Roundtable Discussion: Evil-Speaking, Part I

A while back, a few of us — J. Stapley, Roasted Tomatoes, Steve Evans and Matt Bowman (of Juvenile Instructor fame) — got together via email to talk about what the phrase “evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed” really means. The answers will shock and surprise you! The first part of the roundtable discussion follows, below. The second part, in which Steve is reproved betimes with sharpness, will be posted in another day or so.

Steve: Esteemed Knights of the Roundtable, I received this email earlier today, which I think is a good starting point for our discussion:

I did a search on BCC and didn’t see any discussion of this topic. Specifically, who is “the Lord’s Anointed” and what exactly is this “evil speaking” we aren’t supposed to engage in. Accurately identifying specific problems in an individual’s behavior in a dispassionate manner is entirely in keeping with D&C 121:43, so that is obviously not “evil speaking” regardless of whom the Lord’s anointed is.

I had a run in with a counselor in my Bishopric here yesterday and I [took him to task]. He had the nerve to accuse me of being in danger of violating my Temple covenants because I was holding him to task for doing something wrong. The notion that he is “the Lord’s Anointed” [doesn’t make sense to me]. When I went to look at the Scriptures on this matter “the Lord’s anointed” was always the hand-picked chosen one who was literally anointed with literal oil by a prophet (the clear example here is David’s refusal to kill Saul).

…What I am interested in is the historical interpretation/application/utility of this passage in the LDS context.

I guess some general background for the (literally) uninitiated: evil-speaking of the Lord’s anointed is discussed in the temple as an unholy practice that we are to refrain from doing. Regarding this gentleman’s query, I have only some banal ideas. First, I believe he’s right that the Bible (maybe not the BoM) takes “anointed” literally for the most part: literal oil on a literal head. Paul might be inclined to take anointing in a non-literal fashion, but I think he’s the exception. If that is our guideline, we are talking about an odd group in Mormonism. Who are the anointed ones in our religion? I have a feeling Stapley might know, at least as a beginning.

“Evil-speaking” is a little easier for me as a student of language: “ill-speaking” might be a better rendering, or backbiting or gossiping for modern usage. It is interesting to note, from my view anyways, that under a 19th century interpretation, much of what makes a speaking “evil” is not the content, but the context: taking one’s bishop to task could be evil speaking, depending on how it’s done — a face-to-face conversation is probably just fine, but a gossipy email probably isn’t.

Nowadays I fear the inquiring gentleman’s bishop might be right, that ANY criticism of one’s leaders might be deemed evil by some.

Thoughts? I would like to talk about early Church applications of this phrase. Does anyone have a sense of when it would have become part of the Endowment presentation? How has the meaning shifted over time?

Roasted Tomatoes: An excellent set of questions, Steve, and a great starting point for discussion. Regarding the question of who the Lord’s Anointed is or are, there are four perspectives that I want to quickly offer. First, “anointed” is the English translation of “messiah” or “Christ.” If we take the phrase “Lord’s Anointed” strictly as a reference to this, then, it might simply be the case that the covenant not to “evil-speak” of the Lord’s Anointed is a covenant to honor the person of Jesus Christ.

Second, the Old Testament uses the phrase to speak of God’s chosen kings of Israel, contributing a central element to the development of the theory of the divine right of kings. This usage may seem irrelevant in LDS discourse, but it is not. Joseph Smith was the first Mormon who was anointed to be a king over the whole world, under the auspices of the Council of Fifty in Nauvoo. Some of his successors, in the Utah church and in other branches of the Restoration movement, received the same ritual; however, it is my understanding that the LDS church discontinued this ritual at about the turn of the 20th century. John Taylor may have been the last LDS church leader to receive anointing as a divinely-selected king. Under this interpretation, the covenant forbids us to speak evil of these few founding church leaders.

Third, the Old Testament and occasionally other scriptures use the phrase to refer to people who are given a specific task by God. The speaker may be a prophet (in the Old Testament sense, which often may not have included hierarchical leadership within the church organizations of the day), as in Isaiah 61:1 (“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek…”). However, there are occasional passages in which anointing by God appears to be available as a sort of balm to believers in general, even if they are not prophetic or kingly, as in Psalm 23:5 (“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”).

Fourth, LDS temple ritual involves the washing and anointing of every adult as a ritual offered before the Endowment. Is it legitimate to refer to all adults who have received these washings and anointings as “the Lord’s Anointed”? Surely these people have been literally anointed with oil. There is also scriptural precedent for this usage, in the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland temple, where “thine anointed ones” is used as a parallelism for “thy saints.” Likewise, historically, the group of people who received the washings, anointings, and Endowment ritual before the completion of the Nauvoo temple were called the “Quorum of the Anointed.” Hence, we are justified in interpreting the covenant in question as being of general reference.

Which of these four usages should we adopt? I would suggest a broad perspective that uses all of them, although it may well be the case that the fourth usage entails the first three. In any case, it is clear that scriptural and historical precedent exists for treating “the Lord’s Anointed” as a broad, inclusive group — and therefore for regarding the covenant in question as a vow of communal solidarity rather than of hierarchical subordination.

Stapley: For me, there are two parts of it; first, what does evil speaking mean? The early Mormon’s preferred theological dictionary (Matt and Sam have done some awesome work on this volume, which is forthcoming and I am sure Matt has further insight here) has an entry on “evil speaking,” which I think is helpful. John Wesley, who is the father of Methodism also had a popular sermon on the topic. Both are useful in understanding what the term means in context.

To paraphrase Buck, “evil speaking” is 1) to speak severely without just cause, 2) to speak beyond measure, or 3) to speak out of bad principles or wrong ends. Wesley also describes it as gossip or backbiting. I think all of these encompass well the proscribed practice.

As to who the Lord’s Anointed are, I think it is impossible to extricate the injunction from the context of, as JNS points out, the Anointed Quorum. When Joseph delivered the temple rituals, he created a select group and organized a quorum. You had to be voted into the quorum and then you would receive initiatory temple rituals. This Anointed Quorum was formally organized in 1843 but the foundation was laid with the first rituals being administered to a small group in the spring of 1842. The Quorum serviced as the inner circle for Joseph’s controversial teachings (e.g., polygamy). In 1842 Joseph was dogged by critics (including several former members of his inner circle) and Quorum functioned as a stabilizer for Joseph and the Church.

With this in mind, it is easier to see how the principles of the School of the Prophets and the Kirtland rituals were recapitulated in the Anointed Quorum. Here was a group, bound by covenant to sustain and support each other and retain confidentiality. D&C 109 refers to those who participated in the Kirtland anointings as “thine anointed ones” in the prayer of dedication. This culminates in Nauvoo with the rituals that are the basis for our modern temple experience.

Joseph could rely on them, as we should be able to rely on each other.

Matt Bowman: I’m going to follow Stape here and talk about “evil speaking.” The concept has a long and complicated history within Protestant thought, and was an-oft commented upon issue in the evangelical world of Joseph Smith’s time. Several New Testament verses are relevant here – Wesley is preaching from Matthew 18 (“If thy brother sin against thee, go and tell him his faults in private”), but there were others. The Puritans and their evangelical descendants were particularly fond of Titus 3:2 (“To speak evil of no man”) and James 5:12 (“But above all things, my brethren, swear not.”). The great Puritan divine Richard Baxter preached a celebrated sermon series called “Cases and Directions against Backbiting, Slandering, and Evil Speaking,” and both Calvin and Luther meditated upon the concept.

All of these thinkers, and I hasten to point out, Charles Buck of Theological Dictionary fame, produced a convoluted set of rules for judging what was “evil speaking” and what was not. This task was complicated by two things 1)the reality of hierarchy both within and without the Church, and 2)the power that Protestants invested in language itself. For Baxter, to speak even true evil of one’s parents or a monarch was to violate the Fifth Commandment by doing them dishonor. Similarly, Richard Bushman notes the complicated system of honor that infused the early Republic and made Joseph Smith and others particularly sensitive to slights that might affect standing or social capital. To Americans in the early republic evil speaking – particularly backbiting, or what we might call gossip – was not merely a personal slight; it destroyed the authority of leaders and thus eroded the coherency of society and the effectiveness of organizations. Thus were Hamilton and Burr willing to kill each other. For Joseph, notoriously thin skinned but also a man bent on erecting his own society with a complicated system of duties, offices, and ranks, these things mattered.

All this had a corollary in the world of Protestantism generally and evangelicalism of the early Republic specifically. Evil speaking not merely destroyed social organizations but also harmed souls – and not merely that of the speaker. For Protestants the spoken word had power; it was the means God had ordained to convert the world (Matthew 10:7). It could serve as a sacrament, a channel for God’s grace to enter the world and transform people and society. Thus, it was particularly important that religious language be kept pure, and those ordained to preach be respected. This theory of preaching was sometimes called “heraldic;” evangelicals emphasized that the preacher himself was minimized in favor of the message he carried; that he spoke not by his own learning but merely let the Word of God flow through him. Nineteenth century Mormon leaders at times made similar claims. Heber Kimball, for instance, claimed “When you hear my voice, and it is dictated by the Holy Ghost, you hear the voice of God through me,” (JD 12:190) In the same sermon, Heber denounced those who spoke against the Lord’s anointed, which he defined as the Twelve on their mission to preach and spread the Gospel. (JD 12:189).

