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Friday, December 30, 2016

To the "Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy" People

Facts:

  • 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.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Book: Seek Ye This Jesus (Book 1): The Miracle of Repentance

I am posting the pdf of the first installment of my new book here on the blog. Feel free to download it and share it. It is written to a general (read: not just Mormon) audience. It is essential reading. I hope it helps you out.

This will come out in print form, but I may wait until I finish part 2. I anticipate part 2 to be longer than part 1. The subject will be "walking with God."

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6t-rQr3iLAsdGVrNHZ1MzFWYk0/view?usp=sharing

Thank you to my friend Will for proofreading!

-Rob

The prayer of a broken heart

Father, you have blessed me far beyond what I have deserved. You endured patiently with me in countless times when I was not wise enough to understand the wisdom of your will. My life has been cascading cycles of obedient ignorance followed by increased knowledge and ever increasing trust in you. You have strengthened me through weak times and guided me beyond my capacity to comprehend the best path. You have done nothing but provide me with reasons to trust your judgment and that your wisdom exceeds my own. Your mercy is endless and your love is perfect.

Father, everything that you have given me is yours to take. I have given you all that you have asked, and anything else you ask I will likewise give. I hold nothing back. My most cherished relationships are yours. The object of my profession is yours. The approval of others is meaningless to me compared to your approval. I have willingly sacrificed it to stand for you and your truth and will do so again. My heart is set on you and you alone. Continue to strengthen my courage do obey you, and give me the knowledge that helps me choose to keep your word rather than by swayed by the illusions of this world.

You have patiently responded to my pleas, and worked as quickly as I would let you to bring about the righteous desires of my heart. You have lovingly rejected my requests that were not in my best interest, and I thank you for your willingness to allow my suffering until I was freed from the incorrect beliefs that caused it. I know nothing. I will give away everything I think I know to know you and will accept whatever you teach me. I am nothing. I will give away everything I possess and break all bonds with that I treasure in order to have what you possess.

Father, you have shown me that your knowledge is so much greater than mine that I not only seek you and submit to you in all things, but I realize that I do not even know what to ask of you due to my deficit in knowledge. Father, write your will upon my heart and give me sufficient wisdom to be a blessing to others. Help me understand what you understand so that I can live a life that magnifies your glory and helps others see a degree of your perfect knowledge so that they come to trust you and believe in you as I trust and believe in you. Show me what I yet lack, and give me the knowledge to overcome my flaws.

The parable of the gym rat

There was once a gym rat. He had large muscles that he was proud of. Because he wanted bigger muscles more than anything in this world, he could be found in the gym lifting weights everyday for several hours. His life outside the gym was also consumed with his practice. He bought special food, ate at special times, slept at certain times, and shaped his whole day around weightlifting. While he felt great satisfaction in the progress he had so far achieved and the knowledge that he was fully encumbered with weightlifting, he nevertheless had a gnawing, quiet feeling inside him. A few years ago his growth had slowed down, then stopped. He tried to break out of the plateau by adding an extra hour of lifting, by drinking another protein shake, etc., but no matter which element of his routine was expanded, nothing seemed to work. He hoped that somehow he would figure it out, and meanwhile just focused on what had gotten him to that point.

One day, the gym rat was approached by a stranger. The gym rat was quite annoyed when he had to interrupt his mental focus, turn off his music, and remove his ear buds to hear what the interrupter had to say. "Hi, I noticed your workout is pretty long. You might try doing higher intensity, shorter workouts. Otherwise, you hinder your body's ability to recover from the stress you are inducing, which is counterproductive and will prevent gains." The gym rat was furious. He weighed at least 60 pounds more than this imbecile. He had never seen him before and, judging by his physique, he didn't hit the gym much. He ignored the stranger, put his ear buds back in, and continued his workout. He never made the gains he sought, and ended up tearing a muscle from his overtraining, forcing him to abandon weightlifting.

Several months later, the stranger--who by diligent study and acute self-examination had discovered the secret to rapid, intense gains--had gained around 60 pounds of muscle, but was starting to plateau. He had learned this method of training from an impromptu group of fitness hobbyists who happened to respond to a book that had been published on the subject. It had turned him into a devout exerciser through showing him the kinds of benefits weightlifting can bring when you actually do it properly. He found support in his peer group, and occasionally even had the courage to try to help the gym rats discover the same principles of weightlifting. In the months after the book was published, some splintering took place. Most did not faithfully adhere to the weightlifting principles. Some of them, finding themselves without gains, decided it was a bunch of rubbish. Others found solace in the social aspect of being a part of a movement and the fact that they were still exercising more than they had before. A very few--like the stranger--were true and faithful to every instruction they had been given, and had received all the gains that could be received from that instruction. Still, the stranger and those few like him found themselves beginning to plateau just as the gym rat had.

One day, the stranger was approached by a friend from his group, one who had--like him--remained faithful to the instructions he had received. The friend said, "I have discovered that in order to break through this plateau, we need to reduce our workout interval from 4 times a week to 2 times a week. It seems counterintuitive, I know, but by doing this I have been able to add another 20 pounds of muscle in two months. It is hard, because I feel like I should be doing things the way others do them, but by sticking to this I have experienced undeniable growth. I am stronger than I have ever been." The stranger felt very uncomfortable with this advice. His friend was suggesting that the book, while useful, was incomplete. He responded, "But what about all our other friends? Surely, if this was a good idea, they would be doing it too?" His friend said, "I've talked with many of them and I have found that majority are not actually interested in gains as much as they are interested in lifting weights. Though their form of doing so differs from the gym rats, their attitude is quite similar." This was offensive to the stranger. He identified with this group, and a judgment against them was a judgment against him. Besides, was this fellow suggesting that his lack of gains might actually be his own fault? He struggled to reconcile that with all the hard work he had put in, notwithstanding the obvious truth that this situation was precisely that of the gym rats--something he himself had worked to try to help them see. His friend continued, "Those who do care about gains don't believe that this additional instruction could be true or worthwhile. They say if it were important, it would have been in the book. They have made the book and its author their idol, instead of seeking gains." This, the stranger felt, had taken it too far. Who did this guy think he was? He didn't seem stronger than anyone else. Why would he think he knew more than the stranger? He decided to break contact. He didn't want to confront his friend directly, being without sound argument for his objections, so he just stood in silent response until his friend went away. Then, he passive aggressively disconnected from his former friend by switching gyms. The stranger's hopes for growth died that day, having cut himself off from the only path to get greater gains. He lived out the rest of his life quite content with his present size, despite the still, small voice that continually suggested something was off, until one day he found himself too old to lift weights.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Mysteries that haven't been revealed since the origin of the world

Alma 12 says:

9 ...It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.
"The portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men" sounds like a fixed amount of truth. I used to think it meant the gospel contained in the scriptures, after all this is publicly available. I was wrong.

I asked God why he was asking me to write my upcoming book--which lays out the doctrines of repentance and walking with God in plainness--when I knew that the vast majority of people will ignore or reject it. I asked him if that violated Alma 12, and this was his response.

There is an appointed quantity of truth/commandments appointed for all men. However, here in the last days, the Lord is assigning more and more truth/commandments into that standard apportionment. Why? In days past, he could mercifully reserve the core truths of the gospel to the few who diligently searched and obeyed. After all, all those who truly seek him will find them. Giving too much to too many in too much plainness will damn them, because they will reject what was revealed plainly to them. In previous times, it was better to hide more of the truth/commandments in the hope that the reprobate will, at some later phase of their lives, finally turn to God. The waiting period and extra effort required increased their chances of success compared to laying this things out plainly.

