No Doubt to Know

girlthomasTrying to find a way with Scriptural understanding to reconcile the honest search for Truth and the spiritual destructiveness of unbelief, I found that doubt is not a positive attribute. As described by prophets and the Lord Jesus Christ, doubt is the enemy of faith. Unbelief is slightly worse because of a more concrete condition of the mind and heart, but they are both related to each other. Doubt doesn’t lead to faith. It destroys it by leading to questioning everything; even miracles that we participate in by the Grace of God.

The one instance when doubt brought greater understanding was Acts 10:17 after Peter received his vision of the unclean animals. Religiously speaking, it was a weak doubt because he had complete confidence the vision was real. He simply wondered, “what this vision which he had seen should mean,” and pondered for an answer. His faith in the vision was rewarded with a missionary opportunity to baptise a gentile. He then realized in Acts 10:28 that, “it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” The use of the word “doubt” in this instance might be the wrong choice of words, when “wondered” might be more appropriate.

Despite modern definitions and meanings, to doubt is not the same as questioning. It is natural and even required by Scripture that we should question. No one can discover truth without inquiring with mind and spirit where it can be found. How we are to question is important to properly growing in faith. There is a form of action involved that goes beyond the intellectual curiosity. It reads in 1 Thes. 5:21 that believers should, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” As always, Jesus Christ explained how this is to be done while teaching at the Temple. His teachings became a source of astonishment to the people attending because he had no formal intellectual training. They asked him how he could know so much without the proper school education and he responded in John 7:16-17 that, “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me,” and “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” He is teaching that the way to discern spiritual things is to follow what God has already taught. This idea is emphasized in verse 19 when he asks, “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?” Those who do not follow the basic teachings of God cannot comprehend deeper truths and will be stuck with their questions.

Critics often point out that Joseph Smith asked questions as evidence that doubting is acceptable. This, I am afraid, is a misreading of his own history. The process of “questioning” can be read in his own handwriting in the first attempt in 1832 to write his history. Although it is true he questioned the preachers of his day, it wasn’t their teachings that bothered him. He saw how they acted, most likely because of bickering as recorded later, compared to what he learned from the Bible and concluded something was wrong. This brought him to pondering the wicked condition of all people in the world, and therefore the sins of his own heart. Humbled by the thought of damnation because of the things he did (later to describe them as youthful indiscretions) against what he knew should have been done, he sought repentance. He didn’t multiply questions and dwell on them until there became a crushing doubt of all his beliefs. No, he remained a steadfast believer in the Bible as a source of truth.

As is well known he continued to read the Bible, until as stated in the official Joseph Smith History, “one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” To those who believe in Mormonism, this inspired him to pray in the woods near his home after a day of work chopping down trees. He saw glorious visions that culminated in the visit of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. He proved to himself the existence of God and was granted forgiveness out of an act of faith and not one of doubt. In fact, John 1:6-8 declares:

6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Those who ask without having faith in the answer will not get an answer. They will be “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14. An interesting chapter considering the topic of following the Apostles and Prophets for our spiritual protection).

An example of how doubt gets in the way of faith even in the middle of experiencing miracles is Peter walking on water with Jesus. He witnessed the calming of the seas by the words of Jesus before, and was offered a chance to replicate what Jesus had done at another time. The apostles, as recorded in Matt. 14:25-33, were in a boat during hard weather and looked to see a figure crossing the water. In fear they thought it was an evil spirit, but quickly perceived it was Jesus. Excited to see him, Peter called out and asked if he could join him on the water. Jesus replied in the affirmative and Peter stepped out of the boat, taking substantial steps. During the miracle Peter looked around and started to doubt, “when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.” In response Jesus grabbed his hand and said, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Faith turned to doubt. Doubt turned to fear. Without the merciful hand of Jesus, surely Peter would have drowned in heavy seas.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the novel Dune by Frank Herbert. The boy Paul who would later become the “prophet” Muad’dib was getting tested by a Bene Gesserit priestess with the box of pain. It is both a rite of passage and a lesson on faith. Those who can endure the pain and not flinch are considered of high spiritual quality. During the rite there is the quoted litany:

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing….only I will remain”

