Friday, March 30, 2018

Not Called to Preach Doom and Gloom?

I wrote most of the below a few years ago and recently saw it in a draft folder.  I added some footnotes and examples.  This seemed fitting on the eve of LDS general conference.


Doom and Gloom?

       After a religious conversation with some friends and family one of them made the comment that the current (occurred in 2015) LDS leaders of the Church don’t talk about certain things, answer certain questions, and don’t preach repentance in direct or strong way because: “They are not called to preach doom and gloom in our day”.  I don’t know where that phrase came from “not called to preach doom and gloom” but due to the nods of others it seemed to carry weight with people as though they had heard it from some reputable source.

I had these thoughts after that conversation in the days and years that have followed.  My hope is to walk through a line of reasoning that will hopefully be interesting.  I realize there are numerous tangents and counter points to be made on almost every point, but stay with me to see the reasoning and see if it's good. 

A Pure Source 

In the Book of Mormon there was a large gathering of people who had gathered to hear the word of God.  The audience, preached to by King Benjamin, experienced a spiritual rebirth and mighty change of heart after the message they heard. 

Mosiah 5:1-5 1 
And now, it came to pass that when King Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them.[1]
  2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.
  3 And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things.
  4 And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.
  5 And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.
          The account teaches it was having faith in “the things which our king has spoken unto us” that brought them great knowledge and joy.  It was not having faith in or following “the prophet” but was faith in the content of the message.  The message originated from God and hadn't been altered or embellished or downgraded to fit people's sensibilities. That’s why faith in it produced fruit.  It was not adoration or fixation on the messenger that accomplished the results. Nor how much they liked the messenger that produced fruit. It was the message and the source of the message.

Discerning the Master's Voice 

         In our modern day, among believing LDS members there has developed a pattern of relying on authority figures to always be telling you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Many Latter Day Saints will accept and trust whatever the living leaders tell them without any hesitation or any pondering and without any comparison to what is found in scripture.  The common belief is that the President of the Church cannot lead the members astray else be removed from his position.  That idea is common, but lacks scriptural support, and also lacks common sense as well as contradicts pretty much all religious history.  There's a really troubling passage from Nephi in the Book of Mormon that should put all of us on notice.  Especially if you consider yourself a Christian, and even a "humble follower of Christ".  To the Latter Day audience reading his book Nephi says:

2 Nephi 28:14
They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.
        All gone astray.  Even the humble followers of Christ are led (leaders are who lead) that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.  These man made precepts are causing even the humble followers of Christ to err.  In many instances. This warning does no good if we don't apply it to ourselves, and since he said "all" had gone astray there is no justification for excluding ourselves and our Church.

        There is a huge difference between following a man because he holds a Church calling or office, and, by contrast heeding the voice of God when you hear it resonating in the voice of one of His true messengers.  One of those follows a man, and has telestial consequences (D&C 76:98-101), the other follows God.  I believe the distinction is pivotal.  “Following the prophet” is an idea that is potentially damning. It’s the voice of God we need to follow, not a man.  The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that "a prophet is only a prophet when he is acting as such" (Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 5:265).   Many members assure themselves current LDS leaders do in fact always speak for God and it's as if God were speaking.  See footnote 17 for sources and more discussion on this. 

         When men hold religious office but do not speak for God nor speak words given to them from God we all ought to ask ourselves if following that will produce saving fruit. You decide. We can’t just rely on their title, status, calling, or bibliography as reason to just follow them.  Those are no guarantee of anything.  That would be relying on the arm of the flesh, rather than the voice of the Spirit.  It's the Master's voice we need to follow.  We can't disregard or outsource or neglect our individual obligation to discern the quality and origin of the messages we are taught.  One will lead to God, the other will not. You can verify this concept easily with scripture.

As in Former Times as in Latter Days? 

