Dialogue

One of the main reasons I started this blog a couple years back was so that I could express my views anonymously and without retribution from the Church.  It was at a time where I was struggling and needed to vent.

As most of you know and as I have documented here numerous times, I have issues with the direction the Church seems to be heading.  Discovering that the wonderful Church of my youth is flawed and is “not true” to some of its founding principles and doctrines has been at times a very painful experience for me. Expressing why I feel that way and getting your feedback has been therapeutic.

I can’t say, however, I’ve had the same open-mindedness from Church leaders or generally from most Church members.  More times than not, even as a bishop, I was told to just be quiet, in some cases, to be more politically correct or sensitive or to repent.

I recall one of my own counselors while I was serving as bishop telling me I needed to be more careful about the things I said and felt.  I later found out that he reported me to my file leader for some things I had shared with a friend.

I have always disliked this idea of holding back what we’re really thinking.  Now, I understand that care must be taken to share or not share certain things in the presence of children or with those who may not be ready or wanting to contemplate certain ideas, but my experience in the Church is that we simply cannot talk about anything that may be viewed as controversial. Certainly we cannot do so in a civil and loving way.

This has made my Church experience lately even more difficult. I also think it has created a culture in the Church which is antithetical to open dialogue.

And so seeking to more openly vent my thoughts, I began this blog.  Here I wanted to be free to openly share whatever ideas I may be having.  I certainly can’t share my concerns about the Church’s decision to stay with Boy Scouts, an organization I view as broken and apostate, at Church or with many Church leaders or members.  Although I sure tried to as a bishop.  In fact, as bishop, I refused to sign the Scout Charter as Charter Head of the Troop and I refused to do Friends of Scouting.  This did not go over well with some, and with the wrong stake president, my tenure as bishop would have surely been shortened.

Now, having mentioned that, I was careful how I said what I said to the ward generally.  But, I was also very honest when I felt I could be.  I did not impose my ideas on others, however. As bishop I could have simply not called a scoutmaster or could have put someone in who hated scouts.  But because I knew Scouting was important to many of our ward members, we called the best person for the job and I supported ward members in their desire to have this program, despite the fact that I was opposed to it.

Other topics are taboo at Church as well.  Take the Word of Wisdom for example.  We had three or more adults addicted to opioids while I was bishop.  These were prominent people in the community and they were (likely still are) completely hooked on this awful drug.  BUT, as LDS people, especially in Utah, we don’t like to talk about our addictions.  And so a bishop who may wish to address such issues is likely to offend people in the ward.  And you certainly can’t tell the ward that you favor medical marijuana over opium use, as the Church has made it very clear that Utah will not allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for their patients experiencing chronic pain.  If not careful, you will be viewed as out of line with the Brethren on an issue.  So the unfortunate reality is silence or consequences from leadership.

And yet, many Mormons are so imbalanced when it comes to the Word of Wisdom.  The “world” drinks coffee, Mormons drink Coke and Red Bull and Monster.  Which is worse?  The world drinks alcohol, Mormons take anti-depressants or eat excessively.  (I recognize that non Mormons do this too, but Utah is the capital of anti-depressant use in the world).  The world watches rated R movies, while many Mormons struggle with pornography.  The list of moral and physical issues goes on and on.

As a bishop, from time to time, I suggested a person or two try to get off their meds (which they told me they and their doctors wanted them to) and to do as their LDS doctor was prescribing–to drink a cup of coffee in the morning to help them feel energy and to get out of bed.  In one instance a poor sister all but screamed at me and began to quote things about how blessed she was for “never” having broken the Word of Wisdom.  Not even once.  “Hidden treasures and running without being weary” etc.  Yet, this poor woman was so frail and unhealthy.  I did not perceive great wisdom in her, but rather great sadness and darkness.  Someone so obsessed with the letter of the law that she would rather die than consider to reason.  Mormons are not open minded in general about such things and we surely can’t talk about them.

Why?  Because we have a culture of not really “talking” to each other.

Well, it would be my preference–to be able to talk about most things in Church (that are appropriate for that setting) and most things with Mormon associates IN A WAY that is healthy. Healthy dialogue.

Most of you know that I have a sense of humor that often gets the best of me.  I post pictures that are at times a little shocking and I bring up controversial topics and share my ideas.  While doing so, I make an honest effort to use reason and logic, but I am quick to confess that my ideas are not always valid.  I admit that I do a little name calling when referring to certain people.  I shouldn’t call Elder McConkie “Bruce Almighty” for example.  It’s not nice.  But, I don’t do so angrily.  I don’t hate Elder McConkie. In fact he was one of my favorite leaders as a young man.  I would certainly show respect to him if I was having a conversation with him or was in a Church setting.  I employ such titles to be funny, because I despise the unearned and undue reverence we give to the Brethren.  Heck, if my name was Bruce (and it might be 😉 – and you called me Bruce Almighty, I would think it was funny, especially if I knew you loved me.

I wish I was more like some of you.  I love it when someone replies to my posts with a thoughtful counter argument.  Some of you do that so well.  So much better than I do.  Whether you know it or not, you persuade me.  If nothing else, you persuade me to be more like you in your approach.  More loving, more kind, more intelligent.

Most of you know that I lean conservative / libertarian.  But I have plenty of friends and people who I love who are more liberal in their ideas.  It’s true we don’t see eye to eye on some things, but we respect each other.  We may even tease each other.  But we love each other and try to persuade each other. I love it when these friends of mine are persuaded by some of my ideas and when I am able to perhaps better understand where they’re coming from.

This is what I love about this blogging experience.  I feel comfortable bringing up a topic and I love to see the healthy dialogue back and forth.  I’m disheartened, however, when someone says something like “Well, AB I thought you were awesome, but after this post, I just wanted to tell you, you’ve lost a reader.”  I don’t mind that you won’t read anymore.  I don’t mind that you disagree with me.  I admit that I’m a nobody just sharing his ideas.  BUT, I wish you would try to persuade me.  I wish you would share why you think I’m wrong so that I can learn from you.  I don’t intend to offend, but you simply prove my point that as Mormons, we can’t discuss anything when you throw in the towel so easily.

I personally don’t like to argue.  I took a harsher than normal tone with a commenter the other day who I felt was just mocking.  I feel badly and I apologize to that sister.  I’d love to hear her thoughts on why she believes allowing girls into Boy Scouts is a good idea.  I’d love to hear her reasons for why the Church should or shouldn’t support such an idea.  But, to simply laugh at my ideas or to threaten to never come back, robs us all of the opportunity to engage in healthy discussions, that I for one, don’t think exist at Church very often, if ever.

With that, I extend to all of you, my hand of friendship.  I know we think differently.  I know we are each just trying to figure things out in life.  I support you and love you.  Even though I don’t know many of you.  I thank you for being here and for supporting me as I vent and share.  God is good and Christ is our Savior.  I am pretty sure that most everyone here will agree with that.

Peace to you all,

AB

GBSA?

 

So it was like 100 years ago where some really nice person decided to form an all girls organization that would encourage among many things, female solidarity and women’s roles and virtues.

