Baseball, like life, makes improbabilities seem like inevitabilities.
Joseph Smith proved the pattern true. He investigated all the religions. He attended their meetings, spoke with the ministers, and paid attention to their claims. He could not determine the truth. Then he “labored” over the scriptures. “At length” he finally decided to do as James asks and prayed. His prayer was answered because he did the preliminary work, the required study, and put in the necessary labor.
For three decades I studied and taught the scriptures. Each week between 10 and 40 hours were invested as I prepared to teach a 50 minute class. I labored, the scriptures yielded to study, and I learned more and more about God. The Vision of the Redemption of the Dead found in Section 138 was likewise obtained by study and prayer.
The scriptures are a Urim and Thummim designed to provoke revelation. You cannot divorce the process of getting revelation from necessary scripture study. God made no such thing known to Laman, Lemuel or us when we do not search the scriptures and invest our heart and mind in learning His ways.
I have studied the scriptures for years. By now, they inform most every thought.
Fill yourself with scripture and see what the Holy Ghost can do then. Read them now and see how they open to you. If you take no thought except to ask and expect God to do the work, you do not understand the difference between “magic” and salvation. We are saved no quicker than we gain knowledge.
Study the scriptures. Include the Lectures on Faith as part of that curriculum. Study Joseph Smith. Prepare your mind first, then see what God will reveal to you.
I love the response to the lectures (one talk). But I must stand aside now or wound this process. There are still important things left for me to do. Taking a role in establishing communities would harm, not help. I have had numerous requests to baptize people. When I refuse, then someone else will step up. They will ask God for authority, receive permission by the power of the Spirit, and gain familiarity with a process they need to help them. A process that will empower others through that first step to take another step, and then another. I’ve spoken with the Lord face to face, as one man speaks to another. Now you need to do likewise.
Some are going to be seduced by false spirits. They may or may not repent. Whether they repent and press forward to be ministered to by a messenger from God, and then find God, will depend on how closely they follow truth and light. False spirits prop up egos and pride. Anything of that sort will lead to darkness.
True messengers and true messages conform to a pattern: “Behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.” (Moroni 7: 13.) More importantly, they have a central focus that will NEVER change: “Every thing 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 man 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[.]” (Moroni 7: 16.)
Any preacher, leader, bishop, president, apostle, seventy or elder who asks you to believe in men, trust men, accept authority of men, is most certainly not of Christ. (See D&C 76: 99-101.) Anyone who points you to Christ, asks you to seek to know Christ, invites you to struggle to hear and follow Christ, you can know is of Christ.
Those who boast of their own spiritual prowess as a credential to have you notice them are dangerous. Those who testify of Christ, preach of Christ and ask you to know Him, while admitting their own insignificance, are worth hearing. Everything I believe is anchored in the scriptures.
Those who are deceived as they struggle to find Christ can repent as soon as they realize they have listened to a false spirit. Joseph was overcome by “thick darkness” before he called upon God and was delivered. Lehi walked behind a man dressed in white for the space of many hours in a “dark and dreary waste” before he called upon God and was delivered. When Adam built an altar and called upon God, it was Lucifer who replied, “I hear you, what is it you want?” Adam had to refuse the offer and await true messengers sent from the Father.
You will encounter false spirits, as well as true ones if you will persist. You need to be familiar with both in order to choose. These opposing forces are part of the process of becoming competent and adept. No one lacking knowledge of these things can be saved. “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power.” (TPJS, p. 217.)
Do not fear learning and experience. Fear ignorance. Ignorance will damn you.
I got an email asking why I thought this new direction would be any better than the many prior attempts launched through Joseph Smith. My response is given below:
Unlike the institution Joseph left us (which may not have been the end of his work had he gone to the Rocky Mountains), the new opportunity is diffused, non-hierarchical, incapable of central control, and free to permit the Spirit to guide.
There are two opposing powers which use two different forces. There is love and fear.
Love invites, encourages, waits, supports and rejoices in progress. Love is undeterred by setbacks. Instead, love finds a way to address obstacles and tries again. Love creates.
