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.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The plight of a virtuous, but disinterested few

It took a virtuous people to win religious freedom. It took a virtuous few who preferred their religion to their lives to lay the foundation. It took a much larger group, not just a virtuous few but a virtuous people, for the Lord to be able to inspire them to build a nation with religious freedom.

But now we are back to the virtuous few. There is no pretending we are a virtuous nation. Sex before marriage is common. Living together before marriage is common. Birth outside of wedlock is common. Abortion is common. Divorce is common. Decency is a thing of the past. We are no longer a virtuous nation.

Which means we are back to the virtuous few.

Now don't get me wrong. Things are still pretty OK. We still have the vast, vast bulk of our religious freedoms perfectly intact. But that cannot remain the case unless we can get our nation to become virtuous again. We cannot save the constitution without changing the people it governs. It was meant to govern a virtuous people and is wholly unsuitable for any other. In time they will throw off religious freedom as if it was a yoke of bondage.

Thus the only answer to our religious freedom that has any long term significance is to teach, teach, teach the gospel.

We have no new world to sail to. We have no rocky mountains to flee to. We should have the sense to see that we are on an ocean liner whose sides are punctured, and the unsinkable ship is still pleasantly afloat, but it must go down unless its people will change.

Its not that I don't think that if we as a church really turned and stood we couldn't make a difference. But even with such a slap in the face as gay marriage being forced on Utah just before Christmas it was hard to get people to stand up for their religious freedom. Sure, the numbers increased, but what is 1,000 or even 10,000 people who care enough to act when the it should have been millions?

We cannot save the constitution without changing the people it governs. We cannot save the constitution without a return to being a society of decency and virtue. That is the real forefront of our battle for religious freedom. And at this point our nation's hands are steeped in immorailty, it is drunk with vice, and our righteous few, our virtuous men and women, are mostly disinterested in the whole affair. That means that God cannot currently intervene on their behalf in this matter. It is faith that precedes the miracle. Always.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Prom, 2 Nephi 13 and Feminism

Recently I was rather astonished when it was Prom and my wife's facebook friends started posting photos of their daughters. I happened to be sitting in bed talking with her, looking over her facebook wall with her. The first prom photo was quite modest. But that turned out to be quite the exception. Not only was that the only daughter photo I happened to see that night that was modest, but I was astonished at how very immodest some of them were. Two were baring enough up top that I thought to myself "if this was an advertisement I would turn it off".

I was astonished. I know some of these families.

I thought to myself of the fathers in some of these homes and I was astonished because I knew those fathers.

I thought how could those men allow their daughters to go on a date like that?

And the answer immediately presented itself.

I have long thought that the prophecies of the women in the church becoming sultry and seductive before the millennium was related to feminism. These are the prophesies about the daughters of Zion, as prophesied in 2 Nephi 13.

Yes, of course these fathers knew better. Fathers KNOW what is seductive. They aren't consulting an abstract list. They KNOW what the guy will think the girl intended by dressing like that.

But the Fathers don't have much say these days. Sure, they call family prayer, they lead scripture study. But they are mostly figureheads in their own home. They have been trained and retrained that they are to take a back seat. They have even been taught that being a priesthood leader in ones home MEANS always taking a back seat. And so they do.

But women can never KNOW why their daughter can't dress that way on her date in the same way that a man can. She may have observed it from what she knows about men, including her husband. But it is not the same. Fathers KNOW in  a way that can't easily be set aside by whether the dress is so slimming, or brings out her eyes, or looks gorgeous on her, or any number of other things that a mother may let her guard down over, because the father knows what it FEELS LIKE for a man to look at a women dressed like that. He knows what a guy thinks a girl intends by dressing that way. He may not speak the same language as his daughter, but he speaks the same language as her date.

So yes, there is a link between emasculating fathers, taking away their role as the head of the home, and the prophesy that before the millennium the church will raise a generation of daughters who "walk with stretched forth necks and wonton eyes".

Man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other

When Lehi said:

2 Nephi 25: 16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.

he is not using the way act the way we are. He isn't counting things like eating, sleeping, driving, walking, running, painting, etc... as acting. He is also not including any of the things an animal can do as acting.

He is using the word "act" to mean either choosing to submit to the will of God or to rebel against it. This is man's great power: to choose between submitting his will to Gods, or to choose to rebel against God's will.

In order to do that he needs some inclination of what God's will is or isn't. That is what the phrase "man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other" is trying to say. Without that knowledge, he may do all sorts of daily things, but none of them is to "act" in the sense that Lehi is using the phrase. To act in Lehi's sense here is to be enticed by God or and adversary and to choose to hearken or to not.

The three books I consider to have done the most harm to members

I firmly believe that the books Believing Christ, The Continuous Atonement, and Rough Stone Rolling have done the most harm among members in our day. Anti-mormon books rarely have a significant impact within the church. It is the incorrect books that we take and start teaching in Sunday School and quoting in sacrament talks that do the most harm.

The first two books have very successfully convinced members that the protestant version of the atonement is the real atonement. The third book has convinced many members that Joseph Smith's being called as a prophet was just proof that God can use anybody, even someone who is involved in all sorts of immorality. In reality Joseph Smith was not involved in immorality, and in reality it was his faith that the preceded the miracles, it was his righteousness that opened the doors to him for revelation.

All three books erode one of the chief doctrines of the gospel: We must work out our salvation by fear and trembling. They deny that a celestial reward requires being valiant in the testimony of Jesus, and instead portray a gospel in which the atonement exists specifically to grant us exaltation for being nothing more than an honorable man of the earth. They replace the atonement with one which is nothing more than Protestantism adapted for Mormons. They teach that the atonement gets rid of our sins by making us clean even of the things we are still not doing right. They teach that the atonement grants us 100% perfection by nature of our covenant at baptism, because our imperfection added to Christs perfection adds up to 100% perfection. That is not how it works. Christ forgives us through his atonement as we change. His forgiveness is always on condition of repentance. We are never cleaner through the atonement than our actual behavior.

In reality, just as faith precedes the miracle it is repentance and change that precedes forgiveness. Consider baptism as a perfect example. We don't tell Christ that if he will forgive us of our sins first, then we will subsequently repent and be baptized. Instead we repent, and then manifest our commitment to keep his commandments by baptism. In that baptismal act he grants us remission of our sins. But that doesn't mean we are clean and pure every whit yet. After all, as we continue past baptism even as we avoid the serious sins there are still many small matters that we do wrong. We know that and we are not clean of those matters every whit until we change them every whit. When we do something wrong, the former sins return, i.e. what that means is that you aren't cleansed through the atonement of some little misbehavior or other that you are still indulging in.

We will not be perfect, and thus also not perfectly clean, until we have learned to submit our will perfectly as Christ did. When we do then Christ can make us perfectly clean. That is a work that isn't going to be completed during our mortal probation. So it is not surprise that Christ preached repentance and forgiveness of sins through his atonement even when addressing the righteous in the spirit world. Thus continually pressing forward diligently is not something that ends with mortality.

