This is a transcription of a presentation by Dr. Keller at the 2004 FAIR Conference. The transcription was made from an audio recording of the event. Every effort has been made to transcribe the presentation as completely as possible.
by Roger Keller
I appreciate being here again with you this year, and thanks to Jack for the introduction. It has been fun to have her in class and to gain perspective from her and what she was talking about really is pretty much what I want to talk about today: How do we approach the topic of the apostasy. I think as Latter-day Saints we oft times don’t do a very good job of that.
I had the opportunity to teach in Israel for about a year and I remember two of my students–actually they weren’t my students, they were somebody else’s students–but they came in to see me and my wife. They were in tears and we said, “What in the world is the matter?”
One of them said, “We’ve been lied to.”
I said, “What do you mean?”
“Well we’ve been told all of our lives that the only spiritual people in the world were Latter-day Saints and that just isn’t true we’ve met profoundly spiritual Christians, Muslims, Jews.”
What we tried to help them understand was that yes, there are some Latter-day Saints who see The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the only vehicle through which God works, but maybe their worldview needs to be slightly broadened.
I also had the chance to do some zone conferences down in the Jackson Mississippi Mission, right in the heart of the Bible belt. I went into the first one and said, “Okay how many of you know people who are not Latter-day Saints who really know Jesus Christ?” Well a lot of hands went up; these are missionaries, okay? I said “How many of you know people who are not Latter-day Saints who really have the Holy Ghost in their life?” A lot of hands went up. I said okay, so what do you have to teach them? What’s the ‘more’ of Mormonism that you need to help convey? Because they were beginning to realize that God does not limit His work only to the Latter-day Saint community and consequently they were having to struggle with the issue of what is it that I have to say to people who already know the Savior.
That was the issue and the problem that Flo Beth and I had to wrestle with as we came into the Church because there were a lot of Latter-day Saints who basically gave us the impression that if we would stop believing what we did, they’d teach us what was right. And that’s really offensive to people who know the Lord; or to people who already have had experience with deity under whatever heading or name they may encounter that God.
So, when we deal with apostasy we’re not dealing with something where suddenly the lights went out, all spiritual light and life went out of the human family in about 100 A.D. and didn’t show back up until somewhere around 1820.
As we deal with this issue of what is the apostasy, we’re also going to be dealing with the relationship of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to all other religious traditions in the world. I find and believe–and I’ll show you how this fits in later–I believe that God doesn’t let any of his kids alone without spiritual guidance. And that guidance may come through Buddhism, it may come through Hinduism, it may come through Taoism, any other number of major religious traditions, Islam, what have you.
Two weeks ago I was in Barcelona, Spain, for the World Parliament of Religions. I was surrounded by persons from all over the face of the earth with profound spiritual traditions and a profound love for their neighbor. Nobody was there to change anybody else. I love those kinds of conferences. I don’t like to be in situations where I can’t be me in interaction with persons of other faiths.
As I interacted with these people I could feel the Spirit, and the Spirit was most strong when I heard some of the very faithful Muslim people speak about the essence of their faith and how that could interface with persons of other faiths. The Spirit was profoundly present as I sat eating Langar in the Sikh Center where they provided lunch for all participants of the conference who wanted to come. Sikhs from literally all over Europe, many of them from England, came simply for the sole purpose of serving other human beings no matter what their faith tradition.
I come at this issue of apostasy knowing that my God, the one whom I worship through Jesus Christ, is also the God of all of my brothers and sisters and draws them all to him not just through our tradition.
Now having said that, I want you to… I guess one of these days I’m going to have to actually get into the twenty-first century and learn to use PowerPoint for something other than just showing slides of world religion. So I could, you know, have nice little diagrams up here and all that, but given my technical ignorance you’re just going to have to do a little visualization here. And that’s not a bad religious technique anyway.
I want you to hold two time periods in mind. The first one is the time that Latter-day Saints call the meridian of time, or the time of Jesus Christ, His historical life. And then, I want you to keep in mind the time of the Restoration. Part of what we’re going to talk about is this period in between the two but those are the poles that I want to work with.
