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Thursday, February 11, 2016

I have been excommunicated from the LDS church



Yesterday evening I was given a letter announcing my trial for apostasy to be held today at 7:30pm. My request to have my wife accompany me was denied. The stake president read the charge of apostasy from the handbook. I was specifically accused of repeatedly teaching against church doctrine and/or church leaders through my recent book “Teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men: Tradition in Modern Mormonism.” I was asked whether I admitted to the charges. I said no. I was given time to explain myself, and said the following:  

Why do we need to preach against false traditions?

We have made a covenant to “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:9).

This includes the requirement to warn others of observed deviation from God’s word. “Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.” (D&C 88:81)

Ezekiel provides a case study for our obligation, how to fulfil it, and what happens if we do not.
“When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.” (Ezekiel 3:18)
Ezekiel 8:1-13: God shows Ezekiel abominations of people and leaders, particularly in temple.
Ezekiel 9:1-11: Ezekiel shown the marking and punishment of all men, women, children who did not “cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.” (Ezek. 9:4)

In the Book of Mormon we are told that we cannot lead men to faith in the Lord without freeing them from the false traditions of their fathers:
7 And behold, ye do know of yourselves, for ye have witnessed it, that as many of them as are brought to the knowledge of the truth, and to know of the wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers, and are led to believe the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them— (Helaman 15:7)

There are two dangers in perpetuating false traditions. First and foremost, if we perpetuate false tradition, we both block ourselves from returning to God. We also hedge up the way for others (Matthew 23:13).

Second, we provide a compelling reason for others to abandon their faith in Christ when they discover the falseness of our traditions, an inevitability in the transparency of the digital age. Those who believe the commandments of men falsely attributed to God will find that they do not receive the blessings promised in scripture for obedience to the law. Instead of attributing thei unbelief to those who taught them false tradition, they disbelieve Christ, causing them to lose faith in the gospel and to become atheists. Satan can make great progress by convincing men and women that everything goes together in one: either everything church leaders teach is true, or everything they teach is false. Thus, he can overcome the positive witnesses received from living the as yet undefiled true commandments by focusing the person’s attention on the undeniably false traditions of men, persisting the illusion that the philosophies of men are from the same source as the scriptures with which they are mingled.

Is it a crime to correct false traditions taught by the brethren?

Example of Paul
13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
 14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
 15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
 16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
 19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: (Acts 26:13-18)

Example of Abinadi
 “And also that king Noah and his priests had caused the people to commit so many sins and iniquities against God…” (Mosiah 21:30)
“27 Now when king Noah had heard of the words which Abinadi had spoken unto the people, he was also wroth; and he said: Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him, or who is the Lord, that shall bring upon my people such great affliction?
 28 I command you to bring Abinadi hither, that I may slay him, for he has said these things that he might stir up my people to anger one with another, and to raise contentions among my people; therefore I will slay him.” (Mosiah 11)
13 And now, O king, what great evil hast thou done, or what great sins have thy people committed, that we should be condemned of God or judged of this man?
 14 And now, O king, behold, we are guiltless, and thou, O king, hast not sinned… (Mosiah 12)
7 And he said unto him: Abinadi, we have found an accusation against thee, and thou art worthy of death.
 8 For thou hast said that God himself should come down among the children of men; and now, for this cause thou shalt be put to death unless thou wilt recall all the words which thou hast spoken evil concerning me and my people.
 9 Now Abinadi said unto him: I say unto you, I will not recall the words which I have spoken unto you concerning this people, for they are true; and that ye may know of their surety I have suffered myself that I have fallen into your hands.
 10 Yea, and I will suffer even until death, and I will not recall my words, and they shall stand as a testimony against you. And if ye slay me ye will shed innocent blood, and this shall also stand as a testimony against you at the last day.
 11 And now king Noah was about to release him, for he feared his word; for he feared that the judgments of God would come upon him.
 12 But the priests lifted up their voices against him, and began to accuse him, saying: He has reviled the king. Therefore the king was stirred up in anger against him, and he delivered him up that he might be slain. (Mosiah 17)

