Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Temple Prayer Roll

Various years ago I wrote about the funny little placard I noticed on the LDS temple prayer roll boxes.

At the time I was amused at the restriction on the number of people you could submit to the prayer roll. Apparently at some point there was a conversation or a problem that made it all the way up to the leadership levels.  It was such a problem that it resulted in a placard.  It's funny to contemplate but it appears that at some point in time temple patrons were simply praying for too many people, and such immature, unchristian mischief had to be stopped.  I guess the capacity of the little box (or the capacity of the prayers?) was just being exceeded too often?  Or something like that.  

Today I got an e-mail from the LDS Church about temple prayer roll box submissions letting me know they have now been made digital.  So space constraints are no longer an issue.  But what interestingly continues to be an issue for the LDS church is the quantity of how many people you can submit names for.  This restriction continues to be very amusing. 

(The banner image for the temple prayer roll announcement is interesting. One man and two adult women leaving the temple? I mean really?  Maybe it's their adult daughter.  I guess adult females regularly attending the temple with just their parents is commonplace?  This is a prayer roll announcement so that's curious.  If the two women are not mother-daughter and this one man leaving the temple with two women that brings to mind a variety of other ideas..... but I digress)

Below is the new Church instruction on the matter.  The gold placard (which you can see in the background of the Church provided picture below) has been replaced with new text on the website where you make submissions.  

The previous placard said "long lists" were inappropriate.  But it was left it up to discretion of the patron whether their submission met that standard or not.  The size of the white piece of paper that's provided to the patrons helps not-so-subtly communicate the desired length.  

 The electronic submission announced August 2020 has been further restricted now to 5 names per request.  We know for certain that this is not a limitation based on technology, nor a database limitation, nor a space constraint.  I'm left with few conclusions of what is really behind this.  I wonder why 5?  That's not even enough for a lot of Utah parents to include all of their children.    

Do not prophets and authors of scripture often pray and intercede on behalf of entire cities?  

When Jesus came to the Nephites, to the temple (3 Nephi 11:1) it says this in verse 23: And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words.

WHOA stop right there Jesus.... you came to the temple and are sending prayers to God for TOO many people.  You'll have to break those up into groups  individuals of 5. 

But humor aside, I guess according to the current policy it's ok to list groups (only 5 though) but not more than 5 individuals?  Strange stuff if you ask me. 

I would never complain if my name was one in a long list submitted for prayer. And even IF members got carried away with such a practice.... is that not the least of all the problems for a global religion in 2020?  During a pandemic and national unrest such as we now have?   

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Archaic Book of Mormon Language

The archaic language of scripture has sometimes felt like a barrier to me and has made understanding the scriptures more difficult.  It often requires extra thought and care to gain the right understanding.  What myself and others frequently admit is that they simply gloss over things, and get into the habit of even ignoring some things due to the nature of the text. Some difficult textual elements can be partially understood from context, but even then, it's very easy to gloss over things and misunderstand things. 

And when it comes to scripture, that can make a difference.  

I've of course gotten used to the King Jamesian language of the Bible and Book of Mormon and some of it is nice, but overall it's been more of a barrier than anything for me. 

Some of the modern translations of the bible feel a lot more relatable and the messages more understandable and thus actionable as a result of modern language.  Given the quantity of modern biblical translations out there, it suggests the demand and desire for them is high.  

But speaking specifically about the Book of Mormon.  There was  really interesting blog post by the scripture committee who worked on the Restoration Edition Scriptures.  On June 18th 2017 they posted the following:

"There are a few things we’ve wanted to share that we’ve learned from Denver and that have shaped our understanding of this project. In response challenges that arise during the process of recovering the original scriptures, questions have been posed to him that have elicited the following: 
"I have received many explanations from the Lord to help me to understand what has been done and what needs to be done. One of the things that I have had opened to my understanding is that the translation of the Book of Mormon was done under the inspiration of God to help a hard-hearted people accept it, and therefore it accommodated some of what their prejudices imposed as a condition for them to be willing to even read it while entertaining the possibility that it was from God. 
If the text had not been rendered in a way to appeal to their hard hearts, they would not have taken it seriously...I have understood that the reason the "King Jamesian" language usage was employed was precisely to make the revelations seem consistent with the familiar language of scripture. PERIOD. It was a way to break down resistance to having something new claiming to be scripture. If it read like what was the gold-standard for God's word, then maybe it WAS God's word. 
I have often thought it would be possible to render a better modern language version, but have not done anything with that thought. We now face an almost identical issue: If we change the language to become modern, then there are many who are familiar with Mormonism and who may yet be willing to consider the ongoing restoration work as God's work--but who will become offended solely because we alter the language of the Book of Mormon. Their reaction will mirror the reaction of the 1830s because of prejudice and assumptions about the unchangeable "word of God." 
I have tried to use modern language in anything I have written in order to forge a transition between people's prejudice in favor of arcane language, coming from Joseph's time, into a future when using our own plain language will become commonplace. Thankfully Joseph's history was written in common language and we have that to use in scripture."
In 1830 the Lord called the church “true and living” (D&C 1:30). By 1832 the Lord stated that the church is “condemned” (D&C 84:54-57).  T&C 82:20
And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received, which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation rests upon the children of Zion, even all, and they shall remain under this condemnation 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, that they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom.
There is an  easy assumption to make that latter day saints were "saying" correctly all along.  But as the Restoration Edition Scripture Project showed, there were many things we had been saying incorrectly. Alterations and conspiracies altered the records and a recovery repentance effort had to take place.

The Restoration Edition Scriptures project was a necessary step of remembering, recovering and repenting.  The Book of Mormon text was restored to as pure a version to what Joseph Smith had produced as was possible.  It's a great thing.  A necessary step for the Restoration.  I love the new scriptures.  It helps us to "say" the things the Lord has said more correctly.

As I read the scriptures and begin now to "say" more correctly, since we have restored the scriptures as best we are able, there's also the other part of the condemnation about "doing".  We also have to do what the scriptures say.  And to do that, we'll all need to understand what they say.  The Holy Ghost is our guide of course to understand the scriptures.  But sometimes the nature of the language posses a difficulty to understanding.  

In studying these matters things with a friend I've learned some fascinating things about the original nature of the Book of Mormon language.  There are numerous archaic phrases, words, grammar, and expressions that are either totally obsolete to modern English or totally foreign to modern readers.  

Royal Skousen, since the 1980's, has been working on a Book of Mormon Critical Text project for the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies.  He has gone through all of this to a degree I had no idea about.    

Royal's project includes 5 "Volumes"

These 5 volumes are not 5 books.  Volumes 3-4 have numerous parts, each of them individually are 600+ page books.  Volume 3 has 7 parts.  Volume 4 has 6 parts.  As far as break down, Volume 3's first four parts break down like this:

Part 1, 627 pages.
Part 2, 1281 pages.
Part 3, 704 pages.
Part 4, 704 pages.

Volume 4 Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, was a key part of the restoration edition scriptures project.

Volume 3 was less applicable to that project but has recently come to light as something very worthwhile as the restoration continues.  Parts 3-4 of Volume III for example are called: The Nature of the Original Language of the Book of Mormon.  Parts 1 and 2 are Grammatical Variation.  Part 5 The King James Quotations in the Book of Mormon.  Part VI is Spelling in the Manuscripts and Editions.  Volume 3 is very interesting and dense with research.

