Wednesday, March 13, 2019

LDS hyphen history and the name of the Church

Unless you live off the grid you are probably familiar with the LDS Church's recent announcement about re-emphasizing the official name of the Church as found in scripture. Removing and stopping the use of the terms like Mormon or LDS was to put greater emphasis on the name of Christ in the Churches official name.

The amount of news articles on this, media posts, and the number of buildings, programs, manuals, e-mails addresses, and web addresses needing to be changed makes this no small feat.  

To me it merited a post on the history of the Church's various names over the years.  And some of the events that happened in between.  I used large images so the text and dates would be easily readable.

First name:
"The Church of Christ” (Book of Commandments, 1833). Also D&C 20:1 refers to "The Church of Christ".  (The Lectures on faith not included in this version.  The lectures would later be the "Doctrine" portion of the "Doctrine and Covenants)




Second name:
On May 3rd 1834, official action modified the name of the Church. In a priesthood conference presided over by Joseph Smith, a motion passed “by unanimous voice” that the Church be known as “The Church of the Latter Day Saints.” (The Evening and the Morning Star, May 1834, 2:160.)



(Side note) A Kirkland editorial which contained the announcement about the name change explained that the change stemmed from a misleading nickname: the “Mormonite” church. This change would also help distinguish itself from all other American Christians, including Congregationalists and reformers or protestants who also designated themselves as “The Church of Christ". Also since Paul and Peter used the Greek word saint (“a holy person”) to refer to believers in Christ, the term Latter-day Saints implied that Church members were modern followers of Christ. This change was by vote, not by revelation.

Another interesting note is on March of 1836 (D&C 109:79) during the Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer Joseph prayed for the Lord to put His name upon the Church. The request makes sense in light of what you can see and read above.  The dedicatory prayer was itself revelation (see section 109 heading).  So this gives additional insight into how the Lord viewed things.   

79 And also this church, to put upon it thy name. And help us by the power of thy Spirit, that we may mingle our voices with those bright, shining seraphs around thy throne, with acclamations of praise, singing Hosanna to God and the Lamb!

Third name:
Revelation April 26th 1838 D&C 115:4.  “the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”.  No hyphen and capitol D.  See screen shot below of the original revelation.

(https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-26-april-1838-dc-115/2)







An interesting side not here. 3 years after the section 115 revelation, in January 1841 section 124 had this warning about possible rejection as a Church if there was a failure to build the Nauvoo Temple:

31-32 But I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me. But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God.

Joseph Smith and Hyrum were killed 3 years after that in 1844. The 1844 edition of the D&C was close to publication but had not been published at the time of Joseph and Hyrum's death.  Neither had the Nauvoo temple been completed but that's a whole separate topic.  The name of the Church as it appears on the 1844 edition of the D&C matches the revelation from 1838 (section 115)


Fourth name:
1852-1876 "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"  (with hyphen and eventually standardized lower case "d" and upper case "T" on The)



It wasn't until incorporation in 1851 by the legislature of the State of Deseret that the church standardized the spelling of its name to include the hyphen and British-style lower-case "d". In January 1855, the legislature of Utah Territory re-enacted the charter which incorporated the church under this name and spelling. (J. Reuben Clark Law Society, "Law and the Church as an Institution", jrcls.org).

In 1876, the LDS Church issued a new edition of the D&C which contained the current (2019) capitalization and hyphenation of the church's name.  This was a change from the 1838 revelation and the 1844 edition of D&C which you can see above.

Hyphen or no Hyphen? 

This raises the question of why a hyphen needed to be added, and why the D&C revelation in section 115 had to be changed.  Or is all this punctuation just a silly detail that carries zero importance?  I'll share some information and you can decide.   

After Joseph Smith’s death, various Mormon offshoot groups claimed the term “Latter Day Saints.” By 1849, after the exodus to Utah, Church leaders had begun using the name “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” with a small d and a hyphen, to distinguish the Utah-based church from other groups.[linkSince different branches had very different views should they not distinguish themselves?

The question then becomes this:  Who's to say for sure which (future) group the Lord was referring to back in the April 1838 revelation?  Because there were divisions and break off's and competing groups that formed after that revelation.  If we ask which of them the Lord was referring to back in 1838 it would matter a great deal to those groups because the one who's able to claim that would assume added authority and perceived authenticity/approval from God.

One way to potentially solve this dilemma and reinforce a particular groups views would have been to simply go back and alter the punctuation in the revelation (inside the canonized text) to match up with the unique naming designation that group eventually formally adopted.  Thus causing one specific group to appear to always have been the exclusive audience of the revelation.  The larger the group's membership numbers, or wealth, the more justified this action would seem. Each break-off would likely have their own flavor of a “transfiguration of Brigham young” moment to confirm what they hoped for.

On another side note the present-day Church style guide requires the "T" on "The" to be a capitol. Which in some ways is a faith claim to theological superiority: this is “The” church of Jesus Christ.

Divisions, especially religious ones create messes.  No one wants to be wrong especially when the stakes are so high.  It brings up a statement from the Lord in 1831 "I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine." Divisions seem to be the opposite of that.  Even if/when "not the Lord's" I don't think that means he abandons them.  Seems they more just didn't become what he desired.  When each group after Joseph's death claimed to be correct in their own views and positions it goes right back to the dilemma Joseph Smith encountered when the restoration began of which of all the Churches was right, for they can't all be.  To Joseph's surprise he learned none of them were.  But that's a separate tangent.

As an example of Mormon denominations with competing names and why the hyphen matters; the name of the Church without the hyphen is used by a branch of Mormonism known as the Strangites.   https://www.ldsstrangite.com/.  Hence the hyphen to distinguish them. This is reminiscent of the change in 1834 to avoid being seen as or mixed up with other denominations or other Christians.

It would be unusual if Brigham Young didn't attempt to secure the name without the hyphen (seeing as the original revelation didn't have it).  Perhaps there were legalities, trusts, properties, real estate contracts which necessitated a differentiation (since unity was out of the question).  In the same way perhaps as the recent efforts to try and secure various web addresses to replace the Mormon themed URL's.  That effort too has run into trouble with yet other Mormon denominations who already owned some of the desired URL's.  More on that below.

Mormon branches don't like being mixed up with each other.  They often excommunicate each other's members if you switch.  So for some people being associated to the wrong one can be offensive especially if there are emotionally charged differences between them.  But, on a positive and encouraging side note, there is a grass roots effort to bring unity and help find common ground between all the different branches of Mormonism.  See here.

2018 Statements by President Nelson regarding the Name of the Church. 

The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will. In recent weeks, various Church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so. Additional information about this important matter will be made available in the coming months” (Russell M. Nelson, in “The Name of the Church” official statement, Aug. 16, 2018, mormonnewsroom.org).

General Conference address Oct 2018: 

Thus, the name of the Church is not negotiable. When the Savior clearly states what the name of His Church should be and even precedes His declaration with, “Thus shall my church be called,” He is serious. And if we allow nicknames to be used or adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He is offended.

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.  

His reference to the "Church of the Latter-Day Saints" interestingly hearkens back to 1834 when by unanimous vote that actually was the official name of the Church. His strong words echo some of what David Whitmer said in his Address to all believers (page 73).  The point is, the name has changed more than once.  Also interesting is leaders of the church were doing the things mentioned by President Nelson as early as 1834 and really started heavily sponsoring Mormon nicknames in the years leading up to President Nelson's tenure as President.  Such as the worldwide "I am a Mormon" profile campaign, and the "Meet the Mormons" full length feature film. On an interesting side note the terms "Mormon" or "Mormonism" were used positively by Joseph Smith (one example) and President Hinckley.