There is no complaining. There is no continuous arguing and questions unending. The pain is there and to the mind real, but once it passes with faith and self-control then all that remains is a stronger person. Too many are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7) because they let doubt rule over them. When Oliver Cowdery was given the opportunity to translate the Book of Mormon, he was told, “Therefore, doubt not, for it is the gift of God; and you shall hold it in your hands, and do marvelous works; and no power shall be able to take it away out of your hands, for it is the work of God” (Doc. & Cov. 8:8), and at first he succeeded. It seems evident he had a spiritual gift similar to Aaron used in the translation, but he ultimately failed. The Lord explained in Doc. & Cov. 9:11 to him, “Behold, it was expedient when you commenced; but you feared, and the time is past, and it is not expedient now.” Once again faith turned to doubt, doubt to fear, and fear into the need for the Lord to show mercy.

I suppose that end part with the Atonement and mercy of Christ as the safety valve is a stumbling block for those with a prideful need to know and do all for ourselves. President Ezra Taft Benson in his famous talk on pride warned:

The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives. (See Hel. 12:6.) They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works.

Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s.

Thomas is the “patron saint” of doubters. He wanted to feel the pierced hands of Jesus Christ to prove the resurrection after other disciples told of their experience seeing him. Although Jesus Christ obliged him when next visiting, he did warn “be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27) in the process. After Thomas became a witness, Jesus added in verse 29, “because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” What Thomas did was an act of faith and not doubt. His gift of witness to the resurrection had to be done with belief. Jesus had warned before, ” If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31), and so sign seeking to alleviate doubt is no help.

Can all that is left be blind faith? As the world defines knowledge, faith is inherently blind. There is no way around that fact. We must walk with faith in darkness to see the light, or we will forever be blind of spiritual things. Corinthians chapter one is a great sermon on the foolishness of the world against the foolishness of the gospel. To quote any part of that chapter is to take away from the whole. To sum up I will quote verse 21, with the encouragement of reading the rest, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” King Benjamin in Mosiah 4:11 taught, “and again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.”

How we deal with doubt is the acts of faith that include prayer, Scripture study, church attendance, and following the Commandments. How we don’t deal with doubt is pride of thinking we know better than church leaders, teachings of the scriptures, and God. The current prophet Thomas S. Monson has said about faith and doubt:

In this dispensation, in a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord said, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” . . .

As we offer unto the Lord our family prayers and our personal prayers, let us do so with faith and trust in Him. Let us remember the injunction of Paul to the Hebrews: “For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” 5 If any of us has been slow to hearken to the counsel to pray always, there is no finer hour to begin than now. William Cowper declared, “Satan trembles, when he sees the weakest Saint upon his knees.” 6 Those who feel that prayer might denote a physical or intellectual weakness should remember that a man never stands taller than when he is upon his knees.

We cannot know what faith is if we have never had it, and we cannot obtain it as long as we deny it. Faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other.

Sometimes I wonder if there are too many Mormons who should not be Mormon because of their attitudes. It would be better for them to repent and stop finding fault with the history, theology, and leadership. For those who seem to cling to their doubts as if a virtue, perhaps they should consider (as some already have) that differences are irreconcilable and time to move on. I do mourn for them, but in the way Mormon did his own people, “But behold this my joy was vain, for their sorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin”(Mormon 2:13). For all the years since Ezra Taft Benson that the LDS Church has sought the members to be more earnest in the study of The Book of Mormon, our path seems to be repeating rather than learning from the Nephite’s mistakes. We doubt too much. Its time to show more faith as God intended.

38 thoughts on “No Doubt to Know

  1. I really appreciate this addition to the discussion of doubt. I feel that some responding to Meg’s post on doubt are caught up in sophistry. I wonder if they realize how transparent their arguments are to anyone with a serious desire to be faithful.

  2. Thanks! Given a choice between faith and doubt, I hope to always choose faith…

    Certainly, if doubt arises, I don’t want to nurture it and worship it.

  3. Definitely faith and doubt cannot coexist, they are mutually exclusive as President Monson said in the above quote. I don’t know how the doubters can hold fast to their doubts and even be proud of them and even flaunt them on the internet like precious jewels. A person cannot be a faithful member and a doubter, that’s a complete oxymoron, and I wish they stop saying it’s ok to doubt. I think doubt comes involved in a wrapper of darkness.

