Labels

Aaronic priesthood (1) addiction (1) affliction (2) angels (2) answers to gospel questions (1) antichrist (1) apostasy (4) authority (2) Babylon (3) baptism (2) baptism by fire (2) blessings (2) Book of Mormon (3) book of revelation (3) Book: Seek Ye This Jesus (1) celestial law (2) charity (3) child-like (1) Christ (1) church history (2) commandment (4) commandments of men (2) condescension (1) consecration (1) cut off (1) denver snuffer (3) desire (2) destruction at second coming (1) destruction of USA (9) disasters (3) doctrine of Christ (1) dreams (2) earthquakes (2) Eiljah (1) end times (4) ensign (1) errors in scripture (1) excommunication (2) faith (1) false traditions (9) fasting (1) follow the prophet (1) freedom (1) fullness (1) fullness of the Gentiles (3) gathering (1) Gentiles (2) Gideon (1) giving (1) godly suffering (5) gossip (1) great and marvelous work (1) happiness (2) Holy Ghost (4) humility (1) idolatry (3) iniquity (2) Isaiah (2) Jesus (6) Joseph Smith (4) keys (1) king of assyria (1) kings (1) knowing God (1) knowledge (1) Lamanites (1) law of Moses (1) Lehites (1) lies (1) light and truth (9) love (1) love God (1) Melchizedek Priesthood (1) miracles (1) Nauvoo (1) New Jerusalem (1) obedience (1) offense (1) one mighty and strong (4) opposition (1) parables (15) patience (1) perfection (1) plan of salvation (1) plural marriage (5) polygamy (1) power (1) power in priesthood (3) prayer (4) priesthood (1) prophecy (2) prophet (1) psalms (1) questions (1) redeemed from the fall (1) remnant of Jacob (3) repentance (6) restoration (4) revelation (10) revelator (1) sacrifice (1) Samson (1) Satan (3) scripture study (9) scriptures (1) sealing power (2) Second Comforter (1) Second Coming (1) see God (5) seer (1) setting up stakes (1) shrewdness (1) signs (2) sin (1) skepticism (1) suffering (2) teaching the gospel (1) telestial (2) telestial law (1) temple recommend (1) temple work (1) temples (4) temptation (5) the poor (1) tithing (1) trials (2) tribulation (1) true messengers (7) trust in God (2) truth (9) unbelief (3) visions (4) visitations (1) waiting on the Lord (1) Warrior (1) wealth (1) word of God (2) wresting scripture (1) Zion (2)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Fasting

John 7:17 gives Jesus' injunction for us to be experimentalists--spiritual scientists. For the sake of argument, assume that God exists. When we practice a commandment, and find we do not receive the promised blessings, we ought to conclude that either the commandment is not from God (our lives are filled with commandments of men), or we are doing it wrong.

One commandment that is almost universally "done wrong" is the Sabbath. Another is prayer. This article will address still another, fasting.

Fasting is engaged in for a variety of reasons. These include:

  1. A cultural expectation.
  2. A programmed cycle.
  3. To care for the poor.
  4. To gain spiritual power.
  5. To get answers to prayer.
  6. To conquer temptation.
  7. To focus on God.

A cultural expectation. Depriving oneself of food (and water, depending on the religion) as a spiritual rite is taught in many religions. In the LDS religion, for example, fasting is defined and prescribed as the deprivation of food and water for a 24 hour period. Fasting ought not be defined this way. We will get into God's description of fasting momentarily. You should not fast because someone told you to do so. The only reason you should fast is to focus your attention on God.

A programmed cycle. Depending on the religion, fasts are sometimes held on appointed dates. Catholics practice a type of fasting during Lent. Muslims practice a type of fasting on Ramadan. LDS are told to fast once per month. God has only proclaimed one fast--the day of atonement (Leviticus 16:29-30; 23:27-31; Numbers 29:7)--and whether this is a standing law today is unclear. The rest is made up. For example, LDS do not realize that a monthly fast day was a concept created by Joseph Smith (not a revelation to him) in order to provide funds to care for the poor prior to the reception of the commandment to tithe, at which point it was discontinued until his successors found themselves strapped for administrative funds, at which point they reinstituted it to provide a greater share of tithing to go to their operational budget instead of the poor. You should not fast because someone told you to do it on a prescribed date. The only reason you should fast is to focus your attention on God.

To care for the poor. Caring for the poor is a wonderful thing. It is a very important commandment, and one that is very often neglected. God's word couples fasting and caring for the poor. In Isaiah 58, the Lord describes fasting as:
6 Is not this the fast I require:
To release from wrongful bondage,
to untie the harness of the yoke,
to set the oppressed at liberty
and abolish all forms of subjection?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry,
to bring home the wretchedly poor,
and when you see men underclad to clothe them,
and not to neglect your own kin? (Isaiah 58, Gileadi Translation)
However, all is not well in Zion. There is a vast difference between what is described here and what most people practice when they think they are fasting. Let's analyze what is done while one is fasting (which most understand to mean going without food and/or water for some period of time). Some people leave it at that. Some people pray a little more during that time. Some people donate a bit of money to someone (usually a church) during that time. Is there anything wrong with that? It depends. Is there anything wrong with describing a college education as binge drinking, partying, and student loans? Technically, it might be a correct description, but thinking about it that way GUARANTEES you are not going to get the full scope of the intended benefits, if you get any benefits at all. 

If my purpose is to obtain education, my means for obtaining it should be optimized for that goal. If drinking, partying, or loans are employed, they ought to be employed only to the extent that they are the most effective means for advancing the goal of education. Most people would conclude that loans ought to be avoided in most cases, and drinking and partying are detrimental instead of beneficial to that goal. What are God's stated goals for us in fasting?

To release those in bondage of all types, including those who are hungry, through personal interaction with them, with a focus on those in greatest need.

Is giving your money to a church (or other organization) without any oversight on how it is spent a fulfillment of this commandment? Absolutely not.

Is hands-off, at-a-distance service a fulfillment of this commandment? Absolutely not.

Is donating money so that your neighbor can maintain a first world standard of living while ignoring the actually homeless people in your city a fulfillment of this commandment? Absolutely not.

Now, for the big one. Is the deprivation of your food and your water necessary in order to keep this commandment? If so, where is it mentioned? More importantly: does depriving yourself of food and/or water actually help you to keep this commandment in any way? In other words, couldn't you do this just as well or better without depriving yourself of food and/or water? Unless you are wretchedly poor yourself, the answer is that depriving yourself of food and/or water does nothing to help fulfill this commandment. [Sidenote: If you are wretchedly poor, than the desire of your heart is all that is needed to keep this commandment, not self-deprivation (see Mosiah 4:24-25)].

To gain spiritual power / To get answers to prayer. It is good to desire more spiritual power. After all, what better way to bring souls unto Christ than become a vessel that reflects some portion of his glory and power? And yet, similar to the last point, the way we practice fasting is typically not at all optimized for this purpose. While the true fast will result in increased spiritual power, the way most people fast will result in nothing but being hungry (and/or thirsty). This is because instead of living the true fast (focusing on communion with God), most treat a fast as a hunger strike.

