Sunday, October 26, 2014

My Witness - A Commitment To Follow Christ

Today was a special day for me.  I entered the waters of baptism and was baptized by one having authority. I was also given the privilege of receiving authority from Christ to baptize a friend.  We performed these baptisms in living water, at Inlet Cove next to Utah Lake.  I am grateful to my Savior for His atoning sacrifice, for His example, and His love.  I have partaken of His love and desire to receive more, and to bring others to Him.

I was baptized at 8 years old in the LDS tradition.  I chose to be baptized again today as a symbol of a covenant I have entered into with the Lord, after the pattern of Mosiah 18.  This token is also an expression to the Lord that I believe the words that have been spoken by Denver Snuffer and others are from God.  I appreciate how God delivers His words through unexpected and unlikely places.  I have been witness to this on many occasions.

This is my third baptism.  I baptized myself (as Alma did) last year at Bear Lake, also as a witness to God that I would serve Him.  I love how we can renew our commitment to God, and seal it by ordinance on earth as it is in heaven.  This is a true renewal of covenants.

I praise the name of Jesus Christ.  I look forward to the great day where the veil will part.  I seek such a blessing in this life, in the flesh.  I have been a recipient of the cleansing power of the baptism of fire, and I can testify with authority that Christ can and does forgive sins.  He can and does give sacred promises and covenants to us, directly from Him to our ears, eyes, and minds, independent of any other authority or person  He does show Himself to us in vision.  He does give direction to us every day, every hour, if we will but humble ourselves and listen.  All of these things I know for myself because they have happened in my life.  I know that some will mock, some will disbelieve, some will think I'm crazy.  But I say with authority that these things are true.  Amen.

Friday, September 19, 2014

It's True

I have a few thoughts to share today.  My thoughts have been quite a whirlwind since September 9th.

Throughout this journey of faith, I have felt the Lord's guiding hand, and have continued to feel His hand and hear His voice.  He even helps me when I am weak and when I fail, and for this I am immensely grateful.

Since reading Passing the Heavenly Gift in October 2012, I have heard the Spirit bear witness of the truth of the things Denver Snuffer has said in his books, on his blog, and in the Zion lectures.  Perhaps the biggest bombshell of all came on September 9th, when Denver said this:

Section 121 is a warning to church leaders. It is addressing the powerful, not the powerless. It is addressing those who occupy the seats of authority over others. Only those who claim the right to control, compel, and exercise dominion, are warned against persecuting the saints, who believe the religion and practice it as I did from the time of my conversion. My excommunication was an abuse of authority. Therefore, as soon as the decision was made, the Lord terminated the priesthood authority of the stake presidency and every member of the High Council who sustained this decision, which was unanimous. Thereafter, I appealed to the First Presidency, outlining the involvement of the 12 and the 70. The appeal gave notice to them all. The appeal was summarily denied.

Last general conference, the entire First Presidency, the 12, the 70, and all other general authorities and auxiliaries, voted to sustain those who abused their authority in casting me out of the church. At that moment, the Lord ended all claims of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to claim it is led by the priesthood. They have not practiced what He requires. The Lord has brought about His purposes. This has been in His heart all along. He has chosen to use small means to accomplish it, but He always uses the smallest of means to fulfill His purposes.

None of this was my doing. The Lord's strange act, was not, could not, be planned by me. Was not, could not, have been controlled by me. It was not anticipated by me, or even understood by me, until after the Lord had accomplished His will, and made it apparent to me on the evening of May 1, 2014. He alone has done this. He is the author of all of this.

I have seen the problems and I have believed what Denver has said, but this was hard to swallow.  And yet, is it really so hard to believe?  Is it any crazier than the story of a teenage farm boy who saw God and Jesus in a forest, was told all the Christian sects were wrong and to join none, received a gold bible from an 1400-year dead guy, translated the gold bible by poking his head in a hat and not even reading the words, found an old Egyptian scroll and somehow conjured the writings of Abraham from it even though it doesn't say jack about Abraham, said that men can become gods, and was killed for leading so many people astray?  So really, what is crazy?

So in the Mesa lecture, Denver goes on to give some basic instructions from the Lord about how those who wish to establish Zion should proceed.  He even states that the Lord appeared to him again to give this information.  Upon hearing this, many have rushed out to be baptized and start their Zion communities.  Others have cautioned against this, saying we have to watch and see what fruit is born out of this.  Still others say that they are not ready to do anything, either because they haven't received confirmation from the Lord or because they have family and friends they don't want to be alienated from.

I personally don't feel like I fit well into any of those camps.  I believe Denver.  Crazy, improbable, and nutty as it sounds, I believe him.  There have been too many times where I have received signs and witnesses from the Spirit to not believe.

God gives us conflicts to test us.  I have been conflicted since last week.  On the one hand, I believe Denver, but I don't think we ought to rush into these things.  However, I don't want to fret and worry and wait for others before making my decision.  I want my actions to stand on their own.  So the other day I prayed about what Denver had said, and I also asked Him about another matter.  This prayer was uttered just as I left for work.  As soon as I was done with the prayer, I felt very strongly to listen to Pandora on the way to work, about an hour's drive from my house.  The first song came on, and I suddenly wondered if this was to be the answer.  I then proceeded to hear a total of 12 consecutive songs that gave me my answer about the church.  Titles like No Light No Light, Sick of It, and Wicked.  Songs with lyrics about pretenders who are full of themselves, people who deceive, and people who are satisfied with what they have and don't want more.

I could not help but see this for a sign.  It was hard to hear.  As frustrated as I have been with what goes on in the church, this was a hard truth to hear.  But I feel it in my soul that it is true.  It saddens me.  The church is still full of good people, and I do not think God has abandoned good people.  But things have changed.

I want to be clear.  Denver has not said that the church has lost the priesthood.  What he said was that the leaders involved in his excommunication have had their priesthood terminated and the church can no longer claim that it is led by priesthood.  I think that is a significant difference.  I think the LDS church is at least as far into apostasy as the Christian church was after the death of Christ.

