I hear you . . . "Part 17, really? Does common consent deserve this kind of attention?"
Ah, come on. Things are just starting to get good!
Strange as it may sound, an accessory-after-the-fact may still be secondarily liable for a crime they did not commit.
At church, Billy pushes the pastor aside and steals Sister Samantha's purse filled with licorice and gold bullion. Brother Tom tries to tackle Billy before he can escape, but Billy kicks him in the neck, crushing Tom's wind pipe that will require reconstructive surgery.
You are there when Billy gets home. As his mother, you love him dearly. He throws you the gold and tells you to hide it before the police arrive. You put the gold in some butcher paper and stuff it into the freezer. When you hear the sirens of the police cars, you yell, "Billy, get out of here!"
The police ask you where Billy is. You answer, "I don't know." Have you seen him? "I won't say." Where's the gold? "Don't ask me."
Are you ― a devoted mother ― guilty (as an accessory after the fact) to felony assault and robbery?
Well, let's look at the legal definition of an accessory:
1. Knowing someone has committed a crime, he or she 2. Assists the criminal 3. With the intent to help the criminal avoid arrest or punishment.
(18 U.S. Code Sec. 3)
When Did We Become Complicit?
The world we were born into was not of our making. We inherited things the way they are.
But as we go through life, does there come a point where we become, ourselves, guilty? Do we reach a time when we stop being pilgrims in a strange land and become proud owners of a beachside condo?
What will it take to cleanse ourselves "from the blood of this wicked generation" (D&C 88:75)? If we go on, business-as-usual, ignoring the Lord's command to live by common consent while upholding the inequality and pride that inhere to hierarchies, can we ever qualify to become a Zion people?
So, if anyone is wondering why in the world we're on Part 17, it is because we do not want to become just another "accessory after the fact." Isn't it time we try things the Lord's way?
And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.
For those who are not faint of heart, here we go: 1. The Lord told us, "And all things shall be done by common consent in the church" (D&C 26:2).
2. By definition, "common" means "a lack of privilege or special status; something shared by all members of a group."
3.Oddly, we seem to be going decidedly in the opposite direction, which has created some big problems for us:
(a) Are we divided by status? (b) Is the authority of leaders treated above that of the Holy Ghost's? (c) Has obedience to leaders substituted for the law of the gospel (which is to love one another)?
4. Are there any covenants made between leaders and lay members? Or just between believers, and between believers and God?
5. In choosing authoritarianism over common consent, have we forfeited spiritual initiative for lifeless conformity by creating a culture of "strongmen?"
6. Since Zion cannot be established without equality, does our hierarchy make building Zion impossible? Until we learn to live by common consent, "Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom" (D&C 105:5).
7. Are we practicing a form of spiritual communism (in which a religious ruling class dominates the body of Christ), causing us to quench the Spirit? What is the proper role for little-case-"s" shepherds when we already have a big-case-"S" Shepherd to follow? We all have the authority and gift of the Holy Ghost ― direct communication with a member of the Godhead!
8.Have "keys" conquered conscience ― resulting in a spiritual life that embraces secrecy, lying, double standards, prideful counsel, preferential treatment, control, priestcraft and unrighteous dominion . . . all of which, for some reason, we want to call good ?!!
9. How can we say we're on the "Covenant Path" when the laws of sacrifice, the gospel, and consecration can only be walked by living common consent? Is it possible we have strayed from the straight and narrow path because we are not living as equals?
10. Sadly, organized religions learned long ago how to become spiritual pirates, or Gaddianton Robbers wearing sheep's clothing, seeking for power, gain, and glory. Will a man rob God? Modern Giddianhis continue to use the profitable name of God in vain. Priestcraft is big business. What can we do to find the "pure religion" in all of this?
11. Rather than using priesthood keys and authority to make us "one" and "equal," have we instead used the priesthood to create a spiritual monarchy that has usurped the Seat of Christ? I mean, why do we need our very own line of succession as though we were British Royalty?
12. What does the current practice of sustaining leaders have to do with common consent, if anything? It appears it is either (1) unnecessary or (2) has brought the entire church under gross condemnation as practiced today (see, Part 10 for an in-depth discussion).
13. Monopolies are proven to stifle innovation and creativity. Spiritual monopolies, like Rome, tend to treat its members as objects rather than equals. What is the point of individual spiritual literacy if we are supposed to stick to what the leaders say? What is the point of spiritual intelligence if we are supposed to depend on leaders to tell us right from wrong rather than the light of Christ? What is the point of belonging to a group that does not require (or want) our input?
