Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Not one will be lost

Read this again from Moses 4:1:

 “And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” 

Satan points to himself.  "Surely I will do it".  Surely he's the man for the job, right?  A "son of the morning" (D&C 76:25-27).  Can't we trust that?  Can't we rely on such a high status and someone who was in the presence of God?  

Picturing this pre mortal meeting, how would you persuade an audience that "not one of them would be lost"? And that you are surly the man for the job?  You'd undoubtedly need to teach them that by following you, they would be assured success.  Likely by appealing to some sort of status. The audience would need to be enticed by the guarantee of a certain outcome with less than full personal responsibility. In essence you'd need to convince them that you could not mislead them.

In other words, Satan was the first to teach that "he cannot lead you astray"

But definitely not the last.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Mormons and Prophets

Just came across a great article by a Robert Sonntag.

Here are a few excerpts.  The whole article is worth reading.  It can be viewed and downloaded here.

Our history is a study in the power of words. By changing the use of one word we have profoundly affected our understanding of the gospel at a fundamental level. Now orthodox members see evidence of "prophetic power" in every sentimental story, pithy platitude, quote from a famous poet, and marketing buzzword that comes from the general conference pulpit. They see “prophetic counsel” in every piece of advice or opinion given by “the brethren.” They look at policy changes driven by market research and see revelation. The word "prophet" has become a rhetorical cudgel used to enforce conformity to institutional norms. Who, after all, could possibly be right when they disagree with a "prophet"? Who are we to think we could possibly “know more than the prophets"?

Mormons should study to understand how institutions and institutional leaders inspire a sense of “awe.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Awe contains links to many interesting discussions. Tools to inspire religious awe include lighting, music, ritualized social interactions such as hushed silence and standing when a leader enters a meeting, praising and adoring leaders, etc. The LDS Church’s media and broadcast arm, Bonneville International has trademarked the "HeartSell"® technique of “strategic emotional advertising that stimulates response.” This is the music-and-sentiment technique used in all recent LDS media productions, and is explicitly designed to affect viewers behaviors by carefully manufacturing emotional experiences (http://www.bonneville.com/?nid=32). Bonneville uses the same techniques in its religious productions as it does in its commercial advertising. Since Latter-day Saints have been conditioned to perceive warm, peaceful emotions as spiritual confirmation, they are ever more likely to mistake HeartSell® brand institutional awe for the the Spirit of God. This sort of emotional manipulation, while effective at building brand loyalty, cannot save anyone. Pg 45-46

These (Section 76) are the glories to which Latter-day Saints aspire. We flatter ourselves that we will obtain them by some magic in the afterlife, ignoring the fact that these verses in D&C 76 are supposed to describe revelations we receive in our mortal life. It is perfectly natural that in the widespread absence of these fruits, a religious group will establish other signifiers to identify "righteousness" in themselves and others. These signifiers almost invariably consist of outward appearances and behaviors, because those are easiest to measure. Over time, these signifiers grow in importance, becoming a second set of commandments, an "unwritten order of things," by which we can measure the boundaries of our group. For the Jews it was the "hedge about the law": the strict rules that keep people from breaking commandments, rules that eventually became intrinsic to Jewishness. For Latter-day Saints, these other signifiers tend to be dress codes and appearance, abstinence from coffee, tea, tobacco and illegal drugs, 'niceness', wealth, education, Church callings, outward profession of orthodox belief, and meeting attendance. In such a culture, “repentance” often means returning to conformity with this unwritten order, a concept of repentance foreign to the scriptures.

For a fascinating comparison between prophets anciently and now click here.  Worth reading.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Always Remember Him

Both sacrament prayers reference the idea of always remembering the Lord.  I believe "remembering" Him has a lot more to do with prioritizing, obeying, and exercising faith in, than it does trying to keep your conscious attention on Him while trying to do other things.  Not sure we could accomplish that anyway.  However keeping him in priority, obeying, and loving above all else is possible.  Because you can still take care of the duties of your life, which require your conscious attention while yet still remembering Him.  

Moroni 4:3 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

Notice in the prayer. You are witnesses to the Father your willingness to do certain things. It is not a statement of having accomplished things, but a statement of willingness.

Moroni 5:2 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee, in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

The difference in this prayer is meaningful. No longer is it a matter of witnessing to the Father a willingness, instead you are witnessing what you have done… what you have accomplished. Essentially you witness that you have offered up everything the Lord has asked of you – even that which is most dear to you – and thus you do in fact always remember Him. You prioritize His will, you have no other Gods before him, and you do indeed remember and love him. At this point there is no longer anything outside of yourself that could compel you to turn.  Wine is such a better symbol than water.

What other being is there in the universe that would merit "always remembering"?  How tragic if one lost belief or faith in such a being. Once you encounter Him, you cant help but always remember. It leaves such an impression on your soul, as to fundamentally alter your perception ever after.  There is such a being worth always remembering.  Don't let doubt, foolish religious traditions, or lack of faith keep you from seeking this Jesus of whom the prophets have testified.                 

