Guidance from the Spirit

I’ve been reflecting on a commonly held belief concerning the Holy Ghost. Among Latter-day Saints the assertion is widely believed that the Holy Ghost will always leave a “good feeling” as the evidence of a message coming from God.  This is in contrast with Joseph Smith’s correct description of the Holy Ghost as delivering “intelligence” or “sudden insight” or, to use scriptural language, “light and truth.”  The feelings which follow an authentic encounter with the Holy Ghost can be anything from fear and dread to joy and rejoicing.  Our emotional reaction to the message can vary depending upon the information we’ve been given.  But “feeling good” about something is separate from the Holy Ghost.

When the message from God calls to repentance, the reaction can be best described as anger, or distress, or fear; but is not likely to be described as leaving a “good feeling.”  The message of repentance always requires change.  It will always confront the error and require you to alter what you are doing. 

I have noticed some reactions to what I’ve written measure what has been written against the standard of a “good feeling” and, as a result, some have concluded I’m not worth reading.  I suppose against that standard Abinadi would have been rejected.  Samuel the Lamanite, too.  John the Baptist, Elijah, Christ, Peter, Paul, Joseph Smith, Noah, Enoch, John the Beloved, as well.  Certainly Nephi, Jacob, Alma, Mormon and Moroni. In fact, I can’t think of a single authentic message which did not include as its most important content information which violates the “feeling good” standard.  I think care should be taken when a standard gets employed.  Use a false standard and you risk reaching a false result.

This is one of the criticisms made by Grant Palmer in his Insider’s book. He took aim at a false notion (“feeling good” means the Holy Ghost) and then leveled criticism against the false notion.  Though a lifelong employee of the Church Education System, he was ignorant of the correct standard and lost his faith in the Holy Ghost’s ability to enlighten because of it.  His criticism was justified, but not the standard.  He, like many Latter-day Saints, confuses something which inspires with a witness from the Spirit.  You can be inspired by music, movies, plays and thrilling speeches coming from unenlightened sources which bring no light and truth.  You may be entertained, but you are not given greater light and truth or intelligence from such thrilling encounters.

The one thing I do know, and the truth I can proclaim is this:  Truth will come through and confirm itself when measured against the standard of: 1) imparting truth and light, which is intelligence; and 2) whether the message leads to greater belief in, understanding of and testimony of Christ.  These standards do not involve “feeling good.”  They do, however, involve enlightenment and edification.  Even if the result of gaining more light is to see yourself in a new way, requiring repentance, confession of sin, re-baptism, breaking your heart and becoming contrite in spirit.  Anyone who can teach a message which will pass this standard, whether they are high or low, rich or poor, great or obscure, has given something of value.

Catholic Business Network, Utah State Treasurer

I attended a meeting of the Catholic Business Network this week where Utah State Treasurer, Richard Ellis gave a talk. His remarks about the economy of Utah were very insightful, and reaffirmed how well the state government has been managed.
 
Right now the federal stimulus money is ending, and states are panicked about the loss of those “bail out dollars.” Utah, however, has already budgeted to proceed without the need of any further federal contribution. If the money ends, Utah will be unaffected.

There are over $8 billion in new construction projects currently underway in Utah. These are just the top 20 projects. Hundreds of other projects are not included in that number.
 
Utah’s housing bubble lagged behind the national average, did not reach the same levels, and therefore did not result in the same kinds of crippling losses. Although Utah has been affected, and many people are in a great deal of financial stress, it is comparatively less significant than the national economic turmoil.
 
The growth of Utah’s population has averaged over 9% since the last census, one of the highest in the nation. Sooner or later that growth will require new housing to be built. Housing must recover for the overall economy to return to steady growth. New housing is what drives all durable good sales. 
 
It was an interesting meeting. I asked a question about the likelihood of a double-dip recession. Mr. Ellis was reluctant to predict it is coming. However, if it comes, Utah will be better equipped to cope than most the rest of the country. Though national economic downturns do affect Utah, they are ameliorated by state government’s careful management, balanced budget, careful pension management, and rainy-day funding. I think State Treasurer Richard Ellis is a credit to Utah.