  4. Oops, I meant “enveloped” in a wrapper of darkness. This smart devices keep correcting the spelling, most of the time with the wrong words, lol.

  5. Doubt does not always cause spiritual destruction. Certainly you would not say that to someone that doubted their church and joined Mormonism. Is it so difficult to believe that a person could be happier, healthy, more virtuous and more loving and forgiving after they leave Mormonism. I did, and I have never been more at peace with the world and with God. and I am a more virtuous person now than I was then.
    Now I do good because I want too and I say no when I feel it is best. [edit]
    My wife is still a devout Mormon and I support her. We are much closer and more devoted and in love since I left the church. We have been married over 33 years and I have never cheated on her.
    Perhaps I am an exception, none the less, It is so.
    Yes, men Look on the outward appearance (including one’s religion) God looks upon the heart. At the end of our life he is interested in what we have become. Little else matters.

  6. “Certainly you would not say that to someone that doubted their church and joined Mormonism.”

    I might if their doubting attitude carried over to Mormonism if they so chose to convert. That is a red herring anyway, because I stated in the last paragraph that leaving the Church might be better than remaining. Doubt can do nothing more than fester and congeal until neither those who are faithful and those who aren’t can get along. They will always be trying to usurp the Will and Authority of God in the Church that He instituted according to Mormonism no matter what you believe at this time.

    “Is it so difficult to believe that a person could be happier, healthy, more virtuous and more loving and forgiving after they leave Mormonism.”

    No, and Mormonism doesn’t teach that. However, it does teach that such will never receive the full blessings of Eternal Life unless repent of the unbelief and return to the Church to receive the ordinances of the gospel as outlined by the prophets, apostles, and Jesus Christ.

    As for the editing, it was in compliance with the comments policy of this blog.

  7. Paraphrasing the Book of Mormon, we are told that we are to look for things on the earth and in the heavens as evidences of the divinity of Christ and His gospel.

    War correspondent Ben Sherwood started looking into psychology and physiology of survival after a near-death experience in the Bosnian war. His trip took him through Air Force ejection seat training, the Navy’s Dunker, SERE training and multiple interviews with survivors and experts. The number one factor in whether or not a person survives in extremis is faith in God. In military parlance, it’s a Force Multiplier. Interestingly, faith in a New-Age, sunshine and lollipops God like the one many recent commenters at BCC seem to follow actually gets you killed faster than if you had no faith at all. The God that seems to work is the stern God of the Old Testament who demands a lot from you, may or may not save you in mortality, but will carry you into eternity of you perish in this life. I seem to recall the Prophet Joseph saying something along the lines that faith in an incorrect view of God will not save anyone in the eternities.

    For any who are interested, the book is the Survivor’s Club. I highly recommend it, particularly to people who have gone through or are going through traumatic experiences in their personal lives or families.

  8. Farren, I admire your wife. She sounds like a loving person even though you have apparently chosen to desert her in eternity.

  9. There is only one true object of faith–the Lord, Jesus Christ. (I’m testifying)
    We are making a distinction between doubting what is true versus doubting an institution and other temporal things. You see, we don’t go around preaching the gospel (not effectively or with authorization anyway) by raising issues to cause doubt in our investigators regarding their current position. That’s what “they” do with the anti-Mormon diatribe. No, we introduce them to greater truth, to lead them from their position of non-doubting faith in the truth they do have to a greater position of non-doubting faith in more truth. And we don’t do it by tearing down first. It just doesn’t work. Its not like jumping ship and swimming to another ship, its more like staying in the same ship and moving from steerage to a stateroom. If we went around engendering doubt that would have the effect of sterilizing their soil and the seed would not find purchase.

    I’m afraid you have it all wrong Ferren. We do not use doubt. You do, yes, and others out here who want to lead people away from Mormonism, and that is what we defend against. We may not properly use doubt as you intend its use. Certainly, we attack human constructs, intellectual weapons used in the offensive to tear us down. But we may go no further. We may not engender doubt in the individual but we may attempt to destroy the offensive weapon. We cannot use doubt to help you to return to faith. Neither can you or anyone else.

