> Can we be held accountable for another person's sins?

Saying that we are accountable for another person's sins is the same flawed logic that much of the Christian world embraces regarding accountability for Adam's transgression. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that Adam alone must answer for his transgression.

"The present fallen status of mankind, as expressed in our mortal condition, was inaugurated by Adam and Eve; but divine justice forbids that we be accounted sinners solely because our parents transgressed." (Talmage, Vitality of Mormonism, p. 45.)
Furthermore, we find:
"Every man may act in doctrine and principle ... according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, THAT EVERY MAN MAY BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR HIS OWN SINS in the day of judgment" (D&C 101:78; see also Mosiah 3:24).
"Man's accountability for his individual acts is as complete as is his agency to elect for himself." (Talmage, Jesus The Christ, p.55)
To claim that we are in some way responsible for other's sins, especially those outside our individual stewardships attacks the sacred principle of agency. The philosophies of men further expand this flawed logic to blame others for their mistakes; a favorite politically correct doctrine of the day.

"To excuse misconduct by blaming others is presumptuous at best and is fatally flawed with regard to spiritual things, for 'we believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression' (Articles of Faith 1:2). This means not only that we will not be punished for what Adam did in the Garden, but also that we cannot excuse our own behavior by pointing a finger to Adam OR ANYONE ELSE. The real danger in failing to accept responsibility for our own actions is that unless we do, we may never even enter on the strait and narrow path." (F. Burton Howard, CR April 1991)
"In other words, the most desirable condition for the effective exercise of God-given moral agency is a condition of maximum freedom and responsibility. In this condition men are accountable for their own sins and cannot blame their political conditions on their bondage to a king or a tyrant." (L. Tom Perry, BYU 1987)

"For behold I say unto you, the sins of many people have been caused by the iniquities of their kings; therefore their iniquities are answered upon the heads of their kings." (Mosiah 29:21)

Was Noah really responsible for the sins that his people committed? What were the condition of the people at that time?

"And also that king Noah and his priests had caused the people to commit so many sins and iniquities against God..." (Mosiah 21:30)
How can a person cause another person to commit sins? Did they force them to sin? Did they restrict their agency and make the commit acts that are offensive to God? I believe the answer is yes. We know that Noah brought his people into bondage:

"And now I say unto you, ye have been oppressed by king Noah, and have been in bondage to him and his priests, and have been brought into iniquity by them; therefore ye were bound with the bands of iniquity." (Mosiah 23:12)
But the condition seems to change as we can exercise our agency:

"...and I command you to do these things, and that ye have no king; that if these people commit sins and iniquities they shall be answered upon their own heads." (Mosiah 29:30)

"Therefore they relinquished their desires for a king, and became exceedingly anxious that every man should have an equal chance throughout all the land; yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins." (Mosiah 29:38)

The people didn't want to run the danger of having their agency restricted in such a way that they would be forced to do things offensive to God and not do things of their free will.

So yes, there is a case where some one can be held accountable for the sins of another person; if they placed that person in a condition where they didn't have any choice but to sin.

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"We live in a day when the adversary stresses on every hand the philosophy of instant gratification. We seem to demand instant everything, including instant solutions to our problems. We are indoctrinated that somehow we should always be instantly emotionally comfortable... It was meant to be that life would be a challenge. To suffer some anxiety, some depression, some disappointment even some failure is normal. Teach our members that if they have a good, miserable day once in a while, or several in a row, to stand steady and face them." (Boyd K. Packer, That All May be Edified, p. 94)
"Sometimes the tests and trials of those who have received the gospel far exceed any imposed upon worldly people." (Bruce R. McConkie, CR Oct 1976)

"...that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22)

Why do many trials happen?

