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2 Nephi 28: 13

 
“They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.”
 
You must keep the prior verse in mind as you read this one. They are a continuation of thought.
 
It is an interesting thought to equate “fine sanctuaries” with “robbing the poor.”  Why do you suppose Nephi would make that equation? Does it give us any pause?
 
What “duty” would be owed to the poor that entitles them to come before a “fine sanctuary?”
 
Is there a duty to care for the poor that comes before the right of someone to wear “fine clothing?”
 
What does it mean to “persecute the meek?” Can you “persecute the meek” just by ignoring them? By neglecting them? Does any religion owe some duty to the meek? What obligation is owed to the meek by people of faith?
 
Who is “poor in heart?” What obligation do we all owe to the poor in heart?
 
Now look at the last phrase. It begins with “because.” Isn’t Nephi saying that our defects are all due to “our pride.” That is, “because of their pride they are puffed up” and this is the reason we “rob the poor.” This is the reason we “persecute the meek.” This is the reason we “persecute the poor in heart.” Or, in other words, we are proud and puffed up and therefore we cannot help but cause these other offenses.
We necessarily ignore our obligations to the poor and meek because we are filled with pride. We don’t give a second thought to what we’re doing with resources entrusted to us to bless and benefit others, because we believe we are entitled to have “fine sanctuaries.” We just presume we are justified in our “fine clothing” without regard to what we may owe others. 
 
There is a moment in film that helps illustrate this verse. It is in the closing of the movie Schindler’s List. The Allies had overrun the area and the Nazi rule had ended. As Schindler was receiving the gratitude of those who had been saved by his efforts, he was struck by what more he could have done. He was less interested in receiving gratitude than he was guilt ridden by how many more lives could have been saved had he parted with a ring.  Had he parted with a car it would have secured other lives. The thought filled him with guilt. He had done some, it was undoubtedly true. But his conscious was filled with remorse because he could have done more. And in that setting, doing more was saving lives. He preferred a ring to another man’s life. He preferred a car to a family’s lives. It tormented him. If you can harrow up your mind to remember this scene, then think of what we might have done with the great resources we have been given in place of some of the monuments we have built.
 
Why do we need chapels at all? Why not meet in homes? What good could be done with the money we have invested in the chapels we have built? Joseph Smith built temples; he did not build chapels. General Conference was held in an outdoor bowery. Do we have anything to apologize for in how we use our resources? Were or are there poor toward whom the Lord would have preferred us to show mercy, and do more? There are families who have supplied church leadership from their large construction companies who have built projects for the church. I am told these relationships are natural. They call who they know and associate with, after all. I suppose that is true.
 
Nephi seems troubled by his view of us. We seem untroubled by his words. At least we don’t seem to change our behavior much because of Nephi’s counsel.  We deflect it, and point to others as his real target.
 
Well, Nephi is nothing if not relevant to almost everything going on today.

2 Nephi 28: 10-12

 
“And the blood of the saints shall cry from the ground against them. Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted.  Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up.”
 
Why does this mention the “blood of the saints?” What does it mean for their “blood to cry from the ground?” I’ve discussed this before, speaking of the earth’s own spirit.
 
What does “all” include? Even us? If “they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted” includes us, what does that mean? How could we also be “out of the way?” Is Nephi right? What about Wilford Woodruff’s claim that we would never be led astray? Can someone who promises to not lead you astray then lead you astray? How solid a guarantee does any man offer to you?
 
What does it mean to “have become corrupted?” Can a church be “true” and still be “corrupted?” (D&C 84: 53-58.)
 
What “pride” can religion impose upon people who believe false traditions? Does your faith make you “proud” to belong?  Do you think it makes you better than others? Do you believe you’re saved while others will be damned, because they don’t share your faith? Does that make you lose sleep at night, and want to cry out to save them–or to relax and enjoy your security?
 
What does it mean that the faiths are “all out of the way?” Is there only one “way?” If so, how would you recognize the right “way” from the wrong one?
 
Who are “false teachers” that teach “false doctrine?” Does “false” include omission of important truths? If one teaches truths about Christ, but does not teach you how to return to His presence, is the teacher “false?” What would qualify someone to be “true” and teach the right “way?” How would you distinguish between true and false teachers? Between true and false doctrine?
 
