Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Doctrine of Christ and Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost (part 4)

Christ's doctrine includes receiving the Holy Ghost, not just a temporary influence, but the reception of the Holy Ghost.  A Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost.

3 Nephi 11: 35
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

D&C 33: 10-12
Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel;

D&C 39: 5-6
And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me. And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.

2 Nephi 31: 14, 17-18

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

Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

Note the words that begin that last paragraph quoted: "And then".  Meaning after the aforementioned, including the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost.  "then ye are in this straight and narrow path".

As a side note, as mentioned last post on baptism, you can be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost and never be a member of an earthly church organization. The two concepts can be separate from organized religion, although the potential separation is not taught or really entertained in LDS settings.

Commenting on John 3:5 Joseph Smith remarked, "You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half-that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.314

Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles during Oct 2010 conference taught that the confirmation ordinance in the LDS church is not a passive pronouncement, or automatic bestowal of the Holy Ghost.  Here are Elder Bednar's words from his talk "Receive the Holy Ghost" Oct 2010. Underlining and italics are mine. 

The ordinance of confirming a new member of the Church and bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost is both simple and profound. Worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holders place their hands upon the head of an individual and call him or her by name. Then, by the authority of the holy priesthood and in the name of the Savior, the individual is confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this important phrase is uttered: “Receive the Holy Ghost.”

The simplicity of this ordinance may cause us to overlook its significance. These four words—“Receive the Holy Ghost”—are not a passive pronouncement; rather, they constitute a priesthood injunction—an authoritative admonition to act and not simply to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26). The Holy Ghost does not become operative in our lives merely because hands are placed upon our heads and those four important words are spoken. As we receive this ordinance, each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to so live that we indeed “receive the Holy Ghost” and its attendant spiritual gifts..

This may explain why not many members report experiencing the baptism of fire, or are unsure if it has happened to them.  If people think it's automatic, they are not likely to go seeking after it.  Also if the presumption is that it's automatic, they may presume receiving the Holy Ghost is unremarkable if nothing remarkable happened during their confirmation.  The LDS confirmation per Elder Bednar is an admonition.  It's not an a guarantee.  He says this ordinance as administered by the Church requires action, not just someone's hands laid upon your head.

There's a 5 part series on the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost that's worth reading.  Link here. Series link here.  And a related and important series on the laying on of hands here and here.  You may have to scroll to find the first post in the series, but I believe all those should be read and studied.  I have done so many times and can attest to the truth spoken there on the subject.

I thought I'd write about some other ideas, pose some questions, and then share my testimony at the end as part of finishing up this series of posts on the Doctrine of Christ that has been part of my prep for a class in Church I'm scheduled to teach.  Much of what has been in these posts won't be shared at church, but instead have been part of my own search and personal experience. 

3 Nephi 11: 37-38: And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

I've always wondered why in the statement quoted above Christ repeats the words but switches up the order of baptism and becoming as a little child.  Why do that?  Are there two baptisms? Two types of becoming as a little child?  Do you become as a little child all over again?  Is receiving "these things" different from "inheriting the kingdom of God"?  What are "these things" that Christ says you can't receive without living his doctrine?  What's the Kingdom of God?  Is one prep for the other?

When Jesus was talking with Nicodemus similar phrasing occurs connecting rebirth and "the kingdom of God".

John 3:3-5 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 

Again in Mosiah 27:25-26.  Another connection between spiritual rebirth and the kingdom of God.

And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

Many believe the current LDS church IS the kingdom of God. The Official Guide to the Scriptures says:  The kingdom of God on earth is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (D&C 65).  (Full link).  Since the name and spelling/punctuation of the Church organization has changed various times over the years that is why I began this paragraph by saying "current" LDS church. 
D&C 65 has little backing for the statement and doesn't contain the word "church" or even a reference to a church let alone identify the current LDS corporate entity as the Kingdom of God.  The guide to the scriptures goes on to also say this, but cites no source.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth, but it is at present limited to an ecclesiastical kingdom. During the Millennium, the kingdom of God will be both political and ecclesiastical.

The guide to the scriptures is sort of viewed as an authority of it's own. It's not scripture, but since it's published in scripture it piggybacks as if held the same status and authority as scripture.  In fact the official LDS website has the below pictured fine print on the guide to the scriptures page.  So I guess the church does consider the guide actual "Official Scripture".  Link here to see the fine print yourself.