I often wonder, (so do many apparently in Sunday School) why spiritual experiences or mighty changes of heart like the one above in Mosiah don't happen very often today as a result of LDS General Conference.  The Sunday School teacher posed this very question a few weeks ago in my local LDS ward.  Why did King Benjamin's people have this spiritual outpouring during their "conference" but it’s almost unheard of for us to have anything like this at our conferences?  People typically come away from LDS General Conference "wanting to do better" or emotionally moved, or talking about the latest temple announcement and with a few new cliche phrases to put as meme’s on social media.  But that's about it. Very often only days later they cannot recall much of anything that was said or taught other than how "good" it was. A sizable difference from the change of heart seen in the Mosiah example.  

In my experience consistently (religiously) attending church for 30+ years people are more often than not bored and asleep at LDS General Conference time, as well as asleep at church.  Even the leaders joke that “church sleep is among the healthiest of all sleep” to quote Pres Ucthdorf[2].  We revisit the same talks we heard at conference over and over for the next 6 months anyway at church during the 3 hour block.  I forget the number of weeks where Christ is not mentioned during the 3 hours. In such cases I wonder if the 3hr block is almost a stumbling block.  It's plain old boring.  Often you could cut and paste conference talks and change the stories but still predict what next conference will be like.  This isn't meant to be negative but simply draw a contrast between what we hear now vs what we see in scripture.  The Church's priority has to be the newest members, feeding them the most basic of principles.  This is to be expected.  But this should not ever be the entire diet of a disciple of Christ.  

During the Sunday School lesson referenced above, there were a few very weak explanations, reasons, and excuses given by the class for the difference between the fruit of King Benjamin’s conference and the fruits of our own. The class would only entertain reasons that didn’t make people feel uncomfortable.  The reasons given by the class all seemed to have some institutional defense at the roots.  There was definitely an “image” of The Church that had to be maintained.  It had to be kept as equal to King Benjamin's or equal to any successful religious experience ever had in latter days or former days.  One commentor proposed the idea that the message from King Benjaim came from an angel, and the messages from our conferences are more stories and basic principle talks often intended to make you feel good. Popularity seems to matter more than the truth.  The class immediately dismissed this and various people commented that the leaders are giving the latter day audience what specifically they needs to hear because that's the benefit of having a Living Prophet.

   Back to Nephi.  The people are led, in many instances they err due to what they are taught.  This is not something I can ignore or write off.  King Benjamin shared a message from an angel, which message came directly from the presence of God.  I have never heard of any Church leader in my lifetime say anything even related to that.  They simply don't claim such things.  Although members huger to hear this type of thing, it's simply absent.  They infer various levels of contact with God with vague vocabulary like "too sacred to share" or "special witness" but there has been no claim to be relaying a message from God in my lifetime.  So what are we hearing now days if not messages from angels and visions and prophecy?

....
Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men. (2 Nephi 28)

    We all know when we hear an opinion from a political leader.  We also seem to be able to gauge if a political leader is being misleading with their message or has an agenda. Also folks seem to easily detect when a policy or practice by political positions of authority restrict the freedom and responsibilities of those subordinate to them in the subordinates' supposed best interest.  What is curious is that people do not apply the same critical thinking with respect to religious leaders and authority figures.  What if the messages we hear at conference are full of opinion, inadvertent false doctrine, misleading messages, and is perhaps innocently contaminated with errors?  Scripture indicates this will be the case![3].  That does not necessarily make the people bad people.  It's just the reality of our fallen world.  Hearing messages full of those things isn't saving anyone and will of course not produce the fruit we see in scripture.  The idea that we may be possibly be hearing those things from any number authorities from any number of pulpits on any given Sunday is difficult to hear, and understandably not well tolerated.  We assume such an idea is assuredly from Satan.  But our feelings are not always a good truth barometer. The truth doesn’t care how we feel about it.  

