Recently I have resigned my membership from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The reason might surprise some. It is not because I hate the Church, anyone, or any other of the buzz topics didn’t offend me. I don’t even believe the garbage about Joseph Smith being a pedophile, home wrecker and fraud. Translating The Book of Mormon out of a hat doesn’t bother me either. Rather the genesis of why I left is rather simple. I want to know God.
This has been one of, if not the hardest decision I have ever made. I have made some difficult decisions before. But none of them even remotely compare to leaving the Church of my youth. Both my wife and I are return missionaries; I can count on probably 2 hands the Sacrament meetings I have missed in my whole life (okay maybe I will need my fingers and toes, but seriously, near full attendance in our household). My wife and I both come from pioneer stock, needless to say, I have a lot invested in the Church. I genuinely love the Church. Our local ward family has been with us through the death on one of our sons, another son falling out a 2nd story window and the succeeding complications (which happened 3 days after the birth of my youngest son). Needless to say, they have been with us through thick and thin. Leaving our Ward is infinitely more difficult then leaving the Church. In many ways we don’t believe we have ‘left’ the Ward.
So what do we mean by “wanting to know God”, and why can’t we do that in the framework of the LDS Church. To understand this we need to go back to our foundation, to Joseph Smith. When the gospel was restored through Joseph Smith, one of the key elements that needed restoration was the nature, character and attributes of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.
I was not aware of this until I started a sincere study of the nature of God; the entire LDS doctrine on the nature of God differentiates from most the rest of the Christian world because of one verse in the Doctrine and Covenants. That one verse literally is the lenses through which we see the Old and New Testament, The Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine and Covenants.
Other religions have lenses by which they look at the nature of God through as well. For example The Nicene Creed or The Athanasian Creed, (which you can read here http://www.catholictradition.org/Tradition/creeds.htm)
“The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.”
You may read this and think well, yeah, so what, THAT IS THE WAY IT IS. Well, I held that same belief. Until I was introduced to the Lectures on Faith, most in my generation have not even heard of the Lectures on Faith, we are familiar with some of the quotes, but on a whole, are not familiar with this most important work by Joseph Smith.
In 1835 the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was published. The reason it was called Doctrine and Covenants was because the first 70 pages or so consisted of the Lectures on Faith. It was developed by Joseph Smith for use in instruction in the school of the prophets. The second half was the Covenants, or revelations that had been compiled up until that time. (It is also worth noting that the typeset for the Lectures on Faith was larger then the remaining portion of the Doctrine and Covenants)
In the preface to The Lectures on Faith in the 1835 edition it reads: (Joseph Smith Papers, Volume 2, Revelations and Translations beginning, 311-313)
“We deem it to be unnecessary to entertain you with lengthy preface to the following volume, but merely to say that it contains in short the leading items of the religion which we have professed to believe. The first part of the book will be found to contain a series of lectures as delivered before a theological class in this place. And in consequence of their embracing the important doctrines of salvation, we have arranged them into the following work. We do not present this little volume with any other expectation than that. We are to be called the answer to every principle advanced.”
To put it simply, Joseph Smith clearly felt that the Lectures on Faith were of utmost importance; they were ‘leading items’. On August 17, 1835 the entire 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, including the Lectures on Faith were voted on and subsequently canonized by the Church.
So, what does this have to do with D&C section 130:22? Pretty simple really, Joseph Smith, who stood in the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ, describes them. In Lecture 5, Verse 2 of the lectures on Faith, it reads:
“There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things…They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness: The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man… And he being the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and having overcome, received a fulness of the glory of the Father—possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit…being filled with the fulness of the Mind of the Father, or, in other words, the Spirit of the Father: which Spirit is shed forth upon all who believe on his name and keep his commandments: and all those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all: being filled with the fulness of his glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one.” (Italics added.)
This description of the Father, is in stark contrast to that of D&C 130:22, “a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” is not the same as a “personage of spirit, glory and power”. Spirit and Body are not the same. Additionally, the next alarming thing in the lectures on Faith is what the Holy Spirit is (Holy Spirit is used interchangeably with the Holy Ghost) is the Mind of the Father.
