Notes for my writing

This blog is made up of notes on the gospel as found in the only true and living church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This includes notes that are either excerpts from or ideas for books I either have in draft or may yet write.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Concerning near death experiences and other spurious prophets

Truth about life after death has an appointed means to come to man, and we really ought to know that. If they speak not according to the law and the testimony it is because there is no light in them. In case the referenced scripture isn't clear enough, by saying the law and the testimony, it means that if they don't come back testifying of the true church and God's living prophets it is because what they are saying is not real revelation. And if it isn't real revelation, then it isn't real revelation.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

No safety in rote quotations in place of the Holy Ghost

Those who want to turn gospel teaching into academic style teaching where quotations are the measure of truth instead of the Holy Ghost are in an interesting conundrum. They believe that by insisting on that they are offering safety. Interestingly, every one of the major Christian religions backs its doctrine with extensive quotations from such figures as Christ himself and the original twelve.

Without the Holy Ghost being the key to both learning and teaching, there is no safety in quotations no matter the source.

Any doctrine that casts out the Holy Ghost as the means by which we learn and by which we teach casts out the lifeblood of truth.

After all, can we gain a testimony except by revelation through the Holy Ghost? If beginning of the path is marked out by revelation, in the form of gaining a testimony, do we really believe that the path itself is to be traveled by some other means.

In D&C 50 we learn that gospel teaching is teaching by the Holy Ghost, where the learner is learning by the Holy Ghost. Interestingly, no mention of authoritative quotations is made.

If God's description of how his gospel is to be taught in the last days requires the Holy Ghost but makes no mention of authoritative quotations, isn't that enough of an authoritative quotation for us to throw out the requirement of authoritative quotations and replace with God's own required method: that it be taught and received by the Holy Ghost.

Why don't we believe D&C 98?

Why does nobody believe D&C 98? We read the scriptures in the new testament all the time as if we don't have a section of the doctrine and covenants with Christ himself speaking that significantly alters the meaning of the relevant new testament verses. Why is that?

In the new testament there plenty of discussion about heaven and hell. When the vision of the degrees of glory came around it threw far more light on the topic and we have rightly incorporated this greater light and knowledge into our teaching and conversation. We speak of the celestial kingdom more than we use the term heaven. 

But with D&C 98 we haven't taken the additional light and knowledge there and made it part of our understanding of what Christ requires of his followers. We still cite the new testament verses it enhances without so much as nod toward it. 

I could get into Heaven if only somebody would foot the bill

I have noticed that one of the images that is conjured up by those who are teaching false, and destructive doctrines about the atonement is the imagery that to get into heaven we need someone to pay the price. Since we can't pay the price, then Christ paid the price. The bill now being settled, there is really nothing we need to do but show due gratitude and practice for our arrival.

But that is not what the atonement is about. It is true that Christ suffered for our sins. It is true that because of that, we can be forgiven of our sins, and not have to suffer for them. The scriptures put it this way:

D&C 19:15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
 16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
 17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
 18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
 19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.
 20 Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments of which I have spoken, of which in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit.

Thus Christ made it possible for us to have our sins remitted. That is wonderful. But it is different than simply paying an entrance fee.

The difference is that the celestial kingdom is not a place we can go without first learning of its laws and being prepared to keep all of them. This was explained very nicely by Joseph Smith. He said that one could travel to the United States and live here without having to first learn its laws, but we can't do that with the Celestial Kingdom. We must learn its laws and live them before we can live there. Joseph Smith also taught that living the whole law would be required. 

So entering heaven is not as simple as paying an admission fee.

But then how can we be saved?

By grace. But not by grace as the modern prophets of born again baptist Mormonism (Stephen Robinson and Brad Wilcox) would have you believe.

It is by the grace of God that we can become the sort of beings that can live in a celestial kingdom. God's grace means nothing more nor less than God's generous and merciful gifts. Those gifts that provide us greater spiritual strength and sight allow us to behave better than we could if left to our own devices.

Now there are two important lessons about how the grace of God relates to our works.

The first is plainly stated in the scriptures. It gives the conditions on which we can gain access to the marvelous grace that God is willing to pour out:

D&C 130: 20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
 21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated

On what terms is this grace imparted to man?

By his works.

