Routine Prophecy

By: Mormon Heretic
April 30, 2012

In the lifetime of Joseph Smith, there were more than 100 revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants.  In the past 120 years, we’ve had only the vision of Joseph F. Smith (section 138), and 2 Official Declarations added–the Manifesto, and the elimination of the ban on black members to receive the priesthood.  There are many on the bloggernacle that complain that we don’t have enough revelation.

On the other hand, the RLDS has continued to add to their version of the Doctrine and Covenants.  Most recently, they added section 164–a revelation on gay marriage and recognition of non-RLDS baptisms into their church.  The 164 Sections of the Community of Christ’s Doctrine and Covenants break down as follows:

The following sections are not revelations, but letters, reports, statements, and so forth: 99, 108A, 109–113, and 123.

Based on the above, the number of revelations (accounting for sections that are not revelations) presented by each Community of Christ prophet, are as follows:

  • Joseph Smith II: 107
  • Joseph Smith III: 17
  • Frederick M. Smith: 7
  • Israel A. Smith: 6
  • W. Wallace Smith: 9
  • Wallace B. Smith: 8
  • W. Grant McMurray: 2
  • Stephen M. Veazey: 2

Bill Russell gave some interesting insights about the RLDS version of the Doctrine and Covenants in a 1993 Sunstone speech.  (The RLDS Church changed their name to the Community of Christ in 2001.)  I wanted to share his insights.  While a visible member of their church, he is hardly orthodox as you will see from the comments below.

During my childhood and college years, I was convinced that the church I became a member of by accident of birth happened to be the one true church on the face of the earth.  What luck! [audience chuckles]

I had a fascination with numbers.  Arithmetic was my strongest subject and it led me to calculate with the sense of awe, and I was about 6 when I did this, the statistical improbability of a person being fortunate enough to be born to the true church of Jesus Christ headquartered in Independence, Missouri.  I marveled at this.  In the RLDS Church we have weeklong family camps in the summer which provide some spiritual highs which were often called Mountaintop Experiences at the daily Prayer and Testimony meetings.  There is often a heightened, a gradual heightening of spiritual awareness and receptivity through religious experience that in past eras of American religion was called enthusiasm.

It was common for there to be at least one Prayer and Testimony meeting, usually late in the week in which one or more people would get up and utter a prophesy:  Thus saith the Lord unto my servant Roy Muir…. a buddy of mine that called really early, and Brother Muir would be told the good Lord’s current opinion of him.  Usually, the Lord was pleased with Brother Muir.  What an embarrassment it would have been if the Lord had been irked at Brother Muir and said so right in front of all of those people!  [audience chuckles]

The giver of the message from the Lord would usually be a high ranking church official, like a Stake President or Bishop, or a Seventy, or Patriarch.  Often the recipient of a prophecy would be a young man who had a potential to be a star in the church. Women weren’t often spoken to.  Men did the important stuff and they held the priesthood only in those days.  At the age of 19 I was called to the office of Priest in such a prophecy in a big camp meeting, a big church camp.  That first priesthood call isn’t automatic in my church, I got my call directly from On High in front of about 400 people.  But I have gained more self-awareness and religious insight as I reflect upon a prophecy given about 10 years earlier in a camp when I was about 9.

My father was the full-time paid pastor at the time at the 3 congregations in St. Joseph, Missouri.  He was having a difference of opinion with his Stake President, whom he considered a lazy bag of wind.  During a prayer service when the spirit was getting high, and prophecies were starting to flow, one high priest who was closely associated with the lazy bag of wind, got up and began to prophesy to my father: Thus saith the Lord unto my servant Melvin Russell….

As the Lord began to articulate his thoughts concerning Melvin Russell, Melvin Russell began to recognize that this high priest was telling him that God wanted him to knuckle under to the position that he was differing on with this lazy bag of wind stake president.  Well his prophecy might well have been labeled ‘Follow the Brother.’  My dad began to get hot under the collar, so hot that he got up and walked out of the large tent while the message of God was still in progress.  [audience chuckles]

Thus saith the Lord unto my servant Melvin Russell, Melvin ([shouts]) MELVIN!!! [audience chuckles]

Without saying so explicitly, my dad taught me specifically that claims to revelation should be critically examined.  If they don’t make sense to you, don’t believe them!  Trust the intelligence and judgment that God gave you, even over authoritative pronouncements allegedly issuing from on high.  More than once, when someone would prophesy at a reunion, dad would quietly tell family members, ‘I wouldn’t pay any attention to that.’  [audience chuckles]

