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Utopia

Sir Thomas More titled a 1516 book Utopia, coining a term used forever after for an ideal society. Sir More may have coined the term but Utopian ideas go back to Plato’s Republic for scholars, and Enoch for Christians and Jews. Fiction writers often try to describe an imaginary perfect society, and Hollywood regularly uses the theme. Mankind yearns for it.

There will be a latter-day Zion. The scriptures give little description, and the smallest of criteria for Zion. “The Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18.) That is the list:
-one heart
-one mind
-dwelt in righteousness
-no poor among them.

Seems simple. The list is so short it begs the questions: Why haven’t we done this? Why aren’t WE doing this?

There are a lot of “rich, learned, wise and noble” (D&C 58: 10) who think they are going to be residents of Zion because, well, they’re rich, learned, wise and noble. They believe they came here with noble heritage making them elect, special, chosen and endowed with great power. I hope they gather. I hope they move right into their Utopian experiment and get to enjoy each other’s prideful company.

The ideas given by a kind and patient Lord in Mesa were not mine. I am trying to understand them myself. Here is what I think at present in my struggle with the material:

Families need to develop independent and strong faith in God by worshiping together, praying together, studying the scriptures, performing ordinances like baptism using power given by God, and the sacrament. They should pay tithes and help those in need among them. If there is excess, reserve it for a worthy purpose. There will be some challenges, and some divisions will no doubt require study, faith, prayer and humility to overcome. Eventually they will become one.

When families expand by marriage the new sons-in-law, daughters-in-law and their families should likewise fellowship with one another and practice their religion. As soon as anyone new joins an association, everything fractures again. But time, patience and careful repetition of what went before will eventually restore unity.

If several extended family groups unite in fellowship, disunity returns and rough edges will need to be smoothed out, feelings respected, and different views discussed. Because families have an existing order and likely have a father whose priesthood is known and respected, these groups will require some mechanism for resolving cross-family priesthood questions. Outside a family, a man does not get an automatic recognition to perform an ordinance or render priestly service. The means for recognition of a man’s right to serve was provided in Mesa. No fellowship automatically respects any man’s claim. Approval will need to be given. Unlike present methods, in these fellowships since only men will have recognized priesthood, they will receive approval to perform by the sustaining by at least seven women. Once this has been done, the combined groups of multi-family fellowships have the means to continue to perpetuate religious service, perform unifying ordinances and worship God together.

At this point I think of the early experiences Joseph Smith had. There was an outstanding, well educated, and politically astute man who helped negotiate the Nauvoo Charter through the Illinois Legislature. He impressed everyone. He was admired, trusted and immediately accepted by the Saints. Joseph added him to the First Presidency. He was elected the first Mayor of Nauvoo. He was the Major-General of the Nauvoo Legion. All of Nauvoo took pride in John C. Bennett and thought themselves blessed by having a man of his stature among them.

His meteoric rise ended in May 1842 when he was excommunicated for adultery. In addition to adultery, he was suspected of polygamy, homosexuality, and performing abortions. The abortions were part of the underground practice of polygamy, terminating unwanted pregnancies to prevent public notice of these sexual improprieties. Joseph Smith learned of these underground sex rings as he presided over Nauvoo High Council proceedings. He was later accused by some of the participants of having approved it in the first (and only) edition of the Nauvoo Expositor.

I also think of the earlier ambitious and enthusiastic Mormon converts who shone brightly for a brief season, then turned cold and dark. Kirtland itself rose in spiritual splendor and promise, only a few years later to drive Joseph and Sidney away under the cover of dark, while a mob gave chase for 200 miles. Kirtland became a community-wide failure.

What has changed? How have we become so much better than they? It is because we have abandoned communitarian ideals and are now stratified into economic divisions, educational divisions, hierarchical divisions, and the “haves” take their status for granted while the “have nots” accept their fate while awaiting a glorious afterlife? Is it because we have pseudo-stability? We have an accepted status quo? Is it because we tolerate a disparate society and that is proof we live in peace?

But one heart? One mind? Living in righteousness? No poor among us?

