|The Steadfast Church ....||Bob Moore|
For nearly one thousand years after the fall of Rome, Western Civilization remained shrouded in the Dark Ages. Trade, industry, exploration, discovery, and education essentially stopped. The Roman Church defined and controlled every aspect of European life. Independent thinkers, especially those deemed critical of doctrinal decrees or papal power, were denounced and sometimes executed. A new light broke forth in the Reformation, but it offered more freedom for monarchs to resist the papacy than for believers to pursue righteousness. The unholy alliance between church and state continued to persecute those wanting to worship God according to their own dictates, seek a purified church, or build up the holy kingdom.
The discovery and subsequent settlement of America provided refuge from European persecution. Thousands fled to the New World. It not only offered protection from tyrants, but it fostered freedom of conscience. Those who were anxious to create a government built upon the teachings of Jesus found opportunity here. While their efforts were not without risk or difficulty, for they suffered hunger, disease, hardships, and war, they received divine aid and encouragement. When drought threatened their crops, God provided rain. When enemies jeopardized their liberty, God delivered their armies. When confusion endangered their unity, God enlightened their deliberations. Under his wings they became an independent nation whose Constitution guaranteed divine rights and whose government embodied Christian principles. America promised to be the land where people could seek righteousness, serve God, purity the church, and build up the holy kingdom.
The creation of the United States liberated its citizens from political servitude, but it did not liberate them from spiritual darkness. The manmade creeds that began sprouting during the Dark Ages and which multiplied during the Reformation confused the Christian world. People debated how to perform the ordinances and which of them were necessary. They disagreed about the next life, the return of the Savior, his millennial reign, the way to salvation, the authority of the scriptures, the existence of spiritual gifts, and the proper doctrine of Christ. Believers had the freedom to seek the purified church as Jesus originally built it, but they lacked the knowledge to do so. Every effort to obtain a perfect system proved vain.
The Angel Message
In the midst of this confusion, when none knew how to purify the church or regain the original, a voice spoke from heaven. Like the sun whose first rays pierce the night and bring the dawn, angels sent from God penetrated human ignorance and restored the church of Jesus Christ The apostasy with its accompanying disorientation ended in a burst of divine light Joseph Smith, when only fourteen, wanted to know which church he should join. He secluded himself in a grove and prayed. God appeared to him and told him to join no church, for they all taught the doctrines and commandments of men. At a later date, an angel revealed the existence of a book, called the Book of Mormon, written centuries before by prophets living on the American Continent, which book contained the fullness of the gospel. Not only did the Book of Mormon reveal the Savior's teachings about many tenants that were then under dispute, but it explained the purpose God has for this land. It is the place for the holy city, Zion, and the site on which the temporal promises anciently made to Abraham will be fulfilled. While Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey were translating the Book of Mormon, John the Baptist appeared to them. He restored the priesthood and authorized them to baptize believers for the remission of sins. These angelic visitations and a multitude of other divine manifestations accompanied the restoration of the church of Jesus Christ It was established again on earth in its pristine purity so that by preaching the gospel both the faithful and the descendants of Israel could be gathered, cleansed, and prepared for citizenship in the holy kingdom.
The restored church had the same structure as the original church Jesus built when he was personally on earth. It observed the same . ordinances, carried the same divine authority, exercised the same spiritual gifts, preached the same gospel, believed the same tenants, practiced the same economics, expressed the same love, endured similar persecutions, and received the same enlightenment Thousands who had hoped and prayed for the appearance of a purified church flocked into its fellowship. In fourteen short years the church grew from six members to more than 200,000.
Its rapid growth gathered some disobedient people into the church. Not everyone submitting to its ordinances was anxious to follow every commandment of God. Joseph Smith wrote that some were attracted to the church because they had heard that the saints held all things common, including their wives.1 Their evil appetite motivated their interest As Jesus had predicted (Matt 13:48), the preaching of the gospel gathered both good and bad. Hypocrites entered the church. God warned that such hypocrites would be detected and cut off (D&C 50:3). Elsewhere, he called them adulteresses and adulterers, who if they did not repent, would be revealed as such in front of the entire world (D&C 63:4b-c).
