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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Spiritual experiences claimed by others are not a litmus test for truth

What is the relationship between us and those who claim close association with God? Well, what others claim doesn't actually matter much. What matters is what happens when we follow their teachings. If you hear someone claiming truth, and you apply that putative truth, and you experience God to a greater degree, congratulations, you've acquired further light and truth. If, on the other hand, you hear someone claiming truth, you apply it, and you do not experience God to a greater degree, you can set that putative truth aside as falsehood. Evaluation of potential truth is a message-level process, not a messenger-level process. 

How do you test their claims? The Lord said,

16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
17 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)

You test their claims by doing what they teach and seeing if you get the same results they claim to have experienced. I know perhaps a dozen people who claim a close association with God. I have tested what they teach, and found that only 3 of them have provided putative truth that has proven to be real light and truth. This does not mean that the experiential claims of the 3 are authentic (though they probably are) or that the 9 are false (though this is possible). I actually don't care a lick if they are or are not authentic. What matters to me is not the experiences others claim, but the experiences I attain myself.

Anyone claiming experiences with God ought to be able to instruct others on how to obtain those same experiences. If they are unable to bring others who apply their ideas to the same experiences they claim, you can set them down as imposters. Their experiences either never happened, came from the devil, or happened long ago and they have sense lost that light and replaced it with darkness through sin.

Some people have had authentic experiences in the past, but have lost that light to the point where they cannot reproduce equal experiences in themselves, let alone instruct others on how to do so. This happens more frequently than I think people realize. If God visited you years ago, and never since, you really ought to humble yourself to the dust and ask him why. Spiritual experiences are meant to happen more frequently over time as one draws closer to God, not less frequently.

We seem to forget that Satan--the master counterfeiter--is always chomping at the bit to derail people. He is especially interested in derailing those who have been most successful in obtaining God. God only allows him to deceive to the degree that a person has the capacity to detect and withstand his deception. What this means is that those who have experienced the most are also the most likely to be deceived, because they are subjected to the greatest deceptive tactics.

Let me give you an example. After Moses saw God for the first time, Satan came to him claiming to be God. Suppose Satan came in all that light and glory before Moses had seen God. Would he have had any ability to detect that it was Satan and not God? I think he would have struggled quite a bit. Some, not learning this lesson from the scriptures, assume that every spiritual experience comes from God.

Of particular vulnerability are those that haven't had an experience with God in a long time. Perhaps they slip into sin, or idleness, or pride, and have offended God but are unaware. Perhaps they are aware, but want both the fleeting pleasure of their sin and the peace that comes from a relationship with God. Of course, those can't co-exist. In any case, Satan is more than willing to answer their pleas for spiritual experiences, and most are all too willing to give it to them.

Walking the straight and narrow is a continuous experience. You have to consistently unlearn what you thought you knew and walk away from others who you thought were interested in knowing God the same way you were. Having one or many spiritual encounters in the past means nothing about your present standing with God. Like a fish, the only disciple that stays still is a dead one.

I've written many things on this topic, and they are worthwhile to read. I can't reduce these posts, but here are some quotes to entice you to read them:

You test a message by experimenting upon it. If you live it, receive the promised fruits, become more like and experience more of God, it is right. If you do not, it is false. What a true messenger offers is the opportunity to experience what they claim to have experienced. If you have done what they have taught and not received what they have claimed to receive, one or both of you is a liar. Either you have not done what they have done, they have not experienced what they claim, or both. Anyone who follows a man is a fool. Anyone who follows a fool they have disproven through their lack of experiences is something worse.
True messengers are able to instruct others in how to achieve the experiences they have achieved. Their principle value is describing the path they themselves have walked. This of necessity includes only the tools available to them--if it requires some new thing they themselves did not have, they have strayed from the task of describing their own path and are describing a path they themselves have not tested.
If a new path is offered in lieu of the original experiences, it can only be as a curse--something lesser given instead of something greater. Moses gave a new path to the Israelites, and it was indeed a curse. However, he only did so (rather, God only did so) after Moses first offered for them to have the same experiences and status with God as he had. Moses had obtained his visitation and status with God without the law of Moses. The Israelites rejected that offer, and were given a brutal covenant instead.
Always remember that a person can convey both truth and falsehood. Satan himself sometimes teaches truth in spite of it being surrounded by falsehood. When he told Adam and Eve that eating the fruit of knowledge would not kill them (a lie), he also told them it would give them understanding of good and evil, which was true. Men can likewise teach both true things and false things. A man's having taught truth in the past does not certify that whatever he teaches in the future will be true, and a man's having taught falsehood in the past does not certify that whatever he teaches in the future will be false.
Mortality is a dangerous place. A principle purpose of our being here is to learn to discern between good and evil. If it were as simple as identifying a person to whom we can attach ourselves to be saved, many more people would be saved. Instead, we are adrift and constantly bump up against putative truth. Most of it will be false, some of it will be true. Most messengers will be completely false, and some few only a little false.
When we encounter anyone who has more light and truth than we do, our objective is to obtain all they have, become as close to God as they are, and then go find more light and truth elsewhere.
Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Most people are incredibly naive and will fall for any schmuck claiming spiritual experiences. Others are more discerning, but make a man their connection to God when they have validated some of his experiences and/or teachings. This latter case is common in the Bible, where on various occasions men would attach themselves to some prophet. These "schools of the prophets" are interesting. Can you recall the name of even one member of them, or one work they did? You can't, despite the fact that you can name the prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc. You see, content with making a man their idol, these people never ascended to connecting directly to God. Exceptions include Joshua, who created his own connection with God independent of Moses, and Elisha, who did the same independent of Elijah.
If you make a man your connection with God, you are telestial, which means eternally limited in how much you experience God. You certainly will never surpass your idol's experiences with God, because at best the light and truth you receive is limited to what he has already received. More likely, you will never attain even that, as those who trust in the arm of the flesh do so in lieu of repenting, and God cannot tolerate sin in the least degree.

When we believe that men's authority is required to save us, we set up certain individuals with dominion over us. We trust that whatever they tell us is God's word, and whatever they tell us to do is God's will. They become the source of truth for us. This is abominable idolatry. No matter what stature the idols have achieved with God, it can never bring you more than the glory of angels in the best case. In the worst case, it will lead you straight to hell.

People from the LDS tradition love the idea of having a "dispensation head." They love being able to put their faith in a man. They love the idea of outsourcing their relationship with God. It doesn't work like that. Salvation can only come through your personal relationship with God. You don't have the option of being saved in some other way. When we find ourselves operating through a mortal mediator, we can rest assured that this is a relationship of cursing rather than blessing.