The best research I can find shows Bruce R McConkie as one of the main contributors to The Guide to the Scriptures.  In any event, that is what "the guide" says. And what most accept as true about the definition of the "Kingdom of God".  Hundreds of years of Church leaders have and continue to be raised with the unquestioned belief/assumption that the Kingdom of God and the Church are synonyms.  So it's easy to see how and why the idea is so common and persistent and most people innocently just accept it since that is how they were raised.  But not everything we are raised with is correct.

Here's another point of view, from the Joseph Smith Papers Project:

April 1844: “There is a distinction between the Church of God and kingdom of God [or Council of Fifty]. The laws of the kingdom are not designed to effect our salvation hereafter. It is an entire, distinct and separate government. The church is a spiritual matter and a spiritual kingdom; but the kingdom which Daniel saw was not a spiritual kingdom, but was designed to be got up for the safety and salvation of the saints by protecting them in their religious rights and worship.

Council of Fifty, Minutes, Apr. 18, 1844, in JSP,

The Church and the Kingdom of God are distinct and separate according to Joseph.  A very thought provoking topic.  The sources the Church uses as evidence for them being the same simply do not support the claim.  D&C 65 is one.  But moving on.

Moses 6: 60 For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified; 

Some say this could be three baptisms being referenced.  Water, Spirit, and Blood.  All three present at physical birth, and all three also referencing a form of rebirth or baptism.

The words "Born Again" I think inspire more meaning than can be put into words.  We know what birth is.  The baby may not know what it is as it's happening but with time the individual will grow and have words for the event.  The analogy is one Christ himself used.  Of all the things that Christ could have said about following Him, and how to gain entrance into the Kingdom of God he chose the concept of birth, something every single one of us has experienced.  No one got to earth without experiencing birth.  According to the verse quoted above in Alma, no one will enter the kingdom of God without rebirth and becoming a new creature.  The course of the Lord is one Eternal Round.  We receive from God not by whimsy, or randomness, but by obedience, see D&C 130:19-21.

I believe Alma, and think he is speaking the truth.  I don't think rebirth is something you can force, or earn with your own merit.  Nephi says during his discourse on the Doctrine of Christ: "Relying wholly upon the merits of Him who is mighty to save" 2 Nephi 31:19.  The words "yield" "surrender" "grace" "submission to God" "Mercy" "Meekness" "Humility" "repentant" come to my mind.

On that note I'll end by referencing something any temple attending Latter-Day-Saint would find familiar.  To anyone who's ever watched Cops on TV, it's common knowledge that the universal sign of surrender and yielding is to raise ones hands above their head.  The universal gesture is not hidden.  In fact is extremely commonplace.  Raising your hands shows you are not hiding anything, and it also exposes your vital organs.  It puts you in a humble, vulnerable position of submission.  It's a simple symbol with profound meaning in the context of God and an individual.  As one "yields to the enticing of the holy spirit" (Mosiah 3:19) and surrenders their pride, false beliefs, sin, and everything else on the alter, one is drawn to reach up to God.  When humble, contrite, broken hearted and aware of their vulnerable awful situation this upward reach is almost natural.  We all deep down yearn for God.    

There's another place this symbol occurs that everyone has seen, but most do not make any meaningful connection due to it's commonality.  Hidden in plain sight.  I saw it today.  I see it every day of my life.  Thanks to my 2 year old, this symbol is forever ingrained in my mind and heart.  She will come up to me, raise her hands above her head, reach up to me, look at my face, and..... well.... we all know what that means.  She wants to be picked up.

What a beautiful symbol.  Here we have everyday common examples in everything from law enforcement to a little child who wants to be raised up and held.  We too can reach up to God, with surrender, meekness, humility, and trust, as a little child, and be raised up by His light, love, intelligence, and desire to redeem us.  This is my testimony.  This Doctrine of Christ I've been writing about found in the Book of Mormon is true, I know it by my own direct experience independent of anyone else.  It weaves together profound yet simple ideas about Christ's Gospel, and brings you into contact with Him.  The Doctrine is true.  It came from God.



Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Doctrine of Christ and Baptism (Part 3)

The necessity of baptism is throughout scripture.  Below is some of my current understanding of the topic I wanted to put in this blog which serves as a journal and place for me to write down important things.  Also a continuation of my study preparing for the lesson for Elder's Quorum.

3 Nephi 11:33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. 34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned. 

Many LDS folks believe baptism is what makes you a member of the LDS church, or member of another church.  You may be confirmed a member of the LDS church but baptism isn't synonymous with LDS Church membership.  A person could be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and never belong to any earthly church organization.  That seems contrary to many an LDS tradition but it's a common occurrence in scripture.

