Category: apostasy

Lehi’s Message

Lehi delivered two separate messages to his generation at Jerusalem. These two messages provoked two separate reactions.

The first message was that they were wicked, and were engaged in abominations before God. (1 Ne. 1: 19.) In other words, these were sinful people needing to repent and return to God.

When the people heard “the things which he testified of them” their reaction was to mock and ridicule him and his message. (Id.) They had the scriptures, the priesthood, the Temple, the ordinances, and they were absolutely certain they were living their religion just as God wanted them to. They were “chosen” and were holy people. This idea of being “wicked” and engaging in abominable practices while they lived devoted lives seemed rediculous to them. Lehi could not be taken seriously. If there was anything to this message, then they would expect it would come from the established hierarchy, not some obscure trader living in Jerusalem. He wasn’t even a Levite for that matter.

The second message was much more serious. He spoke “plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.” (1 Ne. 1: 19.) Since this was an idea the Jews of that day had rejected, Lehi’s testimony of Christ was too much. He was accusing them of apostasy. This aroused anger and even fury. The idea that these holy people, devoted to their religion, practicing the ordinances and preserving the Temple rites could be in a state of apostasy was too much for them to brook.

In response to this second message they had a second reaction: they wanted to kill him. (1 Ne. 1: 20.) They knew what to do with this kind of message. They would excommunicate, or “cast out” anyone who dared to preach this message. It threatened the pretenders who presided. It threatened the order of their day. It challenged the authority of the faith. It was too much.

Lehi would be either cast out (excommunicated). Or he would be “stoned” (an officially sanctioned religious punishment). Or he would be “slain” (a mob reaction not sanctioned by the religion). (Id.) The first two were to be imposed by the religious leaders. The third, however, would be popular reaction. An uncontrolled mob, showing spontaneous religious zeal, having been indoctrinated by their leaders to react in this manner. The leaders would prefer the third remedy. That would show their teaching was having the desired effect. If not, then the first two would be imposed.

Two messages, and two reactions. The popular practices of religion of Lehi’s day were condemning souls. No one was being saved. No leadership existed which would lead men back to God’s presence.

Lehi listened to the “many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent” (1 Ne. 1: 4). He learned for himself, directly from God that this was a true message. He took up the message and he delivered his own testimony.

This was a message from God, whom He had met. This was authorized and, whether the Jews of his day would acknowledge it or not, it was binding upon them. Therefore, when they rejected his testimony against them and his message requiring them to repent, they rejected God’s word.

These deeply religious peers of Lehi’s were astonished at the idea an obscure merchant could speak with and for God. Once again the first chapter of the Book of Mormon introduces us to a world where God alone decides who He will call. Then, after a private audience with the Lord, the commissioned spokesman proceeds to cry repentance. These are radical ideas, and prove the Book of Mormon is no ordinary text. It is a warning from God, and its precepts will bring mankind closer to the truth than the precepts you will find in any other volume of sacred text.

The Trick to Avoiding Apostasy

We began this week with the topic of apostasy. That is where we will end. It is easy to distract and fool people. It is also easy to keep in mind what is essential and will save, and what is distracting and cannot save. Here are a few thoughts that can prevent apostasy:

Never confuse the symbol for the reality.

Never accept a man as your Lord, but reserve worship for Christ alone. Everything and everyone else is idolatry.

Always bear in mind that Christ alone is the keeper of the gate, and He cannot be misled.

Always participate fully in the rites given to you as a gift from God, performed by the priests, and be worthy before God when you do so.

Take every gift from God in gratitude, and recognize His hand in what you receive.

Be grateful for what you are given, and never think yourself better than another because you think you understand more. You are measured against perfection, not your fellow man.

Forgive if you want to be forgiven.

Leaders deserve your best efforts to support them in the heavy burdens they carry. Uphold, rather than criticize them.

Most errors deserve your pity and forgiveness – not your judgment.

It is not criticism to search for truth, even if the truth exposes mistakes and errors of men. Be gracious with failure, and not distracted or preoccupied by it.

Nobody’s failure can prevent your success. No other organization or person can bring you along in their success. You are required to connect with God independent of all others. Life eternal is to know Him and His Son.

Love your spouse, because this is your own flesh. There was never a saved man without a woman, nor a saved woman without a man. Adam and Eve are “the image of God” for “in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.”

It is in the private, unobserved moments when you learn the most about yourself. What you think, what you do, how you act when you think you are alone reveals more about your heart than anything else. If you are distant from God, begin to return in those moments alone.

God does live. Never doubt that. Just accept it and move forward to know Him.

It is a thin veil, not a wall, that separates you from God. Do not let it become insurmountable. It was always meant to be parted.

Fear is the opposite of faith.

Do not let borrowed fears become the barrier to your faith.

