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Proverbs 6: 20 – 23


My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: 
Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. 
When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. 
For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
We should teach with more simplicity. We should take the counsel in the scriptures to heart and bind them to us.

The Church’s Greatest Appeal

There are many disagreements among Latter-day Saints. Sitting in on a Sunday lesson in my High Priest’s Group will show just how many topics divide us. We understand a great deal differently from our history, our doctrine, and our priorities. This is normal among any group of people, even when they join together as fellow believers.

The most unifying thing about the church, however, is the service we render to others. Unlike many other denominations, our church is filled with opportunities to serve. It is expected. And it is rendered. Everywhere you turn the members are giving service.

I am not particularly political. The differences between political parties is so little as to not justify enthusiasm for either. However, I watched the evening of Mitt Romney’s acceptance last week. A number of speakers extolled his past service to others. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as parents spoke about the support they received from Bishop Romney for their troubles.

As I listened, it seemed to me this was a description of a typical Mormon Bishop. It can be found in thousands of wards throughout the church. It is an expected part of the calling. And that service and support is rendered willingly, week after week, throughout the church.

From Home Teachers to Visiting Teachers, Relief Society Presidents and Bishops, Elder’s Quorums and Young Women Leaders, there are continual acts of service and support expected and delivered.

It is my view this is the church’s greatest strength and its greatest appeal. We take it for granted. But when behavior which is “normal” for a Mormon Bishop was put on public display, it touched people to the point of tears. We get used to it. We shouldn’t. It is, after all, the pure religion of Christ. (James 1: 22-27.) It is what we do, more than what we say, that matters in practicing our faith.

This should unify us no matter what may divide us.

Waiting on Others

The fullness of  the Gospel is found in the Book of Mormon. There you will find individual after individual who have returned, through faith, back to God’s presence. Once they have returned to God’s presence, they have a different view of themselves and others.

In the case of Lehi and his family, he listened to the testimony of others warning of the destruction of Jerusalem, took their warning seriously, and begged God on behalf of his people. (1 Ne. 1: 5.) As a result of his intercession and compassion for others, he was visited by God. (1 Ne. 1: 6.)

Lehi’s family did not believe him. They followed him into the wilderness, but only because of the respect accorded to the father in their society. None of the family could believe what he was saying.

The younger son, Nephi, prayed to be able to believe what his father Lehi was saying. Even though Nephi wanted to acquire faith, it was not easy to trust his father’s message. Because of his desire to believe, Nephi reports the Lord “did visit me;” this sounds like something more than it was. The Lord’s initial “visit” to Nephi consisted only in ‘softening Nephi’s heart so that he was able to believe his father.’ (1 Ne. 2: 16.)

This is the beginning. This is the first step. When the Lord first takes hold of your hand, it is a faint grip, a partial contact, a weak beginning. It is the token, however, that everyone must first receive. It comes from obeying and then acting faithfully on what has been shown to you. It requires you to sacrifice your own will to the Lord’s.

No one will return to the presence of God who has not received this gentle grip from the Lord. It is a true token given by the Lord; not just something ceremonial. It is the companion to faith. It is the start of the path you will walk back to the presence of God, passing the sentinels who stand along the way. They will want to know you have learned all you need from your experiences here to be able to return to God’s presence.

When the most dramatic points of struggle happen along the path, the Book of Mormon provides us with a view into the person where the struggle takes place. Nephi’s record of the fullness includes his testimony of kneeling on a dark Jerusalem street where he found the person of Laban lying drunk and unconscious before him. (1 Ne. 4: 7-8.) He disarmed him. Then took the time to admire the weapon of war he had taken from his fallen uncle, noting its precious material and workmanship. (1 Ne. 4: 9.)

While admiring the sword, he had the urge to slay Laban. (1 Ne. 4: 10.) Though Nephi attributed this impulse to “the Spirit” it was nothing more than an impulse. Here is where the cosmic struggle plays out. In Nephi’s heart, there is a strong urge to kill a man which, in Nephi’s life, is unprecedented. It is foreign to him. It is “the Spirit” and not Nephi who has this will to kill the man.

Nephi’s hesitancy is not based solely on moral scruples, but on all he believes about himself. He is not a man of war. He has “never before shed the blood of man” and does not think it appropriate to start now. (1 Ne. 4: 10.) This is not about self control, this is about who his identity. This is who Nephi believes himself to be. He is better than this base impulse. It is beneath him.

