Sunday, April 29, 2018

Turn from Doubt and Come to Christ

I taught a Gospel lesson last week about turning from our doubts and coming to Christ. Below are some notes and outline from the lesson.

-Opening Questions: What is it you doubt when it comes to your own redemption, coming to Christ, and experiencing the fullness of the Gospel? Do you doubt yourself? Your qualifications? Do you doubt God? Your ability to follow God? Your ability to discern correctly?

-Repent/ance Definition from new RE T&C Glossary: This means “change.” It requires believers to turn away from the world and toward God. It is the change in life that follows from seeing things in a better, truer light. There is another, higher way to live available to everyone. But to move upward, people must make changes in their lives to incorporate more light and truth. By living a higher way, you are repenting. This process is not a single event. It does not happen once. It should happen over and over as we increase the light in our lives.1 It can be granted by God (Alma 10:4, 19:15; Acts 6:9). Repentance involves acquiring light and truth — meaning intelligence. Repentance is abandoning a foolish error, a vain tradition, or a false belief and replacing it with truth.2 Penitence is another way to describe repentance or the process of change and growing beyond sins limiting your happiness. It comes as you allow Christ to “succor” you through the power of the Atonement. Through penitence, people do away with the darkness in their lives and add light instead.3 The best definition of repentance is to turn away from all other distractions to face God.4

-Last sentience: The best definition of repentance is to turn away from all other distractions to face God.

- Doubt is one of those things both distracting and is counter to faith.
-Turning from doubt is part of repentance
-Doubts take energy.
-Doubt and faith cannot coexist according to lectures on Faith.

-Important: Turning from doubt does not mean some vague notion of “not questioning things”.

-In the LDS church when they say “doubt your doubts” it feels like they are subtly implying I shouldn’t question anything they teach or anything in or about the LDS Church. That is NOT what I’m addressing here.

-Doubt in today's discussion is talking about doubts as in errors, misunderstandings, or inability to reconcile something regarding God or our life which prevents the confidence necessary to come to Him and actually receive the Lord. Whatever it is that causes lack of confidence in God to experience the fruits the scriptures speak of.

-Questioning things is normal and how we often get answers from God.  Which of course is healthy.

Quote: "In most cases it is our disrespect for ourselves that impedes coming to Him. We tend to think we aren't good enough. However, because He is quick to forgive sins, it really doesn't matter if you are not good enough. One of the first orders of business when you come into His presence is that He forgives you. He cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, but He has the capacity and the ability to forgive sin. Therefore although your sins may be as scarlet, He can, He will and He does, make you white as snow, no longer accountable for your limitations. Therefore you needn't fear, but you can approach boldly, our Lord."  -DS

Lectures on Faith 3:20 (including a portion from the QA at the end of the lecture)
But secondly: Unless he was merciful, and gracious, slow to anger, long suffering, and full of goodness, such is the weakness of human nature, and so great the frailties and imperfections of men, that unless they believed that these excellencies existed in the divine character, the faith necessary to salvation could not exist; for doubt would take the place of faith, and those who know their weakness and liability to sin, would be in constant doubt of salvation, if it were not for the idea which they have of the excellency of the character of God, that he is slow to anger, and long suffering, and of a forgiving disposition, and does forgive iniquity, transgression and sin. An idea of these facts does away doubt, and makes faith exceedingly strong. Because of the weakness and imperfections of human nature, and the great frailties of man; for such is the weakness of man, and such his frailties, that he is liable to sin continually, and if God were not long suffering, and full of compassion, gracious and merciful and of a forgiving disposition, man would be cut off from before him in consequence of which he would be in continual doubt and could not exercise faith: for where doubt is, there faith has no power, but by man's believing that God is full of compassion and forgiveness, long suffering and slow to anger, he can exercise faith in him and overcome doubt, so as to be exceedingly strong. (3:20)

Lectures on faith predicts our doubts. Says mans weakness and liability to sin will be something the mind at some point will recognize and have to reconcile.

-The answer according to the lecture:  Believing that God is full of compassion and forgiveness, longsuffering and slow to anger. Those attributes in particular are noted in the context of having faith to overcoming doubt.  So as to be exceedingly strong.

-Once you live past like 20 it's not hard to see or sense the weaknesses and liability of us humans to err, sin, and make mistakes.  The lectures reference the "great frailties of man, the weaknesses of man".  This Lecture is accurate. It's written by someone who is not naive, nor vain, nor puffed up, nor blind. It's written by someone who can see clearly.

-Lecture 3 identifies fallen man, and then tells you what to do about it.

-Answer revolves around the nature of God and God's excellency of character. "An idea of these facts does away doubt "

-Revelation of God's character usually accompanied by parallel revelation (realization) of man's fallen state. Hence the lecture speaks of both in the same paragraph. Another example is Moses. He has experience with God and almost the next thing is what then become apparent, which is "that man is nothing". Yet an idea of the facts of God's nature sufficient to overcome doubt and make strong.

LoF 6:12
12 But those who have not made this sacrifice to God, do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty is, there faith is not, nor can it be. For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time. So that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence, and where unshaken confidence is not, there faith is weak, and where faith is weak, the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them.

-Sacrifice isn't just one singular heroic act.

-Sacrifice can also be daily, hourly. A life lived, like a living sacrifice to God. It can be fun. It can be joyful.

-Sacrifice connected to consecration.

Part 2:

Q&A I had with a good friend who's testimony of Christ is one that has inspired me on a number of occasions. I posed some potential doubts to him and record his response.

Question: "I feel a lot of self doubt, I don't feel good enough, I sometimes doubt whether or not I read scriptures enough, or understand enough, am kind enough, or doing enough to qualify to come fully to Christ, what should I do to get past these doubts"?

Response: That statement is based on a misunderstanding of the character nature and attributes of God. They are misunderstanding just how much God loves them and just how much He is going to do the work of saving you. (Christ = Author and finisher of our faith)

"Your doubts are well founded and you shouldn't try to get past them. You don't qualify to come to Christ. That is why He came down to earth and that is why He will come down to you when the timing is right."

Question: "I'm doing everything I think I'm supposed to be doing as far as living the Gospel and trying to repent, but I don't see the fruits some people have, so it causes me to doubt myself or sometimes God and feel stuck, how can I move forward?

Response: "In my understanding, the essence of the gospel and living it are about being freed from guilt and shame as you try to be a practically decent person. So the bad news is we are cut off from god and will die. The good news is that we will be reconciled with God and live again. The fruits of that good news is that I can live my life with hope. Adding more practical skills in being a good person without having to get trapped in the guilt/shame cycle of never feeling like I will measure up. To me, that is the real fruit of the gospel. But this question too goes back to the misunderstanding of God's nature."

Conclusion: In the end it’s not which of the million doubts we happen to have given in to or surrendered to. It’s about what we believe and exercise faith in. Because we all have faith in something. We are currently acting consistent with faith in something.

-Take time to rest from your doubts. And let scripture and the Spirit of God show the truth.

-Lectures on Faith I believe contains the truth about God's nature and fallen man's weaknesses and yet shows why and how we can overcome doubt.

Analogy: Just as our physical body requires constant food and nourishment, so does our spirit.

-Overall health impacted by the quality of food you consume, so too with our Spirit.

