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A Quest for the True and Living Church

The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days claims to be a new restoration of the gospel truths originally restored by Joseph Smith and taught by the presidents of the church until the apostasy started by changing of the ordinance and abandoning doctrines such as Plural Marriage, Consecration, Rebaptism etc. They view the LDS church as being in apostasy because it made changes to the ordinances such as baptism, sacrament and the ordinances of the temple.

My Personal Search

It was an interesting experience for me to consider the idea that my church could be in apostasy. I was able to experience what I am sure other people feel when we tell them that they are not members of the true church of God. Was I willing to accept truth? I had based my life on the principle as explained in the movie, Man's Search For Happiness, "It is only if you are unafraid of truth, that you can find it." If The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had apostatized, I knew what my actions needed to be. I was committed to following God at all costs. As I began this study my wife was worried. She had a testimony that the LDS church was the true church and knew that she would not follow me to the TLC.

I had discounted the TLC until a previous bishop in our ward decided to join with them. I had heard from a friend that tried to explain that the LDS church could be wrong just like there were patterns of apostasy in the Book of Mormon. It was a common theme and now she explained that the LDS church had succumbed to the same pattern. I told her that I didn't think it applied because although the Book of Mormon gave examples of many periods of apostasy, the leaders who kept the record were a continuous righteous chain from Nephi to Moroni.

I talked with the former bishop and he told about how he was able to get the answer about the apostasy of the LDS church by using the form of prayer taught in the temple. That struck a responsive cord in me. I have wondered about the use of that order of prayer. However, I also knew that we have been directed not to use that outside of the temple.

I found myself moved by the things I was learning. It was a spiritual battle playing itself out in my life. The TLC had answers to many questions. They fully accepted difficult concepts like the Adam-God doctrine. If Joseph or Brigham Young could be quoted as having taught something, then that is what the TLC believed. However I still had a few questions.

I can remember a religion professor at BYU telling about a visit with a leader in a fundamentalist group. He said that the experience was electrifying because the man spoke with such knowledge and understanding about Joseph Smith. He said it was like talking with Joseph Smith in person. It was like traveling back in time and actually being in the presence of Joseph Smith. The TLC has this same kind of appeal.

As I studied the TLC, I felt like singing, "Give me that Old Time Religion.", because the TLC has the power to make it feel like you are returning to the roots of our faith. I could see the possibilities of an apostasy. I could feel the elation of stepping away from the apostasy and being one of the truly elect. I was anxious to prove that I was willing to do all that God required of me. I was willing to put my life, reputation, family, loved ones, career, all on the altar for God. I could feel the power of that type of decision, and I could feel my wife's concern and opposition for such a step. But I had to know that it was God's will without going into Satan's territory to find out.

Spence said that he found out about the apostasy of the LDS church by using the True Order of Prayer. The problem with that approach is that you have to already reject the LDS church to pursue that path. As a bishop he would know that we have been instructed not to use the True Order of Prayer outside the temple. To then pray in that fashion would be proof that you do not sustain the brethren. This breach, or violation of a covenant would put us in the power of Satan. Then we can't tell where our answer comes from.

The TLC has done a great job of proving that they represent the true gospel. That they are in agreement with the original teachings as taught by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor. But are they actually in tune with those teachings? Although they claim to have a sure foundation, are there cracks in their structure?

My friends at TLC might think I have not been honest with them. In fact Randy made a comment about me having guile in one of his messages. I can assure them that I have put my whole heart and soul into the investigation of TLC. I had my wife worried, I had my sister and parents worried. I was committed that if I found the truth in the TLC organization, I would do whatever was required of me.

Actually one of the tantalizing appeals of the TLC is the knowledge that you would be able to feel that you were really sacrificing all you had for the Lord. We have fond memories of what it must have been like for our pioneer ancestors and the level of commitment and sacrifice which they exhibited. The sacrifice is actually the easy part. Choosing the right cause to sacrifice for is the more difficult path.

My examination of the TLC was a roller coaster ride. As I would gather information I would be inclined for and against their claims. It was only after I had a fairly complete understanding of them and their experiences that I was able to stand back and make an analysis. It could not be fully comprehended intellectually. I had to rebuild my spiritual conviction of Gordon B. Hinckley as a latter-day prophet. And then I could also look at the doctrines and see where the scriptures were used out of context and incorrectly. I also found the TLC claims inconsistent with actual church history.