That is the first great lesson about how grace and works are related. We gain access to any spiritual blessing by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated. We gain access to God's grace by our works.

The second lesson is also plainly stated in the scriptures. If grace is going to save us at the judgement bar, then it had better come into play when we are judged. And how will we be judged?

From the Book of Mormon we read: is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works
...they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works
...all nations and tongues shall stand before God, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works
...all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works be judged according to our works
...brought to stand before God to be judged according to their works be judged according to their works, whether they be good. .or whether they be evil
... be judged according to their works
... be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body
... judged of him according to their works whether they be good or whether they be evil
... they shall be judged, every man according to his works, whether they be good, or whether they be evil
... all men shall be judged of their works
... be judged of their works; and if their works have been filthiness they must needs be filthy
... be judged of their works

If grace is going to save us, it had better affect our works. Because it is by our works that our final judgement will be made.

And indeed saving grace does affect our works. It flows to us conditionally based on our works, and in turn, it has power to transform our works.

That is the second great lesson about how grace and works are related. Grace which does not change our works has no power to save us at the judgement bar because the scriptures teach over and over that it is by our works that our final judgement will be made.

Some explicit examples of this can make a world of difference:

The light of Christ is a saving grace
The light of Christ is a merciful gift from God. Man has no power to impart it to himself, it is simply and generously given to him by God and is therefore part of the grace of God, for that is what God's grace is: God's merciful and generous gifts to his children.

Is the light of Christ a saving grace? Does it affect our works? Yes. It can hardly be overstated how crucial it is to our salvation. Without the light of Christ to guide us we would be little more than brute beasts regarding good and evil. The light of Christ is our conscience, it lets us know basic right from wrong. Without it all mankind would be completely adrift. Indeed, it is by grace we are saved, and the light of Christ is a saving grace.

So the light of Christ affects our works profoundly. Put differently, the grace of God affects our ability to even do the least righteous works.

But also, the more we hearken to the light of Christ, the more clearly we can discern it. With the additional light and spiritual strength we gain by learning to hearken to the light of Christ we are more capable of sensing the light of Christ, and also more strong in obeying it. So our access to this grace is conditional upon our obedience. The more we hearken to it, the more we can perceive it. The less we hearken, the less we sense it. In the New Testament we learn that some were so sexually immoral that it was as if they seared their conscience with a hot iron, giving way to homosexual acts. Our access to this grace is conditional upon our works.

So there is one example. The light of Christ is a saving grace. We could not possibly be saved without it. It profoundly affects our works. Our ability to gain the benefits of this grace is conditioned upon our works.

Forgiveness from sin
Another saving grace is the forgiveness of sins made possible by the atonement. This one is so familiar I will be brief. It is the one everyone already knows about. But without it, we could not possibly be saved. It is granted to us conditionally upon our works.

The Holy Ghost as a saving grace
Another saving grace is the gift of the Holy Ghost. The same remarks that were made about the light of Christ apply equally well to the gift of the Holy Ghost. It profoundly affects our works as we grow into it. It is a merciful gift from God, not something a mortal can simply bequeath upon one's own self. Our ability to receive the benefits of it depend upon our works. The better we are living, the more we have it. The more we have the Holy Ghost, the better we are capable of living.

As we grow into the gift of the Holy Ghost in time it will testify of the Father and the Son as taught by Christ to the Nephites. Christ's intention in saying the Holy Ghost would bear record of him and of the Father was not that these Nephites needed the Holy Ghost to affirm to them that Christ existed, as he stood directly before them. What they needed was for it to be revealed to them who Christ was - what sort of being he was. Even with him present they could only gain a glimpse of that knowledge without the Holy Ghost. They needed to become one with him, as he was one with the Father. And the primary mechanism for that in mortality is the gift of the Holy Ghost. Without that grace of God, they could never become one with the Father and the Son in the way that is necessary for them to enter Zion or the Celestial Kingdom. It simply wouldn't matter what habits they developed, what scriptures they read, what service they rendered; without the Holy Ghost to bear record of the Father and the Son, to be a living witness of God as he is in their own hearts and minds they could never become one with the Father and the Son in the sense needed to become part of the Celestial paradise of God. In the Celestial Kingdom, all are united so perfectly that the scriptures say that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one God. Without that saving grace, salvation is impossible.