By the way, God also answered my other question with a song.  I appreciate the Lord.  Sometimes he has a sense of humor.  I know this sounds stupid or fanciful or deceived, but I have had too many other experiences with similar signs to not believe.  Sometimes the Lord shows us these small signs and then expects us to act.  Only then will we receive greater witnesses.  Some things we can only know by experience.

So, what to do about baptism and Zion communities?  I am still in the process of asking God.  I realized just this morning that the Lord had answered my prayer EXACTLY as I had asked it.  I realized that have not asked whether it is time for me to be baptized or whether I should join with any of these communities.  So I have work to do, to ask, seek, and knock.  I pray that these things will lead me to greater conformity to the will of God.

Each of us has a different path.  Some, like Tim Malone, have resigned.  I respect his decision.  Were I in his shoes, I would do the same.  Others have already been excommunicated.  This offers them the chance for a new community of fellowship.  Still others have done all this either in secret or without family approval and have much to lose.  I feel for these people.  I am not among them, for which I am grateful.  Leaving the church would not bring as many consequences for me as for others.

My plan is to wait upon the Lord, but not wait passively.  I want to get baptized as a sign that I accept this new order of things.  I believe Denver's words.  I am still parsing through the talk to see what is really there, but I believe him.  It certainly is crazy.  Only time and experience will tell if it is true.  We have to be willing to take chances.  We have to act in faith.  I trust my God.  If Denver is a liar, then I trust God to forgive me as I repent in sackcloth and ashes.  But the unfortunate thing is that I don't think he is lying.  I think he is telling the truth, as unbelievable as it sounds.

And that reminds me, the thought that started this whole journey out of the Matrix was that God is a God of truth and that anything true cannot be evil.  Truth can be painful.  It can be hard.  It can be difficult.  It can seem impossible.  And yet, truth cannot be evil.  And Truth is what makes God God!  He is light and truth, and He offers us that same light and truth, if we will stop walking in the darkness at noon day.

So my journey of faith will continue.  I have faith in God to act on the truth revealed through the most unlikely of people, an attorney in Sandy, Utah, who has been cast out of his church.  I prayed some time ago that if Zion were to be established in my lifetime, could I be a part of it?  And perhaps this is my chance to have my prayer answered in a most unlikely way.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Waiting stinks.  Let's face it.  Lines, traffic, holidays, payday, we have to wait for a lot of things.  I'm pretty sure there's a reason for all this waiting that is a part of our lives.  It is made even harder by the instant gratification of the information age.  Got two minutes?  Then pull out your phone, check your email, look at Facebook, play a game, or whatever.  Time marches on whether we use it or not.

I think the Lord sets up all this waiting for a good reason.  We are to do things in the Lord's time and not on our time.  Doing things too soon brings unhappy consequences.  Just ask Adam and Eve.  They were instructed not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  But if they had just waited, perhaps when the time was right the Lord would have given them a commandment to partake of the fruit.  They would not have fallen.

So it seems to be with all the good things we desire in life.  I find myself aching to be in the presence of the Lord.  I think back often to my baptism of fire.  The love that poured forth from the presence of God was indescribable.  I wish I could experience it forever and never lose it.  I desire greatly to have such an experience again, but the Lord does things on His own schedule.

It seems to me that the Lord will give us all the blessings we desire, but waiting is part of mortality.  Time is appointed only to men in the flesh, but in the eternal world it has no meaning.  I yearn for the day when I am able to fully comprehend why and how this is.

As it is, I must wait for the Lord.  For me, it is part of the test of mortality.  I can't honestly say that I wait patiently, but wait I will.  It is a test of my trust and faith in God to wait for Him.  It forces me to seek him more earnestly, and to seek His will in what I should do while I wait.   But I love Him and will wait my whole life if I must.  He has promised me I would obtain whatever I sought in life, and I seek Him above all else.  I look forward to His coming, whenever it is.  I hope He will bless me to learn from my waiting.


Just a note - I took down a couple of posts and edited a couple of others.  I went back and read my posts and realized that a few things I had written did not have a spirit of love in them.  Whatever unpleasant things are happening with the Church and its leaders, I still must offer love and kindness in return, and I will be trying to focus on more positive things.  I think there is a place for pointing out errors and false doctrine, but I need to limit my role in that.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Personal God

I don't think God is one to multiply many words.  For that reason, when I read things in the scriptures, I try to understand why they are phrased the way they are.  I find it interesting and significant that in many places, we read about "the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob."  (1st Nephi 19:10, Mosiah 7:19, Alma 29:11, and many others)  Why not just say God?  Or perhaps Jesus?  There is a reason why it is phrased this way.

We read in John 17:3 that "...this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."  So to have eternal life is to KNOW God.  We also read in John 14:23 "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."   Lest you think that this is somehow meant in a spiritual sense or something that is for the next life, don't forget what Joseph Smith said in D&C 130:3 about this verse - "The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false."

The concept that is being taught in these verses is that Jesus Christ will appear to men in the flesh, and that such an appearance is what constitutes eternal life.  What does this have to do with "the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob?"  It is referring to the fact that God appeared to each of these men, individually, and ministered to them individually, and loves each of them.  He is a knowable, personal God, and desires to know each one of us. 

The whole reason that the Book of Mormon was brought forth was to teach the knowledge of a personal God to mankind, knowledge that was lost but restored by Joseph Smith when God appeared to him.

I pose this question - How can we come to know God if we are not saved by the atonement of Jesus Christ?  The obvious answer is that we cannot, for if we have not been cleansed by the power of the atonement, we cannot stand to be in His presence (Alma 12:14).   