The people wanted a king. Samuel told them that was a bad idea. They persisted. God gave them a warning. They persisted. God told Samuel to give them a king. And we know the rest of the story. They diverted themselves from God's intended path of blessing by desiring not what God wanted, but what they in their own foolish hearts thought was right.
We do the same exact things today. One of the ways we do this is in our idea of what a prophet is. We (especially we from and LDS background) like the idea of a strongman-prophet. We like the idea of reducing the complexities of the gospel into betting on the right horse. We like thinking that salvation is all about finding and then following someone who has had spiritual experiences. It simply does not work like that.
The Lord answers us according to the desires of our heart. If we believe in salvation-through-prophet, God will give us a man who thinks he can save us. He will produce a man who promises us all the blessings we desire in the packaging that we expect it to be offered in. As God told Ezekiel:
4 Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;
 5 That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. (Ezekiel 14:4-5)
Those who believe this false doctrine are just like the Israelites who wanted a king: they aren't interested in what God thinks or says. They simply want someone that fulfills the pattern they are looking for.

It is interesting that one of the scriptures cited about says "deceived prophet" instead of "false prophet." Can you see how there is a difference? A false prophet never came from God. A false prophet is a total phony. They are liars, and they know they are liars. A deceived prophet is different. A deceived prophet may have accessed the heavens. He may have had many interactions with God. He may have worked true, mighty wonders from heaven. Yet, none of these things prevents a man from teaching false doctrine. All men are capable of being mistaken. Prophets only know what God has shown them, and no prophet has seen everything. Like anyone else, prophets must synthesize what God has shown them with their understanding of everything else. Everything else could come from their understanding of the scriptures, studies of human behavior, cultural biases, and what they have heard from others.

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.
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)!

Segmentations within "the Remnant"

When it comes to those who have left organized churches looking for something more, they seem to fit into one of several segments. There are those who were offended by their internal sensibilities ("I don't like what my church says about _____"). There are those who find corruption in their church sect ("My church teaches _____, which contradicts God's word on the subject). There are also those who find corruption in themselves ("I realize there is more to Christianity than what I have experienced by following these teachings. I need more/better instruction to rise higher").

The first group do not trust God, but trust in the arm of the flesh. They want a religion that conforms to the fickle moral standards of the world. They want a religion that pleases the flesh. These will never know God unless they learn to trust him and repent.

The second group are interested in God's will. They focus this externally. They want another church, one that conforms to God's word. Unfortunately, all institutions will invariable become corrupted. Religion was never meant to be an institution, but an individual experience. In order to become an institution, the continuous gospel has to be unplugged from God and reduced to a fixed set of rituals. Those that take this path will eventually find all the same problems with their new church that they had with their old church.

The third group are inwardly focused. They want to fix themselves, not erect another institution. They want to conform themselves to the word of God. They tend to see the corruption in any earthly institution, not just their own church sect, and are far less likely to get sucked into another man-made religion.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Scripture Study: Mark 8 22-26

When I study the scriptures, I find that questions engender revelation. Questions could be about seeming contradictions, or why something was included. Here is an example.

Mark 8 reads:
22 And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him.
23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought.
24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.
25 After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.
26 And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.

Here are some questions I would ask about this passage:
Who was "they" (v22)?
Why did Jesus bring the blind man out of the town?
Why did Jesus spit on his eyes?
After spitting on his eyes, why did he put his hands on him?
Why did he ask if he saw anything?
What did the man mean when he said "I see men as trees, walking"? How could the man know what trees or men looked like if he was blind?
Why did Jesus put his hands on his eyes a second time?
Why did Jesus make the man look up?
Why did he send the man back to his house?
Why did he charge the man not to go into the town again?
Why did he charge the man not to tell it to any man in the town?

You can learn so much more from the answers to the questions than you can from the text that generated them.

Zion and gathering

The apostle John taught that we obtain fellowship with one another not through our desire or actions to gather together, but through our desire and actions to align ourselves to God:

6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John 1)

As we approach God, we become capable of fellowshipping with one another in the love of God. If we gather together without first obtaining the love of God in our hearts, our gathering will unavoidable be a fruitless failure.

Zion does not come about through the gathering of sinners who together become saints. Rather, it comes about when individuals become sinless, then are gathered by God.

If people gather prematurely (read: if non-repentant people gather themselves instead of repenting and waiting for God to gather them), the only end will be sorrow. Why? Because any public gathering will result in people showing up who are not prepared. Like a rotten apple in a harvest barrel, it will ruin everything else. Worse would be a man-made gathering with a man-made filtering. Then you not only still have rotten apples, you raise even more ire with God for your respect of persons. God's way of gathering prevents both these problems. His gathering focuses on the poor and meek, not the rich and likable. It also includes only those who would benefit from the experience. Heaven is hell to those who are not prepared to receive it.

One of the reasons unrepentant people want Zion is because they are scared of what is coming. The righteous do not fear what is coming because they trust God, even unto death. It would not help if they did fear, anyway, because protection comes from righteousness, not gathering.

16 For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous.
17 Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire.  (1 Nephi 22)
Zion is not a community. Zion is a condition. Zion cannot happen as a community until it has happened as individuals repenting and obtaining a habitation with God. Does this mean that you cannot seek Zion until you have repented? No, it meets you cannot seek Zion without repenting, and that you seek Zion by repenting.

Just as the cure for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and a host of other diseases is fasting, the cure for not having Zion is repenting. Like the example, a Zion condition is the simple result of stopping what prevents it. When you stop sinning, you have Zion, and you cannot have Zion without cessation of sin.

Sound extreme? It isn't. It turns out that the scriptures are rich and consistent in calling men to stop sinning, whether it's called reconciliation to God, repentance, or something else. It's all over the place. It is required. It is fundamental. Why, then, does it seem so extreme? Because we have been raised in both a spiritual and physical environment that teaches that you can get the outcomes through some other means than what is required.

When people are sick, they do not look for the cause of that sickness to reverse it. Instead, they look for a pill to take away the symptoms. Got cancer from smoking? Look for a pill to reverse it. Got fat from eating too much? Look for a pill to reverse it. And so on. That's not the answer. Likewise, if your life is full of sin, there is no pill that is going to bring Zion. The only way you will be a part of it is if you repent. There is no other way. There will be no pill that makes your repentance easier. There is no magic bullet, no withheld secret, that will be revealed in some community of sinners that is going to make your repentance easier. On the contrary, when you are gathered prematurely you will find it much harder to repent, because your response to the imperfections of your peers will be fear, greed, mistrust, and unrighteous judgment.

The blessings of Zion are obtainable by individuals. What do you hope to obtain through Zion? Some say that Zion is defined by people relieving the poor and living in harmony with each other. You can do both of those things at anytime and in anyplace, even if you are alone in doing it. So these cannot be the defining characteristics of Zion. How will it be different for you in Zion than it is now? That is the key question.

In Zion, you will:

  • Abide in the presence of God
  • Be surrounded by mortals who do the same
  • Have access to the church of the Firstborn (the cloud of witnesses/just men made perfect who inhabit Enoch's city)
  • Live in a land which God has blessed, sanctified and promised to protect from those who would harm you


What if I told you that you can do all these things right here, right now?

What are the conditions for obtaining those blessings? You have to repent and learn to walk with God. It just so happens God has told us exactly how to do that. I just finished a book that I believe is the clearest collection of scriptures on the topic (Seek Ye This Jesus). You should read it and do everything the scriptures it contains tell you to do.