"...the most persistent cause of human suffering, that suffering which causes the deepest pain, is sin--the violation of the commandments of God." (Spencer W. Kimball, Weber State, 1977)

"We may foolishly bring unhappiness and trouble, even suffering, upon ourselves. These are not always to be regarded as penalties imposed by a displeased Creator. They are part of the lessons of life, part of the test." (Boyd K. Packer, CR Oct 1980)

"You will have all kinds of trials to pass through...He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God." (Joseph Smith, quoted by John Taylor, JD 24:197)

And we do have this assurance:

"The Lord knows our bearing capacity, both as to coping and to comprehending, and He will not give us more to bear than we can manage at the moment, though to us it may seem otherwise. (See D&C 50:40; 78:18). Just as no temptation will come to us from which we cannot escape or which we cannot bear, we will not be given more trials than we can sustain. (See 1 Cor. 10:13)" (Neal A. Maxwell, CR Oct 1982)

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Alma's Church

> How did these new churchs fit with the prior synagogues, etc that had
> been established for centuries. Was Alma introducing something that they
> did not already have access too? The Melchizedek Priesthood? What? Or
> was he merely expanding the former church already established and Mosiah
> appointed him to do it.

We also find in Mosiah 29:47 that Alma is called by Mormon "the founder of their church."

Elder McConkie referred to this as the start of a mini-dispensation. He explained that anytime the church has to be reorganized on a large scale, it properly might be called the beginning of a new dispensation.

Yes, the church was already established among the people of Mosiah and the Melchizedek Priesthood was among them. King Benjamin gave Mosiah the authority over the kingdom (Mos 6:3) which included the authority to ordain priests and teachers (Mos 25:19). When Alma joined the people of Mosiah, this was only a few years after King Benjamin died. I believe they still were in a state of "reorganization" that King Benjamin started. We find that Alma went forth baptizing. (Mos 25:18)

Maybe we can compare Alma's efforts to the "reformation" period in our church during the 1856-57. During these years church members were asked to make stronger commitments to the gospel and they were re-baptized. A new level a spirituality and commitment resulted.

I'm sure many new gospel truths were revealed during this time and that the church is organized with new emphasis among the Nephite people.

During King Benjamin's reign, we find there were many wars that must have caused great distruction and the church may have been put in a similar state to that of the church in Europe after World War II. The church as an organization was in much disarray and appears to have lost much of the organization that we saw during the Nephi/Jacob era, many, many years earlier.

It is interesting to see also that the first time the word "church" is used again in the Book of Mormon after the Nephi/Jacob era is when Alma came upon the scene and started to organize churches.

Elder Talmage, in one of his radio addresses, emphasized that the end of a dispensation always has a period of apostasy. Thus if Alma started a new "dispensation", there would have been a period of apostasy prior to this.

Why do we have so little words in the Book of Mormon that cover the time period between Jacob and King Benjamin? About 300 years of virtual silence. Yes, the small plates of Nephi were filling up and we don't have the 116 pages from the large plates which maybe told us a lot more. We know that they had many prophets during that time, but did the church become significantly disorganized due to war and wickedness? The clues seem to point in this direction.

While King Benjamin's people entered into a covenant with the Lord, there is no mention of baptism until Alma appears on the scene. King Benjamin moved his people toward faith and repentance. He established priests and teachers, but it appears that organization and baptism didn't again take place among this people until Alma came.

However, to argue against this last paragraph, we find that when Ammon discovered the people of Limhi, (Ammon left Zarahemla before Alma got there) that he taught Limhi about baptism.

"And now since the coming of Ammon, king Limhi had also entered into a covenant with God, and also many of his people, to serve him and keep his commandments. And it came to pass that king Limhi and many of his people were desirous to be baptized; but there was none in the land that had authority from God. And Ammon declined doing this thing, considering himself an unworthy servant. Therefore they did not at that time form themselves into a church, waiting upon the Spirit of the Lord. Now they were desirous to become even as Alma and his brethren, who had fled into the wilderness." (Mosiah 21:32-34)
Certainly Limhi's group didn't have the church among them. However they did enter into a covenant like King Benjamin's people did, but they weren't baptized at that time.