When John the Baptist was baptizing, it was not into an earthly church organization. But the Holy Ghost fell upon Christ.  When Adam (like Adam and Eve) was baptized, it was not into an earthly church organization, but the Holy Ghost came upon him.  When Joseph Smith and Oliver were baptized it was prior to the LDS church's existence, the Holy Ghost came upon them. Baptism is a sign between the individual and God.  The Holy Ghost can come upon a repentant individual following baptism.  It's my understanding that The Holy Ghost can also be given via the laying on of hands. The LDS Church's ordinance of laying on of hands is combined with confirming the individual a member of the LDS Church which clouds the water(see next post).  But that is just one set of steps and one tradition had in the LDS Church, there are others.  Scripture show that there are in fact other acceptable possibilities for reception of the Holy Ghost.  But that's an aside.

Many LDS folks carry the belief that each time we partake of the sacrament we are actually renewing baptismal covenants.  Some then think of it as being "re-baptized" each Sunday.  It's an interesting idea.  The idea is taught directly from the pulpit.  For example L Tom Perry said in Conference 2006:
The purpose of partaking of the sacrament is, of course, to renew the covenants we have made with the Lord.

The "of course" is a testament to how common this teaching is.  However Elder Neil Andersen of the 12 spoke on this during a 2016 training video:

“The title ‘renewing our baptismal covenants’ is not found in the scriptures. It is not inappropriate. Many of you [gesturing to audience of Seventies and Auxiliary leaders] have used it in talks. We [gesturing to other apostles sitting on the stand behind him] have used it in talks, but it is not something that is used in the scriptures. And it can’t be the keynote of what we say about the sacrament..." 

When he says many (including his motioning to the twelve) have used this phrase in talks, he wasn't joking.  The idea is so commonplace in Mormonism it's difficult to have a discussion about baptism separate from the idea that the sacrament renews it.  The frequency of the idea in circulation seems to be taken as self evident proof of it's truthfulness.  But is truth defined by how commonplace an idea is?  

What's interesting on this re-baptism topic is through the 19th century when you wanted to "renew your covenants" you would be baptized again.  It was extremely common, and for a time was even one of the temple recommend questions.  An early Temple Recommend question asked when the last time was that the person had been re-baptized.

A few examples of early teachings;

"I know that in my traveling and preaching, many a time, I have stopped by beautiful streams of clear, pure water, and have said to myself, “How delightful it would be to me to go into this, to be baptized for the remission of my sins.” When I got home Joseph told me it was my privilege. At this time [~1841] came a revelation, that the Saints could be baptized and re-baptized when they chose, and then that we could be baptized for our dear friends
." Brigham Young J.D. 18:241

Joseph Smith explaining this revelation:

"Baptisms for the dead, and for the healing of the body must be in the font, those coming into the Church, and those re-baptized may be baptized in the river.” Joseph Smith, HC 4:586, April 7 1842

The practice of re-baptism lost popularity and stopped being practiced.  But the need for "renewal" remained, and the sacrament took over the function of renewal.  That method of renewal has become so culturally ingrained it's almost an act of rebellion to associate baptismal renewal with anything other than the sacrament.  Contemplating rebaptism to renew your baptism which seems to make total sense, oddly brings looks of sever disgust and disapproval from many members (and leaders).  Despite the original form of baptismal renewal in Joseph Smith's day which was to get re-baptized.

There are obvious logistical advantages to performing acts of renewal as we do now, vs going down into the water again.  Imagine the logistical nightmare if the LDS church allowed re-baptisms when it's members felt the desire?  Can you imagine?  What isn't a problem for personal Christianity or individual acts of obedience, does become a messy problem for a big corporation that has a variety of other interests, risks, and potential problems to consider and weigh.  I can think of very simple solutions, but they would not be tolerated by the current state of the handbook.  But... a topic for another day.         

So lets talk about the baptismal prayer for a minute.  There are multiple prayers in scripture.  Two in the BOM, and 1 in the D&C.  Even more depending on which version of D&C you are using.  

How important is the correct baptismal prayer wording?  As important as the correct authority?  Are those two things connected?  

What if all copies of the D&C printed since 1835 contained an altered baptismal prayer?  Would we have an obligation to locate the correct prayer?  And or be rebaptized with the correct prayer same as we would repeat the ordinance if someone altered the prayer during any other baptismal ordinance?  