We are no better than Kirtland, and may be a lot worse. There are just as many Wilson Laws, John C. Bennetts, Chauncey Higbees, William Marks and Ezra Booths among us today as during Joseph’s time. Our pride and haughtiness is just as fractioning now as you will find in any generation among any people. We will have to LEARN to be one. Such a distant and guarded mountain peak seems unlikely for us to scale. (At least without considerable individual Divine assistance.)

We have a chance, but only a chance. Required work begins among the people who are the very closest to you – your own family. There you begin to develop the skill to work out interpersonal conflict and resolve turmoil. These are the people you are closest to and should have the greatest willingness to compromise with to problem solve.

We grow incrementally. We develop in stages. We learn skills then use them to solve greater problems using the same skill set we learned through experience.

There may be some great, towering lights who do not need to develop skills at problem solving and who are ready to found Zion today. If so, they should do so. Let us all stand back and admire them. Surely they have much to show the world. Many of these self-proclaiming great ones never sacrifice their name by stepping forward and letting themselves be identified, their reputation attacked, their motives questioned, and their church membership threatened or lost. As the Lectures on Faith inform us, without sacrifice we have no faith, for faith comes by sacrifice and in no other way. Read the Lectures on Faith.

The lecture in Mesa drove many people away and will continue to do so. That is a good thing. Those leaving will not make the required sacrifice, and therefore will not develop faith. They will not be able to gather. God will not allow it.

The lecture, parts 1 through 10, give us the means to develop incrementally. It was to help those who, like me, are not part of the great, towering nobility needing no refinement. It allows me and my fellow poor, lame, blind, and deaf associates (D&C 58: 11) a chance to grow as we struggle to overcome our weaknesses and many shortcomings. I need to work on a great deal. To me, it does not seem easy.

There will be imposters. They will be exposed so they can repent, or they will be sent away. There will be those who are cruel, proud and unkind. They need the opportunity to overcome their character flaws. If they refuse to reform, eventually they will stop associating with us and we with them. Malignant hearts are not easily concealed. Ambition and pride destroy, not build, communities.

I have had high hopes in the past for some seekers I have met. People who have made strong, favorable impressions, at first. A few years later, some of these people I had high regard for prove themselves proud, controlling, dictatorial and unworthy.

Similarly, I have seen some who did not stand out at first but who, over time, have proven themselves godly, self-sacrificing and brave. Time and experience change people. Even now some who are “great” stand in peril before God and may fall. Those who exalt themselves have never been candidates for Zion. Gradually, by degrees, we will see maturity, repentance, kindness and even charity become part of these communities.

The great ones who can bypass such effort should do it now, if they can. They should be the shining example so we can learn. They ought to point the way and let us admire their greatness. Show us Utopia, ye noble and great! I won’t ask to be permitted to come in, I only want to admire your accomplishment in the hope I may learn from you.

As for the residue, where I believe I remain, I hope to work out my own development with fear and trembling before God. One day I hope to be gathered. If that day comes, I hope to present no threat to the community because of ambition or pride. I hope to come already disposed to be of one heart and mind with them, having made enough sacrifices along the way to crawl in upon my knees as one of the least. I hope to have developed the skill to be an adept problem solver and an aid to my fellow saint by practicing the things I learned in Mesa in the ways suggested there.

When there is a gathering, I do not think the people invited will believe they are better than others. I doubt very much they will think they have accomplished anything extraordinary. Instead they will marvel at how simple it was to work it out peacefully beforehand, and wonder why mankind has not lived in peace continually since the fall of Adam. Zion will not be proud of itself, because it cannot.

Small choices change destinies. Those who gather before skills have been refined, and before the proud, learned, noble and rich have left, will produce nothing other than Kirtland, Jackson County, Nauvoo and Salt Lake. People need to be driven away, and people need to be refined. This happens simultaneously. It is for a good and wise purpose.

I gave a talk about Zion years ago. In it, I took note that the description in 4 Nephi of the Nephite generations of peace following Christ’s visit included three levels of harmony:

One Level:

“there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.” (4 Ne. 1: 2)

A Second Level:

“And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land;” (4 Ne. 1: 13)

A Third Level:

“there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” (4 Ne. 1: 15).

