Dear Reader,

A Latter-day Saint who believes that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leaders are authorized of God doesn’t necessarily accept whatever the church puts forth as “gospel.” On the contrary, anyone who wants a better church tomorrow really ought to speak up today. We aren’t potted plants. Let's face it: Theological malarkey will continue to thrive in the church if members say “amen” to it all.

That is the main reason this site exists.

It also exists because I want to encourage wavering Latter-day Saints not to leave the Lord's restored church merely because of its flaws and the errors of its leaders.

Each article is listed below with a title, short synopsis and a link. They were written by Steve Warren (bio below). Articles by others may be added.

Keep the faith.

Steve Warren
West Valley City, Utah

“God is actually trying to create a much more profound relationship with us. We can only do that if we are actually wrestling with issues at hand.”
--Fiona Givens

Christ moves closer to us as we move from dogma toward truth.

Steve Warren was raised in Heppner, Oregon, and has lived in Utah for 44 years. He attended Ricks College for two years, served a mission to Colombia and Venezuela, and graduated from BYU in 1973 with a degree in communications. He and his wife, JaNiece, have two sons and a daughter. He wrote and published Drat! Mythed Again, Second Thoughts on Utah in 1986 and was a copy editor at the Deseret News from 1988-2008. He wrote and printed 100 copies of a novel, Beyond the Finish Line, but has yet to find a real publisher. (2018)
Knowing, believing, seeing Insights into our borderline dysfunctional LDS relationship with the word “know.”

Pathway to heaven The Scriptures show one sure way to return to God’s presence: possess a heart that pleases him.

Obedience gone awry Strictly following the prophet is an excellent idea—at least as long as he’s right.

Falling short, staying put Living prophets constantly err, but that’s not a good reason to leave the Lord’s church.

What in the world? Certain strange features of the Book of Mormon add to its credibility.

Some kind of miracle Fiction. An invitation to speak in sacrament meeting begins a Utah couple’s wild ride.

The cross = victory The cross is a worthy, positive symbol because it reminds us that it is the dying Christ who saves us.

Pilate tried Jewish religious leaders sought to kill Jesus; Pontius Pilate sought to set him free, so let’s give the man a break.

Father, Father, Father Why do we repeat the name of Deity so often in prayers these days?

Witnesses Multiple witnesses provide a compelling reason for anyone to ponder the claims of Mormonism.

Who is God? The Book of Mormon and other scriptures clearly teach that Jesus Christ is God and that Heavenly Father is God the Father.

In the beginning If we didn't allow speculation and guesswork in lessons on the Creation and Adam and Eve, classes would be really short.

Short takes Brief quotes, comments and reflections on a variety of gospel topics.
A few heresies... that would make for a more interesting sacrament meeting.
Oopsy-daisy 40 foul-ups by top LDS authorities.
Appreciating Christ

Friday, February 24, 2017

A few heresies

Dressing for the last time

Having an earthly burial has never been a requirement for a heavenly resurrection. Therefore, the type of clothing placed on our corpse will have zero impact on our prospects for heavenly glory.  Still, most active, temple-endowed Latter-day Saints prefer to be attired in temple clothing in their coffins.  Here are 10 thoughts about why there is no need to dress the dead in temple clothing.

