Gospel Doctrine for the Godless

An ex-Mormon take on LDS Sunday School lessons

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D&C Lesson 21 (Second Coming)

“Looking Forth for the Great Day of the Lord to Come”

Reading assignment

Doctrine and Covenants 29:9–29; 34:5–12; 45:16–75; 88:86–99; 101:22–34; 133.

Links: Teacher’s manual | Student manual

It’s a busy year for Your Humble Godless Doctrine teacher. So I’m posting this lesson as kind of a rough outline, with the intention of filling in the details later. Think of this as the notes that a Gospel Doctrine teacher would walk into class with.


A strange thing I noticed on my mission: whenever I ran across people of any denomination — Mormon, Pentacostal, whatever — and they were super into the timing of the Last Days, they just seemed dangerously nuts to me.

One guy referred to the book of Daniel. Apparently it said that the King of the North was wounded in his head, and that was meant to refer to Gorbachev’s famous birthmark. And don’t even start me on the Bible Code. I guess if you’re someone who really gets into the Last Days stuff, you kind of have to believe that God was kind of obsessed with 20th century politics.

You also have to be kind of horrible. Seems many Christians just can wait for disasters to happen, so that Jesus will come again.

So perhaps that’s the reason for this hilarious note in the Gospel Doctrine Manual:

Note to the teacher: As you teach this lesson, focus on the Lord’s revealed words in the Doctrine and Covenants. Do not discuss speculative matters such as the timing of the Second Coming.

Well, of course. Could you imagine? You might as well turn the class over to the crazies.


Let’s take a quick look at the reading.

God will burn people.

D&C 29:9 For the hour is nigh and the day soon at hand when the earth is ripe; and all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that wickedness shall not be upon the earth;

What kind of Stockholm Syndrome must members be in, being told to worship a being who will burn them up if they don’t obey him?

Next thing: It’s going to happen soon.

D&C 29:10 For the hour is nigh, and that which was spoken by mine apostles must be fulfilled; for as they spoke so shall it come to pass;

It’s going to be so impressive. Also it is going to suck.

D&C 29:14 But, behold, I say unto you that before this great day shall come the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall be turned into blood, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and there shall be greater signs in heaven above and in the earth beneath;
15 And there shall be weeping and wailing among the hosts of men;
16 And there shall be a great hailstorm sent forth to destroy the crops of the earth.
17 And it shall come to pass, because of the wickedness of the world, that I will take vengeance upon the wicked, for they will not repent; for the cup of mine indignation is full; for behold, my blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not.
18 Wherefore, I the Lord God will send forth flies upon the face of the earth, which shall take hold of the inhabitants thereof, and shall eat their flesh, and shall cause maggots to come in upon them;
19 And their tongues shall be stayed that they shall not utter against me; and their flesh shall fall from off their bones, and their eyes from their sockets;

Et cetera.

Also hell with fire is totes real, and it will last forever.

D&C 29:27 And the righteous shall be gathered on my right hand unto eternal life; and the wicked on my left hand will I be ashamed to own before the Father;
28 Wherefore I will say unto them—Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
29 And now, behold, I say unto you, never at any time have I declared from mine own mouth that they should return, for where I am they cannot come, for they have no power.

Has anyone told you that Mormons don’t believe in hell, or if they do, it’s just sort of like being forever alone? Well, that’s not what the Doctrine and Covenants says.

Also: Jews will totally be sorry.

D&C 45:51 And then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet?
52 Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God.
53 And then shall they weep because of their iniquities; then shall they lament because they persecuted their king.

Wait — who’s that walking towards us on a gigantic ice highway? Why, it’s the Ten Lost Tribes! Remember them from Lesson 12? Apparently they were all hanging out together in the north country all this time!

D&C 133:26 And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.
27 And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep.

Then there will be a thousand years of peace.

D&C 101:30 In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree;
31 And when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious.

The Institute director in our town loved stuff like this, and would teach about getting “twinkled” instead of dying. Anyone hear anything like this?

So why did I get the impression — even as a believer — that going too far down this particular rabbit hole was the mark of a delusional person? Because it is delusional. It is nuts. Sensible people don’t be believing this way.

How to be ready

What are members counselled to do about the Second Coming?

Before you answer, let’s remember: this is the run-up to the biggest event in earth’s history. Billions of people are going to die. Disasters and torments await the unprepared.

So what are you supposed to do about this enormous impending event?

Answer, according to the lesson manual: Eh, nothing really.

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “How do you prepare for the Second Coming? Well, you just do not worry about it. You just live the kind of life that if the Second Coming were to be tomorrow you would be ready. Nobody knows when it is going to happen. … Our responsibility is to prepare ourselves, to live worthy of the association of the Savior, to deport ourselves in such a way that we would not be embarrassed if He were to come among us. That is a challenge in this day and age” (Church News, 2 Jan. 1999, 2).

In other words, you’re supposed to be on tenterhooks all the time, staying ready ready ready! but then don’t worry about it. Relax!

This is a contradictory demand. Other contradictory demands in the church:

  • You’re supposed to love your family, but spend all your time serving the church instead of being with them.
  • You’re supposed to study and gain knowledge of earthly things, but treat it like it’s not very important.
  • You’re supposed to make friends with non-members so you can proselyte them, but your social group will naturally include the people you spend the most time with: members.

So in summary: the Second Coming is a crucial event that is happening very soon, but that you have a lot of time to prepare for. It’s very frightening, but you’re not supposed to worry about it. Joseph Smith said that it was happening very very very soon, but that was a long time ago. So just think how soon it’s going to be now!

D&C Lesson 20 (Three Degrees of Glory)

The Kingdoms of Glory

Reading assignment

Doctrine and Covenants 76; 131; 132:19–24; 137.

Links: Teacher’s manual | Student manual


In our last lesson, we discussed the Plan of Salvation. Now we’re zooming in on a revelation about the three degrees of glory.

