Thursday, December 24, 2020

Follow the Profit: A New Way to Track LDS Church Stocks

When church members pay tithing, they have an expectation that the hard earned money they pay will be spent as the Lord has directed. These expectations are rooted in D&C 119:2, which gives us the scripturally-based purpose of tithing:

  1. "For the building of mine house [temples]
  2. and for the laying of the foundation of Zion [developing people who are of one heart, one mind and dwelling in righteousness with no poor among them]
  3. and for the priesthood
  4. and for the debts of the Presidency of my Church."

Here are some very basic questions about church finances:

Q: What is the church's income?
A: Today, the church receives as much as $7 billion in members' tithing each year. It is speculated that the church has over $100 billion in assets. [1]  

Q: How are tithes allocated?
A: Here's the church's own statement, dated May 22, 2018:

"The Church's Council on the Disposition of the Tithes is composed of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Presiding Bishopric. Together, they establish and administer the specific policies and budgets guiding the use of Church resources (see D&C 120:1). Those policies embody the following principles:

  • Expenditures will not exceed forecasted revenue.
  • The budget for operating expenses will not increase at a more rapid rate than anticipated tithing contributions.

Budgets for the Church's efforts are specifically approved and funds are appropriated by the Church's Budget and Appropriations Committee, a subcommittee of the Council on the Disposition of the Tithes."  [2]

Q: How are tithes audited?
A: Usually, large organizations hire outside accounting firms to audit their finances. However, the church has its own Audit Committee which does the job:

"Additionally, the Church Auditing Department, which is independent from all other Church departments, employs credentialed professionals to ensure that Church funds are administered and recorded in accordance with Church policies and standard accounting practices." [2]

Q: Do members get to see how the money is spent?
A:  Apparently so. The following is a transcript of an interview between Pres. Hinckley and a reporter (which can be viewed in its entirety here):

"REPORTER: In my country the...we say the people's churches, the Protestants, the Catholics, they publish all their budgets, to all the public.
HINCKLEY: Yeah. Yeah.
REPORTER: Why is it impossible for your church?
HINCKLEY: Well, we simply think that the...that information belongs to those who made the contribution, and not to the world. That's the only thing. Yeah." [3]

This is interesting because the church published its last financial report in April, 1959.

Q: How is the money spent?
A: Here's The First Presidency:

"The vast majority of these funds are used immediately to meet the needs of the growing Church including more meetinghouses, temples, education, humanitarian work and missionary efforts throughout the world. All Church funds exist for no other reason than to support the Church's divinely appointed mission." [4]

D&C 119:2 (As Amended)

So, the Church's divinely appointed mission now includes the development of high-rise office buildings, luxury shopping malls, planned communities and other real estate developments, several businesses, numerous radio and television stations, an insurance company, cattle ranches, farms, stocks and forged documents.

I won't go into detail regarding these various investments; other articles have done an exemplary job of that (for example, see here). In response, the church has admitted that it "also sets aside funds each year for future needs. These funds are added to Church reserves, which include stocks and bonds, taxable businesses, agricultural interests and commercial and residential property." These "Investments can be accessed in times of hardship or to meet the emerging needs of a growing, global faith in its mission to preach the gospel to all nations and prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ." [5]

The source if these funds? Again, church leaders disclosed, "the vast majority of its financial resources comes from the tithes and offerings of Church members." [2]

That means, by the church's own admission, your tithing money is spent on laying "up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt." [6]  Anyone paying these tithes is therefore complicit, to one degree or another, in these anti-scriptural endeavors.

I could write many, many posts regarding the incongruity between modern-day church expenditures and what the Lord originally intended in D&C 119:2. But today, I'd like to focus on just one portion of the church's assets: its stock portfolio.

The Definitive LDS Church Stocks Tracking Chart

For 22 years, Ensign Peak Advisors has managed the church's reserve investment fund.  For reasons the church declines to elaborate, [7] it never filed required government oversight paperwork until February 14, 2020 (although there is no evidence of intentional obfuscation, these are some pretty bright advisors who surely know the government expects these reports). 

These reports - filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission - are here: https://www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/browse-edgar?action=getcompany&CIK=0001454984

There, you'll see four reports, each filed on a quarterly basis in 2020. What you can't see is how these stocks have been traded from quarter to quarter. What stocks has the church purchased or increased, decreased or eliminated? 

To see that, I have downloaded each of the four reports and converted them into spreadsheets. Then I imported all four spreadsheets into an Access database, using their CUSIP as a common index field. Then I gave each stock issuer (for example, Microsoft) its own row, with each quarter's investment amount in the subsequent columns. After quarters 2, 3 and 4, I also listed the ?, or the percentage change from quarter to quarter.

OK, enough of the technobabble. 

Click here to access my Ensign Peak Advisors Tracking Chart

This spreadsheet has five tabs: Master Data, Top 20 investments, Winners (which stocks have increased), Losers (which stocks have decreased) and Pharma.

Top 20 tab: As of November 12, 2020, the church invested over a billion dollars each in Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. Both Apple and especially NVIDIA (a computer chip manufacturer) saw the church's stock purchases in them increase more than 20% between August and November, 2020.

Winners tab: between August and November 2020: Grocery Outlet, trucking company Schneider National, genetic testing company Natera then several pharmaceutical and therapeutics companies.

Losers tab: The church divested itself of over $79 million in stocks between August and November 2020. They're listed in the Losers tab.

Pharma tab: I list the 17 "COVID-19 RELATED" testing labs / vaccine developers which the church has invested in (red font; four of them are listed in the Top 20 tab). 72 other "CONFIRMED PHARMA" companies are listed in a blue font. Finally, 45 other Therapeutics companies are in a black font.

As you will see, the church is investing over $1.6 billion in tithed funds into COVID-19 testing or vaccine developers. Another $1.7 billion is invested in non-COVID-19 related pharmas, and just under $100 million in other therapeutics companies. All totaled, the church invests almost $3 billion, or 4% of its total portfolio, in these three sectors.

All spreadsheets will be updated on a quarterly basis as new SEC filings are submitted.

In a future post, I'll detail how the church is staunchly committed to vaccinations, including COVID-19 vaccinations. We'll examine the implications of this stance as it relates to these investments, the church's employees and members. 


"Furthermore, I want to say to you, we may not be able to reach it right away, but we expect to see the day when we will not have to ask you for one dollar of donation for any purpose, except that which you volunteer to give of your own accord, because we will have tithes sufficient in the storehouse of the Lord to pay everything that is needful for the advancement of the kingdom of God." (Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, Apr. 1907, p. 7)"


QUESTIONS

Based on the aforementioned facts, I have the following questions:

  • How does the church's investments in these various sectors (see italicized text above) square with the scriptural definition of tithing found in D&C 119:2?
  • When was D&C 119:2 amended to include real estate and other investments? When was this revision presented to the church for a sustaining vote per the Law of Common Consent?
  • What interesting points did you find in these spreadsheets?
  • Why did Pres. Hinckley say that budgetary "information belongs to those who made the contribution," but the contributors (tithe payers) haven't seen that information since April, 1959?

SOURCES

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Sunday, December 6, 2020

Are the Brethren Hypocrites?

"Rules for thee, but not for me."