Some time ago, I was unexpectedly visited by the Lord Jesus Christ. He told me that he was not pleased with the things I was committing my heart and soul to—the traditions of the church. He said I was accomplishing very, very little of what he expected of me. I was at once overwhelmed with joy at having been in his presence, while also being indescribably crushed and confused at his message to me. I prayed and prayed to understand the details of his pronouncement. It took a lot of prayer, a lot of study, and a lot of willingness to be wrong to come to the point where I was willing to listen to him teach me what I lacked.

The Lord sent my wife and I to Seeley lake. This command was received by each of us independently, and has been witnessed to us from heaven again and again. As just one example, the former stake president called me in shortly after our arrival. He told me God explicitly called me to be the Elder’s Quorum president in Seeley. I protested, and spent about 30 minutes giving him examples of my heterodoxy to convince him he was mistaken. He assured me that this was not the run of the mill calling filling, but that God had told him by name in no uncertain terms that I was to be the Elder’s Quorum president. As I left that building, I looked up to the sky in disbelief. The Lord said, in an audible voice, “I will show you how great things you must suffer for my name’s sake.” (See Acts 9:16). Part of our mission here is to help others come unto Christ by helping them overcome the false traditions that keep them from him.

Handbook – should you obey it or God?

The idea that it is apostasy to show from the scriptures and church history that something taught by a leader is not true is an innovation. Apostle Orson Pratt said “…convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the Word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds.” Brigham Young said “…when I was an Elder I was as willing to correct an error in the Brethren as I am now. But the people do not see it so. Now if you should be with the Twelve or anybody, you would have right to correct an error as well as with a member…”

If the brethren have recently decided that correction of their errors is an excommunicable offense, when it never was before, shouldn’t they be able to cite this change as having come from God? Is excommunication such a trivial thing that it should be treated as an arbitrary policy? Can men dictate the conditions of the retention of God’s blessings?

We ought not consider the handbook instructions as God’s commandments, unless they are found in scripture.

"'Try the spirits,' but what by? Are we to try them by the creeds of men? What
preposterous folly -- what sheer ignorance -- what madness! Try the motions and actions of
an eternal being (for I contend that all spirits are such) by a thing that was conceived in
ignorance, and brought forth in folly -- a cobweb of yesterday! Angels would hide their
faces, and devils would be ashamed and insulted..." (Joseph Smith, TPJS)

Do you understand what the spirit is and isn’t? How he works and how he does not work?
Jesus taught, "Judge not according to your traditions, but judge righteous judgment." (John 7:24, JST)

It is not the false traditions of our fallen flesh that will teach us the truth of all things, but the Holy Ghost (see Moroni 10:5).

5 Behold, you have been entrusted with these things, but how strict were your commandments…And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men. For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words—
 8 Yet you should have been faithful;…” (D&C 3:5-8)

Remember, "Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost." (2 Nephi 28:31)

The Lord said:
8 Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.
 9 Will I accept of an offering, saith the Lord, that is not made in my name?
 10 Or will I receive at your hands that which I have not appointed?
 11 And will I appoint unto you, saith the Lord, except it be by law, even as I and my Father ordained unto you, before the world was?
 12 I am the Lord thy God; and I give unto you this commandment—that no man shall come unto the Father but by me or by my word, which is my law, saith the Lord.
 13 And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.
 14 For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed. (D&C 132)

41 O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name. (2 Nephi 9:41)

What do I prize?
In addition to the many rank-and-file members who have done so, I have been surprised by how many church leaders (former or current) have expressed gratitude for my having written this book: District presidents, stake presidents, high counselors, bishops, and counselors have all expressed gratitude. And yet, I don’t see many coming forward to defend this book. I believe one reason is fear. Though the problems I have enumerated are plain to them, they have been taught and believe that if they disagree with leaders publicly, they will lose eternal blessings from God.

