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Monday, February 29, 2016

Scripture Study: John 1:6-18

 6 ¶There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
What does it mean to be sent from God? Of what significance is the fact that John's father was given his name from God before he was even born? Of what significance is it that John was appointed from before his birth?

 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
John's mission was to "bear witness of the Light." How did he do that? Was John's purpose in life to say, "That guy right there is the Messiah?" Was that how he bore witness of the Light? If so, he did a very poor job, as evidenced later by the fact that he himself wasn't totally sure just who the Messiah was, and didn't teach his followers so (see later commentary). Instead, the primary content of his mission was to preach the doctrine of Jesus, not the person of Jesus. While he was preaching the doctrine of Jesus, he necessarily had to point on the false traditions of the incumbent religions. If you re-read what John said, and how he said it, you will find that his words were rougher than his clothing. Those who, finding the truth hard, assume it can't be from God are quite ignorant of the scriptures, indeed.
 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
True messengers do not spend their time directing people to follow them. They are not the light. Jesus is the light. True messengers spend their time directing people to follow Jesus.

 9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

See commentary on John 1:1-5.
 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Jesus came to the Jews, a chosen people. Despite their chosen status, their birthright inheritance, they rejected him. Here we are taught that it is not a people's pedigree that determine their inheritance of God's power. Instead, is it an individual's degree of acceptance of God's word. The vast majority of the Jews started and remained without God's power (verse 12). God's power comes to "as many as receive him." If you do not have God's power, you have not yet received him, no matter what you think or what someone has told you. You have received some counterfeit, and need to get rid of it to receive the real thing. The real thing does not come from other men (the will of man) or because you want it (the will of the flesh). It comes of God, according to his word, and his conditions.

 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
In conjunction with the opening two verses, this verse literally means "Jesus was a spirit in the presence of the father until he came here and born into a body of flesh." John (and others) did (and have) seen Jesus in his glory, the same glory he had (and has) with the father, but did not show openly while here in mortality.

 15 ¶John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
John the Baptist was known before he was born. Yet, Jesus was greater than John. The spirit of Jesus is also older than the spirit of John.

 16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
John (the apostle) is not saying that Christ's fullness has been received by all. He said he and some others have received it. They have received power from God, they have been in God's presence in glory. Not many can say that they have. However, the opportunity is open to all (see verse 12).

 17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
Grace and truth indeed come by Jesus Christ, and were possessed and lived by those who preceded Moses. The gospel did not begin with the law of Moses. It was given to Adam in the garden of Eden, and passed down by Adam to his righteous posterity until Noah. It was revealed anew to Abraham and passed down through his posterity to his great grandson Joseph. What saved a man in the days of Adam saved a man in the days of Jesus and will save a man today.

 18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

There are many instances in the Bible and elsewhere where men have claimed to see God. For example:

And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” (Genesis 32:30)

So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle. (Exodus 33:11)

There are others. Clearly this verse cannot mean what most Christians take it to mean: that a man cannot see God. Instead, the possibilities are several. First, that a sinful man cannot see God. I believe this. Every man has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Therefore, even when seemingly righteous people like Isaiah see God, he says "Woe is me! I am undone, for I am a man of unclean lips." The Lord sends an angel with an ember to cleanse his lips. Likewise, to all the righteous that enter God's presence, he says "your sins are forgiven you." Without that statement, a man could not stand in God's presence. Second, in order to see God in his glory, one must have a covering of God's glory himself. This is why, when Moses came out of the presence of the Lord, his face was covered with light. A similar thing happened to Stephen when he saw God just before being stoned. God puts his glory on you so that you can withstand his glory. Another way of looking at it is that he temporarily brings you up to a higher level of glory so you can see him, then you slowly fade back to your native level of glory. Third, and importantly, no man has ever seen the father without or except it be by the son. Jesus is the only way to gain entrance into the father's presence. He must forgive you of your sins and bring you there. The father has given the son all judgment, and he is the only keeper of the gate of salvation. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

I have heard many repeat this phrase from scripture:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: (Joel 2:28)

But this event has not yet arrived. How can you tell? The phrase begins with "it shall come to pass afterward." After what?

