Voice and Author-ity

A man woke in the middle of the night, and had many thoughts.  Let’s call him Tim.  He returned to sleep and in the morning he told the neighbors, “Skeletor woke me last night, and told me to go about doing bad things.”  The neighbors wondered at this saying, but figured the man was telling a joke.


The next night, the man again awoke, not of his own accord, and realized that again Skeletor had come and was giving much knowledge and instruction.  “Skeletor came again last night, woke me up and told me to start an Evil Horde,” he explained to his neighbors.  They went away wondering, did this Skeletor really come and wake him?  And if so, what might we do to enjoy his loud laughter and evil speaking of Eternia’s anointed?

We might ask some questions of this would-be disciple of Skeletor.

First, when you say, “Skeletor awoke me last night,” you mean you saw him, in the violet anger of his person, and looked upon his yellowed skull face?

So, he put his hand on you, shook you gently, and then roughly, whispering, “Man, wake up.  Hey, wake up.”  And you said, “Huh, wha?  who’s there…huh…mumblemumble…AHHH, Skeletor!!!”

And Skeletor said, “That’s right, fool!  Now I have awakened you, and I require you to do my evil bidding!”


And you said, “Hey, that’s totally cool, but it’s like 3 am.  I mean, I can’t do a whole lot of evil bidding right now.  I’m in my underwear, ahem, non-magical, as you’ve now heard; my hair’s a mess, and like, I gotta thing I gotta do.  You know, maybe come back in the morning?”

And Skeletor answered, “Fool! I have chosen you to restore the Evil Horde.  Look upon my face.  It is yellow and skully, and although I don’t have lips, yet I can pronounce my words without impediment.  It’s because I possess the power of Skeletor.  Feel my skull face, and my purple muscles.”

And you said, “dude, why don’t you come back later?  It’s like 3 in the morning.  But if that’ll get you out my bed, I guess I can feel your skull face.  Yeah, it’s a skull face alright.”

“Hah hah hah hah hah!!!”


So, we ask, was it like that?

No, the man replies, I mean I conversed with him in my mind, as he is wont to do.  But he was in your room? we ask.  Yes.  And you saw him?  Not with my natural eyes.  With which eyes, then?  In my mind’s eye.  Not in your skull?  So, you woke up, had some thoughts, and attributed them to a cartoon villain pictured in your mind, who had specially chosen you to restore the Evil Horde?  Yes.

Of course, we would say this man is misusing ordinary language.

When he says, “the Lord of Evil came to me,” he means, “I had some thoughts or feelings I attributed to Skeletor.”  When he claims, “Skeltor woke me up,” he means, “I woke up, and since I am not conscious of myself waking myself, I attributed that as an effect of a cartoon villain who had wondered into my room from the world of Filmation.”  He is asking us to do the interpretive work, or not.

Why not just describe things as they happened, rather than as he repaints them?

Others eager to hear from Skeletor might decide that perhaps this man has been chosen to bring back the Evil Horde, for it is possible, isn’t it?  What might I do, they inquire, in order to enjoy Skeletor’s nighttime wake-up call and special invitation?

Perhaps you must be X, Y, and Z.  Surely Skeletor doesn’t just visit anyone, as he pleases.  He is a busy villain, and wouldn’t waste his time hanging out with just anyone.  There must be something special about his chosen.

What seems be the deciding moment is when one decides to describe events in terms not entirely faithful to the reality experienced.  There is dishonesty in requiring others to unlock one’s words, and to show they mean something rather less definite than the picture they conjure up.  What would we call a man who says, “I saw an alien ship in the sky!”  Yet, after questioning, we learn he means, “I saw a cloud that looked like what I figure alien ships look like”?  If we must ask further questions to find out his words mean other than what we might call their “literal” meaning, we might say he is deceiving us.

Ah, the poet’s license: William Blake often said he spied angels here and there, but he was a poet, and did not credit these angels with having specific names and giving him practical instruction about how to act in this world, except in a general way he’d call “good.”  In cases like Blake’s we can leave unresolved whether he “really” saw angels or not.  Whatever he saw, he called them angels.

