As many of you know, Elder Oaks and Brother Turley (lawyer and Church Historian) recently held a meeting in Boise, presumably to combat the influence of Denver Snuffer, although his name was never mentioned in the meeting. I had the chance to listen to the complete audio of the meeting and decided to provide this synopsis / critique because I found many of the claims in contradiction to the scriptures and historical evidence. As you will see, even scriptures that were cited by these brethren to bolster the church’s position actually undermine it when taken in context.
First off, Brother Turley talked about Joseph, his lack of education, his dictating the Book of Mormon in a single draft over 90 days, and the experiences Turley has had seeing the original manuscript as historian for the church. I rather enjoyed this part of the meeting, although in my listening I felt it had a bit of a defensive tone. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a strong and abiding testimony of the veracity of the Book of Mormon. I find it so very complex, yet consistent with other scripture. The internal evidence is very compelling, even without external evidence. My own feelings aside, Turley seemed to be saying that because the Book of Mormon is true, THEREFORE the church must be true. He concluded with his testimony.
Elder Oaks then got up and spoke under the heading “The Continuing Authority of the Church’s Prophetic Leadership” and then went on to talk about apostasy. He defined two causes of apostasy: 1) Disobedience and 2) False Prophets. He then quoted a couple of scriptures:
“The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.”
Comment: If the church IS in a state of apostasy, then this scripture condemns the church for changing the Lord’s statutes. For example, if the church is not striving to live the celestial law of consecration, or they have replaced the spiritual endowment with a masonic-based temple ritual, have they not changed the ordinance? If they don’t have the fullness of the priesthood, yet continue to claim that they do are they not blaspheming the name of the Lord? Have they not broken the everlasting covenant?
JS Mathew 1:22
For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.
And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived (v37)
Comment: Yes. That is the entire point of my blog. We need to understand the scriptures ourselves so that we won’t be deceived by anyone’s claims, including the claims of the brethren.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
1 John 4:1
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Elder Oaks then went on to argue that ye shall know them by their fruits. “Look to the fruits in the lives of those who follow a teaching.”
Comment: This is the same argument that Elder Holland made in a recent stake conference documented here. Just because there are positive fruits associated with the preparatory gospel, doesn’t mean that all the claims of the church are true. There are positive fruits in any true follower of Christ whether they are in this church or not.
Brother Turley returned and argued that apostasy is chaos, and that the Lord’s house is a house of order. He then proceeded to lay out 4 principles of order established by the Lord in the D&C.
Principle #1 – The Lord speaks to the church through His prophet.
Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
Comment: This scripture is clearly talking about Joseph Smith. Turley is implying that it applies to President Monson, or any other president of the church. Whether it does or not hinges on the succession crisis and whether the prophetic keys were passed to Brigham Young. Interestingly, BY never claimed to be a prophet and in fact told the people that they were without a prophet and now had to walk be faith after Joseph’s death.
Principle #2 – No one is appointed to an office in the church without a vote of church members
No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church;
Comment: Pretty straightforward. I cringed mightily, however, when he compared Section 20, which was referred to as the Articles and Covenants when it was first published, to the current CHURCH HANDBOOK OF INSTRUCTIONS! He is comparing a revelation from the Lord which was accepted by the Saints as scripture to the current rulebook of the church. Unbelievable!
Principle #3 – No one to receive revelation except the prophet
But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses.
Comment: This is really a re-iteration of his first principle, except that the scripture that Turley quoted was even more specific to Joseph Smith.
Principle #4 – No one to preach or build up the church unless they are regularly ordained and “come in at the gate” and not claim some secret ordination.
Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who hasauthority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.
D&C 43: 3-7
And this ye shall know assuredly—that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me.
But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead.
And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments;
And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me.
For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before, to teach those revelations which you have received and shall receive through him whom I have appointed.
Members are to teach from the scriptures.
Comment: Amen to members teaching from the scriptures. This blog is all about searching the scriptures and teaching from them.
This is where things get interesting. Turley is using these scriptures to argue that church members ought not to accept the teachings of anyone who is not properly ordained, and it is known to the church. He used James Strang as an example of one who was fraudulently trying to claim authority from Joseph.
The irony of the fact that Brigham Young was never properly ordained as a prophet, seer and revelator is completely lost on him. Turley later asserts that because the saints voted for Brigham over Sidney, that that was a sign the Spirit of the Lord had told the saints collectively who the person was who held the keys. This logic is astounding. The saints have every right under the law of common consent to choose their leader, but that doesn’t make that person a prophet, only a proper ordination can convey those keys, not a popular vote of the people. It is clear from history that the only person who had been properly ordained and was still alive after Joseph and Hyrum were killed was Sidney Rigdon. Go here to read more about the succession crisis.
Elder Oaks then addressed current applications of the principles outlined by Turley. After re-iterating that apostasy happens today, he pointed to the temple as a fruit of the restored gospel and evidence of the church’s prophetic leadership. He asked if we view the gospel in it’s entirety with the fruits thereof, or to we focus on it’s defects. There will be defects in any organization as there are defects in every life. By their fruits ye shall know them, not by the occasional fruit fly.