Men cannot save you, but they can condemn you. You cannot respect men too much without respecting God too little.

Religion has been the source of most of mankind’s cruelty, rebellion and apostasy. Never think your own religious observances can or will connect you with God. They are only habits until you reach out and speak with God directly. Ministers, priests, Rabbis, Elders, preachers, Fathers, Presidents, Apostles and even prophets are not God. Nor should any of these roles be allowed to distance you from God.

Saving belief requires you to accept the truth. Saving faith requires you to act in conformity with correct belief. Saving knowledge comes from contact with God.

The Trick to Apostasy

The trick to successfully pulling off an apostasy is to distract people into thinking there hasn’t been one. The “believers” need to think everything remains intact.

So the issue of “apostasy” becomes a discussion about individuals and individual conformity to the expectations of the group. The subject can then be a topic that polite, fellow-believers can discuss without ever searching into the overall condition of a fallen people.

The Jews mocked efforts to tell them they were apostate. They thought it was humorous when Lehi preached the idea. (1 Ne. 1: 19.) Because they were so very religious, so devout, so unassailably active in following God, the idea was absolutely laughable that they were apostate.

The Apostle Paul said the problem would begin at the top with the shepherds, who would teach them falsehoods as truth. (Acts 20: 29-30.) These new leaders would have only a form of godliness, without any real power to save. (2 Tim. 3: 5.)

The Christian world adopted another, false replacement of the original church. It became so universal it was hailed as the Universal, or Catholic Church. It ruled from the rivers to the ends of the earth as the only official form of the faith established by Christ.

To pull this off Satan must be concerned with the “macro” institutional failure, not just individuals falling away. It is the small, minor spirits who follow Lucifer who engage in petty tempting of individuals to sin. Success for the Adversary is not accomplished in petty enterprises. He wants failure for the whole, so none can be saved. For that, apostasy must be universal.

He has never succeeded by admitting there has been a failure. The trick is always to have the apostasy come unnoticed, unacknowledged and from within. (See 3 Ne. 16: 10.)

The topic is worth studying. When apostasy is noticed, acknowledged and exposed, then it is possible to repent and return. Until then, it progresses apace, discarding and rejecting what might have been given. All the while being happily ignored by “believers” whose devotion will not save.

Since Christ predicted that at some point the latter-day gentiles would reject the fullness (Id.), we probably should consider what the Book of Mormon has to say about the subject.

To finish the thought about the “trick to apostasy” the D&C has a remarkable statement. Lucifer succeeds when he manages to get us NOT to reject ordinances, but to change them. As soon as they are changed, they are broken. (D&C 1: 15.) That is an important step. Because then religious people can continue to claim they follow a true religion, while practicing one that has been broken. These practitioners become like the ancient Jews, who mocked Lehi because they knew they were still righteous. They knew Lehi was foolish, even fraudulent. They still had the truth, the ordinances, the temple, and the priesthood. Lehi was just a mistaken crank.

Jacob 5: 38-41

The Lord’s inspection of the vineyard was global. Even the “nethermost parts of the vineyard” were examined for fruit. (5: 38.) Despite the opportunities given to the vineyard, “the fruit of the natural branches” which belonged to the original root and should have been able to bear fruit “had become corrupt also.” (5: 39.) No matter where you looked, “the first and the second and also the last; …they had all become corrupt.” (Id.) The apostasy was now universal. It was not possible for the Lord to find fruit worth preserving anywhere in His vineyard. The ordinances were changed. The covenant was broken. (Isa. 24: 5.)

Apostasy is always marked by a change of ordinances and breaking of the covenant. Then everything can continue to mimic the truth, but there can be no fruit. The apostates can keep the vocabulary, claim to have the truth and worship the God of Israel, use the same scriptures as were written by those who were in and kept the covenant, and assume they are either in or headed toward Zion and that “all is well” even as they are covered in chains and bound for hell. (2 Ne. 28: 23-25.) Then the apostasy can rule from the rivers to the ends of the earth, but no-one is capable of telling them to be afraid. While in Satan’s power, they think themselves blessed.

The “fruit” to be “laid up against the season” is highly specific. It is God’s own family. Those who are bound to Him directly, in an unbroken covenant of adoption, where He recognizes them as His “sons and daughters” and has told them so in an unbreakable bond. (Mosiah 27: 25.) Those who receive Him receive this oath from Him. And through it, He covenants with them, in a bond which He cannot break, that they are His sons and His daughters and heirs to all the Father has. (D&C 84: 35-40.) It will not be an imitation, which does not create “fruit” but it will be Him and His covenant. For “all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord.” (D&C 88: 35.) He will come to and “comfort” those with this covenant. (John 14: 18.) This is not by proxy, or through an appearance “in the heart” through some feeling, but is an actual appearance leading to an actual bond that cannot be broken, and therefore comforts the sojourner in this lone and dreary world. (John 14: 23; D&C 130: 3.)

