TWO PATHS IN THE WOODS… AGAIN:
I discovered an amazing LDS-oriented website back in 2004. I have learned a lot from the articles published there. My faith in the omnipotence and omniscience of my Heavenly Father has been strengthened, increased and invigorated by what the author has taught. Let’s call him Daniel. Truth-seeker that I am, I even bought Daniel’s book. I thought that was a better option than printing out his whole website! I emailed him once or twice, and was surprised and delighted that I got a response. I wasn’t expecting that.
Fast-forward to last month, December 2016. There are a few places on the web that I check out every so often. On that day I decided to stop by Daniel’s website. I hadn’t been there for a while. Just as I’d hoped, there was some brand new material there, and I dove right into it. I was amazed at how pertinent and relevant this new post was to my current situation. I was awed at how it related to a lot of significant events in my past. With feelings of deep gratitude to the Lord, and marveling once again at the kind workings of His hand, I wrote Daniel another email. My friend wrote me back. It was apparent from his kind response that my letter had been well and sensitively received. I was glad. I had been hoping for that.
There was one statement in his email that I just couldn’t stop thinking about. It puzzled me. I’d never heard of such a thing. It kept returning to my thoughts until it was there constantly. What could Daniel possibly have meant? He wrote,
“I believe the Lord [has called] another prophet, outside of the Church hierarchy, to help restore again what Joseph did. Think of how Samuel the Lamanite preached on the wall. He was from the wrong side of the tracks, and was the wrong color, but he spoke truth. When he did, the official prophet (3 Nephi) did not say, “Hey, this is my turf. Any revelations for this people can only come through me.” On the contrary, he was grateful that another prophet had been called to preach repentance to his wayward people. The modern LDS are also a wayward people, that could use a call to repentance.”
So I dared to write back again. I use the term, dare, because I wanted to know who this prophet was, but I wasn’t sure that Daniel was going to tell me that. He did, though. I was very surprised by Daniel’s answer. I had already heard of Denver Snuffer. Upon knowing the identity of this “prophet”, the dissonance that had so rattled my mind disappeared. Denver Snuffer is the newest plant in a long succession of flowers that have voluntarily sprung up upon the walls of Temple Square. He is no Samuel the Lamanite, either. How do I know this? Because of the relationship. Remember, Daniel described it to me as being like unto the mutually sustaining relationship between Samuel the Lamanite and the official prophet, Nephi. Such a relationship between Snuffer and the LDS Church simply does not exist.
PROPER RELATIONSHIP: Never in my life have I ever, ever heard any living apostle or prophet to the entire Church disparage a colleague in the Quorum or First Presidency. I define a colleague as one who shares their mission of being an authorized special witness of Jesus Christ. Never in my life have I ever heard any LDS prophet or apostle disparage the reputation or work of a past prophet or apostle. This sustaining loyalty has a breadth and depth that extends all the way back to Adam in Eden. This quality of true loyalty in brotherhood is peculiar to the fellowship of the called, ordained and authorized prophets and apostles of God. It is seen no where else in the world. It is not seen among false prophets or between false prophets and true prophets. This pattern does not change. I derive a sense of security from being within the circle of apostolic/prophetic unity and continuity that these, my friends, have nurtured and defended.
PROPER AUTHORITY: Furthermore, I am bold to say that in the Kingdom of God there IS a “turf”. There IS an ultimate authority who runs the place and HE decides who his leaders are. Otherwise, there is no order. Otherwise, how can there be a willingness to follow, let alone a certainty to continue? If there is no certain authority, there can be no courage, no confidence to remain until the end. Without such confidence, how can any sincere follower become a disciple? The difference between a disciple and a follower is that only the disciple desires to discipline himself to such an extent that he attains his goal of becoming almost indistinguishable from the example he’s chosen to follow for that purpose. It’s almost like what you see happen in the elimination process to become an elite Navy Seal or an Army Ranger. That process consists of an individual being willing to do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, whenever he’s asked, however it’s to be done, at whatever the cost asked to attain the desired prize. Only the candidates who are willing to die unto themselves are the ones who become something else than they were when they started (Revelations 12:11) .
“Who are we really at our core? I don’t know , you know, who I’m gonna discover is inside of me at the end of this! I know I feel resistance. Even when I am bursting forth with the most joyful gratitude, a part of me is still missing my home. Missing the old me. I am dying many deaths daily.”
– Callie, Season 3, History Channel’s Alone, Episode 01-05
The apostle Matthew thought the issue of authority was important enough to mention in holy writ. So did the prophet Joseph Smith. In the account in Matthew 7:28-29 Jesus is described being one who astonishes the people with his doctrine, “For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Oh, do you mean, the scribes (as in, today’s LDS Brethren?) were angrily saying to Jesus (as in, poor, persecuted Snuffer), Hey, this is my turf. Any revelations for this people can only come through me? NOPE. It was Jesus, the authorized Jehovah of the Old Testament and ordained Messiah of the New Testament, who was saying Hey, this is my turf to the scribes! More than once, Jesus clearly taught the actual truth that the scribes had no authority (John 2:16). At least no authority deriving from Him.
This flip-flop trip of logic is a classic move among people who love and make a lie (D&C 76:103). The offender accuses the innocent of that which he is guilty of himself. He lays all his own blame upon them so that he might walk away “free”. It is a key. It is a type. It is a red flag that something devilish is going down (Moroni 7:11-14). Or about to. Joseph Smith’s translation of the same passage just seconds the witness of Matthew: “For he taught them as one having authority from God, and not as having authority from the scribes.” Um, YUP. Totally what I just said. Who wants to exercise an empty authority that comes from the authority-less? Who wants to parade around with broken branches in their hands and convince people that they’re a forest? Why would I want to sneak around surreptitiously with people who don’t know the forest for the trees?
As for Daniel, I could see from the way his response was worded that he was hoping for our conversation to continue. What was I going to do now?
What was I going to do now? With deep concern for his welfare, I wrote back to my friend Daniel again. There are few more tragic sights than a fallen lighthouse. And when that fallen lighthouse is a respected, trusted leader, it is a shock to the whole congregation. There are few griefs greater to behold than the tragedy of a life wrecked upon the shore.
But what about when you are that lighthouse? A skeleton of what you once were, who must still stand there, what’s left of you, and see what a negative affect your inconstancy has made on others? There are few sorrows more painful to bear. I know this because I was a fallen lighthouse once. I remember how badly I disappointed and hurt so many people. I betrayed a woman who had fully befriended and welcomed me into her home. When all the rubble was laid out and exposed – not the debris of my destruction, but of hers – there was nothing I could do. There was no rewind button to undo the horror of the consequences of my acts. There was no different ending to the story. (That’s why the Veggie Tales video, King George and the Ducky, makes me cry. There once was a man, a very rich man, but I can’t give back the ducky like George could.)
And what of my maternal grandmother, for whom I am named? I watched her struggle between loving me, being deeply ashamed of me, being angry with me and trying to forgive me. That she had to spend any of her sunset days in pain because of me is ridiculous.
I had never comprehended what a ripple effect my actions really had. I learned the truth that I am not my own. Whether our acts are good or bad, what we do does affect others. Otherwise, where did the disillusionment come from that was now on the face of the young YW Laurel who had once looked up to me? I’d never meant to lose that light in Annette’s eyes which filled her countenance with light whenever we met up. I’d never thought the mutual excitement and happiness that we felt- just to be around each other – would ever go away. Non-members who knew me at work and at school were shocked, some even lost total esteem for me, permanently. I could go on with more stories, but I’ll spare you. What was left when all the respect, esteem and easy association had fled – offended – was just me: in the ashes, surrounded by avoidance, disregard and uncomfortable silences. Alone.
I do not want this kind of sorrow and regret to happen to Daniel. Marvelous Daniel! My friend who has taught me so much that has enriched my understanding and increased my joy in the Gospel! No wonder Denver Snuffer would want him. Only the Spirit of Truth brings the kind of joy I’ve felt, learning from the study, faith and testimony of my friend, in the writings he has shared online. This spirit is recognizable once you’ve felt it enough times. I know Daniel believes in the power and planning of God, and how beautiful it is! I know he believes in the divine calling and mission of the prophet Joseph Smith. I felt this witness by the power of the Holy Ghost and it has strengthened my own testimony of the same things.
But the Spirit of Truth is not our property to take for granted. He has an agency of his own, and when offended, He will flee way from us. He will flee even if you are a child of the covenant; a member of the House of Israel, an elect lady or a choice spirit. That does not make you bullet-proof.
The remainder of this post is taken from and elaborates (a lot!) upon the third email I wrote to my friend Daniel. Considering the other posts that are on this website, I have felt impressed to share these thoughts now. I don’t know entirely why it is important to speak out now, but I have some idea. In the crashing waves of all the current attacks upon my Church and it’s prophets and apostles, I am to stand as a witness. Not because I am anyone particularly special but because I have a perspective that comes from an experience that, thankfully, only a minority of people have had. I will be relating parts of the fiery story of my excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the roots of the reason for my return to it. I am sharing my story to make it crystal clear to anyone who might wonder – when they survey the ashes that such fires left behind in my soul – what was still wick. And still is.
TWO PATHS: AUTUMN 2014
Around the time that my teenage son left to go live with my ex-husband, I ran into a video on YouTube which really disturbed me. I had never known before that time to what extent Joseph Smith had practiced polygyny. I thought he had only been married to Emma and Eliza. Even more shocking to me were accounts of the prophet Joseph marrying adolescent girls and women who were already married. Nor had I ever heard before, outside of the account of Mary Fielding Smith blessing her ox (which I heard in Primary), anything at all about how many LDS women had gone about doing laying on of hands and pronouncing blessings. It had apparently been practiced to a larger degree than I had ever imagined. I distinctly remember being taught that Mary had blessed her cow herself, but now that story seemed to have been erased and rewritten to say that she had prayed for the animal and called the brethren to administer. Maybe I’d remembered it wrong, but I didn’t think so. I had been impressed by that very “Little Red Hen” detail as a girl. The YouTube video said that LDS women had “exercised priesthood authority”and I made the mistake of believing it.
