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.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

We know we are saved by grace, but are content to live beneath our privileges

Saved by grace and living beneath our privileges

There is a great irony we live and teach day to day. We know that we are saved by grace, and we are convinced (and rightly convinced) that it is crucially important that we are saved by grace.
We also know that we live far beneath our privileges, but we are conconcerned about this, and have remained so not just for a week or a year, but for generation after generation.

And this is an incredible irony.

Because privileges that we feel so unconcerned about is the very grace that we hope to be saved by.

Let me say that again, it bears repeating:

The privileges that we live beneath without fear or concern is the very grace we are inteded to be saved by.

What do we read of the Melchizedek priesthood?

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.
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.

We think these are unimportant divine gospel perks reserved for the prophet and the twelve.

But does the Lord give the priesthood except to save his people? If these are indeed the "power and authority of the priesthood" shouldn't those power and authority be about our own salvation and exaltation.

And indeed they are. They are the rights of the priesthood. They are inseparable connected with the powers of heaven.

And they are outside our power to grant to ourselves.

But they can save us. They are graces of God, by which we hope to be saved.

We hope to be saved by grace, but ironically, we have known for generation that we live beneath those graces that God privileges his saints with to save them.

And we are notoriously unconcerned about that.

Am I saying anyone that doesn't have dreams and visions will not be exalted? To say that is far more than I know. We cannot complete the whole path to exalation in this life.

But I stand by God's word that he that seeketh God early will find him.

And I know that there is a terrible irony among us. We want to be saved by grace, and knowingly live beneath the gifts God would bestow, which is the very grace he would save us by.

How can we live up to our privileges. Well, I live far beneath mine, and you live far beneath yours. What shall be done? Just believe more?

No. We must do better. First and foremost in this generation we must cast of the chains of our media, for to watch that which is immoral or in any way meant to seduce or present us with a little sleaze that we will accept as OK or that teaches that immorality is normal is poison as it offends the Holy Ghost.

And we must also engage in those activities which bring the Holy Ghost most powerfully into our lives. We must save our dead, seek to convert people to the truth, and teach our own family the words of eternal life.

I end with a statement by Joseph Smith.

What is it that inspires professors of Christianity generally with a hope of salvation? It is that smooth, sophisticated influence of the devil, by which he deceives the whole world. But, said Mr. Sollars, "May I not repent and be baptized, and not pay any attention to dreams, visions, and other gifts of the Spirit?" I replied: "Suppose I am traveling and am hungry, and meet with a man and tell him I am hungry, and he tells me to go yonder, there is a house of entertainment, go and knock, and you must conform to all the rules of the house, or you cannot satisfy your hunger; knock, call for food, sit down and eat;--and I go and knock, and ask for food, and sit down to the table, but do not eat, shall I satisfy my hunger? No. I must eat. The gifts are the food; and the graces of the Spirit are the gifts of the Spirit.  (TPJS page 270)

and another statement by the prophet

The Savior has the words of eternal life. Nothing else can profit us. There is no salvation in believing an evil report against our neighbor. I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness. A man can do nothing for himself unless God direct him in the right way; and the Priesthood is for that purpose. (TPJS page 364)

Joseph Smith - I am going forward .. I beseech you to go forward to a sure election

Joseph Smith (TPJS page 366)
I am going on in my progress for eternal life. It is not only necessary that you should be baptized for your dead, but you will have to go through all the ordinances for them, the same as you have gone through to save yourselves. There will be 144,000 saviors on Mount Zion, and with them an innumerable host that no man can number. Oh! I beseech you to go forward, go forward and make your calling and your election sure; and if any man preach any other Gospel than that which I have preached, he shall be cursed

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The main point of D&C 63 is perfect and simple.

I have written several times about D&C 63. What the section is really getting at is relatively straightforward, but still hard for us to see, I think mostly because of our own traditions.

The main point is simple and perfect. It is this:

If a man who belongs to the church is doing something that would cause him to suffer in the lake of fire and brimstone, then he must either repent, or the church must cut him off.

It is simple. When put that way, it is also rather obvious. You can't be doing things that will land you in the lake of fire and brimstone and remain in the church unless you repent, cease, and desist. That is the Lord's standard.

This clearly includes a man doing any of the things the Lord openly states he will give someone a part in the lake of fire and brimstone.

We try and be clever and wiggle our way out of such a command. For instance, the Lord many times says that liars will have their place in the lake of fire and brimstone.

Interestingly, there are those among us who would argue against such a standard simply by being silly about it. For example, let us say I state such a standard and then quote an accompanying verse, such as:

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

Then somebody will immediately loudly object saying "Are you saying people should be excommunicated if they just tell one lie!?" And, no, of course I am not. And we should have that much common sense. Because frankly I don't think any of us read that verse and think to ourselves that the Lord is saying that anyone who tells one lie will burn in the lake of fire and brimstone.

But if you do not even qualify as an "honorable man of the earth" like those who will inherit the terrestrial kingdom, if you are such a liar that you cannot even be counted as an "honorable man of the earth", then you also do not belong in the church and you should repent, or be cast out. If you are doing something that makes you merit the lake of fire and brimstone, you should repent, or be cast out.

So I will repeat the principle, and hope we can figure it out. If you are doing something for which God makes men suffer in the lake of fire and brimstone you should repent, or be cast out. And that is the principle of D&C 63. Because the church MUST, above all things, be justified before its God. It is profitable that one man should perish, rather that a whole church dwindle and perish in unbelief. Or even better, that man could just repent, given the plain options standing before him.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Our false mercy to our sons is cruel without measure to our daughters

We think it is merciful to let men engage in pornography with only limited lost of blessings, and with no threat of losing their membership, despite what the scripture plainly lays out.

Then some girl in the church marries a man in the temple and finds that he has been partaking of pornography for years, that he is, not surprisingly, addicted again two months after the wedding, and that he isn't even aroused by her a short time after the marriage.

And we call ourselves merciful for doing it.

God knows best. He lays the case out plainly in D&C 63. He lists out the things that are among his members at that time. With no lack of foresight into the future, he includes those who look on a woman to lust after her among them. He then says that his church is not justified because these things are among them. Later, continuing this message, so they cannot misunderstand the seriousness of the matter, he states the two possibilities that lay before them at that juncture in time.

D&C 63:63 Wherefore, let the church repent of their sins, and I, the Lord, will own them; otherwise they shall be cut off.

When the God of heaven says to his church that it is not justified and threatens to cut it off we had best pay strict heed. His message was plain enough. These are things that you need to get rid of one way or another. There are only two ways to do that. One is for the person to repent. The other is to cast them out. Those are the only two ways it can be done.

It is exactly the same counsel given to Alma. The transgressor who would not repent had to be cast out.

Except that D&C 63 fills that counsel in with a list of particulars. And looking on a woman to lust after her is one of them. Whatever that meant in 1831 is a tiny, miniscule fraction of what those who watch pornography are looking at now.

We must have enough pity on our daughters to stand by God's word. It will be more merciful to the men if we do.

But most particularly, we prove cruel without measure to our daughters when we don't.

The Father's words from the beginning

There are great fundamental truths given us by the Father in the beginning of the world. They define the family in God's own image. As we have forgotten those most fundamental commandments our society has brought on itself sorrow and turned to destruction.

Christ deferred reverently to the sacred commandments and truths the Father gave at the beginning of the world when he said to the Pharisees 

Math 19:3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

Without hesitation Christ defers to what the Father laid out at the beginning as being the higher law. He states directly that Moses' exception is something Moses suffered Israel to do because of the hardness of their hearts.

In the Joseph Smith translation of Genesis we read another great truth from the Father which was "from the beginning".

Moses 2:27 And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them.

The world is in open rebellion against the truth that man was created both male and female and thereby was created in the image of his Only Begotten. They attack this statement by the Father with all the energy they can gather together. They form laws to oppose its reality. Rejecting this statement by God has become a fundamental and defining principle of the wicked in our day. We are, in this day, somewhat defined by whether we kowtow to this ridiculousness and thus bow our head to the adversary and his dictates. 

And sadly, the saints are not immune. The throes among our members in rebellion against the Father's own words that he created male and female in the image of God is an open shame to us.

