Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

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.

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

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.

A Few Thoughts On Conference and Prophets

monson

I was able to watch or read most of Conference this past week.  I listened carefully hoping to be inspired by messages delivered by those we call prophets, seers, and revelators.

I thought some of the talks were okay.  It seemed as though there was an added emphasis on the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith which for me is always a good thing.

Below are a few observations of things from Conference that did not overly inspire me.

  • Elder Ballard’s reference yet again to the Same Ol’ Ship Zion.  (He just seems to really cling to themes, i.e. Counseling With Your Counsels, Raising the Bar, and now Same Ol’ Ship.)
  • Elder Ballard promised “In the name of the Lord, that the God would never abandon His Church.”  Some may argue that this was a “powerful and bold witness” from a prophet, who needs to do nothing but speak the scripture that comes to him.  But some of us are left wondering then why the Savior would quote Isaiah and other prophets in making such proclamations.  Or why the D&C would say that if the Nauvoo Temple was not completed the Lord would reject us as a church, if in fact such a thing was impossible.  Brigham Young also made some pretty bold statements (most of which I don’t agree with btw) about the Lord rejecting the church and the priesthood for things we have now allowed, i.e. ending polygamy and giving priesthood to all worthy males.  Where are we promised that this church or any church can never fall?  In the Book of Mormon?  Just the opposite.  In the D&C?  Nope.  Maybe His Kingdom, which has never been of this world will never fall.  But not a church, even the very one Jesus restored.  Otherwise God would cease to be God for He would take away the agency of man.
  • I dislike it when the brethren endlessly quote each other.  Although I noticed that no one quoted the living prophet when discussing the Book of Mormon.  Instead a couple of different GA’s quoted Ezra Taft Benson, a dead prophet, likely because the living prophet has said very little of the Book of Mormon in his tenure.  But why does Elder Ashton need to quote Elder Christofferson for the most mundane of ideas?  For example: “this ‘power of godliness’ comes in the person and by the influence of the Holy Ghost.”  Why not quote Moroni?  Or the Savior?  It feels so unnecessary, idolatrous, and patronizing.  Jesus quoting Isaiah regarding the fulfillment of ancient prophecy shows much more humility and is very different than men quoting their colleagues higher in rank than themselves.
  • I did not like the part from Sister Reeve’s talk where she referenced a sister missionary from her and her husband’s mission who thought she could “circumvent the repentance process” and try her hardest to serve a valiant mission and then confess her sins a few days before leaving the mission field.  She said her confession “lacked Godly sorrow.”  First of all, why would the mission president’s wife know anything about a missionary’s confession given to her priesthood leader?  Is that information NOT meant to be kept confidential?  Secondly, how do you think this poor sister feels hearing this talk?  Is that how you help someone who is struggling?  Kick to the face.  How many missionaries just never confess their sins?  Especially since Elder Ballard raised the bar?  I can promise you that many missionaries lie to get out, lie to stay in and lie when they get married in the temple.  What if this sweet sister had confessed her sins to the Lord?  I assume she pleaded day and night with Him!  Dedicating her service to Him!  And what does she get when she confesses?  A mission president who breaks her confidence and blabbers her “lack of Godly sorrow” to his gossiping wife.  What if God actually does forgive sin without the need to confess to some dishonest priesthood holder and his wife?  I vote that the church edit her talk and fire the guy from the Correlation Department who was responsible for approving it.
  • Elder Christoffersen suggesting that God’s love is not unconditional.  What kind of message does that send?
  • Elder Holland’s talk calling out the home teachers who left when they saw the family was “busy.”  Why lead with a bad example of someone else, who is hopefully listening to your talk?  Isn’t that a little ruthless and unkind?  I prefer hearing someone tell of their own failure to prove their point.  While I was moved by his second story of the man who lost his child tragically, I did not love that Elder Holland made his talk about home teaching.  Why not just talk about loving our neighbor, period.  Did the Savior turn his parable of the Good Samaritan into a talk about home teaching or some other church program?  No, his talk, funny enough, was about how the non-member (the loathsome Samaritan) stopped when the two leaders from the Church (Priest = bishop, Levite = temple worker) did not.  They were apparently running late for home teaching or to their temple shift.  Maybe the real message from our Savior is to have compassion on ALL of God’s children and to make time to do what we can to help people especially in distress, WHO WE ARE NOT ASSIGNED TO, who we happen upon along our way.

