Tag Archives: Less than Dust

I Know Nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless us all in 2017,

AB

The Last Demon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Second Coming and Blood Moons

moroniOn September 21, 1823, seventeen year old Joseph Smith received another heavenly messenger.  It had been a very difficult three years since his first vision, during which time he suffered:

“…severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious, because I continued to affirm that I had seen a vision…being of very tender years, and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me—I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God.”  (JSH 1:27,28)

Like prophets of scripture, Joseph was experiencing rejection, ridicule, and disappointment from those “even who ought to have been his friends.”  The lack of support must’ve left him very discouraged.  He surely felt very alone as he approached the Lord on this night of autumnal equinox, although surrounded by his siblings who all shared the same bed in that tiny loft of the Smith residence in upstate New York.

js_bedroom“In consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; when, on the evening of the above-mentioned twenty-first of September, after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one.”  (JSH 1:29)

Interestingly, it does not appear from the record that Moroni spends a lot of time consoling Joseph nor does he pull up a chair and listen to his concerns.  Moroni is laser focused on the message he has been commanded to deliver to young Joseph.

He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my 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.  (JSH 1:33)

After then proceeding to tell Joseph about the ancient record Moroni does something I have always found very curious.  He begins to quote scripture, word for word, seeming to cut and paste in symphonic fashion from various prophets from various dispensations.  Imagine being in the presence of a glorious being sent from the presence of God and with the voice of an angel he begins to speak of the destruction soon to come, as pronounced by incredible prophets such as Isaiah, Joel, Paul and Malachi:

“For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch...Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord…And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.”  (JSH 1: 37-39)

In addition to quoting this slightly different version from Malachi, Moroni also:

“…quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled. He quoted also the third chapter of Acts, twenty-second and twenty-third verses, precisely as they stand in our New Testament. He said that that prophet was Christ; but the day had not yet come when ‘they who would not hear his voice should be cut off from among the people,’ but soon would come. He also quoted the second chapter of Joel, from the twenty-eighth verse to the last. He also said that this was not yet fulfilled, but was soon to be. And he further stated that the fulness of the Gentiles was soon to come in. He quoted many other passages of scripture, and offered many explanations which cannot be mentioned here.”

There are so many amazing things in Joseph’s account worth great study and attention.  But in interest of time, I’d like to focus on the words of Joel while keeping in mind that the angel would appear 4 times that night and next morning and repeat the exact same message:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:  And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.  (Joel 2:28-32)

Why did Moroni come four times?  Why not three?  Why not five?  Why would he then ask Joseph to appear on the same day (the Autumnal Equinox) for the next four years at the Hill Cumorah?  What was the significance of the number four, if any?

What is also interesting is that since 1823 there have been many “blood moons” and “solar eclipses.”  Assuming this is what is meant by the references to blood and darkness.  Does anyone else find it odd that Moroni is quoting prophets from the Old and New Testament saying the time of burning is soon at hand, and oh by the way, it won’t happen before a blood moon and solar eclipse, when such a thing is not very unique?

Unless of course, it’s four blood moons and a solar eclipse.  What if Moroni was leaving Joseph a message with the emphasis on the number four?

bloodmoonsMany of you are aware that we are living history this year as it pertains to Blood Moons.  We are experiencing what is called a Tetrad of Blood Moons.  It’s not the first Tetrad we’ve seen since Christ’s first coming.  But, all the Tetrads have been during years of great significance for Israel.

So here we have four blood moons, all happening to fall on really important Jewish dates.  And as if that weren’t interesting enough, the four moons are separated by a solar eclipse.  It’s almost as if Moroni was trying to say, “when these things shall happen four times, while the sun is also darkened, make sure you take notice, because it will be soon after that.”

There is so much more here to study and to see and to ponder.  I found an intriguing article written on this topic by a person not of our faith.  He speaks of a prophecy by a Rabbi Judah Ben Samuel in 1217 AD.  I definitely think it’s worth a read.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

As I read and ponder such things I am reminded that our Lord must soon be coming.  It has been nearly 200 years since Joseph’s first vision and since that first visit from Moroni!  I often hear people in the church say they “can’t wait until He comes again!”  I don’t know that I share that same sentiment.

He and those that come will destroy many of us.  Or their glory will at least.  I feel the need to repent and to become more prepared before He comes.  To be a better husband and father, son and brother.  To be more humble, more trusting in Him.  I need His grace and seek His fulness.

I know many of you may relate to Joseph in feeling discouraged at this time, by rejection from those who ought to be your friends.  God bless you.  I know God hears your prayers and will comfort you as you turn to Him.