Perhaps losing my son was the trigger that hit an inward line of dominos that I did not know were unanchored, but in any case, this Church History bombshell shook me to my very foundations. My grief, shock and betrayal over my son tore in one direction. My feelings of shock and betrayal by Joseph himself, on a personal basis, tore in another direction, for I thought that I had already put in the work and had the experiences to bear a bonafide personal testimony of his divine call and character. My bewilderment at the seeming Church coverup and back-peddling with the Women and the Priesthood issue threatened to break up what was left of me: downward and out, like a hole in a piñata . A sense that Karma had come for a well-deserved and extended visit pervaded every feeling of my heart. Over the entire scene flew a banner that seemed to say, “For Elizabeth. Now you will know how she felt”. I thought I was done paying for that. I thought I had done all my priesthood brethren had allowed and advised me to do in seeking forgiveness. (Which was: nothing. I was told it was best that I never approached her. She had requested it, and they said she couldn’t handle it.) In summary, I felt like someone had stuck their hand into my chest and grabbed hold of my heart. The very core of my soul was being violently squeezed, twisted and tugged like someone wanted to wrench it completely out of my body.
My heart screamed that losing Willard was perhaps a greater test and trial than that which had been asked of Abraham. For Abraham had been asked to have the faith to sacrifice his son to the Lord. I was being asked to sacrifice my son to the Devil, or at least to the man who is his servant in my life. I was asked to accept my powerlessness. I was asked to passively do nothing but allow my son and my ex-husband to exercise their moral agency. I was being asked to exercise true love for my son and truer loyalty to God (1 Kings 3:25-26); not just in admiring the scriptural account of someone else’s story, but in word and deed. In real life. My life.
This impasse was the culmination of a steadily increasing, 12-month power struggle between my son and us: Jeff and I, his parents. My son was insisting that we choose his way, with him as boss, or our way, with God as boss. I had long suspected that my son was surreptitiously communicating with my ex-husband on a regular basis. He was so changed, so bitter. I believed he was allowing himself to be carefully deceived, coached and led along a downward path. Didn’t he know me by now? How could my son do such an about-face, after just a month of visitation alone with the ex, when I was his mother, who had sacrificed so much for his safety and preservation from evil? Everything had the familiar scent of my ex-husband’s stink. This was exactly the same choice I had been posed by the same evil man, years before: Choose me or choose God and his authorized leaders.
It felt like being trapped in a theater audience, duct-taped and gagged in a chair while being forced to watch a nightmarish new production of a play I had already starred in and almost died from. Lights On! Curtains Up! Out of the shadows, there he was! The same actor, my abuser, back in the villain’s role once again. Only this time the leading role had gone to my son. This time I was the one being betrayed, forsaken and abandoned. Again. Only in a brand new way. “In its belly, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a…thousand years.“Congratulations to me! At the same time I was being asked by the Lord, through his prophets and the scriptures and the Spirit, to remain with Him, his Church and his Leaders and maintain my faith in them all.
This was hard. I could not understand why God had allowed my personal demon to remain alive in the first place. What was His purpose? To wreck the lives of more LDS women, as my ex-husband kept remarrying unknowing ones? To incite my son into performing what, to me, felt like his own spiritual self-immolation? To refine me further by bringing the destroyer back into my life, to endure more of his persecution? To lose to him in Court for the first time ever, only to watch him swagger and strut a grinning victory lap around my rebuilt life which he had just dive-bombed? I thought God had helped me escape this heel-bruiser. I thought my children and I were finally safe, or at least nearly there. There were just a few more years to go until that serpent’s hold upon our lives would be crushed to death. Yet here was the horrifying sequel, on the wide screen, playing over and over again: You Knew What I Was When You Picked Me Up, Part II (Micah 6:7).
So I “fell down the rabbit hole” at that point. But I fought allowing myself to fall as far as I had plummeted in my youth. My son left us on Halloween day, an ironic fact which Karma so incessantly pointed out; like a crow, cawing inside of my head. Within a month of my son’s departure, through gifts that came by the Spirit, including a sacred dream, my husband and the Lord gave me divine comfort. I was able accept my son’s loss with faith and hope. ( I am still working on the charity part.) I am thankful that God deemed to lift this burden from off of my shoulders. A test will not be required of me, after all. Or maybe I passed it. I had not expected that. I know the burden has not just disappeared. I know that Someone has shouldered it for me. I am thankful that my Savior took my burden up so soon this time. I know that in regard to the issue of my son, the Atonement has allowed me to bear a song of peace and assurance away.
However, the other issues, about the practices of the early LDS Church, were not taken away. They swirled around in my brain and drove deep, like constant corkscrews, into the core of my heart. Here were deeply personal trigger issues: misogyny, unrighteous dominion, and deceit. Worst of all, the fall of a lighthouse: my Joseph. Furthermore, my old wounds had only just begun to heal over, again. They fester back up, time and again when incidents occur to pick at them. I’d worked out and gotten over that last bout of grief, but here it came again: the good old boys club. Yes, accounts of prominent male adult LDS Priesthood leaders who knowingly and deliberately abuse their power to oppress members, especially naive, trusting Latter-day Saint female members – young, old, married, single, whatever – because they could …and getting away with it.
If these things were true, then it appeared that Joseph was nothing more than a David Koresh. Which meant that my ex-husband had, as the Primary song says, only been “following the prophet”. THIS! NOT THIS! After all that has happened to me in this Church, and all that I have suffered to return to it, why did I have to find THIS. If these accounts turned out to be true, I was ready to leave the Church. Not to leave Christ, but I’d definitely be leaving all organized religion. I had become converted to Christ during my excommunication; I knew that I had. I guess I had thought that Joseph and the Church were secured in my testimony too! I had been taught that Joseph restored that which was lost to the earth, because the true Church of Jesus Christ, which he established under the authority of his called and ordained apostles, had been lost altogether. I believe this. Therefore, if the Church which made these claims wasn’t true, too, then none of them were! None of them could be believed as being pure and true. I would be done.
It wasn’t until finding scriptures.byu.edu , over a year after Willard left, that my freefall of disillusionment finally stopped (D&C 50:7). It stopped because I sought to stop it. It stopped because I sought, I fought, to find something, anything, TRUE to hold on to. I sought, because there were too many things which I did know to be true, which did originate from the Lord. The biggest miracle among all of them being the crown jewel of my temple marriage to Jeff and the connected significance of the day we became engaged: my birthday. I can not deny that the power of God was in it, every step of the way, just as His Hand has been involved in the events of all the rest of my treasures of testimony. The Spirit repeatedly bears witness of the truths of these blessings to me, and all of them have occurred in connection with this Church and its prophets and apostles.
I repeat: This spiritual darkness had to be actively FOUGHT. There was something, some power, actively hurling a battering ram at the fort of my faith, hard. Something was laying siege to the gates of my soul with all of the strength that it had. This presence felt wrathful, and it felt deeply personal. Like it knew me, and I was definitely its intended target. These mists of darkness arose and pursued after me constantly for over a year. I could not shake them; they dogged and hovered all around me, never going far away. I did not leave the Church or resign my calling as a Relief Society teacher, though sometimes I really wanted to. I struggled between the things I knew by the witness of the Holy Ghost, the things I did not know, and the things I thought I had understood but was now questioning. How could I stand in front of anyone, let alone a group of nourishment-expecting LDS women, and not feel like a hypocrite? How could I expect the Spirit to confirm anything I taught to my students when I no longer felt totally, trustingly, unquestioningly on-board?
It was only by turning to prayer and scripture study every day, every day, every day that I was protected and preserved. Yes, I am talking study not reading,and for hours, not minutes, every.single.day. Without it, the sadness swooped down like salivating Dementors. With it was the only way I could even nominally function as a person, as a wife, as a mother, as a member and as a teacher. For so many of my old demons came back, to see if they might not be able to enter in again. Doubt. Depression. A sense of losing my way. A feeling of by being divinely denied progression or the opportunities necessary to complete my mission. King among these visitors was one of my oldest enemies, that persevering “satanic home teacher”: my old desire to commit suicide.
The answers to my fears, doubts and questions didn’t come right away, but some understanding did come. For example, I learned that while the early sisters of the Church pronounced blessings, it was not the same as bearing the Priesthood. I learned this for myself by going back and reading the old accounts of this practice. I also read accounts from their contemporaries, other leaders in the Church, to try and get my bearing on what the circumstances and situations of those times were. I knew I could not judge the issue righteously otherwise. In terms of the wives, I went and read the words of Joseph for myself, instead of getting them through an interpreter provided by enemy forces. By the power of the Holy Ghost, including noting how I felt when I read, I discerned what was true and what wasn’t for myself.The Ordain Women movement doesn’t get it; maybe because they don’t want to. Yes, some of my questions haven’t been answered completely… yet. But that’s okay. What I do know is that the Holy Ghost is with me as I study. He helps me understand enough for that day, and that is enough for me (Luke 11:3).
I sometimes feel like some members of the Church who attend meetings with me inwardly believe that I am some kind of self-righteous scripture-spouting snob. I honestly try to keep my mouth shut and not talk in Sunday School so much because I know how much some Church members didn’t like my scriptorian mother. Too late. I am my mother’s daughter. I feel like I am treated the same way she was, and is. My church associates do not understand that my knowledge came from my need. They do not see that if I do wear a self-made, seemingly flashy Coat of Many Colors, it is only a patchwork life jacket. It was not made overnight. It was stitched and glued together, agonizing piece by piece. If I seem to be a scriptorian, it is only because I learned about the fabric or came to know something of the pieces when I cut them out and sewed them together. Handle me and see. And the fabric, thread, needle and glue did not come from me at all.
