Analysis of Matthew L. Carpenter: `Fruit That Remains`

Carpenter Fruit that remains

One of the talks during the Saturday evening session of General Conference was given by Matthew L. Carpenter. His talk is highly focused on temple marriage and the blessings we can get from a temple marriage. Marriage is one of those concepts in Mormonism that seems to permeate every aspect of the church to some degree. However, it wasn’t always like this.


The footnotes for this talk are a bit disappointing. This is not a surprise considering there is almost no scriptural support for this subject. It is clear though that Joseph spoke about it to a degree in the late Nauvoo era, however for whatever reason he never felt the need to canonize anything on the subject.

In looking at the references though there are 11 talk references, 5 Doctrine and Covenants, 2 Bible references, and one handbook reference. The handbook reference should never happen in a conference talk honestly unless discussing the handbook. Appealing to the handbook as a source of truth is really not a good strategy. The 2 Bible references mentioned are just the same scripture twice so this doesn’t really count. Of the talk references there are 4 President Nelson references and 3 President Oaks references.

The talk itself though references President Nelson 5 times. This really means that the talk is almost entirely supported by the words of President Nelson. This frankly makes no sense for a supposedly scripturally based talk. If we are now basing our entire church doctrine on President Nelson, then we really should be honest about it. If we are not, then why is he overwhelmingly the most cited person in every talk.

Holy Ghost

Elder Carpenter begins his talk by discussing the Holy Ghost and how the Holy Ghost acts as the Holy Spirit of Promise by ratifying all our ordinances. This is official LDS church doctrine. However, it has a number of problems and goes directly against what Joseph taught on several occasions. The entire role of the Holy Ghost is also greatly misunderstood and was certainly changed several times from the early church to the beliefs today. According to official LDS doctrine the Holy Ghost is an unembodied member of the Godhead and is just waiting for a body for some reason. This idea however, would be seen as nonsensical in the Kirtland church.

I do though want to focus on the reasoning that Elder Carpenter uses in his talk. He mentions:

The Holy Ghost, in His divine role as the Holy Spirit of Promise, will seal each ordinance upon those who are faithful to their covenants so that it will be valid after mortality.

Matthew L. Carpenter

There are two primary objections I have with this statement. The first is that the Holy Ghost doesn’t exist in the concept that we think of him doing so in the LDS church and the Holy Ghost is not the Holy Spirit of Promise according to Joseph. In the early Kirtland era, the church held beliefs which were similar to modalism which means they believed that God was a single entity with three major distinct functions. This being God himself, Jesus as a manifestation of God in our reality, and a universal governing force called the Holy Ghost.

The best source for this would be the Lectures on Faith, which essentially was the lesson manual for the school of the prophets in Kirtland. In Lecture 5 it states that God is an entity of spirit, Christ is a physical entity, and the Holy Ghost is the shared mind between both entities. Again, this makes sense to me. In the standard LDS belief, why does God need a separate spiritual entity to do his work? Is he not capable of doing some things without a spiritual being like the Holy Ghost? Is this not really limiting to God? If the Holy Ghost just stopped doing his work on day, would God then be eternally limited?

Today, in our current D&C 130, in verses 22-23 it clearly states that God has a body, Christ does as well, and the Holy Ghost does not, but is a spirit instead. All three entities are completely separate individuals. This is pretty clear to a lot of people, and they don’t go further than this.

However, if we just take it one step further, we can see that this was canonized in 1876, without a vote of the church, and it was written by Willard Richards who wasn’t even there. The William Clayton account of this sermon, who we know was there, doesn’t mention this at all. Clayton may have just not written it, but I do think we should trust his account over someone that wasn’t even there.

In fairness, the Clayton account does mention:

The Holy Ghost is a personage, and a person cannot have the personage of the H. G. in his heart. A man may receive the gifts of the H. G, and the H. G. may descend upon a man but not to tarry with him.

Joseph Smith – William Clayton account

This could be seen as a change by Joseph, or it could still be compatible with Lecture 5 if we just relaxed definitions slightly. However, the Richards account, which we have canonized today as D&C 130, is a drastic departure. He wrote:

The Father has a body of flesh & bones as tangible as mans the Son also, but the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit.

Joseph Smith – Willard Richards account

If we, as a church, went back to the 1844 edition of the Doctrine & Covenants, which Joseph prepared before his death, then we would remove about 30 sections which shouldn’t be there in the first place. This would include altered beliefs like the Godhead, discerning of angels through a handshake, and of course polygamy.

Holy Spirit of Promise

The last objection I had to Elder Carpenter’s statement is concerning the meaning of the Holy Spirit of Promise. I will admit that this is kind of confusing and in some ways seems to be discussing the same thing. However, I believe there are some notable differences that are worth considering. As mentioned, Elder Carpenter links the Holy Ghost with the Holy Spirit of Promise, which is fine if you think of this as the general concept of God. Joseph was however clear that being sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise is completely different from what we describe today.

