Notes for my writing

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

Friday, February 27, 2015

Does Christlike teaching reference damnation and hell?

We have been shamed out of speaking of hell and damnation as part of the consequences of sin. Its not that we need to speak of them obsessively. But we should use them in the same way Christ used them, and he certainly did use them in his teaching, where we have stopped altogether. The answer is simple: be not "ashamed of the doctrine of Christ". Even if that doctrine is unpopular. It is a doctrine calculated that "it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory."

We have largely put aside teaching it, to the detriment of our own ability to convince.

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

We are fooling ourselves if we do not believe that making the consequences of sin clear keeps people out of trouble they would have gotten themselves into.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Not all are given every gift

The scriptural statement that not all are given every gift refers to initially, and not in the long run. There are no restrictions in long run of course. Christ had every good gift. Moroni 7 teaches us how to lay hold of every good gift (Moroni 7), which is the same as growing from grace to grace until we eventually grow into a fullness. The scriptural statement that not all are given every gift is a statement than initially all are not given every gift. But there are no graces God arbitrarily does not allow one individual or another to receive over time because that is precisely the path to exaltation, and one can hardly be exalted and still not have every good gift. Over time, if we follow Moroni's counsel, we can lay hold of every good gift.

Sin, punishment and tribulation

Everybody knows that just because someone is facing a trial doesn't mean that person is being punished for their sins. This has been proclaimed loud and long. It is completely true. The Savior was perfect. But he still had to live his youth in Egypt because Herod wanted to kill him. He was still a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

Joseph Smith was the "best blood of the nineteenth century" (D&C 135:6). But he was persecuted constantly through his life starting from the young age of 14.

In fact, Joseph Smith taught that:

"He that will war the true Christian warfare against the corruptions of these last days will have wicked men and angels of devils, and all the infernal powers of darkness continually arrayed against him. When wicked and corrupt men oppose, it is a criterion to judge if a man is warring the Christian warfare. When all men speak evil of you falsely, blessed are ye. Shall a man be considered bad, when men speak evil of him? No. If a man stands and opposes the world of sin, he may expect to have all wicked and corrupt spirits arrayed against him. But it will be but a little season, and all these afflictions will be turned away from us, inasmuch as we are faithful, and are not overcome by these evils. By seeing the blessings of the endowment rolling on, and the kingdom increasing and spreading from sea to sea, we shall rejoice that we were not overcome by these foolish things."
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Five 1842-43, p.259)

It is true that if are warring the "true Christian warfare against the corruptions of these last days"  then we will find "wicked men and angels of devils, and all the infernal powers of darkness continually arrayed against" us.

However, all that being said, and perfectly true, there is another side to the coin, and I think that side is just as important.

The Lord blesses us for our obedience, and chastens us for our disobedience. Yes, as is pronounced among us with a loudspeaker constantly, that is not the source of all our difficulties. Christ himself demonstrates that, but it is still perfectly true that the Lord blesses us for our disobedience and chastens us for our disobedience and that fact is very relevant in our own lives.

It is also true that the Lord punishes the wicked.

There is a piece of literature, a puritan sermon, that I think we all become familiar with in high school. It is called "Sinners in the hands of an angry God." It was in my high school text, and I read it. Somewhere or other my father read it. I think it is interesting that of all the religious writings and teachings of the puritans, that one is the one we learn about the puritans with. It is obviously quite ridiculous, and I don't think the selection of a ridiculous sermon is unintentional.

Sadly, this doesn't just make people feel derisive of the puritans to whom we own this country's origins, it also makes them feel derisive of quite a bit of what the scriptures actually do teach, including Christ's own words about whether or not God will punish the wicked or chastise the righteous. No, many won't ever say they think what Christ said is wrong, but they don't seem to believe him either, no matter how blunt he is.

But there is more to the matter than just this. We really, really, don't like to believe that the Lord punishes people for their transgressions. But here are a few questions:

Would the Lord afflict and sorely chasten a faithful member for holding a grudge?

D&C 64:8 My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.

Would the Lord chasten members for treating his commandments lightly and departing from his ordinances?

We have been chastened by the hand of God heretofore for not obeying His commands, although we never violated any human law, or transgressed any human precept; yet we have treated lightly His commands, and departed from His ordinances, and the Lord has chastened us sore, and we have felt His arm and kissed the rod; let us be wise in time to come and ever remember that "to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 253)

Would the Lord visit his church members with afflictions for disobedience?

D&C 97:25 Nevertheless, Zion shall escape if she observe to do all things whatsoever I have commanded her.
 26 But if she observe not to do whatsoever I have commanded her, I will visit her according to all her works, with sore affliction, with pestilence, with plague, with sword, with vengeance, with devouring fire.

Regarding the Lord punishing the wicked, one of the least believed of all scriptures is

Moroni 10:22 And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.

It's one of those scriptures that one can hardly quote without being corrected. Which is part of what makes it interesting, as the scriptures is certainly true.

Is this scripture reconcilable with the fact that many of the prophets were persecuted and slain and that Christ himself is described as a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief? Absolutely. The scriptures are completely correct. Those people who suffered for their righteousness still had the hope of eternal life. This scripture is about the despair that is felt by those who have no genuine hope of eternal life. It is about those who live their lives so that their spirit cannot genuinely hope for salvation, no matter how it rationalizes the matter, suffer an underlying despair for which there are only short term, frail cover ups. Some of them may even be members whose lives secretly differ from their principles.

Joseph Smith taught: "don't envy the finery and fleeting show of sinners, for they are in a miserable situation".


There are some principles about the premortal life that are well worth considering, but are not politically correct to have earned their place in our lessons. This is too bad, because truth is invariably more powerful than error, even if at first that seems like it isn't the case.

The two victims of political correctness we are gathered to mourn today are:

1. There are blessings in this life that were granted because of actions in the premortal life. In fact, mortality itself was granted on condition of our behavior in the premortal life.
2. What we did yesterday is less important that what we decide to do tomorrow. Alma the younger led a life of rebellion for many years, but then he repented, and became a prophet who was eventually translated. This principle is true in mortality. It is just as true for the premortal life and mortality. What we did yesterday in the premortal life is irrelevant compared to what we are going to do from here on out. All who kept their first estate have the option of choosing to be as good or as bad as they want to be here in mortality.

This second principle is explained in a scriptural pharse: There are many who were first, who shall be last, and many who were last, who shall be first.

We see exactly the same thing in mortality. A man may choose to sin away his life. He may lose every spiritual advantage that would have been opened to him if he had lived righteously. Then he may choose to repent and turn around. He may become as righteous and devoted as he chooses to be. He can change his chosen path to one that leads to exaltation and godhood.

Just so a righteous man can turn from his righteousness. Balam was a prophet, but in the end he taught his people to send their women to seduce the Israelites so that the Lord would not longer bless Israel. For this act of spiritual treachery the Lord ensured he was slain by the Israelites. David was a man who the Lord said was after his own heart. Then David committed adultery and murdered Uriah, and lost his exaltation.

Another scripture lays this same principle out. The Lord promised Abraham he would send his most righteous spirits to be his posterity. Consequently the more righteous spirits were not gentiles, but Israelites. But Nephi has some plain words for those Israelites that think anything in the past counts more than righteous behavior today.

2 Nephi 30:1 And now behold, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you; for I, Nephi, would not suffer that ye should suppose that ye are more righteous than the Gentiles shall be. For behold, except ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall all likewise perish; and because of the words which have been spoken ye need not suppose that the Gentiles are utterly destroyed.
 2 For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel.

We are fine with the doctrine of a premortal life, and even that all those who followed lucifer suffered terrible, but just, punishment for their actions in the premortal life, becoming perdition.

However, people have a hard time accepting that anything else affecting this life is a result of actions in the premortal life. We live in a day when truth takes a backseat to man's view of justice all the time.

The scriptures teach that

D&C 130:18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
 19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

This should be coupled with the verses that follow it.

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

These verse are quite profound and teach that whenever we obtain a blessing from God it is by obedience to the relevant law. This idea is not separate from the previous verses. If we gain "so much advantage" it was because we gained "more knowledge and intelligence" in this life. That is logical. The phrase "you can't take it with you" doesn't apply to our spiritual state. As our judgement will represent who we have become, then our spiritual state is the one thing we can be certain that we do take with us.

So what of when we were born here. Was not the same true. Is there any point in sending "the noble and great ones" to be born at a specific time and place if when we are born the same principle that whatever principle of intelligence we attained unto in the premortal life rose with us when we were born. That doesn't mean that we know how to say it when we are born. But as they grow don't we see in our own children different principles of goodness that they have acquired peculiar abilities in? And doesn't it vary from one child to another?

