I am in the middle of watching the Netflix series The Family, about the so-named secretive Christian foundation that operates in American politics and runs an organization out of the DC suburbs. The series describes its method of recruiting members by referral to live in a fraternity-style environment and be involved with the group’s Christian aims in American politics. A former member of the group describes his experience when another “brother” committed adultery with his wife, clearly a sin-based violation of the group’s principles. The former member complained to the group about this other member’s actions, and the adulterer complied with the group’s requirements to write a letter of apology, agree to do better, and break off the affair. However, he left this meeting and immediately went to a hotel to meet with his lover, the other member’s wife. Because the adulterer was a higher ranking politician with more power and influence, ultimately the group backed him instead of the wronged individual.
The basis for this refusal to hold the member accountable was that his position was evidence that he was “chosen” by God. As part of the group’s indoctrination, they discussed the story of King David who was favored by God, but then slept with Bathsheba, got her pregnant, and had her husband killed. The moral of that story, according to these documentary interviews with former members of The Family, is that if you are “chosen,” like King David, it doesn’t really matter what you do. There’s no accountability in this life or next. God has chosen you, so nobody can touch you or reduce your power and influence. How do you know someone was “chosen by God”? Because they held high office and had committed to the religious group The Family.
If you think that’s a terrible notion, well, it should sound familiar at least. You may recall that when the Church was first being organized, Joseph was struck by the question about Old Testament figures, like King David and others, who had multiple wives, and gee, wouldn’t it be grand if . . . and the rest is polygamy history. What is it with men and wanting to get off scot-free for horndoggery? I suspect we know the answer to that question.
There was recently a meeting with top Church leaders in the UK, a sort of “British Rescue” if you will. In this meeting, E. Holland made some unusual remarks about apostles who have a “permanent pass” and don’t have to worry about their salvation anymore because that’s a sure thing. He appears to be referring to the secretive Second Anointing that former Mormon Tom Phillips revealed having received, causing a bit of an uproar several years ago. The Second Anointing, while not something most members are familiar with, is pretty well documented for those interested in Mormon history. It even has a Wikipedia page.
While I was at BYU, I had a religion class from George Pace, a charismatic teacher who was taken to task very publicly by Bruce R. McConkie over his teaching that all Church members can become “chosen” or have their “calling and election made sure,” not by invitation from higher ups in the Church, but through a direct personal manifestation of the savior. He even wrote a book on the subject. The controversy is also outlined in his Wikipedia page. McConkie’s harsh criticism, on its face, seems to be about seeking a personal relationship with Jesus rather than praying to Heavenly Father only. In retrospect, though, I can’t help but wonder if part of the critique was against the notion that an average person can receive this kind of witness rather than it being reserved for the apostles only (many of whom have pretty openly said they did not receive it), and the notion that having one’s “calling and election made sure” is available to all and sundry without relying on the Church as a mediator. After all, if you don’t need the Church as a mediator between you and your salvation, you might create a schism like Denver Snuffer (who claims to have personally seen the savior). Perhaps there is also some insecurity around the institutional role (or lack thereof) of individuals who have received this personal manifestation, but who don’t hold high office in the Church. Who’s to say?
I had a conversation over a decade ago with a friend of mine about the leader worship among the membership that we both found a bit alarming. He noted that most apostles really were aware of and trying hard not to foster this, curttailing the excesses that tend to happen in area visits. I pointed out that it’s pretty hard to be humble when you believe you’re saved and that the rest of the people around you are still subject to God’s judgment. He said sure, but that he believed they all had to work out their own salvation with fear and trembing just like the rest of us. Sure, Jan.
What do you think?
I still remember the first time I ever heard of a second anointing. I was on my mission, and I stumbled on a printed out or photocopied talk that some other missionary had left behind in our missionary apartment (it could have been sitting there for a decade or more for all I know). I recall the speaker’s name as “Fish” or “Fisch” and that the talk appeared to be addressed to missionaries so maybe it had been given in the MTC, but many searches since then have failed to turn it up, and I can’t even confirm that there ever was a Seventy with that last name. Anyway, the talk goes just a little bit into the second anointing and states that at the end of it, the recipient can expect a personal audience with the Savior himself. I recall being equal parts intrigued and skeptical . Intrigued at the idea that Jesus would show up when asked and skeptical that our church would teach that you can be guaranteed to be saved given our huge focus on works. Having listened to the Tom Phillips interview, it now sounds kind of like that pizza party and limo ride that was offered to kids who sold the most stuff during our elementary and middle school fundraisers. It sounded amazing when I was a kid, but now, not so much.
