Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Preface – Is the (LDS) Church as True as the Gospel? A Constitutional Approach

What follows is a nearly complete first draft of about a 250-page book intended to describe the major problems with the LDS church today, plus a few suggested remedies. This draft will probably need to go through numerous changes before it could be more formally published.

At the moment, four chapters near the end of the book each contain little more than a topic sentence and a few research notes. Those chapter numbers have an "x" in front of them.

The intent of this effort is to try to discover whether some portion of those people who are leaving the church (which one estimate puts at about 500 members per day) would be willing to put in a little extra effort to study my analysis of the current LDS church, and decide to use this book text as at least a partial guide to implementing some major changes to the church from the inside. I am hoping that about 20% of those people who "resign" from the church will be willing to consider a new option. Besides the two basic options of staying in the church and leaving the church, there may be a third option which allows people to stay in the church while gently making their views known and promoting change for the better.

I believe most church members do not typically have the time to study church history and church doctrine to the extensive degree necessary to form their own well considered opinion on all the most basic issues concerning religion and its management. Hopefully, this book will contain enough information for individuals to begin to form their own well-established opinions.

The biggest single problem which I see today is that the church has gradually chosen to end typical vigorous Christian charity activities, and instead to claim all of that member charity money for use at church headquarters, using the old law of Moses term of "tithing." The bulk of that "tithing" money I believe is used very poorly or even completely wasted, where judicious use of that money and the related human resources could be used to make enormous improvements in our society. I believe that if the church were making remarkable improvements to our society and our nation, many of those who are now unhappy with the church would have a reason to change their opinion and their actions.

In summary, I see Christian charity and "tithing" as mutually exclusive concepts: if the "tithing" (taxation to gain salvation) option is chosen, serious charity disappears, meaning that the most important sign of a Christian person disappears. This is especially true when every other level of government is constantly trying to raise taxes or "tithing" to build their own economic empires which compete with what should be more efficient voluntary religious activity.

Is The Church As True As The Gospel?

A Constitutional Approach

Table of Contents

Section 1 -- Introduction
             1. The problem. p.6
2. A suggested solution sent by letter. p.10
    -- Plus an unsent letter expanding the solution.

Section 2 -- The Overwhelming Historical And Scriptural Case Against A Paid Ministry And Related Tithing. p.17.

             3. The issue of financial classes in the church. p.20
4. Temples, altars, and work for the dead. p.23
5. A modern summary of the history of tithing. p.27.
6. The 1657 Quaker position on the evils of forced tithing -- partly based on the earlier work of John Selden p.29
7. An 1894 history of tithing, beginning with Christian free-will offerings.p.50
8. Excerpts from a 1618 history of tithing by John Selden, the predecessor to all later historical studies and arguments against tithing, asserting that no tithing was paid to the original apostles.p.57
9. The 95 theses (1517) of Martin Luther apply today for the same reasons they did then, demonstrating that tithing and charity are mutually exclusive policies. p.62
10. James Talmage and The Great Apostasy -- An argument for replacing one divergent religious empire with another.  p.72
11. Incidents of shock and awe to introduce Christ's new gospel, powerful enough to change the world for 2000 years. Dire threats issued to any who attempt to distort the new gospel. These are views of restoration history we usually ignore. p.81
12. Discussion of FairMormon questions and answers on professional clergy, paid ministry, and tithing p.105.
13. The uncertain basis for today's LDS tithing policies. p.144
14. The use of "increase" vs. "interest" in tithing scriptures. p.153
15. The terrible performance statistics this paid ministry creates. p.160
16. The LDS church is finally being called to account. p.165

Section 3 -- Amending the Gospel

x17. Are all living prophets given unbounded powers to alter the gospel? [Christ did not. He quoted them and fulfilled them..]  Our path of prophecy has given us the same result as the Roman Catholic Church reached. Is that good? p.178
x18. Are the historical Scriptures now treated as Secondary sources of religious truth? (see prophetic powers)-p.191

Section 4 -- Creation vs. Evolution

19. The Church drops creation and adopts atheistic organic evolution at BYU -- embracing the teachings of men presumably to increase membership and income. p.192

Section 5 -- Some Potential Charitable Activities

20. A major charitable activity suggestion concerning reducing abortions – much like occurred in Rome where saving discarded babies was a signature Christian activity. p.195
x21. Women's duties and opportunities under a proper program of charity -- A well-funded Relief Society. p.229
22. Creating and demonstrating a charity-based welfare system for the world. p.232 
23. A gospel-based program for developing countries. p.240

