BOWbutton

This button is a resource to link those desiring baptism with those having authority to baptize. More information can be found here.

 

Elective Adultery And Election Ambition:

Though I am not political, some moments in the political world spill over into things I do care about. One of them is unfolding at the moment. The disclosure of Newt Gingrich’s marital infidelity, and on-going extramarital misconduct resulting in his second divorce and third marriage, is one of those rare moments when the United States has an opportunity to make a significant moral error. It is true we have had past presidents who have engaged in sexual misconduct while in office. Some were discovered only after they left office. President Clinton, of course, was known to have done so while still serving. But the United States has never elected a man whose extramarital affairs were publicly known before the election. Such conduct has always been disqualifying. This is because the United States has always cared about morality as much as about policy.

Apparently many political commentators cannot see the difference between offering an adulterous man whose sins are publicly known before the election as a candidate to the nation’s highest office, in contrast to later discovering we’ve inadvertently elected an adulterous man. [Grover Cleveland was a bachelor and young when he may have fathered a child, not a married adulterer. He paid child support and was never conclusively shown to be the father.] When given the choice beforehand, adultery should always be disqualifying. Yet such “conservative” commentators as Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham have championed Newt Gingrich after the disclosure; even Sarah Palin has defended Mr. Gingrich after it became an issue. Gov. Rick Perry has also endorsed Mr. Gingrich after this moral failing has become public.

Mr. Gingrich is ego-maniacal. He was dishonest and thrown out of Congress for his ethical lapses. His infidelity to his wife is mirrored in his infidelity to high office while serving in Congress. If he betrayed his wife before, and betrayed his public office before, he is unworthy to be trusted again. His very public penitence I view more as public theatre than humble submission to God. He proclaims his God-given forgiveness as a shield against criticism, rather than a matter of private devotion. Such conduct always raises a question about sincerity. He is ambitious, self-centered, now using religion to justify himself, and unworthy of renewed public trust. When someone has been involved in such a troublesome history I would expect they would voluntarily disqualify themselves by never running. I understand and sympathize with failed marriages and moral lapses. They happen. But contrition and ambition are incompatible. Some personal failings are so great they disqualify. At least from the right to hold an office of public trust which was designed to be viewed as much as a “pulpit” of righteousness as a seat of power.

He was careful yesterday to deny wanting an “open marriage” because the definition of the word used in the question does not quite fit his immoral conduct. He was not prepared to welcome his wife joining him in extramarital sexual relations, as “open marriage” implies. He wanted to do that alone. He wanted his wife to “share” him with his paramour. (This loophole allowing the denial was fed to him by Rush Limbaugh.) Therefore he could probably pass a lie-detector test about his denial of wanting an “open marriage.” Yet he wants his adulterous companion to be the nation’s First Lady, and himself to occupy the high position originally designed for George Washington– the most trusted man of his generation. A man whose morality was beyond question. A man who led by example, freeing his slaves in his will as the example he hoped would end slavery without requiring the nation to be torn apart. Newt Gingrich will bring dishonor to any office he holds because of his inability to look beyond self-interest and personal glorification.

When a person is known to be an adulterer, they are by definition also a liar. Liars and adulterers are by any scriptural definition wicked. When a nation on this land chooses to uphold a wicked man to head their government, they are ripe for destruction. (See Mosiah 29: 27Alma 10: 19, Helaman 5: 2.)

You uphold such a man at the peril of national destruction. His campaign has also exposed the underlying confused morality of some popular political commentators.

Submission to Church

I was asked about “submission to the church” and “criticism as rebellion.” Here is my response:

The church is formed by a mutual agreement between the members and the leaders. The leaders occupy their positions because they are sustained to the offices they hold. When sustained, they are the office holders. No one has the right to preside or conduct church activities other than the regularly constituted church authorities. It is their right.

But if you love the church and want her best interests, it is a mistake to leave her uncriticized for mistakes and blunders. Those who care for her the most will be the most eager to help. Criticism designed to improve, to overcome mistakes or solve dilemmas the church faces is what a person who cares would always do. Only a fool would mistake comments motivated by concern and care as a sign of rejection or rebellion.

