Archive for the ‘gentiles’ Category

Dear President Uchtdorf,

In your Saturday morning talk at conference, you began by telling a story of a man who had a dream. The man dreamed that ‘he was in great hall where all the religions of the world were gathered.’ The story continued with this man meeting a nice couple who represented the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and asked “What do you require of your members?” Their response was that ‘we do not require anything, but the Lord asks that we consecrate all.’ The couple went on to explain about ‘church callings, home and visiting teaching, full-time missions, weekly family home evenings, temple work, welfare, and humanitarian service and assignments to teach.’ The list was expanded with ‘family history, youth camps, devotionals, scripture study, leadership training, youth activities, early morning seminary, maintaining church buildings. And, of course, there is the Lord’s law of health, the monthly fast to help the poor, and tithing.

Upon hearing of all that is required of members and the fact that none locally were paid for these contributions of time and talent, the man responded, “Why would anyone want to join such a church?” The couple’s response was, “We thought you would never ask.”

The story reminded me of a talk given by Boyd K. Packer in the Sunday morning session of conference in October of 1974. I was not privileged to hear this talk directly as I was serving a mission in Finland at the time, but the words sunk deeply into my soul.  It was not easy for us, my father had passed away when I was in high school but, at a sacrifice, my mother easily agreed to help cover the costs of my mission. It was she who sent me a copy of the conference proceedings as well as a tape of the session.

In this talk, Elder Packer referenced an event that occurred while he was a mission president as found here. A family receiving the discussions had requested no more visits. The man had heard of tithing and had decided that was too much to pay. When visited by the branch president, he was asked if he knew about fast offering, building fund (remember those days?), welfare and teaching assignments. The story ends with these words

As they departed, almost as an afterthought, he turned and said, “Have you ever wondered why people will do all of these things willingly? I have never received a bill for tithing. No one has ever called to collect it. But we pay it—and all of the rest—and count it a great privilege.

“If you could discover why, you would be within reach of the pearl of great price, which the Lord said the merchant man was willing to sell all that he had that he might obtain it.

“But,” said the branch president, “It is your decision. I only hope you will pray about it.”

A few days later the man appeared at the branch president’s home. No, he did not want to reschedule the missionaries. That would not be necessary. He wanted to schedule the baptism of his family. They had been praying, fervently praying.

For many years, the story helped validate the work I was doing and justified the many church assignments and activities that made up the agenda of an active member. Are we not to be busily engaged in a good cause?  Are not all these things expected of us in order to gain salvation? Doesn’t paying tithing, attending our meetings and the temple regularly, contributing to fast offering, and fulfilling our assignments represent what is expected of a member in good standing? Is this not how we are measured in the church?

I no longer hold that view. I now understand that relying on these works of men can only give us ‘joy in our works for a season.’ (3 Nephi 27:11) These outward acts – tithing, buildings, assignments and other works of man requiring our time and energy, do not gain us anything but a short lived satisfaction without the correct foundation. Checking all the boxes is not the prerequisite to entering into the rest of the Lord.

In a marvelous display of the workings of the Holy Ghost,  the people of King Benjamin were baptized by fire and received a remission of their sins. They were cautioned to ‘humble themselves even in the depths of humility’ in order to retain a remission of their sins. (Mosiah 4)

They were also taught that, in order to retain a remission of their sins, they were to consider the needs of those around them as described in verse 26:

And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

The pattern that the Lord has set here is that we are to first seek a remission of our sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. We are then to maintain humility and seek to serve those around us in order to retain a remission of our sins. We must cleanse ourselves before we can truly serve others. Through that service, we are able to retain a remission of our sins from day to day.

But, let me know turn to the message you delivered to those who are estranged from the church. I quote from your talk:

There are some who leave the church they once loved. One might ask, if the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave? Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended, or lazy, or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations. Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question of whether they should separate themselves from the church.

I am gratified that there is at least some recognition that offense and sin are not the general cause of people leaving the church. Yet, in the pamphlet the church sends to those who have asked to have their names removed, that attitude is still apparent, at least as of last year.

In this church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers. We respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the church we love and the truth we have found but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience just as we claim the privilege for ourselves.

Does this church truly honor personal agency? What would you say to the September Six who were honestly seeking truth, albeit outside the bounds of the lesson manual? Are we not told we must seek the mysteries of God or be bound by the chains of Hell? (Alma 12:9-11) Are we not to share these mysteries as guided by the Holy Spirit? Who is to judge from the outside which of us are to share and which to keep to ourselves?

What is the message to Denver Snuffer now that he was involuntarily separated (excommunicated) from the church? Is that how the church honors personal agency? Is that how you show respect for those who are honestly seeking for truth from the scriptures and historical records of the church. It seems that the church is doing the exact opposite. It is dictating what are the acceptable bounds of personal agency – bounds drawn by the currently accepted view of historical events and filtered by the need to justify the abandonment of practices and doctrines of the past.

Do not the people who travel to listen to people like Denver Snuffer deserve the same protection of personal agency for themselves? Can a person who differs in the perspective message they derive from the scriptures versus the correlated message of the church be shunned and cast away. Can’t truth stand on its own?

In the past, I was a casual reader of Denver Snuffer’s blog. When his notice of pending church discipline was published, I ordered his book, Passing the Heavenly Gift, to see for myself what would get a person excommunicated these days. Having recently finished the book, here is my perspective. I found someone who had put many painstaking hours into rationalizing the scriptures and the documented history of the church with the current church practices and doctrines. I found many of the same scriptures and information that I had independently found on my journey. I would suggest that the message delivered in the writings of Denver Snuffer are as worthy of the sanctity of personal agency as the result of any other prayerful search for truth.

Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of church history along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.

Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.

Patience appears to be the only rational response to the cognitive dissonance that prompts many of these questions. Will patience answer the question why the ordinance of the sacrament differs in practice from the scriptural dictate? Will patience explain why the call to gather to Zion is now ignored? Must we wait to understand the core aspects of the gospel and the true meaning of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost? Must we wait for a season to understand why the works of God have been replaced by the works of men in the validation of the mission of the church?

Sometimes there is a difference of opinion as to what the facts really mean. The question that creates doubt in some can. after careful investigation, build faith in others. And to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.

Is the difference of opinion as to the ‘facts,’ even after careful investigation, sufficient to threaten church discipline if that opinion runs counter to the current correlated version of church history? How does one resolve which events are mistakes and which are ‘inspired?’ Are we not encouraged to seek the confirmation of the Spirit in these matters? Should that not be the encouragement given to members when confronted by these differences in opinion, rather than threats and coercion?

As an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and as one who has seen firsthand the counsels and workings of this church, I bear solemn witness that no decision of significance affecting this church or its members is ever made without earnestly seeking inspiration, guidance, and the approbation of our Eternal Father. This is the Church of Jesus Christ. God will not allow His church to drift from its appointed course not fail to fulfill its divine destiny.