Since we are individuals and have agency, it is up to us to choose whether we will repent and turn to God and receive His mercy through the atonement.  He offers it as a free gift for those who turn to Him with full purpose of heart.  This mercy is not offered to a select group or to us as a whole; it is offered to each of us, individually, and if we exercise our agency to come to Him, He will give us knowledge that our sins have been remitted.  Such knowledge is communicated to us in a heavenly ordinance called the baptism of fire, which I have previously written about.

Each of us must individually come to Him and be cleansed, and He will acknowledge us individually.  He invites ALL men to come to Him, not just some, not as part of a specific group.  Coming to Christ does not require you to be part of a specific religious group, ethnic group, race, or sex.  He knows you as an individual, and has personally remitted your sins.  His atonement was wrought for us as individuals.  He didn't just suffer some nebulous agony of mind and body for us as a group.  He suffered for each of our sins individually.  How else could He know us or succor us in our times of need?

With this in mind, I read with utter incredulity the account of Will Carter, who was excommunicated from the church for teaching false doctrine.  His account can be found at his blog, In 200 Words or Less.  

If you read the comments on the post I linked to above, Will recounts the following exchange:

One high priest asked "Do you believe that Jesus Christ saves us personally?"
I said "Yes."
"That's false doctrine", he said.
No one in that room spoke up in my defense or refuted his statement. 

False doctrine????!!!!!???? To teach that Jesus Christ saves us personally?  I cannot understand such a concept and I do not believe it.  I KNOW, in the literal, real sense of the word, that Jesus Christ DOES save us personally.  He is a knowable, personal God who loves us as individuals, not as a group.  I hope that the LDS church never acknowledges such a doctrine.  I do not think I could affiliate with an institution that espoused such an idea.

It is sad and discouraging to read such things.  To think that men who purport to be the Lord's servants are kicking men out of the church for teaching about Jesus Christ saving them personally is frightening.  Thankfully, those who are willing to see falsehoods will be able to overcome such stumbling blocks.

I KNOW that Jesus Christ can and does save us personally.  I know this because of my own experience with Him.  He lives.  I cannot claim certain knowledge of this, but the manifestations of Him in response to my faith are undeniable.  I love Him and I know that He loves us beyond our ability to comprehend.  I hope that people will not be deceived by those who teach anti-Christ doctrines.    

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Baptism of Fire and Confirmation are NOT the Same

A friend started a Facebook thread and mentioned how the concept of baptism of the Spirit has largely been lost in the Church.  One commenter disagreed and said that he saw this concept being taught frequently.  Another commenter stated that the ordinance of confirmation and the baptism of the spirit, or baptism of fire, were one and the same.  Such thinking breaks my heart.

I don't care what the gospel doctrine manual says.  The baptism of fire and confirmation are absolutely not the same thing.  All ordinances performed by men are types and shadows of things of the spirit.  Baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost together are a type and shadow of the baptism of fire. The two may coincide, but more frequently they are distinct and separate, often happening years or even decades apart.  I bear testimony of this from my own experience.

The baptism of fire is not a process.  It is a definable event, just like the baptism of water is a definable event.  When it happens to you, you know it.  You may not know what it is called, but you know that SOMETHING has happened.  It is powerful, joyous, wonderful.  It is more spiritual and more perfect than anything man can do.  It is indescribable in words.  No man can administer such a great gift.  Men can only offer an invitation or a type and shadow of this blessed event.

Alma the younger describes this event very nicely - Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. (Alma 36:21)

It is so disheartening to hear members of what is supposed to be the true Church of Jesus Christ not understand this, and when it is taught to them, they don't believe it.  I testified to the commenters about my own experience and they completely rejected it.  But no matter.  I know that what I say is true.  The baptism of fire and confirmation are not the same.  For those who have not experienced the baptism of fire, I tell you that if I can have it, you can, because you are most certainly more deserving and less sinful than I was.

I testify again of the love of Jesus Christ.  He can and will baptize you with fire, and then you will have the fullness of the gift of the Holy Ghost, which will enable you to go on and obtain all the blessings of eternal life, if you follow the pathway marked out in the scriptures.  The Lord is willing to take your sins upon His back, and you can know for yourself that your garments are spotless before Him.  Please don't be satisfied with a type and shadow.  Please, I beg all of you, don't be satisfied with the offerings of men, but instead look to Him and receive what He will give.  It is so much greater than you can imagine.

Thoughts On Excommunication and Recent Events

I am saddened by the recent spate of completed and pending excommunication of prominent Church members.  Perhaps even more discouraging are the Bill Clinton-esque statements put out by the Church.  What is going on?  Is this really the Church of Jesus Christ?

We have John Dehlin being threatened with excommunication.  His crime appears to be publicly stating his skepticism about historical matters and weak faith in Jesus Christ.  Despite his misgivings about the Church, Mr. Dehlin has provided the resources for many who struggle with their faith to be able to remain in fellowship.

Kate Kelly is facing excommunication for her role in the Ordain Women movement.  I can't say I agree with her agenda.  If she had a better understanding of what priesthood really is, she would not have any interest in being ordained to the Church's priesthood.  Nevertheless, is it right for the Church to mete out a punishment of eternal damnation for asking the leaders to petition God about the matter?  Maybe a polite "No, thanks" would suffice instead.

Then we have Rock Waterman, who has publicly blogged about his doctrinal disagreements.  I find it sadly amusing that Joseph Smith reveled in the fact that Mormonism has no creeds which a man must believe or be asked out the church, and yet here we are with a man who disagrees with the post-Joseph creeds established by the church, and now he is being asked out of it.

And who could forget the condemnation the Church has heaped upon itself, casting out Denver Snuffer, whose offense consisted of publishing historical facts that lead to very uncomfortable conclusions about our doctrine and the Church's standing before God?

Worst of all, we have a Church which bills itself as the only true and living Church on the earth, using legal techniques suited for Bill Clinton, finessing the wording of their public statements to effectively tell the truth while at the same time lying through its teeth.  Yes, I said that.  The level of misdirection and obfuscation of the Church's statement that higher-ups have no involvement in these excommunication is an abomination.  I think I would ask this question of the church - Are you honest in your dealings with your fellow men?

