Friday, December 30, 2011


When a new day dawns, should not a man awaken?

What does it profit a man to awaken if he does not arise?

Does a man awaken only then to boast in his own conceit that he no longer slumbers, while all around him remain asleep; yet the man arise not from his bed? Where is the benefit in that?

The coming day will burn with heat, and those who remain in their beds, either asleep or awake, will be burned. If shade is offered but not taken, there is no benefit to awakening.

If His servant comes alone, he is rejected for the lack of witnesses. If with a company, he is rejected for having followers. Clothed with the spirit and filled with light, he is rejected as innovating. If he mourns, he is too sorrowful; and if rejoicing, he is too merry. You need only ask, and the Lord will tell you what you need to know.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Whole Not the Parts

There are a few important ideas that define my understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as restored by the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith. These are the ideas that make the Gospel whole, and not just a group of disconnected thoughts. Until these were part of the core of my understanding, I was left with disconnected dots and no overall harmony from which to orient myself.

First and foremost is that we are not to follow any man or men. No man is worthy of discipleship. Not me, not another. There is only one who is worth following. He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14: 16). Beside Him there is no other person who can save you (Mosiah 3: 17).

This first principle is what has motivated all I have written. It is a mistake to think there is a departure in Passing the Heavenly Gift from the topic begun in The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil. They are both necessary. They do not reflect a change in my testimony or commitment to the truth, only an elaboration on the essential core principle that we are not going to be saved by following men. Rather, you will become "darkened in your mind" if you do so. (TPJS p. 237.)

Second and equally important, it is not the depth of your study that matters, but the quality of your connection with heaven that matters. Expounding doctrine is not only insufficient, it is oftentimes a distraction from what matters. We go from unbelief to belief when we learn truth. Not every source, including institutional sources, can be trusted to tell you the truth. Only the light of Christ, followed by the Holy Ghost is a reliable guide to distinguish between unbelief and belief. We go from belief to faith as we take action consistent with belief in truth. Faith is a principle of power. It will lead you to receive angels who still minister to those of a sound mind, not given to flights of fantasy or unstable behavior (Moroni 7: 30). We are brought from faith to knowledge as angels prepare us through their ministry. (Moroni 7: 31; Moroni 7: 25; Alma 32: 23.) Knowledge comes from contact with Jesus Christ. (Ether 3: 19.) This is the knowledge that saves, and nothing else. (John 17: 3.) The idea that knowledge of Christ through His personal appearance to you is now unavailable is an old sectarian notion and is false. (John 14: 23; D&C 130: 3.)

Third, there is no written record, including the scriptures, which are able to tell you all you must know. You can only know the truth by having it revealed to you from heaven itself. (D&C 76: 114-118.) This is the reason Joseph said if you could gaze into heaven for five minutes you would know more than you would by reading everything that has ever been written on the subject. (TPJS p. 324.) Either you do as James says, and ask of God, or you will forever remain ignorant of the only knowledge which can save a man. (JS-H 1: 13, referring to James 1: 5.)

Fourth, the truth is intended to save us. We should welcome corrections. Too often, however, we are offended and think the truth is a hard thing to endure. (1 Ne. 16: 1-3.) That is a product of pride and arrogance. It is impossible to learn what must be learned unless we are willing to be corrected. (Mosiah 3: 19.) Therefore, only the qualified will arrive at the gates, because the rest are unwilling to take the trip required of them.

Fifth, this is a personal journey which each must take for themselves. It cannot be shared. You must approach the Throne yourself. Joseph was alone when he met the Father and Son. Moses was alone when he ascended the Mount to meet the Lord. Enoch was alone when he was caught up to heaven. Elijah was alone on the mountain when the whirlwind, lightning and earthquake preceded the Lord's own voice. Daniel alone saw the vision of the Lord. Paul alone saw the light. Nephi alone saw his father's vision. Enos was alone in the wilderness in his encounter with God. Abraham was alone when the Lord spoke to him. Jacob slept alone when the ladder to heaven descended for him. You will also be alone should the Lord come to visit you. This cannot be borrowed from another.

These are the core. This core is what faith, repentance, baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost are meant to bring about. The religion of heaven always involves heaven. It does not involve men and administration and popularity. It is solitary, between you and God. The proud, however, are content to proclaim their righteousness and sit in judgment of others. They live without God in the world (Mormon 5: 16), and their end will be destruction. They think their own imagination is revelation, and they foolishly value only their conceit. (Proverbs 26: 11-12.)

I will never flatter you. But I will never lie to you, either. My faith in the Gospel is stronger now than the day I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My fidelity to the church is greater now than it has ever been. It offered me baptism and I gladly accepted. If offered me scriptures, and I gladly accepted. It offered me ordination, laying on hands, washings, anointings, covenants and sacraments, and I gladly accepted them all. It gives me fellowship, and I value it. But my faith is in Christ alone.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Visit to Temple Square

We took all the kids who are home, our foreign exchange student from Slovakia, and a friend of my daughter's to visit Temple Square last evening. The place was crowded. That's an understatement;. It was packed. At times the sidewalks were "sidestands," because no one seemed to know you could walk on them.

The impatient crowding and the cold made the overall experience less than I'd hoped. After crowding about in the Square itself, we maneuvered to the east, exiting the Square onto former Main Street by the large reflecting pool. There wasn't any relief there from the congestion and stern faces. People seemed quite determined, though it was hard to see of what.

We found some open space between the two sides of City Creek on the frozen grass and took a few group pictures with the eastern face of the Temple in the background. Then visited the Nativity scenes from other countries in the court area between the Administration Building and the Church Office Building. My daughter's friend needed to visit the restroom, so we set out for the North Visitor's Center, using the sidewalk on North Temple to avoid the congestion. As we entered North Temple there was a beggar on the ground. Now that the church owns the property, beggars are not allowed into Temple Square, Main Street,  or in the campus area to the east. I gave some money to my daughter who is home from the University of Wyoming, and she gave to the beggar. That helped improve the spirit of the evening. Reminded us of the condition we occupy in relation to God. (See Mosiah 4: 19.)

At last, arriving in the Visitor's Center it was even more crowded than outside. There was a small rivulet of movement against the north wall before the desk, and at the moment we arrived the rivulet was occupied by outward bound Sister Missionaries headed back out to the frigid throngs. I noticed a wool cap on the floor, picked it up and held it high above my head for the owner to notice and come to reclaim. No one did. After a few minutes of holding it up, I asked a Sister Missionary with a Swiss Flag beside her nametag if there was a "lost and found." She said it was at the desk beside the north wall. So I entered the rivulet and headed inward. Those who were not visiting the restroom followed me. We settled beside the lost and found north desk to await the return of our missing company.

In the North Visitor's Center there was a youth choir in the southeast corner of the main floor singing some forgettable Christmas tune. I was taken by the expressions on the faces of those in the crowd as they either pressed into one another trying to move, or stood about in exasperation. The event was not what they had hoped for either. I lapsed into a quiet thoughtfulness of the circumstances, and wondered at how little joy seemed to be all about me in this crowded place.

Then it happened. It only took six notes to recognize the coming hymn. A cascade of memories of that song came back to me. The first time I remember recognizing it was in high school, when two of my classmates sang a duet. Debbie Penn was one of them, and I forget who accompanied her. When I first heard it I was stirred to reflection. For years it has been my favorite Christmas Hymn, even though it is terribly difficult to sing it well. On occasion, as I try to sing along, I will mutilate it. I cannot do the hymn justice, and I hope the Lord recognizes in my sincerity a slain sacrifice offered in honest devotion.

Then the female voices joined in the melody:
O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.

They were perfect. Here was the greatest of Christmas Hymns being presented by the loveliest of chorus voices. I was transfixed. The crowds began to disappear and I was in deep reflection.

