Thursday, September 19, 2019

Their fruits

Some thoughts on my mind this week.

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

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



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

Praying about the person sounds like a reasonable idea right? If you can get God to tell you who's a prophet and who's not you can be truly confident right?  And yet that can easily distract you from looking at and examining the fruits. Not to mention it ignores that people can go awry and become corrupt on the one hand, or repent on the other hand, say Alma the Younger for example.  And everyone has flaws, so praying about the personality doesn't seem to really get to the truth.  It asks God to give an answer without half the equation.  This approach to finding who's a prophet is often done in a way that strongly suggests and implies the answer you should receive about that person.

That all seems like a shady shortcut.  I don't know that shortcuts are advisable when attempting to know who is and isn't a true prophet.  But, I suspect we should not be surprised if we see a message implying "The answer can be yours for the easy price of asking a question I fed you using information I gave you".  "You too can know".  "Oh, and be sure not to listen to those who got any other answer".   As opposed to seeking light, truth, and intelligence, or the Glory of God.

So what of fruits?  How can you assess a fruit you have taken no time or thought or effort to examine or taste?  Is a quick glance enough?  Or is some time and study merited? What kind of time frame seems reasonable?  Seems to me Christ's teaching that by their fruits we shall know them implies some action, effort, and study our part.  Reasoning and examining of the fruits put before us.  But just accepting something because a person is in a position of religious authority, and then calling that acceptance "faith".... how is that faith going to save you?  It won't.

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



Problem with ravening wolves is assuming they are all bad, visibly evil, and the only place you'll find one are in bad places.

Don't wolves do good things sometimes?  I mean look at their cooperative pack.  They take care of each other, protect each other, they take care of their wolf pups.  Look how important they are to the larger ecosystem!  I saw a video the other day on the devastating effects a lack of wolves had on an ecosystem in Yellowstone National Park and what happened when wolves were reintroduced.  Link.  It affected the entire landscape when there weren't enough wolves. Aren't those good fruits?  Taking the analogy back into the human sphere we can't just assume anyone who does good things in some arena isn't also wolf in the context of Christ's teaching. 

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

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

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

According to Christ many will claim to do remarkable things in His name but yet the fruits are no good.  So the fruit is the presence of something Godly.  Is God the author and originator of the message, given as He asked?  Does the message enable saving faith?  Or, by contrast does the speaker just have all the right mood lighting, the right cameras and PR staff, and a sufficiently large mega arenas to instill awe and respect to themselves or a substitute for Christ? 

Whatever else that person does or doesn't do may only be a distraction.  It's possible to forget to even look at the fruits if all we do is pray and ask God if the person is what they claim.  Seems inconsistent for God to spoon feed an answer to someone who could have done what Christ said and evaluated the fruits with an open mind.  I do not think God has made the test so overly difficult we cannot pass it.  We just need to do what He said.  But there is a test for sure.  For me it merits caution, and humility.

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

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

That's the real fruit.  Contact with God.  The false prophets fruits don't lead you to that.  They contradict God's word, lie, lead to darkness, distort God's nature, and pacify people with false security leaving the audience without God's word, thus without faith, relying on men and erroneous teachings.  Resulting in them looking to men or institutions if they were God.  Idolatry.

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

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

Friday, August 30, 2019

Certificates of Membership

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

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

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



THIS Certifies that 

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

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

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Careful What You Ask For

Great 4 second video showing:

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


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Pioneer Fireworks

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


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

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

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

https://www.ksl.com/article/46598302/memorial-dedicated-for-660-pioneer-children-who-died-on-trek-to-utah

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

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

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

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

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

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




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


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

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

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

Monday, July 15, 2019

Gentile Temple Layton Utah

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



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

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



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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few resources: here, and here

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Law of Consecration Per Joseph, Per Church

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

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

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



That contradicts later Church leader statements and statements continuing today. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 14, 2019

Aladdin


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Declining Divinity

This is a third post in a series about word frequency trends in the LDS Church.  I've been exploring a database of LDS General Conference talks back to 1851 up until today.  Over 10k talks, and 168 years worth of data.  This has provided the ability to see frequency of words spoken over time.  It does not include manuals or magazines, only conference talks.  It has been very interesting.  I first started talking about the Doctrine of Christ, how mention of it sharply increased a few years ago and some possible correlations as to why.  Last post was about the sharp downward trend of mentioning Zion and the sharp rise in mention of priesthood keys and living prophets.

