Be careful what you ask for

It was weird, really.  This guy went to visit with God in His House, but when he got there he couldn’t see Him.  I mean he couldn’t “see” Him.  God was there.  They both were there.  But God, as it turned out, the guy was unable to detect His presence.
He went to the optometrist and got his vision checked.  Everything worked.  So he was left to wonder why it was he couldn’t see God.
Some study later he concluded that although God was made of matter (Luke 24: 39), He must be more refined or pure, and therefore not detectable by normal eyesight.  (D&C 131: 7.)  Only “purer” eyes could see him.  So he used Visine, returned to see Him, and still no luck.
Well, he decided to take up the matter in prayer and offered this supplication to the Almighty:  “I’m beginning to doubt your love for me.  Tell you what, you show yourself to me and I’ll know you love me.  But it you stay outside my field of vision then I know you’re avoiding me and therefore don’t love me.”  God loves everyone, see.  And so the request was framed in a way to force God to make Himself visible.  The man thought himself clever.
Well, God decided to take the fellow up on the request, as He always does.  First the man’s house burned down, then his business failed, then he got cancer.  As he was in the hospital his family abandoned him, and his friends all thought he was cursed by God, and stayed away.  So he waited out the final days of his mortality alone, in pain, and without possessions.  
As a charity case the hospital treated him with some neglect, giving him many hours to suffer alone in his bed.  Suffering brought about meditation and prayer.
It was during the last few hours of his life, as he lay fevered and in pain, that his burdens overwhelmed him and he sought in desperate humility for relief from God.  His prayer was:  “Oh Lord, I know I have done less than I should have with the things I have been given.  I long to part this life clean of my failings.  Can you forgive me, a wretched sinner, for my many failings?”  He expected little.  Hoping only to salve his conscious by this prayer.
The Lord, who had been in the room for days, suddenly came into view.  Startled by this appearance, the man asked: “Is it you, Lord?”
“Yes” came the reply.
“Can you forgive me?”
“Oh, I’ve done that long ago.  Yes, you are certainly forgiven.  I’m here for you to see I love you.  You asked for that in your prayer a year ago and I’ve been working so that your eyes could become more refined.  Now, at last they are.”
Now the man could see what great love the Lord truly had for him.  For in the extremity of his dying hour, he had a companion to comfort him.
He died in joy.  The nurse thought it was the morphine.

What lack I yet?

I was asked this question:
“Do you know with surety IN ADVANCE of doing some incredibly hard sacrifice that it is the Lord asking it of you, or do you come to know that it is His will AS you do it?”
My response:
You will know with absolute certainty that the request came from the Lord.
The request will be difficult, or a sacrifice.
HOWEVER, whether the person recognizes at the moment or only in hindsight that it was required for them to develop the faith necessary for redemption is not universal.  Some know at the time, some only know in hindsight.  What is absolutely universal is that when the test has been passed, the faith exists.  When it does, it will be enough for redemption and the promise of eternal life.
Joseph knew he had the promise of eternal life (as recorded in D&C 132: 49) before he went to Carthage to die.  He knew he was going to die.  Death was not his great challenge, but the physical ratification of the faith which already existed in him.  The earlier trials had been enough to prove him and put that power within him.  His death was an extension of existing faith and knowledge.

The order of things is established and can be known.  The details of how it unfolds in individual lives will be specific to the individual.  Whether the person realizes the final great test is underway or not will depend on the person.  I did not.  I only came to realize in hindsight what was underway.

One of the parables in Ten Parables shows how the heavens can interact with man, but man be unaware of the full agenda conducted.  I have referred to that tenth parable several times. By the way, that parable is NOT a description of the test required to obtain the faith for redemption.  It is just a parable about how heaven works to provide missing virtue or grace to a life that is lacking something, but still worthy of preservation.

Charge to Twelve

This is really a “comment” in response to a question belonging to the earlier post on Elder Packer’s Testimony.  However, it was too long to put in there as a reply comment, so will be put up here as a blog entry.  It is an interruption.  Sorry.  There is a fellow asking for it, and I delayed for so long that I feel I owe him a response.  I am really writing this to him.

Taken from Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power.  (A good book by Quinn.  He’s written some bad ones, but this is not one of them.  I think he was stinging from criticism and in this book proved he was still a good historian.)

“In 1835 Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey emphasized to the newly organized Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that their calling was charismatic, evangelical and also institutional.  Of the three, the charismatic definition of the apostleship was the earliest, going back to 1829.  Cowdrey told the new apostles: ‘It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven for yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God.’  Then he continued: ‘That is more than the testimony of an angel … Never cease striving until you have seen God, face to face.’  Cowdrey acknowledged that most of the new apostles had depended on visions of others for their faith and suggested that some might even be skeptical of visions.  Thus it was not necessary to see Jesus to be chosen as an apostle.  However, once ordained each man had a lifelong obligation to seek this charismatic experience: a vision of deity.  Some apostles from 1835 onward reported having had such visions before their ordination.  Apostles in the nineteenth century referred publicly to their visionary witness.

“… some LDS apostles, including Orson Pratt and Heber J. Grant, felt inadequate because they had not had such encounters.

