(This consists of excerpts from the correspondence from a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to his Bishop and Stake President. Faithful Saints does not know who wrote the letters, as the writings were found among a stack of other booklets and pamphlets and are shared in the interest of the principles contained.)
February 3, 1984
Although we have never met, I am writing to you with full faith in the confidentiality that one has every right to expect from any member of the clergy, and I trust that the things I am going to share with you shall remain with you until the disposition of my case.
Since our records were read into your Ward I have been hoping to find the time to write to you. Casual conversation cannot convey the thoughts I wish to express in explaining why my family has chosen to be inactive in the Church at this time. We have been invited to attend by one or two of the Ward leaders and a few less “official” members, all of whom have been very nice. We do feel that perhaps we owe some kind of explanation for our apparent indifference.
Most people who become inactive in the Church do so for one of two reasons, or both. Very commonly, someone hurts their feelings. The other predominant reason is transgression. Neither of these reasons applies to us. If our testimony of the gospel were so unstable that hurt feelings would have driven us away, it would have happened years ago, even decades. We continue to live all the gospel principles, although our decision not to be active in the Church has required us to somewhat modify our compliance in some areas, of which tithes and offerings is an example.
I completed a successful full-time mission for the Church, and during my forty years of activity in the Church I served in many capacities, including Stake Mission President and Bishop’s Counselor. My last position in the Church, during which time my wife and I reached our decision regarding inactivity, was that of Stake High Councilman. I mention these things to establish the fact that our decision was based neither on hurt feelings nor on transgression, nor on a lack of understanding of the gospel (I’m certain you would dispute the latter point.)
We have chosen to be inactive in the Church because of the intolerable level of cognitive and spiritual dissonance created by the massive doctrinal contradictions between 20th Century and 19th Century Mormonism.
In 1977, we purchased a set of the JOURNAL OF DISCOURSES, and that purchase changed the entire course of our lives. As you know, the JOURNALS consist mostly of conference reports and other addresses by the General Authorities of the Church. Members of the Church are encouraged to be concerned only with the reports of current conferences, because since it is only necessary to “follow the living prophet,” no one need be concerned about the teachings of former prophets. Most members who buy the 26 volumes of the JOURNALS leave them unread on the shelf. Well, we not only read them but studied them, and this has made all the difference.
As we continued studying the JOURNALS, they led us to other sources of information about the teachings and practices of the Church and its leaders in the 19th Century. Over the months and years, it gradually dawned on us with an ever-increasing awareness that the Church we belonged to as mid-20th Century Mormons was not the same Church as that founded by the Prophet Joseph Smith and perpetuated by Brigham Young. In spite of the constant reassurances by contemporary Church leaders that only procedural matters of “form and policy” have changed, we began to realize that the changes have been much more extensive and profound. In fact, there have been drastic doctrinal changes, including total reversals of official Church position. How could this occur in a system based on the revelation of absolute, unchanging and unchangeable “truths” to prophets of God? Could one of the “prophets” have been wrong? Or both? Or maybe all?
For years we attempted to work it all out so that it all made sense. The more we studied and prayed, the less the pieces of the puzzle seemed to fit, and the greater became our concern and our dismay. Eventually, however, we came to realize that the reason the pieces did not fit was because they were pieces to different puzzles. The Church has changed so much from its 19th Century origins that it was no longer the same.
To list the changes of which I speak and to document them would lengthen this epistle into a volume of unwieldy size. Some of the more outstanding areas of concern, however, include the identity of and nature of Deity (“Adam-God”); Jehovah of the Old Testament and Christ; consecration, united order and tithing; the nature of eternal progression; the temple endowment; eternal marriage, polygamous and monogamous; Negro and priesthood; the priesthood garment; priesthood offices, particularly that of Seventy; blood atonement; preaching by the spirit vs. written speeches; method of missionary work; trusting our salvation to human leaders; world and national politics, government and friendship with the world; infallibility of the President of the Church; the nature of revelation; gathering of Israel; rebaptism; adoption; laws of God and laws of man; establishment of the Kingdom of God; sacrament; and more. In all of these areas, the present teachings of the Church are not the same as they were before the great transition in Mormonism which occurred just after the turn of the century.
From the standpoint of both investigator and missionary, philosophically and logically the one thing that would mean “death” to a religion founded upon contemporary revelation to living prophets would be for “revelation” to come to one prophet which contradicted in principle that which was received by a former prophet. I am not speaking of policy, which can and probably should be altered from time to time to fit changing circumstances, such as times and types of meetings, “prospective Elders” vs. “adult Aaronic,” whether the Seventies serve at home or abroad, etc. Rather, I am speaking of principle, of doctrine, such as the nature and identity of God, the requirements for salvation and exaltation, and other matters of truth, “things as they are, as they were and as they are to come.”
For one prophet to receive revelation which contradicted another prophet, whether living or dead, would undermine the very “foundation of apostles and prophets,” as well as that which makes it all live—revelation itself. Yet this is precisely what seems to have happened between contemporary Church leadership and Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Nearly all of the areas listed above fit into this category. Consequently, the problem about what to do with changing Mormon doctrine can be restated: “What do we do with Brigham Young?”
If it weren’t for Brigham Young and his “far-out” teachings, the Church today would certainly have fewer problems. At least it would be a lot less embarrassed. But Mormons cannot pretend Brigham Young isn’t there, any more than Christians can pretend that I Corinthians 15:29 isn’t there, though both groups would certainly like to. Isn’t it interesting that Brigham Young’s grandest revelation to the Saints on the nature and identity of God is forbidden to even be discussed in the religion classes at the University in Provo, Utah, which bears his name? President Young’s so-called Adam-God doctrine (now called a “theory,” but it was never called such when Brigham taught it) provides us with a very good example of how the Church has retreated from and contradicted actual revelations which Brigham Young and his contemporaries taught because they proved to be unpopular to 20th Century American social, political, economic and religious thought.
Although Brigham Young was the President, Prophet, Seer and Revelator to the Church, he seemingly met continual rebellion against some of his teachings, even from some of his own Apostles. (By the way, whatever happened to such freedom to think and speak in the Church? How would an individual today be treated by Church Authorities, were he or she to openly oppose a doctrine put forth by the President of the Church, much less an Apostle?)
This doctrinal controversy about Michael-Adam among the General Authorities of the Church was evidently noticed and discussed many places in the Church. Many members hesitated to acknowledge the Adam-God doctrine, so it was never firmly established as a tenet of the Church. Controversy over it began to grow much stronger after the death of President Young, and toward the end of the Century, the first public discourses watering down doctrine began to appear.
Did members of the Church at that time feel that the President of the Church “revealed” false doctrine? Did they not realize that a crack had begun in the foundation of the Church when they took issue with their Prophet who stated that the doctrine he was teaching was revealed to him? What, other than ignorance of the matter on the part of most members of the Church, who are kept so busy with meetings that they do not take time to study, has kept the membership since that time from realizing that Prophets, Seers and Revelators have taught contradictory doctrine about Adam-God? It is no wonder that the Mormons cannot hold their heads up anymore in defense of the gospel, because they have deleted so many of the original principles and substituted contradictions that they can no longer defend themselves.