My dad often criticized the revelations added to our Doctrine and Covenants, considering them not revelations at all.  In that tradition I have twice counseled our current president, W. Wallace Smith to cease having revelations.  [audience chuckles]  But do you think he would listen to me?!  On more than one occasion, dad chewed out the apostle who was his immediate supervisor in the church organization, the boss in other words.  He recognized that all church officials are sinners too.  They are very fallible, whatever their position in the church.  And that is fundamental for me, and why First Amendment freedom of inquiry and belief is so important, so my first pillar is that all religious pronouncements must be subject to critical scrutiny by the individual even if that pronouncement is in holy writ, or by ecclesiastical official, or by a spouse who thinks he is superior because he has a penis and/or priesthood office.  I say that because happily in my church, the former is no longer a requirement for the latter.  [audience applauds]

I say listen to the brethren, and then do what you think is right.  Don’t be intimidated by ecclesiastical actions, be it silencing from priesthood office, which is the main sanction that the RLDS church uses, or excommunication, the main threat in your tradition. I believe my own dignity as a human being is more important  than my status in a mere church organization, and I want to look at myself in the mirror and not vomit.

When I graduated from Graceland in 1960, (that ages me), I was offered a position on the editorial staff at Herald House, the RLDS publishing house.  I loved the job, and I began attending a nearby Methodist seminary on a part-time basis.  Seminary was the most intellectually challenging time of my life. I gained a great appreciation for the Bible, but I also recognized more than ever, its fallibility.  Perhaps the biggest eye-opener was my study of the four gospels. On the one hand, I found them very inspirational as I read about the life of the Galilean who they nailed to a tree.

But on the other hand, Lindsay Farragot, the best teacher I ever had, helped me to see that the four gospels were partisan propaganda.  Each evangelist has his own agenda when he wrote.  Matthew and Luke were written at least in part to correct what they saw were Mark’s errors.  The fourth gospel has very little in common with the other three, until we get to the Holy Week.  The author of Luke-Acts has a clear political agenda.  So I appreciated both the humanity and inspirational qualities of the four gospels.  I also fell in love with the Epistles of Paul.  The RLDS Church has traditionally emphasized the law too much.  Paul’s radical rejection of the Mosaic Law was liberating for me, as was his focus on salvation by grace, rather than by works, and of course, Paul was engaged in a mighty struggle with the General Authorities, in case you haven’t read Galatians.

He didn’t cower before the greater ecclesiastical authority of the original apostles who had by far the best possible credentials: they had been with Jesus from the baptism until the crucifixion.  Yet Paul didn’t knuckle under to those superlative apostles as he sarcastically referred to them.  Paul fought them and he won, and if he hadn’t won, we would not be here today.

His next comments were recorded in my previous post.  I got a real chuckle out of his imitation of his father walking out during a revelation.  While many lament that we don’t see revelation in the LDS church more often, I wonder if we would be jaded as Bill is if revelation was more routine.  What do you think?

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43 Responses to Routine Prophecy

  1. Bonnie on April 30, 2012 at 7:29 AM

    I used to feel a sense of loss that more official revelations didn’t arise from SLC, and even though I was repeatedly reminded in my study that each General Conference provides us a new deluge of revelation from 15 apostle-prophets, they didn’t feel very official.

    Must have been 18 months ago in GC when Pres. Monson changed my mind. I have to admit that though I sustain him as prophet, his voice doesn’t resonate with my soul. So I listen, but I can’t say that I really look forward to his talks the way I do others who have other patterns of thought and speech. So I was surprised by a profound testimony that his words were the precise prophecy we needed at this time when he spoke about gratitude.

    It seemed on the surface another platitude, a behavioral talk without much meat, but I knew as I listened that it was exactly what we needed, that it would open the doors of revelation for me in my life and that it would deeply affect the direction of the church in the world if we widely embraced it. I was reminded of Pres. Hinckley’s request that we read the Book of Mormon in the last 5 months of the year some time ago and how people responded to that en masse and how it changed things for those who acted in faith.

    The church has, in later years, placed a marked emphasis on personal revelation and developing the faith necessary to experience it more fully. It feels like a return to the democratic attitude that encourages each to have a personal relationship with God that I feel when I read Joseph Smith’s writings.

    Anymore, I really appreciate the lack of “official” declaration from SLC that is recorded in the D&C (even though a close reading of those sections reveals a lot of day-to-day type revelation as well) because it shifts the onus of responsibility to local leaders and individuals to work out their salvation and sometimes their doctrine.

