Sunday, 6 March 2016

Differences That Define Us

Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Amos 3:3. There is no question that our relations with the LDS Mormon Church and its membership along with other Mormon groups is less amicable than we would like them to be. Without a doubt This church believes that as religious neighbours we should endeavour to promote mutual good will and eliminate the hostile feelings between our faiths. It is the goal of The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ and its leadership to explain that although we wish there to be no ill feelings we are very different and we view the restored Gospel in a very different light, however we should not let these differences stand in the way of mutual good will and cooperation.
The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ like the LDS Mormons and other Mormon groups believe in the restoration of the church of Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith. So in considering this we have at least this in common as distinguished from all other so-called Christian denominations, a belief in “the Restoration” of the church of Jesus Christ. This is an important point that is so often overlooked when we discuss our faith with others, there are many things we agree upon but lots that we do not and these things can seem to us any way as massive insurmountable hurdles that can not be overlooked. However let us for a moment remember that we hold in common the restoration of the church of Jesus Christ as given through the prophet Joseph Smith.
Let us therefore look at the revelations contained within the seminal works of the Prophet and the early church. We all believe in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, although we differ radically in our understanding of some of its teachings. We all accept and publish many of the revelations given through the Prophet Joseph Smith in our respective versions and editions of the Doctrine and Covenants. However differences come in here at two points. First, the LDS Mormons include in their book some sections, most notably a purported revelation on celestial or plural marriage (Section 132) that we challenge deeply, indeed that we proclaim it to be fraudulent and not written by the prophet at all. Secondly, our Doctrine and Covenants continues as an open canon of Scripture and we have added and continue to add revelations as they come to us from time to time from the Lord through the prophet of the church. Many other Mormon and restored braches do not even hold the Doctrine and Covenants as scripture and many do not use it and many believe it is a dead book meant for another age. Many Mormons in many restored churches have added nothing to their book of revelations that has been received by them including the LDS Mormons who have done little to add to it at all with the noted exception of the declarations which are published as revelations. However there remain some that have added to this book, but I would argue that many do not have a living prophet at the head of their churches and so no medium is in place for the Lord to send revelations unto them for their churches.
Let us now look at the subject of the Gospel.  On the surface, all Mormon faiths or churches believe in and affirm the fundamental principles of the gospel, all of them make these the basis of their missionary work and the basis of their statements of faith and doctrinal belief. However many differences develop soon when these Mormons deviate from the doctrines laid down in the Doctrine & Covenants and do things contrary to the will of God. For example one of the  biggest principles that we disagree with is set forth in the LDS Mormon church and embraced by many other Mormon faiths. It is the doctrine of celestial marriage, including polygamy, and this is indeed added revelation of  their doctrine, as a new and everlasting covenant, through which salvation and exaltation are assured, whereas we hold that the principles of the gospel referred in the standard works are themselves quite adequate to assure salvation and any degree of exaltation possible and this can be achieved through righteous living in obedience to the will of God contained within the standard works of the church and those written in the life time of the prophet Joseph Smith. It must be remembered that any new revelations would not contradict those already given but rather testify of them and support them in their doctrinal basis.
What then of Zion?  Well all of the Mormon faiths and churches that I have come across have a major objective in mind when they say the word Zion. However many have opposite views on what this means and what this stands for. Many of us have come to differ over the question of location, meaning and purpose, at least temporarily it would seem so. For the LDS Mormons, since their settlement in Utah, they have designated it as Zion, indeed any place that a stake is established is called Zion hence the doctrine that Zion is any place that the saints can be found. This is of course contrary to what was said and written by the prophet. Other restored churches or restoration churches hold that Zion has passed that it was and is for another age, that the church found itself unworthy to fulfil that promise and it is now over. We on the other hand hold to the position that Missouri in the United States was and still is designated as Zion, with Independence as the central gathering place for the saints and the people of the church, and that the revelation is specific on this and as God spoke it can not be wished or washed away to suite our present circumstances. For we read “Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered. They that remain, and are pure in heart shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:4).   It is only fair to add that we look beyond the immediate horizon to a time when Zion shall be established in Missouri. It would seem that at the present time many are content to be left alone doing what they see fit, either writing of the concept of Zion our as the LDS have done have found themselves content to entrench themselves in Utah as far as their spiritual headquarters and commercial interests are concerned and have talked of it and thought of it as their Zion, while we and many others of the Mormon faith have given immediate attention to gathering in the place designated as Zion and are this very day endeavouring to develop the conditions that will lead to a Zionic life and settlement now, not in a distant far off time but now.  My point is it would seem that there is a starting point of common belief for many Mormon faiths and groups, however on the whole we have many developing differences that instead of bringing us together keep us apart.
