Sunday, December 16, 2018

"Self"-Reliance Doctrine

Below is a snapshot taken directly from the Church's Self-Reliance program and website.  Link.  I did some investigating and research and have organized the sources and scriptures below for a reference for myself and anyone interested.  Something about this program never sat right with me so I decided to delve in an see what I could find.  Below are some personal thoughts and discoveries.  

Lately (see previous posts) I've been looking at how the LDS church utilizes scripture.  The results have not been very encouraging.  Below is another very interesting example of using partial scripture to promote and teach something different from the scriptures.  Sometimes very different. 

Who's this for?

I asked myself who the initiative was directed towards.  Hard to say it's the rich, as they are already relying on themselves.  That leaves the folks towards the poor end of the spectrum.

D&C section 104 in the first paragraph contains some scriptural backing for the program.  However they only cite partial verses and ignore enough of the verse so as to teach and promote a false concept of self-reliance.  They picked out select phrases that gave a particular impression and served a particular purpose.  I'll go through some evidence and you can decide for yourself what your own conclusions are.  But hopefully there's some useful information and background regardless of your conclusion.

Do scriptures support this? 

Starting back in vs 13 of section 104 so we have some scriptural context.  Below in blue are the parts that were used, orange are the parts of the verse that were removed, and black are parts of the verses that just never got included.
13 For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures.14 I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine.15 And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.16 But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.18 Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.
If you lived during the time section 104 came about you'd of been dealing with United Order procedures. The law of consecration was for the support of the poor and to ensure that all members would be "equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs" (D&C 42:30; 51:3.) Participants were asked to voluntarily consecrate their property to the Church and the church then would assign to each member a "stewardship" of property "as much as is sufficient for himself and family" (Doctrine and Covenants 42:32). If consecrated property became more than was sufficient for the assigned steward, the surplus or "residue" was "to be consecrated unto the bishop" and kept for the benefit of "those who have not, from time to time, that every man who has need may be amply supplied and receive according to his wants (Doctrine and Covenants 42:33).  That's the context of the verses the Self-Reliance program is citing.  Vs 16 of 104 makes more sense if you keep the context in mind.  However the verses are completely disjointed and distorted if you apply vs 16 to this Self-Reliance initiative.

A few of the 12 principles overlap with principles found in section 104 but lets look at vs 16.  The Lord providing for His saints was to be done in "His" way.  The Self Reliance intro cites this.  But they removed the part that described what the Lord's way was.  Only the tiny snippet is used as if to imply that whatever follows is what the Lord's way was.  Here's the video going along with this program so you get a sense for what's happening:

Both Sides of the Table

Before going any further I wanted to mention some scriptures that teach about how all are required to labor and not be idle. Those need to be kept in mind.  These scriptures below dovetail similar meaning as was found in section 104 above. There are many others.  But what's important here is that those that are idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.  But that the rich are to assist the poor.  These are a few scriptures that address both sides of the table.

D&C 56:16-17
16 Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved! 17 Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!
D&C 42:38-42
38 For inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these, ye do it unto me. 39 For it shall come to pass, that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled; for I will consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles unto the poor of my people who are of the house of Israel. 40 And again, thou shalt not be proud 
in thy heart; let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands; 41 And let all things be done in cleanliness before me. 42 Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.
Personal responsibility is a true principle.  It applies to the rich and poor. Their responsibilities are different but as a Gospel principle it applies to both.  "Self-Reliance" on the other hand applies to....well you can figure that out.  As long as the Church is into name changes I think a better name for a program would be "God Dependent, Personally Responsible".   First because it's true, and second because it addresses everyone equally. 

12 Steps for not asking the Church for help. 

The program then introduced 12 principles to receive the blessings of Self Reliance.  The principles themselves are fairly common and in essence they are good.  If you strip away the LDS flavor what's left are principles that extend beyond religion and culture.  Working together, integrity, good management of money, individual responsibility, problem solving, perseverance, not misusing your time, not being lazy.  These are good things.  But D&C 104 is all about stewardship because in that program, in that day, you'd receive back from the Church what you needed.  I'll go back to the principles in a second but for now however, notice that in the Self Reliance program the poor are loosing something, they sort of get robbed like a magician does a trick by distracting the audience. While some good principles are called out (Hey look over here), meanwhile something subtle is taking place where you're not looking.  So lets see what got hidden.   

What does section 104 say is the Lord's way?  He said it "must needs" be done His way.  The rich are made low and the poor exalted (vs 16).  Ok so how are the poor going to be exalted in that the rich get made low?  As we just talked about The United Order was intended to solve that by creating equality for the participants.  It leveled the playing field quickly.  The rich were made low. And the poor got lifted upwards.

Vs 17 says there is enough and to spare. No one need hoard or be unequal, there's enough for everyone if we'd obey God.  But men are agents unto themselves, they get to choose. Verse 18 is not vague at all.  God gives us our abundance, that's where it comes from. People are stewards.  And those who have received from God are supposed to give the portion that ought be given to the poor according to the law of the Gospel.  This is how the Lord describes His way.

The "Lord's way" of providing for the poor mentioned back in 1840 takes a crazy U turn in this Self Reliance Program of 2018. Now instead of the poor getting some of the consecrated wealth of the rich, there's a new program for the poor that shifts the (entire) burden back onto the poor themselves.  It's all in the name, "self-reliance".  You catch it?  In 2018 the Church still collects tithing, but the message to the poor now is "get it yourself" and "don't ask us until you've tried everything else" and this is all implied as if it was "The Lord's way".  Interesting, no?  Where are the rich made low in any part of this Self-Reliance program?  They aren't.

So who cares if the Self-Reliance manual snipped some scripture phrases from 104 and put them into a complete different context then the one they came from, what's the big deal?  One subtle effect of this is it seems to offer a slight bit of justification of the rich in their riches because the poor still have to tithe, but yet they now assume the entire burden of their own poverty (which sometimes was a result of the rich).  Since the program was about self reliance, not each persons scriptural responsibility, there are some missing pieces.  The missing pieces are especially absent when we compare section 104 to this initiative.

