Sunday, December 14, 2008

Are We Ripening for Destruction?

For a people to become “ripe for destruction,” the Book of Mormon provides a two-pronged test. First, the majority must choose evil over good, as originally taught by King Mosiah and subsequently reiterated by several other prophets (see e.g., Mosiah 29:27, Alma 10:19-23, Hel. 5:2). Second, the people must “cast out the righteous” from among them. Interestingly, it is the righteous and their prayers that actually save the people from utter destruction until they are ultimately cast out (see Alma 10:22-23, Hel. 13:13-14).

[As a side note, I have jokingly thought that if God doesn’t destroy the city of Las Vegas he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. But, nonetheless Las Vegas and other cities continue to thrive. Is it a direct correlation to the righteous individuals residing in those cities?]

But being “ripened for destruction” doesn’t necessarily mean imminent destruction. Instead, Samuel the Lamanite introduces us to the doctrine of having one’s “destruction made sure”; the polar opposite to having one’s “calling and election made sure.” Atop the wall at Zarahemla, Samuel declares to the wicked Nephites that they have ripened for destruction and if they now failed to repent they would have their “destruction made sure” (Hel. 13:32). He continues by prophesying that when the Nephites finally realize they can go no lower, they will cry out the Lord, “O Lord, canst thou not turn thine anger from us?” (Hel. 13:37). Unfortunately, it will then “everlastingly” too late:

But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.” (Hel. 13:38)(emphasis added)

In the Bible, and mainstream Christianity, this is called the Doctrine of the Reprobate, or Reprobation. Reprobation is a corollary to the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election which concludes that some of mankind (the elect) are predestined by God for salvation, so the remainder are necessarily pre-ordained to damnation, i.e. reprobation. In Calvinist terminology, the non-elect are often referred to as the reprobate.

As LDS, we do not agree with predestined election, but instead individuals must work to “make your calling and election sure,” and subsequently have that election sealed by “a more sure word of prophecy” (2 Pet. 1:10, 19). Likewise, we do not accept that individuals are predestined to destruction, but must “earn” such a fate by first ripening for destruction (the 2-prong test) and then refusing to repent.

Paul briefly comments on some characteristics of those ripening for destruction:

23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. (Romans 1:23-27)

A few of the obvious characteristics asserted by Paul above include idolatry, prostitution, and homosexuality. Paul continues by introducing the Doctrine of Reprobation, wherein God ultimately allows those ripened for destruction to seal their own fate:

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient (i.e., appropriate);
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
1 Therefore thou are inexcusable, O man… (Romans 1:28 – Romans 2:1)(emphasis added)

Paul explains that these people block God out of their lives for so long, that he ultimately just lets them seal their own “reprobate” fate. Notice in verse 32 that these individuals are fully aware of God’s impending judgments, but they nonetheless get pleasure out of doing wickedly. Indeed, they eventually seal their own destruction and become “inexcusable” before God. Those that become “reprobates” have done so by forsaking the healing power of Jesus Christ in their lives:

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor. 13:5).

Similar to the peoples spoken of in the Book of Mormon, we have a system of government that allows the people to establish law. We also, however, are susceptible to the similar pitfalls of such a government. Specifically, we may also “ripen for destruction” ourselves when the majority chooses evil over good and subsequently casts out the righteous. I submit that the United States may be close to this point; although not quite fully there.

In sum, I have often wondered if a specific region of the United States eventually chooses evil over good and then subsequently casts out the righteous from among them, would that region of the United States be susceptible to God’s destructive forces? Will the Church ever remove itself from a region as it has previously done and thereby allow the impending judgments of God to come to pass?

Sweet Deal at D.I.

My recent unemployment allowed me to take a trip to Seattle to visit family. I hadn't been home for two years and it was nice to have some free time to hang out. After meeting for lunch with a friend, I reluctantly agreed to go to the D.I. across the street so my wife could search for some deals. Admittedly, I don't care too much for D.I. because the one by us in Mesa doesn't have that many things that I like (unless you are looking for Barry Manilow 8-tracks) and is a little big.

Perhaps the Seattle area D.I.'s are less visited than here. I say so because I found a steal in the book section. Volume 10 of the Hugh Nibley series, The Ancient State, was there for only $2. Of course it had not dust jacket, but do we really buy books for the the dust jacket? I didn't know how much it cost new, but I knew I got a good deal.

The conclusion to the story? I found out online when I got home that The Ancient State retails at Deseret Book for $34.95.

Perhaps, you say, this is a pretty lame post. I agree. But after losing a job and relocating to a different state with a house in Arizona anchoring us down, I need any good luck I can get.

(Tell me if you can honestly see a difference. Or at least a difference that is worth $32.95.)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Yes, we believe in the Bible...

To some not of the LDS faith, it may come as a surprise to learn that we believe, revere, and love the Holy Bible. We do have additional scripture, however, including the Book of Mormon; but it supports the Bible, never substituting for it. In fact, we cross-reference from one book of scripture to another because we are persuaded that the greatest commentary on scripture is scripture itself.

Sadly, the Bible is the most misused and misunderstood book ever written. It has been used to justify all manner of impropriety, wickedness, and falsehood. It has been used for centuries to settle disputes of every imaginable kind, even those that the prophets never intended to settle. Indeed, it has been quoted as often by devils as by Saints and, likewise, has served as an instrument of suppression as often as it has served as a source of inspiration.

In reading and commenting on religious blogs of other faiths, I have encountered numerous individuals who state emphatically that their position is based entirely upon the authority of the Bible. Unfortunately for them, however, God is the only source of reputable religious authority. In fact, the Bible itself points away from itself and instead to that final and true authority, God Himself.

For a time, the established Biblical canon ensured doctrinal orthodoxy as the Church began to grow around the 4th century. An overreliance on the canon, however, tends to shut one off from new truths or insights, and may breed spiritual complacency. For example, non-LDS bloggers often state, “Well, because the matter under consideration is not dealt with directly in the Bible, there is no answer, or God doesn’t care how we solve the issue.”

To that I feel compelled to respond: “If the Spirit inspired only the written documents of the first century, does that mean that the same Spirit does not speak today in the church about matters that are of significant concern?” Or: “On what biblical or historical grounds has the inspiration of God been limited to the written documents that the church now calls the Bible?

A knowledge of what the Bible does not claim for itself is important in protecting against its misrepresentations. The following 5 points delineate claims that Bible religions falsely attribute to the Bible, but which the book does not claim for itself:

1) The Bible makes no claim to infallibility. There isn’t one verse within the Bible to sustain this doctrine. In fact, it was in the name of infallibility that Galileo was condemned by the church in Rome for saying that the earth moved around the sun. The idea, it was held, contradicted scriptural passages that spoke of the sun’s rising and setting.

2) The Bible makes no claim to having been supernaturally dictated. Whoever was the first “scholar” to make the terms “the Bible” and “the Word of God” synonymous, did a great disservice to the cause of truth and religion. The term “word of God” is found in scripture hundreds of time, and yet in not one of those instances is it applied to the scriptures.

3) The Bible makes no claim that prophets are infallible. James states that Elijah, one of the greatest Old Testament prophets, was “a man subject to like passions as we are” (James 5:17). Paul corrected Peter (Gal. 2:11-14), and Peter said Paul’s writings were “hard to be understood” (2 Pet. 3:16). Jonah misunderstood his own prophecy (Jonah 4), and Noah occasionally got drunk (Gen. 9:21). Prophets are mortal and, as Joseph Smith taught us, “a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such” (TPJS, p.278)

4) The Bible does not claim to have all the answers nor that it is God’s only revelation. Instead, the Bible continually directs its readers to implore the heavens for knowledge and understanding beyond what it contains, and often quotes statements and books that are now lost unto it. In fact, nowhere does the Bible purport to give its readers either authority or commission to preach the Gospel or to perform Gospel ordinances.

