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It’s all about you

I received an email over the weekend which finally helped me understand a reaction to The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil.  Apparently there are readers who think that the book is about me.  It isn’t.  It is entirely about the reader.  If someone reads it trying to get to a ‘punch line’ or great ending, they are reading with the wrong intent.  The book isn’t about that at all. It is a manual.  It’s purpose is to provide the reader instruction while they are on their own path back to the presence of the Lord.  


To the extent that there are any personal matters in the book, they are designed to illustrate common mistakes.  My mistakes and errors are set out in the beginning of the chapters. Then the chapter explains how to get the principle right.  Other than showing how poor a student I have been, my presence in the book is entirely secondary.  I do bear testimony about the truth of the teachings, which I think is required for a book of that nature.  But the book is entirely about you, the reader.


I reiterate several times in the text that it is not a book for every reader.  It is not publicized, advertised, or promoted in any way.  It is entirely a word-of-mouth book which will find appropriate readers without any effort on my part to promote it.

Visit to the Nephites

I was asked about the difference between my explanation regarding the timing of the visitation of the risen Lord to the Nephites in The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil, and the timing proposed by Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith.  I put the visit at the end of the thirty-fourth year, they put it immediately following Christ’s resurrection.  I responded as follows:

I won’t respond or rebut the argument.  I don’t think it is important to resolve the matter.  It is only important to understand the issue.  From the things these men wrote, it is clear that Elders McConkie/Smith reason how it could have been immediate, despite the fact that the text says it was the difference between the beginning and end of the thirty-fourth year.  The anchor of their argument is that the people were showing each other the great changes which took place during the destruction.  They reason that this would have been immediately after the destruction, otherwise there would be no reason to be pointing it out.  

I account for this by recognizing that the festival season caused a migration later in the year. At that time their presence at the Temple site would have introduced them to the destruction for the first time, despite the fact the great quaking and tempests had ended eleven months earlier.  I also account for the various appearances of the Lord to “other sheep,” as well as the forty-day ministry at Jerusalem in my reckoning.  

However, I do not think it important for someone to disbelieve McConkie/Smith.  It is only important how one decides to read the scriptures.  Borrowed opinions are just that.  People need to read the scriptures and decide what they mean for themselves.

In the book I refer to the “ceremony of recognition.” This ceremony has a specific order. It begins with an embrace.  The headnote (written by Elder McConkie) says “hands, feet and side” as the order.  The text, however, refers to the side, then the hands and feet.  That ceremony, so far as it is appropriate to do so, is explained in the text of The Second Comforter.

Consider This

When I joined the LDS Church there were approximately 3 million members.  That was in 1973.  We have now over 13 million.  That means that there are approximately 10 million Latter-day Saints with less experience with the Church than I have.  What an odd thing to consider.

President Monson, President Packer and Elder Perry are the only remaining members of the Presidency and Twelve who were already in place when I joined the Church.  All the others were added to the Twelve after I joined.  Again, that is an odd thing for me to consider.  I can’t imagine a Church where all the Presidency and Twelve were called after I joined.  

I was thinking about all those who were in the First Presidency and Twelve when I first joined:

It was (to me) terrible to lose President Kimball.  I’d grown quite fond of him from a distance in New Hampshire and Texas.  Then when I went to law school, his son Ed Kimball taught at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, and President Kimball would come to visit his son.  We’d run into him in the elevator or hallway and I grew even more respectful and attached to him.  

Who didn’t absolutely love Elder LeGrand Richards?  What a delight it was to listen to him.

Elder McConkie and Elder Peterson were doctrinal giants.  I went to both of their funerals because I had such a personal sense of loss at their passing.

Venus

I was with John Pratt on Saturday and he mentioned his new article on Meridian Magazine called “Venus Testifies of Christ.” I went home and read it and thought it was just delightful. He makes the case that Venus was the star which foretold all the great events in the Lord’s life.  You can find the article on Meridian Magazine on-line. 

Slippery

I pay close attention to the Church and its leadership.  I take careful note of what is said, and by whom.  The closer you listen, the clearer the Church’s methods and means become.  They really don’t take a great deal of effort to conceal things.

The Church is quite important to me.  It deserves my careful study.  Therefore I do not mind giving it the attention which it requires to understand what the Church is doing to cope with the various pressures, trends, and difficulties it encounters daily.

