Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Wickedness or Wisdom?

It’s been a memorable past 2 days in the news.  Washington has it's own problems with President Trump and the impeachment.  But in addition the Washington Post had an article reporting on allegations the Mormon Church has stockpiled $100 Billion dollars in an investment account and misled members about how funds are stored, invested, and used.  This fund is said to be comprised of excess funds, including tithes that have accumulation beyond operating expenses.

Whether something illegal has happened is disputed but something not in dispute is the fact that there is somewhere between $99 and $101 Billion sitting in just one Church owned account. And no one is disputing that it's comprised of excess beyond operating expenses.  In the Church owned Deseret News one article  opined: "Thank Goodness" with regard to this enormous fund.  They went on to say they believe even more people should hear about how the Church practices what it preaches with regard to saving for a rainy day. 

What gives me pause is just how many people are in disagreement as to whether the financial situation of the LDS Church represents wickedness or wisdom.  Because it can't be both. 

The scriptures say this about judging between good and evil:
For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
But when facts about Church finances, sex scandals, and policy contradictions come forward, it seems the discerning between daylight and dark night is more like sustained twilight.  How should we go about viewing all this?  What do we make of this?

What the IRS chooses to do based on the whistle blower report one is something few, if any of us, will ever hear about or be able to find out about.  But what we are ALL hearing about is people's opinion on the matter.

I've been surprised at just how many people’s moral compasses are pointing in differing directions on this topic. Below is a bullet recap of the two main points of view. The goal here is not to take a side. This is to show the widespread disagreement on whether the predominant religion in Utah is behaving wickedly or behaving wisely with it's finances.  

Representing those who see just one account with $100 B in stockpiled funds as wicked (this is just a recap): 

-Stockpiling that amount of money is rightly called hoarding.  When you could have helped countless people in dire need without even causing a dent in the reserve it is not only unchristian and negligent, but corrupt and evidence of wickedness. It robs the poor as Mormon scriptures say latter day churches will do.

-Recently the Church INCREASED the cost for missionaries, why? Why raise costs when the entire organization could continue to operate without any future donations, ever?

-Local Wards often ask for additional donations to support local youth activities such as camps to "offset the cost".  This is difficult to reconcile when we learn of the surprising stockpiles of cash well in excess of decades upon decades of operating expenses, which expenses could be covered by the interest alone on the 100B without spending any of it.

-Members are asked to donate tithing before buying food or other necessities. Is this really the correct application of tithing for poor people while the Church sits on one of the largest stockpiles of religious cash in existence?  When a member asks for help the standard policies in the handbook are for members to first go to their family for help, and or the government, and then the Church will help.   

-Elder Anderson in speaking 
(I had to use an archived link as the live link was pulled down by the Church) to the Zimbabwe president is quoted in the Church news as saying We are not a wealthy people but we are good people, and we share what we have,” Clearly he is uninformed about the 100 B stockpile, or being dishonest . The Mormons are among the most wealthy religions in America. Estimates put total value upwards of 1 Trillion. 

-Documented evidence exists that excess tithing money was used to help build the City Creek Shopping Center when leaders flat out said, affirmed, and reaffirmed the opposite. When religion becomes rich and powerful, and has amassed enormous wealth, controlled by only a few, this is one well documented historical indicator of corruption.

-Why does a Church carrying Christ's name and purporting Christ's authority deliberately conceal their finances? From the very people who donate? Why not open the books and let the world see?  Would not facts speak for themselves?  What scriptural justification is there for avoiding financial transparency? 

-This 100B topic displays the belief that you can "buy anything in this world with money".  Why would this fund suddenly open it's floodgates to the world at a future rainy day when there are millions suffering now who this fund is not being used to help?  Some even say they lack the infrastructure to spend this amount of money, so how then will it ever get spent? 

-In most End Time scenarios this fund is said to be in reserve for would likely be scenarios where currency has lost its value anyway.   The public rightly deserves an explanation as to why these astronomical quantities of excess donations sit, meanwhile real people, in real places receive none of it.  Nor is any accounting provided for it.      

-Money (especially of this magnitude), hidden from the public, never voted on or sustained by the scriptural required common consent of the members, and shielded with layers of secrecy and legalities is contrary to numerous scriptures and what they teach we should do with donations and the yield on them.

-This fund shows the leaders prioritize money (to mind stretching proportions) 
to a much higher degree than Gospel obligations to the poor and needy. Surly if The Second Coming is close at hand this will likely bring God’s wrath rather than pleasure.

On the other hand.  Representing those who see an account with $100 B in stockpiled funds as wise. (again just a recap):

Image result for parable of the talents"
(Matthew 25:21: His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.)

-These actions are following the example of the parable of the talents in the New Testament by investing funds to bring a return. It’s doctrinal, and a sound principle supported and taught by Christ. The First Presidency has affirmed this.