Did Ammon have the authority to baptize or did he just consider himself unworthy? Or maybe he recognized that he didn't hold the keys and knew that Mosiah did. However, these verses tend to convince me that baptisms were being performed in Zarahemla prior to Alma's arrival and that they did have some form of a church organization.

> Alma's effort may not have been to restore doctrine and authority (Mosiah
> was a seer and performed translation, etc, so he had the priesthood), but
> rather to restore organization, again, like Pres. Benson did in europe.

I agree. Another thing to consider is: There appears to have been many times in the history of the world when prophets were among the people, yet the church wasn't fully organized in the same sense as was Alma's church, or it was in a state of apostasy. What was the state of the "church" when Lehi was preaching in Jerusalem? Yes, there appears to be a church organization, yet it was in a state of apostasy. Here is what Nephi wrote concerning his conversations with Zoram:

And he spake unto me concerning the elders of the Jews, he knowing that his master, Laban, had been out by night among them... And he, supposing that I spake of the brethren of the church, and that I was truly that Laban whom I had slain, wherefore he did follow me. (1 Ne 4:22,26)
Let's also take a look at what happened to Zeniff's colony. It appears that they took the "church" organization with them, because we latter find "priests" who should have been teaching the law of Moses. Of course we know that these people fell into deep apostasy such that the "church" even slew a prophet (Abinadi). By the time Ammon met up with this colony they recognized that they didn't have the church among them, nor the authority to baptize. For this group, there needed to be a complete restoration, while the church back in Zarahemla might have only needed a partial restoration or reorganization.

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As I have read the words of the prophets, I have discovered that they have warned us over and over again regarding a group of people within the church. They haven't given this group a name, but should I ignore this group, applaud them, support them? Are the prophets out of touch? Maybe these people aren't here yet?

"There are at least three dangers that threaten the Church within, and the authorities need to awaken to the fact that the people should be warned unceasingly against them. As I see these, they are flattery of prominent men in the world, false educational ideas, and sexual impurity." (Joseph F. Smith, 1914 GD p.321-313)

"For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock?...and he commandeth you that ye suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among you, that ye may not be destroyed." (Alma 5:59-60)

"'The ravening wolves are amongst us, from our own membership...clothed in sheep's clothing' (J. Reuben Clark, 1949) They are even more numerous and devious today. Apostates within our midst...not as concerned as taking the gospel to the world as bringing worldliness to the gospel." (Ezra Taft Benson, 1969)

"Avoid those who would tear down your faith...True messengers of God are builders, not destroyers." (Carlos E. Asay, "In the Lord's Service" p. 155)

"Yes, we think we are secure in the chambers of these everlasting hills...but the time is coming when we will be mixed will be difficult to tell the face of a Saint from the face of an enemy...for there will be a great sifting time, and many will fall,...a test is coming" (Heber C. Kimball 1856)

"We could conceive of a man honestly differing in opinion from the authorities of the church and yet not be an apostate; but we could not conceive of a man publishing those differences of opinion and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife...and not be an apostate." (George Q. Cannon, 1869)

Among the activities considered apostate to the Church include when members "1) repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders; 2) persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority...(General Handbook of Instructions 1989)" (James E. Faust, CR 1993)

"The last category of criticism I will address comes from within the Church itself. This criticism is more lethal than that coming from nonmembers and former members. The danger lies not in what may come from a member critic, but in the chance that we might become one. One activity which often leads a member to be critical is engaging in inappropriate intellectualism." (Bishop Glenn L. Pace, 1989)

"When we say anything bad about the leaders of the Church, whether true or false, we tend to impair their influence and their usefulness and are thus working against the Lord and his cause." (George F. Richards, CR 1947)

Again I ask, who are these people who are working against the Lord. When will the be here? Are they a myth?

May I be so bold as to add a few more characteristics that I have observed about this group.

