Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Giver

We went and saw The Giver in the theater today. Very interesting story. 


The story is about a master-planned community. To eliminate pain and problems, the Elders created a way in which their citizens live in total conformity. No color, no music and no emotions. The citizens are unaware of history or the existence of anyone else beyond their boundary, so they're unaware of any other way of life – except for The Giver.

The society the story takes place in is one in which the people have been lied to about their past.  Only one citizen retains the memories.  

There were two quotes that stood out to me.  

The way things look and the way things are, are very different.

Don't take something as truth just because someone you trust tells you

How often we take things as true just because someone we trust tells us.  And who do we trust?  Some people are trustworthy, but trusting someone should not be the measuring stick of what we take as truth.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

History of The Lectures on Faith

Below is an excerpt from a lecture in Idaho Falls about The Lectures on Faith. The paper is titled "Faith". It's by Denver Snuffer and was given on 9-28-13.  The entire lecture is great reading and the author makes them available for free on Scribd. Link

I thought this section about the History of the Lectures on Faith was important, and something very few know about.  The Lectures used to comprise the "doctrine" portion of the Doctrine and Covenants.  Our current scriptures no longer include them. Below is the excerpt.

Before its publication, Joseph Smith, Assistant President of the Church, Oliver Cowdery, First Counselor in the First Presidency, Sidney Rigdon, and Second Counselor in the First Presidency, Frederick G. Williams, jointly signed a preface written by Joseph Smith. In his journals, leading up to the publication of The Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith recorded that he spent days editing the Lectures that had been given before their publication as scripture. 

Since they've been removed from the scriptures, there are a lot of people who are trying to vindicate the decision that was made to remove them from scripture. One of the arguments that is made in furtherance of removing them from scripture was that it was primarily a product of Sidney Rigdon's pen .It was primarily of product of Sidney Rigdon' pen. They've done word typing and computer analysis, and they've come up with probability of authorship. It doesn't matter if Sidney Rigdon had a hand in the document, because Joseph Smith edited it. And Joseph Smith corrected it. And Joseph Smith vouched for it. 

In the preface to The Lectures on Faith in the 1835 edition, (which you can read in the Joseph Smith Papers, Volume 2 of the Revelations and Translations beginning on page 311 of that volume), you can read the preface (on page 313). And I'm reading you this over Joseph Smith's name. “We deem it to be unnecessary to entertain you with lengthy preface to the following volume, but merely to say that it contains in short the leading items of the religion which we have professed to believe. The first part of the book will be found to contain a series of lectures as delivered before a theological class in this place. And in consequence of their embracing the important doctrines of salvation, we have arranged them into the following work. We do not present this little volume with any other expectation than that. We are to be called the answer to every principle advanced. ” [This is Joseph Smith saying, this is a document that I intend to vouch for. In his official history, January 1835 he says: “During the month of January, I was engaged in the school of the elders and in preparing the lectures on theology for publication in the book of Doctrine and Covenants."]

You find that in the History of the Church Volume 2 beginning at page 180. He defended every principle that was advanced. It was brought before a Council of the Church. And I'm reading from the Joseph Smith papers. This is on page 307 of Volume 2 of the Revelations and Translations. “On 17 August 1835, a general assembly of the church met for the purpose of examining a book of Commandments and Covenants that had been compiled and written by the publications committee.(Joseph Smith headed the publications committee.) This committee having finished the said book according to the instructions given them, (the minutes read) it was deemed necessary to call the General Assembly of the Church to see if the book be approved or not by the authorities of the Church. That it may, if approved, become a law of the church, and a rule of faith and practice of the same.” 

Though the assembly was convened by the Presidency of the Church, several of them were absent at the time of the vote. So the responsibility of presenting the book to the conference fell to Oliver Cowdery, a member of both the presidency and the four man publication committee and Assistant President of the Church at the moment that this took place. Sidney Rigdon, the other presidency member and committee member, stood and explained the matter by which they intended to obtain the voice of the assembly for or against said book. Voting on the book proceeded by quorums and groups with the leader of each group bearing witness of the truth of the volume before his group voted. And then they proceeded to vote. And they voted by quorums from the least to the greatest. Then after all the quorums of the church had accepted the Doctrine and Covenants, the first 70 some pages of which were The Lectures on Faith, the General Assembly voted, including everyone who was present. Children, women, everyone voted. They all sustained this as the Doctrine of the Church.