In this post I look at some other trends.  Taken as a whole, hopefully the posts have been meaningful.  They are intended to draw a contrast and point towards Christ and away from idols.

While the presence or absence of a word obviously does not equate to a sermon's value, the overall trends of words does portray something about what is being taught to the people during the broadcast intended for the world.  Where men sustained as prophets seers and revelators and others called by them teach messages and give instruction that the audience views as from God.  Almost without question one of the concluding speakers or individuals offering prayer will talk about the presence of the spirit during the conference.  Seemingly confirming the cultural assumptions about the divine nature of the setting and all the messages.

A friend the other day explained to me how religious throughout history follow a trend.  First there is a charismatic leader who has contact with the divine.  Gifts of the spirit are present, there is an awakening, and large initial growth.  The divinity is what attracts people.  The presence of angels, authentic visions from God, prophecy, and God's presence is manifest.  Over time things plateau, once the leader has passed business practices and policies replace the Holy Ghost. Individual contact with the divine becomes discouraged and mistrusted.  As more time passes there are fewer converts, and the depth of the conversion is more shallow as there is increasingly less substance to the religion to deeply convert a person or attract new followers.  So other methods involving business and marketing are employed to keep the religion alive and viable.  Traditions become the truth. I couldn’t help but consider these trends in today’s churches.

Before I go on, I want to point out that just because a word is spoken doesn't mean it's reflective of an accurate understanding of the word.  Two people using the same word can sometimes be like an ink blot test.  Each person uses the word differently and perhaps with different meaning depending on their own understanding.  On a large scale for example the word faith is on the rise in General Conference over the years, but unless you distinguish between faith in Christ vs faith in the Church or teach how to develop saving faith then the increased frequency of the word may not mean faith is actually increasing.  So to me most of the increases are usually less interesting than decreases.

There's also this comment from Christ himself to Joseph Smith about the religions of his day.

From Joseph Smith History:
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"
They draw near unto Christ with their lips but the hearts are far from him.  If you were to draw near unto Christ with your lips, you'd speak of Him often (or the idea of him). You'd put his name on a lot of things. You'd emphasize his name wherever you could. This would give the impression you are founded on Christ. But what did Christ say? That just this alone is is actually something to watch out for. Because many will profess with their lips.

Suppose we look at how often "Christ" is mentioned in General Conference.



It's on the Rise. That means we're on track right?  That means all is well right?  The fact that Christ warned people would draw near unto him with their lips, and words, does not guarantee the person or group is aligned with Him.  According to Him.  So we have to look further and looks for fruits not just mention of the name of Christ.

The word "vision" or visions is also on the rise, but to my knowledge when the word is used, it's never the speaker having had one.  It's other people's, or visions from scripture.  Or the word is used as a mental image of some thing or future someone is envisioning as a hope or wish or desired destination.   

So what about when people don't even speak of a word, or the idea, or concept?  Not even pretending to lip service?  It's interesting to look at those trends. 

Here are some words that denote divinity, or contact with the divine.  Angels, Prophecy, The Second Comforter, Calling and Election.  All of these words....well look at the graphs yourself.  Possibly additional evidence of a declining divinity. 


Calling and election used to be talked in the 60's and 70's.  But it has not been mentioned in 35 years. 


Prophecy is very much on the decline.  Both the word and actual prophecy. 


Second Comforter was spoken only twice in 168 years.  The doctrine of the Second Comforter was taught by Joseph Smith openly.  Doctrine about Christ personally and literally ministering to a person.  Very neglected doctrine.




Lets look at some of the other gifts of the spirit mentioned in scripture:  Gift of tongues, and Discernment.  Both following the same trend as above.



Healing gets talked about a lot, and is on the rise, but the gift of healing not so much.


On a positive note "Miracles" has seen an increase of mention.  On another positive not "Lectures on Faith" which teach the saints how to develop and exercise faith is on the rise.  However it's rise is offset by the fact that the lectures have been de-cannoized since the 1930's. 


Just because an institution becomes stale doesn't mean the people themselves need experience a lack of God or the gifts of the spirit or miracles in their lives.  So there is always hope despite institutional trends.  All of these posts are intended to show where hope still lies.  It's in Christ, and what he's doing now.  These graphs may not be persuasive as they are mostly something for the mind to see.  For me that is an important piece of the puzzle.  But ultimately conversion to Christ needs to involve him.  Just not graphs.  To do that we need to read the scriptures.  Here are two sites intended to help with such a search.  https://www.learnofchrist.org/   http://scriptures.info/

The Book of Mormon warns about certain attitudes where God has apparently given his power (keys) unto men, and that explains the lack of divinity.  As we looked at last post, living prophets and priesthood keys are sharply on the rise.  You can read about that there.