I almost have no words for this video. I don’t even know where to start to address the disingenuous, self-congratulatory pomposity of an apostle making sure everyone knows how righteous he, his family members, and a few other apostles are. This is someone who makes the rules clearly making sure that everyone in attendance in that meeting knows who is the best among them, notwithstanding his pathetic attempt at folksy humor to relate to the audience.
What an striking example of humility. What an amazing way for someone in power to relate to people, some of whom I can only imagine would have benefitted from hearing words of love, comfort and hope.
But instead of doing that, Holland – someone who supposedly benefits from the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost – instead used that time to remind others of his greatness and status.
In case anyone had any doubts, yup, Holland has officially jumped the shark.
We have a lot of practices that I think put men in the position of the Savior. The way the temple puts husbands in the position of saviors of their wives is one. And the way that Church leaders feel like they are entitled to make a literal final judgment on certain elite Church members and leaders and save them in the place of God via this practice is another. I think it’s total hubris and I’m surprised they don’t see it as such when it so plainly is.
I think you’re right that when we have stuff like this in place there’s not a great argument to be made that there’s not a real leader worship problem in the Church and that it starts at the top.
Things changed for me when I started making choices and decisions based on how they would impact me only in the here and now and foreseeable future. Once I stopped worrying about how my choices might affect me in the afterlife, life got a lot better. For if you think about it, what the church teaches about the afterlife is very vague. One thing is for sure and that is we must not judge whether individuals are going to be saved or not. Judgment is God’s and God’s alone. And Elder Holland is essentially judging Elder Cook by saying that he has made it into the CK. What is to say that God will save them? What is to say God won’t save them? Too many unknowns about the afterlife. I’ll stick with what is more known and worry about this life only.
This is perhaps the most powerful thing the LDS Church offers to members. The idea that they are special because of their beliefs, membership, and receipt of ordinances. It is the reason it can be difficult to remove oneself from the church–seemingly to lose access to temporal and eternal blessings, loss of connection to God, fear of missing warnings from prophets, and certainly losing the company of friends/family.
Our entire religious history and our interpretation of the scripture is founded and focused on being “chosen,” “set apart,” “called,” or whatever other similar word or description. It is so pervasive. Pre-earth life, Adam down through the patriarchs, the twelve tribes of Israel, the original apostles and disciples, Joseph Smith and the Brighamite church, running all the way down to RMN and us. We are special. We are adopted into the house of Israel. We have the truth. We have saving ordinances, and apparently optional ordinances reserved for the best of the bunch. We make covenants directly with God. God hears our prayers and avenges our losses. God blesses us because we have “correct” practices. We get to judge people or groups as harshly or softly as we see fit because God is with us.
And when you get that type of thinking to become so enmeshed in your everyday life and view of the world, it can really make you a judgmental, egotistical prick. It can cause you to say and do things that you otherwise normally wouldn’t. But if I am special, called of God, having received his ordinances and anointed to become like Him, well . . .
Take it up a notch and become one of the top 15 leaders in this organization? Your calling justifies almost everything and anything you say or do. It’s happened since Joseph “restored” the “true gospel.” Weird beliefs and practices, excommunications, murders, political agendas, discrimination, belittling other members, accumulation of obscene wealth. You get the picture.
A quick word about our apostles and prophets. These are doubtless, for the most part, good men. And they have succeeded in life according to LDS standards, more often than not have a pioneer or priesthood ancestry, and are church-broke to the point of being willing to say or do anything to preserve the Church institution. When they stand up and tell me how special they (or we) are, it rings really hollow at this point. By their fruits–that’s what I need to see more of before I can give them a pass straight to the Celestial Kingdom. Because right now, they are sitting on a mountain of cash, millions of willing and able members, in a world that desperately needs more than affirmations of simply being chosen.
Yeah… it’s been a weird few weeks over here in Britain. I should write a blog post. Meanwhile there’s been ample discussion on the various British church related podcast channels: 21st century saints… nemo the Mormon… priesthood dispatches..
