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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.

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.