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Monday, January 16, 2017

What Exactly Did Joseph Smith Restore?

To what end was the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith? What exactly did he restore? The answers vary wildly. Some claim he restored authority: that heavenly beings were sent to him to pass to him authority that could then be passed to others. Yet the Book of Mormon warns against this idea:

And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men; (2 Nephi 28:5).

Others claim that through Joseph Smith God restored a set of instructions capable of bringing a man into the presence of God (the so-called fullness of the gospel). In order for this claim to be true, Joseph must have both lived in an environment devoid of the experiences with heaven documented as co-occurring with true religion in the scriptures and delivered an increment over existing teachings that resulted in the renewal of these experiences. History shows that both occurred. However, some accepting this point take it further than substantiated by history. While Joseph was the instrument for delivering effectual teachings, such as the Book of Mormon, there were notable portions of his teachings that, rather than lead followers to experiences with heaven, had negative results. His focus on priesthood authority, for example, seems to be the genesis of the incorrect develop of and obsession with claims to authority by his LDS successors who, despite claims to possessing Joseph’s authority, failed to reproduce any of his fruits. A true messenger must always seek to become redundant. Joseph at best vacillated between this concept and emphasizing what he saw as an inalienable right to be the sole source of knowledge from heaven among his followers.

The claim that Joseph restored a set of instructions capable of bringing a man into the presence of God is not inseparably connected to the idea that Joseph’s contributions were uniquely capable of doing so. In other words, one can agree that Joseph’s contributions were effectual without concluding that all men must accept Joseph Smith as a prophet of God in order to gain access to heaven.

It is ridiculous to think that the salvation of billions of people would be subject to the communications limitations of an obscure backwoods church. Although the LDS church is hardly obscure or backwoods today, and although their financial resources are more than adequate to preach the gospel to the whole world, the degree of obvious corruption to the original message makes the likelihood of connection to heaven through its message essentially zero. Imagine a typical scenario: an individual who has accumulated a lifetime of examples of false religion is accosted with a canned invitation by a 19-year-old boy who hasn’t even read the Bible. Suppose he listens, which is unlikely. He has to sit through a few hours of this boy telling him that God calls prophets today, and that there are modern prophets, only they don’t prophesy. Suppose he buys this, which is unlikely. Now he has to accept a set of arbitrary dietary rules borne of the prohibition movement as important enough to God that it will bar someone from baptism. In the unlikely event that he believes this, he will begin a full-time job worth of church busy work. In the unlikely event that he actually has time to read the scriptures, his interpretation of them will be controlled by the modern, false narrative he is constantly subjected to from church. In the unlikely event he decides to investigate what Joseph Smith actually taught, he will be confronted with many examples of institutional lies and will most likely conclude that God does not exist. If he makes it through all of that, he will still need to have the discernment to filter out the doctored history from the real history, and at that point might actually be able to discover and live the set of instructions provided by Joseph to bring a man into the presence of God.

On the other hand, if we are to take God at his word, God speaks to men everywhere. What would happen if someone chose not to accept one of the gospel authors as a true prophet? Nothing.

God programs redundancy into this world. He speaks to men, everywhere, and reveals all the same things he revealed to Joseph. The chief contribution of Joseph Smith was supposed authority. It wasn’t even his teachings, which have been largely corroded by manipulation and neglect. His principle contribution was to demonstrate that God can and does speak to men, and that men can indeed enter the presence of God.

If the restoration really happened, we ought to find other examples of similar theophanies followed by a flood of new revelation from heaven. We ought to see parallels between the things Joseph taught and the things these others teach, even if they have never heard of Joseph Smith. In Joseph’s day, this would have been impossible due to geographic limitations of information transfer. In the internet age, we have the opportunity to test the hypothesis.

It turns out that these people do in fact exist. Do you think that Joseph is the only one who has taught that heaven is a physical place in the universe? That there are many degrees of glory, that man is his own judge, and will inherit the highest degree of glory he can stand? That God dwells in everlasting burnings? That man can indeed come to the same level of glory as God? That the beasts in the book of Revelation are real creatures that lived on some other planet? No, he isn’t.

