Sunday, December 31, 2017

Why Heed Prophetic Counsel?

Previously: Some Pretty Good Reasons For Skipping Tithing Settlement

I'm a firm believer in listening to prophetic counsel. In fact, I can think of only one thing more valuable than taking counsel from a prophet and that would be taking counsel from the Lord as He conveys it to us through his prophet.

That kind of counsel can be found throughout our Doctrine & Covenants, where the Lord identifies Himself as the one who is speaking.  We refer to these communications as oracles or revelations. This type of divine counsel differs from prophetic counsel, because prophetic counsel indicates it is counsel given by a prophet in his own words, rather than conveyed "first person" in the Lord's own words.

This is not to minimize the importance of Prophetic Counsel, because, as Henry Eyring indicates in the quote above, prophetic counsel is often inspired counsel. The scriptures provide evidence that every true prophet who ever lived was infused with knowledge and wisdom far greater than he had  prior to having met Jesus Christ in person. It was this first-hand acquaintance with the Lord that qualified Joseph Smith to speak with increasing wisdom and authority, even in those instances when he was merely expressing his own opinion and not quoting the Lord directly. 

The angel who visited John the Revelator told John that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy," and we can see that from the time Joseph Smith had his first personal encounter with Jesus (and numerous subsequent encounters), he acquired the spirit of prophecy, which expanded his understanding and gave him added knowledge and wisdom. It would appear, then, that a prophet is defined by his having had a personal encounter with God, an encounter which he is willing to testify of without hesitation.

This is important, because it would appear that the defining quality that separates a true prophet from a false one, is that the true prophet is not reluctant to share his personal testimony of Jesus. And by "personal testimony" I don't mean the kind of belief in Jesus most of us have obtained through study and prayer. I mean someone who can testify unequivocally to having met the resurrected Jesus face-to-face.

Even long before Jesus was resurrected -or even born into this world- we have the testimonies of prophets from the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon who were defined by their experience of having encountered the Lord in a very personal way. In the April 1997 conference talk accompanying the picture above, Henry Eyring provides the example of Lehi, a man who encountered the yet-unborn Savior on multiple occasions in dreams and visions, and who was instructed by that divine being, first to prophecy of the things he had been shown, and ultimately to take his family far away to safety. Lehi had a testimony of Jesus not because he had read about Him in the scriptures or learned about Him in the synogogue, but because he had encountered the future Messiah in person. This encounter resulted in Lehi's obtaining  greater knowledge and wisdom than he had previously, and it qualified him to provide prophetic counsel not only to his family, but to those who joined Lehi's family in their Journey.

Likewise, Lehi's son, Nephi, strove to obtain a testimony of Christ, as did many who came after Nephi. Again and again in the Book of Mormon, those prophets who taught us things they felt were important for us to know in our day are known to us as prophets; not merely because they wrote down the history of their people, but because they had a testimony of a personal encounter with Jesus -often many encounters. Each of these prophets spoke from the dust as one having authority; authority that was obtained not because other men laid their hands on their heads and gave it to them. This was authority that could only be given directly from Jesus Christ. The prophet Joseph declared that all the prophets were ordained by God Himself (TPJS pg 181).  This is not some invisible "authority" that can be handed down from one man or group of men to another.

The original twelve apostles had known Jesus personally; it was He who ordained them and sent them out to preach His gospel after His resurrection. These prophets would travel to distant cities, make converts, and then move on. Their role was not as leaders of the churches they established, but they did often write back with letters of advice to those converts.

Those letters -at least the ones that survived- contain very little in the way of direct revelation from the mouth of God. But because they had known Jesus personally (and presumably continued to be visited by Him), these men were qualified to provide prophetic counsel in their own voices, counsel that was valid precisely because they were personal witnesses of Jesus Christ.  We continue to embrace their prophetic counsel as useful because of the wisdom these men obtained through their proximity to the Lord.

We include the apostle Paul within that group, because even though he had not known the Lord Jesus Christ when Jesus was on the earth in the flesh, he certainly had a memorable encounter with him that day on the road to Damascus. Paul's personal experience with Jesus qualified him to represent the Lord to many who had never heard of Him, and Paul's letters to the early Christians at Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, and elsewhere contain some of the most valuable prophetic counsel available. (As long as you ignore that nonsense in 1st Corinthians requiring women to keep silent in the churches.)*
*Paul is said to have written,"Let your women keep silent in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church." (1 Cor 14:34-35)
Biblical scholars are divided on the question of whether Paul actually wrote those words. A minority have suggested that Paul, a former Pharisee, was still influenced by Old Testament law, but that theory doesn't wash because there is no place in the Old Testament requiring women to keep their traps shut in church. There was a rabbinical tradition that women were not allowed to speak in the synagogue, and while Paul was steeped in Rabinnical tradition, those who believe he held onto those traditions from his past tend to ignore what he wrote to the Galatians where he rejected the Rabbinical prayer that made distinctions between Jew and Gentile, bond and free, male and female; as Paul now recognized all are one in Christ Jesus.

"Shut yer festerin' yaps, ya lousy dames!"
The majority of biblical scholars are convinced some misogynistic monk sneaked these words into the text on his own while he was copying the letter by hand, and I'm inclined to that view myself, since emendations to scripture by the monks charged with preserving them was not uncommon. As Richard Hays writes, “All things considered, this passage is best explained as a gloss [addition] introduced into the text by the second-or-third-generation Pauline interpreters who compiled the pastoral epistles.” (Gordon Fee, ed, First Epistle to the Corinthians: The New International Commentary on the New Testament, pg 707)                                                           
Prophetic Counsel That Could Have Saved Lives
Regarding this talk of Henry Eyring's under discussion here, I came across it  while thumbing through a back issue of the Ensign Magazine dated June of 2008 where it was presented as the First Presidency Message. I stopped to read it because I'm intrigued by how often this term "prophetic counsel" has been carelessly bandied about in the church in the past couple of decades. It seems to be a neologism that grew legs fairly recently, because I don't think it was commonly used in the Church while I was growing up, at least as far as I can recall.

 I do, however, think it's a useful term, especially to describe the counsel given by Joseph Smith during those times when he was volunteering his personal views. It's known that Joseph Smith delivered somewhere in the neighborhood of two hundred and fifty sermons during his brief lifetime, but only fifty are known to have been recorded by scribes. Some of these existing sermons are available in the Documentary History of the Church, and it is from that source that the several snippets of useful counsel have been gathered into the one volume Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. In my opinion it's permissible to call some of these excerpts "prophetic counsel," not necessarily because these snippets contain actual prophecies, but because they contain the wise counsel from a man we know to have been a prophet.

The talk by Henry Eyring in that edition of the Ensign was originally delivered during April conference 1997, and Eyring had me agreeing with him for quite awhile as I read it. He spoke of the importance of heeding prophetic counsel, and even spoke of such counsel coming from the Lord's "authorized servants," an important qualifier if there ever was one. If we are going to abide by prophetic counsel, we had better make darn certain those teachings come from someone we have evidence was authorized by God to be His mouthpiece. Otherwise that counsel could be injurious to the church. Sadly, though Eyring writes early in his piece on the importance of heeding prophetic counsel from authorized servants, later in the piece he undercuts his own argument.

But I'll get to that in a moment. First I want to mention an important example Brother Eyring uses that I wholeheartedly I agree with.

Eyring brings up the tragic massacre at Haun's Mill, where nineteen Mormon men, women, and children were killed and fifteen more seriously wounded at the hands of a ruthless mob on October 30th of 1838. The prophet Joseph had sent word by way of Jacob Haun, owner of the mill, telling the people living in that area to leave immediately and gather with the Saints at Far West. For whatever reason, Brother Haun chose not to convey that message to the others. The result was a brutal tragedy that could have been avoided had Jacob Haun simply heeded Joseph's prophetic counsel. Some time later, Joseph said,
"Up to this day God had given me wisdom to save the people who took counsel. None had ever been killed who abode by my counsel. At Hauns' Mill the brethren went contrary to my counsel; if they had not, their lives would have been spared."
Note that Joseph stated that God had given him the wisdom to save the people who took counsel. Joseph was not acting on a personal whim; Even when not dictating a warning directly in the name and voice of the Lord as he did when conveying revelations, Joseph was given the gift of wisdom; a gift he received precisely because his encounters with the Lord had enabled him to cultivate such gifts. He did not boast of his own wisdom; he knew from where that inspiration came.

Who Are The Lord's Authorized Servants?
I would submit that all who choose to serve the Lord can be called "the Lord's servants," but when Henry Eyring makes reference to the Lord's authorized servants, he seems at first to be referring to actual prophets of the Lord -men who had been specially anointed by God.

It would then seem to be of the utmost importance that we have a method by which we can determine who is actually a "prophet" and who is not. Happily we can easily tell one from the other because when the Lord authorizes someone to be His servant, He tells us straight out. He gives that servant His personal endorsement so no one has to guess.  Here is the Lord speaking to the twelve apostles about Joseph Smith in 1837:
"Exalt not yourselves; rebel not against my servant Joseph; for verily I say unto you, I am with him, and my hand shall be over him..." (D&C 112:15)
Of course, a cynic might say, "well, of course that revelation would endorse Joseph Smith; Joseph was the one dictating the revelation. He could say anything about himself he wanted to."

That's why we are instructed not to take Joseph Smith's word at face value. The Saints were never instructed to "follow the prophet" without questioning anything he told them. It's a modern heresy to teach that the prophet is incapable of leading the church astray, a heresy that is becoming more and more transparent as the leaders strive ever harder to promote it. But it is not doctrinal. Nowhere in any revelation or scripture in the standard works can you find the Lord suggesting anything remotely close to it. Indeed, the scriptures are chock full of examples that teach the exact opposite. The Lord has never offered such a blanket assurance regarding any prophet in history, not even Joseph Smith.

What we are in fact supposed to do (and it's something almost no one in the Church bothers with anymore) is read every revelation God gave to His prophet, then take it to the Lord in prayer and ask God, "Is this yours? Did this come from you?"

We are taught to do that in order to get a witness from the Holy Ghost that what Joseph Smith dictated was indeed a true oracle from the Lord, and not just something he made up in order to bamboozle the yahoos. You can bet that the Twelve Apostles all took that revelation to heart and got a personal witness that it came from God and not from the mind of Joseph Smith. The early church members understood that having a reliable check against corruption was their duty every time Joseph Smith dictated a revelation, because the idea of blindly trusting in what the scriptures frequently referred to as "the arm of flesh" was one of the quickest ways to damn one's self to destruction. (2 Nephi 28:21)

Even though no one in the church is infallible, there are a multitude of places in the Doctrine & Covenants where the Lord endorses Joseph Smith to be His prophet, seer, and revelator, but that endorsement was conditional upon Joseph's walking in all holiness before Him, in all patience and faith. (D&C 21:4&5) If Joseph failed in his appointment, the Lord could pull those gifts right out from under him.  Nevertheless, the Lord still expects us to ask Him about the legitimacy of each and every revelation given through anyone who purports to be His servant. We are not to take any claim at face value.

I've written a post where you can find several statements by the Lord that provide hard evidence that Joseph Smith was the Lord's chosen servant. You can find them posted here. I've included Elder Hugh B. Brown's famous Evidences of a True Prophet, along with several statements from the Lord directly endorsing Joseph Smith. The following endorsement is probably the most succinct, but note this: the endorsement was not unconditional:
"Behold, thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt fall." (D&C 3:9)
That doesn't mince words. Joseph was the chosen one, but he could be replaced if he messed up. The Lord recognized that even Joseph Smith was capable of leading the church astray. That reality differs markedly from the smug assertions of Church leaders in our day, who constantly assure the members they are incapable of failure.

