Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Walking on Water

Recently, some have asked if they could have access to some of the letters that I shared a couple of years ago chronicling and encapsulating my family’s conversion to the Lord and subsequent departure from institutionalized religion.  This, along with a renewed desire to experience and testify of His grace, is why I am re-posting this and a few other letters.  Some of the writing has been edited to remove references to specific people, while still maintaining the integrity of the original message.  It is my hope and prayer that this may be of some help to others who may be struggling to put their own experiences and thoughts into words.  Please feel free to use and share as the Spirit guides...  -Rex Pettingill

16 March, 2015

Dearest Family and Friends,

For the other passengers and crew aboard the Good Ship, the vessel feels safe and secure; its heading seems true, its course undeviating, and she is piloted by a captain and crew in whom it seems all could place their complete confidence.  Certainly no other ship could weather the fierce storms and navigate the tumultuous waters of this world; in fact, many souls now aboard the Ship have been rescued from the flotsam of other ill-fated voyages attempted by less able ships and less competent crews. 

And so, the thought of abandoning this ship seems absolutely absurd. 

And yet there He is, just off the portside bow, standing impossibly on the surface of the dark sea; you can see Him if you are looking, out amid the thrashing of the waves; you can hear His voice if you listen, calling out across the howling of the wind.  He is there, and He beckons me to jump the railing of this unsinkable ship and walk across the swirling depths to join Him.

As I step out onto the water, the response from the other passengers aboard the Ship are varied.  Many respond with scorn and judgement, mocking at my foolish recklessness.  Some shed tears as they look on with sorrow and sympathy, not comprehending how and why someone would choose to leave the safety and security of the Ship.  Others rush to the railing and attempt to rescue me from certain drowning.  The captain and crew shout from the deck, warning others that they should stay clear of the railings, but that all is well aboard the Good Ship.  And yet there are a few who hesitate, because they, too, have seen Him out there on the sea, and have heard His voice calling to them.      

I have heard His call.  My wife and children have heard it, also.  It has grown louder and more urgent over the past few years.  It has pierced our hearts and minds, even as we have labored aboard the Ship – even as our son has toiled on deck as a full-fledged crew member.  Yet we have clung to the railing, resisting the assurances from Him that beckons to us, contemplating the ramifications of letting go. 

But today, we let go.    

No ship can weather the storm and bring us back to the only harbor that can truly offer us salvation.  No man or men can bring us there.  That harbor that saves is the presence of God, and only His Son can take us to it.  And so He beckons…

“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

And His prophets have taught…

“I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.” (2 Nephi 4:34)
“Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him; to whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves; that through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory.” (D&C 76:116)

Yet, in His mercy and infinite wisdom, He does not leave us to our own devices.  Even as we are called to walk on water, knowing that we will falter, He gives us each a life vest.  When we doubt or waiver in our faith and begin to sink into the depths, the Holy Ghost, the words of the Book of Mormon, and the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith buoy us up.  And like a lantern and a compass and map, they light the way, pointing us back to Him that beckons. 

“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (Helaman 5:12)

To those that inevitably will mock and scorn us for following the call of the Lord, we offer this reminder from the Prophet of the Restoration:

“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” (Articles of Faith 11)

To those that feel to sorrow at our actions, we offer our gratitude and appreciation for your concern.  Know that we love Christ and follow Him.  Do not pity, rather be of good cheer.  Christ lives, and He has atoned for all of our sins!

To those that would seek to rescue us, we admire your devotion and diligence, your concern for God’s children.  No man, however pure his intentions, can or should come between the Savior and those who seek His redemption.  Know that we are closer now to the Savior than we have ever been.    

Finally, to those who have also heard His voice calling from the sea, who have felt unsettled despite the apparent infallibility of the Ship upon which you sail, we invite you to consider to ponder the words of Christ in 3 Nephi 11:31-40, and in D&C 93:1, and in Abraham 1:1-2, the words of another who desired also greater blessings of the Lord, and in 1 Nephi 25:25, the words of a prophet who stood in the Savior’s presence and desired the same blessing for us all.  The desire of our hearts is to be greater followers of Christ, to be greater followers of righteousness, to possess greater knowledge, to bear His presence.  We welcome your sincere questions and invite you to seek the Lord with us.    