It turns out that God has blessed others with sufficient revelation to crack through the false traditions of Christendom that keep men from establishing an informational connection to God; from being taken up to the heavens.

I thank God for Joseph Smith because of the impact his experiences have had on my life in helping me connect to God. I also thank God that Joseph Smith was not as crucial as most Mormons believe—because if he was, there would be virtually no hope for the inhabitants of this world. Joseph Smith was not the true vine. Jesus Christ is the true vine. Anyone can connect to God—whether or not they have been exposed to Joseph Smith and whether or not they accept him as a prophet. Many of his teachings were wonderful extensions of the light and truth available on the earth at the time. However, any of us can learn any of them for ourselves if we repent, live the gospel, and are brought into the heavens ourselves. And if we don’t, than what good are his teachings, anyway?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Parable of the Palace, the King, and the Subjects

There was once a large kingdom roughly organized into several villages and surrounding farmland. In every district, there were certain subjects like helped pass the time during their long, arduous work in the fields by imagining the kinds of treasures the king had in his palace. One group of peasants endlessly talked about a golden ring possessed by the king. Another group fantasized about a beautiful woven tapestry that hung on the wall. Another group gossiped about a lovely chest of drawers that someone claimed to have seen long ago. Some peasants coveted these goods so strongly that they actually made crude replicas to possess for themselves. Some peasants marveled at these revolting caricatures, having never seen the real thing and thus lacking the discernment to tell the difference.

One day, the king announced that he had toured the kingdom and, moved upon by the poverty of the subjects, he was willing to grant each subject anything they desired from his palace. The peasants whipped into a ravenous frenzy. The requests quickly came pouring in, and just as quickly, the disappointment of the peasants mounted. Since none of them had ever set foot in the palace, they had no idea what the king actually possessed. They based their request only on the fables they had heard. Many were disappointed to hear that the item they had coveted their whole lives didn't actually exist. Others, whose fables had enough basis in reality to be mapable to a real object, were disappointed to find that the tapestry they had heard about was not so magnificent as they had been told, the chest of draws was quite smaller than they had imagined it, and the golden ring was actually made of copper.

But not everyone in the kingdom was disappointed. There was an old, destitute woman who made the best request. Her request to the king was very simple, but profound: She asked for the king himself, to become her adopted son. You see, the women realized that, being a peasant, she not only had no idea what the king possessed, but she also knew that, even if she had a full inventory, she did not possess the wisdom to know the true value of the king's possessions. By obtaining the king, she would both obtain access to all his material possessions, but also access to his wisdom.

We are told to ask our Father for blessings. But which of us has any real knowledge of what he has to give?

We do not know God (John 4:22). We do not know ourselves (Luke 9:55). We do not know what to pray for (Romans 8:26). We do not see the folly of what we do ask for (Matthew 20:22). Why do we pretend that we do know?

If we really understood the vast difference between God's knowledge and our ignorance, we would act very differently.

What better blessing can we ask for than to know him? What better approach is there than to humbly bow before him, admit our absolute ignorance, and beg him to impart of his goodness and wisdom to us according to his matchless knowledge and mercy?

"Oh God, your knowledge surpasses my greatest understanding. I know nothing. I will freely give away anything I think I know to know you more. Teach me, Lord. I have been true and faithful to everything you have asked of me. Send me further light and truth that I may worship you more fully and somehow bless others by imparting some share of your glory. I will not reject anything you ask of me or teach me. Father, show me what to ask for. I humbly await your instruction."

Sunday, January 8, 2017

To Whoever is Spreading Rumors

In the last 6 months I've gotten a few comments that have surprised me:

  • "Did you take a plural wife?" (at least 3 times from different people)
  • "I heard you proposed plural marriage to <name withheld 1>. Is that true?"
  • "I heard you took <name withheld 2> as a plural wife. Is that true?"