The Lord promised Abraham to send his most righteous spirits to be the descendants of Abraham (and how else could the all the world be blessed by Abraham's posterity). Can't we see that there is a converse to this, that those who were most righteous in the premortal life were given promises about the families into which they would be born? Not all were promised the gospel in mortality, some where called to prepare a free nation. But there are still two sides to this coin: the promises we receive about our posterity, and the promises our posterity received about us. We cannot be saved without our fathers, and nor without our posterity, and neither of them can be saved without us. Sure, there are ways the Lord works things out for those whose fathers rebelled, or whose posterity rebels, but there is no reason to let the exception wash out our perception of the rule.

All good and true principles

This is a follow up to my post about Christ speaking on official church doctrine, in which I observed that according to the Savior the church can apparently have an "official" position that just represents the hardness of the hearts of the members, but the spiritual consequences still remain. There is plenty of law of Moses that testifies of that truth. It should be added that, that in his day Christ was the head of the church of course. But his statement about the official position on divorce under the law of Moses being because of the hardness of their hearts, as well as the spiritually damaging consequences, were as true when he said them as they had been for the preceding many hundreds of years.

I wrote that post because it is interesting to have that pointed out by the Savior. I also pointed it out because there has been a belief more and more among members that their duty is to learn whatever constitutes the official doctrines of the church. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Which may sound good at first, but it is utter bunk.

If that were true, we shouldn't read the scriptures. We should instead read the church sanctioned Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Once we know everything in there, we can read the prophet's talks in the conference Ensigns since it was published, and we will be done. We know all the official doctrine of the church. Case closed.

This runs strongly counter to what is portrayed in the lives of faithful members in all ages past.

The scriptures DO teach to follow the living prophet.

The scriptures DO teach to search the scriptures.

The scriptures DO teach how to discern truth from error.

But scriptures DO NOT teach the modern role of "official" doctrine as it exists in the minds of many members.

And the idea that our obligation with regards to truth isn't to ask, seek, and knock but to instead carefully enumerate which ideas can be justifiably called "official" church doctrine actually runs severely contrary to the scriptures.

The idea of "official" doctrine appears to probably have been coined originally with the intent of bringing some member around to accept basic doctrines. Which is good.

But the notion has taken a life of its own in the hands of some of the membership and the term "official doctrine" in its current incarnation is used far more frequently for evil than for good.

This switch from asking "what is true" to asking "what is official" is one of the most standard ways that members in the church are convinced to discard anything and everything found in such wonderful church works as "Doctrines of Salvation" by Joseph Fielding Smith, or "Mormon Doctrine" by Bruce R McConkie. Quite clearly these members do not discard these tremendous writings because they have already gleaned all the truth those books had to offer and are ready for more. This is typical of the life the word "official" has taken in the church these days. It has been twisted into a tool for rejecting good teachings. In fact, many of the modern "official" crowd will even object to my calling such books "church works" since they aren't "official" publications of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Which is ridiculous. We aren't obligated to accept every word of them, but the sheer quantity of truth contained in them is tremendous and that truth is about the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Rejecting an enormous amount of truth because it isn't all guaranteed to be perfect is exactly the life "official" has taken to itself. When those authors wrote books, they had no question they were writing church books.

The shift from "what is true" to "what is official" has also started to be turned against even basic truths, as many basic truths of gospel living were tacitly assumed as universal truth, and sometimes finding a good source that is "official" enough can be difficult in these days. These tend to be fundamental truths about family, gender, marriage, intimacy and children. The shift also enables enemies of truth to argue over just exactly how official any statements made by the brethren are. By moving the argument away from truth and into the realm of a sort of doctrinal bureaucracy they dramatically increase their ability to obscure and discard truth. Discussion of doctrine is shifted from discussions about actual doctrine to a debate about what is official. Even discussion on the Proclamation of the Family degenerate into what is official and what isn't, instead of truth being taught. We are becoming experts on bureaucracy, but not experts in doctrine.

We are also becoming experts at collecting quotes, but not experts at gaining the understanding that allowed the original speaker to make the quote in the first place. After all, if you can't say anything that hasn't been already said, there really isn't any point in trying to root out the basic principles anymore, is there? What purpose is there to gaining the depth of understanding that allow a speaker to say something if you are only going to quote exactly what he said in the first place anyway?

But in reality, our leaders are not trying to put words in our mouths, but to put the gospel in our minds and hearts. They want us to gain the same spiritual knowledge that would have allowed us to have said the same things for ourselves, independently, in the first place. The move to an obsession with quotes and "official" doctrine is a move away from understanding principles and becoming independent witnesses for truth. It is a move away from what our leaders are actually try to lead us towards.

It is typified by passing around quotes, but without ever thinking about them. There are many profound statements that have been made, but we don't ponder them, we just pass them around like desktop calendar quotes, or inspirational ideas.

But not only are there profound statements made, there are many things that cannot be taught sufficiently with a single statement. Not every good idea fits inside an internet meme or a twitter post, or even in a quote brief enough to be cited in an article or online discussion.

Some people are so attached to this notion of "official" that if one even speaks against it they immediately conclude that one no longer believes in following the prophet. The scriptures teach that we should follow the prophets. That is foundational truth. But the commandment to ask, seek and knock, is not about enumerating which teachings can justifiably be termed "official" doctrine.

We have the gift of the Holy Ghost for crying out loud.

We have the light of Christ, which, according to the scriptures, we can search diligently in to determine whether anything is right or wrong, and know with a perfect knowledge what is right, and what is wrong.

Shifting from "what is official" back to the scriptural approach of searching for truth brings discussions to the heart of what is being taught instead of a quagmire of who has a quote from the Ensign, and who has one from a CES fireside, or  from a book, or from general conference, or whether the speaker was an apostle or not when the statement was made. Or whether what was said in a more official source is sufficient to justify a slightly different case as official. Or debating the precise scope of a statement that was clearly very official. Or whether a very large number of less official sources is enough to state that something really is part of our official doctrine. Or any other spiritual bologna which all derive from changing our search for truth from "ask, seek, and knock" to "what is official"?

There was only one group in the scriptures as concerned about what was official was we now are, and it isn't one we want to be emulating. It was the Pharisees. Now don't get me wrong. Speaking collectively we are definitely not emulating the Pharisees in our moral and spiritual practices. We are, speaking collectively, a group of followers of Jesus Christ. However, our doctrinal practices are taking more and more of a leaning in the Pharisee's direction. And sadly, as this mindset becomes more part of our thinking, the obsession with what is official is providing a tool for some to actually follow in the Phariee's footsteps and justify in committing sin in action and thought if they can find a loophole in the doctrinal bureaucracy.

We have replaced what the scriptures taught with something much less spiritually useful. And many of our number have taken this so to heart they have branded the approach portrayed by the scriptures as heresy. They want to claim that you if you don't like the obsession with "official" doctrine, it must be because you disagree with official doctrine. As there are many who actually do disagree with our doctrine, they mentally toss you into that boat.

But the real problem is that "official" is the wrong question altogether. Our obsession should be with asking, seeking, and knocking. It should be an obsession with truth itself.

If truth is our real pursuit, then we will drink freely from the words of the living prophets and apostles. We will be thrilled that we have living prophets and apostles. We will also drink deeply from the scriptures and the temple.

Ironically, those obsessed with whether something is "official" generally take a very limited view of what that might include. General conference talks by Brigham Young? For many of these people, those are not "official" doctrine. Statements of the first presidency previous to the last 50 years? No thank you, still not official. Sometimes not even "official statements of the first presidency". In fact, while I won't go into specifics, it is interesting how many people obsessed with official doctrine like to throw away unpopular teachings of the brethren as not "official" enough, without having any idea of the weight of the prophetic words that have stood in favor of them. Just not in their lifetime. So it must not be "official" doctrine.

Yes, we follow the prophet. He is the Lord's living oracle. Yes, we sustain the prophet and the twelve as prophets, seers and revelators and the only men with the right to lead the church. That is a foundational principle. And if truth is what you are after, then that is a foundational truth. You drink deeply from their teachings. You also drink deeply from the scriptures and the temple, which are the fountainhead. If truth is what you are after, those are truths you start with.

Joseph Smith taught:

Have the Presbyterians any truth? Yes. Have the Baptists, Methodists, etc., any truth? Yes. They all have a little truth mixed with error. We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true "Mormons." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 316)

Apparently, to be a true Mormon we are accountable for recognizing whatever good and true principles we run into. Note that these were religious ideas Joseph Smith was speaking about.

We are apparently accountable to simply accept truth.

That kind of flies in the face of those obsessed with only accepting or teaching what is "official". According to Joseph Smith, they aren't even true Mormons.

So if the baptists have some truth, and we should accept what truth they have, and if the Methodists have some truth, and we should accept what truth they have, then it also follows that when we hear truth taught by any member, we are obligated to accept it. This is not particularly different than what the scriptures teach:

D&C 68:3 And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost.
4 And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.
5 Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants.