What makes us different from most other Christians in the way we read and use the Bible and other scriptures is our belief in continuing revelation. For us, the scriptures are not the ultimate source of knowledge, but what precedes the ultimate source. The ultimate knowledge comes by revelation.” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Scripture Reading, Revelation, and Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible,” in Plain and Precious Truths Restored, p.2 (emphasis added))

5) The Bible does not claim to be complete nor does it claim that revelation has ceased. As Joseph Smith said, “We have what we have, and the Bible contains what it does contain: but to say that God never said anything more to man than is there recorded, would be saying at once that we have at last received a revelation; for it must require one to advance thus far, because it is nowhere said in that volume by the mouth of God, that He would not, after giving what is there contained, speak again; and if any man has found out for a fact that the Bible contains all that God ever revealed to man he has ascertained it by revelation, other than has been previously written by the prophets and apostles” (History of the Church, 2:18) (emphasis added).

The New Testament church was led by Apostles and prophets and governed by the spirit of revelation. The life-giving force of the Church was the Holy Ghost, not some scriptural record that no member of that church ever read. In fact, the New Testament did not exist until several centuries after the apostasy was complete.

The Bible is a magnificent tool in the hands of God, but it is too often used as a club or a weapon in the hands of men and women. Truly, the more we read and study the Bible and its teachings, the more clearly we see the doctrinal underpinnings of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, of which continual revelation plays a major role.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wilford Woodruff on Jay Leno

We were watching Leno a few nights ago and enjoying the Battle of the Jay Walk All-Stars. At least one of the people contestants was Mormon. Perhaps two (the Utah bob cut gives it away) could have been. Forward directly to around 16:23 to go to the part that I am referring to.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Vicarious Baptisms for Holocaust Victims

I understand that this post may be a bit untimely, seeing as how several months ago the Catholics decided to seal their genealogical records to the LDS Church, and a few weeks ago Jewish Holocaust survivors decided to cut off discussions with the LDS Church regarding the inadvertent baptisms of Holocause victims. In the interim, I was expecting the Church to step forward with some sort of statement or action that I could use in my post. Lacking such a statement, I nevertheless would like to briefly comment on the issue.

In my opinion, the ordinance known as baptism for the dead is a merciful ordinance that shows the extent of love by our Father in Heaven. Indeed, God is just and cannot send a person to hell simply because he or she had the misfortune of never hearing about the Savior. It is LDS doctrine that deceased beings, dwelling as spirits and awaiting the time of resurrection and judgment, are given the opportunity to hear and accept the message of the Gospel. Many on the other side will not accept Him, but God nevertheless reaches out to each of His children and implores them to follow Him. Personally, having done it several times, I can affirm that it is a marvelous and spiritual experience.

Upon reading the thousands of comments after the numerous articles that deal with the Jewish Holocaust survivors and their decistion to cut off discussions with the Church, a couple of interesting lines of thought were consistent among the readers:

1) Many were outraged that the LDS Church would have the audacity to "convert" their ancestors post-humously. Each was sure that members of the LDS Church would be equally outraged if other religious denominations attempted to post-humously "convert" their ancestors. One commentor (using quite colorful language) was sure that the LDS would vehemently object if the Pope one day declared Brigham Young or Joseph Smith flull-fledged Catholics.

As described above, the LDS practice does not "convert" the recipient, but only provides them with a correct baptism in the event they accept the Gospel in its fullest. Indeed, baptism is only the gateway and lacks the essential keys to exalt any individual.

Personally, I would be touched by the love and concern expressed by another religion that desired to do any sort of proxy ordinance that, in their minds, would ensure a better after-life for my ancestors. I venture to think that many LDS would agree. I fail to see the "disrespect" to our ancestors in an act wholly backed by the love of our fellow-man.

2) Many commentors were astounded at the attention that this is getting by other denominations and religions. In their minds, and I tend to agree, if detractors believe the LDS Church is a false religion, and its ordinances equally false, why would they care if vicarious work was performed on behalf of their ancestors? Wouldn't the outright falsity of the ordinance eliminate any need to worry whether the ordinance had any effect at all?

While we understand from 1 Pet. 3:18-20 and 4:6 that the souls in the spirit world are being taught the Gospel, they are faced with a significant dilemma: they need baptism to enter into a covenant with Christ and receive a washing away of their sins, etc., but they lack physical bodies in which to be baptized. This is why the restored Church includes the practice of baptism for the dead. The ordinance is simply a further testament to God's unending love for His children.

I would like to hear reader's comments on why other denominations or religions are so upset at an ordinance that they outright deny to be correct.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Our Constitution may be Threatened

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke, Richard L. Evans Quotebook, p.88)

Latter-day Saints have long loved and cherished the United States Constitution. The Prophet Joseph Smith said that “the Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner.” (TPJS, 147) The Lord declared that He “established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.” (D&C 101:80) Did you catch that? The Lord established the Constitution, therefore, although not perfect, it is an inspired document.

Quite similar to how mainstream Christianity treats the scriptures, of late, in my opinion, we have been departing more and more from the Constitutional principles that have made this country so great. Unfortunately, our country is accepting the principles of socialism, our Constitution’s arch enemy, at an alarming rate. America has truly entered the “me-generation,” and has forgotten the 1960’s mantra “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Indeed, as a result of our current nanny-state, we have bred a sense of entitlement among people that are unwilling to work for even the necessities of life.

The problem is socialism doesn’t work. It’s been tried over and over again, and has never been successful. If you’re hoping for more fairness under a socialist platform here in America, take a look at the suffering and misery in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia and Cuba over the years . . . just to name a few. Not to mention the number of their own people each of these regimes killed; somewhere between 60 & 100 million!

Interestingly, the onslaught of socialism was seen decades ago by Elder Ezra Taft Benson:

Under policies (not just socialist) that tend to steer away from the Constitution, our freedoms may likely be at risk. For example, the Fairness Doctrine seems to be just the start of restricting our freedom of speech. [Interestingly, Elder Benson also addressed the Fairness Doctrine issue decades ago:] Next to go, our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. All it will take is some lunatic to open fire in a school and the people will tend to see that gun restrictions may be the only way to prevent that event from repeating itself.

In sum, we may be on the verge of witnessing the fulfillment of one of Joseph Smith’s prophecies:

“Even this nation will be on the verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground and when the Constitution is on the brink of ruin this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction.” (Dated July 19, 1840, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church Historical Archives, Box 1, March 10, 1844.)

In an Independence Day celebration speech in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on July 4, 1854, Brigham Young commented on Joseph’s prophecy:

“Will the Constitution be destroyed? No; it will be held inviolate by this people; and, as Joseph Smith said, ‘the time will come when the destiny of the nation will hang upon a single thread. At this critical juncture, this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction.’ It will be so.” (Journal of Discourses 7:15 (1854)) (emphasis added)

President John Taylor also commented and declared that the Elders of Israel should “begin to understand that they have something to do with the world politically as well as religiously, that it is as much their duty to study correct political principles as well as religious, and to seek to know and comprehend the social and political interests of man, and to learn and to be able to teach that which would be best calculated to promote the interests of the world.” (Journal of Discourses 9:340 (1862))

Will the members of the Church be the only ones that will eventually uphold the Constitution? I lean towards Pres. Benson’s interpretation that all “righteous citizens” will be the saviors of Constitutional values:

“I have faith that the Constitution will be saved as prophesied by Joseph Smith. It will be saved by the righteous citizens of this nation who love and cherish freedom. It will be saved by enlightened members of this Church—among others—men and women who understand and abide the principles of the Constitution.” (President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1987, p. 7) (emphasis added)

What is clear, however, are two things. First, our Constitutional values are in peril. We should be ever-vigilant of the changes witnessed in Washington. Second, righteous citizens clearly have responsibilities and obligations regarding these matters. Indeed, “[n]ext to being one in worshiping God, there is nothing in this world upon which this Church should be more united than in upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States!” (President David O. McKay, 1956, Instructor Magazine 91:34)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Conscience vs. Following the Brethren

This is a tough post for me to write because I still don't know how I feel about this. Perhaps because the election has already passed, it is no longer relevant what I think. I am, of course, talking about voting on Proposition 102 in Arizona.

