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.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Judging by the promises of the Lord.

We live in a day when, as Joseph Fielding McConkie put it, "the only thing that is morally wrong is to say that something is morally wrong". One of the ways in which this manifests itself is that even quoting the wrong scripture, for example

D&C 63:17 Wherefore, I, the Lord, have said that the fearful, and the unbelieving, and all liars, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie, and the whoremonger, and the sorcerer, shall have their part in that lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

will immediately inspire someone to interject that we are not to judge others.

Ironically, nobody seems to object that we are judging if we state that someone will be saved. Which is interesting, because if stating that a deceased person will be damned is breaking the commandment to "not judge", then stating that the same person would be saved would also be breaking the commandment to "not judge".

The Lord says that judgment is his. This is often applied by people in ways that directly contradict the scriptures. One wrong way to apply this is to use it to preach against citing what God has taught about his own judgement. The truth is that when we preach or apply God's own teachings about his judgement, we are not taking judgment from him, we are leaving it with him. We are simply exercising faith in his own promises. We are commanded to have faith in his promises, and that includes his promises about how he will judge. We see that faith exercised in the scriptures.

Alma 28:11 And the bodies of many thousands are laid low in the earth, while the bodies of many thousands are moldering in heaps upon the face of the earth; yea, and many thousands are mourning for the loss of their kindred, because they have reason to fear, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are consigned to a state of endless wo.
 12 While many thousands of others truly mourn for the loss of their kindred, yet they rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness.
 13 And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.
 14 And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing—sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life.

First off, here we see in the scriptures many faithful members of the church who "truly mourn for the loss of their kindred, yet they rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness."

This is said without the merest hint of condemnation. These people are clearly "judging" the souls of their beloved departed. They know that they will be saved. But that judgement is described with whole hearted approval because that judgement is made by the word of the Lord. Apparently when we "judge" using the word of the Lord as our measuring stick, we are not taking judgement from the Lord, merely having faith in his promises and thereby echoing his own judgement. It is therefore not wrong, but met in this scripture with frank approbation.

There are many others who "have reason to fear, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are consigned to a state of endless wo."

Here again, we see judging in the scriptures. But that "judging" isn't condemned at all. It is judging "according to the promises of the Lord". There is no suggestion here that there is something wrong with "fearing, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are consigned to a state of endless wo". We are not taking judgement from him, apparently, when we simply apply his own promises about what his judgement will be. In these scriptures that appears to be the case even with the final judgement.

The issue appears to be the same one we see in Alma 11.

Alma 11:35 Now Zeezrom said unto the people: See that ye remember these things; for he said there is but one God; yet he saith that the Son of God shall come, but he shall not save his people—as though he had authority to command God.
 36 Now Amulek saith again unto him: Behold thou hast lied, for thou sayest that I spake as though I had authority to command God because I said he shall not save his people in their sins.
 37 And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.

The issue here is whether Alma and Amulek had authority to say that certain people wouldn't be saved. The claim is that saying so is "commanding God". But Amulek's response is that there is no sense in which he is commanding God if he simply takes God's own words about what he will do as being true.

We can judge by the scriptures what is right and wrong. We have seen examples in the Book of Mormon of many people correctly judging someone's final reward by the promises God has made. Amulek states that to assert that God will stick to his words in determining who to save is not commanding God. Put differently, it is not taking judgement from God, it is simply exercising faith in his own words. It is simply exercising faith in what God has stated that his judgement will be.

And you cannot have faith in what God has said he will do and offend God by doing so.

The same applies when judging right and wrong. In fact, not only can we judge right and wrong using the promises of the Lord, it is imperative that we do so.

Reality and Atonement

If I was describing my long dead Grandfather Hartley to someone, even though he has passed away, I shouldn't just make up anything I feel saying about what he looked like in order to describe his physical features. For instance, if I say "he was a giant of a man, a physical paragon, with blond hair and piercing blue eyes, except for his whiny and scratchy voice", I am simply not telling the truth. That is not what my Grandfather looked like at all.