There you have it. An official statement from an official source of what constitutes our official doctrine. If someone speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost, we are obligated to accept it. It is officially official. More importantly, it is true. If you want an official doctrine, there is one right there. Our official doctrine is that whatever a man teaches by the Holy Ghost is our official doctrine. We are obligated to accept whatever truths are taught by the power of the Holy Ghost. Put differently, all such teachings constitute part of our official doctrine.

But wait, don't we only turn to the brethren for revelation? Aren't they the only one's who receive revelation for the church? Yes. But there is a huge difference between revelation with a capital R, and revelation with a small r.

What is discussed above in D&C 68 is revelation with a small r. In fact, if someone speaks truth from a different church that doesn't even have the Holy Ghost, then according to Joseph Smith, to come out true "Mormons" we should gather whatever good and true principles they offered. If we have that obligation, we certainly also have the obligation to accept whatever is taught by the Holy Ghost, exactly as outlined in D&C 68:4 above.

If someone comes forward with a vision or marvelous manifestation that they want to make public, that is revelation with a capital R. Those are given to the church only through those with the proper authority. Otherwise what a mess we would be in. Everyone and anyone that claimed to come forth with a revelation from God would have to be considered and weighed to determine what was divine manifestation and what was not. After all, there is nothing more perfect than a direct revelation from God. If God speaks directly, that is as perfect as it gets.

There is a great difference between these two types of revelation. We can determine what was taught by the Holy Ghost. We may even determine that part of what someone said was spoken by the power of the Holy Ghost, but that some other portions weren't.

The revelations with a captial R are very different. If we accept them, we have to accept them whole hog. We have to accept them absolutely as being on the same par as the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. If the Lord speaks personally, we accept his words as perfect.

Thus there is a huge difference in our obligation in the two cases.

And consequently there is a huge difference in how the Lord dispenses the two. Any member can speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, and we are obligated to accept what truth is taught under the influence of the spirit. We may even find that we learn truth this way that wasn't stated by the original speaker - more is conveyed than what he had in mind. We may find it was stated imperfectly but that the Holy Ghost, which conveys it to us, clarifies the meaning and frames it more perfectly than the original speaker was able to state.

However, only those who are called are authorized to received revelation with a big R for the church. We sustain them as prophets, seers, and revelators. That is because such revelations have to be either accepted or rejected whole Hog. This is also because, if such a revelation is accepted as true, such revelations have to be accepted as being perfect as God is perfect, on equal standing with the scriptures.

Joseph Smith taught by the power of the Holy Ghost, but he was blunt that there was a difference, an enormous gap, between his teaching and the revelations he had. Joseph Smith taught in the school of the prophets. But he didn't want his teachings there put on par with the revelations he received. He confessed that he was flawed, but stated that there was no flaw to be found in the revelations he had. The revelations he had were revelations with a big R. They are perfect as God is perfect. Someone could not take just part of one of these revelations and accept it, but think the rest was error. Each was either an entirely perfect truth, or entirely deception.

Thank goodness God calls men as prophets, seers, and revelators for his church. We can and must discard revelations and marvelous manifestations published by others than those he has called.

Most of the teachings of the brethren in this dispensation are revelation with a small r. There is nothing wrong with that. The Holy Ghost can lead the brethren what to say or do and that is a perfectly fine way for Christ to lead his church by revelation. If we have any question why there has not been given more revelation with a capital R, we need only turn to the existing revelations to find the answer.

D&C 84:54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
 55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
 56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
 57 And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—
 58 That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.

Put differently, if we really haven't accepted and lived up to the big R revelations we have already received there is not reason for us to receive more. Frankly, I don't think we are living up to many of the small r revelations we receive each general conference either. What sort of questions do groups of members come to the brethren with these days? Are they the results of many members asking, seeking and knocking for truth? No, so far, they are all the result of looking so much to the world that they wonder why the church can't be more babylonian. The most recent questions to arise from a significant number of the membership seem to be things like: "Can women have the priesthood?" and "Is homosexuality really morally wrong?".  Universally in my lifetime the doctrinal questions posed by enough members for the brethren to answer in conference have been questions like these questioning our already existing doctrines. What need is there for further big R revelation when all we can come up with to ask is whether the existing revelations are really all that necessary? Let us follow both types of revelation we receive now, and have already received in the past. It is by faith and obedience that the Lord leads us into greater light and knowledge.

D&C 132 use of the word Virgin

Just a small note on the use of the word Virgin in D&C 132.

Virgin is probably less an emphasis on being chaste (as it would occur to those reading in our day where immorality is sort of a norm) as much as an emphasis as not already havin
g been married before. From what I can tell so far there is far less of an emphasis on chastity in conference talks in, say, the 1940s because that was tacitly assumed as part of being decent, instead there was more talk about the word of wisdom and honesty.

To older era ears, virginity may have been more fairly interpreted as a reference to previous marital status.

There is a J of D talk by Brigham Young addressing men who were teaching false doctrine to widows to get them to seal them to themselves (men telling widows to marry and be sealed to themselves so they could be sealed and have exaltation - proxy sealing apparently really did require a descendent something similar in those days, not just any old member). He said those men who had so tricked a widow not have those women in the resurrection, rather, their faithful first husbands would.

Looking down on the ancient apostles

Christ's challenge to us

When we hear Christ admonish his disciples for lack of faith, instead of feeling like those apostles haven't yet reached our own personal stature, we need to consider what Christ considered someone who had faith like a mustard seed to be capable of.

Luke 17: 6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

If we were there with them, would Christ have changed his correction from "why are ye of little faith" to "Peter, why don't you have the faith of brother so-and-so standing here next to me?"

Definitely not.

When we read Christ tell Peter to strengthen his brethren when Peter is converted, we need to ask whether we are converted enough to cast out devils and heal in the name of Jesus in the same miraculous way Christ's apostles were known for doing. We need to ask whether we have faith to walk on water, or to say to a sycamine tree "Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea;" and it would obey us. If not, we should read these corrections to the ancient apostles as applying equally well to us, as we do not yet have faith like a grain of mustard seed, and we are not yet truly converted.

Joseph Smith on Celestial Law

Because this life is when we are tested, we tend to tacitly assume that if we are going to the celestial kingdom, then at death we are already prepared for it. That is not true. This is the day in which we set our course. A man who is sincerely baptized, then suddenly died, has done what he needed to to set his course for the celestial kingdom, but he is not prepared to arrive there, and will not arrive there until he his ready. Nor will any of us, and the road is not a short one. We all have a significant way to go. Fortunately, there is time, there is a space of time between death and the resurrection.

The Celestial Kingdom and its laws are not like the laws of a country made by man, as one must learn about the laws and submit to them before entering it, rather than simply doing so after we arrive.

Joseph Smith taught it this way:

We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker and is caught up to dwell with Him. But we consider that this is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment: he must have been instructed in the government and laws of that kingdom by proper degrees, until his mind is capable in some measure of comprehending the propriety, justice, equality, and consistency of the same. For further instruction we refer you to Deut. 32, where the Lord says, that Jacob is the lot of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste, howling wilderness; He led him about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye, etc.; which will show the force of the last item advanced, that it is necessary for men to receive an understanding concerning the laws of the heavenly kingdom, before they are permitted to enter it: we mean the celestial glory. So dissimilar are the governments of men, and so divers are their laws, from the government and laws of heaven, that a man, for instance, hearing that there was a country on this globe called the United States of North America, could take his journey to this place without first learning the laws of governments; but the conditions of God's kingdom are such, that all who are made partakers of that glory, are under the necessity of learning something respecting it previous to their entering into it. But the foreigner can come to this country without knowing a syllable of its laws, or even subscribing to obey them after he arrives. Why? Because the government of the United States does not require it: it only requires an obedience to its laws after the individual has arrived within its jurisdiction.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My second response to Breanna Olaveson: Motherhood as a Millennial Mormon Housewife

It was posted again, so I replied again. My comment was deleted not long thereafter. Another really well put comment disappeared as well. It stated that it agreed with my points and wisely pointed out that having "Millennial Mormons" in addition to regular Mormons was having "ites", and we weren't supposed to have "ites". We were just supposed to all be regular Mormons.


I suppose I could post the same comment I did last time this came up. It got deleted pretty quickly though. I suppose I disagreed with the article pretty frankly.

But seriously, this does (1) portray the sacrificing mothers of the past in a smug and condescending way, (2) promise you a way to have it all, instead of saying "mothers who know do less" as do "fathers who know", (3) follow the mindset that calling oneself a Millennial means that one knows a better gospel path than those of the past.

It also just feels wrong, I suppose. I read it and cringe. It has to do with the way family is portrayed as getting in the way of real fulfillment. It starts with her bold proclamation that she wasn't just going to be a stay at home mom, as if that was somehow a second place thing to just be. And it never really lets go of that feeling.

