Monday, August 27, 2012

The Search

Christ taught that the Gospel net cast into the sea gathers all sorts.  (Matthew 13:47)  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and agathered of every kind:

I think therefore it should be no surprise that in the Church we do find all sorts.  There are some who are content near the surface, there are some who venture down into deep water, some leave the net, some who just like being part of a school of fish, perhaps some who are in the net by default, tradition, or social status.  Others say they are part of the net but don't do anything about it, and some are there but try to chew the net apart.

The good and the bad all get sorted out at the end of the world. (vs49).  So being "in the net" so to speak is no guarantee of anything.  Our human minds want guarantees though, there are entire industries built around the idea of safety and guarantee's.  It's pleasing to a part of us humans to hear that you are part of something true as it leads to a sense of security and false guarantee's.  We love assurances.... and sometimes may cling to some that are in fact, not correct.  Were someone to point this out, it could be received with anger, and accusations, and labels like "apostate".

 James wrote in chapter 1 vs 5 "aIf any of you lack bwisdom, let him ask of God, that cgiveth to all men liberally, and dupbraideth not; and it shall be given him. "

Joseph Smith's experience with that verse offers another testimony that that it is true, so that makes both James and Joseph witnesses that the message is true, and therefore will work for you and I too.  I see other promises in scripture that are very appealing and inviting.  My own search has lead me to believe in, and have faith in them.  I think a lot of people have a desire to experience all that the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers.  The fullness. A desire to be in personal contact with the Eternal.  Most people I know have at least some degree of that desire. So I think there's a bit of  "a search" going on inside of all of us.  Each person is allowed to chooses their own pace.

In that search inevitably comes things that go against your beliefs, your traditions, your assumptions, and your cherished sentimental feelings.  We often hold onto ideas as if loosing them would mean death.  Sometimes our view of God, church, scriptures, or just life gets challenged, and sometimes for the better.  For some, this is a scary enough proposition to never press further into the Gospel, and instead play it safe by not investigating, questioning, or seeking beyond mainstream thought.  However they are ideas, and we should be willing to replace old darkened ideas with better light filled ones.  While if may be "safe" or "guaranteed" by some definitions to stay as you are, by another view that mindset could be viewed as "rejecting" what God really offered.  By neglecting to "seek, ask and knock" we may end up with the heavens closed to us because our actions show we prefer something or someone else.

D&C 88:32 says this:
32 And they who remain shall also be aquickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are bwilling to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.

Sometimes seeking for further understanding brings up sensitive things.  But that shouldn't stop us from being willing to discuss, and search a matter out.  Should it?  Are we afraid God won't support us? Anti literature, overly intellectual approaches, personal challenges, doubts, or a variety of other things sometimes lead away from the gospel net.  Or sometimes a person's search reveals new information or "dirt" on some historical incident, or some church leader which can upset the foundation of their belief.  Then there's those times when people just give up believing or don't continue to try and figure something out.  Hearing such stories I noticed causes fear for many people.  But if some fail in their faith, that doesn't mean that faith itsself has failed.

I think it's possible to search, ask questions, wonder, or seek answers but with a negative, doubting, accusatory, and or critical spirit.  It does not edify (D&C 50:23).  Sometimes groups of people form who do this, and it's worth taking a moment to see if the right spirit is there before being drawn in.  And lots of times the criticism or accusations brought forward are accurate.  Sometimes the truth is plain old messy or even exposing.  Refusing to see or acknowledge it doesn't help add light to our soul either.  We needn't fear the truth.  Fearing the truth or avoiding it just seems like another of the many ways to miss getting light into our soul. If we are to repent, which we all must, we are going to encounter things and ideas that need to change. To quote a friend: Isn't it curious how we adopt ideas like they are part of our anatomy and then refuse to give them up. It's like the ideas are more painful to change than cutting off a finger. That's quite strange when you think about it. Ideas should be welcome when they come and welcome when they are replaced by something better.

In the right Spirit, and with real intent I think seeking additional light and understanding is not only appropriate, but is what God intends for all of us to do.  And so we must.

A few quotes from Joseph:

I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness…It has always been my province to dig up hidden mysteries-new things-for my hearers.” (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 363)

Joseph also said of the Elders: "if you do right, there is no danger in you going too fast, he did not care how fast we run in the path of virtue. Resist evil and there is no danger.. God, man, angels, and devils can't condemn those that resist every thing that is evil as well might the devil seek to dethrone Jehovah, as that soul that resists every thing that is evil." (TPJS pg 226) 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Another False Gospel

Sunday school today dealt with Helaman 13:24-27.