I wondered during that Sunday School class why we (our culture) can't stop to consider things like this.  One reason may be that some have placed their faith in the organization itself and its leaders, rather that placing faith in Christ.  They may see no difference between the “Church” and the “Gospel” and would therefore see no issue with placing faith in the "Church".  Putting too much faith in mortals is warned about in scripture.  Church leaders have spoken of the important differences between the Church and Gospel.  One such talk was curiously deliberately censored and re-written changing the message entirely[4].  It seems the church has a vested interest in it's members not seeing critical difference between the Gospel, and the Church organization (Corporation Sole to be technical).  Christ warned in scripture about building ones foundation on sand or trusting in the arm of the flesh.  We must build upon Christ and His Gospel if we are ever to have a correct foundation.  If any of us build on sand, it's sure to fall.  So what should we be founded on?

The Church vs the Kingdom Of God 

              The LDS Church teaches the Church institution IS the Kingdom of God on the earth (see Guide to the Scriptures under "Kingdom of God") despite Joseph Smith saying the Church and Kingdom of God are two separate things[5].  This is one interesting contradiction that you won't find ever taught about or mentioned in any manual.  But it's blaring enough I wanted to bring it up.  
I'm persuaded by scripture that faith in Christ is what saves, not an earthly institution that makes claims about His name or His authority or to be His kingdom.  I have been a member my entire life, and have received many blessings from membership.  So I get it when ideas are put forward that seemingly undercut what has been a blessing to so many.  I'm not trying to undercut the truth.  Only trying to discover it, and dust it off.  For me the truth is more important than feeling good about our errors.  Christ alone saves, not church leaders or a religious corporation.  What makes matters worse is the leaders also assure us they can’t lead us astray[6].  And so, anyone who says otherwise is presumed to be apostate.

So how do you know? 


How would a person know they are following Christ and not just a man or leader of a Church?  What fruits or patterns would you need to see to know you yourself are in fact a disciple of Christ?  Or vise versa what patterns would alert you that something is wrong?  That perhaps you have wandered off?  What would you need to see that would alert you that you're actually seeing a legitimate error, falsehohod, or red flags and not just being persuaded by some adversarial apostate voice trying to bring you down?  How are we to apply Christ’s teachings to detect false prophets by their fruits if we never apply the test?  Religious corruption is well documented throughout all history and those living at the time had just as hard a time discerning it in their time as we would have in ours.
I believe it’s possible an institution can in fact reject the fullness of the Gospel without the general membership noticing. There wouldn't be an immediate lightening strike, earthquake or tornado.  Those are possible but not likely.  The signs and flags and indicators would only be visible to those watching, and would require a set of teachings to compare against.  If you don't compare what you hear to what you know is in scripture how can you detect an error?

  How would you know if something was wrong?  It happens subtly.  It may happens by people being led to trust in men or religious institutions and give them money in exchange for blessings and opportunities.  This of course would be done with proper "authority" so as to not alert the members something is amiss.  It happens subtly by changing the ordinances.  Which, breaks them[7].  All this could happen without fanfare, and without any news articles, and without any social media posts.  You'd know only by watching and being familiar with what Christ has said and taught.  Christ does not leave his followers comfortless.  He himself intends to comfort them (John 14:18).  Himself.  This is true doctrine.  But the doctrine of the Second Comforter is no longer taught by the LDS church or it's leaders.  It's been discarded (not found in manuals) and neglected (not taught by Church education system) and in some cases relegated to a "mystery" which ought to be left alone.  This rejects truth, truth that Christ is The Second Comforter and promises to comfort his followers.  Who would notice this doctrine was lost?  Some saints have never even heard of it.     

Suppose something takes the place of Christ, and or has altered Christ’s teachings and doctrine, or discarded it.  What's to alert you?  Suppose all of this is done under claims to be authorized by Christ.  Who's to wake up and notice the red flag?  To maintain the deception the claim has to be maintained that what is occurring is led by God and there is nothing for you to worry about.  All is well.  Just claiming to be led by God is no different than any other historical example of those who did in fact reject Christ, the gospel, and dwindled in darkness.  Claims alone are no good.  Fruit is what matters.  To find fruit, we need to be able to discern and be watching.  Or you'll miss it.     

Apostasy

I’ve heard it said that the trick to pulling off an apostasy is to convince the masses that there hasn't been one.  And as we just discussed, this isn't all that hard when no one is even watching.  You'd just need to teach people that there hasn't been an apostasy and that there can't be one[8].  Using examples such as temples, leaders with scriptural titles, programs and policies that are always changing.... this all could look like evidence of God's leadership.