We are grateful for the foundation of faith that so many of you have helped lay for us and our children.  We admire the many selfless sacrifices that we see so many of you make in the service of our Lord. 

We are so grateful for the honorable mission that our son has served, and for the message of our Savior that he has sought to bring to the people with and for whom he has labored these past fifteen months.  He has been diligent in all that the Lord has asked him, and we admire his courage.  He, too, has hearkened to the Lord’s call, and continues to do so at great personal cost.  We look forward to being reunited with him very soon. 

We testify of the divinity of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  He lives, and desires all of His children to come to Him.  He has atoned for our sins, and as we turn to the Lord and repent of our ignorance and do His will, we will be saved as we come to know Him and His greater plan for us (3 Nephi 32:1-6).  We know that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God, and that he was chosen by the Lord to begin the restoration of His gospel and turn the hearts and minds of His children to God.  The Book of Mormon contains the word of God, and exhorts us, those who have accepted it as the word of God, to repent and turn again to Him.  That we all may do so is our sincere prayer and the deepest desire of our hearts.

With Love in Christ,

Rex & Melendie Pettingill and Family 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Without Compulsory Means

Although Jesus Christ was very direct and spoke in boldness against the iniquity and hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Scribes, He never once forced anyone to follow Him.  The commandment to follow Him was only ever by, and will forever only be by, invitation.  It is not in the Character of Christ to force people to convert to Him.  He will never force anyone to obey Him. He will never force anyone to love Him.  Jesus Christ is like this because although He loves each one of us eternally, He wants us to love Him in return.  Not only does He want us to have faith and trust in Him, He eventually, like Nephi in Helamen 10:4-5, wants to have faith and trust in each one of us.  His love is Godly and perfect and therefore He wants a loving, two-way, two-sided relationship with each of us.  You cannot have a pure loving relationship with someone if you force yourself upon them or seek to limit their freedom by control, abuse, or manipulation.  True love will only flourish and flow when agency and free-will are present and un-manipulated.  The person you are in love with must choose freely for themselves to love you in return for that relationship to be “real”.  Jesus is in love with you, but he wants a “real” relationship.  So instead of coming down in a cloud of thunder and demanding your respect, He simply waits for you to first choose to love Him. 

That is why the Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, fought against Lucifer in the pre-existence to protect the agency of man. (Moses 4:1-4) Because without agency, there can be no love; And by definition God is love.  (1st John 4:16, Lectures on Faith 3:24) This is why Jesus Christ will never seek to take away or manipulate our agency.  This is why Christ stands at the door waiting for us to let Him in.  (Rev 3:20) This is why He will sometimes appear to us as a stranger, engaging in casual yet deep conversation. (See Luke 24) This is why He does not demand worship because of his appearance or status- He commands worship by His word, or what He says, or in other words by the context of His message and teachings. (see 3rd Nephi 11:8-12)

Likewise, true followers and disciples of Jesus Christ will never force anyone to convert or believe the way they believe.  They will never exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men. (D&C121:37) They will only seek to persuade other to follow Christ, or “exercise” the priesthood, the way the Lord does which is 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”
(Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–43)

Love, or the power of God, can be likened unto a liquid.  I find it interesting that among the ordinances that Christ has given to mankind they all contain a liquid element.  Baptism uses water which can represent being washed and cleaned from sin.  Concentrated oil is used to anoint and bless; Christ’s oil anoints us to glory.   Wine is used in the sacrament as a representation of Christ’s blood, which blood sanctifies us.  (Moses6:60) These liquids signify holiness and spirituality.  Both are preeminent symbols of God’s love or power. 

Liquids cannot be grasped or held in your hands, for the tighter you squeeze your hand, the more and more liquid escapes from between your fingers.  The moment you try to control the liquid with force, you lose it! The same concept can be applied to the powers of heaven:

“The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”
(Doctrine and Covenants 121:36–37)

The only way to handle a liquid with your hands is with open and gently cupped hands. We cannot control God's love and power, all we can do is allow it to flow through us.   You cannot share the love of God or minster the gospel of Jesus Christ with clenched fist.  

Keeping the commandments as a personal matter does not involve you oppressing anyone else. If you are trying to impose a standard of conduct upon others you are not only going to fail, you are going to be violating the scriptures’ teachings as well. The Gospel is intended to be lived “without compulsory means.”