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  2. Howard on April 30, 2012 at 7:46 AM

    Obviously today’s caretaker prophets aren’t Jesus or Joseph or even Brigham. With the exception of OD1& 2 Mormons have been marching in place with respect to the gospel and becoming more Godlike since the D&C was published. You can say that is it good and you like it but does this mean it’s bad and you wouldn’t like it if the sealed portion of the plates began to come forward via. President Monson? Revelation today? Maybe, but it seems more like inspiration to me when compared to what Joseph received.

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  3. Bonnie on April 30, 2012 at 7:54 AM

    You make a great point Howard, but in all honesty, who’s really going to care about the sealed portion of the plates but those who have been seeking personal revelation and listening to the perhaps more mundane parts all along? There’s quite a lot of the D&C that’s pretty mundane by earthshattering revelation standards. And I don’t know that pressing forward is exactly marching in place. There’s been a fair amount of my personal life that has been quiet on the revelation front because what I had received was sufficient until the next watershed experience came along.

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  4. Bob on April 30, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    #3: Bonnie,
    I think the problem is ‘Revelation’ has been redefined since JS was clear what it meant to him and the Restoration.
    I sense Mormons now have ‘Inspiration’. And that inspiration likely comes only as a binary yes or no.

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  5. Howard on April 30, 2012 at 8:23 AM

    Bonnie,
    I enjoy your comments, I’m happy you find value in the church and I agree that seeking personal revelation is very important to our progression but personally I find little value in the mundane. I think it’s important to realize we routinely sustain men as prophets, seers and revelators who generally do not do those things! Ordaining and sustaining the senior male clergy isn’t anything like being chosen, called and personally trained by God himself as Joseph was. We may still have God’s authority but today we lack his power because our prophets are not as connected to God as Jesus and Joseph were. These men have greater stewardships than we but what power do they command from heaven that we cannot? Can the same be said of Jesus or Joseph? No! The truth is their calling is little different than that of a priesthood quorum leader.

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  6. MH on April 30, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    I think that Bonnie brings up a good point. When we look at D&C 15 and D&C 16, both are relatively unimportant revelations (in the theological scheme of things.) They are simply mission calls. If that’s what it takes to get a revelation, then I guess my mission call would be on par with those sections. I think some of the sections are of dubious quality, but they obviously meant a lot to early church members.

    Other sections, like D&C 76 have much more theological impact on the church.

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  7. Rigel Hawthorne on April 30, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    Bob, I can see your point quite well. I went to a stake leadership meeting and was told that the purpose of going to meetings was to receive ‘revelation.’ I would say that perhaps a few things in life have been ‘revealed’ to me, but the type of revelation they are suggesting we glean from such meetings by making notes in one column for topics that were addressed and another column for spiritual promptings received during the addresses is closer to the definition I understand as inspiration.

    Not that there is anything bad about inspiration, but Howard’s further comments in 5 describe the difference in the expectations early church members would have had compared to our contemporary expectations.

    Though this seems to be a repeated test throughout times that the heralding of a new dispensation is marked by a Prophet of significant power, making the task of the subsequent generations one of accepting by faith the power manifest at the beginning of the dispensation.

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  8. Mike S on April 30, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    Bonnie:

    I, too, thought President Monson’s talk on gratitude was a nice talk. It was uplifting and it something I think about which we can all use a reminder now and then, to become better people.

    I suppose my issue with it (and all of the other talks) is that is really isn’t that much different from talks from a wide variety of sources. There are Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim, non-religions, etc. places that are every bit as inspiring as President Monson’s talk was. I continually seek out good and uplifting things from many places, and feel a good spirit from those places – both LDS and non-LDS.

    The thing I got out of the post (with which I agree) is what is the role of a prophet. Is it ONLY giving talks about things like gratitude? At some point, should we as members of the LDS church expect our prophet to receive a revelation that is profound enough to be canonized and added to our scriptures? Or are our scriptures now “closed” in that regard every bit as much as we consider the Bible to be a “closed” canon? We teach that we still have an open canon and prophets who can add to it, but when is that going to happen?

    So, while I respect (and actually quite enjoyed) President Monson’s talk on gratitude, I would hope that as God’s only true representative on earth, at some point there would be “more”.

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  9. Mike S on April 30, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    And to the point of the OP, this is a fundamental dichotomy in the LDS Church as well. We are taught (and teach our children) that prophets and apostles have all the answers. We sing “Follow the prophet, he knows the way” with the implication that everything they saw is right.

