508.
“There are people coming from different faiths to associate with fellowships, including RLDS or Community of Christ, fundamentalist groups, and other splinter ‘Mormon’ denominations. Some of these have been previously ordained within their affiliations. These, like men who are Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran or other Christian faiths will need to be sustained and ordained. They should understand something about priesthood before being sustained. Once sustained, when ordaining someone to serve in these fellowships ordain no one to an office, only confer priesthood. Let everyone be equal. Keep lines of authority. It will reckon through the one who confers the priesthood. But power can only come from Christ. First time ordinations (after April 2014) should be done within a fellowship. All who are ordained in these communities should keep a record of the line of authority and pass it down. Be prepared to defend those lines of authority using the records kept. All of the women who vote to sustain should not only sign the certificate, but also record it in diaries or journals. Let records be kept so if anyone questions, there will be abundant witnesses and documentation. There can be conferences that can be called by anyone, but must include seven women if the business includes priesthood ordination. There is no need for any building to be purchased or built. Meetings can be anywhere.” pp. 512-513.
“[Speaking of the LDS Church…] We should respect and keep in place ordinations before April 2014. God did not complete the work and send a witness until April of that year, and then only as to LDS Church leadership.” pp. 518-519.
Conferences for Business
“There can be conferences that can be called by anyone, but must include seven women if the business includes priesthood ordination. There is no need for any building to be purchased or built. Meetings can be anywhere. In early Mormonism, church business was conducted by calling a conference. A conference was local if it involved an area, branch, ward or stake of the church. It was a general conference if everyone was invited. . . . During Joseph’s life, and for years afterward, a general conference could happen anywhere, and at any time.” p. 513.
“Conferences were held to resolve all questions, disputes, ordinations and even mission calls. Conferences using common consent allow those in fellowships with each other to prayerfully reason together and grow in unity. In one month of 1840, seven conferences were reported in the church’s newspaper. These were all organized locally and independent of central control.” p. 515.
Denomination Requirements and Proselyting
“Nothing new requires anyone to leave any church. This is only to add to anything we already have. There is no reason we cannot be part of a fellowship and also a member of the Lutheran Church, Catholic Church or LDS Church. We needn’t abandon any other church if we find value in service there. We should respect and keep in place ordinations before April 2014. God did not complete the work and send a witness until April of that year, and then only as to LDS Church leadership. Rather than abandon the church, let them hear our testimony of God’s ongoing work. Remember this is not limited to the LDS Church. Christ’s doctrine and baptism are for everyone. Proselyting has been halted in the nation of Israel because of an agreement between the LDS Church and that nation. But the restoration must continue there. Not through the LDS Church in violation of their agreement, but through the fellowships. In the Muslim block where religion is enforced by law, these fellowships can be part of their community even if members remain publicly part of the religion mandated by law. Every denomination in the world can be represented in these fellowships. This is not designed to limit the possibilities of shared faith, but to greatly expand them. The restoration must roll forth, even into places barring the LDS Church. Because these are informal, based only on the Doctrine of Christ, and require acceptance of Christ’s simple statement of His doctrine, faith to believe and act, repentance from sin and baptism, the result is that salvation can sweep the world across barriers now stopping the restoration from being heard.” pp. 518-519.
“The sacrament should be taken in the way God commanded. Partake of the sacrament in your families and in your gatherings. Christ commanded it. Follow the pattern in D&C 20:76 and Moroni 4:2-3. ‘Kneel with the church’ is how the scriptures direct it to be done. Use wine. If you are opposed to alcohol or have a medical condition that prevents you from using wine, use red grape juice. Use the symbol of the blood of our Lord. Red wine is bitter for a reason. Drinking that bitter wine in remembrance of His blood is symbolic and appropriate.” p. 521.
Preaching vs. Learning
“Another revelation in March 1830 confirms Christ’s doctrine and distinguishes it from tenets. D&C 19:21: ‘I command you that you preach naught but repentance.’ [Skipping to verse 29:] ‘And thou shalt declare glad tidings, yea, publish it upon the mountains, and upon every high place, and among every people that thou shalt be permitted to see. And thou shalt do it with all humility, trusting in me, reviling not against revilers. And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.’ That is the gospel and is what needs to be preached. We have veered away, preaching as doctrine commandments of men. D&C 19 acknowledges there are tenets. There are indeed many tenets in Christ’s faith. As to those, we are commanded to search them and understand their meaning, but not declare them to be doctrine. The thing we are required to have in unity and absolute agreement is the Doctrine of Christ. With that in common agreement, we should be able to fellowship with one another across every other religious divide.” p. 523.