I think this pattern will need to be repeated. We will not get to a third level of harmony among us unless we first work out and resolve contentions in our families, and then in fellowship groups before we have the ability to do so as a gathered community. Zion must have
-one heart
-one mind
-dwell in righteousness, and
-no poor among them.

If that is not us then we are not Zion.

Questions?

From an email I received. This is an exchange between third-parties. 
I’ve attended many of the ten lectures and I’ve listened to all of them. I was at the Phoenix lecture. At the conclusion of the lecture, different people had different understandings of what was communicated, what was to be done, and what they were to do. It is interesting to see all the discussion online and in the social media about what “Denver said.” Some of what I’ve seen is a reasonable, fair summary. Some summaries are downright wrong and could only be spread with malicious intent to confuse or deceive others. Reading either fair or unfair summaries lead to poor understanding. 

Most people interested in these things are familiar with Mormon investigators who tell the missionaries or members that they heard X, Y, or Z about the Book of Mormon  and the Mormon church from their pastor. The typical response is to encourage the investigator to read the book themselves and to make up their own decision and ask God for wisdom over the matter. I think the same thing applied here. 

If anyone is curious about what was said in Phoenix, they should listen to, or preferably read, all ten parts of the one talk that culminated in Phoenix. 
____________________________
I’m getting a lot of questions. I will not be answering. So far as I know, I have completed everything asked of me concerning those talks. Until asked to do something else, I wait on the Lord, and will only proceed when told to do so.
If you re-read the earlier 9/10ths of the talk you will find there are answers to be found there. Let me refer you to the Orem talk on priesthood. In the beginning there was one priesthood, not three divisions. That same priesthood which was in the beginning will be in the end of the world, also. Read the talk.
If I were ordaining anyone to any priesthood today as part of a community, I would ordain them to “the Holy Order” and leave it to God and the angels to decide how far the individual is permitted to progress in their association with the Powers of Heaven.
When the high priesthood was first restored in the June 1831 conference, those ordained failed. (I have already given an account of this in the post on August 19, 2014 titled “Laying On Hands.”) Later that year, in a conference held in October 1831, another group was ordained to high priesthood. They likewise failed.

Joseph was undeterred by the persistent failures. He believed anyone could rise up if they were taught how. Joseph believed it was ignorance that damned us and a man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge. Boise lecture.

Rather than throw his hands up at the failure, he set to work compiling a series of lectures to be given to these prospective “prophets” in a School of the Prophets in Kirtland, Ohio. By 1835, he carefully edited the lectures to print them for the entire church. The Lectures on Faith were the first part of the Doctrine and Covenants, published in 1835, and vouched for by Joseph Smith. This was the Idaho Falls lecture. The Lectures tell you what the religion was designed to accomplish. They were composed in an effort to get the early church to rise up and reclaim power from heaven. 

The failure to secure power in the priesthood was so complete, widespread and thorough that by 1921 The Lectures on Faith seemed only to mock the church. So a committee took them out of the scriptures. Idaho Falls.
There are many answers to the questions you may have because of the 10th lecture found in the previous 9. Read them.
The struggle, questions and dilemmas you face are good. Hopefully they will take you to God looking for answers. 

Mighty, Strong, Davidic

I have never claimed, in public or private, to be anything other than a weak and foolish man.

The notion that I think I am anything other than that repulses me.

For years I have said that until someone actually accomplishes something, they have no right to claim they are something great or wonderful, that they fulfill prophecy, or are God’s chosen anything.

Nobody has accomplished anything since Joseph Smith. There is a great hill to climb. Until someone climbs it and serves to guide others, we are left with pretenders, ego-maniacs, fools, impostors and villains.

Something is underway. Nothing has been accomplished. You need to participate. Starting a project, and getting 1% of it accomplished, and then claiming you are a “great” anything is not just a mistake, but it takes the eye off of the unfinished project – a very difficult project. Getting to your own 2 yard line still leaves 98 yards to go.

Without the refining of a transition phase, we will be utterly unprepared. But the refinement itself will be very hard, and there will be many who fail.

If a few succeed, then those can be gathered. Once gathered, there is still work to be done. Those who believe we can take a giant step do not comprehend how natural the evolution of God’s work is. It requires effort every day, and will require as much of latter-day Zion as was required for Enoch and Melchizedek. It’s difficult to imagine how much needs to be left behind and how much needs to be added.

