Christian Rejection

I received an email rejecting a request for a speaking venue. The rejection included the writer’s assessment that I was “not a Christian” because of her narrow, Evangelical interpretation of the word. I responded as follows:

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As one who, like the Apostle Paul, has stood in the presence of Christ, and likewise been caught up into heaven and been taught unspeakable things, I know from the Lord’s own voice my standing before Him. Whether others regard me as a “Christian,” I know that Christ regards me as His devoted follower and faithful servant.

I likewise comprehend His grace for others, including those who would exclude me from being defined as “Christian,” and therefore exclude me from salvation itself.
 
Rather than debate, deny, or judge the “Christianity” of others using any criteria, Bible verse, or Protestant hope for salvation, I accept any person’s claim to be “Christian” as welcome news. Whether they lived for the first millennium and a half of Christian history when only the Catholic Church existed, or they divide themselves into groups claiming to hold the exclusive qualifications to be saved today.
 
I judge no man. I encourage them all to hold fast to the hope of salvation offered by Christ, even if they hold beliefs by which they judge and reject me as a fellow Christian.
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This intolerant and anti-Christian view rejects as un-Christian all those who think there is a necessary role for works in addition to faith. (See James 2:20 & 26: “Faith without works is dead”.) They ignore two verses penned by James. They reject three chapters of Christ’s teachings. (Matt. 5 through 7.) They reject Christ’s own submission to the ordinance of baptism “to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt. 3:15.) These dogmatic and blind guides base their entire false construction on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians which states in passing: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9.) It is a mistake to interpret Paul to be in conflict with Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, and if there is a conflict, we ought to obey Christ.
Paul taught in Ephesus, resided there for a time, and was acquainted with the arguments going on in that community when he wrote his letter to them. The document is literally “reading someone else’s mail” without the benefit of knowing the background of weeks of Paul’s teaching and information related to him from visitors to the city. We cannot now have any confidence that these two verses represent Paul’s understanding or even Paul’s oral teachings.
What we do know for certain, however, is that Christ instructed us to be the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13) and light of the world (Matt. 5:14). It is anti-Christ to deny the obligation to be salt and to provide light. It is anti-Christ to reject Christ’s admonition to let the world “see your good works” if we are to follow Him. (Matt. 5:16.)
Christ warned us to “keep the commandments.” He cursed those who proclaim we are merely saved by grace and have no obligation to obey His commandments. He declared, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19.)
Christ then elevated the commandment to not kill, by warning Christians to “not be angry” with their brothers. (Matt. 5:21-22.) He explained that His followers would not even engage in Christian giving without first forgiving all those who offended them. (Matt. 5:23-24.)
Christ commanded us to agree with disputants, and not oppose them. We are to give what they demand of us rather than withhold even our cloak. (Matt. 5:25-26; 39-42.)
Christ elevated the commandment against committing adultery by commanding His followers to not entertain “lust in your heart.” (Matt. 5:27-28.)
Christ revoked divorce as an option for His followers, except in the case adultery. (Matt. 5:31-32.)
Christ commanded us to love even our enemies and return good for evil. (Matt. 5:43-47.)
Christ commanded us to “be perfect” as a follower and believer in Him. (Matt. 5:48.)
This is only the first of the three chapters of Christ’s instructions about what following Him requires.
James explained how a Christian is to follow Christ: “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:14-18.)

Opposing Christian Sects

Today, the best estimate is that there are over 40,000 different “Christian” denominations or sects. No one knows for sure because there is no organized data-base that identifies them all. Many are as small as a single congregation. The total number of “Christians” is estimated at over 2.2 billion.

Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8.) God has made a point of explaining that He does not change. (Mal. 3:6.)

The pace at which “Christian” sects are dividing appears to be accelerating. The disagreements between “Christian” sects are pronounced enough that many of them claim they alone are “true” and only they can save your soul. They denounce other denominations as false, their followers unsaved, or worse, damned and followers of the devil.

The scriptures claim there is “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” (Eph. 4:5.) Christians should compare what they see in “Christianity” of today with what the scriptures teach. How can messages from the various sects conflict so greatly that the Christian world is divided into more than 40,000 different bodies?

Christianity was never to be “preached” by just anybody willing to make a claim to be preaching the truth. A true messenger must be “sent” by God. (Rom. 10:14-15.) That does not mean they have some sentimental inclination to proclaim a message. It means that God sent them.

