The Everlasting Gospel in the Ever-changing Church

By Richard Packham

[This is the text of an address given at the annual conference of the Exmormon Foundation on October 15, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Due to time limitations, not all of this text was actually presented at that time.]
It was exactly 70 years ago last week that I officially became a member of the CoJCoLDS. I had just had my 8th birthday in September, and so on the first Saturday of October, 1941, my parents proudly took me over to the old Blackfoot Second Ward, where, down in the damp basement, I and a few other kids had our sins washed away, and the next day in Fast and Testimony meeting we got the Holy Ghost. Obviously, over the years the effect has worn off.

I was a good Mormon boy, attended all my meetings, paid attention in Sunday school, memorized the Articles of Faith, earned my badges in the Trailblazers ("O we are the boy trailblazers..."), passed the sacrament as a deacon, went around the neighborhood collecting fast offerings, went with an older guy doing ward teaching when I was ordained a teacher (that's what "home teachers" were called then), blessed the sacrament as a priest, and graduated with good grades from seminary after completing the three-year course. (Yes, only three years, during released time - the seminary classes were listed in the school schedule, and the seminary teachers got their photos in the yearbook.) I married my high-school Mormon sweetheart in the temple - both of us were virgins (we soon took care of that problem!), had three kids by the time I was 24, and graduated with honors from BYU. I never doubted for a minute during all that time that the church was the only true church on the face of the earth.

When I was in graduate school in the East, and among very intelligent non-Mormons for the first time in my life, I felt it was my duty to God to bring my fellow-students (and even my professors) to a knowledge of the one true, everlasting Gospel. It did not go well. I realized that I needed to do extensive research to be able to defend my church. After three years I realized that my church was just another man-made religion like all the others. This was over 50 years ago.

Naturally my devout Mormon parents were devastated to see their oldest child leave the church that they loved. Mother seemed eventually to reconcile herself to it, but Dad never gave up trying to get me back. One incident will provide the theme for my remarks today.

About 30 years after I had left the church, and had not set foot again during all that time in a Mormon chapel, I happened to be visiting my parents on Father's Day, and Dad had been asked to speak in sacrament meeting. So I went to church with my parents. When we got home, Dad said, "Well, Richard, how did it feel to be singing the old hymns?" (He knew that I had always loved the music in church - my callings were always as organist or chorister.) I had to tell him: "Dad, I had never heard before any of the hymns they sang today. They're all new. Those were not the 'old hymns' I remember."

My experiences growing up as a Mormon and being a student at BYU were generally positive. But even if I wanted to, I could not go back to the church I left 50 years ago. That church no longer exists. Today's Mormon church is not the church that I left. It has changed so much that I hardly recognize it. In some ways it has gotten better, and in other ways it has gotten worse. But if you look carefully at the 180 years of church history, you cannot help but see that change is a major characteristic of the "everlasting" gospel.

Now, Mormons will tell you that this is the beauty of their religion. They call it "continuing revelation." And at first glance it seems to be a beautiful idea: God is continually increasing his people's knowledge. But, as one ex-Mormon put it, "I always thought continuing revelation would be like the unfolding of a rosebud, not like a chameleon, continually changing its colors to conform to its environment."

Actually, the idea of continuing revelation contradicts some Mormon scripture. Joseph Smith claimed that Moroni told him in 1823 that the golden record hidden in the Hill Cumorah contained the "fulness of the everlasting gospel" (JS-Hist 1:34). That sounds like the Book of Mormon should be all that was needed. And, according to the Book of Mormon, Jesus himself said that his "doctrine" consisted ONLY of faith, repentance, and baptism, and that anyone who declared more doctrine than that is one that "cometh of evil." (3 Nephi 11:31-40) God himself repeated that idea in 1828, in the revelation at D&C 10:67-68. But a contradictory passage is at 2 Nephi 28:9, where God says that we should not suppose that because he has said one word he will not say an additional word. A few verses later has God condemning those who say that "We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!" (This prophecy was fulfilled by President Hinckley in an interview reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, April 13, 1997, commented on revelation and the present-day church: Q: And this belief in contemporary revelation and prophecy? As the prophet, tell us how that works. How do you receive divine revelation? What does it feel like? A: Let me say first that we have a great body of revelation, the vast majority of which came from the prophet Joseph Smith. We don't need much revelation. We need to pay more attention to the revelation we've already received.) Joseph Fielding Smith makes a similar statement several times in his "Doctrines of Salvation."

Mormon reference works such as the official "Topical Guide to the Scriptures" have long lists of citations dealing with "revelation." When you examine them, however, they are dealing with how God is supposed to let his followers in on more and more of his everlasting truth, "line upon line." They are not intended to show that God is changing his truth, or changing his mind about what is true. Truth is supposed to be eternal. Truth abideth forever (D&C 88:66, 1:39), as the hymn says from which the theme of this conference is taken.

