“whether in the body or out I cannot tell.”

July 25, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 9:10 pm   Category: Personal Revelation,Scriptures,Theology

When it comes to describing the process by which prophets receive visions and experience encounters with Celestial visitors, Paul said it best:

“whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth”.

As the second installment of this series on properly judging revelation I will make the boldest assertion of this series: I believe that the vast majority of revelations we read about in scripture were not physical in an earthly sense. While I am certain that they were very real and concrete in one sense, I strongly suspect that if we had video recordings of these visitations and visions all we would see is a prophet alone.

In the body

The notable exception to this is the visitations of the resurrected Christ. Those were very physical in an earthly sense and the scriptures go to great lengths to make this fact clear. Christ ate their food with them and they handled and felt the marks on his resurrected body. The record leaves no room for question in those cases.

Out of the body

But what about all the other heavenly visitations and visions? With some there is no question that the vision the prophet received and recorded was what Jeffrey Giliam nervously described as “in their head”. Of course that phrase usually means false of fabricated and the visions in scripture were neither of those. They seem to be given as a sort of waking dream with the recipient perhaps being transported out of his or her body to another place or sphere in order to communicate with the Celestial beings. Here are some examples of that type of vision:

“The Vision” – also known as Section76

12 By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God-
19 And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about.

The vision of Christ and reception of keys from Elijah and others in section 110

1 THE veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened

The vision in section 137

1 THE heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out I cannot tell

The vision by Joseph F. Smith in section 138

11 As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great
29 And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;

Stephen’s vision of the Father and Son in Acts 7

56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Paul’s vision of the third heaven in 2 Cor 12

2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.

There may be others but this shows that it is at least common for Celestial visions and visitations to be seen using “eyes of understanding” (as opposed to physical, mortal eyes) and for the recipient to suspect that he left his body for the vision.

Another likely “eyes of understanding” candidate

Moroni’s visits in 1823:
The popular picture in lesson manuals shows Joseph in his bed being awoken by Moroni. The problem with this picture is that it shows Joseph alone in his own room. This is, of course, laughable. Some or all of the family was surely in the room with him. Therefore it is no stretch to assume that the visits Joseph received from Moroni were through the same medium the later visits he received from Christ himself – through the eyes of his understanding being opened. If it was all physical then we have to explain why none of the other family members sleeping in the room woke up when the Celestial floodlight came on and a man they did not know spoke in full voice throughout most of that night. Further, when he had the same visitation the next day he says it was after he passed out climbing the fence. Sure, one could argue that God made them stay asleep, but it is unconvincing to me. God obviously is very fond of the “eyes of understanding” method so why should we assume he used another method in that case? What advantage would there have been if his normal method did the job?

I see no evidence why the First Vision would not fall into this category as well. In fact, the record indicates it is quite likely. Joseph says:

When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven.

Potential snags

Perhaps the best cases for physical visits would be the notion that physical hands needed to be laid on the heads of Joseph and Oliver in order for them to receive the priesthood. This is decent evidence, but not necessarily convincing evidence to me. The History of the Church does say “It was the 15th day of May, 1829, that we were ordained under the hand of this messenger and baptized”. (HC 1:41) That seems fairly conclusive on the surface. The only caveat is that based on section 110 it appears that hands on physical mortal heads are not required to pass on keys and authority after all. Joseph makes it clear there that he had keys bestowed upon him in that section, which also requires the laying on of hands, yet Joseph also makes it clear that his visions in 110 were through the eyes of his understanding being opened. Perhaps in this other sphere/plane that they ended up in during the revelations the messengers lay hands on their heads. If we consider the revelation that Nephi had it seems entirely possible. What would prevent God from getting the job done as they were “out of the body” during the visitation?

I’m not saying this is how it happened, I just wonder if we have compelling reasons to not consider that option. (Maybe physical messengers were needed in only a few special instances or something?) I guess I question why physical hands are required to bestow one set of priesthood keys and not required to bestow others.

The physicality challenge

I know this assertion probably contradicts the assumptions most Mormons have held. If you think this theory of mine is wrong feel free to show me the error of my ways. Perhaps you feel (along with Jeffrey Giliam) that real revelation requires the use of physical, mortal eyeballs and mortal ears, etc. If I am missing relevant scriptures that support that theory please show me.

I am currently doubtful that anyone will have much luck with this challenge, though. (For one thing it would prove that God is prejudiced against the physically handicapped – the blind and deaf). In addition, I can’t see why mortal eyes would be useful to see and talk with beings that are “above the brightness of the Sun” to begin with. But I’m wrong often so if this is one of those cases please help me out.

If I am right it goes a long way to hamstring the complaints many have been making that the church today is nigh unto apostasy because we aren’t seeing angels with our own mortal eyes these days, etc.

I posit that heavenly angels were never historically seen with physical mortal eyes and that the problem we face is that we are looking in the wrong places for angels and visitations.

84 Comments »

  1. “All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all; and those revelations which will save our spirits will save our bodies.”

    (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.355)
    This seems to mean that at least one method of receiving revelation doesn’t require mortal eyeballs.

    Comment by C Jones — July 25, 2005 @ 10:14 pm

  2. Nice pull C Jones. I am familiar with this excellent quote but for some reason it didn’t come to mind tonight as I wrote this post. Thanks for the help!

    Comment by Geoff J — July 25, 2005 @ 11:06 pm

  3. “I strongly suspect that if we had video recordings of these visitations and visions all we would see is a prophet alone.”

    I think that this is probably the case in a lot of instances, but I would have to differ with regards to Moroni handing Joseph the plates (not in 1823 but after he confinscated the plates and returned them to him), Jesus eating fish and all those people at bountiful touching his hands. I’m fairly confident that a video recording would have recorded these visitors. If not then these accounts should be totally rewritten. Doh! I just continued on to the next paragraph and saw that you addressed this. Sorry about that.

    Regarding your interpretation of section 110 and the priesthood restorations I think you bring up a very good point. It would seem that from sec. 110 that mortal hand to head touch is not necessary. But isn’t that why we teach that Elijah and Moses were translated, so that they could make actual physical contact? Isn’t that why we claim that John the baptist and P,J and J were resurrected? You appear to be revolutionizing our views concerning priesthood ordination. Maybe you could dedicate a post to working this conundrum out. Then again, maybe its best that we consider there to have actually been physical contact after all.

    Okay, it’s been a while since we last discussed this, but we did agree that seeing with the mortal eyes isn’t necessary for the revelation to count or to being higher than mere revelation. It doesn’t matter if its with mortal eyes or not although that would be helpful in establishing the source as being exterior to oneself. What matters is that far more information is being more clearly presented through more senses, be they mortal or not. If somebody actually saw something, or actually hear actual words, who cares if there words actually vibrated physical air or not? My point still stands.

    I don’t think this accomplishes anything for you. Why don’t we hear of people seeing angels with their spiritual eyes? and so on. Simply spiritualizing the matter doesn’t accomplish anything at all, unless you are trying to explain away visions altogether. Visions, regardless of how physical they are, are NOT promptings. They are much, much more. While nobody doubts that there are promptings, where are the visions? Where are the prophecies?

    It really surprises me that you are simply not willing to accept the seemingly obvious here.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 26, 2005 @ 9:26 am

  4. Jeffrey: It really surprises me that you are simply not willing to accept the seemingly obvious here.

    Funny, I was just thinking the same thing about you…

    You are starting to talk out of both sides of your mouth on this subject. Just yesterday you said:

    Any person who holds any thing short of the “perfect knowledge” which is only granted by sight to be 100% reliable is abusing their inspiration.

    I retorted:

    Uh, oh. I guess that means blind people can never know anything for sure…

    You responded:

    I would like to hear one account of the Lord granting perfect knowledge to a blind guy, I really would. Using the language from the Ether 3 I would be very impressed by such an account.

    Now today you are whistling a completely different tune.

    Trying to squirm out of this by saying:

    It doesn’t matter if its with mortal eyes or not although that would be helpful in establishing the source as being exterior to oneself. What matters is that far more information is being more clearly presented through more senses, be they mortal or not. If somebody actually saw something, or actually hear actual words, who cares if there words actually vibrated physical air or not?

    Is again speaking out of both sides of your mouth. You have been vehemently discounting internal revelation over at the other thread and claiming that if it can’t be measured and verified then it is not reliable because the risk that it might “all be in our heads” is too high. Which is it? Can it be in our heads (which is what eyes and ears of our understanding seem like to the world) or must physical senses be used? You can’t have it both ways. But if it can be in our head then all of the revelation we talk about in the church is a form of exactly the same thing. Impressions are simply more subtle/less-content-rich versions of the process by which “The Vision” of sction 76 was received.

    It would seem that from sec. 110 that mortal hand to head touch is not necessary. But isn’t that why we teach that Elijah and Moses were translated, so that they could make actual physical contact?

    The scriptures don’t teach that doctrine. The idea that those men were translated in order to put physical hands on Joseph’s mortal head is contradicted by the revelation itself. That indicates to me that the this translation theory (at least the reasons for it) is probably a cultural overbelief that was created to fit the preconceptions of saints who thought that is the way things ought to have happened.

    Why don’t we hear of people seeing angels with their spiritual eyes? and so on.

    We do! That is the point of this post. It seems to me that we hear about it so often that it is just an assumed thing. But can you show even one scriptural account where we hear about seeing an angel with physical eyes? Considering they are described as “above the brightness of the Sun” how does one see anything at all? How does one make it out of the experience without being permanently blinded? If you say the Spirit overshadows them to make it happen then I would suggest that is the Spirit opening their spiritual eyes instead.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 26, 2005 @ 10:17 am

  5. It should be noted that this post is talking about a lot of things which we simply don’t know much about. I’ve never experienced a vision, so I don’t really know how “physical” it really is or is not. It would seem that you do not know either. This is the key to my apparent contradiction. I would really like to hear an account of a blind man seeing a vision and gaining a perfect knowledge. This would actually say a lot about the subject. But since no accounts can be found we are still wallowing in ignorance. Thus, I didn’t deny the possibility of such, only our awareness of any such instance. Thus the blind guy example is entirely irrelevant since the information we are supposed to pull from it is the very information which is left in question by the non-existence of such an account. You perceived contradiction is forced.

    Even if a blind guy could “see” a vision, he is still seeing it. Who cares if its with his physical eyes or not? He is still seeing it which goes beyond emotions and hunches. You say that #1 and 2 involve more than emotions and hunches, something which I’m not convinced of, but I don’t think even you would call that unspecified something “seeing”.

    It’s true that the scriptures don’t teach that priesthood doctrine, but prophets sure have. If they are wrong, then we would have to find another answer to the questions which they have been trying to answer with such a teaching.

    “We do!”

    Where? Who has ever said “I saw” in recent times? Who has ever said “Thus saith the lord..” or “These are God’s words, not mine..” Who has said “I heard..”? Nobody is saying those things as can easily be seen in the number of posts now circulating in the bloggernacle. There are no longer any sights to see or words to hear by way of revelation. This is my point and no amount of slippery reasoning can get around it. This is why it seems so obvious to me.

    I should also mention that the “brightness of the sun” line is surely a figure of speech. The same can be said for “rushing waters” “eyes as fire” and so on. These metaphors don’t prove anything that you want to, but they sure do suggest that Joseph actually did SEE and HEAR something. Thus he went beyond emotions and hunches. A conversation could never be accomplished by way of mere emotions and hunches.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 26, 2005 @ 12:28 pm

  6. I hope I don’t intrude too much into this ongoing battle between Geoff and Jeffrey…:)
    I like what you said. We’ve often been taught that our bodies often have to be transfigured in order to withstand the light (i.e. Moses) so why bother with physicality anyway. If we needed so much physical in our spiritual walk we’d still be living the law of Moses and would have a VASTLY different temple ceremony.
    This brings up a whole new idea (maybe I’ll do a post on it) about physical and spiritual meanings in the scriptures. Which parts are meant to be literal, physical happenings and which are spiritual meaning?

    Comment by Bret — July 26, 2005 @ 2:18 pm

  7. Ha! Alas, this is becoming a bit of a two man show, Bret. I very much appreciate you input on the subject. I hope others join too (even if I continue to spar with Jeffrey).

    This concept is a relatively new idea to me too, though I have toyed with the idea since last winter whe a similar discussion went on over at T&S. It seems to me that “eyes of our understanding” is a description of the “mind’s eyes” that is receiving these revelations. So if we know many revelations and visitations and visions are received this way why not assume they all are (except the visitation of the resurrected Christ)?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 26, 2005 @ 2:41 pm

  8. Jeffrey: I would really like to hear an account of a blind man seeing a vision and gaining a perfect knowledge. This would actually say a lot about the subject.

    This is pretty easy to imagine. The blind man receives the vision the same way all the prophets receive visions — through the eyes of his understanding, aka his mind’s eye. He need not actaully see anything though because it is the Spirit that taps directly into his mind and gives not only the “vision” but more importantly the pure knowledge and understanding that the vision is trying to convey. That pure knowledge and understanding are, of course the only important part of any vision anyway. Seeing things always requires a traslation process in our minds so why wouldn’t God just skip that extra step?

    Since this post is most on how visions are not physical I’ll pick this idea up in our conversation at the other thread.

    It’s true that the scriptures don’t teach that priesthood doctrine, but prophets sure have.

    I don’t have any research on that subject. Do you know of prophets that have declared that as Church doctrine while they were president? Has anything official ever been said on the subject?

    Who has ever said “I saw” in recent times? Who has ever said “Thus saith the lord..” or “These are God’s words, not mine..” Who has said “I heard..”?