1.  Jesus was not buried in temple clothing, nor were virtually all of the great prophets.  Enoch, Elijah, Moses and Alma apparently weren't buried at all but went directly to heaven. 
2.  In the unlikely event that temple clothes are actually required on the other side, every worthy person will receive them.  Being buried in regular clothing won't hurt the worthy, and being buried in temple clothing won't help the unworthy.  It simply doesn't matter to a just God whether someone's body was buried in a clown suit or whether it re-entered the food chain after it was cremated, lost at sea, eaten by wolves or blown to smithereens.
3.  Any temple clothing provided in the next life will be superior to what was produced on earth and will not wear out.
4.  Any temple clothing made on the other side will be in the correct heavenly style.  (Most temple-goers today wouldn't be caught dead in the styles of the late 1800s.)
5.  We anticipate that in the Resurrection our bodies will be in the prime of life.  If this is indeed the case, earthly temple clothing (or any other clothing) that fits the bodies of worn-out, creaky old dead people is unlikely to fit the body of a vibrant resurrected being.  It will need to be replaced.
6. When Peter and John arrived in the tomb, they discovered that Christ had left behind his burial clothing.  Yet, when he later appeared to Magdalene and to other disciples, the risen Lord was clothed.  By discarding burial clothing made in this world, Jesus was perhaps telling us that clothing made on earth stays on earth.  He was also telling us that clothing (temple or otherwise) is available on the other side.  
7. The Doctrine and Covenants says that children who die before the age of 8 go directly to the celestial kingdomand not a one of them ever wore temple clothing. 
8.  Temple clothing made in heaven will not have been exposed to a corpse for an extended period of time. 
9.  Instead of adorning the dead, maybe temple clothing would better be donated for use by the living.  For Latter-day Saints who feel uneasy about using clothing left behind by a person who has died, be assured that such clothing is completely decoffinated.
10. Familial conflicts over whether to dress the deceased in temple clothing would be eliminated if everyone recognized that the clothing worn by the dead makes no more difference in the next life than whether the dead person was buried at all.

Putting temple clothing on corpses is nothing more than an unexamined tradition that we Latter-day Saints have become comfortable with. 

It is also good to keep in mind that the Scriptures say our bodies came from the dust of the earth and unto the dust they return. (Gen. 3:19, Eccl. 3:20, etc.) The one clear exception, of course, was Christthe only sinless adult to dwell on earth.   Despite scriptures that appear to say that our mortal bodies undergo change and resurrect, these temporary bodies partly consist of matter from plants and other animals (including long-dead humans whose remains had returned to the food chain). Our resurrected physical bodies, therefore, will surely consist of a new, nonperishable substance.

Isaiah said zero about the Book of Mormon

We Latter-day Saints routinely assert that Isaiah prophesied the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

However, a closer look at Isaiah 29 reveals that the prophet most likely was speaking specifically about the Jerusalem of his era rather than about a latter-day people.  In 29:11, when he writes And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed his vision of all seems to refer to the existing spiritual blindness of both the learned and unlearned.  The marvellous work and a wonder mentioned in verse 14 most likely refers to the ending of this sorry state of affairs when Jerusalem's meek and humble turn to the Lord, perhaps a reference to the Christ's earthly ministry.

Writings in ancient times were routinely sealed (1 Kings 21:8), so the metaphorical learned man saying he couldn't read a sealed book (scroll) may merely point to his lack of interest in spiritual things; he apparently makes no effort to unseal the scroll.

In saying the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book, the word as tips us off that Isaiah is not speaking about an actual event but rather that he has made up a short parable to illustrate his point that the inhabitants of Ariel (Jerusalem) have departed from the Lord.  Yes, there are significant similarities in Isaiah 29: 11,12 to the modern experiences of Professor Anthon and Joseph Smith, but there are also significant dissimilarities. 

Nephi himself provides the best evidence that Isaiah was not speaking of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.  In borrowing from Isaiah 29, Nephi never says that Isaiah prophesied about a latter-day book. Instead, Nephi tells us that he has turned Isaiah's words into mine own prophecy (2 Nephi 25:7; see also 28:1; 30:3; 31:1).

It was Nephi, not Isaiah, who prophesied about the latter-day coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

An impression from above—or below

I was gazing toward heaven not long ago while pondering the words “following the prophet is always right, when a 121-word sentence distilled upon my mind as dew from heaven.  (Actually, I was in my recliner and bored, and there are plenty of English teachers who will insist that any sentence over 100 words sure as hell never came from heaven.)  Here’s what popped into my head:

“Proclaiming it is always right to follow another mortal is a concept hatched in the darkest corner of hell—in fact, not far from Donald Trump's summer residence—and was sent forth by Lucifer himself in the form of a putrid vapor that wafted through perdition’s borders and eventually distilled on the lobby floor at LDS Church headquarters where a custodian fully intended to wipe up the foul mess but became distracted by a perky young thing in a sleeveless T-shirt, thereby allowing it to ooze into the curriculum, correlation and publications areas where it spread like manure upon a pasture and has remained to this day although without the benefit of gentle breezes that often make manure-covered pastures more bearable.”