Unfortunately, few heeded God's admonition. The wicked desires in a few corrupted the work until their Zionic effort in Jackson County was filled with quarreling and haggling. God punished them by allowing their enemies to drive them out of the land. Their subsequent colonies in Caldwell and Davies Counties suffered the same end. Finally, the saints were officially expelled from Missouri. While they gathered at Nauvoo, they failed to repent. Their sorrows had not taught them to obey God in all things. When commanded to build his house, they completed the Masonic Temple instead. The false doctrines of celestial marriage and polygamy expanded, eventually showing the world who the adulteresses and adulterers God had previously condemned were. Enemies murdered Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum. The church broke into twenty-two factions.
After the disorganization of the church, dedicated priesthood who were anxious to spread the gospel and shepherd the saints continued to minister. God blessed their efforts. He promised them that Joseph III, the son the late prophet had dedicated to be his successor, would become their leader, and later authorized them to reorganize the church. Under divine direction, they called apostles and reordered the quorums. Because polygamy was practiced in almost all other factions, they published a pamphlet, as directed by the Spirit, denouncing it. They sent out elders to notify the scattered saints that young Joseph would soon take his father's place. They also contacted missions abandoned at the disorganization of the church. The gospel began to be preached again at home and abroad. On April 6, 1860, thirty years after the organization of the church, Joseph III returned to lead the Reorganization.
With his kind and prophetic leadership, Brother Joseph gathered many saints who had been scattered during the dark and cloudy day. Independent branches tenaciously holding to the original teachings of the church, like that at Brush Creek, as well as individual believers, joined the Reorganization. The number of missionaries increased and the church grew. It began to recover from its brush with apostasy. God had promised that a remnant from the original church would return to the lands from which the saints had been expelled (D&C 100:3a). Slowly, steadily, members began returning to Independence and the surrounding countryside. They built the Stone Church, moved church headquarters to Independence, reestablished the Order of Enoch, constructed the Sanitarium, built the Herald Publishing House, erected the Auditorium, and founded Resthaven. Meanwhile, they rescued old missions and organized new ones to advance of the latter-day gospel throughout the world. The Reorganization not only appeared in practice to be the continuation of the original church, but two courts, one in Ohio and the other in Missouri, proclaimed it so.
Although the Reorganization continued the divine commission deposited within the Restoration and returned the church to the land of Zion, disputes began to divide it. Some preferred a more liberal interpretation as they tried to minister to a changing world. Others demanded a more conservative approach as they tried to protect the gospel from doubt and indifference. The debate escalated, miring branches and even districts and stakes in the controversy. Finally, in 1984, the church officially adopted procedures that separated the two groups. The Reorganization began to fragment. Some delighted in the changes. Others endured them to follow the prophet. Some lost faith in the Restoration and joined different denominations or quit attending church altogether. Others continued to meet in their local branches even when those branches were officially closed by church leaders. Some organized their own branches. Others incorporated their own churches, ordaining prophets, apostles, bishops, evangelists, high priests and seventy. Disputes continued. To date, every effort to unite the saints has only increased division.
God had forewarned the church that divisions would occur within it. The Inspired Version says, "There must be also divisions among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest" (1 Corinthians 11:19). The fragmentation of the Reorganization has divided the saints. They do not enjoy one fellowship. They worship in different congregations, follow different prophets, respect different priesthood, and observe different ordinances. They no longer work together to build up the kingdom of God or evangelize the world. Their divisions bewilder the saints. Where, they ask, in the midst of this confusion is the place where the approved are manifest?
Division in the church excuses no one from his saintly duties. Neither false teachings nor wayward leaders can overturn righteousness. Paul said, "Rulers are not a terror to good works" (Romans 13:3). Abraham was not excused by wickedness in Ur. Elijah was not dismissed because Israel served Baal. Paul obeyed at the cost of his life. Moroni remained steadfast after the Lamanites prevailed. The covenant made in the waters of baptism remains in effect even when believers are distressed. Each saint is obligated to live righteously. Solomon said, "If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small" (Proverbs 24:10). Difficulties deter the faithless, not the faithful. The disbelief of others does not excuse lack of faith among the saints. Paul wrote, "If some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?" (Romans 3:3). Despite the confusion abounding within the Reorganization, each member must remain obedient to Christ. He must endure. Jesus said, "He that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:19). He went on to explain, "He that remaineth steadfast, and is not overcome, the same shall be saved" (Matthew 24:11).