And yet over the years since 1830, some very fundamental and "eternal, everlasting" truths have indeed changed. I will summarize some of the earlier changes first, rather briefly, and then point out some of the major and minor changes since I left the church over fifty years ago.

Before we discuss changing doctrine, we must make clear what the word "doctrine" means. When I was a Mormon, "doctrine" was whatever the church was teaching. And that's the basic meaning of the word, as used by most people. It's from the Latin verb 'doceo' meaning "to teach", and its past participle 'doctum' meaning "what is taught". Nowadays, when something that has been taught by the church for years turns out to make the church look bad, the excuse is "that was never doctrine!" meaning that it had never been formally approved. Never "canonized." Which of course is a Catholic principle. Never mind that the prophets of the church had been teaching it, or that thousands of Mormons had accepted it as the Word of God. How could a prophet of God teach something that was false? Obviously, he was "speaking as a man." And so we go around in circles: you test the truth of something by consulting the Standard Works. But they must be interpreted. By a living prophet, who can trump a dead prophet (and the standard works were written by dead prophets), since Ezra Taft Benson's "Fourteen Principles." But was Benson also just "speaking as a man"? And even the prophets don't know what the church teaches, or why: Hinckley's saying in a public interview that he didn't "know that we teach that" (that God was once a man) at the very same time the official lesson manual on the teachings of Brigham Young said that Young taught it, and that it was true, and you Mormons should believe it.

Mormon doctrine has been compared to jello. I think of it more like a greased pig that you can never get hold of.

God in the Book of Mormon

Mosiah 15:1-5: "And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in the flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son--The Father because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and the Son--And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and earth."

Ether 3:14 "........Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally......."

Ether 4:12 "He that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me. For behold, I am the Father."

The title page to the Book of Mormon states the following: "........and to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God." JST Luke 10:23: All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it.

That is an "inspired" translation of Luke 10:22:
All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.

Changes were soon made in the text after 1830 to separate Jesus and God.

BoM, 1830 edition:

1 Nephi 11:21: "And the angel said unto me: Behold, the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father!"
1 Nephi 13:40: "...the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world..."
1 Nephi 19:11 says that the "God of Abraham" was Jesus who was "lifted up [and crucified]"

Mormons now have no problem in saying that Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, was Jesus, and that would be consistent with this. But then where is Elohim? In early Mormonism Elohim was not mentioned, and did not exist. Alma 11:29-31: When the skeptic Zeezrom asks the prophet Amulek: Is there more than one God? Amulek answers, "No".(v. 29)

Even Joseph Smith at first denied the existence of any god other than (or higher than) Jehovah/Jesus. He understood "Elohim" (correctly) to be not a name, but rather the Hebrew word for "god":

In his History of the Church, (1838), Joseph Smith wrote: "...."Thou eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Jehovah--God-- Thou Elohim, that sittest, as saith the psalmist, "entrhoned in heaven." (vol. 5, ch. 6, p. 127)

".......let us plead the justice of our cause; trusting in the arm of Jehovah, the Elohim who sits enthroned in the heavens; that peradventure He may give us the victory....." (vol. 5, ch.5,) p.94)

In the Church periodical "The Times and Seasons" he endorsed the following:

"We believe in God the Father, who is the Great Jehovah, and head of all things, and that Christ is the Son of God, co-eternal with the Father. (vol. 3, p. 358)

By the time the "Lectures on Faith" appeared in the 1835 Doctrine And Covenants (and was included in the D&C until 1921), probably written mostly by Sidney Rigdon, there were two supreme Gods: Lecture Fifth says that the Godhead consists of two personages, God the Father and God the Son, "the Father being a personage of spirit...[and] the Son,... a personage of tabernacle... and is called the Son because of the flesh..." The Son possesses "the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit... and these three constitute the Godhead, and are one..." Notice that God the Father does not get a body yet. That doesn't appear in scripture until 1843, in D&C 130. Notice that the 1838 "First Vision" account, which mentions the Father and the Son as separate beings, does NOT say that either of them had physical bodies.

The First Vision

The First Vision brings us to another early change in fundamental doctrine. There is no contemporary evidence that any Mormon knew about any "first vision" until around 1840. Mormons were converted by believing the Book of Mormon and the story of how the angel gave Joseph Smith the plates and how he translated them to restore the true church. Later sermons by Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball imply that they had never heard of the appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph in 1820. Nowadays, President Hinckley insisted that the First Vision is the basis of Mormonism.

And speaking of the angel that showed Joseph where the plates were buried, the earliest reports of that angel gave his name as "Nephi," not "Moroni." His mother's biography of the prophet gives the angel's name as "Nephi," and the earliest reports in church periodicals also use "Nephi." That is now passed off as a mere typographical error.

The Name of the Church

Most present-day Mormons emphasize the importance that the church of Jesus Christ have his name as part of the name of the church. They like to point out that their church is named after Christ, with Christ's name in extra-large letters in the church logo: "The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints." This, they claim, is one of the signs of the true church, citing usually 1 Cor 1:12-13 and Eph 5:23, but, more clearly on point, 3 Nephi 27:8 ("And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses' name then it be Moses' church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church...") Mormon missionaries like to point out to investigators that churches such as the Lutherans or the Presbyterians do not have Christ in their name, and therefore they cannot be Christ's church.