Heavenly Mother

We may have one or more heavenly mothers.  Or not.

Consider this:  Canonized, revealed LDS scripture deals with such lower-end topics as whether Jared Carter and George James should be ordained priests and whether a few missionaries should ride horses or mules.  (D&C 52:38; 62:7)  Yet, on the subject of Heavenly Mother, not a single word.  Surely the silence from God on such a major issue ought to be sufficient reason for the church to take a “we don't know” position on the subject.

Anyone who says that we have a heavenly mother is simply engaging in uncanonized speculation.  There is simply no scriptural evidence that either the Father or Christ have ever had a  wife.

Frankly, when Eliza R. Snow wrote “In the heavens are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare!” she was not issuing a revelation for the church but was merely engaging in deductive reasoning.  What Joseph Smith might have said on the subject may not be heresy, but it is certainly hearsay.  Yes, the Heavenly Mother teaching has a comfortable feel, it harmonizes well with other LDS doctrines, and other prophets have embraced the concept.  But that doesn't make it revelation nor does it make it true.

And we shouldn't rush to embrace the nonsense about Heavenly Father declining to reveal anything about his heavenly companion(s) because he didn't want foul-talking rascals here on earth to profane her name.  Such a view has at least two problems.  First, he could have revealed her existence without revealing her name.  After all, the Holy Ghost is a god, yet his name hasn't been revealed.  Second, if Mother in Heaven is so sensitive that her tender feelings would be hurt if mortals misused her name, we are forced to conclude that she isn't much of a goddess, because an omniscient goddess would be fully aware of despicable deeds that her spirit children commit that are far worse than misusing her name.

It is also a good idea to ask ourselves how the church can be sure that there is one Mother in Heaven when it seems entirely unsure about whether there is more than one.

Let's keep in mind that the God of the scriptures seems strong and decisive as well as kind, gentle, loving, patient and merciful.  In other words, a whole person, male and female.

In the event that there is no Mother in Heaven, what does tell us about sex in heaven?  Keep reading. 

The future of sex

A common LDS assumption about immortal beings is that it takes male and female—and probably sexual relations—to produce children.  In the Doctrine and Covenants, for example, we are told that a couple must be sealed as man and wife in order to have “an increase” in the next life. (D&C 131:4)  An inference is that “an increase” refers to offspring and is achieved through sex.  (Some Muslim men believe that if they die for their religion, they will be rewarded with 72 virgins who, presumably, would lose their virginity rather quickly after meeting up with the virile martyr to whom they were assigned. This isn’t taught in the Quran.  It may simply be a tool to get Muslim men to do their home teaching. If they're anything like a lot of LDS men, they'd probably settle for 36 virgins if they were permitted to skip the home teaching.)

A strong scriptural case can be made that sexual relations may not be the way of the gods.  We believe that circulatory, digestive and other bodily systems undergo major change in the next life.  (It is hard to conceive of Bandaids, indigestion, root canals and restrooms in the Celestial Kingdom.)  Consequently, we may discover that reproductive systems will also become distant memories.  Indeed, at some future day we may all enjoy a good chuckle if it turns out that the very God who gave us a powerful sex drive deliberately placed our sexual organs near organs of excretion merely to demonstrate that a heavenly being can have a down-to-earth sense of humor.

It is a virtual certainty that God the Father did not produce his trillions of spirit children in the way mortals produce their children.  Otherwise, his newborn children, would have possessed physical bodies just as he does.  It's a natural-law thing.  Imagine the shock in a local maternity ward if a woman gave birth to a spirit child!  Pity the poor nurse who must explain to her supervisor why she recorded zero as the birth weight.

Likewise, when Christ tells the brother of Jared “man have I created after the body of my spirit,” we can be sure the creation process used by Christ, a spirit at the time, was not a sexual one.  Otherwise, “man” (Adam and Eve and their descendants) would also have been born on earth as spirits.

Also, Mary was told that “the Holy Ghost shall come unto thee” (Luke 1:35) and “that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”  Again, the creation process is clearly not intercourse—the Father isn’t even present.

If we presume that God needed to interact sexually with one or more wives in order to create his spirit children, we put ourselves in the rather awkward position of wondering how he “interacted” to create animals.  We have laws against that sort of thing.