Joel 1 and the part of Joel 2 that occurs before this describes a foreign invasion. Not just any foreign invasion, either. Here are some segments. Starting in Joel 1:4:

 4 That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten.
 5 Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth.
 6 For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion.
 7 He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white. (Joel 1)
Envision the imagery here. God describes one wave of destruction after another. With each successive wave, whatever is left is consumed. In the end, only the gleanings of the gleanings of the gleanings is left! Verse 7 is easier to visualize. Imagine a fruitful tree. First, someone comes along and tears off the fruit and carries them away. Still, the tree is covered with lush foliage. Next, someone comes along and tears off all the leaves. The tree is now undeniably naked compared to its original state. But the hand of the Lord is outstretched still. He sends someone else to peel the bark off the tree ("the branches thereof are made white). It is hard to create more vivid imagery of complete and utter destruction than this!

 8 ¶Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.
 9 The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the Lord; the priests, the Lord’s ministers, mourn.
 10 The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth.
 11 Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished.
 12 The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men.
 13 Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God.
 14 ¶Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord,
 15 Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.
 16 Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God?
 17 The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered.
 18 How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.
 19 O Lord, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field.
 20 The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness. (Joel 1)
The first phase of destruction comes with a terrible famine. It is interesting that Joel opens the description by telling of the cessation of temple sacrifice. The cessation of temple sacrifice is also spoken of in Daniel. This may be because the famine makes it impossible to conduct animal sacrifice. One other possible scenario is the cessation of LDS temple work, with Joel blending that message into the warning of famine as well as couching it in terms he is familiar with. Joel describes that there is no water and no food. The land is so dry that the wilderness has caught fire.

It is this with this backdrop that the foreign invasion occurs.

1 Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand;
 2 A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.
 3 A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.
 4 The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.
 5 Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.
 6 Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness.
 7 They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks:
 8 Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded.
 9 They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief.
 10 The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining:
 11 And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? (Joel 2)

The destruction by the invading army is complete. It is beyond the capacity of most in the United States to imagine just how complete the destruction will be. Joel provides vivid language in an attempt to help us. First comes something to make the earth shake (verse 10). Then comes a trembling of the heavens (verse 10). Whatever this is causes the sun and moon to be dark, and the stars to stop shining. The stars will not actually stop shining at this point, nor will the sun and moon stop shining. Instead, the darkness in the atmosphere will block out the light of all heavenly bodies. Will the earth shake because of an interestingly timed earthquake? Or will awaiting enemies use a naturally occurring earthquake as an "ensign" to invade? Perhaps the earth shakes as a result of a nuclear attack? Could the darkness be as a result of the nuclear attack?

Perhaps you cannot imagine the invading army marching in unison across the country. Here is a thought experiment. The United States is 1,650 miles at the greatest North South distance. Do you know that China and Russia have enough tanks to sweep the United States east to west with 15 tanks per mile? That is just tanks, not foot soldiers, not personnel carriers, not helicopters, and not nukes. Think about that. Imagine what happens when a match is thrown to a field of dry stubble. That is the imagery Joel uses here: a wall of fire spreading from one end to the other with nothing to stop it.

It is after all of this that the Lord says:
 28 ¶And it shall come to pass afterward [after the famine and invasion], that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
 29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
 30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.
 32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.
People are having dreams and visions right now. Many of them are from God. But what he has in store in terms of dreams and visions will dwarf anything we see right now. It has not happened yet. It will not happen until there is a massive famine followed by a massive invasion.

The only thing worse than someone who does not know the scriptures (including the Old Testament, about half of which is directly prophesying of our time) is someone who doesn't know the scriptures but thinks they do.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Scripture Commentary: John 1:1-5

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
 2 The same was in the beginning with God.
 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
God's word existed before the creation. We err if we suppose that God's word is completely contained in any book of scripture. "...I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever." (2 Nephi 29:9.)

It is interesting that the KJV (and most other translations) make Christ the agent of creation. The CEV instead makes the agent of creation God's word: "And with this Word, God created all things. Nothing was made without the Word."

Speaking of God's interactions with the people of Moses, Nephi said: "And it came to pass that according to his word he did destroy them; and according to his word he did lead them; and according to his word he did do all things for them; and there was not any thing done save it were by his word." (1 Nephi 17:31.) Moroni describes that God created the earth and man through the power of his word (see Mormon 9:17). Jesus performed miracles during his earthly ministry through the power of his word, "for his word was with power" (Luke 4:32). If God created the world through his word, and did all things for all people in scripture through his word, surely he continues to act through his word today.

