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William Schryver

"… He Did Go About Secretly … Seeking To Destroy The Church …"

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You seem to forget that Mormon specifically informs us that these enemies of the Church "... did go about secretly ... seeking to destroy the Church."

"Secretly" apparently means out of sight of the secular authorities. In those days church and state were combined, or at least overlapped. What they were doing were against the law of the land, and/or against the will of the sovereign:

Mosiah 27:

10 And now it came to pass that while he was going about to destroy the church of God, for he did go about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the church, and to lead astray the people of the Lord, contrary to the commandments of God, or even the king

But they do not appear to have been members of the Church at that time (see Mosiah 26:36; Alma 5:57; Alma 6:3). "Numbered among the unbelievers" (Mmosiah 27:8 ) implies that they were not members of the Church.

If, however, you are implying that there are Church members who are "wolves in sheep clothing" (i.e. unbelievers and enemies at heart, seeking to destroy the flock in disguise, while posing as faithful members), that is quite possible; but I think that experience shows that they don't last in that guise very long. Eventually they expose themselves or are exposed, and either are exed or leave of their own accord.

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I do agree. Flattery is saying that they have made themselves attractive and acceptable ~as members. The easier to deceive with, my dear. Alma, after all, was the son of the prophet. I think of this in today's time and consider how confusing and misleading it would be if the prophet's charismatic son were using his position in family for influence while manipulating and distorting truths with a side order of inviting laughter and warm smiles. Even though we know so well that righteousness cannot be inherited, it is still easy to be slow in recognizing when the apple has rolled away from the tree!

~ Naomi

Well stated.

I think we see this exemplified whenever somebody, while complaining about or opposing the Church or its leadership, trumpets his own Mormon pedigree (as in "I'm a fifth-generation Latter-day Saint) or past or present Church callings.

That, incidentally, is why I've taken to asking people what they mean when they claim present or past membership in "a bishopric."

A bishopric comprises the bishop and his two counselors. But often as not, I suspect such a man says he was "in a bishopric" when in actuality he held the ancillary position of clerk or executive secretary, but he refuses to be more specific because he fears that to do so would diminish his influence.

Edited by Scott Lloyd

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If, however, you are implying that there are Church members who are "wolves in sheep clothing" (i.e. unbelievers and enemies at heart, seeking to destroy the flock in disguise, while posing as faithful members), that is quite possible; but I think that experience shows that they don't last in that guise very long. Eventually they expose themselves or are exposed, and either are exed or leave of their own accord.

I'm not so certain of that in this day and age. With the ability the Internet offers for one to publish widely under the cloak of anonymity, I do believe such individuals can go for a good long while without being exposed.

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If, however, you are implying that there are Church members who are "wolves in sheep clothing" (i.e. unbelievers and enemies at heart, seeking to destroy the flock in disguise, while posing as faithful members), that is quite possible; but I think that experience shows that they don't last in that guise very long. Eventually they expose themselves or are exposed, and either are exed or leave of their own accord.

This is mainly who I was talking about. And I agree that eventually they expose themselves or are exposed. Still, their impression lingers for awhile and real damage can be done.

Also, as you point out, they are numbered with the unbelievers but this leads back to my earlier comments about Alma. Wherever he may have strayed he was the prophet's little boy. Point being that he was raised in the church! We know how that goes. There is a love there that does not die easily. I sure there were many in addition to his own father (stated in the scriptures) that prayed hard and held out a hope and longing for his return to the fold. Much would be tolerated and heard out from one you remember in primary.

~ Naomi

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Also, as you point out, they are numbered with the unbelievers but this leads back to my earlier comments about Alma. Wherever he may have strayed he was the prophet's little boy. Point being that he was raised in the church! We know how that goes.

~ Naomi

As in "cultural Mormons"?

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Timely questions indeed, Will.

As I've read your post and Dan's Mormon Times piece, I have been reminded of an insight I have gained through my current reading of the Book of Mormon.

