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Friday, July 29, 2016

The Truth is Repugnant

Truth causes two reactions in people who recoil. The first reaction is to recoil because what is revealed is hard.
...the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center. (Isaiah 16:2)
Most are familiar with this reaction. This was the reaction of the rich person Jesus commanded to give away his possessions.
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:22)
The second reaction is to recoil because what is revealed seems immoral. Nephi believed the Spirit's request to kill Laban was immoral:
And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him. (1 Nephi 4:10)
I don't meet many who recognize that they would recoil from something that is true because it seems wrong. We seem to assume that we have the capacity to discern between good and evil, even though the scriptures adequately demonstrate that this is not the case. For example:
...because of the fall our natures have become evil continually... (Ether 3:2) 
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)
Our inherent ability to discern between right and wrong has a name in scripture: the natural man. It is the opposite of being guided by the Spirit. The things the Spirit teaches us are foolishness to our natural understanding:
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
Here is a simple test to prove my point. Which of these things that God sometimes does do not seem repugnant to you?
  • Killing babies.
  • Giving Grannies cancer.
  • Commanding his armies to kill women and children.
  • Commanding men to marry multiple wives.
  • Commanding people to lie.
Because God is perfect, under the circumstances all of these things ought to seem perfectly righteous in our eyes. But they don't.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)
The reaction to Jesus' ministry is more evidence for this principle. Did people hate Jesus because he asked hard things, or because they thought what he taught was immoral?
Many men will say, "I will never forsake you, but will stand by you at all times." But the moment you teach them some of the mysteries of the kingdom of God that are retained in the heavens and are to be revealed to the children of men when they are prepared for them they will be the first to stone you and put you to death. I was this same principle that crucified the Lord Jesus Christ, and will cause the people to kill the prophets in this generation. (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,  p. 309)
Though some few took issue with the difficulty of his teachings (forgive those who offend you, sell all you have and give to the poor), those who wanted to destroy him did so under the pretense that what he was teaching was morally wrong.

Those who killed Jesus and his disciples thought they were serving God by doing so! (John 16:2) Joseph Smith taught that those who are destined to be limited to the glory of angels are limited not by their desire to do what is right, but because they are unwilling to allow God to challenge their traditional understanding of what is right and what is wrong.
The mystery power and glory of the priesthood is so great and glorious that the angels desired to understand it and cannot: why, because of the tradition of them and their fathers in setting up stakes and not coming up to the mark in their probationary state. (Joseph Smith)

How to avoid this pitfall

The first and best way is to pray and secure revelation.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:5)
While God can reveal to us the truth of all things, what he will reveal to us is limited by how well we listen and obey to the things he has given us in the past (Alma 12:9). Another way of looking at this is that God will not reveal to you through direct revelation truths pertaining to higher degrees of glory than that which you already possess.

Were we limited only to what God revealed to us through direct revelation, we would know very little indeed about the gospel, because we would not have a way of obtaining truth beyond what we already possess. The solution to this problem was to prepare saviors to condescend below the degree of glory they are entitled to to share greater truths with us.

Ezekiel quotes the Lord in saying that a priest's duty is to
...teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. (Ezekiel 44:23)
This is the pattern demonstrated by Christ himself, and it is repeated with anyone who has obtained any degree of light and truth.
...the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people...they were ordained...from the foundation of the world...on account of their exceeding faith and good works...to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest. (Alma 13:1,3,6)
The condescending display of the works and teachings of higher glory beings is the only way God can justly deliver higher truth to lower glory beings.
And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men. (Moroni 7:32)
If we want to avoid this pitfall, we need to be willing to accept anything God teaches us, any sacrifice he asks of us, whether it makes sense, seems right, or not.
There are a great many wise men and women too in our midst who are too wise to be taught; therefore they must die in their ignorance, and in the resurrection they will find their mistake. Many seal up the door of heaven by saying, So far God may reveal and I will believe. (Joseph Smith)

Putting it all together

We know that higher truth is hard and higher truth is repugnant. We know that something we hear is not false simply because it is hard. We should get to the point where we do not dismiss candidate truth out of hand simply because it is repugnant. When we have the opportunity to witness the behavior or hear the teachings of someone, and they are repugnant, we should ponder whether there is a lesson that God is trying to teach us. We ought to ask God what we lack, and whether this is an opportunity for us to receive further light and truth.

God can only teach us that our traditions are false if we are willing to consider that they are. We cannot afford to set up stakes, or dictate the morality of God. It will put an impassable block between how we currently are and how God is.
"To all those who are disposed to say to set up stakes for the almighty— will come short of the glory of god. To become a joint heir of the heirship of the son he must put away all his traditions. Men will set up stakes and say thus far will we go and no farther, did Abraham when called upon to offer his son, did the Saviour, no..." (Joseph Smith)
Abraham was willing to kill his son. Abraham and Jacob practiced polygamy. Hosea married a prostitute. Ezekiel was willing to make a cake over dung. Isaiah walked around naked for 3 years. Samson whole life is repugnant to those who do not know God. Joseph Smith was regarded as bombastic and pompous. Noah drank a lot of wine. And so on.

Are these examples of imperfection? Some would say so. And yet, in order to receive a fullness of the priesthood, a man's heart must become so much like God's (or his desire so subject to God's) that he will not ask anything that is contrary to his will.
And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will. Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people. Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people. (Helaman 10:5-7)
Therefore, we ought to seriously consider that these repugnant actions of men with the fulness of the priesthood might be righteous after all. We ought to consider these as God's way of helping us see what we lack. We should ask him about them.

