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What does it mean to possess your soul?

I was asked this question:

“In one scripture the Lord connects patience to possessing your soul.  What does it mean to possess your soul?  And it’s connection to patience?  This is a very new connection for me.”   

My answer:  

That’s a great question.  The verse is D&C 101: 38, reads: “And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life.”  To possess your soul is to have body and spirit inseperably connected, in a resurrected and immortal state.  D&C 88: 14-16 explains: “Now, verily I say unto you, that through the redemption which is made for you is brought to pass the resurrection from the dead. And the spirit and the body are the soul of man. And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.” To possess your soul, therefore, is to have the resurrection.
In the context of 101: 38, it is also saying that while in that resurrected state you will “inherit eternal life.”  This means to receive exaltation.  So the concept that these words are covering is the concept of exaltation and receiving, in the resurrection, a Celestial inheritance.
Patience is tied directly to this. Indeed, patience is required for this.  No person arrives in this state without offering sacrifice sufficient to develop the faith to lay hold on eternal life.  That is explained in the post a day or so ago about the Sixth Lecture on Faith.  This kind of sacrifice is very rarely done in a single act, but over a number of years by faithful obedience to the Lord’s plan for your own life.  It is developed by learning the Lord’s will for your life and then following that will. 
The whole concept begins by framing the issue around, “seeking the face of the Lord always.”  That is, possessing your soul, eternal life, and exaltation are all tied to the quest to return to God’s presence here in mortality.  It is tied to the path of seeking the Second Comforter.  As you know, I’ve written about that process and it takes more room than this blog can accommodate.  But this verse it speaking about that process.
It’s a beautiful verse.  It is another affirmation that the Second Comforter is intended to be a regular minister to mankind. Not some distant, unattainable visit, limited to a select few because of its difficulty.

What can they share?

I was asked: “For those among us who have had a personal visit with the Lord… what can they share with us that have not ? Can they share what our Lord looked like? His eye color? hair? height? how was he dressed? Is he among us now? How did he sound? Is this too sacred to be discussed openly?”
From the beginning, mankind was told not to make idols and displace their reverence for God by a physical image or talisman.  It has been enshrined in the Ten Commandments (“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:” (Ex. 20: 4-5.)  The commandment extends to the “likeness of anything that is in heaven” and would include the Lord.

The images I have seen of Him are for the most part inaccurate. The reason we don’t have accurate pictures is in all likelihood related to the fact that those who come to see Him would understand the importance of avoiding idols and would question the wisdom of recreating an image of Him that might be used by others to displace their attention and worship.

What is appropriate is to affirm that He is real, that He lives, that He has been resurrected from the dead, and that He came, sacrificed and rose because of His role as the Savior and Redeemer of mankind.  I’ve written as much as I’ve been asked to write about Him by way of testimony in the Appendix to Eighteen Verses, in Come, Let Us Adore Him, and a brief physical description in Nephi’s Isaiah.  However, the brief physical description is not enough from which to reconstruct an image.  It merely refers to some of His physical attributes and then tie them to the scriptural accounts to show why the narrative in the New Testament would read as it does.

The most important understanding of Christ is tied to what He suffered in Gethsemene.  D&C 19: 16-20 and my testimony about Gethsemene are both useful in understanding what He went through and what role our own actions will play in obtaining the benefits of His Atonement.

Faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ

I’ve been asked why I remain faithful if I think things are off track.  (That’s an abbreviated way of stating a long question.)

I believe in the Book of Mormon.  Therefore I expect that the Latter-days will be filled with trouble, difficulties, and the church will be struggling with perplexities.  If we didn’t have problems we wouldn’t fit the pattern Nephi, Mormon and Moroni warned about.  So when I see problems I do not get anxious, I accept what is and deal with it.

I don’t blame anyone.  We didn’t get here by some single person’s failings.  We have proceeded carefully, and with the best of intentions.  But we still have challenges.  That is part of being here in the Telestial Kingdom.

Doing a little good, conferring a little hope, and bringing a little light into the world each day is as much as a person can hope for.  I can do that.  I am grateful for the limited sphere inside of which I serve.  I fight on that small bit of ground and leave the bigger picture for those who are responsible for the bigger picture. 