For those who speculate that immortals reproduce through sexual relations, it may be advisable to keep in mind that “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours.”  (Isaiah 55:9)  In her experience with dying, LDS poet Emma Lou Thayne glimpsed “that world beyond bliss, beyond joy, beyond ecstasy,” which hints at something “higher” than any mortal ecstasy, including that associated with sexual relations.  It may also be useful to keep in mind that if all resurrected beings have physical bodies, children produced through sexual relations would also have physical bodies and would not need to dwell on an earth to obtain such a body, clearly contrary to the Plan of Salvation.  (And speaking of resurrected beings, the Scriptures suggest we all will live as adults and that the traditional family—babies, children, parents, grandparents, etc.—will be merely a relic from our earthling era. Of course, if we become gods and somehow produce spirit children, they presumably would inhabit an earth and temporarily experience the same baby, child, parent, grandparent thing that we went through.) 

If the idea of no male-female sex in the hereafter seems depressing, this essay does not assert there is no sex in heaven.  It only suggests that when it comes to either a Mother in Heaven or sex in heaven, we should not present opinions, belief or speculation as knowledge or doctrine.  Heaven may have a way of creating children that does not require male and female gods to get all hot and bothered.  And I wouldn't blame a gay person for viewing this essay as confirmation that the male-female thing is way overrated. 

Cutting in line

Perhaps more than any other well-intentioned endeavor in human history, latter-day temple work and family history appears to be based on cutting in line.

Here's how it works. Only a tiny fraction of those who have dwelled on earth over the past 6,000 years or so have received the ordinances that the church teaches are necessary to live again with God. These long-dead folks are still waiting.  However, if you are alive and have joined the church, you may very well have already been temple-endowed.  In other words, you went to the front of the line. 

Of course, we haven't neglected the dead entirely. We are constantly doing ordinances of salvation vicariously for them. If you died in the past 250 years and are related to a living LDS family, chances are good that someone has researched your connection to them and has submitted your name for ordinance work.  Alas, those who have been dead the longestfor thousands of yearsare still waiting.  In other words, we living people have been joined by our recently dead relatives in cutting in line.

God is fair.  Perhaps the church could take a new approach, with the First Presidency offering a statement such as:

In the interest of fairness, vicarious temple ordinances in the future will be performed first for those who have been dead the longest. Those who are now performing ordinance work in temples will immediately be asked to stop attending temples and instead concentrate their efforts on searching out the lines of their own family until they can certify that they have exhausted every avenue of research. Then, they will be asked to join others in searching out all other lines in the human family. When all options have been exhausted, performing of vicarious ordinances will resume but with one key difference: The work for those who have been dead the longest will be performed first.

When it comes to temple and family history work, as in any other endeavors that may occupy large amounts of our time, it is wise to live an examined life in which we are constantly watchful to ensure that doing something good doesn't cause us to neglect something better.  This is particularly true in a world where so many are poverty-stricken, homeless, hungry and suffering in other ways.  If the parable of the Good Samaritan had been given in our day, we must ask ourselves if the priest and Levite who pass by the injured man might have been described as people on their way to a temple or family history center. (I'm not saying this is, in fact, the case. I am merely saying it is something worth considering when one considers what to do with the time we are allotted in this life.) 

P.S. There is little evidence that Christ, Mary and most of the great prophets have ever had temple ordinances done on earth in their behalf, but we assume they have inherited the celestial kingdom already.  Indeed, Christ was the Lord God Almighty long before he was a mortal and remains the God who possesses all power over the earth.

Lest it appear from these thoughts under Cutting in line that I believe work for the dead is intrinsically unfair and isn't worth the effort, I would like to offer an idea on how our current approach to temple work may indeed be entirely fair.  It goes like this:  We know that the Atonement of Christ was retroactive and that people who lived on earth repented and were forgiven long before Christ atoned for their sins.  Therefore, instead of assuming that righteous people who lived on earth before Christ remain in limbo because their temple work remains undone, perhaps the ordinances that will eventually be performed are already in effect for those who will accept them.  This may explain why Joseph Smith saw that his deceased brother Alvin was dwelling in the Celestial Kingdom although no temple ordinances had been performed in his behalf.