When he resists this impulse, “the Spirit” elevates the message. No longer is it “constraint” or inclination, but “the Spirit” now “speaks” to him in unmistakable words. (1 Ne. 4: 11.) The message not only clearly tells Nephi the Lord’s will in ‘delivering Laban into his hands,’ but also makes enough sense to Nephi that he can immediately recognize the many reasons for the Lord accomplishing this. (1 Ne. 4: 11.) The proof of the Lord’s hand lays before Nephi. After all, Laban is lying helpless, and “has been delivered into thy hands” as the most tangible, clear proof of God’s power. (Id.)

Yet all of this struggle is internal to Nephi. You could stand on the same street, at the same moment and see the same scene play out before you, and you would not be a witness to God’s great work underway.

The fullness of the Gospel requires us to recognize the hand of God guiding us. The battle we join is within. No one is spared from these stages of growth and development.

The church cannot provide you with an alternative means to get there. It is between you and God, alone. The scene will be as the Book of Mormon continually portrays it. That record is the most comprehensive retelling of how to return to God’s presence ever compiled. It was put together by those who made the journey along the path, passing all the sentinels who stand guard along the way. They embraced their Lord through the veil before entering again into His presence. Then, having been true and faithful, they were brought back into His presence and redeemed from the fall of mankind. (Ether 3: 13.) They, like the Brother of Jared, were redeemed because of their knowledge. (Ether 3: 19.)

Yet you insist on captivity because you have no knowledge. (Isa. 5: 13.) You take blind guides and are therefore, blinded by your own ignorance. (Matt. 23: 16.) You insist on keeping what can never inform you, while rejecting what is told you in plain words. (2 Ne. 32: 7.) You refuse to see and are willingly blind and therefore the greater darkness lies within you.

You can wait, as one recent and  frequent, anonymous commentator has insisted, until there is a program offered to you by an institution and see how long it takes for you to learn of God. Or, believe in the Book of Mormon and remove yourself from condemnation. (D&C 84: 56-57.) But if you seek for approval from an institution, then the Lord cannot overcome the barrier you have erected between you and Him.

What We Control

We are not accountable for things we do not control. The Lord alone in His wisdom will determine what will be done about such things. For us, it is what we do control that will matter. Our decisions about what opportunities He offers have eternal consequences.

One of those decisions is whether we recognize the opportunities before us. We allow a great deal to blind us and let us think the opportunity was never ours, when it was really within our control all along.

Role of Women, Conclusion

I’ve addressed the issue of “plural wives” elsewhere. I do not believe it is a requirement imposed on those who are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. The greatest challenge is to produce a couple who, in the image of God, are one. If a couple manage to overcome the world and become so, they do not need additional women to join them to qualify for exaltation. And if a group insists upon complicating the process by the multiplicity of wives before they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, the challenge to become one may never be overcome.

I have no doubts about the Lord’s kindness and compassion for all men and women. Therefore, I have no doubt about the circumstances of the single, or the forsaken woman who is faithful to the Gospel. There will be none who are abandoned by the Lord who are faithful to His teachings.

The role of woman is more glorious than I can explain in the present circumstances. To discuss all I know would be to violate the present order, which I will not do. But I have no hesitation to say that the “many great and important things” which are “yet to be revealed” (Articles of Faith, Article 9) will include a great deal more than presently understood about women. I do not know if that will need to wait until after the Lord’s second coming, or if it will be known to the church before then. What I do know, however, is that the full picture of woman’s past and future glory is presently withheld from man’s view in the wisdom of the Lord.

Temple rites are not complete. I’ve said that before on a number of occasions. When they are, the role of women will be greatly clarified. But it is not my calling or my right to get ahead of the Lord on such matters. What I can do, however, is to testify that among the things which “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man” is included a sound understanding of the role of women. It is only withheld at present because of our wickedness. What we have is enough to test us, and we are being tested. Will we ever be enough to pass the test to warrant the Lord giving more?

When we have more before we are ready to receive it then it only condemns us. The Lord is merciful in witholding such things.

What I also know is that if He will reveal things to any man He will do so to all mankind. Therefore as I said at the beginning, these are legitimate and worthy questions. They deserve an answer. Ask the Lord and trust His answer.

No man has ever been elevated to a throne in eternity who was not placed upon it by his wife.