So in 2014 a gaping hole had been torn into my calico breastplate. Again. It was my despairing that had opened the pit, and I could not close it up again. At the bottom, there they were, waiting, just like before: the jaws of hell, still gaping wide after me. This was a Test, a Test. Only yet another Test. I just knew it. I could feel it. But I had fought Old Scratch before, and this time, I knew how to win:
THE WORST DECADE OF MY LIFE:
An Earlier Battle
“There is no question but what the thing you have done… deserves severe punishment. You might have killed yourself…but much worse than that, you have injured your own character. A [woman’s] character is like [her] house. If [she] tears boards off [her] house and burns them to keep [herself] warm and comfortable, [her] house soon becomes a ruin. If [she] tells lies to be able to do the things [she] shouldn’t do but wants to, [her] character will soon become a ruin. A [woman] with a ruined character is a shame on the face of the earth… I might give you a hard thrashing; if I did, you would possibly remember the thrashing longer than you would remember the injury you have done yourself.”
– Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers, by Ralph Moody.
In my second year of college, events took turn in my personal life that I found absolutely intolerable and incomprehensible. I became angry with the Lord and convinced myself that He did not care about me. I stopped trusting Him, stopped praying, stopped reading my scriptures because I could not comprehend how He could have ignored my pleas, prayers and yearnings for something decent and good. I had wanted so badly to be married to a certain LDS young man. After playing with my affections for months, he chose to make my birthday the day when he drew a clear line in the sand, cutting off all my hopes of a future for us. I had not yet learned the difference between real and counterfeit love, so this experience was more wounding than it should have been. I had also not yet learned the lesson that the Lord has His own timetable for granting righteous desires and blessings. The Lord will also violate no one’s agency, so we should not expect to have more power than He does.
When I was excommunicated at the age of 20, I was not even endowed. My ex had encouraged me not to attend my Bishop’s Court, though he attended his own Stake-level disciplinary council. So I didn’t (Moses 5:13, 1 Nephi 8:34). I now believe he did this with guile, at his wily age of 49, because he knew much more than I did about the mechanics and politics of these procedures. And it surely would not do for me to discover at my own disciplinary court (as witnessing brethren have told me since then), that he falsely laid all the blame on me at HIS disciplinary court.
His lie was the opposite of the real truth that nobody recognized: I had been pursued by, went to the stake president for help to try to escape from but yet had fallen into the hands of a predatory, endowed, married high priest, who was serving as counselor in a bishopric. This is a man who, though having been sealed in the temple, had already chosen to cheat on his eternal companion during their marriage at least once before. He withheld that information from his leaders for over 20 temple-recommend-holding years. When he finally did disclose it (an action which he told me he regretted and would not do again if he could go back) he was shown mercy . But all he remembered was the humiliation from his peers in the Priesthood and the wrath of his wife. He resentfully told me that she was still holding a grudge against him. ,Without bothering to ask a word of her, I believed him. I let his false belief that her feelings were unreasonable be planted and grow in my mind.
The truth is that this is a man who has obtained PHENOMENAL mercy! I even dare to call it unmerited mercy, but since he has never received it, as demonstrated by his acts and fruits toward me, it makes no difference. As taught by President John Taylor, there is a consequence specifically named in the Doctrine and Covenants for committing adultery within the New and Everlasting Covenant. This son of God had had authorized Priesthood leaders who did not understand true mercy. They had supposed that the most beneficial judgment for the eternal best interests of this man was to ignore the Lord and not enforce the named consequence to a named act. So he was only disfellowshipped. Later on, in all of his machinations surrounding his pursuit of me, he told me that he believed that by not having been excommunicated the first time, he still had a “Get Out of Jail Free card to play around with.” I was aghast that he could say that, so flippantly. When the second time came around for him, ecclesiastical judgement was, again, that he was not the problem. At least, not the big problem. I was. I’ve always had the sense that I was overpunished. I’ve also felt that the only reason he was even excommunicated was to save face. I was, apparently, the siren who had lured and drowned their sailor, but because the incident was so widely known of in our stake, they couldn’t just ignore it this time. Everything written in italics in the following paragraph are things that were actually said to me.
To them, I was a temptress Eve who had harbored malicious premeditated designs and deliberately carried them out“. I was a home wrecker who had feigned righteousness the whole time she had been in the ward. These beliefs about me were not true. I am the daughter of a father who has served multiple times as a bishop, branch president, and high councilman. My mother is a 3rd-generation Latter-day Saint who has served with equal depth and height to her husband, and faithfully, in both local and stake auxiliary leadership. I guess the Church leaders judged that these successes could compensate for failure in the home! Despite witnesses from my home stake presidency, who knew the secret that there was little beauty all around at our house, my local leaders would hear none of it. I was, as my bishop called me, an evil seed. He considered me dangerous. He had to drive me somewhere in his truck once. With a hard glare, he firmly placed his briefcase upright on the seat between us, like I was some kind wild animal. Did he really see me as some kind of sex-starved vixen who could only be kept from jumping across the seat and ravishing him by the talisman of his magical luggage piece? I was, as he reminded me, a full-grown adult woman, not a YW. (I guess that that means we can cross statutory rape off of the list, too, then, right? To me, it really did felt like I was still a kid, though.) I should cherish no false hope, for I was a woman who deserved the full exercise of the ecclesiastical guillotine for her crimes. The reasons I remember my Bishop giving me for the choice of his council to excommunicate rather than disfellowship me were: You were taught and should have known better… The [young, hostile male] counselor from LDS Family Services says you were not abused, so you were not. You are just a liar… Everything was fine before you came here. You’ve wrecked my ward.
When my stake president first asked me to give an explanation for my behavior, (remember, I was the confessing whistle blower), I gave a tearful, fearful, full account which was, originally, fully accepted. What good he had judged of me was later reversed by my Bishop. I was summarily rejected; reviled, even. Having handed over the reins, my stake president always avoided me thereafter; even eye contact. Maybe he rejected me because he was tired. He was soon to be released. Maybe he felt like one of his counselors did, who, in the chapel one day, expressed his sorrow for my grandmother’s shame and then shared his relief that his upcoming release meant that he didn’t have to deal with me. I don’t want to touch your case with a 10-foot pole!! (Luke 10:31-32, Luke 7:39)
Never mind that though I had struggled under a well-meant but harsh upbringing, I was freely choosing as a young single adult in my freshman year of college, to remain active in the Church. Never mind that these church leaders now judging me so evil had asserted to they had been inspired by the Lord as trustworthy to teach and lead in Relief Society. Never mind that a later, female counselor from LDS Family Services said that I was the worse case of psychological abuse that she had seen in her entire career. Never mind that, with her help, I can now say without shame that I am a survivor of over 25 years of multiple forms of domestic abuse and neglect. In addition, I am a survivor of a medical sexual assault that occurred when I was a teenager. She suspected that this incident – along with another which happened in my 16th year – may even have been SRA related. My memory recall of that time and of first grade also fits the classic patterns indicative of this type of victimization. She blamed these unaddressed abuses as being the precursor for my involvement with and inability to extricate myself from the advances of my ex which led not only to premarital molestation and sex but to seven years of marital rape.
Never mind that inwardly, I was a mess. I was a vulnerable, troubled and young 18 with very little experience with boys when I met my ex. My 19th birthday was celebrated while living in his home. I was not as emotionally matured as I should have been. Never mind that I had blindly walked straight into the deep-end of a marriage whose problems were deep-rooted and decades-old. These problems were apparently well known in our ward and stake. Yet nobody made it their business to warn me. I was honestly as confused in my predicament as my leaders were. I chose both virtue and vice, and later, both lying and telling the truth. I was floundering around desperately, trying not to spiritually drown! Never mind that I was trying to discern between good and evil; between love and fear. Never mind that what was perplexing me the most was discerning the difference between true affection and selfishness masquerading as love; between longings and loyalties: Who was on what side? Never mind that a war was being fought between shrinking shame and daunting integrity; between excitement and confusion and remorse. Never mind that I had taken all these burdens that were getting to big for me and come to them for help.
Never mind that I had been blaming myself entirely for failing to resist the uncomfortable advances which I did not recognize at the time for what they were: predation and seduction. Instead, I loathed myself for my weakness and inability to stop it, resist or permanently escape. I hated myself for trusting his promises that if I would just let him “do this one thing”, he would leave me alone. But there always was another next “one thing”. I longed to die. I longed to take a knife…find the part of me which was betraying me by secretly enjoying the thrill of surreptitious subterfuge circling around ever-darkening behavior…and stab it to death.
Never mind the obvious 29-year age and maturity difference. Never mind that I was not a fully independent adult, but was kept in the legal condition of a dependent. I could not obtain parental permission to own or insure a car because of the expense to them. I did not have a drivers license. Though I received no financial help at all from them, they claimed me on their taxes. I could not qualify for financial aid. I had turned down a partial scholarship to BYU because they wanted me close to home my freshman year. So I worked two jobs. When my freshman year finished, my parents wanted me to return for the summer and work for them. The pay they offered wouldn’t even cover one semester of expenses and, having had a taste of life away from their house, I had NO intention of returning home: not then, maybe not ever.
These financial and mobility restrictions are why I ended up living with that couple from my college ward in the first place. Never mind that I was left alone, on my own with him, for hours and hours, day after day, to fight off his advances all by myself. His wife left early and worked late, too. Never mind that CITING HIS ROLE AS A COUNSELOR IN THE BISHOPRIC he took it upon himself to “take the burden off of the Bishop” and ecclesiastically “council” me about my issues with my parents. Never mind that this resulted in my spending even more time alone with him, all with the full knowledge of his wife, while she was home! Their marriage was so weird, I should have returned to campus. But I made the mistake of choosing to remain for the financial advantages and for the non-dormitory physical comforts of their house. Honestly, I also stayed because my living there upset my parents. I suspected this was because it lessened their control on me, and I was glad. O-pa!! Out of the frying pan, into the fire!