I just have to add that the format and tradition of Conference is not one that I like.  Talks read from teleprompters practiced and rehearsed countless times, delivered by those whose hairs and clothing and makeup are all in perfect order.  The format seems to make people nervous.  One poor brother looked like he might die, seemingly paralyzed by complete stage fright.

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And yet, these men and women travel the world giving speeches and hopefully interesting messages to members everywhere.  But in Conference, I believe because of the rigid format they are required to follow, many of them freeze up and become boringly robotic.

I suppose the inspiration behind reading talks from a teleprompter, approved by Church curriculum is to make sure no one deviates from Church doctrine or says anything controversial that has to be changed and apologized for after the fact.  Of course some will also argue that General Authority talks are scripture and must be read as to not deviate from the revelation they have received and recorded.

Either way, I find the format stifling.  At least in the olden days when someone like Apostle Matthew Cowley would speak, no one was sure what interesting ideas might be shared.  He’s the one who was told as a new General Authority to never prepare a talk.  His talks often included firsthand accounts of incredible miracles he witnessed over his lifetime, especially with the Maori people in the many years he served in the South Pacific.

This idea of not writing and reading a talk seems to better conform to the commandment from the Savior to His disciples:

Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.  (D&C 84:85)

But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.  (Mark 13:11)

Joseph Smith as far as I know, did not prepare 20 minute long talks that he read word for word.  Joseph, like most prophets in scripture, spoke for hours at a time, with some notes I assume, but with an emphasis on the words given from the Holy Ghost in the very hour.  When Joseph spoke, even if at a funeral, he was expounding doctrine, and saying interesting and insightful things that challenged and inspired the saints, without any teleprompter or script.  I can’t imagine those talks were boring.  They certainly aren’t as I read and study them 190 years later.

Is anyone else not bored with the format of today’s Conferences?  I challenge you to be honest, at least with yourself.  I’m concerned we have created a culture of such fear of men that we are not honest with how we truly feel.  Don’t get me wrong, the messages are “nice” enough at times, but I ask in all sincerity, where is the power?  Where is the prophecy?  Where is the excitement?  We are living in the Last Days!  Where is the urgency to repent?  To prepare?  To be sanctified?  To be endowed with Priesthood power so as to survive the Burning that will come?

Do we as Latter-day Saints take the Savior’s charge to judge the fruits of those who call themselves prophets?  Honestly, do we?  Or are we too lulled and complacent to do so?  Too fearful that doing so puts us on the highroad of apostasy?

Below are some very interesting excerpts from Hugh Nibley from his The World and the Prophets.  As you read, I invite you to ask yourself if today’s LDS prophets pass the test of what a prophet will teach and if they are generally received by the world and the church as were true prophets of old.


In the dealings of men with each other, any assumption of infallibility or even superiority is sheer arrogance; we mortals are highly fallible.  For that very reason, Peter insists, it is all-important to prove that a prophet is a true prophet and not one of the swarming impostors.  We must, he says, “before all things try the faith of the prophet by every possible test.”  A prophet is no ordinary person; he makes no ordinary claim; and he does not ask people to believe him, but to test him.  God is no authoritarian: He asks no one to believe; but invites the world as the prophets do, “Prove me herewith.”

When the Lord was upon his earthly mission, he greatly angered and upset men by forcing them to decide whether he was a true prophet or not.  Early in his mission he was met by certain devils who begged him to leave them alone: “They cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God?  Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?”  The devils could not ignore him; his mere presence was a “torment” to them.  And it was the same with men, for when the people of a nearby town heard what had happened, “behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts” (Matthew 8:29).  Apparently his presence made men uncomfortable as it did the devils, for while the Lord was in their midst, they could not be neutral regarding him.  Only after he had left the earth could Christians have an “open mind” regarding Christ’s mission.  Of such people he said through his prophet John, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16).  The Lord insists that we make up our minds one way or another regarding his calling.