1. They enjoy seeking out and discussing the "startling and unorthodox" in attempt to shock and "wake up" members rather than striving to build faith and testimonies. They would have problems with the following quotes:

"We should ask, Do my writings, comments, or observations build faith and strengthen testimonies? Oftentimes we can cause confusion and misdirection in our lives and lives of others if we promote the startling and unorthodox." (Elder Marvin J. Ashton, 1991)

"There are those today who seem to take pride in disagreeing with the orthodox teachings of the Church and who present their own opinions which are at variance with the revealed truth. Such persons should realize that their own souls are in jeopardy." (Spencer W. Kimball, 1948)

2. They prefer to point out and discuss "weaknesses" and human qualities in their church leaders rather than their wisdom and love, and generally ignore or disbelieve that these leaders can and do receive revelation for those they preside over. Again, they would have problems with the following quotes:

"Those who profess to accept the gospel and who at the same time criticize and refuse to follow the counsel of the leaders, are assuming an indefensible position" (Marion G. Romney, 1942)

"Murmuring against priesthood and auxiliary leadership is one of the most poisonous things that can be introduced into the home (and an electronic list) of a Latter-day Saint...In the church we sometimes find two groups of people, the builders and the murmurers. Let us each ask himself, 'In which class should I be placed.'" (David O. McKay, 1962 with an obvious addition by me.)

3. They wish to publicize and proclaim that there is division in the church. They have problems with this quote:

"Sometimes we hear someone refer to a division in the church. In reality, the church is not divided. It simply means that there are some who, for the time being at least, are members of the church but are not in harmony with it." (Ezra Taft Benson, 1969)

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No doubt, every leader in the church has made mistakes. Joseph Smith was quick to admit that he made mistakes. However, what the Antis and Signaturi like to emphasize and constantly dwell on, over and over again in all their writings is the mistakes and human weaknesses of there great men. They fail to discuss and recognize revelation and the simple fact that Jesus Christ is at the head of the church. They fail to discuss the great service that these leaders perform and the wonderful revelation that we receive from them. They like to dwell on their human weaknesses to argue AGAINST the fact that our prophets and apostles will not lead us astray. They would like us to believe that the church is led solely by the reasoning and opinions of these fallible men, rather than by revelation from God; that their decisions are made for politically correct reasons, rather than because it is the will of the Lord. This they do, so their own personal agendas can be accomplished. They wish to sow seeds of doubt rather than sow seeds of faith. They destroy, rather than build. They point to important revelations, such as the President Kimball's revelation on the Priesthood as "course corrections" to cover the mistakes of earlier leaders. They search their words for flaws rather than for light and truth.

So yes, I will admit that these great men can make mistakes. However, their inspired guidance and service far outweigh these human weaknesses and unfortunately these wonderful qualities rarely seem to be discussed by some. The principles on which the gospel is built is unchangeable and true. Let's not let them fool ourselves into believing that the Lord established his church again and then has left us to flounder and has let his leaders make critical mistakes that can affect our salvation. It just isn't true.

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Throughout the history of the church, excommunicants have claimed that they were excommunicated unjustly. David Whitmer said that he didn't leave the church, the church left him. On Saturday, Elder Porter quoted President Kimball who described that many of those who fall away, lose the spirit and after they are cut off from the church bind together with other apostates and some may even start claiming to receive revelation for themselves.

A person who is justly cut off from the church for apostacy and unwilling to repent will not have the spirit with them. Of course they will claim that the church is in error for they are not humble or repentant. A public fight against the church would be expected. Throughout the history of the church there have been many such cases. A few have come back, and it required a great change in their hearts, throwing off pride, and sincere repentance. The church has welcomed them back with open arms. As Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris came back, their story is one of deep humility. They didn't ask for their former stations, they just wanted membership with the saints. These are heart-warming stories.

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False Doctrine

> Like Joseph Smith, I believe that people "should not be called
> up for erring in doctrine. That is more like the Methodists....