Other truths were spoken by the Father in the beginning. We already read that Christ himself quoted to the Pharisees:

Moses 2:4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

Divorce is rampant among us. Our wards are littered with the tragic results - broken homes and men and women married two or three times with children scattered across the fostering of the varied one time spouses. This is horrific, and it comes from rejecting what the Father laid out in the beginning ofthe world. 

We must return to that which was from the beginning, or lose that which has been restored at the end.

Will our temple marriages stand in eternity if we are less committed to them now than the wicked men who persecuted and drove the saints were committed to their marriages in their day? Do Christ's words to the Pharisees about divorce stand equally as a reproof to those of the true church in our day as well? Do we think it no small matter to find ourselves in the Pharisee's company?

The Father also said in the Garden of Eden

Moses 2:28 And I, God, blessed them, and said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,...

The commandment to be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth was the first commandment given to mankind. Birth control and limiting the number of our children stand directly against this commandment given by the Father from the beginning. 

And what are the results? 

Our society has been transformed from a society which valued decency to one which values and protects immorality and perversion. The dramatic changes birth control brought to society no longer leap out at us, as life before that time is now long past, but birth control played a tremendous role in destroying the morality of our society. The "sex" part of the sexual revolution came about because women could engage in sex with little risk of pregnancy. If hippy communes had been full of pregnant young mothers and the requisite number of toddlers and young children with their many needs they would have rapidly come to naught. It was sex without the responsibility of pregnancy that opened the door for the transformation of morality from a defining part of human character to a passe' notion of the past among our society.

But this is speaking of the world. Among the saints birth control has become a standard practice. I know those who were counseled by stake presidency members to put off having children.

Do we think the Holy Ghost will stand with us as we freely cast off the commands of the Father? Do we think in doing so we will find that we are above reproof?

How can we hope to have a family for eternity while openly violating the command to multiply and replenish the earth that is part of sealing a living couple. Of course that part is left out when sealing the dead. The dead make no covenants that are impossible for them to keep, or how could they receive the blessings? And it is impossible for the dead to multiply and replenish the earth. But the living are sealed with a commandment to multiply and replenish the earth and it is the same commandment given to Adam and Eve because it is the same eternal covenant Adam and Eve enjoyed. 

How can we hope to have the blessings of an eternal marriage in this life (and there are blessings of incalculable value in this life) or in the next if we reject the accompanying commandment? If I buy a house and do not pay the mortgage, I expect to lose it. If I buy a car, but do not pay I expect to lose it. If I drive a car off the lot with a contract to pay for it, but do not then keep my agreement, I expect to end up no different than a man that simply didn't buy the car in the first place.

On what basis do we expect greater blessings than those with no eternal marriage covenant if we do not keep the commandment that was made with the covenant?

Other words were spoken by the Father in Eden. After Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil we read:

Moses 4:22 Unto the woman, I, the Lord God, said: I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
23 And unto Adam, I, the Lord God, said: Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the fruit of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying—Thou shalt not eat of it, cursed shall be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.
24 Thorns also, and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.
25 By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, until thou shalt return unto the ground—for thou shalt surely die—for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou wast, and unto dust shalt thou return.

I have written very recently on the command to Eve, so I won't repeat it here. But I do point out that we have tossed that command off as if it were a yoke of bondage and rejoiced to have done so. The result is feminism which takes women outside of the home and teaches women to be self centered and selfish. Before all this, women in the church seemed to have more confidence. Now they need constant reassurance because they don't FEEL as special. In older days when their lives revolved around their husband and children they were following the Savior. Now women have turned to an unfulfilling quest for fulfillment instead. They have an ever increasing list of unfulfilled needs, and yet seem obsessed with celebrating women for the sake of women. It's like they are having a perpetual party for themselves. But the reason for the quest for self fulfillment is that they have thrown off pretty much every aspect of what the Father had to say in the garden of Eden: not to divorce, the father as the head of the home, multiplying and replenishing the earth. What is left for them to strictly obey? Celebrating being special will never substitute for simply living by the Father's words, knowing that he that seeth in secret will reward you openly.

The Father's command about providing is directed to Adam. The Father directs those words to Adam because it is the man's responsibility to provide for his family. A man who chooses not to provide for his family has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.

1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

However, the offense of not striving to provide the necessities of life for one's family is not the main trouble of men today, nor is it the main way in which men violate what the Father laid out from the beginning. 

The main problem of men today is violating the command that God put Adam and Eve together and made them one flesh. It was only by being united in marriage that men and women can engage in sexual activity. And so it was from the beginning. While women suffer from immorality today, the men are being immoral as if they were no more than beasts. They do what they will without restraint. In the world men think they aren't even dating a woman unless they are having sex with her.

In the church immorality is taking an enormous and horrific hold. The single among us engage in perverse practices such as "friends with benefits". Pornography, in particular, has become a plague among us, as it afflicts not only our single members but our married members young and old as well. Not surprisingly, we are seeing more and more gender apostasy among us as well.

Whereas the women's failures are terribly destructive, the failures of the men on the point of pornography are simply devastating if they are not handled the way God dictates in the scriptures. If they are handled properly, then those who do not drop pornography will not be kept in the church if they will not cease in short order. If they are handled by the scriptures, invoking the word "addiction" will not allow them to continually partake of that which is immoral and still enjoy the benefits of the church. This is laid out in D&C 63. It is also plain sense. You are not a member of the church if you are reveling in pornography for hours at a time. And those who claim they are addicted are not looking five minutes once a week.

If pornography is handled "lightly". If we decide that, because the magic of the word "addiction" has been invoked than the person is not making a choice to revel in immorality for significant amounts of time on a nearly daily basis, and think that somehow means they be allowed to continue doing that each day without losing their membership, or far worse, decide that won't stop them from partaking of the sacrament and the temple, then we will cast the spirit out of our wards and will destroy the work of God out from among us.

The destruction of our society is a result of neglecting those things that the Father laid out from the beginning. While the world neglects, and even openly rebels against them, in the church we must honor them. But instead we have been following the path laid out by the world, lagging behind at some fixed distance. We can speak Christ's names in lilting tones all we want, but if it is not coupled with obedience to the father it is all meaningless. We must ask ourselves Nephi's question: can we can we follow the Son save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? 

We. Can. Do. Better.

Let us recall what was laid out by the Father in the beginning and stand immovably there. Knowing our Father's will, let us resolutely obey it. Let us remember those things that were from the beginning, that we can truly restore everything that has been lost. Let us live so that our hearts and lives cry out in testimony to our Father that we believed Christ's words "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven".

Plainly discern and plainly speak

We need to see, and plainly speak, of things as they really are.

But to do so, we need to see things as they are seen by the light of the gospel.

We must to speak with discernment, and not take be duped by every sleight of hand the adversary has to offer. We need to judge good to be good, and evil to be evil, seeking diligently in the light of Christ.

When we read the scriptures we are reading words written by those who do exactly that. They are our models, not an alternative way to live the gospel..

Examples from the scriptures abound. I will use the first couple of chapters in Alma. Here are example verses from them.

Alma 1:6 And he began to be lifted up in the pride of his heart

Already, some members of the church would object if you saw the world and talked about it this way. But it is, fortunately, what we find in the scriptures. Alma has the sense to see that this man is being lifted up in pride, and plainly says as much. Of this we can be certain, Nehor didn't SAY he was lifted up in the pride of his heart. Since he preached that which he termed to be the word of God, he probably CLAIMED humility.

Alma 1:17 Nevertheless, they durst not lie, if it were known, for fear of the law, for liars were punished; therefore they pretended to preach according to their belief

Note that these people didn't SAY that they were pretending. Alma discerns this. He has that much sense. He recognizes what is really going on. Then he writes that without apology. He doesn't say "some of them may have been sincere, but I think some were pretending". He discerns what is the case, and he says and he writes it without remorse or apology. He also doesn't fret about whether he included any possible exceptions who someone might have argued where simply deluded, but somewhat sincere. He just says it like it is.