“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.”

(Doctrine and Covenants 121:46)

Monday, August 15, 2016



Part 4

Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4 

Being able to come home Sunday afternoon from church and talk to your kids about what they learned in primary is just the best! This kid had the darnest things about the Zoramites in Alma 31!  

Daughter: “Daddy, what’s a Rameumpton?”
Father: “Well Sweetie, in the Book of Mormon it says it was a place where the Zormamites stood to worship and pray.”
Daughter: “But my Primary teacher said it was a tower that evil people used”
Father: “ Well, I can see how someone would think that.  The Book of Mormon actually just says it was a place for standing which was high above the head and only one person at a time could go up there.”
Daughter: “Was it like a speaker’s stand in church?”
Father: “A speaker’s stand? You mean pulpit?... Yes, I suppose it was.  In fact the word ‘Rameumpton’ means ‘the holy stand’.
Daughter: “….Daddy, what’s so evil about a holy stand?”
Father: “Well Sweetie, it wasn’t the stand that was evil, it was how it was used.  The people gather there in the synagogue and whoev….”
Daughter: “What’s a synagogue?”
Father: “Its just a different word for chapel or church, Honey”
Daughter: “ohh”

Father: “They’d gather in their synagogue one day a week to..”
Daughter: “Which day, Daddy?”
Father: “I don’t know Sweetie.  It just says ‘one day’ and that they called the day ‘the day of the Lord’.”
Daughter: “Sunday!!!”
Father: “Why do you say that?”
Daughter: “Because Sunday is the Lord’s day!”
Father: “Well maybe it was…..Anyways they’d gather there and whoever wanted to worship would go and stand on the top of the Rameumpton.”
Daughter: “Could anyone go up there?”
Father: “Well no, that was part of the problem.  Apparently they had to wear nice clothing.”
Daughter: “You mean like us when we wear our Sunday clothes, Daddy?”
Father: "Well, not exactly but in a way yes, I suppose. Some of us might have a hard time accepting certain kinds of clothes or people in sacrament meeting. But we wear our Sunday clothes to help us be reverent, don't we?" 
Daughter: “Yes, Daddy.”

Father: “So anyways, where was I?”
Daughter: “They went to the top of the Rameumpton….”
Father: “Oh yes! They'd go up and worship God by thanking him for making them so special."

Daughter: “We’re they bearing their testimonies?"
Father: "Well, uh, I guess maybe they were in a way, but they weren't true testimonies."
Daughter: “How come?”
Father: “Because they were too proud”
Daughter: “What do you mean ‘proud’, Daddy?”
Father: "Well, they would talk about how they were 'a chosen and holy people.'”
Daughter: "My Primary teacher said Mormons are the chosen people and we're a special generation."
Father: “Yes, Honey, but that’s different.”
Daughter: “How?”
Father: “Because we are.”
Daughter: “Oh”

Father: "Besides, they were very, very proud about how much better they were than everyone else because they didn't believe the 'foolish traditions' of their neighbors." 
Daughter: “What does that mean, Daddy?”
Father: "It means that they believed everyone else was wrong and they alone were right."
Daughter: “Isn’t that what we believe?”
Father: “Yes, but it’s different.”
Daughter: “How?”
Father: “Because we are right, Honey.”
Daughter: “Oh”

Father: “So then everyone would stand at the Rameumpton and say the same thing…”
Daughter: "That sounds like testimony meeting to me." 
Father: “Don’t be so irreverent!”
Daughter: “Sorry”

Father: "Then after it was all over they would go home and never speak about God until the next day of the Lord when they'd gather at the holy stand again." 
Daughter: “Isn’t that like us, Daddy?”
Father: “No Honey, we have Family Home Evening!”
Daughter: “Oh”

There are only ever two churches that exist on this Earth. 

“Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.”
(1 Nephi 14:10)

It’s safe to conclude that the Zoramites belong to that great and abominable church. Why?

“Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church.”
(1 Nephi 13:8)

The Zoramaites where puffed in their pride because they sought to look good in the eyes of man, what they perceived as righteousness, and not the eyes God, or what God has defined as righteousness. They sought for gold and silver, or in other words money.  They sought for scarlets, fine-twined linen, and precious clothing, or in other words nice fitted suits and flashy Sunday-best dresses.  The abominable church seeks after Harlots, which defined by the Webster 1828 dictionary is:

HARLOT: In Scripture, one who forsakes the true God and worships idols.
The Abominable church seeks to appease to Harlots, (The world), by changing the doctrine and teachings to conform with what is popular and acceptable in the world. 
The abominable church seeks after the praise, admiration, and glory of the world.  They often consider themselves righteous and a light unto a darken world.  The members of the abominable church, because of the amount of superior truth they think they possess, will often elevate or exalt themselves above their fellow Christian believers.  However, that attitude will not allow one to enter into the presence of God; Jesus Christ warned against of such behavior:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
(Luke 18:10–14)

Is your church driven by gold and silver, or money?  Does your church make precious clothing, or “Sunday-best”, a requirement to be “reverent”?  Keep in mind the members of that great and spacious building Lehi saw in his vision were dressed in such attire. (1Ne 8:26-27)
Does your church seek to impress harlots, or in other words do they have public relations committees who dictate the decisions or so called “revelations” of your church? Does your church exalt themselves above other Christian and religious denominations?   

When we read about Lehi’s dream we often, out of the pride in our hearts, consider ourselves the ones holding to the iron rod and partaking of the fruit of the tree.  We rarely would consider ourselves part of that great and spacious building.  However, the members in the great and spacious building consist of the religiously self-righteous, and like the Zoramites who believed they were correct because they thought they had the “truth”, it can be very hard to self-identify ourselves as being wicked members of that building.

“And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. “
(1 Nephi 12:18)

The definition of vain:

Empty; worthless; having no substance, value or importance,
Fruitless; ineffectual
Empty; unreal
Showy; ostentatious.

I can’t think of any other people who are more full of “vain imaginations” than the religiously self-righteous. They imagine they right with God when they are in fact not in good standing with Him.  They are ignorant of God’s righteousness and go about to establish their own righteous, but have not submitted unto the righteousness of God. (Roman 10:2-4) Their works are dead and in vain, without effect, fruitless, and empty, because they are not the works of the living God.  Those are they who shall say “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matthew 7:22)

Then Christ will profess unto them “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:23)

Does your church imagine themselves to be righteous as they define righteousness through their list man made rules and regulations, which polices are completely unscriptural and hold no doctrinal substance?  Are they like the Pharisee mentioned above, thinking themselves to be righteous because of their fasting, tithing and temple/religious worship? Have you ever unknowingly, like the people of the great and spacious building, pointed and mocked, or treated with contempt and scorn, those you don’t see eye to eye with because they do not live the way you live; because they do not abide to your standard of “righteousness” nor do they take residency in your synagogues, or large and spacious buildings? (1st Ne 8:27)

There are save but two churches only.  Which church will you choose to belong to?

“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.”

(Doctrine and Covenants 10:67–68)

Thursday, August 11, 2016



Part 3

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4


Labels Control Thought

Labels or titles are very powerful.  Because of stereotypes and ad hominem, labels can trigger immediate emotional responses which can cause us to draw false conclusions without ever actually seeking to conduct our own study or investigation.  Labels can cultivate, or hinder, thought.  Labeling and categorizing people and things is a tactic used to control the masses and manipulate their beliefs.  The media, government, and politicians uses this tactic to satisfy their agendas.  Label someone as a racist, a corrupt Mormon politician, a secret Muslim terrorist, a socialist, or a criminal, and everyone will immediately join the bandwagon in hating that person without ever searching out the facts for themselves. 

Churches use this tactic of labeling to correlate the beliefs of its members.  The most notable example was the Catholic’s “Index Librorum Prohibitorum”, which was a list of publications deemed heretical, anti-clerical or lascivious, and was therefore banned.  Label someone or something as an apostate, categorize them as being and sinner, heretical, and deceived, and people will immediate dismiss anything that person has to say without ever entertaining or considering what their message is.  Rejecting someone’s message because of their preconceived label or status in society is very damning.  Likewise, accepting someone’s message solely because of the position or rank they hold in society is also very dangerous.   If this is how you approach truth, by making assumptions based on how your society esteems the messenger, instead of looking at the message and judging its content for yourself, then you would have been no better than the Pharisees during the time of Jesus Christ and you would have taken part in judging falsely and crucifying the Savior of the world. 

