Tag Archives: Awaken

How Shall I Know?

If one takes the temple endowment seriously, discerning between true and false ministers and messengers is unequivocally paramount to our salvation.

To Adam’s credit he asked the three Angel strangers, “How shall I know that you are true messengers?”  Think of the audacity on Adam’s part to pose such a question that demonstrated he either A) did not perceive these messengers to be angelic beings from a different world and/or B) did not care.

Adam was firmly committed to KNOWING if these were the same messengers his Father promised to send, who would instruct him on how to re-enter into the presence of the Lord AND he simply would not be fooled.

The Messengers seemingly took no offense to Adam’s questioning, in fact, they commended him for his integrity and were all the more pleased to find in him such firm-mindedness.

Satan had apparently fooled everyone else, “Except for this man” who had discerned his false priests as only capable of sharing “the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.”

With them Adam would have done as the scriptures teach — he would have listened to their words (the seed), with a soft heart (good soil), and would have pondered and prayed with real intent (water/sunlight) and then would have waited sufficiently to see if the seed that was planted was good.  If it was good it would grow and eventually, with time and continued care, produce fruit. If it was bad, there would be no plant and no fruit.

With fruit a person can then KNOW and like the people at the time of King Benjamin would have been able to proclaim:

Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually (i.e. the fruit, see also Galatians 5) (Mosiah 5:2, my emphasis added).

But, during Adam’s time, there were no authorized teachers before the three Messengers appeared.  There was no Holy Man named King Benjamin or Melchizedek or anyone else. Only Satan’s false priests and worldly philosophers.

The first of all the Holy Prophets was yet to fully awaken to his pre-mortal High Priest status (see Alma 13).

So, God, according to His plan, would make his Doctrines known unto Adam by the mouth of angels directly (Alma 13:26) and as he had been the Chief Angel in God’s presence, he would also would be the world’s first Holy Man a.k.a. the First Father.  Then, and only then, would Adam be able to share the Heavenly message with others by the Holy Ghost in such a way that the message would carry unto the hearts of the children of men (2 Nephi 33:1).

“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.”

Holy men (including women and even sometimes children) can also speak with the Tongue of Angels after having been sanctified by and filled with the Holy Ghost.

This is the pattern or template (notice the word Temple in template).  This is how we make our way back.  I think it’s especially interesting that as Nephi is describing this Doctrine of Christ he seems to become frustrated and declares that the Spirit “stops his utterance and he is left to mourn,” because his audience seems to not be getting the message. They’re hearing it, but perhaps NOT totally understanding it. Right before he “stops” he says something I think is key:

Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do (2 Nephi 32:6).

I take this to mean that the whole purpose of the Doctrine of Christ is to bring mankind into the presence of Christ in this life.

See Ether 13:3:

And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.

And so like Adam, once we decide rightly on the ministers, eventually messengers will come. This is where D&C 129:4 will be important:

When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.

And hence how Adam KNEW they were True Messengers.  They gave unto Adam the sign and token (handshake) that only they could give as resurrected beings who had authority. (Think about that one for a while).

For most of us, discerning between true and false ministers, is our current dilemma.  Angels will only come to those firm-minded in every form of Godliness (Moroni 7:30) and it would seem to be that NOT proving to the Lord that we are capable of accurately detecting true ministers from false, will preclude us from receiving further instructions from Heavenly messengers. This seems to be the pattern.  And it also appears that Gentiles are especially prone to not being able to discern between truth and error and are not known for our great faith.

In fact the only reason we have the Book of Mormon is because of the faith of some of its authors who had compassion on us, who they saw the Lord would use to bring their record to their future posterity.  Otherwise we Gentiles may not even have been given the Restoration.

Ether 12:22-28 says:

 22 And it is by faith that my fathers have obtained the promise that these things should come unto their brethren through the Gentiles; therefore the Lord hath commanded me, yea, even Jesus Christ.

 23 And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them;

 24 And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.

 25 Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.

 26 And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;

 27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

 28 Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.

It seems apparent that even those who prayed for us to receive latter day scripture had very little confidence that we would believe it and overcome our great Gentile tendencies.

It’s interesting to note that this was believed to be the last thing Hyrum read before he and Joseph were killed at Carthage.  The top corner of the pages of Ether 12, folded over.  Was this Hyrum’s fear as his life concluded?  That we the Gentiles (The Church) would mock, all while believing we are more righteous than everyone else?  D&C 84 reminds us that we are in fact under condemnation precisely for doing as Moroni and Nephi and other prophets feared we would.

I don’t know about you, but I find all this to be very humbling.  If Adam (Micheal, the Archangel) asked “How shall I know?” and labored to discern, then surely I, a lowly Gentile prone to mocking and being critical, have an uphill battle.  And the scriptures testify to me that I am prone to skepticism, doubt and unbelief. How am I to find hope in Christ? How am I to trade my weakness for strength? Did Joseph have my skepticism in mind when he said: “I believe all that God ever revealed, and I never heard of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief.” (TPJS p. 374.)

I also worry about the warning from Joseph that “The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power.” (TPJS p. 181.)

How do I know that my revolting or my disbelief in some idea or to some preacher is not because I am in the devil’s power?

In looking more closely at why the Gentiles would mock it would be because of a true prophet’s weakness in writing.  What does this imply?

Is it possible that a true prophet can deliver a message in such a weak fashion that the natural tendency would be to not believe even though the message is true?

As one interesting example, look at the message from John the Baptist to Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith as recorded in Joseph Smith History.

In this particular case, both Joseph and Oliver were worthy recipients of a message from an Angel.  But, their messages are both worded very differently when they each go to record them.  One could argue that because their messages vary even slightly from one another, that neither is reliable.

Look at the two different passages:

Oliver’s Account:

Upon you my fellow-servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer this Priesthood and this authority, which shall remain upon earth, that the Sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness!

Joseph’s Account:

Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

I’m guessing that when Oliver read Joseph’s version, he very well may have felt inferior to Joseph.  Perhaps frustrated by his weakness in writing in a way that properly conveyed what he saw and heard.  But at the same time, I assume Oliver read every word of what Joseph recorded and agreed it was “accurate.”

In that heavenly realm it seems as though things are conveyed by thoughts rather than by words and so it’s more likely that they each “heard” the message differently and recorded what was conveyed to them in their own “weak words” with BOTH messages being “true” in every way.  Joseph, being perhaps the more fine-tuned instrument, appeared more able to describe the account.