Few present-day Mormons are aware of the historical fact that their church was not always officially called by its present name. When Joseph Smith organized the original church in 1830, it was named simply "The Church of Christ." It did not receive its present name until April 1838 (see D&C 115:4).

Even fewer present-day Mormons know that from May 1834 until April 1838 - a period of almost four years - the official name of the church was "The Church of the Latter Day Saints." Notice: no mention of Christ in the name of the church!

The inescapable conclusion, based on the same arguments used by Mormon missionaries against the Lutherans, is that between 1834 and 1838, the Mormon church was NOT the "true church," because its name did not include the name of Christ. Where then WAS the "true church"? Did the church once again become the "true church" when it put "Christ" back into its name? Is it that easy to become the true church? If so, then the "Disciples of Christ" (a fairly large Christian denomination) has just as much claim to being the "true church" as do the Mormons. In my town there is a small Christian church called "The Church of Christ." And what about the Christian Scientists, whose church is officially named "The Church of Christ, Scientist"?

The "United Order"

Another "everlasting" doctrine was The United Order, or Order of Enoch, which commanded all the saints to share their property equally, was given by revelation in 1832 in Kirtland (D&C 80). God said that it was an "everlasting order unto you and unto your successors." (v 20). God repeated the "everlasting" nature of the order in 1834, D&C 104:1, and it was "immutable" and "unchangeable" (v 2). Over 200 attempts were made over the next decades, in Ohio and in later Mormon settlements. None of them lasted for very long. God had said, in his original command, that those who did not follow the commandment would be turned over to the "buffetings of Satan." It appears that the church today has given up on the United Order and substituted the tithing system and the "Law of Consecration" which is imposed during the temple endowment ceremony, wherein a Mormon merely promises to be willing to give everything to the church. This would lead one to conclude that all present-day Mormons who are not practicing the United Order are suffering the buffetings of Satan.

We are all familiar with major changes in church doctrine during the last half century. But since the church is so good at not mentioning its history of changing doctrines, especially to new converts and to the younger generation, we need to keep reminding people of what once was.

Blacks and the Priesthood

The change in the doctrine on blacks and the priesthood is a good example. Until 1978, no person with any negro ancestry was allowed to hold the priesthood or receive the endowment. Brigham Young said: "That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. ...When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain." JoD 7:290-291 (October 9, 1859). He also said: "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so." - JoD: vol.10 p. 110: (March 8, 1863) The church now permits so-called "mixed marriages" between members of the black race and other races. BY was undoubtedly speaking as a man, not as the divinely appointed mouthpiece of God. The church now claims that it was never racist. Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy is fairly typical of statements by church officials for the last twenty years: "How grateful I am that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has from its beginnings stood strongly against racism in any of its malignant manifestations. (Ensign, Sept 2000, p 16)"

The church now claims that the exclusion of blacks was just "policy," and not "doctrine." An official statement by the First Presidency in August 1951, when David O. McKay was president, said: "The attitude of the Church with reference to negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the DOCTRINE of the Church... that negroes... are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time."

Plural Marriage

The issue of the church's polygamous past, and its efforts to downplay that past and separate itself from polygamy (the "new and everlasting covenant") should be the subject of an entire talk, so I will just remind you of how the church vehemently denied the practice, while practicing it, then as the price for Utah's statehood, announced its abandonment, while continuing to practice it, and then began persecuting those members who insisted it was divinely commanded, labeling those who did so as "not Mormon." And Section 132 remains in the D&C, and polygamous sealings are to this day being performed, with at least two of the present apostles presently sealed for eternity to more than one wife.

Minor Changes During the last 50 Years

The more subtle changes are generally so gradual that only a former insider and "old-timer" such as myself, who can remember the way things were, can see the changes.

When I was growing up in the church, there was no family home evening. Sunday school was on Sunday morning, and it included the passing of the sacrament. Sacrament meeting was on Sunday evening. Priesthood was before Sunday school. Primary was on Tuesday after school. Relief Society was on Wednesday afternoon. MIA (now called YM and YW) was on Tuesday evening. That is, no three-hour block. On Fast Sunday, sacrament meeting was immediately after Sunday school. The congregation stood while singing the opening and closing hymns.

The Relief Society had control of its own finances, with no priesthood supervision, the source being small membership dues from the sisters and subscriptions to the Relief Society's own magazine. They also raised money from bake sales and other activities, which funds were used by the sisters. Every ward house had a kitchen where the sisters could cook large meals for ward events.

There were no "singles" wards, and it was not expected that every worthy young man would serve a mission. That didn't come until the 1960s. I would estimate that among the worthy young men in my stake in the '50s only about ten percent went on missions, and it was not a mark against you if you didn't. This is why it is not fair to criticize Thomas Monson for not having served a mission.

