Monday, August 31, 2015

Who's declaration is it?

My wife and I attended tithing settlement last December, 2014.  Some things were definitely settled. Before going into that here is what the Church teaches (or taught at one point) regarding tithing.  This is from LDS.org.

On March 19, 1970, the First Presidency sent the following letter to presidents of stakes and missions, bishops of wards, and presidents of branches in answer to the question, “What is a proper tithe?”

For your guidance in this matter, please be advised that we have uniformly replied that the simplest statement we know of is that statement of the Lord himself that the members of the Church should pay one-tenth of all their interest annually, which is understood to mean income. No one is justified in making any other statement than this. We feel that every member of the Church should be entitled to make his own decision as to what he thinks he owes the Lord, and to make payment accordingly.

The Church's teachings on tithing form LDS.org go on to say: 

"At the close of each year, each member of the Church has the responsibility of attending tithing settlement with his bishop. At this time, each member has the opportunity to declare whether he is a full, part, or non-tithe payer. The payment of tithing is a matter between the individual and the Lord. The bishop is merely the Lord’s servant who receives and accounts for the contribution."

The payment of tithing is between the individual and the Lord.  The member has the opportunity to declare their status.  The temple recommend question doesn't ask who you pay it to, because it's understood it's all to the Lord.  The First Presidency stated every Church member should be entitled to make his own decision as to what he thinks he owes the Lord, and make payment accordingly.  Some take issue with the quantity, whether gross or net.  That however was never an issue for me.

But nevertheless one thing that got settled during the settlement is that tithing is only "tithing" if the Corporation of the President is the sole recipient of all donations.  My wife and I both consider and declare ourselves full tithe payers, however upon discovery that 100% of our donations don't always go directly to the Corporate Church, but go directly to the poor, or those in need, the bishop overrode the declaration and recorded "partial".  What was supposed to be between us and the Lord, had an authority wedge inserted between the parties.  Which wedge delivered it's own overriding declaration.  The declaration, as I understand it was and is to be made by the giver.  

Christ at one point taught: "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40).  King Benjamin taught "17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17).  Now days that is rendered: "In as much as ye have not paid tithing to the Corp of the Pres, ye have not done it unto me." That current rendering is found in real life policy.

We "made payment accordingly" as per the statement made by the First Presidency and made our declaration.  But that doesn't satisfy current policy, it's not enough.  It was then made clear that when tithing is not paid through "the proper channels" we are no longer in harmony with the requirements to enter the Temple. Giving to the poor mind you, takes you out of harmony with temple requirements.

The corporation takes full custody of all donations and uses them at it's sole discretion with a corporate charter relieving them of any obligation to provide financial transparency to the giver (see here).  The corporate charter is available online.  The lawyers made sure that the organization has no obligation to provide any transparency, and that everything is church property.  As a concept I get why tithing is paid to the Church.  I've done it my entire life.  I know where they claim the money goes.  And I'm sure a lot of the money does go to those things.  But the percentage of the total, and how it's used is upsetting.  Why don't they publish the revenue numbers?  No one knows exactly what is brought in, or where it goes. Why keep that hidden? Why require mission presidents, and high up church leaders to never reveal the revenue perks they receive?  There is zero transparency.  All is secret, and done in the dark.

D&C says all things are to be done by common consent of the Church.  This is not practiced in our day by any stretch of the imagination.  Instead it has become "if you support the leaders, then you by default give your consent and obedience to whatever they do".  And if you ask about it or question it you will be in danger and be viewed as on some sort of wayward path.  Which brings up some interesting current events.  Another of the temple recommend questions asks if the person affiliates with or agrees with any person or group who's teachings and practices are not in harmony with the Church's teachings.  Recently the LDS Church has announced that the Boy Scouts of America now have standards and practices which are contrary to church teachings and doctrine.  In spite of that, they have chosen to remain aligned and affiliated with that organization.  So they themselves no longer meet the temple recommend standards they have set for others.  I don't know how the Church itself would now answer that recommend question.  However thankfully I have no authority over anyone, and am not the judge.    

