“If Thine Eye Offend Thee” (Part 1 – Blind Obedience? – To Question or Not to Question? That is the Question!)

James F. Stoddard III, with L. Hannah Stoddard


Respect for Leaders

All of my life I have been accused of blindly obeying my leaders.  I was generally the one or among the small minority that left the movie, wouldn’t listen to the music or sounded out the unpopular teaching from an inspired leader or prophet.  I have been belittled and even discredited because I turned to the inspired words of prophets for my foundation.  My understanding of and personal standards in the areas of family, music, film, education, government, science and so forth were derived from time-intensive and at times exhausting study of the teachings of the scriptures and presidents of the Church.  For this reason, taking up my pen to write at this time on this subject is markedly ironic.

My purpose is to instill faith in Jesus Christ and the Restoration, helping to encourage my fellow members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to recommit themselves to living by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  This includes inspired revelation we have received from latter-day prophets, seers and revelators.  The Joseph Smith Foundation has one of the largest repositories of statements by leaders now in existence.  While I do not believe in blind obedience under any circumstance, I do believe in mindful and careful obedience.  I have personally studied the words of latter-day prophets for hours a day on average since I was about 12 years old.  I have a great respect for the inspiration that has come from inspired leaders through the years.

A Prophet’s Lament

Brigham_Young_by_Charles_William_CarterRecently, I have seen many debates on the Internet regarding following leaders in the Church.  I have been shocked by some of the discussion, misunderstanding and assertions being made.  Hopefully this series of papers can address some of the confusion I have seen.  My concern can be expressed in the timeless words of President Brigham Young.  The Prophet lamented:

What a pity it would be if we were lead by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are lead by him.
I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purpose of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders did they know for themselves by the revelations of Jesus that they are led in the right way.

Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves whether their leaders are walking in the path the lord dictates or not. This has been my exhortation continually. . . .

Let all persons be fervent in prayer, until they know the things of God for themselves and become certain that they are walking in the path that leads to everlasting life . . . 1

President Brigham Young was clearly frightened by the prospect that members would blindly follow their leaders.  Why?  Why the necessary emphasis on knowing “the things of God for themselves”?  How do we know when to follow?  Is it permissible to question a man or woman in authority?  At what level?  Who can we trust?  Who should we trust?

The answers to these questions hold eternal consequences for you and I.  These are real questions with real answers.  This is not a subject to avoid by placing it on the shelf.  It is also not a subject that can be understood with soundbites from here and there or cutesy meme quotes from across the Internet.

Mountain Meadows Massacre

“Blood!  Blood!  Blood!”

On a hot June day in Mesquite, Nevada, an old man lay dying.  Friends faithfully watched the final struggles.

Tortured by memories of events “his eyes had witnessed but his tongue had never uttered”; his dying cries were “BLOOD!  BLOOD!  BLOOD!” 2

It wasn’t long before the room fell silent.  The struggle was over.  Nephi Johnson had passed on into the hands of his Maker.

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What memories tortured Nephi Johnson until his last breath?  What past left him wracked with such guilt?  The answer can be found in the narrative of an infamous event that occurred six decades earlier.

mountain-meadows

On September 11, 1857, over fifty men mercilessly slaughtered 120 men, women and children in what would become known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  After cowardly luring the Baker–Fancher emigrant company from their defense with false promises of a truce, the assailants (primarily consisting of Mormons in good standing) massacred all but seventeen children deemed too young to expose the murderers.

This bloody and diabolical deed commenced at dawn, September 7, 1857, and continued until the 11th, when the besieged emigrants who survived the attacks, under promise of protection were foully murdered. . . . It was a crime for which there can be no apology or excuse, a thing treacherous and damnable in the extreme. 3

Thus did President Joseph Fielding Smith, Church Historian and later 10th President of the Church, describe the infamous tragedy that would come to be known as the “Mountain Meadows Massacre”.   The graphic accounts are stomach-wrenching.

“I saw the bodies of men, women, and children, butchered in the most horrible manner,” Samuel Pollock said.  “Some of the children with their heads mashed in by rocks, I suppose.” 4

On September 5, 1857, the emigrants were ambushed by a band of Mormon militia and Paiute Indians.  For two days the travelers successfully defended themselves until difficult circumstances and the offer of a truce from the Mormons, beguiled the party into a pre-calculated trap.  The travelers surrendered, the women and children were separated from the men and both parties obediently followed the assailants.  Suddenly, Indians swept down on the helpless women and children while the Mormon men opened fire.  Flight or resistance was futile, it was too late.  Men, women and children were cut down mercilessly as they fled for their lives.

One blood-covered girl, perhaps ten or eleven years old, got within about sixty yards of the wagons before an Indian shot her.  Another girl was fleeing for her life when an Indian “plunged his knife through her.” . . .

Rebecca Dunlap, six years old at the time, remembered the terror.  She ran and hid in a cluster of sagebrush near the road.  From her hiding place she saw two of her older sisters killed, their bodies falling nearby.  She also heard her one-year-old sister, Sarah, crying.  Sarah “had been shot through her right arm, below the elbow, by a large ball, breaking both bones and cutting her arm half off.”  Rebecca pulled Sarah free and took her back into the sagebrush to hide.  She stayed there until she saw a white man and begged him for help. 5

In vain, terrified women desperately struggled to reach the place where their husbands and fathers were being slaughtered.  What would happen to their children?  Would they be killed as well?  Or would the survivors be left to a fate possibly worse than death itself?

I remember standing by my mother, holding onto her skirt, while my mother stood with my baby brother in her arms, and when the white man, not an Indian, raised his gun to take the life of my mother, she said: “God, have mercy on my children!” 6

One six-year-old boy “. . . was by his mother when she was killed” and as she lay dying, “pulled the arrows from her back . . .” 7.  The life was crushed from a teenage boy as his murderer pounded a large rock into the boy’s chest. 8  Only those deemed “too young to talk” were spared.  Even at that young age, however, the last breaths of their dying fathers and mothers were etched forever in the memories of some, never to be forgotten.