-With all the trouble in the world, budget crisis, debt and deficit, this is wise to save up money for future prophesied events to occur in our day. Akin to Joseph of Egypt saving for 7 years.  The people didn't need to worry or question the leaders about having a stockpile of food for 7 years.  Similar to our day.  We shouldn't question the leaders decisions. 

-This is an example to governments, businesses, and civic leaders of how to manage a budget, not overspend, and successfully preparing for the future.  It should be celebrated and held up as an example.

-Nothing illegal has happened, experts on tax law say no violations have occurred. It’s perfectly legal for the Church to accumulate these funds tax free.  Most tax experts weighing in on the matter are agreeing the IRS won't even do anything about the whistle-blower's allegations.

-The Church practices what it preaches and is preparing for the Second Coming even if no one else will.

-The infrastructure that would be required to spend this amount of money is not even something the Church is set up to do.  Throwing money at people doesn't solve all the problems, the Church is rightly storing this for when it will do the most good.

-No one is personally getting gain or benefiting from this financial reserve, so no greed or misuse is occurring when no one is personally getting any benefit from the fund.

-These whistle blowers are just Satan attacking the Church and providing the opposition we've all been warned would come in our day.

-I’m proud to belong to a Church that is so successful and who is clearly receiving God’s favor in its financial practices. God is surely extending this providence to help his church for difficult days ahead.

-Whistle-blowers such as this are trying to get a cut of the money, they are disgruntled former members and former employees who have an agenda to paint the Church and anything they can find in a bad light. Their motives are easy to see and thus not worth giving any heed to.

-President Nelson is a Prophet of God and so we can be confident that the decisions that are happening behind the scenes and the accumulation of wealth is divinely directed. To say otherwise is to lack faith in the Church leadership and God’s direction. It’s faithless.  We need to trust they know more than we do.

-To see just how far the Church has come financially from its destitute moments in decades past is a testament to living righteously and following biblical principles. The amassed wealth is simply the result of wisdom applied over time with diligence.

-The Church does enormous good and has provided billions (not to mention all the money they don’t talk about) to help the poor in numerous countries regardless of religious affiliation.  This $100 billion story circulating in the news is simply a distraction to weaken those who lack faith.  


It's easy to look at history with hundreds or even thousands of years of hindsight and clearly and confidently identify who and what was right and who and what was wrong.  Given the differing views in our day surrounding religious issues, it goes to show how much more difficult it is to see clearly when you are living inside it.  The scriptures interestingly don't have the same difficulty putting things in the proper light and context to see clearly.   There's a great post over at Sweet Dreams blog that puts forward the idea that these recent articles about Church finances are a blessing.  That it's God reaching out to us.  I concur with those thoughts. Worth a read.  Here.   

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Organization Fixation

I wrote up some research and thoughts about religion, churches, tithing, and what it means to give tithes to the Church.  All the footnotes make a blogpost a difficult format for this so I made it a PDF.  Link.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Meekness and Humility

RE Moroni 7:8
But behold, my beloved brethren, I judge better things of you, for I judge that ye have faith in Christ, because of your meekness; for if ye have not faith in him, then ye are not fit to be numbered among the people of his church. And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith save ye shall have hope? And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold, I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him, according to the promise. Wherefore, if a man have faith, he must needs have hope; for without faith, there cannot be any hope. And again, behold, I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope save he shall be meek and lowly of heart. If so, his faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God save the meek and lowly of heart.
Moroni quoting his father Mormon teaches about faith hope and charity.  He judges that the people have faith not because of their enormous religious centers, temple attendance, how fine they dress on Sundays, or their religious institution's wealth, or even humanitarian work.  He judges that they have faith because of their meekness.

How is it he recognizes meekness in the people?  What were they doing or saying?  This seems like  an unexpected measuring stick.  Why isn't he measuring something more tangible?  Like membership numbers?  Or how many temples?  Or their fanciful spectacular spiritual experiences?  Or claims to have superior light? Clearly he has an outdated measuring stick right?  He uses something humble and non attention grabbing.  Why?  Is there something about Christ himself that doesn't wow the senses but asks us to recognize the humility and meekness of someone who has no pride and does not vaunt themselves nor carry pretense? 

 What does meekness look like anyway?  If THAT is how he determines that the people have real faith in Christ then it seems like a worthwhile exercise to also use that looking glass to see what we can discover about our own faith, or lack of it.  If I look through that lens, I find nothing but reason to ask God for forgiveness and to be taught by Him.  What happens if you measure with the wrong tool?

Then Mormon says something that stopped my heart for a second.  He talks about how faith and hope can amount to vanity and are not even possible without meekness and humility.  Then comes this: ... For none is acceptable before God except the meek and humble of heart.  None.