The priesthood office of "seventy" still existed. There were thousands of men who held the office of seventy. A seventy was a higher office than elder, but not as high as a high priest. Now the only seventies are General Authorities, except for a few old seventies who refuse to be ordained a high priest (I know of one personally).

A man was not criticized if his shirt was not white when he went to church. He could have a mustache and still be called as a temple worker. Missionaries were not required to wear white shirts and black trousers. And the missionaries' pitch to investigators was the miracle of the Book of Mormon. Now it is more likely the promise of being eternally with your family. The whole emphasis on "family values" is relatively recent.

But most of those are merely minor organizational changes of the kind that any growing organization must make. More important are major changes in ordinances and doctrine.

Changes in the Temples

One area where many younger Mormons cannot recognize the changes has to do with the temple, and the reason the changes are not widely known is because of the reluctance of Mormons to talk about them because they are so "sacred."

I've never understood why things that are sacred cannot be discussed. Baptism and the conferring of the gift of the holy ghost are certainly sacred, but are freely discussed. Let's be clear: they are not discussed because they are SECRET. Mormons try to insist that they are NOT secret, but only sacred. There's the first major change. When I got my endowment in 1952, we were told during the ceremony (and I quote): "we desire to impress upon your minds the sacred character of the First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign, and penalty, as well as that of all the other tokens of the Holy Priesthood, with their names, signs, and penalties, which you will receive in the temple this day. They are most sacred, and are guarded by solemn covenants and obligations of SECRECY to the effect that under no condition, even at the peril of your life, will you ever divulge them, ..."

I am going to point out, expecially for the benefit of the younger people, the fundamental changes that have been made in the endowment ceremony. That means I am going to talk about them. If any of you will be offended by my talking about these things, then you may wish to leave the room. But before you leave, consider this:

As to "sacred": whether something is "sacred" is an individual thing. What is sacred to you does not make it sacred to someone else. And someone else should feel no obligation at all to share your view of its sacredness. The Hindu considers the cow sacred. Are you therefore under any obligation to respect his view, by refraining from eating beef? The orthodox Jew considers the name of God sacred, and will not utter it, but instead of saying YHWH or "Jehovah" will say "the Lord" or "the Name" (meaning "the sacred name"). Must you do the same? Hardly. One man's sacred cow is another man's hamburger. I am under no obligation to respect something simply because YOU consider it "sacred."

I will respect what Mormons consider to be sacred when the Mormon church begins to respect what I consider sacred, namely, the TRUTH.

Yes, we all took oaths in the temple never to reveal the secret signs, tokens and penalties. Are we still bound by that oath? An oath is a promise, based on the existence of certain facts understood and accepted by both parties. I promise to do this if you promise to do that. Both legally and morally, if one party doesn't keep his part of the bargain, or if it should turn out that the basic facts are not as both parties assumed, the other party is not required to perform, to keep his promise. To claim otherwise would be absurd.

The covenants made in the Mormon temple are similar. The Mormon promises to do certain things (obey, sacrifice, be chaste, give everything to the church if asked, etc.) and to refrain from doing certain things (revealing the secret handshakes, names, and other details of the ritual). The Mormon makes these covenants after having been told that the underlying facts are:

1. the "other party" to the covenants is God;
2. God wants the Mormon to make these covenants;
3. God will bless the Mormon in many wonderful ways if the Mormon makes the covenants and keeps his part of the bargain;
4. there is no other way to obtain those blessings from God, other than making those covenants.

Suppose I tell you that I have a million dollars to give away, and I promise to give you that million if you promise to be my servant for a year. And I want our little bargain to be our secret (I don't want to have to pay Social Security and workers' comp insurance.) You agree, and we shake hands, and call it a "solemn and secret covenant." But after just a week, you learn that I don't have any money at all, let alone a million dollars. Do you feel obligated to continue working for me for the rest of the year? And do you feel obligated (remember: you promised not to tell!) to keep the secret? Or would you feel justified in going to the authorities?

Oaths are also made during a marriage ceremony. If the couple later divorces, would you feel that the wife was still morally bound to love, honor and obey, especially if it was acts of the husband that caused the divorce?

Would you feel that it would have been wrong if one of the Gadianton robbers (Helaman 6) decided that he was going to leave the band because it was evil, and violated the oath of secrecy he had made to the robber band?

The covenants made by Mormons in the temple are obtained under false pretenses. God has nothing to do with them. They are no more binding, either legally or morally, than the mumbo-jumbo of fraternity initiation rituals.

And it would certainly be absurd to expect someone who no longer believes in Mormonism, who is convinced that the temple covenants are not from God and that God is not going to do what the Mormons promised he would do, to feel bound by those covenants in any way. (The one exception might be the covenant of chastity, if made at the same time to a spouse.)