Real saving grace is inseparably connected with the powers of heaven.

Real saving grace is always inseparably connected with the powers of Heaven. It is never just a contract that allows us to enter into heaven at a later point. By contrast, fake Grace offers a warm blanket now without requiring a change in behavior. Real grace ties us to the powers of heaven so we experience them here and now - it offers all men the light of Christ. Real grace offers the gift of the Holy Ghost. Real grace requires repentance and change, and is manifest now. Fake grace offers to save us the way we are. Fake grace does not make its offers in this life precisely because it has no power to save us in the next. It is by being connected to the powers of heaven in this life that we will find ourselves connected to them in the next.

Put the father back at the head of the home

This has been on my mind recently as I have been considering some of the consequences of men in the gospel largely being pushed out of their roles as head of the home. There is a reason that even many years ago church leaders were asking families to put the father back at the head of the home (off my head I think it was Sterling Sill, Spencer Kimball, N Eldon Tanner, though I could be off as it has been a while). They wouldn't have asked then if it wasn't a problem then and the point we are at now is far, far beyond the point which homes had reached in that day.

Interestingly, they all taught that putting the father back at the head of the home would stop teenage delinquency.

I have been musing over that. I saw a recent large broadcast that presented teaching chastity to teenagers as something one had to convince them was actually worth trying to do on a point by point basis. It was strikingly different that Ezra Taft Benson's statement that he could teach it in two words: "Be chaste!".
When I watched this presentation, it stated that we needed to give each youth answers that were the "right answers for them individually" about why we keep the laws of chastity. I was stunned. We need to find the "right answers" for each and every person individually about why they need to be chaste? As if Christ's sermon on the mount had given a different reason to each individual listener about why that individual should obey it. Or as if the ten commandments had then named off each of the Israelites and reasons that were "right for that individual Israelite" that he or she should obey them. In my stunned state I thought "Where has discipline gone? Where have requirements and obedience gone? Where has duty gone?"

The answer to my question wasn't hard to find. In a home with no structure, in a home where the mother doesn't tell the children that the father is the head of the home, in a puppet-state home where Dad calls prayers, home evening and scriptures, but everyone knows mom is the leader, these more masculine traits are mostly washed out. Even if the mom teaches these, it is still the man and his position as head that represents them and  having a leader who is only a token symbol subverts the teaching of the traits he best represents. It is like criticizing your Bishop, then wondering why your kids don't respect their church leaders despite all your teachings to the contrary. It just doesn't work.

We want our boys to grow to be men. They naturally look to leaders. They have a more natural tendency toward duty. The words of the brethren on this matter makes sense. If we want to stop teenage delinquency, put the father back at the head of the home.

Traditions, scriptures, the role of the Holy Ghost, and Oneness

Do you ever read a piece of scripture you have wondered about your whole life and find that you suddenly understand it, and that it isn't even very hard to understand, you have just been trying to force it to mean something other than what it says?

I think the section on judging good and evil in Moroni 7 could be the poster child for this. It is so very plain, but runs so counter to our culture's obsession with calling evil good and good evil that it is hard to see through the murk and read the plainly written text.

However, for this post, the section that comes to mind is:

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.
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.

The Father bears record of the Savior by sending the Holy ghost so we "see him as He is" by becoming like him. As we have the Holy Ghost with us, then we know more about who Christ is and in THAT WAY the Holy Ghost bears record unto him of the Father.

The phrase "for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one" emphasizes the importance of this and relates it to the intercessory prayer in John 17.

John 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

The Lectures on Faith discusses the meaning of these verses.

[Christ] had said, in another part of his prayer, that he desired of his Father, that those who believed on him should be one in him, as he, and the Father were one in each other: Neither pray I for these (the apostles) alone, but for them also who shall believe on me through their words; that they all may be one: that is, they who believe on him through the apostles' words, as well as the apostles themselves: that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee: that they also may be one in us.

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

There has been an increasing trend by regular members to omit the role of the Holy Ghost in the gospel, by expanding the Savior's role to encompass the Holy Ghost's role of writing God's law in our hearts, which has made some of these scriptures harder to read than they are. The scriptures are always harder to read than they are when we take up some tradition from nowhere and try to cram the scriptures into it. Here are but a couple of many verses teaching of the unique role that the Holy Ghost has that neither the Father nor the Son can assume.

D&C 131:22 The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.

Thus, we cannot have Christ to be with us, or the Father to be with us. But we can have the Holy Ghost to be with us.

The preceding verses teach

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.

That is, the whole method of making us one with the Father and the Son is for the Holy Ghost to "bear record" of them. This isn't bearing record in the sense of "stating that they exist", this is bearing record in the sense of "teaching us WHO they are and giving us the light and knowledge to be that kind of being". These verses should be put with

Moroni 7:48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.

The point here is that we are changed by receiving the Holy Ghost. We are filled with the gift of Christ's love as we are filled with the Holy Ghost.

So indeed, blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

Truth and Practice

We live in a day when truth is sometimes regarded as being as flexible as a dead fish.

Within the last few weeks I have been involved in several brief discussions of multiplying and replenishing the earth.

In such discussions one can almost certainly count on someone stating that it is just between the parents and the Lord. What I find interesting is that such statements are made as if the person believes that by saying that, it follows that all truth taught on the topic by prophets, the apostles, and the scriptures themselves has suddenly become null and void. Which is interesting, because of course none of the actual truths surrounding the doctrine have changed.

There have been numerous times in the world's history when the church membership has, one way or another, rejected some truth from God. Ancient Israel rejected the higher law, and was thus left living the law of Moses. That did nothing to change the fundamental underlying truths of the gospel found in the higher law.

We see this all through the Book of Mormon. Through most of the book people are living the law of Moses, but despite that they are constantly being told to live the full gospel. There are those that use the law of Moses to hide from and pervert the truth such as Sherem, who states to Jacob:

Jacob 7:7 And ye have led away much of this people that they pervert the right way of God, and keep not the law of Moses which is the right way; and convert the law of Moses into the worship of a being which ye say shall come many hundred years hence. And now behold, I, Sherem, declare unto you that this is blasphemy; for no man knoweth of such things; for he cannot tell of things to come. And after this manner did Sherem contend against me.

But the truth remains and the fulness of the gospel is taught wonderfully and enjoyed by Book of Mormon people who are still living under the law of Moses.

When early church members in this dispensation failed to live the law of consecration by refusing to live it righteously, the practice was replaced with the preparatory law of tithing. But that did nothing to alter any of Christ's teachings (or Brigham Young's) on how spiritually destructive riches are. While the Lord has given us preparatory law win place of consecration, that doesn't change that the spiritually destructive consequences of riches remain despite the fact that God allows there to be both rich and poor in the church. As evidence of that, one might turn to 2 Nephi 9:30 and 42 which warns of the spiritually destructive power of riches even though the law of tithing certainly allows some church members to be rich even when others are poor.

The point is that when some law is rejected by the members we do not also get to dodge the spiritually destructive consequences of breaking it. Also the conditions to gain the blessings of keeping that law are not altered. We do not get to gain the blessings it would have brought simply because we rejected it.

We can find that taught plainly in the scriptures:

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

The laws and blessings were put in place before this earth. The choices of the membership of the church to accept or reject a law from God has no bearing on whether or not they will suffer the consequences of breaking that law, or reap the rewards when they keep it. In Jacob 3 we learn that the Lamanites, whose father rejected the gospel, still reaped the rewards of husbands and wives being faithful to each other.

There is one note to add to this though, which is knowingly breaking a law brings greater consequences than ignorantly breaking it does. That is because open rebellion or disobedience is always a more serious violation of a law than ignorant violation of a law is.

Also, while this is completely obvious, it seems to be commonly ignored: All truths remain as true before the law was accepted or rejected as they are after. The underlying truths still exist, waiting for us to benefit from them by obedience instead of suffering the consequences of breaking ourselves against them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Truth and Division

Among the Saints the Lord wants there to be no contention as seen in 3 Nephi 11. He wants us to look past one another's petty faults.

However, between the saints and the world, Christ said he came to create division.

Luke 12: 51 Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:
 52 For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
 53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

Teaching the truth creates division. That does not mean we should not teach the truth.

Aaron and Miriam

There is a great deal to learn from the story in Numbers 12. It is a short story so I start by recalling it. Aaron and Miriam speak against Moses for taking an Ethiopian woman to wife. The Lord has all three come to the tabernacle. A cloud covers the tabernacle (vs 5,10) and the Lord speaks to them.

Numbers 12:4 And the Lord spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out.
5 And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.
 6 And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.
 7 My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.
 8 With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?

Miriam is then immediately smitten with leprosy. Aaron asks Moses to heal her and Moses asks the Lord. The Lord's responds that she will be cast out of the camp for seven days at the least.

This has some great teachings in it.