“In the twentieth century, charismatic apostleship changed in several ways.  First, the ‘charge’ at ordination no longer obligated apostles to seek visions.  Second, the Presidency and apostles began down-playing the importance of these experiences.  Third, apostles began speaking of a non-visionary ‘special witness of Christ’ by the Holy Ghost in terms which allowed listeners to conclude that the apostles referred to an actual appearance of deity.  Fourth, apostles were reluctant to discuss their visionary experiences publicly.  Fifth, evidence indicates that a decreasing number of apostles experienced visions before or after ordination.
“The change in the apostolic ‘charge’ apparently began with the appointment of Reed Smoot as an apostle in 1900.  General church authorities had long regarded him as ‘reliable in business, but [he] has little or no faith.’  President Lorenzo Snow blessed him to receive ‘the light of the Holy Ghost’ so that he could bear testimony of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith.  That was an extraordinary departure from the apostolic charge as given since 1835.
“…Twentieth-century apostles began applying this ‘as if’ approach to their spoken testimonies.  Usually this involved wording their ‘special witness’ of Christ in a way that encouraged listeners to assume the leader has had a more dramatic encounter with the divine than actually claimed.”
The full discussion ranges from pages 1 through 6 and would require too much typing to do it here.  But the above, taken only from pages 1-2, gives you some more particulars than my brief reference before.  The whole discussion is documented with references from the Church’s archives where the writer reviewed the transcripts of the actual ordinations, etc.  They are all set out in the footnotes, which are omitted from the quote I have excerpted above.

Why wait?

The question was asked as to whether receiving the Second Comforter is necessary before you die, or if the afterlife supplies an adequate substitute.  This requires the evaluation of two separate concepts.
First, the Second Comforter means a visit or personal appearance to someone by Christ.  However, the appearance is not as important as the ministry of the Lord.  He “comforts” those to whom He appears.  He will “not leave you comfortless, he will come to you.”  (John 14: 18.)  Christ and His Father will “make their abode with you.” (John 14: 23.)  Meaning that the Son will bring you to the Father, and the Father will receive you as His son.  This appearance is not merely “in the heart,” but is an actual appearance or visit.  (D&C 130: 3.)
However, the purpose of the ministry, the reason for the “abode” with you, the “comfort” that is promised by the Lord, involves the promise of eternal life.  The promise of eternal life has been made an equivalency by the Lord in a revelation given in modern times.  That is, the end or result of the ministry of Christ as the Second Comforter is to have the promise of eternal life.  In a modern revelation the word of the Lord was given to a group of Latter-day Saints in which the promise of their exaltation was extended to them, and the Lord made this the equivalent to “another Comforter.”  
Here is what was said:

“Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John. This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom; Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son— .”  (D&C 88: 3-5.)

Therefore, as a singular appearance, should the Lord appear to you, you have received the Second Comforter.  However, His ministry is to bring you to the point at which you can receive the promise of eternal life, membership in the Church of the Firstborn, and the promise of the Celestial Kingdom as your eternal inheritance.  In the fullest sense, therefore, the final promise of exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom can also be called the Second Comforter, since that is the result of His taking up His abode with you.

The second concept is really a question: Would it be preferable to have the promise of eternal life now than to die uncertain as to your eternal state?  If so, then why would you waste your life now in hopes that some other opportunity may exist at some other stage?  
If the answer to these questions are “yes” then the original question is simply unimportant. Why wait? The opportunity given to you now should not be forfeited, nor should the work be delayed.  Don’t dismiss the Lord’s offered assistance for what you can achieve in mortality for the possibility of something in the after-life.

“of strong faith and a firm mind”

Consider this:
“[N]either have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.  For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness. And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil 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.”  (Moroni 7: 29-31.)
Note that angels show themselves to those “of strong faith and a firm mind.”  Also, that the visit will require them to whom such visits come to “bear testimony of [Christ]” as a result of those visitations.
From Joseph Smith:
“A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God.”  (TPJS p. 137.)
Note that the “imagination” is not useful in gaining communion with God.  Fanciful, flowery and heated imaginative thoughts will detract, not contribute, to knowing Him.  The only way is to possess the same mental state as Moroni refers to – careful, sober, solemn, deep thoughts are required.  The mind must reach into heaven as well as the darkest abyss.  The opposition of things in this creation and the balance of those opposites will cause you to encounter the worst as you strive to enjoy the best. All is kept in balance throughout the process.
A person can’t imagine they have salvation.  They must “know” they possess it.  The heavens should declare it to them.  When the heavens bestow this knowledge upon a person, it is an anchor to their soul and they will never fall.  But until then, a person needn’t suppose they possess something which God has not declared by His own voice to be theirs.

True teachers will labor to help you understand how real, deliberate, attainable, and necessary this process is to engage in.  They will not ask you to follow them.  They will teach you how to follow God, and obtain from God knowledge of salvation.  False teachers will distract you. They will tell you all is right, that there is enough good being done in your life to merit God’s favor, and that it is not necessary for you to do more than belong to a privileged group.

You cannot possess the knowledge which will save you until you have learned for yourself that God lives, and that He has promised to you eternal life.

Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day.

The single greatest institution is also the most successful one in all the earth’s history.  Mothers have kept civilization together from the beginning.

Fathers have been far less valiant in history than have mothers.  Fathers have forsaken their responsibilities to bear priesthood and perpetuate the Gospel with such regularity that the history of mankind is predominately a history of apostasy.  Mothers however, have continued to bear, raise, nurture and love their children.
God bless those who are our mothers or the mothers of our children.  Today  we should honor them in thought and deed.

(I’m doing all the cooking today.  And all the dishes, too.  I think I’ll use TGI Fridays to get them done…)

Micah Chapter 3

O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment? 

Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones;  Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.

Then shall they cry unto the Lord, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings. 

Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.  
Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. 

Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God. 

But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. 

Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity.
They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. 

The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us. 

Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.