However, the facts show there were numerous cases that Joseph Smith was involved in when members were called before the council for teaching false doctrine. You use of the oft-quoted words regarding Pelatiah Brown and "liberty of thinking and believing" to mean that the Prophet didn't believe in keeping the doctrine pure and excommunicating or disfellowshipping those who publicly teach false doctrine after being corrected. Sorry, the facts and cases just don't back this up.

The context of the Prophet's words were centered around his wishes that Elder Brown, who was going on a mission, to preach first principles, not the mysteries.

"Declare the first principles, and let mysteries alone, lest ye be overthrown...Elder Brown, when you go to Palmyra, say nothing about the four beasts, but preach those things the Lord has told you to preach about--repentance and baptism for the remission of sins." HC 5:340-44.
Please don't take one small quote by the Prophet out of context and say those were his beliefs. Take a look at his words throughout his life and the many other cases that he was involved in. This will give you a much better understanding what the Prophet may have believed and taught. In Elder Brown's case, he was taught correct doctrine by the Prophet and accepted his counsel. We have no evidence that he chose to ignore the guidance from the prophet and publicly teach false doctrine after being told to stay away from the mysteries.

I had a sad experience a few months ago. We were teaching a part member family who the missionaries found living in our ward. They hadn't been on the hometeaching rolls for about ten years. We taught the non-member wife the discussions and she accepted everything very well, but her member husband who had been inactive for many years dominated her and would try to speak for her. Sadly the only contact this brother had with the church over recent years was what he read in the papers. He let us know that even though his wife felt good about the church, he didn't feel comfortable about them returning yet because he believed many of the things he has read in the paper regarding charges that the brethren are unfairly disciplining people. He believed in the Prophet Joseph Smith, but felt that the church shouldn't be disciplining anyone who speaks out against it.

There seems to be an attitude in the media and even within the church that church discipline for public descent against the doctrine of the church and against church leaders is something new. Some enjoy painting a picture that shows that new policies are creeping into the church to silence this apostacy, that this discipline never used to occur in the Lord's church.

I have found it interesting to read in church history regarding the numerous accounts of discipline for practices that were viewed to not be in harmony with a faithful member of the Lord's church. Let me share a few, there are very many of these sad stories:

In 1837, a Council was held to hear charges against a group of members who were accused of

"entering into a written covenant different from the articles and covenants of the Church...and following a vain and delusive spirit...seeing the Church had not lived according to the former revelations, and they considered the High Council and others were in transgression; and that most of the accused appeared to be determined to pursue their own way, whether right or wrong...Brother Sawyer stated that he heard Brother Norris say that those in authority were against him and if he could not establish an order of things here to his mind he would go out among the Gentiles and do it....Others testified they had heard them speak against the heads of the Church and that Brother Joseph had many things to repent of, and one of them said he thought some put too much stress on the Priesthood...the Council decided that the charge had been fully sustained and withdrew fellowship from those who persisted in their course of conduct as before mentioned." (HC 2:526)
In 1834,

"a Bishop's court assembled in Kirtland to investigate the case of Wesley Hurlburt, against whom charges had been preferred by Harriet Howe and others to the effect 'that Hurlburt had denied the faith, spoken reproachfully of the Church, did not believe Joseph was a true Prophet,' etc. Hurburt was in the place, but did not appear before the court, consequently was cut off." (HC 2:2)
In 1835, John Elmer was teaching false doctrine:

"John Elder was charged with holding very incorrect principles; such, for instance, that the Spirit of God sometimes took him and threw him down, and that he could die the death of the righteous, and of the wicked; and in order to show his power with God, he also stated that he had passed through a kind of death so as to become immortal, and would exist forever without any other death or change, only growing brighter and brighter eternally. He persisted in these things, and would not receive teaching from the council, therefore was cut off." (HC 2:274)
In 1835, Jared Carter started to teach false doctrine which he sincerely believed were correct.

