Journey’s End, Part 3
The first witness was brought in and given a briefing on the case thus far. “Your name please?”
“And what is your ward and stake and priesthood?” “I am a Seventy from the Morgan Ward; Moroni Stake.”
“And are you a member in good standing?”
“You may proceed with your testimony.”
David rose up and stood before the High Council who were all seated in front of him with the stake Presidency behind. “Brethren, in the days of Joseph Smith a council similar to this was held for a fellow Elder who the High Council assumed to be erring in doctrine. Joseph Smith said of this incident: ‘I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodists and not like the Latter-Day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.’” (Documentary History of the Church Vol 5; Pg 340)
“Brethren, why do you assume Curtis is an evil man to the extent that he must be cut off when he merely errs in doctrine, in your opinion?”
David surveyed the group and noticed that several members were dozing off to sleep and none seemed to be paying much attention. His eye caught a glimpse of a large unabridged dictionary on the table in front of him. He felt enraged over their indifference toward a brother who had his supposed eternal salvation on the line. He grabbed the behemoth book and slammed it on the table as hard as he could.
It made a noise and impact that would wake the dead and that’s what it seemed to do. Suddenly everyone jumped to attention.
David spoke with a raised voice, “Wherein has this man sinned! Why do you wish to expel him just because he thinks differently from yourselves–because God has witnessed to him things he has not witnessed to you? Why do you nurse the drunkards, liars, wife beaters, profaners, and completely inactive members? You put your hands over your mouth at the thought of cutting them off whereas you will not even give this Elder the courtesy of showing him where he is wrong. If you are to expel, without knowing why, him who is a righteous man and lives the gospel, but continue to nurse the wicked with great friendship then you are choosing the type of people you will be with in the eternities. You love the wicked more than you love a righteous man like Curtis against whom you can prove no charge.”
“I come here today to testify at a great sacrifice. No doubt a knowledge of my testimony will be communicated to my leaders at home and I will be brought to trial just as Curtis is. My wife does not believe as I do and there is a great possibility that if I am excommunicated that she will leave me with our beautiful children, and return to her home in England and if she were to take them there I may never see them again. I am a Seventy at home and considered to be a solid member of the church. I stand to lose the fellowship of many of my friends, but Jesus said: ‘A man’s foes shall be of his own household…He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.’ (Matt 10:36-37) We must be willing to sacrifice all that we have for the Kingdom of God!”
“I have always been interested in the mysteries of the kingdom and through study and contemplation discovered many things that are not a part of regular church doctrine. All this time I followed the party line in the church and only spoke openly about approved doctrines. Even so, I had a great desire to share my thoughts with someone. This was realized when my nephew Curtis moved into our ward. When I told him of some of the things I discovered he was excited to learn there was knowledge available beyond what is given out in general conference. Then I gave him a copy of a treatise I wrote showing there is progression from one kingdom to another.”
A Council member spoke up, “So you are the one who filled his mind with that heresy.”
“Well, I gave him my treatise and he was very excited when he read it. I told him to not share it with anyone or he could wind up in a trial like this one. He didn’t think that was possible and passed it around. The poor guy was devastated when a few days later his Bishop called him in, relieved him of all his jobs and told him he would be tried for his membership.”
“Another thing we studied was the tribulations to come and we concluded that if the prophesies are accurate that the church is ill prepared. It is not prepared because they have abandoned the tenth article of faith concerning the literal gathering. They have abandoned a literal gathering in favor of a figurative gathering and if a true calamity comes the members will be exposed to great peril. The church needs to follow their own doctrine and prepare for the calamities to come. If not, the scriptures say they will be caught in a trap just as was Jerusalem in the days of Lehi and Jeremiah.”
“I know some of you brethren here in this room can feel the Spirit bearing witness this very minute that Curtis is an innocent man before God, but will you have courage to follow it? If you do not sustain the stake presidency in their vote you could be the next one called up to a court. It takes courage and guts to follow Christ and if you go against the light you will find yourself troubled by the forces of the Prince of Darkness.
“Ask yourself brethren: How does the Lord want you to vote? I bear you this witness in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.”
Fred felt very troubled for he felt the Spirit of the Lord during David’s testimony–at least he thought he did, but he tried to tell himself that it was not the Spirit, but it was something else. He did not want to believe that this was true for David was right. If he voted against the decision of the Stake Presidency, he may be the next one to go and then June would be sure to divorce him and he would lose his wife and five children. His business which had just begun to flourish in this highly Mormon town would collapse without the support of the members of the church who would now shun him like the plague.
He would lose many of his friends. NO! He didn’t want the words of Curtis and David to be true, they can’t be true.
Fred wondered how everyone else was affected so far. He noticed that most of the other High Council members were avoiding any eye contact with David during his testimony. Most of them stared at the floor almost as if they were ashamed to look up, but Fred had looked up and when his eyes met David’s he definitely felt something, something saying that the man had a message from God and not Satan. “It couldn’t be true,” he thought.