The church is struggling. Only about 10% of the converts remain with the church today. Half of the returned missionaries drift into inactivity within two years of returning home. Temple marriages in the U.S. are ending at a rate nearly comparable to national averages, and the fertility rate of Mormons in the U.S. has dropped to nearly the national average. Tithing contributions have dropped. There is a crisis underway at present. If a member cares, they owe it to the church to offer views for discussion.

I think using professional business consultants to help solve the crisis is what has led to the crisis. They do not, indeed cannot, understand the things of the spirit. It is impossible to treat the Gospel as another commodity and market it like you would soft drinks, cars or office supplies. Businessmen cannot remedy a spiritual illness. The church does not need good marketing. Indeed it grew the most as an overall percentage of growth, when it boldy proclaimed a new doctrine, a new revelation from heaven, and suffered the indignity and criticism of the entire world. While editorial pages were railing against the church, and cartoonists were mocking Joseph Smith, the church went from nothing to tens-of-thousands. That was how the truth should always be spread. Not by aligning with the world and employing its methods, but by proclaiming the truth and rejecting the world.

We’ve been using more and more of the same failed business marketing approach to try and smooth out the message and deliver it more agreeably to the world. That will NOT attract those seeking the truth. We must not blend in, but must stick out. Doing more of this marketing and social-science driven management will lead to less: Less activity. Less retention. Less tithing. Less membership. Less success. It needs to reverse.

Sooner or later someone who is open to that message will decide the failure has continued long enough and will decide to return to what established the church in the first place against all opposition.

False Spirits

Whenever there is an increase in spiritual manifestations, there is always an increase in both true and false spiritual phenomena. You do not get one without the other.

In Kirtland, new converts who were overzealous to participate in the new heavenly manifestations coming as a result of Joseph Smith’s claims, opened themselves up to receiving influences they could not understand, and did not test for truthfulness. They were so delighted to have any kind of experience, they trusted anything “spiritual” was from God. As a result, there were many undignified things, degrading conduct, foolish behavior and evil influences which crept in among the saints. Joseph received a revelation in May 1831 concerning this troubling development. In it the Lord cautioned there were “many false spirits deceiving the world.” (D&C 50: 2.) That Satan wanted to overthrow what the Lord was doing. (D&C 50: 3.) The presence of hypocrites and of people harboring secret sins and abominations caused false claims to be accepted. (D&C 50: 4, 6-7.) It is required for all people to proceed in truth and in righteousness (D&C 50: 9) if they are going to avoid deception. Meaning that unrepentant and unforgiven men will not be able to distinguish between a true and a false spirit.

All spiritual gifts, including distinguishing between true and false spirits, requires the Holy Ghost, given through obedience to the truth, which allows a person to distinguish between truth and error. (D&C 50: 17-23.) The truth is like light, and when you follow the light of truth it grows inside you until you have a “perfect day” in which there is no more darkness,but everything is illuminated by the light of the spirit within you. (D&C 50: 24.)

The revelation clarifies that a preacher of truth will become only a servant. He will not claim greatness, but will seek only to give truth; as a result of which false spirits will be subject to him. (D&C 50: 26-27.) But this only comes as a result of repenting of all sin, because the light of a perfect day cannot arise when men harbor evil desires and inappropriate ambitions within their hearts. (D&C 50: 28-29.) Truth will not leave you confused, but will enlighten your understanding. (D&C 50: 31.)

From this you can see how necessary it is for each of us to continually repent, conduct our lives in conformity with such truth as you presently understand, and avoid deliberate wrongdoing in order to be able to distinguish between a true and a false spirit. You must attract light. It is attracted by obedience to such light as you already have. When you proceed forward using the light you already possess to attract more light it will grow in one, consistent and truthful manner from a lesser to a greater light. All of it conforming to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Ambition in spiritual gifts leads to acceptance of evil influences. As part of the same problem in Kirtland, in September of the previous year, Hiram Page wanted to be like Joseph, and was able to attract a deceiving spirit to communicate with him through a seer stone. But the commandments he received were designed to lead him into error. (D&C 28: 11.)

Truth will always testify of Christ and lead to repentance. It will lead you to do good, not evil. To serve God and not follow men. To repent and forsake darkness which appeals to the carnal mind. (See Moroni 7: 12-19.)

