Category Archives: Doctrine

What is Grace? with Brad Wilcox

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In this episode, Dr. Brad Wilcox joins Nick Galieti to discuss the grace of Christ.

Grace is a term often misunderstood. Dr. Wilcox sheds clarity on the concept and shows how the LDS Church proclaims a gospel of grace. The term can be found in hymns, in conference talks, and throughout the Book of Mormon.

By demystifying and destigmatizing the concept of grace, he invites us to explore how this important doctrine relates to how we may use Christ’s gift in our lives — not just once, but continually.

Find links to the articles referenced in this podcast at LDS Perspectives.

Grace

Yongsung Kim painted the featured cover art. You may purchase this picture at Foundation Arts.

 

4th Watch 23: The challenge of discipleship

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4thWatch SmallBack in the day, late 60’s and the early 70’s just across the border in Rosarito Beach, Baja California the big “X” XERB was one of the flamethrower am radio stations of its day. The big “X” was the brainchild of Robert Weston Smith.  Bob Smith?  So who is Bob Smith?  If you don’t recognize the name you just might remember the voice.

It’s the “Wolfman.”  He was one of the most successful disk jockeys of his day.  You might remember him in the movie “American Graffiti” done by George Lucas in 1973.  The Wolfman made a considerable amount of money on the big “X” and most of it came from the late night programs that came to be known as the prayer shawl preachers or PSP’s as I call them.

At one point Wolfman Jack was said to be making over $50,000.00 a month from the revenue generated by these programs.  A considerable amount of cash back then which did NOT go unnoticed by the Mexican authorities. Kind of like when Han Solo said to Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars movie, “ancient weapons and hokey religions are no match for a good blaster at your side kid.” The blaster of the PSP’s made the bucks.  I’m not sure how the radio station changed hands but the Wolfman got pushed out and things changed.

Running at 250,000 watts XERB could be heard from border to border.  American stations could only broadcast at 50,000 watts of power due to FCC regulations so the big “X” was quite an adventure for am radio.

If we go back further in time the most powerful commercial radio station in the ever in the USA was WLW in the (700KHz AM) in Cincinnati Ohio, which during certain times in the 1930’s broadcast 500,000 watts of radiated power.  At night, it covered half the globe.  Neighbors within the vicinity of the transmitter heard the audio in their pots, pans and mattresses, literally.  I’m providing a link in the show notes for those who may be interested in the history of WLW.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/wlw

Today we have the new and improved border blasters and you’re listening to one of them now.  The internet podcast.  Just about anyone with a computer and microphone can produce and air podcasts.  For that matter you can effectively have your own TV station.  It’s called YouTube.  All without the need for mass quantities of money.

Bob Dylan sang the lyrics of our day thinking he was just talking about the days in which he lived.  That was in 1964.  Over fifty years ago. Truly the times are a changing and I would suspect that in another fifty years our todays might seem as foolish to those who look upon us from their enlightened era with mild if not outright amusement.

Some things don’t change and for good reason.  Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is one of those things that doesn’t change.  The way we show our discipleship does and should change to adapt to the environment and culture in which we live.  What may be welcomed in Mormon Central aka Salt Lake City Utah may not be well received in another part of the world but our intent should always be the same. To represent our Lord and Savior and his loving and kindness by using our hands as His hands and the tone of our voice as He would talk to those in need of His care.

In October of 2006 brother James A. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offered this view of discipleship.

Our responsibility is clear for those who have received the testimony of Jesus Christ.  To become His disciples.

In doing so I try hard not to denigrate another’s testimony or their faith tradition.  In the opening of this podcast I referred to the “prayer shawl preachers” in a manner that some may see or in this case hear as unacceptable . Truth is often in the ear of the beholder because our intent is interpreted by the distance from our heads to our hearts and that takes time.  Oh, I know what you think I meant but I’m not sure what you heard is what was in my heart. Yes yes, I know. Ain’t it the truth?  Does this happen to you?  Happens to me.

When such events take place I try really hard to apologize and not defend what I said or did.  It is not about being right but building a bridge of understanding.  Brother Ned, you need to build a bridge to get over yourself!  Sorry if my style offends you.  I meant no disrespect.  I’m sorry.  Well, you’re still a jerk!  I sorry you feel that way.  It’s just my amateur attempt at humor.  Amateur?  You got that right! Now Brother Ned,…

So you got a spiritual wound did you?  Here, let me have a look under that bandaged dressing. Oh, you’ll be fine just take some Life-N-All and call me in the morning.  By the way, Life-N-All is available online at Brother Ned’s Discount Warehouse of Worship right here in Boise Idaho, say hallelujah! Life-N-All is the only supplement that contains the three essential elements to get you up to speed and keep your there.  Vitamins R, P and M.

What’s next?

Do what you can do not what someone else can do.  They may need just what you have.  Your hands may what they see and feel.  It may be your voice that offers what they need to hear.  Perhaps your smile is the one they can understand better than anyone else’s.  Make sense?

I would like to offer two extreme views of how we can experience the gospel as a disciple of Jesus.  The first one I call the “Mormon-Gnostics” or as   Cassandra Hedelius would say Mormon Gnosticism.   She gave a presentation at the August 7, 2015 annual conference of the FairMormon group about this subject which you can read with the link I’m providing in the show notes…

http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2015-fairmormon-conference/a-house-of-order-a-house-of-god

They go too far.  There is little if any need of a Church structure.  The only relationship that counts is the one with the Lord.