I wanted to end with an important and meaningful section from Nephi in the Book of Mormon.  NC 2 Nephi 12 1-7.  Someone who saw our day in vision, was visited by Christ as Second Comforter, and spoke to his modern day reader.  None of us should hold our heads high and be stiff-necked. There is only reason to repent, not be prideful. 

And now behold, my brethren, I have spoken unto you according as the spirit hath constrained me; wherefore, I know that they must surely come to pass. And the things which shall be written out of the book shall be of great worth unto the children of men, and especially unto our seed, which is a remnant of the house of Israel. For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other, Behold, I, I am the Lord’s, — and the other shall say, I, I am the Lord’s, — and thus shall everyone say that hath built up churches and not unto the Lord. And they shall contend one with another, and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the holy ghost which giveth utterance. And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel. And they say unto the people, Hearken unto us and hear ye our precept, for behold, there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men. Behold, hearken ye unto my precept. If they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work. Yea, and there shall be many which shall say, Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die and it shall be well with us. And there shall also be many which shall say, Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God, he will justify in committing a little sin. Yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor, there is no harm in this. And do all these things, for tomorrow we die. And if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God. Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner false, and vain, and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord. And their works shall be in the dark, and the blood of the saints shall cry from the ground against them.

Yea, they have all gone out of the way, they have become corrupted; 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. 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. They wear stiff necks and high heads, yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray, save it be a few who are the humble followers of Christ. Nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.

O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms and pervert the right way of the Lord, Woe, woe, woe be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell.

Woe unto them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught, and revile against that which is good and say that it is of no worth, for the day shall come that the Lord God will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth. And in that day that they are fully ripe in iniquity, they shall perish. But behold, if the inhabitants of the earth shall repent of their wickedness and abominations, they shall not be destroyed, saith the Lord of Hosts. But behold, that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof. For the kingdom of the Devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the Devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains and they be stirred up to anger and perish. For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men and stir them up to anger against that which is good. And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say, All is well in Zion, yea, Zion prospereth, all is well. And thus the Devil cheateth their souls and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. And behold, others he flattereth away and telleth them there is no hell. And he saith unto them, I am no devil, for there is none. And thus he whispereth in their ears until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. Yea, they are grasped with death and hell; and death, and hell, and the Devil, and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is Endless torment. Therefore, woe be unto him that is at ease in Zion.

Woe be unto him that crieth, All is well. Yea, woe be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God and the gift of the holy ghost. Yea, woe be unto him that saith, We have received and we need no more. And in fine, woe unto all those who tremble and are angry because of the truth of God. For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness, and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth, lest he shall fall.

Woe be unto him that shall say, We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough. For behold, thus saith the Lord God, I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. And blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom. For unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough — shall be taken away even that which they have. Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the holy ghost.
Woe be unto the gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts, for notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me. Nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me, for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Building Zion?

Over at Bare Record there's an insightful post about how instead of building Zion in the tops of the Mountains in the West (As Joseph Smith Prophesied Zion would be built) the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is focused on building up a massive city in the swamps to the East (Florida). 

People I know give some push-back on this idea and insist the Church is ever moving closer to Zion.  My question is can you move closer to something you don't talk about? What if we're moving closer to Zion's bank than Zion? 

For example this is how frequently Zion is spoken of in General Conference (1835- date of this writing).  Notice any overall trends?  This is 160 years worth of data, 10,000 talks, and over 25 millions words.  At no time in the recorded history of LDS General Conference has Zion been spoken of LESS during the General Conference than it is right now.  The LDS vocabulary and knowledge base about Zion is shrinking.  I can hardly find the subject in the manuals any more.


Mention of Zion has gone down.... down..... down....  And if you pay attention to the news, I would think this would be a bit of a wake up call because what we see in the religious news matches!  The quest and even ability to build Zion, like the graph, is going the wrong direction.  The trend line makes it even more visible if you look at this same exact data as a line graph.