It was a holy night. That night represented more than just His birth. It represented also the beginning of an infinite sacrifice. It is difficult to adequately state how great the condescension of God in coming here. His great condescension began by coming into the flesh. (1 Nephi 11: 16-20.)

He explained to the Nephites His great status before His birth. He was the one who gave the Law to Moses on the Mount. (3 Ne. 15: 4-5.) The glory He displayed on the Mount was inexpressible. Moses attempted to convey some idea using precious stone and referring to the bright glory of heaven itself. (See Ex. 24: 10, but the translation is not a fair expression of the idea in Hebrew in which "the clear, bright glory of heaven" should probably replace "the body of heaven in his clearness.")

A great, glorious Law Giver, whose glory was like the brightness of Heaven itself, condescended to become confined to a body of dust. Condescension indeed! Even before offering Himself as a sacrifice, He descended from glory to dwell here in the dust among our fallen race. The enormity of that step can hardly be put into words.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. ...

Here, in the newly born body of our Lord, was Hope come down to this fallen world. What humility exists in the God of Glory who would choose to come here. We are all important because God came from His lofty position down to be among us, to rescue us all. What greater proof of man's worth can there be than this great condescension by a Holy Being?

Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angel voices! ...

The angels came to announce His birth. In their joy they could not contain their feelings, and words alone would not do. They broke out in hymns of praise. Only the combined voices of a glorious chorus could give vent to the feelings within the message of His coming! (Luke 2: 13-14.) Enoch saw this coming, and also rejoiced at the Lamb destined to be slain, at last coming into the flesh! (Moses 7: 47.)

The crowd before me in the Visitor's Center transformed. They were not longer a busy, distracted, stern body pressing against one another. Each of them showed the merit of a God who came to dwell with them. They are all holy. They are all His handiwork.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother. ...

We are our brother's keeper after all. If we love one another, we are only loving Him. (John 13: 34.)

As the chorus completed the great hymn of praise I was grateful for the reminder of that Holy Night when Christ was born. We all still kneel before His great presence, for nothing else will adequately show our adoration of Him. (3 Ne. 11: 17.) We dare not stand in His presence until His command to "arise." (3 Ne. 11: 20.) At the command, a momentary conflict takes place inside you between the inappropriate pride to stand in His presence and the compelling respect for His command. All doubts presently flee. His word is sovereign. It is obedience to His will that lets you stand before Him.

As my group reassembled and left the North Visitor's Center, I was glad we had come. And glad for the great anthem I'd heard from the teenage choir. It was just what I'd hoped to find when we first departed for Temple Square.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

History is the stuff

Almost always when an institution or group claims to have authority from God, the primary enforcement tool used to establish control over others is fear. Authority from God relieves the claimant to the authority of any need to display merit apart from the claim of authority itself. The Catholics were able to engage in excesses, abuses, even outright institutional evil, but these great wrongs were regarded as unimportant because of the claim to have authority from God.

God's holiness was embodied in "keys" given from Peter. They were thought to allow holders of the authority to seal in heaven. This silenced the critics. The fear of being kept from heaven or consigned to hell was enough to rule over the souls of men. They could claim they acted from a higher plane, with God's ways remaining mysterious, even incomprehensible to the common man. The power of God can judge others, but no may can judge God under this system.

If mental coercion did not work, then credulous and cruel believers could be employed to intimidate and get control. If more was needed, the Catholic hierarchy felt no inhibition at using violence to be able to rule and reign over the souls of men.

The Pope did not need to display virtue, only power. He did not need to produce revelation or expound on how men could entertain angels, only to appear in the seat of power, displaying the incidents of authority, wealth, privilege, standing above the common man in a place filled with art, treasure, statuary surrounded by supporters. These trappings were a substitute for revelation and authentic fruits from heaven.

This formula worked to keep all of Christendom subordinate to the rule of oftentimes wicked, even cruel, men. For nearly a thousand years it monopolized power over men. Because these pontiffs claimed to hold God's authority, people feared them and were loathe to challenge them. When the bedrock of an institution's claims rests on authority, these failings are almost always eventually unavoidable. God's power is so resilient, so powerful, so vital for salvation that almost all men will surrender to it or be forced to submit when a group trusts that it exists.

These are powerful forces. When released upon the stage of history, they are meant to be held by only the meek, the humble, and the servants of all. Never by the proud, the vain, and the ambitious. But it is always the proud, the vain and the ambitious who are drawn to seek to hold such authority. Hence the many sycophants who always congregate at Rome.

We see some of this very excess on display within radical Islam today. Brutality is justified by God's power; God's right to kill. No one questions God's right in such matters. But what man is there who can be certain of God's will until he has stood in His presence and learned how great a gulf exists between the foolishness of man and the holiness of God? But those are rare indeed. It is far easier to claim to speak FOR God than to actually speak WITH God. Whole cable networks are filled with clamoring clergy claiming to speak for Him. They'll be the first to burn, because the command to not take the Lord's name in vain is, after all, one of the Ten Commandments.

History is the stuff from which most clearly the warnings of scripture take form in flesh and blood. All the warnings are there, but we frequently believe them only applicable to those we know to have fallen. But the lessons were always meant for us. ...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wickedness and Destruction

The cycle of wickedness and destruction often includes a complete inability of the wicked to detect their grave errors. They have their religion, and are comfortable with it. They think their pretenses are enough.

Ezekiel saw a vision of the destruction of the "chosen people" beginning at their Temple. The destroyers were told to wait before the slaughter began. First an angel would mark the foreheads of those who "sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof." (Eze. 9: 4.) Meaning there were a few among the chosen, who knew their religious practices were used to justify abominable behavior. These few did not just condemn the wicked, they "sighed" and "cried" for their fellow saints. They prayed, made intercession, hoped for more time, and urged repentance.

The larger group, however, were content with their abominations and thought themselves righteous. They were not marked, nor spared. The command was given to slay them all, utterly, and spare none "both maids and little children, and women." (Eze. 9: 6.)

In the vision Ezekiel saw the destruction begin at the Temple. (Eze. 9: 6.)  It began there because it was the Temple which these corrupt people believed to be proof of their great righteousness and also their favor with God. Therefore the destruction needed to begin there.

The angel faithfully marked only those who were aware of the abominations and who would not join in with it. (Eze. 9: 11.) When the destruction began, the Lord was committed to His judgment, and declared "mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head." (Eze. 9: 10.)

This is a useful chapter to consider. (Ezekiel Chapter 9.) It reinforces the importance of repentance, when it is offered. When the offering ends, it is followed by judgment and destruction.

How odd it is that the self-proclaimed "righteous" are almost without exception those who are most wicked, fallen, abominable and proud. You rarely encounter a corrupt group in the Book of Mormon who are not also quite involved in a false religion. The false religions in the Book of Mormon frequently teach that the followers are righteous and highly favored of God. (See, e.g., Alma 31: 14-18.)

Wouldn't it be amazing if this kind of mistake could be made again by people who think themselves holy, better than others who do not enjoy the fullness of God's favor/Gospel, and destined for salvation while all others were doomed to an inferior kingdom? It's almost too ridiculous to even consider. Those things are behind us now, aren't they? Because we are promised salvation, and for us to fail would be for God to fail, and we know He's not going to do that.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


I was asked at what point a car ceases to be a car. If it runs out of gas and cannot move is it still a car?

What if the engine is broken, and therefore it would not matter if there was gas, once it is broken is it still a car?

What if both the engine and transmission are beyond repair?

What if you cannot even push it because the tires and wheels are gone and it is sitting on blocks beside the road. Is it still a car?

If it bears some superficial resemblance to a car, is it still a car no matter what condition it is in or whether it works or not?

After thinking for a few minutes I responded: It was never meant to be a car. It was always about the destination. When the car stops for whatever reason, you get out and walk toward the destination and have gratitude for how far the car was able to take you before it stopped. It was never about the car in the first place. You must keep moving.