Because there were no longer any who remained in the vineyard with this covenant, or who were adopted into the Family of God, or who were suitable to be preserved through the burning of the vineyard, the entire vineyard, from the first to the last, “had all become corrupt.” (5: 39.) Even in the best spot in the vineyard, “the wild fruit of the last had overcome that part of the tree which brought forth good fruit, even that the branch had withered away and died.” (5: 40.) The Nephite fall was complete. Nothing remained. All was wild and unsuitable, entirely corrupt.

At this terrible state of man “the Lord of the vineyard wept.” (5: 41.) The Lord’s work and glory is to produce fruit from His vineyard. (Moses 1: 39.) The Lord of the vineyard is not able to withhold His tears at our dreadful plight. He is moved with compassion for us. (Heb. 4: 15, see also Matt. 14: 14.)

As the Lord looked at the complete failure of the entire vineyard, He reflected with sorrow: “What could I have done more for my vineyard?” (5: 41.) The Lord does not fault us. He examines Himself. He begins His inventory of what went wrong with His own actions, not ours. We who rebel against Him are not faulted by Him. But He wonders how He might have been the better Lord. It ought to cause us to weep to realize who He really is, and what He really thinks.

Bloom’s Article

Harold Bloom is a serious student of religion. He one time admired Mormonism. The article I linked to earlier today is a reflection of his disillusionment because of the changes which the faith has undergone since the 1990’s. What he once thought would be a revolutionary religion, with vitality that would revolutionize the world, is now gone.

Mormonism was designed to change the world, not to be changed by it.

Mormonism was intended to alter how people understood and relate to God; not to become an Americanized version of Roman Catholicism with a magisterial hierarchy viewed as God’s “Vicars” holding keys to heaven through which sycophants could obtain Divine favor.

Bloom laments the transition and, because of it, has let the tarnishing recent changes to Mormonism alter his earlier, much more positive assessment of Joseph and the faith founded through him.

Bloom’s conclusion that Mormonism is now just another Protestant religion is a conclusion he was disappointed to reach. But, having reached it, he does not hold back on his disappointment.

When it began, Mormonism denounced the idea of following men. It captured in rapid prose the idea that following men, even inspired men who were authentic prophets who spoke with God, merited damnation to hell alongside the wicked: “For these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas. These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch; But received not the gospel… will not be gathered with the saints, to be caught up unto the church of the Firstborn, and received into the cloud. These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. These are they who suffer the wrath of God on earth. These are they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.” (D&C 76: 99-105.) Joseph Smith elaborated on this idea in a sermon to the Relief Society in Nauvoo, telling them: “the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church — that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls — applied it to the present state [1842] of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall — that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves…” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p. 238.) Today we have inverted that idea. Now if you do not “depend on the Prophet” you are considered to have a darkened mind.

It is a fundamental principle of fourth phase Mormonism that all anyone needs to do is “Follow the Prophet” (meaning the President of the church) and everything else will take care of itself. There is little else required. Tithing and some dietary restrictions, and a few meetings are needed.

Today if there is the slightest hint by someone that “Following the Prophet” as your primary faith will merit only “the wrath of God on earth” and “the vengeance of eternal fire” because we must not say we follow any man— well that is taken as weakness of faith, or worse. It can be regarded as a substantial error in doctrine or understanding. Or, worse still, as evidence that you don’t believe God at all. You are, therefore, damned.

Well, Bloom’s criticism is biting, to be sure. But it is borne from his disappointment in what we’ve become in only a few short years of transition. The pace of the changes are accelerating, too. In another two decades it will be even more difficult to recognize Mormonism as the faith restored through Joseph. The caretakers now point to change as evidence of inspiration; instead of worrying change may be provoking ire. (See, e.g., Isa. 24: 5; also Malachi 3: 7.) Fortunately, for us, there is no need to really consider the ideas which arise from anywhere other than the recognized authorities. We can always trust that God will protect us with a mighty hand. Our freedom to err has literally been circumscribed by His power and commitment to save us. We are not free to apostatize from His ways, but are instead guaranteed we cannot fall away as was the case with every earlier dispensation of God’s Gospel. Any idea we can do the same thing as every earlier era of man’s interaction with God belittles God’s power. It challenges His overriding hand which has restored the truth for the last time to the earth, and nothing can ever change His determination to keep it here. Even our neglect, rebellion, sins and stupidity is nothing compared to God’s commitment to letting us keep the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We got it. We’ve got keys that cannot tarnish. And, all of this is to the envy of every other Christian denomination; because there’s just nothing anyone can do to change that. Not even us. Right?