This fall has shown us quite a cavalcade of leaders who say one thing, and do another with respect to Coronavirus lockdowns. Here are a few:

  • Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi went to a public hair salon without a mask. [1]
  • Senator Diane Feinstein wandered around without a mask at both the Capitol building and Dulles International Airport.  [2]
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom dined at a swanky Napa Valley restaurant with two California Medical Association senior officials and about seven others (all members of several other households), all without masks.   [3]
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was forced to change his plans after he announced on the radio that he was having his adult daughters and his 89-year-old mother visit his home in Albany for Thanksgiving.   [4]
  • San Francisco Mayor London Breed was caught the night after Newsom was busted at the same restaurant - The French Laundry -- attending a birthday dinner there with 7 other people. [4]
  • Austin Mayor Steve Adler has been busted twice flouting his own restrictions. "First, he hosted 20 people at a wedding and reception for his daughter at a downtown Austin hotel. The very next day, he took 7 other people in a private jet to his timeshare in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Then, while there, he addressed Austinites via a Facebook video in which he said, 'We need to stay home if you can.'" [4]
  • Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ignored travel restrictions to go to Joe Biden's victory party in Delaware, which she said "absolutely" qualified as "essential travel" (which is exempted from the mayor's quarantine order). [4]
  • Denver Mayor Michael Hancock tweeted a reminder for people to "Stay home as much as you can, especially if you're sick… Host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners. Avoid travel, if you can." A few minutes later, he boarded a plane to spend Thanksgiving with his own family members in Houston, TX. [4]
  • San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo apologized for attending a Thanksgiving dinner with relatives from five different households, saying it was "contrary to state rules". [5]
  • Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot hung out with jubilant Biden supporters on election night, flaunting their own COVID restrictions. [6]  In Mayor Lightfoot's case, she was also caught getting a haircut in the midst of her new stay-at-home order. Her explanation? The public needs to make sure she looks presentable. [7]
  • Several members of the California Legislature enjoyed a trip to Hawaii to attend a conference about COVID restrictions. The trips were paid for by a special interest group. [8] 
  • Los Angeles County supervisor Sheila Kuehl dined at a restaurant hours after voting to ban dining at restaurants. [9]
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci attended a baseball game with 2 guests while his mask pulled down in an otherwise empty stadium. [10]

As we read these consistent reports - all members of a specific political party - I wonder how much they believe in the COVID-19 related restrictions and rules they have enacted. 

I'm also reminded of several quotes regarding hypocrites and hypocrisy: 

  • "He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him." [11]  
  • "For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery."  [12]
  • "Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:"  [13]
  • "For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the Lord, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail."  [14]
  • "Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."  [15]

How the Brethren Betrayed Themselves

On Friday, Nov. 20, President Russell M. Nelson shared "a fast-acting, long-lasting spiritual remedy" into the world: "showing gratitude for our privileges" where, "for the next seven days" members would "turn social media into your own personal gratitude journal. Post every day about what you are grateful for, who you are grateful for and why you are grateful." Members were also instructed to "use the hashtag #GiveThanks."  [16]

Now, for many decades and on just about every church-related website, blog and social media group, members are told several times a day to "Follow the Prophet" because "He knows the way" and that "history has shown that there is safety, peace, prosperity and happiness in responding to the prophetic counsel." [18] 

Pres. Ballard went on to say that "Great and wonderful are the blessings that come into our lives as we listen to the word of the Lord given through him. When we hear the counsel of the Lord expressed through the words of the President of the Church, our response should be positive and prompt."

Although the response by many members was indeed positive and prompt, there was one class of members among whom Pres. Nelson's words were practically meaningless:

The 15 Brethren including Pres. Nelson himself.

Just to reiterate: the #GiveThanks marketing campaign was touted as an inspired, "fast-acting, long-lasting spiritual remedy." If that's true, then we would expect our leaders to enthusiastically magnify and multiply what members considered prophetic counsel. And by the looks of it, that's what happened, as this church news article publicizes.  [18]

But the devil, they say, is in the details.

Let's take a look at the social media accounts (via this webpage) for the 15 brethren during that 7-day #GiveThanks challenge. Pres. Nelson announced the challenge on Friday, Nov. 20th. The challenge would be held "for the next seven days," which is presumably through Nov 27-28th (depending on how you interpret his words):

First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve
Participation in the #GiveThanks Campaign

(Invitation by Pres. Nelson was to post daily to social media)

* My thanks to IHAQ, who inspired my own research into this matter.

As you can see, there should be 15 entries for each of the days in white. But there weren't. In fact, even Pres. Nelson (who set forth the invitation/challenge) only posted on three days. Elder Uchtdorf never posted at all.

QUESTIONS

Based on the aforementioned facts, I have the following questions:

  • So, what's going on here? 
  • Do the Brethren even believe the challenge (to post for 7 days on social media) was inspired?
  • If it was inspired (as the general membership tends to believe), what are we to think of the Brethren minimizing/de-emphasizing/ignoring that inspiration, without exception?
  • If it was not inspired, then (1) why was it given in the first place and (2) why would Pres. Nelson lead us to believe it was?
  • How are we to follow the Brethren (including the church president) if they don't even do what they ask of the members? 
  • If this initiative had the potential to help infuse a "a fast-acting, long-lasting spiritual remedy" into the world, then why wasn't it enthusiastically embraced by all 15 men?
  • How are we to respond to the next initiative pronounced by Pres. Nelson?
  • What is the definition of hypocrisy?
  • Do we see it in some national, state and local leaders?
  • Do we see it in some church leaders?
  • What does God say about hypocrites?
  • What would God say about those who follow hypocrites?

SOURCES

1.   https://nypost.com/2020/09/03/salon-owner-denies-that-nancy-pelosi-hair-appointment-was-a-setup/
2.   https://abc7news.com/dianne-feinstein-viral-video-facemasks-coronavirus/8052416/
3.   https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8961441/Gavin-Newsom-ate-birthday-dinner-INSIDE-California-restaurant.html
4.   https://www.zerohedge.com/political/these-are-hypocritical-government-officials-who-demand-you-stay-home-while-they-party
5.   https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/san-jose-mayor-releases-statement-regarding-thanksgiving-gathering/2411840/
6.   https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-opinion-pritzker-lightfoot-hypocrisy-20201116-ejenf2lkqjdntd7r6h66dr32cq-story.html
7.   https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/roster-of-covid-19-hypocritical-politicians-grows
8.   https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-11-16/california-lawmakers-hawaii-conference-covid-19
9.   https://www.vice.com/en/article/bvxvd3/elected-officials-just-cant-stop-violating-their-own-covid-restrictions
10.   https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/anthony-fauci-face-mask-down-photo-coronavirus/507-e33379cb-d79e-479b-9960-13293c96572f
11.   Job 13:16
12.   Job 15:34
13.   Isaiah 29:13
14.   Isaiah 32:6
15.   Luke 12:1
16.   https://www.thechurchnews.com/leaders-and-ministry/2020-11-20/president-nelson-special-message-gratitude-spiritual-remedy-healing-hope-covid-19-198180
17.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media/video/2011-03-091-following-prophetic-counsel?lang=eng
18.   https://www.thechurchnews.com/living-faith/2020-11-23/president-nelson-give-thanks-gratitude-social-media-posts-church-leaders-198314

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Monday, November 23, 2020

President Nelson's Prayer

"And no one dared disturb...the sound of silence."

If you saw a person dying, and you could heal them (and history and even God himself has shown that you could heal them), would you do it? 

Or would you simply sit back, pat their hand, and sooth them on their way out of mortality with gentle words and tearful stories about your loved ones who've passed on?

Which option has the greater message of healing and hope?

In my last post, I discussed how prophets have always delivered a very specific message to alleviate pestilences and prevent greater destructions: Repentance. Yet in his 11/20/20 message to the world, Pres. Nelson chose a message which deviated from the proven prescription God has always given mankind, and focused not on repentance, but gratitude. 

"Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil." [1]

Pres. Nelson also encouraged members not to turn to God with all their rended hearts, not to fast with weeping and morning, but to instead implement a week-long social media blitz promoting #GiveThanks. How can we even expect to please God without a broken heart, contrite spirit and taking advantage of the Savior's atonement?

With a full-blown plague in control of the world, and abortions, murders, thefts, lyings and unbelief in God at all time highs, perhaps today isn't a day of warning and repentance, but happiness and hope! Maybe everything's hunky dorey with God and repentance for all these sins isn't a top priority with him anymore.  

Either God is now overlooking mankind's true (wicked) spiritual state, or God's true message got lost in translation. 


Messages of Power

When the prophets of old delivered their messages of divinely-decreed doom and certain solutions, they did so boldly, directly and unambiguously from God. The only time they referred to themselves was in mentioning that they were sent to deliver their message by God himself.

In some cases, their messages stuck. In Helaman 11, we read how in the 72nd year of the reign of the judges, Nephi saw a "secret band of robbers who did carry on this work of destruction and wickedness" among the people of Nephi. A year later, he prayed that God would not "suffer that this people shall be destroyed by the sword," so instead, he called down "a famine in the land, to stir them up in remembrance of the Lord their God, and perhaps they will repent and turn unto thee." 