It's semi shocking how many other things are portrayed in 2019 as being, or causing you to be acceptable to God.  But what if they really don't?  How great a lie would it be to erroneously teach about what is acceptable to God?  Meekness and Humility appear to dwarf 90% of what religion teaches is important and what occupies the religious manuals and discussions I see so often. Vanity and pride are suggested and taught will bring (or have already brought) God's approval.  It's downright disturbing.

What is lowliness of heart anyway?  Why do scriptures refer to the heart as being hard?  How can an internal organ that pumps blood be hard?  The heart in our culture as a symbol implies your emotion center.  But that's not how I believe the scriptures refer to the heart.  They refer to it as your understanding. So a hard heart is one that won't understand and won't open themselves up to understanding something differently than they have been taught.

There are a lot of different definitions of meekness and humility.  I recently worked on a two part podcast for many weeks on these two attributes.  I couldn't think of anything more important than what will bring God's acceptance.  And the scriptures tell us outright what that is.  And it stopped me in my tracks when I read it. 

I recommend this two part podcast on the subject.  What else really matters if these two are lacking?

Part 1:  Link.

Part 2:  Link.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Their fruits

Some thoughts on my mind this week.

RE 3 Nephi 6:10:
Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns? Or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them.
Christ says to beware of false prophets who are dressed in clothing or have the outward appearance (Church calling, bibliography, religious mantle...etc.) of sheep but inwardly are not sheep at all. Sheep are what Christ often calls his followers. Wolves not so much. The one the enemy of the other. What strikes me is Christ says disguises are going to confront all of us. We all have to choose.

This topic reminded me of the Disney movie Zootopia.  It's a movie based in a modern mammal metropolis called Zootopia comprised of all animals.  Predators and prey live together in somewhat utopia peace.  (Spoiler alert) The primary antagonist is hilariously a sheep, who holds civil office, and some degree of authority, and aspires to hold more power.  No one suspects this kind looking sheep to end up being a villain.  Her name is Bellwether, which is also a word referring to a sheep that leads a herd with a bell.  Her fellow villain cohorts she leads are also of the sheep family.  It's entertaining where these themes of inward wolves posing as sheep show up.

Anyway, back to the scripture, this teaching from Christ does not ask or teach people to assess the wolf or sheep themselves directly.  It doesn't ask them to pray to God and ask for God to tell them whether the thing that looks like a sheep really is a sheep.  Instead it asks you to look at the fruits, and by those fruits will come the answer as to the actual character of the thing in question.  Whether sheep or wolf.  Seems God wants us to grow and search and learn and not just sit back with a quick answer having learned nothing.  Good fruit in the context of Christ teachings no doubt has to do with salvation, saved souls being the good fruit God desires.  So the fruit of a prophet should link in some way to salvation.

Praying about the person sounds like a reasonable idea right? If you can get God to tell you who's a prophet and who's not you can forever be confident right?  The answer is no.  That easily distract you from looking at and examining the fruits as Christ taught us to do. Not to mention it ignores that people can go awry and become corrupt on the one hand, and that people can repent on the other hand, say Alma the Younger for example.  Everyone has flaws, so praying about the personality doesn't fulfill nor obey Christ's teaching.  It asks God to give an answer without half the equation.  Then what then muddies everything further is the whole idea of finding out who's a prophet is often done in a way that strongly suggests and implies the answer you should receive about that person.  That's already 2 layers of crap to sort through. 

That all seems like a shady shortcut.  Why would anyone want to take a shortcut when attempting to know who speaks for God?  The stakes are enormous and yet shortcuts are what seem to be the preferred method. 

But, I suspect we should not be surprised if we see a message implying "The answer can be yours for the easy price of asking a thoughtless question I fed to you using information I myself gave you".  "You too can know".  "Oh, and be sure not to listen to those who got any other answer".  It just sounds silly after you think about it.

As opposed to seeking light, truth, and intelligence, or the Glory of God.

So what of fruits?  How can you assess a fruit you have taken no time or thought or effort to examine or taste?  Is a quick glance enough?  Or is some time and study merited? What kind of time frame seems reasonable to discern a fruit?  Seems to me Christ's teaching that by their fruits we shall know them implies some action, effort, time and study our part.  Tim spent reasoning and examining of the fruits put before us.  But just accepting some teaching or idea because a person is in a position of religious authority said it, and then calling that acceptance "faith"....  that's false.  That's just deception clouded in faith vocabulary.  A sandy foundation.

It has to go deeper than taking no thought but to ask God if what looks like a sheep, is a sheep.  If that is all we do, and only accept what's given to us by the very party we're trying to discern, then even in Disney movies we'd get it wrong a lot of the time.  Even as an adult, if you watched Zootopia and asked yourself if the sheep-villain had good fruits, you would have said yes for most of the movie!  But inwardly this character and her ram-folk assistants were wolves.  It took time and experience to figure that out.