However, there were times and places when naming evil was not merely appropriate, but necessary. Buck spends the first half of his entry outlining these; the most important for him is that of the minister in the pulpit. Naming sin publicly, denouncing evil, was the first step in the evangelical conversion process. The sinner had to be made aware of his or her state of condemnation before God; it was then appropriate for one with a calling to preach to speak evil of sinners. As Baxter said, “You may on all meet occasions speak evil of the sin; and of the persons when you have a just call; but not at your own pleasure.” Wesley similarly observes that in some cases a sinner should be denounced “before the Church.” Evil speaking, then, was both a sin against one’s fellow Christian and against the order of things God had erected; a perversion of the true proclamation of the Word of God. Baxter thus worries that evil speaking would corrupt those who heard it and make them also evil speakers, a sort of reversal of the conversion process. Thus, the injunction against evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed could be interpreted as a defense of the Word itself, flowing through the structure erected for it, or perhaps an indication that the Lord’s anointed – those endowed – have passed through the conversion process, past conviction of sin and surrender to Christ and have moved onward toward sanctification. This is not a bad description of the endowment, actually. This interpretation, of course, also emphasizes the responsibility of those anointed to be true vessels for the Word themselves.


  1. From a relatively recent discussion of this topic by Elder Oaks:

    “Criticism is particularly objectionable when it is directed toward Church authorities, general or local. Jude condemns those who ‘speak evil of dignities.’ (Jude 1:8.) Evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed is in a class by itself. It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true. As Elder George F. Richards, President of the Council of the Twelve, said in a conference address in April 1947,

    “ ‘When we say anything bad about the leaders of the Church, whether true or false, we tend to impair their influence and their usefulness and are thus working against the Lord and his cause.’ (In Conference Report, Apr. 1947, p. 24.)” (Address to Church Educational System teachers, Aug. 16, 1985.)

    It appears that Elder Oaks would categorize any criticism of any church leader as “evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed”. I’m not sure I would go quite that far, but that’s probably because by this definition I have some work to do.

  2. Cris, check out this post and lengthy conversation about that particular excerpt.

  3. Mark Brown says:


    Here is the problem I see with the quote you cite:

    It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true.

    By that standard, my stake president is out of order when he criticizes the men of the stake for their abysmal home teaching performance. After all, we are called of God to perform that duty. Even if we have 0% for three years running and his ctiticism is true, by the standard put forward in Elder Oaks’ statement, we are untouchable.

  4. I think Oaks’ statements to Helen Whitney, clarifying what he meant are important (see comment #1 in the post linked to above in #2).

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks guys, this will be a useful resource for ongoing reference when this questions comes up, as it does from time to time.

  6. I’ve always thought of this as an injunction against being destructive in our speech. Every potential criticism of a church leader, whether it be the prophet, bishop, or quorum president, can be expressed in a way that is constructive rather than destructive. Sometimes this means bringing the issue up in private with the person, sometimes it means just not being personal when giving feedback (it isn’t the person that is wrong, it’s the action), sometimes it means making a helpful suggestion rather than pointing out a failing (i.e. sustaining…), and sometimes it means swallowing our pride and letting other people learn by doing even if that means sub-optimal outcomes (in our opinion) in terms of the activity. Above all, it means being humble, teachable, and more dedicated to the souls around us (like our leaders) than we are to ourselves. People who backbite, gossip, and criticize are useless dead wood in any kind of organization. But in the church, it takes a lot more of this to get you fired than it does at your workplace or in the classroom.

  7. Excellent stuff, guys. Thanks especially, J. and Matt, for contextualizing the issue within the Protestant (particularly Wesleyan) worldview.

  8. I don’t know, I’m sort of reluctant to say anything, I’m mostly a lurker. I really respect the amount of knowledge there is here. It strikes me though, why would would we want to ‘evil-speak’ of anyone? I suppose taking your bishopric counselor to task, privately of course, is one thing – disagreement isn’t necessarily evil-speaking. At any rate, I think evil-speaking would be lying/lying by omission, gossip (you shouldn’t go confessing other people’s sins, excepting of course situations where you’d be preventing/reporting abuse or something to the proper people), or just general rudeness/trash talk (so-and-so is an uptight jerk, elitist, hillbilly, know-it-all, ignorant, whatever – just meaness I guess). I know, I know we’re referring to the temple covenant. General meanness wouldn’t be breaking a temple covenant, or would it? Who is “the Lord’s Anointed”? I guess it could be Jesus Christ alone, but I tend to think it would include the FP and Q12. I think most people find it rather easy to refrain from evil-speaking of the Savior. Outside of maybe Bill Maher, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say anything negative about Him. I just not sure there is a necessity to bind us by covenant there, but I can see a necessity with the FP and Q12. I suppose it could include local leaders, priesthood, all endowed adults, etc. I’m pretty sure we’re breaking a commandment by evil-speaking of anyone. Isn’t that a good enough reason not to do it? Wow, that sounds self-righteous, doesn’t it? Yee-haw! Sorry there, it’s the motherhood getting to me. I think about my kids, and it’s like, is it really so hard to just do what I say? It’s only so you’ll be, gasp, safe and happy! If I sound judgmental in this, it’s only directed toward myself – I break commandments like every 5 seconds.

  9. Is it evil speaking of anybody, anointed or no, to complain about those who say “whom” when “who” is appropriate?

  10. HeidiAnn, that is a good point; but really, from that perspective, most all of the covenants in the temple are superfluous (See James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, pg. 83-84; also Elder Packer, The Holy Temple, pg. 154 & 162 for a general discussion of what these commitments are for those not familiar). I think what is important about the temple is not just that we make covenants, but also the context in which we make them.

  11. One more thing, I don’t think if I’m in a primary presidency for example (I’m not), and if I have problems with another member of the presidency, that it’s evil-speaking to discuss that with the Bishop, because there is a line of stewardship there. However, it might be considered evil-speaking to discuss it with the primary chorister. I have been guilty of this type of thing in the past, and it felt like it fell under the evil-speaking umbrella. Maybe the idea is that if we have a problem with someone and need to discuss it, we follow the line of stewardship and don’t go outside it. I guess if it’s the FP/Q12, we need to take it to HF and let Him take care of it – in our hearts or otherwise.

  12. Left Field says:

    One day, Brother Golden was crossing the street when he was struck a glancing blow by a passing motorist. Brushing himself off, he shook his fist at the car as it sped away.

    “Damn you!” he screeched. “Can’t you tell the difference between the Lord’s Anointed and a common Gentile!”

  13. J. Thanks for the pointer. I’m sorry I missed that discussion.

    Mark Brown: I’m certainly not in a position to criticize your stake president for critizing the men of your stake, but as I understand the responsibilities of stake presidencies relating to home teaching, they are to “teach leaders their home teaching duties and inspire them to perform those duties well.” (CHI, p. 169). I don’t see anything that mentions criticism.

    So if your stake president’s efforts to inspire have devolved into the sort of “destructive personal criticism” that Elders Oaks counsels against, I suppose he is out of order. But your example also strikes me as the type of situation where Elder Oaks would have us hold our tongues — or follow his other suggestions for managing differences with Church leaders.

    That said, I think it’s important to point out one of the reasons Elder Oaks encourages members to avoid criticism of church leaders:

    Church leaders need this consideration, since the responsibilities of Church leadership include the correction of others. That function is not popular. As the Lamanite prophet Samuel taught, when a prophet comes among us and speaks of our iniquities, we are made angry. We call him a false prophet and “cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him.”

    As I see it, church leaders are responsible for correcting without criticism, while acting under inspiration; church members are responsible for seeking inspiration so that they can accept correction without criticizing.

  14. If you define Evil speaking as undermining and trying to tear down and remove authority from another then it is wrong. Too many in the church take an extreme view and any language that disagrees with anyone in authority. I’ve had way too many Bishops that thought position actually meant thtey could do no wrong. Jesus never undermined the Jewish leaders authority to rule but he disagreed with them on many things. I think the church could use some diversity of thought.

  15. #10, So true.

    #9, Am I guilty? I’m too lazy to go back and reread. I need to repent of poor grammar. I apologize.

  16. Steve Evans says:

    HeidiAnn, no one’s going to fault you for choosing not to evil-speak of anyone, anytime, anywhere. But such is not the direct wording of the particular covenant we’re interpreting for purposes of this discussion. I agree that the larger Christian injunctions of the Golden Rule, etc. demand generalized good behavior as you suggest… which in my mind just reinforces the necessity of understanding the context and intent of the temple injunction. As J. says, why have any temple covenants, then?

    Jerry (#14), I don’t know that we’re talking about the same things here.