We publish scripture which implies we are doing what the scriptures say.  And we have billions and billions of dollars, and see there are good decisions being made, and see there are lots of inspiring things being said by guys in suits.  And and.... all that humanitarian work.  All this confirms our feelings that we are all doing just fine, bound for heaven inside the old ship Zion and all is well. So we end up thinking there is no justification or need to preach anything but happy, polished, pleasing, and correlated messages.  Apparently that's all God wants the latter day audience to hear.  Certainly not doom or gloom.  In a sense we feel that all is well.  Despite Nephi warning us about that exact sentiment[9]  We are Nephi's audience and he has dire warnings for us who use that phrase.  (we're the only religion with a hymn that chants "all is well) 

So what did those ancient guys preach? 

The prophets in the book of Mormon often said harsh, damning, dooming, and glooming things.  Almost all of them did.  This isn't the entirety of the message.  But it was the accurate description of the people they preached to, and they were commanded by God to declare it.  It often got them in serious trouble or killed.  No prophet ever got killed by angry mobs by preaching flattery.  They would instead point out the apostate, false, vain, and corrupt religious beliefs of the day that the people (just like us) cling to.  And the people hated it, told them to shut up, told them they were wrong, and fought against them, or killed them preferring their false religious traditions instead.  You can likely think of some scriptural examples without me giving the references.  Who wants to be told about your sins and darkness of mind when you can be told you’re going to arrive safe in heaven as long as you just keep your eyes riveted on the church leaders[10]?  One makes you feel great, the other, not so much. 

Referring to the judgement day when some are unprepared this is from the sermon that King Benjamin preached:

Mosiah 3: 26-27

"Therefore, they have drunk out of the cup of the wrath of God, which justice could no more deny unto them than it could deny that Adam should fall because of his partaking of the forbidden fruit; therefore, mercy could have claim on then no more forever.  And their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever. Thus has the Lord commanded me. Amen."

These are strong, doooming, glooming, and terrible warnings from an angel who declares in unmistakable words that he has a message from God.  King Benjamin then delivers it.  This message does not deserve respect or convert anyone because of the mouthpieces church calling.  The merit is that it is a message from God. Not clever cliche phrases, not a bunch of politically correct re-statements, not correlated, not sugar coated garbage, and not comprised of someones own ideas and social science research.  None of that.  It's not opinion.  It's not philosophy mingled with scripture.  It came, unmistakably from God and the people are informed of that.   

According to the Angel those who ignore the obligation to repent, and come unto Christ will, in the afterlife, have: "drank out of the cup of the wrath of God..."  This is near identical language to Christ's terrible suffering in the atonement. (See3 Ne. 11: 11; D&C 19: 18.) This is so awful an experience the Lord says it's beyond man's comprehension. (D&C 19: 15.)

Continuing from this same sermon.  The Angel says: "mercy could have claim on them no more forever."  What a terrible phrase.  Mercy not having clam on them forever?  Is there any more dooming a statement than this?  Here's another: "torment as a lake of fire and brimstone".  This is awful.  We all know the pain of having our skin burned. Our minds get the idea pretty fast, "whose flames are unquenchable", "whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever".  Graphic images.  Strong stuff.  How fortunate we can hear happy warm fuzzy teachings when these past guys had to hear about fire and brimstone.  

What are the fruits? 

 These dooming and glooming message resulted in those who attended the gathering having a covenanted with God. A spiritual rebirth.  Mighty changes of heart.  The audience would "have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually." (Mosiah 5: 2)  Did that have anything to do with what they were taught?  The angel’s message began with Joy, and talk of a Savior, but includes substantial realities about doomy, gloomy fire filled stuff.  Smoke, wrath, fire, brimstone.  Prophets are called to preach the truth. If they don’t, then what kind of prophet are they?  The people got told of things like torment, and mercy not having claim on them forever.  But look at the fruit!  They encountered the Spirit of the Lord which changed them.  They didn't change themselves by their own efforts to perfect themselves via commandments of men.  No no. In that one phase the angel debunks a lot of Mormon myths about perfecting ourselves[11].  Christ does the heavy lifting.  We are to follow Him.  I believe He wants to be positive and speak of joy.  But we need to first find a true message from Him.  Not just some flowery feelgood talk.

