There is some pretty strange stuff in the Doctrine and Covenants. If you look at all the things God needed to tell mankind, God seems to suffer from ADHD when He was talking with Joseph Smith. So many important things He could have conveyed to Joseph, like maybe boiling your water before drinking it, particularly in the late summer when wells seem to go stagnate? Or maybe laying out a clear line of succession; since God knew when Joseph was going to die, it would have been easy a few month before to wake him up in the middles of the night, and tell him who should be the next leader of the church.
D&C 129 seems to be a good example of God being distracted, and going off on a tangent. It is short, so I’ll post all of it below
Instructions given by Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, February 9, 1843, making known three grand keys by which the correct nature of ministering angels and spirits may be distinguished.
1 There are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones—
2 For instance, Jesus said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
3 Secondly: the spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory.
4 When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.
5 If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand.
6 If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear—
7 Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceived; but he will still deliver his message.
8 If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him.
9 These are three grand keys whereby you may know whether any administration is from God.D&C 129
To summarize, when a heavenly being show up and tells you
she he has a a message for you, ask to shake his hand. No mention is made if this is a special handshake, or just a normal one, so feel free to use any fancy ones you may have learned someplace. If they offer you their hand and you feel it, that is good, you better listen to what they have to say. If they offer their hand and you feel nothing, “danger Will Robinson, danger!” You need to run!
Lastly, if they refuse to shake your hand, and you are quite sure you showered that morning, you can be assured this is a true messenger from God. Go ahead and listen to him, but maybe don’t put as much weight on it as the one who you could feel their hand.
As a kid reading this, I thought it was cool, and couldn’t wait to try it out the next time an angel showed up. I’m still waiting.
This section raises so many questions! What if the devil, who is not known to follow the rules, refuses to shake your hand? He must have read D&C 129 by now. He knows the grand keys. How hard would it be to just stand there? Also, was this something that was so common in Joseph Smith’s time that God needed to reveal this to Joseph, and it needed to be canonized in Scripture? Was there angels showing up weekly to the members, and they needed this information? How often was this used?
Is it used today? Do you know anybody that has ever used this? Does the Q15 practice this on each other while they are standing around waiting for their weekly meeting to start in the temple? As I have recounted here before, I was present in a regional Priesthood leadership meeting when Elder Packard told us that he had NEVER seen a heavenly being, or even heard an audible voice. He just got a feeling on which way he should go. The point he was making is that we as leaders do not need to be calling Slat Lake all the time, just go with your spiritual promptings (gut). I don’t think he ever used it.
Have any of you readers had the opportunity to use this? If its not too
secret sacred, please share in the comments.
Image by Walter Bichler from Pixabay
I was born in the church and these are the waters I traveled in, as young and inexperienced and these details seemed important. With life experience and a faith shift, I asked myself, why is this important? Handshakes from angels and devils?
It’s a mental game of justifications and rationales. In the end what is the “gospel” and why the LDS church?. With the 30k view most the things unique to Mormonism are worthless. As a 14 year old learning, this in seminary, it was like “we have the whole truth”. Well the truth is, most these details are irrelevant and was a fantasy of JS mind. We have passed the fantasy from generation to generation, waiting for the angels to appear to give the handshake. Well, the internet has allowed us to have open discussions and change the correlated narrative. However, the magical worldview of mormonism is right there in their holy writ.
If God saw the details of the D&C and the 1st presidency statements over the past 200 years as most important to communicate, then we have a problem.
The real gospel of Jesus Christ is empathy, love, forgiveness, etc. All these details from the D&C and everything else from the LDS gospel is in the end a waste of time, energy, and intellect.
I am amazed how the church only lighty touches on love, empathy and topics that would make real difference with individuals and their families. The emphasis of heavy-handed obedience, covenants path, leadership worship……..and the mature adult members just keep accepting irrelevant discussions and ignoring how to help the individual. Bodnar just reminded everyone “we are not a humanitarian organization”
It is hard to recognize and accept that the waters of Mormonism are polluted. but, once you can truly open your eyes, you see the game. But the instuituion keeps people too busy to ponder, or as many of my TBM family state, they do not want to know and are OK with with LDS church as is.