I leave you with a beautiful version of a song I wish was in our hymn book.  Amazing Grace.  I have heard it’s not included in the hymnal for doctrinal reasons, although I notice the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has sung it on occasion.  Either way, I hope you enjoy it.  It really is all about His Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace

Produced by David Christenson.

“We’re Glorious”

Archuleta

“Enter your email, Share it on Social with hashtag…, Download your free single….”

I just came across this little promotion on the Meet the Mormons Facebook page.   Great marketing pitch.  Who doesn’t like David Archuleta?  And what better way to spread the word than to take the message viral using all the social media tools of the day?

I don’t love the idea that the church wants my email, wants me to tweet, pinterest, facebook, follow and/or hashtag, all so I can get a “free” single of David’s song.  Obviously a joint marketing venture between him and the church, promoting Archuleta as well as the new movie.

You can actually watch the song and a movie montage below on YouTube without all the hassle:

Arch youtube

Click Above to watch video and film clips

It’s a good song I think.  Nice lyrics and message – although a little fluffy and maybe off doctrinally (see 2 Corinthians 3):

Here are the Lyrics to the Meet the Mormons theme song:

There are times when you might feel aimless and can’t see the places where you belong.
But you will find that there is a purpose, it’s been there within you all along.
And when you’re near it…you can almost hear it.
It’s like a symphony…just keep listening, and pretty soon you’ll start to figure out your part.
Everyone plays a piece in their own melodies… in each one of us… It’s glorious.
And you will know how to let it ring out as you discover who you are.
And those around you will start to wake up to the sounds that are in their hearts.
It’s all amazing what we’re all creating.
It’s like a symphony…just keep listening and pretty soon you’ll start to figure out your part.
Everyone plays a piece in their own melodies… in each one of us…ohhh… is glorious.
As you feel the notes build… you will see.
It’s like a symphony…just keep listening, and pretty soon you’ll start to figure out your part.
Everyone plays a piece in their own melodies… and each one of us…ohhh… is glorious.

It all kind of reminds me of the feel good movie “August Rush.”  A movie about finding your purpose in life, where you belong.  Interesting that the lyrics don’t mention God or even allude to a Creator.  It mentions “we’re all creating” and speaks of symphonies, but feels very self-focused rather than God-focused.  (Maybe this really isn’t a proselytizing effort!).

I am very curious if and how much speakers in General Conference will plug the movie.  I say they plug it hard.  I don’t think the timing of the release, the weekend after Conference (and the BYU-USU football game) is a coincidence.  If nothing else, I predict endless ads between sessions.  I hope I’m wrong.  But then, why wouldn’t they?  It’s a very important church business investment.

Bednar Internet

Elder Bednar. “Things As They Really Are” June 2010 Ensign

A comment from last week’s Meet the Mormon’s post pointed to the above talk from Elder Bednar and remarked what a difference 4 years makes.  I could not agree more.  In his talk, Elder Bednar speaks about the importance of not getting caught up in “cyberspace” and not becoming obsessed with virtual identities that are not real.  (eh hem, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

I’ve never liked that Facebook and other social identities encourage such illusionary self-promotions.  We all know people who sit at home all day, interacting in this fake world, taking endless selfies, always trying to portray how “blissful” their life is.

I fear this movie will be nothing more than a really expensive, glorified Facebook promotion of 6 otherwise very nice people.   Will this movie promote and encourage more Facebook idolatry?  Will it make me jealous that I’m not the Candy Bomber or not as successful and exciting as other “Great” Mormons?  Will I feel as “glorious” as these 6 (7 if you include David Archuleta) individuals?

Isn’t this part of our problem in the world / church?  We feel we can’t keep up with the Joneses, and the Joneses now tweet from Hawaii, where brother and sister Jones and their 4 perfect kids just posed for a selfie all at the Iron Man finish line.  Crap!  Now how do we keep up?  Well, it’s easy, lots of makeup, a tanning bed, teeth whitener, a little Photoshop, an expensive camera helps, and your own “glorious” post from… how about Temple Square.  That will make those worldly Joneses feel dumb.  You get the idea.

Are we really supposed to portray and see ourselves as glorious anyway?  If you do a search of the term glorious in the scriptures you will not see any mortal referred to by God as glorious.  Not that I could find.  You may become “glorious in the resurrection” if true and faithful in this life.  But, Glory is for God!  Not men.

Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine! (Isaiah 28:1)

King Benjamin reminds us we are less than the dust of the earth, far from glorious, no matter if we have “figured out our part” or not.  Even those like this righteous King who do figure it out, i.e. are redeemed, still consider themselves less than dust and preach repentance not self-promotion.