In our day, he cannot afford to follow the same policy. There is a finite amount of time before his return. There is a finite amount of time between each of the rolling desolating disasters that are being poured out in waves of increasing amplitude. Those who do not acquire the previously hidden truths required to rise up to the level of truth/commandments necessary to endure his presence will not survive his coming. Those who do not repent to that level before one of the rolling disasters takes them are just as damned whether they are exposed to the previously reserved truths or not. This is not my opinion.

For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. (Mark 4:22.)

To be clear, what we are talking about is "the hidden wisdom" (1 Corinthians 2:7), "the mysteries of the kingdom" (Doctrine and Covenants 42:65), "the revelation of the mystery" (Romans 16:25).

This is not just one teaching, and it is not given to any one man to know. Those who know these things belong to "the fellowship of the mystery." (Ephesians 3:9). Anyone can know these things. The scriptures teach us plainly what the conditions are:

Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance. (Alma 26:22).
Joseph Smith was given the opportunity to know and teach "the mystery of those things which have been sealed, even things which were from the foundation of the world, and the things which shall come from this time until the time of my coming, if he abide in me, and if not, another will I plant in his stead." He did not accomplish this mission, having decided against God's commandment to return to Nauvoo to his martyrdom. Now, it seems, God is willing to reveal at least breadcrumbs through any old idiot who will be humble enough to recognize his weakness and actually do what God says. You have to repent, you have to exercise faith, bring forth good works, and pray continually. Simple, right? How many people do you know who do those things? 1? 2?

Monday, December 26, 2016

It's a wonderful life...or is it?

This Christmas Eve I got the impression that it might be nice to watch It's a Wonderful Life. I am a huge fan of Jimmy Stewart movies, and that one used to be one of my favorite flicks. I hadn't watched it in a few years. My kids are old enough to sit through it, so we decided to watch it.

The movie stopped being on my short list when I learned enough about economics to resent the anti-capitalist tone of the movie. My recollection of the movie was that Jimmy Stewart's character made repeated poor economic decisions, and in the end his free loading friends give back a small fraction of the savings he passed on to them to save his rear end. That is not a true recollection.

Watching the movie deeply affected me. Here is a more accurate summary of what the character does in his life:

  1. He jumps into freezing water to save his brother, causing partial deafness for the duration of his life.
  2. He endures a beating by his childhood pharmacist boss to save him from mistakenly issuing poison to a client while drunk.
  3. He forgoes travel and college (for which he had save his whole life and put off 4 years to help his father's business) in order to keep the company alive after his father's untimely passing.
  4. He uses his savings to instead send his brother to college, with the understanding that they will switch out after he graduates. His brother instead gets married and takes another job.
  5. He takes care of his mother after his father dies.
  6. He builds a huge housing development, selling the houses at 1/4 of their market price in order to get poor people out of rental slums.
  7. He gives away his marriage/honeymoon savings to the townspeople when there is a run on the bank.
  8. He surrenders his ideas of travel and business success to his wife, who wants to live in their hometown and live in an old broken down mansion.
  9. ...The list goes on!
In the end, his nitwit uncle misplaces a huge deposit that would have resulted not only in the loss of the business for which he had sacrificed so much, but also jail time. Realizing that his life insurance policy would pay out enough to cover the shortage, he resolves to commit suicide.

Interestingly, even when faced with the possibility that his repeated sacrificial decisions would be robbed of meaning, he resolves to give the final sacrifice--his own life--to preserve the wellbeing of those around him, including his uncle, who would benefit the most from the deal despite having been the cause of the problem.

This movie wreaks of gospel truth! But before we get to that, if you haven't seen the movie and can continue to live with yourself despite this glaring omission, here's how it ends: An angel visits him and shows him what life would be like for those he knows had he never been born. In the end, he decides that he does more good by being alive than being dead, and the townspeople come through and donate enough money to make up for his uncle's mistake.

Life as a disciple of Jesus Christ means that you are going to consistently make sacrifices for those who will receive far less benefit than your cost. Like Jimmy Stewart's little brother, they will take your sacrifice, but will squander it. Like Jimmy Stewart's father, they will give you opportunities to step up and pay the price of their mistakes. Like the housing development, there will be plenty of times where you are given the chance to cash out on a lifetime of your hard work in order to fundamentally improve the lives of many people who have not made that sacrifice, and in the end, as the bad-guy Potter correctly says, they will be the first ones to string you up when you face your own challenge in life. The point of the gospel is not that some day all the people who you sacrificed for will come and dump out a payment for your good deeds on your dining room table while singing. Unlike in the movie, that is never going to happen. The point is that, in this life, we each have not only one but many "Clarence moments" where we decide that the sacrifice is worth it--not in absolute terms, as we will all come away with a loss in this life, maybe a huge loss--but that the outcome in us is what we seek. As the placard hanging below Stewart's father's portrait said (paraphrasing), our riches in this life consist in what we do for others. We derive our satisfaction not in the result of our toil for others, but in the toil itself.

What a sobering but powerful movie.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Gulf Between Mediocre and Good

Once someone made the mistake of calling Jesus "good." He swiftly replied, "why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God." (Mark 10:18) God is incredible. Jesus refused to be described with the same language as his Father. How much more should we refuse to be described as "good"?

Nevertheless, dust of the earth as we may be, we are not given this life to be mediocre. I would like to bring attention to the vast gulf between the two descriptors, which is a place we ought to find ourselves in. You may be surprised when you stop to think of how we end up there.

If you need a refreshing on the state of the natural man, consider the following:

1 And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.
 2 Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity.
 3 And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him.
 4 O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!
 5 Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!
 6 Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.
 7 O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth.
 8 For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God.
 9 Yea, behold at his voice do the hills and the mountains tremble and quake.
 10 And by the power of his voice they are broken up, and become smooth, yea, even like unto a valley.
 11 Yea, by the power of his voice doth the whole earth shake;
 12 Yea, by the power of his voice, do the foundations rock, even to the very center.
 13 Yea, and if he say unto the earth—Move—it is moved.
 14 Yea, if he say unto the earth—Thou shalt go back, that it lengthen out the day for many hours—it is done;
 15 And thus, according to his word the earth goeth back, and it appeareth unto man that the sun standeth still; yea, and behold, this is so; for surely it is the earth that moveth and not the sun.
 16 And behold, also, if he say unto the waters of the great deep—Be thou dried up—it is done.
 17 Behold, if he say unto this mountain—Be thou raised up, and come over and fall upon that city, that it be buried up—behold it is done.
 18 And behold, if a man hide up a treasure in the earth, and the Lord shall say—Let it be accursed, because of the iniquity of him who hath hid it up—behold, it shall be accursed.
 19 And if the Lord shall say—Be thou accursed, that no man shall find thee from this time henceforth and forever—behold, no man getteth it henceforth and forever.
 20 And behold, if the Lord shall say unto a man—Because of thine iniquities, thou shalt be accursed forever—it shall be done.
 21 And if the Lord shall say—Because of thine iniquities thou shalt be cut off from my presence—he will cause that it shall be so. (Helaman 12)

19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19)

So we are less than the dust of the earth. What is the only way to arise from the dust?

The examples are found in Jesus, Abraham, and all saved men: "Here am I, send me."