Don't get me wrong. The leaders of the TLC have done a marvelous job of reconstructing a plausible restoration of the doctrines taught by Joseph Smith. They have made a reasonable case for their belief in the shifting of the church from a position of purity to apostasy. However there are holes in their theory and the real apostates are the members of the TLC. They have an intellectual framework that is constructed according to the best of their ability. But the foundations are not truth and on full examination the weaknesses are apparent.

Since the days of Hiram Page when the church was first organized there has been a continuous stream of those who claimed that they had a better gospel or more knowledge than the leaders of the church. The claims of the TLC church are really no better than the those who preceded them.

Aaronic Priesthood for young men

When they explained that young men should not hold the Aaronic priesthood, it seemed pleasing to me. But I remembered something about that change that didn't correspond with their theory. I remembered that it was Brigham Young that suggested that the young men be ordained to the Aaronic priesthood.

In a general conference address in 1854, Brigham Young is quoted as saying that young men should not be ordained.

Says he, "I dare not even call a man to be a Deacon, to assist me in my calling, unless he has a family," It is not the business of an ignorant young man, of no experience in family matters, to inquire into the circumstances of families, and know the wants of person. . . but select a man who has got a family to be a Deacon, whose wife can go with him, and assist him in administering to the needy in the ward. (JD 2:89)

It should be remembered that this speech was in response to a long talk by Orson Hyde on Polygamy. Brigham commented on the biblical verse that Elder Hyde had used and said that it didn't imply that a bishop should have only one wife but that several wives were allowed by those verses. He then continued, "When you have got your Bishop, he needs assistants, and he ordains Counselors, Priests, Teachers, and Deacons, and calls them to help him;" I think that he is telling us that the Deacons he is talking about are those who are called to be assistants or counselors to the Bishop. But regardless of what Brigham meant by his comments in conference, he gave us further instructions on the Deacons.

In the year before Brigham Young died he sent out a significant circular to the church which made some changes in the organization of the quorums. Quoting from Messages of the First Presidency vol. 2 p. 283:

This is probably one of the most historic documents in Mormon history. It marked a turning point in the organizational pattern of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Up to this point members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles had presided over the major geographical areas of Mormon settlement. During the last few months of his life (April to August, 1877) Brigham Young set in order the quorums of the priesthood and organized and re-organized the existing stakes of Zion. Elder George Q. Cannon said of this important step in Church Government:

"He set the priesthood in order as it had never been since the first organization of the church upon the earth. He defined the duties of the apostles, he defined the duties of the seventies, he defined the duties of the high priests, the duties of the elders and those of the lesser priesthood, with plainness and distinctness and power the power of God in a way that it is left on record in such unmistakable language that no one need err who has the Spirit of God resting down upon him." (CHC 5:508)

In this Circular it says, ". . . it has been difficult thing to keep young men in the elders' quorum or in any of the quorums of the lesser priesthood; and when deacons, teachers and priests have been wanted it has generally been the case that seventies and high priests have had to be taken to act in those offices. It would be excellent training for the young men if they had the opportunity of acting in the offices of the lesser priesthood. They would thereby obtain very valuable experience, and when they obtain the Melchizedek priesthood they would be likely to place a higher value upon it." It was from these instructions that the practice of ordaining young men to the Aaronic Priesthood started.

"After 1877 it had been customary in the Church for boys at age twelve to be ordained deacons" (BYU Studies, vol. 13 no. 2, p. 142)

When I asked Randy Maudsley about this information he responded:

Bruce and I spent quite a bit of time going through "The Messages of the First Presidency" for the last three years of Brigham Young's life, in which years Brigham's health was on the wane - possible poisoning? At any rate, the nature and tune of those messages, especially the last year of Brigham's life, were more in the camp of the "Godbeites". Bruce and I are of the opinion that Brigham's councillors, who may have been in Godbe's hip pocket, wrote and sent most of those messages of their own accord and without Brigham's approval.

This explanation does not fit, remember that, "During the last few months of his life (April to August, 1877) Brigham Young set in order the quorums of the priesthood and organized and re-organized the existing stakes of Zion." Although some have claimed Brigham was poisoned, that only affected the last week of his life. He would not have been organizing stakes and changing the order of the priesthood quorums if it was just something his counselors dreamed up. Besides John Taylor didn't undo what was done when he became president. Are we to assume that John Taylor is apostate also?