The fear and anger that the Church and its leaders display is born of the master of fear and anger himself.  It is wrong.  Our God is a God of truth, a God of light, a God of honesty, of integrity.  Evil, sin, and cockroaches love darkness.  When the light of truth is shined, those things scatter.  They cannot remain in the presence of the light.  A church of God should do work in the light.

I have also been ashamed of my fellow Latter-day Saints, who have gleefully supported their leaders in this move to cast out their brothers and sisters.  Our church teaches that men must have the Church's priesthood and receive all the "temple blessings" in order to obtain eternal life.  If this is so, excommunication is the spiritual equivalent of eternal damnation.  If you excommunicate someone, you damn them to hell for eternity, according to our doctrine.  Well, with what judgment ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.  You who call for the ouster of those who differ one iota from the infallible popes, er, prophets, er, leaders who cannot lead us astray, I urge you to reconsider your position.

Yesterday I listened to an interview with a Church PR representative.  It was quite amusing.  She carefully stated that the Church leaders do not direct the actions of local leaders in disciplinary matters, but would not categorically state that they have no influence.  She called it "training" and "technical assistance."  She also stated that discipline is always meant to be a way to love someone and help them in their repentance, that it is not a punishment.  I'm sorry, but the cases with which I am familiar do not support such an assertion. 

My, my, my.  Things are certainly a mess.  Fortunately, the Rock of our salvation is immovable in His love, in His gospel.  We can repent and come to Him.  He forgives.  He offers eternal life through His grace.  No institution or man can offer such blessings to us.  No keys held by men give us these things.  I love my Savior and I am so grateful for all He has given me.  I testify of His love.  Amen.

Monday, May 19, 2014

One Step At A Time

The walk of discipleship is not always easy.  Often, the Lord will only give you a small piece of the puzzle at a time, or only will let you see one step into the dark.  I suffer from an acute case of pride because I always want to be right.  When it comes to the word of the Lord, I want to make sure that I am doing what God wants me to do, and when I don't know for sure that what I'm doing is right, I have to really push myself to do it.

I recently felt strongly that the Lord wanted me to have an uncomfortable conversation with someone.  I felt good about the position I was taking, but there were risks in having the conversation.  A couple of days before I had to meet with this person, I got down on my knees and asked the Lord to help me know for certain that I was serving Him, that this conversation was what He wanted me to do.

He responded by showing me a sign to know that I was doing His will.  I was grateful for this, but I still didn't know why I was doing it.  And the Lord refused to tell me.  I had the conversation yesterday, and it did not go as well as I would have liked.  But after I had a good night's sleep and pondered the situation for a while, it dawned on me that this unpleasant conversation had indeed led me to my next step, and I could see why the Lord instructed me to do this.  This event led to someone's eyes being opened more widely to truth, and gave me an understanding of some things that will be coming in the future.  It also caused me to realize some things that I need to do to obtain greater blessings from heaven.

We all walk in this life one step at a time.  Sometimes we are given a view of many steps that we will take, or even an end destination.  Other times, we barely get a glimpse of the next step.  And the hardest ones of all are where we are not certain that the step we are supposed to take is even there.  We just trust that it is there.

Our Savior loves us and will help us through these times of trust, if we will just let Him.  I write this to remind myself more than anything else.  If He will give me an obvious sign just at the moment that I need it, He will give you what you need.  Trust Him and only Him.  He is the path, the destination, and the transportation.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Church Is Not The Church

I've said before that one of my all-time favorite quotes is from Rush Limbaugh.  He often says "Words mean things."  How true this.  Many words have certain connotations and evoke images and associations in our minds.  For example, when I speak of a "company," you probably imagine Ford, Wal-Mart, General Electric, or some similar corporation.  You might also imagine the company you work for.  In any event, you most likely think of an institution, because that is the most common way we think of companies in our enlightened, Western culture.

But consider that the word company is also used to describe a group of people.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines company as "a group of persons or things."  It is a correct definition, but probably not what you normally think of when that word is used.

In the world of Mormonism, the CHURCH seems to be central in our lives.  For many of us, particularly those of us who live in Utah and have been surrounded by the Church and Church culture for our entire lives, everything we do is probably influenced in one way or another by the Church.  Our friends and family relationships are also defined in terms of the Church.  Because of our association with the Church, we also have a unique vocabulary.  Elder, Brother, Activity Days, Young Men, Young Women, Relief Society, Bishop, President, ward council meeting, ward, stake, GA, Gs (for you oldsters out there), fetch, dang, green jell-o with carrots.  All of these words should evoke certain images and associations in your mind.

Well, that presents a problem.  There is a tendency to take words that have certain associations and meanings to them, and assume that those same meanings and associations are universal.  But consider the idea that the meanings and mental associations from certain words are not static in time or space, or from culture to culture.  I dare you to go to England or Australia and ask someone where you can buy a fanny pack.

It should come as no surprise that some words used in Joseph Smith's time carry a different meaning than they do today.  For example, the word "interest" meant something different than it does today.  (Which might prompt me to do a tithing post some time.)  Likewise, the first definition listed in the 1828 dictionary for the word "beetle" is a heavy wooden mallet.

The Book of Mormon is a book about a culture and civilization that is long dead. They descended from Jews, although the second generation had little understanding of the ways of the Jews.  There were also elements of Egyptian culture, and certainly the peoples already living on the American continents had their own cultures.  I think it is dangerous to assume that all the words we see mean exactly the same thing as they do today.

Well, finally I'm getting around to the subject of this post.  Church.  Church surrounds us in this modern culture, but I would like to suggest that when you read about the "Church" in the scriptures, that you should STOP thinking about the institution.  Like the word company, the word church ought to be viewed as a group of people.

Let's take a look at the scriptures that help us understand this:

D&C 10:67  "Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church."