If you think I’m something great and important, you miss altogether what is YOUR responsibility. The restoration belongs to YOU. No one is going to invoke a magic spell and spare you the development, maturity, selflessness, patience, growth and determination needed to be part of a healthy, functioning society worthy of the presence of God and angels. It is They (God and angels) whose company we seek. Not mine.

Phoenix/Mesa Transcript

The Phoenix/Mesa transcript is up on Scribd. Also, I fixed the link for the St. George lecture. You can find links for them on the right hand side of the blog under DS talks.

Tuesday Lecture

The final lecture will be on Tuesday beginning at 9:30 a.m. in Mesa. The time is local, which in Mesa is Mountain Standard.

Each of the lectures make sense as a “stand alone” but the final installment assumes anyone attending will be familiar with the content of the nine prior talks.

September 9 Lecture Location

Date:    Sept. 9, 2014
Time:    9:30 AM
Place:    Hilton Phoenix/Mesa
            1011 West Holmes Ave
            Mesa, AZ  85210

Seats 700 plus
60 Fwy and Alma School Road

PLEASE NOTE THAT ARIZONA DOES NOT HAVE DAYLIGHT SAVINGS. THE TIME IS ALWAYS LOCAL AT EVERY LOCATION.

Phoenix Venue UPDATE

We lost the first announced location in Phoenix because, as Doug informed me:

Due to threats, nasty phone calls & emails, Rockin R Ranch has cancelled the venue. Will get another. Ward & stake people threatened to boycott the business if they allowed the talk at their place. Phone calls with the same thing.”

We now have a replacement and will be signing the agreement later today. When it is locked down we will announce it here.

For those who made suggestions for replacement locations, we appreciate it. And we bear no animosity for the Rockin R Ranch and hope they are not discomforted by anyone who was disappointed by their refusal to allow the talk to happen there.

Pantomime

The LDS Church has been extremely important in my journey back to God. I am grateful to them, even if others do not understand this. I doubt that I could have succeeded in understanding much at all about God if not for the LDS Church.

However, I realize now that the LDS Church has been a pantomime portraying the truth, and not the real thing. It is possible to learn from watching an illusion. The illusion portrays truth. It equipped me to visualize the true pathway and to lay hold on it through faith. A church that can accomplish that for its members is a valuable thing indeed.

When mimes act out a pretense that there is a wall on the stage, the audience accepts the premise because it is portrayed by the actors as such. When a new character enters the scene and walks toward the pretended wall, we all expect a collision. We know there is a wall there. The new character doesn’t. They can’t see it, but the pretense governs the action. Sure enough, when the character hits the wall and falls down, we all laugh. We know there is a wall there because we’ve seen how every one of the actors have portrayed it to us. They’ve touched it, pushed against it, and walked around it. They made it “real” to us. We laugh at the new character who was unaware of it and had to be knocked down before joining in the group awareness of the pretended wall.

In the Broadway play Harvey (later a Jimmy Stewart movie), the title character was an imaginary giant rabbit. His existence was dependent on pantomime by the other characters. Pantomime is not confined to comedy. It can be used to stage anything, including history. The art is valuable because it allows imagination to provide the walls, chairs, dishes, telephones, food and drink, all at no cost.

The LDS Church has been extremely useful in depicting a house of order, prayer, fasting, faith, learning, glory and sacrifice. We can visualize God having a controlling hand in it. We can imagine what it would be like to have a prophet to guide us in these latter days.We can imagine mantles put on, staffs of power wielded, and unseen forces supporting the rolling forth of a great work. It is a great act. There is value in beholding it. It can ignite with fire our ability to see that it is possible for God to provide the real thing. Even if we must substitute one for another, we can use brick, mortar, gold and silver as if it were spiritual achievement. Because of our worship of wealth, we are easily led to substitute one for the other. If the pretense succeeds, this should be temporary.