“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.”(1 Nephi 19:9)

Humans perceive up to 80% of all impressions by means of our eyes.  We rely on the use our eyes to observe and judge what is in front of us.  So if we ground our judgement strictly based upon how someone appears, or the position they may hold in society, or what others have labeled them as, we could be judging wickedly. 

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”(Matthew 6:22–23)

Our eyes, or how we perceive the world around us, can be easily deceived.  Chances are your eye is evil. Therefore, you should not rely on what you first perceive with your sight to judge.  Because although “how someone looks is the first message they deliver”, you should never judge a book by its cover.  Jesus Christ was a carpenter, there was no beauty that we should desire of Him, for he was despised and rejected of men, and men esteemed Him not. (Isaiah 53:2-3) John the Baptist dressed in camel hair and lived off of locust and wild honey. (Matt 3:4) Isaiah walked around preaching butt-naked for three years. (Isaiah 20:2-3)
Looks can be deceptive, especially when our darkened eyes are not accustomed to comprehend light.  So Instead attaching preconceived labels to a person, we need to first LISTEN for the voice of the Lord in their message.

“Hearken and listen to the voice of him who is from all eternity to all eternity, the Great I Am, even Jesus Christ—The light and the life of the world; a light which shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not; The same which came in the meridian of time unto mine own, and mine own received me not”(Doctrine and Covenants 39:1–3)

Two Types of Excommunication

Churches excommunicate dissenters, cast them out of the synagogues, and label them “apostates”; however, God does not always approve of the excommunications performed by religious authorities.   

There are two types of excommunication we see throughout the scriptures and history.  The first is justifiable in the sight of God.  That is when one goes about preaching against the principles of the gospel, or the Doctrine of Christ, which Nephi explained is faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and seeking the face of Christ while in the flesh.  (see 2nd Nephi 31-32) Denying Jesus Christ and preaching against His doctrine is apostasy.  God justifies excommunication in this case.  Sherem in Jacob 7 and Korihor in Alma 30 preached that there is no Christ.  By the LDS “ONLINE PUBLIC” definition of apostasy, Sherem and Korihor were guilty of apostasy.  Here is that definition from LDS.org:

“When individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel, they are in a state of apostasy.”

The second form of excommunication is a false type of excommunication and is not justifiable in the sight of our Lord.  This form of excommunication is known throughout the scriptures as “stoning of the prophets”.  True messengers from God have always been mistakenly labeled as “apostates” by religious authorities and the wicked people.  Joseph Smith said the following about mistaking true prophets as “apostates”.

The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves "in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth,"(Hebrews 11:38) and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men.(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pg 205) see also Helaman 13:26–28

The blood of the saints and the prophets whom we reject will cry out from the ground, and will be answered in vengeance by the Lord. (2nd Ne26:3,28:10,Alma 37:30,3rdNe9:5-11).  That is why we must take very careful heed when we judge others and dismiss them as “apostates”.  We could be very well casting out a true messenger from God.  This was the case for the prophet Abinadi.

Excommunication Trail of Abinadi 

Mosiah 12

“And it came to pass that after the space of two years that Abinadi came among them in disguise, that they knew him not, and began to prophesy among them, saying: Thus has the Lord commanded me, saying—Abinadi, go and prophesy unto this my people, for they have hardened their hearts against my words; they have repented not of their evil doings; therefore, I will visit them in my anger, yea, in my fierce anger will I visit them in their iniquities and abominations.”(Mosiah 12:1)

Abinadi is being asked by the Lord to prophesy unto the people, but did the people accept him as a prophet?  Was he ordained and called by the church to be a prophet?  He has to come among the people in disguise.  Abinadi is not part of the church hierarchy, he is not a priest of King Noah, he is coming from outside the established religious organization.  If Abinadi came to us today preaching repentance, would we accept the message, or reject him, because he is not a recognized church authority?