If inflicting pain upon ourselves attracts God's attention, perhaps we ought to participate in more efficient means for doing so. If long, dull hunger pains attract his attention, wouldn't slashing ourselves or whipping ourselves with scourges accomplish really get his attention? Why not just hold a gun to our heads while we pray? The suggestion might seem ridiculous, but isn't it just as ridiculous to think that making yourself hungry and thirsty will somehow get God to pay more attention to you?

Prayers are not heard as a result of pain. Rather, they are heard as a result of the faithful obedience of the offerer.

God hears the prayers of those who have faith in him. This includes trust in him, belief in him, and knowing and asking according to his will. Faithful prayer accomplishes miracles (Ether 12:12) including healing the sick (James 5:15), outpouring the Spirit (D&C 42:14), seeing angels (Moroni 7:37), receiving guidance (Alma 37:40), and many more.

God hears the prayers of those who obey him. There are many scriptures that explain and witness to this. Here are a few:

And also the Lord will remember the prayers of the righteous, which have been put up unto him for them. (Mormon 5:21) 
The Lord is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous. (Proverbs 15:29) 
And there had been murders, and contentions, and dissensions, and all manner of iniquity among the people of Nephi; nevertheless for the righteous’ sake, yea, because of the prayers of the righteous, they were spared. (Alma 62:40) 
For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads. (Doctrine and Covenants 25:12)
Going without food and/or water does not directly impact your trust in God, your belief in him, your obedience to him, or your knowing his will. Correct prayer can, of course, do all of those things, but praying on an empty stomach may hurt rather than help your effectiveness in prayer. You should not fast because you think God weighs prayers by how much pain the offerer is in. The only reason you should fast is to focus your attention on God.

To conquer temptation. If you believe that temptation is a factor of will power, then depriving yourself of food and/or water will help you conquer temptation, since depriving yourself of food and/or water will certainly increase your willpower. However, temptation has nothing to do with will power. Instead, it is a factor of knowledge and faith. This claim is different enough from what most people believe that it is deserving of an entire book to convince them, which I am currently writing. For now, if you assume I am right, you can conclude that you should not deprive yourself of food and/or water to conquer temptation, because it won't actually help you one bit. Focusing your attention on God, however, will lead to an increase in knowledge and faith, which will cause you to conquer temptations that beset you.

To focus on God. Now we finally get to the real meaning of fasting. To me, the purest and simplest definition of fasting is to focus on God. The first commandment is to love God with all our heart, might, minds, and strength. Not to serve him, or cower before him, but to love him. When you love someone or something, you make it your focus. You don't need external reminders or laundry lists of chores to chide you into focusing on that thing or person. In life (whether ancient or modern), there is a lot to do. The cares of the world compete for our time and attention. What better way to focus on God than to ignore everything else for a time in order to focus more fully on him?

Isaiah 58 does mention care for the poor. It is very important. However, more important than that is the context of the instruction. The Lord (who is speaking in that passage) does not say that we should merely feed the hungry, or clothe the naked, or house the homeless. He says we should "release from wrongful bondage, ... untie the harness of the yoke, ... set the oppressed at liberty and abolish all forms of subjection." What beautifully descriptive language! Where have we heard something similar before?

In another place, Isaiah quotes the Lord as saying: "The Spirit of my Lord Jehovah is upon me,
for Jehovah has anointed me to announce good tidings to the lowly; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the eyes to the bound, to herald the year of Jehovah’s favor." (Isaiah 61:1-2, Gileadi Translation). This is the very scripture Jesus read to the congregation in Nazareth to announce the beginning of his earthly mission.

God is telling us that a true fast is to go and do the things that he himself would do if he were here. Although we like to think that means to go convince people to be baptized or to pray and accept Jesus as our Savior, that is insufficient and myopic. Jesus did not describe his mission as getting people to accept him as their Savior or to get people to be baptized. He described his mission as announcing good tidings to the lowly, binding up the brokenhearted, and proclaiming liberty to the captives and the opening of the eyes to the bound. We are to stand for the oppressed, support the afflicted, free the captives, and alleviate suffering wherever it is to be found. Certainly, the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a tool in the toolbox. To me, however, this is a much, much broader commission that includes not only the message of the gospel, but the power of God, and also much more secular work that might not even include the mention or context of the gospel!

In a primitive situation (think survival in the woods), it takes an immense amount of time to stay warm, obtain food and water, prepare food, and maintain shelter. By abstaining from food and/or water, you would free up a considerable amount of time to focus on God.

In a low-tech agrarian setting, you would also free up a considerable amount of time to focus on God by going without food and/or water.

In a modern, first world setting, are you able to focus on God any more without food than you would with food? Perhaps if you are into intricate meals that take hours to prepare. Even then, is the issue the fact that you are eating and drinking, or the fact that you take hours to prepare? Going without food and water result in decreased cognitive ability. You certainly cannot perform physical tasks as well when you are hungry or thirsty (which might be required to free others from their burdens). You cannot think or focus as well. Eating and drinking, provided they can be done without large quantities of time, would likely increase your ability to focus on God, rather than decrease it compared to going without. Getting drive through could actually do more for your fasting than going without food and water!

What this has to do with the Sabbath

  • I am out of time on this post, and will flesh this out later. For now, suffice it to say that:
  • Our failure to live the Sabbath is very coupled to our failure to fast.
  • The Sabbath is a built-in opportunity to conduct a 24 hour true fast. In other words, to spend an entire day free from the cares of this world, completely focused on God and his work.
  • When lived properly, the Sabbath truly is a delight. If Sunday is not your favorite day of the week, you are doing it wrong.

Conclusion

Isaiah 58 begins with this passage:

1 Proclaim it aloud without restraint;
raise your voice like a trumpet!
Declare to my people their transgressions,
to the house of Jacob its sins.
2 Yet they importune me daily,
eager to learn my ways,
like a nation practicing righteousness
and not forsaking the precepts of its God.
They inquire of me concerning correct ordinances,
desiring to draw nearer to God:
3 Why, when we fast, do you not notice?
We afflict our bodies and you remain indifferent!
It is because on your fast day you pursue your own ends
and constrain all who toil for you.
4 You fast amid strife and contention,
striking out savagely with the fist.
Your present fasts are not such
as to make your voice heard on high.
5 Is this the manner of fasting I have required,
just a time for men to torment themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and making one’s bed of sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call that a fast,
a day of Jehovah’s good graces?

Likewise, many today are "like" (as in, "in form but not in fashion") a nation practicing righteousness. They misunderstand what a true fast is, and wonder why their fasting does not result in the miracles they seek. Here, he tells them why. They completely miss the point! They focus on all the wrong things! They continue to engage in the Babylonian methods (enslaving others) while afflicting themselves, thinking that fulfills the law of the fast.

6 Is not this the fast I require:
To release from wrongful bondage,
to untie the harness of the yoke,
to set the oppressed at liberty
and abolish all forms of subjection?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry,
to bring home the wretchedly poor,
and when you see men underclad to clothe them,
and not to neglect your own kin?