Ending Quote:

"If we believe in the restoration, and take the faith seriously, we should be as willing to diversify our faith-structure as the LDS corporate structure has been willing to use tithes to diversify its portfolio. Just as they have branched out to own communications, publishing, farming, banking, retail, office, insurance, and real estate ventures in order to insulate the empire from failing if one of the side-ventures (the religion of Mormonism) fails, we should diversify and allow our faith to acquire enough independence to survive any disappointments coming from 47 East South Temple.

God did a work through the Prophet Joseph Smith that will continue on whether the RLDS, FLDS, LDS or UAB collapse into corruption, wickedness and financial ruin. We ought to be dependent on God and God alone for our hope to see the return of Zion and completion of the work begun through Joseph
." -DS

We can come boldly (because of God's nature) to the throne of Grace (Heb 4:6) God's nature is forgiving, kind, longsuffering, and full of compassion.  Which can overcome doubt. He can teach us, heal us. fill us with love, give us mercy and or whatever else we lack. He is the answer. Love is the answer. God is Love.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Fruits and Words

Christ says in Mattthew 6:14 (RE)

Either make the tree good and his fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt and his fruit corrupt, for the tree is known by the fruit. And Jesus said, O you children of vipers, How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man, out of the good treasure of the heart, brings forth good things; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, brings forth evil things. And again I say unto you that every idle word men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment: for by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.

Christ connects fruit with words spoken.   Prophets provoke all sorts of anger and violence in scripture with their words.  So did Christ, but that doesn't mean their fruits were bad.

Our words will condemn is is a sobering thought.  For good reason we should measure our words before giving voice to them.  I don't think Christ's teaching above is referring to just the letter string of words pieced together.  I think the verse quoted above has reference to "words" as in the "message" you communicate.  With your words.  Jesus said "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks".  What comes out of your mouth is a reflection of the heart.  You could fumble over your words or be weak in writing like one BOM prophets and yet the message or fruit communicated could still be good.  Or on the other hand be like Sherem the Antichrist in the Book of Mormon. Sherem was “learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery, and much power of speech, according to the power of the devil” (Jacob 7:4).

As I was thinking about words it dawned on me you could take scripture and get out a dictionary and use the dictionary for every single word, and yet you wouldn't uncover the extent of what God was really saying in the passage.  Because the dictionary isn't the way to unlock scriptures full meaning.  I believe the Holy Spirit is.

Word meanings vary from culture to culture and time and place.  They evolve.  But one consistent trend is that words rarely acquire higher meaning.  Their meaning trends decidedly downwards.  Revelation can restore meaning, but for now consider this:

E. W. Bullinger was a biblical scholar and fluent in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, and other languages. His study of language led him to this interesting conclusion: “It is a strange commentary on fallen human nature to see words thus changing their usage; for this change is uniformly in one direction; it is always a change for the worse. We never find a word acquiring a higher meaning! It is always down, down, down, like fallen and falling man himself, who thus drags down with him the meanings of the words he uses."

How, for example, did the change in the usage of this word “prevent” come about? [Bullinger had been writing of the word “prevent” and how in earlier English usage it used to mean “precede, go in front of, go before”]. It was because whenever one man got before another, it was generally for his own advantage, and to the hindrance, hurt, and loss of the other; hence the word came to have this new and lower meaning.

The same may be seen in apology, which was used of a defense, as in Jewel’s Apology (i.e., Defense) of the Reformation. But, because man’s defenses of himself are usually so poor, the word has come to mean a mere excuse. Our word censure was used simply of judgment, which might be favorable or otherwise; but, inasmuch as such judgments have generally proved to be unfavorable, the word is used today only of blame. Our word story was originally short for history, but because so many histories and stories are what they are [i.e., made up or embellished], the word has come to mean that which is not true. Cunning meant merely knowing; but because knowing people generally know too much, or use their knowledge to a bad purpose, it has come to have its present usage. Villain meant a servant of a villa, or of a country or farm-house. The house has kept its good meaning, but the man has lost it.
” E. W. Bullinger, How to Enjoy the Bible (Samuel Bagster and Sons, Ltd., London, reprinted 1970), p. 230.

The meaning of words deteriorates!  Easy to notice if you pay attention in 2018.  And it's almost always downward in meaning.  Which reflects the heart, as Jesus said above. 

Take "hope" for example.  It used to mean something that was likely to occur, but the modern English usage of “hope” actually implies a wish, or something desired which is very likely not to occur. For instance, one might say “I hope to go to the store today” when there is substantial doubt that they actually may do so.  "Hope" in some modern usage even gives room for an excuse for not doing a thing because it was only a hope after all, not a certainty committed to.

Hope as defined in the Book of Mormon, assisted by revelation, is the time period between when God gives a promise and the realization of the promise.  During that time the person has hope. But the promise is sure because God's word does not return void and God cannot lie.  So the hope is an anchor bringing the possessor of it joy and assurance.

I believe it takes revelation from God for the words to re-aquire higher meaning.  Often takes going back to the original meaning as understood before numerous generations of deterioration.  This is why I generally think were someone to read a document like the Answer and Covenant, and get out the dictionary and define each word they would not necessarily acquire The Spirit behind the words and thus not acquire the full intended meaning.  Or the fruits.  Our minds are often polluted, our hearts broken, and our interpretations are all personal and private to our own biases.  When scriptures teach that no prophecy of scripture is for private interpretation, (KJV 2 Peter 1:20) I have to pause and really consider what that means.  

The Holy Spirit can shed light on subtleties of words that a dictionary cannot.  Foreign languages do a good job of identifying that there are sometimes numerous differences between closely related ideas or concepts because that language may have 3, 4 or more words for one English word.  Because there are differences in meaning based on time, place, context, and intent that some languages explore more than others.  Dictionaries often do not and cannot account for a persons intent.  The intent behind words matters, not just the actual words used.  For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Having seen many a disagreement over the meaning of a word I'm looking towards seeking God's intent behind words when He speaks.  Would not God's intent play a major part in how to interpret or define his words or fruits?  Would applying only mans dictionary not often result in misunderstanding?   

I am reminded again and again that we must read the scriptures as much with our minds as hearts, and that too under the influence of the Holy Ghost.  The dictionary cannot unlock certain things.  Only the heart can.  The intent and meaning of some words may even go contrary to what might initially show up in the dictionary or the synonym section.  It may contain a message so elevated, and communicate intent so pure and express love to a degree that we don't even comprehend what the message even was. We can't even take it in.  Instead it all descends to bickering with the dictionary as the lowest common denominator to win a battle. When the heart and the intent were what mattered more.       

I've heard it said that it takes revelation to understand revelation.  I believe that to be true.  I also believe God's words are revelation and that God offers fruit that is desirable above all other fruit.

Psalm 119:105 (KJV) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Solemn Assembly Vote

This past General Conference April 2018 there was a Solemn Assembly to sustain new LDS Church leaders. Each person was asked to stand and vote and either signify a sustaining vote, or vote to the contrary. This is a God given right and responsibility for LDS members as part of the Church's law of common consent. It was a solemn meeting for me. As in thought provoking and not taken lightly. I post a few thoughts below as part of my personal records.

No one was asked to assess or judge the people themselves.  So nothing said here should not be read as doing that.  The vote was to sustain LDS leaders in specific positions of leadership.  A positive sustaining vote can mean very different things to different people.  A negative vote may also not mean what you may initially think either.  A positive vote to some may indicate a degree of swearing allegiance and honor.  To  another it's simply agreeing to pray for and be supportive.  A negative vote may not mean a person doesn't like the leaders, or doesn't genuinely desire their success in Gospel efforts.  I personally recognize and value the good that leaders of the LDS church do, and have done.  The topic here is that of sustaining in a particular capacity at this particular time.  For brevity this will hopefully be an adequate explanation of a few things you may want to consider.  There are more examples regarding ordinances or scriptures but those are for another day.        