Whatever the reason, belief in and understanding of, even knowledge about the doctrine, have been in steady decline ever since, as you know. Even though the doctrine was so energetically taught by President Young, one can understand the position of Apostle Francis Lyman in 1862, that “such preaching is of little value if it can’t be applied to help people repent and live better lives.” One can also support President Woodruff’s 1895 and 1898 admonitions to cease contending over who God is, who Jesus is, etc., as well as Lorenzo Snow’s cautious advice that Brigham’s doctrine is better off left alone. It was far too sacred a doctrine to be bandied about and made an object of contention by the very people to whom it was given for their growth and knowledge. Were it not for the public and private determination of the Church to destroy the character and reputation of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, it would not have become necessary for those who have trust and faith in them to go so openly to their defense.
So here we have it, direct contradiction between a former Prophet and the “living” Prophet! Those who assure us that contradictions are not there are reassuring only to those who do not read. Whether it be about Adam-God, plural marriage, blacks/priesthood, or any other issue is of little consequence. It is the existence of contradiction among Prophets that is so significant.
This, then, is my question: In my faith and understanding, what do I do with what Brigham Young, a man taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith, has taught? When one adds up what he and his contemporaries said about several doctrines, principles and ordinances, along with President Young’s assurance that all his own sermons when published are as good as scripture, and Heber C. Kimball’s reassuring testimony that Brigham Young knew the mind and will of God from firsthand experience, it makes a pretty strong case for the Church being out of order today. Few dare utter the question, “The Church lawyers of today and Brigham Young cannot both be right, so whom do we believe?
The answer which we usually receive, “Follow the living Prophet,” seems like a spiritual and intellectual surrender of the first order. It ignores the very essence of revealed truth and its requisite consistency and harmony, not only from prophet to prophet, but dispensation to dispensation and age to age. Surely not all epochs and dispensations will have the same volume of truth. But surely also will true prophets not reveal contradictory “truths” to the people from a God who “cannot lie” and who is the same yesterday, today and forever, and who from everlasting to everlasting applies the same standards of salvation and exaltation to all His children.
If subsequent prophets are “free” to “correct” the teachings and revelations of earlier prophets simply because they are now the “living” mouthpieces of God, are we any better off than the Catholics and Protestants? If the next President of the Church may change the declarations of the current one, with how much seriousness and finality should we regard the statements of any current Church leaders when their words appear in the ENSIGN, at Conference or even on the international news media, as happened in 1978? Are we to believe that the lawyers who lead the Church today are more divinely inspired than the Prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young? Are we more dependent upon the lawyers than upon God? Why is it that those Church leaders today are looked upon as having more spirituality than the “unlearned” Prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young who only established the beginnings of an ”evolving gospel,” as many claim today?
Furthermore, to answer the problem with the concept that “a prophet is only a prophet when he is acting as such,” is to ignore the powerful and prophetic form and context of nearly all of Brigham Young’s “controversial” statements; i.e., if he was not acting as a Prophet, then who was and who is? Such a response also tends to minimize the miraculous events surrounding the selection of Brigham Young by the Lord to follow Joseph Smith, as well as the many signs and wonders of his life pointing to the divinity of his calling and destiny. This response also leads us to ask if we are to apply the same standard of reservation and skepticism to the utterances of the current Church leadership, both local and general, that we are expected to apply to Brigham Young. God does not deal in such uncertainties.
If President Young was wrong, then who can we be sure is correct? If the founders of the faith were in error, then nothing since has the assurance of being valid. How can we repudiate the doctrines of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and then claim through them all the presiding and governing powers of the holy priesthood? How could the man who held the keys of the priesthood and who presided over the Church of Jesus Christ for more than thirty years have been so wrong about so much for so long? How can anyone seeking to be both spiritual and rational reconcile the position on doctrinal issues of the “modern” L.D.S. Church with that of the “early” Church, and in particular with that of President Young? It would seem obvious, would it not, that to accept President Young’s position in the priesthood we must also accept his teachings, for to repudiate one is to repudiate both. It seems that as Saints of the latter days we must find a way to accept the doctrines of Brigham Young, or find some other way than through President Young to claim all the presiding and governing powers of the holy priesthood, which, of course, is impossible if we are to remain true to our testimonies of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the gospel.
There is no way that we can reject the teachings of Brigham Young, which the Church does, without rejecting him as a true Prophet, thereby also rejecting the priesthood keys passed on from him to present Church leadership. If Brigham Young was as wrong about gospel doctrine as the Church says he was, then he was a false prophet, and the entire Church is consequently also false, since it claims its authority through him. But if Brigham Young was right and was a true prophet of God, then the L.D.S. Church is wrong in rejecting his revelations, including his “controversial” teachings. Anyone asserting that the contradiction between the teachings of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff and those of the present leadership of the L.D.S. Church does not exist, simply has not done the necessary homework, academically or spiritually.
Like a coin, there are two sides to our problem: One is the conflict in teachings or revelations, but the other side to the same question is the concept of “follow the living prophet” presently being pressured upon the Latter-day Saints. Great emphasis is currently placed upon the idea, allowing for no question whatsoever, even when his instructions conflict with the preceding prophets in matters of substance (principle), not just procedure (policy). But it seems singular to me that such an emphasis is even necessary. If the present laws, principles and ordinances of the gospel were the same in all respects as those taught by Joseph Smith and others subsequent to him, there would be no need for the distinction between the living and former prophets. If all were animated by the same Spirit and therefore taught the same doctrine, there would be no need for distinction, explanation or emphasis. Following the living prophet would differ in no respect from having followed Joseph Smith. That is the program of the Lord in His never-ending consistency. But inherent in such an admonition as “follow the living prophet” is a declaration of difference.
The laws of God, the ordinances of the House of the Lord, the principles of the gospel are eternal in their application. They never change. If any people in any period of time fail to observe eternal laws, they inevitably fail to obtain the blessings predicated upon obedience to them. Brigham Young said that the ordinances of the Kingdom of God upon the earth are the same to the children of Adam from the commencement of the end of his posterity pertaining to their carnal state on the earth. This is why we have had so much difficulty understanding a Church leader’s statement at B.Y.U. on May 5, 1974, that the gospel is what Joseph Smith says it is unless the present Church President says otherwise. This is wholly inconsistent with what the Lord and the Prophet Joseph have clearly stated about the gospel being unchanging and unchangeable.
Some of the confusion seems to be in failing to differentiate between eternal principles and those things which seem to be instructions for the particular time and circumstance. The speaker at B.Y.U. seems to have failed to make this distinction, or at least convey it, in his remarks in 1974. Would we believe in a “living prophet” who taught that the Lord no longer required baptism for salvation? Would we believe one who taught that the Sacrament was no longer valid or necessary? Or that the laying on of hands was done away? Or that the Gift of the Holy Ghost is no longer essential?
