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Questions:

When a new day dawns, should not a man awaken?

What does it profit a man to awaken if he does not arise?

Does a man awaken only then to boast in his own conceit that he no longer slumbers, while all around him remain asleep; yet the man arise not from his bed? Where is the benefit in that?

The coming day will burn with heat, and those who remain in their beds, either asleep or awake, will be burned. If shade is offered but not taken, there is no benefit to awakening.

If His servant comes alone, he is rejected for the lack of witnesses. If with a company, he is rejected for having followers. Clothed with the spirit and filled with light, he is rejected as innovating. If he mourns, he is too sorrowful; and if rejoicing, he is too merry. You need only ask, and the Lord will tell you what you need to know.

The Whole Not the Parts

There are a few important ideas that define my understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as restored by the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith. These are the ideas that make the Gospel whole, and not just a group of disconnected thoughts. Until these were part of the core of my understanding, I was left with disconnected dots and no overall harmony from which to orient myself.

First and foremost is that we are not to follow any man or men. No man is worthy of discipleship. Not me, not another. There is only one who is worth following. He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14: 16). Beside Him there is no other person who can save you (Mosiah 3: 17).

This first principle is what has motivated all I have written. It is a mistake to think there is a departure in Passing the Heavenly Gift from the topic begun in The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil. They are both necessary. They do not reflect a change in my testimony or commitment to the truth, only an elaboration on the essential core principle that we are not going to be saved by following men. Rather, you will become “darkened in your mind” if you do so. (TPJS p. 237.)

Second and equally important, it is not the depth of your study that matters, but the quality of your connection with heaven that matters. Expounding doctrine is not only insufficient, it is oftentimes a distraction from what matters. We go from unbelief to belief when we learn truth. Not every source, including institutional sources, can be trusted to tell you the truth. Only the light of Christ, followed by the Holy Ghost is a reliable guide to distinguish between unbelief and belief. We go from belief to faith as we take action consistent with belief in truth. Faith is a principle of power. It will lead you to receive angels who still minister to those of a sound mind, not given to flights of fantasy or unstable behavior (Moroni 7: 30). We are brought from faith to knowledge as angels prepare us through their ministry. (Moroni 7: 31; Moroni 7: 25; Alma 32: 23.) Knowledge comes from contact with Jesus Christ. (Ether 3: 19.) This is the knowledge that saves, and nothing else. (John 17: 3.) The idea that knowledge of Christ through His personal appearance to you is now unavailable is an old sectarian notion and is false. (John 14: 23; D&C 130: 3.)

Third, there is no written record, including the scriptures, which are able to tell you all you must know. You can only know the truth by having it revealed to you from heaven itself. (D&C 76: 114-118.) This is the reason Joseph said if you could gaze into heaven for five minutes you would know more than you would by reading everything that has ever been written on the subject. (TPJS p. 324.) Either you do as James says, and ask of God, or you will forever remain ignorant of the only knowledge which can save a man. (JS-H 1: 13, referring to James 1: 5.)

Fourth, the truth is intended to save us. We should welcome corrections. Too often, however, we are offended and think the truth is a hard thing to endure. (1 Ne. 16: 1-3.) That is a product of pride and arrogance. It is impossible to learn what must be learned unless we are willing to be corrected. (Mosiah 3: 19.) Therefore, only the qualified will arrive at the gates, because the rest are unwilling to take the trip required of them.

Fifth, this is a personal journey which each must take for themselves. It cannot be shared. You must approach the Throne yourself. Joseph was alone when he met the Father and Son. Moses was alone when he ascended the Mount to meet the Lord. Enoch was alone when he was caught up to heaven. Elijah was alone on the mountain when the whirlwind, lightning and earthquake preceded the Lord’s own voice. Daniel alone saw the vision of the Lord. Paul alone saw the light. Nephi alone saw his father’s vision. Enos was alone in the wilderness in his encounter with God. Abraham was alone when the Lord spoke to him. Jacob slept alone when the ladder to heaven descended for him. You will also be alone should the Lord come to visit you. This cannot be borrowed from another.

These are the core. This core is what faith, repentance, baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost are meant to bring about. The religion of heaven always involves heaven. It does not involve men and administration and popularity. It is solitary, between you and God. The proud, however, are content to proclaim their righteousness and sit in judgment of others. They live without God in the world (Mormon 5: 16), and their end will be destruction. They think their own imagination is revelation, and they foolishly value only their conceit. (Proverbs 26: 11-12.)