Just because you have a “spiritual experience” you cannot trust it will invariably be from God. True spirits will:
-Testify of Christ.
-Lead to repentance.
-Be consistent with existing scripture.
-Lead you to be submissive to authority in the church.
-Edify and enlighten your mind.
-Be understandable and not cause confusion.
-Cause light to grow within you.
-Turn you toward Christ, not men.
-Never cause pride.
-Make you a better servant.
-Increase your love of your fellow man.
-Clothe you with charity for the failings of others.
-Conform to the true whisperings of the Holy Ghost you previously have received.
-Leave you humble and grateful for God’s condescension.
-Make you want to bring others to the light.
-Be grounded in love toward God and all mankind.
-Lead you to rejoice.

False spirits will:
-Deny Christ.
-Cause pride.
-Make you believe you are better because of the experience.
-Contradict the scriptures.
-Appeal to carnality and self-indulgence.
-Lead to rebellion against the church’s right to administer ordinances.
-Cause confusion.
-Lead to ambition to control others.
-Make you intolerant of others’ failings.
-Seek self fulfillment rather than service.
-Appeal to your vanity and assure you that you are a great person.
-Bring darkness.
-Repulse the Holy Ghost.
-Prevent you from repenting and forsaking sins.
-Interfere with serving others.
-Focus on yourself rather than the needs of others.

Do not think all spiritual experiences can be trusted. There is no difference between the activities of deceiving spirits today and those in Kirtland, as well as those in the New Testament times. If you follow the Lord you must still test the spirits and only follow those which point to Christ. (1 John 4: 1.) Even Joseph Smith had to ask God about some of the phenomena going on in Kirtland before he knew which were of God and which were deceiving.

The Book of Mormon

There is a presumption that “the Book of Mormon” means the book “Book of Mormon” we have now. That is, the one you can get off the shelf at Deseret Book. That is not the only possible meaning of the words.

Nephi records he made two sets of plates. On one he recorded the “full record” of his people. We do not have that record. On the other he included little history and a summary of his religious teachings and prophecies. (1 Ne. 9: 2) The small plates we have are devoted primarily to his “ministry.” (1 Ne. 9: 4.) When Nephi prepared the first, larger plates, he was unaware he would later receive a commandment to make the second, shorter record devoted to only his ministry. (1 Ne. 19: 1-3.)

The commandment to make the second set of plates was not given until after Lehi died in the promised land, and Nephi and those who followed him separated from his older brothers Laman and Lemuel. (2 Ne. 5: 30.) This would have been several decades after the events in and around Jerusalem.

Mormon did not use Nephi’s “small plates” to abridge in his original book. He used Nephi’s large plates, containing “more history part” of the people. But, after finishing his abridgement, he attached the small plates to his abridged record, noting that the small plates he attached contained “this small account” of the prophets from Jacob down to King Benjamin. (Words of Mormon 1: 3.) Within the small plates Mormon explained there were “many of the words of Nephi” (Id.). For all of Nephi’s words, we would need access to the large plates.

The “Book of Mormon” included: 1) Mormon’s summary of the Nephite records, which was based on the larger plates and not the smaller ones, 2) The small plates of Nephi, 3) Moroni’s translation of part of the Jaredite records, 4) Some correspondence between Mormon and Moroni, along with Moroni’s final warnings, and 5) An extensive, sealed and untranslated record containing information not yet revealed to us (2 Ne. 27: 6-8). We no longer have a portion of part 1, it having been lost through Martin Harris’ neglect. It was not re-translated after the first version was lost. (See D&C 10: 30.) Part 5, or the sealed portion of the record, contains a revelation from God of everything from the beginning to the end (2 Ne. 27: 7.)

When “the Book of Mormon” is said to contain the “fullness of the Gospel” (D&C 42: 12) is that referring to what we have now (parts 2, 3, 4)? Does it or did it also include what was originally included by Mormon, but has been lost to us as a result of Martin Harris (part 1)? Does it include the sealed portion of the record we have never been given (part 5)? Although the traditional discussion presumes what we now have (parts 2, 3, 4) are what is meant by “the Book of Mormon” there are other possible meanings.