God is directly accessible

When you look at the sun with your naked eye, you see something like this:


You see an intense surge of light so bright that it is hard to pin down the exact shape of the sun. Of course, you can't look too long, because it is so bright that your eyes hurt. You have to turn away very quickly. 

Since you can't stare at the sun, you have to sense it indirectly: through ambient light, through heat that you feel on your skin, and through its effects on other objects.

The sun actually has a tremendous amount of detail to it. We can't see it with our eyes because there is so much light flowing from it that it overloads our sight. In order to see it, you have to filter out a great deal of the light coming from it. Here is what the light from the sun looks like when chopped into several bands of wavelengths:



True messengers are frequently considered to be sources of additional light and truth. Yet, all of us has constant, direct access to all the light and truth God possesses.

God's light and truth flows in and through all things, even those things that do not recognize him. "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." (CEV John 3:3-5) 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).

Instead of approaching God by accessing and applying this light, the world turns away from it. God's light shines everywhere, at full blast, all the time, and is therefore technically accessible to all, men turn away from it because they cannot stand the glory.

19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3)
The role of true messengers is to reduce that glory to something much easier to digest--a small chunk--and distribute it to the masses, in hopes that they can develop the capacity to recognize, comprehend, and endure God's glory directly.

You test a message by experimenting upon it. If you live it, receive the promised fruits, become more like and experience more of God, it is right. If you do not, it is false. What a true messenger offers is the opportunity to experience what they claim to have experienced. If you have done what they have taught and not received what they have claimed to receive, one or both of you is a liar. Either you have not done what they have done, they have not experienced what they claim, or both. Anyone who follows a man is a fool. Anyone who follows a fool they have disproven through their lack of experiences is something worse.

True messengers are able to instruct others in how to achieve the experiences they have achieved. Their principle value is describing the path they themselves have walked. This of necessity includes only the tools available to them--if it requires some new thing they themselves did not have, they have strayed from the task of describing their own path and are describing a path they themselves have not tested.

If a new path is offered in lieu of the original experiences, it can only be as a curse--something lesser given instead of something greater. Moses gave a new path to the Israelites, and it was indeed a curse. However, he only did so (rather, God only did so) after Moses first offered for them to have the same experiences and status with God as he had. Moses had obtained his visitation and status with God without the law of Moses. The Israelites rejected that offer, and were given a brutal covenant instead.

Always remember that a person can convey both truth and falsehood. Satan himself sometimes teaches truth in spite of it being surrounded by falsehood. When he told Adam and Eve that eating the fruit of knowledge would not kill them (a lie), he also told them it would give them understanding of good and evil, which was true. Men can likewise teach both true things and false things. A man's having taught truth in the past does not certify that whatever he teaches in the future will be true, and a man's having taught falsehood in the past does not certify that whatever he teaches in the future will be false.

Mortality is a dangerous place. A principle purpose of our being here is to learn to discern between good and evil. If it were as simple as identifying a person to whom we can attach ourselves to be saved, many more people would be saved. Instead, we are adrift and constantly bump up against putative truth. Most of it will be false, some of it will be true. Most messengers will be completely false, and some few only a little false.

When we encounter anyone who has more light and truth than we do, our objective is to obtain all they have, become as close to God as they are, and then go find more light and truth elsewhere.

Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Most people are incredibly naive and will fall for any schmuck claiming spiritual experiences. Others are more discerning, but make a man their connection to God when they have validated some of his experiences and/or teachings. This latter case is common in the Bible, where on various occasions men would attach themselves to some prophet. These "schools of the prophets" are interesting. Can you recall the name of even one member of them, or one work they did? You can't, despite the fact that you can name the prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc. You see, content with making a man their idol, these people never ascended to connecting directly to God. Exceptions include Joshua, who created his own connection with God independent of Moses, and Elisha, who did the same independent of Elijah.

If you make a man your connection with God, you are telestial, which means eternally limited in how much you experience God. You certainly will never surpass your idol's experiences with God, because at best the light and truth you receive is limited to what he has already received. More likely, you will never attain even that, as those who trust in the arm of the flesh do so in lieu of repenting, and God cannot tolerate sin in the least degree.




Sunday, July 30, 2017

What if God appeared to everyone tomorrow?

Yesterday I had a very interesting conversation with an atheist. At one point, he asked what would happen if God appeared to everyone tomorrow.

What would happen if God appeared to everyone tomorrow? Well, the short answer is that most if not all people who have not seen him would die. But let's set that aside for a moment.

How would your life change if you saw God tomorrow? Of course, you would believe in God if you don't already. The surprising answer is that it probably wouldn't change at all. 

As I argued in my book "Seek Ye This Jesus," belief in God does not necessarily change you. Believing in God is not the same as Believing God. This is because the existence of God is a totally different concept from correctly understanding God's character and commandments. You can believe in God--as billions do--without actually doing anything he says.

How do you get to know God's commandments and character? You rely on the intercession of those who know him better than you do. There are very many who claim to know God better than you do, but almost all of them are either incorrect or liars. One of the greatest challenges of this life is learning how to test purported messages of truth.

I wrote about this process here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able


In "Seek Ye This Jesus," I wrote the following:
The Lord wants you to know him. The way to do that is to accept his invitation: “Come, follow me….” (Matthew 4:19 NIV)
The Lord’s way is for you to live as his servant. The Lord described his way as a yoke—a rack placed on oxen that enables them to pull a connected cart or plow. He said that his yoke is easy and his burden light.
It may seem puzzling how living his commandments—which are not always easy—and serving him always—which is sometimes quite heavy—could be described as easy or light. The secret to his pregnant statement is to consider it in the context of the world.
If it were possible to avoid the deeply painful and negative aspects of living as the world does, what would you be willing to do for that kind of relief? How much effort would you be willing to exert to gain that relief for yourself?
It turns out that what God asks of us is far easier and far lighter than the burdens of normal, worldly life. When done properly, the benefits far, far outweigh the costs, not only in terms of the sorrow that you avoid, but in terms of the positive experiences you gain.

It is hard to trust the Lord. If you had to boil the gospel down to one thing, maybe this would be a good candidate. I have found that the Lord is trustworthy. Whenever I have found what I thought was a reason not to trust him, by giving him the benefit of the doubt, he has overwhelmingly persuaded me that he was in control and that he was guiding the situation for my benefit. I can say, with Paul, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able..." (Timothy 1:12) Truly, "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

A while back, I was struggling with a situation (I honestly can't remember what). I went to pray. I pleaded with the Lord for my situation. To my surprise, as I knelt I saw the Lord's outstretched hands before me. He said, "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." I was so shocked. My fear and anguish replaced by comfort and peace that exceeds all understanding. But what was more intense than this was my shock that the creator of the universe had not only responded in person to this prayer, but he--the King of Kings--had literally crouched down to my level to do so. What is more shocking still is that whatever my issue was was so minor in the big picture that I don't even remember what it was. Since then, I have concluded that God delights in condescending to our level and helping us from our perspective. It has changed my life.