So what of these 12 principles?  Some of the scriptures they cite for them are super out of context, but some are good.  The first one seems great.  Faith in Jesus Christ.  But then I start thinking about it.  I'm not sure how you can having saving faith in Jesus Christ and yet still think you are reliant on yourself.  I am unable to maintain that view, but perhaps others can.  I take the side that we are all wholly dependent on God and only our pride prevents us from such realizations. The whole "self-reliant" concept has something that just doesn't sit right.  Should we take personal responsibility?  Of course.  But Self-Reliance sounds a bit like Korihor who taught that a person fared in this life according to their genius and the management of the creature (vs 13 from section 104 also uses the term "creature').
Alma 30:17 And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime.
Money First, Food Second.  

Principle number 4 is about managing money well.  Which in scriptural terms often goes with talk of being a good steward.  This would have particular relevance for you if your allotment of property or goods was given to you according to the United Order.  Good stewardship is a solid principle and something we all ought to be intelligent about.  But how is the principle applied in this program?  Is it pure?  Contaminated?  Lets look what the manual says about managing money.  The video for this section has 2 little children as actors portraying an adult couple conversing about money.   Link.  Here's a transcript of the video:

I'm home, dear.
Welcome home.
Oh my, you look tired.
You do too. You work very hard, don't you?
Well, we're supposed to, aren't we?
I earned 10 today.
Oh, what a blessing. First things first. Let's pay our tithing.
But what if we don't have enough?
That's where faith comes in.
So what's next?
Let's buy our food and bus fare and pay rent. And then it would be nice to buy a chair.
But we can't, see? We don't have enough money.
Well, we can borrow some.
They say debt is dangerous. We don't want to get in trouble.
OK. You're right. So what do we do with this?
We'll save it. We never know what will happen.
That feels right. But there's nothing left for fun.
We have each other, and I'll try to earn more.
I'll try to spend less.
That way we can be happy and self-reliant.
That wasn't so difficult. Why do grown-ups make it so hard?
Oh, you know. That's how grown-ups are.

At least one message is clear.  Pony up tithing before buying food. The kids and the happy-go-lucky background music helps that part go down. Paying the Church first in many church publications is the first principle of managing money.  According to this video when you come up short your supposed to just spend less or save more.  Telling the poor to pay tithing to what is a very rich corporation before buying food....  how does that make the rich low and exalt the poor?  It does the opposite. The poor get the short end of the stick.  Certain rich bank accounts accumulate massive wealth while the poor are supposed to rely on themselves and God after first paying up.  It's like one little element of consecration got preserved but not the corresponding benefit for the giver.  But this is all presented as how the Lord is going to provide for His saints.

The rich pay tithing and offerings too, but they have a lot of perks like being able to put food on the table.  Even more perks if you are a top Church leader.  Top LDS church leaders according to various sources have exempted themselves from paying tithing due to their Church service.  But that's a topic for another day.  All this being said, I believe God can recognize someone's faith and respond to their sincere efforts but I would like to know where this teaching came from that tithing was based on your income? And that it must be paid before basic necessities of life?  Is this congruent with scripture?

Consecration vs Tithing

Where exactly is the cutoff between consecration and tithing and what is applicable in 2018?  The Church doesn't practice consecration but this Self Reliance program is curiously using scriptures from a context when that was being attempted but omitting almost the entire picture of the Lord's way.     

D&C 119 given in 1838 is the section of D&C most directly describing many aspects of tithing.  It came as a result of Joseph Smith asking “O Lord! Show unto thy servants how much thou requirest of the properties of thy people for a tithing.”.   There must have been some disagreements or confusion on the matter or Joseph wouldn't have asked this.
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord, I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church in Zion, 2 For the building of mine house, and for the laying of the foundation of Zion and for the priesthood, and for the debts of the Presidency of my Church. 3 And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people. 4 And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.
Vs 1 uses the word surplus.  Vs 4 uses the word interest.  Both words denote substance beyond what one needs to subsist.  And that is how both the dictionary and the early saints understood it.  So what happened between then and now?  Maybe the Church's essays and articles can answer this.  Link here.  Excerpts from the Church's article on tithing below.

Shortly after Joseph received the revelation in section 119, he assigned Brigham Young to go among the Saints “and find out what surplus property the people had, with which to forward the building of the Temple we were commencing at Far West.” Before setting out, Brigham asked Joseph, “‘Who shall be the judge of what is surplus property?’ Said he, ‘Let them be the judges themselves.’”18 
Sadly, during the autumn of 1838, the Saints were driven from Missouri, their Zion-building project apparently on temporary hold and the temple marked out by only a few stones. Exiled from Missouri, the Saints regrouped in Illinois, joined by thousands of converts from the British Isles, the eastern states, and Canada. There Joseph led them as he always had—revealing the way forward line upon line—until they understood and paid, as tithing, a tenth of their overall increase, together with other freewill offerings of time, talent, and surplus property.25 When the Apostles invited the Saints to offer all they could toward the construction of a temple in Nauvoo, many responded, offering tools, land, furniture, and money.26 John and Sally Canfield consecrated all they had, including themselves and their two children, “to the God of He[a]ven and for the Good of his Cause.” In a note to Brigham Young, Brother Canfield wrote, “All I possess I freely give to the Lord and into thy hands.”27

Some things Shifted

That second paragraph describes the shift as viewed by the LDS Church. There's no scriptural or revelatory reference for the transition from "interest" to "increase" to "income" as it pertains to tithing. It was just a change in understanding for the saints according to this "Revelations in Context" article.  We know there were different laws being attempted during early Church years at different points. Consecration as we saw was attempted but failed.  The Lord ended consecration through Joseph in 1840 and the people were supposed to desist from trying to keep it. Joseph said if they persisted it would produce a perfect abortion (link).  God never gave a command to practice consecration again.  And whether that abortion took place is not for me to say.  There's a link to 20 affidavits of consecration from 1842 found here if you want to see them.  The piece itself is available on the BYU website.  (Mitchell K. Schaefer and Sherilyn Farnes, “‘Myself … I Consecrate to the God of Heaven’: Twenty Affidavits of Consecration in Nauvoo, June–July 1842,” BYU Studies,vol. 50, no. 3 (2011), 101–32.)

Tithing as mentioned in section 119 was in 1838 and the Lord used the word "interest" and called it a "standing" law "forever" in that revelation.  So it's safe to say this one was intended to last.  It's interest-ing that the words surplus and interest were used.  How did their meaning change away from the obvious implication of surplus or excess?

It appears to have happened while the saints were regrouping in Illinois.  I'm not a historian, but I tried to read the original source material without any preconceived ideas.  One possibility that seems likely, is this shift in understanding was simply a mixture of consecration and tithing depending on who the leaders were and how they taught the people to interpret the words.  Sometimes being influenced by the economic needs and situation of the day.