I consider myself a pretty reasonable person and always try to understand both sides of an issue, even if I initially don't agree with one side. I also consider myself a pretty orthodox member of the church and think it is inappropriate to criticize our leaders (we covenant not to, right?). With that in mind, I really struggled with this one. Being active on the internet, it was impossible to not notice the church's involvement on California's Prop 8. The church went so far as to provide
reasons for why it supported the respective propositions for CA and AZ. For the sake of this post and to prevent arguments over the merits, just assume that I thought that the arguments were weak.

Last Sunday, during a state-wide Stake Conference, President Packer reiterated points of his classic talk called "Follow the Brethren". He briefly mentioned the election and essentially said (paraphrasing) that if we are to follow the Brethren now, we should vote yes on Prop 102. It was rather vague and much of the talk seemed to be more about the fight in CA and less about AZ.

This post is not intended to argue the merits for or against Prop 102 (or 8 for CA readers). Instead, I ask what does one do if they do not agree with the reasoning behind the support? The church of course counsels us to vote our conscience. What if our conscience goes against President Packer's admonition? Does following my conscience mean that I do not follow the Brethren? Do not the Brethren tell us to follow our conscience? Understand, I am deeply conflicted over this and am not intending this to be critical of the Brethren.

I believe that there is safety in following the Brethren. But then I wonder if someone that was critical of the pre-1978 priesthood situation would have felt as if they didn't follow the Brethren at that time. Was that person not ultimately correct post-1978? Putting aside criticism of the Brethren (that would be inappropriate in any situation), should that person have seen himself as unsupportive of the Brethren because of that view?

Jeremy and I were going through some of these ideas earlier today over IM and so I think it helps me to put my thoughts down and solicit feedback. Again, this is not intended to argue the merits of each side. I only ask what one does when they feel that this conflicts with their conscience? I admire those who in the past were able to overcome their conscience and feelings about plural marriage and put their trust in the prophet. I wish I had that kind of faith.

(For what it's worth, when I had to decide, I came to the conclusion that I sustain the Brethren as prophets (even if I disagree) and as such, recognize that sometimes I have to sacrifice my own reasoning because they know more than me. Perhaps this was difficult for me and not for others for this particular issue. In the future, something else could be easier for me and unconscionable for someone else.)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

4 Nephi Parallels the Winding Up Scenes of the Millennium

The scriptures are clear that during the Millennium, Satan is to be bound for a time. For example, Revelation 20:3 teaches that there will likely be an initial physical binding of the adversary (maybe through priesthood power), while 1Ne 22:26 explains that his power will be severely restricted during this time as a result of the righteousness of the people. Indeed, Satan will be sealed up in the bottomless pit for a thousand years – but not forever. “When the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed” to once again deceive and gather followers from all nations to a battle in which Satan and his angels will eventually be cast off forever (see Rev. 20:7-8).

How is Satan finally loosed? After centuries of ignoring his enticements and the outward determination of the people of God not to listen to him, nor be governed by him, how does Satan once again gain a foothold in the lives of God’s children?

This is likely not an overnight transformation of the people, but a gradual decline of the righteousness of God’s people near the end of the Millennium. Satan only gains power over man through man’s exercise of his own agency. Thus, the Lord will not bind Satan and take his power from the earth while his children are willing to be governed by him.

The Book of Mormon provides an interesting illustration that may parallel this future event for us. In particular, 4 Nephi 1 gives us a sobering preview of how the bright millennial era may be brought to a close. After Christ’s visit to the descendants of Lehi in the Americas, the people entered into a millennial condition wherein they lived in a Zion-like society (see 4Ne 1:15-18). In fact, they were so righteous that they became one of the few peoples in recorded scripture that successfully lived the Law of Consecration for a time (see 4Ne 1:2-3).

The breakdown in this near-perfect society had tiny beginnings: “a small part of the people . . . revolted from the church and [had] taken upon them the name of Lamanites” (4Ne 1:20). Several years later, social classes were instituted once more and the Law of Consecration was abandoned (4Ne 1: 24-26). From that point, society disintegrated rapidly. Within the next decade:

[T]here were many churches in the land; yea, there were many churches which professed to know the Christ, and yet they did deny the more parts of his gospel, insomuch that they did receive all manner of wickedness, and did administer that which was sacred unto him to whom it had been forbidden because of unworthiness. And this church did multiply exceedingly because of iniquity, and because of the power of Satan who did get hold upon their hearts. (4Ne 1:27-28)

Thus, Satan, who had essentially been bound, was loosed again in the land because man invited him in once again. In due time, Satan's now-welcome influence caused severe unbelief, wickedness, and divisions among God’s people. In fact, the wicked eventually became more numerous than the righteous (4Ne 1:40). By the time 300 years had passed away from Christ’s visit, wickedness had spread all over the face of the land, and “there were none that were righteous save it were the disciples of Jesus” (4Ne 1:46).

In a parallel fashion, at the end of the Millennium, I believe that those present will again invite the adversary's influence into their lives, thus loosing him "for a little season" (D&C 43:31). The Lord will allow mankind to exercise their agency and worship how (and whom) they wish. As a result, leading up to the final battle, we may likely see class divisions and religious strife as those in 4 Nephi did.

This is just another parallel that I have seen from the Book of Mormon as it relates to our future events.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Earn Your Master Mahan Degree Online!

ITT Tech and The University of Phoenix were not the first institutions to offer accelerated courses with quick job placement. In fact, this marketing/education tool has been in use from the days of Cain and Abel. I speak, of course, of the Master Mahan degree offered at Satan’s University (“SU”). You can find information about SU, whose mascot (of course) is The Devil, through several ways: disregarding the promptings of the Holy Ghost, watching anything on MTV or VH1, listening to 99.99% of the music on the radio today, and many other ways.

“[SU’s inception] begins . . . with Satan seeking to promote himself even in the pre-mortal existence, and being cast out of heaven in his pride, and dedicating himself upon his fall to the destruction of this earth, ‘for he knew not the mind of God’ (Moses 4:6). [On earth] he . . . will control the world economy by claiming possession of the earth’s resources; and by manipulation of its currency – gold and silver – he will buy up the political, military, and ecclesiastical complex and run everything his way. . . . He not only offers employment but a course of instruction in how the whole thing works, teaching the ultimate secret: ‘That great secret’ (Moses 5:49-50) of converting life into property. Cain got the degree of Master Mahan, tried the system out on his brother, and gloried in its brilliant success, declaring that at last he could be free, as only property makes free, and that Abel had been a loser in a free competition.” (Hugh W. Nibley, APPROACHING ZION, pp. 165-166)

The proud Dean of SU, Satan himself, taught Cain “the great secret,” that you can murder your brothers and sisters to get gain. After graduating from SU, Cain said, “Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder to get gain.” (Moses 5:31) “Wherefore Cain was called Master Mahan; and he gloried in his wickedness.” Id.

