Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Baseball

Baseball, like life, makes improbabilities seem like inevitabilities.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

What's Wrong

An email. 

My wife and I, with some other believers, were baptized recently. I fully expected that now I could receive the power of the Holy Ghost. I believed what you said, that "today is once again a day of salvation, and He has set His hand again." If today is a day of salvation then surely He will now hear my prayers and pour out his Spirit upon us who are striving, with all our hearts, to come unto Him.

It has been over two weeks since my baptism. The entire time I have been pleading with the Lord to forgive my sins and allow me to enter in at the gate. I have felt nothing. I talked to one of the other couples that were also baptized that day. They told me that they had felt their baptism was pleasing to God, as they saw a white dove fly by their car as they drove to the chosen spot that day. Yet, they likewise have received no outpouring of the Spirit. This has been very discouraging for them and for me. The husband of that couple remarked to me that he has been thinking, "Is this just another pantomime? Have we been following another illusion?". I have also read the experiences of others on forums, Facebook, etc. who have been similarly baptized since your last lecture. There seems to be a lack of outpourings of the Spirit or baptism of fire experiences. 

Your words from your books and your recent talk speak to me, as they do to others. I'm willing to accept that they come from God. I just don't understand why He isn't following through with His promises. 

I desire to receive the baptism of fire and to take the Holy Spirit as my guide. I've tried to keep the commandments to the best of my knowledge and I believe others have as well. I don't know what we are doing wrong.

______________________
I gave this response:

The Holy Ghost has as the primary effect giving intelligence to man. It is true there are many "gifts" from the Holy Ghost, but the first, most important and clearest effect is to increase intelligence, or in other words light and truth.

The Holy Ghost "grows" in light as we give heed and diligence to the light. (These are all paraphrases of TPJS and D&C.)

Ask yourself:
-Do you believe you understand better now than before your journey began?
-Do you believe you can see more clearly what you need to do next?
-Do the scriptures reveal more to you now than before you began this process?
-Is there any more "intelligence" or light and truth in your life today than before?

If you can answer any of these "yes" then do not doubt, but press on. I have labored decades to learn what I have learned, and I spend some time daily now studying, praying, contemplating and pondering. Although I have had remarkable experiences, I continue to study because the the things of God are deep, and require careful, patient, solemn and ponderous thought to acquire some of what He has made available.

I believe He will not give an original revelation to reveal what He has already revealed to us in scripture. Instead He requires us to first study His words, then when scripture becomes unable to answer the inquiry, He shows us by revelation how to see what is there before us. Some of the greatest things I have beheld by revelation I have then found to be already described in scripture. I just did not have the eyes yet to see it.

Trust God, but follow His pattern.
If on the day of His resurrection Christ spent the day expounding scripture; 
And if Moroni spent the night teaching and reteaching from the scriptures;
And if I spent a year on an assignment expounding scripture;
THEN look to your scriptures. See if you have any assistance studying them. Let them prove to your satisfaction the Holy Ghost can and will speak to you.

____________________________

As I reflected further on this email and my response I thought of Oliver Cowdery's effort to translate the Book of Mormon. The Holy Ghost does not relieve us of great effort, but instead equips us to obtain truth as the yield from our effort.

Joseph Smith proved the pattern true. He investigated all the religions. He attended their meetings, spoke with the ministers, and paid attention to their claims. He could not determine the truth. Then he "labored" over the scriptures. "At length" he finally decided to do as James asks and prayed. His prayer was answered because he did the preliminary work, the required study, and put in the necessary labor.

For three decades I studied and taught the scriptures. Each week between 10 and 40 hours were invested as I prepared to teach a 50 minute class. I labored, the scriptures yielded to study, and I learned more and more about God. The Vision of the Redemption of the Dead found in Section 138 was likewise obtained by study and prayer.

The scriptures are a Urim and Thummim designed to provoke revelation. You cannot divorce the process of getting revelation from necessary scripture study. God made no such thing known to Laman, Lemuel or us when we do not search the scriptures and invest our heart and mind in learning His ways.

I have studied the scriptures for years. By now, they inform most every thought. 
Fill yourself with scripture and see what the Holy Ghost can do then. Read them now and see how they open to you. If you take no thought except to ask and expect God to do the work, you do not understand the difference between "magic" and salvation. We are saved no quicker than we gain knowledge. 