  10. I believe I am neutral if anyone stays or leaves or joins Mormonism. If it is what is best for them at this time, I am all for it.
    Some time ago I was at the church to pick up my children and meet a man in the foyer that was impatiently waiting for Saturday when he would be baptized, I listened to his story with great interest. He had seen a very rough life, had been in a motorcycle gang years earlier. He had seen his share of drugs and women. He was very excited about his future in the church. I did not let on that I was an apostate, I congratulated him on his decision to turn his life around. And shared his excitement. He seemed to enjoy our conversation.
    Most of the new missionaries that come into the ward think I’m just an inactive member. Until someone clues them in.
    I have read so many writers in the millennial star defending the church for their omission doctrinaly and historically. Saying, “it just wasn’t important enough, they weren’t trying to hide anything”. That is simply not true. I think everyone knows that, It’s just hard to admit. It is so easy to see when you look at the thousands of books written by general authorities in the last century. The omissions are deliberate!
    For a very long time before the internet the church has outlawed non-church sanctioned study groups. If you start one and refuse to disband you will be disciplined to the point of eventual excommunication. Too many people were talking candidly about church history and doctrine that could cause someone to loose their testimony. Even when everything was factual and historical. Banning study groups was a control that worked until the internet. Now we can have anonymous usernames and online study groups and the church cannot stop it. The internet has changed everything.
    I would feel so much better about Mormonism it they would just come clean (they are beginning to, albeit they have little choice because of the internet) and let the chips fall where they may. Give people there free agency based on ALL the facts. A great Idea would be to interview apostates and write a book of church history that covers the facts they feel were hidden from them. The stuff that made them leave the church. Them make it required reading before an adult is baptized. Make it required reading for young people before a mission or temple marriage. The church would get to cover their nefarious history from a friendly point of view. It would be helpful.

  11. Can I mention that I had no idea there was a furor about doubt when I posted my piece? It was just a nice but not quite complete post I had written weeks ago, which I then chose to polish and put up.

    I admit that this outs me as someone who doesn’t read the Ensign the moment it becomes available online. Oops.

    I like this post very much. As for those I love who have “deserted their families” in eternity, I still hope that they can be reasoned with in the life after this one and loved into accepting the ordinances that will have been done for them.

  12. “Interestingly, faith in a New-Age, sunshine and lollipops God like the one many recent commenters at BCC seem to follow actually gets you killed faster than if you had no faith at all.” Pantherll, could be more specific about this? I’ve read all the recent posts on BCC’s home page and am at a loss as to what could cause you to characterize their faith like that.

    “even though you have apparently chosen to desert her in eternity.” Um, how is Clear Cut discussing his faith journey on Meg’s post “On Doubt” in danger of violating the comment policy, and this makes it through?

  13. I am speaking from the perspective of the believer when I speak of desertion. If Farren’s wife believes LDS doctrine, her husband’s choice to leave the Church leaves her without his partnership after death. Doctrine and Covenants 76:75-76 indicates that ‘honorable men’ which Farren seems to consider himself, inherit the terrestrial kingdom where they is no marriage unit but Christ reigns. To the Mormon spouse of such a man or woman, there is a hope of eventual change of heart and mind, but without such, no eternal union. For that matter, all conventional Christian religions fail to promise union beyond the grave except as servants of God.
    Since I have written of my pathetic history as the deluded victim of an abuser, who also deserted our religion early on, but not publicly, and since I have not remarried, I’m on the sidelines in this issue. However I have been privy to the confidences of faithful members who have felt that their spouses’ choices cut off their hope of sharing a Celestial union.

  14. Pat, I like how you have been a faith-promoting and very positive commenter here at M*. But I do think the comment “…even though you have apparently chosen to desert her in eternity” was a rather uncharitable and illogical characterizatIon of FW and his leaving the church.

    Since he no longer believes in the foundational truth claims of the church (please correct me if I’m misundertanding what he said), being sealed/exalted with her in eternity is not and never could be an option _for him_. Desertion cannot be something he actively _chose_ if it’s opposite, sealed-for-eternity, wasn’t something he considered possible.

