Monday, June 15, 2015

Boise Meeting with Dallin H. Oaks

Sunday, June 14, 2015, Elder Dallin H. Oaks along with Richard Turley of the Church History Department presented a fireside about apostasy. Full audio is here. Below is my paraphrased summary of what was discussed.

The purpose of our message is to answer some faithful questions, and to minister to some members' disabling doubts. We do this under this title of our message: "Who's on the Lord's side?"

Two questions to determine who's on the Lord's side.

1. How do they feel about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon?
2. How do they feel about the church's current prophetic leadership?

If those feelings are sufficiently negative, they take members into what we call apostasy. Turley to address the first question; I will answer the latter.

Been member of church history department for 29 years.

"What is the most remarkable item you've seen in church history?" The original manuscript of the Book of Mormon.

In the four years from when he was shown the gold plates by Moroni, and when he was able to retrieve them, he was taught to treasure them as a sacred record and not as an asset to financially help his family. He put the original manuscript in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House to preserve it.

When Emma Smith's second husband found the papers, he sold pages of them as souvenirs. Today we've been able to recover many of those pages.

If you look at the original manuscript there's very little punctuation. It flows smoohtly, and you can tell the words were dictated while a scribe wrote down his words. I have a doctorate degree and I have written books, and writing a book always takes several drafts. Joseph had very little education, and I would challenge anyone to sit down and try dictating a book in one take over less than 90 days.

Joseph's first journal entry in 1832 showed his lack of skill at writing, and this was three years after the Book of Mormon was written.

The Book of Mormon was brought forth for our day. If we study it regularly, we will gain insight into the mind of the Lord.

I will now speak about the continuing prophetic authority, under the heading of "apostasy." The theme of apostasy and restoration is throughout the scriptures. There are two main manifestations of apostasy given in the scriptures, the first through disobedience to the commandments of God. We will dwell mainly on the second manifestation. The scriptures, ancient and modern, have many warnings about false prophets. Our Savior's teaches: 'Take heed that no man deceive you, for many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ, and deceive many.'

Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit. By their fruits shall ye know them. When you judging teachings, look at the lives of those teaching. By their fruits shall ye know them.

Apostasy leads to chaos, which is contrary to the will of the Lord. In D&C: "My house is a house of order, saith the Lord God." D&C 20, the Lord makes it clear no one can be appointed to an office of the church without a vote of the church. Not long after the organization of the church, Hiram Page, one of the Eight Witnesses, claimed he was receiving revelations from a seer stone. Other members were intrigued by these revelations. In a revelation to Oliver through Joseph, the Lord said that only Joseph could receive revelations for the whole church, and that he should tell Hiram that Satan was deceiving him.

Then the Lord said that all things must be done in order and by common consent. No one is to receive revelation for the church except the prophet. Church members are not to teach their own doctrines; they are to teach from the scriptures.

During the Kirtland period, a Mrs. Hubble set herself up as receiving revelations for the church. Section 43 reminded church leaders that the prophet was the only one to receive revelation for the church. "He that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate."

There were many members who zealously sought their own spiritual manifestations. To counter overzealousness, D&C 56 has the Lord say: "There are many spirits that are false spirits, which have gone forth deceiving the world." We could go and on with the list of people who've apostasized for ignoring the Lord's order. We call this priestcraft.

The Saints confirmed Brigham Young and the Apostles as the leaders of the church after Joseph. Many know about Sidney Rigdon's desire to lead the church, but few know the details of James J. Strang. Strang claimed to have revelation from the Lord saying that he should lead the church. Strang claimed to have been visited by an angel, and he tried very hard to copy Joseph's charisma, and he tried duplicating many church practices. Eventually, as with most of these movements, his movement died out. After his death it became abundantly clear he was a fraud and false prophet.

In many ways, Strang was like many other apostates who tried to establish authority outside the order of the Lord.

