The Passover, Repentance and Becoming Born Again

Once a year it is wisdom for us to remember and retell the stories that are relived in every generation. The Passover is once again upon us, and even though it is no longer (unfortunately) the center-piece of our tradition, we would be wise to remember and consume its patterns and teachings.

Departing Egypt and venturing into the wilderness is the great archetype of the doctrine of Christ. It is the pattern and archetype of Nephi and Lehi’s dreams. It is also the pattern in the account of the Brother of Jared.  The journeys of all of these covenant families are the pattern that we all must also go through as individuals.

Nephi and Lehi’s dream, the children of Israel fleeing Egypt, and Lehi and Nephi fleeing Jerusalem are all enactments of the doctrine of Christ. Their journey is the physical pattern of the process of salvation. All of these scriptural accounts demonstrate the pattern of the doctrine of Christ most clearly taught in 2 Nephi chapters 30-33.

Lehi’s family fleeing Jerusalem and the children of Israel fleeing Egypt is a type of baptism. It represents the complete and full commitment of leaving the world; removing oneself completely from a telestial structure and departing an old life. A baptism requires full immersion. It is not a partial commitment, it is the death of the old life and beginning a journey into a new life .

When the Lord is going to deliver us from our old life, our carnal nature, and our telestial comforts he commands us to leave and to do it in haste. It is not an invitation to take our time, to not rush, and to slowly make the preparations to leave our old selves. The command is clear: repent now and repent quickly.

For this exact reason the children of Israel were commanded to eat unleavened bread. They were not to wait for their bread to rise through the natural and slow process of leavening. They were to flee Egypt in haste. The command was for a quick departure. If they waited for the bread to leaven they put themselves in danger of not being delivered.

As we make the covenant of baptism the Lord is also making a way for our escape from our own Egypt or Jerusalem. The Lord is making a way for our escape from our fallen nature. It is not a process that requires leavening.

Leavening and yielding to the natural process of change is a slow, natural process of transition that takes a long period of time. Like repentance, if we decide to make our own spiritual transitions a long, slow, almost imperceptible change over a lifetime we choose the path of not fleeing Egypt until we are fully comfortable. It is to wait for our bread to rise before we depart.

If we depend on our own timeline for repentance, and put the burden of transformation on our own long-term habits and works we will seek to rely on ourselves for change and not the Lord’s miraculous deliverance. The baptism of fire, becoming born again, the mighty change of heart are all processes that take place miraculously in a very short period of time if we have the faith to repent with all that we have and completely.

It is the slow process method of becoming born again that puts our mortal probation in imminent danger. It is to linger in Egypt until it may not be possible to escape. It is to, as Laman and Lemuel desired, to reside in Jerusalem and enjoy our possessions all the while living out the self-delusion of believing we are righteous because we keep the statutes and law (1 Nephi 17:22).

To believe that becoming born again is a slow process over a lifetime is  like unto waiting for our bread to rise before we leave our own Babylon. We must make the decision to repent and make it conclusively for us to experience the baptism of fire and Holy Ghost. Otherwise we never really leave Egypt. We never really leave Jersusalem. If we sort-of follow the gospel and mistakenly believe we are a traveler on the strait and narrow path by virture of water baptism alone, we make the mistake of Laman and Lemuel that we have left Jerusalem in body but not in spirit – therefore we really haven’t left Jerusalem at all. Thus, we become tortured souls – fighting to be good and keep the commandments all the while suffering because our hearts are still in Jerusalem – we may still long for Egypt.

C.S. Lewis articulated this problem in his own formulation of this spiritual dilemma:

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good’. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centred on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).

When declaring the repentance sufficient to become born again Alma the Younger could not be clearer in his message (as are all true prophets that declare repentance). He warned and invited the people

And now I say unto you that this is the order after which I am called, yea, to preach unto my beloved brethren, yea, and every one that dwelleth in the land; yea, to preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again.

