Insights from a Prophet’s Life

We went to visit a member of our congregation after church Sunday. He heard that I maintain computers for a living and asked if I could help him “fix his Google.” I was happy to take a look while Carol visited with his wife. After I removed a few browser hijacks and ran a fresh virus scan, he had me set his browser home page to Family Search, the popular genealogy site maintained by the LDS Church. We got to talking about family history research, a hobby we both enjoy, and a favorite Sunday activity.

aug76ltmgroupHe asked me about my missionary experience. I shared that it had been and remains a foundational faith-building two years of my life. I described one of the more difficult companions I had, and how I learned to be patient with this missionary who did not want to work. As a former mission president, he understood. I told him I felt blessed for being able to get through the six weeks I shared with this companion who said he was only on a mission because his dad had promised to buy him a truck when he returned.

He asked me when I had served and who my mission president was. I told him. We talked about mission presidents and general authorities and presidents of the church. We talked about what it was like to serve and how it helped us grow. We talked about the idea of missionary companions. I told him about some of mine who had gone on to be mission presidents. We talked about missionary reunions and missionary journals and all things missionary related. In short, we had a good time reminiscing about missions.

The President of the Church

insights-from-a-prophets-lifeHe asked me what I thought about the current president of the church. I said I thought he was a good man. I had watched him grow over the years from the time he was made a General Authority, expressing my opinion he had been asked to serve in the Sunday School Presidency to help him deepen his knowledge of the doctrine and history. I didn’t share it, but I thought his early sermons were lightweight with very little meat. This good brother then gave me a copy of Sheri Dew’s latest book, a biography of Russell M. Nelson.

I note Sheri Dew’s quote on the back cover: “One of the greatest gifts our Father and His Son have given us, and one of our greatest mortal safety nets, is the gift of a living prophet.” I don’t know Sheri Dew. I’ve never met her, but I’ve read many of her books. I admire her abilities as a speaker, writer, editor and business executive. She epitomizes to me the faithful latter-day saint woman of today: knowledgeable, educated, no-nonsense and dedicated to building up the Mormon church, believing it to be the kingdom of God.

Fellowship Among the Saints

Although I am not a member of the LDS Church, I enjoy doing family history research there each Sunday morning. The local leaders allow me to attend the meetings with my wife. They have invited me to attend Sunday School and Priesthood meetings, but I have chosen to do additional research in the library during that time. Carol and I bring our own laptops. It’s just easier that way. We don’t want to take away from others who may want to use the computers there. It’s a quiet peaceful hour. I have the library to myself.

The monthly fast and testimony meeting just concluded. We enjoyed the thoughts shared by friends and neighbors we have known for many years. We mourned to learn of the passing of one of the members of our ward whom we loved. We had been assigned to be her home teacher many years ago and grew to love her family. We rejoiced to see, and hear, the many new babies in our ward and to see the young men bless and pass the emblems of the Lord’s supper. Ours is a typical LDS ward, very comfortable and familiar.

In spite of my membership status, I don’t feel any judgement or negativity toward me or Carol. In fact, I feel just the opposite. We have met with the bishop somewhat regularly. He is kind, thoughtful and considerate, firm in his testimony of sustaining the Brethren. I would not expect it to be otherwise. He is a good family man, humble, sensitive to the Spirit of the Lord and the feelings of those around him. Two members of our Stake Presidency sat on the stand, men with whom I met almost weekly just a few years ago.

Perceived as a Non-Believer

Last week, for the first time that I can recall in the five years since I had resigned my membership in the LDS Church, a good brother of the ward stopped me on my way to the car after church and said, “I just wanted to tell you how much I admire you. Each Sunday you come to church, sit next to your wife and listen carefully to the speakers. I know you’re here supporting your wife even though you’re not a believer. You stand tall in my book.” I wanted to correct him that I AM a believer, but the time wasn’t right.