Before considering the test of a true prophet, we must make clear the fact that a prophet is a witness, not a reformer.  Criticism of the world is always implicit in a prophet’s message of repentance, but he is not sent for the purpose of criticizing the world.  Men know the world is wicked, and the wickedest ones often know it best.  To denounce human folly has been the avocation of teachers and philosophers in every age, and their reward, surprisingly enough, has not been death but usually a rather handsome fee.  The age of Christ, like the nineteenth century, was a remarkably tolerant one as far as ideas were concerned.  On the one hand we find quacks, impostors, and miracle mongers flourishing throughout the Roman empire; and on the other, traveling philosophers and high-powered professors indulging in the most unsparing and outspoken criticism of all established institutions, sacred and profane, while the world applauded.  It was not the Sermon on the Mount that drove men to crucify the Lord.  It was not for their moral tirades that the prophets of old and the Apostles were stoned.  In the age of Apollonius and Dio Chrysostom people liked nothing better than to sit in fashionable congregations while being scolded by picturesque crackpots.  No Christian writer ever made such devastating attacks on prevailing manners as the pagan satirists did; no Christian apologist ever debunked heathen religion as effectively as Cicero did—with perfect safety….

What, then, did Christ and the Apostles do and say that drove men into paroxysms of rage?  They performed tangible miracles such as could not be denied, and they reported what they had seen and heard.  That was all.  It was as witnesses endowed with power from on high that they earned the hatred of the world, of which John speaks so much: “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness” (John 3:11).

…To come down to modern times, why were people so furiously angry with Joseph Smith?  It was not for being a reformer or rebuking a naughty world.  In his day, the most popular preacher was the one who could denounce the manners of the times most fiercely and paint the most lurid picture of the wrath to come.  Nobody led militant campaigns against even the most rabid preachers of hell-fire or swore to drink their blood.  We have said that the world in which Jesus lived was full of quacks and and impostors who carried on unmolested.  So in the time of Joseph Smith, the country was full of strange separatist cults as the Mormons were falsely accused of, but no one thought it virtuous to burn their settlements or shoot them on sight.  In what did the modern prophets’ deadly offense consist?  In the summer of 1833 a much-publicized mass meeting was held in Missouri to protest the admission of Mormon immigrants into Jackson County, and this was the official objection: “The committee express fears that … they will soon have all the offices in the county in their hands; and that the lives and property of other citizens would be insecure, under the administration of men who are so ignorant and superstitious as to believe that they have been the subjects of miraculous and supernatural cures; hold converse with God and his angels, and possess and exercise the gifts of divination and unknown tongues.”

… Before we even consider the question of whether Joseph Smith was a true prophet or not, the uniqueness of his position deserves respectful attention.  Because, true or false, he was the first man since the days of the Apostles to claim the things that real prophets claim.  The modern prophets who excited the laughter and contempt of the world exactly as the ancient prophets shocked and amused the friends of Justin were the first men since ancient times to talk of what they had seen and heard in the presence of God and angels.  What could they expect but a prophet’s reward?


And so I ask you, as nice as Conference may have been, did any of those we call prophets speak with power and authority?  Did they speak of their visions or revelations from Angels or from God?  Did they speak in tongues or share their own prophesies?  Did they reach out to the throngs of people who stand when they enter and stand and wait when they depart, to heal the sick and afflicted?

I don’t ask these questions to be gratuitously critical.  I ask these questions because we are commanded by the Lord to prove and test those who call themselves prophets and who speak in His name.

I think it’s fair to say that today’s messages are much less hell-fire and damnation as perhaps they once were, as that has become perhaps politically incorrect or seen by the world as uneducated and unrefined.  Today’s messages are nice sermons which gently call for reform while encouraging virtues.  One could argue that the Savior did likewise on the Mount.

But, the Savior did not stop there, nor does any true prophet in the recorded history of the world.  They bare solemn and unmistakable witness of seeing Him and knowing Him, testifying to the world that He and His Angels have physically ministered to them.

And they performed open miracles for many if not all to see.  We will be judged on how we judge and discern these things.

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.

Atonement

Holy SpiritAs we approach the Day of Atonement, which happens to coincide this year with Fall Equinox, I am reminded of my many sins and of my need to be redeemed.

It has been said that if a man can learn to do two things; repent and forgive, he will become a perfect man.  Surely this is easier said than done.

I am an especially weak man.  I am a not so great husband, father, son, brother, and friend.  Perhaps my intentions are good, but the reality is I fall eternally short.  I seek forgiveness from those I constantly hurt and disappoint.

