Monday, April 29, 2019

The Father's Own Works

Christ said in 3rd Nephi that if there is a Church calling itself after Jesus Christ's name and which is also built upon His Gospel then the Father will show forth His own works in it. 

I've been pondering on what those works of the Father are for a few weeks.  A few study thoughts below.  Here's the original reference:

NC 3rd Nephi 12:4
Verily, verily I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing? Have they not read the scriptures which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day. And whoso taketh upon him my name and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day. Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name. Therefore, ye shall call the church in my name, and ye shall call upon the Father in my name, that he will bless the church for my sake. And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name, then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man, then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name, then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel. Verily I say unto you that ye are built upon my gospel; therefore, ye shall call whatsoever things ye do call in my name. Therefore, if ye call upon the Father for the church, if it be in my name, the Father will hear you. And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel, then will the Father shew forth his own works in it. But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men or upon the works of the Devil, verily I say unto you, they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire from whence there is no return, for their works do follow them. For it is because of their works that they are hewn down. Therefore, remember the things that I have told you.
If the Church is called in Christ's name, and if built upon His Gospel, then will the Father show forth His own works in it.  Otherwise.... there will be joy in their works for a season but by and by the end comes and they get hewn down and cast into the fire.  Because of their works it says.  And Christ says to remember that he told us these things.

Joy for a season 

So why do folks not built on Christ's Gospel get to have joy in their man made works (or works of the Devil) for a season?  I thought wickedness never was happiness?  What gives?  Why aren't cause and effect more immediate? A whole "season" of joy in works of men and or the devil gets to be enjoyed.  A season can be a potentially long time.  Like maybe even generations.  Why I wonder?

I would initially think this season of joy in "their" own works is because God's patience is greater than ours, and he allows people to learn by their own experience, and allows opportunity to discern by tolerating both good and bad as they exist simultaneously.  He grants time for repentance.  He causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  The rain waters both flowers and weeds.  Because God is good.  The dichotomy is in place which gives people the chance to choose.  But it only lasts a season. 

The scripture above contrasts the works of the Father with the works of men and or the Devil.  So what are works of men?  Isn't anything done by a mortal considered a work of man?  I see a lot of things done in God's name in 2019 as if God were behind it.  But a lot of them are clearly works of men as it involves things God has never endorsed. How do we know which are God's works and which are works of men?  That seems like an important difference.  From Matthew in the New Testament: And many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and in your name have cast out devils, and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I say, You never knew me. Depart from me, you that work iniquity.

Given all that, I think "works of men" is likely referring to works of men's own accord.  Not authorized by, not asked by, not commissioned by, and not approved by God.  Even if men claim otherwise.  Men's works which men get credit for, and which benefit themselves and not the welfare of Zion, to use a scriptural phrase.  I can think of a few examples of religious or Churchy such works of men, done for their own profit.  Those are not hard to find in our current dark world.  Those seem like works of men.  More on profits below.

What are the devil's works?

NC 2 Nephi 12:4
For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men and stir them up to anger against that which is good. 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 cheateth their souls and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. And behold, others he flattereth away and telleth them there is no hell. And he saith unto them, I am no devil, for there is none. And thus he whispereth in their ears until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.

NC 2 Nephi 12:1
For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other, Behold, I, I am the Lord’s, — and the other shall say, I, I am the Lord’s, — and thus shall everyone say that hath built up churches and not unto the Lord. And they shall contend one with another, and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the holy ghost which giveth utterance. And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel. And they say unto the people, Hearken unto us and hear ye our precept, for behold, there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men. Behold, hearken ye unto my precept. If they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work. Yea, and there shall be many which shall say, Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die and it shall be well with us. And there shall also be many which shall say, Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God, he will justify in committing a little sin. Yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor, there is no harm in this. And do all these things, for tomorrow we die. And if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God. Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner false, and vain, and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord. And their works shall be in the dark, and the blood of the saints shall cry from the ground against them.

Works of darkness.  Works that may look authentic, or look like true ordinances but which aren't effective and which don't cleanse the recipients.  They've become void by being altered. They end up cheating people out of salvation. Abominations, wickedness.  False teachers, false doctrine.  Dig a pit for your neighbor.  Lie a little.  With the LDS Church headquartered in SLC what might we potentially see happening on this?  As I asked myself these questions I just so happened to see a really disturbing article today in the news that confirmed Utah is the Fraud Capital of the US.   A few notable comments from the article: 
"This is a question people have been asking for a long time, 'Is Utah really that bad?'" he said. "This for the first time gives us some quantifiable basis to say yes, we are that bad. Not only are we bad, but we're way worse than anyone else by a long shot."
But after helping people recover losses from investment fraud for 25 years, he said he's learned that Utahns are simply too trusting, particularly when the person soliciting an investment is in their Latter-day Saint ward or shares their religious affiliation. 
Pugsley said Latter-day Saints are taught to trust their feelings, but while that might be a valid basis for religious decisions, it's not for business decisions. He also said he found people who believe if they're using the money for good, God would protect it.
The Wall Street Journal named Salt Lake City the "Fraud Capital of America" in a 2015 story.
Utah is the only state with a dedicated regional U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission office that services no other location.
The state's fraud epidemic has reached such significant proportions that state lawmakers a few years ago created the nation’s first white collar crime offender registry, which includes photos, names and aliases of Utah fraudsters. 

What are the The Father's own works?

The Father's "own works" being shown suggests He is the one behind it, regardless of whether men participated.  Showing forth verbiage also seems to suggest something has occurred or been accomplished.  As opposed to ideas or claims or vain claims that have no works to show forth.

From the Book of Ether:
Come unto me, O ye gentiles, and I will shew unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief. Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you because of unbelief. Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you — yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name with a broken heart and a contrite spirit — then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel. And then shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people. Remember, when ye see these things, ye shall know that the time is at hand that they shall be made manifest in very deed. Therefore, when ye shall receive this record, ye may know that the work of the Father has commenced upon all the face of the land. Therefore, repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and believe in my gospel, and be baptized in my name. For he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned. And signs shall follow them that believe in my name. And blessed is he that is found faithful unto my name at the last day, for he shall be lifted up to dwell in the kingdom prepared for him from the foundation of the world. And behold, it is I that hath spoken it. Amen.
Christ says when ye see "these things" the time is at hand, that "they" shall be made manifest in very deed.  "These" things and "they shall be made manifest" could include the greater things which were manifest to the Brother of Jared as well as the revelations of John.  Things yet future to us but perhaps beginning.  There's definitely more coming at some point. Shall be manifest "in deed".  These things will be visible.  People may not accept them, notice them, or view them as having any importance but to me this all carries a degree of tangibility to the Father's works.

Then it goes on to say "When you shall receive "this" record".  I'm not 100% clear on what "this record" is referring to.  It was singular so it could refer to John's revelations.  Or the full record of the Brother of Jared, or perhaps the Book of Mormon itself which is the primary interpretation the LDS church teaches about this passage.

Works of the Father seems to include but not limited to:
-Sacred records
-Covenants with the Patriarchal Fathers being fulfilled
-Revelations of the Lord's servant John unfolded in the eyes of all the people.  Possibly connected to D&C 93:6 and the fullness of the record of John promised in that section.
-The Father's work involves a gathering.
-Angels
And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfill and to do the work of the covenants of the Father which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him; and by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the holy ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men.
It seems like it should be relatively easy to distinguish between the Father's own works manifest inside a Church vs the works of men and the devil.