    Now, if the church’s doctrine turns out to be true (as you and I believe it is) his actions may effectively be tantamount or equivalent to leaving/deserting her. But, given _his_ current belief, you can’t logically ascibe that to him as a _choice_, since he does not see/acknowledge the possibility of it occuring even if he had stayed in the church. Your accusation wasn’t just insulting, it was highly illogical, even from the perspective of “the believer”, whether by believer, you are referring to you or to his wife.

    Logically, you might say “he is [effectively] deserting her in the eternities” “as seen from his wife’s perspective”, though that would still be unkind. But you cannot say, with any logical justification, that he “_chose_” to desert her in the eternities.

    Moreover, there is not only the possibility of him being reconverted in this life, Mormon doctrine allows the possibility for spiritual change port-mortem. Even if he doesn’t come back to church in this life, I’m sure he, and you, are aware that his wife or surviving family members will submit his name for proxy temple work, and it will be elligible for those ordinances a year after death. Rebaptism, etc., etc., including being sealed again.

    Moreover #2, “the eternities” haven’t started yet, and the Final Judgement is not here yet either, nor can we judge how much light someone has been given, or what level of testimony they have. So there is further reason for us not to say with certainty what is or is not going to happen in any specific case or with any specific person. All we know are general doctrines and very vague ideas of what might go on in the spirit world. Proxy temple ordinances open the possibilities in ways we have no idea of. So we really have no business saying who (specifically) is going to be in which kingdom at this point.

    Section 76 and 132 reveal quite a bit more than what general Christendom teaches. But those sections speak to generalities, not to specific individuals. Plus, we have to take them in context with many other scriptural passages describing the Lord’s mercy, judgement, and justice, and the repeated statments of modern prophets at General Conference.

    Moreover #3, it has also been repeatedly spoken by modern prophets, and done so over the pulpit at General Conference, that no worthy person is denied exaltation or eternal blessings by circumstances out of their control. Worthy people who remain unmarried, or worthy people whose spouses end up not living up to covenants, do NOT lose blessings in eternity. We haven’t been given details of exactly how that works, but that is what has been promised. Or, as Ardis Parshall likes to paraphrase it “You’ll be better off when you’re dead.” 😉

    Moreover #4, a sealing isn’t a sealing until it has been “sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise” according to the D&C. Many people tend to forget that. It is _not_ “all done” when the temple ordinance is performed. Both live and proxy sealings in the temple are provisional. Those are necessary ceremonies, but they aren’t _binding_, neither to the living nor the dead, until they are accepted on the other side of the veil and/or “sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.”

  15. Hi Farren,

    You must live in a really bizarre portion of “the kingdom,” if “non-church sanctioned study groups” were outlawed and persistence in holding them was cause for excommunication.

    My BYU bishop held such a study group when I was a freshman (I didn’t participate, it was for his peers, who were also professors). A local friend has held such a study group for years, though at a certain point when he was actively promoting anti-Church positions (including one study group with the former general authority who left the Church) he was asked to tone it down. The study groups continue.

    Our book group used to be formally sanctioned by Relief Society until one member was offended by one of the books we selected. Now the two book groups are not affiliated with Relief Society. I suppose some of the books we have read might be considered outre. But no one is getting excommunicated or even pressured.

    And then there is me. I’m pretty sure you haven’t read my Faithful Joseph series. And you certainly were around in my ward/stake when I would talk about polygamy in Nauvoo at stake service assignments and while carpooling to Messiah sing-alongs and while going on splits with sister missionaries. No one has suggested excommunicating me during all that time.

    So again, I think you live in a weird place, dear Farren.

  16. Though I had many doubt concerning the church throughout my life. I shelved them for the great brotherhood I enjoyed in the church. So many good things drowned out my disappointment in unsatisfactory answers.