Role of Women, Part 5

I know more than I can or ought to say about this matter, but that has been a deeply personal journey. You should take that same journey. I do not want to rob you of discovery. Therefore, let me reiterate that this is a worthy topic and ought to be something you take to the Lord and inquire of Him. He can make it plain to you, only if you are prepared to receive it.

What is required to qualify us for the kingdom of Heaven is driven by what we each lack. In each person that is different. However, the final standard is the same for all of us.

Do not think a merciful and self-sacrificing Lord, who endured infinite suffering to redeem you, has any intention of disappointing you, much less of making you miserable. He will exalt you. But you cannot be as He is without first learning to trust Him and then to follow Him. He descended below it all. Are you greater than He? (D&C 122: 8.)

Man is incomplete. Woman is incomplete. The “image of God” is both male and female. (Gen. 1: 27.)

There is a reason for this necessity of both the man and woman to complete the image of God. The capacity of one is different from the other. Without betraying too much, I will close by saying this, which if you were to understand you would know more about God than you do at present:

The role of the man is knowledge.
The role of the woman is wisdom.
These are eternal, and not merely found here.
Even the names of God reflect these separate roles and the scriptures associate wisdom with the feminine. Underlying this are things which we are only shown to the faithful when we have first become more like God.

There is nothing to your lamentation and complaints that God will not provide a more than adequate reward for enduring. God will not leave you comfortless on this issue any more than He will on any subject which causes you tears. They will all be wiped away. (Rev. 7: 17.) You need to develop the faith to trust Him. He will not disappoint you.

Each of us needs to find God. Then we should lead our spouse to Him likewise. There is a lifetime of effort required to do so.

Role of Women, Part 4

You ask about women and the Second Comforter. It is apparent from the question you have not read Come, Let Us Adore Him. I ask people to read what I’ve written to understand this blog. If you had taken that advice you would already know the first person to receive the risen Lord’s personal ministry was a woman. And you would likewise know there were many others who received His companionship and ministry before any of His Apostles. When He did visit with the Apostles, He rebuked them for not receiving the testimony of the women in particular. This makes clear that the Lord values His family and closest associates and companions more than an hierarchy. You should read that book if you’d like to understand Him better.

The “ambition” to have position or authority or power or “equality” is based on our mistaken understanding of patriarchy and confuses mankind’s bad example with God’s intention. You have also associated the idea of priesthood with the institutional positions of the church. Therefore, since women are barred from filling those institutional positions, you’ve reached a wrong conclusion.

Go back to what is most basic. It is the basic truths which matter most. All great truths are simple.

What is “priestly?” Whether it is done by a “priest” or by a “priestess” what exactly is “priestly?”

At the core, to perform a priestly act is to do something for the Lord; to act as His surrogate, or to act as His agent. The greatest of these priestly acts are rendered through service to others, and can be done by anyone, almost at any time, and in almost any circumstance.

When administering relief to others, you can act on the Lord’s behalf. When you clothe the naked and needy, or visit the sick and confined, or feed the hungry, you are doing His work. (Matt. 25: 34-46.)

The “chief seats” don’t matter. When men obtain the honors of others, sit in the chief seats, and receive public acclaim, they are not the ones to envy. Those who support themselves through the widow’s tithes are damned. (Luke 20: 45-47.)

The Lord has respect to the obscure, and He took greater notice of the faithful who donated her two mites than the rich who made a show. (Luke 21: 1-4.) This is who He is. This is who you are to serve. He has no respect for those who consume these donations from the poor. When you serve others, you are a priestess whom the Lord will recognize and are the one He intends to exalt. (Matt. 23: 11-12.) It is not the ruler who will be honored, but the servant. (Matt. 23: 8-12.)

There is nothing to envy from anyone who receives public acclaim, praise, adoration and celebration. (Matt. 23: 5-8.) When crowds gather to proclaim your greatness, this is neither priestly nor godly, and you have your reward. (Matt. 6: 1-4.) But when you serve in quiet and are faithful in secret, then you are priestly and the Lord will honor you. (Matt. 6: 5-6.)

There is nothing preventing you from acting the part of the priestess in blessing others and serving on the Lord’s behalf. (D&C 58: 26-29.) If you wait to act the part of a priestess until someone calls you to a priestly position, and then only want to hold office to be seen and recognized as a priestess, then you have failed to know your Lord.