So the question that comes to my mind is why does it require such harsh and painful language from the angel to produce this mighty result?  Could it be that only the truth can cause within us what needs to happen in order for us to repent?  The Angel was sent and included a pretty nasty message for their souls, yet look at the results?  They were born again. They experienced a mighty change or heart that day.  Not some vague desire “to do better” but forgetting the message completely within a few short hours.   No, they were spiritually begotten.  A topic hardly taught by LDS leaders. And not part of Sunday school curriculum if you've been paying attention in Sunday School for the past 15 years.  Can changing the age for missionary service save your soul or bring you to Christ?  Is an age change revelation?  Or is that just an administrative policy change?  Was it not policy that established the age in the first place?  President Manson himself called it a policy change.

To not be called to preach the reality and awfulness of our fallen situation, and the destination to which a people or person is headed would in many instances be to not preach the truth.  But is instead to preach soothing falsehoods that lead to carnal security.  Such would be what we might expect are the messages of false prophets because the message doesn’t save you, and lulls you to sleep.  It darkens your mind from the reality that would otherwise perhaps motivate you to repent and turn to Christ in a real and authentic way to have an experience with Him.  So just because the message makes you feel good, is not the right criteria to determine whether it came from God or not.

Prophets Responsibility 


Enos: 1: 22-23 
And there were exceedingly many prophets among us. And the people were a stiffnecked people, hard to understand.  And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them.

Many prophets it says.  Is Enos trying to tell us that it's possible for there to be messengers and or prophets aside from those fulfilling an administrative role in a corporation?  Kind of like Jesus and John the Baptist?  Neither belonged to the religious hierarchy of the Jews, and held no authority the people of the recognized.  This point seems to not be appreciated by many LDS members.  The common LDS view is that God cannot send messengers outside the Church's own  hierarchy.  Which is simply not true as any number of scriptures can attest.  If that were the only criteria you are willing to accept you would have to reject John the Baptist and Christ himself.  God follows patterns.  The messengers He sends also fit patterns.  The patterns require you to recognize the truth as well as a true messenger by the message they preach, often apart from the false religious credentials you may have been raised to accept and look to.  Christ did not come as a Jewish leader.  His messengers follow these same patterns.  The message is the criteria.  Not the clothing, not the title, and not feel-good stories.   

Enos uses the phrase "nothing but exceeding harshness".  The people he says were dull of hearing or in other words did not want to understand or listen to the message and apply it to themselves.  So harshness gets used so there is no mistaking it.  The preacher has to deliver the message in a way so as to not be responsible for not being clear.  Jacob teaches this in the Book of Mormon talking about the responsibility of a messenger to deliver God's word and the consequences if they don't:

Jacob 1:19.  

            And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.

           This seems like an accurate description of a prophets responsibility.  If the people are dull of hearing and stubborn, then the teacher commissioned by God has to be diligent, and labor, else answer for it.

Could King Benjamin's people be saved by praising them, telling them they were chosen and the elect of God?  Assuring them that their sins weren't all THAT bad after all.  Would they be motivated to repent in the way that puts a soul into the depths of humility by touting all the humanitarian work done by their church?  Or their nice clothing?  Or their big grand meeting houses?  Could they be saved by telling them that all was well with them, they prosper in the land because God is with them and because they follow King Benjamin (the prophet)?  That if they just stayed in the boat they would be saved[12]?  Telling them they were chosen in the pre-earth life and destined to be here at this day and time because of their valiance and that there will be a hush in heaven for them[13].  That seems much more like vanity and pride than being humble.    
  