Graduation from SU entails a great secret combination, which is outlined in Moses 5. SU’s Master Mahan course of instruction includes 3 easy steps:

1) The student must love the Dean more than God,
2) The student must swear unto the Dean by his throat that if he reveals the secret he will die,
3) The student must make his accomplices swear by their own heads and the living God that they will not reveal the secret or risk losing their own lives, and
4) The Dean will then swear unto the student to do anything the student commands – like deliver the student’s brother unto him so that the student may murder his brother and take his brother’s possessions. (Moses 5:28-30)

Now that’s quick job placement! Satan imitates everything in the Gospel, and perverts it. His original plan was to save everyone, and now it is the mockery of the ordinances of the endowment. Look at Moses 5:29 again, the students swear by the Living God, but the Dean doesn’t want Adam to know about it because Adam is the head of the Church and would put an abrupt stop to it.

“The discipline was handed down through Lamech and finally became the pattern of the world’s economy (Moses 5:55-60). . . . One may see Mahan at work all around, from the Mafia, whose adherence to the principle needs no argument, down to the drug pusher, the arms dealer, the manufacturer and seller of defective products, or those who poison the air and water as a shortcut to gain and thus shorten and sicken the lives of all their fellow creatures.” (Hugh W. Nibley, APPROACHING ZION, pp. 166-167)

In the last days, John teaches that the “merchants of the earth” would weep over Babylon’s demise. Why? Because they lose their industry wherein one of their hottest products was “slaves and [the] souls of men” (Rev. 18:11-13). Some may say that this refers to false religions buying and selling men’s souls as prophesied in Mormon 8:32. But I believe Babylon enslaves and destroys men’s souls using “the great secret.”

The degree of Master Mahan is being earned every day at an unprecedented rate by people we see, and in some instances worship. I speak not only of the “merchants of the earth” who are the peddlers of the filth and immorality spewing from the Internet, our television sets, and radios, but also of celebrities whose immoral and idiotic lives have captivated millions of our brothers and sisters. Truly, the world’s economy in these last days is run on the Master Mahan system.

On a daily basis celebrities graduate (some with high honors) from SU and covenant, whether they know it or not, with the Dean. (I find it amusing when some of them attempt to be religious) The Dean, on the other hand, has no trouble delivering all of us unto them through the innumerable media outlets. Once we are captivated by the celebrity allure, the Master Mahan methodically converts our life into property, by taking our spiritual lives as we consistently throw our money, acclaim, and adoration at their feet.

Apparently, the system works! Any thoughts?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Generals in the War in Heaven Strike Back

For those of you who remember that unsupported quote from a few years ago that was attributed to Elder Packer about the youth being generals in the war in heaven, the time has come once again that a talk was attributed to Elder Packer from a recent Sacrament Meeting. It's possible that some of our readers on this blog have seen this forwarded, despite not being officially transcribed for publication.

FAIR has done some research and has posted its finding on its wiki here. Make sure that you stop the panic and hysteria on this one if you receive the forward please. Do a reply-all to stop this and send the FAIR link if you can.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lessons from Gorbachev

I recently bought a book at Ross for $10. It's called Atlas of World History and is like a 10th Grade History book with comprehensive charts and maps about major world events. It's nothing special, but it's a great book for basic research and understanding.

I was browsing though the book yesterday and was reading through the section on the fall of the Iron Curtain. Of particular interest was the discussion on perestroika and glasnost, programs that were designed to revive the stagnant and bankrupt Soviet economy. At that time, economic output was dependent on government mandated projections and not based on normal market pressures (supply and demand). Sovient Premier Mikail Gorbachev tried to use perestroika to open the Soviet economy to normal market principles, recognizing that his citizens were becoming aware of superior western living standards. Anyone can read about this on wikipedia or history books, but the following surprised me when I read it.

"One typical law passed as part of Perestroika was the law of state enterprise,
which allowed companies to determine their own output based upon the demand for
the goods they produced. Furthermore
the government was no longer
expected to bail companies out if they went bankrupt

I am not advocating one way or another for the recent bailout, but I do find it interesting that a Soviet reformer determined that its own economy was stagnant because companies could always rely on a state-sponsored bail outs and thereby could take unchecked risks.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Does Baptism Always Remit Sins?

After a baptismal service, I doubt that I am the only member of the Church who has heard a variation of the following statement given by a member of the Bishopric, “And we would like to introduce the newest and cleanest member of our Ward.” Is that individual necessarily the “cleanest” member of the Ward?

On May 15, 1829, the resurrected John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and ordained them to the Aaronic Priesthood. As explanation, John taught that the Aaronic Priesthood held, among other things, the keys of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins (see D&C 13)

As a result of such semantics it is supposed by many in the Church that the remission of sins comes in the waters of baptism. Independent of keeping the commandments, however, this is not and cannot be the case. The obvious example includes an individual who lies concerning his personal worthiness during his baptismal interview. Would this individual receive a remission of sins by simply entering the waters of baptism by immersion? Obviously not.

In “The Vision” received by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in 1832, the Lord revealed the separate qualifications required to enter the separate degrees of glory. With reference to Celestial Kingdom inhabitants, we learn that:

They are 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, and this according to the commandment which he has given— That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins . . .

Notice the difference between “the commandment” in verse 51 and “the commandments” in verse 52. Verse 51 speaks of the commandment to be baptized in the same manner in which Christ was, while verse 52 speaks of general commandments of spiritual worthiness.

Similarly, Moroni said in teaching this principle, “Baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth forth remission of sins (Moroni 8:25). Thus, it is not baptism that cleanses one from past sins, but keeping the commandments that make one worthy of such an ordinance. In some instance, this worthiness may occur some time after the fact.

The same principle, I believe, applies to ALL temple blessings as the Holy Spirit of Promise cannot seal the ordinance until worthiness has been demonstrated.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Does Illegal Immigration Fulfill Prophecy?

During the chaos of an election year, we are constantly bombarded with heated political arguments. One political issue, in particular, has always interested me in light of scriptural prophecy. I speak of illegal immigration through America's southern border and the immense effect that it has on the economy. Although I retain personal and quite strong feelings on the subject, this post is not intended to be a political commentary. Instead, I am simply putting forth my personal interpretation of a scriptural theory.

D&C 87 is generally remembered as the prophecy that foretold the Civil War. I submit that the revelation reaches far beyond that sorrowful conflict that pitted brother against brother and father against son to be as prophetic for us as it was when first recorded. D&C 87:5 reads:

And it shall come to pass also that the remnants who are left of the land will marshal themselves, and shall become exceedingly angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation.

What is this "sore vexation" that we are to be afflicted with? Some scholars argue that this verse is tied to Micah 5:8. They argue that this prophecy may find fulfillment through the events involving all 12 tribes of Israel and encompassing the whole earth. In my opinion, however, D&C 87:5 may see its fulfillment in the ramifications resulting, in part at least, from illegal immigration.

After administering the sacrament to the Nephites, Christ said:

14 And the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you this land, for your inheritance.
15 And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive, after they have scattered my people—
16 Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
(3Ne 20:14-16)

In short, the Lord promised Lehi’s remnant an inheritance in the Americas, and unless the Gentiles repent after they received “the blessing” (referring to temple blessings – see vs 27), the remnant is to act to acquire their inheritance. Christ stated that the remnant would go among the Gentiles, and be in the midst of them who are many. To me, this sounds a whole lot like illegal immigration through America's southern border, as 11 million+ Mexican citizens (a handful of “the remnant”) are among the many (300 million+) Gentiles.

Illegal immigrants are also “as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces.” A lion among a flock of sheep clearly causes havoc and distress among the flock. But the lion, nonetheless, is a “young lion” possibly meaning that it will not retain leadership capabilities. Instead, the young lion creates an abundance of difficulties that “shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation” (D&C 87:5).