Why would I post such a negative statistic?  Anger? Bone to pick?  No. I'm not being angry or cynical or critical.  I'm just looking at a graph. Then looking at my own experience, the present day religious news, and I see a match between them all.  It's concerning.  It's alarming to me.  I post this for the same reason you'd ring an alarm bell. Which is so myself and anyone in hearing distance can maybe do something about it if they so choose.

What happens if you covenant all your time and talents etc... to a Church for the establishment of Zion yet that Church does nothing to build Zion?  How then can you keep your covenant?

While mentions of both Zion and Revelation are down, Priesthood Keys and Living Prophets are decidedly on the rise.  It's a most interesting moment in time right now in 2019.  Could these graphs change?  Well yeah.  But right now is the moment in time that seems very interesting.




The LDS Church (regardless of the style guide mandated name) isn't building Zion despite the financial resources, and in some people's view they can't build it.  I believe if any of us want to have any hope of seeing Zion we'll all need to repent and turn away from idols (IE expecting and waiting for The President of the Church to announce some program or give a call to move to Missouri).  We'll all need to turn back to God immediately, and see what God is up to now.  See link below.  This is positive, this is edifying, turning back to God is uplifting.  My hope is to be positive. 

https://www.learnofchrist.org/   (this is not another church FYI)

Side Note:

Here's a zoomed in section of this decade and mention of Priesthood Keys.  A clear jump in 2 places. 2014 was the highest frequency Priesthood Keys had ever been mentioned in General Conference since 1851.  2016 set another outlying new record.  Roughly 90% of all mentions of this phrase were by members of the Quorum of the 12 and or First Presidency. The top two key holding bodies ironically.


Makes me wonder if anything else happened or was said in 2014 (then again during or before 2016) regarding the Church's Priesthood Keys.   Because as we looked at last post these jumps in word frequency during conference aren’t always random. One correlation to consider on these jumps in 2014 and 2016 is below.  I’ve included an excerpt from a talk given Sept 2014.  PDF here: pages 6-8. 

Of note also is a book containing this same material was published in late 2015 "Preserving the Restoration".   
"Joseph Smith cautioned the saints about violating God’s trust. As Joseph put it: “His word will go forth, in these last days, in purity; for if Zion will not purify herself, so as to be approved in all things, in His sight, He will seek another people; for His work will go on until Israel is gathered, and they who will not hear His voice, must expect to feel His wrath.”18 We should expect God’s house to be ordered around only one principle: repentance. When the pride of a great organization replaces repentance, the heavens withdraw, and when they do, “Amen” to that portion of God’s house. But the restoration through Joseph will always remain, even if God chooses to order it differently before His return. It is His to do with as He determines best.