For the next part I include an extremely well written segment from the blog "a returning". (link to full article)

If ensuring the correct words is truly important, then we should carefully review the relevant historical records. If we are doing what God commanded, then we will be validated. If we are not, we should be grateful for the correction.
June 1829 – “..rely upon the things which are written”
In June of 1829, as Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery neared completion of the translation of the Book of Mormon, they contemplated the procedure for establishing God’s church. In response to a request for guidance on that topic, the Lord gave a revelation, now comprising D&C 18:
NOW behold, because of the thing which you have desired to know of me, I give unto you  these words:
2 Behold I have manifested unto you, by my Spirit in many instances, that the things which you have written are true:
3 Wherefore you know that they are true; and if  you know that they are true, behold I give unto you  a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written; for in them are all things written, concerning my church, my gospel, and my  rock.
4 Wherefore if you shall build up my church, and  my gospel, and my rock, the gates of hell shall not  prevail against you.
 As surely as God’s spirit had manifested to Oliver that the Book of Mormon was true, it could be relied upon as a guide for the building up of the latter-day Church. In fact, that was God’s purpose in preserving it as he did, ensuring that “in them are all things written, concerning my church, my gospel, and my rock.” No necessary principle was omitted, and building on the principles in the text would ensure that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against” those attempting to build the Church.
Oliver immediately set about composing a set of articles to guide the small group of believers, using the language in the unpublished manuscript of the Book of Mormon to outline the proper mode of worship. The document was entitled “Articles of the Church of Christ”, and can be read here: True to the Lord’s commandment to rely on the Book of Mormon, the instructions on the mode of baptism are identical to those found in 3 Nephi 11, including the words to be spoken:
And now behold these are the words which ye  shall say calling them by name saying Having authority given me of Jesus Christ  I baptize you in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Ghost Amen

April 1830: Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ

To create the final form of the Articles and Covenants of the Church that would serve the Church as a legally organized body, Joseph composed another document drawn less directly from the text of the Book of Mormon. Still, the procedure for baptism and sacrament was: “And the manner  of baptism & the manner of administering  the sacrament are to be done as is written  in the Book of Morman[sic].”  Misspelling aside, the Church’s founding document points us to the manner of baptism given in 3 Nephi 11:

23 Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall yebaptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.
 24 And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying:
 25 Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
 26 And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.

As of the writing of that document, the words of the baptismal blessing still comply with the Lord’s instructions in 1829.

June 1832: Republication in the Evening and the Morning Star

Rather than point the reader to the Book of Mormon, this edition extracts the language for the baptismal blessing and sacrament prayers from 3 Nephi 11 and Moroni and includes them in the Articles and Covenants verbatim.

January 1835: Republication in the Evening and the Morning Star.

The baptismal blessing now reads “…having been commissioned of Jesus Christ…” The Joseph Smith Papers editors explain:
“The first issue of the reprinted newspaper, which appeared under the slightly modified title Evening and Morning Star, was published in January 1835. Though touted as a reprint that would correct typographical and other errors, Evening and Morning Star actually contained significant changes to the revelation texts. In the first issue, editor Oliver Cowdery explained the revisions he was making in the reprinted versions of the revelations:

“On the revelations we merely say, that we were not a little surprised to find the previous print so different from the original. We have given them a careful comparison, assisted by individuals whose known integrity and ability is uncensurable. Thus saying we cast no reflections upon those who were entrusted with the responsibility of publishing them in Missouri, as our own labors were included in that important service to the church, and it was our unceasing endeavor to have them correspond with the copy furnished us. We believe they are now correct. If not in every word, at least in principle.”

Despite the implications of Cowdery’s statement, very few of the changes in the reprint represent a restoration back to the earliest text, though Cowdery consulted early manuscript sources when reprinting some of the revelations.”

It is significant that Oliver Cowdery, not Joseph Smith, took responsibility for explaining the changes made. The committee for compiling and printing the Doctrine and Covenants had been commissioned the previous September. Between September and January, Joseph’s journal mentions several times his labor in preparing to instruct the School of the Prophets that winter, as well as many other items which made for a busy winter. He never mentions any time spent reviewing and revising the revelations, but repeatedly mentioned his preoccupation with the School of the Prophets and the Lectures on Faith, claiming they precluded his involvement in other affairs. Since major or minor revisions occur across the breadth of the body of revelations, a comprehensive review must have been undertaken by some members of the committee. We cannot say with certainty that Joseph was not involved, but the preponderance of the evidence indicates that the Lectures, rather than the revelations, were his focus.

August 1835: Doctrine and Covenants first published

The text altered by Oliver Cowdery earlier in the year was perpetuated here and in all future editions of the scriptures, and in official Church policy. It is now the wording used throughout the Church. It is not clear whether the altered wording was immediately adopted, or whether the Church continued for a time in following the Lord’s instruction to rely on the Book of Mormon.


