Sunday, September 27, 2009

RLDS D&C 132-144 and the problem of unity

(About this reflection)

My reading for this week was the revelations written by Frederick M. Smith (sections 132-138) and Israel A. Smith (139-144). Both were sons of Joseph Smith III. Section 144 is, as I understand it, the last revelation that the Community of Christ, the Restoration branches, and the Remnant Church have as a shared canon, since the latter two do not accept the revelations subsequently received by W. Wallace Smith and his successors.

I don't know too much about it, but FMS's presidency saw a power struggle regarding Supreme Directional Control, which was basically an effort to increase the policy-making power of the church president over that of the Twelve and the Presiding Bishopric. The issue resulted in thousands of RLDS leaving, many for the Church of Christ (Temple Lot).

A recurring theme in the FMS revelations is injunctions against contention and statements about how important it is that the church be united. Read in light of the Supreme Directional Control controversy, those injunctions take on a sinister air for me, since I suspect that what they mean in practice is: Stop questioning and do what I say. Deja vu. In section 134, FMS says that "the voice of inspiration to me" is that four apostles be released and new ones called to take their place: while, again, I don't know much about the story behind that yet, it smells like an effort to "pack" the Quorum of the Twelve with folks more to FMS's liking. The intro to that section says that a move was made at General Conference to postpone that action until certain unnamed issues were worked out between the president, the Twelve, and the Bishopric: "Debate on this procedural matter broadened into a review of the entire administration of President Smith. The document was approved by a divided vote"—which is a politely muted way to say that there was a lot of controversy, and things may even have gotten nasty.

Israel A. Smith evidently opposed Supreme Directional Control, and his revelations have a more modest feel to them. In presenting his first revelation to the General Conference, he says that "if the quorums and the body shall have this message confirmed unto them, I shall rejoice, and I have faith that the church thereby will be blessed" (139:2c). In 140:5b, the Lord says that "of necessity [church leaders'] counsel when given is not intended to dictate or to deny any man his agency." Later revelations commend church leaders for their "unity and spirit of tolerance" (141:7a) and their "spirit of moderation" (142:3).

The struggle to forge and maintain unity is a theme that stands out to me in the revelations of JSIII, FMS, and IAS. This makes sense, given the importance that the Reorganization placed on the Zion-building project, and given the prominence that injunctions to unity had in Joseph Smith Jr's revelations on Zion-building (e.g., Be one, and if ye are not one, ye are not mine; the Lord called his people Zion because they were one in heart and mind). Of the three RLDS presidents I've considered so far, FMS seems to take the most authoritarian approach to cultivating unity: Stop contending, and fall into line behind the president-prophet. This was JS Jr's preferred approach to authority as well.

JSIII favors a more collaborative, dialogic approach. In 122:13, the First Presidency, the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric are instructed to remain behind after General Conference, "counsel[ing] together in the spirit of moderation and mutual forbearance and concession," so that "a unity of sentiment and purpose will be reached by them." Some years later, section 129 says that "the Lord is well pleased with the advancement which has been made in approaching unity during the conference year; and though there may have been differences of opinion, these differences have been held in unity of purpose and desire for the good of my people, and will result in helping to bring to pass a unity of understanding" (129:9a-b). IAS's attitude seems to me more in line with JSIII's.

The process endorsed in section 129 is longer and harder than executive fiat, which I understand to have been the gist of Supreme Directional Control. A military model where a leader commands and underlings have a duty to follow is more efficient in terms of getting things done. It's also a model in which underlings are expected to forfeit the exercise of their agency: you do what you're told whether you agree or not, whether it makes sense or not. It's a model that looks more like Satan's plan, as I was taught the story of the war in heaven, than like the championing of a risky freedom, the power to make our own decisions and learn from our mistakes.