Yea, thus saith the Spirit: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand; yea, the Son of God cometh in his glory, in his might, majesty, power, and dominion. Yea, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, that the Spirit saith: Behold the glory of the King of all the earth; and also the King of heaven shall very soon shine forth among all the children of men.

And also the Spirit saith unto me, yea, crieth unto me with a mighty voice, saying: Go forth and say unto this people—Repent, for except ye repent ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of heaven.

And again I say unto you, the Spirit saith: Behold, the ax is laid at the root of the tree; therefore every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire, yea, a fire which cannot be consumed, even an unquenchable fire. Behold, and remember, the Holy One hath spoken it” (Alma 5: 49-52).

The message is inescapable. It is not a soft declaration nor is it an easy and comfortable invitation. It is to repent and to repent quickly. The fruit of those obeying this message is the miracle of transformation and becoming born again. It is powerful and it is swift.

We must reject the false prophets of our own making – those that prophesy to us according to the desires of Egypt and Jerusalem. Isaiah foresaw this day and the yielding to this temptation:

That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord:

Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.

Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us (Isaiah 30: 9-11).

We must hear the invitation and warning of true prophets. They will always come with the same message: Repent now, repent quickly, and repent completely. Those that do will be filled with the love and redemption of the Lord. They will receive the miraculous power of Christ unto salvation. They will be delivered from Egypt and Jerusalem.

We do not have time to wait until our bread is leavened. We can receive the redemptive power of Christ now and as soon as we are willing to repent and sacrifice everything we have to receive this mighty change of heart. The passover should be a reminder that this is a time of choosing and a time of rescue. With the chaos of Egypt and destruction of Jerusalem intensifying around us, this passover message needs to be heeded now and in haste.

The Happiness of Laman and Lemuel

When the family of Lehi fled Jerusalem they provided both a literal account of a divided family following the gospel path and it presents also as an archetype of the covenant people in the last days. From this covenant family comes a great division that creating the two great nations in the promise land. We can learn much from these archetypical characters recorded in this ancient record.

One of many patterns and types we can take from the early account is that of the happiness of Laman and Lemuel. Much like the children of Israel after fleeing Egypt (Numbers 14: 4), they desired to return to the land and live in comfort and happiness of Babylon. It is important to really digest that this happens after they have been called into the wilderness.

When Nephi was receiving revelation to build a ship his brothers lamented and exclaimed:

Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy” (1 Nephi 17: 21).

Laman and Lemuel define happiness as enjoying possessions in the land of their home. Their comforts, their home and their tradition, and the comforting cultural assumption that they are an accepted people by the Lord because they are both prospered and living ostensibly the terms of the covenant. Their priests told them so. And so they were ripe for destruction.

Laman and Lemuel defended the wicked members of the covenant who remained in Jerusalem that they were righteous because they kept the statutes of God. They argued the following:

And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words; yea, and our brother is like unto him. And after this manner of language did my brethren murmur and complain against us” (1 Nephi 17: 22).

The happiness of Laman and Lemuel was found in possessing their material wealth and at the same time considering themselves a favored covenant people because they judged themselves as keeping the statutes and and commandments of the law of Moses.

They were blessed to be invited out of Jerusalem, as were the Children of Israel out of Egypt. What was that path? It was very difficult. Both the children of Lehi and the children of Israel were invited out of their telestial comfort and down a path of being stripped of things telestial in order to be prepared to ascend into the Celestial. The children of Israel rejected the invitation to ascend the mount into the presence of the Lord and were thus left to learn obedience and faith by the things they suffered in the wilderness.

It was in the wilderness that the children of Lehi could make the same decision. Nephi ascended the mount into the presence of the Lord and thus had power to deliver his family to the promise land (2 Nephi 4: 25).

The choice of two paths are before us today. Will we seek to be comfortable in Egypt? Do we seek to sit in self-satisfied righteousness in Jerusalem, believing that we are keepers of covenants all the while relying on the strength and comfort of a telestial kingdom?

Do we desire to walk into the wilderness and yield to the stripping away of those things that keep us from the presence of God, or do we pray and desire return to Egypt?