Tim’s case in the parable is different in an important way.

We could say to Tim, “You may attribute any author to your thoughts, to your unconscious actions, to pictures in your head.  But why not attribute them to a lesser being, rather than the greater?  Why must the Lord of Darkness be their author, rather than, say, Modulok or Chad?  Did he say something only Skeletor would say?”

Modulokplayed by Lou Scheimer  Chadplayed by Linda Gary

Surely, there are other beings in Eternia eager to converse with us, and why must every thought and waking up be credited to Skeletor?

In fact, why bother assigning an author to the voices in our head?  Except that by an author we hope to give our words authority?  The, “I heard from so-and-so” turn that presents some face as a mask to cover investigation into the merit our words?

But doesn’t the truth come whatever its source, and carry its own influence?  Do these voices really have an author?  Or is it more like a drawing using another being’s words, and those words are read from a script written by a team of writers, drawing on their own experiences with other voices, and so on?  Who, then, is the author?  A drawing named Chad?

Why say “Skeletor,” except that one can now begin an assault on Castle Greyskull, seeking for its power and throne?  Leaving aside obvious obligations to cite published authors in order to give credit, and avoid charges of plagiarism, Why can’t we just report something, a notion, a thought, an inspiration, and not assign an author when we don’t really have an author’s name or face to reference?

Of course, I am aware that some readers will instead be asking, “Is Daymon talking about X, Y, or Z?”  I am talking about this way of talking, regardless of who does it.


Note: Also, I am not denying the possibility of supernatural visitors.  In my own Cultural History I describe some invasions of my personal space by powerful thoughts, let’s call them; which I attributed to various named individuals.  Yet in no case did they instruct me to do such and such, except as it related to something I had written.  Mostly correcting me. There the invasion seemingly concluded.  Had I simply said, B.H. Roberts came to me, and told me what to write, I’d be, I think, less than truthful.  He didn’t tell me what to write, but some thoughts I’d describe as “not my own” suggested what I’d written was not quite right.

The question, of course, is: How do we decide which thoughts are “ours” and which to attribute to some other mind-invading entity?  Or, maybe the better question: Why bother assigning names and sources to thoughts?

Isn’t it enough we have good ones, and bad ones?  If a thought or sentence persuades us to do good, we can say it came from Christ.  Does that mean I can say, “Christ told me to do, say, feel, such-and-such”?  I don’t think so.  If I read C.S. Peirce, and his writings inform my thoughts, it would clearly be untruthful to say, “Peirce is telling me what to think,” except as I make it clear I mean, “The writings of Peirce, not the actual man.”

By talking as our Tim has in the parable, moreover, we make it more likely others will doubt someone else’s claims about really being visited by Skeletor, leaving them always in doubt that maybe this someone too was speaking metaphorically, or adding interpretation to description.  Adding an author does not dissolve our unbelief, rather it promotes it, and builds on the power of their name.  It would be more honest to not designate an author where we don’t have a face or a name.  Instead, we could speak of what was said, thought, felt, heard, and so on, and decide the merits of their meaning without worry of offending Skeletor or Chad.  This is an Article of Faith, perhaps.



  1. Very clever, Daymon. And worth consideration.

    Do they who come unto Christ only do so when they are “clubbed over the head” by Him? Or is He first discerned, perhaps, in “a still, small voice”, even “the voice of the Spirit” of the Lord?

    12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.
    13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
    14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.” (Moroni 7:12-14.)

    Now, clearly, no explicit requirement is given here, demanding that whatsoever “cometh of God” must be delivered by Him UPS (Unveiled Personal Service). Nevertheless, if it is “of God”, it ought not be attributed to the devil…er, I mean, Skeletor, don’t you agree?

    It takes a leap of faith to discern the voice of the Spirit from the voice of the devil. (And do we doubt, as well, that there is a “voice of the devil”, simply because we have not seen him?)

    It is troubling, even “doubt-inducing”, as you say, when “Tim” ascribes to the Author whatever he is testifying to. But the proof is in the pudding. The words do stand on their own (or, as you say “the truth…[carries] its own influence”)? When does one attain to that state when he might speak “in the name of God the Lord”? Only when Jesus manifests Himself bodily? What does this scripture mean?