I've taken part in organizations that worked by consensus, and I know how incredibly frustrating that can be; I can certainly understand why executive fiat is so tempting. But I also have faith that the longer, harder, more frustrating process of "counsel[ing] together in the spirt of moderation and mutual forbearance and concession" (122:13c) and learning to hold differences of opinion "in unity of purpose and desire for the good of [God's] people" (129:9b), although less effective at making policy decisions or maintaining clear boundaries, is more effective at what ultimately matters most: training us in the disciplines of spiritual discernment and Christlike love.

That's not to say that I haven't given in many, many times to the temptation to side with executive fiat when that worked to bring about what I wanted.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Book of Mormon anniversary

(Follow up to "Plans for Book of Mormon anniversary")

Well, I didn't stay up til midnight; I was so tired by day's end, I suspected I wasn't going to make it, so I went out around 10:30 p.m. There was still too much activity, and too much light, to create the ambience I'd been hoping for. Next year, I'd like to actually drive a little ways out of town to do this.

Anyway, I got started by singing verses 1, 2, and 4 of "An Angel from on High." (I selected those verses because of their focus on themes of renewed revelation, the coming of Christ's reign, and light dispelling darkness, as contrasted to the gathering of Israel, which doesn't speak to me so much. In retrospect, though, I should have included verse 5 with its vision of Zion filling the earth with divine truth.) Then I read aloud to myself D&C 128:19-23. That was followed by several minutes of me alternately sitting silently and talking to God about the Book of Mormon, the Restoration, my relationship to the Latter Day Saint tradition. Then I finished up by singing "I Saw a Mighty Angel Fly," which I'd planned to end with, except I was having a good time so I went on to sing "What Glorious Scenes Mine Eyes Behold" ("This is the time, the chosen time") and "Awake, Ye Saints of God, Awake" ("Yea, like the Father and the Son, / Let all the Saints in union join") before I finally called it a night. Good stuff. When I came back into the apartment, I saw I'd been outside for a little over half an hour.

It wasn't a "superspiritual" experience, but well worth doing.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Plans for Book of Mormon anniversary

Tomorrow is September 21, the anniversary of Joseph Smith's visions of the angel Moroni and of the night he went to Cumorah to retrieve the plates. In an earlier post, I tried to imagine what form an annual celebration of this anniversary might take among the Saints. Tomorrow night I'm going to try my own personal way of marking the occasion. My plan is to get up at midnight—which by some accounts is the hour when Joseph and Emma drove out to Cumorah—sit atop the little hill next to my apartment building, and hold a little vigil for a few minutes. I'm not quite sure what I'll do yet—probably read a relevant passage of scripture, maybe sing "An Angel from on High" sotto voce, certainly talk to God about the significance of the Book of Mormon in my life.

I like the idea of the hilltop vigil on an autumn night, trying to replicate something of the feeling of what it may have been for Emma waiting for Joseph to come down from the hill, or Lucy sitting up at home waiting for the couple to return. The change in season, the chill, the darkness—I'll be interested to see exactly what associations or impressions they produce for me in the moment. (Some symbolism already presents itself, e.g., sitting in the darkness waiting for daybreak.)

I'll return and report, of course.

Joseph Smith III, prophecy, and democracy

(About this reflection)

In a June 1994 Sunstone article, Dean May (a truly saintly Mormon liberal who has since entered into the joy of the Lord) wrote the following about religious authority in the Reorganization:
Several founders of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and especially Joseph Smith III, who accepted leadership of the church in 1860, had deeply resented the authority claimed and exercised by Brigham Young and the apostles between 1844 and 1846. The searing experience of the loss of the Prophet, the promulgation of plural marriage, contention over settlement of the Smith family estate and Church properties, and a period of "wandering" from claimant to claimant of the Prophet's mantle, all left them distrustful of any assertion of strong ecclesiastical authority.
We can see this distrust in the very first canonized revelation of Joseph Smith III, which instructs the Twelve and the Bishop to start gathering tithes, but with the caveat that they must "see to it, that the temporal means so obtained is truly used for the purposes of the church, and not as a weapon of power in the hands of one man for the oppression of others, or for the purposes of self-aggrandizement by anyone, be he whomsoever he may be" (114:1b). A later revelation explains that this instruction was given because Joseph Smith III "had not yet approved himself unto the scattered flock," and the Lord wanted to be sure "that the scattered ones and those who had been made to suffer might have assurance that I would not suffer that he whom I had called should betray the confidence of the faithful" (122:5b). Another revelation acknowledges the possibility that "the liberties of the people of the church [c]ould be in jeopardy" or that "there [c]ould be a flagrant disregard of the rights of the people" because of things done by church leaders (126:10c-d).