Joseph Smith Quote

I was asked about a quote from Joseph Smith. Thought I’d put it up here, also. It is taken from the journal of Mosiah Hancock, and is Bro. Hancock’s recollection of a statement made by Joseph Smith:

…you will travel west until you come to the valley of the Great Salt Lake. …you will live to see men rise in power in the church who will seek to put down your friends and the friends of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Many will be hoisted because of their money and the worldly learning which they seem to be in possession of; and many who are the true followers of our Lord and Savior will be cast down because of their poverty. (Mosiah Hancock Journal, p.19)

Abraham’s Gospel

Abraham was in possession of the records going back to Adam. All the records of “the fathers” from the beginning came down to him. (Abr. 1: 31.) This would have gone back to the time of Adam. (Moses 6: 5.) It would also have included the record kept by Enoch which contained a prophecy of all things from the beginning to the end of the world. (D&C 107: 53-57.) These are the records he studied to increase his own desire to be a man of greater understanding and to follow greater righteousness and also to possess the singular form of High Priesthood known to the Patriarchs. (Abr. 1: 2.)

It is a mistake to assume Abraham had less of the Gospel than do we. He had more. We have not yet risen to his level of understanding or priesthood. I reject the idea that Abraham’s “Gospel” and priesthood was inferior to ours. He was a peer of Adam, Enoch and Noah in his priesthood and the understanding given to him.

Further, the Lord personally ministered to Abraham and conferred priesthood, sonship, and an everlasting inheritance upon him. (Abr. 1: 17-19.)

I think it is a mistake to believe we have more, or even as much, as Abraham did. Reading his record (which is his endowment) it becomes apparent there is an understanding of the heavens, including a detailed account of the path back to God’s presence through the stars, which has yet to be restored to us.

Knowledge and Indifference

Should the study of church history be limited to the superficial, faith-promoting summaries given through the “official” church publications? Doesn’t that risk accurate histories being tools used by the critics against the church? Should the church accept members who choose to believe in the restoration of the Gospel through Joseph Smith? Who believe in the Book of Mormon, and other scriptures that came through Joseph? Who believe in God’s purposes in starting a new dispensation of the Gospel? Who also recognize the course the saints pursued in the past and are pursuing at present with the restoration has been neglectful, even harmful?

One of our great non-Mormon friends is Harold Bloom. He has written about Joseph Smith and his authentic revelations. He has heaped praise on Joseph’s ability to restore lost ancient, First-Temple era teachings. Yet as an astute observer of Mormonism he has recently written about his complete disappointment with Mormonism, and how badly it has changed in a few short years. He is not being unkind. He has honestly assessed the many radical changes underway with the restored church in the last few years. Since he does not feel any emotional need to defend the church, and is therefore free to give his candid views, his assessment represents an honest way to view the radical alterations currently happening with Mormonism.

If Mormonism is limited to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and for the most part it is), then the recent changes and radical innovations are so dramatic that our largest denomination now runs the risk of following in the steps of the second-largest “Mormon” denomination. The Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is now just another quasi-Protestant faith bearing almost no resemblance to the movement begun through Joseph.

How much study should be given to the history of the restoration? How carefully should Joseph’s teachings be preserved, studied and followed? When the Lord commanded us to “give heed to all his [meaning Joseph Smith] words and commandments” to what extent are we justified in forgetting his words and teachings? (See D&C 21: 1-6.) In the commandment, Joseph is identified in these words: “thou shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ[.]” (Id. v. 1, emphasis added.) We know Joseph was called “through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ” because we have the records before us. For example, Joseph witnessed the Father and Son appearing to him in the Spring of 1820. (JS-H 1: 17.) Again on the 16th of February 1832 Joseph saw the Father and Son. (D&C 76: 20-24.) The description and explanation of why we should “give heed” to Joseph’s words are set out in both scripture and history. Therefore it makes perfect sense we should pay careful attention to them. Subsequent office holders had no similar experiences. (I’ve covered President Brigham Young’s statements about never seeing angels or Christ or the Father in my last book. President Grant thought it was dangerous to encounter such spiritual experiences because they might lead to apostasy. Therefore, he never asked for them, and never experienced them.)