The protestant view in Believing Christ and the Continuous Atonement is that Christ came to save us in our sins, and in reality he came to save us from our sins. We have not been saved of them until we have stopped doing them. And whatever we have stopped doing wrong, we can be cleansed of through his atonement.

We must press forward diligently that we might obtain the prize. All three books teach that the opposite is true one way or another, and all three have had an horrible effect on whether or not members think that they must prove valiant in the testimony of Jesus, or just prove that they are at least an honorable man of the earth that happens to belong to the true church. The first two books, Believing Christ, and The Continuous Atonement both portray pressing forward diligently as the INTENTION, but not as the REQUIREMENT. Intention and requirement are very different things. Those two books have effectively convinced a generation of members that the atonement of Christ is almost a sort of credit card for misbehavior as long as it isn't anything too bad along with a side note that if the misbehavior IS too bad there is a relatively easy fix. They teach a doctrine of being being saved IN ones sins, instead of being saved FROM them. Or maybe, they teach that being saved from our sins is the intention, but not the requirement.

The third book I mentioned, Rough Stone Rolling, has a similar effect on members to the other two. Fundamentally it teaches that a man can be an instrument in the hands of God while still doing all sorts of wicked things.

And Rough Stone Rolling teaches the falsehood that morality isn't even required, that one can be the great head of a dispensation without it.

Basically the two books on the atonement I cited, while very popular, really teach in effect that the atonement makes it so that we will be exalted if we can manage to be honorable men of the earth. They teach that being Valiant in the testimony of Jesus is good, but that because of the atonement, it isn't necessary for exaltation. They teach that is actually the whole point of the atonement. The authors have the sense not to use that language, but that is their doctrine.

And Rough Stone Rolling takes it a step further and makes its point clearly enough without ever coming out and saying it. It preaches loud and clear that being a good member doesn't even require chastity, while avoiding ever making a statement it can be pinned down on.

These three books, Believing Christ, The Continuous Atonement, and Rough Stone Rolling, have supplanted good Mormon truth far too long. We need to turn back to our scriptures where we can find the correct doctrine of the atonement taught, and the way to eternal life laid out before us.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The restoration of all things isn't a checklist, it is a foundation

I have often heard people say that one thing or another is or was or will be practiced briefly because of restoration of all things. An example of such a practice I have heard this applied to animal sacrifice. I have heard people teach that there will be a one time animal sacrifice at some time before the second coming because there is supposed to be a restoration of all things.

Now the point isn't sacrifice, the point is what we mean when we talk about a restoration of all things. The restoration of all things is not just an arbitrary to do list that Heavenly Father laid out. He didn't just think to himself "why not do all the things in all dispensations during the last one as well" as some sort of divine whim.

In fact, it isn't literally a restoration of all things because the lesser law given to Moses will not be part of the restoration of all things. That is because the restoration of all things doesn't mean the restoration of every specific gospel practice that was ever done, it is a restoration of every gospel POWER and BLESSING that has ever existed because the building of Zion requires the full measure of all the gifts and ordinances available through the gospel (which, if you will pay attention, is taught in the endowment).

Now wait, you may say, we the general membership of the church already have everything. You may say we already have all the saving ordinances there are. You may say there isn't anything else we could have.

Not so.

We have all that we are willing to receive, but we have a long ways to go.

I mentioned animal sacrifice previously, so I may as well cite some of the relevant teachings on that as an example:

Joseph Smith taught:

"It is a very prevalent opinion that the sacrifices which were offered were entirely consumed. This was not the case; if you read Leviticus 2:2-3, you will observe that the priests took a part as a memorial and offered it up before the Lord, while the remainder was kept for the maintenance of the priests; so that the offerings and sacrifices are not all consumed upon the altar--but the blood is sprinkled, and the fat and certain other portions are consumed.

These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. This ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest; else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by the Holy Prophets be brought to pass? It is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rites and variety of ceremonies; this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses' day, namely, sacrifice, will be continued."
 (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 172)

The first paragraph here leaves us in no doubt that we are talking about actual animal sacrifice. He even discusses some of the details of how it is to be done. The second paragraph states that the animal sacrifices that existed prior to Moses' day will be restored. Whenever this is restored, it is going to be horribly unpopular.

But why does it say they will be restored? Joseph Smith said it was because "this ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek priesthood are sufficiently manifest".

To put that in plainer speech, it means that we do not have animal sacrifice now because we are not yet ready. As of yet the powers of the Melchizedek priesthood are not sufficiently manifest. When they are, they go hand in hand with animal sacrifice, as was offered by Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the other ancient prophets. According to this statement there are "ramifications, powers, and blessings" that are available only through that ordinance once it is properly restored.

The restoration of all things isn't a checklist of things other dispensations did before that we need to do again for a moment or two. The restoration is a restoration of all the ramifications, powers, and blessings that have ever existed on the earth, because this is the day in which Zion will be redeemed and in Zion all such powers are fully manifest.

This isn't limited to animal sacrifice of course. That is probably a small example. We have a long ways to go before we can list the following, which are given only by God's own voice, among the rights and blessings that are general in the church:

JST Gen 14:27 And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,
 28 It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;
 29 And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.
 30 For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;
 31 To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.
 32 And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.
 33 And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace.
 34 And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world;

Note that these powers of the priesthood were relevant to those who built a Zion. It is far, far more that what we generally enjoy now.

I would add another example of this same blessing given to another man besides Enoch. Just as was stated in the last scripture, it was delivered by God's own voice. We call it the sealing power, but it is a much fuller manifestation of the sealing power than temple sealers are given. After all, as described in the previous scripture, it is only given by God's own voice:

Helaman 10:2 And it came to pass that Nephi went his way towards his own house, pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him.
 3 And it came to pass as he was thus pondering—being much cast down because of the wickedness of the people of the Nephites, their secret works of darkness, and their murderings, and their plunderings, and all manner of iniquities—and it came to pass as he was thus pondering in his heart, behold, a voice came unto him saying:
 4 Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
 5 And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.
 6 Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.
 7 Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.
 8 And thus, if ye shall say unto this temple it shall be rent in twain, it shall be done.
 9 And if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou cast down and become smooth, it shall be done.
 10 And behold, if ye shall say that God shall smite this people, it shall come to pass.

And there is yet one more example of one who had such power delivered to him. Again, as was stated it was by God's own voice. I expect this version refers to the fullness of the Melchizedek priesthood we sometimes hear referred to:

JST Hebrews 5:5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
 6 As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
 7 (Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered);
 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
 10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
[The JST manuscript has a note that verses 7-8 are a parenthetical references to Melchizedec]

Thus the restoration of all things is not just a restoration of those powers we now generally enjoy, but a restoration of the powers we do not yet enjoy, but that will be enjoyed when we choose generally to become a people who are pure in heart, a people who Christ himself can come and live among, just as he dwelt among the people of the Zion that Enoch built previous to their being taken up into heaven.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tithing, children and finances

In order to get to the temple, we need to be paying our tithing. It is part of our baptismal covenant and many, many people will openly attest to the miraculous way the Lord has blessed them when they have faithfully paid their tithes and offerings.