One result of this shift seems to have been to require members to pay tithing before they provide food for themselves. I know of various conference talks advocating this but had more trouble finding the precise origin.  From what I can tell this too seems to date back to that point when the people did attempt a full consecration of everything and then received back what they needed.  But as you can see, only a smidgen of that mindset got preserved and not the part where the rich get made low and the poor get "exalted".  Nor was there ever any provision for if the Church had no debt and became wealthy.  It seems reasonable for people of faith to give/consecrate to the Church with understanding you would receive an allotment sufficient for your needs in return.  That takes some faith but there's logic to it.  In today's manual the poor still give first but then they are left to rely on themselves.   

After Joseph Smith's death and the resulting succession crisis, various factions of the Latter Day Saint movement developed their own tithing practices. Brigham Young defined tithing as 10 percent of one's property upon conversion and then 10 percent of one's annual income. He also instituted an "immigration tithe" requiring 10 percent of one's net gross upon arrival in the then State of Deseret.  But even Brigham struggled with it. As historian Michael Quinn points out, lots of people did. See quote below. His paper is available here):
Otherwise faithful Mormons withered before an overwhelming tithing obligation. Young told the October 1875 general conference that neither he nor anyone else "had ever paid their tithing as it was revealed and understood by him in the Doctrine and Covenants."
So tithing has never been totally consistent and had various faces over the years.  The leaders seem to dictate how words from revelation are defined using their Priesthood keys.

100%  2%  10% 

Where did the 10% come from?  Early on, like December of 1836, Bishop Edward Partridge and his counselors officially defined tithing as 2 percent of the net worth of each member of the church, after deducting debts (link). This money was put to covering the operating expenses of the Church.  It appears it was just a decision by the leadership.  So where did the 10% come from?  Didn't Abraham pay Melchizedek 10% of everything he owned?

In Joseph Smith's newer translation we find that "Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need. (JST Genesis 14:39). See now this sounds a lot more like section 119. It wasn't a tenth of of everything. Abram gave only a tenth of his surplus. God's law have always been extremely fair and doable. It's that men have a tendency to tweak God's law for advantage and to get gain.  Book of Mormon uses the term "gainsaying" if you want to look that up.

The worse financial situation the Church is in, the more focus on tithing from the pulpit. The members were taught about tithing early on and expected to help out with the Church's debts and I don't take issue with that.  It's there in section 119.  One might therefore think that on the flip side that when the Church has no more debts and has amassed enormous wealth that the members who are poor would be helped out with some of their own difficulties.  But that's not in the program. 

Another thing is the understanding that tithing must be paid only to the Church. This is a little more understandable given section 119 and the history of consecration.  But the Church looks and operates nothing like it did back then. It's not the same Church.  How is "Church" defined in scripture?  Is it a corporation?  Or is it the the people who repent and come unto Christ as the scriptures say (D&C 10:67-69)?  At present, your donation are not considered tithing if the donation goes to anyone other than the Church corporation.  Doesn't matter who the recipient is, as long as it's not the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints it's not "tithing".  I've verified this at a personal cost with a handful of Church leaders.  But the actual Church are the people.  And technically you could still give tithing to the "Church" in this regard.

God does not ask what we cannot do.  But what if we do what God never asked?  

So what does the Church do with the donations?  By 2018 enough Church practices have been leaked and enough of those who know the details have spoken up that we know the following.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a three year plan for collecting and spending tithing money.

Year 1 tithing funds are collected.
Year 2 The funds are invested while a budget is made for how to spend it.  
Year 3 The funds are spent.

The members do not have any say in this.  Nor are they allowed to view it or see details of it.  During years 1-3 since the funds were invested and not spent they earn a yield right up until they are spent. The income from the investment is "investment income" the other money they still call tithing.  Investment income is used for any business venture, whether Church related or not.  The increase/yield on the tithing and who owns it, and what's to be done with any yield off tithing is a post for another day.  But a few facts to break up this post.

Business Week reported the following in this July 2012 article:
According to an official church Welfare Services fact sheet, the church gave $1.3 billion in humanitarian aid in over 178 countries and territories during the 25 years between 1985 and 2010. A fact sheet from the previous year indicates that less than one-third of the sum was monetary assistance, while the rest was in the form of "material assistance." All in all, if one were to evenly distribute that $1.3 billion over a quarter century, it would mean that the church gave $52 million annually. A recently published article co-written by Cragun estimates that the Mormon Church donates only about 0.7 percent of its annual income to charity; the United Methodist Church gives about 29 percent.
0.7 is (far) less than Walmart's charitable donations by the way.  I'm aware of the humanitarian efforts of the Church.  In talking about this it should be noted that the Church, like other Church's does humanitarian work.  I'm not overlooking that or only focusing on the bad.  Nor am I trying to be negative.  I'm just looking at this reliance program, what it entails, and why it has occupied special meeting at church over the past few months.  Yes the Church does lots of humanitarian work.  Much of it is likely not even public.  I want to look at both sides.  The facts are that the Church however is much more heavily involved in business.  I've lost track of how many for profit businesses the Church owns and runs.  They legitimately have a giant empire to manage.    

Nephi has a troubling comment fits here:
11 Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted.  12 Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. 13 They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. 
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has enormous wealth, and is very powerful, owning billions in stock, even more billions in real estate, and spending billions on high end building projects, shopping malls, and exerts a lot of power in politics, all in front of the poor's faces (especially the cities where the poor see all the Church's skyscrapers).  The Church is building cities, just not the city of Zion.  As you can read in the news, they are building a massive entire city in Florida that is going to take a long time to finish.  Meanwhile the assistance the poor were to receive as part of the Lord's way has been replaced by a do it yourself program.  The poor thus seem to remain poor and the Church has more money than they are willing to reveal to very people who donated the money.

We've been talking only economic poverty so far.  What about spiritual poverty?  This Self-Reliance initiative says we're also supposed to be spiritually self reliant.  The Church does publish scriptures.  That's a big win.  The Church owns, controls, and exercises authority over saving ordinances.  Which you cannot receive without paying them your tithing.  I fail to see how this program teaches Self Reliance.  If you were to rely on your own spiritual promptings, should those ever differ from what the Church teaches and says, guess how Self-Reliant they would want you to keep being?  Sure they want you to not be dependent on another person for your testimony but just within the limits they prescribe. 