We are invited by a myriad of witnesses – if we reject the warnings sent to us (see President Kimball’s The False God’s We Worship and President Benson’s A Witness and a Warning as two great examples), and these latter-day warnings fade into the distant memory of this generation, the Lord warns and awakens through the witnesses of the earth – earthquakes, plagues, economic desolation and pestilence.

We should consider ourselves all as Nephi or Laman and Lemuel. Will we seek to leave the trappings and comforts of Jerusalem and accept the invitation and venture into the wilderness – sacrificing all things so that we can partake of the Tree of Life, or will we make the case that the covenant people is righteous and keeping the statutes and we long to return to the comforts of our normal life?

What type of happiness will we seek?

Thoughts on End-of-Times Prophecy

Couple of thoughts on end-of-times prophecy – sort of thinking out loud here.

It seems that every generation could make a case that the events of their day satisfy the prophesies of Isaiah, John’s Revelation, and other ancient prophecies. Consider what it would have been like to live in Europe in 1942; during the Civil War; during the Saints’ expulsion from Illinois and fleeing to the west; the Vietnam War and Cold War era; or when the great plagues swept across the earth.  In all of these generations the Saints could make a case that the end is on our doorstep.

It seems to me that prophesy is more useful looking backwards than it is forwards. In other words, when a prophesy is fulfilled, it is usually understood after the fact and so the people can look backwards and understand the meaning of transpired events.

Looking forward, we certainly can use future prophesies to look to predict events but the temptation and mistakes of fitting events into prophesies multiply. It’s too easy to always see what is around you as fulfillment of prophesy. It can be done in any generation with any set of events. For this reason, many err in their interpretation of current events and the vast amount of predictions using prophesies as a marker are rendered false. This leaves the faith of many deflated because things did not transpire in the way they thought the prophesy should be read.

However, I want to point out that there is one unique characteristic about this generation that may qualify us as candidates for the great destructions and revelations that have been anciently prophesied. Our day is unique in that we are a people that have broken covenants that may have been preservatives in past generations.

Never before has the Order of Nehor flourished as a dominant ideology as it does now in both the western world (namely the U.S),  and even within the covenant people. Consider how many in both the church and society now support gay marriage, abortion, and the moral relativism of Leftism. This Leftism is the modern day order of Nehor. It infects us as a country as one of the two dominant political parties has adopted its philosophy as its guiding premise. Many in the church also have adopted this view and it is now starting to metastasize into some of our policies.  I have to wonder, are we salt losing its savor? Are we salt losing its preservative power?

If what marks us as different from past generations is our inability to preserve the land through the keeping of covenants, perhaps it will be our generation, or the next, that will require the vineyard to be burned (Jacob 5). Will it be this generation that will experience the great division and cleansing preparatory for the Second Coming?  The thought that keeps moving through my mind is that I must, and we must, repent on a level deeper than we ever thought. This is what preserved the people in the scriptures, and the scriptures and the Holy Ghost are the two primary sources of guidance today. I hope their messages and warnings are absorbed.

 

Repenting of Our Vain Imaginations

We see the world through the prism of our nature. If our nature is full of light, then we will see the world with light – which enables us to carefully discern darkness from light. The more light we possess, the more we can discern really sophisticated dark counterfeits and deceptions.

If our nature is carnal, and we wander in the twilight in between light and darkness, we will see the world through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12). We don’t see the world as it is. We see it through the dark cell of our own darkened nature. It becomes an imagination to us. Or, as the scriptures, describe – a vain imagination.

Seeing and knowing ourselves, the people around us, the church, our society, our government – everything in our awareness – is a function of the light and darkness within us.

Even information, as logically and immovably true as we may think it is, can be twisted and warped depending on the darkness we carry. What we think is rational, or logical, will always be painted by the light in our nature. In other words, everyone believes they are acting rationally. Most people believe they see clearly. And this is what is so dangerous.

We should never trust our vision, our interpretation of our world, our comprehension of truth, unless we first achieve the state of being completely filled with light. If we are not filled with light, we will be acting in a deception.