But it is odd how when it comes to not limiting our children how little faith we seem to have. Far too many of us say we "can't afford" more children.

Paying tithing is part of our baptismal covenant. Not limiting our children is part of our sealing covenant. Our sealing covenant is a higher covenant with a higher blessing.

So why do we think God won't be more generous in his tender care for us when keeping our higher covenant than we do for keeping our lower covenant?

We should know and trust our God better than that. We should believe Nephi who said "I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

Surely, he will provide tender and watchful care for those who are keeping their temple covenants. It will be as we keep the commandments that we prosper in the land. Putting the commandments behind seeking our own prosperity will only backfire. Even if the Lord allows some to gain wealth by it, they sadly do so at the cost of eternal rewards.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Addressed only to the most gullible

Someone was claiming that religious freedom would mean freedom of religion inluding the relgions of athiesm, satanism and wiccan (witches). They added islam into the same list. 

As only the most gullible would believe that, this is dedicated solely to them. Here is my response.

No it doesn't. Go back and read where it came from. It was the right to worship your God, it was the right to do according to your conscience. It never included the right to worship the devil. It never included the right to act against your conscience, to consciously choose evil. 

All men have a right to worship God. The fact that some people have perversely adapted the phrase "religion" to mean worshiping the devil instead just means some people have perverted the word. Those who are gullible can't tell the difference.

Yes, it did protect muslims from square one, as it ought to. No, it did not protect those who worshiped the devil and sought to do evil, masking their deeds as "religion". Religion is worship of God, not the devil, and those who penned the constitution understood that when they wrote it. Religion is to act by conscience for good, not to seek evil.

No polygamy does not justify gay marriage

I wrote this in response to another person trying to teach that polygamy meant that there is nothing wrong with taking a perversion like homosexuality and having the state approve it as a marriage. Their point was the Joseph Smith had many wives so that was "a change in marriage", so we should approve of gay marriage too:

The revelation to Joseph Smith wasn't a new revelation, but a restoration of something old. Joseph Smith asked about the polygamous marriages he found in the bible, and the Lord stated:
"inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives"

The fact that this isn't new is also found in the book of Mormon.

Jacob 2:30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

Polygamous marriages existed as far back as Adam and Eve's day when we read of Lamech speaking to his wives. Polygamy has been around since the beginning. It is found and practiced by prophets in the scriptures. It is not a new marriage. But it is, as the Lord instructed Jacob, only given when the Lord needs to raise up seed.

Homosexuality also shows up in the scriptures, but not among the prophets. Instead the Lord declares in the old testament that those who participate in homosexuality or beastiality are to be slain. That was in a day when Moses was married to multiple women. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by the Lord for homosexuality in a day when the prophet Abraham, who lived near those cities, was living polygamously as commanded by the Lord. In the new testament Paul states of homosexuals that because of their wickedness the Lord gave them over to a reprobate mind. Both polygamy and homosexuality show up in the scriptures, but they show up very differently. One is universally condemned as an abomination. The other exists from the beginning, and the times and conditions under which it will be practiced are clearly laid out by the Lord.

Regarding some of Joseph Smith's wives being young, that is just a matter of convention. Many worldly people now first seek marriage a decade older than the previous generation. But that isn't a change in the definition of marriage. It is likely that none of the apostles in the new testament married a girl older than 15 years old, given the conventions of their day. The girl Juliette in "Romeo and Juliette" is stated to be 13 years old in the play, but still of marriageable age. In Joseph Smiths day marriage to a girl of 14 or 15 was uncommon, but still acceptable enough that you likely have female ancestors, and almost certainly have female relatives of your ancestors that married at or near those ages. I have one that married at 15 and one that married at 16 just in the ones I know of. This is not a change in the definition of marriage. Just a change in when it is typical to marry. In days of short life spans and poverty, marriage at younger ages, and particularly marriage of a younger girl to a man who can provide for her is far more common than in days of long life and prosperity.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Christ distinguishes between the wicked and righteous, and requires repentance, which is possible for all mankind

Does Christ differentiate between the wicked and the righteous, or does he just throw us all into the melting pot of "sinners" and call us equal?

I ask this because I keep hearing the most serious of sins being salved by saying "well, all are sinners and have come short of the glory of God." That is certainly true, but I can't help notice that Christ himself frequently and bluntly divided people into groups.

There were those who were willing to repent. They were penitent. They had sinned. Some had sinned seriously. Some were like Joseph Smith who were not guilty of any malignant sin, but were guilty of things like "levity". But what mattered is that they were all sorry. They were willing to heed Christ's admonition to "sin no more". They were willing to come unto him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. While the Savior reproved these individuals, such as his beloved disciples, at times for their errors, his relationship with them was tender and personal. When he spoke, he knew and addressed their inmost souls. He loved them dearly, and the new testament accounts of his dealings these people radiate Christ's intimate, tender, personal love for these people.

There were also those that were rebellious and would not come unto Christ, even though his miracles clearly showed that he was the Son of God. Such were the scribes and the pharisees, the priests and the levites. Generally he treated these people very differently. He spoke to them differently. He frequently embarrassed them for their false teachings. He took their secret sins and declared them openly. He openly stated that in their hearts they didn't even believe in God. He openly called them iniquitous, and asked how they could hope to escape hell.

Now it is certainly true of both Christ's disciples and of the wicked pharisees that all had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But in Christ's eye there were still a distinct difference between these groups and it shows up in every faucet of his dealings with them.

The same groups exist today, and we each get to choose which group we belong to. We need to let the reality that these groups are quite real sink in.

Yes, if a man is a sinner, he may repent and be saved. If a man is righteous, he may still fall. But there is a huge difference between keeping those crucial facts in mind and in pretending that there is no difference between the wicked and the righteous.

Christ treated the two differently. Do we doubt his good judgement? Should we question his interactions with others?

It is popular now to believe that to be christlike one must pretend that there is no such thing as the wicked, and no such thing as the righteous. But that isn't actually what Christ did. He clearly distinguished.

And this is important in part because the wicked will not repent when the righteous are pacifying and lulling them on in their iniquity. It is supposed to be the devil that lulls people away into carnal security. We must not be seconding his claims.

Those who are choosing to be wicked need to be warned, not lulled into carnal security. And those who are hardened in their iniquity as were the scribes and the pharisees often need to be warned against.

We need to stand up and say right is right and wrong is wrong. We need to stand by the proposition that a man or woman can change. But we must not back down on the truth that it is change that is necessary. We must not back down from the truth that wickedness never was happiness, and that wickedness really is wicked. How can we hope to save any of them if we can't stand firm pointing out the only way they will find peace in this life is change?

No one involved in serious sin truly feels good about themself. Not really. We must offer them the hope of change, not the false hope that change is unnecessary.