The key to constructing a masterpiece of a life, one which will give you the greatest satisfaction upon reflection at its conclusion, is to yield to the incitements of God. It doesn't take skill. It doesn't take wisdom. It doesn't take good looks, fame, or fortune. It doesn't take strength. It just takes submission. It is just the willingness to take upon you the name of Christ. It is the determination to serve him to the end. It is the simple, child-like desire to serve him. When he calls, you say, "Here am I, send me." It doesn't mean you are the best match for the task at hand--you aren't. It doesn't mean you are the best fit for what is at hand--you aren't. However, if you stop and look around, you'll see hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people (maybe even billions) who are NOT volunteering for the job. What separates you from them is that you said yes, and they all said no. God will make up for what you lack in being able to perform the job. After all, the works are his.

Here is some detail from John telling us about how Jesus operated in this way:

"Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?" (John 10:32).

"But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me." (John 5:36).

"Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." (John 14:10).

You see, even the perfect man was simply doing what he was told. He was simply saying yes to what God asked him to do. That is the key. We can do no good thing of ourselves. Whatever good we do is God "who dwelleth in us" doing the works.

Who is on the Lord's side, who? Now is the time to show.

God's work is incredible. It is powerful. It is majestic. If you want to encounter it and have it infuse into your life, all you need to do is bow your heart to him and say, "yes." Then, get ready, because he will use you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Snippet from "Ascension of Isaiah"

I thought this prophecy was interesting (from Ch 3):

21. And afterwards, on the eve of His approach [Christ's second coming], His disciples will forsake the teachings of the Twelve Apostles, and their faith, and their love and their purity.

22. And there will be much contention on the eve of [His advent and] His approach.

23. And in those days many will love office, though devoid of wisdom.

24. And there will be many lawless elders, and shepherds dealing wrongly by their own sheep, and they will ravage (them) owing to their not having holy shepherds.

25. And many will change the honour of the garments of the saints for the garments of the covetous, and there will be much respect of persons in those days and lovers of the honour of this world.

26. And there will be much slander and vainglory at the approach of the Lord, and the Holy Spirit will withdraw from many.

27. And there will not be in those days many prophets, nor those who speak trustworthy words, save one here and there in divers places,

28. On account of the spirit of error and fornication and of vainglory, and of covetousness, which shall be in those, who will be called servants of that One and in those who will receive that One.

29. And there will be great hatred in the shepherds and elders towards each other.

30. For there will be great jealousy in the last days; for every one will say what is pleasing in his own eyes.

31. And they will make of none effect the prophecy of the prophets which were before me, and these my visions also will they make of none effect, in order to speak after the impulse of their own hearts.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Few there be that find it.

The gospel is like a highway with a million forked exits. Sometimes, you need to stay left to stay on the path. Sometimes, however, you need to bear right to stay on the highway. Staying on is not the default outcome. It is hard. You have to continually question everything you think you know. You have to avoid pitfall after pitfall, distraction after distraction. The Lord has to allow distractions, counterfeits, and frauds to be as frequent as genuine opportunities to advance. There is often purpose in allowing you to temporarily embrace something not entirely true. Truth is progressive, and there is opposition in all things. This is why there are so few that find the way to eternal life. Most don't search at all, and those who do are routinely satisfied with far less than everything that God has. They cash in their chips at the first sign of increase, when the gospel requires continual reinvestment and routine loss of all presumptive gains.

There are NO shortcuts. There is no other way to be saved except coming into the presence of God the Father, and that is accomplished by first coming into the presence of Jesus Christ the Son. There is no other way, and there is no other way to come to him than how he has described. You must actually seek out his word. You must actually live it. You must actually spend an enormous amount of time and effort seeking him in focused, sincere, longing prayer. There is no other way.

Though there are no shortcuts, there are best practices. One best practice is to heed God's commandment to look to him directly, and his commandment to seek not to be "cumbered":

"Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not." (D&C 6:36).

"Seek not to be cumbered. Forsake all unrighteousness. Commit not adultery—a temptation with which thou hast been troubled." (D&C 66:10).

These concepts are best learned through a counterexample found in Martha:

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10).

Martha, like most of us, was anxious to jump right into what she believed was the laundry list of to-do items that would earn God's favor. She was not willing to wait upon the Lord. She wasted a lot of time. In the end, her satisfaction was limited to the hollow, unsure feeling that her busyness was equivalent to God's validation. Sadly, her accomplishments were not recognized by God. You do not want to arrive in God's presence only to have him say that your efforts were on things that were not of him. Those whose works are not of him will be told that he doesn't know you.

There are no laundry lists. Baptism (or rebaptism) will not magically whisk you into the Lord's presence. Meeting in fellowships will not do it. Donating to the poor will not do it. A church is not going to save you. Any authority they claim to have is markedly absent in their ability to cause a man to inherit the blessings promised the faithful. The same goes for any group of men, or any single man. Is there really any difference in the mechanism of the claim to authority? Unfortunately, when a man is freed from his false traditions, the first thing he does is find himself some new false traditions to take the place of the old.

1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;
 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
 8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.
 9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
 10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
 11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. (Galatians 4:1-11).

You have been freed from your slavery by being taught that you have direct access to God. Why would you ever willingly re-enslave yourself? Stop cutting yourself off from the Lord by fixating on the limited accomplishments of mortal men!

Their messages may have merit, and may even be critical to your personal advancement. However, rather than swallowing anything they say or do with baited breath, their messages ought to be evaluated case-by-case, gleaned for any truth, and then cast aside. A hungry man casts away the peel of an orange after eating it, continuing his search knowing that the hunger will soon return. Only a fool would build the peel into a shrine, and change their food search strategy to focus only on orange peels.

What most fail to realize is that true messengers are not conduits but batteries. They can offer up what they have attained, but they cannot offer up what they themselves have not attained. They are not a gateway to heaven, but a discrete dispensation of knowledge in a container mired with their own traditions, beliefs, experiences, and other biases.

Whoever you hitch up to, you will limit yourself to their progress. Many are happy with that. Some few will not be, and will make their target God instead of a man.

The Psalmist wrote:

4 One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. (Psalm 27:4, 8).

This is right.




Thursday, December 8, 2016

A book that might be of interest to you

Bret Corbridge has asked a lengthy list of people, including myself, to write a testimony as inspired for a collection he felt prompted to publish.

It is available on Amazon for print cost, and you can get a PDF download for free if you ask anyone who has it.

I have not yet read the entire copy, but I know my brief entry contains what I received when I prayed and asked God if I should participate and what I should write.

EDIT 12/9/2016
Having read the book, I would not advocate reading it. By saying that, I mean no offense to any who participated in the work.

If you want to help LDS convert to Christ, tell them to read the scriptures. If they still don't get it, tell them to read "Teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men."

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Why don't I get revelation?

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. --Jeremiah 33:3

I have had several people ask me why God doesn't talk to them. Some question their theology, or even if God exists. Others assume they are evil, or that God doesn't love them.

God DOES want to talk to you. I promise.

When God won't talk to you

One limiting factor is whether we are paying attention. We are commanded to seek, knock, and ask. If we don't, we are not providing many opportunities for him to speak to us. Let us assume that we are actively engaged in attempting to hear God. Why does he not answer us?

God does not exist to entertain us. He doesn't just want to make social calls, or satisfy our curiosity. When God talks to us, he is going to reveal new knowledge. In fact, God cannot communicate with us without doing so.

God subjects himself to several laws. Two of them are relevant here. First, he reveals truth according to the heed and diligence they have demonstrated to previously revealed truth. Therefore, his communication with you will be commensurate to your obedience to him and efforts in searching out truth.