  
I have a great deal of sympathy for those who are required to lead in this troubled world.  I doubt I could have done any better, and fear I may have done a lot worse.  So I temper any shortcomings I see with the recognition that things aren’t as easy as we sometimes think they are.  I’m grateful for what I have been given and am content with life.

Who will save you?

I was asked if some mortals, like Jesus Christ, are inerrant, perfect and without sin.  Actually, the questions was phrased differently.  The question asked if I thought the church president could make mistakes.  [I suppose my rephrase gives my view.]  But to clarify:
 
I do not think any person should trust ANY other person to save them.  Don’t trust another man, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Don’t trust me.  Don’t rely upon those who are gifted, those who lead you, or any man.
 
“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way” ( Discourses of Brigham Young, 135).
 
If a man is a leader and he has the Spirit of God upon him, and speaks by the Spirit of God words of eternal life, then I follow the Spirit of God, not the man.  I trust no one.  And I look to find the Spirit of God, wherever it speaks, without regard to who possess it. 

“… for it shall be sweet unto them.”

I received another inquiry (in the form of a comment on this post) about the subject of self-defense, citing various scriptures from the Book of Mormon as proof I have a flawed view.  This is the comment:
 
“I have thought it would be so nice and easy to just let them kill me and go to the spirit world scot free as it were! Clasped in the arms of Jesus again! No blood on MY hands…
 
But then I read in the Book of Mormon, the commandment of Jesus:

“And again, the Lord has said that: “Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed.” ” Alma 43:47
Very clear. So I do not think I am obedient to Him if I refuse to take up arms. How do you reconcile this, Denver?

There is a further warning from this marvelous Book for our day that is apropos:
Alma 48:24: “they could not suffer to lay down their lives, that their wives and their children should be massacred by … barbarous cruelty”

You see, I cannot ignore the high probability that I will need to defend my wife and children from “massacre by barbarous cruelty” in the Last Days.

I plead with you NOT to suffer to just lay down your life and watch as you see them massacred.”
 
I debated over whether to let the subject die or to respond.  I decided I’d give the following reply:
 
The Book of Mormon history of an escalating arms race between the smaller Nephite people, against the greater Lamanite people, teaches us many things.  First, technology can level the playing field.  The Nephite technological adaptations kept them safe from Lamanite aggression.  Second, an arms race continues after each encounter.  The Nephites began using armor. The Lamanites adopted the use of armor.  Later wars included this technical advance on both sides of the battlefield. The result was still more innovation by the Nephites, with controlled fortifications, limited points of entry, and kill-zones with cross fire from towers aimed at the aggressive Lamanites.  All of this reads like the modern Military-Industrial Complex (to use Pres. Eisenhower’s term).  It ended badly, however.
 
Ultimately, it was not the force of arms that brought about peace. It was conversion of the Lamanites, and the Divine power in judgment to destroy the wicked.  Conversion allowed some Lamanites to survive the destruction.  But the hand of the Lord was what ended the widespread wickedness, killing and disorder.
 
The conversion of the Lamanites was greatly accelerated when the group converted by Ammon determined to lay down their arms, even at the cost of their lives.  Over a thousand of them were killed before the killing stopped.  When it stopped, however, more were converted than had been killed.
 
When the Lord visited them and they experienced a two century long hiatus from warfare, their Zion did not have arms, killing or war.  When they divided again, they set in motion a return to the earlier cycles, ultimately ending in the complete destruction of the Nephites.  They left a record.  Their advice cannot be divided from their history.  Their history was filled with violence.  It ended in the genocide of the “good guys.”  The end of the record is referred to by Mormon all throughout his abridgment of the records.  We should not miss the end of his story as we read the unfolding story.
 
Death is not the end.  John the Baptist was arrested and beheaded.  He suffered no loss.  He returned to minister to Joseph and Oliver and bestowed upon us a lost priesthood.  Peter and James were martyrs.  They suffered no loss either.  Stephen was stoned to death, and had the heavens open to him and a visit with the Father before his death.  He died forgiving those who stoned him, as he was at that moment filled with grace and charity toward others.  Stephen suffered no loss.  Joseph Smith was killed by a mob.  He suffered no loss.  He moved to his inheritance.  Isaiah was put inside a hollow log and sawed in two.  He suffered no loss.
 