Moroni 4:2  "And they did kneel down with the church, and pray to the Father in the name of Christ..."

1st Nephi 14:10  "And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth."

Clearly these are all examples of the word "church" being used to describe a group of people rather than an institution.  I would submit that EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE of the word "church" in the Book of Mormon should be viewed this way.  What an astounding difference it makes.  It personalizes the commandments of the Savior.  It personalizes the love of the Father, the Son, and the various prophets in the Book of Mormon for the children of men.

God does not love institutions.  God loves people.  God loves YOU.  I bring this up because we as Mormons have this unfortunate tendency to define our relationship with God in terms of our relationship with the Church.  To echo the words of Dieter Uchtdorf, I urge you to "Stop it."  Your relationship with the Lord is independent of the Church.  The Lord's relationships with every man, woman, and child is independent of the Church.

Taking this stand can help us to have empathy and compassion for those who do not belong to our Church, or those who have left for one reason or another.  For some, the Church becomes a source of pride.  How often do we think we "the chosen people?"

This concept can also help us to unwittingly put the Church or its leaders between us and God.  You must have your own relationship with Jesus Christ in order to be saved.  Your relationship with the Church is not your relationship with God.  The fact that you have participated in ritual ordinances in the "true Church" does not get you any closer to Him who is your King.

Next time you go to "Church", consider that you are participating in fellowship with people, not receiving blessings from an impersonal institution.  Consider that you are gathering with your fellow men to build them up, to encourage them in their journeys to gain salvation, to help them.  You need not be part of a "Church" to do that, but you do need serve in the church.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Holy Ghost Is Not Better Than God

Denver Snuffer has said before (paraphrasing) that belief is associated with the Holy Ghost, faith is associated with angels, and knowledge is associated with God Himself.  I have pondered a lot about what this means, and today I had a bit of an epiphany while responding to a comment on a discussion forum.

There is a commonly believed idea that a testimony that comes from the Holy Ghost is superior to testimony that comes from angels or from the Lord Himself.  This idea is FALSE!  Do not believe it.  If you content yourself with the Holy Ghost without seeking the presence and testimony of God Himself, you damn yourself.

This idea goes at least as far back as Joseph Fielding Smith.  It is not surprising to me that he made the following comment:

“When a man has the manifestation from the Holy Ghost, it leaves an indelible impression on his soul, one that is not easily erased. It is Spirit speaking to spirit, and it comes with convincing force. A manifestation of an angel, or even of the Son of God himself, would impress the eye and mind, and eventually become dimmed, but the impressions of the Holy Ghost sink deeper into the soul and are more difficult to erase” (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 2:151).

It would seem that the author had a different understanding of who and what the Holy Ghost is than I do.  How can he say that the witness of the Holy Ghost is greater than having Jesus Himself appear unless he has experienced these things and can judge between them?  It saddens me that this doctrine is taught in our gospel "doctrine" classes.  Oh, how the Lord must weep at this.  This  idea causes people to stop at a witness of the Holy Ghost rather than pressing forward to stand in the presence of the Son.  In essence, by following this belief you deny the fullness of the gospel.

This goes back to the comments on my last post about belief, faith, and knowledge.  If the Holy Ghost tells you that Jesus lives, you have belief. You believe that Jesus lives, but you have no proof. If an angel testifies that Jesus lives, you have faith. You have acted in such a manner that a being who has been in the presence of Jesus has testified of it to you. You have an eyewitness testimony, which is greater than mere belief. If Christ testifies that He lives, you have knowledge, you have proof that He lives because you have seen Him.

Which is better to you? For me, I will choose knowledge over faith or belief.   You cannot honestly say that it is better to know Christ from a distance (by the Holy Ghost) than it is to know Him in person. Knowing Christ is the very definition of eternal life. Until you KNOW Him, you do not have knowledge and you do not have eternal life.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Belief, Faith, And Knowledge Are Different

As Mormons, we tend to equate belief, faith, and knowledge as being largely the same.  Then when we read the scriptures, we see these words and then apply them to text with the same meanings as we ascribe to them from our church meetings.  I "know"  that....  Anymore, these words are like fingernails on a chalkboard.  These words need to be understood and used properly.

I believe a lot of things.  I believe that government is corrupt.  I believe that the justice system in this country is an oxymoron.  I believe that TWA Flight 800, September 11th, and the JFK assassination were NOT government conspiracies.  I believe many other things.  But belief is passive.  You can sit back and read about stuff and form an opinion, but until you do something it is just belief.  I daresay that even Satan believes that Jesus Christ lives.  But it doesn't matter because Satan does do anything constructive with that belief.

In the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is critical to move our belief to faith.  This requires action WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE.  Belief that Christ can forgive sins is useless unless you do something.  You move to faith when you act on your belief.  When you forsake your sins and repent in sackcloth and ashes, when you implore the Savior of the world to forgive you, you have moved to faith.  When you serve your fellow men, do good to the poor, when you heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit, you are acting in faith.

You move to knowledge when you experience the end results of faith.  When your sins are forgiven, then you know that Jesus Christ forgives sins.  You also know that it is possible for sins to be forgiven.  You know because you have experienced it.

For a testimony to mean anything, you must have attained to knowledge.  Otherwise you are speaking in vain.  When you testify that Jesus Christ lives and have not beheld Him, you are taking His name in vain.  When you say that you know God answers prayers, you need to testify why that is.  Otherwise your testimony is meaningless.

It is important to have faith and knowledge in things that are worthwhile.  I have knowledge that Mythbusters is a great TV show.  I knowledge that Boston cream pie is the most delicious substance known to mankind.  This knowledge is not saving (except maybe my appetite).  Likewise, knowledge that "Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God" or "this church is true" will not save you either.  I submit that such knowledge is vain.  The church cannot save your soul.  Thomas Monson cannot save your soul.  I think it is a waste of time to bear testimony of these things.