My grandfather died when I was young, and I only recall a single sentence he said, which, to my memory, was in a voice that was neither strikingly bass nor tenor, but similar in tone to a much deeper version of my mother's voice. As a child I got up onto his lap and my parents saw it, and thought I was behaving too wildly for that, and told me to get down because I would hurt him. My grandfather, who was smiling and happy, said something to the effective of "Oh, let him stay" or "Oh, let him stay on my lap" to which my parents agreed. He welcomed me back onto his lap with a broad smile.

As my grandfather was a real, living person, it matters what I say about him. 

If the atonement was not a real thing, then it wouldn't matter what doctrines we taught about it. We could say anything we wanted about it. However, because the atonement is real, it matters what doctrine we teach about it.

There is a dramatic difference between today's popularized authors on the atonement, and the actual doctrine of the atonement. Since the atonement is real, two directly contradictory ideas about it cannot both be true. It is a real thing. It matters what we teach about it.

They have judged themselves

One of the current ideals that gets no end of advocacy is that we "not judge people based on appearance". Those who love to preach this ideal within the church often aren't referring to one's physical body, they are often referring to such things as wearing clothing that identifies oneself as rebellious, having prominent body piercings, or other things like makeup or hair that can be used to identify oneself as rebellious.

But such an idea is ridiculous. Someone gets up in the morning and chooses how they want themselves to appear by the clothing they don, the way they do their hair, etc...  If the person does so in a way to make themselves appear rebellious, or at least somewhat rebellious, they have done so as an act of free will. Nobody is standing there making them do it. If there is any wrong judging going on, it is on their own part, as that is the sort of person they have judged themselves to be.

The idea that anybody who recognizes what they have intentionally said about themselves by an act of their own will is somehow breaking God's commandments is ridiculous.

If there is any wrong judging going on, it is on the part of the person who has judged themself to be a bit of a rebel and chosen their appearance according to their judgement.

Lest the land spue thee out

In Leviticus 18 the Lord states that those that had the promised land before the Israelites had these "abominations" among them:

Marriage of close family members
Child sacrifice

Then Jehovah makes the interesting conclusion that because those nations defiled themselves with these things, the land itself would vomit them out. He warns that if the Israelites defile themselves with these abominations, the land would also vomit them out. He warns them not even to allow those non-Istraelites that were among them to do these.

Leviticus 18:24 Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:
 25 And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.
 26 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:
 27 (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;)
 28 That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.

As this is Jehovah speaking, it is of course, Jesus speaking. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Brigham Young on Christ as the literal Son of God, and Adam's divine parentage

After 2000 years of being spiritualized away by other religions, it is not surprising that many don't understand this. That is too bad, because our testimony that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is central to our faith. In the scriptures prophets foretold that God himself would have a son, no one could have misunderstood them. It meant exactly what it sounded like.

Yes we do believe that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God. He is not the Son of God in some figurative sense. He is the only begotten of the father in the flesh. There was nothing figurative in the statement that God was his father. He was begotten after "the manner of the flesh".

1 Nephi 11:18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

Adam and Eve were created in the same was as all other people, and their father was Heavenly Father. Obviously then, their mother was Heavenly Mother. Brigham Young taught that plainly, but people who didn't understand his teachings misconstrued them, and wrongly believed Brigham Young was teaching that Adam was the same person as Heavenly Father. As Brigham Young was very familiar with the endowment, he knew that God the Father and Adam were different beings.

Here Brigham Young touches on both topics, including explaining how Heavenly Father was able to have spirit children on the one hand, and to have children with physical bodies in the other.

We do call Christ the "only begotten", but that is an abbreviated title. The full title, as appears in the scriptures, is that Christ is the only begotten of the father in the flesh. That refers to the fact that he is the only being whose father was Heavenly Father, but whose mother was a fallen mortal woman.