Needless to say, the overall Critical Text Project by Royal Skousen is a monumental project with significant, valuable,  and worthwhile insight into the Book of Mormon.  I’m not trying to get you to go buy it, I'm only showing how much work has been done by Royal.  In Volume III he utilizes an old Oxford historical English dictionary that you have to have a special subscription to even access. That dictionary covers over 1000 years of the English language.  

Given how much languages change over a period of 500 years, early English would be almost unintelligible to modern readers.

From the Oxford Dictionary Page:
Prof. Glanville Price (Languages in Britain & Ireland (2000) 148) has remarked with some truth that ‘the language of Beowulf would be almost as unintelligible to a man of Chaucer's time as it is to the modern reader.’
Beowulf is an Old English epic poem and one of the most important works of Old English literature. The manuscript was produced between 975 and 1025.

Geoffrey Chaucer was a 14th century English poet.

Professor Price said the English language of Beowulf would be almost unintelligible to an English speaker of the 14th century.  What does that mean for us reading ancient scripture?  

Given what history shows about language becoming harder, not easier to understand, this is an interesting topic for modern students of scriptures.  Some of the language of the Book of Mormon dates back far older than Joseph Smith. One might expect Joseph would have used words with meanings current to the early 1800's. Such as you might find in the Websters 1828 American English dictionary. But that isn't the case. Royal Skousen's research makes it clear the language (words, syntax, grammar etc..) of the Book of Mormon proves to have language originating and based in much much older English. Reformer period, 1500-1600's.

We know Joseph translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, which was not a word for word translation such you might do today with a foreign language dictionary between say, Russian and Spanish. The process Joseph followed was not that. It was by the gift and power of God.  But the language we got was early English.  Which begs the question of why?  Why would the gift and power of God produce a book of scripture in a language that will be increasingly difficult for people to understand?  That takes us back to the quote from the scripture committee earlier in the post.      
So where does all of this take us?  One of the things I've learned form Royal's work is that the way modern readers commonly read and understand some passages in The Book of Mormon is not the same meaning as the original archaic language. It's modern readers, including me, as a result of evolved language who have interpreted various things incorrectly.  Due to how language has evolved and shifted, the Book of Mormon holds keys people may not have noticed because they just get glossed over.  

My friend is detail oriented researcher and has been studying these works by Royal Skousen in depth. Here are a few small examples of archaic language that might be interesting.

3 Nephi 9:4
And behold, the whiteness thereof did exceed all whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof. And Jesus said unto them, Pray on. Nevertheless, they did not cease to pray.

This is what Royal Skousen has to say:

"As discussed under this passage in volume 4, the normal "nevertheless" doesn't make sense here because these people do continue to pray. There seems to be no apparent reason why Jesus would tell them to pray on when they had no intention of stopping anyway. But the second edition of the OED, under definition 5b for "never", refers to the original transparent phrase "never the less" in Middle and Early Modern English and describes it as a negative emphatic with the meaning "not in any way less" or "by no means less". In other words, the equivalent sentence reads "and by no means did they cease pray". Even though this is a multiple negative, the basic meaning (in standard English) is "and by no means did they cease to pray".

The passage would read:

"And Jesus said unto them, Pray on. And by no means did they cease to pray."

Doesn't that make a whole lot more sense?

Alma 19:7.  Alma is teaching his son about the resurrection and we get this phrase:
Now, my son, I do not say that their resurrection cometh at the resurrection of Christ, but behold, I give it as my opinion that the souls and the bodies are reunited of the righteous, at the resurrection of Christ and his ascension into Heaven.
This is what Royal Skousen has to say:

"In today's English, we tend to interpret the word 'opinion' as representing simply one's point of view and not especially backed up by evidence. But here in Alma [19:7], the word is being used more strongly, with considerable more conviction than what the modern meaning implies." The OED (Oxford English Dictionary) has this: "thought of what is likely to be the case" or "expectation based on knowledge or belief".  In modern English we might say "considered judgment".

Alma's words would read:

Now, my son, I do not say that their resurrection comes at the resurrection of Christ, but behold, I give it as my considered judgement that the souls and the bodies of the righteous are reunited at the resurrection of Christ and his ascension into Heaven. 

It's nice that we learn Alma isn't spouting off an opinion he's not really sure about, but it's instead offering a considered judgement.

Two from Jacob:
Jacob 4:1 - "And they are a stiffnecked and a gainsaying people, but as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God."
From Skousen:

The archaic verb "gainsay" - "to speak against". It appears 5 times in the KJV Bible - Romans 10:21; Luke 21:15, Acts 10:29; Titus 1:9; Jude 1:11. In summary of this word Skousen he gives the definition of "given to contrariness".

(Side note: Other related biblical words might be "froward")

Another expansion of the definition of gainsaying is: quarrelsome and contradictory, opposing one another, disagreeing and arguing and challenging one another, refusing to reach agreements when they ought to be achievable.

Keep that in mind as you read the phrase again (with some parenthesis thoughts stuck in there temporarily by me) and see if the passage doesn't hit home a lot more to our day:

Jacob 4:1 - "And they are a stiffnecked and a quarrelsome people (given to contrariness, refusing agreement when it ought to be achievable), but as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God."

Jacob 5:6. This is Sherem talking, as his situations dawns on him of what has been going on. 
"And he said, I fear lest I have committed the unpardonable sin, for I have lied unto God; for I denied the Christ and said that I believed the scriptures, and they truly testify of him. And because I have thus lied unto God, I greatly fear lest my case shall be awful but I confess unto God."
Skousen's research reveals:  The word "but" here does not have its normal meaning but rather the archaic meaning "unless, except".

It would read:

And because I have thus lied unto God, I greatly fear lest my case shall be awful unless I confess unto God.

These are just a few examples. There are many more.  The Book of Mormon we all read today may still be sealed in certain sense in part due to archaic language.

I believe the Book of Mormon is well worth our study.  Joseph didn't just forge this book, or borrow it, stealing from other sources.  This is a book worth deep investigation.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

When the wicked rule

Heavy topics face America right now.

The old testament has this timeless wisdom: When the wicked rule the people morn.

When we think of those who rule it's typically those in power whether governmental, economic, religious, or any with power and some form of authority.  Which of course it is.  But lately it's become more apparent the media can also rule the public perception.  And even sometimes rule or manipulate those holding power. 

The public too can also rule in many ways.  They can demand reform, and demand change and force an agenda or manipulate with fear causing even more chaos and destruction.  There are many who appear to want to rule and reign with (utilizing) blood and horror as an effective platform to gain listeners.

Anyway, many companies in America are putting out public statements regarding racism.  The Church recently put out a statement about racism.  This is from the Church News:
“We abhor the reality that some would deny others respect and the most basic of freedoms because of the color of his or her skin. We are also saddened when these assaults on human dignity lead to escalating violence and unrest.”
President Nelson’s message addressed the death of George Floyd — a black man who died on May 25 after a white police officer knelt on his neck while restraining him — and ensuing protests, riots and violence.
These statements condemn the Church's own past leaders and past doctrine at times.  Completely contradicting and "abhorring" (their word) past leaders.  From whom the current leaders have inherited their claims to priesthood authority.  But that is another matter.

While the world, CEO's, businesses, and heads of religion issue public statements in the wake of the death of George Floyd (I'm sickened too); I couldn't help but notice the way George died is not unlike what happens all the time as part of a later stage abortion of a voiceless, powerless, restrained infant.  But where is the LDS statement? Where are the protests?  Outrage?  No CEO and brand owner public statements?  How many thousands of voiceless babies die this way?