    Again, in order to stay focused here I’ll respond to these accusations further at the other thread. I’m still looking for any evidence at this thread to show that any visions or visitations throughout the scriptures were seen with anything other than the prophet’s “mind’s eye” or eyes of their understanding”.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 26, 2005 @ 2:59 pm

  9. Of course its easy to imagine. It’s also easy to imagine him being wisked away to the top of a cloud where he gains his sight and then loses it again upon return. Of course this doesn’t mean much of anything for the discussion at hand there does it?

    I’m simply not able to imagine anything approaching the unmediated knowledge which you seem to be talking about. Learning is always mediated in one way or another and since what we know is always mediated, then we can’t be sure that things are as they say they are by mere introspection. This is why studies regarding consciousness have moved away from the subjective first person accounts, because they are rarely accurate accounts of the phenomenon which needs explaining. Third person observation is needed to clear away the subjectivity. We have to observe things outside of ourselves if we want anything approaching objectivity. This is what makes 5,6 and 7 higher: the words, sights and objects are all outside the person. Introspection is therefore limited, and this is a good thing.

    This, I think, is your problem. You keep thinking that knowledge is somehow unmediated. Whether it comes through sight, sound or introspection, it never is. There is always a medium. And our sense of sight and sound have proven to be more accurate then our understanding of our inner workings. This is why revelation is less subjective, more concrete and more reliable. Repeat: there is no pure, unmediated knowledge to be had.

    I’m pretty sure it was JFS2 which taught it, though I don’t have an exact reference for that. Truman Madsen was really big on this translation doctrine, and I believed that he sourced JFS2 for it.

    Of course its all in the “mind’s eye”, but this is the case whether it is physical or not. This is all part of the unmediated knowledge thing. We must interpret EVERYTHING, even sights and sounds, not to mention feelings.

    I simply don’t under stand what this post is trying to accomplish. It seems to be arguing against something I’m not even claiming.

    I would be curious, however, to hear you reinterpret the phrase “face to face” which Mormons are so fond of using. Was God’s face there or not?

    What about the voice heard at bountiful?
    The voice heard after the 3rd Nephi distruction?
    The voice heard at Paul’s conversion?
    The voice heard at the mount of transfiguation?
    The voice in Helaman 5?
    The voice of D&C 130?
    The voice at Jesus’ baptism?

    What about the angels who appeared to the shepherd at christ’s birth?
    What about the two apostles who saw christ when he was in disguise after his death?
    John the baptist and P,J and J to restore the priesthood?
    The fire in Hel. 5?
    The angel seen by Alma and the Sons of Mosiah?
    The angels seen by everybody, including bypassers, at the Kirkland dedication?
    The angel seen by Laman and Lemuel?
    All the noises and lights at mount Sinai?

    What about those gold plates which Moroni both took from and gave to Joseph?
    What about the angel in Revelations which touched John?
    What about the priesthood restoration?
    What about sec. 129 which tells us to TOUCH angels when they visit?
    What about the endowment depiction?
    What about the claims of God laying his hands on people’s head Himself?
    What about Jesus’ figure which actually touched the stones in Ether?
    What about the ten commandments?
    What about the fire which burned Elijah’s real wood?
    What about Elijah’s going to heaven in a chariot?

    As one reads these accounts it is quite a stretch to think that these people didn’t think that these things were REALLY happening. These people thought that they were experiencing very real things. They thought they were seeing, hearing and touching actually objects and people.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 26, 2005 @ 3:52 pm

  10. there is no pure, unmediated knowledge to be had.

    I have no objections to this assertion. My objection is to the implication that revelation must be mediated through our mortal bodies. Joseph taught that when we receive revelation it is as if we had no body at all (see comment #1). The other thing I assume is that removing our bodies from the equation increases the bandwidth exponentially.

    These people thought that they were experiencing very real things.

    They were very real things. My contention, though, is that at least in the cases of visitation or visions, if there was a camera crew at any of these events there would be nothing miraculous looking to film. The events all happened spirit-to-spirit with no physical, earthly, mortal aspects to them.

    I believe the miracles like water to wine and the fire with Elijah were earthly experiences, though.

    One thought concerning angelic visits — when Saul was accosted by an angel there were some in his group that saw the even and other saw nothing but only heard. I interpret that as more eveidence that this theory of mine is accurate.

    They thought they were seeing, hearing and touching actually objects and people.

    How do you know that? Overlaying our own cultural assumptions on the thoughts of these people is not a good idea.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 26, 2005 @ 4:44 pm

  11. Okay, now we are getting somewhere. That Joseph Smith quote definitely seems to back your position, unfortunately I don’t accept it at all as you interpret it. I’m not saying that I have a better way of interpreting it, only that as you accept it, I don’t. If there is no better way to interpret it, I simply think he was wrong. If our brain is at all involved in the process of receiving these communications (do you really deny this?) then it IS mediated by our bodies. Now we are getting into issues surrounding the relationship between our spirit and our bodies, issues which VERY little has been revealed, though this does not stop me from believing certain things. However, it seems clear to me that the reception of inspiration involves LOTS of bodily influence.

    “if there was a camera crew at any of these events there would be nothing miraculous looking to film.”

    I think you are right on some of these examples, but on others think you’ve got a long ways to go, especially with the instances of physical contact (this is what makes it the highest form of revelation). Did the plates simply appear in this physical reality out of nowhere? Or would a camera NEVER pick those plates up on film? I also find your making an exception for the resurrected lord, but not the other resurrected beings, very peculiar. It seems like ad hoc finagling. I think that sec. 129 works very hard against your theory.

    Fine, I’m assuming that they interpreted the shaking of hands and passing of plates as physical. That seems like a far safer assumption than claiming that it was all “spiritual” in some way removed from physical reality. We are safe in assuming this because it is clear that they wanted us to believe that these were physical events. If they wanted anything else they would have clarified, but they rarely if ever did. There are exceptions like the 3 witnesses, and sec. 110. However, merely writing a couple of examples off is a long ways away from writing all of these experiences off as “spiritual”.

    Your position would require A LOT of defense, namely the addressing of all of those instances which I mentioned and more. Do you really think that anybody is going to buy into an entirely non-physical, spiritual account of the 3rd Nephi visit or the plates, not to mention sec. 129? People will already have enough problems with the priesthood accounts you partially discredit.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 26, 2005 @ 7:26 pm

  12. Jeffrey: If our brain is at all involved in the process of receiving these communications

    I could grant that the brain is used as part of the revelation process. I am not ready to grant any of the 5 physical senses are required though.

    others think you’ve got a long ways to go, especially with the instances of physical contact

    Besides the visits of the resurrected Christ, what other examples do you know of mortal physical contact with heavenly beings? I have already dealt with the ambiguity surrounding the reception of priesthood and keys with Joseph. What other examples have I not covered?

    Did the plates simply appear in this physical reality out of nowhere? Or would a camera NEVER pick those plates up on film?

    I don’t know what you are talking about here. I have only made these claims about heavenly beings. The plates were buried in a mountainside. The visions just told Joseph where to dig them up. Of course they would be physical and filmable.

    How were the plates taken away? We have no idea. But one thing is for sure — Joseph physically handing them to a physical Moroni is not the only solution. God could confiscate them in gobs of other ways.

    I also find your making an exception for the resurrected lord, but not the other resurrected beings, very peculiar.

    Well, where do you recommend we draw the line? We know many of our most important revelations were received in this waking-dream state. We know the resurrected Lord was physical in an earthly sense duringhis visit. I choose to draw the physical earthly line at His visit because He was the freshly resurrected God of this world — that is a unique and special situation. Then he appeared later to Joseph in the waking dream format. Why should I not assume all others were also in the same waking dream state?

    I think that sec. 129 works very hard against your theory.

    I agree that dealing with 129 requires some limbo-ing. But if keys can be bestowed in the waking dream state (as we learn from section 110) then I assume hands are laid on heads in that other sphere/state/plane/whatever. If that assumption is correct then handshakes can happen there too.

    We are safe in assuming this because it is clear that they wanted us to believe that these were physical events. If they wanted anything else they would have clarified

    Oh really? How do you know that?

    Do you really think that anybody is going to buy into an entirely non-physical, spiritual account of the 3rd Nephi visit or the plates

    Nope, and I don’t either. I thought we had covered that already. What other specifics do you think work against this theory? None you have mentioned so far have made much of a dent.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 26, 2005 @ 9:07 pm

  13. A little late to the conversation, but what the hey. I broached the subject of Moses’ (and Elias’s) not being resurected once upon a time. I am, however, a little uncomfortable with the wholesale divorce from physicality that you are positing here, Geoff.

    Where the Golden Plates simply a really heavy spiritual experiance? If the 3rd Nephi account of the Lords ministration is physical, then why not the 1st vision? In the New Testement, we have resurected beings walking around. It seems that a denial of the physical revealation is an attack on the resurection.

    And while I questioned it myself, stripping 110 of the physical transfer of keys dramatically alters our narrative and has huge implications for our conceptions of authority. It reminds me of a post I’ve been fiddling with that compares some implications of the new initiatory to non-immersion baptism.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 26, 2005 @ 9:41 pm

  14. …oh, and its okay to call something cultural overbelief as long as you don’t agree with it?…Br. Kimball.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 26, 2005 @ 9:42 pm

  15. J!

    Long time no blog. I’m glad you joined in here. I think I answered some of you questions in #12. (IE that I see no reason to doubt physical plates and why I draw a tentative physical line at the resurrected Christ.) I am not married to this position by any means but I thought it would be useful to take it and see if anyone could punch holes in it. So far it seems to be holding up nicely.

    Who is Br. Kimball?

    I was thinking of coining the term cultural underbelief as well. I suspect that it is our modern culture that makes it so hard for us to enter into that waking-dream state by which our scripures say most of the Glorious visions were given. I am hinting that the reason we are not seeing angels is because we are looking for them with our physical eyes instead of looking internally with the “eyes of our understanding”.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 26, 2005 @ 10:15 pm

  16. Br. Kimball (H.C.)? whoops that was a typo. I meant Geoff J., but got confused for a second by all the cultural overblief bieng passed about. :)

    I think the testimony of the 3 is important. I agree that 110 works much better if there was no physical contact, it is just that…well…things become difficult.

    Not a 1st person account of revelation, but that experiance of Lorenzo we were talking about a while ago was rather explicitly physical. As was the apocraphal experience of Pres. Taylor that Jeffrey outlined.

    The Kirtland Temple is a great argument for “spiritual eyes” as not everybody saw angels. But the JSH appears to be rather discriptive in that no change occured:

    While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a alight• appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a bpersonage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.

    31 He had on a loose robe of most exquisite awhiteness•. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant. His hands were naked, and his arms also, a little above the wrist; so, also, were his feet naked, as were his legs, a little above the ankles. His head and neck were also bare. I could discover that he had no other clothing on but this robe, as it was open, so that I could see into his bosom.

    …By this time, so deep were the impressions made on my mind, that sleep had fled from my eyes, and I lay overwhelmed in astonishment at what I had both seen and heard. But what was my surprise when again I beheld the same messenger at my bedside, and heard him rehearse or repeat over again to me the same things as before;

    I don’t think it is anymore difficult for the lord to quicken Joseph as it is for him to keep his siblings asleep.

    Anyway, I need to go to bed…maybe in the morning.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 26, 2005 @ 10:49 pm

  17. Geoff,
    For starts we have more than 5 senses. We can also sense temperature and spatial postioning (inner ears stuff). There might be more. Either way, the brain is part of the mortal body, that was my point.

    I gave you a really long list (in 9) of physical interaction which need explaining. It is not only physical contact, but sights and sounds that you are physically discrediting. Some of the more powerful counter examples are:

    Helaman 5
    3rd Nephi 9
    Angels appearing to the shepherds
    Section 129
    John the Baptist and P,J and J (which you have only speculated about)
    Mount of Transfiguation
    The angel touching John the revelator

    “Oh really? How do you know that?”

    Because when people say “touch” or “see” it is natural to interpret these things as being touched on seen. Any other interpretation than the natural one requires explanation. But if we are willing to say that perhaps the scriptures mean something entirely different than what they clearly are saying then I guess we can believe anything we want about them.

    Regarding Priesthood conferrals you should read J.’s post.
    “However, the Bible Dictionary explains about Moses:

    In company with Elijah, he came to the Mount of Transfiguration and bestowed keys of the priesthood upon Peter, James, and John. From this event, which occurred before the resurrection of Jesus, we understand that Moses was a translated being, and had not died as reported in Deut. 34 (Alma 45: 19). It was necessary that he be translated, in order to have a body of flesh and bones at the time of the transfiguration, since the resurrection had not yet taken place. Had he been a spirit only, he could not have performed the work on the mount of giving the keys to the mortal Peter, James, and John.”

    Not scripture, but certainly somewhat authoritative.

    “As was the apocraphal experience of Pres. Taylor that Jeffrey outlined.”

    Good point, there was light seen under the door and voices over heard.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 27, 2005 @ 8:54 am

  18. What I fear most about you position is that whereas I see revelation as a partial escape from the problems associated with inspiration, you see them as the same thing, making all the problems of inspiration apply to revelation as well. You seem to be putting all visitors, sights and sounds inside the imagination of the prophets, thus making their claims VERY fishy to the skeptic. Instead, I view revelation as a escape from the imagination into reality.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 27, 2005 @ 9:45 am

  19. Jeffrey: You seem to be putting all visitors, sights and sounds inside the imagination of the prophets

    Actually I’m putting none of them in the imagination of the prophets — they are all very real, but they do not happen here in our physical, temporal sphere. Part of the advantage of this position is that it proves that there in fact are no problems with the low end of the process that you call “inspiration”. The only problems lie in reception and proper understanding of revelation.