Section 6 -- Building Up Zion

24. Government corruption in Utah: Our non-Zion could be transformed into a Zion. p.241
25.  A breach of fiduciary duty by the LDS church. Straighten out church structure and procedures. The membership did not vote for that fraudulent takeover, which I call the lawyers' coup. "One man, no vote" – is our current condition. p.245
26. No time to relax. No "all is well in Zion." p.251
27. Other priestcraft Issues, including promoting one-world government on Satan's terms rather than resisting it. p.257

Section 7 -- Conclusions

28. LDS Church grand strategy: past, present, and possible future. p.270
29. Epilogue. p.278

Is The Church As True As The Gospel?
A Constitutional Approach

Section 1 -- Introduction

Chapter 1

The Problem

Today, simply accurately defining the problems faced by the LDS church may be almost enough to imply the correct answer:

Throughout recorded history, all other restorations of the gospel have begun to seriously deteriorate by the 200-year mark. We are at the 200-year mark, assuming we start counting at 1820. How stands the restoration? In my opinion, we have deteriorated at least as much as the other two restorations carried out by Christ himself in Jerusalem and in the New World. My goal here is to point out the difficulties as I see them, and hope that everyone else who has an interest in maintaining and promoting the gospel will help make any changes necessary to bring us back into conformance with Christ's true gospel as lived by him and his followers in Jerusalem and the New World.

Some people who are not church members, but who have studied the LDS church and its history, have concluded that the LDS church does not have a theology but only a history. That was a shocking and puzzling statement when I first read it. I have been puzzling on that statement for many years. In retrospect, it appears that outside researchers are simply saying that the numerous major changes in doctrine and practice over the life of the LDS church, starting in 1820, must indicate that the church has no stable doctrine and practice, but has had a long history of making major changes to the church teachings and practices over the decades. In other words, they conclude that the church has no dependable "constitution," but is whatever the current church leaders choose to say it is on any particular day.

This naturally brings up the question as to whether the gospel consists of a set of eternal unchanging principles and practices, or whether that church's leaders have full authority to make major changes at any time according to their individual viewpoints and preferences.

One might initially expect that the church leaders would be totally bound and constrained by the unusually large amount of scriptures which they have received and presented to the world. But it is easy to show that the church leaders actually feel bound and constrained by almost nothing which is in the written scriptures, but indeed do feel free to make major changes as they see fit.

We might express this thought in another way: What is the purpose of thousands of pages of carefully preserved scripture if every new church president can feel free to ignore all that has gone before and make any changes as might seem convenient, often with little or no explanation for the changes? The words of all the previous prophets, as recorded in scripture, may be interesting as guidelines, but they are not binding in any way? That appears to be the church position today. "Living prophets" might seem like a good idea for maintaining church guidance, but are those "living prophets" authorized to override anything and everything that has gone before as part of their church assignment?

As concerns the U.S. Constitution, we have a few Supreme Court justices who are considered "originalists" who strive to always apply the Constitution as the founding fathers intended, if that is possible. We have other Supreme Court justices who prefer to believe that the Constitution is a "living document," meaning that it can be changed in any way that seems convenient to a small number of activist judges if they simply have enough votes on their side.

The LDS church has exactly the same question come up on a regular basis. Are the writings of all the previous prophets, which we might call the "original intent" of the scriptures, an "original intent" which goes back perhaps 6,000 years (or beyond that to the beginning of eternity?), to be binding in almost every conceivable case, or are those scriptures highly plastic and malleable, to be used or ignored as current leaders prefer?

In national politics today, it is considered important to "follow the money" to understand what is actually going on in political maneuvering. Perhaps the same principle applies just as well to religious matters. The single largest change which has occurred to the LDS church in its 200-year history is the re-adoption of the law of Moses principle of tithing, supposedly making it a part of the gospel of Christ. The original tithing was devoted to supporting an entire tribe of Levites, a professional priesthood. In a similar way, today's tithing supports tens of thousands of "Levites," members of a new professional priesthood consisting of church employees, even though a critical part of Christ's new gospel was to make every man his own priest, so that no professional priesthood was required whatsoever. This new professional priesthood even includes a "Sanhedrin," a large and all-powerful headquarters unit which controls every aspect of the religion, as was done under the law of Moses.

