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.