D – Day

Early this morning in 1944, my father and Hugh Nibley were storming onto the beach at Normandy. Oddly, both of them were older GI’s, and were the same age at the time. My father landed on Omaha Beach, against terrible German emplacements firing down from a cliff above, without any tank support. Hugh Nibley landed on Utah Beach, where he arrived in a Jeep that drove through craters caused by the incoming German artillery fire.
 
It is hard to comprehend the chaos of that day. As my father was dying fifty years later, it was about that day he chose to speak. He wondered if the many more years he had been given than those he saw die that day had been well lived.
 

Therefore, when Saving Private Ryan came out years later, I concluded the universal result of living, when so many others died, was the same. The added years given the survivors were always viewed as a stewardship, a gift. One they would need to report on to their friends when they at last joined them in death.

 
That is not a bad way to live a life. Viewing it as a gift. A probation. An opportunity to do something worthwhile with the precious and limited time given to each of us.

Utah Sound Money Act

On June 2nd, I attended the ceremony at the Capitol Building acknowledging the signing of the Utah Sound Money Act. The act makes gold and silver coin legal tender in Utah. It is designed to allow a form of currency to be used that will have intrinsic value. Its value will not be tied to monetary policy.
The prediction now is that billions of dollars in capital will migrate into Utah because of the ability to purchase and store (in Utah) gold and silver as currency. By treating it as currency, any inflationary value increases to the gold and silver will not be taxed as a gain. You can’t tax money. It is now treated as money under Utah law.
Given all the recent, direful economic news, the idea of stabilizing monetary value by a precious metal form of currency seems prudent. Utah may be the first state to adopt the idea, but there are fourteen other states with similar legislation being considered.
The US Constitution allows a state to adopt gold and silver coin as currency for the state. Utah’s move is in keeping with that Constitutional power. It also seems wise, given the announced determination by the central bank to “monetize the debt” – meaning the debt will be paid by printing more dollars. The inevitable result of expanding the money supply, and not simultaneously increasing goods and services will be inflationary. When a nation resorts to financing national expenditures by printing paper money, sooner or later the paper money becomes valueless. Oftentimes dramatically.
The prudence of migrating some money into a form having more value than that bestowed on it by a printing press, managed by a profligate government, seems wise.

What an honor

I attended my daughter, Kylee’s, high school graduation ceremony today at Abravanel Hall. What an amazing group of young people. All of the seniors graduated in her class, not one of them falling short. Most have scholarships. All of them will be going on to college. Although the class was relatively small, they will undoubtedly change the world. 
This daughter is more than a personality, she is a force of nature. There was an article on KSL about her a few months ago. I put a link to it on this blog. She lost the last of her senior year basketball season because of a broken finger. There was a news item about how that turned out with the assistance of the coach of an opposing team. He took a technical foul in the last game so she could shoot two foul shots, allowing her to score the last two points of her senior season. Even with the cast on her arm, she made them both.
Later she played on the Waterford Lacrosse team, helping her team to win the girl’s State Championship. She was not only first team All State, but also the division midfield MVP for the season.
What an honor it has been to be her father, and have her grow up in our home. When she leaves this coming fall for college, out of state, I cannot imagine the vacuum she will leave in her departure. I cannot let her graduation pass without acknowledging her.

Utah Women in the Law

This evening I attended a gathering at the Little America Grand Hotel paying tribute to the first 100 women admitted to practice law in Utah. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the total women admitted to practice law in Utah reached the 100 mark.

Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine Durham was one of two keynote speakers, Elder Dallin Oaks was the other. Chief Justice Durham was the 72nd woman admitted to practice in Utah’s history. Now she is the state’s Chief Justice. She and Elder Oaks served together temporarily on the Utah Supreme Court. She was added to the court in 1982, Elder Oaks departed in 1984 for church service. It was an interesting evening. I am glad I was able to attend, and take my wife, and daughter, Lindsay. 