Way back then, no one seemed to care whether those private groups quote unquote discriminated against the opposite sex in such an endeavor.  In fact, for many years back then, many women didn’t even care that only men could vote.  Why? Because most men that owned land had a wife who more times than not, informed her husband’s views and balanced his ideas out.  Call it old fashioned, but the man generally voted for his family and their collective interests.  Just like the man went to war (for his family and his country) or went to work at some factory, while his wife took the harder job of staying home raising kids, running a small farm, and taking care of a busy household.

But somewhere along the way the concept of female “equality” came into the discussion.  Never mind that men and women are different.  We’ve now evolved into more sensitive and enlightened and openminded humans.  So openminded that our brains have fallen out.

We’ve broken the glass ceiling alright.  In fact we’ve broken the whole damn building.

So it should be no surprise to anyone that immediately after the Boy Scouts decided it was the right thing to do to let transgender children participate in scouting, the National Organization for Women (NOW) petitioned BSA to also allow girls into Boy Scouts.  Here’s the story for anyone who may have missed it.

The article begins with:

After many years of divisiveness, the Boy Scouts of America have opened their ranks to gay and transgender boys. Yet a different membership dispute persists: a long-shot campaign to let girls join the BSA so they have a chance to earn the prestigious status of Eagle Scout.

Just last week, after the BSA announced it would admit transgender boys, the National Organization for Women issued a statement urging the 106-year-old youth organization to allow girls to join as well. NOW said it was inspired by the efforts of a 15-year-old New York City girl to emulate her older brother, who is an Eagle Scout.

This despite the fact that girls ALREADY have their own organization!

Meanwhile the LDS Church is still pondering thoughtfully what it should do about the transgender issue.  That’s code by the way, for they’re waiting to see if there’s any huge groundswell of anger against BSA before it makes any rash decisions.

Does anyone really believe that the Church was not notified by BSA before changing such an important policy?  One they knew could affect the vital, mammoth support of its largest donor?

What’s interesting about this new twist is there is a work around for the NOW girls:  They simply need to tell their little girl applicants to say they are boys.  Kind of like a border crosser who speaks no English but somehow, when being arrested, knows how to scream and spell the word “asylum” with no hint of an accent.

“Transgender” is the new code word I suppose for these girls who feel left out.

On a serious note I’m very saddened that this little girl’s parents would allow their daughter to decide at age 9 that she’s a boy! She has not even hit puberty yet!  My gosh, how many little nine years olds would even know what any of that means!  You can’t buy cigarettes at age nine.  You can’t drink or drive or vote or have legal sex, BUT you can decide that you are a different sex than your body parts indicate, apparently.

Shame on her mom (not sure where dad is) for allowing her daughter to discuss what it means to be transgender at such a tender, innocent age.  My kids still believe in Santa Claus at that age.  Oh and by the way, cut any little girls hair and guess what! They look like a cute little boy!

Shame on Boy Scouts for supporting this mother and for now encouraging God knows how many other young, confused children to make such a serious decision so early on.

Shame on the Church for not running from BSA like a person would run from a fire.  It’s almost too late to run at this point, without the Church being criticized for having stayed in so long. Could you imagine if Planned Parenthood was the “activity arm” of Relief Society?  That’s about the equivalence of where we are with Scouting.

I assume that eventually some young man who got cut from the NBA will claim he’s now a woman and be able to be the star of the WNBA.  Why not?  I’m just waiting for that lawsuit.

Did you read the recent article about the transgender guy who went to prison with the ladies and who was “moved” because “she” was having consensual sex with all the women?  I’m not sure where they moved him/her but I’m guessing he’s meeting with ACLU lawyers as we speak.

At this point, how does the Church in good conscience say they have no sympathy for the Ordain Women movement?  The Church gives 10s of millions of dollars to an organization that allows “girls” (who say they are boys) to participate in what the Church considers to be the activity arm of the priesthood.

Maybe it doesn’t allow transgender children to participate in LDS troops (yet), but those same kids will be having activities in the Thomas Monson Lodge and at Church paid for campsites all over the country.

For kids not in Utah, who are wanting to get their Eagle award — They WILL likely have to more closely affiliate with these new individuals and in will be placed in these awkward situations.

I guarantee you the Church is not going to soften its emphasis on young men receiving their Eagle award.  Just like 4 years of seminary, getting your Eagle is one of the check boxes expected of a young man in the Church before entering the MTC.

I’ve said it before, but if nothing else the Church should at least eliminate the affiliation question from the temple recommend interview.  Anyone who affiliates with Boy Scouts of America in any way today, affiliates with those who oppose our teachings and beliefs.  Boy Scouts HAS become an apostate organization, unworthy of our investment and clearly an unworthy partner in rearing our young men.  Both gay, straight, or other.

Just as a side note, as someone living in Utah, I’ve noticed a lot more LDS people jumping on the LGBTQ and women’s rights bandwagons of late.  Like many of you I could not believe my eyes when I looked at the pictures on the news recently of people with huge “female parts” on their heads here in our very state in parades marching against President Trump, who they ironically say does not respect women and their parts.

As Wayne would say, “Exsueeze me?”  HE doesn’t respect women?!  HOW about you parading around with an exposed larger than life female organ on your head might not be respecting women?!

(Even I can’t bring myself to add a picture here)

And yet, somehow more and more LDS folks seem to be jumping on the bandwagon for these progressive issues.  I say go for it, it’s your God-given right and I don’t condemn you. But, Church leaders may want to take note.  Because I think it’s been since they “changed their stance” on such issues that more LDS people have started supporting these causes.  I could be wrong.

I laugh a little though because some of these Molly Mormons have no idea what door they are opening.  Maybe one of them should go to Berkeley with a Trump hat on as a social experiment to see what kinds of people they are teaming up with.

These people protesting conservatism (or Trump or whatever) wouldn’t even let a gay man, Milo Yiannopoulos, speak at Berkeley and they PEPPER SPRAYED this beautiful, intelligent young, courageous woman peacefully expressing her opinions!  Not to mention millions of dollars damage to taxpayer subsidized property.

So if you’re an open minded, progressive, LDS person, these are your contemporaries.  These are your amazing civil rights leaders.  Maybe you should spend some more time with them next time before you go buy that organ costume online.

As for me, I say it’s a sad day where evil is called good and good called evil.  Anyone who does not see this “slouch towards Gomorrah” is blind and the Church does not seem to be helping the situation by towing the PC line.

Zeus and the Zormonites

A friend of mine gave an excellent talk last week in his ward about the Zoramites.  His humble prayer was that his audience might see some of the parallels between them and us as Latter-day Saints.  Sadly, the message fell upon deaf ears.

I ask the same question my friend posed in his talk: Are we like the Zoramites of old time?  If so, how?

In Alma 31 we find the account.

 13 For they had a place built up in the center of their synagogue, a place for standing, which was high above the head; and the top thereof would only admit one person. (Is this so different than our “stand”?  Set above the congregation, whereupon only the most faithful sit and speak?)

 14 Therefore, whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand upon the top thereof, and stretch forth his hands towards heaven, and cry with a loud voice, saying:

 15 Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever.  (Surely this was not what truly displeased Alma — the Zoramites were simply expressing their acknowledgement of God’s holiness.  And to say He is Spirit is also not a contradiction to our beliefs.  Remember Ammon’s response to the Lamanite king asking if God was the Great Spirit?  Ammon’s response was “Yes!”  Of course Mormons will emphasize that God is also flesh and bones, resurrected, etc. BUT to say He is also Spirit cannot be what angered Alma.)