Sarah Frances (Baker) Mitchell

Sarah Frances (Baker) Mitchell

Sarah Frances Baker remembered sitting on her wounded father George’s lap in one of the wagons when the same bullet that snuffed out his life took a nick out of her left ear.  Sarah wasn’t quite three years old.  “But even when you’re that young,” she maintained more than eighty years later, “you don’t forget the horror of having your father gasp for breath and grow limp, while you have your arms around his neck, screaming with terror.”  She recalled “the blood-curdling war-whoops,” “the banging of guns,” and “the screaming of the other children and the agonized shrieks of women” being killed.  “And you wouldn’t forget it, either,” she said, “if you saw your own mother topple over in the wagon beside you, with a big red splotch getting bigger and bigger on the front of her calico dress. 9

Survivor, Nancy Saphrona Huff remembered:

At the close of the massacre there was 18 children still alive, one girl, some ten or twelve years old they said was to big and could tell so they killed her, leaving 17. . . . I saw them shoot the girl after we were gathered up. 10

Annie Elizabeth Hoag recorded John D. Lee, one of the primary leaders in the massacre, saying:

When they came to one man that had his child in his arms an infant babe, he says give up that child.  No, Lee, says the man, I know you, I recognise you [even] if you are painted[,] and you know the penalty of shedding innocent blood.  If you kill me you kill my child, I will part with the last drop of blood there is in my body before I give up my child.  Lee asked him again, if he would give up his child and he said no; then John D. Lee said it was his turn to assist and he shot him through the heart and killed the child at the same time.  He said he didn’t consider himself under the penalty of shedding innocent blood, he could not help it, because the man would not give up his child. 11

Jacob Hamblin and Thales Haskell (my third great-grandfather) were prominently engaged in Indian relations at the time of the massacre.  They were strongly opposed to, but unfortunately absent from home at the time of the attack.  During their return, they were met with the news of the massacre.  Upon arrival at Mountain Meadows, the men left their wives to survey the scene.

When they [Hamblin and Haskell] reached Mountain Meadows, the two men told the girls to stay in the wagon under the cover, which was tightly drawn and securely fastened all around, while they went out to look over the country.  Unable to restrain their curiosity and impatient with waiting, the girls did not obey, but climbed out to do some exploring themselves.  What they discovered sent them back to the wagon in terror, and the husbands returned to find them trembling and crying.  To the end of her days, Priscilla [Hamblin] was haunted by that sight of putrefying, dismembered women’s bodies.  12

Priesthood Leaders Conspire

Isaac_Haight

Isaac C. Haight

Who conspired and carried out this tragedy?  The answer is shocking.  The men who plotted and executed the massacre were not only members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the prominent conspirators were local priesthood leaders.  Isaac C. Haight was the mayor and stake president of Cedar City. 13  John M. Higbee, the man known for signaling to commence the slaughter, was one of President Haight’s counselors. 14  Philip Klingensmith was the bishop of Cedar City, Utah 15 and therefore reportedly “exercised informal leadership” 16.  William Dame, who ordered out the militia, was the stake president of Parowan. 17

dame

William Dame

The Mountain Meadows Massacre was not simply a case of “Mormons” annihilating a traveling emigrant party.  The sickening fact is, that many otherwise faithful LDS men were driven to commit this cowardly act of violence through blind obedience to a Stake President and/or Bishop.  The drama of this story centers around priesthood leaders urging and even demanding the men and women under their stewardship to support and participate in the murders.

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Nineteen years following the massacre, almost to the day, Nephi Johnson stood as a witness at the trial of John D. Lee.  Lee was later executed for his role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  As the prosecution quizzed Johnson, the questions turned to one of the most sobering aspects of the massacre: the role of political and ecclesiastical pressure from leaders.

Q: Who was the highest military officer in Cedar City at that time?

A: I think it was Isaac C. Haight.

Q: You thought it would not be safe for you to refuse, had you any rea­sons to fear danger – had any persons ever been injured for not obeying, or anything of that kind?

A: I don’t want to answer.

Q: It is necessary to the safety of the man I am defending, and I there­fore insist upon an answer. Had any person ever been injured for not obeying?

A: Yes, sir; they had.

Q: And from what you had seen before that, you thought it was your duty, under the circumstances, to obey counsel, or commands given you by Haight?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Did Haight hold any office except that of Major in the military?

A: He held the office of President of Cedar City.

Q: An ecclesiastical office – President of that Stake of Zion, I believe you call it?

A: Yes, sir. 18

nephi-johnson0

Nephi Johnson

Before the killings, Nephi Johnson’s conscience warned against involvement.  In fact, he initially refused to act as an interpreter between the white men and Indians planning the attack.  “I Did Not Want Anything to Do with killing the Emigrants, for I was Determined in my Own Mind that I would Keep Away from them.”

But on Thursday Haight gave him no choice. Two express riders arrived at Johnson’s home with written orders, telling him Haight required him to go to Cedar City whether he “wanted to or Not.” 19

Nephi Johnson was again faced with internal conflict as he met with John D. Lee, John M. Higbee and a number of prominent Indian chiefs.

Through interpreter Nephi Johnson, Lee suggested to the Paiute leaders “that he would try and get the emigrants out of their camp as well as giving up their arms after which they would kill them.”  At first, Johnson hesitated to interpret the awful message.  Lee “wanted me to talk to the Indians in a way I didn’t want to,” Johnson later recalled. 20

Johnson ultimately concluded to accommodate his leaders, leading to further compromises during the massacre.  The memories would stay with him from that moment onward, undoubtedly leading to his dying cries, “Blood!  Blood!  Blood!”

The dark days of early September 1857 became a battleground as each man was left with a decision which would prove life-altering.  Should he follow authority or should he question?  As some of the men listened to their own Bishop and/or Stake Presidents outline strategies and give orders, many made the deadly decision to blindly follow.

The following statement from John D. Lee could be held suspect as some, including myself, believe research has shown that Lee gave inaccurate history in some respects.  However, the report may show substance into arguments being made at the time.

leejdSeveral of the dignitaries bowed in prayer-invoked the aid of the Holy Spirit to prepare their minds and guide them to do right and carry out the counsel of their leaders.