I mentioned the conversation to Carol, told her I wanted to set him straight about what I believe but agreed with her that it might have been an awkward conversation if I had tried to share with him that I am a believer in Jesus Christ. He was complimenting me on something good he saw. Why should I point out areas where we disagree? I have friends who are no longer allowed to set foot on LDS property. I am grateful for the hand of fellowship that continues to be extended toward me. These are good people here.

A Positive Church Experience

My experience in the LDS Church has been mostly positive all my life. I have no beef with any of the local leaders or members. I never have. They are just like me. We earn our living and then volunteer our time to serve our brothers and sisters in the Church. We have fellowship one with another. We look out for one another. We socialize and meet in each other’s homes to share the gospel with each other and to have fun. These are followers of Christ, disciples who are trying to live His gospel each and every day.

I used to attend priesthood meeting for a few years after I resigned my membership. Not at first, but after the Stake was reorganized and we found ourselves in a new ward. The change in the organized priesthood quorums – no more High Priests Groups – and the change in the home teaching program, didn’t make much difference in the fellowship we received. I’m sure it is mainly because of Carol, but we continued to receive visits and offers of rides to the temple, for Carol obviously, which have not gone unappreciated.

The Sacrament and Re-Baptism

I continue to partake of the Sacrament each Sunday. Nobody ever says anything to me about that. Nobody points out that I’m not a member and therefore shouldn’t be taking the emblems of the Lord’s supper. That was an area I felt strongly about before I had resigned. Our former bishop through it best that I not partake of the sacrament and asked that I not do so. I felt that was Anti-Christ behavior and told him so. He seemed a little taken aback, knowing that I knew it was standard LDS disciplinary procedure.

Only Carol has asked me when I would be baptized again into the LDS Church. That was a sad and difficult conversation. I wrote about it previously here on my blog. In short, I would be required to write a letter to the First Presidency petitioning for admission. As I told Carol, that’s not going to happen. I don’t believe the men who sit at the head of the LDS Church are prophets. I think they just happen to be men who rose through the ranks of the lay ministry until they became full-time paid ministers of a very large corporation.

Brotherhood and Priesthood

Even though I don’t attend priesthood meetings, I still feel a sense of brotherhood with the men of my local ward and stake. We have much in common. We love our wives and families. We are trying to be disciples of Jesus Christ. We love the members of our local congregations and try to be good neighbors. We study the gospel. We read the scriptures. We pray. We fast. We try to avoid harmful substances and take care of our bodies. We believe God loves us as His children and is very interested in our day to day activities.

Carol and I still read the scriptures together every night before we pray aloud together. We read the other night about Jacob going to teach the people and that Nephi had consecrated him. Carol said, “See, Jacob was ordained. He received the priesthood from his brother Nephi.” I knew what point she was trying to make. It comes up often in our scripture reading. She is pointing out that priesthood authority can be and is passed from man to man. “Yes, and we also read later that he got his errand from the Lord.”

Not sure she got the point I was trying to make and I didn’t pursue it. This is another subject about which I feel strongly – priesthood. I believe I have priesthood, just not in the LDS Church. I received the priesthood from my Father, so yes, this kind of authority can be passed from man to man. But the kind of priesthood that Joseph had can only be received directly from God. I’ve thought about this many times, studied it out, pondered it, prayed about it and written about it many times here in my blog over the years.

A President is not a Prophet

I guess I now understand what the good brother who talked to me after church last week meant when he said I’m not a believer. I guess I’m not. While I do believe Joseph Smith was a prophet in every sense of the word, I don’t believe that about those who led the LDS Church after him. Just because one becomes the president of the church does not make one a prophet. As President Hinckley said when asked if he was a prophet, “The people sustain me as such.” There are millions of people who sustain President Nelson.

I suppose I do too. I don’t have any desire to denigrate him in any way. He is entitled to lead the LDS Church. As the president, he is the corporation sole, a legal term meaning that all property and income belong to him. He runs a trillion dollar corporation, one of the wealthiest in the world. More power to him, I say. He can run the church the way he wants. He has the right. He seems to be doing a pretty good job. The people seem to like what he’s doing, especially those who rejoiced when he changed the temple ordinances.