Why was it necessary to tell them of hell?  Of damnation? Of eternal suffering and unquenchable fire? Is this being pessimistic or could it be describing a reality to which we are blind?  Why wasn't the angel soft and gentle?  Why wasn't the angel more politically correct? The words of the angel are attempting to give some willing listener an idea of how deeply, how completely, and how great the reality of our need for repentance.  Without it, we simply don't think we are all that bad.  It's possible the masses remain in denial and blind.  And so, no one repents, thinking its other people that need it.  No one awakens to our awful reality because no one dares describe our awful reality.  Well, this angel did.  And the people were pointed to Christ and in fact had a spiritual outpouring.

Who's the Book of Mormon talking to? 

I believe we delude ourselves when we think these messages in the Book of Mormon were not meant for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If King Benjamin's audience experienced the fruits they did by coming down in the depths of humility and repentance (Mosiah 4: 2), then we could probably repeat their steps and maybe see if we get similar results.  We fool ourselves when we accept only smooth things and soft messages filtered through the PR department and correlation departments and then wonder why our hearts are not pricked.  Perhaps we could ask our selves if there has been any corruption to the word of God we assume we are hearing.  

So back to the original question why do you think an angel and the Book of Mormon prophets were called to preach doom and gloom but current LDS leaders are not?  Is there a correlation between the messages we hear and the spiritual outpourings we do or do not experience? I seriously question of flattery or endless procedural changes are what will fill us with the Spirit.  

What if someone comes along and tells a devoutly religious people their religion has become corrupt and their doctrines have become the philosophies of men and cannot save.  Nephi and Moroni both said this to us, about us[14].  That warning does little good if the audience thinks Nephi is talking about the Catholics, or some other non Mormon group who aren't even reading his book.  The pattern in scripture when someone preaches such a message is often to throw them out (excommunicate them), call them apostate, and "stone the prophets".  Why?  Because they identify idolatry, corruption and warn of ominous things and people hate that. It rocks the boat.


What did Christ say? 


The trick to deceiving people as written in scripture is to dress someone as if they were something safe, harmless and too good to even question.  Jesus talked about this.  About wolves in sheep’s clothing.  This was in context about how to identify a false prophet (Matthew 7:15).   If you put on the clothing of a sheep, you can cover up the wolf.  “Sheep’s Clothing” symbolically would be things such as a religious title, some sort of credential, calling, religious bibliography, your status, appearance, etc....  These can cover up, or cover over a message that won’t save you.  Even if they don’t appear to be “bad” people.  Sheep are what Christ says follow Him, so a wolf would act and dress as if they were a follower of Christ.  

What if a messenger came saying that the institution has altered and adulterated the requirements for baptism, and thus the baptism they offer by that institution is no longer valid. By requiring you to confess a man for example, as the LDS Baptismal interview questions do (see Preach My Gospel for the list of baptismal interview questions).  What if this person came declaring that you need to be re-baptized by someone having authority and power from God.  Not to join another church, but as a sign between you and Christ that you follow Him.  As is required when a new dispensation begins.  Would not people reject this in the same way as people perhaps rejected John the Baptists baptism? Preferring instead their own religious baptism taught by the leaders?  John the Baptist ended one dispensation and another began.  What if that happened in our day?  We would perhaps fair no better than most of the Jews did when John came preaching.  It's worth considering how you would have responded to John the Baptist.  And contemplate if that pattern repeated now, if you would accept it or reject it. 

Samuel the Lamanite was another messenger who's message included some doomy and gloomy stuff.  The Book of Mormon can't be speaking to people who are not even reading the book, and don't believe in it. It's intended for us Mormons.  Here is Samuel’s message:

"Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.

But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.

Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.

O ye wicked and ye perverse generation; ye hardened and ye stiffnecked people, how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you? Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light?" (Hel. 13: 26-29.)