Second, he will not give knowledge that a person is not prepared to obey. God never issues commandments to an individual that are not possible for an individual to obey. Even when an individual is fully obedient to what they have received, God will likely provide an adaptation period for them to build up preparation for the next commandment through experience.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Spiritual and Temporal Preparedness

Lately, I've had a few inquiries about preparing for the destruction to precede the second coming. I have a survival blog, have created a lookup tool for scriptures referring to the topic, and have been given visions of some of the things that are going to happen, but I am not an expert on the topic.

It seems that every one of these interactions ends with me offending the person who is writing to me. I tend to be quite blunt on the topic. I have written about preparedness before. I will elaborate on it more now.

Becoming

If you don't have an idea of what is coming, you need to study the scriptures. Begin with Isaiah. I recommend Gileadi's translation. This is required reading. Jesus commanded us to search his words specifically. God is not going to reveal much to you on the topic if you have been lazy and ignored his commandment. Personal revelation, for reasons you'll soon realize, is essential to your fulfilling God's will for you and those around you in what is to come.

If you do have an idea of what is coming, you ought to feel a little strange. You see, when you realize what is coming, you will also realize that your existence in those times to come will require an outpouring of God's power in your life that is incredibly foreign to you right now. These are two realities that co-exist like opposite sides of the same stick: pick up one, you must pick up the other. 

The faithful have experiences in front of them that will make us look back at this time and scratch our heads because it was so different and so dull spiritually. We have to become a people that can call down miracles. Miracles of having soldiers pass us by without hearing or seeing us, even though we are in plain sight and making noise with children. Miracles of being physically moved from one location to another by the spirit. Miracles of knowing how to navigate through areas we've never before visited. Miracles of producing water out of the ground through prayer. Miracles of having light in thick darkness. Of being shielded from radiation poisoning. Of producing food miraculously.

If you aren't this way now, what do you suppose is going to happen to magically transform you into what you need to be then? There are a lot of people who have come out of the LDS church, recognizing its limiting effect on their relationship with Jesus Christ, yet they are still spiritually subdued. Like an animal caged its whole life, the chains have been removed, but you are still operating as if they are in place. Wake up, look up, and act up. The time is now.

Leaving Babylon

Should you move? Should you quit your job? Should you buy a farm and live off the land? I get these questions a lot. I happened to move, change careers, and I have built up a farm where we are on track to produce a great deal of what we eat.  And yet, I would not necessarily recommend you do any of that. At the same time, I will tell you plainly that if you live in a city or a suburb, or in ~90% of the inhabited area of the United States, you are going to die when the lights go out, probably in a horrific way. Let me now knit these ideas together.

First, if you live in a suburb or city, or even in most country areas, you are going to die. I talk to a lot of people who ask advice on food storage and other preparations. Let me tell you something. When you crack open your first bucket of wheat, what do you think your neighbors will be doing? They will be coming to your house. If you share, you will die of starvation. If you don't share, you will die by violence. Recent history has reminded us that non-Zion people, no matter how nice in normal circumstances, revert to brute animals when the pillars of normality are removed. If you believe the scriptures, and have bothered to read them, you are aware of the deprived conditions we will soon find ourselves in. It is going to be really, really, really bad.

That being said, of what importance are temporal preparations, really? God is going to pulverize everything in this world that is not from him. That includes you and me. If we have not achieved a covenant relationship with him (read: he has not made specific promises to you), you are toast. The only question is how much you will suffer before dying, and what good you might do in the meantime. If, on the other hand, you have obtained promises, and are where God has told you to be, it really doesn't matter whether your particular circumstances have allowed for temporal preparation or not.

I would rather be in the midst of the most violent people on earth with God's promises than in a billion dollar bunker without them. Incidentally, God tells us in Isaiah that those billion dollar bunkers are going to be quite useless to those who have them when the time comes to use them. I digress.

I am not saying that if you have promises from God, you can ignore the scriptures and ignore temporal preparations. Some take up this position. I would like to know how Noah would have fared if he figured that God would save him instead of building the boat that God had described to him. Or, more importantly, how his family would have fared if they did not listen to what Noah said God told him, and then participated in the construction of the boat. Think about it.

If you read the scriptures, and you believe God, you will prepare temporally unless you can't (because, say, you are poor) or unless he has told you not to. If God tells you cities are going to be destroyed, and he has, you have to be unable to move or an idiot not to move--or you have revelation telling you that you are meant to stay. I know of a very righteous man who has been told to stay in a place that we both know is going to be destroyed. I have calm peace about it, because I know that God will either miraculously preserve him (maybe to help survivors) or he will die and inherit the reward of the righteous for his obedience. The latter will be appropriate for all those who either are not currently capable of enduring what is coming, or for those who don't need the trial. In either way, thank God for his wisdom and foreknowledge of all things.

I am where I am doing what I am doing because God has commanded me in these things, and I am obeying him. However, I don't believe I would have received these commandments if I didn't spend years asking and searching for his will on this topic. In the end, with my wife I created a careful plan that answered all the expectations I had developed by studying the scriptures. And then God came suddenly, told us we had it all wrong, and told us what to do.

The punchline

God once said:
 43 And whosoever among you are sick, and have not faith to be healed, but believe, shall be nourished with all tenderness, with herbs and mild food, and that not by the hand of an enemy.
 44 And the elders of the church, two or more, shall be called, and shall pray for and lay their hands upon them in my name; and if they die they shall die unto me, and if they live they shall live unto me.
(D&C 42:43-44)

I will apply this scripture to your situation:
Ideally, you will develop the level of holiness and communion with God that no matter where you are, you can call down the blessings of heaven to ensure you are able to do God's will no matter your environment.

But if you don't have that level of faith, you should exercise your native intelligence to the best of your ability, study the scriptures, and prepare in ways that make sense. In the most direct way, this means that if you are not going to move, you ought to buy the items I described here and prepare yourself physically and mentally to hike for hundreds of miles to get to a safe spot when the time comes.

Above all else, realize a promised land is only promised for those who have a promise. The new world proved to be a curse to Laman and Lemuel. If those who do not have a promise come to a promised land, they will be destroyed or revert to the same condition of everyone else when the righteous among them are led away.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Happiness

Over the last few days I had a conversation with a family member about the topic of happiness. It opened my eyes to a difference in my viewpoint compared to the world that I hadn't really thought about before.

If someone were to ask you to define happiness, how would you do it? Chances are your definition would be based upon pleasure. The problem with that is that it is based on your experiences here in the Telestial kingdom.

This world is a kingdom of lies (read this). Those that find joy in those lies, by definition, "love a lie." They can't have real happiness. Anything positive they experience is fleeting--it is merely the front loaded payout of a cost that much exceeds the benefit. That is how the devil deceives you: he hides the cost of something and flaunts the benefits, distorting your ability to make a rational choice (see his conversation with Eve in the garden).

My definition of happiness is probably different. In my opinion, the only true happiness that can be experienced here is sacrificing yourself for people beyond what they will appreciate. Most people here would not see this as happiness at all. As I wrote previously:

"...think about what it is like to be God for [a] minute. God knows us perfectly. He knows we do not deserve his kindness. He knows that what he goes and went through to provide what we ask far exceeds the benefit we will receive from his granting our desires. He knows we will never appreciate what he does enough to justify his doing it. He is the creator of the universe and all things in it. He always has something infinitely more important to do than what he will give up on our behalf. Yet, he does it anyway."