There were excerpts from court opinions in the late 1800’s from both Utah and Wisconsin when the first women were applying to practice law in both states. Surprisingly, the attitude from Wisconsin was condescending, critical, and discouraging toward women who wanted to be lawyers. But from Utah, there was praise and encouragement – even the expectation that women would add some degree of dignity and compassion to the profession.

Events like these serve to remind us how greatly things have changed in relatively recent times. Some of the things we take for granted have only recently occurred.

Societies which fail to educate, and allow women to influence every aspect of their lives are diminished by the failing. Advancement to the entire culture is tied to the education and contribution of women. They should be allowed every opportunity possible.

Early Morning Seminary

I’ve been substituting an early morning seminary class this week. It’s a Doctrine & Covenants course, and we’ve been covering Sections 132, 133 and 135. These include the eternal marriage covenant, plural wives, prophecy of Christ’s Second Coming, and martyrdom of both Joseph and Hyrum.
I drew a layout of the Carthage Jail yesterday morning, described the movements of each of the four in the upper room (Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor and Willard Richards) during and after the attack, then discussed what happened between the killing and the time the bodies made it back to Nauvoo.
Joseph’s last words, “Oh Lord my God…” is a shorthand reference to the distress call for the Third Degree, or Master Mason. The entire call is, “Oh Lord my God, is there no help for the widow’s son?” Invoking the call, requires all other Masons to rally to help the one in distress.  Joseph was aware members of the mob who came to kill him were Masons. By addressing the call to the mob, Joseph was putting the Masons on their sworn duty to provide relief. He was putting them to the test of their oath, which they failed.
It is good to stay in touch with younger Latter-day Saints through teaching opportunities. I teach Priests in my own ward. There are two interesting observations I’ve made. First, younger minds are more open and willing to be taught. They are interested in thinking or considering ideas. The more you can inform them, the better able they are to gain perspective about the Gospel. They possess a resource which diminishes with time – teachability (to use the vocabulary of scripture, humility). Second, the youth who have grown up using the current form of institutional teaching materials are woefully less informed than those who grew up forty years ago. They are every bit as interested and curious as past generations, but the material used to inform them has been so diminished in content that they are left with the most superficial of understanding of the Gospel. All you parents need to assume responsibility for fixing that with your own children. The institutional approach narrows the scope each year, leaving less and less substance taught.
I’ve studied the restored Gospel and church history for over 40 years. I continue to search more carefully into the subject year by year.  There are so many things to appreciate. I think the most interesting, gripping and important subject you can study is the restored Gospel.  Not through the kind of superficial inspirational drivel now sold by Deseret Book. You can go round and round with that kind of crap – won’t make one bit of progress there. You’ll be briefly entertained, and then lulled to sleep by such quasi-religious infotainment. You will never awaken to your awful situation by being coddled, inspired and reassured that “All is well in Zion.” If you intend to actually come to grips with the Gospel, you need to read the Book of Mormon, other scriptures, everything you can find about Joseph Smith, and original material or works based on original materials taken from then contemporary sources. The bibliography from the new book I’m working on has a number of great sources worth considering.
But the Gospel is not study alone. The purpose of study is to inform our conduct, our thoughts and our words. What truths we learn need to be put into action and lived. It is in the living that the power of the Gospel is released. As we “do” what we are instructed, we find ourselves in company with angels and Heavenly messengers.
That process which Joseph Smith describes in the Joseph Smith-History found in the Pearl of Great Price, still works. For any soul who decides to try it.

Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day. Many of you will be getting a phone call from your missionary. My daughter will speak in Sacrament today. It’s a different daughter than the one who spoke for the last two years on Mother’s Day. Seems we can’t have it come without one of our daughters speaking.

My mother died years ago. I always remember her always on this date. She was a remarkable, stern, intelligent, spry, curious and faithful woman. Every morning at breakfast she would read a verse from the Bible to us, even though I did my best to feign disinterest. She persisted. Somehow, despite my own neglect of reading the Bible, when the missionaries taught me, I already knew most of the material they used from the Bible. Although she was not Mormon, her teaching was absolutely necessary for me to become what I am now.

