A Primer on Liberalism, Leftism, and our American Existential Crisis

Is it true that debating politics is usually just two people who want the same result but just disagree on how to get there?

It depends on who is having the debate. Here’s a quick summary of the political movements and their origins:

(This is very, very simplified, but I think it still works)

  1. The founding philosophy of America was Classical Liberalism

There are three primary premises of Classical Liberalism

  1. The individual is sovereign and paramount. Individual freedom is the most important thing in society. Individuals are greater than the group.
  2. Truth is not relative, but is rooted in nature. It is objective and universal as a phenomena. . (You may disagree wildly on what that truth is, but truth is a universal, nonetheless – it just needs to be discovered).
  3. Free societies require economic freedom. Capitalism is the economic twin of Classical Liberalism

    Even though the term “classical liberalism” was coined after the American revolution, this new-world view was it was born from the prominent Christian/Judaic religious tradition, and was advanced in ways the world had never seen by philosophical revolutionaries like Thomas Jefferson (even though he rejected the mystical tenets of Christianity). Natural rights. Individualism. Free Market Capitalism.

                Think Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Barry Goldwater

  1. Big Government Liberalism (for lack of a better term) emerges roughly in the early to mid 20th century.

BGL is a traditional Democrat. But they are the old-school Democrats. This is my grandpa. They accept the basic tenets of Classical Liberalism (natural rights, free markets, individualism), but are committed to addressing some of the natural challenges and problems that free societies face: Poverty, advocating for workers, economic mobility… etc. and they believe that greater government intervention and spending is the solution.

The Democratic Party has a great tradition and has been a great party.

Think JFK, LBJ, MLK; even Bill Clinton. These are roughly in this group.

In America in the 20th century Classical Liberals became to be known as conservatives, and BGL’s became to be known just as liberals.

So, to answer the question – can two people have the same aim but believe there are different ways to achieve it? Yes. If the two people that are talking are a classical liberal and a big-government liberal. They share a fundamental philosophy.

BUT…..

Enter a third category of political social philosophy. It is born out of the Marxist movements of the 20th century – both economic and cultural Marxism. And Marxism has an odd bedfellow, but a political ally in post-modernism.

3.  Marxism and Post-Modernism – “Leftism” just for convenience. (I know that it appears to be a sloppy connection at this point.)

Leftism rejects the basic tenets of classical liberalism, and big-government liberalism which again are, natural rights, individualism, and free markets. Not only does it reject those pillars, it advocates for the philosophical inverse.

1. The group is paramount and the individual is annihilated.

2. There is no such thing as objective truth – only relative truths rooted in social power structures (herein lies the marriage of Marxism and post-modernism).

3. And free markets are only oppressive economic regimes by the patriarchal, economic classes used to oppress other vulnerable classes of people (women/minorities/marginalized members of society). Economic systems should be ultimately centralized so that wealth is distributed evenly.

Leftism is an aggressive opponent to the founding philosophy of the United States, legal structure, government, and core values of freedom of speech, religion, and due process.

So, what happened? How does this third movement of Leftism infect the American tradition of natural rights and rugged individualism?

Because it carries the same language and, ostensibly, and what appears as the same aims of traditional Big Government Liberalism. BGL morphed in large part, over time into Leftism. But to do so, it had to very carefully and overtime make the case to reject the tenets of individualism, natural rights, and economic freedom.

It was subtle. And attractive to young people in Academia not equipped to reject its romantic, but egregious tenets.

 It was from the 70’s to the current era. Leftists took over the universities and thereby overtime have infected the media classes and governing classes. It also has philosophically consumed the Democratic Party. Once a great party and institution (even though I disagree with the party in the 20th century) – it has become the host and political vehicle for Marxist/Post-Modern Leftism.

What is also interesting as a phenomena, unlike Classical and Big-Government Liberalism, Leftism has taken upon itself a unique religious nature. Classical Liberals and BGL’s find religion as a natural compliment to their political and social vision. Leftists, however, naturally abandon their religious traditions for this new Marxist/Post-Modern religion.

Now, are all Democrats, Leftists? Of course not. And this is why it is so confusing for so many Democrats (and Republicans) to make this distinction in the philosophical movement. There are traditional Democrats out there that still believe in BGL; but are unaware how Leftism has become the dominant philosophy of the Democratic Party. Many, if not most, people in the Democratic party do not make a distinction between Liberalism and Leftism. They conflate the terms and ideas.

They can’t see these distinctions because Leftism is such a close counterfeit to liberalism.

This is why the modern Democratic Party rejects the philosophy of Martin Luther King, JFK, and all of their heroes 20th century. (But good-luck getting them to be honest about that one). They have divorced their 20th century heroes for the likes of with the counterfeit movements of social justice, identity politics, and political correctness. They reject the individual as paramount. They reject natural law. They reject free market capitalism. They are fundamentally racist and use legitimate racial problems as a way to advance their Marxist and Post-Modern world view – race is not a primary concern for the Collectivist.

Liberalism has the ability to ultimately defeat racism. Leftism creates and increases racism.

Failing to make a distinction between Leftism and Liberalism, the movement has a deceptive quality. Many good people fall for its tenets.

For this reason, some of the best people I know believe some of the worst things.

Can a Liberal (either classical or big government) and a Leftist agree upon the same goals but have different views of how to get there?

No, they cannot. Because the aim of a Leftistism is not freedom, the advancement of individualism, or the protection of natural rights. Their goal is equality of outcome. This, upon deep consideration, contradicts the very moral fabric of America. It will shred us apart – as we can already see. Equality of outcome as an aim requires the suspension of natural rights, freedom, and the death of individualism. It requires to oppression, totalitarianism, and the suspension of freedom. It’s produces every type of evil and murderous outcome, as we witnessed over and over when these experiments were had in the 20th century. Leftism has claimed the lives of at least 100 million people in the last century. Why does it still persist? Are we so foolish to allow one of our great American Political parties become possessed with its alluring, but ultimately lethal ideology?

The question is, can we root this ideology out before it reaches critical mass? It seems to me that we have Stage 3 Leftism in this country. Is it too late? Will the Democratic Party stop breathing life into this movement that is about to consume us?




The Sacrament: If Ye are Not One Ye are Not Mine

One thing that I’ve been interested to observe about ” home church” is how often I hear people admit that they really don’t want to go back to meeting with their ward. Of course there are exceptions to this – but how often I hear people secretly admit that they love home sacrament meeting so much more than going to church, and will be disappointed when they have to return, has been genuinely interesting to me.

I’ve thought a lot about this. Why is home sacrament meeting so great? Why don’t we, in general, have the same experience and joy in our ward families?

When thinking about the sacrament there are some things that makes it a very unique ordinance. First, it is not an ordinance that is administered generally to a singe individual. We don’t insert our individual names into the sacrament prayers. It is a collective ordinance – blessed and administered to all who gather to take it together.

As a collective ordinance, we can also look at our practices and ordinances and see if there is anything else we do that is also a collective ordinance. What’s interesting is that there is another ordinance/practice that can be used to inform our practice of the sacrament.

In our temple worship we are taught the true order of prayer. As another collective ordinance, in which once again we are not individually named but are treated as a unified body, we can learn about the principles taught about how that ordinance works.

The true order of prayer is predicated on the principle of unity of feeling. We are not to have any unkind feelings towards each other. If they exist, we are invited to not participate in the prayer. This is a fantastic principle that teaches us how we need to have a condition of heart before the desired blessing of the true order of prayer can be realized.

It strikes me that the same principle applies to the sacrament. Why would it be any different? If we are coming together to collectively partake of the sacrament why wouldn’t the same principle of not having any unkind feelings between each other make the difference between having a collective spiritual experience and not?

This insight into how those that partake the sacrament together need to have the best of feelings towards each other informs our initial question. Perhaps it is because within the family unit you will find the environment where the best of feelings are felt. We feel unity. Coming together in a living room, making the choice to worship without a social expectation. Controlling the content and spirit of the meeting – all of these things are preferred to meeting in a large group of people when there is no guarantee of a unified spiritual feeling.

So this unplanned social experiment perhaps teaches us about a principle that should have been on the forefront of our minds all along. What would happen if we started keeping the principles that govern the collective ordinances we regularly practice? What would happen if a ward was able to rid themselves of unkind feelings of any kind before they came together and partook of the sacrament?

What kind of spiritual outpouring would be experienced in a ward that truly repented of their judgment, unkind feelings, backbiting, gossip, and disunity? What would that testimony meeting look like?

Impossible? Possible? Perhaps we should seriously pause before we jump back in and start taking this sacred ordinance without the qualifying spiritual unity the Lord requires for his people to possess before they partake of his emblems in his name.

Too high of a bar? How can we embrace the very real warning that “if you are not one you are not mine”?


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.

 

Eye Single to Glory of God in Others

Light attracts light, and darkness attracts darkness. What we are attracted to in others reflects in us the dominant impulse in our own beings. If I find myself judging others, and noticing the worse in others, it reflects my own nature. If my impulse is to find the light in someone else, even if that light is buried deep down, it reflects that charity is becoming the governing aspect of my nature.

I have found myself in recent years really fighting the desire to judge others. Especially those that I feel are judging me. It has been a chastisement to come to realize that this is because I have allowed so much darkness to govern my awareness. It is such a chastisement to come to understand this, but as with all chastisements, it also comes with instruction.

When I feel to judge others and to see darkness in them, and to withhold love because of their darkness, there is a way to shift your focus and awareness. When we encounter someone we are tempted to judge, we can ask the Lord to reveal to us the light within them. All people have the spirit of truth in them. The Lord can reveal that to us and we can single-mindedly learn to focus on it.

In one sense, this seems one way in which we can fulfill the invitation to have our eye single to the glory of God. We make our awareness single to the light of others in those that may be hard to love. If our eyes are single to the glory of God in others, than our whole body can be filled with light, and we can see things as they are, and we can comprehend all things – including the ability to charitably discern other people.

What a blessing and power! To be able to see people as they are, and to begin to love them the way the Lord loves them. This is a game changer. This can radically transform our awareness of others. Our ability to be servants of Christ will exponentially increase. We will be endowed with power to bless and bring others to Christ.

Our eyes can be single to the glory of God in those that are hard to love. Searching for that light invites the Holy Ghost to expand our awareness and to become full of the love of Gods ourselves. Learning to do this will certainly activate the promise of having our eye single:

Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God (in others), and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will. (D&C 88: 68)

Overcoming Spiritual Disorientation

When a pilot is flying an airplane they may experience a frightening phenomena called “vestibular disorientation”. When pilots can’t see outside and aren’t able to orient themselves with physical landmarks they sometimes feel like their plane is turning. Or banking. Or rolling in a way that it is not. A pilot who experiences vestibular disorientation feels in their body something that is happening that isn’t actually happening. Their inner sense of balance, their whole body, may scream at them that they are turning or banking when it in reality it may be completely level. A pilot’s physical senses cannot be trusted when they cannot orient themselves to outside landmarks.

For a pilot to overcome vestibular disorientation they have to focus intensely on their instruments. They focus on exactly what the indicators say are really happening with the plane. They may feel with their whole body that they are rolling but they must trust the instruments that tell them they are flying level. It takes total faith in an instrument when your senses and feelings are sending off alarms and deceiving you to do something that would lead to your destruction.

