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IMO (in my opinion)

I think that Alma 41: 8 should be cross referenced with D&C 130: 7.
 
The footnote at Alma 41: 10b should also include Deuteronomy 32: 8-9.

Wo, wo, wo

Enoch’s powerful testimony to his condemned contemporaries included this question:  “why counsel ye yourselves , and deny the God of heaven.”  (Moses 6: 43.)  Men in that day preferred to have the counsel of men instead of the word of God, from God.
 
Nephi spoke of the “Zion” of our time and said: “Wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  (2 Ne. 28: 26.)
 
Now having one “wo” pronounced upon a people is a warning of condemnation in this life.  Their ways do not prosper and they suffer setbacks because they listen to the precepts of men.  They fall back.  More concerning is when three “wo’s” are pronounced upon a people.  The connotation being a  condemnation which will last beyond this life and into eternity.  So I take the following statement with some considerable seriousness:
 
“[T]hey have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.  O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell.”  (2 Ne. 28: 14-15.)  Three “wo’s” pronounced and three names of God used to make that warning.  False doctrines and whoredoms are an equivalent in this passage.  That is, you are “whoring” after other false gods, and betraying the true Lord God Almighty, when you preach false doctrines which assure you, in your pride, that you are safe, elect, chosen and better than others.  Such teachers are condemned three-fold. 
 
What an interesting problem we have in front of us.  No-one can trust in any man or men.  All of us are required to hear God’s voice, and follow Him.

Angels

There is a system by which men learn the mysteries of heaven and are saved.  That system is set out in Alma 12: 29-30
 
-First, angels are sent to prepare men/women.
-Second, they are allowed to behold the Lord’s glory.
-Then they converse with the Lord, at which point they are taught the things which have been prepared from the foundation of the earth for their salvation.
-All of which is driven by the man/woman’s faith, repentance and holy works.
This is in keeping with Joseph Smith’s revelation about those chosen to become a member of the Church of the Firstborn.  They are chosen by the holy angels to whom the keys of this power belong.  (D&C 77: 11.)
 
If this isn’t happening, then faith does not exist on the earth any longer.  (Moroni 7: 37.)
 
Ministering angels are an indispensable part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That is why those keys were restored so early on in this dispensation, and are so widely disseminated into the Church membership. (See D&C 13 and D&C 107: 20.)

You just never know

Went to baseball practice this morning.  My youngest daughter plays on a boy’s team (she’s the only girl).  Today in a scrimmage she was the only one to hit a double. 

Institutional charisma

There was an article in the Church News about a symposium at BYU dealing with the “Organization and Administration of the LDS Church.”  The article can be found here: http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/58903/Symposium-deals-with-the-institution-of-the-Church.html. The article mentions a paper delivered by Professor Bushman titled “Joseph Smith and the Routinization of Charisma.”  Among other things, Professor Bushman asserts the church’s “genius can be largely explained in the fact that the expectation of divine revelation has been built into the very administrative structure and offices of the Church, an expectation attributable to the Prophet himself.”  This is what he asserted also in Rough Stone Rolling.

From the two thousand year example of the Roman Catholic Church, I fear presumptions like these.  There is a profound difference between actual revelation and an “expectation of divine revelation … built into the very administrative structure and offices of the Church.”  He uses comments from Joseph Smith to support the assertion, while ignoring the revelation in Section 121 cautioning that while many may be called, few are chosen.  He ignores the revelation that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority as they suppose they begin to immediately exercise unrighteous dominion.  Without confirming revelation given to every member of the Church, as a constant check on abuse, the destiny of Mormonism will be a repeat of the history of Catholicism.  A Holy American Empire will replace the Holy Roman Empire, both of which have or will resort to blood and horror as the means to reign over mankind.  The bedrock of the Gospel is the testimony of Jesus.  The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev. 19:10.)   That is the charisma the scriptures tell us to trust.