    Yes, this is very fishy to the skeptic, but since when was true religion not fishy to skeptics? You are hoping to beat skeptics at there own game by bringing revelation into this temporal sphere and I think that rather the faithful are taken out of this sphere to receive revelation. The skeptic will never be satisfied with that answer and I beleive that is the way God wants it.

    The main problem with trying to force your model onto revelation is that you will never receive any that way. I suspect that it all must happen in another sphere — or “out of the body” as Joseph and Paul described. What you are calling “inspiration” is the first baby step down that path.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 27, 2005 @ 10:01 am

  20. J,

    Those are good points, but I don’t think they prove anything other than the fact that it could go either way with revelation. The testimony of the three could be interpreted as proof that angels physically appeared here to some people. But others could argue that the experience of the three witnesses was “out of the body” and was intended only as proof that angels are involved with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. They could point to the witness of the other 8 as the proof that the physical plates were real and ask why the Lord did that in two parts.

    Another argument that could be made for physical visitations would be that those who are visited by angels are often nearly scared to death by the experience. But again, that fear could happen if one was suddenly wrenched into another sphere for an interview with an angel just like it would if it happened in this sphere. It could work either way.

    As I said, with proper evidence I could be convinced otherwise, but as it is I am moving more toward this out-of-body explanation for all of these visitations.

    Jeffrey,

    I don’t see any evidence that any of the passages you list in #9 were seen by anything but spiritual eyes. I know you assume they are physical eyes but what evidence do you have that your assumption is accurate?

    The things like lights appearing under doors, etc. sound good but they are not completely convincing. We have all sorts of examples in modern times when some people see a light and others don’t. (Kirtland temple dedication, Brigham’s speech after Joseph died, lot’s of times…) It is obvious thatin this “out of the body” sphere that prophets go to receive revelation they can see and hear things. I see no reason why they cannot touch thigs there too — we can touch and feel things in dreams after all.

    Anyway, I am still searching for more convincing evidence that this theory is incorrect. Let me know if you think of or find any.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 27, 2005 @ 10:23 am

  21. You seem to think that the it is our responsibility to show how these accounts actually mean what they say. I think most would agree that the responsibilty lies on your shoulders, not mine in this respect. Most of these accounts give us no reason to believe that they were anything other than physical occurences. They do however, in their very language suggest that they were physical. If you are going to show that these were really not physical, as they certainly seem to be upon reading them, then you can try to prove your case. It is more in line with Mormon doctrine that these things were physical. If you want to change Mormon doctrine, fine by me, but don’t think that that’s what I am doing by defending the physical nature of the priesthood restorations.

    You also seem to be content to jump back and forth between extreme skepticism and pragmatic epistemic. When it comes to voices and lights it wasn’t really like that, according to you. It was also “spiritual” whatever that means. Those people didn’t know it when it happened to them, but it wasn’t really physical. But when it comes to our evaluating the source and intent of emotions and hunches its all 100% surety.

    I’m not trying to convince the skeptic, but God is. That is why, according to Moroni 7, he gives visions to prophets of a firm mind and strong faith. Revelation is what I call an escape from the circle of faith. If there is no escape, as you have admitted you position to maintain, then how can we ever trust our religious claims over that of some other tradition?

    The skeptic can refuse to accept revelation, but if it really is physical then he will have to come up with something other than wishful thinking or some kind of “waking trance.” They will have to attribute lunacy or fraud to that prophet.

    Your account of revelation, however, bring in all of the problems with inspiration. How much of it is in the recipients own mind? Are these words that I am “hearing” God’s or mine? Is this angel that I am seeing REALLY there? If it feels like I am physically touching this angel, but I’m really not, then doesn’t this sound more than a little imaginative? Could this all be but a dream? These are very real worries which come up when these visions are physical.

    Of course physicality isn’t the real issue here. Again, the real issue is words, sights and touching. These qualities separate 1 and 2 from 5,6 and 7 regardless of their physicality. And you still have not addressed this issue.

    Do you deny that words, visuals and touching help clarify content?

    Who cares what sphere these things take place in, for this says nothing about my actual point. You can insist that its all spiritual, while I will continue to doubt it. But who cares? The real issue is going beyond emotions and hunches to words, visuals and touching.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 27, 2005 @ 10:55 am

  22. Jeffrey,

    The purpose of this post is to propose a theory and then see if anyone can shoot it down. So far no one has been able to punch any real holes in it.

    The issue this theory brings up is one of cultural assumptions. It is probably true that most 21st Century Mormons assume that most visitations are physical. But these scriptures were not written by 21st Century people — they were written by 19th Century people or ancient people. One of the major contributions of recent Mormon historical scholarship is illuminating the fact that Joseph and his contemporaries held a worldview that is nothing like the worldview we hold in the 21st century. They believed in all sorts of “magical” things we dismiss as superstitious rubbish now. Joseph used a seer stone he dug up to translate most of the Book of Mormon for cryin’ out loud! Of course my theory will be at odds with a 21st century worldview — but I suspect it might have been a given to Joseph and to all of those other ancient prophets. The next argument that can be made is that the change of worldview and rejection of visions as I have described here in this post correlates directly with the reduction of visitations and visions among our people.

    In other words, I am suggesting we are not seeing angels because we are looking in the wrong place for them.

    I recently posted on a friend of mine that did see angels in the temple. What was the response? — Scoffs that it was all in her head. What I am suggesting is that angels have never appeared to mankind any other way.

    Of course I’ll need to flesh this out more, but I think there is really something to this new theory of mine. We have shut the “eyes of our understanding” because of modernism and as a result we are now blind to the visions and visitations our predecessors enjoyed.

    So regarding you “1-7″ and “circle of faith” theories — I know you are building a superstructure based on your modern assumptions but I suspect that the foundation is completely false so none of it can stand.

    As for this question of words, visuals, and touching — I thought I had responded to you on that several times already. I will do so again. I do not believe any of that is required in a physical mortal sense. I do agree that in the vision sense it is helpful. In other words, I think the only difference between a revelatory dream and a waking vision is that you start off asleep for one and awake for the other. They are both non-physical things. Having said that, I do believe there is some sort of out-of-body thing that can be going on. I know that is very unscientific, but I suspect that the shackles of incomplete modern science are what are holding us back on these things to begin with. So just as there are words, visuals, and touching in dreams; there are also words, visuals, and touching in visions/visitations.

    I’m not trying to convince the skeptic, but God is.

    I don’t think the scriptures support you in this — at least not in the sign-seeking format you are advocating. Signs and visions and visitations follow them that believe — they are not generally intended generate believers.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 27, 2005 @ 12:01 pm

  23. Almost any theory imaginable can survive if we are willing to finagle things enough to fit. Consider ptolemaic astronomy. Consider Russell’s teapot which is circling the sun. Can you prove that there is no teapot circling the sun? No, but this doesn’t mean that we have any reason to accept it. What if I told you that the teapot was full of diamonds? Now we have a reason, but even then should I accept it? I strongly doubt it.

    So is the case with you theory. Visitations from resurrected beings which can shake people’s hand present if not a hole, then a really big dent in your theory. Even if there weren’t any dents in it though, what does your theory of univeralizing the non-physicality of revelation accomplish? Is there any reason to believe it? I should also say that I thinkt that 19th century Mormon would not have accepted your universalized account either. Remember, they were supposed to shake hands.

    I think that we are looking for angels whereever we can find them. I don’t pray “show me an actual physical angel.” “Show me an angel while I still awake” is more along the lines of what people want. Surely, after all, the priesthood wasn’t conferred in a dream.

    Regarding signs following believers, I would reread the gospel of John which says the exact opposite on many occasions.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 27, 2005 @ 12:33 pm

  24. Now who’s being arrogant?

    You would like to paint this as a black and white picture in your favor and it is anything but. How do we explain the reception of keys in section 110 when the revelation specifically states that the vision came through the eyes of their understanding being opened? They were in the temple with only a veil between them and others surely in the room — why did no one else hear the voice of the visitors? How do you know that one can not be transported to another sphere during the visions where handshaking can take place?

    The reason to investigate this theory is because it might be true. If it is true it might be the key to allow us to enjoy the same visions and visitations we read about in the scripture because it will allow us to stop looking in the wrong places for them.

    Just because you or others “want” these visitations to be physical does not mean they are or ever have been. I have provided evidence that this theory is viable in this post showing that many visions are indeed “out of the body”. I don’t care if you don’t believe it, but if you want to persuade me to drop the notion please provide opposing evidence in the scriptures or words of prophets instead of lamely resorting to ridicule with this absurd teacup example.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 27, 2005 @ 12:51 pm

  25. Sorry about the teacup thing. That was actually Russell’s argument for agnosticism. He reasoned that just as we can’t disprove the existence of that teacup, we can’t disprove the existence of God either. The absence of conflicting evidence is not the same as confirming evidence.

    I agree that sec. 110 is confusing on this point. However going against the physical nature of the actual restorations is simply going too far. Maybe receiving these “keys” didn’t require actual touching. Or maybe God put blinders on the other people in the temple. Lot’s of things could explain it as you have noted. But I must insist that the restorations of the AP and MP were physical events.

    I’m still not convinced that your theory helps us search in the “right” way in any meaningful way at all. If people start striving harder for these relatively introspective visions this is simply a recipe for placeboes and delusion. This kind of introspection is very much in line with what I consider the psychic hotline to be doing.

    My main point is saying “who cares?” is that this doesn’t change the fact that people used to say “thus saith the Lord” and “I saw..” whereas now they do not. Even if these experiences were “spiritual” that doesn’t change the fact that they aren’t happening today either.

    Now supposing that all of these experiences actually were spiritual (which has yet to be proven in any way) then it would seem that we both agree that these words, visuals and touching were higher than mere emotions and hunches. The emotions, if my view just as much as yours, are the beginners versions of revelation. Thus all of my original points would seem to stand. Surely somebody experiencing a spiritual version of touching and speaking with a visual being would not be confused in its source or content near as easily as emotions and hunches would be.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 27, 2005 @ 3:09 pm

  26. Let me try to stand back a little bit and offer a different perspective here. Setting aside the issue of physicality temporarily, I am going to make a series of assertions.

    1) There is a substantial difference between seeing a vision or hearing a voice and receiving spiritual communication through our emotions.

    2) The difference isn’t that one is real and the other isn’t, or that one comes from God and the other doesn’t.

    3) The difference is related to the fact that a vision or a voice can convey much more information and convey it with a great deal more precision than spiritual communication through our emotions can do.

    4) The difference is also related to the fact that we have an amazing tendency to mix our own points of view into the messages we receive emotionally, which permanently compromises the integrity of the message. Such inadvertent permanent alteration of the contents is much more difficult with a message that has explicit verbal content.

    5) We don’t know what kinds of private experiences Hinckley or others might be having. We have no access to their subjectivity.

    6) The public record shows that, since the early 20th century, there is a drastic decline in claims by General Authorities to have experienced visions or heard divine voices.

    As an exercise and a way of clarifying the debate, I’d like both Jeffrey and Geoff to respond to these six assertions. Do either of you disagree with any of these points?

    Now, returning to the question of physicality, I think this is something of a red herring altogether. I doubt that, when we are in an altered state as would be required for any direct celestial communication, our self-understanding is sufficient for us to distinguish physical from non-physical experiences. But I don’t think it matters. If I’m alone in a room and Christ actually enters the room with me, that has no consequences that are different in any way from my being alone in that same room and Christ using his power to project a vision of himself in the room into my mind. Can we think of a thought experiment that would distinguish between these two experiences? If not, then we’re forced to conclude that they’re really the same thing–the difference is immaterial.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — July 28, 2005 @ 5:28 am

  27. Good questions.

    1) Strongly agree.
    2) Agree with some qualifications. While it will be more informative when speaking of the difference between inspiration and revelation to assume that both are from God (I’m not denying this at all), one of the main differences between the two is that it is much easier to attribute an episode of inspiration to God when it really wasn’t than it is for an revelatory event. However, if something really is inspiration, then I agree.
    3) I don’t think that this is the only difference, but it is probably the main one.
    4) Strongly agree.
    5) Again, I agree.
    6) Agree.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 28, 2005 @ 9:00 am

  28. Thanks RT. This conversation had been getting a bit squirrelly (with it spilling into several threads and all). I hope stepping back like this can help us focus on the specific issues better. Here are my answers.

    1. I don’t know how to answer this question because I don’t think there is any such thing as “receiving spiritual communication through our emotions”. Rather I believe that we simply are being sent intelligence for on high and those with poorly trained spiritual ears vaguely recognize that something is happening inside of them and think it is actually coming “through emotions”. It is not. They just can’t fully discern the broadcast so it seems that way to them. So I believe there is one form of broadcasting and the differences we perceive have much more to do with the quality of the receiver than the Celestial “broadcasting station”. So I agree that seeing and hearing is better than feeling through emotions, but I think that the difference is often in the receiver, not the broadcaster.

    2. I completely agree

    3. Not sure what to do with this. I think we get pure intelligence and then perhaps our “receiver” converts that into voices and words in some cases and perhaps in the case of visitations the sights and sounds are actually broadcast.

    4. See #1 again. I think the intelligence and underlying truths come in and then we necessarily convert that into formats our brains can comprehend and convey. This concept is at the heart of the BoM Expansion theory too. The truth is the same but the conversion and explanation process afterwards can lead to misunderstanding. That is why section 50 has such important teachings. When the Spirit is talking to two people at the same time (as they talk together) there is a process by which all misunderstandings are done away with on those subjects. They understand one another and both are edified and they can rejoice together because of it. In other words, the Spirit helps them overcome the communication obstacles inherent in mortality as Joseph taught they are taught and understand as if they had no body at all.