The excerpt from Joseph Smith Jr.'s Liberty Jail letter which became D&C 121 (but not until 1876, which means it wasn't part of the canon of Joseph Smith Jr. revelations shared by the LDS and the Reorganization, and therefore has never appeared in an RLDS D&C) contains its own famous warning against the possibility of unrighteous dominion by church leaders. D&C 121 doesn't indicate a solution to the danger other than exhorting leaders to exercise authority by persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned—a kind of self-regulation. The Reorganization's solution was to use the principle of common consent as a kind of check-and-balance. The church can't be governed by straightforward prophetic fiat: the quorums and/or the General Conference have to vote when the president claims to have received a revelation.

I need to be careful not to romantically exaggerate the difference: I've heard Bill Russell (the Sunstone Symposium's longtime RLDS/CofC attendee) complain about what he sees as an undue deference to presidential claims to revelation, such that no revelation has ever not been accepted, usually with virtual unanimity, as I understand it (with exceptions such as D&C 156, on women's ordination, over which a substantial minority left the church). Still, by comparison to LDS slogans that make me gnash my teeth, like "When the prophet speaks, the thinking is done," or "The Lord will never allow us to lead the church astray," or "Don't criticize church leaders even if the criticism is true," I find the Reorganized approach much healthier. By comparison to the slogans I just referenced, there's a relatively more humble, modest air about Joseph Smith III's revelations because he knows they have to be approved by the membership and, in theory at least, might not be.

This modesty is especially evident in Joseph Smith III's later revelations. In section 124 (written in 1897), the Lord tells the Twelve that if they choose William H. Kelley to fill a certain position, "it will be pleasing unto me; nevertheless, if directed by the spirit of revelation and wisdom they may choose another" (124:3). This is quite literally a divine suggestion, rather than a commandment, based on the explicit understanding that the Twelve, not just JS III, are entitled to "the spirit of revelation and wisdom"—and the implicit understanding that their spirit of revelation can trump JS III's. In the preface to D&C 128 (written in 1909), JS III introduces a revelation by saying, "Whether that which has come to me will bring relief to the situation, I know not; but such as it is, I hereby present it." A few years before that (section 126, written in 1902), JS III reported on a vision he'd had that he understood as revelation about who should fill certain callings; he noted that this revelation seemed to deviate from established procedures and left it in the hands of the church to decide whether to implement it: "the whole matter is hereby submitted for the approval or disapproval of the church" (126:13). (Imagine OD 1 or OD 2 being presented to the membership on those terms.)

One of Joseph Smith III's revelations shows that the church didn't always accede to prophetic instruction. In 1901, JS III presented a revelation to the General Conference without first presenting it to the quorums, which had been the custom. He explained that he had been "bidden" to deviate from the established practice. The Conference, however, voted to refer the revelation back to the quorums, as per the standard practice. The revelation itself refers to another instance where the church overrode prophetic instruction: 125:7a alludes to JS III having been "directed" and "led" by the Spirit of the Lord to present certain policies to the church, "but the conferences of my people saw proper to change these articles and rules," a reality to which the Spirit is apparently willing to adapt, because JS III now offers new direction from the Spirit to the effect that the revised policies should be left in their revised state (125:7b).