To this comment, I would ask where in the scriptures do we find that God would not allow the church to fail? On the other hand, is the church still under the condemnation identified in D&C 84:56 and reinforced by the voice of President Benson? What is the vengeance directed to His house as decribed in D&C 112:23-26? Are we not the Gentiles who have received their belief, in and of the Holy Ghost, and then reject the fulness of the gospel? (3 Nephi 16:6-12)

Joseph Smith stated “…for if Zion will not purify herself, so as to be approved in all things, in His sight, He will seek another people; for His work will go on until Israel is gathered, and they who will not hear His voice, must expect to feel his wrath. (TPJS p. 18) Has Zion purified herself in all things, may I ask? We face the same bitter end as the Jews at the meridian of time should we choose to ignore this warning.

The Church of Jesus Christ seems to attract the kind and the caring, the honest and the industrious. If you expect to find perfect people here, you will be disappointed. But if you seek the pure doctrine of Christ, the word of God which healeth the wounded soul and the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost, then here you will find them.

Does the church promote the pure doctrine of Christ as found in the scriptures (ex. 3 Nephi 11:31-40) or has it added to church doctrine, many doctrines of men? Does the church teach, as doctrine, the scriptural representation of sanctification or has it adapted doctrine of Christ to be more palatable to the average member (see 2 Nephi 31:17-20) Is it not the definition of some of these core doctrinal questions that cause some people to waver with regards to the church?

I am reminded of a time in the Savior’s life when many abandoned Him. Jesus asked His twelve disciples – “Will you also go away?”  Then Simon Peter answered Him – “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.

There are times we have to answer the same question. Will we also go away? Or will we like Peter hold fast to the words of eternal life.

We stand across a gulf from one another, each pointing an accusing finger toward the other shouting “apostate!!” Has the church itself not gone away from the original teachings of the Savior and the core revelations of the restoration? Have we not rationalized our condemnation by pointing proudly to the fact that we now have 15 million members across the globe and are building many fine structures? Do we, as a church, offer a pittance to the suffering around us while an investment in a shopping mall dwarfs decades of humanitarian efforts by the church?

I have seen how strongly the church values personal agency. I watched, a number of years ago, a good friend excommunicated for apostasy when the underlying issue was their belief and acquisition of personal revelation (and it repeats to this day). I watched the friends and associates of this person grilled and threatened with the same punishment. I saw a stake president abruptly released because he would not proceed with church discipline in one case. I listened to the father of one of these targets confide that the general authority who was leading the charge admitted candidly that this could have been a mistake.

This entire scenario is what prompted me to begin my search for truth. How was I supposed to rationalize what had transpired before me with the undeniable witness of the Book of Mormon and the existence of God I had received in my youth? In the process, I purchased a large library of literature touching on the topics of church history and doctrine. I read voraciously and studied all sources available to me. I sought the Lord in prayer and fasting to help guide me on this journey and felt the confirmation of His Spirit in my acquisition of knowledge.

I can say, Come, join with us, rings hollow when I contemplate the gap between the promise of Zion and the lesser law that the church has embraced this day. I seek to see Zion established. I seek to prepare myself spiritually and emotionally that I may be worthy to someday enter the gate to the community of God; to be in close association with His sons and daughters.

While I cannot attest that my path is the appropriate direction for anyone else to take; what I can say is that the Spirit has guided me to the place I now stand. I know not where this will lead but I can only express my gratitude to my Father for the knowledge and understanding I have received. I carry with me to this day a testament of the spiritual nuggets available to those who search the scriptures and seek to receive the words of Christ.

Sincerely,

Joe Jensen

Perrysburg, Ohio

I recently had a conversation with the bishop of our ward when we crossed paths at a community event. He was elated that the recent troop surge, sorry, missionary expansion, had increased the elders and sisters from a historical two pairs to five pairs of missionaries in the ward. He warned me that I, as a lost sheep, may be seeing more visits by these young men and women, as their efforts would include re-activation in addition to finding those who can be taught the gospel.

When I am visited by the missionaries, I usually have several simple questions that I ask them. They are questions that I would hope each one of us have answered, in the context of the latter-day scriptures.

  • Who are the Gentiles?

  • What is the definition of the gospel?

  • What is the definition of the doctrine of Christ?

  • What is the definition of the church of Christ and how does one become a member?

  • What does it mean to be ‘born again?’

Unfortunately, I have not met a single missionary that could answer these questions with specific scriptural references. One would think that those who are called to preach the gospel would be able to clearly define these answers, but to such end I have been disappointed. To me, these questions form the core of my spiritual worldview. They represent the crucial information for which the restoration occurred. Let me attempt to concisely answer these questions, based on my study of the scriptures.

Who are the Gentiles?

According to the title page of the Book of Mormon, the book was written to three specific groups – “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile” To which group do most of the current members of the Church belong? I would suggest the church today is made up of mainly Gentiles, as characterized in the Book of Mormon.

The house of Israel lost the truth because of their unbelief. The Gentiles will receive a testimony through the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 16:6-7)

The Gentiles are the ones that receive the ‘fulness of the gospel’ in the latter days (1 Nephi 15:13)

They are also the ones who sin against the gospel and have it taken from them. (3 Nephi 16:10-13)

What is the definition of the gospel?

I believe that operating under the correct definition of the gospel of Jesus Christ is critical to one’s stature with God. Paul told the Galatians that “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” It was the contamination of the gospel that prompted the restoration. Should we not make sure that we are, indeed, preaching the gospel that we have received?

Christ defined the gospel during His visit to the Nephites. (3 Nephi 27:13-21)

There are also three instances where the gospel is defined in the Doctrine and Covenants. (D&C 33:11-13, D&C 39:6, D&C 76:40-42) The essence of the gospel as I gleaned from these references is the we are to repent and be sanctified by baptism, first with water, then with fire and the Holy Ghost. These steps are necessary for us to enter His kingdom.

What is  the definition of the doctrine of Christ?

Paul told the Ephesians that we should not be ‘tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men.’ (Eph 4:14) We should be equally diligent with respect to the restored doctrine of Christ.

Nephi brings us the first specific reference to this doctrine of Christ. ( 2 Nephi 31:2 – 32:6) He also tells us that ‘there will be no more doctrine given’ until Christ is manifest in the flesh.

When Christ appeared to the Nephites, he added to His doctrine. (3 Nephi 11:31-41) In this treatise, Christ states that anyone who declares ‘more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil.’

I have often pondered what the impact is of this comment. Are we today awash with the doctrines of men rather than holding to the specific aspects of the doctrine of Christ found in the scriptures? What are the potential consequences of expanding the doctrine of Christ to include things that don’t belong?

Both the twelve selected from among the Nephites to be disciples as well as those of the current restoration were told to speak only the words that they received from Christ. “…of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.” (D&C 19:31)

In the tenth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord states:

67  Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.

68  Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.

Again we are told that we must not add to or take away from the doctrine of Christ.  I believe the warnings are very clear. If we do not adhere strictly to the doctrine of Christ in our teachings we are built on the sandy foundation and risk being washed away.  I wonder if this is not why we are seeing such an outflow from the church. We are to be firmly grounded on the doctrine of Christ if we are to maintain our ability to attract those who seek the truth.

What is the definition of the church of Christ and how does one become a member?

The above quotation from D&C, section 10, represents the specific definition of the church directly from the Savior. In light of the current ‘church,’ is there both a corporate and a spiritual church? What would our organization look like if the church consisted of only those who repented and came unto Christ?