The public is furious about one issue, meanwhile this other great cause of death which happens in strikingly similar fashion continues with those who lives have been reduced to less than human, and who don't have a voice at all.  It's horrific to me that life ends this way.  It's also horrific that women are sometimes driven to these dreadful extremes, perhaps by no fault of their own. If this topic had protests and outrage and demands for reform to the same degree as these other things we would likely see change.  But this greater cause of death gets far less focus, despite there also being videos available showing what happens.

In looking for a recent LDS public statement on abortion I did find a statement that had no date.  The Church does oppose abortion and they clarify their stance on some of the complexities surrounding the topic.  But the concluding statement on the newsroom page about abortion says this:
"The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion."
What kind of statement is that? For one, it is demonstrably not true.  But besides that, are they afraid to have taken or take a public stand or give support of legislation on the issue?  I wonder on what grounds a Church claiming Christ's name fails to speak clearly on issues that involve the death of children.

But in any event, with the potential for such enormous public backlash companies and businesses and even religions seems to be trying to playing it safe.  Statements without dates, and electronic handbooks also have the added advantage of being able to be easily altered and adjusted as social pressures come and go.  Part of me seeks and wants someone to cut through all the distractions, and boldly and plainly not play it safe, or cater to public approval, but simply state the truth.

The LDS church used to mention abortion but it's obviously not a popular thing for a worldwide religion to openly and outwardly speak about.  It hasn't received received near the attention as decades past.

But moving on. This next statement was from a talk given in Hurricane Utah in March 2020.  The entire talk is a very worthwhile read.
But our society suffers most from evils we inflict upon ourselves. It is estimated that in January and February of this year the greatest cause of death in the United States has come from one of our great evils of abortion. An estimated 141,000 abortions in those two months, added to the estimated 51,000,000 slain since 1973. Abortion is the leading cause of death in the US. By tolerating this mass killing we are not unlike those who anciently killed their children sacrificing them to the false god Molech. The Lord repeatedly condemned this:
“And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Again, you shall say to the children of Israel,  Whoever he is, of the children of Israel or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that gives any of his seed unto Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people because he has given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary and to profane my holy name. And if the people of the land do in any way hide their eyes from the man when he gives of his seed unto Molech and kill him not, then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go whoring after him to commit whoredom with Molech, from among their people.”
“that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.”
“to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech, which I commanded them not;”
What kind of a society allows killing 51,000,000 innocent children to continue uninterrupted over 47 years? As we have been told, “Nevertheless, when the wicked rule, the people mourn. Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men you should observe to uphold; otherwise, whatever is less than these comes of evil.” We have elected and upheld men and women who have tolerated this obscenity for 47 years. The United States will be punished for this. By and by you will see the “chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed has made a full end of all nations.” That full end of nations will include the US. And so we have an opportunity to prepare, if we will heed the Lord’s counsel.

This is one of the more memorable times I've seen a societies evil pointed out like this, and such a warning given.  "The United States will be punished for this".   Going on to quote a revelation given to Joseph Smith referring to a full end of all nations.  The footnote reads: Scriptural “destruction” does not require annihilation, only the loss of an ability to perpetuate a nation. 

I'm not a doomsday-er but this looks more and more like what is up ahead, hopefully far far up ahead but ahead nonetheless.  We're told we have an opportunity to prepare.  And that it has to be by heeding the Lord's counsel.  Makes me want to find out what that counsel is, and where it can be found.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Corona Counfounded

A few thoughts about the current Coronavirus pandemic, as we're a few months in.  Some things about this thing make no sense to me.  A lot of it revolves around the communication.  To help lighten the mood of this potentially heavy topic I included some images with this post to bring some laughs. 

I've always been interested in communication. Verbal, non verbal, body language, how people communicate, and the words and language we use.  Right now my kids are in a development phase where I'm frequently reminding them to "use their words" instead of cry, scream, or remain frustrated with whatever is going on with them. It's also a time to help them put accurate words to their feelings so they can develop good communication skills. Although we talk and communicate all day long, that doesn't always mean we get better at it.  Sometimes our language declines, unnoticed.

But we do get funnier at times. 

Another thing with the pandemic is I see is that historians speak of the importance of documenting life during the pandemic.  So I thought I'd document some things I noticed that were interesting.  Future people looking back at 2020 need to know that our language has become a mess and people don't understand each other.  Misinformation and miscommunication are huge problems.  I mean Corona beer had to halt production for a time due to apparent confusion between Corona beer and Coronavirus. That's how bad it is, and what fear is doing to people.

From am April 2020 national news article:
Corona beer has become a victim of the coronavirus after consumers mistakenly associated it with the highly contagious virus. According to CBS News, 38 percent of surveyed American beer drinkers said they would not buy Corona beer "under any circumstances."

But enough about beer.  Scriptures make reference to language and people who become confounded. We all know about babel, and that ancient effort to build a tower to heaven which resulted in their language being confounded, I'm fascinated by that.  How their language got confounded to the point they couldn't function.

But first a few notes (presenters notes) from a presentation at a Book of Mormon Language Conference hosted by McKay Platt in Provo Utah, January 2020:
(I’ll replace these with a transcript as soon as I can locate a copy)
-The second sentence of Moroni’s title page introduction to the Book of Mormon recalls a time that the Jaredites came from the great tower and refers to “confounding the language”.
-Confounding the language” is generally thought to be a miraculous event where all men speaking in a single tongue suddenly found themselves speaking Japanese, Swahili, Navajo and Finnish.
-The text, however, does not say “suddenly every man was speaking a new language”. It was the people not their language who were confounded. The people were so confounded they thought they could get to Heaven by building a tower. The prayer of the brother of Jared was that the Lord “will not confound us that we may not understand our words”.
-Emerson expresses a parallel thought. “The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language
-He’s saying, Once men themselves are corrupted- once men start to have stinking thinking—it begins to be reflected in their language.
-Hugh Nibley asks this question about Jared’s prayer, “How can it possibly be said that “we may not understand our words”? Words we cannot understand may be nonsense syllables or may be in some foreign language, but in either case they are not our words. The only way we can fail to understand our own words is to have words that are actually ours change their meaning among us.”
-The word confound is often used to mean confuse but it’s root meaning referred to mixing or blending.
-Language becomes confounded when words change meaning, when new meanings are mixed into the language.
-People become confounded when the philosophies of men are mingled with the word of the Lord.
-And why would Jared worry about such a thing?
Because Jared knew that the new words created by the mixing were not equivalent to the original language.
-Semantic change is a big area of study: virtually our entire vocabulary is subject to words changing meaning. It’s hard to find an old word that means the same thing today as it meant long ago
-Unless you are unusual, you have never been exposed to the original meanings of these English words: nice, silly, fizzle, fathom, clue, myriad, flirt, hussy, egregious and senile. (Nice meant silly and silly meant blessed.) (A Hussy was a housewife)
-I ask my ten-year-old grandson, “what are the latest cool words today?” His answer, lit, dope, dank, swag, swol, gaines, and yeet. If you listen to an extended conversation in young people you are almost guaranteed to hear words you have never heard before.
- Just in the last five years over 40 pronouns have been added for persons who don’t like to be referred to as he or she. They in this context (used as a SINGULAR pronoun) was named 2019 Word of the Year by Merriam-Webster.
-Words changing meaning is often seen as natural and innocuous. Most authors discussing semantic change do not hint a dark side to the corruption of language as Emerson does and as Book of Mormon authors do.
-Mormon taught that mixing or blending leads to incorrect traditions which leads to destruction. You might have thought that Mormon was talking about interracial marriage but listen to his words.
....”the Lord God might preserve his people, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions which would prove their destruction.” (Alma 3:8)
-Mormon is unconcerned about diluting the genes of some Master Race but instead about mixing ideas and traditions leading to incorrect traditions which lead to destruction. The Adversary is behind the destruction. We once taught in our temples that It is he who mixes or mingles the words of scripture with philosophies of men. And he does it to in order to obscure truth.
-Emerson explains how man, corrupted by impure motives then proceeds to corrupt language:
-A man’s power to connect his thought with its proper symbol, ...depends on the simplicity of his character, that is, upon his love of truth, and his desire to communicate it without loss. (He is describing uncorrupted man) The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language. When simplicity of character and the sovereignty of ideas is broken up by ...secondary desires, the desire of riches, of pleasure, of power, and of praise, — and duplicity and falsehood take (the) place of simplicity and truth....old words are perverted to stand for things which are not;...In due time, the fraud is manifest, and words lose all power....”