The CEV renders the tail end of verse 3 through verse 5 as: "Everything that was created received its life from him, and his life gave light to everyone. The light keeps shining in the dark, and darkness has never put it out." God's light and truth flows in and through all things, even those things that do not recognize him. Darkness truly does not comprehend (or recognize or acknowledge) God, and yet he still not only exists, but is the power behind the actuation of all things in the universe. An analogy: A child does not realize their bodies are a collection of chemical reactions. Yet, their ignorance of that fact does not cause the reactions to cease. Their ignorance of the fact likewise does not prevent one who knows and understands chemistry to take advantage of that knowledge to induce favorable circumstances in the body. Those who recognize and learn from God's light and truth are able to ascend to a greater degree of glory here and now, taking greater advantage of a universal channel that is available to all: "And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren. Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren;" (Alma 13:4-5).

All life, all intelligence in our creation, stems from Christ. All life on this earth comes through a chain stemming to the sun and moon. These bodies receive their light from Christ:
7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
 8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
 9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
 10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
 11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
 12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
 13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things. (D&C 88)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Talk Given in Pinesdale, MT 18 Feb 2016

As spring approaches our frosty clime, I decided it was time to start seriously planning a greenhouse project that has been on my mind for about a year and a half. I have a friend whose father (Jim) is a Montana greenhouse aficionado, and decided to cash in my long-standing invitation to visit to tour his greenhouses and get some tips. I knew Jim lived in Pinesdale, an AUB community, but didn't know much about the AUB beyond what the wikipedia page provided. I soon learned that my recent book has been very popular there. When word got out that I'd be visiting, I was quickly invited to give a talk there. As I was about to decline, the Lord told me what to speak on. The notes to my talk are posted below, and may be of use to others.

From my limited impression of the people of Pinesdale, about 100 of whom I met the other night, all I can say is that they are incredibly kind, hospitable, and teachable people. It has been my experience that the LDS folks I know generally seem very quick to judge or ridicule those practicing or accepting of plural marriage. In the case of those I encountered in an admittedly brief visit to Pinesdale, I have to say that very few LDS I know can hold a candle to them in terms of their respect for God's word as found in scripture, their willingness to let go of false tradition, and their general kindness to outsiders. The LDS could learn a lot about the gospel from the people of Pinesdale. There isn't a snowball's chance in hell that I would ever be allowed to give a talk like this in an LDS chapel, and if I did I'd probably be escorted out of the building on a rail with a letter from Kirton McConkie barring my presence on LDS property.

The talk:

The Impotent Restoration: Hiding Lack of Charismatic Experience with Claims of Authority


Introduction

Joseph Smith’s death occurred without the emergence of any individual or group that demonstrated the fruits of the gospel to a degree that he did. The various organizations founded after the death of Joseph Smith each have competing explanations as to how the authority he possessed passed to them and none of the others. With this authority, we are told, leaders of each organization can dispense ordinances considered essential to salvation. They can seal individuals and families up to eternal life or cut them off from God.

Fruits of Apostasy
Each of these organizations realizes that, in order for their claim to God’s authority to be true, all other organizations’ claims must be false. Nephi predicted the ensuing turf wars. He said:
“For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the Lord’s; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord’s; and thus shall every one say that hath built up churches, and not unto the Lord—“ (2 Nephi 28:3.)
Nephi unmistakably indicated that these churches claiming to be the Lord’s would not be built up to the Lord. He gave us other ways of identifying them. These are the fruits of apostasy from the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We will identify them one by one.

Apostate groups will contend with each other using their own learning, and not revelation from God. Nephi said:
“And they shall contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance.” (2 Nephi 28:4.)
These people will preach anti-scriptural doctrines. Because they cannot appeal to plain scripture readings for support, they either support their doctrines by appealing to the philosophies of men or resort to cherry-picked, out of context proof texting.

Apostate groups will deny miracles, and claim that their authority is real despite a lack of any evidence of God’s power in their ministry. Nephi said:
“And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men; Behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.” (2 Nephi 28:5-6.)
Nephi predicted that the groups claiming God’s authority will not only fail to produce the miracles that always co-occurred with true messengers of God, but will also teach others to disbelieve these signs. They will teach that they are not necessary in our day or that they are deceptions from the devil. Nephi said they would tell people that by following them, they would be following God; that their words were recognized by God as his words, even if they didn’t come from him. They would teach that they held the power to save and to damn, and therefore an individual’s allegiance to them determined their salvation. They would distract from the fact that they teach men to follow men instead of God by saying, “he has given his power unto man” or, in modern phrasing, “we are God’s mouthpiece. By following us, you are following God.”

Nephi taught that these groups would not preach the necessity of real repentance. He said:
Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us. And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God. (2 Nephi 28:6-7.)
These people will teach that, while it is important to be obedient to a few outward commandments, God’s commandment to be perfect was not literal. Instead, they teach, everyone makes mistakes, and if you do your best, God will look past that and give you salvation anyway.