The majority of the lesson dealt with Samuel the Lamanite, his prophesies, and his call to the Nephites to repent.  

The teacher's lesson material included this found in a book by some recognized Gospel Scholars:

"Gospel scholars Otten and Caldwell in their book say " It seems to be an easy decision for mankind to decide whom to follow, since we know the ultimate destiny attached to our choice of the leader of each cause.  It is difficult to imagine that anyone would knowingly choose to follow Satan.  But the problem isn't just a choice of whom we choose to follow.  The real challenge for us is to discover the true identity of those who encourage and persuade us. 

One reason it is so difficult is that we don't personally see or deal directly with Satan.  He is a master of camouflage, desiring that he not be discovered as the author of his work.  He has legions of agents who also hide in sinful shadows while helping him in the battle for our soul.  We have to recognize the evil inherent in the enticements of his representatives before we will reject him and his ways. 

We don't deal directly with the Savior, either.  Our contact is with those who represent him, but they declare that relationship openly.  The Savior's name is clearly displayed upon that which is of Him, and those who represent him.  His work is done in the light.  If we respond positively to His authorized representatives, His spirit, and especially the words of His prophets, we will receive a witness through the Holy Spirit that verifies the truthfulness of His words.  We will be safe while we pursue the well marked path to salvation.  But if we ignore or reject the Lord's agents, we will, by default, be choosing to travel the obscure trail leading to Lucifer's kingdom of evil".

-End of quote
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The first paragraph of the quote was awesome.  It ironically applies perfectly to the very people speaking.

After that, however we see the dark and sad state of many scholars who have joined a false religion. They claim that we don't deal directly with the Savior, that our contact is with those who represent him.  The last paragraph continues on with additional sickening idolatry.  How can you be a Christian and say we don't have direct contact with the Savior?  And then say our contact is instead with representatives?  That's either Antichrist  priestscraft, idolatry, or just plain faithless.

How did this garbage get past the peer reviews and make it to the shelf of Deseret Book?  Apparently these scholars have forgotten the very first thing missionaries tell people.  This is missionary discussion number 1 material. Joseph Smith both dealt directly with the devil and directly with the Savior.  How are they Mormon scholars and don't know that?  And not just Joseph! After the Lord's resurrection in Jerusalem the missionaries share how the Lord appeared personally to the Nephites in the Americas.  Large numbers of people including men women and children had direct and personal contact with Jesus Christ.  They felt the nail prints in his hands and feet (3Nephi 11:13-14).  If that's not dealing directly with the Savior than I don't know what is.  But even still, these scholars manage to publish a book that teaches we don't experience such direct contact with the Lord.  And then not 2 sentences later they go on and on about how we shouldn't reject the Lord's agents all the while they are rejecting the Lord himself.

Now I've heard quotes like the one above enough times in my life as a member that I get what they are trying to say.  I've heard similar things for years.  But it needs to be exposed.  These kinds of teachings by definition is denying the fullness of the Gospel.  Not to mention denying the experience of thousands of people in the scriptures.

I'm not taking the scholars quotes out of context either.  Read it yourself.  Their meaning is not vague or abstract.  Where did they dig this up is my question.  It's not from the scriptures or teachings of Joseph Smith, and you couldn't conclude what they conclude from hearing the missionaries.  So why would they teach this "representative" Savior doctrine?  How did they come up with it?  Who's doctrine is this that we do not deal directly with our Savior?  Is that Joseph's doctrine?  Paul's?  Nephi?  Alma?  Moroni?  Ether?  Last I heard we pray directly to God.  That would be "direct contact" at it's most fundamental, basic level.  Who's doctrine is it that we look to representatives, and that they can openly declare a direct relationship with the Lord but we don't?  Isn't that idolatry?  No true prophet has ever taught these things.  Yet many Latter Day Saints believe it and pay money for it.