I would suggest that Moroni, in the sixth chapter of the book that carries his name, gave us clarity on what it means to come unto Christ and the criteria for membership in his church. We must bring forth fruit as a demonstration that we are worthy to receive baptism. We must come forward ‘with a broken heart and a contrite spirit,’ and witness unto the church that we have repented of all our sins. We must take upon us the name of Christ, determined to serve him to the end. What does it mean to take upon us the name of Christ before we are baptized? There must be this level of commitment in order to be a candidate for baptism.

After one is baptized, they are to be ‘wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost’ before they are considered a member of the church of Christ. How should this apply to us today? The scriptures tell us that the gospel of Christ outlines the principle of a remission of sins through the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. This gate, as defined by the doctrine of Christ, is how we are to gain access to the ‘strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life.’ How many of us have entered the gate, being cleansed of our sins  – having them remitted by the second baptism? This is what is required of us to be considered members of His spiritual church.

What does it mean to be born again?

Nicodemus was told by Christ that we all must be born again and have been privileged to have more witnesses given us relative to this critical element of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Alma stated that “… the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters.” (Mosiah 27:25) We have the examples given us in the scriptures of the people of Benjamin, of Enos, of the three hundred Lamanites, of our father Adam. All of these stand as beacons of the gate to the strait and narrow path.

Among many of the Christian denominations, one is expected to become a new creature in order to be received into His fellowship. Many have used the opportunity at revival meetings to come forward with their commitment to Christ. Is this a legitimate baptism of fire? I will let God be the judge.

I regret that, for much of my life, I looked at those who claimed to be a ‘born again Christian.’ with pity. Oh, how sad it is that they have missed the mark. I now know that, for many years, the pride of my heart blinded me to the fact that the latter-day scriptures bear witness to the necessity of this second baptism – the one that cleanses of our sins and grants us access to the strait and narrow path and membership in His church.

Those are the five simple questions that set me on the path I am now treading. When I had my crisis of faith back in 2000, I had to rebuild my spiritual worldview. I had to sift out of my many life experiences those events which were ’emotional’ and those that were incontrovertible expressions of the spirit. When I was done, I had only two that I was determined to build upon. I had received a strong witness that the Book of Mormon contained the word of God as a young man and I had my amazing experience at the age of 19 when I was lifted out of deep and dark despair and infused with indescribable joy and peace.

These two experiences confirmed to me that there was something outside this mortality. I could not deny the existence of some spiritual world even though I could not see, touch, or hear it within the context of my physical senses.  I began a quest to understand what I was supposed to do. I purchased and devoured hundreds of books containing the words of men. I sought the Lord in prayer and fasting for answers. These answers did not come quickly and easily. I came to realize that I was looking in the wrong place. I would not find my Lord through any other man, nor the words that are written by man. I would only find Him by reading the scriptures and applying them in my life.  I could only find Christ by coming unto Him.

I still struggle in my quest for eternal life, which is at the end of the strait and narrow path. I take solace in the words of Nephi when he said

O wretched man that I am!  Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.

Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time. (2 Nephi 4:17-23)

In spite of my sins and weaknesses, I have a full heart because of the bits of knowledge I have received. I do not yet know where my journey will take me. I am grateful for the opportunity to express the thoughts of my heart here and hope that I may have some sliver of influence on those who have walked a similar path.

To those who seek the truth, I can only offer my feeble example as a proposed course. Shed the words and works of man. Do not trust in the arm of flesh. Seek God with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Ask the simple questions.

What think ye?

Who is the man that is referred to in the book of Ether as the ‘brother’ of Jared? As far as I can find, there is no other instance where a righteous leader was known in the scriptures only as the brother of someone.

We are first introduced to Jared and his extended family in the first chapter of Ether. We discover that the brother of Jared was a ‘large and mighty man, and a man highly favored of the Lord.’ But we also discover that he was not the one to see the need for revelation. From verse 34, in chapter one, we find that Jared repeatedly petitioned his brother to approach the Lord with a righteous request. First, it was that Jared and his brother, then his family, finally his friends not be confounded. In each case the brother of Jared cried unto the Lord and received an answer.

Then, Jared again, asked his brother to inquire of the Lord regarding where they should go. I would suggest that Jared was not a spiritual weakling as he had discerned that the Lord could allow them to travel to a land which is ‘choice above all the earth.’ Again, the Lord responded with directions on where the ‘Jaredites’ should go.

Right in the middle of the dialog, Moroni stops and addresses the Gentiles who will someday populate is land that is choice above all other lands as found in chapter 2, verses 11 and 12:

And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God—that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fulness come, that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done.

Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written.

Here we find another warning to the Gentiles that they will face the wrath of God if they do not serve God. But I digress…

Soon,  the brother of Jared, even though he was characterized as a righteous man, exhibited a lack of judgment. This man was a one who had discussions on a regular basis with the Lord; even to the point where later, the Lord would refer to him one of great faith – “never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast…” Yet, for the space of four years, this man failed to call upon the Lord.

And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him.  And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.

And the brother of Jared repented of the evil which he had done, and did call upon the name of the Lord for his brethren who were with him.  And the Lord said unto him: I will forgive thee and thy brethren of their sins; but thou shalt not sin any more, for ye shall remember that my Spirit will not always strive with man; wherefore, if ye will sin until ye are fully ripe ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.

Here the Lord forgives the whole clan of their sins and cautions them not to sin any more. As I pondered this dialog, the question arose in my mind as to the circumstances presented here. Was this the remission of sins applied to the group? Perhaps.

I also find it interesting here that until we ‘sin until [we] are fully ripe, we are not completely cut off from the presence of the Lord. Until we have lost all desire to seek God, there is still a chance for us to seek His face. I draw some comfort from this because of my wanderings. I do strongly desire to repent and come unto Him. I have come to marvel at the love and patience of God, and His willingness to chasten us – helping us to make the change toward the light.

Why was it not until Joseph Smith, through revelation, identified the brother of Jared as Mahonri Moriancumer (George Reynolds, May 1 1882, Juvenile Instructor)  that we came to know the name of this righteous man? As I pondered this dilemma, I asked the question: What is it what we can learn about a man who didn’t even ‘allow’ his name to be used in connection with the revelations and miracles?

I believe we are to use this righteous example to gain a perspective on how humility can work to bring us great faith and exceeding great revelation and would suggest that the lack of the use of his own name in this record is an indication of his humility. Isn’t it an act of humility to not take credit for events in this written record such as those display through the brother of Jared? Humility was also exhibited by the people of King Benjamin at the time of their baptism of fire. Alma expressed his desire to be a “penitent and humble seeker of happiness.”

We are to be humble, teachable and dismiss pride, envy and all such selfish ventures. This is what brought the brother of Jared to the point where he received the marvelous vision of the entire history of the earth; something repeated to Lehi, Nephi, and Enoch. Something available to each of us is we meet the same criteria.

As the brother of Jared was preparing the barges, he presented the Lord with 16 stones. These stones were to provide light during the long voyage to the land choice above all other lands. In the process of lighting the stones, the Lord’s finger became visible to the brother of Jared and he fell, being struck with fear. Here is the Lord responding to the situation:

And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger… (Ether 3:9)

Here we come to understand that it was the faith of the brother of Jared that allowed him to see the finger of God. Moroni then provides some commentary on the story:

And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.

Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him. (Ether 3:19)

In the very instant of seeing the finger of the Lord, I believe we are being told in this snippit from Moroni that the brother of Jared’s faith turned to knowledge. Because of this knowledge,  the brother of Jared was given to see much more:

For behold, the language which ye shall write I have confounded; wherefore I will cause in my own due time that these stones shall magnify to the eyes of men these things which ye shall write.

And when the Lord had said these words, he showed unto the brother of Jared all the inhabitants of the earth which had been, and also all that would be; and he withheld them not from his sight, even unto the ends of the earth.

For he had said unto him in times before, that if he would believe in him that he could show unto him all things—it should be shown unto him; therefore the Lord could not withhold anything from him, for he knew that the Lord could show him all things. (Ether 3:24-26)

This entire history of the earth, from beginning to end, and all the inhabitants thereof, was contained in the vision presented to the brother of Jared. He was then told to write the vision down but was forbidden from sharing it with his people. The information was made available to King Mosiah who translated the plates. subsequently, this information was lost, however, and is found in the sealed portion of the plates from which the Book of Mormon was derived. Moroni describes the situation in Ether, chapter 4, verses 4 and 5.

Behold, I have written upon these plates the very things which the brother of Jared saw; and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared.

Wherefore the Lord hath commanded me to write them; and I have written them.  And he commanded me that I should seal them up; and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters, according to the commandment of the Lord.

We are told here that ‘there were never greater things made manifest’ than what was seen by the brother of Jared. Moroni was commanded to seal them up for a later time (verses 6 and 7).

For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.

And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.

Moroni speaks of us in these verses. What must be done to receive the sealed portion of the plates? We must repent and become clean before the Lord. We must exercise the same faith that the brother of Jared demonstrated. And here, also we learn that we must become ‘sanctified’  in Christ.

How important is it for all of us to strive to be acceptable for these ‘greater things.’  Would this information not be of high value? Here again we are presented with the need to be sanctified. How important is it that we clearly understand what it means to be sanctified and what we must do to achieve this condition?

Not much is pronounced from the pulpit these days about the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon. It has not apparently passed muster in these days of correlation. What is it that we should be striving for? Are we simply to be good, to be helpful, and be honest? Or are we commanded to apply the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives, to be filled with the Holy Ghost and to be sanctified?

I believe the promise we find here is that the presence of a community of the sanctified will be necessary to draw upon the promise of the Lord to reveal the contents of the sealed portion, to behold those things given to the brother of Jared in vision.

What does it take for us to demonstrate the same profound faith as the brother of Jared portrayed? What must we do to repent and become clean before the Lord? I believe the answers to these questions are found among the pages on the Book of Mormon that contain a fulness of the gospel. It is contingent upon a broken heart and a contrite spirit. It is made available to those who seek a remission of their sins. It is granted unto those who have their garments washed in the blood of Christ.

But, what more? Does this virtual gathering represent a glimmer of hope that a group of the sanctified sufficient to receive the revelations of God hidden from the rest of the world may be possible? One can only hope…

In summary, the brother of Jared is held in the scriptures as a model of faith and humility. The recorded vision he was afforded will be made available to us when we can become sanctified.

What think ye?

In the header to chapter 16 of Third Nephi, we read that “In the latter days the gospel will go to the Gentiles and then to the house of Israel.” As the discussion around the characteristics of the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost has touched on the rejection of the gospel identified in this chapter, I would like to share what I came to understand from these words spoken to the Nephites by Jesus Christ.

After reviewing the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord turned the discussion to the Gentile in the latter day. They were to be the recipients of the restoration of the gospel and will be responsible for the carriage of these truths to the remnant as described starting in verse four

And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem, they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry, do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, and also of the other tribes whom they know not of, that these sayings which ye shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer.

And then will I gather them in from the four quarters of the earth; and then will I fulfil the covenant which the Father hath made unto all the people of the house of Israel.

These writings were indeed manifest unto the Gentiles through the Book of Mormon and then, through the Gentiles,  the remnant of the seed of those in Jerusalem is to come to a knowledge of the Savior. The Lord then goes on the praise the Gentiles and chastise the those of the house of Israel

And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father.

Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them.

The Gentiles will be blessed to receive a testimony through the Holy Ghost. This witness is found most predominately among those connected to the restoration of the Gospel.

There are also those among the Gentiles who are unbelieving:

But wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles—for notwithstanding they have come forth upon the face of this land, and have scattered my people who are of the house of Israel; and my people who are of the house of Israel have been cast out from among them, and have been trodden under feet by them;

The unbelieving were, as described here, involved in the scattering of the house of Israel. While there are many tangents to this conversation around the house of Israel, I would like to focus on the fact that the Lord here described two groups:

The Gentiles

The Unbelieving of the Gentiles

As we see, the Gentiles were given a witness of the gospel through the Holy Ghost, the unbelieving of the Gentiles, obviously did not accept the gospel. I would suggest that the Lord was purposeful in how he described these two groups as He now informs us of the destiny of the Gentiles, in verse 10:

And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.

First, He did not specify the unbelieving of the Gentiles as the perpetrators, rather, He used the more general term that He applied to those who had received a witness through the Holy Ghost. It is the Gentiles collectively, I would suggest both the believing and the unbelieving that will commit these acts:

They will sin against my gospel

They will reject the fulness of my gospel

They will be lifted up in pride

They will be filled with all manner of evil acts

The Lord states that when, not if, the Gentiles do these things And reject the fulness of the gospel, He will remove the gospel from their midst.

What does it mean to reject the fulness of the gospel?

I have come to believe, based on my studies of the scriptures, that the fulness of the gospel is inherently linked to the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost which represents the entry point to the strait and narrow path to eternal life. I have recently referenced two definitions of the gospel found in the Doctrine and Covenants, first in Section 33, verses 11-13 and secondly in Section 39, verses 6. which clearly position the baptism of fire as core to the gospel that was restored to us.

As I see it, a plausible way for us to reject the fulness of the gospel is to reject the true meaning of the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.

I also have concern about what it may mean to have the fulness of the gospel taken from us. Could that mean that the ordinance of the second baptism could not be found among us? I think we are seeing the day when this is true for the general population of the church.

In verse 13 we read,

But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.

Here is the call for those who will listen. We must repent and return in order to be numbered with the people of God. To repent, we must understand how we have sinned.  We must feel the remorse that comes from offending Him and seriously humble ourselves. One other veiled reference we should pay attention to is found in verse 15.

But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.

How this treading down will occur, I have not pursued. The aspect of this verse that is important for this discussion is the reference to ‘salt that hath lost its savor.’ Another reference to consider is found in D&C 101:39

When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men;

Salt that has lost its savor could be considered as a reference to those who have rejected the call of the gospel and have not covenanted with God as a result of the gospel message.

As a summary, we are the Gentiles who received the fulness of the gospel, among the gentiles are the ones who have received a testimony of the gospel by and through the Holy Ghost. It is crucial for us to clearly understand the true meaning of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and apply it in our lives.