  17. Steve Evans says:

    Cris, I think we need to treat Elder Oaks’ words a little more seriously than perhaps your interpretation would suggest. Elder Oaks is not expecting a dreamland of zero upwards feedback, where our leaders make mistakes without ever hearing of it or worse yet, intentionally make wrong choices without consequence from the people they lead. Rather, if the Wesleyan interpretation is to be any guide, we are talking about the type of unhelpful gossip or backbiting that does not result in better leaders or better followers, but degrades all.

    In other words, I don’t think Elder Oaks means to completely close off all negative feedback about Church leadership.

  18. I agree with Heidi.

    I think that one of the reasons we do not discuss the temple endowment outside the temple is so that we may come to our own understanding of the symbolism and the meaning of our covenants individually through our study and prayer.

    Drawing analogies to the debates over originalism and interpretation of the Constitution, I think understanding wording in historical context can assist and help enlarge our comprehension of what the term meant to those who made those covenants in earlier times. I am not a strict originalist in interpreting the Constitution, and I am not a strict originalist in interpreting scripture or covenants either. On the gospel side, I take the “revelation” article of faith to mean that God will “yet reveal” to each of us deeper or simpler or alternative or better understandings as time progesses.

    I, thus, think I personally should not limit the “anointed” to those who have already been anointed, but would extend that “protection” from my “evil speaking” to all who have been, are, or will be annointed. And that, I believe, includes the entire human family.

    I also think that while the protection against “evil speaking” in an upward (or “downward”), “vertical” sense helps maintain the hierarchical order and structure of God’s kingdom on earth (in a Wesleyan and LDS way), I believe that the “horizontal” unity and cohesion of the body of Christ, protected by an expansive interpretation, is just as important.

  19. Steve,

    I think we’re in agreement on the basic points, I’m sure I’m just not communicating my thoughts clearly enough. It’s difficult to be thorough in blog sized bites.

    In the article by Elder Oaks that I referenced, he explicitly lays out a framework for members to deliver feedback to church leaders. They are the “other suggestions” I refer to in #13. I agree with his counsel. (In fact, I think my first post ever on BCC had a link back to the same article to make that very point. I apologize for my single minded focus on Elder Oaks’ article. It just seems to apply so well to a number of situations recently raised on BCC).

    But neither church leaders nor church members should engage in “destructive personal criticism,” to borrow Elder Oaks’ phrase, a phrase that seems to be in the same ballpark as the Wesleyan interpretation.

    Furthermore, I’m confident that destructive personal criticism is readily and reasonably distinguishable from the proper correction by church leaders of church members (the call to repentance that Mark Brown suggested, assuming it is properly delivered) and constructive feedback from members to church leaders (again, assuming it is properly delivered).

    So I guess my point is that destructive personal criticism is at least one category of evil speaking, if not the (teh?) principal category of evil speaking, that should be avoided. But in my view, neither proper correction by church leaders of church members, nor constructive feedback from church members to church leaders, cross the “evil speaking” line.

  20. “It just seems to apply so well to a number of situations recently raised on BCC”

    Har! well at least you are seeking to apply the scriptures (or close enough) in your own life.

    I would just add that this series is more about the origins and original intent behind the phrase. How people choose to interpret it today is pretty much a matter of personal revelation.

  21. D&C 124–Everyone who goes through the temple is anointed. I’ve always taken the covenant to mean that you don’t backbite anyone in the Church.

  22. Jonathan Green says:

    Actually, Steve, since we have a recent statement + clarification from an apostle, it’s not just a matter of personal revelation. Looking at historical origin and development is fine, but the actual meaning today of ‘evil speaking of the Lord’s annointed’ is more strongly determined by statements such as the one from Dallin Oaks.

  23. Steve Evans says:

    JG, sure, but application in the moment is still personally determined. Elder Oaks’ remarks still require quite a bit of personal interpretation, as they should.

  24. J.G., I don’t know. Do comments in PBS interviews, for example, trump the scriptures? Seems hard to swallow.

  25. I once had to sit through a particularly nasty zone meeting in a former YMCA building in Baltimore. The zone leader was asking this same question. We went through the same things here – the prophet/apostles/general authorities, and then decided it applied to anyone who has been through the temple. The zone leader finally got mad at us and said “No, it’s me. I am your leader, so it means me. You dumb (excrements) can’t talk bad about me.”

    I would suggest that any leader who maintains that s/he shouldn’t be criticized should be forced to cross-stitch Section 121:39 on a decorative throw pillow. “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” The words “almost all” should be in bright red thread and at least two inches taller than the rest of the verse.

    That doesn’t excuse us badmouthing or “evil-speaking” leaders who are doing their best. But I can’t imagine GBH or TSM calling a member to task for voicing disagreement or concerns. If I’ve got a beef with the bishop, I should make an appointment and let him know what my issue is, and knowing the guy, he’s probably going to alleviate my concerns. However, it would be out of line for me to spread my beef around the ward, to undermine his position, or to launch my own campaign to be his replacement. Joseph Smith likely recognized members of the mob at Carthage.

  26. Rameumptom says:

    How much is this an issue of evil speaking versus good speaking of the Lord’s anointed? I think of the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood (D&C 84:33-40) which tells us that those who accept/receive the servants of God receive Christ.

    Would evil speaking be determined then at the level we do not receive, but rather oppose, those servants placed above us?

    Great start to a great issue, guys.

  27. Fwiw: Righteous Complaints

    and I agree that anyone who says, “Shut up and do what I say, ’cause I’m the boss of you,” deserves to be shut in a room alone and be forced to listen non-stop to people learning to play the bagpipes. Hopefully, I direct talk would do the trick, but I like to have the bagpipe recording in my pocket in case acute intervention is needed.

  28. It always comes back to the heart. You can tell if you are angry and want to hurt, destroy or coerce. If you speak in that spirit you are guilty of evil speaking, be you follower or leader. The Zone Leader was guilty of evil speaking in this definition.

    If a leader is acting in a way as to arouse the passions of his followers, is he less guilty?

    Does passionate disagreement constitute evil speaking? It depends on the heart.

    I am a fervent follower of the opinion that top down leadership is the worst kind, unless it is an emergency and fast aid is needed. Otherwise leaders should take correction in the love that it is given.

  29. I get where people are coming from when they say that anyone endowed in the Temple is one of the “anointed” covered by the prohibition of not evil speaking against them, and so they conclude its a general admonition that all Church members ought not to backstab/gossip/slander against one another. But, that doesnt make sense. You are telling a group of people who are now all going to be anointed that you shouldnt speak evil of each other? Whats the point of identifying the “Lord’s anointed” if they are all the “Lord’s anointed”? Just being didactic? If the intended meaning is “hey, all of you should love each other, and be filled with charity, just like the disciples of old” then why doesnt it say that? It doesnt say “dont be a bunch of backstabbing whiners” it seems to me it singles out the Lord’s anointed.

    Additionally, from the scriptures, I still have a tough time with that being the lord’s anointed=all endowed members thing. Take D&C 121:16 for example. The Lord is particularly peeved when one of his hand-picked prophets is unfairly slandered, cp. Isa. 50:5-9. It seems like just being “anointed” in the scriptures is different from being possessively presented as the “Lord’s anointed” or am I just imagining things here? (e.g., Moses, Saul, David, Isaiah, Cyrus, Smith, etc.). These are explicitly chosen people with a specific heaven-ordained task, not just the willing who submit per D&C 4:3, which is the vast majority of those endowed in the Temple.

  30. ED, why do you think the Temple ceremony would be constrained to use the fewest possible words in making its point? It demonstrably doesn’t do that; why should we be surprised that in this instance it doesn’t? In any case, if it really means “your leaders,” the same logic would say that it should simply and directly say that.

    The “Lord’s Anointed” in scripture refers specifically to: kings, or Jesus. Never to Moses, for example.

  31. ED, like you it seems to me that if you are given an injunction towards a specific group, that it makes no sense to blow the group wide open and redefine it to mean everyone. But doing so isn’t inconsistent with the general injunction of “be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.”

  32. Furthermore, ED, D&C 121:16 doesn’t specify who the “anointed” are. This verse says that, whoever that group is, it’s bad to falsely accuse them of sinning. The section also implies that Joseph Smith belongs to that group. But nothing in the section indicates whether the group is to be seen as broad or narrow. I don’t know what relevance you see in D&C 4:3, but that revelation was given to a man who shortly became the presiding patriarch of the church. Regarding Isaiah 50:5-9, wouldn’t that passage apply to any righteous person who suffers for the faith?

    I think you’re reading these scriptures backwards from an initial hierarchical conclusion; there isn’t much hierarchy in these texts, though.