I see a lot of language confounding and people confounding again in our day.  It has been especially noticeable during this pandemic.  Our language is so confounded that satire sites made good use of it creating satirical guides about the meaning of people's words vs the words themselves.  The reason this next graphic is funny is because often it feels like there are elements of truth to it. But some are just absurd.  Have a look:

I ask myself, are these kinds of miscommunications a result of the population just being hysterical and overly stressed out?  Likely not, since public, governmental, and religious leaders are also communicating using words that don't match up with what the words mean.  The masses are not totally to blame for our confounded pandemic language.  A few examples:

"Social Distancing".  What the heck is social distancing?  This is not a scientific or medical concept. Social distancing would be something like socially keeping people out of your life, or remaining isolated from social contact with others. That is a social distance.  But contrary to common sense, we've taken physical distancing, even measured by the "authorities as 6 feet physically, and then called it social distancing.  This is bizarre vocabulary embraced by experts, political leaders, religious leaders and the media. "Socially distanced" sounds like a mental health diagnoses or a syndrome resulting from germ paranoia. 

Socially distancing carries a message that we kind of ought to fear each other, and socially isolate ourselves at a distance. An odd thing to be communicating to our nations children.  The virus doesn't care about how social you are.  Physical distance, not social distance is what will have an effect on avoiding germs.  One example of our language going weird.

And aren't we supposed to be dealing with germs and viruses all the time?  Isn't that how our immune systems stay healthy?  Unless your somehow immune compromised or have underlying issues, then healthy people aren't supposed to be avoiding every germ like it was the plague.   

Fear has often ruled the day in 2020.  Due to sometimes drastically incorrect data models.

If there is anything that has caused social issues during this pandemic it's been fear, false information, and calculated misdirection.  The media perpetuates it, and fans the flames of hysteria and fear all the time. People on both sides of issues claim the other sides lies or misleads.  Floods of lies. People end up buying toilet paper and household cleaner's (like Lysol) in a panic. The media coverage of the pandemic has been disastrous for America.

Confounded language has led to country wide confusion, misdirection, and rampant misunderstanding.  It was probably already happening, but I paid more attention this year.  Not just with the pandemic, every area of conversation seems like the definitions of words are not shared among people. What a person thinks a word means IS what the word means, so everyone lives in a distanced reality.

Another word I noticed during all this: "Quarantine".  Quarantine is what you do to sick people to isolate them from healthy people so as to not infect others or to protect the person who is ill and vulnerable.  "House arrest" is more correct term for forcing healthy people inside their houses and not letting them have freedom of movement or freedom to gather physically with others, or peacefully protest.  Forms of house arrest would normally need substantial evidence as it violates constitutional rights. Not fear, theories, and projections.  Quarantine is a more palatable word though.  But people in many states saw their constitutional rights erode. Some protested.  President Trump hasn't been able to stay out of the news for sometimes even a few hours.

Someone pointed out that the thing to notice in all of this is not "The President" but "The Precedent". 

People identify the pandemic as the cause of things that were sometimes more of a result of a lock-down than the virus.  Yes the two things are connected, but the effects of the virus and the effects of the Lock-down are not totally interchangeable. Millions and millions of people are out of work and suffering not because they are sick, or got sick, but because of our societies response.  But if you conflate the virus with the countries response to the virus, you'll have a lot to sort out to find out who is making good vs very poor decisions.         

Some other evidence of our confounded language.

"Pandemic".  This word refers to the how transmissible or prevalent the spread of a disease is.  It is not an indication of the severity of the disease.  But the public perception is that pandemic = super duper dangerous life altering and life threatening disease, basically the plague.  That's not what the word means.  But enough fear and a confounded language, there's no doubt hysteria will follow. 

"State of Emergency".  Something a lot of states keep declaring, and keep declaring, and keep declaring.

Another one:  "New Normal".   What is new normal?  Things that are normal typically aren't questioned.  But I think we should question anything that's pitched to us as a new normal.  Because if you accept the new definition of normal, you automatically don't question it. 

Is it normal for the government to shut down business, restrict your freedom of movement, restrict your freedom to gather, restrict your freedom to worship or peacefully protest grievances you have about the governments overreach?   I can see better hand-washing as a better normal behavior.  More awareness and care of the elderly and those with health conditions making them vulnerable.  Those are great standards for us to maintain.  But the government handing out trillion + dollars because they forced you to shut down business is not normal.  There is a different word for that, and it seems dangerous to lump such things into a new "normal".  Is it the role and job of government to forcefully under rule of law, protect you from the vicissitudes of nature?

Non essential.  Means not essential to critical infrastructure to keep society running.  Except of course your families infrastructure.  That's not "essential" which is very confusing.  The satire sites again make use of this.

The Babylon Bee (Tag line: Fake news you can trust) is very clever sometimes in pointing out disturbing events with humor.  Our day is sometimes so confounded people have to do double checks to see if the headline was a satire site or one of the mainstream media sites.

Another phrase I hear a lot: "stay home stay safe".  This was a Utah phrase from the Governor.  Factually speaking the spread of the virus was largely familial during the lock down because everyone was staying home.  Turns out sunlight was shown to be detrimental to the virus.  But remember to stay home, stay safe.  As if not going outside kept you safe.  Stay home stay safe seems more applicable to the Utah Highway Patrol billboards that recently displayed that there have been close to 100 deaths on Utah roads in 2020.  Almost the same as the number of deaths from Covid-19 in 2020 on that same date.  Leaving your house, especially to be on Utah roads can be dangerous.

"Flatten the curve" is another term.  It has come to have an unspoken implication of "eradicating" the disease.  This makes no sense but there's an undertone that it is what people somewhat hoped they would get out of locking down.  As if it's not going to spike up again as soon as we stop.  So flatting the curve is more like a "delay of the inevitable".  But we don't like that so we use weird phrases to help ourselves feel better. 

Perhaps people hoped there would be a cure or a a vaccine by the time we were done being on house arrest.  Which is also nonsensical.  Who knows.  The buzzwords are repeated as though they meant something but the words are layers removed from tangible meaning. 

Speaking of flattening the curve..... here's an alternate version for all the parents of multiples out there.  This data model is highly accurate.  lol.

