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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.

Catholic Business Network, Utah State Treasurer

I attended a meeting of the Catholic Business Network this week where Utah State Treasurer, Richard Ellis gave a talk. His remarks about the economy of Utah were very insightful, and reaffirmed how well the state government has been managed.
 
Right now the federal stimulus money is ending, and states are panicked about the loss of those “bail out dollars.” Utah, however, has already budgeted to proceed without the need of any further federal contribution. If the money ends, Utah will be unaffected.

There are over $8 billion in new construction projects currently underway in Utah. These are just the top 20 projects. Hundreds of other projects are not included in that number.
 
Utah’s housing bubble lagged behind the national average, did not reach the same levels, and therefore did not result in the same kinds of crippling losses. Although Utah has been affected, and many people are in a great deal of financial stress, it is comparatively less significant than the national economic turmoil.
 
The growth of Utah’s population has averaged over 9% since the last census, one of the highest in the nation. Sooner or later that growth will require new housing to be built. Housing must recover for the overall economy to return to steady growth. New housing is what drives all durable good sales. 
 
It was an interesting meeting. I asked a question about the likelihood of a double-dip recession. Mr. Ellis was reluctant to predict it is coming. However, if it comes, Utah will be better equipped to cope than most the rest of the country. Though national economic downturns do affect Utah, they are ameliorated by state government’s careful management, balanced budget, careful pension management, and rainy-day funding. I think State Treasurer Richard Ellis is a credit to Utah.

D – Day

Early this morning in 1944, my father and Hugh Nibley were storming onto the beach at Normandy. Oddly, both of them were older GI’s, and were the same age at the time. My father landed on Omaha Beach, against terrible German emplacements firing down from a cliff above, without any tank support. Hugh Nibley landed on Utah Beach, where he arrived in a Jeep that drove through craters caused by the incoming German artillery fire.
 
It is hard to comprehend the chaos of that day. As my father was dying fifty years later, it was about that day he chose to speak. He wondered if the many more years he had been given than those he saw die that day had been well lived.
 

Therefore, when Saving Private Ryan came out years later, I concluded the universal result of living, when so many others died, was the same. The added years given the survivors were always viewed as a stewardship, a gift. One they would need to report on to their friends when they at last joined them in death.

 
That is not a bad way to live a life. Viewing it as a gift. A probation. An opportunity to do something worthwhile with the precious and limited time given to each of us.

Utah Sound Money Act

On June 2nd, I attended the ceremony at the Capitol Building acknowledging the signing of the Utah Sound Money Act. The act makes gold and silver coin legal tender in Utah. It is designed to allow a form of currency to be used that will have intrinsic value. Its value will not be tied to monetary policy.
The prediction now is that billions of dollars in capital will migrate into Utah because of the ability to purchase and store (in Utah) gold and silver as currency. By treating it as currency, any inflationary value increases to the gold and silver will not be taxed as a gain. You can’t tax money. It is now treated as money under Utah law.
Given all the recent, direful economic news, the idea of stabilizing monetary value by a precious metal form of currency seems prudent. Utah may be the first state to adopt the idea, but there are fourteen other states with similar legislation being considered.
The US Constitution allows a state to adopt gold and silver coin as currency for the state. Utah’s move is in keeping with that Constitutional power. It also seems wise, given the announced determination by the central bank to “monetize the debt” – meaning the debt will be paid by printing more dollars. The inevitable result of expanding the money supply, and not simultaneously increasing goods and services will be inflationary. When a nation resorts to financing national expenditures by printing paper money, sooner or later the paper money becomes valueless. Oftentimes dramatically.
The prudence of migrating some money into a form having more value than that bestowed on it by a printing press, managed by a profligate government, seems wise.

What an honor

I attended my daughter, Kylee’s, high school graduation ceremony today at Abravanel Hall. What an amazing group of young people. All of the seniors graduated in her class, not one of them falling short. Most have scholarships. All of them will be going on to college. Although the class was relatively small, they will undoubtedly change the world. 
This daughter is more than a personality, she is a force of nature. There was an article on KSL about her a few months ago. I put a link to it on this blog. She lost the last of her senior year basketball season because of a broken finger. There was a news item about how that turned out with the assistance of the coach of an opposing team. He took a technical foul in the last game so she could shoot two foul shots, allowing her to score the last two points of her senior season. Even with the cast on her arm, she made them both.
Later she played on the Waterford Lacrosse team, helping her team to win the girl’s State Championship. She was not only first team All State, but also the division midfield MVP for the season.
What an honor it has been to be her father, and have her grow up in our home. When she leaves this coming fall for college, out of state, I cannot imagine the vacuum she will leave in her departure. I cannot let her graduation pass without acknowledging her.

Utah Women in the Law

This evening I attended a gathering at the Little America Grand Hotel paying tribute to the first 100 women admitted to practice law in Utah. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the total women admitted to practice law in Utah reached the 100 mark.

Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine Durham was one of two keynote speakers, Elder Dallin Oaks was the other. Chief Justice Durham was the 72nd woman admitted to practice in Utah’s history. Now she is the state’s Chief Justice. She and Elder Oaks served together temporarily on the Utah Supreme Court. She was added to the court in 1982, Elder Oaks departed in 1984 for church service. It was an interesting evening. I am glad I was able to attend, and take my wife, and daughter, Lindsay. 

