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An explanation

This came to me through an email and I thought I should address it here.  This is the email I received:
 
“I got information through the grapevine about a woman who is claiming that Denver ordained her to do something and that he put his hands on her head and set her apart for some type of work.  I don’t know all the details, but I was not happy when I heard that.  I know that he wouldn’t do that but thought that Denver should know that this woman is going around telling people this.”
 
I thought I would put it on the blog and explain.
 
First, I don’t have any idea what woman this is referring to; nor for that matter who wrote the information in the email. It was just forwarded to me, and I was given permission by the one who forwarded it to use it on the blog.
 
Second, I’ve not “ordained” a woman to do anything.  Nor do I intend to “ordain” a woman to do anything. 
 
Third, I have given blessings to my wife, daughters, home teaching assignments who are sisters, and other women who have asked from time to time, just as others do who hold priesthood and are asked to give a blessing.  That has never involved “ordaining” a woman to some assignment or work.
 
Finally, the only women I have “set apart” for an assignment was done while I served in a Bishopric at BYU, or while serving on the High Council.  Apart from that I haven’t “set apart” any woman.  I’ve done numerous “setting apart” assignments in Elder’s Quorums, and other assignments, but those were men.

All is well in Zion

According to the Joseph Smith’s First Vision, the Restoration occurred because of the apostasy of Historic Christianity.  All churches “were wrong” and their “professors  were all corrupt.”  “All their creeds were an abomination.”  The people who inhabited these churches “draw near [to God] with their lips, but their hearts are far from” Him.  (JS-H 1: 19.)
 
This is the historic moment which justifies the Restoration.  It forces a choice upon the world. Mormonism is either correct, or it has no reason to exist.

This forces The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into a dilemma.  It must either proclaim that it is the only repository of saving truth, or it must strike a compromise which betrays the reason for its existence.  

 
Jesus Christ did not intend to let those who follow the work He was to commission through Joseph Smith to become popular, successful, or live in peace.  He intended to put them at odds with all the rest of the world.  The very reason for His strange act was to notify anyone who heard about it that they were to repent, change, accept new truths, or remain “corrupt” and with “hearts far from Him.”  It is an instant challenge to the world.
 
When we shape the message of the Restoration into a vocabulary which does not offend, we miss the point.  We are REQUIRED to offend.  We are REQUIRED to sound the alarm to “Awake! Arise!”  When the message to those who accept the Historic Christian faiths is that “you’re OK” we are contradicting Christ’s opening statement to Joseph Smith.
 
All of this is only true if what we are doing is continuing the work begun by Joseph Smith.  If we have abandoned what he restored, then never mind.  We can fit in and get along.  In fact, we can not only fit in and get along, but we can even mimic the other mainstream faiths of the day. We can adopt a positive mental attitude, and proclaim:  “All is well in Zion, Babylon, Athens, Rome and Nineveh.  In fact, all is well everywhere.  Don’t get up.  Stay asleep.  We’re just here to help make you feel better about yourself.”

HBO and Politicians

My wife has become a Republican County Delegate again.  I stayed home.
Given the sorry state of the current political class, I’m just glad when the political scandal of the day doesn’t involve sodomy of a parrot.

Sobbing politicians blubbering how sorry they are for the DUI/nude hot-tubbing with underage girls/oral sex or drug use require me to then explain to my kids things I would rather defer until they are older.  What good is it to not buy HBO when the evening news features Republicans and Democrats confessing sins as sordid as anything we get in R-rated movies?

Central America or North America?