Paul was sent by God, and he explained the criteria. The qualifications have never changed, been rescinded or superseded. The unchangeable God requires the same today as anciently.

How can an unchangeable God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, be guiding these conflicting and contentious Christian denominations? The answer is simple: He is not.

The Christian sects are led by hireling priests who stir up conflict that prevents Christian believers from agreeing with one another. They flatter their congregations and keep them content. “Christians” are fed a weekly dose of vanity and lies by men and women expecting to be paid (by their followers) for their preaching. If you removed the profits from Christian churches, you would quickly see the pulpits abandoned by the hucksters employed there. If no one were paid to preach, conflicts would quickly end between the rank-and-file Christian.

I will be giving three talks later this year in California, Texas and Atlanta. I have been sent to give these three messages. I do know God. I have been ministered to by Him and He has prepared me to minister to others. Like Paul, who was sent by God, I will also tell you of an unchangeable God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. His message requires the same from you today as it did when Jesus Christ first taught in Galilee and Judea.

Anyone who claims to be a “Christian” may be interested in hearing these three talks. They are free and no donations will be solicited. Charity is wasted on hireling clergy. It should be used for the poor. Clergy ought to labor for their support as do other Christians. The sooner we stop paying a professional clergy, the sooner Christianity will lose its animosity and improve in spirit, function and value.

Role of Women, Part 2

The unity of man and woman is required for either of them to be saved in the truest meaning of “saved” (meaning exalted):
Paul wrote: “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11: 11.) But what does that mean?

Through Joseph comes this response: “Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world. Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory. For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.” (D&C 132: 15-17.) But, even with this, how does this qualify?

-Is “sealing” enough?
-What if the couple are unworthy of being preserved because, among other things, they are not happy together?
-Why keep together what is more punishment than reward?
-If this union is required for either to be exalted, then does it matter who is sealed to who, with what language?

The unity of man and woman does not come by one dominating the other, as some view the inevitable result of patriarchy. The relationship is not worth preserving if it lacks joyful association. No relationship is unified if one party dominates the other. Godly unity comes by the man conforming to the image of God, and the woman likewise conforming to the image of God, so both reflect His image. Christ put it into these words: “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17: 19-23.) What is this “glory” which the Lord has given to His disciples and which He offers us? How can we become “glorified” like the Father and the Son?
“The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93: 36.) 
Rather than envying the authority of patriarchy or the claims to priesthood, we should all envy/seek God’s glory. Why seek after something that does not exist? Why not seek after what is enduring?
Suppose you do become one with God? Suppose you do take in His glory, or light and truth, and become filled with light? And suppose further that your husband does not. What then?
-What is your responsibility?
-How can you return to God without seeking to reclaim and redeem your husband?
-Remember the counsel of Hyrum Smith when he wrote as the prophet to the church? He said:

Whereas, in times past persons have been permitted to gather with the Saints at Nauvoo, in North America—such as husbands leaving their wives and children behind; also, such as wives leaving their husbands, and such as husbands leaving their wives who have no children, and some because their companions are unbelievers. All this kind of proceedings we consider to be erroneous and for want of proper information. And the same should be taught to all the Saints, and not suffer families to be broken up on any account whatever if it be possible to avoid it. Suffer no man to leave his wife because she is an unbeliever. These things are an evil and must be forbidden by the authorities of the church or they will come under condemnation; for the gathering is not in hast nor by flight, but to prepare all things before you, and you know not but the unbeliever may be converted and the Lord heal him; but let the believers exercise faith in God, and the unbelieving husband shall be sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife by the believing husband, and families are preserved and saved from a great evil which we have seen verified before our eyes. Behold this is a wicked generation, full of lyings, and deceit, and craftiness; and the children of the wicked are wiser than the children of light; that is, they are more crafty; and it seems that it has been the case in all ages of the world.
And the man who leaves his wife and travels to a foreign nation, has his mind overpowered with darkness, and Satan deceived him and flatters him with the graces of the harlot, and before he is aware he is disgraced forever; and greater is the danger for the woman that leaves her husband. The evils resulting from such proceedings are of such a nature as to oblige us to cut them off from the church.
And we also forbid that a woman leave her husband because he is an unbeliever. We also forbid that a man shall leave his wife because she is an unbeliever. If he be a bad man (i.e., the believer) there is a law to remedy that evil. And if the law divorce them, then they are at liberty; otherwise they are bound as long as they two shall live, and it is not our prerogative to go beyond this; if we do it, it will be at the expense of our reputation.