So to recap, the issue of the Name of the Church was raised yet again in 2018, with another effort to distinguish ("brand differentiation" in 2019 vocabulary), and just like the mid 1830's there is effort to avoid nicknames involving the word Mormon and be different from others.  The Church's 2018 announcement doesn't help explain the past name issues, or draw unity, but instead almost brings additional trouble to the topic in some ways due to closely related references and links to other Mormon denominations.  For example depending on whether you use "the" as part of the Church's name in the current web address it could take you to the wrong Church's site.

https://www.thechurchofjesuschrist.org/    is not the formerly known LDS Church. 
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/         is the formerly known LDS Church. 

The top link is a break off Church from Joseph Smith but is a separate break off from the Strangite branch linked earlier.  On a side note there have been upwards of 80 different sects of Mormonism of various sizes link, the largest of course is the one with headquarters in Salt Lake City. 

Deciding on and then using the correct name of the Church as a large corporation in 2019 is more complex than I would have originally thought.  The Church's legal corporate entity has yet a different name than anything discussed here. "The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints".  It's unclear if that name will undergo a change as a result of President Nelson's announcement.  The things we do know are going to change ranges from choirs, to building/college names, websites, published materials, and then the issue of historical documents and archival names and references that will seemingly always carry things like "LDS" on them.  The potential scope is enormous.  But that is beyond the scope here. 

Christ's Words in the Book of Mormon about the Name of the Church. 

In addition to what you read above, a couple thousand years ago the name of the Church was similarly accompanied with issues.  Jesus's disciples in the Americas asked the Lord about it because there had been disputations among the people about the name of the Church.  This topic is recurring it seems, across generation and time.   

Of the Name of the Church Christ responded to the disciples:  (3 Nephi 27)

And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel. 
His statement is crystal clear.  So what then does this mean for the "Of latter-day Saints" part of the name?  Is it partly Christ's Church and partly the church of the people called Saints?  Food for thought.

There's also that "if" at the end. "If it so be that they are built upon my gospel".  Getting the name of Jesus Christ in the Church name of course is no guarantee that it's built upon His gospel.  The way to begin to measure or asses how in line the church is with that part of the statement is addressed by Christ in his next statement:

And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.  

It was curious to me that this portion (the "if") of Christ's statement was absent from the 2018-2019 talk of the Name of the Church, as well as missing from President Nelson's conference talk which oddly quoted all of the verse from 3rd Nephi 27:7-8 but leaves off the "if" part of the sentence.

But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return

The difference in fulfilling the "if" is the difference between being hewn down and cast into the fire vs the works of the Father being shown in it.  At some point it will be very obvious whether a Church did or did not fulfill the contingency.  But by then it might be too late, and pretty fiery hot.

The expected presumption by any active member will be that the Church of course "must" already be built of Christ's gospel.  I mean look how big it is, look at the growth rates, the enromous financial wealth, look at all the scriptural titles we have for top leaders in the Church.  Silly or heretical to even question whether it's built on Christ's Gospel, right?  According to scripture the name of the Church is only indicative of something if the church is also built upon Christ's Gospel. And we have Christ telling us that if the "if" clause is met, the Father will show forth His own works in it. Not our own works, not our architectural wonders, not a Church built city in Florida, but the Father's own works.  What works are those I wonder?

But to wrap up, when you read President Nelson's remarks above about using the correct (post 1850 technically) name of the Church hopefully this background is both helpful and interesting.    

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Prune dig dung and nourish

NC Jacob 3:25
Wherefore, let us go to and labor with our mights this last time; for behold, the end draweth nigh, and this is for the last time that I shall prune my vineyard. Graft in the branches. Begin at the last, that they may be first and that the first may be last; and dig about the trees, both old and young, the first and the last, and the last and the first, that all may be nourished once again for the last time. Wherefore, dig about them, and prune them, and dung them once more for the last time, for the end draweth nigh. And if it so be that these last grafts shall grow and bring forth the natural fruit, then shall ye prepare the way for them that they may grow. And as they begin to grow, ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof.
Growing up I almost always associated this allegory in the Book of Mormon with geography and the various parts of the earth.  But I like thinking of it in terms of demographics as well.  It adds more insight to think in terms of God planting his word among various people, not just geography.  Some people/cultures are better spots of ground, or more humble welcoming of God's word than others.

Anyway, the allegory mentions something the Lord does on various occasions to save the trees and encourage them to bear fruit.  Dig about them.  Prune them. Dung them. Nourish them.  These efforts to bring fruit are no guarantee of fruit though.  They encourage repentance but whether or not repentance happens is left to the tree.  "If it so be" the allegory says.  The big IF.  It's up to the tree to respond.  God doesn't force.  Force tends to produce bitter fruit. 

This isn't the first time trees and the vineyard has been dug about, pruned, and dunged in this allegory.  Some of them are in the past, so I wanted to take a look at those. When the Lord or servants dig, prune and dung, what does that look like in the lives of the people?  The Tree in the allegory represents a family.  One God is trying to preserve.

The digging and pruning back with ancient Israel was probably traumatic to them.  Invasions, scattering, wars, loss of political identity, loss of traditions, loss of deeply held religious beliefs or hope, loss of knowledge of God or their heritage. From their point of view the digging and dunging was probably like all hell breaking loose.  Same could be said of the other areas of the vineyard we know about that experienced God's gardening efforts. Some repent, some don't.  What else happened with the people we know about in scripture that we could connect with acts of digging and dunging by God?  What about from the perspective of the individuals, what could these acts of vineyard gardening look like?

Digging

Digging implies going underneath the surface.  Likely intended to soften up the ground so it's not hard.  Soft ground is critical in both a literal gardening sense, as well as in an allegorical sense according to numerous other scriptures that deal with agriculture and tree growth.  Alma's seed analogy for example.  Or the parable of the sower for another example.  Hard ground doesn't work.

On an individual level "digging about the tree" might relate to softening up the ground of a persons heart and or mind. Our hearts and minds according to scripture are best when soft and open.  But like ground, it can get hard, stale, dry and barren.  Hence the digging.  It's anyone's guess what that would look like to any particular individual.  But surely some event, some relationship, some thing with a child or something unique to them or their surroundings will soften up the ground of a persons heart or mind.  What seems painful to them is however necessary from God's point of view.  The ground has to be soft or the tree is doomed.  So it makes sense he digs about it.  The pain of that is nothing compared to the alternative.

What about on a large scale?  What would digging look like for a group of people or nation?  Food for thought.

Pruning

Pruning is pretty obvious, it's removing parts of the branch so the other areas can grow.  Proper pruning creates a healthier tree with better fruit.  Trees last longer too, and do better against the elements if pruned.  The tree probably doesn't like it though.  Probably hurts.  So for a person, pruning might look like cutting away bad ideas, false traditions, false beliefs, foolishness, errant behaviors, stubbornness etc etc..   so that charity, forgiveness, and godliness could potentially grow in its place.  It's only potential though.  The person/people get to respond.  This stuff may be traumatic to the person.  Removing false beliefs may not come easily.  Removing ungodly behaviors or habits will likely involve some difficulty, and the person may find it devastating to their pride.  What about on a large scale?  Pruning suggests cutting off.  What would that look like?

Dunging

What about dunging?  In our vocabulary this is literally adding "crap" to the situation.  Fertilizer provides nourishment and livens up the ground which may otherwise be stale or dead or lacking needed nutrients to support the tree.  If the tree would otherwise perish, isn't this kind of God to do?  What once was "waste" now becomes the means of providing growth, nourishment and nutrients.  God is not only kind, but brilliant.  Nothing goes to waste, even the waste itself.

Doesn't always smell good though.  No one likes having crap added to their lives.  But I have to admit when I read scripture that this has a positive intent to save the tree and give it what is needed.  Otherwise the tree can't produce fruit.  Or worse it may not survive at all.  It's something the Lord does on at least 3 occasions in this allegory.  It's designed to help the tree become fruitful.  Which in this allegory means to have living children of God on the earth with a connection to the Fathers in Heaven.  I wonder what dunging look like on a large scale?  Large scale challenges, problems, setbacks, influx of bad smelling elements.  But they enliven the ground and make possible a different future.