He was grateful.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Out of Season Fruit

I've been asked several times about the comment that Adam and Eve partook of the fruit "out of season" in the Elijah Talk.  Since it's come up more than once, here's an answer I gave to one of those who inquired:

They would have eventually received the command to partake.  If they had waited for that command, the "fall" would have introduced the kind of opposition experienced during the Millennium rather than the kind we now have.  Opposites only required: 1) change and 2) death.  Both will be present during the Millennium.

The Garden of Eden is an allegory, and we all pass through a "Fall from Eden" to come here.  But there are many other worlds, see D&C 76: 24.  Among these countless others, ours fell the greatest. See Moses 7: 36-37.  We are singular in our fallen state, and qualify as the "most wicked" of any of God's creations. Here we suffer, but with the opportunity to grow by making sacrifice. We all came here to offer sacrifice. Just being here is a form of sacrifice, and we will all submit to death to leave here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Answer to Moroni 8: 8

I got asked about Moroni 8: 8 and the issue of "circumcision" posted earlier. Moroni 8 is a letter from Mormon to his son, Moroni. In the 8th verse he (Mormon) quotes the Savior  as having said, in relation to infant baptism, the following: "I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me." My response is this:

First, the comment is about "little children" who do not need ordinances. They do not need baptism, and they do not need circumcision. Little children are exempt and the requirements are fulfilled in every respect by Christ's atonement. Therefore, they needn't be baptized, needn't be confirmed, needn't have circumcision; and they needn't comply with any of the requirements for salvation because Christ atoned for all sin arising from the Fall of Adam. They, "little children" that is, are not sick and therefore do not need a physician.

The teaching leaves open, however, the question about adults. Originally circumcision was an adult ordinance. When restored through Abraham, it was made an infant ceremony. The Law of Moses kept it something for infants. Christ removed all accountability for any law in the atonement for all infants, through the age of 8, who are not accountable before Him.

The issue, however, is whether this is satisfied for adults as well. Moroni 8: 8 does not address that question. The earlier post does attempt to address it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Flattery and Repentance

It is the mark of a false message that it relies on flattery. (See Alma 46: 5; 61: 4; Jacob 7: 4; Mosiah 27: 8; 2 Ne. 28: 22.)

It is the mark of a true message that it calls for repentance. (D&C 6: 9; 11: 9; Mosiah 18: 20; 25: 22.)

Christ's message is always to "repent" and then to "come to Him." (Moroni 7: 34.)

There has never been a bona fide, reliable, infallible source of truth which cannot be compromised in this world. But there has always been a bona fide, reliable, infallible message of truth which does not compromise. It is the message of repentance.

Monday, December 12, 2011


This world is the place of sacrifice. We all came here to make sacrifices. We wanted to come here, we knew it would require sacrifice to produce the faith necessary for salvation, and we gladly came.

Christ is the great Prototype of the "saved man" according to the Lectures on Faith.  He came and gave Himself as a sacrifice, and we are to "follow Him" if we are to be saved.

We came here to lay on the altar everything, our desires, appetites, passions, and everything with which the Lord has blessed us. Abraham put his beloved son on the altar, intending to kill him and then burn his remains, because God asked it of him. He did not refuse. However bitter, terrible and painful the request, the Lord asked it of Abraham and he proceeded to offer it.

No one obtains the faith necessary for salvation unless they are prepared to sacrifice all things to God. Faith for salvation cannot otherwise be obtained. Read the Lectures on Faith again. You'll see it is all set out there.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cycles of Truth

The ordinances have been the same since Adam, according to Joseph Smith.  He explained that "[Jesus] set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever." (TPJS p. 168.) Also, "Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundations of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed." (Id., p. 308.) This is why Joseph "restored" the Gospel, but did not bring anything new. It was a return to the earlier, forgotten truths.

Christ was careful to explain what was "fulfilled" in Him and what remained still intact from His earlier dealings with mankind. He "fulfilled" and brought to an end the Law of Moses. It ended. It was fulfilled. But everything else remained and was still in effect. Part of His explanation was as follows:

And he said unto them: Marvel not that I said unto you that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.
 Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses.
 Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end.
 Behold, I do not destroy the prophets, for as many as have not been fulfilled in me, verily I say unto you, shall all be fulfilled.
 And because I said unto you that old things have passed away, I do not destroy that which hath been spoken concerning things which are to come.
 For behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled; but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me. (3 Nephi, 15.)

Was Abraham a prophet? Did he live before Moses? Was the covenant with him fulfilled in Christ's fulfillment of the Law of Moses? If Abraham preceded Moses by more than three centuries, how is the later Law of Moses related to the earlier covenant?

Here is part of the covenant between Abraham and God, to endure throughout all generations of those who claim part of Abraham's covenant:

 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
 ¶And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
 12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
 13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

Since the covenants between God and man were established in the heavens before the foundations of the world, as Joseph explained, I suspect the covenant of circumcision did not originate with Abraham. I suspect it was restored through him, but came down from the beginning. I believe if we had a full record we would find that originally the covenant was established through Adam. That it was originally intended to be performed by the male in contemplation of marriage. That the covenant of marriage, like all covenants, required the shedding of blood to be in effect. For the man, circumcision sealed with the shedding of blood his covenant to marry. For the wife, the virgin sacrificed blood at the marriage. But those things are now long forgotten, lost to time, and could only be known today by revelation.

If Joseph's statement is correct, and Adam had the fullness of the Gospel, then every prophet from the beginning has only "restored" lost truth. It has been a search to return to the original truth. After all, Christ came to Adam three years previous to his death and comforted him. (D&C 107: 53-57.) Such an event strongly indicates Adam had the fullness. The Gospel is, therefore, in all likelihood a search into the ancient order of things, not a leap forward into something new. In order to go forward, we will need to go back.

It is an interesting question to contemplate whether the Lord was serious about the token becoming a memorial of His "covenant [which] shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant." Also, although the New Testament debates over "those of the circumcision" determined not to require circumcision of adult converts, they did not have 3 Nephi, Chapter 15 to inform their debate. (For New Testament references, see, e.g., Romans chapters 2 & 4, Galatians chapter 5, among many other places.)

I would doubt there will be any uncircumcised males included in the latter-day Zion. It is, at least for me, an interesting question to contemplate.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The First Three Words

In addition to the Elijah talk recently posted, we have decided to also upload the "First Three Words." A great number of blog readers have requested this and had it emailed to them, and we are still occasionally receiving requests. Thanks to technology and the internet and all that good stuff we are providing that one as a pdf as well.

We hope you all enjoy and everyone have a joyous Christmas season focusing on Christ.

CM - the moderator

The First Three Words


Here is the Elijah talk given at Confetti Books in October.  

Elijah Talk

Monday, December 5, 2011

Answer to Inquiry

I received criticism about using John D. Lee as a source in Passing the Heavenly Gift. My response was this: Though he was excommunicated from the church, convicted of the crime and executed for his role in Mountain Meadows, the church reinstated John D. Lee to full fellowship in 1962. His temple ordinances were restored, and so far as the church is concerned all his blessings returned.

There are things in the church's archives that have never been made public. Therefore, the church knows things about John D. Lee's role in the incident that have not been made available for me to review. In the recent book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, one of the LDS Church Historians (Richard Turley) makes a number of acknowledgements about the event. I presume he was acquainted with material in the archives when he did so.

The primary sources for my views are the work of Juanita Brooks and the recent Richard Turley books, not John D. Lee's work. However, I think it is now a mistake to ignore what was said in Lee's book. If the church believed he deserved reinstatement of all blessings, including his temple rites after what he wrote about the event, then I think it is a mistake to just ignore it.