The Church was given clear instructions from God, and initially followed them. There is no clear directive from God changing those instructions, so they remain in force. Does this information empower us? It is a well-worn (if not quite true) cliche that we are generally incapable of perfect obedience. We certainly don’t have Christ’s strength of spirit, ability to resist temptation, and grace. The beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it starts small. The Lord doesn’t lay the law of the celestial kingdom on us before we are capable of living it, any more than we sign our toddlers up for Iron Man Triathlons. The Lord laid out the first steps when he taught the Nephites in 3 Nephi 11:
Believe in Christ
Become as a little child
Be baptized according to Christ’s instructions
35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

Those are the foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. They are the first law. They are like walking practice for a toddler. They empower us to obtain all other direction and higher laws which we might need (Moses 8:24). We can do them perfectly, with the correct words and in the correct order. When an opportunity to obey God perfectly arises, we should jump at the chance. Since we have God’s commandment to rely on the instructions in the Book of Mormon (D&C 18:1-4), and the instructions in the original Articles of the Church accepted by covenant on April 6, 1830 to follow the manner of baptism in the Book of Mormon, we have authority to act; for commandments from God always bestow the authorization to fulfill them (D&C 1:5-6).

When we say the wrong words in a baptism, we request that the ordinance be performed again. It is standard procedure. Not to please men, but because God has given specific instructions. We need no further permission. We need no audience. We simply need a priest with authority willing to baptize according to Christ’s instructions, a repentant soul, and a body of water.


The current LDS baptismal interview questions require you to confess [Living Church President] is a prophet as one of the requirements to get baptized. This is found in "Preach My Gospel" Link. You also have to attend church, live the Word of Wisdom and agree to pay them your tithing. Below is quote of the link above to Preach My Gospel. 

First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve:

• Make sufficient changes in their lives to qualify as commanded in Doctrine and Covenants 20:37.
• Develop faith in Christ.
• Repent of transgressions.
• Live the principles of moral worthiness.
• Live the Word of Wisdom.
• Commit to pay tithing.
• Receive all the missionary lessons [lessons 1–4 on the Teaching Record and associated commitments].
• Meet the bishop or branch president.
• Attend several sacrament meetings.
(“Statement on Missionary Work,” First Presidency letter, 11 Dec. 2002)

These baptismal criteria are different from what Christ gave as requirements as part of his doctrine to be baptized.  They are interesting additions.  In our day you can't receive the ordinance offered through the LDS church without doing these additional things. Children who's parents are gay are not allowed to come to Christ through baptism per policy until they meet more recently added criteria. These are understandable business practices that a large religion can easily justify, but do they align with scripture?  Are they supported by Christ's words?  How do they match up to Christ's direct warning not to add to or take away from his doctrine?

Baptism and or re-baptism in early days of the Church was not entrance to another church. It was an act of faith and renewal between oneself and the Lord to comply with his requirements.

Continued next post....

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Doctrine of Christ and Becoming as a Little Child (Part 2)

Still prepping for the lesson I'll be teaching in Church on the Doctrine of Christ.  Becoming as a little child is something Christ includes as part of his Doctrine.

3 Nephi 11: 37-38:  And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.  And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

I haven't found becoming as a little child to be something guaranteed or automatic because you show up at Church or belong to a Church that you feel is superior to other churches.  So... with that in mind I wanted to write down some impressions and ideas (mostly for my own benefit) of what this entails and how I can actually do or become "as a little Child".

Becoming as a little child is a "must" in Christ's words.  To share a bit of my own testimony with this, there are problems in life that I have found are solvable by doing as Christ said.  The scope of this is far greater than I'm able to convey in this short paragraph.  So I'm only going to sum it up which doesn't do justice to what I'm saying.  It's only a glimpse.  Certain walls get erected inside the heart during childhood.  Beliefs form at that age that dramatically affect a surprising amount of our everyday adult lives.  To take down those walls or to open the doors of our hearts and minds that were shut in childhood, we must go back in order to go forward.  It involves going back to the time, attitude, viewpoint, and heart when the walls were created, and with new understanding allow God open the doors of our heart, and take down the walls that shut him out.  Removing old false beliefs that are false.  The mind and heart can then expand and grow and swell with new light. There is a lot more to say on this..... but the post will be too long.  The point is, becoming as a little Child unlocks doors.

The natural "man" (as opposed to child) is what needs to be put off according to King Benjamin's address.  I have a pretty good understanding of what those things are.  I'm good at almost all of them as an adult.  But the focus of Christ's doctrine is on what TO become, rather than what not to do.