"Do your part" has come to subtly mean taking personal responsibility for unknown quantity of other people's health.  People have a hard enough time managing their own health, but now we're all supposed to act as if we are personally responsible for everyone else's exposure to germs?  That makes no sense.

Another one.  Early on in the pandemic the CDC was saying masks were "unnecessary" and had no evidence they helped you avoid catching Corona or giving it to others if you didn't have symptoms.

Direct quote from the WHO:

Advice to decision makers on the use of masks for healthy people in community settings:
As described above, the wide use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not supported by current evidence and carries uncertainties and critical risks

Similarly from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Direct quote.

"Face masks should be used only by individuals who have symptoms of respiratory infection such as coughing, sneezing, or, in some cases, fever. Face masks should also be worn by health care workers, by individuals who are taking care of or are in close contact with people who have respiratory infections, or otherwise as directed by a doctor. Face masks should not be worn by healthy individuals to protect themselves from acquiring respiratory infection because there is no evidence to suggest that face masks worn by healthy individuals are effective in preventing people from becoming ill."

All of that has been completely contradicted by these same organizations.  Costco and my civic and religious leaders keep encouraging me to wear one without regard to symptoms.  Contradicting their own scientifically based statements.  When am I supposed to trust the experts if they contradict themselves? 

It's almost like we're experiencing a plague of miscommunication and confusion stemming from a mix of political, economic, and media agendas.  It causes all the wrong pictures in our heads.  The results of which will no doubt include anger and violence and turning on each other.  Speaking of turning on each other.  A funny story out of New York was that a mayor set up a tip line or a "snitch" line for people to report others who were breaking the social distance guidelines.  The residents however flooded the tip line with inappropriate images and obscenities making the tip line useless.   

This next picture was posted when President Trump had stopped dictating what Americans could and couldn't do and had turned power over to the State Governors.  Some of whom followed suit and turned some power over to smaller counties and mayors of cities.  A healthy trend.  If that pattern continues eventually everyone might just be able to choose for themselves.  Hopefully choosing to be kind, considerate, and aware of others. 

But back to the meme, the need to prevent continued economic devastation was likely the inspiration behind this.  I found it very funny.   

The local library had to quarantine my kids returned library books yesterday for 48 hours before the health department says it's safe to touch them. I don't envy the job of the health department.  They have this awful task of trying to keep the public safe and healthy and the even more terrible job of having to try to make all these virus rules somehow consistent across all the varying businesses and walks of life.  A thankless job for sure.  But not without it's power.  The police also have a thankless job dealing with the increases in domestic violence calls and mental health challenges as a result of everything going on.

Next term:  Expert.   These are the trustworthy people who everyone expects to be right and have good solutions to the problems.  The problems is how often the experts are wrong or disagree with each other.  And not to mention that lots of people talk like they are experts.

"Covid deaths" has come to refer to any death where the deceased was even assumed to have had the Corona virus, regardless of other underlying conditions or whether or not there was even a lab test performed to confirm.  The word "assumed" was the CDS's word, not mine.     

Another language thing not specific to the pandemic, but annoying none the less. "Your truth".  This is a misnomer. There is no such thing as your truth. There is "the" truth and "your opinion".  No one can claim to own truth.  You can align with it.  Truth existed before any of us were born so how and on what grounds do we speak in terms of possession of it?  During confounded times telling opinion from truth may not be as easy as I would have assumed.  It's anyone's guess how often they get mixed up.  Our language is a mess.

So what do we do about this confounding of language? These examples are visible with the pandemic but it's part of a much bigger problem affecting everyone.  The scriptural answer to that question would be to repent.  But it's hard to even recognize a message from God or understand it amidst all the confounding.  The religious vocabulary suffers a lot from confounding as well.  But scriptures affirm God does speak, and will set his hand again, and will give light to those who ask.

I wanted to conclude with a few more notes from that Book of Mormon conference I referenced at the beginning of the post.  And that I genuinely hope we can see God's outreached hand in 2020. 

-A good deal of study and research has gone into the shifting language, changes in the meaning of SECULAR words. Far less research has gone into the confounding of language in RELIGION. ...
-John Gee investigated the Book of Mormon claim that discusses the removal “from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious” (1 Nephi 13:26). He documents early “lexical reinterpretation”, the changing of meanings of words that occurred in first centuries after Christ. He gave several examples of how meanings shifted from the original Greek including “trust” changed to “believe”, “agree” to changed to “confess”, and “rites” to “secret”. (Mysterion)
-The confounding of language continued throughout the centuries, always preceded first the confounding of the people. By the time Joseph saw the Lord in vision the “professors were all corrupt”, teaching “for doctrines the commandments of men” (JS-H 1:19). Much of that “corruption” was seen in the “confounding of language”.
-Then the restoration restored authority, keys and knowledge, to be sure, but also pure language and correct meanings. Consider a few examples:
-As part of the restoration Joseph restored the meaning of many words whose meaning had become confounded: Church, God, the Second Comforter, heaven, spirit world, spirit prison, hell, Eternal, prophet, seer, revelator, apostle, spirit, soul, intelligence, creation and many, many more. No sooner than Joseph corrected words that had been confounded than men moved again to mess them up.
-Jesse W. Crosby relayed this recollection, “when (Joseph) ventured to give his opinion on any subject of importance his words were often garbled and their meaning twisted and then given out as the word of the Lord because they came from him.”
-The “garbling of words” and “twisting meaning” is a pretty fair definition of “confounding of language”.
-In secular language the constant flux of words may be seen as benign, confusing at times, yet somewhat entertaining. In scripture, however, confounding language can be a matter of life and death as Alma points out: 
Behold, the scriptures are before you; if ye will WREST them it shall be to your own destruction. (Alma 13:20)
-Old English, roughly 1600 years old is completely indecipherable to most of us today yet the Book of Mormon is older still, uses words we never use in our everyday conversations yet which of us use a dictionary as a companion to our study of the book. 
-That’s the 2nd Book of Mormon scripture I’ve quoted that uses “destruction” tied to confounding the language
-Doesn’t that seem like wild hyperbole? How could wresting the word lead to destruction?
-WREST is a word we don’t use everyday. Definition #3 in my dictionary says wrest means to “distort the meaning or interpretation of (something) to suit one's own interests or views.” Other definitions use the word “force”. Wresting the scriptures is forcing a meaning out of them not intended by the writers.
-Isn’t Alma being overly dramatic here? How could we possibly force or distort the meaning of the scriptures to our destruction?
-To answer that all we need to do is look at the revelations where the Lord warns the LDS Church. 
-We could teach doctrines which are vain (2 Nephi 28:9) and therefore ineffective, imagining that “at last we will be saved in the kingdom of God. (2 Nephi 28: 8)
-We could teach more or less than Christ taught and establish it (our additions and subtractions) as His doctrine. He warned about that in 3 Nephi 11:40.
-For example, expanding the requirements for baptism beyond His word.
-We could teach less than Christ taught and establish it as His doctrine (3 Nephi 11:40). All scriptural references to Mysteries, for example, are positive. Oliver was commanded to seek for wisdom and the mysteries (D&C 6:7,11). Nephi had a great desire to know the mysteries (1 Nephi 2:16).
-Whether we declare more or less than he declared, In either case “the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them” (3 Nephi 11:40).
-We could act in opposition to Christ by defining His church to be more or less than he defines it. He defined His church as those “repent and come unto Him”. He warned about “declaring more or less than that” in D&C 10:67-68.
-We could covenant with an everlasting covenant and then lose our savor (which means “value” in this context). (D&C 101:39, 103:9-10). For such are cast out and trodden under foot of men.” The former two societies that received this same salt warning have long ago been destroyed.
-The list of religious words that as a people we have confounded reads like a Dictionary of Christianity.  We use words like “testimony”, “perfect”, “peculiar”, “keys”, “Oracles”, “prophet”, “revelation”, in ways that distort their original meanings. Revelation for example originally meant to pull back the vail (re-Vele) not to receive an impression or insight. Testimony was given only of that seen, heard or witnessed- not as we use the term today as a synonym for believe.
-We have garbled the meaning of many words and twisted their meanings which keep us separated from God and confounded.
🔹 It is too late for us to pray that the Lord will not confound our language. Many writers, speakers, scholars and bloggers point out the weakness of our language, the drift that has occurred in the meaning of our words. They try to un-confound our language and hope to return us to a language which is pure but that will require much more than the weak attempts of men, it will require the Lord. For all who will receive instruction from Him, Zephaniah prophesied:
🔹 For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent. (Zephaniah 3:9). That will occur in the Day of the Lord which I pray will soon be upon us.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Organization Fixation Part 2