  33. This is a fascinating discussion. Thanks for bringing this issue up. It seems clear to me that “evil speaking” is primarily gossiping and destructive criticism. It also seems clear to me that we are meant to support and uphold our leadership as much as possible. Leaders are imperfect and make lots of mistakes, but we should try to choose to be helpful, rather than destructively critical, of them. However, I would say that when I think of “the Lord’s anointed” I don’t think of my HPGL or the annoying relief society president in my former ward. But perhaps I should. If we believe that they are indirect representatives of the prophet, then perhaps they are the Lord’s anointed as well. That certainly provides some food for thought, and it seems harmless for us to try to see them that way (anointed to their positions but imperfect human beings who make mistakes).

    Having said all that, the counselor in the bishopric who accuses a member for breaking his temple covenant for criticizing him seems to me to be on skinny ice. Seems to me there are many other ways he could make his point without accusing a member of breaking a temple covenant.

  34. Geoff B., I think that reading is fascinating — what’s your basis for equating “anointing” with “any calling”? I realize that this is a common Mormon idea, but it’s also entirely free from having a basis in the standard works or the temple ceremony. So I’m very much interested in understanding how you come to this conclusion.

  35. You-all are so legalistic! Is evil speaking ever allowable no matter who is the recipient of that grace? Mercy.

    Anointed … How about your friend you are slandering or how about your enemy you are undermining.

    Is that better somehow than the HPGL you disagree with? Will your soul be any worse off?

    Is it worse to speak evil of my neighbor or of Jesus? My guess is that for the speaker it makes little difference.

  36. BobW, are you even reading any of this discussion?

  37. NoCoolName_Tom says:

    I’m a bit confused – your point seems to be the direction that the conversation is already upon. I don’t think anyone is speculating on or approaching situations where “evil-speaking” is allowable.

  38. I was content to just sit on the sidelines for this one, but I read Ray’s post from # 27 about righteous complaints.

    I remember a former member of our Stake Presidency say in a leadership meeting that if we feel that we have assurance that one of our leaders is wrong or pursuing a wrong decision, they might be pursuing that because they haven’t heard contrary opinions. He then admonished us to make sure we express our differences, as often we aren’t always asking the right questions.

    I tend to lean towards a narrow definition of anointed, as Steve, Stapley, and JNS suggest, but agree that gossiping, backbiting, and the like are not becoming of any of us. That however, does seem to be different from what we are talking about here, and the distinction that Elder Oaks seems to be getting at.

    I’m reminded of the scripture in Alma 13 where the indication is that “priests”, or as I read it, priesthood leadership, are called because they bring to mind the remembrance of the Savior through their actions and character. Could that be a sort of “anointed”? I certainly can think of examples that fit that definition, but have also known some, that have not been such stellar examples.

  39. Eric Russell says:

    This discussion is just skirting the bigger issue of “loud laughter.”

  40. kevinf, I agree with you but I would just say that my view (my contemporary view, that is) on this is not the same as JNS’ or Stapley’s.

  41. JNS, to answer your question, let’s turn that around. Should you be gossipy and destructively critical of Prophet Monson? No, he is the Lord’s anointed, right? OK, how about President Eyring, probably no also, right. Then how about an Apostle? Well, probably not either. How about a 70 or your stake president? Well, probably not. How about your bishop or your EQP? I just don’t think you can make the argument that it is somehow OK to be gossipy and destructively critical of your bishop but not the Prophet.

    Does this mean you have broken a temple covenant if you have done so? Well, I guess in a strictly legal sense you could argue that you don’t think being gossipy about your bishop is the same thing as being gossipy about the Prophet, so you don’t think you have broken a temple covenant. How do you think the Lord would answer you? Personally, I think He would look at me very sadly and say I needed to get my house in order.

  42. Steve’s post on Evil-speaking history mentioned the inappropriateness of tearing down the kingdom of god. Also comment #6 in this thread spoke of being destructive in our speech. I think both of these statements make the unfortunate assumption that deconstruction is a bad thing.

    Deconstructing literature, a building, or a life is the act of getting at the true essence of the thing. The real roots of the problem need to be exposed before understanding, change, improvement, or healing can begin to take place. I don’t think disrespect really has anything to do with it. De-construction follows construction in a natural way just as death follows life, where both are needed to sustain a healthy community.

    There is much in the current hierarchical church that would be good and healthy to un-build or deconstruct. And since the Church is no more than the anointed people who serve in and belong to it, we need to be willing to not just build each other up, but also to tear each other down (both individually and collectively).

    In an environment where criticism is not tolerated, there will be no real initiative, efficiency, expertise, or ownership among the masses of the anointed.

    Kind of ironic to criticize our inability to criticize, and maybe I’m just twisted, but I think it would be great to run a pilot project of deconstructing a ward or stake.

  43. Steve Evans says:

    Geoff B, I don’t think anyone here is arguing that it’s not a sin to backbite or gossip, etc., about any person. But that’s not the purpose of the discussion, which is to look at what this particular covenant is all about, specifically by looking at its history and context.

  44. Steve, agreed. I’ve really enjoyed the discussion and I’ve learned a lot.

  45. What I find in part so interesting is that even as our actual practice of anointing people (outside of healings) is virtually nonexistent outside the temple, we contemporaneously have expanded the colloquial notion of who the Lord’s Anointed are.

  46. I suppose we could go round and round on the question of who is the Lord’s Anointed, but wouldn’t it be better to simply take our complaints to the person who we believe is the problem. If you think your bishop or your stake president is screwing things up, make an appointment, and go tell him. It’s straight out of the 42nd section. How on earth can that be “evil speaking” if that’s what the scripture commands us to do?

    88 And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled.
    89 And if he or she confess not thou shalt deliver him or her up unto the church, not to the members, but to the elders. And it shall be done in a meeting, and that not before the world.

    If a leader of the church at whatever level is unwilling to listen to honest criticism, given face to face in private, then he or she should be released.

    Just don’t go yakking about that leader’s faults to all your friends in the elders quorum or your favorite blog.

  47. Just don’t go yakking about that leader’s faults to all your friends in the elders quorum or your favorite blog…

    unless doing so would be highly entertaining for all of us!

  48. Steve,

    My humble apologies. I guess I was not reading well.


  49. I would say that most quorums and committees of the current church reflect the openness to feedback that is being promoted here. This is a strength of the LDS usage of lay leadership. As we serve in a calling for a limited time, none of us accrues the strength or knowledge to do it perfectly. By the time we are gaining some acumen, we are released and someone else begins the learning cycle.

    This promotes humility in our leaders and a more open sharing of support between people who have shared similar callings. It seems like every new prophet’s first prayer is for humility and direction. There definitely are exceptions to this (who will go unnamed), but generally, we remain a group of humble sheep, with but one shepherd.

  50. JNS,

    Constrained? I suggested no such thing. What I am saying is it makes no sense to obtusely label everyone something in one context, the Temple, that doesnt fit the Scriptural context. And if all that obtuse saying is trying to say is we should love each other, which is said a multitude of other non-obtuse ways, then why choose something obtuse? It doesnt make sense. If everyone is the Lord’s anointed, then there is nothing special about it, and it doesnt deserve special notoriety as an explicit prohibition.

    As for only kings being labeled the Lord’s anointed, that is clearly not the case in the Scriptures, as Smith is explicitly identified as such in the D&C. Prophets are clearly presented as the Lord’s anointed servants.

    If you want to dispute Moses being the Lord’s anointed servant against a mountain of evidence (cf. Ex. 30, Dt. 18:15, D&C 28:2, 107:91-92, Moses 1:1-6) based upon the argument that there is no Scripture that says “Moses is/was the Lord’s anointed” I have no interest in such things. The fact is there are prophets, who were not literally anointed as kings, who are called the Lord’s anointed servants, cf. D&C 135:3.

    The relevance of D&C 4:3 is there are people who qualify themselves for the work by virtue of being willing to do the Lord’s work. These people are different from those hand picked by the Lord. The Lord hand picked Joseph Smith, he did not hand pick me, or the others who have been through the Temple. We have all been given the same promises via the Temple that Smith has, but we havent been hand-picked by the Lord the way Smith was.

    My argument is the statement in the Temple that says we should not speak evil concerning the Lord’s anointed is that it is in reference to the Prophet, and not really anyone else. The title “the Lord’s anointed” when used in the Scriptures suggests to me that it is referring to those whom He Himself has explicitly singled out, not those who have qualified themselves for the work (i.e., the rest of us), per D&C 4.

  51. Note that Joseph was anointed King twice in 1843.

  52. ED, you should remember that Joseph Smith was anointed as a king. And even he was never called “the Lord’s Anointed.” Being called “anointed servants” is fine, but everyone who gets anointed and serves is an anointed servant. If “Lord’s Anointed” is a special subcategory within that group, then it ought to refer to the group that the scriptures identify in this way: e.g., Old Testament kings and Jesus the Messiah (which literally means Anointed). Your claim that the Prophet is specifically identified as the Lord’s Anointed in the temple ceremony is cultural, not from the canon. That’s why I’m interested in where you get it from. (Just because it’s cultural doesn’t, of course, mean that it’s wrong.) Your distinction between those that God has singled out and the “rest of us” also seems deeply suspect to me. Where do you get this idea? I haven’t heard that one before.

