But whether there be prophecies…

The Apostle Paul taught:

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail…
1 Corinthians 13:8

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LDS Church leaders have been very careful not to make any prophesies regarding the U.S. presidential election of 2020.

President Nelson gave reassurance that “These unique challenges will pass in due time” in regard to COVID-19 in a March 19, 2020 social media broadcast. But he did not specify when that “due time” would arrive.

Biblical-like prophesying was part of Joseph Smith’s ministry. Smith even prophesied in 1832 of the coming Civil War, and that it would start in South Carolina. (Doctrine & Covenants 87)

But the exercise of this spiritual gift has been rather dormant in the LDS Church since Smith’s death. LDS Church presidents can and do receive revelation in regard to temple-building, all worthy males may receive the priesthood, administrative changes, etc., but this inspiration differs from the prophesying of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, John the Revelator, Nephi, Moroni and others who foretold of cataclysmic and earth-changing events, as well as the fate of nations.

Some individual members such as Julie Rowe claim to have had apocalyptic visions, but their predictions have failed to materialize. Rowe was excommunicated from the Church in April 2019.

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During this election season, a few dozen Evangelical Christians have prophesied that President Trump is as the Bible’s Cyrus, that he has the anointing of Jehu, and that God has chosen him to break the spirit of Jezebel and of Baal. These Charismatic Christians have had dreams and visions accordingly which they have shared on numerous YouTube videos. They proclaimed prior to the general election that Trump would win a second term by God’s decree.

Kat Kerr, Amanda Freitas, Dana Coverstone, Mike Thompson, and Sid Roth with his numerous guests have appeared in these prophetic videos, in addition to others.

The general election has now taken place. Former Vice President Joe Biden appears to have the necessary electoral college votes to win the presidency, although the results of some key states are still in dispute.

The Christian visionaries are now claiming that the election results are fraudulent and that Trump will still win because God is going to expose the corruption. The election result will then be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sample Prophesy Videos:

Thomas Sides

Thomas Sweeney

Eric Jones Prophesy

America is on the verge of a great spiritual revival!

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As a disclaimer, I voted for Trump, but will support Biden if he wins the electoral college. That is what good American must do. Support and pray for the the winning candidate regardless.

Key dates:

Dec 8, 2020: Deadline for Resolving Election Disputes
Dec 14, 2020: Meeting of the Electors
Dec 23, 2020: Deadline for Receipt of Ballots
Jan 6, 2021: Counting of the Electoral Ballots
Jan 20, 2021: Inauguration Day

As an aside, I think all states should follow the examples of Nebraska and Maine by selecting electoral college delegates on a proportional basis rather than “winner take all.” A proportional basis would be more fair and balanced and would be less susceptible to fraud.

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I believe that some election fraud occurred, but am uncertain that it was enough to change the election outcome.

But this opens up some discussion topic points.

Do we individually or collectively create, or attempt to create, our own spiritual and prophetic realities?

How much of our beliefs are wishful thinking or quixotic idealism?

To what extent does God intervene in the affairs of men?

Does God endorse one political party over another?

Are we willing to listen to what the other side has to say? Or do we insist that our own political and religious dogma is God’s will?

See also: Donald Trump Prophecy Failures

— Tom Irvine

Fowler’s Stages of Faith Development

James W. Fowler III (1940 – 2015) was an American theologian who was Professor of Theology and Human Development at Emory University. He was director of both the Center for Research on Faith and Moral Development and the Center for Ethics until he retired in 2005. He was also a minister in the United Methodist Church. Fowler identified the following stages of spiritual growth.