Nephi taught that the leaders of these groups would go through great measures to hide their sins from their followers. He said:
“Yea, and there shall be many which…shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark.” (2 Nephi 28:9.)
For some reason, it seems that each of these organizations has their fair share of secret abominations. It is not my task today to enumerate these, but they exist, they are abominable, and God will judge those responsible in due time.

All of these behaviors are quite uniform across all such organizations. Nephi said, “And the blood of the saints shall cry from the ground against them. Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted.” (2 Nephi 28:10-11.)

This is all quite serious. The Lord said,
“…all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell! 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 28:15-16.)

How the Fruit Turns Bitter

How is it that despite the number of organizations claiming to carry the calling of Joseph Smith, the works of every one demonstrate the fruits of apostasy? Nephi said it is
“Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” (2 Nephi 28:13).

Let’s break this apart. One cause is a lack of humility. What we see in the history of each organization is a repeated pattern of denying sins committed and claiming more divine favor than is manifested by the gifts of the Spirit. No matter how much an individual or a group denies their sins, they cannot obtain the favor of God until they actually repent. The first step of repentance is humbly recognizing one’s fallen and sinful state before God. What keeps us from recognizing our true position from God? Our inflated sense of worthiness comes from mistakenly considering our obedience to false tradition and commandments of men with obedience to God. If we can’t tell the difference between the two, we are in real peril. The Pharisees were filled with a sense of self worth before God. Yet, Jesus thought very poorly of them. We must, like children, approach God and ask him to show us our false traditions. If we do not, we will be very surprised in the judgment day to realize that our perception of what it meant to be worthy was actually abominable to God.

Another cause for apostasy from the fruits of the restoration is neglect of the poor. This was a terrible problem in Joseph’s day, and the covetousness has only gotten worse since then. One cannot approach Zion without overcoming poverty in their own lives and in the lives of others in their circle of influence. An overfocus on fine clothing and buildings exacerbates the problem.

Another cause is sin. Sin must be repented of, both individually and collectively. In a way, each of these organizations has set a snare for their leaders by entrusting them with far too much: Too much doctrinal control, too much financial control, and too much spiritual control. Doctrinal control tempts men to replace the doctrines of God with the commandments of men. Too much financial control tempts men to misspend or outright steal money. Too much spiritual control leads to abuses across a broad range of situations both emotional and physical.

There is Another Way

I ask a simple question: What ought we to be seeking? Should we hearken to the claims of men who say they can trace their authority back to Joseph Smith? Is this the pattern we are given in scripture?

Jesus said “the tree is known by his fruit” (Matthew 12:33). In the book of Abraham we read:
1 I, Abraham, saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence; [That was a pleasant euphemism—they were trying to kill him!]
 2 And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers. [Abraham compared the fruits of the gospel in his own life and in the lives of his parents to the fruits of the gospel he read about in the scriptures. He concluded that, since the fruits were different, the gospel underlying them was different as well.]
 (Abraham 1:1-2)

God has promised that certain signs shall follow all those who believe.

…In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)

He said:
“Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;” (D&C 93:1)

Nephi taught that
“if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Nephi 31:13)

Mormon said, “…it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.” (Moroni 7:37)

These charismatic experiences were not and are not optional! Joseph Smith said, “If you will obey the Gospel with honest hearts, I promise you, in the name of the Lord, that the gifts as promised by our Saviour will follow you, and by this you may prove me to be a true servant of God.” (Quoted in Hyrum Andrus, “Joseph Smith's Idea of the Gospel”.)

Paul said, “My preaching was not with enticing words…But in demonstration of…power.” (1 Corinthians 2:4) He said, “Through mighty signs and wonders…I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” (Romans 15:19) The display of God’s power is the pattern in scripture, not the claim to it absent any fruits to prove it.

If you really are on the straight and narrow path, you will have them. If you don’t have them, you are either lax in your obedience to what God has shown you, or you have been deceived into substituting the commandments of God with the traditions of men.

We get so caught up with priesthood and a little authority that we think we have, that we completely miss the plain, simple gifts that we definitely lack. Where are the miracles? Where are the angels? Where are the individuals being admitted into God’s presence? These are not the mysteries, they are the fundamentals. They are noticeably absent from claims to authority in groups that claim to follow what Joseph restored. Could it be that the reason for this has something to do with how easy it is to fake or redefine authority, when charismatic experiences either happen or they don’t?