The truth is we are all broken.  We all have our weaknesses, our quirks, our temptations and tendencies.  For one, it may be arrogance.  For another selfishness.  For another false beliefs.  For another idolatry.  For yet another laziness or ignorance.  For most of us, all of these things.

Why are we so flawed?  Why are we, who are LDS, and who have the fullness of the Gospel, so prone to sin and to offend?

I believe it’s because we lack a sufficient portion of God’s Spirit, which comes as we repent and receive a mighty change of heart.

I love the story of King Benjamin.  He had been preaching to his people for many years.  Eventually the message began to resonate.  The culmination of which was when the King asked if anyone believed the words of his final mortal message:

And they all cried with one voice, saying: 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 (Mosiah 5:2).

We can know if a message comes from God or not IF and when we find our hearts have been changed by it.  This is what I seek, especially today.  I pray for forgiveness.  I pray I may forgive those who have offended me.  I pray for continued patience from both God and those around me.

I praise our God who condescended to be with mortals.  Praise be to Him for making His whole soul an offering on that fateful day so many years ago.

I love the song below, which captures for me the beautiful spirit of worshiping our Lord and of seeking His Spirit.

Behold Thy Mother

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One of the most touching scenes I can imagine is that of Mary, Jesus’ mother, standing at her son’s feet, beholding His death as Jesus instructs John to care for her.  “Don’t just take care of her, care for her as I would,” I imagine him implying as He said the sacred words to his disciple, “Behold Thy Mother.”

I think we may fall short in our reverence for that Woman in the Mormon faith.  On this Mother’s Day, I praise and thank God for Jesus’ faithful Mother Mary.  I can’t imagine what she endured.

I am especially touched by this artistic rendition that shows those few disciples who stood by Him while he suffered the Cross.  The other Mary, who many of us believe was more than just a disciple, appears to be at her Master’s feet.  Completely devastated and yet completely there.  There is no fear in her love for Him.

John is also fearless for whatever reason.   While others fled and hid and were afraid, John, Jesus’ “beloved,” stood faithfully by and watched.  Oh what a privilege to even try to contemplate this kind of love, that “casteth out all fear” (Moroni 8:16).

And yet I imagine also that the pain, the irony and the contradictions were felt most acutely by them on that day.   After all, Joseph taught that Jesus experienced more irony and contradictions than any man.  I assume that any sincere follower of Christ, especially those who watched on the day of Crucifixion, also taste of such ironies and contradictions relative to their devotion.

This love between Mother and Son and between Husband and Wife and between Savior and Disciple is what inspires me this Mother’s Day morning.  Thank You Lord for showing us “How it is done.”  (Enos 1:7)

Joseph also demonstrated John-like love.  He too was fearless.  Parley said of Joseph:

‘It was Joseph Smith who taught me how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter.

‘It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity. . . .

‘It was from him that I learned the true dignity and destiny of a son of God, clothed with an eternal priesthood, as the patriarch and sovereign of his [family]. It was from him that I learned that the highest dignity of womanhood was, to stand as a queen and priestess to her husband. . . .’ (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1968, pp. 297–98.)

I thank God for Joseph on this Mother’s Day as well.  Where would we be without his connection to heaven?

I don’t think we hear enough good spoken of Emma or Lucy in the church today.  I’m not trying to be critical.  It’s simply an honest observation.  It’s curious that these amazing women, who were clearly disciples of our Savior, who stood by Joseph and Hyrum, chose to not follow Brigham Young to Utah, or to come later for that matter.  I hope I would have honored Joseph by trying to care for them, even if it meant staying behind.

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Can you imagine the scene in the parlor where Joseph and Hyrum were displayed, lifeless, to be viewed one last time in mortality?  Lucy recorded in her own words as she came down the steps and saw her grandchildren clinging to her own sons’ necks:

“I was left desolate in my distress. I had reared six sons to manhood, and of them all, only one remained … as I entered the room and saw my murdered sons … it was too much; I sank back, crying to the Lord in the agony of my soul, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken this family!’ A voice replied, ‘I have taken them to myself, that they might have rest.’