One of the very substantial differences in the way we are currently evolving is almost unnoticed.  I’ve tried to capture the difference in what I’ve written by using the terms “movement” in contrast to “institution.”  Those terms help to explain the notion, but it is really something more than that.  I’m going to use a different way to explain it in this post, and see if I can get a little closer to the real underlying process which is now underway.

The original development under Joseph Smith was something quite distinct from all existing faiths.  It was not just a new religion.  It was a wholesale resurrection of an ancient concept of “Peoplehood.”  It was radical.  Its purpose was to change diverse assortments of people, from every culture and faith, with every kind of ethnic and racial composition, into a new kind of People.  They were to be united under the banner of a New and Everlasting Covenant, resurrecting the ancient Hebraic notion of nationhood and Peoplehood.  No matter what their former culture was, they were adopted inside a new family, a covenant family.  Status was defined not be virtue of what you believed or confessed, but instead by what covenants you have assumed.

What returned through Joseph Smith was not a religion, nor an institution, nor merely a faith.  It was instead the radical notion that an ancient covenant family was being regathered into a separate People.  This return to ancient roots brought with it, as the hallmark of its source of power, the idea of renewed covenants that brought each individual into direct contract with God.  It did not matter what they believed.  It only mattered that they accepted and took upon them the covenant.

Once inside the new People, there was a new culture where ancient ties returned to bind the hearts together.  There was a dietary regimen where the People were reminded at every meal that they were distinct and apart from the world.  There was the gift of sacred clothing, in which they were reminded of their separateness by the things put upon their skin.  There were financial sacrifice of tithes, gathered from the People to help the People.  The fortunes of all were intertwined with each other by the gathering of tithes and offerings into the Bishop’s storehouse to help the poor and needy among the People.  It was NOT a religion.  It was a People.  It was to become The People.  And The People were required to extend to all others the same equal opportunity to become also part of the covenant.

This is different from a religion.  It was cultural, personal, and as distinct as a Jew views himself to be from a Christian.  To a Jew, religion is a part of the equation.  They share blood with other Jews, and therefore even if a Jew is not attending weekly synagogue meetings, they retain their status as one of the Jews.

Religion on the other hand is merely a brand name for a sentiment.  One can be a Presbyterian or a Lutheran and still belong to the same Elks Lodge.  There is nothing really distinct between the two, other than where they meet for an hour or two on Sundays.  Apart from that, they identify culturally as “Protestants” and brothers.  There is no great distinction, and the theological differences which separate them are so trivial that a doctrinal disagreement between them is unlikely.

Mormonism has taken a direct course-change where the original elements of separate Peoplehood are now viewed as an impediment to wider acceptance.  The distinctions are being minimized in order to undo the conflicts that marred the relationship between Mormonism and the larger American society.  The lessons learned from those conflicts have led to the idea that we must become more actively engaged in public relations.  Our commitment to the public relations process has informed us that we have to become less distinct to get along with others.  We need to drop our misunderstood and offensive claims to distinctions that claim superiority, and urge instead the things that we share with the Presbyterians and Lutherans.  The ultimate end of that process is to make it just as meaningless and controversial a thing for a Mormon to belong to and fellowship with the Elks Lodge as it is for the Presbyterian and Lutheran.  This is one of the great goals of the Correlation process and the public relations effort of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The outreach at present is merely an attempt to get people to accept the church as another form of Historic Christianity, claiming equality among peers, without any desire to confront or cause conflict.  The notion of Peoplehood is being suppressed.  Any claims of superiority of the faith are suppressed.

Enthusiastic scholarship is working alongside the larger public relations effort.  The work of Robinson at BYU, for example, in his reconciliatory book, (co-authored with a member of the Evangelical-based Denver Theological Seminary faculty) “How Wide the Divide,” made an attempt to discuss Evangelical Protestant notions alongside Mormon notions and to minimize any differences.  The underlying presumption is that we are both merely religions.  As fellow religions we share an attempt to come to God through teachings we believe in and scriptural texts we share.

Reconciliation between what Joseph Smith restored and other religions should never have been a goal.  Joseph’s restoration was not a church.  It was not a religion.  It was not a bundle of beliefs.  By trying to reach a common footing among other mainstream Christian faiths we have to first abandon the very different footing upon which Joseph established the Restoration.

The original Restoration could never be like any of “them.”  They were churches.  Joseph restored Peoplehood.  To go from what Joseph restored to a common footing requires us to first abandon the concept that we are neither a new form of Christianity, nor a return to Jewish antecedents.  We are something quite different from either.  We are an Hebraic resurrection of God’s People, clothed with a covenant, and engaged in a direct relationship with God that makes us distinct from all other people.

When we view ourselves as a Christian faith, we deconstruct the very foundation upon which we began.  We aren’t that.  We can never be part of Historic Christianity.  And yet that has been our front-and-center effort through the focus on public relations and the scientific study of what words we should use to advance our acceptance in the world.

Read the earliest of Mormon materials and you will be shocked by how differently they viewed themselves from how we now view ourselves.  They were building a separate People.  They invited all to come and partake of the covenant, renounce their prior errors, and return to living as one of God’s New and Everlasting Covenant holders.

To rid ourselves of that tradition, we need to assume the elements of a typical religion.  Rather than defining ourselves as a separate People, we turn to defining a set of beliefs.  Establishing an orthodoxy and then insisting upon uniformity of belief to belong to the orthodox religion is the way of the Catholics and Protestants.  They are bound together NOT by their peoplehood but instead by their confessions of faith.  So as you de-emphasize our Peoplehood, you must then begin to emphasize and control an orthodox statement or confession of faith.

