You and I share a love for the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the Savior Jesus Christ. Although there may be other things we disagree on, I hope we can come to terms on the following issues.
But first a quick word: I would not present these issues publically if I were not inclined to do so. If you know me well, you know I love to discuss the Gospel and all things about it. However, trial and error has proven to me that I cannot be as open regarding the Gospel as I’d like to. I have since learned that this is wisdom in God because everyone is entitled to their own agency and therefore their own accountability before Him. With that said, I cannot sit on the sidelines as I witness such blatant misuse of the scriptures, supposed authority of men, and the Gospel restored by God through the Prophet Joseph Smith, in an attempt to correct the actions of others.
I say this as nicely as I possibly can: Since when is it OK to use tactics of the devil to coerce, subtly or otherwise, innocent church members into doing things a certain way despite what they feel is right? Since when is it OK to hinder ones personal growth, by robbing them of personal revelation and agency to choose? Since when is it OK to stop someone from practicing God-given principles, according to the scriptures, because it is not what Priesthood leaders approve of?
With that said, here is a list of things probably not approved of by your Priesthood leaders, but are certainly approved of by God Almighty, which others may feel free to participate in:
- Rebaptism – The typical order is faith, repentance, baptism in water, baptism by fire. As an eight year old, were you baptized in water because you really wanted to or because your family wanted you to? What if now, as an older person, someone actually comprehends the Doctrine of Christ for the first time? Would it then be appropriate for someone to be rebaptized, following the order which I listed above? Wilford woodruff put it this way:
“After meeting closed the congregation again assembled upon the bank of the river & Joseph the seer went into the river & Baptized all that Came unto him & I considered it my privilege to be Baptized for the remission of my sins for I had not been since I first Joined the Church in 1833. I was then Baptized under the hands of Elder Zerah Pulsipher. Therefore I went forth into the river & was Baptized under the hands of JOSEPH THE SEER & likewise did Elder J Taylor & many others & Joseph.” (Wilford Woodruff Journal)
Oh, and by the way, one does not need a Bishop and two additional witnesses to preside over the ordinance. It can be done in private by one having authority from God’s own voice.
- Partaking of the Sacrament outside of Church – Nothing prohibits a person from partaking of the sacrament outside of their local ward. In fact, the Book of Mormon suggests we partake of it often (Moroni 6: 6). In addition to partaking of it whenever and wherever they feel appropriate, if so inclined, they should feel free to partake of it as directed by the Lord. That is, with bread and wine. The Lord could have asked for water to be used for the Sacrament, as there was no doubt some readily available, but He asked that wine be used. There is a reason for this. Wine is bitter, and so was His atonement as He drank from “the cup” in Gethsemane. As one asks to “always have His Spirit” to be with them, they might find themselves drinking from that bitter cup as well. It’s symbolic, as it should be.
- Priesthood and companionship of the Holy Ghost outside of the Church – Nothing prohibits a person from advancing in priesthood outside of Church hierarchy, nor gaining and retaining companionship of the Holy Ghost. The Church does not own either of these things (as if they could even be ‘owned’.) The way to obtain both was established long before the foundations of this world. Because they were established by Beings unequivocally higher than man, and Their decree’s are unalterable, the way to gain priesthood and the Holy Ghost will not change. The priesthood is not an office such as ‘Elder’, and priesthood is not obtained by a man laying his hands on your head, although the ordination to go and obtain it by man has been useful. It’s obtained by God’s voice (JST Gen 14: 28-29, D&C 84: 42.) The Holy Ghost is obtained and retained by personal righteousness. Your heart being right before God has nothing to do with how man perceives it to be. Which brings me to my next point.
- Church membership does not make you close with God – Church membership does not make you close to God, the same way being a non-member of the Church keeps you from Him. I know many people who are active in the Church, yet are spiritually dead. In many places throughout scripture we read of prophets coming from outside an established church organization. Such was the case with John the Baptist, Lehi, even Jesus Christ. But did that make their connection to God of any less value? What about their followers? Christ came in a way typical of previous prophets: an outsider, disliked, and having ‘questionable’ authority. Christ lived among people who were considered chosen. Joseph Smith left us a wonderful quote which is still valuable to us all today:
“The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves “in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth,” and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men.” – TPJS, p. 206
The same is true for their followers. Therefore, being an active member of the Church doesn’t amount to much, other than you have a greater opportunity to hear truth.
- Tithing – Tithing can be administered outside of your local ward. Mosiah 4 shows that you must be actively involved in helping the beggar. You must give of your substance. Giving your money to someone else, in hopes that they will spend the money righteously (malls and baseball stadiums is not what I believe the Lord had in mind), does not relieve you of the personal responsibility in making sure your money goes to those in need. If someone is not pleased with how the Church is spending their tithing money, let them administer it as they see fit. Allow them the agency to be guided by God’s Holy Spirit. Giving outside of a local ward is still giving.
- Reading unofficial Church publications – Although it is suggested that members and non-members alike read “Church approved” literature, this is not always the best way to gain an accurate view of Church history. The Church puts forth a traditional narrative that often times leaves holes in the picture. Even with the release of the Joseph Smith Papers, many documents are still narrated with that traditional storyline in mind. This can be harmful, because their shortcomings can be taken as “thus saith the Lord”, when in fact the Lord intends for you to have a much fuller understanding of His restored gospel. An accurate view of Church history allows you to better understand truth, which frees your mind and heart from false traditions, something the Book of Mormon takes very seriously (Helaman 15:15, for example.) History does not belong to the historians, it belongs to you.
Since I have personally witnessed many active Church members label people participating in these activities as “dissenters”, due to their own cognitive dissonance, there’s really no need to go on with my list. Once they have seen one example, they have seen enough.
My purpose in writing this post is not to advocate any particular activity (although I do believe in them all), but rather to help out my “wayward” brothers and sisters. They deserve our friendship. I deserve your friendship. We can be “one”, without being the same. Sufficiently retain in your remembrance that they are loved by God equally to that of yourselves.
So friends, if you notice active member’s of the Church, even less active or used-to-be-members, participating in any of the aforementioned activities, please do not discredit their belief in God and/or the Restoration. We are all attempting to walk the path back to our Father in Heaven and partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life. Please do not use coercion, especially in the form of handbooks and presiding authority, to ‘warn’ them that they are on the wrong path. Please do not assume you are on the right path, and others who do things differently than you are on the wrong path. It seriously pains me to see stuff like this come from popular LDS Facebook groups:
Not only is this picture seriously inaccurate from the actual account recorded in 1 Nephi 8, but it’s the epitome of why people distance themselves from the Church. This is downright uncalled for. It hurts, it’s un-Christ like, and it’s the type of behavior that makes questioning members question their religion.
Instead, I urge us all to become the living embodiment of D&C 121: 34-44. I quote it in full:
“Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? 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- 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. 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; and the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or authority of that man. Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. 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. Hence many are called, but few are chosen. 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; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile- 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; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.”
These are not just good ideas. This is the very heart of Christ Jesus.