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.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The most joy in one's wife

Each married man is faced at all times with two doors. Through one comes the joy of his wife. The other is the door through which one might allow the many provocative things that the adversary has to offer, ranging from the least to the most serious. These all involve someone other than our wife. It is comprised of gratification either independent of one’s spouse, or of gratification that in any way involves someone who isn't one’s spouse. In my opinion it is a fundamental, unalterable, part of the nature of these two doors than if one allows the adversary’s door of gratification through others to be open even the least bit, then the door of joy in one’s wife swings to be almost entirely closed. It doesn't close entirely if one doesn't do anything outside the bounds of chastity - a crack will remain open and how wide that crack is depends upon how seriously one has opened the other door. The important thing is that opening the adversary’s door even a little largely closes the door of joy in one’s wife so it doesn't take much to close the door of joy in one’s wife almost to a crack. It will, by and large, stay open that much as long as one doesn't go so far as to cut off oneself from one’s wife completely through serious sin. The great secret to opening the door of joy in one’s wife fully is to make the extra effort needed to keep the adversary’s door completely closed. Other aspects related to the divinely appointed use of one’s body almost certainly come into play, like submitting fully to the Lord’s counsel to multiply and replenish the earth.

If you don't believe me. Try it. Not just for a day, give it some time. Put aside any pretense that you can look at an image that is provocative and that it doesn't affect you for whatever reason you have rationalized. I am not talking about pornography addictions. I am talking about the small things we nickel and dime ourselves to death with. I am talking about the sleaze that surrounds us that we are "big enough" to look at without thinking about, or to say "it doesn't bother me" or to say that we can "ignore" it. And don't do it half way. Do it 100%. Doing so might mean turning off a lot of television, movies, and closing a lot of books. But it is my believe that if you will delight the Lord in your respect for his daughters, he will magnify your delight in your wife.

Though, yes, if you aren't submitting to the purpose for which the fountains of life were given, if you are intentionally damming them up, I can't say that I think it is still true in that case at all.

The Doctrine of Christ, Revelation, and The Gift of the Holy Ghost

I recently read the claim made in a well circulated article that the reason Nephi saw Lehi's dream was because he would write it down for the rest of us. This is part of a common group of misunderstandings. It is a group of ideas that goes something like this:

God calls prophets (not based on their virtue per se, it is a calling, like Sunday School teacher)
They receive revelation because they have been called as prophets. (Being a prophet merits them the right to revelation)
Regular people don't receive revelation, because they aren't called as prophets.


Ugh, ugh, ugh.

The great revelations in the scriptures were:
(1) generally given primarily as a means of saving the individual to whom they were given, and not as a means of communicating information to the masses. As evidence of that I would point out that
(2) almost all were kept completely private, we have only a glimpse of what a few of them contained, except those that were specifically direction from the Lord addressed to a person or group of people other than the revelator,
(3) They were not given based on someone's calling but on someone's proper preparation - if you can receive revelation on the basis of your calling rather than on the basis of proper preparation then the apostacy should never have happened, because genuine revelation could continue in a priesthood made up of apostates.
(4) The world has revelation through the Lord not because he arbitrarily called some as revelators, but because some were so good that they were able to obtain revelations. That is the way things work. The Lord didn't need Joseph Smith to give the first vision. But he did need someone as good as Joseph Smith to receive the first vision. We weren't benefited by the Lord's arbitrarily calling one person, instead we were benefited by one person being so faithful that the Lord could speak to him. And that is why the Lord chose to call him. And thus it is with all revelation. We obtain it not because the Lord bestows it capriciously, but because men sincerely seeking him learn to hear his voice. And of course it is such men that he chooses. It is the same way we obtain salvation. One person, Jesus Christ, was so faithful that he could redeem us from sin. It was by the virtues of an individual that we can be redeemed. It is by the virtues of an individual that the door to revelation is opened. Without sufficient faith to open the heavens, God could do no such miracle among them.

Are most of the great manifestations in the scriptures primarily for the sake of the individual receiving it, or for some other group? They were mostly for the salvation of the person actually receiving the revelation at the time.  And in fact, we don't even have the vast bulk of the contents of them. That is because they were for the salvation of the person experiencing them. Take Joseph Smith in the sacred grove who only gives us a tiny glimpse of what he experienced, stating only that he was told a great many other things. His main account doesn't even inform of the many angels that participated, which he mentions elsewhere. Or take Moroni's nighttime appearance to Joseph Smith. One can read all that is recorded and referenced there three times without staying up the entire night long, or even without getting to bed late - the vast bulk of the instruction he received isn't passed on to us because it wasn't for us that it was given. In both cases it was for Joseph Smith's own salvation that he was seeking in prayer, and the vast bulk of what was received was given for exactly that purpose and for no other, and hence was passed on to no other individual.

Christ communed with God for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness, but we hear nothing except that it happened. Why not? Wasn't he out getting revelation for us?

Joseph Smith taught that:

All men know that they must die. And it is important that we should understand the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life and of death, and the designs and purposes of God in our coming into the world, our suffering here, and our departure hence. What is the object of our coming into existence, then dying and falling away, to be here no more? It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other. We ought to study it day and night, for the world is ignorant in reference to their true condition and relation. If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject. Could we read and comprehend all that has been written from the days of Adam, on the relation of man to God and angels in a future state, we should know very little about it. Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose. Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 324).

Notice what this is teaching. The first half is that there is critical knowledge that we need to gain, and that if we have any claim on our God it is for that knowledge. But the second half tells us that while we ought to study it day and night, still "reading the experience of others, or the revelation given the them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God." Put differently, the knowledge that we need and have a claim on God for in the first half is also knowledge that cannot be gained by reading about other's experiences and revelations. He concludes that "Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject." And that is the whole point. You can't gain the knowledge promised in the first half by reading about it. You have to gaze into heaven five minutes on your own.

Do men get revelations because of their calling, or because of their worthiness? Take Enoch, who had no calling that we can tell when the Lord spake to him from heaven, then showed him visions of things to come. Take Deborah. Take Nephi, who had no calling. On what basis did Nephi believe he could see visions?

1 Nephi 11:1 "For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart..."

Wait, it had nothing to do with a calling to preside over millions of people? What a weirdo. Only a weirdo would think that the reason we have the gift of the Holy Ghost is because:

John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things ...

and that the very purpose of receiving the Holy Ghost is so we can come to know God through personal revelation:

No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator. (Teachings page 328)

If the Holy Ghost is only to confirm the occasional question, and warn of occasional danger, then it seems like pretty serious overkill to give us companionship of which we read:

Moses 6:61 Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.

Can't one see by looking at this that this isn't just the Holy Ghost's resume'? It is a description of the reason we are given his companionship.

Joseph Smith said:

"But I am learned, and know more than all the world put together. The Holy Ghost does, anyhow, and He is within me, and comprehends more than all the world: and I will associate myself with Him." (Teachings page 350)

The point is for us to get the Holy Ghost. To get it powerfully enough that we know more than all the world put together because we have associated ourselves with him, the truth of all things, which has all power. We can tell when we are beginning to get the Holy Ghost because it always comes with revelation. The Holy Ghost is a revelator and no man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelation.

One of the the things we learn through the Holy Ghost is just what kind of a being Jesus Christ and God the Father are. We learn their character. We kind of assume we all already know that. But I would defy that notion, because Joseph Smith said.

When we begin to learn this way, we begin to learn the only true God, and what kind of a being we have got to worship. Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer. When we understand the character of God, and how to come to him, he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to him, he is ready to come to us. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 349)

Put differently, when we really do understand the character of God and how to come to him, he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. If  God isn't unfolding the heaven's and telling us all about it as he did to Moses in Moses 1, then we should step back and realize that, according to Joseph Smith, we don't yet know the character of God and how to come to him. I am in that boat myself. But it is far better to be in that boat, and recognize it, than to be in the boat, and assume the opposite is true.

