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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.

Egypt and Egyptian

The brass plates of Laban were also in Egyptian.  Mosiah Chapter 1, verses 1-4 discuss the education of Mosiah’s sons.  They were taught “in all the language of his fathers.”  That phrase gets explained.  But before clarifying what “all the language” included, the brass plates are mentioned in verse 2.  These plates contained the commandments that the sons of Mosiah needed to understand and were not possible for father Lehi to remember.  Therefore it was necessary for them to possess the brass plates to stimulate their memory of the commandments.
Continuing on with the explanation, and addressing specifically the brass plates, it is written:  “it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children.”(Id. v. 4., emphasis added.)
This somewhat changes the picture of Jerusalem at the time of Lehi’s departure.  The record of the brass plates included what we would recognize as the Old Testament record, from Moses’ five books down to the time of Lehi’s exodus.  (See 1 Ne. 5: 10-16.)  For the entire Old Testament account to have been written in Egyptian onto the brass plates means that Egyptian was a preferred language.  It wasn’t just an efficient language that Nephi selected for his own record, but instead a preference that was widespread among the Jews throughout Jerusalem at the time of Lehi’s departure.
By the time Mormon took over abridging the record, the language had been further modified for efficiency and reduced effort in carving the record onto metal plates.  (See Mormon 9: 32-34.)  It was a more efficient, though less exact, form of language than Hebrew.
The Egyptian influence upon ancient Jerusalem and our own Bible should be studied.  The presence of Egyptian hieroglyphs in our scriptures (Book of Abraham Facsimiles 1-3) also puts us on notice that we need to look into Egyptian matters.  Hugh Nibley has written a number of books on the matter, the most recent of which was released as One Eternal Round on the occasion of Nibley’s 100 year from birth.  Abraham in Egypt was an earlier work also on this subject.  And there has been a three volume set on the Early Life of Abraham published through BYU (quite an expensive set to own).  It is interesting how much Egyptian influence there has been in our faith.  Remember that the Egyptians sought to preserve the faith which existed before the flood and was practiced from Adam to the time of Noah.  (Abraham 1: 26.)  It may have become eroded and drifted, but it nevertheless preserved truths from the beginning.  Abraham was sent to them to help restore the original faith which they originally tried earnestly to preserve.

Whether we like it or not, we have an interest in knowing more about ancient Egypt than any other Christian faith.

LDS Books

I was asked to recommend some books.  I am going to first discuss some of what I’ve read over the years.
The first year after joining the church I was eager to learn what the religion was about.  I began reading whatever I could find to inform me about the new faith.  I started with the following, which I obtained from a bookstore inside the home of a woman in the ward: 
A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, by LeGrand Richards.
The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt
Life of Heber C. Kimball
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
Jesus the Christ
Documentary History of the Church by Joseph Smith (all volumes)
I was transferred by the Air Force to Texas, and continued to read there until my discharge from the military.  While there I read the following:
The Life of John Taylor
Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by BH Roberts (all volumes)
Evidences and Reconciliations
The Gospel Kingdom
Mormon Doctrine
The Promised Messiah
The Articles of Faith
The House of the Lord
The Mortal Messiah (all volumes)
Ensign, Conference Report and Journal of Discourses (not all volumes read)
Doctrinal New Testament Commentary
The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother Lucy Mack Smith
Discourses of Brigham Young
Brigham Young: American Moses
Doctrines of Salvation (3 volumes)
Answers to Gospel Questions (5 volumes)
Gospel Doctrine by Joseph F. Smith
Messages of the First Presidency (6 volumes)
By the time I arrived at BYU, I thought I was beginning to understand the faith, at least as it was taught and understood at the beginning.  There was a debate between BH Roberts and the Chaplin of the United States Senate which I really liked.  It was titled “The Mormon Doctrine of Deity: The Roberts and Van Der Donckt Debate.”  Nibley’s book The Timely and the Timeless came out and I still have my original copy.   During law school I also discovered Hugh Nibley, and found an actual Deseret Book store.  Back then Deseret Book sold doctrine.  In fact, almost everything they sold or printed was doctrine or history.  I bought and read until I couldn’t find an early or contemporary work about church history or doctrine I hadn’t read.  I have acquired a library since joining the church that includes every significant LDS doctrinal book as it became available in print.  I still try and keep up with all the current reading that I believe is worthwhile.  But the new stuff is getting thinner and thinner in material, importance and doctrine.  In fact, it is quite rare that a new book isn’t disappointing to me; particularly when it comes from Deseret Book.  The Joseph Smith Papers project is the exception; however it is coming out under the Church’s new publication arm (a division of Deseret Book.)  A good example of the foolishness to which Deseret Book has descended is that Odds Are You’re Going to be Exalted book that came out a couple of years ago. 
That having been said, I was asked by someone what I thought was absolutely essential reading.  Here’s my list:
The scriptures (first, foremost and without peer)
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
Lectures on Faith
Words of Joseph Smith
Approaching Zion, by Hugh Nibley
The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil

I think if you study those six books, you will understand the Gospel.