1.   LDS canonized scripture state before anyone can serve in a calling, they must first receive a sustaining vote of the people.  Doctrine and Covenants 20: 65 (emphasis mine):  "NO person is to be ordained to ANY office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church"

President Nelson along with a newly called First Presidency was set apart by the other members of the 12 last January 2018 soon after the death of President Monson.  Link.  This was months prior to the March 31st 2018 vote by the members of the Church.  They were set apart and began functioning in their capacity on their own contrary to the scriptures and the law of common consent.  The Church's teachings on this are clear and found in numerous places link.  This is not the first time this has happened.  And perhaps it’s only a procedural error that does not merit more than passing notice.  However you view the facts, it’s part of a pattern, and the pattern is perhaps worth noticing.  The pattern is a growing wave of “cult of personality” that has, in many instances, uprooted and replaced focus on Jesus Christ.  That pattern is something worth considering as one contemplates sustaining.    

Below are quotes from LDS.org on the Law of Common Consent.  Underlining is mine for emphasis.  Here is a link to the LDS.ORG page where the below content was taken from.   Also printed here is the reference to the printed material. Section 26, The Law of Common Consent,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual(2002), 54.

D&C 26:2. The Law of Common Consent

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that “administrative affairs of the Church are handled in accordance with the law of common consent. This law is that in God’s earthly kingdom, the King counsels what should be done, but then he allows his subjects to accept or reject his proposals. Unless the principle of free agency is operated in righteousness men do not progress to ultimate salvation in the heavenly kingdom hereafter. Accordingly, church officers are selected by the spirit of revelation in those appointed to choose them, but before the officers may serve in their positions, they must receive a formal sustaining vote of the people over whom they are to preside. (D. & C. 20:60–67; 26:2; 28; 38:34–35; 41:9–11; 42:11; 102:9; 124:124–145.)” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 149–50.)

Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints (see D&C 26:2).

D&C 26:2.

When Should a Person Cast a Negative Vote?

I have no right to raise my hand in opposition to a man who is appointed to any position in this Church, simply because I may not like him, or because of some personal disagreement or feeling I may have, but only on the grounds that he is guilty of wrong doing, of transgression of the laws of the Church which would disqualify him for the position which he is called to hold.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:124.)

As quoted above regarding the Law of Common Consent this same principle operates with sustaining leaders before they serve as well as to policies and major decisions affecting the members.  Again policies in the church change all the time, and rarely are they presented to the body for a sustaining vote.  In fact I’ve never seen a policy change put to the members for sustaining vote in my lifetime. And some major policies or decisions have been made that effect the members.  I often wonder what good a law is that isn’t followed.  Seems to negate the purpose of common consent if a person in authority just dictates what happens via their claims to authority because they were sustained in that position. Going so far as to imply it's your fault or your faithlessness if you don't gain a testimony of their decisions.  Is that really the law of common consent?  D&C 26:2 says all things are to be done by common consent. If “all” things is the standard then I would expect to see at least a few things done by common consent. 

In 2015 there was a policy leaked by a non church organization disallowing children of gay parents to be baptized.  This policy’s scope may not directly affect millions from getting baptized, but the degree to which it affects the affected is significant.  It was done in the name of protecting children according to the LDS church news releases.  While I can see the case for that, I still find it troubling.  There is no basis in scripture for restricting baptism due to the choices of parents.  This is a policy with fundamental doctrinal conflicts.  Thankfully having a testimony of organizational policy isn't required by the Gospel.  What I'm not as thankful for is that if I'm ever to voice these concerns I'm met with "trust the leaders" as the response.  To me that ignores personal conscience, and an individual's obligation to discern and compare what happens in our day to scriptural standards.  It's back to the cult of personality referred to earlier.   

2. The Baptismal Interview Questions as seen in Preach My Gospel add to, and take away from Christ's Doctrine against Christ's explicit instructions in 3rd Nephi 11 of the Book of Mormon.  As an example I refer to the baptismal interview question (direct quote) Do you believe that [current Church President] is a prophet of God? What does this mean to you?

That interview question and belief in a current Church President is not a scriptural requirement for baptism.  See also D&C 20:72.  Confessing a man is not part of The Doctrine of Christ.  Anyone with scriptures can easily prove this.  Nor is paying tithing to the church, nor is living the word of wisdom for a set period of time.  If a person has to confess a man before being allowed to be baptized in Christ’s name (or live the word of wisdom or pay tithing as has happened) does this compromise Christ's Doctrine as given by Him by adding unscriptural criteria and pointing to a man? Christ said those who add or take away from His doctrine are built on sand (3rd Nephi 11:40). Hence my concern.  This merits a little more explanation. 

If you listen/read the baptismal prayer the individual is just baptized in Christ’s name (and the Father and Holy Ghost), not baptized a member of any church.  The LDS confirmation ordinance does mark entrance to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  The wording of the prayer is self-evident: “We confirm you a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”.  The thing is the baptismal interview questions affect the individual’s ability to receive baptism as well as LDS confirmation.  One of which has Christ defined requirements, the other can have whatever institutional requirements that institution chooses.  This is where and why I believe the unscriptural questions in the interview affect and conflict with the Doctrine of Christ. 
 
The Church can require any number of things as part of a confirmation ordinance that makes a person a member.  Hopefully they would be scriptural, but altering who and when a person can be baptized is something scriptures are clear about.  If Christ’s requirements to qualify for baptism have been changed and added to then something is wrong.  Pointing the individual towards a man with a calling at a moment when Christ was to be the sole object of focus is in my view completely inappropriate.  When leaders enact policy contrary to scripture, it gives me pause.  Especially policy which points to themselves.   

The scripture are the standard to which we should measure things, but that is trending downward and being replaced by reliance and trust in whatever the current leaders say.  Whether it does or does not align with scripture is rarely a line of thinking tolerated.  The curriculum of LDS Seminary and Institute reflects this ongoing shift.  Books of Scripture as courses of study have been replaced by topic based classes with only Church Leader approved topics which include more content from conference talks and official statements.  Link.  Even BYU scholars have deep concerns about these shifts.  Questioning is seen as lacking faith at times.     
    
3.  I have firsthand knowledge of President Nelson (as President of the Quorum of the 12) directing (as in instructing to be carried out) the excommunication of individuals I know personally.  Discipline requires a counsel, but who is going to go against the President of the 12 when they direct that an individual be disciplined?  Church discipline is a local matter, as stated by the Church on numerous occasions, yet President Nelson did and has directed the excommunication of members of the church.  One I know was in good standing, was worthy of a temple recommend (per that persons own Stake President), and was in harmony with the Lord and the Gospel.  The Church Newsroom after one of these occurrences said to the media that excommunication is a local matter not something top Church leadership coordinates or directs.  

Quote: Sometimes members’ actions contradict Church doctrine and lead others astray. While uncommon, some members in effect choose to take themselves out of the Church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine to comply with their personal beliefs. This saddens leaders and fellow members. In these rare cases, local leaders have the responsibility to clarify false teachings and prevent other members from being misled. Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.  -Mormon Newsroom 

This is simply not true.  I don’t believe that the newsroom and President Nelson have no knowledge of each other and act or speak contrary to each other.  President Nelson as President of the Quorum of the 12 did direct disciplinary action towards someone who did not merit it and then the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 leaders dismissed the appeal.  Excommunication is a serious matter and is taught to remove or void saving ordinances.  There have been other instances of this that I am also familiar with.  It was not an isolated instance.  Given what I know of the situation, what would I be indicating were I to sustain leaders in these actions?  I do not sustain these actions.    