At the time I was excommunicated, I was in good standing with the Lord. I had nothing amiss in my personal life. There was no sin warranting church discipline. As a former member of the High Council for years, every church disciplinary proceeding I attended that resulted in excommunication, always involved serious moral transgression, betrayal of marriage covenants, and in some cases criminal wrongdoing. In contrast, the reason for my discipline was a book I had written about church history, in which I attempted to align the events of the Restoration to the prophecies of the Book of Mormon and the 
Doctrine and Covenants. The stake president admitted to me and my wife before the Council began, that I was then worthy of a temple recommend.19 By any standard of moral conduct, I was an innocent man, whose only offense was believing the scriptures revealed our condition before God. On the evening of May 1, 2014, the Lord gave me further light and knowledge about His work in His vineyard. The Lord is in control over the church, men, and all things. When He undertakes to accomplish something, “there is nothing that the Lord God shall take in His heart to do, but what He will do it.” (Abr. 3: 17.) Often the means used by the Lord to accomplish His “strange act,” and to perform His “strange work”(D&C 101: 95), are very small indeed. "Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls." (Alma 37: 6-7.)
It is almost always the case that the Lord uses simple things to confound the mighty. I can think of nothing smaller or simpler or less important than myself. Inside the great church to which I once belonged, I was obscure. However, I lived my religion, attended faithfully, served to the best of my ability, upheld church leaders with my prayers, paid tithes, fasted, observed the Word of Wisdom, and helped answer questions for those needing assistance with troubling issues. There was no reason to regard me as a rebel who should be singled out for discipline. Nevertheless, the Lord chose to use a faithful and believing member to accomplish His design. Only someone who is devoted to His will could accomplish what the Lord had in His heart. Now He has accomplished it.
The Church has Doctrine and Covenants 121, verses 36 to 40, to warn it about abusing His authority. There is an "amen" or end to authority when control, compulsion, and dominion are exercised in any degree of unrighteousness. Therefore, when using authority, great care must be taken. In any case, the church was careless. Therefore, those involved, are now left to kick against the pricks, to persecute the Saints and to fight against God.
Section 121 is a warning to church leaders. It is addressing the powerful, not the powerless. It is addressing those who occupy the seats of authority over others. Only those who claim the right to control, compel, and exercise dominion, are warned against persecuting the saints, who believe the religion and practice it as I did from the time of my conversion. My excommunication was an abuse of authority. Therefore, as soon as the decision was made, the Lord terminated the priesthood authority of the stake presidency and every member of the High Council who sustained this decision, which was unanimous. Thereafter, I appealed to the First Presidency, outlining the involvement of the 12 and the 70. The appeal gave notice to them all.20 The appeal was summarily denied.
Last general conference, the entire First Presidency, the 12, the 70, and all other general authorities and auxiliaries, voted to sustain those who abused their authority in casting me out of the church. At that moment, the Lord ended all claims of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to claim it is led by the priesthood. 21 They have not practiced what He requires. The Lord has brought about His purposes. This has been in His heart all along. He has chosen to use small means to accomplish it, but He always uses the smallest of means to fulfill His purposes.
None of this was my doing. The Lord's strange act, was not, could not, be planned by me. Was not, could not, have been controlled by me. It was not anticipated by me, or even understood by me, until after the Lord had accomplished His will, and made it apparent to me on the evening of May 1, 2014. He alone has done this. He is the author of all of this.22
Just because something is true at one moment does not mean it is true at another moment. Things change, decisions matter, what we do always matters. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not the same thing as it was when I joined in 1973. At this moment it is not even the same thing it was in 2012. It is in the process of changing rapidly, and will be something very different again in just a few more years. The Lord, knowing the direction the LDS Church is now headed, has acted to preserve the Restoration itself. This change does not affect the leadership’s legal right to preside.23 They are upheld by common consent, and therefore have the right still to control the direction of the organization. But it cannot be fixed, either. Any new authority will have to sustain the senior leaders now in position. I belonged for forty years to the church, and President Monson, President Packer and Elder Perry were in leadership when I joined and they are among the senior most leaders today. Adding new authorities that were not in the leadership when the Lord took these steps cannot remedy the Lord’s decision."24__________________________________________________________
Footnotes:
18 TPJS, p. 18. To the same effect, during the Mormon Reformation Heber C. Kimball said: “We receive the priesthood and power and authority. If we make a bad use of the priesthood, so you not see that the day will come when God will reckon with us, and he will take it from us and give it to those who will make better use of it? (JD 6: 125.) George A. Smith said, “God has set his hand at the present time to establish his kingdom. But unless the Saints will so live and so exert themselves that they can preserve the purity of the holy Priesthood among them, the work will be left to other people.” (JD 6: 161.) Even Brigham Young commented on the possibility that only an LDS remnant would remain to carry forward the work: “God will preserve a portion of the meek and the humble of this people to bear off the Kingdom to the inhabitants of the earth, and will defend His Priesthood; for it is the last time, the last gathering time; and He will not suffer the Priesthood to be again driven from the earth.” (JD 2: 184.)
19 I had a current temple recommend at the time of the disciplinary council. I was not asked to return it before the council, nor asked to return it even after the council’s decision. It expired in March, 2014, six months after excommunication.
20 A transcript of the Appeal Letter is attached as an Appendix to this paper.
21 Meaning the leaders who exercised control, compulsion and dominion, and not the powerless who had no part in the affair.
22 Transcribed from Journal of Denver Snuffer, Vol. 8, entry of May 2, 2014, pp. 29-33.
23 The entire corporate church is organized as a “corporation sole.” There is one owner: the LDS Church President. As The Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints he owns everything from the copyrights to chapels, from temples to business entities, from websites to artwork, the entire “church” belongs to one man. Even if voted out by common consent, he, and not church members, would own all the property. In a very real legal sense, there is only one Mormon in the LDS organization.
24 It would require such a radical and unprecedented change from history and tradition that it will not be possible. Every one of the leadership positions would have to be replaced at a single moment, which in LDS practice, although actually possible for them to do, is impossible for them to even contemplate.

Continued next post....