If you do not accept this definition of happiness, that is fine. Here is the wonderful news of the gospel: You will get exactly what you want out of it...sort of.

But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble. (Jacob 4:14).
While the Jews got what they wanted, they probably didn't fully understand what they wanted. When you desire something, you don't just get the part of it you understand. You get the residual consequences--you know, the ones Satan hid/minimized in order to convince you to want something other than God's will.

Most people, if asked, would say what they desire most is to be in their family forever, or to have enough to eat, or to be free from their pain, or to see their children succeed, or to have a nice house, or to have a boat, etc.

Guess what? If they really want it, they will probably get it:

I ought not to harrow up in my desires the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction. (Alma 29:4).
The problem is that they will also get what comes with it. And everything that is not God's will is limiting and/or fleeting. Those who are with their family forever, for example, will never be able to progress beyond the limitations their family has.

Lots of LDS like to quote Joseph Smith in saying:

“Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.”
This is a true statement. However, the definition of happiness is the one I used, not the one most understand. This ought to give you a new outlook on the phrase: "...wickedness never was happiness." (Alma 41:10).

Those who seek Telestial "happiness" will find it--and they will never know the joy of the Saints:
But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever. (2 Nephi 9:18).
What is it that you desire? This is what the Lord asks--both explicitly to those who he redeems from the fall, and implicitly to every man through the agency he has granted. "And it came to pass when Jesus had said these words, he spake unto his disciples, one by one, saying unto them: What is it that ye desire of me, after that I am gone to the Father?" (3 Nephi 28:1).

How would you answer?

I would advise that you study the scriptures and prayerfully analyze your desires, remembering that the natural man is an enemy to God, and your only hope is to connect to a higher wisdom than what you natively possess:

 28 O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
 29 But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God. (2 Nephi 9).
Here is a great vignette demonstrating a higher-than-telestial desire:

 1 And the Lord said unto me: John, my beloved, what desirest thou? For if you shall ask what you will, it shall be granted unto you.
 2 And I said unto him: Lord, give unto me power over death, that I may live and bring souls unto thee.
 3 And the Lord said unto me: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, because thou desirest this thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory, and shalt prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people.
 4 And for this cause the Lord said unto Peter: If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? For he desired of me that he might bring souls unto me, but thou desiredst that thou mightest speedily come unto me in my kingdom.
 5 I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire; but my beloved has desired that he might do more, or a greater work yet among men than what he has before done.
 6 Yea, he has undertaken a greater work; therefore I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel; he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth.
 7 And I will make thee to minister for him and for thy brother James; and unto you three I will give this power and the keys of this ministry until I come.
 8 Verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired. (D&C 7)
The desire of John and the 3 Nephites received high praise from Jesus because these people did not seek their own well-being, but only the will of God and the benefit of their fellowman. Recall that this was also the criteria for Nephi receiving the fullness of the priesthood. It is non-negotiable. God was serious when he said: "For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; or whosoever will save his life, shall be willing to lay it down for my sake; and if he is not willing to lay it down for my sake, he shall lose it." (JST, Mark 8:37).

When I look at this world and the desires of those in it--including professed Christians--I am left to lament:
O how marvelous are the works of the Lord, and how long doth he suffer with his people; yea, and how blind and impenetrable are the understandings of the children of men; for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them! (Mosiah 8:20).
We would all do well to adopt a prayer attitude that goes something like this:

"Father in heaven, I am a fool before you. I know nothing. I submit fully to your perfect wisdom. Please, father, teach me to act according to your knowledge. Show me what I lack. Lead to me to your will."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

News

Hi everyone,
Two things of note.

1 - I'm working on a new book called "Seek Ye This Jesus." I've actually been working on it for several years, but it is in the terminal stages. The subject is coming into the Lord's presence through repentance. This is a very important topic, and I hope I can say what needs to be said on it. Interestingly, my wife has been writing a book of her own, and we were drawn to the same topic, but are working independently. We have agreed not to read each other's book until we each finish. I'm quite excited to read hers. Mine is directed to Christians in general. Hers is directed towards the broader LDS community.

2 - I have set apart a few entire days to catch up on blog posts on my survival blog. Over the last year I've taken about 30 GB worth of video, and am editing it and posting it as we speak. So far, I have about one post scheduled per day until December. The videos contain knowledge that I've had to accumulate the hard way, and I hope it helps others save time and money.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Revelation and discernment

Salvation requires knowledge. "Knowledge saves a man and in the world of spirits a man can't be exalted but by knowledge." (Joseph Smith, WOJS 7 Apr 1844). In fact, salvation is to possess a finite set of knowledge. Once a man obtains sufficient knowledge to overcome the lies of this world, he will by definition be living a higher set of laws, and thus possess a higher degree of glory.

How is knowledge obtained? By revelation.

“… A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God.” (Joseph Smiht, History of the Church, 4:588).
Knowledge comes in two increments: General knowledge/commandments, and individual knowledge/commandments.
9 ...It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell. (Alma 12:9-11).
God separates knowledge into these two increments because of eternal law. God promises us that we will not receive a commandment that we are not capable of keeping.

...the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. (1 Nephi 3:7).

Yet, we are hardly capable of living as God does, which is the standard for living where God does. God will not give you a commandment you are not capable of keeping, which means he will not give you the commandments you are not capable of keeping, even if these are required for eternal life.

Instead, he will patiently send you experiences to build your capacity for obedience until you are capable of keeping higher commandments. He will send them as fast as you are able to keep them, and you will be able to keep them commensurate with how faithful you are to God under all circumstances.

"The portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men" contains general knowledge/commandments. They are simple and obvious to extract from the scriptures. Every person who is capable of understanding them is also capable of living them.

Where do we get individual commandments/knowledge? Through revelation.

Thus we see why it is so important to understand the principle of revelation. "The principle of revelation" might seem like an odd way to talk about the topic. Receiving revelation is anything but simple, due to it being a noisy channel.

There is opposition in all things, and revelation is not excluded.
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. (2 Nephi 2:11).
Opposition in revelation comes from counterfeit revelation. Revelation comes from God. Counterfeit revelation comes from Satan or from our imagination.

Revelation comes in many forms: thoughts/impressions, dreams, voices, open visions, visitations. I used to think of things things as a ladder; the higher you go, the least likely the revelation is to be suspect. That isn't true. Actually, these forms are a continuum. The further along you are on the continuum, the easier it is to have faith in what you receive.

It is also incorrect to think that the more important the message, the more tangible the form of revelation. Consider dreams. All of Daniel's revelations came through dreams. Lehi's warning about Jerusalem came from a dream. That's all he got. If you had a single dream telling you to flee from your home to the desert, leaving everything you possess, would you do it? (If not, you have drawn a line in the sand beyond which the Lord cannot bless you.) God is very willing to give incredibly important instruction through impressions, voices, and dreams. If you receive them, take them seriously, because denying them may very well be the difference between blessing and cursing, life and death.

ANY of these revelatory forms can be counterfeited by Satan. With a little time, it would be easy to list out instances of counterfeit revelation through each of these channels documented in scripture. I theorize that anyone who has received true revelation through any of these channels has also received false revelation through them. It is the counterbalance to provide opposition.