As a final thought, we are told to ‘liken the scriptures’ unto ourselves. I would ask you to consider the following thoughts. The Book of  Mormon estimates that this verse cataloged the events around 43 B.C in Helaman 3:25-26.

And so great was the prosperity of the church, and so many the blessings which were poured out upon the people, that even the high priests and the teachers were themselves astonished beyond measure.

And it came to pass that the work of the Lord did prosper unto the baptizing and uniting to the church of God, many souls, yea, even tens of thousands.

Yet it was only approximately thirteen years later when this was recorded  Helaman 4:23-24.

And because of their iniquity the church had begun to dwindle; and they began to disbelieve in the spirit of prophecy and in the spirit of revelation; and the judgments of God did stare them in the face.

And they saw that they had become weak, like unto their brethren, the Lamanites, and that the Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them because the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples—

How long does it take to move from astonishing growth to a having the spirit of the Lord withdrawn? If there is one central message to the dialogue of the Book of Mormon, it is that apostasy can occur in a short time. I believe it is fostered by an effort to become accepted of the world, to change the covenants to be more convenient, and by replacing the core principles of the gospel a set of items developed by man.

It is such an ‘inspiring’ scene. The proud father walks up to the podium with his young son. He hoists him up to the microphone and whispers in the boy’s ear.

“I live my mother and father. I know the church is true. I know that Thomas Monson is a prophet just like Joseph Smith. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I am thankful for my family and for my friends. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

They return to their seats where the mother beams with joy at the strength demonstrated by her child. The words tend to change slightly, but the pattern persists for the meeting, interrupted periodically by a rambling travel monologue. As the testimonies shift from the youth to the mature members of the ward, more often than not, the testimony contains expressions of gratitude for the church, for the gospel, for the restoration, for the prophets and apostles and other leaders. The list is fairly short.

As the next Fast and Testimony meeting approaches next week, I turn my attention to the scriptural basis for the expression of our testimonies.

If you ask an evangelical Christian about testimony, you will often be told their story of how they became a Christian. This typically describes the events around their personal ‘coming to Jesus.’ For Mormons, it is somewhat different. The testimony becomes more of a series of statements that has been more or less validated by their experience in the church. In the earlier example, our youth are taught that it is appropriate to stand before the congregation and recite a series of ‘knows’ even though there may not yet be a basis for the ‘knowledge.’ What should our personal testimony reference? Should it be based on a standard set of catechisms regarding the church, the gospel and the leadership?

I turn to the scriptures for examples of testimonies. In these first examples, we find the person accused of serious crimes and are called to defend themselves. Paul has been taken by the Jews and was brought before the Roman king for an audience. Here is what we read in Acts, chapter 26:

1  THEN Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself.  Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:

2  I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:

3  Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.

4  My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;

5  Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

6  And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers:

7  Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come.  For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.

8  Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

9  I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

10  Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.

11  And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

12  Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,

13  At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.

14  And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?  it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

15  And I said, Who art thou, Lord?  And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

16  But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;

17  Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,

18  To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

19  Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

20  But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judæa, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

21  For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.

22  Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:

23  That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

24  And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.

25  But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.

26  For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.

27  King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?  I know that thou believest.

28  Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

29  And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.

In this lengthy quote, Paul describes his early worldview and his diligent efforts to rout the Christians,  followed by his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. His mission was then to bring people to Christ so that they could receive a forgiveness of their sins and be sanctified. Is that not what we are called to do also? Are we not to bring people to Christ where they can be joined with those who have been sanctified? Join with the Saints?

What Paul presented to king Agrippa was the gospel. The path by which we can be sanctified and return to the presence of God. He preached of the resurrection of the dead, Christ being the first. This was the testimony of Paul.

Let’s consider Abnadi as another example of testimony. While the entire dialog between Abinadi and King Noah’s court is found in Mosiah, I will pick several excerpts.

1  AND now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.

2  And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—

3  The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—

4  And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.

5  And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.

6  And after all this, after working many mighty miracles among the children of men, he shall be led, yea, even as Isaiah said, as a sheep before the shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.

7  Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.

8  And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—

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

8  But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.

9  He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death.

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

11  If they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation, being delivered up to the devil, who hath subjected them, which is damnation—

12  Having gone according to their own carnal wills and desires; having never called upon the Lord while the arms of mercy were extended towards them; for the arms of mercy were extended towards them, and they would not; they being warned of their iniquities and yet they would not depart from them; and they were commanded to repent and yet they would not repent.

13  And now, ought ye not to tremble and repent of your sins, and remember that only in and through Christ ye can be saved?

14  Therefore, if ye teach the law of Moses, also teach that it is a shadow of those things which are to come—

15  Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father.  Amen. (Mosiah 16)

Abinadi also testified of the redemptive power of the gospel – that Christ would provide the means of salvation to those who seek Him. Yes, Abinadi was called to preach repentance to King Noah; he did it be expressing to these men his testimony of the gospel and of Jesus Christ. Should this be a model for our testimony? Are we to use our meeting time to praise ourselves and our fellow saints or are we to use our testimony to convict and recommit one another?

Another source for testimony comes from the Doctrine and Covenants, section 76.

22  And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

23  For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

24  That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.

40  And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—

41  That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;

42  That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;

43  Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.

44  Wherefore, he saves all except them—they shall go away into everlasting punishment, which is endless punishment, which is eternal punishment, to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment—

45  And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows;

46  Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof;

These testimonies were all focused on Christ, His atonement, and the salvation that is afforded each and every one of us if we seek Him. Should this be used as an example of what a testimony includes?

There is one more example I wish to include from Alma, chapter 31.

12  Now, when they had come into the land, behold, to their astonishment they found that the Zoramites had built synagogues, and that they did gather themselves together on one day of the week, which day they did call the day of the Lord; and they did worship after a manner which Alma and his brethren had never beheld;

13  For they had a place built up in the center of their synagogue, a place for standing, which was high above the head; and the top thereof would only admit one person.

14  Therefore, whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand upon the top thereof, and stretch forth his hands towards heaven, and cry with a loud voice, saying:

15  Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever.

16  Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ.

17  But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.

18  And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people.  Amen.

19  Now it came to pass that after Alma and his brethren and his sons had heard these prayers, they were astonished beyond all measure.

20  For behold, every man did go forth and offer up these same prayers.

21  Now the place was called by them Rameumptom, which, being interpreted, is the holy stand.

22  Now, from this stand they did offer up, every man, the selfsame prayer unto God, thanking their God that they were chosen of him, and that he did not lead them away after the tradition of their brethren, and that their hearts were not stolen away to believe in things to come, which they knew nothing about.

23  Now, after the people had all offered up thanks after this manner, they returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again to the holy stand, to offer up thanks after their manner.

Here the Zoramites demonstrated what not to include in a testimony. As Alma notes, they thanked God that they were elected to be saved while all others would be damned. They thanked God that they were a chosen and holy people. Should we exercise care when we offer testimony that we don’t follow, even slightly, the pattern of the Zoramites? Should we take care that we don’t use our testimonies to express exceptionalism?