Stage 0 – Primal or Undifferentiated Faith, 0-2 years
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This beginning stage is characterized by an early learning of the safety of their environment (i.e. warm, safe and secure vs. hurt, neglect and abuse). Basic ideas about God are usually picked up from parents. If consistent nurture is experienced, one will develop a sense of trust and safety about the universe and the divine. Conversely, negative experiences will cause one to develop distrust with the universe and the divine. Transition to the next stage begins with integration of thought and language which facilitates the use of symbols in speech and play.
Stage 1 – Intuitive-Projective2-7 years
2015 Outline for Sharing Time
Religion is learned mainly through experiences, stories, images, and the people that one comes in contact with. Understanding is very literal.
Stage 2 – Mythic-Literal, 12+ years
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Strong belief in the justice and reciprocity of the universe.
Stage 3 – Synthetic-Conventional 12+ years
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Characterized by conformity to authority and the religious development of a personal identity. Conflicts with one’s beliefs are often ignored at this stage due to the fear of threat from inconsistencies.
Stage 4 – Individuative-Reflective, 21+ years
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A stage of angst and struggle. The individual takes personal responsibility for his or her beliefs and feelings. As one is able to reflect on one’s own beliefs, there is an openness to a new complexity of faith, but this also increases the awareness of conflicts in one’s belief.
Stage 5 – Conjunctive, 35+ years
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Acknowledges paradox and transcendence relating reality behind the symbols of inherited systems. The individual resolves conflicts from previous stages by a complex understanding of a multidimensional, interdependent “truth” that cannot be explained by any particular statement. May return to sacred stories and symbols, but this time without being stuck in a theological box.
Stage 6 – Universalizing, 45+
7 Things You May Not Know About the Sistine Chapel - HISTORY
The individual would treat any person with compassion as he or she views people as from a universal community and should be treated with universal principles of love and justice. Fear and worries are overcome.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an institution is largely Synthetic-Conventional, as reinforced by the correlation program, general conference talks, handbooks, policies, etc. Its historic culture is binary with an “us versus the world” mentality.

Members who progress to stage 4 and beyond may face painful challenges as they express their evolving faith and understanding to conventional members. There is a need for mutual respect, tolerance and peacemaking on all sides.

Scott R. Braithwaite, an associate psychology professor at Brigham Young University, said that “These stages of faith I think are helpful because they help us to realize that there’s not just one way to have faith.” Reference

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The test of faith is whether I can make space for difference. Can I recognize God’s image in someone who is not in my image, who language, faith, ideal, are different from mine? If I cannot, then I have made God in my image instead of allowing him to remake me in his.

~ Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt”l  

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– Tom Irvine

Authority & Spiritual Gifts

The prophet Nephi boldly preached of the coming of the Son of God as the Messiah in 1 Nephi 10. Nephi closed his testimony by citing the source of his authority.

And the Holy Ghost giveth authority that I should speak these things, and deny them not. (1 Nephi 10:22)

This is a subtle but important reminder that the Holy Ghost may grant authority to men. All spiritual gifts come from the Holy Ghost, and with those gifts comes the authority to exercise those gifts.

The apostle Paul gave the follow list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8–10.

  1. Word of wisdom
  2. Word of knowledge
  3. Faith
  4. Gifts of healings
  5. Miracles
  6. Prophecy
  7. Distinguishing between spirits
  8. Tongues
  9. Interpretation of tongues

See also Moroni 10.

There is a common belief in the LDS Church that any authority given from God to man is priesthood authority and that such keys are in the sole possession and control of the LDS Church President.

President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “These keys are the right of presidency; they are the power and authority to govern and direct all of the Lord’s affairs on earth. Those who hold them have power to govern and control the manner in which all others may serve in the priesthood. All of us may hold the priesthood, but we can only use it as authorized and directed so to do by those who hold the keys” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 98; or Ensign, July 1972, 87).

Whether authority granted by the Holy Ghost is the same as the priesthood keys referenced by President Smith is beyond the scope of this blog.

But the scriptures give us the following reminders.

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Moroni 10:17

And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will.

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Numbers 11

[26] But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.
[27] And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.
[28] And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
[29] And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!

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Luke 9

[49] And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
[50] And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

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Mark 9

[38] And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.
[39] But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.
[40] For he that is not against us is on our part.
[41] For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

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Doctrine and Covenants 93:30

All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. 