Alma 1:29 And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need

Be sure that the riches did not come with tags attached that said "You got this because of your exceeding steadiness in the church". The fact that their exceeding riches and abundance were BECAUSE of their steadiness was discerned by Alma through the light of Christ. He doesn't apologize for that. He doesn't back down from it. He simply states it because it is true. And that is all the adornment the plain truth should have. No apology, just the truth.

Alma 1:32 For those who did not belong to their church did indulge themselves in sorceries, and in idolatry or idleness, and in babblings, and in envyings and strife; wearing costly apparel; being lifted up in the pride of their own eyes; persecuting, lying, thieving, robbing, committing whoredoms, and murdering, and all manner of wickedness; nevertheless, the law was put in force upon all those who did transgress it, inasmuch as it was possible.

We already learned that lying, thieving, robbing, committing whoredoms, and of course murdering were all against the law. So when Alma says these things, he is speaking of things that were, by and large, kept secret. He knows what is really going on. He knows what is really going on in a church like Nehor's which preaches that all mankind will be saved. He knows who that will appeal to. And he writes down what they are up to. He doesn't apologize for doing so. He simply states it.

Alma 2:4 Therefore, if it were possible that Amlici should gain the voice of the people, he, being a wicked man, would deprive them of their rights and privileges of the church; for it was his intent to destroy the church of God.

While the church had been going through persecution, it is almost certain Amlici's election campaign wasn't run on an open promise to destroy the church of God. But anyone with half an ounce of spiritual sense knew that was what was going to happen if Amlici was elected.

We face similar things today. We give power and special legal rights to those who most want our destruction, and then are surprised when they use that power to try to destroy us. We aren't using spiritual sense. We aren't learning to discern.

If anything, we seem to be trying hard to teach each other that discerning is wrong. I think it is fair to say that if most of these verses were corresponding statements today made in a mormon Sunday School, there are good odds that someone would try to correct the person who said them. They would be accused of being judgmental for stateing what was found in Alma 1:6, 17, 29, 32. Some wise person would accuse them of oversimplifying for stating Alma 1:17, 29, 32 or Alma 2:4. Someone would point out what these people had said about themselves, and use that to disagree with what could be seen to be the plain truth with half an ounce of spiritual insight.

And we must stop doing so. We must look to the scriptures, and not our relativist education. We must plainly discern the truth and plainly speak it if we are to wend our way through the difficulties growing up about us. We must do so if we are to wisely raise God's childern up unto him. We must do so to navigate in a world that is increasingly evil.

And we must do so if we want more light that we now have, for we will not pass by the light that is easily available to us, and then lay hold on that which is less easily found.

God forces a choice

Christ's sermon on the mount illustrates a general truth about the living God. Multiple times he cites the words of previous prophets and then adds "but I say unto you" and offers a different commandment than what is found in the law of Moses.

Christ is not just offering a better way of living. He is forcing his followers to choose between him and between what they have inherited, even though what they inherited actually came from him in a former time. He is forcing them to chose between living prophets and dead prophets. He is forcing them to choose between what they have been taught is right, and what he is teaching them then.

And he almost always does that. He forces us to choose whether or not we are committed to him.

While he was alive Christ's disciples didn't fast. Fasting is a commandment in the law of Moses. But Christ told his followers not to fast, saying they should not be mourning while he, the Messiah, was with them. He made them choose between what they found in the scriptures and following him. He made them choose whether or not they believed he was a prophet that could give new practices in place of what older prophets had revealed for their day. 

The Sabbath is a big deal in the law of Moses. In Moses' day one man was put to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. But after the resurrection Christ has his followers worship on the 1st day of the week instead of on the day the scriptures give as the Sabbath. In effect, he had them all violating the Sabbath according to what Moses had revealed, and according to what they had rightly grown up with in their youth as a commandment. But in doing so they are, in truth, following God, rather than violating his commandments. By violating his former commandment, in favor of his new one, they prove they are committed to him. And he intentionally put them in a circumstance where they must choose.

He tests whether we are serious. He puts us in the position of having to Choose.

What is really going on is not just a choice between dead prophets and living prophets, but a choice between obedience to him, the living God, as he commands us now, and anything else. Even between obedience to him, and adherence to principles we grew up with.

What he wants to know, ultimately, is whether we will obey him. Period. 

Thus Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac. Murder is against the commandments. Murder of one's own child is HUGELY against the commandments. In fact, shedding innocent blood isn't even covered by the atonement as Joseph Smith explained.

Nevertheless, Abraham obeyed, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, an angel intervening when Abraham's obedience was certain.

In these latter days God forced the early saints to choose between obedience to him, the living God, and between what they already had. For example, the visions of the degrees of glory forced them to choose, for Christ himself speaks only of heaven and hell in the new testament. Another challenging revelation to the saints would have been the revelation that hell has an end, which changes the meaning of many existing scriptures.

The mammoth one would have been polygamy. The Lord put them in the position of having to choose "will we do this?",  "are we that committed to this?", "do we believe in this so much that we will risk our eternal life pursuing it?" That last question is kind of the point. The Lord wants to know whether we believe him so much that we will stake our eternal life on it. If the church had been false, polygamy would have been an abomination destroying the souls of those who were involved in it and dooming them to damnation unless they repented. But the church is true, and polygamy was endorsed by God himself and living it was inspired of the Holy Ghost in that day.

We have not finished these tests.

We already know that animal sacrifice will one day be restored. Joseph Smith laid that out plainly in at least two different places in teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith. 

Joseph Smith said:

"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.

In fact, Joseph Smith said here that animal sacrifice is always present when the powers of the Melchizedek priesthood are sufficiently manifest. Thus when it is restored, it will not just be a one time event. It is part of the restoration of all things that is necessary to have all the blessings in place necessary to establish Zion once again upon the earth.

We don't even live the law of consecration yet, so we hardly need to worry about sacrifice being restored anytime soon. 

But one day we, or our posterity, will start living up to our privileges, and somewhere along that path sacrifice will be restored. And when it is we will find ourselves having to choose. And frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if there will be more times he will force us to choose between him and our traditions along the way besides that one. Joseph Smith also taught:

I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen. (Jan. 20, 1844.) DHC 6:183-185.

Cultural guesses about second coming of no value, but revelation always is

We have a mental picture of how the events of the second coming will take place, and of how the millennium will unfold upon the earth.

Israel had a mental picture of how the events of the coming of the Messiah would take place. And the mental picture they had was almost completely wrong. It may be fairly said, that for most of them their mental picture helped them miss the actual event.

Yes, the scriptures concerning Christ's coming to Israel all proved to be correct. In fact, correct even in minute detail.

But when the people at large tried to take the scriptures and use them to assemble a picture of how events would unfold, they got it horribly wrong. They thought their messiah would come in force and deliver them from the Romans. But that isn't even close to what happened. It was completely wrong.

So we should not hold too firmly to those parts of our mental picture of the second coming that we are not absolutely certain of.

We will find that the scriptures on the matter will all be correct. Every jot and tittle will be fulfilled. Nevertheless, our mental picture of those events may be a great deal unlike what we have wanted to guess about those events.

We do know that Christ will return and reign personally upon the earth. We do know it is the last days. We do know the wicked will be destroyed. We do know Zion will return. We do know that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory. We do know every jot and tittle of the scriptures will be fulfilled.

And, while guesses are of no particular value, revelation is a completely different matter. If we seek in the scriptures and live up to our privileges, what will the Holy Ghost withhold from us? Were not such things laid out plainly by revelation to both Nephi and John the Revelator? Would the Lord not be pleased to lay them out before us just as well when we live up to such a privilege? It may be contrary against the economy of heaven for us to write about it. Not even Nephi was allowed to do that.

But if what we are after is personal knowledge for ourselves and those few we have the right to instruct by revelation, what will God withhold from us if we prove faithful?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The prophet's leadership, the church's revelations, and the degrees of glory

Joseph Smith taught "Some people say I am a fallen Prophet, because I do not bring forth more of the word of the Lord, Why do I not do it? Are we able to receive it? No! Not one in this room. He then chastened the congregation for their wickedness and unbelief, 'for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son and daughter whom he receiveth,' and if we do not receive chastisements then we are bastards and not sons."

The same principle has remained true for the entirety of the church's existence. 