But a living prophet? I don’t think so. Revelation seems to have been redefined from the days of Joseph Smith. It used to mean a man spoke with power and authority, “Thus saith the Lord.” It no longer seems to mean that. It’s more like, “We feel inspired,” or “We feel the Lord is pleased with …” Of course I’ve never met Joseph Smith so I can’t tell you what he was like other than my perception from the many biographies I have read over the years. So will I read the biography of Russell M Nelson? I don’t know. Time is precious.

Lots of Positive Book Reviews

I read some of the reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and Deseret Book. There seemed to be an equal amount of praise for Sheri Dew as a writer as there was for Russell M Nelson. I’m sure it’s well deserved. The majority of the reviews were from women. Nothing wrong with that, just pointing it out. Most of them expressed their testimony that the man is a living prophet. That looks like the most common thread of the reviews I read. It is right in line with the Sheri Dew quote on the back cover about the mortal safety net.

Isn’t that one of the things we crave most in life – a safety net? We live in troubled times. Today, we read of hurricanes, mass shootings, economic tariffs bringing the threat of rising prices, violence in the Middle East and in Hong Kong, asteroids threatening earth and a dozen other awful tragedies causing us to feel unsafe and unprotected. What can we do? Terror, grief, fear and similar emotions are part of the human condition. They have always been and will forever be until the Lord comes to rule and reign on Earth.

Looking for a Safety Net

Religion helps us deal with the uncertainties and unfairness of life. Faith in God can bring a sense of peace in troubled times. In such times, there can be a tendency to place our trust in the leadership of a man, a man who sits at the head of a long-established institution, an institution that at one time, was endorsed by the Lord as being His. Of course, there are millions of people who believe, and declare with much certainty, that this man and this institution are still today recognized and authorized by the Lord.

I am not one of them. I used to be. Therefore, you can discount my observations. You may ask, how did I lose my testimony that the president of the LDS Church is a prophet? I still believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I have always been a student of LDS Church History. I have long been aware of blatant and obvious discrepancies between what is found in the correlated curriculum of the LDS Church and what I have read in the Joseph Smith papers and in other sources.

Understanding LDS Church History

So why not just ignore the history and the things I have read that are no longer taught or believed by the LDS Church? I can’t. I have taken them to the Lord in prayer and have felt the confirming witness in my heart and in my mind that what I have read is correct. So how can I have come to this conclusion when millions of others have not? I don’t know. I believe God will answer each of us if we go to Him with honest and sincere questions. I can’t explain why so many continue to believe the LDS Church version.

I don’t. At least, not any longer. I have found too many evidences of change, of false representation, and of outright lies. Why would a church want to doctor it’s history? I’ve written in great detail about what happened in Nauvoo. Joseph was betrayed by trusted friends, including Brigham Young, Heber C Kimball and John Taylor, all of whom entered into unlawful polygamous relationships and tried to hide them from Joseph. Joseph was not an adulterer like these men. They took control of the church after he was martyred.

Passing the Heavenly Gift

You can summarize my beliefs about the LDS Church thus: I don’t believe the power and authority manifested by Joseph Smith were or could be passed down to those who took control of the church after his death. So while the LDS Church today is a powerful and rich institution, it is NOT the kingdom of God on the earth, in spite of what others teach, including Sheri Dew and Russell M Nelson. They may believe it and teach it, but I don’t. So again, I am just one voice among millions. There is no reason to read or listen to me.

So while the book Sheri Dew has published may be well researched, well-written and full of interesting anecdotes and pictures, it does not change my opinion of the man Russell M. Nelson. He is a good man. He is doing what he believes is the will of the Lord. Like the Lord, he wants us to be happy and to feel loved and safe. I believe he points us to Christ. He is not a bad man. But he is simply a man. A man without the power and authority that can only come directly from God. A prophet’s mantle cannot be passed from man to man.