Killing is not as easy as the theoretically-macho may think.  It changes a person. My father landed on Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944.  On the morning of June 7, 1944 he was the only one of his company who was able to continue fighting.  He was there at the liberation of Paris.  He fought in the Battle of the Bulge.  He killed men.  It affected him.  He could hardly speak about it.  What few comments he made were separated by years in between.  A sentence here, a comment there.  Even when asked directly, he wouldn’t offer more than a paragraph.  It wasn’t a memory he could either forget or bring himself to discuss openly.  It is a great and terrible thing to kill another. 
 
Using popular culture to illustrate the point, there is a younger partner of Clint Eastwood’s character in Unforgiven.  He talked about how much he wanted to kill someone.  After he had finally killed a man, he said to Eastwood’s character,  “I’m not like you.”  Meaning that he couldn’t reconcile himself to having taken a man’s life.  That is only a movie and Hollywood and perhaps overwrought.  But it nevertheless touches upon something absolutely true – killing is irrevocable.  There is no repair for having taken another’s life. Those who do carry that to the grave.
 
You can toss about quotes from anyone you please.  But when you cause another’s life to end you have done something irrevocable.  You have crossed a line which, even with all your prayers and regrets, you cannot reclaim. 
 
Given the choice between killing and being killed, I think a perfectly rational person can decide they would rather be killed than kill.  And I think the Lord could respect a decision of that kind, as well.  Death can be sweet for those who are prepared.  (D&C 42: 46.)

“… for it shall be sweet unto them.”

I received another inquiry (in the form of a comment on this post) about the subject of self-defense, citing various scriptures from the Book of Mormon as proof I have a flawed view.  This is the comment:
 
“I have thought it would be so nice and easy to just let them kill me and go to the spirit world scot free as it were! Clasped in the arms of Jesus again! No blood on MY hands…
 
But then I read in the Book of Mormon, the commandment of Jesus:

“And again, the Lord has said that: “Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed.” ” Alma 43:47
Very clear. So I do not think I am obedient to Him if I refuse to take up arms. How do you reconcile this, Denver?

There is a further warning from this marvelous Book for our day that is apropos:
Alma 48:24: “they could not suffer to lay down their lives, that their wives and their children should be massacred by … barbarous cruelty”

You see, I cannot ignore the high probability that I will need to defend my wife and children from “massacre by barbarous cruelty” in the Last Days.

I plead with you NOT to suffer to just lay down your life and watch as you see them massacred.”
 
I debated over whether to let the subject die or to respond.  I decided I’d give the following reply:
 
The Book of Mormon history of an escalating arms race between the smaller Nephite people, against the greater Lamanite people, teaches us many things.  First, technology can level the playing field.  The Nephite technological adaptations kept them safe from Lamanite aggression.  Second, an arms race continues after each encounter.  The Nephites began using armor. The Lamanites adopted the use of armor.  Later wars included this technical advance on both sides of the battlefield. The result was still more innovation by the Nephites, with controlled fortifications, limited points of entry, and kill-zones with cross fire from towers aimed at the aggressive Lamanites.  All of this reads like the modern Military-Industrial Complex (to use Pres. Eisenhower’s term).  It ended badly, however.
 
Ultimately, it was not the force of arms that brought about peace. It was conversion of the Lamanites, and the Divine power in judgment to destroy the wicked.  Conversion allowed some Lamanites to survive the destruction.  But the hand of the Lord was what ended the widespread wickedness, killing and disorder.
 
The conversion of the Lamanites was greatly accelerated when the group converted by Ammon determined to lay down their arms, even at the cost of their lives.  Over a thousand of them were killed before the killing stopped.  When it stopped, however, more were converted than had been killed.
 
When the Lord visited them and they experienced a two century long hiatus from warfare, their Zion did not have arms, killing or war.  When they divided again, they set in motion a return to the earlier cycles, ultimately ending in the complete destruction of the Nephites.  They left a record.  Their advice cannot be divided from their history.  Their history was filled with violence.  It ended in the genocide of the “good guys.”  The end of the record is referred to by Mormon all throughout his abridgment of the records.  We should not miss the end of his story as we read the unfolding story.
 