Many of us give the benefit of the doubt to our late prophets. We assume that two different testimonies from Matthew and Luke’s accounts or from Isaiah and John the Beloved, do not negate the truthfulness of the message.  We trust that Oliver and Joseph were both reliable in their differing accounts from John the Baptist.  The same goes for Joseph and Sidney when experiencing the heavens being opened in section 76 who may each have had different words BUT who each had the same experience.

Maybe what’s important is that we learn how to discern whether someone is delivering a message from Heaven or not by some other method than simply mocking what is written.  Maybe the message, and its effect upon the hearer, are more important than the typos or other weaknesses.

If Joseph Smith were to be judged on typos alone, there would have been no believers in his day.  The original Book of Mormon had plenty of typos as scholars such as Mark Twain pointed out. Remember Symonds Ryder, or was it Simons Rider? Because misspelling his name shattered his confidence in Joseph.  How many are like him today?

As history has shown, God does send messengers and they are rarely recognized and embraced by their contemporaries.  If we believe in Alma 13, they are foreordained to come down to this fallen world.  They condescend from an exalted state.  They come with great advantages (D&C 130).  God speaks to them as He has throughout history.  He provides them with messages to be shared.  It then becomes the responsibility of those they preach to, to figure out if these witnesses are from God or not.

Non-Mormons, for example, are often quick to find the faults of the Book of Mormon.  Or at least what they perceive to be mistakes and contradictions with other scripture.  For this reason they “mock” when they receive it.  We plead with them to do as Moroni suggested but often to no avail.  Why would I “ask with sincerity” or “plant a seed into a softened heart” when I know this is all BS?  That it’s from the devil?  Would that not be an insult to God?  An unnecessary temptation?  I already know it can’t be true, because the Bible says no one can add to it!

Do we do the same today?

I also suppose that some members in Joseph’s day found his “re-translation” of the Bible to be silly.  Surely that was the last straw for some of his critics.  “I mean he’s just changing words willy nilly!  Who does he think he is?  This is the proof I needed. Now I know he’s fallen or a fraud.”

Or how about the Book of Moses?  He pulled that one out of thin air?  Or the Book of Abraham, which very few appreciate in our day even among the LDS faithful.  Joseph surely would have been mocked online in our day.

Hugh Nibley showed that the entire Church more or less ignored the Book of Mormon’s existence until the 50s when he became the Church’s premiere apologist.  This was especially true at the time the Spalding Letters were placed in the Library of Congress and accepted by many scholars as fact.  Many Mormons were ashamed to admit they believed in the Book of Mormon during this timeframe.  They felt it had been exposed by the world’s leading scholars as a fraud and some hoped it would simply go away.

Do we think we are so much better or smarter than those who have lived at the time of Joseph?  Would you have stood by Joseph’s side when his critics shouted their loudest arguments against him?  And when he replied with hand written letters that showed he could scarcely spell his own name?  Would you have stood by John the Baptist or even recognized him in the first place?  When the crowds mocked his attire and made fun of his diet?  John the Baptist was like a homeless man, who as Chris Farley would say, “lived in a van down by the river.” Would you have noticed him?

Joseph lamented:

I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen.

My hope is that we will each turn to the Lord with a willing heart — one that is soft (usually broken), open to a new message, sincere — and with real intent — applying, nourishing, planting a seed we may be unsure of — with perhaps only the desire to believe — with only a thought it just might be true — if it should be that we receive these things.

I believe that then and only then will we be able to discover if some minister be of God or not.  If not from God the seed will lead to nothing.  If true the seed will become a plant, and then a tree, and will then bear fruit and will lead to further messengers that we will also need to pass by (discern) who will stand as sentinels.

This in my view is how we partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life — It must be from our own Tree that has grown in our hearts. This is how we partake of HIS LOVE and enter into His presence.

But if we don’t properly plant the seed AND if our hearts are hard and the message just happens to be true:

…the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word;

On the other hand:

…he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell. (Alma 12:10,11)

I have planted the seed and have witnessed tremendous fruits thusfar that I cannot and will not deny, lest God damn me for unbelief.

May we remember that:

To become a joint heir of the heirship of the Son, one must put away all his false traditions. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.321)

AND that:

The devil has great power to deceive; he will so transform things as to make one gape at those who are doing the will of God. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.227)

May God bless us all. This will likely be my last post for some time.

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.

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.

Profits, Sewers, and Elevators

elevators

Words matter.  When today’s 15 Apostles of the Church use words to describe themselves such as “true messengers, special witnesses, sure witnesses, certain witnesses, prophets, seers, revelators, and apostles” it becomes our sacred duty to determine if they are being misleading or telling the truth.  Especially given that we pay for undisclosed salaries and benefits packages and give them 1/10th of all we possess.  The duty to discern their words falls upon us members.

They call themselves prophets, seers, and revelators.  But whether they prophesy, see, or reveal remains to be seen.  In fact, the opposite appears to be true.

Did Brigham prophesy correctly when he said the Church would no longer be true if it abandoned polygamy or gave priesthood to the blacks?

Did Thomas receive a true revelation to not baptize children whose parents have made lifestyle choices we disagree with?

Did Gary receive a revelation to allow for gay leaders in Boy Scouts?

Did Spencer receive a revelation to give blacks the priesthood or was the Church worried it would lose its non-profit status with the IRS?

Where are the additional sections of the Doctrine and Covenants formalizing all the revelations they receive?  Where are the prophesies of these men we adulate?  Which of them possesses stones through which they see?  Why will none of them declare as do prophets of old that they have seen Him even on the right hand of God?  Why do they continue to speak in parables using vain and ambiguous language because some things are simply “too sacred” to share?

We have allowed time and tradition to warp and distort the true meaning of words.

I am curious by show of hands (comments) which of you who consider yourselves to be True Blue Mormons, believe that these men see God.  Or at least Angels.  I have heard the Brethren say that they are sure witnesses of Christ and that they know Him as well as the ancient Apostles.  What do you think these words mean?  Elder Anderson said at a funeral this last week that his witness was “certain.”  What does he mean by this?

Can we at least agree that some of these men lead us to believe, by their words, that they have seen Him?  That they converse with Him face to face?  And that it would be a grave and tragic issue, if in fact they have not?