I feel that we are astray in our thinking if we believe that living prophets have the authority to alter principle or ordinance; policy they may alter, and perhaps the practice or application of principle (together with the loss of blessings therefor), but never principle itself. That would be the same as changing truth itself, and we would be no better off than the Catholics and Protestants. If a prophet is free to alter the substantive issues declared by his predecessors, then why should we place much emphasis and confidence in his declarations, knowing that they may be altered by his successor?
On page 90 of GOSPEL KINGDOM, the Prophet John Taylor states: “There is not a principle associated with the gospel of the Son of God but what is eternal in its nature and consequences, and we cannot with impunity trample upon any principle that is correct without having to suffer the penalty thereof before God and the holy angels, and in many instances before men. The principles of the gospel being eternal, they were framed and originated with the Almighty in eternity before the world was, according to certain eternal laws, and hence the gospel is called the everlasting gospel.”
Joseph Smith said that truth is an accurate description of reality, a knowledge of things as they are, were and are to come. And since the gospel is all truth, it is essential to note the Prophet’s statement on page 274 of TEACHINGS OF THE PROPHET JOSEPH SMITH that, “We have sufficient grounds to go on and prove from the Bible that the gospel has always been the same; the ordinances, signs and fruits resulting from the promises, the same.” Joseph Smith, like Paul of old, warned against believing “another gospel,” (Galatians 1:8) or any other thing than that which had been preached to us by the scriptures and prophets of God. This principle was buttressed in our own time. In the CHURCH NEWS editorial of June 5, 1965, we find: “One of the most important things we may learn about our religion is that God is unchangeable, the same yesterday, today and forever. By this we may know that the principles of salvation will always remain the same, and that we need not be disturbed by ‘new ideas’ or ‘modern innovations’ in the Gospel which may come our way.” (Church News, June 5, 1965, p. 16)
The gospel cannot possible be changed. The heaven we hope to achieve is eternal and unchangeable. Therefore, to bring the same human nature to the same goal, regardless of the time in which a person lives, requires the same steps and procedures. For that reason, the saving principles must ever be the same. They can never change…To say that the Gospel may be changed is to say that either God has changed, or that human nature is no longer human nature. It is obvious, therefore, that no one can change the gospel, and that if they attempt to do so, they only set up a man-made system which is not the Gospel, but is merely a reflection of their own views. And since only God can save, only his Gospel can save. If we substitute ‘any other gospel,’ there is no salvation in it.”
This statement of the never-changing nature of the true gospel is reminiscent of Paul’s declaration in Galatians 1:8: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accused.” Joseph Smith made the same statement.
John Taylor had the same testimony: “So far as the principles of truth are concerned, they are like the Author of truth— ‘the same yesterday, today and forever.’ No change has taken place in the programme of the Almighty in regard to his relationship with men, the duties and responsibilities that devolve upon men in general, or upon us, as the Elders of Israel and the representatives of God upon the earth. …The work in which we are engaged is like the Great Jehovah, Eternal and Unchangeable” (JOUR. OF DISC., vol. 14, pp. 245-246).
A contemporary Church apostle, lawyer and theologian also agrees that truth is not relative: “’Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come’ (Doc. And Cov. 93:24). Truth thus conforms to reality, is centered in God, and is as enduring as Deity himself. Truth is absolute and eternal; it endureth forever. It never varies; what is true in one age is true in every age… Truth is in complete harmony with every other truth in every other field. Truth never conflicts with truth. Truth is not relative; it is absolute. What is true in one eternity is true in the next” (MORMON DOCTRINE, by Bruce R. McConkie, p. 810).
To us it all seems to reduce down to the fact that truth is truth because it is an accurate description of reality; as such it is not subject to change. The gospel is truth, so it, too, is not subject to change. “For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; therefore his paths are straight and his course is on eternal round” (DOC. AND COV., 3:2). Joseph F. Smith states in GOSPEL DOCTRINE, page 14: “The rites of the Priesthood of the Church as the Lord has revealed them, and the principles that underlie the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ, are irrevocable, unchanging and unchangeable.”
We have, then, established two things: First, that the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ are eternal and unchangeable, and Second, that some of the principles taught as revealed truths by prophets of the L.D.S. Church have been altered and/or abandoned. How can this be?
We find this in the 5th volume of the JOURNAL OF DISCOURSES: “Do you know why some men give counsel different one from another? Because they undertake to give counsel without the Spirit of the Lord to dictate them. But when the Spirit dictates, then each one knows what to do, and their counsel will be the same. Adam, Seth, Enoch, Noah, all the Patriarchs and Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles, and every man that has ever written the word of the Lord have written the same doctrine upon the same subject. And you never can find that Prophets and Apostles clashed in their doctrines in ancient days; neither will they now if all would at all times be led by the spirit of revelation” (p. 329).
I wish to say that it becomes obvious that the Church leaders have made significant changes in the gospel as taught by Joseph Smith and perpetuated by Brigham Young, as reflected in those issues I have already mentioned, as well as many others. Those changes are in doctrine and ordinance and are serious issues relative to the exaltation of the Saints. The scriptures plainly state that in the ordinances of the gospel is the power of godliness. This leaves us to assume that the Church in its present state, though still the Lord’s Church, does not have the power to exalt the faithful. Further, Church leaders are out of harmony with the scriptures which clearly warns, “Let no one, therefore, set on my servant Joseph; for I will justify him;….” (DOC. AND COV. 132:60), when they attempt to correct or abandon the doctrines and ordinances established by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
So we have seen that the founding fathers of Mormonism have all described truth as eternal and unchangeable, but today’s leaders of Mormonism appear to be insisting on the idea that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught false doctrine and that doctrinal changes are entirely consistent with the changing times. This has led us to conclude that today’s L.D.S. Church is doctrinally not the same Church that Joseph Smith founded. In its traumatic and wrenching transition from an isolated 19th Century religious “cult” into a major and respected and very wealthy international, religious corporation, the L.D.S. Church has abandoned or changed many doctrines which made the Mormons “a peculiar people” during the first fifty years of its existence. Most of what is present Mormon theology and which today is pressed upon Mormons does not come from its founders (Smith, Young and their peers), but rather from the minds and pens of Church lawyers. Their effort seems to be to make Mormonism somewhat more palatable to the mainstream of 20th Century American life.