Other things that come to mind is the humility of a child.  They want to learn.  Good examples of an empty cup, which they desire to fill with knowledge. They don't know a lot but don't inherently feel stupid about it either, so they just ask and seek and knock.  Sometimes loudly.  Little children are easy to entreat.  They believe you when you tell them something.  Their methods of learning are not judged.  Doesn't matter if it's by putting it in their mouth, blabbing, spitting, trying again and again, risking embarrassment, or just by trusting dad when dad says the bulky annoying harness will keep them safe as they go down the zipline.  They will learn in a variety of ways usually with a degree of excitement, not shame. They trip, but don't yet have the part of them that self-criticizes.  They just try again and don't look around to see who saw them trip.

They question a lot, sometimes over and over and over until I can't take their questioning anymore.  Persistent.  They don't seem to have a need to judge people, their need seems to be to understand rather than judge.  They want to understand why people look or act different than they expect or are used to.  Form them, loving is easier than judging.

Then there's the little kid attitude of having to do everything by themselves.  It can be obnoxious, and yet.... the impulse helps them learn and develop a healthy sense of their own ability and capacities.  

They are trusting, and more easily accept things with faith.  My kids trust what I tell them, they are inherently believing.  They don't struggle as adults (myself) seem to do to exercise faith in something that hasn't yet been part of their direct experience.  Little children are simple, and view life in simple terms.

They let things go quickly and easily, little children seem to more easily forgive, and when little they don't spend time guarding against your potential to cause them more problems.  They just let it go. They are happy, and take time to be silly and laugh and play.  They come with joy, we sometimes call them "bundles of joy".

Mosiah 3:19 talks about childlike qualities.  Meek, submissive, patient.  I read these not as submissive to man.  But submissive to God.  As Christ was.

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

Jumping topics for a second, but which will tie in.  If you got to choose who was to be your judge in some important matter who would you choose?  Someone who knows you well, right?  Not necessarily someone who is ignorant of your flaws, but someone who understands them and would treat them kindly.  Someone who would be merciful, right?  If you could chose to be judged by someone who was meek, and humble, patient, full of charity and was quick to forgive, that alleviates enormous stress.  There would be little to fear other than your own disobedience to what you knew was right.  You would be your own worst judge.  Joseph Smith taught that we are our own accusers.   Joseph also taught:

If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven, and if you will follow the revelations and instructions which God gives you through me, I will take you into heaven as my back load. If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you. If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours—for charity covereth a multitude of sins.

History of the Church, 4:445.

Joseph's statement is refreshing.  Taken with Christs teaching that with what judgement we judge we shall be judged sounds like Joseph will be judged by a standard that will inspire confidence in the presence of the Lord rather than fear.  His teachings reflect the kind of qualities we are taught Christ possesses.  Also the kind of person we will hopefully be.  Christ "stands betwixt the children of men and justice"  (Mosiah 15:9).  What a beautiful image.  Christ's position induces gratitude rather than fear.

Supposing we find ourselves together on judgement day, my desire would be to offer only charity, I hope to be one who would advocate your cause, overlook errors, and petition for misunderstandings or shortcomings to be treated with kindness and pure knowledge.  Attempting to do as Joseph said and throw a cloak of charity over your sins and bring no accusation.  I would want to give all possible notice for all the effort, desire, and intent you had, whether visible to others or not, and present it, asking for mercy.

If I've felt wronged by you and still feeling unsettled about it for whatever reason, I will refrain from retaliating, and seeking vengeance and will try and settle it with humility and honesty.  Same if I have wronged you.  If I don't know you, I will assume the best of you, and assume you dealt with the struggles of life in the best way you knew how under the circumstances you were given.

Mosiah 3:20 says:

21 And behold, when that time cometh, none shall be found blameless before God, except it be little children, only through repentance and faith on the name of the Lord God Omnipotent.

I think this is referring to both literal little children, as well as those who have followed Christ's doctrine and become as little children.  "found blameless before God".  Is this because they don't receive or merit any blame?  Or because they don't dispense any?  Interesting questions.  

I hope to be the type of person someone would want in their company at judgement day.  For me, that will mean something.  Living the Doctrine of Christ strikes me as directly relevant to the day of judgement because it makes you into the kind of person who can survive that day, not only by how you are judged, but because of who you are.

Continued next post.....