Other scriptures teaching about the works of the Father.

3 Nephi 9:11-12

And verily I say unto you, I give unto you a sign, that ye may know the time when these things shall be about to take place, that I shall gather in from their long dispersion my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion. And behold, this is the thing which I will give unto you for a sign: for verily I say unto you that when these things which I declare unto you — and which I shall declare unto you hereafter of myself and by the power of the holy ghost, which shall be given unto you of the Father — shall be made known unto the gentiles, that they may know concerning this people who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, and concerning this my people who shall be scattered by them, verily, verily I say unto you, when these things shall be made known unto them of the Father and shall come forth of the Father from them unto you — for it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth from them unto a remnant of your seed, that the covenant of the Father may be fulfilled which he hath covenanted with his people, O house of Israel — therefore, when these works and the works which shall be wrought among you hereafter shall come forth from the gentiles unto your seed which shall dwindle in unbelief because of iniquity — for thus it behooveth the Father that it should come forth from the gentiles, that he may shew forth his power unto the gentiles for this cause, that the gentiles, if they will not harden their hearts, that they may repent, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and know of the true points of my doctrine, that they may be numbered among my people, O house of Israel — and when these things come to pass, that thy seed shall begin to know these things, it shall be a sign unto them that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel. And when that day shall come, it shall come to pass that kings shall shut their mouths, for that which had not been told them shall they see, and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
For in that day, for my sake, shall the Father work a work which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them, and there shall be among them those who will not believe it, although a man shall declare it unto them
Christ says a sign will be given.  The gentiles will bring a message from Christ to the dispersed of Israel.  The Father's work will be disbelieved. A man is going to declare it, but people will not believe.  This is all unto the fulfilling of covenants God made with Patriarchal fathers unto the people who are of the house of Israel.   The Father's works are covenantal.  It leads to Zion.

Continuing with Christ's words to the Nephites: 3 Nephi 10:1
But if they will repent, and hearken unto my words, and harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob, unto whom I have given this land for their inheritance. And they shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city which shall be called the New Jerusalem. And then shall they assist my people, that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem. And then shall the Powers of Heaven come down among them, and I also will be in the midst. And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem. Yea, the work shall commence among all the dispersed of my people, with the Father to prepare the way whereby they may come unto me, that they may call on the Father in my name. Yea, and then shall the work commence with the Father among all nations, in preparing the way whereby his people may be gathered home to the land of their inheritance. And they shall go out from all nations, and they shall not go out in haste nor go by flight, for I will go before them, saith the Father, and I will be their rearward.

The Father's work from scripture stands in stark contrast to the works of men and the devil.  Moroni tells us the way to judge is plain.  So much so we can know between them as clearly as telling the daylight from the dark night. It's through the spirit of Christ.

NC Moroni 7:3
Wherefore, everything which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the Devil. For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil. And the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge as the daylight is from the dark night. For behold, the spirit of Christ is given to every man, that they may know good from evil. Wherefore, I shew unto you the way to judge. For everything which inviteth to do good and to persuade to believe in Christ is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ. Wherefore, ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the Devil, for after this manner doth the Devil work; for he persuadeth no man to do good, no not one, neither doth his angels, neither do they who subject themselves unto him. And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge, ye shall also be judged. Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil. And if ye will lay hold upon every good thing and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Open Book Test

A conversation with an extended family member reminded me of some thoughts I wanted to write down.

From the Book of Abraham
And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
This pre-earth setting says: "We" will make an earth whereon "these" may dwell.  So two groups.  One group is doing one thing and another group is undergoing something different.  Fast forward to earth life.  We've all forgotten everything.  Who belongs to which group?  We don't know.  But once here the test is underway for everyone: "To see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them".   "To see".  People are watching.  Hoping for success and pained for failure.

I don't know of anyone who could pass the test of doing all things whatsoever God commands and yet not do the things God commands. Common sense right? So from what I can tell, no one is exempt.  Even Christ himself obeyed the Father in all things and we know for sure which pre-earth group He was in.

Can't say you are faithful to science while completely ignoring and violating the scientific methods.   Therefore also hard to hold a claim being a follower of Christ while ignoring or going contrary to Christ's teachings.  Unless of course you assume you are following Christ by holding membership in a Church and or following men with religious titles.

I never enjoyed tests much in school.  I'd forget things or be nervous and be frustrated that the test didn't always reflect my knowledge of the subject.  But open book tests?  Those I liked.  Because assuming I studied, I knew where to find things and in the event I needed to look something up in order to answer a question it was no big deal.

So for our earth life part of that test is choosing between truth and error and on who and what we are faithful to.  One of the standards we know is very relevant to this test are the scriptures.  The test is an open book test because of the scriptures. That's the good news.  What if we use the scripture to see what the tests and an answers are since the authors saw us, they spoke to us in God's name, and many of them have passed the test.  So that's a critical source to look to for an accurate view and understanding.  And they attempted to persuade to follow Christ.

Some of the options of who to trust or what to follow appear easier, are convenient and don't require all that much effort.  Some are assuring because of the number of people involved. Whereas some options seem hard or are hard on the soul and require change.  Do we do what God commands?  Or do we do the bidding of some other master?  It's a tough question as we're all tempted and given diverse options to choose from, some more enticing than others.  Some more religiously mainstream than others.  Truth can be scary for sure, but I'd rather a scary truth than a falsely comforting lie.

The alternatives are many and frequent and pressing. I can't choose for you, and you can't choose for me.  But there's no getting out of this test. And God gets to be the judge.  Part of passing the test is applying a standard of judgement towards others than you yourself can pass.  Jesus gave us that test question answer in the scriptures.  And that question is one of the big ones. If we can get that question right things start looking a lot more hopeful.  The scriptures have both the questions, and the answers.  They involve things like mercy, forgiveness, charity.  Things no church can copyright or "own".

Here's an example of some answers from Alma:
Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest.
I believe choosing and figuring out what to choose is really good exercise for the soul.  It gets easier to get up off the spiritual couch when you've bothered to do some exercise and engage.  But hard when spiritually lazy and stagnant.  The lazy way is to just let a preacher or pastor or president be responsible and go along with whatever they are doing.  Or let whatever distractions are passing in front of you keep you preoccupied or disinterested.       

It's possible to idolize any number of things.  As long as it displaces Christ then there's a problem.  Someone can idolize just about anything.  People, ancestors, books, science, the bible, leaders. themselves, celebrities, guru's, nature.  But I think all the different options, some of them more enticing than others is part of a God organized dichotomy.  It's there on purpose.  It has to be there.  I believe it's by design so we would be able to prove who we trust and who we are loyal to.  When I write I hope to persuade in favor of Christ and choosing Him. Loyalty to Him is different than loyalty to ancestors or even a Church.

Who are you loyal to?

Life is an open book test.  We only need to realize the test is under way to be able to pass it.  
(T&C 159:18)

Friday, April 26, 2019

Altars and Prayer Circles

Some thoughts and events during an early morning hike the other day prompted some research on a really interesting topic.  Altars.  A few findings below.

Altars are part of many ancient religions of the world.  I just saw a picture of Stonehenge on Instagram and it clearly has altar references. Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism and of course Latter Day Saints have altars. They are not nearly as familiar to LDS folks in 2019 as they were in the early days of the Church. Not by a loooong shot. More on that in a minute.

