Reclaiming the Cross

The Latter-Day Saints should hold a unique and sacred understanding of the power of the cross. Our minds should not be far from it. Ever. We embrace the suffering Christ often. When we partake of the symbols of the sacrament we consume the torn flesh and spilled blood of His great sacrifice.

So why is it that we eschew the cross not only as a symbol of our faith, but as a constant reminder of the sacrifice of Christ?

The early saints used the cross until the 20th century. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that the cross was completely eliminated from our churches, mostly in opposition to what we saw as a symbol embraced by the “apostate” christian churches.

Bruce McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith hardened the saints against the cross by proclaiming them symbols of “degenerate Christian Churches” (Mormon Doctrine, 160) and a “tool of execution”.

Unfortunately, in our exuberance to distance ourselves from other Christian creeds that persecuted us in our history, we also rejected some doctrines and symbols they emphasized in their worship (for example born again doctrine). Ironically, this rejection prompted our own hardening towards some truths that are powerful principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Justifying our rejection of the cross as a symbol of our faith, the most optimistic amongst us innovated a positive view of our rejection of the cross symbolism. President Hinckley expressed the following:

“I do not wish to give offense to any of my Christian colleagues who use the cross on the steeples of their cathedrals and at the altars of their chapels, who wear it on their vestments, and imprint it on their books and other literature. But for us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the Living Christ. …

“… The lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship” (President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), “The Symbol of Our Faith,” Liahona and Ensign, April 2005, 3).

And this has become the standard view of the Latter-Day Saint. We don’t use a symbol of the dying Christ , we prefer the lives of the members of the church to be the symbol in its stead.

It strikes me as odd that we would hold ourselves up as a people as a symbol of Christ. Of course we are to be a light to the world, that the light of Christ should shine through us, but true saints carry the disposition of John that we must decrease, so that he may increase. Rejecting the sign of condescension of God and replacing it with the self-vaunting of the members of the Church strikes me as a posture in direct opposition to the invitation of the cross – that we must be lowly and meek.  Perhaps we should think of the condescension of Christ as more worthy of adulation than how Mormons live their lives. Self-idolization is of the most tempting sort, and it takes on a particular kind of narcissism when it elevated above the image of the suffering Christ.

And ff course we rejoice in the living and resurrected Christ! But in order for us to be of the order of Christ, we too, must carry our cross. We, too, must die as to things of this world. We must crucify the natural man within.

The cross should be a constant reminder to go through our condescension.

The emblems of Christ’s death are the heart and substance of the weekly sacrament. We don’t refer to the righteous acts of Latter-day Saints to replace taking the emblems. We take them because they remind us of the great and eternal sacrifice of our Savior.

If we use the symbols of death in the Sacrament, why not be reminded of his death through the use of a cross?

Latter-Day Saints that receive the priesthood endowment in the temple should reflect deeply on two of the tokens received in the Melchizedek priesthood. They both have reference to the cross. The witness in his body are the marks of sacrifice of the cross. They were both prophesied and they carry eternal significance.

Isaiah prophesied:

And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.

And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.

In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the Lord hath spoken it” (Isaiah 22: 23-25).

Surely the Father, too, possesses the marks in the sure place. As an eternal witness of accomplishing an infinite atonement, Christ did nothing that he did not see his Father do.

And so our Priesthood and our witness is rooted in the cross. It is the great sign of condescension and sacrifice. As Christ himself reminds us in the record of 3 Nephi:

And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil” (3 Nephi 27: 14).

Not only should we be reminded of the cross through symbolism, we should also be reminded that it is through the symbols and doctrine of the cross that we are sealed to Eternal Life.  It is through the cross that we receive the highest and holiest blessings of eternity.

The cross was not a random mode of murder. It was a yielding to a death that sealed in resurrected flesh the tokens of condescension and eternal sacrifice. This, too, can be our understanding when we reflect on the meaning of the cross. And, hopefully, someday reclaim it as a symbol of our faith.