Going to the other extreme are those whom I call the Corporate Mormons.  They have turned the gospel into a company.  By what they say and do they wind up worshipping the structure instead of He who created them.  They go too far.  If you find yourself going too far in one of these directions start asking yourself questions.  Both directions can lead to dangerous forms of discipleship.

In a Zoom conversation with Scott Gordon a few of us on the FairMormon volunteer blog list had a conversation about the direction our podcasts and written blog articles should be going.  A decision was made to focus our efforts toward your standard and average member who sit in the pews week after week.  So my podcasts are designed to fit that mold.  Mold?  Did I say mold?  Who’s mold?  Standard and average?  So the enlightened or the ultra-ignorant need not read or listen? Ultra-ignorant their talking about you Brother Ned. I’m going to take care of this right now.  Where’s the forget me stick? An effective piece of equipment to be sure.  You decide what’s best for you.  In my view there are no “molds” we are relegated to fit into.  Make up your own mind and choose for yourself.  You are a child of the ever living God. Don’t let me or anyone else tell you what or who you are.

Continuing on…

It is rather easy to see those who are becoming more Gnostic in their form of worship.  They start distancing themselves for Church activity because “they” have received the true light of the gospel.  It might be more difficult for those who are going toward the corporate world view to see that they are becoming administrators of the bureaucracy instead of a minister of the gospel.  Numbers, percentages and ratios may have value for a general overview of how a Ward or congregation is moving but if that becomes our defining attention perhaps our discipleship is moving in the wrong direction.

Next segmento…

You may have seen the movie Mars Attacks or not.  It was done is 1996 and is probably the best spoof of the fifty’s and sixty’s science fiction “B” movies ever made.  If you done seen it you know what I mean if you haven’t you might want to give it try. Extra campy and lots of great performances by well-known actors.

Peirce Brosnan who was great in the 007 movies plays a scientist in this flick who portrays great wisdom and superior knowledge to whom all most bow with awe and reverence.

In one part of the movie some engineer type comes up with a translation device of the Martian language.  All the Martians say in the movie is, ak, ak ak, ak, so we never know what they are really saying until we can hear the translation.  In the clip I’m going to let you hear tell me if it makes sense to you.

Peirce Brosnan is sitting at a table with a pipe in his hand and looking upward as if he has just heard some great new cosmic wisdom.  Also in the room is an Army general.  Both hear the same thing and the general has a different reaction to the translation than that of the great super genius professor.  Being as I’m your basic simple person and not a super genius my reaction to the translation is pretty close to the generals response.

If you are part of a group, congregation, study club or other religious / spiritual path and what you are hearing doesn’t line up with the “four points on the eternal line of wisdom” you might want consider moving away from such an affiliation.

Some of the Mormon-Gnostics may fall into this classification.  For dark is the suede that mows like a harvest is just a bunch of baloney sauce.  Don’t go in that direction.

Next…

The four points of truth? This is part of the brother Ned value system and not to be considered official doctrine but probably should be.  First point.  Our heads.  Second point.  Our hearts.  Third point. Our gut.  Point number four.  The Holy Scriptures.

You ever get that “gut” feeling you know something is just wrong or right?  What does our out gut have to do with feelings?  The Savior told us that His bowels were full of compassion.

Mosiah 15:9, “Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.”

What does mercy have to do with our bowels?  A figurative representation I would think even though back in the day they thought feelings generated in our bowels.  The Savior knew better of course but He was relating in terms they could understand without going into the science of how feelings are created.  Ever heard the saying, “go with your gut?” So, if you’re gut, heart and head line up with God’s revealed word I would say your discipleship is moving in the right direction.

Last segment…

In listening to all these colorful illustrations you may recall something the Lord has pressed upon your “four lines of truth.”   You may remember something you did or said back in your day.  Could have been in ’69 or ’89 or even in ’09 that you considered the best days of your life. A mission perhaps?  You just laid in down and forgot to pick it up again. So, how about we pick it back up and keep moving forward in our discipleship to the glory of Him who is our Lord and Savior.

President Faust offers us a good guideline…

How about if we go about doing good?  We may not need the loud voice that the border blasters used but then again we may need it to get someone’s attencion then the quit voice of love could move in to replace the giant noise of the world’s value system.

In closing what I’m about to offer as a question that just might be the most important part of this podcast.

If you’re listening say Amen…

What if the disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority?

As always the views expressed in this podcast are those of the presenter and may not represent, reflect or even remotely resemble those of anyone who is lives in the real world about anything at any time but they should and are soon be canonized by the Church.  Or not… J

 

 

 

 

4th Watch 22: The High Cost of Resentment

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4thWatch Small

4th Watch 22: The High Cost of Resentment

This podcast is a follow up to my previous one on the “false dichotomy of Truth.”  If you haven’t listened to it I suggest you do so because this will make more sense if you do.

Real truth or false truth…false truth?  How can a truth be false?  Well, that’s why you need to listen to my previous podcast.  It explains how “truth” can be manipulated to put forth an agenda that can distort and even completely misrepresent the original intent or understanding of just about anything.  Think, Dihydrogen Monoxide!