Enduring saints discharge their saintly duties even when times are difficult. They keep their personal conduct impeccable: that is, they pray continually, study the scriptures, practice virtue, learn contentment, resist temptation, and deny unnecessary wants. They also minister to others. They invite to Christ, teach the gospel, bear the burdens of others, visit the sick, relieve the poor, shelter the widow and the orphan, and feed the hungry. Besides these duties, they warn their neighbors of God's judgments on wickedness by explaining the consequences of sin, revealing God's punishment for sinners, separating from sinful conditions, and fleeing worldliness. These duties are difficult, maybe impossible, to meet without periodically gathering with the faithful to receive their support and ask the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance. Enduring saints must depend on fellow believers to encourage them to remain steadfast in both discipline and hope. They follow the apostle's advice to not forsake "the assembling of ourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25). They obey the commandment to meet together often with the saints in communion (D&C 17:22a).
Carnal attractions press against every believer. They clamor for attention, partly because Satan tempts every person and partly because the world glorifies their fulfillment. No one can withstand their enticements alone. All need the fellowship of believers, but their assistance is for more reasons than merely resisting temptation. The Savior not only calls to piety and holiness, but he requires his disciples to share his gospel with others. Believers need a church to which they can invite others and in which the saving ordinances can cleanse and prepare the repentant. Even those managing to convince themselves that they can endure without the church cannot on their own invite others to Christ and baptize converts into his discipline. The church is the mother of the faithful and the regenerator of the redeemed. Those outside her cannot meet all their obligations to God. Their steadfastness depends on their fellowship with the Holy Ghost as it communes within the assembly of the saints. The importance of the church in helping each saint endure only amplifies the question-which assembly ought the steadfast attend?
Obligation to Leaders
The fragmentation of the church has not only separated the saints from each other, but it has severed some from its leaders. The scriptures clearly require the faithful to honor the priesthood. God commanded, "Thou shalt not revile against God, nor curse the ruler of thy people" (Exodus 22:28). He told Moses, "The man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die" (Deuteronomy 17:12). Those promising submission to God must show it by submitting to his officers. Those resisting his representatives resist him. When Israel refused Samuel's counsel, God told him, "They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them" (I Samuel 8:7). Jesus repeated these same sentiments when he told his disciples, "He that heareth you, heareth me_ and he that despiseth you, despiseth me" (Luke 10:17). Latter-day revelation promised the elders, "Whoso receiveth you receiveth me" (D&C 83:16a). How people receive God's messenger shows how they receive God. That is why the Jews taught, "Fear the Lord, with all thy soul, and reverence his priests. Love him that made thee with all thy strength, and forsake not his ministers. Fear the Lord and honor his priest. "2
David respected the person God had chosen and anointed. Samuel had ordained Saul as king, but Saul became so arrogant that he disobeyed. Although Samuel anointed David to take Saul's place, David did not despise his predecessor. As long as God gave Saul life, David believed that he should respect the Lord's anointed. He forbid Abishai from killing him, saying, "Who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord's anointed, and be guiltless?" (1 Samuel 26:9). Jesus showed the same respect. When he appeared before the high priest, he refused to answer him reproachfully. His reply to being smitten was only "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil_ but well, why smitest thou me?" (John 18:23). Jesus, the head of all priesthood, submitted to one commissioned to stand in his stead, although his decision was unjust. Paul displayed the same consideration. After rebuking Ananias for commanding that he be smitten, Paul apologized because he did not realize that Ananias was the high priest. The Bible records, "They that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? Then said Paul, I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest_ for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people" (Acts 23:4-5). These examples teach honorable disciples that they should respect those whom God has placed in authority, even when those leaders transgress.
Joseph Smith was called and ordained by God. Angels came from heaven and granted him authority. Because he was God's representative, the church was told, "Thou shall give heed unto all his words, and commandments" (D&C 19:2a). When the church disobeyed that counsel, they were reproved. God said, "You have not given heed unto my Spirit, and to those who were set over you, but you have been persuaded by those whom I have not commanded" (D&C 29:1b). Latter-day Israel was expected to honor God's priest in the same way ancient Israel was instructed. Part of the reason for this requirement is that Joseph was a descendant of God's anointed and by lineage had a right to the position he received. God told Joseph, "The priesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers, for ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh" (D&C 84:3a).