So I'm asking myself did they mean that we don't or can't physically see God?  Even if they did mean that, that's false too.  How can you conclude anything else from reading 3rd Nephi 11?  Or from hearing Joseph Smiths first vision encounter taught to non members all across the world by the missionaries?  CLEARLY we can have direct contact with the Savior.  Maybe the scholars don't have direct contact, but we by no means need to share in their darkened and false religion 

The Lord teaches the exact opposite of what these scholars do (D&C 93:1, 2 Nephi 9:41, 3rd Nephi 11).  Despite this, there is a trend of folks who teach the same thing as these scholars.  They point to men, and falsely teach that we look to them in place of direct contact with the Lord.  

The whole restoration came about from a boy coming into direct contact with our Savior.  This is basic missionary lesson number 1 doctrine...... so why then is it so easy to trust in and quote scholars who can't even get the first missionary lesson right?  Should we trust scholars?  Does their position give them credibility?  Does their status mean they speak truth?  These emblems of authority are called "the arm of the flesh" in the scriptures, or "man's learning".  It's easy to see why there is never safety in the arm of the flesh.  Man's words, teachings and doctrine unless given by the Spirit are never safe.      

I'm not saying these, or any other scholars are bad people.  Not at all.  I really like Joseph Smith's comment dealing with this:  "It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine" (DHC 5:340).  So I'm not calling anyone bad.  Only that we shouldn't just fluff off and sit idly by while false teachings run all through our meetings, books, and minds.

We should all have direct contact with our Savior.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sorting Through History, Conclusion

...continuation and conclusion of two previous posts from In Mount Zion.  If you haven't already, scroll down and read the first two posts I quoted so that this one makes sense. .
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"If you can control people's ideas of the past, you control their ideas of the present and hence the future" (Nibley, Of All Things, p. 247).

I have not followed the advice of that visiting Seventy during the last decade.  It would have altered my gospel study dramatically, and I’m grateful it hasn’t.  While I have read, learned from, and enjoyed many of the articles, talks, and books written by leaders in the Church, I have found truth from others sources, too; truth that, in all likelihood, I would never have discovered had I limited my search to the brethren.  This is particularly true of my efforts to learn Church history.

Honest questions about history lead to real answers.  Those who are determined to find answers to their questions cannot be contented with non-answers.  They will very likely persist until they acquire the sources that will deliver the answers they seek.  Those who have earnestly sought an answer know how this feels.  That feeling could be expressed in words like these: “I know there’s got to be an answer to this question.  I know some person or some book or some place has the answer I’m seeking, and I’ll not rest until I find it.”  Fortunately for us, Joseph Smith felt that way in 1820 in his search for which church to join.  In his case, the answer was only to be found by prevailing upon heaven for answers.    

Assistant Church Historian John Jaques put it well:

Yes, say, what is truth? 'Tis the brightest prize
To which mortals or Gods can aspire;
Go search in the depths where it glittering lies
Or ascend in pursuit to the loftiest skies.
'Tis an aim for the noblest desire.
(Hymn 272, “Oh Say, What is Truth”)

David, in his Psalm expressed this eager sentiment:

“Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.

“Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

“Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.

“Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness” (Psalm 119:33-35, 40). 

The Lord does not expect his Church, or any of his children for that matter, to believe in fabrications about the past.  He has always desired from the beginning that we seek further light and knowledge.  This light and knowledge of the truth make a man like his God (D&C 93:36).

Many members have begun asking honest, tough questions, but been disappointed to discover that the answers they’ve been seeking are to be found outside of “approved” channels of dissemination.  In the recent interview done with Elder Marlin Jensen, he acknowledged this and explained the Church is trying to find solutions to this problem.  Some of the brethren are supportive of that effort and others are not. 

While men are trying to decide how much truth is too much, we are meanwhile faced with the challenge of finding true answers to honest inquiries.  But where do you go looking?  You look wherever you need to look to find your answers.  Truth is truth whether it is found here or there.

The historians who authored the recent book on Mountain Meadows provide a good example of diligently searching into history.  Where did they look for answers?  They looked wherever they needed to look to find their answers.  Their project was so comprehensive it really required them to look everywhere. 

But what about you?  Are you allowed to do that?  Are you allowed to seek out matters in that kind of depth?  What if the source is Jerald and Sandra Tanner, or Ogden Kraut?  They’re the bad folks, right?  If they present a true doctrine, or provide credible information about our history that cannot be found in Deseret Book publications, should it not be accepted?  Or must the facts provided by their research first be acknowledged by the brethren before you can accept them as truth?  What if the information they provided even helped somebody find faith in Christ, or find the determination to stay in the Church?  Would you be justified in judging a woman as "on the fringe" because she finally found a helpful, straight-forward answer but it happened to come from them?