What follows may be the most important endorsement of Joseph Smith in scripture, because it's packed with meaningful qualifiers most people don't notice on the first reading. It begins by addressing Joseph Smith directly and describing Joseph's authority and how he got it directly from Jesus Christ through the will of the Father:
"There shall be a record kept among you; and in it you [Joseph Smith] shall be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, and elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ,
Then in verse four, the Lord shifts from addressing Joseph directly and is now addressing the members of the church:
"Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth..." (D&C 21:4 & 5)
That latter part is interesting for several reasons. First, this is not about "following prophetic counsel" as we've been discussing up to this point. When it comes to the actual doctrines of the church, we are not to rely on the prophet's personal thoughts, opinions, expressions, or whims. The Lord is talking here about His words and commandments, not some arbitrary rules or policy changes announced by the president of the church. That's why the Lord is very specific about that qualifying phrase: only the words and commandments Joseph gives unto the people that he receives directly from God are the words the members are to consider binding upon them.

In other words, we have never been commanded to "follow the prophet." We are commanded to follow those words Joseph Smith received that can rightly be considered "as if from [God's] own mouth." 

And there's one further detail. Notice the Lord doesn't tell us we are obligated to obey the words the Lord puts in Joseph's mouth. We aren't even commanded to "follow" the prophet. We are to heed the words and commandments. To "heed" means "to consider; to give careful attention to."

In other words, we are to pay careful attention to any purported revelation, then consider whether these words came from the mouth of God, while carefully praying for a witness that they are indeed God's words and commandments, and not just the wisdom of Joseph Smith. Since we are to do that regarding the revelations that came through Joseph Smith, it should go without saying that we ought to give the same prayerful consideration to anything said by anyone purporting to be God's Authorized Servant in our day.

Fudging The Word Of God
Have you ever watched someone tell an outright lie over the pulpit? You haven't? Then you don't spend much time watching general conference, do you?

There are loads of examples of made-up "doctrines" which I've already documented elsewhere on this blog, but given that revelation from D&C 21 I just quoted, take a look at how Carol McConkie took -shall we say, "certain liberties"- with the sacred words God uttered in that revelation when she had a go at it during October conference 2014. First she says,"we sustain President Thomas S. Monson as our prophet, seer, and revelator. He reveals the word of the Lord to guide and direct our entire Church," then Sister McConkie went on to misattribute the actual words of Jesus Christ Himself:
"Concerning the living prophet, the Lord commands the people of His Church: 'Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me.' "
Whoa! Wait a minute, what was that?

Open up your D&C to section 21 and see who it was the Lord was saying those words concerning. Was he saying that about "the living prophet" Thomas Monson, or was he saying it about the long-since departed Joseph Smith?

Where is the revelation from God indicating His choice of Thomas Monson to be the current prophet, seer, and revelator? We have nothing at all from the Lord endorsing Thomas Monson as His prophet, living or otherwise. Don't you think Thomas Monson's appointment by God as His mouthpiece on the earth would be important enough that every member of the Church could recite that revelation by heart?

We can't find any evidence that Thomas S. Monson was ever anointed, appointed, ordained, called, or simply set apart by the Lord to any office whatsoever, and yet here we have a woman who is willing to blatantly lie about the the very words that came out of God's mouth, all in order to convince those in the congregation gullible enough, or simply unacquainted with scripture enough, to buy into her load of baloney.

But Sister McConkie is just getting started:
"In a world threatened by a famine of righteousness and spiritual starvation, we have been commanded to sustain the prophet."
Really, Carol? Commanded to sustain which prophet? Joseph Smith? And when did the Lord command us to do that? I'd be happy to sustain Joseph Smith, but I'm not aware of any commandment requiring anyone to do so. To my knowledge no one in the church has ever been commanded to sustain Joseph Smith, or any other prophet, ever. Now you're not just lying about what the scriptures say, Carol McConkie, you're making up new commandments out of thin air and insisting they came from God.

Are you saying we are commanded by God to sustain Thomas Monson? Okay, fine. May we please see that commandment in writing so members of the church can do their duty by taking it before the Lord for a witness that it did indeed come from Him, and not from the fevered brain of a middle-aged, idol-worshiping Meschugena?

Maybe some women should keep silent in church.

Sister McConkie threw bits and pieces of scripture into her talk, almost none of them fitting together properly with each other. For example, after declaring, "We also sustain President Monson’s counselors and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators," she segues effortlessly into a verse found in D&C 68 without even stopping to give it proper attribution:
“And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture … and the power of God unto salvation.” (D&C 68: 4)
I'm sure I don't have to tell you that particular scripture verse has no application whatsoever to President Monson's counselors and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. That revelation was directed at four specific elders regarding a specific ministry at a specific time; and although verse 2 (which Sister McConkie failed to quote) states that it could have application to others "whose mission is appointed to them to go forth," neither the First Presidency nor any of the Twelve apostles bother to "go forth" anymore these days as their offices require them to. Instead, they stay close to the corporate boardroom so they can direct the financial affairs of the Church without leaving their comfy headquarters in Salt Lake City.

But that isn't my primary objection to Carol's misuse of that scripture verse. She seems to have overlooked the qualifier in there about speaking "when moved upon by the Holy Ghost." Even Harold B. Lee recognized we should not make the assumptions Carol McConkie wants us to:
“It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they write. I don't care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard church works.”
When was the last time you saw a member of the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles moved upon by the Holy Ghost? You'll forgive me for belaboring the obvious, but reading a talk from a teleprompter that was prepared weeks earlier by staff writers does not equate with being moved upon by the Holy Ghost.

Sister McConkie's talk was a shameful display of propaganda, aimed at an audience she hoped would be ignorant of the scriptures she was deliberately mangling.  But she is not the first to do so, and she won't be the last. Two other speakers in that very conference session lied from the pulpit just like Carol did, but I won't bother to list those sins at this sitting. You can find an accurate summary by Matt Lohmeier by clicking here.

I will, however, mention that back in October conference of 2010, the aforementioned Henry Eyring plagiarized the word of the Lord that was directed at some real prophets and tried to apply it to himself and his cronies:
"I know the servants of God who will speak to you during this conference. They are called of God to give messages to His children. The Lord has said of them: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”
"The Lord has said of them."

The Lord has said of them?! Anyone who reads that revelation in its entirety knows the Lord said no such thing about those who were sitting in the chief seats in 2010. His words were directed at a specific, small group of men who compiled the Book of Commandments years before Henry Eyring and his friends were born. And no one besides those particular servants, as would be obvious to anyone reading the entire revelation.

Examples of Prophetic Counsel Provided By Joseph Smith
I think we've established that in order for anyone's words to qualify as "prophetic counsel," the speaker of those words must be shown to be a bona fide prophet. And I think we have established that Joseph Smith qualifies, because not only can we find numerous instances where the Lord has affirmed his divine calling, but Joseph Smith published evidence in the form of revelations that can be readily produced for examination.

But despite my digressions, this essay is not about revelations; it is about prophetic counsel. Or put another way, at this time we are examining statements of a prophet that come from the prophet's own mind, rather from the mouth of the Lord. So let's take a look at three or four examples of prophetic counsel given by our founding prophet, and then take a quick look at whether or not Henry Eyring and his pals in the Church hierarchy have been taking that counsel to heart.
Prophetic Counsel, Exhibit A
"If we do not get revelations, we do not have the oracles of God. And if they do not have the oracles of God, they are not the people of God."  (Joseph Smith, Documentary History of the Church, Volume 5, pg 257)
Today there are no oracles in the LDS Church -the very Church making the claim that the entire bunch at the top of the Church hierarchy receive revelations all the time. You're not supposed to ask why we haven't seen or heard any of those oracles, because asking that question is considered ill-mannered. To get around this absence of oracles in the church today, the Church lesson manuals now teach that the president of the Church and his counselors are themselves oracles.

God talked about oracles several times, but it was pretty clear he was not referring to human beings when he used that term, and neither was Joseph Smith when he spoke about oracles.  What I find glaringly obvious about these so-called "living oracles" is that none of them have managed to generate as much as one revelation that has been placed before the congregation for a sustaining vote in over a hundred and fifty years. You'll excuse me for saying so, but that makes their boast about being either "living" prophets or "living" oracles ring a bit hollow.
Prophetic Counsel, Exhibit B
"The Twelve will have no right to go into Zion or any of its stakes and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof where there is a standing high council. But it is their duty to go abroad and regulate all duties relative to the different branches of the church. When the Twelve are together, or a quorum of them in any church, they will have to do business by the voice of the Church." (Joseph Smith, Kirtland High Council Minute Book, pg 112)
The Twelve apostles today completely ignore that prophetic counsel, and that includes Henry Eyring, who spent a great deal of effort warning about the dangers we face when choosing not to take prophetic counsel. He's right, of course. The Twelve's failure to take prophetic counsel provided to them by Joseph Smith has changed the very ground upon which they stand, as every week more and more members of the Church recognize these guys cannot follow through with the promises they have been making.

The Twelve apostles, who previously were strictly prohibited from having any managerial or administrative function in the Church, have become, in modern times, the top governing body at the very top of the hierarchy. But to get there, they had to disobey direct commandments God made in D&C 104. Their choices to ignore prophetic counsel have had consequences, as convert baptisms are nearly at a standstill and believing members are walking away from the Church in massive numbers. The ground is changing, indeed. As Eyring himself foretold, the ground he and his cohorts have been standing on is becoming more dangerous to them as the saints discover that the claims of the modern Church leaders are empty boasts.
Prophetic Counsel, Exhibit C
“the patriarchal office is the highest office in the church. And Father Smith conferred this office on Hyrum Smith on his deathbed.” -Joseph Smith, May 27th, 1843 in meeting with Hyrum Smith, James Adams, Newell K. Whitney, and others. Reposed in the LDS Archives but found in D. Michael Quinn’s The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, pg. 306, footnote 70.
This is another instance where modern leaders of the Church opted to ignore the prophetic counsel of Joseph Smith and do things their way to ensure they would remain top dogs in the corporate structure. The Presiding Patriarch is denominated as a prophet, seer, and revelator in D&C section 124. Yet in 1979, absent a revelation from God, and without consulting the church membership for a vote, the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles forced the presiding patriarch into an early retirement and quietly abolished the highest office in the church. This travesty is documented at length in "Brigham Young's Hostile Takeover." The Church cannot operate under the government established by Jesus Christ so long as members of the current government were willing to give the boot to the one person holding the only legitimate office that remained.
Prophetic Counsel, Exhibit D
[From the minutes of the Nauvoo Relief Society]: President Joseph Smith rose, read the 14th Chap. of Ezekiel— said the Lord had declared by the prophet that the people should each one stand for himself and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church— that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls— applied it to the present state of the church of Latter-Day Saints— said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall— that they were depending on the prophet hence were darkened in their minds from neglect of themselves— (Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, Pg 51)
Here is yet another instance where the current Church leadership has opted to ignore the clear prophetic counsel of a true prophet in favor of doing things their own way.  Joseph Smith was emphatic about the dangers inherent to the church when the people choose to depend too much on the prophet, yet here is the counsel given by Elder Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve to a stadium full of BYU students a few years back:
"You keep your eyes riveted on the prophet and the Twelve apostles. We will not lead you astray. We cannot. So keep your eyes riveted on the leadership of the Church." (Russell Ballard speaking at BYU, 1996)
I'd sure like to read the revelation Elder Ballard got that from. This alarming change in emphasis is indication of nearly a hundred and seventy years of progress in this church simply abandoned to the wind, converting the once promising Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into just another anemic cult.
Prophetic Counsel, Exhibit E
"If any man preaches to you doctrines contrary to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the Book of Doctrine & Covenants, set him down as an imposter...Try them by the principles contained in the acknowledged word of God; if they preach, or teach, or practice contrary to that, disfellowship them; cut them off from among you as useless and dangerous branches, and if they are belonging to any of the quorums of the church, report them to the president of the quorum to which they belong." (Joseph Smith, Times & Seasons,5:490-491, April, 1, 1844, emphasis in the original.)