Conclusion

  No religious people in any age enjoy contemplating the idea that their accepted guides are foolish or blind.  They love their guides (leaders).  The guides make the people feel good.  The people don’t want to be told of their sins and iniquities so the guides perhaps oblige the desires of the masses.  As a possible example, consider that LDS folks find no fault when leaders in General Conference assure us all is well.  Few red flags are raised when people learn the leaders take home living stipends far larger than average wages of the regular members[15].  Perhaps it's totally fine they wear fine suits and live in fine houses and ride on private jets.  Perhaps its' totally fine the corporation owns high end shopping malls and continues to build high end malls and sponsor enormous for profit building projects.  Or maybe these are patterns or things we should pay attention to. One of the “unwritten order of things”[16] says whenever out in public top leaders should wear their “Sunday best” apparel. "Fine apparel" is referenced in the book of Mormon and it has nothing good to say about it.  Samuel the Lamanite had a message that fits uncomfortably well when applied to present day.  But you see for yourself if it fits.      

I agree doom and gloom is no fun. It's kind of like being told you need heart surgery.  But on the other side of the surgery, you see that you would have died without it.  And you see God really wanted his Children to have joy.  But wickedness never was happiness.  So God lovingly corrects.  If someone were to go around saying that the leaders weren't called to remind you of your need for heart surgery, it could be devastating to your health. 99% truth is no good if the rest is misleading.  I believe a true message from God will offset any doom with hope in Christ through repentance.  

If the scriptures are right, and I accept that they are, then Christ is approachable, and of such disposition that we can have confidence in His nature, forgiveness, grace, and willingness to work with us.  We needn't and should never stop short of coming literally to Christ.  Joseph Smith taught this doctrine and that it's possible and available to you.  Not just available to some elite class of Church leaders.  Joseph Smith's teachings were endorsed by God and we so often totally neglect them or think them inferior to whatever the living leaders are saying [17]. Christ can heal, He can teach, and He can save. May we repent, come to Christ, and avoid the awful reality the prophets and scripture foretell will come if we do not repent.  I hope many repent, all in fact.  But it does not appear all are interested. 

Here are some resources to consider in that process.

-The Second Comforter:: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil 
-Preserving the Restoration – September 2, 2015 by Denver C. Snuffer Jr. 
-www.bornofwater.org
-https://www.restorationarchives.com/
-www.scriptures.info


[1].  The words came from an Angel.  King Benjamin didn’t have a professional talk writer, nor innovate his own good ideas.  There was no correlation, and no PR image of a church to maintain.  This was a message originating from God delivered by a heavenly messenger.

[2] Conference talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONIE9LLvpwM   I agree sleeping through church very often is spiritually healthier than listening to some of those empty sermons.

[3] Nephi and Moroni both prophesied in the Book of Mormon, written to Mormons, that these things, and worse, would occur inside “all” churches. Including the church publishing the Book of Mormon. 2 Nephi 28 11-12. Mormon 8:36-38

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qIr30dtCvo

[5] Joseph Smith explained to the council in April 1844: “There is a distinction between the Church of God and kingdom of God. 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.”

[6] Official Declaration 1, quoting Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.

[7] Isaiah 24:5.  The LDS church has changed ordinances, from baptism through the endowment.  For a starter piece on the changes to baptism here is an interesting article: https://areturning.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/rebaptism/  

[8] https://www.lds.org/topics/apostasy?lang=eng.  Which says in relevant part: “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)”.  See for yourself if those versus really support what they are being used as evidence for.  

[9] 2 Nephi 28:21:  And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil heateththeir souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.”

[10] General Conference Dec 1996. Elder Ballard "When shall these things be".   Keep your eyes riveted on the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. We will not lead you astray. We cannot”.

[11] Three are some LDS members who believe they are going to perfect themselves and work their way into the Celestial Kingdom by their own efforts and good works by keeping all the commandments all the time.  They in a sense try to achieve perfection on their own by compliance with the law and all the rules (written and unwritten) given by the Church.

[12] "Stay in the Boat and Hold On!"  Elder Ballard General conference Oct 2014. 