These things we have written in plainness and we desire that they should be publicly known,

(See also 1 Cor. 7: 13-14.)

The marriage of man and woman puts into the closest and most intimate contact two very different people. In their union it is possible to create offspring. It is this basic relationship where the two most important things are accomplished:
1. The work of bringing new life into the world, and
2. The work of overcoming the world and becoming “one.”
Yet fools seek to overcome the world while leaving their spouse uninvolved. Or, in other words, they seek to avoid the very test that is required and which is given to us all to help us to overcome the world. Remember there is neither the man nor the woman without the other in the Lord.

Assuming this is the requirement, then does the wording of church rites matter? Does language sealing the woman to the man change this need of unity?

Weakness and Repentance

We are all given weakness as part of life here in mortality. It is a gift from God. (Ether 12: 27.) Repentance requires us to turn away from sin, and to face a new direction where God is found.

Despite our hopes, and our desires, and our best efforts, we are confined to a place and occupy circumstances where we are “weak.” (Id.) The Lord promises, however, that He will “make weak things strong.” (Ether 12: 27.) What does that mean? How does our “weakness” become “strong?”

It does not involve any magic. We do not get some easy and effortless cure to our weakness just because we desire to change. We must actually change. How do we change? The Lord explains that to Moroni in the same conversation: “I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me– the fountain of righteousness.” (Ether 12: 28.) Or, in other words, the “strength” we hope to receive comes from “faith” in Christ. Our “hope” is found through Him. Our “charity” is a gift also.

The “strength” is entirely borrowed. We are only as strong as our dependence on Him. Our “weakness” is strength only as we depend on Him and His rescue.

For some of us, that “strength” will involve longsuffering and continual reminders through our failure that we have been “given weakness” for a purpose – that we may be humble. As we struggle, we find exposed to our view the weakness we despise in ourselves, long to overcome, and struggle with daily, like a thorn in our flesh tearing at us. Paul begged the Lord to remove his, and was told repeatedly this weakness would remain there to afflict him so he might be humble. (2 Cor. 12: 7-9.) Therefore, Paul took consolation in the knowledge this struggle was godly. (2 Cor. 12: 10.)

Why should you be spared the struggle? Why should you not be kept humble by the weakness you have within? Why should you not take up your cross and follow Him? (Mark 10: 21.) Should your cross be anything other than a revelation to you of your own dependence on God, and need for Him?

Repentance is the start of a journey undertaken between you and your Lord. He will reveal you and Him to you through that journey. Hence the requirement for repentance in order to enter into His kingdom.

Freedom from Sins

The reason “confession” of sin is required, is to free the victim. (D&C 58: 43.) Confession robs the accuser of his power to accuse. (Rev. 12: 10.)

Once the sins of Alma and Younger and the sons of Mosiah were known, confessed and public, the sins no longer had any control over them. They felt no shame for these sins because confessing and admitting they were sinful robbed sin of its power. Similarly, the Apostle Paul’s admission of his sinful past allowed him to move on to accepting and celebrating God’s grace. (1 Tim. 1: 12-16.)

There is power in confessing. It puts the confessor above his sin. (James 5: 16.) We confess to celebrate God’s great deliverance of us. We are all weak. It is part of worshipping Him. (D&C 59: 12.) This is why the testimony of God’s redemption by Alma the Younger included confession of his own sins. (Alma 36: 6, 12-14.)

Those who claim they are holy men, without sin, and thereby cover their weaknesses while courting the praise and admiration of others, have no truth in them. (1 John 1: 8.) But if we confess we are sinful and weak, God is faithful to forgive us. (1 John 1: 9.)

Freedom from sin can only come through admitting your sinful nature. When we confess, He forgives. (D&C 64: 7.)

Time Required to Repent

Repentance does not require a time period. Look at Alma the Younger, the sons of Mosiah, and the Apostle Paul. Now these were encounters with God, but so were the conversions of many of the Lamanites. (Alma 18: 40-42; 22: 18, among others.)

The Lord tells you to repent. If you do, He remembers your sins no longer. Confess and forsake them, and you will be forgiven. (D&C 58: 42-43.) Or, in other words, change. Turn away from your sins and face God instead.