And boom, it happened. The famine was tremendously destructive enough that, by the 76th year, the people were sufficiently humbled and repentant. Due to a subsequent prayer by Nephi, God "turned away his anger from the people" and ended the famine. [2]

Today, we live in similar (and I suspect dramatically worse) times. The graphs detailing the spread of COVID-19 show that mankind is unwilling to humble itself nor be repentant.[3]  If this story of the people of Nephi is any indication, all it takes is for one person to pray to God (to help people remember him, be humble and repent), and God enthusiastically agrees. Last week, Pres. Nelson openly called on God to help us repent.[4] What do YOU think God will do?

One person recently surmised, "If a prophet of god really was a prophet and cared about people, wouldn't he be able to convert basically the entire world if he just said "yo covid, **** off," proving he really is a prophet?" Helaman 11:1-17 shows that's not how God operates. God will send forth his prophets to warn, and if the warnings aren't heeded, he unleashes the consequences, letting them continue until the people repent (like the people of Nephi in Helaman 11) or are all dead (like the Nephite civilization). [5]


Circumventing the Sound of Silence

Regardless of whether you think the United States presidential election is legitimate or not, the voice of the people (as expressed by its leaders) -- in the U.S. and many other countries -- has chosen to have its government run by those who proudly encourage (or are silent regarding): 

1. Murdering unborn children.
2. Admitting people into our country in direct contravention to our laws.
3. Accommodating and funding countries, and electing federal representatives and judges, who are violently opposed to God, Christians and freedom.
4. Anarchist groups fomenting riots and violence in our neighborhoods.
5. Sexual education of young children and encouraging them to reconsider their God-given genders.
6. Corrupting electoral laws, processes and procedures.
7. Eliminating divinely-inspired constitutional rights, provisions and principles.
8. Preferential treatment for individuals based on the color of their skin, not the content of their character.
9. Taking away income rightfully earned by an individual and giving it to another who has not earned it.
10. Embracing socialist and even communist ideologies.

Because of this, God has promised:

"And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land." [6]

"For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted." [7]

As these circumstances have proliferated throughout the world and intensified in their evilness, a true prophet would have been sounding the warning cries years ago. Yet nothing was said. I'm confident this would have been considered God's "Plan A."

After COVID-19 started affecting our way of life last spring, not one, but two fasts were undertaken by our church. Yet these fasts did not have their ultimate origins from within people's hearts, but the LDS Church's newsroom. Naturally, COVID-19 just smiled and kept racking up numbers of unemployed, hopeless, helpless, sick and dying. There went "Plan B."

Then on November 13, 2020, we were told that a revelation was coming from the church's prophet that was so important, that we had to wait a week to hear it. There was no explanation given as to why we needed to wait a week. If it was so important and uplifting, why couldn't it have been released on the 13th? This is tantamount to saying "I have a cure for cancer, but I am not going to tell anyone right now. Let's wait a little while." It was an unnecessarily-delayed message with no prophetic warning. Because one's expression of gratitude to the masses (in this case, social media) is being used as a replacement for repentance, and has never been a prescribed remedy for pestilences, its success -- as God's possible "Plan C" -- is dubious at best.

At a time when people are desperate for real answers, real solutions and real leadership, the world has yet to be officially called to repentance. I am bewildered why it is so difficult for a supposed prophet of God, a global faith "leader", to do so. Why do the 15 men who literally stand in between you and Jesus walk on eggshells while in the proximity of the R word?

Luckily, God is implementing a Plan D: In lieu of prophets not prophesying, he's been taking his message straight to the people. 

We have been told that the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28-29) is fulfilled, wherein the Lord "will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit." 

Adults and children, men and women, ARE having dreams of the world's near-future. Just click here and do what one of my relatives did, and join the "Latter Day Saints Dream Dreams" Facebook group.[8] You'll see there are many people having dreams of the future, and their frequency seems to be increasing. Yes, these dreams are for individuals. But when you read variations of the same dream repeated throughout this group, you kinda start to sit up and take notice. With respect to America, these dreams often describe a lockdown due to a virus, forced vaccine tests and vaccinations, mobs, gangs, economic collapse, military-enforced lockdowns, relocation of people to concentration camps, no power grid and more. They also describe simultaneous earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and military invasions.


What Would (Helaman) Nephi Say Today?

History proves that one way or another, God's going to warn those he wants to warn. It may happen individually (through dreams or visions) or collectively (through a prophet or calamities). We know he's doing so now on an individual basis, and I have more than enough evidence to show that he's doing so collectively via COVID-19. 

But what would happen if a modern-day Nephi said roughly the same prayer as is found in Helaman 11:4 (when Nephi called down the famine)? What if he were prompted a bit differently, customized to today's circumstances?

Here is my guess:

Oh God, the Eternal Father, hallowed be your name. 

Please look upon my heart and mind. I approach you in meekness and humility, knowing I am no better than the dust of the earth. Yet I, as your son, raise my hands to the heavens, knowing that you are no respecter of persons, and give abundantly to those who knock on the doors to your Throne Room three times. So I come before your throne of grace with boldness as well, for I believe in you. I believe you. I trust you.

You have seen the sorrowful, sinful state of my people. They continue enthusiastically murdering unborn children and the elderly. They support those who are violently opposed to you, Christians and freedom. They foment riots and violence in our neighborhoods. They teach our young to reconsider their God-given genders. Corrupt representatives, judges and leaders have defiled our laws, processes and procedures. They are eliminating divinely-inspired constitutional rights, provisions and principles. At all turns, we are besieged by immorality and amorality. And all of these circumstances are increasing.

You have allowed the release of a plague and pestilence designed to stimulate a change of heart and repentance among your people. Yet mankind has lifted up it's fist in protest and seeks to rely upon its own supposed wisdom, while further entrenching itself in sin. Our leaders dare not call the people to repentance, which you have looked in times past with gladness, mercy, forgiveness, healing and abundance. Their fasts have been disregarded, as you have allowed this virus to continue infecting the world unabated.

Therefore, please hear my voice as I cry to you in the night, under these stars which gently proclaim the majesty of your light and love. I know that this people is beyond ripe for destruction. Please do not suffer that we shall be destroyed by the sword as yet. 

But O Holy Father, rather, let there be a greater, more powerful pestilence which shall instill not only fear, not only quicker death, but also a greater remembrance of the Lord their God, that perhaps they will repent and turn unto you before they, too, are consumed by this pestilence.

Please also simultaneously release your power -- the power of your Holy Spirit -- to go into the world. Enlighten and empower those who fear you, that they may preach the gospel to all creation: the gospel of peace, of miracles, of healing, of life and love, which all come in and through your Holy Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.


QUESTIONS

Based on the aforementioned facts, I have the following questions:

  • If you had the ability to heal someone from a death sentence, would you do it, or just speak soothing words to them?
  • Is hopping on social media the best way to get people to repent?
  • What did God do in Helaman 11 to spur people to repentance? How do you think we're different from the people of Nephi?
  • What do you think happens when the majority of people choose iniquity?
  • Why would one withhold a message of healing and hope for a week? Would you withhold a cure for cancer from stricken patients for a week?
  • Have you or someone you trust had a dream of the future?
  • When past prophets have petitioned God to help us repent, how did God respond to their prayer?

SOURCES

1.   Joel 2:12-13
2.   Helaman 11: 1-17
3.   https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/worldwide-graphs/#daily-cases
4.   https://youtu.be/tlcILxGmVrI
5.   Mormon 8:7; Ether 8:21
6.   Mosiah 29:27
7.   Helaman 5:2
8.   https://www.facebook.com/groups/LdsDreamDreams

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Saturday, November 21, 2020

Prophets Who Don't Prophesy

If we've ever needed a prophet, now would be the time. 

With COVID-19, political and media deception, anarchy, riots and more, the words of the Lord, as delivered to us by a prophet, would be a welcome help.