It is interesting to realize that the religion which Christ instituted during his life was extremely efficient, making it suitable to provide guidance for any people at any time at any place, giving them every needful priesthood blessing at no charge. It required no payment of tithing and had no need for any temples or paid clergy or even any chapels. In fact, it did not even require a central headquarters of any kind. There was a requirement that the members look after each other and share each other's burdens, but that was the complete extent of their practical commitments. Being a member of the church thus added no financial burdens at all to those burdens which might already have been imposed by any aggressive tax-and-spend secular government organizations. 

This very efficient arrangement leaves room for some large "extra credit" charitable projects specifically designed to repair a damaged society, done with or without the involvement of top church leaders. Often it would be better done without their involvement, again following the pattern Christ set. Such programs would be especially attractive to all charity-minded people if there were zero or minimal program overhead costs to administer them since most administrators would be volunteers.

This latter-day reversion to law of Moses tithing and paid ministry is especially puzzling, since Christ went to such great lengths to end every aspect of the old law of Moses, especially including the principle of tithing, with its paid priests. One might think that if Christ himself thought that his original gospel was faulty in some way, and that it should revert to including many prior law of Moses practices, then he would likely make it extremely clear that he was amending his gospel. One would not expect that this was something that a restored church would merely drift into by incremental administrative steps as opposed to receiving new scripture, probably delivered by Christ himself, concerning such a momentous change to reembrace Old Testament concepts and mix them in with New Testament concepts and expectations, making the new mixture internally inconsistent and incoherent.

One might reasonably expect that the dramatic events surrounding the occasion of Moses giving the children of Israel the law of Moses for the first time would be at least partially recreated on the occasion of reinstituting the law of Moses at a later time. But, as far as I know, none of those bombastic events have ever happened.

But perhaps that reversion to the lucrative law of Moses religious economic system is not really so puzzling when we observe that, at least according to appearances, all prior restorations have gone through the exact same steps of adopting a paid ministry, complete with the creation of a class system, where at least some of the leaders choose and demand to live off the resources of the members. It inevitably ends badly as the entire society is corrupted and disintegrates as it is infected with a pathologically self-centered and non-idealistic view of life, beginning with the church itself, leaving no good examples and leadership for the rest of society. No one is paying the maintenance costs of keeping a vigorous and spontaneously cooperative society intact.

If local church leaders can serve without pay, so can any more general leaders. It is not that they need no resources at all to operate, it is just that they should not demand any, leaving it to the generosity of God and church members to spontaneously supply whatever may be needed. Christ and his disciples demanded nothing of the members by right of their priesthood positions and yet they had what was needed. This system at least prevents any of the waste, fraud, and abuse typically associated with many secular governments' tax-and-spend social programs.  Worst of all, and a sure path to complete corruption of the church, is its direct participation in any of those secular government tax-and-spend programs.    

Alma 1 points out how dangerous it is to allow the church and its good influence on society to deteriorate as far as it already has:

12 But Alma said unto him [Nehor]: Behold, this is the first time that priestcraft has been introduced among this people. And behold, thou art not only guilty of priestcraft, but hast endeavored to enforce it by the sword; and were priestcraft to be enforced among this people it would prove their entire destruction.

(In case someone wishes to quibble that the church uses no force in its demand for tithing, we need only notice that members are completely kept from the benefits of the higher saving ordinances unless a lifetime of full tithes are paid to the central offices. Putting an earthly price on eternal salvation, which everyone naturally desires and deserves, is itself a very improper use of force or prevention, blocking or cutting off free access unless a fee is paid. "Freely ye have received, freely give." Matt. 10:8. One might need to do something to be worthy of receiving those ordinances, but the payment of large sums of money every year to the church central offices cannot be one of those criteria.)

From the account in 4 Nephi, it appears that that particular prophecy was fulfilled completely at about 300 A.D., as not only the church was destroyed, but the entire associated nation disappeared. It seems logical to assume that we face the exact same danger at this point. The church today is very weak and may actually be shrinking in size and influence, and the nation around us is rushing towards its own destruction. Hardly anyone is doing anything about it, or perhaps even can do anything about it if they cannot present solutions based on the principles and religion of Christ.