Some of the most repugnant examples come from the life of Christ himself. Jesus called people bad words, physically abused some that disagreed with him, and befriended prostitutes and traitors. Contemporary ideas of Christ are whitewashed and effeminate. Even contrarian accounts, such as that depicted in "Beautiful Outlaw," are insidiously skewed towards what how would like to think he is rather than how he actually is. Joseph Smith taught succinctly:
"Some of the company thought I was not a very meek Prophet; so I told them: 'I am meek and lowly in heart,' and will personify Jesus for a moment, to illustrate the principle, and cried out with a loud voice, 'Woe unto you, ye doctors; woe unto you, ye lawyers; woe unto you, ye scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites!' But you cannot find the place where I ever went that I found fault with their food, their drink, their house, their lodgings; no, never; and this is what is meant by the meekness and lowliness of Jesus.'' (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 270)
"Have not the least idea but if Christ should come and preach such rough things as he preached to the Jews, but this Generation would reject reject him for being so rough." (Words of Joseph Smith, 11 Jun 1843)
"It always has been when a man was sent of God with the priesthood and he began to preach the fullness of the gospel, that he was thrust out by his friends, who are already to butcher him if he teach things which they imagine to be wrong; and Jesus was crucified upon this principle." (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,  p. 310)
All children complain about what their parents teach them. Our 4 year old is constantly complaining about how what we tell him is incorrect, unfair, etc. Yet, his understanding of right and wrong is severely restricted compared to ours.
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)
To be a good child, he needs to do what we say out of his trust in us, even if it doesn't make sense to him. If he listens, one day it will make sense to him. It is the same with us and God.
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (John 7:17)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Plural Marriage

For the sake of this post, polygamy is defined as the practice of a married man marrying another woman as a result of God's command.

For whatever reason, I see constant online debates on this topic. It is, in my opinion, a depressing showcase of modern individuals' inability to engage in dispassionate rational thought.

In order to dissect an issue, we have to settle on what we are actually talking about.

Here are the big questions:

1) Is polygamy a sin?
2) Can God command people to practice polygamy?
3) Is it essential for salvation?
4) Should I be a polygamist?

Is polygamy a sin?

If polygamy were a sin, we would not have any (even one) examples of saved men who were polygamists. Yet, we know that Abraham and Jacob, both polygamists, are saved men. Therefore, polygamy cannot be a sin. This is not the same as saying that polygamy is required for salvation (see below).

Can God command people to practice polygamy?

The law of Moses commanded men to take to wife the widow of their deceased brother:
If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her. (Deuteronomy 25:5)
God has also authorized polygamous relationships outside the law of Moses. Though God clearly indicated that David sinned in taking Bathsheba to wife, God said he gave David the wives of Saul:
...Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. (2 Samuel 12:7-8)
Can God command individuals to practice polygamy? Definitely. He has in the past.

Is it essential for salvation?

If polygamy were essential to live in this life for salvation, we would not have any (even one) examples of saved persons who were not polygamists. There are very many in scripture, therefore polygamy cannot be essential to live in this life for salvation.

Should I be a polygamist?

Has God commanded you to? If yes, do it.

If no, introspection is in order.

I have shown that polygamy is not essential for salvation. There are no scriptural scenarios of which I am aware where an individual righteously engaged in polygamy without God's approval. This does not prove that any engagement in polygamy without God's revelatory involvement would be sin, but it should give pause to anyone who would rush into the idea without spending a great deal of time reaching out to God about it. Saul was destroyed for failing to wait on the Lord in offering a prescribed sacrifice. Despite the fact that he copied the correct form of sacrifice, he did not obtain God's permission to give it, and was severely cursed as a result.

This is no minor endeavor. Are you struggling to keep all of God's commandments in a normal, monogamous life? Why would you then voluntarily enter into something orders of magnitude more difficult? If you are blowing up your fingers while playing with firecrackers, why would you desire to be given atomic launch codes?

If you are true and faithful in all things, do you realize that godly polygamy requires extreme condescension, patience, long-suffering, knowledge, and charity? The only righteous reason to desire to enter into polygamy is to draw closer to God than is possible without suffering greatly for the benefit of another. I don't know many if any who honestly have that desire.

Most that I have met who desire to enter into plural marriage do so out of the lust that consumes them.

It is most definitely something that most people should not even consider. There are so many other parts of life that ARE required for salvation and are lacking in most people's lives. Why not focus on that?

Here are the questions that actually don't matter AT ALL:

1) Did Joseph Smith practice polygamy?
2) Does the Book of Mormon forbid polygamy?
3) Is polygamy practiced in heaven?

Did Joseph Smith practice polygamy?

Fact: Joseph never publicly taught polygamy, and in fact condemned it.

Conjecture: Joseph never had any children from polygamous relationships. Contrary to popular belief, this has not been proven, and cannot be proven. DNA can produce probabilities of progeny, not guarantees, and the accuracy of the probabilities degrades significantly over time. While the presence of a very probable child would provide strong evidence that Joseph was a polygamist, the absence of a very probable child simply means a very probable child has not been found. Given the weakness of long-term DNA progeny testing and the fact that all possibilities have not been tested, this is an incredibly weak argument against polygamy.

Did he practice polygamy? A better question would be, what does it prove if he did, and what does it prove if he didn't?

If he did practice polygamy, Mormons would have to investigate the implications of his public denials about it, just as they have to reconcile Abraham's public lies about his marriage to Sarah. It would not provide any additional data for the big questions above.

If he did not practice polygamy, it would not provide any additional data for the big questions enumerated above.

Does the Book of Mormon forbid polygamy?


For some reason there is debate on this, though I don't think there is anything to debate about. The question surrounds Jacob 2:24, which reads:

Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

Anti-polygamists say this scripture says that polygamy is always an abomination to God. Does it? No it does not. It says that having many wives and concubines is an abomination. Is many the same as more than one? No, it is not. Therefore, there is no contradiction between this verse and the answers to the big questions provided above.

There is a secondary debate about the meaning of Jacob 2:30:

For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.
The question here is whether this means that if God wants people to practice polygamy, he will tell them to, or if it means that he has to command people not to practice polygamy because otherwise they will, and that is a sin. No matter how you interpret this verse, it does not answer any of the big questions. The debate over it is simply a distraction.

Does the Book of Mormon forbid polygamy? A better question would be, what does it prove if it does, and what does it prove if it does not?

Given that God did in fact command people to practice polygamy at least one time in the past, if the Book of Mormon forbade polygamy, it would simply prove that God can forbid polygamy to a certain group of people at a certain time (in this case, the Lehites at the time of Jacob). Does this advance any of the key questions? No. This topic is irrelevant, and is only a distraction from what matters.

Is polygamy practiced in heaven?

It might surprise you that I list this under the questions that don't actually matter. Let me explain. Several people who have claimed to have been to heaven report that they didn't see God with multiple wives. The argument that some make here is that because the exalted will only have one wife in heaven, no one should practice polygamy here.