Pious hypocrisy is straining at religious rites while denying the weightier part of the gospel. Want to get God's attention? Seek out those that are oppressed, suffering, or struggling, no matter how far away they may be or how little responsibility you think you have to them. Release their bonds, lift them from poverty. Invite them into your home, give them clothing. Care for your family members who stand in need. Why will God hear your request for him to hear the words of your mouth when your hands are filled with the blood of those you have the means to assist, but have not due to your preoccupation with religious rites?

Those who practice the true fast will obtain all the promised blessings:

8 Then shall your light break through like the dawn
and your healing speedily appear;
your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of Jehovah will be your rearguard.
9 Then, should you call, Jehovah will respond;
should you cry, he will say, I am here.
Indeed, if you will banish servitude from among you,
and the pointing finger and offensive speech,
10 if you will give of your own to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then shall your light dawn amid darkness
and your twilight become as the noonday.
11 Jehovah will direct you continually;
he will satisfy your needs in the dearth
and bring vigor to your limbs.
And you will become like a well-watered garden,
like a spring of unfailing waters.
12 They who came out of you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
you will restore the foundations of generations ago.
You shall be called a rebuilder of fallen walls,
a restorer of streets for resettlement.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Reasons for not believing in the Book of Mormon

Fraud, Waste, and Abuse

15 years ago this summer, I was introduced to the Book of Mormon. I was not willing to read it at first. However, after a friend of mine repeatedly showed me passages in the Book of Mormon that addressed deep questions I had regarding life and religion, I decided that it was quite important for me to find out if it was truly scripture or just made up.

One night, I knelt down and prayed. I had been told that one could ask God about things, and he would answer. I had been shown Moroni 10:4-5 that says:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
I figured it would not hurt anything to test what I had been told. I prayed and asked God if the Book of Mormon was true, and he granted me an unmistakable revelation to the affirmative. I was surprised, but grateful.

Unfortunately, I was told by missionaries who didn't know any better that the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon implied that God wanted me to join the LDS church. That was and is a lie.

I found myself rejoicing in the experiences I was having while reading the scriptures. First, I read the Book of Mormon cover to cover. My experience then and now was that I was having an ongoing conversation with God through the Spirit while reading. For example, when I read Nephi's references to seeing Christ, I desired to experience the same and felt I knew the path. When I read King Benjamin's address, I covenanted with God that any means I gained were his and to be used to help others. When I read about what it means to be born again, I realized I had actually lost my desire to do evil and had gained a constant desire to do good. And so on.

I wonder how the last 15 years would have been different had I not been flooded with false traditions that I later had to overcome, and instead read the scriptures--including the Book of Mormon--and limited my actions to what was directly suggested by my experience with God (namely, studying the Book of Mormon), I have no doubt that I would be much further along than I am today.

Guilt by Association

The LDS church's insistence that it owns the Book of Mormon causes a false two way relationship in people's minds: The LDS claim that if the Book of Mormon is true, the church is true, causing the rest of the world to assume that since the LDS church is not true, the Book of Mormon must also be false.

We really need to break that pattern. Modern Mormonism has about as much to do with the Book of Mormon as Catholicism does with the Bible. No Christian would say that problems in the Catholic church imply something wrong with the Bible, yet so many Christians are unwilling to consider the Book of Mormon because of something they realize is wrong with the LDS church.

One-sided Evidences

There are many who propagate arguments against the Book of Mormon. I take what they have written seriously. I've read it. I've studied their premises and their conclusions. In general, I find their analysis tremendously limited. The pattern I have found is that they present only part of the picture. Most that I talk to who have bought these arguments have not bothered to investigate them for themselves. Instead, they let someone else do the heavy lifting for them, and trust their conclusion. I find that the search for truth requires work. We really ought not outsource what may be the most important issues in our lives.

Here is a sampling of the strongest arguments against the book of Mormon I have found.

Archaeological Evidence

Proponents of this theory claim that people and events of the Book of Mormon could not have occurred, because there is no record of the bones, cities, etc. that would exist had they taken place on this continent.

Well, it turns out this is just plain wrong. It turns out that when the white folks arrived in the United States, there were massive Indian cities from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean. Lots and lots of them. The cities were plowed under by farmers, but not before a landmark project by the Smithsonian took place in 1848 to meticulously survey (as in cartography) the hundreds of native earthwork cities still in place at that time (most had already been destroyed by farmers). The mound cities were full of artifacts, many of which the Smithsonian has. Luckily for anyone who cares to know, there was a book written in 1848 with the results of the project. You can buy it on Amazon.

You will see some funky stuff in this book. First, you will see that the scale of these projects and the precision of the shapes used on that scale are mind boggling. The engineering involved was so advanced that the authors concluded that "the moundbuilders could not have been the ancestors of the supposedly savage Native American groups still living in the region" (from Amazon summary). Yes, these marked non-Mormon Smithsonian cartographers came to a conclusion stunningly inline with the premise of the Book of Mormon: An advanced ancient civilization of Indians built a thriving network of large cities but was wiped out by another group of supposedly savage Indians. Second, you will see some very interesting patterns within the walls of their cities. Here is my favorite:

An ancient American city in the Ohio valley. Note the oil lamp (top) and Menorah (bottom center). 

Now, why would a bunch of Indians go through the trouble of building a HUGE earthwork Menorah  or oil lamp into the wall of their city? Is the most likely explanation coincidence?

Part of the problem with this complaint is the ignorance of history on the part of those who make it. Another part is the persistence of myths by the LDS church. Over 100 years ago, the LDS church decided that the Book of Mormon took place in Central and/or South America. Since then, their apologists have made every case they could for that location. Antagonists rightly identify that the location could not be correct. The LDS church has since said they have no position on location, but that does not reverse the imprint on the minds of everyone that the Book of Mormon is supposed to have taken place in Central/South America. This is a problem with the LDS church, not the Book of Mormon.

Recently, a group of LDS apologists have begun to make the case for a US location for the Book of Mormon (the so-called heartland model). Despite their religious affiliation and sometimes erroneous linkings and excessive extrapolations, they have collected quite a few pieces of evidence that I believe are compelling. I want to emphasize that I don't agree with their very specific maps, nor their attempts to link geographical descriptions in the Book of Mormon to modern geography (recall that we are told in 3 Nephi that tremendous geographic change took place after the crucifixion of Christ).

Here is one story that I like about how one of these folks, Wayne May, tracked down the Zelph mound and found professional archeology studies in that area that corroborated Joseph's timeline of that event: https://youtu.be/BMq8JeVgmoI?t=4m5s

DNA

Some critics claim that if the Book of Mormon were true, there would be DNA evidence linking the Native Americans with the Jews. Well, there is:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131120-science-native-american-people-migration-siberia-genetics/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2012/06/04/israel-in-all-of-us-research-find-jewish-links-in-unusual-places/#7b35bc5246c5

(there is more)

...but I don't like to dwell on that. You see, DNA is great for things like establishing paternity or proving that a person was at the scene of a crime. It is quite terrible for things like establishing thousands of years of ancestry.

My biggest issue with the DNA complaint is that we are talking about a story where God changed the skin color of the people in question. Shouldn't we expect that their DNA was changed to bring about this change in skin color? With that in mind, I personally don't suppose that finding Israelite DNA in Indians makes the Book of Mormon true, and were it the case (it isn't), I wouldn't suppose that a lack of Israelite DNA in Indians would make the Book of Mormon false.