You're probably familiar with the saying, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," but I don't think that holds true among those of us who already believe in the gospel of the Restoration. We are already convinced of the truthfulness of the gospel, the Book of Mormon, and the core fundamentals of Mormonism. Prominent members of the Church such as Thomas Monson, Henry Eyring, Russell Ballard, Russell Nelson, Carol McConkie, and others have made extraordinary claims, but I think it would take only an ordinary bit of evidence if they wanted to be proven correct.

The men at the top of the chain in the Church claim to be prophets, seers, and revelators, in the same manner Joseph Smith was, with all the same gifts, authority, and "keys" the Lord gave to the prophet Joseph, and because they hold that authority they insist that the rest of us follow them without question.

So okay. Here is how they can get the rest of us back on board and once again fill the pews with active and enthusiastic members:

We don't need them to show us any extraordinary evidence to back up their claims of being prophets, seers, and revelators. All they need to do is produce one or two actual revelations from the mouth of God, so those of us who believe in continuous revelation can take those revelations to the Lord for confirmation.

That's all. Just produce a couple of simple pieces of evidence for us to examine, and if it turns out the Lord is truly directing your efforts, we will stop speaking out against you.

But if you fail to comply with that reasonable request, there may be no alternative for the rest of us than to follow the Prophetic Counsel of Joseph Smith and set you down as imposters, and cut you off from among us as dangerous and useless branches.


Related Posts Or Posts Referenced In This Essay:

Evil Speaking Of The Lord's Anointed

Where Did The Oracles Go?

Not Quite The Same

How Jesus Christ Was Ousted As Head Of The Church Of Jesus Christ

Brigham Young's Hostile Takeover

On The High Road To Apostasy

Did The Lord Choose Not To Anoint 'The Lord's Anointed'?

How We Know Thomas Monson Is A Prophet, Seer, And Revelator

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Some Pretty Good Reasons For Skipping Tithing Settlement

Previously: The Oaks & Ballard Old Time Vaudeville Revue

Well, that joyful season is upon us once again, and the Church wants to make sure you don't miss out!

I'm not referring to the season when we celebrate the birth of Christ. (Let's not confuse Church priorities here.) I'm referring to the season when you get guilted by your bishop into coughing up extra money so it can help pay the bloated salaries of those top Church leaders who already make more money than you do. 

Facebook, as it is wont to do now and then, today showed me a reminder of a blog post I wrote three years ago.  Seeing as how this blog has picked up thousands of new readers since then who may have missed it, I thought it appropriate at this sacred time of year for this thing to be seen by those who may not have seen it on its first go-round. Even if you have read it before, I think it's worth a second look.

This particular piece happens to be one of my favorites, not least because it was cited at my court of excommunication as one of the four blog posts that cost me my membership in the church.

Seeing as how nothing in the post was admitted to either be in error or damaging to anyone's testimony of the gospel, you might like to try guessing what harm those in control thought it could possibly do to the Church.

Click on the link below. And don't forget to share it with your friends!

Click Here:  When Tithing Settlement Goes Horribly Wrong

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Oaks & Ballard Old-Time Vaudeville Revue

Previously: Brigham Young's Hostile Takeover

The way things are going lately, I may have to start each post with a disclaimer just to inform new readers they haven't landed on an anti-Mormon site. Maybe something like this:

The proprietor of this blog is a devout believer in the Book of Mormon, Divine Revelation, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. However, he has little respect for impostors in high office who claim divine appointments they have not received and spiritual gifts they never demonstrate.

Which brings us to this four-minute train wreck currently blowing up the Bloggernacle:

UPDATE, NOV 7, 2017: 
I am shocked, SHOCKED! that Church headquarters felt it necessary -for some unimaginable reason- to have this video removed from Youtube a mere two days after I went to the trouble of sharing it here! 
Unfortunately, now if you hope to have any chance to watch our venerable senior apostles nudge and snicker together incessantly, you'll have to go to the trouble of clicking on The Official Church Website Here.
Those ninny-nanny spoilsports in Salt Lake City don't seem to realize that once something is put up on the internet, it tends gain a life eternal, so some mischievous scamp reposted an abridged version mixed with the sounds of a studio audience so Oaks & Ballard won't have to giggle their way through it all alone:

What I'm reviewing here is the original four minute video, so you may want to watch that one on before reading further. This video is a short advertisement of sorts for an upcoming "Face to Face" video stream with two Senior Apostles of the Church, wherein they are preparing to answer questions sent in by teen and young adult members.

"About time!" you say. Finally, the tough questions about the way our religion is presently governed will at long last be answered by two senior apostles with a direct line to heaven; men who claim to be prophets, seers, and revelators -the same gifts Joseph Smith repeatedly demonstrated in his day.

No such luck. As a teaser for what is to come, Dallin Oaks starts off by talking about how excited he is about all the questions coming in. "I'm astonished at the places they come from!" he exclaims in wondering awe, "Here's one from Albania! Another from Australia! There's one from Texas and other foreign countries. Like Canada, and Zimbabwe, and uh, oh, let's see...Massachusetts!"

I guess no one has informed Dallin Oaks yet that this is a world-wide Church. Because like wow, you know? Massachusetts!

"The questions," Dallin exclaims with that wide-eyed manner of feigned excitement frequently seen when adults are addressing Primary children, "are coming in from all over the place!"

Russell Ballard chimes in: "And they're in-depth questions. They're questions that matter a lot in the lives of our young single adults around the world." They both chuckle merrily for no apparent reason as Ballard turns to Oaks and says mischievously, "It'll be good to see what answers you've got for all these questions."

"Get yourself ready," Oaks retorts with more laughter, as he glances down at the pile of questions in front of him, "I don't have answers for a question like 'How do I repent?' "

Wait a minute! Hold the curtain! Did he just say what I think he said?

Thank Heaven For Older Men...
I don't fault these two jokers for trying to convey a more relaxed side of themselves. They are, after all, addressing an audience of young people who they are trying desperately to get in good with. The LDS Church is losing Millenials at an unprecedented rate, as an increasing number of young people are admitting the Church simply fails to hold their interest.  This upcoming live stream project is one of many attempts to convince the rising generation that the Church is still relevant. Hence the folksy attempt by the leaders to convey a casual, down-home side of themselves to the dwindling pool of young singles who have not yet joined the exodus.

But there's a fine line between "folksy" and "cringeworthy. " This video is guaranteed to make the most orthodox Brethrenites squirm in their seats.

What I can't for the life of me understand is how a purported servant of the Lord, a man who holds one of the highest offices in "The Only True Church On The Face Of The Earth," could publicly admit he doesn't know how to teach repentance!  That was the softball question to end all softball questions, and he doesn't know how to answer it?

Not only that, but he actually laughs at the idea that someone would ask him how to repent.

Dallin Oaks uses the word "astonished" quite early in the video clip. That is the same word I've been hearing again and again from people who have watched this video.  They are astonished. The entire thing was so astonishing, one person said, that she couldn't look away.

What's truly astonishing about Elder Oaks' shocking admission is that teaching people how to repent is really Dallin Oaks' only job. "Preach nothing but repentance," The Lord repeatedly admonished the early leaders of the church in D&C 6:9, 11:9, 14:8, and 19:21.  The men given that charge were the very leaders whose mantle Dallin Oaks claims to have inherited. And yet he admits to not knowing how to teach it.

I'll make it easy for you, Dallin. In a nutshell, repentance is accomplished when a person stops doing those things that takes him further from Christ, and starts doing those things that bring him closer.

Apologizing to those we have hurt is central to repenting, but Dallin Oaks doesn't believe in apologies."The history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them," he declared in 2015. So, of course he doesn't know how to teach repentance. He doesn't know the first thing about it.

My friend Pepper pointed out in a Facebook post that repentance is a very basic tenet of all scripture, and has helpfully outlined the process in six steps below. Anyone reading this (other than a modern-day apostle) can readily see that apologizing is central to the entire process: we are required to apologize to God, and apologize to those we have injured. But Dallin Oaks, having been trained as a lawyer, knows how to weasel out of that obligation. In a follow-up interview, he explained that he does not find the word "apologize" in the scriptures.  Elder Oaks, as one of the governors of the Church, therefore does not recognize any need to apologize for anything he or any other Church leader has ever done wrong.

Here is what the scriptures teach about the process of repenting:
1. Acknowledge you did sin (confess to the Lord and to the person you sinned against).
2. Plead with the lord to forgive you by humbling yourself before him and confess his  grace and need for Him.
3. Forsake the sin.
4 Make restitution as much as is possible for the sin to those who you hurt by the sin.
5. Forgive others of their trespasses against you.
6. Continue in prayer, service, humility, forsaking and endure to the end.
Let me offer another suggestion: someone should point Brother Oaks to a conference talk given by a general authority in Conference of October of 2003. It was titled "Repentance and Change" and the speaker was...Apostle Dallin H. Oaks.

This is what comes of our general authorities giving conference talks that have been ghost-written in advance by their staffs, then read off a teleprompter from the pulpit. They don't always recall what was in the sermons they preached.

...They Spout Off In The Most Delightful Ways
So, if these venerable Church Fathers don't know how to answer a simple doctrinal question like "how do I repent?" then what kind of questions are they preparing to answer on the big broadcast coming up on November 19th? Well, that's easy. "Decision making for this age group is critical," Oaks informs us with serious emphasis, while Russell Ballard nods his agreement, "Whether it comes to choosing an eternal partner, or choosing a major, or choosing a place to live..."

I suddenly can't tell if these two clowns are religious leaders or high school guidance counselors.

Update, November 10th, 2017:
At a recent talk given by Junior Apostle David Bednar at Utah Valley LDS Institute Building, Bednar had this to say, as reported by blogger Khaden Pettingill:
"Bednar continued his answer by explaining that we don’t ask ‘who should I marry’, ‘what career should I follow’, or ‘what we are supposed to do’"
Sounds like someone needs to clue Junior Bednar into the fact that he needs to get with the program; he's been contradicting his bosses higher up in the Quorum.

Ballard and Oaks spend another half minute spouting bromides about young people needing to stay focused on what really matters in life, and wouldn't you know it: nothing whatsoever is said about Jesus Christ mattering above everything else. In fact, no mention of the Savior shows up here at all; these "servants of the Lord" don't even pay the Lord lip service. The thing that Ballard & Oaks believe really matters for these kids guessed it: The Church.

As Russell Ballard puts it, "They really need to stay focused on what really matters in life, because we expect them to rise up and take over and direct the affairs of the Church in the future."

Well then, these kids had better choose college majors in Business Management, because twenty years from now the religion part of the Corporation of the President may be only one small subsidiary of a larger conglomerate of Investment & Finance.

Avoiding The Important Questions
Here comes the best part of this video. This is where Russell Ballard goes off script:
"I think we'd have to be honest. There may be some of these questions that there are no answers to." 
And then he gives away the entire plot:
"I think those'll be the ones we avoid."
Russell Ballard's Patron Saint.
Uh Oh. Russell Ballard just stepped in it.

Ballard gives a little awkward chuckle and throws a quick grin to the camera in that special way Michael Scott used to do on The Office when he suspected maybe he'd crossed a line.  There's a short intake of breath from Dallin Oaks as his jaw drops for the briefest of moments. Oaks quickly does his best to save the fumble, but he struggles with it as his fingers fidget nervously with the papers in front of him.