Restoration and Apostasy

There really is no static position in nature.  The full moon of two nights ago is now replaced by the waning gibbous immediately as the light begins to be lost.  Nor does the half-moon last longer than a single night, followed by the waning crescent. When the moon’s light is altogether stricken, the new moon phase begins with the waxing crescent which is, at first, only a sliver. But it follows nightly through the waxing crescent, to the half moon, to the waxing gibbous, to the full moon.  Always in motion.  Always either growing or receding in light.

So also with the sun.  From solstice to equinox, to solstice to equinox, it grows, then dims.  Never static.  It is impossible to freeze the light.  It will grow or it will fade.

All things in nature testify of the truth.  This includes things in the “heavens” or sky above, as well as things on, in and under the earth. (Moses 6: 63.)

It is not possible for an individual, nor a collection of individuals, to remain static.  They are either involved with restoring truth or in apostasy from it; never merely “preserving” it.  Those who claim to merely preserve the truth given them are concealing the fact of their apostasy.  They are soothing their conscience.  Caretakers simply cannot exist.

All great truths are simple, and they are testified of in nature as well as in scripture.

3 Nephi 11: 35

3 Nephi 11: 35:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.”
Belief in Christ necessarily means belief in the Father. To believe Christ is to accept His message of the Father’s primacy and authority.
You see in these three members of the Godhead a full establishment of interconnected roles and responsibilities.

The Father ordains the plan. It is He who presides.

The Son implements the plan. It is He who makes the required sacrifice to save us.
The Holy Ghost activates the plan. It is the “fire” of the Holy Ghost which makes new, cleanses and perfects the man’s understanding.
These three are “one” and united. They provide mankind with the possibility for salvation and exaltation.

Christ “bears record of it from the Father.” This means that Christ is the Father’s messenger announcing the Father’s plan. What of the need for two witnesses? (Matt. 18: 16.) One of the criticisms of Christ’s message was the absence of additional witnesses. (John 8: 13-14.) Is Christ doing that same thing here with the Nephites? Does His announcement that He speaks for the Father constitute one, or two witnesses? The Father first bore witness of Christ (3 Nephi 11: 6-7.) Now Christ bears witness of Him.

The Father’s testimony always affirms the status of the Son as His Beloved, and of our need to “hear Him.” (See e.g., Matt. 17: 5; JS-H 1: 17; see also Matt. 3: 17.) The Father can, and does, acknowledge others as His. (Psalms 2: 7.) But, unlike the Son who has repeatedly visited this earth, walked upon it (Luke 24: 15-16), been handled by people (Luke 24: 36-39; 3 Nephi 11: 14-15), and eaten here (John 21: 13), the Father does not come into contact with this earth in its fallen state (Matt. 17: 5; JS-H 1: 17). The only time the Father had contact with this earth was before the Fall, in the Paradisiacal setting of Eden–which was a Temple at the time (Gen. 3: 8). Whenever there has been contact with the Father thereafter, He has been at a distance from this earth. (Moses 7: 24; 1 Nephi 1: 8; Alma 36: 22.)

There is a formality with the Father that does not exist with the Son. For example, the Son has eaten with mortal man while He was immortal, both before His ministry in the flesh (Exo. 24: 9-11) and after (Luke 24: 41-43). As our Redeemer, He is directly responsible for us and has contact with us to perform His redemptive service. The Father, on the other hand, is different in status, responsibility, glory and dominion. The Son can appear to mortal man without showing His glory or requiring any alteration of the mortal who beholds Him. (See, e.g., John 20: 15-17.) To behold the Father, to endure His presence, one must be transfigured. (Moses 1: 2.) Mortal man cannot behold the Father’s works while mortal, for if you comprehend them you cannot afterward remain mortal in the flesh. (Moses 1: 5.)

The primary means to learn of Christ for mortal man is the Holy Ghost. It is this means which brings all things to your remembrance (John 14: 26). Once the learning has culminated in preparation of the individual, then the Savior has a continuing ministry. (John 14: 21.) The Savior’s ministry is to bring the person redemption.

When this process is complete, then it is the responsibility of those who have been redeemed to cry repentance to their neighbors. (D&C 88: 74, 81.) Indeed, the desire to bring others to receive redemption becomes their primary concern. (Mosiah 28: 3.)

The process then produces those who bear testimony of the Son. If they are called of God, they will use scriptures to testify of Christ. This has always been the pattern ordained by God. (Jacob 7: 10-11.) They may understand the scriptures more clearly, because they have seen the same things as earlier prophets. (JS-H 1: 74.) But their testimonies will draw from the scriptures and the words of their brothers in Christ who went before as they testify of Him.