From Journal of Discourses vol 4 - Brigham Young - To Know God is Eternal Life—God the Father of Our Spirits and Bodies—Things Created Spiritually First—Atonement By the Shedding of Blood

You may hear the divines of the day extol the character of the Savior, undertake to exhibit his true character before the people, and give an account of his origin, and were it not ridiculous, I would tell what I have thought about their views. Brother Kimball wants me to tell it, therefore you will excuse me if I do. I have frequently thought of mules, which you know are half horse and half ass, when reflecting upon the representations made by those divines. I have heard sectarian priests undertake to tell the character of the Son of God, and they make him half of one species and half of another, and I could not avoid thinking at once of the mule, which is the most hateful creature that ever was made, I believe. You will excuse me, but I have thus thought many a time.

Now to the facts in the case; all the difference between Jesus Christ and any other man that ever lived on the earth, from the days of Adam until now, is simply this, the Father, after He had once been in the flesh, and lived as we live, obtained His exaltation, attained to thrones, gained the ascendancy over principalities and powers, and had the knowledge and power to create—to bring forth and organize the elements upon natural principles. This He did after His ascension, or His glory, or His eternity, and was actually classed with the Gods, with the beings who create, with those who have kept the celestial law while in the flesh, and again obtained their bodies. Then He was prepared to commence the work of creation, as the Scriptures teach. It is all here in the Bible; I am not telling you a word but what is contained in that book.

Things were first created spiritually; the Father actually begat the spirits, and they were brought forth and lived with Him. Then He commenced the work of creating earthly tabernacles, precisely as He had been created in this flesh himself, by partaking of the coarse material that was organized and composed this earth, until His system was charged with it, consequently the tabernacles of His children were organized from the coarse materials of this earth.

When the time came that His firstborn, the Savior, should come into the world and take a tabernacle, the Father came Himself and favored that spirit with a tabernacle instead of letting any other man do it. The Savior was begotten by the Father of His spirit, by the same Being who is the Father of our spirits, and that is all the organic difference between Jesus Christ and you and me. And a difference there is between our Father and us consists in that He has gained His exaltation, and has obtained eternal lives. The principle of eternal lives is an eternal existence, eternal duration, eternal exaltation. Endless are His kingdoms, endless His thrones and His dominions, and endless are His posterity; they never will cease to multiply from this time henceforth and forever.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The abandonment of plain words

Christ freely taught with words like "evil", "wicked", "hell" and "devil". But these words are now practically extinct, at least in their real context. Words like "sin" and "sinful" are on the endangered list. That is too bad, they represent essential scriptural truths. If Christ had no qualms about such words, we should not either.

Such truths can be used to save souls.

Enos 1:23 And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them.

But now the real question. If Christ used such words to teach, can Christlike teaching endure without using such words? After all, if we aren't teaching the way he taught, are we teaching in a Christlike way?

Wait, choosing serial immorality doesn't make you evil, does it

I recently ran into the bizarre claim that most people choosing to be wedded as homosexuals are not evil individuals.

Which is an interesting claim.

Fornication and adultery are second to murder. Only murder and the unforgivable sin are more severe. Committing state approved fornication doesn't change that.

Alma 39:5 Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?

If one is committing such sin many times, in a prolonged and regular manner, then one is regularly committing a sin that is second to murder.

Whether we are good or evil is determine by our actions. If we choose good actions, we are good. If we choose evil actions we are evil.

D&C 29:44 And they that believe not unto eternal damnation; for they cannot be redeemed from their spiritual fall, because they repent not;
 45 For they love darkness rather than light, and their deeds are evil, and they receive their wages of whom they list to obey.

Note that this scripture equate "repenting not" with "loving darkness rather than light".

Regularly committing the sin that is second to murder is choosing to be evil. If the sin next to murder isn't evil, the word evil doesn't mean anything anymore.

The critical importance that is placed on chastity is one of the defining traits of the Lord's truth, and is one of the things that have so powerfully motivated wicked men against the prophets in both ancient and modern times.

In the true church, immorality isn't a small matter. It is second to murder. It is a really big deal. In the true church breaking the law of chastity is evil. Those who chose to do so are being wicked. Someone who is continually choosing such things is wicked. He is evil. These are truths that are offensive to the world. But they are truths the world, and our own membership, are in desperate need of. Our youth cannot know what we will not plainly teach.