Higbee said that President J. C. Haight had been to Parowan to confer with Colonel Dame, and their counsel and orders were that “This Emigrant Camp Must Be Used Up.”

I replied, “Men, women and children?” “All,” said he, “except such as are too young to tell tales, and if the Indians cannot do it without help, we must help them.” I commenced pleading for the company, and I said though some of them have behaved badly, they have been pretty well chastised. . . .

Ira Allen, High Counselor, and Robert Wiley and others spoke, reproving me sharply for trying to dictate to the priesthood; that it would set at naught all authority; . . . .

Counselor C. Hopkins, a near friend of mine, came to me and said; “Brother Lee, come get up and don’t draw off from the priesthood. You ought not to do so. You are only endangering your own life by standing out. You can’t help it; if this is wrong-the blame won’t rest on you.” I said, “Charley, this is the worst move ‘this people’ ever made. I feel it.” He said, “Come, go back and let them have their way.” I went back. . . .

It was further told the men that President Haight said that if we were united in carrying out the instructions we would all receive a “celestial reward.”  I said I was willing to put up with a less reward, if I could be excused. “How can you do this without shedding innocent blood?”  Here I got another lampooning for my stubbornness and disobedience to the priesthood.

I was told that there was not a drop of innocent blood in the whole company of emigrants.  Also referred to the Gentile nations who refused the children of Israel passage through their country when Moses led them up out of Egypt—that the Lord held that crime against them and when Israel waxed strong the Lord commanded Joshua to slay the whole nation, men, women and children. “Have not these people done worse than that to us?  Have they not threatened to murder our leaders and Prophet, and have they not boasted of murdering our Patriarchs and Prophets, Joseph and Hyrum? Now Talk About Shedding Innocent Blood.”

They said that I was a good, liberal, free-hearted man, but too much of this sympathy would be always in the way; that every man now had to show his colors; that it was not safe to have a Judas in camp. Then it was proposed that every man express himself.  That if there was a man who would not keep a close mouth, they wanted to know it then. This gave me an understanding what I might expect if I continued to oppose them.  Major Higbee said: Brother Lee is right. Let him take an expression of the people.  I knew I dare not refuse; so I had every man speak and express himself.  All said they were willing to carry out the counsel of their leaders; that the leaders had the Spirit of God, and knew better what was right than they did. 21

As the men aimed their guns at defenceless men, women and children, surely many prayed for forgiveness and absolution.  Although conscience was strongly dictating in many cases that this was wrong, all apparently clung to the false spirit’s subtle words, “that the leaders had the Spirit of God, and knew better what was right than they did.”  They were simply following orders.  Wouldn’t God vindicate them in the end?

The Prophet Joseph’s Counsel

hafendirectingIf only these men at Mountain Meadows had known or followed the true counsel of the Prophet Joseph Smith which stood in stark contrast to that of these other priesthood leaders.

When you are obliged to fight be sure that you do not stain your hands in the blood of women and children, and when your enemies call for quarters be sure you grant them the same and then you will gain power over the world you will be forever called the Nauvoo Legion. 22

If only these men had known or followed the leadership principles of Joseph Smith wherein he taught that we are not a people who blindly follow.

Some years ago, in Nauvoo, a gentleman in my hearing, a member of the Legislature, asked Joseph Smith how it was that he was enabled to govern so many people, and to preserve such perfect order; remarking at the same time that it was impossible for them to do it anywhere else. Mr. Smith remarked that it was very easy to do that. “How?” responded the gentleman; “to us it is very difficult.” Mr. Smith replied, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” 23

The Prophet Joseph consistently taught that we must never blindly follow any priesthood leader, even the President of the Church.

President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves … 24

Blindly following should never be part of the program in the true Church of Jesus Christ.

A Difficult Test

To better understand the dilemma faced by these early Saints, an understanding of the times is necessary.  The Baker–Fancher emigrant wagon train was by no means purely innocent or irreproachable.  It is reported that the emigrants claimed to have the gun that killed “Old Jo Smith”. 25  There were those in the company who “boasted of having participated in the Missouri outrages and the Haun’s Mill Massacre.” 26  Disrupted communities along their way complained of the emigrants stealing, looting and so forth.  Utah citizens were also under the impression that the Baker-Fancher party had poisoned Native Americans with a dead ox 27 and stirred up various Indians along their way.  Finally, it must be remembered that there was an army headed toward Utah with soldiers vowing to destroy the Mormon settlements, killing men, women and children and raping along the way.  Such threats had formerly been carried out in Missouri and Nauvoo with unforgettable results.  The extermination attempts could easily be repeated.  September 1857 was clearly a time of war.  Further, the emigrants had foolishly announced intentions to raise an army in California, return to Utah and obliterate the “Mormons”. 28  In addition to the faulty guidance of leaders, the circumstances made the ordeal a difficult matter to clearly articulate right from wrong.  The need for personal revelation and not blind obedience was more crucial than ever.  In the end, helpless victims were massacred and the perpetrators lived forever tormented by horrid memories because true principles as taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith and the scriptures were not understood and/or followed.

517351782One cannot imagine the suffering this event has caused.  The perpetrators were also victims.  Over 20 years ago I first read accounts of militia members at Mountain Meadows.  For me, personally, merely studying the journal accounts of these men–the never-ending nightmares, the demonic visits of evil spirits and the unbelievable tortures of conscience have never left my memory.  They cemented an unspeakable desire to never blindly follow any man or woman to destruction.

While I believe this to be the darkest story in Church history, I also believe the lessons from Mountain Meadows should be repeatedly taught to every latter-day saint.  We must know our history!  Every time someone says, “I don’t want to know about such things, I think we should just focus on Faith, Repentance and Baptism,” I cringe.   What is generally meant by this phrase is, “I am comfortable where I am, don’t rock my boat, don’t make me think!”  The men at Mountain Meadows may have felt a bit that way before the massacre, but I doubt that many of them wished they had not spent more time in spiritual preparation after the fateful events.  Ideas that lead to dumbing down the people make it possible for leaders like Isaac Haight to prey upon the weak and ultimately could lead to a repeat of Mountain Meadows or much worse.