Nourishment.  The Good word of God is nourishing to the soul.  Jacob mentions this in his teachings.  God gives His word to nourish us.  If we will receive it.  We too are to nourish the seed of God's word with "great care" "dilligence" and "patience" according to Alma.  Then this from Nephi:
NC 1 Nephi 5:12 And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God, he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide ways and means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them.
The need for constant nourishment to both body and soul is symbolized in religious ceremony and we all also have a physical reminder on our belly.  The body makes the need for food apparent if you don't feed it.  Having recently had newborns, watching the nourishment coming from their mother is especially noteworthy.  Nourishment is vital.  We all need to be nourished.  The soul may hunger and thirst in a different way than the physical body that's more easily dismissed or neglected.  Of note here is God offering to gather his people as a hen gathereth her chicks under her wing, and nourishes them.

NC 3rd Nephi 4:9
And it came to pass that there came a voice again unto the people, and all the people did hear and did witness of it, saying, O ye people of these great cities which have fallen, who are descendants of Jacob, yea, who are of the house of Israel, O ye people of the house of Israel, how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you.
Where we find ourselves in 2019 inside this allegory is really really interesting.  It's up to us to produce fruit.  I hope we do.  I hope I do.  I do not find God's acts always pleasant or immediately understandable or without challenge and pain.  But the scriptures do in fact show that they come from a kind God who lovingly takes care of His vineyard.  To those in the heat of the moment it's possible everything looks all wrong at times. But scriptures and especially this allegory portray the Lord as someone worthy of our adoration.  The character displayed by the Lord is humbling.  That's something I want to place faith in.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

"We don't know"

I've heard the phrase "we don't know" a number of times this week.

Some things are not fully known or are lost to history.  That's not what I'm getting at here.  For this post I’m referring to the use of the phrase regarding some Gospel or doctrine or religious topic where "We don't know" actually means "It's impossible to know" "Don't pretend to know" "Anyone who does think they know is wrong or lying" "It's out of the realm of possibility to ever know".  “Because I’ve never heard it, no one must know”.  It's an insistent ignorance and refusal to investigate.  This phrase also carries the implication in some circles that no LDS General Authority has spoken of the topic and therefore, "we don't know". 

Saying "we" don't know gives the absence of understanding a certain sense of authority by speaking for some undisclosed and unnumbered collective group.  It implies the speaker's experience sufficiently vast that since they don't know, no one must. It's as if "we" sometimes refers to all of humanity.  "We" don't know about X Y Z.  "We'll have to wait until the afterlife to know about X Y Z".   And yet there may be hundreds of people who know additional information about that thing.  In one sense acknowledging you don't know something is the first step towards leaning more about that thing.  But that depends on what the person does next. 

The phrase is one of those conversion stopping, mind stopping phrases. It stops the search.  It puts things out of limit.  It prevents someone from learning what information IS available to know about the topic.  It put a stop to an otherwise enjoyable conversation earlier this week and I found that very unfortunate.  Rather than a childlike attitude of asking questions, seeking, asking, or knocking, or simply reasoning through something, or some doctrine "we don't know" is more like a declaration that our minds are shut.  Any conversation after such a declaration therefore gets firmly labeled as speculation.  

"I don't know" is a different phrase.  It suggests the knowledge may exist, but the person may just not yet have learned or be familiar with it yet.  When my kids use the phrase "I don't know" it's often followed by a question.  Once they become aware they don't know something, they instinctively begin to build their understanding.  Unless I've failed as a parent and made them feel dumb or ashamed for not knowing.  That's on me.  Their little attention span may be short, but their child instinct is one I find admirable.  To an adult it seems like it's safer and a more "respectable" position to pronounce that "we don't know" rather than risk looking uninformed or uneducated.  But it also stops the inquiry and doesn't promote seeking, or gaining the understanding.  It's a lazy phrase.  In some ways it's anti-knowledge because it's already declared that the knowledge isn't had or is unavailable when neither may be true.   

Making knowledge or declaring knowledge unavailable seems like an unintelligent idea.  Christ's teaching to "Become as a little Child" in my experience is perhaps the most overlooked and neglected portion of Christ's Doctrine.  Hard for me to not see that one blessing of children is that God has given an in-your-face constant pestering reminder of some of the attributes taught in scripture.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Seeing Perfection

Had a moment of "perfect" the other day.  It wasn't anything out of the ordinary and nothing that would have drawn any interest from anyone else.  But for me it was a moment that didn't have anything about it I would have changed even if I could have.

The details are not important and might only be distracting so I don't share hardly any.  Basically I was chatting with my wife after our kids had gone to sleep.  The challenges of life, a lot of young kids, two of them having arrived together was weighing on me.  The conversation was full of mutual caring, love, and seemed almost timeless.  She said a few things that created a balance so perfect it brought a slice of heaven into the room.  The way she viewed the world and the way I was viewing the world were very different but when both were side by side the universe came to a momentary balance point so thin had there been any slight distractions it would have passed by unnoticed. 

In that thin slice of perfection it was clear only God could have orchestrated a balance of personality between she and I, and a set of circumstances that allowed His hand to be clearly visible. Only God could bring actual harmony amidst the seeming lack of harmony of life.  I found peace. God's hand seems invisible sometimes but yet we are told in scripture it permeates everything.  I accept that as an accurate description of the hidden reality.  The extraordinary really is in the ordinary.

It was a perfect moment, and in that moment things were perfect. I lack the words to describe it.  I guess it's what an eastern philosophy might say: "There's perfection in the seeming imperfection." I guess like imperfect looking or colored threads can be crafted into a beautiful tapestry.  And I'm not talking about anything cheesy or sentimental.  It's instead substance, it's intelligence, it's light.  It’s love unlike anything else.  But I'm not able to express it.

No wonder God warns against idolatry.  It's in our best interest not to do that stuff but instead find and follow Him and His voice wherever found.

The intelligence and love reflected in that slice of perfection was humbling.  If that's a slice of heaven then no wonder mankind and scripture speak of it as a place of love and intelligence far beyond anything we find here on this earth.  And yet, a portion can enter this world.  That moment was proof.  At least for me.

In that perfect moment I had to admit that it has not been God who has failed to furnish evidence or answers.  It has been me that failed to see them, unable to see His perfection amidst the imperfection.

I stand all amazed.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

How the Scriptures lived (Journal Entry)

Journal entry.

The past few weeks have involved some deep dives into scriptures.  Connecting scripture to other scripture and attempting to identify what even qualifies as scripture, and various ways to tell.

In that search I found some real gems of understanding.  Something I noticed when going through a bunch of scriptures a few posts ago about the heart and understanding, is there's a degree of cohesion within our scriptures. They all seem to work together and have numerous interrelated connections to help us form a picture. It's as if all the authors shared some sort of underlying understanding.  It's one they seem to want the readers to see too.

When the A&C (herehere)  first came out there was a question involved asking if the hearer believed and knew the content came from God. Believing is one thing, knowing is another.  The question included both. 

Knowledge for me does not always come overnight. At the time, (Sept 2017) I recognized a good seed and had a conviction and swelling motions in my heart from studying it.  So I knew the seed was good to the best of my limited understanding and capability.  Not a mature plant, but a sprouting seedling that brought light.  It's taken some time, experience, and careful pondering and comparison to other scriptures to begin to gather evidence for my mind.  And there are a lot of possible comparisons one can make.  It's still a work in progress.

If I were asked "Why is ____ scripture to you?" I want to be able to answer that with knowledge and understanding, not just  "Because I feel _____". 

How easily are feelings manipulated? Or how often do the feelings we like not stay forever even though we want them to?  One of the difficulties (at least for me) in Mormonism is that the Holy Ghost is almost universally taught as a feeling a person has. I find that terribly incomplete and often misleading.  It gets too easily confused with sentimentalism and often doesn't edify nor communicate any message other than good feelings.  I've learned instead to take time and effort to look for pure intelligence, light and truth, rather than just feelings alone.

