Saturday, March 25, 2017

Moroni's Weakness

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

I took to heart the comments and suggestion you made during our meeting yesterday.  As I knelt in prayer very late last night, I asked my Heavenly Father to help me see clearly – that if there was something in my past that was clouding my judgement or keeping me from receiving revelation, as you had suggested, if I was being motivated by some personal vendetta or offense, if I was being in some way insincere in the way I was proceeding down this path – that He would show me the error of my ways….
This was His response:
“If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me.”
That was it – just these words from the verse in Ether…and a prompting to go and read the entire passage associated with the words.  And so I opened the scriptures to Ether 12, found the verse, and went back to find the context, which begins in verse 23…
Moroni is worried that the Gentiles will not accept the message, but will instead “mock at these things because of our weakness in writing”.  He worries that they will ignore the message and use something unrelated to it, the perceived weakness of the messenger, as an excuse for doing so.  When Moroni expressed this, the Lord responded, saying:
26 …Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;
27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
28 Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.
Bishop, as I pondered upon this passage, this is the further message that I received in answer to my prayer:
You (and I would assume President xxxxx) have chosen not to respond to or to consider those things of which I have testified.  Your reluctance to discuss the doctrine, to open the scriptures and allow them to speak and witness of truth, is evidence of this.  While it may not be intentional, you have instead “taken advantage” of a weakness in the messenger, pointed to past experiences to which I or Melendie may have taken offense, and to the possibility that that we may have placed worldly cares and priorities above our membership in the church.  As well-intended and sincere and heartfelt as your desire is to understand why or how the Pettingills have come to the point where they are, instead of feeling prompted to consider carefully and prayerfully our message, you felt prompted to try to see if there was another explanation – one that allows the church and the brethren to remain untouchable and incapable of error, and relieves yourself of any responsibility to seek for greater knowledge – knowledge that saves.  Is it possible that your promptings were from something other than the Holy Ghost?  I would again refer you to the early verses of Moroni 7 and the closing passages of D&C 121 for insight on how to discern truth and how to respond to those who you may feel are acting contrary to it.  
God’s answer to my prayer didn’t end there…
Could Melendie and I have “weaknesses” that caused us to begin to question our standing with God and the church?  Absolutely!  And praised be the Lord for it!  Believe me, we spent hours on our knees in prayer wrestling with the feelings of doubt and confusion that our weaknesses brought to the surface.  But the answer we received, the call we heard, is bigger than me, than Melendie, than our children and our petty weaknesses.  It is about all of God’s children, and His desire for them to return to the covenants of the Fathers and to receive the fullness of His gospel.  Yet it is often by small and simple and strange acts that the Lord accomplishes His will - including using our weaknesses, when we acknowledge them and bring them to the Lord.  (“…then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”)
I would like to clarify another response from our discussion yesterday.  You asked if I had prayed to know if Thomas Monson is a prophet, seer, and revelator.  The best response I could give you was yes, I have prayed, and that I did not get an answer that he is – that I got nothing.  Bishop, one of the most profound truths that I have learned is that the Holy Ghost does not simply give us feelings.  After all, I get “warm fuzzies” from watching The Lord of the Rings (don’t we all?).  This does not mean that I am receiving a spiritual witness that Frodo and the Fellowship will prevail.  When we receive the Holy Ghost, he enlightens, teaches, inspires, edifies.  Feelings may come as a natural result of being taught by the spirit, but they are not its primary objective.  As I have prayed to know if certain things are true, the answer has often come from being led to scripture.  I have shared with you already in a previous letter those scriptures that the Lord inspired me to search as I pondered and prayed about President Monson.  Part of awakening to an awful sense of your situation is the realization that much of what you thought you knew is not the entire picture.  For years I had been seeking and had become content with accepting good feelings as evidence of truth.  What I have discovered is that the Lord offers us so much more than that.
In closing, I testify that we all have the same loving Father in Heaven, that He loves us and desires to bring us into His presence, and that the only way to do that is through Jesus Christ, our Savior.  You mentioned yesterday that “the doctrine I believe is not the doctrine you believe, the God I worship is not the God you worship, the Christ I seek is not the Christ you seek.”  My hope and prayer for you and all of my friends and family is that we seek the same God and Savior.          
Moroni closes the chapter in Ether which we read earlier with the following plea:
38 And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood.
 39 And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things;
 40 And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing.
 41 And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen.
The apostles and prophets have written of Him, and this is the Christ that, in absolute sincerity, I, along with my family, am seeking.  