The prophet brings forth the word of the Lord to his people as they are able to receive it. And of course the prophet can receive revelation for himself independently.

Let the prophet receive for himself as far as he is prepared, he will only receive for the people according to their willingness to listen. Of what purpose is it to move on to the next principles when we are already finding condemnation for not obeying the ones we have. Isn't it more sensible to come out from disobedience to the first which was easier before being given the second which will require more from us?

Now there is more to this that needs to be said. Must the people have faith equal to the prophet's for the prophet to receive the word of the Lord for them? No, or they could have gotten the revelation for themselves.

They must depend upon the chosen vessels of the Lord for the word of the Lord. And if they will pay heed to it then they will be given more. But there is an enormous difference between what the Lord will reveal to them in their disobedience, and what the Lord is willing to reveal privately to his prophet in his obedience.

They are at different levels, and the one reaches down to lift up others to his level. And even as he does so, those above him beyond the veil are reaching down to lift him to a higher level, for he also has a long way to go, though not so far as those whom he leads.

As Joseph Smith said: When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel--you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave. I suppose I am not allowed to go into an investigation of anything that is not contained in the Bible. If I do, I think there are so many over-wise men here, that they would cry "treason" and put me to death. So I will go to the old Bible and turn commentator today.

And there is still one more thing that needs to be said about this. The principle is not just that one reaches down and lifts those above one up to one's own level. The principle is that doing so is one of the primary means by which one climbs to a higher level. You need someone above you to give you the needed instruction, but you progress primarily by turning around and lifting those beneath you.

While not commonly noted, this is intended in D&C 76. The reason the terrestrial minister to the telestial is that in doing so they are glorified. The reason the celestial minister to the terrestrial is that in doing so they are glorified. That may be the role of those who are ministering servants, but who cannot have an increase. But the celestial do not minister in person to the telestial any more than God appears in glory to the body of the church until they have proven that they are worthy of at least living in a Terrestrial Eden.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The sword of Laban unsheathed

Not every question is a good question. Recently there was an entire article on an lds website addressing the apparently troubling issue of why Nephi was commanded to kill Laban.

To which, I feel like, a good response is "Have you READ the old testament?" Another better response might be "if God's own answer to Nephi about why he should kill Laban isn't good enough for you, then what can be done for you? If you get another answer you think is better, should you trust it more?"

But perhaps, to give a more meaningful answer, I will quote Brigham Young about the sword of Laban

I lived right in the country where the plates were found from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and I know a great many things pertaining to that country. I believe I will take the liberty to tell you of another circumstance that will be as marvelous as anything can be. This is an incident in the life of Oliver Cowdery, but he did not take the liberty of telling such things in meeting as I take. I tell these things to you, and I have a motive for doing so. I want to carry them to the ears of my brethren and sisters, and to the children also, that they may grow to an understanding of some things that seem to be entirely hidden from the human family. Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates. Joseph did not translate all of the plates; there was a portion of them sealed, which you can learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: “This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.” I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting, enjoying the day, and by and by we separate and go away, forgetting most of what is said, but remembering some things. (Brigham Young (Journal of Discourses "Trying to be Saints, etc..." 19:36)

The sword being unsheathed is a symbol of the destruction of the wicked "until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ". So the sword of the Laban really is a symbol. but it is a symbol of the destruction of the wicked. It is a symbol of what it actually is. Destroying the wicked to bring about the Lord's righteous purposes.

So, in reality, my Brigham Young quote is just the Lord's answer given to Nephi at the time:

1 Nephi 4:12 ... Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;
 13 Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.

Joseph Smith's evidence

There is something remarkable about the ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith. There is certainly an instance of him healing many of the saints after his escape from liberty jail in Missouri. But that was well along into his ministry as a prophet.

What stands out as remarkable is that the signs that followed Joseph Smith, his evidence that he was a prophet, were the truths that he taught.

Every statement of pure truth carries with it the testimony of its truthfulness.

When men were accusing Joseph Smith of being a fallen prophet, what evidence did he give that he was not?

The evidence he gave was his teaching. He opened the windows of heaven for them with knowledge that they could not deny came from God. While this is evident in and of itself, it is made perfectly clear by the Prophet himself. I conclude with his own words:

I want to ask this congregation, every man, woman and child, to answer the question in their own heart, what kind of a being God is? Ask yourselves; turn your thought into your hearts, and say if any of you have seen, heard, or communed with him. This is a question that may occupy your attention for a long time. I again repeat the question--What kind of a being is God? Does any man or woman know? Have any of you seen him, heard him, or communed with him? Here is the question that will, peradventure, from this time henceforth occupy your attention. The Scriptures inform us that "This is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent."

If any man does not know God, and inquires what kind of a being he is,--if he will search diligently his own heart--if the declaration of Jesus and the apostles be true, he will realize that he has not eternal life; for there can be eternal life on no other principle.

My first object is to find out the character of the only wise and true God, and what kind of a being he is; and if I am so fortunate as to be the man to comprehend God, and explain or convey the principles to your hearts, so that the Spirit seals them upon you, then let every man and woman henceforth sit in silence, put their hands on their mouths, and never lift their hands or voices, or say anything against the man of God or the servants of God again.

The miracle of forgiveness now out of print

2 Chronicles 18:6 But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might inquire of him?
7 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, by whom we may inquire of the Lord: but I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil: the same is Micaiah the son of Imla.

Thus it is of Spencer W Kimball, not only among the world, but even increasingly even among our own members. He never named any of us in his book, he spoke only of sin and its consequences. But members are, more and more, finding his book offensive.

"The miracle of forgiveness" is not out of print because there is a comparable work taking its place. It is because we find competing doctrine coming from other sources more pleasing to a guilty conscience.

It is interesting that all three of the great threats to the church from within that President Joseph F Smith warned about are at war with President Kimball's great book. The flattery of prominent men in the world certainly won't abide such a testament. Our schoolhouses certainly couldn't tolerate such radical teachings. And sexual immorality is the direct adversary of President Kimball's book.

If we are no longer pleased with his great work, it is because the three great threats to the church from within that Joseph F Smith warned us of are as wolves at our gate. President Kimball's book was one of our great defenses against them, and the fact that it is out of print suggests that many among us are starting to give way.

Gospel discussion online and dissenters

I was so glad recently to see someone tossed out of an lds discussion group who was clearly insincere. Thank goodness. I wish I would see it 10 times more often. If we have been ordained deacons then we have a priesthood obligation to ensure the doctrine is pure.

Christ spoke many things in small groups -- he didn't just post a notice on the front door saying "all are welcome, come as you are". Think of the times Christ had a public discussion, and then said more when he was just with his disciples. Christ met for the passover in an upper room with just the twelve.

The priesthood obligation to keep the doctrine pure includes keeping the pulpit restrained to those who are sincere. And that includes in forums that we ourselves are in charge of because one of us created them.

When someone is insincere, and especially if they are spouting apostasy and dissidence in a forum we have created to discuss the gospel then yes, we should toss them out of it.

In my experience, those who are sincere will feel relief to see someone who clearly is insincere go.

We don't need to worry that to gladly do our duty is to somehow be glad that the person being evicted is misbehaving. There is nothing wrong with being happy about right being done. There is no reason to mistake that for being happy that the person themselves is corrupt. When right is done, the souls sighs with relief. It makes people happy.

Assuming the church obeyed Paul and he got the church to excommunicate the man who had sex with his own mother, don't doubt that Paul's heart was gladdened at the news. That doesn't mean Paul was happy that the man had commited the act. If Paul wrote condemningly to them for not doing so, don't doubt he wrote congratulatorily to them for finally doing it. When those who were rebelling within the church were excommunicated by Alma, don't doubt there was a tremendous amount of gratitude. But no one was being grateful that anyone was being wicked.

It drives away the Holy Ghost and makes it impossible for all to be edified and rejoice together when someone is being insincere and particularly if they are spouting apostasy and attacking the doctrine in the middle of the conversation. Of course people are happy when the impediments to such joy are removed. It doesn't mean they are happy that people are apostate.

Very short note - The natural man must not be used as an excuse

If the scriptures say we are supposed to overcome the natural man then we should stop using the natural man as a means to excuse our misbehavior.