Never mind that I was, however imperfectly, the only brave or forthright one. As things got worse and worse, I was terribly afraid and ashamed to tell anyone, especially his wife. Nevertheless, after the blessing of a weekend where I babysat for an LDS family and got to be away from the constant presence of my abuser – a weekend where I pondered my situation, made a determination, and then prayed for help to carry it through – the Lord gave me the strength and courage to go to the Church. My bishop was out of town, and I was afraid I would be prevented by my abuser from returning later (remember, no car) or that I might just chicken out. So I made the disclosure to my stake president. Even this honest, tremendous action of courage was later construed by my bishop as being a sign of my “deceitful nature”. Never mind that my stake president made the mistake of not helping me to immediately remove from that house out in the country. In spite of knowing my torn feelings toward my ex, he admonished me to remain there. For some reason they “did not want to raise the suspicions” of the wife. My ex had begged and convinced him of the necessity of this condition. He promised our stake president that things between me and him would not escalate any farther than they already had in the 8 months I had lived there. But they did. I was honestly surprised at the counsel and afraid to go back there. But I did. My stake president said he believed my ex’s honor and promised me that I would remain safe. By remaining rather than fleeing, I ended up losing what I had come to the Church to protect and to save. Within 2 months time, it was gone. Never mind that anyone with even basic training in recognizing the signs of abuse would have seen that my behavior had all the markings of a prior victim of sexual abuse and exhibited characteristics of PTSD and the Stockholm Syndrome. So there was condemnation instead of compassion for me, as there should have been, regardless of what I had done. I liken my experience to that of Elizabeth Smart and her bedroom invader. This man would wait outside my door, all the time. Whether I was showering or sleeping , eating or watching TV, going back and forth to school and work, he was omnipresent. But my local leaders viewed things differently. I felt like, to them, I was nothing but an LDS Monica Lewinsky.
Never mind that I had a good record as a lifelong member of the Church. I was a seminary graduate and had been a youth YW leader. Here was a girl with a keen conscience, and a history of repentance. I had ALWAYS eventually come to the point of approaching my priesthood leaders to seek for counsel and direction or to make confession for minor sins that I felt were too major to handle alone. Never mind that I had never committed a major sexual transgression requiring a church court while this reprobate had done exactly that and in this very stake. As a matter of fact, my stake president had formerly been the bishop who had dealt with that very issue.
Despite all that I had done wrong, why did no one say, “But this is out of character for her. Why did she come to us and then become so hostile? What has happened to evoke such an about-face?!” In an environment of hostility, I was asked to explain myself, over and over. It was like my answer was not satisfactory and they wanted a different one. They were looking for something more, and I didn’t know what it was. My answer was not a self-excusing”Yes, I did this, but…”. It was a circumscribing “Yes, I did this, and…” (The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.) They reacted by saying I was trying to explain away my sins. Why did they ask for any explanation at all if they had already decided I was not to be trusted? Why was it decided that the someone who had to bear the greatest weight of blame and pay the highest price to scapegoat-piper was me? Were not all other parties involved older and temple-endowed while I was not? Hadn’t my ex also been raised in the Church by “goodly parents”?
Edmund versus Lucy
“There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”
– Professor Kirk, from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
CHURCH DISCIPLINARY COUNCILS
I was always taught that, while it was an event to be avoided by living righteously, disciplinary courts within the LDS Church were councils rooted in love. This was not my experience. Since becoming a parent of many children, I can understand how an authority figure might feel that they have a right to “righteous anger”, especially in the defense of an innocent daughter who has been hurt by her brother and sister. However, in doing this, we forget, ignore or misinterpret the model that our Heavenly Father himself provided.
The Genesis account of the Creation records how God conducted the very first church disciplinary council on earth (Genesis 1:9-24). There are many important reasons why the Gospel was restored. One of them is to bring back plain and precious truths which have been lost. Without the Restoration, we, like many in the rest of the world, might interpret God’s actions as monochromatic. We might only see the false impression we’ve all heard: of an angrily punishing Father whopping out just desserts upon a wicked Adam, evil Eve and damned Lucifer. We would, if it were not for the beauty of the colorization provided to us by the expanded account of the Creation and Fall as found in the Pearl of Great Price and the teachings of the prophets and apostles.
The most crucial element that was restored to the story of the Creation and the Fall was the central role of the Atonement. The promised future sacrifice of Christ gave Adam and Eve hope. Hope of salvation because it would happen. Hope of salvation because once it was accomplished, the Atonement would unblock the Way that they had closed off. The promised Atonement of Christ gave them joy. Joy in their Father’s love because they understood that they could have a part in it. Joy and rejoicing at the thought of being included in Christ’s payment, on condition of making and keeping personal covenants with the Lord.
Heavenly Father reacted lovingly to their confession and penitence. With compassion, our Righteous Judge immediately provided two further protective gifts: enmity and the coats of skins. He also immediately removed access to the Tree of Life. This was not to punish Adam and Eve, but to protect them until the time when they would be worthy and ready to eat that fruit again; much like how we protect our infants from eating honey. He knew that, sweet as it was, that if Adam and Eve partook of the fruit too early in their development, it would only cause them harm. So God did not harshly banish them, as so many suppose. God did not send them forth without first giving His presiding direction on how to return. God did not send them forth without first providing a comforting, covering coat for every moment of their journey. God did not send them forth without proper protection of enmity to guard us against another encounter, sure to come, with the Deceiver. It was only then, after mercifully binding up the wounds (D&C 121:43), that God justly and lovingly enforced the consequence he had promised from the beginning: that of being cut off from his presence for disobedience.
I wish, when I faced my judges, that they had centered our councils on Christ and his Atonement instead of what I had done. Instead of focusing on my actions and on their own anger with how my actions offended them, they could have focused on the Atonement and how it could be applied to me. If every one of our councils had really been saturated with the pure love of Christ, instead of aiming a laser beam at me, all of our meetings would have been centered on redemption and reclamation. I feel like they were focused on retribution, maybe even revenge. The Spirit of the Atonement IS redemption and reclamation.
I wish, when I had faced my judges, that the principle of counseling with our councils, which had initially been there, had not been abandoned. Though I would not have wished for it at the time – because I was afraid and wanted to hide from the reality of the consequences to my choices – I now wish this principle of counseling had been exercised in its righteous fullness. There was never a meeting where everyone concerned was present, across the board, as there was in the Garden. God, Adam, Eve and the Serpent formed a council. According to LDS belief, you might even call this a family council. Our Perfect Father discerned the different degrees of accountability among the different parties, even without the help of any confessions. His punishments were just, partly because they were unique to each individual. The divine consequences were enacted by the Lord in accordance with the faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice, accountability, works, integrity and virtue and circumstances of each person. I think the outcome of my trial and my life after it might have been different from the overkill that it became, had it not been commandeered by the spirit of contention. The degrees of accountability were not weighed in the balance. I don’t think they were even discerned. Nor did I feel like the the consequences carefully, let alone lovingly meted. Think how hard it would be for us now if God had arbitrarily decreed the same punishment for Adam and Eve as he gave to the Serpent.
This concept of our Father lovingly inflicting loving consequences for the purpose of the growth and restoration to wellness of his child appears repeatedly throughout scripture. The love shown at the disciplinary trial at the Garden of Eden was not an isolated, random event. It is the way our Father does things.
“Micah…God’s prophet… was warning Israel of the coming captivity. He used the authenticating prophecy of the Assyrian captivity of the Northern Kingdom (soon to occur when he foretold it) to serve as a reminder to Israel of God’s promised Kingdom. God wanted them to know that even though they would be taken from their land because of their disobedience that He would restore them in time… The verse states that as surely as Babylon would carry away the Judah, in the South, into captivity, so the Messiah would arrive at the Tower of the Flock.” (see Micah 4:7-8) – Rod Meldrum, Who Were the Shepherds In the Christmas Story?, accessed 16 Jan 2017.
RECEIVE THE POWER OF DISCERNMENT
Non-recognition of a social narcissist, in action: I now believe that, in indignant compassion for my seducer’s wife, our Church leaders chose to listen to her cries, believe his lies and just tell me goodbyes. What a shocking surprise and wounding hurt their condemnation was. My ex, who I now recognize as a false counselor, turned around and used their rejection of me to prove that all he was telling me about my Church leaders was true. He had predicted what would happen next, and it did. He knew more. He was right and they were wrong. See? HE was the only one who really cared about me; I was his entire world. I stopped hearing they just don’t understand but they love us and the church is true. It changed to they are judging and condemning us. They are wrong. Our excommunication is inevitable. And I listened to all this. And I chose to anger and despair (Job 2:9).
In the face of there being no COMPLETE counseling with our councils, it was the Father of Contention running the show. While my ex misrepresented them to me, he misrepresented me to them and – bonus! – he helped me to misrepresent myself, too! I never had a meeting with any Priesthood leader when I was not all alone. I was always the only woman in the room with the bishop, and if there were others, they were male. I was told it was “not possible” and “too painful for her” to involve the wife. These face-to-face meetings with everyone concerned, all in the same room, really should have happened, in my opinion. I think outcomes might have been changed, for all concerned. To this day I still regret that I have never had the chance to ask for forgiveness from the wife, according to the correct pattern of repentance. To this day I still wonder if she has forgiven me (D&C 64:7, 98:39-45). Elizabeth, if you are reading this, I am so sorry for all that I did. Would you please forgive me?
Perhaps, in counseling with our councils, the stake president might have been there. Maybe having him present would have prevented the spiritual devastation which occurred in my life when I believed my Bishop’s false interpretation of Matthew 5:28. He closely questioned me about all my past relationships, evil seed that I was, and informed me that I was not a virgin. What? Not a virgin? He asserted that if I thought it, I had already done it, and that in the eyes of the Lord, there was no difference. Basically, I was not just not a virgin, I was a whore. When I protested, asserting my virtue, pointing to the very fact that I had come to the Church for help, and that I had managed to keep from having sexual intercourse until that point, he denied this to be virtue and repeated, again, that there was no difference. My mistake was believing him. My mistake was not inquiring of the Lord, for myself, if this was true. Instead, I let this be the spiritual TNT to everything I had been trying to save. When I did give in, I did it in utter despair. It was self-abandonment, really. Basking in his spoils, my ex didn’t even notice.