The Tests of True Prophets

A prophet's job description has never wavered: They are "men called to speak for the Lord" who "testify of Jesus Christ and teach His gospel. They make known God's will and true character. They speak boldly and clearly, denouncing sin and warning of its consequences. At times, they may be inspired to prophesy of future events for our benefit." [1]  

Throughout the scriptures, when foreign armies or natural disasters threatened security, health or life, God frequently sent emissaries who issued urgent calls for people to turn away from sin and cast themselves upon the mercy of God. Think of calls to repentance in the face of disaster of Old Testament prophets such as Samuel [2], Isaiah [3], Jeremiah [4], Ezekiel [5], Daniel [6], Habakkuk [7], or Joel [8]; or of New Testament calls of John the Baptist [9], James [10], John the Revelator [11] and Jesus himself [12]. In the Book of Mormon, we have Nephi [13], Jacob [14], Mosiah [15], Alma [16], Helaman [17], Samuel the Lamanite [18], Mormon [19], Ether [20] and Moroni [21].

As I read the scriptures, prophets have consistently (1) been given a mission, directly from God, to preach to a people regarding their sinful state and the consequences of their sinfulness [22] if they don't repent, (2) delivered their message and (3) boldly declared that God sent them to deliver their message. Yet because their messages are rooted in inconvenient truths, they are almost universally (4) rejected by their divinely-appointed audiences and (5) often (though not always) paid for their directness with their lives. [23]

In the church's True to the Faith book (which I quoted above), "Moses, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, Nephi, Mormon" are also listed as examples of prophets. All of them did #1, #2 and #3. We know for a fact that Isaiah, Peter and Paul (and many others not listed here, including 11 of the 12 post-resurrection apostles and Brother Joseph) were rejected by their audiences (#4) and subsequently murdered by them (#5). 

I hope I have demonstrated that all throughout the scriptures, God's prophets were very direct in warning people of impending destruction, and what they needed to do to prevent it. In all these cases, it wasn't a deficiency in a certain quality (like gratitude) which was of concern to these prophets, but instead, good 'ol fashioned sin and pride.


The True Causes of Plagues and Pestilences

Often, God augments these prophets with natural calamities designed to stimulate a change of heart. Two of those are plagues [24] and pestilences [25]. These are not the result of a mutated virus released from a biomedical lab or animal market bats, but sins [26], unbelief in God [27] and not remembering him [28]. The remedy for these plagues and pestilences: "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." 

So, there's the carrot: The people called by his name must (1) humble themselves, (2) pray, (3) seek his face and (4) turn from their wicked ways. In return, God will (1) hear from heaven, (2) forgive their sin and (3) heal their land.  [29]

What's a good indicator when this hasn't happened? It's when God doesn't hear our prayers nor be moved by our fasts. The Lord said, "Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins. Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence."  [30]

Here, we see that God will not accept our offerings nor acknowledge our fasts if we are what? If we are iniquitous and sinning. And for that, he will continue to visit us not only with pestilence, but also the sword and famine.

Now, Let's Look at Our Current Landscape

We live in a time when people are perfectly fine with electing leaders and judges who enthusiastically support murdering unborn children. These leaders accommodate and fund countries who are violently opposed to God, Christians and freedom. They ignore and remain silent as anarchist groups foment riots and violence in our neighborhoods. They espouse sexual education of kindergarteners and encourage them to reconsider their God-given genders. They corrupt our laws, processes and procedures and eliminate divinely-inspired constitutional rights, provisions and principles. They give preferential treatment for individuals based on the color of their skin, not the content of their character. They take away income rightfully earned by an individual and give it to another who has not earned it. They embrace socialist and even communist ideologies.

Within the church, we are still under condemnation for not taking the Book of Mormon seriously. Pornography has decimated huge swaths of Melchizedek and especially Aaronic Priesthood quorums. Headlines regularly highlight active bishops and local leaders for sex-related crimes.  

On top of all of that, we still have COVID-19. Let's look at the worldwide Coronavirus trendlines since the first (March 26, 2020 [31], blue line) and second (April 4, 2020 [32], red line) church-wide fasts. [33]



Again: God has said that if we -- the people called by his name -- humble ourselves, pray, seek his face and turn from our wicked ways, then he will hear from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land. He's also said if we still have iniquity and sin, then he will not hear the cries of our fasts and he will not accept our offerings. 

Do these results indicate, in any way, shape or form, that God is healing our lands? Now, some may say, "Well, the fasts DID work, because these results could have been a lot worse." Aside from that being one heck of an assumption, the fasts didn't ask for a partial alleviation of COVID-19. They were "for relief from the physical, emotional, and economic effects of this global pandemic"[31] and "that the present pandemic may be controlled, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened, and life normalized."[32]

Aside from the above graphs, just a simple, casual trip to Walmart, Costco, your favorite dine-in restaurant or a movie theater will prove that COVID-19 isn't controlled. Caregivers are still raising concerns. The economy still hasn't returned to its pre-COVID heights and life is far from normal. Relief from the physical, emotional, and economic effects of this global pandemic is nowhere in sight.

Which brings us to…


A Day of Non-Warning

In his worldwide 11/20/2020 11am, 11-minute long worldwide message [34], Pres. Nelson laid out a strong case for his professional background as a medical expert. He also summarized his family life. In both cases, he was forced to confront disease and death among his patients, children and first wife.

Within seconds of its posting to YouTube, thousands of church members were praising him for his primary message: gratitude. As Thanksgiving is less than a week away, the message is entirely appropriate. 

Maybe it's just me, but something tells me that with all the sins listed above, plus this Coronavirus thing that's going on, man's ingratitude isn't the issue of the day. It's our continued sinful state and reluctance to change our hearts and repent. Do those trendlines show any progress in that regard?

Let's do a little hypothetical: Let's transport Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, Nephi, Alma, Mormon, Moroni and Joseph Smith back to our day, today. Judging by what they said in their times, what would be their messages today?

First, they would focus not on themselves, but Jesus Christ and his message to mankind. In this video, President Nelson spent 11 seconds on the actual "ills that plague our world, including hate, civil unrest, racism, violence, dishonesty, and lack of civility" (he included the pandemic as an ill, not an effect of a true illness, sin). He spent a grand total of 37 seconds on Jesus. And he spent 2 minutes 22 seconds talking about himself.

Granted, Pres. Nelson did mention repentance -- twice. In his first mention, he said "We can give thanks for the opportunity to repent, start over, make amends, and build character." Note that he didn't call us to repent; just that we should be grateful for repentance. In his second mention, he said "Wilt Thou also help us repent from selfishness, unkindness, pride and prejudice of any kind so that we can better serve and love one another as brothers and sisters and as Thy grateful children." Again, this is no call to repentance; it was a petition for God to help us repent.

Nowhere in his message does he mention the word "sin." No calls to humility or repentance. No seeking God's face.

He did, however, mention "gratitude" 11 times and "grateful" 8 times. 

You've known about the concept of gratitude since you were in primary. It's nothing new. 

What President Nelson's message did do is give us "a fast-acting and long-lasting spiritual prescription" which can "soothe our feelings and can "provide[s] us with a greater perspective on the very purpose and joy of life."

This, I believe, was deliberate. He said, "Over my nine and a half decades of life, I have concluded that counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems."

Gratitude, social media blitzes, high-tech equivalents of the Rameumptom and virtue signaling are definitely NOT what God would be telling us to do to…they're not the "urgent and important" remedies for mankind's sins, and you know it. 

If anything, now is THE time for us to be counting our problems. Now is the time for humility, repentance and seeking God's face, not "soothed feelings." These days, mankind has indirectly been told by its governments to get less sunlight, smoke more weed and watch more Netflix instead of getting healthier. Today, you were told to ingest the spiritual equivalent of candy, chips, cookies, cake, ice cream, pie and soda pop, not a proven regimen of diet and exercise.

Face it: Denouncing sin and warning of its consequences is not a sound marketing strategy. I mean, who wants to be told that they are not right before God? With all the darkness, despair, disease and death in the world, additional rays of sunshine are now more readily appreciated and embraced than messages of God's displeasure and disdain for mankind.

You know…the messages true prophets of God have always been expected to pronounce.

"That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:
Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us."  [35]

But if you look carefully, President Nelson did ask, "Wilt Thou also help us repent from selfishness, unkindness, pride and prejudice of any kind so that we can better serve and love one another as brothers and sisters and as Thy grateful children."

Because this issue isn't "mask or no mask" but is "repent or not", I believe that, oh yes, God will help us to repent from sin. Pres. Nelson's petition will be granted. But very likely, it will not be in the way Pres. Nelson is hoping.