When we read the scriptures, we are reading about the requirements of change. Redemption comes on conditions of change. We must hold firmly to the teaching that change is both genuinely possibly and necessary. For if we will not offer them that hope, we can know that the adversary will stifle it. We are their life line.

This is what we must offer the wicked, we must point to Christ's words and unflinchingly insist that this is the only way to peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come:

3 Nephi 9:22 Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.

The works that ye have seen me do

When Christ said "The works that ye have seen me do, that shall ye also do", we always read it as "The sort of behavior and service ye have seen me do, that shall ye also do". But that isn't what he is actually getting at, because he follows it up with telling them that they would do greater works than he had done because he went to the Father.

He isn't talking about behavior and service. He is talking about the works of his Father being plainly manifest in him. He is saying, in part, "these signs shall follow them that believe....".

Actually, in retrospect I should have realized that because of Lectures on faith discussion on the disciples doing greater works than he had done.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Women who shaped history

I sometimes hear some book or article praised that teaches about "Women who shaped history".

I think that is an idea born out of ignorance. Women have always shaped history. The women shape the rising generation. The women who shaped history the most are the ones history has all but forgotten. History has its tides and movements, but is presented without understanding that the mothers that raised each generation were the dominant influence in the direction the next generation would take. The goodness or badness of a rising generation is largely the work of the mothers of the previous generation.

The generation in which a free country could be established was raised by peculiar mothers. It was not one mother that could accomplish it any more than one man could make a free country. It was a lot of mothers raising their children up the best they could according to the light and truth that was available to them. That was women shaping history. And shape it they did.

We have women shaping history all around us. But they are doing it now primarily by seeking for something greater than being wives and mothers and training and nurturing their own children. Thus we see history being shaped by women these days in a degenerative way.

I believe it was Joseph F Smith that prophesied of a generation of mothers that would not stay home with their children, and whose children would rebel. That was fulfilled when the mothers that went to work in the World War 2 effort didn't return home after the war ended but stayed at work for greater financial prosperity. They raised the hippy generation.

The rising generation currently has a major problem with discarding morality as being a small matter and rejecting gospel truth whenever it conflicts with worldly wisdom. This is the result of the previous generation of mothers who, by and large, chose to work outside the home. There you have it again: Women shaping history.

Women always shape history. The Lord gave them an innate love and interest in their little ones that inspires them to shape history toward Zion if they will hearken to the light that is given to them.
If they do not give heed to that light, they still shape history.

Yes, Fathers are also an important influence, but it is women who are primarily responsible for the nurturing of their children.

Whenever society has moved forward toward Zion the women of those days shaped history by nurturing their children. History is always being shaped by how mothers view and pursue their divine role of raising children up to light and truth. If it is second to their other pursuits, then, to borrow a line from Elder Maxwell "If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will, in the end, make no difference what you have chosen instead." Such women will shape a history of successive generations that become successively more rebellious. A generation cannot be raised up to God as a secondary interest, a subsidiary pursuit to personal accomplishment.

Zion will not be built without women shaping history. Women can shape history and build a Zion, one generation improving upon the previous one, by centering their lives on their roles as wives and mothers, raising their children up to the Lord and building a Zion in their own homes. And if they do that, then shape history they will.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

McConkie: The scriptures versus programs, statistics, trends, and goals

In April 1982, Elder Bruce R. McConkie spoke to the regional representatives about the priority the scriptures should take in our labors. He said: “We are so wound up in programs and statistics and trends, in properties, lands and mammon, and in achieving goals that will highlight the excellence of our work, that we have ‘omitted the weightier matters of the law.’ … However talented men may be in administrative matters; however eloquent they may be in expressing their views; however learned they may be in the worldly things—they will be denied the sweet whisperings of the Spirit that might have been theirs unless they pay the price of studying, pondering, and praying about the scriptures.” (In Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 2 Apr. 1982, pp. 1–2.)

The quote appears in the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson manual in the chapter on the Word of God.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Don't bow and scrape unto men in whom you have no confidence

I didn't know Joseph Smith taught this:

"Act honestly before God and man. Beware of Gentile sophistry; such as bowing and scraping unto men in whom you have no confidence. Be honest, open, and frank in all your intercourse with mankind." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 156)

We are called like John the Baptist to prepare the way for Christ's coming, not to just wait for it.

John the baptist was called to prepare the way for Christ to come among the people. He didn't just go out and tell them to "wait", he told them to prepare for Christ.
We need to put aside the idea that we are supposed to hunker down and "wait" for the second coming. We are, like John the baptist, called to prepare the way for the second coming. We are to warn our neighbors and prepare our families. We are to live so that we are growing into the gift of the Holy Ghost and teach others so to do, that we may build a Zion in preparation for Christ's return.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A short note about teaching modesty

I have often wondered how to make this point and I thought it came out well in this conversation, so I'm keeping it.

I was talking to my teens and said: "How important is chastity?"
They replied "Very important."
I responded, "Modesty follows on its coat tails. Don't underestimate its importance."

We do not wait for the second coming, we prepare for it

One of the things we will need to wake up for before the redemption of Zion is that we do not passively wait for the second coming. The scriptures said, before Christ was born, that John the baptist was sent to teach the people to prepare for Christ.

Yes, the day is set for Christ to return. But the redemption of Zion is based on the faithfulness of the members.

Joseph Smith  said "...could we all come together with one heart and one mind in perfect faith the veil might as well be rent today as next week, or any other time" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 8)

That means we do not so much wait for God to come as God is waiting for us to come to him.

We do not wait for Zion to be built. We are not to "wait" for the second coming. Our commandment is to prepare for the second coming. Waiting and preparing are different. The five foolish virgins waited for the bridegroom. The other five prepared. We are to prepare by warning every man his neighbor. We are to prepare by building a Zion society. That is the required preparation.

How is that done? It is by keeping all the commandments of God, including those we received in the temple. If being nonjudgmental was the way Zion is built, then there would be no need for the scriptures and their numerous commandments and instruction. But the Lord doesn't work by man's wisdom. Keeping the commandments, paying particular attention to being morally clean, and not neglecting the commandments to save the souls of men, will bring the Holy Ghost into our lives. And that is the only way to build Zion. We become one with each other by all living so we have the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost makes us one both with each other and with the Godhead. No other type of unity can build Zion. No other type of unity is as edifying and pure. As the members as a whole begin to really grow into the Holy Ghost then they will become one in a way that no amount of nonjudgementalism, or "celebrating our differences",  or any other worldly model of unity will ever do.

We must keep the commandments, study the scriptures, and save our fellow men. As we do that we are preparing for the second coming. We are preparing by preparing our own hearts for Zion by growing into the gift of the Holy Ghost. And when we have truly done that as a people then we will redeem Zion. What greater preparation for the second coming could we possibly offer?

But we do not "wait" for the second coming. We prepare and work for it.

Celebrating our differences.

In an age of immorality it seems that people cannot even be honest with themselves about what makes them happy. I cannot remember the number of times I have been admonished "celebrate differences". I have even heard people go so far as to say that it is in our differences that we find the most joy.