Fear inhibits, controls, discourages and limits progression. Fear offers setbacks and looks for obstacles to end creativity. Fear rejects what love offers.
If we were all motivated by love, we would never demand anything of one another. Instead we would request, and then be grateful when we received.
Love allows differences in religious views to be shared in a mutual search for harmony. Fear prevents this. Indeed fear causes religious differences to descend into hatred.
Religion cannot bring Zion if it uses fear. It must reject it and allow itself no tool other than love to overcome this world. God is love.
Sir Thomas More titled a 1516 book Utopia, coining a term used forever after for an ideal society. Sir More may have coined the term but Utopian ideas go back to Plato’s Republic for scholars, and Enoch for Christians and Jews. Fiction writers often try to describe an imaginary perfect society, and Hollywood regularly uses the theme. Mankind yearns for it.
There will be a latter-day Zion. The scriptures give little description, and the smallest of criteria for Zion. “The Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18.) That is the list:
-dwelt in righteousness
-no poor among them.
Seems simple. The list is so short it begs the questions: Why haven’t we done this? Why aren’t WE doing this?
There are a lot of “rich, learned, wise and noble” (D&C 58: 10) who think they are going to be residents of Zion because, well, they’re rich, learned, wise and noble. They believe they came here with noble heritage making them elect, special, chosen and endowed with great power. I hope they gather. I hope they move right into their Utopian experiment and get to enjoy each other’s prideful company.
The ideas given by a kind and patient Lord in Mesa were not mine. I am trying to understand them myself. Here is what I think at present in my struggle with the material:
Families need to develop independent and strong faith in God by worshiping together, praying together, studying the scriptures, performing ordinances like baptism using power given by God, and the sacrament. They should pay tithes and help those in need among them. If there is excess, reserve it for a worthy purpose. There will be some challenges, and some divisions will no doubt require study, faith, prayer and humility to overcome. Eventually they will become one.
When families expand by marriage the new sons-in-law, daughters-in-law and their families should likewise fellowship with one another and practice their religion. As soon as anyone new joins an association, everything fractures again. But time, patience and careful repetition of what went before will eventually restore unity.
If several extended family groups unite in fellowship, disunity returns and rough edges will need to be smoothed out, feelings respected, and different views discussed. Because families have an existing order and likely have a father whose priesthood is known and respected, these groups will require some mechanism for resolving cross-family priesthood questions. Outside a family, a man does not get an automatic recognition to perform an ordinance or render priestly service. The means for recognition of a man’s right to serve was provided in Mesa. No fellowship automatically respects any man’s claim. Approval will need to be given. Unlike present methods, in these fellowships since only men will have recognized priesthood, they will receive approval to perform by the sustaining by at least seven women. Once this has been done, the combined groups of multi-family fellowships have the means to continue to perpetuate religious service, perform unifying ordinances and worship God together.
At this point I think of the early experiences Joseph Smith had. There was an outstanding, well educated, and politically astute man who helped negotiate the Nauvoo Charter through the Illinois Legislature. He impressed everyone. He was admired, trusted and immediately accepted by the Saints. Joseph added him to the First Presidency. He was elected the first Mayor of Nauvoo. He was the Major-General of the Nauvoo Legion. All of Nauvoo took pride in John C. Bennett and thought themselves blessed by having a man of his stature among them.
His meteoric rise ended in May 1842 when he was excommunicated for adultery. In addition to adultery, he was suspected of polygamy, homosexuality, and performing abortions. The abortions were part of the underground practice of polygamy, terminating unwanted pregnancies to prevent public notice of these sexual improprieties. Joseph Smith learned of these underground sex rings as he presided over Nauvoo High Council proceedings. He was later accused by some of the participants of having approved it in the first (and only) edition of the Nauvoo Expositor.
I also think of the earlier ambitious and enthusiastic Mormon converts who shone brightly for a brief season, then turned cold and dark. Kirtland itself rose in spiritual splendor and promise, only a few years later to drive Joseph and Sidney away under the cover of dark, while a mob gave chase for 200 miles. Kirtland became a community-wide failure.