    Then one day about seven or eight years ago, I was reading the Book of Mormon for the sixth time and I read through 3 Nephi 11:40. I was shocked. Why hadn’t I noticed this verse before. I read the chapter again to see it in context. I honestly had trouble breathing for a moment. The risen Jesus lays out his doctrine. He specifically details Faith in God, Repentance, The witness of the Holy ghost and Baptism. They are expounded and then sealed with verse 40, “ And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

    I actually ran down the stairs to find an old institute manual/commentary on the BoM. When I got to verse 40, It skipped it, without comment. It didn’t even print the verse. Verse 40 is the most significant verse for 20 verses in either direction and it skipped it. I checked every book of Mormon commentary I could get my hands on. I checked online on every LDS website. The only thing I could find was A talk by Joseph F. Smith (conference Report, Oct,1913, page 72). As I read it I thought his interpretation was completely out of context with the true meaning of the verse and had a touch of hysteria.
    That year in Gospel Doctrine Class we were studying the book of Mormon and as the Sunday school manual approached chapter 11 I felt some anxiety to see what the class would have to say. I was determined to push the issue and not pass it by. I was somewhat amaze at how casually everyone glossed over verse 40. I tried twice to bring the class back to discuss it with more depth but to no avail.

    This verse was the “Straw that broke the camels back” for me.

    I thought “Joseph Smith must have forgot about this verse when he introduced temple ordinances, just like he forgot about 3 Nephi 27:8 when he renamed the church the church of the Latter day Saints. He was reminded and corrected his mistake. Not so on 3 Nephi 11:40

    So anyone want to take a crack at it.

    To me it nullifies the temple endowment, celestial marriage that came a decade later. But it solidifies Moroni’s declaration that the Book of Mormon contains “The fullness of the everlasting Gospel”.

  17. I apologize to Farren and others for the way I responded to him. I can understand that those who don’t believe the doctrines of the Church are valid would find it offensive to suggest that they might be choosing consequences that could disappoint those they cherish. We cannot know what God’s infinite mercy and justice will decide.

  18. Dear Meg,
    I asked my stake president and bishop concerning study groups Many years ago. Both read a church directive out of the church executive Manuel (I can’t remember the proper name for the church manual for bishops and stake presidents)
    I am sure each bishop or stake president can enforce such a church directive as they see fit. They would probably choose not to enforce a directive until it harmed the church. None-the-less I was there when it was read to me. I don’t know if it is in the current directives manual.

  19. I looked in Royal Skousen’s ‘The Book of Mormon-The Earliest Text and found no reference to the verses Farren noted. Could he provide information on the edition he consulted? In my opinion it is not a contradiction to have the other elements of the Gospel such as the restoration of the priesthood and temple ordinances if these verses were part of The Book of Mormon.

  20. Some believe Joseph Smith was a false prophet (that he never had any visitation and never had any authority). Some believe he was a fallen prophet (that he had a visitation and authority, but that he strayed from the path). Some believe he was a true prophet from beginning to end. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on one’s perspective, all three kinds of people are found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But the truth claims of the church, and the promises and power of the ordinances of the priesthood, can have saving power onto for the last group — those who follow the Savior’s invitation to make a choice, to choose to believe, to choose to have faith. When choosing to whom one should listen, my advice is to listen to those who themselves have made a decision to believe, whose love for the Savior and sustaining of his church helps them to cast away fear and doubts.

  21. Pat Chiu,
    Sorry, I’m not following your Question, or was it not intended for me?

  22. In response to Farren and his concern about 3 Nephi 11, we see that verses 20-40 are concerned with baptism, specifically:

    21 And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven.

    22 And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you.

    23 Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.

    24 And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying:

    25 Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

    26 And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.

    27 And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one.

    28 And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.

    29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

    30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

    31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.

    32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

    33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

    34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

    35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

    36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.

    37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.

    38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

    39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.

    40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

    Sorry for pasting the entire thing. But the point is that this is a passage specifically talking about baptism.

    The less than this would be those who felt that the Law of Moses was sufficient, as we see taught by almost all the anti-Christs prior to Christ’s appearance. The more than this would be those who felt that baptizing infants was required, as discussed in Moroni 8.

    Your rather rigid interpretation of 3 Nephi 11 ignores the great things Jesus said as described in 3 Nephi 17, the things which could not be written other than to testify that eye had never seen nor ear heard before so great and marvelous things as they saw Jesus speak unto the Father, things which filled their souls with joy inconceivable, joy which overcame them and caused them to fall to the earth.

    Jesus blessed their little children and angels ministered to them, encircling them with the fire of the spirit.