Visits by heavenly messengers

There have been many who have assumed the right to call themselves a latter-day prophet. They have claimed visits by heavenly messengers as proof of their divine commission. Those messengers have ranged from Adam, Jesus Christ, Moroni, Joseph Smith, Enoch, Elias, John the Baptist, Nephi, Elijah. More recently [1983] a single claim includes multiple messengers such as God, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, Jr., Elijah and Moroni. These visitors gave instruction, ordinations, shook hands and gave all indications of being valid messengers from heaven. But their work did not continue. "And thus we see the ends of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell." (Alma 30:60)

We get the idea that since the Devil represents evil he will be easy to detect. But that is not the case. He has led many astray through revelations that seem good, uplifting and true. But in reality they were part of a deception. The Lord gave us the key so that we would not be deceived. "And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments; And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me. For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before, to teach those revelations which you have which you have received and shall receive through him whom I have appointed." (D&C 43:5-7)

As explained below, Joseph explained that the main body of the church would never apostasize. Although there are been many who have claimed new revelation outside of the leadership channels, their fruits have not been consistent with their claims and the TLC will follow in that same path.

In light of these visits the claims of James Harmston and other members of the True and Living Church do not seem very unique. In fact a definite pattern seems to be evident of repeated efforts to sidetrack the Latter-day Saints. The truth comes through the Lord's established channels. The revelations for the church in these latter days will come, "through him whom I have appointed" (D&C 43:7)

Upon My House it shall begin

The TLC likes to use D&C 112:25 to show that apostasy will occur in the last days will commence, "upon my house shall it begin." They then state, "Could it be possible that His children have gone astray again?" This is a subtle shift in focus. Let us review what the history and meaning of the verses in D&C 112.

The failure of the Kirtland Safety Society in 1836 and 1837 caused many to lose faith in the prophet Joseph Smith. "by May, 1837, the spirit of speculation in lands and property, rampant throughout the nation, was taking root in the Church. Along with it a spirit of apostasy arose, even some members of the Twelve turning against the Prophet. So bad did matters become that the Lord revealed to Joseph that something new would have to be done for the salvation of the Church. And about June 1, 1837, the First Presidency set apart Elder Heber C. Kimball to preside over a mission to England, the first foreign mission of the Church." (Doctrine & Covenants Compendium, p. 611)

The same day that the gospel was first preached in England, Joseph received section 112. It tells of a vengeance that will come upon the church.

Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord. And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord; First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house saith the Lord. (D&C 112: 24-26)

Notice that it speaks of specific instances. This is not a revelation about some far off future time. It is talking to those Saints in 1837 that "have professed to know my name" and also to those who "have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house."

It is well known that at this time the spirit of apostasy was rampant in the Church and continued for some time. Even brethren in the Twelve, men like Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Orson Hyde, Lyman E. Johnson, Luke S. Johnson, and John F. Boynton became disaffected, some of them only temporarily. Other prominent Elders of the Church were involved,some so much so as to plan the very destruction of the Church. Through persecution and apostasy, however, the Church was cleansed and prepared for its trek to the West. (Doctrine & Covenants Compendium, p. 614)

The years 1836 and 1837 were one of the darkest periods in Church history. Many blamed Joseph Smith personally for the failure of the Saints' "Kirtland Safety Society" bank, and a wave of apostasy affected even some in leadership positions. For example,during 1837, Frederick G. Williams apostatized, and therefore Hyrum Smith was called to take his place as second counselor in the First Presidency. This change was reflected in verse 17. Furthermore, on one occasion the Prophet's enemies, with pistols and knives drawn, sought to disrupt a worship service and to take possession of the Kirtland Temple. (Doctrine & Covenants Our Modern Scripture, p. 179)

The "Vengeance" did come and "upon my house" it began. The Doctrine & Covenants commentary put it this way, "The day of wrath came, and the Church was first sifted. Those who professed to be Saints and were not, were separated from the Church, through persecution, and the Church itself was then brought to a place of safety, in the mountain chambers." (D & C Commentary, p. 736)

I think the pattern has continued just as laid down in section 87. The United States saw its effects in the great civil war and war and we have seen the continuation as described that, "then war shall be poured out upon all nations." (D&C 87:3)