The first is the Lord's discussion of prophets. The Lord states "If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream." There have been many prophetic dreams and visions, and the Lord doesn't hesitate to call such individuals prophets.

But then the Lord makes an interesting distinction.

"My servant Moses is not so....with him I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold"

So while prophets who the Lord "makes himself know unto" through a vision and dream are definitely still quite clearly prophets in the Lord's eye, the Lord makes a distinction between those prophets and Moses. The distinction is that Moses is so faithful (vs 7) that the Lord doesn't just make himself know unto Moses in a vision or dream, but speaks with Moses mouth to mouth in person, and Moses will behold his similitude.

After pointing out how Moses is unusual among prophets, the Lord states "wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"

This is a great story because the Lord makes some distinctions that we are not used to making.

One is not to criticize the prophet.

One is the degree of plainness in revelation. The Lord is plain that learning from him in dreams and visions is nowhere near as clear as speaking with him mouth to mouth and beholding his similitude. By comparison he calls dreams and visions "dark speeches". He is speaking comparatively there. We don't generally refer to the visions and dreams in the scriptures as "dark speeches". They are only dark by comparison to the marvelous light of speaking to the Lord in person.

Thus we also see not all prophets are equal.

Wait, what?!?

Yes, the Lord distinguishes among them. But that doesn't excuse us from not following the Lord's prophets in our day. Moses was the head of a dispensation. It is not uncommon for the head of a dispensation to not only be a prophet, but to be a prophet among prophets.

In Christ's day he was the head of the church. Then he was killed, was resurrected, and ascended into heaven leaving Peter as the head of the church. No matter how great Peter was, he wasn't as spiritually insightful as Christ. But here is the point. Even if Peter had not come to the point of the church leader that preceded him, he was still the Lord's chosen prophet. He could receive revelation for the church. He was entrusted with the keys that open and close the doors of heaven to individuals on the earth.

When Christ was taken, even though Peter was less than Christ was, he was still a prophet and the Lord could still lead his church through Peter. The Lord can govern his church through the Holy Ghost and that is still revelation. It is still his church. It is still being led by Christ.

And that is still true even though Peter's access to revelation was based on his own personal righteousness, and his personal righteousness was less than Christ's.

Brigham Young faced this same difference clearly. I don't know what spiritual experiences he had, or didn't have, but he clearly considered himself to know much less than Joseph Smith. But that didn't mean he wasn't still a prophet, and that the Lord couldn't lead his church through Brigham Young.

But once again, Brigham Young's access to revelation was based on his own personal righteousness. Whom he could receive revelation for was based on his calling, but his ability to receive revelation in the first place was the same whether he was the prophet or someone with no calling at all.

The same is true now. Whether our current prophet speaks face to face with Christ or learns through dreams and visions or simply listens to the guidance of the Holy Ghost is no matter to us. The Lord can lead his church by the Holy Ghost just as he can lead it by his own voice.

Is there a difference? Well, yes, according to the Lord, yes there is. And it is always better to stick to what the Lord says, even if it doesn't match our own inclinations.

But does that difference change whether or not this the Lord's church. Does it change whether or not it is led by revelation. Does it dampen our need to follow the living prophet? No, it is still the Lord's church, precisely because it is still led by revelation. The Lord did not hesitate to call those who he manifested himself to in dreams and visions "prophets" and neither should we. We must stick to the living prophet.

Joseph Smith taught, "No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator."

Can the Lord also manifest himself to regular members? Of course he can. Take the sisters, for example. They aren't called to preside in the church, but that in no way restricts the Lord's ability to manifest himself to them.

Joseph Smith taught the Relief Society "If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates. Females, if they are pure and innocent, can come in the presence of God; for what is more pleasing to God than innocence; you must be innocent, or you cannot come up before God; if we would come before God, we must keep ourselves pure, as He is pure."

From the Lord's discussion with Aaron, Miriam and Moses we see that there really isn't more that the Lord offers than coming up into his presence. As that is among the privileges of sisters, then it clearly doesn't matter what your calling is or what authority to preside you have when it comes to the Lord's willingness to manifest himself to you.

In fact, Joseph Smith taught "God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them".

But the Lord chooses who to call to preside and one is can never instruct someone in higher authority than oneself by a statement of revelation. Consequently revelation for the whole church comes only through the head, the living prophet. There is no cap on what a regular member can know, but there is a cap on each but the prophet himself on who we can receive instruction for.

We should be terribly hesitant to criticize the prophet Joseph Smith, of whom the Lord could have said, as he said of Moses, "My servant Joseph Smith is not so....with him I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold...wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Joseph Smith?"

All prophets are not created equal. They have their own spiritual progression. In fact, they may progress to greater spiritual understanding during the time they are the prophet. Didn't Moses know more after his Moses 1 experience than before? All members who are faithful continue to progress.

The Lord still considers them to be his prophets whether they are like those who he speaks to only in dreams and visions, or like those who see his face. He calls them all prophets, even if he is plain that those who are prepared to speak to him face to face know him much better than those who don't.

We should not criticize the living prophet. He is the living seer on the earth.

We should know better than to be learning "lessons" from the scriptures which involve believing the prophets in the scriptures really aren't acquainted with living the gospel at the same level we are. I can't tell you how many times I have heard someone talk about Peter's lack of faith because the Lord reproved his lack of faith. Yes, Peter lacked faith compared to what the Lord wanted of him. No, Peter didn't lack faith compared to the regular membership of today. Measured by the standard of us regular members, Peter's faith was a monument.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Women fretting about a voice in the church

I am tired of women fretting about whether they "have a voice in the church". Heck, I don't have a voice in the church. So what? This isn't a grassroots church, it is a church by revelation. If you want grassroots, that is what the other churches all are. "They teach for doctrines the commandments of men." (JS-H 1:19).
I wish those women who obsess about that were more concerned about how much voice they have in their children's lives. Children are inundated with things pulling them away from the truth. If you want influence, influence those God gave you and asked you to please influence with all your might to come unto Christ and be perfected in him. In the end, that will be the influence that mattered.

Sure, modesty really isn't just about clothing, but the clothing part is absolutely required

Modesty isn't just about clothing, but it would be really nice if we could get the clothing part right

There is a famous book by the title "Beyond Good and Evil". One doesn't have to have too much experience to know that when men believe they have moved beyond good and evil, in reality, they are simply being duped by the adversary from seeing reality into an illusion that will entice them into the adversary's hands.

Moving "beyond" the core of the gospel is never really moving forward. It is always digressing. I have rarely heard someone dare to address modesty, and when I have, it is usually initiated by stating that the speaker or writer is pointing out that modesty isn't just about how you dress. And that is certainly true. There is more to modesty than the clothing one wears. A girl cam move her body in a provocative way, can use language that is suggestive, or use innuendo. She can suggest without being overt, and try to draw attention to her body as a means to attract men. None of these are modest. There are many aspects of modesty besides how one dresses alone.

But that core issue of how you dress is still the core issue. And we shouldn't listen to those who we sometimes run unto who, when they say modesty isn't just about how you dress, are really trying to excuse immodest dress altogether.

Sure, modesty really isn't just about clothing, but the clothing part is absolutely required

Christ saves us from our sins, apostates offer to save us in them.

Christ saves us FROM our sins. Apostates offer to save people IN their sins. That is almost their most defining trait: They offer of spiritual rewards in the afterlife without continually repenting and improving, submitting our will to the Father's will in this life. Their promised rewards bring no spiritual endowments in this life, only later on, because they are false.

By contrast, Christ's offers to us are always based on repentance and are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven. He requires repentance, but gives us the Holy Ghost which we experience here and now. He requires temple worthiness, but gives us the temple which gives us revelation here and now and transforms our marriages here and now as we keep the covenants. Christ frees us from our sins by requiring us to repent of them. He can cleanse us of whatever we have repented of, and by so doing, can connect us to the powers of heaven here and now, which is the only real way to find ourselves connected with them when we come to judgement. It is the only way to save us.

What makes a good gospel discussion

After some thought I had come up with these points that define a good doctrinal discussion, including an online discussion, e.g. in comments on some post. I am not sure such a thing as this list is to be had online, but I have enjoyed many of these in person, particularly with family members.

It must be a discussion among people that:
(1) consider the scriptures to be the fountainhead,
(2) see the prophet and apostles past and present as providing a veritable river of truth and light to us, not as some group of guys with outdated opinions for us to batter with modern social trends,
(3) consider the doctrine worth discussing to be the core matters of the gospel, e.g. take McConkie's statement that the atonement is the least understood of all our doctrines as an example statement that our core doctrines are worthy of much more consideration, and
(4) recognize that understanding a doctrine usually means getting the big picture of it together, rather than debating some obscure corner to death.

And, last of all, the discussion itself must be edifying.