It is through such signs as these you know the Father and Son are one, and the Holy Ghost and the Son are one, and the messengers sent by them will testify of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. These three are the ones in whom faith must be focused for salvation. Though the heavens may include hosts of others, saving faith must be focused in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost alone. Whenever attention and worship moves from the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the result is invariably apostasy and false beliefs. (1 Cor. 8: 5-6; Deut. 16, 17, 18 & 19; 2 Kings 17: 13-16.)

The doctrine of Christ is to be strictly followed. It alone delivers from destruction. All other paths lead to error, foolishness and the dark, where you will perish. (Deut. 8: 19.)

From following this process we obtain the necessary “fire and the Holy Ghost” which redeems, purges, purifies and changes us into a new creature in Christ.

I have said very little of my personal experiences because of how quickly people turn from following Christ to following men whenever attention is drawn to a man. Mankind is inclined toward idolatry. The church has become a great idol. I do not intend to supplant the Lord, nor to call attention to myself, nor to offer myself as an idol for others. I cannot save anyone. If not for Christ and His atonement, I would have only dread for my eternal state. The doctrine of Christ is what the Father ordained as the means for salvation. Anyone who interferes with the process, or offers another means for salvation, cannot deliver. (Mosiah 3: 17.) Whether it is an institution or an individual, no one other than Christ can save. Hence His title as Savior. For some reason mankind is so prone to error, so quick to leave the path, and so vulnerable to being deceived, that focus must remain on the Son, as empowered and sent by the Father, through the witness of the Holy Ghost, or we go astray. Joseph cautioned: “How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.”  (TPJS p. 137.)

3 Nephi 11: 28-30

3 Nephi 11: 28-30:

“And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.  For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.  Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.”
The Lord’s elaboration on “disputations” and “contentions” is important and consistent enough that all 3 verses should be considered together.
First, He clarifies that baptism must be done as He “commanded you.” Deviations are not permitted and should not be asked for, or entertained. That is the thing about ordinances. When given, they are to be kept in exactly the manner they come from Him. When we change them we risk breaking the covenant between Him and ourselves. (Isa. 24: 5.)
The Book of Mormon is silent about the “disputations” which existed among them over baptism. However, when Christ says there has “hitherto been” disputes, we know they existed. It becomes apparent from later passages that one practice which caused some of the argument was the issue of baptizing infants. There were likely others, as well. The Lord wants that to end. Perform the ordinances as He sets them out, and stop arguing about the manner.

The reason arguments arise is because men stop gathering light by righteous behavior. When they lose light they cease to understand the truth. They stray from the correct practice of the ordinance because they are unable to understand its importance. They see no reason to continue the ordinance in one form when another seems to work just as well. The result is a change to the ordinance. It is ever the same. By the time the change is made, the ones making it are unaware of any importance associated with the ordinance they change. They discard what they view is meaningless. It would require a good deal more light and truth for them to understand the importance of what was given them. But that light and truth has passed away from them because of their conduct.

Into the darkness the devil enters with arguments over the ordinances: Why do it that way? It really doesn’t mean anything. It is arcane and outdated. It doesn’t really matter as long as you still have faith in Christ. [That particular lie is very effective because it allows the person to presume they have faith, when in fact they haven’t the faith sufficient to obey Christ.] People will get more out of the changes if we make them. People will have greater peace of mind if we baptize their infants. We’ll save more souls, because by baptizing them when they’re infants we include everyone who would die before getting baptized. Our numbers will increase. We’ll look more successful by getting more followers by adding their numbers into the group. What we change isn’t important, anyway. If it were important, we would know that, and since it doesn’t seem important to us, it must, in fact, not be important. Those who rebel at change are not really faithful. This shows inspiration; it’s faith affirming. Change is proof that God is still leading us. …And other such arguments and persuasions from our adversary.

On the other hand, Christ is saying to keep the ordinances unchanged. And further, don’t even begin to dispute them. They are off limits for argument, dispute and discussion. When you open the opportunity to dispute over the ordinances, you are allowing the devil an opportunity to influence the discussion and change the ordinances.

Disputes lead to contention, contention leads to anger, and anger is the devil’s tool. So don’t start down that road. Accept and understand the ordinances. If you are perplexed by them, then let those who understand speak, exhort, expound and teach concerning them. As they do, you will come into the unity of faith and become one. Perplexity cannot exist when there is light and truth. Light and truth comes from understanding the ordinances, not changing them. So do not begin the process through dispute. The purpose of discussion is not to dispute, which leads to contention, which leads to anger.
When the Gospel and its ordinances turn into something angry and contentious, then the Spirit has fled, and souls are lost. It is the devil’s objective to prevent you from practicing the ordinances in the correct manner. But, more importantly, it is his objective to prevent you from becoming one. When he uses arguments over ordinances to cause disunity, he is playing with two tools at the same time. First, changing the ordinances brings about cursings, and second, encouraging contention and anger grieves the Spirit, and prevents the Saints from becoming one.

