Fred met Jeff Harris, another High Council member, as he was entering the building. "How's business?" said Jeff. "I heard you were working on a big deal."
"I don't count my money till it's in my hand. It sure doesn't look like your business is suffering though by the look of my daughter's dentist bill."
"Hey, you got it all wrong, that's not all profit. Expenses are going up. Say have you heard about what's happening tonight?"
"Hard to believe isn't it?"
"Sure is. He sent me a photocopy of some writings that accuse us of believing in an infallible prophet. Did you get all that stuff too?"
"He hand delivered it to me. What did you think of that stuff?"
"What could I think of it? It's just a bunch of lies. I could tell that after I read two pages. It's obvious that anyone who goes against the Prophet is a deceiver."
"I suppose so," said Fred.
President Jason called on Fred to give the opening prayer. Afterwards he said: "Brethren. We have a very serious matter before us this day. Elder Curtis Hartell is to be tried for his membership. I'm sure that by now you understand the nature of the charges as I understand that he has sent all of you some of these abominable writings. I didn't have the stomach to read them all the way through and I'm sure that we can all clearly see that they were inspired by Satan. I talked with the visiting authority about this case and he told me to cut Elder Hartell off. Nevertheless, we must hold a fair trial and let him have his say. Are there any questions before we admit the accused?"
Fred responded: "Isn't the correct procedure to have the council divided so that six are for and six against the defendant?"
"Yes, I suppose so. I can't see how anyone can defend him though. I'll appoint six here for the defense, but I don't expect you to defend false teachings."
In a few minutes President Jason opened the door to admit the defendant and found seated in the hallway Curtis and his wife, and two friends. Jason was troubled by the presence of his two friends for he feared that they may be troublemakers. "You'll have to stay out here," he said to them. "Only Curtis and his wife will be allowed."
"But the letter you sent me said I could have witnesses," said Curtis.
"Just you and your wife are allowed in. Come along now."
Curtis and his wife walked in and sat down. He felt a heavy atmosphere as he surveyed the men in the room. Nearly all of the council members were highly successful businessmen who were used to having their own way in life. Curtis felt as if he was in a different class than his normal friends for it seemed as if he was always hindered financially. All of these men owned comfortable homes and had nice cars whereas he was struggling to pay the rent. He looked at President Jason who owned an insurance company. Some people say that he is a millionaire several times over. Curtis wondered if he could be right whereas these men, wise in the ways of the world and proven successes in their own right, are wrong. "The' Holy Spirit has told me certain truths" he thought to himself, and if I ever need the help of the Lord it is now."
"I think we had better begin with a prayer," said President Jason.
After the prayer was given Curtis said: "Brethren, my membership is at stake here and I need the help of the Lord. Would you mind if I also offered a word of prayer?"
"I suppose that would be all right," said President Jason a bit nervously. "Do any of you brethren have any objection?"
Curtis stood up and began: "Our Father in heaven. We come before thee in deep humility at this time and ask for thy Spirit to descend on us all and bear witness of the truth. We realize oh Father that thou must work according to the free agency of man, but we ask that we will all have open hearts and resist the tendency of the natural man which is an enemy unto thee. Especially, I ask thee to bless me at this time with thy Spirit that I may speak in accordance with thy will. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."
Fred was a bit uneasy. Even though he felt an uplifting Spirit during Curtis' prayer it was no comfort to him. Curtis couldn't be right. If he is then nothing makes sense any more. Fred pushed the feeling to the back of his mind.
President Jason stood up: "Now we will have President Hyde read the charges."
"The charges are as follows: First you are charged with accepting and teaching doctrines contrary to the doctrines of the church. Second you have association with other groups and individuals who teach doctrines contrary to those authorized by the church. Thirdly, you do not abide by the rules and regulations of the church. Finally, you do not sustain the Prophet as the only one who can exercise all priesthood keys, and as the prophet seer and revelator of the church."
"How do you plead to the charges?" said President Jason.
"Not guilty," said Curtis. A silence penetrated the room."We shall review them then," said President Jason. "First you are
charged with accepting and teaching doctrines not accepted by the church. How can you deny that you are guilty of this?"
"Tell me one doctrine I believe or teach that is contrary to the church."
"Your Bishop first noticed a problem when you circulated a paper teaching that there is no progression from one kingdom to another contrary to the teachings of modern prophets. Then after you were questioned it was discovered that you believe quite a range of false doctrines. I don't know where to start."
"Why don't we start with the kingdoms then," said Curtis. "Do you remember which kingdom the earth is as taught in the temple?"