UNARMED AND ENSNARED
Afterward, I remained in the house, as now futile-y directed. Listening to the “All-Serpent, All-The-Time, Radio News Network” changed my honest intent to resentment and anger. This is how I learned that sin always makes you stupid, and when it comes to the bonding power of sex, employing outside the bounds of marriage makes you even more stupid. I switched loyalties from everything else to him and our “love”. In order to protect that “love”, my ex told me to lie to our leaders and taught me how to do it. They never knew that. He told me what to say. They never knew that. And from that point on, I did willfully rebel,against my Church leaders. I did deliberately lie to them. For my abuser’s sake and at his insistence . I did it for my sake: to please and protect him because there was nothing else left for me now. I was drowning. Tossed to and fro is an understatement. One day I loved him, the next day I hated him. I always felt trapped and confused. I didn’t know who I was anymore or what I really wanted, or even believed.
I was like a fly, caught in a spider’s web, as he confidently and methodically laid down strand after strand. I spun around in circles in his hands, as those strands, those redefinitions, wrapped around me. Wrapping, told me who the Church really was, who my leaders really were. Wrapping, told me what love was , who I was, who God was. What was right. What was wrong. What was true. What was false. It just never stopped. I thought that I could not make it stop. Neither did his assertions of what our relationship really was. None of them understands a love as beautiful as ours because they don’t have it themselves. They’re ignorant. They’re jealous. This is love is once-in-a-lifetime! (That last one sounds like a corny offer from a dishonest, high-pressure car salesman now.)
Over and over he told me “truths” about me and about us. Somewhere in my head, I wasn’t convinced. I had never been convinced, all along. I knew the truth. I knew it was about him and about, well, him. I wasn’t the one saying surely a love like ours can not be wrong no matter WHAT the commandments say. He was. It’s just once in a lifetime! Um, your lifetime, maybe. I’m young. I don’t want this. You will give me what I’ve never been able to have. Why is that my responsibility? I’m giving up everything for you, you know. Why do I feel guilty and obligated? Truth is, that deep down inside, I didn’t want to be his whole world. I wanted to get away from him!! I wanted him to stop it! I wanted him to just leave me alone! I’d never wanted ANY of it. I just wanted to go on with my life. I didn’t want an old, used husband. I wanted my own! I wanted a clean love! I wanted my life back. I wanted him to go back to his wife. I’d never wanted him in the first place! Why wouldn’t he ever accept what I had told him from the beginning? NO. STOP. PLEASE STOP. PLEASE, NO MORE. Why didn’t he love me enough to leave me alone? I really identify with the character of Prince Rillian in C.S. Lewis’ Silver Chair. It was just like that. I was not the Black Knight! I was Rillian! Why couldn’t I release myself?
I now know what I did not know then. Maybe if I had had these skills, I would have been better armed to resist and escape. I didn’t know how to be emotionally honest. I had never learned it growing up. I didn’t know how to say no and stand my ground if that was not acceptable to the other party. The unspoken message at home was that if I didn’t give in, I was not obedient. Or righteous. There always was that required surrender to authority before the battle was allowed to end. If I did not give in, there was no peace granted. I felt that there was no respect for me or for my own right of conscience and opinion. The concept of agreeing to disagree was nonexistent. Acquiescence was mandatory. All of us kids, whether passively or aggressively, fought that constant compulsion (D&C 121:46) For me, in the home I grew up in, emotional dishonesty was a matter of survival. Rebellion was a tool for retaining some sense of individual identity: to literally not be swallowed up and disappear. My husband’s relationship to his family is much different than mine. By watching their interactions, I have come to realize that the cleaving bonds which should have called me home to my parents in my times of crisis were weak (D&C 88:40). Some were even repellant.
So by the time I met my abuser, I had had plenty of experience rebelling against unrighteous dominion in the spirit of unrighteousness. I was good at bitterly dishing back what hatred I was receiving, maybe with a little spit of malice in your glass of lemonade, too. But I had almost NO experience in rebelling against unrighteous dominion, or evil, in the spirit of truth and righteousness. Said another way, I did not know how to properly exercise my gift of enmity. I didn’t know how to defend myself. I didn’t know that I could. I didn’t realize that I was the first who should. Even at that late date, in that awful web, as exhaustion began to descend upon me, and the struggle became harder as the spider kept winding … I never found the strength to get away. I wish I could have.
“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign
of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up
a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach
evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are
thereby ripping the foundations of …justice from beneath new
— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “The Gulag Archipelago”
Suddenly, where he’d been against it before, my abuser was willing to help me move! But the condition was that he was the only one who should know where I had gone. I was like Rapunzel, up in the witch’s tower, getting those daily visits, where he told me one thing , I want to fix my marriage, I will go back to her, and demanded another. And I allowed it. Even THEN I think he was afraid of me waking up. He would not leave me alone, even while I was cut off, totally. I needed time to think, to sort things out, but there was always some demand coming from him or from school or work or wherever. He encouraged me not to communicate with my family or my church leaders. My disappearing act baffled them, my parents, my professors, my friends, everybody. I kept assuming, hoping, that he would wake up, realize what he was risking, and go back to his wife. I honestly thought he would go back to her and it came as a shock when they announced their divorce. I was waiting for a rescue that I could have given myself. I confess that I could see the residence of my stake president from my apartment window.
But I never took my own two legs and walked away. I could have walked over there to rescue myself, tell him the deep truth, and save myself. I was ashamed. I was disappointed in myself. But I was also disappointed in him, in his non-execution of his office. After all, as my stake president, he hadn’t helped me get away when I’d gone to him, so what was the point. I was afraid of another rejection and condemnation, too. So I never crossed the street. I didn’t pray, either. I falsely believed I was too unworthy of God’s help. I couldn’t go to anyone good. They were all mad at me. There was no one to tenaciously call after me anyway. To put on their boots, grab their crooks, and set out to hunt worlds for me, not even my parents. I must have no longer qualified as the kind of lamb that shepherds thought was worth their time. The Lord helps those who help themselves. Literally. He means this. I should have kept trying to keep trying to help myself. I should not have given up. “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved after ALL WE CAN DO“.
So, I was excommunicated. I was left to cling to the only thing I thought I had left: my abuser (Leviticus 13:44-46). Even though I really didn’t want to, I reluctantly, (insanely!), agreed to become his wife. Everyone on the outside thought I had lost my mind. Or that I had thrown my future away and had such a lack of conscience as to be happy about it. That is not true. I was in hell. I went through the motions, partly out of pride but mostly because I couldn’t be in the ground yet. I hid my shame and went through the motions of going on with life. But inside, I was the living dead, my life over at the age of 20, a walking zombie anyway.
Though the practice is against the wise counsel of the Church, (which wisdom I have learned the hard way), my ex and I used stranger-donor artificial insemination to make a family. I had two children during the marriage. For him, having kids was an attempt to prove to other members that somehow, by blessing us with kids, God was sanctioning our union. For him, they were also a form of revenge upon his first wife, whom he had denied permission to have children in this exact same way. Finally, for him, it was the only way he was able to keep me in the marriage. For me, having the kids was an attempt to make lemonade out of my lemons. I’d always known I was supposed to be a mother – it was the very reason I’d wanted to be married. What else was I supposed to do with a pointless marriage and with the rest of my life without kids? They gave me a reason to live. I tried to be a good wife and a good mother. I believe that I was. But inside, I felt blasted: like a fire-ravaged forest. A freezing, never-ending winter descended over my soul, blanketing these” dark and deep” woods with sadness, self-loathing and despair. It was always winter, but never Christmas. Trapped in my Silver Chair, silently screaming:
Leave me! … Don’t leave me!
Go away!… Don’t go away!
Get lost! … I’m lost!
I don’t care! … Please care!
I hate you! …Do you love me? Does anyone?
WHAT WAS STILL WICK:
So my whole world had shattered like a rock thrown at a mirror. My testimony of the Church broke like a stone splintering glass. I did not know, before that time, how much of my core identity was derived from my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The fires which had blazed across my self-identity, my worldview – just everything – seemed to have left nothing but ashes. Now there really wasn’t much that I believed in, anymore. Or hoped. Or loved. Yes, even love was too dangerous. People were to be ignored and eye-contact was to be avoided. I thought my forest of faith was completely destroyed, but one day I found that I was left with a tree. Only one. It was just a charred stump with singed roots. But, as the Book of Mormon teaches in Jacob 5:36, God knows the roots are good. And when the roots are good, the whole tree can be saved.
My roots were just three memories. These were recollections of experiences when I had felt the Spirit deeply, and knew that I had. These personally significant moments could not be denied or torn out of me: they were, they are, deeply, tenaciously and inextricably woven into the fabric of my soul.
Elder Eyring has spoken more than once about these times: these kinds of sustaining, sacred memories where the Spirit witnesses of truth. Times which people either do not recognize or just judge as a fancy. Times, when viewed in hindsight, that those who doubt now retell to themselves, wiping it all away in a new erasure story. This is all done to convince themselves that what happened was really just an imaginary thing of naught.
But it was not this way for me. These three experiences were what I found at the bottom of the pit my brothers threw me in, after tearing off my birthright, declaring me dead, and abandoning me to the hands of the abuser from whom I had thought they would rescue me. They were what I found after I’d despaired and abandoned myself.
Again, I hadn’t yet learned that I am my own first line of defense. They are not coming. Nobody is coming. No daring white knights of the Priesthood astride gallant chargers are going to come and rescue this Sleeping Beauty. I had to learn that I am my own guardian and how to do that Now I know that I am supposed to rescue myself as much as I can. I am supposed to choose and then act, all while waiting upon the Lord (no one else) for guidance on exactly how this is supposed to be accomplished; on which part is mine and which part is His (2 Nephi 25:23, Mormon 9:27).
I do not believe that mere suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.”
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh (American author, 1906-2001)
The memory of being completely wrapped in the love of God, which I had felt as a Sunbeam in Primary, when we were taught by the chorister the song, “My Heavenly Father Loves Me.” I did not even remember her face- just her yellow shoes, and my own little self sitting in the front row in a little chair. I have loved this Primary song always. I have sung it to all of my children as a lullaby.