Revelation is not received outside of one's own worthiness and preparation. Whom you can instruct by a statement of revelation depends upon your calling. But you cannot receive revelation above your general worthiness and preparedness just because you got a calling. Callings made by the priesthood do not and cannot substitute in place of the virtue and spiritual preparation of the recipient. If they could, there would have been no great apostacy. They could have just kept on going, worthy or not because they had a certain calling. A calling may inspire a person to take his responsibilities more seriously, or get him doing work that will prepare his mind for revelation, but the calling itself does not grant revelation outside of one's own worthiness and preparation.

Having covered this, we are in a position to clearly understand what is being taught in the last half of 3 Nephi 11. So let's go ahead since we are in a position to.

We learn the Christ's doctrine is not to stir up the hearts of men, but to do such things away.

3 Nephi 11:30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.

We tend to assume that what Christ is saying is that we are never to contend in any way. But then, there is captain Moroni, and the Lord's own commandment to content for the gospel truth in the doctrine and covenants.

The Lord's doctrine is that such things shall be done away. But his method of arriving there is not that we just all decide to be one with everybody. His method for achieving that is critical. Otherwise, we have reduced Christ's doctrine to the hippy chorus "all you need is love" which President Monson spoke so demeaningly of not long ago in General Conference.

 32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
 33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
 34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

The phrase "beareth record" does not mean that they each will verbally speak in favor of the other two. It means that each one is in every way like the other as far as what they would choose to do in any matter involving good and evil. It means, as Christ put it, that if his disciple's had seen him, they had seen the Father. If they knew what Christ would do, then they knew precisely what his Father would do, not one bit more or less. It means that each is a complete and perfect representative of the other in every matter that touches on good and evil. Christ's doctrine is one in which the member's of the Godhead each bear record of each other in that sense.

But then he goes on that his Father commands everyone to repent, believe in Christ, and be baptized. Why? Because that is the path to becoming one with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in the same way that they are one with each other.

 35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
 36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.

So here we have it more clearly. He again calls it his doctrine, just as above when he said his doctrine was to do away with contention. But here, he has gone further and given us a fuller statement of his doctrine that says HOW he will do away with contention.

His doctrine is that the Father bears record of Christ by visiting those who are baptized with the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost then bears record of the Father and the Son. How? Well, because the more we have the Holy Ghost, the more we know the true character of God far above and beyond what we could learn by simply reading about Christ. To whatever degree we can get the Holy Ghost, to that degree we know who the Father and the Son are. If we can get the Spirit, then we know what they would do, and to that degree, we become one with the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Christ's doctrine is that we repent, are baptized, and must really grow into the gift of the Holy Ghost. Insofar as we do then we are following his doctrine. Insofar as mankind does, there will be no contentions among them, because they will individually bear record of the Father and the Son, and will thereby become one. His plan is that we repent, are baptized, and really get the Holy Ghost into our lives. And to whatever degree we do, to that degree we begin to become one with the Father and the Son.

 37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
 38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

We cannot inherit the kingdom of God without being baptized and receiving the kingdom of God, because we cannot inherit the kingdom of God without becoming one with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost as they are one with each other, and we cannot do that unless we have the gift of the Holy Ghost.

And there is much more to it than that. Growing into the gift of the Holy Ghost is growing into the principle of revelation. A man cannot receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. As we get the Holy Ghost we get to know the character of God, and it is only after that he can begin to unfold the heavens and tell us all about it. Somewhere in there maybe we can show forth faith more like a Nephi who simply stated:

1 Nephi 11:For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord ...

Back to 3 Nephi 11 we next read

39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
 40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

So apparently this doctrine matters. If we are trying to teach this doctrine and build on it, then we are in a good place. But if we are teaching that revelation is only for prophets, we aren't building on a good foundation. Our foundation needs to be the doctrine of Christ: repentance, baptism, and then becoming one with the Godhead as we get the Holy Ghost in our lives and he bears record of them to us.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Where is wisdom

Recently I have seen a number of people testify online one way or another to how Christlike the homosexual and lesbian people they have known were. Has our notion of "Christlike" really deteriorated that completely? Is politeness the main measuring stick we use to determine whether someone should be taken as a model of the Savior? Sadly, the testators in this case were otherwise sane members of the church.

How have we forgotten so completely what everyone used to know?

Why is it that homosexuality is no longer a perversion, and now people just can't get in line fast enough to praise those involved in it?

Ishmael traded his birthright for a mess of pottage. We recognize how irrational that was, and yet turn around and trade ours for nothing more than a well told story: an exciting movie, an intriguing television series, a titillating book, or an engaging piece of music. There is nothing that our music, our movies, our television offers that is worth trading our basic notions of good and evil for.

First we decided that adultery and fornication were not terribly offensive. We even determined that having a woman and a man engage in sex on our television screen wasn't offensive as long as the movie was otherwise "worth it", and didn't show "too much", and as long as everyone watching it was at least 13 years old. Can we not step back and look at that and recognize that we sold some of our own fundamental understanding of good and evil when we made that decision?

Now we have moved on to homosexuality and lesbianism. They used to be recognized as perversion, but now the only really horrible thing to do is to say that such things are evil. Did we not trade some of our basic knowledge of good and evil to get to this point?

Ironically, those who make the trade not only give up their own sensibilities, they turn around and preach it to the rest of us as the real gospel. We have traded it so far that there are many who would be offended to hear it called a matter of good and evil. They think in their hearts "Why would we need to know what is good and what is evil? All we need to do is to love everybody."

But there is a difference between being loving, or even forgiving someone their offenses toward us, and staying away from evil. They are completely different things. If they were not different, then we would not have scriptures that said both:

D&C 64:10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.


1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators

Are we to assume Paul was simply unfamiliar with the Lord's teachings? Or are the two genuinely different matters? If there are scriptures stating both then we know that they are not contradictory principles.

We are becoming terribly well grounded in the teachings of our media, in the ideas of our society, and don't have more than a minute or two between television, movies, music, books, video games, and websites to read our scriptures.

How can I be sure? Because of the doctrines that are being taken up so wholeheartedly among our members. Even the most stalwart have started singing a song that is completely at odds with the song of redeeming love in these matters because you cannot be calling someone involved in serious sin a model of Christlike behavior without condoning their actions, and Christ never condoned sin, not even once.

Where is wisdom? Should good members really recommend someone as a model of the Christ who is engaging in homosexuality or lesbianism? Should I really even need to ask?

Matthew 12:36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

I hope we can turn around. We were already under the condemnation spoken of in D&C 84 before this. It said our minds were darkened and we would be under condemnation until we would remember the Book of Mormon as well as the Lord's former commandments (i.e. the other scriptures and revelations). The Lord further said at the time that if we would not repent there remained a scourge that we, the members of his church, would have to undergo. This was true at the time it was given and we still have not changed. We have had that long to repent and return to the scriptures, with an open statement by the Lord that we are under condemnation for neglecting them. Shall we not consider his longstanding question given to us in these same verses, "For shall the children of the kingdom pollute my holy land?" before we go around labeling those committing the sin next to murder continuously as models of Jesus Christ?

Monday, January 26, 2015

The tragedy of Divorce

I wanted to write some articles on the general question "Where are the joys of the gospel?" It seems we are missing so many of the intended joys as the worlds practices press their way more firmly into our midst.

The tragedy of Divorce.
There is something worth noticing in the fact that the primary scriptures we have about divorce don't come from just
anybody. They are the words of the Savior. He actively took opportunities to condemn divorce.

The best discussion of divorce begins with his words.

Matthew 5:31 It hath been said, Whosever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her her to
commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Matthew 19:7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away.
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your heartss suffered you to put away your wives but from the beginning it was not so.
9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery;
and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Mark 10:2 And the Pharisees came to him and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.
3 And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?
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 moter, 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.
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 commiteth adultery.