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Elder Robert E. Wells

“Our eleventh Article of Faith states: ‘We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.’ One element of the commandment to not judge is the admonition to be tolerant and not criticize others for their religious beliefs. Religion is a matter of free agency, and each individual is responsible before God for his or her choice. If we are to follow Christ, we must not be fanatical, critical, or intolerant of others’ beliefs. John, the beloved apostle, showed a bit of that tendency when he saw someone casting out devils in the name of Christ. John forbade that person to do works in the name of the Master and reported it to the Savior. Jesus was much more tolerant. He said, ‘Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part.’ (Mark 9:39-40.)

“Lack of tolerance, especially in matters of religion, leads some to want to force their opinions upon others. That was Satan’s way, perhaps, because he wanted to forgo free agency and force all to be saved without losing anyone. But force is no solution-not in politics, not in business, and, most important, not in things of the Spirit. There should be only harmony and unity of purpose between those professing different religious beliefs. The pure love of Christ should lead us to love others, no matter what church they belong to, and to truly put into practice in our lives the uplifting principles of tolerance and love that Paul and Moroni taught in their great sermons on charity.” (The Mount and the Master [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 168.)

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As members of the LDS Church, do we sometimes have a lack of tolerance for one another within the church? Do we judge one another based on family connections, church calling resume, education, wealth, gender, ethnicity, age, pioneer heritage, etc.? Do we allow others to exercise their spiritual gifts, both inside and outside of the Church, regardless of whether those gifts, and the exercise thereof, were preapproved by the Brethren?

What is it that we really are afraid of?

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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

– Tom Irvine

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Restoration & Other Musings

Douglas Adams’ book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” had a subplot where an enormous supercomputer named Deep Thought took a period of 7.5 million years to produce the answer “42” to the “Great Question” of “Life, the Universe and Everything.”

The characters tasked with getting that answer are disappointed because it is not very useful.

Yet, as the computer points out, the question itself was vaguely formulated. The computer replied “You have to know what the question actually is in order to know what the answer is.”

To find the correct statement of the query, the computer will have to build a new version of itself. That, too, will take time. The new version of the computer is Earth and will require 10 million years to find the original specific question. Unfortunately, the Earth was destroyed by the Vogons moments before its calculations were completed, to supposedly make way for a new hyperspace bypass.

This bypass is revealed to have been a ruse. The Vogons had been hired to destroy the Earth by a consortium of psychiatrists, led by Gag Halfrunt, who feared for the loss of their careers when the Ultimate Question became known.

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Have we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints become so fixated on rote answers that we no longer understand the questions?

The restoration of Christ’s true church was the answer to the boy Joseph Smith’s questions about which church was true and which should he join.

Joseph Smith History, Chapter 1 gives the answer to Joseph Smith’s prayer and vision of the Father and Son.

[18] My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

The verses in this History are official LDS Church doctrine. And yet, Joseph Smith gave four separate accounts of the “First Vision” during his lifetime, which have become widely know in recent years. There are also several second-hand accounts.

Joseph’s original 1832 account focused on going before the Lord to seek forgiveness for his sins. The restoration of Christ’s true church was thus the answer to his question on how forgiveness could be obtained. The restoration would bring priesthood authority so that repentant souls could be washed from their sins through baptism.

Allowances can readily be made that Joseph had some sort of supernatural experience with Deity and that his understanding of this encounter matured through the years. One can also weave the separate accounts into a composite story.

An appreciation of all of the accounts adds depth to our imperfect understanding of this transcendent event which is well beyond the limitations of our coarse English vocabulary.

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Our earnest desire for truth must be tempered by the realization that “We walk by faith, not by sight,” as the apostle Paul taught. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

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Edgar M. Bronfman wrote “To be Jewish is to ask questions,” and that the Talmud required it. To learn more, to challenge oneself to think more deeply, is one of the central tenets of the Jewish religion.

Jews are also known to answer a question with another question. A Rabbi might answer a question with the reply “Let me answer that by asking you this.”

A famous joke goes:
Why do Jews ask so many questions?
Why not?!

A question is more valuable than an answer, teaching us to value exploration and not discovery. Elie Wiesel echoed the words of the sages by asking, “When will you understand that a beautiful answer is nothing? Nothing more than illusion! Man defines himself by what disturbs him and not by what reassures him. When will you understand that you are living and searching in error, because God means movement and not explanation.”