This is also why repentance – turning our entire mind and heart to God until it is filled with divine light – is the first step to any effort. If we can’t get the light, everything will be painted with our deceptions, great or small.

This is why the world, the church, our society, our government is filled with vain imagination. It is seen through the lens of deception, and through the collusion of collective deceptions. Until we are a people filled with the light of God and there is no darkness in us at all, we will be a people guided by our vain imaginations.

Our vain imaginations cause us to act out our facades that conform to our vain views. It also makes us to make of our institutions Potemkin villages – propping up the view of perfection on the outside – hiding the corruption and impoverished spirit on the inside.

The only way to fix ourselves, our families, our institutions, and our communities is through deep, focused, whole-hearted and immediate repentance.

Sustaining Through Discernment

I believe in sustaining the authorities of the church both local and general with all of my heart. Those in church leadership have had tremendous influence over my life and I am eternally grateful for the teachings of prophets that have shaped me and my religious education. As Joseph Smith taught, “Faith comes by hearing the word of God through the testimony of the Servants of God” (Words of Joseph Smith, page 3).

My son is named after Elder Neal Maxwell. I was present in the audience when he gave his timeless address “The Inexhaustible Gospel” at BYU Education Week in 1992. It was during that talk when the spirit revealed to me that every question I had about life could be answered through the gospel. This came as a surprise to me at the time. Elder Maxwell said in this address, “our being saved by gaining knowledge obviously refers to a particular form of knowledge, a “knowledge of God” and knowledge of the things of God.”

I didn’t really understand this teaching then, but would come to learn more about this principle as I got older – that “a man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge”. And that it is knowledge, endowed by the spirit and learning the things of God, that we have power to put all darkness under our feet.

And so we as Latter-Day Saints are to seek knowledge. Knowledge is the fruit of the Holy Ghost. It is knowledge that binds the adversary and gives us greater endowments of faith.

Prophets are to be revelators to the people, according to their faithfulness and according to the faithfulness of the people. Prophets are also charged with declaring repentance so that we become a people full of knowledge and power. But, as President Kimball pointed out, prophets exercise their agency the same way the members of the church do. And the responsibility rests upon both prophets and the people to seek the things of God and to be in a constant state of preparation to receive greater light and truth.

President Kimball remarked in a General Conference address:

However, it is the sad truth that if prophets and people are unreachable, the Lord generally does nothing for them. Having given them free agency, their Heavenly Father calls, persuades, and directs aright his children, but waits for their upreaching hands, their solemn prayers, their sincere, dedicated approach to him. If they are heedless, they are left floundering in midnight’s darkness when they could have the noonday sun” (President Spencer W. Kimball, April 1977 General Conference).

Because it is the charge to both prophets and the people to be “reachable,” we must all take responsibility for our own lives to receive the knowledge from heaven that will draw light into fog, confusion, and even darkness. As Brigham Young taught, we must gain the “independence of heaven”.

Who will? (become Gods) Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer.” (Brigham Young, J.D. 1:312)

Sustaining Our Leaders Through Discernment

So, how does this relate to the way in which we should sustain leaders?  We should sustain them with the light of heaven. And what I mean by this is we should gain the light of God in such a degree that we know if we are being taught truth or falsehood at all times. This is not to say that we pray until we get an answer to follow, and if we don’t get an answer that affirms the authorities we are just not getting the right answer and it’s our fault. That is not the case. We are to get the knowledge that governs the instruction given to us so that we may discern our leaders.

As Brigham Young taught:

What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually. (JD 9:151)

I sustain my leaders through discerning them. A prophet or a priesthood leader has the responsibility to come clean from the blood and sins of the people over which he has stewardship. If they do not come clean from that blood, they have to answer for the sins of the people. Consider the following passages.

“Verily, I say unto you, let those who are not the first elders continue in the vineyard until the mouth of the Lord shall call them, for their time is not yet come; their garments are not clean from the blood of this generation” (D&C 88:85).

“And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day” (Jacob 1:19).