How can “false teachers” corrupt a church?  Can they corrupt any church?  Even ours?

Why does becoming “puffed up” and “pride” follow false teachings? What is it about false religion that brings pride to its followers? How does false security caused by corrupt doctrine lead to “pride?”


What would the opposite religious attitude be for “pride?”  Would humility, a broken heart and a contrite spirit be different than “pride?” What kind of teaching would cause a listener to become contrite, humble, meek and submissive?  What kind of teaching would defeat pride and break a person’s heart? Can you have both? Can you be “humble” and “broken hearted” and also be proud of your religion? If you cannot, then can you think deeply about your faith, your meetings, your conferences, your private as well as public conversations and ask yourself if the teachers to whom you listen lead you to pride? Lead you to humility? Lead you to contrition and repentance?

 
Who is Nephi describing? Is it possible it could apply to us along with all other organized faiths?
 
I have often heard my fellow-Saint speak of the sense of pride the Conference Center gives them. It is a great, spacious and technologically advanced center. I’ve thought the ceiling of that building looks somewhat like that very successful evangelist Joel Osteen’s amazing church. I’ve wondered if the architectural firm took hints from other successful mega-churches when designing the Conference Center.  Have you noticed how the dimmed lights and the magnified images, magnified voices and focus upon the great pulpit is designed to use all the modern audio-visual technology to create heroic images within the building for the audience? It is a technical marvel. Really state of the art. It is hard for me not to take some pride in it all. Anyone who wonders if our church is respectable, successful, powerful or advanced, who visits the facility will no doubt leave with the conclusion that, despite our humble origins, we certainly have made a success in the world for ourselves. It is a story of overcoming and prospering. 

If those whose bloodstained footprints covered our westward migration could see what we’ve become, I wonder what delight (or disappointment) they would feel. Would they have any mixed emotions at seeing this monument in granite, glass, brass and walnut? The third-of-a-billion dollars we spent on it produced a landmark of splendor for the ages.  Poor Joseph had only an open air bowery to use. Adam, too, used the open plains of Adam-Ondi-Ahman to meet. We are, of course, blessed with more resources to use as part of our “worship.”

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.

2 Nephi 28: 7-8

2 Nephi 28: 7-8:

“Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us.  And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.”
This notion that religion should always encourage merriment and feasting has so taken hold that it becomes impossible to cry repentance. Anything that challenges a happy outlook is thought to be negative and of the devil. It creates the misunderstanding that the right to feel good about one’s self is a higher obligation than the duty to teach repentance and forsaking sin.
If you are laden with sin (Isa. 1: 4), it is of no consequence, for God intends that you be happy. It is of little matter that happiness cannot be found in sin (Alma 41: 10), the gospel of positive attitude and flattery will triumph with the ungodly every time when it competes with a warning to repent and return to Christ.

The whole system has been worked out for us. The odds are you’re going to be exalted. Deseret Book has taken a firm stand on that very subject. We have it from God, you see. Because Deseret Book is owned by the church, the church has been headed by a prophet, the prophet can’t lead you astray, and therefore the odds are you’re going to be exalted–  Or so the reasoning goes.

If Nephi’s warning is urged against the tide of permissiveness, supported by this false gospel of positive attitude and false hope, then the message must surely be meant by Nephi for someone other than us. We cannot possibly be among those who incorrectly believe the Lord will justify us in committing a little sin. We do not believe in the utility of a little lie, do we? We do not use words to take advantage of others do we?

What pits have we dug for our neighbors?

By what measure do we advocate to live life pleasantly and not fear death or judgment? How could we be taken with the notion that a little guilt will result in merely a “few stripes” from an irritated, but ultimately tolerant, and permissive God?  What doctrine is it we advance that suggests all of us will, at last, be saved in the kingdom of God?
Assuming this was meant to be a warning to US, the readers of the Book of Mormon, and not to another audience who will never read the book because the aren’t converted to it, then how do we fit into this warning? Do we have a mistaken view of God’s plan? What do we say, preach or believe that would provoke this warning from Nephi? Have you scrutinized the recent manuals from the Correlation Department to see if there is any basis for concern? Have you read the General Conference talks for hints of these teachings? Do you find them there?
How many articles do you find in the LDS Church News, Ensign and New Era which are positive, flattering and reassuring? How many articles confront you, call you to repent, warn you of the judgment and the duration of eternity? (Enos 1: 23.)