Luke 16:18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another committeth adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

Those are very clear statements.

Certainly the church today, as in the days of Christ, allows one to be divorced. But do we believe that if Christ were here today that he would not still say that, while we were allowed to divorce, that it only because of the hardness of our hearts. Would be point out that from the beginning it was not so.

We can't imagine what that would have been like, to be there in the days of Adam and Eve when, according to Christ, there was no such thing as divorce except in case of fornication. What immediately comes to mind is how restrictive that would have been if someone's spouse turned out to be horrible. And goodness sake, those were days when you weren't stuck with a difficult spouse for 50 years, you were stuck with them for 800 years! But if it was not so from the beginning, and if we have faith in God, then that really was a better way. It may be that there was something in the complete inability to divorce a chaste spouse that brought about a greater seriousness in the minds of those making their choices, and probably more importantly, a willingness to, in time, work out differences because there was simply no alternative. If necessity is the mother of invention then it may be that such necessity was also the mother of inventing ways to get along with each other.

Divorce is always tragic, because it began as the creation of something wonderful - two people are forged into a union which can create a family. It has the potential to grow into eternal posterity together and mutual exaltation in one another. And when that which God has put together is sundered asunder, it is always tragic because it could have become something wonderful and eternal.

The Ox that lived in the Mire

It is interesting to compare the scriptures on the Sabbath to our present day practices.

In the old testament the Lord tells the Israelites that they are not to work on the Sabbath, nor to allow those who are strangers staying with them to work on the Sabbath, nor to allow their maid servant nor any one else to work on the Sabbath.

Then along come the Pharisees, who turn the Sabbath, tithing, and a handful of other virtues into extreme overcompensations for rationalizing away their own misbehavior in the serious matters such as justice, judgement, mercy, faith, and sexual purity.

When someone takes something good so far that it becomes a vice, one of the bad side effects is that onlookers may determine that the good thing wasn't of any particular value. And the Pharisees do seem to have had that effect on us. We don't really look at any of the scriptures on the Sabbath previous to them. It is as if the Pharisee's over compensation with that commandment had rendered the previous discussions null and void.

Previous to the Pharisees the Lord told the Israelites that if they would not keep his Sabbath day holy then he would give them into the hands of their enemies and leave the land desolate, so that the land could rest during its Sabbaths.

Now Christ pointed out that when our ox is in the mire, we pull it out, even on the Sabbath. But his counsel seems to have been twisted out of all common sense as to what he intended by it given the other scriptures on the matter. Christ's example endorses the need to handle unanticipated emergencies. But that is very different than feeling like you can't insist that your religion forbids you from working on the Sabbath day at any whim that your boss might have. An employer that likes to keep its doors open on Sunday is not an unanticipated ox in the mire.

It was in a culture of individuals insisting one's religion prohibited working on the Sabbath that most businesses were closed on Sunday a century ago.

Instead we have taken the scripture to mean: As long as an employer doesn't actually like having you take Sundays off, you should not work on the Sabbath.

Why can't we just say "that is against my religion", or "it is against my religion to work on sunday"? Is the Lord's hand shortened at all that he cannot make up for whatever troubles standing up for his commandments will bring about? Would we not find ourselves enjoying greater blessings, not fewer, if we determined to keep the Sabbath day holy?

We must not corrupt Christ's counsel about unanticipated emergencies into a personal parable of the ox that lives in the mire.

In the LDS faith our devotion to this principle has become so watered down that it approaches a statement of "My religion is that I can only work on Sunday if my boss suggests that it might be a good idea, or if it would be beneficial to the company, or if I really have a lot to do, ...."

Can we really say our situations are more desperate than the third world people of Israel trying to raise crops for their families? For those people the financial questions were not about keeping up with the Jones's. Their constant financial question was "will we starve to death, or will we have enough food to make it through winter"? Have any of us really ever faced that kind of financial question, i.e. will I watch my family starve to death? No, we have not. We are fooling ourselves if we pretend that we have faced any financial troubles that touch on the daily burden of poverty among the truly poor. And yet it was precisely to those sort of people that the Lord initially said "Ye shall not work on my holy day". It was clearly a significant sacrifice he required of them.

Whatever the cost is initially of determining to keep the Sabbath day holy, we will be blessed for keeping those commandments far more than we will for rationalizing them away to almost nothing.

Now, in the tradition of making any advocacy for a commandment into a straw man, I will go ahead and say it for those of you that wanted to: "But what about hospitals and other emergency personel, and what about electricity, and ....?". Yes, you must be right, the Lord wants everyone to be spineless about working on Sunday if there are women having babies on Sunday, or even if there may be oxes that are stuck in the mire. You are right. If there are emergency exceptions, there can't possibly be a rule.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Book draft excerpt - Satan’s missionary program – The Modern Media

This is an excerpt from my book on the atonement.

We live in a day when we are surrounded by many, many opportunities to make small, but consistent moral mistakes. The billboards, the grocery store checkout isle magazines are blatant examples but far more insidious is the media we bring home: books, movies, magazines, websites and music. Like David who looked from his rooftop and chanced to see something he should have turned away from, we seem surrounded by temptation lurking around every corner of day to day life. My family was disappointed when a google image search for “car” returned results that included some scantily clad women with cars, but when a similar search for “horse” turned up a sleazily dressed woman with a horse, we were downright surprised. Thus we live in a day where there is a constant flow of temptation to look, read and listen where we ought not. We are perpetually on David’s rooftop. We can hardly escape in our own living room.

Let us not pretend these temptations are not strong. The body is the great gift of mortality, the grand prize given to all who kept their first estate. But to a great degree “the test” we experience in this life revolves around what we will do with that gift. I am not sure anyone is as frank as Christ is in the matter. Christ stated that for a man to not look upon a woman to lust after her is to “take up [his] cross”. Referring to this as a man’s cross could come from no more compelling source than the Savior who would literally carry his own. Thus Christ Himself is extremely frank that for a man to look on a woman to lust after her is a serious and compelling temptation.

Our media provides a bountiful feast of interesting music, movies, books and video games. It is natural to love stories and music, but our media’s many intriguing offerings quickly turn out to be a maze where almost every turn seems to lead us down a dark corridor of innuendo, filth and sleaze. I have heard it said that Satan doesn’t tell only lies, as then people wouldn’t believe him. He instead tells lies mixed with truth, making the overall effect of his message a lie. Thus it is with our media. It pulls us constantly into small moral compromises we would never have allowed by themselves. It is a steady diet of the philosophies of men mingled with scripture. Only now days it is mixed with more adultery and less with scripture.

If we decide that we are big enough to watch shows or listen to music with innuendo, or with sleaze, or immodesty, or that portray immorality or perversions like homosexuality as normal then our media drains us, and makes us lukewarm instead of hot. It makes us a pale imitation of ourselves, spiritually. It saps even an otherwise good church member’s interest in family, fills one’s mouth with spite toward one’s spouse, divides parents and children, it drains one of an interest in good meaningful gospel doctrine. When we partake of an evil scene in a film, or even of the running milder sleaze that taints some entire film it gives that being who so tempts us some degree of power over that aspect of our lives – over intimacy, family, fatherhood, parenthood,  and childhood.
Why are so many, many members of the church unwilling to listen to the commandment to “multiply and replenish”? This was the first commandment, the great objective the fall was undertaken to obtain. I suspect it is largely because we allow ourselves be nickeled and dimed to disaster, giving Satan power to blind and influence us by partaking of the moral degeneration in our media here a little and there a little until with flaxen ties the devil has bound such a firm grip around us that, while we may stay away from moral disasters, we can hardly expect to be sensitive to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost or even the plain word of the Lord regarding the sacred gift of intimacy – that we are to “multiply”, that children need a mother in the home, that men should, if at all possible, bear the burden of providing the necessities of life for a family, and that a fancy home, a nice TV and a second car are not those “necessities”. That we should partake of the joy offered us in the gift of having children freely. If Jesus, though weary, still said “suffer the little children to come unto [me]” what other path can those who seek to follow him reasonably take?

We have, in some ways, backed away from a serious study of our doctrine because we are so used to hearing the voice of the adversary’s missionary program: the many forms of bad media ranging from the borderline media that gets us to just soften our views, to the movie that has “just a scene”, to downright pornography. With this loud and insistent message drowning out all that is good and virtuous it isn’t surprising that the result is a dulled interest in marriage, in family, in children, in mothers that stay home, as well as in the doctrines of the gospel, which are so intimately connected to family it is difficult to see where one starts and the other ends.

The popular actors, actresses, musicians and other entertainers of our day are notorious for not being able to make a marriage last even a few years. Many of our youth’s ideas about love, romance and choosing a spouse are learned directly from the romance they see in their entertainment. It should be pointed out that from even a purely practical standpoint listening to Hollywood, popular music and popular literature on the topics of love, romance, marriage, family and children is like going into a restaurant that serves the most intolerably disgusting food and then having the chef come out and offer heavy handed advice about how to cook. An industry rife with people who can’t stay married four years, much less forty should not be where our youth learn about what romance and love are. It should not be where they learn what to look for in a spouse. Our youth need these false teachings frankly rebutted. They also need true teachings about these great topics. But they can’t have them, not even from us, if we are indulging in the constant moral compromises that we make when we partake of the vast, vast bulk of modern media. If we choose to blind ourselves with these things then we can be no better than blind guides to our children in these essential matters.

The important point here is that Hollywood and our music and book industry offer a constant stream of very interesting and enjoyable media which regular people enjoy – but that it comes poisoned with seductive scenes, innuendo, a constant flow of immodesty, of portraying immorality as acceptable, and a constant stream of vile ideas. When we participate constantly in what we justify as being only a little wrong it gives the adversary power over us to a degree and that constant flow can sum up to a large effect one little bit at a time. Thus this is Satan’s great missionary program through which he has converted many to his ideas and through which he ties down members to apathy and harms their sense of family, spouse, the joy of children, keeps mothers in the workplace and divides parents from children.  Through this means he leads the bulk of the nation by the nose in all matters related to intimacy, family, morality, virtue, the role of parents, the role of children, and everything related to intimacy and family.

The value of knowing our temple covenants

We all realize that when we are baptized we are making covenants.

A covenant is a promise between us and God. If we keep our part of the promise, then we will gain the promised blessings. If we do not keep our part of the promise, then we will not obtain the promised blessings. That seems pretty straight forward.

We also make covenants in the temple, and we very much want to receive the promised blessings.

So I think it is important as we go back to the temple to put forth the effort to learn, and be able to recall outside the temple, what it is we covenanted to do while we were in the temple. A thought can change an action, and if our temple covenants are far from our minds they cannot intercede in the moments when we might have kept them, had we remembered what they were.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Both works and faith are to be required of potential converts

I recently ran into a scripture that corrects some of what I have seen advocated for missionary work. I have heard various people boldly claim at times that as soon as someone says they are ready to be baptized, then they are ready, no matter how they had been living beforehand. I didn't realize there were relevant scriptures.

D&C 20:68 The duty of the members after they are received by baptism—The elders or priests are to have a sufficient time to expound all things concerning the church of Christ to their understanding, previous to their partaking of the sacrament and being confirmed by the laying on of the hands of the elders, so that all things may be done in order.
 69 And the members shall manifest before the church, and also before the elders, by a godly walk and conversation, that they are worthy of it, that there may be works and faith agreeable to the holy scriptures—walking in holiness before the Lord.

Now these verses dictate a practice that we have changed, and that is fine as we believe in modern prophets. But let us look at what they say, and then apply the principles to the modern practice.

It is clear from these verses that being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost were not done together. This dictates that before being confirmed and also before being able to partake of the sacrament (I would never have guessed those went together in the Lord's mind) the members needed to complete the following duties:

Before being confirmed, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and partaking of the sacrament, members have a duty to:
1. Give sufficient time by which all things concerning the church can be expounded to their understnading
2. Prove by a godly walk and conversation that they are worthy of it. The "it" they need to prove they are worthy of is confirmation and gift of the Holy Ghost, which apparently gives them the right to partake of the sacrament. The reasoning here is that faith alone is not sufficient, they need prove that they will both have faith and also do the work of walking in holiness before the Lord.

These days we do baptism and confirmation together. How would these scriptures apply to the modern practice?

Well, they still say that before someone can be confirmed, get the gift of the Holy Ghost, and partake of the sacrament they need to have all things concerning the church expounded to them, and that they must prove by a godly walk and conversation that they are worthy of it so that the requirement of works and faith are both satisfied.

Thus this dictates that potential converts are to have time to prove that they will do the works required of the gospel covenants. For those who already are, or essentially are, doing the works required of the gospel covenants this is easy and it would take very little time. The point is that the church requires both "works and faith", not just faith, and this requirement proves they will do the works. The only way they can "dictate by a godly walk and conversation" is by having time to demonstrate that, or by having already been demonstrating it before they were converted. Otherwise, they cannot "manifest" a "godly walk and conversation" before the church.

For those who not already living close to the gospel standards, this says they should not be confirmed until they have had time to manifest not only by their faith, but by their actual works that they really will walk in holiness before the Lord. Otherwise they have not done what was necessary to prove that they were worthy to be confirmed and get the gift of the Holy Ghost. Since we now do baptism and confirmation together, and we still need people to be worthy of confirmation in the Lord's eyes before doing a confirmation, then to adapt this to the modern practice they need to be given this time before baptism as well.

A profound, if suprising response from my wife

One of my children asked Diane the question "Who is your favorite child?"

Diane responded, "I really don't feel more love for one of you than another, but I am closer to the ones that spend more time with me."

Diane explained further that, at that time, she felt particularly close to Ruth because Ruth would seek out opportunities to talk to her. Ruth would go with Diane to pick up the kids from school just so Ruth could tell Diane about her day. And Diane said that because Ruth was doing that, she felt particularly close to Ruth at that time.

Now this is definitely not the expected answer, especially because it wasn't Ruth that was asking. The expected answer is "I love all of you the same." But Diane's answer is probably a more complete, and more true answer than that. When I spend time with Ruth on a contest, I feel closer to Ruth. When I spend consistent time on family history with Kate, I feel closer to Kate. When I play games frequently with Johnny, I feel closer to Johnny. When I get home and Adam, or Rachel, or Anya, or Joseph, is waiting at the door saying "What are we going to do together today?", especially when they do it for a few days in a row, I feel all glowy inside about that little one who wants to do something with their dad. When Joshua snuggles up next to me, or builds Legos with me, I am closer to Joshua. When Arwen comes up to me to tell me she loves me, or climbs silently onto my shoulders and just stays for a long time, I feel a particular closeness to that little girl. Particular if she does it over a few days. When Susan is just excited to see me and look at me, my heart is all aglow over Susan. I don't suddenly love other children less, but there is a closeness that comes from their love and desires as well as from consistent time spent doing something together.

Nephi was "highly favored of the Lord". Right there at the beginning of the Book of Mormon we learn that Nephi was "favored", and not just a little bit, he was "highly favored". Why? Because he wanted to be a good son. Because he wanted to listen to the Lord and follow his directions. I really think that my wife said something more true and profound than what society dictates parents should say to their children, because it is closer to what the scriptures teach about the Father and his children.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sin gives the adversary power and influence

This is a topic that I have long thought needed to be addressed. I am hoping to write a few pieces on it in addition to what is covered in my book on the atonement.