Everlasting Ordinances

The TLC likes to quote Joseph Smith as having said, "Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principle." (TPJS, p.308)

In their declaration to the Apostles the TLC state that one of the reasons the church is rejected is because they have changed the ordinances. They list: "abolition of the oath of vengeance in the Temple ceremony because of pressure from the government and fearing the loss of statehood for Utah." Are they meaning to imply that this "oath of vengeance" was part of the temple ordinance "instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world"? Surely they can't think that an oath against the United States was a part of the heavenly endowment. The real question is, what is the endowment that was "instituted in heaven." The essentials of that ordinance is all we need on the earth. If Brigham Young's lecture at the veil was not part of the heavenly ordinance then it shouldn't be kept in the earthly ordinance. If the oath of vengeance wasn't in the heavenly endowment, then it should be in the earthly embodiment of that ordinance either.

The TLC wants to talk about an apostasy, but they don't pin down an individual. They just say the "Church" has gone astray. They don't like The Manifesto and so about 1890 is assumed to be the start of the apostasy. But who were the leaders. It wasn't one man. It was a first Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. Fifteen men that followed the dictates of the spirit to them for any changes that took place. There wasn't even that much unanimous support for Brigham's supposed Adam-God doctrine. Orson Pratt as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve was opposed to it. And it never really came before the quorum for a vote.

But the question is: Can an everlasting ordinance change? Is there a difference between an "everlasting ordinance" and an "everlasting covenant?" Circumcision was known as an everlasting covenant. Let us review what it says in Genesis:

"He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant." (Gen. 17:13)

And yet we read in Acts where the apostles discussed whether circumcision was required and they were impressed by the Holy Ghost not to require circumcision of the Gentiles who were joining the church. (Acts 15:24-28) This is the pattern. If there is a question the Apostles review the issue and listen to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. If there is to be a change, then they are the ones to seek guidance. That is exactly the pattern which has been followed for any change that has occurred in these latter-days.

I would think that if the TLC was honest then they would be just as concerned about Brigham Young's changes to the endowment as the latter changes they like to discuss. Why don't they complain about the addition of the Adam-God doctrine in the lecture at the veil. If the endowment is an "everlasting ordinance" and "are not to be altered or changed", why would Brigham's change be acceptable?

Book of Mormon Warning (Not finished)

The TLC quotes 2 Ne. 27:5, "For behold, the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep. For behold, ye have closed your eyes, and ye have rejected the prophets; and your rulers, and the seers hath he covered because of your iniquity." They preface this quote with the following comments:

Those inspired ancient prophets understood and saw clearly that the Latter-day church and people would commit the same sins that destroyed their people. It is unfortunate that today most of those in possession of the Book of Mormon have developed a blind spot concerning their dangerous condition. (Book of Mormon Warning in the Last Days)

But are their comments warranted? Does this verse in 2 Nephi apply to our day? The heading to 2 Ne 26 tells us that it is talking about ". . .Nephi forsees the destruction of his people--They shall speak from the dust--The gentiles shall build up false churches and secret combinations--The Lord forbids men to practice priestcrafts" The first four verses of chapter 27 continue to talk about the apostate condition. We have verse 5 as we have just quoted it and then verse 6 tells about how the Lord responds to this apostate condition.

And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall bring forth unto you the words of a book, and they shall be the woeds of them which have slumbered. And behold the book shall be sealed; and in the book shall be a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof. Wherefor, because of the things which are sealed up. the things which are sealed shall not be delivered in the day of the wickedness and abominations of the people. Wherefore the book shall be kept from them. But the book shall be delivered unto a man, and he shall deliver the words of the book, which are the words of those who have slumbered in the dust, and he shall deliver these words unto another;" (2 Ne. 27:6-9)

This is clearly talking about Joseph Smith and the restoration of the Book of Mormon. Therefor the apostasy referred to in verse 5 cannot be referring to a time after Joseph Smith. The TLC has taken a scripture about the apostasy which occured before the restoration of the Book of Mormon and then applied that scripture to a fictitious apostasy that they claim has occured in more recent times.