She drug me to the Baptist Church every week, always hoping I’d become a Baptist. But the only church I ever joined was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That was troubling to a devout Baptist. I’ve often said that throughout my childhood she was afraid I would go to hell. Then I became a Mormon and removed all doubt.

If your mother is still here, take time for her today. And if she’s gone, like mine, then take some time for your wife as mother of your children. I’m planning to go prepare dinner and then clean up afterwards. (Even if I go to KFC and use paper plates.)

Book Now Available

The book based on this blog is now available for those who are interested. It can be ordered through Amazon and is titled Removing the Condemnation.

It is 568 pages and has no word index because I’m leaving this blog up for those who want to search for a word, topic, post or entry. The book is arranged by scriptural divisions. You can use this blog to locate a word or topic, find the scripture cite being discussed, and locate it within the book based on the scripture. It’s a little cumbersome, but adding a word index would have moved the book to well over 600 pages, at which point the cost would have gone up too much for my liking.

Let me reiterate that I do not make anything on what I write. That small portion of the book price which finds its way to me is donated to the church. There are, of course, those who publish, print, sell and ship books who do depend on the sale price for their living. I am a practicing attorney, and therefore do not.

I continue working to shepherd the book on restoration history along and hope it will be completed and available by fall, but there is no release date at present. I can only promise it will be out this year. 

On a completely unrelated topic, tomorrow is Mother’s Day. Don’t forget your wives, mothers and sisters who are mothers tomorrow.

The Books

The quote and cite checking on the latest manuscript is underway. I’m amused by how many volumes are on the cart, so to speak. There was a library required to write what I’ve been working on, and the book will relieve people who read it from the necessity of buying and reading shelves of material, if they don’t want to.
I am a little concerned about the length of the book because length increases pages, and pages increase cost. A book is not particularly reader-friendly if the font drops below 12, so it is not practical to reduce pages by taking the font to 10 because that makes it hard to read. A word index will be required because the content is such that readers are likely to want to be able to navigate through the material with an index. 
The first read-through edit has been done. This identified ambiguities, or things that would benefit from further clarification, or examples. This first edit results in rewrites to clarify. The result is always expanding the volume, because some clarifications add a paragraph to the text and several footnotes. This process is about 80% completed.
The second edit is only to check the citations and quotes for accuracy. Since there are over a thousand citations and quotes, this is somewhat tedious, but can be done simultaneously with the read-through, clarification process. This citation check is about 30% completed.

The final edit is a word/phrasing/punctuation/grammar edit which checks all the technical writing style. It will be done on a text that is accurate as to meaning and citations, and focus only on writing conformity to good technical standards.

When the editing is completed, the book is then typeset, a process which takes a few weeks. This makes the book look like a finished layout. Only after the typeset, is it printed for the first time. The printed product is called a “galley-proof” and will be marked up for printing errors and mistakes. Printed proofs are used to look for mistakes that are then marked in red. This is the “red-line” process. After the red lines are finished, the print layout is corrected to remove all the errors found. The finished, corrected version is then turned into a print-ready copy and submitted to the printer. The printer takes about three weeks to provide a print proof for review and approval. When it is approved, the book becomes available on Amazon.
The new book is drafted, but still has a great deal of technical work to be done before it will be ready. I thought it might be interesting to let people know this process. Mill Creek has suggested releasing it as a two-volume set to reduce cost for any single volume. But I think that is self-defeating, because then the cumulative cost of the two is greater than a single volume. It is possible, however, that the word index will lengthen it to the point a paperback printing of a perfect-bound book is not possible. Then the only choice would be to make it two volumes, or release it as a hardback-only printing. If it becomes hardback-only, the cost will rise dramatically. I’m not interested in making it costly, so that has no appeal to me.

We are looking into getting another printer to do hardback versions of all the books, because there have been requests for those.