I will never flatter you. But I will never lie to you, either. My faith in the Gospel is stronger now than the day I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My fidelity to the church is greater now than it has ever been. It offered me baptism and I gladly accepted. If offered me scriptures, and I gladly accepted. It offered me ordination, laying on hands, washings, anointings, covenants and sacraments, and I gladly accepted them all. It gives me fellowship, and I value it. But my faith is in Christ alone.

A Visit to Temple Square

We took all the kids who are home, our foreign exchange student from Slovakia, and a friend of my daughter’s to visit Temple Square last evening. The place was crowded. That’s an understatement;. It was packed. At times the sidewalks were “sidestands,” because no one seemed to know you could walk on them.

The impatient crowding and the cold made the overall experience less than I’d hoped. After crowding about in the Square itself, we maneuvered to the east, exiting the Square onto former Main Street by the large reflecting pool. There wasn’t any relief there from the congestion and stern faces. People seemed quite determined, though it was hard to see of what.

We found some open space between the two sides of City Creek on the frozen grass and took a few group pictures with the eastern face of the Temple in the background. Then visited the Nativity scenes from other countries in the court area between the Administration Building and the Church Office Building. My daughter’s friend needed to visit the restroom, so we set out for the North Visitor’s Center, using the sidewalk on North Temple to avoid the congestion. As we entered North Temple there was a beggar on the ground. Now that the church owns the property, beggars are not allowed into Temple Square, Main Street,  or in the campus area to the east. I gave some money to my daughter who is home from the University of Wyoming, and she gave to the beggar. That helped improve the spirit of the evening. Reminded us of the condition we occupy in relation to God. (See Mosiah 4: 19.)

At last, arriving in the Visitor’s Center it was even more crowded than outside. There was a small rivulet of movement against the north wall before the desk, and at the moment we arrived the rivulet was occupied by outward bound Sister Missionaries headed back out to the frigid throngs. I noticed a wool cap on the floor, picked it up and held it high above my head for the owner to notice and come to reclaim. No one did. After a few minutes of holding it up, I asked a Sister Missionary with a Swiss Flag beside her nametag if there was a “lost and found.” She said it was at the desk beside the north wall. So I entered the rivulet and headed inward. Those who were not visiting the restroom followed me. We settled beside the lost and found north desk to await the return of our missing company.

In the North Visitor’s Center there was a youth choir in the southeast corner of the main floor singing some forgettable Christmas tune. I was taken by the expressions on the faces of those in the crowd as they either pressed into one another trying to move, or stood about in exasperation. The event was not what they had hoped for either. I lapsed into a quiet thoughtfulness of the circumstances, and wondered at how little joy seemed to be all about me in this crowded place.

Then it happened. It only took six notes to recognize the coming hymn. A cascade of memories of that song came back to me. The first time I remember recognizing it was in high school, when two of my classmates sang a duet. Debbie Penn was one of them, and I forget who accompanied her. When I first heard it I was stirred to reflection. For years it has been my favorite Christmas Hymn, even though it is terribly difficult to sing it well. On occasion, as I try to sing along, I will mutilate it. I cannot do the hymn justice, and I hope the Lord recognizes in my sincerity a slain sacrifice offered in honest devotion.

Then the female voices joined in the melody:
O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.

They were perfect. Here was the greatest of Christmas Hymns being presented by the loveliest of chorus voices. I was transfixed. The crowds began to disappear and I was in deep reflection.

It was a holy night. That night represented more than just His birth. It represented also the beginning of an infinite sacrifice. It is difficult to adequately state how great the condescension of God in coming here. His great condescension began by coming into the flesh. (1 Nephi 11: 16-20.)

He explained to the Nephites His great status before His birth. He was the one who gave the Law to Moses on the Mount. (3 Ne. 15: 4-5.) The glory He displayed on the Mount was inexpressible. Moses attempted to convey some idea using precious stone and referring to the bright glory of heaven itself. (See Ex. 24: 10, but the translation is not a fair expression of the idea in Hebrew in which “the clear, bright glory of heaven” should probably replace “the body of heaven in his clearness.”)

A great, glorious Law Giver, whose glory was like the brightness of Heaven itself, condescended to become confined to a body of dust. Condescension indeed! Even before offering Himself as a sacrifice, He descended from glory to dwell here in the dust among our fallen race. The enormity of that step can hardly be put into words.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Here, in the newly born body of our Lord, was Hope come down to this fallen world. What humility exists in the God of Glory who would choose to come here. We are all important because God came from His lofty position down to be among us, to rescue us all. What greater proof of man’s worth can there be than this great condescension by a Holy Being?

Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angel voices! …

The angels came to announce His birth. In their joy they could not contain their feelings, and words alone would not do. They broke out in hymns of praise. Only the combined voices of a glorious chorus could give vent to the feelings within the message of His coming! (Luke 2: 13-14.) Enoch saw this coming, and also rejoiced at the Lamb destined to be slain, at last coming into the flesh! (Moses 7: 47.)