There were excerpts from court opinions in the late 1800’s from both Utah and Wisconsin when the first women were applying to practice law in both states. Surprisingly, the attitude from Wisconsin was condescending, critical, and discouraging toward women who wanted to be lawyers. But from Utah, there was praise and encouragement – even the expectation that women would add some degree of dignity and compassion to the profession.

Events like these serve to remind us how greatly things have changed in relatively recent times. Some of the things we take for granted have only recently occurred.

Societies which fail to educate, and allow women to influence every aspect of their lives are diminished by the failing. Advancement to the entire culture is tied to the education and contribution of women. They should be allowed every opportunity possible.

Early Morning Seminary

I’ve been substituting an early morning seminary class this week. It’s a Doctrine & Covenants course, and we’ve been covering Sections 132, 133 and 135. These include the eternal marriage covenant, plural wives, prophecy of Christ’s Second Coming, and martyrdom of both Joseph and Hyrum.
I drew a layout of the Carthage Jail yesterday morning, described the movements of each of the four in the upper room (Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor and Willard Richards) during and after the attack, then discussed what happened between the killing and the time the bodies made it back to Nauvoo.
Joseph’s last words, “Oh Lord my God…” is a shorthand reference to the distress call for the Third Degree, or Master Mason. The entire call is, “Oh Lord my God, is there no help for the widow’s son?” Invoking the call, requires all other Masons to rally to help the one in distress.  Joseph was aware members of the mob who came to kill him were Masons. By addressing the call to the mob, Joseph was putting the Masons on their sworn duty to provide relief. He was putting them to the test of their oath, which they failed.
It is good to stay in touch with younger Latter-day Saints through teaching opportunities. I teach Priests in my own ward. There are two interesting observations I’ve made. First, younger minds are more open and willing to be taught. They are interested in thinking or considering ideas. The more you can inform them, the better able they are to gain perspective about the Gospel. They possess a resource which diminishes with time – teachability (to use the vocabulary of scripture, humility). Second, the youth who have grown up using the current form of institutional teaching materials are woefully less informed than those who grew up forty years ago. They are every bit as interested and curious as past generations, but the material used to inform them has been so diminished in content that they are left with the most superficial of understanding of the Gospel. All you parents need to assume responsibility for fixing that with your own children. The institutional approach narrows the scope each year, leaving less and less substance taught.
I’ve studied the restored Gospel and church history for over 40 years. I continue to search more carefully into the subject year by year.  There are so many things to appreciate. I think the most interesting, gripping and important subject you can study is the restored Gospel.  Not through the kind of superficial inspirational drivel now sold by Deseret Book. You can go round and round with that kind of crap – won’t make one bit of progress there. You’ll be briefly entertained, and then lulled to sleep by such quasi-religious infotainment. You will never awaken to your awful situation by being coddled, inspired and reassured that “All is well in Zion.” If you intend to actually come to grips with the Gospel, you need to read the Book of Mormon, other scriptures, everything you can find about Joseph Smith, and original material or works based on original materials taken from then contemporary sources. The bibliography from the new book I’m working on has a number of great sources worth considering.
But the Gospel is not study alone. The purpose of study is to inform our conduct, our thoughts and our words. What truths we learn need to be put into action and lived. It is in the living that the power of the Gospel is released. As we “do” what we are instructed, we find ourselves in company with angels and Heavenly messengers.
That process which Joseph Smith describes in the Joseph Smith-History found in the Pearl of Great Price, still works. For any soul who decides to try it.

Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day. Many of you will be getting a phone call from your missionary. My daughter will speak in Sacrament today. It’s a different daughter than the one who spoke for the last two years on Mother’s Day. Seems we can’t have it come without one of our daughters speaking.

My mother died years ago. I always remember her always on this date. She was a remarkable, stern, intelligent, spry, curious and faithful woman. Every morning at breakfast she would read a verse from the Bible to us, even though I did my best to feign disinterest. She persisted. Somehow, despite my own neglect of reading the Bible, when the missionaries taught me, I already knew most of the material they used from the Bible. Although she was not Mormon, her teaching was absolutely necessary for me to become what I am now.

She drug me to the Baptist Church every week, always hoping I’d become a Baptist. But the only church I ever joined was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That was troubling to a devout Baptist. I’ve often said that throughout my childhood she was afraid I would go to hell. Then I became a Mormon and removed all doubt.

If your mother is still here, take time for her today. And if she’s gone, like mine, then take some time for your wife as mother of your children. I’m planning to go prepare dinner and then clean up afterwards. (Even if I go to KFC and use paper plates.)

Book Now Available

The book based on this blog is now available for those who are interested. It can be ordered through Amazon and is titled Removing the Condemnation.

It is 568 pages and has no word index because I’m leaving this blog up for those who want to search for a word, topic, post or entry. The book is arranged by scriptural divisions. You can use this blog to locate a word or topic, find the scripture cite being discussed, and locate it within the book based on the scripture. It’s a little cumbersome, but adding a word index would have moved the book to well over 600 pages, at which point the cost would have gone up too much for my liking.

Let me reiterate that I do not make anything on what I write. That small portion of the book price which finds its way to me is donated to the church. There are, of course, those who publish, print, sell and ship books who do depend on the sale price for their living. I am a practicing attorney, and therefore do not.

I continue working to shepherd the book on restoration history along and hope it will be completed and available by fall, but there is no release date at present. I can only promise it will be out this year. 

On a completely unrelated topic, tomorrow is Mother’s Day. Don’t forget your wives, mothers and sisters who are mothers tomorrow.