I read Lee's book with his attitude at the time it was written fully in mind. There were competing motivations. On the one hand, he was decidedly disaffected and felt betrayed by Brigham Young and the church. On the other hand, he was about to die and wanted to part this world telling the truth. Each reader will have to decide for himself which motivation prevailed. I found parts of the book were not credible to my mind because the incident was too remote and his retelling seemed to have too much detail for me to believe it wasn't being embellished. But there were other parts which were very believable. His acknowledgements of wrongdoing and acceptance of his faults, particulary in his own family and among his plural wives, seemed to me to be an authentic effort of a man about to die to set matters straight.

In the end, I think his work is something that needs to be read and considered. I wanted corrobration to important details, but since the church has more information than has been given to the public, and decided in the light of that information to fully reinstate John D. Lee, it is no longer appropriate to dismiss him out of hand.

I also considered the criticism that his lawyer could have altered the text to make it more salacious before publication. I reached my own conclusion about that and do not think there was enough of that to warrant the conclusion that the text represents the story of the lawyer, and not John D. Lee's. Anyone reading it should consider the historical criticisms made about the book.

On another subject altogether, if you're in Beaver, Utah, check out Hammy's. It is a new fast-food restaurant now occupying the old Arbys building just off I-15. The Arby's signs were still up when we stopped there on our way home, and at first we thought we were going to Arby's. After trying the place, I have to say I prefer it to Arbys. It's our new favorite place to stop when we're in Beaver.

We drove to Las Vegas in a snow storm on Friday. My daughter's last softball games were down there. The drive down was exciting. We lost count of the wrecks we passed, or, in one occasion, drove through. Stayed in Circus Circus. I learned that Las Vegas still considers men who wear their uncontrolled lusts on their countenances, who are willing to pay money to titilate themselves in their desperate hormonal slavery, "Gentlemen." They organize "clubs" for them. Somehow there are enough of them to apparently make a profit from catering to their weaknesses.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Editing and Expanding

I've been working with the transcript of the Elijah Talk for the last week. It is expanding from what was done in the oral presentation. I had a two-hour time frame to speak in that evening. Therefore the material was adapted to be presented in that time. For the transcript, however, I don't feel the same constraint. Therefore I have been expanding the information to reflect other related ideas which would not fit into the time allowed.

I've also been adding footnotes and showing the sources from which the ideas were taken. There are over 190 footnotes in the first 28 pages. Right now the paper appears to be some 37 pages long, but it has a tendency to continue to expand as I edit further into the document. When finished I expect it may grow to 43 or so pages. But then it will be edited to reduce redundancy, etc. and shrink again.

At the moment, I'm hoping to have it done by next weekend, but make no promises. It will be made available for anyone interested. Given the length, however, it cannot be put up here as a post. Instead it will either be sent as a pdf copy by email, or posted as a pdf you can either download or read on-line.

I've been struck by the quantity of scriptures which were relied on in the talk. It isn't clear that the ideas come from scripture until you go back through and cite to the sources. Then the entire talk becomes a foray into the Standard Works.

This effort reminds me once again just how delightful the faith restored through Joseph Smith was intended to be for those who follow it. It is a feast that includes "all truth." Mormons should be the most open, inquisitive, searching minds in the universe. The faith spreads from antiquity to all eternity. We are the only folks claiming to be Christian whose scriptures include Egyptian hieroglyphs, some of which are left unexplained and for the reader to search out. In other words, our scriptures raise questions which they deliberately do not answer. We are forewarned, therefore, by our own Standard Works, that we have a job to undertake for ourselves if we want to learn the truth. What a delight it is to be Mormon.

I hope those who want to cut off discussion, curtail thought, stop the search for truth, and censor differing views realize they advocate apostasy from the original vital, living, delightful religion of Christ. If they succeed, they reduce our restored faith to just another dead faith, without living root or branch, separated from the living vine, who is Christ. So long, however, as there remains even one soul willing to search for the truth in Christ, the Restoration remains alive.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Two Suggestions

There are two suggestions I'd offer to you. First, when you read the scriptural accounts of answers to prayer, ask yourself if there is additional information given by God beyond the topic raised by the prayer or petition to God, in the answer received. The prayer or petition is what the prophet wanted to know. The answer, when it goes beyond that, is what God wanted to be known.

In the First Vision, Joseph wanted to know what church to join. He learned not to join any of them. But it was the rest of the information which was the Lord's agenda, not Joseph's.

When the Brother of Jared asked about lighting, that was his concern. The answer solved the problem, but went well beyond that. The answer included a revelation about the entire earth's history and destiny.

Section 76 resulted from an inquiry about "heaven" but included a great deal more.

Section 107 satisfied the inquiry about how to organize the church, but it went well beyond that.

It is the additional information which tells you what the Lord wants us to know. Where He would like our attention directed. Follow that suggestion and you'll find a great deal of what we often overlook.

Second, I'd suggest you read Passing the Heavenly Gift as a doctrinal exposition, rather than a history. The history can be disorienting and upsetting, even though it was intended for an audience which was already aware of issues and needed to be reoriented and comforted. If you are content with the traditional story, the book wasn't written for you. But if you elect to read it anyway, then read it as an exposition of what the original doctrine was at the beginning with Joseph Smith.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Elijah talk not transcribed yet

The talk referred to earlier today is still the "First Three Words" or the King Follett discussion.  There are people who still request it. The talk on Elijah given at Confetti Books has not been transcribed yet. 

Sorry for the confusion.

Recent Conversations

I have a few requests for the talk mentioned on this blog. I will send those out later today to the ones who have requested them.

This morning I finished reading the Book of Mormon again. I've lost count of how many times I've read it through now. Dozens, if not hundreds. It still contains new information and powerful doctrine that I haven't noticed before. It is apparent they had the Temple rites. They were in possession of greater knowledge than we have among ourselves.

A few days ago I had a conversation with a former Mormon who became Catholic when he left the church. He finished reading Passing the Heavenly Gift and wanted to talk to me about it. It was a wonderful conversation. He talked openly about his experience as a Latter-day Saint and how much the church changed during the four decades he was a member. He talked about how much he liked being a member at first, and how he thought it was the church that changed and not him. He thought it had become increasingly dictatorial and harsh over the years he belonged, and he was at last completely alienated from it.

I mentioned the historic excesses of the Catholic Church, the terrors exercised by their priestly authorities during the Dark Ages and the atrocities of the Inquisition. He admitted their historic shortcomings, but thought these errors were now all behind the Catholics. They had learned from their mistakes, and were now keenly aware that they cannot dictate to people in a modern, pluralistic and secular society. They were now more broad-minded, tolerant and accepting of freedom to think and behave than perhaps almost any other Christian faith. There are things such as abortion and homosexuality, which the Catholic Church condemns, but despite this, whenever personal failure occurs the church's role is to forgive and to support. There is almost no thought given to church discipline, even in the case of transgressing priests who engage in pedophilia, and homosexual abuses. They accept and rehabilitate, condemn sin, but do not cast away the sinners.

As we talked, he said he expected that Mormonism, which is still in its infancy, will make the historic errors of the Catholic Church rather than to learn from history. He believed Catholicism's great mistakes were in the past, but he thought Mormonism's great mistakes are still in its future. He thought it was unlikely my LDS faith would learn from what I'd written in my book and turn away from its current direction. He thought my book offered an opportunity for Mormonism to reassess itself and turn into a more open, hopeful, helpful and tolerant faith because it would be necessarily more humble if it faced down its history.

Well, there were things we could agree on and things we will respectfully disagree. But I respect his faith because it is sincerely held. And he respects mine because he knows of my devotion to it. I enjoyed the open discussion. Neither of us felt threatened by the conversation and neither of us was trying to convert the other. We respected the choices each made in their faith.

As my wife and I walked and talked later that night, we discussed the problem of fear that is often an undercurrent when discussing religion with other people. Whether consciously or unconsciously fear is a great problem when the topic is religion. We puzzled over why that is the case.