The crowd before me in the Visitor’s Center transformed. They were not longer a busy, distracted, stern body pressing against one another. Each of them showed the merit of a God who came to dwell with them. They are all holy. They are all His handiwork.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother. …

We are our brother’s keeper after all. If we love one another, we are only loving Him. (John 13: 34.)

As the chorus completed the great hymn of praise I was grateful for the reminder of that Holy Night when Christ was born. We all still kneel before His great presence, for nothing else will adequately show our adoration of Him. (3 Ne. 11: 17.) We dare not stand in His presence until His command to “arise.” (3 Ne. 11: 20.) At the command, a momentary conflict takes place inside you between the inappropriate pride to stand in His presence and the compelling respect for His command. All doubts presently flee. His word is sovereign. It is obedience to His will that lets you stand before Him.

As my group reassembled and left the North Visitor’s Center, I was glad we had come. And glad for the great anthem I’d heard from the teenage choir. It was just what I’d hoped to find when we first departed for Temple Square.

History is the stuff

Almost always when an institution or group claims to have authority from God, the primary enforcement tool used to establish control over others is fear. Authority from God relieves the claimant to the authority of any need to display merit apart from the claim of authority itself. The Catholics were able to engage in excesses, abuses, even outright institutional evil, but these great wrongs were regarded as unimportant because of the claim to have authority from God.

God’s holiness was embodied in “keys” given from Peter. They were thought to allow holders of the authority to seal in heaven. This silenced the critics. The fear of being kept from heaven or consigned to hell was enough to rule over the souls of men. They could claim they acted from a higher plane, with God’s ways remaining mysterious, even incomprehensible to the common man. The power of God can judge others, but no may can judge God under this system.

If mental coercion did not work, then credulous and cruel believers could be employed to intimidate and get control. If more was needed, the Catholic hierarchy felt no inhibition at using violence to be able to rule and reign over the souls of men.

The Pope did not need to display virtue, only power. He did not need to produce revelation or expound on how men could entertain angels, only to appear in the seat of power, displaying the incidents of authority, wealth, privilege, standing above the common man in a place filled with art, treasure, statuary surrounded by supporters. These trappings were a substitute for revelation and authentic fruits from heaven.

This formula worked to keep all of Christendom subordinate to the rule of oftentimes wicked, even cruel, men. For nearly a thousand years it monopolized power over men. Because these pontiffs claimed to hold God’s authority, people feared them and were loathe to challenge them. When the bedrock of an institution’s claims rests on authority, these failings are almost always eventually unavoidable. God’s power is so resilient, so powerful, so vital for salvation that almost all men will surrender to it or be forced to submit when a group trusts that it exists.

These are powerful forces. When released upon the stage of history, they are meant to be held by only the meek, the humble, and the servants of all. Never by the proud, the vain, and the ambitious. But it is always the proud, the vain and the ambitious who are drawn to seek to hold such authority. Hence the many sycophants who always congregate at Rome.

We see some of this very excess on display within radical Islam today. Brutality is justified by God’s power; God’s right to kill. No one questions God’s right in such matters. But what man is there who can be certain of God’s will until he has stood in His presence and learned how great a gulf exists between the foolishness of man and the holiness of God? But those are rare indeed. It is far easier to claim to speak FOR God than to actually speak WITH God. Whole cable networks are filled with clamoring clergy claiming to speak for Him. They’ll be the first to burn, because the command to not take the Lord’s name in vain is, after all, one of the Ten Commandments.

History is the stuff from which most clearly the warnings of scripture take form in flesh and blood. All the warnings are there, but we frequently believe them only applicable to those we know to have fallen. But the lessons were always meant for us. …

Wickedness and Destruction

The cycle of wickedness and destruction often includes a complete inability of the wicked to detect their grave errors. They have their religion, and are comfortable with it. They think their pretenses are enough.

Ezekiel saw a vision of the destruction of the “chosen people” beginning at their Temple. The destroyers were told to wait before the slaughter began. First an angel would mark the foreheads of those who “sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.” (Eze. 9: 4.) Meaning there were a few among the chosen, who knew their religious practices were used to justify abominable behavior. These few did not just condemn the wicked, they “sighed” and “cried” for their fellow saints. They prayed, made intercession, hoped for more time, and urged repentance.

The larger group, however, were content with their abominations and thought themselves righteous. They were not marked, nor spared. The command was given to slay them all, utterly, and spare none “both maids and little children, and women.” (Eze. 9: 6.)