I think there is no greater question that can be asked of these men than, “Have you or have you not seen the Lord?”  If you have not, then shame on you for leading us to believe that you have!  If you have, then where are your revelations?  Your expounding of scripture?  Your bold testimonies that carry to the hearts of the children of men?  Why do you take surveys when you have the keys to revelation?  Why are you using our sacred funds to build malls and cities rather than help the poor?

If we have 15 prophets among us, why have we not created Zion?  Where are the signs that follow after you?  Where are the tongues, the Angels, the miracles, the prophesies, the additional scriptures, or even the doctrinal dissertations?

I do not look forward to the teleprompter talks this next week, written by paid speech writers and assistants who worship them.  Parables of pickles and talks about following the Brethren even when they are wrong and of the Old Ship Zion.  Same old Ship, different day.  To me it has all become noise.  Words no longer have meaning.  And messages from these men do not have the power to change hearts.  They only seek to control and to keep others from entering in.

I invite you to contrast their words to the words of scripture.  If ye lack wisdom, ask God, not men.  Follow Christ, not the Brethren.  He is a real Man.  Sadly “they” are all effeminate impostors.  Might as well be Profits, Sewers, and Elevators, for they have corrupted the Holy Church of God, and their titles no longer mean anything.

God bless you as you seek Him, not them.

AB

Zion Postponed

city_of_zion_platThis last year has been a very difficult and yet enlightening one for me personally.  Most of you don’t know me and so I will spare you from much of the personal information.  But suffice it to say, this has been a year where I have learned much.  Like many in the world, I have seen sickness, death and destruction all around me.  I have looked into the skies at the signs that prophets foresaw millennia ago.  I have witnessed miracles and have seen love grow in some of my most important relationships.  I have experienced forgiveness in damaged or destroyed relationships and feel as though I’ve received added light.  And yet, I am reminded of what a fool I am.  So quick to anger, vanity, fear, retaliation, judgment, greed, and laziness.  The more I study and ponder, the more I recognize my awful state before God as well as the awful state of our church.

When I first began to allow myself to consider that the church might not be what I had always defended it to be, my world began to fall apart.  I was a bishop at the time.  To some I was the poster child of Mormonism.  Son of converts, valiant in my youth, from a large active family, son of a father who had many important church callings, of a mother known for her kindness and zeal; an eagle scout, returned missionary, temple married, BYU educated, a leader in the church at a young age.  I served in my first bishopric in my early twenties.  My second bishopric in my late twenties.  On the high council in my mid twenties.  I was interviewed as a potential stake president in my early forties and was told by the outgoing stake president that they almost selected me.

I share none of this to gloat or to brag.  I merely share it to demonstrate that when it came to commitment to the church, I was all in.  I loved the church with all my energy and served it and defended it for my entire life.

But, as I have noted here in this blog, there have been times along the way where my faith in the church has been challenged.  In times past, I most often erred on the side of defending the church and the brethren.  For much of my life, I had assumed the gospel and the church were mostly the same thing.   That began to change however, as I was met with further contradictions.  Separating the two became a required spiritual survival technique for me.

The last stand for me with the church was that I had held onto the Brethren being True Witnesses of Jesus Christ.  I believed they stood where I hoped to one day stand — even in His presence.  I believed in this doctrine since first gaining my testimony as a very young man.  In reality it was my testimony.   I read of Calling and Election Made Sure and I knew that this was man’s very purpose and I believed with all my heart that these particular men, the leaders of the church, HAD achieved this end!  After all, they had always reassured me that they “knew” Him and were special witnesses of Him.  Call me naive, but I believed them until only a few years ago.

Now, lest you think me apostate, let me remind my readers that I believe in God the Father, in His Son Jesus, in His servant Joseph and in the Restoration and in the Book of Mormon.  I am not a whacko.  I’m not a wannabe polygamist.  I consider myself a very normal “LDS” person.  BUT I do not and can no longer believe that the leaders of this church are anywhere near the equivalency of Joseph Smith.  To say so is to mock God!  Additionally, my spiritual journey has led me to believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in a state of apostasy and has been since the early days of the Church when its members refused to accept the fulness of the Gospel.  This is further evidenced by the fact that LDS prophets today do not prophesy!  They do not see!  They do not reveal!  Ironically, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men.  They worship Handbooks and consult the learned and rely upon their attorneys.  Their lips draw nigh unto Him, but their hearts are so far from Him!  They preach the precepts of men and lead souls to Hell, yea even the very elect.  Because they do not KNOW Him!  They cannot have the testimony of Jesus nor have they received the Gospel.  If they had, there would be an abundance of signs that follow after them.  They would be healing the sick, they would be obsessed with expounding Scripture especially Isaiah, they would be focused on the poor and in building up Zion.  When’s the last time you even heard an LDS prophet speak of building Zion?  Thus we are of Paul and of Thomas and of Gordon and even of Jesus, but we do not have His testimony before the Father and thus we are damned!

I read this week in the Joseph Smith Papers that in June 1834, Joseph announced that the Lord had revealed to him that the redemption of Zion was being postponed “for a little season” (page 44, JS Papers, Volume 1, Journals also see D&C 105).  The reason for this postponement, despite that Joseph had just rallied an armed expedition of righteous and zealous volunteers to “restore and redeem Zion” was because the church refused to live by the laws of the Celestial Kingdom AND because the “leading elders of the church were not yet endowed with power from on high.”

I ask you my friends, are we any closer to the establishment of Zion today?  Have our leaders now truly been endowed from on High?  More so than the original 12?  Have they been in His presence?  Can we trust them as true messengers?  Are we living by the law of the Celestial Kingdom?   Joseph once taught, “Without a Zion and a place of deliverance, we must fall, because the time is near when the sun will be darkened, the moon turn to blood, the stars fall from heaven and the earth reel to and fro.”  Have we fallen?  Will we fall?  Are the signs and prophesies being fulfilled while Zion is yet postponed?

Do you trust these men with your salvation?  I do not!  Do you trust them to save your children?  I DO NOT!  Do they teach the words of eternal life?  Or are they just nice, good men, trying to do the best they can with what they’ve been given?  How are you receiving their teachings!?  Very well?  If so, then you will be damned for they teach the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.