But that is not all, we find that the poor were cast out of the synagogues because of the coarseness of their dress. Have you ever wondered if the poor investigator felt out of place when they came to a church meeting? Do we unintentionally express exceptionalism by the way we dress? These poor among the Zoramites helped build the synagogues that they were not allowed to attend. Do we blindly bar the poor from our midst with our fine clothing and pomp?

I fear that we have come to align more closely with the Zoramites than we do with those who bear testimony of Christ and salvation.

To me, just as in a court of law, a testimony must be based on our own true experience. We are not called to testify about events that we know not of.  We must search our hearts and souls to understand explicitly what we have that rises to the level of a testament. We should avoid using testimony time to express how blessed we are and how were are a chosen people. We should testify only of those things which we have truly experienced.

And what of my testimony?

I can testify that the Book of Mormon is scripture because the Spirit bore an unquestionable confirmation to my heart and my mind.

I can testify that the Holy Ghost is real and can cleanse us of our sins for I have felt of this healing and sanctifying power.

I can testify that God does speak to men and women for I have heard His voice.

Amen.

If you don’t know this already, I am driven to question many aspects of my religious life  that I had heretofore regarded as a basic assumptions. Much of my search over the last few years has been driven by a need to re-affirm and re-validate my spiritual worldview in strict accordance with the scriptures. It has not always been easy. Many times I have had to stop my reading and study to make sure I was not making a incorrect assumption or simply accepting the definition of a word or phrase based on how it presented in the lessons of the church. Such is the case with baptism by immersion.

Baptism is an essential aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is used to mark the entry into modern day membership of the LDS Church. During my life, I have attended many baptisms, converts and children, men and women. I had the privilege several years ago of conducting the baptism of the man who now stands as bishop of the local ward in which we reside.

As with many of the meetings of the church, the baptismal ceremony has been become a standard issue with a talk about baptism followed by the administration of the ordinance. Many of the baptismal talks I have heard clearly make the point that the person accepting baptism is now free from sin; that the water had washed away the sins of the candidate as they came forth from the water. In the priesthood manual, we are taught that:

When we come out of the water we are washed clean of sin. With our past sins washed away, we receive greater spiritual power to change our lives and become more like Heavenly Father. (Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B)

It presents a striking visage, we enter the ceremony laden with the sins that accompany our mortal frame, we exit clean and pure. Water baptism is promoted as the means to receive a remission of our sins.

The fourth Article of Faith states:

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The passage clearly states that baptism by immersion, as conducted by a legitimate priesthood holder, is sufficient to receive a remission of sins, to be cleansed of sin, to be sanctified. Or does it? Is baptism by water necessary and sufficient to receive a remission of sins? Do we truly emerge from the baptism font sinless?

I would suggest otherwise.

First, let’s look at what I consider the scriptural definition of baptism. The first reference comes from Mormon, chapter 7, verse 10:

And ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant; and if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment.

To be truly baptized, one must receive both the baptism of water and the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. I would also suggest that both these baptisms are by immersion. We are immersed in water and, in a similar manner, are immersed in spirit.

Joseph Smith concurred with this concept when he stated:

You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost (History of the Church, 5:499).

After Christ selected the twelve disciples from among the Nephites, He gave this admonition to the people:

… Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am… Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins. (3 Nephi 12:1-2)

While the twelve disciples were given the power and authority to baptize by water, the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost was conducted by the Lord. It was this second baptism, in conjunction with the baptism by water, that is the source of a remission of our sins. Without the second baptism, the first is without consequence relative to our sanctification. The same is true in our lives today. The scriptures give us clarity on the twofold nature of baptism. Here is how Nephi expresses this dual nature:

Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter.  For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive. (2 Nephi 31:17-18)

It is not until we have received this second baptism of fire that we are on the strait and narrow path to eternal life. As I have expanded on this topic in an earlier post – The Strait and Narrow Path, indeed, as we read in this scripture, baptism by water and by fire and the Holy Ghost is the gate. It is the entry point for our journey back to our Father in Heaven. It is the beginning our trek, not the culmination of a long life of obedience and service.

This idea is reinforced in the description of the process of gaining membership in the church as found in Moroni, chapter 6:

AND now I speak concerning baptism.  Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.

Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.

And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.

And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.

It is not until after one is baptized by water AND sanctified by the Holy Ghost that the person is ‘numbered among the people of the church of Christ.’ This sanctification is achieved by the through the granting of the remission of sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. We are cleansed by the spirit in preparation for membership in His church.

Is this sanctification a prerequisite for membership in the LDS church?  Contrary to scripture, we have assigned a remission of sins solely to the baptism of water. We have also redefined the second aspect of baptism. It is now a confirmation and an admonition to ‘receive the Holy Ghost.’ While the current procedure may be sufficient for membership in the corporate church, it may not be sufficient for membership in the body of Christ.

Section 20, verse 37, of the Doctrine and Covenants also describes the process for baptism:

And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.

It is interesting to note that the criteria defined here is closely aligned with the passage from Moroni, chapter 6. In each case, one must be imbued with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, witness that they have repented of their sins. They must take upon them the name of Christ and determine to serve Him to the end. In a slight deviation, this latest scripture required that the candidate ‘manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins.’ In the earlier quote from Moroni, we find that the candidate must be sanctified by the Holy Ghost prior to entry into the church. How many members would be on the rolls of the church if this criterion of sanctification were strictly enforced? What is required to truly manifest by our works that we have received a remission of our sins? Perhaps our entry into the corporate church is different than the entry into the spiritual church.

I would suggest that one seriously consider what we have morphed the baptismal event into relative to entry into the church. Succinctly stated, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins has two parts, water and spirit. One must receive of both of these baptisms to truly receive a remission of sins. One must demonstrate by their works that they have received a remission of their sins.

In the October 2000 General Conference, Elder Bruce D. Porter presented this story:

Several years ago, while I was serving as a bishop, a sister came to me for a temple recommend interview. She was an adult convert to the Church who had been a faithful member since her baptism more than a decade earlier. She qualified for the temple recommend, but I sensed she was somewhat dispirited. When I asked what was troubling her, she said, “Bishop, is there any way a person can be baptized again?” Surprised, I asked her why she thought a second baptism would ever be needed. “Oh, I don’t know,” she said, “I just wish I could somehow feel as clean and pure as the day I was baptized.”

I am sure many Latter-day Saints have had similar feelings. Even when we are temple worthy, the accumulated daily weight of our weaknesses and shortcomings can become a burden to our souls, weighing us down with feelings of inadequacy and guilt. It is difficult sometimes to feel spiritually refreshed, pure, and acceptable before God. As I spoke with this sister, I felt great sympathy for her dilemma. There was no doubt in my mind that she was a good-hearted, worthy Latter-day Saint whose place in the Lord’s kingdom would be assured if she continued on the course that had begun with her baptism. But I wondered if she appreciated the power of Christ’s Atonement, the magnitude of His mercy, and His readiness to forgive her of daily transgressions as she made her way through life.

“You do not need to be baptized a second time to be as pure as when you were first baptized,” I said. “You can renew your covenant of baptism each week when you partake of the sacrament. As you live that covenant, exercise faith in Christ, and repent of your daily transgressions, the Holy Ghost will bless you with the assurance that your sins are forgiven. It will cleanse your soul of guilt and bring peace to your heart. In this way, you can feel as pure and clean as the day you were baptized.”