This is, for example, what is believed to have happened to John Kennedy Jr. when he crashed into the Atlantic ocean. He was flying in zero visibility. He thought that his plane was banking and so he corrected. He didn’t trust his instrument readings. Unfortunately it was his correction that caused him to spiral into the ocean.

The metaphor of vestibular disorientation in aviation is a powerful one. Because our natures are fallen, and because we “see through a glass darkly”, it is easy for us to be overpowered with spiritual disorientation. It is possible that our body – our whole being – can give us false revelation. A body that is not sanctified can be a powerful false revelator.

When we are under the influence of our flesh it can seem like we are getting true revelation. If these senses are so powerfully real, then how is it possible to know if we are getting true or false revelation? We must learn to distinguish between the spirit and the flesh. In other words, we must learn how to taste and recognize light.

The light of Christ is the external instrument panel that can bring us out of our disorientation. The more we learn how to taste and identify the light of Christ, the better we will be at coming out of spiritual disorientation. But just as a pilot has to fight his core physical instincts and trust his instruments, we too, will experience a similar struggle. When abandoning ourselves to the requirements of the light of Christ may feel like an epic struggle. We may want to trust our bodies and desires instead. Having faith to yield to light instead of the flesh can feel like an epic battle.

But if we have faith to do exactly as the light of Christ invites us we can be quickly relieved from the disorientation of our fallen nature. Sometimes for a pilot they have to fight their disorientation and act against their physical instincts for 10-15 minutes before their bodies recalibrate. Likewise, we have to have faith to follow the spirit in exactness for some time before our flesh aligns with the will of the Spirit.

This could be considered “faith unto repentance”. It takes faith to act against our fallen instincts until we become recalibrated to the light of Christ. This “recalibration” is the process of becoming sanctified.

Sanctification is the state of being where our flesh, mind, heart, emotions, desires – all that makes up our very being – becomes aligned with the Spirit of Christ. It is to become one with Christ. Coming into this state requires us to act in faith on the light of Christ, even when it’s promptings and invitations seem to violate our senses. We may falsely believe that if we yield to a prompting that we will become uncomfortable, or unhappy, or become vulnerable to something we have worked hard to protect ourselves from.

I remember one day when I was in graduate school and had a long and tiring day in class. I had a lot of stress and a lot of school work to finish. In the evening, I just wanted to escape. Even though I had hours of work ahead of me I just wanted to go see a movie. I grabbed my keys and was walking out the door when I went to war with myself. The spirit instructed me to stay and do the homework. Everything else in me fought the prompting, making the case that I was tired, overworked, and “deserved” a break. I felt that if I didn’t go to a movie that my whole world would fall apart. It was a very dramatic internal showdown.

I decided to yield to the spirit in this case. Even though my flesh was screaming at me to flee my work and relax in a theater, I acted against my instincts and followed the prompting. It wasn’t 10 minutes later that I felt light, empowered, and full of focus and energy to finish a workload that was nowhere near as overwhelming as I had built it up in my mind.

Imagine if I had instead chosen to go the movie? I am sure that the work that I had put off would later seem unbearable. I would have been consumed in darkness, depression, and probably without hope. When we subject ourselves to our fallen world-view we become overcome with a false sense of the world. Everything gets painted in a distorted way. We do not see things “as they are.”

What’s also interesting is to think about the ripple effect this decision had. If I had resisted the prompting to stay home and study do you think I would have had a greater temptation to see a movie that I shouldn’t? I believe so. That night, when I prayed to the Lord, were my prayers different? The next day, when faced with a greater temptation, did I have more or less strength to be faithful to the spirit?

There are no small decisions. Everything we do has an eternal rippling effect. Thankfully, the invitation to repent is constantly before us. We can always choose to start faithfully following the promptings of the light of Christ.

We are all constantly living in a state where the Lord in his mercy and grace will give us promptings at anytime we want them.  We can always ask the question, what does the light of Christ require of me right at this moment? I believe the Lord will always answer. Even if it’s small. It may be a prompting to simply sit up straighter and take a deep breath. It may be a prompting to continue praying in patience. Be aware of exactly what you are being invited to do.

If  we act on a prompting, and we act without hesitation, the next prompting will be slightly clearer. And it will be more discernable. You will grow in the light of Christ and learn how to follow the Holy Ghost with precision (Alma 32). This process is also explored more in the post, Growing in the Principle of Revelation: How to Discern Between the Spirit and Your Own Thoughts

Here are some questions that we can always ask. If we respond to our first impressions to these questions, our world can transform quickly.

What does the light of Christ require of me right now?

What does love require of me?

What is the loving thing to do?

What is the faithful thing to do?

What can I change that I know I am procrastinating?

The Lord intensely wants us to return to him. If we engage him faithfully he will carve a path through stone and lead us to him. We will become beings full of light. We will become so that we “comprehend all things” (D&C 88:67). We will come to “know the mysteries in full” (Alma 12). We become the kinds of beings that will “shake at the appearance of sin” (2 Nephi 4: 31). We will see him as he is because we will become “pure, even as he is pure” (Moroni 7:49).

 

 

Lusting for Spiritual Experiences

Thinking about the connection between repentance and gaining spiritual knowledge. If we want to gain knowledge we need to seek the requisite repentance for that knowledge. The reason is that the whatever portion of the natural man that is not under the influence of the Holy Ghost – that isn’t sanctified – will be leveraged against us if we are seeking revelation.

For example, if we carry a lust for power or esteem then we can receive false revelations that feeds the desire for esteem or power. We may easily mistake this as being from the Lord if that part of us isn’t sanctified. If we lust for sex, then we may receive false revelations that could satisfy those lusts. Consider that it is possible to lust for spiritual experience, or revelation, or for spiritual blessings. The natural man can desire things that may seem paradoxical – that we can even desire things like our calling and election made sure can be driven by a natural man lust for an experience for an impure reason.

Spiritual lust can be very hard to detect. I sometimes think that blessings are withheld in part because we want them for the wrong reason. Becoming born again, receiving revelation, seeking our calling and election made sure – all have to be sought with an eye single to the glory of God. If not, they are withheld in mercy.

If we continue to seek higher manifestations without purifying ourselves in repentance then we become vulnerable to the Adversary to give us the counterfeit experiences of these revelations. Yes, it is possible to have a counterfeit born again experience, revelation, and especially a counterfeit calling and election made sure experience. Because our lusts can be sophisticated, and the natural man can be sophisticated, the false revelations of knowledge can also be very sophisticated. So how do we protect ourselves against false revelations? We repent completely of the natural man. We must become born again and have all of the impurities burned out of us.

How do we know we have sufficiently repented? The Alma 5 questions are a good guide. Are you full of love? Do you have a disposition to do evil? Are you stripped of pride? Do you have any envy? Do you seek to consume any lusts? Money? Sex? Recognition? Are you willing to sacrifice anything for the Lord? Do you seek to be the least and servant of all? Do you have hope and faith to receive a greater portion?

If we are in a state of being sanctified by the Holy Ghost then we can receive the revelations that are at the level of our state of sanctification. It is only then that the Lord can distill greater and greater knowledge, mysteries, and revelations. We must repent with all of our hearts to be prepared to receive the word of the Lord in its fulness.

Is the Path Strait, or is it Straight?

Is the path strait, or is it straight?

It is both. But what does that mean?

It’s not uncommon for members of the covenant to point out that the use the form of the word “strait” is a winding channel between two bodies of water, or as a mountain pass. This is pointed out to suggest that the course could wind and not be in a straight line. But this would be a misuse of the definition of “strait”. When people reference strait in the sense of a channel between mountains or connecting bodies of water, they are referencing the noun form of the word.

The scriptures use the adjective form of the word. This form of the word simply means: narrow or close; not broad.

When the Lord refers to the strait and narrow path he is emphasizing how narrow the gate is, and how narrow the path remains. We should be careful not to infer that the path is winding, or meanders. The Adversary is working hard to dilute, confuse, counterfeit and teach the philosophies of men regarding the path. These philosophies carry the risk that would lead us off of the strait and narrow path and on to strange paths. We must be vigilant in our rejection of anything that does not comply to the pure doctrine of Christ.

Christ says of his own path:

For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round (D&C 3:2)

When the Lord refers to his paths as being straight. We are commanded to keep them this way. It is upon us to Prepare “the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (D&C 65: 1).

It is a commandment to keep his path straight. We keep it straight by walking on the straight path and by also keeping his doctrine pure.

Nephi uses the term strait and straight interchangeably. This should drive clarity about the path.

Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name (2 Nephi 9: 41).

Overcoming the world is the process of keeping our paths straight. Nephi again teaches us through the record of his own experiences:

O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy (2 Nephi 4: 33).

Those that declare the pure gospel of Christ will all echo the same message as Alma who taught the way of the path with precision and purity. And he also reminds us that the path we walk in is the Lord’s path. They both must be straight. This is when we are righteous and in “the way”: It is when we make the Lord’s path our own.

But behold, the Spirit hath said this much unto me, saying: Cry unto this people, saying—Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth (Alma 7: 9).

It is us that meander. It is us that wander. We may cross over the strait and narrow path a thousand times in our life – but that does not make the path crooked. We are to come into possession of the path and then learn how to keep the path – we must learn to endure on it.

Truth and Comfort

Telestial comfort is the enemy to truth. If we seek comfort in any form more than we seek truth, we will ultimately end up with neither. Seeking telestial self-comfort as a priority is the great temptation of mortality.

If I am not willing to give up all of my comforts for the pursuit of truth, I will not be capable of receiving the truth. The reason for this is because I will mistaken the receipt of telestial comfort as a form of truth – and will enter into a self-deceived state.

Mistaking telestial comfort for truth keeps us in a state of darkness. We may believe we have comfort, but we deep down know that it is unstable and temporary.

Truth, in its purity, is the great source of true comfort in this life. We have to pass through the ordeals of sacrifice to get there. This is done by sacrifice. One way to look at sacrifice is that we have to be willing to sacrifice all telestial comforts before we can receive of the Lord’s comforter – the Holy Ghost.

When we are filled with the truth of God we come into an eternally comforted state. This is why the New and Everlasting Covenant is the reception of a series of comforters. These comforters are bring us into higher states of rest and comfort. But we must willingly sacrifice all things in order to be capacitated to ascend into the holy comforters.

There are levels of telestial comfort that are helpful to identify. Introspection of this type, when led by the Holy Ghost, can provide insight into what needs to be sacrificed in order to fully receive the Comforters offered by Christ.

  1. Food, sex, stimulants
  2. Material wealth / possessions
  3. Reputation among others who we respect and desire approval
  4. Social status
  5. Political and social views
  6. The love of our loved-ones
  7. Our belief system (even when we think we are possessors of truth – this can be a sophisticated way of keeping us in a self-comforted state. This is very common amongst the church)
  8. Our belief that we are saved by virtue of having made an outward covenant. The form with out the power.

What is hard, almost impossible, is to identify the depth of self-deception to which we all are subject. Being a member of the church, believing that we are in a safe state of redemption by virtue of membership and activity, can produce the type of self-comfort that keeps someone from fully coming into truth. No matter where we are in our spiritual progression, we must constantly offer up what we think we know for the greater height the Lord wants to bring us to.