Again, I need to be careful not to exaggerate or romanticize the extent to which Joseph Smith III's revelations sanction democratic dissent. The same section I've just been looking at contains a warning from the Spirit which basically says: You're free to reject my guidance, but you'll forfeit blessings by doing so. (The actual wording is: "If my people will respect the officers whom I have called and set in the church, I will respect these officers; and if they do not, they cannot expect the riches of gifts and the blessings of direction" [125:14c]). An earlier revelation had instructed the Saints that if church leaders "be found transgressors, or idle servants, ye shall not uphold them" (118:4a)—which immediately struck me because of the contrast to Dallin H. Oaks's insistence that members aren't entitled to pass that kind of critical judgment. But the very next sentence goes on to caution the Saints to "be not hasty in withdrawing your support from them, peradventure ye shall injure my work" (118:4b). The last couple of revelations JS III wrote (in 1913 and 1914) express concern that a "spirit of recrimination and accusation" among elders and Conference delegates "evinces a serious lack of . . . charity" and is undermining the Saints' confidence in the leadership (130:8; 131:4). I feel I have to submit to a just divine rebuke in those words. At the same time, I would rather be part of a community that had to be chastened for disunity and not adequately sustaining its leaders than a community that elevates sustaining its leaders to the point of idolatry and disregard for the conscience of dissenters.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hospital visit and health blessing

Hugo and I just got back from visiting J, who received his heart transplant a couple days ago. We brought dinner for his partner A, who had just gotten off work; the three of us ate in the cafeteria while the nurses changed shifts, and then we went up to visit J. When we entered the room, J's father was there, and the nurse was attending to J, who was clearly in pain. So there was this, to me, very strange moment when J was lying in bed, in worsening pain, while the four of us—me, Hugo, A, and J's father—stood around a few feet away chatting among ourselves as if J's pain wasn't happening. As I say, it struck me as a very strange thing for us to be doing. I surmise the logic of it was that we were all waiting for the nurse to take care of things.

After a while the nurse had administered what medications she could—which weren't making an immediate difference in relieving J's pain—and left. J's father said goodbye and left; by that point, A and J's father were talking with J about his pain, which he was trying to put a brave face on as he lay there stiff and shaking. And then I sat in a chair near the foot of the bed, and Hugo stood nearby, and A stood next to J and held his hand and stroked his forehead, and I sat there feeling like I was watching reality—like, pain is the ultimate reality from which all facade is stripped away. And I felt very helpless. Which, it occurred to me, is what God must feel all the time—the "weeping God of Mormonism," I mean, to use Eugene England's expression; the God we see in Enoch's vision, who looks down from heaven and weeps because of the suffering he is powerless to stop. I thought how miserable that must be for God, given the way I was feeling right now.

The feeling made me want to give J a health blessing. (J isn't Mormon, in case that wasn't clear; we know J and A from the Episcopal church Hugo and I attend.)

Instead, I just kept sitting there as J did relaxing exercises and tried to get his pain under control. We turned down the lights for him; A put a cold washcloth on his head. Hugo got me to join him in singing silly Spanish songs, which A translated for J, and that led to conversations about this and that and the other, trying to create amusing distractions, basically. After a while I felt bolder and took the initiative to start rubbing J's feet.

When it came time to go, Hugo said to J: Well, we can offer you a couple of things. We can offer you a Mormon blessing, or we can offer you an Episcopal blessing. I was glad Hugo said that, given that I'd been feeling that earlier; I'm chalking our being on the same wavelength to inspiration. J said he'd like the Mormon blessing—something about how that would be different. So we anointed him using the oil I still carry on my keyring. Hugo anointed, I sealed. Somewhere along the way I became aware that A's hands were in the pile, too, which I hadn't thought to invite him to do; perhaps Hugo thought of it (I don't remember), or maybe A was just moved to join in. Anyway, I said what I felt moved to say, and then I invited Hugo and A to say something if they'd like, which they did. Afterward, J was visibly doing better, and we joked about how the Mormon God seems to be particularly effective, especially if the patient takes Percocet in advance.

