It was all over the world news, ISIS put a Jordanian pilot to death by fire after he was captured in the war against the developing Islamic caliphate.  Here is an example of a religious body (yes, I am willing to call them radical Islamists) which believes so strongly that they are right and have God on their side that taking a life is justified in the ascension toward their sacred goal of world domination. It is of note that a cleric associated with the Islamic state was arrested for objecting to the punishment inflicted on the captured Muslim pilot.

Fire has been used for many years to extinguish the lives of those who were deemed a threat to the religious establishment. Wiki maintains a list of martyrs, including a 19 year-old relapsed heretic by the name of Joan of Arc.

Jeanne au bûcher

In the Book of Mormon, Alma and Amulek were commanded by God to preach to the people of Ammonihah. A minority of the inhabitants of the city believed the words of these missionaries and were subjected to cruelty. The men were stoned and the women and children were burned by fire as described in Alma 14:

“And they brought their wives and children together, and whosoever believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God they caused that they should be cast into the fire; and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also, that they might be burned and destroyed by fire.

And it came to pass that they took Alma and Amulek, and carried them forth to the place of martyrdom, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire.

And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene?  Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.

But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.”

These acts were committed because those that believed in the words of Alma and Amulek were seen as reviling the people of the city and, more seriously, they taught “that there was but one God, and that he should send his Son among the people, but he should not save them; and many such things did the people testify against Alma and Amulek.” (Alma 14:5) It is interesting to note that they were being punished for adhering to the truth. Ultimately the city of Ammonihah along with its inhabitants were destroyed by the Lamanites… justice served, I presume.

It seems to be a pattern what when a religious body has gone away from God, they take upon themselves the ‘right’ to determine the fate of those that are perceived to hold a different belief within the community. This day we see ‘virtual’ death being inflicted by those who govern the LDS church in the form of excommunication.  The charge is typically apostasy. A charge, which in a number of cases, cannot be specifically defined by those who wield it. In essence, the real offense is one of not following the guidance and direction of the priesthood leaders. The priesthood determines what is currently acceptable from a doctrinal and historical view and then uses this definition in punishing those who disagree with it. It does not seem to matter whether this doctrine is justifiable from a scriptural perspective, not does the fact that historical documentation can be shown to bring into question the efficacy of the church’s doctrinal or historical stance.

Those that are found ‘revile’ against the church by exposing flaws or unsavory aspects in its history or preach doctrine that is not aligned with the current version of church doctrine are to be subjected to the virtual torch. It doesn’t seem to matter whether these historical warts or the fact that these doctrines can find justification in the scriptures, it is not acceptable to speak out against the current version of church doctrine and the ‘correlated’ view of church history. This week, it was John Dehlin’s turn to face the tribunal of stake officers who determined that his public face could not be tolerated by the church that bears the name of Jesus Christ.

As I grieve for those who have found themselves in similar situations, I am reminded of the concise direction that the Lord has given the priesthood in dealing with these situations. Should anyone feel that they are exempt from such instruction; the Lord first reminds us that the probabilities are against the priesthood holder from judging fairly.

“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. (D&C 121:39)”

I would suggest that the characterization of ‘almost all men’ should be sufficient to ensure that the guidance applies to everyone. Every priesthood holder should be instructed as to what this verse means relative to church governance. I would suggest that this verse implies that it is rare when a person holding the priesthood does not exercise unrighteous dominion as he perceives the purpose and execution of his authority.

What form does unrighteous dominion take in this context? I would suggest that unrighteous dominion can be characterized as the attempt to dominate another in a way that is not righteous or in tune with God. If I attempt to impose my current belief on another, have I attempted to dominate them spiritually? If one’s current view of history or doctrine is used to ‘demand’ obedience from a member of the church, is this unrighteous dominion? Does this apply to the current leadership of the church? Can one holding a position of leadership at the general or stake level be exempt from this charge from the Lord? I think that these questions should be carefully considered when one is called to bring judgment on another’s current spiritual worldview.

The Lord has given direction as to how one should administer in a priesthood position:

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy and without guile – reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he my know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death. (verses 40-44)”

I would suggest that influence expressing the authority of the priesthood by persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and by love unfeigned is the opposite of unrighteous dominion. Priesthood leaders are instructed in these verses to operate, not by compulsion, but by persuasion; not by swift action but by long suffering; not by authoritarian dictate but by kindness, gentleness and meekness. Have these corrective actions been based on ‘pure knowledge?’ What is pure knowledge when it comes to different interpretation of history and doctrine? And, most important, do not feign love by calling these activities ‘courts of love.’

Have these disciplinary sessions been held based on the movement provided by the Holy Ghost or by the SMTC? Have they been used as an attempt to persuade or dictate?

I can only pray that the next ‘torch’ is replaced by the light of Christ in administering to the spiritual welfare of those that call themselves saints.

What think ye?