Part 2:  Authority can be toxic 

This is a continuation from the previous post and goes through a a few notes on the second and third sections of the article I've been taking a deeper look at.  Posted here for reference: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2020/03/the-lord-leads-his-church-through-prophets-and-apostles?lang=eng

Here's a basic recap of the logic of the article: God requires an organization.  God requires an organization led by men called prophets and apostles.  The LDS Church is that organization. The leaders of the LDS church are Prophets and Apostles. And therefore the article describes these leaders in these descriptive words: (These bold bullets below are taken directly from the article with some food for thought on each one)

- "These leaders did not volunteer, and they were not elected by believers".  

Except for Brigham Young, who campaigned for the position and was voted on (The Mormon Succession Crisis of 1844 Author D. Michael Quinn)

But to be fair, most of the leaders did not publicly volunteer and were not elected.  But lets face it..... when you want a position of authority there are numerous ways to indirectly "volunteer".

On a related note, when it comes to not being elected by the believers, what the article says is not only accurate but as we saw with President Nelson, the leaders can assume the highest positions of authority before the body even has a chance to sustain them.  So people don't vote on them typically, or even have to sustain them before they claim these Church positions and titles of authority. 

-"A paramount function of Apostles in the Church that Jesus established was to hold the keys of the priesthood." 

Paramount means: more important than anything else; supreme.  This bullet teaches the most important, supreme function of an Apostle is to be a key holder.  Essentially the person with the most authority on everything. If you hold the keys, you would be a gatekeeper or opener.  And the paramount function we are taught is to be the guy with the biggest key ring enabling them to dictate and supervise the most things.  Very hierarchical. No chance for equality with this type of setup.  These men acquire power and authority and become the gatekeepers due to possession of keys. 

Christ in scripture is described as the keeper of the gate and he employs no servant there (2 Nephi 9:41).  That truth is affirming and edifying. It points to Christ. But coming directly to Christ without an intermediary is not the objective of this article.  It may be one of the objectives of the scriptures but it's not being promoted or even offered by this article.  Despite that, it is still something I believe worth teaching.  So, lest we forget, Christ is the owner of the priesthood keys.  He has't surrendered them.  We can come to him directly.  That truth is not something however that the article being talked about in this post bothers to remind you of.  It only focuses on the key holders you need to look to and or appease.  Here's a picture from the Rome Temple photo shoot posted on the official Church Newsroom site.

-They identify truth and error and authoritatively state, “Thus saith the Lord.”

No LDS Church leader in the last 100 years (to my knowledge) has used that phrase to declare Gods word.  Prophets in scripture of course did.  But the scripture stopped growing after Joseph Smith's day.  And now only the handbook grows and changes.

-The Bible also shows that religious leaders must have the authority of God’s priesthood, which is conferred by one already holding that authority.

When a teaching such as this only reference conferral of authority it leaves out important information, such as: 

D&C 121:37
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
President Packer in a general conference talk distinguished between power in the priesthood and the authority of the priesthood.  Authority can be conferred, but power in the priesthood comes form God.  When authority becomes the primary focus and what gives license to govern other people that's all that gets focused on.  But actual power in the priesthood has to come from God.

This from Joseph Smith:
God will not acknowledge that which He has not called, ordained, and chosen. In the beginning God called Adam by His own voice. ‘And the Lord called unto Adam and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, and hid myself.’ [Genesis 3:9–10.] Adam received commandments and instructions from God: this was the order from the beginning.
All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself.” (Teachings, pp. 180–81.)
Someone who has been ordained by God himself is likely to point out examples of that pattern. Such as Joseph Smith, who above does point out that pattern. Someone who has not had any such ordination is not likely to mention it, especially if doing so would be problematic for their claim to authority. 

-Apostles “have the right, the power, and the authority to declare the mind and will of God to his people, subject to the over-all power and authority of the President of the Church.”

Apostles are subject to the President's over-all power and authority. The chain of central command is made very clear.  There will be NO insubordination. I think it's all to common to forget that being "called" a prophet apostle or any other calling, is different than being "chosen".  Matthew 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” D&C 121:34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen.
Luke 22: And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
The thing to avoid is priestcraft.  There is an overabundance of evidence that priestcraft is toxic.
2 Nephi 26: 29 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, 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; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.
-They teach and counsel as directed by the Holy Ghost, with no desire other than to speak what is true.

If only blanket feel-good statements applied to everyone who ever occupied any religious position of authority.  This type of thinking leads us to trust and over-rely on the men.  The article doesn't teach you to differentiate between inspired moments and all other moments when men speak as men.  This leads to abuse and can mislead people away from recognizing their duty to find and follow the voice of the Spirit themselves.  How do we know they teach and counsel as directed by the Holy Ghost?  Do they do this all the time?  All of them?  This statement from the article is a nice platitude but ultimately misleads.     

-Their voices can be trusted. 

Says the person who's also one of the voices you can trust.  If this was said by a political figure the media would quickly point out the conflict of interest of such a statement.   Aren't we taught in scripture NOT to trust in the arm of the flesh?

-Their voices are: clear, unpolluted, unbiased. 

This is a tall order. And sets men up as a light.  I think perhaps Christ is the only one that could rival these amazing descriptions of these Church authorities put forward by this article. Didn't Christ teach that His sheep hear HIS voice and follow Him? The concern here stems from scripture when readers are warned about men setting themselves up as a light.  This is a clear warning in scripture but seems largely ignored.

-You can always count on them

Always means always.  Aren't we supposed to rely on God?  What about counting on them when their voices and teachings are later proved to have been in error?  Doesn't relying on men set us up for failure?  What about when President Hinckley led the "Meet the Mormons" ad campaign but later President Nelson said using terms such as Mormon and championing their use was a major victory for Satan and offends God?  How can we count on contradictions?

-Their only motive is ‘the everlasting welfare of your souls’

Again, this is a sweeping generalization being applied to a whole list of LDS leaders both living and dead.  I don't know what their motives are, but I always like to assume the best. I think everyone is doing the best they can according to their worldview.  My question is why do I even need to assess their motives?  That's a semi impossible task.  Christ never said to discern true from false messengers by the motives they claim about each other.  In contrast, Christ DID teach to assess them by their fruits. By their fruits we will know them he said.  What path does it lead me down when I'm assured that the leaders of the required organization only have only pure motives?  I feel like I'm being led to trust in men rather that pointed to my Savior and how Christ said to discern messengers.  What if there are very few fruits?

-Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.”

Except when they did. All the time. The Church essays explain the times the Church leaders have taught falsehoods and or been racist.  The current trend of flip flopping policies and statements is hard to miss.  This bullet sets men up as a light who cannot ever be wrong.  Meanwhile they admit all the times there has been errors.

-To become the official doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ, the individual teachings of apostles and even prophets need to be affirmed through the process of approval by other apostles and prophets.

Is that all it takes to become official doctrine?  Affirmation by other men? This didn't mention God at all.  Aren't we supposed to affirm teachings by the Holy Ghost?  The Holy Ghost was supposed to be the way to identify all truth wasn't it?  While affirmation by other apostles and prophets is no doubt a process they follow, what I suspect is far more common it would seem is that the top leader needs to declare something and all the subordinates simply fall in line.  Especially when the top leaders have the kinds of descriptions I'm discussing in this post applied to them.

-There is a long-standing rule that questions addressed to individual Apostles or other authorities about doctrine or policy that is not clearly defined in the scriptures or handbooks are to be referred to the First Presidency. 

Because rules and organizational hierarchy.  Rules are what organizations rely on and enforce to create am artificial version of unity. This is what you get with a top down organization, with someone always governing you with claims to keys, rather than a system of equality, which is what the scriptures teach.


This list of attributes being applied to the leaders portrays how worthy they are of our trust and obedience.  This seems very dangerous and opposite of what scriptures say.  Almost sounds as if these leaders are pseudo-Christ and a substitute for him. In fact why even look to Christ when we have these clearly elevated, powerful, inerrant, unbiased, unpolluted, infallible men holding all the keys to your salvation?  They can do no wrong, have only pure motives, cannot lead you astray, and will never send forth counsel contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.

On the one hand God does send messengers and a true messenger's message will have God's voice resonating in the message.  On the other hand you have men making claims. Three's a difference between hearing the voice of God in a message, and just listening to a religious leader.  And we are warned about men setting themselves up as a light.  Becoming an idol.  A critical issue. These two things lead to two different places.   

I think it’s pretty clear this article from the church is far more interested in hierarchy than heaven.

Heaven is much more interesting and exciting.  Hopefully this blogpost and the food for thought comments about the article have provided interesting contrasts.   I love this statement found in John:
John 10:27-28 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

Organization Fixation Part 1

It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion--its message becomes meaningless 
                                   - God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism by Abraham Joshua Heschel
Yesterday I came across an article on the LDS Church main web page that was concerning in many ways.  Link here.   It's titled:  The Lord Leads His Church through Prophets and Apostles

The first section of the article is all about how a religious organization is required.  It was posted the same day as this article in the Deseret News.  Which was surprisingly connected.  It begins:
SALT LAKE CITY — The past few years were tough for churches. Worship attendance dropped. Religious disaffiliation rose. 
The Pew Research Center stated in the link that "The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing."
In seeming counter to those statistics and declining religious affiliation trends published by the Deseret News, the same day the Church released the first article I referenced which begins with very heavy emphasis on just how required religious organizations are.  The content of these two articles seems related. 

I wanted to take a closer look at the Church's article in this two part post. Before I dive in, I first want to distinguish between a few ideas. Organization is the opposite of chaos.  A group of people may have various levels of informal organization among themselves but they are not "an organization". Contrast that with a formal religious organization, or institution.  Typically known as a Church. The article obfuscates these differences and the result is misdirection.  So I hope to clear away some of that and share some food for thought.

As an example, a local tennis group of guys or gals who play together is organized (tennis requires organization) but isn’t "an" organization.  You can't sue the local group, and you can't tax them.

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) however, is an organization that the group of players may also belong to, or they may not. You absolutely don't need the USTA or need to belong to the USTA in order to play tennis.  They do offer tournaments and they have membership benefits for their members but the sport itself is independent of any organization.  It's just tennis, millions of people love and organize themselves to play it. You can organize your own tournament if you want to and you can play the sport whenever you feel like it without the USTA at all.  The rules are public domain and you don't even have to keep those if you don't want to. 

Ok, back to the Church article.  The Church’s article repeatedly refers to “an Organization” and goes to lengths to teach you how they are necessary, required, and the medium through which God leads.  The article makes it pretty clear the word organization is primarily referring to a formal institutional religious structure (because it say so various times in the article).  So when the article says “an organization” it's a formal organizational entity.  Not simply a collection of folks who opt to associate together for some gospel purpose in a non chaotic way.

That being the case, see what you think of these teachings, all taken from the first section of the article, in bullet form.  I included in parenthesis if the teaching/assertion had any source cited to support the premise.  Remember "an organization" as used in the article is not just a generic lack of chaos among a self-selected group, it's a structured formal entity with people in charge, with procedures and policies that differentiate it from other organizations in the same genre.

So as to have some evidence for my view, going with each quoted bullet I made some food for thought commentary. My intent is not to be negative or critical, it's to exercise my obligation to discern truth from error.

-The work of the Lord requires an organization. (no source cited)

"An" organization it says.  Not the universal concept of being organized vs disorganized.  This bullet, as you can read in the article, has reference to a formal entity.  It's interesting to me how all of these apparent requirements for an organization don't cite any source or evidence. It's possible this is because they are false propositions. Organizations with all the current day formality and procedures, structure, policies, rules and keys didn't exist for pretty much all of the Book of Mormon.  The scriptures were often individuals, or families, clans, or groups of believers who kept a record of God's dealings with them.  Anyone with access to a Book of Mormon can read about this.  They needed scriptures and had teachers who taught them the Gospel.  Not formal organizations.

It's been asked if the LDS Church is any closer to Zion today than 100 years ago.  It's an interesting question.  I question whether these organizational requirements are 1. True, and 2. The ideal Gospel setup God has in mind for people.  Such an organizational formality certainly hasn't always been the plan.  And it doesn't appear to have ever produced Zion.  What it has produced in our day is a $120 billion + religious empire in Salt Lake City, Utah.  If that's your goal, then yeah, formal organizations seem like a requirement.

The article in many ways takes our 2020 religious organization and overlays it on top of biblical and BofM history.  As if our current day setup ought to be the lens through which we view scripture.   I believe that is unhelpful and clouds our vision.  Do organized religions have truths?  Of course they do.  But truth is independent of any particular organization and predates all of them (D&C 93:30).

Jesus himself was baptized and received the Holy Ghost without oversight from any religious organization or institution. In fact Jesus was often at odds with the organized religion of the day.  Joseph too was baptized and received the Holy Ghost without "an organization".  So did a whole mass of people in the Book of Mormon.  The BofM was even published before any formal church organization existed.  The City of Enoch was taken to heaven without any mention of any formal organization.

So who is it that is teaching us God's work requires a formal religion?  Interestingly it's a formal religion.  Most of the assertions have only itself as the source.     

-The Lord Leads His people through an organization. (no source cited)

The Lord leads through His Spirit doesn't he?  At least that's what he said.   Why would we fixate on a lifeless organizational entity rather than the living Spirit?  Organizations can't even talk.  They need spokespeople, they need lawyers, they can get sued, taxed, and need to maintain positive public image in order to survive.  How many times has scripture taught about being "led by the spirit"?   Versus how many times do scripture reference being "led by the organization"?  Am of off base on this?