"I will bring the fullness of my gospel from among them." 3 Ne. 16:10

Is there another marvelous work in our day? 3 Ne. 21:9

"Holy Church of God" Mormon 8:1-6, 1 Ne. 14:10, Since Cumorah 378-79

Dead or Living Prophets

Wilford Woodruff relates the following:

I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtland in my early days. At that meeting some remarks were made that have been made here today, with regard to the living oracles and with regard to the written word of God. The same principle was presented, although not as extensively as it has been here, when a leading man in the Church got up and talked upon the subject, and said: "You have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them."

When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, "Brother Brigham, I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the living oracles and the written word of God." Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: "There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day. And now," said he, "when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man hearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books." That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: "Brother Brigham has told you the word of the lord, and he has told you the truth." [Conference Reports, October 1897, pp.18-19]

The statement is made by many that the prophet will never lead us astray, that God will take him before he will lead the church astray. My TLC friend answers, that it would be a violation of the prophet's agency for God to take him from the earth. However the concept of taking someone before they can fall is not a new doctrine. Heber C. Kimball was asked to take another wife and not to tell his wife Vilate. Heber struggled with the idea.

Finally he was so tried that he went to Joseph and told him how he felt--that he was fearful if he took such a step he could not stand, but would be overcome. The Prophet, full of sympathy for him, went and inquired of the Lord. His answer was, "Tell him to go and do as he has been commanded, and if I see that there is any danger of his apostatizing, I will take him to myself." (Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 325-26)

But the real question is whether the body of the church will every go astray in this last dispensation. The Prophet Daniel tells about the restoration of the gospel and he refers to it as a "stone was cut without hands . . . became a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (Dan. 2:35). "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever." (Daniel 2:44) You will notice that it says that it will "not be left to other people." There will not be another apostasy this time. Some people like to say that this only refers to a kingdom, but D&C 65 tells us that it refers to the gospel.

The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth."

Joseph Smith also gave us an insight into the apostasies that would occur in our time.

The Prophet declared to the people how they might always know where to find the true church. He gave it as a guide for them ever afterwards and said the day would come when they would need it. He said, "Factions and parties will arise out of this Church, and apostates will lead away many. But in the midst of all this, keep with the majority, for the true leaders of God's people will always be able to have a majority, and the records of the Church will be with them." [Millenial Star 45 (18 June 1883): 389]

Gathering or Missionary work? (not finished)

The TLC would like us to believe that we are just to be a warning voice to gather the elect. They claim that we are not suppose to preach the gospel to everyone with the hope of converting all of them. That would sure make it a lot easier, but that doesn't seem to correspond with Matt. 28:19 "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost."

Strange Doctrines (not finished)

Multiple Mortalities - If we don't succeed in this life we will have another mortality to try again.

Joseph Smith is the head of the quorum of "The Holy Ghost"

Sealing of ancestors to you, instead of you them in a line of descent

Restoring the "oath of vengeance"

All Saints must gather to Manti

Repetition of an old theme (not finished)

Review of previous claims that the church had gone astray. If they had no validity or continuation, why should this movement have any better basis?

Looking Beyond the Mark

Many of the doctrines of the TLC are very pleasing to hear. Isn't it wonderful to think that you are going to live in their fullness all the doctrines restored by Joseph Smith. It has the appeal of stepping back in time and being a part of the restoration. You can be exuberant in the wonderful knowledge that you have avoided the apostasy and are now surely one of "The Elect." Just think of the wonderful appeal such thought must have. How much we all want to stand up and be counted. But we must be careful that we don't get carried away by our own enthusiasm.

This is not a new phenomenon. The Book of Mormon tells us that the Jews got in trouble for wanting more than they had:

But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble. (Jacob 4:14)

You will notice that they were blinded by looking too far. They "looked beyond the mark". They "despised the words of plainness." And so what did God do. He basically gave them what they wanted. Since they wouldn't accept what he already provided for them, he "delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand . . . that they may stumble."

It is just like the old adage "Be careful what you ask for you just might get it." If you want to believe that the church is in apostasy, then you will get support for what you want. When someone uses the "True Order of Prayer" to ask if the church is in apostasy they have already rejected their leaders. The Leaders of the church have told us that this order of prayer is reserved for the temple. To use it outside of the temple is to declare that we don't believe our leaders and in fact we are making the statement that we already believe the church is in apostasy. If we didn't already believe that, we couldn't ignore the council of our leaders.

In Thessalonians it talks about those who, "received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved." (2 Thess. 2:10) And what is God's response to those?

And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thess. 2:11-12)