One question that is very helpful to ask and be strictly honest about is, what am I willing to sacrifice for the truth? What would I not let go of?

Your family? Your wealth? Your health? Your reputation?

Are you willing to have your understanding of truth reorganized? Are there any sacred cows that you are not willing to put on the alter?

These question can be so helpful to take to the Lord to show us our weakness so that we can come to him in a more direct coarse.

The comfort of the Lord expands us into a peace that is beyond any peace that can be found in this mortal state. But we all have to wrestle with the question: Am I willing to sacrifice my comforts in all of their forms today in order to receive of the fullness the Father has to offer?

In his mercy he usually does not require us to make this move all at once. But sometimes he does. We shouldn’t hedge. We should come to him with all of our hearts every day of our lives. If we sacrifice every telestial comfort with all of our hearts everyday, when the winds blow and this world descends into chaos we will not be shaken nor will we fear. We will already be of a different world.

Rending the Veil of Flesh

Our flesh is a veil, and to rend the veil in this life means, in a way, that we must rend the veil of our flesh. And we do this through the power of the spirit through the process of having a broken heart and contrite spirit. The Sacrament as an ordinance brings us through this process regularly. It’s through the rending of the flesh that we stay on the strait and narrow path.

Taking the sacrament is rending a veil. It represents the veil of the Savior’s body – and as his flesh was torn for us we can pass upwards through the veil back into the Lord’s presence.

We partake of the power of the Lord’s torn flesh insofar as we come prepared having torn our own flesh – meaning we come with a fully broken heart and in a state of our spirits contrite.

What is a broken heart? It is a hear completely divested of desires of a telestial things – and of a complete desire for higher things. It is a heart completely and perfectly softened. A heart willing to sacrifice anything for the Father. It is through this process of receiving a broken heart that we are prepared to pass through the veil.

A contrite spirit is a mind that is completely open to the things of God. It is a mind that is not encumbered with false traditions. It is a mind firm in every form of godliness.

We can rend the veil as we rend our own flesh. This is why we fast before we take the sacrament. Fasting and prayer brings us into this powerful state.

 

Are You on the Covenant Path?

What is the covenant path? It is a new term – and one that seems potentially useful. But what is it?

It seems that the covenant path is the same thing as the strait and narrow path. If you have a different understanding, I’d like to know your thoughts.

Assuming that it is the strait and narrow path, how do we know we are on the covenant path?

First, without question, understanding that the strait and narrow path is a succession of covenants is helpful, but we must be clear about what that means (and I’m not sure that we always are).

Covenants are agreements that produce a spiritual transformation. If there is no revelatory or transformational event, there is no covenant. For example, how does one enter the strait and narrow path? By being baptized by water AND becoming fully born again. You aren’t in the covenant until you experience the spiritual transformation of the mighty change of heart. It is only then you are on the strait and narrow path (and presumably the covenant path).

The strait and narrow path includes every covenant, ordinance, and oath needed for exaltation. The chronology of the path goes something like this:

Exercise faith, repent and receive a remission of sins and then get baptized and have a born again transformation and you are on the strait and narrow path.

Stay on the strait and narrow path through retaining your baptism of fire and born again condition. If you are not born again, you fall off the path. To regain the path, we must repent sufficiently to become born again, again.

This is why it is considered a “strait” and “narrow” path. It is a very narrow channel of being that we retain a born again condition. It requires constant attention and it is very easy to come out of this condition in a moment. This is why I think there is power in calling it “strait” and “narrow”. It is critical to always remember that the path has a strict requirement associated with it: we mush continue in our born again state and learn how to retain it.

While on the path we receive the covenant of the Aaronic Priesthood which is being prepared for the spiritual experiences of the Melchizedek priesthood. When we truly receive the Melchizedek priesthood we have preparatory spiritual manifestations preparatory to being receiving our Second Comforter; which received at the end of the path.

The temple endowment is the sequence of covenants and ordinances in physical form that teach us the manifestations required to be exalted. We have not been fully endowed until our calling and election has been made sure. The endowment is the physical representation of the process of making our calling and election made sure.

After we have made our calling and election made sure we then prove faithful to have our marriage sealed – which is the same thing as having your calling and election made sure for your marriage.

You then receive the fullness of the priesthood, sealing power, and power to seal your posterity to you in the capstone ordinance of the second anointing.

Partaking of the Tree of Life at the end of the strait and narrow path is to receive the sealing blessings of your calling and election made sure, have your marriage sealed, and have the priesthood sealed upon you.

So, this is the covenant path. Are you on it? In other words, are you in that strait and narrow channel of being in a born again condition? And if so, are you pressing forward to make your calling and election made sure? This, I believe, is what they mean by covenant path. It is strait and narrow. “And few be there that find it” (3 Nephi 27: 33).

 

 

Look Where You Want to Go

While in college my Dad took me and my two brothers on a cross-country motorcycle trip. We started in Portland Oregon, rode to Boston, Massachusetts, and then rode the entire way back. A trip like this has a lot of inherent risk, but what amplified the danger was that none of us had ever before ridden a motorcycle.

One of the first lessons I had to learn was to look where I wanted to go. This is actually much harder than it sounds. It’s not natural. For example, when you are riding by an obstacle, and you’re afraid you may hit it, and you stare at it because you don’t want to hit it, the likelihood you will smack into the thing you are staring at increases a lot more than you may think. Likewise, if you concentrate on where you want to go when driving by something potentially dangerous – chances are you will go to the place you are looking instead of hitting the obstacle.

When we were riding through Kansas we decided to take an off-ramp to get some food. When slowing down on the highway to take the exit, there was some construction with a lip on the road that ran parallel to the direction I was riding. I was really nervous about crossing this lip in the road, and because of it I was staring at it intently when I crossed. Sure enough, I hit it wrong and crashed my motorcycle. I did exactly what I didn’t want to do because it was the thing that filled my mind. I am also pretty sure that if I had looked at where I wanted to go instead of the 3-inch lip I would have been fine and crossed it without a problem. A very small obstacle almost killed me because I had given it so much attention.

This principle works when skiing, biking, skateboarding,… pretty much whenever you are in forward motion. And what is life, if not the collective experience of forward motion?

This is a particularly powerful principle when it comes to overcoming sin, weakness, addiction, and destructive behavior. If we focus and fret and are concerned with the thing we want to avoid, chances are, we will fall right into it.

Like a rocket trying to leave the pull of the Earth’s gravity, escaping the natural man can seem similarly impossible. Herculean strength, world-class discipline, and even supreme will power will not ultimately overcome the tendencies of fallen flesh in the long-run.

When overcoming a sin, an addiction, a weakness there is an instinctual tendency to want to fight the thing we are trying to overcome. By fighting, we may believe that it is by the exertion of our own will that we can overcome our weaknesses – that we can pull away from the Earth’s gravity. Even after expending our best efforts, it is not uncommon to continually fall back into natural habits, fundamental weaknesses, spirit-crushing addictions, and, like Nephi,  to feel “encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me” (2 Nephi 4: 18).

It is also a mistaken, but common, belief to assume that Christ really helps, or forgives, or accepts after we conquer our own weaknesses. This may be a result of a commonly taught philosophy of man that reasons Christ helps us only after we expend our best efforts to help ourself. The working assumption being that Christ does not love us unconditionally in our fallen state, but only after we extract ourselves from our fallen tendencies do we earn the right to call upon Christ for his forgiveness and healing.

Precisely because we give our weaknesses attention, thought, and because of our fear of them, they tend to consume us. Lot and his wife fleeing Sodom is almost a perfect metaphor of this problem. As they both left we all know that Lot’s wife turned back to look at Sodom. She was reduced to salt (whatever that means). It is in looking at the thing we are avoiding that we are taken in and consumed by it.

Does overcoming the natural self have to be the war we make it out to be?

First, we know that it is Christ that delivers us and transforms us from our natural and fallen disposition. It is the power of Christ that heals us, and can remake us from the natural self to a child of Christ. It is only through the deliverance of the mighty change of heart, spiritual rebirth, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost are we redeemed from our fallen and carnal state. What King Benjamin taught is worth constantly revisiting:

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a childsubmissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3: 19).

So, how do we engage Christ in a way so that we can learn to live in a state of  being born again, and maintain the disposition to no more desire evil?

Christ is where we want to go. Instead of squaring off with our weaknesses, obsessing over them, planning our lives around them, and fighting every day “to do a little better than the day before” what would happen if we just abandoned ourself to doing and focusing on the truth which is in Christ?

In other words, instead of fighting our weaknesses, we just ask questions like the following:

  1. What is the Holy Ghost prompting me to do this very moment?
  2. What does the Lord want me to do in the next hour?
  3. How can I seek to be completely full of light today?

Darkness cannot be overcome by force, or attention, or by squaring off and fighting it. It is overcome by casting all of our attention on light and truth. If we wrestle with weakness, weakness will always eventually win. If we are filled with light we win immediately.

This principle is taught very clearly in the scriptures. When the children of Israel were bitten by serpents an easy way was prepared for their deliverance.

And he did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished” (1 Nephi 17: 41).

What if our sins and weaknesses are our fiery flying serpents that he sends to us to discover the easiness of being healed by Christ if learn how to focus our attention?

Just like riding my motorcycle and being afraid of hitting an obstacle, it may require us fighting every instinct we have to not pay attention to what we are afraid of, but if we can act against the instinct we discover a certain easiness of giving ALL of our attention to Christ.

And when we fully commit to Christ, which includes being obedient to every prompting we receive in every moment, we find ourselves delivered. If we take action to fill our minds with truth, and will our awareness with light and gratitude, we find ourselves very naturally letting go of the natural man. It becomes a paper tiger.

What we give our attention to gives us strength. If our attention is on darkness our strength will be darkened. If we give our attention to light, and only light, our strength becomes light.

The counsel is simple and perfect:

Look unto me in every thoughtdoubt not, fear not! (D&C 6: 36)

 

 

 

Lehi’s Prophecy of Perdition: Who Would Partake of the Tree of Life and then Leave?

Have you ever asked the question about Lehi’s dream regarding those that partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life and then become ashamed and then leave? Partaking of the Tree of Life is the assurance of eternal life – yet it doesn’t make sense that there would be a group that would have this assurance and then fall away. This essay explores this question and suggest that those that partake and then fall way are perdition – and it happens enough to include it in a powerful prophesy.

Nephi and Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life serves as a doctrinal framework for the entire Book of Mormon. It is the revelation of the plain and precious truths of the doctrine of Christ that restores us to a knowledge of how to obtain the presence of the Lord.

If we wrest this revelation by misappropriating the doctrine and assuming that we are experiencing the path in ways that we aren’t, or misinterpreting the doctrine to fit our own experience, we run the risk of once again losing the plain and precious truths of the gospel. There is great power in understanding both the vision and the doctrine of the revelation (found in 2 Nephi 31-32) because we can then know exactly where we are in our journey to Christ, and we can know what to do next.

If we fail to understand where we are personally in this doctrinal structure, then we will fail to make the progress needed to move forward. We will at a minimum be stagnant in our progression; but the greater risk is that we will fail to fulfill the spiritual requirements for real spiritual progress. We must get this right and not wrest the scriptures to our own destruction” (Alma 13: 20).

