As I Have Loved You

Recently, Carol was assigned new ministering brothers. For those who aren’t familiar with the change in nomenclature, that would be home teachers. I was pleased to learn she was assigned a couple in our ward we greatly admire, who previously served as the President and Matron of the Los Angeles temple. We have been in their home many times as they have been in ours as part of our “Empty Nesters” FHE group.

We love this couple and appreciate their kindnesses to us over the years. After our Stake Conference this last Sunday, we met with them for an hour in the Family Search Center, where they serve as consultants. Carol also serves as a ward temple and family history consultant. We had a wonderful “get to know you better” meeting where many details were shared that are not normally mentioned in a Sacrament meeting talk.

On the Records of the Church

Toward the end of the meeting, the question was very politely raised why my name did not show up in the Member Tools app. Since this couple is still relatively new to our ward and stake, it’s understandable why they would not know and would ask. Carol looked at me. I looked at her. We normally don’t talk about this subject. It tends to cause Carol to feel uncomfortable. A shared a few succinct thoughts in response.

“I love the Lord. I love my wife. I love my son. I love the prophet Joseph. I love the Book of Mormon. I love this church (I surprised myself when I said that). I love the people of this ward and stake. My only problem is with Brigham Young and some of the historical claims he made, especially regarding keys and authority.” Our new ministering brother said, “And that applies also to Pres. Nelson?” I replied ‘Yes.”

A Simple Problem that can be Fixed

“That’s a simple problem that can be fixed,” he began, then added some thoughts to elaborate on the idea. I didn’t want to interrupt or contradict him. I simply said when he was done, “Thanks for letting me share. Perhaps we can talk about it more some other time.” There’s a whole lot more to the story than what I shared, but now was not the time to share it. Nor do I believe it is a simple problem that can be fixed.

As I recorded my Stake Conference notes in my journal and wrote about the feelings of reverence and worship I felt as we sang in the Stake Choir, I reflected once again on the fact that it’s been almost ten years since I asked to have my name removed from the records of the church. Yet it seems I am just as active now as I ever was, except for not having a calling. We rarely miss attending church and other social activities.

No Disputations Concerning Doctrine

I thought more about our conversation and the many other conversations I have had on this subject with other people over the years, most of them online in response to something I have posted. I thought about the words “dispute” and “contention.” I recognize the spirit of contention and will walk away rather than dispute with anyone over doctrine. This scripture from the Lord comes to mind:

“Neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there hath hitherto been. For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the Devil, who is the father of contention; and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another, but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” (3 Ne 11:28-30)

Did Joseph Practice Polygamy?

I think the best test for me to determine if someone can be trustworthy to counsel me is to simply ask them, “Do you believe Joseph Smith practiced polygamy?” If they answer yes, then I know they haven’t studied the issue and can’t be relied upon as a trustworthy source. In other words, they haven’t done their homework, or they have simply accepted the history of the church as doctored by Brigham Young and Willard Richards. In other words, they haven’t dug deep enough or done any original research (in the Joseph Smith papers for example).

If they answer no, then I test the depth of their conviction by asking them if they accept the official explanation of the subject as found on the church’s website. In particular, I ask them how they feel about this statement: “In 1831, Church founder Joseph Smith made a prayerful inquiry about the ancient Old Testament practice of plural marriage. This resulted in the divine instruction to reinstitute the practice as a religious principle.” I would ask, “Can you point me to the proven contemporary (1831) revelation that I, if I were to be baptized once again as a member of the LDS Church, would be required to accept as the word of the Lord – a commandment to Joseph Smith to take another wife in marriage?”

An Alternative Polygamy Narrative

If they point to section 132, I would ask if they are aware of the lack of provenance for that section. In other words, if they point to this link, which is commonly used as provenance. I would ask them if they are familiar with the work of Rob Fotheringham, including his YouTube videos on the subject, or if they have read Jeremy Hoops, “Of Demigods and Dark Knights.” By this time, I’ll know clearly if the person has done any serious digging at all, because they will probably bring up the work of Brian C. Hales.

And then I’ll ask if they have read Whitney Horning’s book entitled “Joseph Smith Revealed: A Faithful Telling – Exploring an Alternate Polygamy Narrative.” Until we reach this level of background, which 99.99% of LDS people have not done, then I simply cannot accept anything they have to say on the subject. By the way, if they have gotten to this level, I will share with them that I am currently reading a series of books on the subject called “Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy,” by Richard and Pamela Price, along with a beautiful book entitled “The Secret Chamber,” by Val Brinkerhoff. I’ll also ask them what they know about Jacob Cochran.

I Don’t Believe Brigham was Worthy

If they respond, “I haven’t studied the issue like you have. Why is this important to you and why is it preventing you from accepting Brigham Young as a prophet of God like you say you accept Joseph Smith?” For me, an easy answer would be to point them to “Passing the Heavenly Gift,” but there’s so much that we would have to define first such as keys, and authority and priesthood, all of which I understand differently than I did as I was taught growing up in the LDS Church and which I taught for many years as a teacher and leader in the church.

A simple summary would be to say, “I don’t believe Brigham was worthy. I believe he was an adulterer.” And of course, that gets a lot of shocked reactions which don’t contribute well to a dialog without contention. Since I won’t debate or contend, because contention is of the devil, the dialog will never be held. I am convinced I will never find anyone in the LDS church who knows their history well enough to discuss this subject intelligently let alone teach me the truth as revealed by the Lord. I guess that’s the real point.

Study it out, then ask God

I believe I have met the Lord’s requirements to study it out in my mind and then ask Him if my conclusions are correct. My response is that I studied it out for over two years before committing to the course of action I took (having my name removed from the records of the church). So then the real discussion point becomes how can we know when we have received a true personal revelation, and when we have been deceived? That is one of the best discussions any two honest people can have.

I’d love to have that discussion, but invariably the ground rules from the other person include that whatever you believe cannot contradict what is currently taught by the general authorities of the LDS church. I don’t accept that premise, so we are at an impasse. At this point we usually part ways and our dialogs cease. They are convinced they will never be able to persuade me to renounce my acceptance of Denver Snuffer as the Davidic Servant and I am convinced I will never be able to persuade them to undertake a serious study of what he has shared and published over the years.

Focus on Christ

And so, let’s just agree to focus on Christ and forget about Denver Snuffer. Denver can’t save us and what he has written and shared over the years can be found by anyone through personal study and asking the Lord for revelation. The stuff in his books and lectures is simply not for everyone. Very few people have waded through his works. I mean no disrespect, but it can be hard to absorb the material, even after reading it or hearing it many times. Your vocabulary skills will definitely be taxed.

We often sing “As I have Loved You” in church or other meetings. I love that song. There is a real message that brings great peace and comfort to the soul. To love as Christ loved is to dispute not, to contend not. It is to not always have to be right. It is to allow others to have differences of opinions, differences of beliefs and differences of practices. I would never practice polygamy myself, but I can love those who do. I do not identify as gay or transgender, but I can love those who do. Wouldn’t Christ?

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