How do we avoid being fooled? Joseph Smith spent a lot of time teaching the people how to discern true messages from God. I don't think this is a matter of memorizing which beings should shake your hand or what color their hair ought to be. Instead, I will give you a key that will not fail you. Joseph taught:
A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the Spirit of Revelation for instance when you feel pure lnteligence flowing unto you it may give you sudden strokes of ideas that by noticeting it you may find it. fulfilled the same day or Soon. (I.E.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God will come to pass and thus by learning the Spirit of God. & understanding it you may grow into the principle of Revelation. until you become perfect in Christ Jesus. (Joseph Smith, WOJS 27 June 1839).
Revelation is a gift of the spirit. Joseph taught "No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 328). If you are receiving revelation--even if it is on something pertaining to the past or the present--you will periodically receive prophecies about the future. Pay attention to the circumstances of that revelation. Pay attention to how you feel. Pay attention to what you feel, and what you desire. If what you were shown comes to pass, that revelation is from God, and you ought to ascribe the circumstances of that revelation to be an indication of coming from God. As you accumulate more and more of these, it will become very obvious to you which revelations come from God, which come from you, and which come from Satan.

What you will find is that true revelations are always accompanied by the love of God, and the more dramatic the channel, the stronger the feeling. The only thing that can't be counterfeited is the love of God.

Now, here I have to make some comments. First, feelings are the easiest thing to make up/misinterpret. It is interesting that if you are teaching someone to break free from false tradition, the first thing you do is teach them not to trust their feelings. For example, slaughtering sacred cows always creates cognitive dissonance, which causes negative feelings, and these are erroneously interpreted as a signal that what you are doing is wrong. When you experience the love of God, there is no mistake about it. There is nothing in this world or in your head that can compare to it. That being said, those who have never felt it could easily attach that label to something far different, just as a subterranean dweller who has only heard descriptions of the sun might falsely assume that a flashlight is the sun.

This is why fulfilled prophecy is important. Prophecies act akin to tracer rounds in a magazine: every few bullets, you get one that glows and shows the trajectory of the other rounds that don't glow. If you continue in that path, you eventually get an experience that reveals to you the love of God. For me, these included when I prayed about the Book of Mormon, when Jesus visited me, and one other vision I had pertaining to the future. In fact, the way I was able to recognize Satan when he appeared to me as God was that his visit was not accompanied by the love of God, a feeling I had grown to become so familiar with during revelation that its absence jarred me out of what would otherwise been a very impressive demonstration.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Two stories

Story 1

About 8 years ago, I moved to North Carolina for work. I was in the Maryland National Guard at the time. As part of the move, I had submitted a packet to be transferred into the North Carolina National Guard. Usually, this would be a quick transition. For some reason, the officer in charge of processing the paperwork happened to be amazingly slow at his job. I was enjoying my job, enjoying the change in dating scene, and contemplating buying a house. One day, out of the blue, the Lord told me in an audible voice "do not sign any house contracts, you are going to be deployed." I was shocked, but being familiar with that voice, I could not question the source. The next morning, my commander (I was second in command in the unit) called me. He said "This is pretty hush hush still but have you heard we are getting deployed?" I smiled and said, "I have!" He didn't ask how.

I grappled with this situation. For some time I had come to the conclusion that our foreign policy was out of alignment with the Lord's will. While I wasn't so worried about my own life, I had serious reservations about taking someone else's life or being responsible for putting my subordinates in danger for the reasons at hand. I immediately began to pray in earnest. The Lord replied, again with a voice (which is always a big deal and abnormal in my life), that I was not actually in the North Carolina National Guard. I was shocked at this comment, because although I was not legally in the North Carolina Guard, I had been attending meetings and training with that unit for months, and definitely felt an obligation to go with them. I continued to pray, telling God that I felt conflicted and didn't know what to do.

His response was very interesting. He replied with a question, again audible. He said: "What do you want more, to go to war with these men or to get married and have a family?" It was surprised to learn that this was an either or situation, and the Lord was not going to tell me what to do. He showed me the conflict and allowed me to choose what I desired.

I immediately decided, and less than 24 hours later I was on the road, headed west with everything I owned in my car. Less than a year later I had met and married my wife. I have been shown what my life would have been had I not moved. It would have been very bad.

There are a few takeaways from this story:

1. A very large ship can be steered by a very small rudder, and the largest of gates can turn on the smallest of hinges.
Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. (Alma 37:6)
2. The Lord gives us according to our righteous desires in this life. However, he doesn't always put it on a silver platter for us. We have to ask, seek, and knock. Sometimes the blessing we seek is hidden behind life-as-usual. The status quo may stand between what we desire and what we have, and sometimes the only thing God will do is to wait for us to ask. If I had not prayed about my situation, I am sure that I would have chosen the wrong door--the default door.
But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul. (2 Nephi 32:9).


Story 2

I joined the LDS church at age 18. At age 20, I left on a mission. I had every reason in the world not to go. One significant reason was that I dreaded leaving my family. Not geographically speaking--I had been away to 3 years of college and various military training trips. I was very afraid for their spiritual welfare. I believed I was their lifeline, and without me they would be lost. In retrospect, it was a pretty silly thing to think. Nevertheless, I thought it. After much deliberation, I left. What I experienced in the next 2 years have planted a foundation that has blessed them spiritual in ways I never could had I stayed. Soon after returning home and finishing my first degree, I moved away from home. I was the first person in my family to go to college, and the first to leave the area my family had lived for generations. Although I always thought I would be returning soon, it hasn't worked out that way. In the years since my departure, I have taken countless opportunities to improve my situation. It has been tough having a family while being far from my parents and siblings. Still, it is ironic to me that all the reasons I had for not leaving have proven to be the very reasons I needed to leave. Specifically, I wanted to stay to take care of my grandparents, parents, and siblings. Yet, in leaving I have encountered opportunities to become far more capable of helping them than I ever could have had I stayed.

There are several lessons that I learned through this:

1. Sometimes honoring your mother and your father means having to disobey their wishes, as sometimes they don't have the foresight to know just how much of a blessing your actions will prove to be to them. I think of the story of Joseph of Egypt. Joseph's father surely did not want Joseph to be sold into slavery. Yet, it saved his life and the lives of his entire large household.

2. We can rarely know the end from the beginning. In fact, the Lord tells us not to assume we know what tomorrow will bring:
Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof. (3 Nephi 13:34).
We have to ask God, and when we receive revelation, trust that he knows better than we do. When we seek God's will and follow it, we should find ourselves frequently saying that it has all panned out in ways we never would have supposed (see Moses 1:10).

Monday, November 7, 2016

Zion: Zeal without knowledge

Whenever God sets forth additional light, there is an immediate winnowing of the chaff until only those who have a relationship with him are left. It's a cycle.

Like children, whenever we get a little light and truth, the first thing we do is pretend that we are something special. We exaggerate what we've received, exaggerate our worthiness, and claim blessings that are not ours. We rush into things that we have no claim on in utter ignorance, filling in the blanks by making things up.

"For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." (Romans 10:2)

It's a real shame, because the only way to progress from where we are is to ask God how we can change to take the next step. Those who assume they already have never bother to ask God what is next.

I am no one special. I have no authority beyond the authority of God's word that I quote. Yet, seeing a discrepancy between truth and what is being preached, I have a duty to share the little that I know.

My goal is to give you something to pray about. Do your own research. Read Isaiah. Pray and ask God. Figure it out for yourself. Do not rely on me, or any other, for your relationship with God. This stuff matters. You ought not take these topics lightly. You ought to not assume that anyone talking about these things is right. You ought to have extreme skepticism. You ought to seek God on these topics until you have enough revelation to compare against.