President Jason was quite upset. He felt like he had been deceived for he assumed that David was going to testify as a faithful member would. He was very reluctant to admit the second witness, but now knew it would put him in an embarrassing light to refuse him.
He figured he may as well let him in. “Bring the second witness in.”
The second witness came in and sat down in a chair in front of the High Council.
“Your name please?”
“What ward and stake are you from?”
“Morgan Ward; Moroni Stake.”
“Are you a member in good standing?”
“I am an Elder, but I am not very active at present.”
“You may proceed with your witness.”
Wayne looked at the High Council members and said: “I want everyone here to look me in the eyes.”
The council seemed to become aware that they had not looked David in the eyes and made an extra effort to maintain eye contact with Wayne.
“I also know that the church doesn’t have a clue as to what the situation would be like if there was a complete collapse. I haven’t studied the scriptures as much as David, but I do know some perilous times are awaiting us and we as a people are not prepared. If there was an economic collapse tomorrow or a great calamity and the prophecy came true about neighbor against neighbor and state against state where would your protection be? You expect to be protected because you have a year’s supply of food, but this could wind up being to your detriment. Most of the non-Mormons know that we store food and when they run out who are they going to turn to? And when they turn to you, you will either have to feed them or kill them and you cannot kill them all. What will you do when your neighbors come banging at your door with clubs, when they break in your house and steal your food? Where will your protection be then? Where will your support of the prophet be then? How wise will you esteem yourselves when you find you cannot feed your own families and that your worst enemies will be members of your own church who have not stored food?
“Will you then awake to your awful situation. Instead, why do you not now awake and realize that you are excommunicating a man of God just as the Jews did to the prophets in olden times. I bear you my witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
Fred again felt uneasy as Wayne left the room. Again, he found himself resisting that same feeling that just maybe these men were right.
There was a short silence in the room as Wayne left. Finally, President Jason said: “Well, Curtis, do you have anything else to say before we dismiss you?”
“I will say that I have a testimony of the scriptures but not the traditions of the current church and that testimony is from God. If you cut me off for obeying the Spirit then it will be in the eyes of God as if you cut Jesus off for whatsoever you do unto the least of the brethren you do unto him.”
“Do you have anything to say Kathy?”
“I believe the things my husband believes are true. At first I was against them and I thought I received an answer that the teachings were from the devil, but when I really prayed with a sincere heart I received a witness that they true. The first answer I received was from my own heart, but the second answer was from God and was accompanied with a great peace.”
“I have one more question to ask,” said Curtis. “How many in this room have read the writings I gave you all the way through?”
No one raised his hand.
“Fred. How many did you read?”
“I read about ten pages,” said Fred feeling a little guilty.
“How about you, Brother Smith?”
“I wouldn’t read that stuff anymore than I would read books on witchcraft. I don’t have to read it. I know immediately that anything that goes against the Brethren is wrong.”
“I’ve got to admire your opened mind,” said Curtis. “You have to be born a Mormon to have an attitude like that. No one who says something like that can be converted to anything. How about you, Brother Marks?”
“Actually, I read most of it and I did pray about it and the answer I received is that it is from the devil.”
“Tell me. After you prayed did you find yourself somewhat troubled about the revelations?”
“Yes. That is about the way my answer came. After I prayed I found that certain things I read kept coming into my mind and they troubled me greatly so they must be from Satan.”
“This is interesting because we are told that if the thing we are praying about is wrong we ‘shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong’. (D&C 9:9) You couldn’t get the revelations out of your mind because they were from God and they were disturbing because you could not accept the answer.”
President Jason began to squirm a bit. “Let’s get this wrapped up,” he said. We’ve got other business to attend to.”
Curtis continued: “I contend brethren, that you have no right to judge me for you do not know what you are judging. If you condemn me tonight then I must utter the same prayer as Jesus: ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ Not one of you has read all the writings. Even the courts of the wicked have more justice than this. Even in a dictatorship the leaders will read a man’s book before they condemn him and in your eyes you are sentencing me to a fate worse than death. Even if I am as guilty as all hell, then you are guilty along with me. I rest my case.”
President Jason spoke, his voice a with a slight quivering: “You may leave the room now and we’ll make a judgment.”
As Curtis left Fred did a lot of thinking to himself: “Talk about feeling troubled. I don’t want to vote against my friend. Something tells me not to. What if he is right?” Fred almost felt, as if he would not be able to raise his hand in a vote. He felt a great burden on his shoulders.