We Thank Thee, Oh God, For a Proxy

The gift of prophecy is a sacred and powerful lifeline to God’s children on earth. Thus prophets, in all of their forms, are of paramount importance. Revealing God’s word, giving a voice of warning, and foretelling the future are great blessings to people on earth.

In the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, Apostles receive keys that give them the invitation and authorization to give commandments to the covenant body on earth. These apostolic keys are necessary for providing ordinances and officiating in the Lord’s work.

We also sustain Apostles who have priesthood keys that they may have the gifts of prophesy, seership, and revelation. These gifts are available to apostles who are authorized to deliver God’s commandments to covenant Israel. Like all callings in the church, the gifts associated with those callings are available as those called fulfill the measure of their calling and qualify to receive those gifts. We should give our whole hearts, minds, and sustaining might to those called to carry that heavy burden so that them may have all of the gifts and abilities available to lead the covenant people.

Hearing the voice of a prophet is one of my fundamental desires. I desire to receive revelation and desire that the covenant people may grow in light and truth through the leadership of God’s appointed stewards and key-holders.

When Moses received the fullness of his endowment (Moses chapter 1) he desired all of the children of Israel to also receive for themselves the great endowment of being in the Lord’s presence while in the flesh (D&C 84). When the children of Israel rejected that invitation they entered into a condemnation. The Higher Priesthood was removed from them, which was the power that brought them into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh (D&C 84: 23-24; D&C 107: 19).

The children of Israel rejected the invitation to personally come into the presence of the Lord and therefore rejected the priesthood. They no longer desired a prophet that would lead them into a fullness of the Gospel, they desired a proxy that would go on their behalf.

When a people reject the invitation to come into the presence of God while in mortality they reject the prophet and seek a proxy. They love the man they call prophet because he, in their view, fulfills the need to have someone speak to God on their behalf.

Are we as the covenant people of the Lord embracing the invitation to come into presence of the Lord while in mortality with all of our hearts? Are we desiring to be endowed with priesthood power? Are we seeking to receive our actual temple endowment?

Or is this lost knowledge? Is the invitation being made to the covenant people? Are they aware of this primary purpose of the Melchizedek Priesthood?

Do we really desire a prophet?

Or do we desire a proxy?

Do we want someone to go on our behalf, talk with God, and give us a direction through an intermediary?

This has been the dominant desire of Israel for most of its existence. Has anything changed in the Latter-Days?

It seems that many of us in the Church rejoice in the presence of a prophet. Do we rejoice because we are prepared to be led into the presence of the Lord and are being guided to do so, or do we rejoice that the pressure is off?

Do we rejoice in the prophet because it means that God affirms us in our unbelief and we no longer have to perform the sacrifice or develop the faith to receive of actual power in the Priesthood?

One cannot receive the power of the priesthood unless one is walking the path into the presence of the Lord outlined in the temple. The veil of the temple represents the presence of the Lord on earth, and receiving power in obtained only on the path that leads to his presence.

If you rejoice in the presence of a prophet and sing with the House of Israel in cheers for the Prophet and “sustain” him, what is the cause of your rejoicing?

Are you excited because of what the Prophet is teaching? Or are you excited that there is a proxy releasing you from the heavy lifting of piercing the veil in this lifetime?

If you answer the former, how familiar are you with the words of President Nelson?

You can count on at least 4-6 general addresses a year from him. Do you know what he says? Or is his presence as a proxy alone cause to rejoice?

Do you believe that all you need to know is being delivered to you? Are you rejoicing that if the Prophet hasn’t directed you to do something specific on your path of faith that you are still on a path of exaltation?

Do you believe that staying in the “good ship Zion” (which you should do) ensures your exaltation? That if you live in the shadow of the prophet somehow you will be saved?

In reality, do you thank God for a Proxy in these Latter-Days?

For all of those that rejoice and are excited about President Nelson, how many are actually doing what he has counseled?

He has told us to stop seeking power in our professions and to seek power in the priesthood.