Among moral sins, homosexuality is described in particularly strong terms in the scriptures.

Romans 1: 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

We must not back down on clearly teaching the consequences of sin, as that is part of our divine obligation to save the souls of men. Satan inspires wicked men to rationalize their wicked behavior instead of repenting. The spirit of Christ will instead inspire them with feelings of guilt and shame for sin and try and lead them to repentance. We need to help them to come out from hiding behind rationalizations so they can repent and find real peace instead of the hollow peace of rationalization and the end result of eternal misery. A man who is choosing evil may repent, and instead choose to be good. He may find peace and forgiveness through the atonement of Christ.

Truth - A first stab

I have long felt the notion of truth as a topic itself has been almost completely lost. Without knowing much about truth, it is easier to fall prey to falsehood.

This is a first stab of writing on the topic of truth itself. It probably has flaws and covers far, far too little. It will probably require quite a few attempts to make good headway.

Speaking of truth

One of the ideas that we seem to be missing the most these days is a clear notion of truth itself. We have all grown up with an incredibly relativistic education, and that certainly hasn't help us sort the matter out. We learn to use words like "opinion", "perspective" and "viewpoint". These are words designed to pretend we don't know where the truth of the matter really lies. Sometimes we really don't know, of course. But we are trained to use this relativistic vocabulary even when discussing things like the existence of God. That isn't the sort of thing the Holy Ghost can approve of. Where we know the truth we need to simply stick to the truth, and not pretend we are wearing blindfolds when we can see the sun as plain as day.

The Holy Ghost is a testator. It testifies of truth. The voice of the spirit is a confident one. It doesn't state the truth in halfhearted terms or apologize for it.

Here is an example:

D&C 76:22 And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
 23 For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father

The Holy Ghost speaks the same way Christ spoke when he was on the earth and the same way the Father speaks. It speaks with confidence and it speaks of absolute truths. That is the thing about the godhead. They are all one.

Light and darkness instead of shades of gray

I think that those who speak of shades of gray have the picture completely wrong. When it comes to right and wrong, what we face is brilliance of light and depths of darkness. There really isn't much that is a shade of gray. That middle area is rare and hard to find.

However, there is a great range in the depths of blackness one can descend to. That is conveyed in the fact that those in the telestial kingdom will vary as one star differs from another in brightness. After these people have repented and become worthy of a telestial glory, their works of darkness will have brought them to a wide variety of different final points. They didn't arrive there through shades of gray, but through different depths of darkness.

Similarly, there are degrees of brilliance. These are also not shades of gray. They are all good, but there are there degrees in their brilliance and perfection.

Not all statements are equal. Not all scriptures are equal. Not all teachings are of equal worth and weight in the scriptures. Hence that is certainly also true of teachings in general conference.

But if all scriptures and teachings are not equal, how can we describe the difference between them?

One distinction between them is that there is a hierarchy. The words of the Lord himself, including his words obtained through direct revelation, have a perfection to them that is above the words of the prophets. The words of angelic messengers are below that. The words of the prophets and apostles are below that. These are not shades of gray we are discussing, but they vary in their brilliance and perfection. When the Lord himself speaks, he does so with the perfection that only a God can speak with. When an angel speaks, he speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost, but he has come up to a greater knowledge than men and can speak with greater power and insight. He is more susceptible to the Holy Ghost. When a prophet speaks, he is a man who has followed the Lord closely and the Lord can speak clearly through him. Whether the Lord speaks a truth to us through the prophet or by his own voice makes no difference, it is still perfectly true and we are bound to accept it.

Once again, the topic here is degrees of brilliance, not shades of gray.

When the Lord's answers a simple question in the Doctrine and Covenants, his answer will often have dramatically greater scope and depth than the original asker had in mind. Joseph Smith went into the grove to ask which of all the churches was right. What he came out of the grove with was the beginning of the restoration. This is typical of the words of the Lord himself. What is conveyed in the answer unfolds into something much greater than what was asked about.

Joseph Smith knew more than anyone in this dispensation, which is no surprise because Joseph Smith produced far, far, more scripture than anyone else in this dispensation.