Trust God. Don't just believe in him, cleave unto him. Do what he says, and seek his will in all things. When you find some corner of resistance in your heart, blow it to pieces. Crucify your flesh daily, and he will prove to you beyond doubt that he is trustworthy.

Friday, July 14, 2017

By human testimony only

Joseph Smith wrote the following in "Lectures on Faith":
Q. What testimony have men, in the first instance, that there is a God?
A. Human testimony, and human testimony only (see Lecture 2:56).
Q. What excited the ancient saints to seek diligently after a knowledge of the glory of God, his perfections, and attributes?
A. The credence they gave to the testimony of their fathers (see Lecture 2:56).
Q. How do men obtain a knowledge of the glory of God, his perfections, and attributes?
A. By devoting themselves to his service, through prayer and supplication incessantly, strengthening their faith in him, until like Enoch, the Brother of Jared, and Moses, they obtain a manifestation of God to themselves (see Lecture 2:55).
Q. Is the knowledge of the existence of God a matter of mere tradition, founded upon human testimony alone, until persons receive a manifestation of God to themselves?
A. It is.
Joseph described how mankind from Adam to Noah were acquainted with either men who knew God personally or men who knew them personally, enabling all mankind to be aware of the existence and attributes of God, and of the details of the gospel plan of salvation.

It may be disturbing to some to recognize that the path to salvation requires the intercession of beings other than God. This is disturbing if we confine our understanding of their role to what some sects of Christianity teach: that the authority of men is required. Intercession is very different from authority. The Lord taught plainly that the inclination of all mankind is to exert dominance over his fellowmen. The Lord's power and authority, however, are most plainly manifested not in dominance, but in submission. The dominion of men is force, the dominion of God is condescension. Men display power through violence, God displays it through long suffering. The might of men is found in armies, money, and goods. The might of God is found in his reaction to every hammer blow to the nails in his hands, and each lash he received as punishment for his attempt to reach us. He has an exuberant willingness to come down to our level to individually bless us with forgiveness, mercy, and blessings that far exceed our gratitude for or use of them.

When we believe that men's authority is required to save us, we set up certain individuals with dominion over us. We trust that whatever they tell us is God's word, and whatever they tell us to do is God's will. They become the source of truth for us. This is abominable idolatry. No matter what stature the idols have achieved with God, it can never bring you more than the glory of angels in the best case. In the worst case, it will lead you straight to hell.

When we understand that the intercession of men (and angels) is required to save us, we retain our focus on the Lord Jesus, the source of all truth. Just as a pipe retains the capacity to carry poisoned water no matter how much clean water it previously carried, men are, at best, only unreliable messengers of truth. Their necessity is a blessing from God, as it gives each individual the opportunity to mimic, on an infinitesimally small scale, the intercession the Lord Jesus works for us with the Father: they obtain more light and truth than we merit in our lower state, and they dispense it, satisfying the demands of justice through their condescending sacrifice.

22 For behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting, behold, he sent angels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ; and in Christ there should come every good thing.
23 And God also declared unto prophets, by his own mouth, that Christ should come.
24 And behold, there were divers ways that he did manifest things unto the children of men, which were good; and all things which are good cometh of Christ; otherwise men were fallen, and there could no good thing come unto them.
25 Wherefore, by the ministering of angels, and by every word which proceeded forth out of the mouth of God, men began to exercise faith in Christ; and thus by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing; and thus it was until the coming of Christ. (Moroni 7)

The pattern is the same as that worked by the Lord, even if the magnitude is exceptionally different.

Those who cut themselves off from the mortal channel of truth cut themselves off from the Lord, yet those who accept falsehood will also cut themselves off from the Lord. The stakes are high. How can we know what we receive is good or evil?

One way we can know is to "try the spirits" (1 John 4:1):

28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good. (Alma 32)
Here are some keys to identifying truth: 
  • Does it cause you to experience the same godly fruits as the messenger claimed?
  • Does it bring you to more direct experiences with God?
  • Does it bring you to greater direct experiences with God?
If it does not do this, you should recognize it as falsehood and move on. Note that experiences with God are not simply "feeling good." "A manifestation of God" is much more than what a good movie can cause in your heart. Human emotions are highly manipulable, and the weakest vindication of truth.

No man has a monopoly on truth. God calls many servants. As long as you are evaluating their purported truth, you will not be left behind. In fact, the pattern is for men to serve only as training wheels. The principle purpose of mortal ministry is to convey the principles of repentance and the character of God. Once a person has repented and obtained a manifestation of God for themselves, they can use that channel to obtain all truth directly from God.

Faith, hope, charity. Faith is belief in a true principle sufficient to conform to it in thought and action. Hope, in the sense used with faith and charity, is to receive promises from God and then conform one's thought and actions to the eventuality of the fulfillment of the promise. Charity is caring for others the way that God cares for them. These three interrelated topics work together to frame the pathway to a habitation with God.

Faith comes through hearing. What does that actually mean? It is simply describing the pattern that I laid out above: Some men are closer to God than others. They have obtained more light and truth, and their mission in this world is to condescend and give it to others through their own sacrifice. They experience, then they relate.

We know this is true, because it was told by someone who saw it happen. Now you can have faith too. (John 19:35, CEV)
The predominant LDS-inspired idea of dispensations is mostly rubbish. This concept states that, from time to time, God sends a special person to the earth to be the connection to God, or through whom he will uniquely deliver truth to his children. Instead, we ought to imagine truth as something like a radio signal, with every person on the earth being tuned to receive it to a greater or lesser extent. If we find ourselves completely tuned out, it takes the help of someone who is tuned in more than us to get our initial tuning. Once we are tuned enough to make out the signal, we don't really need another man to increase our tuning until and unless we disrupt our tuning through sin or neglect, at which time it may be helpful to have the intercession of another individual more tuned than ourselves.

Even though God has a kingdom, we err when we make too direct a comparison to the kingdoms of this world. After all, he said his kingdom was not of this world. God's light and truth is accessible to anyone, at any time, subject to the same conditions: heed and diligence. Any who exercise more heed and diligence than their fellows will end up with more light and truth than they have. Those who have obtained have a responsibility to dispense it to others.