The importance of questioning is continually reinforced in Jewish learning and spirituality. Abraham, the very first Jew we often learn about has the chutzpah to question God’s decision making ability by asking God whether He will sweep away the innocent along with the guilty. Moses also follows the Abrahamic legacy by asking God why he was chosen to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt. According to some commentators, it was the very fact that he asked this question that made him fit to lead since a question is a true sign of humility as we admit what don’t know or understand.

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Q&A with Richard Feynman | Another dot in the blogosphere?

– Tom Irvine

Oh Say What is Truth?


An LDS Hymn asks “Oh Say, What is Truth?” Perhaps this question is more complicated that anyone would care to admit. God’s eternal truth absolutely exists in the objective sense. But each individual has his or her own subjective perception of what that truth really is, as does the LDS Church as an institution. Can we honestly acknowledge this as we argue doctrinal points or policy issues? Do we ever use fear as a tool in attempt to “prove” our subjective version of truth is the same as God’s absolute truth?

There is a popular saying that “we create our own realities.” A more accurate statement is that we create our own personal realities as we filter the external world through our senses, mind, body and spirit. These filters include our genetic predispositions and our past experiences. Our minds seek to form unity between the present moment and the past, including all our current beliefs and emotions whether conscious or subconscious. This is known as confirmation bias, which has been described as internal “yes man.”

The above explanation was formulated by the Prussian German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) who hypothesized the existence of two realities: An objective reality and a subjective reality. Kant made humans part of the creative process of reality as they see it. This has implication for both religion and science. To religion Kant insisted that we cannot perceive of God directly because our perception of God will also be partly of our own construction. To science likewise he takes away the ruse of objectivity because everything we observe will always be influenced by us. This last statement appears to have an eerie similarity to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics.

Simon and Garfunkel expressed this idea with the lyrical phrase “Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest” in their ballad “The Boxer.”

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was influenced by Kant. One of Kierkegaard’s recurrent themes is the importance of subjectivity, which has to do with the way people relate themselves to objective truths. In his work “Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments,” he argues that “subjectivity is truth” and “truth is subjectivity.”
Kierkegaard conveys that essentially truth is not just a matter of discovering objective facts. While objective facts are important, there is a second and more crucial element of truth, which involves how one relates oneself to those matters of fact. Since how one acts is, from the ethical perspective, more important than any matter of fact, truth is to be found in subjectivity rather than objectivity. We do not find truth through a detached “objectivity” but through a deep engagement with the world.

Consider the following perspective of the Book of Mormon. The same thoughtful reasoning could be applied to the Bible, the Book of Abraham and to LDS Church history.

Maybe the Lamanites are the primary ancestors of Native Americans. Or maybe the ancestors were East Asians who crossed the Bering Sea via a land bridge some 15,000 or more years ago. Or perhaps Native Americans are descendants of both groups via intermarriage.

Maybe the Jaredites encountered elephants, mastodons perhaps. Or maybe not.

Maybe the Nephites and Lamanites had domesticated horses. Or perhaps not.

Maybe the major events of the Book of Mormon occurred in modern-day Central America or the Yucatan Peninsula. Or the setting may have been in the Great Lakes or Finger Lakes regions of North America. Alternatively, the events may have taken place over large areas of the two American continents.

Maybe the events in the Book of Mormon are literal and factual. Or maybe these stories are inspired allegory.

The presentation of the Book of Mormon’s stories and teachings may have been heavily influenced by early 19th century American Christianity sermons, Ethan Smith’s “View of the Heberew,” etc. Or perhaps not.

Joseph Smith may have translated the Book of Mormon from “golden plates” as he examined the engraved characters. Or maybe the verses came to him as he buried his head in a hat in which a “seer stone” had been previously placed.

Critics and apologists have debated these topics and many related ones. LDS Church leaders have proclaimed the Book of Mormon’s historical accuracy and derived calls for obedience to Church leaders therefrom.