Joseph Smith was very clear that his teaching was inspired, and that he taught by the Holy Ghost. But he seemed to distinguish between the revelations he had received as being perfect at a different level than his own words.

Truth and Judgement

Finding truth requires judgement. Those are inseparable. Our knowledge of truth is closely tied to our ability to recognize and accept good while discerning and rejecting evil. Both sides of that are required.

Joseph Smith taught that you can taste good doctrine.

This is good doctrine. It tastes good. I can taste the principles of eternal life, and so can you. They are given to my by the revelations of Jesus Christ; and I know that when I tell you these words of eternal life as they are given to me, you taste them, and I know that you believe them. You say honey is sweet, and so do I. I can also taste the spirit of eternal life. I know it is good; and when I tell you of these things which were given my by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you are bound to receive them as sweet, and rejoice more and more.

He also taught:

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. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 331)

Learning truth

Learning truth is closely tied to learning to listen to the whispering of the Holy Ghost. Both are closely tied to studying the scriptures, which is the word of the Lord. If we are not interested in his word, we can't honestly say we have an strong desire to know what he says. At least, not a desire strong enough to pick it up and study it. And without wanting to know what he says, we cannot learn to hear the Holy Ghost very clearly either. A desire to hear him which is earnest is accompanied by a willingness to search what he has already said.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The strength of the church

I do not think the number of members, or missions, or wards, or stakes, or temples is the right measure of the strength of the church. The strength of the church is the strength of the families in the church. If church member families are becoming stronger, the church is stronger. If the families are weaker, the church is weaker. Everyone gets excited that we have more members. I will be excited when we have fewer divorces, dramatically decreasing pornography problems, more stay at home moms, and more couples that want all the children the Lord will send, less birth control, less feminism, fewer men waiting to marry, and fewer couples waiting to have children until a couple has enough other things.
Yes Joseph Smith is right that the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent.
But, sadly, yes we will also reach the point described in the last half of second nephi thirteen.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The faithless, feminist book "Women at Church"

The book "Women at Church" which received rave reviews from: Richard and Linda Eyre, so-called authorities on marriage and the family, Camille Fronk Olson-BYU professor of religion, Terryl Givens's (renowned educator and Mormon apologist), Beverly Campbell, past Public Affairs Spokeswoman for Virginia/ Washington D.C. areas of the Church. Their high praise for Neylan's book is lumped right along with that of Maxine Hanks, one of the infamous September 6 who were excommunicated for apostacy.

The book is utter hogwash. It is nothing more than faithless, feminist propaganda.

Here are a couple of quotes from "Women at Church". The first quotation in "Women at Church" is where "Women at Church" is quoting other authors that are presented as authoritative.

"'Gender inequality,' Hudsen and Ballif-Spanvill say, 'in all of its many manifestations, is a form of violence - no matter how invisible or nomalized that violence may be'"

and in another place "Women at Church" reads

"In contrast to the understanding from her educational and cultural experience in the twenty-first century world, my daughter's experience at church is very different. At church, she never sees her Primary leaders or her mother's Relief Society leaders sit on the stand during the ward of stake conference. She has asked me in tears why only boys pass the sacrament and why the Church paintings and photographs in her Primary room are all of men. She wonders why the Cub Scout boys in Primary get a blue and gold banquet; what, she asks, do the Activity Day girls do to celebrate their accomplishments? My daughter and other young girls find themselves wondering, 'What is my role here? Why am I limited in my aspirations here when no such limitations are put on me anywhere else?'

When a woman asks these questions as an adult, the results can be devastating. The pain is real when a woman starts to wonder why the freedoms that benefit her life so greatly outside the Church are not present in the organization to which she has devoted her heart and soul. As women functioning in the Church's gendered organization where structural parity cannot be claimed to currently exist, we as members are asked to suspend our understanding of and trust in structures that our own people - as well as many other trusted scholars - say make communities more functional, prosperous, and happy. Each woman searches for peace in reconciling external world experiences with the structure of gospel administration. For some, this can be hard."