With love,


Friday, March 17, 2017

Enjoying the Promised Feast

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

11 March, 2017

Other letters in this series: 
"The Gospel, According to Yoda" (10.22.2014 letter to family)
"Stumbling Over My Beard" (2014 un-delivered letter to Pres. XXXX regarding a Doctrine of Men)
"Walking on Water" (3.16.2015 first public "Coming-Out" letter to friends and family)

11 May, 2015

Dear Friends,

Several weeks ago we wrote to many of our friends and family members, sharing the need we felt to follow what we believe to be the call of the Lord to seek His presence.  In response, a number of those individuals expressed a desire to understand more, or simply to be “kept in the loop”.  This letter is an attempt to offer a greater explanation about our choices.  We thank you for your love and willingness to try and understand us.  Please know that this letter serves only as an introduction to some of the fundamental, driving issues behind our choices, and as an invitation to engage in sincere discussion, should you feel inclined to do so.  I apologize for the length of the letter.  I have struggled to simplify it, but it is what it is.    

I want to be sure that I can give proper deference to those that will listen, while sharing these things in a way that will allow those individuals willing to hear to give credence to the message through the workings of the Holy Spirit.  As is always the case when teaching or testifying, the seeds that we hope to plant can be deemed unfruitful more often as a result of the manner in which they are sown than by any absence perceived in their inherent value.  And so, I apologize if any of what I share offends you.  Know that I love and respect you.    

“For do I now persuade men, Or God?  or do I seek to please men?  for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10).  

What I will be sharing with you may very well result in actions against my church membership, at that of my wife and children.  I know this from personal experience.  Yet I have made a covenant to stand as a witness of Christ at all times and in all places, and so I find peace in His grace, regardless of the actions of otherwise righteous men, however well-intended.  I am not discouraging you from sharing this with others, but would like to stress that your stated interest in our journey is the reason I am writing now to a fairly limited audience.  

I also want to express that never in my life have I felt closer to the Lord, and more unified and loved as a family.  The outpouring of His spirit, the joy and light that have accompanied me and my family as we have been on this journey have been to us an incredible witness that He is guiding us, as contrary as that may sound to someone who is observing us from the perspective of a fully-active member of the LDS church.  


I suppose that the starting point for me in this journey, or the real wake-up call, was what I perceived as the loss if Christ in our worship - something that I began to notice about four or five years ago while serving on the high council.  I am not talking about a problem that was exclusive to only a few individuals, but rather something I saw on a much broader, institutional level, integrated into the very curriculum and handbooks of the church…

For years I have served and sacrificed in the church and in my efforts to lead my family.  I have attended countless priesthood meetings and delivered numerous sermons, talks, testimonies, and lessons.  While I will be the first to admit that I have stumbled and failed in many respects, I know that Christ has atoned for my many imperfections, and I have taught and testified of His atonement.  But that knowledge seemed unsupported by what was evidenced in my life.  For several years, and especially the past few years, I had felt a great void – and a great deal of sorrow.  As a good friend recently shared, I felt that I was “constantly setting the table, but never enjoying the promised feast.”  

The Lord described a condition in the last days, of a people in darkness and apostasy  “…as a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awakeneth and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he he awakeneth and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite…” (2 Nephi 27:3).  I felt that I was awakening to an awareness of an awful hunger of the soul, and the implications of these feelings, wrought by a lifetime of well-intended indoctrination, terrified me.  I did not want to lose my family, to not be able to protect and guide them in the perilous times ahead.  Yet, I felt that there was something missing, something that if I lacked, I would be powerless to lead my family.  I became bitter at times and blamed God.  Why has God lied to me?  Where was the peace and joy and blessings promised to faithful LDS families?  I resigned myself to believing that I must not be worthy enough, or that I was too lazy, or that my choices in life put me where I am and that this was just my cross to bear.  Melendie and I were losing hope, feeling betrayed by the gospel for which we had sacrificed, and continued to sacrifice so much.  We felt that either we were just unfaithful, or that there was something seriously lacking in what we had been taught.

