Fellowship in the Holy Order

I made a big mistake when I resigned from the LDS Church in September of 2014. The mistake was in leaving my blog posts connected to Facebook. Thousands of my long-time friends in the LDS Church learned of my decision to resign and were concerned about how that news would affect their families. I had taught their children in seminary. I had called and set apart their daughters in Young Women’s leadership. I had borne my testimony in hundreds of priesthood and Sunday School lessons, sacrament talks and testimony meetings over the years.

Some of their children were questioning their testimonies and evaluating their own commitment to the church. Many of their children had grown up, married, and had started their families. They had encountered things on the Internet that caused them to wonder about what they had been taught about the church growing up. They were struggling with things I had already resolved and now they learned a member of their ward and stake leadership had resigned from the church. I am truly sorry I caused distress among the families of my friends, especially their children.

Documenting my Faith Journey

Although I continued to write and document my journey, I disconnected my posts from Facebook and Twitter (now X). It was never my intention to hurt my friends or their families, especially my former Stake Presidents and Bishops with whom I served. Because I had moved away from the stake in which I grew up, I did not interact with most of these long-time friends in the church except through Facebook. I heard from many of them during the latter part of 2014, some who tried to reason with me online, although most conversations were via private emails.

I was most touched by former stake presidents, missionary companions, CES employees and even some who worked in the church office building. I had maintained a close and cordial online relationship with many people who were in positions of influence within the church. That all went away within a few months. My readership went from over 100,000 to tens of thousands until today it is only a few thousand. My goal has never been to amass a large readership. It was to simply document my journey as I discovered things about church history which concerned me.

Continuing to Attend Church

At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to attend LDS Church services again. I wasn’t sure if I would feel comfortable, or if I even wanted to be there. Gratefully, Carol’s influence on me softened my heart toward the beautiful things yet to be found in fellowship with the members of our ward and stake. Perhaps it was because of her faith and prayers that nobody, and I mean nobody, ever berated me for resigning from the church, which made me wonder at first if it was well known or if anyone cared.

Although I agreed with Carol to attend Sacrament meeting with her, I did not attend priesthood or Sunday school meetings, but would go home and administer the sacrament to myself at home. Carol made it clear she did not like me having wine in the home so that stopped after a while. Eventually, I agreed to stay for both hours, although I often sat in the foyer during Priesthood meetings. Today, I participate in priesthood discussions, with the approval and encouragement of a kind bishop.

Most LDS Folks Are Kind and Friendly

My relationship with stake and ward leadership has changed over the years. Some may recall from my writings in 2014, I served in the stake as the financial clerk. As you can imagine, I met with the stake presidency several times before and after I resigned, to discuss my feelings about church, and to help with the transition to a new clerk. There was never judgment, only kindness. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, members of the LDS Church are some of the kindest and best people in the world.

Now, I know, from many private conversations with others who have left the church, that their experience with church leadership has not been so cordial. And yes, I’ll admit one bishop I met with after a change in our ward boundaries, was adamant that he would not allow me to take the sacrament or ever say anything in any meeting. Interestingly, that changed as soon as he was released. I was encouraged to share my thoughts in class discussions and to sing in the choir, which I have always enjoyed.

A Trustworthy Conviction of Truth

We have Stake Conference next week. I’ll be singing with the stake choir. I sang in a quartet at our last Christmas sacrament meeting. Listening to or singing holy music has always soothed my soul and helped me appreciate this beautiful part of worship. And perhaps it’s just from practice or maybe it really has changed, but I am not so bothered anymore when someone says, “I know the church is true and that we’re led by prophets of God who communicate with the Lord to direct His kingdom today.”

Either I’ve matured, or my confidence in my own conviction has proven trustworthy, but I find I have room in my heart for those who feel the need to express certainty that “The church is true” and that “We have a living prophet today.” Oh, the wording can vary but the sentiment is the same. Nobody ever bothers to dissect what those two phrases mean. The desire in expressing these two feelings is to reassure one another that they are on the right path and have not been deceived or misled.