Because this is apparently established itself as a pattern, I'm going to write up my thoughts on the matter here so I can respond with a link instead of having to rewrite my thoughts every time.

First, what I find even more surprising than the content of these questions is that anyone would have the audacity to ask in the first place. Don't you know that gossip is a sin?

  • Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure. (Psalm 101:5)
  • Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)
  • Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit. (Psalm 34:13)
  • malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. (Titus 3:2)
  • At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. (1 Timothy 5:13)

The troubling thing about it is that I have yet to hear from the originator(s) of the rumor(s), only people further down the chain. At some point, one or more people spun up false statements and sent them out. To them I say:

  • You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16)
  • You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:16)
  • Argue your case with your neighbor, And do not reveal the secret of another, Or he who hears it will reproach you, And the evil report about you will not pass away. (Proverbs 25:9-10)
  • You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. (Exodus 23:1)

Now, none of what I have said so far has anything to do with the subject matter. Let's get on to that.

I have written extensively about plural marriage. My position on the issue is no secret. My reasons for holding that position are also no secret, and no one has yet to give me any good reason to change my position. That being said, I don't really care if people think I have more than one wife, am looking for more than one wife, have proposed to women after my first wife, etc.

But almost all of you think very differently about plural marriage. You think it is an abomination, a violation of God's commandments, a filthy affair, etc. Did you ever stop to think of the people you are hurting by coming up with or spreading accusations such as this? Not me, but the name withhelds above? These are good people, people that I know would be very upset to know their names are being associated with plural marriage.

While you may not care about vilifying me, you ought to think twice before hurting people that are not only innocent but would be horrified to be associated with plural marriage. It's one thing to insult someone who claims to be keeping God's commandments to them. It is another to drag someone into it who has nothing to do with it.

I know of at least two women who caught wind of their names being included in these false rumors. You really ought to reconsider your sinful behavior in starting and/or spreading these rumors.

Now, onto the third point I need to make. As I said, my position on this issue is no secret. Knowledge of whether or not I have multiple wives does not add to the discussion. Oddly enough, your perverse obsession with it is exactly what you (the anti-polygamists) are accusing people like me (who understand God's word to indicate it is something he has, can, and may command individuals to practice) of being guilty of, when the opposite seems to be the case.

For the record, as of today (8 January 2017), I have not ever proposed plural marriage to anyone. I have not asked anyone out on on any dates other than my one and only wife since we were originally engaged. I will not update this record, or answer any further questions about the issue. Don't ask.

It is kind of funny to me that people would assume that plural marriage is something I would rush headlong into. It took me over 100 first dates in four states before meeting and proposing to my wife. That huge labor was conducted as a single person with very little other responsibilities. I am married, have a very demanding job, an equally demanding farm, a lengthy list of books God has asked me to write, and a quiver of young children to take care of. I do not have free time. I live in a rural area in an isolated region. My social networks are saturated with people who think plural marriage is an abomination. How on earth a person in my situation would manage to even meet someone who wasn't instantly repulsed from the concept, let alone in find myself in a situation where enough time would be available to get to know and vet this person, let alone find someone who meets the requirements (given that the bar would be at least as high as it was in my initial search, if not higher) is a mystery to me. Nothing is impossible to God, but I would set the odds about equal with God raising up a son of Abraham from one of the rocks in my backyard. I'm not holding my breath.

Finally, I anticipate fully that one principle reason these rumors are being spread is to discredit the things I teach, which tend to chafe against the traditions we love so much.