In 1921 The Lectures on Faith were dropped from the scriptures by a committee comprised of George F. Richards, Anthony W. Ivins, Melvin J. Ballard, James E. Talmage, John A. Widstoe, and Joseph Fielding Smith. That committee dropped The Lectures on Faith from the scriptures because, “Certain lessons entitled The Lectures on Faith which were bound with Doctrine and Covenants in some of its former issues, are not included in this edition. Those lessons were prepared for use in the School of Elders. But they were never presented or accepted by the Church as other than theological lessons or lectures.”

That's a lie. The Joseph Smith Papers, if you will read them today, tell you that statement is not at all the truth.  Part of what I hope to get to tonight, and if not tonight then in Logan, are the reasons why Joseph Smith called this "doctrine" - important doctrine. "Leading items of the religion." And that he would answer to every principle that was advanced in the document. Now to his credit, Joseph Fielding Smith, who was on that committee said in 1966: “I suppose that the rising generation knows little about the Lectures. In my own judgment these Lectures are of great value and should be studied. I consider them to be of extreme value in the study of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”And in a talk given by Elder Bruce R. McConkie at Brigham Young University, (the son-in-law to the one of the committee members,whose words I just read), in January 24, 1972, Brother McConkie said: “In my judgment it is the most comprehensive, intelligent, inspired utterance that now exists in the English language that exists in one place defining, interpreting, expounding, announcing, and testifying of what kind of being God is. It was written by the power of the Holy Ghost, by the Spirit of Inspiration. It is in effect, eternal scripture. It is true.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Conference Talks, The Cornerstone of our Religion

After a lot of thought I came upon this viewpoint regarding gospel knowledge and understanding.  The more we follow an earthly church and its leaders the less we tend to know about the Gospel.  There are other views of course, which say that the more we follow to the institution, and follow it's leaders the safer we are, the more protected, less able to be deceived, happier etc... I present another view to consider. I like comments so feel free to share one if you want to discuss or share another view.

By "follow" I mean completely rely on, trust in, and look to exclusively for understanding or knowledge of the Gospel.  The more we "follow" in that sense my view is the less we will understand, or comprehend the Gospel of Christ.  From what I read, Joseph Smith taught this, and scripture authors's writings agree with it.  

D&C states it is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance (D&C 131:6)

Joseph Smith taught:
A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God(History of the Church 4:588)

The Church Correlation Department limits what can be taught.  Even the General Authority talks go through the Correlation Department.  Things Joseph Smith taught openly, even to non members are not allowed to be taught now days.  Entire volumes which used to be part of the canonized set of scriptures are now no longer scripture, they are forgotten, neglected, and fading from the consciousness of the members.  Missionaries are not allowed to read The Lectures on Faith in many missions of the Church (mine included). Instead of our scriptures growing, they have shrunken since the days of Joseph.

Seminary and Institutes are limited (again by correlation) to a list of topics which are "approved".  That list of topics intentionally excludes many many fundamental teachings given the prophet of the restoration, Joseph Smith.  In an attempt to standardize the teachings, and reduce false doctrine, what has happened is a shrinking body of doctrine.  No longer is there as much freedom to teach by the Spirit, but we have limited the content of what the Spirit can even say.  It gets worse, and goes much further.  See here for an update.

Years ago the First Presidency issued a statement telling members they should no longer open their scriptures during sacrament meeting.  The overall use and study of scripture in church seems to be on the decline in favor of the manual or just referencing a block of scriptures and reading maybe a verse or two.  

So from this view you can begin to see the more you rely on an institution, and follow only what they tell you, only what they teach you, and only what is published in manuals, you will know less and less about the Gospel.  I'm not talking about heeding leader's inspired counsel.  And sustaining them with prayers and faith.  We as members should all do that.  When they speak inspired words, we know those words came from a higher source, so we would be following the higher source, not necessarily the instrument. It's our responsibility to distinguish inspired words from the rest.  When they ask us to pay tithing, attend the temple, serve in callings, participate in the ordinances, home teach we should.  That's all great.  I do all of those things and am better for it.  Those things are easy compared to lots of the things the scriptures ask.

In terms of knowledge, and what is taught, the Sunday School manuals have less doctrinal content each year.  They are more and more focused on the same basic principles. Basics are necessary, but will not keep people fed. More and more the leaders are focusing on timeless good principles but the restoration doctrine gets watered down.  The body and repository of knowledge from which the lessons, talks, manuals, and conference talks are taken is shrinking.  Many conference talks could be recreated by cutting and pasting paragraphs from past conference talks. I say all this only as an observation.