I used to view the subject of where the events in Book of Mormon took place as one of those trivial matters (2 on my earlier scale).  However, I’ve found that FARMS has become quite animated about the subject.  They are quite critical of the North American model.  This has somewhat raised the subject’s importance in my view.
There are two views. One is that the events took place in Central America.  The other is that they occurred in North America.  The best explanation of the Central American setting is John Sorenson’s book: An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, published by FARMS.  The best defense of the North American setting is Bruce Porter and Rod Meldrum’s book Prophecies and Promises – The Book of Mormon and the United States of America.  FARMS gave a very critical review of the Porter/Meldrum book.
I used to think this subject was unimportant enough to allow it to remain undecided.  After reading both sides’ arguments, I am inclined to believe it has more significance if you accept Bruce Porter and Rod Meldrum’s view.  If you accept their view, then Joseph Smith knew something more about the Book of Mormon’s events than Sorenson advances.  Also the fit of Book of Mormon prophecies into a highly focused unfolding of events also follows.  In fact, the D&C comes into sharper focus when you accept the Porter/Meldrum view.
I am inclined to now view this as an important or very important issue (7 or 8 on my earlier scale).  I think everyone ought to read those two books and decide the subject for themselves.  Since the Sorenson book was written first, and the Porter/Meldrum book is somewhat a response to it, I think they should be read in that order.

Abinadi’s message

The significance of a prophet’s message can never be measured by the extent to which he is accepted or even acknowledged by his peers.  In the case of Abinadi, he was an outcast whose origins and even ethnic affiliation are unknown.  He is the only person in the Book of Mormon with this name.  His lineage cannot be determined from the name, and whether he is Nephite, Lamanite, or some “other” is not disclosed.

His only credential was his message.  He came to announce warnings, was rejected, and ultimately killed.  He had no success with the people, and made only one convert.

Abinadi is a hinge character around whom the entire remainder of the Book of Mormon will center.  His one convert, Alma, will become the spiritual leader of the Nephites, and that convert will become the leading writer of the Book of Mormon. Then his posterity will be the focus of the remaining history of the Book of Mormon.

Abinadi’s prophecies were cited from the time he delivered them to the end of the Book of Mormon. But measured by the events of his life, he failed.  His one convert fled persecution and hid in the wilderness.

However, measured by the full sweep of history, he is the pivotal character, the central figure from the time of his appearance until the end of the Book of Mormon.

I think there’s a profound lesson in Abinadi’s appearance and legacy.  If the Book of Mormon was edited by those who “saw our day,” and was edited to foreshadow our own history, then we ought to be cautious about discarding a message from someone like Abinadi.

The only meaningful credential is the content of the message.  Trappings of office, genealogy, name, status, and standing were all irrelevant to Abinadi.

Truth

There is “truth” which exists independent of what we think or believe.  (I use the word in the same sense as D&C 93: 24-25.)  Our collective forgetfulness does not erase truth.  Nor does our vain imagination alter truth. 
 
Whenever a doctrine is changed because of man’s planning or arguments, then we are teaching for commandments the doctrines of men; just as Christ complained to Joseph in the First Vision.  (JS-H 1: 19.)
 
During the Third and Fourth Centuries the debates over “adoptionism” were causing doctrinal havoc for the Christian movement.  As they solidified control over the movement, the leaders of the developing Historic Christian faith had a plan to cure the schism involving arguments that Christ was just a man who had been “adopted” at His baptism to become the Son of God.  The original words spoken at His baptism came from Psalms 2: 7.  These words supported the “adoptionist’s” arguments.  The answer was simple – change the text of the Gospels.  So they edited the words and changed them from saying, “Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee” to instead, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  (Matt. 3: 17.)  That drove a stake in the heart of the “adoptionist” arguments.
 
Bart D. Ehrman has shown how this, and other controversies, affected the text of the New Testament in his book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament.
 
Patterns in history have a way of repeating themselves.  Men almost always find it easier to change doctrine than to conform to the truth; and to edit books to fit their failures than to follow direction.  Our challenge is to learn the right lessons from history. We should not succumb to the easy advantages of changing the principles our religion is founded on, in order to accomplish “good” and repel criticism by adapting to meet the critics’ arguments.
 
Truth is immutable and unchanging.  We either conform to it or apostatize from it.  We can’t change it.
 
How grateful I am to still have prophets among us.