It is bound to be an unpopular topic, but I really think it needs to be stated. The point is that when we sin we give the adversary a measure of power and influence in that area of our life in which we sinned.

If we understood that sin gives Satan power over people, the world around us would make a lot more sense. A woman writes a blog about how she has decided not to wear leggings because she has decided they aren't modest. She gets ridiculed by sources far and sundry. Why? She didn't say nobody else could do so. She didn't say it should be a law.

Anyone who honestly sits back and looks at this can tell that it doesn't make proper sense, and yet it happened. Why?

For just a moment, let's take a quick look at a brighter side of the picture.
Anyone who does their family history has likely felt tugs at their ideas, pushing them to research for another child, to research a parent, or some such thing. 

Joseph Smith taught that our dead try and gather their descendants to the truth when he said "... angels come down, combine together to gather their children, and gather them." (Teachings, page 159). Notice that he said the angels gather their children, meaning their descendants. The spirits of our dead ancestors can influence us. We may not physically "hear" their voice, but some measure of what they say enters our thoughts as we grow sensitive to them. The more we hearken, the more we become sensitive to them and are inspired by them our family history research.

But the spirits of our departed ancestors aren't the only spirits who seek to influence us. We know that an entire third of the host of heaven is here in spirit form tempting us. Just as with the spirits of our departed dead, whose voices we become more sensitive to as we listen, so also the rebellious spirits we hearken to gain influence as we listen to them. They gain a measure of power over us whenever we listen to them instead of to God.

And if we don't understand that, the world is a different place altogether.

So why does one woman writing that she has decided to be modest whip up such a frenzy, even among people who are otherwise doing good things? Because even if good otherwise, they are not people who believe in modesty. They are used to hearkening to spirits that tell them that modesty is no matter, and while there is no rational reason one other woman's choice should anger them, it does anger the tempters they are used to paying heed to, and so they turn around and mock and take notice and criticize her.

We all know that Joseph Smith wrote that

JSH 1:23  ..though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.

Why would the claims of an obscure boy of no moment excite such energy to oppose him? If we don't realize that sin gives the adversary power and influence in people's lives it makes no sense. But if we do, we are not at all surprised to see such a thing taking place.

We read in the Book of Mormon that:

2 Nephi 28:20 For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.
 21 And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
 22 And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.

Who are these people that the devil flattered, or whispered that all is well to? The prophet? Well the devil could, and surely he tries, but it does him no good. In one who does little wrong, the adversary has little influence. It was the people who were used to listening to the devil's temptations, who are used to hearkening to his temptations to sin, who the devil can easily flatter and lull, or stir up to anger against good things. And where does this power and influence come from? He gains this power and influence when they hearkened to his temptations to sin and do wrong instead of listening to God's commandments to the contrary. 
Joseph Smith said "The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power." (Teachings, page 181) 

How can the devil "rage in the hearts of the children of men"? Can he just do that to anybody? No, that is possibly through the influence and power he gains over those who hearken to his temptations. It is by sin that he gains such power and influence over people, and most dramatically so by the more serious sins,

And we see that in the world around us now. Those who didn't understand this believed that when the "love and tolerance for perversion" crowd got the upper hand they would bring forth their promised universal love and tolerance for everyone. Those who knew the doctrine better knew that particular crowd was moved by the adversary and that once they got the upper hand, love and tolerance would be the last thing they would show for truth and right.

Now there is a lot more to this whole topic. I address the topic in great detail in my book on the atonement because understanding the nature of sin does a lot to bring the atonement for sin into sharper focus.

But I did think I should at least write a bit or two about it elsewhere. There are so many foolish and dangerous things being said and done because we don't understand this. 

The things we ironically don't know

In the new testament we read that none of Christ's followers seem to have any idea he would be resurrected. Christ's enemies not only knew that he had taught that he would come back from the dead, they even know how many days he said it would be from his death. We seem to be afflicted with a measure of that sort of irony today.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that the enemies of the church in Christ's day knew more about the truth generally, or that they were the right people to go to in order to learn about Christ. Sadly, there are those of our day who are glad to turn to the enemies of truth to find out what the "real truth" is, particularly about our beloved prophet Joseph Smith. I am not condoning going to our enemies to learn the truth. They will accompany one truth with many more lies.

But when it comes to our doctrine there are still those things which our enemies seem to know better than our members. I was never taught that we believe that Jesus was literally the son of God. My sister was given an anti-mormon pamphlet in elementary school. My parents decided to go over it with it with all of us kids to present the truth in opposition to the pamphlet. The pamphlet had a citation from Journal of Discourses stating that Heavenly Father had intimate relationships with Mary in order to conceive Christ. This seemed to be a new notion to my parents, and they determined at the time it must be mistaken.

But years later, I realized that of course that was true. Joseph Fielding Smith in Doctrines of Salvation appears to try to make that point again and again, but without being blunt. Bruce R McConkie was far more blunt stating that Christ's conception involved "the usual procreative powers". There is a famous address by Joseph F Smith in which he tries to teach this to children. Multiple church leaders in my own lifetime have testified in general conference that Christ is "literally" the son of God. It is a perfectly true doctrine, but one our enemies seem to know better than our members do.

I ran across another gem recently in an atheist's review of Mormon Doctrine. He writes:

Why is it that so many Mormons can't seem to run away from this book fast enough? It isn't because it is hard to navigate - the encyclopedic format is very helpful, even more so in the days before internet search engines. It certainly isn't because it was written by a fringe author with a shallow grasp of the subject matter. Bruce McConkie was a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy when he wrote it, and would later be ordained an 'Apostle of the Lord'. It isn't because it is not authoritative. It is still an oft quoted source in modern day lesson manuals. It isn't because the content isn't thoroughly backed with references to the Standard Works and the words of the 'living prophets in this, the last dispensation of the fulness of times'. It is.

The reason so many Mormons run away from this book is simple: It is too forthright. ... this is no apologies, no holds barred, rock 'em sock 'em Mormonism in the raw. This is 'The Meat' ladies and gentlemen. So what if it doesn't sell well in the 21st Century, the last I checked The Lord God of Hosts was the same yesterday, today, and forever - steadfast and immoveable. The ideology he advances may be appalling, but for leaving the sugar coatings to the makers of breakfast cereals I give Bruce five stars.

Now clearly, he despises the teachings in the book. But his statement 'So what if it doesn't sell well in the 21st Century, the last I checked the Lord God of Hosts was the same yesterday, today, and forever - steadfast and immoveable', even if said derisively, makes a point I wish I saw more of. Constantly we see members trying to read the scriptures and then try and distort them into support for popular thinking right now. But eternal truths are not subject to the whims of society, and so today's popular thinking is not going to match up with eternal and undeviating truths.

"Mormon Doctrine" is no longer being printed and I think this atheist's summary is pretty accurate statement statement on why it isn't. It is not because we have gathered up everything "Mormon Doctrine" had to offer and are ready to move on, but because too many of us aren't studying the scriptures in a serious way. It contains too much that is too boldly true. No, it isn't scripture. But those who despise it are a very long ways from having something better to say in its place. The reason they despise it isn't because they have scruples about reading anything below the perfectness of pure revelation. For many of them, pure revelation isn't really suited to their tastes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

We live beneath our privileges in our knowledge of the Christ

Everybody knows that the brethren have repeatedly told us that we live far beneath our privileges. Consequently we also live far beneath our privileges in the companionship of the Holy Ghost. If we have the Holy Ghost the way we ought to, we will have all the other spiritual privileges the way we ought to as well. If we aren't living up to our spiritual privileges, we aren't living up to the measure to which we ought to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is speaking of the Holy Ghost that God said to Adam:

Moses 6: 61 Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.