For any other church (those admittedly founded upon the ideas and interpretations of man), this process of evolutionary, developmental change would not be a problem; in fact, it would even be seen as a “plus” to be so flexible and adaptable. But to a Church ostensibly founded on revelation from God of absolute truths to prophets, it weakens faith in the doctrinal structure when later “prophets” change or abandon the revelations of earlier leaders. In fact, it cannot be. When prophets reveal contradictory “truths,” they can both be wrong, but they cannot both be right. This is very much the quandry in which the L.D.S. Church finds itself by insisting upon denying the teachings of Brigham Young and his contemporaries. From the 1930s through the 1960s, the Church tried to pretend that these contradictions did not exist and not only denied them, but literature which would bring them to light was actually suppressed. During the 1970s, however, so many early Mormon documents were published or reprinted by historians, fundamentalists, or anti-Mormon groups such as “Saints-Alive” or the Tanners in Salt Lake City that the contradictions between past and present can no longer be denied by anyone who is even remotely open to the truth.
Perhaps it needs to be added at this point that we have not made these observations nor reached these conclusions in a vacuum. When we found no one in the local ward or stake level with sufficient background to discuss these things with us, we turned to the department of religion of B.Y.U. We spent an entire summer working with five members of their faculty. One refused to talk with us about it. One replied that we knew more about it than he did, so he really couldn’t help us. One reply was, “Yes, we do have a problem, don’t we?” Another told us, “I don’t know what Brigham Young said, I don’t care what Brigham Young said, and I don’t have much sympathy for anyone who does care what Brigham Young said,” a rather interesting response for a professor at B.Y.U. One other at least tried to make some sense out of the contradictions by claiming that the restoration should be viewed as a process, not an event and consequently there might be some room for “prophetic error” along the way. He granted the basically Catholic nature of his thesis, but could not explain why it could not also be applied to the ”living prophet” as well as to dead ones.
Having received no help from B.Y.U. in our quest to solve the historical and revelatory contradictions of Mormonism, we then took some of our questions to the Salt Lake Temple. Following a session, we engaged one of the workers in a conversation regarding the Endowment. We were soon ushered off to a separate office where the Temple Presidency lectured us without answering a single question. They sternly warned us against apostacy. Meetings with General Authorities followed, including a leading Institute teacher and the brother to whom those who have such questions as ours are sent, all to no avail. They could not change the facts. Brigham Young taught what he taught, and there is no way to recall his words now, although the Church would surely like to do so.
Our historical and doctrinal search into early Mormonism and its inescapable comparison to present-day doctrine made us “uncomfortable” in the Church as well. Consequently, we opted for inactivity. Since the magnificent spiritual panoramas and vistas we encountered within Mormonism have also spoiled us to the insipidness of traditional and evangelical Christianity, we truly fit nowhere. So we are pursuing truth on our own, with the Holy Spirit as our guide. We are striving to eliminate the petty denominational provincialisms and competitiveness which unfortunately characterize so much of the Christian community. We know that the only thing that really matters is the development of a Christ-like character. We strive in our family every day to make him and the traits of his character a part of everything we do, say, think and feel. He is the object of both our worship and our existence.
We live near a small town whose citizens are known Fundamentalists and our sons participate in the Boy Scout Troop there, since it is the closest one to our home. We understand that people are excommunicated from the Church even for associating with Fundamentalists. We do not wish to be excommunicated but we do not fear it, either, for we know that no matter what the Corporation of the First Presidency of the L.D.S. Church does, God will not cut us off for anything other than transgression against him, and we have not transgressed. Does our association with the good people who are our neighbors here qualify us for excommunication more than the fact that we have also attended various Catholic and Protestant services during the same period? We have found it most interesting indeed that the Mormon Church defines orthodoxy in terms of how it handles deviancy within its own ranks, and with that it seems to deal not only with harshness but also with a certain amount of paranoia.
Since at this time we are committed to our position of inactivity in the Church, we will certainly understand if you choose to excommunicate us rather than carry us indefinitely on your rolls. I remember very clearly my own days in ward and stake positions of leadership, and I know how important the figures on the reports can be to one’s superiors in the Corporations, and how even one large, inactive family can hurt those numbers.
We respect and love the L.D.S. Church and support its great missionary efforts to bring the basic principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ to a large, unbelieving world. I spent eleven years myself in that endeavor. But one cannot remain forever on the level of first principles, and eventually we realized that our constant “busyness” in the hectic program of the Church was not, in fact, bringing us to a deeper and more intense relationship with our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. We do not foresee us returning to activity in the Church in the near future, at least not until the Church resolves the multiple contradictions between its present doctrinal teachings and those of its founders, Brigham Young in particular.
We fully realize that our position vis-à-vis the Church will be conveniently dismissed as “intellectual apostacy,” and that it will be said of us that “they intellectualized themselves right out of the Church.” After all, we have used these very same terms about others ourselves. But now the shoe is on the other foot, and as painful as it is to wear, it is not as painful as the seemingly endless parade of revelatory contradictions, doctrinal changes and justifications, and historical coverups which plagued us during the last five years of our activity in the Church.
I know you are aware that the gospel has been restored in its fulness, for the last time, never to be taken from the earth again. Therefore, abandoning principle and ordinance is no small matter. Where is the fulness of the gospel, then, if not where there are those who live all the laws of God? The BIBLE and the BOOK OF MORMON both record prophecies of apostacy in these latter days, and the only ones who can apostatize from the truth are those who have had the truth. The Prophet Joseph Smith urged the brethren to obtain a fulness of the Melchizedek priesthood. How can anyone obtain a fulness of the Melchizedek priesthood if the laws upon which that blessing are predicated are not lived? These are some of our questions.
We hope and trust that you will find this information helpful in evaluation our situation and in deciding on whatever course of action you deem appropriate.
Dear (Stake) President:
I am writing to express my appreciation for the hour or so we spent talking on Thursday the 12th. I know how busy Stake Presidents are and I am grateful for your interest and concern.
Although you were most congenial and tried to be sensitive toward my personal relationship with the Church, I need to share with you that before the end of our conversation I still felt the same sense of frustration that has been my common experience with the Church for the past seven years. That frustration stems from my constantly widening realization that the Church no longer believes what the Church used to believe. But I do still believe what the Church used to believe, and that places me out of harmony with present Church leadership, policy, doctrine and even its membership.
The feeling of frustration also stems from a constantly widening realization that most members and leaders of the Church do have a testimony, but it is of the institution of the Church, not of absolute, unchangeable gospel truth. The two are not necessarily the same, although they ought to be. Truth is superior to priesthood, for priesthood is its servant; both are superior to Church, for the Church is the product of the truth and the priesthood, not the creator of them. Salvation comes through truth only and not through an institution, although the institution is necessary. But when (in the minds of its members and leaders) the institution which administers the truth becomes superior to the truths it is supposed to administer, the result is dilution of these truths to make them increasingly acceptable to a growing number of people, which effect continues to grow and spread until it borders on apostacy itself. Consequently, the Church winds up very large, powerful and influential and “highly respected” by the world but abandoning principles it once claimed were necessary for salvation and exaltation.