Comment: Asserting prophetic leadership because the church builds temples, and they have positive “fruits” is a non sequitur. It ignores the possibility that what is practiced in the temples today is a departure from the true endowment which is a spiritual endowment with all the blessings of the fulness which we do not experience today. See this link for a further exploration of the fulness of the priesthood. There will be positive fruits under the preparatory gospel, even when the fulness is not on the earth. The Lord is still looking after his people despite their state of apostasy.
Oaks and Turley then address specific questions. The first was the claim that the church fell into apostasy and was no longer the restored church, and that Brigham Young was not passed the priesthood keys.
Oak’s Answer: Then who has them? If there are no priesthood keys then the authority of the priesthood cannot be used upon the earth.
Comment: This answer astounded me. Joseph still has the keys. We are told so several times in the D&C, whether in life or death. Oaks is arguing that the keys have to be somewhere on earth and since we have the best thing going, we must have them. He ignores the possibility that we only have the Aaronic Priesthood, being downgraded after rejecting Zion just like the children of Israel were downgraded when Moses was taken out of their midst. He is also ignoring the scriptural basis, explored here that the marvelous work is a future event.
Turley then went on to explain that Joseph had prepared the Twelve to take over by giving them increasing responsibilities and the ordinances of the Temple.
Comment: The implication he is trying to make is that these “secret” ordinances conveyed the keys. Is not this in direct violation of the Rules of Order Turley set forth above? The Lord doesn’t work in secret.
Oaks goes on to say that the idea that the current prophet has strayed and needs to be replaced is an idea that Satan has planted in the hearts of apostates from the beginning. He uses the example that Christ was challenged by those who were in authority in his day.
Comment: Didn’t follow his logic there. Is he equating the leaders of the mormon church to Christ? The more appropriate comparison may be to compare them to the scribes and pharisees of Christ’s day with their rules and regulations. If Joseph’s dream of returning to the Farm and the Barn are any indication, the current leadership is not going to be happy when he returns.
Next question/claim: That the church is not teaching what is necessary for salvation. Some are saying that you need to see the face of the Lord in mortality.
Comment: This is clearly directed at Denver Snuffer and his books / teachings. When the fullness is restored in the future then we can expect to witness the attendant signs, miracles, visitations and power that will again be manifest on earth.
Next question/claim: That the church will not answer our doubts. Oaks makes the distinction between doubts which lead to disobedience and questions which lead to faithfulness and light. Sincere questions are welcomed, he said.
Comment: If sincere questions are not answered by the leadership then that leads many to doubt. The problem arises when the brethren avoid answering sincere questions. The answer is always to stay steadfast in the church and someday your questions will be answered if you are obedient. This is very unsatisfying to many people with questions, especially when what is taught does not comport with the scriptural and historical record.
Next question/claim: That current apostles don’t meet the New Testament standard because they haven’t seen Christ.
Oaks answers this by quoting D&C 107:23 where is says:
“The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world”
He then explained that this means to witness of the plan, work or mission of Christ, not necessarily be a personal witness of his resurrection. He then implies that those special experiences are too sacred to discuss, especially in the era of technology.
Comment: Oliver exhorted the Twelve when they were called by saying that their calling would not be complete until they too could testify of having seen Christ as the apostles of old. This seems to be legal hair-splitting by a well-trained lawyer. On one hand Oaks is denying that they should see Christ, while on the other hand he is implying that they have, but the experiences are too sacred to be shared. During the marvelous work to come I believe that the returning servants will testify boldly of their experiences with Christ as did the apostles of old.
Next question/claim: The Church is focused on following the Brethren instead of Christ. This was dismissed out of hand by Oaks as a “preposterous claim”.
Comment: I wish they would actually take this criticism seriously. Perhaps they don’t see it, but the sheeple almost worship these guys, and nothing is done to dispel that notion. They have become “rock stars” who quote themselves in circular fashion. 2 Nephi 26:29 comes to mind.
…priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.
When you see how unaccountable these men are in the running of the corporation, their perks, the closed books, not teaching us about the law of the celestial kingdom including consecration, and reveling in the adulation of the saints I wonder how this definition of priestcraft does not apply? Since discarding the notion that this church is currently led by a true prophet, I have focused so much more on Christ and his pure teachings. It has been so very liberating.
Finally, Oaks concluded with an appeal to authority.
“When you follow false prophets, you are on the wrong side”
The pattern of apostasy continues. We have researched these issues.
There are seducing spirits, don’t follow them.
Stand fast with the leadership of the church
There is no error in the teachings
Follow current leadership and we will stay on the path to eternal life.
Comment: With these statements the Brethren point us straight at…(wait for it) the Brethren. “Trust us” is the message. Where is the injunction to search these things out yourselves? Where is the trust in the holy spirit to reveal these things to the saints who sincerely seek? Where is the direction towards Christ and His light to understand what is going on in his church, defined in D&C 10:67 as those who repent and come unto Him.
Perhaps we should just conclude with these two scriptures from the Book of Mormon which basically sum up my critique:
2 Nephi 28:31
Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.
2 Nephi 9:41
… the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there…
I understand that the church felt the need to combat the influence of people like Denver. However, this event revealed that the modern Mormon church really has no firm argument to combat the problems with their claims of authority, and it is the first time that I know of where an apostle was actually willing to put himself out there instead of letting the apologists carry water for the church. It will be interesting to see where things go from here.