To sum up and recap: What’s troubling with this “doctrine” of self-reliance is it teaches or implies the Lord will provide for the poor (by a means other than the Church) if they will just follow these 12 easy steps.  And of course they still need to pay the Church before anything else.  A very conflicting philosophy with section 104.  Whether intentional or not, it seems calculated to limit the poor from asking the Church for help.  Because after all, the poor need to learn to be self reliant and manage the creature better right? My Institute teacher in college at the UofU taught me that the portion of Korihor's message dealing with how we fare in life was the true part of Korihor's message.

Hand Book 2

The handbook's first 2 paragraphs don't offer any insight into our dependence on God for everything, even our breath.  It doesn't even acknowledge it.  But says that we are able, and need to commit to providing both temporal and spiritual necessities for ourselves with the labor of our own hands.  Church members are responsible it says.  Even family needs to be petitioned before the Church.  Problem with the statement from the handbook is it mixes truth with error and omits the entire overall picture and has no interest in equality.  We all need to labor.  Truth.  And personal responsibility can't be delegated. Also true.  The word Self Reliance however is not accurate.  Nor is it right to extract unscriptural amounts from the poor,  use that to become rich, and then tell the poor to be Self-Reliant. 

Auto-Help the Poor

In 2018 caring for the poor is something the Church handles.  Members can just stick their tithing on Auto Pay, and just forget about it.  The Church will handle the rest.  For many they view their job as done.  I personally cannot accept that. I see my responsibility towards the poor in scripture and the Church is not meeting it.  

A bit of my conclusion

I conclude tithing was never intended to accumulate wealth.  The law has been abused.  It was intended as a fair and practical method for assisting with Church debts and for the assistance of the poor.  Not to be taken from the necessities people need to live on, but from the excess so that there is enough for people to subsist and also begin to help those in need.  That is the conclusion I can't help but reach. It's supported by scripture.  Nephi condemned the fine religious sanctuaries and clothing which had robbed the poor.  Early Christians didn't have meeting houses, nor an excess of manuals and expensive "meet the Mormons" movies.  Imagine how much money would be available if not for building expensive meeting houses every few blocks in Utah?  I have found discernible fruit, intelligence and never before had joy in giving as the scriptures taught.  And found a connection to those in need by giving directly to them.  This has caused loss of LDS Church temple privileges but has yielded fruit that outweighs the loss.

So while the Self Reliance program includes some redeeming principles, it asks the poor to pay up before necessities, and go to family first if they still have needs, meanwhile the Church amasses and displays towering luxurious wealth all over the city and country.  This can't possibly be the Lord's way.  True principles can still be taught to help everyone improve their lives while also teaching entire verses of scripture!  Scriptures themselves thankfully remind both rich and poor of their duty toward each other and helps us not forget that in this life we are never truly self reliant.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Heart of Understanding. Knowledge and Wisdom

This is the last post of an unexpected series that began in Elder's Quorum and all began with asking the Quorum whether LDS conference talks are scripture.

Last installment went through a letter from Joseph Smith that President Nelson footnoted as part of a promise of God pouring down power and blessings.  Joseph's teachings differ a bit and I found his teachings to be very personally impactful. Ideas flooded my mind and light grew and this post has some of the things it led me to. That letter as much as anything else has helped me understand more of Joseph Smith's heart.  The prior post was about what Joseph tied to getting knowledge from the Holy Spirit.  That led to the thought that knowledge helps correct our understanding.  Continuing on that note.

Back to a comment found both in the Lord's words to Joseph Smith and in the New Testament:
JSH 19. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.
Matthew 15:8. This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
When scriptures speak of hearts not being right (hard, far from God, wicked) that may include having unkind feelings towards others, but more likely it’s dealing with having the wrong understanding.  Termed "unbelief" in the Book of Mormon.  I tried to leave off our cultural understanding of the heart and just let the scriptures inform me, and what I found was helpful. The scriptures don’t always connect the heart to feelings.  There’s more to the heart than feelings. And feelings involve way more of the body than just the heart. In my experience trying to regulate your own feelings is often much less successful than getting better knowledge and understanding to inform our feelings. 

What dawned on me is if  the heart is viewed as the seat of understanding (see here, pg 9 footnote 20) many scriptures suddenly become much more clear.  And appear to have been saying certain things all along.

Those passages above were directed at religious people. The incorrect (religious) understanding is what is causing the heart to be distant from God. That damning understanding that “hardens” the heart and leads to us doing awful things to each other, and worshiping false gods.  That’s the enemy.  Ignorance is the enemy.  False and damning lies and teachings. That and the people who teach them cause distance from God.  When the lies are exposed people sometimes turn to apathy, and or atheism as the whole thing comes crashing down leaving the heart empty and with little warmth. I don’t want distance from God for me or anyone else. So I must speak up.

A hard heart can’t take anything inside.  It's the opposite of a little child. Opposite of sober.  When our hearts are far from God our understanding is “impenetrable".  That isn't safe.  Even if it appears to offer safety from foreign or seemingly threatening new ideas and understanding. Truth is it's safer to be humble, meek, and open to God.

The Book of Mormon has this to say about impenetrable understanding.  Or a hard heart.
O how marvelous are the works of the Lord. And how long doth he suffer with his people. Yea, and how blind and impenetrable are the understandings of the children of men, for they will not seek Wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them. Yea, they are as a wild flock which fleeth from the shepherd, and scattereth, and are driven, and are devoured by the beasts of the forest.
The wrong understanding will obviously cause bad feelings and problems and issues and envy, jarring, contention and stuff that prevents Zion.  Those things may in fact come from a faulty understanding.  After talking about refusing to be ruled by Wisdom the verse above likens it to a flock who fleeth and scattereth.  As opposed to gathers. Zion involves gathering. Not scattering. The hen who gathers her chicks under her wings in scripture is also related feminine imagery (3 Nephi 10:3-7). So rather than being gathered in the safety of the hen's wings, impenetrable understanding results in being called "wild" (wild fruit from Jacob 5) and being scattered and devoured by beasts.  Devour is to quickly eat, consume, or engulf.  How many people are engulfed by anger or jealousy? Or engulfed by some other beast.  That's what happens. The beasts quickly engulf you.  We should not flee the Shepherd, and instead seek and welcome Wisdom and the healing wings offered to us.

So on that note, the verse just quoted says the children of men will not seek Wisdom and don't desire that she should rule over them.  Suppose we permanently reverse that course and seek what Wisdom has to say about hearts and understanding. Turns out there are some real gems.