"I, uh, I gave a talk on, uh, on the plan of salvation at, at conference, and I tried to stay away from the questions we don't have answers to because the Lord hasn't revealed a lot of that." Both men chuckle nervously as Oaks finishes his thought, "But He's given us enough to go on!" A little more laughter at a joke that isn't there, and they change the subject to something else.

Okay, fair enough. I'll agree the Lord has given us enough to go on regarding that particular point of doctrine. Most of us don't need a lot more detail on the plan of salvation. We get it.

But here's the thing: that conference talk Elder Oaks gave on the subject didn't tell us anything the scriptures didn't already contain, so why bother having a leading member of the hierarchy give a talk on it in the first place? If he really is, as he claims, a prophet, seer, and revelator, why did he give a talk on a well-known topic without revealing anything new?  These guys hint that they have an audience with the Savior on a regular basis, so how come Oaks didn't just ask Jesus for a little help preparing that upcoming conference talk?

I've never heard of anyone having difficulty understanding the plan of salvation. The outline is pretty clear; seems to me the Lord has given us most of what we need on that front. So the very fact that Dallin Oaks brought that up feels like a distraction. That is not one of those hard questions that has elements within it that would need to be avoided. None that I can think of.

What concerns me is that the hard questions these days have little to do with doctrine and a lot to do with things the Church has been deliberately fudging on or covering up for the past several decades. Foremost in my mind are questions the Brethren can easily answer if they wanted to.

Let's start with asking them to be honest about their authority, gifts, and abilities. All fifteen apostles claim to have the same authority and spiritual gifts that Joseph Smith had. They continue to claim they operate through revelations from God all the time, yet they never want to tell us what is in those revelations.

They are required to take any revelations they receive for the church and convey them to the church.  That means they're supposed to publish those revelations word-for-word as they received them from the mouth of the Lord, just as Joseph Smith did, so the members can take those words to the Lord in prayer and receive a witness through the Holy Ghost that those words did indeed come from the mind and voice of the Lord. But the leaders today give us nothing. They say they receive revelations, but they never show those chimerical revelations to anybody.

How about just one revelation every six months at conference time? Granted, the putative prophet is mostly incapacitated right now, but couldn't one of his counselors read one of these revelations out loud over the pulpit?

Just off the top of my head, here is a list of questions I would ask if I had an audience with an apostle or two. If these same questions were submitted to for consideration by some of the youth of the Church, I'll bet money none of them would make it onto the air. The problem is not that the answers are particularly difficult; each of them could be answered honestly, even if the answer is "I don't know." The problem is these are questions no one in leadership ever wants asked.

Here goes:
1. You claim to have been ordained by the Lord as a prophet, seer, and revelator. Can you please tell us the date that ordination took place? 
2. We have numerous revelations from the Lord informing us that Joseph Smith was anointed a prophet, seer, and revelator. Can you show us the revelation where Thomas Monson received a similar anointing? On what date and under what circumstances did this anointing take place? 
3. Since it has now been proven from the minutes of the Council of Fifty that Joseph Smith never actually gave the Twelve Apostles authority to run the church in his absence as has been claimed, by what authority do you base your claim that authority has been passed down to you? 
4. Since Brigham Young denied he was a prophet like Joseph Smith, and also denied that he was Joseph's legal successor; and since we know Brigham Young was only elected president of the Church and the people at that time never considered him to be their prophet, where did subsequent presidents of the Church obtain the authority to be called a prophet? 
5. Joseph Smith declared that the Church, and the Kingdom of God on Earth, are two distinct and separate entities. Yet Church leaders in recent years speak of them as though they are one and the same. Can you demonstrate that you know the difference between the two? What is the role of the Church? What is the role of the Kingdom of God? 
6. Since Joseph Smith was adamant in declaring that the Presiding Patriarch is the highest office in the church, why has that office been abolished? What office in the Church do you consider to be the highest one today? Can you give us scriptural citations to back up your assertion? 
7. On September 30, 1978, during the church's 148th Semiannual General Conference, the following was presented by N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency:
"In early June of this year, the First Presidency announced that a revelation had been received by President Spencer W. Kimball extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church." 
May we please read that revelation? 
8. May we also read the revelation purportedly given to Brigham Young where the Lord originally prohibited men of African descent from holding the priesthood? 
9. Since there are abundant contemporary accounts showing Joseph Smith vigorously denouncing the growing epidemic of plural marriage in Nauvoo while he was alive, and there is nothing but hearsay and rumor promulgated by practitioners after his death who claimed he did participate in the practice, why is the Church so willing to throw him under the bus when it makes more sense to investigate the provenance of the rumors?  
10. President Woodruff said "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray." Since this statement contradicts scripture and the teachings of Joseph Smith, would you please provide a copy of the revelation upon which President Woodruff relied for that statement? 
11. In Teachings of the Living Prophets the student manual distributed to Seminary and Institutes throughout the Church, we read, "The Lord will never permit the living prophet to lead the Church astray." That same manual quotes Gordon Hinckley as saying, "Follow the leadership of the Church. God will not let his Church be led astray." So now we have at minimum three separate statements making different claims. We are told the Lord will not let the president lead the church astray; we are also told the Lord will not let the prophet lead the church astray (they are not the same office, nor necessarily the same person); and we are now told that God will not let His work be led astray as long as we follow the leadership of the Church. 
So my question is: Which is it? The president, the prophet, or the leaders all together? And where are the revelations from God that give us these assurances?
12. Elder Oaks, you are on record as saying "it's wrong to criticize leaders of the Church even when the criticism is true." Can you please cite a scriptural source for that assertion?  If you obtained that doctrine through revelation, would you please provide a copy of the revelation so that the members can take it to the Lord in prayer and receive a confirmation that it is true?
13. For the first fifty years of this church's existence, members and leaders all routinely submitted themselves for rebaptism at least annually as a sign of their commitment to Christ. Yet today if a member of the LDS Church desires to be rebaptized for the same reason, they face excommunication from the church. Can you please tell us who changed the doctrine, the reasoning behind the change, and provide the revelation authorizing the change? 
You've Got Questions, We Ain't Got Answers 
Well, that's a baker's dozen, and you people know I could go on and on. I think it would be an interesting exercise if some of my readers suggested questions of their own in the comment section below. If you care to do so, please place your questions in quotes so we can tell the difference between your suggested questions and any regular comments you may wish to make.

Of course, none of these questions will be submitted to Elders Oaks and Ballard; I don't know if the cut-off date for questions has passed, but it won't matter anyway, because the questions that count, the questions only Church leaders know the answers to, will be vetted and discarded well before air time.

You might also be interested to know that our friend Radio Free Mormon, author of the past two posts in this space, has already created an audio review of this sneak peak in which he skewers it better than I did.

And don't forget to tune in to on November 19th for the live stream of the Oaks & Ballard Show. I doubt anything productive will come of it, but I still wouldn't miss it for the world.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Brigham Young's Hostile Takeover

Previously: How Jesus Christ Was Ousted As Head Of The Church Of Jesus Christ

Today I present Part Two of Apostolic Coup d'etat, the first of which I presented last month on this blog. Both podcasts appeared originally on the website of Radio Free Mormon. I have taken the opportunity to not only link to both podcasts on this blog, but also to provide a written transcript for both chapters. I recommend you first READ OR LISTEN TO PART ONE HERE if you have not already done so, as it contains important background to this one.

I should note that the section subheadings in both transcripts were placed here by me, Rock Waterman, and not by the author. I am also responsible for any captions, illustrations, and links to outside sources.

Here, then, is the transcript:

Apostolic Coup d’etat, 
Part Two

How the Twelve Apostles, in a Breathtaking Power Grab, Assumed Absolute and Complete Control of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints                                                                                                                                                          -By Radio Free Mormon

                             (Listen To the Audio Podcast here.)

In the last episode, we talked about when Joseph Smith was murdered in June of 1844, the problem was not that there was nobody who could lay claim to being the next leader of the church; the problem was that there was an overabundance of people and groups who could feasibly lay claim to being the next leader of the church.

We talked about how Brigham Young, who on behalf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was able to convince a majority of the Latter-Day Saints to accept the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as the leaders of the church in place of Joseph Smith and the First Presidency. We also talked about how three and a half years later at Winter Quarters, Brigham Young, over substantial pushback from five of the other apostles, managed to win acceptance for his proposal to reorganize the First Presidency with himself as president, and apostles Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards as his counselors.

We also talked about how miracles appeared to have been created and then retroactively inserted into the historical narrative to show that Brigham Young had been transfigured into Joseph Smith at the August 8, 1844 meeting in which he spoke to the saints and argued that the apostles should lead the church. We also talked about the retroactive "miracle" at Winter Quarters on December 5th, 1847 at the meeting with the apostles.

Actually, only eight of the twelve apostles were present for this meeting when Brigham Young said that there was an earthquake and Orson Hyde amplified on that, saying not only was there an earthquake, but also the voice of God was heard by the apostles, saying it was time for Brigham Young to step forward and become president of the church.

These stories, however, surfaced many, many years after the events they allege to portray. And in fact, in both instances, people who were present at the time and made contemporaneous records mention nothing unusual or miraculous occurring. So both of these stories appear to be late fabrications that were inserted into the historical record in order to buttress the claims of leadership. The purpose of the stories is to show that God sanctions, God approves, God commands these changes in leadership; God approved of Brigham Young and the apostles leading the church. That’s why Brigham Young was transfigured into Joseph Smith. Later on, God ordered, by his own voice from heaven, that Brigham Young should become president of the church and reorganize the First Presidency.

The purpose of these "miracle stories" is to confirm that this is the way God wanted things to happen. And it’s also interesting to note that the only reason for creating miracle stories and applying them backward in history at these critical junctures of leadership transition is because the people who created them felt their claims needed buttressing. In other words, they felt their claims were not strong enough to stand on their own, and therefore needed an extra miracle in order to solidify their case.

We delved a bit into Section 107, given in 1835, which describes the different quorums of leadership in the church: the Quorum of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which is said to be equal in power and authority to the First Presidency. We talked about the Quorum of Seventy, which is described in the revelation as being equal in power and authority to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. We talked about the fact that this revelation does not say two things that modern-day Latter-Day Saints like to ascribe to it.

The first thing it does not say is that any quorum has the power to reconstitute a higher quorum. Specifically, it does not say that the Quorum of the Twelve has the power to reconstitute the First Presidency. The second thing this revelation does not say is that one quorum is above another in power and authority. That’s the way it’s become to be interpreted nowadays. And we quoted from Joseph F. Smith in 1906 to that effect in the last episode, instead of a strict hierarchy at the top, First Presidency, next Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, next Quorum of the Seventy, as we have it today.

Section 107 is extremely clear and repetitive on the point that each of these quorums are equal in power and authority one to the other. Going on with a little bit more study in the Doctrine and Covenants, there is only one section in the Doctrine and Covenants that appears to contemplate the appointment of a successor to Joseph Smith and the way in which that would be done. That is Section 43 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which says in verses 2-4:
"For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him (that’s Joseph Smith) whom I have appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations from my hand. 
"And this ye shall know assuredly—that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me. 
Verse four is the critical verse here:
"But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead."
So here is the reference in the Doctrine and Covenants, in the published revelations of the church, to how a successor to Joseph Smith will arise and that is through direct appointment. That is the word used here, "appointed" -direct appointment by Joseph Smith- which would presumably be prior to his death. He would have to appoint somebody.

