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.
He 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
He 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.