 16 Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ.  (Now is where I think Alma becomes truly upset.  But as LDS we too often speak of how blessed we are to be “set apart” from everyone else — the only true and living church — elected and foreordained to come forth in these the last days as God’s most valiant spirits.  With Holy Prophets, Seers, and Revelators — rejecting the Childishness of our Gentile Fathers who, per Bruce R. McConkie, not only had it all wrong, but who worshipped Satan and were members of the Church of the Great Whore who sat upon the Waters.  Truly WE are a chosen people.  Now on the issue of there being ‘no Christ,’ this would have upset Alma too, IMO, BUT are we any different if  we do not know how to speak of Him or if we do not properly worship Him?  Do we, like the Zoramites, accidentally deny Christ because we believe that “God has given his power to men” so that He is no longer needed here?)

 17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.  (Much of the same.  Elected, special, most valiant, set apart, better than all others.  But I will say that our ‘damning to hell’ of other faiths has softened over the years.  As a young man I recall a much greater urgency to preach the gospel because we feared that any who rejected or did not accept the gospel in this life would go to hell.  BUT today us Mormons teach a much nicer message.   As funny as it may sound, the Zoramites actually may have been more correct than today’s Mormonites who teach that there is no hell.  Just glory for everyone.  Oh and by the way, we will do your work for you when you die, so no worries.)

 18 And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.  (We do this a lot too.  ‘Thank you Lord that we are chosen and that we live in this blessed Valley, away from all the Gentiles, set apart able to teetotal without anyone making fun of us.  White shirted and long skirted.  I.e. Special.’)

 19 Now it came to pass that after Alma and his brethren and his sons had heard these prayers, they were astonished beyond all measure.

 20 For behold, every man did go forth and offer up these same prayers.  (Do we offer the same vain and repetitive prayers?  Let’s be honest.   I say the answer is yes.  ‘Please help us to get home safely and bless all those who are not here that they can come next week and bless these cookies to nourish and strengthen our bodies.  We’re grateful that we are so blessed, that we have the truth and that we cannot be led astray by our holy prophets.’)

And so I ask again, are there parallels between us and the Zoramites?  Would Alma and his brethren be impressed or saddened and angered by what they would observe in our meetings?  Or would they be more likely to agree with Joseph Smith who said:

How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.137)

Today in fast and testimony meeting, I think there was only one testimony that even spoke of Christ.  But, even that testimony ended in how blessed we are to have a prophet to guide our Church that can never be led astray.  All the other testimonies were about our bishopric and about the leaders of the Church, especially Thomas S. Monson.  Funny enough the comment in one of the last testimonies said it best: “There has been a good spirit here today.”  What does that even mean?  Is it a confession that THE Spirit was not present, but that some Casper the Friendly Ghost spirit was in fact, in attendance? Who made us feel sleepy and happy and warm?

Bruce Almighty, aka Zeus McConkie

The god of Mormon Doctrine is no other than Bruce R. McConkie.  He not only “wrote the book” on doctrine but he was also the son-in-law to Joseph Fielding Smith, a man also known for his “doctrinal prowess.”  Surrounded by other great Mormon scholars and academics such as Hugh Nibley, Eugene England, Mark E. Petersen, and N. Eldon Tanner, Bruce set himself apart and became the doctrinal go-to-guy of his day.

This last week I read a great blogpost about McConkie’s beliefs on Jesus Christ.  Keep in mind as you read this that this is the same man who said only two weeks before he died:

And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person. I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears. But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way.

And yet in McConkie’s talk he warned us that we should NOT worship Christ or seek some special relationship with Him! Here is a part of that talk as quoted in the blog titled, Peace in Paradise:

The Mainstream of the Church

Now I know that some may be offended at the counsel that they should not strive for a special and personal relationship with Christ. It will seem to them as though I am speaking out against mother love, or Americanism, or the little red schoolhouse. But I am not. There is a fine line here over which true worshipers will not step.

It is true that there may, with propriety, be a special relationship with a wife, with children, with friends, with teachers, with the beasts of the field and the fowls of the sky and the lilies of the valley. But the very moment anyone singles out one member of the Godhead as the almost sole recipient of his devotion, to the exclusion of the others, that is the moment when spiritual instability begins to replace sense and reason.

The proper course for all of us is to stay in the mainstream of the Church. This is the Lord’s Church, and it is led by the spirit of inspiration, and the practice of the Church constitutes the interpretation of the scripture.

And you have never heard one of the First Presidency or the Twelve, who hold the keys of the kingdom, and who are appointed to see that we are not “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14)—you have never heard one of them advocate this excessive zeal that calls for gaining a so-called special and personal relationship with Christ.

You have heard them teach and testify of the ministry and mission of the Lord Jesus, using the most persuasive and powerful language at their command. But never, never at any time have they taught or endorsed the inordinate or intemperate zeal that encourages endless, sometimes day-long prayers, in order to gain a personal relationship with the Savior.

Those who truly love the Lord and who worship the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Spirit, according to the approved patterns, maintain a reverential barrier between themselves and all the members of the Godhead.

I am well aware that some who have prayed for endless hours feel they have a special and personal relationship with Christ that they never had before. I wonder if this is any or so much different, however, from the feelings of fanatical sectarians who with glassy eyes and fiery tongues assure us they have been saved by grace and are assured of a place with the Lord in a heavenly abode, when in fact they have never even received the fullness of the gospel.

I wonder if it is not part of Lucifer’s system to make people feel they are special friends of Jesus when in fact they are not following the normal and usual pattern of worship found in the true Church.

Let me remind you to stay in the course chartered by the Church. It is the Lord’s Church, and he will not permit it to be led astray. If we take the counsel that comes from the prophets and seers, we will pursue the course that is pleasing to the Lord.

Would it be amiss if I reminded you that Jesus maintained a reserve between him and his disciples and that he did not allow them the same intimacy with him that they had with each other? This was particularly true after his resurrection.

For instance, when Mary Magdalene, in a great outpouring of love and devotion, sought to embrace the risen Lord, her hands were stayed. “Touch me not,” he said. Between her and him, no matter what the degree of their love, there was a line over which she could not pass. And yet, almost immediately thereafter, a whole group of faithful women held that same Lord by the feet, and, we cannot doubt, bathed his wounded feet with their tears.

It is a fine and sacred line, but clearly there is a difference between a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord, which is improper, and one of worshipful adoration, which yet maintains the required reserve between us and him who has bought us with his blood (my emphasis added).

Okay, I’m sorry but this is where I become a little unhinged. Ironically a large part of this talk was written to rebuke George Pace for having written about our opportunity to develop a personal relationship with Christ.  Much like the time when McConkie reprimanded Brother England with a letter that said in part:

It is my province to teach to the Church what the doctrine is. It is your province to echo what I say or to remain silent.

I shall write in kindness and in plainness and perhaps with sharpness. I want you to know that I am extending to you the hand of fellowship though I hold over you at the same time, the scepter of judgment.

I say it’s Elder McConkie who deserves to be rebuked.  For teaching false doctrine.  And the Brethren who never corrected his false doctrine openly.  (A committee found almost 1100 errors in Mormon Doctrine, very few of which were corrected)

I hope any reading this will have the courage to stand with me against such unrighteous dominion.