14.If the Church is on fire, whose responsibility is it to put out the flames? Like Captain Moroni, how are we supposed to "pull down power?" How are we supposed to cleanse "the inward vessel" of the Church? How are we supposed to hold leaders accountable to maintain "a true spirit of freedom?"
15. Finally, how can we create a more inclusive community in the Church through common consent, since members who are afraid to express their sincere beliefs for fear of reprisal, discipline, or even excommunication tend to lose their authentic selves and become Spiritual Stepford Wives . . .
. . . now, don't get me started on polygamy.
So You Think You Can Cast Out?
Would Samuel the Lamanite, if he were to appear in General Conference today, fare any better among us than he did among the Nephites? I mean, how long do you think it would take before Samuel's video feed goes blank?
** We are experiencing technical difficulties. The program will resume once its content contains the appropriate amount of flattery.
I am serious. I want to ask whether we can apply Samuel the Lamanite's words to the church today? Can we picture him standing on the wall in Salt Lake, crying:
Ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.
Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.
Hmm. Well, this ain't good news, folks. Because aren't we guilty of doing this? Calling people who speak God's truth as "apostates?"
Have we cast them out for telling us about our iniquities?
In the Church Handbook it defines "apostasy" as "repeatedly acting in clear and deliberate public opposition to the Church, its doctrine, its policies, or its leaders." (Handbook, 22.214.171.124)
I am concerned the Handbook's definition would improperly label men like Samuel the Lamanite, Abinadi and Ezekiel as "apostates." (And for heaven sakes, where is the scriptural justification for censoring truth when we claim to follow Jesus who IS the truth?)
And tell me who is going to call those in authority to repent if we reject the people sent by the Lord to do the job, like Amos? Remember how the leaders reacted to him? The priest Amaziah wanted to silence him and pled with King Jeroboam to get rid of him. Amaziah cast Amos out of the chapel and court.
And what was Amos's response? He just kept preaching, Amaziah-be-damned.
I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit:
And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.
There are many modern day Amoses whom we have excommunicated for publicly fulfilling their divine commission (see Part 16 for just a few of them). Can you believe it! Does that seem backward?
Was it backwards when the Jewish leaders cast Jesus out of their synagogues?
Why do we persecute those who are sent by God to deliver a message of repentance? Is it time we update the Doctrine and Covenants to conform to the Church Handbook:
Say nothing but repentance unto this generation [except say nothing publicly about those who claim authority and who sit in the chief seats― for they are of the ninety and nine which need no repentance].
(D&C 11:9; Luke 15:7)
Can someone explain to me why we label people "false prophets" and "sinners" and "apostates" ― exactly as Samuel said ― when they're just doing what the Lord asked them to do?
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues.
Those who participate in casting out people whom the Lord has sent, and who participate in the Strengthening the Church Members Committee, secretly seeking to dig a pit for their neighbor, are imbibing the same spirit as gripped the Jews in Jesus's day when they cried out:
A Public Service Announcement
Can common consent survive if people are not able to "publicly" express themselves and communicate the truth that burns like fire in their bones?
Here's the Readers Digest version of D&C 42:88-93:
If someone offends you privately, then attempt to resolve it privately;
If someone offends you openly, then deal with it publicly;
If someone offends in secret, rebuke them in secret;
If someone offends openly, rebuke them openly.
And thus shall yet conduct in all things.
(D&C 42:88-93, condensed)
Okay, so this is easy. Since the policies and practices of the church are public . . . they must be addressed publicly, right?
Then why are we muzzling those whom God has sent to call us to repent?
And while we're on the topic, how does calling attention to improper policies, incorrect doctrine, and unloving practices mean a person is "opposed" to the Church?
It shows the highest form of love for the Church when we declare the glad tidings of Christ's gospel ― which invariably includes shining a light on our religious traditions that fall short of His standard.
Story Idea for a Horror Film
A weird older couple (I am thinking . . . let's cast Kevin Bacon and Susan Sarandon) hire a young gardener to work around their orchard (how about Zendaya?).
"You can spray around the fruits and vegetables for insects; you can weed around the fence posts; but do not touch the trees," the couple say, in a whispery tone.
Zendaya looks over at the apple and plum trees, and the camera zooms in on the perplexed expression on her face.
"Umm. You sure?" she asks, wondering what crazy business the couple has going on. "Cause those trees need help, you know? They are filled with rot."