The deadliest mistake I ever made was to look at my circumstances and despair. Deciding, despite receiving this witness received in innocence, that it wasn’t true. I told myself that because of things that were happening to me, my Heavenly Father must hate me. That He had set me up to ultimately fail, and in the meantime, to suffer misery and pain. He really didn’t love me after all. Or at least, not anymore (Alma 30:53). The inner dialogue had flawed logic because it was based on a false chain of thoughts. If God allowed bad things to happen, God did not love me. If God did not love me, then God was not good. If God was not good and God did not care, then I was not good and did not care. If God did not care about me, then maybe I didn’t care about me, either. If I was a nobody to Him, then maybe… he was a nobody to me. I was insignificant or at least unimportant and not worth saving. When I died, I wouldn’t be missed by anyone, anyway. Maybe they’d even be glad.
What woke me up to truth of God’s love for me was the birth of my firstborn child. How could Heavenly Father possibly trust me with this eternal soul, after all that I was; after all that I had done? We love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). I knew then that I had to quit lying to myself, for there in my arms was irrefutable proof that my Heavenly Father still loved me. I was still His child. Always and forever and preeminently His child.
I am a child of God! Once you know who you are, you know where you’re going. I can testify that one of the Adversary’s most evil and destructive strategies is to blind us: to get us to never realize who we are, to never understand our divine parentage, heritage and destiny. Now that I knew who I was, whose side I was on, and Who it is that had redeemed me and claimed me His, I decided to stand. To stand for Him. On His side. Forever. No more vacillating, back and forth, at the light-switch of my heart (1 Kings 18:21). Mine was a House of Light now. Shoo fly, don’t bother me. For I belong to Somebody.
After the full reinstatement of my membership, I began to have a longing to thank this Primary teacher. I prayed that someday, somehow I might find her. God granted my request. It happened out of the blue one day. A temple sealer, who knew both of our families, introduced us to each other while we were laboring in the sealing room at the Detroit Temple. She and I got to talking, after the session, in the locker room. I was hoping, because she’d attended the same ward as I had as a small child, that I might inquire of her, and find out if she knew who my teacher could possibly have been. When the truth finally dawned on us, it was because she realized that the woman I was looking for was her. As unknowing people bustled back and forth behind us, busy with their own affairs and unconscious of this miracle, we fell into each other’s arms and wept. This additional witness of the reality and Source of my experience cements my conviction that our Father is in the details. He loves you, and he loves me. He really does. It’s really true.
The memory of being deeply touched upon realizing how much President Spencer W. Kimball must love me; all the members. I cried as I watched him struggle so mightily to speak, just to get a few words out. This forms the bedrock of my testimony of the Church as an organization. Yes, it is rooted in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve being exactly who they say they are.
It is why, after 4.5 years of excommunication, I could not leave the Church, even though I’d made some investigation. To his credit, this is the one good thing my ex-husband ever did for my soul: not give his support to the idea of permanently leaving the Church. During our first year of marriage, just after our excommunications, I was so hurt and angry that I really wanted to leave the Church. They’d dropped me, now I’d drop them. He said, “Now, come on Katie. What would you do that for? You know the Church is true!” I wondered why he had taken me away from it then. I honestly do not think my false counselor would have uttered that unmingled, whole truth had he known where it would lead (2 Nephi 28:8-9, Isaiah 29:13-16, JST Mark 9:40-48, Ezekiel 13:20-23).
When acted upon, in faith, my testimony of the authority and unfeigned love of the ordained prophets and apostles has NEVER failed me. Never. Just the opposite, I have always been rescued. The rest of the men of this Church can trip over their own rocks of offense and take themselves straight to hell, and I could care less. The only ones I trust implicitly are the prophets and apostles in the top Fifteen.
Has that testimony been tested? Yes. Severely? Yes. 😦 First, when the First Presidency allowed my ex-husband full reinstatement back into the Church. Then again, a few years later, when I learned from another ex-wife that her stake president had also told her that she was the “only unforgiving ex-wife” balking at the petition for membership reinstatement which my ex-husband and his stake president had put up to the First Presidency. So, apparently, my ex-husband’s stake president had lied to two other stake presidents. Maybe even three. Just like I had, she had also felt pressure from her Priesthood leaders to recant her reservations and allow the reinstatement. I questioned how the First Presidency did not know or had not somehow discerned that this whole lie was going down. Maybe they did know, but allowed it (Alma 14:10-11) . I don’t know (Matt 3:15). What I do know is that I cannot deny what I have seen and felt, nor the myriad of ways in which I have been blessed, whenever I have sought out, studied and actually obeyed (acted upon) the teachings of these true messengers from the Father to teach me. I have had desperate prayers answered, word by word, in live broadcasts, as I sat in attendance, weeping as a conference address was being delivered by a servant of the Lord seemingly just for me. I have also had my prayers answered by serendipitously discovering healing in old, recorded teachings that I have run into in my studies pursuing unrelated topics. Through these experiences I have learned that my troubles always begin when I start heeding other voices with persuasive information, but without divine authority (Article of Faith 1:5).
I have memories of the efficaciousness and reality of Priesthood authority because I experienced Priesthood blessings as a child. THIS POWER IS REAL and, like item second, it also can only be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Unfortunately, the greatest lesson I learned from my decade of marriage to a false priest is this hard truth: in addition to the fact that most men are pigs, most LDS men practice unrighteous dominion. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, culturally or subconsciously they practice the tradition of unrighteous dominion. However, most honestly do not recognize it, or worse, are in complete denial that yes, it is you (Matthew 26:22, 2 Samuel 12:5-7). So, to me, it isn’t necessarily that the Church has been corrupted from the roots up, as you assert, Daniel. Rather, it has been corrupted in the opposite direction. It’s more like Jacob 5:48 says, and for the reasons that prophet states: about the branches taking power unto themselves. The fiasco of my church disciplinary procedure is an example of this. We were all guilty of being branches. Who is the branch and who is the root? Who is the gardener and what is his purpose? Does the quality of fruit always define the root? Is the branch exalting itself at the expense of the rest of the tree (both root and fruit)? For me, this principle applies to any man from local leadership all the way up to include most General Authorities. I am wary of all of them, except for the fifteen men comprising the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency. “It is our sad experience”… and my sad experience that has taught me these things (D&C 121:39). My faith in the Presiding Brethren isn’t a blind faith because it has already been tried and found true. It was earned. They are now, in the computer vernacular, an always “trusted site”.
“You think you own it.
How could you own this Garden that I love so dear?
I’ll be here ’til my work is done.
I won’t leave in fear…”
You can easily judge the character of a man
by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.
I consider it to be one of the greatest compensentory blessings of my life that the bishop who worked with me, desiring my reinstatement himself, taught me what the Gospel really was, and what it wasn’t (Jacob 5:59). It was my bishop, and then my LDS counselor, who stood as pillars of the House of God and pointed me to the teachings of the prophets and apostles. Using their teachings, Bishop Thomas undid the false teachings from my childhood. I’d learned a mixture of truth and error from the example and precept my anxious parents. (They loved me, but they had not yet learned that demanding perfection and exercising stern, condemning control were methods in opposition to their righteous desires for me.) My bishop also undid the false teachings which I had believed from my ex-husband. It had been my bishop’s hope to preserve the marriage. He was dismayed, when, having learned so much, I decided to leave. But I had now learned, because he taught me, how to use the cycle of prayer and gospel study, however fumblingly, to inquire for an answer for myself, from the Lord; without allowing interruption or reinterpretation or invalidation to interfere with my connection to Him. I could hear the Holy Ghost again, but much stronger and more frequently than I ever had in my life before. I guess you could say that I’d learn how to tune the channel . Bishop Thomas didn’t do anything spectacular, personally (D&C 121:42, James 3:17,D&C 18:15). We always just referred to the scriptures and the teachings prophets for our answers (D&C 1:38). Simplicity. Always. He was practically invisible – just a conduit of truth, really – but his willingness to be nothing was the Liahona that taught me how to find God and my own answers for myself (Daniel 10:12, Alma 34:31, Micah 6:7-8, Isaiah 58:12, 5-11).I had learned of hope.
BACK TO THE ISSUE
OF DANIELS AND DENVERS:
So now I am ready to give an answer for my hope.
In your original response, Daniel, I understood your Samuel the Lamanite reference to mean that there was a contemporary, additional prophet who was exactly similar in situation to what occurred in the Book of Mormon account. But, in my opinion, Denver Snuffer doesn’t match this pattern. Lehi knew who Jeremiah and Isaiah were; just as Heber knew who Brigham and Parley were; just as Dieter knows just who Dallin and Gene are. They all worked in concert together, on the same team, under the same head, ever supporting and sustaining one another. Nephi even baptized those convinced by the teachings of Samuel. I cannot imagine the pattern of Jeffrey Holland, let’s say, baptizing anyone convinced by the teachings of your shepherd… let alone Dehlin or Quinn or anyone else claiming to stand in loving opposition.
SNUFFING OUT SNUFFER: I know what I am talking about
INTENT OF HIS MINISTRY
Elder Boyd K Packer taught, The ministry of the prophets and apostles leads them ever and always to the home and the family. That shield of faith is not produced in a factory but at home in a cottage industry.
The ultimate purpose of all we teach is to unite parents and children in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they are happy at home, sealed in an eternal marriage, linked to their generations, and assured of exaltation in the presence of our Heavenly Father…
The plan designed by the Father contemplates that man and woman, husband and wife, working together, fit each child individually with a shield of faith made to buckle on so firmly that it can neither be pulled off nor penetrated by those fiery darts…
In the Church we can teach about the materials from which a shield of faith is made: reverence, courage, chastity, repentance, forgiveness, compassion. In church we can learn how to assemble and fit them together. But the actual making of and fitting on of the shield of faith belongs in the family circle. Otherwise it may loosen and come off in a crisis.