On the bright side, they are shipping me a copy of the finished proof of Removing the Condemnation this week. When it arrives, I can approve and release it. So the blog book (titled Removing the Condemnation) will then be available in printed form. It will be over 525 pages in length, and would be increased by many more if a word index were provided. Therefore, there will be no word index for that book, but the blog will remain up and can be searched on-line to find something. Also, there will be no Kindle version of that book because the blog will remain up.

Easter

I was the speaker in my ward on Easter Sunday. Although the talk was not written I’m going to try to summarize what was said. (I never “write” a talk. Just take a list of scriptures with me, which on this occasion I never used.)

In the months before I entered law school, I worked in Provo alongside a fellow named Jay Wirig. Jay had been a missionary in the 70’s in Hong Kong. While there, he suffered a collapsed lung. He was diagnosed and then sent by the doctor to see a specialist to be treated. His companion took him to the specialist’s office, which was up a flight of stairs. That isn’t much of a problem unless you have a collapsed lung.
When he arrived in the office, an unpretentious, elderly, Chinese fellow – in a spartan office- used a stethoscope to listen all about his chest and back. Then the fellow got out a tool that looked like a phillips-head screw driver, but had four razor tips on the end. Without warning or anesthetic the doctor stabbed him in the upper chest. It hurt. Then he fished a tube in the hole he’d just made, attached the tube to a suction bottle, and within a short while the lung re-inflated and pain went away – except for the wound on the upper chest. The doctor has no bedside manner, did not bother explaining what he was going to do or why. He just proceeded without regard to the patient’s feelings to administer what would cure the ailment.
When Jay returned to home after the mission ended, he suffered recurring collapsed lungs. Eventually, they recommended surgery. The surgery required them to enter his chest cavity through his underarm. When you open on the side, rather than through the solar plexus, the rib spreader crushes cartilage, pulls muscles and ligaments, and inflicts a great deal of trauma. He was kept in the same post surgical ward as the heart patients. The much older heart patients had their chests opened through the far less traumatic means of opening and spreading at the solar plexus. Therefore, the elderly patients were feeling quite well post-surgery, while Jay was in agony. He took some grief from the older patients, because here was a 20-something year-old young man complaining while they were not.
Poor bedside manner by physicians can make the patients they treat feel anxious and alienated, even if the medical treatment they provide is curative. Even if they ultimately do what is right, good and healing, doctors can leave the patient feeling victimized rather than cared for.
Similarly, lawyers can be insensitive to client’s feelings, becoming far more attentive to legal principles, theories and arguments than the underlying people affected by the dispute. When I was in law school, I co-authored a book on family law. Because of that, I wanted to practice family law when I graduated. In Utah that means primarily divorces, although it includes the occasional adoption and guardianship. I took divorce cases for about three years before I just could not stand that area of law any longer. It was too bitter, too divisive and too inadequate. It would take another three years before I finished all the cases I had pending, but when finished, I stopped practicing family law. Although I got good results for my clients, I was unable to identify with their emotional needs.
Some years later, after my own divorce, I saw this in a whole different light. As a result of going through the legal process for my own divorce, I concluded the law should not be used to deal with family dissolution. It should be handled by mental health counselors, who have adequate sensitivity for the horror and pain experienced any time a family is broken apart by divorce.
We have a ward infested with lawyers and doctors.  I would venture, perhaps every one of us can look back and see those we have helped professionally, but who we have failed inter-personally. We may have solved the legal or medical problem, but at the price of injuring the spirit of those we helped.
When Christ suffered, He gained knowledge. His knowledge is not limited to the physical cure, but includes the spiritual and mental anguish of our disappointments, losses, failures, illnesses, injuries and limitations. He said very little about what He went through. The longest single explanation given by Him is in D&C 19. There He states:
 15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
Now this sounds like the Old Testament God. However, this is a warning based on the established laws by which all things operate. Sooner or later, all of us will come back into the presence of God. When we do we will either have repented and be prepared to be in His presence, or we will not have repented and we will withdraw in shame and agony. This is explained in Mormon 9: 3-5:
 
3Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws?
 4 Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.
 5 For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you.
Joseph Smith said a man is his own tormentor and accuser. That is, when we see ourselves as we truly are, and can reckon our own unworthiness from the presence of a “just and holy being,” we will recoil in horror at our filthiness. We will see how vain we have been.
It is this problem Christ is warning us to guard ourselves against. It is a plea from Him to repent, so we may remove from ourselves this burden of guilt. This is the greatest gift of the Atonement. All other benefits of His suffering pale in comparison with this compassionate result of His suffering for our sins.
Section 19‘s explanation continues:
 16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; 
 17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
 18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
This is describing a specific event and time.  The only Gospel which records the event is Luke.  Luke 22 tell us:
 
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, 
 42Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
 43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
For Him to suffer as we will if we choose not to repent, He was required to assume our sins, feel our anguish and unworthiness in the presence of a “just and holy God,” and then come back into harmony with Him. Hence the need for the “angel” to appear to Him from heaven. Unless He confronted exactly what we are called on to confront, He could not minister to us. He could not heal us. He could not take upon Him our sins.
And so He became as unworthy as any of us. No matter what malignant thing you have suffered, who you have abused or neglected, or what harm you have caused or endured, Christ has felt the anguish of that while in the presence of a “just and holy being.” He knew His sheep would flee while He suffered. But He also knew the Father would never leave Him:
John 16: 32: Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
Suffering the guilt of filthiness in the presence of His Father, He overcame and subdued all enemies to righteousness. He felt shame, but returned it to compassion. He felt agony and rejection, but overcame it with charity. By this means He gained the knowledge necessary to heal all our sins, remove all our guilt, and subdue all our anxieties in the presence of holiness. 
Isaiah says this:
Isa. 53: 11… by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
By bearing or taking upon Himself the guilt which divides us from the Father, Christ knows perfectly how to conduct you safely back to the Father’s presence.  As Christ explains in D&C 19, it requires us to “repent” — because if we fail to repent we must suffer, just as He did. Except our own suffering for our own sins is not curative. It is not redeeming. It is only justice. For us, we seek to claim mercy. Mercy comes from Christ’s Atonement which can and does render those who take part in it altogether clean.
His explanation in Section 19 continues:
19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

He has prepared it for us. But it is our choice to take hold upon it. For that, our personal decision to repent remains at the core.

Christ’s capacity to heal us was gained through the Atonement. He possesses compassion in another measure beyond us. For Him the power of His compassion exceeds mere sympathy. It is a power to heal. His compassion removes from us the burdens we feel.
Joseph Smith wrote from Liberty Jail about the injustice of the Saints’ suffering from the Missouri mob attacks. As he listed his complaints, and clamored for justice against his enemies, his mind became a blur of emotion and events. With “the avidity of lightening” his mind turned over and over again the injustice of it all. Then, when his mind could take it no more, Joseph fell into a detached state of profound openness to God’s voice. Then the voice of inspiration came to him and said:
 
7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
 8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
On the other side of this statement from God, Joseph was still in jail, under the same horrid conditions, with the same captors. But having heard the voice of God declaring, “peace be unto thy soul,” the compassion of Christ removed the pain of suffering. Now the conditions of his lamentable imprisonment became tolerable. For Christ’s compassion removes, empowers, enables, and enlivens. It frees us from the torments we suffer. Through Him we can bear all things.
Of all the Lord provided, an escape from our torments crowns His Atoning sacrifice. It empowers Him to liberate us from all our burdens. His compassion is a power, not a sentiment.

The game’s afoot

I was asked the following question:
 
“I ordered the book The Doctrine of Eternal Lives, but not yet received it.  I am a little caught off guard.  Is this teaching true?  I haven’t read enough to pray about it and I haven’t received the book to study it yet.  Can you tell me if it’s true?”

My response: 

I’ve never propounded this view, because whether true or not, it does not change a single thing about your life now. You have a challenge before you which can only be met by keeping every requirement established by the Lord for your redemption now.
 
I fear those who are most enamored by this teaching are only distracted by it. They speculate about their own past history (or histories), and don’t realize their present life is slipping into history without adequate attention being given to the moment-to-moment responsibilities we are called upon to meet every second of this life.
 