You have confused priestly service for God and to your fellow man with rank, position and institutional authority. That is nothing. Worse than nothing. These institutional positions confuse both holders and observers into thinking this is what matters. Misused church position can become little different than membership in a civic club, as some leaders I have known. You probably have seen such people in your own experience. If your “service” is entirely confined there, and you do nothing to benefit the poor, the weak, the needy, the naked and you let the beggar pass by you unnoticed, then priestly service is for you only vanity and pride. It is not something to connect you with God. (Mosiah 4: 12-27.) You can do that without any institution conferring upon you, like “the Great and Powerful Oz” what is in reality nothing more than a watch, a certificate and a medal.

I would advise against looking to those who are almost always damned to decide what example to follow. (D&C 121: 39-40.) The ones acclaimed the most, celebrated the most, and who hold the greatest public eye generally have no authority from God anyway. (D&C 121: 34-37.) Do not either envy them or take them for your model. People who make this mistake aspire to be a child of hell. (Matt. 23: 10-15.)

Even if we receive all the praise men can bestow upon us, we are STILL not priestly. For that, you need to serve our Lord. The honors of men are nothing. They never have been anything. (D&C 121: 34-36.)

You want to be priestly? Then cry repentance. It will offend others, and will cause them to despise you, but will bring you to know your Lord. He is meek and lowly. He speaks to man in plain humility, as one man speaks to another.

His first witness of His resurrection, and therefore the first apostolic voice having authority to declare her witness that He who was dead is alive, was a woman. She was not among the church hierarchy, but the Lord rebuked the them for ignoring her authoritative and true witness. They were “fools and slow of heart” for this error.

Our Lord is no respecter of persons. You ought not be either. To the extent you allow false and exaggerated claims to inform your understanding of a meek and lowly Lord, you will always reach errant conclusions. That is part of the deception we are required to overcome here.

Role of Women, Part 3

There are many questions about issues specific to women in the emails I receive. They go way beyond the one email I posted on Sunday. Many express disappointment about “denying” priestly office to women in the church. My reaction to that issue is to say:  Why aspire to be like those claiming patriarchal priority based upon an exclusive “priesthood” when, for almost all men, their ordination will never result in heaven conferring power upon them? (D&C 121: 36-37.) Why envy nothing?

There is a misapprehension about “priesthood” and authority. This can be tracked back to the failure to adequately teach in the church, and by the example we see in the management of the church. In the church the man is called to office (bishop, stake president, elder’s quorum president, etc.). The man is supposed to fill that office using two counselors to help him. His wife is not one of his counselors. The positions often require confidences to be kept. Because of this, a bishop does not discuss everything about his calling with his wife. This gives the mistaken impression that the men fulfilling these roles matter more, and are trusted more by the Lord.

This model is a mirage, and to the extent the church is selected as the object of admiration and reverence, it will only fool you. Remember the church will end with death. The government of God in eternity is His Heavenly Family. These family relationships endure. The church will remain a creation of, and occupant confined to the Telestial world. It is a Telestial institution, attempting to invite you to rise up to something more, something higher, something that will endure. But the church extending that invitation is not to be envied. Service in it is not the model of Celestial glory. Your family is the critical relationship in mortality.

A man and woman would be better off if they never held any church office other than home and visiting teaching. They would be better off if they realized it is the family alone that will endure, and then devote themselves to improving that relationship. Inside the family, the woman is the natural and undeniable counselor, and she is presiding within the family alongside her husband. She should join with him in blessing their children, she should lay hands on her husband when he asks and bless him, and she should be one with him. Because inside the home it is the husband and wife, not the bishop, who presides. Even the president of the church does not call a man to office without first asking his wife to sustain him in the calling. Nor does the woman get a calling without consulting her husband. All the envy and misapprehensions notwithstanding, the fact remains that the church is inferior to the family. The church is temporary, transient and Telestial. The family can be eternal, enduring and Celestial.

To the extent that you choose the church to inform your understanding, you are setting it up as an idol. That approach does more harm than good. No institution can display what it was never intended to be. It is the unity found in marriage, not the structure of organizing the church, which should become our focus.

This week’s topic has been the subject of repeated discussions between me and my wife. Each morning we spend about an hour talking about many different issues as we walk together, the role of woman being one of them. Each evening we also spend time discussing important issues, from the Gospel to family matters to finances and everything in-between. She not only edits my writing, but discusses what I write with me. She is a constant adviser and counselor to me. Her view of this subject is much more critical of women’s misunderstanding than mine. She finds many complaints and complainers exasperating. Through prayer and study, she has had to come to terms with many of these same issues. On the ones she doesn’t struggle with or can’t get answers to, she trusts that God loves her and that “everything will be okay.” We find it joyful and necessary to reason together and discuss gospel issues with one another.