These dynamics are worth very careful thought.  There is an actual consensus among church leaders that this is the right way to proceed.  A discussion about it among Latter-day Saints has not even begun at the rank and file level.  The transition takes place over decades, and unless someone first creates a vocabulary for the problem, we don’t even have the capacity to discuss or notice what is happening and why.

This post has gone on too long.  Not really a blog post subject.  It’s a book-length subject.  I make fleeting comments about something that would take pages to develop.  But I doubt I’ll write the needed book.  Instead I will try to bring the idea into the consciousness of you good people and let it percolate about.  Surely some of you can do something about it.

Correlating the Chaos

Despite what I wrote yesterday about the process of correlation, there is of course another argument in favor of the process.  That argument would be based on the exact same history of the transition from Primitive Christianity into Historic Christianity.  That is, by the Fourth Century those claiming to be part of the original faith had become so divided that they were actually killing one another over doctrinal disputes.  They had a riot in Antioch wherein competing congregations went to battle over possession of the synagogue where they met.  An actual street fight, people getting killed and all. 

So, rising from rancor of doctrinal dispute into a singular set of beliefs which could later become “orthodox” and all else be branded “heterodox” or, with time, “heretical” was essential just as Constantine knew it would be.  Without there being a singular set of beliefs the faith which would eventually sweep the European Continent and beyond could not have brought any unity at all.  So it was a good thing, right?

That is the argument for.  It is quite compelling, actually.  I do not underestimate its strength.  However, it simply does not persuade me.  Admittedly the violence was foolish and wrong.  But the violent sects were never Christ’s anyway.  They never got what He was teaching.  Let them run their violent course and, in time, they will never attract a large audience anyway.

Additionally, the definition of “orthodoxy” was not based upon truth or revelation, it was based only upon what was practical.  Constantine never concerned himself with the truth.  The legacy of that error lives on.  The descendants of that original council in Nicea all condemn us as “Non-Christian” because we reject their creeds, beginning with the Nicean Creed, which defined God.

Inside the Restoration there was an order which allowed tolerance (as Joseph originally envisioned it) of divergent views of doctrine.  A consensus wasn’t necessary.  Only knowing that we were united as a people was necessary.  How we viewed different subjects or doctrines was to be left to each individual.  The way such people became “one” is something I’ve already explained in this post.

We’ve had healthy and meaningful doctrinal disagreements inside the Church without any ill effects.  President Brigham Young believed that God knew everything, was not progressing in knowledge, and that if he were progressing in knowledge it would make God’s plans vulnerable to overthrow by something which He did not understand.   Elder Orson Pratt thought God was progressing in every respect, including gaining knowledge.  He thought the principle of “eternal progression” was the greatest joy and happiness and God enjoys the benefits of that great joy.  For him it was a principle of joy.  These two never agreed.

Widstoe was in disagreement with Joseph Fielding Smith.  Publication of Man, His Origin and Destiny was nearly a seditious act by Joseph Fielding Smith and incurred the rancor of President McKay.  President McKay shut the thing down at that point and wouldn’t let either one publish further by adopting a rule that no-one who is a General Authority is permitted to publish without permission of the First Presidency.

We survived.  We tolerated.  There wasn’t a group of violent Widstoeites attacking the Smithites to overtake the Pioneer Ward building.  We were civil.  I do not think it did anything more than raise the blood pressure of the High Priests’ Groups.  Something I believe preferable to the somnambulism of that assortment we see today.  Doctrinal differences sort themselves out by persuasion, pure knowledge and love.  Eventually, when the problem or confusion becomes acute and we need an answer, then we can all unite and go to the Lord in prayer, seeking mercy from Him for the dispute we cannot ourselves solve.  Then, through revelation, we can come to a consensus as we hear from Him.  We don’t use that model very often.

Right now the Correlation Department is actively polling to give updated information to the Brethren about what policies, programs and procedures are effective.  I have a lengthy questionaire at my home to fill out right now.  I don’t know if I’m going to do it.  I’ve commented on that process and Elder Holland’s reference to it before.  I think it is more dangerous to use the polling and focus group approach to manage the diversity of opinions than it is to tolerate them.  

What loss is it to us if the church simply refuses to take a position on the Gay Rights Ordinance; while some Saints believe it to be appropriate and others believe it to be the sinful prelude to Sodom and judgments of God.  These opinions can be discussed, debated and people can make up their own minds.  Joseph’s position of tolerance worked, when we tried it.  When we had keen and publicly expressed disagreements on doctrine between the First Presidency and members of the Twelve it did not harm us at all.  It made us more interesting.

Now that we have chosen to establish “orthodoxy” we are risking the freedom to be individually accountable for our beliefs before God.  We have also lost doctrinal adventurism.  This is because of our critics.

You see one of the harms of tolerating divergent opinions about doctrine is the clamor of the critics.  They take a quote here and juxtapose it with another quote there, and say that Mormonism is a bundle of confusion.  We targeted that in the Correlation process and have attempted to entirely stamp out the divergent or disagreeing doctrinal statements or positions.  We want “oneness” in a different way than Paul suggested it in the post I referenced above.  In doing so, we have conceded the point to our critics, and now make unity of doctrine a greater virtue than freedom to progress and develop our own understanding by degrees. 

Sometimes what you understand at one point is not what you understand at another.  Hugh Nibley, for example, said nothing he wrote ten years earlier would be binding upon him because he continued to discover and learn.  We would be benefited from a similar approach all the way from the top to the bottom.  New converts will, by degrees, leave their earlier faith traditions behind them.  Or they won’t.  Instead they will bring with them an understanding from those traditions which have a resonance with the Book of Mormon or something in the Doctrine and Covenants which had escaped all our notice before.  And we will all be “added upon” by tolerating their view, even embracing their view.  Freedom always pays dividends which control cannot.