15 Responses to “Death by Fire”

  • I listened to John Dehlin’s end-of-year (2014) podcast “update” in which (if I recall correctly) he confessed to no longer believing in the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, or even the divinity of Jesus Christ. His efforts (of late) have been demonstrably and evidently to persuade / “guide” others to leave the Mormon faith. Indeed, like (former LDS bishop) Steve Bloor, John now seems motivated to lead people away from Christ.

    Is excommunication warranted in this case?

    Was Alma the younger excommunicated? We don’t know. However, rather than “punish” or “discipline” him, his father, Alma, who was the head of the Church, was, indeed, “long suffering”. (Think of Corianton!) Alma prayed for his son — and asked for an angel to be sent from heaven to minister to him, thus demonstrating the true power, mercy and beneficence of God.

    By contrast, the LDS Church today hasn’t sent a home teacher to my house in the three years preceding my excommunication (for “apostasy”) nor in the 10 months since, even though my wife and children (at my urging) remain “faithful”, attending members even in my absence, since the LDS Church took the extraordinary step of banishing me from even stepping foot on LDS Church property anywhere in the world!

    Talk about “death”!

    If excommunication is “death by fire”, then banishment is “spreading one’s ashes to the four winds”! Even if my family remain LDS — and it has required considerable effort on my part to persuade most of them to do so — I am prohibited from visiting Temple Square, dropping off my children at Church on Sunday, attending their baptisms, or even standing outside a temple if and when they wed! I will never be allowed to visit BYU (the school from which I graduated!), attend a Church-sponsored football game, or even hear my wife and children sing in a Church-sponsored Christmas choir performance.

    I am, indeed, “dead” to the LDS Church.

    How am I to respond? I pray for them. I told them that what they did to me, they would do to themselves. Inasmuch as they thought to cut me off from the presence of the Lord, they only “excommunicated” themselves! They accepted this “fate” cheerfully (if not dismissively). They were assured, after all, that they possess all power and authority from God, He having delivered it unto them, He having done His work (see 2 Nephi 28:5).

    That being said, being cast out from among them frees me to seek God independent of the idols erected to otherwise distract me.

    There is a place for mortal leaders and leadership. The wandering, wayward people of Israel, fleeing Egypt, arguably needed a Moses. But to “follow a prophet” was not God’s plan for His children. He endeavored to bring them back into His presence! But they would not. (See D&C 84:23-25.) The same was true for the LDS Church, but, likewise, they rejected Him.

    The LDS Church no longer urges its members to seek the face of God or to speak on His behalf. In fact, they dissuade many from doing so, saying it is “inappropriate” and “no necessary”. They have overturned the word of the Lord by their own traditions and disbelief.

    I am now fighting with my might to overcome the stumbling block placed before me. I am wrestling with my own doubts and fears, my own disbelief, and a lifetime of believing that going to Church, fulfilling one’s “calling”, going on a mission (or any number of such things) would be sufficient to “guarantee” my salvation.

    I now believe I was mistaken. I was “lead astray” by those leading others into the wilderness. The “faith of my fathers” was not sufficient to bring them back into the presence of God. It will not be sufficient to “save” me. I must access even greater faith…if I am to be raised, indeed, from the dead.

    • Adam:

      Good Will,

      When Jesus began his ministry among the Jews, the Jews considered themselves the chosen people of God with the only true religion that offered salvation. But unknown to most, their religion and their leaders had become corrupt. In their day all that desired to come unto Christ had to leave their religion and their traditions to follow Jesus.

      Christ “second coming,” so called, will be the same. All will have to leave their religion to come unto him.

      Christ’s gospel is so simple and beautiful. Believe in him, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost and endure to the end. Anything more or less than this is NOT of God. (3 Nephi 11:32-40)

      Can a church offer salvation? No. No church has ever saved one soul, only God can do this.

      John 14:6

      6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

      How is eternal life obtained? By getting to know God ourselves.

      John 17:3

      3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

  • James Russell Uhl:

    Indeed, the phrase “burned at the stake” has taken on a whole new meaning in our generation.
    The “flames” may be less intense physically, but the mental anguish is long lasting.
    A martyr who endures a man-made lake of fire and brimstone is no less a martyr, the pain is just different.
    D&C 121 is directed at any who, in a position of authority, exercise unrighteous dominion, whether in their role as a husband, father, or church leader.
    Gentleness, patience, persuasion, meekness, long-suffering, love unfeigned…the meaning does not change despite man’s failure to understand and apply, and it indeed does return upon the heads of those who misapply and misuse authority.
    Much love brethren.
    James Russell Uhl

  • Earl:

    Funny, James, that I was thinking exactly those words of being ‘burned at the stake’ just before I read your comments.

    Spek, with all due regard, I personally stopped listening/watching John Dehlin’s podcasts because he was definitely not leading me to Jesus nor faith in the truth that is the Book of Mormon- THE book that completely turned me around as a convert and changed my rather wicked ways. I noticed that all comments I left on his website questioning Dehlin’s questioning, ironically, were deleted the next day.