God has been trying since the beginning of the year to help us repent. By the looks of it, we aren't listening to him. And the trendlines show we're not getting any better.

As we read earlier, God says of those whose fasts are not acknowledged: "I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence."

Thus, we're in a dilemma, a "Catch-22": If God doesn't hear the words of Pres. Nelson, then that's a serious situation, for Pres. Nelson is considered by millions as God's mouthpiece to the world. If God does hear his prayer, then God will be obliged to "help us repent." And just how does God help us, persuade us, to repent? Pestilences. Plagues. Fires. Floods. Tsunami. Earthquakes. Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Wars. Mobs. Famines. Solar disruptions. Asteroid hits.

Sometimes the most important catalyst for spiritual renewal is a cataclysmic event, where God doesn't decrease suffering. He INCREASES suffering.

Thanks Pres. Nelson. Because of your prayer, 2020 may easily end up looking like a day in the park compared to 2021 / 2022.


QUESTIONS

Based on the aforementioned facts, I have the following questions:

  • Would you consider that mankind, as a whole, are in a sinful state?
  • Does mankind need to take repentance more seriously?
  • Who is the prophet that's currently filling a job description similar to past (scriptural) prophets? Please show me their prophecies.
  • When was the last time that God commissioned a prophet to prophesy destruction to a people that's sinning?
  • Has God used plagues and pestilences to spur people to repentance?
  • Has he stopped doing so?
  • Has God said that if we do not repent, he will not hear our prayers and fasts?
  • By the looks of the COVID stats, has God heard our prayers and fasts?
  • What does humanity need to do to get God to hear our fasts and prayers?
  • Is "repentance" the primary message of the church's leaders today?
  • Did Pres. Nelson ask God to help us repent?
  • Just how does God help us, persuade us, to repent when not even plagues and pestilences are doing the trick?

SOURCES

 1.   "Prophets," True to the Faith, (2004), p. 129-30.
 2.   1 Samuel 7:3
 3.   Isaiah 1:24-27
 4.   Jeremiah 4:1-4
 5.   Ezekiel 33:11
 6.   Daniel 2:18; 9:3, 9, 17-18, 23
 7.   Habakkuk 3:2
 8.   Joel 1:13-14; 2:12-17
 9.   Matthew 3:5-12
10.   James (5:1-6)
11.   Revelation 2:5, 16, 21-22)
12.   Luke 13:1-5
13.   1 Nephi 7:13, 11:36
14.   Jacob 2:33, 3:1-3
15.   Mosiah 7:31, 29:27
16.   Alma 1:12, 4:11, 9:18, 10:18-27
17.   Helaman 8:5, 26
18.   Helaman 13:5-6
19.    Mormon 6:22
20.   Ether 8:23-25
21.   Moroni 8:27, 9:22
22.   2 Nephi 9:48
23.   Revelation 16:6; 1 Nephi 1:18-20.
24.   Zechariah 14:12, 15, 18; 2 Chronicles 21:14; Exodus 9:14; Numbers 11:33; Revelation 16:9, 21
25.   Exodus 9:14
26.   Mosiah 12:2-7; Helaman 11:15; D&C 97:26
27.   2 Nephi 6:15
28.   Helaman 12:3
29.   2 Chronicles 7:13
30.   Jeremiah 14:10-12
31.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/president-nelson-invites-all-worldwide-to-fast-for-physical-spiritual-healing-in-response-to-covid-19?lang=eng
32.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/president-nelson-asks-latter-day-saints-to-unite-our-faith-once-again-in-fast-on-good-friday?lang=eng
33.   https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/worldwide-graphs/#daily-cases
34.   https://youtu.be/tlcILxGmVrI
35.   Isaiah 30:9-11

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Monday, October 26, 2020

Gross or Net Tithing - Actually It's Neither

It is THE eternal debate in the church:

"Should we pay net or gross tithing?"

I can understand why people are so concerned about this very pressing issue. For most people, money is tight. The difference between gross and net tithing can mean the inclusion or exclusion of a variety of many things to an individual or family.

Let's turn to the scriptures, and see what they say, shall we?

D&C 119

On July 8, 1838, Joseph Smith requested of the Lord, "O Lord! Show unto thy servants how much thou requirest of the properties of thy people for a tithing." The result was D&C Section 119. In it, the Lord answered two primary questions: How much are Saints expected to pay in tithing, and what is the money to be used for?

The second answer was straightforward: Tithing money is to be used for (1) the building of a temple, (2) laying of the foundation of Zion and for the priesthood, and (3) the debts of the Church's Presidency.

Nowhere in D&C 119 is the church allowed to invest its funds. This would be in contradiction to the words of God, where we're instructed to "lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt." [1]

That's not all. D&C 119 makes no stipulations for the funding of:

  • Meetinghouses [2]
  • Humanitarian work [2]
  • Missionary efforts [2]
  • Broadcast facilities
  • Agricultural reserves
  • Real estate

Neither does it make provision for funding full-time salaries. It's perfectly natural that these are not funded, because Jesus' original apostles worked without purse nor scrip, yet still had living expenses and even taxes to pay (to Rome). Why are apostles today any different? Here is what the Lord said:

"Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;

As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;

Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;

Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them." [3] 

But I digress. Perhaps a more thorough examination of these outlays may be appropriate in a subsequent post.

"GROSS OR NET?" THROUGHOUT HISTORY

The first response the Lord provided to Joseph addressed how much He expected the Saints to offer. The answer was also straightforward: (1) offer all their surplus property into the hands of the bishop of my church in Zion, and (2) "one-tenth of all their interest annually" thereafter. To ensure it stayed this way, He suffixed his command by saying, "and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord." [4]  

Elsewhere, the Lord defines "surplus" as the part of one's income that is "more than is necessary for their support." [5]

OK, fine. But what is one's "increase"?

The Lord's insistence that tithing be based on interest is consistent with what He told Abraham to do:

"Abram paid unto him [Melchizedek] tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need." [6] 

So, did Abraham pay tithes based on his gross income? No. Did Abraham pay tithes based on his net income? No. He paid tithing on "more than that which he had need," which sounds a lot like "more than is necessary for their support." In other words, his surplus.

At the time D&C 119 was revealed, John Corrill was serving alongside Elias Higbee as Church Historian.[7]  This is how he described the implementation of tithing:

"If a man gives for the benefit of the Church, it is considered a voluntary offering.  Yet the law requires or enjoins a consecration of the overplus, after reserving for himself and family to carry on his business." [8]

"Overplus," which is defined as - you guessed it - "a surplus or excess."

In 1855, Brigham Young reminisced about how tithing was implemented "When the revelation which I have read was given in 1838, I was present, and recollect the feelings of the brethren. . . . The brethren wished me to go among the Churches, and find out what surplus property the people had, with which to forward the building of the Temple we were commencing at Far West. I accordingly went from place to place through the country. Before I started, I asked brother Joseph, 'Who shall be the judge of what is surplus property?' Said he, 'Let them be the judges themselves. . . .'"  [9]

There's that word "surplus" again!

A CHANGED "STANDING" LAW

The first liberalization of the 1838 tithing revelation was instituted by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in November, 1841. Then, the initial donation was reduced to only "one-tenth of all a man [possesses, and] 1/10 of increas[e] afterwards."  [10]

(You'll note the usage of the word "increase" instead of "interest," which are considered synonyms).

I've read no objections or commentary by Joseph Smith regarding this modification, so I would assume that it still didn't violate the Lord's standing law.

But two and a half years later, tragedy struck: Joseph Smith, Jr. was martyred on June 27, 1844.

And that's where the story gets interesting.