In my experience comprehension and understanding are different in nature and degree from feelings. The sine qua non of the Gospel to me, is not a feeling although growing up I thought it was.  I now view it as an experience, light, truth, comprehension, the Glory of God.  Feelings of course go along with it but I've noticed intelligence endures past when the feelings subside.  There's more lasting fulfillment in the added light.   

My acceptance of traditional LDS scripture as from God originated in my upbringing.  I was just always told the Bible and Book of Mormon were from God as well as the D&C and Pearl of Great Price (but of course only the never-identified parts of the bible translated correctly vs incorrectly). Growing up with a tradition is a far cry and a poor shallow substitute for actual conversion.  Had I been raised in some other culture on the other side of the world I'd likely have just accepted that religion, and that cannon of scripture same as I did my own.  So how then to tell what scripture is actual scripture when it's really difficult to separate out your upbringing and traditions?

For me I had to leave the (geographic region) place where the upbringing and traditions occurred.  Such began my own search.  I suspect we all just accept part of what we grew up with until the soul hungers.  Then, no matter who you are, where you are, or what your traditions are, you begin to search.  I think a person searches differently when that hunger motivates the search rather than something based on religious culture or tradition.     

In some ways being a lifelong member of the LDS church was an advantage, but in some ways a disadvantage.  They tell you to get a testimony of thing they value but when you've always been surrounded by it, that can be somewhat tricky.  You have to distinguish communal feelings from actual Gospel conversion, and distinguish all of that from social pressure, and from cultural pressure to come to the "right" conclusions on all the important topics.  And all that so you can remain in harmony with those of your religious tribe.  They can all get mixed up if you are a life long member.  At least they did for me until age 26.

My parents did a good job of teaching me about scripture.  We always had family night, would usually read scriptures, and my mom made it a point to read the Book of Mormon with me.  I have a deep appreciation for my parents teaching me about scriptures.  Although scriptures remained a bit uninteresting for a lot of years, I sensed there was deep value in them.  People who "loved" scripture came across to me as a special kind of religious "nerd". I remember some seminary teachers or various people who behaved this way.  A religious nerd was below any other form of nerd I could then conceive of.  Some folks I remember would gush at how amazing scripture were and it used to make me say ewww.  It was not appealing.

I read scripture growing up because everyone told me I had/needed to, and often repeated how special they were.  The scriptures seemed to occupy a greater place of importance during General Conference than they do in 2019.  The local leaders at various times had me do these youth scripture reading marathons lasting all weekend long so I just did what everyone else did and shared in the communal feelings and post emotional testimony meetings/donuts that always seemed to follow. “Getting through" the scriptures, memorizing out of context verses, and getting a testimony quickly always seemed to be a high priority from my LDS local leaders and young men's leaders.  Comprehension and application were usually limited to a strictly LDS context.

So my relationship with scripture started off very mixed.  What turned the lights on was a book years ago that a former mission companion called me and told me I had to get.  This former companion had proven his recommendations worthwhile so the sound of a newly published book with a title such as this one had struck me as noteworthy.  I ordered it on Amazon but it got lost in the mail.  The former mission companion followed up a few weeks later wondering what I thought so I had to track down the order and work out getting a new one.

I saw the cover and it was one of those moments where something came with force into my heart.  Never before had I sensed a presence so appealing, nor such a deep respectful, humble intelligence anywhere thus far in my life.  There was no going back. Once I read the content of the book that initial impression while gazing at the cover now had a logical explanation and substance for my mind to lay hold on.  The cover and the book still brings back that same impression.

Anyway, that book talked about Joseph Smith and a lot about the Book of Mormon.  Suddenly things began to change.  The setting in which I found myself reading this book was after having taken what for me was a very large leap of faith to leave Provo Utah, where I was a student at BYU at the time.  I had a prompting to leave the state and move to California.  I had been teaching at the MTC at the time and would often tell the Elder's and Sisters about following promptings from God even if you can't see all the details beforehand.  I had to live the truth I had just dispensed.

The moment came when I had an unmistakable prompting, and despite how crazy it looked I determined that if God could solve 3 overwhelming (to me) obstacles I would go.  God solved my 3 problems, to my satisfaction, so I packed up what would fit in the backseat of the car, dropped my classes, said bye to the Elders and Sisters and set off on a journey.

So it was in that context, out on my own, away from friends, family, and familiarity that I first read this book. Of all the things available to do out on my own this had an appeal that exceeded any of that other stuff.  Once I read the book, and began trying to do what it said now the Book of Mormon was a different book. This one was interesting. Not sure what that other Book of Mormon was growing up but this new one was very different.  This one had application to my life and church that was intriguing.  Things began to happen to me and inside of me.  It brought unmistakable never before seen fruit into my life.  It opened my eyes and heart and ears and taught me about God. God really does speak to people.  This was all post mission, after having grown up in the Church and having read the book 3-4 times already but having gained little from it all those years.

The Book of Mormon didn't stay permanently in the new light. I found a lot of difficulty in slipping back into previous dull, lifeless readings of the Book of Mormon.  But it came to life enough that I knew I had to work to preserve the new life I saw it had.  Traditions are sometimes hard to get rid of.

Looking back, many of the same folks who used to gush over scriptures still do, and curiously it still rubs me wrong.  When I engage them on a discussion of meaning or application they are often not interested.  They seem to default to "instructor" mode and insist on teaching rather than discussing.  Not tolerating anything other than what they say is the correct and singular meaning.  "End of discussion" kind of thing.  This dynamic has puzzled me for a long time. Someone can love something so much, even memorize extensive passages, but not enjoy a discussion or application of them or want to consider alternate meanings.  Especially if any suggestion goes contrary to the religious traditions of the day.  It still puzzles me.  But that's an aside.

This new "testimony" was almost a stark contrast to anything I had previously thought about the book.  And so too was the stark contrast in the reactions I'd get from people if I talked much about it.  I got accused of "wresting" the scriptures one time after trying to engage someone close to me about a few scriptural passages.  That rattled me pretty bad.  I remember the scene with clarity.  I was so excited about the new light and understanding but the people I most expected to welcome it, to my surprise did the opposite.  Part of this has likely been my approach. So I've had to really rethink what scriptures mean to others and how to speak about such things in a way that matches the message found inside the scriptures themselves.

I’ve come across folks who wanted to discredit the Book of Mormon or talk about the lack of historical evidence.  That however never bothered me as it never felt personal. It seems like God's problem to explain such things.  It's His book after all.  It was His gift that provided the translation.

In all of this I don't know how someone can understand scriptures without adopting the mind of a student and a learner, regardless of their age or years of experience in religion.  There is so much to learn.  History, context, meaning, culture, doctrine.  The Gospel isn't a fluffy fairy-tale soundbite that fits into a meme.  I hope in the next 10 years to understand substantially more than I do now.  It seems pretty clear that to have the Gospel be part of you, one needs to become as a little child and constantly seek light and truth.  There's no time to loose.  If we can get more light and truth in this life, we're taught it will rise with us into the next.

The scriptures came alive as God breathed life into them.  I thank God for this and hope to continue to receive the light He offers.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Note: Check Value Before Discarding

Some personal thoughts weighing on me today.  It would be very unusual to discards something you know is valuable.  But far more common to discard something you think is not.

I remember a few horror stories of people who had collected sometimes extremely valuable baseball cards or something like that, and upon returning home from a mission discover that it got thrown out while they were gone. The person discarding the item did not think them valuable and therefore concluded there was nothing to be lost in tossing it.  The stories I've heard were often innocent mistakes due to a degree of ignorance.  Had the person known, they never would have done it.     