    But then we see cases where, as Elder McConkie said, they “are wrong”. We accept that a number of things that prophets and apostles have taught in the past were opinion, misguided, or just plain wrong.

    So, ultimately, as stated above, it is up to each of us to determine if what we hear is right for us. History teaches us that some of the things taught today will also be found to be wrong. But if we don’t toe the line, we are seen as heretics or apostate or whatever.

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  10. Rick on April 30, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    Maybe there aren’t more revelations because we don’t pay enough attention to the ones we already have.

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  11. Remlap on April 30, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    Rick,

    I don’t think people today are any better or worse than other people from other times when it comes to paying attention to thier church leadership

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  12. Rick on April 30, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    Remlap,

    Well, with that in mind then, the earlier revelations were given because there was a lack, hence, a restoration. Why give more when it’s already there?

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  13. Mike S on April 30, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    #10 Rick: Maybe there aren’t more revelations because we don’t pay enough attention to the ones we already have.

    Perhaps. If this is true, we, as a church, must be pretty hard-headed as the last canonized section added to the D&C was 94 years ago. Perhaps there is truly no one alive today paying enough attention that we can get a new revelation though the prophet worthy of adding to our “open canon”.

    This does seem at odds with the “Saturday’s Warrior” concept, that the most elect of God’s children were saved for the end of the latter days, but perhaps it’s true. Maybe the most elect were in the last century…

    Or maybe the most elect are in the Community of Christ – as they continue to get canonized revelations…

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  14. Bob on April 30, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    #10: Rick, Plenty of “attention” is paid to the Proclamation on Marriage__Why was it not given as a Revelation?

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  15. Remlap on April 30, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Rick,

    “…Why give more when it’s already there?”

    Isn’t that roughly the same response that non-LDS people say about the BOM or the need for a prophet today?

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  16. Rick on April 30, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    Bob,

    How would I know?

    Mike S,

    Maybe #11/#12 are better?

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  17. Rigel Hawthorne on April 30, 2012 at 7:00 PM

    Not being familiar with the revelations in the COC version of the D&C, I am curious as to the percentage of those revelations that pertain to new theological understanding. Are they primarily restatement of established doctrine? Are they ‘policy’ directed? Are they instructional on building, sending people on missions?

    From what I have read about 164 on other posts, I don’t recall the revealed doctrine on gay marriage to be particulary clear, but its been awhile since I have studied that. Please correct me if I am in error.

    If we are looking for new revelations to be in the canon from the LDS perspective, we don’t really need inclusion of more individual mission calls as stated in #6. Putting all of the temple dedicatory prayers in would be rather bulky. Perhaps something about the direction to build smaller temples or to develop the PEF would have been nice..at least in general terms, but the principles behind those things are already established.

    President Monson has taught that he provides direction by revelation/inspiration, such as calling on people to speak at a temple dedication who were not in the building and not planning to be at the dedication until they were inspired to do so. This is perhaps a story rival to some scriptural examples of how the spirit directs, but–again, the scriptures would be quite bulky if all such stories were canonized.

    So really, that leaves logically, in order to avoid cumbersome standard works, to limit new revelations to visions that result in reversal of doctrine/false doctrine, or new theological understanding. I would be as excited as any member to have such, but again, I believe the blessings of contemporary church membership are going to be found in other modalities.

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  18. MH on April 30, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    One of the things I find interesting is that the CoC has de-canonized revelations. Probably the most significant one de-canonized is baptism for the dead. I know that section 164 specifically says that they do not need to de-canonize revelations anymore. It seems that some sections can be simply ignored (such as D&C 76, which Bill Russell says that few people believe anyway.) As an FYI, the first 104 sections are nearly identical in LDS and RLDS editions, with a few changes. After that, there are similarities, but the numbers are off. RLDS section 114 begins with Joseph Smith III. Here is a link to compare: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctrine_and_covenants#Community_of_Christ_editions

    Section 156 was a big change, allowing women to receive the priesthood and the revelation that the Independence Temple should be built. Section 152 says presidential succession doesn’t need to follow the Smith family. Section 164 allows gay marriage to determine nationaly, but also allows open communion, and that new members don’t need to be rebaptized into the CoC.

    I do wonder what purpose missionary calls are in the LDS D&C. I mean we don’t really spend any time on the 2 sections I mentioned earlier, and I can’t see a really need to keep them in. Why do we have some of these sections anyway? And why are LDS prophets more skittish about adding to the D&C than RLDS prophets? I’d say their canon is much more open than ours.