I think we'd all agree Christ did not come and present a Gospel that included building places of commerce as on the agenda. And warned against compromising ones standards, and becoming corrupt.  He came to serve, and redeem, and spent time with the poor, because they were willing to listen to him.  We not only build places of commerce like Citi Creek Shopping Center, we build the nicest ones money can buy.  And build them using interest gained from investing the members tithing money.  We not only align with groups and organizations who's practices and policies are contrary to those of the Church but we financially support them, and promote awards that recognize our current Church President.  

I could go on but won't.  The Lord defines "The Church" in D&C 10:67.   You could give your tithing to "the church" as the Lord defines it and yet be told, as we were, that your donation is not considered tithing.  But scripture is not used all that much anymore... so it's quite possible you have never heard how the Lord defines His church.  Even though it's right there, and the next verse has a warning about "declaring more or less".  

At the end of the tithing settlement, it became apparent how much the Church values money.  Faithfulness to the Corporation and the brethren has taken the church by storm, and has replaced faithfulness to the Lord.  Many cannot bear the idea that there might be a difference between the Lord's words, and the highest church leader's words or policies.  But there is a marked difference.  

I appealed the tithing declaration "overrule" to the stake president, saying that it's my declaration of tithing status, not the Bishop's.  He agreed.  But then said that a Bishop is a judge in Israel and has the authority to judge the matter.  And that he agreed with the judgement.  I tried to persuade him otherwise but wasn't successful, he told me to go back and express my concerns with the Bishop.  Which I did and was told that his hands are tied.  Odd that he who has authority to judge the matter also has his hands tied.  Tied by whom I often ask myself?  The corporate leaders of course.   

Today is the day my recommend ends.  It's a sad day for many reasons.  My heart has not been weighed, my motives not examined, God hasn't even been asked about the matter.  Policy has has been contradicted, and has replaced the Spirit.  I have acted consistently with what personal promptings and revelation I have received.  I pay and have always paid an honest tithe.  But yet I find myself no longer allowed to enter the Temple by those who control entrance.    

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Eh, someone else will do it

Motivated by D&C 68 25-28 I've reevaluated some behaviors and patterns I've seen all my life.

25 And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.  
26 For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized. 27 And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands.  
28 And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.

What percent of Gospel education would you say, among current Mormons, is done by the Church, vs the parents?  50/50?  70/30?   I've asked various people, and the numbers are consistently 80/20 or higher.  Meaning the church does 80% or more of a child's Gospel education.  Combined with Seminary, and that age group the number goes even higher.  

Consider what this may mean. The primary responsibility to teach the core of the Gospel to ones own children being shifted onto a Church organization. Perhaps it happens because we feel justified in letting the Church be responsible because it's the only true church. Perhaps the thinking goes that thanks to correlated manuals and First Presidency-prophet approved curriculum they are more qualified, and doing a better job than the parents could do.

Is taking a child to a church and dropping them off for their classes, or waking them up for seminary an acceptable discharge of the obligation taught in D&C to teach ones children?  Can you teach your offspring the doctrine of repentance, or to walk uprightly before the Lord if you do not know and do those things? The verse in D&C implies the parents also have an obligation toward their own level of Gospel knowledge.  Seeing as they are a "parent in zion".

The verses above state "and they (parents, plural, meaning both of them) shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord. The verses include teaching them the Doctrine of repentance. Baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. It didn't say to trust that some organization will make sure they get taught the truth about those things, and trust the organization will take care of it, and parents can feel good about having other priorities because the Church has covered all the bases.

I think in many ways we are ashamed to talk of Christ, preach of Christ, and have Christ be part of our everyday discussions and life.  Out of fear of being viewed as an extremest, or being viewed as "that" family.   Or maybe it's just laziness.  I can't say.  

