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FYI

I have been surprised by the level of excitement which some of my posts have caused.  My views are an extension of the faith I hold.  It is not possible to take one issue and isolate it from the whole of what I know to be true.  Therefore, if you want to understand the view, you need to take the time to read what I have written, which explains fully what I know, and why I know it.
 
To understand it will be necessary for you to study the faith as restored through Joseph Smith.  I have explained what I believe and why I believe it in six books now.  Rather than attempting to argue me into another position, it might be helpful to first understand what I have written.
 
However, I realize some people will not do that and therefore I attempt to respond piecemeal here to questions asked.  But there are really two dialogues going on here.  One is between those who have read what I have written and know why I am responding as I do.  The other is between those who have no background from which to understand my answers and who make presumptions about them.
 
I appreciate the convictions of others, including those who disagree with me.  I am thankful to the people who raise questions about what I have written.  The level of excited rhetoric is something I do not find personally offensive, but I worry that those who use it will later regret doing so.  I put up a quote from my father a little bit ago about never speaking a word in anger that he did not later regret.  I would extend that to words spoken in haste, or in overwrought judgmentalism.  Oftentimes at a later point a person regrets saying them.  So I was extending to the authors of the comments a few days to reflect on whether they wanted them to be put up before them appearing here, as a courtesy to those who wrote them.
 
I am a trial lawyer.  Everything I do for a living is opposed by someone who is paid to oppose my positions, my arguments, my reasoning.  Therefore I do not get upset when someone holds a contrary view and expresses it.  I live with that daily.  My concern lies with those who express forcefully and judgmentally things which they may, upon second thought, realize reflects more about them than they would like.
 
In any event, I do want to note that there are at least two different dialogues going on here at any given time.

Lectures of Faith No. 6

This is an excerpt from the Sixth Lecture in the Lectures on Faith.  This was at one point a part of the Doctrine & Covenants.  They were prepared for the School of the Prophets and approved by Joseph Smith.  Their presence in the scriptures was the reason for the change in the title from Book of Commandments to Doctrine and Covenants.  The “Doctrine” portion of the book was comprised of these lectures.  They were subsequently removed from the D&C.  Below is an excerpt which I think is needed to be understood by anyone who would like to comprehend the faith restored through Joseph Smith:
An actual knowledge to any person that the course of life which he pursues is according to the will of God, is essentially necessary to enable him to have that confidence in God, without which no person can obtain eternal life.
It was this that enabled the ancient saints to endure all their afflictions and persecutions, and to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing (not believing merely) that they had a more “enduring substance” (Heb. 10:34). 
Having the assurance that they were pursuing a course which was agreeable to the will of God, they were enabled to take, not only the spoiling of their goods and the wasting of their substance joyfully, but also to suffer death in its most horrid forms; knowing (not merely believing) that when this earthly house of their tabernacle was dissolved, they had a building of God, a house “not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).

Such was, and always will be, the situation of the saints of God, that unless they have an actual knowledge that the course that they are pursuing is according to the will of God, they will grow weary in their minds and faint; for such has been, and always will be, the opposition in the hearts of unbelievers and those that know not God, against the pure and unadulterated religion of heaven (the only thing which ensures eternal life), that they will persecute to the uttermost all that worship God according to his revelations,

receive the truth in the love of it, and submit themselves to be guided and directed by his will, and drive them to such extremities that nothing short of an actual knowledge of their being the favorites of heaven,and of their having embraced that order of things which God has established for the redemption of man, will enable them to exercise that confidence in him necessary for them to overcome the world, and obtain that crown of glory which is laid up for them that fear God.
For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge; realizing that when these sufferings are ended he will enter into eternal rest, and be a partaker of the glory of God.
For unless a person does know that he is walking according to the will of God, it would be offering an insult to the dignity of the Creator were he to say that he would be a partaker of his glory when he should be done with the things of this life.
But when he has this knowledge, and most assuredly knows that he is doing the will of God, his confidence can be equally strong that he will be a partaker of the glory of God.

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things; it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God.