How absurd it would be to assert that the ex-Mormon was still bound, because of his "solemn covenant," to continue to wear the garments, to obey the church leaders, to devote all his time and assets to the church, after he no longer believes (all of these are "covenants" made by Mormons in the temple). And yet the covenant of secrecy is no different.

Nobody but the Mormons considers the Mormon temple ritual to be so sacred that nobody should talk about it or tell what they know about it. The irony is that it is not secret, and it has not been secret since Nauvoo days. Anybody who wants to find out what goes on in a Mormon temple has been able to get that information for a hundred and fifty years, with just a little digging in libraries (and now, by using the Internet). It is only those faithful Mormons who have not yet been through the temple who are in the dark. That being the case, why should any non-Mormon feel that the subject of Mormon temples is off-limits, just because it is "sacred to Mormons"?

Sometimes Mormons object that by divulging what goes on in the temple is "mocking." They don't seem to realize that the mere factual description of something that is as absurd as learning secret handshakes to get into heaven, while wearing green aprons and bakers hats cannot be done without arousing laughter in any non-Mormon audience. That should say something to the Mormons. It's the old principle, if you don't want people to laugh at you, don't do silly things.

Now think about that for a moment, and if you still want to leave, now is the time.

First I will mention some non-secret ways in which the whole temple thing has changed from when I got my endowment in 1952. There were only 8 temples then. By 1960 four more had been built, three in foreign countries. When you got your recommend, it was for a specific temple, good for a year. It was a carbon triplicate 8.5 x 5.5. I don't remember ever having to go through a formal interview. I would just tell the bishop I needed a recommend for the Logan temple, and he'd fill it out because he knew me, and I'd hand it to the stake president, and he would sign it. No questions. (I'm not saying that was typical, but that was my experience). Now a recommend is wallet-size and has a bar code and your membership number. (I didn't have a membership number!)

Very few people bothered to get a recommend, because there was no point to getting one unless you lived near a temple or were going to be traveling to attend a wedding. That has certainly changed. Today everyone is expected to be "temple worthy" for almost any calling, or even for a grandfather to bless a grandchild when he's not in his home ward. I'm not sure whether you must have a temple recommend to show you are worthy to participate in the new calling of toilet-scrubber.

Garments were different in those days. Until Heber J. Grant became president in 1918, all garments had sleeves to the wrist and legs to the ankles, and were one-piece. His predecessor Joseph F. Smith had said that the pattern would never change because of pressures from changes in clothing styles (shorter skirts, shorter sleeves on dresses and shirts). President Grant introduced the short sleeve, knee-length garment, still one-piece, probably due to pressures from changes in clothing styles. This was the standard garment when I was in the church. It differed from today's garment in that the markings were larger, and actually cut into the cloth, like a button-hole. And you could buy garments at J.C. Penney's if you lived in a Mormon town. Nowadays you have to buy them from the church, and you have to give them your membership number.

But in the temple, you were required to wear the "old-style" garment, which also had a little collar, and opened in the front. Four ribbons were used to keep it closed (they had some symbolic significance, but I have forgotten what it was). So in addition to your white trousers, shirt, tie, slippers and belt for men, or white dress, stockings and slippers for women, you had to bring the temple garment.

In addition to the robe, apron, sash and cap or veil, you also carried the shield and a white towel. For every endowment session, even for the dead, you started with the washing and anointing, unlike today, where that is done separately, on a different day. And the towel was indeed needed, since we really were washed and anointed, and you needed to dry off before donning the garment. The shield was hanging on a hook, so you were completely naked. The shield was just to cover you up during the walk from the locker to the washing cubicle and back. That was apparently not originally the case, since my great grandfather never went back to the temple after being endowed, he had been so embarrassed at having to make the walk covered only with a towel.

Over the years the washing and anointing used much less water and oil, and it could be done without removing the shield. Finally, beginning in 2005, the water and oil was just a drop on the forehead of the fully covered patron, who is already wearing the garment, as "symbolic" and the officiator pronounces the garment "authorized."

August 2001 Ensign (page 22), "The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, "Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed."

W. Grant Bangerter, executive director of the Temple Department and a member of the First Quorum of Seventy, said: "As temple work progresses, some members wonder if the ordinances can be changed or adjusted. These ordinances have been provided by revelation, and are in the hands of the First Presidency. Thus, the temple is protected from tampering." (Deseret News, Church Section, January 16, 1982)

Until 1927 the endowment included the "Oath of Vengeance" in which the Mormon was required to swear that they would avenge the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum upon the United States and teach their children to do so. (I always wondered, assuming as we were taught, that Adam had received his endowment under Peter James and John, if this had been part of the endowment in the Garden).

Until about the same time, three of the signs and tokens had very graphic penalties:

First Token of Aaronic Priesthood: "We, and each of us, covenant and promise that we will not reveal any of the secrets of this, the first token of the Aaronic priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign or penalty. Should we do so, we agree that our throats be cut from ear to ear and our tongues torn out by their roots."