In order to clearly understand the Lehi and Nephi’s vision, and the doctrine of Christ, we must be really clear about the meaning of the Tree of Life – what it means and who partakes of its fruit. Thankfully, the scriptures are really clear about this point of doctrine.

What is the Tree of Life?

We first encounter the tree in the multiple accounts of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We should note that they were forbidden to partake of the fruit after they partook of the fruit of tree of knowledge of good and evil. Why would this be? Why would the plan of God be thwarted and they would live forever in their sins?

Alma’s Teaching

Of course these questions have depths and layers impossible to explore quickly in a single essay. But at a minimum we should understand that the consequence of eating from the Tree of Life would cause them to “live forever” (Moses 4:28). The Lord protects the tree by placing cherubim and a flaming sword so that those who do not qualify cannot partake and live forever in their sins.

This is the first indication that the Tree of Life is to partake of eternal life. As Alma teaches this doctrine he also makes clarifies the following:

“But behold, it was appointed unto man to die—therefore, as they were cut off from the tree of life they should be cut off from the face of the earth—and man became lost forever, yea, they became fallen man.

And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will…

and the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord,…

And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord.” (Alma 42: 6-23).

Alma makes it clear that the tree of Life is the presence of the Lord. In the 12th chapter of his record he teaches that those who prepare themselves for the Tree of Life enter into the rest of the Lord.

And now behold, if it were possible that our first parents could have gone forth and partaken of the tree of life they would have been forever miserable, having no preparatory state; and thus the plan of redemption would have been frustrated, and the word of God would have been void, taking none effect…

But God did call on men, in the name of his Son, (this being the plan of redemption which was laid) saying: If ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son;

Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest.

And whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest.

And now, my brethren, behold I say unto you, that if ye will harden your hearts ye shall not enter into the rest of the Lord; therefore your iniquity provoketh him that he sendeth down his wrath upon you as in the first provocation, yea, according to his word in the last provocation as well as the first, to the everlasting destruction of your souls; therefore, according to his word, unto the last death, as well as the first.

And now, my brethren, seeing we know these things, and they are true, let us repent, and harden not our hearts, that we provoke not the Lord our God to pull down his wrath upon us in these his second commandments which he has given unto us; but let us enter into the rest of God, which is prepared according to his word” (Alma 12: 26-37).

Why is this sermon from Alma so significant? It is because he includes language and doctrine that we learn from Joseph Smith in his revelation on the Priesthood in D&C 84 that “the rest of the Lord” means something very specific. Joseph revealed about Moses exactly the same thing Alma was referencing – and that is to enter into the rest of the Lord is to enter into his rest. Those that are extended the invitation in this life (by receiving the oath and covenant of the Melchizedek Priesthood) is to enter into his rest in the flesh. Denying this invitation brings the provocation of the Lord, which is both Alma and Joseph’s revelatory warning.

But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory” (D&C 84: 24).

Again, why is this important? Because if we understand the unifying revelation of Moses, Alma, and Joseph Smith, we learn that partaking of the Tree of Life is to enter into the rest of the Lord – which is to enter into his glory while in the flesh. This is the great doctrine of the higher priesthood and the fulness of the priesthood.

In his sermon to the Zoramites in chapter 32 and 33, Alma teaches that partaking of the seed will bring you to a place that the Tree of Life springs up within you, and you partake of the fruit of the tree which is “most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst” (Alma 32: 42). This is the state of those that have regained the presence of the Lord. It is the state of receiving a perfect knowledge of his goodness and reality.

Nephi’s Teaching

Nephi teaches that partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life is the greatest of the gifts of God.

Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous, and also from that tree of life, whose fruit is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits; yea, and it is the greatest of all the gifts of God”  (1 Nephi 15: 36).

From the D&C we know that the greatest of God’s gifts is eternal life.

“And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14: 7; 6:13).

When he was given an interpretation of the Tree of Life he was taught that it was the love of God.

And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of lifewhich waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God” (1 Nephi 11: 25).

This is an extremely important scripture to both consider and also to resist the mistake of concluding that the love of God means feeling his love through the spirit in measure. It is equating eternal life to the love of God.

When Nephi describes something as the love of God, he is describing the gift of eternal life. It is easy to confuse this notion of tasting of the love of God through the spirit as partaking of the Tree of Life. It isn’t. The Tree of Life is eternal life, and partaking of the fullness of the fruit is to partake of the promises, blessings, and endowments of the promise of eternal life.

Why is it so important to carefully draw this out? Because it is easy to mistakenly believe that since we experience the love of God that we are partaking of the Tree of Life. It is a very different thing. We can begin to partake of the fruit through a process of consumption (as outlined in Alma 32), but we must not mistake the reception of the Holy Ghost or experiencing the love of God as partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life. We are at risk of wresting the scriptures if we do not grasp what Nephi is really teaching when he describes the fruit as the “love of God”. When Nephi refers to the love of God when partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life is referring to the blessings of the promise of eternal life. It is the calling and election made sure and the Second Comforter blessings.

When we enter the path we receive of the first comforter through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost – becoming born again. When we endure to the end we receive of the Second Comforter – which is the rest of the Lord and promise of eternal life. It is in this summary of the doctrine of Christ that Nephi teaches the calling and election made sure is the reward of the strait and narrow path:

Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. (2 Nephi 31: 20).

The promise of obtaining the Tree of Life is the promise of eternal life.

Nephi couldn’t be clearer: the strait and narrow path leads strait and narrow path leads to eternal life (2 Nephi 31: 18). And promise of obtaining the Tree of Life is the promise of eternal life.

Why is it so important to emphasize this through the cataloguing of this doctrine with so many scriptural witnesses? It is because it is so common to refer to covenant members of the church as those who are partaking of the fruit of the tree of life. It is even common to describe members of the church as those who are standing at the Tree of Life and partaking.

Yes, we begin to taste of the fruit in degrees when we are born again and are on the strait and narrow path. But it is critical to make a distinction between this and partaking of eternal life at the tree. The Tree of Life represents the Second Comforter blessings of the gospel. To judge it differently is to wrest the scriptures in a potentially very dangerous way.

Perhaps the reason why we often don’t associate partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life with the calling and election made sure is because of something very peculiar that Lehi witnesses.

Who Partakes of the Tree of Life then Leaves?

If the Tree of Life is the promise of eternal life, why does Lehi witness those that partake of it and then are ashamed and leave?

“And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.

And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed” (1 Nephi 8: 24-25).

The question is simple: why would someone who partakes of the greatest of all the gifts of God, receives a fullness of his love, partakes of the most desirable of all things – even the promise of eternal life, and then gets ashamed? And then leaves?

Because it seems absurd that someone would have these blessings and then become ashamed, it is very common for readers to then assume the fruit of the Tree of Life is not eternal life. It just doesn’t add up that this group of people would exist. The assumption then becomes that the Tree of Life is something other than eternal life.

We should be very careful about making this judgment. If we read and study carefully, we can understand who Lehi is witnessing and learn exactly what is happening.

The first thing to recognize is that Lehi is seeing more than just his family in his vision. He is also seeing his posterity.

“And behold, because of the thing which I have seen, I have reason to rejoice in the Lord because of Nephi and also of Sam; for I have reason to suppose that they, and also many of their seed, will be saved” ( 1 Nephi 8: 3).

Considering that that Lehi is seeing a vision of his posterity on the path and at the tree, we can then explore who in the Book of Mormon record Lehi may be witnessing. One group happens to be the Nephites that existed in a Zion society for 200 years after the coming of Christ. This is a portion of Lehi and Nephi’s seed about which we don’t have a lot of information (presumably it is contained in the greater portion of the Book of Mormon).

This group of Nephites that once lived in a Zion society were all partakers of the “heavenly gift“.

And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift” (4th Nephi 1: 3). 

What is the heavenly gift? Ether chapter 12 and Hebrews chapter 6 gives insight into this curious and rare term.

Ether 12 is a phenomenal account of individuals that exercised faith in order to receive the greatest blessings, manifestations, and promises of the Lord – and most important of these is the assurance of eternal life. In reference to the heavenly gift, the record reveals the following:

For it was by faith that Christ showed himself unto our fathers, after he had risen from the dead; and he showed not himself unto them until after they had faith in him; wherefore, it must needs be that some had faith in him, for he showed himself not unto the world.

But because of the faith of men he has shown himself unto the world, and glorified the name of the Father, and prepared a way that thereby others might be partakers of the heavenly gift, that they might hope for those things which they have not seen” (Ether 12: 8-9).

The context reveals that the heavenly gift in Ether is receiving the presence of the Lord. Hebrews also contextually affirms this meaning in the following verses:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6: 4-6).

Paul teaches that if someone partakes of the heavenly gift that it is impossible for them to repent. They fall into a state of perdition “seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

This is a description of the spiritual state of perdition. It is also a warning to those that have been received the heavenly gift  that they can fall away and be permanently severed from presence of the Lord.

What is fascinating is that we have a warning from Paul of the possibility of exactly what happens to the Nephites of 4th Nephi. We have a people that are partaking of the heavenly gift, they are partaking fully of the tree of life, and they fall into apostasy and are cut off from the tree. We are all familiar with the tragic demise of the Nephites who enter into this collective perdition state.

Consider also that at the end of the 1000 year millennial reign of Zion upon the earth, that there will be a final confrontation with the Adversary because the righteousness of the hearts of the people will no longer bind him from their presence. This is another example of the possibility of a people partaking of the heavenly gift and then choosing to be cut off from the Tree of Life.

Perhaps those that qualify for perdition are far more numerous than thought. Those of 4th Nephi, and those at the end of the Millennium, and perhaps groups in the times of Melchizedek and Noah also produced this class of people.

In other words, the reason it is difficult to imagine that there would be a significant group of people that would receive the promises of eternal life and then fall away is because we are unfamiliar with a Zion structure. It isn’t in our awareness or experience of what it would be like to live in a society of saints that have the heavenly gift; and we haven’t experienced the spiritual temptations and nature of this type of situation.

Lehi’s dream is so instructive on a level that exceeds our experience in this generation of the church. Even though it is not in our experience to live in a Zion state, we all too often yield to the temptation to associate all of the experiences of the Tree of Life with our own spiritual experiences – assuming in an odd way that we, as a people, know what it is like to live in a covenant body that lives and experiences the fullness of the gospel. We wrest the scriptures to believe that if we are active members of the church than we must be partakers of the Tree of Life – even though our experiences have no resemblance to those societies in the scriptural accounts of those that received collectively the heavenly gift.

It therefore becomes confusing to us that there would be people who would partake of the Tree of Life and then fall away if the Tree was the assurance of exaltation. Because we don’t experience that redemptive experience broadly it is hard for us to understand how it could be possible that it would happen enough to even make mention.

But it does happen, and it happened to Lehi’s posterity. And this is why he witnessed it. And his dream served as a prophetic warning to his future generations that this would happen.  It also serves as a warning of how to avoid the temptation once they find themselves partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life.

As we understand the truth of the components of the Tree of Life, we are able to receive the detailed insight as to our own spiritual situation, and how to more clearly come to Christ. We receive the invitation to come into his presence in the flesh. And we are warned of the great power of the temptation to yield to those in the Great and Spacious Building.