This next thing I'm about to say is beside the point—the point being J's comfort—but as an added blessing, I felt really good afterward, on the way home, in a drained, emptied-out kind of way. I'm feeling that now as I sit here typing this. The Spirit, of course, with an intensity I haven't felt in I don't know how long. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A heart transplant and yellow squash

A very young gay couple we know received good news today. One of them has been waiting a long time for a heart transplant. A couple days ago, his condition took a frightening turn; but this morning his partner called us to announce that a heart had become available and was being brought in from a neighboring state. He's been prepped for surgery, though evidently it's not certain yet that they're going to be able to use this heart. If it happens, he'll have a new heart tomorrow morning.

At church today, during the Prayers of the People, when individuals are prompted to voice their own prayers, I prayed for the patient and his partner at the prompt to remember those who are sick or otherwise afflicted. Then, at the prompt to remember those who have died, I prayed for the donor.
Have you any that are sick among you,
or that are afflicted in any manner?
Bring them here and I will heal them;
for my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.
(3 Nephi 17:6-7)

Hugo helps out some weekends at a food distribution program. Today he ended up with six boxes of surplus yellow squash in the trunk of our car which we've been trying to foist onto people. Hugo took one to a meeting; we left a box at church, and then another at a departmental potluck; we left a few bags with neighbors; and Hugo was finally reduced to driving around our apartment complex asking total strangers if they'd like squash, a strategy which very quickly relieved us of our last three boxes.

Why am I recording this? Because it's the closest I've come in a long time to direct, charitable service—which is pathetic. I need to reconsecrate some time for regular volunteer service. That's been weighing on me for a while.
You yourselves will succor those who stand in need of succor;
you will administer of your substance to those who stand in need.
(Mosiah 4:16)

Joseph Smith III and the revelatory process

(About this reflection)

This week I finished reading Joseph Smith III's revelations, CofC D&C 114-131. The revelations span a period from 1861-1914, which is 15 years longer than Joseph Smith Jr.'s entire lifetime. For comparison, it's also 20 years longer than Brigham Young led the LDS Church (a period which was about 5 years shorter than Joseph Smith Jr's lifetime). I'm not quite sure what to make of those statistics, but they struck me, and I put them out there as food for thought.

A couple major themes stood out to me in this reading, which I think I'll handle in two parts. This week's theme is the revelatory process as it's described in CofC D&C 114-131. Next week, I want to reflect on what these texts suggest about the place of democratic governance in the community of Saints.


Some of JS III's revelations, like his father's, are written as if in the voice of deity—that is, when the revelation says "I," it's clearly not JS who we're supposed to understand is speaking. Others are written in an imperative voice that doesn't have an explicit "I." "Let such-and-such be done," "it is expedient to do this," etc. In these revelations, it's not so clear whether we're supposed to understand God to be speaking directly, or whether the text is JS III speaking for himself in response to promptings he's received.

Unlike his father, JS III tends to ascribe his revelations to "the Spirit" rather than to "the Lord." D&C 127, for example, begins "Thus saith the Spirit unto the Church." Or D&C 129: "The voice of the Spirit to me is..." I shouldn't make too much of that distinction, because it's evident that JS III understands the Spirit and the Lord to be, at least for all practical intents and purposes, the same person. [I'm being cautious in that wording because I don't know exactly what JS III's theology was vis-a-vis the Trinity.] Hence 124:1 opens with "Thus saith the Spirit of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ..."

Still, JS III's preference for attributing his revelations to the Spirit struck me as significant. It creates a different mental picture of how these revelations are being produced. When JS Jr. writes a revelation that begins, "Behold and hearken unto the voice of him who has all power, even Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end" (61:1), the mental image this creates, at least for me, is that of the heavens opening and Jesus Christ appearing in his glory to speak while Joseph Smith furiously takes dictation. When JS III writes, "Thus saith the Spirit," I get a different mental picture. There's no person giving dictation in my mind's eye. There's just a . . . kind of intangible force or presence or impulsion that comes over JS III and inspires him to write. It's an experience, in other words, that I can relate to because it's happened to me, whereas I'm not accustomed to seeing visions.