So we are to understand from the first quotation that the author believes that when Christ called twelve men to lead his church, but has never called any women, that was apparently "a form of violence" against women.

From the second quotation we learn that that such "violence" continues today. This is clearly not faith, it is the opposite of faith. The author is a social member, but fails to exercise real faith, and teaches others not to exercise faith as well.

The author makes quite clear her belief that where feminism and social science have spoken, prophets should remain silent, as they can have nothing to say. Faith is thrown out the window in preference to the ideas of the world.

Christ on truth and "official" church doctrine

One of the trends of modern day, which seems to be an after effect of living in a highly bureaucratic society, is the concept of "official" church doctrine.

There are many discussions in the scriptures about whether something is true, or false. The discussion of whether something is official or not official is different altogether.

My favorite illustration of the correct way to view "official" church doctrine involves the Savior.

Mark 10:4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.
5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.
6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

There we have the official position of the Church written by Moses, but it is still the truth that it was suffered to be that way "because of the hardness of their heart"

Then Christ teaches that despite the official church position, there are still spiritually destructive consequences.

Continuing Mark 10.

10 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.
11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.
12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

The church can apparently have an official position that just represents the hardness of the hearts of the general membership, but the spiritually destructive consequences still remain. We always should stand for the truth, teaching it frankly as Christ did. He made no bones about what the actual case was.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The claims of inequality by women in the church

The women who are up in arms about inequality in the church only feel that because they have rejected the truth about the honors of motherhood. Heavenly Father places his children in their hands, giving those mothers dramatic power to shape the destinies of his own children as they enter mortality. He gives his own children to these mothers precisely when his children are at their most vulnerable. The influence of those mothers can shape their eternity. He asks that those mothers forgo worldly opportunities (which mean absolutely nothing) to pursue the gift he offers them because it is so crucial eternally. He asks that they have as many children as possible and makes it part of the sealing covenant, essentially saying that he will give them children eternally if they will not limit the number of them in mortality. Given the sacred nature of what is being offered, it cannot be turned down without giving offense.

When you reject that sort of gift as not "enough", then nothing else ever will be. It is such a tender, gentle, sacred role that Heavenly Father offers as a gift to women in mortality. One can't reject that sort of sacred honor and still have any sense of the nature and value of God's gifts to his sons and daughters.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Christopher Columbus

A belated Columbus day post.

It is unlikely that any person who felt themselves inspired by God to take a step that was important for the restoration did not find themselves facing significant opposition and difficulties from wicked men inspired by the adversary. That opposition continues long after their deaths as the adversary inspires people to smear their names.

While critics like to claim how wrong Christopher Columbus was, I think many members have found themselves at one time or another strongly inspired to take a course of action they have a difficult time justifying to others. They may offer the best excuse for what they are doing that they can. That excuse may seem thin even to them. But they know they feel impressed to take that route, not knowing why. I expect Christopher Columbus's reasoning was secondary to the impressions he had that this just seemed like the right thing. The reasons he gave may have been wrong, but the impressions were right.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Joseph Fielding McConkie

Those who know me well know how I like Joseph Fielding McConkie. I want to explain why.

When I was a BYU student I took a religion class every semester. All told, that is a very large number of individual days spent learning about the gospel. Of course, the teacher had some insight to offer every day.

I only took a single Book of Mormon class from Joseph Fielding McConkie, who had returned from being a mission president in Scotland about the time I returned from my own mission in Virginia.

However, I noticed something. There were a very small handful of things I learned from other BYU religion classes which stayed with me for up to five or even ten years as interesting insights. But over time, I found that all of them were supplanted. Some that I had clung to for years were eventually rejected as downright wrong. To be completely fair to my other BYU instructors, there were some interesting historical facts that I still remember. Also I remember a class taught by one man for his marvelous example of personal effort on behalf of the poor.