Why is the Book of Mormon constantly calling upon us to repent? Why are we not called relentlessly to repentance by our current leaders? Is there a disconnection between the message of the Book of Mormon and our modern messages? Has the Lord changed His mind? Was Nephi just a crank? Is the Book of Mormon a negative book not relevant to an enlightened people who are specially chosen by God for endless happiness and promised they will never be led astray? Why would the Book of Mormon be a message for us? Why do we have a book so negative in tone, pessimistic in its view of us, while we sit atop the promises of never again having to face an apostasy?

What accounts for this disparity?
An interlude by:
Bobby McFerrin:
“Hmmmmmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmmmm, hmmmm, hm-hum-hm-hm…. Don’t worry.
Be happy.”
He’s Mormon now, isn’t he? I heard someone’s friend’s boyfriend baptized him when serving a mission in Southern California….
Poets and artists have been proclaiming the coming apocalypse in songs, art and movies for several decades. Nephi gives us the same message. But we spin happily out of control, loosed from the moorings and tossed by the approaching hurricane, all the while promising one another that it will all turn out right. We are special. We are chosen by God. Surely He will not judge us, nor hold us to account for what we believe. If we’re mistaken, He owes it to us to give us a warning, and an opportunity to repent. Other than that sad account of the prior occupants of this land, He hasn’t done that….
Oh. The Book of Mormon is important, isn’t it?
The foolishness of the doctrines that Nephi is denouncing provokes such dismay that our own foolishness needs to be paraded out in all its stupidity. We just don’t seem to get it. We’re reading Nephi’s warnings to us and pretending they were meant for everyone other than us. They aren’t – they are aiming at us. Read the verse again and try to see our own teachings being laid bare. We are his target. We are his audience. We are being warned.

2 Nephi 28: 6

“Behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.” 

This lack of faith in receiving answers to prayer from God leads to skepticism about any other manifestation by God. If the leader isn’t having any experience with God, then they distrust claims by anyone else. Everyone is a fraud, if the leader can’t receive an answer to prayer.

The root of this is jealousy and envy. But it is completely unfounded. Revelation received by another person has no limiting effect on what personal revelation you can receive. The Lord is willing to share with all. However, it is predicated on the same principle. If the leader were willing to humble himself and seek in the prescribed manner, he would receive the same result. Everyone is invited. No one is excluded. 

Nicodemus came to Christ in the dark, and Christ taught him the same way He taught others. There are some sources which suggest Nicodemus was ultimately converted. If he was, there is little doubt that after his conversion, the spiritual life he had as one of the Lord’s disciples was greater than that of a member of the Sanhedrin. The Lord was not unwilling to share with the Sanhedrin, but they were unwilling to receive Him. When one (Nicodemus) changed his heart, the Lord came to him.

This seething distrust and accusation of any who claim to experience the miraculous leads in turn to denouncing the gifts of God. When denounced, such gifts depart from us. We no longer hear about miracles, healings, visions, tongues, visitations, or other gifts experienced by those we read of in scripture. Therefore, when the presence of the gifts end, the record of scriptures ends. There is nothing to add, and so nothing is added.

Eventually the end of this spiritual journey into the dark is to denounce all things coming from the “hand of God.” No “miracle wrought by the hand of God” will be acknowledged, but will be denounced instead. The position becomes unalterable:  “God is not a God of miracles anymore.” You must trust leaders and leadership.  You will be deceived if you profess revelation or the miraculous. And so the approach into hell is carefully laid by argument, emotion and fear.

Nephi foresaw this. He is warning us against it. We should not be seduced into thinking God has finished His work. He hasn’t. He is in the middle of fulfilling promises made generations ago to the “fathers.” We inherit from the Lord the promises He made to them. Now is a great day of miracles, visits, visitations, dreams, and healings. The heavens are open, if you will ask with a sincere heart having real intent, He will manifest the truth unto you. God remains the same. His blessings remain predicated upon the same conditions.