May we resist the temptation to wrest the scriptures and take the warning of Alma seriously that if we do so, we do it unto our destruction.  We need to stop casually referring to ourselves as a people that partakes of the fruit of the Tree of Life. This is reserved for a people that have actually entered into a Zion structure and have collectively received the heavenly gift.

And may we also be full of gratitude for the record of the Book of Mormon that both invites us into the presence of the Lord while we are in mortality, and also warns us of the complexity and power of temptations and darkness that will seek our overthrow.

 

 

 

How Does One Get On the Strait and Narrow Path?

Just a few chapters into the Book of Mormon we read the account of Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life. A couple of chapters later, we receive Nephi’s witness of the same vision with an added interpretation. This vision becomes the doctrinal theme of the entire work of scripture, with its imagery, allegory, and doctrine spread throughout. In chapters 31 and 32 of 2 Nephi we are given the doctrine of the vision. This is known as the doctrine of Christ.

The doctrine of Christ that is taught and testified of in the Book of Mormon is also the doctrine of the seed of faith found in Alma 32. Alma’s teaching on the seed is a restatement of Nephi and Lehi’s dream. When put together, the vision of the Tree of Life, the doctrine of Christ taught in 2 Nephi 30-33, and Alma’s teachings, particularly his sermon on the seed, of faith unlocks a rich and complex doctrinal framework. If we overlay the three accounts we find that they each offer a unique key to understanding this doctrinal framework that is at the heart of the purpose of the Book of Mormon. These essays use these three accounts of the doctrine of Christ to address critical gospel questions.

How Does One Get On the Strait and Narrow Path?

One of the first thing Lehi witnesses in his dream was “numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood” (1 Nephi 8: 21). I find it fascinating that he didn’t observe endless people trying to get to the tree, but to the path that leads to the tree. I think this is significant because it invites us to ask the question, what exactly is the narrow gate that leads to the path? What were people seeking?

We know that the physical ordinance of baptism is part of this gate, but we must understand all of the components of baptism to know if we are through the gate. As Christ first appeared to the Nephites he immediately taught them the doctrine of baptism. Here is what the Savior taught:

And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.

And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins” (3 Nephi 12: 1-2).

We must be born of both water and spirit (John 3: 4-5). This is perhaps why Christ refers to the gate as being narrow and that few people find it. Many people can find the channel of receiving a physical baptism. Few repent sufficiently to be baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost. This baptism comes as an endowment from the Savior himself.

Lehi saw that his dream was that of the strait and narrow path (1 Nephi 8: 20-23). This may seem like a simple connection, but it is so important to remember that the events that Nephi and Lehi witness in their dream should be mapped against the doctrine outlined in the last chapters of 2 Nephi. Why is this important? Because it helps us understand where we exactly are on our own path. It helps us understand the ordinances, covenants, and experiences that we should have depending on where we are on the path.

First, in order to enter on the path, which is also the holding to the rod, Nephi explains very clearly that it is through the narrow channel of water baptism and the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. It seems to be a commonly held assumption that we can refer to all those who have entered into the waters of baptism, have been confirmed a member of the church, and have received the laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost are automatically on the path. This is not the case, and Nephi makes it clear that it is more than just physical ordinances needed to enter the path. You need to have the actual spiritual endowment of a baptism of fire experience.

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel” (2 Nephi 31: 13)

And then he teaches:

Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

AND THEN are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive” (2 Nephi 31: 17-18).

Christ teaches this powerful doctrine and promise to the Nephites when they heard his voice in the darkness after experiencing devastating calamity.

“And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost,…” (3 Nephi 9:20)

Being baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost means you have a born again experience. It is something that happens to you. It is more than just a physical ordinance; if you haven’t had a born again experience, the mighty change of heart, and all of the accompanying fruits of that mighty change, they you have yet to enter into the channel of baptism. Consider the doctrine of born again and baptism being one single ordinance as taught in Alma:

“Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness” (Alma 7: 14).

Being baptized (in the true and full sense of the ordinance) means you are born again. It requires a mighty change from the Lord himself. To be fully baptized we must be both physically immersed in water and receive the mighty change of heart. This is perhaps why we’ve been invited to not marvel at this miraculous invitation. It is so much more than just making a promise to keep the commandments. Baptism means sufficiently repenting and putting to death the natural man that we are formed in to a new creature in Christ. This is the event of baptism, and if you have not received the baptism of fire your baptism is not yet complete.

Joseph Smith clarified:

You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The Savior says, ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ [John 3:5.]”

He also went on to teach:

“Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances.”

“Baptism is a holy ordinance preparatory to the reception of the Holy Ghost; it is the channel and key by which the Holy Ghost will be administered. The Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, cannot be received through the medium of any other principle than the principle of righteousness.”

The principle of righteousness is the key. We can receive the physical ordinances, but that is not sufficient. We must also be born again. It comes by the Spirit of God. The reception of the Holy Ghost is the baptism of fire.

As Alma preached repentance he framed becoming born again with repentance.

“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” (Alma 5: 49).

Mosiah taught so powerfully the following.

“And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of Godchanged from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 27: 25-26).

This is the requirement of baptism and this is the narrow gate through which we all must pass in order to enter into the strait and narrow path. It is not enough to be baptized by water. We must also go through a mighty change of heart in order to enter into the gate.

If we are baptized but not in a born again state, Alma records a powerful sermon in the 5th chapter of his record that emphasizes to the covenant members of the church that they must repent and regain the spiritual state of being born again.

“And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?…

Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?

Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life” (Alma 5: 14-28).

Just as Christ told the Nephites that HE would baptize them with fire by sending the Holy Ghost, King Benjamin’s people testified of this event:

And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually…

And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters” (Mosiah 5: 5-7).

The injunction is to become born of God and repent today. It’s not a process that takes a lifetime, even though we need to retain it for a lifetime. It’s not through a slow and imperceptible process. In order to pass through the narrow gate on to the strait and narrow path we must become born again, baptized by fire, and receive the mighty change of heart. We must first become a new creature in Christ.

The great hope of the doctrine of Christ is that we can receive this mighty change as quickly as we are willing to give up all our sins and that which we possess to know God. We receive it as quickly as we desire to give our whole lives to God without reservation and conditions. Just as King Lamoni’s father experienced, we are endowed with a mighty change of heart when we choose Christ above all other things in our life.

And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy” (Alma 22:15).

Alma chapters 32 through 34 is an account of Alma and Amulek teaching the doctrine of Christ to the Zoramites, who were a people that had once had the gospel, presumably made the covenants, but had fallen into pride and iniquity. Alma mentions to them baptism, but his and Amulek’s message to them wasn’t focused on the ordinance of baptism, presumably because they had already entered into the ordinances. They were reclaiming these people to the strait and narrow path.

Amulek declares to them the conditions and desperate need for repentance. He declares to them that this is the day of their repentance and that is the work of their life – their labors- is to repent with all of their heart. He said, “as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end” (Alma 34: 33).

And Amulek taught that if they repent, they would immediately partake of the plan of redemption, which is to become born again on the strait and narrow path.

“Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you” (Alma 34: 31).

The great hope and promise of the doctrine of Christ is that we can and must become born again to commence on the strait and narrow path. It is a blessing at which we should not marvel. It is the miracle of spiritual rebirth.

So, who is on the strait and narrow path? It is they that are born again. It is being in a state of a mighty change of heart. Being on the path is being in that place of mighty change. This is why it is strait. This is why it is narrow. It is a state of being that takes incredible diligence and daily attention. Perhaps this is why few find the gate and few retain it.

 

Resonating Obedience

Image result for sympathetic resonance

 

There is a fascinating physical phenomenon called sympathetic resonance. If you take two tuning forks of the same frequency and hit one of them, the other one will also begin to resonate.

This is a great metaphor for sanctification.  I know that one meaning of sanctification means to become pure of sin, but what if a better way of thinking about it is more like resonance?

All laws are light and all light has a frequency, or a resonance. Sanctification means that you, your body, your flesh, your will, your desires – your entire being – begins to resonate at the same frequency as the light of a law. You begin to resonate at the level of the light. So, to keep a law means to resonate at the same frequency of that law. Your whole being participates in sanctified obedience.

There is a sense that being obedient means that we learn to discipline ourselves to act at a different level that may be natural to us. To do something, or to act in a certain way, is only one component of obedience. The key to being obedient is to have our whole beings resonate at the level of the light of whatever law we are keeping.

Keeping a law means to resonate at the same level of that law. This is also a definition of sanctification.

When we are sanctified our whole body resonates at the same frequency of the law. Our mind, desires, flesh, will – it all is of the same frequency.

To be reconciled to Christ is to have our will and the light of our being share in his. It resonates at his level. It is to be in a sympathetic resonance with Christ.

So, how do we elevate to these higher levels of sanctified resonance? This is a process of not only acting in faith when moved upon by the light of Christ, but we can do so through the process of prayer.

Prayer, in its fundamental form, is the process of first yielding to the spirit sufficient that it elevates our frequency into a higher light of law. We become sanctified in deep, yielding prayer. We can ask the Lord to bring us into a law, and as we yield our minds, will, flesh, and desires to the workings of the spirit, we can be brought to a higher frequency through the grace of Christ. It is the spirit that does this work. We, by taking thought, cannot raise our own frequency. It is always a gift or endowment. But what we can do is put ourselves in a place to have the Holy Ghost bring us into higher levels of Godly resonance.

The scriptures describe this resonance as being “quickened”. As we explore scripture such as D&C 88 and 93 we can learn much about the quickening process. For example, a revelation from Joseph Smith revealed the following:

The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not; nevertheless, the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in him and by him” (D&C 88: 49).

When we want to ascend to in higher levels of sanctification we go through a process of becoming quickened. To move into higher states of being quickened we will almost always be prompted to make a sacrifice, and at a minimum that sacrifice usually takes the form of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. It is in this broken and contrite condition that we relax our will in such a way that the Lord is able to elevate us.

We will receive promptings to do things that may not make sense to us. Often these promptings will be different sacrifices – that if we yield to in faith – endows us with a sanctifying measure of the Holy Ghost.

Keeping the commandments does not have to be a never-ending war with the flesh. We simply must learn the process of having our will  be elevated into the resonance of the laws we need to keep. When we resonate at the level of a law, we don’t have to suffer and practice supreme discipline in order to “keep” the law. We become quickened by the law itself. It becomes part of our nature. It becomes natural to us to be in a state of obedience.

Retaining a sanctified state requires discipline in those things that keep us resonating at a higher level.  Consider Moroni 8:26:

And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.

First, notice that it is the Comforter that fills with hope and perfect love. In other words, it is the Holy Ghost that brings us to a resonance of hope and love. Those are states of resonance in Christ. We experience them with our entire being.

And in order to maintain it, we have to be diligent in prayer. Prayer is the place that we maintain or reclaim the sanctified state. We subject our spirits to the light of Christ and ascend into higher states of sanctification.

This is the process described in Helaman.

“Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God” (Helaman 3: 35).

For example, someone who struggles with sexual addiction may spend their whole life fighting the physical urge or psychological need for sexual experience. They may have been led to believe that they need to “keep a law” by forcing themselves to act and think a different way before they can repent and be accepted by Christ.