    So, the canonical status is very much in flux. Significantly

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  19. Bob on April 30, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    #18: MH,
    I am shooting from the hip, but I believe Talmage was given an assignment(?) to ‘clear up’ the D&C, to have mostly doctrines, etc. For reasons unknown to me, this was stopped(?)
    Also, I was taught the Journal of Discourses was to carry on for the D&C(?)

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  20. Bonnie on April 30, 2012 at 8:37 PM

    I missed the discussion today while out landscaping, and appreciate the responses early on to my comments.

    Bob: there was an excellent talk this last conference on the difference between revelation and inspiration, by Elder Scott. He addresses quite nicely that there is much more than binary answers (nice descriptor!)

    Howard: I think it’s easy to believe that our prophets and apostles don’t seem to act on “major” revelations, but we have a problem talking too freely about them. You are, I’m sure, very aware of the tendency of some segments of the membership to go bonkers with “faith-promoting-stories”? The leadership has for a long time been promoting the universal receptiveness of members, and that is diminished when we have people talk about the dramatic nature of some revelations. So we have Pres. Kimball commenting that the Christus is a nice statue but doesn’t look anything like him and no discussion of what was apparently a significant confirmation of the lifting of the ban on the priesthood to blacks. I’d love to hear more of those stories, but some of our members just can’t handle it. So we get very watered down public versions and we seek confirmation on our own. That doesn’t in any way threaten my ability to imagine what is not discussed, because I know what experiences I’ve had that I don’t discuss in public settings. Pearls and swine. We have what we need to be saved.

    MikeS: I agree that we can find beautiful platitudes in other faiths. What we don’t find there is testimony. I heard a local leader say once that if we do not discuss scripture or prophecy in a meeting and if there is no sacrament, we may as well have gone to a different denomination, and I completely agree. Goodness is everywhere. Salvation is in the ordinances, in the power of the spirit through testimony. D&C 50 et all. Salvation isn’t in new doctrine, it’s in living the doctrine we have.

    I was absolutely riveted by the talk (was it last Oct. conference? I don’t have time to look it up) in which a seventy discussed meeting with Pres. Eyring to assign missionaries. The flow of revelation was obvious, and it was profoundly moving to me to hear a not-often-discussed pattern discussed so openly in a general meeting. That is not mundane, but in a way, it is. People’s lives are in the balance and revelation is required for their assignment. It was wonderful to hear how it occurs. That doesn’t happen all of a sudden. It grows over a lifetime of living in the mundane, which is my life. Mundane decisions that the Lord sometimes participates with and enlarges my soul in the process.

    There’s revelation ongoing in the church.

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  21. Howard on April 30, 2012 at 9:39 PM

    I dunno Bonnie, I don’t buy it. Wouldn’t that mean it’s possible the sealed portion of the plates have already been opened and translated but kept quiet so a segment of the membership doesn’t go bonkers and make the newbies uncomfortable? If so, apparently the plates said something like build a lot of smaller temples, a conference center, a very expensive mall and oppose gay marriage! I was really hoping for something more profound.

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  22. Bonnie on April 30, 2012 at 10:10 PM

    Joseph Smith was fond of saying that the people of his time knew no more of the kingdom than babes. I’ve often thought that more doctrine was discussed in those days than is now. They also had to deal with a lot of apostasy and power-jockeying. There’s a tradeoff when you get a sort of corporate strength, though I’m the last to hail correlation. It has quieted the tertiary forces that throw movements off a trajectory. Yes, I think it’s possible that the sealed portion has been translated, as shocking as that may be. Do people have a year’s supply of food and are they out of debt? I seriously doubt it says much about malls, but I would imagine it says a fair amount about our time. We’re ready for things when we’re doing something with what we have.

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  23. mark gibson on April 30, 2012 at 11:02 PM

    In my opinion, bill russell is the lazy bag of wind. He encourages criticism of revelations and such, but it doesn’t apply to D&C sections that modernize theological positions, which he supports. I know for a fact that RLDS members were silenced on the spot for not supporting women’s ordination.

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  24. MH on April 30, 2012 at 11:40 PM

    Mark, you’re right about the silencing. I just listened to a different talk from Russell, and he said it was a mistake for church leadership to silence fundamentalists opposed to female ordination. FWIW.

    Bonnie, Joseph came out constantly with new revelations. It was hard for the church to keep up. Yes, slowing revelation has made it easier for the church to grow, but we’ve pretty much had to sacrifice new revelations for sustainability. I think the same think happened in the days of Christ–the ancient Christian church lost prophecy, but gained in numbers. Is that always a good tradeoff?