He has told us to stop seeking wealth and to seek priesthood power.

He has told us to seek repentance every day.

We have warnings and invitations, and yet the excitement reflects not the content of his message but his presence as a proxy.

How often is it discussed in our Sunday meetings the bold assertion from President Nelson:

“In a coming day, only those men who have taken their priesthood seriously, by diligently seeking to be taught by the Lord Himself, will be able to bless, guide, protect, strengthen, and heal others. Only a man who has paid the price for priesthood power will be able to bring miracles to those he loves and keep his marriage and family safe, now and throughout eternity” ( The Price of Priesthood Power, Russel M. Nelson).

The italics in that quote from President Nelson were inserted by him, not me.

Many dismiss this invitation, the scriptural invitations , temple doctrine, and teachings from prophets such as Joseph Smith to come into Christ’s presence while in the flesh as metaphorical and symbolic. I’m afraid that those who do so will find that their own admission into God’s Celestial Kingdom will remain symbolic and metaphorical. In other words, they will experience the glory of God from afar but will not receive the reality of the promises.

Just as Moses could not dissuade the covenant body from making him a proxy, neither can President Nelson compel us to seek the face of Christ. It is our collective decision to either accept the invitation into the higher priesthood delivered by President Nelson and the collective body of prophets, or to make an idol of our chief apostle.

Taking his priesthood on in name, but denying the invitation is an act of blasphemy. It is taking the Lord’s name in vain because we take his Holy Order in vain. He is patient with his covenant people, but eventually their vanity and blasphemies force him to in mercy and grace strip them of their covenant protection and allow the enemies of God to stir them into repentance.

Moses as the great prophet archetype shows us that a prophet of God is always inviting us into the presence of the Lord, or is giving us preparatory commandments to do so. If the Higher Priesthood is present on the earth, then this is the invitation.

Will we seek to truly follow the Prophets (all those that have delivered this invitation) or will we maintain the condemnation placed upon us in 1832 because we have sought a proxy to enter into his presence on our behalf?

Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the First Vision. How long will the Lord allow us to chose whether we will follow a prophet or a proxy?

Staying with the Covenant People

Last night I met the mother of a friend that I haven’t seen for some time. She shared with me that my friend and her husband had left the church because of their belief that they were having experiences that went beyond what the church was teaching. She also wondered if I had left the church because she knew we shared many of the same views of the gospel. I shared with her that I have never been more committed to the Lord’s church. The more I go down my path to Christ I find myself more and more centered in His, the Lord’s, restored church.

I don’t know all the reasons why my friend left the church since we haven’t spoken in well over a year. I don’t want make wrong assumptions, but I do want to speak to the general reason that many, many of my friends and acquaintances that have left the church because of their journey to Christ.

It’s hard to have close friends that are of great faith and passion for truth remove themselves from the church that put them on this path. They remove themselves from the church that restored the teachings and great scriptures that informed their seeking higher truths. They abandon the very structure that invited, taught, and inspired their journey to the presence of Christ. They abandon the priesthood keys through which the doctrines of the fulness of the Gospel have flowed.

And because of imperfection and dissonance between the great doctrines of the fulness of the gospel and its members, and even its leaders, they throw out babies with the bath water. And as this mother sorrowfully acknowledged to me last night, there is a lot of bathwater in the church.

But so what? This is almost always the case with the Lord’s covenant people.

And it is important to understand that the Church is the Lord’s covenant people. And as we understand how the Lord relates to his covenant people we will know the purpose and path of his church.

When in the history of the Lord’s covenant people has there not been friction, condemnation, struggle, disobedience, lack of faith, false beliefs, ease, and disinterest in receiving a fullness? The answer is, almost always. The groups of saints that do not descend into unbelief go on to create Zion societies, as in the time of Enoch or 3rd Nephi, took a great and long journey to get there. Or they experienced great destruction in order to be prepared for the higher and glorious state of Zion.