Seer Stones

Some complain that Joseph didn't really "translate" the Book of Mormon at all, but looked into seer stones and dictated what he saw. The problem is Joseph never hid how he translated the book. His scribes all knew firsthand that he didn't actually "read" the plates, but used seer stones, and they went on record saying so. Seer stones are part and parcel of the Book of Mormon, and inescapable from the definition of what a seer actually is. The Book of Mormon itself defines a seer as one who looks into objects:

13 And now he translated them by the means of those two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow. 14 Now these things were prepared from the beginning, and were handed down from generation to generation, for the purpose of interpreting languages; 15 And they have been kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he should discover to every creature who should possess the land the iniquities and abominations of his people; 16 And whosoever has these things is called seer, after the manner of old times. (Mosiah 28:13-16)

13 Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer....15 And the king said that a seer is greater than a prophet. 16 And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God. 17 But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known. 18 Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings.This is one of many complaints about the Book of Mormon that are wholly the fault of the LDS church's persistent falsification of history. (Mosiah 8:13,15-18)

If you disbelieve that seer stones are real or that they function, fine. However, the story is self-consistent. The problem comes, I think, because the LDS church for decades declared that Joseph read the plates and did not use seer stones. This has caused people to accept the Book of Mormon without accepting how it came to be, and they correctly feel lied to. Well, take that up with the LDS church. It has nothing to do with the Book of Mormon.

Some ask, "if Joseph read the words of the Book from the seer stones, why did he need the plates?" I will split this into two questions: why did Joseph need the plates, and why did the plates need to be written. I don't expect anyone to believe what I am about to say because of what I am about to say. Rather, I would hope that any who read this can see that there are sufficient texts to prove that this story is at least self-consistent. Whether it is true or not is something you have to figure out for yourself, but it does make sense.

Why did Joseph need the plates? If you are going to do a miracle, you need faith: "it is by faith that miracles are wrought" (Moroni 7:37.) God uses all kinds of tools to help men to have greater faith. These include the ministering of angels and his word through revelation (MOroni 7:25). He also uses objects like the Liahona. Lehi could have easily prayed and asked God which direction to go. Instead, God provided him a physical object that invited him to exercise further faith to obtain the direction they should travel. Moses was given a staff that could assist him in conducting the miracles he performed. God's power could have simply been exercised directly, but Moses apparently needed assistance. The Brother of Jared had the Lord appear to him, but it happened in increasing stages of faith punctuated by physical interactions. These began with his involved labor to create 16 stones and praying for God to touch them so that they would provide light in his boats. If God can touch a rock and make it luminescent, couldn't he just make the boats themselves luminescent? Still, the method of the Brother of Jared is validated by his success and the subsequent revealing of Jesus to him through is faith. Noah, being warned of the flood, make an ark to save his family. If God is powerful enough to cause a global flood, couldn't he supernaturally lift Noah and family above the water, or split the water as he did for Moses? Yet, he commanded Noah built a ship.Peter saw Jesus and then had the faith to step out of the boat and walk on water. Would he have been able to do that if Jesus hadn't first appeared? An infant gets the courage to take the first steps when his parent squats down with arms outreached to encourage him. The parent's presence does not affect the ability of the infant, only the belief of the infant in what is possible.

I propose that Joseph did not have sufficient faith to receive the Book of Mormon on the seer stones without having encountered an object suggesting that such was possible. I think that is a very reasonable argument given the ample examples of something similar in scripture.

Why did the plates need to be written? If Joseph could just view the text of the Book of Mormon provided on the stones by God's power, why did the Book of Mormon prophets have to go through so much trouble etching the words into metal plates, lugging them around, and hiding them up?

The Lord has plainly taught that words are only recorded in heaven if they are recorded on earth. For example,
"That in all your recordings it may be recorded in heaven; whatsoever you bind on earth, may be bound in heaven; whatsoever you loose on earth, may be loosed in heaven;" (D&C 127:7.)
And again,
"...whatsoever you record on earth shall be recorded in heaven, and whatsoever you do not record on earth shall not be recorded in heaven;" (D&C 128:7-8.)
The Book of Mormon contains lots and lots of good doctrines that the world lacked at the time Joseph Smith translated it. The Book was not written by one person in one place. It contains truths distilled through hundreds of years of diligent effort to obtain revelation from God.

What would have happened had they not recorded the Book of Mormon on earth? It simply means that all the truth contained in that book would have needed to be obtained again the hard way: through hundreds of years of diligent effort to obtain revelation from God.

In other words, had the writers not written the book in the first place, God would not have been able to reveal it all anew to Joseph Smith, because revelation comes in proportion to the heed and diligence paid to what is received, and no single man that I am aware of has enough heed and diligence to receive a whole book worth of deep revelation due solely to his heed and diligence.


Plagiarism

Some take issue with the verses in the Book of Mormon that come from the Bible. The most naive of these accusations come in the form of general complaints that there are Bible verses in the Book of Mormon at all. These have never read the Bible or the Book of Mormon. The former contains plenty of self-plagiarism. The latter clearly describes why the authors choose to quote (not pass off as their own) passages from the Bible.

More sophisticated complaints stem from the fact that the passages in the Book of Mormon clearly come from the King James Bible, a translation that would not have been available to the Book of Mormon authors, but would have been available to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. I think this is one of the most justified complaints about the Book of Mormon. Since Joseph and Oliver are not around to interrogate, and because they never addressed this issue during their lives, we can only speculate why. But there are plenty of possibilities. First, remember that Joseph Smith dictated the book to Oliver Cowdery. Oliver is an interesting fellow. He demonstrated on multiple occasions his willingness to change Joseph's revelation manuscripts to match how he felt they should read. For example, he created section 101 in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants and even changed the revealed words for the baptismal prayer in another section of the same volume. If he thought it was ok to do that in 1835, after his subordinate position to Joseph was made explicit, it is not hard to imagine he would have been more willing to do so in 1830, while he was under the impression that he and Joseph were co-partners in what they were doing. It is not a stretch of the imagination to conceive that the words Joseph spoke in the Bible passages of the Book of Mormon were later modified by Oliver to match the King James version. Some may scoff at that possibility, saying Joseph surely would have picked up on that. Well, he either didn't pick up on or didn't change the other changes Oliver made in 1835, so that doesn't hold water. There are other possibilities, as well. What if Joseph made the changes, doubting his own revelation of words differing from the King James? Or, what if God himself gave those passages in the form they appear in the King James, anticipating the difficulty it would place on Christians to not only accept an additional book of scripture, but also admit that the King James--which most revered as perfect--was flawed? Joseph Smith never said that the Book of Mormon was perfectly correct book, he only said it was the most correct book.