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  25. FireTag on May 1, 2012 at 12:08 AM

    Re: calls in CofChrist D&C

    It was common until recently for specific calls into or out of the leading quorums (e.g., First Pres, Twelve, Presiding Bishopric, Presiding Patriarch, Presidents of Seventy) to be considered within a larger revelation. The larger revelation might contain important elaborations of theological principles, or it might simply be words of encouragement to the church. But as the church grew more elaborate, the practice has become to present separate documents about calls as inspired counsel and have them approved by the conference WITHOUT saving them in the D&C. Currently we have an Apostle Designate, Barbara Carter, who is, in effect, an “acting apostle” because her call has been published to the church, but the next world conference isn’t until 2013 when the church can formally accept her.

    As a result, D&C documents today are almost all directional in nature, whether they are theological elaborations or presented as divine guidance on specific contemporary issues facing the church.

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  26. Bonnie on May 1, 2012 at 7:44 AM

    MH – I’m the first to raise my hand about the dangers of corporate thinking and behaviors, so your point is my point as well. However, to use a construction metaphor, when you’re finished framing, you do interior work, you don’t keep putting in trusses. Joseph lived in a different time, where restoration revelation of necessity had to flow. And the structure of the church was rough-finished. Later prophets worked on the finer points because the major structure was already in place. My point is that there is no mundane revelation. It’s like saying that I don’t love my children unless I take them to Disneyland. Making dinner for them is also love.

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  27. Howard on May 1, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    Bonnie,
    The church is a hopefully divinely guided mortal organization. We don’t need the sealed portion to tell us about temples Solomon had one so did Joseph. A conference center, a mall, food storage and staying out of debt are all material things. Your construction analogy works for building the mortal side of the church but we have a long way to go and much to learn to become Christlike or Godlike, simply living the Old Testiment’s ten commandments, magnifying our callings and doing our home or visiting teaching won’t come close to closing that gap. So I hope you’re wrong about our having the sealed portion of the gospel because I sincerely hope for and expect a lot more!

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  28. Bonnie on May 1, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    Why will “simply living the Old Testiment’s ten commandments, magnifying our callings and doing our home or visiting teaching (not) come close to closing that gap”? We have all the saving ordinances. What more do we need to have restored? Being Christlike or Godlike is about practicing their attributes so that divine knowledge flows into us. That doesn’t come from SLC. It comes from God.

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  29. Bob on May 1, 2012 at 8:27 AM

    #26: Bonnie,
    I am not sure you are not saying there is no mundane(?)
    For those who say: “It was revealed to me were my car keys were”__is a pretty mundane revelation(?)

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  30. Howard on May 1, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    Bonnie,
    Was Joseph Christlike or Godlike?  Probably far more so than most members but I suspect he still fell short as he was not translated.  Consider his ability to commune with God was that the result of saving ordinances, living the ten commandments and doing his home teaching?  No, he was personally trained by and interacted with God and other spiritual beings.  How many of us enjoy Joseph’s or Christ’s access to God and the spirit world?  How many of us know how to do it or have access to that knowledge?  Ordinances are symbols how many of us truly understand their meaning?  Does anyone?  How many modern Mormon prophets have been translated or got close? We still have much to learn!

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  31. Bonnie on May 1, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    Bob: that is what I am saying – the mundane is divine.

    Howard: Yes! Joseph was more Godlike than any of us! It was because he was working to have an open relationship with God! He was trained by God as he served and sometimes it was comforting children and encouraging the sick. We all have access to that behavior that opens the windows of heaven! Of course we still have much to learn. That doesn’t excuse us from studying.

    The gospel is primarily behavioral for a reason. Those behaviors make possible divine tutelage. It’s a perfect system: grace by grace, line by line, learning by doing. You can’t reveal that, which is why God doesn’t.

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  32. Howard on May 1, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    Bonnie,
    I disagree, the gospel is primarily behavioral because that is where we start and we still have a lot to learn.  The difference between ourselves and Christ is NOT cognitive behavior therapy, discipline or will power.  Jesus Christ was an authentic and nearly ego-less open conduit for HF in a very unfriendly Old Testament world.  This is not the result of discipline alone, discipline, will power and new habits simply lay a new psychological block over an otherwise dysfunctional craving to do something else.  It appears to work pretty well with healthy people but less well with unhealthy people demonstrating the built in flaw. This approach, when it works leaves a lot of noise in the system.  These rigid people have a lot of trouble meditating.  Resolving these issues eliminates the craving and reduces the noise allowing one to better hear divine communication.