We must needs repent and be born again before it is everlastingly too late.  We must awaken and learn to discern between true and false messengers or we will die when Christ comes AND shall never be a part of Zion.  If we remain lulled and contented by these current teachings we will never recognize true messengers when and if they ever come to us.

I no longer see things as I did as a child.  I now judge of their works and am no longer fooled.  I have been in their secrets councils.  I witness that they would rather cover up the truth than expose their own hypocrisy!  They make exceptions and play favorites.  The rules do not apply to their own!  I witness that they know not God and stand not in His presence.  I add my witness that only the broken hearted and the contrite in spirit will be filled with light and be saved in Zion.  I believe that a servant has come among us who has the words of eternal life, if we will be but humble enough to read, to learn, and to hear.

Perfection

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Jesus taught “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).   After His resurrection He added, “even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48).  I find it interesting that while mortal – even as “Jesus, the Son of God” – He seemed reluctant or often unwilling to point to Himself as perfect.

Is this commandment to be perfect just lip service?  Some sort of trite, meaningless idea?  How would we even become perfect in this life if we wanted to?

LDS teaching might lead us to believe that “perfect” doesn’t actually mean perfect and that we only need to be made “complete,” “whole” or in death become “just men made perfect.”  But if this was the case why would Jesus not say “Be ye therefore perfect as just men made perfect are perfect.”  Or “as Abraham or Job became perfect.”  He said as “I and my Father are perfect!”

It is my understanding that in order to even begin to exercise faith in God we must know His true character (Lectures on Faith).  If we suppose we are nearly like God, or will shortly become perfect as He is after we die, perhaps we are fools who greatly and grossly underestimate the power and greatness of our Father.

Joseph taught:

When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.

Will we attain unto perfection in this life simply by being “good people”?  It is a great accomplishment to be good and more importantly to be made whole and to be redeemed.  In fact this is the only requirement for us now I believe, to be redeemed.  But Christ commands us to be perfect even as He now is, and as His Father, for innumerable eternities, has been.  Would He give us a commandment that could not be fulfilled?  Or is His commandment to continue beyond this life also?

Jesus taught that for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (Luke 18:25).  Surely to become like God, it will be much harder than to pass through the eye of a needle.  It will surely be just as Christ had to do — to drink from a cup, which even for Him seemed at the time impossible.

I will not likely be crucified in this life.  I will definitely not suffer for sins of others in Gethsemane.  I am not to be a Savior as He was.  Yet He invites us all to pick up our crosses and follow Him, to be like Him, to be like God.

Surely it is not all to be comprehended in this world and will be a great work beyond the grave.  In the meantime, being healed is the goal.  Passing through the veil in this life is the invitation.  I believe He will teach us and lead us to Him if we will let Him.  Help Thou mine unbelief Lord.

This is what I believe.  He is amazing.  He is to be worshiped.  Only He and His Father are truly perfect in our sphere.  Only They can save us.

“I Am Scripture”

Bednar

In a recent meeting Elder Bednar was supposedly asked a question by a sister missionary about women and the priesthood. He’s said to have given his own thoughts about the subject and when he concluded, the sister asked a follow up question.  “Are there any scriptures that talk about this subject?” Elder Bednar responded, “I am scripture.”

Now in fairness to Elder Bednar, I’ve heard this account from two different sources both in attendance at this meeting, and thus I relate the story relying upon second hand information.  If any readers have also heard this same story, please correct or confirm the details.

My first reaction to such a statement is not good.  Yet I fully understand as an LDS person raised in the church, that Elder Bednar is only stating what we teach.  “When a ‘prophet’ speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost, it is scripture.”  Elder Bednar obviously considers himself a prophet and many of us sustain him in that calling.

But, we are also taught that “when any person speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost, it is scripture.”

So why give more credence to the words of Elder Bednar than say… someone else claiming to speak by the Holy Ghost?  The standard LDS answer is “because God’s house is a house of order and that’s why keys are so important.  Whoever has the keys AND speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost is who you listen to.”

For nearly 170 years (post-Joseph), these men we sustain as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators have been able to more or less say “Let it be written, for I am scripture.”  Their Conference talks are immortalized and their words are given as lessons and talks and made into refrigerator magnets all around the world for years and decades to come.

Abundance Oaks

The Immortalized Words of General Conference

But to what end?

For me when someone (and I mean anyone, besides The Lord) says something akin to “I am scripture” the effect is to shut down any and all further communication or questions. The same can be said of many statements we tend to make as Mormons.

I’m reminded of a missionary companion who liked to one-up investigators who disagreed by “boldly” bearing his testimony. Its effect? The conversation usually stopped awkwardly. He taught other missionaries this principle too.  “Whenever you can’t answer a question, just bear your testimony (really hard).”

One time we were having a great discussion with a Catholic gentleman. He was hung up on The Book of Mormon. His questions and concerns were sincere. Then it came. “Sir, I know The Book or Mormon is true beyond a shadow of any doubt and that this church is the only true and living church on the whole earth!” This man replied with his own testimony. “Well, I know The Book of Mormon is NOT true and that your church is NOT the only true church on the whole earth!” My companion was taken aback. I waited for him to say “IS NOT!” like a 4-year old who has no logical arguments left. Fortunately he didn’t.

To be fair, our investigator wasn’t saying he “knew” anything. He was merely demonstrating how strange and immature such grand statements sounded to him and how off-putting they were.  The conversation usually just ends.

Even to members of the church familiar with such bravado, the effect of these traditional tactics can be very damaging.

To say “I know God lives,” five times in a row, for example, while increasing the pauses in between sentences, while climactically raising the tone of your voice each time, may just lead someone to believe you have literally stood in the Lord’s presence. This was a technique I observed from the late Elder Loren C. Dunn. If he had not actually seen God, would this be a good thing to do? Might this cause people to treat someone as a light and heap upon them their praise?

Monson

I spoke to a brother recently who provides security detail for the Brethren when they come to his area. He is a trained police officer. He told me that when an Apostle, Prophet or even a Seventy come nowadays, there are members who try to find out what hotel they are staying in so they can stalk them and try to meet them. He recently had to rescue a visiting GA from an overly excited LDS crowd, literally removing him from danger. The spared GA told this brother that it’s getting worse and worse as they travel around the world.