Death is not the end.  John the Baptist was arrested and beheaded.  He suffered no loss.  He returned to minister to Joseph and Oliver and bestowed upon us a lost priesthood.  Peter and James were martyrs.  They suffered no loss either.  Stephen was stoned to death, and had the heavens open to him and a visit with the Father before his death.  He died forgiving those who stoned him, as he was at that moment filled with grace and charity toward others.  Stephen suffered no loss.  Joseph Smith was killed by a mob.  He suffered no loss.  He moved to his inheritance.  Isaiah was put inside a hollow log and sawed in two.  He suffered no loss.
 
Killing is not as easy as the theoretically-macho may think.  It changes a person. My father landed on Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944.  On the morning of June 7, 1944 he was the only one of his company who was able to continue fighting.  He was there at the liberation of Paris.  He fought in the Battle of the Bulge.  He killed men.  It affected him.  He could hardly speak about it.  What few comments he made were separated by years in between.  A sentence here, a comment there.  Even when asked directly, he wouldn’t offer more than a paragraph.  It wasn’t a memory he could either forget or bring himself to discuss openly.  It is a great and terrible thing to kill another. 
 
Using popular culture to illustrate the point, there is a younger partner of Clint Eastwood’s character in Unforgiven.  He talked about how much he wanted to kill someone.  After he had finally killed a man, he said to Eastwood’s character,  “I’m not like you.”  Meaning that he couldn’t reconcile himself to having taken a man’s life.  That is only a movie and Hollywood and perhaps overwrought.  But it nevertheless touches upon something absolutely true – killing is irrevocable.  There is no repair for having taken another’s life. Those who do carry that to the grave.
 
You can toss about quotes from anyone you please.  But when you cause another’s life to end you have done something irrevocable.  You have crossed a line which, even with all your prayers and regrets, you cannot reclaim. 
 
Given the choice between killing and being killed, I think a perfectly rational person can decide they would rather be killed than kill.  And I think the Lord could respect a decision of that kind, as well.  Death can be sweet for those who are prepared.  (D&C 42: 46.)

Ultimate Source

I really appreciate my status as a lay member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I’m no-one who any of you should think important.  I’m just like you.  I offer my opinions and they are yours to consider as you try and sort out the challenges of this life.  The ultimate source for light, truth and salvation is the Lord.  Not me.  Not even an institution.  Not some other man.  You should be dependent upon the Lord for your knowledge and Him alone.  The Spirit brings you words from Him.
As you listen to any man speak, measure what he has to say against the standard found in the scriptures and against the whisperings of the Spirit to you.  Any man who tries to come between you and the Lord is seeking to make themselves an idol and they will lead you astray.  There is no-one who can stand between you and the Lord.  He alone is the keeper of the gate, and He does not now and never has employed a servant there.  (2 Ne. 9: 41.

You should obtain your own independent knowledge of everything another man tells you.  If you don’t then you are surrendering what should never be surrendered: your own agency and responsibility.

Kim Smith Concert

Subject: Kim Smith Concert

April 30th 7 pm 2001 S State Street North Building Main floor (Salt Lake Council)

Auditorium

The traditions of men, part 3

Continued:

This subject causes a great deal of anxiety for saints.  The fact it causes anxiety is proof that the saints have become conditioned to a mythology which requires everything to be good, all to be well, our current path a direct line to Zion itself, and all questions concerning the current state of affairs to be wrong.  More than “wrong,” questions are evidence of weak faith and the road to apostasy.