Finally, I encourage you to pay attention to the testimonies of those to whom you look for salvation.  Do the apostles and prophets of the church bear testimony of Jesus Christ?  Is their witness one of true knowledge or true faith?  Or is it just belief?  You will have to decide.  When your bishop bears testimony that the church is true and Jesus is the Christ, is this a true testimony based on experience?  You will have to decide.

What you might find is that the only thing testimonies are good for is pointing to Christ and giving you hope that you can obtain something.  No work of any man can save your soul.  I encourage you to gain your own testimony, one that is based on KNOWLEDGE.  It is knowledge that saves.  And what knowledge saves more than the knowledge that you are saved?  Go out and ask God to give you that knowledge.  You will know it when you obtain it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Oh How He Loves Us!

The man was in his mid 40s.  He had obviously lived a hard life.  His clothes were dirty, he had a wild beard, and looked like a relative of Charles Manson.  He had few teeth, and his skin was badly sunburned.

He sat dejectedly on the side of the road in Green River, Utah, on his way home to Barstow, California.  He had been visiting his sister, who was dying of cancer in Missouri.  He had been gone over a month, and he needed to get back to try and get work again.  He had no car, no real home, and no money for travel.  So, just the way he had gone to Missouri, he began hitchhiking and walking home, over 1000 miles.  It took him six days to get to Grand Junction, Colorado.  Once there, he waited in the sun for four days before finally getting a ride, and it only got him to Green River, 90 miles away. 

He emerged at Green River, tired, sick, and hungry.  Some generous people gave him a meal and a few dollars.  It was early in the morning.  He had barely slept, and kept company with the animals as he camped along the way.  The man prayed that the weather would be good.  His tarp had ripped back in a blizzard in Nebraska, and he had no covering for his sleeping bag. 

It was a hot day.  The man had been in the sun for four days, and he hurt.  He was so tired.  He prayed to God that he could get home. 

Another man heard about a lecture that he wanted to hear in Grand Junction.  After finding out that there were only a few seats available, he decided not to go.  The lecture would be recorded and he could get a copy of the CD with the words from the lecture, and he wouldn't have to pay all the travel costs.

A few days later, he saw a request from a friend on an internet chat group.  The friend was looking for a ride to the Grand Junction lecture.  God spoke quietly to the man, and told him that he ought to take his friend to the lecture.  The man didn't want to go, but after praying to know if he had understood correctly, the Lord told the man that he should go, and that if he wanted to know for sure if the prompting had come from God, he needed to act on it.

So the man decided to take his friend.  Not long after telling the friend he would take him, another friend asked to join.  So the man agreed to take both of his friends and drive a larger vehicle so they could all fit comfortably.

The tired man in Green River sat in the sun, praying.  He was hot and his sunburn hurt, so he walked to the nearby gas station to get some shade.  A maintenance worker at the gas station told him to leave.  Too tired to argue, the man retreated back to his spot on the ground, in the middle of the sun.  He held up a sign for a while, but no one stopped.  He wondered if he would be able to go on.  He prayed again for the Lord to help him.  All day he waited for a ride, or even a glimmer of hope. 

The three friends started out on their journey to the Grand Junction lecture.  The subject was Zion.  The three friends shared a common goal of coming into the presence of the Lord.  Becoming a Zion individual was part of that process of entering the presence of the Lord.  They talked of their experiences and goals.  They had been admonished before that the poor need to be taken care of.  They had brought a little bit of extra money.  None of the friends was particularly wealthy, but each did okay for themselves and had some to spare. 

The three men decided to stop in Green River for dinner.  As they pulled off the freeway, they headed for a restaurant, and just as they pulled in the parking lot, one of them noticed a man sitting on the side of the road.  Having just gotten done discussing the poor and the concept of Zion and serving the Lord, they felt compelled to see if the man needed anything.

They drove up and walked over to the man and talked with him.  They found out that he had been sitting there all day long, and had been on a long journey home from his sister's home in Missouri.  He was beat down, tired, and sick.  The three men gave him money and asked him what else they could do for him.  The traveler, in all his humility, asked only for a tarp, because his had been ruined in Nebraska.  The weather was forecast for rain the following day.

However, the three men found that Green River was just too small to find a place that sold a tarp.  They gave the man some money for a tarp.  Then, just as they were about to leave, the three men each felt compelled to ask the man if they could put him up in a motel for the night.

The traveler's eyes teared up.  He was so tired.  His stuff was dirty.  He needed to shave, to wash himself, to sleep, and wash his clothes.  He silently thanked God, and agreed to let these men put him in a motel.

The man climbed into the van with the three friends, and they drove to an inexpensive motel on the other side of town.  They went in with the man and checked him in.  Then the four went back out to the van and prayed.  And in that prayer, they asked blessings on the traveler, and thanked God for the opportunity to provide aid to a fellow brother.  The traveler wiped his eyes and told the three that they had answered his prayers.  The three told him of their prompting to come to the lecture.  Then the three friends left, each holding back tears, rejoicing in the good they had been able to do that day.

Our Father loves us!  His Son loves us!  He hears the prayers of the rich, the poor, the worker, the unemployed, the dignified, and the humiliated.  That day, there was no doubt in the minds of those three friends that God answers prayers.  He set in motion a complex series of events, caused much money to be spent, and much time to be spent, all so He could answer the humble prayers of a bum in the middle of nowhere.  If He loves that man enough to grant him such a blessing, imagine how much He loves you and will grant YOU the blessing you seek from Him.

I testify in the name of Jesus Christ that God hears and answers prayers.  I testify in the name of Jesus Christ that promptings from the Spirit ought to be heeded, and that great and wonderful things will come as a result of small things.  I praise the name of Jesus Christ and thank Him for His love, His generosity, His kindness, His mercy.  He lives!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Evangelicals Are Right - We Are Saved By Grace Alone

In theory, our church teaches that it is by faith alone in the grace of Christ that justifies a man (See Epheisians 2:8 and 2nd Nephi 25:23).  We particularly teach that it is by grace we are saved after all we can do (2nd Nephi 25:23 again).  I think there is much confusion over the meaning of this and the practical application of grace.