1. The Lord speaks to the church through the prophet.
2. No one can be appointed to an office without a vote of the church.
3. No one is to receive revelation for the church except the prophet.
4. No one is to preach or build up the church except he be ordained by the heads of the church.
5. Church members are not to teach their own unauthorized doctrine; they are to teach from the scriptures. Also, members shall observe the covenants and church articles and teach from them as well.
6. He that is ordained shall come in at the gate and be properly ordained, not claiming some kind of secret ordination.

This order has been followed since April 6, 1830. If we follow these principles of order, we will not be deceived.

I will speak of some current applications. Apostasy continues today. Its two manifestations are clearly evident. The first (not keeping the commandments) is the most evident. The second (false prophets) is not as visible.

Paul taught: "In the latter times, some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits." This reference is a description of the spirits of darkness that inspire false prophets to deceive some believers into departing from the faith. The pattern is for some false prophet to claim that the Spirit has confirmed to them that the leaders of the church are in error in some way and that he is the Lord's agent to correct them. This is an obvious violation of the Lord's order. The so-called new prophet may try to set up a new church, advocating for a change in church doctrine, or opposing some church policy. We have seen these tactics and many more in our lifetime.

It is always: "I have a better way than the Lord's current leaders."

The temple is a great symbol and manifestation of our faith. There are now over 140 operating temples, just one fruit from our restored gospel and our prophetic leadership. How do we view the temple and how do we view our prophetic leadership? Do we see the temple or the church doctrine in its entirety? Or do we search from some defect in its many parts, ignoring its overall structure, magnifying the flaws to drag others into apostasy? We should never lose sight of the wonderful, all-encopassing plan of the Lord's church. By their fruits, not the ocassional fruit-fly, shall ye know them.

Now Bro. Turley and I will review some questions we sometimes hear from persons being influenced by the teachings of false prophets.

TURLEY: One claim we sometimes hear is that the church is no longer the church originally set up by Joseph Smith, that the keys were not passed on to Brigham Young.
OAKS: Answer - then who held them? If there are no priesthood keys, then the authority of the priesthood cannot be used on the Earth.
TURLEY: Historically it's interesting to see who received priesthood keys before Joseph's death and who did not. Joseph gave the Apostles increased in importance and received all the keys from Joseph. When the members had their choice between Rigdon and the Apostles, the Saints overwhelmingly voted for Brigham Young and the Apostles. That tells me the Spirit spoke to those Saints on this ocassion, and they knew where the keys resided.
OAKS: One more point on this. The idea that the established prophet has strayed and needs to be replaced is an idea that Satan has placed in the minds of apostates from the very beginning.

OAKS: Another false claim: the new prophet is receiving revelation to correct the current prophet.
TURLEY: "Substitute revelations" goes against the Lord's rule of order. Pres. Kimball warned that those who overseek revelations may get some, just not from God, "because the devil is very responsive."

TURLEY: Another claim is that the church is not teaching what is required for exaltation.
OAKS: All of the righteous desire to see the face of our Savior, but the suggestion that this must happen in mortality is a familiar tactic of the adversary. The means are important, even vital. The Lord has said these things must be done "in my own way."

OAKS: Another claim we see is that the leaders won't answer our doubts. Doubts. Here we need to define the difference between doubts and questions. Questions, when coupled with a sincere desire to increase one's understanding of faith, are to be encouraged. Questions are asked with real intent of better understanding of obeying the will of the Lord. Questions are very different from doubts.
TURLEY: After faith, questions can lead to revelation. Joseph received many revelations not contained in the D&C and he received the First Vision because of questions. Questions lead to faith; doubt leads to disobedience. Doubt is darkness; questions asked in faith lead to light. The Lord will answer our questions, but not necessarily in the way we want. He will answer in His own time and in His own way. We must be able to have faith in the Lord's timing.
OAKS: The first step in answering questions is to stand immovable in keeping the commandments of God.

