Thoughts on Personal Revelation and Sealing Power

I have been trying to be more deliberate about sharing appropriate things already recorded in my private journal onto my public blog, which, although the readership is small, invites feedback, almost all of which comes via personal emails and text messages. This blog is still open to public comments. Always has been.

I have been pondering two subjects, one of which has been “in the news” for the past week (if you consider a podcast and discussions of those podcasts on Facebook to be news) and the other was presumedly discussed by the entire church last Sunday (or at least it was in our stake) in priesthood and Relief Society meetings.

John Dehlin Quote on Hearing God

The first is this quote from John Dehlin, expressed thus: “No one should be taught that they communicate with God. And that God speaks to them.” Yes, John really said that. You can hear it yourself on Carah Burrell‘s podcast which can be found through many sources, but perhaps most conveniently on her YouTube channel “nuancehoe.”

You should listen to the context around it because it helps to understand why he said it. He references several recent examples of people in the Utah Mormon culture who were obviously responding to voices other than the voice of God. It gets to the heart of the matter of my post today.

Well-known examples from Utah

John referenced Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow, the Lafferty brothers (1984), Tim Ballard, Jodi Hildebrandt, and Ruby Franke. Note that these are all examples of Utah LDS people who have gone off the deep end claiming revelation to commit murder, abuse children or engage in questionable sexual relationships. Here’s the YouTube link, which should be right at the exact quote.

I used to listen to John’s podcasts. I referenced him a couple of times on my blog many years ago. He once commented on one of my blog posts. I haven’t listened to or read anything he has posted in many years. I’ve read what others have said about him, both the pro and the con, but I am by no means an expert on what John Dehlin believes or teaches. He seems to appeal to a younger generation. But I do know that John is very influential in Utah Mormon culture.

Personal Revelation in Mormonism

I’m not all that interested in Utah Mormon culture since I live in California and have all my life. Perhaps we are blessed in that we are mostly insulated from some of the weird things we hear that are happening up there in Utah. But the quote is interesting as it gets to the heart of the matter of religion and especially Mormonism, which is “Is there really such a thing as personal divine revelation,” and “How do we really know when we are receiving it and that it’s from God?”

I base my faith in God and Christ on personal revelation, along with many years of study, meditation and prayer. I base my acceptance of the mission of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon on the same thing: years of deep and intense study, pondering, prayer and personal revelation. I believe that God communicates with me through the Holy Ghost. And yes, I believe that God speaks to me, and that he can and does speak to you. Many of you have shared examples privately with me.

Revelation From the Wrong Source

But I understand the point John is making. John is a clinical psychologist and as he points out, we are flawed mortals with genuine psychological problems, many of which (such as addiction) are considered brain diseases. I am certain any one of us can look around at people we know, including many in our own families, that suffer, some terribly, from this human condition known as mortality. The human body is full of weakness.

John did not bring up the LeBarons or any of the other murders that have been committed in the name of religion, probably because these are from the polygamous offshoots of Mormonism. He did mention the Lafferty Brothers, who were not technically LDS, but violent fundamentalists because it drives home the point about how the concept of receiving relation can be twisted and distorted by mortal weakness and mental illness.

Typical Testimonies of LDS Members

These are extreme examples. Most LDS folks I know are good, humble, faithful followers and disciples of Jesus Christ. They are peaceful, love their families, treat them with love and kindness and abhor any kind of violence. They are kind, compassionate, tender to their spouses and do all within their power to help their children grow up with confidence and love.

Attend any LDS Fast and Testimony meeting and you will hear all kinds of examples of personal revelation from God being expressed among members of the church, some of them wonderfully heartwarming and uplifting. I have a lifetime of witnessing such testimonies from people I know well and meet with every week. I love these people and know of their humble sincerity.

Sharing Personal Revelatory Experiences

But sometimes you hear weird things in a Fast and Testimony meeting or even in a Sacrament meeting talk. I recall several instances sitting next to the bishop when it was my turn to conduct where he would nudge me and quietly say, “Don’t close yet. I need to get up and correct something.” I have also witnessed several bishops get up and help someone close their testimony, because they mistakenly wandered off in left field.