Up until recently, I always thought that the “sore vexation” likely referred to the crippling effects of the drug trade that emanates from south of our border. But the frightening reports of the economic and moral effects that illegal immigration wreaks upon our land have me leaning toward a new interpretation.

Regardless, now that the temple blessings have been introduced on this continent for over 170 years, I don’t believe the Gentiles are repenting. Both Micah and Christ (and Mormon – see Mormon 5:15-24) make it clear that in the face of such a “sore vexation,” “none can deliver.” The only question in my mind, then, is the extent of damage that the “young lion” will have on this country.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

No Need for Modern-Day Prophets?

I recently returned from a business trip in western New York where I had the opportunity to travel for a few hours with an Evangelical colleague. I was surprised when he asked me to elaborate on the inception of the LDS Church as he knew we were driving through the same area where it had its humble beginnings. We spoke of the Book of Mormon, modern-day revelation and prophets. When I testified of a living, modern-day prophet he automatically replied with a handful of scriptures purporting to show that there was no need for prophets today as the Bible was to be our only guide.

In particular, he quoted from Hebrews 1:1-2:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.

I did not argue what the scripture clearly states. Indeed, the verses simply detail Paul’s understanding of the nature of the Godhead: the Father’s word was spoken over the ages by prophets, but recently the Father spoke more directly by his Son. This did not, however, signify God’s end of his modus operandi of always calling a "go-to-guy" on the Earth to lead his people. Instead, as I explained, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

As we are all familiar, Paul illustrated the importance of divinely appointed apostles and prophets in the Church in Ephesians 4:11-14:

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive....

In other words, without apostles and prophets, even a community of believers may be tossed about by every wind of doctrine, drifting like a ship without a rudder. For example, the false doctrine of infant baptism did not emerge until apostles and prophets ceased to be called in ancient times, marking the inception of the much-prophesied Great Apostasy. Soon basic doctrines about the nature of God became replaced with ideas more palatable to the Hellenized thinking of the 3rd and 4th centuries. This transformation of the faith was obviously completed by the writing of the Nicene Creed in A.D. 325.

I continued to explain to my colleague that without continued revelation through divinely appointed apostles and prophets, his Evangelical church, no matter how devout it may be, is like a ship without a rudder, depending on human logic and debates among scholars to settle issues and provide guidance. I paraphrased Brothers Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig Ostler in “Revelations of the Restoration” (pg. 55):

[T]he notion that salvation can be found in any of a host of contradictory doctrines defies reason and argues that God’s kingdom is one of chaos and disorder. We are being asked to believe that if a dozen people add a column of figures and each arrives at a different sum, we must accept each of them as right. After all, it is not the sum that you come to that matters but the zeal with which you add the figures that counts.

McConkie and Ostler continued to give another great example of contradiction:

Similarly, this notion argues that all men, women, and children who receive a prescription from a doctor are entitled to go to the pharmacist and concoct their own mixture of drugs. . . . [Such] a notion reveals itself to be a deceptive ploy lulling people into the belief that it is for them to dictate the terms of salvation and to determine the nature and character of God. In such a God, we have no interest.

Our theological discussion concluded when I boiled down Evangelical religion to Bible religion. In short, Bible religion is itself unbiblical as no one within the covers of the Bible ever had a Bible. Instead, their religion was one of apostles and prophets, and continuous revelation. Never in Bible times was God’s Church governed by a book!

God has always worked through apostles and prophets, and has not changed in that regard. As Amos 3:7 explains: “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Heavenly Father does His work through His servants, the prophets, to whom he reveals His truths and teachings. If there are no prophets, then something is clearly missing.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Temple in Independence?

Ok, I am speculating of course, but the announcement at General Conference that the Church will be building temples in Rome, Calgary, Cordoba in Argentina, Philadelphia and another temple in the Kansas City area, really got me thinking. The Kansas City area includes Independence, Missouri of course and we are all familiar with the divine commandment to build a temple there, despite different LDS groups already sharing the land. It's way too earlier to tell, but it would be one of the most interesting announcements of the new century if the temple was built there. There is nothing that LDS like to do more than speculate.

Take a look at what already shares the temple lot. My favorite is the sea shell.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Challenge to the Country - The New Space Race

I have some additional thoughts about the current state of the global economy. I apologize if it's not directly relevant to apologetics but it does affect us all one way or another.

We need a modern day space race to shake things up here. This is no longer the 1950's and 1960's where fears of Soviet missiles inspired us to beat them in the space races. We are losing the technology and educational/science battle and we don't even know it. President Kennedy harnessed our fear of the Soviets and used it to develop our science and technology plan for the 1960's. He said two months after Yuri Gargarin had reached space:

I believe that we possess all the resources and talents necessary, but the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to ensure their fulfillment...[Plan to put man on the moon before the end of the 1960's]. Let it be clear that I am asking Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action, a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs...This decision demands a major national national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, material and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts.
Well said indeed. I agree with Tom Friedman's idea advocated first in The World is Flat and more recently in Hot, Flat, and Crowded. What if the next president, whoever it may be, said something along the lines of Kennedy and demanded an accelerated program for alternative energy and conservation to make America energy-independent by 2018.

Think of the benefits:
  1. No oil dependence from unstable areas of the world where we are not welcome, usually including Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Russia to just name a few.
  2. $140 a barrel for oil? Need I say more? Wait until next summer or until another hurricane...
  3. A boom in green-technology where knowledge management is in the US.
  4. New job creation for the next generation.
  5. A decrease in gas emissions. If you believe in global warming, then this applies as well. Even if you don't believe in global warming, decreasing gas consumption is still better for the air.
  6. By removing ourselves from the Middle East, we would eliminate one of the primary reasons terrorists attack the US. Osama bin Laden's big beef with us is 1) Supporting Israel and 2) Having Jewish and Christian soldiers in the land of the Two Holy Cities (i.e. Saudi Arabia). With no Saudi oil to protect, those troops would be home asap.
  7. With no oil to rely on, the above-mentioned regimes would have no way to ignore calls to reform. Do you honestly think we can force the Russians to leave Georgia when they control Europe's gas lines? Ask the Germans who voted down Georgian NATO membership (hint: it was the Germans. Any guess why?)
  8. After we create our own energy independence, we can sell that technology to others around the world. It's a win-win for us all. We create and patent the technology, then sell it to others. If we don't someone else will create it and sell it to us.

I know this isn't a really LDS-based post, but we are all affected by global economics, whether we like to believe it or not.

We used to say to kids: Eat your dinner because children in India and China don't have any food." As Friedman puts it, we should say, "Do your homework because children in China and India want your job."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Thoughts on the Credit Crisis

I am not sure where I stand on the bail out. Some say that while they detest it, it is a necessity to stabilize the markets. Others say that it is too much government intervention and that taxpayers should not foot the bill in a free market economy. I am sure of some things though:
  • President Hinckley warned us about this for years.
  • When we do come out of this, and we eventually will, we will have gained nothing but losses.

During the railroad construction boom of the 1850's the speculative bubble that burst left us with huge losses and cheap railways across the country. Entrepreneurs were able to buy the railroads for cheap and develop a continental trading system. We came out on top.

After the internet bubble popped in the late 1990's, we were left with huge losses and fiber optic broadband cables connecting us to India and China. This infrastructure was bought for cheap and you began to see massive off-shoring to India and China around this time because US companies could get great connections with good workers abroad. Without broadband cables, this would be impossible. In other words, despite the losses of the busts, we had massive and high quality infrastructure that benefited (and still does benefit) us and them every day.

