Tag: doctrine

3 Nephi 13: 22-23

3 Nephi 13: 22-23:

“The light of the body is the eye; if, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.  But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”
The “eye” is better put “your mind’s eye.” It is what you meditate on, what fills you. You choose what you fill yourself with by what you give attention. What you notice is what you care to notice.

Christ’s admonition is troubling because the cares of this world distract us all. They impose upon us all.  But Christ advises us to search endlessly for light.

The difference between filling yourself with light and filling yourself with darkness is what thoughts you entertain.

Everything begins in the mind. Words and works flow from thoughts. (Alma 12: 14.) While all three will be judged, it is in the mind where all else begins.

It is not enough to attempt to avoid evil by memorizing hymns. You can spend as many wasted hours humming hymns as singing rock songs.  Neither one will particularly elevate you. Meditating on doctrine, pressing understanding, pondering deeply and engaging the mysteries of God are what will fill the mind with light.

There is so much in our faith that distracts and substitutes for light and truth. Think about these verses and filling your mind with light and truth:  And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that lightgroweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you;” (D&C 50: 23-25.)

The Psalms were quoted by Christ more than any other scripture. They are filled with truths worth meditation.

Having darkness within you does not require an effort to be deliberately vile. The cares of this world, and coping with Babylon is all that is needed to keep you from acquiring light. Finding light requires a deliberate effort to notice it and take it in.

When we are filled with light the heavens notice. In fact, it is the light within us that heaven notices even from afar.

2 Nephi 29: 8

“Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.”
Why would anyone complain or murmur because God has spoken? We do. Somehow we get offended at the very idea God can or has spoken further. It is disturbing. It requires us to learn more, and may require us to change. It is inconvenient. It is troubling.
But new information from God should always be welcomed. It should be exciting and delightful, even if it requires us to change.
Not only does the Lord remember all nations, but He “speaks the same words unto one nation like unto another.” Meaning two things:  First, the records are going to agree on doctrine, ordinances and practice. There will not be some shocking departure from what we have already learned. But, second, we may find that other records have done a better job of preserving deeper insight into the history or truths than have we.
At one time the record written by Moses contained what is now in the Pearl of Great Price. At one time the record written by Abraham also found in the Pearl of Great Price was among the Biblical record. However, they were lost until they were restored through Joseph Smith. At one time the Biblical record contained the prophecies of Zenos and Zenock, only a small portion of which are still available through the Book of Mormon.
Although the records will agree, that does not mean there will not be significant additions to our understanding as a result of these becoming available. Even the record of the Nephites is sealed, and that of the Jaredites only partially translated. (Ether 1: 4-5.) Joseph and Sidney were forbidden to give the full account of the vision of the afterlife. (D&C 76: 114-115.) So you must not presume that “the same words” will be identical to the teachings preserved in our records. They may include much more.
It is also interesting how the Book of Mormon contains so much more information upon close inspection that it appears to have in a quick read. It is a measure of how seriously we take the Lord’s words as to how carefully we search the text.
As I’ve pointed out, most of the Book of Mormon scholarship is devoted to the question of the book’s authenticity. Word studies, Jewish idioms, internal consistencies, author variances and other examinations of the book have dominated the Book of Mormon library we have produced. I have proceeded from the premise that the book is authentic, that it is what it claims to be, and worthy of respect. Then, based on that premise, I’ve asked what the book teaches. The result has been more than edifying, it has been at times shocking. I’ve found that most of the deepest doctrines taught by Joseph Smith can be found in the Book of Mormon. When his revelations reach the greatest heights, the Book of Mormon equals what is revealed.
We tend to view the Book of Mormon as a “basic” version of doctrine, because we all know there are sealed portions yet to be revealed. However, I think that attitude is wrong. Everything in the sealed portion is already in the book we have in front of us. But to find it we must look more carefully at the text than we generally do.
I keep hoping that by showing respect to the text we can accomplish two things:  First, please the Lord and remove our condemnation from neglecting this valuable ancient record. Second, increase our respect for the value of doctrine. Without the unique doctrines restored through the Book of Mormon, we may as well be Presbyterian or Methodist.

These verses promise us that the testimonies of differing nations will agree.  They will all testify both of Jesus Christ as Redeemer and Savior, and provide the means by which we can come to Him and be saved.

The numerous examples of the Book of Mormon all converge on knowing Christ.  Indeed, the text has more examples of Christ ministering through the veil to mortal men than any other record, including His Judean ministry. It is a veritable treasure of Second Comforter experiences. If you want to know Christ, the Book of Mormon is your best guide.