Sure, we all have little faults and flaws. But we tend to invoke the natural man to excuse far more than little faults and flaws.

The tares and the wheat

It seems that we are coming into days where the tares begin to manifest themselves. We can more clearly see the tares from the wheat in the church now. Sometimes they surprise us. There are those women who have dressed up in frilly dresses for church and seemed like the heart and soul of the church that now begin to side with the darkest of evil rather than offend their own family member who says he is gay. There are those men who have spent their life in the local leadership whose feel like the church is not being "loving" enough toward the LGBT crowed.

Some people feel like saying that the tares are manifest and giving out examples is uncharitable. That is rubbish. It comes from thinking charity is nothing more than excessive politeness sprinkled with service. Real charity is able to fully, and happily, endorse, or even speak, words like these words from Ezra Taft Benson. The rest of this post is quoted from President Benson
These people have a temporary membership and influence in the Church; but unless they repent, they will be missing when the final membership records are recorded.

It is well that our people understand this principle, so they will not be misled by those apostates within the Church who have not yet repented or been cut off. But there is a cleansing coming. The Lord says that his vengeance shall be poured out "upon the inhabitants of the earth . . . And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord; First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me" (D&C 112:24-26). I look forward to that cleansing; its need within the Church is becoming increasingly apparent.

The Lord strengthened the faith of the early apostles by pointing out Judas as a traitor, even before this apostle had completed his iniquitous work (John 13:21-30). So also in our day the Lord has told us of the tares within the wheat that will eventually be hewn down when they are fully ripe. But until they are hewn down, they will be with us, amongst us (D&C 86:6-7). The hymn entitled "Though in the Outward Church Below" contains this thought:

"Though in the outward Church below
Both wheat and tares together grow,
Ere long will Jesus weed the crop
And pluck the tares in anger up . . .
We seem alike when here we meet;
Strangers may think we are all wheat;
But to the Lord's all-searching eyes,
Each heart appears without disguise.
The tares are spared for various ends,
Some for the sake of praying friends,
Others the Lord against their will,
Employs, his counsels to fulfill.
But though they grow so tall and strong,
His plan will not require them long;
In harvest, when he saves his own,
The tares shall into hell be thrown."

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The signs that follow them that believe are generally for the benefit of those that believe

The scriptures say:

 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;

Remarkably, there are very few of the great teachers in the scriptures of whom we have recorded instances of doing any of these things. Sure, some do. But for most, we don't.

And why is that? Is the scripture wrong?

No, but those signs that follow them that believe are generally given for the benefit of those who believe. Joseph Smith gave a great sermon on this, noting that even on the day of Pentecost those who were spiritually unprepared did not perceive the miracle.

Thus the signs that follow them that believe are generally given for the benefit of those that believe. They are frequently private, and not made part of the record of the scriptures. They are private because they are not primarily for the purpose of convincing unbelievers, but for benefit of those who believe. Thus, certainly, such signs did follow those prophets in the scriptures. But they were probably mostly private affairs, being for the benefit of those believers then present, rather than for the convincing of nonbelievers, and thus did not enter the scriptures.

After all, this is in the case in many of our homes these days I believe, particularly for healings. For we have them among us, but they are not published.

We generally have the sense, and certainly those who wrote the scriptures did as well, to follow God's counsel to Oliver Cowdery.

D&C 6:12 Make not thy gift known unto any save it be those who are of thy faith. Trifle not with sacred things.

Gospel Teaching

We believe gospel teaching is done by committee and community, and hence instead of teaching we host discussions. The scriptures portray a teacher as someone who teaches. Christ doesn't do his teaching by asking each of his apostles how something ought to be done. He doesn't ask everyone for their input so he can gather up everything that anyone has to "add to the discussion". He teaches. And if we really believe he is the master teacher then when we are teaching we should teach, just as he did.

The scriptures speak multiple times of the gift of teaching. It is a spiritual gift. That is completely than the gift of "discussion hosting". The whole method of the gospel is that truth descends from above. This is not a grassroots church. This is a church of teachers and teaching.

Modern ideas about teaching seem to be among those notions born out of psychology and its educational ilk. They are the philosophies of men. And are nowhere found in the scriptures. In fact it oppose them.

And doing things opposite to what is in the scriptures is a problem. It is a problem now because we have come so far that we actually oppose teaching of the sort found in the scriptures. A teacher who fails to host a discussion is, in our eyes, a poor teacher.

It is simply ludicrous that we speak so freely of Christ as the master teacher, and then immediately roll our eyes and mentally cast out anybody who teaches a class like he is actually called to teach truth, rather than hosting a discussion. We mentally tune out and believe we have no obligation to listen and learn because so-and-so is such a lousy, uninspired instructor who doesn't know how to keep things interesting.

And what we really mean by that is that the instructor doesn't know how to be an entertainer. Pondering and careful consideration of the scriptures are less entertaining than a fun personal story that can be turned into a religious object lesson.

We want our teaching to be Sesame Street. It needs to entertain us darnit! Anyone who doesn't entertain doesn't know how to teach. Or at least, that is, if we are to be honest with ourselves, the way we have come to judge good teaching. We don't care about the teaching, but the entertainment.

I remember visiting a class once of a religious instructor. It was a Doctrine and Covenants class by Joseph Fielding McConkie. The students were stony eyed. At one point, he paused and asked if anyone was awake out there. He paused, then asked again whether anyone was awake.

Of course, he wasn't hosting a discussion. He was teaching. He was teaching truth more clearly than any other instructor in that building would ever come close to during their mortal lifetime.

But what would our society say about it?

He wasn't hosting a discussion. He was just droning on. The fact that he was droning on about eternal truth and with incredible insight would be irrelevant. By our standards, he was being a lousy teacher.

And that is because our standards for teaching are not the standards of the scriptures. We read of Christ "and there was no beauty that we should desire him." Christ's teaching wasn't based on being dynamic. It wasn't about energizing people. It certainly wasn't about entertaining them.

What Christ had to offer was truth. And if truth was what you wanted, then you, like Peter, James, and John would follow after him.

But if you wanted something else, there were plenty of others willing to offer it, as the temple itself informs us.

We don't want teaching. We want a return to Sesame Street every week where we feel invigorated by the teaching method whether or not there is anything that requires the restoration and the Holy Ghost to teach. Sadly, I don't think we generally even distinguish between these anymore.

Responses to a woman defending the destruction of a child by his mother

The context of these was a discussion about a Mom who had been giving her son hormones to prevent puberty and had begun giving him hormones to develop physically as a girl. This was all done because before he was a teenager. He had seen some sort of video about transgender stuff and had decided he was a girl. These comments were written in response to a woman who sad those questioning such actions because of religion and "judging" this mother should be ashamed and mind their own business.
You look down on us for standing by religion while you stand by the fads of the moment religiously - willing to medically turn a boy into a frankenstein as long as you think other people are cheering for it. What would you not stand for just because 'everybody else does'? Abortion? Homosexuality? When pedophilia is normalized (and there are already indications that is on the horizon) you will cheer with them too. Everybody is doing it won't count for much at the judgement bar. Why don't you look for some real truth that means something instead of just being an echo of your television set?
Shame on me for being disgusted while you applaud the destruction of a boy by his own mother?!? There will come a day when he will understand the depth of that betrayal, and who was on his side, and who was not. You culture coward. Twenty years ago you wouldn't be standing up for this, but going with the flow now means more to you than standing by even the most obvious truth.

God hath done it, that they may stumble

There is an irony to the plainness of this verse. It is a verse that plainly teaches things that we plainly don't believe.

Jacob 4:14 But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.
It says that the prophets taught the truth plainly. The Jews, meaning ancient Israel, despised the plain teachings of the prophets.

What plain teachings? The ones that the wicked always despise: repentance and commandments. Those are the ones the prophets get killed over. They are the teachings that make the wicked feel "judged".

Because they despised the plain teachings, they sought for things that they could not understand. That is nothing new, incidentally. It is a not uncommon that the wicked replace plain teachings to keep the commandments with mysteries, with wizards that peep and mutter, or with Gods that are three in one and are everywhere and nowhere.

