BOWbutton

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

 

A fair and full hearing

The new book has hardly become available to anyone. However, I did receive some feedback from a friend who has not attended church for many years. He was one of the more conscientious saints. He learned and studied and reflected for several decades as an active member. He served in several bishoprics, high priest group leaderships and as a gospel doctrine teacher. His study led him to a number of unfavorable conclusions about the church and its history. He read the new book, Passing the Heavenly Gift, and called to tell me he had returned to sacrament meeting a week ago, and for the first time in nearly a decade took the Sacrament.

I’ve already been called “apostate,” as well as “on the road to apostasy” from some who have not read the book and have no intention to do so. I suppose there will be a great deal of that. But it is a small thing. The truth is that this book, as all I’ve written, testifies to the truth as I understand it. It has already done some good in one reader’s life. If the only price to be paid for reclaiming another’s faith is to endure some evil speaking about myself, it is truly only a small thing.

Another person’s ignorance can never define your own faith. Some people do not study our faith, but claim to practice it. If Mormonism truly is of God (as I believe), then it is important enough to warrant the closest of study. When any matter is studied with great care, issues will surface. Quandaries will arise. There will be gaps, problems and failings. Human weaknesses will be exposed. Some things will get quite messy.
The underlying truth, however, deserves a fair and full hearing. Study of Mormonism which goes only far enough to discover the quandaries has not proceeded far enough. It should search into it deeply enough, prayerfully enough, and searchingly enough to find the answers.
When one person has sought deeply and another has not, there is a gap between the understanding of the two which makes a common understanding problematic. The one in possession of less is really not in a position to correctly judge the one in possession of more. Oddly, however, the one who has less is altogether more likely to judge the one with more, while the one with more is equipped to look more kindly upon the other. After all, the one with more has struggled from the lesser position.
I understand the criticism I’ve received. I expected it. No one needs to defend me. No one needs to argue the point, get angry or deal unkindly with people who have not yet studied enough to form an appropriate conclusion. Only a fool judges a matter before they hear it. Such souls warrant our kindly efforts to persuade, not our censure or condemnation. We all carry foolishness, learning year by year, struggling to overcome the many things we’ve neglected in our study, prayers and contemplation. God does not grade on a curve. Therefore, when you begin to think you’ve outshone your fellow man, you should reflect again on Moses’ reaction to seeing the Man of Holiness: “Now for this cause I know man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” (Moses 1: 10.)  None of us have anything to boast of, even if you know more than your fellow man.  We all know less than He who is “more intelligent than them all.” (Abr. 3: 19.)

Whenever I contemplate the gulf between He who is Holiness and myself, and the great charity required from Him to condescend for me, I can hardly bear the thought of feeling triumph because of the ignorance of my fellow saints. How unkind. How foolish. How uncharitable. More than that, how very unlike the Lord whom we all claim to serve.

I teach the Priests in my Ward. I love the calling and love their openness, their eagerness and desire to learn. The last lesson I taught was about sex, based in the scriptures, and candidly covered the topic in a way which I hoped would both inform and edify. I was genuinely thanked by these 16 to 18 year old young men afterwards. I hope their lives will be better for the lesson.
So, also, I hope any who read Passing the Heavenly Gift will find their lives better for having read it. If you find yourself upset by it, I’d hope you would realize at least one person has returned to church after many years of absence because it restored in him a desire to fellowship with the saints, and again partake of the Sacrament. That one soul’s renewal was to me, worth any petty or foolish reactions that may now come from others.

Passing the Heavenly Gift

The new book, titled Passing the Heavenly Gift, is now available on Amazon.com.
I have explained previously that the book may not be for everyone. If you elect to read it, you should read it all. Reading the entire book is necessary so that you will understand the full meaning of the material. Foundational things are discussed that will be revisited later to show how they fit into a larger picture – then revisited again to complete the construction of the matter from beginning to end. If you do not complete the whole book, you will not be able to evaluate the matter.
I do not expect many will enjoy the book. Although I believe anyone who reads it will be benefited by its contents. The object is to be faith promoting. Not in the sense that it will create false or naive hope, but instead it will inform you of the responsibilities resting upon anyone who seeks to know Christ. The result of the Gospel has always been intended to bring us joy. I think this book offers a greater opportunity for you to come to find joy in this life than the errors which merely use flattery or praise to distract you from the truth.
For any who elect to read it, I would hope if you choose to recommend it to others you will permit them to discover the contents of the book for themselves. Editorial summaries or statements taken out of context in this book will be more misleading than they would be with any other book I’ve written. 

New Book

I will have a new book out soon and want to clarify a few things in advance of its release. 
First, this is not a book for everyone. Some people have become aware of problems in church history. They have struggled with what they’ve learned. As a result there have been crises of faith among some of the brightest and most inquisitive among us. This is a tragic loss. The new book is written to help those who are already aware of problems to come to grips with the issues and see how it all still makes sense. There are those who are perfectly content with the oftentimes fanciful accounts of our history which gloss over problems and ignore contradictions. For such people reading the new book will be startling and perhaps a faith challenging experience. The book will perhaps upset them more than reassure them. I do not want to do that for any Latter-day Saint. I would hope they would decide to pass on reading the book and continue to be content with whatever assumptions please them about our past.

Second, I am very concerned that many of the most important points of the book will be taken completely out of context and shared by overeager readers who want to show off their new understanding. That can be destructive. The book is prepared carefully, with precepts constructed, historic proof gathered, explanations crafted with care and an overall harmony between parts. Taking some of the information out of context and blurting it out as an isolated event, quote or idea will not help anyone. The unkind person doing so may get to show off, but they tear down rather than build up. None but fools will trifle with the souls of men. (TPJS p. 137.)  

The book will not read like the traditional accounts of what has happened. The point of departure for the book is the scriptures. No historian’s theme is used to substitute a retelling of events. Instead the book relies on the scriptures, primarily the Book of Mormon, as the basis from which to construct the events of our dispensation. So far as I know, this is the only time our history has been told with an eye on what the scriptures say about us instead of our own vanity and pride. Therefore, it is quite different than what you’ve been reading about us in other accounts.

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.