Here's what some Proverbs have to say.  These are just a few examples. Understanding and hearts go together frequently in the book of Proverbs.

  1. Proverbs: 15:14 The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.

    Seeking knowledge (open heart) fits perfect with what Joseph said in the letter from last post.  Oh and then this part: Mouth of fools feeding on foolishness. That is an image worth a thousand words. Picture people just eating up religious stupidity.  It's nonsense, but they can't get enough of it. They think the garbage is spiritual food so they feed on it.

    1. Proverbs 2:1-6

      My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
      2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
      3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
      4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
      5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.
      6 For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding

    These are beautiful, why don't LDS folks or conference talks quote proverbs more often?  They have a theme which connects knowledge, hearts, and understanding together that is not found elsewhere.    

    1. Proverbs 3:3-6
    2. 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: 4 So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
      5 ¶ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
      6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths

    Heart and understanding again are linked. Vs 3 and writing on the tables (records) of the heart connects to a prophecy to the House of Israel from Jeremiah and Ezekiel that also deals with our heart. Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36.  Consider God writing His law on the fleshly parts of the heart, not on tablets of stone. (Law of Moses - tablets of stone, stony hearts... )

    Jeremiah 31:
    31 ¶ Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. 
    Ezekiel 36:
    25 ¶ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.
    These prophecies are worth reading more than once.  There're more beyond what I've quoted . Vs 32 of Ezekial 36 ought to give pause in connection to T&C 157:19  We need a new heart. It's a new understanding, filled with light, knowledge, new clarity, intelligence.  Not really an emotional shower, although some folks could use that too. I believe feelings will change as understanding changes.

    1. Proverbs 8:4-5 
    1. 4 Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.
      5 O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.

    Simple is something Joseph mentioned too.  Our Heavenly parents call and offer their voice to us to end the foolishness.

    Laman and Lemuel use interesting phrases in the Book of Mormon.
    "And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words..." (1 Ne. 17:22).
    Their vocabulary hits home a little bit doesn't it?  "we know" and "wherefore we know".  They "knew" their church was true in some regards and "knew" the people were righteous.

    In LDS culture the more intense the feeling attached to a belief the more LDS folks are likely to call it “knowledge”. I “know the church is true”, "I know ____ is a Prophet of God". But what understanding accompanies that knowledge?  Any?  Is it just strong sentiment?  Part of our growth is to start with belief as we move towards knowledge.  I'm not criticizing a newly sprouted belief and associated feelings.  Our lips however do say the wrong words sometimes.  We say we "know" when we probably mean we have a belief and some strong feelings.  But since we call it knowledge I think we tend to stop there since it appears to be the sine qua non of the whole Gospel.  So in all this talk of what we say with our lips I’m not opposed to our lips saying things in a more accurate way.

    Speaking of justifying knowledge by keeping the Law of Moses. This is Abinadi preaching to King Noah and wicked priests who also thought themselves as the good guys because of the Law of Moses.  Here too understanding is connected to the heart.

    Mosiah 12:26-29
    26 I say unto you, wo be unto you for perverting the ways of the Lord! For if ye understand these things ye have not taught them; therefore, ye have perverted the ways of the Lord. 27 Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise. Therefore, what teach ye this people? 28 And they said: We teach the law of Moses. 29 And again he said unto them: If ye teach the law of Moses why do ye not keep it? Why do ye set your hearts upon riches? Why do ye commit whoredoms and spend your strength with harlots, yea, and cause this people to commit sin, that the Lord has cause to send me to prophesy against this people, yea, even a great evil against this people?
    They hadn't applied their hearts to understanding although they claimed to be teaching the Law of Moses.  So they had some facts, some religious rituals, some religious rules and they followed them to some degree.  They taught it to the people. But they didn't understand them. And meanwhile they were up to no good.  Does that ever happen today?  Do we have religious rituals, rules, facts and stuff that we go through but have no clue what they mean (or what they were intended to accomplish)?  Do riches rule the day?  Is there any time and energy and money spent covering up sexual misconduct?

    Here are a few more scriptures that teach about the heart and it's connection to understanding, rather than just feelings.

    Mosiah 26:1-3
    1 Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.2 They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ.3 And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened.
    This verse troubles me on many levels.  The rising generation's unbelief and incorrect understandings hardened the heart.  I don't know if this was a failure of the parents to teach the kids, or if the kids simply rejected their parents traditions which traditions came from their firsthand experience with King Benjamin's sermon. The record doesn't say. What it does say is unbelief makes it so you can't understand the word of God. So the result is your heart suffers.

    Alma 10:25
    25 But Amulek stretched forth his hand, and cried the mightier unto them, saying: O ye wicked and perverse generation, why hath Satan got such great hold upon your hearts? Why will ye yield yourselves unto him that he may have power over you, to blind your eyes, that ye will not understand the words which are spoken, according to their truth?
    Mosiah 13:32  This is back to Abinadi:
    32 And now, did they understand the law? I say unto you, Nay, they did not all understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God.
    No man saved except it were through the redemption of God.  That's the part they didn't understand.  So how did they think they were going to be saved if not through the redemption of God? By the law and performances and ordinances.  Seems the law has no value if it's not understood. We do need that new heart that Ezekiel prophesied about.

    2 Nephi 16:10
    10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes—lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed.
    Understand with their hearts it says.  This matches the heart being the seat of understanding.

    3 Nephi 19: 33-34
    33 And the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed.34 Nevertheless, so great and marvelous were the words which he prayed that they cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man.
    Their hearts opened, and then did understand in their hearts.  Was this mere sentiment in their heart?  I don't think so.  This is understanding of God. Comprehension.  Don't get me wrong, there were probably enormous waves of feeling too.  Weeping and being overcome are part of scriptural accounts of what occurs.  That's there too.  I'm just pointing out the "understanding" connection to the heart. 

    Mosiah 2:9
    9 And these are the words which he spake and caused to be written, saying: My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.
    Samuel 16:7

    In the Old Testament, following the spiritual fall of King Saul, Samuel the prophet was led to the house of Jesse in his search for Israel’s new king. The Lord said this regarding one of the sons, Eliab:
    7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.
    If the heart is the seat of understanding then the Lord wouldn’t so much be looking upon the emotional center of the person.  He would more be looking at their understanding, their openness, the softness of the heart whether they seek, ask and knock and are humble.