During the last couple decades in particular, JS III develops the habit of prefacing his revelations with a narrative about how they came to be. (Before that, the norm for him is more like that followed by his father: the revelation just starts out "Thus saith whoever," and, boom, here you go.) Here, then, is how JS III describes his own revelatory process:

122: "I was [on April 15, 1894] in fasting and prayer before the Lord, and being commanded of the Spirit I arose from my praying and wrote..."

125: "I spent a sleepless night. After retiring to my rest, weary as you must know, I engaged in a season of prayer, quietly, as I had been doing all day; and I suddenly found myself very wide awake; and from that on I was in the Spirit, the spirit of inspiration burning in my breast; and by it I was bidden to come to the house of assembly and tell what was given to me of light and instruction."

126: "On the night of April 16 [1902] I made the condition of the church a subject of prayer, intensely desirous of receiving light and information in relation thereto and my duty. I awoke at the hour of three and had in presentation the following vision." (What follows is a dream-like vision in which he sees certain individuals standing in positions of church leadership.)

129: "After constant meditation and prayer, both before and after coming to conference and during the sessions, . . . I was in the Spirit during the nights of the 15th and 16th of the month [April 1909] and the day passing between at such times during the calm that occasionally ensued and the quiet of the night when the burdens of my care forbade sleep."

131: "In agreement with the notice for the general fast of the church . . . [I] spent that day in meditation and prayer upon the work of God and our present duty in the affairs intrusted to our care. Before the hour of breaking the fast came, I was blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit resting upon me in quiet assurance and power. In the still small voice which giveth light and understanding to the intelligence . . . , exalting the soul and sanctifying the spirit, there came unto me the directing voice of Him whose work we are engaged in. Thus saith the Spirit unto the church . . ."
And I have to record this. When I read it, I thought, "Amen," because they're words I can relate to from my own experience. This is a final comment that JS III appended to the text of section 124.
Brethren of the ministry and members of the church; my soul has been cheered, my spirit and body have been strengthened and my heart made exceeding glad by the blessed and holy influence of the Spirit which was with me, and still is with me as I write, causing me to give praise, honor and glory to God and the Lamb, to whom honor and glory belong, and dominion forever. Amen.
I thought I was going to say more about these passages by way of commentary, but in the moment I feel content that they speak for themselves.

Well, I do feel moved to say this by way of testimony: This is the spirit of revelation. Joseph Smith Jr. tells us so little about the process by which he received his revelations—or when he does, the process is so different from anything I've experienced (e.g., visions)—that I'm not really in a position to make the same affirmation about his revelatory process, though I can and do try to discern the Spirit's voice in the texts he produced that communities of Saints have received as canonical. But with Joseph Smith III, I feel like I'm in a better position to testify: These texts are being produced by a spirit of revelation. How the church should respond to those texts is a separate matter, and I'll take that up next week.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

CofC D&C 111-121

(About this reflection)

This week I read the first few revelations of Joseph Smith III (114-121), plus the original statement on marriage (111) that in the 1876 LDS D&C was replaced by 132. Some miscellaneous thoughts about each:

111. Lays out the pattern for how a marriage should be "solemnized" in the church. The couple are asked if they "both mutually agree to be each other's companion, . . . keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others, during your lives." Apart from the fact that there's language in there about husband and wife, I thought: that could work for a same-sex marriage. I really liked the expression about agreeing to be each other's "companion." That's centrally what marraige should be about: companionship.