One of the biggest differences and one that is fundamental to our lives as Latter Day Mormons is our understanding of the character and nature of God. I don't know of any Mormon faith that does not join with us in the initial statement of the Epitome of Faith drafted by Prophet Joseph in which it says “ We believe in God the Eternal Father.” However as we endeavour to interpret and understand the character of God there comes the widest imaginable divergence in views between many of us and one that can seem like a hurdle that is to high to over come. As Latter Day Mormons we take the view and the opinion of God as given to us in the scriptures as eternally unchangeable, and we assume that there can be no other view taken, but we know this is not true. Many of our Mormon friends in many other churches take a very different view. There has been a saying among many Mormons for many years that has polluted and distorted the very nature of God, this saying is “As man is, God once was, as God is, man may become.” This very statement given by LDS Mormon representatives has been official doctrine since its inception not just for them but for other Mormon faiths and churches as well and has continued to be carried down to current generations to this very time. It accounts for more problems amongst Mormon sects than any others doctrine I believe. It is a point that in many respects keeps us from uniting and will do for as long as it is accepted by those that teach it.  In his book entitled The Articles of Faith James E. Talmage, author makes the following statement, “We believe in a God who is himself progressive. In spite of the opposition of all other sects, in the face of direct charges of blasphemy, the church proclaims the eternal truth, ‘As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become’” (pages 442,443).   Another LDS Mormon church authority John A. Widtsoe, stated in a book for the Melchizedeck priesthood, given by the General Priesthood Committee, “As man is, God once was” (page 25). In this same vain they have taught but no longer believe that Adam was God that he came here with eve ,one of his many wives and that he made the world and came in to being as a man, the Adam-God theory as it is called is still taught by many Mormon groups and held as a true doctrine by many Mormon faiths and does a lot to stop our union one with another. In deed we read in Brigham Young’s theology the particular man who progressed to the stature and power of God was Adam:   "When our father Adam came into the Garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days, about whom holy men have written and spoken, he is our father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do." (Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, Volume 1, page 50). This doctrine is evil and blasphemous and should not be taught by any Mormons whatever their faith. many will claim they have rescinded it and it is no longer taught, however anyone who has been through a temple in the LDS Mormon faith knows that much of this is still taught and the essence is still believed the doctrine of a progressive God is still very much alive. Let us therefore let our attention rest on the position that many Mormon faiths hold that God is progressive and has climbed up from man’s stature and station. This view would argue that at one time He God our Father was an experimenting, blundering personality, that He passed that stage of evolution and it would also carry the weight of the argument that it is a possibility of an ensuing process of devolution, that He could therefore begin a process of decline in power and wisdom, such an idea is absurd and heretical that it blows out of the water any teaching of Joseph Smith to the extent that Joseph was not a prophet, that he did not understand the nature of God at all and that the lectures on faith that he brought forth were and are just a footnote in the history of the Mormon movement, not worth the paper they are written on.
To some it might seem a little absurd that it matters what view we take on the question of God, since we cannot change God’s nature, whatever it may be, but we believe sincerely that it matters very much. Let us not forget that our entire Mormon thought and philosophy of conduct is shaped by our fundamental beliefs concerning God. It must be understood that such differing views as those held by the many of the Mormon and restoration churches inevitably results in vastly different systems of theology. If we think of God as progressive, feeling his way through eternity, his personal attitudes and his laws undergo radical and irreconcilable changes. However if we believe in an unchangeable God, as the scriptures tell us he is, both old and new, we expect his laws and we find ourselves not deviating from the fundamental principles laid down  to us in holy writ. Let us consider what is written in the scriptures “I am the Lord, I change not.” (Malachi 3:6)  “There is a God in heaven...from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God.” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:4)  Book of Mormon: “He changeth not, if so, he would cease to be God.” (Book of Mormon). It would seem that the law on God our Father has been written and was given by holy write, and so could not be challenged, at least it is not challenged by us, but unfortunately it is not the same for all Mormon sects.