And no, one can't substitute just being polite to each other in place of any of these to have a good doctrinal discussion. Nor can one require this of only some of the speakers, and have a good gospel discussion. There is a reason there are so many times that Christ spoke of one matter or another to his followers in private away from the Pharisees and other critics, or on other occasions in a place that required some work to get to, such as up on a mount.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Relativism and apostacy

Way back when the Ordain Women movement did their "march on the temple", I chanced upon this statement, which I noted down carefully, made by someone who really should have known better: "In terms of the protest, I felt very strongly this was inappropriate. I read an article by a protester, though, who wrote a very Christ-like explanation of why she felt it was appropriate based on the story of Hannah at the temple. I didn't agree with her, but now I understand how it looks to her and that helps. That story could very well be read that way, even though I don't read it that way."

Yes, we should warn apostates to repent, warn them of the consequences if they don't. That is all true. But that is very different than saying "well, it wasn't REALLY apostate". We do not compromise on principles. Being willing to forgive freely is radically different than pretending sin never occurred. Honestly, it denies the mercy of God when we think we have to pretend no sin took place, no offense was committed, even when it plainly was. The message should simply be the truth: "Yes, that was very wrong, but God offers his mercy to you on conditions of repentance." Only when we admit we did wrong can we understand God's mercy. There is no mercy if there was no offense. Our message should be true: "That was sin, but mercy is still held out to you if you will recognize, recompense and return in repentance."

Saying the pro-marcher article was written in a Christ-like way is a dangerous misapplication of the phrase. It is the same as saying Sherem approached Jacob in a Christ-like way. The manner was kind, but the intent was to endorse evil. It is not Christ-like, because there is no example where Christ acted with the intent of endorsing evil.

God expects us to value and cling to truth. In Lehi's dream he presents holding to the iron rod as being crucial to salvation - those who cling stay on the path, no others stayed the course. When we are presented with the truth and a "different point of view" he expects us to value and prize truth above error. He expects us not to simply give a point of view value for its own sake of equal or even close value to eternal truth. If we know truth, we must prize truth, or it will be taken from us as the world constantly floods us with competing ideas.

I think God wants us to prize truth. Relativism says we should try to understand the other person's point of view and give it the same weight as what we believe. But when we are holding the iron rod, our free hand doesn't need to be flailing around for alternatives.

The image in Lehi's dream is not of holding to the word of God with one hand, and holding just as firmly with anything else our free hand can snag a hold onto.

Book Draft Excerpt - Homosexuality and temptations

I have at times heard quotes from a person who has succumbed to indulging homosexual thoughts stating that he thinks that women are disgusting. I have heard of such a person using the phrase “I would rather kiss a pig than kiss a girl.” Homosexuality is such serious sin that giving way to engaging in homosexual thoughts alone appears to give the adversary significant power over an individual. It should be added here that the great reward granted to those who kept their first estate is the gift of a body so it should not be wondered at that when one gives way to temptations to indulge in homosexual thoughts and desires one may lose the proper intimate use of his body for a time as God will not be mocked. A body is the great reward of mortality and such a serious perversion of that reward is mockery of God. Presumably if the individual fully repents and proves that he will refrain from such indulgence then in time the full gift of the drives associated with having a man’s body will be returned, and he will find women attractive once again, but it should be no surprise that there would be a period of testing to see whether the Lord will give the gift back, a period where the natural drive is allowed to be taken away, to give the person a chance to fully repent and overcome the adversary, before granting them the natural desires that will allow the individual to play their proper role of spouse to one of the Lord’s daughters for eternity.


While giving way to a temptation certainly increases the adversary’s power, it is made completely clear in the New Testament that the sinless Christ is tempted by Satan. Thus all are subject to temptation. It follows that the temptations you have are NOT who you fundamentally are. Satan has been very successful in convincing the current generation that if they experience homosexual temptations then they are a homosexual. That is ridiculous. What more could Satan ask for? Even Christ was tempted, so while the adversary had no power over the Savior, the adversary could still tempt him. If Christ could be tempted then why would the adversary fail to tempt us, especially if he has blinded us into believing that by simply experiencing a temptation, possibly repeatedly, we will take seriously the idea that the temptation is who we fundamentally are. The father of lies should not be where we turn to get the real truth about ourselves.

Regarding being “born gay” Boyd K Packer addressed the church on this stating:

“Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and the unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, He is our Father. “ (Elder Boyd K Packer – October 2012 General Conference – Cleansing the Inner Vessel)

While this pearl was addressed to the church, it was clearly picked up by the swine, who, as usual, did all they could to rend him for it. But that changes nothing. It is still a pearl nonetheless.

Misguidedly seeking for a "voice in the church"

I read a well intentioned blog post about women worried about "having a voice in the church" that made well intended arguments, but in reality I felt that while the poster meant well, the key issues seem to really be the question of whether we have faith in the following two scriptures, one of which teaches that the Lord hears his children's pleas and responds with good things, and one of which teaches that the Lord leads this church. It is his church, not the church of a mortal man. This is not a grassroots church, it is a church led by revelation.

JST Matt 7:17-20 What man among you, having a son, and he shall be standing out, and shall say, Father, open thy house that I may come in and sup with thee, will not say, Come in, my son; for min is thine, and thine is mine?
18 Or what man is there among you, who, if is son ask bread, will give him a stone?
19 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
20 If yet then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

D&C 1:38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

The question asking women to tell whether their voice has been heard from the church seems like a step back from these two principles. After all, trying to "have a voice" in the church and trying to "steady the ark" are close relatives. 

I am not one that has any prominence in my local ward or stake. But I think the way we really have a voice in the church is by silencing our own voice and listening to the whispers of the Holy Ghost. Then we will have a voice in the church, but it will hardly, if ever, be the voice of influencing administration, of making big visible decisions. Instead it will be the voice the Savior chose, healing the man at Bethesda, who was beneath everyone else's help. It will be the voice the Savior chose, teaching the gospel to strangers and friends. It will be the voice the Savior chose, comforting the suffering and teaching the gospel to all who will hear. It will be the voice the Savior chose, speaking out against the sins of our day, and admonishing individuals to sin no more. It will be the voice the Savior chose because it will be the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, speaking to us the will of the Father. 

It will also be the voice that comforts our little children's sorrows, rejoices in their joys and teaches them the doctrines of the gospel. That voice wants the little children to gather round us, and be blessed by our hand, rather that worrying about whether it influenced local administration. 

Do we love Christ for his tenderness for the forgotten individual, but want to ensure we ourselves are having enough influence in church decisions? Turn to President Monson's story of the man getting his mansion in heaven, who finds that all his well known good works were rewarded on earth, and there is only a small shack left for him in Heaven. 

I honestly think those God calls to prominent positions are those who have not sought for voice and influence in the church, but have silenced their desire for self assertion in meek submission to the whisperings of the spirit. Remember that Joseph could not even touch the golden plates until he had put aside any temptation to use them for anything but building the kingdom of God. All desires for self aggrandizement had to be vanquished. That is also the epitome of how Christ lived. 

As one who has no prominence I would say that as I see it, our doctrine is that there if one wants a voice in the church, silence your own self assertion and listen to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, building the kingdom without regard to your audience as Christ did.

I close by making an observation I am fond of. There are a few activities one can do in the church that are accompanied by a raw spiritual power not found in anything else. I think it is no coincidence that none of them require a calling. The real powerhouse experiences are not administrative. Instead they are kept open for all to partake of freely. They are preaching the gospel (not merely being polite to nonmembers) redeeming our dead ancestors, and saving our families. God has prepared the truly great spiritual activities for us as a feast as it were for us to dine on at will. No calling required. One might say, it is as if the field of spiritual power is white, already to harvest, and anyone with desires to serve God is called to help with that work.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Scientific claims and religious truth

I wrote this in response to someone who was trying to claim that science had medically proven that the brethren were mistaken about gender issues: Science is smugly condescending toward any competing idea, and even toward its own history. It constantly asserts that it knows best, but tends to perpetually look back at itself 50-75 years ago with condescending tones for all the mistaken ideas it used to have. The gospel, on the other hand, works by revelation from our Heavenly Father and his Son who are omniscient, who are in and through all things, and see all things past, present, and future. When Christ reigns personally upon the earth, when we have an omniscient God present for the millennium, that is when I think our scientific knowledge will really take off and everything we think we know now will seem like a child's play thing. But when Christ was on the earth before, he wasn't apologizing for the lesser mortal prophets that preceded him. Instead he boldly affirmed that every jot and tiddle of what they said would come to pass, and constantly quoted those men. When Christ comes back and reigns, I don't expect he is going to have different things to say then about the brethren now, than he did in his mortality. And I expect that when he reigns personally on the earth, science will finally become fully understood, and then it will testify along with God that all that he has spoken really was true, even if our partial views of science along the way seemed incongruous. In the end, science itself will testify with God of the brethren now, that whether by his own voice of by the voice of his prophets, it was the same.