In former days of the LDS church to be a member of the church meant you studied.  You knew your stuff.  You could defend your beliefs.  You could discuss doctrine. You knew the scriptures well.  Early members had libraries of books focusing on the Gospel.  The book of Mormon used to be the "cornerstone of our religion".  Now it seems conference talks are the new cornerstone.  They are the assigned topic at least 2 weeks of the month in my ward.  And it's justified by talks in conference like "The 14 fundamentals of following the Prophet".  Which states that such persons words are more vital to us than the Standard Works.

The new trend seems to be instead of discussing doctrine, people are more likely to just quote a platitude, or cite a one line phrase from an authority.  The doctrine is not as well understood because we frequently rely instead on the position of the person speaking to establish the truth.  I've found that the occasions when I can even discuss Gospel topics are few and far between.  I'm not talking about deep conversations.  I'm talking about ANY conversation lasting more than 30 seconds about a Gospel topic. As a culture we may not discuss topics very long likely because we haven't spend a whole lot of time thinking about them. So of course our discussion would tend to be short.

This does not need to be the case of course.  Helaman 11:23 And in the seventy and ninth year there began to be much strife. But it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi, and many of their brethren who knew concerning the true points of doctrine, having many revelations daily, therefore they did preach unto the people, insomuch that they did put an end to their strife in that same year.

Knowing concerning the true points of doctrine is connected to "having many revelations daily". Nephi and Lehi had many revelations daily.  They did not have any official church calling.  The revelations they received were due to their faith in God and it allowed them to know the true points of doctrine.  This is not the consequence of a correlation committee limiting what can be taught.  It's the opposite.

Alma 5:46 is worth reading in this context
Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.

The culture of our day seems to be one of "the leaders said this or that, so the thinking has been done".  Or "if I need to know something, the leaders will or would have told me" And thus ends many a discussion.  Which also can end the search for truth, or additional understanding, and then it's easy to follow historical trends of slipping into darkness, and gospel ignorance.

The other view is that there is safety in following a mainstream belief system, led by someone called as a representative of Christ to lead.  I respect that many feel that way.   The cornerstone of our religion could possibly shift right out from under us and we may not even notice.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sweep the Earth

Toady, Elder Bednar gave an exhortation to "sweep the earth with messages of righteousness and truth" using social media. Link

The underlying idea is something that probably strikes all of us.  It did me anyway.  One Church authored tweet said "what will your message be?"  I decided to respond.  But not by re-posting a Church authored meme or talk.  I wanted to share some personal views of what I've come to know as true.  I respect that many will disagree.  I respect other view points, and welcome them as part of a good discussion.

This sweeping the internet initiative may turn out to be fantastic Church marketing, but I digress.

This is a message I believe to be true.  But I'm not asking anyone to agree, just consider it.  See if it conforms to scriptural teachings, see if it sheds a different light on things.  Even if it's new, or against tradition, or mainstream thought, see if it may be true.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be controlled or "owned" by man.  You can't control the Holy Ghost and tell it when or how to do things.  The priesthood cannot be controlled and dictated by man either. When men attempt to do those things the result is no longer Christ's Gospel, and no longer true priesthood. It's mans work. Power and the Spirit are lost when done in any other way than what is in harmony with heaven. (D&C 121:37).  It's only God's word when He is the Author of it.  Man can't control that.  But men in every age have attempted to.

Thankfully, we do not have to look to men for salvation or a relationship with God himself. We can actually look to a resurrected being, who desires to save, who is willing to teach, who desires to talk to you, and who can enlighten you. He has power to redeem. I don't believe He has given up the right to use his own keys or power.  He hasn't given his power to men to dictate what you think, control your beliefs, tell you misrepresentations of history, and exercise authority over you (2 Nephi 28:5).

It seems a good portion of Mormons prefer and are taught to follow a man with a calling to preside.  (Some follow him literally from place to place: There are those who believe and live the scriptures which teach to first or primarily always follow the Lord. Others believe following the prophet comes first.  There are many who believe the prophet (read current President of the Church) will never lead anyone astray and when they enter a room we should all stand. There are those (myself included) who find that to be wrong, and misleading.    

The message of righteousness I think is the message of Christ.  Not of a man, ordained by other men, who we sustain by our common consent.  Does God call mortals to His work.  Of course he does.  But the mouthpieces were never intended to come between you and the Lord.  Acts 5:29: "Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men."

What is more edifying, come to the being who is light itself?  Or put your trust in an institution and follow a man who holds borrowed keys?  Christ is very much alive, and does not require you to follow a man in order to come into contact with Him and be taught by Him. Isn't that good news?  You don't need to depend on another?  What if we swept the earth with that?