The biggest problem, the biggest issue witch separates many Mormons still today is the law set down by Brigham Young, that is the doctrine of polygamy which was publicly proclaimed in Salt Lake City in 1852. It is clear that the early church during the days of Joseph Smith never officially received or sanctioned the doctrine or practice of polygamy, it is no longer in dispute that Joseph fought all his life along with Emma to stamp out this evil and vile practice. But still today this issue plagues us and stops much work being done. We must remember that much of the damage was done by the LDS Mormon church, it took eight years after Joseph's death for Brigham Young to bring this doctrine before his people and he layed it before them as a hidden revelation given to Joseph Smith, July 12, 1843. He claimed to have kept this document secretly after the death of Joseph Smith until he chose to make it public. In Brighams own words he stated "This revelation has been in my possession many years, and who has known it? None but those who should know it. I keep a patent lock on my desk, and there does not anything leak out that should not" (Supplement to Millennial Star, Volume 15, page 31)   Unable to produce the original document, he declared that Emma Smith had burned it (Millennial Star Supplement, Volume 15, page 30). To this Emma Smith replied that she had never seen such a document, and added concerning the story that she had destroyed the original "It is false in all its parts, made out of whole cloth, without any foundation in truth" (Church History, Volume 3, page 352). We vigorously maintain that no word from the pen of Joseph Smith was favourable to polygamy, that no authentic publication representing the church on this issue was published prior to his death. We also state that the teachings of the Standard Books of the church all encourage monogamy in all its forms, these books include the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Inspired Version of the Bible, and the latest book of scripture the Book of Jeraneck, all of these apart from the Bok of Jeraneck he left to the Mormon faith as its law, presumably representing his own mind and will as well as the mind and will of God. Furthermore, the official organ of the church, the Times and Seasons, shortly before his death, contained his signed denunciation of polygamy and notice of expulsion from the church of one who had advocated it (Times and Seasons, Volume 5, page 423, see also Volume 5, page 474; Volume 5, pages 490,491). 
In an interwiew given in 1857 by officials of the reorganised church the wife of the prophet Emma Smith stated “I was threatened by Brigham Young because I opposed and denounced his measures and would not go west with them. At that time, they did not know where they were going themselves, but he told me that he would yet bring me prostrate to his feet. My house was set on fire several times, and one time wood was piled up at the side of the house and set afire. It burned the siding considerably and went out before we discovered it. It was either set on fire, or by accident or carelessness caught afire a number of times, and went out of itself when we did not discover it and put it out; but I never had any fear that the house would bum down as long as the Inspired Translation of the Bible was in it. I always felt safe when it was in the house, for I knew it could not be destroyed.” . The Interviwer Edmund C. Briggs was also present when his bother, Jason Briggs, asked Sister Emma about the purported revelation on polygamy, published by Orson Pratt in 1852, and she again denied that her husband ever taught polygamy, or that she ever burned any manuscript of a revelation purporting to favour polygamy, and that “the statement that I burned the original of the copy Brigham Young claimed to have, is false, and made out of whole cloth, and not true in any particular. I  never saw anything purporting to be a revelation authorizing polygamy until I saw it in the Seer, published by Orson Pratt.” Several were present at the time, and I shall never forget the candid manner of her expression when she, without a single hesitancy, with honesty and truthfulness marking her countenance, gave the lie to Brigham Young’s assertion on the twenty-ninth of August 1852 in Salt Lake City, when he said, “The original of this revelation was burned up.... Sister Emma burned the original. The reason I mention this is because that the people who did know of the revelation, supposed it was not now in existence.” Mark the thought: “The people who did know of the revelation, supposed it was not now in existence.” (Early History of the Reorganization, Apostle Edmund C. Briggs, pp. 88, 93-95).
In closing I would like to say that today there remain many issues which unite us but far more that divide us. I have heard the argument that many of these issues can only be solved once the Saviour returns and then we will all know the truth and embrace the change, however I do not agree with this. While Christ, the Son of God walked the earth there were many that knew who he was n had that witnessed to them and still did not follow him, indeed some even betrayed and helped to murder him, let us not forget that Peter, probably one of Christ's most ardent followers denied him thrice. I think it is a massive miss calculation to say that our problems can only be solved when He returns, it gives us an excuse to continue on the paths we are on, it allows us to indulge in our own self importance and our own egos, but most of all it allows us the continue to be divided and weak. We must learn that when God calls a man to stand as a prophet of God under the conditions laid down in holy scripture it is for a reason, to set right what has been wrong for so long. We must lay aside our egos and our pride if we are ever to fulfil the wish of the Lord in uniting the Mormon faith and redeeming Zion, because if we fool ourselves in to waiting for the perfect time and the perfect place and He who shall come in triumph through the skies then it will never be done and we shall stand accountable before Him at the last day. I for one proclaim this is His work and His glory and we ought to be about the work of doing that work, or what else are we other than those professing to be of Christ but in their heats are men of the world full of pride and puffed up unto their own importance. The call for unity must go forth and it has gone forth today from this pulpit, that we must unite or fall. Let us not fall, but unite under the banner of God and lay to rest our differences and bring in to being what is written before us in Holy Scripture.
In the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen
Prophet & First Elder Matthew P. Gill

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