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  33. Bonnie on May 1, 2012 at 9:38 AM

    I never said the difference between us and Christ is “cognitive behavior therapy, discipline or will power.” It’s Alma 32 – a process of knowing. Behavior is so much more than a discipline, as Alma adroitly describes. It is precisely designed to be flexible to all of us no matter what our limitations. The craving, the desire, must always undergird the practice. I’m lost regarding your point.

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  34. Mormon Heretic on May 1, 2012 at 10:47 AM

    Bonnie, are you saying that Joseph was done receiving revelations when he was killed in 1844. I think not. I think the evolution of the Relief Society would have been a sort of priesthood quorum. So, no, I don’t think all the trusses were built, to use your contruction analogy. Newer prophets were not interested (or at least as skilled) in finishing what Joseph started.

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  35. Bonnie on May 1, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    I agree completely that the RS was incomplete. There were a lot of things being filled out, including saving ordinances like the sealing. It took a long time. I don’t think the prophets were lolling about doing nothing.

    Pres. Beck said repeatedly that RS is in its ascendancy. It is not finished being constructed. Many parts of the kingdom are being filled out as temples are built around the earth, the church changes to fit the needs of growing worldwide numbers and differing situations require adaptations.

    That is my point precisely! Revelation is ongoing. Joseph did his part. There is a significant amount left to do, Jackson County and Israel to build up, etc. That we don’t canonize every little thing is a testament to the strength of that initial foundation. The D&C is like the creation story – a model for us to follow in continuing the work of creation.

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  36. Howard on May 1, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    Bonnie,
    Yes the craving, the desire will undergird the practice if the practice is sin avoidance through will power and for some it overpowers their ability to live the gospel through no fault of their own.  It’s cumulative presence behaves like noise to our divine receiver making it much more difficult to hear the signal.  In order to commune with the divine our psychological dissonance must be minimized to the extent possible through complete repentance and a conscious introspective connection with our subconscious blocks, fears, fetishes, phobias etc. to the extent that they are eliminated.  Also we need to transcend our immature emotions such as selfishness, fear, anger, etc.  Do you believe Jesus craved doing wrong?  My belief is that he transcended that craving through enlightenment and that this is the path we are to eventually follow, not blind obedience of sin avoidance through will power for eternity.

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  37. Mormon Heretic on May 1, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    Yes Bonnie, but the pace of change has slowed to be almost imperceptible. It doesn’t have to be that way, as seen from the RLDS revelations.

    I know that FLDS believe that the pace of revelation has changed precisely because the church has abandoned polygamy. We can see that Warren Jeffs is still giving revelations (as seen in this bizarre revelation that he gave last year:

    Jeffs, “To Nephi, You can tell anybody who wants to read this message [garbled] that they can see it even apostates and gentiles that they may know that I have been a liar and the truth is not in me. I am not the prophet. I never was the prophet.”

    Warren Jessop, First Presidency interrupts: ”You are the prophet.”

    Jeffs, “Just a minute–the Lord is still dictating. This is not a test. This is a revelation from the Lord God of Heaven to his former servant who was never his servant who is dictating these words at this time that you may know this is not a test. I say farewell again, to all who qualify for Zion. Farewell.”

    Warren Jessop, First Presidency, ” We love you. We love you! We love you!”

    This focus on behavior is misplaced, IMO. Joseph drank wine the night before he was killed. He wasn’t wearing his garments. He was a polygamist. According to current LDS beliefs, such behavior disqualifies one from revelation. Does this mean we should have the behavior of Joseph? Clearly Brigham Young would have answered yes.

    But I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that. While the RLDS prophets aren’t as strict on WoW (especially coffee), they aren’t polygamists. So I don’t think we can make the claim that current “orthodox” behavior by LDS leads to revelation–it could be quite the opposite. Temple attendance is not conducive to revelation, unless you’re Spencer W. Kimball. Clearly we need to learn more about how to receive revelation, but I don’t think current LDS prescriptions are correct, especially ones that prescribe behavior.

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  38. FireTag on May 1, 2012 at 1:51 PM

    I suspect that receiving the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon will be a bit of a Shroedinger’s Cat phenomenon. When we open the seal, we’ll find that the “cat is alive” and the sealed portion will explain HOW we succeeded and what now has to be done in further implementing the Kingdom.

    OR, our successors will open the seal and find it explains HOW WE FAILED and how THEY have been brought forth to do what we would not do.

    Like a delayed choice in quantum physics, the prophecy will match the outcome.