Vision of the three degrees of glory

In another lesson, I pointed out that the idea of three kingdoms of glory was shamelessly pillaged from Emanuel Swedenborg, and other church leaders at the time even thought it was “a trial to many” and a “satanic revelation”. Well, much of the doctrine surrounding the three kingdoms comes from Section 76, part of this week’s reading.

I was always fond of Philo Dibble’s retelling of the origin of Section 76. Joseph and Sidney, in thrall to the cosmic, talked each other through the revelation.

But I’d never read the whole story. It’s the wackiest church meeting I’ve ever heard of (and I’ve been to a few). Here it is. Read the whole thing.

I saw Joseph Smith the Prophet when he first came to Kirtland, and was with him in the first conference held in that place, which was in a small schoolhouse. When he arose in our midst he said that before the conference closed there were those present who should see the heavens open and bear record of the coming of the Son of Man, and that the man of sin should be revealed.

While he talked he laid his hand upon the head of Lyman Wight. He then laid his left hand upon the head of Harvey Whitlock. Lyman Wight stepped into the middle of the room and bore record of the coming of the Son of Man. Then Harvey Whitlock stepped into the middle of the room with his arms crossed, bound by the power of Satan, and his mouth twisted unshapely.

Hyrum Smith arose and declared that there was an evil spirit in the room.

Joseph said, “Don’t be too hasty,” and Hyrum sat down.

Shortly Hyrum rose the second time, saying, “I know my duty and will do it,” and stepping to Harvey, commanded the evil spirits to leave him, but the spirits did not obey.

Joseph then approached Harvey and asked him if he believed in God. Then we saw a change in Harvey. He also bore record of the opening of the heavens and of the coming of the Son of Man, precisely as Lyman Wight had done.

Next a man by the name of Harvey Green was thrown upon his back on the floor by an unseen power. Some of the brethren wanted to administer to him by laying on of hands, but Joseph forbade it. Harvey looked to me like a man in a fit. He groaned and frothed at the mouth. Finally he got upon his knees and came out of it.

Next thing I saw a man came flying through the window from outside. He was straight as a man’s arm as he sailed into the room over two rows of seats filled with men, and fell on the floor between the seats and was pulled out by the brethren. He trembled all over like a leaf in the wind. He was soon apparently calm and natural. His name was Lemon Copley. He weighed over two hundred pounds. This I saw with my own eyes and know it is all true, and bear testimony to it.

I was with Joseph the next morning after he was tarred and feathered by a mob in the town of Hiram. After he had washed and dressed in clean clothes, I heard him say to Sidney Rigdon, who was also tarred and feathered, “Now, Sidney, we are ready to go on that mission,” having reference to a command of God to go to Jackson County, Missouri, and which they had deferred to comply with until they should have accomplished some work which they had planned, but never did accomplish.

The vision which is recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants [D&C 76] was given at the house of “Father Johnson,” in Hiram, Ohio, and during the time that Joseph and Sidney were in the spirit and saw the heavens open, there were other men in the room, perhaps twelve, among whom I was one during a part of the time– probably two-thirds of the time,–I saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision.

The events and conversation, while they were seeing what is written (and many things were seen and related that are not written,) I will relate as minutely as is necessary.

Joseph would, at intervals, say: “What do I see?” as one might say while looking out the window and beholding what all in the room could not see. Then he would relate what he had seen or what he was looking at. Then Sidney replied, “I see the same.” Presently Sidney would say “what do I see?” and would repeat what he had seen or was seeing, and Joseph would reply, “I see the same.”

This manner of conversation was repeated at short intervals to the end of the vision, and during the whole time not a word was spoken by any other person. Not a sound nor motion made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it seemed to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which I think was over an hour, and to the end of the vision.

Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which, Joseph remarked, smilingly, “Sidney is not used to it as I am.”



What was the “new and everlasting covenant of marriage”?

Here’s a phrase that always went over my head, and I don’t think most Mormons are aware of it.

D&C 131:1 In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
2 And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.

I always thought the “the new and everlasting covenant of marriage” just meant “getting married in the temple”. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism fudges it and says it’s just everything.

Baptism, marriage, and all other covenants from God necessary for salvation are new and everlasting.

The study manual for Brigham Young has a whole chapter on this phrase, and talks about its importance, but never once comes out and says what it actually is. How incredibly shifty.

This phrase had a meaning that Brigham Young and other early church leaders well understood: polygamy.

Brigham Young (here’s the link, but watch out for Evangelical Christianity)

…[men] who did not have but one wife in the Resurrection that woman will not be his but [will be] taken from him and given to another. President Wilford Woodruff (Utah Stake Historical Record #64904/CH0/1877-1888. Quarterly Conference held March 3rd and 4th, 1883; Sunday, 2 PM, p.271) The new and everlasting Covenant is marriage, plural marriage – men may say that with their single marriage the same promises and blessings had been granted, why cannot I attain to as much as with three or four, many question me in this manner I suppose they are afraid of Edmunds, what is the Covenant?

It is the eternity of the marriage covenant, and includes a plurality of wives and takes both to make the law…Joseph Smith declared that all who became heirs of God and joint heirs of Christ must obey his law or they cannot enter into the fullness and if they do not they may loose the one talent, when men are offered knowledge and they refuse it they will be damned and there is not a man that is sealed by this priesthood by covenants to enter into the fullness of the law and the same with the woman she says she will observe all that pertains to the new and everlasting Covenant both are under the Covenant – and must obey if they wish to enter into a continuation of the lives or of the seeds.

Wilford Woodruff

When a man, according to the revelation, marries a wife under the holy order which God has revealed and then marries another in the same way, he enters into the new and everlasting covenant, and so far as he has gone he has obeyed the law.

–Wilford Woodruff letter to Bishop S. A. Woolley (9th Ward, SLC) May 22, 1888, First Presidency letterpress copybooks, 1877-1949, Vol. 18: 841-843

Religious polygamy is gross and coercive. Maybe I ought to be glad that the LDS Church tries to walk back its polygamous past, but to hide it outright is dishonest.