On the other end of the spectrum are those TV shows about hoarding. Where someone thinks everything is valuable and therefore is unable, for whatever reason, to part with it. This too is a problem. Holding on to too much of the wrong stuff can destroy a person's life, both physically, emotionally, and socially.   

How are we ever to know if something is valuable if we don't understand it?  It's hard.  Which is why the Gospel invites us to continually seek light and truth from God.  Some things like ceremony, scripture, and ordinances are things we know are valuable even if there is a general lack of understanding about the specifics.  So when those change I believe we should stop and take careful note.

In terms of religion and truth my experience is sometimes when people experience a faith crisis the baby goes out with the bath water.  Or so the saying goes.  When emotions and hurt are high, it's more difficult to stop and consider what ought be discarded and what definitely shouldn't.  In that stressful state a person is very vulnerable to accepting false whispers about how the entire basis for faith, scripture, God, etc etc was all wrong or was a deception and that's when truth can get tossed.

People can loose faith not just in their tradition, but faith in God all together as they sort through the disorientation. The bad taste can be so bad its ruinous to the person’s life. There is great risk discarding things of value if we don't stop and gain our bearings when confronted by something like this.

I've seen a few moments of regret on peoples faces who inadvertently tossed too much.  Thankfully we can all repent and accept truth, so there's hope.  But it's just not good when truth is discarded.  It can be far more costly than some baseball cards. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about acquiring truth, preserving it, and helping it endure, never discarding it under the guise of revelation.

This was on my mind today after contemplating recent temple changes the LDS church has made.  It reminded me of a lesson I want to remember. Which is to check the value of something before discarding it. Just because you don't know the value of something does not mean it has none.  And because someone you view as having authority implies something has no value doesn't mean it really has none.  How many very valuable items sit rotting in a landfill somewhere because someone asked someone else if it was valuable and was told no?  Then that was the end of it.  It's often impossible to recover at that point. 

As most people know the LDS church recently discarded a number of things from the temple ceremony.  I've not attended to see for myself, I'm only going off validated reports. It's my understanding no explanation was given for the removals.  Things were simply changed and things removed.  Some common assumptions attending this is that the things discarded had little value, or were sufficiently pointless, out of date, or redundant so as to be removed without explanation.

Participants are asked not to discuss the changes and that restriction now extends to not discussing the ordinances at all.  So since no discussion should take place regarding it, it keeps people in a state of perpetual ignorance with only distractions offered to pacify.

It's a good reminder to check value before you discard something.  Even if religion discards things that had value, we individually don’t need to.  After enough discarding a lot of people may get fed up with it and then the risk of everything getting tossed grows. So people will need a place to land. A place that preserved truth.  I hope to work towards such a place.  Where truth is valued and understanding sought for.

I think Joseph Smith spoke with Godly wisdom and intelligence when he said time and experience and careful solemn and ponderous thoughts are how to find out the things of God. Once you find it out, it then takes effort to preserve it as it gets sometimes aggressively discarded by those who have lost any view of it's value.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Tea and Coffee

Last week at a holiday party family was discussing and speculating on changes the LDS church could make in light of President Nelson's recent comments.  Some of the forecasts turned out to be fairly close.  Just in the last day or two LDS Church makes quite a number of changes to the Temple Ceremony.  Link.

Some changes aren't overly difficult to predict as very often you can get an idea based on what social, political, legal, and economic pressure is being applied to the Church.  Gender equality, Women's issues, sexism, abuse etc... have been a big one in recent years (Ordain Women #Metoo)  and now the temple ceremony has changed. 

Below are a few screenshots from the LDS Church handbook 2 regarding the Word of Wisdom including the official interpretation of Hot drinks as Tea and Coffee.  And just below are some interesting clips missionary manuals.  Investigators MUST obey this before and after baptism.


The 1988 Missionary training manual had the below question as part of the baptismal interview questions on pages 234-235:  link.  Screenshot below because who knows how long links stay alive.

"g. What is your understanding of the Word of Wisdom? Will you live 
this law by abstaining from tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco [or other 
harmful drugs]? 

That part about tea, coffee is no longer present in the current day baptism interview questions. Distance from tea and coffee started a long time ago.  And that distance may grow. 

There was an interesting poll reported on by the SLTRIB.  More than a thousand Mormons, millennials differed from their parents' generation about the nature of Word of Wisdom obedience.

More than 75% of baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1964) and the older, so-called silent generation viewed not drinking alcohol as essential to being "a good Mormon," while 40 percent of millennials (1980 and 1998) saw it that way.  Here come the millenials.

As to how tea and coffee affect being a good Mormon, both numbers were lower and the gap was closer — 51 percent of boomers/silents vs. 31 percent for millennials.

Members of Generation X (1965 and 1979) fall between the boomers/silents on whether no alcohol is essential — 51 percent. On coffee and tea abstinence, respondents in this category came in similar to millennials — 31.8 percent.

So, only 31.8 % of younger folks think coffee and tea abstinence as essential to being a good Mormon and 51% of the older folks.  The season appears to be approaching for a change.  Unless the Church wants to loose the next generation, they are going to have to be more tolerant.

For a number of years, the "hot drinks" was about the caffeine. Caffeine surely was the culprit.  Or so thought many Church leaders.  Which is why BYU didn't carry caffeinated beverages for a number of years.  But during Mitt Romney’s 2012 U.S. presidential campaign the LDS church issued a statement that “the revelation spelling out health practices … does not mention the use of caffeine”. 

The revelation also doesn't mention tea and coffee.  So if that is the logic then it paves the way for other changes.  Perhaps "hot" drinks really always did mean "hot" as in temperature. The World Health Organization would support that. Link.  Years after that statement in 2012, finally in 2017 BYU did start selling caffeinated beverages.  It just takes time for the prior traditions to end and new ones to form.  The question is, have enough years passed on the tea and coffee and is there a Church president willing to change things up?

If you live in South America this is a big deal.  Having lived there for 2 years I know their Mate is a big deal and various varieties of it get regional approval as it would be very hard to restrict them from something vital to their culture.  I can only imagine the difficulties Europe and Asia have with tea.  Trying to figure out which tea is ok and which isn't is very complicated as no one knows whether it's the caffeine or some other substance, stimulant, or addictive property that has never been specified by the Church.

All this just makes the official interpretations look very out of date and almost uninspired.  "Hot" apparently didn't mean temperature over the past century, and it wasn't about caffeine, so what is it??  When there's no reasonable answer to give millenials, at some point that will result in more and more pressure to explain things or else change the policy.  Church spokesmen need only hint at words like "revelation" it could change without resistance. 

Therefore, I suspect the Church will distance itself from rigid tea and coffee restrictions or be more tolerant. The focus could easily shift to overall health and consuming things that are good for you. Moderation. Imagine a President of the Church who's also an MD re focusing the Word of Wisdom on overall health and wellness and slowly discarding the tea and coffee thing. Seems not only fitting but plausible.

Many members avoid tea and coffee but ignore other parts of the Word of Wisdom.  The Church has to be well aware of this lopsided interpretation that’s all too common and stems from the church’s own lopsided focus.  It prevents obtaining a temple recommend but quickly starts to look odd when given some thought.  Many millennials have no issue with an Iced Coffee since it clearly isn't a "Hot" drink.

Then we have the energy drink industry, and the monster drinks the younger generations are into which in some cases have effects more detrimental to the body than coffee not to mention the folks who self admit to being addicted to various sodas (or broadly "coke" if you live in the south).  Both tea and coffee are not all that far removed from their respective plants and herbs found on earth. Unlike some of the other man engineered substances which plague people in our day.  But back to the tea and coffee as the official interpretation of hot drinks.  The early interpretations don't really fit for a global Church model they are headed towards.  They make even less sense when we look at the history of Mormon Pioneers bringing tea and coffee with them across the plains.