Problem with ravening wolves is the false assumption that they are all bad, visibly evil, and or that the only place you'll find one is in bad and dark places.  Those assumptions have all proven false by history.  Yet we sometimes think our day will be exempt. 

Don't wolves (the animals) do good things sometimes?  I mean look at their cooperative pack.  They take care of each other, protect each other, they take care of their wolf pups.  Look how important they are to the larger ecosystem!  I saw a video the other day on the devastating effects a lack of wolves had on an ecosystem in Yellowstone National Park.  And the shocking effects of what happened when wolves were reintroduced.  Link.  It affected the entire landscape when there weren't enough wolves.  As a symbol the wolf is not all bad. They are important.

So if wolves do good things in some arena of life, why is Christ using them as an example of something dangerous enough to kill you?  Can we take from that something?  Perhaps the wolves Christ refers to likewise do "good" things in some arena of life.  Hence they are able to deceive by showing you what looks like admirable evidence.  But being a world class (insert talent here) doesn't preclude you from also being a ravening wolf in Christ's context.

When Christ says beware of inwardly ravening wolves but who look like sheep, I don't think the analogy is a test of outward status or something like profession.  Whether you can write better software code in less time than any other person, or if you can do one of those quadruple toe loop things on ice skates is not a fruit having anything to do with with what Christ is talking about.  The context of Christ's teaching, as I read it, is prophetic authenticity, not profession or worldly identity.

What also strikes me is history has identified inwardly ravening wolves who were thought of as anything but that in their day.   Meaning they weren't in prison for being awful law-breaking criminals. By contrast they may have held authority, been rich, and done many wonderful works in Christ's name.  Of them Christ responds that they never knew Him despite what they claimed were wonderful fruits/works done in His name. (RE Matthew 3:47).

So what is the fruit then that reveals a prophet is true or false?  Claims aren't fruit.  Platitudes or regurgitating basic Christian ideas isn’t prophetic fruit either.   A physical fruit is something you can see, hold and taste.  It's got substance.  So I believe a prophetic fruit is something likewise available to test.  Does the message come from God?  Does the message expound scripture and teach you how to come to Christ?  Does it have substance?  Or does it just tell you who not to listen to, and assure you that you can safely rely on them? 

According to Christ many will claim to do remarkable things in His name but yet the fruits are no good.  Seems to me the fruit is the presence of something Godly.  It's not a claim, it's not how much money you have, and it's not how much political power you have.  The fruit test is whether God is the author and originator of the message, given as He asked.  Does the message enable saving faith?  Or, by contrast does the speaker just have all the right mood lighting, the right cameras and PR staff, and a sufficiently large mega arenas to instill awe and respect to themselves or a substitute for Christ? 

Whatever else that person does or doesn't do may only be a distraction.  It's possible to forget to even look at the fruits if all we do is pray and ask God if the person is what they claim.  Seems inconsistent for God to spoon feed an answer to someone who could have done what Christ said and evaluated the fruits with an open mind.  I do not think God has made the test so overly difficult we cannot pass it.  We just need to do what He said, nor what pretenders and false teachers say to do.  But there is a test for sure.  For me it merits caution, and humility.

A passage from Romans frequently comes to my mind which is that "Faith comes by hearing the word of God", (RE Romans 49) not hearing the word of a man that God had no part in.  One bears fruit, the other does not.

The Book of Mormon has a well-known promise near the end (RE Moroni 10:2) teaching the reader how to obtain an answer from God about its contents through the Holy Ghost.  It doesn't tell you to ask if Moroni or Mormon is a true prophet.  Nor do they point to themselves and ask you to pray about them or their position.  It asks you to consider the fruits and if you follow the steps and get an answer from God, then who the true vs false prophets question will take care of itself.  And you'll have had contact with God which was the whole point.

That's the real fruit.  Contact with God.  The false prophets fruits don't lead you to that.  They contradict God's word, lie, lead to darkness, distort God's nature, and pacify people with false security.  It leaves the audience without God's word, thus without faith, relying on men and erroneous teachings.  How can you have faith in Christ if you follow teachings that did not come from Him?  It results in people looking to men or institutions if they were God.  Idolatry.

On this topic of asking God whether someone is a true prophet, there was a talk recently about policies, revelation, love, and asking God if the leaders of the Church are true prophets.  See what you think from the Official Church Newsroom: here.

A final thought from Joseph Smith which gives me pause. When he says they were banished from their society, I wonder if it was banishment from the religious society. 
The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets, and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves ‘in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth’ (Heb. 11: 38), and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men.” (DHC 4: 574.)