4.  The news media has recently (as of March 2018) been reporting on a case of sexual misconduct involving a Temple President of the MTC.  The Church’s public statements on this matter is what I would expect from a legal team rather than a church lead by Christ.  The official statements have been shown to contain misleading lies, and shown to have contained cover-ups of confirmed misconduct by the MTC president.  The attempts to suppress the truth and cover it up are visible and the news media recognizes this.  The actions of the Church and the public statements made have brought a profound and solemn set of thoughts to my mind.  Interestingly Elder Oaks in 2015 stated some interesting things when it comes to how the Church treats mistakes or problems.  He has said The Church does not apologize.
http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=2122123&itype=CMSID.  Excerpt here:

"I know that the history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them," Oaks said in an interview Tuesday. "We sometimes look back on issues and say, 'Maybe that was counterproductive for what we wish to achieve,' but we look forward and not backward."

The church doesn't "seek apologies," he said, "and we don't give them."

The Mormon leader made the same point, only stronger, Thursday 
during a video chat on Trib Talk by insisting that the word "apology" doesn't appear in LDS scriptures.

Many Mormons across social media have reacted with dismay at hearing an LDS apostle reject out of hand the idea of apologizing.

That dismay is merited.  Such words are not things I believe Christ condones or has directed.  These are prepared remarks, not off the cuff errors.  The Church teaches that apologizing is one of the steps of repentance.  By that standard the Church rejects its own ability to repent.  The actions show a preference to protect leaders rather than investigate and seriously address situations of potential or confirmed abuse and misconduct.  Why would anyone refuse to apologize when it’s clearly merited?  

This may be one major reason the Church is having issues with its own history and the internet bringing so many historical facts to the public's awareness.  There is a refusal to accept certain mistakes or even apologize for wrongdoing.  Trying to instead do damage control by making it look like there has always been transparency.  If this sounds vague or like my biased opinion with no substantive evidence I apologize for not including a list of sources.  They exist, and are easily accessible if one is willing to see it.  I'm only trying to explain a few ideas that may be worth considering.  I'm not trying to accumulate evidence.  The point i"m getting at is protecting the "good name" of The Church as a public entity has at times become more important than the truth, history, or protecting actual living breathing members. Radio Free Mormon did an excellent analysis of the MTC President scandal as one example.      

The history the Church tells about its founder, priesthood succession, and various events in the Church's history are deliberately whitewashed to "promote faith".  The Church's Gospel Topic essays on various historical topics have been portrayed as attempts to tell an accurate history in response to what has been termed the “Google Apostasy”.  These essays have needed many corrections and have admitted the absence of revelation and incorrect teachings of past Church leaders. The essays were written by individuals outside the current leadership positions of the church.  I don't know who wrote them, but they contain content that is troubling and often contrary to scripture.  Joseph Smith has particularly been mis-portrayed.  Current LDS teachings often do not line up with the teachings of Joseph but it's taught that the current leaders occupy the same position in every respect as Joseph.  D&C 21:4-5 is commonly misquoted as evidence of this.  Verse 4-5 are clearly referring to Joseph.  There is no license or permission in those verses to apply the verses content to anyone else.   

5.  In March 2018 there was a march with over 2000 participants (some in person, some online) who marched to the Church Office Building to bring awareness and change to policies regarding private interviews between Bishops and youth.  A few days prior to the march, after a fair amount of publicity on the upcoming march, the church altered some of its policies surrounding interviews.  The changes were good.  My concern is it took an outside campaign, media pressure, and a public march (not revelation) to bring changes to a bad practice that has proven to have abusive consequences. On the one hand you have a silent policy change leaked to the public that denies baptism to children of gay parents, said to be protecting the children.  In response to an enormous PR nightmare.  On the other hand there were thousands of examples of actual abuse from the interview practice, yet nothing changed without pressure from the media.  It doesn't appear very prophetic when the media has to be the one to pressure a church to stop abusive practices.         

Thousands of people attempted to get the attention of LDS leaders at that march.  There was no acknowledgement the march or that anything is wrong.  If thousands of people can only trigger a professionally paid public affairs representative to listen to the cries of thousands of people I have to take a step back at look again at the situation we find ourselves in.  One question I'm curious about is are the leaders hiding behind a PR team and insulating themselves behind a legal department? I do not find any evidence in scripture of Jesus nor His apostles ever insulating themselves from the public who sought their attention via layers of lawyers, professionally paid public affairs representatives, and a professionally paid spokespeople.  The newsroom has a paid spokesperson whom I did not and have never been asked to sustain as being a representative speaking “for the Church”.  Does this newsroom speak for God?  These seem like easily recognizable actions indicative of any large corporation.  What am I to do if those actions prove false? Or contain lies? And cover-ups?  Sustain those who employ them anyway?      

6.  The Church has refused to renew my temple recommend due to tithing donations.  More correctly it’s been my local leaders, but they inform me they act on behalf of The Church and receive their instructions from headquarters. Which begs the question of how "The Church" is defined. I do pay tithing.  My tithing donations go directly to the poor, and where I individually feel directed by God to donate.  I have been up front and honest about this at each tithing settlement.  I have been fully transparent, and made no attempt to be dishonest.  I would hope for the same from the Church, therefore I have freely offered those same things I would like to see from them.

Members of the Church in my lifetime have never really had much say in what any donations are used for.  No transparency is offered into where donations go.  Even the word "interest" has acquired new meaning from D&C section 119.  The Bishop is allowed to ask about my personal finances every 12 months, but if I ask about the Church’s finances and ask for the even a little transparency from them it’s denied, I’m seen as faithless or somehow dangerous, and told I’m questioning things I ought not to question.  Is that acceptable?  It back to the cult of personality, which says that because the leaders are called by God I shouldn't question them and should rely on them in faith regarding use of tithes.  This troubles me.  When the leaders "living stipends" were leaked to the public it appears they are quite well compensated, despite the traditional view that the LDS church has an unpaid clergy.  Living stipend is just a business word for a form of compensation.  If the HR department were to add up "total compensation", with book deals and all these leaders are in the top 20% of earners just from their Church based "increase".  Is this really a "no paid clergy" church?   


Regarding tithing.  I don't think I'm accountable for what happens to a donation after it leaves my hand, however what if I am not comfortable giving in the way I'm directed by the LDS Church?  Despite still paying tithing and being up front and transparent I'm disqualified for a temple recommend. Not because of a sin (that anyone will give me a straight answer on), no moral violation, no commandment broken, yet voluntary donations going to someone (anyone) other than the LDS Church Corporation is what bars me from entrance.  This communicates to me that they love money above most everything else. Feels like a country club.  If money is one of the required means to acquire temple ordinances how then do we not see this is the SAME regrettable path that other religions followed in the past by exchanging forgiveness of sins, blessings, or God's favor for money?  Think about this.  Giving only one specific religious corporate entity money in exchange for a "worthiness" recommend to gain God's highest blessings.  Who cannot see this?   
        