Based on recent changes made by the LDS church, one trend is to take what a good chunk of members are already doing and paint a target around that thing. (Guys will understand this if they stop to consider their own "home teaching" practices and how well the new ministering program conveniently puts a bulls-eye on what most males were already doing such as once in a while visits, stop and chat in the street etc etc..)  Putting a target on what people were already doing seems to ensure a good response to the initiative.  Guess we'll see if that pattern continues. I haven't talked with anyone with any inside information, nor heard rumors of possible future changes.  These are just my own musings.

I give it a few short years and the below may no longer be found in handbook 2, nor be grounds to prevent someone from obtaining a temple recommend.  It may just slowly slip away.  But who knows.  What I do know is you'll get a very puzzled look from pretty much any LDS ward member if you ask them whether or not the Word of Wisdom is a commandment.

If the person happens to have read the first verses of section 89 that say it's "Not by way of commandment" asking them when it changed from a greeting to a commandment will get an even more puzzled look.  Therefore, it just seems perfectly situated to undergo a modern change.  Only a matter of time.  At minimum we should see an increased tolerance of coffee and tea consumption since the millennial are already doing that, and they will eventually fill leadership positions.

This would certainly increase popularity.  It would almost light up the Church with a certain buzz.  With so much changing so fast, it makes it seem like just about anything could change.  I don't really care one way or the other on this as I'm not a coffee fan.  But I'm interested in what changes inside Mormonism and why.

Handbook 2:

21.3.11

Word of Wisdom

The only official interpretation of “hot drinks” (D&C 89:9) in the Word of Wisdom is the statement made by early Church leaders that the term “hot drinks” means tea and coffee.
Members should not use any substance that contains illegal drugs. Nor should members use harmful or habit-forming substances except under the care of a competent physician.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Millenials (Journal Entry 12/31/18)

Journal Entry 12/31/18

Elder's Quorum this week spent a good portion of the time discussing how to talk to Millennials about God, Church, the Gospel and religion.  In context of how to deal with doubts and questions.

One class member cited an interesting study that indicated Millennial age folks are more likely to self identify as "spiritual" but are less interested in formal organized religion.  This was concerning to the Elder's Quorum.  Many people wondered and asked out loud more than once if this was a good or bad thing. No one knew, or if they did, they didn't volunteer anything.

The lesson was based on a recent general conference talk and the instructor summed it up by saying that we should not go about addressing our doubts and questions from a place of doubt first, but begin with our belief first.

I sat and puzzled over that because it didn't make a lot of sense.  Believe what first?  What are you supposed to believe first when you have a question?  It seemed to be getting at an attitude one should maintain when confronting doubts.  Which is fine. But that would have been easy enough to say.  Instead it was about believing in some vague nothingness which didn't address anything nor produce answers to peoples questions or doubts.  It almost seems like it just covers them up by painting a pretty attitude around it.  Telling someone who has a question or doubt to simply have a better attitude or "believe first" bypasses the main issue and makes the questions seem less legitimate.  Shouldn’t we instead teach how to reason?  How to know when we’ve arrived at the right conclusion?

I was even more puzzled by the discussion taking place about that conference talk.  More than a few quorum members said things like "Just have faith if you don't know the answer" and "believe first, don't doubt first" and if you have doubts or questions "just remember what you already know"  "Remember what you felt when....."  "Don't think you can be spiritual without all the formalities of organized religion".   One member said the great lie was that you can be spiritual without the formalities of religion.

Those are as close as I can remember to actual comments made.  These answers were extremely disturbing to me because they all carried an underlying message of "don't think".  Having the right attitude was held in high importance as well as feeling the right things.  There was no mention of actually putting forth effort to study and research and gain knowledge and understanding so as to answer questions that arise.  There is fear about doing that.  Thus there is a downplaying of thinking because when you think or encounter contradictory information there's fear of some big bad black hole you'll fall into.  These are the attitudes that are forming because of what we are taught by our leaders.  There is fear of the internet even if what a person finds is accurate.  We shouldn't fear the truth.

I saw a quote the other day and don't know who to attribute it to but I liked it.
When an honest man discovers that he is mistaken he can either cease to be mistaken or he can cease to be an honest man.   
When members of the Church don't know the answer to something, or discovers new information it doesn't seem to be a welcomed experience.  If their Millenial children or acquaintances come upon new or troubling stuff the overwhelming answer in class boiled down to some degree of not thinking.  Don't investigate.  Don't look at any unapproved source, and if the approved source doesn't have the answer, postpone the question and just trust until "God reveals the answer".  This is mind numbing.   No one will have any understanding or be interested in gaining any if this is what we teach.  The scriptures on the other hand have answers and encourage us to seek, ask, and knock and to utilize reasoning.

These are intelligent and successful men in the quorum meeting.  In their respective areas of professionalism these types of answers would not be tolerated.  They would put forth effort and study and reasoning to figure out the issue.  But when the topic is religion, there is a weird tendency to shut off and not think and trust some other person to do your thinking for you and then tell you what is right and wrong.  It's surprising how you can take the same group of people put them in a different setting with a different topic and they would not behave this way.
     
I offered a comment in class that no one in the room was going to be able to help someone answer a question they themselves do not know the answer to and refuse to investigate.  Millenials are less likely to accept "doubt your doubts" shallow responses to their legitimate questions about what is happening inside the LDS church, it's history, practices, policies and general state in 2018.  Especially with all that is accessible on the internet.

 Telling younger folks not to think or only look at certain sources is going to set off red flags.  The younger generation is seeing holes and gaps in the reality that many life long members have never questioned most facets to their religion or never had any mental incongruity about anything.  That doesn’t command any respect.  It doesn't cause anyone to want to emulate that.  It comes across as naive.  Due to never having thought about important religious topics because they were taught not to, or were taught that they should just have faith and follow the prophet.  The younger generation does not see this as noble, or appealing.  It sounds downright stupid to many of them

The only response to the comment was a question to the rest of the group about how many millennials were in the room.  I was the closest there was, but kept that to myself.  Unfortunately the class continued on the direction that we need to just believe first (because that's what the conference talk said to do).  Being a Gen X, I feel like I see both sides.  Both generations are confronting harsh reality from different points of view.  For one group it will be that they know sometimes little about the Gospel but are really good at obeying their leaders.  They cannot answer many questions about any difficult topics because they don't know enough about them to make any comment, and are often encouraged to just believe instead of think.  So, as would be expected they have little knowledge, understanding, or practice reasoning on such things.

The other younger group is confronting a host of issues that the older generation is hesitant to answer.  They are good with the internet but need to remember that not all topics of importance can be explained or understood in a sound bite facebook length video or meme.  They have been fed sentimentalism which won't hold up.  It takes sometimes time and experience and careful and ponderous thoughts to find out the things of God.  Not just swiping.  For younger folks religion sometimes offers little appeal and too little substance to put faith in.  Why have faith in religion that is seemingly so easily debunked on google?  The older folks are facing the hard truth that what they've been taught is often full of falsehoods, but it's scary to investigate because look at what happens to some folks when they do?  So both face different challenges.

It was a concerning experience today.  I'm almost glad this type of thing is now only going to happen every other week at Church.  Not thinking is not an intelligent solution, especially in matters of God and the Gospel since the glory of God is intelligence.  No matter how pretty you make it sound to not think, it's still stupid.

The younger generation is going to change the future of the LDS church for sure.  Facts are going to change the LDS church.  The truth is going to change the LDS church.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Vitamins and Church

During a holiday family get together recently the topic of Church and religion came up. One person quoted President Nelson as saying "Wait till next year, and then the next year," "Eat your vitamin pills. Get some rest. It's going to be exciting." "If you think the Church has been fully restored, you're just seeing the beginning"

That led to a discussion about the many recent changes the LDS church has made. Including but not limited to:
-Cutting ties with the BSA
-2 hour church block
-Reorganized Elder's Quorum
-Switching to an alternating Women's and Priesthood General Conference Sessions every 6 months.  
-Sister Missionaries able to wear pants
-Church policies regarding children of Gay parents. 
-Home/Visiting Teaching replaced by the new "Ministering" program.
-Home Centered, Church Supported Sunday School to take place starting 2019. 