Since Elder McConkie is now on the other side of the veil, he can answer to the true Holy Prophets who said the following things in scripture that contradict his words that we should NOT worship Christ:

2 Nephi 26:12

And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God.  (It almost appears that McConkie’s statements on behalf of the Gentile Church were foreseen by Nephi — He obviously needs to be convinced that Jesus is GOD and is worthy of our worship!)

And then there’s Jacob 7, where Sherem calls out the Nephites for “the worship of a being which ye say shall come many hundred years hence.” 

2 Nephi 25:26

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins… And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.

There are so many more scriptures that contradict McConkie. You can read them in Jacob 4, Mosiah 18, Alma 7, Alma 15, Alma 21, Alma 22, Alma 31, 34, 44, 45, 3 Nephi 2, 11, 21, 4 Nephi, and in many other places in the scriptures.

The example in 3 Nephi when those in attendance prayed to and worshipped Him.  Or in the New Testament when while still in mortality, women and apostles and others bowed down and worshipped the King of Kings, with their tears and their oinments and kisses.  Jesus did not rebuke them as did the angel when John bowed to “his fellow servant.”  There was no fine line as McConkie warned — just worship of the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Now, in fairness, I am not a doctrinal go-to-guy.  I admit that I don’t know exactly who it is we pray to.  I don’t know exactly how to worship God the Father and His Son.  But the scriptures tell me, and my heart tells me to seek this God Jesus who died for me.  To fall down at His feet and to praise Him.  He is my God and I want Him to be my Father.

As for Zeus and the Zormonites, I invite you to repent of your worship of men.  Of your idolatry.  Of your vain repetitions. Your holy pulpits and your teleprompters.  Of your fine twined linen — your nice suits – that which you call the uniform of the priesthood.  Of your grinding upon the faces of the poor by building up your fine sanctuaries with funds that should be consecrated to bringing meat into the the Lord’s storehouse.

May we repent together and come unto Him.

The Profit

I’ve mentioned before that I have two deal breaking issues with the Church.

  1. Do the Brethren see the Lord or not?
  2. And are they or are they not a part of the lay ministry we boast about?

A recent comment on this blog sums up my concern better than I can on the issue of the Brethren’s “special witness.”  In part he says:

“I would call the current situation one of ‘deception by omission,’ because the top officers must know that many members believe that divine visitations are common among the higher ranks. The leaders allow this perception to exist and be perpetuated without challenge. Growing up in the church, I was taught by low and mid-level teachers and officers that the first presidency and the apostles know Christ personally, and that divine appearances in the temple are not uncommon.”

This idea of deception by omission, when I first considered it years ago and contemplated its implications, became a turning point for me.  That was when the wheels started to fall off my paradigm.

Up until that point, not only did I believe that their witness was literal, but I also believed that they had achieved their witness by possessing strong faith and by having a firm mind in every form of godliness (Moroni 7:30).  Which as you know is the pre-requisite for seeing Angels.  To see the Lord, the Brethren must practically be Angels…  So I thought.

But instead I began to feel mislead.  I began to see this issue as an honesty issue.  What kind of person would lie or mislead someone about something so sacred!?  That idea began to stir in me and caused me tremendous grief.

I became curious about the idea of a lay ministry. Having served as a bishop and in bishoprics and on high councils, I knew first hand that we were not paid.  Not at the local level.  But as a bishop I began to notice some very strange things about the way certain people in my ward paid tithing.  I noticed that General Authorities didn’t pay tithing through the ward at all. For that matter, they didn’t come to me or my counselors for their temple recommends either.  Not seeing their tithing, I had no idea whether they were paid by the Church or not.

It wasn’t until I came across the leaked Mission Presidents Handbook that my suspicions on their “non-layness” were confirmed.  Interestingly at about the same time I discovered this Handbook, I asked a member of my ward, who I had recommended to serve as a mission president, and who had just received his call, IF this was all true.  My friend turned beet red and began to stutter.  He eventually said, “I’ve sworn to secrecy that I will not discuss this.”

Well, that confirmed it.  I had to then assume that the Brethren above Mission Presidents were also paid.  But how much?

Admittedly, I assumed that some of the Brethren had to be paid something.  I did not begrudge them some kind of housing, food, and travel assistance.  I eased my mind by considering that they likely lived the Law of Consecration — a rumor I had heard many times.  It made a lot of sense to me too.  After all, if they were meeting with Jesus every Thursday, why would they not be living a higher law?  Even if only among themselves.

I envisioned that men like Gary Stevenson would come into the Quorum of the Seventy and would give all they had to the Church.  And that anyone among the Seventy or the Twelve that needed some minimal assistance would be able to receive it from the consecrated funds.  Someone like Thomas Monson after all would not likely have a valuable pension or social security benefit when he became an apostle at the age of 36.

So to receive “assistance” to live a modest life was never an idea that bothered me.

But then I began to hear rumors that the Brethren were paid exorbitant amounts of money.  Like, millions of dollars — Signing bonuses, huge salaries, pay increases for advancement and seniority, black credit cards…

These rumors alarmed me and made me want to know whether I had accidentally lied to all the people I’ve ever told, while holding up a picture of the leaders of the Church, that we were different (better) than all the other churches because “No one in our Church was paid to do anything.  It’s a completely lay ministry.”

Back to this idea of “deception by omission” — I was concerned enough as it was about possibly being wrong about the Brethren’s benefits, but now I was confronted with the idea that they let me, in fact, they encouraged me to mislead people by never correcting the record.

Well, in the last few years I’ve been able to confirm a few more details on what our Church leaders make, which has now been corroborated with the most recent news. 

Here is my opinion today what they do and don’t make and what benefits I believe they have:

  • No signing bonuses
  • No mortgage or debt pay offs
  • No unlimited Black Amex benefits
  • No pay increase or pay disparity among the Brethren.  Once a 70 or higher, they receive the same “living allowance.”
  • “Living allowance” is $120,000 per year.
  • Great health benefits.
  • Free tuition at BYU or tuition paid at any university for children under age 26 up to the equivalent value of BYU’s tuition cost.
  • Great life insurance so their family is taken care of when they die.
  • Car allowances.
  • House allowances.
  • All travel, and lodging, food and entertainment while traveling are paid for.  This includes First Class airfare.

I’m also left to assume that there is some tax benefit to calling it a living allowance from a 501c3.  This is hinted at in the Mission President’s Handbook by the direction given to NOT report these benefits to tax advisors or on a tax return.

Now the argument I hear even from some is that most of these good men were wealthy before their callings and that full time Church service was not only a sacrifice in every way, but also represented a huge pay cut.

This argument is spelled out by Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Kirby entitled Wait’ll You See How Much the Mormon Church Pays Me.

I find Kirby’s piece humorous, but I think his overall point is to downplay the amounts the Brethren are paid as kind of a “Well, that’s nowhere near enough money for me” and so no one should have a problem with it.  He says:

Now that we seem to know what LDS leaders are paid, it’s still OK with me. I say this because I wouldn’t do it for that much. Not even close.

If you were to pay me for wearing a necktie even to bed, while simultaneously trying to keep people on the straight and narrow without a machine gun, it would have to be at least seven figures, each and every one of them a nine.

I earn a lot less than that as a newspaper columnist. How much? Well, it’s none of your *&#@% business, is it? I do what I do for what I make because it’s an acceptable bargain between myself and a tough editor.

