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Churches Built By Men, Part 6

Nephi makes a distinction between the institutions or churches of our day, and individuals. As to the institutions he declares: “They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray…” (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

I think it is possible for an institution to be different from its members. I think it is possible for a “committee” to have a different mind, or intent, or constitution from the individuals who comprise the committee. In a graduate leadership course I teach in an MBA program, we examine the difference between individual behavior and group behavior. There are a lot of studies done on this topic. My view is that it is entirely possible for a group to make a decision that no single individual in the group would make on their own. It is the “group’s” decision, and does not comprise the individual thinking or mind of any of those who contributed to the outcome. Compromises, insecurities, give and take, fatigue, and conflict avoidance result in a lot of group decisions being far from what any of the participants want.

So when the institutions are condemned, I do not think that means Nephi is damning all those involved in leading. Despite this, Nephi continues: “they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ…” (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

This remark makes it clear that the institutions contain humble followers of Christ. In other words, even if things are off track, people can remain on track. The challenge is always individual. It is up to each of us to focus on and be faithful to Christ. He is the Redeemer, and it is Him alone to whom we must look for our salvation.

That having been said, Nephi adds, “nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” (2 Ne. 28: 14.) Even humble followers of Christ  are “taught by the precepts of men” in our day. This causes them to “err” “in many instances.” Meaning that our doctrine is poorly and inadequately taught.

So what is the cure? The Book of Mormon, of course. (D&C 84: 54-57.) This is how the “humble followers of Christ” can take in pure doctrine, uncorrupted by “the precepts of men” and find their way back to repentance. It is a lifeline extended to us by prophets who wrote for our day. They wrote as solitary individuals, not as members of a committee. They held no institutional positions, office or connections pulling them in one direction or another. They wrote as the Spirit led them and as the Lord directed them. And they wrote for us.

Nephi was one of them. And he cared deeply about us to have provided this counsel and warning to us. I think it ought to be taken very seriously. Our eternity will be affected by how we apply his writings.

Churches Built By Men, Part 5

Nephi equates “robbing the poor” with misuse of wealth. Given the obligation to care for the poor, and the ultimate responsibility to have all things in common, misuse of wealth constitutes an abuse of the poor in Nephi’s warning.

I’ve considered the responsibility to build and maintain temples, and how the construction of temples has always meant the finest workmanship and materials as an offering to the Lord. It is His house after all. Therefore, I do not think the warning of Nephi has anything to do with construction of temples.

Nephi says we will “rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries.” (2 Ne. 28: 13.) If this has nothing to do with the temples, then to what is Nephi referring?

I have wondered about the City Creek project. Considering the retail portion alone, the funds used to develop the project could have funded approximately 90 temples (assuming an average cost of $30 million per temple). If you consider the office, condominium and remainder of the project, there could have been 150 temples built. The condominiums at City Creek include many priced in excess of $1 million. I “shopped” for a condo there. I found I could not afford one which would meet my needs, and if I bought what I could afford it would not be adequate. The development does indeed contain fine sanctuaries, and does bring an upscale venue to downtown Salt Lake.

Nephi does not confine his warning to us just to sanctuaries. He continues to condemn us because we “rob the poor because of their fine clothing.” (2 Ne. 28: 13.) Meaning that if we cover ourselves with unnecessary expenses, we leave nothing to give to provide the poor with clothing. Our wealth is of value when we clothe the naked and feed the hungry, but of no value when we consume it for our own pleasure. (Jacob 2: 19.)

Nephi also draws the same conclusion from our attitudes and demeanor. We “persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.” (2 Ne. 28: 13.) Our pride alone “persecutes” the meek. Instead of fellowshipping them in meekness, we “persecute” them by our arrogance.

This standard is designed to change society. It is designed to elevate us to another level in which we are closer to God. If we heeded Nephi’s warnings, we would become more unified and more equal in earthly things. If we did that, there would be abundant manifestations of the Spirit, which are presently withheld. (D&C 70: 14.)

I think Nephi understood the doctrine better than do we.