Ogden Kraut was a fundamentalist and I’m not.  Though I don't agree with some of his views, much of his work is superb.  There are few authors I’ve read who seemed so bent on understanding and living what he believed the scriptures were teaching.  He and his research are respectable to me. 

From his writings I could give examples where history is presented in a more faithful manner by a fundamentalist than by our own church’s portrayals.  I could give examples that demonstrate a more clear understanding of and faithful devotion to Joseph Smith’s teachings than our own practices do.  I could show a man who studied, understood, and lived the doctrines in the scriptures better than many Mormons would ever contemplate trying.  I didn’t know the man, but I like what he wrote.  He seems to me to have cared very little about popularity, the praise of men, the lusts of the flesh, or Babylon.  I'm not suggesting you need to read his books though.  He's only a useful example in making a point.  There are others I could have chosen.            

The Tanners are anti-Mormon and I’m pro-Mormon.  They have come to a very different conclusion about Mormonism than I have, but their research has sometimes been helpful to me.  To be clear, I’m not recommending their work to you either.  But, when I’ve needed to get to the bottom of a matter in the Joseph Smith History, for instance, they’ve been happy to oblige.  Their work is well documented.  I'll provide only one example: 

In what has become accepted as an official record we now read this:

“Dr. Richards was taken sick, when Joseph said, ‘Brother Markham,…go and get the doctorsomething he needs to settle his stomach,’ and Markham went out for medicine.  When he had got the remedies desired, and was returning to jail,…” (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 614).

The Millennial Star, where the account was originally published, read like this:

“Dr. Richards was taken sick, when Joseph said, ‘Brother Markham,…go and get the Doctor a pipe and some tobacco to settle his stomach,’ and Markham went out for them.  When he had got thepipe and tobacco, and was returning to jail,…” (Millennial Star, vol. 24, p. 471).

Now, some might ask: So what?  What is the big deal that these changes have been made?  This really isn't a big deal.  These are just small things.  

The big deal is this: These aren’t the only changes that have been made.  These aren’t the only things that have been covered up.  There are more changes and cover-ups than any one of us could find or want to count.  Some of them seem harmless, as does the change just mentioned.  But when a man or woman who’s been raised in the Church finds one or two of these changes for the first time in their 30s or 40s, they begin to wonder what other changes have been made.  They wonder what other information has been withheld from them.  In rapid succession, they go uncover a heaping pile of history and teachings that smothers them.  They are unprepared and often too tender for the cruel manner in which much of the information has been portrayed by enemies to the Church.  They wonder whether the leaders knew about these things, and if so, why they have not been honest with the members.  They are deciding to leave the Church over these “small things.”  It's happened to people I know.

To me, these are all small things.  Probably no harm was intended when changes were made, but harm is being done.  Nobody who made decisions to edit the texts probably ever foresaw the kind of trouble it would get folks into years down the road.  These are unintended consequences of hiding the truth, but consequences nonetheless.  Folks are struggling because of this stuff.      

J. Reuben Clark, who was a councilor in the first presidency of the Church for 27 years said: 

"One of the reasons why the so-called 'Fundamentalists' had made such inroads among our young people was because we had failed to teach them the truth" (Elder Statesman: A Biography of J. Ruben Clark, p.249).

Where do you look for answers?  Look wherever you need to look to find your answers.  "Thy mind, o man, ..." et cetera; remember that quote from Joseph Smith?
At the root of all of this seeking, of course, is a personal attempt at coming unto Christ.  That is why you should be seeking answers.  That is ultimately what you should be seeking for.  

Piecing together the puzzle pieces to get an accurate view of Mormon history will help you understand the scriptures.  The reverse is also true.  You cannot properly understand Mormon history without first considering and believing in the prophecies in the scriptures.  Understanding and believing the warnings of the Book of Mormon will help you interpret our history more accurately.  In fact, it is impossible to accurately interpret 
the whole of our history independent of those prophecies and warnings.

Sources in Sorting Through History

This is a continuation of the prior post "Historian's attempts at sorting through history" quoted from: "In Mount Zion"  These are worth reading, but read them in order.      
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A few weeks ago a Seventy visited the ward where my wife and I attend.  He delivered a beautiful sermon on Joseph Smith and the Savior.  It wasn’t ward or stake conference, so our meeting attendance was average-size.  After the meeting was over we had occasion to talk with him for just a few minutes. 