And on what condition is that grace granted? It is granted conditionally upon our works.

And does that grace change our works? From the scriptural account we see that it fundamentally transforms them in a way that no amount of simple human good behavior can approach. Our ability to do God's work and to stand firm in his truth is greatly magnified as we learn to receive the Holy Ghost.

The same is true of some measure of God's own glory which Joseph Smith pointed out that Christ bestowed upon his disciples. To what end? That they could be one as he is one with the Father. That oneness is not within natural human realms. It requires the grace of God. But that grace is conditioned on our works, and it also fundamentally transforms them so that we may receive a good final judgement.

"The Savior surely intended to be understood by his disciples: and he so spake that they might understand him; for he declares to his Father, in language not to be easily mistaken, that he wanted his disciples, even all of them, to be as himself and the Father: for as he and the Father were one, so they might be one with them. And what is said in the 22nd verse is calculated to more firmly establish this belief, if it needs any thing to establish it. He says, And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one. As much as to say, that unless they have the glory which the Father had given him, they could not be one with them: For he says he had given them the glory that the Father had given him, that they might be one; or in other words, to make them one." (Lectures on Faith, 7:13)

In the end, the grace of God is the only way that each member of the church can stand, as will be necessary for exaltation, before the judgment bar and say "I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, and the Father and I are one."

Sunday, August 23, 2015

And upon my house shall it begin

I knew there were a couple of scriptures that stated that the vengeance of the Lord in the last days would begin at his own house. I finally found one of them. Notice the phrase "And upon my house shall it begin" at the beginning of verse 25.

D&C 112: 23 Verily, verily, I say unto you, darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people, and all flesh has become corrupt before my face.
 24 Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord.
 25 And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;
 26 First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.

God's own children and animals are different

In response to someone comparing the fight against abortion to "protecting innocent animals" because in both cases one is "protecting innocents"
When we stand before our creator we will know that his children are his own children and he values them differently than animals. By God's own mouth we know we are allowed to eat animals, though we should eat meat sparingly, and that animal sacrifice was a constant part of the law of Moses. He even calls the doctrine of refusing to eat meat "a doctrine of devils" in both the

Look at your own little children and ask yourself whether you don't value them differently than you value animals. Because people are God's children, and infants are his little ones. These are the same ones Christ gathered round his knee and blessed. Christ, who feasted on a lamb each year at passover, did not see animals as being in any way like the little children he blessed even though he was so exhausted his disciples wanted to send them away.

When we stand before him, and we see his children, and know that they are his children just as much as any child ever had a parent, I don't think we will wonder whether he considered the abomination of killing little babies in the womb to be different than sacrifice of animals, which he instituted personally as a constant part of the law of Moses.

Our desparate need for wisdom

The Lord speaks in the scriptures of the world in very clear terms. Sadly now church members now find it offensive if his words are used in regular conversation like they really mean something. I think that means our faith in the scriptures is seriously lacking. We push what is taught there about the world aside.

We need to recognize that those involved in perverse immorality are not our bestest friends.

Our enemies are circling us like wolves and we are refusing to realize they lust to devour us. Instead, we think they are angry and offended because we hurt their feelings. Anxious to mend the breach we want them to have "good faith discussions", give us high fives, and hope they will invite us to their birthday parties. We don't recognize how they lust for our destruction. We have forgotten that when men sin, it gives the adversary power over them, and he will certainly drive them to destroy us no matter how friendly we are to them in return. It isn't hurt feelings, it is the power of the adversary inspiring wicked men against the power of God. No attempt on our part to calm them will really change their inner turmoil toward us. And no kindness on our part will stay their hunger to destroy any vestiges of God's true faith. Each advantage we give them out of kindness will be turned against us and our posterity. We must wake up to our circumstances and "oh, be wise".

In his mortality, the Lord made no apology in his statements of who was against him and how brutally they would act given the opportunity. When Peter said "surely not so", the Lord responded fiercely stating that in saying that Peter was an offense to him because he savored not the things of God, but those that be of men. Christ expects us to be discerning. When it comes to preserving our right to worship him, and our children's right to worship him after us, our discernment is not just a matter of wisdom, but salvation.