    19 The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—
    20 But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;
    21 That faith also might increase in the earth[.] (D&C 1:19-21.)

    It takes faith to “hear” the voice of God, to recognize that voice as coming from God and to attribute to God His due, citing proper attribution (and thus avoiding “plagiarism”, as you quip).

    One recalls that the Brother of Jared never saw the Lord…until he did.

  2. Hey Daymon – Thanks for this reminder to use care in the way we describe or the words we use to describe what we see as spiritual experiences. Indeed I think this can have the effect of causing people to doubt more significant and perhaps authentic experiences of another person when they figure out that you’ve somewhat overstated your experience or inserted some of your additional interpretation. People may begin to say: ah, I see, so this must be what this person over here actually meant when he says the Lord spoke with me (or some other thing). Anyway, that’s my interpretation of what you’re saying, at least in part. Your stuff makes my brain explode.

  3. Something thing to consider, I think, is Nephi’s statement, “the Holy Ghost giveth author-ity that I should speak these things, and deny them not.” Now one may say that this is Nephi holding up some license from God to speak in His behalf, but if we remove it from our current use of the word “authority,” (which in our culture has mosly come to mean that if I claim it, then I am basically saying that God is giving me the right to Lord over others) then it is worthwhile to understand what Nephi was really saying.

    Scattered throughout the Book of Mormon author’s writings are familiar quotes from other “authors” such as Isaiah, Malachi, Zenos, Joseph and probably a whole slew of others we don’t recognize because we don’t have the original text from the brass plates. It seems to me that quite often one person is invoking inspired writings using another’s “voice.” Perhaps this is done so that there can be many witnesses to God’s expansive works, or maybe it simply comes down to variety. The B of M would be very boring if everything written was done in Nephi’s “I will go and do” literal style.

    Couldn’t at least one interpretation of Nephi’s acknowledgment be that the Holy Ghost gives one an ability to recognize a particular message from God imbedded in the voice of another’s expressions? In other words, if the “author” of all things good is Christ, then the Holy Ghost gives Nephi in this case the ability to cite Isaiah’s writings for the purposes of making a point in the context Nephi is describing (like to expound upon Lehi’s dream). Or when Christ links the words of Samuel the Lamanite to Malachi’s prophecy regarding Elijah. My understanding is that the Holy Ghost can “give author-ity” to those on an errand to deliver God’s message. So in Tim’s case, if it was from God, the Holy Ghost might “give” the words: “By the power of Grayskull!” to Tim to reveal something in regards to a message he was commissioned to deliver. Of course, this isn’t the best example because of Skeletor’s restoration of the evil horde, etc. (probably not the works of Christ).

    I suppose that it all comes down to the Holy Ghost. Apparently we are able to use its “power” to be able to discern what things are godly, and what are mere musings or inspired thoughts not connected to the will of God. Likewise, perhaps it gives us the ability to know when symbols embedded in music, poetry and art are being used by one to fulfill a specific commissioned purpose and when they are being abused to raise someone higher than his neighbors or to persuade them to give away their agency (or money). But I guess my point is that while an author (like Pierce) may not be telling a person what to say, there may be something embedded in his words (if they were inspired… And by the way, apparently the Gentiles will have the Holy Ghost “poured out” upon them at some point) which are given to one who may channel them for God’s purposes.

  4. Daymon, you make an excellent point. I, for one, agree. We need to be careful – no, we need to be certain – about the thoughts upon which we choose to act. Ascribing thoughts to the Lord, the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit or whatever you want to call your source of inspiration, is a process easily fraught with error. I know, I have experienced such errors many times. I’m grateful for the learning process.

    It’s also unusual in our culture to have someone share phrases such as, “I heard the Lord say to me,” or “I was talking to the Lord the other day…” We have a mind, capable of instruction from many sources. I delight in reading the thoughts of those who have studied, pondered and especially prayed over what they share for public consumption. Thank you for the free PDFs of your works over the past year. In also bought the books.