Just because you’ve been awakened to the great promises of the gospel does it mean you turn and rend the covenant body that hasn’t had the same experience?! Why would you be so quick to judge and leave a people that the Lord, himself, refuses to leave?

If a covenant people hasn’t ascended to a Zion state does it mean they are no longer a covenant people? Is it the case that unless a covenant people are in a Zion state that their future is hopeless and they are cut off?

Of course not! The work of the Lord is to patiently work and toil and labor with His people across many generations to prepare them to receive a fullness. He will do anything possible to bring forth good fruit. THIS IS HIS WORK! Those that leave his covenant people and abandon them because they don’t walk the same path are foolish. If they knew the Lord of the vineyard and his servants they would know that they abandon the very vineyard in which that they are called to work!

In Jacob 5 we read an exhaustive allegory of the Lord’s dealing with his covenant people. He goes through great effort, work, and long-suffering and patience to prepare his covenant people to receive of his fullness. This work spans many generations. He works and digs, and plants, and restructures, and pleads, and preaches, and does all sorts of work until there is absolutely no more hope that he can’t recover any more of his children from his covenant structure until he allows his vineyard to finally be burned.

If the Lord refuses to abandon his vineyard and labors and sorrows over it until the very end, how do those who profess to follow Christ abandon it so quickly when it doesn’t live up to their standards or expectations?

True followers of Christ do not leave the covenant body. They stay with it, they pray for it, they are patient and long-suffering with it. A true disciple of Christ is willing to suffer the judgements and mocking and scorn, and misunderstanding of those in the covenant body that persecute them for striving to partake of the Tree of Life.

Part of the path of Christ is enduring those in the Church that will persecute us for doing so. It is just part of the path. We should understand it and be humble and meek about it.

We should understand that the Lord allows there to be those of both belief and unbelief in his Church. It is part of the pattern.

Consider Jacob 5: 65

And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard.

The Lord also allows the wheat and tares to grow together until the very end. It is the pattern of the Lord’s work to allow his people to struggle in their unbelief and in not living up to the full covenant so that he can produce as much good fruit as possible.

If we follow Christ we also make his work our own work. We make his path our own. And his path is to do all that he can to redeem his people. His path is one of long-suffering with those that are unbelieving in his church.

Central to the path of Christ is enduring with and loving those that persecute, judge, or mock us within the Church for seeking higher things – for seeking a fullness of the blessings of the Gospel. Those of unbelief who may judge us or even persecute us within the church may do so because they honestly believe they are doing the right thing. We must love and extend grace to those who do so. It is the way we invite them to Christ. If we are truly after the holy order of the Son of God, we will do his works, which is suffer and endure abuse and judgment from within the covenant people in order to invite all into his mercy and grace. We must suffer and endure as our Savior so that his work may be accomplished.

We should never elevate ourselves above our brothers and sisters because we think we are more favored of the Lord. This is the path and temptation of Lucifer. This is his doctrine. We are not above anyone. In fact, if we are truly of the order of Christ, we understand that we are the least and servant of all.

The path of the true servant of Christ is to do all that one can, no matter the difficulty and discomfort, to toil with those that are called by virtue of being part of his covenant people, to bring them into a redeemed society.

Zion is hard. It requires us repenting and becoming fully sanctified from the things of this world. If we are coming to Christ he will take us along a path of revealing within us everything that is not Zion. He will show unto us our weakness. If we are on the path to eternal life we must endure every test and have every pride stripped out of us. Particularly the pride that asserts that since we have had spiritual experiences we can then stand in judgement against the Lord’s vineyard.

We must repent of the deception that following Christ leads us to leave his covenant people. This is not good fruit. It is not the path of the faithful servants to whom the Lord says:

And blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard” (Jacob 5: 75).

There are many false spirits and false Christs that are seeking to destroy the Lord’s elect. As we walk the covenant path we will find the deceptions of the Adversary increase in sophistication and in power. If we are not stripped of pride, and if we do not seek to be meek and lowly of heart, and willing to suffer all things in the name of Christ – if we seek to vaunt or elevate ourselves in the least degree, we will be rent and deceived by powerful and deceptive spirits.