“The Book of Mormon is more prophecy than history. Before the Lord’s appearance to the Nephites, society broke down into tribes of families and friends. Immediately before the Lord’s coming return we should expect something similar. Therefore, part of the preparation by God’s house for the coming social chaos should include fellowshipping in local gatherings, completely apart from control by any centralized hierarchy. Only by functioning independently can we prepare for social chaos prophesied to accompany Zion, and precede the Lord’s return. There will also be indigenous prophet-led people coming to Zion, with God’s assistance. They are invited through this book to begin their own preparation. The manner of disseminating authority (by asking God to approve authority to baptize and, once received proceeding to baptize) allows preparation to begin worldwide simultaneously. Even isolated groups can begin to prepare.” p. 524.
“We will make mistakes, but should not make the same ones. Sometimes the way for people to become better acquainted with the Lord is for those who know Him to remain silent and allow others to approach Him. Everyone should gain strength and experience for themselves.” p.525.
“When we submit to the rule of God, we are left in a position where we must depend on Him. We then immediately realize our weaknesses. At that point we will all be tempted to have others tell us how to please God. We must resist the temptation. We must arise and seek Him directly.” p. 526.
What Will No Longer Work
“In an LDS baptismal interview the second question now is, ‘Do you believe that [current Church President] is a prophet of God? What does this mean to you?’ As a condition of LDS Church baptism it requires a confession that the current church president is a prophet of God. This has been added, and does not conform to the Doctrine of Christ. According to Christ’s doctrine, it ‘cometh of evil.” Because the LDS Church no longer preaches the doctrine of Christ and has added commandments of men, baptism can only be renewed through the process described in this chapter. Therefore, as part of preserving the restoration, baptism is now offered correctly in the simplicity Christ commanded.” p.526.
Work for the Dead and a Temple
“Heaven will look for a temple in Zion to accurately reflect the pattern of heaven. When they see it has been built, they will come to embrace its builders and kiss their necks (Moses 7:63). They will only come when we are their sons and daughters, fully restored to the Family of God, united with them in belief, covenant, knowledge, and filled with the glory of God, which is intelligence.” p. 144.
“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 first 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.
“Prophesy is understood only after it is fulfilled. It is not for us to know beforehand the events with enough specificity so God’s will could be anticipated, prevented, or frustrated. If we knew what He was doing beforehand, we might try to prevent it. God can use any means He chooses to accomplish His promises. God does not disclose everything He is doing at the time it is underway.” p. 501.
Receiving New Revelation
“False spirits will come among us. Prideful and pretentious people will ask for honor. Honor God instead. Do not let a personal revelation replace the primacy of the scriptures. The scriptures are a faithful ruler by which to measure any new revelation. This book expounds scripture as Moroni did for Joseph, and as Christ did on the road to Emmaus the day of His resurrection. We must first remember and observe. Preserving the restoration requires us to be very familiar with the scriptures of the restoration. At present we should fear most our ignorance of them.” pp.528-529
Use of Scriptures
“Study the scriptures in fellowships and in families. We should teach our children to use written copies of the scriptures. Studies show that comprehension is greater using books as opposed to digital readers. Children should have their own scriptures to study. Teach them through the parables of Christ and teach them to see symbolism as something familiar. Get them to consider analogies and types as tools used in scripture. Help them to reason a problem through using the scriptures as a guide.” p. 529.