As a result, disputes or discussions over ordinances, which could lead to changing them, should not be entertained. As soon as the ordinances are open to dispute, reconsideration, alteration or to being changed, then you are opening the door to this whole process. It culminates in the souls of men being lost through apostasy. Once the ordinances are changed, the earth is cursed (Isa. 24: 5) and Israel is scattered rather than gathered (Jere. 31: 36).

The devil knows this, even if men do not. Men are urged to take steps they presume have little effect, all the while being lied to by the enemy of their souls.
When men arrive at the point they are angry in their hearts with one another, they are not united by love as they are intended to be. These are the end results of the two paths. One leading to love and joy (Hel. 5: 44), and the other to anger and wrath (D&C 76: 33).
Disputes over ordinances are caused by the devil. Ordinances that preserve symbolic truths and have the power to save are turned into tools for the devil by disputations. It is a complete victory when discussions about changing ordinances are allowed to take place. Even good men are taken in by such disputes.

2 Nephi 33: 3

“But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people. For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.”
Nephi’s single-minded focus was life-long. Now, as he writes advanced in age, with a retrospective knowledge, and prophetic foreknowledge of revelation, he confirms what he has written is “of great worth.” When a prophet like Nephi appraises the work as “of great worth,” it is important to realize that your disagreement with the assessment is a reflection on you, not him. It is a reflection of your own level of understanding rather than on the work itself.
Are Nephi’s two books “of great worth” to you? Why? Can you articulate the reasons they have this “great worth” in everything you think and do in your daily life? How have they changed you? If there is nothing you can point to of value, then perhaps you have not yet found the “great worth” Nephi believed his writing to hold.
Why “especially unto [Nephi’s] people?” Who are Nephi’s “people?” Why would they be more valuable to them? Why would they have a special value to them, above the value to the gentiles?
When Nephi says he “prays continually for them,” who is the group he identifies as “them?” Why does he pray for “them?”
Why does Nephi cry into his pillow at night because of “them?” Who are they and what did Nephi know would be the end of “them?” (See 1 Nephi 12: 19; 1 Nephi 15: 5.)
Nephi knew his cries to the Lord would not go unheard. He knew the Lord would keep a covenant made with Nephi concerning “them.” (1 Nephi 13: 30.) The remnant of Nephi’s seed would not be utterly destroyed. Nevertheless, the future destruction would be near absolute, leaving only a remnant.
Despite this foreknowledge, Nephi nevertheless reports he made it a practice to nightly “cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.”
Nephi kept faith in the face of certain destruction of his descendants.  Hope in the face of looming apostasy by his seed. Charity toward those who would reject the Lord.
He has ceased to be exclusively a prophet, and has risen to the role of intercessor and advocate for the unworthy. He has become covenantal father, and presiding Patriarch over a lineage whose redemption will come through his covenant with the Father. He has joined the ranks of the “fathers” toward whom hearts must turn in order to avoid cursing at the Lord’s return. (Malachi 4: 6.)

The circle has closed and the eternal round is completed. Nephi has godly feelings and godly empathy for a doomed posterity. We behold at last the veil removed. We see such nobility of character, and greatness of soul that we are compelled to accept his role as teacher and ruler. He has taught righteousness all his days. Though his older brothers refused to acknowledge or accept him, we should not. His parting message suggests, however, that more of those who will read his record have the same spirit as Laman and Lemuel than will have the necessary spirit to recognize and “esteem of great worth” what he has provided to us.

It is almost too great to take in for the few who are the humble followers of Christ. However, they can avoid being led into error by recognizing in Nephi the teacher and ruler who was sent to deliver a message of salvation to a doomed people. For those who now live under the same prophetic doom, (3 Nephi 16: 15; 3 Nephi 20: 16; 3 Nephi 21: 12) Nephi represents a lifeline offered to those humble enough to accept his message. They will gladly recognize their plight, awake and arise and become people of prayer.

2 Nephi 28: 7-8

2 Nephi 28: 7-8:

“Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us.  And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; 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 notion that religion should always encourage merriment and feasting has so taken hold that it becomes impossible to cry repentance. Anything that challenges a happy outlook is thought to be negative and of the devil. It creates the misunderstanding that the right to feel good about one’s self is a higher obligation than the duty to teach repentance and forsaking sin.
If you are laden with sin (Isa. 1: 4), it is of no consequence, for God intends that you be happy. It is of little matter that happiness cannot be found in sin (Alma 41: 10), the gospel of positive attitude and flattery will triumph with the ungodly every time when it competes with a warning to repent and return to Christ.

