Two Forms of Revelatory Policy Changes

I am currently in Israel visiting family, and decided this morning to go on a walking tour of Jaffa. On the tour, the tour guide spoke of the events that led Cornelius the centurion to Peter and culminated in the opening of the Gospel to the gentiles.

In light of the debate over whether current policy changes are inspired and truly the will of the Lord, I reflected on this most monumental shift in policy ever occurred in the history of the Church. Before Peter’s vision, only those who were Jewish by descent or laborious conversion could be baptized into the nascent Christian Church. After his vision, the scope and power of the Church of Christ dramatically changed as the message spread to all mankind.

There were two key revelations regarding the Church’s policy towards the gentiles, and I believed that looking at these two different policies helps to reveal how God guides his Church today.

The First revelation came to Peter in the vision regarding eating unclean animals. After this vision, Peter knew God’s will decisively and he knew that the Gospel could go to the gentiles. This was a direct revelation of a very specific nature , and Peter immediately shared this vision with the whole Church so that it would know that the instruction came from God.

But after this vision, there still remained the difficult work of figuring out how to implement the newly revealed policy of preaching to the gentiles. In Act 15, we read about the great counsel where the Apostles and Elders came together under the direction of the First Presidency to consider what limitations should be placed on newly converted Gentiles. Peter and James lead this meeting and seek the guidance of the Lord. And from this meeting comes a divinely inspired policy that “seemed good to the Holy Ghost.” This policy revelation involved no clear “thus saith the Lord” moment. Peter didn’t receive a vision, James didn’t speak in the name of the Lord. Yet, there is no question that Peter and James received binding revelation which was accepted by the whole Church as inspired policy.

These  two models of revelation still exist in the present Church. Sometimes, policy is revealed through a dramatic vision or through “thus saith the lord” revelation. Other times, it is instead revealed through inspired and prayerful contemplation and under the guidance of the First Presidency. Both are inspired and both are revelatory. If we demand the former type and reject anything revealed through the latter model as uninspired, we will be doing a grave disservice and sowing the seeds of doubt and dissension.

Elder Nelson makes clear the LDS policy on same-sex attraction is the ‘will of the Lord’

The Salt Lake Tribune has a story on Elder Nelson’s talk to young adults Sunday night in which the senior apostle makes it as clear as can be that the Church’s policies are the will of the Lord.

The Mormon Newsroom has not reported on the talk yet, so my post will have to rely on the report from the Tribune, but here are some key paragraphs:

After same-sex marriage became legal in several countries, including the United States, the LDS Church’s top 15 leaders wrestled with what to do, weighed all the ramifications, fasted, prayed, met in the temple and sought God’s guidance on the issue.

Balancing their understanding of Mormon doctrine about the “plan of salvation,” which is built on male-female marriage, with compassion for children of same-sex couples, Russell M. Nelson, head of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said Sunday night, “we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise.”

Then President Thomas S. Monson, considered a “prophet, seer and revelator” in the 15 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, declared “the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord.”

That led to the Utah-based faith’s new policy regarding same-sex Mormon couples — that they would be labeled “apostates” and that their children would not be allowed baptism and other LDS religious rites until they turn 18.

“Each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation,” Nelson, next in line for the Mormon presidency, told the faith’s young adults in the first official explanation of the hotly debated policy’s origins. “It was our privilege as apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson.”

Nelson explained that revelation from the Lord to his servants is a sacred process.

“The [three-member] First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together and share all the Lord has directed us to understand and to feel, individually and collectively,” he said. “And then, we watch the Lord move upon the president of the church to proclaim the Lord’s will.”

Elder Nelson also said that this is a time for choosing:

Continue reading

Beware Uncharted Islands – The Beast Below and Enduring in the Old Ship Zion

[Cross-posted from Sixteen Small Stones]


Last month, my daughter sent out an email query to the members of our family asking for each of us to respond as quickly as possible with the name our favorite magical creature of all time. I didn’t respond immediately and so her question slipped off my radar. She followed up with an email reminder, and then a verbal reminder. I didn’t understand why it was so important, but after a little thought, I told her that my favorite mythical creature was Fastitocalon.