The level of political discord is so striking today that people often wonder about the possibility of another civil war. Of course, it was a civil war that destroyed the New World church. There have been plenty of religious conflicts and wars in Europe, and the true church was also lost there, as it was in the New World, but at least some Christians and Christian principles were able to survive the centuries of conflict, at least in the form of writings, and finally succeeded in creating the remarkable Western Civilization, culminating in the rise of the United States with its inspired Constitution.

It seems obvious at this point that the only way to sustain a permanent and complete restoration of the gospel is to take the "constitutional" approach of carefully defining all the important elements of the gospel, and then coming up with an auditing system which makes sure that no one deviates from that specification without the most rigorous of explanations and verifications. One might protest that this sounds too much like the law of Moses, if we have to specify everything in detail. However, men are by nature foolish and corrupt and self-centered so that, given the opportunity, they will veer off course every time if there is not some system to keep them on the straight and narrow path, and, unfortunately, they will often take many others with them. Every church member should wake up every morning and ask themselves the question, "Is The Church As True As The Gospel?" That should put a brake on inappropriate changes.

The following chart is intended to be a beginning point on what principles the correct gospel includes, plus a comparison with how today's church has modified those basic gospel principles. Making these major repairs would move us a goodly way toward getting back to the true religion of Christ.

A Partial Gospel "Constitutional" Summary and Comparison
Gospel principle/theme
Christ's church
Today's church
Freedom is first principle of heaven.
If the institutional church acts in any way to limit any kind of freedom, it is almost certainly wrong.
Observe inspired US Constitution as part of scripture.
Maintain consent of governed.
Maintain all freedoms -- religious, political, economic.
Ignores US Constitution.
Ignores consent of governed.
Interferes with freedoms -- religious, political, economic. Constantly promotes exact obedience to central church bureaucracy, limiting member freedom, damaging the spread of the gospel.
Required contributions
All ordinances and services are free.
Reinstituted Law of Moses tithing and paid ministry, charges large fees for all higher ordinances
First practical responsibility of members.
Charity is minimal and is mostly ignored. Tithing and charity are mutually exclusive concepts, and the church consistently chooses tithing.
God created earth and all life. Man is literal offspring of God
Church accepts and promotes all atheistic organic evolution speculations, including the origin of man, concerning which much ambiguity is maintained.
Grace and works
Grace covers many things concerning salvation, but grace alone is not sufficient to qualify a person for the extensive responsibilities that come with exaltation.
Accepts Protestant formulation of grace and works and its links to the nature of heaven.
Nature of heaven
Qualified, exalted beings continue the eternal advancement of souls. All others have no responsibility for anyone but themselves.
Largely accepts Protestant formulation of heaven, although it adds its own version of universal salvation involving various levels of heaven, and essentially removes the "hell" option.  Ignores or waffles on extra duties and opportunities of qualified, exalted beings.
Joinder of a man and a woman to bring souls into the world and teach them the correct gospel so they can gain valuable experience and serve others in turn.
The definition is becoming more fluid. The church seems to have recently compromised with gay activists on same-sex marriage, opening the path for a new kind of gay-pagan-Mormon to be welcomed into the church to further dilute its ability to be a standard and an influence for good. This is apparently part of a commercially oriented "big tent" strategy to maintain church income.
Amending the gospel
Extremely difficult and rare. Requires direct heavenly intervention with new scripture, formally accepted by church members.
Most apparent "changes" are simply the result of getting a better understanding of the original gospel.
Leadership whimsy and convenience is all that is required, as in the case of initiating tithing, charging for priesthood ordinances, ending the literal gathering of Israel, ending vigorous support for freedom, and embracing evolution.

Chapter 2

A Suggested Solution

Although the church problem as outlined above may seem complex and even overwhelming, l believe the general solution is rather simple in concept, however complicated it may be in execution. Here is a high-level treatment of the situation, sent to church headquarters as a suggestion:
November 1, 2019

Elder _________
50 East North Temple
Salt Lake City, Utah 84150

Subject: Member faith crises: a suggestion

Dear Elder _________,

It makes me sad to see people leaving the church for potentially preventable reasons. The question then is, what are the options for encouraging them to want to stay?

Recently, I have been studying the issue of LDS member faith crises. Some materials available on the Internet include a June 2013 study entitled "LDS Personal Faith Crisis," 140 pages in length, which you have probably seen, which surveyed over 3000 people concerning their individual faith crises. In that report, a sense of urgency was expressed as to the importance of resolving this issue. At least two other similar survey studies have been done on this topic, with one set of results reported in a published book, and another set of results reported on an Internet site. I have also been conducting my own informal survey, on a much smaller scale.