The Gathering

There is a misconception that everyone who is gathered will be safe and isolated from the tribulations prophesied to come. That is false. Many, many people will be killed, even among the righteous. Joseph Smith said:
“It is a false idea that the Saints will escape all the judgments, whilst the wicked suffer; for all flesh is subject to suffer, and ‘the righteous shall hardly escape;’ still many of the Saints will escape, for the just shall live by faith; yet many of the righteous shall fall a prey to disease, to pestilence, etc., by reason of the weakness of the flesh, and yet be saved in the Kingdom of God. So that it is an unhallowed principle to say that such and such have transgressed because they have been preyed upon by disease or death, for all flesh is subject to death; and the Savior has said, ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged’” ( History of the Church, 4:11).
It is foolish to think of gathering as a finish line. It isn't. It would be more appropriate to think of it as the next rung on a ladder. As an example, think of David. He was called to be king of Israel as a youth. Despite a preliminary victory in slaying Goliath (an amazing demonstration of God's power), he had to live through a prolonged period of extreme hardship before actually realizing the blessing of being king. The gathering should not be seen as the acquisition of a blessing. Rather, it is the delivery of a new set of challenges. These challenges will vary for everyone.

The gathering will not occur as a finite, general event. What I mean is that you should not expect the one mighty and strong to announce himself, publicly announce a gathering, build a temple, and await the return of the city of Enoch. It is not going to happen that way. First, there will be a one might and strong, but his mission comes as a gradient. No one is going to know who this guy is when he starts his mission. It's not so hard to believe that if you imagine that it is very possible we will not have modern communication when his mission begins. Second, the gathering will begin as many small independent gatherings. This is something God showed me in vision, but I think I can persuade you with reason. What would happen if there was a public gathering? Suppose someone famous came on the scene with great fanfare and announced a gathering. Who would show up to that event? I imagine the composition would be much like the recent Boise conference. I know many if not most of the people there and consider them good friends. But would such a group of people qualify for higher law? Is that group, or one like it, living all of God's commandments? Certainly not. The light you receive is determined by your degree of obedience. A general group of people will not qualify for any greater light than they already possess. Now, if you could have God's discernment, it would be easy to select a subset of that group who would qualify for greater blessings. In the gathering, God will use angels to inspire groups to gather--groups that are clustered according to the strengths and weaknesses they need to progress. Each group will endure a custom set of trials designed to provide them with what they specifically lack. As these groups are refined, the Lord will instruct them to move and join with another group. People will be told "get up and take your family this way" until they reach groups, possibly of people they've never met before. This consolidation will mainly occur after there is no longer electricity, motor vehicles, or other modern technology. Each movement will be dangerous. It will require revelation to start and revelation to carry out: guidance, logistics, supply, etc. There will be plenty of hostile territory to pass, little food and water, etc. There will be plenty of opportunity to increase in faith, as well as ample opportunity to suffer. People will die, no doubt about it.

Once you enter into a gathered group, you become party to the collective state of the group. If a person in the group needs a certain trial to progress, the odds are good that everyone in that group will suffer through the same trial. For some, that trial will include pestilence. For some, hunger. For some, harsh conditions. For some, capture by occupying armies. For some, betrayal. And so on. People will suffer; People will die. It is only those who come through all of this that will make it to Zion, and many who merit Zion will nevertheless be numbered among those who die.

One of these coalescing groups will emerge as Zion. It is unlikely that many (if any) will know that such is the case at the beginning. If they did, hoards of unprepared people would show up, creating an environment where Zion would be impossible (this is what happened in Joseph's various gatherings). In order to have Zion, you have to have selective gathering. This can be accomplished in several ways, including great tribulation (so the wicked leave or die) or by withholding the actual location of Zion. If Zion were not established until after the lights go out, no one would know about it except those to whom God revealed it.

There is a notion that there will be no kings in Zion. That is only correct if you limit the definition of "king" to the world's definition. Jesus said his kingdom is not of this world. There will many kings (and queens) in Zion, and their kingship and queenship will have started long before that. A man's kingdom is his family, which ought to extend far beyond those he is genetically related to. A man's duty is to serve others. In Christ's system, you progress as you subject yourself to the good of others.

25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (Luke 22)
The pattern is given by Abraham. Abraham righteously led his family and then extended his service to those around him. Righteous men and women will purify themselves and become a ministering angel to those in the circles of influence. They will have constant opportunities to mediate for those they serve through willingly giving up comfort and resources that they have merited by their righteousness to those who do not deserve them. These will be instrumental in the conversion of the remnant (see 2 Nephi 10:9, 2 Nephi 6:7, and 1 Nephi 21:23). Though Zion is a community, it is established individually, as each person turns their heart to God and knows him more and more, until all know him equally. "And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest." (Hebrews 8:11)

The Temple

Some people are terminally stuck in the false LDS temple paradigm. A temple is not a shortcut to God's blessings. You cannot sidestep the law required to receive a blessing. It might be easier to build a temple than it is to keep all of God's commandments. He might even recognize your sacrifice, as he did with Moses and Joseph Smith (Kirtland). But this wouldn't mean that you have achieved your goal (the Zion temple and everything that goes with it). It would simply mean that you have achieved the blessings had by the children of Israel in the wilderness (not much) or the people of Kirtland (disaster).

The purpose of the Zion temple is simple. It is to collectively reveal a new (higher) set of commandments. If you are not yet living the ones God gave previously, God is not going to reveal a higher law. It would violate divine law:
9 It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. (Alma 12:9-10)
If you want a dispensation of higher law, obey the law you have already! How many sinless people do you know? I know very, very few. Certainly not enough to build a temple. A temple will not magically change your heart. It is not a shortcut to the blessings reserved for those who actually obey God's commandments.

Remember, also, that if you have a publicly announced gathering, a trendy gathering if you will, you are going to gather all sorts of people. If you gather all sorts of people, you are ensuring that God has to winnow your group through trials before you are down to just the ones who have merited the blessing.

Finally, building a temple is not something you decide to do. It is something God commands you to do. It is folly in the extreme to save for a temple before receiving revelation to do so. God authorized David to do so, instructing him that Solomon would build the temple. If you need any extra reason not to engage in this folly, consider that there are plenty of poor people for whom you have responsibility, as God never said that your responsibility ends with your "fellowship." The only way you can save for a temple is by breaking that commandment. If God commands you to save for a temple, than by all means do it. If he has not, you ought to flee from that folly.

While we are reconciling prevailing opinions against scripture, we ought to also consider the role of the Gentiles in the construct of the Zion temple: it is the remnant and not the Gentiles who build that temple. If your plan to build a temple is not preceded by the gathering of the remnant, it is impossible that said temple could be the Zion temple. At best, it is another Kirtland temple: of use to the few who are ready to accept it in order to prepare them to go out and do missionary work. At worse, it is a Moses temple: of no use to the hoards of unrepentant people except as a stumbling block to distract them from what actually matters.

There will be a temple, but none of what has been discussed requires it. You don't need a temple while the people still aren't living what has already been revealed. Until there is a people who are keeping all of God's commandments that have already been revealed, why would God command anyone to build a temple?

What You Should Do


  1. Keep all the commandments. "And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant, which I made unto thy father Enoch; that, when men should keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch which I have caught up unto myself." (JST, Genesis 9:21). Zion cannot come except to a people who keep all of God's commandments. As long as you are in willful disobedience, you cannot be a part of Zion.
  2. Serve your family.
  3. Serve your fellowman. Zion cannot come to a people who have not cared for the poor. This is not limited to the poor in your family, or some select subgroup (read: in your "fellowships"). It is a general commandment. There are billions of poor people in this world.
  4. Pray and ask God what you should do. Only those who have an instructional connection with God will get to and through Zion. When you pray, everything ought to be on the table. Don't be surprised if he asks something extraordinary from you, whether it be public (visible to anyone else) or private (not visible to anyone else).