Well, I’m not trying to solve the issue.  I’m only trying to raise the issue.  It is important.

Constantine and Correlation

I was asked in several ways how I reconcile some modern trends in the Church.  One question was phrased this way:

“Hearkening back to Elder Poleman’s talk on the differences between the Church and the Gospel. It’s often stated (overstated?) that the church is the Kingdom of God in various meetings and most members conflate the Church with the Gospel (i.e. they are synonymous terms these days).  Could you discuss the original differences (as intended in the scriptures) between “church” and “gospel”? Is church, as we currently know it (big meetinghouses, 3 hour blocks, weekly attendance, etc.), the same thing as “church” in the times of the Old and New Testaments?”
Here’s how I reconcile it all:  I don’t.  What I do is reflect upon history.  Here are a few of my ruminations:
Christianity became diverse quite early on.  Almost immediately after the closing of the New Testament, the diversity began to metastasize.
There were those who viewed Christ as a normal man, who had been “adopted” by the Father at the time of His baptism.  These were called “Adoptionists.”
There were those who believed that Christ was just a normal man, but that He had a divine spirit inhabit Him temporarily from the time of His baptism until the time of His crucifixion, at which time the divine spirit left.  It was incomprehensible to them that God would suffer and die.  Therefore, they developed a theory in which He did not.

There were those who believed that Christ was a transcendent spirit, and never corporeal as other men were.  They believed that He manifested Himself as if he were a mortal, but never truly was mortal.  They did not believe it possible for God to become incarnate.

There were those who believed that Christ taught a secret Gospel to His insiders, and that the public teachings were misleading. It was the private “gnosis” that would save you.
There were those who believed that Christ was a separate and distinct being from God the Father, and that the result was that there were two gods and not one.

There were those who argued that if they were separate then it violated the idea of “monotheism” and therefore, God the Father, Christ and the Holy Ghost had to be one, single person.  However incomprehensible that may be, there was only one being, manifesting itself in three forms.

There were those who believed priesthood authority was immutable, and once conferred it could not be lost no matter what the conduct of the person ordained.  That is, authority was not dependent at all upon righteous behavior, and even a thoroughly wicked man, once ordained, held priesthood authority no matter what he did.
There were those who believed that priesthood authority was entirely dependent upon faithful living, and that a failure to live according to God’s will terminated the authority of that man.  This movement was named after a North African priest named Arius who remained devoted during the persecutions and was blinded and crippled by those who were seeking to destroy the Christian faith.
Well, by 324 AD the whole thing had become riddled with controversies and sects.  Therefore, when King Constantine, who had battled his way into sole ownership of the Roman Emperor’s seat, determined to adopt a state religion (he chose  Christianity as that state religion) he presumed he was taking a harmonious, consistent faith.  Upon learning that there were strong internal Christian disputes, some of which led to violence between professors of the various beliefs, he decided that he needed to put down the disputations.
In a fit of practicality, King Constantine convened the great council at Nicea, and summoned all the Bishops of Christianity to a single gathering.  At the gathering he demanded they come to an agreement on what the Christian faith believed.  He could not tolerate disputes leading to violence in the newly adopted Roman state religion.
This council at Nicea was the first attempt at correlation.  The result had little to do with the truth.  It had to do with peace for the Roman state.  Constantine himself did not believe in the doctrine. He believed in the effectiveness of the faith as a basis for political power, domestic security and ease of ruling a diverse population scattered about on three continents.  When the results were achieved, he then exiled the handful of dissenters and ‘voila, Historic Christianity began.  That Historic Christianity remained correlated and of a singular view until the split between Constantinople and Rome at about 1000 AD.  It became further uncorrelated in the 1500’s with Martin Luther.
Once you start letting doctrinal disputes develop you wind up with a split empire, and internal loss of government. The original effort was imposed at the tip of a sword.  When there were dissenters, they were exiled, or eventually made “heretic.” When the final step was taken, and the intellectual buttress supplied by Bishop Ambrose’s arguments, it at last became possible for “heresy” or “heretics” to be snubbed out by murder.  The persecuted became the persecutors. They were justified by the change, having a correlated promise that the faith ratified the reasons that allowed you to persecute, torture and kill those who strayed from the “one true, Catholic faith.”  After all, if you could reclaim them merely by torture of the body, how much better than allowing them to lapse into eternal torment by being consigned to hell.  An endless “Hell” also being an invention of the Historic Christian faith.  So it was really good to do that burning, racking, thumb-dislocating, flaying, stuff after all.  All in a day’s work to convert the wayward soul back to Christ.
Elder Lee, while still a member of the Twelve, began the correlation process in the LDS Church.  It was his crowning achievement when he became President.  Now everything is in harmony. That harmony has come at the price of developing the internal idea of “apostasy” based upon the doctrine we believe in.  A test which was altogether alien to Joseph Smith.  Joseph said, when a brother Brown was being threatened with excommunication for his error in doctrine: 
“I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.”  

The price we have paid to date for correlation is a fraction of what will ultimately be paid, if history informs us of anything.  It is now possible to be a “Mormon heretic” for believing doctrine which someone else has determined should be discarded — a thing which was unimaginable at the time of Joseph Smith, even as a result of an actual error in doctrine.  For Joseph, the way to reclaim some errant Saint was, well, confined to the means permitted by revelation:  “only by persuasion, by long–suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.”  (D&C 121: 41-42.)   Today that has been expanded to excommunication for doctrinal errors.  When such a thing takes place, years go by before such a person is re-welcomed into the church, and then only after receiving permission from the First Presidency.  So the correlation of doctrine has slipped already into a coercive use of authority within the church.  Instead of persuading using better doctrine to correct an error, we punish and silence them through a method that was alien to the original pattern.