And what we are going to see as we touch on this part of the history of the church is that there were a number of people coming forward who claim to have appointments by Joseph Smith. And they even use that word - appointments - by Joseph Smith to be the next president.

For example, Brigham Young himself in this August 8, 1844 meeting expressed his belief that if Hyrum Smith had lived and not died at the same time as Joseph Smith, that Hyrum Smith would have been the next leader of the church. In other words, he had the idea that Hyrum Smith had this appointment. Here’s the quote: “If Hyrum had lived he would not have stood between Joseph and the Twelve but he would have stood for Joseph.-Did Joseph ordain any man to take his place? He did. Who was it? It was Hyrum. But Hyrum fell a martyr before Joseph did." (Conference Minutes, Times & Seasons, Oct 15, 1844, pg 683.) 

So here’s this expression by Brigham Young that he knew of this idea, that a person had to be appointed by Joseph Smith in order to be the next president. Not only does this quote show Brigham Young understood this principle, it also indicates that Brigham Young understood that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles did not have this specific appointment. Brigham Young himself did not have this specific appointment. There was no basis that Brigham Young could claim, based upon Section 43, that he or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles should become the leaders of the church. He argued it on different grounds and ultimately won the day with the majority of the Latter-Day Saints.

But to give you an idea, there was another fellow named James Strang who you may have heard of. And he came forward with a letter that he claimed was mailed to him prior to Joseph Smith’s death, written by Joseph Smith, in which Joseph Smith appointed William Strang to become the next president of the church when Joseph Smith died. And it was generally understood even by Brigham Young that Joseph Smith’s son, Joseph Smith III, was appointed by Joseph Smith to become the next president of the church. Joseph Smith III was very young when Joseph Smith died, and Brigham Young held open the idea that the apostles would lead the church until Joseph Smith III was old enough to become its rightful president.

Joseph Smith III, however, had no intention of joining with the church in Utah. He was a member of the church to which his mother belonged. That would be Emma Smith, that would be Joseph Smith’s wife. And ultimately, Joseph Smith III became president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which ended up putting him out of contention for being president as far as Brigham Young was concerned.

And not only did Hyrum Smith and Joseph Smith III have appointment claims along with James Strang; Samuel Smith, Joseph Smith’s brother, appears in Nauvoo in July, a couple of weeks after Joseph Smith is murdered and he claims Joseph Smith appointed him to be the president of the church in case Joseph and Hyrum were killed at the same time. We'll talk more about Samuel Smith later because he came to a tragic -and somewhat suspicious- end.

One more example of Joseph Smith acting on Section 43’s instructions is the ordination of David Whitmer on July 7, 1834. So that's pretty early on. But David Whitmer left the church a few years later. He was no longer a member of the church in 1844 when Joseph Smith died. But on July 7, 1834 Joseph Smith ordained David Whitmer “to be a leader or a prophet to the church, which ordination was on condition that he, Joseph Smith, did not live to God himself.”

So, the idea there being, that if Joseph Smith fell away, David Whitmer now, by this ordination, would become the leader or prophet of the church. I mention all these examples to show that this was a commonly understood idea in the early church, in Joseph Smith’s time, that for a person to become the leader of the church, they had to be appointed to that office by Joseph Smith. And as I have indicated there were a number of people who came forward to claim that appointment upon Joseph Smith’s death. It was a little like in the 1970’s when Howard Hughes died, and people started coming out of the woodwork claiming to have wills written by him that gave them all of Howard Hughes' money. The same sort of thing happened in Nauvoo shortly after Joseph Smith’s death.

The Highest Authority In The Church Is Not The Prophet
Now let’s go back and talk about how Brigham Young solidified the position of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as the leaders of the church. First under this heading we are going to talk about the office of the presiding patriarch, the Church Patriarch. Now Joseph Smith’s father, Joseph Smith Sr. was the first Church Patriarch. After Joseph Smith Sr. passed away the office went to Hyrum Smith, Joseph Smith’s brother.
This is an office that no longer exists in the LDS Church. And that’s interesting to me because I was baptized in 1978 and we're all perhaps familiar with the centerfold in the General Conference issues of the Ensign. And by centerfold, I mean the middle section that opens up and there's all the different pictures of all the different general authorities: they have the First Presidency pictures at the top and the Quorum of the Twelve next and all the hierarchy is spelled out with names and little photographs off all the different people who occupy those positions. Well, way back when I joined the church in 1978, when the church Ensign came out, there was a picture in that centerfold that no longer exists, and that was the picture of the church patriarch.

Yes, the church patriarch appeared on the church centerfold. His name was Eldred G. Smith, and he had his own picture up there, though I can’t quite recall at this point where he fell on this chart. I can guarantee you, however, his picture was not above the First Presidency. And that might have been a surprise to Joseph Smith. Because Joseph Smith clearly thought, at least as of the time of his death, that the patriarch was the highest office in the church.

Let’s look at Doctrine and Covenants, Section 124. Section 124 was given January 19, 1841; so that is about three and a half years before Joseph Smith dies. And here we have, starting in verse 91, the Lord talking about Hyrum Smith being appointed to the office of Patriarch. Verse 91:
Joseph Smith, Senior
"And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant William (that’s William Law) be appointed, ordained, and anointed, as counselor unto my servant Joseph, in the room of my servant Hyrum, that my servant Hyrum may take the office of Priesthood and Patriarch, (now that’s an interesting expression, the office of Priesthood and Patriarch) which was appointed unto him by his father (that’s Joseph Smith, Sr.), by blessing and also by right;
This was a hereditary office; nobody got to ordain anybody to be the patriarch. That was theirs by blessing and also by right. The blessing being from the patriarch before you, which would be your father if you were the patriarch. It goes on in verse 92 to talk about this office:
"That from henceforth he shall hold the keys of the patriarchal blessings upon the heads of all my people,"
Now today, when we think of patriarchal blessings, we think of a nice older man, usually, who we make an appointment with; we fast 24 hours before we go, we have a once in a lifetime, generally, appointment to get a patriarchal blessing. He lays his hands upon our head, he pronounces some very nice things about us, tells us how wonderful we were in the pre-mortal existence. Admonishes us to obey the commandments and follow the prophet, and then promises us eternal blessings and rewards based upon our obedience to the commandments. So, based upon what stake patriarchs do today, it’s possible to get a wrong idea about what the church patriarch used to do in Joseph Smith’s day. Not only did the church patriarch give patriarchal blessings "upon the heads of all my people," going to verse 93,
"That whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses shall be cursed; that whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Hyrum Smith
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is the sealing power. This is why the church patriarch was a big freaking deal in Joseph Smith’s day. It was the church patriarch who had the power to seal people up to eternal life. But we will see, of course, that over time that power was taken over by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as well, who exercise it today. There is no revelation giving them that power to my knowledge. They simply took it over once they got rid of the Church Patriarch. Verse 94 goes on about Hyrum as the patriarch:
"And from this time forth I appoint unto him that he may be (that’s Hyrum) a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church, as well as my servant Joseph;
Now there are only two individuals and two positions in the entire Doctrine and Covenants that are referred to by the title Prophet, Seer and Revelator. One of them is Joseph Smith, the other one is Hyrum Smith. Now, skipping to verse 123 in Section 124, the Lord now introduces the different offices and the different positions in the leadership of His church, quoting from Section 124.
"First, I give unto you..."
Now, who's going to come there? Who’s going to come first in this list that the Lord is giving of his priesthood offices in the church? Well, naturally we would think Joseph Smith is president of the church, possibly the First Presidency; but it’s got to be somebody at the very top because the Lord is saying first I give unto you. The surprise is that the answer is not Joseph Smith and it’s not the First Presidency. Section 124 verse 124 (an easy reference to remember), says this:
"First, I give unto you Hyrum Smith to be a patriarch unto you, to hold the sealing blessings of my church, even the Holy Spirit of promise…"
See, I wasn’t kidding when I said earlier that the patriarch had the sealing keys, the Holy Spirit of Promise. The power to seal people up to eternal life, to have their calling and election made sure, was the power of the Patriarch. That’s why he comes first in the list. Once again from the revelation:
"First, I give unto you Hyrum Smith to be a patriarch unto you, to hold the sealing blessings of my church, even the Holy Spirit of promise whereby ye are sealed up unto the day of redemption, that ye may not fall notwithstanding the hour of temptation that may come upon you."
I’m going to stop reading Section 124 at this point, and I want to make another note. It appears from this revelation that the office of Church Patriarch is the highest in the church because it comes first in the Lord, and the Lord says it’s first in the revelation. But I want to add additional evidence to that.

On May 27, 1843, Joseph Smith said “the patriarchal office is the highest office in the church. And Father Smith conferred this office on Hyrum Smith on his deathbed.”

The context of this quote by Joseph Smith saying that the patriarchal office is the highest office in the church arose because Joseph Smith and some of the other brethren were sitting in judgment on a wayward Mormon whose last name was Winchester. We don’t hear about him much in the church, but Winchester was having problems with the church. He was making certain claims, and one of the claims he made was that there was a conflict between the Patriarch and the Quorum of the Twelve. Joseph Smith is saying, no there’s no conflict. The patriarchal office is the highest office in the church. It’s over the Twelve. No conflict.

This little-known episode with Winchester is found in the 
History of the Church, Vol 5, pp. 411. But the History of the Church omits the statement that Joseph Smith made about Hyrum’s patriarchal office being the highest in the church. That statement is found in the minutes of the meeting that Joseph Smith had with Hyrum Smith, James Adams, Newell K. Whitney, and others in Nauvoo on May 27, 1843 in the LDS Archives. This is found in D. Michael Quinn’s The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, pp. 306, footnote 70. It is in the minutes of the meeting, but when those minutes got reproduced and published in the History of the Church, that line was taken out.

Once again, the 
History of the Church is a multi-volume production that was created after Joseph Smith’s death, after the apostles took over leadership, after Brigham Young became president. And even though it was based upon the original minutes of certain meetings, the apostles who had to give approval for the History of the Church to be published made sure that there was nothing in the History of the Church that could compromise their claims to leadership.

This is an example. 
Joseph Smith said the patriarchal office is the highest office in the church. Sorry, that's not going to make it into the History of the Church. We are going to delete that. We’ll still have the story about Winchester, only it’s going to be missing this critical passage.

Get Back In Line, Brigham
So now I would like to go back to something I mentioned at the beginning of the last episode, which was the anointing of the different offices and quorums in the church in the Kirtland Temple January 21, 1836. I mentioned in the last episode that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was not first, was not second, was not third, fourth, or fifth. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was sixth in the list.

The important thing for purposes of this subject is that Number One leading the list was presiding Patriarch, Joseph Smith, Senior. He was anointed first in the Kirtland Temple. After that, the First Presidency, and then down number six, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

For those of you who want to know the rest, I will state them quickly: Number three were the regional bishops of Kirtland and Zion (or Missouri) with their counselors; number four was the Stake President in Kirtland where the temple was then located; number five was the stake president in Zion (Missouri); six was the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as I said; number seven was the presidency of the Seventy; and number eight was the president of the High Priests Quorum.

So you can see where the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles ranked when the anointing of the officers occurred 21st of January, 1836 in the Kirtland Temple:

No. 1:  Presiding Patriarch 
No. 6: Quorum of the Twelve 
But after Joseph Smith died and Hyrum died along with him, there was some controversy over who would be the next patriarch. I don’t have the time to go into it now, but there is an excellent book on the subject. That book is called Lost Legacy: The Mormon Office of Presiding Patriarch. If you are interested in the subject you can get that book and read through it; we are just going to touch on a couple of points.