From scriptures we know Adam built an  altar. Noah built an altar. Abraham built an altar. Lehi built and altar. Temples across generations have altars. Various scriptures identify altar building for purposes sacrifice, prayer or offerings. Altars are also used for abominable things and abominable false sacrifices but their misuse is not the point here.  They are a part of the most ancient religions back to the time of Adam.

Most altars are similar to tables, with a flat top on which the sacrifice is offered The materials of an altar in scripture either of raised earth or unhewn stones (RE Exodus 12:15). Sometimes they had wooden casings around it to preserve the shape. Sometimes the casings were overlaid with brass or gold. Horns on an altar were first mentioned in Exodus as part of the furnishings of the tabernacle.  When Solomon built a temple, the altar was made of gold (RE 2 Chronicles 1:24) .The altar seemed to be the place where man and God could interact.  A conduit at times.

What's interesting as a side note is if you take a group of kids playing outside where there is loose dirt, sand, rocks or whatever, before long they will have built a mound. Perhaps altar's are familiar to where our souls came from and even kids instinctively shape dirt and rocks in ways that feel natural.

For me I most commonly hear about altars more as a symbol than I do as a literal object.  In 2019 there's only one place allowed to have an altar in Mormonism.  That's inside a temple.  But each person can be said to have an altar within them where the flesh and spirit battle. When we surrender aspects of ourselves or lives to God, we present that on our inner altar.  Since things on the altar in biblical times were consumed, placing something "on the altar" is in symbol giving the thing up or making it holy for God.  So it seems there are many types of altars.

There are altars in heaven, earth, temples, sacred places.  In the 19th an dearly 20th Centuries Mormons also frequently had them in their homes.

There's a golden altar with horns before God mentioned in revelations:
And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, Set loose the four angels who are bound in the bottomless pit.
The book of Mormon has his about Altars. The first example seems symbolic, the second seems like a literal altar in their regular places of worship. 
NC Alma 12:1
And they had been teaching the word of God for the space of fourteen years among the Lamanites, having had much success in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth. Yea, by the power of their words, many were brought before the altar of God to call on his name and confess their sins before him. 
NC Alma 10: 16
And it came to pass that Alma and Amulek — Amulek having forsaken all his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, which were in the land of Ammonihah, for the word of God, he being rejected by those who were once his friends, and also by his father and his kindred — therefore, after Alma having established the church at Sidom, seeing a great check, yea, seeing that the people were checked as to the pride of their hearts, and began to humble themselves before God, and began to assemble themselves together at their sanctuaries to worship God before the altar, watching and praying continually, that they might be delivered from Satan, and from death, and from destruction 
More ideas about altars: This is from the glossary of the T&C and has something really interesting.
    Most Holy:
    (Hebrew qodesh, קֹדֶשׁ ). i Most holy does not mean “very holy”; it means “actively holy, imparting holiness.”(Cf. Exodus 14 : 5; 16 : 2,5; Leviticus 2 : 4.) The Law of Moses prescribed the death penalty for a variety of offenses. One of the ways to avoid the execution of the penalty was to go to one of the safe harbor cities. Another way was to come in contact with the altar, because the altar was considered most holy. Things that are most holy communicate holiness; one cannot profane them. If one comes in contact with something that is “most holy,” while he or she is unholy, they don’t make it unholy; the altar — or the thing that is “most holy” — makes them holy, because it is most sacred. “Part of the rites in the temple are intended to communicate to you things that are most holy. They are intended to make you holy. They are intended to make you a suitable recipient for an audience. They are intended to make you a suitable companion for a walk down a dusty road with the risen Lord who is trying to get you to notice exactly who it is that speaks to you.”

The altar was considered "most holy". Why is that I wonder? What is it about altars that was so connected with holiness or the divine? One reason is likely because the altar was where God and man interacted or God's presence was symbolized or realized in some cases. It was considered to have been sanctified or made holy by what happened there. Hence it was most holy being touched by Him who is most holy.

So what did altars look like at the beginning of the restoration of the Gospel through Joseph Smith?

This brings up a discussion about prayer circles.  Which are not unique to Mormons.  Various cultures of the world have dances or prayers in a circle around a sacred object or altar.

What I didn't know for most of my growing up years is that local LDS stakes and individuals homes used to have prayer circles regularly performed around an altar. Sometimes the prayer circles included dozens of people. That all ended May 3, 1978, when the First Presidency announced that all prayer circles should be discontinued except those performed in a temple as part of an Endowment ceremony (See Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney, Letter to All Stake Presidents and Bishops. May 3, 1978; “Update,” 3 Sunstone 6, July-August 1978).


Longtime Church Historian D. Michael Quinn in the 1978 issue of Brigham Young University Studies says the first prayer circle, part of the 1833 School of the Prophets, imitated the protestant prayer rings. Quinn writes that participants sought visions of angels, and when that wish was granted, some shrank in fear of what their eyes beheld.  Link.

Petitioning at an altar is something familiar to Latter Day Saints.  Of interesting note here is something Brigham Young taught inside this context.

There are four penal signs and four penal tokens and should I want to address the throne to enquire after Ancient things which transpired on planets that rolled away before this planet came into existence I should use my new name which is ancient and referred to ancient things. Should I wish to enquire for present things I should use my own name which refers to present things and should I want to enquire for future things I would use the third name which refers to the first token of the Melchizedek priesthood or is the third token that is given and refers to the Son.  (Source Here. Also see:  Seventies Record, Book B, 28 Dec. 1845, LDS archives.)

Asking God and getting an answer was also mentioned by Joseph Smith and relates to Prayer Circles and the True Order of Prayer.  From the Teachings and Words of  Joseph Smith 
“we did not know how to pray and have our prayers answered. But when I and my husband had our endowments … Joseph Smith presiding, he taught us the order of prayer.” (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 54)
“He spoke of delivering the Keys of the Priesthood to the Church, and said that the faithful members of the Relief Society should receive them with their husbands, and the Saints whose integrity has been tried and proved faithful, might know how to ask and receive an answer.”(Teachings, p. 226) 
1833 the Prophet taught the brethren of the School of the Prophets "how to get revelation." Also in 1835, Joseph Smith taught the Father of Lorenzo Young how to get the spiritual power to heal his son. "Join in prayer," the Prophet said, "one by mouth and the others repeat after him in unison…[then] continuing the administration in this way until you receive a testimony that he will be restored" ("Biography of Lorenzo Dow Young," Utah Historical Quarterly 14:45).  (Words of Joseph Smith)
Back to Prayer Circles and Michael Quinn's research.  By 1846, it was church policy to not have women in prayer circles with LDS men. Quinn relates, women were encouraged to meet with other sisters in Relief Society prayer gatherings. Such all-female circles were further restricted in 1896, when church leadership advised against any sisters in prayer circles. Quinn writes, “Rarely privileged to join their husbands in the separate prayer circle meetings after 1846, Latter-day Saint women also discontinued even occasional Relief Society prayer circles by the early twentieth century.”

The decision to restrict prayer circles to a part of the temple endowment ceremony, according to Quinn, was an administrative decision spurred by the difficulty of a worldwide church to deal with future stake and ward prayer circle requests. It's a privilege members have lost but not many people are upset about loosing a privilege they were never aware they ever had.  Cue Thanos right now. (Avengers: End Game)  For those who don't like or don't plan to see the movie the villain Thanos at one point makes reference to this same concept.  That people are not upset about loss of privileges they never knew they used to have.  But that's an aside.   