Seems curious to be replacing The Lord and the leading through His Spirit with a formal religious organization as how God leads.

-You cannot have spirituality or religion apart from a religious organization.  (no source cited)

This is an absurd statement. And lacks common sense.  Guess we'd better toss out half the scriptures because they are without spirituality because had no religious organization.

Let me get this straight....the deep spirituality of a Native American tribe worshiping the creator is not spirituality or somehow invalid because they don’t have a formal religious organization?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrLZt4SJ9Qo

How about we go try to convert them with these organizational teachings?  How about we lecture them about how required organizations are, and how you can’t have spirituality without them? Any guesses as to how successful that will be? It will be as persuasive as having a cactus for a bed. The truth on the other hand is persuasive.  But this bullet from the article sounds like fear and an attempt to convince you that something unnecessary (the current formal organization) is absolutely vital.  In other words, salvation is not possible apart from "the" organization.   

Did Adam and Eve have no spirituality because they didn't have a religious organization?  Did Abraham? Did Enos?  Did the Brother of Jared?  I'm reminded of that phrase from the New Testament:
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the vices of the world.
Pure religion according to scripture were Christian actions, not organizations.  Organizations can't visit the fatherless and widows. (But they can and do extract the widows mite).  Pure religion was to visit the widows in their affliction, visit the fatherless, and stay unspotted.  You're telling me I can't have that or do that apart from a religious institution? That's buffoonery (behavior that's ridiculous, but amusing).

Organizations often do good things. I full well see and acknowledge that. But that is a very different idea than teaching organizations are absolutely required, and you can't access God and spirituality without them.

-Organizations are required in order to accomplish the purposes of the Lord. (no source cited)

It's true that some purposes of the Lord involve a community, like Zion.  But as mentioned earlier, a community or collection of unified people is not the same thing as an organization.  I'm part of a community of tennis players in Davis County, we know each other, play tennis and sometimes hang out. But that has nothing to do with the USTA.

How many purposes of the Lord have been accomplished by righteous individuals or a community without structured religious organizations?  Did the Christian Reformation fathers like Martin Luther require an organization in order to alter the course of Christianity?  No, he fought the organized religion's corruptions.  The hyper focus on organizational entities elevates the status of religious organizations nigh unto God.  Putting the organization between the individual and God at times.

How many things contrary to God has organized religion done falsely in His name?  Religious organizations throughout history have proven to often become abusive and corrupt. Consolidating money and power. Nephi and Moroni both prophesied that all our churches in our day would go astray and make these exact errors.

Why on earth would the work of God fail to be accomplished by a united community people simply because they lacked a formal religious institution?  The organization promoting these ideas seems to sense it's irrelevance so is grasping at straws.

-God only acts through an organization led by offices/positions that include prophets and apostles.  Who govern, direct, control and supervise.  (no source cited)

This is a relevant subheading:

Not only is an organization required, but the highest-ranking leaders govern the people in the organization according to this article.  Contrast that with these statements from Joseph Smith:
Said he, ‘I do not govern them at all. The Lord has revealed certain principles from the heavens by which we are to live in these latter days. The time is drawing near when the Lord is going to gather out His people from the wicked, and He is going to cut short His work in righteousness, and the principles which He has revealed I have taught to the people and they are trying to live according to them, and they control themselves.’
And on another occasion:
“Some years ago, in Nauvoo, a gentleman in my hearing, a member of the Legislature, asked Joseph Smith how it was that he was enabled to govern so many people, and to preserve such perfect order; remarking at the same time that it was impossible for them to do it anywhere else. Mr. Smith remarked that it was very easy to do that. ‘How?’ responded the gentleman; ‘to us it is very difficult.’ Mr. Smith replied, ‘I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.’
-Major efforts to care for the poor are only possible through organized groups. (no source cited)

While I agree with that statement, the statement infers that the organized groups are a function of the larger religious organization governing them, not independently acting groups. So for that reason I dislike the statement and find it misleading.  Efforts to care for the poor are accomplished by people and yes groups of people who care.... for the poor.  Whether those individuals are part of a formal organization doesn't matter.  The world could undertake a major effort to care for the poor simply by individuals keeping Christ's teachings.  Take away the formal corporate organization and suddenly there is a LOT more money to help the poor, ironically.  It's a lie that you can't care for the poor without a formal religion.

-An organization is needed in order to achieve Christ's commandment to "become one".  (no source cited)

Christ never said nor implied this idea as put forward in the article.  Becoming one happens (or potentially happens) for a husband and wife and does not need a Church organization to play middleman in their marriage.  It seems self-evident you can "become one" with others without a formal religious organization. Otherwise we'd all be dependent on an organization in order to keep God's commandments.  God forbid that.  This bullet point from the article is semi-absurd.  Organizations often prevent unity and equality because they have leaders at the top governing the people at the bottom.  They become corrupt, accumulate massive wealth, and often abuse people.  This bullet point taken directly from the article is so misleading it appears to be complete lie.

-Individual believers also need to experience religion through a religious organization because only in this way can we be authoritatively reproved or chastened for sin and error.  (direct quote, no source was cited)

This is another absurd statement.  You mean to tell me the only way authoritative reprovals can come is through a religious organization?  That sounds like abuse.  That contradicts every book of scripture we have.  I guess God can't authoritatively correct and chasten whomever he wants, whenever he wants, and however he wants whether on the road to Damascus or inside a cloud for 3 hours.  Only through a religious organization can individual believers be chastened for sin and error.  Wow.  The article cites no evidence for this foul smelling garbage because..... there is no evidence for such nonsense.  The organization is trying desperately to prove itself relevant but it's only showing it's coming irrelevance. 

Whether intentional or not, the Church's recent change to drop the 3-hour block and go to 2 hours and a more home centered approach had the effect of making the Church organization more irrelevant.

-Only an organization with different talents and a variety of efforts can achieve what is necessary to accomplish the Lord’s work.  (no source cited)

Organizations have no talents apart from the people in it right?  But I agree you need some diversity and efforts to fulfill God's work.  I agree with that.  God's work requires people who obey God.  Oh.... except that apparently that pesky organization wants to insert itself again. Why does that keep cropping up?  Why does this organization keep putting itself between us and God?  Formal organization sometimes hinder God's work by removing equality and creating big people and little people and people in charge and people who get abused. 

It's true different talents and a variety of efforts are needed.  But where again in scripture does God require a formal religion?  Nowhere.  That kind of assertion seems to only be found in the words of the religious organizations and the people leading it.

D&C 109: 8 talks about a house of God. A temple of all things.  It says;
Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;
Organize yourselves it says.  Interesting.  Almost as though being organized is a byproduct of keeping Christ's commandments rather than an organization governing you.


How did those teachings from the article sound?  My food for thought commentary probably comes across negative but that is not my intent.  My intent is to simply discern truth from error.  If the teachings in the article sounded like stale cardboard, I agree with you. I can think of few things more mind numbing than uninspiring institutional garbage. Teachings which are self-serving, and can be proven to be falsehoods. By self-serving I mean how convenient that an organization whose existence depends on you believing they are necessary, is the one teaching you religious organizations are necessary.  And by falsehood I mean they have no scriptural support.  None of the assertions cited any backing other than themselves. But you can look at the article yourself and see if I was being unfair in that assessment.

The claims from the Church's Ensign article are that formal organizations are required, and are how God leads his people. However that contradicts scripture, and may in fact be nonsense. As if playing tennis depended on the USTA.

Continued in part 2