So, I leave it to you to decide if there’s something to it or not. But, I’d remind you, even if you decide there is truth in it, nothing should change. The game’s afoot and you have a challenge to live your life well NOW.

Learning and living

There is a considerable gulf between being aware of a teaching or doctrine and living it. I’ve noticed how it is often the case that we confuse our knowledge about an idea with the notion we are in possession of the attribute.

 
Learning doctrine and living it are two entirely different things.
 
The query by Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon, “Are ye stripped of pride?” is more than meaningful. (Alma 5: 28.) It is clarifying. The lens we see ourselves through is distorted as long as pride is part of our makeup.
 
I don’t know of any way to strip ourselves of pride other than to suffer setback, loss, difficulty, disappointment or anguish. I’ve never been able to do so on my own. Without suffering, I cannot see myself in the correct light.
 
There are only a few people I know who have received God’s greatest approval; who have had the heavens opened to them and heard the voice of God. Almost without exception, they suffer from physical ailments, struggle with aging and reduced physical abilities, have losses, or bear anguish. These burdens have benefited them. Without a strong, corrosive encounter with difficulty they could not strip themselves of pride.
 
For the most part, organized religion does not do what is necessary to break down the hard, prideful hearts of followers. The prophecy of Isaiah is as current as this moment:”That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” (Isa. 30: 9-11.)

We want to be taught a positive religion. We want praise. If something challenges our good self-image we think it unhelpful, negative and even devilish. But the truth is that until we have broken down before God, seen ourselves in our horrible weakness, foolishness and pride, and acquired a broken heart and contrite spirit, we will remain lying children that will not hear the law of the Lord. When our prophets will only speak smooth things to us we are only being deceived. We are compelling the Holy One of Israel to cease from among us.
 
But we do feel good about ourselves. We do think we prosper, and all is right.
 
More blessed, therefore, are those who will do the will of the Lord and not merely acknowledge it. Those who will break down their pride and realize they know nothing until they know God. When they meet Him, He will “reveal all things” to you (D&C 101: 32), because you will at last see yourself as you really are. (1 John 3: 2.)
 
Everything else is vanity.

Patience

I was recently in a discussion with a fellow regarding the topic of patience.
Moses spent 40 years in the Pharaoh’s courts. He apparently knew most of that time that he was to deliver Israel out of bondage. He killed the Egyptian, in part, because of his knowledge he would one day deliver them. Stephen explained, just prior to his martyrdom, the story of Moses. Stephen declared that Moses knew his calling from God made him the deliverer of Israel. (Acts 7: 24-25.) Moses presumed the Israelites would recognize him as the one promised to deliver them. He killed the Egyptian to identify himself to the Israelites. They were unimpressed, did not recognize him, and rejected his claim.
 
Seeing he had been rejected and betrayed by the Israelites, Moses fled for his life. (Acts 7: 26-29.)
 
Then, after another 40 years passed while he made a new life for himself in the wilderness, the “voice of the Lord” came to him and called him at last to perform as Israel’s deliverer. (Acts 7: 30-34.)
 
Moses knew his mission from his youth. But when he attempted on his own to begin that mission, his attempt failed. He was nearly killed for it and had to flee for his life.
 
After 40 years spent in the wilderness of Sinai, the time came and Moses was commissioned directly by the Lord to go forward.
 
WE control nothing. WE have no right to move the Lord’s hand. We may ask, but He alone commands. Timing is entirely the Lord’s. Although we may know what we have been assigned to do, it is the Lord alone who will decide when the assignment can be performed.
 
Christ wanted to begin His Father’s work at 12. (Luke 2: 41-49.)  It would be another 18 years before the Lord would be permitted to begin. In the interim, He “waited upon the Lord for the time of his ministry to come. And he served under his father, and he spake not as other men, neither could he be taught; for he needed not that any man should teach him. And after many years, the hour of his ministry drew nigh.” (JST-Matt. 3: 24-26.) Although fully prepared for “many years” before, the Lord “waited” on His Father for 18 years.
 