Several times in the Book of Mormon, the verb to flatter or noun flattery are used. As I have considered these usages in context, it has occurred to me that the word has a broader meaning than we are used to today. We think of flattery as insincere praise. I think the Book of Mormon uses it to mean any sort of influence that is applied in a beguiling or manipulative sort of way. That could include insincere praise, but it could also comprise sophistry, deceptive rhetoric or reasoning that might seem persuasive on the surface but in reality is unsound.

Viewed in that light, flattery is employed today by those who oppose the Church of Jesus Christ, just as in former times and it is no more prominent than in Internet discussions about the Church.

I invite any reader to test this understanding by looking up usages of flattery in the Book of Mormon and applying this meaning to them.

I think an appropriate synonym for "flattery" in that context, as used in the Book of Mormon, would be "entice". They were enticing the members of the Church away.

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Well stated.

I think we see this exemplified whenever somebody, while complaining about or opposing the Church or its leadership, trumpets his own Mormon pedigree (as in "I'm a fifth-generation Latter-day Saint) or past or present Church callings.

That, incidentally, is why I've taken to asking people what they mean when they claim present or past membership in "a bishopric."

A bishopric comprises the bishop and his two counselors. But often as not, I suspect such a man says he was "in a bishopric" when in actuality he held the ancillary position of clerk or executive secretary, but he refuses to be more specific because he fears that to do so would diminish his influence.

Exactly! For the most part, saints like to believe the best in people is what is being offered up. However, knowing this can be used against trusting members.

I just read your recent post in the middle of this. Yes, cultural mormons ~ we don't like to see anyone that way, but denial puts one in jeopardy of distorted gospel truths.

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I think an appropriate synonym for "flattery" in that context, as used in the Book of Mormon, would be "entice". They were enticing the members of the Church away.

Yes.

I think of the prophecy that men would call evil good and good evil.

I think that falls under the definition of flattery in a Book of Mormon context.

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Flattery like "The Book of Mormon is not a fraud even if no proposition in it is true!" "The flood wasn't global, you don't need to believe these childish old wive's tales!" "If the Brethren have gotten so much wrong, like evolution and gay marriage, well, they could be wrong in anything they say... they don't really know what they're talking about..."

Hm.

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Flattery like "The Book of Mormon is not a fraud even if no proposition in it is true!" "The flood wasn't global, you don't need to believe these childish old wive's tales!" "If the Brethren have gotten so much wrong, like evolution and gay marriage, well, they could be wrong in anything they say... they don't really know what they're talking about..."

Hm.

Well, this combined with a foundation in the church that is used to lead others to think you SHOULD know what you're talking about.

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Craig Paxton provided the classic response ("don't be foolish; nobody is trying to undermine anything") to the subject of the OP concerning secret flattery. Those who flatter insist that they are doing nothing of the sort, though they continue in the tradition of Simon in the New Testament, who Peter roundly condemned. Sowing seeds of doubt is a common tactic of those who flatter; it's as much of a problem in our day as it was in Alma's time.

I started a thread a long time ago about wolves in sheep's clothing on this board. The virulence directed at me because I would dare to even hint at such a thing in the church was an amazing thing to behold. I had no idea that such inadvertent chumming would bring those results. I've learned since then that if you point out such things in the church, the flattery is quickly replaced by character assassination. Those who go about secretly to destroy the church do not like their deeds brought into the light.

It's interesting to note the examples in scripture of those who use flattery. Because of who they are and what they are doing, it seems typical that the Lord eventually has to intervene with them.

Will, you're familiar with the accusations that come with bringing up this topic. Witch hunter, judgmental, intolerant, hateful. The flattery is only a thin veneer that hides the underlying current of hatred for the restored gospel and faithful members of the church. If you can't flatter them away, then marginalize them as fringe lunatics.

Excellent post, and a timely discussion given the stage the church is currently at.

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You seem to forget that Mormon specifically informs us that these enemies of the Church "... did go about secretly ... seeking to destroy the Church."