President Jason spoke: “Brethren, the Spirit was here all right when these men spoke, but it was the wrong Spirit. Satan is so clever. He can come up with wonderful arguments to lead men astray, but we have one sure rock to hold on to, the Prophet. If we follow the Brethren we know we will always be on good ground. There is only one obvious decision to make in this case as sad as I am to say it. By the rules of the Church the Stake Presidency finds Curtis Hartell guilty of the charges named and that he must be excommunicated. All those who can sustain us in this decision please signify it by raising your right hand, and remember a General Authority has already told us this is the right decision.”
President Jason raised his hand followed by his councilors and one by one the hands of the council raised. Fred’s hand was the last to go up. There was about a two-second pause between him raising his hand and the others. In that short time Fred felt like that was the most uncomfortable two seconds of his life. During that short space of time Fred felt that the thought in the back of his brethren’s minds was that they may have a traitor in their midst. He knew he must vote to sustain or he would be the next one cut off. Finally, Fred’s hand joined the rest. He left it up for only a few seconds and then jerked it back down. A terrible depressing feeling came over him and he found he almost hated himself. This was the only time in his life that he felt like a coward.
President Jason looked Fred over with some suspicion, but seemed satisfied after the vote. The unanimous vote helped to assure him that he had made the right decision.
“The voting is unanimous. Call Elder Hartell back in.”
As Curtis was standing before his brethren President Jason said: “The voting has been unanimous. As of now you are excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and you forfeit all rights, privileges, and Priesthood that you have. You are to no longer wear the regulation garment. You are to no longer pay your tithing to the church but are admonished to save it up so that you may pay it later upon reinstatement. You are to no “longer attend Priesthood meetings, but are welcome at Sunday School and Sacrament; however, you are to not partake of the sacrament. You are not to partake or make comments in any Sunday School lessons. We want you to know that we are doing this in a spirit of love, that this action is hoped to bring you to a realization of your situation so you will repent so you can be entitled to the blessings of exaltation in the world to come. If you do not repent you will not have your family in the hereafter.”
Curtis replied: “I know I am losing nothing. The only thing that can take away the blessings of God is sin and I have not sinned, but you have sinned in that you have rejected the Spirit of God.
“I testify to you this day that you are excommunicating an innocent man that the day will come when you will see many of the things predicted come to pass: neighbor will be against neighbor, state, against state, father against son and the judgment will begin at the Lord’s own house and fear will come upon every man and many of your hearts will fail you. You have judged me now God is going to judge you with the same justice you have given me.”
President Jason was visibly irritated: “That’s enough! The trial is over and you have been found guilty as charged and you are now left on your own. If calamities come it’s you who will be outside the protection of the church. You will then see the protection of the church and how it can move into action to save its members. The Church has canneries, wheat stored and many resources you’ll wish you had someday. You may leave now.”
Again, there was a short silence. President Jason cleared his throat, proud of his short oratory, and then warned the High Council not to have any association with Curtis or anyone who believes as he does or they could be cut off.
Fred had been paying close attention and one thing bothered him greatly. He wasn’t sure if it was his imagination or not, but he thought he saw a halo of light around Curtis’ head when he was giving his testimony. No one else seemed to notice it and Fred wondered if he was going crazy, but he knew he saw something similar to the halo the early Christian artists painted around the heads of the Saints. His mind was troubled enough without adding that to stir his feelings.
As Fred drove home that evening, he couldn’t seem to recall any of the other business that was discussed. He knew he wasn’t going to sleep well that night, maybe not for several nights.
After several troubled days Fred received a phone call in his office: “Fred. This is Curtis. I felt prompted to call you.”
“Good to hear from you. I heard you were leaving town.”
“I may have to. I got fired from my job and everyone in town equates me with Judas. I don’t think I could make any money here if I was starving to death. People are afraid to be associated with me.”
“A strong association with you would make a man a suspect,” Fred agreed.
“Does it bother you, Fred?”
“Of course it bothers me and I would have not voted to excommunicate you but do you think I want to lose everything I’ve built up over the years?”
“You’re going to lose it anyway Fred.”
“Maybe so, but I don’t want to rush it. I feel bad about what happened the other night. I didn’t want to really vote against you.”
“Do you feel what I said was true Fred?”
“I’m not sure, but I’m bothered about it. I’ve read the rest of the writings and I can see how they make some sense, but I’m not sure enough to sacrifice everything.”
“The Lord will not give you a sure answer until you are ready to sacrifice everything.”
“That could be true, but do you realize that if my business collapsed and I was excommunicated that my wife would leave me, and she’d probably get the children, especially with a Mormon judge?”
“It’s a rough decision. One I don’t like to force on any man. Say, would you like to have lunch together?”
“Don’t you realize I can’t be seen with you? Come over to my house some evening. On the other hand, I can’t even ask you there. June would blow up. Listen, I’ll call you sometime.”
“Fred, I’ll be leaving in a few days and I feel that we will not meet again for some time. I do feel we will meet again in the future, but in entirely different circumstances. I want to warn you Fred, because you are my friend. Read the teachings again and again and keep praying until you get a sure answer and then contact me. I’ll send you my new address in the mail. Okay Fred?”