The first point is that immediately after Hyrum Smith died, the church patriarch was no longer the highest office in the church. As you can imagine, Brigham Young did not have anybody above the apostles. The apostles were top dog in the New Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. But the office of Church Patriarch was allowed to continue. And over time, and over decades, and after the church got into Utah, more and more responsibility and authority and power was taken away from the office of the Church Patriarch until eventually he was just a figurehead who had his picture printed with the other officers of the church in the General Conference Ensign.

The church grew, and as part of the church growth, patriarchs were called in every stake to administer the patriarchal blessings. The apostles at some point took away from the patriarch the power to seal up unto eternal life, the power to make one's calling and election sure. And once that power was taken away, the Church Patriarch largely became a figurehead.

Ultimately, Eldred G. Smith, the last patriarch of the church, was put on emeritus status in 1979. What that means is, he was put out to pasture. That happened in the October General Conference 1979. On October 4th, Eldred G. Smith was put on emeritus status. Up to that point he had been sustained as Prophet, Seer and Revelator, as he is 
denominated in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 124.

However, after he was put on emeritus status he was no longer called that. And most importantly, no new Church Patriarch was called, which would have been his eldest faithful male child. But because no new Church Patriarch was called to take his place and Eldred G. Smith was simply put on emeritus status, he continued to live for many more years until he passed away on April 4, 2013.

Eldred Smith with Thomas Monson. Guess which one got to stay in office?
Once he passed away, the office of Church Patriarch, the office that Joseph Smith called "the highest office in the church," went out of existence. And with the removal of the Church Patriarch from the church hierarchy, the apostle’s coup d’état was complete. So in summary, the Quorum of the Twelve have now taken over the First Presidency and ultimately eliminated the highest office in the church, that of Church Patriarch.

Not With A Bang But With A Whimper
Let me try to express this in an analogy. Most of us are familiar with how the United States government is constructed. There are three bodies, the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judiciary. Suppose with me that the President and the Vice President were assassinated at the same time. And further suppose with me that the Constitution makes no provision for who should become president in that eventuality; that the President and the Vice President are gone in one blow.

Now in my analogy, the Legislature picks a new President and a new Vice President and the Legislature picks them out of the Senators. So now two Senators become the President and the Vice President. In that way, the Legislative branch has taken over the Executive branch. But then they want to take care of the Supreme Court, too. Well somebody gets a good idea: we don’t have to fire all nine of the justices on the Supreme Court. All we have to do is fail to appoint new ones when the old ones die out. And eventually all nine of the Supreme Court justices die and there is no more Supreme Court. This is similar to what the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles did in taking control over the LDS Church.

In my analogy let me ask a couple of questions: What allegiance would an American citizen have to the Federal Government if such a usurpation of power occurred?

Here’s the Legislative branch; they’ve taken over the Executive branch. They’ve appointed of their own number a President and a Vice President, so they’ve got control of that. Now they’ve done away with the Judicial branch by letting the Supreme Court die out. The Legislative branch has assumed complete control of the entire government of the Executive and the Legislative. They have all the power. What allegiance would an American have to a federal government if such a usurpation of power occurred?

And similarly, I’ve got to ask the question: what allegiance does a Mormon have to a church government if such a usurpation of power occurred? That is a question that every Mormon must answer for him or herself.

So that’s how Brigham Young and the apostles took control of the leadership of the LDS Church.

But that’s not the end of it. Brigham Young also took control over the entire church. He took control over the stakes of Zion, and that is a place where the apostles never had authority until Brigham Young seized it in contravention and contradiction to the revelations that God gave to Joseph Smith.

We touched on this earlier; we’ll go more in-depth on it here in a second. But now I've got to use another analogy. If we want to understand what the church was like in Joseph Smith’s day we have to get rid of our presuppositions about the way the church is now. It was not First Presidency over the entire church at the top, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles over the entire church next, Seventy over the entire church next. It wasn't this type of General Authority Hierarchy in Joseph Smith’s day.

Instead, let me use this analogy: I’m going to compare this to a county prosecutor’s office. Now in a county prosecutor’s office there are two divisions of prosecutors. Usually when we think of it, we think of the criminal division of the prosecutor’s office, with the criminal deputies. There are deputy prosecutors in the criminal division; they prosecute cases. They get most of the news stories. That’s how we tend to think of them first.

But there is another equally important division in the county prosecutor’s office, and that is called the civil division. They don’t prosecute crimes; that’s the other division. In the civil division they have deputy prosecutors who represent the county against claims and lawsuits made by other people against the county. So that’s why it’s the civil division. The civil division is a completely separate division from the criminal division, but they're all part of the same prosecutor's office. The elected prosecutor, the guy that gets voted into office, is the head of the office and he is over both the criminal division and the civil division. So that’s how a county prosecutors office is set up.

Now, going back to the church in Joseph Smith’s day, there were two completely separate divisions of the church. There was one division where Stakes of Zion were organized. Wherever there is a stake, there is a Stake President and a Stake High Council that was part of the organization. In places where there was a Stake High Council, the Stake High Council had authority for governing what happened inside the Stake. That's why they're there, that's what they do.

Now everywhere there isn't a Stake, that's the mission field. That's outside the Stakes of Zion. And outside the Stakes of Zion, that's where the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Seventy have authority. That's where they go. That’s where they go out and preach the gospel; that's why they're the Traveling High Council, because they travel. That's why the Stake High Councils are Standing High Councils, because they stay in one place in their Stake and govern there.

Now, going back to Section 107, we talked about how it says the First Presidency is a quorum, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is equal in power and authority to the First Presidency, and the Seventy is equal in power and authority to the Quorum of the Twelve.

But it goes on. When we hear about it in church, that's where the speaker stops. Like the talk from President Hinckley that I quoted in the last episode; he gave a General Conference talk, but that's where he stops. He talks about the First Presidency. He talks about the Quorum of the Twelve. He talks about the Quorum of the Seventy, that they're all equal in power and authority, but he stops there. He doesn't go on any further in Section 107. 

And there's good reason for that. Because Section 107 goes on to say that not only those three quorums have equal power and authority but also the Stake High Councils are equal in power and authority to the Seventy, to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and also to the First Presidency.

So you can understand why that doesn't get mentioned very often in church.

Ignoring God's Clear Instruction 
Let's go to section 107 starting with verse 33, where once again the Twelve are referred to as a Traveling Presiding High Council.
"The Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and secondly unto the Jews."
There’s that missionary aspect of their calling. Next,
"The Seventy are to act in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Twelve or the traveling high council, in building up the church and regulating all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and then to the Jews—
It’s the same calling as the Twelve.
"The Twelve being sent out, holding the keys, to open the door by the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
See how this makes so much more sense when you understand the Twelve are not over the entire church, but they’re over the missionary effort outside the places where Stakes of Zion have been organized.
"The Twelve being sent out, holding the keys, to open the door by the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, first unto the Gentiles and then unto the Jews."
Now we get to the money quote about the high Councils. Verse 36,
"The standing high councils, at the stakes of Zion, form a quorum equal in authority in the affairs of the church, in all their decisions, to the quorum of the presidency, or to the traveling high council."
They are equal in authority to the First Presidency and to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Then verse 37 says the high council in Zion, that's in Missouri, this is 1835 remember, when the Mormons were still in Missouri:
"The high council in Zion form a quorum equal in authority in the affairs of the church, in all their decisions, to the councils of the Twelve at the stakes of Zion."
Now, when it talks about the councils of the Twelve at the Stakes of Zion, that's talking about the additional Stakes other than the Stakes that were formed In Zion. There's a High Council in the Stake of Zion Missouri; there's also a high Council in Kirtland at the time this is being written, and there are other High Councils that are anticipated that will be created in the future, and that indeed were created in the future in Nauvoo as the church expanded and more Stakes were organized.

What verse 37 says is the High Council in Zion form a quorum equal in authority in the affairs of the church to the councils of the Twelve at the Stakes of Zion. So in other words, the High Council in Zion is equal in authority to the other High Councils in the other Stakes of Zion.

Every place the church is organized into a Stake there is a High Council; the High Council is in charge of running the affairs in that Stake. The only person over the High Council is the First Presidency. The Quorum of the Twelve is over here outside the Stakes, running the missionary work. Under them is the Seventy. And the only person over the apostles is the First Presidency, but that is solely and exclusively in the mission field, not in any Stake where the church is organized. Verse 98 kind of sums it up after talking about all the other different officers in the church and how they are standing quorums and standing high councils. Verse 98 of Section 107 states:
"Whereas other officers of the church, who belong not unto the Twelve, neither to the Seventy, are not under the responsibility to travel among all nations, but are to travel as their circumstances shall allow, notwithstanding they may hold as high and responsible offices in the church.
So, it's only the Twelve and the Seventy who are under the responsibility to travel among all nations. The reason they are under that responsibility is because their responsibility is to preach the Gospel and open the door to the proclamation of the gospel in all the nations.

This 1835 revelation about the High Council having equal authority to the Quorum of the Twelve was reinforced when Joseph Smith told the High Council after he organized them, "If he should now be taken away, that he had accomplished the great work which the Lord had laid before him, and that which he had desired of the Lord.” Joseph Smith added "he now had done his duty in organizing the High Council through which counsel the will of the Lord might be known on all important occasions in the building up of Zion and establishing truth in the earth."

It appears from this that the central High Council may have had the succession right to Joseph Smith if he should now be "taken away," as he put it in the quote. Not only do the revelations indicate strongly that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have jurisdiction in the mission field, whereas the Stake High Councils have jurisdiction in the Stakes; at a meeting on May 2, 1835, Joseph Smith instructed the Twelve that they had "no right to go into Zion or any of its Stakes and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof where there is a standing High Council.”

That's how clear it was. Let me read that again. "Joseph Smith told the Twelve in 1835, May 2nd, that they had no right to go into Zion or any of its Stakes and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof where there is a standing High Council.” Instead, their jurisdiction extended only to the areas outside Zion (the church's center place in Missouri), or any of its Stakes.

In another instance of the apostles monkeying with the history of the church, a meeting was held February 27, 1835 at which Joseph Smith proposed the following question: "What importance is there attached to the calling of these twelve apostles different from the other callings or officers of the church?"

This was a huge question at the time. There was already a high council of twelve individuals which was very high up in the church. What was the difference between the calling of the Twelve Apostles and other callings or officers in the church?

After this question was discussed by several present, Joseph Smith, Jr. gave the following decision: "they are the twelve apostles who are called to the office of the Traveling High Council, who are to preside over the churches of the saints among the Gentiles where there is a presidency established."

Now pay attention to that quote, because that's where the history of the church changes it from the original minutes. Once again it says "who are to preside over the churches of the saints among the Gentiles (that's the apostles), where there is a presidency established."

So, it sounds from this quote in church history that the apostles are to preside over the church where there is a presidency established. In other words, where there is a stake

presidency established, they are to preside. If that were correct that would mean the apostles were over the Stake Presidencies, because it says they preside over the churches of the Saints among the gentiles, where there is a Presidency established.

Now the problem is when you look at the actual Kirtland Council Minute Book,
one word in this quote was changed. And instead of the Church History version where it says "where there is a presidency established," it actually said "where there is no presidency established."

The minutes in the Kirtland minute book make it clear just what I've been saying all along, which is that the apostles have no authority to preside where there is a presidency established. In other words, where there is a stake presidency established, they have no authority in the Stakes of Zion.

But this was considered damning enough that when the History of the Church was published, this language was changed so it did not challenge the authority of the apostles over the Stake Presidents. And again, this language had to be changed by the apostles in order not to completely undercut the authority they had already assumed over the Stakes of Zion.

Interestingly, this incorrect quote from the minutes of the meeting is perpetuated in the MormonWiki link on the subject of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. They use the language from the History of the Church "where there is a presidency established.” We wouldn't want MormonWiki undercutting the authority of the Twelve Apostles by accurately quoting the church documents.

