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Opposing wickedness through violence

There is a continuing unease about the subject of opposing wickedness through violence.  So I thought I would add this additional explanation:
 
I do not foresee that a gun will be effective against radioactivity; nor against weaponized anthrax.  I read the plagues that are coming and the descriptions in D&C 29: 15-21 and I do not foresee a handgun doing me any good under those circumstances.  I see wicked being killed, but no role for me and a sidearm to join in the fray.
 
I do not foresee any need for Zion to be protected by armed machine-gun nests around a perimeter when a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night hangs over them. (D&C 45: 65-71.)  In the description, it does not say they go up with songs of joy, interrupted by occasional gunfire and all hell breaking loose.  It says they proceed quite peacefully, singing songs of everlasting joy. (verse 71.)
 
When sickness and scourge are poured out, there will be widespread death and destruction.  But there is no need for me to join in the killing.  In fact, all those who take up the sword are included within the ranks of the wicked scheduled to die.  (D&C 45: 30-33.)
 
I think the “power” we need in the Priesthood of God will be necessary to protect us from plagues.  To stay the disease which will be poured out.  To keep at bay the effects of the illnesses caused by the wickedness and evil of men who, killing one another and leaving the unburied dead to rot, will spread cholera, diphtheria and other illness.
 
I do not foresee the need to take up arms.  The violence of nature will be responsible for killing many.  In fact, the depopulation of the earth will be as a result of the following, as I understand it:
 
War
Pestilence incident to war
Famine (incident to war and pestilence)
Drought (incident to wickedness)
Hail (to destroy what few crops remain)
Earthquakes and Tempests (targeting those who remain alive but who are wicked and threaten Zion)
 
Nowhere on my list is there an entry for a Zion-based sniper unit.  (I’m just trying to let a little humor into this, not mocking this idea.  It is a serious idea to be sure, deserving serious thought and pondering.)
 
What we are going to face is global genocide.  A handgun won’t do much good against the things that are prophesied.  There may be isolated opportunities to shoot a bad guy.  But there may also be the same isolated bad guy who, in his fear and cowardice, may be vulnerable to conversion to the Gospel if we don’t shoot him.  What is coming will intimidate mankind so fearfully that men’s hearts will fail them.  I think preaching to them while they are in such a stupor rather than shooting them may work.  And if not, well then I haven’t taken my brother’s life.

 

God is no respecter of persons

I am surprised by how people regard me as something special.  I have been blessed by the Lord to be able to write some books and put some information on this blog. However, if you were raised LDS and put forth some nominal effort to living your religion, you have lived a better life than I have. I wasn’t raised LDS and had no understanding of the Gospel, or the underlying reasons for the commandments.  Therefore, I never obeyed even a fraction of the commandments that you have grown up following.
 

I am absolutely convinced that any one of you is a better candidate than I was to receive an audience with the Lord.  The wonder of this process is not that someone has done it, but that so few have.  Given that I am probably the least qualified, the point should not be lost on you.  If it has happened to me, then it absolutely can and should happen to you.
God is no respecter of persons.  All are alike to Him.  Qualifications are based upon the behavior and faith of the person, not on their status or past mistakes.
You probably think your errors are more serious an impediment to God accepting you than He ever has.  He doesn’t want to judge you, He wants to heal you. He wants to give you what you lack, teach you to be better and to bless you.  He doesn’t want to belittle, demean or punish you.  Ask Him to forgive and He forgives.  Even very serious sins.  He does not want you burdened with them.  He wants you to leave them behind.

His willingness to leave those errors in the past and remember them no more is greater than you can imagine.  It is a guiding principle for the Atonement. Asking for forgiveness is almost all that is required to be forgiven.

What alienates us from Him is not our sins.  He will forgive them.  What we lack is the confidence to ask in faith, nothing doubting, for His help.  He can and will help when you do so.
The sins that offend Him are not the errors, weaknesses and foolishness of the past.  He is offended when we are forgiven by Him, and then return to the same sin. That shows a lack of gratitude for His forgiveness.  Even then, however, there are addictions, compulsions and weaknesses that we sometimes struggle with for years, even decades.  When the sin is due to some difficulty based on biology, physiology or  an inherent weakness that we fight for years to overcome, then His patience with us is far greater than our own.  He will help in the fight.  He will walk along side you as you fight.  He does not expect you to run faster than you have strength.  When, at last, because of age or infirmity, a troubling weakness is at last overcome, He will readily accept your repentance and let you move forward clean, whole and forgiven.  That is His ministry – to forgive and make whole.

I know all my mistakes.  They are greater than most of yours. I am in awe of His mercy and forgiveness.  I am not at all impressed by my worthiness.  It is nothing.  It consists of borrowed finery from Him who has let me use His great worthiness to cover my own failings.  To the extent that I have any merit, it comes from Him.  I remain astonished that He would condescend for someone like me. 

It is a wonder some think I have an advantage.  I assure you that the promised blessings are available to ALL.  If that were not true then someone as weak, simple and flawed as I am would never have had the hope that I now have in Christ.

Get busy!

Another statement from Joseph Smith worth considering as part of deciding how seriously you would like to be a disciple of Christ’s:
 
 All men know that they must die. And it is important that we should understand the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life and of death, and the designs and purposes of God in our coming into the world, our sufferings here, and our departure hence. What is the object of our coming into existence, then dying and falling away, to be here no more? It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other. We ought to study it day and night, for the world is ignorant in reference to their true condition and relation. If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject. Could we read and comprehend all that has been written from the days of Adam, on the relation of man to God and angels in a future state, we should know very little about it. Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose. Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject. (DHC vol. 6, page 50.)
The definition of “ordinances of God” are not all contained in a formal church setting.  Read again the experiences of others in scripture and you will find that a great deal takes place between the Lord and those who follow Him.  When He appears He also ministers.  There is also the description of the “sealing” which will qualify those living in our day to become a member of the Church of the Firstborn, which involves an ordinance performed by “angels to whom is given power” and to whom this ministry belongs.  (D&C 77: 11.)
Search the scriptures.  They testify of all things.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints administers the ordinances of salvation and prepares you to receive further light and knowledge directly from the Lord.  If you have received what the Lord offers through the church, but have failed to take the final admonition to receive further light and knowledge by conversing directly with Him, then your salvation has not been perfected.  You still have work left before you.
 