All those labors performed by Alma the Younger, the sons of Mosiah, and the Apostle Paul, after repentance, were not to obtain forgiveness. They were the “fruit” of repentance, or the result of the new direction that they were heading. (See Matt. 3: 8; Luke 3: 8; Alma 5: 62; 13: 13; Moroni 8: 24-26.)

God alone forgives. His forgiveness is not dependent on your good works; your good works are proof of His forgiveness. (Helaman 12: 24; Gal. 5: 22-25.)

The Trick to Apostasy

The trick to successfully pulling off an apostasy is to distract people into thinking there hasn’t been one. The “believers” need to think everything remains intact.

So the issue of “apostasy” becomes a discussion about individuals and individual conformity to the expectations of the group. The subject can then be a topic that polite, fellow-believers can discuss without ever searching into the overall condition of a fallen people.

The Jews mocked efforts to tell them they were apostate. They thought it was humorous when Lehi preached the idea. (1 Ne. 1: 19.) Because they were so very religious, so devout, so unassailably active in following God, the idea was absolutely laughable that they were apostate.

The Apostle Paul said the problem would begin at the top with the shepherds, who would teach them falsehoods as truth. (Acts 20: 29-30.) These new leaders would have only a form of godliness, without any real power to save. (2 Tim. 3: 5.)

The Christian world adopted another, false replacement of the original church. It became so universal it was hailed as the Universal, or Catholic Church. It ruled from the rivers to the ends of the earth as the only official form of the faith established by Christ.

To pull this off Satan must be concerned with the “macro” institutional failure, not just individuals falling away. It is the small, minor spirits who follow Lucifer who engage in petty tempting of individuals to sin. Success for the Adversary is not accomplished in petty enterprises. He wants failure for the whole, so none can be saved. For that, apostasy must be universal.

He has never succeeded by admitting there has been a failure. The trick is always to have the apostasy come unnoticed, unacknowledged and from within. (See 3 Ne. 16: 10.)

The topic is worth studying. When apostasy is noticed, acknowledged and exposed, then it is possible to repent and return. Until then, it progresses apace, discarding and rejecting what might have been given. All the while being happily ignored by “believers” whose devotion will not save.

Since Christ predicted that at some point the latter-day gentiles would reject the fullness (Id.), we probably should consider what the Book of Mormon has to say about the subject.

To finish the thought about the “trick to apostasy” the D&C has a remarkable statement. Lucifer succeeds when he manages to get us NOT to reject ordinances, but to change them. As soon as they are changed, they are broken. (D&C 1: 15.) That is an important step. Because then religious people can continue to claim they follow a true religion, while practicing one that has been broken. These practitioners become like the ancient Jews, who mocked Lehi because they knew they were still righteous. They knew Lehi was foolish, even fraudulent. They still had the truth, the ordinances, the temple, and the priesthood. Lehi was just a mistaken crank.

Mosiah 3: 26-27

Mosiah 3: 26-27

“Therefore, they have drunk out of the cup of the wrath of God, which justice could no more deny unto them than it could deny that Adam should fall because of his partaking of the forbidden fruit; therefore, mercy could have claim on then no more forever.


And their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever. Thus has the Lord commanded me. Amen.”

The strong, direful, terrible warnings continue from the angel:

Those who ignore the obligation will, in the afterlife, have:
“drank out of the cup of the wrath of God…”

Notice this is phrased in almost identical language to Christ’s terrible suffering in the atonement. (See 3 Ne. 11: 11; D&C 19: 18.) This is so awful an experience the Lord cannot capture adequately in revelation the words to describe it. (D&C 19: 15.)

“mercy could have claim on them no more forever.”
Meaning that if they choose this path, they will suffer. There will be nothing to mitigate what they will endure. Mercy will not intervene and lessen the ordeal.

How often has the Lord used such terrible phrases to describe the damned as:

“torment as a lake of fire and brimstone”–because we all know the pain of having our skin burned. It quickly conveys the idea of torment into our minds,

“whose flames are unquenchable”–because it will burn away until nothing impure remains,

“whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever”–because this process is eternal and will be the experience of anyone and everyone, worlds without end, who merit this purging and refining fire.

These words from the angel were delivered to a king, to be taught to his people, in a gathering in which all those who attended then covenanted with God. The audience would “have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” (Mosiah 5: 2.)

Why does it require this message from the angel to produce this result?
Could they be saved by praising them, telling them they were chosen and the elect of God?
Could they be saved by telling them they were a royal priesthood?
Could they be saved by telling them that all was well with them, they prosper in the land because God is with them?