Again, to those who endlessly repeat the monotonous drum roll of “we should just focus on Faith, Repentance and Baptism” I have this reply.  Is this not the very essence of faith!  Isn’t the lesson from all scripture and every prophet from the beginning to the end that we must trust in God and not in man?  I have never seen one revelation provide even a single exception to this rule.  From my experience, very few truly understand blind obedience.  I have never heard the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith or the teachings of President Brigham Young condemning blind obedience taught in a class.  How can this be?  True doctrine forever changes attitudes and behavior.  Please teach the lessons from Mountain Meadows.

Some unwittingly teach that we should unquestioningly follow every word that comes from the mouth of our Church leaders.  Some even taunt it is breaking temple covenants to question Church authority.  We have recently heard many of our friends criticize men and women who raised honest concerns regarding the personal integrity and instruction given by a leader.  One confidently declared, “If I read a book [by an appointed leader] that taught evolution, I would follow it and God would not punish me for believing it.  We can’t go astray following them.  God won’t punish us.”  Another warned, “It’s breaking your temple covenants to raise concerns with the character, motives or actions of ordained leaders.”

Sadly, these likely well-meaning members have not carefully studied the history of the Church nor the doctrines taught by the scriptures and inspired prophets of God.  Some of the men near Mountain Meadows held similar opinions and the consequences still haunt us.  Brigham Young conversely taught:

I do hope and pray my brethren and sisters to pay attention, that the Spirit of the Lord may be in your hearts, that you may see and understand things as they are. I would say, still further, if there be error advanced here, do not receive it, pass it by, and live so that you will know truth from error, light brigham-youngfrom darkness, the things that are of God from those not of God; and if an error should drop from the lips of one of our Elders, do not receive, believe, or practice it. Truth is what we want, and we ought to live so that we can understand and know it for ourselves. This is our privilege and duty; and we request of the Latter-day Saints, and of all people, to live so that they may know and understand the things of God, and receive and embrace them in their faith, and practice them in their lives. 29

I told the people in Nauvoo . . . that if they were not Saints at that critical juncture, they ought to repent of their sins, and get the Holy Ghost, and not live another twenty-four hours without the Spirit of revelation within themselves, for who knows but what you are the elect; and you know that false prophets were to arise in the last days, and, if possible, deceive the very elect, and that many false shepherds would come and pretend to be the true shepherds. Now, be sure to get the spirit of revelation, so that you can tell when you hear the true Shepherd’s voice, and know him from a false one; for if you are the elect, it would be a great pity to have you led astray to destruction. 30

The Lord has given a protective promise to those who desire to not be led astray.  President Brigham Young taught that this assurance is given because each Latter-day Saint has the privilege, if they are pure, to receive a personal witness.  It is up to them whether they will be led astray or not.

The First Presidency have of right a great influence over this people; and if we should get out of the way and lead this people to destruction, what a pity it would be! How can you know whether we lead you correctly or not? Can you know by any other power than that of the Holy Ghost? I have uniformly exhorted the people to obtain this living witness each for themselves; then no man on earth can lead them astray. 31

The LDS men at Mountain Meadows needed more than ever to have questioned and then prayed.  Because they evidently did not question, they did not humbly pray for guidance.  This was their test, their moment to be proved by fire.  Tragically, they were not adequately prepared.  During the very moments that President Brigham Young was sending word to “not interfere with [the emigrants]”, “not meddle”, “preserve good feelings” and “let them go in peace”, these men were making the most fateful decision of their lives.

Thursday, September 10th, the day before the final massacre, James Haslam arrived in Salt Lake City and rushed to deliver a message from President Isaac Haight to President Brigham Young.  The express reported that the company of emigrants had “behaved verry mean” and asked the simple question: what should be done?  Jacob Hamblin recorded:

The spirit of the Express rather asked the privilege to chastize [the emigrants]. . . . President Young answered them rather haistily, saying No, when I want Marshal Law proclaimed, I will let you know. 32

Brigham_YoungPresident Young realized the urgency of the situation and acted immediately.

Young asked Haslam, who had spent most of the last sixty hours in the saddle, if he “could stand the trip back” to Cedar City.  When Haslam replied that he could, Young told him to get a little sleep and be back in the office in an hour for his written reply. 33

President Young’s response was swift, decided and clear.

In regard to emigration trains passing through our settlements we must not interfere with them untill they are first notified to keep away.  You must not meddle with them.  The Indians we expect will do as they please but you should try and preserve good feelings with them. There are no other trains going south that I know of[.] [I]f those who are there will leave let them go in peace. While we should be on the alert, on hand and always ready we should also possess ourselves in patience, preserving ourselves and property ever remembering that God rules.  He has overruled for our deliverance this once again and he will always do so if we live our religion, be united in our faith and good works.  All is well with us. 34

As Haslam prepared to depart, the anxiety and concern felt by President Young was clearly manifest in the prophet’s repeated instruction, “Brother Haslam, I want you to ride for dear life; ride day and night; spare no horse flesh.” 35

Haslam followed Brigham Young’s instruction and rode “for dear life”.  He arrived in Cedar City on Sunday and immediately handed President Haight the missive.  The horror, the grief and the heartbreak can only be imagined.  Haight “sobbed ‘like a child’” for half an hour “and could manage only the words, ‘Too late, too late.’” 36

I have repeatedly contemplated how ironic it is that at the very moment Brigham Young was dictating instruction to Haslam to let the emigrants pass, the men at Mountain Meadows were making life changing decisions.  Brigham Young’s letter did not arrive in time to save the people from their deadly mistake.  But, the grim truth remains, every man and woman involved in the Mountain Meadows Massacre was without excuse.  Each individual could have received President Young’s instruction through the Holy Spirit.  Each of us must personally learn to discern between true and false leaders, between true and false teachings.  There is no other way.

The Rest of the Story

silas_sanford_smith_large

Silas Sanford Smith

Some of the men did pray and follow inspiration in dealing with the emigrants.  Silas Sanford Smith, nephew to the Prophet Joseph Smith and my ancestor maintained friendly relations and even “took supper” with the emigrants. 37  Discovering the location of Silas’ home in Paragonah, the Baker-Fancher party deliberately camped near by.
Silas’ brother, Jesse N. Smith was one of William Dame’s two counselors in the Parowan stake presidency.