    Your post was entertaining, delightful to read and clearly brings up an important point worthy of discussion, one that has been debated, talked about, written about, forum’ed to death, pondered and prayed about ad infinitum over the millennia. We hear it over the pulpit, in the classroom and read it in the curriculum. Be careful about what voices you listen to, and maybe you should just listen to ours instead. After all, we’re prophets.

    By the way, I still wear my magic underwear.

    1. Thanks Tim. I think the daring you and others have shown, in talking about “inspiration” in a more defined way, has at least opened the discussion to what a prophet is, how we know the Lord’s voice or presence, and so on. But I do think such talk should be reframing the matter of revelation/inspiration, rather than merely taking on the old models, where a few chosen who dare say so, are viewed as having some unique access to the Lord. If we did away with the language, perhaps we’d all be both more humble and take our thoughts more seriously, as gifts. Please read the books, and let me know if your view of “restoration” changes?

  5. Seems we’ve reached an important step in the formation of a tentative article or declaration of what it means to claim to have received messengers, or to have heard voices from on high, etc. This, in turn, could pave the way to reframing our thoughts of faith as something other than believing what some dude says regarding a feeling or night “vision,” and now they invite (or some other verb of speaking) you to follow their counsel, or maybe you feel they have some special calling which you dub “being a prophet”, which you feel necessitates your marching forward in that belief in hopes for some anticipated reward (“belief + action” if i remember correctly). Discarding this notion of faith, what doors are now open to us as we see the word being used, in the BoM say?

    1. @ Chuck: Yes, this could be the first domino of many to come. When imagination meets common sense, I think we are close to the definitions I can support. Could “vision” now be used in the non-magical way, to simply become what Moroni calls a “hope for a better world”? (A “possibility?”) Likewise, could “faith” be the movements that reflect this “hope” as if it were a reality? Could a “seer” simply be one who aligns with God’s “vision” of things (surely giving us plenty of wiggle room to sort it out)? Could “word, power and very deed” be “vision, action based on the vision (faith) and fulfillment of said vision?”

      Of course, my notions could be off as well, but it’s fun to step out of the bog for a little bit and venture into new lands. If they lead to a dead end… fine. We just backtrack a little and then try another path.

  6. In my own effort to communicate with the heavens I have found that it actually takes faith. Faith converts the little voice in my head into a message from a heavenly being. I have found that exercising this type of faith increases faith i.e., if I make a sacrifice by following what I believe to have been the “mind and will of God,” I get rewarded with more faith-inspired communications from heaven. Whether or not I have actually received the “mind and will of God” is another question altogether.

    Maybe all of this confusion is based on our lack of understanding of the Holy Ghost. If the Holy Ghost is within me (maybe even a part of me), then who is the author of the voice when it has spoken the “mind and will of God?” Is it me, or is it God?

    I guess what I am asking is: if Skeletor stood in my presence (I felt his purple muscles and touched his yellow skull) and delivered a message, or he telepathically communicated it while he sat on his evil throne, what is the difference? I submit to the listener, there should be no difference. Sure, if you want to get technical one requires more faith than the other, but the action (not the effort) required to complete Skeletor’s evil bidding should be the same.

    Please correct me if I am wrong Daymon, but I am guessing that you are more interested in how the listener portrays this other-worldly communication to future listeners. Does Tim handicap his listeners by saying the voice came from God, or does he inspire faith in his listeners that they may not yet quite have? I am undecided. Probably both. That is why I think the responsibility rests with the second-hand listener, not the voice-directed messenger.

    False teachers have always been able to shroud false messages as the “mind and will of God.” However, by deciding which voice we choose to listen to, i.e., which voice we choose to put our faith in, we slowly transform our own mind into the “mind and will of God.” Elder Nelson’s voice and the words from Denver’s desk are not that much different from the voices in my head. If both claim the same source, I am left alone to choose.

    That is why I believe false claims of authority are exactly what we need as we learn how to hear His voice. It is from all of these competing voices, in our head or in the world, that we must choose. Only His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.