Like most people, she had never heard of Fastitocalon.

Fastitocalon is the name of a gigantic mythological sea monster that floats at the surface of the ocean and deceives seafarers. The wicked beast waits for sea travelers, who easily mistake it’s huge carapace for an uncharted island, to secure their ships to its shell and disembark for a rest from their journey. Just when they are starting to feel safe and enjoying themselves, Fastitocalon dives into the sea, sinking the ships and drowning all the travelers.

For Christmas, my daughter gave each member of the family an original drawing of the creature they had told her was their favorite. And she gave me a wonderful drawing of Fastitocalon, a photo of which I have included at the top of this post.

I love my daughter’s conceptualization of Fastitocalon as a giant turtle. I like the line between what appears above the surface and what is below; the change in lighting and color. The welcoming island above and the beast below.

My first encounter with Fastitocalon was through J.R.R. Tolkien’s delightful poem of the same name in “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil“: Continue reading

His Love

sunset-beach-775363-print[Cross-posted from Deliberate Discipleship] Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in the Godhead. Meaning, we believe in God, the, Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. (Articles of Faith #1) It is our Eternal Father that I wish to address in this post.

Often, we speak of the Savior’s gentleness and kindness. “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do” (John 5:19). Christ also teaches that He “…came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38) So, from scripture we learn that our Heavenly Father is much like His Son – or, more accurately, the Son is much like His Father. Our Heavenly Father, with His perfect love, loves us perfectly and seeks happiness for all His children. For all of us. He is the perfect parent.

I am NOT the perfect parent. Not by a long shot. But for all my imperfections, I love my children fiercely. And, I would do all within my power to ensure their happiness. Continue reading

Book Review: The Polygamist King – James J. Strang

I was fascinated to learn celebrated journalist John J. Miller 1 had written a Kindle Single on the subject of James J. Strang.

I was thrilled that John Miller was willing to do a Q&A with me for your benefit.

For those not familiar with James J. Strang, he was the 1844 convert who claimed to be Joseph Smith’s chosen successor.

Strang started by renouncing polygamy and spiritual wifery at a time when Brigham Young and Heber Kimball were continuing Joseph Smith’s secret teachings regarding the possibility of plural wives in Celestial marriage. Ironically, men known to have participated in illicit intercourse and spiritual wifery under the leadership of John C. Bennett and William Smith would become Strangites. Strang came to Nauvoo right around the time William Law and Austin Cowles were becoming lethally disaffected with Mormonism. He was baptized in the month when Law and Cowles were gathering conspirators with the intent of murdering Joseph Smith. As many who actively conspired against Joseph allied themselves with Strang (including my ancestor, Austin Cowles), I have come to regard membership in Strang’s sect as a highly suspicious sign.

A few years after Strang put himself at the front of a post-martyrdom Mormon sect claiming to renounce polygamy, Strang began gallivanting around the country with “Charles J. Douglas,” a 19-year-old woman whose real name was Elvira Eliza Field. Ms. Field would dress in men’s clothing to permit her to accompany the man she regarded as her husband. Strang’s original wife, never more than lukewarm about her husband’s association with Mormonism, left him. Strang married three more plural wives. All four of his plural wives were pregnant in 1856 when matters came to a head.

By 1856 tension between Strang and those who opposed him resulted in his shooting. Strang lingered for weeks before dying, never conferring on another the keys to his Strangite kingdom. In Strang’s case, he had actually had himself coronated king, hence the title of John Miller’s book.

Meg: I enjoyed this slim volume immensely. What brought you to write about James Strang?
Continue reading


  1. John J. Miller writes for National Review, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications. The Chronicle of Higher Education has called him “one of the best literary journalists in the country.”