Is the only purpose of marriage to create a marriage worth eternal preservation? Most--in fact almost all--marriages will endure for this life only. Yet, despite the fact that due to the failings of one or both spouses, the marriage will end at death, it is of incredible worth to them in helping them learn Christlike attributes. It turns out that the vast majority of things that are good and valuable to us while in mortality will nevertheless not be present in heaven.

Any argument for the eternal contributions of a mortality-only marriage is also an argument for the eternal contributions of a mortality-only polygamous marriage.


Setting up stakes.

We cannot put anything off limits to God. He can command anything he wishes of us, and we must be prepared to be true and faithful to everything he teaches us, no matter how offensive it may be to our carnal minds.

Here are three quotes from Joseph Smith on the topic of limiting what we will accept from God (setting up stakes):
"To all those who are disposed to say to set up stakes for the almighty— will come short of the glory of god. To become a joint heir of the heirship of the son he must put away all his traditions. 
Men will set up stakes and say thus far will we go and no farther, did Abraham when called upon to offer his son, did the Saviour, no..." 
"The mystery power and glory of the preisthood is so great and glorious that the angels desired to understand it and cannot: why, because of the tradition of them and their fathers in setting up stakes and not coming up to the mark in their probationary state."
"I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to though all of them have some thruth. but I want to come up into the presence of God & learn all things but the creeds set up stakes, & say hitherto shalt thou come, & no further.—which I cannot subscribe to."
Those who rally incessantly against polygamy are not only proclaiming their ignorance from the rooftops, they are evangelizing damnation to all who believe them by encouraging people to set up stakes for the Almighty. Stop it.

The point of it all.

If there is anything God could command you to do that you would not do, you are in unbelief and can only progress so far. Turn to God, trust in God, and rid your heart of anything that would prevent you from doing whatever he asks of you.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The reason that we will be destroyed

We are told that translated beings, such as John the Revelator, do not feel pain beyond the sorrow felt for the sins of the world. (3 Nephi 28:38) This sorrow is not just felt by those who are translated, but by any minister of Jesus who allows God to use them to attempt to dispense blessings to others. Yet, the vast majority of the time, the gift offered with be rejected.

Why is it rejected? For the most part, in order to receive a gift, a person has to recognize the source of the gift (God) and the purpose of the gift (to help them). Yet, the wicked take to the truth to be hard.
...the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center. (1 Nephi 16:2)
They don't recognize truth. They don't recognize the hand of God. They don't desire things that are right, and therefore don't see the offered gift as something that will help at all--at least not help them get what they want, which is almost always physically impossible.
...ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head. (Helaman 13:38)
We see our gift thrown away, our sacrifice returned void. Many times, we even find ourselves receiving railing and accusation of evil in return for our unwavering example of exactly what Christ would do in our position: delivering freely what was acquired with great cost for no purpose other than to bless another.

The personal loss is not nearly as painful as the sure knowledge of the painful path the individual you tried to help has just delivered themselves to: unnecessary suffering whose only purpose is to break them down and humble them. Sometimes, in fact, the trajectory of this person's entire life has now been downgraded, and they have lost out permanently on the full blessings God desired to bestow upon them.

The absolute pinnacle of sorrow you can feel for someone is to realize beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are beyond reason. In such a state, absolutely nothing you can do can help them realize things as they really are. You are completely powerless to help them. The scriptures have many names for this state: reprobate, past feeling, ripe in iniquity, etc. They all mean the same thing. In common parlance, we unfortunately assume that this condition has something to do with what a person is doing. For example, "oh he is a drug addict, therefore he is a wicked person." Or, "she is a prostitute, therefore the case is hopeless." As near as I could tell, Jesus did quite well with the types of people we regularly write off because of some sin that we judge to be particularly repugnant. He ate with these people, he blessed these people, and they repented and came to him in droves.

The quality of being ripe in iniquity is not about what you do at all. It's about what you don't do. It's about your lack of ability to recognize and accept truth.

God sends higher truth to all his children. When they reject it, he downshifts and teaches lower truth, but still higher than what they possess. When they reject everything, there is nothing left for him to send.
But behold, this people had rejected every word of God, and they were ripe in iniquity; and the fulness of the wrath of God was upon them; (1 Nephi 17:35)
Wo unto them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught and revile against that which is good, and say that it is of no worth! For the day shall come that the Lord God will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth; and in that day that they are fully ripe in iniquity they shall perish. (2 Nephi 28:16) 
I once asked God why he would destroy this and all other countries in our day instead of in the past. After all, there isn't much we are doing today that hasn't been done for a long time. For instance, we have been murdering the innocent through unjust war and abortion for decades. Why punish us for it now?

The answer was two part. First, the main difference between our actions now and our actions then is that we are openly flaunting our wickedness as if it were virtue (see Isaiah 3:9). Behavior once limited to private indulgence due to public recognition of it as sinful behavior is paraded in public today as the achievement of an advanced society.

However, the main answer was this: destruction isn't usually (and won't be in our case) about specific actions. Rather surprisingly, it is merely about our societal approach to reason. Although many fashion their own god who arbitrarily rewards those who obey him and punishes those who disobey him, the God I have come to know is not arbitrary. His instructions guide us toward or away from natural consequences. In this case, destruction is the only option when an environment exists that does not permit the purpose of our lives: to learn to discern between good and evil.

Maybe you don't think the ability to reason is so important. After all, what does it matter if someone simply "agrees to disagree"? However, one's ability to consider both sides of an issue is tantamount to their ability to listen to God.
For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; (D&C 88:40)
If someone can't accept something minor that is true, there is no way they can accept something major that is true. It is all connected. Any rejection of truth has an effect on a persons ability to accept saving truth, whether the rejected truth itself is saving or not.

Reason is the way, and the only way, we learn truth. Some might think this is an overstatement that discounts learning by revelation. God does not impose truth on us, not by other people, and not be the Spirit. He reasons with us. Find a place in the scriptures where God tells something to someone. He gives instruction. He explains consequences. He reasons.

The tools in D&C 121 are the only tools God has. When the first ones fail to work, his only choice is to send destruction so that others who are born will not be forced into an environment where reason cannot function. An individual who is incapable of reason is incapable of growing closer to God. They are effectually cut off from him, and there is nothing that can bring them back.

