This is why I didn’t like it

I was asked by someone who liked the book Odds Are You’re Going To Be Exalted, why I disliked it.  My response is as follows:
I suppose first because it is filled with false doctrine and sentimental rubbish.  It is unanchored in anything other than pure sentiment, contradicts the scriptures, and attributes motives to Heavenly Parents which are held by the author. It is worse than useless, it is misleading.
The numerosity argument takes groups who could not possibly be the audience for his book and makes them the statistical weight from which he reaches his conclusion. He takes folks who lived during the Nephite centuries of peace, the City of Enoch, and those who will live during the Millennium (whose numbers he speculates to be in the billions), then adds to those numbers all who die before the age of 8 (also a speculative but big number), then, after claiming the speculative total of all these will be far, far greater than those who merely slog along in mortality like us, he concludes that the odds are you’re going to be exalted.  Here’s the logical fallacy of that whopper:  First, the Nephites in ancient history didn’t read the book.  They’re NOT in his audience.  Neither was the City of Enoch’s hosts; nor are the Millennial folk; nor are any of those who die before age 8.  Meaning that the argument, IF it had validity, is an argument that THEY are going to be exalted.  Not YOU.  That is, the speculative total of those hosts are the ones who will benefit from their lives’ condition.  But none of them are readers of the book.  So if the argument fits, then the title should have been:  “Odds Are They’re Going To Be Exalted.”
Second, the argument for the numbers is wholly speculative.  We don’t have a census for any of the prior Nephite, Enoch, City of Melchizedek, etc. populations.  So without an actual number, we can’t even make the argument.  His conjecture for the Millennium is based upon Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s speculation about the numerosity of that group.  Repeating what Elder McConkie admits is his conjecture does not reduce it to fact.  We simply can’t say what the final numbers will be for these other groups.
Third, he conflates the promise of “salvation” with “exaltation.”  So far as I know there are no children under age 8 who have been sealed in marriage – a condition required for exaltation.  Without an eternal marriage they are separate, single and angels; NOT exalted.  (D&C 132: 16-17.)  It is a quantum leap unsupported by scripture to conflate the promise of salvation for those who die before age 8, or who were not sealed in marriage from any of the other populations about which he speculates, with the promise of exaltation.
Fourth, he gives one bit of caution in his Introduction which the average reader will not catch.  That caution is: “What follows is my perception of God’s nature….”  p. xiv.  That caution should be in BOLD and capitalized.  In other words, the whole book is based upon his sentiments about God.  These unanchored sentiments are NOT and never will be doctrine.  They are just some guy’s effeminate effort to avoid the rigors of confronting the narrowness, straitness and fewness of the Gospel’s takers.
Going then to his sentiments about God, he writes:  “The thought that God would promote something that would ensure that the vast majority of His children would never again be able to dwell in His presence is incomprehensible.  And the assumption that our mother in heaven would idly sit back and allow such a guaranteed flop to eternally strip her of any interaction with her spirit offspring is equally unfathomable.  Such could not — and did not– happen!”
There’s not a stitch of support for this awesome conclusion.  How does he know that?  How does he presume to speak about a “mother in heaven” about whom nothing has been revealed?  How does he know that she is not the champion of the plan?  How does he know that she isn’t absolutely persuaded that obedience to the laws of perfection are the only protection of her children who do obey?  How does he not recognize that to dwell with someone living a higher law, when the person refuses to obey that higher law, is more miserable than being cast out?  (Morm. 9: 4.)  How does he fail to recognize that throughout nature from the hosts of animals born, relatively few ever reach adulthood and reproduce?  Again, this natural process is a symbol of God’s own great plan, is it not?  (Moses 6: 63.)  If so, why, if God cares with sentimentality about all His creations (i.e., that they fill the measure of their creation and have joy in their posterity), then why not let all them reproduce as adults?  After all it takes about 10,000 sea turtles before you get a successful reproducing adult.  Pretty much the case with frogs, sea life generally, and wildebeests – well, their young are essentially the roving McDonald’s menu for all the African meat-eaters.
When he doesn’t like a parable told by CHRIST, he attributes it to Matthew and dismisses it as Matthew’s conjecture about numbers.  (See footnote 2 on the top of page 133 of Odds Are You’re Going To Be Exalted)
He absolutely contradicts Christ when he claims, without any support other than his own sentiment, “God does not require perfection of us in order for us to gain exaltation.”  (page 13.)  But Christ commanded: “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”  (3 Ne. 12: 48.)
He is a PhD in Theology.  That education has done violence to his ability to see what the scriptures teach.  Instead of using that education properly (i.e. to understand the fallacies of man’s reasoning as they apply their philosophy), he has instead become persuaded by it and decided to measure truth by this damaging set of errors.
He thinks that if “most” people are lost then the plan is a failure.  The measure of the Gospel’s success does not lie in numerosity.  It lies in the fact that if the whole of creation produces but one successful couple, then it will have all been worth it.  Even then, if only one couple were exalted, then you still have an infinite number to follow, because they are by definition infinite and eternal as long as they produce seed.
I have marked up my copy for the first couple of chapters, then just relented and read it without a running commentary in the margins.  But the book was an insult to my understanding of the truth.  It attempts to urge the Calvinist notion of “irresistible grace” in new clothes.  It attempts to give life to “grace” as Martin Luther championed the concept in LDS garb.  It is a litany of Evangelical/Protestant philosophy mingled with scripture.  And most astonishing of all, this cacophony of error is published by the good people at Deseret Book, as if its creeds were not included among those denounced by the Savior in His first visit with Joseph in the Grove.
I keep running in my mind:  “Perhaps you do not believe in this great being Alonzo Gaskill proposes, who is surrounded by myriads of beings who have been saved, not for any act of theirs, but by His good pleasure?”
And the response thunders back:  “I do not!  I cannot comprehend such a being!”
I cannot recall where that dialogue, which is now simply part of my consciousness, came from.  But it seems somehow sacred to me, coming from some source I trusted.  Something which goes back long before 1990.  But, alas, when I try to pin it down it eludes me.