1 ...I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people.
2 ...that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.
3...being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.
4 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.
5 Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared—
6 And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest—
10 Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;
11 Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.
12 Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.
13 And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.
14 Yea, humble yourselves even as the people in the days of Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken, who also took upon him the high priesthood forever.
16 Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.
17 Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness;
18 But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.
21 And now it came to pass that when Alma had said these words unto them, he stretched forth his hand unto them and cried with a mighty voice, saying: Now is the time to repent, for the day of salvation draweth nigh;
22 Yea, and the voice of the Lord, by the mouth of angels, doth declare it unto all nations; yea, doth declare it, that they may have glad tidings of great joy; yea, and he doth sound these glad tidings among all his people, yea, even to them that are scattered abroad upon the face of the earth; wherefore they have come unto us.
23 And they are made known unto us in plain terms, that we may understand, that we cannot err; and this because of our being wanderers in a strange land; therefore, we are thus highly favored, for we have these glad tidings declared unto us in all parts of our vineyard.
24 For behold, angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming in his glory.
25 And now we only wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angels, of his coming; for the time cometh, we know not how soon. Would to God that it might be in my day; but let it be sooner or later, in it I will rejoice.
26 And it shall be made known unto just and holy men, by the mouth of angels, at the time of his coming, that the words of our fathers may be fulfilled, according to that which they have spoken concerning him, which was according to the spirit of prophecy which was in them.
27 And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance;
28 But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering;
29 Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest.
30 And may the Lord grant unto you repentance, that ye may not bring down his wrath upon you, that ye may not be bound down by the chains of hell, that ye may not suffer the second death.
31 And Alma spake many more words unto the people, which are not written in this book. (Alma 13) 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The parable of the unused muscle group

A certain man had lifted weights from his youth. He enjoyed making gains from time to time. One day, he realized that despite what he thought was his best effort, his lat muscles were undeveloped. He spent time researching why. His research was a mix of searching out publicly available knowledge and introspection of his own physiology and experience. At some point, he realized that his efforts to grow his lats were not optimal because his posture and muscle activation were not right. In spite of significant effort, his lats could only grow as much as they already had until he adopted a better form. By fixing his form, he would have to start at much lower weight while he retrained his body and mind, but by doing so he could build a strong foundation to achieve much higher weights not only on back exercises, but on exercises like the bench press, which were surprisingly reliant upon the lat muscles despite not being directly involved.

No man knoweth the Son, but the Father

All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)

Why is it that only the Father knows the Son?

How did the Father get to know the Son?

How did the Son get to know the Father?

Why is the Son required to know the Father?

What is the process of having the Son reveal the Father to us?

These are very important questions.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Parable of the Tent

A family excitedly purchased a premium dome tent. They decided to try out the tent in their own yard. The night they intended to camp, they noticed very many pine cones on the ground. They spent the whole first night picking up the pine cones, and ran out of time to set up the tent. The next night, they began setting up the tent. Despite the apparent simplicity of the instructions, they struggled. The pictures seemed to skip necessary details. Through each step, the physical result made it clear that their previous understanding of the instruction was off slightly. Through experience, they managed to tweak their understanding of the instructions until the status of the tent vindicated their interpretation. 

After the tent itself was finished, the kids rejoiced. The father did not. He explained to the kids that they still had to put on the rain fly. This being a large, sophisticated tent meant that this final step was even more difficult a task than all the previous ones combined. After a struggle in getting it over the dome and rotated correctly (which included many trips around the tent to unsnag the many hooks that caught on just about everything), the fly was oriented correctly, and the many hooks and guy lines were secured. 

Finally, it was time to camp. As soon as the door was unzipped, the expectations of the experience began to collide with reality. The tent seemed more cramped than expected. Sleeping arrangements had to be shuffled. The ground was far lumpier than it had seemed before the tent was erected. This became a significant obstacle to falling asleep, as they had grown very accustomed to how their mattresses felt at home. All too frequently, just as you got used to the scenario, you would remember that you were confined in a sleeping bag and become very claustrophobic, waking you up completely. The father was awakened about every hour by a child's crying upon waking up in an unfamiliar place. In a half asleep, exhausted state, simple changes like being in absolute darkness without a flashlight became much magnified. This turned out to be a very different situation than expected. 

The children slept quite well, being much less used to normal life, but the father had yet to sleep. In exhaustion, the father stepped out of the tent for some fresh air. Suddenly, he noticed the broad expanse of stars, a much more marvelous sight once one had sat in absolute darkness for hours, allowing the eyes to become very sensitive. There were a few deep breaths to take it all in. It would take getting used to, but the father realized that the differences between this and normal sleeping arrangements were not annoyances--they were exactly what made it desirable.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Past feeling and kicking against the pricks

In the past few years I've had opportunities from God to get to know and pray for and help several individuals. In some cases, the potential of these people has been revealed to me. I see how their lives would be lived if they leveraged all their character-building opportunities and saw things as they really are.

The potential of any person is incredible, and it is merciful of God to keep it hidden most of the time. If we knew our own potential, we would be overwhelmed and shut down. If we know the potential of others, we would be filled with indescribable sorrow by watching them fail to achieve it.

When God gives me these glimpses, it gives me strong motivation to continue to try to help an individual until they openly reject my association. I cannot verbalize the sorrow I've experienced in watching them walk away from such richness of opportunity. Here is a leap ahead handed to them on a golden platter, and they throw it to the pigs.

The key factor of these types of situations is that the individual does not recognize what they are being offered. What does this mean? It means I must do it, too.

Why are we all so clueless? Why don't we know about our potential and seek to achieve it? We don't want to be saved, we just want to be left alone.

How many people desire to acquire knowledge, knowing that it brings both joy and pain? How many people want to become better, when it must include having their limitations revealed to them?

We don't desire these things. Instead, we have a very narrow set of expectations, and we don't care that we have artificially left out all the trouble that goes with those expectations. We spin up cotton candy realities, and live in constant misery with the coping mechanisms that we've developed to keep the negative consequences of a life of ignorance behind the curtain. Pretending there is a wizard of Oz may enable us to live in the Emerald City, but it doesn't kill the wicked witch. To actually fix the problems requires more truth--it requires venturing out onto the yellow brick road, becoming a more capable person through overcoming challenges, and losing a great deal of innocence in our world view. It's not all negative. We become much stronger, more capable, and capable of experiencing much greater joy.

Do you always know what God’s will is?

Moroni taught that it is possible to discern between good and evil as easily as we can discern between daylight and night:

15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. (Moroni 7)

Here is a question: do you know what is good and what is evil as readily as you know day from night? Do you know God's will as clearly as you know the difference between day and night?

If Moroni is right, and you don't, what is missing?

"You may know" and "you do know" are two different situations. Moroni is saying it is possible. How do you get to that point? Better said, why are you not yet at that point? What is keeping you from it?

All truth is available.


The Amplified Translation of the Bible gives this version of John 1:1:

1 In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself.
2 He was [continually existing] in the beginning [co-eternally] with God.
3 All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him not even one thing was made that has come into being.
4 In Him was life [and the power to bestow life], and the life was the Light of men.
5 The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it]. (John 1, AMP)

All light and truth pertaining to this domain is always available. The Lord emits all light and truth through the universe. It is all there, all the time, whether you and I recognize it or not.

The veil isn't a sheet that is either rent or whole. Instead, it is layered. Truth is eternal, meaning progressively expanding forever as you learn more of it. It's like a flooded bank. As you acquire truth, the water recedes, and you see things about yourself, the world, and the gospel that you had never before imagined. God graciously hides all but the minimum amount of truth from us at first so that we are not condemned by being exposed to that we do not yet have the capacity to obey. As soon as and as often as we obey what we have, he reveals more. Eventually, when our faith and trust in him becomes unshaken, we begin obeying what he reveals immediately when he reveals it. Though this does not mean he reveals all remaining truth in this sphere to us at once, it does mean that he can do it faster than before, because we no longer need to follow the alienation-repentance cycle each time he teaches us something new. Because we retain the spirit, we are able to learn more, faster.