The purpose of life is to learn to discern between good and evil. When a critical mass of the inhabitants of a land (or the world, in our digitally connected, world-is-flat society) refuse to reason, it creates an environment where the upcoming generation's ability to reason is poisoned.

Surely Jehovah’s hand has not become too short to save,
nor his ear dull of hearing!
2 It is your iniquities that separate you from your God;
your sins hide his face, so that he does not hear you. 3 For your palms are defiled with blood,
your fingers with iniquity;
your lips speak guile, your tongue utters duplicity.
4 None calls for righteousness;
no one sues for an honest cause.
They rely on empty words, deceitfully spoken; they conceive misdeeds, they beget wickedness.
5 They hatch vipers’ eggs and spin spiders’ webs; whoever eats of their eggs dies,
and if any is smashed, there emerges a serpent.
6 Their cobwebs are useless as clothing;
their fabrications are worthless for covering themselves.
Their works consist of wrongdoing; they manipulate injurious dealings.
7 Their feet rush after evil;
they hasten to shed innocent blood.
Their thoughts are preoccupied with mischief; havoc and disaster follow in their wake.
8 They are unacquainted with the way of perfection; integrity is not within their bounds.
They have made crooked their paths; none who treads them knows peace.
9 Therefore redress remains far from us
and righteousness is unable to reach us.
We look for light, but there prevails darkness;
for a glimmer of hope, but we walk amid gloom.
10 We grope along the borders like the blind; we flounder like those without eyes.
We stumble at noon as in the dark of night; in the prime of life we resemble the dead.
11 We grumble like bears, all of us; we moan incessantly like doves.
We expect justice when there is none;
we look for salvation, but it eludes us.
12 For our transgressions before you have multiplied; our sins testify against us.
Our offenses are evident; we perceive our iniquities: 13 willfully denying Jehovah,
backing away from following our God, perversely planning ways of extortion,
conceiving in the mind and pondering
illicit transactions.
14 And so redress is compelled to back away,
and righteousness to stand at a distance; truth stumbles in the public place
and uprightness cannot enter.
15 When integrity is lacking,
they who shun evil become a prey.
Jehovah saw that there was no justice, and it displeased him.
16 When he saw it, he wondered
why there was no man, no one who would intercede.
So his own arm brought about salvation for him; his righteousness rallied to his cause.
17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate
and made salvation the helmet on his head;
he clothed himself with vengeance for a garment and wrapped himself in fury as in a robe.
18 According to what they deserve, he will repay them: wrath upon his adversaries,
reprisals upon his enemies;
to the isles he will render retribution.
19 From the west men will fear Jehovah Omnipotent,a and from the rising of the sun his glory.
For he will come upon them like a hostile torrent impelled by the Spirit of Jehovah.
20 But he will come as Redeemer to Zion,
to those of Jacob who repent of transgression, says Jehovah.
21 As for me, this is my covenant with them, says Jehovah: My Spirit which is upon you and my words which I have placed in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of their offspring, says Jehovah, from now on and forever. (Isaiah 59, Gileadi Translation)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Revelation 12

Many are confused by the Book of Revelation. I once asked God why he bothered making end times prophecy take up so much space in the Bible if it was going to be so confusing that no one could understand it. He said it was intentionally written cryptically and scattered across so many pages so that people would have to come to him to understand it. With such a great proportion of the Old Testament in particular containing end times prophecy, you'd think Bible believers would spend more time trying to unlock it.

Ignorance has not stopped many authors from writing about it. Of the many essays and books I've seen on end times prophecy, I have yet to see anything reasonably correct. You are better off spending your time in scriptures. Despite the seemingly slow response of the Lord when you pray and ask him what it all means as you attempt to unravel hundreds of pages of prophecy, you will gain FAR MORE in truth than you will be going to something written by someone who has no idea what they are talking about.

With that preamble, let's get to Revelation 12, an exceptionally beautiful chapter in what is regarded as one of the hardest books to understand in the Bible.

This chapter is all about two end-times people: The servant of God (also known as the one mighty and strong in other scriptures) and the servant of Satan (also known as the King of Assyria in Isaiah). The chapter weaves together imagery from a war in heaven that was fought before the world was created, signs in the heavens, and other imagery to explain how the servant of God and the servant of Satan will come on the scene and what their principle missions and dispositions will be.
1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
This verse refers to the sign in the heavens that will herald the mission of the servant of God. It describes two constellations depicted below.

Virgo is the woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, with Leo (the crown of 12 stars) on her head.
Virgo represents the kingdom of God, the bride of Christ. Leo represents Christ. This sign is fulfilled as Mercury, Mars, and Venus join the constellation Leo to make 12 "stars" appear above the head of Virgo (the virgin). This will occur, with the sun and moon taking their appointed places, on September 23, 2017.  Meanwhile, Jupiter (a planet that typically represents the Savior), will be in Virgo for over 400 days, and exit Virgo at approximately the location of the birth canal (not shown well in this image, but you can find videos online), on this day.

As in other places, this Christ-symbology is used to describe the one mighty and strong, who is a type of Christ and has a holy mission more similar to Jesus' than anyone who has ever lived. This date provides a sign that marks the onset of the mission of the one mighty and strong. Likewise, Satan symbology is used to describe the servant of the devil, who is a type of Satan himself.
 3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
 4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
The red dragon is symbolic of kingdoms of the world and Satan. It also corresponds to a constellation, Hydrus.



The seven heads and ten horns represent two different sets of kings (see Revelation 17:9-12). The seven kings already have their kingdoms, and thus have crowns, while the ten crownless kings have not yet appeared and represent a future geopolitical situation that will replace the current seven. This sign will not necessarily co-occur with the previous sign. It may occur sometime after. How will we know? We will see "the third part of the stars of heaven" cast to the earth. This may be a spectacular meteor shower occurring aligned with the tail of Hydrus, or it may be fulfilled as an EMP (natural or otherwise) shuts down satellites causing them to fall from the sky under Hydrus. There are currently approximately 800 satellites over the United States. If they were disabled, there would be over 800 very bright objects in the night sky as they burned up upon re-entering earth's atmosphere.

At this point, the story flips back to the virgin and her son:
 5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
The man child is the one mighty and strong. Some are thrown off by the phrase "rule all nations with a rod of iron." Yet, we know that God will appoint a man to sit on the throne of David, that this will be after God has thrown down all other nations, and that he will govern with the word of God ("rod of iron" in other places).