“As I looked upon their peaceful, smiling countenances, I seemed almost to hear them say, ‘Mother, weep not for us, we have overcome the world by love; we carried to them the gospel, that their souls might be saved; they slew us for our testimony, and thus placed us beyond their power; their ascendancy is for a moment, ours is an eternal triumph’” (“History of Joseph Smith by His Mother,” my emphasis added).

Lucy, you amazing Mother, I bow my knee on your behalf this day and ask our Lord to bless you and Emma and your entire family, both living and dead.  Thank for your sacrifices for us often ungrateful members of the church!

I of course also think of my own mother this day.  She brought me into the world and has made many sacrifices for me and my siblings and others.  Her lot has not always been easy.  I have caused her great stress over the years.  And I am grateful to her for doing all show knows how to do on our behalf.  I don’t think my mother reads this blog, but in case she does, Mom, thank you.

My most heartfelt thoughts I leave of my wife.  She is my soul mate and my best friend.  I have watched her sacrifice her life for me and our children in ways that go beyond a calling or title.  She, like the Marys of old, stands by us in the darkest of hours.  Selfless.  Never complaining.  Always there.  I praise the God of Heaven and Earth for you on this day my love.  I cannot thank you or Him enough.  It is my greatest desire to be redeemed so that we may have some shred of hope of being together as a family after this life.  Thanks for standing by me and for not giving up on us.

One final thought on this Mother’s day from a true and faithful prophet of God on the sacred topic of families.  Joseph taught:

“The doctrine or sealing power of Elijah is as follows:—If you have power to seal on earth and in heaven, then we should be wise. The first thing you do, go and seal on earth your sons and daughters unto yourself, and yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory, and go ahead, and not go back, but use a little wisdom, and seal all you can, and when you get to heaven tell your Father that what you seal on earth should be sealed in heaven, according to his promise. I will walk through the gate of heaven and claim what I seal, and those that follow me and my counsel.” (Joseph Smith, TPJS Section 6, p. 340, my emphasis added)

It is my testimony that the greatest way to honor our mothers and our families is to seek to receive sealing power.  Receiving sealing power must be “individual.”  It requires more than just a temple marriage and “faithful” church service.  We cannot rely upon a church to magically cast a spell upon our families and expect nothing more will be required except to “endure to the end.”  Receiving true sealing power requires our very hearts and souls.  We must be stretched as was Abraham.

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice & offering, & that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.  It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.  (Lectures on Faith)

May we honor Motherhood this day by working in all diligence to preserve our families and loved ones in the eternities.  God help us in this effort before it is everlastingly too late.

 

 

 

 

The Truman Show

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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. 

 

 

 

Defending Joseph

joseph grove

Joseph Smith was told as a young man by an angel of God that his “name should be had for good and evil, among all nations, kindreds, and tongues; or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people” (History of the Church).

Unfortunately much of the evil spoken of Joseph arises from within the church and comes back to the topic of polygamy.

I have a few friends who are otherwise active and “faithful” members who go as far as to say they “dislike” Joseph Smith and/or that “he was a pervert.”  “Sex was his weakness or downfall” they say.  One such friend serves in a stake presidency.  You will never hear him speak of Joseph over the pulpit.  I think this is a tragedy.

Now, I know not everyone feels this way about Joseph in the church.  I certainly don’t feel that way.  But, like most Mormons I’ve had to rely upon the church and its approved Deseret Book list of authors to answer my questions on this issue to inform my opinions.  I know some personally have who left the church after reading Richard Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling.  A Deseret Book approved author.  I think the church has done a very poor job in resolving most people’s concerns regarding Joseph and polygamy, despite its best efforts.

In reading some of the church’s recent teachings, it seems apparent why many are still left with very unsettled feelings over this very strange period in our history.  Here’s a sampling of the church’s handling of the subject:

Latter-day Saints do not understand all of God’s purposes for instituting, through His prophets, the practice of plural marriage during the 19th century. The Book of Mormon identifies one reason for God to command it: to increase the number of children born in the gospel covenant in order to “raise up seed unto [the Lord]” (Jacob 2:30). Plural marriage did result in the birth of large numbers of children within faithful Latter-day Saint homes.  It also shaped 19th-century Mormon society in other ways: marriage became available to virtually all who desired it; per-capita inequality of wealth was diminished as economically disadvantaged women married into more financially stable households; and ethnic intermarriages were increased, which helped to unite a diverse immigrant population.  Plural marriage also helped create and strengthen a sense of cohesion and group identification among Latter-day Saints. Church members came to see themselves as a “peculiar people,”covenant-bound to carry out the commands of God despite outside opposition, willing to endure ostracism for their principles.