If an organization does not offer me these basic witnesses, why on earth would I align myself to it? Can you find a more literal fulfillment of the Savior’s warning about the blind following the blind? Why on earth would you trust a man or men to lead you to where they themselves have never been, to experiences they’ve never had?

As for the priesthood, the only priesthood I care about it the one described in JST Gen 14. Speaking of Melchezidek, the record says:
27 And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,
 28 It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;
 29 And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.

How does this priesthood come? It does not come by man. It does not come through a church. It does not come from your father. It comes from God, by his own voice. How can you know whether or not you have it?

 30 For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;
 31 To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.
 32 And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven. (JST Gen 14)

If a man has not had these experiences, there are only two possibilities: Either he does not possess the fullness of the priesthood, or God is a liar.

I submit that our lack of the fruits of the restoration has everything to do with our lack of focus on what yields those fruit. Obedience to men or the commandments of men never brings about the fruits of yielding our hearts to God—only actually focusing on God can do that.

It doesn’t matter what priesthood some man told you you have. It doesn’t matter what ordinances you think you have received. It doesn’t matter what commandments some man said are essential to salvation. It is astonishing to note in the scriptures how often what men think matters to God is actually abominable to him. What can all the ordinances, priesthood, and commandments in the world give you if it has not given you access to God? Isn’t it dangerous to think that, somehow, these things which have been powerless to give you access to God in this life, will suddenly become effectual in the next?

If we lack these fruits, as groups and as individuals, it is a sign that we need to repent. The most important fruit of the restoration to each of us is not supposed authority without the fruits that have always accompanied true servants from the foundation of the world. Instead, the most important fruit of the restoration is the knowledge that God speaks to men and women—not leaders, but regular men and regular women. If you don’t believe that God will speak to you, personally, and teach you, personally, what his will is for you as an individual, how can you ever come to the point where the ancients did by following that same pattern? How can you ever expect to have similar experiences to Joseph Smith if you don’t do what Joseph Smith did?

You need to have your own first vision. You need to ask God what he wants you to do, you need to be willing to listen to whatever he says, and you need to do it. God has given us the conditions for every miracle we’ve talked about. If we don’t have those miracles in our lives, it means we lack the conditions he has appointed to receive them. We don’t have faith, we don’t believe in him, we aren’t forsaking our sins, we aren’t calling on his name, we aren’t obeying his voice. That’s a stiff charge to some, mostly because of how readily we consider our obedience to men and false tradition to be obedience to God. When we strip out all the nonsense, it becomes clear that very little of what we do is actually what God has asked us to do. Most of it is filler from false tradition or the commandments of some man or men who claims to have authority.


The fruit of the restoration is the testimony that there is a path back to the presence of the father, and it is a path we are meant to walk and meant to finish in this life. The fruit of the restoration is to recognize that if we do not possess the gifts God has promised to the faithful, it is a sign of our need for sore repentance, repentance which likely includes removing the idols of false tradition and blind leaders from our lives. We must communicate with God ourselves, and quit outsourcing our salvation to a third party. It doesn’t work like that—it never has, and it never will. The restoration teaches us that God will answer a lowly nobody, a wretch such as you and a wretch such as I. It teaches us that you don’t need an intercessor between you and God other than Jesus Christ himself, and that Jesus is willing and anxious to communicate with you directly—even face to face—if you will simply believe him, seek him, and do what he tells you to do.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

I have been excommunicated from the LDS church



Yesterday evening I was given a letter announcing my trial for apostasy to be held today at 7:30pm. My request to have my wife accompany me was denied. The stake president read the charge of apostasy from the handbook. I was specifically accused of repeatedly teaching against church doctrine and/or church leaders through my recent book “Teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men: Tradition in Modern Mormonism.” I was asked whether I admitted to the charges. I said no. I was given time to explain myself, and said the following:  

Why do we need to preach against false traditions?

We have made a covenant to “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:9).

This includes the requirement to warn others of observed deviation from God’s word. “Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.” (D&C 88:81)

Ezekiel provides a case study for our obligation, how to fulfil it, and what happens if we do not.
“When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.” (Ezekiel 3:18)
Ezekiel 8:1-13: God shows Ezekiel abominations of people and leaders, particularly in temple.
Ezekiel 9:1-11: Ezekiel shown the marking and punishment of all men, women, children who did not “cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.” (Ezek. 9:4)

In the Book of Mormon we are told that we cannot lead men to faith in the Lord without freeing them from the false traditions of their fathers:
7 And behold, ye do know of yourselves, for ye have witnessed it, that as many of them as are brought to the knowledge of the truth, and to know of the wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers, and are led to believe the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them— (Helaman 15:7)

There are two dangers in perpetuating false traditions. First and foremost, if we perpetuate false tradition, we both block ourselves from returning to God. We also hedge up the way for others (Matthew 23:13).