Study the scriptures. Include the Lectures on Faith as part of that curriculum. Study Joseph Smith. Prepare your mind first, then see what God will reveal to you.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Standing Aside

I love the response to the lectures (one talk). But I must stand aside now or wound this process. There are still important things left for me to do. Taking a role in establishing communities would harm, not help. I have had numerous requests to baptize people. When I refuse, then someone else will step up. They will ask God for authority, receive permission by the power of the Spirit, and gain familiarity with a process they need to help them. A process that will empower others through that first step to take another step, and then another. I've spoken with the Lord face to face, as one man speaks to another. Now you need to do likewise.

Joseph Smith spoke to the Relief Society on May 26, 1842: “the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption… applied it to the present state 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." (TPJS, pp. 237-238.) 

Ask yourself this: If Joseph Smith had it all to do over again, and wanted to avoid the problem that darkened the minds of believers, how could it best be accomplished? There seems to be an obvious conclusion - just refuse. Refuse to do what caused their dependence in Nauvoo. 

Joseph’s lament in 1842 was too late. He had a twelve-year practice of being the answer-man, and he would die just two years later. If he wanted to avoid this problem, he needed to begin many years earlier.

It was easy for Joseph to make himself indispensable. It was tempting to do so. But he and the saints would have been better off had he refused to shoulder responsibilities that belonged to others. There are incidents along the way that can be identified as moments when Joseph could have seen a pattern emerging. One example was in November 1831 when a conference was convened to approve publication of the Book of Commandments. The book would need a preface. A committee was assigned to draft the preface. “[William] McLellin said that he, Sidney Rigdon, and Oliver Cowdery had been given the assignment to write the preface to the Book of Commandments, but when they presented their draft to the conference, the ‘Conference picked it all to pieces’ and requested that J[oseph] S[mith] petition the Lord for a preface. After J[oseph] S[mith] and the elders bowed in prayer, JS, who was ‘sitting by a window,’ dictated the preface ‘by the Spirit,’ while Rigdon served as scribe."(Joseph Smith Papers, Documents Vol. 2: July 1831-January 1833, p. 104.) He then dictated what has become D&C Section 1. 

What if Joseph had refused? What if he told them God had a revelation, but the committee should receive it? What if Joseph insisted others perform their duties, rather than relieving them of their responsibility? Had he declined in November 1831, would the talk given in May 1842 have been necessary?

We are going to make mistakes, but we should not make the same ones. Sometimes the only way for people to become better acquainted with the Lord is for those who know Him to remain silent and allow others to go before Him in prayer for themselves. Why intervene to prevent others from gaining strength and experience for themselves?

Joseph handicapped the saints by taking too much of their responsibility on himself. The saints refused to let him alone and required him to be their answer-man. The best thing Joseph could have done would have been to keep riding when he crossed the Mississippi River with Hyrum. He should have headed to the Rocky Mountains. He didn't. The saints continued to depend on him. When he died, they were unable to call down a revelation for themselves. No one proposed to solve succession by revelation.

Consider that for a moment. A church, which was ostensibly founded and based on revelation, gave no thought to asking God for a revelation when Joseph and Hyrum were slain. They held a convention, and several aspirants electioneered to gain control. The campaign speech by Brigham Young won. Then the saints, already conditioned to "follow the leader," trudged off into the wilderness, dutifully submitting to a strongman to guide them. It has been exactly the same since that time. 

How can you be strong if you depend on another to speak with God for you? Moses sought diligently to sanctify his people so they might behold the face of God. (D&C 84: 23.) But they hardened their hearts and could not endure God's presence. (D&C 84: 24.) They demanded Moses speak to God for them. This was a catastrophe which ended any possibility for Zion in Moses' day. Moses could not get those he led to enter God's presence. Joseph failed to have God come to dwell with the saints of his day.

We may fail also. But we will not fail because I accepted a role that has never worked before. We need to repent, be baptized in a way authorized and accepted in heaven, receive the Holy Ghost, and bear one another's burdens so they may be light.

Some are going to be seduced by false spirits. They may or may not repent. Whether they repent and press forward to be ministered to by a messenger from God, and then find God, will depend on how closely they follow truth and light. False spirits prop up egos and pride. Anything of that sort will lead to darkness. 