The gospel of Christ of the New Testament and the “gospel” of the LDS instuition are 2 diametrically opposing philosophies
Is it possible that Joseph forgot to apply his own knowledge of the three grand keys when the sword-packing angel threatens his life unless he steps it up with the plural marriage? Joseph should have asked for that handshake first.
Thanks Bill for your excellent point on the absence of counsel for boiling water and setting up an advance succession for Joseph. Wow, talk about some interesting (strange) priorities.
Great response Faith !!
My TBM wife wants to take a BOM tour in Mexico – should I agree but only if we can later visit Zelph’s grave?
I think now I will recenter my Sabbath with a listening of “In the Ghetto” by Elvis. Have a great day everyone !!
Church “doctrine” has a lot of goofiness. Some brave leader(s) need to clean out the hubris. An abridgment of the D&C would be a great start.
I agree that God sort of got off on a tangent in D&C 129. Everyone has a bad day now and then.
I look at stuff like this as the Lord answering Joseph’s questions, not the Lord telling Joseph what was most important. He may in fact have told Joseph to boil water and Joseph blew it off as boring and left it out of the D&C.
I have used these keys. Not to personally test an angel, but to better understand the endowment. These keys clearly demonstrate the extended creation-fall story is not an historical reenactment, but a dramatic teaching tool.
lastlemming: I tend to agree with you, thus we have a number of very arbitrary revelations that address issues that are either not very important or are solving a JS problem. Even when I was a TBM it bothered me a great deal that JS’s revelations seemed so hit or miss and that direction to us came from such a scattered approach.
You want to know about the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Then read the Book or Mormon and along the way you’ll learn about pride and other topics. We’ll call this the “fullness of the Gospel” but that’s not really true. We’ll need the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price to cover other very important items. And even after all of that, JS will want to continue to expand his theology so right before he dies he gives us the King Follet discourse which apparently explains that God was once like us and we can become like him. You would think that would have been covered in one of the scriptures above. It all seems so random. But maybe I’m being too harsh. After all, they didn’t have General Conference back then.
It’s really too bad JS didn’t live longer, because he was really on a roll. Who knows what else he might have told us? Maybe another King Follet talk would have emerged that would have addressed racism, sexism, or the “gay issue”. But no, silence on all of those. Not important enough. At least we know not to drink coffee.
Chet, the brother of one of our high councilmen runs BofM tours in Peru. So when you finish in Central America, I can connect you with someone in South America. I’m sure I’ve seen baptismal fonts at Machu Picchu and elsewhere.
I wanted to discuss humanitarian work around Cusco, the HC wanted to sign me up for a tour. He didn’t want to talk about anything else. I guess we all have to make a living.
I actually think this revelation makes a lot of sense in the context of being a mystic spiritual leader in a culture of mysticism. If you claim to be the prophet based on your interactions with angels and such, you can’t have your followers interacting with angels too unless they filter those experiences through the lens you’ve taught them.
If a God outside of JS’ own psyche were at the helm, yeah it would make sense to handle succession issues ahead of time (or warn against the evils of slavery or reveal germ theory etc). But if these revelations primarily serve JS’ own needs, then you get a lot of micromanagement revelations like “where to send brother so and so on a mission” or spiritual issues like “this town ain’t big enough for two prophets.”
See also: D&C 49 saying Ann Lee isn’t a real prophetess or D&C 28 saying Hiram Page’s seer stone is of the devil (“my seer stone can beat up your seer stone”).
If you’re looking to show that not everything that came out of JS’s mouth was from God, this is a pretty good passage to include. Early leaders in the Reorganization were deeply skeptical of stuff from the Nauvoo Era. Maybe that helps explain why this passage never made it into the RLDS D&C. But I have to admit there’s still some crazy and/or odd stuff in there. Coincidentally, it’s rare to find D&C Sections approved earlier than the mid-1980s used in Community of Christ worship services or quoted in publications.
I know I said I would try not to comment here any more–but this needs a response.
First off, we have to remember that there are some elements of the heavenly order that are taken for granted when laying out these keys. One of them being–the adversary can only appear “nigh unto an angel.” This means (to me) that he will not be able to duplicate the glory of a just man made perfect. And so, if he were to appear and we, like Moses, are able to determine right off the bat that he lacks in glory–then that fact should raise our hackles a bit. It is at that juncture of our interaction with him that we would want some proof of the pudding. And so, we ask to shake his hand–and because he knows that we have already determined that his “glory” is too “dim” to be that of a JMMP he will stretch forth his hand and attempt to deceive us into believing that we are actually feeling something–when we’re not. He will likely try to “spiritualize” the interaction so that we turn our doubts upon ourselves rather than upon him. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book.
