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No Man Will Save You

There isn’t going to be any man or group of men who save you. There is literally a single way, and a single source. That is Christ. (Mosiah 3:17.) Whether you are able to receive salvation or not is entirely dependent on how you respond to Him, not to other people. (2 Ne. 9: 41.)
There are no magic ordinances that will reconcile you to Him. (2 Ne. 25: 23.) Ordinances may be mandatory, but they do not save. They are evidence we are willing to submit to Him (2 Ne. 31: 5), but they are not the full scope of submission required for salvation. (Luke 6: 46.)
It has never been enough to attend meetings, perform outward ordinances and be part of a group that meets to discuss the scriptures from time to time. Every one must individually accept responsibility for coming to Christ and doing what He asks. (Luke 6: 45-49.)
The relentless message of the Book of Mormon is that we must all repent. We are not secure in our standing before God until we repent, come down in the depths of humility and become accepted by Him. When He ministers to us, we can know our standing before Him. Until then, we cannot know. (JS-H: 1: 29.)
There is no “boss” who will bring you along to salvation.
There are no comforting words you need to hear that will make you secure in your sins. (2 Ne. 28: 21.)
There is no hopeful message that needs to be shared about how everyone will probably be saved at the last day. (2 Ne. 28: 22.)
You don’t need me, nor any other man. You need to reconcile yourself to Christ. Anyone who wants to place themselves between you and the Lord will, if you let them, bring you and them to hell.

We are the Gentiles

I had an interesting question asked about the “remnant” I thought worth addressing here.
There should be no confusion about the identity of the “remnant” spoken of in the Book of Mormon. It refers to the descendants of Lehi (at times further divided into those descended from Nephi, Jacob and Joseph– all Lehi’s sons). The European stock who migrated to North America and dispossessed the indigenous people are invariably referred to as “gentiles” in the Book of Mormon. Throughout it is the case that the European descendants are “gentiles” and never anything else.
You can start in 1st Nephi and go through the end. The “gentiles” are us– the Latter-day Saints (to the extent we are primarily European-descended and not Native American).
Joseph Smith received the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple by revelation. In the prayer he refers to the church as being “identified with the gentiles.” (D&C 109: 60)
It does not matter if we descend from Israel. Nor if we have actual genetic markers which would make us Ephraimites, or Levites, or of the tribe of Judah, or any of the other tribes of Israel. Unless we are Native American, we are not the “remnant” discussed in the Book of Mormon.

There are many references to early church leaders being descended from Israelite bloodlines. Even if that is the case, however, the Book of Mormon usage refers to us as “gentiles” unless descended from Lehi.

Charity in Teaching

It is both unkind and ineffective to teach truths to those who are unprepared to understand them. A person who has learned and accepted a truth has an obligation to be as kind and patient with those she explains it to as the Lord was in bringing her to the understanding she was given.
You never want someone to reject truth. But if you’re going to teach something that hasn’t been understood before, you have an obligation to make the matter clear. You should prepare the the audience by laying a foundation using existing scripture, teachings and knowledge to show how the new concept fits into the existing framework. Just declaring something without a foundation to support it often offends instead of enlightens. It alienates rather than invites.
I’m somewhat concerned about those who try to get an understanding of what I’ve taught, but who haven’t read what I’ve written. In the material, I walk through existing concepts, accepted doctrines, recognized scripture, and language of Joseph Smith to first lay the foundation. Much of that may be familiar; some of it may be surprising, but I take the time to lay it out. Then, after clearing the path to the next ideas, using the existing body of recognized material, I go forward with something that may be new, or difficult, or challenging.
The book I am working on right now will introduce some important information that most people are unfamiliar with. But it will walk through, in the same patient way, building the foundation from which the conclusions are inevitable, and fit it into the framework of all that is known already. I know there are those who are unkind, impatient, or who don’t care about the audience. They will want to blurt out the conclusions, and only move quickly to the startling points. That is inevitable, I suppose. But anyone who does that is neither a good teacher, nor are they kind to their audience. They don’t care if someone rejects truth. They just want to be involved in the sensational, the surprising and the titillating.
Anyone who is going to teach has an obligation to bring along, in a kindly way, those they seek to reclaim from error. That’s how Joseph put it. If you think you have some truth and want to remove an error, you have an obligation to proceed in a proper and affectionate manner to reclaim them. (JS-H 1: 28.)  When a new truth is introduced in a harsh, challenging, unkind way it will be disturbing, upsetting and alienating. Such a person is not a teacher, but instead an enemy to the truth. They make it hard for people to find their way back to God. It is wrong.
True teachers will always adapt to their audience and show kindness and patience to those they teach. When they are called upon by the spirit to rebuke with sharpness, they will afterwards show an increase of love, to make it possible to accept the inspired rebuke. (D&C 121: 43-44.) They want to bring people to a position where truth spreads, is accepted, and all can rejoice in the new light and knowledge shared between them.
This is not to say that all truth a person has should be always be shared. Unless the right circumstances arise, with a properly prepared student to instruct, some kinds of knowledge cannot be shared. But to the extent something is appropriate for instruction, the lesson should be adapted to the capacity and preparation of the audience. Some material may be appropriate with one person that would be inappropriate for another. Until an audience has first been taught basic information, they are unprepared to hear something further. We don’t discuss some things with investigators, but leave it until later for them to be taught. It takes about four years for a convert to receive the basics of the church. It takes years before some information can be put into context. Rushing to expose people to information is not only hasty, but oftentimes destructive. If you intend to be a teacher, and not an enemy to someone’s salvation, you should only proceed in the appropriate way, using kindness, meekness, gentleness, pure knowledge and love unfeigned. (D&C 121: 41-42.) Not haste, shock, surprise and ambush.