Think of the introduction to D&C 76 in which Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw the three degrees of glory:

D&C 76: 11 We, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon, being in the Spirit on the sixteenth day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two—
 12 By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God—
 13 Even those things which were from the beginning before the world was, which were ordained of the Father, through his Only Begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, even from the beginning;

Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

1 Samuel 10:10 And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.

Moses 6:26 And it came to pass that Enoch journeyed in the land, among the people; and as he journeyed, the Spirit of God descended out of heaven, and abode upon him.
 27 And he heard a voice from heaven, saying: Enoch, my son, prophesy unto this people, and say unto them—Repent, for thus saith the Lord: I am angry with this people, and my fierce anger is kindled against them; for their hearts have waxed hard, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes cannot see afar off;

The point is that if we live far beneath our privileges in spiritual gifts then we necessarily are also living far beneath our privileges regarding the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is the means through which these spiritual gifts are bestowed. We are enjoying a measure of the Holy Ghost that is far beneath what the Lord would like to bestow upon us.

Now what is somewhat sad about all this is that if I say to a man that he and I both have far less of the Holy Ghost than the Lord would like to privilege us with, he will likely shrug it off. If I say that we are weak in our enjoyment of the Holy Ghost, it likely won't mean much to him.

But if I say to the same man that he and I are very weak in our knowledge of what kind of person Jesus is, he might feel like that I have just insulted the two of us. It will strike him as a more serious matter.

And what makes that sad is that they are really the same issue. The Holy Ghost is the means God has given to us by which we come to know Jesus Christ and the Father. That is the system. It is the whole point. Christ even calls it "his doctrine". The way we come to know the Father and the Son is by growing into the Gift of the Holy Ghost. As we have the Holy Ghost with us we KNOW who the Father is and who the Son is in a way that no amount of explanation and discussion could have ever conveyed to our minds. The greater the measure to which we enjoy this gift, the greater is the measure of our knowledge of just who Jesus Christ is, as well as who the Father is. We see this taught by Christ as his doctrine:

3 Nephi 11: 35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
 36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.

Note that it says that the Father will visit that man with the Holy Ghost and thus will the Father bear record of Christ. It is by having the Holy Ghost that we come to know who Christ and his Father are. It is the means by which the Father "bears record" of the Son, because nothing explains to us who Christ is like having the Holy Ghost come upon us.

Consequently, if we are living far beneath our privileges in the measure to which we enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost, then we are also living far beneath the knowledge we should have of just what sort of being Jesus Christ is.

We may have traditions, teachings, explanations, preachings, even scriptures about who Jesus Christ is. But the whole plan for coming to know Christ, is for us to get the Holy Ghost. The more we have the Holy Ghost, the more we know just who Christ is, and the more we can emulate, love, and worship him.

When we knowingly don't care that we live far beneath our privileges, then we are not just rejecting spiritual gifts, we are rejecting the knowledge of the Father and his Son because we have rejected the means by which that knowledge is intended to be conveyed to our souls. We should do better in this matter than we have done heretofore. Sure, yes, we do know the Father and the Son. But not anywhere near to the degree that they would have us know them.

Water, Spirit, and Blood

There is a beautiful scripture in Moses that has a unique introduction. It is, to my knowledge, the only scripture that is introduced with a commandment to teach the doctrine that follows it freely to one's children and even specifies what you need to say:

 Moses 6:58 Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying:
 59 That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;
 60 For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified;
 61 Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.

At our mortal birth the water in the womb encompasses us before birth, the blood of our mother is involved, and our spirit is joined to our bodies.

And the same three things are involved in our birth into the kingdom of heaven.

To be baptized one is immersed in water. They must be immersed fully for the baptism to be valid. By being baptized we keep the commandment to have faith, repent, and be baptized. We go through the appointed gate to be born into the kingdom of heaven.

But that is not sufficient on its own. Someone may be baptized insincerely. They may not really intend to repent. The same is true for other ordinances. How is an ordinance justified?

Bruce R McConkie pointed out in "Mormon Doctrine" that justification by the spirit is not only a universal law for ordinances, but it is actually a very familiar one. It is described in detail in D&C 132.

D&C 132:7 And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.

This clarifies both justification as well as what it means for an ordinance to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise. It says they are the same thing. For an ordinance to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise isn't something that happens years after the ordinance takes place, it is simply the ratifying seal by the Holy Ghost that is required at the time the ordinance takes place. This ratifying seal means the ordinances is justified. To think instead (as is common) that the holy spirit of promise is something that follows long after an ordinance is give to make the ordinance valid for eternity does not make sense. Then baptism, priesthood ordinations, endowments, and all ordinances.... would not be even be valid eternally unless some follow up sealing by the Holy Ghost was eventually obtained. That just doesn't fit.

To be sanctified and washed white in the blood of the lamb is something I know very little about, as I haven't reached that point. I am not like those in Alma 13 of whom the scriptures state:

Alma 13:11 Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.
 12 Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.

I know that I have not received any spiritual blessing that has bestowed such cleanliness upon me that I "can not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence". So I have no been washed white through the blood of the lamb.

But apparently God wants our children to grow up knowing that to be fully born into the kingdom of heaven will require all three things. By the water we keep the commandment, by the spirit we are justified, and by the blood we are sanctified.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

On Bruce R McConkie's book "Mormon Doctrine" and other great works of the restoration

It is not uncommon to hear members malign "Mormon Doctrine", and occasionally to hear them also include "Doctrine's of Salvation" and the "Miracle of Forgiveness" in their list of church book mistakes. I wrote this in reference to Mormon Doctrine but think it applies to all three.
The members who have passed over this book haven't done so because they have taken in all the light and knowledge is has to offer. Or even the smallest fraction of it. Many malign it, but couldn't have reproduced contents that were anything but a distorted shadow of it on the most fundamental doctrines of our religion: atonement, grace, priesthood, faith, ... and the list goes on.

I would offer all the critics the same personal challenge the Lord put forth to the critics of Joseph Smith. I don't think the author thought the book was perfect. I'm sure he didn't. Anyone who knows that much must love to study the gospel and knows that they are continually gaining greater views. But I would like to see any of the naysayers put together a work that would be worthy to be quoted in general conference still 60 years into the future, as this book has been.

To the critics, I put forth the personal challenge concerning any of our most fundamental, core doctrines of our religion as described in "Mormon Doctrine" to write an alternative entry that is as correct, as pure, as complete, as wrapped up in a knowledge of the gospel that is as thoroughly founded in the revelations of the Holy Ghost, as what already exists in your favorite book to make fun of, "Mormon Doctrine":

D&C 67: 5 Your eyes have been upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and his language you have known, and his imperfections you have known; and you have sought in your hearts knowledge that you might express beyond his language; this you also know.
 6 Now, seek ye out of the Book of Commandments, even the least that is among them, and appoint him that is the most wise among you;
 7 Or, if there be any among you that shall make one like unto it, then ye are justified in saying that ye do not know that they are true;
 8 But if ye cannot make one like unto it, ye are under condemnation if ye do not bear record that they are true.

No, I am not saying "Mormon Doctrine" is true in the sense that the revelations are true. But I am pointing out that if you can't put forth something with a comparable depth and truth in portraying our doctrine, then you should follow the Lord's counsel here, and realize that your criticism is that of a detractor to the faith, because it is unjustified in God's eyes.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

Just a quick note that the wise men's gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were probably the important financial means for Joseph and Mary to, shortly after wise men's visit, travel to Egypt and set up a new life for themselves in that foreign land.

The great two commandments vs the law and the prophets

There is a difference between saying that all the law and the prophets hang on the great two commandments, which is what Christ said (Matthew 22:40), and saying that the two great commandments supplant the law and the prophets, which is a common tactic used by wolves in sheep's clothing in modern days. Christ's actual wording was:

Matthew 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

What Christ said actually endorses the law and the prophets in their entirety. He is claiming the two great commandments are the root out of which all the law and the prophets grow, they are the nail by which the everything else is suspended. That is very different than dismissing any portion of the law or prophets in favor of the great two commandments.