The Church’s study of public opinion is so careful, so well done, and so frequently updated, that in his October, 2006 General Conference talk, Elder Jeffrey Holland made the following observation:

“Not often but over the years some sources have suggested that the Brethren are out of touch in their declarations, that they don’t know the issues, that some of their policies and practices are out-of-date, not relevant to our times. As the least of those who have been sustained by you to witness the guidance of this Church firsthand, I say with all the fervor of my soul that never in my personal or professional life have I ever associated with any group who are so in touch, who know so profoundly the issues facing us, who look so deeply into the old, stay so open to the new, and weigh so carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully everything in between. I testify that the grasp this body of men and women have of moral and societal issues exceeds that of any think tank or brain trust of comparable endeavor of which I know anywhere on the earth.”

This statement was based upon the Church’s on-going public relations survey taking, opinion polling, and focus group studies.  When I attended a valley wide leadership meeting, at which Elder Russell Ballard spoke, he mentioned that from the Church Office Building he had watched focus group discussions the day before which came in by video feeds from Chicago, Seattle, and several other cities (whose locations I do not recall).

When the Church changed its position and supported the same-sex attraction ordinance in Salt Lake City a few weeks ago, the Church’s spokesman made the following public announcement of the Church’s reasons for the change: 
“There are going to be gay advocates who don’t think we’ve gone nearly far enough, and people very conservative who think we’ve gone too far; the vast majority of people are between those polar extremes and we think that’s going to resonate with people on the basis of fair-mindedness.” 

This is the language of opinion polling.  The words “going to resonate with people on the basis of fair-mindedness” are the words of social sciences.  The decision was not a “revelation” but a change in position based upon the polling which showed the position change could be safely made.  The Salt Lake Tribune made the following report on January 30, 2010:
“When Salt Lake City embraced anti-discrimination ordinances for gay and transgender residents last fall — snagging a landmark endorsement by the LDS Church and widespread support from city officials — more shifted than public policy. Public opinion — throughout Utah — jumped, too. Support for some gay rights, short of marriage, climbed 11 percentage points across the state from a year ago, according to a new Salt Lake Tribune poll, and shot up by 10 percent among Mormons. Two-thirds of Utahns (67 percent) favor employment protections and safeguards for same-sex couples such as hospital visitation and inheritance rights, up from 56 percent in January 2009, when pollsters asked the same question. (This year’s survey of 625 frequent Utah voters has an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points; last year’s was 4.5 percent.) Opposition dropped, overall, from 40 percent to 23 percent. Among LDS respondents, it plummeted from 48 percent to 28 percent. ‘This isn’t a gradual change of attitudes. This is a fairly dramatic jump,’ says Matthew Burbank, chairman of the University of Utah’s political science department. ‘Clearly, the fact that the LDS Church was officially endorsing this position had an impact on people.’ A similar number of respondents, 66 percent, also say they support expanding Salt Lake City’s anti-discrimination policy — the first of its kind in Utah and already mimicked in Salt Lake County—throughout the state.”

Adam-ondi-Ahman

At the first great priesthood meeting held at Adam-ondi-Ahman, there was Adam, who conducted, and seven High Priests who were in attendance.  The “residue” of those who were present looked on, but the meeting involved these seven High Priests and Adam.
 
The appearance of the Lord at that meeting was an appearance to the eight, who were involved in the ceremony in which Adam’s calling and election was made sure.  The on-lookers who were present did not see the Lord, although they could sense something important was underway when the Lord “administered comfort” to Adam.  Only those who had been initiated into the High Priesthood were permitted to participate and to view the Lord as He appeared and ministered.  You can read about this event in D&C Section 107: 53-56.
 
We assume the great meeting to be held at Adam-ondi-Ahman in the future will involve a great crowd, and it may.  However, if it is a repetition of the pattern from the first, there will be a small number, perhaps only seven or eight, who will see the Lord, with the residue merely sensing something of importance is taking place.  (See my earlier post on Daniel’s visitation with the Lord.)

What have you seen lately?