Why did Jesus come? (asks audience; various answers) Okay, to work the Atonement. And did he come for any other reason? Okay, organize the Church. Took a while, but, yeah–He came to work the Atonement but at the same time He came to organize the Church.
Now did He know it was going to go down the drain? Sure. If Paul knew it in Second Thessalonians, the Savior knew it. Why did He do it? Because He wanted to give us a template that would show us what the Church was to look like when it was time for it to be on the earth as the Lord intended it to be present.
Now what is that template? Structurally, what is that template? Apostles, Quorum of Twelve, and the Seventy. Do you have to have a First Presidency to have authority present on the earth? No you do not. You do not, otherwise there would have been no authority from 1844 to 1847. The authority of the Church lodges in the Quorum of Twelve.
And, so He calls twelve disciples and He also calls and sends out Seventy. And we as Latter-day Saints hold that. Lodged within that Quorum of Twelve is the authority to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel. When that group vanishes, what vanishes with them? Authority. But does all knowledge vanish? No, not by a long shot so, when we talk about apostasy as Latter-day Saints what we should be focusing on first and foremost is this issue of authority because that’s what vanished in 100 A.D. or C.E.
It was the authority to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel and, yes, with that some knowledge vanishes also. But the lights didn’t go out. Any competent historian is not going to use the term “Dark Ages” anymore because they know that while the Germanic invasions of Europe and so on were taking place the Light of Christ, the Light of the gospel was being preserved in the context of the monastic orders there and the lights never went out in the Eastern portion of the empire. The Eastern Orthodox Church was growing and healthy and vital and was sending missionaries out into Russia and other points.
So when we look at the apostasy we are not saying to our brothers and sisters of other Christian traditions that they don’t know anything. I have to say to you that I am as sure today that 30 to 35 years ago God called me to be a Presbyterian minister; I know that today just as surely as I did back then and he gave me the authority to do what he called me to do because God does not call people to do things if he doesn’t give them the authority to do what he calls them to do.
So, what authority did I have? Did it ever occur to you that I had any? What authority did I have? To preach. To preach what? To preach what I knew. And what did I know? I knew Christ. I knew Christ my Savior and God gave me the authority to bring people to him both through the preached and sacramental word and I did that.
As I considered joining the Church this issue of authority became very important to me because I knew experientially that Christ had called me and it wasn’t until I realized that I was simply being asked to add to what I knew that I could make that transition. It made it a whole lot easier to talk to my mother who was moderator of presbytery the year I was ordained and thus presided at my ordination to say to her “Mom I haven’t dumped everything you taught me. I’ve just built on it. I’ve just added to it.”
And so, again, when we talk about apostasy the first and foremost thing we’re talking about is this loss of authority to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel. That’s why I baptized my kids twice. Once as a Presbyterian minister and then once when I was baptized into the Church, confirmed, given the Aaronic priesthood so that I could baptize my children and my wife into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I had authority to bring people to Christ but I didn’t have the authority to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel which is what we believe can be found only within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We are very ‘Catholic’ in our view of the place of ordinances. The Catholic believes that the sacraments are the places where one comes and meets Christ and we believe that the ordinances of the gospel–which simply is our word for sacraments–are the special places where we can come and be sure that we will encounter the Savior.
Why? Because they are channels of grace into the Atonement. Not one of them saves us in and of themselves. They are saving ordinances because they bring us to an encounter with the Atonement of the Lord. And so I am not saved by faith or by repentance or by baptism or by the gift of the Holy Ghost or by the endowment or by the sealing ordinances. Every one of those is a channel into the Atonement of Jesus Christ where I can be assured that I will meet the Lord. That’s why it’s imperative not only that we go to Sacrament meeting and participate in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or just simply what we call the Sacrament; but it’s equally imperative that if we are to be Latter-day Saints in the fullest sense that we participate in those ordinances again in the temple because that’s where we meet the Lord. Those are the things that are mediated through the authoritative priesthood of the Church that can be found nowhere else.