On August 15th, 1844, just six weeks of Joseph's martyrdom, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued an epistle, (signed by Brigham Young, President of the Twelve) which entirely did away with surplus-based tithing and replaced it with income-based tithing:

"Therefore, as soon as the Twelve have proceeded to a full and complete organization of the branches abroad, let every member proceed immediately to tithe himself or herself, a tenth of all their property and money, and pay it into the hands of the Twelve; or into the hands of such bishops as have been, or shall be appointed by them to receive the same, for the building of the Temple for the support of the priesthood according to the scriptures, and the revelations of God; and then let them continue to pay in a tenth of their income from that time forth, for this is a law unto this church as much binding on their conscience as any other law or ordinance. And let this law or ordinance be henceforth taught to all who present themselves for admission into this church, that they may know the sacrifice and tithing which the Lord requires, and perform it; or else not curse the church with a mock membership as many have done heretofore. This will furnish a steady public fund for all sacred purposes, and save the leaders from constant debt and embarrassment, and the members can then employ the remainder of their capital in every branch of enterprize, industry, and charity, as seemeth them good; only holding themselves in readiness to be advised in such manner as shall be for the good of themselves and the whole society; and thus all things can move in harmony, and for the general benefit and satisfaction of all concerned."  [11] 

Five months later, in January 1845, another Quorum of Twelve's epistle highlighted "the duty of all saints to tithe themselves one-tenth of all they possess when they enter into the new and everlasting covenant: and then one-tenth of their interest, or income, yearly afterwards."  [12]

Then, two weeks later, the Twelve voted to exempt themselves, the two general bishops (Newel K. Whitney and George Miller) and the Nauvoo Temple Committee from any obligation to pay tithing.  [13]

THE TWELVE

We are told that "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.". [14] It is written: President [Joseph] Smith gave the following decision. They are the Twelve Apostles, who are called to the office of traveling high council, who are to preside over all the churches of the Saints among the Gentiles, where there is no presidency established, and they are to travel and preach among the Gentiles, until the Lord shall command them to go to the Jews. They are to hold the keys of this ministry, to unlock the door of the kingdom of heaven unto all nations, and to preach the Gospel to every creature. This is the power, authority and virtue of their apostleship." [15] 

To reinforce this fact, "The president then stated that 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." [16]

Today, "In addition to their primary responsibility to be special witnesses of the name of Christ throughout the world, the apostles have heavy administrative responsibilities as they oversee the orderly progress and development of the global Church."  [17]


QUESTIONS

Based on the aforementioned facts, I have the following questions:

  • Joseph Smith told a gathering of the Twelve that they only had authority "where there is no presidency established,", and in fact were not even to go into any organized stakes where there is a standing High Council. But now they have administrative responsibilities over the entire global Church. Where is the revelation that supersedes Joseph Smith's instructions, and when was it presented for a vote to the church as a whole per the Law of Common Consent?
  • Tithing was pretty clearly defined in the scriptures and statements by Joseph Smith that it's based on one's surplus, not income. Where is the revelation (the basis for the 8/15/1844 epistle) that supersedes those scriptures (including the Lord's standing law to the church) and Joseph Smith's instructions, and when was it presented for a vote to the church as a whole per the Law of Common Consent?
  • What does "a standing law forever" mean to you?
  • Where is the revelation that exempts the Twelve and others from having to pay tithing? When was it presented for a vote to the church as a whole per the Law of Common Consent?
  • If we are to receive profound blessings for paying tithing, then aren't those blessings naturally withheld to the Twelve, who are not obligated to pay tithing?
  • If Joseph were asked if tithing should be based on gross or net income, what do you think he'd say (and what would be the factual basis for your answer)?

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TRUTHS BELOW FOR UPDATES TO THIS POST
 

 1.   3 Nephi 13:19-20; Helaman 8:2
 2.   "The vast majority of these funds are used immediately to meet the needs of the growing Church including more meetinghouses, temples, education, humanitarian work and missionary efforts throughout the world. All Church funds exist for no other reason than to support the Church's divinely appointed mission." (First Presidency statement, Dec. 17, 2019)
 3.   Ezekiel 34:7-10
 4.   D&C 119:4
 5.   D&C 42:33
 6.   JST Genesis 14:39
 7.   Scott G. Kenney. "John Corrill (1794-1840)". Saints Without Halos. Retrieved 2010-08-12; Susan Easton Black (1997). "Corrill, John". Who's Who in the Doctrine and Covenants. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft.
 8.   John Corrill, "A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints", published in 1839.  Reprinted in its entirety in The Joseph Smith Papers, Volume 2-The Histories
 9.   Journal of Discourses 2:306; http://jod.mrm.org/2/298
10.   Meeting of seven members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles with English immigrant Joseph Fielding at Nauvoo, Illinois, 31 Nov. 1841, minutes, archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah; Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, 18, and Swainston, "Tithing" in Encyclopedia of Mormonism 4:1482 overlook this as a liberalization of the requirement in the 1838 revelation.
11.   Joseph Smith et al., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Period I: History of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and. . . Period II: From the Manuscript History of Brigham Young and Other Original Documents, ed. B. H. Roberts, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1902-32; 2d ed. rev. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1978]), 7:251; Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, 18; http://www.boap.org/LDS/History/History_of_the_Church/Vol_VII; https://archive.org/stream/historyofchurcho03smitrich/historyofchurcho03smitrich_djvu.txt
12.   History of the Church, 7:358
13.   Heber C. Kimball diary, 29 Jan. 1845, in Stanley B. Kimball, ed., On the Potter's Wheel: The Diaries of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Signature Books/Smith Research Associates, 1987), 94; Nauvoo Trustee-in-Trust Tithing and Donation Record, 220-222 (29 Jan. 1845), LDS archives. For the term general bishop and its meaning in early LDS history, see Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (Liverpool and London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-86), 22: 34 (O. Pratt/1880); D. Michael Quinn, 'Evolution of the Presiding Quorums of the LDS Church,' Journal of Mormon History 1 (1974): 34; Dale Beecher, 'The Office of Bishop,' Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 (Winter 1982): 103; Quinn, Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, 69-71
14.   D&C 107:33
15.   "Minutes and Discourses, 27 February 1835, as Reported by Oliver Cowdery," in Minute Book 1, 88, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/minute-book-1/92 ; as quoted in https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/topics/quorum-of-the-twelve
16.   Minute Book 1,p. 187, May 2, 1835; https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/minute-book-1/191#source-note 
17.   Church news release, "Russell M. Nelson: New President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles", July 15, 2015, https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/russell-m-nelson-new-president-of-the-quorum-of-the-twelve-apostles 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

An Illegitimate Scripture or an Illegitimate Church President -- Pick One

Imagine your bishop moving from your ward. A day or two after he's gone, the ward council gets together and installs a new bishop - without your sustaining vote.

Imagine the same thing happening with an Elders, Teachers or Deacons Quorum President or any local ward auxiliary president. All these leaders sustained…and you had absolutely no say about it whatsoever.

You and I both know that that's not the Lord's way. That's because we, as church members, believe in the Law of Common Consent, which means that all members have a say in who assumes an office in this church.

Even though Pres. Nelson once said that "You and I do not "vote" on Church leaders at any level," [1] others have said otherwise: 

  • Elder Mark E. Peterson said, "Neither does the Lord allow for any secret ordinations in his work. To be valid, everything is done publicly and by the vote of the people." [2]   
  • Elder Marion G. Romney said, "In the body of the Church there lies great power. No man can preside over any organized division of the Church without the consent of those over whom he is to preside. That is a power which God has vested in the membership of this Church. The power of approval resides in the membership of the Church." [3]
  • Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith: "No man can preside in this Church in any capacity without the consent of the people. The Lord has placed upon us the responsibility of sustaining by vote those who are called to various positions of responsibility. No man, should the people decide to the contrary, could preside over any body of Latter-day Saints in this Church, and yet it is not the right of the people to nominate, to choose, for that is the right of the priesthood." [4]
  • Church D&C Students Manual: "Accordingly, church officers are selected by the spirit of revelation in those appointed to choose them, but before the officers may serve in their positions, they must receive a formal sustaining vote of the people over whom they are to preside. (D. & C. 20:60-67; 26:2; 28; 38:34-35; 41:9-11; 42:11; 102:9; 124:124-145.)" (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 149-50)" [5]
  • All these statements align with what the Lord also said: "No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church." [6]

NOMINATIONS AND SUSTAININGS: NOT NECESSARILY A SURE THING

Despite what we may see these days, nominations and sustainings to church offices are not necessarily a sure thing. 