Second Token: "We and each of us do covenant and promise that we will not reveal the secrets of this, the Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign, grip or penalty. Should we do so, we agree to have our breasts cut open and our hearts and vitals torn from our bodies and given to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field."

First Token of M. Priesthood: "We and each of us do covenant and promise that we will not reveal any of the secrets of this, the First Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign or penalty. Should we do so, we agree that our bodies be cut asunder in the midst and all our bowels gush out."

After 1927 the penalties, although still called "penalties," were worded the same:

I ... covenant that I will never reveal the First [or Second] Token of the Aaronic [or Melchizedek] Priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign, and penalty. Rather than do so, I would suffer my life to be taken.

Notice the difference. In the earlier version, the Mormon agreed to lose his life for the sin of revealing the signs, tokens and penalties, presumably being killed by Mormon enforcers. In the revised version, the Mormon simply says that he will not reveal the secrets, even though it may cost him his life (presumably from non-Mormons who want the secrets). That is not the description of a penalty.

In any case, there are no longer any penalties in the endowment, since 1990. And oddly, even Mormons who took those oaths and made the gestures mimicking killing often deny that they did any such thing.

Question: since the penalties are no longer part of the endowment and have been abolished, are they still "sacred"?

Other changes that were made in 1990:

The "Five Points of Fellowship" at the veil were eliminated. At the veil, when asked by The Lord to give the name of the Second Token of the Melchizedek priesthood, he says that he has not yet been given it, and that's why he has come to speak with the Lord. So the Lord would say, "You shall receive it upon the Five Points of Fellowship, through the veil." The Five Points of Fellowship are "inside of right foot by the side of right foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, hand to back, and mouth to ear." This, by the way, was a direct borrowing from the Masonic initiation into the degree of Master Mason.

The sign of the Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood has been changed. While lowering the hands one was to say "Pay Lay Ale" three times. Now one is to say "O God, hear the words of my mouth" three times.

Part of the drama in the Lone and Dreary World included a visit from a Christian minister, who had been hired by Lucifer to convert Adam and Eve. The minister would lead the congregation in singin a non-Mormon Christian hymn, such as "Bringing in the Sheaves" or "Shall We Gather By The River."

That's all gone now. No penalties. No Five Points. No minister. No singing a hymn.

And it's all done with movies and tape recordings. That was an innovation that began in the '60s, with the construction of temples in Europe, to permit the endowment to be presented in multiple languages.

Other changes: if you wanted to attend a temple wedding, you had to go through the entire endowment ceremony first, and you were dressed in your temple clothing to witness the sealing. Nowadays, you just wear your Sunday best inside the temple, and you go right to the sealing room.

Couples who have a civil ceremony must wait a year before getting sealed (in the U.S., but not in some other countries). My parents were sealed just four months after they had eloped and married civilly.

One of the major changes is in the Mormon attitude toward the word "Christian." When I was a Mormon, we were taught, if anyone asked us "Are you a Christian?" to say, "NO! I'm a Mormon!" Now the church wants to convince Christians that Mormons ARE Christian. The church wants to be liked, to be recognized, to be popular. Exactly what was condemned in the Book of Mormon: "...all churches which ... are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world..." (1 Nephi 22:23). And do the leaders get their advice from God? No, a public relations firm, paid for by tithing dollars, tells them how to become popular. Church leaders bragged about how we are a "peculiar people." Now they are in a national advertising campaign to show that Mormons are not peculiar at all.

The last decades of the 20th century brought many changes to the church. The Tanners began publishing old books and diaries that the church authorities would rather not be available. Ultimately the church had to take counter-measures, and FARMS was established (now the Neal A. Maxwell Institute). Other versions of the First Vision were found. The Book of Abraham papyrii were found, and Egyptologists said they had nothing to do with Abraham. So the church explained that the Book of Abraham was not really a translation. Or maybe it was, but from different papyrii. Scientists were able to confirm that the American Indians were not of Near Eastern origin, but from eastern Asia, and had populated the Americas for thousands of years before the supposed arrival of the Jaredites and Lehites. We were taught (as Joseph Smith clearly believed) that the "land northward" and the "land southward" were North and South America. The church is now withdrawing from that position. We were taught that the Book of Mormon was a history of ancient America, because that's what the angel (Nephi or Moroni) told Joseph Smith. But the church just recently suggested that the way Mormons could get a friend to read the Book of Mormon was to explain to them that "it is not a novel, and it is not a history, but another testament of Jesus Christ."

The 1980s saw the church leaders being duped by Mark Hofmann, the master forger who sold forged documents to the church for thousands of dollars. Isn't the president of the church a "seer," who is supposed to know the "truth of all things"? Actually, anyone who has the "power of the Holy Ghost" is supposed to know the truth of all things (Moroni 10:5). Nobody has asked why Joseph Smith did not know the truth about the papyrii that Chandler had; why didn't he identify them, saying, "These are ordinary funeral papyrii from the first century B.C. and contain portions of the sacred Book of The Dead"?