When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain.
Under these circumstances then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.
It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.
It was in offering sacrifices that Abel, the first martyr, obtained knowledge that he was accepted of God.
And from the days of righteous Abel to the present time, the knowledge that men have that they are accepted in the sight of God, is obtained by offering sacrifice.
And in the last days, before the Lord comes, he is to gather together his saints who have made a covenant with him by sacrifice. Ps. 50:3-5, “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant unto me by sacrifice.”
Those then who make the sacrifice will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God, and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled through faith to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith, because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith; therefore, they cannot lay hold upon eternal life, because the revelations of God do not guarantee unto them the authority so to do; and without this guarantee faith could not exist.
All the saints of whom we have account in all the revelations of God which are extant, obtained the knowledge which they had of their acceptance in his sight, through the sacrifice which they offered unto him.
And through the knowledge thus obtained, their faith became sufficiently strong to lay hold upon the promise of eternal life, and to endure as seeing him who is invisible; and were enabled, through faith, to combat the powers of darkness, contend against the wiles of the adversary, overcome the world, and obtain the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.  
But those who have not made this sacrifice to God, do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their minds; and where doubt and uncertainty are, there faith is not, nor can it be.
For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time.
So that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence; and where unshaken confidence is not, there faith is weak; and where faith is weak, the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations, and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them.

Why the Second Comforter?

I was asked why my list of essential books included The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil, but omitted my other books.  I responded:
 
If someone understands the message of The Second Comforter, they will be able to get for themselves everything else contained in all the other books.  The Second Comforter is not about me, it is about the reader.  You should apply that book to yourself, which will lead you inevitably back to the presence of the Lord.  The Lord will then instruct you in all things needed to be prepared to be presented to the Father.
 
Beloved Enos is a description of the results of that audience.  If you understand and apply The Second Comforter you will receive those results.
 
Come, Let Us Adore Him is my testimony of Christ.  But my testimony is not as important as your own.  It may help you to develop your own, but without your own testimony borrowing from another can never be the end of the journey.
 
I wouldn’t write a book unless I believed it to be important and to contain truth coming from a higher source.  Nevertheless, it is what you know, not what I as an author may know, that will save you.  It is the salvation of others, not the attention of others, that concerns me.  If I can help point them to the Lord, then I have some limited use.  Beyond that, I have no purpose.
 
Since all that we hope to receive from the Lord flows from the discussion in The Second Comforter, it is that book which I believe to be most important.

Truth = Truth

Truth is a knowledge of things as they were, as they are, and as they are to come.  (D&C 93: 24.)  As a result, truth is really not subject to debate.  We either know the truth or we are deceived.  If we know it, we have an obligation to declare it.  If we are deceived, we have an obligation to be humble enough to at least consider the truth before we reject it.
 
When we dispute in anger, we move away from truth.  “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of  contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.”   (3 Ne. 11: 29.)  The truth is not being taught when men argue in anger with one another.  When they do, the Spirit withdraws and learning ends.
 
Truth should appeal to the heart and mind.  It should bring joy.  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;” (D&C 11: 13.)  I do not believe there is any past scriptural precedent for angry people bearing a threatening message about vengeance and revenge who then proceeded to build Zion.  I doubt we will see such an unprecedented and unscriptural event occur in the future.
 
Words that describe Zion include: 
 
Humble
Meek
Submissive
Contrite
One
No poor among them
Presence of God among them
Peaceful
Only people not at war
Singing songs of everlasting joy
Of one heart
 
It is an odd thing how those who learn about the possibility of Zion think that possessing that awareness entitles them to live there.  Before anyone will be admitted to Zion they will necessarily have to bring it into their own lives.  Gathering a crowd without considering first who has been chosen by the angels who possess the keys for this gathering, and those who have been sealed in their foreheads by those angels, is just another foolish and futile act.  (D&C 77: 11.)
 
Hugh Nibley wrote an article in Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless titled: “Zeal without Knowledge.”  That title was taken from Romans 10:2.  In that article he wrote: “We think it more commendable to get up at 5:00 a.m. to write a bad book than to get up at nine o’clock to write a good one.  That is pure zeal that tends to breed a race of insufferable, self-righteous prigs and barren minds.”  Nibley could be so hard on us at times.  But then again, he also hit the nail on the head.
 
For some particularly unsuited people to talk expectantly about Zion when they are utterly unprepared to understand the subject is beyond irony.  For them to be stirred to anger about the subject because they disagree with another’s view about Zion must provoke both bemusement and despair for the gods.  