Also, I actually think that if this scripture did mean simply “getting married in the temple”, it would be damaging enough.

Ask: How does this emphasis on marriage affect people in the church who have no desire to get married?

True, lesson materials do try to remove the sting:

Student manual. Read the statements under “Those Who Do Not Marry” (student manual, 168). Ask students what these statements teach about those who do not have the opportunity to be married in this life.

There, there, it seems to say. You just didn’t have the opportunity. But if you did, I’m sure you’d do what everyone has to, in order for their existence to be truly validated!

How the LDS Church continually shits on everyone who doesn’t follow the model.

I mean, THIS.

View post on imgur.com

If you’re a guy, did you ever fully grasp how different were the experiences of young men and young women in the Mormon church?

I did not.

(Thanks to Redditor merlin5603 for the find!)

Additional ideas for teaching

Matter, or anti-matter?

What’s the relationship between spirit and matter? Are they different things, or are they just different manifestations of the same thing?

If you said, “They’re different,” then congratulations. First of all, you’re right — matter exists, and spirit doesn’t. But second of all, you’ve managed to avoid a trap that besets silly spiritualists. The trap is a question: why is there no evidence for spirits? The way out of the trap is to say, “Because spirit and matter are totally different things, and you can’t detect spirit using material means.”

Unfortunately, Joseph Smith falls directly into this trap. Here’s what he says:

D&C 131:7 There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes;
8 We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.

Bah-bow. Now he has to explain why, if spirit is matter, it doesn’t behave like matter, and it’s not detectable like matter is. True, it’s very common for charlatans to say that “our instruments just aren’t sensitive enough”, but this is a dodge that grows ever less convincing as our instruments improve.

For example, matter can be weighed. If spirit is a kind of matter, it can also be weighed. To give an idea: there’s a scale that can detect an object as small as a yoctogram.

Have you ever imagined weighing even the smallest particle of a certain object? If ever a yes, then you actually had the same perception as Adrian Bachtold and his company when they did the tiniest weights.

This guy together with his colleagues is from the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology in Barcelona, Spain. They did research and came up with this spectacular invention of the world’s most sensitive scale. The device can significantly measure the smallest unit of a mass, or also known as the yoctogram which is just one septillionth of a gram.

I don’t really know how you would get some of that spiritual matter to weigh it, but surely if it were a thing, a clever person would be able to put together a research program. Instead, we get TV shows with people running around in the dark. Silly.

D&C Lesson 18 (Temple)

“Establish … a House of God”

Reading assignment

Doctrine and Covenants 95; 109; 110;
Our Heritage, pages 33–36.

Links: Teacher’s manual | Student manual

There’s a lot I’d like to say about this lesson on the LDS temple ceremonies, but I’ve already covered them in other lessons.

Here’s one, with a bit about the endowment: OT Lesson 30 (Temple)

And another, with a bit about the Hosanna Shout: OT Lesson 44.

I will get back to this at a later date, with more on this topic.

D&C Lesson 7 (First Four Principles)

“The First Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel”

Reading assignment

Study the scripture passages listed in the following questions and in the scripture chain.
2 Nephi 25:23; Alma 42:13–24; D&C 18:10–13; D&C 19:15–19; Articles of Faith 1:3

Links: Teacher’s manual | Student manual

It’s a busy year for Your Humble Godless Doctrine teacher. So I’m posting this lesson as kind of a rough outline, with the intention of filling in the details later. Think of this as the notes that a Gospel Doctrine teacher would walk into class with.


This lesson is about the first four principles of the gospel. Let’s recite them in unison.

Article of Faith 4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

A side note: As a member of thirty-plus years, it drove me insane that we would be studying this again in Gospel Doctrine class. It made me feel like I was in some kind of intellectual lacuna of vapidity, and this was one of the things that convinced me that there was no “there” there. If you can get through this lesson and say, “Gee, I actually learned something from this lesson, and I can’t wait to return to it in another four years,” then you’re not me.

So let’s get to it!


As I’ve mentioned before, faith is belief without evidence. If you have evidence, we call that knowledge. And the Book of Mormon agrees.

Alma 32:18 Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.

Faith is a terrible thing to have. If you don’t have evidence for something, but you’ve decided to believe it anyway, then it’s very likely you’re believing something wrong. Find evidence (but first learn what good evidence looks like), and then believe it.

But of course, religious leaders are always there to convince us to ignore the evidence of our senses.

Back to the manual.

• Read D&C 8:10 with class members. What can we accomplish without faith? What can we accomplish with faith? (For some answers to this question, see D&C 35:9; 42:48–51; 63:9–11; Moroni 7:33.) How have you seen the power of faith manifested?

You can accomplish anything without faith. All the great scientific discoveries we’ve made have not required faith. You can disbelieve in them and they’re still true.

But surely if you believe in a scientific idea that you don’t fully understand, you’re exercising faith, right?

Wrong. For one thing, you can find out about it from someone who does understand it. For another, if anyone can point out why that idea is wrong, people who do science will change their minds about that idea.

Faith only works when people choose to believe the idea. Science works because people relentlessly challenge ideas, and change them when they don’t work. No faith required!


This part starts with an object lesson.

Ask a class member to volunteer to come forward. Blindfold the volunteer and ask him or her to write the following phrase on the chalkboard: Jesus is the light of the world. Remove the blindfold and ask the person to write the same phrase again on the chalkboard. Then have the person sit down.

How is sinning like putting on a blindfold? How is exercising faith in Jesus Christ and repenting of our sins like removing the blindfold? What can we see more clearly when we repent?

Wouldn’t a better metaphor be that you do things worse when your church causes you to wilfully blind yourself?

Now you might think that it’s a good idea to get rid of your bad habits. But the manual tells that this isn’t the real goal.