We must repent of the impulse to pridefully judge or even abandon the covenant people by elevating ourselves above them. And we must discern and reject the luring deceptions of the Adversary that teaches us that our path is above the Church and beyond the covenant people. If we understand the path to which we are called, we understand that is never the case.

The path of meekness and lowliness is the only path of safety. Willingness to long-suffer with the Lord’s covenant people is the fruit and disposition of a true-follower of Christ.

May we faithfully walk and endure that path.

 

 

 

The Keepers of a Covenant

We are to be keepers of covenants. In other words, not only are we to fulfill the terms of a covenant, we are to protect them and retain their holy form – in their pure and unadulterated condition. In this sense we, as keepers of a covenant, keep and protect them in their purity.

When a covenant is made impure by changing the terms and making the signs of the covenant (ordinances) out of order, then we become subject to judgments, because God cannot be mocked.

God is love. But only those that love God will be redeemed in that love. And for those that take his name and words in vain, he will divide with a sword. Those that are not willing to be hated by all for his namesake is not worthy of him. To those that love the world and are ashamed of his name He comes not in peace, but he comes with a sword (Matthew 10:34).
When we force God into our own image by devaluing his word to fit our own works of darkness we break the covenant. We are no longer keepers and protectors of a holy order. We usurp that order to justify our wickedness and fleshy desires. Do we preach false doctrines because we love the honor and the vain things of the world? (Alma 1:16)
For this very reason, Nephi identified the occupants of the Great and Spacious building as the House of Israel (1 Nephi 11:35).
Silence speaks a sermon. Who will keep the covenant? Who will be a protector and righteous keeper of the covenants? Do we only want our keepers of the covenants to preach to us smooth things? Do we desire they preach to us deceits? (Isaiah 30:10)
Who is the tail? And who will be cut off because they hearken to the tail? (2 Nephi 19: 14-16).
Or will the children of Zion discern those that are hypocrites and liars? (D&C 63: 38-39)

Seeking Mystery

Mysteries are not unknowable things. They are things that are infinitely knowable. In other words, mysteries are things that have limitless boundaries of understanding and depth. Eternal things – truth, ordinance, covenants, principles, archetypes, and individuals have eternal depth and meaning. The bounds of the knowledge regarding eternal mysteries extend through the eternities.
God is a mystery because he is infinitely knowable. There are no bounds to your ability to learn unlimited things about him and her.
So are things like baptism and sacrament; they have limitless layers and depths to their meanings.
Understanding things like the archetypical account of Adam and Eve have unlimited depths learning and understanding – because it is the account of the fall, which is a fundamental pillar of eternal redemption.
Seeking mystery is not seeking things that are forbidden or that are unknowable; it is the pursuit of being redeemed by virtue of the endowment of spiritual knowledge. Knowledge is the saving principle of eternity. Knowledge is the power by which darkness is put under your feet, which is another definition of exaltation.
The process of exaltation is the process of receiving mysteries. It is coming into the revelation of God and knowing for ourselves. We come to know ourselves precisely to the degree that God is revealed to us.
The Adversarial doctrine of rejecting mysteries is powerful to the natural man because it does two fundamental things: it comforts the natural man by doctrinally justifying their desire to persist in their natural state – this is why so many, even those that profess to be of the church of God, teach and abide this doctrine – it relieves them from the invitation to put off the natural man.
The fruit of a person who is putting off the natural man is that they will always receive mystery.
A dominant sign that someone is born again is that they become greater possessors of knowledge.  They have a deeper understanding of the things of God. And they understand that the Holy Ghost performs two fundamental purposes: He reveals mysteries to you and he sanctifies you in order for you to be able to receive mystery.
The doctrine to rejecting mystery is the exact power of Satan to bind us by the chains of hell (Alma 12:9). Those that dissuade us from receiving the mysteries of God are preaching an Adversarial doctrine.
In wisdom, however, those that have mysteries will caution those that desire greater light and truth to receive it through the only channel it an be received, and by the laws that govern that channel. The Holy Ghost is the only channel through which we can receive mystery. And we can only receive mystery through the Holy Ghost to the degree we are cleansed by the sanctifying blood of Christ, we humble ourselves before God and keep his commandments with all of our hearts.
Those that reject mystery will rely on the vain forms of ordinances void of the power of godliness, and will practice the type of priestcraft that has the form of Godliness but denies the power thereof.
The priesthood is the power by which we come into possession of mystery