    5. Agree

    6. Agree. So the question that we are speculating on is why is this the case. Is it a change in the language and divulging tendencies due to our vastly increased integration with modern society or is there actually a decrease in the experiences or is it both…

    Comment by Geoff J — July 28, 2005 @ 10:24 am

  29. So, let me see if I’ve got Geoff’s point of view adequately in mind. Let me propose a schematic split in a spiritual communication process between the voice and the ear, or in other words between the sender of the message and the recipient. As I read your remarks, both here and in other threads, it seems to me that Geoff may think there is no difference on the voice side between truly remarkable manifestations such as full-scale visions and dictation, on the one hand, and the kind of warm-feeling-inside that most members get by on, on the other. Messages are all of the visionary type when they are initiated by the voice.

    When they reach the ear, however, some messages are experienced as full-scale visions by some individuals while other individuals, presumably less prepared, experience the same message as burnings in the bosom or whatever. The difference isn’t in the message, it’s in the personal characteristics of the recipient. Is that a reasonable summary of your position?

    If it is, I have to ask you some supplementary questions. First, how do you account for cases like Saul of Tarsus and Alma the Younger, in which an individual was clearly quite far off track in spiritual terms and yet experienced a full-scale apparition type of communication?

    Second, is an angel and/or the Lord always present when a spiritual communication is sent? Does the Holy Ghost never operate without the companionship of some other being? This is an implication of your point of view–because you argue that the only differentiation between full-scale visionary experiences and the more seemingly subjective, emotional kind is the recipient.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — July 28, 2005 @ 11:02 am

  30. If that is Geoff’s actual position then it seems to REALLY emphasize the recent absence of revelation, for it seems to place all the blame on the church leaders. While nobody denies that personal prepared-ness is a large factor in spiritual communications, I don’t think that we should put so many of our eggs in that basket. Are we really to believe that a 14 years old boy was more prepared than many of those who have spent their whole lives in God’s service? That theory, whether it is really Geoff’s position or not, seems a little extreme in my opinion.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 28, 2005 @ 12:59 pm

  31. Nice work RT. Yes, you did provide a reasonable summary of my position based on the comments I have made so far. Since we have made it this far I need to add some nuances to my position now.

    Broadcast side
    I think that on the broadcasting side of this equation the thing that is sent out is, for lack of better words, truth/intelligence/light. If we can imagine it, this can be sent out in large quantities or small quantities depending on the intent of the sender (presumably God but perhaps angels… The Holy Ghost is always the delivery method though. I posted on this some time ago too). So the sender can send a brief burst of intelligence or massive amounts or anywhere in between.

    Receiver side
    You have my take on the receiver side right I think. The quality of the “ears” of the receiver determines how much of this light and truth are comprehended. It is a matter of how “in tune” the receiver is to the broadcast. So if a high content message is sent to an out of tune person they may only glean feelings and hunches, whereas if the same high content message was sent to a well “tuned in” person, that person would receive and comprehend much more (or all) of the content.

    Forced feeds
    It seems that on occasion the Broadcaster (God) will in fact force feed a message through to an out of tune receiver (wicked people). The case of Saul is a very good example of this. The intelligence sent included the vision of an actual angel and the message he imparted to Saul/Paul. All in the group were part of this forced-feed vision but oddly some in the group received the visual portion and others only received (or at least processed) the audio portion of the intelligence being imparted. This indicates a couple of things to me: 1) It was not a physical event. 2) Saul/Paul probably was more in tune than his anti-Christian buddies. (Of course I am assuming that all in the group received the same broadcast, but I admittedly have no way of supporting that assumption.)

    Anyway, I’m glad you joined in, RT, because the conversation seemed to be bogging down and your insightful comments and questions are teasing out some important points. (Don’t be surprised if I recycle some of this for a post some time…)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 28, 2005 @ 1:04 pm

  32. But are you really maintaining that each and every signal that is sent out is intended to be a full blown visitation? I doubt you could actually be saying this since it calls into question the idea of God being in two places at the same time and this, in turn, would call into question the very embodied-ness of God. I assume that you grant that each signal has content which is designated to be delivered through different medium, be it 1-7. Either way, I don’t see what this perspective has to offer in response to my position.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 28, 2005 @ 2:16 pm

  33. Jeff,
    Regarding the signal content: re-read comment #31. Based on what I said in the “broadcast” section I can only assume you were skimming.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 28, 2005 @ 2:53 pm

  34. DOH!

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 28, 2005 @ 3:09 pm

  35. Okay, moving forward. I see Geoff and Jeffrey as offering somewhat different accounts of divine communication, with Jeffrey likely to emphasize different experiences as different in kind and Geoff likely to describe them as more essentially different in degree of recipient’s worthiness. However, Geoff also acknowledges that God can choose to send experiences with different degrees of intensity and different amounts of information. Starting from these somewhat different perspectives, let’s move to the question of revelation for the church since the early-to-mid 20th century.

    Everyone agrees that we’ve seen a sharp drop, since that point, in public claims by General Authorities to have experienced visions or explicit divine verbal messages. The next set of questions has to do with how we interpret this change.

    I’m going to list a set of different interpretations, many of which have a relatively illustrious heritage as far as appeals to authority go.

    1) We don’t need much revelation any more. Joseph Smith received most of the necessary doctrine and instruction; we’re just supposed to put it to work.

    2) Since we’ve now got the fulness of the gospel, all God needs to do is act to keep the gospel’s interpretation pure. That can be done through inspiration in callings.

    3) The members aren’t righteous enough to deserve more public revelation.

    4) We need new public revelation, we’re as righteous as several societies that have received public revelation in our sacred history, and yet we’re not getting it. This is very troubling.

    5) We both need and deserve new public revelation. The fact that we’re not receiving it suggests that our leaders are fallen prophets.

    This is not an exhaustive menu, but I think it at least approximately covers the prominent positions. Which of these options best represents each of your positions on this issue? Once again, I think this may be helpful in terms of sharpening the discussion. At the very least, it will help me get my mind around it.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — July 28, 2005 @ 4:03 pm

  36. 1) I disagree relatively strongly.
    2) Diagree VERY strongly.
    3) I disagree assuming that we are speaking both generally and comparatively. The church as a whole IS worthy enough when compared to the church of Joseph’s day.
    4) Bingo.
    5) I don’t find this very compelling at all. We nave no clue what church leaders as individuals receive. It’s the church in general that is definitely not receiving the revelation. Of course the leaders shouldn’t be completely absolved of any responsibility, but I think it is far more complicated than you have it written.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 28, 2005 @ 4:39 pm

  37. I vote RT as moderator of the Summer.

    1) Sorta, but not quite.
    2) Disagree
    3) Disagree
    4) Disagree
    5) Disagree

    I am not surprised to see Jeffrey’s answer. I want to explain why my take is not really on that list, though #1 does have parts of it. I do think we need revelation now, but I’m not convinced we need a lot of dramatic church-wide revelation. I think we needs a lot more dramatic personal revelation. The second half of #1 was basically right, though: Joseph Smith received most of the necessary doctrine and instruction; we’re just supposed to put it to work.

    Joseph did indeed do this. He always envisioned a very flat organization — one where all of the members received the same revelations and light and truth he received. Like the people of Israel in every age of the world, though, we want our prophets to be doing all the hard revelatory work for us. God wanted all of Israel to go into the mountain with Moses and receive all of the same revelations Moses received but the people wanted none of that. They barked orders at him just like Jeffrey has been barking orders at our prophets:

    If they claim to be a prophet I do ask them to act like prophets. Prophesy!

    So Moses and the Lord were left to mourn because Israel refused to become prophets themselves. They insisted on a hierarchy where the prophet was closer to god than they were. And so it is with us today. We refuse the notion of a flat organization and insist that our prophets be closer to God than we are. I have a friend that is constantly saying: “The sins of Israel are the same sins of Israel in every age and in every dispensation”. He is right.

    President Faust pointed out in a recent conference that while it would be virtually impossible to get an interview with President Hinckley, the President of our Church, we all have a constant and standing appointment with the Chairman and Owner — God. He does indeed want a flat organization.

    So I would amend #1 to say we need revelation as much as any others did at any time, and Joseph laid the foundation for us to get it. God is awaiting and ready for us to individually become just like Joseph. The stewards God has placed over His church since the foundation was laid are constantly trying to convince us to take advantage of the rights of being modern Israel, yet we seem bent on repeating the sins of ancient Israel and spurning our rights to revelation.

    As for whether our leaders are receiving visions I don’t know but I believe they are receiving all the revelation they need and want and seek. I feel fairly certain that they are sharing all of the visions they are authorized to share, too.

    I do think it is possible they are not asking for many visions anymore. Remember that God gives only what we ask for so in order to receive open visions and visitations these men need to be asking for them. They are products of our modern culture too so it is very possible that they are seeking and receiving the same quality and quantity of intelligence/light/truth that former prophets received but in formats that make them more comfortable based on their cultures. If the same amount of information/intelligence is transferred then the style or vehicle of the revelation is rather irrelevant.

    God and prophets are not going to conform to our barking orders on how they must receive revelation no matter how loudly we yap.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 28, 2005 @ 5:36 pm

  38. I’m in way over my head here, but I agree with Geoff in that there is ample evidence that Joseph strongly encouraged everyone around him to seek for revelation equal to his. The exceptions were when some like Hiram Page and William E. McLellin tried to overstep their bounds and receive revelation that they didn’t have the priesthood keys for.
    I wonder if those who saw angels at the Kirtland Temple dedication did so at least partly because they believed they could, or at least didn’t see it as impossible for a rank and file member to have that experience. So modern culture could conceivably have something to do with the perception of some that revelation is waning.

    The idea that we somehow need or deserve new public revelation is bewildering to me.

    Comment by C Jones — July 28, 2005 @ 6:34 pm

  39. OK I mean that I know we need continuing revelation, but the idea that we neediot on demand or on our own terms is confusing… Sorry

    Comment by C Jones — July 28, 2005 @ 6:36 pm

  40. Good comments again, C Jones. I appreciate them on a few level. First, I’m glad to hear someone else thinks these new ideas I’m formulating might have some merit. Second, it’s nice to know someone beside Jeff, RT, and me has read the exchange. I think it is one of the most fascinating debates we’ve ever had here at the Thang and there have been some pretty good ones in the past. It is a bummer that so few of us in the Mormon community seem even interested in discussing theology. (But that is a whine for another post I guess…)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 28, 2005 @ 8:07 pm

  41. Let me quickly sketch out an objection that I have to the last few posts. The historical record seems to indicate that Joseph Smith’s primary revelatory mode was to run into a question in life in some way and then seek revelation in response to that. Hence, we have sections in the Doctrine and Covenants talking about Shaker beliefs, about interpreting the Revelation of John, about various personal issues and callings, about geographical locations, and so forth. Joseph obviously felt comfortable initiating his revelatory experiences, and he rarely was disappointed.

    So, partly, there’s an issue of loaded word choice: do we “request” revelation or “demand” it? Obviously, there’s historical precedent for the idea that humans initiate the revelatory process–the difference here has to do with emotional tone. “Demand” just sounds like a disrespectful version of “request.” But in either case, Joseph at least believed that God wants us to be bold enough to ask for revelation. I think Jeffrey deserves the benefit of the doubt in this regard; I think there’s really nothing wrong with requesting revelation, whether for yourself or for others.

    Geoff’s comments raise an interesting issue. Should we be interested in replicating the sometimes-authoritarian position that locates revelation in the upper rooms of the Salt Lake temple, or should we be trying to become a nation of prophets? It is my feeling that the church leadership has long decided not to encourage us to become a nation of prophets. We have been told to avoid inquiring about issues that are not already part of our well-known gospel package. Furthermore, those who do inquire and, why not, seek revelation that illuminates still-obscure issues about God are asked not to discuss their ideas in public and, if they persist, they are sometimes asked to leave. (See how understated I can be?)

    Is it possible that this decision to work against the development of a nation of prophets is wise and reasonable? I think it’s just possible. Such a situation would probably create a certain amount of chaos and complicate some tasks the church has been set these days. At any rate, I think there’s a certain extent to which personal visions and even personal inspiration that contains novel doctrinal content is discouraged by the church leadership today; therefore, I find that aspect of your reasoning to be interesting and perhaps important, but certainly unusual in the modern church.

    Now, Geoff, a more serious concern with your position. You have stated that we’ve clearly seen a decrease in public visions-or-voices revelation claims as compared with the early years. Would you also agree that we have seen a dramatic decline, as compared with the same period, in the production of novel doctrinal content by the church leadership? I would argue that this decline is as much a matter of historical record as the decline in claims to have seen visions. Although some novel doctrinal content is offered by the leadership from time to time even today, it seems to me that this slow trickle really doesn’t compare with the cascades of doctrine that Joseph Smith offered throughout his adult life.

    So, the problem hits when we ask the following question: are there pending gospel issues, relevant to the entire community of the church, which are at least as important as those that Joseph Smith answered? In the Doctrine and Covenants, we have countless sections in which Joseph produced revelatory answers to quite minor, personal questions. Or another famous example: the Section 7 vision of John’s parchment, which came in response to a question from Joseph and Oliver about the profound gospel issue of whether John was still alive in the world today. In other words, this revelation, which was made public, involved issues that are almost completely unimportant to the community of the church–it is pure curiosity satisfaction.