Joseph Smith’s wrote that a person could “get nearer to God by abiding by its [the Book of Mormon’s] precepts, than by any other book,” in the Book of Mormon’s Introduction. The Book of Mormon is indeed “true” if it helps its readers achieve that purpose.

Then perhaps the Book of Mormon is a transcendent and sublime work. Perhaps the Lord in his wisdom has given it to us in its current form as a test of faith. “For we walk by faith, not by sight,” as the apostle Paul taught. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Elder Neil L. Anderson taught, “We do not know everything in the beginning or along the way. . . . At times, the Lord’s answer will be, ‘You don’t know everything, but you know enough’—enough to keep the commandments and to do what is right” (Neil L. Anderson, “You Know Enough,” Ensign, November 2009).

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And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. (1 Corinthians 8:2)

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

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– Tom Irvine

When Church Teachings are Weaponized for Shaming Others

There is a falsehood that some are born with an attraction to their own kind, with nothing they can do about it. They are just “that way” and can only yield to those desires. That is a malicious and destructive lie. While it is a convincing idea to some, it is of the devil. No one is locked into that kind of life. From our premortal life we were directed into a physical body. There is no mismatching of bodies and spirits. Boys are to become men –masculine, manly men –ultimately to become husbands and fathers. No one is predestined to a perverted use of these powers.

– Apostle Boyd K. Packer, “Message to Young Men,” General Conference 1976

There appears to be a consensus in the world that it (homosexuality) is natural, to one degree or another, for a percentage of the population. Therefore, we must accept it as all right. However, when you put a moral instrument on it, the needle immediately flips to the side labeled “wrong.” It may even register “dangerous.” If there has been heavy indulgence, it registers clear over to “spiritually destructive.”

The answer: It is not all right. It is wrong! It is not desirable; it is unnatural; it is abnormal; it is an affliction. When practiced, it is immoral. It is a transgression… Do not be misled by those who whisper that it is part of your nature and therefore right for you. That is false doctrine!

– Apostle Boyd K. Packer, 1978 BYU Fireside, “To the One”

Homosexuality is an ugly sin, repugnant to those who find no temptation in it, as well as to many past offenders who are seeking a way out of its clutches. It is embarrassing and unpleasant as a subject for discussion but because of its prevalence, the need to warn the uninitiated, and the desire to help those who may already be involved in it, it is discussed in this chapter.

– Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 78

Note that the Autumn Ridge neighborhood is in Sandy, Utah. The person or persons who wrote the above letter were too cowardly to sign their names.

____________

Reply from the recipient:

Dear Autumn Ridge Neighbors:
I received a letter today addressed to all our Autumn Ridge neighbors that was full of misinformation and self-righteous pretension concerning the pride flags recently flown by some neighbors in their front yards. Besides its inaccuracies, the letter was cowardly in that it was sent anonymously. Those who expressed the opinions contained in the letter did not have the courage to own their viewpoints.

In response to that letter, I wish to state the following:

First, the Pride Flag is most generally understood to be a symbol of peace and inclusion – and a reminder of the LGBTQAI+ movements that seek to ensure equal rights and non-discrimination for these often marginalized groups of people. Additionally, the flag has come to be seen as a symbol of individuality and social equality.

Second, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has repeatedly produced public statements that acknowledge the following:

Same-Sex attraction is a sensitive issue that requires kindness, compassion, and understanding;

The website mormonandgay.lds.org reinforces the reality that God “loveth his children” (1 Nephi 11:17) and “seeks to help everyone better understand same-sex attraction from a gospel perspective.” It also reflects the reality that a person doesn’t need to choose between the two identities of “Mormon” and “Gay.”

“The Church does not take a position on the cause of same-sex attraction (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, 2006).”

“Feelings of same-sex attraction are not a sin.”

“The parent of a child who experiences same-sex attraction or identifies as gay should choose to love and embrace that child. As a community of Church members, Latter-day Saints should create a welcoming community.”

Please note the LDS Church’s official resources and statements at Same Sex Attraction: Kindness, Inclusion, and Respect for All of God’s Children.