The whole system has been worked out for us. The odds are you’re going to be exalted. Deseret Book has taken a firm stand on that very subject. We have it from God, you see. Because Deseret Book is owned by the church, the church has been headed by a prophet, the prophet can’t lead you astray, and therefore the odds are you’re going to be exalted–  Or so the reasoning goes.

If Nephi’s warning is urged against the tide of permissiveness, supported by this false gospel of positive attitude and false hope, then the message must surely be meant by Nephi for someone other than us. We cannot possibly be among those who incorrectly believe the Lord will justify us in committing a little sin. We do not believe in the utility of a little lie, do we? We do not use words to take advantage of others do we?

What pits have we dug for our neighbors?

By what measure do we advocate to live life pleasantly and not fear death or judgment? How could we be taken with the notion that a little guilt will result in merely a “few stripes” from an irritated, but ultimately tolerant, and permissive God?  What doctrine is it we advance that suggests all of us will, at last, be saved in the kingdom of God?
Assuming this was meant to be a warning to US, the readers of the Book of Mormon, and not to another audience who will never read the book because the aren’t converted to it, then how do we fit into this warning? Do we have a mistaken view of God’s plan? What do we say, preach or believe that would provoke this warning from Nephi? Have you scrutinized the recent manuals from the Correlation Department to see if there is any basis for concern? Have you read the General Conference talks for hints of these teachings? Do you find them there?
How many articles do you find in the LDS Church News, Ensign and New Era which are positive, flattering and reassuring? How many articles confront you, call you to repent, warn you of the judgment and the duration of eternity? (Enos 1: 23.)

Why is the Book of Mormon constantly calling upon us to repent? Why are we not called relentlessly to repentance by our current leaders? Is there a disconnection between the message of the Book of Mormon and our modern messages? Has the Lord changed His mind? Was Nephi just a crank? Is the Book of Mormon a negative book not relevant to an enlightened people who are specially chosen by God for endless happiness and promised they will never be led astray? Why would the Book of Mormon be a message for us? Why do we have a book so negative in tone, pessimistic in its view of us, while we sit atop the promises of never again having to face an apostasy?

What accounts for this disparity?
An interlude by:
Bobby McFerrin:
“Hmmmmmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmmmm, hmmmm, hm-hum-hm-hm…. Don’t worry.
Be happy.”
He’s Mormon now, isn’t he? I heard someone’s friend’s boyfriend baptized him when serving a mission in Southern California….
Poets and artists have been proclaiming the coming apocalypse in songs, art and movies for several decades. Nephi gives us the same message. But we spin happily out of control, loosed from the moorings and tossed by the approaching hurricane, all the while promising one another that it will all turn out right. We are special. We are chosen by God. Surely He will not judge us, nor hold us to account for what we believe. If we’re mistaken, He owes it to us to give us a warning, and an opportunity to repent. Other than that sad account of the prior occupants of this land, He hasn’t done that….
Oh. The Book of Mormon is important, isn’t it?
The foolishness of the doctrines that Nephi is denouncing provokes such dismay that our own foolishness needs to be paraded out in all its stupidity. We just don’t seem to get it. We’re reading Nephi’s warnings to us and pretending they were meant for everyone other than us. They aren’t – they are aiming at us. Read the verse again and try to see our own teachings being laid bare. We are his target. We are his audience. We are being warned.

Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day.

The single greatest institution is also the most successful one in all the earth’s history.  Mothers have kept civilization together from the beginning.

Fathers have been far less valiant in history than have mothers.  Fathers have forsaken their responsibilities to bear priesthood and perpetuate the Gospel with such regularity that the history of mankind is predominately a history of apostasy.  Mothers however, have continued to bear, raise, nurture and love their children.
God bless those who are our mothers or the mothers of our children.  Today  we should honor them in thought and deed.

(I’m doing all the cooking today.  And all the dishes, too.  I think I’ll use TGI Fridays to get them done…)

Philosophies of men

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a great whole.  It requires an overall harmony between all its parts to be understood.  Without that overall harmony it is jarring and discordant.
The problem with apostasy is that it forfeits truths which are necessary in order to comprehend the majesty of Christ’s teachings.  Those truths which get retained are not kept in balance with the rest.  Simple virtues are kept while overall righteousness is forfeited.
No one can argue with the virtue of tolerance.  But it is constrained and governed inside a larger context that prevents permissiveness and sloth.
No one can argue with the virtue of obedience.  Indeed, obedience is itself one of the bedrock requirements of the Gospel.  But divorced from the other virtues inside of which it is regulated, obedience can become a terrible weapon used to separate people from God’s Holy Spirit and drive them into submission to “Popes and Priests.”  (Any man believed to be incapable of leading you into error is a “Pope.”)
No one can argue against the virtue of patience.  But when it is urged to prevent necessary action to develop a god-like people, then it has become a tool for deception and error and not a virtue at all.