• What is the difference between true repentance and merely breaking a bad habit or changing a behavior?
President Ezra Taft Benson explained: “Repentance means more than simply a reformation of behavior. … True repentance is based on and flows from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other way. True repentance involves a change of heart and not just a change of behavior (see Alma 5:13)” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 71).

Self-improvement is great, but the manual makes it clear that it’s not about self-improvement; it’s about accepting that you’re broken and you need to be fixed by someone else.

Explain that when we sin, we become unclean and subject to the punishments required by the law of justice. Being imperfect, we cannot become clean again or meet the demands of justice on our own. By atoning for our sins, the Savior took upon Himself the punishments required by the law of justice and is able to offer the mercy and forgiveness we need to become clean. These blessings of the Atonement are available to us only on the condition that we repent (Alma 7:14).

It’s important to remember that this was all God’s idea. Being all-powerful, he could have made this system any way he wanted, but he decided to do it this way:

He made us imperfect so that we couldn’t help but sin. Then he decided to get his son killed so that he could forgive us. Then he didn’t.

D&C 19:15 Therefore I command you to repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sorehow sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

Nice one, God!

D&C 19:16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spiritand would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink

Again, why would God demand suffering from his creations?

Learning to do better is great, but this has little to do with the perpetual debasement ceremony that Mormons call repentance, some of which may involve humiliating and pointless confessions to local church leaders.

Yes, in the LDS Church, they actually have…

My advice: Never confess anything to an LDS leader. Whatever you do is nothing that he needs to know about. Tell your partner. Tell the police, if you must.


Pointless repentance is followed by a farcical aquatic ceremony in which you get soaked.

The manual asks:

What are the purposes of baptism?

The purpose of baptism is to put someone through a public declaration of commitment, because people are less likely to back out of a commitment if they had to make some public declaration about it. It signals to the person and others, “Wow, now you really must believe it, since you did that dumb ceremony.”

Why is it necessary to be baptized by one who has the proper authority? (See D&C 22.)

Okay, let’s see.

D&C 22:1 Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.

“I know I described the old covenants as everlasting, but this time I mean it.”

2 Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works.

“You could be baptised a hundred times by Jews and it won’t do any good.”

3 For it is because of your dead works that I have caused this last covenant and this church to be built up unto me, even as in days of old.

“No seriously, doing things doesn’t accomplish anything.”

4 Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your God. Amen.

“Do what I told you to do, and don’t tell me what to do.”

So basically, this is a cranky god’s attempt at brand protection.


After baptism, you get the gift of the holy ghost. He can be your constant companion, until the very minute you do anything wrong, at which point he buggers off.


According to LDS leaders, non-Mormons only get sporadic visits, and these are really only supposed to convince them to become Mormons.

• What is the difference between a manifestation of the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost?
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve taught: “Manifestations of the Holy Ghost are given to lead sincere seekers to gospel truths that will persuade them to repentance and baptism. The gift of the Holy Ghost is more comprehensive. … [It] includes the right to constant companionship, that we may ‘always have his Spirit to be with [us]’ (D&C 20:77)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 80; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 60).

So how does the spirituality of Mormons compare with that of non-Mormons?

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve compared the manifestations of the Holy Ghost that a person can receive before baptism to flashes of lightning that “[blaze] forth in a dark and stormy night.” He compared the gift of the Holy Ghost that a person receives after baptism to “the continuing blaze of the sun at noonday, shedding its rays on the path of life and on all that surrounds it” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 262).

It’s nice to know that Mormons have this level of enlightenment. They can’t help but disparage people, can they?

On the other hand, it’s sad that Mormons show so little goodness, discernment, or moral leadership in their everyday lives, of which the 2016 election was only one example.

Enduring to the End

From the manual:

When we are baptized, we enter the path that leads to exaltation. However, this single experience does not ensure that we will be exalted. As the Lord frequently admonishes in the Doctrine and Covenants, we must also keep the covenants we made at baptism to endure faithfully to the end of our lives.

I had a couple of sister missionaries knock on our door this week. I invited them in for a drink, and explained that I was an ex-Mormon. I like to do this because it shows them that your life doesn’t fall apart when you leave the church. You can live a good, satisfying, ethical life as a non-believer.

One of the missionaries asked me why I left. (They don’t usually.)

I explained that many people in the church think that ex-members “were offended” or “wanted to sin”. And most disparagingly, they think ex-members couldn’t “endure to the end”. But I explained that this is wrong. I simply stopped believing it was true, for reasons I was happy to explain. And if you don’t think something is true, then not supporting it is the right thing to do. It’s what a person of integrity would do.

“Well,” said one, “I guess everyone has their view.”

That was the sound of someone checking out.

D&C Lesson 6 (Personal Rev 2)

“I Will Tell You in Your Mind and in Your Heart, by the Holy Ghost”

Reading assignment

Doctrine and Covenants 6; 8; 9; 11.

Links: Teacher’s manual | Student manual

It’s a busy year for Your Humble Godless Doctrine teacher. So I’m posting this lesson as kind of a rough outline, with the intention of filling in the details later. Think of this as the notes that a Gospel Doctrine teacher would walk into class with.


We’re continuing our discussion of personal revelation from Lesson 5, in which we saw that relying on feel-good intuitive methods for finding truth or making decisions is just asking to be fooled. This time, we’ll see the mechanisms the church employs to keep you fooled even when personal revelation fails.


Let’s start with a scripture.

D&C 109:44 But thy word must be fulfilled. Help thy servants to say, with thy grace assisting them: Thy will be done, O Lord, and not ours.

The manual asks:

Why should we submit our will to God’s will when we seek personal revelation?

Answer: Because there’s no one answering. That means you have to generate the feels yourself, and when you can’t, you have to tell yourself that your lack of an answer is “God’s will”. Sucks, doesn’t it?

It works like this:

Ask: If it’s very likely that nothing will happen when someone prays, how can you fool them into thinking something did happen?

Here are two answers:

Tamp down expectations

Tell people it shouldn’t be a big showy feeling. It can be a tiny quiet feeling. (Or, as we’ve seen, it can be no feeling.)