What has changed? How have we become so much better than they? It is because we have abandoned communitarian ideals and are now stratified into economic divisions, educational divisions, hierarchical divisions, and the “haves” take their status for granted while the “have nots” accept their fate while awaiting a glorious afterlife? Is it because we have pseudo-stability? We have an accepted status quo? Is it because we tolerate a disparate society and that is proof we live in peace?
But one heart? One mind? Living in righteousness? No poor among us?
We are no better than Kirtland, and may be a lot worse. There are just as many Wilson Laws, John C. Bennetts, Chauncey Higbees, William Marks and Ezra Booths among us today as during Joseph’s time. Our pride and haughtiness is just as fractioning now as you will find in any generation among any people. We will have to LEARN to be one. Such a distant and guarded mountain peak seems unlikely for us to scale. (At least without considerable individual Divine assistance.)
We have a chance, but only a chance. Required work begins among the people who are the very closest to you – your own family. There you begin to develop the skill to work out interpersonal conflict and resolve turmoil. These are the people you are closest to and should have the greatest willingness to compromise with to problem solve.
We grow incrementally. We develop in stages. We learn skills then use them to solve greater problems using the same skill set we learned through experience.
There may be some great, towering lights who do not need to develop skills at problem solving and who are ready to found Zion today. If so, they should do so. Let us all stand back and admire them. Surely they have much to show the world. Many of these self-proclaiming great ones never sacrifice their name by stepping forward and letting themselves be identified, their reputation attacked, their motives questioned, and their church membership threatened or lost. As the Lectures on Faith inform us, without sacrifice we have no faith, for faith comes by sacrifice and in no other way. Read the Lectures on Faith.
The lecture in Mesa drove many people away and will continue to do so. That is a good thing. Those leaving will not make the required sacrifice, and therefore will not develop faith. They will not be able to gather. God will not allow it.
The lecture, parts 1 through 10, give us the means to develop incrementally. It was to help those who, like me, are not part of the great, towering nobility needing no refinement. It allows me and my fellow poor, lame, blind, and deaf associates (D&C 58: 11) a chance to grow as we struggle to overcome our weaknesses and many shortcomings. I need to work on a great deal. To me, it does not seem easy.
There will be imposters. They will be exposed so they can repent, or they will be sent away. There will be those who are cruel, proud and unkind. They need the opportunity to overcome their character flaws. If they refuse to reform, eventually they will stop associating with us and we with them. Malignant hearts are not easily concealed. Ambition and pride destroy, not build, communities.
I have had high hopes in the past for some seekers I have met. People who have made strong, favorable impressions, at first. A few years later, some of these people I had high regard for prove themselves proud, controlling, dictatorial and unworthy.
Similarly, I have seen some who did not stand out at first but who, over time, have proven themselves godly, self-sacrificing and brave. Time and experience change people. Even now some who are “great” stand in peril before God and may fall. Those who exalt themselves have never been candidates for Zion. Gradually, by degrees, we will see maturity, repentance, kindness and even charity become part of these communities.
The great ones who can bypass such effort should do it now, if they can. They should be the shining example so we can learn. They ought to point the way and let us admire their greatness. Show us Utopia, ye noble and great! I won’t ask to be permitted to come in, I only want to admire your accomplishment in the hope I may learn from you.
As for the residue, where I believe I remain, I hope to work out my own development with fear and trembling before God. One day I hope to be gathered. If that day comes, I hope to present no threat to the community because of ambition or pride. I hope to come already disposed to be of one heart and mind with them, having made enough sacrifices along the way to crawl in upon my knees as one of the least. I hope to have developed the skill to be an adept problem solver and an aid to my fellow saint by practicing the things I learned in Mesa in the ways suggested there.
When there is a gathering, I do not think the people invited will believe they are better than others. I doubt very much they will think they have accomplished anything extraordinary. Instead they will marvel at how simple it was to work it out peacefully beforehand, and wonder why mankind has not lived in peace continually since the fall of Adam. Zion will not be proud of itself, because it cannot.