Sadly, I think we Mormons are conditioned to say the kinds of things Kirby says.  I actually happen to know thousands of people who WOULD do what these men do and they would do it for FREE!  They would do it for the glory, prestige, power, and/or for the value of service.  In fact many elderly couples do do this sort of thing for free, without any glory, all the time.  The Church sells it to them as a wonderful opportunity to live in Africa for the low low price of only $1400 per month.

Stake presidents and bishops, many or whom work 40-60 hours per week already and then have added to them 20-30 hours of church service, do it for free already Mr. Kirby.

This argument that these men do something special and that they took a pay cut for, frankly, ticks me off.  They should want to do it for free.  Since when do we need to justify that Apostles of the Lord should be paid large salaries?  Most of them are called when they already have pensions and retirements and social security in place.  So why are we talking about pay cuts? Do we really want to believe that President Monson, who is paid the equivalent of $240,000 or more a year, WOULD BE MAKING MORE IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR?  AT AGE 89?  I’m sorry but anyone willing to pay Thomas Monson in his current mental state and at his age $240k a year is a complete moron.  The argument is disingenuous at best, especially given that we boldly declare that these men are not paid anything.

A great blog post was recently written on this topic.  I highly recommend it.  In it the author covers the history of minister salaries in the latter-day Church.  But, for me the biggest issue is that we all are taught and are encouraged to teach that there is no paid ministry — the Brethren know we teach this — and NO ONE CORRECTS the record.  This is a dishonest omission of facts.

Simultaneously Senator Gordon Smith argues in the executive committees of the 12 that the other Christian religions participate in the dangerous practice of priestcraft, all while we are apparently innocent of such abhorrent practices.  Why did the Brethren not correct the record with Senator Smith, in that private setting?

I’m sorry my friends, but $120,000 per year in “living allowance” plus all the other great benefits adding up to at least $240,000 per year is a far cry from a lay ministry.  I wish the Church would at least be honest about it instead of misleading everyone.

For Alma it was far more cut and dry:

And notwithstanding the many labors which I have performed in the church, I have never received so much as even one senine for my labor; neither has any of my brethren, save it were in the judgment-seat; and then we have received only according to law for our time (Alma 30:33).

Our church leaders have taken millions of senines and yet some of them still profit from their personal enterprises as well. Doesn’t sound like much of a sacrifice to me.  It’s certainly not what we preach it to be:  A Lay Ministry.  In fact, I wonder if LDS Church leaders actually make more than other various religious leaders around the world.  Either way, the leaders of the Church should come clean and set the record straight on the issue and allow Church members to decide for themselves if the money we pay them is appropriate or not.

Too Sacred

touch-his-side

In following Mormon tradition that “some things are too sacred to share,” perhaps we should remove from our canon and our speech all references to any man or woman beholding the resurrected Lord.  We should eliminate Mary’s testimony from the Garden Tomb.  It’s simply too sacred.  We should take out the experience of the Road to Emmaus of Cleopas and the unnamed disciple who walked with Him for nearly the whole day where they were taught by their Lord in a way that caused their bosoms to burn within them.  As Donald Trump would say, “Take ’em out.”  Sacred speech is kind of like hate speech after all because it makes people feel uncomfortable.  The story of Stephen as he’s being stoned, seeing the Risen Lord even on the very right hand of God.  Saul, meeting the Lord on his way to Damascus.  Peter and the Twelve eating with the Lord, who entered the room by walking through a wall.  Thomas bowing to kiss His feet and touch His hands after doubting His resurrection.

Then of course there’s the Book of Mormon.  Lehi seeing our Father on His Throne.  Nephi being taken to a very high mountain by our Lord and becoming a witness to all of His Creation.  Jacob who saw Him face to face.  Enos, who prayed all day and all night until the Lord called Him Blessed and forgave him of his sins.  Alma, Benjamin, Mosiah, Alma the Younger, Ammon, Amulek, Omner, Himni, King Lamoni and his father, and their wives and their households, ALL of whom beheld Him and were taught by Angels and who were redeemed by our Lord.  Mormon, Ether, Mohonri, Moroni and many many more.  All too sacred.

There is a new and more appropriate, sophisticated way of sharing such experiences:

“There are things simply too sacred to share, but I AM a special witness of Jesus Christ.  An apostle.  A seer.  A revelator.  I  KNOW He lives.”  “As if I had been there…”  “I would know Him no more then, than I do now…”

This way, nothing sacred is cast before swine and even better, because you do not provide detail — those listening are able to imagine wonderful and special things in their minds that remain as vague as our doctrines and as boring as our meetings have become.

A Temple

There’s been a lot of discussion of late regarding a new temple fund that both members and non-members are donating to.  Before the LDS Church established tithing as the mechanism to pay for temples, “temple funds” were very common.

In the early days of the Church and according to Malachi, tithing was for the purpose of bringing “meat into the storehouse” so as to care for the poor.  Whereas a temple fund was for the purpose of building “a” temple.  Once that temple was completed (i.e. Kirtland), the temple fund was no longer needed.

Of course today, the Church has decided to bring the temples to the people.  This is a subject for a different day, but suffice it to say that this idea does not seem to reconcile with scripture nor with anything Joseph Smith taught.  There is no prophecy I know of that says temples will dot the earth, from Joseph, Jesus, or in the Holy Scriptures.  The prophecy as I understand it, is to build temples in two places, New and Old Jerusalem.

Understandably there are many who are worried that some random group starting a temple fund seems premature at best and inappropriate (and/or crazy) at worst.  After all, “we don’t have the authority to build a temple or to create Zion, that’s the Church’s stewardship”… right?

I can certainly relate to those who have concerns about this project.

On one hand, it’s amazing to think that at some point if we’re lucky enough in our lifetime, a new temple will be built in the New Jerusalem on this the American continent.  And a city will be built up to the Most High God called Zion.  Like many of you, I’ve yearned for this day and have prayed many times that me and many others would be so lucky to live to see it.

On the other hand, what if this is all a hoax and people are being led astray?

Like many of you, for most of my life I’ve assumed the Church would build both temples in New and Old Jerusalem and would establish Zion.

I used to ask Hugh Nibley (whose ward I belonged to for a brief period) questions about this very topic.  I had just read his book Approaching Zion.  “What event will cause the Church to move its headquarters to Independence?”  I would ask.  “Does the Heber C. Kimball prophecy of ‘not even an old yellow dog being left to wag its tail’ need to be fulfilled first?”  “Will an earthquake hit Salt Lake City, thus cleansing the inner vessel, and cause the Church to go back to Missouri?”

Brother Nibley was always cordial about my questions but would usually quickly act as though he had other things to do.

My questions and ideas are very different today however.

I do not seek to offend anyone reading this, but I don’t see the Church as currently being capable of building Zion.  Nor do I see Zion being in Independence, Missouri.  And sadly, I don’t believe that a prophet, like an Isaiah, or a John the Baptist, or Joseph Smith can rise up in leadership in the Church today.

And so how will it work?  How will it all happen?  How will Zion come to pass and how will a city and temple be built?  To be completely honest, I’m not sure.  What will the forerunner of the Messiah’s second coming look like?  What will he say and do?  How many will believe that messenger or those servants that are sent?