Saturday my wife and I ate downtown in Salt Lake City.  Instead of taking the Interstate back home, we meandered back to State Street and then down State Street.  It was between 6:00 and 7:00 pm on a Saturday evening.  I was surprised to see that there were eight tattoo parlors open at that time, all of which had customers and some of which were quite crowded. 
 
I also saw that Salt Lake City hosted a three-day tattoo convention in February. 

Social and Cultural “Rights”

In the Church News there is an article about religious freedom being eroded by encroaching social and cultural “rights” which conflict with religious freedom.  The case of Perry v. Schwartzenegger in California, which challenges the Proposition 8 vote was cited by Elder Lance Wickman, the Church’s General Counsel (lawyer).  In that case the public’s decision to prohibit same-sex marriage is being challenged on the basis that voters cannot negate a fundamental right.
 
The Church is alarmed about the growing potential for conflict between social and cultural “rights” on the one hand, and the free exercise of religion on the other.
 
The deeper problem the Church has with their position on this legal conflict in California, is the position taken on the Salt Lake City ordinance the Church endorsed a several weeks ago.  In that decision, the Church announced that employment and housing were “fundamental rights” which same-sex attraction could not forfeit.  The Church endorsed the use of coercive governmental power to compel employers and property owners to permit homosexual employees and renters, upon pain of punishment by the Courts.  This was an extraordinary departure from past positions of the Church, and represented the first time the Church approved governmental compulsion against employers and property owners to protect homosexual conduct.
 
The effect of the Church’s change in view on the Salt Lake City ordinance was almost immediate.  A follow-on state-wide survey after the Church’s changed position showed that there was a dramatic shift in Utah’s view of tolerance toward homosexual behavior.  Essentially, Mormons all over Utah fell in line behind the Church’s new attitude.
 
Now the Church is attempting to sound the alarm about legal encroachment of cultural/social views (read homosexuality) into other areas which will inevitably conflict with religious liberty.  But the Church has already conceded the argument.   By extension of the Church’s position with respect to housing and employment, the only question to answer is what to define as a “fundamental right.”  If housing and employment, then why not marriage?  How does that distinction get made?  And if any judge, anywhere, or ultimately five of the nine Supreme Court Justices, decide that marriage is a “fundamental right,” then the result will follow that religion cannot prevent the practice.  And if religion cannot prevent the practice of this “fundamental right” to marry despite a couple’s homosexual orientation, then the LDS Church cannot prohibit or limit homosexual marriage practices anywhere.  Not even in their own marriage ceremonies.  For to do so would invade a “fundamental right” of the persons involved.
It will take time for the arguments to wend their way through the courts.  But ultimately the Church’s position on the “fundamental right” of homosexuals to be employed and housed without discrimination, using the coercive force of the government to protect that “right” against employers and property owners, will be the same reason the government will force the LDS Church to be coerced into acceptance of homosexual marriage.  The LDS Church’s own words/press release and public relations spokesman’s words will be the reason cited by the Court against the Church, at the time the decision is reached.  The Court will announce that the LDS Church has already recognized the need for governmental power to be used to protect fundamental rights of housing and employment.  The Court will rule the Church must, therefore, accept as a fundamental right marriage, as well.
 

Peculiar

The gentiles seem determined to end their reign. According to an announcement from the Church this week, missionary work is being shifted from European and North American populations into Latin and South America, Africa and Asia.

I’ve thought for some time that the failing conversion rates are the inevitable result of the “marketing” system being used by the Church. What distinguishes the Restoration from other faiths is our doctrine. We have been de-emphasizing doctrine for years. We try to seem more and more like another Christian faith. We aren’t. We are quite different. The reason to convert lies in our doctrinal differences.

No one is going to live the Latter-day Saint lifestyle who thinks that we are just another mainstream Christian church. To pay tithing, refrain from coffee, tea, alcohol, smoking and serve in Church leadership roles at considerable personal inconvenience and sacrifice requires our Church to be more than just another mainstream church. If that is all we are, most people (especially devoted people) are going to want an easier form of belief, like Methodism, Presbyterianism or Catholicism. If they offer the same doctrine as we do, then they will win.

I am a Latter-day Saint because I believe the doctrine. I am not a traditional Christian because I believe their creeds are false and they teach for doctrine the commandments of men. Unless someone comes to believe that, there is no reason to leave a traditional Christian denomination and become a Latter-day Saint.