The best example of this can be find in October, 1843, where a special conference was called to consider "the case and standing of Elder Sidney Rigdon." Joseph Smith had "stated his dissatisfaction" with Sidney Rigdon. Charges were leveled that Rigdon had correspondence "of a treacherous nature" with John C. Bennett, former Governor Carlin, and "the Missourians." Rigdon was also accused of "leaguing with dishonest persons in endeavoring to defraud the innocent." Smith told the conference that, in light of the charges, he was requesting Rigdon's removal as First Counselor. [7]

The Times and Seasons and the History of the Church both record that Rigdon addressed the conference, denied the charges and made a "moving appeal". They record "the sympathies of the congregation were highly excited." A vote was called and the congregation held that Rigdon would be permitted to retain his position.

The History of the Church records that Smith replied to the vote by saying, "I have thrown him off my shoulders, and you have again put him on me. You may carry him, but I will not." [8]

Source: Joseph Smith Papers (here)


PROPHETIC ORDINATION

In fact, not only sustainings, but ordinations are also deferred until the membership can have a say. Elder Erastus Snow said, "And therefore, where there is a regularly organized branch of the church, ordinations to the priesthood shall not be made without a vote of approval of said church." [9]  Referring to his stay in the Whitmer Home in 1829, Joseph Smith said, 

". . . the word of the Lord came unto us in the chamber, commanding us that I should ordain Oliver Cowdery to be an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ; and that he also should ordain me to the same office and then to ordain others, as it should be made known unto us from time to time. We were, however, commanded to defer this our ordination until such times as it should be practicable to have our brethren, who had been and who should be baptized, assembled together, when we must have their sanction to our thus proceeding to ordain each other, and have them decide by vote whether they were willing to accept us as spiritual teachers or not." [10]

A PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION

  • January 2, 2018: Pres. Thomas S Monson, the 16th President of the Church, died. He was 90.  [11]
  • January 3, 2018: The Church announces that a public viewing would be held on January 11, in the church's Conference Center. Funeral services are scheduled the following day, also in the Conference Center.
  • January 9, 2018: President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, signs 1,150 letters destined for newly called full-time missionaries. The letters were printed on the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles letterhead. [12]
  • January 11, 2018: Public viewing is held. [13]
  • January 12, 2018: Funeral services are held, and Monson's body is buried.
  • January 14, 2018: The quorum of the Twelve Apostles meets in the Salt Lake Temple's Upper Room. They vote unanimously to [A] reconstitute the First Presidency (which, by tradition, had dissolved automatically upon Monson's death) and [B] nominate Nelson to serve as Church President. He is ordained and set apart as such that day. [14]  (N. Eldon Tanner described the inside process of nominating, sustaining and ordaining Pres. Spencer W Kimball here). [15]
  • January 16, 2018: Nelson is introduced to church members and the media, along with Dallin H. Oaks as his First Counselor and Henry B. Eyring as Second Counselor. [16] 
  • March 31, 2018: Church members sustain Nelson as President, and Oaks and Eyring as counselors, as the Church's new First Presidency. [17]

TO SUMMARIZE

  1. 88 days elapsed between when Pres. Monson passed away and church members sustained Pres. Nelson as church president. [18] 
  2. Yet Pres. Nelson assumed the office of president 12 days after Pres. Monson passed away.

Those nominated or chosen by the Quorum of the Twelve to be President ought to be presented to the body of the Church before he may be ordained to, and serve in, his capacity as President. This ensures adherence to the scriptural requirements of D&C 20:65 and gives the general membership an opportunity to either sustain or deny the nomination, as they feel so inclined to do.

Of all the people in the church, our leaders should be the ones spearheading and championing adherence to the scriptures. Yet in this case, and many others, they have flagrantly opposed God's revealed directive.

We members are supposed to be an integral part, a crucial component, in the approval process of our leaders. As Elder Romney elaborated, in this church, you can't preside over any organized division of the Church without the consent of its members. Makes sense to me.

Not only are sustainings and ordinations, but everything else - "all things" [19] -- in the church require members' votes: "Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints." 5

So which one is legitimate - the scriptures, Joseph Smith and the church's own D&C student manual (which say a person must be sustained by the members over whom they preside prior to assuming office), or today's Brethren (who ignore that procedure, without scriptural justification)?

"Thus, none shall be exempted from the justice and the laws of God,
that all things may be done in order and in solemnity before him,
according to truth and righteousness." [20] 




QUESTIONS

Based on the aforementioned facts, I have the following questions:

  • Do you believe the scriptures to be the words of God (as far as they are translated correctly)?
  • Do you seek to obey the words of God?
  • Should our church leaders be expected to obey the words of God?
  • Should our church leaders be expected to champion the words of God?
  • Why aren't the Law of Common Consent and D&C 20:65 obeyed and championed?
  • Do you think the Lord intended the Law of Common Consent to be a superficial formality?
  • What difficulty would there be in proclaiming someone as an "Acting President" until the members could formally sustain the nomination in the next General Conference, or at a Special Conference (as was held for Sidney Rigdon)?

CHECK THE COMMENTS BY LATTER-DAY
TRUTHS BELOW FOR UPDATES TO THIS POST
 

 1.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2014/10/sustaining-the-prophets?lang=eng
 2.   April 1974 General Conference
 3.   October 1947 General Conference
 4.   Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1954, 3:123
 5.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/manual/doctrine-and-covenants-student-manual/section-26-the-law-of-common-consent
 6.   D&C 20:65
 7.   https://web.archive.org/web/20141021203304/http://restorationisten.fairmormon.org/Times_and_Seasons/4/21#330
 8.   History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 49
 9.   April 1879 General Conference
10.   Documentary History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 60-61
11.   https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/president-thomas-monson-passes-away
12.   https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/president-nelson-signs-calls-new-missionaries
13.   https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/president-monson-funeral-arrangements-announced
14.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2018/04/as-we-go-forward-together?lang=eng
15.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/1978/09/administration-of-the-restored-church?lang=eng
16.   https://www.deseret.com/2018/1/16/20638916/president-russell-m-nelson-introduced-as-17th-lds-president-vows-to-serve-discusses-diversity
17.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAVXK30qZYI&ab_channel=ChurchNewsroom
18.   https://www.timeanddate.com/date/durationresult.html?m1=01&d1=02&y1=2018&m2=03&d2=31&y2=2018
19.   D&C 26:2
20.   D&C 107:84

Sunday, October 11, 2020

When the Church Breaks One of its Own Laws

I believe almost all people know Murphy's Law ("If anything can go wrong, it will"). This is actually known as Murphy's Law #1. 

What most people don't know is that there are more laws than that. [1]  Here are a few you may not be aware of:

Murphy's Law #4: If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which something can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop.

Murphy's Law #6: If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.

Forsyth's Second Corollary to Murphy's Laws: Just when you see the light at the end of the tunnel, the roof caves in.

The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.

Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don't have any film.

He who laughs last, thinks slowest.

Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.

Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

The church has several laws in it as well. We have the Law of Chastity, the Law of Tithing, the Law of Consecration, the Law of Obedience, the Law of Adoption, the Law of the Harvest, the Law of the Gospel and the Law of the Fast. Even the Word of Wisdom has been described as the Lord's Law of Health [2].  In the case of Chastity, Tithing and Health, these are pretty strictly enforced by the church.

However, there is one law that is not strictly enforced. What makes this more ironic is that it's mentioned in the scriptures several times. It is the word of God, it is the will of God, it is a commandment of God. Yet it is a neglected law of God.

THE LAW OF COMMON CONSENT

According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, the doctrine of common consent is actually a law: 

"Administrative affairs of the Church are handled in accordance with the law of common consent. This law is that in God's earthly kingdom, the King counsels what should be done, but then he allows his subjects to accept or reject his proposals. Unless the principle of free agency is operated in righteousness men do not progress to ultimate salvation in the heavenly kingdom hereafter. Accordingly, church officers are selected by the spirit of revelation in those appointed to choose them, but before the officers may serve in their positions, they must receive a formal sustaining vote of the people over whom they are to preside." [3]

Sure enough, the law of common consent "has been operative in every dispensation." [4]   For example, it was active (in one form or another) during the lifetimes of Moses [5], Joshua [6], Samuel [7], Mosiah [8]  and Peter [9].