The fine print on the tithing donation slip informs the giver that "... all donations become the Church's property and will be used at the Church's sole discretion to further the Church's overall mission".   This sounds like business jargon that just legally prevents anyone from seeing what happens to donations.  The income generated by investing the tithing funds is used for profit producing endeavors like building the 5 Billion Dollar Shopping Mall in down town Salt Lake City.  Are shopping centers part of the Church's overall mission?  This to me represents a clear step of caring more for fine apparel than the poor and the needy.  As Nephi prophesied all churches (including the LDS church) would do (2 Nephi 28:11-15).  I am aware of all the good and humanitarian work the Church does.  I’m not discounting any of that.  Nor saying I should be given a say in every penny ever spent.  That's impractical and I agree the leaders have the right to disburse funds as they see fit.  But I'd like to "see" in at least some fashion where it goes as a matter of basic transparency.  What happens if the Church itself at some point could not pass it's own temple recommend questions?  Sustain it anyway?  Or voice an honest concern?    

What I can't find in scripture is any evidence for is Christ ever condoning in any fashion the building of a multi billion dollar shopping mall as a Gospel priority.  Or withholding transparency from the very people who donate funds.  These are "major decisions" and if the law of common consent doesn't apply to them than what does it apply to?  Without common consent Church members are reduced to consumers of a product line (the religion) offered by an impersonal "Church" operating as "The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints".  "The Church" in scripture refers to the people.  But there is a new "Church" that is sort of taking over, which is the impersonal business entity which dictates policy, diversifies it's investment portfolio, and operates often contrary to the members. It is that "Church" which apparently won't allow me a temple recommend.  That Church is overseen by the people we sustain as leaders.  Am I obligated to sustain a business corporation's tools and objectives?           

When I asked my local leaders what I would need to do to get a recommend back I was told a waiting period and repentance would need to happen.  I asked for which sin I would need to repent, and as you can imagine its hard for anyone to answer that.  The topic inevitably ends up with more talk of obeying and sustaining the Church Leaders.  Again the cult of personality where the primary doctrine of the Church is to set up a man as an idol to be adored and reverenced and chant "Follow the Prophet".  If there is a contradiction between what the current Prophet says, and scripture, it’s settled in favor of the current Prophet.  This feels like a foundation of sand.  As it results in things like being barred from the temple, because of giving offerings to the poor.  Of all the bizarre Christian reasons to keep someone from serving in the temple.  Or perhaps it's not personal, it's just business.        

7.  President Nelson said this about sustaining the Prophet in Oct 2014 General Conference.  "Our sustaining is an oath-like indication that we recognize their calling as a prophet to be legitimate and binding upon us."   This is different than what LDS history meant by the word "sustain".  I'm willing to support, listen to, and pray for the leaders.  But worshiping, revering, swearing oaths, or deferring once conscience to them is quite another thing.  Oath like indications and standing when Church leaders enter the room is a curious development in modern Mormonism.  With this new definition of sustain by President Nelson the members are put in an awkward position.  People now legitimately need to question what was the original intent of sustaining, and whether it was to make a binding oath towards someone else's calling.

President Eyring in Oct 2014 General Conference said this about the Prophet (underlining mine):

Don’t take lightly the feeling you get of love for the prophet of God. Wherever I go in the Church, whoever the prophet is at the time, members will ask, “When you get back to Church headquarters, will you please tell the prophet how much we love him?”

That is far more than hero worship or the feelings we sometimes have of admiring heroic figures. It is a gift from God. With it you will receive more easily the gift of confirming revelation when he speaks in his office as the Lord’s prophet. The love you feel is the love the Lord has for whoever is His spokesman

"That is far more than hero worship".  A gift from God?  I had to read this talk a few times to make sure I was understanding him correctly.  Speaking of leaders in terms of “far more than hero worship” and calling it a gift from God is something you now get to consider and be accountable for.  Speaking from scriptural teachings, we are only supposed to worship and follow Christ.  These teachings in General Conference of excessive adoration lead to or are straight idolatry and the fixation and admiration of on men who lead I believe should deeply trouble anyone interested in being a disciple of Christ.  Hero worship of men was never the purpose of the Gospel of Christ and can damn people and can keep them from Christ.  The purpose was to bring people TO Christ, not just to mortal men to admire.  That is not a gift I've ever seen scripture identify, nor suggest anyone should seek.  

Some leaders take this idea to further lengths and assure the members that the leaders cannot lead them astray (see various talks by Elder Ballard and even OD 1).  The excessive focus on “follow the Prophet” has become modern day idolatry. The leaders are lavished with birthday parties, private jets, living stipends, book deals, and are taught to be relied upon over scripture (14 Fundamentals of Following the Prophet talk given in Conference).  Those teaching these things are ironically now the ones being sustained.        

I'm not a casual observer of Mormonism or the LDS church.  I've spent my life in it, and have been blessed because of it.  I've also found deep truth and revelatory teachings from the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Teachings which the LDS church now unfortunately discards and even teaches against.  I have witnessed many changes in the LDS church over the course of years of observation and study.  Christ taught "by their fruits ye shall know them".  I am willing to pray for and support my leaders.  But to adore, hero worship, or make oaths that contain false teachings as binding upon me, and stand when they enter a room is troubling.  Elder Anderson's recent conference talk the day before Easter Spring of 2018 is full of prophet adoration and idolatry.  

I consider myself very understanding of the reality that we are all human and make mistakes.  Mistakes are part of life and I am fine with anyone making them.  Mistakes are not what this post is about.  It about sustaining and voting with regards to leaders in certain capacities as they make claims to be led by and directed by Christ.  I feel a person cannot truly say they understand an issue until they can persuasively present both sides of the issue.  I've taken the time to be able to do this although have not written all of it out here for obvious reasons.  I have persistent and sufficient concerns so as to cast a negative sustaining vote, which I did during the solemn assembly.  I've tried to consider the trends and evidence without regard to traditions or even what is easy or convenient for me to simply go along with.  I value the truth, even if it is upsetting and requires me to change or do or say difficult things.  

This does not mean I don't recognize the good the LDS church does.  Many organizations do good. The presence of humanitarian work or public charity shouldn't blind anyone to legitimate problems or concerns.  The issue at hand is sustaining leaders as what they have asked me to sustain them as and the oath like indication I would thereby be giving per the teachings of these same leaders.  Frankly I'm unsure what this means because should I inform my Stake President I'm likely to only receive discipline.  Because sustaining the leaders is evolving into the most important aspect to Church membership. Which is is ironically why I can't sustain it.  My testimony of Christ and attempts to align with scripture is good enough for me, but I am uncertain if it's good enough for my leaders.  I guess time will tell.   

As I discover new information, or gain a better perspective, I reserve the right to align with added light or correct my misunderstandings.
  This has been my desire all along.  And I offer the same to others.  I think this part of repentance.  This post on why I voted opposed is not a reflection of a faith crisis, nor lack of a testimony of Christ.  It’s at attempt to find the truth and distinguish it from error and to help the truth endure.   It is an expression of my faith in Christ and my intent to follow Him.  This is ultimately about Christ and His teachings.  As for me and my house, I choose to follow Christ.  

Friday, March 30, 2018

Doom and Gloom

I wrote most of the below a few years ago and recently saw it in a draft folder.  I added some footnotes and examples.  This seemed fitting on the eve of LDS general conference.


Doom and Gloom?

After a religious conversation with some friends and family someone made the comment that the current (occurred in 2015) LDS leaders of the Church don’t talk about certain things, answer certain questions, and or don’t preach repentance in a traditional or bold and harsh way because: “They are not called to preach doom and gloom in our day”.  I don’t know where that phrase came from “not called to preach doom and gloom” or if a leader said it at some point but the idea gave me pause.