The Importance of Fellowships

As noted by the title of this post, I’d like to define two things, or at least share a few thoughts and commentary about them. The most important is The Holy Order. I’ve been studying Denver’s paper on the subject over the past month, have watched the video at least twice now and read the paper three times. I’m slowly gaining a better understanding of The Holy Order and will share a few more thoughts I’ve gained in the last week or two since my last post on this most important subject.

But first I want to comment on the importance of fellowship. When I interviewed Denver in 2015, one of the questions I asked was why the need for fellowships. I grew up in a home where social activities were of secondary importance to understanding and teaching the doctrine. It’s interesting that my dad, although shy, had, in my opinion, better social skills than my mom. And even though my mom was a public school teacher, and much admired for her scholarly teaching ability, she did not enjoy the social aspects of church, especially later in life, when she stopped attending.

No New Legal Entity

Denver’s comments about the purpose and need for fellowship groups (he called them churches), were intriguing to me. In the leadup to one of my questions I stated: “You have counseled those who wish to prepare for Zion to institute fellowships for gathering and practicing the principles of Zion, specifically to use tithing as a means to help the poor. You have taught there is to be no new church, no legal entity to receive and centrally manage funds and property …”

Due to the nature of my relationship with Carol (she did not support my decision to  be baptized again, or to resign from the church), I added, “… in the Phoenix lecture you provided some direction on tithing, the sacrament, ordinations, worship, or fellowship groups, and in particular, the requirement that the approval of seven women is needed to sustain a man in performing ordinances in public. You also said a man was unworthy – the Lord’s word – if his wife will not sustain him.”

Hope of a Glorious Resurrection

Denver helped me understand the difference between individual salvation and building the Family of God through fellowships and an eventual temple: “Individual salvation and promises of eternal life are just that, they are individual. A restoration of the family of Israel requires more, including cooperation and interrelationships that will be formed by God Himself. Promises made to individuals give the individual hope.” But there is more to what God desires of us than individual salvation.

Referring to those who had died with a firm hope of a glorious resurrection, Denver said, “These were the righteous. They were in Paradise and all of them were worthy, they had been given hope of a glorious resurrection. Not only did the Savior give them hope before death, He visited with them in the spirit world during the time between His death and His resurrection. But that did not get them reconnected to the fathers in heaven, nor did it even get them resurrected …”

Reconnecting to the Fathers

I don’t think there is anything more misunderstood in the LDS Church today. The concept of reconnecting to the fathers is translated as participating in temple sealing ordinances that bind you to your immediate ancestors. My mother published some fourteen books of family research and, with my father, over a period of some forty years, performed temple ordinances for about 30,000 relatives. An amazing work. My sister and I continue her research today on Ancestry.com and Family Search.

As I have written before, “this has far-reaching implications. To put it bluntly, the work of the LDS Church being done in the temples to seal the dead to the living is not acceptable to the Lord. As Denver said, it is a wrong-headed effort. We should be working to be sealed unto our fathers, meaning the righteous patriarchs from Adam and Seth down to Noah, Melchizedek (Shem), to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and for us, to Peter, James and John.”

Billions on Temples and Meetinghouses

Can you imagine a greater dichotomy in the definitions and monetary investments being made by the LDS Church to build temples and meetinghouses? By one estimate,  from over a decade ago, the value then was close to $35 billion. Contrast that with the investment in property of those who accept the teachings of Denver Snuffer: zero. That’s right, there are no meetinghouses or temples built. Fellowships meet in private homes for worship or privately rent public parks or buildings for conferences. All costs associated with conferences are donated by individuals.

Will there be a temple built eventually? Yes. Why? Aren’t the temples built by the LDS Church sufficient and acceptable? No, they are not. The Nauvoo temple was not completed before the death of Joseph. What the Lord intended to reveal / restore in that temple was never done. The endowment ceremony Joseph taught to Brigham and others was instructional and serves to guide temple patrons closer to the ways of the Lord, but it does not contain the Fullness of the Priesthood. That has yet to be revealed and will only take place when a temple is built that is accepted by the Lord.