    I think it's safe to say that scriptures teach our heart connects to our understanding.  The cure for hearts not being right seems to me is a better understanding!  A broken heart. Meaning the understanding is open, the person is seeking, there is recognition of the gaps in understanding and there are openings into which God can come in. Yeah you may feel crappy too, but maybe the point of that was to disrupt the prior erroneous understanding so something new can come in.  We need soft hearts, open hearts, broken hearts. So knowledge and Wisdom can enter in and give us a new heart. This all makes me want to seek their heart. To be of one heart with Them.  

    Tuesday, December 4, 2018

    D&C 121 Truth is Mormonism Pt 2

    This is part 4/5 of a series that began in Elder's Quorum last week.  I only expected to just write about that one experience but it has led to places I wasn’t expecting.

    Last post was some history of Section 121.  And the context for vs 33 as it appears in the LDS D&C.  Here's the verse again for reference.
    How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the Heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.
    The Almighty pouring down knowledge.  Keep that in mind with these quotes. 
    A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of GodHistory of the Church, 4:588; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Apr. 10, 1842, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Wilford Woodruff.
    Knowledge fixes our incorrect understanding. If we will receive it. That verse above about the Almighty pouring down knowledge inside its context (letter from Joseph Smith), linked various things to do and be in order for God to give knowledge.  Sorry for the length of this quote but it's all pertinent:
    Nevertheless, we would suggest the propriety of being aware of an aspiring spirit, which spirit has often times urged men forward to make foul speeches, and influence the church to reject milder counsels, and has eventually been the means of bringing much death and sorrow upon the church. We would say, Beware of pride also, for well and truly has the wise man said that pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. And again, outward appearance is not always a criterion for us to judge our fellow man, but the lips betray the haughty and overbearing imaginations of the heart. By his words and his deeds let him be scanned. Flattery also is a deadly poison. A frank and open rebuke provokes a good man to emulation, and in the hour of trouble he will be your best friend, but on the other hand it will draw out all the corruption of a corrupt heart, and lying and the poison of asps shall be under their tongues, and they do cause the pure in heart to be cast into prison because they want them out of their way. 
    A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination be aware of, because the things of God are of deep import, and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Your mind, O man, if you will lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost Heavens, and search into and contemplate the lowest considerations of the darkest abyss, and expand upon the broad considerations of Eternal expanse. You must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God than the vain imagination of the human heart? None but fools will trifle with the souls of men. 
    How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations: too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of his will from before the foundation of the world, to hold the keys of the mysteries of those things that have been kept hid from the foundation until now, of which some have tasted a little, and which many of them are to be poured down from Heaven upon the heads of babes, yea, the weak, obscure, and despisable ones of this earth.
    Therefore, we beseech of you, brethren, that you bear with those who do not feel themselves more worthy than yourselves, while we exhort one another to a reformation with one and all, both old and young, teachers and taught, both high and low, rich and poor, bond and free, male and female. Let honesty, and sobriety, and candor, and solemnity, and virtue, and pureness, and meekness, and simplicity, crown our heads in every place, and in fine, become as little children, without malice, guile, or hypocrisy.  
    And now brethren, after your tribulations, if you do these things and exercise fervent prayer and faith in the sight of God, always, he shall give unto you Knowledge by his Holy Spirit...
    "If you do these things".  What things is that?  It includes a list towards the end:  Honesty, sobriety, candor, solemnity, virtue, pureness, meekness, simplicity.  Become as little children without malice, guile, or hypocrisy.  Exercise fervent prayer, and faith in the sight of God.

    Avoiding nicknames and correctly identify the name of an organization (which organization hardly resembles the original) with our lips starts to look shallow by comparison to this letter.  What God is this that will pure down never before seen blessings for behaviors dramatically short of what Joseph mentions?  The letter covers everything ranging from being aware of aspiring spirits (which he says eventually brings much death and sorrow upon the church), to vain and trifling public and private conferences, councils, and meetings.  Fanciful and flowery heated imaginations.  Flattery is poison. I mean look at all this stuff.  I'm blown away at this letter.  This letter alone has impacted me as much as anything from Joseph Smith.  Thankfully no truths were omitted from the LDS canonized version (see last post for what I'm jokingly referencing with this).

    To get better understanding we need knowledge. So on that note here is part of Joseph's list that was connected to getting knowledge.  These are just a few personal thoughts and connections on each that I put as part of my own record. 

    Honesty:  One of the scriptural warnings is about "lyings and deceivings" (3rd Nephi 30:2).  That verse has a whole list of stuff to avoid but honesty seems to be the counter to lying and deceiving.  So who is it we are lying to?  God?  Ourselves?  Each other?  What according to 3rd Nephi are people lying about?  Taxes?  Or is it religion based (read: Cover up) lying?  Who is doing the deceiving and who are the ones deceived?  Hum... maybe there's more to honesty than being accurate at the grocery store if they make a mistake.

    Sobriety.  This is not just lack of being drunk on alcohol. This connects to Mormon 1:2  And about the time that Ammaron hid up the records unto the Lord, he came unto me, (I being about ten years of age, and I began to be learned somewhat after the manner of the learning of my people) and Ammaron said unto me: I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe;

    Mormon was a sober child.  Which I believe refers to a respect and recognition of the truth.  Quick to observe would indicate alacrity, which is to honor God.  Mormon at a young age showed sobriety in the sense of a respect and honor towards God with alacrity.  Joseph Smith's list is profound.

    Candor:.  Nephi had candor in warning people about the corrupt Churches "all" have gone astray.  He doesn't mince words or prize social and political correctness when frankness is called for.

    Solemnity.  This goes with a previous part of the letter about how time experience and careful, solemn and ponderous thoughts are required to find out the things of God. This to me resonates as a deep sincerity.