Third, it is highly inappropriate for anyone but my Bishop to make a judgment on my temple worthiness or on my position on the covenant path based on whether or not I choose to demonstrate my civic and moral support for the LGBQA+ community’s right for equal protection of laws and non-discrimination.

Fourth, if as a kind and interested neighbor, you wish to invite me to conduct a prayerful search to review my values, my understanding of the teachings, practices, and doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the way that I am exercising my moral agency, please do so to my face.

Finally, you may be interested to know that my father, the Honorable Dale A. Kimball, a Federal judge in the District of Utah and a faithful, lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was the judge who confirmed the same-sex marriages of individuals whose marriages occurred between the ruling of Judge Robert Shelby and the stay imposed by the State of Utah until the appeal on Judge Shelby’s ruling could be heard before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Shortly, thereafter, both rulings were upheld. His reasons for doing so were consistent with statute, equal protection of the laws, and non-discrimination. I have always been proud of the way in which my father has refused to legislate from the bench, has exercised fairness and temperance in his judgments, and has always resisted the temptation to impose his own personal moral beliefs on others.

Please note the observations that I have made in this letter as your concerned neighbor to which I have put my name; and also these unequivocal, public statements for which I wish to be remembered.

Cynthia K. Phillips

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See also: Flying of pride flags in Sandy neighborhood draws criticism in anonymous letter

When Righteous Actions become Idolatry

The children of Israel traveled through the Sinai wilderness. The following story is given in Numbers 21.

[4] And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.
[5] And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.
[6] And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.
[7] Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
[8] And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
[9] And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

Jesus referenced this story in John 3.

[14] And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.

The Book of Mormon provides additional insight.

1 Nephi 17

[41] And he (The Lord) did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.

2 Nephi 25

[20] And now, my brethren, I have spoken plainly that ye cannot err. And as the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them, and also gave him power that he should smite the rock and the water should come forth; yea, behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved.

Alma 33

[19] Behold, he (The Son of God) was spoken of by Moses; yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live.
[20] But few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them.
[21] O my brethren, if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief, and be slothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish?

Helaman 8

[14] Yea, did he (Moses) not bear record that the Son of God should come? And as he lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall he be lifted up who should come.
[15] And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal.

Jesus Christ took upon himself the sins of the world in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross at Calvary. The serpent on Moses’ pole represented these sins. The pole symbolized Jesus’ cross.

But some of the children of Israel later began worshipping the brazen serpent as an idol and burned incense unto it. So King Hezekiah had it destroyed.

[3] And he (King Hezekiah) did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did.
[4] He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. (2 Kings 18)

Nehushtan (Hebrew: נחשתן‎) is the derogatory name given to the bronze serpent on the pole. The term is a proper noun coming from either the word for “snake” or “brass,” and thus means “The (Great) Serpent” or “The (Great) Brass.”  King Hezekiah used this term to show that the brass serpent was simply a material object and not divine.

Are there some teachings, policies and practices in the Church which were once vital but now need to be retired? Are there some that have become as Nehushtan?

There has been some tendency in the Church among some authoritarian-minded members to revere the Brethren with worshipful devotion.  Loyalty to the Brethren is a litmus test by which they judge others.

The Brethren are at best “true messengers” sent by the Father, but they are not demigods.

The Church is making some positive steps such as the “Come Follow Me” program, where there is increasing emphasis on personal & family scripture study rather than feeding from predigested correlated materials.

– Tom Irvine

Command Responsibility

Mountain Meadows Massacre Memorial. Some 120 members of the Baker–Fancher emigrant wagon train were murdered near this location on September 11, 1857.

The US military has a principle called command responsibility, such that a leader is responsible for the actions of subordinates up to and including war crimes. There are varying circumstances such as:

  1.  Did the leader knowingly fail to prevent or punish subordinates for their unlawful actions?
  2. Should the leader have known of his subordinates unlawful actions, regardless?

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In The Art of War, written during the sixth century BC, Sun Tzu argued that a commander’s duty was to ensure that his subordinates conducted themselves in a civilised manner during an armed conflict.