Instead of pursuing the exhausting and despairing path of self-perfection, what if a person learned to resonate at the same level of light that is sexual purity? If their body and mind and heart resonated at the level of law that brings sexual purity, then they wouldn’t need to hang their salvation on their ability to ultimately discipline their behavior against their fundamental nature. Their nature would change, and it would produce the type of outward obedience and attention to law that is desired.

This is why the Lord’s burden is easy. We don’t have to learn supreme discipline to force ourselves into a state of obedience – we have to learn the disciplines that subject our fallen natures to the power of the Holy Ghost so that our natures are increasingly like Christ’s nature. These disciplines include primarily fasting and prayer. Also, music, the sacrament, and the willingness to do exactly what the spirit prompts brings us into this resonance. All of these disciplines quicken us.

When we move into that sanctified structure we are free in Christ – free from a nature that is in opposition God and his laws. We freely and easily keep his laws. Obedience become the impulse of our very nature

Keeping the law of Christ is to have our being resonate in the light, frequency and power of Christ. It is what it means to become a Son or Daughter of Christ. We are to pray with all the energy of our hearts so “that (we) may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen” (Moroni 7: 48).

Being pure is to resonate in the law in perfect sync. We can become perfect in Christ just as quickly as we will yield our entire beings to Christ so we can live the law he does – his light and law become the life within us. We can become sanctified in the light of Christ if we learn the principles that bring us to that place. And it happens as quickly as we are transformed into resonating obedience.

 

Fear and Ascension

 

Ascension is the process of us walking through our fears. When the children of Israel stood at the base of Mt. Sinai they rejected the call to ascend into the presence of the Lord because they feared. They wanted someone to go on their behalf.

If the children of Israel had charted a course into their fear they would have found themselves in the presence of the Lord.

Fear should be a sign to us as to the direction we should go. When a fear presents itself, we can know that turning and facing that fear, walking into it, and bringing it into subjection to the power of Christ through the expression of our agency, we ascend the mount. We receive great peace and rest. We put fear under our feet.

We experience fear because there are parts of us that are not true. We’ve accepted lies, unbelief, false belief, and deception. The degree of false belief that possesses us will determine the degree of fear we experience.

I’ve learned that my anger is a product of my fear. And is a sign that I should turn and be honest about that anger and what fear it is revealing. When I discover the fear I am now charged with facing it and subduing it to Christ – putting it under my feet.

Is lust not a product of fear? Jealousy? Anger? Resentment? Judgement? The need to have another ascend the mount for us so that we don’t have to face the truth of our fallen nature?

The Lord has invited us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. I think this means that when we desire to repent and come to Christ with all that we have, we must face what makes us fear and tremble. We have to bring Christ into that space and cease hiding from him.

The first fruit of the fall is fear. It caused Adam and Eve to hide themselves, and it causes us to hide in fear as well.  Because we hide ourselves when we feel fear it naturally creates enmity. It creates enmity between family, friends, and all in the family of God.

Few things bring more joy than staring into the abyss of our fears, taking a step forward, and finding that light follows. Subduing fear and darkness with the power of Christ is the great work of redemption on this earth.

“And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am”

 

What is Doctrine?

What is doctrine?

It’s a hard question to answer because the word tends to get employed in a couple of different ways. For it to be meaningful, we should be really clear about what we mean when we say something is doctrinal.

In my experience, doctrine is used in two contexts that look roughly like the following:

1. Doctrine – All eternal truth. Everything that is true is also doctrinal and if something is doctrinal, it is true.

I think this is the most commonly held assumption when referring to something as being doctrinal. As we will explore, using this term is probably what the term doctrine should mean, but if we hold to this we step into all types of problems; especially since what has been considered doctrinal over the the past 200 years of the restoration has shifted, evolved, and in some cases, radically changed.

The second definition is a working definition that probably captures the reality of what we consider doctrinal.

2. Doctrine – What is considered an acceptable teaching in the church at a certain point in time.

Although our doctrine should capture all that is eternally true, what we consider as doctrinal is an infinitesimal portion of the truth. And since what we have considered as true has shifted significantly at times (ie: blacks and the priesthood, plural marriage as a requirement for exaltation, Adam-God doctrine, etc.) the second definition seems the only one that is useful. Doctrine is the body of teachings that is generally acceptable to the church. This is the only working definition that helps us understand how and why the Lord both gives us greater truth, but also takes truth away from the members of the church. It is a changing body of acceptable teachings.

To better understand why we should be clear about using the second definition as the only one that is useful, I’d like to suggest a reason for changes and shifts in what has been considered doctrine.

The Alma 12 Principle

One of my favorite teachings uniquely found in the Book of Mormon is outlined powerfully in the Alma chapter 12.

“And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.”

Many can know the mysteries of God, and they are only authorized to teach according to how diligent people are to the light given to them.

“And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell” (Alma 12: 9-11).

This is such a powerful and simple principle. If you soften your heart and give diligence and heed to light and truth you will grow in the reception of mysteries. If you harden your heart you will have light and truth removed from you until you don’t know anything concerning the mysteries. Alma is careful to define the chains as being in a state of knowing nothing of the mysteries of God.

How does this relate to the question of what is doctrine? It has relevance when we understand that covenant bodies of people act as individuals. The same promises and warnings apply to collective groups of covenant bound people as they do to individuals themselves.

In other words, as the covenant body collectively softens their hearts they collectively increase in the reception of the mysteries of God, and as they collectively harden their hearts they collectively lose mysteries and knowledge.

So, the covenant body of the church is a group of people that is capable of both increasing and decreasing in light and truth. For this reason, only 18 months into the restoration the Lord pronounced a collective condemnation on the church “until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written” (D&C 84: 57).

Considering that we will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the First Vision in just a few short months, perhaps it will be an opportunity to ponder whether we are 200 years more enlightened than those early years of Joseph Smith, or if our collective understanding has suffered from the aggregate hardening against what was revealed through Joseph.

The answer to this question may be informed by an interview question put to President Hinkley by the San Francisco Chronicle when he was President of the Church.

Question: And this belief in contemporary revelation and prophecy? As the prophet, tell us how that works. How do you receive divine revelation? What does it feel like?

Answer: [Gordon B. Hinckley] Let me say first that we have a great body of revelation, the vast majority of which came from the prophet Joseph Smith. We don’t need much revelation. We need to pay more attention to the revelation we’ve already received.

Because our understanding of mysteries – light, truth, and knowledge – is a function of mysteries either being added to us or taken away; it makes sense that our understanding of what is “doctrinal” also shifts.

For this reason, the definition of doctrine being the currently acceptable and authorized body of teaching in the church most closely reflects the reality of what is taught and considered truth in the church.

What this also suggests is that our doctrine will reflect greater or lesser light and truth depending on how obedient, faithful, and diligent we as a collective covenant body has been to what has been revealed.

Because our body of doctrine shifts according to the obedience of the covenant membership, it is important to consider that what is doctrinal does not include all that is true. What is considered “doctrinal” will of necessity be a very small subset of eternal truth.

Our doctrine has changed over the past 200 years. This is to be expected. And if we are honest with ourselves we can ask some hard questions: How true have we been to the revelations we’ve already received? Are we receiving more? Are we a more enlightened people two centuries since the Father and the Son manifested to Joseph and light burst upon the earth once again?

If we don’t understand that our doctrinal comprehension is going to reflect our collective (un)faithfulness then we will be tempted to go to great lengths to demonstrate that our doctrine has been consistent, and even has progressed in the past 200 years. We will find ourselves in the almost impossibly difficult situation of trying to reconcile prophets who taught at higher levels of light and truth, revealing great and marvelous things, to a people unprepared to receive mysteries in the capacity required to understand them. When facing this doctrinal dilemma, we have marginalized prophets of extraordinary knowledge as simply speaking from their own limited understanding, or even “speculating”.

Because of this doctrinal dilemma, without acknowledging the consequences taught in Alma 12, we may formulate legalistic escape clauses from great knowledge taught in an earlier era by arbitrarily requiring doctrine to be something that must be repeated by many authorities of the church in order to be valid. As if the repetition or a truth or a lie makes it valid by the number of people who repeat it.

A teaching repeated often does not a truth make. (But it does make something in the church a generally accepted teaching.)

Of course the Holy Ghost solves this problem for all of those who repent sufficiently of their hardened hearts, and jealousies and fears sufficient to receive an abundance of the mysteries of God. But it needs to happen collectively if we are to be redeemed from the self-satisfied state of believing we are favored of God when he has signaled his disfavor through four generations of virtual revelatory silence.

Christ also gave us a warning and sign to know if we, in the latter-days, would be condemned. As Moroni recorded:

“8 And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.

And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.

10 And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.

11 Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people” (3 Nephi 26: 8-11).

Have we received the greater portion? If we haven’t, Christ has taught us it is because we are in a state of condemnation. Christ said he would try our faith. We have yet to receive the fruit of having exercised faith sufficient to remove us from our condemnation.

This should inform us that what we should be very careful as to what we believe about ourselves and our understanding of doctrine. We are never collectively static. We are either increasing or decreasing. And so it seems that when considering how we propose what is, or isn’t, “doctrinal” we should be humble enough to understand that our doctrine may or may not comply to the truth of what the Lord has yet to reveal, or may have already revealed.

For this reason, I am always intently focused on what we consider “doctrine”. But more importantly, I am far more interested in what is true.

Deep Doctrine and Deep Discipleship

Some Church members know just enough about the doctrines to converse superficially on them, but their scant knowledge about the deep doctrines is inadequate for deep discipleship (see 1 Corinthians 2:10). Thus uninformed about the deep doctrines, they make no deep change in their lives. They lack the faith to “give place” (Alma 32:27) consistently for real discipleship. Such members move out a few hundred yards from the entrance to the straight and narrow path and repose on the first little rise, thinking, “Well, this is all there is to it”; and they end up living far below their possibilities. While not as distant as those King Benjamin described “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:13) — these people are not drawing closer either.”
– Neal A. Maxwell (Men and Women of Christ. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991, pp. 2-3)

 

What I believe makes the restored gospel, and its vehicle, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, unique is its ability to bring an individual into the fullness of Christ while on the earth.  The ordinances and doctrines are purposeful only insofar as they are pursued and received in their spiritual forms. Baptism is only useful if we are baptized by fire, and endowment is only useful if we receive the blessings in their real and revelatory form along with their ritualistic form.

And the doctrines provided, particularly by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young are powerful, but the restored gospel does not benefit us unless we know, study, and obtain those doctrines for ourselves. There is no collective redemption by virtue of being a member of the church – even a really “active” member. One can be totally immersed in the Church and never participate in the gospel offered to them. Of this situation the Lord, asks, “what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift” (D&C 88:33).

The restored gospel is the greatest gift given to us. But are we receiving it? If we receive only a portion then we are like any other church that grants a portion, even a great portion, but doesn’t bring a fullness. Sometimes we in the Church are critical of other religions believing that we have a fullness and they don’t. But if we aren’t participating and pursuing the fullness of the gospel, are we any different than any other creed that rejects a fullness? The church does not give you a fullness by virtue of membership. Membership in the gospel is an invitation to pursue the path of fullness which is only available through the ordinances of the restored gospel in their revelatory form.