    Geoff B., let me put it this way: I’m not sure there’s a scriptural sense in which President Monson is the Lord’s anointed but you and I aren’t. If we want to include Monson, then we probably have to be super-inclusive. The scriptural senses are far, far more restrictive.

  53. Note, the Lord identified Joseph as prophet, seer and revelator about a million times prior to his being anointed king. Note, Smith never actually was a king of Israel, or anything else, in any literal sense of kingship, unlike Saul and David.

    Cultural? Not from the canon? You mean just like everything else that has been said in the comments here? If it was in the canon and unambiguous, we wouldnt be having this discussion.

    Where do I get the idea there is a distinction between those whom God has singled out and the rest of us? The Lord has never appeared to you or I or any of the rest of us to extend a prophetic calling. Smith? Yes. Moses? Yes. Isaiah? Yes. And so on. You and I are here by virtue of D&C 4:3, Smith et al. arent.

    What is deeply suspect is that people would put themselves on par with someone like Smith, or any other prophet, ancient or modern, when it comes to being owed respect from the members of the Church. I have no stewardship over the LDS Church, none. The President of the Church does. He, by virtue of his calling, holds the keys. We do not, he does. Ignore me? OK. Ignore the Prophet? Risk damnation. Speak evil of me? Whatever. Speak evil of Prophet? Risk damnation. Me the Anointed of the Lord? Ha! Only in the most loose sense of the word. Smith? Yup, in every sense.

  54. “You mean just like everything else that has been said in the comments here? If it was in the canon and unambiguous, we wouldnt be having this discussion.”

    In fact, ED, as I’ve pointed out a few times, the canon does provide two specific meanings for “Lord’s Anointed,” involving kings of Israel and the Messiah. Prophets, seers, and revelators are never given this title, though. So Joseph’s kingship is directly connectable to the canonical meaning of “Lord’s Anointed,” while his prophetic role is not.

    I agree that prophets have different callings than we do. But D&C 4:3 doesn’t somehow claim that our callings are of a different order than those of prophets. We have different callings, certainly. The passage you’re citing says nothing about singling out, though.

    Furthermore, the fact that prophets have important callings obviously does not imply that all important phrases from our scriptures or the temple apply to them. Prophets are not the Messiah, nor are they universally Esaias, nor is every one of them Gazelem, nor as you have noted are they all the King of Israel. Lord’s Anointed is a specific phrase, and it’s scripturally unjustified to assume that it applies in a special way (beyond the way that “anointed servant” applies to all faithful endowed members) to prophets.

    If you think you’ve been anointed for the Lord only in the loosest sense, I think you’re not taking the temple very seriously.

  55. Also, ED, I’m pretty sure that speaking evil of you risks damnation just as much as speaking evil of President Monson would do. I think the New Testament Gospels make this point once or twice.

  56. Mark Brown says:


    Your argument that The Lord’s Annointed means only the president of the church and nobody else requires us to believe that Elders Eyring and Uchtdorf are fair game, and no more shielded from criticism than the assistant cubmaster in the Podunk 4th ward. But I don’t think you really mean that, so as I see it we are left with two possibilities:

    1. Some kind of sliding scale, where the higher up the hierarchy you go, the more the title of The Lord’s Annointed applies to you.

    2. An understanding of The Lord’s Annointed which looks a lot like what JN-S has outlined.

    I think the most common understanding in the church now is option # 1, but it has the difficulty of being terribly imprecise, which is really why this conversation came about in the first place. It is a definition that doesn’t define anything.

  57. JNS,

    Its pretty obvious we dont agree on anything. If you think the Lord’s hand-picking representatives arent in a different position than your or I, and D&C 4:3 doesnt say something about singling out, well, its pointless. D&C 4:3 says whoever is willing to serve is called. In other words, your willingness to do the work is what calls you. You exercise your initiative to choose to do the work of the Lord. That is completely different from the Lord exercising His initiative and choosing someone. I cannot even understand how this isnt completely obvious. Hand-picked by the Lord: Moses, Isaiah, Smith, etc. If the Lord didnt come to you and pick you, you arent one of them. Isnt that obvious?

    Joseph’s immaterial kingship is only the slenderest of straws to grasp at. Saul and David were real, actual, literal kings of real, actual, literal Israel. Joseph never was. Your attempt to equate him with them and therefore conclude that no Prophets were ever labeled “the Lord’s anointed” is lame. I would also point out attempts to be strictly canonical fail when bringing in the non-canonical anointing of Smith as king.

    I do take the Temple seriously. What I also take seriously is Scriptures when they say that certain people absolutely must be listened to when they speak or we will be cut off from the Lord, cf. Acts 3:22-23. You and I are not one of those people, clearly. The Lord’s anointed are. If someone rejects me, that is of little or no consequence. If someone rejects Smith, they are damned. That is why we have to be particularly careful about avoiding evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed. Bad-mouthing them is much worse, because its not just bad-mouthing somebody, its bad-mouthing the Lord’s hand-picked representative.


    What I am saying is that the Lord’s hand-picked people are “the Lord’s anointed” and the rest of us are not. The President of the Church is afforded a uniquely special position owing to the extraordinary set of keys. I am in no position to say authoritatively, but I would hazard a guess that some of the GAs, perhaps many of them, are recruits via D&C 4:3 and are not hand-picked by the Lord.

    Nobody is “fair game” as it is pretty clear we arent supposed to engage in evil speaking of anyone, as it is generally unchristian. However, it is pretty clear that evil speaking the Lord’s hand-picked ones is especially hazardous. When the Lord hand-picks someone, and we reject that someone, then we are rejecting the Lord, and not just the person.

    I dont think it is a sliding scale. Either a person is hand-picked or not. Smith was hand picked. I was not, and no matter where I go in the Church, that will not change. I came into the Church via D&C 4:3, as did most, if not all, of us. Smith didnt. And I completely reject JNS’ version of who is the Lord’s anointed. So, if you want to quantify the possibilities, then here is the next:

    3. The Lord’s hand-picked people are “the Lord’s Anointed” and we need to pay special heed to them because the Lord has chosen them and granted them special roles. Rejecting them is effectively rejecting the Lord.

  58. “If someone rejects Smith, they are damned.”

    Um, where is that written? If it had the qualifiers, “Having received a personal witness of his calling by the Holy Spirit,” and, “and never repents,” I might agree. Otherwise, nope.

  59. Out of curiosity, I spent a few minutes doing keyword searches on to see if I could identify any trends in the current usage of the phrase “Lord’s anointed” by Church leadership. I was a little surprised at how clear the results were. I would have expected the results to have been at least a little ambiguous, considering the vigor of some of the comments on this thread.

    While there are two or three exceptions, almost all of the references to the phrase “Lord’s anointed” made by a general authority in the last 30 years or so, and printed in a Church magazine, refer to a prophet, either living or dead.

    I freely admit that I know next to nothing about the historical usage or origins of the phrase, but the result of my highly unscientific study is that it’s reasonable to conclude that current Church leadership believes that “Lord’s anointed” = prophet.

    In reaching that conclusion, I do not at all dismiss (or depreciate!) the general prohibitions on evil speaking that appear in many places in scripture. Evil speaking is wrong. At a minimum, it is a violation of the commandment to “love one another.” People who engage in evil speaking should repent or prepare themselves to face the consequences. But evil speaking of a bishopric counselor is not a violation of the specific temple covenant to avoid evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed.

  60. Cris, I agree that such is current usage. General authorities have unquestionably appropriated this phrase to refer to church presidents. I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong, just too narrow.

    ED, you’re just mixing different issues together. If you’re going to blend all concepts together into a greasy gospel stew, serious discussion is hopeless. For example, fun citation on Acts 3:22-23. I agree that Jesus is different from the rest of us (see Joseph Smith-History 1:40), but that’s really irrelevant to your argument.

    Last but not least, it seems to me that lots of people are called personally of God. Certainly fast and testimony meetings support that hypothesis. Does the fact that such people asked God for a witness make a difference? But Smith did!

  61. JNS: If you’re saying that the current GA usage of the phrase is more narrow than the historical usage of the phrase, I’ll readily concede the point. But as practical matter, don’t current GA’s decide, or give voice to, what is, and what is not, a current violation of temple covenants?

  62. Cris, I don’t really know — certainly the temple covenants themselves don’t say so. Nor, for that matter, do the scriptures. My guess is God decides?

  63. Ray,

    Take a look at D&C 1:14-18 and D&C 121:11-25, and consider all the scriptures that say if people reject the Lord’s words as delivered to the prophets they they reject the Lord.


    Greasy gospel stew? The citation of Acts 3:22-23 is entirely relevant to my position as it makes it clear the Lord’s Anointed Servants are not someone you can ignore, whether it be Christ or someone else.

    To expose the flaws in your excessively narrow approach to the passage in question, note the Acts citation comes from Deut 18:15-19, and not only applies to Jesus Christ but all of the Lord’s Prophets. Jesus was called a “prophet like Moses” and so was Smith, D&C 28:2. The Deut passage applies to more than just Jesus, that should be abundantly obvious, if it isnt, please cf. Jacob 6:8-9 and D&C 133:63.