Prodigal Son

Luke preserved this now familiar parable of the Lord’s:

 
And he said, A certain man had two sons:
And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. (Luke 15: 11-32.)

When all is said and done in the story, the wayward son is given a “ring on his hand,” the “best robe,” “shoes on his feet,” and invited into “the feast.”
What does the “ring” on his hand signify?
What does “the best robe” signify?
What do “shoes” symbolize?
What is “the feast” offered by his father?
 
The faithful son refuses to enter into the feast, stands in judgment of the wayward, but repentant son, and does not join the feast.
What does the refusal to come into the “feast” signify?
What does his “anger” symbolize?
What does his protest of “neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment” signify?
 
At the end of the parable, who is “alive?” Is it the repentant son who feasts with his father, or the resentful but ostensibly faithful son, who refuses to join the feast? Which of the two is now “dead?”
 
What does this parable really tell us about those who think themselves better than repentant sinners?

Distracted

There are too many distractions. We’re like small children whose eyes are captured by every shiny object passing before us. We lose focus.

 

The Gospel has a core we don’t even understand. We think we’re getting somewhere when we debate environmental issues in light of Mormonism, or immigration policy, or conservative versus liberal political solutions, or dress, grooming, word of wisdom, and ten thousand other irrelevancies.

 

Until the core is corrected and our souls are saved, no amount of energy or focus devoted to the periphery will get us anywhere.

 

How are you saved? How are you born again? What ordinances are required? Are they symbols? If symbols, what do they symbolize? What critical things must a man know to be saved? What does it mean “a man cannot be saved in ignorance?” What does it mean to have “life eternal” through Christ Jesus? Since Alvin was saved in the Celestial Kingdom before the Gospel was restored, what does Section 137 really mean? What about the rest of the revelation from which Section 137 was drawn? Since it involves salvation of a man who died before the fullness of the Gospel returned, how applicable is that section to the condition we find ourselves in today?

Until we understand the core, there is no topic on the periphery worth giving any attention.

Forsake, come, call, obey, keep, see, and KNOW

I had a discussion about the difficulty of rising above the sins of this world. It was provoked by the recent post on adultery. It has in turn led to these additional thoughts.
 
It is impossible to become altogether clean in this fallen world. We can do our best, but in the end we’re going to find we are lacking. The scriptures admit this. The proposition is so fundamentally understood among most saints that it goes without saying. We’re all in need of redemption from an outside power, someone with greater virtue and power than we have, who can lift us from our condition into something higher, cleaner, and more godly. This is the role of Christ. His atoning sacrifice equipped Him to accomplish this.
 
The atonement, however, is not magic. Through it, Christ accomplished some very specific things, and has the power to lead us all back to the presence of God, the Father. The process was difficult for Him and is necessarily difficult for us.
 
Christ participated in the ordinance of the atonement to acquire two things. First, knowledge. (Isa. 53: 11.) It is through His knowledge He is able to “justify many.” The knowledge was acquired through His suffering the pains of all mankind. That allowed Him to know exactly what weaknesses afflict mankind, and how to overcome them. This allows Him to succor, or relieve, or teach mankind how to overcome every form of guilt, affliction, and weakness. (Alma 7: 11-12.) This knowledge was gained by suffering guilt and remorse for sins He did not commit exactly as if He were the one who committed them. He performed this great burden before His Father, who would never leave Him; even in His hour of temptation, despite the fact that all His followers would abandon Him. (John 16: 32.) When He suffered the guilt of all mankind, it was necessary for His Father to draw near to Him. (Luke 22: 42-43.) This was required because it is impossible for Christ to know how to redeem mankind from the guilt and shame of sin unless He experiences the pains of uncleanliness before God the Father, as mankind will do if they are unclean in the day of judgment. (Mormon 9: 4-5.) Unlike all of us, however, Christ knows how to overcome this shame because He has done so.
 