    1. I guess I would say, the difference between SK in your room, and sending you a mental text from his throne, is not significant, unless his account has been hacked. Could someone, say, the Sorceress appear as SK? It would seem so. All these questions of “who is speaking” and “are they trustworthy” I’m trying to rid us of. Rather than ask about source, it would be wiser to investigate content, and then, effects of belief. We need to look to the future of our words, not to their origins or sources.

      1. Thanks for the reply. I enjoyed the post, and totally agree with the point you’re trying to make. If the content of a message is a claim of authority, the content is very shallow indeed.

        I’m trying to imagine a world where the content of every message stands on its own. Very few messages in this world come to us unadulterated by authoritative claims. A change would take humble messengers and even humbler listeners.

      2. Daymon, I think your last phrase is brilliant: “We need to look to the future of our words, not to their origins or sources.” I’m thinking of this idea applied to the BoM origin discussions. I’ve read a lot about the controversies about its historicity, etc…it’s honestly not my pet issue and for me, it’s not the dealbreaker. But yes, the effects of the BoM into the future, not from the past, are why I continue to love the book.

        ps, totally off-topic, but I’ve read most of your books but have had a bear of a time getting them and figuring out how many there are, and in what order. I think that only some of them are (were) available on Amazon when I ordered them. Could you put together a list, in correct reading order, of all of your Cultural History books? And maybe also verify that they’re all listed on Amazon? That would help immensely!

  7. Here is a quote from the prologue to this post:

    If only those who recognize his voice will bear his name, than we are back to reality: a single thing or quality; not a relationship of processes and practices dependent on technology, inflection, language, venue, calendar and audience size. The Truth is spoken in a certain voice, and it cannot be imitated, except to those who are not of his sheep, but are the goats in sheep’s clothing, tares planted to confuse the wheat by accepting any counterfeit as true coin.


    I really want to see eye to eye with you Daymon. Here is where I am coming from:


    I thought it was appropriate since we are both talking about voices in our head AND sheep. Maybe this isn’t the best case study because I am not trying to assert authority on others and the voice itself didn’t offer any clear direction, but how do I determine if my account has been hacked? Bear in mind that up until recently my standard protocol was to focus on the source.

    The content of my message was based entirely on me choosing its source. In order to muster enough faith to repent, I needed (and still need to) believe the voice was authentically His. The voice did inspire a repentance of sorts, but many would say I am repenting to the wrong team!

    Maybe individuals can know if their account has been hacked, they are in fact the network administrators. But it is much harder for me to know if Tim’s firewall suffered a lapse of integrity.

    It is certainly an inefficient use of resources…trying to figure out if someone’s account has been hacked. If you have a functioning network with the God of Truth, why would you want to ask him about Tim’s network when you could ask Him directly about the content of the message?

    1. I think I agree, if I understand what you are saying. Maybe the voice in Priesthood was speaking in the plural, You, as in, You Guys?

      You are reflective in a way many others are not, about realizing that source drove the influence of the declarative sentence you heard. It’s a guess, of course, about it being one person’s voice or another. I suppose the only way to ‘know’ whether it was speaking truth or not, besides a ‘sense’ which as far as I can see, can only be provisionally encouraging, giving us hope; the only way to know, it seems, is to wait on the fruits. These are always ‘future’ events, of course, which means we must act with a hope that honesty and sincerity, acting without guile, and so on, will lead us aright, in the long run.

      1. Taking the analogy ever further, we might ask if God continues to use the same OS as he did back in the day. Since Christ “fulfilled all things,” including the Law of Moses with its strict adherence to obeying voiced commands, what if the “reboot” produced a system that is impervious to hacking? How would that be possible? If I no longer look to a “voice” to tell me what road to take, but rather follow the paths in front of me which are based on pure intent and desire, then some corrupting spirit can’t come in and lead me astray… or for that matter, to the Tree of Life. Note that all those in Lehi’s vision who held to the rod and ended up at the Tree became ashamed when they partook of the fruit (yet Nephi was very pro-iron rod, even though his father never held to it. He only cried for mercy.)