Second, we provide a compelling reason for others to abandon their faith in Christ when they discover the falseness of our traditions, an inevitability in the transparency of the digital age. Those who believe the commandments of men falsely attributed to God will find that they do not receive the blessings promised in scripture for obedience to the law. Instead of attributing thei unbelief to those who taught them false tradition, they disbelieve Christ, causing them to lose faith in the gospel and to become atheists. Satan can make great progress by convincing men and women that everything goes together in one: either everything church leaders teach is true, or everything they teach is false. Thus, he can overcome the positive witnesses received from living the as yet undefiled true commandments by focusing the person’s attention on the undeniably false traditions of men, persisting the illusion that the philosophies of men are from the same source as the scriptures with which they are mingled.

Is it a crime to correct false traditions taught by the brethren?

Example of Paul
13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
 14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
 15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
 16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
 19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: (Acts 26:13-18)

Example of Abinadi
 “And also that king Noah and his priests had caused the people to commit so many sins and iniquities against God…” (Mosiah 21:30)
“27 Now when king Noah had heard of the words which Abinadi had spoken unto the people, he was also wroth; and he said: Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him, or who is the Lord, that shall bring upon my people such great affliction?
 28 I command you to bring Abinadi hither, that I may slay him, for he has said these things that he might stir up my people to anger one with another, and to raise contentions among my people; therefore I will slay him.” (Mosiah 11)
13 And now, O king, what great evil hast thou done, or what great sins have thy people committed, that we should be condemned of God or judged of this man?
 14 And now, O king, behold, we are guiltless, and thou, O king, hast not sinned… (Mosiah 12)
7 And he said unto him: Abinadi, we have found an accusation against thee, and thou art worthy of death.
 8 For thou hast said that God himself should come down among the children of men; and now, for this cause thou shalt be put to death unless thou wilt recall all the words which thou hast spoken evil concerning me and my people.
 9 Now Abinadi said unto him: I say unto you, I will not recall the words which I have spoken unto you concerning this people, for they are true; and that ye may know of their surety I have suffered myself that I have fallen into your hands.
 10 Yea, and I will suffer even until death, and I will not recall my words, and they shall stand as a testimony against you. And if ye slay me ye will shed innocent blood, and this shall also stand as a testimony against you at the last day.
 11 And now king Noah was about to release him, for he feared his word; for he feared that the judgments of God would come upon him.
 12 But the priests lifted up their voices against him, and began to accuse him, saying: He has reviled the king. Therefore the king was stirred up in anger against him, and he delivered him up that he might be slain. (Mosiah 17)

Some time ago, I was unexpectedly visited by the Lord Jesus Christ. He told me that he was not pleased with the things I was committing my heart and soul to—the traditions of the church. He said I was accomplishing very, very little of what he expected of me. I was at once overwhelmed with joy at having been in his presence, while also being indescribably crushed and confused at his message to me. I prayed and prayed to understand the details of his pronouncement. It took a lot of prayer, a lot of study, and a lot of willingness to be wrong to come to the point where I was willing to listen to him teach me what I lacked.

The Lord sent my wife and I to Seeley lake. This command was received by each of us independently, and has been witnessed to us from heaven again and again. As just one example, the former stake president called me in shortly after our arrival. He told me God explicitly called me to be the Elder’s Quorum president in Seeley. I protested, and spent about 30 minutes giving him examples of my heterodoxy to convince him he was mistaken. He assured me that this was not the run of the mill calling filling, but that God had told him by name in no uncertain terms that I was to be the Elder’s Quorum president. As I left that building, I looked up to the sky in disbelief. The Lord said, in an audible voice, “I will show you how great things you must suffer for my name’s sake.” (See Acts 9:16). Part of our mission here is to help others come unto Christ by helping them overcome the false traditions that keep them from him.

Handbook – should you obey it or God?

The idea that it is apostasy to show from the scriptures and church history that something taught by a leader is not true is an innovation. Apostle Orson Pratt said “…convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the Word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds.” Brigham Young said “…when I was an Elder I was as willing to correct an error in the Brethren as I am now. But the people do not see it so. Now if you should be with the Twelve or anybody, you would have right to correct an error as well as with a member…”

If the brethren have recently decided that correction of their errors is an excommunicable offense, when it never was before, shouldn’t they be able to cite this change as having come from God? Is excommunication such a trivial thing that it should be treated as an arbitrary policy? Can men dictate the conditions of the retention of God’s blessings?