Speaking of the parents teaching their kids, or letting someone else do it as the case may be. I had a conversation with a co-worker about the Temple today. The question came up about a particular segment where the patrons are given the opportunity to excuse themselves from the room and ceremony if they do not wish to accept or take upon themselves the obligations about to be presented. The question came up as to why that question would be posed BEFORE telling them what the obligations even are. How do you know if you are comfortable accepting something not yet told to you? Sounds backwards. But it's not.  

Our discussion ended with us concluding if the person going through the temple for the first time knew nothing about the laws and nature of the obligations being referred to, then the preparation didn't accomplish it's purpose. The ball got dropped. In a significant way. Must have been the bad temple prep teacher right? It's so easy to put the responsibility onto someone else.       

Things like sacrifice, chastity, the law of the gospel, and consecration are all found in scripture. The prescribed wording even reminds the audience of this. ("As contained in the scriptures, as contained in the D&C") These are not anything anyone has agreed not to speak about. You can teach someone the laws, commandments, and importance of keeping covenants, as well as keeping sacred knowledge sacred without revealing anything you ought not to.  

I think there is a lot of fear, and ignorance due to trusting in men and organizations which causes people to neglect teaching things which are not only appropriate to teach, but which are supposed to be taught by the parents.

The primary Gospel educator even among active church attending and believing families is almost never the parents anymore. I can think of hundred reasons why, and none of them are any good.   

Friday, August 7, 2015

Craftiness of Honor

D&C 76:75 speaking about those inheriting the terrestrial glory has this to say:

75 These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.

The honorable folks of the earth.  Folks who said, did, and practiced honorable things.  But they were blinded.  Not by cataracts.  Not by problems with their retina and optic nerves. Blinded by false beliefs, false religious notions, and false teachers claiming to be true ones.

What's wrong with being honorable?  Isn't that good?  Didn't these folks do things which they thought would make them worthy of "honor"?  Perhaps that is part of the problem, perhaps God knew what he was talking about when he warned that it's so tempting to seek after or aspire to the "honors" of men (D&C 121:35).

Which brings an interesting question to mind: So from who's point of view are these people "honorable"?  Does God view them as honorable? (Isaiah 64:6) Or is this telling us something about how these people viewed themselves?  Do they seem themselves as deserving honor?

Then the verse says blinded by the "craftiness" of men.  What craft is that?  Priestcraft of course.  The craftiness referred to is likely not some Ponzi scheme where you loose your money (although it may include that).  It's more like a religious profession full of sly and cunning deceits that cause losses to your soul, not just your bank account.  The craft has many perks, and comes with worldly praise and honor, perhaps wealth, or stipends, and may even have all the exterior of something admirable.  The artificial light blinds even honorable men.

Instead of being blinded by such craftiness, the scriptural antidote is to repent, and Come to the Lord.  Why not do whatever it takes to be in His presence and receive a fullness when such has been offered (D&C 93:1)?  Wouldn't you thereafter have a much easier time identifying the craftiness of men?  Scriptures teach the Lord worketh not in darkness. Doesn't do things that are dark, or hidden, or secretive in a deceptive cunning sly sense.  The craftiness of men would be seen for the darkness it is, when standing in the true light wouldn't it?  

Speaking of the same terrestrial state, this is verse 79 of the same section: 

79 These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.

Why were they not valiant in the testimony of Jesus?  Cowardice?  Weakness?  Perhaps they didn't have the testimony of Jesus?  What even is the Testimony of Jesus? (as opposed to a testimony OF Jesus)

Then the verse says they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.  Perhaps they thought themselves honorable men of the earth and were too busy and too caught up in the affairs of men to realize what did, and did not matter.  And or perhaps they gave prominence to the testimony of some organization, or testimony of some man, or some tradition about staying true to the faith.  You can't serve two masters, much less serve two of them valiantly.   

I say, why bother being a Mormon, or a Christian for that matter, if you aren't going to be valiant in the Testimony of Jesus.