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  39. Bonnie on May 1, 2012 at 10:29 PM

    Howard, I’m sorry, you lost me.

    MH: I would disagree that the pace of change has slowed to almost imperceptible. In a large-scale corporate entity, which the church has of necessity had to become, there are changes occurring on all fronts. That change isn’t occurring on the fronts we might prefer doesn’t negate the work being done.

    I know, I know, nobody needs to point out to me that the church moves slowly. It is a conservative organization, meaning that it is a conservator of values and traditions and social mores. It isn’t entrepreneurial or market-reactionary by design.

    When I discuss a focus on behavior, I’m discussing the behaviors encouraged by scripture, seen through the lens of covenants. I’m not talking just about word of wisdom; I’m talking about charity, long-suffering, meekness, obedience, duty, service, sacrifice, repentance. These are purifying behaviors. It’s one thing to be a Christian and to embrace charity in any congregation; it’s another to embrace charity through the lens of the baptismal covenant.

    Temple attendance IS conducive to revelation for me. So is charity. LDS prescriptions can work in an environment of faith and covenant.

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  40. Mormon Heretic on May 1, 2012 at 11:48 PM

    Yes, Bonnie, but other Christians observe the purifying behaviors of “charity, long-suffering, meekness, obedience, duty, service, sacrifice, repentance”. They have their baptismal covenants too, so I see nothing unique to Mormons or any Christians behaving this way. And if they are truly good Christians, I think that God would reward them (if need be) the revelation to become members of our church.

    But I think that revelation given in the early church was SIGNIFICANTLY different from our version of revelation. Lay members saw angels. Black Pete received a letter from a black angel that he was to serve a mission. Elizabeth Lightner Rollins received an angelic visit telling her it was ok to marry Joseph polygamously. Sidney, Oliver, the Whitmers all received angelic visitors. The early saints received these kinds of revelations, and preached that all could receive these kinds of visits. Joseph F. Smith and Wilford Woodruff and Spencer W. Kimball received revelations in major church policy.

    Are we to believe that God simply wants to reveal to a non-member that they should join our church? If so, then our expectations of revelation have changed remarkably since the days of Joseph Smith. Rather than “raise the bar”, we Mormons have “lowered the bar” with regards to revelation.

    IMO, Joseph laid the foundation and ground floor of revelation. Joseph F, Woodruff, and Kimball are the only ones that have done any major renovations.

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  41. Howard on May 2, 2012 at 6:17 AM

    Bonnie,
    Sorry I lost you, let’s simplify it then. Do you believe Jesus craved doing wrong but overcame acting on that craving primarily through obedience and will power? I do not. I believe he transcended the craving in a way that eliminated it and so can we. Yet as Mormons we are simply taught to overcome acting on this craving through obedience and will power alone! It kind of works for some it doesn’t work at all for others and everything in between. Obedience through willpower is just the first baby step toward enlightenment! There are better ways and so much more Mormons need to learn to become Godlike.

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  42. Bonnie on May 3, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    I agree, MH, that others enjoy the gifts of the spirit. Hopefully, there is something transcending the spirit of Christ that people who have covenanted in authorized baptism receive in the gift of the Holy Ghost. I think this question of whether people would be “rewarded with a revelation to join our church” is a matter more complex than we understand. “Blinded by the philosophies of men” is to me not a judgment but a recognition of extenuating circumstances. God is quite kind, and the timeline is quite long.

    I think the appearance of angels is just not discussed in the modern church. I have seen angels. I don’t say so often because there’s no purpose to it in public discourse. It’s in my journals, and when I’m dead and others are dead and their journals are read, it will be known that it was more widespread than it was known. I think many people don’t see angels because they don’t expect to, which is a primary difference between our time and Joseph’s. People had different expectations in that time.

    I agree wholeheartedly that Mormons have lowered the bar. That was why I wrote my post. We need to start talking about more than we talk about in our genteel conversations.

    I replied elsewhere and I can’t remember where because I’ve been sitting here replying for an hour, about my belief that the corporate church is not necessarily outside of a natural growth curve. “Major” revelations can be just as business-minded as spiritual – all things are spiritual unto the Lord.

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  43. Bonnie on May 3, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    Howard, I think “craving to do wrong” is the natural man and an inheritance we all share as mortals. Yes, I do think he overcame the natural man through obedience. The scriptures say so. Willpower sullies the act of obedience, making it a Pharisaic act instead of a humble, submissive, loving act. We are not taught as Mormons to overcome through willpower alone. Ever.

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