I’m generally a skeptic.  Like many of you, I’ve been disappointed by men many times before.  But if a group of people seek to raise funds to build what they believe will be the Temple of the New Jerusalem, why should I want to stop them?  Or want to see them fail?

I’d rather be foolishly trying to support Zion than to accidentally fight against it.

Let’s say for example that the people involved in this project raise $5M and end up running off with the money.  Or build some strange building that looks like a compound in Waco, Texas.  For me, that would be a great way to see if the Lord is truly in this effort or not.  I’m assuming the Church has wasted our money in the past.  Why would this be any worse?  If this is from God, we will know soon enough (Acts 5:38).

Some of you may be especially sensitive to the concept of church waste since just this last week we discovered that the Church leaders are paid very healthy salaries.  At least $120,000 each, putting our “lay ministers” in the top 10% income bracket in the U.S.  Add amazing health insurance and life insurance and pensions and social security benefits and reimbursed travel and food and education for their families and book royalties to this package and these “lay ministers” cost us tithe-payers (directly or indirectly – it’s all the same source of money) more than $5 million a year that’s for sure.  The saddest part about this is that most of us have been led to believe or have been told that our church leaders are not paid anything.  See Thomas Monson website as one example.

So for me, giving to this effort seems to be a no-brainer, especially given that it can be done anonymously.  I’d certainly consider giving money to a homeless person to build a house.  Or to any sincere group of people trying to raise money to build a synagogue or a church building or Masonic Lodge or a food pantry.  No one here is being asked to sacrifice their china, sell their home or their cars.  No one is being asked to make a sacrifice that hurts or to even donate at all.

So why not?  Why not give to this effort and see what happens?  What would be the worst thing that could come from it?

I love the quote from Joseph Smith who said “It is better to feed ten impostors than to run the risk of turning away one honest petition.”  I’d rather give in this case than not, just in case this is the Lord’s project.

In fact, it would be a great strategy for the Church to fund this project.  It would be the quickest way to see if this movement is from God or not.  The Church donates money to other organizations all the time — to Catholic Charities, the Red Cross, to rodeos, businesses, posh theaters, and to the BSA etc., all of whom by the way, have motives not always aligned with our own, or with the church’s vision of building Zion.

So why not give?  What do we have to lose?

If 100,000 people all give $100 to this effort, they’d raise $10,000,000, which I’d think would be enough to buy some land and build a temple.  Would you pay $100 to find out if this effort will lead to Zion?  I would.

And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.  1 Nephi 13:37

I Know Nothing

Every so often I hear myself communicating with some measure of implied or assumed authority.  I apologize for the times I do.  The truth is I really don’t “know” anything or at least I know very little.

Even as a bishop I did not like to say in my testimony that “I know God lives, or that Jesus is the Christ, or that the Book of Mormon is true.”  I prefer to say that I believe, perhaps even with all my heart, that such things are true.  But I don’t like to say “I know.”  The truth is, I only believe most things.

I don’t mean to criticize anyone who believes they do know things.  Some of you may “know” much.  For me though, I believe, and I want to believe more and receive more and don’t want God to think I have all that I want.  I love the example of Abraham who “sought Him earnestly.”  This seeking seems to suggest that he did not stop searching.  That he was inquisitive and unassuming before meeting the Lord.  His reward?  “My name is Jehovah…” and the incredible knowledge that followed, not the least of which was the knowledge of God and the receipt of his Exaltation.  Or the example of Moses who said:

I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him: for his glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee. Depart hence, Satan.

Too often I think we beat each other over the heads with our testimonies.  As a missionary we were instructed at times to dust our feet, so to speak, in leaving our testimonies with someone who disagreed with us.  What a mistake that is in my view.

I think the end result for most of us still in the “belief” stage who share our testimonies in this way, or our perceived “knowledge” is to offend the receiver of our words, rather than to convert them.

Sadly, I think we Mormons tend to be very passive aggressive although we may not realize it.  I believe one of the chief reasons that we can’t discuss anything in church is due to this tendency we have.  I see the same in many comments online, including on this blog.

For many years I found myself arguing with others in gospel discussions, which in looking back I think we can all agree, goes counter to all that the gospel actually is.  I think part of my problem was that I often felt threatened by the ideas or decisions of others, especially those I loved.  Now I see that I was insecure and full of pride, not full of love, as I had thought.  I want to be better at discussing ideas with others and in loving people despite differences of opinion.

I also no longer like it when someone says “The Lord told me to do or say such and such…”   Again, I don’t mean to be critical.  Most of us have done this to one degree or another.  I certainly have.  But, again, I think the effect of this practice generally shuts down communication and ends what could be healthy conversations and relationships.

I would so much prefer to hear someone say, “I think the Lord is trying to tell me to do such and such…”  Or “I feel very strongly that I’m being guided, but I simply don’t know… I’m acting on faith…”

One of my best friends in life is so good at this.  Ironically, I believe he is closer to the Lord than anyone I know.  And yet he rarely uses the Lord’s name in such a way.  When we discuss gospel ideas, and I know he knows what he’s talking about, he is still very careful to not force his ideas on me with such statements as “the Lord revealed to me that this idea is true… etc.”  I love this trait in my friend.  He reminds me that anyone’s ideas may have merit and to be careful to not simply dismiss them, even if they are just free lancing as most of us are.

As I look back upon certain statements I’ve made over the years, I’m embarrassed.  Perhaps I’ve informed a congregation that the Lord or the Spirit has just revealed something to me.  Or that the Lord has told me to call them or that the Spirit told me to go somewhere.  Am I doing this to set myself up as a light?  To elicit an effect?  To make myself look good?  To appear more in tune than others?  Do I speak with assumed-authority and throw scriptures at people to beat them down instead of lift them up?  I’ve been there and still repeat such mistakes.  I seek forgiveness.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we aren’t ever guided.  It’s not that the Lord can’t or doesn’t speak to us.  But, perhaps often we think He is speaking where He may not be.  Or perhaps He is communicating something with us that we simply misunderstand.  Or worse, some other force may actually be inspiring us and we think and claim it is the Lord.  Why not simply err on the side of complete humility unless the Lord commands otherwise, literally (not maybe).

I seek to engage with others in a way that is more kind and patient and unassuming.  Less authoritative.  After all, what do most of us really know?  We are less than the dust of the earth are we not?  We are nothing, which thing perhaps we should begin to suppose.

Now, some of you may be saying “Well, AB what about you and your criticisms of the church and some of its leaders?  Isn’t that unkind?”  I think that’s a very fair question.

It’s a challenge for me because like many of you, I’ve learned some things about the Church that have been hard to digest.  I have experienced something akin to what I’d call the mourning of the loss of something very dear to me.  Like most of you, the Church was my identity for almost my entire life.

I spent a few years very angry when I began to realize the Church wasn’t as true as I had thought.  Not true to the restoration at least.  Not true to Joseph Smith or to the Book of Mormon.  Or to the Savior.  Or to the truth.  And frankly, not true to the poor or to the sick or to those struggling in so many ways.

This discovery for me of truth that had been withheld or perverted inspired some anger, I admit.  I don’t feel that way so much anymore.  But the mourning stages for me were real and were painful.