I didn’t do my usual note-taking marathon on account of a bad hand sprain over the summer..
(Note: I wrote most of this hours ago and found it still on me screen, so it may be out dated in relation to other comments).
It’s possible that Holland was obliquely referencing the second anointing, and that is how many critics of the church are taking it, but everything he said could have been said by someone who knows nothing about the second anointing.
A lot of exmos and critics take seriously the idea that second anointing guarantees a ticket into Heaven. I have generally taken this kind of language to be more symbolic than literal. Compare it to baptism, for example. There are scriptures that speak of baptism by water and then by fire. A common reading of this interprets the baptism by fire to refer to the Holy Ghost. Now some people interpret that to mean the ordinance of bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost is the baptism by fire. But in my believing years thought that the baptism by fire, while made possible by the gift of the Holy Ghost, was a long term purification process that happened over a lifetime.
Similarly, I never thought that the second anointing ordinance was meant to be a ticket into Heaven. Even when Tom Phillips talked about his experience, the way he described it if I recall correctly they told him “don’t even ask what happens if you sin” after getting the ordinance. That hardly sounds like a free pass.
The biggest problem with the second anointing is that nobody can give clarification on what it means or doesn’t mean because of the secrecy. So everyone reads into it what they already believe. But when Holland speaks above, I don’t assume he’s talking about the second anointing unless he says something about it more directly, because after all, the first rule of the second anointing is you doing talk about the second anointing.
If these are the folks God wants surrounding him in heaven, no thanks.
Hashtag retire elder holland
@Rockwell, you’re right that he might not have been referring to the Second Anointing. He might have just been talking about how those people are super perfect and for sure going to heaven. It was still really gross. The faux humility about himself was also gross.
I thought that the reason that people who have received the Second Anointing can’t be excommunicated (including people like Joseph Bishop, who confessed to have sexually abused sisters under his care as MTC president) is because they’d already been basically promised their salvation so that would be “complicated.” But your point about how we don’t actually know any of this because no one talks about it is well-taken and part of the whole problem – secret exclusive rituals and all that. That said, everything I’ve ever heard about the Second Anointing from any source is that it = guaranteed CK.
Here’s the problem: the starships never arrive. Eventually you get tired of standing in that meadow with a backpack full of socks, underwear and Snickers bars, and slowly trudge back to reality, sadder but wiser.
Elder Holland’s reputation continues to take serious hits. Most recently his screed to BYU staff, and now his lighthearted reference to the Second Anointing, an “ordinance” I find deeply troubling. My respect for Holland is gone. But I’m sure he could care less.
You’re chosen, but not as an individual. You’re chosen as a member of the Church. The Church has to be in the middle of the “chosen” status.
Shout out to Elder Polman and his 1984 (ironic) talk(s).
josh h—“The Church has to be in the middle of the “chosen” status.”
You nailed it brother! The Church sets itself up as substitute and gatekeeper for God/Christ. Whatever they as institution or top leaders say or do is given divine approval, even when they screw up basic principles such as worth of souls, all are children of God, equality of gender, loving your neighbor, etc. And they proclaim the only way to God/Christ is through the institution.
Really hoping someone has the guts to cleanse the church from this soon.
There’s a larger Christian context that is relevant here. There is a Christian doctrine called “irresistible grace.” It traces to Augustine and John Calvin. The upshot of irresistible grace is that those God has chosen will, sooner or later, be led to accept grace and will receive their assured salvation. God runs the show in this scenario. Those lucky Chosen Ones, who seem to be a fairly big chunk of believers, not some small elite club, have a version of assured salvation that isn’t much different from what Mormons talk about as the end result of the Second Anointing: assured salvation. The difference maybe is that irresistible grace operates out of view, behind the scenes so to speak, whereas the LDS Second Anointing is a visible church-controlled ordinance (albeit not a public ordinance).
I suspect the LDS doctrine offends (or should offend) the sensibilities of mainstream LDS more than anyone else — as mainstream LDS have been raised on works righteousness, that you have to endure to the end, and that you can always screw up and fall down a rung or two on the ladder of salvation. The idea of “assured salvation” runs entirely counter to the visible public doctrine of the Church. The LDS doctrine might be called “partial grace”: “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” And every Mormon knows you have to do a lot, and do it until the day you die.