When I left the church, I had to be excommunicated. That was the only way out. After a lawsuit in the 80s by a member who sued the church for not allowing him simply to resign, the church does not require excommunication. They still don't call it "resignation," but rather "request for name removal." But it is getting easier - one can even do it by e-mail.

At the Weber Stake Conference in Ogden, Sunday Morning, July 21, 1889, George Q. Cannon (First Presidency) said: "We are commanded to be subject to the direction of the Holy Spirit when we arise to speak; for if we speak as we should do, it is not we who speak, but it is the Spirit of God which speaks through us. On this account, the Elders of the Church do not, at least as a rule, prepare themselves before hand with either written or memorized sermons, for if they were to do so, they would depart from the order of heaven, and would prove utter failures." He was referring to D&C 84:85, which says: "Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say [when preaching].

That was true for many years, but caused some problems. One example was J. Golden Kimball, one of the First Seven Presidents of the Seventy, who died in 1938. He was known for his colorful language, which some of the other general authorities found too colorful. At one conference, President Heber J. Grant insisted on preparing Kimball's talk, and gave him the manuscript. Kimball got only part way into it during the session, and turned from the pulpit and said, "Hell, Heber, I can't read this damn thing!" So nowadays the church has the "Correlation Committee" which approves all teaching materials and all General Conference sermons. All conference sermons are prepared in advance, as well as all prayers to be offered during conference. George Q. Cannon would not have approved.

Today even faithful Mormons complain about the "dumbing down" of the lesson manuals.

When was the last time a president of the church made a prophecy? President Hinckley admitted, when the wars in the Middle East began, "We don't know what will happen!" This in spite of the words of Amos saying that the Lord will do nothing without telling his prophets. Joseph Fielding Smith prophesied that humans would never set foot on the moon. In 1961 he prophesied to a stake conference: "We will never get a man into space. This earth is man's sphere and it was never intended that he should get away from it.... You can write it down in your books that this will never happen." Men landed on the moon in 1969.

When I was a Mormon, we all were expecting to return to Missouri because the Second Coming was imminent. But at this last General Conference, Apostle Packer told the youth of today that the end was not so near after all.

Why are no revelations published? Joseph Fielding Smith was self-contradictory on this point. He said that all true revelations to the prophet will be published by the church, so if somebody else claims to have a revelation, you can be sure it's not a true revelation. He also said that there are a lot of revelations in the church vaults that have not been published; we don't deserve to have them yet because we are not worthy. Why was the revelation doing away with the practice of plural marriage never published? Or the revelation to allow blacks to have the priesthood?

And now I have a special surprise for you: Through contacts I have with some former members of the office support staff at the Church Office Building, I have been able to obtain a photocopy of the only copy of the actual revelation. So far as I know, it has not yet been published anywhere. The text follows:

REVELATION given to Spencer W. Kimball, March 6, 1978, Salt Lake City, Utah.

1. Hearken, my servant Spencer, unto the voice of the Lord thy God, and receive my word in answer to thy fervent pleas!
2. Lo, I am well pleased with thee and my servants the Apostles and with all the righteous Saints of my Church. Because of your righteous obedience you are blessed, and I now reveal my Word unto thee, to proclaim unto my Saints and unto all the World;
3. For thou hast oft inquired of me regarding the skin of blackness which marks many of my faithful children, because of which the blessings of my priesthood and of my exaltation have been denied to them;
4. And thy cries and the cries of my black children have ascended unto me, and I now reveal unto thee further light and knowledge in this matter.
5. For my Church is like unto your father Abraham, whom I did sorely tempt, in that I commanded him to take his beloved son and offer up his life as a sacrifice to me;
6. And lo, Abraham in the fulness of righteous obedience did take his son, and did bind him to an altar of rough stones, and did raise the knife to sacrifice him, according to the command which I had given him.
7. And by mine angel did I stop his hand, for his sacrifice of obedience was complete.
8. For human life is not to be taken as a sacrifice to me, except the sacrifice of the Only Begotten, of which Isaac was a type, for such a doctrine and practice is repugnant to me.
9. But it was for Abraham a test of obedience to my Word.
10. And lo, likewise the doctrine of the curse of Cain and the mark of blackness, as well as everything pertaining thereto, is also repugnant to me, but was given unto my Saints as a test.
11. And ye have been valiant and righteous in obeying the words of my mouth which were given not as true doctrine but only as a test for your benefit.
12. Now, therefore, rejoice in my blessing and receive my Word! For no more shall ye make any distinction among my Saints as to their race or as to the color of their skin; for I the Lord God am no respecter of persons, but all shall come unto me and all may be worthy to receive all the blessings of my Gospel without let or hindrance.

If you are asking yourself at this point why this revelation has never been published, be patient.