First principles of the Gospel

Someone asked this question:

In one part of Come, Let Us Adore Him you talk about the Dispensation in the Meridian of Time.  How “Men of good faith and sincere desire doing their best to follow after God, lost the light of the Spirit, then lost sound doctrine, and ultimately lost their covenant status and drifted into darkness.” Did you mean this collectively?  Over time as a group?  As an individual of good faith, sincere desire, doing their best to follow after God, losing the light of the spirit, then sound doctrine and later drifting into darkness….   How tragic.  If after all that they still failed, what then is our hope for an individual now, in our dispensation?  Are we doomed to the same outcome?  I see many following the same course as anciently.  

My answer:

It is troubling.  It is the terrible problem of mortality.  We are all prone to drift and fail.  It is only by constant renewal of faith that we can hope to succeed.  No matter how far we have come, what great things we have obtained, we are still subject to failure.  This is why the FIRST principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: “faith, repentance, baptism and laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  We never outgrow these FIRST principles.

I believe them to be “FIRST” in the sense of primacy, not a singular event which happens and then you can take them off the list of stuff to do.  They are primary. They are foundational.  They are required to be used constantly.  Therefore, they are “FIRST.”

So, we always go forward in faith.  No matter how much we already know, we must use faith to go forward.  We live within the limitation of linear time.  We experience things in a flow that happens without our control.  Life unfolds as an unknown to us, and we must cope with all it hands us from day to day.  That requires faith to confront this uncontrolled, unfolding stream of time in which we are presently confined. 

Repentance is required because even if we are doing what we should be doing we are always going to learn more.  It is the nature of the Gospel that our light should increase.  Whenever we learn more, we must change to reflect what we have just gained.  Change is the heart of repentance. 

Baptism is to have sins washed away.  If you are already baptized, then the ordinance does not need to be done again, but the remission of sins and washing them away is required repeatedly.  For those already baptized, this is done through the Sacrament. It is still required for us to have sins remitted.

The Holy Ghost is should be a regular participant in our lives.  Its renewed companionship is also primary.  Its witness to us that we are on the right path is the only way to wage the necessary war against entropy which seeks to take you into darkness.  It is the source of renewed light that always enlightens when it comes. 

These are the only means by which we can avoid the same dismal fate as all others of all prior dispensations.  We must do this individually.  It does not matter if it is done collectively. I’ve yet to see any reason in the scriptures to expect great collective success by the Gentiles who inherit the Gospel in our dispensation.  There are individual promises to the few Gentiles who will repent, have faith, be baptized, enter into the covenant and remain faithful.  But the collective outcome is not particularly rosy.

White stone and a new name

I was asked whether the white stone and new name in D&C 130 are the same as the Second Comforter.  It was an interesting question and I thought I’d put the answer up here:
There are some equivalents (ie., if A=B and B=C, then A=C) in the Gospel when it comes to this subject. The ministry of the Second Comforter is to bring those to whom He ministers to the Father, and have them accepted by Him.  This means that the Father accepts them as a member of the Heavenly Family, or in other words, promises them exaltation.
Since the end of that ministry is to have the person accepted by the Father as a son or daughter of God, then an equivalency can be drawn between the final outcome and the Second Comforter.  This is what is done in D&C 88: 3-5.  Joseph Smith did something similar in a statement he made in which he put the voice declaring a person’s exaltation first, and the visit of Christ and the Father with that person second.  You can read about it in the Words of Joseph Smith, pages 3-6, but the most relevant excerpt is found below:

The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest & perhaps understood by few of this generation, After a person hath faith in Christ, repents of his sins & is Baptized for the remission of his sins & received the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands) which is the first Comforter then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering & thirsting after Righteousness. & living by every word of God & the Lord will soon say unto him Son thou shalt be exalted. &c When the Lord has thoroughly proved him & finds that the man is determined to serve him at all hazard. then the man will find his calling & Election made sure then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter which the Lord hath promised the saints as is recorded in the testimony of St John in the XIV ch from the 12th to the 27 verses Note the 16.17.18.21.23. verses. (16.vs) & I will pray the father & he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; (17) Even the Spirit of Truth; whom the world cannot receive because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you & shall be in you. (18) I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you (21) He that hath my commandments & keepeth them, he it is that loveth me. & he that loveth me shall be loved of my father. & I will love him & will manifest myself to him (23) If a man Love me he will keep my words. & my Father will love him. & we will come unto him, & make our abode with him.
Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more or less than the Lord Jesus Christ himself & this is the sum & substance of the whole matter, that when any man obtains this last Comforter he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him or appear unto him from time to time. & even he will manifest the Father unto him & they will take up their abode with him, & the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him & the Lord will teach him face to face & he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God, & this is the state & place the Ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious vision Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St Paul in the third heavens, & all the Saints who held communion with the general Assembly & Church of the First Born &c.
(This is an excerpt from Willard Richards’ Pocket Companion contained in The Words of Joseph Smith.) 