So, this is not in reference to very open anti-Mormon activity, but rather members working "secretly" within the church, itself? Active members?

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Flattery like "The Book of Mormon is not a fraud even if no proposition in it is true!" "The flood wasn't global, you don't need to believe these childish old wive's tales!" "If the Brethren have gotten so much wrong, like evolution and gay marriage, well, they could be wrong in anything they say... they don't really know what they're talking about..."

Hm.

Well, this combined with a foundation in the church that is used to lead others to think you SHOULD know what you're talking about.

We are taught that experience equals wisdom but that isn't always the case. For example, this board. There are some here (I truly speak of no one specific but just as a general observation) who have thousands of posts and it is easy to assume that means they have something worthwhile to contribute; however, that is not an always accurate assumption.

Edited by Nominee

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I'm not so certain of that in this day and age. With the ability the Internet offers for one to publish widely under the cloak of anonymity, I do believe such individuals can go for a good long while without being exposed.

That I am sure is possible; but I think that such persons, unless they are blessed with extraordinary talent, :) would find it very difficult to actually fit in with the Church. When they go to priesthood meeting or Sunday School, they would find it hard to fit in with the rest of the crowd, without making comments that would raise alarm. Similarly, if they were given callings, they would find it difficult to fulfil that calling without giving cause for concern. They would be devoid of the Spirit to be able to do it. Let me quote a few relevant verses:

D&C 52:

15 Wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances.

16 He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God if he obey mine ordinances.

17 And again, he that trembleth under my power shall be made strong, and shall bring forth fruits of praise and wisdom, according to the revelations and truths which I have given you.

18 And again, he that is overcome and bringeth not forth fruits, even according to this pattern, is not of me.

19 Wherefore, by this pattern ye shall know the spirits in all cases under the whole heavens.

20 And the days have come; according to men's faith it shall be done unto them.

I think that a person such as you describe would find it very difficult (indeed impossible) to fulfil the above conditions (or to fake it) without being detected--unless the local leaders themselves are woefully inadequate in fulfilling their own callings.

If you mean to include those who may become inactive but still remain members, and try to use their influence in disguise such as anonymously on the Internet, again that is possible; but then they could do that just as well as non-members. So their nominal membership of the Church (or non-membership) does not really count for much.

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So, this is not in reference to very open anti-Mormon activity, but rather members working "secretly" within the church, itself? Active members?

Active in church maybe but definitely not active in the gospel.

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Not sure what to say... many think I am fighting the good fight while others say I am an ark steadier. I think I might be exactly the kind of individual some of you may describe in answering this question. But with that I will say, to me, the answer is those who take us away from Christ and his saving ordinances are those I would consider seeking to destroy the church.

Or perhaps those who would seek to lessen the sanctity of the temple and the rituals performed there. Perhaps someone who would open the temple marriage ordinance to non-recommend holders. There are several more but that entails relaxing the standards of the church.

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That I am sure is possible; but I think that such persons, unless they are blessed with extraordinary talent, :) would find it very difficult to actually fit in with the Church. When they go to priesthood meeting or Sunday School, they would find it hard to fit in with the rest of the crowd, without making comments that would raise alarm. Similarly, if they were given callings, they would find it difficult to fulfil that calling without giving cause for concern.

I've seen more than one person on the Internet boast of doing just that -- and assert that there are probably many others just like him/her.

Edited by Scott Lloyd

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Drop the paranoia…there is no conspiracy to destroy the church…

You are incorrect. There is a definite conspiracy. To a degree, it is even organized.

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Before we begin likening the scripture unto ourselves, it is important to examine what the scripture is saying. I know that the phrase "they did not believe the tradition of their fathers" is usually taken to mean a very venerable belief. I think there is a different way of looking at it. These were considered the two major beliefs rejected by the younger generation. "They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ." They rejected both the earthly advent of Jesus Christ and the resurrection. According to Mosiah 4, this was the message delivered by thr angel.