"We are told it is the Telestial. Am I correct here or not?" he persisted.
"Yes, I think I recall that," Fred volunteered, thinking he would help his friend along. He sensed the others did not appreciate his response.
"Now, President Jason, after you die and are resurrected which kingdom do you expect to go to?"
"I hope to go to the Celestial."
"This means that your own words betray a belief that you will progress from the telestial earth to a celestial kingdom later on. Now answer me this. Which kingdom is Enoch and his city in?"
There was silence again. This time Fred thought he'd better not press his luck and said nothing.
After a few seconds Curtis goaded them on. "I'm sure most of you recall that Joseph Smith taught that Enoch and his city are part of a terrestrial order. Is this not correct?"
"So what?" said President Jason.
"So, I'm sure you can't believe that you will go to the Celestial Kingdom whereas Enoch, one of the greatest prophets, will be left out in the cold in the Terrestrial. Obviously Enoch and his city will progress into the Celestial. Don't you think?"
"Maybe so, said the President. "We know there is progression before the final judgment. After the judgment there is no progression from kingdom to kingdom."
"Actually, the modern authorities teach there is no progression from kingdom to kingdom in any way so we've broken a little new ground here in doctrine. Okay, let us compare this with the scriptures."
Curtis picked up his scriptures and read:
"The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim. This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state (the celestial), will be like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order (the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms), will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ's. Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17 will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby THINGS PERTAINING TO A HIGHER ORDER OF KINGDOMS WILL BE MADE KNOWN; and a white stone is given to each of those who come into the CELESTIAL KINGDOM." (D&C 130:8-11)
Curtis laid down his scriptures and continued, "Now brethren, I'm sure you have read the scriptures and also discovered that there are kingdoms higher than the celestial."
"That's a false doctrine," said President Jason. The celestial is the highest. We all know that."
"But that's not what the scripture says." He opened to the passage again and laid it before a council member. He pointed to the passage and said, "Here, read this passage I highlighted Brother Brown."
Brown reluctantly read: "Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17 will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby THINGS PERTAINING TO A HIGHER ORDER OF KINGDOMS WILL BE MADE KNOWN;"
"How clear can the word be?" said Curtis. "Here we are told that there is a higher order of kingdoms than the Celestial."
"So, even if you make it to the Celestial, according to your belief, you would be stuck there for eternity. You will be aware that there are even higher kingdoms but will not be able to go there. That sounds like hell to me. Surely if the end result is to have all power as promised in the scriptures then we will have power to move from the Celestial to the kingdoms that are even higher."
"We are getting into the mysteries here," said President. "I think we need to move on."
"So you agree that I am not teaching false doctrine then?" asked Curtis.
"You are teaching doctrines not approved by the church."
"But what I just taught you is from the scriptures. Are the scriptures not approved by the church?"
"Of course they are. Your interpretation is not," said the President.
"There's not much interpretation needed."
"Joseph Field Smith said there is no progression from one kingdom to another and the present authorities agree so I think the matter is settled here," President Jason said.
"But the church teaches that the scriptures are a higher authority than a church leader," Curtis replied.
"We follow the words of a living prophet," he countered. "Now let's move on. We understand you accept prophets not recognized by the church?"
"I believe that any man can be a prophet whether he is in the church or out of the church," replied Curtis.
That doctrine certainly is not accepted by the church."
"Can you tell me what is the difference between an accepted and unaccepted doctrine?"
Elder Wood spoke up: "You should be aware that the accepted doctrines are those recognized by the authorities of the church."
"That's not what Joseph Fielding Smith said," said Curtis. I have here in my hand the book "Doctrines Of Salvation" by Joseph Fielding Smith who was at one time the Prophet of the church. I'll read from page 203: 'STANDARD WORKS JUDGE TEACHINGS OF ALL MEN.' 'It makes no difference what is written or about what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man's doctrine.
"'You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works.
"'Every man who writes is responsible, not the church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted.'"
Curtis put the book down and continued, "Here, brethren, we are clearly told that the only doctrines authorized by the church are those that can be proven out of the standard works. If they do not measure up then we are duty bound to reject them, even if they come from an authority as Joseph Fielding Smith. Show me where I am teaching a doctrine not found in the standard works."
"I'd like you to show us any substantiation for the calling of a prophet not recognized by the church when the scriptures tell us that God will speak through his authorized prophets," said Elder Wood.
"It sounds like you're referring to Amos 3:7 where he... says: 'Surely the Lord God will do nothing 'but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.' Is that the scripture you're thinking of?"