I had these thoughts after that conversation in the days and years that have followed.

In the Book of Mormon there was a large gathering of people who had gathered to hear the word of God.  The audience, preached to by King Benjamin, experienced a spiritual rebirth and mighty change of heart after the message they heard. 

Mosiah 5:1-5 1 
And now, it came to pass that when King Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them.[1]
  2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.
  3 And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things.
  4 And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.
  5 And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.
The people said it was having faith in “the things which our king has spoken unto us” that brought them great knowledge and joy.  It was not having faith in “the prophet” but was faith on the content of the message.  The message originated from God.  That’s why faith in it produced fruit.  It was not adoration or fixation on the messenger. Nor how much they liked the messenger that produced fruit.  It was the message.  They followed the voice of God when it was spoken.

There is a huge difference between following a man because he holds a Church calling or office and by contrast heeding the voice of God when you hear it resonating in the voice of one of His true messengers.  One of those follows a man, and has telestial consequences (D&C 76:98-101), the other follows God.  I believe the distinction is pivotal.  “Following the prophet” is an idea that is potentially damning.  It’s the voice of God we need to follow.  When men do not speak for God can following them or their message produce saving fruit?  You decide.  We each must determine if anyone preaching speaks by the voice of the Spirit or not.  We can’t just rely on their title, status, calling, or bibliography. That would be relying on the arm of the flesh, rather than the Spirit.  We can't disregard our individual obligation to discern when the Spirit is or is not present.

I often wonder, (so do many apparently in Sunday School) why such spiritual experiences or mighty changes of heart don't happen very often today as a result of LDS General Conference.  The Sunday School teacher posed this very question a few weeks ago in my local LDS ward.  Why did King Benjamin's people have this spiritual outpouring during their "conference" but it’s almost unheard of for us to have this type of thing at ours?  People typically come away from LDS General Conference "wanting to do better" or emotionally moved, or talking about the latest temple announcement.  Or with a few new cliche phrases to put as meme’s on social media.  However very often only days later they cannot recall much of anything that was said or taught other than how "good" it was. This seems fundamentally different from being reborn or experiencing a mighty change of heart like what was seen in the Mosiah example.  Why the difference?

In my experience attending church for 30+ years people are more often than not bored and asleep at LDS General Conference time, as well as asleep at church.  Even the leaders joke that “church sleep is among the healthiest of all sleep” to quote Pres Ucthdorf[2].  We revisit the same talks we heard at conference over and over for the next 6 months anyway at church during the 3 hour block.  There have been weeks where Christ is not mentioned during the 3 hours. In such cases I wonder if the 3hr block is almost a stumbling block.  Often you could cut and paste conference talks and change the stories but still predict what next conference will be like.  This isn't meant to be negative but simply draw a contrast between what we hear now vs what we see in scripture.  

During the Sunday School lesson referenced above, there were a few very weak explanations, reasons, and excuses given by the class for the difference between the fruit of King Benjamin’s conference and the fruits of ours.  The class would only entertain reasons that didn’t make people feel uncomfortable (I know this because I tried to introduce ideas which were immediately shot down).  The reasons given by the class all seemed to have some institutional defense or even straight up vanity at the roots.  There was definitely an “image” of the church that had to be maintained as equal to King Benjamin's or equal to any successful religious experience.  No one stopped to consider that perhaps what we are hearing in our day is full of opinion, false doctrine, misleading messages, and is perhaps contaminated with errors[3].  Hearing messages full of those things isn't saving anyone and will of course not produce the fruit we see in scripture.  The idea that we may be hearing such things is difficult and understandably not well tolerated, but I put forward that it may in fact be true.  We assume such an idea is assuredly from Satan.  But our feelings are not always a good truth barometer. The truth doesn’t care how we feel about it.  

I wondered during that Sunday School class why we (our culture) can't stop to consider things like this.  One reason may be that some have placed their faith in the organization itself and its leaders, rather that placing faith in Christ.  They may see no difference between the “Church” and the “Gospel” and would therefore see no issue with placing faith in the "Church".  Church leaders have spoken of the important differences between the two (Church and Gospel).  One such talk was deliberately censored and re-written changing the message entirely[4].  It seems the church has a vested interest in it's members not seeing critical difference between the Gospel, and the Church organization (Corporation Sole to be technical). 

The LDS Church teaches the Church IS the Kingdom of God on the earth (see Guide to the Scriptures under "Kingdom of God") despite Joseph Smith saying the Church and Kingdom of God are two separate things[5].  In the end, I'm persuaded by scripture that faith in Christ is what saves, not an earthly institution that makes claims about His name or His authority.  I have been a member my entire life, and have received many blessings from membership.  So I get it when ideas are put forward that seemingly undercut what has been a blessing to so many.  However the truth is more important than feeling good about our errors.  Christ alone saves, not church leaders.  What makes matters worse is the leaders also assure us they can’t lead us astray[6].  And so, anyone who says otherwise is presumed to be apostate. 

How would a person know they are following Christ and not just some leader of a church?  What fruits or patterns would you need to see to know you yourself are in fact a disciple of Christ?  Or vise versa what patterns would alert you that something is wrong?  What would you need to see that would alert you that you're actually seeing a legitimate error, falsehohod, or red flags and not just being persuaded by some adversarial voice?  How are we to apply Christ’s teachings to detect false prophets by their fruits if we never apply the test to ourselves?  Religious corruption is well documented throughout all history and those living at the time had just as hard a time discerning it in their time as we have in ours.  I believe it’s possible an institution can in fact reject the fullness of the Gospel without the general membership really noticing.  It happens subtly because the rejection isn’t direct, it’s indirect.  It happens by leading the members to trust in men or religious institutions and give them money in exchange for blessings and opportunities.  Or by changing the ordinances.  Which, breaks them[7].  But Christ does not leave his followers comfortless.  He himself intends to comfort them (John 14:18).  Himself.  This is true doctrine (The Second Comforter) no longer taught by the LDS church or it's leaders.  

Rejection that happens little by little and is not always noticed or viewed as a rejection.  Suppose something takes the place of Christ, and or has altered Christ’s teachings and doctrine, making them ineffective or built on sand.  Suppose all of this is done under claims to be authorized by Christ.  Who's to wake up and notice the red flag?  To maintain the deception the claim has to be maintained that what is occurring is led by God.  So just claiming to be led by God is no different than any other historical example of those who did in fact reject Christ, the gospel, and dwindled in darkness.  Claims alone are no good.  Fruit is what matters.  For this we need to be able to discern and be watching.     

I’ve heard it said that the trick to pulling off an apostasy is to convince the masses that there hasn't been one.  And teach people that there can't be one[8].  Using examples such as look, we have a temple, look we have leaders with scriptural titles, and our programs and policies are always changing which is evidence of God's leadership.  We publish scripture which implies we are doing what the scriptures say.  And we have billions and billions of dollars, and see there are good decisions being made, and see there are lots of inspiring things being said by guys in suits.  And and.... all that humanitarian work  confirms our feelings that we are all doing just fine, bound for heaven inside the old ship Zion.  So we end up thinking there is no justification or need to preach anything but happy, polished, pleasing, and correlated messages.  Certainly not doom or gloom.  In a sense we feel that all is well.  Despite Nephi warning us about that exact sentiment[9]  

The prophets in the book of Mormon often said harsh, damning, dooming, and glooming things.  Almost all of them did.  Because it was the accurate description of the people they preached to, and they were commanded by God to declare it.  It often got them in serious trouble or killed.  They would point out the apostate, false, vain, and corrupt religious beliefs of the day that the people (just like us) cling to.  And the people hated it, told them to shut up, told them they were wrong, and fought against them, or killed them preferring their religious traditions instead.  You can likely think of some scriptural examples without me giving the references.  Who wants to be told about your sins and darkness of mind when you can be told you’re going to arrive safe in heaven as long as you just keep your eyes riveted on the church leaders[10]? 