Similarly, in the Bible (Kings 1: Chapter 21) is the story of Ahab and the killing of Naboth. Naboth was a citizen of Jezreel who was executed by Queen Jezebel so that her husband Ahab could possess his vineyard. King Ahab was blamed for the killing of Naboth, because Ahab (as king) was responsible for everyone in his kingdom including Queen Jezebel. As punishment for this incident, the prophet Elijah visited Ahab and prophesised his death and the extermination of the Omride line. Elijah also foretold the death of Jezebel.

Charles VII of France issued the Ordinance of Orleans in 1439 which imposed blanket responsibility on commanders for all unlawful acts of their subordinates, without requiring any standard of knowledge.

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U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued “General Orders No. 100: Instructions for the Government of the Armies of the United States in the Field,” on April 24, 1863. This is commonly known as the “Lieber Code” after its main author Francis (Franz) Lieber. The Lieber Code set out rules of conduct during hostilities for Union soldiers throughout the U.S. Civil War. The main sections concerned martial law, military jurisdiction, and the treatment of spies, deserters, and prisoners of war. The document insisted upon the humane, ethical treatment of populations in occupied areas.  This code eventually led to conventions that leaders could be held accountable for subordinates’ war crimes.

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General Tomoyuki Yamashita was the commanding general of the Fourteenth Army Group of the Imperial Japanese Army in the Philippine Islands during World War II. He was charged by an American military tribunal with violating the laws of war. The charge stated that Yamashita, “While commander of armed forces of Japan at war with the United States of America and its allies, unlawfully disregarded and failed to discharge his duty as commander to control the operations of the members of his command, permitting them to commit brutal atrocities and other high crimes against people of the Philippines.” These atrocities included the Manila massacre where 100,000 civilians were killed. The Japanese forced Filipino women and children to be used as human shields into the front lines to protect Japanese positions. Those who survived were then murdered by the Japanese.

The defense acknowledged that atrocities had been committed but contended that the breakdown of communications and the Japanese chain of command in the chaotic battle of the second Philippines campaign was such that Yamashita could not have controlled his troops even if he had known of their actions, which was not certain in any case

The tribunal found Yamashita guilty, and he was sentenced to death and executed by hanging in 1946. 

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Do the Brethren bear any responsibility for either the actions or misdeeds of local priesthood leaders as they perform their church callings? The practical answer is “No.” The Brethren claim that they are only accountable to God and not to man. Any member who criticize a leader, even though the criticism is true, has the spirit of the devil according to President Oaks. See: Criticism.

Higher leaders often give faith-promoting stories in church meetings explaining how they received divine inspiration to call a certain man into a leadership position. What then when the lower leader exercises “unrighteous dominion” over members?

Does the stern counsel given to such traumatized members to forgive their leaders effectively abrogate the responsibility of the leaders to apologize and make amends?

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President Brigham Young and Apostle George A. Smith were never held accountable for the Mountain Meadows Massacre even though their inflammatory speeches beforehand may have contributed to the tragedy. Young may have also concealed evidence after the fact.

President Gordon B. Hinckley firmly denied that the LDS Church had “any complicity in the occurrences of that fateful and tragic day” referring to the massacre in a monument dedication ceremony in 1999. Reference

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Doctrine and Covenants 121

34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.

39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
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Eli (1 Samuel 1:28)

Eli was the High Priest of Shiloh and also a Judge of Israel.  He was also the “Prophet.”

Eli faithfully served as a father figure to Samuel. He also had the wisdom and inspiration to realize that Samuel should be the next high priest, rather than one of Eli’s own sons.

Eli was a righteous man but had a tragic flaw. His sons Hophni and Phinehas behaved wickedly by taking for themselves all the prime cuts of meat from sacrifices, and by committing adultery with the women who served at the sanctuary entrance.

Eli became aware of their behavior but rebuked them too lightly and ultimately did not stop them.

Eli’s sons continued their sinful behavior. Samuel prophesied that Eli and his family would be punished for this, with all male descendants dying before reaching old age and being placed in positions subservient to prophets from other lineages. Eli’s sons were ultimately killed in battle against the Philistines. The Philistines also captured the Ark of the Covenant. Eli fell backwards out of his chair and died from a broken neck upon learning of this awful news.