Why is it necessary to tell them of hell?
Of damnation?
Of eternal suffering and unquenchable fire?

In The Second Comforter I remarked “there is no veil to our feelings.” That is true, but the feelings one experiences by coming into the presence of God are almost universally fear and dread. The scriptures confirm how fearful this has been to mankind:

To Abraham, it was a “horror” to draw near the Lord. (Gen. 15: 12-13.)
To Isaiah it was woeful, and terrible. (Isa. 6: 5.)
To Daniel and his companions, quaking fell upon them, many fled, leaving Daniel alone. (Dan. 10: 7-8.)
Mormon explains how men react to God’s presence as being “racked with a consciousness of guilt.” (Mormon 9: 3-4.)

When popular mythology constructs fantasies of coming before the Lord, they make it happy – not dreadful. They despise the call to repent because it disagrees with their happy myths. The angel is not overstating the case. He is explaining the great gulf that exists between fallen man and God. (See Moses 1: 10.) The unrepentant and foolish are completely unprepared for God’s presence. (Mormon 9: 2-6.) The words of the angel are attempting to give some indication to the faithful of how deeply, how completely, and how great the scope of repentance must be to avoid the similar pains of death and hell the Lord suffered on our behalf.

We delude ourselves when we think the angel’s message was not meant for all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If the King Benjamin’s audience acquired their salvation by coming down in the depths of humility and repentance (Mosiah 4: 2), then we fool ourselves if we think anything less will be expected of us.

Was the angel bitter? Angry? Harsh? Unkind? Of the wrong “spirit?” Not the kind of messenger we should expect would be sent from God?

Was his message not kind enough? Not inspiring? Not faith promoting?

Can an angel or a prophet ever save anyone if they do not focus on the great burden left for mankind to repent and return to God? Will flattery ever save a man?

Samuel the Lamanite was sent to cry repentance. He put the case clearly to them and to us, but his words are no more comforting than the angel’s words were to King Benjamin and his people:

“Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.

But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.

Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.

O ye wicked and ye perverse generation; ye hardened and ye stiffnecked people, how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you? Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light?” (Hel. 13: 26-29.)

The Apostle Paul described such folks as having “itching ears.” (2 Tim. 4: 3-4.) It is a fairly apt description. These folks think themselves righteous, but they are unrepentant, unforgiven, and unsaved. They follow a religion which cannot save them, because it has become nothing more than a false idol, appealing to their vanity.

3 Nephi 12: 1

 
“And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.”
 
Nephi and the other twelve heard and recorded the words we’ve been reviewing in Chapter 11. But here Christ makes certain all others who were present also knew the same doctrine. Notice the following:
 
“He stretched forth His hand.” What does that mean? Why is it noted in the record? Why would the fact that He stretched forth His hand be significant enough to etch into metal plates? 
 
Why does it say Christ “cried unto them?” How loud would He need to make His voice before it would be considered “crying” out to the audience? This suggests that what was covered in Chapter 11 was not loud enough for all those present to hear. But what follows He wants everyone to hear.
 
The Sermon at Bountiful begins with a new beatitude. “Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you.” A commenter recently suggested this means that any person ever called to any council of twelve is entitled to the same kind of status. Is that correct? Does membership in a group entitle someone to respect? Would receiving power directly from Christ entitle a person to respect? What if someone were to receive power from Christ, but not be included in some presiding group? For example, John the Baptist received power from an angel to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews at eight days old. He was never among a presiding group. (D&C 84: 28.) Paul was given power directly from heaven, calling himself “born out of due time” because he became a witness after Christ’s resurrection and was not among the leadership when first visited. (1 Cor. 15: 8-10.) Which does this apply to: those called to preside, or those called directly by the Lord (as the scriptures testify is sometimes the case)? Or does it only apply to the twelve disciples the Lord was referring to standing before the crowd on that day? Is limiting it to that narrow an application appropriate? Is expanding it to include anyone ever called to preside too broad an application? How are you to decide that question?
 
Is it appropriate for Christ to couple “minister to you” with “and to be your servants?” Can a “servant” exercise authority over you as the gentiles do? (Luke 22: 25-26.) Why not?
 