    Virtue.  If there is anything "virtuous" lovely or of good report, or praiseworthy we seek after these things.  Well.... that is after we're fully done enjoying latest Hollywood hits displaying the opposite.  Don't get me wrong, I like movies. I guess "we" seek after these things only includes those who actually seek after those things.  That being said, on a funny side note I have to include this haha:
    In fact to be approved of God, in many cases, conforming to His will make you offensive to man. But the opinions, vagaries, and the fashions of men, the opinion polling and the drifts of what is and what is not popular at one point or another, are damnable. They ought not even be considered. Righteousness does not give any regard to such things. And yet it may be virtuous to do so. It may be virtuous to be a limp wristed, weepy, happy-go-lucky, “have a nice day” kind of effeminate chap. But righteousness will kick his ass everyday. 
    Be of Good Cheer, Be of Good Courage Denver Snuffer 9-10-13 Lecture 1 Boise, Idaho
    Pureness.  The pure in heart shall see God according to the Sermon at Bountiful. Pureness denotes the absence of contaminants.  Everything in this world is contaminated though so what do we do?  For starters we stop inhaling that filth and breath something more pure.
    So ask yourself, what can remain pure? Even here, in this awful world, what can remain pure? There are three things that can remain absolutely unmolested and uncorrupted: the truth, which is fixed and cannot be touched by us. God's love, which is free and available to all. Neither the truth nor God's love requires effort on our part. The third thing that can remain pure here is our desires. That, however, requires effort. Nevertheless, it is possible that perfection can touch each of us, if we have the right desires.
    Preserving The Restoration Denver Snuffer 9-9-14 Lecture 10 Mesa, AZ

    Meekness.  See here on Meekness.

    Simplicity.  This has a sister word "plain".  Plain and simple.  Nephi even says he glories in plainness (2 Nephi 33:4-6).  In another place he says he delights in plainness.  This is how God works with us (2 Ne. 31: 2-3). It's the plain and precious truths removed from the Gospel that cause exceeding stumbling (1 Nephi 13:34).  We should probably be plain and simple too.  Speaking in simple terms.  The Gospel is supposed to be simple, so a child can understand.  Not embellished with crap and commandments of men that twists things and removes the simplicity.  A coworker and I put together a little activity to help the Gospel return to simplicity, see here

    Become as little children.  Well yeah, little children are willing to take in new knowledge.  This is part of the Doctrine of Christ. We must become as little children or we "shall not be able to" enter the kingdom of heaven.

    Without malice.  There's a lot of malice in our world.  Often perceived, but sometimes legit.  Our hearts are often angry, imputing bad motives when perhaps there weren't any.  Kids tend to not have malice.  So this definitely does go well with "become as little children".

    [Without] Guile. Guile is defined (1828 dictionary) as: Craft; cunning; artifice; duplicity; deceit.  Can you imagine God pouring down knowledge if you were up to that shady stuff?  You'd make a wreck of the knowledge God gave you.  It would end up with abusing people and hindering them.

    [Without] Hypocrisy. This has direct connection to Nephi's explanation of the Doctrine of Christ.  Christ talks about becoming as a little child as part of His doctrine. Nephi mentions "acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God" while also discussing Christ's doctrine. 2 Nephi 31:13.  Below is the whole thing.  Notice how well these line up with what Joseph has said above.
    13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall  follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real  intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the  name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.
    Fervent Prayer.  Reminds me of the scripture to pray always.  Also the scripture from Moroni about praying for Charity. "Pray to the Father with all the energy of heart".  All the energy of heart. That sounds like fervent prayer.  Speaking of Charity, I recently learned that Charity too is less of a feeling than a fixed determination to do good. I really liked that. The Gospel becomes a bit less feeling oriented and a bit more expansive in terms of intelligence and understanding.

    Faith in the sight of God.  So you mean not faith in the sight of my bishop?  Or faith in the sight of my fellow man?  It says faith in the sight of God.  Which of course implies God is watching you and we need to have faith according to his view.  Which is faith in Christ.  Because we're supposed to fear God, not man.

    I see why Joseph connects these to God giving knowledge by the Holy Spirit. This has depth. I mean look at this stuff:

    That part about flattery.  Any flattery going on inside the LDS church? Apparently there was some in the early days.  Who today is perhaps the most flattered living human being in all of Mormondom?  For whom else do thousands upon thousands of people stand in quiet reverence when they enter the room?  Flattery is a deadly poison Joseph says.  So we shouldn't consume it, but also shouldn't ritualize our dispensing of it.  What effects does flattery have on a person?  What sorts of things does flattery cause or lead to? 

    On a side note, I recently came across this from  Video here. Link.

    Interesting.  A photograph of himself, and his two counselors delivered to a single mom in Africa.  What does that communicate? I showed this video to my wife and her first reaction was “It didn’t even have a frame?” Haha. She makes me laugh.   

    Anyway, there's much less risk of flattery when everyone is equal and recognizes their dependence on God.

    A few more things that stand out from the letter.

    -Frank rebukes will reveal who your friends are.  But for those who are not, it's going to land you in prison.  Or in a disciplinary council as the case may be in our day.  Moment of silence for Bill Reel's recent loss of Church membership.  Link. Link2.

    -Ever seen or sat through a vain and trifling spirit, Church meeting, council, conference, or conversation?  Good grief if Joseph's meetings were dealing with that stuff back then I hate to think how poorly our meetings would be assessed.  Yet we frequently seem to sit in awe and thank God for the "marvelous spirit" that attends our worship service/conference.  Remember that First Presidency letter years ago asking the members NOT to open scriptures with the speaker during sacrament meeting because it would disrupt the spirit of our worship services?  Which spirit is that? 

    -And this part of the letter:
    Your mind, O man, if you will lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost Heavens,and search into and contemplate the lowest considerations of the darkest abyss, and expand upon the broad considerations of Eternal expanse. You must commune with God.
    Today that kind of message is reduced and replaced with sometimes mindless cliche platitudes. Here's a sampling of some meme worthy quotes (the best ones apparently) from conference. Link

    This letter from Joseph is a whole different level from anything I've ever heard at LDS General Conference.

    Or we can get God's blessings and power "never before seen" poured down by simply calling a Church organization (which is a corporation sole operating under conflicting name which appears the Leaders are not going to change) by the correct name and stop using nicknames.  That seems a lot easier honestly.  I guess we really do need to choose this day whom we will serve.  Our hearts need to make the correct decision.  More on the "heart" next post.   

    Saturday, December 1, 2018

    Conference and D&C 121. Truth is Mormonism

    This is a continuation of the last 2 posts because of what I discovered in my search stemming back from the Elder's Quorum Lesson.  Last post I had been going through last LDS General Conference (Oct 2018) to see how scriptures are used, when, why, and whether in context and whether to teach understanding of scripture or more of method 2 (see previous post) which is to use scripture for some other reason.

    The last example in the post was a promise given by President Nelson.  That promise had a scriptural footnote pointing to D&C 121:33.  His talk is here.  He made a promise involving "never before seen blessings".  Which to me merits some thought and pondering and what will cause this pouring out.  This is the scriptural footnote accompanying the promise. 

