Full Time Job

If I were to try and deny every false rumor spread about me, it would quickly turn into a full time job. A stake president’s summary description has been posted on Mormonleaks. It contains a number of bizarre things that are going on in his stake, and my name is mentioned in the letter. (Stake President Reports Apostasy.)

This got picked up by John Dehlin on his Facebook page where he assumes it is a peak into the “Denver Snuffer movement” –whatever he may think that is.

I state clearly and publicly what I think, believe and teach. I have repeatedly stated that no one speaks for me or acts as my representative. If someone is representing something comes from me, but it cannot be found in  anything I have publicly published, then it is unreliable and untrue.

It is easier, clearer and takes far less time to state publicly and affirmatively what I think or believe than to always deny all the foolish nonsense that gets attributed to me by weak-minded and overwrought people in their secretive gatherings. I have no hidden message. It is transparent and public.

I know nothing about this poor stake president’s members who are apparently doing odd things. I have not and do not encourage what he describes in his now public letter.

Given the ease with which this stuff becomes public, leadership should be careful about how information is discussed. This “private” correspondence is perilously close to slander.

Churches Built By Men, Part 3

Nephi explains these latter-day false churches accomplish the opposite of Zion. In Zion everyone is to become “one.” Zion is unified in purpose and in heart. In these false churches people become competitive with one another. This leads to dishonesty between them.

“[L]ie a little, take advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor” is the operating standard of conduct. (2 Ne. 28: 8.) This is believed to be harmless. (Id.) And if you die in this fractious and competitive condition, then all will be well with you. If God is offended by it all, then you will be chastised, but “at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” (2 Ne. 28: 8.) The idea of punishment and damnation is not to be taken seriously. It is as if everyone will enjoy a position of glory, no matter their conduct. Therefore, we should enjoy our lives and not take too seriously any need to change.

Conspicuously absent from these false teachings is any need to repent. Repentance is not even part of the latter-day religious agenda. But, then again, since everyone will fare well in God’s judgment, there really is no need for it under this religious system.

According to Nephi, this is the widespread doctrine of the latter-days. But these teachings are “false and vain and foolish.” (2 Ne. 28: 9.) Nephi notes that the only effect this gives to mankind is to make us “puffed up in [our] hearts.” (Id.) The vanity of it all is intoxicating. We get to wallow in our pride. After all, we are saved and highly favored.

If we are honest with ourselves, this assessment of the latter-days seems uncomfortably accurate.

2 Nephi 28: 15

“O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!”
Now we reach a terrible point. Nephi records an inspired condemnation. For a person in Nephi’s position, recording words of condemnation holds terrible significance. They are not written unless they are instructed to do so, because their words will be fulfilled. I’ve explained this in Beloved Enos.

Nephi pronounces three “wo’s.” This is a three fold condemnation. It goes beyond this life. It will follow them into the hereafter.

Associated with the three “wo’s” are three names used for God: “Lord God Almighty.” It is a three fold assertion of divine authority. “Lord” refers to the Savior as Guide. “God” refers to Divine right and authority. “Almighty” refers to the irrevocable nature of the word used by God, and in turn the words given to Nephi. When you are confronted with all three, the “wo’s” are pronounced by a power that cannot be altered.

This is more than a setback in the hopes of the “learned, and the rich” who are being condemned. This is a condemnation which reaches into hell itself. It is so significant a pronouncement that when you read it you should pause and think of the dreadful import for anyone who fits into the curse.

Those, who in their pride, use the precepts of men as the basis for their “preaching false doctrines,” are not just wrong, they are damned for this perversion of the religion entrusted to them to preach in purity and truth.

In effect, they were given a precious and eternally significant treasure, and they have diverted it into something that makes them rich, puffed up, and powerful. It is tragic. It is pitiful–meaning it should inspire pity in each of us. These could be well meaning people who have fallen into this error. But they claim to preach the truth, using God’s name in vain, while they spread a vain religion which cannot bring people to the knowledge of Christ.

Who would wish such a condemnation upon others? Who can read these words and not be moved with compassion and alarm for those who have fallen under this condemnation? Who would not remove it from those who are condemned if they could?

Nephi could not make a greater plea for the salvation of all those involved. The pronouncement is terrible and its implications eternal. Yet this verse seems to have escaped notice.

Who alone claims they are speaking for God Himself when they preach?  Who could possibly qualify for this level of condemnation? This should make all of us think long and hard about any utterance we speak before we make our assertions “in the name of Jesus Christ.” The thoughtlessness which accompanies that expression among the Saints is contrary to the seriousness of the condemnation we invite if we preach false doctrine while puffed up in pride; thereby perverting the right way of the Lord.

In an example which is chilling to read, the first anti-Christ we encounter in the Book of Mormon (Sherem) uses this phrase to justify his preaching. He accuses Jacob of “perverting the right way of God.” (Jacob 7: 7.) He brings himself under Nephi’s curse. It was a small thing, therefore, for Jacob to reiterate the condemnation of Nephi against Sherem. (Jacob 7: 14.) Jacob was merely repeating what Nephi had already pronounced. And since Nephi had sealed the condemnation, it would be Nephi, not Jacob, who was responsible for the cursing.
This three fold wo, and use of three titles for God all suggest that teaching false doctrine and using man’s learning, while being filled with pride is so grave an offense that great care should always be taken before teaching, preaching or expounding on the Gospel. Only a fool would undertake to do so without knowing their words are approved of God. You cannot take cover using a Correlation Department, or a commentary, or a scholar’s words, or a selected bibliography. When you presume to preach the truth, you need to realize how serious a matter you are undertaking. Joseph Smith wrote from Liberty Jail: 
“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. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men. 
“How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of His will, from before the foundation of the world!”  (DHC 3: 295-6.)
When we speak about Christ and His Gospel with others, we should do so with a sense of terrible awe and fear. If we have doubts about our message, we should remain silent rather than risk proclaiming what may be an error. It is a burden to be carefully undertaken.
As Nephi warns about our day, there will be many who will teach vain, foolish and false things coming from the precepts of men.

2 Nephi 28: 9

“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.