Seeking for and obtaining gifts – part of the expected pattern

I received this comment and question:

As I have learned more about the scriptures, I have come to find many “anomalies” in the lives of the prophets are actually not anomalous but part of the expected pattern. Examples of things I once thought exceptions which I now believe are expected steps along “the way” include Moses’ struggle with the devil, the 2nd Comforter, the sealing power, Christ’s willingness to give Nephi anything he asks, John’s vision of all, Abraham’s astral journey and John’s entering into the temple in heaven.
The appearance of the Liahona in the Book of Mormon seems anomalous, a physical object of divine origin given to aid his servant in completing his journey. But is the Liahona in fact, an anomaly or can any righteous member expect physical tokens from heaven to aid them on their own journey before they arrive in the celestial kingdom?

I would agree that there is a pattern, it is universal, and the prophets are trying to give that pattern to us in the history they record, the examples they teach, the parables they offer and the commandments they reveal. There is one, universal system which everyone will receive as part of their journey back to God. In order to pass the angels who stand as sentinels along the path you must proceed in an orderly fashion through the veil. It will be one by one.

Yes, I agree there are physical tokens given as an aid to getting there. Take the gift of seership, as an example. We know there was an instrument given to Joseph to aid him at the first. He used it to gain an understanding even before the translation of the Book of Mormon plates commenced. He would tell his family stories about the ancient inhabitants, their customs, manner of dress, etc. His mother, Lucy Mack Smith records this in her history. This understanding came as a result of Joseph’s possession and use of the Urim and Thummim, making him a “seer” in the sense of the term used in Mosiah. (Mosiah 8: 13-17.)

Eventually Joseph developed the independent gift of seership, and no longer required the physical instrument to be used in order to exercise the gift. He became, like Enoch, able to “see” without use of the instrument. (Moses 6: 35-36.)

We tend to think this a great rarity and grand exception. Yet we also find that everyone who enters into the same state of exaltation as God will be required to possess this same gift. (D&C 130: 5-11.) If possession or development of this capacity is expected for all those who reside with God, then the gift is intended to be universal among the exalted. Therefore, we should not delay seeking this as one of the best gifts to desire. (D&C 46: 8; 1 Cor. 12: 31.)

Since whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto will rise with us, and you will have so much more the advantage if you have gained greater light and truth by your heed and diligence than others who have failed to show such diligence, there is no reason to delay. Just as Moses wished all men were prophets, I wish all men were seers.

Your proposition is right.

Pax Americana

Prof has left a new comment on your post “The battle is the Lord’s“: 
I’m particularly interested in what you mean by this:
“We live in a world today in which Pax Americana has established controlled violence the world over. The fear of destruction holds forces at bay which would gladly destroy one another if permitted. The key to replacing the current world order with another one, as many insurgencies the world over recognize, is the destruction of Pax Americana by destroying American hegemony. A lot of people are working on that, both inside and outside the United States.”
Do you support “American hegemony” in order to maintain “Pax Americana”?  And from what source did you get these terms?
Those are really several questions.  I will try and answer briefly.  This is a very cursory explanation to the inquiry.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, there followed the universal recognition that there only one surviving super-power.  I think the truth was that even prior to the Soviet breakup there was only one real superpower, but the international propaganda machine and the eastern European subjugation by the Soviets essentially formed such a land barrier and controlled such a population base that they were accepted as a second super-power.  The reality was somewhat different, but in this world perception is everything and so long as everyone believed there were “two” the world acted consistent with their being two. 
Now the world acts consistent with there only being one.  As a result of there being one, political pacts, economic alliances, trade, military alliances, treaties, social mores, entertainment, language, corporate interests and sea lanes are all governed by what the United States tolerates or accepts.  Even China has so limited a military sphere of influence that they can “control” Tibet and the upper Korean Peninsula, but have no ability to project power over active American resistance.  That does not mean they aren’t working on it.  They are.  But they can’t compete at present.
Whatever other strengths other nations may possess, they cannot compete with the total inventory of American power.  Economically the entirety of Europe is not able to compete with American economic power.  There are other members of the nuclear power states, but none with the delivery systems, proven capabilities and demonstrated will to use nuclear weapons in combat.  
A full elaboration of the unique American combination of power is far too great a subject to cover here.  Just one other example: Al Jazzera was launched as a counterpart to CNN, Fox News and the BBC.  These networks dominate international news.  An earthquake in Istanbul happens and residents there turn their TV’s to CNN, Fox News or the BBC to find out what is happening.  Al Jazzera is an attempt to get another cultural perspective different from an Anglo-American vantage point.  To possess the dominate vantage point in the news is to possess the advantage.