    How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the Heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.

    That part about rolling waters remaining impure can't be understood from reading D&C 121.  It's only a small part of a bigger phrase from the actual letter but which didn't get included in the cannon version of 121.  That whole section is comprised of pieces of a profound letter from Joseph in Liberty Jail.

    Here's more context for vs 33.  See the entire letter here.  Vs 33 from D&C 121 is in orange so you see how it fits in.
               Therefore, we beseech of you, brethren, that you bear with those who do not feel themselves more worthy than yourselves, while we exhort one another to a reformation with one and all, both old and young, teachers and taught, both high and low, rich and poor, bond and free, male and female. Let honesty, and sobriety, and candor, and solemnity, and virtue, and pureness, and meekness, and simplicity, crown our heads in every place, and in fine, become as little children, without malice, guile, or hypocrisy.     
           And now brethren, after your tribulations, if you do these things and exercise fervent prayer and faith in the sight of God, always, he shall give unto you Knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now, which our fathers have waited, with anxious expectation, to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held in reserve for the fullness of their glory, a time to come, in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many Gods, they shall be manifest. All Thrones and Dominions, Principalities and Powers shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ. And also, if there be bounds set to the heavens, or to the seas, or to the dry land, or to the sun, moon, or stars; all the times of their revolutions, all their appointed days, months, and years, and all the days of their days, months and years, and all their glories, laws, and set times shall be revealed in the days of the dispensation of the fullness of times, according to that which was ordained in the midst of the council of the Eternal God, of all other Gods, before this world was, that should be reserved unto the finishing and the end thereof, when every man shall enter into his Eternal presence and into his immortal rest.  
            But I beg leave to say unto you, brethren, that ignorance, superstition and bigotry, placing itself where it ought not, is oftentimes in the way of the prosperity of this church, like the torrent of rain from the mountains that floods the most pure and crystal stream with mire and dirt and filthiness, and obscures everything that was clear before, and all hurls along in one general deluge. But time weathers tide, and notwithstanding we are roiled in, for the time being, by the mire of the flood, the next surge, peradventure, as time rolls on, may bring to us the fountain, as clear as crystal and as pure as snow, while all the filthiness, flood wood, and rubbish is left and purged out by the way. How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the Heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from Heaven upon the heads of the latter-day saints.
               What is Boggs or his murderous party but wimbling willows upon the shore to catch the flood wood? As well might we argue that water is not water because the mountain torrents send down mire and riles the crystal stream, although afterwards render it more pure than before, or that fire is not fire because it is of a quenchable nature by pouring on the flood, as to say that our cause is down because renegades, liars, priests, thieves, and murderers, who are all alike tenacious of their crafts and creeds, have poured down from their spiritual wickedness in high places, and from their strongholds of the divine, a flood of dirt, and mire, and filthiness, and vomit upon our heads.            
              No. God forbid. Hell may pour forth its rage like the burning lava of Mount Vesuvius or of Etna, or of the most terrible of the burning mountains, and yet shall Mormonism stand. Water, fire, truth, and God are all the same. Truth is Mormonism. God is the author of it. He is our shield. It is by him we received our birth. It was by his voice that we were called to a dispensation of his gospel in the beginning of the fullness of times. It was by him we received the Book of Mormon, and it is by him that we remain unto this day, and by him we shall remain if it shall be for our glory, and in his Almighty name we are determined to endure tribulation, as good soldiers unto the end. 
    Ignorance, superstition, bigotry and all the persecutions are unable to thwart God's work and God's ability to pure down knowledge.  That is if people are faithful to Him. The first two paragraphs above detail out a whole list of things that "if you do these things" and with prayer and faith, God will give knowledge.  Those things are to "crown our heads" Joseph says. So God can pour down knowledge "upon the heads" of the latter-day saints.  Coincidental wording?  I think not.

    Boggs murderous party? Hell pouring forth it's rage?  It's no match for God. God can still give knowledge.  The context helps make vs 33 from 121 more clear about that rolling water stuff as well as what it is cannot prevent God from pouring down knowledge and what the people need to do and be in order for the knowledge to come.  There's some stuff on/in our head we need to get right.

    So who decided which parts of this longer letter would become part of D&C 121 (and 122, 123)?

    The 1876 edition of the D&C first contained portions from this letter from Joseph in Liberty Jail.  Orson Pratt chose which parts got included.  Under President Brigham Young (Historian’s Office Journal (January15, 1875),70).  Then in 1880 during an October General Conference of the Church sections 121, 122, and 123 as we have them were canonized. ( Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (Religion 324–325) (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981),296; RobertJ.)

    Here’s a bit of interesting logic from the BYU Religious Studies site about D&C 121 in context:

    "While portions of Doctrine and Covenants 121–23 are taken from a much broader literary context, the sections as they read in the scriptures do not omit truths. The literary background gained from a study of the noncanonical text is meant to emphasize, not detract from, the weight and clarity of the canon."

    "The sections as they read do not omit truths." says the article.  Well of course text doesn't omit text which the text includes.  That's self evident isn't it?  This statement tries to assure us all truth is contained in those sections.  Compared to the original letter I guess.  Too bad Joseph didn't just condense it down himself.  Too bad Joseph added all that other stuff that apparently didn't contain "truths".  That’s supposed to be comforting I suppose. So rest assured, no truths are omitted.  Wink wink.  Except of course for that part about the things we need to do/be for God to pour down knowledge.  

    But back to the letter from Joseph and its very interesting presence in the promise by President Nelson last General Conference. The last paragraph quoted above from Joseph's letter has a part in green that's interesting.  I'll repeat here.  This is from page 15 of the letter. 

    Hell may pour forth its rage like the burning lava of Mount Vesuvius or of Etna, or of the most terrible of the burning mountains, and yet shall Mormonism stand. Water, fire, truth, and God are all the same. Truth is Mormonism. God is the author of it. He is our shield. It is by him we received our birth. It was by his voice that we were called to a dispensation of his gospel in the beginning of the fullness of times. 

    Joseph says Mormonism shall stand and God is the author of it.  President Nelson says God will pour down blessings and His power if we STOP using terms like Mormon.  So which is it?  It cannot be both.  If Truth is Mormonism then being "Mormon" doesn't appear problematic.  The actual context of the scriptural footnote used by President Nelson contains something curiously at odds with what's being said in the talk. 

    Continued next post....