It's well documented that prayer circles in members homes was encouraged by the First Presidency for a time.  The homes needed to be dedicated by the priesthood and have an altar. Wilford Woodruff records that President Young said that these home altars would be the same as the altar in the temple.(Journal of Wilford Woodruff; April 25, 1858)
The dimensions for these altars were even specified by Brigham: The altar is 2 ½ feet long x 2 ½ feet high x (one) foot wide rising from a platform about 8 or 9 inches high and extending out on all sides about a foot forming a convenient place to kneel upon. The top of the altar and the platform for kneeling upon are covered with cushions of scarlet damask cloth; the sides of the upright part or body of the altar are covered with white linen. (Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p. 8)

In 2019 seeing an altar in one of your Mormon friends house would be either absurd or so apostate as to call that persons Stake President Immediately for a swift disciplinary council. However, for the Saints of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the family altar was preached from the pulpit and in Church periodicals.  (A few examples: Improvement Era (1901) vol. 4 no 12; Contributor, vol. 7 no. 3 pg. 97, vol. 10 no. 10. pg 377 & vol. 11 no. 7 pg. 270.  JD 2: 366-367, 17: 291-292, President Anthon H. Lund Conference Report, April 1910 pg. 10; Ballif, Conference Report, April 1920 pg. 60.)

George Teasdale 1903
“The family altar should be in every man’s house; he is the patriarch of the family, and everything should be done under his direction. He should offer prayer; his wife and children also should offer prayer in turn around the family altar.” (General Conference, 5 October 5, 1903)
Joseph F. Smith 1881:
…it is absolutely necessary that the Latter-day Saints should come together in the family capacity, and kneeling around the family altar, call upon God for his blessings morning and evening. And they need not confine themselves to morning and evening prayer, for it is their privilege to enter into their closets and call upon Him in secret, that He might reward them openly. (JD 22:47-48
Wilford Woodruff:
I attended the prayer meeting in the evening. President Young said the family Altar was the same as an Altar in the prayer Circle. It is for parents and Children to Join hands over the Altar and pray. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, vol. 5, pg. 184)
Brigham Young:
Again, suppose a family wish to assemble for prayer, what would be orderly and proper? For the head of the family to call together his wife, or wives, and children, except the children who are too small to be kept quiet, and when he prays aloud, all present, who are old enough to understand, should mentally repeat the words as they fall from his lips; and why so? That all may be one…There are times and places when all should vocally repeat the words spoken, but in our prayer meetings and in our family circles let every heart be united with the one who takes the lead by being mouth before the Lord, and let every person mentally repeat the prayers, and all unite in whatever is asked for, and the Lord will not withhold, but will give to such persons the things which they ask for and rightly need. (JD 3: 53-54)
John H. Smith Second Counselor in The First Presidency in 1855:
Now, I am sanguine that there are many who call themselves Latter-day Saints, who have neglected their duty in this respect, and many a son is permitted to grow to manhood, whose father has never asked him to bow with them at the family altar. This is a serious neglect upon the part of those who have named the name of Jesus, who have come up to these mountains to be taught in the ways of the Lord. (JD 3: 53-54)
The 1926 Improvement Era (the precursor to the Ensign Magazine) included instructions for home devotion and study that included reference to the family prayer around the breakfast table or a family altar. (The Home a Study for the Advanced Senior Class, M. I. A., 1925-26, Improvement Era, 1926, vol. 29. no. 4).

If the breakfast table was considered an altar there would have been no need to differentiate. The Kitchen island is the modern breakfast table and has relics of a family altar.  It's a common meeting place, the center of the home in some ways, the family gathers around and frequently prays at the island/table.  So meeting around a central object and offering prayer and saying grace still exists in most Christians behavior although we don't call the kitchen table an altar very often.  

Family altars were prominent during the 19th and early 20 Centuries.  With the First Presidency Letter discontinuing prayer circles out side the temple, in some ways it removed from the home something sacred every member was entitled to have, and it moved it under the control of someone else who could dictate your entrance to that place.  But what if the home can still be a sacred space and structure which can be a place to commune with God?  What if it's not under any religion's power to control or dictate?  

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Born into life

There's a debate among some Christians of many denominations as to whether being "Born Again" is a process or an event.

Growing up I was taught in the LDS Church that it was a process.  It was described by top leaders as an "imperceptible" process and what was to be expected was something without any significant events like you can read about in scripture.  The topic as it was taught to me from the pulpit had such little substance it had no ability to elevate or inspire my mind or heart.  It was a mere vocabulary word describing something so boring it carried no light.    

Fast forward a number of years.  I'm 26 by then and doing a lot of personal study and searching.  Abruptly my view of the topic went from the "process" I had heard about to "event" as I now had my own study and experience to draw from.  From that point for many years I was firmly on the "event" side of the discussion.

NC Mosiah 11:28 
And it came to pass, after they had fasted and prayed for the space of two days and two nights, the limbs of Alma received their strength. And he stood up and began to speak unto them, bidding them to be of good comfort. For, said he, I have repented of my sins and have been redeemed of the Lord. Behold, I am born of the spirit. 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.
Clearly this was an event for Alma.

NC  Mosiah 3:1-2
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. 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. 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. 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 exceeding great joy. 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.
And now these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them, and therefore, he said unto them, Ye have spoken the words that I desired, and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant. And now, because of the covenant which ye have made, ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you. For ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name, therefore ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.
This too seems like an event for this group of people taught by King Benjamin.  Behold "this day" he hath spiritually begotten you.

Fast forward a few more years.  By then I had kids and had witnessed their physical birth and understand some of why the scriptures use the term "rebirth" when talking about being born again or born of God.  It was now clear that none of this happens without a mother and a father.  Gestation was a process, and so was growing up and maturing, and birth was an important milestone. The baby goes from one environment to another and doctors and parents mark the time and the day.  And thereafter with each revolution of the earth around the sun pretty much all cultures of the world remember the time with a birthday.

One risk I noticed over the years was viewing the topic too rigidly.  Peoples experiences will look different and it would be more than unfortunate for anyone to discount or not value an experience because it didn't look like someone expected, or thought it should. But that's an aside.

I remember thinking it was either blind or strangely uninformed for religious leaders to ignore or completely teach against some elements of being born again. Or call it imperceptible. Or that such experiences in scripture are too rare to really consider them possible for you.  How uninspiring.  How mind numbing.  The processes and milestones no doubt look different for each person since we're all unique but for religious teachers to ignore them seemed misleading.  But then I remembered the religious position of the individual who asked Jesus at night about being born again, and Jesus's response.  Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews had to ask Jesus about it because he didn't know.

So with passage of years my understanding grew, and I settled into the view that the topic was both a process and included eventful moments or milestones.  Seemed like a natural progression in understanding as I got married and had kids and watched how God had organized our world and human lives to testify of spiritual things.   

But then recently this topic came to my mind again unexpectedly.  I had a birthday last week and I reflected on the all that had happened since my physical birth.  I also reflected on the symbols and meaningful moments in my life as I chatted with a good friend.  Then my understanding on this topic grew again.

This is from NC Mosiah 3 paragraphs 2 and 3. It's a continuation of one the paragraphs quoted above from King Benjamin.  This is after his people report experiencing a mighty change of heart:  
Therefore I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. 
Therefore I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to Heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things in Heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.
Now I see that the topic of being born again is not complete as an event or a process. There's more.  It's more like an eternal round. Now I see being born again is also a lifestyle.  It's a way of living.  It's how you treat people and how you speak.