If Moses waited 40 years, and produced only disaster when he attempted to begin his mission early, and Christ waited “many years” for “the hour of his ministry to draw nigh,” then what possible reason can any of us give for refusing to submit in patience to the Lord’s timing for our  lives, mission, ministry, assignments and calling?
 
Among the many lessons of mortality, Christ learned patience. (Heb. 5: 8.) How arrogant must we be to presume we can tell better than the Lord when a blessing should come? How little understanding would we get if the Lord responded to our impatience and excused us from the necessity to first learn this noble trait of patience?

Elimination

I was asked about elimination of penalties in the temple ceremonies. It made me think of the following:
 
There was a general unease about the use of penalties. The solution was to eliminate them. Perhaps if temple goers were instructed in the value and the significance of the penalties, they  would not have been uncomfortable with them. They may have even been kept in the endowment ceremony.
 
In an abstract way, God sending His Son to be killed is an idea that could cause unease.  However, we’ve made a great effort to study the Lord’s sacrifice, to understand it and appreciate it. His sacrifice is not viewed as offensive, but rather as the source of gratitude, even awe, about what the Father and the Son were willing to do to rescue us from eternal disappointment.
 
Similarly, there are reasons to value, even cherish the penalties which were once a part of the temple rites. But not everyone considered their importance. A significant number of active saints just associated them with Masonic rituals, thought they were borrowed anyway, and never attributed anything more to them.
 
Old Testament covenant making was always associated with cutting. A marking, or cut, upon sacred clothing anciently also testified to the willingness to undergo a penalty if a vow or covenant with God was not fulfilled. God’s covenant with Abraham involved God swearing by His own life (for He could swear by nothing higher); the covenant being sealed by the divided carcases of sacrificed animals. (See Gen. 15: 8-21; Heb. 6: 13-15.) That great horror of darkness (Gen. 15: 12) was a revelation of outer darkness into which God would descend if He failed to keep the covenant. The burning lamp (Gen. 15: 17) which passed between the slaughtered, divided carcases was the Lord’s act sealing the covenant and swearing by His own life to fulfill all He promised to Abraham.
 
We may have lost respect and understanding, but that does not alter truth. Our loss of light does not make God’s brilliance any less. It just reduces our own association with, and understanding of Him. Today we seem pretty content to have others speak to God for us rather than to undertake the fearful responsibilities associated with coming into the presence of a living God. (Heb. 10: 31.)

And so we settle for inspirational ditties in lieu of doctrine.

 
Pleasantries in place of repentance.
 
Humor in place of sobriety.
 
We prefer our guides to be blind, because we think they hold onto the handrail better. Of course, when we proclaim them to be the handrail, it doesn’t matter what path they take any longer, does it?
 
We’ve become (or perhaps stayed) “too low, too mean, too vulgar” to claim we are the people of God –as Joseph Smith put it from Liberty Jail.
 
We’ll all arrive in Hell stained with deplorable sins of every magnitude but all with a good self image. The lessons there will be titled: 

“Why Fire is Good for Us”
“Burning Shows God’s Love to Us”
“When We Feel Pain, We Get Gain”
“God Loves a Fiery People”
“Odds Are We’re All Glorious”
“Burning Will Keep Us Bright”
“The Fire Belongs to the Refiner”
“Fissile not Fizzle”
“We are the Refining and Becoming Refined”
 
I never took offense at the penalties. I regret their elimination. However, I attended the temple so often that they are indelibly etched into my mind. Even today, I cannot attend without walking through in my mind the remainder of the covenant. They assure me of the exactness expected of us when we enter into a covenant with God. I like that reminder. It helps me to hold myself up to scrutiny which I might not otherwise expect. Though I fail, it is not because I approach the altar of God with anything less than complete respect for Him and His ways. My own impurity cannot detract from His complete purity. My weakness does not limit His forgiveness and mercy. But I have never detected in Him the least particle of imperfection, darkness or unholiness.