Upon Joseph's death, the responsibility to lead the church fell to another. The prophet had anointed his son, young Joseph, to be his successor, for this authority is passed through the generations from father to son. The Holy Spirit revealed, "The order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son and rightfully belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made" (D&C 104:18) Joseph the Martyr received the priesthood by lineage and passed it to his son. Authority to preside over the church rightfully belongs to the descendants of Joseph Smith. God promised, "I say unto my servant Joseph, In thee, and in thy seed, shall the kindred of the earth be blessed" (D&C 107:18c). The veracity of the Reorganization rests on the promise that the right to preside over the church is passed from father to son, from Joseph the Martyr to Joseph III. Consequently, the faithful are admonished to respect the leaders of the Reorganization. The Holy Spirit said, "If the people will respect the officers whom I have called and set in the church, I will respect these officers" (D&C 125:14c). Later, he said, "There is great necessity for confidence in the men of the church chosen for positions of great responsibility" (D&C 132:3a). Believers are required to heed the leaders God places in his church, for whoever resists those ordained by him, resists God. The Inspired Version says, "There is no power in the church but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves punishment" (Romans 13:1-2). God specifically wanted the Reorganization to know that no saint can justly resist the powers God has placed in his church.
Those placed in positions of authority are required to walk righteously. Jesus said, "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required" (Luke 12:57). Latter-day revelation adds, "Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord" (D&C 108:2b). Through Joseph III, the Holy Spirit told the priesthood to be cheerful and without blame, to forego boisterous and vulgar speech, and to avoid tobacco and alcohol, summing up the requirements in these words: "Men of God, who bear the vessels of the Lord, be ye clean in your bodies and in your clothing" (D&C 119:3c). Paul told Timothy, "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre, but patient, not a brawler, not covetous" (1 Timothy 3:2-3) God's ministers must be pure. He stipulates, "Let the priests also, which come near to the Lord, sanctifY themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them" (Exodus 19:22). They may not bring sin with them when they serve him. The commandment specifies that he "that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God" (Leviticus 21: 17).
Those chosen to serve in the priesthood are not elevated to position, but called to responsibility. Jesus said that the best minister is the least (Luke 9:48) and the greatest is the servant of all (Mark 10:44). Unfortunately, authority sometimes inflates those receiving it. Satan inflames the natural tendencies of the mind He tempts people to think so highly of themselves that they stop depending on God. Having exalted himself for the service he rendered God before he fell, he tries to exalt the Lord's servants, at least in their own minds, so they may fail like he did. Paul warned, "For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth" (2 Corinthians 10: 18). Those believing themselves wise often use their position in the church for selfish purposes. Peter admonished the elders, "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2-3). Those who think themselves sufficient because of their knowledge, wisdom, position, experience, or ability, like Satan, end up misusing the things of God. They oppose the Almighty and resist his work. The scripture says, "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain" (1 Corinthians 3:19-20). God calls his ministers to humility and charity. He said, "No one can assist in this work, except he shall be humble and full of love" (D&C 11:4b) "And faith, hope, charity, and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualifies him for the work" (D&C 4:1e). Those trying to live clean and pure lives are less likely to misuse priesthood responsibility to commend themselves or spoil the saints.
Priesthood who forsake their sins to serve the people of God are divinely equipped to fulfill their calling. Those persisting in transgression are first warned of the divine judgment waiting unsuitable ministers and, if unrepentant, condemned. God told Moses that if his priests were not sanctified he might "break forth upon them" (Exodus 19:22). He explained, "When they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die" (Ex 28:43). God will defend his people. If necessary, he will remove a sinful priest who might otherwise mislead the righteous. When Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's sons, offered strange tire on the Lord's altar, violating the law Moses had just given, they died. Priesthood who ignore God's warning to forsake sin and be pure eventually incur divine wrath. They become unfit to be his servants, unable to minister in his stead to his people.