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Doctrine of Christ and Repentance (Part 1)

I'm preparing to teach a lesson in Church on "The Doctrine of Christ".  I volunteered to teach after polling a few (returned missionary) co workers as well as asking around my ward.  The surprising and troubling result of that poll is that very few people were able to list the basic elements of the Doctrine of Christ. So I concluded this was a worthwhile topic to present. I think I'm the only person who the leadership of my ward has ever seen volunteer to teach.  I guess a lot of folks don't like to or perhaps we're all so bored in our meetings no one wants to be the one directing the boredom.  In any event, I don't belive the lesson will be at all boring. 

One of the primary elements of Christ's doctrine is repentance.  I plan to focus on this.  I think it's a very poorly understood idea.  At least I have understood it poorly my entire life.  I've learned (from my own experience not just theory) that it means to turn and face God.  A change of heart.  Turning from sin, and darkness towards light and truth and intelligence.  But culturally, it seems to only refer to morality, pornography, or Word of Wisdom compliance.  It's a mere word that gets pigeonholed into 6 steps......which for me has always come up short of producing the fruit I read about in scripture.

Repentance for some triggers guilt and shame, to others triggers thoughts of all the things they are doing wrong.  Some picture an ecclesiastical leader removing Church privileges, others think of their poor home or visiting teaching statistics, for others it causes their eyes to roll.  For others doesn't prompt any thought at all.  But for some it means hope.  Real hope.  Hope of a better world, and a place at the right hand of God (Ether 12:4).  The word is meaningless and dead without a personal experience involving God.  I don't know how better to state it.  It's a meaningless idea without an experience with the Divine.  The Doctrine of Christ brings a chance for just such a thing, new life.  Repentance leads to life free from dead chains and locks that bind us.

Before Christ specifically goes into his doctrine it's preceded by His statement that anger and contenting with each other should be done away (3 Nephi 11:30).  So we can conclude this doctrine is meant to unify, and do away with contention.  I think it has that potential, across many a religious divide.

Christ's Doctrine comes from the Father (3 Nephi 11: 32).  Here are some beginning ideas to start to consider Christ's Doctrine (3rd Nephi 11 and 2 Nephi 31).

-Believe in Christ
-Be baptized.  Born of Water.  (don't believe and don't get baptized and be damned) Vs 34-35
-Be visited with Fire and the Holy Ghost, (vs 35).  Nephi when teaching The Doctrine of Christ calls it: "the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost".  Other places speak of being "Born of the Spirit".
-Become as a little child

Part of this doctrine results in a record born 3 Nephi 11:32.  So much could be said on that.  I'll just pose a few questions to spark thought . To whom is this record born?  Where is this "record" (of heaven) to be located?  Who is the recipient? What would reception of this record indicate? I'll leave those for you to answer.

The results of this doctrine is you will believe in and follow Christ, with real intent, acting no hypocrisy before God.  You will repent, you will have been baptized with water, and baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost.  And as stated in vs 32, a record will be borne.  Nephi goes on to say as a result of living this doctrine you will then be able to speak with the tongue of angles and be able to shout praises to the Holy One of Israel.  You will have "received" the Holy Ghost and received a remission of your sins 2 Nephi 31:17.  You will have or be developing qualities that a little child has.  Nephi says Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. (2 Nephi 32:6).  This is all in 2 Nephi ch 31 and 32.  I'd quote it all but this post would be too long.

At work a quick poll of active LDS members showed only 1 had any idea what the baptism of fire was and none were very sure if it had happened to them or not.  If this is typical of others in the church, then I feel more confident the right topic has been chosen for the upcoming lesson.  It will be difficult to follow Christ if we are unsure what His Doctrine is.  My hope is to help with that in some small way.

Repentance is a direct commandment from the Father. I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me (3 Nphi 11: 32).

Repentance has both breadth and depth that get overlooked.  Too many other less important religious things often cloud our minds.  We often approach the topic facing the wrong way.  There is resistance to repentance.  Internal, as well as cultural and traditional.  Much of that resistance (according to scripture) lies in our traditions (D&C 93:39). I plan to go through some of these things in the lesson.  Our traditions are garbage when it comes to repentance.

The definition of the word is one of the first bits of resistance.  Conforming to outward religious standards, perhaps to appease others or maybe to meet your parents, girlfriend's, or culture's expectations can make for very shallow repentance.  Perhaps not enough for the rest of Christ's doctrine to really come into focus.  I read in some Church endorsed materials that the priesthood leader should watch for and enforce a "period of suffering" in order for repentance to be accepted.  Having suffering enforced upon you by an ecclesiastical leader for me is counterproductive.  One bishop said "The Church also has to forgive you".