When Christ says these people have “power to baptize you” and then promises that He, Christ, “will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost” does this promise mean that Christ will send the Holy Ghost if you are baptized by one having power from Him? Always? If it hasn’t happened, does that mean the one who baptized you did not have this “power?” Why or why not? What is the relationship between the power to baptize, and the promise of the Holy Ghost? What role does your own repentance have to play? Christ has previously given the order of things, and included repentance first.
 
What does the statement mean: “blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.” How likely would it be for you to “believe in [Christ] after that ye have seen [Him]?” Do you suspect any of those who were present would not believe in Him? Why?
 
Would you expect those present to believe in Him after seeing Him descend from heaven, hear the voice of the Father testify of Him, see His wounds, witness Him healing all their sick, and beholding angels minister in tongues of fire to their young children? Would you be able to do so? What about reading the record of the events in the Book of Mormon; is that enough to testify of Him? Can you ask in prayer if these things about Christ are true and get a testimony of them for yourself? Have you done so? Have you acquired belief in Him as a result of praying to know if they are true? Can you then believe in Him? Are you “blessed” for it? Do you “know that He is?” What more do you need to do in order to “know that He is?” Why haven’t you done that yet?

2 Nephi 28: 4

2 Nephi 28: 4:

“And they shall contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance.”

Nephi foresees that churches in our day will argue over the claim to have truth. When it comes to the Latter-day Saints, the relentless accusation made against us is that we aren’t “Christian.” This accusation is made by those who claim the right to define the word “Christian” to necessarily include acceptance of the creeds of Historic Christianity. These creeds are an amalgam of Neo-Platonic philosophy mingled with scripture.

We just ought to concede the point. We should proudly acknowledge we are NOT part of Historic Christianity. We disagree with Historic Christianity, and at a fundamental level we denounce it as false. We are a restoration of Primitive Christianity. We do not share in accepting the creeds which Christ Himself denounced as “an abomination in His sight.”  (JS-H 1: 19.)

Oddly, from our end, we try and avoid the argument, fit in, claim we are “good Christians too,” and part of the larger community of churches. There isn’t as much fight left in us as there was once. Or, perhaps more correctly, our arguments are focused instead, toward those who attempt to preserve practices from the early part of the Restoration. In other words, we try to make ourselves seem more like Historic Christianity, and avoid or discard what once set us apart. We have inverted the picture from where we began. (Nephi will address that, as well.)

Although there are numerous examples of how we have altered our views to become more like other faiths, we can take just one to illustrate the point. We have abandoned plural marriage. But it is hard for us to claim the doctrine is false because it remains in Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants. While we do not practice it, and believe those who do have failed to stay on track, we cannot gainsay that the doctrine is true. Yet no other church is so vehement in denouncing and persecuting those who practice plural marriage. It is as if we want to lead the argument against the practice in order to distract people from the fact that the practice is approved in our scriptures.

Let me be clear that I do not advocate the practice nor recommend it. Nor do I think those who continue the practice do so either with approval or authority. I’ve explained the defects in their arguments to authority in Beloved Enos, and I am confident in the explanation given there.They do not possess the keys to continue that practice. Their own position is self-defeating.

Nor do I think these people will be given the hand of fellowship until Zion returns. But when it does, I do not expect those who follow the practice if plural marriage in a humble and devout way, having real intent, and proceeding prayerfully will be excluded from the gathering. It also seems self-evident that if John D. Lee, who was executed for the Mountain Meadows Massacre, has been reinstated to the privileges of the church, that those practicing plural marriage after the 1905 letter from President Joseph F. Smith will some day not also be reinstated to church membership.

Well, that was an aside merely to illustrate a point. We fail to contend about errors of other faiths, fail to defend our unique status, and in turn attack doctrines that we know to be true. 

What Nephi will focus on in his prophecy is not the contention, but the absence of guidance from the Holy Ghost. This criticism will become the theme of the coming chapters. This collection of chapters at the end of 2 Nephi are his final warnings in which he tells us the great themes of prophecy that rest so heavily upon his soul. He is most alarmed that, in our day, men will ” teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance.” What do you suppose it means to “teach with their learning?”

We know that other churches employ trained theological experts to professionally teach them as a paid clergy. We have always been critical of that approach because once a minister has been to college and been trained for the ministry, they mingle the philosophies of men with scripture. We have always been taught that even a child with the Spirit can edify a congregation in Sacrament by speaking with the influence of the Holy Ghost. We intend our meetings to be directed in word and thought by the Holy Ghost. But how much of what we are taught in our meetings and conferences are the result of man’s learning? Of focus group opinion gathering? Of opinion polling? Of careful study of trends and development of data bases from social sciences? (See Slippery on February 22, 2010.)