That's just weird. It is taught believing that your really can change human nature by teaching something with enough intensity.

When I find myself in a new group of people, I don't find myself naturally pairing up with those people who are the most different than myself. If I find someone who likes all the things I do, who views the world the same way I do, there is a natural joy and satisfaction that comes from talking with that person and sharing our likenesses. This is not a feeling that I have been trained into. It is human nature.

If our differences is what brings us joy, then naturally I should have looked for a wife who had as little in common with myself as possible, so I could have the most joyous marriage. But instead I am happy to have a wife that, while there are things that we differ on, was someone I naturally found myself tied to through our common way of understanding life and the world around us. Differences in marriage aren't the domain of joy but of struggle, effort, and compromise.

The idea that our differences is what I should be celebrating and have joy in is really only popular
now for two reasons:

1) Ironically, by saying "celebrate our differences" you will have shown that you have conformed to what is popular. You will have shown that you aren't going to stand out and distinquish yourself from popular ideas. One of the main reasons "celebrating our differences" is popular is because it shows that you are the same, are conformal, are going along with what will be popular. You stand by the most popular ideas of the day and actively teach them. You're not going to rock the boat.

2) The main reason this idea of "celebrating our differences" gained impetutus in the first place was because "our differences" really had to do with misbehavior. It is the get-out-of-jail-free card for any misbehavior. It is a social contract that agrees that if you will not say anything is wrong, you can also do whatever wrong things you want, and no one will accuse you either. This is how the idea gained momentum and is why it is so popular in a day of gross immorality.

So why don't we go ahead and be real and celebrate the things we share with other people. That is  our nature. There are limits to it, as there are to anything we enjoy. I like steak, but not every meal every day. I don't want to live in a world of clones of myself. But I like to have conversation with someone that doesn't believe in the opposite of everything I say. Yes, I like some variety, as everyone does. But I don't want to give up what I like just for the sake of variety.

Human nature fundamentally celebrates what we share, what we have experienced, thought, or felt that others have also experienced, thought or felt. That goes along with the fact that a good marriage is based on becoming one, not become more divergently different from each other.

Let us celebrate our similarities. That is our very nature.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

If you don't think you could lose your religious freedoms, ask the early saints

One of the most frequent and bewildering excuses people give for not fighting against laws that promote or endorse immorality or otherwise chisel away at religious freedom is that these things are just signs of the times.

We are all familiar with Joseph Smith's statement that goes something like "No unhallowed hand shall stop the work from progressing. Persecutions may rage,mobs may combine, armies may assemble, but the truth of God shall go forth boldly, nobly, and independent until it has penetrated, every climb, swept every continent, and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done."

And so we feel we have a sort of manifest destiny in the gospel. But rather than impelling us to action in spreading the gospel, it seems to be primarily being used as an excuse for inaction against the rapid deterioration of our religious freedoms.

This sort of manifest destiny is pure garbage. When members went to Missouri to possess the land of Zion they knew that they were taking the land of Zion where the new Jerusalem would be rebuilt. The place had been revealed and they had been given a revelation to go buy up the land there.

If there was ever a manifest destiny in the church, the redemption of Zion in Missouri was it. The commandment was given by revelation. The significance of the event was explained by prophecy. They KNEW exactly what was going to happen. They were going to posses the land which would become a new Zion, a new Jerusalem, in preparation for second coming of Christ.

And we need to realize just how obvious it was to them that is exactly what HAD to happen. They would have felt like they were being unfaithful to their testimony of the church to even question that.

But it didn't happen. Yes, it will happen some day. But when they went to possess the land of Zion anyone telling them that actually they would be driven from their homes and eventually driven to the dessert area of the Salt Lake Valley to try and make a living in a land that nobody else wanted would have been seen as a faithless apostate.

There is no such thing as manifest destiny in the church. It takes faith and righteousness to do the work. When the saints went to redeem Zion they thought failure was impossible.

We seem to think losing our religious freedoms are impossible. We think the Lord won't allow it because it is important to his plan. But the thing is that while redeeming Zion was important to his plan, Zion must be redeemed by the faith and righteousness of the members. The Lord doesn't force Zion to be redeemed. He sends people there to redeem it and expects them to show forth faith and works meet to the task. There is no manifest destiny about it.

And similarly, the Lord is not going to force our religious freedoms to stay in place. We may be thinking that he will force that, because he needs it for his plan to succeed. Hogwash!

If there is any miracle done among the children of men, it is according to their faith, not the other way around. Over and over Ether 12 teaches that sufficient faith was required for all of the miracles.

We need to face the same reality the early saints moving to Missouri faced. There is no manifest destiny in the gospel. If we do not take care enough to keep the blessings God will grant then they will be taken away.

Some may want to pretend we can't possibly lose our religious freedom because of something Joseph Smith once said about the constitution being saved by the Elders of the church. Unfortunately, as I understand, the history of that quotation is pretty dubious - in particular, it had been a very long time since the teaching was given before it was passed on to anyone, and that was by only a single individual.

By contrast, the scriptures clearly state that:

D&C 87: 6 And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations;
 7 That the cry of the saints, and of the blood of the saints, shall cease to come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, from the earth, to be avenged of their enemies.

Isn't the phrase "until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations" clear enough? It was exactly what we read about happening among the Nephites before Christ's coming to them: their nations completely collapsed.

The Lord has not promised us that we will not lose our religious freedom any more than he promised the Missouri saints they wouldn't be persecuted, driven, raped, and murdered. Do we think by our inaction and apathy we are making a better try at our appointed task then they were of theirs? We will not keep our religious freedoms by sitting home watching the news and muttering that something or other seems unfair. Nor will we keep them by failing to fight against enshrining perversion in the law, legalizing footholds by which religious freedom can be squashed under the heel of the new equality.

We must make ourselves heard with a clarion call that will give our enemies pause in their charge. We must not only do that, we must turn the battle against them.

We worry about whether our children are wearing bicycle helmets or are alone at the park or even alone in our own front yards. We aren't sure whether they are safe enough. But what excuse will we offer them when we are the generation that has broken the chain, and has allowed the blood that was shed to bring about a free country to become wasted? When we become the generation that allows religious freedom to pass into obscurity, what excuse will we offer our children and grandchildren who must choose between their God and oppression?

The time for action is long since past. We must make our voices heard. The battle has been raging around us and we have hardly taken note of the conflict other than to nod our heads in vague disapproval. We must raise a noise and make a stand that will give our adversaries pause. We must even turn the tide.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Another "faithful" member rears her ugly head

My wife recently had a run in with another "faithful" church member claiming that church members and other Christians are not really trying to protect their religious freedoms. This person claimed that church members are really just discriminating against gay people.

I feel somewhat sick just typing that.

How can we have wandered so far?

Do we really think we won't be held accountable for washing our religious freedoms down the drain? This radical woman pats herself on the back for being a faithful member of the church, but then she actively sides to destroy our religious freedom. She calls good evil and evil good with a proud smile on her face. She accuses the members of the true church of having hard hearts if they are fighting for their religious freedom. But then she tells those involved in the darkest perversions that they should get to subject even the faithful in the service of their perversion.