With Latter-day Saints, the idea of a "testimony" can be an impediment to increased learning. That should not be the case. A person should be able to have a testimony and learn something new, even if it has the effect of changing their testimony. In fact, it is impossible for a testimony to grow if the new things must always conform to what is presently known. If a person's understanding is limited, incomplete, or even mistaken, then when a new idea that conflicts with these incomplete, limited or mistaken ideas is encountered, the temptation is always to resort to measuring the new ideas by the old, mistaken ones.

The Nephites followed the Law of Moses. But when Christ taught them He informed them the Law was fulfilled in Him. (3 Ne. 15: 2-4.) Can you imagine what the result would have been if the Nephites chose to measure Christ's message against their "testimony of the Law of Moses." They would have rejected our Savior, knowing that He was false and trying to deceive them because He was teaching something that conflicted with their prior testimony.

Fear is a tool used to limit inquiry. Fear is a tool used to keep people from repenting and facing God. The path to God can only be found when you refuse to share in the confederacy of fear held by your fellow man. (Isa. 8: 11-13; see also 2 Ne. 18: 11-13.) For those controlled by their fears, they will view Christ's way as a stumbling block and an offense. (Isa. 8: 14-15; also 2 Ne. 18: 14-15.)

What if your testimony is incomplete? What if your understanding is wrong? How can God ever work to your satisfaction if you refuse to acknowledge His gifts among His people? (Moro. 10: 24-25.)

As our conversation continued, my wife was of the view that fear is one of the most effective ways to prevent learning. It shuts more minds and curtails God's gifts more than any other tool in Satan's arsenal. It takes faith to allow your beliefs to be corrected by the Lord's continuing revelations. He always imparts things that are unexpected, and which require you to adjust what you are thinking to a new, and greater light.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I'd been thinking of putting something up about Thanksgiving and using some New Testament things I've been reflecting on, but it changed today when I got my mail. Now I thought I'd just put up a short comment on another matter.

The practice of law is largely just work and the means for providing for my family. I like to be able to assist in solving problems between people, but oftentimes the work involves disputes which are intractable among people who want to vent against an opposing party. It is a real privilege to work for someone whose cause is just and who has been put upon in an improper way. That, however, is not always the client.

I have a client who has spent several years in prison on a conviction of a felony which he did not commit. The system failed. I did not represent him in his trial, nor in the appeal which followed. But I was asked to assist him once the Appellate court had denied his appeal. After four years in prison there are limited options to try and get him freed from prison. He has a great deal to be angry over, and little reason to be giving thanks for how his life has been afflicted from a system which has, in his case, failed.

Nevertheless, today I got a hand-made card in the mail from him, thanking me for the work we are doing on his behalf to seek his freedom again. Tomorrow I am going to have my children read his card, sent from prison, and use it to celebrate our own many, many blessings.

We all have much to be grateful for. A man I met after he read some of my books died of brain cancer last week. I was able to talk with him before his death. I tried to cheer him, but found it was instead him who was cheering me.

Life is difficult for everyone. But every life is also filled with blessings. Whether we notice the blessings seems to be entirely optional. But what seems almost mandatory is that we notice the problems, the slights, the disappointments and the failings we each endure here. Tomorrow, however, I intend to be not only superficially grateful, but genuinely so; and to reflect on recent events and the home-made card I received from prison to remind me once again how God blesses me almost beyond measure.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christ The Opener

Christ is the one who opens the heavens. (Ether 4: 9.) It is at His command the heavens open and close.

Those to whom the heavens remain closed and to whom angels no longer minister are practicing a faith which is vain. (Moroni 7: 37.)

Nephi warned us against a faith which claims Christ had finished His work and given His power to men. (2 Ne. 28: 5.)

Neither God nor His Gospel change. (Moroni 8: 18.)

I care nothing for men or their precepts. Man's precepts will only condemn us at the last day. (2 Ne. 28: 26-27.) I care only about Him at whose command the heavens are opened; and for those whom He sends through the opening He causes to occur. All else is vanity-- because it cannot save.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gospel Study

There are issues some Saints believe are fully resolved which, upon closer study, turn out to be much less clear. I'm quite comfortable with investigating claims, history and doctrine even when it creates long periods of uncertainty while I research the topic. I've spent years following the trail on some issues before reaching a conclusion.

I'm converted to the restored Gospel. I have absolute confidence in Joseph Smith's calling as a latter-day Prophet. His life is worth careful study. Even minute details are sometimes quite important. The available material for studying his life has greatly expanded in recent years, and is in the process of expanding further as The Joseph Smith Papers project continues.

Some Saints are anxiety ridden when something new is raised about the Prophet, the church's history or doctrine which they thought was "settled." But that is largely because they are insecure about the search into truth. I understand that and even sympathize with it. But I came into the faith as a convert, and therefore it required a search by me in the first place.

When I write about the conclusions I have reached the "audience" is not necessarily intended to include life-long members of the church who have a sedentary approach to their religion and who hope the church's formal programs represent everything God wants them to know. I am pleased to leave them alone. They aren't interested in the search, don't care to learn anything new, and have little in common with the religion I believe. I do not write for them. To the extent my writing causes alarm for them, I understand. But I'm really not trying to tell them anything.

Those who believe the faith, want to explore its depths, and enjoy reading the thoughts of similarly motivated Saints are the only people who should have any interest in what I write.

Mormonism was (originally) intended to include "all truth." But the available information in 1844 has now transformed. It is transforming now almost daily. But not by sampling opinions-- that is completely worthless to the search for truth. It is instead through uncovering history, studying the past and opening the heavens.

The church was intended to be a repository of truth. That does not require wealth, political influence, property or numbers. Truth is alien here and will not be rewarded in this world. When the world welcomes "Mormonism" then you can know compromises have been made to enable it to become popular. The Book of Mormon sounds an alarm on that topic. It is one of the great sources of truth. And it exposes the modern world, and ourselves, to relentless criticism and warning. However comfortable others may become with their faith, I find it serves best as an alarm, warning me of the perils of life in this fallen sphere.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

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?

Harold Bloom Article

Harold Bloom has written an interesting article in the New York Times titled "Will This Election Be the Mormon Breakthrough"-- it includes Professor Bloom's observations about how dramatically Mormonism has changed from its origins.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Reactions to Passing the Heavenly Gift

I had a conversation this morning with a friend whose years-long alienation from the church has been healed through reading Passing the Heavenly Gift. I have also had a discussion yesterday about how another man was deeply offended by the content and thought it was nearly apostate to have written it. One man who withdrew from membership in the church told me he could not finish reading it because it was too "faith promoting" and "apologetic" and could not be regarded as true history because of its pro-church bias.  Another man told me that it finally told the truth and liberated him to continue in church activity while feeling at home again among the Saints. I also heard a woman bear her testimony for the first time in years, in part because of the book's effect upon her heart.

The book has been praised as inspired, by a reader who told me they felt close to the Holy Ghost as they read every page; and it has been denounced as the product of an evil and aspiring man.

Well, I'm not going to react to the reactions. But I want it clear that first, the only motive I have is to deal honestly with what I know is a current problem friends I know are struggling to solve. People who want to believe in the Restoration, but who cannot find any peace in the details of the history. I have looked at the problems and the book is an honest explanation of how I cope with the issues.

No one needs to read the book. Anyone who does read it is put to the inconvenience of buying or borrowing a copy. I do not advocate it, but only offer it. If you are untroubled by church history issues, then go your way and give it no thought. If you struggle with problems from the church's past, then I offer it to help.

I do not advocate any position. I offer my understanding for whatever value someone may take from it. I never speak up in church and argue my views. I sit silent for the most part and leave people to enjoy their own understanding. On occasion I'm asked to teach or talk in Sacrament. When asked, I teach the assigned topic in the way I think brings the greatest understanding to the topic. As far as I know, there are only a very few people in my home Ward who are even aware I have written a single book. And of those who may know, I believe most have not read anything I've written.