I admire and appreciate the LDS Church. It has been indispensable for me to develop faith in God. I hope it lasts for some time yet, and succeeds in keeping its programs and publishing scriptures. I hope it keeps its temples running and performing the rites done there. I hope great numbers participate in the pantomime and pretend they are God’s chosen people as they faithfully serve within the organization. No one is hurt from serving others. The pantomime is based on something true, and represents what we might have if we are faithful. I expect that as faith in God increases, the pantomime will give way to truth. The LDS Church is a useful tool, and should be used. But the true connection to God should be at the end of that path.

One pantomime used by the church is the pretense of “keys” (although that is not well defined, merely claimed). In the LDS Church all of the “priesthood keys” are claimed to be held exclusively by the highest officials (First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve) who are sustained as “prophets, seers and revelators.” The church has published, as the copyright holder, a volume of teachings by President Joseph F. Smith titled Gospel Doctrine. This was originally compiled as a priesthood manual. It was recently abridged and reused as a Melchizedek and Relief Society Manual, part of the teachings of the presidents series. I mention this because the quote fits even the very narrow definition given by a member of the church correlation committee last week at BYU’s Education Week. It was from a President of the Church, given in general conference. It was then published by the First Presidency, approved by the First Presidency and Twelve, used in official church teaching to Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and therefore “doctrine” in even the most narrow of definitions

Here is a quote from Gospel Doctrine (which I could not find in the most recent manual) from President Joseph F. Smith about priesthood:

Then again, if it were necessary, though I do not expect the necessity will ever arise, and there was no man left on the earth holding the Melchizedek Priesthood, except an elder–that elder, by the inspiration of the Spirit of God and by the direction of the Almighty, could proceed, and should proceed, to organize the Church of Jesus Christ in all its perfection, because he holds the Melchizedek Priesthood. 
(Gospel Doctrine, p. 148.)

Any and every elder could completely and fully organize the church. Implied is that nothing special would be lost. No keys would go missing. Any elder could do it. What is the pantomime? What is the pretense? The great pantomime of “keys” held only by the president of the church in a fullness, is, when reduced to its final substance, the right to run the entire organization because of common consent. Brigham Young was right after all. He claimed he acquired his authority by being elected to the same office as Joseph Smith. People have been testifying they “know” Brigham and his successors have the very things claimed about them. The pantomime has become reality.

The Book of Mormon has a great deal to say about “keys” because of what is NOT there. The book contains the “fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” but only mentions the word “keys” a single time. That mention is to the servant of Laban who had the keys to the treasury where the brass plates were stored. (1 Ne. 4: 20.) If “keys” were essential to the fullness of the Gospel, we should expect a great deal more to be said in the Book of Mormon on the topic.

To define “keys” Elder Oaks recently in General Conference could not do so without resorting to using the word “authority.” He stated: “Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood [holders] to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth.” Yet the scriptures contradict this definition. They state plainly “no power or influence can, or ought, to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood.” (D&C 121: 41.) The priesthood is only to be used by “constraint.” It belongs to God alone. Unless He directs, we cannot act. Alma taught this in an example where lives were lost because he would not use priesthood due to constraint. (Alma 14: 8-11.) Christ’s disciples would “judge” the people, but only according to the judgment given to them by the Lord. (3 Ne. 27: 27.) Moses was required to perform a specific service in a specific way, and failed to do so. As a result, Moses did not pass over Jordan with the Israelites. (Num. 20: 7-13, also Deu. 31: 2.)

The “keys” are never defined by scripture. They get used as a shorthand way to refer to a number of very different subjects with apparently very different meanings. In one instance, they are called the “keys of the mysteries.” (D&C 28: 7: Joseph Smith was given “keys of the mysteries” allowing him to receive revelations which were otherwise sealed. D&C 35: 17-18: Joseph Smith had the “keys of the mysteries” to unseal knowledge kept hidden from the foundation of the world.) This appears to be a way to describe what Joseph could do as part of his ministry. It was apparently not transferable or even repeatable.

Other scriptures refer to the “keys of the holy priesthood” which were to be given in the Nauvoo Temple. (D&C 124: 33-34.) Although the revelation of January 1841 says the temple was necessary, the LDS Church claims it has these “keys,” and got them in Joseph’s red brick store. This theory negates the language of the revelation (D&C 124: 28). The LDS Church’s claim involves the temple endowment, which has been widely published. Therefore, if the claim were true, every endowed Latter-day Saint and every voyeur on the internet now hold these “keys.”