True messengers and true messages conform to a pattern: "Behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God." (Moroni 7: 13.) More importantly, they have a central focus that will NEVER change: "Every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth man to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil[.]" (Moroni 7: 16.)


Any preacher, leader, bishop, president, apostle, seventy or elder who asks you to believe in men, trust men, accept authority of men, is most certainly not of Christ. (See D&C 76: 99-101.) Anyone who points you to Christ, asks you to seek to know Christ, invites you to struggle to hear and follow Christ, you can know is of Christ. 


Those who boast of their own spiritual prowess as a credential to have you notice them are dangerous. Those who testify of Christ, preach of Christ and ask you to know Him, while admitting their own insignificance, are worth hearing. Everything I believe is anchored in the scriptures. 


Those who are deceived as they struggle to find Christ can repent as soon as they realize they have listened to a false spirit. Joseph was overcome by "thick darkness" before he called upon God and was delivered. Lehi walked behind a man dressed in white for the space of many hours in a "dark and dreary waste" before he called upon God and was delivered. When Adam built an altar and called upon God, it was Lucifer who replied, "I hear you, what is it you want?" Adam had to refuse the offer and await true messengers sent from the Father. 


You will encounter false spirits, as well as true ones if you will persist. You need to be familiar with both in order to choose. These opposing forces are part of the process of becoming competent and adept. No one lacking knowledge of these things can be saved. "A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power." (TPJS, p. 217.)


Do not fear learning and experience. Fear ignorance. Ignorance will damn you.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Will Fail Again

I got an email asking why I thought this new direction would be any better than the many prior attempts launched through Joseph Smith. My response is given below:

_____________________________
Unlike the institution Joseph left us (which may not have been the end of his work had he gone to the Rocky Mountains), the new opportunity is diffused, non-hierarchical, incapable of central control, and free to permit the Spirit to guide.

Unlike Joseph's successors, I have nothing to take, nothing to envy. I paid a great deal to give the talks. Not just in time, but also in money. I had to rent these venues, and allowed the public to come attend for free. Anyone wanting to do likewise will have to incur losses, not obtain gain.

Unlike Joseph's institution, there is no profit in this new restart. Money is not gathered, but used directly among the Saints to help the poor. No one will aggregate money, and therefore no one will likewise aggregate influence, control or political status.

Unlike the many prior groups claiming Joseph as their point of origin, this is entirely equal among all who participate. 

Unlike the prior order, this can spring up anywhere in the world at the same time, if but one person there decides to take action. It is instantly global.

Unlike the prior nearly two centuries, it returns only to the essential, basic doctrine of Christ, allowing all to freely come and accept what is essential, basic and saving. That agreement can unite any of the many divergent faith-traditions, even if they are not otherwise "Mormon" in any sense.  Agreement on what is essential allows all to come and partake freely.

This is Christ's work, not man's. Men participate, respond, and seek for God's approval. But the divergent nature and requirement to connect with heaven before even attempting baptism shows it requires a connection to heaven to even begin. The rudimentary first step is taken with heaven holding the participant's hand. They are NOT and cannot rely on some strongman to guide them, but instead they become strong in their own right to participate. 

These steps were given to allow us to avoid, not repeat, the errors. We will make new ones, but will avoid the big ones from before. Because it is diffused, however, some spirit-filled groups will be allowed to rise, even if others are corrupted by vain and proud participants. There is no overall "organism" that can be co-opted. It will require every single one of the fellowships to all become corrupt before it can fail. Then, too, it can revive again among a worthy fellowship on the same terms still later.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Two Ways

There are two opposing powers which use two different forces. There is love and fear.

Love invites, encourages, waits, supports and rejoices in progress. Love is undeterred by setbacks. Instead, love finds a way to address obstacles and tries again. Love creates.

Fear inhibits, controls, discourages and limits progression. Fear offers setbacks and looks for obstacles to end creativity. Fear rejects what love offers.

If we were all motivated by love, we would never demand anything of one another. Instead we would request, and then be grateful when we received.

Love allows differences in religious views to be shared in a mutual search for harmony. Fear prevents this. Indeed fear causes religious differences to descend into hatred.