Second, Christ acquired the keys of death and hell by suffering, reconciling, dying, rising, and reuniting with the Father. (Rev. 1: 18.) Because the keys of death and hell belong to Him, He has the power of forgiveness. He can forgive all men all offenses. But He requires us to forgive others. (D&C 64: 9-10.)  If we fail to forgive others, we cannot be forgiven. (Matt. 6: 15.)
 
We do not move from our state of evil to redemption by Christ’s sacrifice alone. It is required for us to follow Him. (John 10: 27.) We follow Him when we allow Him to succor us, to impart knowledge to us, and to forgive others through His knowledge gained from the atonement.
 
Through the keys of death and hell, Christ’s atonement cleanses us from our errors, our failings, and our deliberate wrong choices. He provides cleansing from those failings. But His atonement does not change our character unless we follow Him. The atonement, if properly acted upon, frees us to develop character like His, unencumbered by the guilt of what we’ve failed to do. He removes our guilt. But developing character like His is our responsibility.
 
We cannot be passive and obtain what He offers. We are required to actively pursue the redemption we seek through Him. When the sin is removed from us, we are free to pursue virtue without the crippling effects of remorse which He removes from us. (Alma 24: 10.) When freed from the guilt of sin, the past mistakes no longer haunt us. Our sins are no longer remembered by the Lord, and we are free to confess and forsake them. (D&C 58: 42-43.) The reason we can publicly confess them is because they are no longer us. They do not define us. It is no longer our sin, nor our character. We have chosen to follow Him into a new life.
 
The development of a godly character happens in stages, gradually. We are forgiven in an instant, suddenly. (Alma 36: 18-20.) When forgiven we necessarily turn to a new life, in which sharing the joy of forgiveness and the joy of redemption through Christ is our abiding desire. (Alma 36: 24.) The mind changes in proportion to the joy found in the new life. (Romans 8: 5-6.) Such new people are no longer the sons of men, but they become the sons of God. (Romans 8: 14-17.) They know the joy of having the voice of the Father declare to them that they have been begotten by the Father and are the sons of God. (Psalms 2: 7.) 
 
Remaining mired in the flesh is evidence a man has not been redeemed, not been succored by Christ, not accepted the saving knowledge which He can impart, and has not risen up to receive salvation. The atonement is not active in such lives. The fullness of the atonement is the fullness of knowledge, which comes by following Him and abiding the conditions. No one can receive what He offers unless they conform to the conditions He has established for redemption. (D&C 93: 27-28.)
 
This is the Gospel of Christ. This is the news which comes from the Lord – the Messenger of Salvation. Those who know Him will declare these things in unmistakable words to allow others to come and partake of the same fruit of the tree of life. All the other vitrues, causes, programs and, “inspirational stories” are distractions which, if indulged in to the neglect of these other things, will damn you. 
“Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am; And that I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world; And that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one—The Father because he gave me of his fulness, and the Son because I was in the world and made flesh my tabernacle, and dwelt among the sons of men.” (D&C 93: 1-4.) 
 
I am not that Light. But I have seen that Light and can testify He lives, and His atoning work continues today among all of those who will receive Him. If you will receive Him, He will not leave you comfortless, but He will come and take up His abode with you. (John 14: 18.) Not only Him, but the Father also. (John 14: 23.) This is literal, and the idea this is only an abode “in your heart” is false; for they will come and make themselves known to you. (D&C 130: 3.) Eternal life is to know Him. (John 17: 3.) This means to come into His presence again. (Ether 3: 19.)
 
These things are the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Anyone who teaches otherwise is in error and a deceiver.

Adultery

That’s a title that ought to get readers.

I’ve been thinking about adultery since the 4th, when my wife, the bishop’s wife and I were talking about the abysmal job we do of teaching anything on the subject. The bishop’s wife is a nurse, and she does rape-kit exams at local hospitals. Her view of the condition of young Latter-day Saints’ understanding alarms her. Both perpetrators and victims are often Latter-day Saints.  The casual way in which young women put themselves at risk reflects poor teaching, warning and counsel.  She tries to educate, but there’s a lot of soft-selling going on instead of candid teaching and warning.