Unfortunately, it has been my consistent experience that many within the covenant body resist a deeper understanding of basic doctrines; especially the deep doctrines required for deep discipleship. They are passed off as unnecessary, always proclaiming the basics as the only necessary focus.  But there are no deep doctrines, only deep understanding of basics. And the deeper you understand the more power they have. If we insist on keeping things simple and basic, they will never have the saving power for which they are intended.

Deep, exalting, and eternal knowledge is the defining distinction of the restored gospel. It is not information. Information saves no one. Possessing information regarding doctrine, no matter the fluency in that information, has no salvific effect. It is the knowledge that is infused by the revelation and power of the Holy Ghost that gives us power over every form of darkness. It is the knowledge that is given to us that gives us actual power.

It is easy to receive information. One can read and become verbally fluent in all the written depths of the gospel – but that person can also at the same time be bereft of spiritual knowledge. It requires great faith, repentance, sacrifice, and endurance to be a possessor of redemptive knowledge.

One may claim that the priesthood is the defining difference of the restored gospel. This is true only if we understand what priesthood really is. Priesthood is the order of individuals that have received an endowment of revelatory knowledge sufficient to actually give ordinances with the authority of heaven and to overcome darkness around us. Very few actually possess real priesthood. Most practice the vain form. The real thing requires the sacrifice of all things to produce the faith to receive the knowledge necessary to have real priesthood power.

Some have also confused the need to gain knowledge as a charge to receive secular knowledge – as if professional degrees or worldly study gives you an advantage in the next world. This is a philosophy of man introduced by those that are far more interested in secular knowledge than they are spiritual knowledge. The latter requires such a great cost that they prefer the knowledge of the world that brings them the great telestial gifts – but their reward is limited to this earth.

But this doesnt mean that part of our stewardship on this earth is not to pursue great learning and discipline and knowledge of the things of the earth to be of service to each other. But we should never confuse this as knowledge that has power to save or exalt – this is not knowledge that we will give us an advantage in the eternities.

Why are so many resistant to receive knowledge beyond the information they receive from the basic teachings of the church? Because it suggests they have to work out their salvation in a way that makes them feel deeply comfortable. One of the false appeals of Mormonism is that you are saved when you receive the ordinances along as you remain an active member of the church throughout your life. This is a great latter-day fallacy. It is not membership, but knowledge one receives through the gospel that exalts – specifically the knowledge that God approves of you and has accepted your sacrifice. This is the greatest knowledge we must receive. And it can only be received through revelation.

Nephi lamented:

And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be” (2 Nephi 32: 7).

Joseph Smith taught in the Lectures on Faith:

“Having treated the ideas of the character, perfections, and attributes of God in the preceding lectures, we next proceed to treat the knowledge which persons must have that the course of life which they pursue is according to the will of God, so they may be enabled to exercise faith in him unto life and salvation.

2. This knowledge supplies an important place in revealed religion; for it was by reason of it that the ancients were enabled to endure “as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb 11 :27). It is essential for any person to have an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to the will of God to enable him to have that confidence in God without which no person can obtain eternal life. It was this that enabled the ancient Saints to endure all their afflictions and persecutions and to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing (not believing merely) that they had a more enduring substance (Heb 10:34).”

May we seek full discipleship by pursuing the fullness of the gospel which endows us with a fullness of knowledge.

Discerning Priesthood and Priestcraft

As someone ordained into the priesthood I have pondered much about the meaning of priesthood and my own propensity towards priestcraft. The temptation to exercise priestcraft is strong, particularly when it becomes clear how priestcraft can mimic and counterfeit priesthood.

Alma chapter 1 introduces the concept of priestcraft as it was introduced to the covenant body of the church.  It also draws clarity into the intention of priestcraft when Alma identifies the following:

“…there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor.”

Preaching the gospel by holding yourself up as a light for anything other than the glory of Christ is a form of priestcraft. Someone practicing priestcraft may not receive their payment in money, but they may seek a different type of currency.

The scripture is careful to point out that priestcraft may be practiced for the sake of honor. Seeking the honors of men is a type of currency, just like money. It includes praise, adulation, celebration, and recognition.

What currency do I seek when teaching the Gospel?

All who hold the priesthood should be careful to ask the question, do I seek to be celebrated? Honored? Praised? Recognized for my contributions to the Lord’s work? As a priesthood holder, am I tempted to draw attention to myself or to seek celebration in my honor? We learn from Joseph Smith that it is the disposition of almost all men, that when they get a little authority (as they suppose) that they will exercise unrighteous dominion by calling attention to themselves and seeking the honors of men, gratifying their pride and their vain ambition – and if they do so in any degree the heavens withdraw themselves, and amen to their power and authority (D&C 121).

This is why many are called but few are chosen. One of those that were chosen was John, the disciple whom Christ loved. I believe he was chosen because he exemplified the spirit of condescension as a servant of God. He said of the Savior:

“He must increase, and I must decrease” (John 3:30)

This is the type that we should hearken to in the priesthood – those who seek to decrease so that the Lord may increase. This is the type of priesthood we should seek to become. I have to always ask myself, do I seek to decrease so that the Lord can increase? The answer is often personally convicting.

True priesthood is to be of the order of those that seek not their own glory or recognition, but lower themselves on the path of sacrifice for others. They seek transparency between their fellow men and God. They seek not to commemorate their works, but to seek the welfare of Zion.

Priesthood will seek the honor of God and great risk of their popularity and acceptance before man (Alma 5: 58).

Priestcraft will seek the honor of men. (D&C 121: 35)

Priesthood will celebrate the works of God. (Moses 1)

Priestcraft will celebrate the works of their own hands. (2 Nephi 12: 8)

Priesthood  “seek(s) not for power, but to pull it down. Not for honor of the world, but for the glory of God” (Alma 60: 36).

Priestcraft will seek pride and will celebrate its own vain ambition. (D&C 121: 37)

Priesthood will teach the consequences of sin and risk being beloved by the people. (2 Nephi 9:48)

Priestcraft will tell the people they should rejoice and not fear and tremble. (Alma 1: 4)

Priesthood will preach Christ and repentance. (Mosiah 18: 20)

“Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world” (2 Nephi 26:29).

Being guilty of priestcraft is an ever present risk. It is the disposition of almost all who are called to the priesthood to practice priestcraft. This is mostly true with myself. I know the temptation within myself is ever present. We must be careful to discern when these things rise up in our own hearts and amidst the covenant people.

Vigilance. Discernment. Repentance. This the order of the day.

Faith and Chaos

Faith is standing on the edge between order and chaos — and then pushing into the chaos. When we act in faith in the face of chaos, we increase the boundary of order. And because it becomes ordered, knowledge is produced.

Knowledge is always the fruit of true faith. It is not comfort in not knowing. It is the power of increasing in knowledge; and it’s the knowledge of chaos that has been ordered.

It’s easy to confuse willfully remaining naive as an act of faith. We may call it faith to say that we are comfortable where we are and our current state of knowledge is sufficient. We may think that the surety of our beliefs no longer require investigation and that this is having faith.  But it is no such thing. Faith occurs on the outer-boundary of our comfort, and it brings us to stare into dark places. It brings us to into the presence of our fears.

Faith is redemptive. It subdues darkness. It subjects our fears. It brings Christ into being.

Faith takes us to a place where we bring into being creation on earth. It is the mode through which the earth is transformed.

Acting in faith is always an act of dying. Over and over. It requires us to allow some perception, some view, some paradigm to die. It requires the self of a moment ago to be let go and to step into new being. It requires a death of our current bearings with the hope that place we are going will be more solid. We die as to the thing that once gave us comfort. And comfort is always the enemy of faith.

Dying is a fearful thing. But we can make acts of faith the dominant impulse of our nature. By acting in faith everyday we will die as to the things of the flesh, and live in the spirit – in other words, we will order chaos.

 

Confronting the Dread of the Holy

As a follow up to yesterday’s Putting Our Houses in Order post so many thoughts and conversations are producing insight into this principle. The first thing to point out is that so much of our personal house is in the basement. In other words, most of what you feel, experience, believe, fear, resides deep in your subconscious. It is an auto-pilot. So much of what makes up who you are is a DNA inheritance, biological dispositions, experiences from your childhood, the accumulation of your sins and fallen nature, your thought patterns and all of the inputs that contribute to this fallen environment. Almost all of our conscious action through out the day is us being acted upon by the habits and dispositions of our fallen selves. Most of these are hidden from our awareness.

I wonder how much of this we take seriously. How much of your unbelief is driven by your deep connection to the almost unknown world of your sub-conscious.

Untangling yourself requires great meditation, brutal honesty, and total willingness to sacrifice whatever is in you that is untrue. We have to be willing to walk into the darkness of our self in order for the light of Christ to redeem us completely.

You have to become wholly truthful if you want to be holy and of the truth. There may be much pain, abuse, patterns of thought, addictions, and fundamental unbelief that weighs you down. Most people are possessed by fear to one degree or another. What would it be like to become completely divested of all fear? How fast would your world radically transform?

How do you know you are possessed by unbelief? Because Moroni teaches us that it is our unbelief that keeps us from piercing the veil in this life and receiving the revelations that the Brother of Jared received (Ether 4: 13-15). It is the veil of unbelief that keeps us in a state of wickedness. I believe that we are unaware of much of this unbelief.

Facing the darkness within is to confront our wickedness. The Lord requires us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. This requires us to stare into the darkness of our own souls. We have to contend with the vast underlying current of our fears and sort out the falsehood we have acquired over a lifetime. We have to confront the dread of the holy. The dread of what we have to confront in order for the Lord to fashion us in to a holy and truthful being.

The Lord has power to lead you through this. The Holy Ghost can lead you into the truth of all things if you are willing to allow him into your being and sort things out. He can lead you deep into your consciousness. He can reveal hidden things. And he can heal and transform your flesh. He can transform your past. He can transform and heal your entire being. If we have the courage to face the truth about ourselves he can save us. But this takes great courage. And faith.

We have to face the darkness within. Our families depend on us doing so. The Lord is depending on us to do so. We have to repent deeper and more fundamentally than any previous generation in these Latter-Days.

 

Putting Our Houses in Order

I received a chastisement through impressions of the spirit that I have not put my house in order. In the spirit I also felt a clarification that the first house that you must put in order is the house of your body. Yes, this includes being healthy, but it is not the primary meaning of this commandment.

I take the commandment to put my house/flesh in order to be something like this: I carry with me DNA, generational sins, habits, weakness, and spirits that are inherited by from my family lines. I also contribute to those weaknesses and problems through my own sins. I also include in this the depression, anxiety, fears, propensities, unbelief, and compulsions. To put things in order means to bring all of my flesh to the Lord to have it sanctified out of me, so that the generational lines can become clean and purified. I must become clean from the blood and sins of my own personal generation.

This is also what I now believe to be the “baptism of blood”. A baptism of fire purifies your spirit in preparation to bring your flesh into a sanctified state. This is why there are three baptisms – The water, the spirit, and the blood. The water is a sign we make that we’ve received a remission, the spirit is the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (born again), and the blood is the sanctification of our flesh so that we may be resurrected into a Celestial glory because of the work we’ve done for our family lines. (As a side-note, I believe this is also the purpose of vicarious ordinances. We sanctify ourselves and then perform an ordinance for our ancestors so that they may be redeemed through our repentance.)