"That's the one," said Elder Wood.
Actually, Amos was not a prophet authorized by the church of his day. He was about as far away as you can get from being a General Authority. He said: 'I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go prophesy unto my people Israel.' (Amos 7:14-15) In the same way today there are a number of inspired prophets who were not authorized prophets of the church nor a prophet's son, but just regular people receiving inspiration to go prophesy to his people Israel. Why am I wrong for believing that God can speak through anyone?"
"But no one in your group was set apart to be a prophet by the laying on of hands," said Elder Smith.
"Neither is there a record of Amos, Jeremiah, Lehi or Isaiah being set apart by the laying on of hands. In Joel we are told that even our daughters and handmaidens will prophesy. (Joel 2:29-29) Where is the ordinance to ordain a woman to be a prophet? In Numbers chapter twenty-two we find that the Lord even went so far as to call an ass to be a prophet to rebuke his authorized prophet Balaam. Where is the ordinance to ordain an ass to be a prophet? Can't you see brethren that this is the Lord's church and that he can speak through anyone he pleases?"
"Anyone can twist the scriptures to say anything," said Elder Cole.
"Then go ahead and twist them and prove me wrong!" Said Curtis. "I challenge anyone here to do it."
"It's obvious that you've studied the scriptures more than most of us," said Elder Little. "I, for instance, am a busy man and find that I have to rely on the Spirit for my guidance."
"I think you have as much or more time to study than me. There's been times I've had to work sixteen hours a day at two different jobs yet I still found time to study. Besides the scriptures say: 'Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word.' D&C 11:21) The Lord also tells us that he will not give us answers unless we study. (See D&C 9:7-9.) Tell me, Elder Little. How do you get all this inspiration with no study when the Lord himself says he will not give it to you unless you do study? How?"
Curtis continued: "In the summons you gave me it said I could have witnesses. May I please bring them in?"
"Any witness must be a good member of the Church," said President Jason.
"My friends are good members of the church," said Curtis. "They are in good standing. One is a Seventy and the other is an Elder. Now may they please come in. They've traveled about three hundred miles to be here."
"We may let them speak later," said President Jason.
"So, how about plural marriage? Does your group endorse this?" said Elder Wood.
"First I will say that plural marriage is scriptural. If you do not believe that just read D&C, Section 132. Since it is scriptural according to Joseph Fielding Smith then it must be an orthodox doctrine of the church. I think people should be free do practice it if they want and there is no coercion, and they should also be free not to practice it. As for me I only have one wife."
"Would you practice it if one of your prophets told you to?" said Elder Randall.
"If someone received a revelation that I was to practice it I would seek personal confirmation through the Spirit. I wouldn't do it unless I received the answer for myself."
"But if you received confirmation would you?"
"And if the president of the church told you to take a second wife, would you?" Curtis retorted.
"That's different," he said.
"Only in that I would check with God first and you apparently would not."
"I'm sure I would pray about it, but it's a moot point because such a commandment is not likely to happen."
"But what if you received a commandment directly from God?"
"God doesn't work that way."
"God sure worked that way in the past," said Curtis. "When God commanded Moses he spoke to him directly. He also did the same to Nephi. Are you saying that you would ignore any message from heaven except in the ways you decide to accept?"
"You realize," said President Jason, "that if you practice plural marriage it is the same as committing adultery today?"
"But that's a moot point for I have only one wife, and almost all the members of the church today say they will live plural marriage today if God commanded them to. Are you going to excommunicate them also?"
"Getting back to your prophet or prophets," said Elder Murphy. "Why would God call someone outside the authorized channels? Why wouldn't he call someone in the church?"
"There have been people called to be prophets by the voice of the Spirit within the church, but as soon as they speak they are excommunicated. I know of several such persons myself. Interestingly the Lord commands the Elders to 'lift up your voices by the Comforter, ye shall speak and prophesy as seemeth me good.' (D&C 42:12&16) Actually, the lowly prophets you reject are only fulfilling this commandment in the Doctrine and Covenants and have been prophesying as seemeth good to the Lord."
"But why didn't the Lord go through the regular channels,?" said Elder Wood.
"Inspired people tried the regular channels and they would not receive their words because their hearts desired something else. If the First Presidency will not hear the word of the Lord then the Lord has to seek a mouthpiece among the Apostles; if they will not hear then he has to seek among the other General Authorities. If they will not hear then he has to seek among the other leaders, and if they will not hear he would finally have to seek among the lowly Elders of Israel."
President Jason cleared his throat. "We are not getting anywhere with this arguing. Let's move on."