What was God's response to all this? Well, among the Jews God took away his plainness from them. He gave them prophecies that were difficult to understand, or that could be easily misconstrued. He made the scriptures somewhat difficult to understand.

And why?

Well, the verse itself is plain enough.

For two reasons: God did it because they desired it, and he did it that they may stumble.

And that last part is the part we plainly don't believe. We have Christ's parable which conceal their meaning. We have Isaiah's prophecies. We have Christ teaching his followers that they must eat of his flesh and drink his blood leaving them reeling in confusion in John 6. We have the revelation of John.

And honestly, if we just ask ourselves when we really come to understand a verse in the doctrine and covenants the question: "It took me years to understand what that verse was really getting at, and it was God himself speaking it, could he not have worded it so that the meaning was perfectly plain the first time I read it?"

The answer is that yes, he could have worded it so that his meaning was perfectly plain. But why has he not done so.

And the answer is that it is not because it is a better way to reveal and uncover the truth. Rather it is a way to conceal the truth. We read of Christ's parables in the scriptures and how the disciples didn't understand them at first, and don't recognize the same thing look back at us out of the text of many verses in the doctrine and covenants or even the Book of Mormon staring straight at us out of the text.

We read a verse today, that we have been reading for twenty years, and we finally understand it. And still don't see that the scriptures are not written solely to reveal, but also, and quite intentionally, to conceal. It is not just that God reveals things line upon line. It is also that he conceals them intentionally so that we understand them only when we have payed the due price in asking, seeking, and knocking according to the commandments.

And, as he plainly teaches, it is also done so that the wicked may stumble. Yes, the Jews did reject the words of plainness and seek out that which they could not understand. But they are not exactly the only people to do so.

Why did Joseph Smith find so many churches in his day? Was it just that some verses were altered or missing from the King James version.

Hardly. You could pass out the JST in place of the KJV without causing any marked change in the number of denominations to be found on the earth. The scriptures are frequently ambiguous or difficult to understand.

And why?

Because God hath done it so that they may stumble.

Now this runs wildly contrary to some of the notions about God which we have obtained by thinking like psychiatry would have us think. It runs wildly contrary to some of our notions of just what God would and would not do.

But then, it is rather plainly stated in the scripture. So we will have to choose, whether we prefer to believe a scripture that plainly says "God hath done it, that they may stumble", or whether we will despise that plainness, preferring something more appealing in its place.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Aaronic priesthood, the Melchizedek priesthood, and consecration

Do we really understand the difference between the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood? Service is great, and the Aaronic priesthood has power to bring us into the presence of angels. But service, meaning temporal service has not power to bring us into the presence of God. That is because (temporal) service is a principle of the Aaronic priesthood, and is insufficient to obtain the blessings reserved to the principles of the Melchizedek priesthood.

All men feel the influence of the light of Christ when they serve their fellow men in righteousness. The experience that loving grace descending on them and they find their natures and inclinations improved for a time. But that is not a principle sufficient for men to enter heaven. It is a principle of found in honorable men of the earth. But it is not a principle that will open the heavens and bring them into the presence of God. Such blessings are only open through the Melchizedek priesthood.

By saying the Aaronic priesthood has the keys of the gospel of repentance, the scripture means that the teaching in the Aaronic priesthood is principally that of the fundamental principle of repentance. They have a responsibility to declare repentance. They administer the sacrament, which is a powerful spiritual ordinance to repent and reconsider.

The Aaronic priesthood is principally concerned with repentance within the church, for it is by the Melchizedek preisthood that the gospel is carried to the world. Missions are not governed by the Aaronic priesthood, but by the Melchizedek.

The sacrament IS an ordinance of the Aaronic priesthood. If we think, as I have in the past, that the sacrament is as powerful as the ordinances of the Melchizedek priesthood, it may be because we are not enjoying the full power of those ordinances governed by the Melchizedek priesthood, and I am sure that I have not. For surely the ordinance of the lesser priesthood which can be administered by the lesser priesthood is not on a level with the ordinances of the greater priesthood which can only be administered within the Lord's own house, or with that ordinance that grants a man or woman the life altering permanent change in which they receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The spiritually transforming works of missionary work and work for the dead are in a different league altogether than the Aaronic work of temporal service. Missionary work is expected of men who are ordained Elders. It is not required of sisters, whose obligations lie in a different direction.

Ministering in spiritual things which save the soul is a greater work than ministering in temporal concerns. And so the Melchizedek priesthood is higher than the Aaronic priesthood.

But until we have the first principles right we cannot fully take hold on the later principles. Until we live the law of consecration, which is a temporal principle, we will never enjoy the Melchizedek priesthood as it is really intended to be manifest.

D&C 70:14 Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld.

But individuals can live so they have Zion within themselves. What purpose is there to covenanting to live the law of consecration if we cannot choose to live individually so as to attain a measure of its blessings?

Brigham Young said: As individuals, we enjoy Zion at present, but not as a community; there is so much sin, darkness, and ignorance, and the veil of the covering which is over the nations of the  earth is measurably over the Latter-day Saints. The same unrighteous principles, which becloud the minds of men universally, more or less becloud the minds of the Latter-day Saints. Though the veil is partially broken to the Saints, though it becomes thin, as it were, and the twilight appears like the dawning of the day, yet we may travel for many years before the sunshine appears. It does not yet appear to this people, they are merely in the twilight.
As one expressed it in ancient times, "We see through a glass, darkly" —through a smoked or dim glass—through which we cannot behold objects clearly with the natural eye.
We have not faith sufficient to have revelation, to have the visions of eternity opened unto us so clearly that we may see things as they are, consequently, we have to live by faith and not by sight. We have to live by the principles of the Gospel, which is faith in the heart and obedience to its requirements.

When the saints live, to some measure, the principles of the Aaronic priesthood, we find the hearts of the Saints knit together in unity and love. This is not just principles of service and other temporal concerns, for without repentance hearts will not be knit together over the long haul. They may have joy in their works for a time without repentance, but without it they must become as the apostate Christian churches in Joseph Smith's day who appeared on the surface to have great love for one another but whose feelings of love were more pretended than real and eventually fall in a tumult of one sort or another, be it a war of opinions or some other contention altogether.

But we as a people live, at best, a part of the principles of the Aaronic priesthood. We don't yet live consecration, which is a temporal matter and governed by the Aaronic priesthood. Therefore the abundance of the manifestations of his spirit are withheld as the scriptures dictate. Some wards barely live the principles of the Aaronic priesthood at all. Some live them much more and there is a tremendous difference there.

But none lives the whole now, or shall until we repent and live consecration.

Incidentally, it may be worth noting that some members have thought that, the Lord having taken away the law of consecration, that it would be wrong for communities of saints to take such a principle on themselves. But that is completely false, as Brigham Young encouraged the saints to live together by consecration. He spoke of some of them successfully doing so at times.

So the Lord has nothing against us learning to live by the principles of the Aaronic priesthood. Or put differently, there is nothing wrong with us learning to live by the law of consecration and thereby enjoying the blessings it bestows if a community of saints determines that they are committed to doing so.

Very short note - a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise

Now here is a verse that I think we would be wise to follow.

Deuteronomy 16:19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.

I am not saying that we "wrest judgment", but I think we believe we are wise enough and clever enough not to be blinded by gifts in matters of judgment, where I think the reality is that a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise and pervert the words of the righteous.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Feminism, marriage, and the scriptures

Feminism doesn't like the scriptures, because the scriptures stand in direct opposition to Feminism from square one.

We have clear commandment given in Ephesians 5.

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

This presents two sides of a wonderful coin. We think it is not wonderful anymore. We feel one side is tarnished and dirty. But the only dirt on it is what we have imagined through our own vanity, thinking that we know better than the Lord does.

What the Lord offers here is designed to fulfill and delight to the family. It is also his word, and should be obeyed for that reason alone. But do we really think our world of emasculated men who live singly in their parents homes until they are thirty is really so terrific as all that. Such is the natural fruit of emasculating men. Men want leadership. They are designed for it. Women want love. They want to be protected and provided for. Women sensitive to the Holy Ghost will find they are far more fulfilled by a husband who loves them even as Christ loved his church, than they are by a man they have distanced and emasculated so they can stand alone: tough, independent, and strong.