Curious, I asked why he believed members reacted like this around the Brethren. He said “It’s like they’re rock stars and people think that because they know the Savior, that if they can just touch them, something amazing will happen!” He then went on to say that a full grown man from his stake boasted that he shook Elder Ballard’s hand and was “never going to wash it again.”

Such adoration and idolatry is anti-Zion and anti-Christ. All of us can learn a lesson from this. Maybe you or I are not tempted by GA celebrity status, but our own claims may cause others to look to us as a light instead of to Him.

The Savior’s Example

The Savior of the world epitomized meekness and humility. When he was called “good,” he objected and deflected all praise to God (Matthew 19:17). When he gave talks, he quoted scripture, giving all recognition to the prophet he quoted. This despite the fact that it was He, the Great Jehovah, who had given the quote to begin with.  Unlike any mortal, “prophet or not,” Jesus IS literally the Word of God.  He, and only He, is Scripture.

When Jesus taught He did not often make bold self-promoting proclamations to induce obedience or to enhance his bona fides. Clearly He was entitled to, but He more often said:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. (Matthew 5:21) or “Blessed are the meek…”

He could have just as easily said “I am the Great Jehovah who once commanded you, Thou shalt not kill…” or “I the God of Heaven and Earth command you to be meek now before I pull your temple recommend.”

Jesus does not use His power and authority to compel obedience and adoration.

Although perfect Himself, He invited others to “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Jesus speaks in plainness and humility.

And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things… (Ether 12:39)

Notice that Moroni’s claims are also plain, overt, and factual. He doesn’t leave the audience guessing whether he did or did not see the Lord.

Some Ideas to Consider

Whether leader or layperson, none of us is perfect.  We can benefit from each others’ feedback and prayers.  It’s a humbling and difficult experience to recognize or be made aware of our weaknesses.  The Brethren need not feel threatened, condemned or judged by our feedback.  They deserve our help as much as we deserve theirs.  Furthermore, it is incumbent upon us to discern when they or anyone act and speak in the Lord’s name, otherwise we do them no favors and we only damn ourselves.

Here are just a few suggestions that I think would help us as members to NOT idolize the Brethren as well as to not set ourselves up as lights unto the world (2 Nephi 26:29).

We should never mislead people about what we know. We should not exaggerate our claims. If we haven’t seen Jesus or Angels, we should not make people believe we have.  We should not mislead others about it by speaking in circles or by emphasizing how special our witness is. Let’s be honest and humble and direct ALL praise to our Lord.  Only He can save.

Most of us can all do better in deflecting compliments and praise. Jesus said we should not even call one another Rabbi, which is to say Master or Teacher (Matthew 23:7). In my ward the CES contingency take turns suggesting that the other is one of the “Great Master Teachers of the Kingdom.” I believe such things to be devilish and destructive and yet all of us are tempted to heap praise upon each other.  It’s our culture.

We should not often call people by their full names preceded with titles. Let’s drop the words president, elder, beloved, prophet, seer, revelator, general authority, etc. from our vocabulary when addressing someone. EVEN Jesus said to not call Him good! Do we really suppose He would have liked to be called Our Beloved President Jesus (add initial) Christ, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, while in mortality?  To do so is to desecrate Him; His calling. Why should we be greater than He?   He was called “Jesus.”  That should serve as our model when speaking to or about each other, no matter our calling.  Titles and initials inflate egos.

Church Leaders not speaking at General Conference would send a powerful message if they did NOT sit on the stand. In fact, they could even dress normally, i.e. not to the nines in expensive suits and dresses (fine twined linen?) and they could serve as Ushers and Parking Attendants and assist the infirm. They should consider standing at the doorways rather than sitting in plush red seats where all can see. Didn’t the Savior teach us to be servants especially when we are viewed as greatest?  (Matthew 32:11).  Let the poor and the elderly sit in those seats.

General Authority families should not be given preferential seats at General Conference. They should not occupy the entire front section of the Conference Center as they currently do. These people should get in line with the rest of us for tickets.  Why not let first year converts or investigators sit in those seats?  Or the handicapped?

NO calling in the church should EVER BE REMUNERATED nor should anyone receive a stipend who teaches or serves in the church (Mosiah 18:24). The church knows that its 80,000+ missionaries and its 3+ million active members of the church tell everyone that what makes us different from all other churches is that no one is paid.  The Brethren KNOW this is what we tell people.  And yet some of us KNOW this is not true.  It’s simply wrong to encourage the lie by not correcting the record.  It’s dishonest.  It’s immoral.  It would be one thing perhaps if the brethren were merely being supported.  This is simply not true.  They earn very large sums of money as a direct result of their callings.  The church needs to come clean and set the record straight and deal with the consequences.

ALL transactions and expenditures ought to be made available for members to see.  Every contract, every piece of property bought or sold, every trip, every personal expense, every stipend, every salary, every bonus, every royalty ought to be made public.

Church leaders should not fly First Class as I have witnessed on more than one occasion.  For those of you that don’t think this possible, here is a recent picture of President Nelson.

13k_Nelson

He’s apparently on an International flight from SLC to Germany, traveling with Elder Hallstrom accompanied by their wives and someone who appears to be Elder Nelson’s bodyguard (far right in the picture) ALL flying First Class.  Retail price of each ticket?  $13,000.  Coach price?  $1300.  What would be wrong with sitting in a regular seat with normal folks?  It would sure save a lot of tithing money.  One ticket at this price is equal to two years of tithing for a person who makes $65,000 per year. Fifty people could have flown for the price likely paid for these five tickets!  One ticket would pay for an entire mission for a young man or young woman who cannot afford it.

Are these men so frail and so important that they can’t sit in a normal airplane seat?  Why not just pay the extra $100 for more leg room?  “But everyone would bother them if they were in coach” one might argue.  But, isn’t that their calling?  To preach the gospel whenever they can?  I’ve heard more than one apostle say we should pray when we get on a flight that we will be able to share the gospel with someone seated next to us.  How does the future prophet of the church do that here surrounded by his wife on his right and protected by hired muscle on his left?

Church leaders should not be served the sacrament first, but rather should bless it and administer it as servants to the congregation as the D&C teaches.