History is an interesting thing to study.  Particularly at the beginnings of any religious movement.  It always progresses from movement to institution.  Once it becomes an institution, as King Constantine realized, the institution itself must protect itself against disorder.  That protection comes, as history shows, at the price of contradicting the original premise upon which the movement began.

The ironies of this are always astonishing.  But somehow those who live through it never realize the irony while it is happening.  Only later, as it has taken its full bloom in torture, killing, flaying, racking and destroying the lives of people does the original, root moments in which the errors began to creep in get recognized.  Those making the errors in the first place are celebrated for centuries as “Saints” and “Popes.”

The history of religion, generally, is a transition between the movement stage, where there is always a charismatic or gifted core from which it springs, to the institution stage.  Unfortunately for the institution, gifted folks aren’t usually good businessmen.  (Joseph Smith, for example, had a pending petition for bankruptcy when he was killed.)  Once the movement gets underway, it gets co-opted by businessmen, managers and captains of industry.  Folks like Emperor Constantine, who if nothing else was a consummate manager.

Managers crave order.  They dislike the chaos of the Spirit, which is always unstable, unpredictable, and uncorrelateable.  (John 3: 8.)  As a result, they change a movement into an institution.  Institutions require order.  The nature of an institution requires managers, bankers, businessmen and generals. They consider their “product” to be religion, and they manage and sell their product as if they were General Motors, or the Roman Empire.  The kind of freedom that gave birth to the movement must be disciplined, marshaled and controlled.
Our faith is in a complete internal opposition at the moment. To become a Mormon, if you aren’t born one, you must go through a conversion process which is grounded in the bedrock of revelation.  You must pray and ask God if the Book of Mormon is true, and then you are to get an answer from God.  We expect you to have a revelatory experience to join.  But, once you have joined, then the scope of your revelatory experience is strictly limited.  You must NOT question any leader, nor ever expect God to tell you something about any subject over which you do not preside, nor to ever realize through the inspiration of the Spirit that there are foolish, vain and wrong notions circulating about.  You must NOT notice that Deseret Book has become a repository of false and foolish books parading sentimentality as if it were salvific.  You should never consider God’s revelations to you as something to be honored apart from what the institution says, does, does not do, or does poorly.  Indeed, the voice of God will come to you solely and exclusively through the institution.  If you need to know something, then the institution will tell you.  Unless you hear your orders from it, then stay as you are.

We are at a cross-roads.  At the moment the movement is ending.  The institution is at its pinnacle of complete triumph.  When the process concludes, it will not welcome converts who will challenge the basic assumptions that they, having received revelation to come on-board in the first place, must now quash the Spirit which raises so many questions about how things are proceeding.  Then to be Mormon will mean to be correlated.  Correlated body and soul.  An institutional man.  No longer distinct, unique, or creative.  Disciplined, orderly, subservient, and under control. Then the institution will become a remarkably appealing tool for not only the captains of industry, but also the heads of state.  It will become an almost irresistible tool to be employed as part of governing the world.  And so history repeats itself.

Well, these direful lessons are ones which can be either relived or avoided.  But to avoid them people who are inside the process must step outside their own times and context and to view everything within a larger picture.  I don’t think bankers, businessmen and lawyers do that often.  Indeed, the well educated who lack inspiration are not qualified.  Only the meek.  Only the humble.  As Nephi described us: “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.”  (2 Ne. 28: 14.)  That was the group to whom I dedicated my book The Second Comforter. 

Then I pull myself back into the present reality, and let it all wash over me like a wave.  I take a deep breath and I realize how grateful I am for any bit of goodness I can find anywhere.  And in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I can find a lot of good.  And I count my blessings and rise determined to remain a true, faithful, active Latter-day Saint throughout my life; and to die as an active and contributing fellow member.  But reconciling everything, well, I’m told that’s not my calling to do anyway.  And I’m grateful to sustain other men to grapple with the management of this historic trend, fraught as it is with the damnation or exaltation of the souls of men.  Particularly when they claim to speak in the Lord’s name.  For them there is only an “on/off” button. They can’t have it any other way.  Either they speak truthfully in the name of the Lord and with His authorization, or they use His name in vain.  I certainly wouldn’t want to be put into that spot.  So I gratefully sustain those who rush to fill the offices when asked to do so.  As one who is simply unfit to serve in such a call, I thank God for my disqualification.