We ought not consider the handbook instructions as God’s commandments, unless they are found in scripture.

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

Do you understand what the spirit is and isn’t? How he works and how he does not work?
Jesus taught, "Judge not according to your traditions, but judge righteous judgment." (John 7:24, JST)

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

5 Behold, you have been entrusted with these things, but how strict were your commandments…And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men. For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words—
 8 Yet you should have been faithful;…” (D&C 3:5-8)

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

The Lord said:
8 Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.
 9 Will I accept of an offering, saith the Lord, that is not made in my name?
 10 Or will I receive at your hands that which I have not appointed?
 11 And will I appoint unto you, saith the Lord, except it be by law, even as I and my Father ordained unto you, before the world was?
 12 I am the Lord thy God; and I give unto you this commandment—that no man shall come unto the Father but by me or by my word, which is my law, saith the Lord.
 13 And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.
 14 For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed. (D&C 132)

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

What do I prize?
In addition to the many rank-and-file members who have done so, I have been surprised by how many church leaders (former or current) have expressed gratitude for my having written this book: District presidents, stake presidents, high counselors, bishops, and counselors have all expressed gratitude. And yet, I don’t see many coming forward to defend this book. I believe one reason is fear. Though the problems I have enumerated are plain to them, they have been taught and believe that if they disagree with leaders publicly, they will lose eternal blessings from God.

I do not have this fear.

I prize the priesthood. Though I received my priesthood through the church, I did not receive my priesthood from the church. Joseph received the priesthood before the church existed, as did every holder of it prior to the restoration. My priesthood exists independent of the church, and therefore the church cannot take it away.

I do not fear having my church membership taken away. I prize my baptism, which was granted to me through the Aaronic priesthood. For the same reasons, the church cannot take it away. Throughout history, wicked men have cast out the righteous. God must extend every possible chance for repentance, and only through casting out the righteous can the wicked become ripe in their iniquity and be destroyed.

I do not fear the loss of the Holy Ghost. I prize the baptism by fire—the gift of the Holy Ghost—given to me from God as a result of my keeping the conditions upon which it is predicated. Since the church did not and cannot give the baptism of fire, the church cannot take it away. I prize the gifts of dreams, visions, and the spirit of prophecy. The church cannot give these gifts, as they are gifts of the spirit. As evidenced by the lack of those who possess them, they do not come through obedience to the church, but through obedience to God, and only God can cause them to cease.

All of these things—everything of worth—comes directly from God. The church does not control the blessings of eternity—God does. “…the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.” (2 Nephi 9:41)

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

I was asked a few questions after my remarks. Here is my best attempt at recalling the questions and the answers I provided:

Q: Do you believe that Thomas Monson is the sole mouthpiece of the Lord on the earth today, and if the Lord wants to speak to the world, he will do so through President Monson?
A: I believe the Lord can and does speak through whomever he chooses. I do not believe he will only speak through President Monson, and I certainly do not believe that everything President Monson says or does qualifies as God’s word or approved by God. Any who believe that are guilty of idolatry. You would be hard pressed to find a more textbook definition of the word.

Q: Do you believe President Monson is a prophet?
A: What do you mean by prophet? If you mean a title, I think he has the right to adopt any title he wants, whether it be prophet or grand dragon or whatever else, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. If you mean a description, I have yet to see a prophecy spoken by President Monson. I have yet to hear any message from him that he has claimed was spoken to him by God. Therefore, if I were to testify that I knew he was a prophet, I would be bearing false witness, because I have not witnessed him prophesy.

Q: Do you believe that the church possesses a fullness of the priesthood?
A: Let’s look at God’s own word on the subject. Turn with me to JST Gen 14 [only 1 or 2 did]. When it says God swore an oath that EVERY man would do these things, do you think he meant it? [I read the passage.] Of all the men that you know who claim to hold the Melchezidek priesthood, how many have put to flight armies, turned rivers from their course, quenched the violence of fire, stood in the presence of God, etc? As of today you know at least one who has stood in the presence of God. But other than me, who do you know who has experienced even one of these powers, let alone all of them? Obviously we are missing something. God has spoken about the church’s status three times I think in the scriptures. Each of the three times, it is negative, with words like “condemn” and “lost”. God said he took it away. If you think we have it, how do you prove that it has changed since God last spoke about it?