Can the Boyd K Packer quote that I just cited really be applied to Denver Snuffer? Is he seeking the eternal benefit of your family? I do recognize that sometimes, in some cases, such as when we prune a plant, a living being can be torn down and built up at what appears to be the same time. However, the true intent must be PURE, or no matter how it is construed, presented, spun, or insisted upon, the action taken and the consequences which follow are always rooted in EVIL and produce EVIL (D&C 121:36-37, Moroni 7:17).
I do not believe that Denver Snuffer’s intent is pure at all. The fruits I see in his followers have the same oder of bitterness as the fruit that was given to me by the man who seduced me away from the Church. We are an exception. We’re a special case. We know more than they do, and they’re not so perfect themselves, anyway. They just don’t understand. This feels so right, how can it possibly be wrong? The Church leaders don’t know everything. What they don’t know won’t hurt them. The Church leaders are so judgmental. Our relationship is so unique, so unusual, that it supersedes the laws, patterns and pathways taken by the ordinary members. Trust me, everything will work out fine in the end: I’ve got it all figured out. Nobody cares about you more than I do. I’ve sacrificed everything, even my membership, for you-u-u-u. NO. You did it for you. It was always for you, not for me.
HONESTY WITHIN HIS MINISTRY
What about honesty? And honesty in unity? Is everybody aware of everyone else, dealing face to face with one another, in a majority of their councils? Be very careful, my brother, in judging between wheat and tares. It really disturbs me that Snuffer instructs his followers to remain within the Church until they are found out. Who is the wheat and who is the tare? Who is the sheep and who is the wolf in sheep’s clothing? Who is the black pot and who is the kettle? Where there is shame, where there is sneaking, where there is a sense of the surreptitious, BEWARE. God does nothing in a corner.
SACRED NATURE OF HIS MINISTRY
What about the sacred, you ask? What about the individual revelation that only comes to some and not all? What is surreptitious can not be sacred and what is sacred can not be surreptitious, for their intents are the opposite! What is Denver’s true intent for you and for your family? Is it the same as that which has always been asserted, repeatedly, by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Again, “The ministry of [TRUE] prophets and apostles leads them ever and always to the home and the family… The ultimate purpose of all [they]teach is to unite parents and children in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they are happy at home, sealed in an eternal marriage, linked to their generations, and assured of exaltation in the presence of our Heavenly Father”. Can the U.S.S. Snuffer take you there? The Old Ship Zion can!
SACRED NATURE OF THE MINISTER HIMSELF
This isn’t the first time in history where seeking and seared souls have discovered a glaring lack 0f personal righteousness in their direct leadership. This isn’t the first time they have suffered long and wondered how long? Look at the story of Abraham and Terah, his father. Look at the story of the one last official, righteous Priesthood leader, Zachariah, and his heir, John. When Jesus was born, Zechariah had been slain. His wife took their son into hiding, where he had to grow up in the desert rather than in the “4th ward of the 16th stake of Israel”. But Abraham sought the Father. Jesus Christ sought the Father.
What disturbs me about Denver Snuffer is his focus on Christ, and not the Father of Christ, whom even the Savior taught us that we should always seek. What also disturbs me is that, back when I was a teenager, my own father was one of those guys who began seeking to have his calling and election made sure. With the keen eyes of adolescence, I immediately concluded that the whole notion ludicrous; a Mormon fad without true understanding.
Folks who go around seeking that which they have not been invited to CONCERN me. It is like wanting to have sex with someone who is not your wife, on your timeline, in your way, and then announcing it’s accomplishment to the world after it has successfully been forced upon her. I mean,”occurred”. (Yeah. Sorta like what my ex did.) To me, such an intimate experience with Deity CAN be thus equated with sexual intercourse, as there is a revelatory self-exposure on His part that reminds me of the trusting kind of nakedness which should only occur in a deeply committed, permanent covenant relationship.
“In real love you want the other person’s good.
In [counterfeit] love, you want the other person.”
– Margaret Anderson
ADDRESS OF THE PROPHET JOSEPH SMITH TO THE RELIEF SOCIETYBeware of Excessive Zeal
President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel 18—said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church—that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls—applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall—that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy.
There is another error which opens a door for the adversary to enter.As females possess refined feelings and sensitiveness, they are also subject to overmuch zeal,which must ever prove dangerous, and cause them to be rigid in a religious capacity—[they] should be armed with mercy, notwithstanding the iniquity among us.
-Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 237-238
“I wish you ever to remember this when you think of yourselves, your brethren, or of any man that wants influence in the world. Always learn what an individual wants influence for. If he wants it for good, to promote peace and righteousness, never hinder his efforts, but promote them if you can. But when men try to gain influence for evil, to lead their fellow creatures in the way to death, exercise all the power you possess to abridge such influence; destroy it if you can. I calculate to take this course myself.” -Brigham Young (Journal of Discourses 12:18)
SEEING THE SECOND COMFORTER
My husband and I have a theory, which we believe is true. Have you seen the seminary video called “I Am A Son of God”? It is on Mormon Channel, too, I believe. It features Elder Jeffrey R. Holland narrating an account of the vision of the prophet Moses: where Moses saw the Savior and then saw Lucifer. Few, very few people have caught on to what the apostle hints at: that the story of Moses is a type. A type which teaches that this experience is also a necessary stop in the pattern or path that all must follow in the upward spiral leading back to God.
Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and knowthat I am; – D&C 93:1
After Elder David A. Bednar visited our stake and taught that D&C 93:1 was literal, we started a serious study to identify all those who had seen the face of God within scriptural accounts. I marked my scriptures with a foil star sticker every time I found an instance. There are foil stars everywhere in them now. Few seek, so few people see that this promise is everywhere throughout holy writ and has been experienced by more people than they would think. It is expressed variously, in different ways, but just as Elder Holland and Elder Bednar both witness, there is an order and a pattern to the process. And there are also dangers, deceits, snares and pitfalls. Have you ever read the spiritual stories of the founders of other great world faiths? Specifically, the accounts of their visions of deity? Ever wondered why it sounds a little familiar? Both Moses and Jesus were told by Lucifer to “bow down and worship me!” Jesus did not momentarily fear, but Moses did. Joseph Smith did. Abraham did.
So our theory, our question then became: what if there were individuals who failed this test? What if there were individuals who feared? Who DID bow down? Who, having seen God, still feared Satan more, and bowed down to, worshipped and served him? Then we asked why? That answer was easy: they did it for what glories of the world and powers within it which were offered them, however temporarily, by the great self-deceiving Usurper himself. We stopped desiring to see God so immediately. We realized this was spiritual nitroglycerine that perhaps we were not quite ready to receive. We realized, as Brigham Young taught, that such a revelatory experience comes with strings attached: greater tests, greater accountabilities and greater risks of apostasy or perhaps even attaining Son of Perdition status. Think of Solomon (1 Kings 11:9)? It might NOT be worth the price of trading phone calls with one member of the Godhead (the Holy Ghost) for “Skype-ing” or personal visits from another (the Savior) before we were fully prepared for and invited to the event (2 Kings 5:13). We sought, from that point on, to do as the scriptures direct: to be among those who were not deceived, because they knew the voice of the Spirit (D&C 45:57 and 52:14-19, Moroni 7:5-19).
As 3 Nephi 13:34 teaches, “take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof.” In other words, let’s work on mastering our A-B-C’s before swaggering into the Scripps National Spelling Bee on un-laureled feet. Said another way, this scripture, in fact, all of scripture, teach that men must be prepared to see God. It is an unavoidable event, even to the cave-crawling, under-rock-hiders yet to be.. All mankind will stand individually before the judgement bar of God, and each of us will see His face. Whether that event occurs on this side of the veil, or on the other side of the veil, every word of D&C 93:1 will be fulfilled. Therefore when that event occurs is of such little matter as to create an error if overly concentrated upon. Let’s get those A-B-C’s under our belt, read our Mcguffey’s, learn our spelling and grammar and do all things we can, with full confidence in God that when the time is right for us to stand face-to-face before our judge, we will be unafraid. For we will be like him: Prepared. Full of love. Fearless.
My husband and I believe, because of personal witnesses that came to us individually by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Elder Bednar, Elder Christofferson and others among the current and past leading fifteen Brethren, HAVE seen God. Every talk that Elder Bednar has given points to it, and “the how” of the way there, especially when studied chronologically. He doesn’t have to blow a trumpet or sell a book. He teaches quietly, for those with ears to hear, and he does it without money and without price. He would not have born witness of such a thing in our stake conference if he did not know it for himself.
ARE YOU SNUFFING OUT THE LIGHT, YOURSELF?
I also believe that those issues within the Gospel with which I have most struggled are, in the big picture, gifts from God (D&C 59:7). I wrote a letter to my son Willard earlier today, trying to explain the meaning of Moroni 10:4 to him. Part of this act included coming up with a list of examples where this principle has worked, just like a math formula, in my own life. I had born witness to him that all elements had to be present, or the formula would not work – the failure not being in the formula, but in its correct execution. I realized something new. As I searched my memories for questions and concerns I have had the only ones which were completely resolved – overgrown with new grass and “not harrowed up” – were those for which I had received an answer or witness by the power of the Holy Ghost. For when I went to write down some things that had bugged me, I had to confess that there were some things which had been resolved, but not by the Spirit. Furthermore, there were other issues that still bugged me, probably exactly because I had no witness or reassurance or answer. About these things I had, still, as yet, never asked the Lord! Ask Dad, He Knows. What an eye-opener that was for me. Here was all this peace that I had denied myself by not thinking to search, ponder and pray. Here was all the self-inflicted torture I had wrought upon myself, in my mind, running it ragged like a frantic hamster on a wheel or an endlessly whirring hard-drive jammed in non-responsive mode. Ask Dad, He Knows. Otherwise you’re liable to jump ship.
THE OLD SHIP ZION:
It darkens. I have lost the ford.
There is a change on all things made.
The rocks have evil faces, Lord,
And I am [sore] afraid.7
– Quoted by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.