Referring to the judgement day when some are unprepared this is from the sermon that King Benjamin preached:

Mosiah 3: 26-27

"Therefore, they have drunk out of the cup of the wrath of God, which justice could no more deny unto them than it could deny that Adam should fall because of his partaking of the forbidden fruit; therefore, mercy could have claim on then no more forever.  And their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever. Thus has the Lord commanded me. Amen."

These are strong, doooming, glooming, and terrible warnings from an angel who declares in unmistakable words that he has a message from God.  King Benjamin then delivers it.  This message does not deserve respect or convert anyone because of the speakers church calling, it's merits are that it is a message from God. Not clever cliche phrases, not a bunch of politically correct re-statements, not correlated, not sugar coated garbage, and not comprised of someones own ideas and social science research. 

According to the Angel those who ignore the obligation to repent, and come unto Christ will, in the afterlife, have: "drank out of the cup of the wrath of God..."  This is near identical language to Christ's terrible suffering in the atonement. (See3 Ne. 11: 11; D&C 19: 18.) This is so awful an experience the Lord says it's beyond man's comprehension. (D&C 19: 15.)

Continuing from this same sermon.  The Angel says: "mercy could have claim on them no more forever."  What a terrible phrase.  Mercy not having clam on them forever?  Is there any more dooming a statement?  Another: "torment as a lake of fire and brimstone".  This is awful.  We all know the pain of having our skin burned. Our minds get the idea pretty fast, "whose flames are unquenchable", "whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever".  Graphic images.  Strong stuff. 

 This message resulted in those who attended the gathering having a covenanted with God. Spiritual rebirth.  Mighty changes of heart.  The audience would "have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually." (Mosiah 5: 2)  Did that have anything to do with what they were taught?  The angel’s message began with Joy, and talk of a Savior, but includes substantial realities about doomy, gloomy fire filled stuff.  Smoke, wrath, fire, brimstone.  Prophets are called to preach the truth.  If they don’t, then what kind of prophet are they?  The people got told of things like torment, and mercy not having claim on them forever.  Yet they encountered the Spirit of the Lord which changed them.  They didn't change themselves by their own efforts to perfect themselves via commandments of men.  No no. In that one phase the angel debunks a lot of mormon myths about perfecting ourselves[11].  Christ does the heavy lifting.  We are to follow Him.

So the question that comes to my mind is why does it require such harsh and painful language from the angel to produce this mighty result?  Could it be that only the truth can cause within us what needs to happen in order for us to repent?  The Angel was sent and included a pretty nasty message for their souls.... yet look at the results?  They were born again. They experienced a mighty change or heart that day.  Not some vague desire “to do better” but forgetting the message completely within a few short hours.   No, they were spiritually begotten.  A topic hardly taught by LDS leaders.  And not part of Sunday school curriculum if you've been paying attention in Sunday School for the past 15 years.  Can changing the age for missionary service save your soul or bring you to Christ?  Is an age change revelation?  Or is that just an administrative policy change?  Was it not policy that established the age in the first place?

To not be called to preach the reality and awfulness of our fallen situation, and the destination to which a people or person is headed would in many instances be to not preach the truth.  But is instead to preach soothing falsehoods that lead to carnal security.  Such would be what we might expect are the messages of false prophets because the message doesn’t save you, and lulls you to sleep.  It darkens your mind from the reality that would otherwise perhaps motivate you to repent and turn to Christ in a real and authentic way to have an experience with Him. 

Enos: 1: 22-23 
And there were exceedingly many prophets among us. And the people were a stiffnecked people, hard to understand.  And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them.

Many prophets it says.  Is Enos trying to tell us that it's possible for there to be messengers and or prophets aside from those fulfilling an administrative role in a corporation?  Kind of like Jesus and John the Baptist?  Neither belonged to the religious hierarchy of the Jews, and held no authority they recognized.  This point seems to not be appreciated by many LDS members.  The common LDS view is that God cannot send messengers outside the Church's own  hierarchy.  Which is simply not true as any number of scriptures can attest. 

Enos uses the phrase "nothing but exceeding harshness".  The people he says were dull of hearing or in other words did not want to understand or listen to the message and apply it to themselves.  So harshness gets used so there is no mistaking it.  The preacher has to deliver the message in a way so as to not be responsible for not being clear.  Jacob teaches this in the Book of Mormon talking about the responsibility of a messenger to deliver God's word and the consequences if they don't:

Jacob 1:19.  

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

           This seems like an accurate description of a prophets responsibility.  If the people are dull of hearing and stubborn, then the teacher commissioned by God has to be diligent, and labor, else answer for it.

Could King Benjamin's people be saved by praising them, telling them they were chosen and the elect of God?  Assuring them that their sins weren't all THAT bad after all.  Would they be motivated to repent in the way that puts a soul into the depths of humility by touting all the humanitarian work done by their church?  Or their nice clothing?  Or their big grand meeting houses?  Could they be saved by telling them that all was well with them, they prosper in the land because God is with them and because they follow King Benjamin (the prophet)?  That if they just stayed in the boat they would be saved[12]?  Telling them they were chosen in the pre-earth life and destined to be here at this day and time because of their valiance and that there will be a hush in heaven for them[13].  That seems much more like vanity and pride than being humble.    
  
Why was it necessary to tell them of hell?  Of damnation? Of eternal suffering and unquenchable fire? Is this being pessimistic or could it be describing a reality to which we are blind?  Why wasn't the angel soft and gentle?  Why wasn't the angel more politically correct? The words of the angel are attempting to give some willing listener an idea of how deeply, how completely, and how great the reality of our need for repentance.  Without it, we simply don't think we are all that bad.  It's possible the masses remain in denial and blind.  And so, no one repents, thinking its other people that need it.  No one awakens to our awful reality because no one dares describe our awful reality.  Well, this angel did.  And the people were pointed to Christ and in fact had a spiritual outpouring. 

I believe we delude ourselves when we think these messages in the Book of Mormon were not meant for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If King Benjamin's audience experienced the fruits they did by coming down in the depths of humility and repentance (Mosiah 4: 2), then we could probably repeat their steps and maybe see if we get similar results.  We fool ourselves when we accept only smooth things and soft messages filtered through the PR department and correlation departments and then wonder why our hearts are not pricked.  Perhaps we could ask our selves if there has been any corruption to the word of God we assume we are hearing.  Or if we are hearing God's word at all.       

So back to the original question why do you think an angel and the Book of Mormon prophets were called to preach doom and gloom but current LDS leaders are not?  Is there a correlation between the messages we hear and the spiritual outpourings we do or do not experience as we exercise faith in them? I seriously question of flattery or endless procedural changes are what will fill us with the Spirit.  