13. And now, my servant Spencer, I recommend unto thee my young servant Claymore "Rappa" Johnson, whom in my wisdom I have called and chosen and who, in obedience to my call, has requested baptism at the hands of my servants in East Los Angeles, having repented of his former life of pimping and car theft, yea, even as my servant Joseph Smith, Jr., repented of his former life of treasure hunting and sorcery.
14. For it is my will that Claymore be brought to the headquarters of my Church, and that he be there ordained as mine Apostle, and that he be set apart as the Senior Apostle of my Quorum;
15. For lo, the last shall be first, and the first shall be last, and the meek shall inherit the earth, as it is written.
16. And when I call thee, Spencer, to enter into thy reward, then shalt thou confer upon my servant Claymore the keys of the Priesthood, yea, the keys to bind and loose, to prophesy, to reveal, to know all things, yea, even the leadership of this my Church.
17. For times are changing, and the end is near.
18. And furthermore, as an ensample unto my Saints, I call upon my servant Mark E. Petersen, and as his reward for valiancy and obedience I give unto him in the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage my servant and daughter Beulah Jackson Beauregard, who has recently ended her long and faithful life of service to me in Harlem, State of New York, and passed through the veil chaste and unmarried; and I direct my servant Mark and his faithful wife and helpmeet of lo these many years to enter into my house, yea, into my temple in Salt Lake City, and there shall Mark and Beulah be sealed together as husband and wife, with Mark's wife kneeling at the altar as proxy for Beulah, and thus shall Beulah have her eternal exaltation and Mark an eternal plurality of wives.
19. And unto all my faithful servants, from the greatest unto the least, I likewise command them to search out those children of mine of differing races, and, as I have commanded my servant Mark, to provide for them the sealing ordinances in accepting them as their eternal wives and family, that in my Kingdom there shall be all races together in every family, for time and all eternity.
20. For shall not all things be restored? And, if it please me, shall I not command my servant Claymore, when he shall be my mouthpiece on earth, that my revelation as to plurality of wives be restored, yea as it was in the days of my servant Brigham Young? For lo, am I not now preparing the world to accept all forms of marriage? And yea, even concubinage, as my servants Joseph and Brigham never deigned to practice? And shall I not, through my servant Claymore, if it please me, extend to my daughters the power of the priesthood? And yea, bless the marital union of elder to elder, or sister to sister?
21. My Saints shall receive my Word, line upon line, and precept upon precept, as they prove themselves worthy. Prepare yourselves, for I come quickly. Amen.

My source indicates that the copy had to be pieced together from many shreds; apparently it had accidentally been run through an office shredder. For this reason the name "Claymore" is not entirely clear.

In what may be pure coincidence, Los Angeles police investigated in June 1978 the apparent murder of a 22-year-old black man, Clayborn Johnson, whose body was found near the parking lot of a local Mormon meeting-house, with the throat slit from ear to ear. The police theorized that it was a gang-type execution, since acquaintances said that Johnson had recently "got religion" and had neglected his gang activities. The crime remains unsolved.

All right, I confess, I admit it: I made it up.

This is how it happened: I was thinking about the 1978 change in practice (not really in doctrine) about the blacks and the priesthood. And I kept thinking, WHY wasn't the wording of the revelation published? Many Mormons have a nagging feeling, I think, (usually not expressed) that there is something suspicious about the modern prophets of the church, because they don't have revelations the way Joseph Smith had revelations. Smith was always pronouncing the literal words that God gave him, and they are published (the actual Words from God's Mouth!) in the Doctrine and Covenants. But the prophets since Smith are less and less willing to quote God verbatim. They describe their "revelations" as "feelings" or vague "inspiration," but not in any precise wording.

Of course, I personally think that they are not prophets at all, and - regardless of whether one believes in divine prophecy or not - these so-called prophets are fakes. At least they are not in the same league as Joseph Smith (again, regardless of whether one believes that Smith was a genuine prophet).

And I got to thinking that it really showed stupidity on the part of Kimball not to come up with a "Thus saith the Lord" revelation. Joseph Smith did it all the time. If Kimball realized (and was honest with himself about it) that he really wasn't a prophet of God at all, then why didn't he just make something up?

Perhaps Kimball was intimidated by the challenge in Section 67 of the Doctrine and Covenants, where God dared unworthy men to try to produce a revelation as wonderful as those produced by Joseph Smith. But, is it that hard? No! It's really easy.

You have just heard my "revelation," and I must say, it's pretty good. It took me maybe half an hour. Quite a few people who read it, when I posted it on the Internet thought it was genuine. And my "revelation" takes care of the troublesome problem that the "Official Declaration 2" does not deal with, namely, the obnoxious "curse of Cain" thing, for which the church is still being criticized.

And then it occurred to me that if God REALLY had given such a revelation to the prophet, what possible reason could there have been for not publicizing its wording? And I realized that maybe the revelation had revealed more than the Brethren wanted revealed. Such as verses 13-21, which I am inspired to believe God would have included in a genuine revelation.

Either way you look at it, the whole thing shows that the Mormon church is NOT led by God.

As the French say, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" - "The more things change, the more it's the same thing."

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