The degree to which we recognize truth is the degree to which we obtain it. The degree to which we lack truth is due solely to the fact that we choose not to recognize it. We obtain truth through heed and diligence (see Alma 12). This means our efforts to seek and apply truth result directly in obtaining more of it. It is fully within our control.

So why don't we all possess all the light and truth God has?

We are all past feeling. 


We use the following scripture to rail against Laman and Lemuel:

Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder. (1 Nephi 17:45)
Ironically, we are much more likely to be like Laman and Lemuel than we are Nephi.

Laman and Lemuel were past feeling. What did that mean? Did it mean they were atheists? No. Laman and Lemuel made frequent mention of God. They claimed to believe in and live the law of Moses. What did it mean, then? Laman and Lemuel only recognized a portion of the light emanating from God. They did not recognize a great deal of what God was offering them. Put a different way, Nephi managed to gain far more light and truth than Laman and Lemuel in spite of the fact that all of them had equal access to the same light and truth.

We are past feeling when we fail to recognize all of the light and truth available to us.

An analogous phrase is "kicking against the pricks." Paul's conversion story is often used to illustrate this principle.

12 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
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. (Acts 26)

Was Paul an atheist? No. He was an ultra-faithful Pharisee. What did it mean to kick against the pricks? Did Paul willingly rebel against what he believed was right? No. He faithful obeyed what he believed. He tenaciously, zealously obeyed what he believed. His "kicking against the pricks" consisted in choosing to ignore evidence that further light and truth was available.

Laman, Lemuel, and Paul all committed the same mistake. All three of them had been exposed to individuals possessing further light and truth than they had. Laman and Lemuel were assaulted by constant evidences that their father and brother possessed more light and truth than they did as evidenced by the miraculous experiences had by Lehi and Nephi but not by Laman and Lemuel. Instead of investigating the difference, they ignored it. Paul was surrounded by Christians who were demonstrating powerful gifts from God accompanying their heretical teachings of the Lord Jesus. Instead of investigating it, he actively persecuted them.

When you encounter someone with further light and truth than you have, you should investigate it further. What you will probably do, though, is persecute, ignore, or reject that person.

Spirit reminds us

Because he is gracious, God does not leave us wallowing in ignorance. He directly reveals things to you out of the blue, and he intentionally places people with more light and truth than you in your life. He could do this with fire and earthquakes and neon signs, but that would require him to exercise great judgment when it is ignored or turned away from. Because he is merciful, and because he knows we will fail much more often than succeed, God typically offers us further light and truth ever so gently.

An example of this is provided in the story of the brother of Jared. In this account, the brother of Jared is commanded to build barges to cross the ocean. Because the barges are sealed, he worries about how they will have light. He approaches the Lord with 16 molten balls he had made, small enough to hold all of them in his hands at once. He asks the Lord to touch these stones to make them glow. The Lord touches each one, and in the process the brother of Jared sees one of the Lord's fingers. This shocks the brother of Jared, because he didn't realize that the Lord had the form of a man, and because he understood that seeing the Lord was something that could destroy a man because of man's impurity.

The Lord graciously provided a little bit of revelation by preemptively showing the brother of Jared his finger. The brother of Jared responded by asking for more. He asked the Lord to show himself.

Any LDS-trained person knows this story very well. But they don't know the most important part of the story. Almost at the end of the chapter, this brief verse is given:

For he had said unto him in times before, that if he would believe in him that he could show unto him all things—it should be shown unto him; therefore the Lord could not withhold anything from him, for he knew that the Lord could show him all things. (Ether 3:26)

Apparently, at some point in the past, the Lord had told the brother of Jared that if he would believe in the Lord, the Lord could show him all things. We are not given the account of how or when this happened. I would not be surprised if it was a routine, uneventful story. Yet, this small gem inside of that exchange was sufficient leverage for the brother of Jared to obtain an in-the-flesh visit of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is how the Lord usually offers us further light and truth: through slight, imperceptible exchanges that will fly right past us if we are not paying attention.

Nephi noticed and leveraged his father's prophetic dream to obtain a dream of his own. The brother of Jared leveraged the Lord's promise to show him anything to see the Lord. David leveraged the Lord's strength in helping him kill a bear and a lion to help him kill Goliath. The list goes on and on.

We can be shown these seemingly little things and choose to ignore them, or we can pay attention to them and work against our being past feeling.

One example of this in my life was when, as an LDS missionary, I met a spirit-filled man in a remote area in Chile. He had his own very small church. He agreed to meet with me, and we had spirit-charged conversations about the gospel. I gave him a book of Mormon, which he read, and which he testified contained the word of God. Yet, when he prayed about joining the LDS church, the Lord told him not to. When he relayed this to me, the Spirit told me that what he said was true: he really had prayed, and God had really told him no. I was completely perplexed by this, but I did not pursue it. I had missed an opportunity to come out of ignorance.

Another story came when I was praying about my brother's impending deployment to Iraq. He was headed there in the first wave of troops, and the Spirit had witnessed to me that he would be killed. I spent hours every night for weeks and weeks praying for his safety. Following the Spirit, I offered prayers that were very unusual for me. At one point, the Lord told me to stop praying about it. He spoke with an audible voice, and told me that everything would be fine. I didn't know what that meant, but I was filled with peace and stopped praying about it. A little while later, I managed to talk to my brother on the phone. According to his account (he is not a religious person), his platoon got into a firefight where he was saved from being shot by being shoved to the ground by angel. He was shoved down with such force that his foot broke. That day, dozens of his platoon were killed, but he survived.

I did not know it at the time, but these were prayers of intercession. I should have asked God about what made those prayers different, and how it all worked. I didn't. Instead, I went my merry, ignorant way for years and years before rediscovering intercession. That topic, which I now understand, is described in my recent book "Seek Ye This Jesus." By failing to investigate this topic, I wasted years of miraculous intervention in the lives of others, and incredible communion with God.

24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.
25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14)

God is gracious. When he reveals something to you, and you blow it, he will give you another chance to receive it. That is the good news. The bad news is what opportunities have permanently been lost, and that it can take weeks, months, or years to be offered to you again.

The Authority to Baptize

The LDS church, like the Catholic church, teaches that God can give his permission to men to do works in his name without his input. In other words, he makes men his agents, and they are free to do with that power what they believe is right. They believe that only priests have God's permission to baptize, and that ordination is required before a person can baptize.

The rest of the Christian world believes that the commission at the end of Matthew applies to the whole world. This would mean that anyone (men, women, children, believers, non-believers) can baptize anyone.

Both are wrong.

Priesthood is not a permission slip. God does not give his power to men to use independent of his will. There is no such thing as freelancing when it comes to God's power. It can only ever be used exactly as he would use it, and this requires revelation from him in every case.