Scripture also refers to the “keys of the kingdom” in an answer to questions Joseph asked God concerning the meaning of verses in Isaiah. These, however, were “lost” and would not return until a specific descendant “unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom” would come. This was a future event during Joseph Smith’s life. (D&C 113: 5-8.) Joseph had these keys and they were his to keep even if he died. (D&C 90: 2.) But the references to “kingdom” are confusing, having been used by various people using different definitions. It once meant the Council of Fifty. Then it meant the State of Deseret. Then it meant the political division over which Brigham Young was Governor. Then it morphed into the LDS Church. Now it is almost universally used by the LDS Church to mean the LDS Church, but the LDS Church is not the institution God will preserve and protect. God’s protection is over “the church of the Firstborn.” (D&C 93: 22; 85: 5; 76: 67; Heb. 12: 23; D&C 107: 19.) Nephi also refers to the “church of the Lamb” with apparently the same group in mind. (1 Ne. 14: 10-14.)

The priesthood is for service, not control. The greatest priesthood holder was Christ. He condemned the gentile tendency to rule, control and exercise lordship. He came only to serve and offer His life as a ransom for others. (Mark 10: 42-45.)

It is easier to seize control and demand obedience to authority than to persuade using gentleness and pure knowledge. (D&C 121: 41-42.) So the pantomime of “keys” substitutes organizational control for common consent, amalgamates authority and then demands uniformity. At some point perhaps the saints will tire of the pantomime, obtain control through common consent, and repent. But if not, the Lord has the ability to move His great work forward with or without a pantomime running alongside. He has something real to accomplish. When He does, we will all be required to choose between the pantomime and the reality.

Question on preceding post…

QUESTION:
“Levitical priesthood is almost universally available to every male alive today, no matter their ethnicity.”
 Do yo mean that, by virtue of lineage, almost all men already have the right to OFFICIATE in Aaronic priesthood ordinances, or just that almost all men have the right to RECEIVE the Aaronic priesthood?  I.e., they all HAVE it or they all have a RIGHT to it?  If the former, why did John the Baptist have to confer it on Joseph and Oliver?
(Related topic: If Joseph held the higher priesthood from before the foundation of the world, why did John the Baptist confer upon him a smaller portion of the larger whole he already had?)
“I think ‘hot drinks’ refers to ‘strong drink’ meaning whiskey, bourbon, and similarly ‘hot’ drinks (one time called ‘fire water’ by Native Americans). (D&C 89: 5, 7, 9.) I do not think it refers to coffee or tea.”
Could you elaborate on how you came to this conclusion?  a) Why would the Lord come back to the topic 4 verses later and introduce a new term for the same thing?  b) What about the supposed interpretive statements by Joseph (“I understand that some of the people are excusing themselves in using tea and coffee, because the Lord only said ‘hot drinks’ in the revelation of the Word of Wisdom. Tea and coffee are what the Lord meant when he said ‘hot drinks’ “) and Hyrum (“There are many who wonder what this can mean, whether it refers to tea or coffee, or not. I say it does refer to tea and coffee.”)
______________________________
MY RESPONSE:
There is always an “ordination” involved. It is twofold, as I explained in the Orem talk. One is done by man (or an angel) and the other by God. Both are required.
Lineage qualifies, foreordaination is necessary, ordination here is required, and heaven must confirm or ratify the ordination. All are necessary.
-Lineage is almost universal.
-Foreordination is known only to God and revealed by our experience.
-Ordination is easily accomplished and has been widely performed.
-Heaven, however, is the final arbiter of whether a person will be authorized to perform beyond the merely outward ordinances and officiate in fulfilling God’s work of redemption in the fullest sense.
Read Section 89 and pay attention to the “and again”–then ask yourself if “and again” is a return to the topic discussed before. If it is, then these “and again” references are to alcoholic drinks. I know what Hyrum said. He offered it as his opinion. No one has ever said what God meant, including Joseph. They offered their interpretation. However, if you were to give strong alcohol to a child, the child’s reaction would be to call it “hot”– because that is the normal first reaction.