We are told in verse five that when Virgo brings forth Jupiter, the one mighty and strong will be caught up to God and his throne. It is important to distinguish the symbolism from the literal. Servants of God are caught up to his throne--literally carried to the throne of God--when they begin their ministry. This happened, for example, with Isaiah and Ezekiel. When this happens, it will mark the beginning of Zion, which is in and around this servant. The kingdom of God--this person and his following--will go into the wilderness as directed by God, to be protected from the desolation that comes after this point for three and a half years.
 7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
 10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
 12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
This passage parallels the description of the coming forth of the one mighty and strong. Here we read of the coming forth of the servant of Satan. The language used to describe this is a recounting of the war in heaven that occurred before the earth was inhabited. Just as the one mighty and strong represents Christ coming to the earth again (though he is not Christ), the servant of Satan represents Satan himself. Just as the one mighty and strong will accomplish the work of Jesus on the earth, the servant of Satan will accomplish the work of the devil. The start of the mission of each of these people will dramatically affect life on earth.
 13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
 14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

The kingdom of the devil will rise up and persecute the kingdom of God in an unprecedented manner as soon as the mission of these two begin. The calling of the one mighty and strong will initiate a physical gathering to places of safety in the wilderness. Meanwhile, Christians everywhere will be persecuted.
 15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
This flood is not symbolic. The places of safety will be in the Rocky Mountains in the USA. The flood could be caused by man-made nuclear tsunamis on the west coast of the US. Far fetched? The Russians have designed and leaked equipment and plans to do just that.
 16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
Again, this is not symbolic. There will be an earthquake that will cause the waters to subside somewhat.
 17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
There will be a literal war between those who believe in God and those who do not.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Charity never faileth

5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
(2 Peter 1:5-7)

This list of attributes is a sorted description of a stairway to becoming like Christ. The list is ordered. While it is true that each attribute can be experienced out of order, each attribute is harder to obtain and deeper in nature when the preceding attributes are obtained first. While more detail on this is given in context of the attributes described below, a simple analogy is that of a runner. Running is so simple that a toddler picks it up shortly after learning to walk. However, there are many situations that can make it difficult enough that adapting to them is more like learning a new skill than an expansion of an old one. The toddler has to adapt when it gains weight. It has to adapt when attempting running with a parachute. It has to adapt when running as a heavier adult with a parachute and developing asthma. So it is as we proceed through these attributes. Each introductory attribute becomes more difficult as we acquire advanced attributes.

Faith

Although much could be said about faith, we focus on the overarching purpose of faith: obtaining eternal life. We learn from Joseph that “faith is the assurance which men have of the existence of things which they have not seen, and the principle of action in all intelligent beings.” (Lectures on Faith 1:9.) From Paul we learn that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17.) If we put these two statements together, we see that faith is believing in God's word enough to act on it. It requires, first, the receipt of God’s word, and second, action. As an example, a person exercises faith in baptism by hearing God's instruction about baptism, then repenting and being baptized, believing he will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost as promised.
Faith, then, is not mere belief, nor can it be exercised on commandments of men that are incorrectly assumed or purported to be God’s word. When men understand faith as mere belief, or when they attempt to exercise it on commandments of men, they engage in vain religion; their efforts will never bring them closer to God. At best, they distract them from those actions that would bring about salvation. At worst, they move away from God through beliefs and actions that are antithetical to the gospel of Christ.

Virtue

Virtue is quite a strange word. Its two primary meanings, depending on context, are "Strength; that substance or quality of physical bodies, by which they act and produce effects on other bodies" and "conformity of life and conversation to the moral law."

The only description of virtue in the scriptures is found in the book of Abraham, where we are told:

Now, this priest had offered upon this altar three virgins at one time, who were the daughters of Onitah, one of the royal descent directly from the loins of Ham. These virgins were offered up because of their virtue; they would not bow down to worship gods of wood or of stone, therefore they were killed upon this altar, and it was done after the manner of the Egyptians. (Abraham 1:11)
These three women were considered virtuous because of their resiliency to God's word in the face of opposition, even threat of death.

If faith is believing in God's word enough to act on it, virtue is the resiliency to reconcile yourself to your understanding of God's word in the face of opposition.

Knowledge

Faith is a principle whose practice becomes successively more difficult as one progresses. The reason is simple: as an individual heeds the word of God as they understand it, God teaches them new and increasingly difficult commandments. Similarly, one must increase in their determination to reconcile themselves to God (virtue) as God asks more and more difficult things.

Knowledge is the term used to describe the acquisition of higher truth. Once faith and virtue have been attained at a naive level of understanding, knowledge must be acquired in order to ascend to higher levels of holiness.

Temperance

In other scriptural translations, this is rendered "self-control." What is self-control? It is "the ability to control oneself, in particular one's emotions and desires or the expression of them in one's behavior, especially in difficult situations." In a spiritual context, temperance is the submission of self to spirit. This includes common concepts, such as avoiding anger, as well as concepts that are not commonly contemplated, like avoiding emotional outbursts.

Temperance is coming to the point where you do not allow your body (mind, flesh, emotions, desires) to control your spirit. It is dictating your behavior from the spirit and only the spirit.

Patience

Patience means to consistently and calmly adhere to God without murmuring, even when you encounter affliction, including long perceived silence from heaven. Affliction makes temperance, knowledge, virtue, and faith more difficult. It is harder to subdue the flesh to the spirit when you are in pain or destitute of basic necessities. It is harder to learn truths that can only be learned in affliction. It is harder to be courageously determined to obey God's will when the opposition includes great affliction or does not include obvious interaction with God. It is very difficult to continue to have faith when you perceive the heavens to be unresponsive to your efforts.

Godliness

Godliness comes from the Greek word "eusebia." It is a terrible attempt at distilling a more-than-one-word concept into one English word. "Godliness" means two things: 1) A relationship with God, and 2) doing the things that gods do.

A relationship with God. The term "godliness" in the New Testament is used to distinguish relationship with God from rites of worship. The Greek roots imply incredible reverence and awe. This kind of reverence and awe come from a face to face encounter with God, an encounter that comes normally only when the individual has decided to embark on a personal journey to reconcile themselves with God instead of using an outward vehicle (churches/spiritual mentors/ordinances) to do so.