There is absolutely no historical precedent we can point to which confirms that charisma can be safely institutionalized.  There are an abundance of examples, however, of men abusing religion to gain control over others to satisfy their pride, to exercise control and dominion over others, and to gratify their vain ambition.  The only check against this are the individual testimonies of the few, humble followers of Christ.  Nevertheless, we are told that in our day even they are going to be led into error oftentimes by those who teach them the precepts of men.  (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

Heeding the warning

There is an interesting article in Meridian Magazine about the Chilean earthquake.  The Mission President and his wife went about preparing the missionaries for the earthquake before it happened.  This was because they had received a prior warning.  The article can be read here:  http://www.ldsmag.com/churchupdate/100303chile.html

What is most interesting to me is that the warning came to the wife, not the husband.  He respected her revelation, and they went together to proclaim the warning.  Meridian Magazine, which is a Church-owned website published this article.  It delights me when there is recognition of the entirely democratic way in which revelation comes to us.  And when we find a married couple without jealousy about such things.

A lifetime of service

I do not know President Monson personally.  But his history is well known to all of us.  He was a Bishop while in his 20’s, a Stake President shortly thereafter, and then called in his late 30’s to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.  He worked for Deseret News before becoming a full time General Authority.  Essentially his entire life has been church service, both in his profession and in his calling.
 
If you want to see what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would produce if a life were entirely the product of the institution and experiences derived from serving in and under that institution, you have that in President Monson.
 
It is clear to me that he absolutely trusts the system which produced all his significant life experiences.  The last two vacancies in the Twelve were filled by the senior president of the Seventy.  This would make Elder Ron Rasband the next one in line to fill a vacancy in the Twelve.  He (Elder Rasband) is a member of my stake.

An emphasis on doctrine

In addition to what I posted earlier about baptism rates, there is another number which is somewhat misleading.  The total member numbers reported in General Conference never deducts for those who are excommunicated or who voluntarily ask to have their membership terminated.  There is likely a doctrinal reason for that.  When a person is excommunicated they are re-baptized to return to membership, but they are not re-ordained to the priesthood.  They are given a blessing to reinstate their covenants and blessings, including authorization to begin using priesthood again.  But they are not re-ordained.  Although they are excommunicated, they retain some affiliation despite the severance.  Nevertheless, most people do not assume someone who has been excommunicated would be counted in the number of total members, but it is my understanding that they are.
Also, I’ve heard estimates from as little as 25% to much more than that as the percentage of members for whom the Church has completely lost contact.  That is, there is some significant number of members whose membership is so tenuous that the Church has nothing but a record.  There is no address, no way to contact them, and no information about whether they are living or deceased.  These people continue to be counted in the total membership number despite their complete absence of contact with or from the Church.
With the significantly lower fertility rate, and an aging population, the Church’s future will not be anything like the projections of Professor Stark.  That is, unless something changes.  

I agree that there may be many reasons for the decline.  However, the most prominent of reasons in my view is the de-emphasis on doctrine.  As a convert to the Church I know what attracted me to become a Mormon.  It had nothing to do with the formulaic discussions of the missionaries, slick marketing or good arguments.  It had to do with doctrine.  I DIDN’T WANT to be a Mormon.  Quite the contrary.  But I knew I should become a Mormon because their doctrines came from God and answered questions other faiths could not begin to answer.

I’d like to see the trend return to a dramatic increase of numbers.  In fact, I think there are many millions in the United States alone who are only kept from the truth because they do not know where to find it.  (D&C 123: 12.)  We won’t attract them to the Church until we begin again to emphasize doctrine.

True blue, through and through

I’ve been thinking about an incident in the young life of Joseph F. Smith.  He was outside a camp gathering firewood when a group of Mormon-haters rode into camp and scattered all the men.  Joseph F. considered running for a moment, but then decided to go confront them.  He walked with his armful of firewood back into the camp, right up to an armed man who was cursing the Mormons.

The man bellowed at Joseph F.: “Are you a Mormon?”



Joseph responded: “Yes siree; dyed in the wool, true blue, through and through.”


The man was so disarmed that he grabbed Joseph F.’s hand and told him he was the “pleasantest man I ever met!” (with a few obscenities mixed in.)


I like that story.  I consider myself a “true blue, through and through Mormon.”  Despite that, I know we have problems and many flaws.  The scriptures foretell our many deficiencies.  But human weaknesses and shortcomings are no impediment to the Divine origin of Mormonism; nor its ultimate destiny.


I think it is an error to have an unreasonably high opinion of ourselves. Conversely, it is an error to conclude that all is lost because of our shortcomings.  We are full of sins and errors, slogging along making institutional and individual errors daily.  But we are also, institutionally and individually, called to be involved in God’s work to redeem His children.  He loves us all, with a love which can overcome our many failures.