Representing a different collection of faith crisis data, in August 2019 a lawsuit was brought in federal court against the LDS church alleging that a large class of people were taught throughout their young lives numerous aspects of early church history, which aspects supposedly have now been shown to be incorrect. These allegedly incorrect teachings are said to have amounted to a fraud, which has caused numerous personal faith crises.

The case is named Gaddy vs COB (LDS). It began with a 75-page complaint which outlines the various claimed fraudulent teachings concerning Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, etc. The case is only in the beginning stages, but it does appear that the plaintiff and her highly experienced attorney are well prepared to pursue this case as far as possible. The attorney also considers herself to be among the defrauded members or ex-members. No specific numbers are given concerning class size or the expected jury-trial-approved award, but my own quick estimate based on outside data would put the class size at about 26,000, with a potential total award in the range of $250 million.

These kinds of continuing public activities seem to indicate that this "faith crisis" issue will not soon go away, and so should probably be taken seriously and directly addressed. The church statistical data from 2018 seem to show that the church is barely replacing those who die or leave the church, achieving little net growth in active members.

I have been a church member all my life, born and raised in Utah, and at age 78, I have spent most of my life studying various unique aspects of the church, including many aspects of its early history. I have written five books on those topics and have published three of them. I have two law degrees but have spent most of my career as a computer consultant, spending 14 years overseas, which offered three different views of the foreign operations of the church in Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Russia.

I consider many aspects of church history that are widely objected to today to be based on a profound ignorance of the settings in which many of these events took place. Uninformed and unrestrained "presentism" is seen in almost every one of today's arguments. At the same time, it is often very difficult to find out the exact truth on any particular historical issue because there is so little fully complete and reliable historical evidence available. Joseph Smith made a heroic effort to record the relevant history, but, several generations later, it is not nearly enough to settle all important historical questions that might arise. Most of the data available is nearly all very old and of low quality, and so is a poor basis for any kind of definitive judgment.

I believe several of these historical issues could indeed be settled with broader and better-informed reviews of history, but, at the same time, many more of those kinds of questions may never be fully answered using only historical materials.

Move the discussion to a different kind of history?
Considering overall strategy, we could continue to struggle mightily with these troublesome historical issues, often using nothing more reliable than 200-year-old rumors which are poorly documented and therefore poorly understood. However, I believe in many areas that quest for truth would still prove to be unfruitful.

As an alternative to a constant and sweeping review of innumerable church history topics, I suggest that the church put major resources into creating a new and current "replacement" history, completely positive and verifiable, which would show by its actions that today's LDS church is indeed a copy of the church which Christ himself restored in the meridian of time.

Pres. Nelson has emphasized the need for more personal charitable activity, which is part of the idea of ministering. My main suggestion is that the church simply take some much longer steps down that same road of expanding charity, which was considered the number one focus of the gospel among the early Christians. See 1 Cor. 13.

The essence of my suggestion is that the church consider engaging in some large-scale, society-changing charitable activities as a counterbalance to a less-than-perfect grip on 200-year-old church history, rendering that old history much less relevant.

It should not be too difficult to find suitable social problems in our nation that obviously require enormous charitable efforts to resolve properly, since governments have clearly failed. We have the abortion problem, the homelessness problem, and the immigration and border problem, to name just a few of the more widely recognized situations crying out for solutions. Slightly less obvious are such problems as inner-city education failures, broken families, and social violence. Those particular inner-city activities would also tend to counteract claims of church racism, past or present. (Those claims of racism are incorrect, but I doubt that any amount of public discourse will dispel those claims without some impressive associated actions.)

Most of the surveys mentioned above did not explicitly address this issue of membership opinions of church charitable activity levels. That could have been done through appropriately themed or focused survey questions, designed for easy tabulation, but it was not done. However, I believe the free-form written essay answers, and other similar materials from other sources, do give us some valuable insights into important attitudes. First, we should recognize that most of the respondents were from among the previously most serious and active members -- many of the "best and brightest" -- as indicated by their usually extensive church experience, including demanding positions held. They typically expressed their seeming concern about various historical issues, like so many other people, but I believe they were also, and more importantly, expressing concerns that they were seeing far too little good societal effects, too little "return on investment (ROI)" on church activity in general, based on the extreme levels of individual inputs of time, energy, commitment, and money. These resource factors have not been officially quantified and made public by today's central church, but they certainly amount to many tens of billions of dollars in volunteer payments and volunteer hours, with relatively little to show for it in the realm of improvements to society.