Some claim that the Book of Mormon is a cheap knockoff of other literature at the time, such as "View of the Hebrews". I seriously doubt that most if any who bring up this claim have ever read "View of the Hebrews." If you have not, I encourage you to download the free pdf online and start reading. It's actually a really good book. "View of the Hebrews" is not a novel--it is a history. Pages 1-85 discuss, mostly from the Bible, the bilical history of the Israelites. Pages 85-217 address the Native Americans, using history of the time to link them to the Israelites. The rest of the book provides a commentary on Isaiah, suggesting that the Lord's words concerning the restoration of the house of Israel apply to the Native Americans. (Note: these page numbers refer to the paper printing, not the pdf version.) The book is not a narrative. Instead, it is (at least the third or so about the Native Americans) a compendium of evidence available at the time that the Native Americans are in fact descendants of outcasts of Israel. Ironically neither Joseph Smith nor Ethan Smith (no relation, author of "View of the Hebrews") originated the theory that the Indians came from Israel. It was quite widespread by the time the Book of Mormon was published. If you believe this is a valid reason to doubt the veracity of the Book of Mormon, I can only conclude you have not read one of the two books. Ironically, many of those who support the "View of the Hebrews" complaint also believe there is no archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, when "View of the Hebrews" is full of it.

Animals and Plants

Some contend that the Book of Mormon can't be true because the animals it mentions do not exist in America. Most of these critics are arguing against a Mesoamerica location for the Book of Mormon, which is easily refuted using the Book of Mormon and teachings from Joseph Smith.

Barley. Barley has now been discovered in archaeological sites in the following places:

  • Arkansas (see Hunter, Andrea A. dissertation “Utilization of Hordeum pusillum (little barley) in the Midwest United States: Applying Rindos’ co-evolutionary model of domestication” University of Missouri-Columbia 1992, pg 141).
  • Iowa (see Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology , “Terminal Archaic and Early Woodland plant use at the Gast Spring site (13LA152), southeast Iowa” Spring 1998 by Dunne, Michael T, Green, William, pg. 8).
  • Illinois (see Nancy B. Asch and David L. Asch, “Archeobotany,” in Deer Track: A Late Woodland Village in the Mississippi Valley, ed. Charles R. McGimsey and Michael D. Conner (Kampsville, Ill.: Center for American Archeology, 1985), 44; see p. 78).
  • Missouri (see Hunter, Andrea A. dissertation “Utilization of Hordeum pusillum (little barley) in the Midwest United States: Applying Rindos’ co-evolutionary model of domestication” University of Missouri-Columbia 1992, pg 173).
  • North Carolina (see Scarry, John F. and C. Margaret Scarry 1997 Subsistence Remains from Prehistoric North Carolina Archaeological Sites. Research Laboratories of Archaeology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Electronic document last accessed May 15, 2009 at: http://www.arch.dcr.state.nc.us/subsist/subsis.htm).
  • Oklahoma (Nancy B. Asch and David L. Asch, “Archeobotany,” in Deer Track: A Late Woodland Village in the Mississippi Valley, ed. Charles R. McGimsey and Michael D. Conner (Kampsville, Ill.: Center for American Archeology, 1985), 44; see p. 78).
  • Wisconsin (see Hunter, Andrea A. dissertation “Utilization of Hordeum pusillum (little barley) in the Midwest United States: Applying Rindos’ co-evolutionary model of domestication” University of Missouri-Columbia 1992, pg 142).


Wheat. I have found no evidence of pre-Columbian wheat in the United States.

Sheep. Bighorn sheep are native to the United States. In fact, I drive by a wild herd of them nearly every day.

Goats. Mountain goats are native to the United States.

Horses. It is widely believed that the American horse went extinct 5-10,000 years ago. Yet, many reports exist of Indians having horses when Europeans arrived in America. This article mentions some as well as the motivation scientists had for making Indians into savages who never knew the wheel, metallurgy, or beasts of burden. In "Where did the plains Indians get their horses" (American Anthropologist 40(1) (28 Oct 2009)), the author eviscerates the prevailing theory that the American horse population came from Spanish colonizers. He doesn't challenge the theory of horse extinction, and merely reports that they must have gotten them from the whites at some point (without any evidence of that).

Elephants. Here is an article from 1880 by Frederick Larkin, an eastern US mound explorer:
“My theory that the pre-historic races used, to some extent, the great American elephant, or mastodon, I believe is new and no doubt will be considered visionary by many readers and more especially by prominent archaeologists.  Finding the form of an elephant engraved upon a copper relic some six inches long and four wide, in a mound on the Red House Creek, in the year 1854 and represented in harness with a sort of breast-collar with tugs reaching past the hips, first led me to adopt that theory.  That the great beast was contemporary with the mound builders is conceded by all, and also that his bones and those of his master are crumbling together in the ground.” (preface)
“From the shores of Lake Superior we can trace this people to Wisconsin, where we find some singular earthworks: six effigies of animals, six parallelograms, one circle, and one effigy of the human figure.  These tumuli extend for the distance of half a mile along the trail.  What the animals represent in effigy is difficult to determine.  Many at the present time suppose that the mastodon is one, and that he was a favorite animal and perhaps used as a beast of burden.  That the mastodon was contemporary with the mound-builders is now an undisputed fact.  It is a wonder, and has been since the great mounds have been discovered, how such immense works could have been built by human hands.  To me it is not difficult to believe that those people tamed that monster of the forest and made him a willing slave to their superior intellectual power. If such was the case, we can imagine that tremendous teams have been driven to and fro in the vicinity of their great works, tearing up trees by the roots, or marching with armies into the field of battle amidst showers of poisoned arrows.” (page 3)
“I have heretofore suggested that the ancient Mound Builders were contemporary with the mastodon and that in all probability they tamed and used that powerful beast to haul heavy burdens.  As I stand almost alone, in relation to that theory, I will give my evidence for such a belief. It is a fact admitted by all familiar with pre-historic discoveries that the bones of the mastodon and those of the Mound Builders are found in the same localities, and in about the same state of preservation; also in and around their great works, stones are frequently discovered with animals engraved upon them which are supposed to represent that animal.  The copper relic, formerly referred to, found on the Allegany River with the form of an elephant engraved upon it, represented in harness, first attracted my attention to that subject.  If the ancient people in North America tamed that great beast it is very likely that the inhabitants of South America done the same thing.” (pg 141)
“When we consider the magnificent works built by these ancient people it looks impossible that they could have been built by no other than human labor.  The great mound at Cahokia, Illinois, is estimated to cover twenty millions of cubic feet of earth, which was all brought from a distance.  Now, it would take one thousand men nearly twenty years to perform the labor which was bestowed upon building of that one tumulus, and when we consider that that is but one of about sixty other structures by which it is surrounded, one thousand men could not have performed the great labor in the days and years allotted to human life.” (pg. 143)
The mounds described in the Smithsonian book referenced above were chock full of bones and artifacts. At the time of their destruction, no one was interested in saving them. The belief was that the Native Americans were savages and incapable of building those mounds (see Smithsonian book authors' comments). There was a vested interest in destroying or hiding any evidence that the Indians were anything but savages. Yet, accounts from the time document co-located bones of both men and elephants. Some artifacts were documented that show elephants. In addition to the above cited, see William McAdams, Records of Ancient Races,1887, pp. 114-116 and Stephan Dennison Peet, The Mound Builders, Their Works and Relics, pp. 38–44; see also  Mercer, H.C, The Lenape Stone - The Indian and the Mammoth, 1885.