As King Benjamin taught, we are to be obedient to God, steadfast and immovable, abounding in good works, and sealed by God that we may have everlasting salvation and eternal life through our Lord.  That’s a way of living.  Even once sealed, could one suddenly stop obeying God, turn from being steadfast, stop good works and still be born again?

Being born again gained new clarity as I think about it being born into a new way of life.  An eternal way of living since God's course is one eternal round. 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sunday Church Schedule

With the recent change to 2 hours of Church rather than 3 I noticed a couple things.  The times, duration, and even when exactly to pray and or not pray to has all been rigidly outlined and given to every ward in the world by the First Presidency. We're not supposed to deviate from the printed program and schedule or even when to pray.

For the primary the shortened meeting block has resulted in a much shortened class.  So short in fact the leaders of my ward had to send out a letter to parents asking them to help their little ones use the bathroom before primary as there isn't enough time for both a meaningful class and all the bathroom breaks.

By contrast, the new home study program allows total freedom.  We can pray, sing, dance, read scriptures, end short, or go long.  We can cover totally different material than what the manual says. We can do whatever we feel inspired to do at home.  The Spirit can govern at home.  Which gave me pause as to the contrast of what governs at Church.  It's different from what can govern at home.

It goes to show how nice it is to worship and teach and learn the Gospel in a home setting where all the rules are not prescribed or regulated.  You may even quote from something not carrying the Church logo (gasp).  You can invite whomever you want. The agenda can change easily.  At home it's more like a fellowship of believers and equals.  At home the Holy Ghost has a chance to get a word in.  It's preferable in my opinion.

It dawned on me that perhaps the Holy Ghost doesn't really get to have a say in how meetings are conducted for any LDS ward on any Sunday anywhere in the world.  It's all already been decided. This is deemed "organized" and "structured".  Because without it, it would all be chaos and craziness right?

To someone who's only seen LDS type church meetings, anything lacking that that same level of organizational rigidity could be perceived as undesirable and uncomfortable. Kinda like that hot and cold buckets of water experiment from last post.  The first experience (what we're accustomed to at the LDS chapels on Sunday) can color the next experience, and make the second appear weird at first.  When in reality it’s not.

The freedom to conduct a meeting by the spirit (like in a home centered situation) seems much more like what we read in the Book of Mormon.
And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done.
Why would scripture have bothered to tell us how they conducted their Church meetings?  I think sometime we fear that if we implemented their method it would be disorganization and chaos so clearly our way in 2019 must be just as good or better than what the scriptures said.  It's "modern" for a modern global Church.  And it might be chaotic for a time if attempted, at least until it's acclimated to.  But once the learning curve happens then it might turn out to be preferable.  Who knows, maybe the scriptures way of doing things is better after all.  Least we all forget, the scripture folks who led their meetings as seen above were the ones having spiritual experiences at Church, vs 2019 where in every ward I've ever attended people normally can't wait for the block to end so they can go home.  Shortening the 3 hour block to 2 brought almost universal joy.  For reasons which seem obvious.

The church meetings I read about in the scriptures above resembles the freedom we have at home, or with friends and others we fellowship and learn the Gospel with.  Maybe the Church will eventually work itself out of a job.  I'd just as soon make home church my only Church.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Gentleness

There's a fun experiment I was reminded about recently where a person is put in front of a few buckets of water of varying temperatures.  The experiment is to put your hand in one of the buckets, say the cold bucket of water, and then allow the hand to acclimate.  Then the person is told to quickly go from the cold to the warm bucket of water.  Doing this causes the warm water to appear or seem hotter than it really is.  It's actually warm, but it can feel like a shock and can hurt and sting.  The temperature the hand previously got used to dramatically influences how the person experiences the next thing.

Once the hand again acclimates, then reality sets in.  But before that, their experience of reality is a misconception.  After seeing things as they really are, that is the better moment to decide which temperature you want to take a bath in.  And incidentally might explain why you've felt cold for quite some time.   

That experiment involves your skin, a very sensitive organ of the body.  But I wonder if the same effect happens across a broader spectrum.  I've watched my self undergo this type of thing and it appears pretty common with more things that just changing temperatures on skin.

 Suppose we take a religious example.  Suppose the religion a person lived in all their lives is something they are deeply acclimated to.  They're used to the songs, the social norms, the agenda, the prayers, the whole kit and caboodle.  To them this is "reality".  And to some of them it's the only "true" reality.  If you were to expose that person to some other religious meeting or some alternative to what they're used to it might feel or seem to them to be shocking, or even cause pain and discomfort.  The risk is the same as what happens with the water, which is the body wants to retract abruptly.  Even though the new thing might actually be something they would "warm" up to and find preferable if acclimated to.

It's interesting that the initial shock is not from the thing itself, it's from what preceded it.  The thing coming before can be blinding and distorting.

It's easier if you can acclimate gradually, but even then it can still hurt.  But as a whole it's easier if it's gradual, and gentle.  If you have that luxury.  When you decide to acclimate to God's word is up to you.  You forgo some things if you don't respond to God's invitations.  Procrastinating the day of repentance is warned about by Alma in the Book of Mormon.

With some things, ideas or understandings I've had years to gradually acclimate and I now find the belief, understanding, way of thinking etc. etc.  preferable.  Sometimes though there are shocks.  But the water example proves it's better to not rush into a conclusion any more than you should rush into a conclusion about the actual temperature of the second bucket of water your hand was put into.

As I look back on my life God has worked with me in ways that are gentle. I search for God and have made that my quest.  I have found there are invitations, and suggestions, warnings, requests, and "consider this" type communications from God.  The more thick headed and blind I am the more direct and abrupt the lessons appear to need to be.  That pain is from what went before, not because of some undesirable trait about God.  Truth is God is gentle, kind, persuasive, uses longsuffering pure knowledge and is meek and lowly of heart.  I've learned it's our contrasting fallen state that makes God initially seem like something other than the things He teaches us to be. 

I hope to always respond to God's gentleness, His invitations, His suggestions, and His outstretched arms.  Those are happening now.  According to scripture that isn't always the way God is going to interact with mankind.  It's prophesied that shock is coming.  If you don't listen to invitations the other options are sometimes direful.  It's going to be much better if a person is prepared. There's a revelation I believe is from God found here.  It may be shocking to some who read this post, but give that link a chance and all that the message implies.  See if it doesn't turn out to be warm and inviting after turning towards God.

This is not at all what I started out writing today.  It's turned into a warning, one I'm internalizing.  The warning that God's gentleness is being offered now to mankind.  But shocking realizations and alarming things are prophesied in scripture to come upon the last days. That's going to hurt a lot more or be a lot more life threatening if it's abrupt, or catches you sleeping than if you prepare now.  Discovering too late that a thief has come during the night might be terrible. But it's reality if the warning get ignored. The warmth of the sun on a chilly day is how God's word feels. However the scriptures that warn the days will come that will burn like an oven.

Scriptures warn us.  It will be so much better if we heed the warnings and acclimate to hearing God's voice and following Him now than to deal with the shock of reality when we realize what we believed or what went on "before" wasn't reality, but was a cold bucket of water.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Revelation Contradicted?