There are many small but important changes the church could make that I believe would both help the church to better conform with scripture as well as prevent people from leaving.  Again, brothers and sisters, it’s our duty as members of Christ’s church to sustain these men in their callings by sharing our concerns.  We need not be angry or revile against anyone.  We can share our concerns with love.  If we don’t, then who will?  Anti-Mormons?  It is far better that we encourage positive change from within by “common consent” than have it imposed upon us by the wrath of God, when it’s likely too late.  We who believe in the Restoration must open our mouths.  Those in the chief seats would do well to stop trying to silence those who offer their concerns.  It’s our church too.  The Savior’s message to the church leaders of his day seems to still apply to us in our day.  Will we heed the call of our Master?

And Jesus said unto his disciples, Beholdest thou the scribes, and the Pharisees, and the priests, and the Levites? They teach in their synagogues, but do not observe the law, nor the commandments; and all have gone out of the way, and are under sin.  Go thou and say unto them, Why teach ye men the law and the commandments, when ye yourselves are the children of corruption?  Say unto them, Ye hypocrites, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.  (JST Matthew 7:6-8)

The Star of Bethlehem

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Tonight Jupiter and Venus will almost overlap in the western sky.  My understanding is that the last time this took place was 2 B.C.  Some say this new “star” was the very same sign given more than 2,000 years ago preceding Jesus’ birth.  John Pratt and others more intelligent than myself offer greater insight and detail.

Is this astrological re-occurrence significant?  Is this one of the signs that Jesus is coming again, soon?  Will we be found looking for the signs in the heavens like those of times past who awaited Him and who were prepared to receive Him?  Or will we dismiss the signs, the dates, and the events that are taking place right before our very eyes?  From all that I’m reading, I’m inclined to believe that this is a very important event.

Just this year we will have also witnessed four blood moons all landing on Jewish Holy Days separated by a Solar Eclipse.  Any year this has happened in recorded history, something very significant has taken place.

We are also witnessing increased social unrest in the world.  Good is called evil and evil called good (2 Nephi 15:20).  Iniquity abounds and the love of men waxes cold (JST Matthew 1:30).

This month is also Ramadan.  A time in which faithful Muslims fast during the daylight hours for 30 consecutive days.  Sadly during this holy time, a growing number of radical Islamists are escalating the cry for the destruction of Israel, Christianity, the West, and basically any person or group who disagrees with them.  They have no value for life, not even their own.  These terrorists also seem to be fulfilling latter day prophecy:

Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver and gold, nor shall they delight in it.  Their bows shall also dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eyes shall not spare children.  (2 Nephi 23:17-18)

I am humbled by both the signs of heaven as well as by the increasing signs of wickedness.  I’m reminded that every one of us is a child of God.  Each soul is precious and our time to prepare is short.  There is no mortal and there is no institution to which we can look to be saved.

The only sure way to be saved is to come unto Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, to be literally changed by Him (Psalms 51:17, Psalms 34:18, D&C 59:8, 3 Nephi 9:20, 2 Nephi 2:7, Moroni 6:2, etc.).  We are all broken.  We all need His healing.  May we look heavenward and be found ready to receive the God of Heaven and Earth who comes again.

The Truman Show

Truman

Truman is going about his happy, uneventful life when out of a clear blue sky a stage light falls onto the street.  This peculiar event is the beginning of Truman discovering the truth about his false reality.

Truman’s “creator” Christof (a suitable name) sees himself as a messiah figure, having saved Truman from what “might have been” a sad, painful life as an unwanted child.  Christof works day and night to keep Truman believing in this false narrative.  His success, after all, depends upon it as millions of viewers, thousands of actors, and countless other commercial entities all have an interest in Truman remaining faithful to this great deception as well.

At the end of the movie, Truman stands in front of a dark unknown doorway at the top of the stage set above the “ocean.”  Christof, now entirely desperate, speaks from his hidden lunar command center, makes one last attempt to keep Truman from leaving the “Show.”  (You can watch the clip by clicking below.  It’s classic.)

The story of Truman is really the story of every man.

We are each born into this world with certain traditions that inform our reality and our perceptions.  Because we are born into a fallen world, no one’s reality is devoid of lies, false traditions, and darkness.

The goal of every man is to become a “True Man” — a Man or Woman in Christ, reborn to Him, enlightened, passing through the doorway (the veil) of unbelief and into a new spiritual world that will eventually endow us appropriately to successfully enter into His presence — in this life — as well as in the life to come.

We are warned, however, that in the last days we will be especially vulnerable to being misled and deceived as Truman was.  As members of the church we mustn’t assume we are exempt.  Anyone who teaches otherwise is a false messenger, leading astray and perpetuating a false reality that eventually destroys souls.

They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.  (2 Nephi 28:14, my emphasis added)

I recall an experience as a bishop in one of my first priesthood stewardship interviews with my stake president.  He had served in that calling for many years and as a new bishop I looked to him for counsel and advice.

During the interview my stake president spoke of a recent private lunch he had with one of the 12 Apostles.  He was actually good friends with this particular apostle and had known him for forty years or more.  My stake president was also friends with another apostle, who he had spoken of getting together with regularly.  His very close relationships with two apostles prompted my question:

“President, how do they become special witnesses?”

He seemed perplexed.  “What do you mean by that bishop?”

“Well, I know they have stood in Christ’s presence and that’s why we call them special witnesses, right?”  (I was trying to clue him in that I was in the know about such things) “How do they spiritually get to that point?”  I asked in all sincerity.

A very concerned look came across the stake president’s face as he gravely responded.

“Bishop, I need to warn you to never pray for or seek to be in the presence of God or Christ!”

My stake president’s comment was as much a scolding as a warning.  It was as if he could not believe I would ever be so foolish and careless to think that this was what these men had actually accomplished.

“But, I thought we were commanded to seek to make our callings and elections sure and to each become special witnesses of Christ in this life?  As the Prophets and Apostles have done?  Right?”  I now questioned somewhat desperately.

That question seemed to further aggravate my stake president’s sensibilities.  Now determined to correct the record and make sure I never taught such foolishness as a bishop, he replied:

“Bishop, NEVER, EVER pray for such things because almost every man who has seen Christ or angels has fallen away from the church!  And if for any reason you do see Christ and then turn away from Him, you will become a son of perdition!”

This man was in my ward.  He was a very educated and dedicated individual.  He enjoyed a very long pioneer genealogy in the church.  And yet the first thought that came to my mind was that as his bishop, it was ironically my priesthood responsibility to try to correct him.