Get busy.

AWAKE AND ARISE

From time to time I am constrained to say something that is beyond what I feel comfortable saying in a public venue.  This is one of those times.
The content of this may not be for everyone. In fact, I think there can be a lot of mischief done by reading this if you are unprepared. Nevertheless, I’m constrained to cover this by Him who knows much better than I do – I readily recognize I am a fool.  When something like this happens, I bury my own feelings and do what I’m told.

I pointed out a bit ago that Joseph Smith received the sealing authority in a revelation to him sometime between 1829 and 1843, the exact date is not known.  The way in which he received this authority was by a direct revelation to him from heaven.  The “voice of the Lord” came to Joseph making the declaration.  At the same time Joseph’s calling and election were made sure.  Here are the verses from Section 132:

  45 For I have conferred upon you the keys and power of the priesthood, wherein I restore all things, and make known unto you all things in due time. 

  46 And verily, verily, I say unto you, that whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you remit on earth shall be remitted eternally in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you retain on earth shall be retained in heaven. 

  47 And again, verily I say, whomsoever you bless I will bless, and whomsoever you curse I will curse, saith the Lord; for I, the Lord, am thy God. 

  48 And again, verily I say unto you, my servant Joseph, that whatsoever you give on earth, and to whomsoever you give any one on earth, by my word and according to my law, it shall be visited with blessings and not cursings, and with my power, saith the Lord, and shall be without condemnation on earth and in heaven. 

  49 For I am the Lord thy God, and will be with thee even unto the end of the world, and through all eternity; for verily I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father, with Abraham your father. 

  50 Behold, I have seen your sacrifices, and will forgive all your sins; I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac.
No one noticed this when I put it up, and no one has asked any questions about this. Therefore it is apparent that none of you have been prepared to receive what this is talking about.  I am going to try to help you to see things by asking questions.  I will not be answering them.  I just offer them to you to ponder:
Did you notice this is referring to “power” and not authority?
Do you see any connection between this “power” and President Packer’s talk in General Conference about the church’s inability to disseminate “power” among the saints in the same way the church has been able to disseminate authority?
Does sealing authority and calling and election necessarily go together?
Can a man hold sealing authority if his calling and election have not been made sure?
 
How does this authority come to a man?
Must it come from the word of the Lord, declaring it from heaven, or can it come by some other kind of laying on of hands from another man?
Since Joseph received it from the declaration of God from heaven, and Nephi received it the very same way (see Helaman 10: 6-11), is this the only way to receive it?
If it comes from heaven alone, can any institution ever control this “power” generation after generation by handing it down from man to man?
Why did Joseph receive this power by the declaration of God from heaven, perhaps as early as 1829, outside the Temple and apart from the vision in Section 110?
Since Elijah’s words in Section 110: 13-16 do not mention the “power to seal” did Joseph really get the sealing “power” from the vision in the Kirtland Temple?
Does Elijah only confirm the process of restoring keys has completed, but sealing “power” came from somewhere else? 
Is it possible that the institutional church has one understanding, but the truth and the scriptures teach another understanding?
If that is possible, then why have you not been studying things out for yourself to decide what the truth is concerning where this kind of “power” comes from?
Is this related to the “sealing” which is done, not by the church, but by the angels as revealed in D&C 77: 11?
Should you get a testimony of Christ, rather than recite merely that you “know the church is true?”  
Can the church be true, and yet your soul not saved?
Do the ordinances of salvation, including sealing you up to eternal life, require you to have “power” given to you from heaven?
With respect to the words in D&C 121: 36:  “That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.”  

Do these words relate to this same subject?

Do these words confirm that if priesthood “power” has been lost that the remaining priesthood “authority” cannot bind or seal?
Do the words “that they may be conferred upon us, it is true” (in 121: 37) confirm the very real distinction between “authority” and “power”?
Is President Packer trying to alert us to something very important missing in the current state of the church?
The questions are not intended to suggest any answer.  They are food for thought.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is so important a subject that you ought to be thinking deeply about it.  Joseph Smith said:  

“[T]he things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity-thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.” (DHC vol. 3, page 295.)  

We should not be dealing with the Gospel at a superficial level.  We should be ashamed of how we have been treating it.  Again, Joseph said:   

“How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of His will, from before the foundation of the world! We are called to hold the keys of the mysteries of those things that have been kept hid from the foundation of the world until now.”  (Id.)

A religion that allows you to foolishly waste the days of your probation will not save you.  That religion is NOT the faith that Abraham followed or that Jesus Christ taught.  If you are attending “vain and trifling” meetings that are “low, mean, vulgar and condescending” then you must do something about your own education in the faith to obtain exaltation.

The path trod by the ancients is exactly the same path every saved soul must walk.  Read this again.

I testify that you can know for a certainty the answer to these questions.  Anyone can.  Even the least of the Saints.  
I wish all mankind might be saved.  Neglect and indifference seem to be such prevailing impediments to the salvation of the souls of men that Satan must rejoice, look up at heaven with a great chain in his hands, and declare that he has bound all mankind!  How little the world has changed since the time of Enoch.
Awake.
Arise.
Your soul is in jeopardy.

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.)