As always in my podcasts I tend to add many colorful alliterations that do not appear in the text of this blog.  Therefore one’s listening experience may differ from just reading the printed words.  J

What does this have to do with resentment?  Good question.  Resentments can arise from what we perceive to be the truth but then learn that we were deceived, cheated or betrayed in trusting whatever it is at the time. Now, when it comes to religion trust is paramount.  We’re talking about God here and not some misleading advertising for a new and improved product.

I saw a gas station sign that listed three types of gas.  Regular, Plus and “V” Power.  Plus?  What’s plus.  This is gasoline.  What are you going to put in it?  Dynamite?  V Power?  What the heck is V Power?  Is it better than H Power?  What about X Power?

Worse than gas grades that are less than clear I witnessed a car that had a really strange placard on its side that said “Blue Drive.”  Blue Drive?  What the [email protected] is Blue Drive?  Is it better than Red Drive or Green Drive?  Wouldn’t White Drive be more clean and wholesome? What’s worse is what kind of gas do you put in a Blue Drive car? Plus or “V” Power?  The cloud of nebulous advertisements boggle the mind.

There are things in life more important than what kind of car you drive and what type of gas you fuel it with.  Resentments over such trivial illustrations are useless.  Someone’s always going to have the next deluxe XB-134 super thing.  So, let’s move on to something more important in life like religion and God.

Like I said before, trust is paramount and when we feel that trust has been violated, resentment can set in.  Bishop so and so did this or that.  Stake president “X” who my brother works for was caught doing…fill in the blank…I heard that Joseph Smith had lots of wives and some as young as fourteen.  Brigham Young said that…another fill in the blank from one of his un-prophet like utterances…the list is extensive for what we thought we knew but latter learn was not the “whole” truth.

At this point I would like to illustrate this concept with a personal experience.  A long time ago, in a Mormon colony far, far away I learned that Joseph Smith had in his possession several what we call today “Seer Stones.”  They were used by the prophet on various occasions to translate the word of God that would become the cannon of the Church or as we would say today.  The “Holy Scriptures.”  I saw these devices as some kind of mystical connection with God that allowed the one who was authorized to use the stones to come somehow into Gods presence and commune with the divine.  Some super engineered and crafted substance beyond our earthly experience and understood only by God himself.   Anybody else held this view of the “seer Stones?” Well, just recently the Church published an article in the Ensign magazine about the seer stone.  I’m providing this link if you would like to read it.  Yeah, so what?  Well, when I first looked at the picture I viewed it through the lens of my God created “super” stone.  As I continued looking at it I realized that it was just a rock.  It only took about fifteen to twenty seconds for my mind to adjust.  It took much longer for my heart and soul to adjust.  It’s a rock!

Sometimes our perceptions create our reality and my reality had to change when faced with this new information.   It can be painful.  Much like the stages of grief.  First is denial and were not talking about the river in Egypt.  Second, anger and this is where a lot of people stay when it comes to having their existing world view injured.  Next, bargaining.  Let’s make a deal here! Then depression.  How can I go on knowing that my previous view of “whatever” was a lie?  Lastly, acceptance.  Many people never get to acceptance because the past can’t be wrong.  It was cast in stone.  If it was cast in sand then how can we trust anything?  Ahhhhh…It’s this the all or nothing, black and white world view that can destroy you.

Let’ get back to the rock seer stone.  I still don’t like the fact that the seer stone is just a rock.  I want it to be something like the stone mentioned in the Book of Revelation 2:17

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

A heavenly secret stone?  Cool…but what if this is just a representation of a principle and not a “real” stone?  Not so cool.  My perception of heavenly things might need an adjustment in this case.  The little kid inside of me wants the super power stone to be real but the adult inside says, “It’s time to grow up and move beyond magic rocks.”

It’s been the worst day sense yesterday.  Doesn’t have to be though.  We can choose to let go of our past pre-conceived notions of how the world works and move forward.  Now, how do we do that?

Let’s look at an example from the scriptures.  Jacob in the Old Testament had twelve sons and his favorite was Joseph.  See Genesis chapter 37 for all the details.  In this account we learn that family issues can lead to serious resentment.  Joseph’s brothers conspired to kill him. Sounds like serious resentment to me.  What caused it?  Could be that they knew that their father favored Joseph over them.  Perhaps Joseph had an attitude about that and kept throwing it in their faces on a regular basis.  Well, it got to the point of “we need to kill him” for whatever reason.  They couldn’t go through with so they sold him into slavery and smeared blood all over this “special coat of many colors” and told their father that some beast/s had killed him and I presume carried off his body so there were no remains to morn and bury.

Time passed.  Joseph was sold in Egypt and put into the house of Potiphar who was said to the captain of the palace guard.  If you’re going to be a slave this might have not been a bad job.  He could have been sold to some garment maker who treated him, well…like a slave.

He did so well in Potiphar’s house that he put Joseph in charge of everything except of course Potiphar’s wife.  She had other ideas though.  She wanted him but he was not going to indulge her.  Guess what the consequences were for sleeping with the master’s wife?  DEATH!   Just like most things for a slave who did not behave properly.

When Joseph refused her things got ugly.  Remember the phrase? Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  That was Potiphar’s wife.  She accused Joseph of trying to force himself on her.  Potiphar knew better.  He wasn’t a stupid man.  You think this was the first time something like this happened?  I don’t think so.  He also knew the character of Joseph.  You think he would jeopardize his standing by doing something so foolish?  I don’t think so.  So, Brother Ned what makes you say this?  There is nothing in the text about this.  Your right but he was sent to jail instead of being executed which means to me that Potiphar knew the real story.  I also think he had a conversation with the head jailer about what kind of man Joseph was and to treat him accordingly.

Did they have different levels of jail back in the day? I would think so because Joseph was sent to the incarceration facility where the kings prisoners like the cupbearer and the baker were residing at the time.  The cupbearer and the baker had dreams they couldn’t understand.  Joseph inquired of the Lord and received interpretations for both of them.    The butler or cupbearer got his job back.  The baker?  Didn’t work out so well for him.  Standard penalty.  Death.

Joseph ask the cupbearer to remember him when he got his job back but he forgot Joseph.  Day after day.  Month after month.  No word from the palace.  At this point in Joseph’s life I wonder what his resentment level was.  His brothers tried to kill him but sold him into slavery instead.  Sent to jail for unjust reasons.  Another day.  Another month.  Another “year.”

Bricks of bitterness could have been built into walls of resentment so thick that nothing could break them down.  Didn’t happen that way though.  The Lord was with him.  Day after day. Month after month.  Year after year.  Then one day Pharaoh had a dream that no one could interpret.  The cupbearer then remembered Joseph and his ability to interpret dreams and mentioned it to his master.  Pharaoh had him cleaned up and brought before the court of Pharaoh’s judgment.  Pharaoh explained his dream and ask for the interpretation thereof.  Penalty for wrong interpretation?  Death.  No stress here.  What if he had allowed his resentment to cloud or interfere with his relationship with the Lord?  Didn’t happen though.

Interpretation of said dream? Seven years of plenty for Egypt and then seven years of drought / famine.  Save during the good years for the bad years to come.  Pharaoh was so impressed with this interpretation that he made Joseph second in command in all of Egypt.  Second only to Pharaoh himself.  Gave him the big house and a wife.  Things were looking up for this former slave.

During the good years under Joseph’s command stockpiles are created and then the famines hit.  The whole region is effected including Jacob’s family.  Jacob sends out some of his sons to go and buy some gain in Egypt.  What do you think Joseph’s first thoughts were when he saw his brothers?  I know what my first thoughts would have been.  Well, well, well, look who’s here.  If it isn’t my traitorous brothers groveling for food.  It’s payback time!  This could have been his first thoughts but if they were they didn’t last that long.  Long story short.  The whole family was brought to Egypt and they lived happily ever after.  Maybe.  The part I would like to focus on is not told in the scriptures.  Are you listening?  Say Amen…what was Jacob’s reaction when he learned the truth of how Joseph wound up in Egypt?  We don’t know that story.  How would you react?  I don’t think it’s possible to heal that level of pain without the Lord.  I would venture to say that the healing process did not happen overnight.  Like most things in life serious injuries to both body and spirit takes time to heal.

Some time ago I worked at a Christian radio station and was “forced” to listen to the programing.  Day after day.  Week after week and month after month.  It was a great hobby job were I learned much about the differences in protestant theological teachings.  I also had Christian music implanted into my system as part of this broadcasting experience.  Yeah, so what?  We’re not interested in Brother Ned’s history with apostate associates. Well, you just might be after listening to this song.  It was done in 1984 by a group known as “White Heart.”  The title of the song is seventy times seven.  Its message has never gone away.  It has lasted for over two thousand years.  Tell me if its fits.

What about today and our injuries? Proverbs 18:19, A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.  It is easy to become offended.  Personal experience.  Been there.  Done that.  Got lots of T-shirts to prove it.  In some circumstances frustration, anger and throwing a fit are standard and average responses but we don’t have to hold on to them.  Over time we can let go.  Do you really want to carry around bricks of bitterness?  Rhetorical question of course but how many bricks do you have in your backpack right now?  What would happen if you made the choice to lay them down? A lighter load in life perhaps.  Better health?

Forgiveness is the key.  We can choose to let go.  The more you practice it the easier it becomes just like most things in life.  When you first start to let go you will be surprised how fast those bricks jumps right back into your bag.  Just lay it down again and walk away.  This time it will run after you and start complaining because of abandonment.  Again, you have the right to choose what you will hold onto in life.  The more you let it go the longer it takes to wind its way back until it no longer catches up with you.

Now, most things in life are NOT deliberate attempts to get you like the story of Joseph in Egypt.  His brothers were out to get him and they almost succeeded. It appears that they repented of the evil they had done and Joseph forgave them.  Probably didn’t happen as an event but took place over time.  We can do the same “if” we want to.  This is something you really have to want to do because Satan wants you to hold on to every brick of resentment you can carry.   Put those bricks back!  They deserve your bitterness…whoever they or it is at the time.  How much do you want to suffer and for how long?  Less suffering and shorter time is good for me.  How about you?

In the Church this brick holding resentment can become real painful.  Again, personal experience.  I was deceived!  I was…fill in the blank.  I don’t doubt the experience or your pain.  What I want to do is help you let go of the pain.  This may even require the help of professional counselors but let me be extremely clear here.  It can be done, over time.

I keep going back to the story of how much time it took for Jacob to get over his resentment concerning his own sons.  What if his sons had not repented?  Oh, that would been a bad day or a lifetime for Jacob.  Still the choice would have still been there for him.  Hold on to the resentment or let it go.  I would think that if they had not repented his resentment would have turned into sadness and that sadness would have given rise to the possibility of his son’s future repentance.  That would have given him hope.  Isn’t that what we want?  Hope for the future.

The day will come when all things will be made right.  That day is not here yet but we are on the way to it “if” we choose.   Romans 8:28, And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.  So what is His purpose?  The gospel message is clear on this one.  To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.  Moses 1:39.  But how does resentment fit into this purpose?  It is our choice.  The moral choice to forgive.  I think sometimes what we want in life is mercy for ourselves and justice for just about everyone else.  That sound about right? But I just can’t let go! (forget me stick clip).  Perhaps you could use the “forget me stick” to break up the bricks of bitterness that build the walls of resentment. You could turn you back on them.  Walk away.  Whatever imagery works best for you. This moral choice to give up our resentment can and will free us from continued suffering in this life and the life to come.  Hold on to it and it will follow us into the next life where the suffering will continue until we choose to give it up and receive God’s grace.

I would like to close with the words of brother Dieter F. Uchtdorf.  Second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Each of us is under a divinely spoken obligation to reach out with pardon and mercy and to forgive one another. There is a great need for this Christ like attribute in our families, in our marriages, in our wards and stakes, in our communities, and in our nations.  We will receive the joy of forgiveness in our own lives when we are willing to extend that joy freely to others. Lip service is not enough. We need to purge our hearts and minds of feelings and thoughts of bitterness and let the light and the love of Christ enter in. As a result, the Spirit of the Lord will fill our souls with the joy accompanying divine peace of conscience.”  ― Dieter F. Uchtdorf

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are the sole responsibility of the speaker and may not represent those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon.

 

Book Review: “The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon: A Marvelous Work and a Wonder”

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The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon: A Marvelous Work and a Wonder

Available from the FairMormon Bookstore at 15% off

This book contains the papers from the 44th Annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, held in October, 2015. The Sperry Symposium is held annually, and draws most of its speakers from the Church Educational System. Each year’s theme is usually based on the book of scripture that will be studied by LDS adults in the coming year, and this volume fits right in with this year’s Gospel Doctrine study of the Book of Mormon.

The first paper in the book is by Elder Merrill J. Bateman. He gave the keynote speech on “The Coming Forth of Plain and Precious Truths.” He describes many aspects of the gospel that may be only vaguely mentioned in the Bible, but for which we learn much more from the Book of Mormon. Some examples are the plan of salvation, the premortal life, the fall of Adam, the atonement and resurrection, and specific doctrines taught by Christ.

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“What Should I Do If I Think I’ve Received Revelation Different from Apostles and Prophets?”

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What ought we to do if we believe we have received revelation that differs with the united voice of the First Presidency and Twelve apostles?

One of the great strengths–and arguably one of the defining features–of LDS doctrine as a belief in on-going revelation, both to Church leaders and individuals members. Members understand that the revelation they receive is only for their areas of stewardship and responsibility.

What should we do, then, in the case where we sincerely believe we have received revelation that tells us that the highest councils of united Church leaders are mistaken?

I here suggest five important principles drawn from apostles and prophets about such situations, which have blessed my life.
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Gospel Hobbies and the Danger of “All-Consuming Patriotism”

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Recent developments in rural Oregon have prompted Church leaders to respond to the claims of some Latter-day Saints who have taken up arms to protest the actions of the United States federal government.

For over one hundred years, Church presidents and apostles have warned against “religious hobbies” or “gospel hobbies,” which President Joseph F. Smith described as “dangerous because they give undue prominence to certain [gospel] principles or ideas to the detriment and dwarfing of others just as important, just as binding, just as saving” as the doctrines an individual may personally favor (Gospel Doctrine, p. 143).

In 2003 Elder Quentin L. Cook, then a member of the Seventy, explained:

The Lord said regarding important doctrine, “Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me” (D&C 10:68) and “That which is more or less than this cometh of evil” (D&C 124:120). We are looking beyond the mark when we elevate any one principle, no matter how worthwhile it may be, to a prominence that lessens our commitment to other equally important principles or when we take a position that is contrary to the teachings of the Brethren.

(“Looking beyond the Mark,” Ensign, March 2003.)

Warning specifically against the gospel hobby of “all-consuming patriotism,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught in 1992:

Love of country is surely a strength, but carried to excess it can become the cause of spiritual downfall. There are some citizens whose patriotism is so intense and so all-consuming that it seems to override every other responsibility, including family and Church. I caution those patriots who are participating in or provisioning private armies and making private preparations for armed conflict. Their excessive zeal for one aspect of patriotism is causing them to risk spiritual downfall as they withdraw from the society of the Church and from the governance of those civil authorities to whom our twelfth article of faith makes all of us subject.

(“Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, October 1994.)

The Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ

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the-first-vision-82823-galleryThis post by FairMormon volunteer Jordan Latimer was originally delivered as a farewell address on May 24, 2015. Elder Latimer will begin his service as a missionary in the Oklahoma Tulsa Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in June 2015.

Early in the spring of 1820, a troubled young man named Joseph Smith retired to a grove near his home and prayed to God. He was unsure which of the churches of that day he should join. Kneeling down, he asked God to provide him with the answers he so earnestly desired. He desired his salvation and wanted to know which church would be able to grant it. His prayer was answered, and in quite an extraordinary manner. Two beings appeared to him, identifying themselves as Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Christ answered Joseph’s question, informing him that none of the churches of the day had the ability to provide him with what was necessary for salvation. He instructed him to join none of the churches, because the fullness of his gospel was to be restored in his lifetime. Little did Joseph know that it was through him that it would be restored.

This experience set in motion what we in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints call the Restoration.

After the death of the Christ’s apostles, the authority to perform priesthood ordinances was lost for centuries, and the world entered a state of apostasy. This apostasy had been prophesied by Paul in his 2nd epistle to the Thessalonians: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [meaning the day of Christ’s return] shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thess. 2:3) Many early Christians probably didn’t expect this “falling away” to come so soon. Not only did the death of the apostles cause a loss of authority, it also led to unauthorized changes in doctrine and ordinances.

But his epistle to the Thessalonians is not the only place where prophecies of the coming apostasy can be found. When speaking to the elders at Ephesus, Paul said that after his departing, “grievous wolves [shall] enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29). He informed Timothy that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3). Peter also prophesied of such corruption, saying that false teachers would “bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Pet. 2:1).

The death of the apostles resulted in the loss of the priesthood keys needed to perform saving ordinances. Also, because there was no prophet on the earth, revelation could no longer be received for all of Christ’s church. The pure doctrines of Christ began to be corrupted by the philosophies of men. Without the gift of the Holy Ghost, people struggled to determine the difference between truth and falsehood. The church that Christ established was ultimately lost.

Fortunately, the Lord planned to restore the gospel in the latter-days, prior to his coming. This restoration would usher in the last days and would be the final time that Christ would restore his church upon the earth. We know that Joseph Smith was the vessel through which truths were restored. A list of things restored may be helpful.

The Restoration restored the true nature of the relationship between Heavenly Father, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. In the 4th century A.D. the doctrine of the Trinity was first articulated. This blend of Greek philosophy and Christianity introduced a concept of God people have been trying to comprehend ever since. Joseph Smith restored knowledge of the true nature of the Godhead: that they are three separate beings, who are united in purpose. Joseph restored the concept that we are children of both a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. Jesus Christ is our brother, the first spirit-born of the Father, and the savior of the world. Both Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have bodies of flesh and bone. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit, and its role is to comfort, testify of truth, and bestow gifts of the spirit. As Moroni said: “By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). The Restoration rejected the idea of Original Sin. Instead of the Fall being a grievous mistake by Adam and Eve, it was a necessary part of the plan of salvation for God’s children. Adam and Eve didn’t mess things up. They did what was necessary to move God’s plan forward. As the prophet Lehi said, “Adam fell that men might be. And men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). And while most Christians believe that Eve, the mother of all living, failed, we know that she actually succeeded. Eve’s role in moving the plan forward is very significant. True to the title of “mother,” she made the choices necessary for mankind to exercise their powers of procreation and provide bodies for God’s spirit children. The role of righteous women cannot be dismissed when the true story of the Garden of Eden is realized.

The Restoration simplified and clarified the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel. These are listed in the 4th Article of Faith. “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Article of Faith 4). While such concepts have always been a crucial part of Christianity, the LDS church provides this outline in its purest, simplest form. It also clarifies the manner in which baptism is to be performed. Immersion is required. This is symbolic of the death of the natural man, and the birth into sainthood.

The Restoration restored the power of the priesthood, and the authority to act in God’s name. All of the keys necessary for providing saving ordinances and of receiving revelation for God’s children now reside with our current prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. As the 5th Article of Faith says, “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof” (Article of Faith 5). Through the priesthood power, we can be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, be endowed, and be sealed to spouses and other family members in the House of the Lord.

Speaking of the House of the Lord, the Restoration restored the practice of building and worshiping in temples. In the temple, we can perform ordinances necessary for eternal life. The initiatory and the endowment ceremony are both ordinances that help qualify us for exaltation. They provide power from God, and help to protect us from the deception of the adversary. Such blessings are not only for the living, however. The temple allows and encourages work for the dead. How comforting this doctrine is, to know that the blessings of salvation can be provided to our ancestors who have passed on. It is a fulfillment of the words of Moroni, who said that the prophet Elijah “shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming” (Joseph Smith–History 1:39).

The Restoration produced the largest women’s organization in the world. The Relief Society is an essential element of the organization of the church. It has provided and will continue to provide countless hours of selfless service for the Lord’s church. The organization of the Church was not complete until the Relief Society was organized.

The Restoration presented additional scripture to support and clarify the word of God contained in the Bible. The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price provide inspiration and direction in a day full of deception. In particular, the translation of the Book of Mormon was essential to the establishment of truth, and it provides strong evidence for Joseph Smith’s prophetic authority, for only a man of God could bring forth such a text.

The Restoration provided a church that is self-reliant. The Church provides a powerful welfare system. This system includes ranches, orchards, vineyards, canneries, bakeries, meat and milk processing facilities, storehouses, and its own transportation and funding. The church also provides education, counseling, and addiction recovery for individuals inside and outside the church. There’s also Deseret Industries, which provides jobs for thousands of individuals. And, to top it all off, the Church has done extensive humanitarian work in over 178 countries and territories. This work includes clean water, vision care, food production, wheelchair projects, neonatal resuscitation training, emergency response, and a measles campaign. Such service is done to fulfill the promises of baptism “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; to mourn with those that mourn; and [to] comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9).

The Restoration added knowledge concerning the Atonement of Christ, the most significant event in the history of the world. Our teachings on the Atonement are reflected in the words of Alma: “And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance” (Alma 7:12–13). The Lord descended below all things that we may ascend above all things. The power of Christ’s Atonement can change our minds, hearts, and desires, if we only turn to him and rely upon his grace. We know that works are required for salvation, and that we will be judged by them; but we also know that we are ultimately saved by the grace of God. As King Benjamin said, “If ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:21). We are completely dependent upon Christ’s Atonement for our salvation.

The Restoration provided knowledge of our pre-mortal life. We learn of the council of the gods, where Heavenly Father introduced a plan for us to become like him. Jehovah volunteered to fulfill the plan, and the glory would be to the father. He said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever” (Moses 4:2). Such humility and selflessness was not to be found in Lucifer, who wanted it done a different way. He said, “I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1). Jehovah was chosen, and Lucifer was cast out for seeking to destroy the agency of man and attempting to elevate himself above the Father. We are here on this earth because we chose the father and his plan. This life tests us on how we will use our agency. Will we use our agency to further the work of the Father, or will we use it to further the work of the Adversary? The choice is ours. Because we will slip up at times, the Lord has provided a Savior, Jesus Christ, to satisfy the demands of justice and forge the way back into his presence.

The Restoration explained elements of the post-mortal life as well. We know that when we die, our spirits enter the spirit world, which is divided into spirit prison and spirit paradise. In the words of Alma, “Then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow. And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil [shall be] in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection” (Alma 40:12–13). Further light and knowledge was given to Joseph F. Smith in a vision. He saw that those in spirit prison would actually have a chance to accept Christ’s Atonement and begin living the gospel. Messengers from spirit paradise teach them. He said, “But behold, from among the righteous, he [meaning Jesus Christ] organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:30).

The Restoration restored knowledge of the three kingdoms of glory. In 1832, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon had a vision wherein they saw the three kingdoms of glory, with their respective inhabitants. The Celestial Kingdom will contain “they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name” (D&C 76:51). The Terrestrial Kingdom will contain those “who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it. These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men” (D&C 76:74–75). The Telestial Kingdom will contain those that “received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:82).

The Restoration provides more information on our potential exaltation and eternal life. Our inheritance isn’t merely a small cloud and a golden harp, to sing praises to God for all eternity. Christ revealed to Joseph a more profound reward for righteousness when he said, “He that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him” (D&C 84:37–38). How much does Heavenly Father, the creator of the universe and everything contained therein, have? A lot, to put it mildly. And all that he has is promised to us. We cannot fathom the blessings that the Father has prepared for us. As Paul said, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). We do know one thing: that we shall receive the status of godhood. In the Doctrine and Covenants, Christ said, “And then shall the angels be crowned with the glory of his might, and the saints shall be filled with his glory, and receive their inheritance and be made equal with him” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:107). Christ also said, “Wherefore, as it is written, they [meaning the saints] are gods, even the sons of God. Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. And they shall overcome all things” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:58–60). As the primary song says, we truly are children of God.

There are many more teachings that the Restoration brought forth. Such truths can be found in Church publications and the scriptures. I encourage Church members of all ages to study the Restoration and feast upon the doctrine and principles that have been restored by the Lord. Follow the Lord’s counsel to “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith” (D&C 109:7). I promise that if you do, the Lord will testify of truth by the power of Holy Ghost.

Fair Issue 87: Is the “Promised Land” limited to one area?

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MAIn this episode brother Ash relates how the term “promised Land” can refer to many areas and is not confined to any specific geographical location but to a faithful people.

The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FairMormon Bookstore. Tell your friends about the Mormon Fair-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the Mormon Fair-Cast by subscribing to this podcast in iTunes, and by rating it and writing a review.

The views and opinions expressed in the podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon

 

 

4th Watch: My Testimony

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4thWatch SmallBrother Nick Galieti, the podcast manager for FairMormon, asked for our personal testimony as a special gift this Easter. I responded that it would be an honor. Testimonies are often given in LDS sacrament meetings on a local level to a few hundred; but as a podcaster I get the privilege to share my testimony to many thousands. It is indeed a true honor that I take seriously. There are places in the world today where any public expression of religious belief is met with ridicule and government suppression. With such a privilege comes responsibility and I would like to start my testimony with the words of Elder Holland. In the October 2014 conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints he said this in reference to the forth mission of the Church: To care for the poor and needy.

In what would be the most startling moment of His early ministry, Jesus stood up in His home synagogue in Nazareth and read these words prophesied by Isaiah and recorded in the Gospel of Luke: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and … set at liberty them that are bruised.”

Thus, the Savior made the first public announcement of His messianic ministry. But this verse also made clear that on the way to His ultimate atoning sacrifice and Resurrection, Jesus’ first and foremost messianic duty would be to bless the poor, including the poor in spirit.

From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus loved the impoverished and the disadvantaged in an extraordinary way. He was born into the home of two of them and grew up among many more of them. We don’t know all the details of His temporal life, but He once said, “Foxes have holes, and … birds … have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Apparently the Creator of heaven and earth “and all things that in them are” was, at least in His adult life, homeless.

