Sunday, September 20, 2015

Elder Ballard's Sermon to Southern Utah

Elder Ballard taught,
Paul warned the Saints in his own day of the spiritual dangers they faced. To the Galatians he wrote, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”[6]
I raise my warning voice, as Paul did, that there are those “that trouble you”—people that “pervert the gospel of Christ.” I would be shirking my duty if I did not raise my voice to warn you of the challenges we face today.
I remind you of Jesus’ prophecy regarding the last days in which we now live: “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”[7] We are saddened when we witness some of the “very elect” deceived as Jesus warned.
Recently I visited a small grove of sequoia trees planted years ago on the BYU campus not far from where this broadcast is originating today in Provo....
Sadly, one of the trees died last year; and the dead tree needed to be cut down, leaving only a stump to remind anyone passing by that a tall, majestic tree once stood there.
The campus Arborist wanted to know what killed the tree, as the sequoia certainly did not die of old age. After an examination, he determined that the tree’s feeding roots had died from a lack of water....
The Arborist discovered that the aquifer that nourished the little grove had shifted as an unintended consequence of the construction of the new Life Sciences Building, just east of the grove.
To me this is a perfect analogy of what happens when stalwart Church members, the “very elect,” those who for all appearances seem to stand tall and erect in the faith, but die spiritually.

Elder Ballard then explained how, in his opinion, it is our negligence of the basics that allow the "very elect" to slip away and forget the fundamentals of the gospel.

He said, "One thing that is constantly on my mind is knowing that individuals who don’t stay focused on the simple doctrine and gospel of Christ will eventually listen to false teachers and self-declared prophets and adopt worldly philosophies."

I couldn't agree more. I wonder if Elder Ballard detects the irony of his words? Let me explain.

Paul's words apply wonderful to the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith. God made very clear in the verses of the Doctrine and Covenants that the restoration came through Joseph Smith. Church materials support this argument. However, church history, for those who study it, provides an interesting story very similar to the story of this tree. Instead of confiding in what Joseph did, and making our mission the fulfillment of God's word through him, we've built what seemed like good projects, like Life Sciences buildings, and accidentally moved the aquifer away from the roots. As a church, have we stayed "focused on the simple doctrine and gospel of Christ"? Have we embraced the restoration through Joseph Smith? Or, are most members today as ignorant to exactly what Joseph taught and what God commanded through him as non-members? Have members listened to "false teachers and self-declared prophets" and replaced God's word with "worldly philosophies"? I suppose we could measure by the liveliness of the tree. Or, as in Jacob 5, what fruits the tree bears.

Earlier in his discourse, Elder Ballard praised the saints of the Utah South area. These are the fruits he mentioned that caused his praise:
-A nationwide polling service found Utah to be the most religious state.
- Three missions
-Six temples with two under construction
-the largest religious university in America
-vibrant institutes of religion programs associated with the great colleges and universities in the area
-an expanding Missionary Training Center in Provo
-Numerous ward, stake, and seminary buildings

I don't think that any of these things are bad things. Yet, I am aware of many people (including scriptural examples like the Israelites and King Noah's people) who were able to produce these fruits without having any connection to the tree of life. In fact, these are all measurements not of how close you are to God, but how much money you have. After all, you can buy anything in this world with money. I would hope that stronger fruits would be miracles, visions, prophecy, revelation, visitations, and other fruits that witness to a person and a group that they are accepted of God.

Elder Ballard said: "There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking questions or investigating our history, doctrine, and practices. The Restoration began when Joseph Smith sought answers to his sincere questions." I'm really happy to read him saying that. He correctly identifies that many leaders (local and otherwise) are persecuting members of the church for the crime of knowing more about church history than they do. That's a shame, and I hope Elder Ballard's words helps smooth this over.

Elder Ballard railed a bit against the tendency for members to use the internet in their searches regarding church history. He said, "It is hard for me to understand why anyone turns to other voices on the internet without first turning to voices of the scriptures or the voices of the living prophets and apostles." It is kind of hard for me to understand why this would be hard for him to understand. The church has a solid track record of intentionally misleading church members on history. Unlike some, I do not believe this has been an intentional effort. Rather, I believe that church leaders have generally been woefully ignorant of church history, simply as a result of having spent their time on other things. Brother Ballard admits that his resource for answering questions are church paid historians and BYU professors: "When I have a question that I cannot answer, I turn to those who can help me. The Church is blessed with trained scholars and those who have devoted a lifetime of study, who have come to know our history and the scriptures. These thoughtful men and women provide context and background so we can better understand our sacred past and our current practices." He is not the first apostle to admit that he didn't know church history. President Packer explained that one reason they have the correlation committee (a paid group of scholars that edit and filter church materials for correctness) is that they fully expect the correlation committee to know more about the gospel and church history than they do.

Now, only a fool would expect a committee of church employees to report the full historical story to their bosses without some sort of pro-current-positions filter in place. So, effectively, the only thing church leaders know about history is what reaffirms the policies and positions they have put into place without knowing church history. Now, all of the sudden, many things make sense: The blatant contradictions between official policy and church history, the glaring omissions in the church's recent "Gospel Topics" essays, the perpetuation of faith promoting rumors that are historically falsifiable, etc.