After we bring our own bodies into sanctification, we can then get our house in order in terms of our marriages and our immediate families. We go through a greater sanctification process. And then we can move outward to extended family and community.

But first, we must bring our flesh into a sanctified state. We must become clean from the blood and sins of this generation. There is so much power in this. And I have so far to go.

Priesthood by Hugh Nibley

THE PRIESTHOOD CEASES to be effective when exercised “in any degree of unrighteousness” (D&C 131:37), but it operates by the spirit, and the spirit is not deceived but is exquisitely sensitive to the slightest color of fraud, pretention, self-will, ambition, cruelty, etc. “When we undertake.., to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold the heavens withdraw themselves; and the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or authority of that man” (D&C 121:37). But what about the righteous dominion of the priesthood? That can be easily recognized, for it operates “only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the souls without hypocrisy, and without guile. ̄ . with “bowels full of charity towards all men…” (121:41ff). Even in the eternities the power of the priesthood flows “without compulsory means.., forever and ever” (121:46).

Who can deny such a power to another? No man. Who can bestow it on another? No man. We like to think that the Church is divided into those who have it and those who don’t have it; but it is the purest folly to assume that we can tell who has it and who does not. God alone knows who is righteous and how righteous; yet “the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven,” and those “cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principle of righteousness” (D&C 121:35). The result is, that if there is anyone who really holds the priesthood, no one is in a position to say who it is–only by the power to command the spirits and the elements is such a gift apparent. But as far as commanding or directing other people, there every man must decide for himself.

One valuable hint the Lord has given us, however, namely the assurance that of all those who “hold” the priesthood almost none really possess it. “That the rights of the priesthood.., may be conferred upon us, it is true,”making us formally priesthood-holders, “but when we undertake to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness” the priesthood is void. And this is how it is in “almost all” cases in the Church: “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as, they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called but few are chosen” (D&C 121:39-40).

What does one have to do to be chosen?

First, one may not set one’s heart upon the things of this world (121:35)–so much for the priesthood as something to show off; then, one may not aspire to the honors of men–so much for the priesthood as some- thing for prestige. One cannot exercise any power of the priesthood in any degree of unrighteousness–this in full recognition of the fact that “it is the nature of almost all men” to do that very thing as soon as they think they have power and authority.

This leaves a few humble, unpretentious, and unworldly people as the sole holders of a valid priesthood. It is the “few humble followers of Christ” who are the strength of the Church throughout much of the Book of Mormon history.

What irony. As far as the ’whole world is concerned, the priesthood is a thing of value which is cruel to withhold from anyone, because it enhances one’s status and dignity among his fellows, whether inside the Church or outside. And yet the one thing that renders that priesthood completely null and void is to treat it as something to aspire to among one’s fellows. Priesthood is strictly an arrangement between the individual priesthood holder and his brethren in the eternal worlds, as personal and private as anything can be.

We might as well recognize the fact that whatever we say and do in righteousness is going to be misinterpreted. The only way we can make things easier for ourselves in the world is to go the way of the world. It would be hard to deny that the peace and prosperity of the Church in the past years has been largely the fruit of willingness; to go the way the world goes.

Where all truth is encompassed in one great whole to raise one question is to raise many others, and any issue relevant to the gospel inevitably leads to a discussion of the whole thing.

Is not the priesthood everything? Not on this earth. On this earth it is nothing, and as soon as we try to use it for any kind of status, power, rule, or authority, it automatically cancels out.

To repeat, as we are prone to do for lack of wit, for those who hold the priesthood on this earth, it is, the Prophet Joseph said, “an onerous qarden,” not a prize. One cannot give orders to another by the priesthood. One cannot use it to acquire prestige, fame or wealth. Far from impressing one’s fellow men, it is held in derision by them. The moment one tries to make honor or glory or exercise dominion by the priesthood “amen to the priesthood of that man”–it automatically becomes null and void. What good is it then? Over whom does it exercise dominion? Over the spirits and over the elements–but not over one’s fellow-men, who cannot under any circumstances be deprived of their complete free agency.

Though some may find it hard to believe, I find no cause for boasting in my priesthood nothing is easier than conferring it upon one, but that is only the beginning; for it to be a real power requires a degree of concentration, dedication, and self- discipline which few ever attain to, and for the rest priesthood is not a blessing but a terrible risk. The priesthood is not a badge of office to be worn as; a feather in a cap.

Do we really believe the First Vision? Thousands of Latter-day Saints attest to it every Fast Sunday; but when the earliest, fullest, and best account of the First Vision, dictated by the Prophet at the age of 26 to Frederick G. Williams, was discovered and published in 1968 it caused not the slightest ripple of interest in the Church. It is enough, apparently; to know that God has spoken again from the heavens–never mind what he said.

The most useful lesson is the silence of heaven on this particular issue in the light of our own woeful ignorance. There is a connection between the two. Where the people do not seek for wisdom and knowledge, God will not give it to them, and so they remain in ignorance, and may not ask for help from above.

Nothing pleases God more than to have his children “seek greater light and knowledge”–it was for that that Adam, Abraham, Enoch, Moses, and Joseph Smith were rewarded with the richest blessings. Nothing displeases him more than to have them “seek for power, and authority, and riches” (3 Nephi 6:15). Through the years the Latter-day Saints have consistently sought not for the former but for the latter. It is only right and proper that we should stew in our own juice for a while.

“I sought for the blessings of the fathers. ̄ . desiring also to be one who possessed greater knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess greater knowledge . . .”(Abraham1:2).
Twice he repeats it–he wants knowledge. Up to the last, even after he had learned all the doctrines of salvation, Adam still “seeks for greater light and knowledge” and for such knowledge we should seek eternally But what do we hear? A former president of theBYU pompously announced at a convention of educators that we: at the BYU are not seeking for truth, because we have the truth! This is where we stand today. It is common at the BYU for students to protest against being taught anything they did not know before: “Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? . . . And because that I have spoken one word he need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be unto the end of man . . . (2 Nephi 29:8-9).

The fact is that the Latter-day Saints “will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be” (2 Nephi 32:7). They simply are .just not interested. How little we know about things. How little we want to know. The information is there, far more abundant than we have been willing to realize, if we will only reach out for it. To wait for a revelation on the subject is foolish until we have exhausted all the resources already placed at our disposal.

The strong prejudice has long been extended to the Indians by many Mormons in high position, yet the Mormons alone of all the people in the world believe the Indians to be the true blood of Israel, no less.

Such attitudes are strengthened by the snobbery of American suburbia; the Mormons like to think of themselves as WASPS–yet it was the rural, white, Christian, Protestant Americans upon whom the Lord with his own lips excoriated to the youthful prophet; they are all hypocrites, said he: “They were all wrong . . . all their creeds were an abomination in his sight… those professors were all corrupt: ’They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me…having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.’ ” (Joseph Smith- History 1:19).

There are those in the Church who would identify Zion with “Executive Meadows, the Exclusive Condominium for the Right People.”

REPEAT of repeat: Over whom does it exercise power, then? Over the spirits and over the elements–never over one’s fellow men, whose free agency is absolute and inalienable.

Christ commanded the spirits, and they obeyed him; he commanded the elements and they obeyed him, but men he would not command, and rebuked the apostles at Capernaum for suggesting it. “how often would I have gathered you together.., and ye would not!”

What, then is the priesthood on this earth? It is what Brigham Young and the Twelve wrote in the Times and Seasons in 1839, they called the priesthood an “onerous duty,” a load to be borne. Very few men on earth, including those in the Church are re- ally qualified. In terms of prestige, status, power, influence, pleasure, privilege, “power, and authority, and riches” (3 Nephi 6:37), the priesthood has absolutely nothing to offer. The world laughs at it, the Latter-day Saints abuse or ignore it, those who take it seriously do so in “fear and trembling.”

A Fire Observed

I love to camp, and more than that I love campfires.

There is joy in taking care to build a fire.  Organizing the wood just right, preparing a space for the burn. Then lighting a small source of flame, even a spark. The spark is fragile. It is vulnerable. A burst of wind or a careless movement can quickly extinguish the newly birthed flame.

The weak and vulnerable spark is carefully fed with small pieces of twigs and sticks. And the flame takes hold. It gets warmer. Then it gets hot. When it is hot enough, it can be fed with without limits. Fueling it in full glory with logs and trees – creation used to give comfort, warmth, and light.

And it burns and it is fed. And if the there is no more wood to add, if the fuel runs low, the fire burns down and runs its course.

As the fire burns down and consumes the last bit of dormant energy left in the smoldering logs,  a good stoking can provoke a flare, and a renewed flame.

Rearranging logs that have burned down, allowing oxygen to find new paths to the hottest areas, and adjusting the burnt wood into new arrangements can increase heat and produce warmth for those enjoying the fire. With a renewed flame comes a surge of hope. Even excitement.

But despite stoking our hope is short lived. The fire dims again. We may think that our fires can be stoked and managed and rearranged, and reorganized and the flame will burn on and on.

But unfortunately the new flames are quickly starved of fuel, and they quickly die down, too.  As the logs are almost gone, they continue to be stoked, and prodded, and rearranged. We can hunker close to the burnt wood, blow our air into the char, and hope for the embers to return to their warmth and glory.  But we have to face the reality that the options are diminishing. And so is our comfort, warmth, and most importantly, light.

The wood has run its course, and without a constant source feeding it new logs full of life and potential, the fire dims and the light fades. It even appears to die.

Where can we find hope? Perhaps it is with the remaining embers and dimly glowing remnants of coal that a new fire can be lit and be fueled. That tomorrow holds a hope that the last vestiges of light can ignite a new flame, in a new fire, in a new day.

Thoughts on Christ and Transformation

Some thoughts from a conversation with Mark Kehoe this morning…

  1. We are beings of profound potential – both for evil and for good. Our divine potential for evil, suffering, and darkness is as deep as our potential for good.
  2. We really don’t understand our capacity for evil until it is revealed to us, and this should frighten and disturb us deeply. The depth of the natural man is not just a capacity for indulgence or selfishness, it is a capacity to inflict suffering upon others.
  3. We aren’t redeemed from our fallen potential until we become strictly honest beings. We must be divested of lies, darkness, and deception. Our capacity for deception is as infinite as our capacity to become a divine being in the likeness of our eternal parents.
  4. Encountering Christ is the process of having the light divided from the darkness within us. It is to have the truth in us increased, and to have the falsehood and lies within us transmuted into truth.
  5. Giving ourselves over to Christ can be, and usually must be, a very disruptive and painful experience. It is a death – a death of the falsehood within us. The death of the natural man is a death of the self as we know it. It is a real and painful death.
  6. But the redemption of the truth within us is glorious. And the mercy of Christ is that he will redeem anything truthful within us.
  7. The paradox of Christ is that his love kills us. It kills the natural man. It kills who we think we are. It doesn’t accept us in our self-oriented and deceived state – it requires complete transformation – granting hope that the transformation can be made.
  8. Receiving Christ requires us to go through a death and be resurrected (spiritually and physically). We die before we die as to the things of the world. And we are reborn in this life into a newness of life in the form of Christ.
  9. Submitting our light to Christ will create a magnification. Submitting our darkness will create a transformation.