This difference is important, as it has become common for some to use Christ's statement about the two great commandments in an attempt to supplant the prophets. The idea seems to be that one can interpret the great two commandments as one sees fit, then use that interpretation to summarily dismiss what modern and ancient prophets have said on a matter .

But Christ doesn't state that one can supplant the law and the prophets with the great two commandments. Instead Christ states that the law and the prophets are exactly the tree of truths that really do hang from the great two commandments when they are properly understood.

Want to know what loving God with all one's might, mind and strength looks like in practice? Want to know what loving one's neighbor as one's self in a way secondary to the first commandment looks like in practice?

Then read the scriptures, and listen to the counsel and commandments of prophets both ancient and modern.

Doing so you will find that a critical part of what it looks like is keeping commandments. Which is no surprise, as the way God measures our love of him is quite different than what we might expect:

John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

If that is really correct, whether we love God with all our heart, might, mind, and strength is not measured by words alone, but by whether we keep his commandments with all our heart, might, mind and strength. The first great commandment is to love God, and the way he stated that he measures our love is by our obedience to him.

This truth is seen even in the life of our great examplar, Jesus Christ. He submitted his own will completely to the will of his Father. In so doing he showed that he really did love his Father far more than he loved himself. Thus Christ's perfect obedience was the godly proof of Christ's perfect love for his Father.

And it is the same for us. It is easy to talk about loving God. But to pay the price of submitting our wills to his will is the true demonstration of real life affection for and trust in him as our loving Father.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Popular false teachings on the atonement #1

This focuses on some of the most popularized works on the atonement, "The Continuous Atonement" by Brad Wilcox, and "Believing Christ" by Stephen Robinson. The book "Believing Christ" is notable for making false protestant ideas on the atonement mainstream in Mormonism. It's spiritual successor, quite popular right now, appears to be "The Continuous Atonement".

In our current culture of "everything is true" these protestant teachings coexist side by side with older, correct ideas about the atonement and most members don't even notice the direct contradictions. Coexist isn't the right word however. These false teachings seem to be overwhelming ancient truths in the minds of far too many.

For example, let's compare teachings from the scriptures, the Lectures on Faith, and from these two books.

Take the following text from page 12 of "The Continuous Atonement":

"I love Brother Stephen Robinson's parable [of the bicycle]. He has helped us all see that there are two essential parts that must be completed in order for the atonement to be fully effective in our lives. But I think of the Atonement more like this: Jesus already bought the whole bike. The few coins He asks from me are not so much to help pay for the bike, but rather to help me appreciate it, value it, and use it correctly".

What this is claiming is that choosing the right after baptism is not something that has anything to do with our exaltation because Christ purchased our exaltation in full already. It then answers the implicit question "If keeping the commandments has nothing to do with our salvation, then why do we need to choose the right?" by claiming that we need to choose the right so we can appreciate, value, and use the atonement correctly.

But that is completely wrong. It is bizarre to claim that choosing the right perfectly was required of Christ, but that choosing the right has nothing to do with our own salvation besides "appreciating, valuing, and using the atonement correctly". The whole perspective is wrong. It turns salvation and exaltation into something one acquires, like a bicycle. It turns salvation into something that we are trying to get God to agree to hand over to us. But that isn't what they are at all. Exaltation is to be a certain something. Exaltation is not a like a college degree that is simply rewarded whether you got C's, B's or A's. Exaltation is to become a certain type of being. 

So what is the Savior's role in regard to exaltation? Could we get it without him? No, absolutely not. We need his intercession so that we can be cleansed of our errors. 

But that cleansing never exceeds what we actually choosing in our daily walk. We are never more clean through the atonement than way we are actually living. It is for remission of the sins we have stopped doing.

Helaman 5:10 And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
 11 And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.

So it is only as we repent and change that we enjoy cleanliness. And we all experience that. We all experience fixing something in our lives that we were neglecting or doing wrong and finding ourselves enjoying a greater measure of the Holy Ghost.

That is the other thing about these false protestant teachings. Not only do they disagree with the scriptures and teachings of modern prophets, they also disagree with our own experiences. Do we find ourselves enjoying the spiritual benefits of 100% perfection and goodness just because we are baptized. According to the doctrine they teach, that is what we should be enjoying, because that is the reality that is achieved through the atonement.

But that isn't what we experience. What we experience is that when we do wrong, we feel spiritually unclean. When we do right, we feel greater peace and joy. When we make lasting changes, repenting of some misbehavior or other, then our lives are boosted and we enjoy a somewhat greater peace and joy than we did before. What we experience is traveling a path of progress that brings us greater light and a greater measure of the Holy Ghost. We experience greater cleanness as we choose better actions. That is the opposite of what should happen if these books that are preaching protestant ideas about the atonement teach. They teach that we enjoy the full measure of cleanness from baptism onwards. And that isn't what we experience.

Now there is no question that exaltation is a reward. But it is unlike human rewards. It is given by becoming it. The reward is to become a type of being. The conditions on which we will be able to reach that in eternity are that we are pressing forward, seeking it diligently during mortality. 

This was taught quite pointedly by Joseph Smith in the School of the Prophets.
But to be a little more particular, let us ask, where shall we find a prototype into whose likeness we may be assimulated, in order that we may be made partakers of life and salvation? or in other words, where shall we find a saved being? for if we can find a saved being, we may ascertain, without much difficulty, what all others must be, in order to be saved—they must be like that individual or they cannot be saved: we think, that it will not be a matter of dispute, that two beings, who are unlike each other, cannot both be saved; for whatever constitutes the salvation of one, will constitute the salvation of every creature which will be saved: and if we find one saved being in all existence, we may see what all others must be, or else not be saved. We ask, then, where is the prototype? or where is the saved being? We conclude as to the answer of this question there will be no dispute among those who believe the bible, that it is Christ: all will agree in this that he is the prototype or standard of salvation, or in other words, that he is a saved being. And if we should continue our interrogation, and ask how it is that he is saved, the answer would be, because he is a just and holy being; and if he were any thing different from what he is he would not be saved; for his salvation depends on his being precisely what he is and nothing else; for if it were possible for him to change in the least degree, so sure he would fail of salvation and lose all his dominion, power, authority and glory, which constitutes salvation; for salvation consists in the glory, authority, majesty, power and dominion which Jehovah possesses, and in nothing else; and no being can possess it but himself or one like him: Thus says John, in his first epistle, 3:2 and 3: Behold, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And any man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.—Why purify himself as he is pure? because, if they do not they cannot be like him. 


15 It is scarcely necessary here to observe what we have previously noticed: That the glory which the Father and the Son have, is because they are just and holy beings; and that if they were lacking in one attribute or perfection which they have, the glory which they have, never could be enjoyed by them; for it requires them to be precisely what they are in order to enjoy it: and if the Savior gives this glory to any others, he must do it in the very way set forth in his prayer to his Father: by making them one with him, as he and the Father are one.—In so doing he would give them the glory which the Father has given him; and when his disciples are made one with the Father and the Son, as the Father and the Son are one, who cannot see the propriety of the Savior's saying, The works which I do, shall they do; and greater works than these shall they do, be cause I go to the Father?

16 These teachings of the Savior must clearly show unto us the nature of salvation; and what he proposed unto the human family when he proposed to save them—That he proposed to make them like unto himself; and he was like the Father, the great prototype of all saved beings: And for any portion of the human family to be assimilated into their likeness is to be saved; and to be unlike them is to be destroyed: and on this hinge turns the door of salvation. (Lectures on Faith 7:9,15-16)

Yes, there is forgiveness when we err. Yes, we have many flaws and faults. Yes, we have a long way to go. But the purpose of the atonement is to make it so that we can travel that long path, not to act as a substitute for traveling it.