The bubble popping that we are essentially feeling now is from the housing market as we all know. After the bubble burst, the government and Alan Greenspan encouraged us to invest in housing as prices were rising so fast (not to mentioned Congressional members purposely lowering credit standards for mortgages). The bubble popped in September 2007 and we are still feeling the effects today. After we recover from the astronomical losses of this bubble in the months/years/decades from now, what will we be left with? Cheap railroads, fiber-optic cables that will improve the economy or a Condo in Aspen and Boca Raton that are useless?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Sealed Portion of the Gold Plates

As many of you may already be aware, there is a security guard in Utah who claims to have received revelation that he was supposed to translate the sealed portion of the gold plates and also re-translate the Book of Lehi of lost 116 pages fame. You can view his work here. FAIR posted a review on its wiki about the validity of the work. You can decide for yourself.

To be honest, it is astonishingly long and detailed, and you can definitely tell the guy put a lot of time into it. It's something like 668 pages total but not all of it is scripture. Page 596 in the pdf. includes a letter sent by the translator to the First Presidency. However, he did preface the letter with the following:

By way of commandment I wrote the following letter to the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and had it delivered in late March 2004 along with a copy of The Book of Lehi, certified and registered by way of United States Postal Service.
Does the Lord then command us to use USPS for our mail delivery or would you not FedEx something that important? All kidding aside, the point of the post is not to really to discuss the contents of the translation nor its merits, but to discuss how we as a church:

1) Encourage and require that all members receive personal revelation, whether by grandiose visions or simple inspiration; and,

2) Keep any personal revelation subject to the priesthood lines of authority and its right to obtain revelation for the church as a whole

By cutting off personal revelation, a church would become dead as its members would have to rely on texts that, while somewhat relevant, might not address the problems of that particular time and would not provide for revelation that has been lost (Zenos, Zenock). Priests and early Fathers would interpret the scriptures and theological debates would continue for centuries. Moreover, without priesthood organizational authority, we would encounter splinter groups claiming personal revelation more often, as this brother so easily demonstrated. Polygamous groups are an easy example as well but how many times have we heard about a seminary teacher who broke off and was treating a barn in Manti like a temple or some other strange story?

We as LDS and Christians are not limited to this conundrum. Islam is divided into two major groups (Sunni and Shi'a), with each group having multiple varieties internally. A Sunni can be a Wahhabi Sunni in Saudi Arabia, which is generally more conservative or a Dervish in Turkey could be a Sunni, but have a different understanding of Islam as a mystic. I will talk more about this in a future post.

How have we been successful in overcoming this apparent contradiction while others have not been as successful? (Bonus points for mentioning Hiram Page. Any one that can work a seer stone into an argument on a blog called The Seer Stone certainly deserves extra credit)

Prop 8 Note: I guess the Brother of Jared knew that the California Supreme Court would rule that same sex marriage discrimination was going to be a major issue for our day. According to our good friend the translator of the Sealed Portion, the Book of Mormon condones same sex marriage. Check out this press release. Apparently two of Jesus' apostles were openly gay. So the Pharisees relied on criticising Jesus on the shaky doctrinal ground of healing on the Sabbath instead but ignored the basics of Mosaic law?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pythagoras, Tetraktys, and the Manti Temple

Pythagoras (died 490 BC) is perhaps most famous to us because of what we all dreaded in school: math and the Pythagorean Theorem. For those who can't remember or who willfully forget this (me), the Pythagorean Theorem is described as such:

In any right triangle, the area of the square whose side is the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the areas of the squares whose sides are the two legs (the two sides that meet at a right angle)

This is also represented as a² + b² = c².

Pythagoras was also considered to be the first Greek philosopher and discoverer that musical harmony is based on constants between intonation. One of his lesser known discoveries, at least to lay people, is the Tetraktys. The Tetraktys is a triangle, with a dot representing each row and its value. Thus, the first row is one, the second two, the third three, and the fourth four. If one were to add all of these up, the answer is ten (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10, a perfect number in the decimal system). There are many mathematicl formulas and fascinating connections to the Tetraktys, among which the Kabbalists are obsessed with its relation to the Tetragrammaton (I would love to hear what David Littlefield has to say about this).

I bring this up in an LDS-related blog because a few years ago I went to the Manti Temple and was impressed with its symbolism and unique character. I asked some of the temple workers what the symbols on the door hinges and door knobs were but they did not know and referred me to a book about the Manti Temple that I could buy in a local grocery store. Those living in Manti know there's probably only one store. So I found the book, "The Manti Temple", and bought it. It was written specifically for the 100 year celebration of the temple and includes some great information about the temple and its history. One of the sections in the book includes an observation made by Hugh Nibley about the temple's unique metallic features. In case one is not familiar with his work, Nibley viewed the temple as a compass for the cosmos, a place where we can get our bearings in relation to the universe. By gaining further truth and knowledge there, we can answer the terrible questions of life (great chapter in Temples and Cosmos) and find our way back to God's presence.

According to Nibley, his Great Grandfather, John Patrick Reed, who was a Branch President and leader of his local Masonic order in Belfast, Ireland, designed many of the metal elements in the Manti Temple. Brother Reed, influenced by his Masonic associations, incorporated many of the symbols into the temple as purely cosmetic elements. One of the more well-known elements seen by patrons is the distinctive look on the door knobs. Look closely at the picture below.

If you were unable to see it, look at the top half of the door knob in the middle region. What do you see? Four lines that represent a triangle, the Tetraktys! You may ask why this is so significant when it is simply a masonic element from Greek philosophic schools used in an LDS temple? Consider this statement, attributed to Iamblichus:

The Tetraktys [also known as the decad] is an equilateral triangle formed from the sequence of the first ten numbers aligned in four rows. It is both a mathematical idea and a metaphysical symbol that embraces within itself — in seedlike form — the principles of the natural world, the harmony of the cosmos, the ascent to the divine, and the mysteries of the divine realm. So revered was this ancient symbol that it inspired ancient philosophers to swear by the name of the one who brought this gift to humanity — Pythagoras.”
Why do we go to the temple? Is it simply to do work for the dead? Or do we go to learn "the principles of the natural world, the harmony of the cosmos, the ascent to the divine, and the mysteries of the divine realm"? Does not the temple teach us about the nature of the universe, the creation, or how we can ascend back to God? Is it just coincidence that this symbol, which represents learning the mysteries of the universe, was added as a decoration by one completely unfamiliar with its meaning, and yet still have deep and profound meaning for the temple?

For a similar situation, check out here, here, here, and especially here for Bryce's posts about the symbol of the Seal of Melchizedek at the San Diego temple which occurred under similar circumstances by the architect, and also included Hugh Nibley. Also checkout David Larsen's site on the Heavenly Ascent in apocalyptic literature.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Seven Deadly Heresies - Part Five (Progression Between Kingdoms of Glory)

This post is part five in our series on The Seven Deadly Heresies, as given by Elder McConkie (see here).

The fifth heresy, according to Elder McConkie, is the idea that there is progression within the kingdoms of glory after the resurrection.

Heresy five: There are those who say that there is progression from one kingdom to another in the eternal worlds or that lower kingdoms eventually progress to where higher kingdoms once were.

This belief lulls men into a state of carnal security. It causes them to say, "God is so merciful; surely he will save us all eventually; if we do not gain the celestial kingdom now, eventually we will; so why worry?" It lets people live a life of sin here and now with the hope that they will be saved eventually.

The true doctrine is that all men will be resurrected, but they will come forth in the resurrection with different kinds of bodies--some celestial, others terrestrial, others telestial, and some with bodies incapable of standing any degree of glory. The body we receive in the resurrection determines the glory we receive in the kingdoms that are prepared.

Of those in the telestial world it is written: "And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end" (D&C 76:112).