Because God requires his servants to live righteously, he will not continually accept the service of wayward disciples. Jesus said, "God heareth not sinners" (John 9:31). Those deliberately refusing to obey God will not always be acknowledged by him. He said, "They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers" (D&C 98:3b). This stipulation applies particularly to God's priests. Unfit ministers cannot handle the greater blessings of the kingdom. God said, "He hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God" (Leviticus 21 : 21), for "whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean" (Numbers 19:22). Spiritual blessings are not showered on the unrepentant, neither are their offerings always accepted. Holy things are ministered to God's people through holy servants. Nephi received spiritual power to bind on earth because, as God told him, "Thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will" (Heleman 3:117). Unholy ministers cannot handle spiritual power and blessings because, inflated by their reception, they would trample them under their feet and use them to rend the flock of God.
The danger unfit ministers pose is that they often mislead the saints. Aaron invited all Israel to worship the golden calf. Korah and Dathan persuaded some Hebrews to reject Moses. Jeroboam taught the northern kingdom to idolize false gods. Korihor maintained that there would be no Christ. Simon sowed Gnosticism among the early Christians. Titian forbade marriage. Brigham Young practiced polygamy. Divinely authorized ministers who begin to teach falsehoods find that their position benefits the spread of heresy among the saints. The church, therefore, must be careful not to support and sustain ministers who teach contrary to the word of God. John commanded, "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed" (2 John 1:10). Joseph Smith said, "If any man writes to you, or preaches to you, doctrines contrary to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the book of Doctrine and Covenants, set him down as an imposter."3 God admonished the church, "If they approve themselves as righteous ministers, they shall be blessed; if they be found transgressors, or idle servants, ye shall not uphold them" (D&C 118:4a).
While God clearly condemns unsuitable ministers, some suppose those following or obeying transgressing servants are free from divine censure. They believe the commandments requiring them to obey God's priests free them from refusing the falsehoods errant priesthood teach. Not so! John told the saints to not bid God-speed to those not bringing the doctrine of Christ, adding, "For he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds" (2 John 1:11). Those following a false teacher participate in his falsehoods and are guilty of his condemnation. God condemned the northern kingdom, Israel, for its sins, adding that "all that eat thereof shall be polluted" (Hos 9:4). Moses told the followers of Korah and Dathan, "Depart from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in their sins" (Numbers 16:26). Those who refused to leave the fellowship of Korah and Dathan died in the judgment pronounced against their sedition. Followers of heretics are not freed from condemnation because those deceivers hold priesthood office. Instead, they are required to separate themselves from teachers of wicked doctrines. Paul commanded, "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you" (2 Corinthians 6:17).
The divine requirement to honor God's priests requires the saints to uphold those priesthood authorized by God, and shun those departing from his doctrines. When men holding the sacerdotal office fail to discharge their sacred duties, God expects the saints to honor only faithful priests. Faithful priesthood teach the gospel as restored and perform the ordinances as originally given. They are approved by God and continue to carry his authority. The saints who respect and follow the priesthood teaching the gospel of Christ, respect and follow Christ. They manifest their love of their Savior by receiving his faithful ministers. Those saints who follow teachers of falsehood-they redefine or otherwise leave the doctrines of Christ-even if those false teachers are members of the higher quorums of the church, leave Christ. They dishonor him and those priests he approves. They are like the Jews who followed the Pharisees and refused Jesus and his apostles. The fragmentation of the Reorganization has divided the saints. These divisions manifest the approved. The approved leave false teachers and follow those using their authority from God to preach the gospel as restored.
The Right Response
Some errant priesthood teach doctrines contrary to the scriptures. Their disregard for its admonitions indicates their disrespect for its author. God warned, "The day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people" (D&C 1:3c). The danger false teachings pose to the saints is not limited to ensnaring their hearers in misguided philosophies. It includes teaching them to ignore the words of God. Led from his counsels, they become less prepared to meet and endure God. Since he will cut off those refusing to heed either his words or the voice of his servants, followers of false teachers place themselves in jeopardy.
Detecting errant priesthood is not easy God judges people by the fruit they bear. Satan accuses the brethren for deeds not done. He spreads rumors among the saints against God's servants in the hope that many will ignore the divine admonitions they teach. Those priesthood who preach contrary to the scriptures are not accused by God, but invited to repent. Their repentance re-secures them in the faith, but their continued disobedience eventually leads them into wrongdoing. They may act immorally. They may attack God's work. Joseph the martyr revealed, "If there is no change of ordinances, there is no change of priesthood."4 One way errant priesthood manifest their rebellion is by altering the ordinances. Changed ordinances simply reveal the altered priesthood of those participating in them. God's judgment will come on those who "have strayed," as he says, "from my ordinances" (D&C 1:3d). Divine wrath will fall on those acting immorally, teaching false doctrines, or participating in changed ordinances. Enduring saints cannot remain in the congregation where ministers practice changed ordinances. Instead, they revere God's true priests who perform the ordinances as restored.