112. Statement on governments. The same as LDS D&C 134.

113. John Taylor's eulogy to Joseph Smith. The same as LDS D&C 135. The RLDS debated as early as the 1890s whether to drop this from the D&C, since it isn't a revelation. In 1970, the World Conference moved it to an appendix (along with several Nauvoo-era revelations and teachings which it was felt hadn't originally been authorized for canonization by vote of the church). In 1990, the whole appendix was removed. The result is that there's just a gap where this section used to be, which I find annoying. You know something's been censored, but you have to dig around a little to find out what. I would have been in favor of leaving the materials in the appendix—or even just in the sequence of sections, for that matter, with a visual marker and explanation as to why this community no longer treats these sections as canonical. (Still, I suppose acknowledging that you've dropped something is less Orwellian than simply replacing one section with a different text that contradicts it.)

114. First revelation produced by Joseph Smith III, 1861. The Twelve and the Bishop are to get the tithing collection system in order. They are instructed to make sure that the money is "truly used for the purposes of the church, and not as a weapon of power in the hands of one man for the oppression of others, or for the purpose of self-aggrandizement by anyone."

115. 1863 revelation calling William Marks to become Joseph's counselor in the First Presidency. The people of the church are called the Lord's "little flock" and are promised that "as I have spoken to you in times past, so will I speak again to you as my friends."

116. 1865 revelation on ordaining blacks. The Lord says "it is expedient me that you ordain priests unto me, of every race," though the revelation also tells them not to be "hasty in ordaining men of the Negro race to offices in my church." Those whom it is decided to ordain are evidently intended "to be ministers to their own race." So the community's leadership is prepared to let blacks administer to blacks, but not for blacks to administer to whites. Still, this position represents considerably greater progress on this issue than the LDS had made by this time.

117. 1873 revelation calling for the First Presidency to be filled and for some vacancies to be filled among the Twelve, along with some other appointments. I need to get a history of the Reorganization to figure out why they were so slow about filling the First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve. My attenae are twitching because of the suspicion that by not filling these quorums, Smith's own power was maximized. But I should suspend judgment until I know more about the history.

The Lord tells his "servants and handmaidens" in the various ministries that they "shall be blessed, even as they bless others of the household of faith." They are told to let contentions cease and to "sustain each other in peace." If they do, they will be "blessed with my Spirit, in comforting and strengthening you for my work."

118. 1882 revelation on miscellaneous administrative issues, including instructions to hold off trying to launch foreign missions until the church is more firmly established in the U.S. Verses 4a-b say that if members of the traveling ministry [the Twelve? Seventy?] "be found transgressors, or idle servants, ye shall not uphold them. But be not hasty in withdrawing your support for them, peradventure ye shall injure my work."

119. 1887 revelation addressing a number of controversies. The Lord still doesn't think it's time to fill the Quorum of the Twelve, evidently. Elders are instructed to be "kind of heart" so that "their wisdom may be the wisdom of the Lord and their strength the strength of the Spirit." They should stop being "overcareful" about trying to screen out heresy among separated Latter Day Saints who now want to gather to the Reorganization: "There are some who are chosen vessels to do good, who have been estranged . . . and who will in due time return unto the Lord if they be not hindered by the men of the church. The Spirit says 'Come'; let not the ministers for Christ prevent their coming." Another controversy, or set of controversies, addressed has to do with how the Lord's supper should be administered: the revelation says a lot of the issues up for debate (should it be done once a week or once a month; should the bread be broken before or after the blessing is said) simply don't matter and people should stop contending.

120. 1887 revelation regarding how to administer the ministry of the Twelve and the Seventy to the branches of the church. Reference is made to priesthood officers "having the watchcare of the membership and nurturing and sustaining them." A couple of references are made to the need to make decisions by "the spirit of wisdom and revelation."

121. 1885 revelation on miscellaneous administrative issues. One line that stood out to me was the injunction: "Be merciful, for to him that is merciful shall mercy be shown."

I feel moved to leave things here for now. Next week, I want to offer some thoughts about major trends I see in Joseph III's revelations overall. In what ways do I discern the work and fruits of the Spirit in Joseph III's approach to seeking and proclaiming revelation?