The revelation by the angel to king Benjamin had taken place only a generation before. It would seem that at some point these two beliefs had dropped out of Nephite teachings, necessitating an angelic restoration. What I'm getting at is this. The message delivered by king Benjamin was considered a recent innovation. By rejecting these elements, the younger generation would have considered themselves a reformation, returning to the original roots of their faith which their parents had betrayed. An angel appeared to Alma and the sons of Mosiah in order to show them that what they rejected- the angeli message of Christ's advent and resurrection- was indeed true.

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That I am sure is possible; but I think that such persons, unless they are blessed with extraordinary talent, :) would find it very difficult to actually fit in with the Church. When they go to priesthood meeting or Sunday School, they would find it hard to fit in with the rest of the crowd, without making comments that would raise alarm. Similarly, if they were given callings, they would find it difficult to fulfil that calling without giving cause for concern. They would be devoid of the Spirit to be able to do it. Let me quote a few relevant verses:

D&C 52:

15 Wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances.

16 He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God if he obey mine ordinances.

17 And again, he that trembleth under my power shall be made strong, and shall bring forth fruits of praise and wisdom, according to the revelations and truths which I have given you.

18 And again, he that is overcome and bringeth not forth fruits, even according to this pattern, is not of me.

19 Wherefore, by this pattern ye shall know the spirits in all cases under the whole heavens.

20 And the days have come; according to men's faith it shall be done unto them.

I think that a person such as you describe would find it very difficult (indeed impossible) to fulfil the above conditions (or to fake it) without being detected--unless the local leaders themselves are woefully inadequate in fulfilling their own callings.

If you mean to include those who may become inactive but still remain members, and try to use their influence in disguise such as anonymously on the Internet, again that is possible; but then they could do that just as well as non-members. So their nominal membership of the Church (or non-membership) does not really count for much.

I'm not trying to state doctrine so please correct me if it's possible ~ I have always thought of Alma the younger that way, inactive, more than as a non-member. Alma the Elder introduced excommunication, right? So was that before or after Alma the younger? Anyway, I think of him as the inactive member that didn't attend church anymore but still showed up, secretly spewing destruction, for family baptisms, bbqs, and maybe even church activities. Inactive, but still, secretly visiting friends from church and leading away many. It was his nominal membership that gave him the in he needed to cause so many to turn away.

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That I am sure is possible; but I think that such persons, unless they are blessed with extraordinary talent, :) would find it very difficult to actually fit in with the Church. When they go to priesthood meeting or Sunday School, they would find it hard to fit in with the rest of the crowd, without making comments that would raise alarm. Similarly, if they were given callings, they would find it difficult to fulfil that calling without giving cause for concern. They would be devoid of the Spirit to be able to do it. Let me quote a few relevant verses:

D&C 52:

15 Wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances.

16 He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God if he obey mine ordinances.

17 And again, he that trembleth under my power shall be made strong, and shall bring forth fruits of praise and wisdom, according to the revelations and truths which I have given you.

18 And again, he that is overcome and bringeth not forth fruits, even according to this pattern, is not of me.

19 Wherefore, by this pattern ye shall know the spirits in all cases under the whole heavens.

20 And the days have come; according to men's faith it shall be done unto them.

I think that a person such as you describe would find it very difficult (indeed impossible) to fulfil the above conditions (or to fake it) without being detected--unless the local leaders themselves are woefully inadequate in fulfilling their own callings.

If you mean to include those who may become inactive but still remain members, and try to use their influence in disguise such as anonymously on the Internet, again that is possible; but then they could do that just as well as non-members. So their nominal membership of the Church (or non-membership) does not really count for much.