Religion cannot bring Zion if it uses fear. It must reject it and allow itself no tool other than love to overcome this world. God is love.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Utopia

Sir Thomas More titled a 1516 book Utopia, coining a term used forever after for an ideal society. Sir More may have coined the term but Utopian ideas go back to Plato's Republic for scholars, and Enoch for Christians and Jews. Fiction writers often try to describe an imaginary perfect society, and Hollywood regularly uses the theme. Mankind yearns for it.

There will be a latter-day Zion. The scriptures give little description, and the smallest of criteria for Zion. "The Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them." (Moses 7:18.) That is the list:
-one heart
-one mind
-dwelt in righteousness
-no poor among them.

Seems simple. The list is so short it begs the questions: Why haven't we done this? Why aren't WE doing this?

There are a lot of "rich, learned, wise and noble" (D&C 58: 10) who think they are going to be residents of Zion because, well, they're rich, learned, wise and noble. They believe they came here with noble heritage making them elect, special, chosen and endowed with great power. I hope they gather. I hope they move right into their Utopian experiment and get to enjoy each other's prideful company.

The ideas given by a kind and patient Lord in Mesa were not mine. I am trying to understand them myself. Here is what I think at present in my struggle with the material:

Families need to develop independent and strong faith in God by worshiping together, praying together, studying the scriptures, performing ordinances like baptism using power given by God, and the sacrament. They should pay tithes and help those in need among them. If there is excess, reserve it for a worthy purpose. There will be some challenges, and some divisions will no doubt require study, faith, prayer and humility to overcome. Eventually they will become one.

When families expand by marriage the new sons-in-law, daughters-in-law and their families should likewise fellowship with one another and practice their religion. As soon as anyone new joins an association, everything fractures again. But time, patience and careful repetition of what went before will eventually restore unity.

If several extended family groups unite in fellowship, disunity returns and rough edges will need to be smoothed out, feelings respected, and different views discussed. Because families have an existing order and likely have a father whose priesthood is known and respected, these groups will require some mechanism for resolving cross-family priesthood questions. Outside a family, a man does not get an automatic recognition to perform an ordinance or render priestly service. The means for recognition of a man's right to serve was provided in Mesa. No fellowship automatically respects any man's claim. Approval will need to be given. Unlike present methods, in these fellowships since only men will have recognized priesthood, they will receive approval to perform by the sustaining by at least seven women. Once this has been done, the combined groups of multi-family fellowships have the means to continue to perpetuate religious service, perform unifying ordinances and worship God together.

At this point I think of the early experiences Joseph Smith had. There was an outstanding, well educated, and politically astute man who helped negotiate the Nauvoo Charter through the Illinois Legislature. He impressed everyone. He was admired, trusted and immediately accepted by the Saints. Joseph added him to the First Presidency. He was elected the first Mayor of Nauvoo. He was the Major-General of the Nauvoo Legion. All of Nauvoo took pride in John C. Bennett and thought themselves blessed by having a man of his stature among them.

His meteoric rise ended in May 1842 when he was excommunicated for adultery. In addition to adultery, he was suspected of polygamy, homosexuality, and performing abortions. The abortions were part of the underground practice of polygamy, terminating unwanted pregnancies to prevent public notice of these sexual improprieties. Joseph Smith learned of these underground sex rings as he presided over Nauvoo High Council proceedings. He was later accused by some of the participants of having approved it in the first (and only) edition of the Nauvoo Expositor.

I also think of the earlier ambitious and enthusiastic Mormon converts who shone brightly for a brief season, then turned cold and dark. Kirtland itself rose in spiritual splendor and promise, only a few years later to drive Joseph and Sidney away under the cover of dark, while a mob gave chase for 200 miles. Kirtland became a community-wide failure.

What has changed? How have we become so much better than they? It is because we have abandoned communitarian ideals and are now stratified into economic divisions, educational divisions, hierarchical divisions, and the "haves" take their status for granted while the "have nots" accept their fate while awaiting a glorious afterlife? Is it because we have pseudo-stability? We have an accepted status quo? Is it because we tolerate a disparate society and that is proof we live in peace?

But one heart? One mind? Living in righteousness? No poor among us?

We are no better than Kirtland, and may be a lot worse. There are just as many Wilson Laws, John C. Bennetts, Chauncey Higbees, William Marks and Ezra Booths among us today as during Joseph's time. Our pride and haughtiness is just as fractioning now as you will find in any generation among any people. We will have to LEARN to be one. Such a distant and guarded mountain peak seems unlikely for us to scale. (At least without considerable individual Divine assistance.)