Because of this, it is better to focus on God's will instead of God's power. The latter is never found outside the former, and many times the former is found outside the latter. In other words, there are many cases when God's will is to withhold, not to exercise his power.

The question, "do I have the authority to baptize?" is actually the wrong question. We really need to be careful about how we structure our prayers to God and how we frame our expectations of answers. In most cases where the person does have authority, the Lord can't answer the question as phrased. The answer "no" would be incorrect, and the answer "yes" would convey more than intended, as priesthood revealed to an individual from the voice of God conveys much more than the authority to baptize.

The correct question is "under what circumstances is a person authorized to baptize?" The answer is whenever a person is operating within the will of God. In the case of many miraculous events, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, moving mountains, turning away armies, quenching the violence of fire, etc., this is a case-by-case question that requires a connection to God to answer. In the case of baptism, the Lord has revealed his will, and it is generally applicable. In other words, any case where the circumstances are fulfilled lies within God's will, and therefore commands God's authority.

The circumstances where a person can baptize are that they:

  • Must have repented from all their sins.
  • Must be able to ascertain whether those they baptize have repented of all their sins.
  • Must know the proper form of baptism.

If you fulfill these qualifications, you are qualified to baptize. If you do not, you are not.

As you can see, these items can be transmitted from one person to another independent of the action of heaven. Rather than be dismayed or shocked by that, we should realize that God has very plainly explained these things, and made it plain that he wants everyone to come to him and be baptized. It is all meant to be very available.

But what about keys? The LDS claim that they alone can perform authorized baptism because John the Baptist came to Joseph Smith and conveyed authority to Joseph Smith, who transmitted it to others through modern times. According to the account, this authority included the ministry of angels. How many LDS Aaronic priests do you know (or any other LDS person, for that matter) who enjoys the visible ministration of angels? If laying on of hands was the effectual transmission of authority, those claiming it would also have the ministration of angels. Since they do not, why should anyone believe they have the authority to baptize by that same laying on of hands?

Does this mean that LDS baptisms are ineffectual? No. It means that if they are effectual, it is by some other means than authority received by the laying on of hands. If an LDS person, or any other Christian, fulfills the qualifications listed above, their baptism is valid.

As I describe in "Seek Ye This Jesus," the common understanding about keys as a permission slip to exercise God's power is not correct. Instead, keys are to know God's will pertaining to a situation. If you know God's will, you have the power to participate in its fulfillment. If you don't, you are just guessing, and you cannot exercise faith. It is faith that works God's miracles, not guessing.

The keys of the Aaronic priesthood are not received via an ordinance, such as the laying on of hands, though there's nothing wrong with the ordinance. Instead, they are received via instruction. Once the doctrine of repentance is understood, and the form of baptism is understood, one possesses the keys of baptism. The same goes for blessing bread and wine after the pattern the Lord revealed in the last supper. The same goes for receiving the administration of angels.

The keys of the Holy Order after the Son of God are not received via an ordinance, per se, either. However, the knowledge they consist of is acquired during that ordinance, which involves the Lord, among other things, telling a person that they have power to do the things enumerated in JST Gen 14. If the Lord tells you that you have authority from heaven to do something, it would be easy to claim at least part of the description of JST Gen 14, which is a very different thing altogether than the Aaronic priesthood.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Upon my house shall it begin"

Today I was led to investigate the following passage:

23 Verily, verily, I say unto you, darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people, and all flesh has become corrupt before my face.
24 Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord.
25 And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;
26 First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord. (D&C 112)

I was curious as to how the Lord would fulfill this prophecy.

I inquired of the Lord, and he answered me.

"Upon my house shall it begin" does not refer to a future event. The judgment described in verse 24 began shortly after this revelation was given. Verse 26 describes that it would be fulfilled upon "you"--the followers of Joseph Smith in Kirtland in 1837 when this revelation was received, who had professed to know the Lord's name but not known him, and who had blasphemed against him in the midst of his house--the Kirtland temple, the only completed temple in modern times that the Lord has ever acknowledged as his.

A reading of the history of Kirtland and the conditions under which Joseph Smith and a few of his loyalists were expelled will illustrate the degree of loss endured by the people after this revelation was received, as well as the degree to which they denied the doctrines revealed to them.

The "day" of wrath, burning, desolation, etc. has not ceased since then, and will continue to intensify until it culminates with the return of the Lord to this earth.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Eclipses and Little-known Faults



Interesting facts about upcoming eclipse:
  • The shadow will be 70 miles in diameter.
  • The eclipse is the first to be fully contained within the USA.
  • The eclipse will divide the nation in two.
  • The eclipse will trace the 1,700 mile "crack across America" fault.
  • The eclipse will occur 33 days before a once-in-7,000 years Revelation 12 sign.
  • It will happen 2,422 days or 346 weeks or 6.6 years from a second, criss-crossing eclipse.


Interesting facts about the 2024 eclipse:
  • It happens on the last day of the last year in the Hebrew calendar.
  • It traces through a second large fault running Northeast from the New Madrid seismic zone.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The interplay of God's attributes

One key to achieving an intimate relationship with God is knowing his will in many aspects of your life and the world around you.

Knowing what God did can't always accurately predict what he will do, since modern circumstances may vary from ancient ones, preventing direct application of what might be a peculiarly historical situation. Knowing why God did what he did, on the other hand, yields principles that translate to any time and any place.

While the scriptures describe much of what he has done, they do not necessarily describe why he has done it in immediately obvious ways.

When we study God's mind and will, we must also study his character. The key to understanding why God has done what he has done is to ask how his actions fulfilled aspects of his character.

God's character is rich beyond description. If we were to limit his attributes to, say, nine one-word descriptors, maybe we would say he is:




  • Patient
  • Meek
  • Loving
  • Kind
  • Knowledgable
  • Consistent
  • Just
  • Merciful
  • Good
Too many, having come this far, fall into the trap of looking at God in only one dimension of his character. To really understand why he acts the way he does, you have to look at all attributes at once.

The solar system consists of the sun and the planets. Each planet is different in size, mass, and orbit. The components of the solar system are all in motion. To understand the motion of each, you have to look at the effects of all. The sun is the governing body in the solar system, but it does not act independently of the planets. The sun alone does not explain the behavior of any one planet. 

In any situation, God's behavior is a result of all of his attributes acting together. His love is his governing attribute, but it does not act independent of, say, his justice. All aspects of his character are represented in everything he does.

If you want to learn more about who God is, study situations in the scriptures by asking, "how is this an example of God's patience, meekness, compassion, kindness, knowledge, consistency, justice, mercy, and goodness?" You will be surprised at the answers you receive, and they will draw you closer to him as you reconcile your own behavior to his perfect standard.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Paper, kindle, pdf versions of "Seek Ye This Jesus" are available

Versions of "Seek Ye This Jesus" are available in:

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Please get them and share, and leave comments on Amazon.