KSL news reported the Church today announced it's going back on a policy made in 2015 disallowing children of gay parents from being baptized or blessed in church and labeling homosexual behavior as constituting apostasy.

https://www.ksl.com/article/46524616/church-to-allow-baptisms-blessings-for-children-of-lgbt-parents

Also from the article:
The church also will update its handbook of instructions for leaders to remove the label of apostasy for homosexual behavior that also was applied in November 2015, said President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, who announced the changes on behalf of the First Presidency on Thursday morning during the leadership session of the church’s 189th Annual General Conference.
Church leaders make clear distinctions between church doctrine and church policies and said Thursday's changes are limited to policies, according to a news release on the church's official website.
That distinction there are the end is worth noting.  It had to be there to address people's obvious recognition of the flip flopping nature of the announcement.  People needed some semblance of foundation that isn't shifting on them.  But it was a distraction.

Policy, such as the one in question, wielded the power to give or remove salvation for some people.  Usually doctrine would play that role but in this case policy did. The policy dictates who is apostate and thus can be excommunicated.  Which the Church teaches voids saving ordinances.  The policy also prevent(ed) baptism for certain people.  That too is a saving ordinance prevented because of the policy.  So why am I being reminded that doctrine didn't change?  You see how that is a distraction from the growing power of policy?  And who are we kidding?  Doctrine does and has changed, but that's an aside.

Of what value is "unchanging" doctrine if policy can dictate, direct, or even trump the doctrine? If policy can be changed at will, and policy can trump doctrine, then those who control policy can change literally anything. All the while claiming doctrine didn't change.

This should look a lot like a foundation of sand, because it is.  The Church gives, and it attempts to take away.  Church-owned Deseret news editors seemed to struggle to explain the contradictions, even with a lot of words.  All those words didn't seem to have any reconciliation to offer. Link.

As recently covered in a post, our faith can't produce the right kind of fruit if placed in men, and institutions.  Faith should be in God.  God not changing is one of the key traits that makes it possible to exercising saving faith in God. That he changes no.  There's a big difference between faith in Christ and faith in the Church.  One leads to God, the other does not.  One changes all the time, the other does not.

What really illustrates this point is the 2015 policy recently gone back on was taught by President Nelson as revelation to President Monson in this talk.

Salt Lake Tribute Article 2016

The policy which was said to be revelation and the mind and will of the Lord has been... well you look at it and see.  Did God change or is one of these policy changes wrong?  Was one of them from God and not the other?  The conflict is not one I'm making up.  The news recognizes it too.  Claiming that doctrine doesn't change in many ways very much misses a major point.  The issue is one of God changing, or contradicting previous revelations. 

Below are President Nelson's words from 2016 where he described the revelatory process and the revelation that was behind the 2015 policy.  
This prophetic process was followed in 2012 with the change in minimum age for missionaries and again with the recent additions to the Church’s handbook, consequent to the legalization of same-sex marriage in some countries. Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children, we wrestled at length to understand the Lord’s will in this matter. Ever mindful of God’s plan of salvation and of His hope for eternal life for each of His children, we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise. We met repeatedly in the temple in fasting and prayer and sought further direction and inspiration. And then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord, each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as Apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson. Revelation from the Lord to His servants is a sacred process, and so is your privilege of receiving personal revelation.
Dichotomies are really interesting.  Our world is full of them. It helps us choose.  We have to have opposing options to choose between.  It's good exercise for our soul.  Maybe everything is fine.  Maybe these policy changes are no big deal and you can just forget about it.  Maybe we are in an awful situation foretold by scripture. 

The test is underway.  I personally choose to turn to God, not men, not churches, but turn to God's word seeking Christ because with the decay of modern Churches will also be God's outstretched hand.  But that's just me.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Faith in Christ, Faith in the Church

Someone I know recently asked me my why I write some of the things I write about. My answer was a little surprising to them as they didn't know all of my beliefs or views. That conversation led me to want to some things down for clarity.

Sometimes what I write causes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to loose some of its shine. I admit that. Polishing a Church’s image or good name isn’t my intent or goal. That isn’t the goal of scripture either. Nor is that the intent of the Gospel. The goal of scripture is to point to and educate man about God. It’s to teach truth.  So I seek to align with scripture.

There is a difference between faith in Christ and faith in the Church.  If your faith centers in Christ than the Church loosing some veneer doesn't sink your boat.  But if your faith is in the Church or men leading it then your faith almost requires you to only accept positive things about it.  Truth isn’t harmed by truth.  God isn’t harmed by truth.  What is harmed by truth?  If truth can harm it, shouldn’t it?  Or is a mixture of truth and error preferable?

Scriptures teach that there's a life test underway that all of us have to take.  It's a truth test. We're all equal in that we have to choose.  Part of that test is if we can discern between truth and error, another part is who we are faithful to.  This is covered in scripture in the Book of Abraham.

As with any test, there has to be things to chose between.  There have to be opposing options that entice us or distract us.  I try in this post to use scripture to identify what some of the important alternatives are from people who have passed the test and speak directly to us as a warning.  The substitutes to faith in Christ are sometimes surprising.  One reason I write is to give some contrast between opposing choices.

I believe choosing and figuring out what to choose is really good exercise for your soul.  And the good news is, we're not alone in this.  God will help us, and God has given us the scriptures.  So the test is an open book test.  Truth can be scary for sure, but I'd rather a scary truth than a comforting lie.

When I write I hope to persuade in favor of Christ and choosing Him.  But there are going to be other alternatives. If you wonder why I write, it's to persuade to follow Christ.  Do you have faith in Christ independent of any Church or man? I believe there is a pivotal difference between faith in Christ and faith in a Church or it's leaders. Some thoughts and scriptures on this below. The Gospel of Jesus Christ centers faith only on Christ and leads to Him.

Faith in Christ: 
There are two Comforters. The first is the Holy Ghost. Christ promised His followers He would send a “Comforter” to them. He said, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” (John 14: 16–17.) 
The promise of this first Comforter is followed by this verse: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (Id. verse 18, emphasis added.) Joseph Smith elaborated on this by explaining Christ was promising to come to comfort you Himself. Joseph explained, “When any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him.” (DHC 3: 381 also found in TPJS, p. 151.)
Referring to these same verses Joseph elaborated: After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints [at which point Joseph refers to these verses in John’s Gospel]. (DHC 3: 380, also TPJS, p. 150.)  
Joseph’s explanation is clear and its import unmistakable. He is saying this promise is to be taken literally. Joseph claimed to have been visited by “the personage of Jesus Christ” who “appeared unto him from time to time.” Therefore, he had personal knowledge about the Second Comforter. Joseph wanted the Saints to understand the visitations he received from Christ were actual, literal and physical. Similarly, his explanation that Christ will “not leave you comfortless: [He] will come to you” means just that. Christ will be comforting you by coming to visit with you. This involves having the heavens open to you, just as they have opened to others before you. It is the culminating part of Christ’s Gospel, in which Christ ministers to you as He has ministered to others before.
                                                                     -The Second Comforter, Milcreek Press 2006
This is the fullness of the Gospel.  It's what faith in Christ leads to. This is what prophets and scripture teach and give examples of.  The Book of Mormon especially has account after account of individuals receiving The Second Comforter.

The scriptures over and over and over remind us that Christ is the only anchor.  He is the Rock upon which we are to build our foundation.  Salvation is found in and only through Him.
Ether: 12
For he did cry from the morning, even until the going down of the sun, exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be destroyed, saying unto them that by faith all things are fulfilled—Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.
It says believe in God, not believe in a Church organization with leaders who won't lead you astray.  I know the two get so conflated that it's new for some folks to separate the two.