As part of the restoration, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation in April 1830 regarding Church organization and government "which not only gave us much information, but also pointed out to us the precise day upon which, according to His will and commandment, we should proceed to organize His Church once more here upon the earth." [10]    In that revelation - now known as D&C Section 20 - we learn that:

"No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church." [11]

Three months later, in July 1830, the Lord specified that the vote of the church encompasses more than just the approval of its leaders: 

"all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith." [12] 

(Note: that's "all things." Church officer sustainings? Yes. Policies? Yes. Major decisions? Yes. Acceptance of new scripture? Yes. Other things that affect the lives of the Saints? Yes. How our tithing dollars are used? Yes.)

"Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints." [13]

In September, 1830 (two months later), the Lord reinforced this command when Hiram Page attempted to receive revelations for the church:

"For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith." [14]

(See those words "shall" and, two months later, "must"? That's tantamount to the Lord saying that common consent IS a law which the church should not break).

These revelations became a foundation to the government of the Lord's kingdom and defined the order of proper Church procedure.

The Doctrine and Covenants is filled with more arrows pointing to the law of common consent. Some examples include:

  • The role of revelation and common consent, which was revealed in September 1830. [15]
  • Members who were appointed to service to give relief to the poor and needy or to leadership positions within the Church organization were appointed by "the voice of the church". [16] 
  • The disposition of tithes and offerings ("And there shall not any part of it be used, or taken out of the treasury, only by the voice and common consent of the order"). [17] 
  • Church callings. [18]

Two other latter-day historical events highlight the importance of the law of common consent and how it interrelates with the doctrines preached, taught and perpetuated among church members:

  • The Discontinuation of Plural Marriage: With the unanimous approval of Official Declaration #1, church members declared their intention to submit to laws enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages.  As President Lorenzo Snow stated:

"I move that, recognizing Wilford Woodruff as the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the only man on the earth at the present time who holds the keys of the sealing ordinances, we consider him fully authorized by virtue of his position to issue the Manifesto which has been read in our hearing, and which is dated September 24th, 1890, and that as a Church in General Conference assembled, we accept his declaration concerning plural marriages as authoritative and binding.

The vote to sustain the foregoing motion was unanimous." [19]

  • Extending the priesthood to all worthy male members: This significant change in priesthood membership and administration was effectuated by the approval, by the body of the church, of Official Declaration #2.  President N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, presented the Declaration to the body of the church for ratification.  He stated:

"Recognizing Spencer W. Kimball as the prophet, seer, and revelator, and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is proposed that we as a constituent assembly accept this revelation as the word and will of the Lord. All in favor please signify by raising your right hand. Any opposed by the same sign.

The vote to sustain the foregoing motion was unanimous in the affirmative." [20]

In both cases, an historical precedence was firmly established: changes to existing doctrines (which presumably include anything categorized as a scripturally-based "standing law" unto the church) require the sustaining of the church's members.

A LAW IGNORED OUT OF EXISTENCE

When we examine the history of the church, we begin to see that in implementing the law of common consent, a preliminary decision was made (for example, a person was proposed for a calling, or a tentative budget was presented). Then members were given the opportunity to accept or reject the proposal. [21]  If a proposal was rejected, it was back to the drawing board. To avoid exercising control, dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, no consequences or retribution was given the member for an opposing view. [21]

That's pretty much a thing of the past now. Opposing views precipitate an immediate meeting in the stake president's office, and those meetings aren't particularly warm and fuzzy. 

Yet another a trend has also surfaced: the law of common consent is rarely mentioned and adhered to in the first place. 

By my (admittedly very inadequate) historical research skills, it all began in 1844, less than a month after Brother Joseph's death. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued an official proclamation for members to immediately pay "a tenth of all their property and money…and then let them continue to pay a tenth of their income from that time forth." 

This was a monumental deviation from Law of Tithing which was revealed six years earlier, in which the Lord gave a "standing law" that the saints should be "tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually." [22]

In instituting this new doctrine, the twelve never once produced a revelation from God for the members to review and prayerfully contemplate. To date, no one has seen the actual revelation which reversed the Lord's "standing revelation," and no one has ever been asked to offer a sustaining vote changing that scripture.

Since then, the Law of Common Consent has kind of conveniently become forgotten and ignored. And to most members, that's OK, because we have our leaders, making the church the "church of the latter-day leaders" instead of the "church of the latter-day saints." Here's what two members said online:

"Common consent in the Church is not a grassroots kind of principle."

"There are just too many daily happenings within the Church that can not be voted on. This is, IMHO, the reason the Lord has chosen good men to be our leaders. As a whole, although some may err, I believe they are doing the Lord's work on the earth today. And isn't that what common consent is….the majority. I doubt that they all agree on every proposal brought before the 15, however, I believe that when they walk out of a meeting, they are in agreement that this is what the Lord wants done at that time. I don't have to agree ( as you have chosen not to do), but I can still sustain them in their callings because I know the Lord has guided them in those decisions."

And sure enough, that's the unwritten order of things today. Here's former Seventy (and now mission president) Matthew O. Richardson:

"This privilege of voting is more an act of ratifying leadership callings and decisions rather than actually making those decisions. Such decisions are left to the Lord and His anointed servants." [23] 

I believe Brother Richardson is telling the truth. We members are no longer involved in having a say in the church's "administrative affairs".  The application of the law of common consent to "all things" by members is no longer applicable. We have no explanation as to why the law of common consent has been non-existent for a long time in the church. 

If it was in play/practice, would we have a multi-billion dollar mall in downtown Salt Lake City? Or plush million-dollar condos? Or hunting preserves in Nevada where rich men can pay big money to hunt big game for sport? Or 3% of the land mass in Florida?

A DOSE OF REALITY

You'd be hard pressed to say this is what church members have been wanting. 

Nowhere do I find in the scriptures that its OK for members to abrogate their responsibilities as members to their leaders. If you can find the scripture, please send it to me. If you can find the revelation, please send it to me.

Moroni reminded us (four times) that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He does not change His mind on eternal truths, just to tease or test us.

As far as I can tell, the Lord never said, "And all things shall be done by common consent by the church's leaders." He said, "And all things shall be done by common consent in the church." He wants church members to participate in the decision-making process, because it gives them ownership of the doctrine, policy or sustained leader - and for all the good or bad that brings with said decision:

"If the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time the judgements of God will come upon you." [24]

Over time, we've seen a lot of other doctrines and laws evaporate away. Are these "things that affect the lives of the Saints"? Definitely.

Were they subject to approval or disapproval via the Law of Common Consent? Definitely not.

Will I be addressing each one of these doctrines and laws in future posts? You better believe it.

"If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,

And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee." [25]

"Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.
Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them.
Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it."  [26]

QUESTIONS

Based on the aforementioned facts, I have the following questions:

  • How is the church’s ongoing neglect of the Law of Common Consent NOT making this the church of the “latter-day administrative leaders” instead of the church of the “latter-day saints”?
  • When and how did the Lord declare that it was OK for the saints not to directly have a say in “all things” regarding his church?

CHECK THE COMMENTS BY LATTER-DAY
TRUTHS BELOW FOR UPDATES TO THIS POST
 

1  http://www.murphys-laws.com/murphy/murphy-miscellaneous.html
2  http://kutv.com/news/local/lds-church-clarifies-word-of-wisdom-on-vaping-green-tea-coffee-marijuana-opioids
3   Mormon Doctrine, p. 149-50
4  Bruce R. McConkie, Common Consent (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, n.d.), p. 4.
5  Exodus 24:3
6   Numbers 27:19-22
7  1 Samuel 8:7
8  Mosiah 29:25-26
9  Acts 1:26
10  History of the Church 1:64
11  D&C 20:65
12  D&C 26:2; emphasis mine
13  https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/manual/doctrine-and-covenants-student-manual/section-26-the-law-of-common-consent
14  D&C 28:13
15  D&C 20:63, 65, 66.
16  D&C 38:34-35; 41:9-10; 51:4, 12.
17  D&C 104:64, 71-77.
18  D&C 42:11; 102:9; 124:124-44.
19  D&C Official Declaration #1.
20  D&C Official Declaration #2.
21  D&C 121:37
22  D&C 119:4.
23  "The Law of Common Consent (D&C 26)", https://rsc.byu.edu/sperry-symposium-classics-doctrine-covenants/law-common-consent-dc-26-0
24  Mosiah 29:27
25  Deuteronomy 13:1-5
26  Jeremiah 6:16-19