Seek. Ask. Knock. It will all be unfolded to you. He is no respecter of persons.

2 Nephi 28: 5

“And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men;” 

The defect Nephi terms “deny the power of God” is an interesting matter to ponder. What do you suppose denying that power involves? How would it manifest itself in the way religious people go about their lives? Is praying without seeking an answer “denying” God’s power? Is presuming you have an answer when your own desires are all you are considering perhaps also “denying” God’s power?

I reflect on how many times I’ve learned something surprising, unanticipated, or which had never before entered into my mind. I think, too, about Joseph’s comment before his First Vision that “it had never entered into [his] heart that all were wrong” (JS-H 1: 18), but the answer from God informed him otherwise. God’s answers are quite often:
-unanticipated;
-never something you would have considered;
-inconvenient;
-requiring of you something you would prefer not to give or do;
-clear and unequivocal;
-enough to make your frame shake as it penetrates to your soul.
When prayer gets through to God and provokes an answer from Him, it is offered with a sincere heart, having real intent. (Moroni 10: 4; James 1: 5.)  If a prayer is offered without a sincere heart, and while lacking real intent, is this “denying” the power of God?
If a minister lacks real intent, and does not go to God in mighty prayer, has never become acquainted with the “power of God,” but proceeds to teach with their own learning anyway, do they deny the power of God?
In place of preaching what the Lord reveals, men will claim they teach correct “precepts.” They have all the revelation they need, and they are now proceeding with the authority given them by God. But they don’t hear from Him, don’t have new revelation to deliver from Him, and do not expect God to be involved any longer.

In effect, God has become so distant that “there is no God today.” He finished His work. He’s given His authority to men.

Whether the claim is based on Protestant claims that authority is derived from the New Testament, and all men who believe have authority from God, or it is a Catholic claim to have a line of authority back to Jesus Christ, it is the same. Without some involvement from God in the church itself, the teachings end in the same conclusion:  “God has given His power unto men.” The institution has taken over. The claim is always that “the church is true” without regard to whether the Lord remains involved, revealing Himself to the church. This is what the Catholic Church has claimed for centuries  God has finished His work and surrendered the “keys of authority” to the church. Now God has transmuted into a church, a Holy Roman Church, to which you may confess your sins, obtain absolution for your sins, and have entry into heaven provided to you.
With such a claim, why ask God for help? Why turn to a priesthood advancing such claims?  Why make the difficult, inner changes that bring about real intent and faith in Christ?  Why seek for and come into contact with “the power of God” if a church can be an adequate substitute?
How like the Catholics have we become?
Was Nephi only warning about Catholic error?  Do his warnings apply equally to all?

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.

2 Nephi 28: 3

2 Nephi 28: 3:

” For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the Lord’s; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord’s; and thus shall every one say that hath built up churches, and not unto the Lord—

The Book of Mormon will become available to the remnant in a day when there will be “churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord.” Generally this is interpreted by Latter-day Saints to mean OTHER churches, but not ours.  However, the context requires all, including our own church, to be considered at risk as well. Here are the questions bearing on whether we (LDS) are among those being warned:

-Is the prophecy limited to the time before the Book of Mormon comes forth? (No; it will reach until the time when other records of the Lost Tribes are to come forth–a future event. (See, 2 Ne. 29: 13-14.)
-Is the prophecy about only those churches created by man, and not one intended to become Zion? (No; see verses 21-24.)
-Can a church established by the Lord become one which is not built up to Him?  (Of course; see Eze. 44: 10; Isa. 53: 6; John 5: 39.)

Does the promise that the Lord will never abandon His latter-day work (D&C 138: 44) mean that the church He established will not drift into condemnation?  (See D&C 84: 55-58.)

Should we, therefore, consider these warnings to be equally applicable to us as Latter-day Saints as to the larger community of churches? 

Nephi warns that each church will claim it is the Lord’s. Do we do that? Each will claim divine authority and approval. Do we do that? Each will assert it belongs to the Lord. Do we do that? But the question Nephi focuses upon is whether it is “unto the Lord.”

What does it mean for a church to be “unto the Lord?” What would the opposite be?