14 thoughts on “Insights from a Prophet’s Life”

  1. Thanks for the link Tim. Nice post.

    On Wed, Sep 4, 2019, 10:13 PM Latter-day Commentary – Last Days – Signs of the Times wrote:

    > Tim Malone posted: “We went to visit a member of our congregation after > church Sunday. He heard that I maintain computers for a living and asked if > I could help him “fix his Google.” I was happy to take a look while Carol > visited with his wife. After I removed a few browser ” >

    1. STICK in there Tim. I feel your purpose is to educate and help us wake up. You are following our Saviour’s decree of teaching HIS gospel, Though it may be hard for most to comprehend, it was never meant for the masses. It was given for the pure in heart, they will urn for him and risk their traditions. I would tag team with you anytime and help you my Brother to keep the faith. You show me courage and Truth. Following Christ sometimes is very lonely. Even HE the greatest of us all was alone, Joseph was alone. But they are our prototypes of what a faithful man is made of. Joseph a man trying to show powerful faith in Christ. Then our actual perfect protocol, Christ whom set the standard to do as he did and achieve perfection as he did. No man to follow only one God to follow. Pretty easy math i’d say.

  2. I, too, was troubled by what seemed to me were inconsistencies in church history. The day I found your blog was a confirmation that things in “Zion”
    we’re askew. You led me to consider Denver’s writings and what a wonderful teacher he is.
    I shall always be grateful for your blog. You cracked open the window of other possibilities. I am blessed by your efforts.

  3. Hey Tim,

    Enjoyed this post.

    The LDS church really is full of wonderful people that see the good. The fruits of their beliefs allow this to be so, but their fruits only bear so much. They can’t see all the potential good…only so much.


    You wrote: “I don’t believe the power and authority manifested by Joseph Smith were or could be passed down to those who took control of the church after his death. […] A man without the power and authority that can only come directly from God. A prophet’s mantle cannot be passed from man to man.”

    So I ask: do you not believe in priesthood keys? And do you find the power of God once manifested through Joseph Smith present in these days?


    1. G.azelem: You ask “… do [I] not believe in priesthood keys?” Yes, but not in the same way the LDS Church defines keys. The focus when used in an LDS context is almost always connected with the principle of authority. I tend to think of keys as more in line with the principle of knowledge. Keys give us power in the sense they allow us to unlock the mysteries of godliness.

      With revealed knowledge we understand the requirements of God to admit us into His presence. These keys of knowledge will save us if we use them properly, by applying them in righteousness. Faithfully applying keys allows us to pass by the angels who will test our knowledge as we approach the throne of God. Keys are not “permission” or “authority” but power that comes from knowledge.

    2. Tim, I’m sorry to hear about your experience with a former Bishop regarding the sacrament. If I understand your situation correctly then yes that Bishop was wrong. The sacrament is open to members and non-members alike and that is stated in the church handbook and has been emphasised by the leadership of the church. You mentioned church discipline in the same paragraph though which surprised me. A person resigning their membership is a personal choice, church discipline is something entirely different that can result in someone being Disfellowshipped or Excommunicated from the church. A person who has been subject to church discipline is not permitted to partake of the sacrament until their Disfellowshipped or Excommunicated status is revoked.

      1. See, that’s the part I disagree with. I was under informal probation, the lowest form of church discipline. I disagree with the policy of not allowing an individual who is seeking answers to questions to be forbidden from partaking of the sacrament. There is simply no justification for that in my opinion. If one is a confessed and convicted sex offender, for example, then yes, no sacrament until repentance is full and complete. But for asking questions and seeking answers?

  4. Tim, you are not alone. I believe there are thousands of others who feel the same way you do even though they have chosen to retain their membership. I am one of them. Several experiences set me on the journey that led me to my present position and understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a lifetime member, I decided to read the BoM and D&C “Purely”. In other words, I tried very hard to read it without the pre-conceived conditioning.