Now, the quotes we have been using from Joseph Smith regarding the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles having authority outside the stakes of Zion versus the Stake High Council's having authority inside the Stakes of Zion have come from 1835. So it's important to note that as late as 1843- May 27, 1843, that is a year before Joseph Smith died- Joseph Smith is quoted as making the same point. What he said was "the High Council was to try cases that belonged to the Stake and the Twelve to regulate the churches and elders abroad in all the world."

Now that last expression he says, "in all the world," is the phrase that Joseph Smith used to talk about the fact that the apostles had authority outside the stakes of Zion. When he says "in all the world" he means in all the world outside the Stakes of Zion where there is no Stake organized. Let me repeat that quote once again "the High Council was to try cases that belonged to the Stake, and the Twelve to regulate the churches and elders abroad in all the world."

That is significant because in Section 107 we frequently hear the verse cited regarding the apostles being special witnesses of Christ and, more specifically, "special witnesses of the name of Christ." What we tend to focus on today is the fact that they are special witnesses. Does that mean that they have seen Jesus? Or does that mean that they are special witnesses of the name of Jesus as the verse states?

But the verse in Section 107 says the Twelve are to be special witnesses of the name of Jesus, in all the world. And I think that at the time it was written, the emphasis there was in all the world equal to, if not more so, than emphasis on their being special witnesses of the name of Jesus, because it is followed up immediately by saying the Quorum of the Seventy are also to be especial witnesses of the name of Jesus in all the world.

Those expressions "in all the world" in their historical context, and comparing it with other usages by Joseph Smith, means in all the world in places where there are not Stakes organized. 

So, when Section 107 says the apostles are to be special witnesses of Jesus in all the world, it means their witness is to be limited to places where the Stakes are not organized. They are missionaries in the mission field. That is their exclusive dominion. That is where they have authority, and that was repeated once again by Joseph Smith as late as one year before his death, May 27, 1843: "The High Council was to try cases that belonged to the Stake, and the Twelve to regulate the churches and elders abroad in all the world." That citation can be found in the History of the Church, Vol 5, pp. 410.

Eliminating The Competition
The stake president of Nauvoo at the time was a man named William Marks. That’s another name we don’t hear very often in Sunday School class. William Marks was the president of the Nauvoo Stake at the time of Joseph Smith’s assassination, and as such he had a major league claim to leadership of the church. But William Marks was not ambitious; he did not want to claim leadership of the church. So instead of making his own bid for leadership of the church, he backed Sidney Rigdon’s claim to leadership of the church.

Sidney Rigdon, as we talked about last episode, did not get very far in his bid to become leader -or in his words, "guardian"- of the church. But that was not so much because he didn’t have a good claim on it, being the sole remaining member of the First Presidency; but mainly because of his personality and his somewhat wishy-washy performance in the church for a number of years preceding that. So Sidney Rigdon was excommunicated by Brigham Young on September 8, 1844, mainly because Rigdon did not back Brigham Young.

We have to get used to this in Mormon history when we’re talking about the real history at the time of the succession crisis. Brigham Young brooked no opposition. And after the apostles took over leadership of the church, anybody who was not on board with the apostles was going to have to be taken care of in one way or another. So Sidney Rigdon was excommunicated on September 8, 1844. Within four weeks of Sidney Rigdon’s excommunication, Brigham Young took a number of steps to solidify his power and he did this by dismantling the other competing power structures.

Brigham Young first eliminated the potential threat of the Seventy. Yes, I said of the Seventy. Isn’t the Seventy beneath the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles? Well yes, they are in today’s church, and they were in some sense back then too. But remember Section 107 says what? That the Quorum of the Seventy is equal in power and authority to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

So Brigham Young, seeing the Quorum of the Seventy as a threat, or at least a competitor to the power and authority of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, took steps to dismantle them. How did he do that? Well really quite brilliantly if you think about it. What he did was this. First off, we have to review the organization of the Quorum of the Seventy. It was organized the same then as it is today: there are seven presidents of the Quorum of the Seventy. Those seven presidents are not in addition to the Seventy, they are part of the number of Seventy.

So, there are actually seven presidents of the Seventy who are members of the quorum of the Seventy themselves, and then there are beneath them in that Quorum sixty-three other members of the Seventy. There's 63, plus the 7 who are in leadership, which makes a total of 70 if I’m doing my math right.

What Brigham Young did on September 29th, was he took all the Seventy out of the Quorum of the Seventy except for the presidency of seven. So he took all sixty-three of the Seventy out of the Quorum of the Seventy. What did he do with them? Well, he decided that he would create nine more subordinate quorums of the Seventy; subordinate to the original First Quorum of the Seventy. Because it was this First Quorum of the Seventy that was seen as having power equal in authority to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Well, what does Brigham Young do about that? He takes all of them away except for their leadership, creates nine new subordinate Quorums of the Seventy, and he takes those 63 previous members of the First Quorum of the Seventy and he makes them the Presidents of nine new Quorums of Seventy. 63 divided by 9 is 7.

So that’s the division on how he created nine new presidencies for Quorums of the Seventy. What he did by this means was he took away sixty-three of the members of the original Quorum of the Seventy. So now that quorum could not come anywhere near to having a majority present, which was necessary in order for them to make any kind of a decision. He completely stripped them of all their power and authority.

Now, this part has to be emphasized: Why did Brigham Young do this? We have to look behind this and recognize the fact that Brigham Young would not have done this unless he saw the Quorum of the Seventy as a competitor. And the reason he saw the Quorum of the Seventy as a competitor is because he understood Section 107 as meaning what people back then thought it meant; which is that these Quorums are equal in power and authority one with another. He saw the revelation as saying what it means, and because of that, he felt he needed to get rid of the Quorum of the Seventy and denude it of its membership.

Now Brigham Young had to deal with the competition from the Stake High Council in Zion. Remember Section 107 says that they are also equal in power and authority to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. And not only that, Brigham Young knows that the Stake High Council has authority in the stakes of Zion; he does not. He's going to have to find a way to grab control over the Stake High Council.

And this is what he does: On October 8, 1844, Brigham Young ordained more than four hundred men to the office of Seventy. On that single day. Now remember, he's just created these nine subordinate Quorums of Seventy by creating their presidencies out of the original Quorum of Seventy; now he’s going to fill up those quorums. How is he going to do it? Well, basically he’s going to take all the priesthood holders he can that live in the Nauvoo Stake and he's going to call them as Seventies to fill up these additional Quorums of Seventy he has created. Why is he going to do this? So, he can strip virtually all priesthood holders out of Nauvoo Stake and diminish the power of the Stake High Council.

Again, the details are that on October 8, 1844, Brigham Young ordained more than 400 men to the office of Seventy. This included all deacons, teachers, and priests that existed in the Nauvoo Stake. It also included every elder under the age of 35. The Seventy had suddenly become the most numerous office in the church, accounting for about 80% of Nauvoo’s males who held priesthood office. So suddenly on October 8, 1844, 80% of Nauvoo’s males suddenly become Seventies. And they are in subordinate Quorums of Seventy.

The reason for this was the ambiguity of succession that Brigham Young was trying to overcome. This mass ordination of Nauvoo’s males to the office of Seventy removed them from the jurisdiction of the Stake High Council. The Stake High Council had authority over elders, and also the other Aaronic priesthood offices. So when Brigham Young took 400 of them and ordained them to the office of the Seventy, he took them out from under the jurisdiction of the Stake High Council and was stripping the Stake High Council of its priesthood membership.

Believe it or not, by the time of the exodus from Nauvoo -and that was early in 1846- guess how many quorums of Seventy Brigham Young had filled up? The answer is thirty-five. In less than a year and a half, Brigham Young had filled up thirty-five Quorums of Seventy. This accounted for most of the males who received the endowment in the Nauvoo Temple, and transferred nearly two-thousand and five hundred men out of the jurisdiction of the Stake High Council. This is how Brigham Young overwhelmed by sheer numbers the revealed equality of authority which Section 107 says the High Council at Nauvoo shared with the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

Now in addition to this, Brigham Young used another administrative technique to remove most High Priests from the jurisdiction of the High Council. Remember, he’s gotten rid of most of the elders, the deacons, the teachers and the priests. Now he’s going to get rid of most of the high priests from the High Council.

Here’s how he does it: On the same day he depopulated the quorums of the Aaronic Priesthood and the elders through the mass ordination of Seventies, Brigham Young selected eighty-five of Nauvoo’s high priests. To do what? To go abroad in all the congressional districts of the United States to preside over the branches of the church.

He made them Branch Presidents.

He took eighty-five of the High Priests and made them Branch Presidents. And why did he do that? Who has authority in the mission field where there are not Stakes organized? If you remembered the answer is the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, you’re correct.

So this is another way Brigham Young took priesthood officers out of the Stake and put them under his jurisdiction. In addition to those eighty-five High Priests, three months later Brigham Young called another fifty High Priests as missionaries. Also outside the jurisdiction of the High Council and under the jurisdiction of the Quorum of the Twelve.

In this way Brigham Young completely circumvented the Nauvoo High Council, which only three years before had been given the revealed designation in D&C 124:131, as “the cornerstone of Zion.”

Well, what happened to William Marks, the President of the Stake? Here is what happened to William Marks: First, William Marks was released by Brigham as the Nauvoo Stake President. Then Brigham Young tried to have him excommunicated. But the High Council would not go for it. On December 7, 1844, Brigham Young accused William Marks of apostasy.

Some things never change, do they? His tactic was to accuse William Marks of apostasy because he refused to sign a statement repudiating Sidney Rigdon’s claims, and those were Sidney Rigdon’s claims that he should be the guardian of the church and not the Twelve Apostles.

William Marks barely preserved his membership in the church, and he did so by signing a statement on December 9th that condemned Sidney Rigdon and acknowledged the authority of the Quorum of the Twelve. So he kissed the Quorum of the Twelve’s ring and he was allowed to stay a member of the church. The apostles published his statement, but never bothered to take any further action against him.

For most Mormons, that was really not necessary. One Mormon even regarded the humiliating release of Marks as Stake President as the equivalent of excommunication. “President Marks has been cut off and Uncle John Smith is put in his place.” That’s from the Nauvoo High Council minutes, December 7, 1844. (See Dinger, Ed,. The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, pg 535-536).

So really, he is pretty much out of the way. But that wasn’t quite good enough for Brigham Young. William Marks ended up leaving Nauvoo in the latter part of February 1845. Things were made very hot by Brigham Young for any dissenters. And by dissenters, I mean Mormons who did not support fully the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as the leaders of the church. Remember, there had just been a huge succession crisis; not everybody voted for Brigham Young and the apostles. Many voted for other people. There was Sidney Rigdon, there was James Strang, and there were several others to boot.

Getting Down and Dirty
So now that the majority voted for Brigham Young and the apostles, what to do with the people who would not get in line with Brigham Young and the apostles? And believe me, if you had voted against Brigham Young and the apostles back in August, it really didn’t make that much difference what you said. You were going to be under suspicion that you still did not support Brigham Young and the apostles.

As I say, things were made very hot for any dissenters. And things were made hot by various means, including the activities of a certain group of men called “the whittling and whistling brigade.”

Many of us in the church have heard of this whittling and whistling brigade. However, in church art and church stories this is typically represented as a bunch of young boys who wander around the streets of Nauvoo and they have pocket knives out and they whittle on sticks, and while they whittle they whistle. The idea being, that if they see a stranger in Nauvoo or someone who looks like they mean harm, then they are supposed to follow them and whittle and whistle; not only to annoy them, but also to notify others that there's a problem going on so that more boys will show up and eventually this person who's in town, this stranger who means no good, will get fed up and he’ll leave town just because it’s so annoying and bothersome that all these boys are whittling and whistling.