“[Jesse N. Smith] sold flour and salt to the Arkansas company when it came to his home in Paragonah northeast of Parowan . . . Jesse’s retrospective diary gave no hint that he or any of his neighbors had bad feelings for the emigrants.” 38

Portrait-of-Jesse-N.-Smith

Jesse N. Smith

Jesse N. Smith’s role in the events surrounding the massacre demonstrates that not every leader was in favor of violence against the Arkansas company.  After word reached William Dame of the initial attacks on the emigrants beginning Monday, September 7th, Jesse Smith and Edward Dalton were sent to investigate the skirmish.  They returned and “expressed much disgust over what they had seen and learned, as John D. Lee and other white men were assuming a very hostile attitude toward the emigrants in connection with the Indians.” 39  Later Wednesday night, a council was held.  William Dame, Calvin Pendleton, Jesse N. Smith, William Barton, Isaac Haight and other leading men were present.  The council decided that “a company should be sent out from Parowan . . . to call the Indians off, gather up the stock for the company, and let them continue their journey in peace.” 40  No sooner had the council concluded when Isaac Haight approached William Dame privately.  Shortly after, Haight was riding for Cedar City feeling that Dame gave “the final order to destroy the entire company.” He would later express bitter regret saying “I would give a world if I had it, if we had abided by the deci[s]ion of the council.” 41  In other words, there was opposition and discrepancy among the leaders.  In such cases, there will be conflict.  Leaders will almost never stand in perfect agreement unless they all possess the spirit of God.   It is left, then, for us to follow those who are right.  I am forever grateful that my ancestors were among those who listened to the true spirit and counseled in wisdom.

Other Heroes

Not all of the men in Cedar City, Parowan and the surrounding settlements decided to blindly follow their conspiring leaders.

Some bravely refused to compromise.  When forced between God and man, they chose to follow conscience.

One man after another said he had gone to the Meadows because of military orders–they had been coerced.  For some it was probably true; but it was also true that many men did not go, giving rise to a healthy store of folklore–proud families telling stories of how their ancestors refused to participate in the crime.  “Old Joseph Walker . . . when told to go to the Meadows, put his fist in Haights face and told him to go to hell and do his own dirty work,” said one account. 42

If the story be true, recall the consequences Brother Joseph Walker faced for his defiance.  He was not resisting an irritable neighbor.  He wasn’t refusing a family member.  He was standing in the face of authority–for Isaac Haight was not only his mayor, but his Stake President.

Another man claimed that his stepbrothers “hid in the furrows of a potato patch until the Cedar party went on.”  Peter Nelson reportedly concealed himself in a bin of grain and escaped the soldiers’ detection by breathing through a straw.  Yet another man supposedly dodged service by claiming to be ill, first lyin in a pile of hot bricks to simulate a fever. . . . All told, less than one-fifth of Cedar City’s militiamen went to the Meadows. . . . 43

Some of the men were unaware that they were being recruited to massacre the emigrants.  Some labored under the impression they were called to “burry the dead.”

They did “not know that they must first make the dead,” Haight said privately.  Yet only a fraction of the men took shovels or spades with them, and most took guns.  When private John Bradshaw, a thirty-eight-year-old English brick maker, showed up at the mustering grounds with just a spade, Haight wanted to know why he was not carrying a gun.  Where was his ammunition?  “I told him I didn’t know that it required a gun to bury dead people,” Bradshaw replied.  “He . . . called me a fool; told me I didn’t know anything about it, didn’t understand things.”  Haight dismissed Bradshaw, sending him home. 44

Regardless of whether the decision to participate in the massacre occurred at home or upon their arrival, the decision was a struggle.

Several of the Mormon men “shed tears at the sight of the dead lying before them, and only in obedience to what they considered legitimate military authority would they have done what they did,” reported one. 45

Before withdrawing from the scene of the massacre, the Stake President of Parowan and the Bishop of Cedar City, Utah were careful to impress upon the men the conspiratorial nature of this crime.  The details were never to be revealed. 46

Consider carefully whether you would have followed your leaders before passing judgement on the men who “dutifully” followed their leaders on that fateful day.

Would you have stood against your Bishop?  Would you have stood against your Stake President?  Would you stand firm if your leaders asked you to do something that was wrong?

The men did not feel the pressure alone.  As Major Higbee left Cedar City on Thursday with the husbands, fathers and brothers, the wife of the Stake President “Sister Haight” was quick to admonish her Relief Society sisters regarding their duty.

. . . Sister Willis and Sister Haight. . . taught them the necessity of being obedient to their husbands &c—7 and not to be fearful in these troublesome times but to be prayerful and attend to their duties . . . said that these were squally times, and we ought to attend to secret prayer in behalf of our husbands, sons, fathers, & brothers. instructed the sisters to teach their sons & daughters the principles of righteousness, and to implant a desire in their hearts to avenge the blood of the Prophets. . . . advised them to attend strictly to secret prayer in behalf of the brethren that are out acting in our defence. 47

As the sisters listened to their leaders in the Relief Society, any whose conscience pricked were forced with a similar judgement.  Follow the Stake President blindly, or pray and receive a personal confirmation, and act accordingly.

Sister Haight, good intentioned or not, was no doubt eager to settle any doubts in her sisters’ minds regarding the wisdom and prudence of the attack being instigated and led by her husband.  She strove to “implant a desire in their hearts to avenge the blood of the Prophets.”  However, it is likely she and her sisters were unaware of the Prophet’s teaching that this “avenging” should be left to the Lord and not to man.  The previous year, Wilford Woodruff recorded President Brigham Young as teaching:

While reading the revelation upon the patriarchal marriage & While reading that paragraph relating to the sheding of innocent Blood President Young remarked that that was a vary nice point to distinguish between innocent Blood & that which is not innocent. Were we now Commanded to go & avenge the Blood of the prophets whare it wood reach infants from the Cradle to the third & forth generation would they know what to do in such a case? They would not. But there is one thing that is a consolation to me And that is I am satisfied that the Lord will not require it of this people untill they become sanctifyed & are led by the spirit of God so as not to shed inocent Blood. 48

President Young clearly taught that the Saints were not spiritually mature and prepared to take any acts of “avenging” into their own hands.  Those who chose to blindly follow the leaders counseling them to the contrary were haunted by the consequences for the rest of their lives.