On the other hand, current Mormonism as practiced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has shied away from its history, abandoned many of Joseph Smith’s key teachings, altered some of the most important ordinances restored through him, and so heavily edited the latest study guide on his teachings that the results sometimes contradict what he originally said. I have a friend who has compiled a list of abandoned teachings of Joseph Smith. The list is now nearly two-hundred separate items long. This friend retains his believe in Joseph, the Book of Mormon, other restored scriptures, and in Jesus Christ. But he is alarmed by and alienated from the church. I think his approach in voluntarily withdrawing from fellowship is wrong. I think he has a duty to remain in fellowship with the saints. But what happens as shifting demographics lead to changes such as open acceptance of homosexual marriages? The leadership model implemented during Gordon B. Hinckley’s long tenure in leadership (which began long before he was president) uses opinion polling to guide decision-making. Using the current format, the church is helpless to resist changing public opinion trends.

The church draws leadership from successful internal leader-pools. Young bishops become high councilors and stake presidents. Those with wealth and business acumen become mission presidents. Before long a resume of church service attracts higher office and such men are called as a general authorities. These men are drawn from business, law, banking, education and government. Oftentimes their business acumen is the overwhelming forte’ and their knowledge of the church’s history and doctrine are lacking. In fact, knowledge of doctrine and history is not required for higher church office. (If you study the history and journals, you will find there are those who didn’t even believe in the Gospel who were called to be members of the Twelve. They were great businessmen, and the church’s many assets and interests required that talent.)

Oftentimes the reality is that leaders know far less about the religion than members who have devoted themselves to studying the Gospel and the church’s history. The results are sometimes interesting, because doctrinal or historic errors are made by those we sustain as our leaders. How big an issue this becomes for some very devoted believers is up to each individual. I choose to cover their shortcomings with charity, and to remember how difficult a challenge it is to manage a 14 million-member all-volunteer organization spanning cultures and languages across most of the world. But that does not mean their mistakes go unnoticed, just that I accept human-limitations as inevitable. There is a difference between not knowing something and being indifferent to it. I try to keep that in mind.

Whose Church is it?

To whom does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints belong? To us, or to the Lord?

That seems like an easy question, but it isn’t. Because to answer it requires a great deal of understanding of both history and doctrine. The Lord told the Nephites a church had to bear His name or it wasn’t His. (3 Ne. 27: 8.) At the beginning our church was originally called “The Church of Christ.” By a vote of a conference on May 3, 1834 the name was changed to “The Church of the Latter-day Saints.” (DHC 2: 62-63.) By 1838 the Lord put His name back into the title by revelation, but approved adding our names when the name changed to “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (D&C 115: 4.) So our name is in the title. The Lord told the Nephites that if named after someone, then it is their church. His name is in our title, but so is ours.

If the church belongs to us, then we can do as we like. Our sustaining votes are all that are required to implement any changes we choose to make.

If, on the other hand, the church belongs to the Lord, then we have no right to make any change to it. We conform to what He tells us. We cannot make a change, and must keep what He chooses to give us intact, awaiting His instruction before altering anything.

One of the most remarkable differences between Joseph’s era, or the first phase of Mormonism, is the direction we received from the Lord. The outpouring of revelation established not only three new volumes of scripture, but control was in the Lord’s hand, not Joseph’s nor the church’s. Direction came, and we conformed.

The absence of that Divine control since Joseph’s passing has been covered over by insistence that keys were given from Joseph to successors, and with those keys the right to direct everything remains intact. So much so that we can vote new “prophets, seers and revelators” and their decisions are God’s. God’s will is obtained by proxy, decided by councils, and accepted as if it were His.

If this is our church, proxies work fine. We are supposed to carry things on in the absence of Divine direction. Sentiments and feelings that we are going in the right direction is all we need. When good men acting in good faith make a unanimous decision prayerfully, we should feel good about it. Is that enough? If it is our church, I think it is.

What if the church is the Lord’s, though? I mean what if it is only His, and we have no right to implement any alteration? What if it is our obligation to listen, then conform, and only to obey? Do our good faith, honest desires, prayerful discussions, hopeful changes, and best feelings then matter? Do we get the right to change anything if the Lord alone owns the exclusive right?