Yet, through the grace of the Lord, I came to understand that feeling an increased influence of the Spirit has much less to do with your behavior than it has to do with your knowledge of God, and your efforts to know Him.  Knowledge of God leads to sanctification as the desire for anything less diminishes1.  And frankly, week after week of lessons in High Priest Group and various church meetings listening to men speak about the lives of other men and quoting past conference talks in which one general authority quotes another was doing very little to increase my knowledge of God.  Was I often inspired and motivated?  Absolutely.  But that is not enough.  Joseph Smith taught that knowledge of God is what will save us2.  He was not talking about an understanding of church history, or a secular understanding of biblical culture and languages and such, or even a mastery of scriptures or doctrinal issues. He especially was not talking about gaining knowledge about the lives of men or about the various programs of an institution.  He meant knowing God as you know someone else.  Knowing God, not simply knowing about Him.  Joseph also taught that it is impossible to have faith in God without first having a basic understanding of who He is – of the nature of God and how He deals with His children3.  Learning this was a key turning point for me.  

We cannot be saved in ignorance.  Yet, as Latter-Day Saints, do we suppose that we have all the knowledge necessary to save us?  Is there nothing more we need beyond what is taught us in our classrooms and what is currently available in the temple?  Is every necessary salvific thing contained in our curriculums and ordinances?  We are counseled by our leaders to doubt our doubts when faced with perplexing contradictions that would shake our faith.  Yet this is contrary to what God has told us; it is our responsibility to acquire further light and knowledge, to search the mysteries of the kingdom, which knowledge can only come through the Savior himself4.  I have learned that the term “fullness of the gospel” is not just a description of a completeness of doctrine, but rather it is more aptly a description of the ending point of one’s personal quest to know God.  To have the fullness of the gospel is to receive the literal presence of the Lord.  Holding to that definition, re-read the Book of Mormon and the accounts of those righteous men and women, and you will be amazed by the flood of revelation that will burst upon your mind!

And so I began to notice more clearly an institutional loss of Christ, and a loss of the teachings of the only prophet in this dispensation to have claimed to be in His presence and to teach that we can, even must, have that blessing for ourselves.  For example, I would go to church and listen intently to fast and testimony and sacrament meetings, taking notes every week.  While President Monson or the church and the brethren are mentioned in almost every testimony, Christ is given no little more than cursory mention only one or two times, and Joseph Smith is mentioned little more than that.  Over the past decade, references to the prophet Joseph in general conference have dropped from an average of 35-40 mentions to 4 mentions in the most recent conference .  For some reason, President Monson has not publicly testified specifically of Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon in almost 10 years.  The Lectures on Faith, mostly written by and entirely approved by Joseph Smith, vouched for by the Lord, accepted by the common consent of the membership of the church, and canonized as scripture, were removed  without any of those checks by a committee of brethren, none of whom had professed to have seen God, but who felt that they knew better how to teach the nature of the Godhead than did the only prophet of this dispensation to have claimed to be in the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ.  

I am not saying all of this to judge others, but simply to describe what I was observing - facts that presented themselves as I began to search for evidences of the Savior – or the lack of Him – in our worship.  I was frustrated, and began to feel that I was witnessing a church as described by the Lord to Joseph Smith, one "that teaches for commandments the doctrines of men, having a form of godliness," but one that "denies the power thereof." (JSH 1:19)  

How is this possible?  What are the “doctrines of men”?  What is the "power of godliness" and how is it being denied in our worship?

The Power of Godliness

Christ teaches that the power of godliness has something to do with the ability to endure His presence, to see His face and live, which means to do this while yet in mortality.

20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live. (D&C 84:20-22)

A closer look at the account of the brother of Jared reveals this to be the case…

“And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.” (Ether 3:13)

The moment in which the brother of Jared is redeemed is when the Lord brings him back into His presence; salvation consists of entering into the presence of the Lord, and seeing Him face to face while in the flesh.  
“Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;” (D&C 93:1)
Forsake sins, come to the Lord, call on His name, obey His voice, and keep His commandments – the charge and ability to do all of these is part of this mortal probation, as is the promised result to every soul for so doing – that of seeing the face of the Lord and knowing that He is.  
EVERY SOUL.  That does not sound very exclusionary or restrictive – limited to only to a prophet, the president of the church, or the brethren.  It is also not a singular event in scripture limited to only the Brother of Jared; Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Elijah, Samuel, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Mosiah, King Benjamin, Abinadi, Alma, Alma the Younger, Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Lamoni and his father the king, Helaman, the brothers Nephi and Lehi, Moroni, Mormon, Ether, all of the holy fathers - all of these came into the presence of the Lord while in mortality, and more importantly, taught us that we must do the same if we are to escape this probation and be redeemed.  Joseph Smith entered into the presence of the Lord, and taught repeatedly that we must also attain the same manifestation.