Friday, May 31, 2019

Dogs Cats and The Doctrine of Christ

I was struck recently with a few elements of the Doctrine of Christ and how The LDS Church teaches it and speaks of it.

To start I wanted to look at some really interesting statistics.  Thanks to a database of general conference talks back to 1851 we can easily see how focused the General Conferences of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has been on "The Doctrine of Christ".


Here's a link to see the origin of my above image is case it's not very clear.  The link takes a second to fully load so give it a minute.  https://www.lds-general-conference.org/x.asp?c=gc&q=73946295

As you can see the "Doctrine of Christ" (or alternate "Christ's Doctrine") wasn't said all that much over the last 60 years in LDS General Conference.  Sometimes only mentioned twice a decade.  To give you some frame of reference, the word "dog" has been spoken more in general conference than "Doctrine of Christ", 14 times more to be exact.  The word "pulpit" blows them both  away with 884 mentions.  Before I return from my digression I need to speak to the cat lovers of the world and acknowledge that "cat" has been said in General Conference 81 times with definite trends upward this decade. The word cat has been said more in General Conference than the Doctrine of Christ for like 4 of the past 8 decades.  But now I'm way way off track.

The Doctrine of Christ is specific doctrine, taught by Christ and defined by Him.  A proper noun in grammatical terms.  It's not vague ideas or concepts defined by us.  It has specific scriptural sources.  Christ's doctrine also has a warning not to add to or take away from this particular doctrine and than teach it as if it was Christ's doctrine.  So, to me, there's a clear boundary between groupings of Gospel stand-alone ideas (such as faith, repentance, baptism, Holy Ghost etc), and Christ's specific doctrine.   
With that as background what I'm wondering about is how often or frequently Christ's Doctrine is spoken of or taught about.  So back to the above image you no doubt saw the huge bar graph jump in 2010's where the Doctrine of Christ was said 62 times (still less than buzz word "Covenant path" which has no clear definition or scriptural reference but carries 77 mentions this decade).  But back on track.  Something very interesting must have happened as the Doctrine of Christ got triple the mention that decade than it had EVER had.  Drilling down into the 2010's we see more specifically 1 year was the big increase.  2016.



2016 is the clear outlier.  Drilling down further every mention of the Doctrine of Christ that year was during the October General Conference.  Why would that be I wonder?  I mean this jump is so significant in the past 168 years it bears investigation.  More mentions in one session of General Conference than any prior decade! 

One interesting idea is something else that happened in 2016 prior to that October LDS conference.  A small unorganized and informal group of Mormons or former Mormons.  Both now formerly known as Mormons as a result of the recent teachings from President Nelson to no longer use the term "Mormon.  Anyway that group decided to hold a "Doctrine of Christ" conference in September of 2016 in Boise Idaho.  Chris's Doctrine was the focus of the entire event.  Prior to this event in September there was a bit of an awakening among this band of religious misfits about how neglected, discarded, and completely misunderstood the Doctrine of Christ had been for generations in the LDS church.  That group decided to revisit the subject and bring added emphasis, light and life to the topic taught by Christ as His own doctrine.

I have no idea who is reading this so I need to give some context.  The LDS church (as it was known then) does not at all fancy this informal band of independent thinking Mormons/Christians I'm referring to.  They have excommunicated many of them, often apply a label of apostate,  and oppose them and any of their beliefs which don't conform to LDS thought and tradition. This group made up of mostly members or former members has firmly gotten the attention of the LDS church and it's not the approving kind of attention.  It's the opposite.  This group isn't a church, and has no formal organization.  It's more a group unified by belief in the Book of Mormon and belief in what God is doing in our day. 

Back to this conference in Boise though.  A few top LDS Church leaders were invited to speak at it. See here.  They were invited and encouraged to send a speaker as this was a unique opportunity to address folks who's views of the Church may not be very positive.  And it was also a chance for LDS leaders to share whatever insights they had with people on a topic presumed to be of high importance to everyone who believes in the Book of Mormon.  So, it's a matter of fact that the LDS Church knew about this "Doctrine of Christ" conference months in advance. 

4 months prior to the little conference in Idaho, the LDS Church demanded all names of any leaders and the Church be removed from the conference website.  It became a legal matter of intellectual property.  The LDS Church had a spokesmen adamantly and firmly reject any invitation to speak.  Although the conference was never presented as having affiliation with the LDS Church, the intellectual property representative demanded that a clause be added to the public website that this conference was not endorsed by the Church.  So much for sharing their insights or speaking to people who's views of the Church are not very positive.