LDS Books

I was asked to recommend some books.  I am going to first discuss some of what I’ve read over the years.
The first year after joining the church I was eager to learn what the religion was about.  I began reading whatever I could find to inform me about the new faith.  I started with the following, which I obtained from a bookstore inside the home of a woman in the ward: 
A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, by LeGrand Richards.
The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt
Life of Heber C. Kimball
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
Jesus the Christ
Documentary History of the Church by Joseph Smith (all volumes)
I was transferred by the Air Force to Texas, and continued to read there until my discharge from the military.  While there I read the following:
The Life of John Taylor
Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by BH Roberts (all volumes)
Evidences and Reconciliations
The Gospel Kingdom
Mormon Doctrine
The Promised Messiah
The Articles of Faith
The House of the Lord
The Mortal Messiah (all volumes)
Ensign, Conference Report and Journal of Discourses (not all volumes read)
Doctrinal New Testament Commentary
The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother Lucy Mack Smith
Discourses of Brigham Young
Brigham Young: American Moses
Doctrines of Salvation (3 volumes)
Answers to Gospel Questions (5 volumes)
Gospel Doctrine by Joseph F. Smith
Messages of the First Presidency (6 volumes)
By the time I arrived at BYU, I thought I was beginning to understand the faith, at least as it was taught and understood at the beginning.  There was a debate between BH Roberts and the Chaplin of the United States Senate which I really liked.  It was titled “The Mormon Doctrine of Deity: The Roberts and Van Der Donckt Debate.”  Nibley’s book The Timely and the Timeless came out and I still have my original copy.   During law school I also discovered Hugh Nibley, and found an actual Deseret Book store.  Back then Deseret Book sold doctrine.  In fact, almost everything they sold or printed was doctrine or history.  I bought and read until I couldn’t find an early or contemporary work about church history or doctrine I hadn’t read.  I have acquired a library since joining the church that includes every significant LDS doctrinal book as it became available in print.  I still try and keep up with all the current reading that I believe is worthwhile.  But the new stuff is getting thinner and thinner in material, importance and doctrine.  In fact, it is quite rare that a new book isn’t disappointing to me; particularly when it comes from Deseret Book.  The Joseph Smith Papers project is the exception; however it is coming out under the Church’s new publication arm (a division of Deseret Book.)  A good example of the foolishness to which Deseret Book has descended is that Odds Are You’re Going to be Exalted book that came out a couple of years ago. 
That having been said, I was asked by someone what I thought was absolutely essential reading.  Here’s my list:
The scriptures (first, foremost and without peer)
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
Lectures on Faith
Words of Joseph Smith
Approaching Zion, by Hugh Nibley
The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil

I think if you study those six books, you will understand the Gospel.

An emphasis on doctrine

In addition to what I posted earlier about baptism rates, there is another number which is somewhat misleading.  The total member numbers reported in General Conference never deducts for those who are excommunicated or who voluntarily ask to have their membership terminated.  There is likely a doctrinal reason for that.  When a person is excommunicated they are re-baptized to return to membership, but they are not re-ordained to the priesthood.  They are given a blessing to reinstate their covenants and blessings, including authorization to begin using priesthood again.  But they are not re-ordained.  Although they are excommunicated, they retain some affiliation despite the severance.  Nevertheless, most people do not assume someone who has been excommunicated would be counted in the number of total members, but it is my understanding that they are.
Also, I’ve heard estimates from as little as 25% to much more than that as the percentage of members for whom the Church has completely lost contact.  That is, there is some significant number of members whose membership is so tenuous that the Church has nothing but a record.  There is no address, no way to contact them, and no information about whether they are living or deceased.  These people continue to be counted in the total membership number despite their complete absence of contact with or from the Church.
With the significantly lower fertility rate, and an aging population, the Church’s future will not be anything like the projections of Professor Stark.  That is, unless something changes.  

I agree that there may be many reasons for the decline.  However, the most prominent of reasons in my view is the de-emphasis on doctrine.  As a convert to the Church I know what attracted me to become a Mormon.  It had nothing to do with the formulaic discussions of the missionaries, slick marketing or good arguments.  It had to do with doctrine.  I DIDN’T WANT to be a Mormon.  Quite the contrary.  But I knew I should become a Mormon because their doctrines came from God and answered questions other faiths could not begin to answer.

I’d like to see the trend return to a dramatic increase of numbers.  In fact, I think there are many millions in the United States alone who are only kept from the truth because they do not know where to find it.  (D&C 123: 12.)  We won’t attract them to the Church until we begin again to emphasize doctrine.

Repent and Come Unto Me

There is this interesting statement by the Lord found in D&C 10:67-68: Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.  Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.
The statement requires us to
1. Repent, and then
2. Come unto Christ.
Repentance is a lifelong process.  As we get further light and knowledge we have to incorporate it into our lives and change behavior.  Over a lifetime, this should be dynamic, not static.
The more difficult explanation is to “Come unto Him.”  It is my view that this includes fully receiving Him into your life as did the brother of Jared, Nephi, Enos, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Joseph Smith, Daniel, Isaiah, Jacob, Mormon, Moroni, Alma the Younger, Paul, and so many others who have testified of Him.  That is a subject so great that the entire body of scriptures exist to help us accomplish it.
Significant, too, is that whatever is “more or less” than this is not “of my church” according to the Lord.  So we have to take great care to not overstate or understate this doctrine of His.  Adding endless requirements by the commandments of men is “against Him.”  Similarly, any failure to declare the essential nature of coming to Him is also “against Him.”  I think the first verse of D&C 93 is a formula for coming to Him.  That formula declares that, when it is followed, you will see His face and know that He is.