Another way errant ministers manifest their rebellion is to rebuke God's anointed. Those who denounce Joseph Smith, assail his works, and ignore his words, denounce God. When they dismiss the Book of Mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants as being the word of God, they dismiss Jesus Christ who, being the Word of God, is revealed in each. Unfortunately, some saints trying to forsake the assembly where false doctrines are taught and altered ordinances are practiced also rebuke divinely appointed leaders. Instead of respecting those chosen by God but who have fallen into transgression, they speak reproach ably against them. Michael, the Archangel, refused to bring "a railing accusation against" the devil, "but said, The Lord rebuke thee" (Jude 1:9). God said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Romans 12:19). The saints have the right, yes, the obligation, to keep immorality, false doctrines, changed ordinances, and encroaching leaders from invading and dismantling their branches, even if it means severing jurisdictional ties, but they do not have the right to rebuke them, act in their stead, or appoint others to carry on church activities outside the jurisdiction of their branch. When saints anxious to guard the faith as originally given, ridicule, rebuke, or replace church leaders, they place themselves, as Joseph said, "in the seat of satan".5 They accuse the Lord's anointed, suggesting that he will remain unfit to fulfill his duty. When any group of saints call and ordain men to priesthood positions that only the prophet has a right to do, they resist the leader God has placed in the church. Even organizing jurisdictions that only existing quorums can organize is a rebellious act. It presumes that God has dismissed the leaders he appointed and broken his covenant with the Palmyra prophet to bless the people through his offspring. No saint is justified in accusing, judging, or replacing the Lord's anointed.
The Church Will Prevail
Those saints who separate from the false doctrines and changed ordinances recently infecting the Reorganization can be tempted to organize themselves into a church. They may believe that since their leaders abandoned God, God has abandoned the church. Manasseh, king of Judah, abandoned God. He worshiped an idol in the temple Solomon built. He imprisoned Isaiah and later executed him by sawing him in half with a wooden saw. Despite his wickedness, God did not abandon him, nor desert Israel. He continued to send commissioned ministers who called all to repentance. At the end or his reign, about forty years after his transgression, Manasseh repented and turned to God. Just as steadfast Israelites could not abandon Israel when king Manasseh sinned, but had to wait for his repentance, or his successor, modem Israelites, those who are members of the church, cannot abandon the church, but must wait for the prophet's repentance or his legitimate successor.
When saints defy the Lord's anointed, perhaps by forming their own church or filling the higher quorums, they demonstrate a lack of faith in God to fulfill his promise to the Reorganization Jason Briggs prophesied "That the Lord would soon call Joseph, the son of Joseph the Seer, to be president of the church, and that the standard then erected would never fail."6 He told T. T. Hinderks when he began to doubt the validity of the Reorganization, "That piece of white marble resting in the head of the rock is the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It shall never be moved. "7 Those who leave the Reorganization indicate that they have abandoned the church of Jesus Christ. They are like the schismatics of the early church. When unhappy over doctrine or position, they left the fellowship of the saints and formed their own group. John condemned them when he wrote, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not of us" (1 John 2:19).
The Reorganized Church may have wrecked on the rocks of humanism. The damage it incurred makes many believe it will sink. Some conclude their safety requires them to abandon it. Paul warned, "Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 27:31). If God promised the Reorganization that it would prevail, those abandoning it in other ships, or churches, abandon the promise of God. They are not steadfast in faith, but trust in the strength of their own efforts.
Enduring saints are required to remain within the Reorganization. By clinging to it, they honor its leaders. Enduring saints, however, also separate themselves from those teaching falsehoods or practicing perversion. They may not isolate themselves or join other churches. Enduring saints meet in congregations of fellow believers where steadfast priesthood serve the saints, preach the gospel, and practice the ordinances as originally given. The requirements to honor the leaders of the Reorganization, forsake false teachers, and meet often with the faithful are difficult to meet, but their reward is glorious. Those who show their submission to the powers in the church, even when those people in position misuse their power, show their patience; those who avoid strange doctrine and changed ordinances show their faith; and those who worship with the faithful show their devotion. The patient become perfect. The faithful receive the promises. The devout see God.