But, strangely, it’s not mainstream Mormons who raise objections to the Second Anointing (perhaps because so few of them even know about it). It’s not clear exactly what those who are upset about it are unhappy about. “I don’t agree with Augustine and Calvin” — well, it’s one of those disputed Christian doctrines with folks on both sides. “I’m unhappy more Mormons aren’t unhappy about the doctrine” — yeah, funny how people don’t seem inclined to defer to your idea of what they should be happy or unhappy about. Too bad. “The LDS Church shouldn’t be the mediator of salvation ordinances — that should be between God and the person” — except lots of churches assume that role, particularly the Catholic Church. That’s sort of a Protestant objection to non-Protestant churches, not anything that concerns the LDS Church in particular.
Bottom line: I understand that various people are uncomfortable with or upset about the LDS Second Anointing, but the harder you look at the basis of those objections, the odder they look. They don’t quite add up.
I think Counselor nails it. There is, underneath all of the virtue signaling, faux humility, piety theater, etc., a fundamental, pervasive LDS belief that we are somehow special because we have the “truth”. Is it any wonder that such an arrogant position begets more arrogance? And to another of Counselor’s points, it does, indeed, make you a judgmental prick. The amount of energy and time spent on making sure we keep telling our selves (and believing) we are special far outstrips the amount of energy put into teaching us practical things to do to make the world a better place and ease the burdens of our neighbor. Of course, such an imbalance is necessary, because despite what the church teaches about following Christ and taking upon ourselves his name, etc., most people in the church wouldn’t have the amount of buy-in that they do unless they were told how special they were on an almost daily basis. I’m not judging them; most of us prefer to think of ourselves as somehow special rather than not special at all, but the problem is that this kind of thinking has been encouraged by leaders and institutionalized for long enough that most of us can’t even see past it.
PS: hawkgrrrl, is anyone going to do a post about Dallin H. Oaks caught in a lie about gay conversion therapy at BYU in the 70s? That seems like kind of a big story.
Elisa responded, “He might have just been talking about how those people are super perfect and for sure going to heaven. It was still really gross. The faux humility about himself was also gross”
💯 percent true.
I am curious, Angela-how do you know it was a “rescue” as opposed to a stake or area conference?
He keeps talking about salvation. I thought all people who are resurected have salvation.
We are working on exaltation. Shouldn’t he be talking about exaltation?
How far down does the second anointing go? GAs, temple presidents, Stake presidents?
@Counselor couldn’t have put it better.
“…right now, they are sitting on a mountain of cash, millions of willing and able members, in a world that desperately needs more than affirmations of simply being chosen.”
The millions of willing and able members is as egregious as the money that just sits there. So much opportunity to make a real difference and it’s so sadly underutilized. The parable of the talents wasn’t about the virtues of accumulating wealth. (Ironic use of the word virtue if that wasn’t clear.)
$100B could certainly go a long way toward promotion of salvation from hunger and want.
Something really must be done to cut back on the quote fest of leaders that conference has become. We need to get back to quoting Christ, not leaders simply quoting each other.
Geoff-Aus: From what I have heard, Temple Presidents & Mission Presidents are likely initiated in the 2A. SPs, probably not by virtue of their calling, but possibly for nepotistic reasons, which let’s face it, is almost always at play with these levels of calling.
It’s not the guaranteed salvation that is offensive. I’m actually a universalist at heart. The reason I find the idea of the second anointing offensive is the appearance of arbitrary access only to a small class of elite leaders who wear oversized suits and think beards are evil.
The Book of Mormon and the Restoration story blasted our elitist Calvinist ancestors with a message which was egalitarian and nearly universalist in nature. Then the Latter-day Saints as a people worked to overturn it! Currently, many of us perceive a rigid hierarchy or even a caste system within the Church. Nepotism continues to be a part of LDS practice, it is like J. Golden Kimball’s famous quip “There are three ways of getting a calling in this church… inspiration, revelation and RELATION.”