-Rob

Friends like Nephi

Yesterday I had the pleasure of reading through a lot of scripture. One book that I re-read was 1 Nephi in the Book of Mormon. Nephi is such a rock-solid person. I couldn't help wishing that I could have a person like Nephi as a friend. Most people would not like Nephi as a friend. As someone who possessed real love, he would have striven to point out all your faults until you either fixed them or God told him to leave you, even if you tried to kill him multiple times. I rejoice in learning about my errors, so I love when I meet someone who knows more than I do and is willing to help me to where they are. It has happened many times in my life, and most of what I am today is due to the intervention of others.

As I got to thinking about Nephi, I realized that I in fact have at least 2 friends like Nephi. When I read the account, I realize they are just like him. Like Laman and Lemuel, most people never appreciate the Nephis in this world. Perhaps they expect someone to go around performing obvious miracles or spouting great, deep truths. It doesn't work that way. Most of the miracles they perform are quickly explained away, or are done in private, and the truths they expound are limited to the heed and diligence of those who are listening, which is usually quite low. The audience doesn't ask, seek, or knock, so the handles of new truth emitted constantly by these people are not followed through to the meat of the topic. They teach much, much less than they know.

Another thing about godly people is that they walk in almost constant sorrow. If you look at Nephi's reaction from the vision of all things (he saw everything that would happen to his posterity until the end of the world), it was sorrow. Most of us say we would love to have a vision like that, to see the Savior and see all these future events. For Nephi, it was a bitter experience. It's important to know why.

The lives of the wicked are filled with suffering. It's the natural consequence of their choices. The wicked choose to act in opposition to rationality because they opt to blind themselves to the truth. They do not see things as they really are, and therefore are hit by the components of their choices that they choose to ignore, like a man who likes the look of a rope and decides to carry it without recognizing or admitting that it happens to be attached to a tiger. He gets mauled all day long without coming to the realization that there is a tiger attached to his beloved rope. Instead of letting go of the rope, he goes about his life moaning about how unlucky he is because he gets mauled by a tiger everyday when few others do.

The lives of the righteous are filled with sorrow, but it isn't because of their choices. It is because they see things as they really are, and they are filled with sorrow for those who do not. It is their love of others that brings with it their sorrow for them. They see men getting mauled by tigers all day long, and they are already doing everything they can (including taking some of those maulings themselves) to help them, mostly without ever really benefitting them.

This was the experience of Nephi. He had seen this awesome, long, intense vision, which included seeing all the bad choices and subsequent consequences of his brothers and their posterity, and his own posterity. Then he comes to and finds himself back in his father's tent. And what does he return to?

1 And it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been carried away in the Spirit, and seen all these things, I returned to the tent of my father.
2 And it came to pass that I beheld my brethren, and they were disputing one with another concerning the things which my father had spoken unto them.
3 For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought. (1 Nephi 15)

They were bickering about and against the breadcrumbs of truth their father had given him. Now, Nephi's entire experience came because he asked God to show him the same things his father saw. Instead of trying to experience the same things Lehi experienced, his brothers were arguing about it with one another. This is not the way to come up to God.

This filled Nephi with sorrow. He had been shown the destiny of his brothers, and now he was seeing it right before his eyes.

And it came to pass that I was overcome because of my afflictions, for I considered that mine afflictions were great above all, because of the destruction of my people, for I had beheld their fall. (1 Nephi 15:5)

This is my daily experience.

After he overcomes his feelings and mobilizes, he tries to help them ask God. Instead, they decide to ask him. He gives them a good deal of truth, but reread his response to his brothers. Laman and Lemuel ask Nephi about the vision. Nephi did the same to God. Contrast God's answer to Nephi with Nephi's answer to Laman and Lemuel. Consider what Laman and Lemuel knew and what Nephi knew at the conclusion of each answer. Laman and Lemuel knew hardly anything. Why didn't Nephi reveal more? Nephi obeyed the law revealed in Alma 12, that God can reveal truth to us only inasmuch as we have heed and diligence--inasmuch as we desire more and have obeyed what we have received. Laman and Lemuel not only had a poor track record of obedience, they also weren't even really paying attention to Nephi's answer to their questions. Nephi dropped clues that he knew far more than he was saying throughout his responses. If you reread his answers and compare them to his vision, you'll see. Instead of asking follow-on questions to get more, Laman and Lemuel simply ignored the clues, and went on in their ignorance. Most of the times, we are like this, and that is why we don't notice the Nephis among us. Like Laman and Lemuel, we go on blissfully unaware of what others are experiencing, focused narrowly on our own low-slope progress.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I saw Satan fall as lightning

One reason we understand scripture so poorly is that we have so many preconceived notions that contradict the text. Instead of reading the text with a blank slate, we filter what we read through what we think we know. So often, learning is as much about letting go of what you think you know as it is about obtaining new information.

This scripture really puzzles people:

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.
7 And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. (Job 1:6-7)

Why is it puzzling? Because Christians are taught that Satan was cast out of heaven before this world was peopled. If Lucifer went from an arch-angel who stood in God's presence to his arch-enemy, how is it that long after Adam, Satan could again stand in God's presence and converse with him like this?

The puzzle comes because we make things up instead of sticking to what the book actually says.

For some reason, everyone seems to think that Satan fell from heaven before the creation of Adam. There isn't a single scripture that says that he did, but that's what people think.

There are several scriptures that describe this event as a future event. For example, the Lord's words about the issue. During his mortal ministry, the Lord said he "beheld" this event. "And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." (Luke 10:18) The Greek word translated "I beheld" means to behold in a vision. He was not saying, "I remember seeing this back before I was born." He was saying that this was an event he was shown in a vision.

"But," you say, "visions can be of future or past events." Ok, true enough. What about Revelation 12, which describes the event?

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(Revelation 12)

This event is yet to occur, for several reasons. First, notice that Michael and his angels overcome Satan. In Jude 1:9, we read that in Moses' day the power balance between Michael and Satan was such that Michael could not yet overcome him:

But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" (Jude 1:9)

We know, therefore, that Satan's Revelation 12/Luke 10:18 fall had not yet occurred as of Moses' day. There are other future-set prophecies:

16 By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.
17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. (Ezekiel 28:16-17)

12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isaiah 14:12-14)
12 Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.
13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.
15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.
16 By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.
17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.
18 Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. (Ezekiel 28:12-18)

Whether this event has occurred yet or not relies on understanding the chronology of Revelation. I don't want to open that can of worms here, but suffice it to say that if you look at Revelation 12, there are co-occurring events: There is a woman who bears 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." (Revelation 12:5). The woman flees into the wilderness for three and a half years, then the war in heaven commences and Satan is cast out.

This has not happened yet.

Why does this matter, anyway? Consider this warning from the Lord Jesus:
21 When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace:
22 But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. (Luke 11:21-22)
As part of the ascension of God's people on earth, we must be subjected to increasingly evil beings. As Satan is cast down, heaven becomes more glorified than it can be while he is there. Conversely, earth will become even more wicked than it already is. When Satan comes,

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. (Revelation 12:12)

And he isn't coming alone.

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. (Revelation 12:9)

The time to repent is now.