The purpose of the atonement is to grant forgiveness as we change our behavior. It is not meant as a substitute for change. Instead, it grants the forgiveness necessary AS we change so that we can enjoy greater cleanness, and consequently, also greater spiritual blessings.

But, once again, the atonement is not meant as a substitute for change. By very design, it cannot substitute for change. We gain access to its forgiveness on condition of repentance.

This is part of what is meant by the phrase "he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins." (Helaman 5:10)

Following inspiration when it arises in everyday things

I am risking my entire eternity on my ability to correctly discern inspiration from the Holy Ghost. I am making my mortal daily decisions based on inspiration I had that the Mormon church is true. If I am willing to risk my whole eternity on inspiration, I would rather get the wrinkles ironed out here in mortality. If I am willing to risk eternity on following inspiration, I have no hesitation in following inspiration about situations with less eternal consequences. Doing so, yes, I find that I make mistakes in judging what is inspiration and what isn't. But they are lessening over time. I have learned a lot about inspiration that I didn't used to know. I am learning to discern the Holy Ghost more correctly. Which in turn strengthens my continuing conviction that this is the one true church on the earth.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The atonement and Christ preaching in the spirit world

(This needs some cleanup still)

Christ went to the spirit world between his death and his resurrection. There is a sort of Adam-ondi-Ahman type meeting going on there in the spirit world where Adam appears to have gathered his righteous descendants, waiting for Christ to appear, before Christ completes his conquest of death through resurrection.

Of Christ's visit to the spirit world we read

D&C 138:19 And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance.

There are a number of interesting things about this verse. The audience is the church as it exists in the spirit world. They know about the resurrection. But this is just before the beginning of the first resurrection where many of the dead who slept will be resurrected following Christ's own resurrection. (Brigham Young gives detail about the resurrection I'm not sure anybody else does, but I haven't studied it yet). So when Christ preaches the resurrection to them he is probably teaching them "how" it will take place rather than just teaching them "that" it will take place. Teaching about "the redemption of mankind from the fall" probably went into much greater depth that we currently understand given the timing and the audience. It is kind of fun to note that the audience even includes grandfather Adam who fell.

It is worth noting that Christ teaches them of "redemption" from "individual sins on conditions of repentance". That is the universal requirement for redemption from individual sins. This verse echos the article of faith "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression" but it also adds an important detail. The condition on which men are redeemed from their individual sins is repentance.

That is an important clarification for us because there are those among us teaching the false ideas that at baptism we are made perfect, are clean every whit, and are sanctified by the blood of Christ. In short, these teachings assert that once we have a covenant we are saved in a sense close to that of modern protestantism.

But in the scriptures we find a different story than these protestant ideas. We read that we are redeemed from our individual sins on condition of repentance. That is a very different story, and a much more scriptural one. In that story, the cleansing effect of baptism does not extend (at least not in a lasting way) to any misbehavior we are continuing to do after baptism. We aren't sanctified, clean every whit, clean from the blood and sins of this generation, holy, perfect, sanctified and washed white in the blood of the lamb at baptism because baptism only offered us lasting cleanliness from the sins we were required to repent of in order to be baptized. Additionally, our goodness isn't added to Christ's goodness to add up to 100% goodness at baptism, nor does Christ's goodness supplant our own goodness thereby redefining all our future behavior to be acceptable before God because of our covenant with Christ.

As taught in the scripture we just read, the conditions of redemption for individual sins are not the mere existence of a covenant between us and Christ. The conditions of redemption for individual sins is repentance. Only then, after repentance, does Christ's atonement allow us to be forgiven and made clean of those sins.

In the scriptural story, baptism isn't a conclusion. Instead, baptism is a gate onto a path. At the gate we are given the gift of the Holy Ghost, are made clean of those things we repented of in order to be baptized, and our feet are set on a path.

But we are not clean every whit, we aren't clean from the blood and sins of this generation, we aren't kings and priests unto the most high God, and we aren't sanctified and washed white in the blood of the lamb just because we were baptized. Instead, the path our feet are put on at baptism is the path that will take us through all these things if we will press forward diligently along it, holding tightly to the iron rod. Our covenants mark the way for us to travel. We may not obtain all of these things in mortality, but we do the best we can so that we can have confidence that we will be allowed to continue the path in eternity to its conclusion.

And we see here in D&C 138 exactly that. We see Christ preaching to the righteous redemption from individual sins on conditions of repentance. This has application both to themselves, the righteous dead, as well as to those they will be carrying the gospel to. If we are not perfect when we die, which is what we expect, then we still have things to overcome, and so there is still a doctrine in the spirit world of redemption for individual sins on condition of repentance.

On a different note, it is worth noticing that does not mean God can tolerate sin in the least degree in his kingdom. The events in D&C 138 take place in the spirit world. They do not take place in the celestial kingdom of God. For Christ to visit this place appears to be unusual, and his followers are gathered and waiting for his appearance. What is more, the spirit world is here on this earth, whereas the scriptures inform us that the place where God lives is not a planet like this earth, but like a sea of glass and fire where he dwells in everlasting burnings. Thus there is perfect consistency in the scriptures. God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance and no unclean thing can dwell in his presence. There are still individual sins in the spirit world because we are not perfect when we die, but there is also still repentance in the spirit world as well or it wouldn't make sense for Christ to be preaching it. The spirit world is not the place we obtain our eternal reward of dwelling forever with the Father and the Son, and so we don't have to be perfect by the time we get there. We still have time there to repent of our sins and continue along to the conclusion of the path we started at baptism.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Joseph Smith and the parable of the talents

The following quotation by Joseph Smith makes a an interesting interpretation of the parable of the talents. He says that "everyone is to receive according to his own diligence and perseverance while in the vineyard", and then references the parable of the talents. Improving our own talents that we can gain other talents appears to be a reference to saving the souls of men.

"Who but those who have duly considered the condescension of the Father of our spirits, in providing a sacrifice for His creatures, a plan of redemption, a power of atonement, a scheme of salvation, having as its great objects, the bringing of men back into the presence of the King of heaven, crowning them in the celestial glory, and making them heirs with the Son to that inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and which fadeth not away--who but such can realize the importance of a perfect walk before all men, and a diligence in calling upon all men to partake of these blessings? How indescribably glorious are these things to mankind! Of a truth they may be considered tidings of great joy to all people; and tidings, too, that ought to fill the earth and cheer the heart of every one when sounded in his ears. The reflection that everyone is to receive according to his own diligence and perseverance while in the vineyard, ought to inspire everyone who is called to be a minister of these glad tidings, to so improve his talent that he may gain other talents, that when the Master sits down to take an account of the conduct of His servants, it may be said, Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things; I will now make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 47)

It is too bad that the word talent has come to mean something we have a natural capacity for in our modern language. A talent in the new testament was a coin. It seems to have led to commonly reading this parable as being about improving our natural abilities, rather that being about saving the souls of men. But there are other places that also teach that our salvation is contingent on our efforts to save the souls of others:

D&C 4:4 For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;

We also see the same interpretation of the parable of the talents in D&C 60.

D&C 60:2 But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.
 3 And it shall come to pass, if they are not more faithful unto me, it shall be taken away, even that which they have.
 7 And in this place let them lift up their voice and declare my word with loud voices, without wrath or doubting, lifting up holy hands upon them. For I am able to make you holy, and your sins are forgiven you.

The intent seems to be that we must labor to save the souls of others, thereby proving that our "work and glory is the immortality and eternal life of men" in our small sphere in order for the Lord to then say to us, in turn "Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things: I will now make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord".

For the sisters, that Labor is primarily in their own homes, among their own family. The men have a a priesthood obligation to preach the gospel.