I do not have this fear.

I prize the priesthood. Though I received my priesthood through the church, I did not receive my priesthood from the church. Joseph received the priesthood before the church existed, as did every holder of it prior to the restoration. My priesthood exists independent of the church, and therefore the church cannot take it away.

I do not fear having my church membership taken away. I prize my baptism, which was granted to me through the Aaronic priesthood. For the same reasons, the church cannot take it away. Throughout history, wicked men have cast out the righteous. God must extend every possible chance for repentance, and only through casting out the righteous can the wicked become ripe in their iniquity and be destroyed.

I do not fear the loss of the Holy Ghost. I prize the baptism by fire—the gift of the Holy Ghost—given to me from God as a result of my keeping the conditions upon which it is predicated. Since the church did not and cannot give the baptism of fire, the church cannot take it away. I prize the gifts of dreams, visions, and the spirit of prophecy. The church cannot give these gifts, as they are gifts of the spirit. As evidenced by the lack of those who possess them, they do not come through obedience to the church, but through obedience to God, and only God can cause them to cease.

All of these things—everything of worth—comes directly from God. The church does not control the blessings of eternity—God does. “…the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.” (2 Nephi 9:41)

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

I was asked a few questions after my remarks. Here is my best attempt at recalling the questions and the answers I provided:

Q: Do you believe that Thomas Monson is the sole mouthpiece of the Lord on the earth today, and if the Lord wants to speak to the world, he will do so through President Monson?
A: I believe the Lord can and does speak through whomever he chooses. I do not believe he will only speak through President Monson, and I certainly do not believe that everything President Monson says or does qualifies as God’s word or approved by God. Any who believe that are guilty of idolatry. You would be hard pressed to find a more textbook definition of the word.

Q: Do you believe President Monson is a prophet?
A: What do you mean by prophet? If you mean a title, I think he has the right to adopt any title he wants, whether it be prophet or grand dragon or whatever else, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. If you mean a description, I have yet to see a prophecy spoken by President Monson. I have yet to hear any message from him that he has claimed was spoken to him by God. Therefore, if I were to testify that I knew he was a prophet, I would be bearing false witness, because I have not witnessed him prophesy.

Q: Do you believe that the church possesses a fullness of the priesthood?
A: Let’s look at God’s own word on the subject. Turn with me to JST Gen 14 [only 1 or 2 did]. When it says God swore an oath that EVERY man would do these things, do you think he meant it? [I read the passage.] Of all the men that you know who claim to hold the Melchezidek priesthood, how many have put to flight armies, turned rivers from their course, quenched the violence of fire, stood in the presence of God, etc? As of today you know at least one who has stood in the presence of God. But other than me, who do you know who has experienced even one of these powers, let alone all of them? Obviously we are missing something. God has spoken about the church’s status three times I think in the scriptures. Each of the three times, it is negative, with words like “condemn” and “lost”. God said he took it away. If you think we have it, how do you prove that it has changed since God last spoke about it?

Q: Do you believe the church is run the same way as it would be if Christ himself were here to run it?
A: Absolutely not. I think it is silly to think that any of us as individuals are living our lives exactly the way Christ would live our lives. It is even sillier to think that a task so hard for an individual would somehow be easier when attempted by a larger group of people, whether 15 or 15 million. I don’t know how anyone could honestly think that.

