“Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark.”
The alarming use of the word “many” suggests this is to be a widespread problem in our time. These teachings are denounced as “false and vain and foolish.” We should look at each:
What does “false” mean? Does something have to be thoroughly and completely wrong to be false? Is it enough to be off by enough to rob the teaching of power? How many truths will a liar tell while trying to get you to believe an ultimate lie? How well does a deception work if there isn’t some truth included in the message? So, then, how difficult will detecting the error be? May the very elect be deceived? (Matt. 24: 24, see also JS-M 1: 22.) How will one be able to decide between a false and a true teaching? (Moroni 10: 5.)
What does “vain” mean? Is the best meaning “futile” or “without power?” If a teaching robs you of power, deprives you of the Spirit, is that “vain?” What would you trade in exchange for having power in the Spirit? If a little flattery is enough, would you take the assurance that God loves you, and will never let you be deceived enough to get you to let go of the responsibility to ever have His Spirit to be with you? (Moroni 5: 2.) If the current President of the Quorum of the Twelve has lamented our lack of power, is it really a lament about our vain beliefs? If so, what can you do about it? How can you avoid having your faith become vain?
What does “foolish” mean? Would something that is so poorly based, so weak and powerless to save, and utterly false be foolish? What about trusting a man to save you, rather than the Lord? What about the notion that there is a man who will be perfectly unable to ever lead you astray? How foolish is it to trust your salvation to the inerrancy of a man?
What kind of a heart is “puffed up?” How would these false, vain and foolish doctrines result in a proud following? Why would they think themselves better than they are because of these doctrines?
What does it mean to “seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord?” What does it mean to “seek deeply?” What foolish men would think they could ever “hide their counsel from the Lord?” Who would believe that God would be bound to follow what a man dictates–because they have keys to bind Him– rather than recognizing that the Lord alone holds all authority to judge and will alone determine all judgment? (See 3 Ne. 27: 27.) How foolish is it to become a sycophant of priestly pretenders, hoping that they will save you in the day of judgment? Will appeasing an LDS authority be of any more value than kissing a Cardinal’s ring when you are standing before the Lion of Israel to be judged? How well will the vain ceremonies and guarded conspiracies work in the day when everything is shouted from the rooftops?
What does it mean to have “works” which “shall be in the dark?” Does this just mean hidden? Does “darkness” also include the quality of the works? What kinds of work are “dark?” Can obliterating part of a sacred ceremony remove light and replace it with dark? Does curtailing the Saints’ ability to discuss true principles, exercising control and dominion and compulsion to prevent knowledge from spreading all contribute to darkness in the minds of the Saints?
When is the last time you were encouraged in the Temple to understand and discuss the meaning of the Temple ceremonies? When was the last time you were told NOT to discuss the Temple meaning inside the Temple? If you can’t discuss it inside the Temple, and you covenanted not to discuss it outside the Temple, then where can you discuss its meaning? How will you learn if you are unable to share ideas about the symbols and their meaning? Is it “dark” when the light of teaching is closed to view?
I don’t know if any of you recall that Hugh Nibley was given access to the chapel in the Provo Temple to speak to waiting patrons about the meaning of the Temple for a number of years. While waiting for a session to begin, patrons could listen to and ask questions of Hugh Nibley in an atmosphere of sharing and getting answers. Today, in contrast, they discourage you from discussing anything about the Temple even inside the Temple. I refer to an incident in the Jordan River Temple in The Second Comforter. I was told to not discuss meanings while in the Celestial Room speaking with full time missionaries assigned to my stake. I presided over the missionary work of the stake and worked closely with these wonderful young men. But I was told to stop teaching them. This is common today. It ought to end. We will only understand sacred symbols if we are able to teach one another about what we have learned. When I think of the library of material I have had to get through to be able to understand, I am left to wonder at how difficult the process has been made for those who would sincerely and humbly like to seek after further light and knowledge by teaching one another.
We should welcome as much light and truth in our exchanges with one another as we have to offer; in the right setting and with the right Spirit. It is not casting pearls before swine when the audience is prepared, worthy and interested in obtaining knowledge for the right reason. Now even if you have the very best of audiences, in the most sacred setting, we are told to not discuss what may be of vital interest to a soul seeking to gain further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord through the veil.
How little discarding of light must one cause before they are doing “works in the dark?” It is such a terrible question with such fearful results that I would hesitate to be the one who limits the Saints’ ability to seek into truth.
Now, to balance things somewhat, I want to affirm several fundamental truths:
-We are accountable for our own search into the truth.
-No one can limit you if you are searching with real intent having a contrite spirit and broken heart.
-There is no conflict between fulfilling your duties to the church on the one hand and your responsibilities to the Lord on the other.
-You cannot blame anyone else if you have not been diligent about your own search.
-In the end, whether there is active opposition or active assistance provided to you, it is necessary for you to make the internal changes and to follow the path.
No outside party will control what is yours alone to control. But the first step to be taken is to realize you really are personally responsible. You can’t depend on others nor on an institution to do the work for you. But as you awaken to that recognition, you should not lose heart or become discouraged. Nothing has been lost collectively which you may not still lay claim upon for yourself.
I do think we could make a greater overall gentile success with a different, more benign attitude as a group. But even if you must work against a corrosive environment, you can still do it. You have the greatest tool in your hands. You truly can get closer to the Lord through the Book of Mormon than any other means. It is a guidebook written for us and for now.