Why are Turkey and Greece not in combat with one another despite their long lasting territorial disputes?  They are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) founded by the US at the end of WWII to attempt to avoid another land war in Europe.  Why is the Korean Peninsula not back in combat?  The fear is that it would draw the US and China into direct conflict and that would be a disaster for the whole world.  So an uneasy peace endures.  Why is Taiwan not overrun at present by China, when they claim sovereignty over it?  It is because China has not yet reached a point of development where they feel safe to have a direct conflict with the US.  Again, there could be many examples, but the world stage is set by American interests which dominate other considerations.  
The resentments pile up and attempt to organize.  Chavez has high hopes in Venezuela, just as Castro had high hopes in the 1950’s in Cuba.  But just like Castro, Chavez is having a difficult time keeping the lights on in his energy rich country.
The current American president candidly admitted “whether we like it or not, American is the world’s sole superpower.”  He’s taking flack for that right now.  But it was a correct statement.  America is the dominant power, and its interests influence the world over.  Foreign aid props up many countries which would not exist without it.  
There are many people who would like to see American power end.  You would have to have never seen the news to not hear that rhetoric coming from critics the world over.  And inside the American political landscape there are those who want to see an end of American foreign entanglements.  The most outspoken may be the Libertarian Party, whose candor about the need to withdraw from the world stage is part of their every campaign.
I have not evaluated the wisdom of the reality.  I’ve only commented on its existence.  How America got here is a product of history and decisions made in past generations.  President Washington’s Farewell Address cautioned against “foreign entanglements” which would cost us lives and treasure.  He was right about what he foresaw.  President Eisenhower warned against the “military industrial complex” (a term he coined), and how it would eventually control such economic interests that it would skew our national policies and priorities.  I think he was right as well. 
The terms are taken from Roman history and applied to American history.  We are re-living the Roman model, without borrowing wisdom from those who saw its decline and fall.  Gibbon is still good history, and a model for modern historians as well.   The parallels between these two empires are so striking that even the element used by the Lord in Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream are similar.  The Roman being iron, and the American being iron and clay.  The parallels are unmistakable to any student of history.

We repeat history.  We are living with the past and cannot see ourselves outside the forms we have inherited from our past.  Tradition controls even the way we read scripture.  Therefore we are blind to what they tell us until it has been fulfilled, at which point we see in hindsight only what things we have forfeited.  Zion is alien here, and therefore we have a difficult time envisioning it without putting it into Babylonian/Roman form.  Zion, however, is without ambition, competition and aggression.  It has fled.

BYU Women’s Rugby

The BYU women’s rugby team forfeited the championship opportunity because of required competition play on Sunday.  An article was written about the event, which can be found at:
 
 
I applaud anyone who puts principle ahead of self.  Sacrifice is still required.
 

A student of the Lord

Our obligation is to conform our opinions to the Lord’s instruction.  That requires us to be careful about how we listen, how hard our hearts are, how much we want to let in, and how loyal we choose to be to traditions.  It is rare for any man to be an eager student of the Lord’s.  The scriptures give us only isolated examples.  Abraham was one of them.  He WANTED to receive and obey commandments.  (Abr. 1: 2.)
 
Resistance to truth prevents us from obtaining it.  The Lord will not force us to understand Him or His ways.  Instead He invites us to come and learn from Him.  Joseph Smith made this remarkable statement: 
 
“We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker and is caught up to dwell with Him. But we consider that this is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment: he must have been instructed in the government and laws of that kingdom by proper degrees, until his mind is capable in some measure of comprehending the propriety, justice, equality, and consistency of the same.”  (TPJS p. 51.)
 
Closing your mind to the Lord’s agenda before He has had an opportunity to fully instruct you is damnation.  Damnation merely means the end of progress.  So when we fail to progress in our understanding, we voluntarily damn ourselves.
 