That, as I say, is the Church presentation of what the whittling and whistling brigade was. The reality was something completely different. The reality was much more threatening. The reality was that these were not young boys, but in fact they were young men and adults. Not only are they not little boys, they’re also not whittling with pocket knives. They're whittling with Bowie knives.

They were armed with knives from ten to fourteen inches long. And what would happen is, a dozen young men and adults would press close to a dissenter or a suspicious non-Mormon. And their incessant whittling with those large knives was enough to strike terror to the hearts of the victims, and they would get out of town as quick as their legs would carry them. 

Now you can understand there’s quite a difference between a bunch of kids with pocket knives whittling, and grown men with Bowie knives whittling and whistling and getting very close to you. One would be an annoyance; the other would be an implicit death threat. And that is how a number of dissenters were gotten rid of out of Nauvoo. Because they were no longer welcome in town and Brigham Young made sure that they knew they were not welcome in town so that they would leave as soon as possible.

One witness in Nauvoo saw a dissenter to Brigham Young going out of town "whittled" by about 20 men with long Bowie knives kicking him down and pushing him in the mud for three quarters of a mile. As to William Marks specifically, the humiliated and released former Stake President of Nauvoo? the hostile environment in the city and his place in the church now was enough to induce him to leave town voluntarily. In other words, William Marks spared himself the repressive tactics which the Twelve and their supporters were using against suspected dissenters. Brigham Young himself wryly observed that “Brother William Marks had gone without being whittled out.” This was the verb that was used for people who were run out of town by the whittling and whistling brigade: being "whittled" out.

Was A Third Smith Brother Assassinated?
Now we come to the sad and tragic tale of Samuel Smith. You will remember that Samuel Smith was Joseph Smith’s brother. Pretty much the only thing we hear about Samuel Smith in church is that he was the first missionary in the LDS Church. He was the one who took a bunch of newly printed copies of the Book of Mormon, put them in his knapsack, and traveled throughout the countryside handing them out to different people and different families. And sometimes we hear about the impact that missionary work had on members in the church and the new members that that missionary effort by Samuel Smith brought in.

What we don't hear in church about Samuel Smith is what happened to him after Joseph Smith died. And there’s probably good reason for that. 

Samuel Smith was in Nauvoo July 10, 1844. His brothers Hyrum and Joseph had just been killed on June 27, 1844, thirteen days before. But on July 10th Samuel Smith shows up, and he has a remarkable claim to make. Remember we talked about all the people who came forward saying they had appointments by Joseph Smith to be the President of the Church? And how, according to the Doctrine and Covenants, a specific and personal appointment by Joseph Smith to be the next president seems to be required in order to qualify for that office of President? Well, Samuel Smith had such a claim. Samuel Smith claimed he had an appointment by his brother Joseph Smith and that appointment was to become President of the Church if Joseph and Hyrum Smith both died.

Now that may sound a little convenient from this point of view, considering the fact that Joseph and Hyrum Smith had both died. But remember, Joseph was a Prophet, Seer and Revelator, so presumably his followers would believe that Joseph Smith could predict such an outcome. We find this fact in the diary of William Clayton for July 12, 1844. And in his July 12, 1844, entry he talks about the meeting that he had with Samuel Smith two days before on July 10, 1844. Also present at this meeting was Willard Richards, W.W Phelps, and John Smith. 

Now, Willard Richards was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He was also a cousin of Brigham Young, and Willard Richards wanted to put the brakes on Samuel Smith’s claim that he should now be President due to this appointment from Joseph Smith. And Willard Richards wanted to put the brakes on it until at least August, because the other apostles were out in different parts of the country. They had been sent there to stump for Joseph Smith’s candidacy for President. And they had to take time to get back to Nauvoo, that’s why it took till August for all the apostles to get back in Nauvoo. Willard Richards wanted to delay Samuel Smith’s claim until August.

There was enough talk about Samuel Smith’s succession claim that the newspaper in Springfield, Illinois reported "a son of Joe Smith," (apparently Joe Smith Sr.) -"a son of Joe Smith, it is said, had received the revelation that he was to be the successor of the Prophet." So apparently this news was getting bandied about to the point where the newspaper in Springfield, Illinois even reported on it. But after Samuel Smith made his claim to church leaders on July 10, but before the apostles all returned to Nauvoo in August, Samuel Smith died.

It is the circumstances of his death that are of interest. Samuel became violently ill and died on July 30, 1844. Now this seemed highly coincidental, and perhaps suspicious to a number of people that Samuel Smith should come into town, claim that he is the next successor to Joseph Smith by direct appointment, and then shortly after making that claim Samuel becomes violently ill and dies twenty days after making that claim. John M. Bernhisel, who is a physician and also a member of the Council of Fifty, told William Smith that his brother Samuel had somehow been poisoned by anti-Mormons.

So John Bernhisel may have thought it was poisoning, but he attributed it to anti-Mormons. Other people, however, thought it was poisoning, but not anti-Mormons who did it; but rather the most true and faithful Mormons -at least the most true and faithful Mormons to Brigham Young and the apostles.

Brigham's toady Willard Richards.
William Smith learned from Samuel’s widow that Hosea Stout had acted as his brother’s nurse while he was sick and given him “white powder” for medicine every day until Samuel Smith died. Now as I said, Samuel became ill within days of the discussion of his succession right; and by July 24, which was 14 days later, was already very sick. He would die six days after that, on July 30th.

William Smith eventually concluded that apostle Willard Richards -remember, Willard Richards was the one who wanted to delay the discussion of Samuel Smith’s appointment until all the apostles got back, including his cousin Brigham Young- William Smith eventually concluded that apostle Willard Richards asked Hosea Stout to murder Samuel Smith. The motive was to prevent Samuel from becoming Church President before the full Quorum of the Twelve arrived in Nauvoo.

William Smith had some basis for this belief. First, Hosea Stout was a Missouri Danite and a senior officer in the Nauvoo police. Additionally, you will remember that William Clayton was the scribe at the July 10, 1844, meeting at which Samuel Smith claimed he had the right of succession from Joseph Smith.

Well, later on, William Clayton believed that Hosea Stout was out to murder him. This is an amazing story. This is three years later; it’s 1847. You'll remember that it was in 1847 the first company of saints headed west from Winter Quarters. Well, before that happened, William Clayton went to Brigham Young and asked him for a special favor. William Clayton asked Brigham Young if William Clayton could be in the first company of saints to go West. The reason why he asked him this is reflected in William Clayton’s own journal. It was because William Clayton claimed that Hosea Stout -once again there’s Hosea Stout- William Clayton claimed that Hosea Stout had threatened to murder him as soon as the apostles left. So, it appears William Clayton at least regarded Hosea Stout as capable of murder. William Clayton in his diary did not record any attempt by Brigham Young to dispute this assessment. In other words, Brigham Young didn’t try and argue with him and say no Hosea Stout's not trying to murder you. Instead, Brigham Young granted William Clayton’s request to go west with the first company of saints.

So this appears to be the type of person that Hosea Stout was. Was he capable of murder? Well, he was certainly capable of threatening William Clayton with murder in 1847. And yet there seems to be more evidence along this line. Samuel’s daughter also believed her father was murdered. What she wrote was this: “My father was undoubtedly poisoned.” She also wrote that her uncle, who’s name is Arthur Milliken, was poisoned at the same time, and she notes that "the same doctors were treating my father" -that’s Samuel Smith- "the same doctors were treating my father and Uncle Arthur at the same time."

So you’ve got the same doctors treating them, they both have these same symptoms, they both get violently ill. Then she adds this: “Uncle Arthur discontinued the medicine” -you know, the medicine that was supposed to be making them get better- “Uncle Arthur discontinued the medicine without letting them know that he was doing so. Father continued taking it until the last dose.” And according to Samuel’s daughter, Samuel Smith spit it out and said he was poisoned. But it was too late. He died.

In what would be the modern-day equivalent of a death certificate, Nauvoo’s sexton recorded that Samuel Smith died of Bilious Fever. Now, Bilious Fever did cause the death of people from time to time, and in fact, Bilious Fever caused the death of two children that summer, the summer of 1844. But no other adults. So Samuel Smith is on record as being the only adult to die of Bilious Fever in the summer of 1844.

This troubling allegation, that Samuel Smith was poisoned because of his claim that Joseph Smith had appointed him to be the next President cannot be ignored, but also it cannot be verified. Nevertheless, William Clayton’s diary confirms the efforts of Willard Richards to avoid the appointment of a successor before his first cousin Brigham Young arrived in town. And it will be recalled that Willard Richards was put into the reorganized First Presidency as a counselor to Brigham Young in December of 1847.
Turning back to Hosea Stout’s own diary, Hosea Stout describes several occasions when Brigham Young and other apostles seriously discussed having Hosea Stout “rid ourselves of various church members considered dangerous to the church and the apostles.” Stout referred to this as, "cut him off behind the ears according to the law of God in such cases." Many years later Hosea Stout would be tried for attempted murder by the Salt Lake Municipal High Court. In that proceeding, Hosea Stout protested that “It has been my duty to hunt out the rotten spots in the kingdom.” He added that he had “tried not to handle a man’s case until it was right.”

Evidence does not exist to prove conclusively whether the Prophet’s brother, Samuel Smith, was such a case that Stout handled. So, although we cannot say with certainty that Samuel Smith was murdered, we can say that members of his family believe that he was murdered. That the allegation of Hosea Stout murdering him is not inconsistent with Hosea Stout’s known character and the circumstances surrounding Samuel Smith’s death are suspicious at best.
Hosea Stout. Clearly not the face of a psychopath.
So Here We Are Today
This is going to conclude part two of the podcast, Apostolic Coup d'état, wherein we have set forth the evidence of how it is that Brigham Young and the Twelve Apostles, in a breathtaking power grab, assumed absolute and complete control of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. First, Brigham Young got rid of all the competition for leadership of the Twelve. He got rid of the First Quorum of Seventy; he got rid of the Stake High Council; he got rid of the Stake President; he excommunicated Sidney Rigdon; and he made the office of Church Patriarch a mere figurehead. Brigham Young thereafter reconstituted the First Presidency with three apostles in it and took over control of the church.

George Q. Cannon was a later apostle in the church. He was a counselor to Brigham Young at the time of his death in 1877, and George Q. Cannon made a statement shortly after Brigham Young’s death which is of interest here and which we will use to conclude this podcast. He may have been alluding to Brigham Young’s autocratic usurpation of power when George Q. Cannon recorded in his journal this, after Brigham Young’s death:
“Some of my brethren, as I have learned since the death of President Brigham Young, did have feelings concerning his course. They did not approve of it, and felt oppressed; and yet they dared not exhibit their feelings to him. He ruled with so strong and stiff a hand, and they felt that it would be of no use. In a few words, the feeling seems to be that he transcended the bounds of the authority which he legitimately held.”
George Q. Cannon concludes his journal entry by saying “I have been greatly surprised to find so much dissatisfaction in such quarters.”

So everything that this podcast has been talking about, the way that Brigham Young transcended the bounds of his authority in order to do a coup d’état on the church -that feeling was held by other leaders of the church at the time of President Brigham Young. Only they dared not say it to him because they were scared of him.

That’s how much they didn’t want to cross him. That’s how much they just said, we’ll let it slide. But after he died they started talking to each other, as will happen when a person dies. And George Q. Cannon, though he was surprised to find so much dissatisfaction in such quarters, nevertheless made a notation of it in his journal entry so that we can have it today.