How many wives I have or don't have doesn't give anyone license to dismiss out of hand what I write. Quoting from this post,

Teachings can be true or false. Teachers are neither.
There are several ways we can misunderstand the way this works. God makes use of vessels to do his work. Sometimes these are righteous vessels (like Isaiah), and sometimes these are wicked vessels (like Nebuchadnezzar). Most times, however, they are a little righteous and a little wicked (like Gideon, who did some things right and some things wrong). The righteousness of a man does not indicate that anything he says is true. The Bible is full of examples of true messages from God being delivered by men who were not worthy of emulation. On the other hand, the wickedness of a man does not indicate that a particular belief he has is not from God. The high priest who killed Jesus delivered a true prophecy (see John 11:49-51)!
We ought to assume that God will use anyone and anything around us to teach us all the truth we are willing to receive. We ought to prove all things, instead of just assuming something is false because it doesn't agree with what we currently understand. In fact, if we expect that there are things we do not yet know, and glory to which we have not yet attained, we ought to assume that the space between where we are and where we want to be will be spanned by new truth that will necessarily clash with what we currently understand, for if it did not, would we not already embrace it? We ought to avoid dismissing people out of hand because they believe differently than we do. Did Moses dismiss Jethro out of hand when he possessed truth that Moses had not yet heard? No. Rather, he proved all things, and found that much of what Jethro taught was useful to advance his own understanding.
Jesus himself was dismissed as wicked by the majority of people that witnessed his mortal ministry. Isaiah said that Jesus "hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53:2) There was nothing overtly obvious about Jesus' true role that would have caused people to listen to what he said. Instead, those who followed him did so on the merit of his message.
When we dismiss truth presented to us by our fellows, we are cutting ourselves off from the blessings God intends to give us. I have personally witnessed many occasions where someone I know has prayed for certain blessings or deliverance from God only to reject the person he sent to provide the requested blessings.
We should not look for true messengers, or disqualify messengers as false. We should not listen more to people (ministers, spiritual giants, popes, priests) we assume are righteous. We should not listen less to people we assume are wicked. Instead, we ought to try all things and hold fast to what is true.
By testing all things, you are relying on the Holy Ghost for truth, and not man, despite recognizing that God might be sending you new truth via association with other individuals who know something that you don't.
If people worked half as hard to read what I write as they do to discredit what I write, well, I'd have to write a whole lot less!

I hope that satisfies your lusty desire to pry into my life. Hopefully now that we got that taken care of, we can all get back to repenting of our sins.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The parable of the wheat berries

The parable of the wheat berries

There was once an enterprising homesteader who decided to start sprouting wheat for human and animal food. Wheat berries (wheat seeds), when sprouted, make an incredibly nutritious food when sprouted. The homesteader set up some bins in his basement. He soaked the wheat berries in water overnight, spread them in the bin, and kept them moist for the next two days, waiting for them to sprout. Unfortunately, they never did. Instead, they went moldy. He restarted his setup, this time adding fertilizer to the water. He was again met with failure. Frustrated, he gave up trying to sprout wheat.

What he did not realize was that cold temperatures in his basement prevented the sprouting. Wheat berries do not need fertilizer. They only need water. Everything they need to germinate is within them. Fertilizer can be helpful after germination. Before germination, it is only a waste of money, and can be a distraction if the farmer erroneously thinks that seeds that have not germinated are lacking fertilizer, instead of focusing on the only things seeds need: water and heat.

The gospel of wheat berries

 20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
 22 And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.
 23 And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.
 24 For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. (Luke 17:20-24.)

As Jesus said, the kingdom of God is within you. Why do we preach the gospel then? The primary purpose of preaching the gospel is to remove false traditions (including unbelief)--the damage that has been done by others. Armed with the scriptures, every able-bodied man or woman has everything they need to be redeemed from the fall. They will better learn to pray, repent, and live through the scriptures and asking God directly than they ever could from another person. There are no gimmicks, and there are no tricks.

Those who focus on gimmicks and tricks are wasting their resources. This life is precious. We have a limited time to progress through repentance. Side projects steal those resources away and stall out our progress. Gimmicks and tricks don't advance you with God. Until someone is redeemed from the fall, why should they worry about anything but repentance? What could be more important?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The parable of the flowers and kale

A gardener built a raised bed. In deciding what to plant, he had settled between two choices: ornamental flowers or kale. The ornamental flowers were what he liked. When in bloom, they would attract bees and butterflies. They would be beautiful to look upon. They would impart a lovely aroma to the air on warm, sunny days. But there was a downside. They would only be in bloom for a few weeks. Even during that time, the blossoms would close on cold or cloudy days. After blooming, they would quickly deteriorate, and provide no benefit for the rest of the year while still occupying a great deal of space in the garden.