D&C 85:6 Yea, thus saith the still small voice, which whispereth through and pierceth all things, and often times it maketh my bones to quake while it maketh manifest,

From the manual:

Why is it important to understand this principle of how the Holy Ghost communicates? What are the dangers of expecting divine communication to come in more dramatic or spectacular ways?
Elder Dallin H. Oaks cautioned:

“Some [people] have looked exclusively for the great manifestations that are recorded in the scriptures and have failed to recognize the still, small voice that is given to them. … We need to know that the Lord rarely speaks loudly. His messages almost always come in a whisper. …

“Not understanding these principles of revelation, some people postpone acknowledging their testimony until they have experienced a miraculous event. They fail to realize that with most people … gaining a testimony is not an event but a process” (Ensign, Mar. 1997, 11–12, 14).

Describe it as confusingly as possible

Dallin Oaks admits he’s never felt a “burning in the bosom”.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks said: “I have met persons who told me they have never had a witness from the Holy Ghost because they have never felt their bosom ‘burn within’ them. What does a ‘burning in the bosom’ mean? Does it need to be a feeling of caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion? If that is the meaning, I have never had a burning in the bosom. Surely, the word ‘burning’ in this scripture signifies a feeling of comfort and serenity” (Ensign,Mar. 1997, 13).

Right, because burning means serenity, and a horse is a tapir, and my dog is a cat. And words don’t “mean things”. Surely.

Then the manual asks:

How can we discern whether a revelation has come from God? (See D&C 11:12–14; 50:23–24.)

That’s a great question with a disturbing answer. Because Mormon Doctrine keeps changing, we have to keep throwing old prophets under the bus. (It’s getting crowded under there.)

For example, Brigham Young taught racist things

odd things

and terrible things.

Nowadays, these things make church members feel uncomfortable, so under the bus goes Brother Brigham! Those teachings are deprecated.

Not a problem for Latter-day Saints, who remind us that the word of a living prophet is worth more than a dead one.

All well and good. But think: at some point Brigham believed something that was wrong. And as the Lord’s unique representative on earth, he had all the keys of revelation that anyone had. So if he couldn’t tell that he was wrong, what chance do the rest of us have?

“As a man”

A common dodge is: He spoke “as a man”.

Ask: Is there a way to tell in advance if a prophet is speaking as a man or not?

About Oliver

I mentioned that Brigham was a bit of a racist, but as for Oliver, he wasn’t too woke on the subject of race either.

Let the blacks of the south be free, and our community is overrun with paupers, and a reckless mass of human beings, uncultivated, untaught and unaccustomed to provide for themselves the necessaries of life—endangering the chastity of every female who might by chance be found in our streets—our prisons filled with convicts, and the hangman wearied with executing the functions of his office! This must unavoidably be the case, every rational man must admit, who has ever travelled in the slave states, or we must open our houses, unfold our arms, and bid these degraded and degrading sons of Canaan, a hearty welcome and a free admittance to all we possess! A society of this nature, to us, is so intolerably degrading, that the bare reflection causes our feeling to recoil, and our hearts to revolt….

That’s the kind of thing a regular guy might have said in the 1830s, but hey — Oliver had the Big Guy writing him sections of the D&C. God could have told him to knock it off, and apparently didn’t.

Even though Oliver was rubbish at revelation using a dowsing rod, we can be thankful to him for one of the more fanciful stories in early church lore: when he and Joseph Smith were walking around the Hill Cumorah, the hill opened up, revealing a cave of wonders.

‘Oliver [Cowdery] says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon-loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates.’

Persistent exploration of the hill has revealed no such trove.

However, we can be grateful to Oliver for publishing his ideas on the where Moroni buried the plates (right in New York), and who the Lamanites are (Native Americans). As these ideas look less and less plausible, and as gas-lighting LDS apologists try to distance themselves from them by concocting other explanations, it’s nice to know that people close to Joseph Smith really did think what I (at least) was taught in church.

By turning to the 529th and 530th pages of the book of Mormon you will read Mormon’s account of the last great struggle of his people, as they were encamped round this hill Cumorah. (it is printed Camorah, which is an error.) In this vally fell the remaining strength and pride of a once powerful people, the Nephites—once so highly favored of the Lord, but at that time in darkness, doomed to suffer extermination by the hand of their barbarous and uncivilized brethren. From the top of this hill, Mormon, with a few others, after the battle, gazed with horror upon the mangled remains of those who, the day before, were filled with anxiety, hope or doubt. A few had fled to the South, who were hunted down by the victorious party, and all who would not deny the Saviour and his religion, were put to death. Mormon himself, according to the record of his son Moroni, was also slain.

The Nephites who were once enlightened, had fallen from a more elevated standing as to favour and privilege before the Lord in consequence of the righteousness of their fathers, and now falling below, for such was actually the case, were suffered to be overcome, and the land was left to the possession of the red men, who were without inteligence, only in the affairs of their wars; and having no records, only preserving their history by tradition from father to son, lost the account of their true origin, and wandered from river to river, from hill to hill, from mountain to mountain, and from sea to sea, till the land was again peopled, in a measure, by a rude, wild, revengful, warlike and barbarous race.— Such are our indians.

D&C Lesson 4 (Book of Mormon)

“Remember the New Covenant, Even the Book of Mormon”

Reading assignment

Joseph Smith—History 1:27–65; Doctrine and Covenants 3; 5; 10; 17; 20:5–15; 84:54–62; Our Heritage, pages 5–10.

Links: Teacher’s manual | Student manual

It’s a busy year for Your Humble Godless Doctrine teacher. So I’m posting this lesson as kind of a rough outline, with the intention of filling in the details later. Think of this as the notes that a Gospel Doctrine teacher would walk into class with.


Says the manual:

• When Joseph was 17 years old, he was visited by Moroni.