I am in no position, of course, to pass judgment on the spiritual condition of the Church and have no desire to do so. But I am responsible for passing judgment upon my own relationship with the Church and its effect upon my relationship with God. This is the responsibility of each of us, even those who have attempted to abrogate it in favor of blind obedience to an institution, the leaders of which are then assumed to be responsible for an individual’s salvation and eternal destiny.
I do not judge or condemn any of the leaders of the Church, either general or local. But I must judge and judge constantly my own relationship with God and truth. My salvation is the responsibility of no one else but myself. There is no way whatever that any individual can transfer any part of the responsibility for his salvation onto someone else, no matter what the office and calling of that other person may be. Not even the institution of the Church can take one iota of the responsibility for my salvation from me. I cannot be saved by tying myself to the apron strings of Church leaders and claiming that all I need is a testimony of them. You said if they tell me to do something that is wrong, and I do it, the responsibility will be on their shoulders and not mine. Since when does God bless us for doing what is wrong, no matter who told us to do it? Such an idea is more than absurd, it is apostacy. Yet you stated to me that whatever the current Presidency of the Church told you to believe, you would believe it, and whatever they told you to do, you would do it because if they were wrong the responsibility and blame would be on their shoulders, since they “hold the keys.” You may want to shift the blame, but you, yourself, will never be blessed for errors committed, nor for laws you have not lived. You even said that if the President of the Church were to tell you that baptism and repentance were no longer necessary, then you would just accept it. To me, this is apostacy. Your testimony is not of the truth, it is of the Church, an institution of human beings (sometimes divinely inspired, we would hope, but human beings nevertheless). Is this not trusting in the arm of flesh, which the Lord has warned his people against throughout all dispensations?
I urge you to contrast your position with that of Brigham Young, who frequently challenged the Saints to fill their own heads with knowledge, their souls with righteousness and to stay close to the Lord. He said, “You say you wish to do right and please the Lord in all your actions; but were I to adopt an evil practice, the greater portion of this community would follow it!” (JOUR. OF DISC., vol. 2, p. 12)
Are you not doing in spiritual things the same thing that Third Reich Germany did in political things, unquestioning obedience to the leader above all else, even true principle? Do you not realize that you have done exactly what the Catholics did in post-apostolic times by placing the institution of the Church above truth itself? “Follow the living prophet” is a Roman Catholic posture, an attitude they have adopted for centuries. The people insisted upon following the living prophet after the days of Christ; they now follow the living Pope. This is the doctrine of infallibility, and the Church and most members seem to have readily adopted it. Thank God Joseph Smith did not believe in it. Whatever happened to asking the Lord about the correctness of things?
For Catholics, and apparently for Mormons also, truth is no longer supreme, but the Church is supreme. Since the institution of the Church has become the source of all truth, then whatever the Church says must be “true,” even if it contradicts all previous revelation, all evidence, all logic and the personal confirmation of the Holy Spirit. I do not believe this position is in accord with either logic, the evidence, or revelation. Indeed, the 93rd Section of the DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS cries out against it!
During our conversation, you seemed to assert that because I do not believe that the present prophet can reveal “truths” (not policies) which contradict the revelations of former prophets, that somehow this means that I do not believe in the principle of current, contemporary revelation. It is precisely because I do know the necessity of ongoing revelation that I insist and testify to you that true revelation through true prophets will always be consistent and harmonious, not contradictory. Our Eternal Father plays games with neither our minds nor our salvation. Since both he and the gospel of his Son are eternal and unchangeable, he does not reveal one set of “truths” to one prophet and then reveal another contradictory set of “truths” on the same subject to a different prophet. If prophets contradict each other, there is something wrong! Anyone who is honest in heart and who loves the truth must admit that. The simplicity and purity of this issue evidently becomes unclear, however, in the clouded thinking of those who are trusting their very salvation not to truth and to God, but to an institution they hope is led by him in spite of revelatory contradiction among its leaders.
That the living prophet is important to us is not disputed, provided he does not conflict with dead prophets. This is my position and I must offer principled resistance against such conflicts. I uphold the gospel as restored by Joseph Smith. I am actuated by the single motive of obeying and perpetuating all of the restored gospel. “Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles”. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 308). My unrest is in consequence of present Church leaders—lawyers—taking issue with the former prophets. These leaders seem to be introducing division between the living and the dead, while warning us not to pit them against one another. We are told to “forget” vital principles for which former prophets shed their blood. If we raise questions on these important issues, we run the risk of being summarily dismissed as malcontents who try to pit prophet against prophet. But the issue began at the Church Office Building. Should not the living prophet beware of pitting himself against the dead prophets and against scripture? This is the real issue. My position is that no man, whoever he is or however great his office, can change God’s laws; he can only administer them.
Most of us have capacitated ourselves to receive only so much of the full gospel, and we leave the rest up to the living prophet. We study very little, strain even less to sanctify our lives, and then lean upon every word of the prophet to give us hope. If the scriptures say that we stumble because of the foolish traditions of our fathers, this must necessarily include Mormons. The L.D.S. Church is the Lord’s true Church upon the earth, but many Mormons have abdicated their responsibility toward it by placing it, as an institution, above truth itself. The issue, then, is to follow the living principles, and the living prophet also if he administers principles and ordinances according to the pattern established by Joseph Smith. If the living prophet operates within the confines of those guidelines, he will not conflict with the dead prophets.
It is spiritually unsafe for Latter-day Saints to neglect their responsibility to know the truth for themselves, rather than just believing and doing “what they are told” by the Brethren. George Q. Cannon advised us accordingly: “If we hear any principle taught from the stand that we do not understand, let us seek to comprehend it by the Spirit of God. If it be not of God, we have the privilege of knowing it. We are not required to receive for doctrine everything that we hear (even from General Authorities). We may say, ‘I do not know whether this is true or not. I will not fight it, neither will I endorse it, but I will seek knowledge from God. For that is my privilege and I will never rest satisfied until I have obtained the light I require’” (JOUR. OF DISC., vol. 12, p. 46). When one has received that knowledge from God, however, there is no escaping the responsibility of acting upon that knowledge, no matter what the consequences.
If the living prophet and his representatives need not be concerned about contradicting the revelations and teachings of former prophets, are we to expect future changes in Church doctrine according to the persuasion of future General Authorities? Is it no longer necessary to seek answers from the Lord so long as we have access to “legal” opinions? It cannot be pleasing to the Lord that the Latter-day Saints are not encouraged to adhere to the teachings of yesterday’s Church leaders, lest they become today’s apostates. “All ye like sheep have gone astray.” (Isaiah 53:6) As Hosea mourned, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Will those who adhere to today’s teachings in turn become tomorrow’s apostates? I have always thought that truth was to outlive the succession of Church Presidents. But it is entirely possible that the present teachings of the living prophet will be tomorrow’s false teachings of a dead one. In putting so much trust alone in the Church leaders of today, are we walking in darkness at noonday?