Pity the poor teacher

In relief society and priesthood classes, the course of instruction since 1998 has been Teachings of Presidents of the Church.  The 2017 manual features President Gordon B. Hinckley.  We instructors understand that we are expected to teach in a way that invites the Spirit and that builds confidence in leaders of the church.  Unfortunately, the manuals often make that tricky.

What is a teacher to do when he disagrees with the theology taught in a key section of the lesson? An example:  In Chapter 8 of the Hinckley manual, the first page and a half imply that it’s a negative thing to be reminded of the death and sufferings of Christ.  (See “The cross = victory” on this site.)

Or, what were teachers to do when Lesson 11 on following the living prophet in the Ezra Taft Benson manual in 2015 was based heavily on a Benson talk that was not well-received by then President Spencer W. Kimball?  Naturally, this would be especially difficult when the teacher totally agrees with President Kimball.

Or, how comfortable would a teacher be testifying to the truthfulness of a lesson that contains internal contradictions as well as teachings that aren’t accepted today?  On this final conundrum, I offer six problems below from Chapter 2, “God the Eternal Father,” from the 2011 Joseph Smith manual.

1.  Joseph Smith is quoted as saying, “I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  He also refers to the Father as the God “who was and is and will be from all eternity to eternity.”  Later, however, the manual quotes Joseph as saying, “God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man.” 

2.  The lesson says Joseph Smith believed that God the Father was “the Great Parent of the universe” and that “the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring.” (Italics added)  The Heavenly Father described by Joseph Smith seems to be a single parent; no mention is made of a Heavenly Mother.  This, of course, does not mean Joseph was wrong; it’s simply different from what the church teaches today.

3.  Referring to God the Father, the manual quotes Joseph Smith:  “Adam  . . . received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him.”  LDS scripture teaches that Christ was the God who created the earth, who created the physical bodies of Adam and Eve, and who interacts with mortals.  The only scriptural account of the Father appearing to man is his 1820 appearance to Joseph Smith. 

4.  The prophet Joseph instructs us to come to the Father: “When we understand the character of God and know how to come to Him, He begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to Him, He is ready to come to us.”   The Scriptures repeatedly and emphatically teach that man is to come to Christ.  The Father commands: “whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off . . . ” (3 Nephi 21:20)   The Son is the God who has been revealed to us and is the revelator authorized “to unfold the heavens to us.”  In the January 1976 Ensign, Elder Bruce R. McConkie noted that whenever Joseph Smith asked the Father, in the name of the Son, for answers to questions, “the answering voice was not that of the Father but of the Son.”

5.  Speaking of the Godhead, Joseph Smith observes that “the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones but is a personage of Spirit.”  A few lines later, he is quoted as saying that any being “without body or parts is nothing.”

6.  The manual cites secondhand sources who say they heard Joseph Smith say that God the Father “presides” in heaven in the role of “President.”   For purposes of understanding our relationship with the Godhead, however, it would have been helpful to mention that when it comes to man on earth, the Scriptures say that Christ is both Father and Son, that the fulness of the Godhead resides in him and that he possesses all power over the earth and, like the Father, has all knowledge.  As God of the whole earth, he simply does not need to be “presided over” or to be “under the direction” of someone else.  Whatever he says or does is automatically the mind and will of the Father.  Christ is a full-fledged god, not a counselor in a presidency or bishopric.  Indeed, Elder Bruce R. McConkie says Christ’s role as Father is “over, above and in addition to” that of God the Father and that Christ is “God of Gods.”

Note:  Thankfully, the manual writers didn’t include Joseph Smith’s statements that Jehovah is God the Father, a viewpoint that pops up often in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. (The church says Jehovah is Christ.)  For what it’s worth, the fact that Joseph Smith misidentified Jehovah (at least for a while) shouldn't bother anyone.  It only confirms his less-educated status and his need to rely on “the gift and power of God” in translating the Book of Mormon.

By the way, I’m not saying that I know my views on the Godhead, Mother in Heaven, etc., are more accurate than prevailing teachings in the church, but I think there’s a fine chance that some of them are.  Frankly, I’d like to hear less of “we know” in the church and more of “we believe”or “we don't know.