    And then Jesus commanded his disciples to bring for bread and wine, to administer the sacrament. Which is something in addition to the doctrine of baptism spoken of in 3 Nephi 11, yet as that passage in 3 Nephi 11 is merely speaking of baptism, there is no contradiction.

    The message of the restored gospel is that it is possible, via proxy ordinances, to perform the saving baptismal ordinance even for those who never heard of Christ, who have passed away. For all are beloved children of God.

    I assert the possibility that the beautiful prayer of Jesus to the Father, that caused such great joy in the hearts of the assembled thousands, regarded the salvation of all mankind, the ability of all mankind to be bound together as families, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers, that all the earth might be saved in the day of Christ’s coming in glory. That is the most joyous and glorious aspect of Christ’s teachings, and is the thing I can imagine causing such overwhelming joy and such divine manifestations to the children.

  23. Farren, regarding the business in the Handbook of Instructions, I would assert that such tactical guidance as was read to you is the reason that the Handbook of Instructions is kept close hold. It is tactical guidance, not strategic guidance, and it isn’t even eternal truth. So though I don’t particularly doubt that there might have been a version of the Handbook of Instructions that contained the information you cited, I dare say that information is not in the current Handbook of Instructions.

    The Handbook of Instructions is somewhat analogous to the Jeppesen Airway manual, which must be updated continually to be kept up to date. If you aren’t a pilot, you don’t really need to know the charts and such in the Jeppesen manual. Likewise, the Handbook of Instructions isn’t necessary for normal folks, since the silly thing is constantly morphing to meet the needs of God and His people. The last thing we need is a large group of people holding themselves to the tactical guidance appropriate for a time decades in the past. It’s hard enough overturning practices from the past that are no longer appropriate even without people having an ability to cite chapter and verse.

  24. Good effort Meg,
    I believe you will find it is more than baptism on closer inspection, there are numerous doctrines in the previous verses, including the first four principals and ordinances of the gospel as outlined in the articles of faith. I wasn’t trying to destroy it when I first read it, just to understand it. Try taking it to a neutral party, perhaps an English teacher or take a typed sheet that is taken out of the book of Mormon so no one knows where it came from, to a group of non-member youth and ask them for an interpretation. Kids are pretty honest. If your interpretation is correct why does every study manual I have ever found skip it as if it isn’t there. Including the manual for gospel doctrine and a college institute manual. It seems to be avoided at all costs.

    If it were that easy it wouldn’t be avoided.

  25. Joseph Fielding Smith commentary on 3 Nephi 11:40
    “Now, there are those who declare more or less than this. They will not repent of their sins. They will not accept Jesus as the Redeemer of the world. They will not believe that He spoke the truth when He declared unto the people that He was the Son of God, and that He came to fulfill the mission that was given to Him of His Father, to redeem the world from sin. They reject these things. They will not believe them; hence they remain in the bondage of sin, and cannot be redeemed, because they will not receive the principles by which salvation comes. There are many of this class that go around through the country, stirring up the hearts of the people against the truth, declaring that these things are not so, and that it is unnecessary for men to observe these principles, and ordinances that are declared in the scriptures to be essential to salvation. They are destroying the faith of the people wherever it is possible.” (Conference Report, Oct. 1913, p. 72)

    You will notice Joseph Fielding Smith says nothing about limiting verse 40 to its reference to baptism. On the contrary.

    If their are other leaders that have commented on this verse I would like to know. I can find cant find any with my resources.

  26. Well, we tried. I never expected a response to someone who answered the question any different than what was given. It shows the futility of intellectualism versus teaching pure testimony. The person hearing the word will either receive and accept the prompting of the Holy Ghost or they won’t.

    Having said that and seeing what direction the discussion is going, from the comment policy, ” Posters who wish to debate or argue those foundational teachings should seek one of the other forums available for such discussions.”

  27. Dear Farren,

    It would be truly ironic if the wording of this call to believe, repent, and be baptized is ultimately the reason that you abandoned your belief and baptism and have rejected these things.

    The three things discussed in those twenty verses are the two first principles and the first ordinance of the gospel:

    Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
    Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.

    The entire structure of this segment relates to Christ granting power to baptize, versus the modern perception that anyone who is faithful may perform a baptism.