Only the uninformed would claim that there is no contradiction in important doctrinal matters between the present leadership of the Church and its second President, Brigham Young. In our conversation earlier this month, you admitted that one cannot deny the evidence that exists. You also readily admitted that the present Church President, as well as some of the other General Authorities of the Church, denounce some of President Young’s teachings as being false doctrine and that a member may be excommunicated for believing his words, and would certainly be excommunicated for mentioning them anywhere. But President Young’s teachings were also Joseph Smith’s teachings, and such denial of the words of either one is apostacy. Indeed, the present President of the Church denounced a doctrine taught for many years by Brigham Young, when the present President spoke in October Conference of 1976. His remarks were printed in THE ENSIGN the following month on page 77.
The speaker on the subject of “Seven Deadly Heresies,” a modern General Authority, went even farther in his speech at the B.Y.U. fourteen stake fireside of June 8, 1980, wherein he stated that anyone who believes the teachings of Brigham Young has “the intellect of an ant and the understanding of a clod of mirey clay in a primordial swamp…and does not deserve to be saved.” Yet, in many of the writings of Church scholars we find documentation over and over again that Brigham Young was Joseph Smith’s principal disciple, that he never lost a word that fell from the Prophet’s lips, that the minds of Brigham and Joseph were alike “as are the minds of the Father and the Son, and as the minds of God and his people ought to be.”
So here we have a situation in which the Church is forcing me to choose between the present President of the Church, several of the General Authority lawyers, and Brigham Young. I must choose Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. But I do not believe that such a choice should even exist. If the doctrine taught by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young was true in their day, it is certainly true in ours. Yet, the Church leaders presently authorize excommunication of members who believe some of the doctrines they taught over many years, including the nature and identity of God, the most fundamental concept in all theology.
You say you “have no difficulty with it,” because, “Whatever the living Prophet says is right.” With thinking like that, which totally and intentionally ignores what we all obviously must admit is absolute contradiction on important doctrine, do you think you could respond to the Lord’s well-known invitation, to, “Come, let us reason together?” Yours must be a simple faith indeed. I do not intend to be demeaning, but it is difficult for me to see it as being faith; I’m afraid it is simply “simple” and requires no effort on you part to search out truth for yourself. It reminds me of the “faith” of the evangelical Protestants who are convinced that they need do nothing for their salvation as long as they have “accepted Christ into their hearts” as their “own personal Savior.” Theirs is a simple faith, and it follows that they will be rewarded with simple blessings. Like you, they are very comfortable in their simple faith. But truly, while it will surely “save” them, do you honestly believe it will exalt them? And do you not have a far greater responsibility connected with your covenants and blessings?
You stated that President Kimball holds the keys of the priesthood on the earth today. I hope we would both agree that the keys of this dispensation were irrevocably given to Joseph Smith, who holds them still, standing as he does at the very head of the dispensation of the fulness of times. President Kimball is a fine and wonderful man, as are most of the Authorities of the Church, but as I compare his life and his actions and his teachings to the life and actions and teachings of the Prophet Brigham Young, I am forced by the doctrinal contradictions between them to ask myself, “Which one of these is closest to the great leader of this dispensation, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and thereby also closest to the Lord?” Once again, the doctrinal contradictions between them, along with my knowledge and understanding of both scripture and Church history, force me to choose in favor of President Young, whom I must one day face. So must you.
I believe that Joseph Smith was united with the mind of Christ, who is united with the mind of the Father. I believe that Brigham Young was united with the mind of Joseph Smith and the Lord as well. How, then, am I to believe the living prophets when they tell me that Brigham Young, taught false doctrines and that anyone who believes in all scripture, as I have stated previously, that the gospel is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Our salvation should never have to depend upon so fragile a thread as that of making a choice between the teachings of past and present prophets.
Yet, the Church is forcing upon me such a choice, and I have chosen Joseph and Brigham. You, too, have been faced with the same choice, and you have chosen the words of the present President of the Church who has openly stated that Brigham Young, in some instances, taught false doctrine. What chaos! What absurdity! Is God the author of such confusion? But, alas, you answered that question for me the other evening when you said you “simply don’t think about it.” The issue which has consumed nearly my entire life for the past seven years, plunging me into untold hours of study, prayer and searching, and which has disrupted my career and altered the future of my children, you dismiss by simply not thinking about it! Very convenient, but not really very honest, neither intellectually nor spiritually.
The DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS and other teachings of the Prophet Joseph tell us that we are saved no faster than we gain knowledge. Presently in the Church it appears that we will be damned as fast as we gain knowledge; at least we are sure to be excommunicated. But how many such excommunications will be sustained by the Lord at the bar of judgment? And what of those who do the excommunicating, not for sin, but because somebody has studied history and has questions for contemporary Church leaders? Do you realize that if the Prophet Joseph were to return today, teaching the same gospel he taught years ago, he would have to be excommunicated, Brigham Young and the Lord himself right along with him, for having taught the same doctrine? Is this also something you “don’t think about?”
You asked me if I wanted to have my membership in the Church withdrawn. I replied that I did not. You asked me, then, why I wanted to remain in the Church if I do not believe what its present leaders say about certain issues. I replied that I wanted to remain a member of the Church because I know it is the true Church of Jesus Christ, established by God through the Prophet Joseph Smith; yet, I also know it to be out of order in some very important areas, which out of order state is spoken of in the scriptures (DOC. AND COV., Secs. 85 and 112:25-26). Because of this, I do not “fit” in the Church as things now stand. Therefore, I do not foresee my return to activity until the Church (leaders and members) realizes that it cannot reject and discard the revelations of its founders and still maintain doctrinal and spiritual integrity, together with the power to exalt the Saints. As long as current Church Authorities dismiss the teachings of Joseph and his principal friend and follower, Brigham, I have chosen to be inactive in the Church in order to reduce the level of my own cognitive dissonance caused by this contradiction, and in order also to eliminate any possible “negative” effect I might have on other members, were I to be there.
If you choose to excommunicate me for this, President, you will have to bear that responsibility on your own shoulders. As I mentioned in my letter to the Bishop, I do not want to be excommunicated, but I no longer fear it, because I know that neither the Church nor any of its leaders can take priesthood from me. Once the priesthood has been rightfully conferred upon an individual, only God can remove it for the cause of sin. I have not sinned. I sincerely and deeply regret that for believing the teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young you will have part in excommunicating me from the very Church which they founded. If this is what you feel you must do, however, then by all means do it.
I might add that there is only one thing that will save any of us, and it is not the extent of our “busyness” in the social program of an institution. It is the development of a Christ-like character, which comes from living true principles, including participating in all the ordinances restored by Joseph Smith for the exaltation of the worthy Saints. There is no getting around the necessity of receiving all of the ordinances, for in them is the power of godliness. As things stand, because of giving up principle and ordinance, the Church cannot possibly have the power to exalt the Saints. And all of the statements of all the lawyers leading the Church today cannot possibly make it otherwise. If you “just don’t think about it,” then you are not thinking about the eternal welfare of yourself and your family. You have the eternal obligation to think about it, and think about it very seriously.