What must one do to retain a remission of their sins? This is the heart of the question that was posed to then Bishop Porter by one who seriously sought to remain clean. Is the partaking of the sacrament sufficient for this? As I read the sacrament prayer in Moroni, chapter 4, the only item that is sanctified through the administration of this ordinance is the bread. As such the sacrament contains no explicit re-application of the sanctification by the spirit received upon entry into the church. But what must one do to retain a remission of their sins?

When the people of King Benjamin received a remission of their sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, he gave them this guidance in Mosiah 4:11-12:

And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.

King Benjamin’s instruction relative to retaining a remission of our sins emphases the need to remain humble. He tells us the we need to pray and remain faithful. I would incourage all to continue reading in this fourth chapter of Mosiah. It contains what I would consider guidance relative to how one should act while retaining a remission of sins.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple and profound. We are invited to ‘come unto Him’ and receive a remission of our sins. We are told that this is the entry point of the path to the kingdom of God.

So the sacrament prayer is to remind us of the activities in our lives that are necessary to retain a remission of sins. It does not give us any explicit renewal of our entry onto the strait and narrow path.

In summary, baptism is made up of two components. water and spirit. Both are needed to legitimately gain entry to the strait and narrow path to eternal life. The sacrament prayer is a reminder of the state of mind and activity that must be present to retain a remission of our sins.

What think ye?

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:16)

We are given, by virtue of the Book of Mormon, insight  into the meaning of this verse in the New Testament. Christ taught those at Jerusalem that they were not the only ones who were of the House of Israel. After the Savior finished teaching the Nephites that which He taught His followers in Jerusalem, He elaborated on the meaning of these ‘other sheep.’

But, verily, I say unto you that the Father hath commanded me, and I tell it unto you, that ye were separated from among them because of their iniquity; therefore it is because of their iniquity that they know not of you.

And verily, I say unto you again that the other tribes hath the Father separated from them; and it is because of their iniquity that they know not of them.

And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (3 Nephi 15:19-21)

It was because of the iniquity of those in Jerusalem that they were not told of these other tribes. The twelve disciples of the Savior were given the knowledge that there were others beyond them who were to receive a visit from Him.

AND verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep, which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister. (3 Nephi 16:1)

We learned that Christ was to visit these other sheep after His sojourn with the Nephites. That they, no doubt, would also record their experiences with the risen Lord. Is it because of our iniquity that we, ourselves, do not know of these other sheep? Have we not been told that we would receive these records if we were ready/righteous? Where are they?

Christ taught the Nephites that the record of this scattered people will be made available to the seed of others of the house of Israel, who were scattered,

And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem, they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry, do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, and also of the other tribes whom they know not of, that these sayings which ye shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer. (3 Nephi 16:4)

I would submit that we, today, could take advantage of this same promise: If we ask the Father, we will receive a knowledge, by the power of the Holy Ghost, of the existence of the progeny of those to whom the Lord spoke, as well as those others who were led away. We have not received this information collectively, but I would expect this could be received individually.

We also learn in this passage that it is through the Gentiles that the remnants of these scattered members of the House of Israel will receive this knowledge. This idea is reaffirmed in several places in the Book of Mormon.

And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive-tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.” ( 1 Nephi 10:14)

We also find this later in the same narrative in first Nephi.

And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed—

And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved. (1 Nephi 15:13-14)

The fulness of the Gentiles is noted in these passages. The Gentiles, the same ones who fought against the mother Gentiles to establish this land of freedom would receive the fulness of the gospel. The Book of Mormon was  “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile.” (Title Page) Of these three groups, to which do you belong?

I would suggest that most who read this should consider themselves Gentiles. This is the Gentile church, which received the gospel of the Messiah through the restoration. We are blessed with a knowledge of the fulness of the gospel.

And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father. (3 Nephi 16:6)

We, again, are blessed to receive a confirmation through the Holy Ghost of these things. Who else could the Lord be talking about? WE are the recipients of the fulness of the gospel as contained in the Book of Mormon; we are the ones who are promised that we can receive a testimony of these things in and through the Holy Ghost.

Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them. (3 Nephi 16:7)

In this latter day, are we the believing Gentiles or the unbelieving house of Israel?

For it shall come to pass, that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled; for I will consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles unto the poor of my people who are of the house of Israel. (D&C 42:39)

Do you find yourselves among the rich Gentiles who have embraced the gospel or are you among the poor of the house of Israel?

In the dedication of the Kirtland temple, Joseph Smith characterized our situation in this way:

Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles. (D&C 109:60)

In the context of the Book of Mormon, and, as cited here in the Doctrine and Covenants, are we not these ‘believing Gentiles?’  Are we not these Gentiles who have received the fulness of the gospel through the Book of Mormon? Are we not the ones, as Gentiles,  who are supposed to take the message of the gospel to those who are of the house of Israel?

Now, returning to the Book of Mormon, we can read more regarding the Gentiles.

But wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles—for notwithstanding they have come forth upon the face of this land, and have scattered my people who are of the house of Israel; and my people who are of the house of Israel have been cast out from among them, and have been trodden under feet by them; (3 Nephi 16:8)

How can we accept this reference to the ‘unbelieving of the Gentiles’ if we do not have the ‘believing of the Gentiles?’ It is here we find that those who did not believe in the restoration; those who did not receive a confirmation in and through the Holy Ghost are responsible for the scattering of the house of Israel in this land.

And because of the mercies of the Father unto the Gentiles, and also the judgments of the Father upon my people who are of the house of Israel, verily, verily, I say unto you, that after all this, and I have caused my people who are of the house of Israel to be smitten, and to be afflicted, and to be slain, and to be cast out from among them, and to become hated by them, and to become a hiss and a byword among them— (3 Nephi 16:9)

The events which transpired were to, one, stand as a blessing to the Gentiles, as they came to possess the land and , two, a judgment against those who were of the house of Israel who were smitten because of their unbelief.

But, what is to become of these Gentiles, both believing and unbelieving?

And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them. (3 Nephi 16:10)

The Gentiles, both believing and the unbelieving, are prophesied to sin against the gospel and reject the fulness of the gospel.

How does one ‘sin’ against the gospel? I would suggest that the sin comes from accepting membership in His church but not seeking to understand, and receive a confirmation on what is the gospel as defined in the scriptures. Could it be this same reason that we are still under condemnation?

And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—

Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.

And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.

And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written— (D&C 84:55-57)

What is the new covenant described here? I would suggest that it is none other than the covenant we make when we receive the gospel.

Verily I say unto you, blessed are you for receiving mine everlasting covenant, even the fulness of my gospel, sent forth unto the children of men, that they might have life and be made partakers of the glories which are to be revealed in the last days, as it was written by the prophets and apostles in days of old. (D&C 66:2)

Here the Lord equates the everlasting covenant with the fulness of the gospel. Participation in the glories that are to be revealed to us is contingent on the reception of this everlasting covenant which is the fulness of the gospel. We are told in the history of Joseph Smith that the fulness of the everlasting gospel and covenant is found in the words of the Savior to the Nephites ( Joseph Smith – History 1:34)

The Lord, Himself, defines this gospel in the 27th chapter of third Nephi. He came to draw all men unto Him. The last verses of this discussion are repeated here:

And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men.  And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.