“I’ll do my best. Curtis?”
“Good luck. I admire you and I wish I had your guts.”
“I wish a lot of people did. This work would be a lot easier. We have to get these teachings out to all the members of the church in the world and it’s going to be a big job. Only the power of God will give us the means to do it. Right now there are only three or four workers in all the world, but a day of Pentecost is coming.”
“I wish things were different,” said Fred.
“Things will never be different enough to make the work easy until the millennium.”
“Maybe so. I have a client waiting here to see me. I’ve got to go now.”
“Good luck Fred.”
“You too.” Fred hung up and attended to his business.
Curtis did move out of town and sent Fred his new address, but Fred did not respond. He thought that maybe Curtis was right. He would not receive an answer until he was prepared to give up everything, and he had to admit to himself that he just was not prepared to do that yet.
As time passed Fred began to hear more and more about the movement that Curtis had espoused. First there were warnings about it from the local leaders. Everything he heard about the movement seemed to be bad. It reminded him of a quote from the New Testament about the Early Christian Church. It said that it was everywhere spoken evil against. Later Fred found out that all of the local leaders received a letter of warning about the movement from the first presidency. It called them apostates and that should any member receive anything in the mail from them that they should not even read the literature, but throw it away, or better still burn it so no one else can read it.
This attitude somewhat disturbed Fred as it reminded him of the control the Priests during the Middle Ages had over the people. The priests were afraid of the people reading the scriptures because then they would lose their hold on them. Why would the general authorities be afraid of the members reading the teachings if they are false? If what we have is the highest truth, we should be able to defend it successfully, he thought.
Finally, Fred noticed that a number of articles began appearing in the papers about the movement. It noted that they planned to build cities and the media compared the group to Jim Jones who gave poisoned Kool Aid to his followers and noted that there was a cry from Mormon Church authorities for the government to do something before we have a repeat of Jonestown.
Later, Fred was listening to general conference and the Prophet was speaking: “As of late we have been receiving numerous enquiries about a certain movement, I’m sure you are all aware of, which movement claims to have the calling to gather the so-called lights. All the Brethren are gravely concerned about this Satanic influence for it has drawn thousands away from the truth. Do they not understand that we have the fullness of the Gospel with us now, and that one cannot have more than the fullness? Why do people want to go establish a community like Jim Jones when church members are promised protection from calamities, should they come. We just need to keep all the commandments and follow the Brethren. The Brethren have been telling you for years to get your year’s supply, that this is the gateway to survival. The scare tactics of this movement should not bother you. You should have enough faith to believe that God will protect you if you follow the Brethren in all things. The Brethren will always lead you right. We may not be perfect, but God is and he is leading this church.
“I understand that many members have received their literature in the mail or through the internet and many Saints are rightfully upset about the way they have twisted the scriptures. Do you entertain other anti-Mormon literature in your home? Do you have pornography in your home? Then why do you want to leave this attempted rape of the scriptures lying around where your children may find it? If your children are led to hell by it, you will be responsible. Those of you who have this material in your home and those of you who are yet to receive it we give you strong advise to burn it just as you would the vilest of pornography!”
Fred was quite amazed by the attitude of the speech. He was even more astounded when he found out that all the local leaders were later privately instructed to carry on a search of the wards and stakes for those who yet had the materials. Anyone who would refuse to give them up would be tried before a church court. Fred did not want to give up his copies so he took them to his office so he could technically avoid having them in his home. Thus when the home teachers did come he was able to honestly tell them he did not have them in his home and they seemed satisfied.
One evening at home Fred spoke to his wife: “June, I’ve been studying the writings and teachings Curtis has sent me and I feel they are true. I feel we must do something for the protection of our family.”
“You told the home teachers that you do not have them. Why did you lie?”
“I didn’t lie. I told them I didn’t have them in my home. They are in the office.”
“That’s still just as good as a lie. Now I don’t want to hear any more talk about Curtis and his beliefs.
“But June, things look bad. We are on the verge of a depression and a possible world war. People in our government have been assassinated and yet the church leaders tell us that somehow God is going to protect us. I don’t see any protection in the way that we are going. Aren’t you concerned about the children?”
“Of course, I am concerned about the children. That’s why I avoid those Satanic revelations like the plague. God has promised us protection if we follow the Brethren, and I’m going to follow them and if you want to follow anyone else you can get out and stay out!”
“But June I feel we must do something.”
“Then go do it without the children and me! And if you are going to stay around here I expect you to get rid of that garbage in the office or I’ll report you to the Bishop myself.”
Fred became very depressed, but what could he do? He couldn’t bring himself to leave his wife and children.
Sept 18, 2007
Copyright by JJ Dewey
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