Churches Built By Men, Part 4

Nephi allows for no exception to the problems facing latter-day churches. He writes they have “all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted.” (2 Ne. 28: 11.) This presents a dilemma for me. I believe the church I belong to was established by the Lord. I also believe:

-The Lord gave my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) a commission to baptize.
-Also a commission to lay on hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
-Also a commission to bless the sacrament.
-Also a commission to preach, teach, exhort, expound and spread the Gospel of Christ to all the world.

If what I believe is true (and I think it is), then how can Nephi’s all inclusive condemnation of “all” the latter-day churches be reconciled with Nephi’s criticism?

It seems to me that being “chosen” by the Lord has never, in any past dispensation among any past group of believers, had the effect of removing all errors from those who were “chosen.” Nor has it prevented them from falling into error. No matter the relationship between people and God, they have always remained free to choose. For the most part, that freedom has resulted in drifting from the truth, and the need to be reminded and called back. Or, in other words, the need for repentance.

Nephi’s message is his call to us to repent. It is his reminder of the errors which will or have crept into every church, including my own. Therefore, his message is as relevant to me, as a Latter-day Saint, as it is to any other person belonging to any other faith. Perhaps it is even more relevant to me because I actually believe in the Book of Mormon, whereas other faiths do not.

Look at Nephi’s explanation for why all churches have become corrupted: (And I would add, being “corrupted” is not the same thing as being utterly corrupt.)
-There is too much “pride.”
-There are “false teachers” who do not teach the truth.
-There are “false doctrines” which differ from what the Lord taught to save us.
-The churches are “lifted up” and “because of pride they are puffed up.” (2 Ne. 28: 12.)

Now Nephi can warn us all because he was shown us in vision and wrote scripture to caution and guide us. But I, on the other hand, can only take his instruction and examine myself. Am I caught up in these problems? Do I search for the doctrine of Christ? Can I detect false teachings? Am I willing to be stripped of pride? In other words, do I take Nephi seriously enough to examine my own beliefs and conduct?

The teachings of Nephi are challenging. But they have the power to rescue us if we will let them.

Logan Meeting

On Sunday, October 28th at 7:00 p.m. there will be a meeting in Logan, Utah at which Elder David S. Baxter, First Quorum of the Seventy and Elder Thomas M. Cherrington, Area Seventy will be speaking to the Youth and Youth Leaders.  It will be held at The Spectrum on the Utah State University campus.  I would encourage all those who are in these groups to attend this meeting.

Churches Built By Men, Part 3

Nephi explains these latter-day false churches accomplish the opposite of Zion. In Zion everyone is to become “one.” Zion is unified in purpose and in heart. In these false churches people become competitive with one another. This leads to dishonesty between them.

“[L]ie a little, take advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor” is the operating standard of conduct. (2 Ne. 28: 8.) This is believed to be harmless. (Id.) And if you die in this fractious and competitive condition, then all will be well with you. If God is offended by it all, then you will be chastised, but “at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” (2 Ne. 28: 8.) The idea of punishment and damnation is not to be taken seriously. It is as if everyone will enjoy a position of glory, no matter their conduct. Therefore, we should enjoy our lives and not take too seriously any need to change.

Conspicuously absent from these false teachings is any need to repent. Repentance is not even part of the latter-day religious agenda. But, then again, since everyone will fare well in God’s judgment, there really is no need for it under this religious system.

According to Nephi, this is the widespread doctrine of the latter-days. But these teachings are “false and vain and foolish.” (2 Ne. 28: 9.) Nephi notes that the only effect this gives to mankind is to make us “puffed up in [our] hearts.” (Id.) The vanity of it all is intoxicating. We get to wallow in our pride. After all, we are saved and highly favored.

If we are honest with ourselves, this assessment of the latter-days seems uncomfortably accurate.

Churches Built By Men, Part 2

Following hard on the idea that God has given His power to men is the necessary corollary precept that there are no longer miracles. (2 Ne. 28: 6.) Because the claim by men that they have been given God’s power and authority is false, there can be no miracles. This requires the additional doctrine that miracles have ceased.