Meeting to Discuss the Scriptures

Social activities seem to define fellowshipping for Carol. Other than during my college years, I’ve never been much of a social butterfly. I would much rather sit and read a good book, or nowadays watch a YouTube video about a good book. Last night we hosted “Empty Nester’s FHE” in our home. For over an hour we discussed Mosiah 5 through 10. Wonderful dialogs. Inspirational insights. Heart-felt sharing of what they had learned from these chapters. I also shared much and enjoyed myself.

These are the cream of the crop. By my count, we had a former temple president and matron, several past and current High Councilors, Bishops, Young Women and Relief Society Presidents, multiple seminary teachers and almost all returned missionaries. A former member of our stake presidency, who usually attends, is preparing to serve as a Mission President with his wife. Another long-time friend and Institute teacher just left for a mission with his wife. These are knowledgeable, dedicated people.

Misled by the Claims of Brigham Young

What’s my point? Just this: Even though each of these people know I resigned from the LDS Church ten years ago, they have never stopped fellowshipping me. Perhaps it’s due to my wife’s influence (I love to hear her teach), I feel welcomed and truly loved by these good people who have all raised sons and daughters in the church. And yes, some of those children no longer attend church or profess to no longer believe. I am so grateful we can share our common beliefs as we study the Book of Mormon.

But are we getting any closer to understanding what the Lord is doing in our day? I keep my mouth shut about controversial topics like how it was Brigham who brought the practice of polygamy into the church and that Joseph taught against it. I also do not raise the point that the work being done in the temples is not what the Lord had intended for the saints, or that the LDS priesthood is not the Holy Order of God. How do you kindly tell someone they have been misled by the claims of Brigham Young?

Set in Order the House of God

“The Holy Order function requires both a father and mother, and is the reason Joseph Smith wrote, ‘[T]here are many teachers but perhaps not many Fathers. There are times coming when God will signify many things which are expedient for the well being of the saints but the times have not yet come but will come as fast as there can be found place and receptions for them.’

“That time did not come during Joseph’s life, and therefore the return of the Holy Order did not happen in his day. Because of the failure in Joseph’s day, the Family or House of God still needs to be set in order. As is always the case, there will need to be a temple prepared for the Holy Order to function. It was first given to Adam and Eve in sacred space and therefore, sacred space like the Garden of Eden is required for its function.”

The Failure in Joseph’s Day

I don’t think anything in the two paragraphs above quoted from Denver’s last paper would be shocking to those who have read his earlier writings or listened to his earlier talks. However, even the idea that there was any kind of failure in Joseph’s day is a foreign concept to faithful believing members of the LDS Church, or at least that has been my observation as I have continued to attend church and fellowship there. I have heard many of my LDS friends say, “The church is perfect. The people aren’t.”

I understand the point. We are all in need of a Savior. There is a deep sense of gratitude for his atoning sacrifice on our behalf, allowing us to repent. I feel the same way. I understand why so many give so much of their lives to the LDS Church, believing it to be the Kingdom of God on the earth today and an integral part of temple covenants to give everything to building up the church wherever called. But it seems nigh unto impossible to entertain the thought that the church is not perfect.

The Kingdom of God is not yet Restored

If you define the word perfection as complete, then surely you can consider for a moment that the work has not yet been completed. The Holy Order has not yet been restored. Or has it? If one of the definitions of the Holy Order is to administer covenants on behalf of the Lord, then consider what was offered at the Covenant of Christ conference in 2017. Who administered that covenant? Would not that require a member of the Holy Order to offer such a covenant? Think about that for a moment.

The LDS Church is not the equivalent of the Kingdom of God on the Earth today, in spite of what early LDS leaders like Brigham Young and John Taylor taught. They were not the recipients of what Joseph and Hyrum received and held for a season. So many people have so much wrapped up in a simple misunderstanding of what took place in the last few years in Nauvoo before the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum. I can’t think of any period of time more crucial to understand for LDS members today.

To be continued …

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