The gardener wanted to plant kale. Kale would provide high nutrition leaves throughout the growing season. It would be just as productive in clouds and rain as it would on sunny days. It would allow daily harvest of its leaves without reducing future productivity. It would be productive the whole spring and summer. Not only that, if trimmed down and mulched the prior season, it would immediately spring up as soon as the winter snow melted, far before most other vegetables. It would also yield far into the winter if simple steps were taken to prevent it from getting crushed by snow.

The gardener liked the idea of ornamental flowers, but realized that kale was beautiful in its own right, and all things considered, only a short-sighted fool would choose the flowers.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Parable of the Boiling Pot

A father set a large, lidded pot of water on the stove to boil and asked his kids to watch it. The kids almost immediately walked away from the pot and began playing in the living room. The water began to boil, but no one noticed. The kids continued to play. The lid began to rattle, but no one noticed. The kids continued to play. Eventually, the water spilled over, creating loud hissing sounds. The father returned and punished the children for not paying attention.

The disasters that will precede the second coming have already begun. Those who are watching the pot can see the water boiling. It has been a slow, steady process, causing changes that are imperceptible to most. Demographic groups have segmented. Violence has become a prominent reaction to societal displeasure. Several powerful groups have created a system to broadcast lies to manipulate the ignorant masses. A substantial portion of the United States relies upon government money to subsist. Riots are more prevalent than they have ever been. Child trafficking is occurring in shocking frequency among the elite. There is no future for those under 30. Our economy is in the worst shape it's ever been, and there will be no recovery. Jobs are being lost to automation. Food costs are skyrocketing. The quality of our goods has fallen dramatically. Most are not paying attention. They may begin to notice the waves of destruction when they reach the point of sudden, massive, obvious events, such as large earthquakes in populated cities, tsunamis in unusual places, large terrorist attacks, wide scale rioting, massive plagues, financial collapse, famines, wars, etc. Some will die when these events strike, and for them it will be too late to repent. With each successive event, others will finally wake up. Most will not.

Many question the idea of taking scriptural warnings of destruction seriously. They mock those who do. They say, "many thought the disasters of their day signaled the second coming." Their observation is true. Even Jesus' disciples thought that the second coming would happen in their lifetimes. Yet, have you ever noticed that Jesus did not correct them? It turns out that a correct understanding of our insignificance in this vastly unstable world is a wonderful motivator for respect for God. We ought to live every day like it is our last. We ought to prepare to meet God, familiarize ourselves with the scriptures, and take his word literally. 

And it came to pass that when Jesus had ended these sayings he said unto his disciples: Enter ye in at the strait gate; for strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it; but wide is the gate, and broad the way which leads to death, and many there be that travel therein, until the night cometh, wherein no man can work. (3 Nephi 27:33).

Friday, December 30, 2016

To the "Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy" People


  • History has not yet proven that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy. This would require a living descendant of one of his alleged plural wives to have DNA links to Joseph Smith. Such a person has not been found, and may not exist.
  • History cannot prove that he did not. Because so many of his associates were proven liars, and because men of God have been known to justifiably lie in the past (see Abraham), statements from any party are insufficient to prove that he did not practice it.

Given these two facts, it really doesn't matter whether a person believes Joseph Smith was a polygamist or whether they believe he was not a polygamist.