Without trying to make him feel badly, I referred to Paul and Joseph and others who taught this doctrine openly.  I pointed out that every man who became a prophet in the Book of Mormon, had witnessed angels and had entered into the presence of God.

He was not deterred by my arguments and continued to warn me of the dangers of seeking Jesus in this way and warned me to never discuss these ideas with anyone, ever again.  My experienced file leader then proceeded to instruct me how the Brethren held the keys and how they lived by the Spirit.  “Our job was to obey them” he said “as if their words came directly from God” and was not to seek heavenly visitations.  I left feeling rebuked, dazed, and confused.

The stake president’s words became for me, the proverbial stage light falling out of my clear blue sky onto the street of my church reality.

This new “idea” challenged everything I believed and had been taught.  Why would someone who knew these men so well, who joined with me in calling them “special witnesses,” actually try to dissuade me from doing what they had themselves done?  UNLESS of course, they were not witnesses the way I had believed them to be.  Was that even possible?

This was something I had never before considered or had ever allowed myself to consider.

In my mind, Jesus’ admonition and warning to the pharisees and scribes of old applied to Catholic priests, Jewish rabbis and Muslim mullahs, BUT NOT TO OUR church leaders!

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.   (Matthew 23:13)

I became physically ill in my contemplations.  Could the church actually be keeping people from seeking true messengers?  Why would they do that?  Was it possible that they were not seeking these experiences for themselves either, out of fear that “almost all men who had ever seen angels or the Lord had left the church?”  My belief system was being turned upside down.

I was born into the church to good parents who are both converts.  At a very young age they instilled in me a strong love for the restored gospel.  By the age of 14 I began to feel very much drawn to the invitation I found in scripture to literally come unto Christ.  I truly believed D&C 93:1 and read it often.  I believed the words of Moroni found in the book of Ether and took his invitation very seriously:

And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things;  And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing.  And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen.  (Ether 12:39-41, my emphasis added)

Like perhaps many of you, I had been led to believe that The First Presidency and The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles met with the Savior often in their sacred weekly meetings in the Upper Rooms of the Temple.

I relied upon the final testimony of Bruce R. McKonkie and believed his witness to be literal.

I began at a young age to look for and listen carefully to the “key words” the brethren used to refer to sacred experiences they often only alluded to, that apparently, despite being “special witnesses,” they could not specifically discuss publicly.

I took Religion 333 after my mission at BYU and was led to believe that the leaders of the church were of a special and more elevated status than the average member of the church.  I was taught the Brethren were to be “reverenced, sustained, emulated, and honored.”

These men were spiritual giants for me.  I believed they could lead me to the Savior.  Logically if they were Special Witnesses, and yet were once just like me, then maybe they could show me how to get there too!  This was my most fervent desire.

I watched them ever so closely.  I studied their words as much if not more than the scriptures.  I was taught and believed that the “living oracles” were more important than the dead ones, that they could not lead us astray.  I took that to mean that Elder Neal A. Maxwell was more relevant and important than Isaiah.  So I read and listened to Elder Maxwell, and President Hinckley and any living Prophet in priority over even the Book of Mormon.

When the Brethren came to speak, I made sure to never miss them.  In some cases, I drove hours to be in their presence.  When they walked into the room, I stood out of reverence for them.  Out of reverence and respect, I only sat down when they were finally seated.  I once witnessed the rushing silence that overtook the entire Marriott Center when President Benson entered from an obscure portal near the stage.  I was sure this was a spiritual confirmation of his very real witness of the Savior.

I was with Elder Bednar when he boldly told us bishops and stake presidents — “I AM A TRUE MESSENGER!”  I took that statement literally.  I believed him to be a special witness who stood in God’s presence as did Peter, James, and John, with a message of life and salvation for God’s children lost in the lone and dreary world.  I had no reason to believe Elder Bednar would seek to mislead me.

On a different occasion Elder Bednar said, “I know God lives beyond the five senses.”  Again I believed him and logically could only assume what this meant — that he knew God greater than touch, greater than sight, greater than smell or taste or sound.

But, then my stake president dropped the stage light.

What if Elder Bednar was simply stating that he knew God “by the feelings of the Holy Ghost?”  Maybe he’s suggesting the Holy Ghost is not considered one of the five senses?  Was this just a clever way of saying that he had a testimony just like me?  That he had never actually “touched, seen, or heard” the Lord?  That thought had never crossed my mind before.

Up until then, these men were holy, anointed, special, and above all, they knew God, literally!  I sought to touch the hem of their garment, so to speak, to shake their hands, to be hugged by them, to be taught by them.  Again, because I believed it was their mission to teach me how to do what they had done.  For this is life eternal, that we all might know Him and His Son whom He hath sent (John 17:3) with the help of those who are true messengers.

And so perhaps strangely, as a bishop, I began a prayerful and at times painful study to know whether or not these men were truly witnesses of God, in the literal sense.  This time I began with a different set of questions than those I had ever allowed myself to consider:  “What if, these men have never seen God or been taught by Angels?  What if they are just like me?  Is it possible?  If so, what would that mean?  What would that change for the church and for me personally?”

I studied.  I pondered.  I fasted for many days, on countless occasions.  I went to the Temple zealously.  I served as faithfully as I knew how as a bishop.  I tried to be a good husband and father.  I feasted upon the scriptures and I prayed like I’ve never prayed before.

I studied the journals and other accounts of these men.  I scrutinized all the stories of prophets such as President Snow, where he allegedly met the Savior in the Temple.  I now questioned these stories and sought to discover whether they were real or not.  Were these just contrived “stories” invented or exaggerated to encourage me to believe?  Was I being played?

You see, for me, everything I believed the church to be, rested upon the idea that its leaders were simply a continuation of Joseph Smith.  That every leader from Joseph forward was a veritable witness of God, Angels, and of Christ JUST as Joseph was.

For me this principle was too important to dismiss or set aside.  Now I needed to know the truth.  I could no longer be led on by fables and endless genealogies (1 Timothy 1:4).  Was my “faith” in these men’s witness real or was it some fantastic illusion?