I have no following, as far as I am aware. If there is anyone who claims to be following me, the only advice I would give them is to quit. I do not want a follower. Like any other Latter-day Saint, I offer my testimony and I give what I hope will help others understand difficult issues. If there is anyone worth following it is the Lord alone. I know of no man who can help anyone be saved. It does no good to claim you are "of Paul" or are "of Cephas" or you are "of Moses" or "Apollos" or some other man. That merits a Telestial condemnation comparable to what is merited by the liars, and whoremongers and adulters. (D&C 76: 98-105.) Therefore I do not commend any man as someone to claim you follow.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Draper Temple Visit

Last week we took our Priests to the Draper Temple to do baptisms. It was a busy evening. I talked the Bishop into doing baptisms, and I was able to do confirmations. This left me dry.

Then I rushed home to pick up my wife and we returned to attend the last endowment session of the evening with her brother. He was taking out his own endowment for the first time in a "live session."

A neighbor of mine was in the Celestial Room as a worker and he told me the temples were all overbooked for weddings last Friday. The 11-11-11 date was in high demand for weddings. He had a sheet with numbers on it. I forget the totals, but it was to be the largest single day of weddings in the Draper Temple history. Apparently there was a lottery for the 11:00 time frame.

The Draper Temple is quite lovely. I liked the Jordan River Temple (which was our district before the Draper Temple was built). It was very efficient. With six session rooms you can get a session every 20 minutes. I liked the convenience of that. When we lost that district assignment, the Draper Temple was so busy that I started going to the Oquirrh Temple. That is an amazingly beautiful facility. It was the temple I attended temporarily. It had a wonderful spirit about it. Then the police shot and killed that fellow on the temple grounds and I haven't been back. It's a personal thing, I suppose.

We helped with the Draper Temple Open House as a stake and as a family when it was first open. We enjoyed that experience.

The Temple I like most is the Manti Temple. Like Salt Lake, it is live with real people instead of a film. It is not crowded. The pioneer workmanship is interesting and beautiful. I also think the outside architecture is among the most beautiful of any of the Temples.

The Priests were taught today about how to find ancestors for whom work can be done through the "" website. The hope is that between the visit this week and the information provided in today's lesson, these young men will find themselves interested in finding their ancestors. That would be good. Our lives are not ours alone. Our ancestors have an interest in how we live and what we do with the time we have allotted to us in mortality. As Joseph put it: "The spirits of the just are enveloped in flaming fire,...are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.. and are often pained therewith." (Joseph Smith, Teachings, p. 326.)

Temples can remind us we are not living for our own interests, but also owe an obligation to those who went before in our family lines.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jesus' Doctrine

Jesus complained to the Nephites about their religious arguments. He called such disagreements over religion "contention" and said it was His doctrine that "such things should be done away." (3 Ne. 11: 30.) Seems we want to believe in Christ, but reject His doctrine. He was quite unrelenting on the point: "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." (3 Ne. 11: 29.)

It is interesting how He did it. Because He disagreed with the presiding authorities of His day on almost every particular of their then-current religious observances. But He managed to declare what He believed, to teach what He thought comprised the higher, underlying purpose of the law, without contending. He answered their oftentimes hostile questions forthrightly, and unequivocally but not through contention.

He goes on to declare His doctrine, which is the doctrine given to Him by the Father: "I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everwhere, to repent and believe in me. And whosoever believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned. 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. And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one." (3 Ne. 11: 32-36.)

His doctrine is to "bear record of the Father." And His doctrine is the "Father will bear record of Him." And the "Holy Ghost will bear record of both Him and the Father." For they are all one.

It is nice, I suppose, when someone bears their testimony. I do it. I hear others do it. I see some folks swooning when they hear someone they think holds an important office in the church bearing a testimony. But we are supposed to get our testimony from Christ and from the Father and from the Holy Ghost.

We are all told by Christ that "all men everywhere" are commanded to repent. That is all inclusive. There isn't some special, elect few who are so nigh to heaven they are not required to repent. Everyone. Relentlessly. We are all in desperate need of repentance. We don't need a healthy self-image. We don't need reassurance that we are loved, even doted upon by God. We don't need to be indulged in our sins, told we are just born with problems we should accept, or given any excuse to turn away from facing our weaknesses. They are, after all, gifts from Him to humble us. (Ether 12: 27.) They were given to humble us, to drive us onto our knees, and to commend us to Christ. We are commanded to repent from them, and they are a gift to remind us of our dependence upon Him.

When someone cries out that we are in desperate need of repentance today, however, they are called "negative" and "unkind" and "not at all like Christ." They imagine Christ as a limp-wristed, happy-go-lucky chap who is indulgent and promiscuously forgiving. I do not imagine such a being; but instead a Counselor of Righteousness, whose every word is designed to make me become more like Him. Whose every sacrifice was designed to bring greater light into my mind and heart. Who stretches and pulls me relentlessly forward and upward, bringing me to my knees as I view in horror my many failings. I see a Man of Holiness who cannot tolerate any degree of unrighteousness; but who is ever ready to heal and instruct. A God indeed. Who works to bring others to become like Him.

"Wait!" shouts someone, "I have a testimony of 'the church'!" Well, that's nice, I suppose. I find the church important, too. I fellowship there every Sunday. I enjoy immensely my ward. But that isn't Christ's doctrine. My testimony should come from Christ bearing record to me of the Father, and the Father then bearing testimony or record to me of the Son, and the Holy Ghost bearing testimony to me of the Father and the Son. That is His doctrine. And Christ is quite emphatic on that point, as well: "And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them." (3 Ne. 11: 40.)

I've been bearing testimony of Christ in books I have written for some time now. But the testimony I bear is that He lives and is altogether willing to bear testimony to you. And the Father, also, is willing to do so. And also the Holy Ghost.

I do not believe God was meant to be experienced second and third-hand. I do not believe we are supposed to "know about God" but were instead, according to Christ's doctrine, to "know God." He will make Himself known to you. Not vicariously through a Pope, or a Bishop, or an Archbishop, or a Cardinal, or a Stake President, or some other preacher. He, Christ, and He, the Father and the Holy Ghost are the ones who are to declare themselves to you. Then you aren't building on the sandy, unstable foundation comprised of the many varieties of the hireling intermediary who gets acclaim here, praise and adoration here, as an inappropriate surrogate for He alone who can save. When men get put between the individual and God almost every individual immediately begins to exercise control, and dominion and compulsion over others. It is a wise God who restricts His delegation of "power" to such a degree that it cannot be exercised unrighteously. (D&C 121: 41.)

God is knowable. He comforts.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Our Many Cares

Our many cares often focus on things which do not matter. Christ told us what matters. It is not what we can get from God, but what we do for Him, what we give up for His sake, that has value. If we lose our fathers and mothers--are rejected by those we are closest to in this life-- for His sake, we are in the right way. (Matt. 10: 35-39.) When we are entrusted with something by Him, it is not for our benefit, but for the benefit of others while in His service. (Matt. 25: 14-30.) In the parable about the talents, the talents were given for the Lord's sake, not the servants. The servant was accountable for what he did for the Lord with what was given. It was not about the servant, nor the pride of being entrusted, nor the praise of men. It was only about doing the will of the Lord and glorifying Him.

When we claim we've done great things in the Lord's name, we miss the point. (Matt. 7: 21-23.) The kingdom, and the power and the glory is the Fathers, not ours. (Matt. 6: 13.)

What little we have must all be given to Him if we hope to please our Lord. (Luke 21: 1-4.) Until we give all we have to Him, we have nothing.

This is more than enough to occupy all our days. How is it then we have time to fret about so much else? How do we have time for endless debate and group discussions which circle about but fail to reach the truth; without ever noticing how little we have given to Him? Why do we ever contemplate with pride what we've received, what we own, what office or station we occupy, or how great we have become down in this dark well? What use is it to succeed here? What great thing is it you have here that will endure for even a thousand years? "And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8: 34-37.)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Borrowed Doctrine

I've just finished a conversation with a daughter who is in college in another state. Some doctrinal issues were on the agenda stemming from interpretations of the Book of Revelation. She had an encounter with a Relief Society teacher who introduced her to some ideas which are largely borrowed from Evangelical sources, adopted by Mormon writers, and now being repeated as if they were true. That conversation provokes this post.