What Elder Holland said is nothing new. Gaining one’s “second anointing” or achieving one’s “calling and election” have been pointed out in meetings all along. It is the great ideal. It is good when one uses it as an aspirational and egalitarian goal for ALL. Indeed, the promised personal relationship with Christ is why I think some of us get choked up listening to the popular Gospel music hit “I Can Only Imagine.” The love and joy many feel just listening to this rather simplistic song is profound. But unfortunately Latter-day Saints offer the Gospel message of Jesus and then behave like our elitist Calvinist ancestors. Is that why so many cling to racist and elitist ideas in direct opposition to Jesus’ message?
The nepotism with its associated hubris and exclusivity is poisonous for those who find themselves outside the obviously self-selected cluster of church leadership. We all know hundreds if not thousands of men and women who realistically never stand a chance of enjoying a social position in church to be offered this ordinance. These people include the vast majority of returned missionaries, people who serve callings, who serve others, serve in the temple, etc. So many of these people have severe troubles, the retelling of which break our hearts. So many possess profound testimonies of Christ and His Atonement. Are the bonds between God and these people somehow weaker because they are not nor never will be in a position to be offered this ordinance? Is God’s Grace-filled hand somehow stayed when one prays who is not from this self-selected caste? I think not.
Cynthia L: Oh, good point. I don’t know firsthand. Some Brits were calling it that, and there is a huge issue with closures of wards and shrinking membership there.
@Angela, I had heard people speculate it was going to be a rescue but it doesn’t seem to have been. I think those three were there for another reason and then apparently at the fireside rather than say absolutely anything of substance they just reminisced about their own missions there. So it certainly doesn’t seem to have been anything like the Swedish rescue.
@Old Man and Dave B (and some others)… those are good points. Our “everyone gets salvation but only the most valiant get exalted” is our way of having our cake and eating it too when it comes to faith & works. We’re both! We all get saved no matter what! Oh, but if you want to get EXALTED you have to CHECK ALL THE BOXES and DO ALL THE THINGS. So really, we’re all about the works.
To me the second anointing SHOULD operate like Schrodinger’s cat. If you suddenly become “good” enough to be able to lay claim upon the second anointing in this life, the moment you realize you are worthy, you become unworthy. Because pride.
Like Old Man, I suppose I could see a world where second anointing is a thing. But my problem is that the ultimate test to getting the second anointing isn’t a broken heart and a contrite spirit, it’s based upon rising sufficiently through the ranks to get to a certain level of calling. Or be married to someone who climbed these ladders.
I suggest we listen to what President Nelson is saying. Form Oct 2021 conference talk:
“Begin now to learn and experience what it means to be armed with priesthood power.
And to each of you who has made temple covenants, I plead with you to seek—prayerfully and consistently—to understand temple covenants and ordinances. Spiritual doors will open. You will learn how to part the veil between heaven and earth, how to ask for God’s angels to attend you, and how better to receive direction from heaven. Your diligent efforts to do so will reinforce and strengthen your spiritual foundation.”
The power and blessings outlined above are available to all church members who are serious about following the Savior.
If I can do it, and I am, then anyone can. It is a matter of where your heart is and what you really want.
Jared, well, your heart is sure in the ‘I’ve got it all figured out and am on my way to amazing power, so see you all later unrighteous suckers!” place, (though you do attempt to mask it), so I don’t you’ll get there as soon as you might hope. Pride and all that. Also, sort of one of the main points of this post.
Brian, you chose how you would interrupt my words. Like a movie director you have a script in mind and are using my words to portray me in a manner that fits your narrative.
I shared a very short testimony, that is all.
Best to you.
I wonder if they’ll stop doing second anointings when they reach 144,000.
Cynthia, I heard speculation online that it may be ‘a rescue’. Whether or not that was the intention I don’t know.
To have three apostles visit at once was regarded as very unusual. But despite there being a youth/young adult session on the Saturday afternoon, and a general session on the Sunday morning there seemed to be very little coherence to any overall message.
But in short order since then we’ve also had a very poorly publicised Europe-wide broadcast, the first of its kind apparently, specifically for single sisters, with bizarrely, speakers from the general YW and general primary presidencies. Finally we had a week long series of presentations by a historian from the church history dept… running question and answer sessions also broadcast, with different intended audiences for each. This was also extremely badly publicised, so I don’t know how happy local church leaders were about it. Information about the YSA session especially was not disseminated. My youngest at university should have been informed about both that and the single sister session but got no information about either. In my ward we only got the information about the GD teacher and general session with the historian literally by email sent out very late the night before.