Hel. 5: 12.
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
3 Ne. 14: 25
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.
When God speaks through mortals it's up to us to discern inspired moments from all the other moments.  To quote again from the book I quoted above (emphasis and brackets mine):
If you follow [Current Church President] solely because he is the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you are following a man. But if you follow [Current Church President] because you hear the Master’s voice in his counsel and teaching, then you are following the Lord, and not a man. There is a great difference between the two. One honors the Lord and leads to exaltation. The other misses the mark and makes such followers Telestial. This distinction is pivotal to salvation itself. It is not merely rhetorical, but of such substance if you fail to understand it you fail in the test of mortality itself. This is what we signed up for in coming to mortality. We accepted this challenge and expected it. Now it confronts us. So the test is afoot and must be taken with caution and humility.
When centered on God, hope and faith make an anchor to the souls of men.  When centered on Churches and religious organizations or leaders there is no such promise.  To build on that is more like building on sand.  For me, I'd rather hear that before the rains and the floods come.  I seek the truth which is why I point this out.

The doctrine of the Second Comforter is increasingly if not completely absent from talks, manuals, lessons and discussion among latter-day Saints.  It's no longer on the list of approved doctrines to teach in seminary and institute.  It's neglected, feared, and discouraged against.  The doctrine is being lost.  The word "Second Comforter" has only been used twice in all of General Conference since the 1850's.  Two times is all. Instead there's a wave and shift towards focus and faith in the Church and it's leaders.  As one example here, on pages 84-85.

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

In my experience faith in the Church is common as a generational pattern or tradition.  It's easy to spot in very large Churches like the Catholic church, but also easy to completely miss the same phenomena in your own.  Ancestry and very emotionally tense histories or miracles can tie generations of faith strongly to a church organization as a matter of family loyalty.  I understand that.  Loyalty to ancestry and religious traditions run deep and the adherents firmly accept that those histories are evidence of God's complete and ongoing endorsement of their Church.  To say otherwise sometimes affects them to the core

Churches have had an important role all throughout the worlds history.  I think Churches can be great tools and vehicles to live the Gospel, and a place to serve and show charity.  But we must come unto Christ to be saved, which is not the same thing as coming unto Church, or following a man because he's the President of that Church.   

In the Book of Mormon Nephi who saw our day in vision speaks to his readers (us):
2 Nephi 28: Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted. Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. 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.
His words are that they (Churches) have all gone astray.  All become corrupted. False doctrine, pride, false teachers, and obsession with nice clothes and outward appearance. It’s all polluted. Save a few humble followers of Christ. But the concerning part is even if you or I identify as the humble follower of Christ guess what?  Even those folks "err in many instances" because of what is being taught to them.  Remember the context is religion.  We are warned in unmistakable English that there is corruption, false teachings, false doctrine, wickedness and man's precepts ringing in all of our ears, no matter which group we identify with.

To give that message from Nephi some color an interesting exercise is to consider who Nephi is talking about.  I'm hard pressed to see how Nephi could be talking about everyone else and every other church except my own. His audience and descriptions have to include Mormons (forgive the nickname). Do we have teachers teaching false things? Any false doctrine going around?  Any sexual scandals now or in our history?  Any wickedness or idolatry?  Does anyone put gold statues atop temples? Gold statues in the bible are one of the most well recognized religious mistakes.  Incidentally ours have lightning rods in them because of how frequently they get struck by lightning.

Do we adore, worship, and honor men and teach to place our trust in them? Link link.  Do we build statues to them, name buildings after them, prominently display bronze busts of them, and throw worldwide birthday parties for them?  Does this align with the Gospel?  Do we have fine religious sanctuaries?  Do the fine sanctuaries get a disproportionate amount of support compared to the poor?  Do we pair temples with billion-dollar high end shopping malls projects that sell the finest clothing available? Does anyone ever boast and show pride in being the only true church on the whole earth with the only keys of salvation?

Later in the same chapter from Nephi he warns Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!

The idea of an open cannon of scripture is a great idea we all love and take pride in having. Yet in practice (excluding topical guide and maps etc.) the official cannon of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint scripture has actually shrunk since Joseph Smith's day. It's literally got less content now than it did in 1844. The improper removal of The Lectures on Faith resulted in a net loss even with the sections of D&C that were added after Joseph's death. Our cannon is open, but I guess the opening is at the bottom.

I hope to not be unfair here and overlook the enormous charity and humanitarian work that's done all over the world.  Or the obvious value that Churches bring to their members.  That stuff is awesome.  But Nephi didn't' warn about that.  He did warn about these other things and having read his message, we have been warned.

Nephi did warn “all” have gone astray.  So what do we do?  Depending on how or if we apply Nephi's words this could really clarify what repentance means.  A different type of repentance is suggested by Nephi than I think we are typically used to if you've been a lifelong member of the Church.  Nephi is talking about large scale issues not just individual struggles to live righteously. It's a change of orientation towards God and away from idols, false teachers, and false religious traditions, Churches or beliefs, many of which you may not currently think are "false".  The repentance starts to include becoming aware of our awful situation and turning back to God. Comparing our religious beliefs and actions against scripture.

If your faith centers on the Church where does that lead you?  What does that cause you to be reliant on?  If faith is fixated on the leaders where does that lead to?  Is it the same place as faith in Christ?

Another scriptural contrast between faith in Christ and faith in the Church:

This is Moroni talking in the Book of Mormon.  Look what he has to say about Churches in our day.  "Your churches, yea, every one....".   Nephi and Moroni both share this same message.  ALL churches are facing corruption.  I hope this makes sense as to why there's a difference between faith in Christ and faith in the Church.
Mormon 8: Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.  And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted. O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world? Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not Yea, why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans to mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads?
The warnings about the corruption in our day are very clear.  Moroni asks us why we participate in the spiritual pollution.  And why there is shame to in taking on the name of Christ.  We are his audience, we are the ones reading this book.  According to these scriptural authors we need to repent, but we tend to reject that message because we think it doesn't apply to us and that we are justified in our faith in our Church and faith in our deeply held traditions.  We, like so many in dispensations past, turn away the message to repent, assuming we are righteous, assuming we can't be led astray, assuming that everything we're taught from the pulpit must be from God.  This is why I wrote some of what I do.  It's to show just how pointedly these scriptures apply to us.

The Church is not the rock. The leaders are not the rock. The buildings and temples are not the rock.  Christ is the Rock.  I never intent to ever say anything to undermine faith in Christ. That would go against my deepest convictions.  But if the misleading varnish comes off the Church, so what?  Why fight to keep it shiny what is not shiny?  Why keep something hidden?

I prefer the truth regardless of what's exposed by the truth or how how uncomfortable it might be to look at. At the core of being a Christian is following Christ and turning to face Him as new information is discovered, or new information comes into our experience.  Christ's doctrine teaches us to become as a little child.  Children are open to new ideas. Children are willing to listen and not reject something outright because it conflicts with some traditions they hold dear to. 

Christ is the light of truth, Christ is the way, the truth, and the light (D&C 88:6–7, 40.(John 14:6). Since nothing but the truth will endure, I conclude it's important to find as much of it as you can. And build on it.  I hope to be true disciple of Christ.  I believe in Him, and have faith in Him, and have learned things about Him that give my soul hope.  I try to keep what I write focused on scripture, not personal experiences, but that doesn't mean I don't have them. 

In my experience, seeing certain truths is easier when there is a contrast.  Art and color are examples of how contrast is useful.  Sometimes things are also more obvious once they have been pointed out.  If I ever write something to give religious or scriptural contrast between what we build our faith upon it is not to sow seeds of doubt.  It's not me being angry a critic or overly negative.  It's awareness so we can build on Christ, not on sand.  If such things previously came across as me being angry or unkind hopefully now you see it differently. 