One of the things I love about Joseph Smith is that some of the things he taught (vis-a-vis heavenly things) were so ordinary as to be almost mundane. And it is that mundane quality that makes them seem rather silly or goofy to us moderns. And! That’s one of the reasons as to why Joseph was reticent to share too much of what he knew.
Re: Elder Packer never having a vision or visitation. If the talk he gave at that particular time and place was anything like what he’s said in other such situations–my guess is that he spoke of spiritual experiences having to do specifically with garnering knowledge and truth vis-a-vis building a testimony. That was one of his oft repeated messages to the saints–that we don’t need to have a blinding miraculous experience to get a witness of the restored gospel; that it can come to us quietly and grow incrementally.
That said, There’s no question (in my mind) that many–if not all–of the apostles (and many of the saints) have had marvelous experiences that are too sacred to relate–though they do hint at them on occasion.
Jack, there was no vis-a-vis with Elder Packer words. I was there, I had first hand knowledge. It was not about building a testimony. It was about getting revelation for your calling. The was no exceptions. Elder Packer said he had NEVER saw a heavenly messenger, or even heard an audible voice. There was no hinting, no “too sacred to talk about”.
I don’t doubt you’re sincerity. Even so, I’ve heard (and read) enough from Boyd K. Packer myself that I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on what he meant.
Reading the New Testament carefully convinced me that the modern-day Church has little to do with what Jesus was up to. (Attempting to)* read the D&C carefully convinced me that the modern-day Church has little to do with what God would want to say if God were speaking.
*I say “attempting to” because, while I made a valiant effort, I found reading the D&C carefully cover-to-cover to be a profound waste of time. Just as I find apologetics like Jack’s to be a profound waste of mental energy.
Hey, I used this once (sort of)! This is according to my college roommate because I was sleep talking. He came into our room one night, and he was standing in the door way silhouetted with the hallway light shining behind him.
I ‘woke up’ and was like “Hey, who are you? What are you doing?”
Him: “It’s me Billy, your room mate.”
Me: “Oh, how do I know you’re not an angel of darkness?”
Him: “Umm… I dunno, do you want to shake my hand?” -Then he just went to his bed.
Me: -Reaching my arm out into the air- “I don’t feel anything! You are an angel of darkness!”
Him: “Nah man. I’m just in my bed. Reach over and you can shake my foot.”
Me: “Okay.” Shakes his foot. “All right. Sleep well man!”
He had a good laugh about it the next day.
So I’m not sure if that really counts, but it seems to be as good as much as an application of this as anyone else has shared.
I’m continually confused by what God has continued to reveal, not just in our religion, but in every religion. My guess is that it has more to do with what the prophets are asking and seeking to understand than with what God chooses to reveal to them.
I think our current prophet could have more revealed to him, depending on what questions he is asking- but that it won’t necessarily come with out seeking. I think the same is true in my own life.
I thought that stuff was so cool as a teen. I had it all memorized against the occasion – but alas . . .
I did have an experience on my mission that, as a hyper-believing 20-year-old, was sure happened and made perfect sense. Not as sure now – maybe you all have an explanation.
The sisters stationed in the furthest outpost of our mission had been having encounters with an evil spirit. They claimed to have seen it in their apartment, been knocked of their bikes, and had locked doors flung open. I’m convinced they were convinced. The President asked me and my companion to go and bless their upstairs apartment in an old house. He asked me to test the locks and windows, etc.
These were hard working missionaries and I have no reason to doubt them. They were having some of the most success in the mission at the time and the thinking was that Satan was trying to stop the work.
Our blessing of the apartment and official rebuke seemed to work. A couple weeks later there was a sisters’ conference at the mission home. I was one of the speakers so I was there. The sisters came to me, frightened, saying that the evil spirit was out in the backyard, by the vegetable garden.
I went out and saw something. Sort of a rumbled looking personage – in a brown sepia tone. I didn’t offer a handshake because not and angel of light. There was a bit of discussion – me using my voice. I couldn’t tell if the responses were audible or just in my head. At one point I asked why would he try to mess with the plan, mess with the sisters, why? The response was, “This is the only form of progression I will ever have.”