[13] I don’t know where this originated but it’s been passed around enough in LDS circles that perhaps you have heard a version of the following:  You were generals in the War in Heaven and one day when you are in the spirit world, you will be enthralled by those you are associated with. You will ask someone in which time period they lived and you might hear, “I was with Moses when he parted the Red Sea,” or “I helped build the pyramids’” or “I fought with Captain Moroni.” And as you are standing there in amazement, someone will turn to you and ask you which of the prophets’ time did you live in? And when you say “Gordon B. Hinckley” a hush will fall over every hall and corridor in Heaven, and all in attendance will bow at your presence. You were held back six thousand years because you were the most talented, most obedient, most courageous, and most righteous.”

[14] 2 Nephi 28 11-12. Mormon 8:36-38

[15] http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=4800350&itype=CMSID&fullpage=1.  The site “Mormon Leaks” published pay stubs of top LDS leaders.

[16] This has reference to a talk by Elder Packer at BYU in 1996 called “The Unwritten Order of Things”.  http://emp.byui.edu/huffr/The%20Unwritten%20Order%20of%20Things%20--%20Boyd%20K.%20Packer.htm
In that talk examples are given such as where a presiding authority is to sit on the podium, where counselors should sit, and to not ask to be released from a church calling.  Others include not going to General Authorities directly for counsel but instead go through the proper channels.  Etc...   The phrase in addition often refers to any rule or code of conduct not explained in scripture and usually not in the handbooks but which has gained some degree of cultural importance.  From how to dress, facial hair, crossing your legs in the temple, and a variety of other "rules" that aren’t necessarily even important to God but over time gain traction and sometimes even achieve doctrinal status in people’s minds. 

[17] D&C 1:38 has this phrase "whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same".  That phrase, similarly to how I've quoted it, is completely out of context, and is used to support a conclusion not justified by the text itself.  It's not saying what people twist it to say.  For a discussion of that see this post here (begins a few paragraphs in).  Another D&C verse taken out of context and also twisted to support this same pre determined conclusion being discussed is this verse.  D&C 21:4-5 " Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith."  That verse is used consistently in general conference as support for why the members should look to the President of the LDS church and what he says as if from God's mouth.  Yet, if you read the verse in context when the revelation says "he" and "his words" it is not referring to anyone who happens to be the President of the Church.  The revelation is referring specifically to Joseph Smith, who's message God approved.  There is no justification for taking the verse, divorcing it from Joseph Smith and applying it to any subsequent leader as evidence they speak for God.  That misuse and out of context utilization of those scriptures would surely concern any English teacher who actually looked at how the verse and grammatical subject of sentience was being manipulated.    

Thursday, March 29, 2018

To everything there is a season

I read a phrase the other day that said that light is either increasing or decreasing, never stagnant.  Evidenced by the sun, daylight, darkness and the seasons we witness on earth.

I was contemplating my own spiritual progress when I came across this phrase and it affected me negatively.  I felt as though the light I once felt or had on certain things has waned or fallen off.  It was discouraging to contemplate this idea of non stagnant light on a personal level.  Specifically the light decreasing part.  I became quite discouraged as I surveyed my own progress.

Then I had a thought.  As the sun rises each day on the earth, the shadows get shorter until mid day, until there are no shadows.  And then as noon passes the shadows begin to lengthen until dark.  This happens every day.  I don't think the earth or the trees takes it personally that it gets dark every day.  Nor gets discouraged and defeated during seasons that have more darkness than others.

I don't think the earth gets butthurt about these realities, cycles and seasons.  I had the impression that I shouldn't either.  It's not always personal when seasons change, it's part of how the earth, it's orbit, and place in the heavens was designed.  You can see different things when it's dark.  Like the stars for example.  Even in the darkness there are messages, signs, and a testimony written in the stars if you look up.  If it didn't get dark, we would all miss a lot of stuff put there by God.  The earth and many things on it were designed to experience times of darkness. But the light and warmth return.

Where one side of the earth is experiencing darkness, another part is experiencing daylight.  The sun is just shining someplace else when it's dark in another place.  Things need time to rest and reset after all.  To everything there is a season.  Ecclesiastes doesn't say "to everything, every season".  But said: "to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven." (Eccl 3:1)