Of those who had the opportunity to enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage in this life and who did not do it, the revelation says:

Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven; which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.

For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever. [D&C 132:16-17]

They neither progress from one kingdom to another, nor does a lower kingdom ever get where a higher kingdom once was. Whatever eternal progression there is, it is within a sphere.
So the question is whether the kingdoms are locked from progression after entrance, or whether there is some progression after entry so that we could progress to eventual Celestial status.

Elder McConkie relies on D&C 76's description about the inhabitants of the Telestial Kingdom that they cannot visit the Savior and the Father or be where the are. He also relies on D&C 132's description of those who reject the new and everlasting covenant.

Those who believe in some type of progression rely on D&C 19, specifically verse 6, which says:

"Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment."

I suppose to proponents this means that punishment is not eternal but that after our punishment we can increase in glory as we perfect ourselves.

Additionally, a supporter of this theory would say that the Telestial Kingdom scripture mentioned above does not specifically say that it will be eternally so. One could be in the situation until he is ready to progress. Moreover, Heber C. Kimball taught an eternal progression model (perhaps BHodges can give us an idea where to look in the JD). Proponents are not comfortable with the absolutism of eternal placement where our theology is generally not so absolutist. I don't see how this can displace Section 132 above, but I don't see any scriptural support beyond Section 19 and it's tenuous at best.

Kimball's model seemed to further Joseph Smith's teachings that we only receive blessings from ordinances as soon as we are ready to receive them. Therefore, if one receive assurance of salvation, while guaranteed, it would not occur until that person is ready. Brigham espoused the idea that we resurrect in Celestial glory and make the jump directly to Celestial substance, whereas one could argue based on JS's statement that we attain a kingdom and then progress to receive our blessing as soon as we are prepared.

My final thoughts:

1) Like previous posts, this is certainly not case-closed as Elder McConkie suggests (astonishing!).

2) My gut tends to feel better with the progression idea because as Alma and Amulek taught, we are raised in the state that we die in. If we are in great need of improvement and are still bound to be Celestial, that leaves a huge gap between death and resurrection.

3) Despite my gut feeling against absolutism, there are similar circumstances of absolutism (War in Heaven) where we understand a group to have made their choice and no further progression is possible. While this may feel like a contradiction of Moses 1:39, I just don't see a lot of scriptural support for the progression model, and not much more direct support for the model advocated by Elder McConkie. I think that, like many of these deeper points of doctrine, it is better to stay open minded because it really hasn't been revealed relative to what we are asking. Any GA statements are, most likely, speculation and will contradict each other (I'll see your Talmage and raise you a Wilford Woodruff).

Monday, September 1, 2008

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior."

(Guest Post by: Nathan Rees, of Dallas, TX)

After a recent conversation with Hans and Jeremy I have been contemplating the above quote by Elder Packer. (Elder Boyd K. Packer, “Do Not Fear,” Liahona and Ensign, May 2004, 79) When examining this statement, the patent lawyer in me cannot ignore the extra limitation in that quote that I believe makes all the difference in the world, the word understood. To prepare for writing this entry I began to review various doctrines of the church that I have studied over the past few years. I found that there are many doctrines of which I have a thorough knowledge, but there are less that I can honestly say that I understand in a true sense. This has happened for many reasons, usually attributable to my own attitude at the outset of my studies.

President Benson stated that “the Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. . . . The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment.” See also, Mosiah 5:2. These words, like the first quote, seem very intuitive. Because it is so intuitive, I believe that we fail to give this phenomenon its proper heed. In other words, I believe we often have a tendency to underestimate the power of a true understanding of doctrine. Most likely we can all look at ourselves and agree that random things simply will not change our attitudes or behaviors. I imagine that this is human nature. If we recognize this fact, we will be able to better appreciate the type of impact for good that our own personal studies can potentially have, and hopefully we will be able to better focus ourselves when we take time to study a gospel concept (or even when we are taking the time to listen to a talk or lesson prepared for us).

These thoughts bring home to me a renewed importance of attempting to learn principles, not just with our minds, but with our spirits. It also raises questions in my mind regarding the more general population of the Church. I have recently started going to Sunday school again after a year of teaching gospel essentials as a ward missionary. I have found a startling contrast in the attitudes and thirst of new converts to gain a true understanding of gospel teachings, as opposed to the more general population of the church who seem to treat church talks and lessons as nothing more than an extremely boring social encounter.

Why (assuming I am correct in my perceptions) do many people fail to apply themselves sufficiently in order to truly understand the truths that are taught at our meetings. Especially in light of the fact that they are already putting out the effort to show up and sit through the meetings. Are we not supposed to be continuing to search for further light and knowledge? For that matter, why does it seem that the general population of the church are merely content with the light they currently have. Personally, complacency in any aspect of life, especially in the gospel, has never gotten me very far. This also raises the question of what can we do (if anything) as teachers, spouses, parents, etc., to get the people that we are attempting to teach in a mindset that helps them to understand doctrine to an extent that they are motivated to change their attitude and behavior in order to apply the teachings of the gospel. For me, I am sure that recognizing the problem will be a good first step…what now?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Seven Deadly Heresies - Part Four (Second Chance Salvation)

Continuing with our series of the Seven Deadly Heresies according to Elder McConkie's talk, we now move on to the fourth heresy.

Heresy four: There are those who believe that the doctrine of salvation for the dead offers men a second chance for salvation.

I knew a man, now deceased, not a member of the Church, who was a degenerate old reprobate who found pleasure, as he supposed, in living after the manner of the world. A cigarette dangled from his lips, alcohol stenched his breath, and profane and bawdy stories defiled his lips. His moral status left much to be desired.

His wife was a member of the Church, as faithful as she could be under the circumstances. One day she said to him, "You know the Church is true; why won't you be baptized?" He replied, "Of course I know the Church is true, but I have no intention of changing my habits in order to join it. I prefer to live the way I do. But that doesn't worry me in the slightest. I know that as soon as I die, you will have someone go to the temple and do the work for me and everything will come out all right in the end anyway."

He died and she had the work done in the temple. We do not sit in judgment and deny vicarious ordinances to people. But what will it profit him?

There is no such thing as a second chance to gain salvation. This life is the time and the day of our probation. After this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

For those who do not have an opportunity to believe and obey the holy word in this life, the first chance to gain salvation will come in the spirit world. If those who hear the word for the first time in the realms ahead are the kind of people who would have accepted the gospel here, had the opportunity been afforded them, they will accept it there. Salvation for the dead is for those whose first chance to gain salvation is in the spirit world.

In the revelation recently added to our canon of holy writ, these words are found:

Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;

Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;

For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts. [D&C 137:9]

There is no other promise of salvation than the one recited in that revelation. Those who reject the gospel in this life and then receive it in the spirit world go not to the celestial, but to the terrestrial kingdom.
At what point does one who rejects the Gospel final reach that threshold where he or she is considered to have had an opportunity and rejected it? BRM above thinks that one who has a knowledge of the truthfulness of the Gospel but still refuses to obey the principles and ordinances has already passed that moment. I tend to disagree to the extent that we do not know all circumstances in a person's life that cause him or her to accept or reject truth and knowledge. We do not know of abuse, education, mental illness, disability, or hardships. Therefore I would leave it to God to decide.

A further reading of Alma 34:33 confirms that there does come a night of darkness for those who have not repented. If a person enjoys the privileges of the understanding of the gospel and subsequently rejects that truth, it becomes difficult to change that lifestyle.