“Therefore, as I said unto you that I had served you, walking with a clear conscience before God, even so I at this time have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together, that I might be found blameless, and that your blood should not come upon me, when I shall stand to be judged of God of the things whereof he hath commanded me concerning you” (Mosiah 2:27).

“And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood” (Ether 12: 28).

O, my beloved brethren, remember my words. Behold, I take off my garments, and I shake them before you; I pray the God of my salvation that he view me with his all-searching eye; wherefore, ye shall know at the last day, when all men shall be judged of their works, that the God of Israel did witness that I shook your iniquities from my soul, and that I stand with brightness before him, and am rid of your blood” (2 Nephi 9: 44).

Because church leadership on every level carries a very heavy burden of coming clean from the blood and sins of the people over which they have stewardship, when they teach us something wrong they carry the weight of justice for doing so. If someone comes under a level of deception through abiding a false teaching or command both the person that obeyed something false and the leader who taught it both receive the condemnation for doing so.

Because of this, if we as a people carefully discern through the Holy Ghost whether what is being taught is true or not, we actually lessen the burden a leader carries to come clean from our sins. If an authority teaches a falsehood, and a member discerns and rejects it, then the authority is that much less condemned for teaching something in error.

For this reason, the best way we can sustain our leadership is to discern them and relieve them of the burden of carrying our sins that they themselves may have caused. If I were in a leadership position on a local or general level I would hope that all those in my stewardship would approach my words this way. I would hope that they would relate to me through the discerning power of the spirit in order to come to a greater truth together.

President James Faust advocated for this view when he wrote:

As a means of coming to truth, people in the Church are encouraged by their
leaders to think and find out for themselves. They are encouraged to ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to such knowledge of the truth as their own consciences, assisted by the Spirit of God, lead them to discover. Brigham Young said: “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security. . . . Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 135). In this manner no one need be deceived.

Since each one of us has his free agency, the ultimate determination of what is
inspired of the Lord, what is right and wrong, true or false, can be made by each of us. President J. Reuben Clark Jr. (1871-1961) made this statement: “The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members [themselves], whether the brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest” (“When Are Church Leaders’ Words Entitled to claim of Scripture?” Church News, 31 July 1954, 10). Each must bear the accountability of accepting or discarding the values of truth, which values if followed will produce his greatest happiness. (James Faust, First Presidency Message, “The Truth Shall Make You Free,” Ensign (Sept. 1998), 4-5)

The allegory of the seed in Alma 32 is a great discourse on how to discern the words of leaders. We are to consume the seed and then discern if we are tasting light. We test the words given to us to see if our “understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and [our] minds doth begin to expand” (Alma 32: 34). The effects of falsehood, sin, and “the traditions of our fathers” is that light and truth is taken from us. This has the opposite effect of receiving truth (D&C 93:39).

President Harold B. Lee gave another key of discernment.

It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they speak and write. Now you keep that in mind. I don’t care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard works, unless that one be the prophet, seer, and revelator—please note that one exception—you may immediately say, “Well, that is his own idea!” And if he says something that contradicts what is found in the standard works (I think that is why we call them “standard”—it is the standard measure of all that men teach), you may know by that same token that it is false; regardless of the position of the man who says it.

Humility is the order of the day. Both members and leaders should always be humble about the revelatory burden each holds. Just as members are accustomed to being  humble about the revelation received in the church from local and general leaders, so should leaders be humble about the revelatory responsibility members have to discern their words.

Joseph Smith taught with this spirit when he declared the following.

“If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way” (History of the Church, 5:498–99).

We have a great responsibility to sustain the leadership of the church. This is not a requirement to rubber stamp instruction and teaching, but to carry the burden of humbling ourselves before God, getting revelation, and bearing the great burden that all leadership has to come clean from the blood and sins of this generation.

 

The God that Divides

The love of Christ appeals to the light within us and expands it, and his light divides the darkness from us. He loves truth, and invites us into truth, that we may embody is nature and his like-ness.