Small choices change destinies. Those who gather before skills have been refined, and before the proud, learned, noble and rich have left, will produce nothing other than Kirtland, Jackson County, Nauvoo and Salt Lake. People need to be driven away, and people need to be refined. This happens simultaneously. It is for a good and wise purpose.
I gave a talk about Zion years ago. In it, I took note that the description in 4 Nephi of the Nephite generations of peace following Christ’s visit included three levels of harmony:
“there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.” (4 Ne. 1: 2)
“And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land;” (4 Ne. 1: 13)
“there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” (4 Ne. 1: 15).
I think this pattern will need to be repeated. We will not get to a third level of harmony among us unless we first work out and resolve contentions in our families, and then in fellowship groups before we have the ability to do so as a gathered community. Zion must have
-dwell in righteousness, and
-no poor among them.
If that is not us then we are not Zion.
Joseph was undeterred by the persistent failures. He believed anyone could rise up if they were taught how. Joseph believed it was ignorance that damned us and a man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge. Boise lecture.
Rather than throw his hands up at the failure, he set to work compiling a series of lectures to be given to these prospective “prophets” in a School of the Prophets in Kirtland, Ohio. By 1835, he carefully edited the lectures to print them for the entire church. The Lectures on Faith were the first part of the Doctrine and Covenants, published in 1835, and vouched for by Joseph Smith. This was the Idaho Falls lecture. The Lectures tell you what the religion was designed to accomplish. They were composed in an effort to get the early church to rise up and reclaim power from heaven.
I have never claimed, in public or private, to be anything other than a weak and foolish man.
The notion that I think I am anything other than that repulses me.
For years I have said that until someone actually accomplishes something, they have no right to claim they are something great or wonderful, that they fulfill prophecy, or are God’s chosen anything.
Nobody has accomplished anything since Joseph Smith. There is a great hill to climb. Until someone climbs it and serves to guide others, we are left with pretenders, ego-maniacs, fools, impostors and villains.
Something is underway. Nothing has been accomplished. You need to participate. Starting a project, and getting 1% of it accomplished, and then claiming you are a “great” anything is not just a mistake, but it takes the eye off of the unfinished project – a very difficult project. Getting to your own 2 yard line still leaves 98 yards to go.
Without the refining of a transition phase, we will be utterly unprepared. But the refinement itself will be very hard, and there will be many who fail.
If a few succeed, then those can be gathered. Once gathered, there is still work to be done. Those who believe we can take a giant step do not comprehend how natural the evolution of God’s work is. It requires effort every day, and will require as much of latter-day Zion as was required for Enoch and Melchizedek. It’s difficult to imagine how much needs to be left behind and how much needs to be added.
If you think I’m something great and important, you miss altogether what is YOUR responsibility. The restoration belongs to YOU. No one is going to invoke a magic spell and spare you the development, maturity, selflessness, patience, growth and determination needed to be part of a healthy, functioning society worthy of the presence of God and angels. It is They (God and angels) whose company we seek. Not mine.
The Phoenix/Mesa transcript is up on Scribd. Also, I fixed the link for the St. George lecture. You can find links for them on the right hand side of the blog under DS talks.
The final lecture will be on Tuesday beginning at 9:30 a.m. in Mesa. The time is local, which in Mesa is Mountain Standard.
Each of the lectures make sense as a “stand alone” but the final installment assumes anyone attending will be familiar with the content of the nine prior talks.
PLEASE NOTE THAT ARIZONA DOES NOT HAVE DAYLIGHT SAVINGS. THE TIME IS ALWAYS LOCAL AT EVERY LOCATION.
We lost the first announced location in Phoenix because, as Doug informed me:
“Due to threats, nasty phone calls & emails, Rockin R Ranch has cancelled the venue. Will get another. Ward & stake people threatened to boycott the business if they allowed the talk at their place. Phone calls with the same thing.”
We now have a replacement and will be signing the agreement later today. When it is locked down we will announce it here.
For those who made suggestions for replacement locations, we appreciate it. And we bear no animosity for the Rockin R Ranch and hope they are not discomforted by anyone who was disappointed by their refusal to allow the talk to happen there.