From the poem, “The Prophet Lost in the Hills at Evening,” by Joseph Hilare Beloc.+
+”In a general sense a prophet is anyone who has a testimony of Jesus Christ by the [power of] the Holy Ghost. – LDS Bible Dictionary
I am happy to stay in and on the Old Ship Zion, despite the storms and the power-drunken sailors (false priests and hypocrites), as long as these fifteen, or a majority of them, are at the helm. What I learned from my “Joseph pit”, from my experience of being forced to walk the plank into the open water, and then struggle to find anything to hold on to, is that there is nothing out there. No matter what the other voices say, there is nothing out there.
False, foolish and/or weak priests may come and go, making meals of the sheep (Ezekiel 34). They may parade around as little tin gods in tiny kingdoms they call theirs, but which remain within the realm of God. They may cause innocent people great sorrow and grief, offend or alienate the distressed. They may do all else that they can to claw up into themselves the living strength of the roots. That strength is a life force for the whole tree. It was never meant to be sucked up, drawn up, branched up into only the branches and hoarded there: only to produce no fruit anyway. Cowardly men without integrity may turn a blind eye to the plight of the naive, innocent, trapped or honest in heart and slowly wither in their own shadow . But they are not the Priesthood of God.
I love etymology – the study of the origin or history of words – because it helps me understand the scriptures. Did you know that the words apostate and apostasy come from the Greek, apostasis, or, mutiny? How can I become offended with the Ship Zion, her Captain, her Pilots or any of the rest of her true crewman, and jump ship over the behavior of individuals disloyal to them all? How is it logical to blame the righteous shipmen for the behavior of the mutineers and drunken sailors? They are not the Church or Priesthood of God.
The Priesthood is a divine power, not a person or persons. Imperfect men may honestly err and sincerely regret being unable to turn back the clock to amend the unintended consequences of their actions (Genesis 45:4-8, Mosiah 27:32-37, Alma 23:6). But even they are not the Church.
Read Psalm 55 and Psalm 27: maybe you will understand what I mean. There is a difference between God, those who profess to be his servants, and those who really are his servants (D&C 121:34-44). There is a difference between God and his Church and the people of his Church. At present, only One of them is perfect, nevertheless, God has ordained that for the sake of our eternal progression, we remain with them all.
I can forgive the drunken sailors, and I have, according to the true principle of forgiveness, as I understand it. This not only because of the passage of time, but because it is a commandment. I must mete out the kind of compassionate amnesia and deliberate forgiveness I would like to receive from the Lord, when the offender humbly requests it, and sometimes even when they do not. Because surely I shall receive a heaping platter all that I have dished out to others.
I can ask of God and obtain a witness as to whether any man claiming authority over me has truly been called of God. I can inquire as to whether that person’s authorization to act in the name of the Lord remains with them, or has, instead, been withdrawn; amen. I can sustain the honest in heart who really have been called and who really do honor the Lord by maintaining their stewardship in righteousness. And I can endure the rest of them, in order to maintain order among the crew and loyally safeguard the ship (think here of Captain Kirk’s love for the USS Enterprise on Star Trek), the Ship which I love more than their machinations. Knowing this: that their supposed kingdoms shall come to a blessed end. This, too, shall pass. The admonition to HOLD ON THY WAY includes remaining on board the Ship (D&C 122:5-9). It means remaining attached to the roots, not to upstart self-important, leeching branches.
Put trust in no man. Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a Bishop, an Apostle or a President; if you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone; but if we lean on God, He never will fail us. When men and women depend on God alone and trust in Him alone, their faith will not be shaken if the highest in the Church should step aside. – George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth Chapter 22
As of this moment, I hold no serious enmity toward anyone except my ex-husband. For me, he has passed into the territory of being, perhaps, incorrigible. May the Lord judge between thee and me: Mizpah. Once my son is of age, and we are both therefore freed from the bondage of legal chains, I hope to finally and everlastingly be released from any further bondage whatsoever with my ex-husband. It’s been a long twenty-five years of paying for the most miserable 10 months of my life… but it was all worth it to be grafted back in.
Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain.
– Elder Orson F. Whitney.
I remember my Primary teacher showing me this picture of Joseph of Egypt forgiving his brothers, and I remember the tears which slowly rolled down my face as the Holy Ghost witnessed that what she was teaching me was true. I thank God that I had kindly Sister Manley, cheerful Sister Bender, spirit-thrilling Sister Hancock, faithful Sister Garn, dignified Sister Brown, firmly rooted Sister Parrish, sober-minded Sister Fish and enduring Sister Walter to teach me, in Primary. I remember how, after I left my first husband and returned home to the branch and stake where I had grown up, everyone in my Church family tenderly welcomed me home. Sustained and supported me. Believed me. Trusted me. Humbled me, by placing me in positions of trust and leadership over their most precious Primary children. I keep this picture hanging in my house to remind me of that gentle, tender feeling I felt when I first realized the beauty of forgiveness in the face of deliberately inflicted harm. To remind me of how good it feels to be forgiven and to forgive. To be reconciled with all my brethren. I know there is something wrong in my own soul when I can’t bear to have it up upon the wall. I know that the only way I can keep that delicious feeling of being an always-forgiving and ever-repentant person with me is to choose the path that my forefather, Joseph of Egypt, chose. All the fiery wicked darts drown in the wells within the hearts of those who allow the Living Water to dwell and work there: flowing in and through them like the fresh and living Sea of Galilee maintains itself through yielding to and trusting being flooded o’er by the River Jordan.
SNAG SHIP IN SNAG HARBOR
Daniel, I challenge you to carefully study the term “snag ship” or “snag harbor”, starting with the nautical definition of a snag and continuing from there to searching the term online at scriptures.byu.edu . These two terms were used by President Young in his teachings that mention the Old Ship Zion. I find it significant that more than one apostle has been referring back to this analogy of the Church as a Ship lately. Warts and all, I need this boat and its Captain and Pilots. To say that again, I need the church, my Savior Jesus Christ, and his called and ordained prophets, seers and revelators.
Writing this email gave me cause to reflect again upon the root experiences which I shared with Daniel. I realized that ALL THREE of these experiences, as well as others which have comes since, bear witness of my Captain, Jesus Christ. And of the love of my Captain’s father and supreme commanding officer, the Father of us all. Furthermore, ALL of my root experiences took place in these current days and in this, our current Church, as it stood and still stands organized under the current presiding priesthood authorities: on this, the Old Ship, Zion, right now. Nowhere else. No place else.
The Old Ship Zion is on course and she has not become lost. Neither our Captain, Jesus Christ, nor his First Mate, Joseph Smith,”lie upon the deck, fallen cold and dead”. Rather, they live on, and remain actively involved with this “fearful trip” that our “victor ship” might yet “come in with object won.” Nor have mutineers commandeered the bridge of the Old Ship, though they’re taking down as many crewmen, or lighthouses, as they can. Our Pilot, Thomas S. Monson, is a true and faithful servant of God, just as every man in the succession between him and Joseph Smith, Jr. have been true and faithful men. All of them have manned the Old Ship Zion with valiance. Daniel, I wish to remain friends but I’ll not be stepping off the decks of her again, for anyone, or any reason, so help me God.
From Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s April 2004 General Conference address:
“Abide in me” is an understandable and beautiful enough concept in the elegant English of the King James Bible, but “abide” is not a word we use much anymore. So I gained even more appreciation for this admonition from the Lord when I was introduced to the translation of this passage in another language. In Spanish that familiar phrase is rendered “permaneced en mi.” Like the English verb “abide,” permanecer means “to remain, to stay,” but even gringos like me can hear the root cognate there of “permanence.” The sense of this then is “stay—but stay forever.” That is the call of the gospel message to Chileans and everyone else in the world. Come, but come to remain. Come with conviction and endurance. Come permanently, for your sake and the sake of all the generations who must follow you, and we will help each other be strong to the very end.
“He who picks up one end of the stick, picks up the other,” my marvelous mission president taught in his very first message to us. And that is the way it is supposed to be when we join this, the true and living Church of the true and living God. When we join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we board the Good Ship Zion and sail with her wherever she goes until she comes into that millennial port. We stay in the boat, through squalls and stills, through storms and sunburn, because that is the only way to the promised land. This Church is the Lord’s vehicle for crucial doctrines, ordinances, covenants, and keys that are essential to exaltation, and one cannot be fully faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ without striving to be faithful in the Church, which is its earthly institutional manifestation. To new convert and longtime member alike, we declare in the spirit of Nephi’s powerful valedictory exhortation: “Ye have entered in by the gate; … [but] now, … after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; … press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, … and endure to the end, behold, thus … ye shall have eternal life.”
“We read in the Bible, that there is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars (1 Cor 15:41). In the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, these glories are called telestial, terrestrial, and celestial, (D&C 76:70-71, 81) which is the highest. These are worlds, different departments, or mansions, in our Father’s house. Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold scepters of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer. Do you know what is right and just, as well as I do? In some things you do, and in some things you may not know as well; but I will explain what I mean, in the following words—I will do all the good I can, and all I know how to do, and I will shun every evil that I know to be an evil. You can all do that much. I will apply my heart to wisdom, and ask the Lord to impart it to me; and if I know but little, I will improve upon it, that tomorrow I may have more, and thus grow from day to day, in the knowledge of the truth, as Jesus Christ grew in stature and knowledge from a babe to manhood (Luke 2:52); and if I am not now capable of judging for myself, perhaps I shall be in another year. We are organized to progress in the scale of intelligence, and the least Saint by adhering strictly to the order of God, may attain to a full and complete salvation through the grace of God, by his own faithfulness.”
DVD: Veggie Tales King George and the Ducky by Big Idea
Motion Picture: The Spitfire Grill (1996)
“What though the sea with waves continual
Do eat the earth, it is no more at all ;
Nor is the earth the less, or loseth ought :
For whatsoever from one place doth fall
Is with the tide unto another brought :
For there is nothing lost, that may be found if sought.”
– Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene