Sunday, December 17, 2017

Hid up from the foundation of the world

Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begat Enos, and prophesied in all his days, and taught his son Enos in the ways of God; wherefore Enos prophesied also. (Moses 6:13)

Can you imagine how well Adam knew God after having met with him face to face daily for perhaps hundreds of years before the fall? Can you imagine how much of this knowledge he conveyed to his son Seth? And how much Seth's son Enos learned from his father and grandfather? And not one word of what was handed down is written in Genesis.

Truly we live in a desert of knowledge of the character of God. In spite of a great deal about what God did provided by the scriptures, we have very very little about how he did it. They are written as a history, not a biography of God. When you read a good biography, you come away with a very clear understanding of not just what a person did in their lives, but why they did it.

It is absolutely critical to understand the character of God. To do God's work, you must know his will. Though he can reveal his will in specific situations to you through revelation, if you know his character, you can know his will a priori. He can only reveal himself to you in proportion to how much like him you have become. If you do not know what he is like, how can you become like he is?

It is interesting that in the Moses 6:13 (quoted above), it says that Enos prophesied because his father taught him "the ways of God." That gift was predicated, at least in that case, on Enos knowing "the ways of God."

We are at a tremendous disadvantage because, unlike Adam, Seth, Enos, ..., Isaac, Jacob, etc., we do not have a close personal connection that is intimately knowledgeable of God. In fact, our situation is even sadder than it seems, because our disconnection is both deliberate and immediately correctable.

The Lord said:

13 Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.
14 Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.
15 Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel. (Ether 4)
A deep, empowering knowledge of God's character--among what was revealed to Adam at the foundation of the world--is immediately available to everyone who is not steeped in unbelief.

How will God deliver these things to you when you repent of your unbelief?

1. Direct revelation.
What we receive from God is limited only by our heed and diligence in seeking.
For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round. (1 Nephi 10:19)

2. Through another person.
Joseph Smith was charged to obtain and reveal these things, but he did not fulfill that mission. The Lord will appoint another to do it.
And I have given unto him the keys of the mystery of those things which have been sealed, even things which were from the foundation of the world, and the things which shall come from this time until the time of my coming, if he abide in me, and if not, another will I plant in his stead. (D&C 35:18)
3. Through a book.
The sealed portion of the plates contain these things.
10 But the words which are sealed he shall not deliver, neither shall he deliver the book. For the book shall be sealed by the power of God, and the revelation which was sealed shall be kept in the book until the own due time of the Lord, that they may come forth; for behold, they reveal all things from the foundation of the world unto the end thereof.
11 And the day cometh that the words of the book which were sealed shall be read upon the house tops; and they shall be read by the power of Christ; and all things shall be revealed unto the children of men which ever have been among the children of men, and which ever will be even unto the end of the earth. (2 Nephi 27)

Monday, November 27, 2017

I'm a leaf in the wind

A wonderful friend of mine and I were in the woods recently. To get to our destination, we had to cross a fairly large river. Through poor planning, we only had one pair of waders to protect us from the freezing temperatures. On the journey out, I went without waders. Cold water makes your whole body feel like an ice cream headache. I was making funny noises and moving as fast as I could. After a day of hiking we returned, and he volunteered to go without the waders. He smiled, put his hands together, closed his eyes and said, "I'm a leaf in the wind!" He then walked across the river without any sign of discomfort. Though I know he was in massive pain, he didn't really seem to care.

For weeks, I've been thinking about that profound statement.

God truly is found in our extremity.

It is our privilege to literally commune with God:
To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. (D&C 107:19)
If our experience is anything less than this, we have not yet found true religion.

Why is this communion so far from our experience, given that most have experienced God to some (minor) degree? God is reticent to reveal our true standing with him. It would hurt us a great deal to know just how far from him we are.

How do we bridge the gap between where we are and true communion? We are like little children who, having been told to stay away from the hot stove, think we know everything our father has to teach us. While keeping his commandments is required, just as important is our belief that he has unfathomable knowledge, and a burning desire to obtain it by the sacrifice of all things--including what we think we know already.

The process of getting to know God is like walking into a fire. Before we commune with him, he must purge us. We would be foolish to think that we can come to know him in our present state.

The scriptures are replete with this pattern. Consider Melchizedek.

26 Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.
27 And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,
28 It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;
29 And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.
30 For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;
31 To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.
32 And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven. (JST Gen 14)
Did Melchizedek wake up one day and come face to face with God? No. This was a process, and the end was nothing more than the next step in a pronounced path. What was that path? Well long before he was called by God's own voice, he developed faith. How was that manifested? He developed "fear" (deep trust in, reverence for) God. He stopped the mouths of lions and quenched the violence of fire. Folks, these were not parlor tricks at a zoo or around a bonfire. Melchizedek was thrown to the lions and thrown into the fire! It was not until he increased his faith through these experiences that he was "approved by God" and heaven moved in his behalf.

Here is the pattern:
1. You develop belief in God.
2. You develop trust in God.
3. He brings you successively more dire circumstances where you can show your trust in him by obeying him, calling out to him, and trusting him despite the gravity of your situation.
4. He responds.

It happened with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. I can happen to you, too. But only if you don't quit. You can't cash out your chips. Our lives are like a bank account with compounded interest. We are far too willing to cash out our principle after the first interest payment.

He will produce fruit, but that is not where it ends. He takes the fruit and starts us over on the path to even greater fruit:
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15)
God routinely "purges" us. He either sends something on the Job scale our way, or he gives us the chance to abase ourselves willingly through to-the-dust humility. Every time he empties our cup, he gives us a bigger one and begins filling it.

If we haven't yet reached communion with him, it might be because we have not yet repented of our sins. But it is also possible that we cashed in our chips too soon.

You have to be a leaf in the wind. You have to be "willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father." (Mosiah 3:19)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Imagination and revelation

This doctrine is laid out on this blog. I won't attempt to restate it, because if I do people will come out of the woodwork stating that I have misrepresented what that person (who desires to remain anonymous) teaches.

Does God's word come from your imagination, or from God?

Jesus said that everything he taught came from the Father: " my Father hath taught me, I speak these things." (John 8:28). If Jesus, the Son of God, was limited in the worth he could provide by what he was given from the Father, who among us can think for a second that what we produce can be good? Jesus said, 
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15)
We are told plainly that our thoughts are different from God's:
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55)
Real experiences with God rarely confirm what we were already thinking. Instead, they almost always cause radical paradigm shifts from our thoughts to help us align with God's thoughts. They eviscerate our sacred cows and preconceived notions.

How can you, for a second, think that you can acquire God's word through exercising your imagination? To do so would require thinking that you can somehow organically produce what only God himself can provide.

Proponents of this doctrine describe one's imagination as training wheels to help along the process of accessing God. Some use hallucinogenics to "kick start" this process, describing how it is necessary to train yourself to come to the point where you can receive revelation in the standard way as described in the scriptures: From God to you. It is very odd that anyone would believe this, given that it is noticeably absent from and apparently contradicted by scripture. In response to this argument, one person told me that "the scriptures don't really teach you how to connect to God." This is exceedingly preposterous. First, connecting to God is the purpose of the gospel. If you had a calculus textbook that did not actually teach calculus, but only taught bits about addition, subtraction, and multiplication, it would be quite useless. Second, that this process is taught very plainly in the scriptures is evidenced by the contents of my book on the topic "Seek Ye This Jesus," which contains hundreds of scriptures that do exactly that.

God does not come from our conjuring him.

Now, proponents of this doctrine will say that they are not conjuring Jesus, but are giving him space to appear, etc. When you follow a list of steps and expect Jesus to appear in that moment, that is the definition of conjuring. God does not appear at the summons of man. Jesus said, "I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me." (John 8:42) If Jesus himself doesn't even dictate when and how he appears, how on earth can you think that your imagination can? 

Connection with heaven comes as a result of the will of God, not your imagination or desires. What you pray and how you are as a person can affect the will of God, but the idea that somehow you can dictate what experiences God gives you is not supported at all in the scriptures, and is actually contrary to what we see there.

Sometimes God or angels respond directly to prayers. However, prayer is more often the process of getting to that point than the terminal activity. Adam prayed for a very long time before an angel appeared to him. Daniel prayed for weeks before Gabriel came. These are not rare examples. If men as righteous as Adam and Daniel could not conjure God in instances much more important than your life, what makes you think that you can? 

Do imaginary experiences with God cause you to repent? 

The point of the gospel is to provide you with a pathway to attain God's character in your own. Those who know God have overcome sin in their lives.
6 ...whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.
7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
8 He that committeth sin is of the devil...
9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (1 John 3)
There is a tendency to redefine what it means to repent, to reconcile yourself to God. It means to live in a way that you are living up to all truth that God has revealed to you, constantly and without exception. Those who have not attained this state are not yet at the point where Jesus' sacrifice atones for their sins. They cannot endure his glory. They cannot dwell with him.

It is highly suspect when people tell me that they have been promised eternal life and yet continue in willful sin. I have yet to meet any proponent of this doctrine that can tell me that they have repented of all their sins. God's real interactions with men cause them to change for the better. Meanwhile, his ability to reveal himself to you is bounded by how much you have come to be like him.

Satan and men can generate experiences that exalt the person without having paid the price of repentance. This is Satan's interest because it robs the individual of sufficient desire to actually repent, and freezes their spiritual progression before they actually reach the end of the road. 

Imaginary promises are vain.

Overcoming the world requires the sacrifice of all things. Do imaginary promises provide you the faith, hope, and security you require to sacrifice all things?

If your imaginary promises have not brought you to repent of all of your sins, the answer is no, since they could not even bring you to sacrifice what little you currently know you need to sacrifice, let alone all the things you will be asked to do/change in the future.

Not all spiritual experiences are from God. 

Because there is opposition in all things, we should expect that any experience we have could be from Satan. We have to test it. What is the test?

11 But he that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record. For because of my Spirit he shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good.
12 And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leadeth men to all good; he that will not believe my words will not believe me—that I am; and he that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me. For behold, I am the Father, I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world. (Ether 4)
If it leads you to repent--to adhere to what God has taught you in every way in all places and at all times--it is good. 

If your experiences merely flatter you, they are not from God. God does not exalt sinners. He humbles them. He shows them that they need to change. When you are abased and actually repent, he will exalt you with blessings and promises. That is the pattern laid out in scripture.
put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. (D&C 11:12)\ 
Experiences can come from men, God, or Satan. Those that come from God are of worth. Those generated by men or Satan are not. 

So much more available.

Even if these imagination experiences are real, so what? Why stop there? Why settle for the crumbs that fall off the table? If you are really a son or daughter of God, keep repenting and strive for the greater experiences, the ones described in the scriptures. Do not assume that just because you have been invited to the banquet, you are assigned to the seats of honor. Keep striving and repenting until you literally stand in the real presence of God, and receive promises from him in ways that cannot be doubted.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Thoughts on Light

Imagine a satellite dish covered in a mirror and pointed at the sun, but getting larger and larger. The sun is God, the light is truth, the focal point if the dish is your understanding. The diameter of the dish is set by your willingness to seek, recognize, and apply truth.

One who wishes to increase their interaction with light can do so by observing the effect of light on the objects around them, but they will achieve much more by looking directly at the sun.

Sunflowers move their heads to follow the sun. Each morning, they face east awaiting the rising sun. As the day progresses, their heads move to follow the sun as it traverses from east to west. After the sun sets, the flowers move back to east facing to await the morning sun. This movement is actually caused by their growth. The part of the plant facing the sun grows faster than the non-sun-facing side. As they stop growing, their heads stop moving, and they simply face east.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

What Good People Have to Gain in Jesus

An expansion on this idea has been posted here.

When I entered high school I didn't need glasses. With each passing year, I found the chalkboards getting dustier. I had to keep moving closer, and it was annoying. At some point, after ~3 years, I complained. Someone suggested I needed glasses. One reason this had never crossed my mind was that I had eye checks as part of an annual physical that had not revealed degrading eyesight. The main reason I did not know I needed glasses was that I didn't comprehend what it would be like to not need glasses. I didn't know what perfect eyesight was like, so I couldn't realize what I was missing by wearing glasses.

Years later, I faced an alert order for deployment in the military. Knowing how hard it is to shoot accurately with glasses on, and knowing how pointless it is to try to shoot with a gas mask on when you require glasses, I thought it would be worthwhile to get laser eye surgery in spite of the cost and what I considered to be the cosmetic nature of the procedure. The procedure was very fast. The cover of my eyeball was opened, my vision got even blurrier than normal, some lights flashed, the doctor put an eye drop in my eye and put the flap back. Instantly, I saw perfectly clearly. Significantly more clearly than I ever had even with glasses. I actually cried because I was so astonished with how much better I could see. It was like being born again. I saw the world anew. Every morning I realized what it was like to be able to see right when I woke up. I had no idea how much clearer my perspective would be. I had no idea what I had been missing out on. If I did, I would have had the operation much sooner, and I would have been willing to pay a lot more than I did (at the time I think it cost me $8,000).

It is easy to preach Jesus to those who are broken and know it. It is very hard to preach Jesus to those who are already obeying that inner voice that tells them to do right. From their perspective, they can see the board fine. From their perspective, they already have their vision corrected.

Faith is to consider that there is something beyond your experience. It is to hear a description of it and believe sufficiently to experiment upon it.

26 Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.
27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
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.
34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good... (Alma 32)

The Lord said:
16 ...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)
Those who experiment upon his word will find it is true, and they will wonder how it is that they had never heard it/experimented upon it before. They will marvel at their improved comprehension of all that is beautiful in this world. They will be born anew.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

About Me

Someone suggested that a brief biography would help people be more open to the things I write on this blog. I can see how it might add context, but I do this reluctantly. Please do not consider me an authority on anything. Please do not idolize me. Please do not desire to associate with me any more than you would with anyone else. I share these things only to stir up others to believe God and develop their own relationship with God.

For the first 18 years of my life, I was raised as a non-denominational, non-practicing Christian. I sought truth through a secular lens. I was exposed to Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Charismatic, and other Christian sects through family and friends. I did not read the Bible, and I did not worship God, but I did believe that he existed.

I have always sought to test what I accepted as truth, have always rejected certain things as not being effective, and sought out new putative truth.

When I was 18, at basic training, I was exposed to the LDS church. As a result of the insistence of the missionaries, I prayed about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Before doing so, I prayed and asked God if he was real. He responded and made it known to me that he was. When I prayed about the Book of Mormon, he responded and made it known to me that it was his word. I believed what the missionaries had told me--that if the Book of Mormon was true, I should be baptized into the LDS church.

Over the next decade, I invested my entire being into LDS doctrine. I went on a 2 year ecclesiastical mission, spent my time volunteering in church responsibilities, and was married to my wife in an LDS temple. Throughout this time, I felt that while my relationship with God was ever-improving, and though I received revelations and other spiritual manifestations from God from time to time, there was something more available. I started blogging during this period. Meanwhile, I witnessed more and more limitations in LDS theology and culture.

One day, through the intervention of a book recommended by a friend, I was reminded of the months I spent reading through scripture for the first time. I thought about how I used to consider the interactions with God described in the scriptures, and how I used to think much about how that happened and whether it could happen to me. The promises in the scriptures referring to a relationship with God are general to anyone who lives the gospel. I realized that my experiences with God in the LDS church--which are not general to most in the LDS church--were still nothing compared to what was described in the scriptures. My soul hungered more than ever for a closer relationship with God. My daily prayers increased in earnestness. I begged the Lord to again forgive me of my sins and to bring me into his presence. I prayed again and again.

The Lord came to me one night in a dream, and showed me that the things taught by the LDS church that were occupying my time were not helping me draw closer to him. It was both the happiest moment of my life until that point, and the most heartbreaking. I spent much time after that event praying and repenting of my false traditions, seeking the Lord anew.

After a period of years, I completed a book that documented my search to identify what from LDS traditions actually hindered one's search for God. Shortly thereafter, I was excommunicated from the LDS church.

My exodus from the LDS church provided an opportunity to learn much more about the Lord. He taught me a great deal about repentance, prayer, and just how wonderful a relationship with him can be.

I continue my lifelong search for truth. I am not a professional historian, theologian, or apologist. I have a full-time job, a family, and many other demands on my time. I don't make any money on my writing. This blog serves as a notebook for my learning process, a mechanism to help others obtain the things that I received, and a testimony of the hand and goodness of God in my life. I am nothing special. I'm just a normal person trying to seek God. Nothing I've done is exceptional, and nothing I've experienced is unique to me. We can all have revelations, visions, dreams, hear the voice of God, see angels, and see God. All it takes is diligence in seeking him and consistency in obeying him. All glory belongs to God. All truth belongs to God.

I hope the Lord speaks to you through it and outside of it, and that you find progress and success in your search for God. The gospel and the content on this blog are for everyone. Not just for Mormons, not just for Protestants, not just for Catholics, and not just for non-Christians. It is for everyone. We all should be searching for truth from God, drawing closer to him, and preparing for his second coming. We should all be coming to know him here and now, not just counting on seeing and knowing him after we die. A religion that cannot bring you into God's presence today cannot bring you into his presence after you die.

Because of what God has shown me, I can testify that he is real. He is alive. He cares about you, as an individual, more than you can comprehend. He is intimately aware of your life--everything you have done, thought, suffered, and desired. He is very desirous for you to know him better than you do. The Lord Jesus delights in showing his children how much he loves them, and what miracles he is willing to work for their good. I have seen him on the cross, I have seen the nails in his hands. He has talked to me face to face. He has touched me. I have seen his indescribable condescension. It is not possible to describe in human language how loving he is, how perfect he is, and how important it is to seek him, trust him, and obey him in order to stand comfortably in his presence. Happiness is obtainable only through loving him as he has first loved us. Seeking him is worthy of all our time, talents, and energy.

Instead of restoring the restoration, live it

There is a prevalent idea among those from Mormon traditions that any progress towards Zion must rest on the foundation of the so-called restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith. In other words, it must pick up where he left off.

In order for this to be the case, one must believe that:

  • Joseph Smith's mission revealed truths required for salvation.
  • Joseph Smith's mission uniquely revealed truths required for salvation.
  • Joseph Smith never taught anything that was false.
  • History has adequately preserved those truths that Joseph Smith revealed.
  • God will not reveal the same saving truths he taught through Joseph through anyone else.
Rather than provide an exhaustive answer to each question, we will provide just a brief example or counterexample for each question.

Did Joseph Smith's mission reveal truths required for salvation?

Yes. The truths in the Book of Mormon supplement those in the Bible, including those that were originally in the Bible but subsequently removed. The topic of repentance, for instance, is more clearly set forth in the Book of Mormon than the Bible, as was made very apparent to me when I was putting together the material for the first half of Seek Ye This Jesus.

Did Joseph Smith's mission uniquely reveal truths required for salvation?

To prove that Joseph Smith uniquely revealed truths required for salvation, we would have to show that no one in the world has attained similar experiences with God as Joseph Smith, except through knowing and applying what he taught. To prove this wrong, all you need is one person who has experienced similar things without ever having heard of Joseph Smith. There are many. Sadhu Sundar Selveraj is one such person who is alive today.

Did Joseph Smith ever teach anything that was false?

We could try to parse through some theological teachings here and use scripture to try to disprove them. Instead of that, let's see if we can find just one revelation that failed. Here is one that is unconditional and has a time limit so that we can definitely say that it failed to come to pass:

1 A revelation of Jesus Christ unto his servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and six elders, as they united their hearts and lifted their voices on high.
2 Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem.
3 Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased.
4 Verily, this is the word of the Lord, and that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.
5 For verily this generation shall not pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill his house.”
31…which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the ‘consecrated spot as I have appointed.’” (D&C Section 84)

Has history adequately preserved those truths that Joseph Smith revealed?

In order to prove that history adequately prove this, we would have to know everything Joseph Smith revealed and then show that it is available today. That is obviously not possible. We can, however, recall just how much meddling we know took place. During the life of Joseph Smith, there was extensive modification of texts between when they were received and when they were printed. Oliver Cowdery and others who were charged with printing the revelations made changes that were not sanctioned by Joseph Smith (see Teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men pp. 160-162), and Joseph himself made changes subsequent to receiving the revelations

And since then? We know for a fact that the Doctrine and Covenants was extensively changed. If you want to see the extent of these changes, you can view a copy of Woodford's 1974 dissertation at BYU. We also know that Brigham Young and Willard Richards intentionally modified the History of the Church. In this environment, it is very difficult to make a case that the body of doctrine attributed to Joseph Smith actually came from him.

Will God reveal the same saving truths he taught through Joseph through anyone else?

Joseph taught both that anyone can know what he knows and that God would reveal it directly to them:
“God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 149).
The Book of Mormon goes farther, indicated that God will reveal to anyone things beyond what even Joseph knew:
22 Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed.... (Alma 26)


You cannot build on another foundation without inheriting all the defects of that foundation. This is why the Protestant churches are just as incapable of leading one to salvation as the Catholic church: a dead tree cannot produce a living branch, no matter how pure the intentions of that branch.

You can't put new wine in old bottles.
21 No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse.
22 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.
(Mark 2)
The Book of Mormon is a cleanly packaged packet of light and truth. It can stand on its own without bringing with it any of the defects of the movement begun by Joseph Smith, just as the Bible can be used without bringing any baggage along from the Catholic church. God has ordained it to be the tool to convert the remnant of Israel, a task that is still unfulfilled. It can and will do this without any connection to the LDS church or any other branch derived from Joseph Smith's movement.

The Lord taught that you cannot go beyond a telestial level of glory while you depend on a man as a mediator of the gospel.

98 And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one; for as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world;
99 For these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas.
100 These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch;
101 But received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant. (D&C 76)

Ironically, if you believe in the D&C as canon, you must also challenge the D&C as canon or face telestial damnation. Given D&C 76:98-101, and assuming that God actually said it, what does it mean if "This generation shall have my word through you?" (D&C 5:10) It is ideal for a group of people to have their interactions with God filtered through a mediator? Is it a blessing to have a mediator with God, or a curse? Should you accept everything Joseph purportedly taught as if he actually said it? Should you accept everything he really did teach, knowing that at least some of what he said was false? Should you accept the D&C as scripture, given that it includes many alterations and additions by men, some contemporary?


Joseph's mission was not to dispense all the truth required to bring mankind to the second coming of Christ. His mission was to demonstrate the possibility interacting with God by doing so himself, and to bring forth the Book of Mormon.

There is a difference between using someone as a resource and using them as a gateway. Joseph himself said:
".....when men come out and build upon other men's foundations, they do it on their own responsibility, without: authority from God; and when the floods come and the winds blow, their foundations will be found to be sand, and their whole fabric will crumble to dust."

Instead of committing the telestially-damning sin of making him a mediator between us and God, we should instead follow his example by achieving our own personal connection with God and making sure we read and live the gospel as taught in the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Dispensation heads

There are a lot of ideas about what a gospel dispensation is. 

The word dispensation simply means to distribute. In a gospel sense, it means to make truth more accessible. 

All of God's truth is already accessible. His light shines throughout all creation without diminishing. 

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 1:5, AMP)

God has never said that he limits his dispensation of truth to the world. We restrict ourselves from it by failing to search it out and failing to apply it. Through the first, we can willingly fail to sense it. Through the second, we actually actively recoil from it.

Initially, we all have individual access to the fullness of truth (see Alma 13, particularly verses 4 and 5). Because of our sin, and because of our lack of diligence, we cut ourselves off from truth. 

10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell. (Alma 12)

Receiving truth is like a lens aperture. God starts with a full blast of truth. We cut down our aperture size over and over and over again until it is fully closed. Many are called, but few are chosen. Few are chosen because most withdraw from the light.

Apostasy is not a group event, and it is not binary. It is always individual and continuous. When there is a group of people who have closed themselves to light, God does not turn away from them or treat them differently as a group beyond the fact that they are ripe for destruction. 

Because he loves us, God both gives us a way to reset our access lost by sin through Jesus Christ, and a way to reverse the consequences of our lack of diligence through sending people to earth who have more truth than we do (see Moroni 7:29-32).

God sends people to earth all the time with varying levels of inclination to sin and diligence in seeking God. There are Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial people on this earth in differing ratios. Most people on earth are relatively similar in terms of both inclination to sin and diligence in seeking God. They are Telestial, quite prone to sin, and quite lazy and inconsistent when it comes to seeking God. Some have less inclination to sin, and some far less inclination to sin. Some have more diligence than most, some far more diligence than most. 

The Lord Jesus had less inclination to sin than anyone--not that he was tempted any less, but he chose to never acquiesce to that temptation. He "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrew 4:15) He also had more diligence in seeking the Father than anyone here--not by magic or by his divine birth, but because his character had become more refined than anyone else's before this world was. Like all of us, he brought his pre-existing character (which is housed in one's spirit) to his mortal life.  Because of his sinlessness and diligence, he was able to bring forth more truth to the earth than any other mortal had or will.

To a much lesser degree, those who come to this earth with more than average diligence and less than average inclination to sin are like trees with deep roots. They bring truth to the surface so it can more easily be accessed by others. The point is not to replace the seedlings' own roots. Seedlings can choose to rely on the surface level runoff of nutrients from the bigger trees, but doing so will dwarf them. They must use the nutrients of the bigger trees to drop their own roots to the source of what makes the big trees big.

We have to come up to be like Christ is. Not how a man is, but how Christ is. This can only be done by seeking him directly, as hitching ourselves to a man can only bring us up to the stature of that man. All his weaknesses will be ours, even if we can attain all his strengths.

There is no condition in creation that causes his truth to become inaccessible. It is always broadcast to all. God never withdraws the ability of man to repent and come to him.

For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. (2 Nephi 26:33)
In light of God's word, it is clear that all truth is accessible to all people at all times.

Truth does not depend on a man. While others can benefit from the righteousness of another through improved access to truth that they otherwise would not be able to access, the work of others can never change whether or not you accept truth. For example, it does no good to receive a covenant through a righteous man if you yourself have not become just as righteous. You cannot receive the reward of righteousness without actually becoming righteous. Much better is to become righteous yourself, and obtain your own covenant with God. Your standing with God does not rely on cycles of God giving his authority to men. It doesn't work like that.

Not everyone believes in the LDS idea of dispensation heads. Many Protestants believe in dispensations in the sense of God's way of dealing with people during different periods of history (3, 7, or something else depending). This confusion seems to stem from the lack of detail we have in Genesis, the creation of the law of Moses, and the revocation of the law of Moses. God does not change over time. The belief that God has treated his people differently through time contradicts the fact that God does not change. The law of Moses was not a new way to gain salvation. Paul clearly describes that it was a remedial set of commandments designed for a hard-hearted people to give them the best chance of coming to Christ. Salvation was, is, and always will be through Jesus and Jesus alone. The law of Moses could never save anyone, but it was just the right thing to help a particular group of people to have the best chance of coming to Christ to find salvation. From Adam to Moses and Moses to us, salvation has always been in Jesus alone. 

The error of all Christendom

Einstein once said that the definition of insanity was doing thing same thing and expecting different results.

The error of nearly all Christians can be expressed concisely as this: they continue to invest all their resources in a theology that has failed to bring them the promised results.

Recognizing this, they ought to search for something better instead of continuing to satisfy themselves on performances and ideas that fail to bring them into constant, literal interaction with God.

If you don't have literal, constant interaction with God, spend your time on your knees begging him to help you find the truth and trying out what you find until you do.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Denver Snuffer Movement: Time for a reality check

Most if not all aware of Denver Snuffer are former LDS. All of them have gone through an evaluation process to discover that, while the LDS church possesses many truths that are helpful to drawing closer to God, it also possesses many truths that will prevent a person from drawing closer to God.

If you are in this group, you have been fooled before. What are you to do to ensure you don't get fooled again?

The way to prevent yourself from being fooled is by constructing a strategy that would have alerted you to the state of the LDS church far earlier than you actually found out. In retrospect, you may feel quite foolish, as I do, that you did not see the problems earlier. Chances are that, like me, you discovered the problem only after someone showed you what those problems were. Chances are that even in that case it took quite a long time and a lot of effort before you would objectively consider those problems and test them for yourself.

One key to preventing the same mistake is being able to evaluate hypotheses and evidences individually. In plainer terms, you have to be able to separate out specific ideas and test them one by one. Because error is only palatable because it is mixed with truth, you will consistently be handed a package that has some things that will draw you closer to God AND some bad things that will keep you from him. You have to grow to be able to sort through and keep those things that draw you closer while recognizes and discarding those that keep you away from him.

As an example of this, the LDS church offers the Book of Mormon and a belief that your obedience to the church president is what will give you salvation. The missionaries tell you that you have to pray about the Book of Mormon, and that if the Book of Mormon is true, everything else is true.
That is a logical fallacy that is very obvious to anyone who has thought about it. The truthfulness of the Book of Mormon has very little to do with anything not inside the Book of Mormon, perhaps with the exception of the fact that Joseph Smith would have had to have had the power of God to translate it. It doesn't mean that everything Joseph Smith did was sanctioned by God, doesn't mean anything in relation to the church he founded, certainly means nothing about the new church Brigham Young founded after Joseph was killed, and means absolutely nothing about the modern leaders who have inherited the copyrights from Brigham through earthly legal agreements. You have to come up with an approach that allows you to recognize and keep the Book of Mormon, but toss out trusting in the arm of flesh.

The foregoing was a logical test. Some tests require you to compare the teachings to the scriptures. Some will require you to test them by trying them. 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.

How does this apply to Denver Snuffer's movement? One must learn how to parse out the claims of the movement, accurately inventory what Denver has claimed, what Denver has done, and what effect following his words has had on you. If there are ideas that fail when tested, you should discard them and move on.

Claims and evidence

Claim: The movement is not organized (see here and here)

Evidence: This movement has a trademark logo that serves as a correlation mechanism. Denver has said that Adrian Larson controls this logo, but also has described it as a correlation mechanism:
"The logo is a way to vouch for a site’s privacy and safety. If the logo is authorized for use, the public can be confident it will not take them to a site of a hostile group, commercial enterprise or specious origin. It is a way to identify authenticity."
Anyone can call a conference, but if Denver and Adrian are not involved, it will not be sanctioned, and will not be listed on the only official website for such.

The movement's fellowships are described as self-organized, independent groups. However, who provided the instructions to form them? Denver. Who controls whether they are recognized as "hostile" or not? Denver. Who controls how much say they have in the organization of or execution of conferences? Denver.

Is there even one single modern revelation by anyone but Denver that has been published, taught, or canonized?

Verdict: This claim is false, and it keeps people from exercising the caution that is due to a movement that purportedly holds unique claim to Zion.

Claim: This group exists to follow Christ and preserve the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith.

Evidence: While Denver's early messages were to this end, beginning with the ten lectures, he began injecting new doctrines and practices that Joseph Smith never taught. He has also ignored and even replaced many teachings that Joseph provided. The scriptures project, which began as an attempt to "preserve the restoration" by a few individuals roused by Denver's calls to do so, were sidetracked into a vehicle for "canoniz[ing] new scripture" (see here). The chief contribution of the project is not a historical recovery of original documents (which incidentally has already been done for both the D&C and Book of Mormon), but to delete scriptures that do not comply with Denver's theology, and add segments of his own construction. Similarly, Denver has delivered a purported covenant to replace the covenant given in the form of the Book of Mormon. Having begun his ministry on the authority of Joseph Smith, he is now doing things that are quite independent of and orthogonal to the teachings of Joseph Smith.

Verdict: This claim is false, and it causes people to accept new doctrines and throw out old ones with far less deliberation than they should.

Claim: Denver is not the head of this organization. This group has no leaders and no clergy (see here and here). Denver said: "Let me be clear: I will not start a church. Period. Won't. Not now. Not later. Never."

Evidence: Which aspect of this movement did not come directly from Denver? His teaching initiated rebaptism, the form of priesthood ordination, fellowships, tithing, conferences, the scriptures project being more than a reprinting, saving for a temple, recording names, who the recorder was to be, the creation of governing principles, discarding certain scriptures and adding others, and every other doctrine or practice that distinguishes this organization from any other.

Even setting aside the source of everything that distinguishes this movement, consider who the influential people are, and why they are influential. Does anything happen in this movement without Denver directing it? The only other people in this movement that have power, as they suppose, are Adrian Larson (who is endorsed by Denver), Keith Henderson (who has his position because Denver endorsed him), the scripture committee (who are directed by Denver and were unknown to the movement until they came to him and he endorsed and took over their project) and the 3 women who are collecting money for the temple (who are recognized because Denver endorsed them). Even in the case where people are voted on by common consent in these roles, how is this any different than a blanket endorsement from the LDS masses when an appointment made by the 15 is announced?

Denver said: "A 'strong man' model is the opposite of Zion. A controlling hierarchy where some are over, and others under control perverts the essential equality that must prevail in order for Zion to exist with one heart, one mind, and all things in common....Read what I've written. Listen to my talks. You needn't think there is a hidden agenda. There isn't and won't be one. I am so transparent that even the church court information has been made public."

Rather than teaching correct principles and letting the people govern themselves (which is a role fulfilled by many people at once), Denver is dictating how people do what they do by having a presiding role in every single aspect of the movement. He is repeating the same mistake of Joseph Smith, who did not make himself redundant.

Verdict: This claim is false. Denver has made the same mistakes as Joseph Smith did, and the stage is set for the same outcome: people focusing on a man rather than on God.

Claim: Denver claims that, without a new temple and a new covenant, we cannot regain the presence of God.

Evidence: Most Christians today are blinded to evaluating the limitations in their religion. Because their religions promise big returns after they die, but nothing right now, they have no way of testing the claim until it is everlastingly too late. However, simple logic suggests that a religion that cannot save you now cannot save you later. It is incredibly dangerous to assume that a theology that cannot bring you into God's presence now will be able to do so once you have a temple. This is the same error that Joseph Smith's followers fell into. What they should have done is realized that Joseph--not having a temple--was able to experience the first vision. If God is no respecter of persons, anyone doing what Joseph did should be able to do the same. The same goes for Denver. Since he does not yet have a temple, all of his experiences should be obtainable by anyone without a temple. In both cases, what is missing is not a building, but repentance.

Verdict: This claim is false.

The big picture

Denver has two messages, and two missions. The first was to testify that the scriptures describing an audience with Christ are true. You, me, Dan Rogers, and a few others are evidence that this message was true. Helping others focus on Jesus Christ is a godly task, and should be considered the mission of every believer in the Lord Jesus.

The second mission, purportedly, is that Denver is a dispensation head appointed by God to close the dispensation of Joseph Smith and open another, to reveal a new covenant, and to build Zion with those who accept and keep it. The test here is whether those following his teachings come up to the experiences he is claiming to have: multiple visits to heaven, frequent visits by God, constant answers to prayer, sealing to the fathers, frequent visits by angels, promises from God, including the blessings of the fathers, etc. I am not aware of anyone who is claiming they have received any of that through his teachings, are you?

Thinking that your experience with the Lord validates Denver's alleged revelations and new doctrines is exactly the same error as thinking that the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon makes any and everything the LDS church does valid in God's eyes.

Anyone could have collected and quoted scriptures describing an audience with Christ. This does not imply you are anything special.

The universal message I have heard from Snufferites is that, despite their best efforts, they find themselves struggling with willful sin. They hope that by making a group covenant, they can break through the barrier that has beset them as individuals. I have bad news for you. You will never succeed in a group until you succeed as an individual. The path to Zion is not gathering then repenting. That order is reversed. Nothing can bring you or anyone else to Zion until you repent. It is that simple.

Focus on Christ, or focus on Denver?

While Christ can come to anyone, including sinners, he will not abide with anyone who has not fully repented, for no sin can abide in God's presence. Seeing Jesus is wonderful, but it is not the same as being redeemed from the fall / being saved. Only those who have achieved the latter can enter Zion, and this is why it is so critically important to know if Denver's path can get you there or not. If his teachings don't provide a path to sinlessness, they are at best a distraction, and at worst a damning barrier to salvation.

Has Denver claimed some idea, prayer, statement, ordinance, revelation, etc., that came exclusively to him, which applies to everyone and is relevant to salvation? Many, many times.

Here are just a few. Which have you validated, how did you do it, and what were your results?
-Baptism is only valid if done in the way God has revealed to him.
-Authoritative baptism happens when performed by a man who has been sustained by 7 women. God did not provide that instruction, but, according to Denver, agreed to it after Denver suggested it to him.
-Authoritative baptism must be recorded in his record book kept by Keith Henderson.
-Keith was voted on and accepted after Denver endorsed him (there were 3 contenders)
-Denver's revelations are to be canonized soon.
-Denver has rewritten the book of John.
-Denver has claimed to have received a covenant which will either deliver people to Zion or damn them.
-Denver has claimed to "have a dispensation," that new covenants come only through dispensation heads, that old dispensations are closed and their promises discontinued when new dispensations are opened, and that those who reject a covenant through a dispensation head are damned.
-Denver claims that the Lord removed priesthood from the LDS church as a result of their excommunicating him.
-In addition to expanding the content of the scriptures, Denver instructed the scriptures committee to write a set of "governing principles," a new version of D&C 20, a new rule book. Apparently, there is a difference of opinion on what it should contain, as the scriptures committee has a version, and several people outside the committee have written and submitted their own. People are literally writing their own rules.

Recall that anyone who makes a man their mediator is critically limited in their ascent towards God. Logic dictates that they can never ascend beyond the mistakes of the man they follow, and history (such as the followers of Joseph Smith in his day) suggests they rarely even make it that far. Why not? Because whereas the individual they follow attained whatever stature they have with God through following the Holy Ghost, their idolators can follow them without ever establishing their own connection to God. This is why the Lord taught that those who follow a man are limited to telestial glory, no matter who that man is, and why following one even so great as Moses led millions of Israelites into telestial glory, save 2 who emulated Moses' example and followed the Lord instead.

Fake it till you make it?

Thus far, Denver has demonstrated an unusual pattern of behavior in his actions and purported revelations. He desires something that the Lord has not yet commanded, he starts moving in that direction, then asks God to approve what he is doing, and says God does approve it.

We see this pattern in Denver's version of baptism. Denver asked the Lord to modify the way he authorized men to act in his name because he felt women needed more inclusion in the process, and he says that God agreed to do it.

We see this pattern in the temple fund. Denver admits that God has not commanded a temple to be built. Because Denver thinks he has to one day, he has suggested that people start donating money to that end, so that when God commands it, they will be ready to obey.

We see this pattern in the purported covenant. A group of people said they wanted to reprint some former editions of the scriptures. They consulted Denver. He said this would actually be much more: a revision that they would conduct, then take to God as a covenant. He added his own work. Then he prayed, and claims that God revealed a covenant in response.

We see this pattern in his idea that he "could be" the one mighty and strong. Aside from the fact that he taught for a long time that Christ was the one mighty and strong, Denver has never claimed that God told him that he is this person, or that he has received those assignments from God. He has been asked directly, and he responded that his view is that this person cannot claim that title until they do what that person has done. He is actively pursuing all the tasks he understands this person's responsibility to do. I asked him when God ever followed the pattern of expecting people to guess they have a certain role, and then guess how God wants them to fulfill that role, and then wait till God either tells them they got it right or tells them to knock it off.

I will tell you something that God told me: The one mighty and strong has not yet been called. He does not know who he is. Those who claim they are him are either lucky guessers, but have yet to receive instruction, or are liars.

In my experience, those who insist on doing something a certain way without revelation (otherwise known as steadying the ark), then pray and pray until God confirms want they want to hear will always get an answer. Unfortunately, it rarely comes from God. As Joseph Smith said, "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil."

Now, I could make an argument about how God is not in the merger and acquisition business, adopting the actions of freelancing people who think they have a mission from him. But instead, I will ask:

1. What do we already have in the scriptures? What does the covenant add that we do not have access to already? It only makes sense if you believe that somehow you don't have access to what is already in the scriptures. The only way you believe that is if you believe in Denver's (and the LDS church's) definition of dispensations, both of which are easily proven false from the scriptures.

2. What makes God's kingdom his kingdom and not ours? Our adherence to his words, not the other way around. Great things can happen from small things, and a righteous man can come to the point where he can influence the councils in heaven. However, incredible restraint must be exercised in these matters, because when Israel asks for a king, God gives them a king, and with it all the curses that come from choosing an earthly king over a heavenly king. The Snufferites have asked God for an LDS-type prophet, an intermediary between them and God, and God has given them one, and with it all the curses that come with them having chosen an earthly prophet instead of taking Jesus Christ himself as their prophet.

I believe that Denver has indeed had many real experiences with the Lord. I believe that he accomplished his first mission, which was to testify of the truthfulness of the scriptures describing an audience with Christ. Whatever his second mission, I believe that he has veered off course, allowing his pride and ambition to deviate him from the task of focusing people on the Lord directly, and not through him as a mediator. He has turned away from his earlier claims that he will not start a church, that he will not be a strongman, and that he will not repeat the mistakes of Joseph Smith and the LDS church.

I believe this vision: I believe the Lord was showing Denver what would happen if he stayed the course. 

He has assumed he is much more important than he actually is, and part of that has come from his pride, part from the unrighteous idolatrous desires of those around him, and part from the devil, who seeks to discredit his earlier contribution.

I don't think it is too late for him to repent, but I do believe he will choose not to. Because of this, the real outcome will deviate from the vision starting when Denver woke up. Instead of what he saw, this is what will happen:

7 And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God, and to arrange by lot the inheritances of the saints whose names are found, and the names of their fathers, and of their children, enrolled in the book of the law of God;
8 While that man, who was called of God and appointed, that putteth forth his hand to steady the ark of God, shall fall by the shaft of death, like as a tree that is smitten by the vivid shaft of lightning.
9 And all they who are not found written in the book of remembrance shall find none inheritance in that day, but they shall be cut asunder, and their portion shall be appointed them among unbelievers, where are wailing and gnashing of teeth. (D&C 85)
The irony of this will be profound. The Snufferites think they are following the one mighty and strong, and think that having their names in Keith Henderson's book gives them right to an inheritance in Zion and protection from the desolation. Instead, they will completely miss when the real one mighty and strong is raised up by God, because like the Jews with Jesus, their vision of what that will be like is after the way of the world and not the way of God. They will be shocked to see "that [other] man, called of God and appointed...fall by the shaft of death" suddenly, and will scatter to the four winds when they realize their mediator upon whom they had hinged their salvation will not be capable of giving them an "inheritance in that day," but they will be "cut asunder" by the desolation that floods them, along with the "unbelievers."
44 For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.
45 For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
46 And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.
47 And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.
48 And the Father teacheth him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you, which is confirmed upon you for your sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the whole world.
49 And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin.
50 And by this you may know they are under the bondage of sin, because they come not unto me.
51 For whoso cometh not unto me is under the bondage of sin.
52 And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me.
53 And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked, and that the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now.
54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received
55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
57 And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written
58 That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.
59 For shall the children of the kingdom pollute my holy land? Verily, I say unto you, Nay. (D&C 84)

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.