For example, Utah might logically be a social showcase of the best that is possible in the nation and the world, but Utah is not actually very remarkable on many important measures. Perhaps something besides standard secular government methods is needed to achieve impressive excellence.

Based on numerous comments about church financial matters in survey responses, I believe that the underlying logic of many of those disappointed members who were surveyed, however imprecisely that logic may have been stated, is that if the gospel doesn't actively change the world for the better, as it was prophesied it should do, then there must be something wrong with that church's policies and practices. The original church that Christ restored in Jerusalem certainly did go on to almost single-handedly create the cultural richness and technological wonders of Western civilization. Perhaps all we need to do to satisfy some of these serious Christian people is to more staunchly continue that Christian tradition.

A more perceptive membership?
I think we are also glimpsing another interesting, and presumably unexpected problem where the constant reading and studying of the scriptures by bright, highly educated, and committed members, which reading activity is supposed to help keep them committed and doubt-free, can actually serve to highlight the deficiencies in today's church behavior, when compared to the foundational scriptures. This would likely be especially true concerning the topic of charity and general issues of freedom, and could thus create cognitive dissonance and raise doubts, even if only subconsciously, felt as a kind of general unease.

For example, the Book of Mormon, especially in the Book of Alma, vigorously teaches the vital importance of individual political freedom through portraying at length the strenuous lifelong labors of Captain Moroni to keep his religious compatriots free. And the first chapter of Alma describes an extremely efficient system of charity and welfare where there is no expensive central bureaucracy either for government or for church administration, leaving all the resources of the population available to be used in individual charitable acts.

Two remarkably enlightened kings, King Benjamin and King Mosiah, paved the way for a new democratic system of judges, with an absolute minimum of taxes and central administration, matched with the maximum of personal freedom and responsibility. One might conclude that if the church is not vigorously promoting individual freedom and individual charity, as did the original church of Christ, which was actually historically preceded by the practices described in the Book of Alma, then something must be wrong.

We also might notice that the saints described in the Book of Alma, and the early saints after the life of Christ, had no requirement to pay into any tithing system, and also built no chapels or temples, leaving essentially all their personal resources available for individual acts of charity, giving them the maximum religious freedom to do good.

I am confident that most of the current history-based objections to the church's legitimacy would disappear from public discussion if the church reverted to those original arrangements established by the original apostles. Under those ideal circumstances, the church grew at about 10% a year for hundreds of years, presumably because of the sense of community and security the members provided each other.

Church-driven limitations on freedom and charity?
From observations made during my international travels, apparently the church has explicitly or implicitly made the determination that it must operate worldwide based on the most restrictive conditions found anywhere, always seeking and applying the lowest common denominator. For example, whatever modicum of individual and church religious freedom is found in Russia must not be exceeded anywhere else in the world, regardless of the vastly different conditions found in other countries. In Russia there are legal limits on any potentially widespread society-changing charity activities. Should the limits on individual religious freedom found in Russia also apply in the United States, where freedom is celebrated and churches are still essentially unconstrained? It seems difficult to justify such widespread, self-imposed religious limitations, even if it might offer some conveniences of consistency of administration to the central church offices.

In other words, should the religious freedom problems of 10,000 members in restrictive countries control the behavior of 10,000,000 members in freer countries, where those freer members could do perhaps hundreds of times more good with their freedom than they do now? As an extra consideration, those good deeds done elsewhere might eventually indirectly help the plight of members in restrictive countries.

I have more information on many of these topics if that seems useful.

Sincerely yours,

Receipt of the letter was acknowledged, but no substantive response was provided.

The suggestion for a solution might have been said more succinctly:
            1. Make sure that current church teachings and activities conform with the actual gospel of Christ. It turns out that this is actually very difficult to accomplish, especially after 200 years of doctrinal drift.
            2. Make sure that the members actually understand the basic principles of the gospel, which I see as freedom, charity, God as Creator, the nature of the heaven we are striving to reach (since heavenly and earthly principles should be very much the same), what a practical gospel community should look like, etc.

If church members have a clear understanding of these basic philosophies, they can largely compute for themselves what all the other sub-principles of the gospel ought to be. Loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself are two good places to start. A heavy emphasis on personal charity would help get us back into conformity with New Testament and Book of Mormon teachings.