    Are there pending issues at least as important as the question of whether John is still kicking around on Earth? That’s probably a yes. Hence, I have trouble accepting the claim that we don’t have pending collective issues and therefore that collective revelation isn’t needed.

    Let me give an example of a vital question where our teachings are unclear at best. What does exaltation offer for women? Do exalted women have a creative, or merely a subservient, role? These two questions arise from our current understanding of the central doctrines of the gospel, and there’s a vast lacuna in our understanding on these points. This is obviously of much more interest to most members of the church than the current location of John the Revelator! Would it be out of place for us to request collective answers to this collective question? But we’re taught that only the General Authorities can do collective revelation. So I suppose that this request for clarification can only be a request for them to receive revelation.

    Is there another way for the church to resolve these issues? Are we supposed to muddle on indefinitely with our current vague suppositions? (But that’s what the rest of Christianity has always done!) What, Geoff, do you see as the resolution to this point?

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — July 29, 2005 @ 5:04 am

  42. Jeffrey, something for you to consider, as well. In what I’ve seen of your discussion of this issue, you typically don’t offer a theory as to why public revelation claims have all but stopped. You lament this situation but you don’t really explain it–although you do argue against certain explanations.

    Let’s think about the possibilities. 1) Revelation isn’t needed. 2) Revelation is needed but we don’t have it. I know you believe in choice 2.

    So what are possible explanations for this lack? I see 3: 1) The General Authorities are not prophets. 2) The General Authorities have access to revelation but have decided to to ask for it. This seems prideful at best. 3) The General Authorities get lots of revelation but keep it to themselves because they don’t trust us for one reason or another. Do you see another option, or must the answer be one of these? If so, which? Thinking about reasonable answers to this question has to be a next step for you.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — July 29, 2005 @ 5:12 am

  43. Re: 37

    “I think we needs …” our PRECIOUS!!!

    Sorry about that. Some typos are just funny.

    Geoff,

    I definitely object to your reason for why there is no longer any public revelation. If the policy is that we are all supposed to receive revelation now, then shouldn’t our leaders set the example in this? The historical record would seem to indicate that the time when the membership in general did come closest to your ideal was during the time of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. How in the world would our prophets sharing their visions hinder us from receiving them ourselves? Joseph always spoke of his revelations and then added that they were open for everybody to experience as well. Why can’t they do that now? The Kirkland temple was perhaps the best example of this principle in action.

    I should also point out the problem with Brigham Young. He claimed lots of revelations, though very few visions. John Taylor wrote down about ten revelations which he received. George Q. Cannon testified in conference that he had seen Christ. We should also mention Joseph F. Smith’s vision. Clearly Joseph didn’t receive all the revelation. Revelation was a rather common thing throughout all of the 19th century, so we can’t really use the “Joseph did it all” excuse.

    Besides, isn’t this excuse simply saying that we really don’t have continual revelation? It sounds an awful lot like “we have enough and need no more.” “Wo unto him who shall say that” say the scriptures.

    “barking out orders”

    C’mon Geoff. I’m not ordering anybody or “demanding” anything of them. There is a real problem in this issue of our leaders receiving revelation and it has a lot to do with our common misunderstanding that being a prophet is a priesthood office. It isn’t. Prophecy is a spiritual gift, not a position. This has a lot to do with your notion of a nation of prophets, as RT called it. Anybody can be a prophet over their proper jurisdiction. That’s why I don’t want to be a leader of any kind, you have to seek revelation for other people taking away from the revelation that I really want for myself. But we don’t sustain the bishop as a prophet for the ward. How can I in good conscience sustain a person who has not offered any revelation at all as a prophet regardless of his priesthood position? This is a potential threadjack, so you don’t really have to respond to this in this post. It might actually be better if you didn’t.

    C Jones,

    I don’t think that we “deserve” revelation any more, or any less for that matter, than did the Saints of Joseph’s day. But if we say that they did deserve it in any way, then I suggest that we too deserve in that exact same way. I think that we do “need” revelation if we are to claim that we are guided by revelation to any degree above that of other churches. Do we really want to claim that we don’t “need” revelation, because that is what other churches have claimed for 2,000 years now.

    RT,

    You are forcing my hand on issues which I have scrupulously tried to avoid. As soon as I start giving exact reasons for why our leaders aren’t giving revelations the feathers are bound to fly in a rage of emotion. I think answering your question is actually avoiding the subject at hand and will only tend to polarize the discussion even more.

    That said, I will answer your question the best I can by saying I don’t know. I have no clue what happens in the private lives of our leaders so I can’t really say whether they receive revelation or not. I suspect that most of them don’t (#1), but I know that there are some who do (#3), for instance Pres. Faust claiming to have gone beyond faith by seeing Jesus.

    Thus I think that just as some bishops are more prophetic than others, I think some apostles are more so than others as well. I think suspect that there is some embarrassment on the subject judging by the careful equivocations which are constantly being commited by some when this subject comes up. I wouldn’t mind if they only received #1-4 if only they were honest about it not receiving #5-7 is such is the case. They still have inspiration and the priesthood. This is nothing to be ashamed of and is more than enough reason to follow them. However trying to stretch #1-4 to cover 5-7 as well simply looks rather fishy at best.

    In my paper I did point out that both inspiration and revelation have their strong points:

    “Inspiration, however, due to its lack of content, tends to confirm the status quo, wherein it is used to confirm past decisions and doctrines. This provides several things which revelation does not. First it provides a sense of stability and security. Second, it allows for new members to “catch-up” to the revelations, which were given in the past. Finally, it makes the institution seem less strange. The result is that the church grows numerically speaking. But there is a difference between our seeking inspiration to help the church grow numerically, and the church’s seeking revelation to help us grow spiritually. It is possible to be too safe. It is possible to be too stagnant…

    “I do believe that God may communicate with the church now as frequently as he has always done, but it seems to principally be through inspiration rather than revelation. As I have said, this can be very useful, allowing growth for the church, easier management, less cost in continually revising manuals and causing a lot less stress overall.”

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 29, 2005 @ 9:15 am

  44. Jeffrey,

    I think that you need to find a sharper way of conveying your lack of a position on why vision and prophecy claims aren’t as frequent. I think that a lot of the resistance of Geoff and others to your ideas comes from the fact that you seem to be offering a rather sharp criticism of the hierarchy. Some may even read the extreme position that the leaders are actually fallen into your silence on this point.

    Once you start this discussion, the causal question is implied. When you resist claims that “we,” that is, the members, are to blame for the lack of public vision claims, etc., the implied alternative seems to be blaming the leaders and the church. If you don’t affirmatively believe this, then I think your position becomes much less provocative than it might otherwise seem.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — July 29, 2005 @ 10:10 am

  45. My position, however, is that I have no position. I think it unfair to apply one reason across all leaders. I guess I figured that my silence on this matter would have been interpreted the way it sounded, namely that I’m not saying any thing at all on the matter because it is a separate issue entirely.

    I do think that they hold the priesthood which they claim to hold. I do think that they are inspired, and thus are directed by God. I do think that at least some of them do receive visions. Thus, they are not on trial in any significant way at all.

    Nevertheless, the church as a whole is not receiving any accounts of visions and visitations like we should. Quite frankily, I have no idea what the ultimate reason for this is, nor do I think that I have to have one in order to defend the ideas which I have defended.

    RT,

    If that sounded sharp, it was because you asked me to. I wasn’t directing such language at you as much as at those who don’t seem to understand my position as well as you do.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 29, 2005 @ 10:21 am

  46. Ha!

    Of course you have a postion, Jeff. You can’t un-ring that bell. You feel that our current prophets are not properly acting like prophets and you insist they repent and do so. You have said as much both here and at your site.

    Lest you accuse me of making things up, here are a couple of particularly telling comments you made here:

    I don’t buy this very popular excuse for a second. How does our church leaders keeping quiet help us develop more faith? … I don’t consider the prophet different than myself, but I do ask him to be a prophet. Act like one! Prophesy! I don’t want a sign to prove anything to me other than that I should call you a prophet. Every other prophet in the scriptures has obliged his followers with such.

    Your attempts to separate your position on this from the subject of whether revelations are being received now or not are in vain because they are two ends of the same stick. You cannot pick up one end without picking up the other. Your position on the has been made very clear.

    Now if you would like to recant, I will fully support you. However, RT is absolutely right to ask what you propose as a solution to the perceived problem. So far your only solution seems to be that prophets need to repent and meet your requirements. That is a position that is mostly dangerous to you I suspect, because there are gobs of apostates that started with that opinion.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 29, 2005 @ 11:31 am

  47. Jeffrey,

    No worries. In fact, I would encourage you to always incorporate language like this into your discussions of this stuff. While not directly relevant to your central worries, statements like this:

    I do think that they hold the priesthood which they claim to hold. I do think that they are inspired, and thus are directed by God. I do think that at least some of them do receive visions. Thus, they are not on trial in any significant way at all.

    will probably open some doors for you. As long as people are clear– because you’ve said so in this way–that this is a sympathetic, in-house discussion among leaders, I think you can reach people who otherwise might not listen.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — July 29, 2005 @ 11:33 am

  48. Please read “believers” for “leaders” in my previous sentence. Typo.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — July 29, 2005 @ 11:34 am

  49. Geoff,

    Having been nominated moderator, I’m going to ask you to moderate your position here. We have to let Jeffrey define his own position; if he doesn’t want to claim any strong stance on why we aren’t getting claims of prophecy, it’s not fair for us to throw our interpretations of his stray remarks back at him in an attempt to guess his true beliefs.

    I read the remark you’re quoting as an expression of frustration at the lack of new public prophecy, not necessarily as an accusation of sinfulness against the hierarchy. Jeffrey above rejected the idea that the church leadership has become fallen prophets; I think it’s only fair to read his other remarks in light of that statement.

    Also, the implication that Jeffrey is on the road to apostacy strikes me as unhelpful. While it makes for good message-board drama, such ad hominem material doesn’t really serve the purposes of advancing understanding.

    You and Jeffrey have divergent positions on the nature of revelation. Furthermore, you have a difference of opinion with respect to whether new public prophecy would be good for the church today. These are both interesting issues, but I don’t think they are the kind of differences in opinion that should lead us to break fellowship, do you?

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — July 29, 2005 @ 11:44 am

  50. Goeff,

    You comments would be fairly incriminating had I not insisted that the calling of our church leaders is not to be a prophet. Being a prophet is not a calling or an office. It is a gift. Thus when I say that our priesthood leaders are not acting like prophets the resonse should be “It’s sad, but not that big of a deal really.” Thus my comments can be taken two ways: 1) our prophets are frauds or 2) our rightful priesthood leaders aren’t very prophetic. My position is #2 not #1. My position is that we separate (not fully but to a far greater degree than we have traditionally done) the gift of prophecy from the office of president of the priesthood.

    I don’t think that their lack of public revelation has much, if anything to do with personal worthiness. Therefore I don’t think that they need to repent at all. I’m merely trying to say that the church leaders aren’t being very prophetic anymore and I don’t know why but it’s sad nonetheless. I would like to see more, but since I don’t know the reason for it, I’m not sure what path to take.

    That is my position. Isn’t it great how a little bit of the right kind of information can clear up apparent contradictions?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 29, 2005 @ 12:04 pm

  51. This moderator thing is awesome!

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 29, 2005 @ 12:06 pm

  52. RT,

    Excellent analysis and questions (#41). I will try to respond.

    First, I agree with your assessment of how Joseph got his revelations — he had a question, he asked God, he got an answer. My assertion is that Joseph was not acting as exemplar for future prophets alone but for all future saints. My beef with the approach Jeff is taking is that rather than turning to God to get his own personal answers as Joseph would have wanted he is complaining that the leader of the church is not doing that work for him. Jeff’s approach is counter-productive on all sorts of levels — it deifies prophets too much, it absolves members of their own responsibilities to get revelation, and in so doing it presents a serious obstacle to our own efforts to achieve eternal life. Remember that Life Eternal is to know God, not to hear about him from some church leader.

    So yes, I think the only solution to this gripe is for us to become a nation of prophets. That requires us actually repenting rather than calling for the repentance of leaders.

    It is my feeling that the church leadership has long decided not to encourage us to become a nation of prophets.

    Unfortunately, I think that there have been some leaders that have indeed done this. If they did discourage seeking personal revelation of the mysteries of God I think they were wrong to do so. I do think that there is justification to point to Alma 12:9 though. We should learn all the mysteries of God — the scriptures make it clear that we are tasked to do so — But we are only authorized to teach as doctrine the things that God lets us teach, and most importantly, to those who we have been given stewardship over. This is the good application of the “blabbermouth” doctrine (though there are over-applications of that idea too).

    are there pending gospel issues, relevant to the entire community of the church, which are at least as important as those that Joseph Smith answered?

    Yes, probably. But as I said, if Joseph was partly assigned to be our revelatory exemplar then he gave us all the tools to follow his footsteps. Keeping all revelation at the head of the church does very little to give me “Life Eternal”. I need to personally know God myself and that requires real dialogue with him.

    Let me give an example of a vital question where our teachings are unclear at best. What does exaltation offer for women? Do exalted women have a creative, or merely a subservient, role?

    That is a great question. Joseph provided you with the authority, gifts, tools, and even instructions on how to get your answer — have at it! Perhaps some Saints know answers from God on that question already, but Alma 12:9 explains why it remains part of the hidden knowledge.