Beasts of burden in general. If you examine the earthwork mounds documented in the above-mentioned book, you will see that it is not possible that human labor alone was used to create so many very large mounds of dirt. Although scientists believe that horses and elephants went extinct in America long ago, the theories are not settled, nor are the dates. The date keeps getting pared down, and a mass extinction event has now been traded for the theory that humans ate them all. Is it not completely feasible that the victors of the final battle ate the horses and elephants? If you were a nomadic hunter/gatherer, and had just slaughtered all the farmers, isn't that what you would do?

Steel, Swords, Headplates and Breastplates

1. Did steel exist at the time of Lehi? Yes. "It seems evident that by the beginning of the tenth century B.C. blacksmiths were intentionally steeling iron" [Robert Maddin, James D. Muhly, and Tamara S. Wheeler, "How the Iron Age Began," Scientific American 237/4 (October 1977): 127]

These iron chisels were found in Indian burial mounds in North America. From the book "Mound Builders."

2. Has any pre-Columbian steel or iron been found in the Americas? Yes. But not much. I am  unaware of how long it takes for iron or steel to completely rust out. If a primative culture lost the knowledge of how to work with metal, say through killing everyone who knew how to do it, it would not be surprising that you would find no new artifacts being produced by the time settlers arrived in the United States. Also, you would expect that rustable metal (iron, steel) would be consumed at some point, and non-rusting metals (gold, silver, copper) would still be around. It is interesting that so many metal Indian artifacts made of copper, silver, and gold have been found in the Americas.
3. Have any pre-Columbian metal knives/swords/headplates/chestplates been found in the Americas? Despite a blackout on wikipedia, YES they have. https://youtu.be/NzR7YD9vygY?t=5693
Mound Builder Copper Axe and Hatchet
Copper axe heads found in American Indian burial mounds.

Racism

Some say that references to the Lamanite curse in the Book of Mormon are racist and prove that the Book of Mormon is not from God. Unfortunately, this concern doesn't rest squarely on the Book of Mormon, but on extrapolations these people have made from LDS church "doctrines" and the Book of Mormon. Brigham Young was a racist. Even the LDS church has admitted that. He took the idea that blacks were an inferior race (prevalent among many at the time) and made it a part of the LDS doctrine. The LDS church used any scripture they could find to twist and justify what they had chosen to do. They found verses in the Book of Mormon that could be used to that effect. Unfortunately, modern readers have not evaluated the Book of Mormon for racism by considering the text absent cultural imprints from one of many groups who consider it sacred.

Here is an article that does just that. I can't do any better, so I will refer you to read it. The Book of Mormon is not only not racist, it actually contains many verses which explicitly teach that God treats all men fairly no matter the color of their skin, and that godly people do the same (see link). The point is that the Book of Mormon is not racist, even if some who consider it sacred are and have been racist.

Joseph Smith Problems


History happened a long time ago. Everyone knows that Mormons have had enemies since the beginning. These folks go to great lengths to distort history. What might surprise you to know is that, history has been assaulted not only by anti-Mormons, but by pro-Mormons! The LDS church has intentionally distorted, denied, and doctored their history for over 150 years. You should realize that what you think about Joseph Smith may be based on nothing more than false stories perpetuated by people who have extreme bias.

I have spent significant amounts of time pouring over historical records on this topic for more than a decade. It is not a trivial exercise, and I am convinced that the historical record is compromised enough that the truth about Joseph Smith cannot be ascertained through an appeal to the historical record. I do not expect anyone to change their mind about Joseph Smith based on what I say. What I do think is reasonable is to evaluate the Book of Mormon on its own, without drawing in the Joseph Smith question. It would be nice if your feelings about the Book of Mormon came from the contents of the Book itself, and not what someone told you about the author, that may or may not be true.

"Why Should I Care About the Book of Mormon?"

Well, you shouldn't. You should care about knowing God more than you do. That's all that matters.

There isn't going to be some gate in heaven that you can pass through only if you accept the Book of Mormon as scripture. The only gate in heaven (as, ironically, the Book of Mormon itself teaches) is Christ himself. He will admit any who believe in him and repent. So, the only reason you should accept the Book of Mormon is if you find it brings you closer to Christ. If the Book of Mormon helps you get there, then great. If it doesn't, then don't read it. However, don't ignore it without having read it. There is really nothing to be scared of. If you find the contents garbage, then feel free to dump it in the trash. But if you haven't read it, you ought to consider that God might want you to, and you might be missing out on something crucial.

As one ancient Book of Mormon prophet wrote:
And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good. (2 Nephi 33:10)
If you haven't read the Book of Mormon, hopefully my arguments here persuade you enough that you'll consider reading it. It has truly helped me draw closer to Christ. That is the purpose of the Book. I am confident that if I was limited to the Bible, I would not understand Jesus as well as I do, and I would not have had the experiences with him that I have had.

Individuals and churches have tried to hijack, discredit, and otherwise minimize the effect of the Book of Mormon. Yet, they have been unsuccessful at changing the contents. It is the contents of the Book that matter, and the contents do, in fact, draw you closer to Christ than any other book of which I am aware. If it does not draw you closer to Christ, then don't read it. I have yet to meet anyone who has had that experience.

If you want a copy that is not affiliated with any church, try the 1840 edition. I typeset this edition myself. It contains no footnotes or any other additions or modifications to the 1840 edition.

A Thought in the Woods

I went camping with my wife the other night. Where we live, we can truly camp in the wilderness. No campsites, no humans for many, many miles. Just trees, rivers, animals, and God. Out there in nature, without modern conveniences, things are very simple. You have to eat, but you won't be able to eat any modern food. You have to sleep, but it will be on the ground. You have to stay warm, but the only way you can do that is with fire and clothing, and both will take an immense amount of time to procure and maintain. You need water, and it will probably be dirty. That's pretty much it. When you are doing all these things, there really isn't time for much else. Paradoxically, instead of being overwhelmed at needing so much time to maintain truly basic survival, you feel a much greater peace than is available in all the trappings of Babylon. We forget just how much we have to manage and worry about in modern society. As an example, at this point in my life I touch 20-30 separate projects in any given day, from baby chicks to worm farm to seedlings to several distinct grant applications at work to several different research projects at work to different classes I teach, initiatives I am working on, gospel writings, gospel study, kids, wife, dog, rabbits, chickens, ... To simplify would truly be a wonderful thing.

One thought occurred to me while I was out there reveling in the silence. Why is it that, despite such a wealth of resources, those of an LDS background have an extreme lack of gifts from God in the form of faith, sacrifice, avoidance of worldliness, and spiritual gifts, compared to the scriptures and even the lives of other Christians? The answer was not surprising: "They don't keep my commandments." Specifically, the Lord told me that one of the most despicable examples of disobedience is in terms of financial inequality.

If I had to narrow down the most important differences in belief between those of a restoration background and those of a Bible-only background, I would say: An understanding of the responsibility to become Zion, which consists in just two things: Keeping all God's commandments and overcoming poverty.

Despite being what I consider THE distinguishing feature, this teaching is virtually ignored in those with an LDS background. They both deny that it is possible to keep all of God's commandments ("your best is good enough" or "keep church standards and that is as good as it gets") and they do not do what is necessary to overcome poverty ("I can be rich as long as I pay tithing").