I hear more and more testimonies expressing love for their Savior, appreciation for blessings to their families, including recoveries from sickness, and evidences of divine protection. At the same time, I hear fewer and fewer expressions of personal revelatory experiences from the pulpit. Perhaps they are better shared in more sacred or intimate settings such as in Relief Society or Priesthood meetings. At least that’s been my experience.

Joseph Smith Received the Sealing Power

Sunday, during our Priesthood meeting, the instructor, as is typical, handed out quotes from the latest talk by President Nelson, with the instruction to be prepared to comment on your reading assignment when he called on you to share. I was assigned a quote that gets right to the heart of the matter with which I have been struggling for the past twelve years – the keys of the sealing power. Here is the quote I was assigned to read:

“Following the Savior’s visitation, Moses appeared. Moses conferred upon Joseph Smith the keys for the gathering of Israel and the return of the ten tribes. When this vision closed, ‘Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham’ to Joseph. Then Elijah the prophet appeared. His appearance fulfilled Malachi’s promise that before the Second Coming, the Lord would send Elijah to ‘turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.’ Elijah conferred the keys of the sealing power upon Joseph Smith.”

A Replacement for Section 110

Before reading this, I compared on my iPad the corresponding paragraphs from the replacement revelation for section 110, from scriptures.info, which reads like this:

“As this vision closed, the Heavens were again opened to their view, and they saw and beheld, and were endowed with knowledge from the beginning of this creation to the ends thereof. And they were shown unspeakable things from the sealed record of Heaven, which man is not capable of making known, but must be revealed by the Powers of Heaven. They beheld Michael, the archangel, Gabriel, and Raphael, and divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the end of time, showing in turns their dispensations, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the Powers of their Priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; endowing them with knowledge, even here a little and there a little; holding forth hope for the work God was yet to perform, even the revelation of all things which are to come upon the earth until the return of the Lord in glory with His holy angels — to pour out judgment upon the world, and to reward the righteous. And they were unable to take it in; therefore, they were commanded to pray and ask to comprehend by the power of the spirit, to bring all things to their remembrance, even the Record of Heaven which would abide in them. Amen and Amen.”

The Mission of Elijah Reconsidered

There is nothing about Elijah in there. What a difference. This is the crux of the whole matter. This is the key to the foundation of the current LDS church – this modified section 110. One would have to have read and understood one of Denver’s earliest talks on this subject to see how dramatically this change has affected the whole history of the LDS Church. Of course I didn’t say anything about Denver’s talk and paper, “The Mission of Elijah Reconsidered” from 14 Oct 2011. I simply read the paragraphs I was assigned and said nothing.

I contributed other thoughts later in the lesson but did not address this major item, the claim of the LDS Church to have received the keys of the sealing power from Elijah through Joseph. As Denver points out in his paper, Elijah has not yet returned. Joseph himself referred to this as a future event at least six years (1842) after the Kirtland Temple was dedicated in 1836. He referred to the future coming of Elijah again in 1843 and 1844, as late as 10 March 1844.

The Sealing Power Cannot be Conferred by Man

Passing the Heavenly Gift” was published 6 Sep 2011. I first read it in Feb 2012 after my Bishop asked what I thought about the book in January 2012 in the LA Temple Celestial room after a Stake Temple night. The paper, “The Mission of Elijah Reconsidered” was published after the publication of PtHG. I also read it after I first read PtHG. I just reviewed it again this afternoon. Key point: Joseph received the sealing power by hearing it from the voice of the Lord. Elijah did not confer it upon Joseph and Oliver.

I know this is in direct conflict with what President Nelson said in his last conference talk. President Nelson is simply repeating what other LDS Church leaders have said before him. He was not there when the visions in the Kirtland Temple were given. Section 110 was not added to the Doctrine and Covenants until many years after Joseph and Oliver’s deaths.  I have written about this previously in this post on keys. In my mind, the issue is settled and has been for many years, but I can’t share that in a church meeting, can I?