This is why I didn’t like it

I was asked by someone who liked the book Odds Are You’re Going To Be Exalted, why I disliked it.  My response is as follows:
I suppose first because it is filled with false doctrine and sentimental rubbish.  It is unanchored in anything other than pure sentiment, contradicts the scriptures, and attributes motives to Heavenly Parents which are held by the author. It is worse than useless, it is misleading.
The numerosity argument takes groups who could not possibly be the audience for his book and makes them the statistical weight from which he reaches his conclusion. He takes folks who lived during the Nephite centuries of peace, the City of Enoch, and those who will live during the Millennium (whose numbers he speculates to be in the billions), then adds to those numbers all who die before the age of 8 (also a speculative but big number), then, after claiming the speculative total of all these will be far, far greater than those who merely slog along in mortality like us, he concludes that the odds are you’re going to be exalted.  Here’s the logical fallacy of that whopper:  First, the Nephites in ancient history didn’t read the book.  They’re NOT in his audience.  Neither was the City of Enoch’s hosts; nor are the Millennial folk; nor are any of those who die before age 8.  Meaning that the argument, IF it had validity, is an argument that THEY are going to be exalted.  Not YOU.  That is, the speculative total of those hosts are the ones who will benefit from their lives’ condition.  But none of them are readers of the book.  So if the argument fits, then the title should have been:  “Odds Are They’re Going To Be Exalted.”
Second, the argument for the numbers is wholly speculative.  We don’t have a census for any of the prior Nephite, Enoch, City of Melchizedek, etc. populations.  So without an actual number, we can’t even make the argument.  His conjecture for the Millennium is based upon Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s speculation about the numerosity of that group.  Repeating what Elder McConkie admits is his conjecture does not reduce it to fact.  We simply can’t say what the final numbers will be for these other groups.
Third, he conflates the promise of “salvation” with “exaltation.”  So far as I know there are no children under age 8 who have been sealed in marriage – a condition required for exaltation.  Without an eternal marriage they are separate, single and angels; NOT exalted.  (D&C 132: 16-17.)  It is a quantum leap unsupported by scripture to conflate the promise of salvation for those who die before age 8, or who were not sealed in marriage from any of the other populations about which he speculates, with the promise of exaltation.
Fourth, he gives one bit of caution in his Introduction which the average reader will not catch.  That caution is: “What follows is my perception of God’s nature….”  p. xiv.  That caution should be in BOLD and capitalized.  In other words, the whole book is based upon his sentiments about God.  These unanchored sentiments are NOT and never will be doctrine.  They are just some guy’s effeminate effort to avoid the rigors of confronting the narrowness, straitness and fewness of the Gospel’s takers.
Going then to his sentiments about God, he writes:  “The thought that God would promote something that would ensure that the vast majority of His children would never again be able to dwell in His presence is incomprehensible.  And the assumption that our mother in heaven would idly sit back and allow such a guaranteed flop to eternally strip her of any interaction with her spirit offspring is equally unfathomable.  Such could not — and did not– happen!”
There’s not a stitch of support for this awesome conclusion.  How does he know that?  How does he presume to speak about a “mother in heaven” about whom nothing has been revealed?  How does he know that she is not the champion of the plan?  How does he know that she isn’t absolutely persuaded that obedience to the laws of perfection are the only protection of her children who do obey?  How does he not recognize that to dwell with someone living a higher law, when the person refuses to obey that higher law, is more miserable than being cast out?  (Morm. 9: 4.)  How does he fail to recognize that throughout nature from the hosts of animals born, relatively few ever reach adulthood and reproduce?  Again, this natural process is a symbol of God’s own great plan, is it not?  (Moses 6: 63.)  If so, why, if God cares with sentimentality about all His creations (i.e., that they fill the measure of their creation and have joy in their posterity), then why not let all them reproduce as adults?  After all it takes about 10,000 sea turtles before you get a successful reproducing adult.  Pretty much the case with frogs, sea life generally, and wildebeests – well, their young are essentially the roving McDonald’s menu for all the African meat-eaters.
When he doesn’t like a parable told by CHRIST, he attributes it to Matthew and dismisses it as Matthew’s conjecture about numbers.  (See footnote 2 on the top of page 133 of Odds Are You’re Going To Be Exalted)
He absolutely contradicts Christ when he claims, without any support other than his own sentiment, “God does not require perfection of us in order for us to gain exaltation.”  (page 13.)  But Christ commanded: “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”  (3 Ne. 12: 48.)
He is a PhD in Theology.  That education has done violence to his ability to see what the scriptures teach.  Instead of using that education properly (i.e. to understand the fallacies of man’s reasoning as they apply their philosophy), he has instead become persuaded by it and decided to measure truth by this damaging set of errors.
He thinks that if “most” people are lost then the plan is a failure.  The measure of the Gospel’s success does not lie in numerosity.  It lies in the fact that if the whole of creation produces but one successful couple, then it will have all been worth it.  Even then, if only one couple were exalted, then you still have an infinite number to follow, because they are by definition infinite and eternal as long as they produce seed.
I have marked up my copy for the first couple of chapters, then just relented and read it without a running commentary in the margins.  But the book was an insult to my understanding of the truth.  It attempts to urge the Calvinist notion of “irresistible grace” in new clothes.  It attempts to give life to “grace” as Martin Luther championed the concept in LDS garb.  It is a litany of Evangelical/Protestant philosophy mingled with scripture.  And most astonishing of all, this cacophony of error is published by the good people at Deseret Book, as if its creeds were not included among those denounced by the Savior in His first visit with Joseph in the Grove.
I keep running in my mind:  “Perhaps you do not believe in this great being Alonzo Gaskill proposes, who is surrounded by myriads of beings who have been saved, not for any act of theirs, but by His good pleasure?”
And the response thunders back:  “I do not!  I cannot comprehend such a being!”
I cannot recall where that dialogue, which is now simply part of my consciousness, came from.  But it seems somehow sacred to me, coming from some source I trusted.  Something which goes back long before 1990.  But, alas, when I try to pin it down it eludes me.

I could go on, but I think it would degenerate into incautious words which will offend the average reader.  Given my upbringing in Idaho, I will soon be making scatological references to bovine feces, reverting back to the lexicon of my pre-conversion youth.  So I will meekly stop and settle back into the day’s work.

I hope that answers the question.