“But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion; Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter; 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 76:114-118)

Denying the Power of Godliness

How, then, is the power of godliness denied? By teaching or believing that seeking the presence of the Lord is not only not necessary, but that it is wrong to expect it:

“I did not live in the days of our Savior; he has not come to me in person. I have not beheld him. His Father and he have not felt it necessary to grant me such a great blessing as this. But it is not necessary. I have felt his presence. I know that the Holy Spirit has enlightened my mind and revealed him unto me, so that I do love my Redeemer, I hope, and feel it is true, better than everything else in this life. I would not have it otherwise.”(The Teachings of the Presidents of the Church – Joseph Fielding Smith, Chapter 2.)

The above quote is only one reference to the notion that we are not required to have an audience with the Lord, despite the pattern presented repeatedly in the scriptures.  It is offered only as an example.  The curriculum and teachings of the church and church leaders are filled with many more such references, and you can find them if you look.  But none are more powerful or instructive than the evidences that can be found in the lives of those who have sought for nothing more than the blessing of the fathers - the presence of the Lord - and as a result have been labeled as apostates, and denied full fellowship or even membership in the church.   Their stories are poignant and painful, and their testimonies stand as witnesses for the Savior, and are available for all who seek them, as I have.  I have met and know personally of many such individuals.   

Most of what follows hereafter is my response to the discovery of the mandate that we must seek for an audience with the Lord, and to the discovery that this essential requirement for salvation has been removed from the doctrines of the church.  The following discussion is not in any way all-inclusive of what my wife, children, and I have come to believe.  We are not “single issue voters”.  However, these issues do for me represent absolutely foundational concepts, and once embraced, the implications become far reaching and affect nearly every aspect of worship and belief within the LDS church and in our personal lives.  It is the bedrock foundation of my belief, upon which everything else is built.  

The Doctrines of Men

The power of godliness is denied when we attempt to replace the Savior with something else, by supplanting the relationship that He expects from and offers to each of us, indeed that is requisite for our salvation, with something else – with the doctrines of men, with idols.

What are the “doctrines of men”? What is this substitute? I have come to believe that the substitute doctrine is three-fold:

1) We have substituted the need for an audience with Christ with feelings that we either are content with or mistake as coming from the Holy Ghost.
2) We have placed or allowed to be placed a man or men between God and the individual by making requisite for God’s saving ordinances, among other things, obedience to men and the public declaration that they are something.  
3) We have added to or modified the Doctrine of Christ, particularly as it pertains to the saving ordinances of the gospel.

The Doctrine of Christ

Christ’s doctrine is quite clear and simple.  He deemed to be so incredibly salvific and necessary that it was the very first thing he taught to the Nephites when he himself visited them.  Remember, these people were the more righteous part that had been spared – those that had not killed the prophets and the saints and rejected their message5.  It is clear that these people had the gospel, yet were going about certain aspects of it in the wrong way, causing disputations among them:  

22 And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you.
 23 Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.
 24 And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying:
 25 Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
 26 And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.
32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
 33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
 34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned. (3 Nephi 11:22-34)

This is the doctrine.  Notice that there are no “qualifications” or “prerequisites” attached to the ordinance, beyond the desire to repent and be baptized.  One need not profess anything, other than a desire to accept the Savior through baptism.  The Lord follows-up immediately with a warning to those who would add to or take away from His doctrine:

37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
 38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
 39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
 40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them. (3 Nephi 11:37-40)

In summary, this is the Doctrine of Christ: believe, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, become as a little child, and come unto Christ.   Are we following the Doctrine of Christ?  Or do we believe something that is more or less than this?  The requirements for baptism are listed in Preach My Gospel.  Are they more or less than what the Savior himself gave us for the single most important gateway ordinance of the gospel?  Does the Savior require that we testify about or declare that the president of the church is a prophet in order to receive baptism?  Does the Savior teach that one must commit to paying tithes in order to receive baptism?6  The Savior also gave us his doctrine regarding the sacrament (3 Nephi 18:1-13), and regarding membership in his church (D&C 10:66-69).  Has the doctrine been changed? Have we modified the ordinances?  Have requirements been imposed beyond those the Lord established?  If so, are we not under condemnation for doing “more or less” than His doctrine?