    As you can see, I think the responsibility for mighty revelations lies in our own laps. And that is the way I like it anyway. I can only repent for one person on this planet after all.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 29, 2005 @ 12:07 pm

  53. “My beef with the approach Jeff is taking is that rather than turning to God to get his own personal answers as Joseph would have wanted he is complaining that the leader of the church is not doing that work for him. Jeff’s approach is counter-productive on all sorts of levels-it deifies prophets too much, it absolves members of their own responsibilities to get revelation, and in so doing it presents a serious obstacle to our own efforts to achieve eternal life. Remember that Life Eternal is to know God, not to hear about him from some church leader.”

    I agree with everything which is said here except when it claims that it is what I am claiming. I too would like to see a nation of prophets, and I feel that the best way to get the ball rolling in that direction is for us, starting by definition with our leaders, to start talking about our revelations. Such behavior would be highly contagious. I think this is why some have pulled back from this policy, since too much contagion can quickly breed chaos.

    I think that the doctrines which are most keeping us from seeking revelation for ourselves are:

    1) our church leaders do receive lots of revelation, but keep it to themselves.
    2) we don’t need revelation.
    3) promptings are just as good as revelations.

    I don’t think that Geoff has really pushed for any of these specific doctrines, but he has come VERY, VERY close. Thus I interpret his doctrines as being the biggest obstacles which stand in the way of achieving the goal which he himself sets out.

    Goeff, that quote of yours seems to be intentionally misunderstanding me on so many levels:

    a) You would be the first to ever accuse me of deifying prophets on any level.
    b) I would refuse to let the leaders do my work for me, even if they asked to.
    c) This is because I refuse to hand over my agency and responsibility to another man, even if that man be God.

    You should know me well enough by now to know where I stand on issues such as these.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 29, 2005 @ 12:39 pm

  54. Sorry that my #46 came off as so inflammatory. I have great respect for Jeff. I suspect in my brotherly love I accidentally started being as blunt with him as I might with my own blood brothers…

    Anyway, I did find the comments I quoted highly offensive and in fact it was that comment that spurred this series of posts. Until then I mostly ignored the concepts Jeffrey has been preaching all over the Bloggernacle as eccentric ideas that served to spark controversy and conversation. After that comment I decided to put some effort into addressing what I believe to be simply false notions of how things are and how they should be.

    I should mention that when I said “repent” in my comment I meant it to be completely synonomous with “change”. There is no question that Jeffrey has been calling for our top leaders to change their approach.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 29, 2005 @ 12:41 pm

  55. Jeff,

    If you are indeed mostly worried about your own revelations why do you even care what revelations the First Presidency or 12 or anyone else gets? Why is your paper not all about the problems Jeffrey Giliam is having receiving revelations? If they don’t share their revelations does that somehow make it impossible for you to get your own? I assume you are deifying the role of our prophets because your position very much seems to be complaining about their lack of revelations instead of your own lack of revelations. That is evidence to me that you assume getting revelations is more their responsibility than it is yours — is this not correct? If it is wrong then why are you even talking about them at all?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 29, 2005 @ 12:50 pm

  56. “I suspect in my brotherly love I accidentally started being as blunt with him as I might with my own blood brothers…”

    I’m telling Mom! ;-)

    It’s true, I would like there to be a change, if only to undo the change which has obviously occurred. I do think that the days of visions and visitations was a better one for the church.

    On my mission when we taught a guy that we have a prophet today named Gordon B. Hinckley he responded by asking what he has revealed. We answered that he has really emphasized the temple and has started building more. He pointed out that that is simply a decision and that every church experiences things like that. He asked if there were any revelations which I could read to him or accounts of visions like those found in the Bible. With a certain amount of shame I had to confess that I didn’t. He then asked when the last vision was. I showed him section 138, which is pretty good we’ll all admit. He noted that it was over 80 years old. He then asked if that meant that we were in apostasy. Of course I said no, but when asked to justify how we weren’t in apostasy, all the reasons I used he then tried to use them to defend the Catholic church. I must admit, I got my butt kicked that day.

    I really do think that the church has the priesthood and is led by inspiration. However I simply don’t have any reason to believe that the church has been led by what I have called revelation in the past 80 years or so. I would like to believe it, but that isn’t a very good reason for doing so is it?

    Thus I am running around the bloggernacle saying what seem to be “eccentric ideas that served to spark contoversy and conversation” in search of a good response to the questions put to me that day on my mission. If a good reason was given, I really would be willing to accept it, but until then I feel that I am doing everybody in the church a favor by saying what we are all thinking inside in the clearest way I can. I feel that its only when we acknowledge these things, which we try so hard to avoid due to the apparently unavoidable consequences, with absolute honesty that we will as a church begin to progress towards Geoff’s vision of a nation of prophets. Until then I predict that we will continue to settle for inspiration.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 29, 2005 @ 12:54 pm

  57. “If you are indeed mostly worried about your own revelations why do you even care what revelations the First Presidency or 12 or anyone else gets?”

    Because I am a part of this church and I care about it.

    “Why is your paper not all about the problems Jeffrey Giliam is having receiving revelations?”

    Because that is an entirely different matter altogether. I know the reasons for my lack of revelation and these reasons effect only me, not the entire church.

    “If they don’t share their revelations does that somehow make it impossible for you to get your own?”

    No, I never claimed it and never believed it.

    “I assume you are deifying the role of our prophets because your position very much seems to be complaining about their lack of revelations instead of your own lack of revelations.”

    It’s not. Like I said, that’s a whole other issue which is an ongoing discussion between God and I since we are the only ones involved.

    “That is evidence to me that you assume getting revelations is more their responsibility than it is yours-is this not correct?”

    I don’t think that they have anymore responsibility to get revelations for themselves than I do. But I do believe that they have a lot more responsibility to get revelation for the church, especially if they are going to accept being called prophets, seers and revelators. But again, the distinction which I draw between office and gift should always be kept in mind.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 29, 2005 @ 1:00 pm

  58. I for one appreciate the clarification that RT quotes in #47. I can see that my assumptions were shading my understanding of some positions. I feel fortunate to listen in on both sides of this discussion. Although Geoff’s position is much closer to my own, I have learned so much from Jeffrey, if only as a way for me to define more clearly what I really believe and why. In fact, I wrote a list of my own revelatory experiences as a result of his list. They don’t fit quite so neatly into his categories, and I differ with his analysis of the importance of each kind, but it was still a blessing to write them down.

    Comment by C Jones — July 29, 2005 @ 1:08 pm

  59. CJ,

    Would you consider sharing your list with us? I for one would really like to see it. Then again if such is too personal for you I could understand. My list was never meant to be very specific or exhaustive, only generalities which people could get the gasp of what I mean when I say inspiration and revelation.

    In fact, I have a post which will be coming out soon next week on how translation relates to and/or supports my ideas.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 29, 2005 @ 1:14 pm

  60. Thanks for retelling that mission story at the root of your quest, Jeffrey. That helps explain a few things.

    I think that RT was right in asking you to move on to the next steps in this process — 1) Figure out why the perceived problem is happening, and 2) Suggest solutions to solve the perceived problems.

    —————–

    As an aside, I discovered as I entered my professional career that employers and bosses are never pleased with someone who brings them problems but no proposed solutions. Church leaders are the same. They will often respond with worn out but nevertheless apt clichés like “brings me solutions, not problems”. I think it is incumbent on you now, as someone who openly says “I am a part of this church and I care about it”, to seek solutions to this problem you see.

    Of course if you see the only solution being that the FP and 12 must change then you are in a little trouble.

    —————-

    Anyway, I have some proposed solutions that I am working on and I’ll try to briefly recap them here.

    I believe the problem is with largely with incorrect expectations, not with modern Church leaders. Here are the two main false assumptions I think we are dealing with:

    a) The idea that all prophets and leaders of the Church bring forth new doctrine or prophesy of future events in great detail is a fallacy. Very few of the prophets in our scriptures did either of those. In fact, one of the primary criticisms against the Book of Mormon is that it does not teach new doctrines (despite being comprised of the most important teaching of dozens of prophets.) If anything, the sermons in the Book of Mormon could be most closely compared to sermons we hear from our prophets now. They take scriptures and expound upon them to teach proper principles to their flocks.

    It is true that Joseph restored additional doctrines, but that the records seem to show the prophets that open dispensations always do this while their successors have different roles.(Adam, Abraham, Moses, etc.)

    b) Focusing too much on the means instead of the end of revelation. What is the purpose of revelation anyway? The purpose is to transfer truth from Heaven to earth. I believe that your list of seven only exacerbates the fallacy that the means of revelation is more important than the end. If we quantified the content of revelation as, say, a Gigabyte of truth/intelligence (in keeping with the bandwidth analogy) then the only thing that matters is the entire Gigabyte of truth makes it to the prophet/recipient. The method by which it is transferred is really irrelevant (vision, visitation, pure knowledge to the mind, etc.). Now you have placed a huge premium on seeing and hearing, but modern experience does not support this assumption at all. Courts all across the land have discovered that eye-witness testimony is anything but the most reliable source of truth when trying crimes and lots of innocent people have gone to jail on eyewitness testimony only to have DNA evidence exonerate them later. I would compare pouring pure knowledge into the mind of a prophet to be the equivalent of DNA testing in courts. Even when angels do appear they are accompanied to this pure knowledge aspect anyway, so the angel part is largely superfluous.

    Plus, we get what we ask for. I know I am not interested in seeing an angel. It doesn’t fit my culture. I would prefer the pure knowledge alone. But I know others who do are of different cultural backgrounds and have who have told of seeing angels. We get what we ask for and want. And since I think all angelic visitations are “visions” anyway that makes perfect sense to me.

    So my take is that our prophets are receiving as much revelation as any non-dispensation-opening prophets have in the history of our planet. They may not receive as much through the medium of visions, but if so it is probably because they do not ask to or want to receive the intelligence from that medium and God honors their requests. Nevertheless, the same amount and quality of information is received. They use that revelation to guide their inspired sermons and programs – just like all prophets in the BoM did.

    When it comes to this missionary experience you told, the problem is that the investigator assumed all of the fallacies listed above. With those false assumptions one is painted into a very uncomfortable (though incorrect) corner.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 29, 2005 @ 2:05 pm

  61. Before addressing #60 I should also mention that leader not publishing their revelations actually takes responsibility out of my hands by not letting me examine the revelation myself and decide for myself what it means. This is the opposite of what you claimed.

    Total honesty with ourselves and eachother would help out an awful lot in this aspect. No more excuses like the ones which we’ve already covered.

    Now #60,

    a) I think that the solution is for all of us to wake up and realize the situation we are in. Recognizition of the problem is, I feel, the main part of the solution to that problem. Otherwise the complacency which currently reigns will only thicken. Remember, it was Joseph’s refusal to accept the complacency which he saw around him that led him to revelations.

    With regards to your first “fallacy” I will rephrase it differently. “The idea that prophets prophecy is a fallacy.” Wrong. A prophet is defined as somebody who does prophecy whether it be about the future, past or present. I should also point out that Joseph most original material came at the very end of his life, well after the church was up and running. In fact, he specifically claimed in some of his sermons that he woudl preach new stuff to prove that he was a prophet. Wouldn’t we like anything approaching that attitude today? I sure would. It should also be pointed out that Brigham instituted just as much new doctrine as did Joseph and he wasn’t starting a dispensation.

    Personally, I think that “dispensation” excuse is pretty weak. It only seem that the prophets who start new dispensations give more revelation because we define a dispensation around a prophet that gives lots of new revelation. There is no correlation beyond that.

    b) Your example here works very strongly against you. The reason why DNA is so important in court trials is because it is totally objective and verifiable. Inspiration is the exact opposite of that for it is totally subjective and utterly non-verifiable. The equivalent of spiritual DNA testing would be Joseph passing around a set of gold plates for the 8 witnesses to see. Interpretation is still needed to render the experience meaningful, but then again so does DNA.

    This is exactly why the mean IS important. The means by which revelation is received determines how much interpretation will be necessary and how reliable its contents will be. The contents are absolutely worthless unless we establish how reliable they are, and the means is intimately involved in that process.

    The purpose of revelation is not only to bring truth from heaven to me, but to bring me to heaven as well. The second comforter, the more sure word of prophecy and the oath and covenant cannot be received by inspiration. Such experiences, it would seem, relay little information from heaven to me, but this doesn’t make them any less important.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 29, 2005 @ 2:36 pm

  62. Jeffrey: I should also mention that leader not publishing their revelations actually takes responsibility out of my hands by not letting me examine the revelation myself and decide for myself what it means. This is the opposite of what you claimed.

    Could you elaborate more on this — I am confused. What is the opposite of what I claimed? What responsibilities are you absolved of?

    Total honesty with ourselves and each other would help out an awful lot in this aspect. No more excuses like the ones which we’ve already covered.

    Ok, so what is your solution? You say “Recognizition of the problem is, I feel, the main part of the solution to that problem” but this is inaccurate. That is like saying recognizing you have cancer is the main solution to cancer. No, it is not. Getting treatment is the main solution. Is the only “treatment” in your mind that our prophets must change (aka repent)? Or is there another solution which is actually within your and my influence? Are you just sniping at our prophets or do you have a solution about how to help us all?

    Personally, I think that “dispensation” excuse is pretty weak.

    It is one thing to say this but quite another to support it. Show me the prophesies most of the Book of Mormon prophets made. Some (like Nephi) made very specific ones but many made none. Most prophesies were things like “Jesus is going to visit our people in the not-too-distant future”. That is exactly the kind of prophesies we get today. Stop showing how today’s prophets are different than the mighty dispensation-opening Joseph and start showing how they are different than non-dispensation-opening prophets. Then I’ll be impressed.