Q: This all seems dark to me. I am fine with helping people come to Christ, but can’t that be done without so much negativity? Can’t we talk of Christ, rejoice of Christ, etc. without criticizing others?
A: Joseph Smith said that the present generation would reject Jesus for being too rough. Helaman 15:7 and the entire canon of scripture is clear: You cannot preach the gospel without teaching against false traditions. There is a reason there is no power in our repetitive lessons to bring about changes in hearts. There is a reason the church is full of porn addicts and child molesters. If all you ever do is talk about the pleasant things that we are already doing—or think we are doing—no one ever actually comes to Christ. You can’t honestly tell me you’ve read the Old Testament, New Testament, or restoration scriptures and not seen that the majority of examples of true messengers preaching God’s word has been “negative”. It is to be expected. It is not an exception. Cognitive dissonance is not God saying what we are hearing is false. It is our conscience saying what we believe disagrees with the evidence we’ve seen.

Q: I know we can know of Christ powerfully through the witness of the Holy Ghost. Don’t you think that a testimony through the Holy Ghost is stronger than an eye witness? Your eyes can be deceived, but a witness of the Holy Ghost is sure. Don’t you think it is possible that you were deceived in your experiences?
A: I absolutely think it is possible that I was deceived. It is very unlikely, and I have enough confidence in my experiences that I would not change course even if I were tortured to death. However, I recognize that anyone who says they are absolutely sure about anything is cutting themselves off from God teaching them something that they don’t already know, and I won’t do that, because I know nothing compared to God, and I want him to keep teaching me. As far as an eye witness versus a witness of the Spirit: I agree with you that one can certainly know of Christ with incredible surety through the Holy Ghost. But you can’t know him. Eternal life is to know Jesus Christ, and you can’t do that without actually meeting him face to face. Anyone who says a witness of the spirit is stronger than an eye witness has never stood in the presence of God, period.

Q: [Quoting from a blog post]: You wrote “So what of the appointed watchmen in the LDS church?
9 All you wild beasts, you animals of the forest,
come and devour!
10 Their watchmen are altogether blind and unaware;all of them are but dumb watchdogs unable to bark,
lolling seers fond of slumber.
11 Gluttonous dogs, and insatiable,
such indeed are insensible shepherds.
They are all diverted to their own way,
every one after his own advantage.
12 Come, they say, let us get wine
and have our fill of liquor.
For tomorrow will be like today, only far better! (Isaiah 56:9-12)
Not only are they not warning, Isaiah reduces them to dogs. It is not only that they choose not to bark, but they are so ignorant of things as they really are, that they are completely blind and unaware of what is actually important, relevant, and timely. Instead, they take their own advice as if it were God's word, they feed on the poor, and keep up their drunken stupor fed by false tradition and hubris. All is well, all is well.” How is this not what the handbook describes as apostasy?
A: What I have written was, is, and will be true. You want a prophecy, here’s a prophecy: Most of you in this room will live to see the interpretation I have provided here fulfilled. You will see what Isaiah predicted, and you will know that you didn’t hear a peep from these men you call prophets warning you of it coming.

OUTCOME:

After deliberation, the stake president informed me that the decision of the council was that I would be excommunicated for apostasy. He asked me not to participate in meetings, and invited me to visit with him to “repent” of my “apostasy”. He determined that a brief prayer and a negative feeling “as close to an audible voice as he ever felt in prayer” was sufficient to convict me without even attempting to refute even one of the 400+ pages of scriptural and historical evidence I provided to support my position, a feat that required thousands of hours of careful preparation.

One exchange that occurred that I thought was of note: I declared that I had not apostatized from Christ or from the gospel. A high councilor said, "none of us think that you have. You are here for apostasy against the church and its leaders." Possibly the most condemnatory thing that occurred last night was that a group of 15 church leaders agreed that one can be cut off, so they suppose, from God's blessings without having done anything to offend him.

"And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men;" (2 Nephi 28: 5)

I forgive these men totally and sincerely. I have forgiven them since I was told a year or so ago that this would be the outcome of this mission which I have fulfilled. I harbor no ill will towards them.

I did, however, refuse to remain in the room after the announcement of their decision. I announced that I had nothing more to say to them, nor them to me, and exited before their prayer. I refuse to participate in solemn mockery before God.