The Church does facilitate the process to encourage us to live true principles, such as the fundamental imperatives, and thereby become more God-like. But the Church can also inhibit our salvation if it impeded us in our efforts to live true principles, by failing to teach all the restored truth or by decoying our time and energy into pursuits that are basically social in nature and on a terrestrial (good and honorable) level, similar to the activities of the devoted and faithful members of any other church. There is very little left in the L.D.S. Church today which would qualify us to be called “peculiar.” The “bottom line” of the plan of salvation is that the only people who will be admitted into the presence of God are those whose character is like his. The development of character similar to that of our Father requires obedience to specifically restored principles and ordinances of the gospel. Yet, we are content with the fact that the Church has given some of them up, while we blissfully believe we will merit exaltation.
Because of his perfection, God associates only with those who are like him. Each individual is totally and completely accountable for the responsibility to achieve that in his own life. He may feel justified in placing blame on someone else for having been deceived into thinking he had all the necessities, but worlds without end he cannot receive the blessings for laws he has not lived, principles he was persuaded to deny. I repeat this, because it seems to be a fact which Church members so easily and willingly overlook. Our personal responsibility in this crucial matter cannot be transferred elsewhere, not even to the members of the First Presidency of the L.D.S. Church.
I realize that for you, as a leader of the Church, conformity must be your primary goal. But I ask you to realize that for me, righteousness, a Christ-like character, and being true and faithful to the revelations of God to the founders of this dispensation, are my all-consuming goals. I do not fear the judgment of man, for I am confident in the justice of my Father, in the testimony he has given me, in the grace of his Son, my Savior and Redeemer.
I am reminded of the Lord’s words to Judas, an “apostle”: “That which thou doest, do quickly.” (John 13:27)
The following are some references pertaining to the credibility of Brigham Young and the JOURNAL OF DISCOURSES, which should be of interest to you:
- “The JOURNAL OF DISCOURSES goes forth to the world as another record corroborating those already extant, bearing the same testimony to the immutable principles of salvation which they have borne, and giving additional light upon many points concerning the salvation of this generation on which they are silent. All men can be profited by perusing its pages and pondering over the words of truth and salvation as they flow in beautiful simplicity and power from the mouths of the living oracles… The JOURNAL OF DISCOURSES deservedly ranks as one of the standard works of the Church, and every right-minded Saint will certainly welcome with joy every Number as it comes forth from the press as an additional reflector of ‘the light that shines from Zion’s hill’” (George Q. Cannon, JOUR. OF DISC., pref. to vols. 8, 9).
- “I have read the sermons Brigham Young has published in the JOURNAL OF DISCOURSES… and I presume are considered correct as published. They are published by the Church of which I am President. They are correct insofar as every man had a chance to correct his own discourses, or should do so if he has a chance. Sermons reported by G.D. Watts, one of the official reporters, were considered reported correctly, and when they are found in the JOURNAL OF DISCOURSES, they are considered correct. Some of my own sermons are published there, and they are correct” (W. Woodruff, “Complainant’s Abstract of Pleading and Evidence,” Temple Lot Case, p. 309).
- “I know just as well what to teach this people and just what to say to them and what to do in order to bring them into the Celestial Kingdom, as I know the road to my office. It is just as plain and easy. The Lord is in our midst. He teaches the people continually. I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call it scripture ..Let this go to the people with ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ and if they do not obey it, you will see the chastening hand of the Lord upon them” (B. Young, “Deseret News,” Jan. 29, 1870; JOUR. OF DISC., vol. 13, p. 95).
- “In my doctrinal teachings, I have taught many things not written in any book ancient or modern. And yet, notwithstanding the many things I have told the people, I have never looked into the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the Doctrine and Covenants, or any of our Church works to see whether they agreed with them or not. When I have spoken by the power of God and the Holy Ghost, it is the truth, it is scripture, and I have no fears but that it will agree with all that has been revealed in every particular” (B. Young, “Deseret Weekly News,” 1877; JOUR. OF DISC., vol. 26, p. 274).
- “Do you suppose that he (Brigham Young) is so unwise as to say a thing which he does not know to be true? He understands what he speaks, and he looks before he jumps, and God Almighty will lead him straight, and he will never stumble—no, never, from this time forth…” (H.C. Kimball, JOUR. OF DISC., vol. 5, p. 32).
- “What I know concerning God, concerning the earth, concerning government, I have received from the heavens, not alone through my natural ability, and I give God the glory and praise” (B. Young, JOUR. OF DISC., vol. 16, p. 46).
- “I will make a statement here that has been brought against me as a crime, perhaps, or as a fault in my life…that Brigham Young has said, ‘When he sends forth his discourses to the world they may call them “Scripture.”’ I say now, when they are copied and approved by me, they are as good Scripture as is couched in the Bible, and if you want to read revelations, read the sayings of him who knows the mind of God” (B. Young, JOUR. OF DISC., vol. 13, p. 264).
- “From the first time I saw the Prophet Joseph, I never lost a word that came from him concerning the Kingdom. And this is the key of knowledge that I have today, that I did hearken to the words of Joseph and treasured them up in my heart, laid them away, asking my Father in the name of his Son Jesus to bring them to my mind when needed. I treasured up the things of God, and this is the key that I hold today. I was anxious to learn from Joseph and the Spirit of God” (B. Young, “Deseret News,” 6 June 1877).
- The Minutes of the General Conference in which Brigham Young taught the highly controversial “Adam-God” doctrine read, in part, as follows:
“Friday April 9, 1852, 6 p.m. The Elders and brethren in the Tabernacle, which was completely crowded. After the usual introductory exercises, President Young preached several sermons on various subjects, the Holy Ghost resting upon him in great power, while he revealed some of the precious things of the Kingdom” (“Mill. Star,” vol. 14, p. 35).
June 4, 1984
To: The Stake Presidency and High Council:
On Sunday, June 2, 1984, we were visited by two brethren from the Church who served us with a Summons to a Stake President’s Court, to be held on Thursday, where we will be “tried” for our membership in the Church due to our alleged “apostacy.” We are willing to attend this Court if there is anything to be gained by our doing so. But at present we feel that it would probably be a waste of time for everyone concerned for us to attend.
It is our assumption that we have been summoned to be excommunicated due to our letter of February 1984, to the Stake President, in which we stated that our careful and thorough study of Church history and doctrine has revealed many significant contradictions between the teachings of the first four Presidents of the Church (particularly President Young) and the current position of present Church leadership. These contradictions include the identity and nature of Deity, Jehovah of the Old Testament and Christ, consecration, united order and tithing, the nature of eternal progression, the Temple Endowment, celestial plural marriage, the Priesthood garment, the Negro and the priesthood, the infallibility of the Church President, and a host of other areas too numerous to go into again.