    Although I have nothing to do with the modern LDS church anymore, I completely and utterly believe in the testimony of the BoM- that Jesus is the Christ and the very eternal father. I believe Joseph was incredible in the early years and then used by the Lord to leading those of the first generation in the 1830’s, to what their hearts and itching ears wanted. They ignored the BoM, were condemned for it, and when given a second chance they did the same with building Nauvoo temple and instead embraced secret combinations in Freemasonry.

    But that has nothing to do suddenly make the BoM a lie! Nor Jesus a non-existing god.

    Dehlin wants to proudly remain part of the condemned tradition of his fathers and like them ignore the BoM whilst leading many away from Jesus, and making a good living doing it. ..hence, I agree- he was rightly excommunicated as he was NOT a member of the church who believed in ANYTHING.

    There are many who should not be excommunicated, like Rock and others who actually BELIEVE in the BoM and Jesus. John is different.

    He us this generatiin’s Mark Hoffman.

    • Spektator:

      I feel sorrow for anyone that is ‘banished’ against their choice. I do find it interesting that the excommunication of John Dehlin brought us full circle. The church definition of apostasy can apply to someone like Good Will who was actually believes that God can communicate with man to an unbeliever like Dehlin who has not discovered the light contained in the latter-day scriptures. How can both these people be apostates?

      I can only suggest that the apostasy is found in the inquisitor.

      • Earl:

        Exactly. The Spanish Inquisition rolls forth.

        Makes no sense that Good Will and Dehlin both wanted in and got kicked out…yet one for believing nothing whilst the other for believing too much.

  • James Russell Uhl:

    I have no problem with people who do not believe the Book of Mormon, do not believe Joseph Smith and do not believe Jesus Christ being cut off from the church if they seek to proselyte their views.
    I have serious problem with people who believe the Book of Mormon, honor and believe Joseph Smith and honor and worship and seek to follow Jesus Christ being asked to leave the church. Whose church is it anyway?
    James Russell Uhl

  • Earl:


    Hence, Dehlin is a moot point as he doesn’t believe.

    On your point, I state the Church known as ‘The corporation of the President of the church of jesus christ of LDS’ (capitals are intentional) is the church in the name of a man- the President of the Corp, hence nit the Church of Jesus Christ, so who cares what authority he supposes he has- Monson & Co.

  • Earl:

    To add further, what is the ‘church’? A people? A building? An Amway type pyramid top-down leadersip corporation? When one says ‘the church’s’ stance on x y or z, which of thd above do they mean? I believe the church as Jesus would define, is the one made of His believers, who only look to Him and do the works He has done, read His restored knowledge in the BoM and know WHAT and WHOM to worship instead of putting first the book that passed thru the hands of the Great and Abominable Church and taking the BoM lightly enough to be condemned, be wary of the arm of flesh, and have faith to the point where fear no longer exists, so that mighty miracles may be done and angels may encirle with fire.

    Has anyone sern this church lately? Last I read of a church like this was pre -1832
    according to some accounts, especially David Whitmer.

    I think the Lord needs to put His hand forth to restore Israel for the ‘second time’ as it says in the BoM, and re-restore that which He has taken away- the fulness of the priesthood, according to D&C124:28.

    • Spektator:

      What is the church? I can only repeat the doctrine of Christ regarding that matter:

      “Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
      Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.
      And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. (D&C 10:67-69)

  • Log:

    Apostasy in the Church is well-defined, if not publicly stated – it is to be disloyal to the leadership in either word or deed. This includes not believing what one is being taught, as well as not doing what one is commanded, and making either known publicly.

    That’s the underlying principle which accounts for all the excommunications for apostasy.

    In a sense, each level of the Church hierarchy is considered employees of the ones above; members are employees to all. Our excommunicants have been fired by the stakes. (Pun!)

    • Earl:

      Problem is when one starts being taught falsehoods by those who assume authority.

      Problem two is when one needs to accept what the arm of flesh commands.

      Thank God for the BoM which teaches that Jesus emoys no servant at the gate.

      What a book! After years of being immeresed in anti-mormon literature, much of it reasonably true though bloodythirsty at times, coming back to the Jesus, or God of the Book of Mormon, trumps everything!

      What a miracle that book is. A true gift from God.

      • I have to agree with you on that, Earl. The fascinating thing is how the Book of Mormon is, indeed, “the most correct book on earth”. Its doctrines and teachings are pure and, if followed, are calculated to “bring one closer to God than any other book”, as Joseph Smith promised.

        I particularly like, more than anything, the Book of Mormon’s unambiguous declaration of the divinity of Jesus Christ as the Eternal God, the Father of heaven and earth. A martyred prophet taught:

        Mosiah 13:34
        34 …God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth[.]

        Mosiah 15:1
        1 And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.

        Praise God!

        The BoM strips away all the rigamarole now imposed by an organization representing His name to all the world. The prophets of the BoM teach in plain humility and simplicity what is required — and, by omission, what is not required). All the world (who reads) can see that the Spirit of God is what is required. One must receive the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost in order to be converted and redeemed. A church that ignores or subverts this fact, denying its reality, is no church of God at all.

    • Well put, Log! You said it so much more clearly and succinctly than I!

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