From the questions which started as soon as this subject began, I see I need to reiterate what I said at the first.  I have a testimony, I am active in the church, and I am not in a position to change things.  I support the brethren, pay tithing, serve where called and do not challenge the right of the regularly constituted authorities to manage the affairs of the church.  I rise when President Monson enters a room I am in, I sustain him with my vote, my prayers and my confidence.  I admire him.  I posted about him a few days back.  I meant what I said.  I do not envy him nor aspire to church leadership.  I am not called and do not anticipate I would ever even be considered; in part because of things like this subject appearing on this blog and concerns raised in books I have written.
I love the church and I am content as a Latter-day Saint.  I love my ward and serve gladly wherever I am called.
The fact that those clarifications need to be added again, although it should have been apparent from the beginning remarks, is again revealing how shaky the saints are today.  We do not have a foundation that allows us to consider alternatives.  We have a single “on/off” switch for all subjects and for our testimonies.  That is NOT as it should be.  We should be able to confront dilemmas, difficulties, troubling news and failures by leaders while we suspend judgment and tolerate dissonance.  We want instant messages, instead of having the patience to see the Hand of the Lord work over decades to bring good things from bad.
An open, candid and critical look at ourselves is not possible with people who are so insecure that they feel threatened.  The progression of these insecurities will be disastrous unless at some point it is reversed.  When those who raise questions are excluded, told they are weak in the faith and are on the road to apostasy, eventually everyone who is thoughtful is chased away from the church.  Instead of celebrating their critical thinking and working to understand issues better, we chase some of the best minds out of the church.  I wish all our critics were active members.  I wish all our discussions were open enough to allow the marketplace of ideas inside the church to air everything.  As I have said before, I believe the truth will prevail.  You can knock it down, burn it, pave it over, kill it and threaten it, but it will prevail.  A whisper of truth will overcome a hurricane of opposition.  It endures. It will triumph.
I’ve only touched on a few matters here.  I’m not going to go further at this point. However, the greater mischief we face at present is the de-emphasis of doctrine.  We are raising a new breed of Latter-day Saint today whose familiarity with doctrine is negligible.  They understand only a fraction of what has been restored, and for many of the doctrines, their understanding is incomplete, or so skewed that they are incorrect.  Doctrine has become less important.  We feed upon “inspirational stories” that salve the emotions, but do not edify the soul or bring the personal changes necessary to return to God’s presence. More and more of the saints grow up inside this new environment and have never even gained a fundamental command of the doctrines which Joseph Smith restored.  Gospel Doctrine classes rehash the same material every four years, which is quite challenging to those who have a memory which goes back decades.  The format adopted for teaching involves group discussions, and the teacher becomes a “discussion leader.”  Little is learned.  The group is made to share fellowship, and feel better for having attended, without any forward momentum in understanding the doctrines of salvation and exaltation.
When, over time, the leadership is replaced at all levels by those who are raised in the current milieu, the church will have completed a transformation back into a Protestant, powerless body of good people who want to do right and feel good about themselves.  But the power of godliness will have fled them.
President Packer again sounded the alarm in General Conference.  It was a brilliant talk.  I use the term “brilliant” to describe the light within it.  He said we had done a “good job of correlating” the priesthood “authority” but we had failed to disburse any “power” in the priesthood.  I think it was a wonderful talk.  What I would like to see discussed is whether there is a cause-and-effect between the correlation process on the one hand, and the admitted failure of priesthood power on the other hand.  That discussion, however, cannot happen in the current environment.  To ask the question about the underlying wisdom of the correlation process would be to directly challenge the “inspiration” of the prophet Harold B. Lee, who created this process.  Therefore, any questions about correlation demonstrates that the one asking questions is weak in the faith and on the road to apostasy.  So the discussion cannot occur.  That is until we become a little more secure in our faith and are willing to de-mythologize the cult of personality and recognize that questions are the first step to getting answers.
I love the church, and my fellow saints.  I mourn many of the changes.  However, I also celebrate the fact that the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with all its gifts, privileges, opportunities and power remains still on the earth.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints administers the fundamental ordinances of that Gospel.  How far you take it is up to you.
There was a talk in General Conference given by a Seventy named Poleman, in which he distinguished between the church and the gospel.  The talk is still available on-line in its original form.  However, he was required to re-record the talk to conform to the correlation department’s challenge to any statement which distinguished between the church and the gospel.  Right now testimonies within the church recite the mantra “I know the church is true.”  The correlation process has made the church into god.  People’s testimonies of the “church” have supplanted their testimonies of Christ.  Read any Ensign issue of any Conference held within ten years after the triumph of the correlation process, and consider how many of the talks focus upon the church and the church’s processes and goodness, in contrast to how many of the talks focus upon Jesus Christ and His doctrines.  Christ’s role has been diminished by the emphasis upon the correlated church.
These are trends and traditions.  They are at their incipient stages.  We are a 180 year old church.  Barely out of the cradle, so to speak.  But trends endure.  Add another 200 years of progression of these trends and you will vindicate the fellow who said:  “When Mormons have been Mormons as long as Catholics have been Catholics, the Mormons will be more Catholic than the Catholics.”  If you want to see the future of the church in its present course, attend Mass this Saturday evening (held on Saturday so as to keep your Sunday open for basketball playoffs and MLB play now starting).