    Inspiration is the exact opposite of that for it is totally subjective and utterly non-verifiable.

    I disagree. Revelation is always verifiable. One only needs to go to the same source and ask the same questions. Just as one needs knowledge of DNA testing to verify or duplicate results, one also needs knowledge of revelation to verify revelation. And people (should) only join the Church after receiving personal revelation according to Moroni’s instructions. Therefore, all Mormons are (or should be) equipped to verify revelations.

    Regarding “Inspiration” being insufficient — I obviously reject your inspiration/revelation difference. It is all revelation and all truth. The only difference is in how much we can download and understand.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 29, 2005 @ 3:11 pm

  63. 1) You said that my asking prophets to publish their revelations was a way of my trying to avoid the responsibilities which I have regarding a search for truth and the like. I say that their not publishing their revelations for my inspection is what takes the responsibility out of my hands.

    2) Not receiving revelation is not like have a disease. It’s more like finding out that we haven’t been eating enough vegetables. When we find this out we will cease to be so complacent with the amount of vegetables we have here to for eaten and will hunger for more. If this isn’t a big part of that solution I don’t know what is. But as long as we keep insisting that we already do have enough vegetables we will simply not do anything.

    I think what needs to happen is that our entire culture, leaders included, need to recognize that we haven’t been eating enough vegetables. Thus the entire Mormon culture will collectively strive for more frequent and “higher” revelations. The effort needs to be there and without the recognition of the problem the effort simply won’t be there.

    3) Here you are equivocating on the definition of prophet. If we define prophet as “church leader” then sure there are lots which didn’t offer any revelations. But those are irrelevant to the situation at hand.

    If we define prophet as “social critic” then they don’t even have to be members, let alone church leaders.

    If we define prophet as somebody who receives revelation (the only definition that counts in this discussion) then they had better have received revelation.

    Many authors of the scriptures kind of slide from one definition to another, sometimes to suit their own purpose and other times out of a lack of being meticulous.

    The fact is that the church had been lead by many “prophets” which didn’t receive any revelation, but were mere authorities. This isn’t new or all that bad. But bad things do seem to happen when extended amounts of time past without revelation. To prove this would require the scriptures to be far more detailed than they actually are, but it is based on a sound interpretation of them and Mormon doctrine.

    “”Jesus is going to visit our people in the not-too-distant future”. That is exactly the kind of prophesies we get today.” Where? Who says this, other than those who are merely parroting what other prophets received by revelation?

    4) You haven’t addressed the main point: the it is totally introspective and subjective. Emotions and hunches aren’t admitted at all in court. Eye witnesses are very persuasive assuming that they pass certain criterion such as a) independent attestation, b) contextual credibility and c) dissimilarity. And in order to evaluate these things, an accurate account must be given. Witnesses don’t get to go up and simply say “I believe he did it based on what I personally feel but can’t share.”

    Thus the evidence that is best is those which are the least introspective and least subjective. This could be DNA testing or a bloody towel. Do you honestly believe that my lower forms of inspiration are just as good of evidence as my higher forms of revelation? You can believe it if you want, but don’t think for a second that bring earthly examples of trials into the discussion is going to help you one bit on this matter. DNA testing is not like emotions and hunches in any way at all.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 29, 2005 @ 3:46 pm

  64. Ok, so things are as I have thought all along then? Your “solution” is that “we” all need to get more revelation in the manner you wish “us” to get it. But of course you are not really talking about yourself in the “us” as you clearly point out in #57 because receiving your own revelation or not “is an entirely different matter altogether.” Therefore, the “us” in question is really the men we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators?

    There is only one part of “we” that I am responsible for and that is the “me” part (and to a lesser degree those over whom I have been given stewardship). The same applies to all of us. Again I must ask: Is the only solution in your mind that our prophets must change? Or is there another solution which is actually within your and my influence? What can I do to solve this problem?

    you are equivocating on the definition of prophet

    I don’t think so. I think I am utilizing the most common definition of prophets. Show me the prophesies in the Book of Mormon that are substantially different in nature than those we have received in the last 50 years. Most BoM prophets prophesy of distant visits by Christ to earth. That is what we get in every general conference now. Your snarky comment that prophets now “merely parrot” older prophesies reveals a lot about your true feelings and reveals the fact that you are ignoring that the same thing is true for all Book of Mormon prophesies about the coming of Christ (Adam was the first to make such a prophesy after all — I guess that means all succeeding prophets were “merely parroting” him…).

    You haven’t addressed the main point: the it is totally introspective and subjective.

    I have been addressing that point throughout this series. We simply fundamentally disagree on this. I think that though revelations happen through non-mortal methods they are nevertheless filled with real knowledge sent from real outside sources and they are completely verifiable to those willing to follow Moroni’s promise. They remain unverifiable to those unwilling to follow Moroni’s directions. This is of course in keeping with the teachings of Jesus. His sheep — and only his sheep — hear his voice. Goats can’t hear it.

    Many of your other questions seem to be ignoring the answers I have been repeatedly giving you. My answers haven’t changed. Lower and higher revelations are entirely functions of the amount of truth/intelligence transferred, not the means by which they are received.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 29, 2005 @ 4:32 pm

  65. Geoff, I do think you’re using the post-1960 definition of prophet here as any high church leader. Who in the Book of Mormon is a prophet? For example, was Moroni a prophet? If “prophet” is defined as “high church leader,” then the answer is yes. But “prophet” doesn’t necessarily mean this.

    Until the 1960s, Mormons never referred to the church leader with the title “prophet,” which was reserved for Joseph Smith. They were typically–but not always–sustained with this title at General Conference, but the term “prophet” was reserved for the one church leader who had produced large amounts of prophecy and other texts of putatively supernatural origin.

    If we use the earlier definition of “prophet” then, by definition, there are no Book of Mormon prophets who didn’t produce public claims of revelation. Instead, there are Book of Mormon church leaders who weren’t simultaneously prophets.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — July 30, 2005 @ 7:41 am

  66. I am fine with using a more refined definition of BoM prophets if you would like. Whether someone thinks that the Sons of Mosiah were prophets or Alma, or the Helamans, or whoever seems fairly irrelevant to my challenge. My question remains: What BoM prophets (let’s exclude Nephi since I already noted him) made prophesies that are substantially different in content than the type of prophesies we have received from our prophets/presidents in the last 50 years?

    It seems to me that the BoM history shows many centuries with church management done in a very similar way to what we have seen since Joseph (the the opener of the last dispensation)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 30, 2005 @ 8:22 am

  67. Geoff,

    In the Book of Mormon, we had prophets who provided specific predictions about Jesus–although this was mostly Nephi and unfortunately duplicates information found in the New Testament. But Alma added information about the spirit world. And Samuel of course specified a specific year for the birth of Christ.

    Have we received prophecies with this level of detail in the last 50 years? I’m not sure. In fact, it’s arguable that we haven’t received any prophecies at all in that period–or at least any that we care to remember. (McConkie spoke at least once about the inevitable nuclear apocalypse between the US and the Soviet Union.) Other than policy statements and moral exhoratations–neither of which require prophetic gifts–are there prophecies from the recent period to compare with those of the Book of Mormon?

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — July 30, 2005 @ 1:07 pm

  68. Those examples are pretty good ones to look at, RT.

    a) Nephi’s prophesies about Jesus were certainly nothing particularly new when you consider he had the plates of brass and records of Isaiah to draw from. To me they do not seem truly substantially different than the regular teaching we receive about the Second Coming nowadays.

    b) The doctrinal teaching from Alma about the spirit world (I assume you mean Alma 40) are indeed new revelations, but he only revealed that to his close family members so it is in a different category. We have no idea what teachings the leaders of our church have been privately revealing to close associates in the last 50 years. We do know that President Snow revealed his personal interview with Christ to family members though, so it is no stretch to assume there is much more we don’t know.

    c) Samuel’s 5 year warning is something that we will only be able to compare after the Lord appears. If the Second Coming happens and we are not given warning just prior to it maybe we can complain… But then again the scriptures seem to indicate that might be God’s will anyway (thief in the night and all).

    Comment by Geoff J — July 30, 2005 @ 4:34 pm

  69. Geoff, Nephi also gave a 600-year warning of Jesus’ birth, no? His teachings about the virgin birth are definitely sharper and more explicit than anything Isaiah had to say–and were based on an explicit, publicly-described vision. The revelation of the name “Jesus Christ” (by Nephi or Jacob?) and Nephi’s explicit description of John the Baptist also go beyond mere explication of the scriptures. The equivalent would be for our current leaders to describe an elaborate symbolic vision that includes an announcement of the names of the as-yet-unborn prophets who will preach in the streets of Jerusalem right before the Second Coming.

    It’s not at all clear that Alma never discussed that teaching; it somehow got onto the records, didn’t it?

    Lorenzo Snow, of course, also had a number of uncanonized revelations that he discussed in public.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — July 31, 2005 @ 11:16 am

  70. No, the “us” is the LDS culture in general, our leaders being just as much products of that culture as you or I. Once the culture in general recognizes the distinction between inspiration and revelation, they will embrace the “quest for revelation.” Once the culture has embraced this quest, revelation will not become as scarse and the leaders which are choosen from among this culture will also be more “prophetic.” No more no less.

    “Or is there another solution which is actually within your and my influence? What can I do to solve this problem?”

    Yes there is. I can preach the difference between inspiration and revelation thus serving as a catalyst for this change. I can “wake” people up to what is going on. You too can do this.

    I guess I keep asking these questions over and over because I simply can’t accept that you really believe what I understand to be your position. Most of your answers seem to be side stepping the issue, that’s all. I think your calling an experience which nobody on this earth can verify in any meaningful way because it involved a totally inward experience “non-subjective” is absolutely wrong in every way. True, people can through a communication of their own attempt to verify the content of what you have drawn from that experience but verification of that actual experience is absolutely impossible.

    RT in #65 AMEN Brotha! Preach on!

    Geoff,

    Here are some BoM examples: King Benjamin’s account of the angel, Abinadi, Alma the younger’s revelations in chapters 40-42, his being translated, pretty much all of 3rd Nephi and any other place where somebody said “thus saith the lord…”

    The point isn’t “who is called a prophet and who ins’t.” The point is, who was prophetic and displayed the gift of prophecy and who didn’t. Our leaders today simply aren’t displaying this gift, regardless of what we call them.

    “It seems to me that the BoM history shows many centuries with church management done in a very similar way to what we have seen since Joseph (the the opener of the last dispensation).”

    This is true, but do we really want to hold those times out as an example for us to follow? Nibley pointed out that whenever they got rich and vain, revelation stopped. Might there be a parellel here with us? I should also point out that using the BoM as a ecclesiastical history is not going to yeild very accurate results. We know next to nothing about church management, and the existence of other churches. In fact, some have noticed that the BoM seems to be working with a concept of priesthood authority very different indeed from what we are accustomed to. Now we can either agree with this analysis, or say that the record in vastly incomplete. Either way we can’t use the BoM as an illustration of the way things should be.

    To say that Nephi didn’t preach about Christ’s coming well beyond anything found in the OT is to go directly against what the church materials have been teaching for ages. He went well beyond any thing which Isaiah said. The entire second half of 2nd Nephi is one prediction. Or consider Moroni’s “I speak unto you as if you were here, for Jesus has shown you to me..”

    Clearly Alma’s revelations went further than his immediate family. The fact that we have his teaching should be enough to prove that. I should also mention that chapter 40 is the best chapter I have ever read when it comes to prophets being totally honest about which parts of their teachings originate in revelation versus what comes from themselves.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 1, 2005 @ 9:37 am

  71. If you just saw a flash, it was the lightbulb over my head going off when I finally got an idea of where Jeffrey is coming from :) I even agree with him that our own materialism might be part of the perceived problem, at least in our not recognizing revelation when it does come. One problem that I see with the idea that our prophets aren’t prophecying enough is how do you define enough. Revelations per dispensation? Per decade? Per month? Who gets to specify such a thing?

    I read Jeffrey R. Holland’s “Prophets, Seers, and Revelators ” (Ensign, Nov. 2004, p. 6) over the weekend, and at least in my very modest opinion he seems to support Geoff’s idea that Joseph Smith was the great prophet of this dispensation, that the Apostles are designated (as in the time of Christ) “for the watchcare of His people and the witnessing of his name.” Also that the President of the Church is the man authorized to exercise the administrative keys for the church.
    This also comes to mind in explaining the role of prophets and apostles, and our own ability to become Geoff’s nation of prophets – ” God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye the Lord; for all shall know Him (who remain) from the least to the greatest.” Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 149

    Thus, everything is in place, and when God has something to say to man, there is one on the earth with the keys to receive it. (To my mind, this is an example of such a message- “We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”)

    Comment by C Jones — August 1, 2005 @ 10:42 am

  72. I thought I had proofread more carefully this time…
    It should read- Also that the President of the Church is the man authorized to exercise the administrative and prophetic keys for the church.

    Sorry again!

    Comment by C Jones — August 1, 2005 @ 10:46 am

  73. “One problem that I see with the idea that our prophets aren’t prophecying enough is how do you define enough.”

    I think my problem is that they don’t seem to be prophecying at all. One prophecy per decade might be considered a trough in the overall spirituality of the church, but even that wouldn’t be near as bad as the extinction which some are starting to observe.

    “The Apostles are designated (as in the time of Christ) “for the watchcare of His people and the witnessing of his name.” Also that the President of the Church is the man authorized to exercise the administrative keys for the church.”

    I strongly agree with these definitions, however we must admit that these are not what defines a prophet. They define priesthood offices very well, but not spiritual gifts at all.