Down through history, poverty has been one of humankind’s greatest and most widespread challenges. Its obvious toll is usually physical, but the spiritual and emotional damage it can bring may be even more debilitating. In any case, the great Redeemer has issued no more persistent call than for us to join Him in lifting this burden from the people. As Jehovah, He said He would judge the house of Israel harshly because “the spoil of the [needy] is in your houses.”

“What mean ye,” He cried, “that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor?”

The writer of Proverbs would make the matter piercingly clear: “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker,” and “whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor … shall [also] cry himself, but shall not be heard.”

In our day, the restored Church of Jesus Christ had not yet seen its first anniversary when the Lord commanded the members to “look to the poor and … needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer.” Note the imperative tone of that passage—“they shall not suffer.” That is language God uses when He means business.

I agree with Elder Holland. When the Lord uses this type of language, He means business. In the book of James chapter 1 verse 27, pure religion is defined: “Pure religion and undefiled before God the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” As members of the Lord’s Church we have a sacred responsibility to succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees as recorded in the 81st section of the Doctrine and Covenants. It is my testimony the Lord stands ready to receive all those who come until Him. He is the great healer. The perfect physician and His Church is committed to performing this great commission. In Jeremiah 29:11 we read. “For I know the plans1 I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper2 you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This hope is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ and I for one stand ready at all times and in all places to give an answer to everyone who asks me a reason for the hope that is in me with kindness and patience for those with whom I witness and respect and reverence for almighty God. (1 Peter 3:15.)

Personally, I honor the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence concerning these penned words: “[W]ith a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” I can say with full purpose of heart that I pledge my life, whatever fortune I may have and my sacred honor to the Father of Heaven and Earth and His Son the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for Their purpose and glory. We read in Romans 8:16 that “the Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” It is to him that we need look for our purpose and hope in this life and the life to come. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

As always the views and opinions expressed in this podcast may not represent those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon.

A Plea to Seminary Teachers and Parents

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seminary-class-1112861-galleryOver the last several years, the LDS Church history department has become increasingly open about the Church’s history. This can be seen in the work made available by the Joseph Smith Paper’s Project and in the recent release of several milestone Gospel Topics essays, especially those on the practice of polygamy by members of the LDS Church during the nineteenth century.

In an unanticipated and exciting step in the right direction, the LDS Church has now decided to teach this information in seminary classes. Parents can view the lessons on D&C 132 and the discussion of Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy on the lds.org website under seminary lessons here and temple-marriage-766624-galleryhere.

I urge parents to not only read the lessons but also discuss them together as a family. These lessons are carefully written to emphasize those aspects of the section dedicated to eternal marriage and can serve as a basic introduction to the early practice of polygamy in Nauvoo.

From these lessons, students will be taught about eternal marriage, the zenith doctrine of the Restoration. Then they will be taught that God commanded Joseph Smith to establish polygamy as part of the restitution of all things, he married many women, and it was a trial for both Joseph and Emma Smith. It was also a trial for other early polygamists who were reluctant to participate. Fortunately, this was a temporary commandment that was removed in 1890. These are not easy topics to discuss or understand, but avoiding them will not make them go away.

An Op Ed piece written by Kristy Money, a member of the Ordain Woman board, was published in the Salt Lake Tribune on Sunday, March 29, encouraging the boycott of these lessons by seminary teachers and parents. This seems like a step backwards if we want to be open about our past. In urging nonparticipation, she listed several concerns. Interestingly, what I read in the lessons was quite different from the references in Ms. Money’s essay.

Students will not be taught God commanded Joseph to marry teenagers, which is good because there is no evidence that he was ever commanded to marry teenaged brides, even though he did.

Students will not be taught that Joseph married women without Emma’s knowledge. Parents may, emma-hale-smith-155871-thumbnailhowever, want to discuss this with their children, as the LDS Gospel Topics essay on Nauvoo polygamy covers this concern.

The lesson does not teach that “if a man simply ‘desires a virgin,’ he has a God-given right to take her as a plural wife,” despite the opinion of his first wife. This is a simplified contortion of complicated doctrine, and it is best that students learn it as worded in the revelation instead of how it is interpreted from critics or spun on the Internet.

The lesson does not teach the only reason polygamy was practiced was to raise righteous seed. It is listed as one of the reasons “as part of the restitution of all things.” The Gospel Topics essays also mention it being a customized trial for the Saints of that time. Parents may want to discuss these other reasons with their children.

Ms. Money contends that “sexual predators have been using these rationalizations to seduce girls long before the church recently published them.” If this is the case, then, as parents, we need to do all we can to make sure our teenagers are properly informed of what the historical record showsportrait-family-941042-gallery regarding Joseph’s institution of polygamy and its limited practice, so they will not fall prey to such reprehensible acts out of ignorance. D&C 132 explicitly condemns sexual relations outside of the bounds of marriage.

The LDS Church is to be commended for their continual efforts to increase dialogue regarding challenging topics. As members, let’s own our genuine past and study our canonized scripture. Protecting our children includes teaching them truth, so when they encounter misinformation they can recognize it as error. As parents and their children discuss these deep doctrines and difficult aspects of history, they can move toward a better understanding of Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy.

Laura Harris Hales is the mother of a seminary student and the co-author of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding (Kofford Books, 2015).