The sins of immorality yields scarred and misshapen creatures

Still love this Ezra Taft Benson quote: "Great nations have fallen when they became morally corrupt, because the sins of immorality left their people scarred and misshapen creatures who were unable to face the challenge of their times." (Ezra Taft Benson, "Call to Repentance", Oct 1959 General Conference)

I suppose I love it partly because so few people could say it these days. Too many are misled into believing that the "sins of morality" have no effect except at the judgement bar, when in reality the things that will effect us at the judgement bar are also things that will profoundly affect us in mortality. There are save two churches only, and you cannot be choosing to be, a "servant of sin", to borrow Christ's phrase, and still be serving God. Serious sins give the adversary serious sway in the life of the person who commits them.

Thus president Benson could conclude that such sins left the people "scarred and misshapen creatures".

The price for your spirit to be sensitive to God's promptings is to keep his commandments. Those who break his commandments, particularly his most serious ones, are instead sensitive to the influence of the adversary because that is who they are follow when it comes to the big matters.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My response to Breanna Olaveson: Motherhood as a Millennial Mormon Housewife

I wrote this in response to the the disppointing post on Mormon Women Stand entitled "Breanna Olaveson: Motherhood as a Millennial Mormon Housewife".

The Motherhood as a Millennial Mormon Housewife post is sad. It unapologetically rejects the truth that "Mothers who know do less". It is generally in line with the mode of thinking that if you can call yourself a Millennial, that means to one degree or another you know better than the way people have lived the gospel in the past. Which is tragic because it is a line of thinking that tacitly rejects really listening to the prophets as prophets and to the scriptures as the fountainhead of truth. The article paints a straw man picture of the amazing work of previous generations of mothers, then knocks them down in favor of something with a little more worldly appeal. True to the pattern of this line of thinking, it then tries to paint its conclusions as being what God really wanted all along using quotations that, while true, were hardly meant to smear out the many quotations on motherhood that the author neglected to include.

Mostly, its just sad because the author is being set up as a teacher, but she is really teaching that to be a wife, a mother, or a husband, or a father, just shouldn't be getting in the way of the really fulfilling things in life: the accomplishments, the talents, the endeavors, the shimmering pursuits.

She walks the fine line nicely, she only stated that her friends were nurses, historians, etc... but she is really trying to make sure she said that working outside the home is just as good if that's your preference, without ever coming out and actually saying those specific words.

Mostly, it just makes me wonder why we are in such a rage to sell our birthright for pottage. We waited for thousands of years to gain bodies. The whole point of gaining a body is the potential to have a family that is all your own - to try your hand at the sacred roles of husband, father, wife, and mother. To partake, to a degree of the goblet of godhood and see if we could prove worthy to keep on drinking into the eternities. Satan's punishment for destroying 1/3 of the hosts of heaven was to not have a body. His punishment was to never enjoy family life. Not now, not even, as some of us here in mortality wait, until the resurrection. He will never experience that.

And how he loves to talk us out of experiencing it to the full measure. He loves to hold up trinkets and honors and certificates and kudos for those who he can lull into missing out to whatever degree he can sell us out of it.

In the context of Feminist Mormon Housewives, this article would probably be a gem of light. But for this page (Mormon Women Stand), it is a turning away from the way it used to be to something that will serve God, without offending the devil.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bruce R McConkie, "Finding Answers to Gospel Questions"

I post this here as a way to keep it near for my own reference. 

Finding Answers to Gospel Questions
Teaching Seminary Preservice Readings Religion 370, 471, and 475, (2004), 42–46
To: Honest Truth Seekers
Bruce McConkie

Open letter, about 1980, Historical Department Archives, The Church ofJesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Dear Brethren and Sisters:
I receive a flood of letters asking questions about the doctrines, practices, and history of the Church. Several thousand questions are presented to me each year. Recently I received a single letter containing 210 major questions plus numerous lesser ones. To answer the questions in this one letter alone would have taken several hundred pages. Frequently I have a stack of unanswered letters which is six or eight inches high. There are times when weeks go by without an opportunity even to read the letters let alone attempt to answer them.
Thoughtful persons will realize that if I devoted all my waking hours to the research and work involved in answering the questions which come to me, I still would not be able to answer all of them. But—and this is far more important—if I were able to perform this service it still would not be the right thing to do nor be in the best interests of those who present their problems to me. May I instead make the following general suggestions to those who seek answers to gospel questions:

1. Seek Light and Truth.

All men everywhere, in and out of the Church, without reference to sect, party, or denomination, are obligated to seek light and truth. The Light of Christ comes as a free gift to all men; it enlighteneth every man born into the world; and those who follow its promptings seek truth, gain knowledge and understanding, and are led to the gospel and its saving truths.
Members of the Church have an added obligation to understand both the laws of nature and the doctrines of salvation. They have the gift of the Holy Ghost which is the right to the constant companionship of this member of the Godhead based on faithfulness. The Holy Ghost is a revelator. “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moro. 10:5.) In the full and final sense, the only perfect and absolute way to gain a sure knowledge of any truth in any field is to receive personal revelation from the Holy Spirit of God. This heaven-sent boon is reserved for those who keep the commandments and obtain the companionship of the Holy Spirit. Be it remembered that the Spirit will not dwell in an unclean tabernacle.

2. Search the Scriptures.

The answers to nearly all important doctrinal questions are found in the Standard Works or in the sermons and writings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. If they are not found in these sources, they probably are not essential to salvation and may well be beyond our present spiritual capacity to understand. New revelations will be given when we believe and understand and live in harmony with those truths we have already received.
The way to achieve a high state of gospel scholarship is first to study and ponder and pray about the Book of Mormon and then to follow the same course with reference to the other scriptures. The Book of Mormon contains that portion of the Lord’s word which he has given to the world to prepare the way for an understanding of the Bible and the other revelations now had among us. We have been commanded to search the scriptures, all of them; to treasure up the Lord’s word, lest we be deceived; to drink deeply from the fountain of holy writ, that our thirst for knowledge may be quenched.
Paul says the scriptures are able to make us “wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:15.) They lead us to the true Church and the legal administrators whom God has appointed to administer his work on earth. It is far better for us to gain our answers from the scriptures than from something someone else says about them. It is true that we oftentimes need an inspired interpreter to help us understand what apostles and prophets have written for us in the Standard Works. But it is also true that many explanations given by many people as to the meaning of scriptural passages are somewhat less than true and edifying.
We are in a far better position if we are able to drink directly from the scriptural fountain without having the waters muddied by others whose insights are not as great as were those of the prophetic writers who first penned the passages found in the accepted canon of holy writ. I am not rejecting proper scriptural commentaries; I know and appreciate their value and have written volumes of them myself; I am simply saying that people with the ability to do it would be far better off to create their own commentaries. There is something sacred and solemn and saving about studying the scriptures themselves. We should train ourselves in this direction.

3. True Doctrines Are in Harmony with the Standard Works.

The Standard Works are scripture. They are binding upon us. They are the mind and will and voice of the Lord. He never has, he does not now, and he never will reveal anything which is contrary to what is in them. No person, speaking by the spirit of inspiration, will ever teach doctrine that is out of harmony with the truths God has already revealed.
These words of President Joseph Fielding Smith should guide all of us in our gospel study: “It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine.
“You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works.
“Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted.” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:203–4; also cited in Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], p. 609.)

4. Seek to Harmonize Scriptural and Prophetic Utterances.

Every truth, in every field, in all the earth, and in all eternity, is in complete and total harmony with every other truth. Truth is always in harmony with itself. The word of the Lord is truth, and no scripture ever contradicts another, nor is any inspired statement of any person out of harmony with an inspired statement of any other person. Paul and James did not have differing views on faith and works, and everything that Alma said about the resurrection accords with Section 76 in the Doctrine and Covenants. When we find seeming conflicts, it means we have not as yet caught the full vision of whatever points are involved.
The Lord expects us to seek for harmony and agreement in the scriptures and among the Brethren rather than for seeming divergences of views. Those who have faith and understanding always seek to harmonize into one perfect whole all the statements of the scriptures and all the pronouncements of the Brethren. The unfortunate complex in some quarters to pounce upon this bit of information or that and conclude that it is at variance with what someone else has said is not of God. Over the years I have received thousands of letters saying, “So-and-So said one thing, but Some-One-Else said the reverse—who is right?” My experience is that in most instances—nay, in almost all instances—the seeming divergencies can be harmonized, and when they cannot be it is of no moment anyway. The Spirit of the Lord leads to harmony and unity and agreement and oneness. The spirit of the devil champions division and debate and contention and disunity.