“And it came to pass that they were angry with him; and they took him and carried him bound before the king, and said unto the king: Behold, we have brought a man before thee who has prophesied evil concerning thy people, and saith that God will destroy them. And he also prophesieth evil concerning thy life, and saith that thy life shall be as a garment in a furnace of fire. And again, he saith that thou shalt be as a stalk, even as a dry stalk of the field, which is run over by the beasts and trodden under foot. And again, he saith thou shalt be as the blossoms of a thistle, which, when it is fully ripe, if the wind bloweth, it is driven forth upon the face of the land. And he pretendeth the Lord hath spoken it. And he saith all this shall come upon thee except thou repent, and this because of thine iniquities.(Mosiah 12:9–12)

Adinadi was brought before THE church authority, King Noah, to be questioned and tried.  What was Abinadi’s crime?  It was for being critical and speaking the ugly truth about their “beloved” king, the supreme authority over the land and people.  If Abinadi came to us today and was preaching hard things against church organizations and said critical things about its leaders, would we automatically label him as a prideful false teacher preaching false doctrine?

“And now, O king, what great evil hast thou done, or what great sins have thy people committed, that we should be condemned of God or judged of this man? And now, O king, behold, we are guiltless, and thou, O king, hast not sinned; therefore, this man has lied concerning you, and he has prophesied in vain. And behold, we are strong, we shall not come into bondage, or be taken captive by our enemies; yea, and thou hast prospered in the land, and thou shalt also prosper.”(Mosiah 12:13–15)

If some random messenger like Abinadi came among us today testifying of our wickedness and corruption, how would we most likely respond?  Would we not say things like, “What great sins could we have possibly committed to be judged of this man?  There is no way we could be condemned because we are righteous! We are righteous because we belong to the true church! We know our church is true because our leaders hast not sinned! They can’t sin because they have “keys” which make them infallible and therefore they cannot lead us astray! This apostate has lied and is deceived! We are a strong international church with billions in assets and land and buildings, and no ‘unhallowed’ hand can stop the work! Nothing—not anything, not anyone, not any influence—will keep this Church from fulfilling its mission! We shall not come into bondage because we are the “fail-safe”! We have prospered! Just look at our 150+ temples and 3,231 stakes.  With over 74,000 missionaries we will continue to prosper!”

The people of king Noah were prosperous indeed, but prosperity and wealth are not the fruits of a true church.  They had built many elegant and spacious buildings, towers, a temple, a conference center, and owned a lot of real estate, (Mosiah 11:8-16) similar to what you can find in the Vatican City or Salt Lake City. 

“And they began to question him, that they might cross him, that thereby they might have wherewith to accuse him; but he answered them boldly, and withstood all their questions, yea, to their astonishment; for he did withstand them in all their questions, and did confound them in all their words. And it came to pass that one of them said unto him: What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth;”(Mosiah 12:19–21)

After the priest realize they could not accuse Abinadi for erring in scriptures or doctrine they quote Isaiah 52:7-10 assuming this scripture applies to them.  They seem to be saying, “The scriptures say our feet are beautiful upon the mountain, we publish peace and bringeth good tidings! You make very mean and critical statements while we say nice, encouraging, and uplifting things. You’re being so contentious!  We are the Lord’s chosen elect people of Zion! This scripture says so!!”  

False teachers always convolute the “pretty/happy” scriptures to inflate their roles and justify the corruption they commit in their office.  
Abinadi has the perfect response.

“And now Abinadi said unto them: Are you priests, and pretend to teach this people, and to understand the spirit of prophesying, and yet desire to know of me what these things mean? I say unto you, wo be unto you for perverting the ways of the Lord! For if ye understand these things ye have not taught them; therefore, ye have perverted the ways of the Lord. Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise. Therefore, what teach ye this people?”(Mosiah 12:25–27)

The Idolatry of the Priests

Mosiah 12:28-29

“And they said: We teach the law of Moses. And again he said unto them: If ye teach the law of Moses why do ye not keep it? Why do ye set your hearts upon riches? Why do ye commit whoredoms and spend your strength with harlots, yea, and cause this people to commit sin, that the Lord has cause to send me to prophesy against this people, yea, even a great evil against this people?”
(Mosiah 12:28–29)

These priest, like the Pharisees, were striving to live to the letter of the Law of Moses, but because they did not understand it they could not fully keep the spirit, or purpose, of the law. (Mosiah 13:30) They maintained an outward appearance of righteousness by checking off their list of rituals and ceremonies but their inward hearts were filthy. (Matt 23:26). 
But how can someone live the outward ordinances such as temple worship while committing whoredoms and spending time with harlots? Let’s define whoredom and harlot with the Webster’s 1828 dictionary – the vocabulary that the Prophet Joseph would have employed as he translated the meanings of the words written in the Book of Mormon:

Harlot: In Scripture, one who forsakes the true God and worships idols.
Whoredome: In Scripture, idolatry; the desertion of the worship of the true God, for the worship of idols.
So what is idolatry? It is “Excessive attachment or veneration for anything, or that which borders on adoration.”