In our own day, the dilemma remains.  Men and women struggle with the question of “blind obedience”.  When a leader asks you do something, what do you do?  Many think a leader could never lead you amiss.  Is it inappropriate to question?  Could religious leaders exist who are not men “of God walking in his ways and keeping his commandments.”? 49  The Saints living near Mountain Meadows were forced to answer these questions.  Sadly, they were not the last.

Helmuth Hübener

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Over eighty years later, Germany found itself trapped within the iron fist of Hitler and his Nazi rule of terror.  In the midst of world war, one Latter-day Saint teenage boy was excommunicated by the Branch President of the St. Georg Branch in Hamburg, Germany.  His crime?  Opposing the Nazi regime and secretly distributing leaflets exposing Hitler’s lies and propaganda.

A motorcyclist reads a sign stating "Jews are not welcomed here." Germany, ca. 1935. — US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Margaret Chelnick

A motorcyclist reads a sign stating “Jews are not welcomed here.” Germany, ca. 1935.
— US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Margaret Chelnick

Helmuth Hübener’s LDS Branch President, Arthur Zander, was “enthusiastic in his support of the Nazi regime”. 50

Arthur Zander led the St. Georg Branch in Hamburg in 1938.  He wore the gold swastika lapel pin given to those who joined the Nazi Party before March 1933.  “He was quite enthused about it,” recalled Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, who as a youth was involved in the Helmuth Hubener gang of resistors.  “He saw good in [the Nazi Party].  No more unemployment, the autobahn was constructed, and everyone had work under Adolf.”  Franz Jacobi, Zander’s first counselor and also a Party devotee was, in Schnibbe’s words, a “super Nazi.”  The two congregational leaders wanted to begin Sunday services with the Hitler salute, but found their enthusiasm overruled by the district president. . . . when the Fuhrer* would speak over the airwaves, Zander would provide a radio and lock the doors so that nobody in the congregation could leave during the broadcast. . . . Zander erected a sign outside that announced Jews were not allowed to enter. 51

As sixteen year old Helmuth Hübener secretly listened to forbidden BBC broadcasts, he was stirred to action.  He could not stand idly by while tyranny stifled freedom.  However, the young boy stood in a difficult position.  For Helmuth, defending freedom, defying Nazi rule and following his conscience meant contradicting his local Priesthood authority.  Who was right?

truth-and-convictionHelmuth refused to compromise.  For months, he and two friends bravely composed and distributed anti-fascist pamphlets revealing the lies and propaganda of the Third Reich.  Their “resistance” was brought to an immediate end when Helmuth was arrested by the Gestapo on February 5th, 1942.  While suffering interrogation and torture in Gestapo chambers, he suffered yet another blow.  He was cut off from the Church he loved.  On February 15th, without any consultation with the district president, President Zander

. . . wrote “Excommunicated” on Hubener’s membership record. He did this with the apparent consent of Interim West German Mission President, Anton Huck, although there is no evidence that a Church court was convened.(Manuscript History of the West German Mission, LDS Historical Archives, Salt Lake City)

. . . On the Sunday after the arrest, Karl, Rudi, Hubener’s mother, and grandmother all attended the St. Georg branch, where they heard Brother Friedrich Jakobi say: “I’m glad they caught him. If I’d known what he was doing, I’d have shot him myself.” (Interviews with Wobbe, Schnibbe, Berndt, and Hans Kunkel) 52

District President Otto Berndt stated:

Otto Berndt said Zander might have performed the excommunication because he believed it would placate the Gestapo.  But, added Berndt, “He did it behind my back.” 53

Notice of Helmuth Hübener’s execution

Notice of Helmuth Hübener’s execution

Helmuth Hubener was finally beheaded by guillotine on October 27, 1942 after months of imprisonment, isolation, torture and interrogation.  Four years would pass before Hubener’s membership record would be marked “excommunication done by mistake” and it was not until January 24, 1948 that President George Albert Smith ordered the entry, “Decision of excommunication reversed by the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who ordered this notation placed upon the record of excommunication.”

Was Helmuth’s sacrifice, standing against Nazi terror, wise?  Should he instead have followed without question?  Helmuth defied his priesthood leader to stand for truth.  Was he right?

300px-WobbeHübenerSchnibbeTwo different stories, two different places, two different times, two different enemies, but the same question.  If your priesthood leader instructs you to do something which is wrong, do you blindly follow?

During my life, I have often heard individuals express belief in following leaders regardless of whether instruction was right or wrong.  If a leader’s guidance contradicted scripture, for example, these unwary latter-day saints were convinced that no negative consequences would follow their dutiful obedience.  If a leader ever could be in error, surely the leader alone would be held responsible.  How could an individual be punished for obedience?  This reckless attitude likely stems from ignorance of scripture and the revelations of the Lord.  Perhaps few are familiar with the words of the Lord Jesus Christ on the subject.

Jesus Christ on Following Religious Leaders (Mark 9, JST)

We have often heard Christ’s instruction to the Twelve, “if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell,”.  I have participated in many Gospel Doctrine lessons where speculation was shared and possible interpretations imagined by well-meaning members.  Have you ever wondered what the Lord was teaching in these verses?  What specifically was the Son of God, while dwelling in mortality, trying to convey?

Landing-Page-The-Savior-the-Master-Teacher-2010-12-28The clear meaning of the passage was corrupted and lost until the Prophet Joseph Smith was inspired to restore a portion.  Turning now to the Joseph Smith Translation of Mark 9, we may discover an inspired commentary different from traditional understanding.

40 Therefore, if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; or if thy brother offend thee and confess not and forsake not, he shall be cut off. It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go into hell.

41 For it is better for thee to enter into life without thy brother, than for thee and thy brother to be cast into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:40-41, JST)

So far, nothing too controversial here!  If a neighbor, co-member or friend falls away or abandons the truth, we must not endanger our own salvation and allow ourselves to be led by them.  We should exercise caution and prudence to ensure that we are not deceived.  It would be better to “cut them off” than to be corrupted.  This is not a revolutionary concept; we have heard this often.  However, there is more.  What is the context of these verses?  The Savior continues by warning against transgression in individuals of position, leaders we generally do not suspect.