"Some weeks since Elder Jared Carter preached on the Sabbath in the Church, and some of the brethren found fault with his teaching; and this Council is called upon to decide this matter, and to see who was in fault...Elder Jared Carter proceeded to speak largely, and explain his designs in teaching as he did, saying he believed God directed him by His Spirit, and afterwards being rebuked by Presidents Cowdery, Rigdon and Phelps, he called upon the Lord, and received again a witness of the Spirit that he was right, and the Presidents were wrong."
Several testified against him

"Elder Carter then arose and said that he was willing to acknowledge his faults, and that he lacked wisdom...President Smith arose and said...Brother Jared Carter...erred in spirit when he taught in the Church the things testified of here; and that the hand of the destroyer was laid upon him because he had a rebellious spirit from the beginning...His rebelling against the advice and counsel of the Presidents was the cause of his falling into the hands of the destroyer...Elder Carter has not designed to do wickedly, but he erred in judgement, and deserves reproof, and the decision is--that he shall acknowledge his errors on the morrow, before the congregation." (HC 2:280)
In 1840, and Elder Sidney Roberts received revelations that were objected to. Elder Roberts firmly believed in what he was teaching.

"Elder Roberts justified himself in these things. Much good counsel was given him, but he said he knew the revelations he had received were from God, and would make no confession; consequently the conference cut him off, and demanded his priesthood license, which he refused to give up." (HC 4:237] Orson Hyde presided.
In 1841, an Elder Babbitt was teaching false doctrine.

"Elders Lyman Wight, and Henry W. Miller testified that they had traveled in places where Elder Babbitt had been, on his return from his visit to Nauvoo, he had taught doctrine contrary to the revelations of God, and detrimental to the interests of the Church. Move and carried that Elder Almon W. Babbbit be disfellowshiped until he shall make satisfaction." (HC 4:424)
In 1842, an Elder Bishop published teachings that were not in harmony with accepted doctrine.

"Elder Bishop appeared before the High Council of Nauvoo on complaint of having received, written, and published or taught certain "revelations" and doctrines not consistent with the Doctrine and Covenants of the Church...President Joseph explained the nature of the case and gave a very clear elucidation of the tendency of such prophets and prophesyings, and gave Mr. Bishop over to the buffetings of Satan until he shall learn wisdom...the council voted unanimously that Francis Gladden Bishop be removed from the fellowship of the Church; President Joseph having previously committed the "revelation" above referred to, to the flames." (HC 4:550)
In 1835, a Brother Henry Green felt that the prophet Joseph and Hyrum had treated another brother unfairly. The Prophet had stated that a

"Brother Aldridge was under the influence of an evil spirit, and had been for a long time." Brother Green said "if the truth were known, the devil was in them, (namely, Presidents Joseph and Hyrum); for if any man should ask my opinion, and then abuse me in that way, I should call him a scoundrel or a knave." "The decision, then, of the Presidency of the High Council is, in short, that Brother Green be and is now, excluded from this Church and shall be a member no more, until he comes in by the ordinance of baptism, as appointed by the Gospel, to be done in the Church." (HC 2:276)
In 1835

"the High Council investigated charges against Elder John Gould 'for making expressions calculated to injure the cause we have espoused, and manifesting a strong dissatisfaction with the teachings of the Presidency.' Also against Dean Gould for speaking unadvisedly against Elder Rigdon and other Elders." (HC 2:237)

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Ignore them?

I agree with much of your post that the Lord uses love and righteousness as his means to deal with these people. However, you seem to be saying that we should also just ignore them and let them do their thing. To me, this is in direct conflict with the scriptures and the prophets.

"For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock?...and he commandeth you that ye suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among you, that ye may not be destroyed." (Alma 5:59-60)

"'The ravening wolves are amongst us, from our own membership...clothed in sheep's clothing' (J. Reuben Clark, 1949) They are even more numerous and devious today. Apostates within our midst...not as concerned as taking the gospel to the world as bringing worldliness to the gospel." (Ezra Taft Benson, 1969)

I believe by just being silent, gives them our agreement and support. Our leaders will not and can not just ignore wolves within the church, and yes they will silence them in our meetings and encourage us to not give them our ears. Our leaders continue to speak out against the worldliness which this group wishes to be part of the gospel. They don't attack the wolves, but they speak out against their deadly deeds. Our leaders need our support in this effort, not our criticism.