But his love not only embraces, fulfills, and expands all that is good, it also divides separates, and deconstructs all that is dark and in the form of falsehood. That which is in us and is not of him shall be shaken and destroyed

If you are of the truth, if you seek to speak the truth, and keep it and become informed, or, in-the-form of truth, he will expand that within you. His great love will redeem you and fashion you in the form of truth

But if you lie, and love a lie, and cling to your deceptions, and love darkness more than light, then he will divide that out of you.

In this way Christ is a paradox. He comes to both comfort and to discomfort. He both heals and destroys. He both unifies and divides.

Consider the scripture:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10: 34).

He divided the light from the darkness in the creation. And as he creates us, he will divide the light from the darkness within us. This can be painful and harsh, and merciful and gracious.

But his aim is always the highest in us. If we desire not the highest in us, and learn to love and live a lie, in mercy he will have you confront truth and that can create almost immeasurable sorrow. But his grace heals all that yield to truth and his reality.

His aim is not suffering. It is to bring his creation into the fullness of being. It is bring all of us to fulfill the measure of our creation.

But we must all yield to to the great cosmic paradox: new life requires death. With division comes ascension. Destruction is predicate to creation. We must experience a death every day if we want to receive a newness of life.

Christ in his mercy will invite us with the persuasion of an Eternal Father to ascend and path through the deaths so that we may be possessors of a fullness of life. It is his justice that will discriminately divide the light from the darkness within us as he brings us through the days of our own creation.

Ideology and Knowledge

I’ve been thinking a lot about ideology vs. knowledge. This distinction was brought to my attention by Jordan Peterson. His argument is that ideology is the adoption of world-view, learning how to talk in the manner of the ideology – knowing the right things to say in every circumstance – but at the same time having a thin understanding of fundamental issues and doctrines. An ideologue is very predictable. Bring up an issue and you can with precision anticipate exactly what will be said and argued.

Rigidly holding to an ideology allows for a person to morally define themselves without the investment of time and hard work of earning the right to their views, opinions, and convictions. Instead of being invested in being possessors of great knowledge, the temptation is to learn the pat-answers. The ideologue believes the gospel should be simple and easy – because they believe religion should be simple and easy and they want to feel that they are on God’s side by virtue of association and not transformation and knowledge. Membership is the gate to salvation. The belief is exaltation through association – not the nature and knowledge obtained by passing through the true gate.

This general critique of political ideology applies as much to Mormonism as it does anything else. I feel a general sense of frustration often in church meetings, and particularly in many LDS forums because ideology is pursued above knowledge. In other words, for a great many Mormons (and Catholics, Baptists, Jews, Socialists, etc…. we are no different) the attraction to the church is the belief that it is the true vehicle that can deliver us to exaltation. But this is an ideological view. In perspective, the church can do very little for you. What it does do for you is critical and vital, but it is in no way, shape, or form sufficient. The vast responsibility of your exaltation depends on your ability to become a possessor of great knowledge. This is no easy task and requires the vast majority of your time and attention.

Mormon ideology, in my current view, is the greatest enemy to the church. It is also the dominant impulse of the many church classes I’ve sat through in my 44 years of active Mormon participation. It is also the dominant impulse of the Facebook LDS forums. Righteousness seems to be how well we can articulate and recite Mormon platitudes – not the commitment to become possessors of great knowledge – the mystery offered through the restoration.


Mormon ideology starves the gospel of its greatest gift: the knowledge of how to know and come into the presence of God while in the flesh. This is the sole purpose of the priesthood and restored doctrine. Anything less is a product of Mormon ideology designed to make one feel good about their standing with God without the making the sacrifice of all things.

Knowledge is the exalting factor of the Gospel. It is becoming a possessor of knowledge that empowers you to overcome all forms of darkness. It is what puts you into possession of glory. We are saved no faster than we gain knowledge. Ideological forms are just that – they are the forms of godliness that deny the power thereof. Rejecting ideological Mormonism may feel like leaving the safety of the harbor. But that safety is an illusion. The storms come into the harbors as much as they are at sea, and ultimately the harbor of ideology helps no one, and is not worth protecting.