The way Peter described it:
"Divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness (eusebeia), through the true (full, personal, experiential) knowledge of Him Who called us by His own glory and excellence" (2 Pet 1:3)
Eusebeia is something that comes as a result of personal, experiential knowledge of God--something that can only be obtained through meeting him in the flesh. 

Doing the things that gods do. Godliness means doing things that gods (plural) do. It does not, however, mean perfect behavior, as in doing the things that God (singular, capitalized) does. Paul said there are gods many and Lords many (1 Corinthians 8:5). Any of those who are in "Abraham's bosom" are "gods" in a sense. However, that does not mean they are equal to God in fashion, attribute, or power. In Mormon vernacular, Godliness is angelic behavior. It is celestial, but not exalted behavior. It falls short of that.

In order to meet God, you need to live celestial law. Thus, a relationship with God and doing the things that gods do go hand in hand.

Brotherly kindness

Brotherly kindness is the essence of the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have done to you. What is the difference between godliness and brotherly kindness? Is brotherly kindness required to get into the celestial kingdom? Can you be an angel with justice only? Brotherly kindness is the first transition from justice to mercy. It is the change from what they deserve to what you desire.

Charity

The simplistic common definition of charity is to do good to others. In a gospel sense, charity is service to others when the cost to you exceeds the benefit to them.

Paul says all other gifts will pass away, but charity "never faileth." What does that actually mean? In Paul's discourse, he uses the other gifts to demonstrate that they are inconsistent. No one prophesies all the time. No one speaks in tongues all the time. But when you have charity, you have charity all the time. That's actually what it means--not just to have those qualities but to have them all the time. No matter how stressed, how busy, how ridiculous the situation--always. Charity never faileth--it doesn't mean that it is some gift that is less perishable than the others. It means it is the only gift that is always active when possessed. Charity is not an act, but a characteristic. Part of the definition of charity is that it must be consistent and all-encompassing.

What is the difference between brotherly kindness and charity? It is the distinction in cost. If brotherly kindness is service to others when the benefit to them is greater than the cost to you, charity is service to others when the cost far outweighs the benefit.

Charity is the last attribute we must obtain to become like God is.
48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. (Moroni 7:48)
It is interesting that charity is "bestowed" upon us. Does this gift entail a forced modification to our behavior? No. Instead, it consists of a dispensation of knowledge that helps us see ourselves as God sees us and to see God's experience as it really is. That is not a positive experience. Instead, it is humbling beyond description on our part and can be quite sobering on his part. It's not something that can be reduced to English, but to get a rough approximation, you should think about what it is like to be God for 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 we expect God to bless us, we ought to bless others in the respective scope we occupy.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matthew 7:2)
Charity is a fullness of the law of consecration. We obtain blessings beyond the reach of our peers, and then we distribute them even though our cost far, far exceeds their benefit.

Charity is incredibly hard to attain. Some mistakenly think they have it. They either are partial in their charity (they don't have it all the time), and therefore don't actually have charity, or they demonstrate it without the possession of the preceding attributes.

It is easy to have charity when you lack faith. It is easy to have it when you lack virtue. And so on. It is incredibly, incredibly difficult to attain to charity when you have attained the other attributes discussed here. This is because the more you have (or have been through), the harder it is to give it away. I am not principally talking about temporal possessions (though that can be a part of it), but rather spiritual ones. For example, it is hard to willingly endure a trial simply to bless someone who probably will not accept the blessing. Again, the most difficult dimension of charity is its consistency: You have to be this way at all times, in all places, just like God.

Most people I know who are Christians would be very unhappy if they had God's duties. Very, very unhappy. They are not doing things like God here, and they wouldn't be happy doing so hereafter. "...charity is the pure love of Christ." (Moroni 7:47). It is the love that Jesus has for us. It is also the love we must have for others when we love Jesus. We should have and practice that now if we expect to have it hereafter.

Conclusion

At every stage in this ladder, people freeze (stop progressing) and people fall away. The challenge is to accept the new dimension of progress, embrace it, and overcome it.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Trading chains

As more and more people wake up to how their present understanding of religion is a stumbling block that keeps them from Christ, they will encounter a decision point as they decide where to stop in their shift away from institutional orthodoxy.

From one master to another

Unfortunately, many if not most will not point their needle towards Christ. Instead, they will mistake freedom from false traditions and the commandments of men with freedom from God's commandments. They mistake reckless abandon for freedom in Christ. In reality, their newfound freedom from any law will keep them from Christ at least as well as the commandments of men did.

This is nothing new. For at least a few thousand years, those brought out of false tradition were tempted with adopting the bondage of a new false tradition. Paul taught:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1)

Peter had to remind his converts that freedom in Christ should not be used as an excuse to sin:

As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.(1 Peter 2:16)

To be clear, these folks do not see themselves as doing anything wrong. In many cases, they claim that the Holy Ghost is directing them. The reality is that their idea of revelation still fits the pattern taught them by the institution: if it feels good, it must be from God. In the institution, this paradigm makes mind control simple, as any idea that leads one out of the church causes tremendous cognitive dissonance and mental anguish, and therefore must not be "the spirit". In their newfound freedom, they substitute the desires of the flesh for institutional control. While the message remains "if it feels good, it is from God," the objective switches from controlling institutional dissent to controlling the individual by driving them toward behavior that distracts them from spiritual progress at best, and at worst causes them unnecessary and unfruitful pain and suffering.

Understanding the Spirit

The Spirit does not operate through the flesh. The flesh will lead you away from God. Paul taught:

 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Galatians 5:16-17)

So how can you determine if you are being led by the Spirit or some other source?

But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. (Moroni 7:17)
Of course, this is tricky in its ambiguity--if you believe something is good when it is not, it won't help you much. A better test is the serve God clause. Is your behavior serving God? If not, it is not good. [Note: as with almost everything, it is possible to be too conservative or too progressive with our understanding of what it means to serve God. I suggest the book "Holiness to the Lord: How to Live the Law of Consecration, which you can download for free on the right sidebar of the non-mobile version of this page.]

Key Words

Another clue is to compare our behavior to the descriptions found in scripture. Which characteristics best describe your behavior?