God made it clear that it is possible to keep all of his commandments by sending his son whose perfect life demonstrated the point.

God has made it very clear that the rich cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 19:23).
He has said clearly that it is not righteous to have means while others do not have means.
"But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin." (D&C 49:20)
The idle will not be admitted to Zion.
Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer. (D&C 42:42)
For some reason, the LDS ignore these teachings. This, according to my understanding, is THE reason for such a lack of signs of God's power in their lives.

God made very clear to me that because the Gentiles have refused to abase themselves willingly for the good of the global poor, they will be abased by force. Those few who survive will find themselves in the same primitive conditions of those they have ignored and exploited to fare sumptuously.
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.  (Luke 16:19-26.)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Teaching for Doctrines Second Edition

The second edition of "Teaching for Doctrines" is finished. The edition reworks some of the wording and fixes typos. There were edits to nearly every page.


  • I did not include any new text that references my trial or excommunication. I wanted to preserve the original premise of the book, written by a member of the LDS church in full standing at the time. 
  • I had planned to change the cover due to some complaints about it. However, in reflecting on the meaning of the cover, and also how much time it takes for me to do image editing, I decided that if people found it grotesque (that is what I heard), that would be a good thing, since what has been done to Christ's gospel is much more grotesque than what that lady did to the painting of Christ that I used for the cover. 
  • The new version is available at the same link on Amazon (same ISBN).
  • The new version is available on kindle (or should be later today or tomorrow--it is submitted). 
  • The new version is available on the right sidebar as a free pdf. The first version is no longer available via pdf.


With this edition, I have fully discharged this burden and set it down. It is timely that this be completed on the day we celebrate the birth and resurrection of Christ, which also happens to be the season when he visited me years ago and started this project. Around this time many years ago, Jesus told his Father that he had done the work he had been given to do. In my comparatively small way, I now say the same, giving all glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Rejoicing in Error

A few months ago I went on a gear buying frenzy at Cabela's. Armed with coupons and special offers, I went there weekly to build up a stockpile of cold weather sleeping bags and other equipment for what is coming down the pike. I was there so frequently that the manager knows me on a first-name basis.

After a certain number of trips, the manager said to me, "what can we get for you today?" I said, "you know, I have another coupon, and I've walked around the store for 30 minutes. I can't find anything else I need. I think I'm done."

If life is like Cabela's, should we be glad when we think we've figured it out? On a micro-level, should we even be glad when we think we have found the right bow or the right sleeping bag?

No, we shouldn't. In fact, the second we think we have it figured out, we need to repent. Being wrong isn't a bad thing. It's a terrifically good thing. When you are wrong, it means that someone has shown you something better. Because we are so far from God's perfection, when you think you are right, the most likely explanation is that you are in fact wrong, but also blind to that fact. Being wrong on something is easily corrected. Blindness is not so easily corrected. To date, I know of only one cure: approaching Jesus and being healed.

The other day I was approached by a godly man on the topic of a certain spiritual gift that I have never demonstrated. I intently listened for hours after we intersected by chance. This was not what I had intended my day to be spent on, and I had many other things to do. However, I consider opportunities like this to be interventions by God until proven otherwise.

These Jethro-like experiences do not occur often. For some (most?) they don't occur at all. Why? We are convinced we are right, and/or we want to interact with God on our terms, not his. God requires you to drop everything when he tries to speak to you. How? Well, in his subtlety. He usually doesn't force anything on you. He gently, quietly offers a gift. If you are too busy to receive that gift, or too haughty, he will retract it.

Sometimes the reason we reject the gift is because of how it is wrapped. The timing is terrible, or, if it is a person through whom it is offered, we think we are better than that person. That person violates our sacred cows.

Be like a child.

We ought to hope that, through our interactions with the word and with others, we are proven wrong frequently.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Scripture Study: The rich young ruler's interaction with Jesus (Matthew 19:16-26)

16 ¶And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
The first line of the interaction between this man and Jesus reveals a suboptimal paradigm. There is no "good thing" we can do to have eternal life. Eternal life is gained through a process, not an event. The straight and narrow path is a process, not an event. We progress along that path by seeking and heeding every word of God. An interactive relationship with God is a requirement. It is not possible for someone else to access God, get a list of "good things," and pass them onto you. That process is idolatry. It places someone else between you and God. The gospel is not a static list. It is a personal, interactive relationship with God. Any list is meant as a teaser to get you to the point where you gain that personal, interactive relationship. It's training wheels. You can't ride to heaven with training wheels.

 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

This is Jesus' first attempt to correct this man softly. This man has it all wrong. Yet, like Paul, most of his incorrect ideas are not his fault. He has inherited a false religion, and he has adhered to those traditions thinking he is doing God service. Jesus, knowing this man's heart, knew that he was prideful. This man thought that his life of dedication to God (as he supposed) made him special in God's sight. In reality, his service as the ruler of a synagogue and his assumed perfection in living the traditions of the elders served as barriers to his relationship with God. He was on the hamster wheel of the commandments of men. Jesus was trying to suggest to him that maybe, just maybe, his standing with God was much different than he had assumed. Jesus is saying, "I am the son of God, yet I do not command adulation. If I do not call myself good, but instead direct adoration to the father, how should you view yourself, who are much lesser than me?" He then tries to clue him in to the key of why he is not where he thinks he is: Keep GOD's commandments.

 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Here is Jesus' second attempt. Instead of getting the clue and saying something indicative like, "Oh Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner," he says, "which?" This provides further evidence that his heart is in the wrong place. He is not approaching Jesus to find out how he can grow. Instead, he is looking for Jesus to justify him where he stands. This man's attitude is prevalent in religion. He has filled his life with the dead works of tradition, yet has never connected to God. There is a gnawing voice inside that says to him that perhaps he has something wrong. Instead of mustering real intent and seeking God to find the relationship his soul craves for, he doubles down on dead works, assuming more of what is causing the problem will solve the problem. Jesus throws him a huge hint here in the last commandment, the only one not from the 10. Surely, this man was actually quite good at following the previously listed commandments. However, as we see later, the last should have called him squarely to repentance. It does not.

 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
He missed the second clue. If he understood the meaning of loving thy neighbor beyond what his church had told him it meant, he would have thanked Jesus for the rebuke (which he missed) and gone on his way applying it. Instead, Jesus has to take it up a notch.

 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
I can see Jesus here sighing because of the hardness of this man's heart. "Let me try again, as you've totally missed it when I tried to tell you this twice already." Jesus doesn't force truth on us. The man could have gone his way after missing the first or second clues and never gotten to this point. If it weren't for his continued asking (a good thing), he never would have come to realize what Jesus has been trying to teach him the whole time. Jesus always tries to teach things softly at first, and usually doesn't go past that unless we ask him to. Alma 12 comes to mind. We are only taught according to our heed and diligence. This man is blind as a bat, but to his favor he just keeps asking. With every request, he is asking Jesus to be more direct with him. Initially, Jesus was protecting him. But we can't progress in ignorance. I'd rather know what I am doing wrong so I can actually fix it than proceed in vacuous ignorance.