Provenance of Section 110 Disputed

I have a copy of the Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, volume 1 in my possession. I read with interest the account of how section 110 came to be. It was recorded by Warren Cowdery, not as a direct eyewitness but being copied from some document no longer extant. This account is written in the third person and describes the visit of the various messengers to Joseph and Oliver.

The account of section 110 was not inserted into the record until many years after the deaths of the only eyewitnesses, Joseph and Oliver, who never taught or mentioned they had been visited by Christ and various angels in the Kirtland temple. It was not discovered until 1852. In any event, the wording states the keys were committed, as if Joseph already had the sealing power.

Visit Of Elijah Still a Future Event

Until his dying day, Joseph referred to Elijah’s return as a still future event. Brigham Young was ordained an apostle in 1835, more than a year before the 1836 appearance of Christ, Moses, Elias and Elijah in the Kirtland temple. Joseph did not participate in Brigham’s ordination. Brigham was ordained by the Three Witnesses. How then, did Brigham receive the keys of the kingdom?

The Apostles were all invited to complete their ordinations by having hands laid upon their heads directly by Him who had the right to confer the Apostleship with power. Brigham Young never claimed such an ordination ever happened. Quite the contrary, he claimed the Lord never visited him. He said he never had any being from a higher sphere visit or speak with him in his lifetime.

Brigham Young did not Have the Sealing Power

I know this is old news to so many of us, especially those who have studied the issue in any detail, but since the current leadership continues to promulgate this misunderstanding as if it were fact, the majority of the LDS church members simply accept it as so, and never question it or seek to investigate the truth for themselves. Why, that would be tantamount to speaking ill of the Lord’s anointed to even question their teachings.

This information, although readily available, can be very damaging to the belief that the ordinances as administered in the LDS temples are binding in eternity. The entire system of assurance that so many find so comforting about families being together forever is the heart of the LDS church message today. I get it. It is a comforting doctrine. And it is a true doctrine, if you can find a legal administrator. But how is the sealing power received?

Blessings of Serving in the Temple

Our stake in very active in providing temple workers for the Los Angeles temple. I cannot deny the blessings that attend our stake and faithful ward members who feel peace and comfort as a result of their service in the temple. They are blessed. They are happy. I see it in their faces and hear it in their prayers and as they teach. I have no desire to cause anyone to doubt that they are loved by the Lord or that they are happy because of a temple sealing.

Since this is such an eternally important doctrine, I would want to be sure the person pronouncing the sealing ordinance between me and my wife as we kneel at the altar together, has indeed received the sealing power. All the evidence I have researched confirms to me that the sealing power can only be received by the man receiving it from God Himself. He must hear the Lord say unto him that he has this power and can exercise it to seal on earth and in heaven.

The Importance of Being Certain

John’s Dehlin’s point about people believing they have heard the voice of God and received revelations telling them to do things or that should believe certain things is well taken. It is practical. I’m sure he has seen a lot of trauma in his practice and has cited for us several extreme examples of those who believe they have received revelations, but from the wrong source. If there is anything on which we should be focusing, it is to be sure we are “in tune.”

I know that’s a difficult phrase to define and requires additional discussion. My only purpose in this post is to get you to think about what is still being claimed by the current LDS leadership that simply isn’t in line with the historical record or the scriptures. Please think about it. How certain are you that the sealing power can be or was passed from Joseph to Brigham? I am not at all certain and will not stake my eternal happiness on the word of Brigham Young.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Personal Revelation and Sealing Power”

  1. Alexander Snobgrass

    “I compared on my iPad the corresponding paragraphs from the replacement revelation for section 110”. I’m a bit confused. Can you explain how or why section 110 in the D&C was replaced/modified by Denver Snuffer?

    1. Section 110 is unverifiable as a true revelation / vision. Details are found a little further down in this post in the section “Provenance of Section 110 Disputed”. A replacement revelation was received on 14 July 2017 and has been added as T&C 157:25–32. Here is the full list of excluded revelations: and here is the replacement for Sec 110:

Leave a Reply