I wrote a paper for the stake presidency when I was on the high council. As a result, there was a series of 5th Sunday adult meetings conducted by a member of the stake presidency in our stake. The paper later became the basis of one chapter in Eighteen Verses.

Out of wedlock children who are raised by single mothers has become one of the great tragedies of our day. Children raised by a single mother, without fathers present comprise about 70 percent of juvenile murderers, drug abusers, suicides and runaways. While I was on the high council, adultery was the top reason for temple marriages breaking up in our stake.

Parents have the primary responsibility for teaching youth about this subject. It is important enough that you should be candid with your children. They deserve to be taught, to be warned, to understand the cultural atmosphere of casual sex is ultimately destructive of life itself.  It imprisons.

If you love your children, teach them. And set a good example before them. The church is not responsible for teaching your children, you are. They aren’t going to be doing the job only you can perform.

Well, on another topic, I finally enjoyed being able to do legally what used to require sneaking up to Evanston, Wyoming, and smuggling back contraband to Utah to accomplish… Aerial fireworks are now legal in Utah. I suspect that has kept several million dollars in Utah for the 4th, and will keep even more here for the 24th. (That’s Pioneer Day, a State holiday in Utah.) We may not get drunk in Utah, but we do blow the hell out of things as a workable substitute.  –Well, perhaps I ought to qualify that: Some few of us, who celebrate around our neighbors, and invite our street, where our bishop lives to our 4th of July party, don’t get drunk in Utah. As for those out of sight, I can’t account for them.

Joseph The Prophet

Although Joseph Smith revealed many, previously unknown things, his ministry was devoted primarily to bringing others into fellowship with God. The ordinances, scriptures, revelations, and teachings restored through him were not intended to titillate, but to instruct on how to reconnect with God.

From his emphasis on the promise in James 1: 5 (“if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God …and it shall be given him”) leading to the First Vision, to the promise of Moroni 10: 4 (“I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and … he will manifest the truth of it unto you”), to D&C 93: 1 (“It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandmetns, shall see my face and know that I am”), and in numerous other places throughout his ministry, Joseph reiterated both the possibility and imortance of each soul coming directly to God.

This is the role of a true messenger. It is to bring others into harmony with God. Not to titillate them with new information, leaving them without knowledge of God. When someone delivers a new message that does not include knowledge about how the audience may come to God themselves, then the primary intent is always to make others dependent on the messenger. It is vanity. It is prideful. It is to call attention to themselves in an effort to place themselves above their fellow man, and interject themselves between the person and God. It is priestcraft.

The “welfare of Zion” consists of teaching others how to come to God themselves, and receive the heavenly promises directly from God. (See 2 Ne. 26: 29)  Zion will be composed exclusively of those who can endure the presence of God. Therefore, it is necessary for everyone to come up to the heavenly mount by their own repentance and remembrance of the Lord.

It is foolishness to separate information about the Lord’s doings from instruction on how to become redeemed. It is vanity to spread new, and personal revelation about the afterlife, God, man, prophecy, visionary encounters, and spiritual experiences if the primary reason does not focus on instructing how the audience can come to God themselves. It is also dangerous to trust teachings which fail to give you guidance on how you can find God for yourself. If all that is delievered is a message about some great experience, the experience was not intended for you. It isn’t important. It is the way to find God that will save you. Not someone else’s new, and exciting spiritual manifestation.

I’ve shared almost nothing of the things I have learned. But I’ve tried to share everything about how you can “come and see” (John 1: 46). Still, however, there are very few who can detect the difference. Still there remain those who are tossed to and fro by the sleight of men. (Eph. 4: 14.)

Here’s how things really work:  New revelation for the church comes from the top. It is not binding upon anyone unless it comes through the correct channel, and then is sustained as binding upon the church. Whether you like that system or not, that is the system. HOWEVER, every church member is obligated to teach one another the doctrines of the kingdom. Expounding, exhorting, teaching, and instructing is a common obligation imposed upon us all. Therefore, everything I have written, all I have taught, and the things I have testified about are confined to elaborating upon the established doctrines of the church, the revelations in the Book of Mormon, the other standard works, and Joseph Smith’s teachings. I’ve said almost nothing about my personal revelations because they were intended for me. They will not help you. They equip me to be able to preach, teach, exhort and expound, but just publishing what I know to the world will not aid any other person in their individual journey. 