Given the degree of the negative reaction, it's not a stretch imagine the Church had people or informants attend the meeting to see what was going on.  The leaders knew the topic and knew that such things as re-baptisms would take place at the event since Christ's doctrine includes baptism by authority as one of it's main elements.  Remember this Doctrine of Christ conference was September 2016, one month prior to the regularly scheduled and sanctioned LDS General Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Now the graph comes into play.  As you can see, fall of 2016 is when you can see on the graph a  sudden and major jump in mention of the Doctrine of Christ.  This was the first conference after the little conference in Boise.  But the upswing in mention of Christ's doctrine was only a temporary spurt, it then returns to the previous trend.

Is it possible that in order to not be shown up, or not be shown as lacking teachings (or even mention) about such a core topic (for decades), that this was a counter response to a tiny group in Idaho?   The data is there. You decide if there is a correlation.

If an organization were concerned about search engine hits on the "Doctrine of Christ" possibly directing the public to that disavowed little conference in Idaho, then making a lot of mention of that phrase soon after could help keep online search results pointing where you want.  Namely to your own organization.  Again, any correlation is up to you to decide. 

It's interesting that one of the speakers at the LDS conference who spoke about Christ's Doctrine during that Oct 2016 conference mentioned how for members of the Church partaking of the sacrament "renews covenants made at baptism".  He referenced this idea twice in his talk.  The citations for the idea linked only to another conference talk by another Church leader I linked to it above if you want to research the details.  This idea of sacrament renewing covenants has been shown to be unscriptural and not the purpose of the sacrament by other members of the 12 (Neil Andersen), but that's a separate topic. 

I wonder if this double reference to sacrament as a renewal of baptismal covenants had any inkling of an attempt to counter what they knew was happening up there in Boise Idaho with actual physical re-baptisms.  In olden days of the LDS Church if you wanted to renew your baptism, you'd simply get re-baptized.  It was common.  It was no only accepted practice, but an early temple recommend question even asked "When was the last time you were re-baptized".  The idea of re-baptism now days however to most members of the Church is viewed as definitely poisonous.  It's interesting how something common and harmless like getting re-baptized, can transform into something seemingly abhorrent after only a hundred years. 

Christ went to the trouble of specifically defining His doctrine in scripture (LDS 3rd Nephi 11:30-40) and then warned not to add to or take away from it and go and establish it as His doctrine.  The speaker at the LDS conference also went to the trouble of defining Christ's Doctrine but interestingly never included Christ’s definition. Instead he gave his own summary definition. There are differences between the speakers definition and Christ's. But I'll leave that to you.

Here's the section of the talk.
My message today focuses on the doctrine of Christ. The scriptures define the doctrine of Christ as exercising faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.5
[5] See 2 Nephi 31; 3 Nephi 27:16–20.

If you look at footnote 5 it cites 2 Nephi 31 (which is great) and 3 Nephi 27.  Oddly missing is where Christ himself defines his own Doctrine in 3 Nephi 11.  What a curious thing to leave out.  Instead a related but different passage in 3 Nephi 27 is used as the source.  Wonder why, when defining Christ's doctrine a speaker would not cite the Lord himself who defines his own doctrine.  Questions for another day. 

I was in attendance at that little Doctrine of Christ Conference in Boise Idaho.  Some things were said that have stayed with me ever since.  Those thoughts and the contrast between that and what I heard a month later at LDS conference motivate the below thoughts.  In Nephi's words "there is none other way...man can be saved in the Kingdom of God" than the doctrine of Christ. (LDS 2 Nephi 31:21)  So this topic is of greatest importance to us all.  Both Nephi and Christ himself spent time teaching and clarifying this doctrine.  It's about our own salvation.  It describes an interaction between God and man.

Interestingly it's not a stand alone topic in any Church manual, it's not the title or main subject of any LDS book that I can find.  It's never been the sole subject of any lesson I've had at church with the exception of when a lesson or talk happens to be based on a General Conference talk that happens to have had the Doctrine of Christ as its subject.

When I hear this topic taught at Church there are often strong undertones that connect this doctrine to fidelity to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  The topic can hardly be taught by the Church without some focus on and pointing to the men leading.  Despite that none of those things are part of the doctrine.   

