I continue my series on preparing myself for the upcoming 2019 General Conference on April 19-20-21 in Colorado. I had not anticipated including this post about fellowships or the Statement of Principles. However, it became evident to me as I reviewed the events of the last few years in recovering and continuing the restoration that fellowships are a huge part of what we have received and should be addressed. We need fellowships.
I do not currently participate in fellowship gatherings of the remnant movement. I am not worthy to do so. Well, technically, there is no worthiness requirement to attend such gatherings, but I am not worthy to bless the sacrament, baptize or perform ordinances of the priesthood outside of my home. The Lord stated why when he shared the following:
“…at least seven women must vote to sustain one to be a priest to the community. If the man is married, his wife must be among the seven women. If his wife will not sustain him, he is unworthy to provide priesthood service in the fellowship.”
Community of Seven Women
This statement about seven women has been much ridiculed by critics of the restoration movement, and particularly of Denver’s involvement in it. They quote it as a sign of a false prophet, claiming it is not scriptural, or that it is a twisting of the Old Testament scripture found in Isaiah 4:1. From what I’ve seen in the last four and half years, it is a pretty good system of managing a fellowship – by women who possess much wisdom.
“The word ‘unworthy’ is not a statement of condemnation, but of qualification. There is nothing implied in the word about a man’s standing before God, only the fact that within the community of fellowship until the wife is prepared to support him acting outside the family, his effort should remain within his family until the wife sees value to her husband serving others.
“The word ‘unworthy’ was the Lord’s and therefore I do not feel at liberty to change it. But I want it clear that when He used it I had a definite understanding that no condemnation was implied, only an orderly arrangement was given. In all such matters it has been my experience that with time how the Lord orders things proves to be exceptionally wise, even if we do not immediately see the wisdom.”
Sacrament in the Home
It did not take long at all to see the exceptional wisdom of this requirement. Carol has attended a few fellowship meetings with me. She was very uncomfortable. The idea of using wine in the Sacrament was abhorrent to her. Her Utah heritage had also ingrained deeply within her the idea of getting permission from some man with authority or keys in order to administer the Sacrament in the home. We ceased that practice immediately.
When I first resigned from the LDS Church in September of 2014, Carol asked me to please continue to attend Sacrament meeting with her. I agreed. For a while I saw no difference in the administration of the Sacrament. Over the years, something has changed. Perhaps it is me, but something is missing from the ordinance there. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I feel it. Thus I also administer the Sacrament at home.
No, Carol doesn’t participate with me. It’s the wine thing. She can’t get over it. She had a grandfather who drank himself to death and it deeply affected her. Apparently addiction runs in our family because our son almost did the same before he got sober years ago. So I don’t blame Carol for her aversion to using wine. I have offered grape juice but the thing about getting permission from the local bishop gets in the way. So we just don’t.
Partake in Remembrance of Christ
“As to the Sacrament, only an antichrist would forbid you from partaking of the Sacrament in the way commanded by your Lord. That is an abomination. If you get together, even if it is only in your own family, partake of the Sacrament together. Let no one forbid you from partaking in remembrance of Christ. He commanded that you do it. Follow the pattern that is given to us.
“In Doctrine and Covenants section 20, verse 76, one of the things that used to be practiced, and has been abandoned, but should now be renewed among you, is that when the Sacrament is blessed, kneel. “Kneel with the church” is how the verse explains it. It is in the scriptures before you. Follow them.
“You can use wine. Or, if you are opposed to alcohol, alternatively you have some medical condition that prevents you from using wine, then use grape juice. Not water. Use red grape juice. Use the symbol of the blood of our Lord. I can tell you that generally, red wine is bitter for a reason. Partaking of that bitter wine in remembrance of the blood that was shed is appropriate.”
Wine in the Sacrament
Carol and I were first introduced to wine in the Sacrament in a fellowship meeting after one of the lectures in 2014. I think it was Las Vegas. We were invited by members of the Colorado fellowship to join with them to meet and talk about what we had received that day. To me, it was an amazing spiritual experience, and not because of the wine. I felt the sweet spirit of the Lord being poured out on this humble fellowship gathered that night.
I visited with the Colorado fellowship once again during the 2015 Reunion Conference. I participated in several sacrament meetings where, as before, the spirit was poured out in great abundance upon all those present. I was asked to pronounce a blessing upon the participants and did so with tears in my eyes as the power of revelation came upon me. I cherish those sacred memories and long to be part of such fellowship gatherings again.
Carol has teased me several times about the idea of the gathering being in the tops of the mountains. “How long before you will leave me to go be with your friends in Colorado?” I remind her that the location of the temple has not yet been announced. Having served her mission in Independence Missouri, Carol is convinced that the temple complex is to be built there. I don’t doubt it, but it’s not the first place the Lord will gather His people.
Fellowships in the Remnant Movement
I wish I could provide more personal examples. I have met with some of our Southern California fellowships a few times over the years. Thank you to my neighbor Mike with whom I have met several times. Also to Peter, who came down from Idaho last year and has reached out to me just as recently as last Sunday offering fellowship. You can find them on the Fellowship Locator. I have enjoyed our meetings when we get together.
I have read stories of others, mainly along the Mormon Corridor, who have had great successes and much growth from meeting together regularly. They have learned to deal with challenges such as widely disparate age groups, financial struggles of young single mothers and even one case of an individual who was deceived and led others of the group into temptation. You can read more about that here and here if you desire.
