The followers of James J. Strang remained loyal to the foundation doctrine of the church–Authority in the Ministry–until 1939. Valid authority comes only through one called of God by the mouth of one holding that office; and ordained according to the law of God.

James J. Strang wrote: “…For as Aaron was called of God by the mouth of Moses, who held as high authority as that to which he called him, being both Prophet and High Priest, after the order of melchisedec; so no man lawfully taketh the priesthood unto himself, but he that is called by revelation of God, BY THE MOUTH OF ONE LAWFULLY IN THE PRIESTHOOD AND HOLDING AS HIGH AUTHORITY AS THAT TO WHICH HE CALLS.” (Gospel Herald, Oct. 7, 1847, p. 118/170) The law of God is specific on this subject. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, THE SAME IS A THIEF AND A ROBBER. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” (John 10:1)

At the 1939 General Conference, an elder by the name of H. C. Anderson made a motion to ordained six new high priests. “Resolution #3: “Motion made by Bro. H. C. Anderson that we ordain six more high priests, and seconded by Bro. John Wake,” was voted upon and carried unanimously.” This resolution was made by an elder, seconded by an elder, and voted on by the voice of the people.

The people—not a valid high priest—then called and voted on those who were to be ordained. “Motion was then made and seconded that Bro. Theron Drew be ordained to the High Priesthood. Voted and carried unanimously. Motion was made and seconded that Bro. Stephen West and Bro. H. C. Anderson be ordained to the High Priesthood. Voted and carried unanimously. Motion was made and seconded that Bro. John Wake be ordained to the High Priesthood. Voted and carried unanimously.”

By this rule, Brigham Young—who was called by the people—had a legitimate claim to the prophetic office. Bro. Strang wrote that the voice of man is not the voice of God. All of these ordinations were invalid. When a person claims to be a minister when not properly called and ordained, he becomes an anti-Christ—apostate. The term “Christ” means properly anointed or ordained.

Ordination to the priesthood is a very serious act. God declared in the Book of the Law of the Lord: “1. THOU shalt not take upon thyself the honour of the Priesthood; neither shalt thou confer this honour on any but him whom the Lord thy God shall call. For no man shall administer in the name of God, but he that is called by the revelation of God’s will, and set apart by the HANDS OF THOSE UPON WHOM THE AUTHORITY OF HIS NAME IS SEALED.” (p. 163)

The prophet James noted: “The Book of Mormon is not a text book among the Saints of the last days. In all their public controversies the Bible is the universal standard; but in their domestic affairs, the Book of the Law of the Lord IS THE END OF CONTROVERSY.” (James J. Strang, Northern Islander, Vol. 4, No. 51, Thursday, Sept. 7, 1854, p. 173)

The law “13 Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20) dates back to Adam when Cain killed his brother Able. The penalty in life was severe; and the penalty after mortal death—in the spirit—was even more grievous “15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that NO MURDERER HATH ETERNAL LIFE abiding in him.” (1 John 3) The Book of the Law of the Lord settles all questions concerning killing. “Thou shalt not kill. thou shalt slay no man in malice; neither thy child, nor thy wife, nor thy bondman, nor thy bondwoman, nor thy servant: nor the child of thy servant: neither shalt thou slay thine enemy, except thou admonish him, and entreat him, and he hear thee not, and God give him into thy hand: thou shalt only slay him in lawful war: and if any man trespass against thee, and break through, and do violence, thou shalt not slay him in revenge. If thou overtake him in the   trespass, thou mayest resist unto blood; but except thou slay him in the trespass, thou shalt deliver him to the Judge; he shall judge him, and the hand of the officer shall be on him.”

There only two conditions upon which a person may kill another: (1) protection of your own life only if necessary, and (2) in lawful war. The first is can be easily understood. The second advises us that the killing in war is authorized only by God in a war declared by the voice of God through His holy prophets.

The prophet James noted: “4. All killing by mobs, or bodies of unauthorized men, acting upon no matter what provocation, and not in open and legal war, belong to the category of mere murder. 5. Nor should that be regarded as legal war, which men by their law have authorized, but only that which the law of God authorizes. 6. Consequently, HE WHO VOLUNTARILY ENTERS UPON AN UNJUST WAR IS GUILTY OF MURDER. As part of the force, he is guilty, when death is inflicted by others. 7. Nor will he be justified, though required by the law of his country; for that which the law of God declares to be sin, man cannot make lawful. 8. It is, therefore, the duty of the Saints, to abstain from all wars which are not authorized by the express word of God, or the plain principles of his law; as from murder. 9. Many laws have been made among men, especially among barbarous nations, which are themselves opposed to the divine law, and enforced with the punishment of death. 10. To have any share, however indirectly, in enforcing such laws, or inflicting the penalties for their violation, is in the last degree culpable.”

The most grievous sin is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. “31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” (Jesus, Matt. 12) The second most grievous sin is killing. In the case of Cain, he will spend seven thousand years in hell; and only come forth in the second resurrection of the wicked.