For most of my religious upbringing this doctrine has been reduced to a list of actions checkboxes that you can fill out and then be done with it.  At least that was the predominant attitude I have seen all my life as a member of the Church.  It's an attitude still held by the overwhelming majority of people I still attend Church with.  Even the enduring to the end bit comes across as simply killing time on the clock of life. As long as you can somehow remain a member in semi-good standing until your physical death, you've apparently "endured to the end".  That has never inspired me, nor felt right.  It's boring, shallow, and lifeless.  It's no wonder the topic doesn't get much attention.

If there's any question on what the Doctrine Consists of here are the scriptural links:

3 Nephi 11:30-40 (NC 3 Nephi 5:9)
2 Nephi 31-32 (NC 2 Nephi 13-14)
I wrote a few posts about a few things on this topic beginning here
Other's have written some great stuff, here is one: https://www.totheremnant.com/2014/09/destroying-doctrine-of-christ.html

Assuming you know what the doctrine is, and have spent time on it, I put together a list of questions I found thought provoking on the topic.  Food for thought but it's important to be familiar with the doctrine first.  My goal is to refocus on Christ's Doctrine and gaining from it what God offers.

How far does the Doctrine of Christ take you?  Nephi teaches “Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. (v. 6–7).  "Unto you" "in the flesh".  Does the Doctrine of Christ lead you to an encounter with Christ as Second Comforter?  While you're mortal?  Is that within it's scope?  Or does the Doctrine of Christ stay shallow and not encompass or involve such Gospel depth?

Nephi also relates this when discussing this doctrine: But behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying, After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the holy ghost, and can speak with a new tongue—yea, even with the tongue of angels—and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me

Speak with the tongue of angels.  Does that make that person a type of ministering angel?

That last part of the above quote has an an ominous warning.  What is it about denying Christ at that point in progression that provokes this warning?   There's another warning by Christ in context of this doctrine that warns the audience not to add or take away from the Doctrine.  Why I wonder?  What does it do to the doctrine when men add to it or take away from it?  What does it cost a person or people when this happens?  What do they potentially loose out on?  Does a little contamination ruin the whole? 

When Nephi teaches: And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved. (2 Nephi 31:16) Does that just mean the end of your body clock?  Or does that imply an "enduring" or "preserving" of truth forever?  How far does the example of the Son of the living God extend?  I think our idea of "endure to the end" is extremely short sighted and boring.

Christ taught: "I am Alpha and Omega the beginning and the end", He tells us. "The end" is one of his names. Is Christ the "end" to which we are to endure?  Is that when we meet Him and receive Him?  Is it also something further?  Why has no one ever taught or even talked about any of this in Church?  It's as if it was hidden in plain sight.

Why would God hide things in scripture?  Is it so God in his Mercy can judge people less harshly?

Does the Doctrine of Christ require your fidelity to a Church organization?  Does it even require a formal earthly Church at all?

Where in the Doctrine of Christ does it require a man from the Church to lay hands on your head?  Can the Holy Ghost just descend upon you itself like it did for Christ who's example we are supposed to follow?

Does the Doctrine of Christ require you to give your tithes and offerings to a corporation or only one specific Church to be considered tithing?

If you follow Christ's Doctrine who is it you should be getting to know?  It makes sense that you get to know someone you're following.  But if all you're following are religious steps or religious leaders the only thing you may get to know are that Church organization and those men leading it.  Getting to know Christ might be very different than getting to know a Church.

Going back to the question that started this post, can you talk about and follow religious steps and never come to know Christ?

Does the Doctrine of Christ require you to "know Christ"?  Nephi tells us his revelation on the subject was given that we "might know the gate". Christ called himself "the gate" (NIV John 10:7). "Knowing the gate", and "knowing Christ" sound like one of those hidden clues God wants us to notice.  All these synonyms and names and titles all seem to have an intriguing theme and an underlying message as you follow the clues.

2 Nephi 31:21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father..."

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*Update 6/4/19

The Doctrine of Christ twice mentions to become as a little child.  Also in Luke:

NC Luke 10:8
And they brought unto him also infants, that he might touch them; but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them and said, Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Truly I say unto you, Whoever will not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall by no means enter therein.
Is there a connection between a little child and the Kingdom of God? For a fascinating read on the birth of the Kingdom of God symbolized in the constellation of the Infant Prince, as seen in the heavens, see here.  https://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/2019/kingdom.html

Truly "of such" is the Kingdom of God.

Continued next post....