"Am I innocent of the first charge then?
"That will be decided."
"Listen," said Curtis, "My membership is at stake here. To you brethren excommunication is worse than the death sentence, yet you seem prepared to sentence me to such a fate without proof. The courts of the cities of Babylon have more justice than this."
"You will receive justice. Now on this second charge you are accused with associating with other groups or individuals who teach doctrines contrary to those authorized by the church."
"Well, I do associate with a lot of Catholics," said Curtis. "It looks like you will have to excommunicate everyone in the stake."
"That is not what is meant by the accusation."
"That's what it says."
"Come now. We know you've been associating with apostates. Do you deny it?"
"I do not believe I associate with apostates, but with people who are sincere seekers not in any way separated from God. I can prove the doctrines of my friends are in harmony with the Standard Works."
"I can see where you are trying to take us around in circles here. It is obvious here that your apostate friends teach false doctrines. We will proceed to the next charge."
"I don't think this is fair," said Kathy. "The odds here are fifteen against one, nor do I see six elders defending Curtis as your manual directs. I think you should let the witnesses in."
"We'll see," said President Jason. ''Now the next charge is that you do not abide the rules and regulations of the church. How do you explain yourself there?"
"I have tried to live all the rules and regulations," said Curtis. "I have always paid my tithes and offerings. I am a hundred per cent home teacher. I live a moral life. I attend all my meetings, I have never refused a calling. I've done everything the Bishop has asked of me. I can't think of a rule that I am breaking. But tell me are all the members of the Stake Presidency Home Teachers?"
"No. We don't have the time."
"Brethren! Are you not aware that the prophet has instructed all leaders including Bishops and Stake Presidents to home teach at least one family. It looks like it is you who are not obeying all the rules. I think we should have a court for you."
Fred almost cracked a smile. In his heart he was almost proud of Curtis.
President Jason's face turned a bit red, "Listen you are on trial here and not us! You disregard the council of the Brethren so you are not obeying the rules!"
"But some of the council of the Brethren is contrary to the scriptures, and besides you are on trial here more than I am. My beliefs have already been cleared by God. Now he is seeing how you react to them. You are the ones being watched by the courts of heaven more than I."
Elder Marks spoke up: "I will not see you belittling our President. Don't you realize that we have power here to take away everything that is important. We can take your membership away, your Priesthood, your temple marriage, your salvation and exaltation. You ought to take this seriously and get down on your knees and repent. Where's your senses anyway?"
"You have power to take nothing but my church membership," Curtis replied defiantly. Many people don't realize that the Church is merely an auxiliary of the Priesthood just as the Sunday School is an auxiliary of the church. Only sin can take away my Priesthood and that decision belongs to God alone."
"You'll think differently when you are cut off," said Elder Marks.
"If we keep on going this meeting will last all night," said President Jason. "Here's the last charge: You do not sustain the Prophet as the only one who can exercise all priesthood keys and as the prophet seer, and revelator for the whole church. How do you respond to this?"
"I have never said that the prophet does not have the keys. Brigham Young once said that" that the least member has the keys to build up the church if all the leaders were killed. I sustain the man as a prophet seer and revelator as long as the Spirit testifies to me that he speaks the truth. Brigham Young condemned the Saints for believing without question. He said we must find out for ourselves. This is what I do with the words of the Prophet. I let myself be guided by the Spirit."
"What does the Spirit tell you about the revelation on the blacks?" said Elder Wood.
"The Spirit says it was a false revelation given to them because that is what their hearts desired. Actually, the revelation may have not even been needed because Joseph Smith himself ordained a black man named Elijah Abel to be an Elder and I can find no revelation that should have changed that policy. The blacks should have never been rejected."
"That does, it right there!" said President Jason. The revelation on the blacks is now scripture and you are speaking against it. That condemns you using your own reasoning."
"But where is the revelation?"
"It was published in the Ensign and the Church News. About everyone in the Church read it. Didn't you?"
"But that was not the revelation. That was only a statement that there was a revelation. How can you say I am going against a revelation when no one knows what the revelation says?"
"You can twist things around all you want, but it's obvious to us all that you don't sustain the authorities. I think it's about time to bring this meeting to a conclusion."
"But you haven't heard the witnesses yet," said Kathy. Did you lie to us in your letter when you said Curtis could have them?"
"Are you sure they are members in good standing?"
"Yes," said Curtis. "I can prove it to you if you want."
"All right we'll let them in for five minutes each."
Copyright © 2007 by JJ Dewey, All Rights Reserved