    As verse 39 specifies, this [these first two principles and the first ordinance] is Christ’s doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon Christ’s rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.

    For what it is worth, I see absolutely no contradiction between Joseph Fielding Smith’s words in 1913 and 3 Nephi 20-40. Also, I find the following from Jeffrey R. Holland:

    “The Savior stressed such strong, recurring themes as the unity of the Godhead and the need for all disciples to be as little children, but clearly the foundational doctrine of baptism is at the heart of Christ’s saving ministry, for he repeated the phrase ‘my doctrine’-particularly as applied to baptism-at least eight times in his unequivocal counsel to the Nephites.” (Christ And The New Covenant, p. 261).

  28. Ferren,

    The irony in your position is wonderful!

    Normally I expect an argument to nuance away the Book of Mormon as ahistorical. Your argument actually requires belief that the BoM is true! That Christ actually spoke those words! At least we are agreed on that. (I hope)

    You have not claimed that the statement is fatally contradictory to the rest of the book and that therefore the BoM cannot be true. No, you have used it to show that the church built up after that statement cannot be true, or at least all of the doctrines added since then cannot be true. Very curious.

    If I were giving a monologue and began (verse 22) by pointing out that there had been disputations regarding baptism, gave the simple and proper doctrine for baptism by immersion of those who bring repentance and a belief on the name of Jesus Christ, then reiterated the dangers disputation (verse 28) gave a promise for those who enter the covenant and a warning to those who don’t; reiterated the promise of salvation including the visitation of the Holy Ghost, explained that repentance requires becoming as a little child and then ended with (verse 40) a proclamation that we must build upon this FOUNDATION, i.e,, the foundation of repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and the visitation of the Holy Ghost–no more and no less.

    I am comfortable with this explanation, and would challenge any grammarian or rhetorician that this is not a proper reading of these verses as an oration.

    Finally, if this statement was truly spoken by Christ the it predates all of the writings of the New Testament. So using it as a like to the one in Revelation means that this one trumps that one. How ironic. Sure, the gospels were merely memorializing what the Savior said in life but all the rest of the works and epistles would post date this utterance of the Savior and any doctrine in them would be also invalid–including taking the gospel to the gentiles. More irony.

    I wish you well on your journey and am sorry that you didn’t get a good answer to this while you were looking. I am satisfied. God bless.

  29. I should have said the sum up begins in verse 39 and “BUILDETH UPON my rock” (his foundation previously described) infers that more is on top of this and more is to come.

  30. I see perhaps nine different doctrines in the last half of 3 Nephi chapter 11, please excuse the brevity of each example.
    1. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ
    2. Repent of your sins
    3. Be baptized by immersion
    4. The mode of baptism and prayer defined
    5. You must become as a little child to inherit the kingdom of god
    6. The father son and holy ghost are one
    7. You will be visited with fire and the holy ghost.
    8. Contending with anger should be done away.
    9. The Father , Son and holy ghost shall bear record of each other
    It doesn’t really matter whether I believe in any of these doctrines at present. I did when I was a Mormon. For me Chapter 11 verse 40 threw a wrench in the authenticity of Josephs revelations. I realize others see it differently. I do not believe my observation was biased when I first read it.

    It is fun and educational to examine and debate this issue. I hope it is not taken personal.

    As for Jeffery R Hollands discourse, It is the same as others that discuss chapter 11. Verse 40 is never mentioned or quoted, as if it doesn’t exist.

    I su

  31. Joel Winter,
    Good points, Something for me to think about. In the past I have always looked at John’s warning in the book of revelation’s as pertaining to the “book of this prophecy” only. Deuteronomy 4:2 referring to altering his words to mean something else. And 3 Nephi 11:40 to mean doctrine to bring us into the presence of god eternally.
    Keep up the good work.

  32. Thanks Ferren,

    I hope we have opportunity to engage in the future. I am glad you remain “neutral” to others’ faith journey enough to allow open support and encouragement of their faith decisions, e.g., the baptism story, and support of your wife. You have been candid while avoiding even a whiff of derision, (at least I didn’t smell any) and handled criticism well.

  33. Pingback: Faith, Doubt, AND CONTEXT - Rational Faiths | Mormon Blog

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