When faced with having to choose between what the Lord has plainly, clearly taught, as written in the scriptures, vetted and vouched for across the centuries and dispensations by his prophets who stood in His presence and taught that all men must do the same on the one hand, and on the other hand what is written in a handbook compiled by a committee of otherwise well-intending, righteous individuals, I must choose the Savior and the scriptures.  

The Doctrine of Men

The doctrines of men teach us to allow men to come between ourselves and the Savior, or to settling for something less than His presence.  God desires us to come to Him.  Anything less than this is a substitute and is settling for something less.  

“And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.  And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”  (Exodus 20:18-19)

What did the children of Israel receive as a result of their lack of faith and their unwillingness to speak with God?  They received a lesser law, a lesser priesthood, and with it greatly diminished blessings.  

 23 Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
 24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.
 25 Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also;
 26 And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;
 27 Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel…(D&C84:23-27)

Reliance upon the arm of flesh is built into a religion which teaches, "You don't need to talk to God.  You will see Him in the next life.  You do not need to enter into His Presence in this life.  Feeling the Holy Ghost is sufficient.”  When latter-day saints desire and expect a Moses to climb the mount for them, they are under the same condemnation and can expect no greater blessings than did the children of Israel.   

We have been told by the brethren, especially recently and with increased vigor, that they cannot, they will not lead us astray, that there will never be an institutional apostasy. And we have witnessed in the brethren an increasing willingness to lead us, indeed a proclamation that we must be led (follow the prophet, follow the prophet, don’t go astray).  A simple look at the Handbooks of Instructions and the most recent couple rounds of conference talks makes this incredibly obvious (see recent talks by Elder Nelson, as a starting point).  Yet, have we not learned in scripture that we have a standard by which to judge those who would lead us, who would claim that they can and will never lead us astray, other than their say-so?  God has given us the scriptures, the words of the ancient prophets that have, for thousands of years, spoken from the dust and established or refuted every claim to authority and every proclamation of truth, doctrine, or judgement.  In the scriptures we see that God always follows a pattern.  Always.  We also know that God is unchanging.  It is one of the fundamental characteristics of God.  


And so these are the questions that I have pondered as I searched the standard for those patterns provided by an unchanging God:

  • Where is the scriptural pattern that suggests that mortal men cannot fall?  On the contrary, there is ample evidence in the scriptures that demonstrates that mortal men, even the very elect, can and do fall.
  • “This is the Church of Jesus Christ. God will not allow His Church to drift from its appointed course or fail to fulfill its divine destiny.” (Uchtorf, Oct 2013)  Aside from “if we do say so ourselves”, where is the scriptural pattern that shows us that institutions cannot fall?  On the contrary, there is a clear pattern that demonstrates that all institutions consisting of men do fall (the church in all of the preceding dispensations).  
  • Where is the scriptural proof that a revelation is defined as a group of 15 men with “varied educational and professional backgrounds, with differing opinions about many things” reaching unanimity on a topic? (“Sustaining the Prophets” Elder Nelson, Oct 2014 Conference)?  On the contrary, there is an abundance of scriptural evidence that shows that revelation through a prophet consists of God speaking directly to his servants with a voice out of heaven or by coming to them in person, not merely in reaching a consensus after much deliberation.
  • Where has there ever been, from the foundation of the world until the death of the prophet Joseph Smith, a mandate that men follow a prophet, and that by so doing we can’t possibly be led astray, and that by not doing so we are denied salvation?
  • Where is the pattern that instructs us that we must, in the absence of any signs or evidences other than his or their say so or by virtue of their having had the laying on of hands of other men, acknowledge that a man or men are prophets, seers, and revelators?  Where is the pattern that indicates that there has ever been attached to salvation a requirement to follow a man, or to profess that he is something?  On the contrary, among many other evidences, a careful study of D&C 107: 91-100 and D&C 121:34-46 will reveal that ordination to an office does not make or guarantee anyone anything.  
  • Where is the scriptural pattern that establishes that the priesthood keys to administer the kingdom are made effectual simply by virtue of an ordination?  What are priesthood keys, if not an assignment from the Lord and the knowledge and authority necessary to accomplish that assignment?  On the contrary, the pattern shows that “keys” are obtained directly from the Lord or the Powers of Heaven (His angels) and are only made effective when acted upon in righteousness7.   

Do we believe that the prophecies, warnings, and condemnations of the latter days contained in the Book of Mormon apply to us, the members of the LDS church - those who accept the book and profess to follow its teachings, or do they apply only to the “gentiles” who wouldn’t give any heed to it anyway?  2 Nephi 28 is a chilling description of our day, detailing the state of apostasy of the churches of the day.  Yet do we find comfort in the remarks by the brethren that our church will never be in danger of such an apostasy?