After a few minutes of discussion the topic changed to predictions for what changes may be coming and trying to anticipate what President Nelson may be referring to.

I sat and pondered on that and wondered if there was anything scriptural on this that would help people (who don't have any inside sources or leaked information) do more than just speculate. So what do the scriptures prophesy we should see in our day?  That seems like a respectable way to look ahead.  Specifically what events, trends, or behaviors are foretold? We know there are various signs of the times mentioned in scripture. So, what signs will Church's exhibit? Below are a few thoughts on that.

But first:

What is “the Church” anyway? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an organization you join by baptism and confirmation. It has doctrines, rules of conduct, traditions, and social norms. You can withdraw membership via excommunication or resignation. Church in the Greek is: ekklesia, “an assembly of those who have been called out.” So in reality Church is the people, not the organizational structure, leadership, or facilities. But organizational structure, leadership, facilities, rules, and traditions are extremely common things for people to include with their definition of a Church.  The Church and the Gospel are also not the same thing.

D&C 10:67-68 says Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. Membership in this Church depends on repentance and coming unto Christ.  This allows for a lot of  diversity on other aspects.  There are many who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are not part of Christ’s Church.

So, in a general sense what actions and behaviors Churches will exhibit (per scripture) depends on which Church we look at.  Nephi says there are save two churches only. 
1 Nephi 1:14 10 And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth. 11 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.
We can't just look at formal organizations identifiable by names recognized in the public sphere or on tax forms. We think of Presbyterians, or Catholics, or Mormons etc. etc. But as we've covered the "Churches" Nephi describes are not defined that way.  The Church of the Devil would include any assembly or association of people bound together by their loyalty to that which is contrary to God. Could include any number of formal Churches or belief systems. So even though it's easier and more convenient to look at organizations, we should instead look for fruits. Perhaps most importantly our own fruits.

I thought a while on what signs or fruits the true Church of the Lamb of God will exhibit and what signs the other Church will exhibit.  

Great and Abominable Church

The Church of the Devil is "that great Church" the mother of abominations/whore of all the earth.

Abominations involve religious justification of wrongdoing. Something becomes "abominable" when it is motivated out of a false form of religious observance, or is justified because of religious error.  This Church does this and is the mother of this kind of thing. 

Jacob comments broadly on who belongs to the Church of the Devil.
2 Nephi 10:16: “He that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish; for they are they who are the whore of all the earth; for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God.
Another interesting verse is 1 Nephi 13:26.
26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
So what interests does this Church have?  And what tends, and behaviors might we expect to see from it?  If we only use scripture here's some relevant verses.  

1 Nephi 22:23
23 For the time speedily shall come that all churches which are built up to get gain, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble; and this is according to the words of the prophet.
Alma 1:3.  There once was a guy named Nehor
3 And he had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people.
3 Nephi 27:11
11 But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.
A season of success and joy built upon the works of men is predicted by scripture.  It needs to look and feel joyous for a season or else it doesn't fit what is foretold by Christ.  The deception doesn't deceive if there's no success for a season.

1 Nephi 13 5-9
5 And the angel said unto me: Behold the formation of a church which is most abominable above all other churches, which slayeth the saints of God, yea, and tortureth them and bindeth them down, and yoketh them with a yoke of iron, and bringeth them down into captivity.  6 And it came to pass that I beheld this great and abominable church; and I saw the devil that he was the founder of it.  7 And I also saw gold, and silver, and silks, and scarlets, and fine-twined linen, and all manner of precious clothing; and I saw many harlots.  8 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church.  9 And also for the praise of the world do they destroy the saints of God, and bring them down into captivity.
Ok with those scriptures in mind here's a few things this great false and abominable Church will exhibit:

-Fights against Zion
-Built up to get gain.
-Built up to get power over the flesh. 
-Built up to become popular in the eyes of the world.
-Seek after the lusts of the flesh.
-Seek after the things of the world.
-All manner of iniquity.
-Priests (those claiming religious authority) and teachers ought be supported by the people.
-They have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. (1 Nephi 13:26)

A few personal thoughts on some of these items.  These verses are perspectives of a prophet, informed by a vision from God.  Other people may look at the same set of modern events Nephi saw and not see them in the same light at all.  They would have a completely different perspective and interpretation.  What is normal to us in 2018 may look like absolute madness and depravity from heaven's view.  So I want to try and see what Nephi sees from his perspective.  Otherwise we're just reading our own perspective onto the scriptures and that's not going to help anyone. 

Built up to get gain. Gain would include money, property, power, and authority, religious, political and social.  But this agenda is not likely going to be something the Church of the Devil broadcasts to the public.  But it will be visible by the fruits.  Who do you suppose they will take advantage of or utilize to build this up?  In our society money and power go together.  So the more money you have the more power you can wield.  Safe to say the Church of the Devil will likely be dealing in plenty of wealth, since that is what they seek after.  

Built up to get power over the flesh.  This seems like dominion.  Meaning you can control or heavily influence lots of people, their beliefs and actions.  Political, social, religious.   Also not something this Church is likely to advertise or view in the same light Nephi would.  If you seek power over the flesh you'd need to claim or behave as if you had all power on heaven and earth.  Maybe even a portion of God's power.  Then you'd need to exercise that power over people.   

Seeking popularity and praise of the world.  Again, this is Nephi's perspective.  The Church of the Devil is not going to share his perspective of their motive.  Count on this Church having and promoting a very different interpretation of their actions.  Praise and popularity are mentioned various times.  Seems to merit some thought.  If you wanted to be popular in the eyes of the world what would you do?  Maybe you'd find out what's popular through surveys, taking the results of those surveys and then implementing them in a way that appeals to popular opinion.  The changing opinion of the public would be a higher priority than the truth.

The Church of the Devil is said by Nephi to sit upon many waters.  An interesting symbol.  What sits on water?  A boat or ship.  Constantly rocking back and forth. Ebbing and flowing, ever changing.  An interesting foundation to sit on.  As opposed to God who does not change.  Christ is the Rock.  We are to build on the rock, not build upon water.  Food for thought. 

If you wanted to be popular you'd do what popular people do, right?  What do famous stars and celebrities do?  They travel the world, put on tours, play music, and draw crowds of tens of thousands. They meet with high profile people, go to expensive dinners, and get awards.  If you seek popularity, you'd need to get massive stadiums to enforce the perception of just how popular you are.  Very large crowds are part of popularity.

If you want power and popularity you'll need to be noticed.  You'll need professional advisers to make sure you are bold at just the right time and in just the right way so as to not loose your popularity in the eyes of older generations while still capturing and appealing to the younger generation. If you want popularity you'll need to be in the news a lot.  You'll prob want a PR team to make sure the public image is positive.  Popular people have a big following so that would be expected. You'll probably need to promote and show off big numbers as if that was evidence for authenticity.

More about the Church of the Devil:

-Tortures
-Binds
-Yokes with iron
-Holds captive
-Destroys

Desires of the Church of the Devil:
-Gold, silver, silk and scarlets and fine clothing, precious clothing. 
-Harlots.
-Praise of the world

You have to wonder what Nephi witnessed.  People do hideous things to each other but these are things specifically done to The Saints of God.  Not sure if Nephi is giving them that label or if the people themselves identify as such.  It’s likely indirect persecution but possibly some direct too. In any event, this is a pretty good scriptural list.  Seems like this Church and it's behaviors should be easy to spot.  And yet you don't hear much about this.  Why is that?  If it is ever brought up, the Church of the devil is always some other formally known organization, other than your own of course.  But if the Church of the devil comprises all false beliefs and philosophies then we should look for the behaviors and actions and less of the particular organizations behind them.