The LDS Church has been extremely important in my journey back to God. I am grateful to them, even if others do not understand this. I doubt that I could have succeeded in understanding much at all about God if not for the LDS Church.
However, I realize now that the LDS Church has been a pantomime portraying the truth, and not the real thing. It is possible to learn from watching an illusion. The illusion portrays truth. It equipped me to visualize the true pathway and to lay hold on it through faith. A church that can accomplish that for its members is a valuable thing indeed.
When mimes act out a pretense that there is a wall on the stage, the audience accepts the premise because it is portrayed by the actors as such. When a new character enters the scene and walks toward the pretended wall, we all expect a collision. We know there is a wall there. The new character doesn’t. They can’t see it, but the pretense governs the action. Sure enough, when the character hits the wall and falls down, we all laugh. We know there is a wall there because we’ve seen how every one of the actors have portrayed it to us. They’ve touched it, pushed against it, and walked around it. They made it “real” to us. We laugh at the new character who was unaware of it and had to be knocked down before joining in the group awareness of the pretended wall.
In the Broadway play Harvey (later a Jimmy Stewart movie), the title character was an imaginary giant rabbit. His existence was dependent on pantomime by the other characters. Pantomime is not confined to comedy. It can be used to stage anything, including history. The art is valuable because it allows imagination to provide the walls, chairs, dishes, telephones, food and drink, all at no cost.
The LDS Church has been extremely useful in depicting a house of order, prayer, fasting, faith, learning, glory and sacrifice. We can visualize God having a controlling hand in it. We can imagine what it would be like to have a prophet to guide us in these latter days.We can imagine mantles put on, staffs of power wielded, and unseen forces supporting the rolling forth of a great work. It is a great act. There is value in beholding it. It can ignite with fire our ability to see that it is possible for God to provide the real thing. Even if we must substitute one for another, we can use brick, mortar, gold and silver as if it were spiritual achievement. Because of our worship of wealth, we are easily led to substitute one for the other. If the pretense succeeds, this should be temporary.
I admire and appreciate the LDS Church. It has been indispensable for me to develop faith in God. I hope it lasts for some time yet, and succeeds in keeping its programs and publishing scriptures. I hope it keeps its temples running and performing the rites done there. I hope great numbers participate in the pantomime and pretend they are God’s chosen people as they faithfully serve within the organization. No one is hurt from serving others. The pantomime is based on something true, and represents what we might have if we are faithful. I expect that as faith in God increases, the pantomime will give way to truth. The LDS Church is a useful tool, and should be used. But the true connection to God should be at the end of that path.
One pantomime used by the church is the pretense of “keys” (although that is not well defined, merely claimed). In the LDS Church all of the “priesthood keys” are claimed to be held exclusively by the highest officials (First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve) who are sustained as “prophets, seers and revelators.” The church has published, as the copyright holder, a volume of teachings by President Joseph F. Smith titled Gospel Doctrine. This was originally compiled as a priesthood manual. It was recently abridged and reused as a Melchizedek and Relief Society Manual, part of the teachings of the presidents series. I mention this because the quote fits even the very narrow definition given by a member of the church correlation committee last week at BYU’s Education Week. It was from a President of the Church, given in general conference. It was then published by the First Presidency, approved by the First Presidency and Twelve, used in official church teaching to Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and therefore “doctrine” in even the most narrow of definitions
Here is a quote from Gospel Doctrine (which I could not find in the most recent manual) from President Joseph F. Smith about priesthood:
Then again, if it were necessary, though I do not expect the necessity will ever arise, and there was no man left on the earth holding the Melchizedek Priesthood, except an elder–that elder, by the inspiration of the Spirit of God and by the direction of the Almighty, could proceed, and should proceed, to organize the Church of Jesus Christ in all its perfection, because he holds the Melchizedek Priesthood.
(Gospel Doctrine, p. 148.)