What? Does she really think that is what makes one of the five wise virgins? If that parable means anything at all then can she really hope to be prepared when the bridegroom comes while actively proselyting against good in favor of evil?

What is wrong with us?

She was offended at a scripture in Leviticus a preacher was arrested for stating that homosexuality was a sin. There is purportedly a different scripture in Leviticus that stated that under the law of Moses homosexuals should be stoned, and she said using that scripture would constitute hate speech and further said:

"But if a member of our church got up and used that scripture from Leviticus in sacrament meeting I would take issue with it. (And that was what I meant with my comment about hate speech in our church)"

Yes, that is right. It doesn't matter what the scriptures say to her. She doesn't even think of asking what the scripture is getting at. And she wouldn't believe it if she did. It doesn't match with her political correctness and so it needs to go.

If we are listening to the learning of the world, if we are looking to the great and spacious building, are there any good things the Lord promises to us in return? Does he tell us that he loves those who love the learning of the world. Or does he choose to use language like

2 Nephi 9:28 O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

Do we really think we can dishonor the scriptures with impudence? Do we really think we can take a big red pen and start crossing them out according to the dictates of the world, and still believe in our hearts that we will be found among the 5 wise virgins at the second coming?

It was supposed to be the world, not the members of the church, that Christ was describing when he said:

D&C 1:16 They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.

And that is exactly what we see here. This woman is walking in her own way, and her God is in the likeness of the world. Her god, as she imagines him, doesn't care so much about what he has taught in the past, because he is now a god of social justice. Her god, as she imagines him, is embarrassed about all those things he said in the old testament, and even many of the things he said in the new, and wishes there was a way he could get people to stop reading and studying them, and just be inclusive. Her god, as she imagines him, is in the likeness of the world. His substance is that of an idol. He is no more a god than a man made statue, because her god is man made.

The real God has spoken what he has spoken, and though the heavens and the earth will pass away, his word will not pass away, but will all be fulfilled.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Saving grace both transforms and requires pressing forward to partake of

Any doctrine of saving grace which does not save us both by transforming us as well as by requiring us to continually transform ourselves by pressing forward diligently in order to partake of that grace is a lie. We will be judged by our works. Saving grace that doesn't transform our works cannot save us, for salvation consists of becoming one with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost as they are one with each other, and that is impossible without change.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Gift of the Holy Ghost as a Saving Grace

I have found myself at times trying to explain grace to someone who has largely taken up the protestant interpretation that has been popularized in books like "Believing Christ" by Stephen Robinson and "The Continuous Atonement" by Brad Wilcox. It is so hard for people who have taken up those ideas to make the least step forward in understanding the matter.

Which is odd, because their own personal experiences as a member of the church make the matter really clear. If they would just realize that:

(1) The gift of the Holy Ghost is part of the grace of God they are hoping to be saved by.

(2) If they will think about their own actual real world experiences with the Gift of the Holy Ghost they will see in their own experiences the basic pattern for how the grace of God actually saves someone.

What is frustrating is the degree to which they deny their own experiences in favor of something they read in a book.

Neither the grace of God, nor the atonement itself, does anything to change the fact that God does not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. Yes. It allows one to be forgiven for past sins, but the person themself still needs to be changed into someone who won't commit those sins again. How is that brought about? It is brought about by a combination of personal effort as well as the sanctifying effects of the Holy Ghost.

The more we press forward and do what is right, the more we have the Holy Ghost with us. The more we have the Holy Ghost with us, the easier it is to do what is right. Growing into the gift of the Holy Ghost allows us in process of time to become more and more one with the Father and the Son in the same way that they are one with each other.

But the Holy Ghost doesn't come and dwell with us for half hearted effort. If you want the perfect measure of what Christ expects of you, you need only ask what you need to do to have the Holy Ghost in your life. If you are growing more and more into the gift of the Holy Ghost then your actions are pleasing to him, and are therefore also pleasing to Christ, as the Godhead is not divided. If you find the Holy Ghost to be dwindling in your life, or rarely any closer than the distant background, or if you feel like the Holy Ghost is approving of misbehavior (he doesn't, that is the adversary lying to you) then you can know that you are not pleasing the Holy Ghost, and are thereby not pleasing the Savior either. They do not view the matter differently.

If we would just pause and ask "Does what I am about to say about the saving grace of God actually fit my personal experience with the Holy Ghost" before talking about God's saving grace, we would teach a much better picture of the matter than is currently typical.

For instance, do you find with the Holy Ghost that because of the atonement, he feels like everything for your salvation is done, that you are "saved" due to your covenant with Christ, and that as long as you at least stay within that covenant you are saved? According to "Believing Christ" that is how Christ views the matter, and consequently it would also be how the Holy Ghost would view the matter.

Or do instead you find that the Holy Ghost attends you more when you go out and do missionary work, save your ancestors, attend the temple, or teach your children the gospel? Does the Holy Ghost consider you to now be "saved" and ready for the presence of God, or does he attend you based on your works?

Does the Holy Ghost require only the lowest level of Gospel living to attend you? Will he persist with you as you compromise with worldly standards? Does he care about strictly observing your temple covenants?

The atonement was necessary so that we could be forgiven on conditions of repentance. Does the Holy Ghost seem to care about repentance after we do something wrong? Or does he instead act like the atonement means that we are 100% clean because Christ already paid the whole price and our works do nothing to save us? If the doctrine found in "Believing Christ" is correct then it should be the latter, but that isn't what we experience.

When we say that we cannot be saved by our works, we are saying that we are limited as human beings in power! We are mere mortals, we cannot resurrect ourselves after death. We cannot make our past sins go away. We cannot grant ourselves the knowledge of heavenly things. These are all required to save us. We cannot bring ourselves into the presence of God. But this is a statement of the limited POWER of mortals. It is not a statement that mortals are not able to make good choices, or that those choices are not the very means by which God will determine who is to be saved and who is not. Our works are not the MECHANISM that saves us because as mortals we lack POWER. But our choices will be the means by which God determines who to save.

In fact, the Book of Mormon testifies over and over again that we will be judged according to our works, whether they were good, or whether they were evil. If we are judged according to our works, then our works are the means by which God determines whether or not we are to be saved.

Mortals are very limited beings. We are as clay. We can read, write, dance, sing, run, jump, eat, sleep, paint, play, ponder, and any number of other things. But it is outside our POWER to transfigure ourselves and enter the presence of God. It is outside our POWER to cause our dead bodies to resurrect themselves. It is outside our POWER to make our sins go away, even if we have repented of them and do them no more.

This limitation on mortal power is one big part of what we mean when we say that we are saved by grace. We are saved by grace, meaning God is the one that exercises saving power. It is simply outside our abilities.

But the scriptures testify in abundance that the means by which God determines who to save will be by their works.

God's power is the mechanism, but our works are how the determination is made.