If we are all the Lord’s, there should be unity between us all; even more so between husband and wife. That does not come through neglect. It comes through effort. Sometimes the effort must begin by the woman bringing to the attention of the husband what he is failing to do or to be. Then it grows from there to discussion, and finally understanding and agreement. That is the work of every relationship. It cannot be avoided. Effort and time are required for any union to be obtained.

Role of Women, Part 2

The unity of man and woman is required for either of them to be saved in the truest meaning of “saved” (meaning exalted):
Paul wrote: “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11: 11.) But what does that mean?

Through Joseph comes this response: “Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world. Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory. For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.” (D&C 132: 15-17.) But, even with this, how does this qualify?

-Is “sealing” enough?
-What if the couple are unworthy of being preserved because, among other things, they are not happy together?
-Why keep together what is more punishment than reward?
-If this union is required for either to be exalted, then does it matter who is sealed to who, with what language?

The unity of man and woman does not come by one dominating the other, as some view the inevitable result of patriarchy. The relationship is not worth preserving if it lacks joyful association. No relationship is unified if one party dominates the other. Godly unity comes by the man conforming to the image of God, and the woman likewise conforming to the image of God, so both reflect His image. Christ put it into these words: “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17: 19-23.) What is this “glory” which the Lord has given to His disciples and which He offers us? How can we become “glorified” like the Father and the Son?
“The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93: 36.) 
Rather than envying the authority of patriarchy or the claims to priesthood, we should all envy/seek God’s glory. Why seek after something that does not exist? Why not seek after what is enduring?
Suppose you do become one with God? Suppose you do take in His glory, or light and truth, and become filled with light? And suppose further that your husband does not. What then?
-What is your responsibility?
-How can you return to God without seeking to reclaim and redeem your husband?
-Remember the counsel of Hyrum Smith when he wrote as the prophet to the church? He said:

Whereas, in times past persons have been permitted to gather with the Saints at Nauvoo, in North America—such as husbands leaving their wives and children behind; also, such as wives leaving their husbands, and such as husbands leaving their wives who have no children, and some because their companions are unbelievers. All this kind of proceedings we consider to be erroneous and for want of proper information. And the same should be taught to all the Saints, and not suffer families to be broken up on any account whatever if it be possible to avoid it. Suffer no man to leave his wife because she is an unbeliever. These things are an evil and must be forbidden by the authorities of the church or they will come under condemnation; for the gathering is not in hast nor by flight, but to prepare all things before you, and you know not but the unbeliever may be converted and the Lord heal him; but let the believers exercise faith in God, and the unbelieving husband shall be sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife by the believing husband, and families are preserved and saved from a great evil which we have seen verified before our eyes. Behold this is a wicked generation, full of lyings, and deceit, and craftiness; and the children of the wicked are wiser than the children of light; that is, they are more crafty; and it seems that it has been the case in all ages of the world.
And the man who leaves his wife and travels to a foreign nation, has his mind overpowered with darkness, and Satan deceived him and flatters him with the graces of the harlot, and before he is aware he is disgraced forever; and greater is the danger for the woman that leaves her husband. The evils resulting from such proceedings are of such a nature as to oblige us to cut them off from the church.
And we also forbid that a woman leave her husband because he is an unbeliever. We also forbid that a man shall leave his wife because she is an unbeliever. If he be a bad man (i.e., the believer) there is a law to remedy that evil. And if the law divorce them, then they are at liberty; otherwise they are bound as long as they two shall live, and it is not our prerogative to go beyond this; if we do it, it will be at the expense of our reputation.

These things we have written in plainness and we desire that they should be publicly known,

(See also 1 Cor. 7: 13-14.)

The marriage of man and woman puts into the closest and most intimate contact two very different people. In their union it is possible to create offspring. It is this basic relationship where the two most important things are accomplished:
1. The work of bringing new life into the world, and
2. The work of overcoming the world and becoming “one.”
Yet fools seek to overcome the world while leaving their spouse uninvolved. Or, in other words, they seek to avoid the very test that is required and which is given to us all to help us to overcome the world. Remember there is neither the man nor the woman without the other in the Lord.

Assuming this is the requirement, then does the wording of church rites matter? Does language sealing the woman to the man change this need of unity?