A Confession

Confession of sins is supposed to be good for the soul.  So I figure I’ll make a confession of my attempted arson.  I offer no defense for this crime, since I need none.  The statute of limitations having run many years ago.
When my friend decided he no longer wanted to make payments on his new 1969 Chevy Nova, I offered to total the car for him so he could collect the insurance money.  As we were speeding along getting ready for me to wreck it into a collection of roadside boulders, he chickened out.  So we never destroyed it that evening.  Within a few days, however, he returned to his despair over making payments.  We discussed it for some time without any resolution to the problem.
Because of some movie (I think with Steve McQueen, but for the life of me I can’t recall what it was about), we came up with a solution:  We’d burn the car.  Surely insurance would total it if burned.
So we parked it behind the Mountain Home Newspaper office, where we worked, and set the plan in motion.  My friend soaked the front seat with kerosene, lit a cigarette, tucked the lit cigarette into a match-pack, set it on the soaked front seat, and we went inside.  We were waiting for the cigarette to burn down to the matches, the matches to ignite, the ignition to set the kerosene afire, and the fire to destroy the car.  We waited.  And waited.  And nothing seemed to be happening.  We stayed in the front of the newspaper office, wanting to appear surprised when the news of a burning car was brought to us, but nothing happened.
I think it was an hour or more before we went to the rear of the building to check on how our felony was progressing, and noticed that in the upper glass block skylight there was flashing red lights, clearly showing flames licking upward from a burning Chevy Nova.  We thought it worked!  Now someone needed to notice it and call the police.  But we couldn’t be the ones who discovered it.  So we retreated again to the front of the building and settled in to wait out the discovery.
When another hour or so had passed we again peeked into the back of the building and again saw that same flickering red light.  We retreated again.
Another hour later and still no sirens, no commotion, nothing.  We checked again and sure enough the red flickering was still underway.  We wondered what it was about a Chevy Nova that would let it burn for hours once ignited.  Then concluded that if no-one else was going to make the grim discovery, we could at least see the results of our handiwork directly instead of through glass block skylight reflections.
So we opened the back door and there sat the Chevy Nova completely undisturbed.  Intact, fully operational and not even singed.  Puzzled, we wondered at what we’d been seeing flickering these past hours.  It turned out to be the outdoor sign of Jovial Jerry’s bar, whose sign was on the sidewalk outside the bar with which the Mt. Home News shared a parking lot.
Well the Nova didn’t burn.  When we inspected our crime scene it turned out that kerosene will put out a lit cigarette without igniting.  The cigarette was there, soaked with the seat, and the matches were unusable as well.  The only damage was a cigarette burn to the front seat upholstery.
Well my friend had suffered so much from the hours of anticipation and was so relieved at the failure, that he determined to just keep the Nova.  However, from that day till the day he sold it it always stank of kerosene.

There, confessing my sin does make me feel better.  Maybe I’ll cover some others in the future.

Forward or backward

I got asked about loss of teachings or practices within the LDS community.  My response is as follows.

It makes no difference whether it is an individual or a community, we are all on a single path that goes two ways – forward or backward. We are either gaining, or we are losing.  We cannot stand still.
Whether a group or a person, we are either gaining (restoring) light and truth, or we are losing (apostatizing) from light and truth.  This world is a world of change.  Nothing remains the same.  Everywhere you see either growth, or decay.  These forces are at work everywhere. They are also at work within you.
You either search out new truth, find it, live it, and thereby become restored to truth, or you back away from it.  If you are backing away, losing it, neglecting it, and discarding it, you are in the process of apostasy.
In a restoration process, there are moments along the way which are marked and notable.  Having the inspiration of the Spirit, or feeling the remission of your sins, or receiving revelation, or having a visit of an angel are notable.  The culmination of the restoration would be to return to God’s presence.  Should that happen, through the Second Comforter’s ministry, then you have been restored in full.
In an apostasy process, you also have a few momentous events.  Having a loss of sympathy for others, feeling progressively more critical of others, becoming neglectful of prayers, failing to associate with fellow saints, neglecting the sacrament are early along the path.  Ultimately asking to have your membership terminated, engaging is drug abuse, patronizing the sex industry, are strong signs someone has departed from moving in one direction and has begun to move quickly into the other.  (I’m not saying that these are related, nor that someone who leaves the church voluntarily is doomed to addiction, immorality or worse.  There are many people of good faith who struggle with the church.  That is a different subject.)  It is clear, however, than when a person has become a murderer, seeking to kill the saints, as we have seen in history, such a person has finished the course of apostasy and is beyond feeling.
These are examples which try to quickly illustrate the point on a personal level.  Quickly, at the institutional level, we have at one end of full restoration, a return to Zion, and the Lord dwelling among them.  At the other we have a society whose wickedness and abuse of children is so far spread that fire comes down from heaven to destroy them.  Complete restorations and complete apostasies are rare.  What history is made up is the description of struggling along the path.  We ebb and flow back and forth, without becoming fully ripe either way.
Christ promised at the end of time there there would be a ripening.  “Wheat” and “tares” will ripen.  Then there will be a harvest. (Matt. 13: 37-42.) However, the haphazard manner of the harvesting makes a full return of Zion before His coming seem unanticipated by the Lord’s teachings. (Matt. 24: 39-40.)  Modern revelation gave us that opportunity.  We clearly have not done so, and at present seem clearly not interested in doing so.  That is a subject for another time, however.  As Christ put it, we need to seek for our individual, complete restoration because the group will not.
There are two ways – forward or backward.  It is not required that you finish the course in a day; but times are coming in which the environment will require of you a greater commitment as “wheat” on the one hand, or leave you to descend into becoming a “tare” on the other.  So the direction you are on now is quite important.  Either you are restoring truth or you are discarding it.