An important distinction I make though is that the Brethren AND any other man or woman who claims to be a prophet places a burden upon those in their midst to discern if their message is true or false.  Beware of false prophets we are taught!  That goes for Thomas or Denver or any human who makes claims of open veils and revelations.  It becomes our duty to expose or to believe.  It is my understanding that choosing wrongly, leads us to unbelief and misjudgment, things we will held accountable for.

I’m always reminded of how hard it must have been to believe Joseph was a true messenger.  Even many of those who first believed, ended up betraying him in the end.  Are we any different or better?  And then what about John the Baptist?  Or Jesus?  Even the Son of God came in such a way that most did not believe His message.  It must have been even worse for Isaiah and Jeremiah and Lehi and Nephi and all the other holy prophets.

So if I am critical and am sinning, I ask for your forgiveness.  For God’s forgiveness.  But for now, I believe it is my duty to discern and expose and/or believe and share.  I don’t do so with any authority and I attempt to only do so in an unassuming way — in a way that hopefully helps others seek the Lord, and not men.  Certainly to not follow men in an idolatrous way as we are so prone to do.

I am hopeful that this year God will bless us to love better and to grow in greater light and knowledge.  Especially those of us who claim or think we are awake.  Who are here reading these blogs.  I hope that as we discuss these things together it can be in a way that is thoughtful and profound.  So much is at stake in discovering the truth and in being redeemed.

God bless us all in 2017,

AB

The Last Demon

I’ve always thought it interesting that in Mosiah he states that Jesus will come and “shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.”  This teaching seems to suggest that most of us have evil spirits which possess us.  Notice it does not say “evil spirits which may dwell, or who dwell in some or in many….”  It simply and plainly suggests that evil spirits dwell in our hearts.

Perhaps the Temple depiction is most correct where Satan promises that the spirits which follow after him shall possess the bodies that God creates for Adam and Eve.

I think many of us will agree that it seems odd that there is such an emphasis on “evil spirits” during Christ’s ministry, but nearly no emphasis on the subject today save but for the few Catholics who are seen as less than emotionally stable for their exorcisms.

And yet even Mary Magdalene was possessed with devils.  Seven of them to be exact.

What if all of us have demons which possess us?  And what if this is why and how we sin?

I love the story found in Mark chapter 5:2-20:

And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.  And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.  And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.  And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.  And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.  And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.  And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.  And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.  And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.  And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.

This story seems to suggest that some people have more than one evil spirit.  Can you imagine, that perhaps this man had 2,000 devils or evil spirits that dwelt with him?  One for each of the swine?  I wonder what influence each evil spirit had in this man’s life.

There are so many great stories in the New Testament that can instruct us on how to deal with evil spirits.  For example, Jesus scolds his disciples when they failed to cast out an evil spirit from a small child:

And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.  (Mark 9:29)

I’ve wondered lately if evil spirits aren’t not only more common than we think, but that rather they are the reason we feel tendencies towards certain sins.

What if when I am quick to anger, it is a rogue unredeemed spirit that may even be a deceased ancestor of mine, who seeks to “help” me or influence me?  Would my deceased ancestor not qualify potentially for a spirit who has chosen to follow after the devil and who is in his power in his current state?

What if I am feeling especially carnal?  Worldly?  Judgmental?  Dishonest?  Depressed?  Arrogant?  Sexual?  Could these not be evil spirits trying to influence me?

It’s funny how we assume so much.  We’d rather assume that such vices are due to our own fallen nature than to contemplate that such influences may be coming from the devils sworn to inhabit and control our bodies.

It is my current opinion that we, as mortals, are subject to being possessed.  And that the only remedy is that we fast and pray that Christ casts out the evil spirits that dwell in each of us.  I do not recommend paying for some person or for some conference that “teaches you” how to cast them out.  I invite you to turn to the Master in fasting and in prayer.  He and only He can assist you in overcoming these evil spirits.

I am humbled by the idea that even when our house is clean, then and especially then, are evil spirits most desirous to possess our house.

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.  And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.  Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.  (Luke 11:24-26)

Christ is our healer.  He can cast out the evil spirits that dwell in us and prevent us from redemption.  That is master mayhem’s goal after all, to keep us from Christ’s redemptive powers.  If he can do so through deceiving even the very elect, by inspiring the teachings of the precepts of men, as inspired by his false priests whom he has raised up on the other side of the veil, then he will find happiness in his victory for a season and we shall lose our souls.

Perhaps many of our ills are inspired by his evil forces who find the chinks in our armor. Perhaps the goal is to overcome every demon until they are all cast out.  And we become new creatures?  To go no more out?  Maybe that’s what it means to receive the Holy Ghost?  Maybe our spirits become awakened and unencumbered in that state?   With no more disposition to do evil?

God help us as we strive to have Satan overcome in our lives and as we seek to receive the Holy Ghost.

The Publicity Dilemma

book-of-mormon

Mormonism is heading in a new direction.

In times past, Church leaders fought very hard to limit or stamp out completely any anti-Mormon pamphleteers near Temple Square.  Today they are donating millions of dollars to a new theater that will play The Book of Mormon musical, a production that mocks and scorns our faith.  It’s the worst kind of anti-Mormon material, laced with humor and all kinds of sacrilegious innuendo.  But, for reasons unknown to many faithful Saints, the Church has effectively now endorsed its existence in Salt Lake City.

What else will the new Eccles Theater play?  Kinky Boots, Dirty Dancing, and who knows, maybe eventually some adult cabaret, all brought to you “in part” by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Some will argue that the Church is making the best of what they call the the Publicity Dilemma?  Which for those of you who are familiar with media terms, it’s like the no news is bad news principle where some think that just being in the news is good.  And so rather than complain about bad publicity, why not seize the opportunity?  Following this line of thinking, perhaps we should put ads for the Word of Wisdom at bars and on beer bottles in Salt Lake City in addition to Book of Mormon ads in the Book of Mormon musical’s billfold.

Of course the Church, some will say, is just doing its part to show the world that Salt Lake City is sophisticated and open-minded in every way.  This effort seemed to really take shape during the Salt Lake Olympics, led of course by Mitt Romney, with a lot of say from the Church, where every effort was made to not come off as too churchy or religious.

Such an approach, some will argue, is evidence that the Church is trying very hard to attract high dollar converts.  Great skiing, a party atmosphere, $3M condos above the $5B City Creek Mall, a sleek and posh downtown, and cutting edge LGBT laws, all will bring to Salt Lake City and to the Church, affluent, intelligent, sensitive converts, who rather than being future Church welfare recipients, will be high dollar tithing donors.

In somewhat recent news, the Church allowed Mitt Romney to hurl insults and allegations at then presidential candidate Donald Trump.  Among other things, he called him a phony, a fraud, and a crook.  He even criticized his red hats.  All at the Hinckley Institute in the Church’s own backyard.  Yet there was no repudiation of his un-Christian remarks.  No threat to his membership for embarrassing the Church.  And worst of all, no apologies from Romney himself for his traitorous conduct.

Then the Church decided to vicariously support (through Romney – their political point man) Evan McMullin to be the General Election spoiler.  I can’t tell you how many Mormon friends of mine tweeted or Facebooked how “grateful they were to finally have a candidate they could vote for that did not offend their consciences.”  None of those people apparently cared that a vote for Evan, the 40 year-old-bachelor-spy who had never changed a diaper let alone balanced a serious budget, was a vote for Hillary Clinton.  Perhaps Mitt could help spoil the election with this clean and articulate nobody and come in on a white horse to be the ever so amazing alternative when Trump or Hillary did not secure the nomination.  Such poor judgment from those who claim discernment and inspiration.