The aforementioned letters document our position against revelator contradiction between prophets, and assert that due to the unchangeable nature of gospel truth, later prophets may NOT contradict former prophets, and the fact that such has happened on such an extended scale between 19th Century and 20th Century Mormonism is a strong indication that not all is well in Zion.
In the same documents, we also made clear our position that we do not believe that Brigham Young and others could have been so wrong about so much for so long a time, as the Church now claims (but not too loudly, lest anyone else should notice), without their being false prophets. Consequently, if President Young was wrong, the Church now is also wrong, because they are claiming authority from a false prophet. If President Young was correct, then the Church now is still wrong on certain issues, having altered and denied many important revelations and instructions from God.
We also stated in our previous letters that it is tragic and unfortunate that the Church forces one to choose between the present Church President and Brigham Young, but if such must be our choice, we will have to remain with President Young. We make that choice with full confidence that he knew the mind and will of the Lord and taught for doctrine those things he had received personally from Joseph Smith, who held and still holds the keys of this dispensation.
We have taken our concerns to the leadership of three Stakes, to the Department of Religion of Brigham Young University, to the Presidency of Salt Lake Temple (within the Temple), and to the General Authorities of the Church. At no time has the accuracy of the facts we presented been questioned or challenged, and at no time has anyone been able to answer them. Only those who are comfortable in their own ignorance of fact would deny that the issue of revelatory contradiction between past and living prophets is an enormous reality and threatens the very foundation of continuing revelation on which the Church and the gospel are founded. For us the intolerable level of cognitive and spiritual dissonance created, as we have said in our letters, by the large doctrinal contradictions between 19th Century and late 20th Century Mormonism has made us uncomfortable in the present Church and has made the Church, evidently, uncomfortable with us.
Even now, our experience with the Stake in which we now reside is the same and fits the well-established pattern. If we are so out of line in our questions and concerns that we are about to be excommunicated for them, why has no one contacted us with answers to them? If there is an explanation, why does no one tell us what it is? Or can it be that there is none? Upon communicating our deep and sincere concerns to both the Bishopric and Stake Presidency, how refreshing it would have been to be contacted by well-informed and well-prepared brethren who explained, “You have failed to understand certain aspects of the gospel,” or, “The facts are not as you understand them; come, let us reason together and we will teach you the higher principles of the gospel,” But such has never happened on any level. Instead, our questions and concerns were answered by two brethren bringing us a Summons to a Court of Excommunication for apostacy. This is not the way Joseph Smith functioned, but then those who do not know him through study and prayer would not be aware of it.
The even greater tragedy is that they do not want to know, because knowing might make them uncomfortable in their well-established, conventional, highly-respected lives. Knowing what the gospel was really like as it was taught by those mighty men of God who actually restored it in this dispensation might actually require some sacrifice. (“A religion that does not require sacrifice of all earthly things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation,” said Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, 6:7)
We have realized for some time now that the Church cannot tolerate people who might point out the inconsistencies between present Church doctrine (designed as it is to be pablum for the masses so that the Church can remain “highly respectable”), and the “olden days” when men like Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Heber Kimball, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and a host of other giants of the Lord taught the truth—those same doctrines which are now considered to be “erroneous.” A present apostle says our earlier prophets were functioning on “limited light.” Brigham Young on “limited light!” The very idea is enough to make the heavens weep and the angels cry out in utter despair!
No, the Church now has a hard time with people who point out the truth about these issues, and it is for this reason that we opted for inactivity three years ago, just so we would not be a source of irritation for the Church. I am restating the issues already outlined in my previous letters. There was no one willing to discuss these issues anyway, not even at B.Y.U. What other choice did we have but inactivity? But inactivity is not enough, you now will excommunicate us. It has become such a handy recourse in the Church these days.
On Thursday evening, a group of “good and honorable” men who probably have only the foggiest notion about the issue really involved, will meet and label us as malcontents, dissidents, intellectual apostates, and with a stroke of a pen, excommunicate us from the Church to which I gave forty years of active service, and for which my wife was beaten and kicked out of her own family and dismissed from her University only a few months before she was to receive her Doctorate. What other word is there for it but “tragic?” The real tragedy is not our loss of Church membership, but rather the simple fact that we are being excommunicated for believing the teachings of the first four Presidents of the Church, which teachings have been discarded. It is almost unbelievable that such a thing could happen in the true Church of Christ.
Yet, there seems to be no other way. We cannot recant what we know is true, and we know that the teachings of Brigham Young are true. The Church lawyers may abandon them, and have, but, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” by standing fast on true principles revealed by God to the mightiest men of this dispensation. We wrote our previous letters to the Bishop and Stake President to declare in black and white what our position is, and there we stand. If you feel that we deserve to be excommunicated because we believe more of the gospel than you do, because we believe the things taught by Brigham Young and others, consistently, for nearly a quarter-century, then you should go ahead and do what you feel you must. Do not forget, however, that you must also bear the eternal responsibility for your action.
We do not fear it, because we know that the Lord will not recognize your action. Once the holy priesthood has been authentically conferred, no man or group of men on earth can take it away. This can be done only by God, and he does so only for transgressions. And we have not transgressed. We can’t help but wonder how the Lord in the final analysis will judge those among your peers who have set themselves up because of their legal and worldly training to sit in judgment of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Prophet Brigham Young and their true teachings.
We ask you to humbly and prayerfully review this letter, as well as those that we have written previously. Judge for yourselves if they warrant our excommunication. We have nothing more to add, and consequently we do not see the need for our attendance on Thursday, as we have put it all in writing.
If you do decide to excommunicate us from the Church, please remove the names of our children as well, so the separation may be complete and you will not have to be bothered by having any of us drones on your rolls to drag down your auxiliary attendance percentages. When they reach the age of accountability for these issues and decide upon them for themselves, they can always request a new baptism and this would make it a much more meaningful experience for them anyway.
One final thought. Some of us are under obligation to not speak evil of the Lord’s anointed. Evil speaking has not been my intent, though I may be accused of it because I cannot agree with those Church leaders who have changed principle and ordinance to conflict with what Joseph Smith restored. One has cause to wonder who has spoken evil of whom, when we take into consideration the fact that modern Church leaders are saying that Brigham Young is guilty of teaching “false” doctrine, and that Joseph Smith merely established an “evolving” gospel. This, to me, is speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed who are the heads of this last dispensation of time; namely, Joseph Smith and his successors.
Thank you for your consideration, and may the Lord bless you as you attempt to carry out his will on the earth.
2 thoughts on “Who is a Prophet?”
I would love to have the doctrines and principles of the Gospel that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young revealed vs what “current” church leaders say is the truth. I, of course, know the 1978 “revelation” by President Kimball on Negros and the Priesthood, but exactly to what other contradictions of gospel truths are these letters referring?
Also, these letters were written in 1984. There are now many more inconsistencies between the current church leadership and the truths of the original church restoration. Could you please update our present situation ?
Sounds like an interesting project. Thanks!