I always had a nebulous idea of grace, faith, works, and being saved, and their interrelationship with one another.  This lack of understanding is due mostly to my own lack of diligence in pursuing the things of God, but our church does not do a good job of teaching just what it means to be saved.  There is this idea that the term “saved” is for wacky Evangelicals who don’t think they have to do anything to have the grace of Jesus but confess Him with their lips. 

I think LDS church members misunderstand Evangelicals because they don’t take the time to look critically at their own faith and theology, nor do they take the time and effort to understand the perspective of Evangelicals.  I have to be clear here and state that I do not have a firm grasp of any particular Christian sect.  This post is confined strictly to my understanding of what it means to be saved.  My personal understanding may be different than that advocated by particular Christian sects or individuals.

With the disclaimers out of the way, let’s take a look at what it means to be saved.  I am going to start out by saying that I LOVE how Evangelicals love their Savior.  They praise Him in song, prayer, and speech.  They rejoice in their redeemer.  Perhaps this is something that we as LDS ought to do.  Our church meetings are pretty much devoid of joy and exultation.  They have succumbed to a Catholic-like tradition, with the powers that be in each meeting house dictating every aspect, leaving little room for the workings of the Spirit to be manifest.  I have attended services at some non-denominational Christian churches.  Those services were JOYFUL!!  Sorry Mormons, but you do NOT have a monopoly on the Spirit of the Lord.

Let us pull out our trusty Book of Mormon.  A man can get closer to God by following its precepts above any other book, after all.  Turn to Alma, chapter 11.  (Yes, I did do a post on this great, meaty chapter while ago.)

Alma 11
37 And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.

40 And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.

We learn from verse 37 that we cannot be saved in our sins, and that those who are saved inherit the kingdom of heaven.  Further, in verse 40, we learn that those whose transgressions are borne by the Lord (i.e. those who are saved) shall inherit eternal life, and this is salvation.

To be saved is to have salvation.  To be saved is to be forgiven of all of our sins.  To be saved is to have eternal life.  So for you Mormons, when your Evangelical friend says that he is saved, then he is in effect stating that he has been forgiven of all of his sins and will inherit eternal life. 

Maybe I can offer up my services as a Mormon/Evangelical translator??  Just kidding.

Now that we have established the vocabulary, let’s take a look at some Book of Mormon examples of those who have been saved. 

First, we have Enos.  I won’t cite the reference, I figure that you as a reader of this blog are smart enough to find it for yourself.  Enos went into the forest, spent all day, all night, and the whole next day crying to the Lord for a remission of his sins.  After his mighty prayer, his request is granted.  He is saved!  Logically, if he has been granted a remission of his sins, and such a condition merits eternal life (see Alma 11 again), then Enos has been saved. 

Did you see any works here?  Did Enos go to the temple and “take out his endowments”?  Did he get sealed to his wife?  Did he have to have a ritual washing and anointing first?  If such things were so important, I expect that Enos would have made mention of them.  Instead, he makes mention of going out to be alone, acting without hypocrisy before God, acknowledging his fallen nature, and asking a forgiving and loving God to have mercy on him.  And he did!  Because Enos had faith and because Christ has grace to spare.

Now let us look at Alma the Younger (Mosiah 27).  Alma was a wicked man, trying to lead people out of the church and rebelling against his father.  An angel appears to him after his father (Alma Sr.) asks God in faith to bring his son to the truth.  Alma Jr. is struck dumb and has a vision, in which he is acutely aware of all of his sins.  In desperation, he cries out to Jesus to save him, and He does!  No works, no one year of bishop’s probation, no refraining from praying in church or not taking the sacrament.  No excommunication.  No bishops chats.  Just Alma and Christ, and the Lord forgave him, with no works to his credit. 

Then we have Lamoni (Alma 17-19).  Lamoni is an oppressive king, who unjustly executes his servants if they don’t keep watch over his sheep.  He doesn’t know who Christ is.  He thinks everything he does is okay.  Then Ammon comes along and teaches him, and suddenly Lamoni zones out, and has a vision where he sees Christ and talks with Him.  Lamoni is forgiven by Christ.  Again, no works, no 5 Rs of repentance, no disciplinary action.  A similar story happens with Lamoni’s father (Alma 22).  He sinks down into a vision after discussing Christ with Aaron.  He sees Christ and receives forgiveness, then has a second vision with his wife (this merits its own post at a later time).

There are other examples.  The point is, Jesus Christ does not require works before He will forgive you.  He only asks for your heart to be turned toward Him, and for you to ask in faith.  Let me say this again – WORKS ARE NOT REQUIRED FOR REPENTANCE!!! 

Once you have repented truly and been forgiven by the grace of Christ, you will have no more disposition to do evil.  You will want to do good and abhor sin.  Works will come naturally, but they merit you nothing.  All your works render you an unprofitable servant (Mosiah 2:21).

Let me add one final thing.  When you are saved, you KNOW it.  When you truly repent and obtain a remission of your sins, the Lord will manifest it to you in a way that is not mistakable.  You will have no doubt about where you stand with God.  If you do not know right now where you stand before God, if He has not made in manifest to you by the Holy Spirit, then you have work to do.  That work is not to earn grace.  It is to seek it, and give to the Lord a heart that is determined to serve Him and do whatever He asks of you.  I promise you that you can obtain a knowledge that you are saved.  I testify of it because I have experienced such a miracle in my own life.  Godspeed to you in your quest to know our Lord and Savior.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Coming Into the Presence of the Lord in Mortality

At the risk of sounding like an evangelical Christian,  I want to testify that in this mortal life, nothing is more important than developing a personal relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This is not a distant or impersonal or relationship of feelings.  This is an actual, literal relationship with an actual, literal person.  So I ask this, how can you have a relationship with someone if you don't actually meet them in person?