Friday, August 30, 2019

Certificates of Membership

President Russell M. Nelson in his Oct 2018 General Conference talk about the correct name of the Church said:
What’s in a name or, in this case, a nickname? When it comes to nicknames of the Church, such as the “LDS Church,” the “Mormon Church,” or the “Church of the Latter-day Saints,” the most important thing in those names is the absence of the Savior’s name. To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan. When we discard the Savior’s name, we are subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us—even His Atonement.

I wonder what President Nelson thinks of President Brigham Young's membership certificate, seen below. And who's Church he believes Brigham was received into since this was the official name of the Church at the time.

I guess we can state with confidence what President Nelson thinks since the certificate contains one of the actual examples used by him in his conference address.       

THIS Certifies that 

, has been received into the church of the Latter Day Saintsorganized on the sixth of Aprilin the year of our Lordone thousandeight hundredand thirtyand has been ordained an elder according to the rules and regulations of said churchand is duly authorized to preach the gospelagreeably to the authority of that office.
From the satisfactory evidence which we have of his good moral characterand his zeal for the cause of righteousnessand diligent desire to persuade men to forsake evil and embrace truthwe confidently recommend him to all candid and upright people as a worthy member of society.
Wethereforein the nameand by the authority of this churchgrant unto this our worthy brother in the Lordthis letter of commendation as a proof of our fellowship and esteem: praying for his success and prosperity in our Redeemers cause.
Given by the direction of a conference of the elders of said churchassembled in 

Geauga countyOhiothe third day of Marchin the year of our Lord one thousandeight hundredand thirty six.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Careful What You Ask For

Great 4 second video showing:

-The shortest distance is not always the fastest
-Ups and downs don't necessarily slow something down, they actually speed it up.
-When life has ups and downs stay encouraged.  You might be getting what you asked for.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Pioneer Fireworks

Today's Utah Holiday, Pioneer Day, (or Pie and Beer day as some call it) marks the 172 anniversary of the Saints arrival to the Salt Lake Valley under Brigham Young's Leadership.

A sculpture of Brigham Young sits at the United Status Capitol in Washington DC in the National Statuary Hall Collection. The State of Utah donated the marble statue.

The Salt Lake Valley I'm told was desolate when they arrived. A desolate desert. There are sources that tell a very different story than the one we're used to hearing.  One account tells of how Brigham Young was sick with Rocky Mountain Fever at the time and the SLC valley was not where they intended to stop, but out of necessity, and due to some water, they stopped there and stayed there.  "This is the Place" tradition has a few historical contradictions.  But regardless the any stopping place after trekking across the plains from Illinois with handcarts and wagons was probably welcomed.  That must have been so awful. 

Earlier this month there was a memorial dedicated at This Is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City for 660 pioneer children who died on the trek to Utah.  Having children of my own makes this all the more meaningful, and shocking.

At the dedication of this memorial President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said the park is for everyone. The pioneers "left their homes and, in some cases, their families in search of a place of refuge, where they could worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences and build a future without persecution. There was little in the way of provisions and materials that they could carry with them. But each wagon and handcart was filled with faith. Faith in God. Faith that God knew where they were going and faith that he would see them through," President Ballard said.

The story of the Pioneers as exemplified by President Ballard's remarks almost always begins with a portrayal of the pioneers as religious victims who were mistreated, driven out unfairly, without provocation, and the story ends as a triumph over enemies, triumph of faith. Faith that has led the LDS Church to what it is today. It's all (at least in my experience) wrapped up in a scene of pride and victory.  Never is the trek west viewed as a possible consequence of a divine curse foretold in scripture.  I don't know hardly any Utahans who would even tolerate such an idea.

But back to the positive stuff.  There's lots of fireworks, picnics, parades, and various celebrations honoring and remembering those who trekked across the plains. Their courage, bravery, and physical endurance are an important legacy to Utah. And many of those traits are indeed admirable.  All of us can probably get behind such virtues because they are good. 

What struck me as curious this Pioneer day is we only hear the story of the Saints departure from and trek to Salt Lake City from one point of view.  No one tends to ask what was happening from anyone else's point of view, including God's.  Anything other than our current traditions is considered a "faithless" perspective even if it's a more true telling of history.  Which is strange.  Sometimes I get the impression that feeling good about history is more important than the history being accurate.  There's no reason to suspect our point of view is not the best and most accurate one, right?  I mean there couldn't possibly be more to the story right?  

Other questions never asked today are why the early saints were expelled?  Why Joseph and Hyrum were murdered?  By whom?  Why did the  Nauvoo temple, which so many sacrificed so much to build, have to be abandoned before it was even done and then why was it destroyed soon after?  (By both mob and mother nature)  If anyone does mention anything of this nature, it's firmly from the position of how everyone involved were wholly innocent victims.  Severely persecuted without cause.  So goes the tradition.  History and scripture show this tradition may not be the most accurate picture.  But I'm not here to rain on anyone's parade.