How much of what we are taught is from the “Spirit which giveth utterance?” How often are we fed as the Lord directed in D&C 84: 85 through entirely spontaneous utterance?  If Joseph was commanded to speak spontaneously so the Spirit could direct him (D&C 100: 5-6; see also D&C 24: 5-6) then why is a Correlation Department allowed to control talks today and prevent any spontaneous speaking in our conferences?

I know the purpose behind correlation was to insure false doctrine was not taught. They seem to have instead insured that no doctrine is taught.

In my view, correlation has failed in its purpose. It has stifled the Spirit and stripped us of doctrine which should be prized and taught. Furthermore, it has not insured the doctrine it permits to be taught is true or consistent with scripture or earlier teachings.

Even though correlation has not prevented us from having errors of doctrine I do not believe an error of doctrine makes a person a bad man. Joseph Smith said: “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.” (DHC 5: 340.)  I do not believe anyone should ever be subject to church discipline for believing false doctrine. The false teaching should be overcome by teaching the truth, not by stifling discussion. The quickest way for truth to triumph is to allow free discussion. When we are open, the truth will always win out.

I agree with Joseph Smith that teaching false doctrine does not prove “that a man is not a good man.” Take the Proclamation on the Family, for example. It states: All human beings —male and female— are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”  This statement conflicts with what President Joseph Fielding Smith taught in the arrangement prepared by Bruce R. McConkie (and therefore undoubtedly approved by Elder McConkie as well): “Some of the functions in the celestial body will not appear in the terrestrial body, neither in the telestial body, and the power of procreation will be removed. I take it that men and women will, in these kingdoms, be just what the so-called Christian world expects us all to be: neither man nor woman, merely immortal beings having received the resurrection. (Doctrines of Salvation 2:287-288; emphasis added.)  In another place President Smith taught, “Is not the sectarian world justified in their doctrine generally proclaimed, that after the resurrection there will be neither male nor female sex? It is a logical conclusion for them to reach and apparently is in full harmony with what the Lord has revealed regarding the kingdoms into which evidently the vast majority of mankind is likely to go.” (Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol 4, p.66–a set that was also edited by Elder Bruce R. McConkie.)

If it is a grave offense to now err in doctrine, either President Smith and his son-in-law Elder McConkie should be condemned, or those who signed the Proclamation on the Family in September 1995 (the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve) should be condemned. They contradict one another. The Apostle Paul would seem to agree with President Smith and Elder McConkie. (See Gal. 3: 28.) The “Christian” world, of course, denounces marriage in eternity precisely because they disbelieve sexual identity ends with mortality. They base this upon Luke 20: 34-35, Matt. 22: 30, and Mark 12: 25 as well as Paul’s statement in Galatians.

It appears to me that someone errs in doctrine. Despite that, I absolutely DO NOT BELIEVE that either the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve in 1995, nor President Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie are bad men. Nor do I think that the contradiction should be managed by the Correlation Department. I think it should stand and become something on which each of us consider, ponder, pray and reach some conclusion for ourselves. It isn’t necessary for us to always have controversies taken away from us, particularly at the expense of losing our doctrine.

The approach now is to prevent spontaneous talks from being delivered under the influence of the Holy Spirit because of fear that we would excite criticism by contradicting one another. I think this is wrong. If we want to be cautious about doctrine, then we ought to call men who understand and teach doctrine to preside. I see trustworthy men and women on KBYU discussing doctrine all the time. Elder Packer was a Seminary Instructor before his call to be a General Authority, and he has always been reliable on doctrine. I would love to hear him speak spontaneously every time he speaks. Elder Scott, also, seems to me to be a man who, if allowed to speak without a prepared text would have a great deal to share. It would be delightful to hear him speak extemporaneously. There is something valuable enough when an inspired man does this that the D&C admonished Joseph Smith to only address the Saints in this manner. If that was the Lord’s desire for Joseph, and it remains in the D&C, then it is little wonder we pay a price as a result of the correlation process.

This is what the verse we are considering here it telling us SHOULD be the case. We cannot help but “deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance” when we do not permit the Holy Ghost the opportunity to inspire by giving spontaneous utterance.

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