As I thought of how to rebuke and cast him off, the passage came to mind that the 1/3 had been cast out by the testimony of the blood of the Lamb – so I just bore my testimony of Jesus (with my right arm to the square for good measure) and he faded away. Checking with the sisters, our descriptions matched.
The next day the mission president called me into his office and said “I hear you called out an evil spirit yesterday. You shouldn’t seek out those sort of things.” After I told him that the sisters saw the spirit and I just went out, he was OK with the situation.
Once that hit the grapevine, I had quite the rep.
I have had one other encounter with an evil spirit – also witnessed by my wife. I’ve had four other experiences that, in Mormon parlance, I have to call visions of beings of light. One involving deceased ancestors, one with my two sons, and one with just son (those two in the temple).
I don’t know what to make of it. These could have been the product of my brain. I would be fine with that. They could involve actual spirits. I would be fine with that. The locations vary from the temple, to a field, to a classroom, to my daughter’s bedroom, to the mission home vegetable patch. From age 20 to age 51. Two involved other people seeing what I did. Nothing in the content was, to me, evidence that the church is true – that didn’t occur to me at the time nor does it in retrospect.
I am most at peace with these experiences when I don’t try to force some sort of deeper meaning to them. I am most comfortable with just letting them be without explanation.
Interesting points from the OP and the comments are highly entertaining and some intriguing. My husband had a similar experience to @ aporetick on his mission. While he was sleeping his companion wearing only his one piece whites got up to use the bathroom and returning knocked the bed my husband was sleeping in. Upon waking my husband saw a beam of light coming in through a transom window shining on this white apparition. I think my husband shakily mumbled “Maroni????” I guess it’s understandable to expect those kinds of experiences on a mission 😊
And like others have mentioned here in the comments if there really was a pipeline to current day prophets I think God would instruct us better about slavery, racism, LGBTQ+ inclusion, gender roles and many more things. There’s good people and good things in the church but it’s definitely not answering the hard questions for me any longer.
My dad, like Joseph Smith, was a mystic. My dad constantly spoke to us of visions and angels growing up. This particular section was covered extensively in FHE growing up. Never seemed to get any coverage at church or seminary though. My dad told us he had to use this test many times in his life and I was therefore convinced this was something I would have to deal with as well. My dad was also convinced that a room in our basement was susceptible to evil (long story that I’m not even willing to re-visit myself). This all really messed with me until I was probably in my 20’s. What six year old wants to hear that he will be visited by evil spirits and dead people throughout his life, in his own home no less? I think some of my OCD/scrupulosity can be traced back to this notion of trying to be perfect so that maybe I would be too good for evil spirits to even be allowed to tempt me.
Now I read this section as a 40-something with whimsy. It all seems so odd that we are told of Satan’s power but there is this one apparent loophole. I’m still waiting to put this section to use.
All that is to say, sometimes I can view the Church’s kookiness with whimsy. But some things, like the toll this section enacted on my childhood, was not ok. And it’s stuff like this (and the worse stuff we are dealing with regarding sexism, racism, and marginalization of minorities, all in the name of God) that really does need to be fixed. Like yesterday.
The problem with all religion is the goofiness. My father was a biochemist/nutritionist. Science is my heritage. I’m was a water planner/engineer. The physical environment is my background. When I hear stories of the supernatural, I’m skeptical. My father could handle the goofiness in Mormonism, his 3 sons can’t.
The leadership’s inability to get to heart of Christ’s message is deeply troubling. I don’t care about Christ’s miracles. Those stories may be fabrications. I care about his message of social justice. I don’t need the supernatural.
When Bednar said that the Church’s primary mission isn’t humanitarian work, I was deeply troubled. Then what is it? Most of his priorities aren’t even mentioned by Christ. Does Bednar understand King Benjamin’s oration? Succoring those in need.
Three grand keys: my choice would be C, F, and G. Turn them into chords and you can play any blues song written…plus, Louie, Louie.
So Jack is the only commenter that has a firm grasp of reality and a testimony in the gospel. Yet everyone votes him down. It’s obvious people like Elisa have left the church long ago but like to play along that they are faithful members. Some of you have really lost your way.