Speaking of parades, I guess today is also a time to build a 95th Birthday float for the current President of the Church, President Nelson.  Mormons certainly are proud of their leaders, no doubt about it.  Behind this float were 95 kids in candle costumes. 

I watched a nice big fireworks display last night at our LDS chapel parking lot.  The entire neighborhood showed up. 

The big flashy lights and boom produced by man delighted everyone there.  Although their duration is brief, they are fun to watch.  Interestingly it's a bit like the bright celebrity-status stars of the day, religious or otherwise, who often get a lot of attention even though they fade relatively fast from the scene, make a lot of noise, and end up wasting a lot of money.

It's interesting that as each firework ends everyone watching finds themselves looking upwards into the dark night sky.  What I love is what's left after the lights from men are gone.  It's the lights from heaven.  I feel like God has often had a message to me in that.  The ever present, ever patient lights in the firmament, put there by God.  Full of meaning but not demanding notice but yet there for those who want to look at them and value them.  

This pioneer day for me is a much more sober assessment of the legacy being celebrated by all those around me.  I do value the courage, sacrifice, strength, stamina, and bravery demonstrated, no doubt about that.  But I also see it as a time to assess what repentance looks like in 2019, and what truly merits celebration.  For me it's what comes from God once the temporary lights of man prove to be short lived and expensive.  For me what matters is not temporary booms but the still small but piercing voice of God that speaks again to mankind offering to fulfill promises found in Holy Scripture.   

Monday, July 15, 2019

Gentile Temple Layton Utah

The LDS Church announced today (July 15th 2019) the location for the Layton Utah Temple. The temple itself was announced over a year ago, and today the location was announced.  Corner of Rosewood Lane and Oak Hills drive.  Both coordinates touch a street named Gentile Street.

This may be meaningless, but the proximity to Gentile Street did make me laugh a little.  Bigger pic below.

The nearby LDS Chapel at the top of the next image is on Gentile Street. Red area is temple location.  Yellow lines are Gentile Street. Attendees will frequently utilize Gentile Street to get to, or leave the Temple.

The curious division between light and dark on the google map image, ON the property of the temple, visible on the day the location was announced, is of course just coincidental.  Things as seen from above are sometimes really interesting.  This line is a seam line from google maps for who knows what reason, perhaps weather or something caused two images at two different times of day or cloud position to need to be seamed together.  Whatever weather or astronomical coincidences happened, it led to this picture, on this day, for anyone who looks at it.

Dividing light from the dark is curiously something referenced in the LDS temple.  But again just coincidence.  Not sure if this amount of coincidences occur with a lot of temple locations but this one seems to have quite a few.

Zooming out further in the next image.  That dividing line of darkness and light seems to merit some investigation.  If we follow gentile street up in the surrounding proximity, the dividing line cuts through Gentile street, cuts through the temple lot and cuts between the two nearby LDS Chapels located on Gentile Street.  It puts one of the chapels in the dark, (the top red star) and the other chapel, also on gentile street, in the light (bottom red star).  That's kind of interesting.  Again just coincidence of course.

(Side Note: The dark seam line goes from Ogden to Centerville Utah. Around 26 miles.  If you follow the line it's shocking how many LDS structures fall on the line or right to one side or the other.  Sometimes even diverting around a block to include or exclude one.  Link.  But since there are so many LDS structures in Davis County Utah that too is just coincidental)

Would be interesting if there ended up being a coming division where members of the LDS Church will have unique opportunity or unique need to exercise their ongoing agency to choose between light and dark.  Christ taught a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven where fish of all kinds were gathered into a net, and at the end were separated out by the angels.  Christ had another prophecy about some gentiles repenting and some not. Again any connection to all this would be symbolic coincidence.

One of the ideas that causes my fellow LDS Ward members frequent confusion is who the gentiles are that are spoken of in scriptures.  Granted the word is sometimes used more loosely or broadly than other times depending on speaker, there are scriptures directed at our latter day audience that plainly identify the identity of Gentiles.  This is from a temple dedication of all things:

D&C 109:60
Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles.
For me that identity makes a whole bunch of prophecies and scripture suddenly have ample personal application to our day.  The Gentiles are prophesied to reject the fullness of the Gospel despite being religious, having temples, offering baptisms, and claiming to have authority from God.

3 Nephi 16:10
And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.
The cure is repentance, but the concerning pattern in scripture is that those to whom the message of repentance is offered do not think they need it. They do not think it applies to them.  They don't think there is any such dividing line INSIDE their belief system and practices.  Priestcrafts and lyings and deceits etc.. are only things applicable to others.  So they don't even notice them, and thus have difficulty turning from them.  They see their beautiful buildings, ordinances, authoritative leaders, wealth, and worldly prestige as evidence they are not the ones who need to repent.

