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In Response to a Critic

In response to a critic of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, and you do not.  I’m content to let you disbelieve.  Why are you not content to let me believe?  One of us is clearly mistaken, but I am content with both my belief and your disbelief. 

Of the two of us, I think your hostility toward my position reveals an underlying insecurity about your confidence in your position. 

I am prepared to be everlastingly judged on the basis of my beliefs.  I insist the Lord has every right to hold me accountable for what I believe, do, think, say and how I behave. 

Two Women

TWO WOMEN 
A Parable by Denver C. Snuffer, Jr.
 
Once there were two women.
One was born to privilege, whose family had great wealth.
The other, named Martha, was born poor.
 
They both grew up and at length Martha married, but the woman of privilege never did marry.

As adults both women felt the need for motherhood.
Martha bore seven children.

The woman of privilege spent seven years in college studying child development and education, eventually receiving her Ph.D., but never married, nor had a child.
 
Now as coincidence would have it, the woman of privilege inherited her parents‛ home and moved back into the wealthy neighborhood in which she was raised.

Martha’s family needed more room and searched for a house.  They found a modest home located in wealthy neighborhood which had once been a servant’s. Now the servant’s home needed repairs, and few were interested in a home which, in comparison with the others around it, seemed merely a servant’s residence.

Martha however, believed there was an advantage for her children to grow up among the children of greater privilege and therefore purchased the unwanted house.
 
And so it was that the woman of privilege and Martha came to live in the same neighborhood.

Martha, ever eager to learn more, had read books to better understand parenting.  She was surprised to learn one of her favorite teachers lived in her neighborhood.

As coincidence would further have it, both the woman of privilege and Martha were called upon to serve together in teaching neighborhood children.  They spent many hours together, but oftentimes did not agree.
 
For Martha, the experience of raising her own children led her to view things differently than the woman of privilege whose experience was based upon study, borrowed understanding and the science of others.

After six years, Martha concluded the conflicts between them were insurmountable.

In the seventh year, Martha concluded that if the woman of privilege could gaze into the eyes of her own children for but five minutes, she would know more than she did now, notwithstanding the many years of study which she had devoted to child development and education.  

In the eighth year, Martha concluded it was her responsibility to teach the woman of privilege, and so the occupant of the servant’s house undertook the burden of teaching the needy but unwilling. 

It was a role that would require many years, with only limited success.
 
Pride is unbecoming in a pupil; and meekness ever required of a teacher.

Apostasy

I was asked whether those who are in the middle of an apostasy can detect that it is underway.
 
Yes and no: Yes, as to isolated individuals.  No, as to the institutional mindset or they would have done something about it.  The Great Apostasy began sometime during the second century.  But you have to get down to the Protestant fathers in the 1500’s and thereafter before there is any widespread shouting about what has been lost.  For the intervening thirteen centuries people respected authority, and trusted that the leaders had the keys to save them.
 
I can’t imagine the courage it took for Martin Luther to refuse to back down when he was confronted with thirteen centuries of history telling him he was wrong.  We really do owe a debt of gratitude to him, and those who followed after, for ultimately establishing religious freedom. Americans more than any other people are the direct beneficiaries of that courage.

Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day.  Although I’m hundreds of miles away, my thoughts are with my wife. David and Solomon clearly never found a wife to be their equal, helpmeet, love and joy. I pity them. I have she who completes me; my queen and high priestess, love and companion, wise counselor and faithful friend. She is the standard against which all other women are measured, and all others found to be wanting. She is home.

I have yet to see a marriage I think the equal of my own.

The final parable in Ten Parables begins deliberately. I hope readers realize how important that discussion is to the way things really are.

Daniel

When Daniel saw the Lord he “alone saw the vision” (Dan 10:7) and not those who were with him. The others felt the great presence (v. 7) but saw nothing. The physical effect upon Daniel was exhausting. He collapsed and had to be strengthened (v. 10). Three times he collapsed and three times he was touched by the Lord to strengthen him (vs. 10,16,18).  It was real and VERY physical. Yet he alone saw the Lord. It is always so. Hence Paul’s comment “whether in the body I cannot tell; or whether out of the body I cannot tell” ( 2Cor12:2).  It IS physical. But those who are excluded merely feel the terrible presence, and see nothing. Those included are like Daniel and Joseph Smith, left exhausted from such encounters (see JS-H 1:48).