Now what I have written about saving grace so far is basic. This is all just groundwork It is stuff that really shouldn't even need to be said. But false ideas about grace and the atonement are currently being popularized so heavily so some groundwork is good.

There is more to the story. But as soon as I write the more someone is going to assume that I just revoked all the groundwork, and that is not true. The groundwork is good. But I will risk it and explain the more, hoping you won't reject the groundwork.

The more to this story comes back to what I was originally writing about. The saving grace of God is nicely illustrated in the gift of the Holy Ghost, and if we would use that as the principle of understanding and speaking about saving grace, we would do a much more correct and exalting job of teaching the matter.

God's grace saves us by exercising the necessary power. But it also helps us to behave better, as well as making his will known to us. It allows us to become one with him in a way we couldn't possibly do on our own.

When we have a strong experience with the Holy Ghost, the will of the Lord is more apparent to us, we see what he wants more. But when we experience that, it is also easier to submit our own will to the will of the Lord.

In fact, Joseph Smith said that the purpose for which the Lord said he would grant his glory to his apostles in his great intercessory prayer was so that they could be one with him and the Father as the Son and Father were one with each other.

And that is a major part of the point. God's saving grace is manifest by changing us so that our works are different.

We see this need for divine grace even in the Savior's life. He said he did always those things which pleased his Father. Because of that we learn that the Father didn't pour out the Holy Ghost on Christ just by measure. And that in turn strengthened the Son. The two things aren't really separate. They go hand in hand.

Grace doesn't change the fact that we will be judged by our works. It changes what our works are so that we can be saved. Saving grace saves us by changing us so that our works are good. There is no conflict between the fact that we are saved by grace, and the fact that we will be judged according to our works. They are in perfect agreement. Any doctrine of salvation by grace that promises eternal rewards later without transforming us here and now is a lie. We are saved, our works are changed, as we obey and God grants us the marvelous manifestations of his grace such as forgiveness of sins thereby making us a worthy receptacle for the gift of the Holy Ghost. As we grow into the gift of the Holy Ghost we become more and more one with God, we know his will more clearly, and we are more capable of submitting our will to his. This is an ongoing process, not a one time event. And it is a process that transforms our works.

And now I must pause again, because here is another layer of groundwork, and once again if I proceed to explain someone will decide that I am revoking the existing groundwork. But no, the groundwork is good. It needs to be left in place.

The next thing is when we talk about being judged according to our works, what works are we talking about? There are a few different scriptural lists, but we should recognize that when Christ said he did the works of his Father, that same principle applies to us, though sometimes we word it differently and say "these signs shall follow them that believe". As we grow and become one with the Father and the Son then the works of the Father become manifest in us, as they were in Christ. These are some of the "works" that are manifest by the grace of God that we will be judged by. Christ told men to judge whether he was doing God's work by whether the Father's works were manifest in him, and to a lesser degree the same is true of us, though when applied to ourselves we usually invoke the phrase "these signs shall follow them that believe" instead of "the works of the Father are plainly manifest". But they mean the same thing. So we press forward and hope that, as Peter, one day we will be converted and that the works of the Father will be manifest in us, because we will be judged according to our works.

And while there is more than one list of "works" that is mentioned as being discussed at the judgement bar, one notable one is the list found in D&C 76. These works are interesting because, by and large, they are not works in the traditional sense, but are in fact manifestations of the grace of God very similar to the gift of the Holy Ghost: They are given on conditions of obedience. These are works we can count on being judged by, though, by and large, as a people they are works we finish in the spirit world. We do not, as a people, generally make it through all these works in mortality, but complete them in the spirit world starting from where ever we left off at death. The exception is verses 60-65 which are intentionally in future tense.

D&C 76:51 They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—

 52 That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;

 53 And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.

 54 They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.

 55 They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—

 56 They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;

 57 And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.

 58 Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—

 59 Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

 60 And they shall overcome all things.

 61 Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet.

 62 These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.

 63 These are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people.

 64 These are they who shall have part in the first resurrection.

 65 These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just.

 66 These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all.

 67 These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn.

 68 These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all.

 69 These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.

 70 These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical.

So there it is in D&C 76, a list of works that describes who is in the celestial kingdom. Not surprisingly, many of these works are actually manifestations of God's grace, given to us on condition of prolonged obedience.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Saving grace connects us with the powers of heaven

Saving grace isn't about saving us with only minimal or moderate obedience, it is about bestowing more generous gifts and endowments on condition of obedience.

Saving grace is always about connecting us with the powers of heaven on condition of obedience.

The true church offers us the real and enduring companionship of a God through the gift of the Holy Ghost. That gift, a connection with the powers of heaven, is offered on condition of repentance and obedience to covenants. It is a saving grace offered on condition of obedience. In time as we progress in the true church all members are offered the ministering of Angels, the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, communion with the general assembly and with the church of the firstborn, and the presence of the Father and the Son.

We may not make it through all of that in mortality. And in fact, we do not control such matters. All we can do is to press forward with diligence the same as all are required to, seeking to save the souls of our children, our dead, and those around us. If we have set a clear course here then what portion of that path we didn't finish in mortality will be available to us to finish in the spirit world.

But we should recognize that the real church is intended to connect us in real ways to Heaven. We do not want to find ourselves having a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Why not attain to a perfect knowledge of him -- not just pretty words

Interesting scripture pairing. The first is Jacob's writing.

Jacob 4:12 And now, beloved, marvel not that I tell you these things; for why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him, as to attain to the knowledge of a resurrection and the world to come?

along with 

2 Nephi 11:2 And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him.
3 And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; ....

The second scriptures makes clear that there is nothing academic in the meaning of the first scripture. When Jacob said "why not come to a perfect knowledge of Christ and a knowledge of the resurrection and the world to come", he was speaking as man who had begun to come to a perfect knowledge of the Christ, the same as his brother Nephi had.

And he asks us why we should not do the same.

A people that rejects decency rejects the foundation of a good society

A people that has rejected decency as a cornerstone both in law and in daily life has rejected the foundation on which the family and the great virtues are built. Unless such a society repents the other sacred virtues such as faith, justice, judgement, mercy, charity, commitment to children and to spouse, and all the other virtues that divinely define the family eventually succumb. Those virtues cannot stand long once one removes decency from the center stage.

Indeed, it is because of iniquity that the love of many has waxed cold.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

No really, we believe in the ministering of Angels (part 2)

While it is nice to make people feel comfortable about themselves by reading the secriptures

D&C 13:1 Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.


D&C 107:20 The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments.

and then concluding that the ministering of Angels is hometeaching, or the unseen but watchful eye of our ancestors.

But if that is what the ministering of angels that is referred to is all about then there is not much point in D&C 129, which is mostly the following:

D&C 129:4 When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.
 5 If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand.
 6 If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear—
 7 Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceive; but he will still deliver his message.
 8 If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him.
 9 These are three grand keys whereby you may know whether any administration is from God.

This is not about the unseen eye of watchful ancestors. This is not about hometeaching. This is about the ministering of angels.