We talked about the sacrament meeting, my profession, and golf (I don’t golf, but he and the Stake President did).  The conversation later turned to gospel study.  I inquired whether or not he had heard of a particular author.  He replied that he had not, and then felt it was important to “caution” me against reading things “not written by the brethren.”  I could sense his honest concern about the matter, and I was grateful for his kindness.  Our conversation ended on that note of counsel, and we exchanged hands and goodbyes.

It seems the brethren themselves don’t follow that counsel.  If they had, we wouldn’t have Talmage’s Jesus the Christ, which was written by comprehensively studying a non-Mormon’s writings.  We wouldn’t have many of President Monson’s poems, stories, and anecdotes were it not for William James, Charles Swindoll, Thomas Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and William Shakespeare (“Living the Abundant Life,” Ensign Jan. 2o12).  President Benson’s famous “Beware of Pride” address would never have been produced had not C.S. Lewis first written The Screwtape Letters, and Mere Christianity

Church historians Ronald Walker, Richard Turley, and Glen Leonard recently wrote the most extensively documented account of the Mountain Meadows Massacre yet.  Their work has been applauded by some of the brethren.  There are over 1,600 footnotes in the book.  They researched and cited not only Mormon authors, but excommunicated-Mormon authors, anti-Mormon authors, and never-Mormon authors from both the 19th and 20th centuries.  

Why would they do that?  Don’t they know better?  

They did it because the information they needed in order to put together honest history wasn’t found in church manuals, the writings of the brethren, or LDS.org.  They did it because they were interested in finding out the truth of the matter.  They exhausted all the resources available to them and decided what was valuable in piecing together a true picture.

On 11 September 2007, before the book’s publication, President Eyring spoke at the Sesquicentennial of that horrific event.  In his address he said this about the work of these three historians:

“Although no event in history can fully be known, the work of these three authors has enabled us to know more than we ever have known about this unspeakable episode. The truth, as we have come to know it, saddens us deeply. The gospel of Jesus Christ that we espouse, abhors the cold-blooded killing of men, women, and children. Indeed, it advocates peace and forgiveness. What was done here long ago by members of our Church represents a terrible and inexcusable departure from Christian teaching and conduct. We cannot change what happened, but we can remember and honor those who were killed here” (see Newsroom).

More and more folks are discovering, at times to their dismay, that if you want to find out the whole truth about matters of Mormon history you're going to have to start traveling and turning over rocks outside city limits.  There's not enough information available in Church manuals to satisfy the spiritual needs of those seeking to know the truth about history.  

Historians' Attempts at Sorting Through History

This is going to be a 3 part series on sorting through History from a friends blog, posted with his permission.  Click the link above to be directed to that blog to read the full series and more on these topics.  Very worthwhile reading.  Wanted to post at least this 3 part excerpt here because it was so good.  
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For about ten years, from 1972 to 1982, Leonard Arrington served faithfully as LDS Church Historian and Recorder.  During that time he was granted extensive access to Church archives and made an effort to make information available to Mormons and non-Mormons alike.  He was the first professional historian to be called to that position. 

In 1982 the History Division that Arrington oversaw was transferred to BYU, and liberal access to Church archives came to a halt.  Arrington was privately released from both his calling as Church Historian and head of the History Division, and in the April 1982 General Conference the standard public announcement of release and vote of thanks was absent.

In the minds of at least some of the leaders, the degree of transparency Arrington desired for Mormon history turned out to be too much for the Saints  and the world to handle. 

Arrington felt that our “authenticity” as Latter-day Saints depended on members confronting history with complete honesty.  He apparently felt we hadn’t done a stand-up job with that.  As Church Historian and Recorder he was motivated by a desire to see a change in the way we handled and presented our history.  Quoting a Jewish novelist, Arrington makes this point:    

“In his autobiographical recollections and reflections, Little Did I Know, the great Jewish novelist and Zionist Maurice Samuel asserts that the ‘authentic Jew’ is ‘the one who understands and is faithful to his own personal and social identity.  One who, in short, accepts his history.’  May we not make an analogous definition of the Latter-day Saint?  Are we authentic Latter-day Saints (i.e., real Mormons) unless we receive messages from our collective past? …Our individual and collective authenticity as Latter-day Saints depends on the historians telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about our past.  This includes the failures as well as the achievements, the weaknesses as well as the strengths, the individual derelictions as well as the heroism and self-sacrifice” (Arrington, “The Search for Truth and Meaning in Mormon History,”Dialogue 3:56-66).