Since the white stone and new name mentioned in D&C 130: 10-11 are referring to the state of exaltation and inheritance, and since the promise which the Second Comforter (Christ) is working to obtain for those to whom He ministers is the promise of exaltation, that equivalency may also be made.  The difference as I see it is that those described in the verses in D&C 130 are in a future state, in which they have actually inherited the condition of exaltation, have entered into the Celestial Kingdom to dwell there and possess the white stone on which their new name is written; whereas the promises Joseph speaks of in the quote above and the promises in D&C 88 are given to a mortal and are to be realized fully in the future.

Now the promise of the Lord is reality itself.  What He says will happen.  His Word becomes the law of the universe.  (See D&C 1: 38.)  Therefore when viewed with the eyes of faith, the Word is the reality, and the inheritance is immediate for those with faith.  This is the reason why Joseph said when a man receives “this last Comforter he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him or appear unto him from time to time. & even he will manifest the Father unto him & they will take up their abode with him, & the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him & the Lord will teach him face to face & he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God[.]”  

Finally, since the mortal who receives these things is already in company with the Lord and the Father, they are already occasional visitors in a Celestial Kingdom although they are still here in mortality, required to endure to the end, suffer death and then await resurrection.  Despite this, they are celestial and their lives are punctuated by contact with celestial beings from time to time, as the Lord determines is appropriate or necessary.

The education of all of us

I’ve been marveling at the irrelevance of higher education to the process of receiving light and truth.

PhD’s are generally so schooled in their discipline that they view the Gospel in the light of their educational training.  A scholar studies economics and then everything looks to him like it can be explained in economic terms.  Or a scholar studies philosophy and then everything looks like it can be fit into a paradigm matching their school of thought.

I suspect the only book Nephi or Lehi had for their migration was the brass plates containing a version of the Old Testament.  Slim library pickings for what great things those two prophets were able to receive through their lives.  It isn’t the volume of the books we possess which helps our search into deep truths.  Indeed, our libraries may well interfere with knowing God.  It is the depth of how we live the basic principles contained in the scriptures which let the light of heaven shine into our lives.

Joseph Smith’s early education was so limited that our children have a comparable education at the conclusion of fourth grade.  But what he learned from on-high, by revelation, made him a towering pillar of light and truth.

Joseph once commented that if you could gaze into heaven for five minutes you would know more that if you read everything that had ever been written on the subject.  Now imagine the libraries that are filled with material written by the world’s scholars and theologians about heaven.  Those who have written include such luminaries as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, Dante, Rabbi Bacharach and Buddha.  Yet five minutes of “gazing” would supplant all they had to offer.

The wonder of it all is that so few are willing to trust a prophet’s advice.  We read endlessly uninspired books written by the uninformed, and bypass the process commended to us by the scriptures.

A bad education (which is most educations) is worse than no education when it comes to the things of heaven.  When men are learned they think they are wise, and therefore have little reason to trust in God or revelation from Him to correct their misunderstanding. I think the Book of Mormon had something to say about that.  (See 2 Ne. 9: 28-29, 42.)  I consider myself a fool.  (That is the one advantage I have over those who also hold doctorates.  I know it does not provide me with any advantages, but does impose considerable disadvantages because of its corrosion to my thinking.) 

Heaven is an endless source of surprises.  There’s nothing mundane going on there.