        The trick is knowing what is “good” and what is “evil,” because without some voice telling us what to do, it is left to our own judgment based on personal experience. That’s all the more reason to look carefully at the Lord’s work in Bountiful, and what he really was saying when he defined ‘perfection.’ It seems to me that he clearly shows how to judge if something is of him (has his author-ity), no matter whose mouth words may come from or what meaningful dreams and visions occur.

  8. So, we leave behind who we think said what, or what prompted us to do something, etc. We are left with content, which as AtoZ makes clear, may be something too difficult to consider on its own. Apparently the need for faith-as-trust (faith-as-excuse?) in thought-as-voice-of-god leading to sacrifice-for-reward is alive and well, in spite of all the carefully constructed thoughts to the contrary. I see here “faith” as necessary ingredient, then as catalyst, then as spiritual muscle requiring exercise…in just three sentences no less! The question I ask is “why these definitions of faith; to what end?” Fortunately the answer is provided us. See the subtle change of course in one comment from whether we care if what we’ve heard is god’s voice to whether we “receive his will”; the second presupposing god’s ever present voice/will in our heads (which is equated to the mind and will of the HG as well) with the real goal being “the big test”–will we submit to it by claiming to recognize (“convert” to) it and then obeying it (by sacrifice of course; can’t forget that sacrifice!)? I could be wrong, but I think there was a book written 180 years or so ago for the purpose of helping curing us of these kinds of thoughts about god and his work…

    A lot of content I see day-to-day says nothing (doesn’t even make a direct claim to authority except as its author is made public); it’s mostly slogans and declarative crap, said by no one to no one in particular (and yet to everyone in general, if you fall within certain demographic parameters), and is easy for anyone to say (as above), or even for computers to generate (as a previous entry on this blog has shown), one unrelated sentence after another, bolstered only by its speakers’ mojo, or the mojo of those whose names they would drop or otherwise add to one of their quotes. Things I see on TV (including news and so-called educational shows), on pretty much every blog I read (and I am discovering surprising reasons for the crap spewed out on blogs), and in the sacred speak of the LDS church from top to bottom (including general conference talks, church policies and manuals, sacrament meeting talks, class discussions, and even personal memorates), which only when carefully considered, with time, can show them for what they are. It is my experience that carefully considered reading of any content takes work…lots of work if you’re like me, with lots of double-checking. And, in case I’ve not been clear, neither do I believe matters of content to be a simple case for the the holy-ghost-cum-warm-and-fuzzies to solve, whose rumored job it is to serve as spiritual lie detector, else we are back to the same game (with some other complications).

    To risk insult as I try to help offer alternates to counter “I Am a Mormon-ism” and its latest spin-offs around “the brethren have probably gone astray or lost it, but, you know, we have here before us a ‘real’ prophet whom we should follow”, or “how to obey the spirit to second comfort-ism, thence to the throne of god-ism, aka ‘the three degrees'”, I wouldn’t say that the voice of Nelson being the the voice of Snuffer being the voice of AtoZ’s mind being the voice of god–a logic justified by the strange notion of faith as “because it’s probably a test, with reward of MORE faith (as more tests?), to see if I recognize it as such”, is any kind of endorsement of anything I would consider good–an assessment I base on extended examination and consideration, over time, of the content of their respective discourse…see paragraph above.

  9. Right on Chuck.
    You obviously echo Daymons words here and I second that. I aint following no body. Until an angel of, or the Lord Himself, Jesus, has mercy to visit me in my filthy nature, i will follow my gut instinct and not anyone of flesh or those who believe they are the ‘chosen’ ones.

    waiting for the real Servants of the vineyard, the Book of the Lamb and the Sealed Portion to come forth and END contention. Has happened yet!

  10. The question of equality is a curious one when the entirety of King Benjamin’s audience became prophetic and had the desire to do evil eradicated. Perhaps institutional sting is a distraction. We should expect equal treatment, and not hamper ourselves with “respecter of persons”-like assumptions about unworthiness.

    If there is evil in the flesh, as 2nd Nephi insists, then there isn’t just Skeletor. There is an inner betrayer that desires to commune with Skeletor, just as the light within us seeks outsiders. If Christ identifies the body as a temple, then why do we go about as if Descartes’ insistance (that we are meat machines) is preferable?

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