With these clarified definitions, committing whoredoms, chasing after harlots, and practicing idolatry is not so easy to detect as going out and having immoral sexual relations and sacrificing goats to statues.

Idols are anything that get in between you and your relationship with God, which includes having excessive attachment and veneration for church leaders.  Committing whoredomes is devoting your time, thought, energy, adoration, loyalty, and obedience to those idols.  Spending your strength with harlots is seeking to please those who have already forsaken God for idolatry; the world and its money. 
Is it possible that members and leaders in your church, like the priest in King Noah’s court, are able to maintain a checklist of temple ordinances, appearing on the outside to be righteous while they speak vain and flattering words to you (Mosiah11:7) - all while they set hearts upon riches, committing whoredomes, and spending their strength with harlots?

Abinadi the “Apostate”

Abinadi continues his sermon till chapter 17, preaching and quoting the word of God and the Law of Moses which testified of their wickedness.  Abinadi was charged with apostasy, but for what crime?  He simply quoted the word of God? Can one be charged with apostasy for quoting the word of God from the scriptures? I know of a church which many like to consider an “apostate” church – which excommunicated their members for quoting scriptures.  Read Martin Luther’s remarks in his excommunication trial:

 “Since then your sere Majesty and your Lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, neither horned nor toothed. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen." (Martin Luther, Luther's Works, 33: Career of the Reformer III)

Interesting how Abinadi was also given the option to be set free from the charges of apostasy and excommunication. 

“And he said unto him: Abinadi, we have found an accusation against thee, and thou art worthy of death. or thou hast said that God himself should come down among the children of men; and now, for this cause thou shalt be put to death unless thou wilt recall all the words which thou hast spoken evil concerning me and my people.
(Mosiah 17:7–8)

King Noah is telling Abinadi, “Gratify my pride, submit to my authority, stop acting in opposition to your leaders, it doesn’t matter if what you said may be true or not, it’s not faith promoting in me. If it doesn’t fall in line with us it is apostasy.  Deny all you said or suffer the full extent of my power!” However, Abinadi holds true his testimony and refuses, like Martin Luther, to recant anything, and is then scourged to death with faggots. (Mosiah 17:9-13)

Interestingly enough, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints actual “secret” definition of apostasy, the definition which differs from the public definition posted on their website but is found in their Handbook of Instruction for leaders is:

Repeatedly act in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.  Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or a higher authority. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or a higher authority. Formally join another church and advocate its teachings.” (Handbook 1: 2010.)

According to this definition of apostasy, King Noah is justified in what he did.  According to this definition of apostasy, Abinadi would be excommunicated if he came among us today and testified of our wickedness.  John the Baptist would be excommunicated if he preached repentance and baptism to us.  Any prophet in the scriptures, including the dispensation head Joseph Smith, would be excommunicated and charged for apostasy in our day.  If the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, returned, He would be rejected by those who so boldly use his name as their Church Corporation trademark.  

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing. (Mormon 9:9) He follows His patterns.  When a group of religious people become wicked and in pride of their hearts stray from the commandments of God, He has always called individuals outside of the religious hierarchy ranks to call the people to repentance through remembering and returning to Christ.  These messengers are almost always rejected.  True messenger will never say, “Come, follow me!”  They will only point others to the Lord Jesus.  Since my Lord has called me back to America, I have heard these messengers.  There are modern day Abinadis among us.  When you are presented with a message of faith and repentance in Jesus Christ, be very careful not to dismiss their message by labeling a saint as an apostate.    Be very careful not to judge what is good and of God to be of the devil. 

“Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil. For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged. Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.”(Moroni 7:14–19)