What if someone comes along and tells a devoutly religious people their religion has become corrupt and their doctrines have become the philosophies of men and cannot save.  Nephi and Moroni both said this to us, about us[14].  That warning does little good if the audience thinks Nephi is talking about the Catholics, or some other non Mormon group who aren't even reading his book.  The pattern in scripture when someone says such a message is often to throw them out (excommunicate them), call them apostate, and "stone the prophets" because they identify idolatry, corruption and warn of ominous things.

The trick to deceiving people as written in scripture is to dress someone as if they were something safe, harmless and too good to even question.  Jesus talked about this.  About wolves in sheep’s clothing.  This was in context about how to identify a false prophet (Matthew 7:15).   If you put on the clothing of a sheep, you can cover up the wolf.  “Sheep’s Clothing” symbolically would be things such as a religious title, some sort of credential, calling, religious bibliography, your status, appearance, etc....  These can cover up, or cover over a message that won’t save you.  Even if they don’t appear to be “bad” people.  Sheep are what Christ says follow Him, so a wolf would act and dress as if they were a follower of Christ.  

What if a messenger came saying that the institution has altered and adulterated the requirements for baptism, and thus the baptism they offer by that institution is no longer valid. By requiring you to confess a man for example, as the LDS Baptismal interview questions do (see Preach My Gospel for the list of baptismal interview questions).  What if this person came declaring that you need to be re-baptized by someone having authority and power from God.  Not to join another church, but as a sign between you and Christ that you follow Him.  As is required when a new dispensation begins.  Would not people reject this in the same way as people perhaps rejected John the Baptists baptism? Preferring instead their own religious baptism taught by the leaders?  John the Baptist ended one dispensation and another began.  What if that happened in our day?  We would perhaps fair no better than most of the Jews did when John came preaching.  It's worth considering anyway. 

Samuel the Lamanite was another messenger who said some doom and gloom stuff.  The Book of Mormon can't be speaking to people who are not even reading the book, and don't believe in it. It's intended for us Mormons.  Here is Samuel’s message:

"Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.

But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.

Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.

O ye wicked and ye perverse generation; ye hardened and ye stiffnecked people, how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you? Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light?" (Hel. 13: 26-29.)

No people think their accepted guides are foolish or blind.  Else they wouldn't be following them.  They love their guides (leaders).  The guides make the people feel good.  The people don’t want to be told of their sins and iniquities so the guides sometimes oblige.  As a possible example, consider that LDS folks find no fault when leaders in General Conference assure us all is well.  Few red flags are raised when people learn the leaders take home living stipends far larger than average wages of the regular members[15].  Perhaps it's totally fine they wear fine suits and live in fine houses.  Perhaps its' totally fine the corporation owns high end shopping malls.  Or maybe these are patterns or things we should pay attention to.  One of the “unwritten order of things”[16] says whenever out in public top leaders should wear their “Sunday best” apparel. "Fine apparel" is referenced in the book of Mormon and it has nothing good to say about it.  Samuel the Lamanite had a message that fits uncomfortably well when applied to present day.  But you see for yourself if it fits.      

I agree doom and gloom is no fun. It's kind of like being told you need heart surgery.  But on the other side of the surgery, you see that you would have died without it.  And if someone were to go around saying that the leaders weren't called to remind you of your need for heart surgery, it could be devastating to your health.  99% truth is no good if the rest is misleading.  I believe a true message from God will offset any doom with hope in Christ through repentance.  

If the scriptures are right, and I accept that they are, then Christ is approachable, and of such disposition that we can have confidence in His nature, forgiveness, grace, and willingness to work with us.  He can heal, He can teach, and He can save.   May we repent, come to Christ, and avoid the awful reality the prophets and scripture foretell will come if we do not repent. 

Here are some resources to consider in that process.

www.bornofwater.org
https://www.restorationarchives.com/
www.scriptures.info


[1].  The words came from an Angel.  King Benjamin didn’t have a professional talk writer, nor innovate his own good ideas.  There was no correlation, and no PR image of a church to maintain.  This was a message originating from God delivered by a heavenly messenger.

[2] Conference talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONIE9LLvpwM   I agree sleeping through church very often is spiritually healthier than listening to some of those empty sermons.

[3] Nephi and Moroni both prophesied in the Book of Mormon, written to Mormons, that these things, and worse, would occur inside “all” churches. Including the church publishing the Book of Mormon. 2 Nephi 28 11-12. Mormon 8:36-38

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qIr30dtCvo

[5] Joseph Smith explained to the council in April 1844: “There is a distinction between the Church of God and kingdom of God. The laws of the kingdom are not designed to effect our salvation hereafter. It is an entire, distinct and separate government. The church is a spiritual matter and a spiritual kingdom; but the kingdom which Daniel saw was not a spiritual kingdom, but was designed to be got up for the safety and salvation of the saints by protecting them in their religious rights and worship.”

[6] Official Declaration 1, quoting Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.

[7] Isaiah 24:5.  The LDS church has changed ordinances, from baptism through the endowment.  For a starter piece on the changes to baptism here is an interesting article: https://areturning.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/rebaptism/  

[8] https://www.lds.org/topics/apostasy?lang=eng.  Which says in relevant part: “But unlike the Church in times past, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will not be overcome by general apostasy. The scriptures teach that the Church will never again be destroyed (see D&C 138:44; see also Daniel 2:44)”.  See for yourself if those versus really support what they are being used as evidence for.  

[9] 2 Nephi 28:21:  And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil heateththeir souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.”

[10] General Conference Dec 1996. Elder Ballard "When shall these things be".   Keep your eyes riveted on the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. We will not lead you astray. We cannot”.

[11] Three are some LDS members who believe they are going to perfect themselves and work their way into the Celestial Kingdom by their own efforts and good works by keeping all the commandments all the time.  They in a sense try to achieve perfection on their own by compliance with the law and all the rules (written and unwritten) given by the Church.

[12] "Stay in the Boat and Hold On!"  Elder Ballard General conference Oct 2014. 

[13] I don’t know where this originated but it’s been passed around enough in LDS circles that perhaps you have heard a version of the following:  You were generals in the War in Heaven and one day when you are in the spirit world, you will be enthralled by those you are associated with. You will ask someone in which time period they lived and you might hear, “I was with Moses when he parted the Red Sea,” or “I helped build the pyramids’” or “I fought with Captain Moroni.” And as you are standing there in amazement, someone will turn to you and ask you which of the prophets’ time did you live in? And when you say “Gordon B. Hinckley” a hush will fall over every hall and corridor in Heaven, and all in attendance will bow at your presence. You were held back six thousand years because you were the most talented, most obedient, most courageous, and most righteous.”

[14] 2 Nephi 28 11-12. Mormon 8:36-38

[15] http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=4800350&itype=CMSID&fullpage=1.  The site “Mormon Leaks” published pay stubs of top LDS leaders.

[16] This has reference to a talk by Elder Packer at BYU in 1996 called “The Unwritten Order of Things”.  http://emp.byui.edu/huffr/The%20Unwritten%20Order%20of%20Things%20--%20Boyd%20K.%20Packer.htm
In that talk examples are given such as where a presiding authority is to sit on the podium, where counselors should sit, and to not ask to be released from a church calling.  Others include not going to General Authorities directly for counsel but instead go through the proper channels.  Etc...   The phrase in addition often refers to any rule or code of conduct not explained in scripture and usually not in the handbooks but which has gained some degree of cultural importance.  From how to dress, facial hair, crossing your legs in the temple, and a variety of other "rules" that aren’t necessarily even important to God but over time gain traction and sometimes even achieve doctrinal status in people’s minds.