Now, go back to about 100 A.D., you have said that the lights didn’t go completely out–at least some of you did and I hope most of you were there–but if that’s true, how did the gospel get carried, perpetuated? How was it known? A little thing called the Bible right? We have the words of the Lord through the prophets of the Old Testament, we have the words of the Lord through Himself and the apostles of the New Testament. Does the Bible contain the fulness of the Gospel?
Let me read you something here. “The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel.”1 Does the Bible contain the fulness of the Gospel? You better believe it does.
But, you know if a Jew reads the Old Testament, a Jew does not see in the Old Testament the same thing that a Christian sees in the Old Testament because we read it through the glasses of one who has met and encountered the Lord Jesus Christ. We read it through His life, suffering, death, resurrection and consequently we in essence put on bifocals and we see things there that a person of the Jewish community does not see.
I would submit to you that when the Latter-day Saint reads this–the Bible–they put on trifocals. They read it not only through the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; they also read it through the Restoration and the things that have occurred there.
Why do we see things here that a Baptist or a Presbyterian or a Catholic might not see? Because we have different lenses that we see it through, but it does not mean that somehow the Bible is deficient. It is not in any way deficient, it is precisely what the Lord wished us to have for almost two millennia before he added the third lens.
In our discussions with persons of other faith traditions, particularly Christian faith traditions, we need to be careful that we give the Bible its appropriate due. If you read Joseph Smith’s sermons, how often does he quote the Book of Mormon? Very rarely. What does he quote? The Bible.
When I truly want spiritual inspiration after almost sixty years now, I still will turn to the Bible in preference to any other book of scripture, but I turn now with different glasses because of my familiarity with the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.
We need to help our brothers and sisters who are not of the Latter-day Saint tradition understand that they are being invited to build on the experiences that they’ve already had with the Lord not deny them.
The point being here is that when we speak of apostasy it is not that the gospel was not on the earth; what was missing was the authority of priesthood.
So, who carries the gospel to the people of the earth for almost two millennia? Catholics and Protestants. Our Catholic brothers and sisters, our Protestant brothers and sisters, are part of God’s plan that the fulness of the gospel may come in the Latter-day days.
Dale LeBaron wrote a little book called “All Are Alike Unto God.” In it he interviewed 400 blacks who joined the Church in Africa just immediately after the 1978 revelation. One day I had the chance to ask Dale “How many of those 400 had been Christians before they became Latter-day Saint Christians?” The answer was what, do you suppose? 398, two of them were Muslim.
Now suppose the Catholic and Protestant missionaries had never been in Black Africa prior to 1978. How many of those 400 would have been in the Church? Maybe two, the Muslims.
We need to realize that our Catholic and Protestant brothers and sisters prepare the way. Now it drives them up the wall sometimes that they prepare the way and we drop in. I have Evangelical friends who have ministries in South America. They send missionary teams up the Amazon, they find an isolated tribe, they learn the language, they translate the Bible into that language, convert them to Christianity and then who shows up? Mormon missionaries or Jehovah Witnesses to finish the job; and they somehow feel that’s unfair.
But, we do claim that there is a ‘more’ to Mormonism; that was precisely what I was trying to get across to those missionaries in the Jackson Mississippi Mission. That yes, you’re encountering people who know the Savior and know him well, perhaps better than you know him and they really do have the Spirit flooding their lives. In no way, shape or form should we ever imply that that is not true real religious experience–it is–I’ve been there. But it is…we offer more to them.
The quote I was looking for in the book, I think was from George Albert Smith that President Hunter quoted where he simply said we’re not trying to in any way put you down or whatever, we are simply offering you more so that you may come to a fuller understanding of what the Lord has in store for you.2
Now in that period of time from 100 to 1820, the Lord was preparing the way for the Restoration and if you look at the world situation around the time of the Restoration it isn’t hard to understand that there had to be a very special place for this to occur. If you look at Europe, Europe was dominated by state churches and the dissenting groups in the 1700s and 1800s and earlier were badly persecuted. If you want to see a history of persecution, just look at the history of the Methodists in the early 1800s in England when they were viewed by some as dissenting from the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church. England wasn’t the only country; all of Europe was dominated by state churches where state and Church were bound together.