I think that a person who puts off repentance limits his or her progression because of the difficulty of repenting in the next life. Elder Melvin J. Ballard clarifies:

It is much easier to overcome and serve the Lord when both the flesh and spirit are combined as one...Every man and woman who is putting off until the next life the task of correcting and overcoming the weakness of flesh are sentencing themselves to years of bondage, for no man or woman will come forth in the resurrection until the have completed their work, until they have overcome, until the have done as much as they can do. ("The Three Degrees of Glory", 22 September 1922)
I like to think that BRM's use of Section 137 implies that one who would have accepted the Gospel in this life with the opportunity will accept it in the next life, keeping in mind certain life circumstances that affect what kind of people we are.

But the next logical question is whether Amulek's statement that we come to the night of darkness if we don't improve this life means that this person will not have an opportunity for repentance and full salvation while in the Spirit World? BRM thinks that one is disqualified from the Celestial Kingdom, I tend to agree but am not quite sure on this. This is exactly why we can't judge others because we don't know the desires of their hearts based on their life circumstances.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Will We Always Have Faith?

Joseph Smith taught that "faith is the assurance which men have of the existence of things which they have not seen, and the principal of action in all intelligent beings. . . . But faith is not only the principle of action, but of power also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth." (Lectures on Faith, 1:9, 13) In other words, faith encompasses two very disparate concepts; one dealing with our physical reactions to belief in things not seen, and another dealing with our ability to physically harness the power of this belief. I do not claim to know every facet with regard to our exercise of faith, but here are a few of my thoughts:

1) Alma teaches us that "if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it." (Alma 32:18) He further teaches that when a man's "knowledge is perfect" in some thing, his "faith is dormant." (Alma 32:34) In this life, we live by faith; faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice; faith in God's plan and the assurance of exaltation. Whether in this life or the afterlife, when a man obtains a perfect knowledge of these things, does he continue to exercise faith in them as a principle of action?

2) The brother of Jared possessed great faith that the Lord was able to simply touch 16 small stones to make them provide light for his 8 vessels. "Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men." (Ether 3:5) Accordingly, the brother of Jared acted on his faith. But notice what happens next.

The veil was taken from his eyes and the brother of Jared sees the finger of the Lord, and subsequently sees the Lord Himself. The Lord explained that "never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast." (Ether 3:9) In other words, the brother of Jared's faith was so refined that it allowed him to pass through the veil and obtain a perfect knowledge of our Savior. "Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence." (Ether 3:13)

The Lord then proceeds to explain this concept. "And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast." (Ether 3:15) Of course Christ had shown himself to others before. But he had never before revealed himself like this. Because of the brother of Jared's great faith, he could not be kept within the veil (see vs. 19-20). Thus, Christ was compelled to reveal himself unto man at this time, where as before, it was Christ's will whether to reveal himself or not.

Note the language in Ether 3:19, "he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting." In my opinion, this is truly the culmination of our faith; that we may one day see with our natural eye those things which we have seen for so many years with our eye of faith.

3) I believe that receiving the Second Comforter, as spoken of in John 14, and having our calling and election made sure in this lifetime are a direct result of continued faith as a principle of action. This reception may furthermore also be tied to the oft misunderstood ordinance of the second anointing. As LDS, we understand that the Second Comforter is "no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself." (TPJS, 149-151) A person who receives the Second Comforter "will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him . . . the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God." (Id.)

Does this person, now having a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ and the "mysteries of the Kingdom of God," subsequently require faith in these things? What of the Celestial Kingdom inhabitants who live with God and Jesus Christ, do they require faith in them anymore? Is this what John meant when he defined eternal life (God's life) as gaining a perfect knowledge of God and His Son? That we increase in knowledge og God through faith as a principle of action?

Faith as a principle of power, I believe, must be eternal since it is "the principle by which Jehovah works, and through which he exercises power over all temporal as well as eternal things." (Lectures on Faith, 1:16) I believe that we, as joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, will use this principle of power throughout eternity.

But, does our faith as a principle of action cease to exist when we gain an intimate and personal knowledge of eternal truths? For that matter, does God exercise faith as a principle of action? And if so, in what does He have faith?

Monday, August 4, 2008

إسناد‎ - Transmitting the truth

As LDS we believe in the Bible as it is came from the pen of the original writers and recognize that scribal errors, whether deliberate or not, exist in the New and Old Testaments, along with thousands of different texts and variations. Most scholars now agree that the Gospels of Luke and Matthew drew upon an earlier text (not currently in existence) that scholars have designated the name "Q" from the German word quelle, which means "source". Along with the Paulian Epistles, among which many are not considered to have been written by him, texts with authoritative language and accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus began to make their way into Christian congregations in the mid-2nd Century. The authenticity and accuracy of such texts was disputed by the transmitter or the narrator (see Tertullian, writing in contradiction of Marcion's corruption of Luke's account of the nativity, as recorded in On Prescription Against Heretics).

The authenticity of texts was based on the way that it was transmitted. For example, Paul wrote a hypothetical espitel and delivered it to Luke, who delivered it to our Bishop who passed it on to his successor, etc. Is this an authentic document? The earliest remnants of the New Testament still do not cover the early Christian period, but we can assume that some texts, with errors, were considered authentic because of their descent. This was a sign of the then-occurring apostasy. Those with the authority to interpret the meaning of scripture were soon gone.

We even have our own problem with this based on the saying of Joseph Smith. For the last four years of his life, almost all the information we have from him is based on second hand accounts of what he said. Oftentimes we will accept one person's interpretation because we agree with that person (Wilford Woodruff) or marginalize it because of bias (William McLellin).

Ancient Arabs in the Hijaz, like their ancient Jewish cousins, preserved their records through oral tradition and did not focus on record keeping (which makes Laban's plates all the more valuable). The sayings of Muhammad, as recorded in the Qur'an, the Sunnah (the sayings of the Prophet, kind of like the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith) and the Hadith (similar to the parables of Jesus) were all transmitted orally. It was not until Muhammad was long gone that the Qur'an was recorded, but one can still see today the focus that Muslims place on memorizing the Qur'an. Muslims are now in agreeance that the Qur'an as we have it today was exactly as Muhammad said it, but we really have no way to prove that. Moreover, there are hundreds of Hadiths that are attributed to Muhammad. They were not organized for centuries after the Prophet and come to us through trusted lines of narrators called إسناد‎(isnad). Usually an isnad has over ten levels of a transmitter with its own amount of trust. Because of this, some Hadiths are given more credence than others. It would be like to us "Joseph Smith told Wilford Woodruff such and such and he told Orson Pratt who told Joseph F. Smith who told George A. Smith who told Spencer Kimball who told Thomas Monson who said that...". We would obviously listen to that because we trust these sources.

Islam is a great example of early Christianity because it shows the same pace at which both degenerated. As soon as the apostles were gone, chaos ensued and authenticity of Gospel truths, as taught by Jesus, is called into question, hence the need for the JST. After Muhammad died, the Islamic community was split and without a religious leader. One need only look to the Haditha for an example of an isnad gone a stray. Many of us are familiar with the term that Muhammad was the "seal" of the prophets. The Sunnah and Haditha (according to accepted isnads)interpret this to mean that he was the greatest prophet and that he would be the last. No new revelation was necessary (sound familiar?). However, there were views in early Islam, long since forgotten, that advocated that this meant that Muhammad's teachings acted as a seal on the previous prophet and ratified their meaning, rather than being the last prophet. The Islam that is taught today, whether Sunni or Shi'a, does not recognize this belief becuase the isnad is a foregone conclusion, much like the prefection of the Bible to some of our Christian brothers. We can see a second example of what happens when he who (supposedly) authority is gone and none with that power are there to interpret the word.

The first photo is from a 16th Century copy of the Qur'an and the other three pictures are examples of isnads, all deriving from Muhammad, usually labled as "The Prophet".