However, what does matter is:

  • Whether you feel comfortable converting people to a position that cannot be shown to be right.
  • Whether you feel justified in spending your time on something so frivolous.
  • Whether your position is due to evidence or something more nefarious.
I know of at least three people who have dedicated a year or more of their time trying to prove to others that Joseph Smith did not practice polygamy. I can't help but wonder whether spending so much time trying to prove something so unestablished--if not unimportant--was justified given their lack of experiences with God. I wonder what experiences they would have had with God if they had spend even a quarter of that time seeking God instead. In fact, I have yet to find someone engaged in this debate who can afford to spend time on it. The time would be much better spent preaching the actual gospel (instead of their speculations) or seeking God. This seems a leisure topic that only those who are living with Enoch could argue to have the time to address.

The exception here, of course, is those who believe their position due to something more nefarious. These fall into both sides of the issue. There are those who believe Joseph was a polygamist who do so to justify their own lust in desiring to practice their incorrect understanding of plural marriage. Then there are those who believe Joseph was not a polygamist because they don't like the idea of a God who would expect them to do such a thing. Both types of people are damned. The first for lust, the second for unbelief. It seems worthwhile to call either to repentance, though my experiences in doing so have been fruitless thus far.

Most statements heard by the fanatics on either side are absolutely ridiculous. Some of these:
  • "Plural marriage is necessary for salvation." There is absolutely no proof of this.
  • "Plural marriage is an abomination." Actually, God expressed his approval and blessed several men who practiced it. In fact, he even commanded it in the Old Testament both generally (law of Moses) and on specific occasions, such as when God said he gave wives to David. Plural marriage is certainly not an abomination.
  • "Plural marriage requires keys." The subject of keys is much larger than one bullet point. However, suffice it to say that it is a grossly misunderstood topic. It would be more correct to say that you need just as much keys to marry as second wife as you did to marry a first wife. Last time I checked, you don't need any keys (the way most understand them, anyway) to marry a first wife. You can do that in a courthouse, or even just with an agreement between two parties. God has given that permission to us. Now, you can't make it eternally binding without him, but that argument applies just as equally to both monogamous and polygamist relationships.
  • "Joseph Smith never practiced polygamy." This statement might be true. However, it is impossible to prove. You would have to have a video recording of every moment of the man's life. No one has anything more that sparse journal entries that are known to have been doctored, written by a man who boasted about his ability to keep secrets. It would be much more credible to say, "There is no evidence that proves Joseph Smith practiced polygamy." Great, I agree, and no intelligent person can argue with you.
  • "Joseph Smith was a polygamist." This statement might be true. However, with what has been made public to date, no one can prove it. It would be much more credible to say, "There is no evidence that proves Joseph Smith did not practice polygamy." Great, I agree, and no intelligent person can argue with you.
  • "Plural marriage is not practiced in heaven." This may very well be true. However, the implication is that marriages that do not persist into the highest degree of glory in the Celestial Kingdom are not worth pursuing. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the vast majority of monogamous marriages--including those within "the remnant"--will not persist beyond this life. By this argument, I am not sure I know anyone who should be married.

Here are things every honest person should admit:
  • God can command anything, and whatever he commands is right.
  • We should expect that our fallen sensibilities and ignorant minds are not equal with God's wisdom and knowledge.
  • We should expect that a loving God would never ask us to do anything that is not in our best interest.
  • We should expect that if we have broken hearts, contrite spirits, and ask with real intent, he will explain his reasons for what he asks without upbraiding us.
  • Anyone who lusts after another person is sinning. This includes the married to anyone else, but also includes the married toward their spouse, the single towards their prospective spouse, the married towards their prospective plural spouse, and anyone else.
  • God has commanded polygamy in the past.
  • God has approved of polygamy in the past.
  • God has also disallowed polygamy in the past, such as with the Nephites.
  • Abraham lied about his relationship to Sarah on two occasions with God's approval and commandment to do so.
  • Joseph Smith publicly preached against polygamy. His private practice or avoidance of it is not clear.

What you make of those statements is up to you, but they are true, and you ought to admit that.

Let's stop putting forth silly arguments. Let's have open minds and avoid shutting down conversations  or running like cowards when we don't like something that is said. Let's stop spreading rumors and gossiping--which are sins.

Let's stop spending time justifying our sacred cows. Let's spend that time seeking God.