The Restoration couldn’t happen in an environment that wasn’t essentially pluralistic. It couldn’t happen in non-Christian countries because nobody would be looking for anything. We need to realize that the Restoration in this country took place in a context of Restorationism.
In the early 1800s we’re beginning to see a Restoration movement sweeping from New England down into the Virginias and then west through Kentucky and up into Ohio and Pennsylvania and so on; people looking for something that they could not find in their churches that they saw in the New Testament. And when Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery and others joined this Church it is because they have been looking for a Restoration of the New Testament Christianity. The question is not whether there should be a Restoration the question is “Is this it?” And Sidney felt it was and brought with him a number of his Campbellite followers.
So there had to be a prepared land. 1776 is a major date in LDS history because it is the Declaration of Independence and then we have the Constitution and so on which essentially for the first time states that there should be religious pluralism as a part of the fabric of human life; that we don’t all have to be the same. Now I grant you, given our history, that that was on paper–it was not necessarily a fact of life. But even so, the very pluralism that exists in this country is the thing that enables us to exist and enabled the Restoration to occur because there was religious freedom.
And then in 1820, we have the First Vision and then we begin to see the Lord’s hand working in this land. And there is a passage in Doctrine and Covenants 10 that Bob Millet and I have both used as we have traveled and taught and it is one that the first times you read it with the eye to God’s working beyond the immediate Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that just kind of blows you away. This is D&C 10 starting at verse 52:
And now, behold, according to their faith in their prayers will I bring this part of my gospel to the knowledge of my people. Behold, I do not bring it to destroy that which they have received, but to build it up.
And for this cause have I said: If this generation harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them.
Now I do not say this to destroy my church, but I say this to build up my church.3
What Church? This is 1828 folks, what Church is he talking about that he is going to build up? It is not The Church of Jesus Christ; it is the Church of Christ that is already present on the earth that has been preparing the way for the fulness of the Gospel.
And so, when we talk about apostasy we cannot put labels or brands that somehow diminish the spiritual power and experience of our brothers and sisters of other traditions for they’re part of God’s plan. They’re preparing the way for the fulness that we offer. But they are very, very much a part of God’s plan.
Now the next step in this occurs in 1829. Before the Book of Mormon is finished, what are the three witnesses called to do? Find the Twelve. And then we begin in 1829 before the Book of Mormon is finished again to see the Restoration of the authority of the Aaronic priesthood and shortly thereafter the Melchizedek priesthood.
Now you actually don’t get an official Quorum of Twelve Apostles and Seventy until 1835. Now how do I put together the fact that I said earlier that without the Quorum of Twelve there is no authority on the earth? For those first few years I believe that the Quorum of Twelve was that Quorum headed by Peter, James and John in the heavens. But that the authority to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel and so on was officially passed to those formal bodies of Twelve and Seventy in 1835; and since then there can be no authority on the earth to administer the saving ordinances without the Quorum of Twelve.
Now, notice I said that what the Lord did in the meridian of time was to establish a template. It was a template that showed us what the Church would look like. It was a template of Twelve and Seventy.
In 1835 we see that fully reproduced in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are a couple of other Christian traditions that have a Quorum of Twelve but I know of none that are guided by a Quorum of Twelve and Seventy. And so what we see as having been lost in the apostasy, that authority to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel we now see returning at a time when the Church can be what God wants us to be.
How many persons do you think the First Presidency addresses either at conference time or at these priesthood training sessions? They cover the face of the earth don’t they? Persons literally can be guided under the voice of the prophet of the Lord. Could that happen in the meridian of time? Could it have happened in the early apostolic era? No. Transportation and communications just didn’t permit that. If the tradition is correct that Thomas went over to India and then died there; he had no means of sending a cable back to Rome saying hey guys you better reconstitute the Quorum I’m a getting a little weak-kneed here. Through death, natural causes, persecution, whatever, the Quorum of Twelve vanished.
But now, how long after Joseph’s death did it take to get the Quorum of Twelve back together? About a month, they were all back together. And when you think of it, look what has happened in terms of transportation and communication since that time.
In 1838 Morse sent his first message across a wire. Already in Joseph Smith’s day you had steamboats plying the waters of the Great Lakes. If you went from New York to Albany you did it on a train and from that time on look how things have exploded in terms of transportation and communication.
Suppose something goes wrong in the Church somewhere in the world, how long does it take to get a General Authority there to bring order out of chaos? Twenty-four hours maybe?
You know, when the Catholic missionaries came to this hemisphere in the 1500s they came with instructions as to what they were to. They did their best but that’s the last they ever heard from any central authority and it’s no wonder that as we look at Catholicism in South America, that we see a Catholicism that is wrapped through and through with native traditions and religions because there was no central authority guiding these priests as to how to do things and what to do. They did their best.
What do you think would happen if we cut Tooele off from the Church for a decade? What do you think the Church would look like out there? I think it might be quite interesting. That’s why this is the dispensation of the Church in the latter-days. This is what the Lord intended the Church to look like because now it is guided under one voice and we are promised that it will never vanish from the face of the earth until the Lord’s return. But without the modern miracles of transportation and communication we would go the way of the early Church.
So what is apostasy? It is first and foremost loss of authority. Yes, with it certain things go, especially those things that were probably too sacred to be written down–perhaps like temple ceremonies. But the gospel was preserved so that there could be a Restoration in this chosen land.
Now having said that what about the other traditions? Well, I want to read you a couple of quotes. This one’s on the front of my world religions syllabus at BYU. It’s from Brigham Young:
For me, the plan of salvation must…circumscribe [all] the knowledge that is upon the face of the earth, or it is not from God. Such a plan incorporates every system of true doctrine on the earth, whether it be ecclesiastical, moral, philosophical, or civil: it incorporates all good laws that have been made from the days of Adam until now; it swallows up the laws of nations, for it exceeds them all in knowledge and purity; it circumscribes the doctrines of the day, and takes from the right and the left, and brings all truth together in one system, and leaves the chaff to be scattered hither and thither.”4
What do you hear Brigham saying there? I hear him saying that wherever I find truth, whether it be in physics–which I doubt–(Laughter) or Hinduism or Buddhism or whatever; wherever there is truth I’m messing with what? I’m messing with the gospel. Not necessarily in its fulness but whatever is true is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ and wherever I find it I should rejoice and be glad it is there for it is enriching human life.
Or… let’s see, this one. This is from Elder Orson F. Whitney, President Hunter quotes this in a 1991 conference talk that he gave:
“Elder Orson F. Whitney, in a conference address, explained that many great religious leaders were inspired. He said: “[God] is using not only his covenant people, but other peoples as well, to consummate a work, stupendous, magnificent, and altogether too arduous for this little handful of Saints to accomplish by and of themselves. …
“All down the ages men bearing the authority of the Holy Priesthood–patriarchs, prophets, apostles and others, have officiated in the name of the Lord, doing the things that he required of them; and outside the pale of their activities other good and great men, not bearing the Priesthood, but possessing profundity of thought, great wisdom, and a desire to uplift their fellows, have been sent by the Almighty into many nations, to give them, not the fulness of the Gospel, but that portion of truth that they were able to receive and wisely use.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1921, pp. 32-33.)5
Who are those people? Muhammad, Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha; Confucius, Lao-tse, Baha’ullah; those are messengers of the Lord if I read what Orson F. Whitney is saying. Or try this one, this one sounds familiar:
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little…
Now we all know we grow that way but did it ever occur to you that every human being grows that way?
…and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.6
For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea…
Which I don’t think left out anybody, men and women.
…that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written. For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it…
What is it? The Bible.
…and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it…
Book of Mormon.
…and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it…
What’s that? Well that’s all the other scriptures that we’re going to need the little red wagon to, you know, pull them to Church when we get them. But this one:
…and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.7
What’s that? The Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, Tripitika, Analects, Qur’an; nobody will be judged against what they haven’t been given but God does not leave His kids alone. He leads them all along as they are prepared; and perhaps my Buddhist neighbor is working on his spirituality and my Muslim neighbor is working on ethical issues and I’m working on being a servant because I was so obviously selfish in the pre-mortal life that I had to become a Latter-day Saint.