We have a chance, but only a chance. Required work begins among the people who are the very closest to you - your own family. There you begin to develop the skill to work out interpersonal conflict and resolve turmoil. These are the people you are closest to and should have the greatest willingness to compromise with to problem solve.

We grow incrementally. We develop in stages. We learn skills then use them to solve greater problems using the same skill set we learned through experience.

There may be some great, towering lights who do not need to develop skills at problem solving and who are ready to found Zion today. If so, they should do so. Let us all stand back and admire them. Surely they have much to show the world. Many of these self-proclaiming great ones never sacrifice their name by stepping forward and letting themselves be identified, their reputation attacked, their motives questioned, and their church membership threatened or lost. As the Lectures on Faith inform us, without sacrifice we have no faith, for faith comes by sacrifice and in no other way. Read the Lectures on Faith.

The lecture in Mesa drove many people away and will continue to do so. That is a good thing. Those leaving will not make the required sacrifice, and therefore will not develop faith. They will not be able to gather. God will not allow it.

The lecture, parts 1 through 10, give us the means to develop incrementally. It was to help those who, like me, are not part of the great, towering nobility needing no refinement. It allows me and my fellow poor, lame, blind, and deaf associates (D&C 58: 11) a chance to grow as we struggle to overcome our weaknesses and many shortcomings. I need to work on a great deal. To me, it does not seem easy.

There will be imposters. They will be exposed so they can repent, or they will be sent away. There will be those who are cruel, proud and unkind. They need the opportunity to overcome their character flaws. If they refuse to reform, eventually they will stop associating with us and we with them. Malignant hearts are not easily concealed. Ambition and pride destroy, not build, communities.

I have had high hopes in the past for some seekers I have met. People who have made strong, favorable impressions, at first. A few years later, some of these people I had high regard for prove themselves proud, controlling, dictatorial and unworthy.

Similarly, I have seen some who did not stand out at first but who, over time, have proven themselves godly, self-sacrificing and brave. Time and experience change people. Even now some who are "great" stand in peril before God and may fall. Those who exalt themselves have never been candidates for Zion. Gradually, by degrees, we will see maturity, repentance, kindness and even charity become part of these communities.

The great ones who can bypass such effort should do it now, if they can. They should be the shining example so we can learn. They ought to point the way and let us admire their greatness. Show us Utopia, ye noble and great! I won't ask to be permitted to come in, I only want to admire your accomplishment in the hope I may learn from you.

As for the residue, where I believe I remain, I hope to work out my own development with fear and trembling before God. One day I hope to be gathered. If that day comes, I hope to present no threat to the community because of ambition or pride. I hope to come already disposed to be of one heart and mind with them, having made enough sacrifices along the way to crawl in upon my knees as one of the least. I hope to have developed the skill to be an adept problem solver and an aid to my fellow saint by practicing the things I learned in Mesa in the ways suggested there.

When there is a gathering, I do not think the people invited will believe they are better than others. I doubt very much they will think they have accomplished anything extraordinary. Instead they will marvel at how simple it was to work it out peacefully beforehand, and wonder why mankind has not lived in peace continually since the fall of Adam. Zion will not be proud of itself, because it cannot.

Small choices change destinies. Those who gather before skills have been refined, and before the proud, learned, noble and rich have left, will produce nothing other than Kirtland, Jackson County, Nauvoo and Salt Lake. People need to be driven away, and people need to be refined. This happens simultaneously. It is for a good and wise purpose.

I gave a talk about Zion years ago. In it, I took note that the description in 4 Nephi of the Nephite generations of peace following Christ's visit included three levels of harmony:

One Level:
"there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another." (4 Ne. 1: 2)
A Second Level:
"And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land;" (4 Ne. 1: 13)
A Third Level:
"there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people." (4 Ne. 1: 15).

I think this pattern will need to be repeated. We will not get to a third level of harmony among us unless we first work out and resolve contentions in our families, and then in fellowship groups before we have the ability to do so as a gathered community. Zion must have
-one heart
-one mind
-dwell in righteousness, and
-no poor among them.

If that is not us then we are not Zion.