How certain are we that what we do as a church is building up to the Lord?  Do the procurement practices of the church “build up unto the Lord?” Does the auditor’s report in General Conference even begin to allow you to make that determination? If some of the large and well-connected Latter-day Saint families own the businesses which contract with the church and have become wealthy by reason of trading with the church, is there some question which ought to be considered about “building up unto the Lord” in how business is conducted?

I explained how the church distinguishes between tithing money and “investment income” in a post on April 1, 2010. Does this seem consistent with the Lord’s parable about the talents? (Luke 19: 20-23.) If in the parable, all returns realized on the money were the Lord’s, why does the return on the Lord’s tithing now become investment money to be used for commercial projects developing condominiums, shopping malls, banks, and other income-producing ventures? Who is benefiting? What careers and fortunes are being made? What families are being benefited? Are they the Lord?

Assuming the purpose of a church were to “build up unto the Lord” what single purpose would be most important? In the Book of Mormon, as I’ve explained earlier, the writers seek to have you trade unbelief for belief; then to trade belief for faith; then to come beyond faith and receive knowledge. The knowledge it would have you obtain is of Christ. (See Ether 3: 19.)

The lack of knowledge condemns a people who claim to be the Lord’s. Nephi quoted Isaiah in 2 Nephi 15: 13: [You will not understand Nephi’s purpose in quoting Isaiah if you are unacquainted with Nephi’s Isaiah.] “Therefore, my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.” Captivity comes from a lack of knowledge. Joseph Smith warned that “a man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge.” (DHC 5: 588.) The ones who are considered “honorable” are “famished” because they lack knowledge. The “multitude” who follow the “honorable men” are in turn “dried up with thirst” because they are not taught enough to become saved. (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

If the Lord promises to never abandon His latter-day work (D&C 138: 44), does that mean men cannot abandon Him? Although men may abandon Him, can He work with you individually and “remember” His promises? Even if others are without knowledge, can you still obtain knowledge from Him? Though others may be “dried up with thirst” can you still obtain “living waters” from Him?

Can you rely upon the assertions from any church today that it is “built up unto the Lord?”  How can you be “built up unto the Lord” even if you do not have any institution you can trust to bring to you that knowledge? Was the Lord always intended to be directly involved in your life? (Matt. 11: 27-30.)

If “captivity” comes from a lack of knowledge, and Joseph Smith tied knowledge to salvation, then why is the correlated curriculum of the church focusing less and less on doctrine? Why was the Relief Society and Priesthood Manual on Teachings of the Presidents volume on Joseph Smith carefully edited by the Correlation Department so as to support meanings somewhat different than Joseph’s? If you think meanings were not changed, then go to the sources quoted in the History of The Church and read each of the whole statements made by Joseph from which the excerpts were taken. I leave it to you to decide if the edited versions in the church manual were or were not both incomplete and misleading.  [Personally, I was dismayed. But I have a sensitivity to words that is quite acute, and therefore something left out that is important to me may not be significant to you. You must decide that question for yourself. You will find it an interesting exercise even if you disagree with my conclusion.]

If a church claims to be built up to the Lord, but does not attempt to confer knowledge of the Lord upon people, then how are you to seek after this knowledge? [We are going to be discussing Nephi’s instruction to us about this very subject for the coming weeks. So keep the question in mind as we go forward.]

Remember this is the promised day when all are intended to grow into knowledge of the Lord, from the least to the greatest. (See, e.g., JS-H 1: 41 and Joel 2: 28-29; and D&C 84: 96-97.) “Those who remain” will remain because they have “knowledge” that will save them. Hence Joseph’s teaching about the link between “knowledge” and “salvation.” Also, the captivity spoken of by Nephi because people lack knowledge.

Go back to the post on Lecture 6 of the Lectures on Faith, April 21, 2010. If your church encourages you to become part of a broad mainstream without asking for the sacrifice of all things, then it is not requiring you to take the steps necessary to develop faith to save you. Rest assured, however, the Lord still has the same requirements, and He will work directly with you to develop you into a person who has the required knowledge. It was always intended to be individual. It is your quest. Others may encourage you along, but you must confront the process for yourself.