Friday, January 2, 2015

And always let the prophet be your guide

I regularly read the First Presidency Messages from the Church.  The one for Jan 2015 was saddening and a little shocking to me.  President Monson said things I never thought I'd hear him say.  Read for yourself before I say much else.  

I think this article may have been written for him, by someone else using his name as a ghost writer. This message does not agree with things he has said in general conference, even last October.  Until now, he has never said to follow the prophet, he generally points instead to Christ even if other members of the 12 insist on telling members to follow the prophet (current church leader). 

The below front page LDS.org advertisement for this message sort of reminded me of the Disney movie Pinocchio.  One of the songs in the movie has a catchy little phrase that says "And always let your conscience be your guide".

The motto of the Church and First Presidency seem to now be implying the top leaders of the church are your guide. (see caption of the photo).  Which isn't all that bad when you think of teachings like getting out of debt, having food storage, giving service, and living true principles like forgiveness.  That stuff is great.  Of course we should do that stuff.  But what the Gospel is intended to offer is not just good advice or some true principles.  It offers redemption from the fall, and a return to God's presence.  Christmas was not even 1 full week ago and already Christ is absent from the First Presidency Message.  Darkness is increasing.    

President Monson in the article said he prayed about a military decision he had to make then went to talk with a member of the quorum of the 12.  He did not record ever receiving an answer, or getting any confirmation, or inspiration from God.  Nor did the member of the 12.  He followed Elder Lee's counsel, but did so for reasons which the article seemed to suggest were solely based on him being a church authority.  It didn't mention God or the Spirit or the Holy Ghost.  When Pres Monson gives talk in person he frequently tells of his experiences of following the Spirit, and states such very clearly.  Which is another reason I think he didn't write this.  This article, if by him, would be a noticeable departure from previous talks and a change of focus away from Christ and towards men.   

The article said he would not be in the position in the Church he is, had he not followed the prophet. Almost as though church position of President was a reward, or something to be aspired to.  Like CEO of a company.  One issue this raises is that being a church leader and being a prophet are two different things. The article conflates them without exception.  Being a prophet does not come automatically because of church office or title, or common consent (more detailed discussion here, and here).  Spiritual gifts are not obtained that way.  First we need to determine who real prophets are (Matthew 7:15-18).  Then follow the divine voice found therein.  Not just obey the mouthpiece due to their status in the Church. But finding the voice of the Master, and recognizing it when it speaks. 

The last paragraph of the article dropped all pretense.   

If you want to see the light of heaven, if you want to feel the inspiration of Almighty God, if you want to have that feeling within your bosom that your Heavenly Father is guiding you, then follow the prophets of God. When you follow the prophets, you will be in safe territory.

This article speaks of trusting in men, of following men, and pointed me to other men in order to find safety and a guide. The danger is of course priestcraft (2 Nephi 26:29).  Which is that men set themselves up as a light to be followed to get gain and praise.  There was no mention of Christ, nor any scriptures or scriptural backing for this questionable message.  The one scripture referenced was used as proof text, out of context, and wasn't even quoted correctly.

It will be easy to read this and think I'm being critical. Or finding fault.  Truth be known, it's neither.  I care a great deal about those who lead the Church, and those within the Church.  And no, I've not failed to understand, nor am I overlooking all the reasons why people advocate following the current Church President.  I've heard it all my life and advocated the same thing for a good portion of it.

If we want to see the light of heaven shouldn't we look to Christ?  Not become fixated on a representative?

Last conference (Oct 2014) this was taught from the pulpit:

Don’t take lightly the feeling you get of love for the prophet of God. Wherever I go in the Church, whoever the prophet is at the time, members will ask, “When you get back to Church headquarters, will you please tell the prophet how much we love him?”

That is far more than hero worship or the feelings we sometimes have of admiring heroic figures. It is a gift from God. With it you will receive more easily the gift of confirming revelation when he speaks in his office as the Lord’s prophet. The love you feel is the love the Lord has for whoever is His spokesman.
That is not easy to feel continually because the Lord often asks His prophets to give counsel that is hard for people to accept. The enemy of our souls will try to lead us to take offense and to doubt the prophet’s calling from God.  

Far. More. Than. Hero. Worship.  This seems worth your time to consider.  Contrast the above with the below.

“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 237-38).

Depending too much on the prophet darknes the mind.  It can lead to idolatry and worship of men.

“Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a President; if you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support will be gone; but if we lean on God, He will never fail us. When men and women depend upon God alone and trust in Him alone, their faith will not be shaken if the highest in the Church should step aside”. (George Q. Cannon, First Counselor in the First Presidency, Deseret Weekly, 43:322, Mar 7, 1891).

Faith in Christ is real.  I have faith in Him, and want others to find faith in Him as well.  That's the point of this post.  You can't have two masters. "Come follow me" is what Christ said.  Other people may say to follow other men, but that's not what Jesus himself taught.  His true messengers bring His message, not their own (2 Nephi 31: 12- 21).  That message is to follow Christ.

Follow the men or mouthpiece and well.... I guess you'll be "safe" according to the men.  Whatever that means.