We should be careful about importing doctrine and interpretations from other traditional Christian sources. The reason "the professors [of traditional Christianity] are all corrupt" is not because they are bad people. (JS-H 1: 19.) It is because their doctrine is wrong. They do not have the truth. They entertain ideas which are not informed by heaven, and rely upon men to speculate about meaning, without knowing a thing about heaven.

Joseph remarked that "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." (TPJS p. 217.) The meaning of "knowledge" is, of course, the key to that statement. For the only "knowledge" which can save it to "know God" for yourself. (See, John 17: 3; D&C 132: 24.) The means of knowing this God is, of course, revelation and His personal ministry. His personal ministry will bring the faithful to the Father, as well. Both the Son and the Father will take their abode with you. (John 14: 18, 23.) This is the knowledge that saves.

The Christian world cannot save, their doctrines are corrupt, because they do not have the required knowledge to be able to teach. Therefore, they are "all corrupt" because their minds are corrupt. They cannot save themselves, much less inform us of anything which will aid us in knowing God.

Even reading Joseph's teachings will not save us. His knowledge and his covenant is not ours. We must find the required knowledge for ourselves. "Reading the experience of others, or the revelations given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God." (TPJS p. 324.) Even Joseph's revelations, and Joseph's scriptures are inadequate. They must be obtained by each individual or they will be left without saving knowledge.

How do we get good doctrine, good information and a valid covenant with God for ourselves? It is through knowledge from Him. "could you gaze into heaven five minutes you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject." (TPJS p. 324.) This is true because we then gain knowledge that saves us. We know God.

I don't give a fig for lengthy quotes of man's speculation about the "truth" as they understand it. I care only for the revelations from heaven. Men who have never gazed into heaven simply do not know the truth. Good men, honest men, and men of the highest intent who know nothing about the heavens cannot help anyone to find their way to God.

There are, of course, disappointments along the way when you gain knowledge. You find that you learn things you do not want to know. You become disconnected with this world as you attach to the higher world. I read the Doctrines of Salvation from Joseph Fielding Smith as a convert to the church, believing it to be filled with truth. I accepted the notion he advances that "Christ has himself declared that the manifestations we might have of the Spirit of Christ, or from a visitation from an angel, a tangible resurrected being, would not leave the impression and would not convince us and place within us that something which we cannot get away from which we receive through a manifestation of the Holy Ghost. Personal visitations might become dim as time goes on, but this guidance of the Holy Ghost is renewed and continued, day after day, year after year, if we live to be worthy of it." (Doctrines of Salvation, vol 1, p. 44.) I believed that at one point. I thought it good doctrine. I was troubled and disappointed to learn this was wrong. I did not want to know Joseph Fielding Smith was in error. But I learned it. Visitations are more, not less, powerful than the Holy Ghost.The scriptures prove it. For an angel will not come to visit you without being fully armed by the power of the Holy Ghost. Indeed, they speak by the power of the Holy Ghost when they visit. (2 Nephi 32: 2-3.) I wish I did not know Joseph Fielding Smith was wrong. I wish I did not realize he had never been visited by an angel, for only by lacking such an experience could he make this error. But we seek "knowledge" to be saved, and therefore we should find ourselves informed by heaven alone, and not men, even very good men, trying to tell us about things they can only guess to be true.

There is a great deal of difference between saving knowledge, which comes from heaven, and error, speculation and man's own doctrine, which cannot help us. We should never find ourselves among those who "teach for doctrine the commandments of men." (JS-H 1: 19.) Get connected to heaven and you needn't be dependent upon any MAN for your salvation. Not even Joseph Smith wanted you to do that by depending on him. Such things make you darkened in your mind, because you neglect the duty which God has imposed upon you. (TPJS p. 238.)

I do not point to me, or to another man, or to any group of men, no matter how well intentioned. I point to Christ, who alone can save you. You will not be rescued by another. No office can do it. No ordinance can do it. Only Christ has the power to save. (Mosiah 3: 17; Mosiah 5: 8.)

The most dogmatic and well studied Mormons are often the furthest away from heaven. Proud, confident, insistent they possess great knowledge, all the while little more than a child of hell, bound in darkness, and unable to recognize the truth. They will, as Joseph put it, "be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world," (TPJS p. 217.) because they are already captive by a spirit of contention, which Christ told us all is of the devil. (3 Nephi 11: 29.)

We should declare the truth, point to Christ, and say what we know to be true from our knowledge. It is up to others to accept or reject what is true. We cannot be saved; NONE of us can be saved unless we have saving knowledge which comes from Christ. You would know this if the heavens were opened to you and angels ministered to you. This is why the Book of Mormon authors so often confirmed their message did not originate from them, but came as a result of the Lord or His angels requiring the message to be delivered.

I do not care if anyone believes a thing I have ever said or written. But I do care if someone decides they will close the gate of heaven by the false things they preach, all the while declaring they are Christ's. How can they know the Master when they oppose knowledge of Him? It is more than an enigma. It is a tragedy.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Power of God's Word

I've been reflecting on the power of God's word. It is so remarkable a source of power that Christ was called the Word of God, because He embodies the Father's will so completely. (John 1:1.)
God's word alone is what ordains to Melchizedek Priesthood. See JST Genesis 14:27-29. "It was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice..."
God's word alone conferred sealing authority upon Nephi. Helaman 10:3, Helaman 10: 5-10.
God's word along conferred the sealing authority upon Joseph Smith. D&C 132:46.
God's word is the only constant, which will never fail, whether He speaks it or He authorizes someone else to speak it, it is the same. D&C 1:38.
In a very real sense, the power of the priesthood consists in obtaining God's word. For when He will answer you it is possible to have His word on all things. D&C 132:45 (for Joseph); D&C 124:95 (for Hyrum); Helaman 10: 5 (for Nephi).
Those who have God's word know how to proceed in all things. Those who do not are always uncertain what they should do and what their standing is before Him.

Monday, October 24, 2011

History of Elijah Doctrine

The talk on Elijah given in Spanish Fork and posted on this blog last week is a continuation of the development of information found in Passing the Heavenly Gift. The foundation for why the Elijah issue required further discussion is found in the book. Some people have listened to the talk without first reading the book. Therefore they are unacquainted with the background information which shows the importance of re-examining the Elijah tradition inside the church. I will give a brief explanation here, although you won't really understand the reason for the talk unless you read the book.

Briefly, and without repeating all the historic records, journals and sources from which the history is explained in the book, this is what happened: Elijah came to visit the Kirtland Temple in 1836 according to the third person account written by Warren Cowdery in the back of the 3rd volume of revelations in Kirtland. It is the last entry made, and the source of all the later claims made about Elijah, his purpose and appearance. The account is third-person, (i.e., The Lord appeared to them... said to them...., etc.) but when it was later discovered it was reworded to the first person (i.e., The Lord appeared to us.... said to us..., etc.).  You can read the original document, actually see a photostatic reproduction of the original, in the Joseph Smith Papers. I give the cite in Passing the Heavenly Gift.

The record Joseph Smith left makes no mention of Elijah's appearance. The record Oliver Cowdery left makes no mention of Elijah's appearance. Joseph died without every explaining anything about the event, or making any mention of it. Oliver also. Both of them testified about visitations they received, and wrote about who had come to empower them, but neither of them ever mention Elijah.

In talks in Nauvoo, Joseph refers on every occasion he mentions Elijah as a future event. Not as a past event. He explains Elijah "will return," not that he has returned.