In that vein, Elder Ballard's point about how we should not be "Viewing podcasts and Internet sites that raise questions and doubt without being intellectually honest and that do not adequately and honestly present the Lord’s perspective" takes on another light: This would necessarily include all official church materials.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Reclaim the Restoration

A friend brought this new website to my attention. I endorse the scriptures and quotes from church leaders found on it, and believe it is worth reading them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

No man can pluck them out of my hand

Believers in Christ must reconcile what they believe with the words of Christ. The scriptures are a great resource for those words. The Book of John is phenomenal. Probably written at a time when John was the last eye witness to the ministry of Jesus living, he was constantly confronted by men who thought they knew what the gospel was all about. He wrote his gospel as an answer to their apostate concepts.

John chapter 10 is a great resource. It flatly contradicts many concepts that have been perpetuated by men who know not God.

Jesus taught,

1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
 6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
 7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
 11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
 17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
 19 ¶There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.
 20 And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?
 21 Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
 22 ¶And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.
 23 And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.
 24 Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
 25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.
 26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
 30 I and my Father are one.
 31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.
 32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
 33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
 34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
 35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
 36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
 37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
 38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
 39 Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand,
 40 And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.
 41 And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true.
 42 And many believed on him there.
(John 10)

I also like the following verse:
O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name. (2 Nephi 9:41)

Now, this being said, here are some questions:

1) Can any man cut another man off from the blessings Jesus has given them? No. Jesus said, " My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."
2) Do men of God teach others to follow them, or any other man? No. Like Nephi, they teach men to "come unto the Lord, the Holy One." They teach, as did John, that only Christ can grant heavenly blessings, and only Christ can take them away.
3) How does one obtain eternal life? Is it by following or listening to a man or men? No. Jesus taught, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." Men do not have a part in this transaction, except to tell men to follow Christ.

I anticipate the following objection: "but God said 'whether by me or by my servants'. Doesn't that mean that church leaders can act in the name of God and it is just as good as if God did/said it?"  Because this concept is plainly contradicted by God's word, we can assume that the interpretation we have been taught is false. But how do you prove it?

Well, you ought to read chapter 2 of the book "Commanded in All Things," which you can download for free from the right sidebar of this blog. In short, the Lord said: "And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days. And they shall go forth and none shall stay them, for I the Lord have commanded them. Behold, this is mine authority, and the authority of my servants..." (D&C 1:4-6) God's word imparted to a person is what makes them servants. Where that word ends, so does their qualification as servants. God never authorizes anyone to do whatever they want with a promise that he will make it his. Instead, he says that his commanding someone to do something is what gives them authority. This is not transferable, and it is not a blanket commission. There is no such thing as servants who are servants merely because they hold some title. Instead, God must actually command their actions in order to make them valid on heaven and in earth. If such were not the case, we would probably have a lot less cases of church officers giving priesthood blessings where the sick were not healed, etc.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Creeds of the Priests Will Damn You

Joseph Smith said:
Now men cannot have any possible grounds to say that this is figurative, or that it does
not mean what it says: for He is now explaining what He had previously spoken in parables;
and according to this language, the end of the world is the destruction of the wicked, the
harvest and the end of the world have no allusion directly to the human family in the last
days, instead of the earth, as many have imagined; and that which shall precede the coming
of the Son of Man, and the restitution of all things spoken of by the mouth of all the holy
prophets since the world began; and the angels are to have something to do in this great
work, for they are the reapers. As, therefore, the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so
shall it be in the end of the world; that is, as the servants of God go forth warning the
nations, both priests and people, and as they harden their hearts and reject the light of truth,
these first being delivered over to the buffetings of Satan, and the law and the testimony
being closed up, as it was in the case of the Jews, they are left in darkness, and delivered
over unto the day of burning; thus being bound up by their creeds, and their bands being
made strong by their priests, are prepared for the fulfilment of the saying of the Savior --
"The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and gather out of His Kingdom all things that
offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire, there shall be
wailing and gnashing of teeth." We understand that the work of gathering together of the
wheat into barns, or garners, is to take place while the tares are being bound over, and
preparing for the day of burning; that after the day of burnings, the righteous shall shine
forth like the sun, in the Kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

According to Joseph Smith, then, at least one way that the wicked are bound in bundles from which they cannot be saved from the destruction to precede the Second Coming is through their entrenchment in creeds given by their priests.

This is no surprise to me, although I was previously unaware of this quote, because of the marked increase I have seen in dogmatism in non-scriptural topics. People are heaping up to them teachers which give precepts that satisfy their preconceived notions rather than that are informed by the Holy Ghost, which usually preaches things which we never before had supposed, and which consistently calls us to make uncomfortable changes.

When people sever themselves institutionally or individually from the voice of God, only folly can follow. They will be so entrenched with what must be true that they will cast out the voice of God and those who echo it from their midst. They will refuse to be saved, and will be destroyed when the judgments are poured out on the world, which is a day that will soon occur.

Joseph said: "'Try the spirits,' but what by? Are we to try them by the creeds of men? What
preposterous folly -- what sheer ignorance -- what madness! Try the motions and actions of
an eternal being (for I contend that all spirits are such) by a thing that was conceived in
ignorance, and brought forth in folly -- a cobweb of yesterday! Angels would hide their
faces, and devils would be ashamed and insulted..." (TPJS)

I am sadly dismayed when I hear folks say something like, "Oh, God would NEVER do/say that. That CAN'T be true." Joseph taught that all who put bounds on what God can say or do will forever be damned to not knowing him, for they do not allow him to reveal himself to them. They forever limit themselves to the foolishness and folly of the natural man.

Jesus taught, "Judge not according to your traditions, but judge righteous judgment." (John 7:24, JST)

It is not the false traditions of our fallen flesh that will teach us the truth of all things, but the Holy Ghost (see Moroni 10:5).

Remember, "Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost." (2 Nephi 28:31)