However, while things learned in other classes never really went anywhere I found the opposite with Joseph Fielding McConkie's class. Almost everything in his class seemed to grow into something that was much greater than what I originally thought was being presented. In the years when I was forgetting and discarding insights learned from other teachers, I was finally beginning to understand what he had wanted to convey in some of the days of class 10, 15 or even 20 years later. Just recently I think I realized what he was trying to get at with a comment he made that I had wondered about for many years. His classes seemed to constitute well planted seeds that grew into major aspects of gospel understanding, whereas the other ones all really came to nothing but an "insight of the day" that were what I call postcard doctrine. They were a nice thought. Enough to teach a lesson with. But not something that endured and grew and developed into more. Sadly, too frequently they were not even correct.

Its not that the other teachers were teaching apostate doctrine. But they offered nothing more than a single days worth of spiritual sustenance either. Something to think about, but ultimately not something that will grow into anything more.

That one semester of Book of Mormon from Joseph Fielding McConkie has had an immense influence in my understanding of the gospel. It has so thoroughly grown into parts of it that I could not sort out where his influence begins and ends anymore.

If anything, I have severely understated the influence he has had.

Sadly, while his books are great, they seem to go into much less depth than he did in person. Given the criticism he got, I cannot say I am surprised.

He was criticized by colleagues for reading beyond the period that ends the sentence when teaching the scriptures. Put differently, he didn't worry about whether what he said was "official" church doctrine any more than his grandfather seemed to think in terms of giving only "official" answers when writing answers to gospel questions or doctrines of salvation, or his father thought in terms of "official" church doctrine when writing his books. (Christ didn't seem to think in those terms either as I have pointed out elsewhere). They just tried to teach the truth from the scriptures as clearly as they could see it. Teaching for him wasn't a matter of looking up an answer in a quotation, it was a matter of discerning truth through the Holy Ghost so that when he stated it, you would recognize and be able to taste that it was right. For that he got a lot of criticism. Joseph Fielding McConkie wrote:

I asked my father [Bruce R McConkie] once how he could be so confident in teaching a particular matter when others to whom we look for clear instruction were reluctant to say much. I noted that some with whom I taught would jump on me for saying the same thing, suggesting that I was going beyond the period that ended the sentence. His response was, “If you cannot go beyond the period that ends the sentence, you do not have the Spirit, and if you do not have the Spirit, you have no business teaching in the first place.”
Some are uneasy with such an expression, immediately fearing that if we actually give people the license to use the gift of the Holy Ghost, someone will abuse it or error in judgment. Occasionally they will. On the other hand, if we have taught people how to properly use that gift, those they are teaching will easily be able to discern the matter. Dad felt that the greater danger lies in the idea that unless we hold a particular office or position, we are without the ability to use the gifts that God has given us. Such a conclusion does not represent the gospel as Bruce McConkie understood and taught it.
Given my experience, with his class as opposed to others, I think he understood the matter rightly.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Poor of the Earth

Some notes typed while listening to Love Elder Holland (Gen Conf October 2014)

I loved his citing:

2 Nephi 13:13 The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.
 14 The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people and the princes thereof; for ye have eaten up the vineyard and the spoil of the poor in your houses.
 15 What mean ye? Ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor, saith the Lord God of Hosts.

In this nation and time, I don't think we really understand what poverty really even means. I love fast offering specifically because it can help those outside of this nation if we can keep perspective on what poverty is and given with corresponding generosity. The rich must be brought down that the poor may be made rich, and we are so rich as a nation we hardly know what real poverty looks like.

I miss the missionary homecoming slideshows we used to have because of the constant reminders they gave of true poverty.

I remember a coworker who grew up in a part of Brazil where starvation was still a common form of death.

I remember the slides my stake president showed of his work in poor parts of south america. I recall the picture of a young girl who was blind from the stage of starvation she had reached when he took the picture and whom he was sure would be dead by the time he returned.

I love the story of the widow and her mites, precisely because she was what we would consider to be the destitute poor, but she gave all.

I love the parable in D&C 38 which I wish got a lot more attention in a world wide church. I am grateful to have seen enough of poverty as it has existed through almost all of the worlds history in almost all of the worlds locations and for the vast majority of mankind at all those times and places and know that I am not the poor of the earth.

D&C 38:26 For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?
 27 Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.