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Teaching God's Commandments

Teaching God’s Commandments in the Home
Sacrament Talk given by Bob Sonntag on 10.16.2016, posted with his permission


If the scriptures are adamant about one point, it is that all of us must come unto Christ and be saved. If they say a second thing, it is that there is only one very specific path back to Christ’s presence.
Romans 10 says that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” as preached by a messenger sent by God. If someone is not sent by God, or if they deviate from God’s word, their message cannot produce faith, no matter how zealously it is believed.
In Mosiah 4 we find that the miraculous response to the repentance of King Benjamin’s people came “because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which King Benjamin had spoken unto them.”
Saving faith could only come “according to the words” given by God. Christ said of his commandments given in the Sermon on the Mount:
Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so to  do, he shall in no wise be saved in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach these commandments… the same shall be called great, and shall be saved in the kingdom of heaven. (JST Matthew 5:21)
A study of that sermon suggests why Christ is so particular: the commandments of God exalt you in the act of keeping them. They reveal God’s nature by causing you to emulate his mercy, integrity, and loving kindness.
It sounds simple enough. What goes wrong? A third core message of the scriptures is that we will be presented with “commandments of men” as a counterfeit of the commandments of God. Since most people are actually trying to be good, the best way to lead them astray is to give them a false standard of goodness.
These counterfeits are created when well-meaning teachers think they can improve on God’s commandments by addition, subtraction, or modification (3 Nephi 11:40; D&C 10:68).
In 3 Nephi 18:3, Christ says

But whoso among you shall do more or less than [my commandments] are not built upon my  rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.
Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall keep my commandments, which the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you.
He then warns us to be watchful and prayerful to make sure we are not led astray by falsehoods.

When we attempt to teach the gospel disconnected from the words God has caused to be written then the difference between God’s commandments and the commandments of men is obscured. The spirit cannot override our neglect of the scriptures and force truth out of our mouths (D&C 11:21-22; Mosiah 1:3-5). The less we ground our teachings in a careful and correct reading of the scriptures, the more our teaching will consist of stock phrases, trite platitudes, sentimental stories, clich├ęs, and folk traditions. Worse yet, we will develop guidelines; standards of dress, speech and behavior; and invented commandments that spring from those traditions rather than from God’s word. At best those things  simply distract us, waste our time, and turn the beautiful simple gospel of Christ into a soul crushing exercise in behavior control. At their worst they actually cause us to break true commandments. Just as  we come to know God through his true commandments, we gain a false and distorted view of him when those commandments are added to or diminished. Since eternal life means to know God, a false understanding of him will thwart our salvation until we abandon it for truth (John 17:3).
D&C 93 contrasts the commandments of God with the traditions of men:

36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one.
27 And no man receiveth a fulness [of truth] unless he keepeth his commandments. He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things…
39…that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.
The most damaging false traditions are those which come to be seen as fundamental, indispensable, essential features of a religion, causing people to disobey God while thinking they are righteous.
[Paragraphs in red cut for time] Orthodox Jews at the time of Jesus were taught that the teachings of their leaders were more important than past prophets, including the head of their dispensation. They were taught that only the rabbis could provide authoritative interpretation of scripture. They were taught that they were to treat the teachings of the rabbis as if God had spoken it, and follow them and be blessed or reject them and suffer. The inevitable result of those beliefs was that they taught for doctrines the commandments of men, developing an invented set of laws they treated as though it were the Torah (Matthew 15:1-9). One such faux-commandment involved a ceremonial washing of the hands before a meal, wherein they recited the following prayer:
“Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Thy commandments and has commanded us concerning the washing of the hands.”
They knew that we are sanctified by keeping God’s commandments, but, as God’s people almost always do, they invented commandments which could not sanctify. They claimed God commanded them to wash their hands; ask them where God commanded that and they could only point to their traditions.
Latter-day Saint history provides us with numerous examples. I’ve chosen one from the 19thcentury, because if I chose one from the 21st  century we’re uncomfortably close to some steep gullies that are

perfect for an angry mob to throw a heretic into. This example will help us focus on the role of parents in teaching their children truth.
Here is an excerpt from a letter shared with me by a friend, from her ancestor Gilbert Belnap to his wife Adaline Knight, dated February 25,1856
"Instruct the children in the ways of the Lord and be not too severe in your chastisement of them. Kiss them all for me and teach the little boys to avenge the Blood of the Prophet."
I’m not the most careful reader, but even I noticed that this advice took a left turn somewhere in the middle. Where did Gilbert get this idea to teach his sons vengeance? Shortly after the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, it was thought to be appropriate to cause the saints to enter into a covenant to
promise that [they would] pray and never cease to pray to Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that [they would] teach the same to [their] children and to [their] children's children unto the third and fourth generation.1
This covenant was thought so important that it was administered in the Saints’ most sacred places, as part of their most sacred ceremonies.
While the wording of the covenant remained the same for 90 years, the saints’ understanding of it evolved, as traditions do. In the decade-or-so between Joseph’s death and Gilbert’s letter the saints came to believe that the covenant didn’t simply mean to pray for God to take vengeance on the nation, but that the saints themselves were responsible for taking vengeance. Gilbert was simply repeating to his sons the version of the gospel that was current among the saints. It was orthodox. It was a fundamental and essential feature of what Gilbert thought Mormonism was. So what could he have done differently?
When he heard over the pulpit that the saints were themselves responsible for vengeance could he have thought back to the wording of the covenant he had made and realize he was now hearing a misinterpretation of those words?
Going back further, when Gilbert was asked to covenant to pray for divine vengeance to rain down upon his enemies, could he have asked himself whether that was the right thing to do?
If he studied his scriptures, he might have read D&C 84, where God informs the saints that they are under condemnation for “treating lightly” the Book of Mormon and failing to do what it taught. Maybe that would have led him to read the book very carefully, where he would read of Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos, and others praying with all their hearts for the salvation of people who wanted them dead. He would read in 3 Nephi 12:
behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven
“Pray for”. Not pray against. And certainly don’t seek vengeance (3 Nephi 12:39).


Gilbert would be faced with hard choices. Should he remain orthodox, and prize the words of his leaders over Christ’s own words, and keep the covenant he had made? Or should he instead follow Christ’s instructions, that he might be a Child of his Father in Heaven? Had the saints chosen that second path, D&C 84 says they would have brought forth fruit meet for the kingdom of God (vs. 58). Instead, the violent rhetoric about vengeance and bloodshed only grew more intense and elaborate in the months following Gilbert’s letter. Words were soon tragically matched by action in eruptions of violence so horrific we still haven’t fully processed them as a Church.As Gilbert should have examined his most precious beliefs before passing them on to his children, so we should ours.
We must not expect God to conform to our traditions, no matter how precious they are to us, how  popular, or how orthodox. If our obedience is to the commandments of men, we will only experience a tedious oppressive version of the gospel. Truly seeking God, and leading our children to him, will require setting aside our creeds and seeking truth as little children. As Joseph Smith said:
To all those who are disposed…to set up stakes for the almighty—[you] will come short of the glory of god. To become a joint heir of the heirship of the son [a man] must put away all his traditions. (Smith Diary, August 27, 1843)