Joseph Smith taught:

Now I will give you my testimony.  I care not for man.  I speak boldly and faithfully and with authority.  How is it with the kingdom of God?  Where did the kingdom of God begin?  Where there is no kingdom of God there is no salvation.  What constitutes the kingdom of God?  Where there is a prophet, a priest, or a righteous man unto whom God gives His oracles, there is the kingdom of God; and where the oracles of God are not, there the kingdom of God is not…The plea of many in this day is, that we have no right to receive revelations; but if we do not get revelations, we do not have the oracles of God; and if they have not the oracles of God, they are not the people of God.  But say you, What will become of the world, or the various professors of religion who do not believe in revelation and the oracles of God as continued to His Church in all ages of the world, when He has a people on the earth?  I tell you, in the name of Jesus Christ, they will be damned; and when you get into the eternal world, you will find it will be so, they cannot escape the damnation of hell.  (TPJS, pp. 271-272, my emphasis added)

If these men were not receiving revelations, were not acting as prophets and as living oracles of God, and had not in fact seen the Lord and been anointed and ordained by God Himself (TPJS), then I could not, at a minimum, simply continue to trust in their words as I had.

In my research that continued on for some time, I became quite surprised to find so few reliable post-martyrdom church accounts of a man or woman entering into God’s presence, as Joseph and Hyrum and Sidney had.  This despite the charge made by Apostles Oliver Cowdery in 1835 to the Twelve which was later abandoned because apparently at some point church leaders saw it unnecessary.

It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven for yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God.’  Then he continued: ‘That is more than the testimony of an angel … Never cease striving until you have seen God, face to face.’  (Read more on this subject here)

I was saddened and quite surprised to find that many of the stories that were close encounters with the other side of the veil such as President Snow with Christ at the staircase and Brigham transforming into Joseph over the pulpit, the Founding Fathers appearing in the Saint George Temple, etc. appeared to be nothing more than exaggerated folklore-ish stories, no different than ones we share today.

Sometimes these stories are seemingly harmless such as the tale of Nephite hitchhikers warning people to get food storage (here and here) before the big Utah earthquake or the rumor that Lionel Ritchie finally joined the church.  Other times it’s everyday stories like “When Elder Bednar spoke in Gabon, the rain stopped, and the sun appeared only on his face as he spoke.”  I even heard such a legend repeated the other day in church, one I had not heard for a long time:  “Did you know there is a chair in the Salt Lake Temple that is reserved just for the Savior?  And that it’s worn out from use?”

In my study, I found few, to none of what would be called revelations by the standard of Scripture or Joseph Smith.  In fact, I was discouraged to find the example of an aged “prophet” who testified under oath before Congress that he had never had “real” revelations.

I will not include here all the details of my personal study that support my new conclusions about the Brethren and their “witness.”

But I will say that my study has led me to conclusions that have changed my life and have led me to a dark doorway on the church’s stage, that I did not know was ever there.  Entering that doorway has led to some of the most rewarding and difficult experiences of my life.

I have keenly and literally felt the pressure from the show’s producers — the lightning, the waves, and the storms from people very “high up.”  I have come to see the truth and irony of Christ’s words to those seeking to truly be His disciples:

But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.  And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.  (Matthew 10:34-38)

I have come to believe we must all seek truth and not fear the unknown world beyond the doorway.  I believe that as we find and embrace truth, we will be led by Him to more and more light, until that perfect day.

Joseph taught:

A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God.

If we fear to contemplate the darkest abyss, the deepest contradictions and the most awkward ironies, or to consider the depths and the effects of our traditions that form our false realities, we will never commune with God.

The stake president who chastened me for wanting an audience with the Savior was eventually called to serve as a mission president and is destined for the red, chief seats, so I’m told by those who would know.

One might ask, but don’t the Brethren teach truth?  What does it hurt to follow their counsel if it’s “good?”  Just because they have not been in Christ’s presence doesn’t make them evil or any less capable of teaching the gospel like anyone else…Right?

Sherem, one of several anti-Christs in the Book of Mormon, sought to confront Jacob the prophet who had been in Christ’s presence, in order that he might “overthrow the Doctrine of Christ.”

And he preached many things which were flattering unto the people; and this he did that he might overthrow the doctrine of Christ.  (Jacob 7:2)

The Doctrine of Christ is at the core of this very important question.  It is in fact at the very core of what we say we believe as Mormons.  And yet it is the most neglected and most misunderstood of all doctrines, in my experience.  So much so that even in Nephi’s day he lamented after speaking on this topic for three chapters:

And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.  (2 Nephi 32:7)

I have no problem with the Brethren or anyone trying to teach truth.  But the precepts of men (my own included), no matter how well-intentioned, will mislead us, especially when we treat them as the words of God delivered by special servants (which I do not profess to be).  They will entrap us in a false bubble of reality, a bubble that may even seem peaceful and safe and that for a time may be calm and happy.

If and when the Brethren diligently share scripture and seek the spirit in expounding it, while I believe this to be a better result than what we usually see in General Conference, it is not to be a substitute for the Doctrine of Christ, which Jacob and all True Prophets in the history of the world have attained unto.  Only one speaking with the Tongue of an Angel, following the pattern of the Doctrine of Christ, can deliver a message that brings about a complete change of heart.  (2 Nephi 33:1, Mosiah 5:2).

As children of God, it is our duty to discern between true and false messengers, who come in the Lord’s name.

I have looked past the lighting, the tremendous stage, the make up, the rehearsed one liners and teleprompters, the emotion, and the stories and I have sought to know whether these men stand in the presence of God or not.  For me, this matters a great deal.

Is it possible that these men now unwittingly promote a deception regarding what they know and who they know because they feel the pressure to keep the show going?  Do their lives, their fortunes, their jobs, their traditions, and their identities not depend upon it?

If it’s not the Doctrine of Christ shared by the power of the Holy Ghost by true messengers who have been in His presence, then we each must decide whether we shall remain deceived or whether we will look to cross the stormy sea to find the stairway that leads to the door of our escape into a new awakened state of reality, wherein then and only then we can find the True Messiah, our True Creator, even Jesus Christ.  We must listen closely and we must choose.  Our very salvation depends upon it.

P.S.  For those of you wondering why I am including the above clip, I invite you to watch it juxtapose to the other Truman Show clips.  Are we relying too heavily on drama, lighting, emotion and music?  I am especially troubled about Elder Holland’s praise of President Monson, suggesting he knows NO other man who has done more for the poor than this man who shuffles through the airport in his slippers publishing peace.  Just maybe that’s a confession worth contemplating.