Any and every elder could completely and fully organize the church. Implied is that nothing special would be lost. No keys would go missing. Any elder could do it. What is the pantomime? What is the pretense? The great pantomime of “keys” held only by the president of the church in a fullness, is, when reduced to its final substance, the right to run the entire organization because of common consent. Brigham Young was right after all. He claimed he acquired his authority by being elected to the same office as Joseph Smith. People have been testifying they “know” Brigham and his successors have the very things claimed about them. The pantomime has become reality.
The Book of Mormon has a great deal to say about “keys” because of what is NOT there. The book contains the “fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” but only mentions the word “keys” a single time. That mention is to the servant of Laban who had the keys to the treasury where the brass plates were stored. (1 Ne. 4: 20.) If “keys” were essential to the fullness of the Gospel, we should expect a great deal more to be said in the Book of Mormon on the topic.
To define “keys” Elder Oaks recently in General Conference could not do so without resorting to using the word “authority.” He stated: “Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood [holders] to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth.” Yet the scriptures contradict this definition. They state plainly “no power or influence can, or ought, to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood.” (D&C 121: 41.) The priesthood is only to be used by “constraint.” It belongs to God alone. Unless He directs, we cannot act. Alma taught this in an example where lives were lost because he would not use priesthood due to constraint. (Alma 14: 8-11.) Christ’s disciples would “judge” the people, but only according to the judgment given to them by the Lord. (3 Ne. 27: 27.) Moses was required to perform a specific service in a specific way, and failed to do so. As a result, Moses did not pass over Jordan with the Israelites. (Num. 20: 7-13, also Deu. 31: 2.)
The “keys” are never defined by scripture. They get used as a shorthand way to refer to a number of very different subjects with apparently very different meanings. In one instance, they are called the “keys of the mysteries.” (D&C 28: 7: Joseph Smith was given “keys of the mysteries” allowing him to receive revelations which were otherwise sealed. D&C 35: 17-18: Joseph Smith had the “keys of the mysteries” to unseal knowledge kept hidden from the foundation of the world.) This appears to be a way to describe what Joseph could do as part of his ministry. It was apparently not transferable or even repeatable.
Other scriptures refer to the “keys of the holy priesthood” which were to be given in the Nauvoo Temple. (D&C 124: 33-34.) Although the revelation of January 1841 says the temple was necessary, the LDS Church claims it has these “keys,” and got them in Joseph’s red brick store. This theory negates the language of the revelation (D&C 124: 28). The LDS Church’s claim involves the temple endowment, which has been widely published. Therefore, if the claim were true, every endowed Latter-day Saint and every voyeur on the internet now hold these “keys.”
Scripture also refers to the “keys of the kingdom” in an answer to questions Joseph asked God concerning the meaning of verses in Isaiah. These, however, were “lost” and would not return until a specific descendant “unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom” would come. This was a future event during Joseph Smith’s life. (D&C 113: 5-8.) Joseph had these keys and they were his to keep even if he died. (D&C 90: 2.) But the references to “kingdom” are confusing, having been used by various people using different definitions. It once meant the Council of Fifty. Then it meant the State of Deseret. Then it meant the political division over which Brigham Young was Governor. Then it morphed into the LDS Church. Now it is almost universally used by the LDS Church to mean the LDS Church, but the LDS Church is not the institution God will preserve and protect. God’s protection is over “the church of the Firstborn.” (D&C 93: 22; 85: 5; 76: 67; Heb. 12: 23; D&C 107: 19.) Nephi also refers to the “church of the Lamb” with apparently the same group in mind. (1 Ne. 14: 10-14.)
The priesthood is for service, not control. The greatest priesthood holder was Christ. He condemned the gentile tendency to rule, control and exercise lordship. He came only to serve and offer His life as a ransom for others. (Mark 10: 42-45.)
It is easier to seize control and demand obedience to authority than to persuade using gentleness and pure knowledge. (D&C 121: 41-42.) So the pantomime of “keys” substitutes organizational control for common consent, amalgamates authority and then demands uniformity. At some point perhaps the saints will tire of the pantomime, obtain control through common consent, and repent. But if not, the Lord has the ability to move His great work forward with or without a pantomime running alongside. He has something real to accomplish. When He does, we will all be required to choose between the pantomime and the reality.