Repentance can be deep "nigh unto death" like Alma the Younger (Mosiah 27:28).  The breadth can be viewed as simply "stopping some behavior".  Or it can be viewed as not just stopping bad acts, but adding light and truth and godly works of intelligence into your life.  Trying hard to “be good” or “stop sinning” is often not effective.

What IS effective is changing our desires, and that happens by learning and gaining knowledge of God’s ways.   When we view things as God does (which always different from what our religious institutions tell us), our desires change.  I've done this.  I'm speaking from direct experience.  Light is the cure for darkness.  I don't know how else to say it.  Knowledge is the cure for sin.  Knowledge does away with ignorance.  Then comes the point where you loose desire for all those other things, because you know enough to not participate in filthy things.  So to repent, get rid of your ignorance.  It works!  Truth sets you free.  But you get to choose.

Other resistance to repentance lies in false beliefs that assure you "all is well".  This is anti-repentance because it seeks to deceive you into not realizing the need for repentance.  Soothing messages do this.  They lull you to sleep.  Nephi, who knows this doctrine because he lived it, teaches that the adversary will lull people into carnal security, with phrases such as "all is well" (2 Nephi 28:21).  Messages that include things like outward attendance at church and offering minimal effort will be enough to squeeze into the bottom section of the Celestial kingdom.  Or some message that you are part of an infallible true organization so just stay in the boat, you'll be fine if you just stay in the boat and follow the leader.  Nephi by contrast saw us in vision, and reminds his readers that all churches have become corrupted and even the humble followers of Christ err due to the precepts of men they are taught (2 Nephi 28, whole chapter).

According to scripture things to repent of that get very little face time at church.

-False religious traditions inside YOUR religion.  These traditions darken the mind and are a tool of Satan to remove light and truth from an individual. (D&C 93:39)
-Unbelief (believing incorrect things)
-Gospel ignorance
-Lack of knowledge of Christ or false ideas about Him
-Wickedness and Abominations.  But we tend to not really know what those words mean and then assume they don't apply to us.  (link)

A true prophet will reveal the awful situation of not just "those other people" out in the world without names or faces, but reveal the true state and perilous situation of each one of us.  They reveal how great is our fallen state and thus how great our need to repent.  It can have such an effect that it causes you to fall to the ground (Mosiah 4:1).  The true message will give you a true view, and point you to the one True God where mercy and charity are found.  They do not point to themselves.

What should the outcome of repentance be?
-Possession of a Temple Recommend?
-Social conformity?
-Contact with God?
-Remission of Sins?
-Freedom from sin and darkness?
-Excessive emotion?
-6 month probation periods?
-Confession to a man?
-Mere absence of some immoral behavior?

How much repentance (or perhaps to what depth) is needed before you get baptized by water?

How much  repentance (or again to what depth) is needed before one may experience a baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost?  Can you repent sufficiently to obtain an LDS temple recommend but still not receive the Baptism of Fire?

The LDS church's main website (link to a post about this) teaches that the church distinguishes between having sinful inclinations vs acting on them.  As long as you don't outwardly act on them no inner problem will bar you from the temple.  That may get you a recommend, but Christ's teachings go much, much further.  They go to your heart.  To your core.  They can make you a new creature with a new inner nature.  Born of God.  (Mosiah 5).  They change your desires.  Again, get rid of ignorance and repentance starts.

Sometimes religiously we're taught to "rely on the Atonement" "use the atonement".  As if it was a line of credit, or soap, or ink for your printer.  For me these phrases can take away from Christ's person-hood and stop short of pointing the individual towards an actual living resurrected being who lives now, and who can and will interact with us.  And yet just last month a teacher in church declared such a thing is "not possible".  How can we repent if we don't think contact with Christ is even possible?

 The Book of Mormon is full of examples and follow-able patterns of people who communed with and visited with God.  The Book of Mormon gives example after example of people succeeding at this.  It addresses Mormons but the point is sometimes lost on the audience. God put the whole church under condemnation for neglecting this Book of Mormon (D&C 84:54-57). The way out, as stated by the Lord begins with repentance verse 57: And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—

Messages from God clear away the false traditions that cause pride and blindness.  This message is found in the Book of Mormon.  One of those messages, which can be a sure foundation, is the Doctrine of Christ.  It will challenge, and confront false beliefs.  Then inform you of the truth. Many of which we think are true, but which are false.  This is good for the soul.

I think I'll challenge the class with some of these thoughts on repentance and hopefully renew everyone's desire to take the Book of Mormon more seriously.  To follow Christ by following His Doctrine and coming to know Him.

Continued next post.....