    It all ties into the same question of who is and who isnt the Lord’s anointed and why they are different.

  64. Mark Brown says:


    Assume we go with your definition of The Lord’s Annointed as someone who is hand-picked by God.

    What do we do with the phrases in my patriarchal blessing (and I’m guessing in the blessings of many other people too) which delcare explicitly that God has singled me out and blessed me with talents and gifts which he intends to put to use in establishing His kingdom?

    What do we do with our concept of callings being from God? Elder Eyring just recently addressed this idea in conference, and warns us to remember that any calling is a direct call from God.

    If we take either our patriarchal blessings or our church calling seriously, doesn’t that broaden the definition to the point that JN-S is within shouting distance?

  65. MB,

    “If we take either our patriarchal blessings or our church calling seriously, doesn’t that broaden the definition to the point that JN-S is within shouting distance?”

    No. There is clearly a difference between a calling actually, literally from the Lord (e.g., Moses, Smith, etc.) and one that is not. You and I are not dispensation heads, epochal Prophets, or Presidents of the Church. Clearly. And, as such, we do not bear the weight they do.

    Now, as far as patriarchal blessings and callings with the Church, we should take them for what they are and act accordingly. I am not going to discount them at all, we ought to magnify and fulfill our callings, but that still doesnt put us on par with people that are literally hand-picked Prophets.

    Honestly, I really cannot understand how people can sit there and think they are due the deference Presidents of the Church are owed (as a result of the keys they hold), or Smith, or Moses, or Abraham or Isaiah. I mean, it absolutely baffles me how someone can think they are on par with Smith, when it comes to the Kingdom. Yes, we have been offered the same set of promises and have the same possible end result, but that doesnt compare at all with what these people did in mortality. They were literally hand picked, they heralded the Kingdom of God with the Voice of the Lord. We are lucky if we can get our Home Teaching done and pay our tithing. I mean, seriously, come on. I am dumbfounded that people could say, “Yeah, I am the Lord’s Anointed, just like Joseph Smith.” No, we arent.

  66. #63 – ED, take a look at every statement throughout the restoration, as well as our scriptures, that don’t equate merely hearing the word with a proper opportunity to accept or reject it. I’ll see your references and raise you mine. In time, it just becomes a case of who can bluff the best with two competing, incomplete poker hands – but I think ultimately I’m holding four of a kind to your pair of aces.

    Sincere question:

    Pres. Hinckley essentially bore his testimony of a number of things on multiple programs on national TV during his Presidency. Millions of people heard his words and, in practical terms, rejected them. Are you really saying that they rejected the Lord by not accepting Pres. Hinckley when they heard him? If so, I would argue that you would be making claims Pres. Hinkcley himself wouldn’t have made.

    I believe there is a clear difference between “evil speaking” and “not accepting” or “rejecting”. Your comment seems to equate them. Do you equate them?

  67. I am dumbfounded that people could say, “Yeah, I am the Lord’s Anointed, just like Joseph Smith.” No, we arent (sic).

    ED, do you have any substantive objections to the idea, or is it only what you perceive to be an attitude of inappropriate audacity that bugs you? I don’t see anyone saying these things in a boastful way. But our religion is nothing if not audacious. There are lots of hardcore anti-Mormons whose major objection to us is precisely that–they are dumbfounded that people could say, “Yeah, I am a child of God.”

  68. ED, I don’t really have much to add to what’s been said before, other than to point out that I’m not in any way claiming that I have the same calling or should be regarded as having the same position within the church as the president of the church. There are clearly differences here, even though the “Lord’s Anointed” terminology probably doesn’t get at them.

    Finally, just for fun, let’s play one more round of “reading ED’s scriptures to see how they say something different than his summaries.” You say D&C 28:2 calls Smith a “prophet like Moses,” but in fact it says simply that Smith receives revelations and commandments in the same way as Moses. This is important, but it isn’t the same as the “like Moses” line which specifically connects with Jesus. It’s rejecting Jesus that gets you cut off from God’s people; rejecting anyone else’s religious message is only important to the extent that it entails rejecting Jesus.

    Jacob 6:8-9 makes this clear. The list of things which in conjunction lead to condemnation includes rejecting “the words of the prophets,” but also rejecting “all the words which have been spoken concerning Christ,” denying “the good word of Christ, and the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost,” and mocking the plan of salvation. The prophets are in there, but evidently as one component of a general pattern of rejecting Jesus. This text makes a central link between rejecting Jesus and condemnation, with rejection of the prophets standing as one of many, in essence, missed opportunities to accept the atonement.

    Your usage of D&C 133:63 is confusing because it specifically makes the same point. That scripture says that those who don’t listen to the Lord will be cut off from the people. This is as straightforward as it gets: rejecting Jesus gets you delisted as one of God’s people. Nothing is there about anyone else.

    The verses you offered to Ray point in the same direction. Consider D&C 1:14-18. Here, the revelation says that those who won’t listen to any of three alternative conduits for the Lord’s message (the Lord’s personal voice, prophets’ voices, apostles’ voices) are cut off. But the reason for the cutting off isn’t the failure to listen per se, but rather as the subsequent verse explains the fact of having strayed from the proper gospel ordinances and covenants. So once again we’re dealing with a situation in which the key is a rejection of the message and atonement of Jesus. The voice of the Lord personally calls people back to that atonement, as do the voices of servants. Anyone who, in spite of all these messages, persists in rejecting Jesus is cut off. Rejection of prophets other than Jesus once again plays a component role in the cutting off, but is not the constitutive factor.

    Finally, we’ve talked about D&C 121 before. But let me make a larger point about this text. The language there actually places “mine anointed” in a string of parallelisms, making it comparable with “my servants,” “my little ones,” and “my people.” In the present context, it’s important also to note the construction of the sentence in which the revelation curses those who “lift up the heel against mine anointed,” because the anointed are later referred to with the pronoun “they.” This kills the argument that the anointed in this passage is Smith himself; if it were so, the pronoun would have been “he.” Instead, it suggests that this passage is referring much more generally to the persecution of the Saints and false accusations of sin against them as a people, not merely against Smith as an individual.

  69. Ray,

    If you think you are holding four of a kind, so be it. I am no longer interested in tangential discussion. I am trying to address a specific point of doctrine, nothing else.


    No, nobody has boastfully said “I am the same as Smith.” But, equating yourself with the Lord’s Anointed, which JNS and others are arguing in favor of, implicitly does precisely this. What I am doing is presenting a reductio ad absurdum argument. JNS’ position is logically absurd because its logical conclusion is that we are on par with the hand-picked representatives of the Lord when it comes to special admonitions from the Lord, the people that He Himself chose to be dispensation heads, literal kings of Israel and epochal prophets. Audacious or no, common sense clearly states we arent.


    For someone who doesnt have much to add, I would hate to see how many more paragraphs you would have written if you did have much to add.

    As far as games go, your approach to the Scriptures is to cut them down to as little as possible in an attempt to ignore the fact that they contradict the position you hold. This is most glaringly manifested in your fourth paragraph above, where you say my usage of D&C 133:63 is confusing. If one reads the text, it is obvious the “voice of the Lord” in verse 63 is what is being talked about in v. 36-62. The voice of the Lord in v. 63 is the gospel going forth in v. 36-37 via the servants in v. 38 who are also the same servants in v. 58-60. The voice of the Lord is being delivered by the servants, and if people ignore them, they are damned. Reading the text and taking it in context makes it plain what the meaning is, and would therefore eliminate confusion. Your apparent interest at this point is to pare the Scriptures down to as little as possible in order to win. That is your game to play, not mine.

    Paragraph two, Smith does everything just like Moses, does what Moses did, but he isnt “like” Moses because the text doesnt explicitly say “Smith is a prophet like Moses”. How much like Moses does he have to be, to be “like Moses”? Smith is Moses-like but not “like Moses”? Or is this just another exercise in parsing text to avoid stating the obvious?

    Paragraphs three and five are sophistry: “Rejection of prophets other than Jesus once again plays a component role in the cutting off, but is not the constitutive factor.” A “component role” but not “constitutive factor”? “in conjunction”? The only message the prophets are presenting is Jesus Christ. That is why the Scriptures emphatically equate the voice of the prophets and the Lord, cf. D&C 1:38. You are just attempting to parse the text in order to avoid the obvious. Rejecting Christ’s proxy is rejecting Christ, He says it is, no matter how you dice it up.