Though some members share Arrington’s approach to history, as a people we tend to be oddly touchy about controversial issues from our past.  This leaves us in no real good position to help others who are struggling to understand our faith.  In Arrington's view we are, to some degree, not "authentic" Mormons.  We are often uncomfortable subjecting our own history to critical analysis.  

Polly Aird, Jeff Nichols, and Will Bagley pointed this out in the preface of a book they recently coauthored: 

"An odd defensiveness still characterizes the “faithful” version of Mormon history, which occasionally borders on paranoia: the mildest critical analysis is often condemned as yet another example of the faith’s long-sanctified history of persecution. To this day, the religion’s protectors paint the motives of those who do not subscribe to their faith-promoting version of history as suspect. …At times it seems that any scholar not thumping a tub for the restored Gospel is untrustworthy and relegated to an enemies’ list dating all the way back to the 1830’s" (quoted in Snuffer's recent paper on Brigham Young).

You don't have to like, agree with, or have a testimony of everything that has transpired in Mormon history.  Not everything is beautiful, not everything is praiseworthy, and not everything is true.  Arrington's Assistant Church Historian Davis Bitton said as much (see his article, "I Don't Have a Testimony of the History of the Church").  In that article, he expressed the view that it was not the truth of history that is ever the problem that troubles members, but their own expectations being conflicted that can tear them apart:

"What's potentially damaging or challenging to faith depends entirely, I think, on one's expectations, and not necessarily history. Any kind of experience can be shattering to faith if the expectation is such that one is not prepared for the experience. . . . A person can be converted to the Church in a distant part of the globe and have great pictures of Salt Lake City, the temple looming large in the center of the city. Here we have our home teaching in nice little blocks and we all go to church on Sunday, they believe. It won't take very many hours or days before the reality of experiencing Salt Lake City can be devastating to a person with those expectations. The problem is not the religion; the problem is the incongruity between the expectation and the reality.

"History is similar. One moves into the land of history, so to speak, and finds shattering incongruities which can be devastating to faith. But the problem is with the expectation, not with the history. One of the jobs of the historians and of educators in the Church, who teach people growing up in the Church and people coming into the Church, is to try to see to it that expectations are realistic. The Lord does not expect us to believe lies. We believe in being honest and true, as well as chaste and benevolent. My experience, like that of Leonard, has not been one of having my faith destroyed. I think my faith has changed and deepened and become richer and more consistent with the complexities of human experience. . . . Perhaps the only answer to a question about faith and history is to say that we are examples of people who know a fair amount about Mormon history and still have strong testimonies of the gospel" (Bitton, ibid.). 

The Church encourages its members to seek individual “spiritual confirmation” of the things they are taught (see Newsroom).  Would it be unacceptable, given that invitation, to decide at some point that there is some idea with which you disagree, because the Spirit of the Lord is not in it?  Or because you've done a little bit of research and discovered an alternative view of part of our history?  If the invitation is extended in the hope that members will take it seriously, then the outcome of some members choosing to act upon it should be pleasing to those who lead the Church, even if it results in some members coming to alternative views about a matter.

After decades of extensive digging into Mormon history, Leonard Arrington observed that not all theological and organizational changes were made in response to "explicit instructions from on High."  Many times, he continued, these changes were introduced "by people - by learned scripturists, talented organizers, and energetic innovators.  They may have operated individually or in groups; they may have been motivated by ambitionprestige, or the good of the Church" (Arrington, ibid., emphasis mine).

Discovering that a faithful Church Historian came to those conclusions, I feel at liberty to come to what I consider to be honest conclusions about issues from our past.  [The truth needn't ever destroy true faith in Christ.]  I am grateful for the work of honest historians like Leonard Arrington.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Good Distractions

Ever been grateful for something as a means of avoiding something you don't want to see?  Or focusing on gratitude as a "cover up"?

Before I say anything else I need to say I think we would all do well to be grateful.  It's a commandment, a true principle, and how easy it is for us humans to take things for granted.  Everyone will agree ingratitude or that "entitled" attitude is ugly. I'm writing this as more of an observation about how good things can become misguided and deceiving if not kept in context.