It seems to be a current anti-Mormon fad to find some nit-picking historical issue and use that to convince church members that that proves that the gospel is untrue. But that seems to be the classic problem of not being able to see the forest for the trees, allowing some small point, some shiny object, to obscure the big picture. For example, rather than getting hung up on how many different ways Joseph Smith described his first vision in writing, perhaps we should strive to find out what was learned from that first vision and all other revelations Joseph Smith received, certainly including the Book of Mormon. We have a large mass of scriptures, but our understanding of the most important teachings of the scriptures currently leaves much to be desired.

In my opinion, it is not enough for us to know how to be nice to each other, although that is an important part of the gospel for both children and adults. However, as adults who are managing their own lives and helping others to manage their lives, it is very important to know what an entire Gospel society, what a "Zion," would look like. Only then can we make sure that our actions are always going in the right direction.

A second letter was drafted but never sent:

May 5, 2020

LDS First Presidency
50 East North Temple
Salt Lake City, Utah 84150

Subject: Member faith crises: a suggestion, part 2

Dear Brethren,

I recently sent a rough book manuscript to a publisher, and during the resulting lull in activity it occurred to me that this might be a good time to communicate with church headquarters about an idea. This book is part of a project I want to carry out, but I now realize that there might be other ways to do the project.

The current working title of the book is "Is The Church As True As The Gospel?  A Constitutional Approach." The main purpose of the book is to point out that the LDS Church today has gradually become more a reflection of Old Testament teachings than it is of New Testament teachings.  The Old Testament was focused on paying tithing, supporting a professional priesthood, and attaining personal purity, while the New Testament ended tithing and any related professional priesthood, and was instead focused almost entirely on carrying out charitable acts that improved the lives of individuals and of society – the Good Samaritan focus.  There was less concern about static purity and more concern about active good works. Doing good works vigorously may cause controversy, of course, but Christianity is not supposed to be passive, in my view. I believe Christianity should be an active leaven to society.

Many people may not be sophisticated theologians who can describe and discuss these religious issues and the related ideologies in detail, but a very large number of people nonetheless can sense the strong practical difference between an Old Testament program and a New Testament program. My book simply explains how we got here. I believe these issues have a great deal to do with the missionary and retention success of the church.

I find it interesting that the new information that the LDS Church has at least $100 billion in liquid investments is in the headlines at the same time I am finishing my book that has to do with church policy drift. To my knowledge, the church has not denied the essence of any of these reports, but rather has taken some steps to try to defend its actions, perhaps as being needed preparation for some unclear future events.

This new public knowledge confirms and validates the book I have assembled, since the news makes it clear what the Church's real priorities have been in recent decades – giving charitable works less emphasis and banking the savings. Perhaps we could call this "burying the talent," referring to the New Testament parable. If church headquarters wanted to do something to change that image, perhaps we could work together.

It seems to me that this might be a good time to offer an alternative suggestion.  As part of my publication project I have intended to offer to manage a project which I have called the "Fund for Zion."  In my opinion, there are many valuable things that $100 billion could have been spent for during the last many decades, but those actions were not taken.  What I am proposing is a separate fund to actually do those things which the Church has chosen to avoid. For example, the church has ended its adoption services, presumably for reasons of avoiding political conflict, but I believe an independent non-church organization would not experience the same political constraints.

I have in mind at least six different "shovel-ready projects" of a charitable nature, at various levels of research and definition, which would make a good beginning in solving a few important social problems that can be easily identified today.  Each of these projects needs some seed money to get them started and to introduce and verify some new concepts. The projects could then proceed autonomously and independently in many cases.

Some project examples
1. An abortion/adoption/foster-care project. In my book, I describe in some detail an idea for a demonstration charitable project to deal with the social issues of abortion and adoption on a fairly large scale.  I believe the first step in the project would be to get long-term control of the development of perhaps 1200 contiguous acres of suitable undeveloped ground to be used for housing, schools, work experience opportunities, etc., that could be used to support many different aspects of the abortion/adoption project.  I am guessing that it would take about $20 million to get the necessary control of that land so that long-term plans could then be made and carried out.  The general idea would be to end up with a facility which could support about 20,000 orphans or foster-care kids somewhere in central Utah. The total long-term cost to develop all the facilities might be in the $2 billion range.