Fortunately, history reveals how the saints should fulfill the requirements placed upon them. The apostolic church honored Jewish leadership. Jesus himself sent those he healed to the priests, many of whom rejected him, so that they could give their oblation as required by the law. The apostles refused to speak reproachably of the High Priest or undertake his responsibilities. They offered no sacrifices, observed no Jewish festivals, and held no Mosaic councils. Paul observed the time of fasting required in the law. On the other hand, neither Jesus nor his apostles allowed Jewish leaders to stop them from fulfilling their God-appointed duties. Jesus told the Jews, "I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father who hath sent me" (John 5:31). Peter and the other apostles beaten by the high priest and his council told them, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). They continued to teach the gospel and baptize believers as commissioned by Jesus. They met often to worship, learn, break bread, and pray (Acts 2:42).
A more recent example occurred at the death of Joseph the martyr. While the law gave the right of leadership to the Quorum of Twelve and, according to Joseph III, they could have kept that right if they had not transgressed,8 their actions of dismissing branches or silencing priesthood were ignored by faithful saints. Abandoned branches, particularly Beloit and Zarahemla in Wisconsin, continued to function and even served as the foundation for the Reorganization. Silenced priesthood and those they ordained continued to preach the gospel and minister to the saints. God accepted their efforts. William Marks, who had been silenced by church leaders in Nauvoo after Joseph's assassination, was accepted by the church on his original ordination. He helped ordain young Joseph to the office of prophet. Enduring saints remained under divine power because they continued to fulfill their appointed commission. No decree, even when made by transgressing leaders, deterred them from their duties. They remained the church of Jesus Christ. Joseph III wrote, "If in the history of any church, anything out of harmony with or antagonist to that constitution introduced, or a change is sought to be made in the creed and government, which is opposed and resisted, or denied by any of the members of the church, that portion of the membership that remains in adherence to the faith as it was before the change was attempted or made is the church."9
While the faithful, those preaching and practicing the gospel as originally restored, remained the church after the Nauvoo apostasy, they refused to usurp authority God had not given them. They did not on their own organize quorums, ordain prophets, seventy, or high priests, or reorganize the church. Zenos Gurley explained, "We had two high priests, and one Senior President of Seventies; but how could these men organize the church? It is impossible, utterly impossible. We counseled upon it, and concluded that possibly under the right circumstances, it might be right for high priests to ordain high priests, and for the Senior President of Seventies to ordain seventies, but when done what would it accomplish? Nothing-just nothing."10 They waited for divine direction. The first revelations promised the eventual return of the prophet's successor. They did not set the church in order. The entire Reorganization began with the assurance that the Lord's anointed would eventually lead them. It could not proceed until his presidency was verified.
The Prophetic Right
The Reorganization is predicated on the promise that the previous prophet appoints his successor. Now that the church is divided, none can reorder it, except President Smith. He is the only person designated to appoint his successor. No ordering of the church can proceed without first identifying the prophet's replacement. That successor must be an heir to the presidency by lineage and appointed by his predecessor. As long as the prophet retains his office, even if he is in transgression, he retains the right to lead the church. He may repent. He has the prerogative, as long as his life lasts, to correct his mistake and guide the saints from the errors he introduced among them. If he does repent, those prematurely abandoning him by joining new institutions, ordaining new prophets, or reconstituting new quorums must undo their actions before following his guidance. Even if the erring prophet does not repent, God's revelation of the true successor will place those who have not waited for that revelation in the position of revoking their hasty organizations and ordinations. Those abandoning the Reorganization to form their own organizations show their lack of faith that God will keep his promise and reveal the next prophet through the current one. As long as the transgressing prophet occupies his office, he retains authority over the leadership of the church. God will wait on him and will not appoint a successor without him as long as he holds his office.