Teachers sent by him point you towards Him, teach you about Him, and encourage faith in Him alone.  They offer the truth in plain humility. False teachings will not, and will instead point you towards other men, use statistics, opinions, and researchers (Official Hand Book 2. 21.1.35) to cover their absence of divine revelation.  It ends up requiring you to swear allegiance, and accept an institution with its traditions and beliefs, and eventually creeds. It is God alone who should rightly be the object of our belief and faith. 

These things to me are true.  I've experienced them.  I cannot describe the foolishness of attributing righteousness to messages that are half true, that stop short of what God has said in scripture, and which do not bring you closer to Him.  And instead have you dependent on some organization repeating empty platitudes that will not save you.  All that does is blind, and cause darkness.  We are surrounded by such messages but by and large seem to prefer to remain blind to it.  

There are other views to consider.  I hope you have at least considered this one.     

Monday, August 4, 2014

Church defines apostasy

The Church released a statement onto the internet recently about priesthood. The final paragraph says this:

"Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine."

Here is one rendering of that statement:

Asking "correlated" questions, and contemplating correlated answers has never constituted apostasy.  In fact that (and only that) is what we want you to do.  It will keep you from opposing faithful church leaders, even when what is said is wrong.  You can oppose the seemingly unfaithful dead leaders, like the Church currently does with past leaders who said things that no longer agree with current teachings and doctrine.  Just don't oppose current leaders.  You see, public image is everything.  And if your public views don't correlate, and we tell you they don't, that's false doctrine and apostasy.  

They stated "public opposition to the church".  Is the Church the same as the Gospel?

What does "the church" even mean?  Does it mean my ward?  My stake?  The building we meet in?  Does it mean the church office building? Does it mean the 14 million members?  Just the active ones?  Does it mean the Corporation of the President which deposits our tithing checks?  Really, what is "the church"?   Is it the first presidency and quorum of the 12?  The scriptures define this of course but more often than not they are not considered the standard anymore so much as the Church newsroom.

Anyway back to the statement.  It's "public" opposition that constitutes apostasy.  Why would something be apostasy only when public?  Isn't the public only a side effect of the internal?    

The article also says it's apostasy to do the above things against The Church's "faithful leaders".  Was Brigham Young a faithful leader?  Because the Church openly, deliberately and publicly opposes and denounces things he taught (link).  That makes the Church apostate by their own definition. They deliberately, publicly, and unapologetically condemn things Brigham Young said and taught.  He was one of the Church's faithful leaders wasn't he?  The Church denounces at least 2 categories of his teachings as false (polygamy and blacks and the priesthood).  

Here's what the website has to say about Apostasy. (link)

We now live in a time when the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored. But unlike the Church in times past, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will not be overcome by general apostasy. The scriptures teach that the Church will never again be destroyed (see D&C 138:44; see also Daniel 2:44).   

Although there will not be another general apostasy from the truth.....

The church will not be overcome by general apostasy it says.  Pretty bold statement.  I suppose we can sit back, relax, take it easy, and live more carefree?  After all we've been given the immunity idol like on survivor.  If that isn't soothing falsehoods I don't know what is.  When has any people, in any age, been immune from apostasy? But the article says our day is not going to fall to such things.

In my view it seems a wee bit prideful to say that YOUR day, (generally speaking) is so very far superior to everyone in the past, that you, (generally) are just so special, so favored, so righteous, that your contemporaries are exempt from falling under general apostasy?  Seems like the kind of stuff that blinds people.  Especially considering the whole church was put under condemnation in a revelation in D&C 84:55.  Yet we proclaim apostasy immunity as a church.  The statement could possibly fit like a glove onto the very vanity and unbelief D&C 84:55 speaks of.

Rather than exempt status, The Book of Mormon prophesies more of the opposite. The author of this website did quote a scripture a little later on, that was somewhat related.  But if you look up the scripture about the kingdom of God never being destroyed, it does not really support the idea of modern Mormon's being incapable of falling into apostasy.  

Is the LDS church the same thing as the kingdom of God?  Is the Corporation of the President the same thing as the LDS church?  (It's a corporation sole by the way).

Jesus said: "My kingdom is not of this world".

Corporations are of this world, and can certainly be destroyed.  The LDS Church has been dis-incorporated once already. By the Edmunds Tucker act in 1887.  It "dissolved" the corporation and the assets were "given to other people".  

The opposite of apostasy is coming to know, and staying faithful to Christ.  Somewhere along the line following the prophet became the focus instead.  Not everyone, but some appear to have this as their primary focus.  Every fast and testimony meeting I attend, no matter in what state or city proclaims the truthfulness of the churches leaders.  President Monson has some great things to say.  No doubt about it.