Actually, in the early days it was Nephi. Then the story changed, as made-up stories do.

More info here: http://www.mormonthink.com/nephiweb.htm

The 116 pages

From the manual:

One example of the miraculous preservation of the Book of Mormon occurred when one of Joseph Smith’s scribes, Martin Harris, lost 116 pages of the translated manuscript. Ask the assigned class member to summarize this account (see “Preparation,” item 3.) Then teach and discuss D&C 3 and D&C 10, which the Lord revealed after the pages were lost.

Here’s my summary:

Martin Harris was a credulous boob who fell for every religious scam going around in the 1830s. He mortgaged his house to pay for the publication of the Book of Mormon. Not coincidentally, he stood to gain handsomely if the book succeeded, and would lose his house if it failed. One obstacle was his wife, Lucy. Apparently she wanted some evidence that the book was legitimate, so Martin Harris pestered Joseph into lending him the draft of the manuscript, which amounted to 116 pages. The manuscript was lost, perhaps burned by Lucy Harris.

At this point, a god would have several options. He could have Smith retranslate the pages word for word, which would be very good evidence that he was not making it all up on the fly. Since the Book of Mormon was a scam, this option wasn’t available.

Instead, Smith created retconned the thing by writing a rather implausible bit into the Book of Mormon about how Nephi felt inspired to rewrite large chunks onto the plates a second time, so that Smith could translate them.

1 Nephi 9:3 Nevertheless, I have received a commandment of the Lord that I should make these plates, for the special purpose that there should be an account engraven of the ministry of my people.
9:4 Upon the other plates should be engraven an account of the reign of the kings, and the wars and contentions of my people; wherefore these plates are for the more part of the ministry; and the other plates are for the more part of the reign of the kings and the wars and contentions of my people.
9:5 Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.

God, for his part, helped cover the mess by explaining that retranslation wasn’t an option because someone probably changed the words in a cunning plan to trap Smith.

D&C 10:8 And because you have delivered the writings into his hands, behold, wicked men have taken them from you.
9 Therefore, you have delivered them up, yea, that which was sacred, unto wickedness.
10 And, behold, Satan hath put it into their hearts to alter the words which you have caused to be written, or which you have translated, which have gone out of your hands.
11 And behold, I say unto you, that because they have altered the words, they read contrary from that which you translated and caused to be written;
12 And, on this wise, the devil has sought to lay a cunning plan, that he may destroy this work;
13 For he hath put into their hearts to do this, that by lying they may say they have caught you in the words which you have pretended to translate.
14 Verily, I say unto you, that I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing.
15 For behold, he has put it into their hearts to get thee to tempt the Lord thy God, in asking to translate it over again.
16 And then, behold, they say and think in their hearts: We will see if God has given him power to translate; if so, he will also give him power again;
17 And if God giveth him power again, or if he translates again, or, in other words, if he bringeth forth the same words, behold, we have the same with us, and we have altered them;
18 Therefore they will not agree, and we will say that he has lied in his words, and that he has no gift, and that he has no power;
19 Therefore we will destroy him, and also the work; and we will do this that we may not be ashamed in the end, and that we may get glory of the world.

Ask: Were there any better ways that a god could used in accomplishing this?

Here’s another cartoonist’s idea.

Click through for more.

Smith should have been grateful to Lucy Harris. Many writers would benefit from losing a first draft and having to write it all again, now that they have the idea in their minds. The rest of the Book of Mormon would have better if Smith had done this; compare the rollicking adventure tale of 1 Nephi to the tedium of everything else.

Criterion of embarrassment

Some people have pointed to this episode as evidence for the prophetic veracity of Joseph Smith, even though it’s anything but. The rationale goes like this: God was calling Smith out for his weakness, and if Joseph really had been a self-aggrandising phoney, then he wouldn’t have included a long bit about his failings. He would have hidden it, or left it out. In short, if it’s embarrassing to the author, it must be true.

Well, as it turns out, Smith did lots of embarrassing things that he did manage to cover, and we’ll get to them in subsequent lessons.

Besides, if a story is embarrassing, that doesn’t mean it’s true. SMBC has an example.

The Three and Eight Witnesses

From the manual:

•Who were the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses to the Book of Mormon? (See “The Testimony of Three Witnesses” and “The Testimony of Eight Witnesses” in the introductory material of the Book of Mormon; see also Our Heritage, page 10.) In what ways can you be a witness of the Book of Mormon? (See Moroni 10:3–5.)

The Witnesses were people who stood to gain from the success of the Book of Mormon. Many were also members of the same family.

Mark Twain wrote:

Some people have to have a world of evidence before they can come anywhere in the neighborhood of believing anything; but for me, when a man tells me that he has “seen the engravings which are upon the plates,” and not only that, but an angel was there at the time, and saw him see them, and probably took his receipt for it, I am very far on the road to conviction, no matter whether I ever heard of that man before or not, and even if I do not know the name of the angel, or his nationality either.

And when I am far on the road to conviction, and eight men, be they grammatical or otherwise, come forward and tell me that they have seen the plates too; and not only seen those plates but “hefted” them, I am convinced. I could not feel more satisfied and at rest if the entire Whitmer family had testified.

It wouldn’t have mattered if there were 11 witnesses or 100 witnesses. That’s not how evidence works; it must be publicly available to be valid. See this lesson for more about the witnesses to the Book of Mormon.

More info at this page: http://cesletter.org/debunking-fairmormon/witnesses.html

and this one: http://www.mormonthink.com/witnessesweb.htm

D&C Lesson 3 (First Vision)

“I Had Seen a Vision”

Reading assignment

Joseph Smith—History 1:1–26; Our Heritage, pages 1–4.

Links: Teacher’s manual | Student manual

It’s a busy year for Your Humble Godless Doctrine teacher. So I’m posting this lesson as kind of a rough outline, with the intention of filling in the details later. Think of this as the notes that a Gospel Doctrine teacher would walk into class with.