Q: Do you believe the church is run the same way as it would be if Christ himself were here to run it?
A: Absolutely not. I think it is silly to think that any of us as individuals are living our lives exactly the way Christ would live our lives. It is even sillier to think that a task so hard for an individual would somehow be easier when attempted by a larger group of people, whether 15 or 15 million. I don’t know how anyone could honestly think that.

Q: This all seems dark to me. I am fine with helping people come to Christ, but can’t that be done without so much negativity? Can’t we talk of Christ, rejoice of Christ, etc. without criticizing others?
A: Joseph Smith said that the present generation would reject Jesus for being too rough. Helaman 15:7 and the entire canon of scripture is clear: You cannot preach the gospel without teaching against false traditions. There is a reason there is no power in our repetitive lessons to bring about changes in hearts. There is a reason the church is full of porn addicts and child molesters. If all you ever do is talk about the pleasant things that we are already doing—or think we are doing—no one ever actually comes to Christ. You can’t honestly tell me you’ve read the Old Testament, New Testament, or restoration scriptures and not seen that the majority of examples of true messengers preaching God’s word has been “negative”. It is to be expected. It is not an exception. Cognitive dissonance is not God saying what we are hearing is false. It is our conscience saying what we believe disagrees with the evidence we’ve seen.

Q: I know we can know of Christ powerfully through the witness of the Holy Ghost. Don’t you think that a testimony through the Holy Ghost is stronger than an eye witness? Your eyes can be deceived, but a witness of the Holy Ghost is sure. Don’t you think it is possible that you were deceived in your experiences?
A: I absolutely think it is possible that I was deceived. It is very unlikely, and I have enough confidence in my experiences that I would not change course even if I were tortured to death. However, I recognize that anyone who says they are absolutely sure about anything is cutting themselves off from God teaching them something that they don’t already know, and I won’t do that, because I know nothing compared to God, and I want him to keep teaching me. As far as an eye witness versus a witness of the Spirit: I agree with you that one can certainly know of Christ with incredible surety through the Holy Ghost. But you can’t know him. Eternal life is to know Jesus Christ, and you can’t do that without actually meeting him face to face. Anyone who says a witness of the spirit is stronger than an eye witness has never stood in the presence of God, period.

Q: [Quoting from a blog post]: You wrote “So what of the appointed watchmen in the LDS church?
9 All you wild beasts, you animals of the forest,
come and devour!
10 Their watchmen are altogether blind and unaware;all of them are but dumb watchdogs unable to bark,
lolling seers fond of slumber.
11 Gluttonous dogs, and insatiable,
such indeed are insensible shepherds.
They are all diverted to their own way,
every one after his own advantage.
12 Come, they say, let us get wine
and have our fill of liquor.
For tomorrow will be like today, only far better! (Isaiah 56:9-12)
Not only are they not warning, Isaiah reduces them to dogs. It is not only that they choose not to bark, but they are so ignorant of things as they really are, that they are completely blind and unaware of what is actually important, relevant, and timely. Instead, they take their own advice as if it were God's word, they feed on the poor, and keep up their drunken stupor fed by false tradition and hubris. All is well, all is well.” How is this not what the handbook describes as apostasy?
A: What I have written was, is, and will be true. You want a prophecy, here’s a prophecy: Most of you in this room will live to see the interpretation I have provided here fulfilled. You will see what Isaiah predicted, and you will know that you didn’t hear a peep from these men you call prophets warning you of it coming.

OUTCOME:

After deliberation, the stake president informed me that the decision of the council was that I would be excommunicated for apostasy. He asked me not to participate in meetings, and invited me to visit with him to “repent” of my “apostasy”. He determined that a brief prayer and a negative feeling “as close to an audible voice as he ever felt in prayer” was sufficient to convict me without even attempting to refute even one of the 400+ pages of scriptural and historical evidence I provided to support my position, a feat that required thousands of hours of careful preparation.

One exchange that occurred that I thought was of note: I declared that I had not apostatized from Christ or from the gospel. A high councilor said, "none of us think that you have. You are here for apostasy against the church and its leaders." Possibly the most condemnatory thing that occurred last night was that a group of 15 church leaders agreed that one can be cut off, so they suppose, from God's blessings without having done anything to offend him.

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

I forgive these men totally and sincerely. I have forgiven them since I was told a year or so ago that this would be the outcome of this mission which I have fulfilled. I harbor no ill will towards them.

I did, however, refuse to remain in the room after the announcement of their decision. I announced that I had nothing more to say to them, nor them to me, and exited before their prayer. I refuse to participate in solemn mockery before God.