It must be noted that only God calls men to the office of High Priest—not the vote of man. “1. THE Lord your God will choose FAITHFUL MEN, KEEPERS OF HIS LAW, examples in righteousness, to be Priests of the order of an endless life.” A murderer cannot be forgiven in this life. King David had a man killed so that he could have his wife. After Jesus resurrection, many others came forth; but, David’s bones were still in his sepulcher. He must pay the last farthing for his most evil deed. “15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that NO MURDERER HATH ETERNAL LILFE abiding in him.” (1 John 3) Since there is no forgiveness for a murderer during mortal life—and as Bro. Strang noted any who join the military are guilty of murder—it follow that none that join the military can baptized or hold any office in the priesthood.

Alas, Vernon Swift, Bruce Flanders, and William Shepard all volunteered for military service. George Mead wrote that he did not think that violating this law of God was a doctrine of the church. All knew the law of God. By the law of God they became guilty of murder. Yet, the voice of man saw fit to call them to the office of High Priest. Vernon Swift, Bruce Flanders, and George Mead actually sat as leaders in their church. Bruce Flanders taught from the pulpit that joining the military was permissible.

After the death of Bruce Flanders, Vernon called a conference in 2000, in which he called David Rees to be a high priest; although David had been found guilty of a felony—child pornography. He also called Bruce Flanders’ son David to the High Priesthood; even though his baptism was not legitimate. He also called William Shepard who was also a murderer. And such was the fall of the office of High Priest after the death of Lloyd Flanders.

All of the high priests in Voree/Burlington can have no claim to the priesthood. Religious beliefs are often the strongest. Marketers have learned long ago that you do not advertise to change behavior; but, only to fulfill wants and desires. When a person desires evil in the face of truth, God will send them strong delusion and then commit them to hell. “11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thess. 2) Those members who know the law of God—are commanded to read the Book of the Law all the days of their lives. The only recourse for them is the same as Jesus advised the seven churches in Asia: “5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works [baptism, etc.]; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Rev. 2)

Vernon Swift—who presumed to hold the high priesthood—was called as Presiding High Priest and illegally ordained at the 1952 General Conference by a teacher. ‘Sis. Cliffie West nominated Bro. Vernon Swift as the Presiding High Priest…’ ‘Bro. Vernon Swift was appointed the Presiding High Priest by vote of 17 to 16.” At this conference six more were called to be high priests by the voice of the people—even lay members.

The office of Presiding High Priest must be called and ordained by one with ruling/royal authority—only a prophet of God. The Book of the Law of the Lord—the end of controversy states: “2. Whosoever is called by the voice of God to the royal authority, shall be anointed and ordained by the hands of those who stand in royal authority above him:2 but he that is first, by the angels of God;3 that he may have all the gifts; even wisdom, knowledge, faith, revelation, prophecy; and whatsoever gift is good for the Chief Shepherd of the flock of God: that he may be able to rule in righteousness: and they for their several callings, among God’s flock.”

ALL OF THOSE CLAIMING TO BE HIGH PRIESTS IN VOREE ARE APOSTATES. Lloyd Flanders was the last high priest (now deceased). But there is more. At the 1961 General Conference the people voted to change their organization from an unincorporated body to a corporation—an appendage to the US Government. An individual can incorporate and maintain their identity. Not so with groups. When a group incorporates, they lose their original identity and simply become a part of the US Government.

This Voree group of apostates has claimed that Joseph Smith incorporated the church. How blind we become when we turn from God to satisfy our own opinions. There are two parts to the church: a temporal and a spiritual. The temporal part is the physical assets of the church. Joseph Smith did incorporate the assets and stood as Trustee in Trust—not as a prophet of God. This was clarified in the official church journal: Voree Herald (p. 38). “The Church was organized in Illinois under a statute of the State for the purpose of holding real estate, &c, in a corporate capacity, by making Joseph Smith… Trustee in Trust.”

The church under the leadership of Vernon Swift attempted to incorporate the spiritual part of the church. The Certificate of Incorporation identifies this new church as: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite).” Article 3 states: “The purpose of the corporation is to propagate and exemplify the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ; and it has absolutely no connection, ties, agency or affiliation with any other religious society.” This beyond any doubt identifies this corporation as new church without any connection to the original unincorporated church organized by Joseph Smith and continued through James J. Strang.

Article 7 states: “The management of the corporation shall be vested in a Presiding Council which may be also referred to as a Board of Directors, of not less than three (3) in number. The number of DIRECTORS CONSTITUTING THE FIRST PRESIDING COUNCIL…”

Article 8 states: “The Constitution or By-laws of this nonprofit corporation, as duly adopted on July 21, 1961… SHALL GOVERN THE ADMINISTRATION AND REGULATION OF THE AFFAIRS OF THE CORPORATION.”

Without any doubt, this new corporation church was a church of man—governed by a man-made law. The Constitution of this new church stated in Article 2: “The Prophet James J. Strang continued to lead the church by divine revelation, and after having established the Stake of Zion at Voree for the gathering of the Saints and having translated The Book of the Law of the Lord, with this law of God as their law.” Not a corporate constitution of man.