This one is about what’s become known as the First Vision, when Joseph Smith supposedly saw God and Jesus. The story is a relatively new thing in the church, but it has become an important part of its origin story.

Differing versions of the First Vision

For a long time, I was aware that there were multiple conflicting accounts of the First Vision. But I really didn’t understand why they were a problem. Doesn’t everyone tell the same story slightly differently through time? And doesn’t the way we tell a story depend to some extent on our audience?

Well, yes. But the differences in the “First Vision” accounts go deeper than just highlighting details. The circumstances around the story look less like a matter of emphasis and detail, and more like a bullshit story that has been made up.


Yes, the details of the story differ across the tellings. Sometimes it’s an angel. Sometimes it’s many. Sometimes it’s Jesus. Sometimes it’s God and Jesus.

Change in canon

But wait — couldn’t it be all of the above?

That’s the problem. For years, the story of the First Vision that church leaders learned and taught explicitly excluded everyone except an angel. Like, they explicitly taught that God and Jesus did not visit Joseph Smith, and that there were good reasons for them not to show up. From MormonThink:

In 1854

“Some one may say, ‘If this work of the last days be true, why did not the Saviour come himself to communicate this intelligence to the world?’ Because to the angels was committed the power of reaping the earth, and it was committed to none else.” – Apostle Orson Hyde, General Conference Address, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p.335

In 1855

The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowledge of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith Jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that He had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove faithful before Him.” (Journal of Discourses 2:170-171)

In 1857

Church Apostle Heber C. Kimball, speaking Nov. 8th, 1857, was unaware of a vision where Smith saw God and Christ:

“Do you suppose that God in person called upon Joseph Smith, our Prophet? God called upon him; but God did not come himself and call, but he sent Peter to do it. Do you not see? He sent Peter and sent Moroni to Joseph, and told him that he had got the plates.” (Journal of Discourses, vol.6, p.29)

If the story had happened the way it’s taught today, why were church leaders telling it this way as late as the 1850s?

Comparatively late appearance

The answer is that when these church leaders were talking about heavenly beings appearing to Smith, they were talking about Moroni —

— sorry, Nephi — appearing to him. The story of the First Vision isn’t a thing that people started talking about until much much later. This didn’t become an important part of the church’s origin story until the 1880s.

In other words, the church had 50 years to get its story straight.

The more you look into this, the less it looks like simple differing accounts, and more like a cobbled-together story that didn’t happen.

Leg operation

From the manual:

3. Ask a class member to prepare to summarize the account of young Joseph Smith’s leg operation (Our Heritage, pages 1–2).

I always thought this story was bullshit. Joseph Smith gets a leg infection, and heroically (and inexplicably) refuses the trappings of frontier medicine.

The doctor brought cords to bind the boy, but Joseph objected, saying that he would bear the operation without them. He also refused brandy, the only form of anesthetic available to him, and asked only that his father hold him in his arms during the operation.

Why would young Joseph Smith refuse brandy? The Word of Wisdom wouldn’t have been out for another 20 years. Redditor Mithryn suspects that if this did happen, it was Joseph’s reaction to his alcoholic father.

The Apostasy

If there was an organised church in Jesus’ time, this would be God’s chance to get his plan going. But according to the LDS Church, he decided to drop it all and pick it up again later, leaving millions of people in the dark about his plan. This means that, if the Mormon religion is right, very few people in history will ever have been exposed to God’s teachings.

Is that a sensible way of doing things? Or is this a story invented after the fact, as an attempt to explain why Joseph Smith needed to start up a new religion?

D&C Lesson 2 (Jesus)

“Behold, I Am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World”

Reading assignment

Study the scripture passages listed in the following questions and in the scripture chain for this lesson.

D&C 19:16–19
D&C 88:14–18; 93:33
D&C 18:11–12; 19:16–17, 20; 58:42; 76:62–70
D&C 6:20–21
D&C 6:32–37
D&C 19:1–3
D&C 29:1–2
D&C 38:1–3
D&C 45:3–5
D&C 50:44
D&C 93:5–19
D&C 133:42–52

Links: Teacher’s manual | Student manual

It’s a busy year for Your Humble Godless Doctrine teacher. So I’m posting this lesson as kind of a rough outline, with the intention of filling in the details later. Think of this as the notes that a Gospel Doctrine teacher would walk into class with.


This lesson is about Jesus, whose job was to fill in for the inadequacies that God built into his system. God created a system where he decided that there were some actions that he didn’t like, and if anyone did those things, they’d have to be punished forever. (This probably involves eternal isolation from loved ones.)

Even so, he insists that people are his thing.

D&C 18:10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.

This scripture says that “the worth of souls is great”, and yet God decided to create an awful lot of people who he knew in advance would not accept the gospel, and who would therefore be stuck in a lower kingdom or in outer darkness for eternity.

Punishing people for eternity is a bit harsh, so God made a loophole (for a rule that he created): an innocent person could be tortured and killed instead.

This means that, instead of simply forgiving everyone, God decided to kill his son Jesus, and then forgive people.

However, he will only forgive those few people who decided (on the basis of no evidence) to believe that such a nonsensical mechanism was a good idea.

He will then force everyone else to suffer torment like Jesus did.

D&C 19:16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

Translation: “I will torture my son, so that I don’t have to torture you. Then I will torture you.”

Why would a God demand suffering from his creations? This is unnecessarily sadistic.


From the manual:

Read D&C 122:8 with class members.
D&C 122:8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

Actually, yes — all of us are greater than Jesus, if we don’t teach that hell is real, and we don’t intend to kill billions of people at our return.

Remember also how, in the Book of Mormon, Jesus levelled entire cities full of people, and then bragged about it from the sky.

In what way has the Savior “descended below” all things?

Not in any meaningful way. He had a bad weekend, knowing in advance that he would be promoted to Godhood. That’s not a sacrifice; that’s a career move. Anyone who has suffered from a lengthy terminal illness has suffered more than Jesus.