“We all must approach God through prayer. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ said prayer should be in secret. Matthew 6:5-8: [Matthew 6:5-8]. When praying in secret, we do not need to consider what others may think of our vocabulary, content, sentence structure, dangling participles, or embarrassing confessions. It is between the individual and God. Our Lord’s example of prayer was so private His disciples had to come to Him and ask: ‘Lord teach us how to pray’ (Luke 11:1). They witnessed Him praying, but could not overhear Him. When He went to pray, He went out alone, apart (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46). Sometimes He spent all night praying (Luke 6:12). The fact He prayed was known by His followers but the content of His prayers were secret. We have two clear examples (John 11:41-42; John Chapter 17). We have the example from the Sermon on the Mount in response to the inquiry, ‘Teach us how to pray.’ He taught them how (Luke 11:2; Matthew 6:9-13). We also have His forlorn prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane where He begs to have a cup removed from Him (Matthew 26:39). When our Lord prayed, His prayers were private. He lived what He taught. He did what He said. do not pray for to be seen of men (See Matthew 6:5; 3 Nephi 13:6). John chapter 17 is the great intercessory prayer. Look at how He addressed His Father: ‘These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven.’ [He did not bow His head or fold His arms. He spoke aloud with His eyes lifted upward.] We have the example involving Lazarus. John 11:41 says: [John 11:41]. [Again, addressing His Father while looking upward.] Of course the scriptures have examples of prayer by one lying prostrated on the ground. In one example, the man bowed and beat on his breast, and would not so much as lift his eyes up to heaven. But even in this case the implicit presumption of the example used by the Lord was that the man’s eyes should be lifted up into heaven when addressing the Father. How would you like it if someone spoke to you with his back turned? Look up. Speak to heaven above. As we reach up to Him in prayer, He will reach down to us. In the beginning there was a law ordained before the foundation of the world upon which all blessings are predicated. That law is as easily accessible by the father of King Lamoni, as to the father of the young man who was overtaken and fell into the fire and water. It was as accessible to the brother of Jared as it is to all of us. When the law before the foundation of the world was ordained, it was intended for all to receive God’s fullness. If receiving His fullness required a course in rabbinical reasoning, or an advanced theological degree, there would be almost none who are saved. But the Book of Mormon gives us account after account of encounters between mankind and God where the only qualification was a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Those who do not have the required broken heart and contrite spirit come away saying, ‘God maketh no such thing known unto us’ (1 Nephi 15:8-11). Like Laman and Lemuel, their iron necks and brass brows (This is often how God’s chosen people react; see 1 Nephi 20:4) prevent them from looking up to God to be saved.” pp. 381-383.
Praying in the Fellowships
“Early in this dispensation, one of the things regularly done in meetings was group prayer where everyone prayed in turn. Everyone prayed. The meeting would last until all present had prayed. They called it a ‘Prayer Meeting.’ Joseph Knight had difficulty praying with a group. A revelation commanded him to pray: ‘thou must pray vocally before the World as well as in Secret & in thy family & among thy friends & in all Places.’ His son, Newell, had similar difficulty and received a similar command by revelation through Joseph Smith. Prayer by all present was a regular part of early church services, particularly when they hoped to receive revelation. As the minutes of the second conference of the church on September 26, 1830 record: ‘Prayer by all present.’ More than two years later a conference of the church on December 27, 1832 recorded that Joseph Smith ‘recommended all present to prey [sic] separately and vocally to the Lord for to reveel [sic] his will unto us concerning the upbuilding of Zion.’ All present prayed vocally and separately, hoping for a revelation. Prayer should not be limited to the opening and closing of meetings. Have everyone pray in turn.” pp. 529-530.
Giving to the Poor
“As soon as his people covenanted with God to receive their redemption through the atonement of Christ, King Benjamin’s attention turns to the needs of the poor. He taught those who were converted to think of the needs of others. This is what James would call ‘pure religion’ (See James 1:27; see also James 2:14-18). It changes the world, here and now. Instead of suffering, the unfortunate are ministered to by others because their religion requires it of them. King Benjamin’s instruction to those who covenanted with God to apply the atonement on their behalf was: [Mosiah 4:16]. There was no room for judging the needy. There was only the obligation to give. As he counseled: [Mosiah 4:17]. [In other words: Maybe the beggars deserve to suffer. Maybe it is their fault. Maybe they shouldn’t have used drugs, or behaved so poorly they lost their jobs, or run away from home and family who would have cared for them if they hadn’t strayed, or any number of other circumstances to conclude ‘their punishments are just.’ Maybe they are all at fault. Maybe they do deserve condemnation, not help. Maybe helping facilitates wickedness. Yes, maybe you shouldn’t help, after all.] King Benjamin anticipates these thoughts and warns: [Mosiah 4:18]. [We judge the beggar this way, even if we are right about their ‘punishments’ being ‘just,’ then we have need to repent. We have no right to do this. We will not be forgiven by God, and cannot enter His kingdom. We are to help the beggar. That is all.] [Mosiah 4:19]. [We only have what you possess in this life as a result of God’s mercy and kindness to us. Even if we think we ‘deserve’ what we own because we have worked hard for it, we are nevertheless beggars whose very existence is drawing upon God’s power to live, and move (Mosiah 2:21).] King Benjamin warned us: [Mosiah 4:22-23]. This has been in our Book of Mormon since 1830. But we hear that the only way we are to help the poor should be through fast offerings, institutionalizing our charity. That would not satisfy King Benjamin. There will be no collective salvation. There is no such thing as group-charity sufficient to qualify us to avoid individual condemnation for refusing the beggar who asks us individually to help. This is the subject addressed by King Benjamin to those who have entered into a covenant with God to obtain a remission of their sins. King Benjamin does not concern himself with all the ways it is possible to get it wrong (Mosiah 4:29). Mankind gets it wrong all the time. The great challenge is to finally get it right. His sermon is an attempt to describe how society may finally overcome failure and draw close to God. Individual righteousness is a rare thing in this world, but it happens more frequently than collective righteousness. King Benjamin’s talk is about societal success, or collective righteousness. Once converted, the work begins. His sermon continues: [Mosiah 4:24]. [Even the poor are required to have a charitable heart. They may lack the means, but they cannot lack the heart. Everyone must have a disposition to help one another. Unless we are willing to render aid to one another, we cannot possibly become one. Until we walk in one another’s shoes, we cannot become one. It isn’t possible to bear one another’s burdens when we are oblivious to the burdens they bear. Alma would preach this as a requirement to be baptized (See Mosiah 18:8-10). Until we are like-minded we don’t even qualify for the ordinance offered by Alma.] The Book of Mormon continues: [Mosiah 4:25]. Coveting is a vile personal failure, and so foreign to becoming ‘one’ as a people, that it is condemned in the Ten Commandments (See Exodus 20:17). It prevents us from being equal. Equality is required for Zion.” pp. 230-233
See “How To Administer Tithing Within a Fellowship (From Denver Snuffer, Jr., ‘Preserving the Restoration’)“. There is nothing in Denver’s book that suggests a fellowship needs to administer tithing in order to be a fellowship, although tithing is a commandment from the Lord for individuals (“All us of remain free to practice the restored faith, even if no one else joins in the practice with you,” p. 256), and experimenting on tithing within fellowships is required to prepare for Zion (“There is a great work to do. It is not all to be done in one step. Unless we are willing to experiment, live the Law of Tithing and govern ourselves, it will be impossible to make the transition [to Zion]. The people of God will do this,” p.267, “to Zion” clarification added, see prior context).
“At the beginning of the restoration, the Lord cautioned the early believers that they were required to be equal in temporal things. Because they refused to do so, they forfeited the spiritual manifestations that necessarily accompany Zion. ‘Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld’ (D&C 70:14). They failed. We do not even attempt it. We probably shouldn’t attempt it until we first repent and receive the religion the Lord once attempted to restore through Joseph Smith.” p. 233.
“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.” p. 230.
“We should follow all that has been given to us in scripture. We should be completing the restoration, not throwing anything away. We are trying to preserve, return, and renew. Nothing given through Joseph should be discarded if it is useful, laudable, worthy, desirable, or came through the restoration. God’s purpose is to preserve, not abandon, the restoration.” p. 519.
“We have been told, ‘For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance’ (D&C 1:31). [We should all recognize and hold ourselves accountable for our failings and weaknesses. Conversely, we should see no such failing or weaknesses in our fellow man. We should judge every man by the standard we want applied to ourselves. Take no offense, and freely forgive.]” p. 253.
“[Ether 3:3]. [There was no pride. He did not resent being chastened. He did not believe he was worthy. We are in no better position than the brother of Jared. We do not even know enough to be ‘good’ before God. We are not intelligent enough. Our pseudo-virtues are deeply offensive to God (Rising to honor a religious man is offensive to God). Some things that we believe offend God, do not (Taking God’s name in vain does NOT involve ‘swear words’ but instead cloaking a false message with the pretense of God’s approval. ‘Swearing’ is nothing; mere words we react to in childish ways). Our righteousness is pseudo-righteousness at best. Much of our justified guilt is a gift to bring us the humility to come to God. Weaknesses of the flesh will not last into the resurrection. Nowhere in verse 3 are there any self-justifying claims of the proud. There is no claim to be God’s chosen. There is no claim of worthiness. Righteousness includes accepting God’s chastening.” p. 366.
“There is no reason ‘to gather to Zion’ to fail again. We do not need another Jerusalem, Rome, Antioch, Kirtland, Jackson County, or Nauvoo. We certainly do not need another Salt Lake. We need Zion. Until you are prepared, stay home, serve in your callings and be happy. Not everyone will be gathered. Only ‘one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion’ (Jeremiah 3:14). Zion will be where the qualified meet. It will not be where people come to get qualified.” p. 262.