Becoming Light

Law is light. It is not a metaphor. It is a metaphysical reality. So laws are real. They are physical. And so if we live a law we possess the light of that law. If we want to keep a law, we must come into possession of the light.
Because we are beings of light we are, to one degree or another, a living manifestation of law. We are the law to the degree that we possess light. This is why Christ IS the law. He possess all light and therefore all laws are subject to him – because he is the law itself.
What happens when we break a law? We act against it if it is in us, or if it is being offered we resist it.  If we deny or resist light we become divested of it. This is why the revelation explains, “And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience” (D&C 93:39).
So, how do we keep a commandment? How do we keep a law? We become possessors of light.
I have to ask myself, what laws do I struggle keeping? Where is my obedience lacking? And when the questions are asked it is natural for me to try to keep commandments by discipline without receiving the light. For example, if I overeat or am gluttonous (which I often am), and I try to keep the commandment to deny myself, I can exert a lot of energy to discipline my flesh to “keep a commandment.” But is it possible to keep something in form, but not in spirit? Absolutely.
We can possess the form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. This is, perhaps, a definition of hypocrisy. Acting out a form without possessing the light.
How do I change? How do I keep a law that exists at a higher level of light that I know possess? First, it is important to realize that you cannot by taking thought increase your own light by your own power.
It must come from God. By his grace, he gives you light above the level that you now possess it. It must be gifted. It must be infused.
If we struggle with disobedience, or habits, or addictions, or weakness. We must learn how to come to a Christ that we can receive and possess the light of the law that we need to keep.
Instead of trying to fight overeating by my own discipline, I ask the Lord to give me the light associated with that law so it is part of my nature. And if it is part of your nature it will come to you naturally. You don’t have to fight. It becomes who you are.
 
So, how do we become possessors of greater light?  How do we become possessors of the law?
 
For starters, we make a choice that we will yield to light in all of its forms. We choose obedience in the sense that we will yield to every prompting and invitation to light.
 
We can also pray with all the energy of heart to be filled with love. Which is light. We can go to God and ask him to fill us with his light. And then we make the sacrifice of rejecting every form of darkness offered to us.
 
If we make the choice every day to single-mindedly yield to light at whatever sacrifice, the Lord will expedite the transformation of our natures at a supernatural pace.
 
And we, too, can become possessors of a fullness of law. We can become possessors of the fullness of the light of Christ.

Working Out Your Salvation

“Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.” (Mormon 9:27)

This verse, lately, has become a favorite. It’s invitation is distilling upon me every day. Two things strike me about this that are so powerful.

1. We are to begin our search of the Lord by coming to him with all of our hearts. This is the first step. We have to make a decision to go all in. ALL OF OUR HEARTS.

If we don’t decide to go all in our life becomes a long belated process of slowly choosing if we will serve God or Mammon. We are luke warm. But, if we decide to go all in with all of our hearts we receive the next invitation:

2. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

The meaning of this is becoming clearer to me. I am starting to understand that becoming born again is nothing to be trifled with. And it requires a wrestle. An encounter with the divine and your own nothingness. It requires you to face the stark reality of his greatness and your unworthiness. And to call upon him for the great work of redemption to be wrought in your heart and spirit. This is not slow. This is not a casual, imperceptible experience. This is facing the reality of your fallen nature and Christ’s power to save you. This is about having the revelation of what fruits of repentance must be brought forth in order to receive the witness of your redemption.