I could go on, but I think it would degenerate into incautious words which will offend the average reader.  Given my upbringing in Idaho, I will soon be making scatological references to bovine feces, reverting back to the lexicon of my pre-conversion youth.  So I will meekly stop and settle back into the day’s work.

I hope that answers the question.

17 thoughts on “This is why I didn’t like it

  1. Exaltation means responsibity. I believe that a loving heavenly parent knows that not all their children want or would be happy with such responsibity. Most people don’t want alot of kids on earth, why would they want billions in heaven?

    I believe that though our heavenly parenst may wish they could have all their children return to live with them & enjoy Celestial blessings, they know that most will be happier in lesser kingdoms with lesser responsibility. They are all about the happiness of their children above their own.

    One prophet I just read from said that he believed that the ‘vast majority of the earth would go to the Telestial Kingdom.

  2. QUOTE: “I suppose first because it is filled with false doctrine and sentimental rubbish. It is unanchored in anything other than pure sentiment, contradicts the scriptures, and attributes motives to Heavenly Parents which are held by the author. It is worse than useless, it is misleading.”

    Wait, tell us what you REALLY think! :)

    Another danger, just in reading the title alone, is that one comes away with the impression that “All is well in Zion.” “If the odds are that I’m going to make it, then I don’t really need to try all that hard. I’m doing better than most of the world anyway.”

    “…and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.”

    This does nothing but contribute to the propagation of UNBELIEF or belief in UNTRUTH that is abundant in our culture.

    I think a more honest approach would have been a title like, “You CAN Choose Exaltation,” meaning, it’s not impossible, and we should never give up hoping, but it takes conscious effort and continuous work.


  3. Ha Denver! I love it when you get going! Guess I won’t be buying that book for anyone for Mother’s Day. I do hope your kids aren’t in public schools…or seminary for that matter. Your zeal in refuting what was ‘taught’ in that book reminds me of the countless ‘relearning’ sessions I had with my children as they came home from school/seminary. (I don’t know if it was good for my heart?)

    I must take exception to a word you used in castigating Gaskill…effeminate. In my experience, women are right up there with the men in facing the “rigors” of the path. I’m really just having fun – I could never get offended by anything you say/write. (And if I do, shame on me.)

    Oh, and thanks for the new vocab word – scatological – interesting.

  4. It is so funny that you commented on this book. After I finished reading your books, I went to the library to find my next book to read. My wife and I saw that book. I was so confused by the title that I took it off the shelf and started thumbing through it. The title alone seemed to grind against what I felt to be right. I even made the comment to my wife that you would laugh if you saw it. If you could pinpoint an exact philosophy that leads to the lackadaisical mentality of the church as a whole, that title pretty much sums it up. “All is well in Zion”. The closer I feel I am getting to the path, the more I realize how much more confined it gets. It’s almost as if it is not only narrow, but narrows as you travel it. Thanks for the post, one less book to read.

  5. Sorry, Chris and Kisi. I accidently signed my name “Anonymous” on my last comment (the one right before the Reber family.)

  6. The “All is Well in Zion” argument eluded to in the previous comment does not exuse unkindness or the display of intellectual superiority that was paraded in this blog.

    As logical, straightforward, and compelling as the argument may be that was presented in this blog, the tone of the message did not mirror the tone of a God with whom I would choose to spend even one minute in eternity.

    In this regard, I am like my Great Grandpa who refused to believe in a God who would consign rambunctious boys to hell. The God he found in Mormonism was the first God he could ever pray to; a God that is perfectly kind and merciful and who unlike some have suggested on these forums, would prefer fewer of His children made it back to Him than more. I for one will not spend one minute in the company of a God who is unkind or abusive. The tone of this blog was abusive towards a real human being.

    Weakminded? Perhaps! Yet I know with certainty that the heart ranks much higher and sees much further than the most refined reasoning and logic we can possess.

    On the positive side, the tone of this message gave me hope that I don’t have to be as kind as Christ to enjoy audience with the Savior or to receive Him as my personal minister. Thank you for this encouragement.

  7. Being an amateur scatologist myself, I was able to judge this book by its cover and quite accurately. Thank you for speaking with clarity and straightforwardness as the prophets of old did.