This false doctrine is also later addressed by Moroni. He bluntly informs us that “if these things have ceased (miracles, visits by angels, etc.), then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.” (Moroni 7: 38.) In our own day we are instructed by the Lord that “signs follow those that believe.” (D&C 63: 9.)

What then is the appeal of a religion that falsely claims to have God’s power, but teaches there can’t be any miracles because those have all ended? Why would this appeal to man? Nephi answers that the doctrine includes the reassuring teaching that “it shall be well with us” and we can go ahead and “eat, drink and be merry” because we are highly favored. (2 Ne. 28: 7.) These false religions of our day make us feel good. They assure us we are saved. We are in the right way. We can enjoy life.

These powerful and persuasive doctrines are only the beginning. Nephi’s warning continues into the rest of the latter-day religious landscape.

But these initial false doctrines are sobering enough. They are a caution to all mankind about protecting ourselves against false notions that creep in and can poison any believer. They are designed to draw men away from Christ, the One who can save.

I am so grateful for the candor in Nephi’s prophecy. He cares about our souls. If he didn’t, his message would not be so carefully crafted, and so brutally honest about the latter-day doctrines designed to capture and captivate us.

Churches Built By Men

In our day Nephi foretells of churches that are not built to the Lord. (2 Ne. 28: 3.) These institutions will claim to be the Lord’s though they are not. (Id.)

After Nephi explains that the problem lies generally in the false teaching that men should rely on their own wisdom rather than on God (2 Ne. 28: 4), he makes this claim as the significant defect in latter-day churches:

“[B]ehold, there is no God today, for his work, and he hath given his power unto men.” (2 Ne. 28: 5.)

The idea that the Redeemer no longer works directly with mankind is denounced. In its place we have men who pretend they have authority to replace the Redeemer, and to become the new, vicarious light to which men should look for their salvation.

When men have God’s power, and therefore can open or shut the doors of salvation for others, then men wielding this power command respect, power, wealth, political influence, and this world’s goods. Men desiring to have salvation will give everything, even their own souls into slavery, to men who hold such power.

Nephi lists this problem as the first great lie taught by latter-day gentile churches because it is so very pernicious. It kills those who believe it. They move their love of God to a worship of men.

The Redeemer has never surrendered His role. (John 14: 23; D&C 130: 3; 2 Ne. 9: 41.)

Only the deceived will believe the Redeemer of mankind has given His power unto men. But, based on Nephi’s warnings, this false idea will control latter-day churches as one of the most successful deceptions.

Fireside Details

The location for the fireside to be held on Sunday, October 28th at 7:00 p.m., will be:

Weber State University
Shepherd Union Building
Ballrooms A, B, & C  Third Floor
On a WSU map, building #36

There are elevators up to the third floor. Since it is Sunday, all parking is free.

The doors will open at 6:00 p.m.  There will be some prelude music beginning at approximately 6:30 p.m. 

We would request those who attend leave your cell phones and other recording devices, cameras, etc. in your cars and not bring them into the fireside. There will be professional sound recording taking place, and a high quality digital recording will be made available. There is no reason for anyone to bring any recording device of their own. 

This is free to the public and anyone who is interested may attend.


General Conference

General conference is now over. I listened with interest to the many talks and the few announcements. Here is what I noticed:

The word “revelation” was not used to describe the change to missionary age requirements during the conference.

Immediately following the Saturday morning session where President Monson made the announcement, there was a press conference. The press conference was conducted by Elder Holland and Elder Nelson. In the conference the words used, if my memory is correct, were “revelatory process.”

The only other speaker that I recall mentioning the process was Elder Cook. The word he used was either “inspired” or “inspiration.” Again, I am just going from memory.

As a result of the foregoing, the conclusion I find the most interesting is that Elder Nelson was willing to use the word “revelation” in meetings with stake presidents and mission presidents, but did not use that word in the press conference. It is interesting to me that a much stronger word would be used in private meetings.