Friday, July 21, 2017

Special Witnesses of Jesus Christ, and Doubt


            A few years ago, I learned of a newer blog on a fairly prominent LDS-oriented website that was seeking authors to make occasional contributions. The purpose was to defend the Church, using logic and reason, against the critics ill-conceived charges. (Parenthetically I will state here that my experience is that most critics don’t really know LDS doctrine or history.) I offered my services and they were accepted—until the editing and pre-publication/posting process began. That is when I learned that the blog would not be as straightforward and direct as I had assumed it would be; further, the site's ultimate owners meant to exercise strong censorship control over all content.

            When I write, I say what needs to be said even if that points out flaws or errors or falsehoods in a prominent LDS academic’s publicly-shared reasoning. It seems this site wasn’t ready for that and feared they would lose readership. So as fast as I was accepted I was dropped with none of my pieces being posted there. At first I was annoyed with the hypocrisy, but as time passed I found that the site didn’t achieve the popularity and wider audience it had sought, so the whole experience really became little more to me than a learning experience.

            Then last year I wrote another book, this one being on the subject of Special Witnesses of Jesus Christ. As I researched and studied the lives and teachings of a strong sampling of these Apostolic special witnesses, I realized that I had found marvelous support for the main thesis of some of the pieces I had prepared for that other website: that “doubt” is just plain bad, with no redeeming value whatever. I found that these apostles believed and taught, without exception, that doubt is the enemy. (Not necessarily doubters, but doubt itself.) I constantly ran into quotations from the apostles on the subject of doubt, all used in a negative sense. The apostles teach and engender faith in Jesus and His gospel, not doubt—and that is just how it is, without exception. They do not cease to love or help those struggling with doubt to believe, but they also do not coddle or entertain doubt themselves. When they are called they are charged to purge all doubt from themselves until they have acquired a special witness (see D&C 107:23). This witness is a sure knowledge of the reality that Jesus lives today as a resurrected being that guides His Church. There is no doubt to be found in their pure, revealed, knowledge. That is why their testimonies are so valuable and powerful.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

President George Q. Cannon as a Special Witness of Jesus


            Although President George Q. Cannon is better known today than some others that I have written chapters about, such as George F. Richards and Melvin J. Ballard, memory of him within the Church has still largely faded. (These chapters are all found in my forthcoming book, I Know He lives: How 13 Special Witnesses came to Know Jesus Christ.)

            One current project now underway, and supposedly nearing completion, that will help to broaden knowledge of who he was and what he did, is the publication of the diaries of George Q. Cannon by the Church Historian’s Press of the Church History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This project, which has been underway for years, is finally nearing the online posting of the most interesting portions of his life: when he became a member of the First Presidency of the Church. I have drawn on these diaries, where appropriate, for information for Cannon’s chapter in my book, I Know He Lives: How 13 Special Witnesses came to Know Jesus Christ. The problem is that my book has had to go forward with printing and binding (in order to be released in September of 2017), before the final installments of the diaries have been made available to the public.

            For over a century, President Cannon’s diaries remained in the First Presidency’s vault, where they received little to no attention and became an item spoken of (by a few) in hushed tones, with regret that they were not available for study. Then not too many years ago, they were transferred to the custody of the Church History Department, which also received permission to publish them in cooperation with President Cannon’s descendants. (For further information, see here and here.) I am informed that the publication team hopes to finish making all of the diaries available online by the end of July. This means that if there is anything in the diaries that Cannon wrote about his special witness, beyond what I have already found and included in my chapter, it will not be able to be included in time. Perhaps I can write an update someday, if such is necessary, on another blog on Cannon for this website.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Elder David B. Haight as a special witness of Jesus


            One of the most loved and highly regarded Apostles of the last generation was Elder David B. Haight, who died in 2004, only 13 years ago. I was thrilled as I researched his special witness and wrote a chapter about it in my forthcoming book, I Know He Lives: How 13 Special Witnesses came to Know Jesus Christ. In his day, he spoke of some rare and humbling blessings of spiritual knowledge he had been given.

            In my opinion, one of the reasons that Elder Haight is so fondly remembered is because in his last years, which people now remember best, he was too blind to read a teleprompter. This forced him to speak extemporaneously in his talks—especially his General Conference Addresses. He would stand and begin reminiscing before the Church, telling stories of his past life, talking of former beloved associates such as LeGrand Richards, or sharing his witness, based on being personally present, of the 1978 revelation on the priesthood.

            On at least four occasions I know of, two by him and one each by others, his marvelous visionary experience of seeing the Lord Jesus and the important events of his earthly ministry, was shared or noted publicly. This event, along with another powerful experience received at the time of his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, qualified him to be a special witness of Jesus.
All of these sacred steps of his life are recounted in as much detail as is possible in his chapter in my book. As he neared the twilight years of his very long and productive and influential life, he could bear testimony with great power, benefiting many.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

President Harold B. Lee as a Special Witness of Jesus


            The below information serves as an introduction of sorts to a full and detailed chapter about President Lee’s special witness of Jesus as found in my forthcoming (September) book, I Know He Lives: How 13 Special Witnesses came to Know Jesus Christ.