2. A genealogy project.  I have actually spent the most research time on a genealogy-related project which would have the goal of completing the United States within two years and the entire world within 10 years.  Enormous amounts of money and labor have been applied to the genealogy activity already, but the levels of duplication and inefficiency are astronomical.  A change in concept and technology would make possible the timeframes I mentioned without any more effort or money being applied than is available now.  I hold two software patents whose purpose it is to demonstrate the feasibility of what I have just described. Most technical aspects have been tested already, but a few million dollars could be used to further prove all practical concepts and methods, including user acceptance. My calculations are that $70 million would be required to finish all the basic genealogy for the United States up to about 1940, and that data product should be valuable enough as a starting place, if handled properly, to make possible completing the processing of all records available for the rest of the world.

3. A government integrity project.  I have observed through my own sad experiences (described in my book) that the legal and judicial system in the state of Utah is not obviously much better than that in any other state of the Union.  If Utah is supposed to represent "Zion," then one of the elements of "Zion" is to have an honest and dependable government administration, something which is not always present in the state of Utah.  It seems to me it would be very useful to have an ongoing review and evaluation of most important government and judicial opinions and actions, pointing out the major biases and prejudices that exist in Utah as much as anywhere else. This kind of monitoring of governments is something which news organizations only do on a very sporadic basis. Perhaps a $5 million study project could make major progress in this area.  

4. A gathering/migration project. One look at the United States southern border presents a whole list of social problems that need attention – unaccompanied minors, economic refugees, health problems, etc.  There are numerous opportunities for charitable activities to help with all the many problems that are highlighted at the border, many of which the state and federal governments are poorly prepared to deal with.  As one interesting example, there are people leaving from Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, etc., to try to reach the United States.  In many cases those people risk their lives many times over using underground-style travel methods while also still paying out enough money to actually be provided safe and easy passage out of their Third World difficulties.  One interesting solution, among many, would be to help some of these people relocate to Europe where they would be well received as having much closer values and social ties to the local society than do the majority of the Muslim immigrants who have been flooding Europe and causing many problems.  After some further education and experience, those same Hispanic people might be able to move in a logical progression to the United States, if that is their goal.  They often have the funds to be able to move from their unpleasant homes to a better place, but they need some guidance and advance preparations to make the transitions pleasant and productive. A few million dollars would go a long way to research and set up practical systems to help these people. 

5. An education project.  There are many ways in which the current, mostly government-controlled education systems are failing the students and the rest of society.  We have the interesting situation where large local companies are willing to invest money in school systems to improve the educational levels of the students those schools produce, but there does not appear to be any really satisfactory place to invest that money effectively.  At the same time, the homeschool effort in Utah is doing great things, largely driven by LDS mothers with very high goals and expectations for their children, pointing out that the possibilities for improvement of the state's education systems are numerous. A few million dollars would allow research and practical systems to be set up to help students and families and companies.

6. A health/pension demonstration project. It appears that the New Testament program of individual charitable works amounted to a complete social insurance system for church members and their friends, but without all the rigidity, unfairness, inefficiency, coerciveness, and waste of the typical government tax-and-spend welfare system. That early New Testament charitable system, or any other charitable system, can be up to five times more efficient than any government program could ever be, meaning that real needs can be met quickly and flexibly as they arise. Today, the lion's share of government budgets, and therefore nearly all political conflict, relates to health care, pensions, and other welfare matters, but a secular government is usually poorly prepared to administer such programs well and wisely. For political reasons, governments almost always promise more than they can deliver, typically eventually bankrupting those systems. Those excessive government promises also tend to result in lowering the growth rate of their population below replacement value. Citizens might wonder why they should bother with raising children of their own to care for them in their old age when the government has promised to always take care of them (by taxing other peoples' children). If everyone follows that logic, then the number of children raised to adulthood drops drastically. This tendency of an overreaching government to initiate a society death spiral through welfare systems seems to be too well-hidden for most people to recognize. A family-oriented, pro-life church might consider advocating strongly against some of our society's current anti-family, anti-life policies.

These few ideas barely begin to deal with the many major problems which are in the world and which need attention, for church members, and for others as well.  Also, I'm quite confident that there are many good people in the world, regardless of their church affiliation, who would help with some of these projects if it was clear to them that they were getting a good value for the money they were contributing.

If any of these ideas seem like useful topics for discussion, I hope you will let me know.

Sincerely yours,