The manual says:

Through the Atonement, we will all be resurrected
• Read the following passages with class members: D&C 88:14–18; 93:33; Alma 11:42–44. What can we learn about the Resurrection from these passages? (Answers could include those listed below.)

a. Resurrection is the redemption of the soul. The spirit and the body are reunited, inseparably connected in a perfect form (D&C 88:14–16; 93:33; Alma 11:42–43).
b. Resurrection prepares us for the celestial glory (D&C 88:18).
c. Resurrection is necessary for us to receive a fulness of joy (D&C 93:33).
d. All people will be resurrected (Alma 11:44).

Resurrection seems to be a pretty important principle to Mormons. “Getting a body” is thought to be an absolute must. But this is weird for a couple of reasons.

1. Bodies are meatbags. They are fiddly and susceptible to poor reasoning when they get tired or hungry. If you already have a spirit that can reason, think, perceive, and so on, then why do you need a body?

A common explanation would be something like “To be like God, who also has a physical body.” So God is a meatbag. That explains why he was acting so crazily in the scriptures.

But wait — he’s not a meatbag like us. He’s a perfected meatbag.

None of this makes any sense.

2. God created a system where we get bodies. But he also created death, in which we lose our bodies. He then needed Jesus to do his thing, so that we can all get bodies again. Why go through the back-and-forth rigamarole? Why not just let everyone keep their bodies?

Throughout this process, God is putting everyone through a lot of silly things that didn’t need to happen in this way. He creates sin, which we can’t avoid committing. He creates death, which we can’t avoid undergoing. Then, to undo the problems that he himself created (and blames us for), he tortures and kills his son, so that he can stand to have a relationship with us again.


The manual again:

2. Our “advocate with the Father” (D&C 45:3)
Write Advocate on the chalkboard. Explain that several times in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord says that He is our Advocate (D&C 29:5; 45:3; 62:1; 110:4).
• What is an advocate? (Someone who pleads the cause of another.)
• Read D&C 45:3–5 with class members. Why do we need an “advocate with the Father”? In verses 4 and 5, what evidence does the Savior present to the Father to show that we should receive everlasting life? (First He speaks of His Atonement—His sufferings, death, and blood. Then He refers to our belief in Him.)

Apparently, there’s going to be a scene where God is about to cast us into the abyss, and then Jesus-as-lawyer pops up and convinces him not to.

D&C 45:3 Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him
4 Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;
5 Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.

Summary: God has created a flawed system in which humans will inevitably suffer. He then offered Jesus as a workaround for the flaws in his system.

D&C Lesson 1 (Preamble)

Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History

It’s a busy year for Your Humble Godless Doctrine teacher. So I’m posting this lesson as kind of a rough outline, with the intention of filling in the details later. Think of this as the notes that a Gospel Doctrine teacher would walk into class with.

Reading assignment

Explanatory Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants; Doctrine and Covenants 1; introduction to Our Heritage.


Teacher’s manual | Student manual


This year, we’re rounding out our Gospel Doctrine program with the Doctrine and Covenants.

There are a few themes to keep in mind.

  • Joseph Smith wrote the Doctrine and Covenants as a way of manipulating people into doing what he wanted. Hey, that’s one of the things about getting people to think you speak for God. We’re going to keep track of times that “God” tells people to do things for Joseph Smith, or give things to Joseph Smith, or be nice to Joseph Smith.
  • It’s possible to go through Sunday School — or even teach Sunday School — and be completely oblivious to what’s going on in these chapters. You just kind of read through it. Then when you find out what it’s really talking about, you slap your forehead. So we’re going to take a look behind the scenes, delving into the history and the Book of Commandments, which was altered to create what we now know as the Doctrine and Covenants. Prepare for forehead slaps.


Section 1 is a preamble that was attached to the Book of Commandments. It’s the Supreme Leader of the Universe — he’s back with a message for mankind! So what does he do?

Threaten people.

D&C 1:11 Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear:
12 Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh;
13 And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.
14 And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;


D&C 1:31 For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;

Apparently, the Lord looked upon Joseph Smith’s adulteries with a great deal of allowance.

Can a prophet ever be wrong?

In our course of study, we’re going to be keeping track of the times when (putative) prophets were wrong, or made predictions that didn’t come true. You’d think this would mean that they’re not prophets, but Mormons are sanguine about prophetic blunders.

Ask: What rationalisations have you heard to excuse prophet fails?

  • He spoke as a man.
  • Prophets are human.
  • The Lord works with them through their imperfections.

Gordon Hinckley once wrote:

“We recognize that our forebears were human. They doubtless made mistakes. . . . There was only one perfect man who ever walked the earth. The Lord has used imperfect people in the process of building his perfect society. If some of them occasionally stumbled, or if their characters may have been slightly flawed in one way or another, the wonder is the greater that they accomplished so much.”
(“The Continuous Pursuit of Truth,” Ensign, April 1986, p. 5)

This is quite something! If a church has a prophet who speaks to God, that would have consequences. But if you ask a Mormon, “What consequences are there for having a prophet?” their answer will be: “Nothing in particular.” It doesn’t mean that the prophet has to get it right. It doesn’t mean they have to have solutions to any problems (least of all the church’s own problems).

And yet, this verse appears in the Doctrine and Covenants:

D&C 1:37 Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.
38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

If you say that you are a prophet whose words are the same as those of God, then that means that you don’t get to be wrong. Ever.

Especially when you claim 10 percent of believers’ income, you claim the right to tell people when they get to have sex, and you claim the sealing power over their families.

No. You don’t get to be wrong and then fudge it, claiming you’re still a prophet.

Getting there

Hey, all.

I’m having some trouble getting lessons out this past couple of weeks. I just wanted to let you know that I’ll be unloading a bunch of lessons on Conference Weekend, and then I’ll be mostly caught up. Sorry to those of you trapped in Gospel Doctrine with nothing to read. I’m thinking of you.

This post might disappear next week, as might any associated comments. Just so you know.

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