There are several lessons from Eli’s tragic life. Among others, it is a calamitous example of a leader’s failure to stop sexual abuse committed by those who serve under him.

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

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– Tom Irvine

No Child is “Bitter Fruit”

General Conference can potentially be a collective spiritual experience like the people who were reborn at King Benjamin’s address in the Book of Mormon. General Conference can fulfill many noble and needed purposes. But for some of us it can trigger PTSD. Sadly, I have seen too many local priesthood leaders weaponize and brandish statements made by the Brethren at conference and elsewhere. I have experienced the resulting unrighteous dominion numerous times.

I very sadly envision some well meaning but misguided bishop or stake president calling an expecting, unwed mother into his office and reading Elder Christofferson’s quote to her. Such a woman needs our support and prayers rather than chastisement. Imagine Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

Should we require an adulteress to wear a scarlet letter, as the one Hester wore in the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel?

– Tom Irvine

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Liability Concern

The following was written in a Facebook post by Brian Bresee and is reprinted verbatim and by permission. Brian lost his 14-year-old son Samuel to suicide in 2014 after months of being called “Faggot” at his local LDS congregation in Las Vegas.

Mark E. Waite is the relative of the attorney (Dan Waite) mentioned in my previous post, he was our Stake President when our son died of suicide. As an active, true believing Mormon and Temple worthy member of the church, I placed this man in high regard. For me he was God’s representative at the local level.

A couple of months passed since Samuel’s death and I requested that President Waite and Bishop Morrison come to our home. During that meeting I showed these men the suicide note (which clearly pointed to abuse at church), informed them that our son was abused at church before his suicide and that I wanted that abuse investigated, and finished by telling these men that the church has a very serious abuse problem which is causing children to leave the church and never come back. President Waite agreed to come back in a couple of weeks and investigate our son’s abuse.

About three months passed and President Waite did not return to investigate our son’s abuse. During this time I was privately told by a leader from our Ward that our son’s abuse was being viewed as a “Liability Concern” by the church. As found in church policy, President Waite had no doubt called Kirton-McConkie at the Bishop’s Hotline for instructions. His failure to honor his word required I make an appointment with President Waite.

During that meeting I pressed President Waite to investigate our son’s abuse, to at the very least call a meeting with the boys involved and their parents, to show the evidence and let each boy decide for themselves if they wanted to repent. His reply,

“This might be the natural man in me, but I don’t want to be told what to do!!! . . . Brother Bresee, you need to get some therapy”, and finishing with “You’re not going to leave the church over this are you?”

To use my fragile mental condition at the time as a tactic to protect the church’s money was like a knife being put into me by a man I viewed as God’s representative. As I left that meeting, he joked about not returning after two weeks to investigate as he promised and laughed while saying something along the lines of ‘not being viewed as a liar’. This meeting, along with letter responses from the ‘Brethren’ sent me on a very painful faith crisis during an already very difficult time, something I barely survived. At that moment I realized I had been the member of a Corporation, not God’s “only true church”, my whole world view was dumped on its head in the worst way.

Mark Waite was also the Area Director of LDS Facilities for the Las Vegas area. Along with preserving his status in the church as a leader, he also had a direct monetary stake in obeying church attorneys with his employment by the church.

With depraved men like Mark Waite and Dan Waite simply following the ‘Best Legal Advice’ with no moral considerations attached, for money and status, great harm to children and even suicide results. Surely Mark must know this by now, with another teen suicide in our very same Ward just four years later. I have been told that death was also connected to abuse at church. Yes, I will accept an apology from these men, if they can see past another church policy of not offering apologies. Because you know, apologies can be a “Liability Concern”.

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News Article

Blog Post

Mark Waite

Mark Waite’s Linkedin profile lists his job title as Facilities Manager, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, February 2013 to the present. LGBT Mormon Suicides

LDS First Presidency Letter on Involvement in Legal Proceedings

See also: Fear & Reconciliation

– Tom Irvine