This corporate constitution declares in Article 4, Section 2: “Any person proven guilty of willfully VIOLATING the doctrine and discipline of this Church or THIS CONSTITUITON or who shall bring shame or disgrace upon the good name of the Church and/or its membership by the commission of a criminal offense MAY BE disfellowshipped or EXCOMMUNICATED from membership and Priesthood in the Church. Before any action may be taken by a Church Court either on the part of one member against another or with the Church as plaintiff, labor must be performed with that individual consistent with the laws and practices of the Church.”

This is another example of the apostasy of this church. James J. Strang in the official church journal—Voree Herald—gave the due process system of the church. “To cut a member off from the church it is necessary. 1st. that he be accused of some act forbidden, or of neglecting some thing commanded by the law of God.–2 nd, that he be brought or required to appear before some quorum of council having jurisdiction of both the person and the offence. 3d., that he have a trial. 4 th., that his defense be heard. 5 th., that on such trial he be condemned. 6 th., that sentence of excommunication be passed upon him.

“If any one of these facts be lacking the individual concerned is not cut off from the Church nor his standing therein in any way affected. The vote of excommunication in such case would be utterly void, and the Church have nothing to do but to disregard it. It is not even necessary to appeal from it, for the judgment being a mere nullity there is nothing to appeal from.” (p. 11)

Vernon called elder councils with elders that he knew were prejudiced against those accused. He actually thought to silence a person’s priesthood without laboring, without a proper trial, and by his own desires. This is totally in violation of the laws of the true church.

The Doctrine and Covenants of the church made this clear. “34. Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? 35. Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson— 36. That the rights of the Priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. 37. That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. 38. Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. 39. 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. 40. Hence many are called, but few are chosen. 41. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; 42. By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile–43. Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy. 44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death. 45. Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. 46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.” (Utah Section 121)

Vernon Swift and his wise men knew better. They made their corporate Constitution the law for their church. But, there is still more. They organized a new order of the priesthood to govern their church. Article 3, Section 1 states: “In the interim between the meetings of the General Conferences, the Council of High Priests shall constitute the Government of the Church…” There has never been such a Council of High Priests in the history of the church under Joseph Smith and James J. Strang because high priests hold no ruling authority. All ruling authority ended with the death of James. Only prophets of God are authorized to rule over the church and appoint Presiding High Priests.

Prophets of God are first and second degree Apostles. The Twelve Apostles are third degree Apostles. James spoke many times about third degree Apostles not having authority to stand at the head. In the Book of the Law of the Lord he wrote: “3. But high as is the Priesthood conferred on them, they have no right to stand in the place of the Lawgiver. They cannot fill the place of Prophet, Seer, Revelator and Translator. They have not the keys of mysteries and revelations. (D. & C. xi, 4. xiv, 1, 2. li, 2. ciii, 39.)

A major problem they encountered was this council was to consist of a majority of the high priests. When the 1955 General Conference voted to ordain many high priests, Vernon was not able to get a majority until these had passed away many years after the corporation church was organized.

Lloyd Flanders—the last high priest–wrote to Vernon Swift on Feb. 12, 1967: “…for as noted in my letter to you before: if we make the Ruling Council anything else but a Temporary High Council: we have set a man-made head on the Church: and are no better than other L.D.S. Bodies.”

He wrote to Vernon again on Nov. 25, 1969: “I regret ever having had the slightest thing to do with the charter for the Church: I regard it is a serious mistake ON MY PART: and I have repented of it and asked God’s forgiveness.”

This has been one of the saddest events in the history of the church. Prophecy tells us that only a very small remnant would remain. So it has. “8 And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. 9 Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.” (Isa. 1) “13 What thing shall I take to witness for thee? what thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? what shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion ? for thy breach is great like the sea: who can heal thee?” (Lam. 2)

There were three elders that stood against this corporation church; as it was a church of man and held no authority from God: Samuel E. West, Steve Barany (now deceased), and John Hajicek.

The genealogy of the priesthood of Samuel E. West is valid today. The prophet James J. Strang ordained L. D. Hickey one of the Twelve Apostles, who ordained Samuel Martin a High Priest, who ordained Lloyd Flanders a High Priest. In a meeting of the Voree Branch in 1956, Stephen West—elder—called Samuel E. West to the office of elder. The branch accepted this calling. He was ordained an elder by Lloyd Flanders on July 8, 1956. The priesthood of John Hajicek is also valid. I don’t have the genealogy of his priesthood.

There is hope for those who followed true ministers of God rather than an apostate corporation church.

“8 And thou, O tower of the flock [James J. Strang], the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem. 9 Now why dost thou cry out aloud? is there no king in thee? is thy counsellor perished? for pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail. 10 Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the LORD shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies.” (Micah 4)

Yours in authority from God, faith, hope, and love,

Samuel E. West
Elder in latter day Zion
July 4, 2016