Let me read this quote to you and then I’m just going to open it up for questions:
In our humble efforts to build brotherhood and to teach revealed truth we say to the people of the world what President George Albert Smith so lovingly suggested: “We have come not to take away from you the truth and virtue you possess. We have come not to find fault with you nor to criticize you. We have not come here to berate you because of things you have not done; but we have come here as your brethren … and to say to you: ‘Keep all the good that you have, and let us bring to you more good, in order that you may be happier and in order that you may be prepared to enter into the presence of our Heavenly Father.’” [Sharing the Gospel with Others, compiled by Preston Nibley (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1948), 12-13.]
Ours is a perennial religion based on eternal, saving truth. Its message of love and brotherhood is lodged in scripture and in the revelations of the Lord to his living prophet. It embraces all truth. It circumscribes all wisdom–all that God has revealed to man, and all that he will yet reveal. Of that eternal revelation, I bear testimony in the name of Jesus Christ.”8
And it would be my testimony that the ‘more’ of Mormonism, the more that builds on and adds to these other traditions is the authority of the priesthood of God that can be found only here and I would say that to you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Questions and Answers
Q1: Aha! I’m glad somebody asked this: “What do you understand of Nephi’s vision of the great and abominable church?”
No, I really am. I’m very serious, I’m glad that question was asked because what you need to do is do what Steve Robinson did and separate chapter 13 from chapter 14.
In chapter 13 fundamentally you see the marks of the great and abominable church as those are manifest in the earthly realm. And the marks of the great and abominable church are materialism, sensuality, persecution of the Saints of God and so on. Now do we see any of those marks among Latter-day Saints? One or two maybe? Do we see any of those marks among persons of other faiths? Of course. But the marks of the Church of God are also visible wherever we find human beings. Allegiance to God–to deity–as they… as much as God has revealed himself to them. So every human organization has marks of the Church of God and marks of the church of Satan upon it.
If you then go to chapter 14 where there are only two churches, we’re not talking not at the historical earthly level we’re talking at the cosmic level where there are only two churches. The Church of God and the church of Satan and they are in combat and have been ever since Satan decided that he was God and God wasn’t.
And that manifests itself in the historical level so every… every human organization has both marks but if you look at chapter 13 you’ll also see this is the most abominable of all churches on the face of the earth. There are other churches too, not just the one, if you really read the text.
Q2: “How do you respond appropriately to those who quote nineteenth century LDS Church leaders who spoke harshly about other Christian faiths? In that regard how do we explain the two churches only doctrine in the Book of Mormon?”
And I think that I answered the second part of that.
Bob Millet has written an article that says just because somebody said it it isn’t necessarily doctrine of the Church even if it were a Church leader and what we need to understand is that God leads us along as we’re prepared to be lead. The only thing I’m interested in is what I hear President Hinckley saying across the pulpit in regard to this issue. And man has he made life easy for me since he has been the prophet of the Church.
So the answer is that we follow the living prophet and that other people, even prophets, are products and parts of their own historical settings.
Q3: “How do we explain to our Christian friends the difference between the Gift of the Holy Ghost and what they have experienced with the Spirit?”
Friends I have a bulletin for you: There’s absolutely no difference in experience between the manifestation of the Holy Ghost, which is a word that Elder Oaks used, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost, because the Holy Ghost is the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost that I knew before I was a Latter-day Saint is the same Holy Ghost I know as a Latter-day Saint. And the experience is no different. People say to me “Ah, okay. Isn’t your experience of the Spirit deeper today than it was when you were Presbyterian?” Yeah it is, but I would hope that twenty years later it would’ve been deeper as a Presbyterian than it was twenty years ago.
“Well is it as deep as it would’ve been if you’d remained a Presbyterian?” And my answer there would be no. I think I have a deepened experience with the Spirit because I also participate in the Priesthood.
The Gift of the Holy Ghost, though, has different meaning than a manifestation of the Holy Ghost. Now, people say to me “With the Gift of the Holy Ghost you can have the Spirit with you constantly.” Yeah, right. Do you? I don’t. I tell him to move over I’m driving today!
The manifestations of the Holy Ghost that I am absolutely certain were virtually constant for Mother Teresa are a response to her faith and repentance and willingness to live the gospel.
The Gift of the Holy though is a response to a priesthood ordinance and a priesthood command. The priesthood ordinance is baptism, the priesthood command is “Receive the Holy Ghost.” And so the Gift of the Holy Ghost is a response to authority, the very things we’ve been talking about and the ordinance and command to receive it, to open ourselves to it, nobody gives it to us. It comes in only because we invite it.
Q4: “It seems to me that both the LDS and the Protestants would agree that something was wrong in Christendom by the 1600s otherwise there would’ve no need for the Reformation. What evidence can be offered to Protestants to show that Reformation was not sufficient, that a Restoration was needed?”
That’s the ‘more’ of Mormonism, that’s the issue of priesthood. There is no argument that will ever convince anybody. One of the questions I often ask in my class is how many of you have been on missions? A lot of hands go up. How many of you have converted somebody? A lot of hands go up. Trick question; only the Spirit converts.
So all we can do is bear our witness of the necessity of the authority of priesthood and talk in the vein which I have today.
Q5: “Do you see more spiritual gifts demonstrated in the Church than in other denominations?”
Not in those that expect to find spiritual gifts. We find amongst our Evangelical Pentecostal brothers and sisters virtually the same spiritual gifts that we find among ourselves because they understand that those have not been lost. And, so, we find them because we expect them and we look for them. They find them because they expect them and look for them.
Elder Bangerter once said that God never says no to the prayer of faith. I believe that.
Q6: “Perhaps all of my non-Mormon Christian friends have no idea that saving ordinances are necessary. What, then, is a good way to teach them the necessity of restored authority?”
Basically, just what I’ve said over the last 45 minutes I think really answers that question–the loss of authority and then the necessity for this worldwide single voice that binds together the Church. Unfortunately, the Christian fabric is torn and that is why there was, especially in the late 50s and early 60s, a very, very strong ecumenical movement to try and rebind the robe of Christ together.
I think many people feel that the Church should not be fragmented the way it is.
Q7: “Where’s your quote on the fulness of the gospel being in the Bible?”
That was in the first sentence of the introduction to the Book of Mormon.
Q8: “All Christians can be spirit-filled. Why doesn’t the Spirit tell them they need more?”
It does as they’re ready. Most of our converts are not active members in a Christian denomination, more often than not they are people who are looking for something and are marginal in their tradition. And generally, we send far more people back to their tradition, re-energized and reactivated because we sent missionaries to them than we take away. But most of our converts are not persons like myself who were active. Most of them are people who are seeking some sort of spiritual roots.
Q9: “If only the authority to perform the ordinances was needed in restoring the Quorum of Twelve, then why introduce three volumes of scripture dealing with faith, governance and so on? Would you name that? The lights may not have gone out but they were dimmed considerably.”
I don’t think I would fully agree with that. Maybe to seventy percent or something…eighty-five percent of what I knew before I was a Latter-day Saint I was taught at Princeton Theological Seminary and Duke University and in my family. I didn’t learn it from Latter-day Saints. The ‘more’ I did, the fifteen percent.”
Q10: “Does not the Quorum of Seventy as a collective hold the same authority at the Twelve?”
Q11: “What is your interpretation of D&C 85:70 on one mighty and strong that will set in order…”
I don’t know what that is (Laughter). I’d have to look it up.
Q12: “Does your understanding of the word apostasy compare with Joseph Smith’s testimony of The Great Apostasy by James Talmage and The Truth Restored by Gordon B. Hinckley?”
I think so. I don’t know why it wouldn’t.
“Seems as though your view is in conflict with most teachings about the apostasy.”
I don’t think so.
“Is the LDS Church changing on this or is it just a few people…the opinion of a few people?”
No, I just think that we have been through a time where because of our historical setting we have seen ourselves in conflict with others rather than seeing ourselves as co-participants in God’s eternal plan. I think there’s a growing understanding of our role and place in God’s total plan. We have looked only with blinders on and that’s why I love teaching world religions because I think it expands views.
Q13: “Has the Church’s view of total apostasy reconciled with 1 Timothy 4:1-2 where Paul said that in the last days some will fall away?”
They are. I mean the great and abominable church and the church of Babylon, or the whore of Babylon, are the same critter and the more the world moves toward materialism and sensuality the more they become part of the church of Babylon and if you notice in the Book of Revelation it’s the merchants who are crying. So, we are seeing that falling away amongst ourselves friends–that’s what scary.
As a bishop, the challenges for these young people scares me to death.
Q14: “How does the Church view of the total apostasy reconcile with Jesus’ teaching where Jesus said “Upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”? (Matthew 16:18)
If you look at it in the long term it hasn’t and won’t.
Q15: “How does the template compare with the foundational nature of the template?”
I don’t know.
Q16: “Do I understand you to say that when Jesus gave us the template of the Church he intended it only to be there for the first century? He knew it would vanish as did Paul and would then be restored when conditions would be right?”
Yup. That’s what I said.
Q17: “Could you explain what you think Joseph Smith meant by declaring it a grand fundamental principle of Mormonism to receive truth, let it come from whence it may?”
I think Brigham Young wrapped that up beautifully in that quote I read.
Q18: “Have you found any organizations devoid of truth or the Light of Christ?”
Only the Republican Party (Laughter). Sorry; I couldn’t resist that, especially knowing I’m one of the three Democrats in Utah.
No; well, sure, there have got to some. There have got to be some especially those that have moved… I mean all you have to do is turn on MTV–there they are.
Q19: “Please discuss the place of miracles among other faiths that do not possess priesthood authority.”
Elder Bangerter’s comment fits that, God never says no to the prayer of truth or the prayer of faith. And so God is not limited to working only through the priesthood. God works where God wills. He’s the 800-pound gorilla who can do anything He wants, right? And so, he’s not limited to priesthood but for the saving ordinances of the gospel that’s where He chooses to place limits.
Q20: “Surely God blesses all His children but could there sometimes also be miracles perpetuated by the other side for deception purposes?”
You know this is an argument that Satan does good to pull us in… I don’t think Satan has ever done anything good. I think he tries to screw up good. But I don’t think he’s ever given us any truth or done any good because he’s not that dumb. He isn’t bright but he’s not that dumb.
Q21: “Is Allah the same as the Mormon’s God?”
This is strictly opinion on my part, right? Not church doctrine. I believe that Allah is Jesus Christ.
Q22: “What do you say about the parts of the Qur’an that state those who will not accept Islam and Allah should be killed?”
I’m not aware of any part of the Qur’an that states that. There is a Hadith that moves in that direction but what the Qur’an says is one, there is no coercion in religion because if you force somebody to become a Muslim they aren’t and secondly, it says God loves not the aggressor, aggress not.
1 Introduction to the Book of Mormon.
2 In our humble efforts to build brotherhood and to teach revealed truth, we say to the people of the world what President George Albert Smith so lovingly suggested: “We have come not to take away from you the truth and virtue you possess. We have come not to find fault with you nor criticize you. We have not come here to berate you because of things you have not done; but we have come here as your brethrenÖand to say to you: ‘Keep all the good that you have, and let us bring to you more good, in order that you may be happier and in order that you may be prepared to enter into the presence of our Heavenly Father.’” [Howard W. Hunter, That We Might Have Joy (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1994), 61.]
3 D&C 10:52-54.
4 Brigham Young, “Government of God,” Journal of Discourses, reported by G.D. Watt 22 May 1859, Vol. 7 (London: Latter-Day Saint’s Book Depot, 1860), 148.
5 Howard W. Hunter, “The Gospel-A Global Faith,” Ensign, November 1991, 18.
6 2 Nephi 28:30.
7 2 Nephi 29:11-12.
8 Howard W. Hunter, “The Gospel-A Global Faith,” Ensign, November 1991, 18.