______________________________

[Now, as a complete aside, I want to address the misapplication and overreaching misinterpretation of the idea one is “evil speaking” when a person explains something that concerns them. First, we are dealing with the souls of men. We are addressing salvation itself. If there is an error in doctrine or practice, everyone has an obligation to speak up, from the least to the greatest. (D&C 20: 42, 46-47, 50-51, 59, among other places.) Second, the “truth” cannot ever be “evil.” Though the truth may cut with a two edged sword, truth is not and cannot be “evil.” Therefore, if someone should say something that is untrue or in error, then correct their doctrine, show the error, but do not claim what is good to be evil, nor support what is evil by calling it good. (2 Ne. 15: 20.) Using a broad generalization to stifle a discussion of the truth is a trick of the devil, who is an enemy to your soul. It is not the way of our Lord. He was always open to questions, always willing to answer questions, ever willing to speak the truth even when it caused those with authority over Him to be pained by His words. We must follow Him, and not men, in that example. Even if we would personally prefer to not endure insults but remain silent. So, rather than condemn something as “evil speaking” that you believe to be wrong, explain the error and bring us all into greater understanding. But if something is true, then even if it disturbs your peace of mind, it cannot be evil.]

2 Nephi 28: 1-2

2 Nephi 28: 1-2:
 

“And now, behold, my brethren, I have spoken unto you, according as the Spirit hath constrained me; wherefore, I know that they must surely come to pass.  And the things which shall be written out of the book shall be of great worth unto the children of men, and especially unto our seed, which is a remnant of the house of Israel.”
Nephi, as any prophetic writer, says what “the Spirit hath constrained” him to say.  This is the very definition of using the Lord’s name with permission and not using His name in vain. (Exo. 20: 7.)
Nephi held power from God in the words he used. Therefore he could “know that they must surely come to pass” because he sealed them as he wrote them. (D&C 1: 38.) For any person holding the sealing authority (which is an indispensable part of the Patriarchal Priesthood discussed earlier), the authority requires an alignment between the prophet, the Lord and the Lord’s will. (See, D&C 132: 45-49, in particular verse 48 which mentions “by my word and according to my law”–which required Joseph to align himself with the Lord before using that power.) Those who have this authority will not do anything contrary to the will of the Lord. (Helaman 10: 5.)  It is because of this trust between the Lord and His messenger that the power is given to the man. Nephi was such a man. His book contained a seal upon it bearing the power of God.
Nephi knew. Knowledge came from Christ. Nephi knew Christ. (2 Ne.11: 3.)

Notice how Nephi refers to the “remnant” who are “our seed.” Nephi refers to the remnant variously as:

-descendants of his father Lehi (1 Ne. 13: 34)

-descendants of his brethren (1 Ne. 13: 38-39)
-his family’s descendants or “our seed” (1 Ne. 15: 13-14)
-a mixture of Nephi’s descendants who are among his brother’s descendant’s (1 Ne. 13: 30 

Nephi’s primary line of descendants would be destroyed, but that destruction would not include all. There would remain a mixture of blood that would include partial descent from Nephi. (1 Ne. 13: 30-31) The various bloodlines remained identified as Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites and Ishmaelites. (Mormon 1: 8.) Although it would be impossible, without revelation, for us to determine which of these lines a person might belong to today, the Lord nevertheless revealed in 1828 that these various divisions remain identified to Him. (D&C 3: 16-19.) No doubt, in time, He will restore to the remnant descendants this knowledge of their sacred paternity and eternal identity.

Their blood may be mixed, but the remnant remains. Nephi may have referred to them more often as descendants of his “brethren,” but they have within them some of his blood as well. In the day of redemption and restoration, the promises will all be fulfilled. The whole of the family of Lehi will be represented in the remnant.

Notice Nephi’s prophecy is that “words which shall be written out of the book” rather than the book itself. This is, of course, exactly what we have. The actual book has been withheld. Only words from the book have been given us. But those words are intended to be of great worth to mankind, and in particular to the remnant.

This process is sacred, the promises are from the Lord. These words are given to us by Him, through a servant possessing authority to seal them up. We cannot prevent them from happening. We can, however, align ourselves with them and in turn be saved as well.