In the vision Ezekiel saw the destruction begin at the Temple. (Eze. 9: 6.)  It began there because it was the Temple which these corrupt people believed to be proof of their great righteousness and also their favor with God. Therefore the destruction needed to begin there.

The angel faithfully marked only those who were aware of the abominations and who would not join in with it. (Eze. 9: 11.) When the destruction began, the Lord was committed to His judgment, and declared “mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head.” (Eze. 9: 10.)

This is a useful chapter to consider. (Ezekiel Chapter 9.) It reinforces the importance of repentance, when it is offered. When the offering ends, it is followed by judgment and destruction.

How odd it is that the self-proclaimed “righteous” are almost without exception those who are most wicked, fallen, abominable and proud. You rarely encounter a corrupt group in the Book of Mormon who are not also quite involved in a false religion. The false religions in the Book of Mormon frequently teach that the followers are righteous and highly favored of God. (See, e.g., Alma 31: 14-18.)

Wouldn’t it be amazing if this kind of mistake could be made again by people who think themselves holy, better than others who do not enjoy the fullness of God’s favor/Gospel, and destined for salvation while all others were doomed to an inferior kingdom? It’s almost too ridiculous to even consider. Those things are behind us now, aren’t they? Because we are promised salvation, and for us to fail would be for God to fail, and we know He’s not going to do that.

Destination

I was asked at what point a car ceases to be a car. If it runs out of gas and cannot move is it still a car?

What if the engine is broken, and therefore it would not matter if there was gas, once it is broken is it still a car?

What if both the engine and transmission are beyond repair?

What if you cannot even push it because the tires and wheels are gone and it is sitting on blocks beside the road. Is it still a car?

If it bears some superficial resemblance to a car, is it still a car no matter what condition it is in or whether it works or not?

After thinking for a few minutes I responded: It was never meant to be a car. It was always about the destination. When the car stops for whatever reason, you get out and walk toward the destination and have gratitude for how far the car was able to take you before it stopped. It was never about the car in the first place. You must keep moving.

He was grateful.

Out of Season Fruit

I’ve been asked several times about the comment that Adam and Eve partook of the fruit “out of season” in the Elijah Talk.  Since it’s come up more than once, here’s an answer I gave to one of those who inquired:

They would have eventually received the command to partake.  If they had waited for that command, the “fall” would have introduced the kind of opposition experienced during the Millennium rather than the kind we now have.  Opposites only required: 1) change and 2) death.  Both will be present during the Millennium.

The Garden of Eden is an allegory, and we all pass through a “Fall from Eden” to come here.  But there are many other worlds, see D&C 76: 24.  Among these countless others, ours fell the greatest. See Moses 7: 36-37.  We are singular in our fallen state, and qualify as the “most wicked” of any of God’s creations. Here we suffer, but with the opportunity to grow by making sacrifice. We all came here to offer sacrifice. Just being here is a form of sacrifice, and we will all submit to death to leave here.

Answer to Moroni 8: 8

I got asked about Moroni 8: 8 and the issue of “circumcision” posted earlier. Moroni 8 is a letter from Mormon to his son, Moroni. In the 8th verse he (Mormon) quotes the Savior  as having said, in relation to infant baptism, the following: “I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me.” My response is this:

First, the comment is about “little children” who do not need ordinances. They do not need baptism, and they do not need circumcision. Little children are exempt and the requirements are fulfilled in every respect by Christ’s atonement. Therefore, they needn’t be baptized, needn’t be confirmed, needn’t have circumcision; and they needn’t comply with any of the requirements for salvation because Christ atoned for all sin arising from the Fall of Adam. They, “little children” that is, are not sick and therefore do not need a physician.

The teaching leaves open, however, the question about adults. Originally circumcision was an adult ordinance. When restored through Abraham, it was made an infant ceremony. The Law of Moses kept it something for infants. Christ removed all accountability for any law in the atonement for all infants, through the age of 8, who are not accountable before Him.

The issue, however, is whether this is satisfied for adults as well. Moroni 8: 8 does not address that question. The earlier post does attempt to address it.

Flattery and Repentance

It is the mark of a false message that it relies on flattery. (See Alma 46: 5; 61: 4; Jacob 7: 4; Mosiah 27: 8; 2 Ne. 28: 22.)

It is the mark of a true message that it calls for repentance. (D&C 6: 9; 11: 9; Mosiah 18: 20; 25: 22.)

Christ’s message is always to “repent” and then to “come to Him.” (Moroni 7: 34.)

There has never been a bona fide, reliable, infallible source of truth which cannot be compromised in this world. But there has always been a bona fide, reliable, infallible message of truth which does not compromise. It is the message of repentance.