If someone is His, what does that mean? What does it mean to be “His people?” Can “His people” act independently of Him? Does independent action constitute rebellion or rejection of Him? After all, didn’t He tell us it wasn’t necessary to command us in all things? (D&C 58: 26.) How far does that commandment extend? Because He also warned us to give heed to everything revealed to Joseph Smith (D&C 21: 4; 50: 35.)

What if a church president spends many long hours in the upper room of the temple praying for an answer, and can’t get one? The Lord won’t even give a “yes” or a “no” despite repeated prayers, for months, even years; what then? Can a decision be made because frustrated church leaders all feel good about going forward? Is “feeling good” about going forward a “revelation” from God?

What does it mean to “take the Lord’s name in vain?” Clearly we sustain leaders, follow them, trust them to do what is right, and all have testimonies this is the Lord’s great work. How much latitude do we possess?

Who then owns the church? Him or us? 

Parables

I just got asked for help with the Parables. It was a nice request, so I’m responding here. I’m worried about giving a complete answer. The joy of a parable is the discovery by the reader for herself (himself) of the hidden meanings. I rob you when I take away the discovery from you. Someone asked for some help, and I’m willing to give a few things. You really need to discover for yourself because the exercise is important. It unlocks the scriptures, also. This is the language of the Lord. He gives us parables far more often than we’re willing to consider.

For “A Busy Young Man” ask yourself:

Why “busy?” What does it imply? How are “the cares of this world” and “business” connected? What does it mean to be laden with business here? Don’t we respect this kind of thing? Aren’t we looking to elect someone who understands business to be our next US President, because the current one doesn’t do enough to keep us busy in a profitable way?

Why “young man” rather than an elderly one? What is it about relative youth that makes a person more open to consider something new? Can anyone be a “young man” even if they are a child? Elderly? What was Christ at 12 when visiting the Temple? Was He a child or a “young man” at the time? Do the words convey something apart from age itself?

What does it mean to be “on his way?” What do we mean when we say someone is “on their way” to the top? If a person is “really on their way” is that economic? Political? Is there a worldliness about the phrase? Why?

When someone is “sitting” what is implied? Why would the person sitting be “beside the road” rather than on it? The road is for movement, and getting somewhere. But here is someone beside the road, almost as if they were rejecting it. Why? Does sitting make them at rest? But here is someone both sitting and busy in their own small way. Why?

What does a tree symbolize? Why would the one sitting be under the tree? How do the images of sitting and being under the tree combine to present an identity for the one there? When we think of a person meditating, where would we expect to find them in relation to nature? In relation to a tree?

Why were there three days in the initial transition? Then why years? Then cycles of seven years? Then enlightenment? Why did the identity, once it was discovered, no longer result in any requests, demands or inquiries? Why was there only contentment?

The tediousness of the activity, and the narrow confinement to the hands of the one who left the road to help the man under the tree suggests something deeply personal and within the grasp of any person. Why is that? Why would the activity be so little, so narrow, possible for anyone with hands to accomplish?

Think about the descriptions of the hands of both the Busy Young Man and the Master. Words convey messages about the person, and the hands are where these individual’s souls are on display.

Think of the braiding, and how that conveys an image. How are lives “braided” as they are lived? To whom are you “braided” as you go through your own life? Why? What little things are repeated day-by-day to braid you together with your immediate peers?

Well, this could go on for many pages. But already I’m cheating you. You don’t need me, you have the parables.

I like parables. You can accomplish so much with so few words, and you can put so much on display for someone with the eyes to see it.

I’d say the parables are the best writing form to be used if there could only be a single form. Interestingly, they seem to have attracted little attention, except for a handful of quite exceptional people I’ve encountered. Most people are far more interested in volume and scope, rather than the still, quite intensity possible by meditating on a parable. Too busy. They think they can get further on their way by amassing a great volume of material, rather than pausing to think deeply, sitting beside the way, on short tales containing hidden wisdom. They’re probably right. Most people will get a lot more of life’s business done if they stay on the road they’ve already chosen.