“And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men” (2 Nephi 28:5)
“…there is no God today…”  Church leaders always speak of and testify of God, so that must be evidence that these prophetic descriptions apply to other churches, right?  What if priesthood power is not "the power to act in God’s name on the earth" (Joseph F. Smith came up with that definition), but it is rather something that God gives us Himself?  (We can go through an abundance of scriptures that indicate that indeed this has always been the case – a topic for further discussion for those desiring to explore it).  If God wanted to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life by coming to us personally, and yet churches teach otherwise, would they not be denying the very way in which God does His work, thereby essentially saying "there is no God today", that “he hath given his power unto men”.   The best way the adversary deceives us is not to get us deny God by our words, but for us to do as all men have done in every age, and that is to profess God's name while denying His personal ministry among us, preferring instead a form of Godliness delivered by the arm of flesh, to His actual power, the Power of Godliness. 

“Many will say to me in that day, 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? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matt 7:22-23) 

The Savior prefaces the above statement with the following:

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord , Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt 7:21)

And what is the will of the Father?

“No man can come unto me, except he doeth the will of my Father who hath sent me. And this is the will of him who hath sent me, that ye receive the Son;” (JST John 6:44)

We must receive the Savior.   


As I mentioned at the beginning of this letter, what I have shared here is the foundation for what has proven to be an all-encompassing shift in my perception of the gospel, and the enlightenment and desire that has come from viewing the words of the Savior and His prophets through a corrected lens has been absolutely life-changing.  I testify these things are true, of the truthfulness of the following, all of which are aspects of my belief that have been touched with a renewed understanding:
  • Prophets are called of God, not by men or by hierarchical ascension or default position within an institution.  The Lord DOES speak through prophets today, and these men are not usually from within high profile leadership of the church – nor have they been in any dispensation.  One of their primary roles is to call members and particularly leaders of His church to repentance, and to point us to the Savior for redemption.  See Lehi, Abinadi, John the Baptist, Christ, Abraham, Moses, etc.  
  • The Lord speaks today, and part of His message is that we all need to seek His presence if we are to be saved.   
  • When we receive His message, and desire to repent and follow Him, we witness this through being baptized.  We do this whenever we receive greater light and knowledge and have the desire to turn more fully to Him.  Like the sacrament, baptism is an ordinance in which we make certain covenants and commitments with God, which are intended to be renewed often.    
  • The power to perform and participate in these and other sacred ordinances cannot be controlled or franchised by an organization or institution, but are ultimately between God and the powers of heaven on the one hand, and righteous men on the other.  Priesthood is a fellowship.  At one level, it is a fellowship among men, but at its higher levels, it is a fellowship between men and the Powers of Heaven (angels), and ultimately a fellowship with God; such higher priesthood is not something that can be given by one man to another, but that comes from God.
  • The temple and the ordinances are intended to point us to Christ and remind us of our obligation to receive our calling and election, and ultimately our audience with God while yet in mortality.  The temple and the ordinances are a means to an end, not the end itself.  That end is the presence of the Lord.  
  • The restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith is real.  Sadly, many of the truths that were restored or promised to be restored are lost or in danger of being lost or are yet contingent upon our willingness to receive them.  We must rise up and become a Zion-worthy people.
  • The Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel in that it teaches that we can and must have the Savior abide with us and not allow any idols to come between us and God.  It is also a pattern for what is happening in our society, and more importantly in our church, in the latter days.
I love you all.  It is my hope and prayer that we may all return to the Lord with full purpose of heart.  I know He lives!  He will return with His hosts and will complete His work.  May we all be able to abide the day of His coming through the Power of Godliness that He bestows upon all those who earnestly seek to know Him.    

I testify that these things are true, and do this in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Your Brother in Christ,

-Rex Pettingill
1 Alma 31:5; TPJS p.138, p.217
2 TPJS p.217, p.343-344; John 17:3
3 See the entire Lectures on Faith for more insight regarding this  
4 TPJS p.298; D&C 76:7  
5 3 Nephi 9 – the entire chapter is the Lord’s explanation of why those who were destroyed suffered that fate, and why those who were not were spared.
6 Preach My Gospel (Baptismal Interview Question 1 & Question 5)
7 D&C 90:5