And there is another point that needs to be made. If the keys of the Aaronic priesthood have no power to bring about the ministering of angels in every sense that angels ministered to prophets in the past, ,if those verses are really just about hometeaching or unseen events beyond the veil, then naturally we should conclude that the keys of the Melchizedek priesthood are not really able to bring us into the presence of the God. It would naturally imply that these verses are figurative just as the Aaronic priesthood verses would be:

D&C 107: 18 The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—
 19 To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.

But if our priesthood has no power to bring us into the presence of God, then we don't belong to the real church. The real priesthood has power to connect earth to heaven. If the priesthood has no power to bring people into God's presence then it has no power to save them, for that is a part of what salvation consists of.

We really do believe in the ministering of angels. We really do believe that the rights and privileges, the power and authority of the Melchizedek priesthood is to have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of hte kingdom, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and the church of the firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.

Friday, April 3, 2015

This land was redeemed by the shedding of blood

There is an interesting verse:

D&C 101:80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.

The use of the word "redeemed" and the phrase "shedding of blood" have a plain sense meaning. But I think there is a little bit more going on here. The Lord has power over the nations. He preserved the Nephites until they were wicked, then allowed the Lamanites to destroy them. He threatened the Israelites with various other nations when they were wicked, but delivered them when they repented. He allowed Limhi's people and Alma's followers to come into bondage, but then delivered them both. He destroyed the people of Ammonihah in a single day.

I think what is going on here is partly that the Lord could have created a free country by any means he wanted. But he redeemed it by the shedding of blood.

In particular, he redeemed it when there were enough people of virtue that would lay down their lives for a free country. There is something in this that is akin to the atonement. They had to be people of virtue, for their sacrifice to weigh the same in his ears. They had to be people who sought to serve him, rather than those who hearkened to the world, for their sacrifice to mean the same thing to him. And they had to want the land to become free so badly that they would give their lives to bring that about.

And when enough men of virtue would laid down their lives to create a free country, the Lord was willing to hold it in the palm of his hand and deliver it against all odds. They bore testimony with their blood that they prized freedom. And with that testimony sealed with the blood of righteous men, the Lord could not withhold.

Thus mankind was redeemed from thousands of years of tyranny.

We live in a day when religious freedom is being dissolved before our eyes. If we let it disappear we may again find that the blood of the righteous will be shed before such freedom will return. The adversary wants nothing more than to squelch the true church.

Yes, no unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing. Which is exactly the point. If those hands which are hallowed, which have been washed clean, assume that by apathy they can bring forth the kingdom of God, then yes, the work will stumble. It will not fall, but it has already happened before. The saints already went to Zion to redeem it, and their hallowed hands failed to live up to the task.

Yes, the kingdom of God will roll forth triumphant. But anyone living in Kirtland would have been astonished to learn that that prophecy would include being killed, raped, and driven from Missouri. Would have included their Nauvoo temple being burnt to the ground and their beloved Joseph martyred. Would have included the travails of the Martin Harris handcart company, and the suffering of all the saints crossing the plains. They would have been surprised to know that it would include trading the lush lands that surrounded them for a desert land that no one else wanted. A land that a famous american said he would pay $1000 for the first ear of corn that could be grown there, because he believed it to be impossible.

Prophecy does not change the fact that our actions have consequences. And if we will not turn as a group and take a firm grip our our religious freedoms we may well find that deprivations of the pioneers were not the last suffering the saints needed to endure before the Kingdom was brought forth triumphant.

We must not fail to grab our religious rights and clutch them as if we were carrying the brass plates back to Lehi through Jerusalem's streets, as if we were clutching the golden plates to protect them from the raging mob.

This is not a cause for polite speeches. The capital is burning, it's dome collapses inward, and we are fretting about being judgmental instead of rushing to fight the blaze!

We must stop pretending there is no God when we cast our votes and voice our beliefs. Our country cannot stand without God. We must not be afraid to invoke God, decency, and religious convictions of truth when we espouse, create, and pass our laws. If it is indeed in God we trust then we need to stop pretending in our legislation and political arguments that he is the last thing on our minds. If it is in God we trust, then we need to stop pretending that we don't even believe in him when it comes to politics, law, and government.

We must make ourselves heard. We are too busy playing at politeness while we stare into the serpents mouth.

We need all three members of the Godhead

Sometimes recently there has been a trend to magnify Christ by minimizing the other members of the Godhead. I don't think this is good. Each is essential, and the Father is the head. The atonement wasn't necessary for the Father to have power over sickness, power over affliction, power over infirmity. He already had all of those. He also already had power over Satan.

But we did need an atonement to bring about the resurrection and redemption from sin. That atonement is the central act of all eternity. Those two are so big on their own there is no need to start taking away from God the Father's power in order to make the atonement more central than it already is.

I just think it is better to remember that God had power. The Father had power in and of himself before the atonement. Yes, there were some crucial things that required the atonement to bring about. But let's not forget that Christ said in John 14:28 "my Father is greater than I".

The scriptures say we worship the Father. We pray to the Father. Each member has an essential role.

We also shouldn't forget that there is one whole member of the Godhead whose name is "The Comforter". His role as "the comforter" is also being minimized, reassigning some of that to the Savior. But the member of the Godhead who is given the role as comforter is the Holy Ghost. It is one of his names.

We really do need all three members of the Godhead.

The works of the Father // These signs shall follow them

Christ taught:

John 10:37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
 38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

The point of this is largely lost on us.

Yes, it conveys that Christ is one with his Father. But the point is that the same is supposed to become true of us. We are supposed to grow to have the Father and the Son in us. And if we do the then works of the Father will be manifest.

How can such a thing happen? Well that is what the last half of 3 Nephi 11 is all about. If we repent and are baptized the Father gives us the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost bears record to us of the Father and the Son. Put differently the Holy Ghost both teaches us who Christ and the Father are as well as prompting us with their will. As we grow into the gift of the Holy Ghost it bears stronger and stronger record of the Father and the Son to us, making us more and more one with them. Through the Holy Ghost we know more what they desire, we know more what kind of beings they are, and it is easier to submit our will to theirs.

The whole point is to make us one with the Father and the Son the same way Christ is one with the Father. We won't finish that in mortality, but to fail to press forward diligently along the path just because we won't finish it here is probably to fail the test of mortality. The test here is to see whether we will press forward diligently. The test of mortality is more for us to set a clear course, than it is to get to the finish line.

And if we at least get far enough for the Father to be able to number us among those that believe then these signs will follow us:

Mormon 9:24 And these signs shall follow them that believe—in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover;

That is precisely what Christ is saying of himself. His Father is in him and so the Father's works are plainly manifest. Insofar as the Father is in us, the Father's works will be plainly manifest. Or, put differently "these signs will follow them that believe...."

Now don't get me wrong. I have a long, long ways to go. But I don't think that is any reason for me to avoid pointing out the doctrine. Far better for me to know I have a long way to go than to sit back and relax thinking I have already done the essentials.