Steps on the Road to Apostasy
I’d like to put my High Councilor hat on for a moment once again and review the steps that got me to where I am now. Bishops, take note. These are things you will want to watch out for in the members of your congregations. First, I started reading blogs that were not authorized by the leaders of the Church. For example, Times and Seasons, By Common Consent and Wheat and Tares, LDS-themed blogs found on the bloggernacle.
Yes, I know many members of our stake who will NOT read anything not authorized by the First Presidency. While these folks are Baby Boomers in age, they are idealistically more like the GI Generation, very much into authority and hierarchy, epitomized by the top-down structure of the LDS Church, whose current leader exudes that influence of follow the leader. They always ask, do you have permission to do that or to read that?
I can see why critics of the LDS Church claim it is a cult because of the brain-washing experience from the time children are infants to “follow the prophet” which permeates the entire organization and culture. They gush about how all the recent institutional changes are evidence of revelation. This has generated a “cult of personality” worship syndrome where the current institutional figurehead is reverenced to the extreme.
The Institutional President
My life has changed dramatically because of answers to prayers I have long offered and earnestly sought for, despite no real hope of seeing such prayers answered though the orthodox channels of the church. It has never ceased to amaze me how much the church has become more and more entrenched in this one doctrine: follow the prophet, he can’t lead you astray. This is wrong. The Savior never taught this and neither did Joseph.
In fact, Brigham called that man foolish who did not question and pray about what the leaders of the church asked him to do. He never claimed to be a prophet. He said he was voted to be the president of the church. Yet Wilford Woodruff said, “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray.” Do we use this statement to justify things the President says that just don’t seem right?
Restoring The Restoration
“If you think the Church has been fully restored, you’re just seeing the beginning. Wait till next year, and then the next year,” President Nelson said. “Eat your vitamin pills. Get some rest. It’s going to be exciting.” The administrative changes being rolled out by the current hierarchy are being spun as revelation. I’m certain there have been years of pondering and prayer, but was there a revelation directing these most recent changes?
I could spend hours studying the new glossary in the scriptures. One of the many terms clarified for me there is the meaning of abomination, described as “The use of religion to suppress truth or impose a false form of truth. It involves the religious justification of wrongdoing. That is, something becomes abominable when it is motivated out of a false form of religious observance or is justified because of religious error.” Hmmm…
Blogging in the LDS Church
But I digress. Back to my intended purpose in sharing this post. I have covered a little about fellowships even though I have not offered much from first-hand experience. I hope someone is documenting for historical purposes what fellowship meetings are like for them. I keep thinking how much the early notes found in journals have been to historians writing about the earliest days of the restoration, which is ongoing today.
And more specifically, back to the steps of apostasy I started to outline before I got off on the tangent about the heavy-handedness of some bishops, stake presidents and general authorities in continuing to proliferate the idea of the infallibility of the prophet and the absolute critical test of having your thinking in line with that of “The Brethren.” It still rankles me to think that I once had a part in promulgating that unique LDS cultural bias.
The second step in my apostasy was writing a blog. The first few years were filled with posts defending the LDS Church along with it’s doctrines and practices. But opening the blog to comments brought me a world of different viewpoints that opened my eyes to a less biased view of things. Truth was no longer hard and fast what The Brethren said. I am not the only blogger who left the LDS Church after first defending it vigorously.
The Slippery Slope
It was five years after I started writing this blog before I was introduced to the writings of Denver Snuffer. Two and a half years later I was introduced to the idea of sacrament outside the control of a local LDS Bishop. Shortly thereafter I resigned and was baptized anew. I’m sure you could point to thousands of examples of LDS bloggers who have been blogging for years and remained very faithful to the Church. But I’m not one of them.
In my Stake resides a former bishop who blogs over on Wheat and Tares. I have always enjoyed his posts and enjoyed knowing him and his family. We don’t see eye to eye on certain matters, for example, on the historicity of the Book of Mormon, but, in general, I admire his openness on matters of doctrine and history compared to other bishops I have known and worked with closely. He remains a faithful temple-worthy member.
My point to any Bishops, Stake Presidents or General Authorities that may be reading this post is that reading blogs critical of the LDS Church or even writing critical essays about the Church is no guarantee that the individual will apostatize from the Church. But I can count on one hand the number of bloggers in my stake. You might want to keep an eye on anyone who writes about the Church. They just may be on the road to apostasy.
Statement of Principles
I conclude with an invitation to re-read the Statement of Principles. This was presented to the Lord and accepted by him. It will soon be canonized as section 175 of the T&C. I hope that will be completed before the upcoming General Conference in six weeks. In it is found a Guide and Standard for conducting our fellowships. It is intended to be a replacement for section 20 of the LDS D&C, on church organization and government.
It contains the Doctrine of Christ, a reference to The Law of Christ or The Sermon on the Mount, ordinances, baptism, sacrament, marriage, priesthood, fellowships, tithing, Zion and the covenant. These are all incredibly important and far-reaching subjects. It was marvelous to behold the wonderful disputations that arose as these subjects were laid out and presented for discussion and inclusion in the document the Lord accepted.
I could write an entire series of posts about this document. I believe it was inspired and was a labor of love and sacrifice to produce. I am aware of some who suffered anguish of soul over this document. I know some opposed it and voted against it. Ultimately, once the Lord accepted it, if we can abide abide by the principles contained in it we will be blessed and be given power to do the work of preparing for the return of the Savior.
God bless. As always, comments are welcome for sixty days.