> So what do you propose? How should we treat these people?

Here are my opinions. No, we should not ignore them and let them do as they please in the church.

"It is no kindness to a transgressor for his local authorities to ignore or overlook or try to cover up his iniquity." (President N. Eldon Tanner, 1974)
Who should provide them correction? Their local priesthood leaders, of course. What happens if one of these people speak to me in private regarding their wayward ideas? Hopefully I would, in a loving way help to teach them privately of their error, encouraging them to read the scriptures and words of the prophets, and discuss the matter with their Bishop. What happens if one of these people teach these wayward ideas in public? Hopefully people would love these people enough to inform their local leaders of the situation so he can provide correction and support. Would I then be a "tattle-tail?" Of course not! They need some attention, some instruction, some blessings from their priesthood leaders or they will continue to be led astray and lead others away too.

"There are those today who seem to take pride in disagreeing with the orthodox teachings of the Church and who present their own opinions which are at variance with the revealed truth. Such persons should realize that their own souls are in jeopardy." (Spencer W. Kimball, CR 1948)
Should we then offer support to those who refuse to change their ways and wish to publicly fight the leaders of the church? Should we attend their symposiums? Should we sign their petitions? Should we help spread their desire for division? Should we help make public the details of their private discussions with priesthood leaders? Should we, out of kindness side with these people against their priesthood leaders? Do these actions show kindness and love to these people? I think not.

> Pres. Hunter has seemed to lead out in this regard with a heart-felt,
> gentle, loving invitation to return. Let's do our part to make them
> feel welcome and, even more important, help prevent their leaving in
> the first place by being gentle while they are having their snit.

I personally had the great blessing in listening to President Hunter speak at our Regional Conference today and yesterday. We have a great prophet. He again spoke of kindness and the need to help others find their way back. I know many like to think he is specifically referring to those who have publicly rebelled against priesthood leaders and I don't rule that out, but this is what I heard:

He spoke specifically about the "less-active" who are at this time "preoccupied by the things of this world." He shared an experience he had as a stake president. As a presidency, they picked 4-5 families in their stake that needed special attention. They were either less-active or new members. They held special classes for these couples to provided instruction and strengthen their testimonies. Their class was a success because they prayerfully chose the families who would respond to this effort. He asked, "What should we do to help those who are lost?" We should become involved in saving souls. Reach out to the less active. He said he can't tell us how to do it. We need to seek after personal inspiration and success will come.

Finally, let me share this statement:

"If we would be united in love and fellowship and harmony, this Church would convert the world...those of apostate mind...scorn this principle of oneness and unity as being narrow minded or as being unprogressive." (Harold B. Lee, 1950)
Isn't it amazing how this is still true 44 years later? We should invite these people back into the unity of the gospel, but not at the sacrifice of truth or toleration of rebellion and division.

> We have to remember though that the reason for this has much more to do
> with doing the best thing for the individual concerned than it does
> with "protecting" the rest of the Saints. Sometimes this latter reason
> is a concern, but usually it is simply the case that if someone will
> not repent of their ways, it is better for them to sin as a
> non-baptized individual than as a latter-day Saint with covenants to
> uphold.

In Oct conference last year (1993), Elder Neal A. Maxwell commented on this process:

"Let us also honor today's 'sowers of the seed,' the Apostles. Let us be wary about accommodating revealed theology to conventional wisdom. Let us lovingly nourish ourselves, our families, and Church flocks spiritually so that we are not 'wearied and faint in [our] minds' (Heb 12:3) Self-siftings do occur, President George Q. Cannon observed in 1875: "I am thankful that God allows those who do not keep his commandment to fall away, so that his Church may be cleansed, and, in this respect this Church is different from any other that is upon the earth...The sifting or weeding process has been going on from the commencement of this Church until the present time.' (JD 18:84)"
So you see, this sifting process is important to us and to the church. If it did not occur and remained unchecked, we would see the church dwindle away as the ancient Christian church did.

