Sunday, June 9, 2019

Declining Divinity

This is a third post in a series about word frequency trends in the LDS Church.  I've been exploring a database of LDS General Conference talks back to 1851 up until today.  Over 10k talks, and 168 years worth of data.  This has provided the ability to see frequency of words spoken over time.  It does not include manuals or magazines, only conference talks.  It has been very interesting.  I first started talking about the Doctrine of Christ, how mention of it sharply increased a few years ago and some possible correlations as to why.  Last post was about the sharp downward trend of mentioning Zion and the sharp rise in mention of priesthood keys and living prophets.

In this post I look at some other trends.  Taken as a whole, hopefully the posts have been meaningful.  They are intended to draw a contrast and point towards Christ and away from idols.

While the presence or absence of a word obviously does not equate to a sermon's value, the overall trends of words does portray something about what is being taught to the people during the broadcast intended for the world.  Where sustained prophets seers and revelators and others called by them teach messages and give instruction the people view as from God.  Almost without question one of the concluding speakers or individuals offering prayer will talk about the presence of the spirit during the conference.  Seemingly confirming the cultural assumptions about the divine nature of all the messages.

A friend the other day explained to me how religious throughout history follow a trend.  First there is a charismatic leader who has contact with the divine.  Gifts of the spirit are present, there is an awakening, and large initial growth.  The divinity is what attracts people.  The presence of angels, authentic visions from God, prophecy, and God's presence is manifest.  Over time things plateau, once the leader has passed business practices and policies replace the Holy Ghost and individual contact with the divine.  As more time passes there are fewer converts, and the depth of the conversion is more shallow as there is increasingly less substance to the religion to deeply convert a person or attract new people.  So other methods involving business or whatever are employed to keep the religion alive and viable.  Traditions become the truth. I couldn’t help but consider these trends in today’s churches.

Before I go on, I want to point out that just because a word is spoken doesn't mean it's reflective of an accurate understanding of the word.  Two people using the same word can sometimes be like an ink blot test.  Each person uses the word differently and perhaps with different meaning depending on their own understanding.  On a large scale for example the word faith is on the rise in General Conference over the years, but unless you distinguish between faith in Christ vs faith in the Church or teach how to develop saving faith then the increased frequency of the word may not mean faith is actually increasing.  So to me most of the increases are usually less interesting than decreases.

There's also this comment from Christ himself to Joseph Smith about the religions of his day.

From Joseph Smith History:
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong, and the personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight, that those professors were all corrupt, that, They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof"
They draw near unto Christ with their lips but the hearts are far from him.  If you were to draw near unto Christ with your lips, you'd speak of Him often (or the idea of him). You'd put his name on a lot of things. You'd emphasize his name wherever you could. This would give the impression you are founded on him. But what did Christ say? That just this alone is is actually something to watch out for. Because many will profess with their lips.

Suppose we look at how often "Christ" is mentioned in General Conference.



It's on the Rise. That means we're on track right?  That means all is well right?  The fact that Christ warned people would draw near unto him with their lips, and words, does not guarantee the person or group is aligned with Him.  According to Him.  So we have to look further and looks for fruits not just mention of the name of Christ.

The word "vision" or visions is also on the rise, but to my knowledge when the word is used, it's never the speaker having had one.  It's other people's, or visions from scripture.  Or the word is used as a mental image of some thing or future someone is envisioning as a hope or wish or desired destination.   

So what about when people don't even speak of a word, or the idea, or concept?  Not even pretending to lip service?  It's interesting to look at those trends. 

Here are some words that denote divinity, or contact with the divine.  Angels, Prophecy, The Second Comforter, Calling and Election.  All of these words....well look at the graphs yourself.  Possibly additional evidence of a declining divinity. 


Calling and election used to be talked in the 60's and 70's.  But it has not been mentioned in 35 years. 


Prophecy is very much on the decline.  Both the word and actual prophecy. 


Second Comforter was spoken only twice in 168 years.  The doctrine of the Second Comforter was taught by Joseph Smith openly.  Doctrine about Christ personally and literally ministering to a person.  Very neglected doctrine.




Lets look at some of the other gifts of the spirit mentioned in scripture:  Gift of tongues, and Discernment.  Both following the same trend as above.



Healing gets talked about a lot, and is on the rise, but the gift of healing not so much.


On a positive note "Miracles" has seen an increase of mention.  On another positive not "Lectures on Faith" which teach the saints how to develop and exercise faith is on the rise.  However it's rise is offset by the fact that the lectures have been de-cannoized since the 1930's. 


Just because an institution becomes stale doesn't mean the people themselves need experience a lack of God or the gifts of the spirit or miracles in their lives.  So there is always hope despite institutional trends.  All of these posts are intended to show where hope still lies.  It's in Christ, and what he's doing now.  These graphs may not be persuasive as they are mostly something for the mind to see.  For me that is an important piece of the puzzle.  But ultimately conversion to Christ needs to involve him.  Just not graphs.  To do that we need to read the scriptures.  Here are two sites intended to help with such a search.  https://www.learnofchrist.org/   http://scriptures.info/

The Book of Mormon warns about certain attitudes where God has apparently given his power (keys) unto men, and that explains the lack of divinity.  As we looked at last post, living prophets and priesthood keys are sharply on the rise.  You can read about that there.

I wanted to end with an important and meaningful section from Nephi in the Book of Mormon.  NC 2 Nephi 12 1-7.  Someone who saw our day in vision, was visited by Christ as Second Comforter, and spoke to his modern day reader.  None of us should hold our heads high and be stiff-necked. There is only reason to repent, not be prideful. 

And now behold, my brethren, I have spoken unto you according as the spirit hath constrained me; wherefore, I know that they must surely come to pass. And the things which shall be written out of the book shall be of great worth unto the children of men, and especially unto our seed, which is a remnant of the house of Israel. 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.

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.

O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms and pervert the right way of the Lord, Woe, woe, woe be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell.

Woe unto them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught, and revile against that which is good and say that it is of no worth, for the day shall come that the Lord God will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth. And in that day that they are fully ripe in iniquity, they shall perish. But behold, if the inhabitants of the earth shall repent of their wickedness and abominations, they shall not be destroyed, saith the Lord of Hosts. But behold, that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof. For the kingdom of the Devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the Devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains and they be stirred up to anger and perish. 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. Yea, they are grasped with death and hell; and death, and hell, and the Devil, and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is Endless torment. Therefore, woe be unto him that is at ease in Zion.

Woe be unto him that crieth, All is well. Yea, woe be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God and the gift of the holy ghost. Yea, woe be unto him that saith, We have received and we need no more. And in fine, woe unto all those who tremble and are angry because of the truth of God. For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness, and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth, lest he shall fall.

Woe 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. For behold, thus saith the Lord God, I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. And blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom. For unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough — shall be taken away even that which they have. 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.
Woe be unto the gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts, for notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me. Nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me, for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts.

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