If the transgressing prophet names a person to be his successor whom God did not appoint, he retains the responsibility and power to indicate God's true choice as long as he lives. The right the prophet has to name his successor is unconditional. Revelation specifies, "None else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him, for if it be taken from him he shall not have power, except to appoint another in his stead" (D&C 43:2). No person can occupy the office of President of the High Priesthood without being appointed by his predecessor. If the prophet names someone who does not have the right to the presidency by linage, God will intervene to correct his mistake. Zechariah prophesied (Zechariah 3:2-7) of a time when the head of the priesthood was resisted by Satan, arrayed in filthy garments, and wore no miter. Angels rebuked, cleansed, and re-authorized him, commanding him to walk in the ways of the Lord and keep his charge. God's intervention will include confronting the transgressing prophet. Faithful saints willingly wait for God to reveal the true successor and correct the errors in his church as he prefers and in agreement with his pronouncements.
The appointment of the prophet's true successor will save the Reorganization. Just like Joseph III saved the Restoration when he took his anointed place, the seventh prophet will save the church. He will set it in order. The cleansed church may not be the same institution as Joseph III reordered, for the Reorganization has always been a separate organization from the Mormon Church. What qualifies the cleansed church as the legitimate continuation of the original is that its prophet will be the rightful heir to the presidency by lineage, and the successor appointed by his predecessor. He will come to those saints waiting his leadership. He will guide those steadfastly clinging to the restored gospel and practicing the original ordinances. He will gather those refusing to reorder the church before his appointment. His appearance awaits the revelation the sixth prophet has the responsibility to unveil.
Steadfast branches are branches that continue to preach and practice the gospel as originally restored, but who refuse to usurp authority not within their commission. They pray for the prophet and those occupying leadership positions. They do not condemn them. While many are anxious to participate in a cleansed church, they do not try to reorganize the church or fill the higher quorums. Instead, they wait for the manifestation of the Lord's anointed. God will redeem Zion. He will unveil his servants. He will cleanse his church. Like the early saints who continued to do the will of the Father in difficult times, steadfast branches continue to serve their God by ministering to his saints. Their priesthood teach the gospel and receive divine confirmation. They are God's priests, honored by steadfast saints.
Zarahemla Branch believes that the Reorganization will succeed. The difficulties facing the church and dividing the saints will end. The approved will see the fulfillment of God's latter-day work. We encourage the saints to meet with the faithful, to embrace the original doctrines of the church, and to wait on the Lord for its cleansing. We are only a branch of the Reorganization, although not officially recognized by its leaders. They denied us the right to follow our chosen pastor by locking us out of our building. We preferred to obey God and honor the priesthood specifically called to minister to us. We continue under their direction. We invite all interested in fulfilling their saintly duties to worship with us, to fellowship with the Holy Ghost as it moves among our members, to mutually bear the burdens pressing upon the saints, and to carry the gospel to those who have not heard it.
We believe there are other branches of the Reorganization that are . recognized by God as branches of his church. They are branches of his church if they separate themselves from false doctrines, teach the gospel as restored, practice the ordinances as first revealed, and honor the priesthood offices placed over the church. Honoring the priesthood officers of the church includes submitting to local ministers who regulate the branch and wait for the Lord to disclose the prophet who will fill the higher quorums with faithful servants. Steadfast branches can nurture the saints during these trying days. They are the place where the approved can worship and serve. We invite every saint to endure by clinging to a steadfast branch.
Perhaps you have wondered where you can worship. The Holy Spirit has testified to you that the Restoration is true. You believe that angels visited Joseph Smith, that he translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, that the priesthood and ordinances were restored through him, that God brought young Joseph to lead the Reorganization, and that Zion will be redeemed. The division in the church has not erased your beliefs, but it may have confused you. You may be skeptical of independent branches. Some have overstepped their authority. You do not want to be misled by presumptuous ones. You may prefer avoiding the apparent disunity of independent branches by remaining in the fellowship of errant priesthood. Ultimately, your response to the divisions in the church manifests your steadfastness. God specified, "Let nothing separate you from each other and the work whereunto you have been called" (D&C 122:17b). We encourage you to meet with the faithful-to meet with a steadfast branch. It is the refuge for enduring saints until the Lord sets his church in order.
We invite you to attend Zarahemla Branch or any other steadfast branch. Endure the trial. Hold fast to the Restoration gospel as revealed. Fellowship with the faithful. Honor the priesthood. Those doing so manifest their faithfulness. They are patient, devout, and steadfast. They are enduring saints. The trials they bear will prepare them for citizenship in Zion when it appears.
1 Times and Seasons; Vol 1, No 6. April 1840, P 85.