I am personally familiar with several individuals who are no longer believers in the restored gospel, and yet, for a variety of reasons, they are still "active" in the Church. More often than not, the stake president and bishop and others are aware of their status as unbelievers. What the stake presidents, bishops, and others are often not aware of is that these unbelieving members engage in what is typically called "fifth-columnist" behavior, both within their wards and stakes and also anonymously on blogs and LDS-related message boards. They are often known for their eloquence ("a man of many words") and are quite often very popular, even among those who are faithful Saints ("[he] did speak much flattery to the people"). If confronted (as many have noted above) they take great offense at being characterized as "wolves in sheep's clothing" ("I am no devil, for there is none"). They also consistently reassure everyone around them that they have a sincere desire to see the Church prosper--but they believe it must abandon the errors of its past, etc.

Anyway, there is much more I desire to say on this topic, but my time is limited today. I will try to post again later this evening ...

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I've seen more than one person on the Internet boast of doing just that -- and assert that there are probably many others just like him/her.

Yes, I have seen this VERY often. They take pride in their work, and I even know of some who keep a count of how many people they have led out of the Church.

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I invite any reader to test this understanding by looking up usages of flattery in the Book of Mormon and applying this meaning to them.

FWIW, the lesson manual has this helpful info about "flattery" in the Book of Mormon:

“They did deceive many with their flattering words” (Mosiah 26:6)

  • • How were Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah, along with other unbelievers, able to lead many members of the Church into sin? (See <a class="scriptureRef" href="http://scriptures.lds.org/mosiah/26/6#6" target="contentWindow">Mosiah 26:6; 27:8–9.) How can flattery deceive us and lead us astray? Why is it important that we be careful about whom we allow to influence us? (See the quotation below.) How can a foundation of faith in Jesus Christ help us avoid being influenced by the flattery of unbelievers?

    • Elder Ezra Taft Benson said: “Seeking the applause of the world, we like to be honored by the men the world honors. But therein lies real danger, for ofttimes, in order to receive those honors, we must join forces with and follow those same devilish influences and policies which brought some of those men to positions of prominence. … Today we are being plagued within by the flattery of prominent men in the world” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1964, 57; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1964, 1067).

The focus seems to be on flattery by those who are in positions of influence and "of the world".

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We are informed that these apostates among the Nephites went about "secretly … seeking to destroy the church." Are there such people among us today? And, if so, in what manner are they "seeking to destroy the church" and "to lead astray the people of the Lord"? How can we recognize such people? What are their methods and techniques? Once we recognize them, what should we do to combat the things they are doing?

Based on some things I've recently read, I suspect such people would try to gain positions in the Church where they could influence the thinking of others, such as teaching, and then look for opportunities to go off-manual and inject their own "gospel hobbies" and spin on things.

To be most effective, they would have to couch their teachings in scripture, so that's the first thing I would look for.

Edited by cinepro

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I am personally familiar with several individuals who are no longer believers in the restored gospel, and yet, for a variety of reasons, they are still "active" in the Church. More often than not, the stake president and bishop and others are aware of their status as unbelievers. What the stake presidents, bishops, and others are often not aware of is that these unbelieving members engage in what is typically called "fifth-columnist" behavior, both within their wards and stakes and also anonymously on blogs and LDS-related message boards. They are often known for their eloquence ("a man of many words") and are quite often very popular, even among those who are faithful Saints ("[he] did speak much flattery to the people"). If confronted (as many have noted above) they take great offense at being characterized as "wolves in sheep's clothing" ("I am no devil, for there is none"). They also consistently reassure everyone around them that they have a sincere desire to see the Church prosper--but they believe it must abandon the errors of its past, etc.

Anyway, there is much more I desire to say on this topic, but my time is limited today. I will try to post again later this evening ...

I see this in the attitude of those who would endeavor to remake the Church into their own (to them) ideal image, perhaps restructuring it along the lines of Protestant denominations, de-emphasizing or eliminating temple teachings, vilifying Joseph Smith, disparaging Restoration doctrines, etc. Those who would express disagreement with them are then charged with trying to drive them out of the Church, or (as I was accused of yesterday here) "policing" the thoughts of others.

Edited by Scott Lloyd

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