Group 1:
Surfeiting
Drunkenness
Lust
Idleness
Aimlessness
Fear
Uncleanness
Envying
Revelling

Group 2:
Soberness
Quickness to observe
Meekness
Temperance
Longsuffering
Goodness
Faith
Revealed direction
Purpose
Honesty (particularly self-honesty)

Some Associated Scriptures:
34 ¶And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
 35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
(Luke 21)

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5)

12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
 13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. (Romans 13)

15 And I, being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus. (Mormon 1:15)

38 Gird up your loins and be watchful and be sober, looking forth for the coming of the Son of Man, for he cometh in an hour you think not. (D&C 61:38)

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (1 Peter 5:8)

 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:6)

Select Definitions

Even with all this, it is easy to misunderstand or misapply these terms. It pays to study them out and find out what they really mean and see which ones apply to you.

Surfeiting. To surfeit is to overdo something to the point that it causes physical harm. For example, eating so much that you feel you are going to vomit. If your life is filled with discretionary activities to the point where you aren't getting ample physical rest, that would also be surfeiting.

Lust. This is almost always understood to have a sexual connotation. Sexuality is just one form of lusting. It more broadly refers to the desire to fulfill any carnal appetite. In other words, to lust is to be directed by the desires of the body rather than the spirit. For example, people who allow their emotions to dictate their behavior are lustful.

Revelling. To revel is "to feast with loose and clamorous merriment; to carouse."

Soberness. The term sober is rarely used in a scriptural context to mean the lack of alcoholic influence. Rather, it means serious, solemn, regular, calm, dispassionately rational, not wild. Why is this a godly characteristic? How is this characteristic useful to draw closer to Christ?

Quickness to observe. Are we slow to heed God's word? Are we slow to notice what he tries to teach us through direct revelation or the precept/example of others? Or do we immediately put into practice godly behavior that we find missing in ourselves?

Temperance. Are we moderate in all things? Do we bridle our passions? Do we restrain ourselves in indulgences, whether they be of food, alcohol, joy, mirth, sex, etc.?

Faith. Do we trust God? Do we limit what we will hear from him? Do we have a list of things we won't believe even if he revealed them to us? Do we fear what he might tell us?

Honesty. Are we honest with God and with ourselves? Do we pray for and obtain discernment to detect what motivates us? Do we justify unrighteous behavior by untruthfully claiming righteous reasoning for it? Are we pretending we are something we are not?

Friday, July 8, 2016

The role of true messengers and those who hear them

There is still a lot of confusion about the mechanism of salvation. Though we read and understand that Christ and Christ only is the gateway to salvation, we still struggle to understand what that means.

What does it mean that Christ is the only way to be saved? Does it mean that we can use him to be saved like a man uses a hammer to build a house? Is he our tool? The scriptures suggest quite the opposite.

But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

A potter does not merely create but also finishes his works. If salvation comes through Christ, it comes through yielding our hearts to him--completely and fully. That is how he can finish us without violating our free will. Believing in him is not a practice of mere confession with the lips, but of yielding our hearts. And it isn't a vacuous, passive position.

You can't yield your hearts to someone you don't know. Knowing Jesus requires seeking him, and that requires exercising every mechanism available to learn more about him.

Salvation is an awfully individual affair. No one can seek Jesus for you, and no one can know him for you. Nevertheless, the Christian world spends all or nearly all of their religious effort trying to get to know Jesus through someone else. For most Christians, the time they spend in the audience of a pastor, priest, pope, elder, friend, or anyone else far exceeds the time they spend in the audience of God himself, in prayer or in solitary scripture study.

This presents a dilemma. On one end of the continuum, we have the option of locking ourselves in a room with the Bible until we meet God. On the other, we have the option of locking ourselves in a church pew until we meet God. It turns out that either option will result in the same fruitless experience (though I would prefer the former rather than the latter). Why? Because of how ministration works.

God lives in a glory defined by the laws he lives. Truth produces glory in and around those who accept and live it. The higher the truth, the more the glory. Normal people cannot go to where God is. As Jesus told the Pharisees:

Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. (John 8:21)
In order to ascend to where God is, you have to live the law the God lives. This is true of any being: in order to ascend to the level of glory they enjoy, you have to live the law they live.

So how do you learn what those laws are? If it were as simple as reading the Bible, or finding a minister, we would have millions and millions of people ascending to where God is. How many people have you met who have been in God's presence in heaven? Where, then, is the disconnect? Clearly, only a very small minority of people have God's law. Or, as Jesus said,

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:14)
So where is it to be found? Paul gives us a clue:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)
How can you know a law unless you hear it? "...how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?" (Romans 10:14-15)

Scripture gives us example after example of how God dispenses truth. Every man comes into this world possessing a certain state of glory. God reveals truths to these people of the level that they already possess. In order to ascend in truth, we must encounter higher truth than we possess. This elevated truth very rarely comes from God himself, except in the form of the Holy Ghost confirming truth to us. Instead, we must a) seek out and b) accept the teachings of people who possess higher truth than we do.

Obtaining truth from God happens by degrees. Jethro provided Moses with instructions that helped Moses advance from where he was before he met him to where he was after he met him. Moses did not stop there. Moses continued to obtain more truths that Jethro himself did not know, and thus was able to obtain more glory than Jethro possessed. We are surrounded by Jethros in our life. If we recognize and sort through what they say that is true and what they say that is error, we can catapault ourselves closer to God in a much faster manner than if we were left to our own devices, much like a spaceship can use the gravity of a planet to slingshot to its target much faster than it could with its own engines. But making the error of making the true messenger our target will end in the same catastrophe of making the planet the target: crash and burn instead of upward progression.

Teachings can be true or false. Teachers are neither.

There are several ways we can misunderstand the way this works. God makes use of vessels to do his work. Sometimes these are righteous vessels (like Isaiah), and sometimes these are wicked vessels (like Nebuchadnezzar). Most times, however, they are a little righteous and a little wicked (like Gideon, who did some things right and some things wrong). The righteousness of a man does not indicate that anything he says is true. The Bible is full of examples of true messages from God being delivered by men who were not worthy of emulation. On the other hand, the wickedness of a man does not indicate that a particular belief he has is not from God. The high priest who killed Jesus delivered a true prophecy (see John 11:49-51)!