The Lord is so loving, so kind, so compassionate, so GREAT, that we would shrink from His presence if He came to us without setting aside His glory.  Nevertheless, He wants to interact with us.  He wants us to be in His presence.  And He makes a way for it to be possible.  Not only that, He expects it of us.  And He commands us in scripture.

I take literally the admonition in the scriptures that we should seek the face of the Lord.  This is not something to be deferred into the eternal world.  To wait until then to seek His face would show a lack of valiance, which may very well consign me to a lesser glory hereafter (D&C 76:79). 

I want to KNOW my God.  I want to be in His presence, in actual, literal fact.  I want to heed His commandments that I do so.  The scriptures have a lot to say about this:

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

Matthew 5:8 
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

John 14:21 
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

D&C 50:45 
And the day cometh that you shall hear my voice and see me, and know that I am. 

There are many others, many of which are personal eyewitnesses who saw Christ.  Moses, Nephi, his brother Jacob, Moroni, Mormon, Joseph Smith, Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Alma the Younger, and so many others.  These are EYEWITNESS testimonies.

The Book of Mormon is an instruction manual on how to obtain a relationship with Christ and how to actually come into His presence.  Not only are we given tools to come into His presence, but He commands us that we should.  

When I learned of this idea a few years ago, I was stunned.  I had never been taught that this was something that could happen to me.  And yet I found testimonies of people who DID have it happen to them.  If they can do it, why can't I?  Why can't you?

Not only are we commanded to seek Jesus Christ and have a personal relationship with Him, we MUST DO SO IF WE WANT TO HAVE ETERNAL LIFE!!!!  When D&C 76 says that those who are celestial receive the testimony of Jesus IN THE FLESH.  The flesh is this mortal life.  We receive a testimony when we hear it.  Who do we hear it from other than Jesus?  It is His testimony of us, not our testimony of Him.  Even Satan has a testimony of Jesus, but it doesn't do him any good.  We must receive testimony from Him that we are sealed as His children if we are to have the faith to have eternal life.

I share this because it is the most important thing I have ever learned.  The Spirit sings to me in my soul that it is true.  YOU can know Jesus, literally and actually.  I urge you with all my soul to seek Him.  Do not let others get it your way.   Do not listen to those who would tell you that such things are not necessary, who would tell you to avoid the "mysteries" of the gospel.  We are COMMANDED to seek the mysteries, and Alma tells us that if we don't know the mysteries we are bound down by the chains of hell (Alma 11).  SEEK THIS JESUS!  He wants to have a personal relationship with you, me, and everyone who will do what is required to gain it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Accuser

One of Satan's names is "Accuser".  Someone who accuses us is our adversary, so this is an appropriate name-title.  What implications might this have for us?

In a criminal trial, the parties are the complainant, the defendant, and the judge.  I am reminded of the following scriptures:

Jacob 6:13
Finally, I bid you farewell, until I shall meet you before the pleasing bar of God, which bar striketh the wicked with awful dread and fear. Amen.

Alma 12:12
And Amulek hath spoken plainly concerning death, and being raised from this mortality to a state of immortality, and being brought before the bar of God, to be judged according to our works.

Mosiah 16:10
Even this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruption shall put on incorruption, and shall be brought to stand before the bar of God, to be judged of him according to their works whether they be good or whether they be evil—

There are several others I could quote as well.  The point is, when we see the word “bar,” it ought to call to mind a court or trial.  In this trial, each one of us will be a defendant.  We know that this is our role because we are the ones being judged.  Christ takes the role of judge.  After all, it is His bar.  So, that leaves the complainant. 

When we make a complaint against someone that results in them being tried in a court for a crime, we take on the role of accuser.  We accuse them of the crime, then they have to defend themselves.  The judge decides whether they are guilty and if they are, they are then sentenced.

Think about the people in your life who have wronged you.  Have you moved on, glad of the fact that when the final judgment comes, they will be judged for those things?   But in order for them to be judged of those things, someone must bring a complaint.  If you are the one who was hurt, it is YOU who will be called upon to file the accusation.  Otherwise there is no charge for the perpetrator to be charged with.

When you have your opportunity to file your complaint and make your accusation, what do you think will happen?  Remember, according to the law of justice, the punishment for sin is death.  Death from righteousness, that is.  It is removal from the presence of God completely, without even the Holy Spirit as a light.  Complete darkness.  So when your accusation is judged fairly, the penalty is spiritual death for the party who wronged you.

Ouch!  I guess that guy should not have been so unkind and unfeeling toward you.  Well, he got his.  Now it is your turn for judgment.  You enter the presence of the Lord, and He looks upon you with love and compassion.  He asks if anyone has any accusations against you.  You look around, confident in the saving grace of the Lord.  Then someone steps forward and tells the court about the time you….And you stop listening as you remember when you made such an awful mistake.  But surely you have been forgiven since then.  You have walked with the Lord for a long time.  You have been His friend.  What about the grace of salvation?

With horror, you realize that because you have made an accusation against another person, you must be held to the same standard that he was.  Therefore, the same punishment must be delivered to you that you would impose on your fellow man.  Otherwise the law of justice would not have proper claim. 

See, the thing is that mercy cannot claim you as her own if you make an accusation.  It would be unfair to the law of justice.  You are judged by the measure by which you judge another.  That standard is absolute, and only One among us ever merited of himself freedom from judgment. 

When others wrong you, or make mistakes, act like complete @sses, or harm you in any way, I implore you to remember the grace that Jesus Christ gives to us.  He is the way to salvation.  Without His grace, we are lost.  Do not accuse another.  If you do, you are in the employ of Satan, and will receive wages of him.  Break free from Satan’s grasp and come to Christ.  Then, at that day, His bar will be pleasing, and your conscience will be clear.