TURLEY: Another claim we sometimes hear is that current Apostles do not have the right to run the affiars of the church since they do not meet the New Testament standard of "Apostles" because they do not testify of having actually "seen" Christ.
OAKS: The first answer to this question is that modern Apostles are called to be witnesses of the "name" of Jesus Christ in all the world (D&C 107: 23). This is not to witness of a personal manifestation. Apostles are also witnesses of Christ just like any member of the church with the gift of the Holy Ghost. The mission of the Holy Ghost is to witness of the Father and the Son. Some early Apostles and other members of the church had the sublime experience of seeing the Savior, and some have made a public record of this, in the circumstances of today, we are counseled not to speak of our most sacred spiritual experiences. Otherwise with modern technology that can broadcast all over the world, a remark made in a sacred setting can be broadcast anywhere and violate the Savior's command not to cast our pearls before swine.

OAKS: Here's another one. "The church is focused on following the Brethren rather than seeking Christ."
TURLEY: This is a preposterous claim. Following someone other than the Lord's called servants is a sign of apostasy. As the Lord said to Joseph in D&C 84, "He that receiveth my servants receiveth me." Furthermore in D&C 42: "The elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach of the Bible and Book of Mormon which contains the fulness of the gospel."

OAKS: We come to our conclusion. When you follow false prophets, when you start toward apostasy, you are on the wrong side.
TURLEY: There is no salvation or exaltation through false prophets. The Lord's order is clearly laid outin the scriptures. When we follow those appointed leaders, we will be blessed. Following false prophets leads only to unhappiness.
OAKS: We have spent many weeks researching the matter we have presented to you. The principles we have drawn from the scriptures are the truth. We know from reading ancient and modern history that the apttern of apostasy is as clear as the pattern of the restoration. False prophets are as real in our day as of old. Avoid being deceived by "seducing spirits." Stand fast with the leadership of the church. Pres. Hinckley in describing a revelation he had received about the building of small temples, that he did not claim perfection, that there was only one perfect Person who'd lived on this Earth, that even the prophets of God were not perfect. Joseph said "There is no error in the teachings." I testify to you that these teachings are truthful. If we follow the current leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we will stay on the path toward eternal life.

Concluding hymn is "Who's on the Lord's Side? Who?"


Some thoughts:

- I'd like to see the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon. I'm glad most of it still exists.

- It would have been nice if they'd had an open Q&A with some of the members there. On one hand, it was a tri-stake meeting, so I'm sure hundreds would have lined up to a microphone for the opportunity. On the other hand, it was a scripted meeting, so spontaneous questions could have changed the takeaway from the meeting.

- This seemed to be in response to the Denver Snuffer/Rock Waterman type breakoffs. They teach they still believe in the foundation of the LDS Church that Joseph Smith set up but believe today's leaders have gone astray. They really wanted to hammer home that Snuffer and Waterman are "false prophets" (without naming them). This would also indicate why we've been seeing some high-profile excommunications over the past year or so. By their definition, Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, and Rock Waterman are false prophets of different aspects of the church and have deceived others.

- "Doubt is darkness." This bothered me. They barely stopped short of saying that having doubts is sinful. Satan the deceiver was mentioned several times tonight, along with seducing spirits. Also, putting his under the banner of "Who's on the Lord's side" just felt manipulative. They had to realize that just about everyone in attendance has friends or family members who've left the church. Under this framing, anyone who leaves the church is following Satan.

- There's been a coyness to the Apostles as to whether they're actually witnesses of Christ, but this makes it clear that even if any of the Apostles have seen Christ, they're not going to tell us. Which seems strange. If their calling is to be witnesses of Christ to the world, testify of this. But he's saying here that their witness is the same as our witness when we feel the Holy Ghost. So what's the difference? Are we then not all Apostles? "I am Christ's witness." "Did you see Him?" "I'm not telling." This actually raised more questions for me than answers.

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