How important is this? 

If our faith is has become centered on the Church and it's leaders, then in my experience it leads to acting as though they are your God. Good old fashioned idolatry is what that is.  That causes people to feel fragile or scared of new ideas that doesn't align with what their Church and leaders say.  Scripturally speaking that's a sandy foundation. It won't hold up.  New information will be feared rather than welcomed.  Scriptures teach:
2 Nephi 28:31 Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. 
This goes back to something mentioned earlier.  As latter day-saints we have to distinguish when the Holy Ghost is the source of what we're taking in, and when it's not.  There's a curse for putting trust in men.  Also a curse for hearkening unto the precepts of men.  The only thing given a green light is if a precept is given by the power of the Holy Ghost.  Otherwise it results in a curse!  Nephi and Moroni both warn that this test confronts us, and that corruption is not only expected but has already happened. 

Faith placed in the Church and or the prophet might:
-Darken your mind
-Make it feel like the rug getting ripped out from under you if someone says something not promoting faith in the Church.  Even if what is said is true.  Those truths are labeled "unhelpful".
-Make it easy to reject true things because it "doesn't feel good".
-Cause you to say and do hurtful things to people who no longer share your views of religion
-Judge people and dismiss the truth before hearing it out
-Become proud when numbers grow, bank accounts grow, and the organization seems to prosper.
-Ignore the voice of truth when it comes from outside the Church.  (Like Jews rejecting John the Baptist or Jesus who were not Church authorities)
-Cause blindness about what it means repent
-Cause you to conclude that renaming things or simply removing parts of the temple and then telling you not to talk about it is "revelation" from God.
-Affect your salvation

D&C 76: 98-101
And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one; for as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world; For these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas. These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch; But received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant.
Lots of those names listed there are prophets that some people are "of" (followers of).  Their reward is telestial.  The Gospel doesn't teach to follow or worship messengers, even if they are sent by God. We're supposed to follow God and be able to tell the difference when a message originates form Him or if it's just a man speaking.  Messengers from God don't point to themselves or teach you to fixate and trust religious men.  They point to Christ. 

How big is the risk if we choose the wrong thing to center our faith in? This isn't to say God hasn't used institutions in the past or been involved in them. Obviously he has. The point is as times change and as God's work continues you may need to be more willing to keep looking to God and be more nimble and responsive to God then you can do by fixating on a Church organization.  Faith centered in Christ allows for freedom and always allows for new truth.  It allows one to leave behind errors.  But if faith in centered in something else, you're chained to that thing.

Isn't differentiating between faith in Christ and faith in the Church a false dichotomy? 

I know some believe the Church and Christ are so intertwined that it's as if the Church organization is an extension of Christ himself.  So faith in one is not mutually exclusive to faith in the other.  Or another version of this is that because God is at the helm and God won't let the men in charge lead astray, all is well if we keep our eyes fixed on them.  So the doctrine of "follow the prophet" goes.  Whatever happens must be approved by God and whatever the leaders say is if God himself was speaking.  The scripture cited to support this are all out of context and are being used to maintain the shiny appearance of the Church, not promote the truth. See here.  What do scriptures say?  They say you cannot serve two masters.

I've found it helpful to remember the Jews were God's chosen people and that didn't stop them from killing Christ.  So being "chosen" or "God's people" or the "true church" is no guarantee of anything.

The truth is, in 2019 actions by the Church are more and more at odds with teachings of Joseph Smith, and scripture.  Statements and actions from top leaders are increasingly contradicting Christ's words.  If you read some of my other posts you'll see and get background on some examples.  This is not to undermine faith in Christ.  It's to show how and why it matters very much who we put faith and trust in.  The hope when I say things like this is to be a voice for truth and a voice for someone who may find themselves in need of a life boat in a moment of idiotic policy, heartbreak, or feeling of emptiness and lack of spiritual fulfillment at what's offered by the LDS church.

All churches loose divinity when angels are replaced by social science studies.  When visions are replaced by marketing departments.  When revelation is replaced by a huge legal department.  When prophets are replaced by profits.  And suits and ties replace actual authority from God.  Zion is replaced by shopping mall construction.  This is why faith in Christ is so different from faith in an organization.  They are often diametrically opposed.

What about Ordinances? 

You need Priesthood Ordinances offered by the Church, right?  So it's assumed you have to have some degree of faith in and reliance on the Church since they have the keys.  My question is has God surrendered his keys to men?

Ordinances have been possible since the beginning of time independent of a Church or it's oversight. When Jesus got baptized was it into the Jewish church?  Or was he simply baptized?  When Joseph and Oliver were baptized, it wasn't related to an institution.  It was just plain old baptism.  Even for LDS folks, baptism isn't into a church (more on that here).  It's just baptism.  Confirmation is what brings church membership.  We in 2019 almost seem to want organizations to control everything, because it's familiar and neat and tidy.  God is the one who gives priesthood, not a Church.  Look at any line of authority for any priesthood holder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The "Church" is never a slot in a persons line of authority.  A church can assist with ordination, but God has to give the power.  That principle of power vs authority was taught by President Packer in General conference not too many years ago.

What if a Church loses priesthood?  Such a thing is possible D&C 121:37.  When control and dominion are used, it's no longer priesthood anymore.  It's control.  What happens if that Church looses rights to Priesthood and your not centered on Christ but are fixated on the organization?  How will you receive what you need?  How will you receive baptism?   You'll have to convince yourself that what you belong to will not and can't ever loose priesthood because if it does, you're in trouble.  This will lull you back to sleep, rather than helping you awake and arise.

When John the Baptist came baptizing the Jews were already practicing baptism.  Hence a lot of them probably saw no need to do it over again.  But it was needed.  When God sends a messenger and begins a new dispensation re-baptism shows you follow Him and hear Him.

Christ, not Churchmen and institutions

We tend to define Church differently than God. Christ defines his Church this way.
D&C 10: 67-70 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. And now, remember the words of him who is the life and light of the world, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Amen.
Christ warns not to declare more or less than that or your acting against Christ and not of His church.  What stands out from this verse is that you can be a member of the church described by Christ and also belong to any number of earthly religious denominations.  There are plenty of places and churches to do good and learn basics of Christianity.  Churches are often a great tool and a place to show love and give service to others.  It just doesn't make much sense to center your faith and salvation in those organizations, or their leaders, especially when that doesn't even fit how Christ defined his Church.

Christ is the life boat.  That is the only boat I believe anyone should want to stay in.  But there are other ships readily accepting passengers.  I'm not saying there isn't value found in all churches.  I'm not saying people should throw up their hands and stop everything and throw out the baby with the bath water.  Rash reactions miss the point.  But I admit waking up can sometimes be unpleasant.  Especially if you were in a deep sleep. I hope this post has helped arouse some faculties to at least test this to see if it's accurate.

For me a lot of what's behind my writing is that I'm advocating faith that will stand and lead to Christ.  The center of faith should be Christ and Him alone.  Many events are taking place to preserve and continue the restoration and are independent of the predominant Church in Utah.  I'd love to chat about it.  If you sincerely seek Christ, you can find Him.  Or if it's more comfortable to be centered on an organization there's plenty there to keep you distracted and fixated on the leaders.  But all of us have been warned by scripture.  Something new has begun.  Look and see for yourself.