    (Has the person above who’s put off by your “tone” read much of the prophets’ words I wonder? That’s not a rhetorical question or a question stemming from my spiritual superiority… I can hardly think of one prophet from scripture who did not offend by his plainness of speech. Let’s be careful with the demands we put on God to be kind. Is thrusting a soul to hell unkind? Is eternal damnation unkind? Yet it would be more miserable for that soul to live in the presence of God. Is it kind to leave a person to his errant thoughts and philosophies and say NOTHING? Because you are afraid of hurting one’s feelings? It’s time to put aside the psychological BS and touchy-feely and get our minds wrapped around what is actually important. There is little time.)

  8. Anonymous, there’s too much of pc, opinions that blow with the wind, and a fear of ‘rocking the boat.’ It’s needed and oh, so refreshing when someone has a strong, well-founded opinion and they have the courage to express it. (Denver’s post sounded rather ‘Brighamish’ to me.) From the politicians to the media to the talk-show hosts they all, but a rare few, defer their opinion to the sentiments (or their political party) of the day. How often, even, is something taught in a lesson or said over the pulpit, say in Testimony Mtg, that is clearly false doctrine and is not refuted? That is why I appreciate Denver’s post and that is why I appreciate yours – neither afraid to give your opinion and both gave me ‘food for thought.’ Right or wrong, Denver, unlike the rest of us, has his full name linked to all he says. The rest of us, like me, can hide behind our computer screen and anonymity as we give our opinion. Come now, we are all “fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” Glorious!

  9. I think the criticism of my “tone” was well taken. And I agree that you wouldn’t like to spend one minute with a God who was critical or biting in His assessments of another’s foolishness. But you have to admit, at least I did not call him “Satan” as Christ did Peter. (Matt. 16: 23.)

  10. How much time is left or how far the day is spent, or whether the LDS church as an institution succeeds or fails do not compare to the relevance associated with “getting and keep God’s Spirit,” and coming into complete harmony with it.

    If we die in the crossfire, or live to build the city Zion, or to experience some other end of days senario, it is of little real importance compared to whether or not our lives are in complete harmony with the Spirit.

    Great frustrations, such as the dilution of doctrine at Deseret Book, or if we are following a path of coorelation that tends to separate individuals from their personal soverenty are always best relieved as the Spirit helps us give proper voice to these issues. This burden falls to each of us and not to Denver alone.

    As these powerful thoughts are discussed and wrestled with, I hope we can always consider the counsel given in D&C 50:13-36.

    Then we should remember, only to the extent Brigham Young resonated perfectly with God’s Spirit, should we follow His example. Similarly, to the extent Denver resonates perfectly with that spirit, or any of us who comment resonate with that spirit, we each benefit more perfectly.

    Denver, this week as I quit trying so hard to look directly into the sun, and just went about doing good, I enjoyed an experience that helped to dispel confusion and to me see more clearly. In a word, I was comforted by a peasant who spoke in broken english but whose wisdom was not broken in the least.

    Without having read your blog this week, it is doubtful I would have had this experience. Thank You!

  11. Denver, what are your thoughts on gnostic logic and reasoning that was outlawed by Constantine and then alledgedly purged from sacred record? I don’t know a great deal about this topic; however, it seems that many of the frustrations you’ve expressed and I and others have also experienced, are summed up well in the ideas that judgmental logic by its nature leads to conflict and to the popal-like actions you’ve referred to and that non-judgemental logic empowers us to deal with our differences and problems in new and more loving ways and also in ways which allow us to progress in the manner Joseph Smith supported.

    I’ve been reading about this type of reasoning and logic and I believe that my own bigotry and non-tolerance that I have experienced stems from judgemental logic. Did Christ actually teach the gnostic philosophy that you know of?

  12. Denver,
    Now that you have reproved this man with with sharpness, will you be showing him an increase of love, lest he esteem you to be his enemy?

    Tim oaks in Tennessee

  13. Tim:
    I haven’t “reproved him.” Haven’t even mentioned his name as I recall. I’ve commented on the thoughts in a book. So far as I know he neither knows me, has met me, nor has read anything I’ve ever written, let alone this blog. I was asked for my opinion about a book. I gave it. There wasn’t a single personal thing involved from my perspective. So, lacking any direct contact with him and never having addressed a single comment to him, I do not feel any responsibility to show forth an increase of love to him.

    Hope that clarifies my view.

  14. I noticed you never mentioned his name but I would bet everyone on this blog knows who he is, save one, I don’t, nor have I read his book. If not they could easily find out. And he could easily run across this blog as it is public. I just don’t think the tone of your post is a good way to win friends and influence people. But that is ok, as you said disagreement is not a bad thing.


  15. It’s funny that you commented on this book. I was flipping through an LDS book catalog months ago and saw the title of this book and immediately I thought, “oh Denver’s going to have a fit with this.”

  16. So, if I am picking up on your sentiments about this book I’m guessing you would NOT recommend it?
    (Sorry-couldn’t resist)
    And Kisi, just because you asked so nicely, I’ll add an “H” at the end of my anonymous comments as I can’t add it to the heading.

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