 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
This man was not ready to actually do what Jesus said. When we are properly baptized, we promise God that we will obey him. This is much more open ended than most realize. We aren't just promising to keep the commandments we know about. The much more important piece is everything we don't yet know about. It is a wide open commitment. Some might wonder why they have not received the baptism of fire. Perhaps it is because they are not willing to receive whatever God gives to them, no matter how many of our sacred cows it violates.

 23 ¶Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
I laugh and cry every time I hear a preacher tell his congregation that Jesus' instruction to the man was just for him. How much plainer could he have been? If you are rich, you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. The reason? You can't possibly keep the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself AND be rich. It is not possible. If you are rich, you are failing to live the second great commandment. You cannot be saved until you let go of the idol of wealth.

It is easy to be hard on this man. Truly, he failed in this test. Yet, he was closer than most of us ever get. He at least had the gumption to approach Jesus and ask him these questions. How many of us don't even do that? How many church services are filled with people who are so smug in their supposed positive state with God that they don't even think to approach Jesus, let alone ask him what they yet lack? It is a failure to ask then not obey the answer, but it is an even bigger failure to not even ask.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hillary for president?

Those from an LDS background like to say how the Book of Mormon is for our time. I don't disagree with that statement. You will indeed find many parallels between what happened then and what is happening now.

What doesn't get as much press is just how many of the prophecies of the Old Testament were actually for our day, not theirs. A study of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Joel, Malachi, and other books will yield the surprising conclusion that the majority of what they wrote is actually describing what is happening and will happen in our day.

One of these topics is a "women ruling" motif. Here are a few passages:

12 As for my people, babes subject them; women wield authority over them.
O my people, your leaders mislead you, abolishing your traditional ways.
13 Jehovah will take a stand and contend with them; he has arisen to judge the nations.
14 He will bring to trial the elders of his people and their rulers, and say to them,
It is you who have devoured the vineyard;
you fill your houses by depriving the needy.
15 What do you mean by oppressing my people, humbling the faces of the poor?
says Jehovah of Hosts.
16 Jehovah says, moreover,
Because the women of Zion are haughty
and put on airs, painting their eyes, ever flirting when they walk and clacking with their feet,
17 my Lord will afflict the scalps
of the women of Zion with baldness;
Jehovah will expose their private parts.
18 In that day my Lord will strip away their finery—the anklets, head ornaments and crescents, 19 the pendants, chains and scarves, 20 tiaras, bracelets and ribbons, zodiac signs and charm amulets, 21 the rings, the noselets, 22 the elegant dress, the shawl, the kerchief and the purse, 23 hosiery, sheer linen, millinery, and cloaks.
24 And instead of perfume there shall be a stench, instead of the girdle, a piece of twine,
instead of the coiffure, baldness,
instead of the festive dress, a loincloth of burlap;
for in place of beauty
there shall be ignominy.
25 Your men shall be felled by the sword, your might overthrown in war.
26 Her gateways shall lie bereaved and forlorn; she shall sit on the ground destitute. (Isaiah 3, Gileadi Translation)

 22 How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.
 23 Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity; The Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness. (Jeremiah 31:22-23)

17 Likewise, thou son of man, set thy face against the daughters of thy people, which prophesy out of their own heart; and prophesy thou against them,
 18 And say, Thus saith the Lord God; Woe to the women that sew pillows to all armholes, and make kerchiefs upon the head of every stature to hunt souls! Will ye hunt the souls of my people, and will ye save the souls alive that come unto you?
 19 And will ye pollute me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, by your lying to my people that hear your lies?
 20 Wherefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against your pillows, wherewith ye there hunt the souls to make them fly, and I will tear them from your arms, and will let the souls go, even the souls that ye hunt to make them fly.
 21 Your kerchiefs also will I tear, and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand to be hunted; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
 22 Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life:
 23 Therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations: for I will deliver my people out of your hand: and ye shall know that I am the Lord. (Ezekiel 13)

Many Christians have said that the Lord has shown them that President Obama will be our final president. They say he will have occasion to invoke martial law and avoid either the election or the inauguration. I do not know whether or not that is true, though I do appreciate when people give specific prophecies, because it makes it very easy to see if they were right or wrong.

Whether or not she takes office, it is my belief (not prophecy) that despite the incredible odds against it, Hillary Clinton will be elected the next president of the United States. It would seem to be both a fulfillment of scripture as well as a fitting end to the apostasy of the United States. Mrs. Clinton has been involved in lying, stealing, murdering, and other immorality for the better part of her adult life, and that's just the stuff we know about. Even if she isn't at the helm when it all goes down (due to, perhaps, Obama's extension of term), you could not find a better candidate to demonstrate that the American people are morally bankrupt and ripe in iniquity. In fact, the majority of leading candidates this election are quite morally bankrupt in general.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

West Coast Earthquake Warning?

My previous opinion was that a massive earthquake would occur across the entire West Coast. Some erroneously believe a west coast quake would be localized to one fault. However, recent research shows that massive earthquakes can trigger adjacent fault zones, and almost every western fault is historically overdue for a quake, suggesting the entire region is wound up like a spring ready for multiple fractures to "adjust" to historic positions. The CO2 release supports the theory that the entire region will quake at the same time by suggesting that there are active seismic events general to the entire region, not specific faults. Scientists ability to predict earthquakes relies heavily on their activity levels. Since the US has been seismically calm during the era of modern equipment vs. historically (as discovered only recently in surprising finds from scientists digging in Cascadia, Japan, and the middle of the US), our ability to scientifically model and predict what is coming is very limited.

In 2001, there was a 7.7 earthquake in India. That quake was preceded by 7 days by a massive carbon monoxide release. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_Gujarat_earthquake) 

On February 26th, a similar release occurred on the west coast of the US. Note that normally this entire region is free from any noticeable CO emissions.




Note that this gas is not emitting from one fault. It spontaneously emitted from all the dark areas above in great quantity at the same time. Clearly, all of the fault systems in the west are intertwined. This is a MASSIVE area, containing the gross majority of all populated cities in the west. The map here does not have states. The north south line at the top tip of the gulf of California (the water to the right of Baja California) runs along the eastern border of Nevada square down the middle of Idaho. The blue dot in the middle of the screen is the great salt lake in Utah.

As a reminder, there will be a full solar eclipse in a few days that starts in Asia and heads towards the coast of the US.

http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/solar/2016-march-9


Edit 1: NASA has issued a press release stating that the instrument sensor was faulty and the CO eruption did not actually happen. Their description of the malfunction does not fit the data. Given the type of malfunction, what you would expect to see would be a uniform amplification of reported CO across the entire area of observation. Instead, the background CO (normal levels) maintain across the United States throughout the eruption. Moreover, the likelihood of a faulty sensor happening to amplify the signal around all active fault lines in the west is very, very low. In other words, the probability that the malfunction would just so happen to highlight all the fault lines while having lower readings in the immediate surroundings is nearly zero. I believe this is an intentional false statement designed to lower the public concern, a pattern seen repeatedly in government reactions to danger.

Edit 2: A 7.9 earthquake hit off of Indonesia just a day after I posted this. Note the location of Indonesia on the eclipse map.