A strong independent feminist is far less happy than a true woman whose husband loves her even as Christ loved the church. But sadly, I do not believe I have ever been in a sacrament meeting where these verses have been read like they mean something.

Oh, I have heard the commandment to the men read. Sure. Quite a few times. But the commandment to the women. No. Never. Not once. We want to emasculate men and call the doctrine taught so plainly here heresy, even if it is also pure scripture. We think we can throw off one side of the coin and keep the other.

Let us be honest with ourselves.

We have very little of the words of God the Father. Of the very little we have, here are his words to Adam and Eve to prepare them for having a family in a fallen world:

Moses 4:21 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; and he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
22 Unto the woman, I, the Lord God, said: I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.
23 And unto adam: I, the Lord God, said: Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the fruit of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying - Thou shalt not eat of it, cursed shall be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.
24 Thorns also, and thisttles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.
25 By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, until thou shalt return  unto the ground - for thou shalt surely die - for out of it wast thou taken: for dust though wast; and unto dust shalt thou return.

The Lord here gives Adam and Eve both a curse. Eve's is to have sorrow in her conception. Adam's is that the ground will be cursed. There is absolutely no question about who is to provide. The Lord's direction about the difficulties of providing food are directed to Adam. Adam is clearly not only to provide for himself, but to provide for both of them. God, father, speaks from his own mouth, and he says "thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee."

When the Father speaks, we must listen. We can throw around the name of the Savior with a lilting voice all we want and it all means nothing if, when the Father speaks, we think Christ excuses us from strictly obeying.

The husband should love his wife even as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it.

And the wife should submit to her husband, even as the church submits to the Savior. He is set by God the Father himself to rule over his wife.

They are two sides of a coin of family joy and delight. They are also commandments.

And when we choke on God the Father's words on the matter as found in the Joseph Smith translation of the bible, we must know that it is not the Holy Ghost we are listening to.

Joseph Smith - men punished for great sins, unpardonable sin, the nature of hell, etc...

These slim paragraphs from Joseph Smith contain a wealth of truth:

A man cannot commit the unpardonable sin after the dissolution of the body, and there is a way possible for escape. Knowledge saves a man; and in the world of spirits no man can be exalted but by knowledge. So long as a man will not give heed to the commandments, he must abide without salvation. If a man has knowledge, he can be saved; although, if he has been guilty of great sins, he will be punished for them. But when he consents to obey the Gospel, whether here or in the world of spirits, he is saved.

A man is his own tormenter and his own condemner. Hence the saying, They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone. I say, so is the torment of man.

I know the Scriptures and understand them. I said, no man can commit the unpardonable sin after the dissolution of the body, nor in this life, until he receives the Holy Ghost but they must do it in this world. Hence the salvation of Jesus Christ was wrought out for all men, in order to triumph over the devil; for if it did not catch him in one place, it would in another; for he stood up as a Savior. All will suffer until they obey Christ himself.

1) If a man has knowledge, he can be saved; although, if he has been guilty of great sins, he will be punished for them.

This is not just true of the spirit world, for men are saved and punished on the same principles there that they are here. And we should understand this truth. If a man has knowledge, he can be saved; although if he has been guilty of great sins, he will be punished for them. The knowledge of the gospel can save a man. When we are forgiven of sins that are large there still remains a punishment that we must endure, for God will not be mocked. We cannot anger God without paying the full measure of retribution, though he is merciful and in time there is no tender mercy he will not pour out upon us if we repent and return unto him.

2) A man cannot commit the unpardonable sin after the dissolution of the body, and there is a way possible for escape.

The final phrase here is not meant  to convey that there is a way possible for escape for those who committed the unpardonable sin in this life, as Joseph Smith plainly teaches elsewhere that "There have been remarks made concerning all men being redeemed from hell; but I say that those who sin against the Holy Ghost cannot be forgiven in this world or in the world to come; they shall die the second death. Those who commit the unpardonable sin are doomed to Gnolom--to dwell in hell, worlds without end. As they concoct scenes of bloodshed in this world, so they shall rise to that resurrection which is as the lake of fire and brimstone." But apparently it is impossible to commit the unpardonable sin after this life in the spirit world. This is surprising, as is appears we could commit the unpardonable sin before this life, as the devil and his minions would appear to have done precisely that.

3)  So long as a man will not give heed to the commandments, he must abide without salvation.

Salvation cannot come save by obedience. As Joseph Smith also taught "any person who is exalted to the highest mansion has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law too."

4) A man is his own tormenter and his own condemner. Hence the saying, They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone.

Who else could have said this with perfect certainty? It speaks for itself.

5) Hence the salvation of Jesus Christ was wrought out for all men, in order to triumph over the devil; for if it did not catch him in one place, it would in another; for he stood up as a Savior. All will suffer until they obey Christ himself.

I don't know if there is a person now living who could have said those words. At first glance it appears to fit with the spirit of the times. But then it concludes "All will suffer until they obey Christ himself."

The volumes in Joseph Smith's sentences

Of Christ we read

John 21:25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

As Brigham Young observed, the message here is that if we were to lay out the full meaning of everything Christ taught then the world could not contain the books that should be written.

And that is, in some measure, true about Joseph Smith as well. His words have depth like scripture. Has the world seen his equal except in the Son of God?

Who else could have penetrated the veil with only a text of scripture that was being wholly misinterpreted by the teachers of his day. Who else could have stayed so pure to have been worthy in the presence of the Father and the Son without having yet received remission of sins through baptism?

No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God, for if anything is unclean it shrinks in agony at the manifest truth of its own perfectly known sins.

But Joseph Smith was so virtuous, so pure, that he could endure the perfect knowledge of his own state before God even without having been baptized.

Who else could we say that of?

Did not Adam and Eve fear and hide when they heard the voice of the Lord?

Rightly did Brigham Young say "I feel like shouting Hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith".

Joseph Smith - the innocent suffer with the guilty when we disobey and do not cast out the wicked

Joseph Smith: When I contemplate upon all things that have been manifested, I am aware that I ought not to murmur, and do not murmur, only in this, that those who are innocent are compelled to suffer for the iniquities of the guilty; and I cannot account for this, only on this wise, that the saying of the Savior has not been strictly observed: "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; or if thy right arm offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee." Now the fact is, if any of the members of our body is disordered, the rest of our body will be affected with it, and then all are brought into bondage together

Joseph Smith - obedience and true principles

Joseph Smith: I ... spoke to the people, showing them that to get salvation we must not only do some things, but everything which God has commanded. Men may preach and practice everything except those things which God commands us to do, and will be damned at last. We may tithe mint and rue, and all manner of herbs, and still not obey and teach others to obey God in just what He tells us to do. It mattereth not whether the principle is popular or unpopular, I will always maintain a true principle, even if I stand alone in it. (Feb. 21, 1844.) DHC 6:223. (TPJS 332)

Unimportant note - Why was Alma going around in secret?

This is an unimportant note that is more scholarly than gospel. It belongs in a student manual or a modern scripture commentary or something similarly stale.

Why was Alma the younger going around in secret?

The answer can be seen by looking at the events that surrounded it as well as the text and the words of the angel to Alma.

In Mosiah 26 Alma is told:

Mosiah 26:32 Now I say unto you, Go; and whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people; and this shall be observed from this time forward.
36 And those that would not confess their sins and repent of their iniquity, the same were not numbered among the people of the church, and their names were blotted out.

At the beginning of Mosiah 27 we read:

Mosiah 27: 1 And now it came to pass that the persecutions which were inflicted on the church by the unbelievers became so great that the church began to murmur, and complain to their leaders concerning the matter; and they did complain to Alma. And Alma laid the case before their king, Mosiah. And Mosiah consulted with his priests.
2 And it came to pass that king Mosiah sent a proclamation throughout the land round about that there should not any unbeliever persecute any of those who belonged to the church of God.

Given this context, when we read

Mosiah 27:8 Now the sons of Mosiah were numbered among the unbelievers; and also one of the sons of Alma was numbered among them, he being called Alma, after his father; nevertheless, he became a very wicked and an idolatrous man.

we should realize that Alma and the sons of Mosiah had been excommunicated. That is what it means that they are "numbered among the unbelievers". There was nothing secret about the fact that Alma was a "wicked and idolatrous man".