We ought to assume that God will use anyone and anything around us to teach us all the truth we are willing to receive. We ought to prove all things, instead of just assuming something is false because it doesn't agree with what we currently understand. In fact, if we expect that there are things we do not yet know, and glory to which we have not yet attained, we ought to assume that the space between where we are and where we want to be will be spanned by new truth that will necessarily clash with what we currently understand, for if it did not, would we not already embrace it? We ought to avoid dismissing people out of hand because they believe differently than we do. Did Moses dismiss Jethro out of hand when he possessed truth that Moses had not yet heard? No. Rather, he proved all things, and found that much of what Jethro taught was useful to advance his own understanding.

Jesus himself was dismissed as wicked by the majority of people that witnessed his mortal ministry. Isaiah said that Jesus "hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53:2) There was nothing overtly obvious about Jesus' true role that would have caused people to listen to what he said. Instead, those who followed him did so on the merit of his message.

When we dismiss truth presented to us by our fellows, we are cutting ourselves off from the blessings God intends to give us. I have personally witnessed many occasions where someone I know has prayed for certain blessings or deliverance from God only to reject the person he sent to provide the requested blessings.

We should not look for true messengers, or disqualify messengers as false. We should not listen more to people (ministers, spiritual giants, popes, priests) we assume are righteous. We should not listen less to people we assume are wicked. Instead, we ought to try all things and hold fast to what is true.

By testing all things, you are relying on the Holy Ghost for truth, and not man, despite recognizing that God might be sending you new truth via association with other individuals who know something that you don't.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Trust No One; Believe All Things

I used to wake up tired and hungry. I now wake up so full of energy that I could jump through a wall like the koolaid man. "Oh yeah!!" What's the difference? I cut carbs down to almost nothing and drastically increased the fats I eat. Ive lost two inches off my waist without being hungry once, and haven't slowed down on my weight lifting. I have not had a before after blood panel, but I would not be surprised if my blood metrics are the best they've been in more than a decade.

Almost every accomplishment in my life underscores one axiom: be skeptical. Don't trust the conclusions of others. Instead, look at their observations, perhaps conduct your own experiments, and come to your own conclusions. You will achieve far more than the advice givers because your conclusions will be based on factual observation, not tradition or hearsay.

Shifting to an observational basis is not easy. Even most scientists have failed to make that transition. It requires a constant guard against the onslaught of decided issues that we are bombarded with daily. You will never get observations in the media. Instead, you get conclusions. Here are some typical (fake) headlines:

  • Scientists show global warming will lead to disastrous sea level rises by 2020
  • Zika virus posses significant risk to pregnant women
  • High fat diet linked to heart disease
  • etc.

How many times have you read such headlines? How many times have you investigated the article to see what observations the experts made to inform their conclusion? The observations are not in the headlines, nor are they in the article. Instead, they are in the peer-reviewed publication that the article summarizes. Even then, you frequently have to dig through the paper to see the observations informing the conclusions. Spoiler: The conclusion is rarely the only way to interpret the observations, and frequently don't support the conclusion at all. [Note: To avoid the charge that I might not know what I am talking about: I am an academic/scientist, have published over a dozen peer reviewed articles, have read hundreds more, and have received over $1 million in external funding. This does not prove I am right, but does prove that this is not a naive statement.]

To trust means to "believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of." If you look up scriptures using the word trust, you will find that it is never associated positively with trusting men, no matter who those men are.  Synonyms of trust include "rely on, depend on, bank on, count on, be sure of." You can never be sure of anything in this world. You should never depend on or count on anything or anyone in this world. Doing so will surely lead to disappointment, and may lead to damnation.

Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. (Jeremisha 17:50)

The only entities that can be trusted in this world are entities that are not of this world: The father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

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

This exposes an apparent contradiction. Aren't we meant to believe? Yes, we are. Too many (especially among Millennials) are skeptical to the point where they won't believe anything. These are steeped in the sin of unbelief. They push the needle from the extreme of trusting in the arm of the flesh to the opposite extreme of believing nothing. They are just as damned as those who trust in the arm of the flesh, because in closing their aperture to avoid falsehood, they will not except truth.

One definition of believe is to hold something as an opinion. To think or suppose. There is nothing wrong with supposing something is true. In fact, before one learns of the truth of something, they must first suppose it could be true (Alma 32, John 7:17). Merely supposing something could be true doesn't mean you will depend on it or be sure of it. No belief should be clung to in the face of irrefutable contrary evidence. If it is, it isn't believed, but trusted. No tenet should ever be trusted. Only God should be trusted.

The axiom to be skeptical has yielded fruit in religion, love, parenting, health, finance, and every other aspect of my life that I can think of.

I firmly believe that any person who follows God will find themselves in a constant Sisyphean battle against the entropy that rules in the Telestial Kingdom, or the world in which we now live. Sisyphus was a mythical character who was consigned to an eternity of rolling a very large enchanted boulder up a very large hill, only to have it escape from his clutches and roll back down endlessly.

Paradoxically, we are sent to a world that even Jesus could not turn around and charged to conquer all things. Therein lies the key. Just as the kingdom of God is not of this world (meaning not LIKE this world, or not ruled in the manner of this world, not present on some other world), Jesus' manner of conquering is not like the Telestial manner of conquering. Despots in this world conquer through violent compulsion or empty promises of effortless peace and comfort. Jesus conquers through the mechanisms listed in D&C 121:

41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
 42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.

This conquering has a very different effect than the world's version of conquering. Instead of causing dominance, it causes reverence. Instead of causing ignorance, it causes wisdom. Instead of causing submissive weakness, it causes strength.

Jesus didn't amass millions of followers in his life, or even 10s of thousands. He had a few hundred faithful followers tops. His most notable victory was not with the crowds, but against darkness itself. By living a sinless life, he conquered death. We conquer the entropy of the universe not by conquering the universe, but by conquering its effects on us as individuals. We fight the darkness in the universe by fighting the darkness in ourselves.

If you want to fight the darkness of this world, you have to stop trusting its lies. Stop trusting the experts. Stop trusting other people. Stop trusting what you've heard, what your parents taught you, what your best friend does. Your operating assumption should be that everything you hear is a lie until proven otherwise. PARADOXICALLY, you must also suppose that everything you hear could be true. The balance between these is delicate. So delicate, in fact, that you could describe it as a strait and narrow path, one so narrow and precarious that you need a guide to lead you along. That guide is the word of God.