5. Are All Prophetic Utterances True?

Of course they are! This is what the Lord’s system of teaching is all about. Anything which his servants say when moved upon by the Holy Ghost is scripture, and his command to his ministers is: “The Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.” (D&C 42:14.)
But every word that a man who is a prophet speaks is not a prophetic utterance. Joseph Smith taught that a prophet is not always a prophet, only when he is acting as such. Men who wear the prophetic mantle are still men; they have their own views; and their understanding of gospel truths is dependent upon the study and inspiration that is theirs.
Some prophets—I say it respectfully—know more and have greater inspiration than others. Thus, if Brigham Young, who was one of the greatest of the prophets, said something about Adam which is out of harmony with what is in the Book of Moses and in Section 78, it is the scripture that prevails. This is one of the reasons we call our scriptures The Standard Works. They are the standard of judgment and the measuring rod against which all doctrines and views are weighed, and it does not make one particle of difference whose views are involved. The scriptures always take precedence.

6. Leave the Mysteries Alone and Avoid Gospel Hobbies.

We do not and in our present state of spiritual progression cannot comprehend all things. We do not have the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon because we are not prepared to understand and live the truths found therein. Some things in the scriptures are hidden from full view in parables, similitudes, and imagery. We are obligated to understand the basic doctrines which lead to eternal life; beyond this, how much we know about the mysteries depends upon the degree of our spiritual enlightenment. It is unwise to swim too far in water over our heads. My experience is that people who get themselves ensnared in fruitless contention over the meanings of deep and hidden passages of scripture are usually those who do not have a sound and basic understanding of the simple and basic truths of salvation.
It is also my experience that people who ride gospel hobbies, who try to qualify themselves as experts in some specialized field, who try to make the whole plan of salvation revolve around some field of particular interest to them—it is my experience that such persons are usually spiritually immature and spiritually unstable. This includes those who devote themselves—as though by divine appointment—to setting forth the signs of the times; or, to expounding about the Second Coming; or, to a fadist interpretation of the Word of Wisdom; or, to a twisted emphasis on temple work or any other doctrine or practice. The Jews of Jesus’ day made themselves hobbyists and extremists in the field of Sabbath observance, and it colored and blackened their whole way of worship. We would do well to have a sane, rounded, and balanced approach to the whole gospel and all of its doctrines.

7. Be Not Overly Concerned about Unimportant Matters.

There is so much to learn about the great eternal verities which shape our destiny that it seems a shame to turn our attention everlastingly to the minutia and insignificant things. So often questions like this are asked: “I know it is not essential to my salvation, but I would really like to know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin and if it makes any difference whether the pin is made of brass or bronze?” There is such a thing as getting so tied up with little fly specks on the great canvas which depicts the whole plan of salvation that we lose sight of what the life and the light and the glory of eternal reward are all about. There is such a thing as virtually useless knowledge, the acquisition of which won’t make one iota of difference to the destiny of the kingdom or the salvation of its subjects.

8. Withhold Judgment, If Need Be, on Hard Questions.

To those with full insight and complete understanding there are no hard questions. After a mystery has been solved it is no longer a mystery. But there are some questions which seem to invite intellectual forays into unknown areas, or which seem to ensnare, in endless contention, those who are somewhat less than spiritually literate.
If you cannot believe all of the doctrines of the gospel, withhold judgment in the areas in question. Do not commit yourself to a position which is contrary to that espoused by the prophets and apostles who preside over the kingdom. Study, pray, work in the Church, and await further light and knowledge.
If you are troubled about so-called evolution, and have not learned that Adam was both the first man and the first mortal flesh, and that there was no death of any form of life until after the fall—withhold judgment and do not take a stand against the scriptures.
If you suppose God is progressing and gaining more knowledge and truth, and that he is not really omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent as Joseph Smith taught—withhold judgment. Remain silent. Do not lock yourself into a position contrary to the revealed word.
If you think there will be progression from one kingdom of glory to another after the resurrection; or that people who reject the gospel in this life will have a second chance to gain salvation in the world to come; or that couples who are married in the temple can commit all manner of sin and still gain salvation; or any of a host of the common heresies of the hour—withhold judgment. Do not commit yourself to the defense of a false cause. Study something else and await the day when you will be prepared for more light on the matter that troubles you.

9. Ignore, If You Can, the Endless Array of Anti-Mormon Literature and Avoid Cults like a Plague.

Conversion is not born of contention. He that hath the spirit of contention is not of God. Our divine commission is to declare glad tidings to the world, not to quarrel with others about the meaning of texts. There are, of course, answers to all of the false claims of those who array themselves against us—I do not believe the devil has had a new idea for a hundred years—but conversion is not found in the dens of debate. It comes rather to those who read the Book of Mormon in the way Moroni counseled. Most members of the Church would be better off if they simply ignored the specious claims of the professional anti-Mormons.
If the false claims about salvation by grace alone, or whatever the anti-Mormon literature is proclaiming, if these claims trouble you, search out the answers. They are in the scriptures. Anyone who cannot learn from the Bible that salvation does not come by simply confessing the Lord with one’s lips, without reference to all the other terms and conditions of the true plan of salvation, does not deserve to be saved.
And as to the cults—they are the gate to hell. Members of the Church who espouse the cultish practice of plural marriage, for instance, are adulterers, and adulterers are damned. The common approach of those who propagandize for this practice is to pit the sayings of the dead prophets against those of the living prophets. Anyone who follows a dead prophet rather than a living prophet will follow him to death rather than to life. Again, there are answers to all the specious cultist views, and those who are tainted by these false and forlorn fallacies had better find the truth at the peril of their salvation. It is the course of safety and wisdom never to get mixed up in these matters in the first instance.

10. There Are No Private Doctrines.

All of the doctrines and practices of the Church are taught publicly. There are no secret doctrines, no private practices, no courses of conduct approved for a few only. The blessings of the gospel are for all men. Do not be deceived into believing that the General Authorities believe any secret doctrines or have any private ways of living. Everything that is taught and practiced in the Church is open to public inspection, or, at least, where temple ordinances are concerned, to the inspection and knowledge of everyone who qualifies himself by personal righteousness to enter the house of the Lord.

11. Maintain an Open Mind.

The doctrines are the Lord’s. He established them; he reveals them; he expects us to accept them. Often those who ask questions are more interested in sustaining a pre-chosen position than in learning whatthe facts are. Our concern should be to find and cleave to the truth. It should not matter to us what the doctrine is, only that we come to a knowledge of it. Our espousal and defense of a false doctrine will not make it true. Our concern is to come to a knowledge of the truth, not to prove a point to which we may unwisely have committed ourselves.

12. The Responsibility to Study Is a Personal One.

Now let us come to the conclusion of this whole matter, a conclusion that will have an important bearing on our eternal salvation. It is that each person must learn the doctrines of the gospel for himself. No one else can do it for him. Each person stands alone where gospel scholarship is concerned; each has access to the same scriptures and is entitled to the guidance of the same Holy Spirit; each must pay the price set by a Divine Providence if he is to gain the pearl of great price.
The same principle governs both learning truth and living in harmony with its standards. No one can repent for and on behalf of another; no one can keep the commandments in the place and stead of another; no one can be saved in someone else’s name. And no one can gain a testimony or press forward in light and truth to eternal glory for anyone but himself. Both the knowledge of the truth and the blessings that come to those who conform to true principles are personal matters. And as a just God offers the same salvation to every soul who lives the same laws, so he offers the same understanding of his eternal truths to all who will pay the truth seeker’s price.
The Church system for gaining gospel knowledge is as follows:
  1. a. 
    The responsibility rests upon each person to gain a knowledge of the truth through his own efforts.
  2. b. 
    Next, families should teach their own familymembers. Parents are commanded to bring up their children in light and truth. The home should be the chief teaching center in the life of a Latter-day Saint.
  3. c. 
    To help families and individuals, the Church, as a service agency, provides many opportunities to teach and to learn. We are commanded to “teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.” (D&C 88:77.) This is done in sacrament meetings, in conferences and other meetings, by home teachers, in priesthood and auxiliary classes, through our seminaries and institutes, and through the Church educational system.
Opportunities to learn are unlimited. Proper questions may be discussed in any of the classes and schools provided for such purposes.
One final word seems appropriate. There are few joys in life to compare with the joy of coming to a knowledge of truth. How faithful people rejoice in the testimonies that are theirs! And what a spirit of exhilaration and peace comes into the heart of a gospel student each time a new truth is manifest to him! Each time his views expand to catch the full vision of some prophetic passage! Each time his soul both learns and feels the import of what the revelations say about some great principle!
The foregoing expressions are made in an attempt to be helpful; to encourage gospel scholarship; and to guide truth seekers in a wise and proper course.
It is my prayer that all of us may learn and live the gospel and gain an eventual inheritance in the everlasting kingdom of Him whose servants we are.
With every good wish, and a prayer that the Lord will bless you always, I am,
Sincerely your brother,
Bruce R. McConkie