Hi Hawkgrrrl, meant to say interpret not interrupt. I hope all is well for you. I don’t comment often. Thanks for posting the few comments I make. From the looks of things W&T commentators are becoming more and more critical of the church. The quote I put up from Pres. Nelson has 12 thumbs down as I write this.
Jared, I realize you ‘bore your testimony.’ How, when, and where you bore it was is suspect here. The OP, and many of the comments, address the problematic, self-aggrandizing nature of the speech, of the elitism involved, etc. Then, in self-declared humility, you repeat those problems with a tone of criticism and a call to repentance. I understand very well how interruptions work. Hypocritically, as I was pointing out, though you seem to have missed it, you’ve performed your own to everyone here in your generic post to the collective that, contextually, is an aggressive attack to everyone here. You probably feel justified in that attack. I feel justified in the retort pointing it out with a mirrored attack. To put it simply, because you either haven’t or are unable to do the work, the context of your post suggests that everyone who commented isn’t serious about following the Savior, that their criticisms are blanketly invalid because RMN said something, that, because even ‘lowly’ you can it, we can too, which is patronizing. So yeah, your response is going to be pushed back against. If you had worked a little harder at working through your thoughts and feelings and discussing them in more concrete, detailed manner, it would be more difficult to dismiss your comments as nothing more than trollish. Passing it off as nothing more than a ‘very short testimony’ is again patronizing and asks everyone to completely ignore the rhetorical discourse and context happening everywhere else on the page. Most people can see that. Please, come, engage, and comment, but if you hope to be taken seriously, practicing deeper, more rigorous argument will greatly help your cause. All the best in that endeavor, “the world” seriously needs it.
“But my problem is that the ultimate test to getting the second anointing isn’t a broken heart and a contrite spirit, it’s based upon rising sufficiently through the ranks to get to a certain level of calling. Or be married to someone who climbed these ladders.“.
Does anyone here believe it’s even possible for a Mormon woman to be sufficiently good or worthy or reverent to achieve any spiritual recognition on her own? That would be in opposition to the very nature of Mormonism, no?
Alice – that is a very profound question. As much as our culture may be loath to admit it, we both know the answer is “no”.
Given that fact, I believe we can draw some reasonable insights as to how much importance God might place on that particularly pernicious version of the “praise of men.”
Alice and tubes, do you think Sheri Dew has received her second anointing? It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if she is, but I also suspect she’s one of the few female general officers who have.
“… wouldn’t surprise me if she [has].”
Wouldn’t surprise me if Sheri Dew has been sealed to some historically high-level someone, thereby making her eligible for the second anointing. I can’t imagine she would get it on her own.
I’ve sat through many lessons over the years about how the temple is the most egalitarian place on earth, because patrons are all dressed the same with no indicators of wealth or status (or lack thereof), and everyone being equal before God. The 2nd Anointing pretty much flushes that idea down the toilet.
I wouldn’t be so troubled by the existence of the 2nd Anointing ordinance if it were public knowledge, widely talked about by Church leaders, had a clear path to achievement with specific criteria, and was reasonably attainable by any worthy member who wanted it badly enough. Kind of like a natural sequel to the temple endowment, but for later in life.
The highest tiers of airline frequent flyer membership programs may be unattainable for most of us who only fly a few times a year, but at least the membership prerequisites are clearly laid out for all to see. It would be something entirely different if instead the airlines only opened their super elite-level status to a secret cabal of senior executives and their trusted friends and relatives, while at the same time publicly denying that such status exists at all.
I’ve come to believe the temple is far less egalitarian than I once believed. It really creates a two-tier system because if we are all totally honest there may be questions that we fudge on slightly. I know I’ve fudged a bit in past interviews. Not because I’ve done anything morally or ethically wrong but because I can’t in all honesty say yes to some of those questions regarding keys and authority etc. It’s also not an equal place for LGBTQ+ people unless they give up dreams of true companionship in this life. I don’t really enjoy the temple but there will be possible marriage rituals of grandchildren that I will miss if I continue to be honest. It’s so drummed into membership that the temple is the pinnacle of our worship – so why is it so boring and not really for everyone?