Take any virtue and remove it from its overall context within the great Gospel whole and you see how apostasy can warp a people.  They retain the conviction that they are still God’s chosen disciples, because the virtues they practice are in fact, godly.  However, they have become distorted, bloated and swollen.  They are without harmony, capable of great evil or neglect, all the while celebrating their fidelity to the “truth” as they understand it.

You MUST understand doctrine.  You MUST study the scriptures.  But more important than anything else, you MUST seek to gain further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord directly.  Harmony of the whole is dependent upon His direct guidance and blessings.  You simply cannot move forward a piece here and a bit there, while neglecting the whole composite picture of the Gospel.  He will open it to your view.  He will show you how one part is related to another, and that to another still, so that it all moves forward together.  It is not to all be comprehended at once.  It is to be gained a little bit of the whole here, a further harmony of things there, until the whole moves forward together.  Always moving in balance, in harmony and as a complete magisterial revelation of God’s will.
Latter-day Saints are not immune from this problem of disharmony.  Indeed, it is the great challenge which we have faced since the time of the First Vision.  Joseph’s recalibrating of his own life was constant.  He wanted to reward Martin Harris for his support, petitioned for permission to let him take the 116 pages of manuscript, and when he was told “no” he persisted.  When he finally got the Lord’s reluctant permission it was not for Martin Harris’ benefit, but for Joseph’s.  Joseph was to learn a hard lesson about disregarding good advice from a superior Guide.  (D&C 3: 1-8.)  This comprehension of the harmony of the whole is what provoked Joseph to teach: “the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker, and is caught up to dwell with Him.”  (DHC 2: 8.)
Choose your teachers carefully.  None of them will neglect to emphasize a virtue.  However, without the whole of the Gospel in harmony in their own lives, they cannot bring it into harmony for you.  Finding that harmony IS the great challenge in this lone and dreary world, filled as it is, with the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.

Forward or backward

I got asked about loss of teachings or practices within the LDS community.  My response is as follows.

 
It makes no difference whether it is an individual or a community, we are all on a single path that goes two ways – forward or backward. We are either gaining, or we are losing.  We cannot stand still.
 
Whether a group or a person, we are either gaining (restoring) light and truth, or we are losing (apostatizing) from light and truth.  This world is a world of change.  Nothing remains the same.  Everywhere you see either growth, or decay.  These forces are at work everywhere. They are also at work within you.
 
You either search out new truth, find it, live it, and thereby become restored to truth, or you back away from it.  If you are backing away, losing it, neglecting it, and discarding it, you are in the process of apostasy.
 
In a restoration process, there are moments along the way which are marked and notable.  Having the inspiration of the Spirit, or feeling the remission of your sins, or receiving revelation, or having a visit of an angel are notable.  The culmination of the restoration would be to return to God’s presence.  Should that happen, through the Second Comforter’s ministry, then you have been restored in full.
 
In an apostasy process, you also have a few momentous events.  Having a loss of sympathy for others, feeling progressively more critical of others, becoming neglectful of prayers, failing to associate with fellow saints, neglecting the sacrament are early along the path.  Ultimately asking to have your membership terminated, engaging is drug abuse, patronizing the sex industry, are strong signs someone has departed from moving in one direction and has begun to move quickly into the other.  (I’m not saying that these are related, nor that someone who leaves the church voluntarily is doomed to addiction, immorality or worse.  There are many people of good faith who struggle with the church.  That is a different subject.)  It is clear, however, than when a person has become a murderer, seeking to kill the saints, as we have seen in history, such a person has finished the course of apostasy and is beyond feeling.
 
These are examples which try to quickly illustrate the point on a personal level.  Quickly, at the institutional level, we have at one end of full restoration, a return to Zion, and the Lord dwelling among them.  At the other we have a society whose wickedness and abuse of children is so far spread that fire comes down from heaven to destroy them.  Complete restorations and complete apostasies are rare.  What history is made up is the description of struggling along the path.  We ebb and flow back and forth, without becoming fully ripe either way.
 
Christ promised at the end of time there there would be a ripening.  “Wheat” and “tares” will ripen.  Then there will be a harvest. (Matt. 13: 37-42.) However, the haphazard manner of the harvesting makes a full return of Zion before His coming seem unanticipated by the Lord’s teachings. (Matt. 24: 39-40.)  Modern revelation gave us that opportunity.  We clearly have not done so, and at present seem clearly not interested in doing so.  That is a subject for another time, however.  As Christ put it, we need to seek for our individual, complete restoration because the group will not.
 
There are two ways – forward or backward.  It is not required that you finish the course in a day; but times are coming in which the environment will require of you a greater commitment as “wheat” on the one hand, or leave you to descend into becoming a “tare” on the other.  So the direction you are on now is quite important.  Either you are restoring truth or you are discarding it.