> Do these wolves know they are wolves, or might they think they are
> sheep?

Elder Oaks speaks of them:

Some alternate voices are of those whose avowed or secret object is to deceive and devour the flock. The Good Shepherd warned, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Matthew 7:15; see also 3 Nephi 14:15). In both the Bible and the Book of Mormon the Savior charged his shepherds to watch over and protect the flock from such wolves (see Acts 20:28-29; Alma 5:59). (DHO, CR 1989)
Do you think these people are a myth? Haven't you seen any yet? Would a wolf generally admit they are a wolf? If you believe that there are wolves, do you feel our leaders should just ignore them? Should we petition our leaders to stop protecting the flock because we think they are abusing the wolf?

What do you think is the difference between a wolf and a lost sheep? In the parable of the lost sheep, notice that the shepherd first made sure that his 99 were protected before going after the one. Who was he protecting them from?

Finally you seem to indicate that if a person passionately believes they are doing good, they couldn't fit this description? I think if you take a close look at the history of our church and the history of the early Christian church you will find many, many people who persecuted the saints thinking they were helping to free them from iniquity. Yet in reality they had lost the Spirit, were full of pride, and "past feeling." And many of these were still members of the church, although soon many of these were "cut off" or left by their own choice. Did these type of people only exist in the early days of the church? Was Joseph Smith taking the correct action to "cut them off" from the church?

What will be the overall effect of these efforts?

"Tbe Church is like a great caravan, organized, prepared, following an appointed course, with its captains of tens and captains of hundreds all in place.

"What does it matter if a few barking dogs snap at the heels of the weary travellers? Or that predators claim those few who fall by the way? The caravan moves on.

"If there a raivine to cross, a miry mud hole to pull through, a steep grade to climb? So be it. The oxen are strong and the teamsters (determined). The caravan moves on.

"Are there storms that rage along the way, floods that wash away the bridges, deserts to cross, and rivers to ford? Such is life in this fallen sphere. The caravan moves on.

"Ahead is the celestial city, the eternal Zion of our God, where all who maintain their position in the caravan shall find food and drink and rest. Thank God that the caravan, moves on." [Bruce R. McConkie, "The Caravan Moves On," Ensign, Nov. 1984, p. 85]

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Apostolic Blessing

> At our regional conference, the apostle gave us an 'Apostolic Blessing.'
> I am told by some that this is quite a rare occurance. Has anyone else
> heard specifically of an 'Apostolic Blessing' and besides the mere fact
> that it comes from an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, is there any
> significance I should be aware of?

Here are some references to "apostolic blessings." I can't find this type of specific word usage in general conference and I suspect that they leave this type of blessing as they are going out into the world. In conference they very often say, "I leave my blessings...", but they aren't as specific as in the cases below.

"I would pray a blessing to be upon each one of you, by the apostolic power that is mine under the ordination I have discussed with you tonight, that you might anchor your faith in the divine mission of this Church, in the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and in the records of the scriptures that he brought forth to us in this last day, even the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price." (M. Russell Ballard, BYU 1986)

"Apostolic blessings and dedicatory prayers were offered in many other countries, all evidences of the growth of the Church, not only in your area but in other parts of the world as well. The year 1989 was truly remarkable." (Russell M. Nelson, BYU 1990)

"I love you; I bless you, in apostolic authority, that you will not fail your individual rendezvous with those who await your touch and your ministry." (Neal A. Maxwell, BYU 1982)

"To you, I extend my love and invoke an apostolic blessing upon you that success will be yours in all vour righteous endeavors." (Russell M. Nelson, BYU, 1984)

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