Salvation for you is a journey exactly like the journey undertaken by Joseph Smith. Which is also identical to the journey undertaken by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Which was modeled upon the pattern coming down through Noah. Who was a contemporary with Enoch, both of whom undertook the same journey. Which originated with Adam, who came back into God’s presence three years previous to his death, and received “comfort” from the Lord (D&C 107: 53-55). The Lord is the promised Comforter who will come to all of us on the same conditions (John 14: 23, D&C 130: 3). I was asked, and wrote a manual on that process in the first book, The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil. The purpose of the book has nothing to do with my own recognition or importance. Throughout the book my many failings are discussed. The book is about the reader, and how the reader can come to know God.

Still people will go to great trouble, and spare no effort to find someone who will only give a titillating peek behind the veil, but who will do nothing to instruct you on how you can meet God here, be redeemed from the fall of man, and come back into God’s presence. This is the purpose of the Gospel, and the definition of redemption. (Ether 3: 13.) Telling about personal experience cannot help another. Testifying to the process, however, is the burden of all true teaching.

I am a fool, and anyone who thinks otherwise is misled. My only relevance is the common obligation imposed upon us all to preach, teach, exhort and expound. I confine all I do to that obligation. The only thing I can offer anyone is to point them to the One who is filled with truth and light, which is intelligence. (D&C 93: 36.)  And still there are those who cannot discern between what and how I teach, and how others who are practicing only priestcraft do so. I am saddened, not particulary surprised, but saddened. These are the times we live in. (Isa. 29: 9-10.)

What more could have been done than the Lord has already done?  Is it not us, not He, upon whom the blame must be lain?

The Latter-day famine continues unabated still. Not because there isn’t something worth consuming, but because we crave only the weakest of gruel, which cannot sustain life. Therefore, let us all feast away and still become famished until at last we perish without hope, having wasted the days of our probation. We didn’t care much for Joseph’s message in his day, and we fail to even notice it in ours.

Guidance from the Spirit

I’ve been reflecting on a commonly held belief concerning the Holy Ghost. Among Latter-day Saints the assertion is widely believed that the Holy Ghost will always leave a “good feeling” as the evidence of a message coming from God.  This is in contrast with Joseph Smith’s correct description of the Holy Ghost as delivering “intelligence” or “sudden insight” or, to use scriptural language, “light and truth.”  The feelings which follow an authentic encounter with the Holy Ghost can be anything from fear and dread to joy and rejoicing.  Our emotional reaction to the message can vary depending upon the information we’ve been given.  But “feeling good” about something is separate from the Holy Ghost.

When the message from God calls to repentance, the reaction can be best described as anger, or distress, or fear; but is not likely to be described as leaving a “good feeling.”  The message of repentance always requires change.  It will always confront the error and require you to alter what you are doing. 

I have noticed some reactions to what I’ve written measure what has been written against the standard of a “good feeling” and, as a result, some have concluded I’m not worth reading.  I suppose against that standard Abinadi would have been rejected.  Samuel the Lamanite, too.  John the Baptist, Elijah, Christ, Peter, Paul, Joseph Smith, Noah, Enoch, John the Beloved, as well.  Certainly Nephi, Jacob, Alma, Mormon and Moroni. In fact, I can’t think of a single authentic message which did not include as its most important content information which violates the “feeling good” standard.  I think care should be taken when a standard gets employed.  Use a false standard and you risk reaching a false result.

This is one of the criticisms made by Grant Palmer in his Insider’s book. He took aim at a false notion (“feeling good” means the Holy Ghost) and then leveled criticism against the false notion.  Though a lifelong employee of the Church Education System, he was ignorant of the correct standard and lost his faith in the Holy Ghost’s ability to enlighten because of it.  His criticism was justified, but not the standard.  He, like many Latter-day Saints, confuses something which inspires with a witness from the Spirit.  You can be inspired by music, movies, plays and thrilling speeches coming from unenlightened sources which bring no light and truth.  You may be entertained, but you are not given greater light and truth or intelligence from such thrilling encounters.

The one thing I do know, and the truth I can proclaim is this:  Truth will come through and confirm itself when measured against the standard of: 1) imparting truth and light, which is intelligence; and 2) whether the message leads to greater belief in, understanding of and testimony of Christ.  These standards do not involve “feeling good.”  They do, however, involve enlightenment and edification.  Even if the result of gaining more light is to see yourself in a new way, requiring repentance, confession of sin, re-baptism, breaking your heart and becoming contrite in spirit.  Anyone who can teach a message which will pass this standard, whether they are high or low, rich or poor, great or obscure, has given something of value.