Being grateful for things can be misused.  It can be an easy alternative to facing a difficult situation, or unpleasant part of our lives.  Like the 36yr old single male who is so grateful to still be living for free in mom and dad's house that he never wants to make any uncomfortable independent lifestyle changes. The gratitude is there, but it's not helping anything.  Focusing on and being grateful for " the good" to avoid looking at or dealing with the "the bad" may be more of a distraction than anything.  That isn't real gratitude.

A few examples:  Focusing on gratitude for your children, your work, your yard, your house....will not correct your addiction, alter your poor diet, or fix the dead battery in your car.  It could distract in fact that you need to change your diet, and get a new car battery.      

Don't get me wrong, we should all choose to carry gratitude in our hearts for our blessings and the many many things in our lives.  However, it needs to be said every so often that it's possible to focus on and be grateful for good things in such a way that it distracts us from facing unpleasant truths, or truths we haven't yet been willing to become aware of.

Sometimes ingratitude is the problem.  We all know that.  But for some moments and challenges focusing on being more grateful is not a solution.  Finding the truth is better.  I notice this sometimes happens in a religious context.  We are grateful for many things as members of the church.  Sometimes however being grateful for things like "being part of the only true church", "being so grateful for a living prophet", "being grateful for additional scriptures the rest of the world doesn't have" etc.... sometimes it can all cause us to remain blind to other truths that need our attention.  A certain flavor of "thankfulness" for good things sometimes won't allow us to see anything BUT that.  In that mindset important truths about our latter day status can get overlooked or ignored all the while distracted with our great pride and "thankfulness" for so many "good things" we have.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Look-alikes

Here are some religious look-alikes that aren't much alike that may in fact confuse a lot of people.  I mean them with a bit of humor because it's good to have some of that in all of this.  The differences between some of these are important enough that....well... they may be crucial to the test of life.

Sometimes we mistake:

Group depression for reverence (attend any ward in Utah a few times)
Boredom for reverence
Sincerity for faith
Sincerity for truth (It's possible to be sincere, and yet mistaken. Happens all the time)
Sincerity for The Spirit (they are not interchangeable)
Academic credentials for spiritual credibility.  Why else do they cite a bibliography at BYU? (2 Timothy 3:7)
Personal Apostasy for Spiritual starvation (Amos 8:11-13)

We may sometimes also mistake:

Emotional stories for doctrine.  (Look at LDS.org)
Faith among historical saint's for faith among us now (TPJS, p. 324.)
Success of an institution for personal righteousness.  (total membership means nothing)
Priesthood authority for priesthood power (Boyd K Packer Conference address)
Religious platitudes for actual knowledge of God (2 Timothy 3:7)
Financial success for God's approval (Mosiah 12:14-15) (Luke 6:24)
Casserole for comfort
Worldly acceptance for heavenly acceptance (John 15:19) (Luke 6:26)
"Following The Prophet" for following the Lord (D&C 76:98-101)

We may also mistake:

Uniformity for unity (see blog post here)
Human talents for Gifts of the Spirit
"Cult of personality" for following The Spirit  (D&C 76:98-101)
Following the printed program/manual for following the Spirit (Moroni 6:9)
Uninspired words of leaders for truth (Mormon news room link), (TPJS also)
Praying to be "heard of men" for praying to be heard of God. (Alma 33:8)
True prophets for "wild men" (Moses 6:8)

And a few more mistaken look-alikes could be mistaking:
Trials for sin, or the contrary, mistaking lack of trails for righteousness.
Superiority in athletic achievements for word of wisdom adherence
Believing that have the fullness of the Gospel ins criptures means we have it personally. (3rd Nephi 16:10)
Wolves in sheep's clothing for prophets.  (3rd Nephi 14:15)
Rebellion for following the True Master (Matthew 12:1-8)
New stories about common religious principles for revelation
Official policy changes for revelation

There are who knows how many more.  There is always a counterfeit, look-alike, or some distraction.  I think at one point or another I've made mistakes with every single one of the things mentioned above.  Scriptures say that in the latter days folks will be, among other things, confused, and will be going around calling good evil and evil good (2 Nephi 15:20).  I have a feeling some of that may be due to look-alikes that are NOT alike.