“Remember when it comes to the establishment of Zion, there is no such thing as ‘hastening the work.’ It cannot be done in haste: [3 Nephi 20:42]. [D&C 63:24]. [This instruction from 1831 will apply when the Lord gathers once again. Just as it did before, haste (JS Papers, Documents Vol. 2, p. 51) will bring pestilence to the land of gathering.] [D&C 101:68]. [There will probably be excess funds from your collections. The excess can be used to prepare a place, but not in haste. Whether there will be a place prepared for you depends entirely on whether you prepare.]” pp. 263-264.
Obtaining a Covenant
“The Lord saves, but uses covenant-making as a part of His process. We don’t get to make covenants, but we do get to accept them if the Lord offers them to us. It must be the Lord’s offer and our acceptance for it to have effect.” p. 234.
“This is the day when, at long last, what God promised would happen before His return is now beginning. The gospel is not a record of how God dealt with another people at another time. We must obtain our own covenant: ‘Search the Scriptures, search the Prophets and learn what portion of them belongs to you and the people of the nineteenth century. You, no doubt, will agree with us, and say, that you have no right to claim the promises of the inhabitants of the flood; that you cannot found your hopes of salvation upon the obedience of the children of Israel when journeying in the wilderness, nor can you expect that the blessings which the apostles pronounced upon the churches of Christ eighteen hundred years ago, were intended for you. Again, if others’ blessings are not your blessings, others’ curses are not your curses; you stand then in these last days, as all have stood before you, agents unto yourselves, to be judged according to your works’ (TPJS, p. 12). The gospel must come to life through us, or we have no hope. Joseph also said: ‘[W]e cannot claim these promises which were made to the ancients for they are not our property, merely because they were made to the ancient Saints, yet if we are the children of the Most High, and are called with the same calling with which they were called, and embrace the same covenant that they embraced, and are faithful to the testimony of our Lord as they were, we can approach the Father in the name of Christ as they approached Him, and for ourselves obtain the same promises. These promises, when obtained, if ever by us, will not be because Peter, John and the other Apostles, with the churches at Sardis, Pergamos, Philadelphia, and elsewhere walked in the fear of God, and had power and faith to reveal and obtain them; but it will be because we, ourselves, have faith and approach God in the name of His Son Jesus Christ; even as they did; and when these promises are obtained, they will be promises directly to us, or they will do us no good’ (TPJS, p. 66). We cannot rely on the sacrifices of Joseph and Hyrum to save us, nor claim a covenant long since changed and broken by all of the sects claiming Joseph. We must have the faith to renew and then keep a covenant with God. It is apparent from the original transcripts of the revelations given to Joseph that it was Joseph alone whose revelations were binding on the church. Added headings, footnotes, cross-references and extraneous material have been added. Those additions advocate a new interpretation of the revelations to include other leaders, not just Joseph Smith. But the earliest transcripts reproduced in The Joseph Smith Papers, clarify that God called the church ‘living’ and ‘alive’ and ‘approved,’ because Joseph was His prophet. God was then talking to Joseph. There was an authentic and continuing open line of communication between God and the church. It has long since ended. The work was ‘rolling forth’ in that day with Joseph. Those converted actually had experiences and came to know God. God empowered the restoration and set it in motion through His servant Joseph Smith. Joseph had a covenant from God. Therefore, Joseph could testify to God’s words, and God ratified Joseph’s testimony. People who listened received the wages of following God. We cannot mimic that for the same effect until we do the work, obtain God’s voice to us, and He authorizes us to proceed. God must declare to us, ‘This is what I want you to do.’ If no one else will say it to you, I am saying it to you: God has authorized this work to begin again. This book [‘Preserving the Restoration’] is approved by Him and written under His inspiration and guidance. God is offering again, right now, in our day, to any that will hear, to any that will listen to begin again. What began in Joseph’s day has run its course. It has become a leaky ruin of a farm that Joseph himself no longer wants. This was necessary for God to begin anew. These are the signs of the times. The whole world is waxing old like a garment. God promised He would do this before the end. If we bear fruit, the Lord may give more time and keep the angels from beginning the harvest. That will depend on what we do. If we fail to rise up, He will find another people. We only have an opportunity. We do not have a guarantee. We must rise up in faith to take advantage of the opportunity. At the beginning of the restoration there were some great opportunities. Not much came of them. A church conference on October 25-26, 1831 allowed several additional men to receive the high priesthood. During the first day of the conference Joseph taught them that ‘the order of the High priesthood is that they have power given them to seal up the Saints unto eternal life.’ Sidney Rigdon who spoke afterward added this caution about those who were to receive the ‘privilege… to be ordained to the High Priesthood, telling them if they then should doubt God would withdraw his Spirit from them.’ Following Rigdon, Joseph again addressed those who would be ordained and said ‘he had a testimony that each had one tallent [sic] and if after being ordained they should hide it God would take it from them.’ On the second day, following an opening prayer by David Whitmer, Sidney Rigdon again spoke and warned them because of their indifference to be ordained to that office, exhortation to faith and obedience setting forth the power of that office’ (The minutes of the conference are found at JS Papers, Documents Vol. 2: July 1831-January 1833, pp. 80-87). We can show indifference or proceed in faith. We can fail, or through humility and genuine desire we can connect with heaven. Let me end by testifying that however unlikely this may seem to you, it was just as improbable when John came baptizing. It was just as improbably when Christ ministered. It was just as improbable when Joseph Smith said, ‘I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it’ (JS-H 1:25). It may seem improbable, but what I have written is nevertheless true and an invitation from God for us to return to Him. In 1832 the Lord said He was then nearby and offered to draw near to them if they drew near to Him (D&C 88:62-63). It did not happen then. He is now willing again to draw near to those who will seek Him.” pp. 530-533.
That depends on your understanding of the word “sustain”.
The 1828 Webster’s dictionary gives the following definition:
SUSTA’IN, v.t. [L. sustineo; sub and teneo, to hold under.]
1. To bear; to uphold; to support; as, a foundation sustains the superstructure; pillars sustain an edifice; a beast sustains a load.
If you can support (and if your conscience can tolerate) the policy decisions of the Presidency and other leaders, than you can uphold them with your faith and prayers, and exercise the spiritual maxim: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (see 3 Nephi 14:11). There is no risk of offending God under such circumstances. You should be safe in answering the relevant LDS temple recommend question(s) affirmatively with such an understanding. Sustaining is more than just praying for our leaders, or even praying for our enemies; it also implies supporting them with your faith and effort. Such effort can include admonishing them in their faults (see D&C 6:19 and D&C 112:12), as well as moving a program forward on the ground level or wherever you may be serving. Constructively criticizing faulty policies is also a form of support, and is different than slander, or evil speaking. There may be a time when you would feel comfortable praying for someone, but not comfortable sustaining or supporting their behavior or leadership. Therefore, the distinction is important.
However, if your understanding of sustain includes “following the prophet”, no questions asked, then you are violating the first and second commandments to have no other God beside the Lord, and to not worship idols. See our post here. This was the circumstance that King Noah’s people found themselves in: “Yea, and they also became idolatrous, because they were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests; for they did speak flattering things unto them” (Mosiah 11:7). Abinadi was sent by God to ask the leaders why they hadn’t taught the people the commandments, especially the first two commandments which they had a particular problem with (see Mosiah 12:31-37).
D&C 59:21 says it clearly: “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.”
Another of the Lord’s commandments he says he expects to be obeyed in pertains to who is worthy to be baptized. If you understand your baptism to be dependent upon whether or not you sustain any leader, than you are against the Lord when he declares his doctrine and baptism as only requiring faith in Him and repentance (3 Nephi 11:31-40). Sustaining is a separate function, and should only be used as a benefit to the leaders to help them see when they have the support of the people or not. An unbiased version of a sustaining vote should be welcomed by the leaders so as to help them combat their own weaknesses and foibles. In no way should a convert be withheld from being baptized a member of Christ’s church, or a member be withheld from entering the temple, for simply declining to uphold a leader with whom they have a difference of opinion with. Such priestcraft and bullying only produces forced compliance. In stark contrast to such policies, the scriptures vehemently proclaim: “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood” (D&C 121:41).
And certainly, as the Prophet Mormon attests, there is a time when sustaining those who are grossly wicked will garner you the disapproval of an offended God:
And now, my son, I dwell no longer upon this horrible scene. Behold, thou knowest the wickedness of this people; thou knowest that they are without principle, and past feeling; and their wickedness doth exceed that of the Lamanites.
Behold, my son, I cannot recommend them unto God lest he should smite me. (Moroni 9:20-21)
Such cases should be self-evident, but as we have seen with King Noah and his people, and as it is the “nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, [that] they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39), it is unfortunately very easy to be “blinded by the subtle craftiness of men” (D&C 123:12).