Now, Mr. Trump shows incredible “grace” as he entertains the Traitor-in-Chief Mitt Romney as his Secretary of State.  As many watch Romney they are slow to disconnect him from his Church.  Here he comes off as self-motivated, fake, petty, shallow, and back stabbing.  Of course all Mormons are not like this, but anyone who has lived in Utah long enough knows there are far too many like Mitt here.  The very flawed Trump has a lot more integrity than Mitt in my book.

Of course the Church was also quick to change its tune and to congratulate Mr. Trump when he won the election.  And as for Romney, he is now like an interviewee for the new stake president position — all coifed and primped to make his best appearance.  How sad.  If Romney had an ounce of integrity, he would turn down an opportunity to serve with a man he so recently loathed so much.  I personally think Trump is playing Romney to show to what lengths he will grovel.  Sad that Romney’s zeal for the position does not allow him to see he is being made fun of.  But as they say, no news is bad news, and hence the dilemma.

The Church’s latest publicity efforts have been with refugees.  Who isn’t sympathetic after all to displaced Syrian and Middle Eastern families who are now homeless?  Anyone with a heart wants to help these people.  But the Church wants to be front and center in showing the world how Christian we are, despite the risks of Jihadists that may slip through the cracks.  I wonder if the Church would change its tune if it was BYU that just had a refugee drive his car into a crowd of students on its campus, stabbing 10 or so people before being shot dead by police.  It’s all about the Thanksgiving photo op with Mohamed and Fatima and their children in Salt Lake City.  After all, Elder Uchdorf was a refugee.  Maybe this too will help expand our base and improve our brand.

syrian-refugees

The Church has clearly changed its stance on immigration in general.  Too many Hispanic illegals in Church office in the US apparently helped soften the Church’s stance on the rule of law.

I’ve been very clear that I do not like this new direction.  The promotion of smut and blasphemy in Salt Lake City, the Church building projects that promote fine twined linen and lust.  The hubris of Mitt (and the Church) of thinking for a second that their efforts would lead to undermining Trump.  Even Rock Watterman predicted Trump would win the election.   A strange irony since the Church excommunicated him for simply having a blog.  Rock, by the Church’s definition can’t have the Holy Ghost.  But Rock was right.  All while Cruz, Romney, Kasich, Lee and all the never Trumpers (i.e. nearly the entire government establishment) and the Church swore he could not and would not win.  The continued pandering to groups that hate the Church.  The ceaseless idolatry of its leaders, while kicking out those who challenge them.  The list goes on.

Perhaps, just perhaps, members will wake up and actually “sustain” these leaders before its too late.  They have been left too long to their own devices.  And now we witness the rapid decline that comes from their poor choices.  Decided by surveys and argument without the Holy Ghost as their guide.

If we really cared we would speak up.  We are too much like the Government Establishment.  The Church is losing touch with its base.  The sad difference is that many of the Church’s base have been lulled into blind obedience and into allowing all the thinking to be done at the top.

The Church restored through Joseph would have never allowed such unchecked control.  Remember, Joseph submitted himself to the Nauvoo High Council, not just to be nice, but because it was Church law that the local stake presidencies and high councils were equal in authority to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.  That little stake president and his tiny counselors and high council had the same power and authority as Thomas Monson and his leadership have today.

Could you imagine the ruckus today if a Stake President decided to hold a court on President Monson?  And yet that was how the Lord set up the Church through Joseph and even Joseph who was being charged with the ugly crime of adultery, humbly respected their authority.

According to Webster the word sustain means:

  1. to give support or relief to

  2. to supply with sustenance :  nourish, keep up, prolong.

In my view, Joseph sustained the Nauvoo Stake and the Nauvoo Stake sustained Joseph.  What we do today is not sustaining.  It does not nourish and make healthy.  What we do today is robotic blind obedience.  Idolatry.  The result?  The Book of Mormon musical in Salt Lake City.  The Church pushing illegal immigration (instead of honoring and obeying and sustaining the law) and LGBT laws.  Open and avowed homosexual Boy Scout leaders.  Evan McMullin.  Mitt Romney.  And Utah being called the scam capital of the World.  Among many other things we have become known for as Mormons.

As LDS we focus so much on the vain, the outward appearance — the Mitt Romney look.  And as Romney is now displaying, he is an empty suit with a lot of smooth things to say that today ring hallow.  This is our brand, all in the name of the publicity dilemma.

Political Irony

weiner_wedding_2

Ironic as it may be, Bill Clinton introduced Huma Abedin to Anthony Weiner in 2007.  Huma first met the Clintons when she began working for Hillary in 1996 as a young intern.  Bill actually officiated at their marriage in 2010.

Like Bill, Anthony has a penchant for young women.  His lust and lack of fidelity to his wife cost him his Congressional seat in 2011 and made him a public disgrace, with an unfortunate name.  Of course nowadays that just means you run for office again, and so run again he did in 2013, this time for Mayor of New York.  But yet again a Weiner sex scandal ended his ambitions.

Like Hillary, Huma seemed rather unfazed by her husband’s sexual issues until only recently when his actions seemed to threaten Hillary’s campaign.  Huma then quickly filed for divorce.

Interestingly, Huma is a Muslim and Weiner is Jewish.

I used to work in Washington DC and spent some time on the Hill.  The rumor even back then was that Hillary was a lesbian and that’s why she didn’t care about Bill’s affairs, as long as he did not get caught.  They are said to have an open relationship and Hillary and Huma are believed by some to be lesbian lovers.

Who knows, but either way it’s sad that our politicians so often are so subnormal when it comes to healthy family relations.  And yet our kids are made to think that such infidelity and strange value systems are okay.  (I’m including all politicians in this statement).

Now, after yet another Weiner sex scandal, this time with an underage girl, the Feds have stumbled upon 650,000 emails on his and his wife’s computer, some of which or many of which, may have something to do with Hillary Clinton.

The lighthearted side of me can’t help but find it funny that a guy named Weiner may finally prove to be the downfall for the Clintons.  The name will serve as a great mnemonic device for kids studying US history for generations to come.

Let’s see if Americans and Utahns especially can now overcome their “consciences” by voting for the lesser of two evils, and the only candidate on the ballot that can keep the Clinton Crime Family from retaking office.

If Utah is the reason for Hillary’s victory, then the “Elders of Israel” will not only have NOT saved the Constitution “hanging by a thread” but will rather be the CAUSE for a Constitutional crisis.

For me, every election is about choosing the lesser of evils.  Not about choosing a prophet-in-chief.  Trump is of course no saint, but neither was Romney, or any other candidate to run for the office.

Some of us would rather soothe our consciences than make a decision between two less than ideal choices.  That’s understandable, but I think it’s short sighted.  One of them will win.  And if nothing else, one of them will choose Supreme Court Justices.

We live in this world and often must play with the cards we are given.  Even Mormon who vowed he would not lead his wicked people into battle repented of his oath and did what we must often all do — make the best of what we have until we have something better.

Hopefully the fight over the lesser of evils will not divide us as a people.  I respect those who may disagree with me and recognize that my logic may not be perfect.  But for me, one candidate on the ballot winning means more time for us to prepare.