For instance, we can see this in a March 10th, 1844, discourse written by Franklin D. Richards. In this discourse Joseph equates the Holy Spirit of promise to obtaining our calling and election, or being promised exaltation. Joseph said:

By this we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise ie Elijah

To obtain this sealing is to make our calling and election sure which we ought to give all diligence to accomplish

Joseph Smith – Franklin D. Richards account

This of course is massively different from a passive concept that will ratify our ordinances if we just live good lives in accordance to the churches teachings. In another discourse during May 21st, 1843, which was written by James Burgess, Joseph mentioned:

First to be sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise that is the testimony of Jesus

Joseph Smith – James Burgess account

It is unclear specifically what testimony means in this case. However, in relation to the other descriptions of this concept then it appears that Joseph described this as a personal appearance of Christ. For instance, in a lengthy talk given on July 2nd, 1839, Joseph described two comforters. The first being the gift of the Holy Ghost whose only role is “pure intelligence”.

According to Joseph, the second comforter is a direct “face to face” relationship with Christ. Therefore, it seems that it would be logical to conclude that the Holy Spirit of Promise is actually God directly sealing the ordinances upon the individual. This would be when we reenter God’s presence like the Brother of Jared did in Ether 3. This does make sense to a degree, because it is entirely possible to get every LDS ordinance, through fraudulent means, and have them mean nothing eternally. The ordinance itself is not what changes anything, but God accepting us and the ordinance is what really matters.

To summarize this then, we do need to have ordinances such as baptism sealed upon us, however this sealing appears to be when God accepts us back into his presence. This calling and election is what we should be striving for continually. It is not a passive event that will happen due to our alignment with the church, but should be an active goal based on our alignment with God.

Single in Heaven

In the next major section of Elder Carpenter’s talk, he discusses marriage and how we should be in alignment with our spouse and with God. I completely agree with this. Marriage is a partnership in raising children and in perfecting ourselves as we deal with challenges. Inevitably marriage will be a struggle and is an opportunity to learn things about ourselves that would be more difficult otherwise.

Elder Carpenter though begins this section of his talk by quoting D&C 131 which seems appropriate. However, the language we have canonized is not actually what Joseph said. The record we have for this is a May 16th, 1843, account written by William Clayton. In his written account it reads:

He also said that in the celestial glory there was three heavens or degrees, and in order to obtain the highest a man must enter into this order of the priesthood and if he dont he cant obtain it.

Joseph Smith – William Clayton account

In comparing this against the canonized version then it is clear that the phrase “meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage” is completely omitted in the original. This phrase appears to be an addition by someone. In William Clayton’s account it does appear that the subject was marriage, however with notes like this we don’t always know since they are disjointed. Therefore, we really shouldn’t make assumptions especially with discourses like this that become canonized scripture.

The everlasting covenant also has nothing to do with marriage. It is very clear because if you look up the occurrences of this phrase in the scriptures then it always is speaking about the gospel or the pure and simple Doctrine of Christ. For instance, we can see this in JST Genesis 9, D&C 1, and D&C 22. The last one D&C 22 clearly mentions that baptism is a “new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning”. Therefore, the covenant is the covenant we make when we accept Christ and enter into his doctrine.

It is also important to note that Joseph never canonized D&C 130. It was canonized by Brigham without a vote of the people. I don’t know why we base so much of our doctrine on things like this that have such shaky foundations. Likely though, Brigham could have done almost anything, and the people would have agreed to it.

The thing I want to discuss though is what Elder Carpenter says here:

We learn here that one can be in the celestial kingdom, or dwell in the presence of God, and be single. But to be exalted in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, one must enter into marriage by the proper authority and then be true to the covenants made in that marriage.

Elder Carpenter

In Mormonism, this is a very common belief that we must be married to fully become like God. In support of this concept, Elder Carpenter references D&C 132. There is no shortage of people that have pointed out the problems with D&C 132. D&C 132 certainly shouldn’t be the only source for a claim like this. However, if we actually analyze the concept then we can clearly see that it doesn’t agree with scriptures or Jesus himself.

I have looked at this in some depth, however for simplicity I can briefly mention the objections here. In Matthew 19, Jesus was approached with a question about divorce. He answered the question by stating the true purpose of marriage and how it was an opportunity for a man and woman to reunite together into one flesh like Adam and Eve.

The apostles thought this was strange considering their very male dominated culture at the time. Jesus then remarked that marriage wasn’t for everyone and listed three major categorical exceptions. Of course, Jesus could just be saying these categories are consigned to an eternal state of being less than their potential or he could more likely just be saying that marriage is not what we claim it is.