So why did they go about in secret?

Because it wasn't a matter of trying to simply dissuade members of the church from the truth. It was a matter of persecuting the Saints of God. He, like Saul of the new testament, was persecuting the church, not just preaching against it. So he was breaking the law the king declared against persecuting those who belonged to the church and that is why they went about in secret.

This is actually presented plainly both in the description:

Mosiah 27:10 And now it came to pass that while he was going about to destroy the church of God, for he did go about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the church, and to lead astray the people of the Lord, contrary to the commandments of God, or even the king

Why was it "contrary to the commandments" of the king? Because it wasn't just preaching against the church, it was persecuting the saints.

The angel who appears to Alma says: Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God?

Very short note - why unleavened bread in the law of Moses

I am sure I have heard people discuss the significance of unleavened bread in the scriptures. But the Lord states his meaning plainly enough.

Deuteronomy 16:3 Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life.

Unleavened bread was the only bread that could be eaten on the week of the passoever, which is what the new testament is referring to when it speaks of the "feast of unleavened bread".

While Christ does make other uses of leaven as a symbol, he is clearly not interpreting its use in the law of Moses when he does so. He uses leaven as a symbol as the occasion demands, both using it as a symbol for the Kingdom of Heaven (which a woman hid in a measure of flour but in the end it transforms the whole loaf) as well as for the doctrine of the Scribes and the Pharisees (a little of which transforms the whole loaf).

Friday, January 22, 2016

How shall we escape damnation except God reveal to us?

Joseph Smith taught: The doctors (I mean doctors of law, no physic) say, "If you preach anything not according to the Bible, we will cry treason." How can we escape the damnation of hell, except God be with us and reveal to us?

Sadly, I'm afraid that as a means to keep people in line on matters of doctrine many of our otherwise faithful members have taken to an attitude that is all to similar to what Joseph Smith complained of in this quotation.

How many of our good members have a mental checklist of "official doctrine". The notion of official doctrine appears nowhere in the scripture. In fact, the scriptural definition of official doctrine, if there is such a thing, is quite plainly found in D&C 68.

D&C 68:4 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.

Assuming we are willing to believe that "the mind of the Lord, the word of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation" is a satisfactory definition of what constitutes official doctrine, then that really ought to be enough to satisfy even the most austere among us on such matters. Our official doctrine is what the Holy Ghost teaches and testifies of. What we can say we KNOW to be true, is that which we learn by the Holy Ghost.

If by the Holy Ghost we say we KNOW the church is true in spite of all the fiery darts the devil and hell have to throw up in opposition, can't we admit that the principle of truth by revelation far exceeds the principle of truth by anything else in its place. The Holy Ghost defines our truth.

Joseph Smith was plain about the principle of truth and light. He said: I ... know more than all the world put together. The Holy Ghost does, anyhow, and He is within me, and comprehends more than all the world: and I will associate myself with Him.

Nevertheless, we have those who think eternal truth is meant to be discovered by checking against a catalog of quotations. If it isn't a quotation, it simply isn't true.

Now don't get me wrong. A dedicated study of the scriptures, and a gathering of favorite passages is necessary and right. The Lord said to treasure up the words of eternal life.

What is at issue is not whether a thorough study is necessary and right. What is at issue is whether we teach by the Holy Ghost and simply accept what we feel impressed to teach, or can plainly discern by the spirit, or whether we shoot down statements that we can clearly taste the truth of, but which we can't think of a quote to justify. That is the issue.

Sure, we throw out anything that contradicts truth which we already know. And to do so, we should make a thorough study of the truth that we already have revealed to us. That is basic, common sense.

Yes, we stand by the prophet and the twelve. Yes, we stand by the modern prophets and the prophets of old and by the scriptures. If we are not gathering men to the prophets and the twelve in these days, then there is no place to gather them to, for that is where God rules his people from.

But the issue is whether we are learning by the spirit of the Lord, whether we are seeking diligently in light of Christ, whether we have discovered and taste the principles of eternal life, or whether, instead, we have abandoned the life blood of the gospel, the light which comes directly from the Son of God and the Holy Ghost in favor of bureaucratic principles that we believe will be more safe. We must not prefer that which has no life to that which is living and true.

We must not be hesitant about teaching and learning by the power of the Holy Ghost. We must prefer revelation as our light. Once we reject that, we have turned off the lights and are blind.

Above all, we must not transform the gospel and what we consider right gospel living and teaching so that Joseph Smith would have to say of us: "The members say 'If you preach anything not according to our list of quotations we will cry treason'".

And then leave prophet Joseph asking us "How can we escape the damnation of hell, except God be with us and reveal to us?"

Is the book "The Miracle of Forgiveness" discouraging?

I am surprised at the ignorance we find among us. We are as a people who are asleep.

One example I hear repeatedly is about President Kimball's book "The miracle of forgiveness". I hear members ignorantly say things like "the effect of that book was to just make people feel discouraged" or "that book just make people feel guilty and depressed" or that it made people feel like they couldn't succeed, or like giving up.

First off, let us be perfectly plain. It wasn't the discussions on honesty, or gambling, or keeping the Sabbath day, that people are complaining about. It was his discussion of chastity.

Nobody thinks to themselves "I just can't tell the truth, I'm going to give up" or "I just can't keep the Sabbath day holy, I guess I'm going to hell anyway, and I can't change that".

But people sometimes DO say things like that about moral issues IF they have been indulging in some level of immorality.

And therein lies the meat of the issue.

If people generally feel discouraged by "The miracle of forgiveness" it is because people have generally misbehaved here or there on the most critical issues of mortality: the issue of chastity. Chastity is THE law of a body. It is the defining trait of Christianity. It stands as the guardian at the gate to family joy, as if it were one of the cherubim that guards the way to the tree of life.

After the sexual revolution, and even before that, we have had those among us who have encouraged compromise with immorality as being of no matter. Those who criticize President Kimball's book do so in this same spirit. They disagree with him over the serious nature of toying with issues of morality. They have liked to compromise, and so they do not find his words about necking, petting, masturbation, pornography, fornication, or homosexuality pleasing to their ears.

But there is more to it than just disagreement with the message because of a guilty conscience. The nub of the matter is that sin gives the adversary a measure of power over people. And the adversary will try with all the strength and guile he can to separate people from that which can bring them out from under his influence. The adversary tries desperately hard to use any influence he has to oppose that which will separate us from him.

If the message of repentance is stated with great clarity, then devil is desperate to separate us from it, and will use many means of doing so. Christ himself talked about that in his parable of the sower and the seeds. Some seeds fell by the way side, others were choked by weeds, others fell on stony ground, ... the adversary will try any means he can to turn people away from a message of pure truth. For pure truth about repentance, one of his tactics is to inspire discouragement and depression.

And here is the most salient point of all. The way out of that depression and discouragement is to press forward through it just like you would through any other method the adversary throws at you. You hold to the rod, and press forward through the mists of darkness. No other method works. If we instead soften the message to avoid causing discouragement, everything goes wrong. People do more things they shouldn't and the adversary has more influence in their lives, not less.

That is the critical nub: We can either press forward holding firmly to the message of repentance which eventually brings us out of darkness into greater and greater light, or we can alter and soften the message so it is more pleasing and remain under the sway of the adversary, believing that critical matters don't really matter so much, that a little disobedience on the most serious matters of life is normal, and propagating such spiritual darkness to our posterity and fellow members. The latter method is not without its horrible costs both in terms of our happiness and in the souls who will be overcome and lost because of it.

But if we stick to the right message and see it through then in time those who will abide it are freed from the influence of the adversary, and they find that the Lord has greater power, in time to free them from discouragement and depression and replace it with joy, delight, and pure happiness that they didn't know or believe was possible in mortality. It will be those who soften it who will continue to struggle with the wiles of the adversary, and it will be those who stand unflinchingly by it and strive to live by it who will find themselves coming out from under his sway and rejoicing more and more in the power of God in their lives and the unspeakable joy of the things of his spirit.