Not for entertainment

I was reading in the first volume of the Joseph Smith Papers and came across a letter written by Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde upon their return to Kirtland after their mission to England.  During the interim things had broken down in Kirtland with lawsuits, cross accusations and apostasy.  Although the missions had been a great success, with more than fifteen-hundred converts joining the Church, when they returned they found the existing Saints in disarray. 
 
They were immediately confronted with criticism of Joseph and other Church leaders by the residents of Kirtland.  In the letter to Joseph Smith, received on July 6, 1838, they responded to the criticism they were hearing with a comment which stood out to me.  It would make a good motto:
 
“The faults of our bretheren is poor entertainment for us.”  (JSP, Vol. 1, p. 280.)
 
I like that.  I think it is still good enough advice to remain true over a century and a half later: The faults of the Brethren are poor entertainment for any of us.

What’s in a name

In response to a question asked today:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a temporary institution which will cease to exist after this life.  There is no vision, revelation, scripture or statement promising us that the church as an institution will continue to exist after mortality.  What the scriptures, visions, and revelations do tell us about the eternal description of the saved is that it is “the Church of the Firstborn” or “the Church of the Lamb.”  Membership in that group is separate from membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Nephi uses “Church of the Lamb” (see e.g., 1 Ne. 14: 12) to describe the latter-days group over whom the Lord will watch.  Interestingly, although Joseph had this revelation before him when he organized the church, he did not choose the “Church of the Lamb” as the organization’s name.  

When modern revelation refers to those who inherit the Celestial Glory, it calls them members of the “Church of the Firstborn” (see, e.g., D&C 76: 67 also 93: 22).  Those who are chosen in our day to belong to the Church of the Firstborn are shown only one way in which that takes place.  In a revelation given to Joseph Smith while translating the New Testament, Section 77, Joseph gave this explanation of the latter-day 144,000 saved persons in verse 11: “they are they who are ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, by the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth, to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn.”

At the time Joseph received the explanation recorded in Section 77 (March 1832) the church had existed for over two years.  When the official name was given in 1838  (D&C 115: 4) the name chosen for the earthly, temporary organization was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – not the Church of the Firstborn.
The Church of the Firstborn exists on the “other side” so to speak.  You qualify to get there by how you live here.  But you have to be invited into that church by the “angels to whom is given power” to extend that invitation.

Explanation

I was asked a question which provoked this explanation of the book, The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil:
 
The book was written to cause the reader internal reflection.  There really isn’t a “punch line” in the book.  My testimony is essentially incidental; merely affirming that the principles taught in the book are true.

I worry that reading only the testimony, divorced from the explanation of how someone moves along in personal progress to the point they receive that personal witness, will make it just another “feel good” read.  The book is a manual.  It isn’t designed to make people feel good.  It is designed to get them to do something.
 
I worry that whenever people read of others’ spiritual experiences they assume that because they have read about such things they are somehow “included” or “worthy” and that they are linked to God as a result.  The book is designed to awaken people to their own lack of an existing link: then to cause them to resolve to establish that link for themselves.

So I think taking only the testimony alone contradicts the whole purpose for which it was written.  The testimony was merely a brief, nine word ratification of the book’s teachings.  The focus was, and is, on receiving an audience with Christ.  The book is a manual for the reader to do that for themselves.  The reader, not the author, is the focus of the book.  Indeed, with only brief exceptions, my personal presence intrudes into the book to highlight how to do something wrong.  Then the book explains how to get it right. 

Truth

When we receive truth we are expected to live our lives in conformity with the truth we’ve received.  We shouldn’t expect to receive more if we do not live what we’ve already been given.  Living in conformity with such truth as you already have is also always required to avoid deception.  It is simply not possible to harvest additional light while refusing to live the light already given.  False spirits visit with those who invite them by their misconduct, rebellion or wickedness.  Hence the need to constantly re-evaluate how you live and the choices you make.