Paul also confirms this in 1 Corinthians 7 where he says that the people should be single if they can, otherwise they should get married. This honestly makes a lot of sense. If you can devote your entire time to God, instead of worldly things, then that is a superior option. Therefore, it is strange to think God would punish these people eternally because they wanted to serve him better.

It is also strange to me that if something as easy as getting married is what is keeping someone from being exalted and achieving their full potential, then why would they not do it. Do we honestly think someone would become like God and qualify to be in his presence eternally and then just decide they don’t want to do this one easy thing and therefore limit their eternal potential.

This honestly makes no sense. It makes no sense that God would require marriage to be like him and it makes no sense that if it was a requirement that Godlike people wouldn’t do it. Paul was never married so is he going to be an angel forever? It also makes no sense because the group of people who qualify for the celestial kingdom would literally have to be exactly 50% men and 50% women otherwise there would be a single man or woman who couldn’t get married. Again, this makes no sense if you actually think about it.


The last thing I want to focus on is Elder Carpenter’s call for us to repent if we have done something unfortunate. Repentance is an amazing gift that a loving God allows for us. It is an opportunity for us to improve and realign ourselves with truth. I am so grateful to God for the opportunity I have to repent.

In the talk, Elder Carpenter does acknowledge that we need to return to Christ and repent of our mistakes. However, he also mentions that we should involve our Bishops in the process. He says here:

If you have broken your temple covenants, I urge you to turn to Jesus Christ, counsel with your bishop, repent, and open your soul to the mighty healing power available because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Elder Carpenter

As I mentioned, repentance is a wonderful gift from God. Elder Carpenter does mention Christ as part of the repentance process which I love to hear. However, Christ should be our entire repentance process. I am not sure why we need to involve the Bishop at all. Certainly, it makes sense to involve the Bishop if the mistake pertains to the church. However, if it is a personal issue then God is the only one that frankly matters. This is just another example of putting the LDS church between us and God. Do I really need the Bishop to tell me that I have been forgiven?

In the LDS church today, Bishops have assumed a mixed role between a spiritual and temporal shepherd. However, in the early church the calling was strictly temporal in nature. The first bishop Edward Partridge was called on February 4th, 1831 and was told “to leave his merchandise and to spend all his time in the labors of the church”. His calling was strictly to take care of the temporal needs of the church and the people, in return he was supported by the church. This is acknowledged in D&C 42. Then and now, the Bishop is supposed to be supported by the church.

Today we have it completely backwards. The Bishops are not supported by the church while performing many spiritual functions, however the “traveling high council“, which are the apostles, are supported by the church while performing many administrative functions. Joseph said, in a February 27th, 1835, revelation, that they shouldn’t have any authority in an organized stake of Zion. The revelation mentions:

They are the Twelve Apostles, who are called to the office of the Travelling High Council, who are to preside over the churches of the Saints, among the Gentiles, where there is no [stake] presidency established

Joseph Smith – February 27th, 1835

This is completely consistent with many other statements and actions of the early church. The apostles were to travel and setup stakes, while the stake presidencies were to govern their stakes and be responsible to the First Presidency of the church. Today, of course, we don’t do it that way. We instead rely on a very rigid structure of leaders. Some have said this is okay because we need “order” in the church. However, I challenge anyone to produce a revelation stating anything to that fact.

This seems to be the pattern though since at least April 11th, 1838, when apostles Thomas Marsh and David Patten, went to Far West, Missouri and unjustly excommunicated the stake presidency there. They then set themselves up as the temporary leaders of the stake. I am not saying the Stake Presidency wasn’t doing bad things. However, this pattern was certainly not the way it should have been handled.

It is also important to note that this event occurred after the church had already been turned over to Satan as God said would happen in Book of Commandments section 4. This does explain why some amazing people like Oliver Cowdrey were so cavalier in response to the church. He knew the church was no longer acting according to God’s will, so it didn’t really matter to him what they said.


There is a lot in this talk that is good and definitely helpful to consider. I think the teaching on marriage and our need to be faithful to our spouse and to God is certainly much needed today. It seems everywhere I look things are degenerating morally so concepts of personal responsibility and turning back to God are refreshing.

I believe however that a focus on marriage as essential and the passive attitude toward having our ordinances sealed by God is part of the spiritual problem we have today. In my view marriage is certainly a blessing and an opportunity for unique experiences. However, a focus on it in Mormonism is certainly misplaced.

Lastly, if I have violated my marriage promises to God or my spouse then the only people that need to worry about it are God and my spouse. There is no reason I need to involve the Bishop or the church. Yes, we should be honest with ourselves. However, I believe the focus on leaders “helping” us through the process of repentance is completely misplaced. There is nothing my Bishop can do, as far as my repentance is concerned, that I can’t do with God’s help alone. We do however need to have complete faith and trust in God and turn our entire lives over to him.

Author: Patrick