The Lord’s system, however, involves gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned.  It requires patience and pure knowledge.  (D&C 121: 40-42.)  Before we can elevate anyone else’s understanding we have to stand on higher ground.  To lead a soul to salvation, as Joseph put it, required the following:  
 
“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.”  (TPJS p. 137.)  
 
Given this requirement for a man to be able to lead another soul to salvation, it would seem that few are really qualified.
 
Choose your teachers carefully.  Accept any truth you are offered and you will be offered more.  Reject a truth given to you and you close down the opportunities given to you for learning.
 
Someone asked the question a bit ago: “Humility = light?” and I haven’t responded till now.  The answer is humility allows someone to be taught.  We are all ignorant, but not all are willing to let in new understanding.  We must be taught about the things we do not yet know for us to be saved.  Without humility we cannot be taught, and therefore we cannot gain light.  Humility is so fundamental a requirement for gaining further light and truth that without it we cannot grow.  The two are so intimately linked together they form a near equivalency.

Violence and the Violent

There has been an abundant outpouring of vitriol by those who disagree with my view about “the battle is the Lord’s” (an earlier post).  The comment moderator has asked me about them, because she’s reluctant to put some of them up.  They claim the view I hold is either Satanic or else I have been deceived by the Devil.  They insist I have a duty to kill people rather than refrain from doing so when there is a threat of violence directed at me or my family.  They claim Brigham Young and Joseph Smith both require me to begin killing enemies under appropriate circumstances, rather than submitting to being killed.

From time to time someone writes something which they later regret and they send another message asking for the comment to either not be put up or to be deleted if it had already been posted.  I reminded her of that and suggested that she wait a few days and see if people decide to withdraw them before making any decision.  Ultimately I leave it to her to decide.

I did want to add a comment about the use of violence.  First, I trust the inspiration of a non-violent man, constrained against his will, when he determines the Lord requires him to act far more than I would trust the judgment of someone prone to violence when they suggest the need to kill, take violent action or attack.  Throughout history all those who have made claims their violence was excused claimed they were “defending” themselves.  There is a chapter on this subject in Eighteen Verses, which covers the topic a bit more than I am inclined to do again here.

I would comment about the Mountain Meadows Massacre and its sad legacy.  The recent publication by the Assistant Church Historian as co-author of yet another new treatment of the unfortunate moment when Brigham Young’s clamor for “defending” the Saints got out of hand.  The book is called Massacre at Mountain Meadows. The book reiterated how mistaken and regrettable that moment was in LDS history.  It is the great example pointed to by anti-Mormon sources as proof that Mormons are capable of all the depredations of Historic Christianity, Roman Catholicism and Puritanical excesses that killed those who offended them.  The church has issued an official apology, and President Hinckley visited the site and dedicated a monument as an act of Latter-day Saint contrition and regret.

That single moment in church history is something which all our prayers cannot take back.  We cannot restore those lives which were taken.  We cannot explain we are really Christ’s disciples to the descendants of that party of victims.  They continue to hold resentments which have festered for generations and still call out condemnation for our act of violence and murder.

If we had suffered then, as we had in Missouri and Illinois we would have been better.  If given the opportunity to suffer again for our faith, we would be better remembered by history if we learn the lesson of Mountain Meadows.  We are ennobled by our sacrifices.  We are detested for our revenge and violence.  In General Conference a few sessions back, President Faust gave a talk titled The Healing Power of Forgiveness.  Unfortunately, his great example came from the Amish, whose young daughters were killed by a murderer, whom they forgave.  It was not taken from our own conduct.  I would commend that talk as a more recent and more reasoned statement on violence and the violent than the comments of Brigham Young who Latter-day Saint historians now admit had some role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  Not because he approved it, he did not.  Indeed, he sent a message to let the entrapped party go.  But his message arrived too late.  The violent attack had already taken place.  The violence having been rationalized, at least in part, by Brigham Young’s own militant comments in the preceding years.


I am not trying to persuade anyone.  Go ahead and resolve this issue for yourself.  I am only setting out my own view.  Take it for what you think it is worth.  If you think it is “of the Devil” or “Satanic” then of course you ought to reject my view.  But I have considered the quotes of Brigham Young before reaching my view, and find them in a context which even I believe he grew to regret.