And so as an LDS person growing up in a convert family outside of Utah, these were the best arguments we could imagine or muster, always informed by our study of the church’s teachings and in the end always justifying the practice of polygamy all while defending pioneer ancestors I could not claim as my own.  I admit, it was always awkward and usually humiliating.

“Well, why don’t you practice polygamy today?” I was invariably asked.  “Because it’s illegal now and because the Lord revoked the commandment a long time ago.  Oh and back then Utah was not a state”  I might respond.  “But, it was illegal then too wasn’t it?  Isn’t that why the U.S. Government was challenging your church?”  “Well, yeah, but…..”  Always, always awkward.  And at the end of the day, Joseph came out as the perverted scoundrel that started the whole mess.  That impression is too often left in our minds also, as much as we try to ignore the feelings, those seeds are planted if we trust the church’s narrative.

I have family members who, to do this day, while active in the church, despise polygamy and are not comforted by the church’s teachings or essays.

In fact, a young active latter-day saint recently posted his feelings on his blog about his concerns over polygamy and his understanding of D&C section 132.  He concluded polygamy was a false principle and is now facing church discipline with his wife as a consequence.

I find this very disappointing since the church came out just recently and said LDS people will not be disciplined for supporting same sex marriage online.  But apparently if you support traditional marriage online, you will face discipline.  Am I missing something?  Now, I understand there may be other factors related to additional doctrinal disagreements held by the Van Allens.  But, why not simply let people believe as they choose and continue to patiently teach them?

Allens

Kirk and Lindsay Van Allen – Facing Church Discipline for Rejecting Polygamy (D&C 132)

Such is the incredible confusion and comedy of errors over this and many other topics, further exposing the church’s inability to lead in matters of doctrine.

This last week, however, I came across the best and most logical defense of Joseph Smith regarding “polygamy” that I’ve ever read.  Ironically this defense is made by a man who the church recently excommunicated.

I highly recommend this 48 page essay to anyone and everyone.  Far too many people have erred too long on this subject.  Joseph’s name has been spoken evil of in far too many wards and stakes throughout the church.  The church itself has left Joseph hanging, by promoting its view of the truth.  It has not properly defended this man (with the truth) to whom we owe the restoration of the gospel.  The very man whom our Lord has anointed as choice seer, as true prophet, and as the legitimate key holder of this last dispensation.

Joseph Smith wrote the following from Liberty Jail after receiving letters from his loved ones.  His words endear me to him and inspire me to want to be one of his friends.

“We need not say to you that the floodgates of our hearts were lifted and our eyes were a fountain of tears, but those who have not been enclosed in the walls of prison without cause or provocation, can have but little idea how sweet the voice of a friend is; one token of friendship from any source whatever awakens and calls into action every sympathetic feeling . . . until finally all enmity, malice and hatred, and past differences, misunderstandings and mismanagements are slain victorious at the feet of hope; and when the heart is sufficiently contrite, then the voice of inspiration steals along and whispers, ‘My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.'”  (History of the Church, 3:293; the last portion of this paragraph was later canonized in D&C 121:7–8.)

Far too many of us have been inspired to lock Joseph in the cells of uncertainty (at best) in our minds and hearts because of false teachings allowed by those who ought to be more informed on these issues.

Joseph also wrote:

I have no enemies but for the truth’s sake. I have no desire but to do all men good. I feel to pray for all men. We don’t ask any people to throw away any good they have got; we only ask them to come and get more. What if all the world should embrace this gospel? They would see eye to eye, and the blessings of God would be poured out upon the people, which is the desire of my whole soul.  (History of the Church, 5:259.)

I love our prophet Joseph.  I stand to sustain him and invite any who doubt his mission or who believe him to be a fallen prophet to especially read this essay from Denver Snuffer.  A man the church should thank for his brilliant defense of a prophet we should all give the benefit of any doubt.  A prophet who gave his life for the church, even when the Lord had commanded him to escape.

“If my life is of no value to my friends,” he said, “it is of none to me.”  God I love that man.  His words should both inspire and haunt us at the same time.

martyrdom