The current LDS church does not teach out of the Lectures on Faith, they do not ascribe to that theology anymore. In 1921, a committee removed the Lectures on Faith from the Doctrine and Covenants. The Lectures on Faith were dropped from the scriptures by a committee comprised of George F. Richards, Anthony W. Ivins, Melvin J. Ballard, James E. Talmage, John A. Widstoe, and Joseph Fielding Smith. That committee dropped The Lectures on Faith from the scriptures because:
“Certain lessons entitled The Lectures on Faith which were bound with Doctrine and Covenants in some of its former issues, are not included in this edition. Those lessons were prepared for use in the School of Elders. But they were never presented or accepted by the Church as other than theological lessons or lectures.”
That’s a lie. The Joseph Smith Papers, if you will read them today, tell you that statement is not the truth.
We have explored the history of the Lectures on Faith, but if you are anything like me, you have already asked the question; “where did section 130 come from?”
Elder Orson Pratt and Elder Orson Hyde added it to the Doctrine and Covenants in 1876. It came from a series of talks that Orson Hyde gave in the presence of Joseph Smith in 1842. Some of the items that Orson Hyde spoke on were not accurate, such that it required a private correction by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Volume 2 page 324, on April 2, 1842, Joseph recorded:
“Elder Hyde I am going to offer some corrections to you. Elder Hyde replied – they shall be thankfully received. – When he (Christ) shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he (Christ) is a man like ourselves. – (Parenthesis added).
This is consistent with the Lectures on Faith. The Son (Christ) is a man, a ‘tabernacle of clay’. Just like us. However, later on, Joseph records the following on page 326:
“There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven. Before the foundation of the world upon which all blessings are predicted and when we obtain a blessing it is by obedience to the law upon which that blessing is predicated. Again reverted to Elder Hyde’s mistake. &c the Father has a body of flesh & bones as tangible as mans the son also, but the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit. – and a person cannot have the personage <of the HG.>. It may descend upon him but not to tarry with him.— (Bold and Italics added)
So the clincher here, the way Joseph Wrote in his Journal is he elaborated on “Elder Hyde’s mistake”, by writing. “&c”. I had to look this up, but &c is another way to write Etc. Normally we would write this after the sentence. However, Joseph Used it before the sentence, in fact it starts the sentence, listing Elder Hyde’s mistake. What was Elder Hydes mistake? Amongst other things (&c): the Father having a body of flesh and bones as tangible as mans the son also and the Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit. I assert that Joseph was trying to lay out to Elder Hyde, that to know God, you must know correctly about God. Then preceded to correct his errors, which errors, he listed for us in his Journal.
In Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith Clearly states that God is a SPIRIT OF GLORY AND POWER, and further that the HOLY SPIRIT IS THE MIND OF GOD.
I want to know God, I want to know Jesus Christ. Not in the fast and testimony, I feel good all over way, but in the literal, I want to meet my savior in this life way. I want to feel the prints of the nails in his hands and feet. I want to see his eyes. Joseph Smith taught, that in order to exercise this kind of faith three things are necessary:
“First, the idea that he actually exists. Second, a correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes. Third, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his God’s will.”
He goes onto say:
“For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive, but with this understanding, it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Lecture 3 vs 3-5)
I love The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I will forever be grateful for what it has provided in my life, namely, fostering a desire to know God and Jesus Christ. If the LDS Church can corrupt the nature of God, what else could it corrupt? There are many more things nearly as important as this, but those we will save for another day.
Section 130 verse 22, may as well be the LDS Church’s Nicene Creed. It did not come from a Prophet, or even from God; rather, it was corrected by our founding Prophet to not be true. In spite of all the LDS Church has, when it errors on what should be the most foundational tenant, I must ask if my salvation and desire to know God and Jesus Christ are more valuable then my membership in the LDS Church.
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served…(as taught in D&C 130:22), in whose (Church) ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 25:12 (Modified to be applicable to me and my house)