They are assured all is well by their leaders.  Anyone who says otherwise is deemed apostate.  When in reality, the apostasy already underway at the organizational level was the issue.  It was just concealed by those who profit from the teaching that another apostasy can't or won't happen.

But the mercy of God shows His open arms:  Continuing from 3 Nephi above

But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.
But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.
Makes me want to repent.  God is fair, so he always warns people.  I feel warned, I hope others do too.

A few resources: here, and here

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Law of Consecration Per Joseph, Per Church

I got to reading about the difference between the United Firm (an organization) and the United Order (a way of living the law of consecration).  I came upon a contrasting view of the law of consecration.

This is from Steven C Harper: All Things Are the Lord’s: The Law of Consecration in the Doctrine and Covenants The Doctrine and Covenants: Revelations in Context, ed. Andrew H. Hedges, J. Spencer Fluhman, and Alonzo L. Gaskill (Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book, 2008), 212–28. 
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught, that “the law of sacrifice and the law of consecration were not done away with and are still in effect.” [3] No revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants rescind, suspend, or revoke the law of consecration. The Doctrine and Covenants never refers to a higher or a lower law, only the law. Indeed, the revelations do not speak of the laws of God as we do of bills before the legislature, as subject to passage, veto, or amendment. Rather, they speak of the laws of God as eternal. The law, in other words, was revealed to Joseph Smith in February 1831, but the law itself simply has been, is, and ever will be. Consecration is the law of the celestial kingdom, and section 78 teaches that no one will receive an inheritance there who has not obeyed the law (see D&C 78:7).
Steven is an associate professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University and an editor of The Joseph Smith Papers when this was published.

In contrast, Joseph Smith said this March 6th 1840. (spelling as in original, screen shot from Joseph Smith Papers below)
He said that the Law of consecration could not be kept here, & that it was the will of the Lord that we should desist from trying to keep it, & if persisted in it would produce a perfect abortion, & that he assumed the whole responsibility of not keeping it untill prosposed by himself.

That contradicts later Church leader statements and statements continuing today. 

It's presumed our practices in 2019 are superior and more catered to our needs when in reality it may be that looking at what Joseph taught is far better and more instructive than our presumptions and assumptions.  The group effort law or United Order as seen in D&C completely ended.  Church manuals openly state the early saints failed to live the law.  But then it gets fuzzy in the manuals as to what the current status is.  

This brings up an interesting question of what happens when a modern Church leader contradicts Joseph Smith and in this case contradicts what Joseph taught was the will of the Lord.  The implications of this seem relevant and pertinent.  I honestly wonder if this is a case of Church leaders simply not knowing about many things Joseph has said and taught.  Not everyone has time to research Church history, especially top Church leaders who have a global church to run and who usually had well established careers before being called into leadership positions.  

What appears common is for Church leaders to continue believing and teaching the same things they themselves grew up hearing from the pulpit. True or not.  So they simply repeat the accepted traditions as factual and they get perpetuated generation after generation. 

As new information is discovered or information published as in the Joseph Smith Papers project they seem to get little notice or mention from the Church leaders.  It's second class status at best.  Joseph gets trumped by whatever the current leaders are saying.  I can't help but notice the incredibly unstable foundation that creates.  Especially given that God vouched for Joseph's words and commanded the saints to receive Joseph's words as if from God's mouth.  Instead of doing that, the scripture has been twisted into promoting the Saints receive whoever the current leaders words as if from God's mouth.  Interesting.  

Joseph Smith doesn't seem like the foundation of Mormonism anymore.  Mormonism is different now, very different.  I can't even use the term Mormon now.  Joseph's teachings are rich with meaning and say things that really challenge us but they get comparatively little attention. All attention is directed to the current leaders. 

Today is 175th anniversary of the Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. I wanted to write and recognize that and renew my own efforts to do as God asked in scripture.  To remember and value, not only to say but to do according to what was given at the beginning of the Restoration so the restoration may continue.

Friday, June 14, 2019


My wife and I saw the new Aladdin movie a little bit ago.  The new live action version was very  entertaining.  Couple really interesting parallels stood out to me to scriptural ideas.  Obviously not everything matches up all nice but here are some fun ones:

-The lamp was in a cave.  Prophets frequently were reduced to hiding in caves. Caves are often where sacred records were kept and stored for safety and preservation.

-There's also the idea of not touching anything unclean and the parallel with Aladdin not being allowed to be distracted by all the false unclean shiny looking items in the cave of comparatively little value.