    1. One thing I noticed in the BoM was that none of the prophets ever contradicted each other. In over a thousand years, their messages remained consistent. Additional doctrine or understanding may have been added, but no past Prophet was “disavowed” by a new Prophet for teaching faults doctrine or incorrect principles. We can’t get to 200 years without major contradictions about something that a previous Prophet taught. (The Blacks and the Priesthood issue is just one of many contradictions.) The other thing I noticed is that the BoM Prophets never set themselves up as a “Light”. They always taught Christ first and never ask others to “Follow them”.

    2. D&C 124: 26 to 55 blew me away. The standard Church narrative did not make sense in explaining these verses. 3. Cracks in the history that was being taught contradicted what was in the Joseph Smith Papers. A lot of doctrines had been altered that change the original intent. My trust in the Church hierarchy was diminished.

    I came to realize I had trusted words of the Brethern before the scriptures and I had placed a Man before Christ. That cognition set me off in a different direction and I have not looked back. I look forward to the “Servant” that is promised in Isaiah, who will set things right and establish Zion.

    1. insitefulnana: I’ve always appreciated your kind and thoughtful comments over the years. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have often wondered if I would have been been able to continue to write freely in my blog had I chosen to stay in the church. I had been asked by my bishop to stop writing. He had attempted to discipline me as an “apostate.” I’ve always thought I’m more of a heretic.

      God bless you and many other like you who have chosen to stay and be a light to others by virtue of thoughtful comments in Sunday School and conversations through ministering visits that help others awaken to the truths of what we find in our history that is not what is taught by the Brethren today. It takes courage to stay and be a light when all around are those who will not read and study.

  5. Tim, really enjoyed your thoughts in this post including articulating experiences and personal witness. I have a question or need clarification where you stated, “Pres. Nelson is a good man. He is doing what he believes is the will of the Lord. Like the Lord, he wants us to be happy and to feel loved and safe. I believe he points us to Christ. He is not a bad man,”
    What bothers me is that he allows the multitude to believe he walks and talks with God and is constantly receiving revelation to the point that he doesn’t repel praise, adoration and being held up as a light to the world. In my opinion that is deception and comes from the evil one. Case in point-if you haven’t seen the streaming of his 95 birthday celebration, while the music was off the charts beautiful, the syrupy praise and adulation was nauseating! Does he or any of them in their heart of hearts really believe they are the path of salvation? They have the same scriptures we have to study and yet we get two different meanings to it’s messages.
    Please offer comment. Thank you.

  6. Hi Lark,

    Carol and I watched the 95th birthday gala together. Yes, the music was beautiful. And yes, in my opinion, some of the adulation, especially from the emcees was a little over the top. However, the praise for his contributions as a surgeon seemed to be well-founded. I suspect it is his years of focus and concentration as a surgeon that has kept his mind sharp to this day.

    I recall President Hinckley’s 95th birthday celebration in 2005. I recall it being much more low-key, in that President Hinckley did not want the praise heaped upon him. It seemed he was just there enjoyng the music. It is my personal opinion that President Hinckley was a much more humble man.

    But then, it’s not really fair to compare Presidents of the LDS Church. They have each made their contribution. As much as I disagree with the way Brigham took control of the church, I still believe the Lord used him to bring the Saints West to a place where they could build up the church.

    I don’t pretend to understand what goes on in the minds of these men or what beliefs they hold in their hearts about their role in Lord’s purposes in these last days. I often think they must see themselves as a pope, with a role to play that is expected by the people. Perhaps they say to themselves, “well, someone has to do the job. I might as well do it the best I can.”

    Not living in Utah, and not knowing any of these men personally (the current leaders of the LDS Church), I can only say God bless them fo trying to do what they believe is the will of the Lord. If there is intentional deception, I do not see it. I believe they believe they are leading the Lord’s true church in the way that He would want it done. They believe the mantra, “follow the prophet, he won’t lead you astray.” I do not. They can and do make mistakes in the way they lead the people of the LDS church.

  7. Tim, I have a few questions about your thoughts on Joseph Smith and the priesthood. You said the priesthood he had could only be received directly from God.
    If that is the case then why was the Aaronic Priesthood restored by John the Baptist and the Melchizedek Priesthood restored by the Apostles Peter, James, and John?
    If Joseph’s priesthood had to come from God, then why did he not appear like he did in the First Vision?
    Why were these men chosen to ordain Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the priesthood instead of God or Jesus Christ?
    Is it just coincidence that in his mortal life John the Baptist was the last of the prophets under the law of Moses, the Aaronic Priesthood having been passed to him through the generations of his family all the way back to Aaron? And likewise Peter, James, and John received the Melchizedek Priesthood in mortality from Jesus.
    If God was trying to tell us the Priesthood could not be passed from one man to another, then why did he use intermediaries? This wasn’t the only time this happened because in 1836 Joseph received specific priesthood keys from Moses, Elias, and Elijah who were the last men to hold them in mortality. Jesus even appeared to Joseph and Oliver before they received the keys from Moses, Elias, and Elijah, so again if this power had to come from God why were these men necessary and why didn’t Jesus give Joseph and Oliver the keys himself, unless he wanted to teach us something by setting a precedent with multiple examples?

  8. James: Thanks for the opportunity to elaborate on my beliefs about the priesthood. Remember, these are my beliefs and I am phrasing them as such. I DO believe the priesthood can be passed from man to man, otherwise why would I state that I have priesthood that I received from my father? In this sense, I have priesthood brotherhood and fellowship with my father and all others who choose to accept my ordination and line of authority which traces back to John the Baptist, acting under the direction of Peter, James and John.

    However, since I am not a member of the LDS Church, I cannot and do not exercise priesthood there. In fact, I barely exercise it in my own family. My wife does not ask me for priesthood blessings and she does not sustain me in my desires to exercise it in fellowships outside the LDS Church. I do exercise it in the sense that I lead my family in scripture reading, family prayer and gospel discussions. I also exercise it in providing for my family, which I feel strongly is a priesthood responsibility, required of all who claim to follow Christ.

    As you can probably tell if you have read any of my past essays, I do not believe the higher priesthood can be passed from man to man. It must be received directly from God. While I believe Peter, James and John visited Joseph and Oliver, there is no record of an ordination taking place. Likewise, I do not believe Elijah gave keys of authority to Joseph and Oliver in the Kirland temple. Yes, they visited them, as did the Lord, but no authority was transferred. Joseph already had authority received directly from God.

    When the three witnesses ordained or set apart the twelve, Oliver admonished them to complete the ordination by having the Lord Himself place His hands upon their heads. “Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face.” That is a requirement of an apostle as Oliver explained. It was their duty to testify of Christ, to bear withness that he lives, because they have felt the nail prints in His hands and in His feet and have trust their hand into His side. THAT experience CANNOT be passed from man to man.

  9. James, this also might help if you are seeking to understand my beliefs about priesthood. I compiled it back in 2014 and still feel this way:

    Short Summary on Definitions of Priesthood

    The President of the Church doesn’t necessarily hold the priesthood described in D&C 84.

    The scriptural (and Temple) priesthoods are best understood to be “fellowships.”

    There is:

    – a fellowship among men (aaronic1),
    – a fellowship between men and angels (aaronic2),
    – a fellowship between men and Christ (melchizedek1),
    – and a fellowship between men and the Father (fulness of the Melchizedek).

    The scriptural “greater” or “Melchizedek” priesthood actually opens the heavens (we read DC 107:18-19 to add to the definition given in DC 84:19-22), which is a power absent from the institution since Joseph Smith died.

    Since that is the entire function of that priesthood, the heavens should be open to anyone who actually holds that authority.

    This is why the President of the Church doesn’t necessarily hold the priesthood described in D&C 84.

    There have been apostles, and even presidents of the church, who testified that they had not received these fellowships, Brigham Young being the most outspoken on this along with Grant.

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