            President Harold B. Lee only served as President of the Church for a year and a half before he unexpectedly passed away right after Christmas in 1972. He did, however, spend a long and productive ministerial term as an Apostle. In my researches, I have found it interesting that a number of younger apostles, men who became his protégés, always spoke of him with the highest regard.

            Later leaders like Boyd K. Packer, Marion G. Romney, Bruce R. McConkie, and others of the Twelve referred to their mentor with the highest esteem and regard. They spoke of him as one of the greatest teachers of this dispensation. They also spoke of him as a prophet and seer possessing the Holy Spirit in great measure. Further, President Lee seemed to recognize that one could teach by sharing spiritual experiences without necessarily casting pearls before swine. He was not of the school of thought that nothing sacred could ever be shared with others; in fact, he constantly did so as a means of strengthening the faith of others and bearing testimony that God is active in the lives of those who want Him to be.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Elder Melvin J. Ballard as a Special Witness of Jesus


            This brief review of the life and testimony of Elder Melvin J. Ballard (1873-1939) serves to introduce a more thorough and detailed chapter about him and his special witness of Jesus Christ as found in my forthcoming book (due out in September), I Know He Lives: How 13 Special Witnesses came to Know Jesus Christ. Elder Ballard is one of those witnesses.

            Although Elder Melvin J. Ballard is not known to most Church members today, in his day he was known to the Church as great preacher and spiritual giant in the Church. In my opinion, he might be thought of today as something of a cross between President Gordon B. Hinckley and Elder Bruce R. McConkie, because he taught powerful doctrine with clear explanation and force.

            Though brought up as a farmer, he educated himself with some higher learning, and then magnified his talents while serving missions for the Church. He eventually developed a reputation as a great singer and preacher, both useful gifts in missionary work. He spent most of his adult life on missions, both in the East of the United States, in the Northwestern States, in South and Central America, and as an Apostle.  

Possessing great faith and Spirituality, he received many visions and revelations and performed many miracles, such as healing the sick and bringing wayward souls back to the fold. While serving as a mission president, and working with new members in a native American tribe, he sought the Lord in mighty faith for help and answers regarding how to solve some problems that had arisen. One night he received a powerful and extended dream in which he was introduced to and embraced the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. This experience helped to qualify him to become a special witness of Jesus Christ. Because he spoke of it on several occasions, giving one degree or another of detail, we suppose he was given permission by the Spirit to do so. One of his hearers that was unusually impacted by the power of his testimony of seeing the Son of God was a young Marion G. Romney, who thereafter resolved to go on a mission.

Friday, May 26, 2017

President George F. Richards as a Special Witness of Jesus


            Most latter-day saints today do not know who George F. Richards was. Some of the older generation will remember his son LeGrand Richards, who served as the Presiding Bishop of the Church and also as an Apostle, but died in the 1980s. LeGrand’s father George was a spiritual giant that we might compare to President Boyd K. Packer today. President Richards was a member of a very prominent Mormon family that generationally seemed to possess the gift to dream inspired dreams—and George perhaps stood at the forefront.

            George was the son of Franklin D. Richards, most famous today for having compiled the material that became the Pearl of Great Price, which he did as president of the European Mission. He himself had a dream in which he saw himself conversing with President Brigham Young. In the dream, President Young called him to be an Apostle, and this was fulfilled soon thereafter. This family saw three generations of Richards’s called to the Quorum, with Stephen L. also among that number, and a later Franklin D. being called as an Assistant to the Twelve. Their family proved a great strength to the Church.

            President Richards began his service as a leader in the church as a stake president in Tooele, Utah, a small town west of Salt Lake City. From there he was called to the Twelve, where he served long and faithfully, eventually passing away in 1950 as the Quorum President. His Quorum associates felt he possessed an abundant measure of the Spirit of the Lord.

            Not long before his call to the Twelve, Stake President George F. Richards received a powerful dream, in which he saw the Savior Jesus Christ and felt the overpowering presence of the Holy Ghost as he came to a new understanding of love for His Lord. Along with this dream, he also received one with Hitler in it, in which he was taught that an Apostle must be able to love all mankind, even the worst and most heinous of God’s children.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

President Marion G. Romney as a Special Witness of Jesus


            The below information serves as an introduction to a much more complete chapter about President Marion G. Romney’s special witness of Jesus Christ, found in my forthcoming book, I Know He Lives: How 13 Special Witnesses came to Know Jesus Christ. Brother Romney was a mighty pillar among the Twelve Apostles of his day (30 years ago plus).

            As a boy I used to listen to Elder Marion G. Romney give talks in General Conference. They seemed less than compelling to my immature mind. By the time I was old enough to really pay attention and understand his messages, he was too old to give them. He spent his last few years largely blind and suffering memory loss.

            After some years passed, I came to recognize what a spiritual and doctrinal giant he was. I read his fine biography and talked with some mentors who had come to know and love him before I was born. Some of them spoke of him as an Apostle’s Apostle; I have found that they were right.

            Marion Romney’s first real awakening to spiritual matters came as he listened to Elder Melvin J. Ballard (grandfather of M. Russell Ballard), testify in a meeting of having seen and embraced the resurrected Savior Jesus Christ in the Holy Temple. This powerful narration electrified him so much that he decided to do whatever it took to serve a mission. He soon thereafter did so, laboring in Australia, where he had another precious and remarkable spiritual experience, firmly cementing his testimony and spiritual roots.