-Only a worthy person could enter the cave of wonders. One who's worth was within, not on the exterior.  In contrast to the unworthy villain who's external worldly worthiness and wealth contrasts the poverty and humility of the other.  To obtain what scriptures speak of requires worthiness and humility.  The villain seeks to abuse and use the worthy in order to enter in the wrong way to obtain what can't be obtained that way.   

-In a scriptural sense the worthy person was Christ who has also been symbolized by a rock and or or a protective cave within a rock.  We find Christ by following His messengers and obeying His teachings which then allows us to enter in and receive a Holy Ghost to reside in our own body-lamp/vessel.

-Aladdin's physical lamp had a type of spiritual being inside without a body.  Trapped in some ways.  This reminded me of the scriptures that speak of the spirit world being viewed as bondage in the absence of the physical body.
D&C 138: 50 For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.
T&C 31:4 As you have asked of me concerning these signs of my coming, in the day when I shall come in my glory in the clouds of Heaven, to fulfill the promises that I have made unto your fathers, for as you have looked upon the long absence of your spirits from your bodies to be a bondage, I will show unto you how the day of redemption shall come, and also the restoration of the scattered Israel.
-The happy-go-lucky goofy genie we know from Disney's animated film is pretty distant from the middle eastern origin of the Genie or "Jinn" who were more like a class of spiritual beings or daemons.  Such beings are accepted part of the culture in many areas of the world with myths and stories dating back who knows how far (whole book about them here).  Although also distant it's interestingly related to the scriptural truth about the Holy Ghost residing inside a person. 

-When Aladdin's realizes he's trapped and the cave is about to get very dark, the lamp provides hope to light the way.  It reminded me of the Net Testament 10 virgins parable with their lamps. They all had lamps. Some were wise and actually had oil in them, which could fuel fire and some brought the lamp but it didn't have much of anything in it.  Fire, Oil, and the Holy Ghost are related in scripture. The lamps stored the potential for fire and light.  All virgins slept, but the unprepared were could neither buy nor borrow the oil at the last minute.  At midnight! Precisely at the darkest hour, when least expected, the bridegroom came.  The lamps lit the way.  The unprepared couldn't enter in the final destination.

-Making wishes to the spirit being.  In the west it's worded more like "offering prayers".  Distant parallel but definitely related.  Scriptures warn not to ask amiss or ask to consume the answer upon your lusts.  Which is apparently what most of the people did before Aladdin and what the movie's villain did do. 

-On the subject of making requests.  Interesting connection to scripture.  There's that moment in scripture where at a certain point Christ asks Disciples "Ask what you will" of him.  In 3 Nephi for example 9 of the 12 ask for one thing and 3 ask and are granted their request for what they desired in their hearts. And the petitions were answered.

Another example here:
JSH 13: paragraph 20: And the Lord said unto me, John, my beloved, what do you desire? For if you shall ask what you will, it shall be granted unto you. And I said unto him, Lord, give unto me power over death, that I may live and bring souls unto you. And the Lord said unto me, Verily, verily I say unto you, because you desired this, you shall tarry until I come in my glory, and shall prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.
-There's also the song about never never having a friend like him, but I feel like I should leave that to the reader without comment.   

Interesting how many Gospel parallels are sprinkled everywhere, even in some random entertaining movie on the weekend during date night.

On an interesting side note about the 10 virgins.  I asked Kelsey why she thought all the virgins in the parable from the New Testament were female.  After re-reading the scriptures the scriptures don't specify their sex.  The custom of the Jews was for the bridesmaids of the bride to respond to the announcement of the coming of the Bridegroom with their lamps.  So that's likely the origin of them only being female.  But that image in our head might be misleading.

Spencer W. Kimball taught: 
I believe that the Ten Virgins represent the people of the Church of Jesus Christ and not the rank and file of the world. All of the virgins, wise and foolish, had accepted the invitation to the wedding supper; they had knowledge of the program and had been warned of the important day to come. (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 253-257)
T&C 31:12
And at that day when I shall come in my glory shall the parable be fulfilled which I spoke concerning the ten virgins, for they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the holy spirit for their guide and have not been deceived, verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day, and the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance. 
From Matthew:
Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us. But he answered and said, Truly I say unto you, you know me not
How did they not know him?  Perhaps because no record born to them with fire and the Holy Ghost?
And whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also, and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the holy ghost.  (NC 3 Nephi 5:9)
In some unexpected way seeing the movie reminded me of scriptural warnings about the Second Coming.  Not just have a lamp, but have something in it that can fuel fire.  What I see and hear taught at Church is incapable of fueling anything or of creating any such spark or fire.  It's decayed so much from where the religion began.  I conclude attending church does not put oil in your lamp.  All those religious checklists don't either.  You have to get the oil from God by following God, not man or man's religions.  God is where the fire comes from.

NC Hebrews 1:57
Wherefore, we, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, should have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire