A Fist Fight in High Priests Group

Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but that is almost what it seemed like in my normally staid, conservative high priest group when I taught Lesson Twenty-one in the David O. McKay manual a week ago this past Sunday. Who would ever guess that I would get a lot of argument teaching the Four Principles of the Gospel straight from the correlated priesthood manual. I was shocked.

I started the class by asking the question: Can a person have faith in Christ even if he doesn’t belong to the Church? And of course everyone piped in with a resounding “Yes.” Then I launched into a discussion of this quotation from David O. McKay in the lesson manual:

“All churches and all creeds contain some good which lead toward the kingdom of our Father; but to become a citizen of that kingdom everyone must conform to the requirements made by the King. Indeed, there is only one way in which entrance into the Church of Jesus Christ may be obtained, and that is the way marked out by Jesus Christ, the Lord. ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.’ (John 14:6.)“The means of obtaining citizenship in the Church of Jesus Christ are very explicit; so clear, indeed, that it is surprising that so many seemingly intelligent and well-read people … [assume] that they can gain entrance by other and various means.

“There is only one who has the right to prescribe the means of human salvation. Surely he spoke not meaninglessly when he said what is necessary to citizenship in his kingdom.

“Note how explicit are his words: ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ [John 3:3; italics added.] In explanation of this seemingly enigmatical saying to Nicodemus, the Master continued:

“ ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ [John 3:5; italics added.]

“Evidently Peter, the chief Apostle, attached significance to this requirement as an essential means of gaining not only citizenship in the Church, but also salvation in the kingdom of God, for, when the multitude pricked in their hearts cried out, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ [Acts 2:37] he answered and said:

“ ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.’ (Acts 2:38.) Thus are given the four requirements, the four essential principles and ordinances, obedience to which are essential to membership in Christ’s Church: [namely,] faith, repentance, baptism, and the reception of the Holy Ghost. …

“There are many roads being pointed out as leading to the kingdom of God, but there is only one gate through which entrance and citizenship therein may be obtained. Christ plainly pointed this out when he was among men; and he has again revealed it through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The way is simple and easy to find, and as infinitely sublime as it is eternal.

“There are many roads … leading sincere people toward the church and kingdom of God, but those who would participate in the privileges and blessings of citizenship therein must obey the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ.? 2

During the lesson I pointed out a number of obvious implications from this. First, faith in Christ is a direct reference to our willingness to repent of our sins and keep his commandments. Does a man have “faith in Christ” if he is unwilling to repent and keep his commandments? And the first commandment we are required to keep once we have proclaimed a faith in Christ, is to be baptized. This may not be the first commandment in order of importance, but it is absolutely essential. And it is the first commandment we are asked to keep as members of his Church. Without keeping this commandment we cannot obtain eternal life and in that sense we are damned unless we are baptized. One cannot obtain the celestial kingdom without a proper baptism, much less be exalted which is eternal life.

Immediately, an animated discussion ensued. “A person can have faith in Christ without joining the Church,” one said. “People in other faiths get baptized,” another added. “We should focus on the truth they have, rather than emphasize this.” “There are lots of good people in other churches.” “They can be baptized in the spirit world.” “Christ loves all his children.” “Why don’t you concentrate on the positive,” someone asked?

I answered him by pointing out that 1) This is what our missionaries are required to teach to every investigator, and if they cannot accept it, they cannot join the Savior’s church. And 2) as the person teaching the priesthood lesson, I am required to teach from the manual, and this is what David O. McKay is teaching in this lesson.

Unless one thinks that David O. McKay is talking about some other baptism, his opening words in this lesson are referring to baptism performed by the priesthood that is available only in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Baptism is one of the four fundamental principles of the gospel, and a baptism without authority is no baptism at all.

I concluded with the statement that members of other Christian faiths can be “saved” in the celestial kingdom, but first they must become Mormons.

Throughout the short lesson, there were two or three voices saying that I was right. That I was teaching perfect doctrine. Further, that I was teaching what David O. McKay was teaching in the lesson manual. Not surprisingly, two of the three who firmly testified that I was teaching the true doctrine were my recently released Bishop, and the Bishop that served in our ward for five years before him.

How could there be a considerable group of high priests in this Church who do not understand or are offended by this basic, most fundamental Mormon doctrine, the doctrine of baptism by proper authority? Have we become so politically correct in the Church? Have we soaked up so much of the greater culture that we have an attitude problem? Do we really believe that one opinion is about as good as another? What about correct doctrine?

After the meeting several of the class members thanked me for giving an outstanding lesson, one that would not be soon forgotten. Not surprisingly, it was those same brothers who had been backing up what I said in the class. I just hope that I haven’t offended any of the others. Perhaps some of them went home thinking that I am a bigot against other Christians not of our faith. I hope not. Still, I am astounded that such a basic doctrine could arouse such an uproar in a normally pretty passive group of high priests.

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27 Responses to A Fist Fight in High Priests Group

  1. Mr. Kay D. Jenkins says:

    In a book, Lectures On Faith, by N.B. Lundwall Compiler, on page 33:

    LECTURE THIRD

    2. Let us here observe, tht three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.
    3. First, the idea that he actually exitsts.
    4. Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.
    5. Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will. For withot a acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being mus be imperfect and unproductive; but with his understanding it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness, unto the praise and glory of od the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    It is clear that even many, many Mormons falter in this analysis of Faith.

    For instance, if we don’t know that he is Omniscent, (meaning all knowing with all knowledge) we cannot have faith in him. Without knowing his characteristics, we again falter in our Faith in Him. For example: Was God, Jesus Christ while on this earth a Mortal?

    Let us understand the difference between Finite and Infinite. I am a mortal and I am Finite. According to Alma 34:10 and verse 14: And behold, … and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.

    Therefore Christ was infinite and not finite. He was the God of the Old Testament. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The creator of this earth. Through Divine Investiture, he had and held all the Power of God, the Father, Elohim. He was the creator but God, Elohim was the Creator of our Spirits in heaven before comeing here.

    This discussion would have settled the consternation of John W. Redelfs in his High Priest Quorum and the Quorum had they understood this.

  2. Reblogged this on The Iron Rod and commented:

    First posted in 2005:

  3. kay says:

    Why teach a lesson without using love? I appears you intent was to create contention. Try the spirit next time.

    • I always use love, or nearly always. And I was using love this time too. Not everyone understands what love is in the same way. For instance, I believe it is loving to teach correct doctrine and unloving to teach false doctrine. Even people who are offended by the truth need to hear it from time to time. For an example, read about Jesus in the New Testament, or study the biography of Joseph Smith. What I taught that day was in essence the same thing taught by President David O. McKay in the lesson manual. When we teach that we must have faith in Christ, we are teaching that we must have sufficient faith in Christ to be baptized. And the priesthood of Jesus Christ is the only authority that can perform an authorized and official baptism. This priesthood is found only in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is what our missionaries teach investigators and is official Church doctrine not merely my opinion.

  4. GeorgeD says:

    Kaimi, I’ll answer any charges you have against me at T&S. In the meantime I’ll level criticisms where I please.

    The gospel is all about teaching exaltation. You can join any church you want and get into the kindgdom for “honorable men deceived by the craftiness of men.”

    Teaching about faith that doesn’t lead to baptism (and enduring to the end) is like teaching the precise day and hour of the second coming — useless but like many of the preoccupations of Mormon intellectuals.–>

  5. “someone needs to buy this man a dictionary. such misleading and flagrant equivocating (albeit apparently unconscious) probably challenge the patience, more than they edify the faith of those in his quorum.”

    It seems to me that this man is a bit too fond of his own.

    How can you immediately jump to the conclusion that the lesson was framed in such a self-righteous, pompous manner? This seems more than a bit judgemental to me.. unless, of course, you were present at the lesson itself.

    While I’ve never been in High Priests group myself, being of the inappropriate gender, I have been present at quite a few of John’s Gospel Doctrine classes, and don’t find him a particularly overbearing teacher. On the contrary, I just find that he likes to stick to the material as presented in the church manuals, without coating it with the mindless pleasantries that make sleeping through our meetings so much easier.
    Being a mother, and pregnant as well, I never object to a little extra sleep–but it’s nice to come to Church and actually be taught doctrine that I probably won’t find down the street at the local Baptist or Presbyterian gatherings.

  6. Ian says:

    Well, our Elders Quarum discussion on this went well and there were no fist fights. Though it looks like one might break out on this blog. Lol.

    I have to agree with Kaimi in some ways. For every thing that we are obedient to, there are blessings that we are promised.

    I have noticed that this discussion keeps leaving out the principle in between faith and baptism, that is repentance. As we have faith, we will want to repent. I beleive that repentance is availible to anyone who will partake of it, regardless of wether or not they are members of the church. Repentance is one of the blessings of faith. We can can repent of all our sins, but I’m not sure that repentence itself can bring salvation.

    Once you have repented, you must be baptized by the proper authority. There is no question that the church teaches that you must be baptized by the proper authority. The blessing that we get from baptism is the gift of the Holy Ghost.

  7. Is faith without exaltation faith? Because really that is where faith is intended to lead us. Simply getting baptized isn’t enough so why is it the sticking point for this discussion. Some people have enough to get baptized, others don’t. Some have enough to go through the temple, others don’t. Some have faith to treat others as Christ would have them.

    I don’t want to sit in judgement of another’s faith or what works have sprung from it. I certainly wouldn’t want to categorically say that one who is baptized is by definition more faithful than one who has not.

  8. Kaimi says:

    John Redelfs,

    As others have noted, I have posted about this topic at Times and Seasons, at http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=2751 . I

    Mr George D.:

    You write “I would post a rebuttal to him there but he doesn’t allow posts by people who disagree with him.” That is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a while. Have you _read_ Times and Seasons? I’ve disagreed at length on various topics with Adam Greenwood, Rosalynde Welch, John Fowles, Nate Oman, Steve Evans . . . the list goes on an on. And they’re all still commenting.

    On the other hand, if you meant “Kaimi doesn’t allow posts from people who repeatedly engage in personal attacks, question the righteousness of others, and post from a series of fake identities” — well, when you’re right, you’re right.

    John and others,

    I’m not saying that faith without baptism will bring a person to salvation. However, it is still faith.

    Similarly, a baptism which is not followed up with endurance to the end will not lead to salvation. But it is still baptism.

    Whether or not we follow though perfectly, we will be blessed for our obedience to commandments. Even if baptism is as far as we go, and then we fall away. Or even if faith is as far as we go.

    Limited obedience will not lead to salvation. But nonetheless, _any_ obedience to a commandment will lead to the blessings attached to that commandment. Those who have faith but are not baptized will not receive salvation. But they _will_ receive the blessings associated with their obedience to at least one gospel principle.

    The same for someone who is baptized and then falls away. That person’s baptism will not lead to ultimate salvation. But the blessings associated with that baptism — such as the forgiveness of prior sins — will still hold. The baptism alone (absent further progress) will not be enough for salvation, but the person _will_ still receive the blessings associated with that ordinance itself.

  9. Norm said…

    LOL. and now you have to approve everyone’s comments? nice.

    Well, I do approve everyone’s comments unless they use the “F” word or try to spam my blog, turning it into a splog. It is the contast of truth with falsehood that makes my remarks “ring true.”

  10. Norm says:

    LOL. and now you have to approve everyone’s comments? nice.

  11. Norm says:

    well said, Nate.

    1) the underlying point, the putative ‘true doctrine’ is not merely narrow-minded, in the PC sense being derided–it is flat wrong… the product of the simplest misunderstanding of the English language.
    2) Even if you are right, which I believe most reasonable or “faith”-ful members of the Church
    would rightly dispute, your method is not at all the Spirit that our Prophets have encouraged us to use when instructing and edifying our fellows.

    I have very little patience (which probably makes me just as bad as Redelfs) for people who stir up contention like this in the Church, when the only point is:

    a) like this one, so obviously flawed and/or
    b) like this one seems, intended mostly to be a pat on one’s own back. seems a lot like priestcraft to go about picking fights as a teacher, just to elevate oneself, and then to turn around and tear down those from your high priests group.

    someone needs to buy this man a dictionary. such misleading and flagrant equivocating (albeit apparently unconscious) probably challenge the patience, more than they edify the faith of those in his quorum.

  12. Norm says:

    Good point, Nate.

    I have very little patience (which probably makes me just as bad as Redelfs) for people who stir up contention like this in the Church, when the only point is:

    a) like this one, so obviously flawed
    and/or
    b) like this one seems, intended mostly to be a pat on one’s own back. seems a lot like priestcraft to go about picking fights as a teacher, just to elevate oneself, and then to turn around and tear down those from your high priests group.

    ridiculous.

    someone needs to buy this man a dictionary. his misleading and flagrant equivocating (albeit apparently unconscious) probably challenge the patience, more than they edify the faith of those in his quorum.

  13. Anonymous says:

    If your characterization is accurate, it seems odd to me that you are surprised by this turn of events. Your point, after all, was to contradict and offend the quorum. You asked a diliberately vague question, which suggested a different meaning than the one you later announced. What you meant to ask was “can someone who has received a witness yet refuses baptism be said to have faith in Christ?” The answer to that is likely no, but that is not what you asked. What I’m saying is don’t play the victim when you picked the fight.

    Cheers,
    NATE W.

  14. What I ran into, talking to my friends who aren’t members of Christ’s church, is that they don’t interpret “born of water” in John 3:3 to mean baptism.

    The other disconnect is people who sincerely believe they have acted on their faith by repenting and being baptized into Christ’s church, who might be described as honorable men blinded by the craftiness of men.

  15. GeorgeD says:

    Kaimi Wenger at Times and Seasons begs to disagree. I would post a rebuttal to him there but he doesn’t allow posts by people who disagree with him. He needs to read the McKay lesson much more carefully. A faith that doesn’t lead to baptism isn’t good for anything. Faith requires obedience and the first act of obedience for a faithful person is to repent and be baptized. One can go through the motions elsewhere but if we that that was good enough we wouldn’t need a missionary program and we could close the temples.

    Sorry Kaimi, wrong again!

  16. Dave says:

    The idea that repentance and keeping the commandments is a manifestion of ones faith in Christ also implies faith is not static. To exercise faith, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost opens the door to other commandments. The implication is we must continue to repent/keep these additional commandments to continue having faith in Christ.

  17. Actually, a person gets a chance to be baptized in the spirit world only if he didn’t have a good chance in this one. Only God can judge whether a person has had a good enough chance in this life, but the principle is correct nevertheless. Alma makes it very clear that we cannot procrastinate our repentance until the end of this life. This life is the time to perform our labors. Then comes the night wherein no labor can be performed. See Alma, Chapter 40.

    Repentance and baptism in the next life is only for those who would have joined the Church in this one if they had been allowed to “tarry.” A person who rejects the truth here, will reject it in the spirit world too. We don’t become better people just by dying.

    There seems to be a lot of confusion in the Church on this point. This idea that one gets a second chance in the spirit world is one of the “heresies” that Elder McConkie spoke on in his famous talk. When we do baptisms for the dead, it is for those who never had a chance to be baptized in mortality. It is not a second chance for people who rejected the gospel here. And it certainly isn’t for jack Mormons who got baptized and then went bad.

  18. Jonah the giant whale says:

    Of course you can be baptized in the spirit world, but does that mean we should not endeavor to get people baptized correctly in this world?

    Fundamentally it sounds like a reluctance to do missionary work more than a disagreement on doctrine. If you can comfort yourself by saying “oh he will get his chance in the spirit world” you can avoid the uncomfortable encounter where you try to explain to them (however undiplomatically) that they are going to a false church.

  19. Jonah the giant whale says:

    Of course you can be baptized in the spirit world, but does that mean we should not endeavor to get people baptized correctly in this world?

    Fundamentally it sounds like a reluctance to do missionary work more than a disagreement on doctrine. If you can comfort yourself by saying “oh he will get his chance in the spirit world” you can avoid the uncomfortable encounter where you try to explain to them (however undiplomatically) that they are going to a false church.

  20. Zerin Hood says:

    This is the first post that I’ve read at your site. Very nice. I wonder where your ward is located. I cannot comprehend a high priests group that would have a problem with the doctrine taught in the lesson.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t it true they will have the opportunity to be baptised in the spirit world? I don’t see anything wrong with any of the comments you posted, as it’s ultimately the baptism that counts, and it will occur eventually if the person so desires.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Amen to that! I have been in so many meetings where the huff-n-puff wind of political correctness has blown what should have been a simple class, right off the rails.

    Later, its always interesting to witness those same individuals quickly and insensitively correct an unsuspecting new member for some protocol gaf they’ve just committed.

    I know that we ought to be ever sensitive to each others feelings, but we should also and often, speak with gentle plainess.

    I’ve noticed that much of the time, comments like those you faced are due to the fact that many members familiar with our leadership handbooks, love to show how much they know about those rare exceptional cases where their comments would be valid.

    Perhaps they should be reminded that we go with the standard first and deal with the exception second.

    Cheers,

  23. Anonymous says:

    I suspect it had everything to do with your presentation and nothing to do with the doctrine.

  24. Mary Adams says:

    Something I just remembered. There was a two-part speech by Joseph Fielding McConkie, called “Two Churches Only.” Here is the url for part 2: http://www.meridianmagazine.com/jsbicentennial/051116vison2.html I don’t think those urls work here in the comments, but you could copy and paste.

    Anyway, one comment he makes is: “Perhaps we need to rethink the idea of seeking common ground with those we desire to teach. Every likeness we identify leaves them with one less reason to join the Church. When we cease to be different we cease to be. The commandment to flee Babylon has not been revoked, nor has it been amended to suggest that we seek an intellectual marriage with those not of our faith. The fruit of such a marriage will always be outside the covenant.”

    Here is another comment I thought went along with the topic: “Everything that we believe as Latter-day Saints rests on the reality of what God said that spring morning to Joseph Smith and the great irony of it all is that the harder the saying, the more offensive it seems to the world, the more peace it brings, it is the very light that chases away the darkness of contention with all that are honest in heart.”

    I think we should say things in a nice way and not try to argue with those who ask us questions about our faith, but I don’t think we should shy away from stating the truth, just because we are afraid it might not be what they want to hear.

    Thanks for letting me spout off on your blog!!

  25. Mary Adams says:

    John, I appreciated your post. I notice this sort of thing a lot, particularly in relation to “the only true and living church,” as Gary talked about. I notice it mostly on the internet, but it will probably spread.

    It is sad when people are so concerned with political correctness or with whatever it is they are concerned with, that they will deny that something the Lord Himself said is true–such as what the Lord said about the only true and living church in the first section of the Doctrine & Covenants.

    When I make a “conservative” statement like the one above, I get the feeling that the responses are a verbal pat on the head to the ignorant little girl–polite but condescending. I don’t know what to do about that–nothing, I guess. But I really appreciate knowing that I’m not alone out here!!! Hope you and Gary both keep posting on your blogs!

  26. Gary says:

    John: Remember the Saviour’s parable about the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24-30). He has explained that “the wheat and the tares [will] grow together until the harvest is fully ripe” (D&C 86:1-7). Until then, the tares will be among us. There is a hymn we often sang when I was young that helps me when fellow Saints, yes even high priests, openly question true doctrine:
    >
    >”Though in the outward Church below
    >Both wheat and tares together grow,
    >Ere long will Jesus weed the crop
    >And pluck the tares in anger up….
    >We seem alike when here we meet;
    >Strangers may think we are all wheat;
    >But to the Lord’s all-searching eyes,
    >Each heart appears without disguise.
    >The tares are spared for various ends,
    >Some for the sake of praying friends,
    >Others the Lord against their will,
    >Employs, his counsels to fulfill.
    >But though they grow so tall and strong,
    >His plan will not require them long;
    >In harvest, when he saves his own,
    >The tares shall into hell be thrown.”
    >(Hymns, 1948, 102.)

    Your post also reminded me of a talk Elder Boyd K. Packer gave in general conference. Part of it says:

    ——————- quote ———————–
    I desire, for the few minutes allotted me, to encourage you who feel inadequate when someone rejects one or another of the fundamental doctrines of the gospel….

    One doctrine presents a particular challenge. It is our firm conviction that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, as the revelations state, “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.? (D&C 1:30.)…

    Some have recommended that we confine ourselves strictly to evidences of the gospel: happy family life, and temperate living, and so on.

    Could we not use the words better or best? The word only really isn’t the most appealing way to begin a discussion of the gospel.

    If we thought only in terms of diplomacy or popularity, surely we should change our course….

    We did not invent the doctrine of the only true church. It came from the Lord. Whatever perception others have of us, however presumptuous we appear to be, whatever criticism is directed to us, we must teach it to all who will listen. (Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Nov. 1985, 80.)
    —————— end quote ———————

    One more thought, John. You should “be right, and then be easy to live with, if possible, but in that order.” (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, July 1994, 32.)

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