Philosophies of men

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a great whole.  It requires an overall harmony between all its parts to be understood.  Without that overall harmony it is jarring and discordant.
The problem with apostasy is that it forfeits truths which are necessary in order to comprehend the majesty of Christ’s teachings.  Those truths which get retained are not kept in balance with the rest.  Simple virtues are kept while overall righteousness is forfeited.
No one can argue with the virtue of tolerance.  But it is constrained and governed inside a larger context that prevents permissiveness and sloth.
No one can argue with the virtue of obedience.  Indeed, obedience is itself one of the bedrock requirements of the Gospel.  But divorced from the other virtues inside of which it is regulated, obedience can become a terrible weapon used to separate people from God’s Holy Spirit and drive them into submission to “Popes and Priests.”  (Any man believed to be incapable of leading you into error is a “Pope.”)
No one can argue against the virtue of patience.  But when it is urged to prevent necessary action to develop a god-like people, then it has become a tool for deception and error and not a virtue at all.

Take any virtue and remove it from its overall context within the great Gospel whole and you see how apostasy can warp a people.  They retain the conviction that they are still God’s chosen disciples, because the virtues they practice are in fact, godly.  However, they have become distorted, bloated and swollen.  They are without harmony, capable of great evil or neglect, all the while celebrating their fidelity to the “truth” as they understand it.

You MUST understand doctrine.  You MUST study the scriptures.  But more important than anything else, you MUST seek to gain further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord directly.  Harmony of the whole is dependent upon His direct guidance and blessings.  You simply cannot move forward a piece here and a bit there, while neglecting the whole composite picture of the Gospel.  He will open it to your view.  He will show you how one part is related to another, and that to another still, so that it all moves forward together.  It is not to all be comprehended at once.  It is to be gained a little bit of the whole here, a further harmony of things there, until the whole moves forward together.  Always moving in balance, in harmony and as a complete magisterial revelation of God’s will.
Latter-day Saints are not immune from this problem of disharmony.  Indeed, it is the great challenge which we have faced since the time of the First Vision.  Joseph’s recalibrating of his own life was constant.  He wanted to reward Martin Harris for his support, petitioned for permission to let him take the 116 pages of manuscript, and when he was told “no” he persisted.  When he finally got the Lord’s reluctant permission it was not for Martin Harris’ benefit, but for Joseph’s.  Joseph was to learn a hard lesson about disregarding good advice from a superior Guide.  (D&C 3: 1-8.)  This comprehension of the harmony of the whole is what provoked Joseph to teach: “the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker, and is caught up to dwell with Him.”  (DHC 2: 8.)
Choose your teachers carefully.  None of them will neglect to emphasize a virtue.  However, without the whole of the Gospel in harmony in their own lives, they cannot bring it into harmony for you.  Finding that harmony IS the great challenge in this lone and dreary world, filled as it is, with the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.

Go about doing good

You should not look directly into the sun.  Whenever you do, your eyes are unable to adjust to the intensity of the light.  It is possible to even do damage to your eyes by looking directly at the sun.
Everything in mortality is a type or symbol of eternal things.  All things bear testimony of Christ and His great plan.  (Moses 6: 63.)  The sun bears testimony of the Son of God.  It is a great symbol of Him.
Our approach to gaining a relationship with the Son should be like that of our enjoyment of the sun – indirect. That is, entering into His presence is a by-product.  It is as a result of the way you live.  It is not the “goal.”
To approach Him, you must live as He did.  You must “keep His commandments.”  You must love others.  You must live the way He lived.  When you are walking in the same path He walked, you will find that He is walking there still.  He will come alongside you, as you are “in the way” and will open to your understanding all things which He would have you know.  (Luke 24: 13-32.)  I’ve written about this in the talk in the Appendix to Eighteen Verses and will not repeat it here.  But I would remind you that the account of those two disciples is a type of how He appears to those to whom He will minister.  He will see you as you are in the right way, and then join with you.

Go about doing good.  You will find Him as you do.  Do not think you will be able to find Him without setting about to do the things which He bid you to do.  There is a law irrevocably decreed which governs these things.

The Nephites were keeping the appointed times with the Lord in His year-end festivals.  In that process, He came to them.  Set about doing what He bids you to do and He will likewise come to you. (This is described in The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil.)  Keep His ways.  He will be able to walk with you as you walk with Him.
One clarification that I think needs to be understood by those who have not read what I have written.  I have never revealed anything sacred that has been revealed to me. I have taught the path.  It is not necessary nor desirable to reveal personal matters, and I have not. It is important to teach the right way.  Read what I’ve written and you will find that nothing improper or even difficult is taught there.  It is taken from the scriptures.  The scriptures are sufficient to teach you the way to eternal life.  I only teach what I find in them.

Qualifying for the blessings under adverse circumstances

I was asked about someone who is an active, faithful man married to a non-member wife.  The issue is their chances to receive all the blessings associated with an eternal family, despite the spouse’s lack of faith.
From the question it is apparent that the person has first, has accepted and believes in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Second, is living everything they can at present. Third, would gladly take the spouse to the temple if the spouse were willing to go and enter into the covenants there.
This, once again, is a Section 137 issue in which the person qualifies for everything which they would have gladly received, had the circumstances permitted it:
  6 And marveled how it was that he had obtained an inheritance in that kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.

  7 Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;

  8 Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;

  9 For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.
By continuing to be loyal to, supportive of, and loving toward the non-believing spouse the husband is living an example which will, in the Day of Judgment, be credited him for righteousness.  This is particularly true when the husband remains loyal and faithful to her when she does not share his faith.  It reflects credit on his character to do so.  I cannot help but believe the Lord is pleased with such a man.
Finally, who knows but what the spouse will, at the end, convert and all the blessings be sealed upon them while still here anyway.  Life is not over yet.  There is something compelling and convincing to even a skeptic of the Gospel when they see someone actually live it.