Joseph Smith received the sealing power in a revelation given sometime in the early 1830's, which was recorded in 1843. I take some effort to lay out the chronology in the book, and the information can be reviewed there.

When Joseph Smith died, there is no contemporaneous source to verify the appearance of Elijah in 1836, and the appearance was not known at that time.

There is no mention of the Elijah appearance in 1836, nor 1837, nor 1838 nor '39, '40, '41, '42, '43 nor in 1844, though Joseph does say there will be a future return. After Joseph Smith's death, there was nothing said or known in 1844, '45, '46, '47, '48, '49, '50 nor for years thereafter. When the Kirtland Revelation Book was reviewed in the 1850's the first notice resulted in the revelation being published for the first time in November of the year it was found. Along with the publication was an explanation given by Orson Pratt explaining it was quite significant. He garbles the chronology in that article, and the chronology ever since was taken from his first editorial. Since then the chronology has remained the same as Orson declared, even though he erred in attributing the revelation recorded on July 12, 1843 to having been given on that date.  The revelation was received much earlier, the first part in 1829. I also walk through that in Passing the Heavenly Gift.

Since the 1850's when the revelation was found (which is now Section 110) about the Kirtland Temple appearance of Elijah, and then published for the first time in the Deseret News, there have been hundreds of statements which rely upon Orson Pratt's original analysis accompanying the announcement of finding the record.

By the time the words were discovered, Warren Cowdery who wrote it down was dead. He could not explain where it came from because we couldn't ask him. Oliver died shortly before Warren, and he also could not be asked. And, of course, Joseph died before either of them, and so he could not be asked either. Therefore the two witnesses left nothing about it, could not be asked, and the scribe who recorded it could not be asked either.

I walk through all these events using the historical records, scriptures and lengthy explanations. It is a topic which takes a lot of material to set out in full, but has been done in the book.

The talk on Elijah's mission posted on this blog was taking the topic and discussing what the still future mission of Elijah would necessarily involve. Since Joseph expected it to happen in the future when he spoke about it in January and March, 1844, there must be a future mission for him. Because if Joseph, who was present in the Kirtland Temple in 1836 when the Warren Cowdery recorded event took place thought there was still a future mission for Elijah, then it would be important to notice that and give some thought to what it could involve. I've done that. Hence the contents of the talk.

Now, if you disagree with history and you are perfectly content with what Orson Pratt bequeathed us as the accompanying commentary when the account was discovered, then you needn't give this one further thought. There have been generations come and go with that explanation regarded as the absolute truth and the basis for our Temple work. So you'll be in good company. But there are those serious minded individuals who are trying to sort this out right now at high levels of the Church who know these are important issues which are NOT as settled as the past pronouncements make it appear. In fact, I doubt the current explanations will last much longer because the record simply does not support the conclusions we have urged. The place to start is not after the 1850's discovery, when there were conclusions leaped to by Orson Pratt which then became the operative explanation thereafter. The place to start is instead from 1836 to 1844 in the records of that time. What was Joseph saying? What was Oliver saying? Why did both of them leave out mention of Elijah in their testimonies of who had come to visit with them? Where did Section 110 come from? That is, who did Warren Cowdery consult with to learn the material he wrote into the book? I work on that in both the book and the talk.

I think Elijah has a ministry still future. I think it is connected to the very things Joseph Smith was speaking about in January and March, 1844. And I explain what that is in the talk linked on this blog.

Friday, October 21, 2011

An Email Response

I got another email inquiry which I responded to yesterday I thought I ought to put up here: This inquiry related to Passing the Heavenly Gift:

[The email linked to several conversations of some length.]  Well, that's a lot to read.  I did scan some of it, but not all.  I do not mind being criticized, nor people disagreeing with me.  They're free to do so.  And I mean both criticize me and disagree.  The problem is that criticizing me is sort of a misadventure, because doing that detracts from the underlying real questions.  Who cares a fig about me?  I hope no-one.  But the stuff I write about-- meaning an attempt to discuss the Gospel --that is important and certainly worth spending some time thinking about and discussing.

Without the benefit of reading all those posts (I stopped reading when it got noxious), I'll respond as follows:
First, I've explained in what I've written (some approximate one million words now) what I think and why.  There's no reason to re-write it again to answer questions.  If they'd read what I wrote they'd know the answers.  They'd even know the reasons for the answers.  It's lazy to try to shortcut things and just interpose questions based on false assumptions and interpretations that are, in many cases, so off kilter that even answering is distorting.  I think every one of these questions are answered in what I've written far better than in the responses below.
Despite this, and really even anticipating that these answers don't contribute anything to the discussion, here's a brief reply:
Does he actually claim in the first quote that all the keys of the priesthood are not held by Thomas S. Monson?
No.  I don't take a position on that.  In one chapter I entertain the possibility of that and discuss how important the church remains anyway.  As to whether he has them all, that is a matter between him and the Lord.  When he became President, I prayed and was told to sustain him and I do.  That's enough for me.  The Book of Mormon clearly identifies us (the Latter-day Saints) as gentiles.  Joseph Smith said we were "identified with the gentiles" in the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple (D&C 109: 60).  Book of Mormon prophecies clearly indicate there will be an apostasy or sorts by the gentile church (us).  We either have (in the past) or will (in the future) reject the fullness. I show how a reasonable interpretation of our history could reach the conclusion it was in the past.  If it isn't then it is in our future.  But if the Book of Mormon can be trusted on the point, and I think it can, then we'll reject the fullness of the Gospel at some point.  But that's a quick and altogether distorted treatment of a topic worthy of so much attention and so much care that I've written a 170,000 word book on the subject which will do a better job than a snapshot. 
Does Bro. Snuffer actually believe that the sealing power is not with the Church and was lost?
No.  Don't take a position on that, either.  The sealing power is conferred in one way and that way is described in the scriptures.  I take some lengths to explain, using scripture, the matter.  Beyond laying out the process I never say anything about what the church has.  I do explain the church's claims.  And I also use the church's explanations to show where the church's authority comes from.
That the GAs over the Church’s curriculum are not teaching what God has instructed them to include in our Church manuals?
I'm not sure I understand this question.  Where has God instructed someone to do something about curriculum?  There are committees that do this stuff.  In the fourth phase everything is attributed to the president, and that process is laid out in the book.  This question is a product of that process.  But I really don't understand the question.  So far as I've seen, there is nowhere a claim made that God was involved in writing or developing the church's curriculum.
We have a ‘devalued gospel’ in the LDS Church?
There are a list of 72 approved subjects allowed to be taught, as a result of the Correlation process.  The Gospel allows everyone to learn all the mysteries of God.  It is, you know, given unto many to know the mysteries of God.  And those who will give more heed to the matter learn more, those who give less heed learn less.  (Alma 12: 9-11.)  By the Spirit we can know the truth of all things.  (Moroni 10: 5.)  Limiting the scope of discussion to the list of approved topics is removing some of the great, even important topics from our permitted discussions.  Therefore the most important subjects have now gravitated away from Sacrament, Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society and into the Internet.  I have seen unapproved subjects on your blog's index.   

I have also shown that David O. McKay was not the champion of Correlation, but was instead concerned it would lead to the church's apostasy.  Now Correlation claims he was the one who was inspired to bring it forward, even that it was revealed to him by God and is proof of revelation to the church's President on the matter.  These claims are opposite to President McKay's concern that it was both wrong and would endanger the church of apostasy by consolidating power in the hands of the top, when people were always intended to be free to learn, discuss, believe and act consistent with what they understood.  That's all laid out in the book as well.  And giving a cryptic response is really more misleading than helpful.  Read the book and you'll have the answer.  And answers to many other things about which we should be open and free to discuss among friendly, believing Saints.
That is the end of the email response. I should note also that in the first 7 books I wrote I presumed the church's traditional narrative is true and accurate. I wrote them in contemplation of the church's traditional claims about history, and therefore anyone who reads those will not have their understanding challenged on the matter.