    Personally, I almost long for the days when “the prophet” referred to Joseph Smith instead of the current Pres. of the church. I think a lot of the confusion I have been describing could have been avoided by such. The man who really kept the distinction alive was J. Reuben Clark, but upon his death things changed very rapidly.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 1, 2005 @ 10:53 am

  74. There is a lot to respond to here so I’ll deal with everything but the BoM comparisons here.

    C Jones: I read Jeffrey R. Holland’s “Prophets, Seers, and Revelators” (Ensign, Nov. 2004, p. 6)

    Great pull once again. Those with the keys and authority to explain what is happening with the Church now are doing so. It appears that God wants the church to remain the proper platform for members to know God, not just know about him.

    Jeffrey: Once the culture in general recognizes the distinction between inspiration and revelation, they will embrace the “quest for revelation.”

    As you know, my position is that the only difference is in degree of intelligence transferred from heaven. I reject your assumptions on this.

    I can preach the difference between inspiration and revelation thus serving as a catalyst for this change. I can “wake” people up to what is going on. You too can do this.

    You are certainly free to choose to preach such doctrines. My question is why should anyone believe your preaching? It appears to be contrary to what modern apostles are preaching (see Holland talk above). In addition, you readily admit that you have never received any revelation (as you define it) so how on earth do you know it even exists in the form you define it? As this post illustrates, I believe that it is likely that all revelation comes in some variation on the “vision” theme, rather than with any physicality involved and that the medium by which the intelligence from heaven is received is largely the result of the culture and desired medium of the recipient. I am vigorously opposing your position because it seems to me that going around preaching that current church leaders don’t receive enough revelation is incorrect at best. At worst it seems naive, presumptuous, and arrogant all at the same time.

    True, people can through a communication of their own attempt to verify the content of what you have drawn from that experience but verification of that actual experience is absolutely impossible.

    Even if your assumptions about “revelation” were correct, how would they ever be verified except through further revelation? Surely you are not implying that someone could trick God and catch a physical angelic visit on video tape or something.

    I think my problem is that they don’t seem to be prophecying at all…

    Ok, so you have problems with the current leaders of the church. Are you certain that God agrees with you? Have you received revelation that God has problems with the way the church is being run? If not then how exactly do you think this “preaching” you have been doing is helping God out? The history of the world is full of people that opposed and criticized God’s servants and thought they were doing Him a favor after all.

    It would be nice if the entire problem was with the definition of a prophet, but that certainly has not been the apparent intent of the preaching so far. Even if it was, it seems to be a trivial thing to campaign for. In addition, it is a hopeless case because we sustain the leaders of the church as prophets, seers, and revelators because they hold the same keys Joseph held. If God has less prophesy to give them for the whole church it is not their fault is it?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2005 @ 3:07 pm

  75. Regarding comparing the current prophet/leader of the church with BoM prophets –

    I am tempted to argue the finer points of the translation of the name “Jesus Christ” or how Alma’s private conversation with his son eventually made its way into public record, but I suspect it is all moot. The intent of my bringing the comparison with BoM prophets up was to show that our current leaders are not deficient in their prophetic calling or unusual in the style of their leadership of the true church. Of course this is all a workaround to asking the only important question: Are current prophets doing what God wants them to do or not? If they are doing just what God wants them to do for us then they are 100% correct in their behavior. If God is dissatisfied with their performance then they need to repent. What is the only way to know the answer to this question? — We need to ask God his opinion and get a clear answer.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2005 @ 3:27 pm

  76. “As you know, my position is that the only difference is in degree of intelligence transferred from heaven. I reject your assumptions on this.”

    You are only dodging the question. Let me rephrase it: “Once the culture in general recognizes the distinction between the lower forms of intelligence and the higher forms which we no longer hear anything about, they will embrace the “quest for the higher forms.”” I should also mention that I was answering YOUR question. Who cares whether you accept the assumptions or not?

    “My question is why should anyone believe your preaching?”

    Because it is true. That was the reaons you gave me wasn’t it? The difference between your giving me that answer and my giving it to you is that mine is not only true, but actually has objective evidence to back it up. Nobody is saying “thus saith the lord…”, “I heard..” or “I saw..” anymore. This is not opinion. It is a verifiable fact which all must acknowledge.

    “how on earth do you know it even exists in the form you define it?”

    Because you read about it all over the scriptures and I’ve felt inspired to believe that they are telling the truth. Do you think they were lying? Again, the “out of body” response accomplishes nothing, so don’t repeat it here.

    “current church leaders don’t receive enough revelation”

    When have I ever declared that they don’t receive enough revelation? I’ve said that they don’t talk about it anymore, but that’s as far as I’ve been willing to say with any amount of confidence. You keep assuming that I’m going further than I am and this is motivating your irrational and emotional responses.

    “how would they ever be verified except through further revelation?”

    Easy, passing around gold plates, letting everybody comes forward to touch his hands and feet, More than one person independently testifying of the same thing, etc. I should also mention that you were the one who brought in the court analogy, not me. I’m the one who is claiming that even revelation, as I have defined it, is still somewhat subjective, but far less so than emotions and hunches. I shouldn’t have to defend things which I’m not saying.

    “Are you certain that God agrees with you?”

    Yes. Like I said, its a verifiable fact, not mere opinion.

    “Have you received revelation that God has problems with the way the church is being run?”

    No but many other prophets have claimed that when revelation ceases its a bad thing. So revelation has been given on the subject, simply not through me. Besides, you are again bordering on holding me accountable for things I did not say. When did I ever claim that God definitely has problems with church leadership, or even that I have definite problems with it? I would prefer more revelation, and I’m worried by the silence, but I’ve never gone much further than that.

    “If not then how exactly do you think this “preaching” you have been doing is helping God out?”

    Contrary to what some may say, I believe that a reality check is pretty much always healthy. I fail to see how my motivating people to seek higher forms of revelation is not helping God.

    “The history of the world is full of people that opposed and criticized God’s servants and thought they were doing Him a favor after all.”

    And most of the time I believe that they were. Of course here you are again throwing me in a camp which I do not belong. How have I come out in open opposition and criticism on any church leaders? By stating the fact that they don’t prophecy anymore? Was that ever a secret?

    “our current leaders are not deficient in their prophetic calling or unusual in the style of their leadership of the true church.”

    Again, being prophetic is not a calling. It is a gift which is separate from the issue of whether they are authorized or doing good things which their responsibilities. I’ve never thought any thing less of them. But let’s not give them credit for things which they aren’t even willing to claim for themselves.

    “Are current prophets doing what God wants them to do or not?”

    I think they are doing a good job. There is always room for improvement, but I don’t think that I could do any better.

    “If they are doing just what God wants them to do for us then they are 100% correct in their behavior.”

    Since when are things ever so black and white? 100% sounds like infallibility to me. In fact, that is the very definition of it isn’t it?

    “If God is dissatisfied with their performance then they need to repent.”

    Of course he is to a certain extent and of course they do to a certain extent. Even they admit that.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 1, 2005 @ 4:45 pm

  77. We appear to be speaking past each other at this point, Jeff. I must admit that I did not understand most of your replies in #76. It seems pretty clear that you did not understand what I was saying in much of #75 either.

    I can say that you are right that I should not have implied that you specifically said current leader are not receiving revelations. You have clarified that it is the fact that they are not publishing prophesies that is making you nervous.

    It seems to me that your examples of Gold Plates or the resurrected Lord appearing have nothing to do with current prophets and their prophesies — those things must be revealed to us by God. “Revealed to us by God” is the definition of revelation so your argument there made no sense to me. Perhaps you are insisting that our leaders should have such experiences, tell you about it, and then let you get a prompting to believe it? If so, why be satisfied with a second hand account? Why not get the revelation yourself?

    If in fact your intent is to motivate “people to seek higher forms of revelation” then all of our debating has been in vain because that is what I am trying to accomplish too.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2005 @ 5:17 pm

  78. “According to the Law of Witnesses found many places in scripture and taught by Ezra Taft Benson, Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie, all truth must be established “in the mouth of two or three witnesses.” (D&C 6: 28) As I understand these scriptures and the teachings of the modern prophets, it means that one man’s personal revelation is not enough to establish the truth of any matter. It must be confirmed by the same revelation given through other legitimate sources. This is why it won’t wash when an overheated RM tells a BYU co-ed that the Lord has revealed to him that she is to be his wife. She has to receive the revelation too, or the “revelation” is bogus. This is also why overheated religious nuts in the Church cannot establish doctrine leading others off to fundamentalist cults or the worship of Heavenly Mother.”

    This quote from John (at the “Nation of Prophets” thread) is rather damaging it would seem to your account of spiritual visions and the like. Visions, Sounds and Palpable objects can be experienced by more than one person at the same time. If all this is really happening “inside” each individual person then we really can’t be too sure that they really did see or hear the same thing at all.

    Gook Ol’ Bruce R. M. said: “Those who saw and handled and hefted and examined the plates of Mormon, for instance, may bear witness in words of soberness that they actually exist. Indeed, such witnesses are sent to bear testimony so that others shall be left without excuse when they stand before the bar of the Judge of all the earth.”

    If revelations are not as physical as they sound then there is an awful big excuse left for people to appeal to, namely that it was all imaginary, inside their heads. Whether this be true or not is not the point.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 1, 2005 @ 5:29 pm

  79. “”Revealed to us by God” is the definition of revelation so your argument there made no sense to me.”

    It made perfect sense to you. You have shown that you more or less understand my argument and paper fairly well, but your refusal to engage it on its own terms seems to betray an underlying fear. I am personally comfortable enough in the belief that our leaders are authorized and do receive inspiration but for some reason do not reveal anything any more. You seem absolutely petrified by this thought.

    When revelation stops, it is bad. Plain and simple. Moroni says “if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased, and awful is the state of man.”

    Nephi says:

    24 Therefore, wo be unto him that is at aease• in Zion!
    25 Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well!…
    27 Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we aneed• no more!…
    29 Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we aneed• bno• more of the word of God, for we have enough!
    30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon aprecept•, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn bwisdom•; for unto him that creceiveth• I will give dmore•; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

    And again Joseph said:

    10 And again, verily I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your aminds what those bgifts• are, that are given unto the church.
    11 For all have not every agift• given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
    12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.
    13 To some it is given by the aHoly Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
    14 To others it is given to abelieve• on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.

    Here is Paul:

    8 For to one is agiven• by the bSpirit• the cword• of dwisdom; to another the word of eknowledge• by the same Spirit;
    9 To another afaith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of bhealing by the same Spirit;
    10 To another the working of amiracles; to another bprophecy; to another cdiscerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of dtongues:
    11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
    12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ…
    14 For the body is not one member, but many.
    15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
    16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
    17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
    18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him…
    27 Now ye are the body of aChrist, and bmembers in particular.
    28 And God hath set some in the church, first aapostles, secondarily bprophets, thirdly cteachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, dgovernments, diversities of tongues.
    29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of amiracles?
    30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
    31 But acovet• earnestly the best bgifts: and yet shew I unto you a more cexcellent• way.

    Not all have the spirit of prophecy. What are they supposed to do? I apparently don’t have that gift. What am I to do? Where are the words which I am supposed to believe on? Why is nobody prophecying in order to benefit the church as a whole?

    Why can’t we have new material to discuss openly in church? Surely we can’t do this with personal revelation, only official revelation. Your position makes me ask, why should I be a part of the church at all, if it is all upon myself to receive revelation? Why do I need leaders at all?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 1, 2005 @ 5:47 pm

  80. I suspect you may need to re-read my position on the plates. I have said in at least three places that the plates were indeed physical. (See comments #12, #15, and #20) That fact has nothing to do with the visions I am referring to here.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2005 @ 5:53 pm

  81. True, you have said that, but you continue to incorporate them into your theory. If they were physical why wouldn’t other things be physical as well? You ask for examples of actual physical, multiple witness revelations given in the past which we don’t receive anymore and when I give them to you they don’t count for some reason.

    I think I need to wait for RT to come back. As you can tell I’m getting a little riled up. >:-l

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 1, 2005 @ 5:59 pm

  82. Well, I simply think that in general heavenly visitors appear in visions and earthly artifacts are physically buried in the earth for digging up in the future.

    RT is indeed a good moderator but I think we can make it through this without getting too riled up if he doesn’t come around soon. I got some ideas from your #79 that might help us understand one another better (if only this were a section 50 scenario… ;-) )

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2005 @ 6:14 pm

  83. You have shown that you more or less understand my argument and paper fairly well, but your refusal to engage it on its own terms seems to betray an underlying fear… You seem absolutely petrified by this thought.

    Hehe. You are misreading my motivations but it is amusing to see what you think they are. In that particular comment I wasn’t (and still am not) sure exactly what you were referring too. I assure you it is not because I am “petrified” that your theory is correct.

    I must say that your last set of questions are excellent and thought provoking, though. However they would fit better in the other thread so I will respond there to reduce the topic-overlap a little.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 1, 2005 @ 8:15 pm

  84. Geoff,

    I appreciate this post and the dialogue that has followed it. I echo the scriptures: “whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth” in my own understanding of these things. I am usually one of the first or only people in a group to point out that Joseph Smith’s First Vision was described as a Vision, and has become increasingly physical in understanding and presentation as the years have passed. I think it is good to keep an open mind on this subject. Anchoring your faith, or even resting it too strongly on the idea that it was a tangible personal visitation in the flesh (or any other potentially false idea) is a recipe for spiritual disaster.

    Yes, all spirit is matter, but this only means the vision was created in the mind through an ultimately physical process.

    Comment by Jeff Day — July 31, 2006 @ 12:50 pm

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