    The final paragraph is equally untenable. Who is speaking in D&C 121:1-6? Smith? Yes. And, who is the Lord clearly and unambiguously speaking to in v. 7-15? Smith? So, somehow, magically, when the Lord says “mine anointed” it now means “my servants”, my “little ones” and “my people” by virtue of a plural pronoun? No. It would be unprecedented in the Scriptures to conclude “my little ones” and “my people” are “mine anointed.” As such, these seeming parallelism, which are not embedded in any sort of structurally rigorous parallelism at all, dont exist (if you are actually interested in the textual structure of the text, see here). It is just another attempt at sophistry to avoid the obvious. Then why the plural pronoun in v. 16? Because Smith isnt the only “mine anointed.” How many other of the Lord’s Anointed have been persecuted and falsely accused? All of them, and they are all protected by the same Providence the Lord extends to Smith here, the company of Prophets. Verses 19-24 are obviously the Lord responding to Smith’s earlier petition for the suffering saints, not an equation of the ecclesia with the Lord’s Anointed.

    The longer this drags on, the more I am convinced the Lord’s Anointed in the original admonition in the Temple is Smith alone, and apparently the Presidents of the Church who hold the same set of keys he held by virtue of their Authority. The notion that all Endowed members of the Church are “the Lord’s Anointed” is just not defensible, from the Scriptures or from historical or present usage.

    I was hoping Justin Butterfield or some other Church History maven was going to weigh in with some obscure text making clear what the Early Church thought the passage meant, but apparently not. Unfortunately.

  70. E.D., it’s normal for participants in a debate like this to become more convinced of their positions. An unfortunate side-effect, I think.

    You’re both wrong and misjudging when you attribute motives to me. My goals in reading these scriptures is to see what they say. I find that you bring a raft of additional implications to the text and that you routinely miss the central point: the Lord’s Anointed is the Messiah, and He’s the one we can’t reject without condemnation. If you want to elevate other people to that status, it’s obviously not something I can persuade you out of. But it’s equally obviously not something that the scriptures compel an attentive reader to do.

    If you want historical material, by the way, there’s some interesting stuff. It won’t change the conversation, but it’s nonetheless worth reading. In no particular order, here’s a lot of stuff. Consider the following from Lorenzo Snow from May 6th, 1889:

    But David said, “Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?” Saul had been anointed of God. David held that anointing sacred. How is it with us? Here are brethren before and around us in this congregation who have received from God a holy, sacred Priesthood, to minister in His name. Divine authority and appointment was given Saul, which David regarded so sacredly that he did not dare to raise his hand against him, although a mortal enemy and one who was preventing him from ascending the throne that God had given him. How do we regard these our brethren—their sacred appointments? David would not even allow his servant to touch Saul.

    He was not like the Quaker of whom I heard when I was a boy. He had a dog which displeased him. Now, the Quakers do not believe in killing anybody, not even a serpent. This Quaker wished to stand by his principles, but he wanted to get rid of this dog. So he turned him out in the streets, and called out so that everybody could hear, “Mad dog; mad dog.” The result was, the people stoned the dog to death.

    There was something grand in this trait of character which David exhibited on that occasion as well as on many others. How do we feel under such circumstances? and how do we feel sometimes in regard to our friends and neighbors who hold the Holy Priesthood? Do we slander them, and call “Mad dog, mad dog,” so that others will slander them also? Or do we seek to sustain them as our brethren? Do we try to ascertain their faults and weaknesses, or do we try to ascertain their good qualities? Do we regard as sacred that Priesthood and that authority which they hold, as David did in the case of Saul? Or is it otherwise with us? (Collected Discourses Vol. 1, p. 253)

    Here’s another usage, from George Q. Cannon on April 21st, 1895:

    Now, there are certain things that we cannot do and remain faithful to the work of God. The first and foremost among these is, (and I dwell on it, I hope, in a spirit that will be understood even by strangers) speaking evil against the Priesthood of the Son of God. It is one of the surest signs of apostasy. You may think that you have cause for this; you may see things in men that may appear to you wrong and to justify you in indulging in criticism and censorious remarks, and perhaps you may even feel justified in uttering words of condemnation; but let me say to you—and I say it as the result of a lifetime’s experience and observation—that this cannot be done by any man or woman in this Church, great or small, without incurring the displeasure of the Almighty and without grieving the Spirit of God. Those who have entered into holy places have made covenants, which are sacred in the sight of God and of their brethren and sisters, not to speak against the Lord’s anointed. I cannot do it; President Woodruff, who is the greatest man among us because he has been chosen by the Lord to hold the keys of this dispensation at the present time, cannot do it; and no Latter-day Saint can do it without grieving the Spirit of God and causing it to withdraw itself. Do you realize this my brethren and sisters, when you are tempted or aroused by anger to say evil things concerning your brethren or sisters? If you but think of the consequences that may follow the indulgence in such a spirit, I am sure that you will restrain your speech and you will not give utterance to anything of the kind. Will I do a thing that is going to cause me to lose the Spirit of God and my standing in the Church of God? No. (Collected Discourses Vol. 4, p.312-313; see also Cannon’s similar quote in Collected Discourses Vol. 5, p.88)

    Also Wilford Woodruff from October 4, 1896:

    Upwards of eighteen hundred years have rolled away since the death of the Savior of the world and His Apostles, and the God of heaven knows what it cost the Jewish nation to shed the blood of their Savior and their Shiloh, and the blood of the Apostles. The blood of the Lord’s anointed which was shed by that nation in that day cost more than the human family can comprehend. Well might the Savior say, while passing through that ignominious death upon the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Collected Discourses Vol. 5, p. 187

    In a different vein, see George Q. Cannon’s October 6, 1896:

    There is one thing that the Lord has warned us about from the beginning, and that is, not to speak evil of the Lord’s anointed. He has told us that any member of the Church who indulged in this is liable to lose the Spirit of God and go into darkness. The Prophet Joseph said time and again that it was one of the first and strongest symptoms of apostasy. Have we not proved this? Have not his words upon this subject been fulfilled to the very letter? No man can do this without incurring the displeasure of the Lord. It may seem strange, in this age of irreverence and iconoclasm, to talk in this way. Nevertheless, this is the truth. God has chosen His servants. He claims it as His prerogative to condemn them, if they need condemnation. He has not given it to us individually to censure and condenm them. No man, however strong he may be in the faith, however high in the priesthood, can speak evil of the Lord’s anointed and find fault with God’s authority on the earth without incurring His displeasure. The Holy Spirit will withdraw itself from such a man, and he will go into darkness. This being the case, do you not see how important it is that we should be careful? However difficult it may be for us to understand the reasons for any action of the authorities of the Church, we should not too hastily call their acts in question and pronounce them wrong. (Collected Discourses Vol. 5, p.222-223).

    But see also Woodruff’s April 1880 Conference talk, in which we are asked:

    What is the condition of the Saints, the Elders of Israel, and the Lord’s anointed, and the people whom he has chosen and called upon and raised up to take hold and build up Zion, build up the kingdom, sanctify themselves before God and prepare themselves for the coming of the Son of man?

    Or Cannon in the April 1900 conference:

    I feel that this people should cultivate more reverence for the authority of the Priesthood–that authority which has proved so great a blessing to them. I would like to see them do it, and that is the burden of my remarks on this occasion. I do plead with you most earnestly to cultivate this feeling of reverence for the Priesthood of the Son of God. You cannot show reverence to the Priesthood without showing it to the men who bear it. Let us teach our children the same feeling, that they may have reverence and respect for the Priesthood, and be willing to obey, and not have a spirit of fault-finding, carping, and pointing out defects of character. You who have been in sacred places know one thing, that you cannot speak evil of the Lord’s anointed and be justified, and if you break your covenants in that respect, you are of course incurring severe condemnation.

    Earlier, we find Woodruff in 1860 saying:

    In this generation the Almighty has raised up a Prophet who has organized the kingdom of God, and thousands of the Lord’s anointed have been inspired by the same Spirit to proclaim the words of life to the people. (Journal of Discourses 8:263)

    Also Woodruff in 1873:

    In this generation the Almighty has raised up a Prophet who has organized the kingdom of God, and thousands of the Lord’s anointed have been inspired by the same Spirit to proclaim the words of life to the people. (Journal of Discourses 15:278)

    Or Charles W. Penrose in 1882:

    In a moment He could withdraw the breath of life from among them, and they would perish: and when people imagine that by putting their heads together and concocting some scheme for the destruction of the Lord’s people, the Lord’s anointed, they can overthrow them, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh and shall have them in derision. (Journal of Discourses 25:337)

    Older quotes are also available. The Messenger and Advocate reports:

    President J. Smith jr. then addressed the congregation in a manner calculated to instruct the understanding, rather than please the ear, and at or about the close of his remarks, he prophesied to all that inasmuch as they would uphold these men in their several stations, alluding to the different quorums in the church, the Lord would bless them; yea, in the name of Christ, the blessings of Heaven shall be yours. And when the Lord’s anointed go forth to proclaim the word, bearing testimony to this generation, if they receive it, they shall be blessed, but if not, the judgments of God will follow close upon them, until that city of that house, that rejects them, shall be left desolate. (2:6:277)

    Or the following miraculous manifestation in Kirtland:

    When the Twelve and the seven presidents were through with their sealing prayer, I called upon President Sidney Rigdon to seal them with uplifted hands; and when he had done this, and cried hosanna, that all the congregation should join him, and shout hosanna to God and the Lamb, and glory to God in the highest. It was done so, and Elder Roger Orton saw a mighty angel riding upon a horse of fire, with a flaming sword in his hand, followed by five others, encircle the house, and protect the Saints, even the Lord’s anointed, from the power of Satan and a host of evil spirits, which were striving to disturb the Saints. (History of the Church, Vol. 2, p.386-387)

    There are also a lot of older sources that identify Joseph Smith as being the Lord’s Anointed. Some of these follow one contemporary usage in identifying subsequent church presidents as also being the Lord’s Anointed, while others do not. Here’s an example:

    Let the Twelve send all who will support the character of the Prophet, the Lord’s anointed; and if all who go will support my character, I prophesy in the name of the Lord Jesus, whose servant I am, that you will prosper in your missions. I have the whole plan of the kingdom before me, and no other person has. And as to all that Orson Pratt, Sidney Rigdon, or George W. Robinson can do to prevent me, I can kick them off my heels, as many as you can name; I know what will become of them. (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p.139)

    Here’s a bit from a patriarchal blessing given by Hyrum Smith to one William Ford in 1841:

    You must ponder these things from this very moment in your heart for your calling is before you and if you will be faithful in your calling you shall be one of the Lord’s anointed and endowed with power from on high and shall prosper spiritually and temporally, long life, and accumulate honor unto your name and blessings to your posterity unto the latest generation. A crown of immortality and eternal life, an inheritance in the days of your probation in the lineage of Manassah shall be your inheritance, also your father’s at the final destitution [restitution?] of all things spoke by the mouth of the prophets.

    Norton Jacob, writing about a December 21, 1841, meeting of the Quorum of the Anointed, consisting of all living recipients of the endowment, wrote:

    I with my wife, first had the exquisite pleasure of meeting with the holy order of the Lord’s anointed in his holy House, whose motto is `Holiness to the Lord.’

    Also John Taylor wrote about how the kings of Israel in ancient and latter times are different from other governments in that they were the “Lord’s Anointed.” (See Government of God, especially chapters 8 and 9.)

    In the 20th century, this wide diversity of usages collapses into a near-universal equation of Lord’s Anointed with Church President. But earlier usages run the entire gamut of options that I proposed in the original roundtable.

  71. JNS,

    I am wrong and misjudging for attributing a motive to you? Forgive me for seeing a motive in someone who casts aspersions such a “greasy gospel stew” and “playing one more round” all the while ignoring the obvious context of Scriptural passages that are hostile to his position.

    “the Lord’s Anointed is the Messiah, and He’s the one we can’t reject without condemnation.”

    The Scriptures clearly present other people besides Jesus Christ as “the Lord’s Anointed” and they also clearly present the Lord’s prophets as people who cannot be ignored without being damned. The fact that you would so emphatically say something so demonstrably wrong is surprising.

    “If you want to elevate other people to that status, it’s obviously not something I can persuade you out of. But it’s equally obviously not something that the scriptures compel an attentive reader to do.”

    Again, flatly and demonstrably wrong. The Scripture unequivocally equate rejecting the Lord’s Prophets with rejecting the Lord. Saying that a person can reject Smith as a Prophet of the Lord and still accept Jesus Christ is completely anathema to everything the LDS Church is and represents. You are completely ignoring the entire Priesthood thing and all the ordinances and all of that. It is entirely impossible to reject Smith as the Prophet of the Lord and accept Jesus Christ. All of the ordinances administered through the LDS Church are essential for salvation, and you cannot have access to them without accepting Smith as a Prophet, and he is the one who restore the Priesthood. Even vicarious ordinance work is done on the earth through the Priesthood that the Lord had given to Smith to restore.

    I honestly cannot even imagine how you can reconcile these things in your mind. I mean, honestly, I am baffled that you would even think and say such a thing.

    “In the 20th century, this wide diversity of usages collapses into a near-universal equation of Lord’s Anointed with Church President. But earlier usages run the entire gamut of options that I proposed in the original roundtable.”

    Yeah, I turned up similar stuff from my Infobase too.
    These quotes are clearly problematic in their utility in addressing the question at hand. It is clear that in some cases the term is used to address missionaries who are declaring the gospel in the field and would therefore presumably be endowed, in the April 1880 Woodruff quote its plain he sees some disparity between the various groups. Overall inconclusive. I was hoping someone would be able to turn up something obscure where someone very specifically commented on the particular admonition to avoid evil speaking the Lord’s anointed and exactly who that referred to. The only thing quotes like this proves to me is there isnt a lot of consistency in the use of the term in general, and a specific lack of comment on the topic in question in specific. I dont see how you can use these passages to support your position, anymore than I could try to use them to support mine.

  72. ED, okay. I had thought that my central argument was that this phrase has many different usages and is sometimes used in broadly inclusive ways. So the evidence of multiple different usages seems supportive of that. But, oh well.

    For what it’s worth, I’m not ignoring any of the important stuff you say I’m ignoring. I’m just claiming that the gospel consists of different concepts, and that it’s useful to keep separate what the scriptures keep separate. This strikes me as orthodox and faithful; evidently it strikes you as otherwise. I suppose we should walk away from this disagreement. Cheers.

  73. JNS,

    You have not simply been discussing different usages, you have been championing one in specific and actively attacking the opposing position. Big difference.

  74. ED, I’ve argued against the usage that identifies “Anointed” specifically and only with church presidents, just because that usage has no scriptural or ritual basis. All the other usages are plausible to me, although some seem more useful than others. If you didn’t get this point, that explains some of the trouble in the conversation above.

  75. Um, JNS, nobody was arguing in favor of “the usage that identifies ‘Anointed’ specifically and only with church presidents.” I certainly wasnt arguing that position, and you were attacking my position. What explains the trouble in the conversation above is you not staying on point.

  76. “The longer this drags on, the more I am convinced the Lord’s Anointed in the original admonition in the Temple is Smith alone, and apparently the Presidents of the Church who hold the same set of keys he held by virtue of their Authority.” Oh, well. ED, were you a high school debater?

  77. JNS,

    This is an example of an acontextual proof text. This, combined with your attempt at insult, persuasively suggests I did not misjudge your motives, as you assert in comment 70.

    In comments #29, 50, 51, 65 and 69 I clearly state my position on who the “the Lord’s Anointed” are (i.e., the Lord’s hand-picked people: Kings of Israel like Saul and David, epochal Prophets like Moses and Isaiah, dispensation heads like Smith). I then added subsequent Presidents of the Church only by virtue of them holding the identical sets of keys Smith held. I then clearly stated in the last paragraph of comment 71 that the term “Anointed” had other utility outside of the context of the specific phrase this thread was originally intended to address. My statement in comment #75 is accurate, your reply in 76 is simply more sophistry designed to promote yourself at my expense, and not address the point at hand.

  78. ED, I don’t think anyone’s listening at this point, so there’s no question of promoting myself or you. The problem with your position is that any rigorous conception that includes all the presidents of the church must also include some broader set of people. It’s worth pointing out that no president since Joseph Smith has held all the keys Smith held. The debater point stands as an honest question — your rhetoric and tactics remind me of high school debaters I knew.

  79. JNS,

    Whether or not someone is listening is not the issue, my only interest is the topic at hand, namely who is “the Lord’s Anointed” that we are not to speak evil of. If there is no question of your seeking to promote yourself, then why continue with the insults?

    My rhetoric and tactics? You are casting aspersions and resorting to sophistry rather than engaging in a clean, honest discussion on the topic. It is difficult to see honesty in your motives when you engage in such behavior, as honest enquirers have no need for such things. Suggesting my “tactics” are on par with “high school debaters [you] knew” can hardly been seen as complimentary. If pointing out your methods are intrinsically flawed because they rely on insults and sophistry are the methods of high school debaters you once knew, then it seems likely you have consistently been engaging in this pattern for some time now, at least since your high school years.

    Of course Smith holds a unique set of keys as a dispensation head, but aside from that unique set, the subsequent Presidents of the Church hold the most comprehensive set of any mortal on earth as heirs to Smith’s position as principal leader of the Church. Obviously, if the disbursed set of keys represents the Lord’s complete set of authority for the Kingdom on Earth, then there is clearly respect that comes with the commission. Whether that qualifies an individual as the “the Lord’s Anointed” I am inclined to say, “No, they are probably not hand-picked as was Smith, but they hold the effectively equivalent set of Priesthood keys, so they are due the equivalent respect as though they were by virtue of the keys and not the calling, because their commission is to act as Smith would in his capacity as Prophet.”

  80. ED, I’m sorry for any insults, aspersions, or sophistry.

  81. This is kind of timely for me. Half my ward reads my blog, and last week I posted about my bishop’s lack of a sense of humor. I also said that he was a very good man, just – very serious. Last night someone from the church called, wanting me to come in to see the bishop. I didn’t answer the phone. I’m wondering if that’s what it’s about – if he feels that post qualified as evil speaking.

    If it is, I’m going to have a very hard time not rolling my eyes.