Nephi talks about torture, binding and yoking.  How do you torture someone in a religious sense? I don't think Nephi is referring to military type torture although that isn't excluded. Torturing is an action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or to force them to do or say something, or for the pleasure of the person inflicting the pain. Needn't only be physical.

You know what comes to mind when I think of torture in a religious sense? Plural marriage as taught by Brigham Young and some of those after him. I think you needn't look much further than the history of the the LDS church to see examples of torturing people in this manner.  Others may also be involved in this but this is one example.  Teaching that type of plural marriage doctrine is required to live with God forces and binds people into situations they may find abhorrent.  That sounds like torture.

Yoking with Iron.  Yokes go around the neck.  Like someone having you by the throat.  They can do as they please with you because it only requires a little squeezing around your neck for you to pass out.  Making you feel like your life is their hands.  Someone (besides you) is also of course controlling the yoke.   

Holds captive.  To accomplish this you'd need to do things like teach damming doctrine that keeps people captive in a hellish world of unbelief and prevents them from learning and knowing what they need to learn and know to rise up and dwell with God.  That type of thing would keep people captive and is one of the things the Church of the Devil does.  They remove true doctrine (or never bother to learn or preserve it) and replace it with cheap shallow sentiment that keeps people distracted. People likely won't notice this unless they are watching.  The Church of the devil would on doubt portray this behavior as something attractive and praiseworthy.  They destroy peoples chance at learning saving truths because they have exchanged it for popularity.  Or they intentionally remove it from scripture for reasons which they explain as totally understandable and reasonable.

Clothing.  Why on earth are these ancient prophets often warning the latter-day readers so much about clothing and fine apparel?  Who cares what people wear?  Is it a matter of where clothing is made?  Do the poor produce the clothing of the rich?  You bet they do.  Clothing seems to be one of the first cultural ways of separating people out into classes.  If you were the Church of the Devil you'd need to spend considerable time making sure your outwards dress was of highest standards.  They of course don't share Nephi's view of fine clothing.  Sheep clothing is key to deceiving.  Everyone who could possibly portray your organization would need to dress in a way so as to uphold the image and popularity that is sought for.  

Then there's talk of whores and harlots and lusts of the flesh. Sexual abominations of course.  But not just that, it would include lusts for power or wealth or influence or popularity. This Church of the Devil is a mother.  So religious offspring has been produced by this Church.  The idea of harlots also seems to denote unfaithfulness to God.  Idolatry.  Or faithfullness to someone or something else which gave off false allure but ends up only taking your money and offering emptiness, sin and disease in return.  

"All manner of iniquity" Iniquity has a lot of meanings. The one I like that fits here is when when people become increasingly determined or committed to the wrong course. Working in a contrary way to God.  That's iniquity.  The Church of the Devil is at cross purposes with God.  Iniquity seems to resemble inequality.

Priestcraft.  The Church of the Devil has priests involved in a craft.  They get paid for priestly religious service.  Setting yourself up as a light to be followed.  Seeking adoration.  Payments in the corporate world also can carry the name "stipends" or reimbursements.

Geeze what a nasty list.  So taking this list what might we expect to see in 2018? 

I can't say for sure, but below are a few musings based on the above scriptures. What would you expect to see?  If you feel so inclined, leave a comment.

The verses above reference removing plain and precious parts from the Gospel and many covenants of the Lord.  This is often only talked about as if it has already happened. Which a lot of it obviously has.  However, do you suppose they get tired of the removals? I doubt it.  So what if these prophesies have had fulfillment in the past but ALSO have fulfillment in present day or the near future? 

To remove plain and precious parts of the Gospel and covenants of the Lord you could:
-Delete it.  Straight up remove it from the scriptures or ceremonies.  This of course would be done in the name of "focusing on the most important parts, to enrich our worship"  Or some other sugar coated nonsense.
-Alter it so it gets distorted or is no longer saying the same thing
-Changing the official meaning and interpretation so people can't understand
-Removing covenants can be done by the same things. Changing a covenant breaks it.  So to remove a covenant you can just change it or bar people from it by adding requirements that render the thing broken.

If the Church of the devil does this stuff I bet they will continue to do so.  I heard the other day that some officials in the LDS church have a plan to distance the Church from the Book of Mormon as a literal history.  There's a multi year plan to alter the BOM narrative into more of a figurative "revelation" rather than a historical "translation" from gold plates.  Would this count?  If it's transformed into a figurative story is anything plain lost by doing that?

Based on the above scriptures, I wonder if we may also see: (As of 12/28/18)

-Poor get poorer and rich get richer?
-False teachings taught with more emphasis, and uncensored, more bold?
-Appearance of success by touting numbers, projects, growth, expansion?
-Appeals to popularity?  Maybe making everything shorter, easier, faster, more convenient, but no longer salivific?  Whatever public is putting pressure on, will it change?
-Relaxing standards on issues or substances (like tea and coffee).  Maybe even removing tea or coffee from official interpretations?  And instead supporting overall health?  This is needed since no one can really define exactly which teas and coffee's are ok and which aren't.
Look for this section of handbook 2 to change:

 21.3.11

Word of Wisdom

The only official interpretation of “hot drinks” (D&C 89:9) in the Word of Wisdom is the statement made by early Church leaders that the term “hot drinks” means tea and coffee.
-Softer and softer and more supportive view of same sex marriage?
-Shorter Temple ceremonies?  Maybe condensed and allow people to finish sooner?
-Maybe more equality for women in terms of authority and priesthood?  Women doing more under the "keys" of the priesthood?
-Removing gender inequality in temple ceremonies?  (as a response to public pressure from things like the Ordain Women movement)
-Programs not making money get discarded or revamped?  New face but no new underlying content?
-More "missionary volunteers" replacing paid employees?
-Lots of big events with big press? 
-Maybe Canonize existing documents that are not revelatory but which are popular with membership? (proclamation on the family, or that Living Christ document)
-Cast people out who threaten the established order of things?
-More and more legalities and legal presence to handle and accommodate social pressure and changing legal temperature of the country? 
-More secret works done behind closed doors and off the record?  (think scandals)
-More political presence and power?

What do you think?  What behaviors, beliefs, attitudes or ideologies would you expect to see (before the prophesied fall of this Church) based on what scriptures tell us?

Church of The Lamb
1 Nephi 22:12 And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw.
3 Nephi 27:
8 And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel. 9 Verily I say unto you, that ye are built upon my gospel; therefore ye shall call whatsoever things ye do call, in my name; therefore if ye call upon the Father, for the church, if it be in my name the Father will hear you; 10 And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.
1 Nephi 14:14
14 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.

Church of the Lamb traits:

-Numbers are few because of the abominable Church. The Church of the Devil has uniquely situated itself to prevent, impede, and hinder people from becoming part of the Church of the Lamb.
-Err in many instances because they are taught by the Precepts of men.  They are taught by teachers and leaders who do not teach the truth.
-Humble
-Seek Zion
-Equality
-Persecuted by the other Church
-Build upon Christ's Gospel (found in scripture)
-Carries his Name AND build upon his Gospel.  "If it so be that they are built upon my gospel"
-Shows forth the Father's own works
-Make known plain and precious things which had been removed. 
-Armed with righteousness and the power of God in great glory.  (glory of God = intelligence) 
-Baptized with power and authority.  (3 Nephi 26: 21) And they who were baptized in the name of Jesus were called the church of Christ.
-Receive and wrought upon by the Holy Ghost  (4 Nephi 1:1)
-Rely alone upon the merits of Christ (Moroni 6:4)
-Names recorded  (Moroni 6:4)
-Covenants kept, remain unchanged, and have the actual power of Godliness.
-Christ manifesting Himself in power word and deed 

This Church may go unrecognized unless someone is looking.  You might need to do more than just take some pills to find it.  You may need to be born again.