Kevin Bacon twists his face in sudden anger. "Don't say anything about that! That is none of your concern. Calling out the rot in the trees? What rot? There's no rot. You must be a hater!"
"I actually would like to help the trees so they produce some fruit, you know," Zendaya shrugs.
Susan Sarandon picks up an orchard twig and begins to hit Zendaya with it. "Enough with you and your criticism!" she cries, chasing Zendaya away.
The camera lingers on the rotting trees and begins to fade to black.
"I'm not criticizing anything or anyone," Zendaya weeps, scratches all over her face from Susan's stick. "I just pointed out the obvious fact that the trees have rot."
** Fini **
Executive credit: Teamsters and the Marketing Committee at Deseret Book.
(I don't know. Maybe it'll be an Indie film that will premiere at Sundance.)
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Speaking Ill of the Lord's Anointed
Hold them horses. We've got to address the elephant in the room.
Someone out there may be thinking, "Tim, buddy, isn't it a sin to speak ill of the Lord's anointed?"
I am so glad you asked!
1. No Double Standard for Speaking Truth.
I wish we would stop carving out special privileges for people of rank and status.
What I am interested in are the principles of godliness that apply to everyone. Otherwise, there's a good chance we are dealing with malleable manmade rules (which are usually warped in favor of those with money and status).
a. We are all going to be judged for the words we speak (Alma 12:14).
b. Therefore, we are expected to speak only the truth, and to not lie. (2 Nephi 9:34).
c. Not only must we speak the truth, we must also "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).
d. The Gold Standard for speaking the truth, and only the truth, in love, was Christ (D&C 84:45).
e. We can discern when someone is speaking the truth when they speak as moved upon by the Holy Ghost.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
(2 Peter 1:19-21)
f. All men and women are able to be moved upon by the Holy Ghost, and to speak the will of God ― not just the leaders.
And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.
Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants.
g. There is no benefit in following counsel that does not meet the standard quoted above. In other words, we should heed only those words that are
(1) truthful; (2) loving; and (3) given by the Holy Ghost.
2. Speaking ill of anyone falsely is evil.
So it is NOT okay to speak ill of the Lord's anointed falsely (just like it would be a sin to speak falsely of anyone, period).
Was it a sin to tell the tale of the prophet Balaam's treachery?
No, because it was true.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
There's no "free pass" leaders get against having the truth spoken about them.
I mean, if Jesus said that all manner of blasphemy against Him would be forgiven (Matthew 12:31), how could we think that speaking truthfully about imperfect mortal leaders whom we honor could be wrong?
Remember, a leader who suppresses the truth is not of God, but is a tyrant.
3. What does D&C 121 say about all of this?
I suppose it's time we go right to the Source.
Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, which I commanded them.
And those who swear falsely against my servants, that they might bring them into bondage and death --
Wo unto them, because they have offended my little ones.
(D&C 121:16, 18-19)
So it is clear the issue is not criticizing leadership; the problem is falsely accusing them of sins.
This has nothing to do with advocating for better policies and practices in the Church.
For example, everyone with an ounce of discernment knew that the 2015 policy excluding children of gay parents was not of God. It was an error that was subsequently corrected. So those who spoke out against the policy were showing loyalty to the Church by speaking the truth about the policy.
Personally, I do not know any of the Brethren. Over the years I've met several of them and have enjoyed our interaction, but I am not pen pals with any of them (if anyone running a "clipping service" is reading this, please DM me if they're interested). I don't have their cell phone numbers. I don't know the names of their children.
But I love them. I love what they could do if we unshackled ourselves from the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.
It should be no surprise, then, that I can't ― and wouldn't ― accuse any of them of transgression. I am not gonna judge anybody ("judge not lest ye be judged"). I can say that none of the Brethren have ever offended me, either privately or publicly.
But I pray for them. I pray someday we will all work together to change Church policies and practices that are contrary to the gospel of Christ, which is His celestial law of love.
You'll notice I rarely speak about specific issues in this blog because we cannot fix the symptoms until we cure the disease. Everything I have written has been to first address the structural and institutional impediments that prevent us from establishing Zion (everyone say it together: "hierarchy").
Until we are equal the other stuff can't be fixed.
The disease ― the rot ― that has sickened the tree is turning the priesthood into an instrument of status rather than condescension; using priestcraft to accumulate the riches and praise of this world rather than making the hard decisions required by love.
Prophets don't need pensions because they don't live long enough to collect.