42 And again, if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; for he that is thy standard, by whom thou walkest, if he become a transgressor, he shall be cut off.

43 It is better for thee, to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched. (Mark 9:42-43, JST)

Mark 9 becomes a bit more controversial here.  We are warned that if the one who is “thy standard . . . become a transgressor, he shall be cut off.”  Who could this religious “standard” be?  Whose “walk” do you follow?  Who shows forth the religious path?

In scripture, our “walk” is synonymous with obedience to the commandments (Mosiah 4:15, D&C 25:2, 95:12, 2 John 1:6) and righteous participation in ordinances (D&C 136:4).  When speaking of men “by whom thou walkest”, the Son of God is undoubtedly warning against appointed exemplars and teachers that can fall.  Could the religious leader we feel admiration for and confidence in “become a transgressor”?  The Savior cautions us, for He knows that if we are not on our guard, we will easily be deceived and follow them “into hell”.

44 Therefore, let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or not trusting another. (Mark 9:44, JST)

il_570xN.762701691_qqq4Verse 44 clearly contradictsthe notion that any individual, including ecclesiastical leaders, should be blindly followed.  Each one of us is left to stand on our own two feet.  At the judgement seat of God, we will stand accountable for our own actions.  Again, remember the Prophet Joseph’s witness that blind obedience in all cases leads to corruption and “darkening”.

President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves … 54

The Lord Jesus Christ and the Prophet Joseph Smith have unmistakably spoken on blind obedience, blind obedience to any leader at any level in the Kingdom of God.  The Lord has declared that this dispensation shall have His word through the Prophet Joseph Smith (D&C 5:10).  If we believe in the revelations, we can safely lay aside every statement made by any authority that contradicts this certain word of God.  President George Q. Cannon taught,

It is the design of the Lord to develop within every man and woman the principle of knowledge, that all may know for themselves. He has poured out His holy spirit upon all of us,and not upon President Young nor upon bro. Joseph alone. The Lord designs that the principle of knowledge shall be developed in every heart, that all may stand before Him in the dignity of their manhood, doing understandingly what He requires of them, not depending upon nor being blindly led by their priests or leaders, as is the universal custom, and one of the most fruitful sources of evil to the people on the face of the earth.

George Q. Cannon

George Q. Cannon

God intends to break down this order of things, and to develop in the bosom of every human being who will be obedient to the gospel and the principles of truth and righteousness, that knowledge which will enable them to perform understandingly all the labors and duties he requires of them.

Note President Cannon’s conviction that “blind obedience” is “one of the most fruitful sources of evil to the people on the face of the earth.”  Our own history bears testimony to the truth of this statement.  The victims of the Mountain Meadows Massacre cry from the ground, “Let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another!”  The story of Helmuth Hubener pleads “We ought to obey God rather than men.” 55 President Cannon continued:

If we, in our experience, have not yet proved the truth of the words of the prophet—“Cursed is he that trusteth in man, or maketh flesh his arm”—probably we will do if we live long enough. There is a curse attending every man and woman who does this.

. . . We must all learn to depend upon God and upon Him alone. Why, the very man upon whom we think we can rely with unbounded confidence, and trust with all we possess, may disappoint us sometimes, but trust in God and He never fails. 56

The testimony of scripture, latter-day prophets and history is clear.  If your trust is in man, any man, you will be disappointed.  If you blindly follow the “arm of flesh”, you will be cursed.  Build your foundation on the Rock that will never fail.  Place your trust firmly in the power that will never disappoint.

45 Seek unto my Father, and it shall be done in that very moment what ye shall ask, if ye ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive. (Mark 9:45, JST)

Throughout the Dark Ages, apostate clergy and tyrannical leaders indoctrinated their people to blindly follow.  Instead of directing all attention to the Father and the Son, priests became the light.  Priests were infallible.  To question the authorities was heretical.  God became an essence, a power, a force that could not be approached directly.

On the contrary, the Prophet Joseph Smith restored the understanding that we can each receive a personal knowledge of truth and also of error.  Revelation is not only possible, it is essential!  God desires each of us to become “. . . agents unto [our]selves.”  We are grateful for and recognize the necessity of ordained leaders with priesthood keys.  They are called of God and obedience to their inspired counsel has blessed my life and the lives of my children and posterity forever.  Nevertheless, I stand and fall by my own actions.  You will stand and fall by yours.  Our responsibility is to bow the knee, humbly pray and receive our own witness, our own knowledge of every principle, doctrine and question.  To do this we must ask questions.  Those who don’t ask questions don’t receive answers.

46 And if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to show thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out.

The references to “eye”, “watch over thee”, “appointed” and “show thee light” have clear religious connotations.  The leader described is appointed to reveal the path.  He is responsible to watch over God’s people and guide them to the “light”.

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Again, the Lord is careful to specify that this man has been “appointed”.  From the text, we can deduce that the “transgressor” described is not an “imposter”.  He is not a non-member or an excommunicated apostate.  Being “appointed” clearly infers priesthood authority.  He has not called himself.  He has not been selected by democratic vote.  He has been called by God to lead, to assist the weak, to watch over the flock and bring the light of God to a darkened world.  His high position may lead us to conclude that he could not fall.  Would the Lord appoint a man who later becomes a “transgressor”?  The Lord has indicated that He could.  What should our reaction be?  According to God, we must “pluck him out” as our stewardship permits.

47 It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God, with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

48 For it is better that thyself should be saved, than to be cast into hell with thy brother, where their worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched.

In the Lord’s eyes, we are accountable for our own salvation.  It would be better to disregard the false counsel of a mortal man, than be “cast into hell with thy brother”.  The admonition of Jesus Christ in JST Mark 9 may be uncomfortable.  It may contradict traditions fostered since our youth.  It may cause us to fall to our knees.  It may lead us to search the word of God in scripture with more diligence.  It may lead us to correct errors in our lives that we previously laid at the feet of others, perhaps leaders.  Those of us who are leaders may think and pray more carefully before we speak or act in the name of God.  The implications of truly understanding this fundamental doctrine may alter our eternal destinies as individuals and as a people.

“Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man . . .”

brigham-young-1012657-code7-lgIt has been over 150 years since the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the controversy still swirls.  Who is to blame for the violent end to the Baker-Fancher party?  Did Brigham Young order the massacre?  Is he in any way responsible?  The evidence available clearly testifies that President Young had nothing to do with the murders and would have stopped it if he would have known.  In addition to the rider-delivered message relayed to Isaac Haight, the president resolutely declared two decades later:

My disposition is such that had I known anything about it I would have gone to that camp and fought the Indians and white men who took part in the perpetration of the massacre to the death, rather than such a deed should have been committed. 57

In our day, there is a ruthless “smear campaign” underway (both from within and without the Church) to slander the integrity, character and credibility of President Brigham Young.  The Mountain Meadows Massacre is only one arrow in this battle to defame a noble prophet of God.

Some argue that responsibility should be laid on President Young because he compelled “absolute obedience to church authorities” 58 and took “quick and decisive action to instill loyalty and obedience in those followers who dared to question him.” 59  The “Mormon” people, allegedly, lived in a “system of bondage” 60 and tyranny; grown men and women crippled in servitude.  In other words, in the eyes of many, regardless of President Young’s opposition to the Mountain Meadows Massacre specifically, he remains guilty.  The men in Cedar City and Parowan had been groomed under a leader who demanded unswerving blind obedience.

My cousin, historian Ron Walker, who recently passed away, co-authored his own treatment of the massacre titled, Massacre at Mountain Meadows.  We know from conversations with Brother Walker that he was in no way desiring to disparage President Young.  Throughout the work he attempts to portray accurate history, demonstrating President Young’s opposition to the massacre.    However, one criticism I have with the work, is that it places some blame on President Young for contributing to “a culture that encouraged blind obedience”. 61

Nothing could be further from the truth!  Brigham Young’s fervent ambition was to foster independence in every individual.  He wanted the people to stand on their own two feet and never lean.

Brigham Young wisely counseled:

I have said to the Latter-day Saints, many and many a time, and I say to them now, live your religion, that the Spirit of God may be within you like a well of water springing up to everlasting life. Suppose I were to give way to the spirit of the enemy and leave the spirit of the Gospel, then, if you were not prepared to judge between the voice of the Good Shepherd and the voice of the stranger, I could lead you to ruin. Be prepared that you may know the voice when it comes through the servants of God, then you can declare for yourselves. ‘This is the word of the Lord.’ My caution and counsel to the Latter-day Saints, and to all the inhabitants of the earth is—Live so that you will know truth from error.

I say to you . . . brethren and sisters, be faithful, live so that the Spirit of the Lord will abide within you, then you can judge for yourselves. I have often said to the Latter-day Saints—“Live so that you will know whether I teach you truth or not.” Suppose you are careless and unconcerned, and give way to the spirit of the world, and I am led, likewise, to preach the things of this world and to accept things that are not of God, how easy it would be for me to lead you astray! But I say to you, live so that you will know for yourselves whether I tell the truth or not. 62

The contemporary attitude we have seen among many mainstream LDS members to “blindly follow” did not begin with President Young, nor with his predecessor and mentor the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Note again the Prophet’s counsel and urgent warning against blind obedience.

“. . . if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves …” 63

The Prophet taught that the Saints were “depending on the Prophet” and thus their minds were “darkened”.  Specifically, many have a false understanding that we can blindly follow the president of the Church.  Sometimes they say it other ways such as “implicitly trust” or “never worry about teaching anything untrue”, etc.  Here, the Prophet Joseph Smith attempts to silence that argument forever.  Any individual who puts blind obedience, even in the Prophet, becomes “darkened” and loses the Spirit of God.   When the Prophet Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and others implored the Saints to receive a witness for themselves and never blindly follow, they were merely echoing the words of Jesus Christ.

BRICKEY_xii_ChristPortrait42 And again, if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; for he that is thy standard, by whom thou walkest, if he become a transgressor, he shall be cut off.

43 It is better for thee, to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched.

44 Therefore, let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or not trusting another. . . .

46 And if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to show thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out. (Mark 9:42-46, JST)

The Lord clarified that in dealing with leaders, we never put blind faith or implicit unthinking obedience in any leader.  It is spelled out in the Lord’s words.  Even the leader who “seeth for thee”, “is appointed to watch over thee”, “is thy standard” and is the man “by whom thou walkest” should not be blindly followed.

Some have taught that JST Mark 9 involves a lesson by the Lord to his disciples upon excommunication.  The issue with this is the context.  The context is clearly cutting out he who “seeth for thee”, he “by whom thou walkest”, he who “is appointed to watch over thee”, he who “is thy standard”, unmistakably this is speaking of someone looking up at a leader, not a leader looking down at a lay member

The context is how should members view leaders who are in authority over them, NOT vice versa.   How should members with wicked leaders respond to the situation?  Members do not excommunicate leaders.  Again, these are not our words, these are the words of Jesus Christ.

We must stand loyally with the revelations.  What do the revelations teach regarding trust in man and blind obedience?

Nephi

. . . I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm. (2 Nephi 4:34)

Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. (2 Nephi 28:31)

Jeremiah

Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. (Jeremiah 17:5)

Peter

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

Jesus Christ

The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—(D&C 1:19)

Psalms

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. (Psalms 146:3)

It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. (Psalms 118:8)

Proverbs

The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe. (Proverbs 29:25)

The foundation of the Restoration rests on a firm bedrock that trust should be placed solely in God.  The message was unmistakably clear and concise.  Any change we may witness today cannot be identified as anything less than a removal from our foundation.


In Part 2, we will address arguments some advocate for following a leader blindly:

  • “he is a member of the First Presidency”
  • “he is a member of the Twelve”
  • “he is a General Authority”
  • “he/she was appointed by the President”
  • “his/her instruction comes from a ‘church publication’ or ‘program’”
  • “his/her instruction is believed to have come from the President of the Church”