And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do; (3 Nephi 27:18-21)

This covenant has us repenting and coming unto Christ. He, in turn, will sanctify us through the Holy Ghost.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, we find the Lord rehearsing, again, the definition of His gospel:

Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.

Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and remember that they shall have faith in me or they can in nowise be saved; (D&C 33:11-12)

Both these baptisms are essential to our salvation, as was conveyed to the Lamanites by Mormon.

And ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant; and if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment. (Mormon 7:10)

It is through this baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost that we receive a remission of our sins (see 2 Ne. 31:17) and are sanctified. This is the everlasting covenant, even the fulness of the gospel. This is the two-way covenant that we are called to make in order to be numbered with his people.

Now let me return to the discussion of the verses in third Nephi. How will we, as Gentiles, reject the fulness of the gospel? I would suggest that by rejecting the true meaning and process associated with the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost as it pertains to the fulness of the gospel, we are rejecting the fulness of the gospel. If we reject the scriptural definition of this sanctification through baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, we are rejecting the fulness of the gospel. It is incumbent upon each of us the study and understand the meaning of the fulness of the gospel. The Book of Mormon was expressly delivered to us in this latter day so that we could be given the chance to receive this fulness.

In third Nephi, chapter 16, verse 10, we read that, not only will we, Gentiles, reject the fulness of the gospel, but that we will ‘be lifted up in the pride of [our] hearts above all other nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and deceits, and of mischief’s, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret combinations.’ This speaks to all Gentiles, but one must ask the question. Are we as the ‘believing’ of the Gentiles guilty of these same things?

Do we have pride? Do we practice lyings and mischief’s and hypocrisy? Do we practice priestcraft and whoredoms and secret combinations? This prophecy suggests that we do. If so, then the outcome is the loss of the fulness of the gospel; the Lord states that he will take it from among us.

Does that mean that we will lose the ability to receive a remission of our sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost? Is that true individually as well as collectively?

To avoid this situation, we must follow the Lord’s admonition found in this passage:

But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.

And I will not suffer my people, who are of the house of Israel, to go through among them, and tread them down, saith the Father.

But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.      (3 Nephi 16: 13-15)

We have an opportunity to return and repent. If we do so, we can be numbered with the house of Israel. How can we return if we were never there? If we choose not to repent, we will be treated as the salt that has lost its savor. This has direct connotation to the loss of the covenant and the gospel.

When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men;

They are called to be the savor of men; therefore, if that salt of the earth lose its savor, behold, it is thenceforth good for nothing only to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. (D&C 101:39-40)

The scriptures warn us against being complacent; we should not be at ease in Zion. The scriptures warn us that we are under condemnation; we should individually and collectively seek to remove this burden. The scriptures warn us that, because of our pride and practices, we are to lose the fulness of the gospel and its covenant. If we are to regain that which is lost, we must take these warnings to heart, repent and seek the Lord.

We must all cast off our sleepy rituals and awaken to the duty that must be ours. We must seek in the scriptures the true meaning of the fulness of the gospel. We must each be willing to approach the Father for the knowledge and confirmation of our path. We must, collectively, be willing to make the same covenants as did the people of King Benjamin.  We must prepare ourselves to be a Zion people, individually then collectively.

What think ye?

I didn’t watch a lot of conference this weekend. I don’t intend to put forth any extensive commentary on specific items, at this time, but I may return to the words of this weekend at some point in the future.  I have been on somewhat of a hiatus these last months as I have explored my life and what mission I may have. When I have figured out what I want to be when I grow up, I will let you know.

Here we are in the middle of the ‘Mormon moment.’ As President Monson stated in his closing words, if effect, the world is watching us. In the light of the additional emphasis of all things Mormon, I had expected that the 182nd General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints would be a concerted effort to convince the general Christian world that we are one of them. Yes, we bring some flavors that may not be familiar to the typical born again Christian, but we worship the same God, we serve in His name and we equally value His children. So, let’s dispel the ‘cult’ thing, link arms and move forward – let’s be friends…

This week,  I made my way up Santa Monica Boulevard to the Los Angeles Temple grounds; spending some time exploring the visitors center located behind the temple. There were the customary missionary couple at the front desk and missionaries keeping watch for the unwashed. I walked around the exhibits and attempted to position my frame of mind as one not exposed to the message of the Mormons. The missive of the visitors center, in summary, that I found was was family and service. Our families are where we learn to serve and we practice it with our neighbor. Not a bad story, one that should be easy for our neighbors to  absorb.

But, was that the purpose of the restoration? Was the mission of Joseph Smith to restore the idea of service to a waiting world? As we vacate our need to gather to Zion, as we morph the law of consecration into the church welfare program, as we sweep the couplets such as God as once a man behind us;  what has the message of the restoration become?

The nagging question remains in my mind: Is it a good thing to be accepted of the world? Are we fulfilling the objective of filling the world with the gospel when we bring ourselves into acceptability by worldly standards, even though they be Christian standards?. Are we the leaven of the earth that will bring about a renewal of the good news? Or, has that leaven lost its ability to raise bread from the dough of man?

I am reminded of the words found in book of James, chapter four:

4  Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?  whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

Is the LDS Church, attempting to become friends, culturally, socially, financially, and politically, with the world? If so, do we face being at enmity with God?

What enmity is created when we seek friendship of the world? Can we serve two masters? Can we strive with all our might, mind, and effort to build a home and put two cars in the garage and still fulfill the pleadings of Christ to “come unto Him?”

Each of us must arrive at a personal answer. Am I a friend of the world or am I striving to establish the works of man?

What think ye?

Where Do We Go From Here?

I would like to talk about a perspective on where to go when confronted with cognitive dissonance with respect to the LDS Church. My approach is to do a general comparison between the early restoration and today’s church in terms of teaching and alignment with scripture. I picked 1844 as the time when Joseph Smith sealed his testimony. Really, this represents the range of church organization between 1830 with the organization of the church through the establishment of Nauvoo. I am assuming that all the critical doctrines and teachings were publically or privately held at this point. Here is how I would characterize it pictorially. In speaking of the church then and now as to truth and error.

The above graphic defines four different perspectives one can hold relative to the church in the mid 19th century and the church today. One can hold that the church was true then and is true today. That is defined as the upper left quadrant, the others follow a similar general definition.

True then, True now

And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually— (D&C 1:30)

This is the quadrant where I would put most members of the church today. Those in this bucket accept the correlated version of the church story. The Book of Mormon was divinely inspired and the line of priesthood keys stands unbroken since the restoration. They are TBMs who pay their tithing and attend the temple. Home/Visiting teaching, fulfilling assignments, participating in the meetings are all part of the agenda. Items that may introduce discord or dissonance are ‘placed on the shelf’ assuming we will have the answers at some point in the future.

But… what happens if the shelf is not able to hold the weight? What if Rough Stone Rolling, or some other publication or internet sourced propaganda, illuminates the inconsistencies resident in the message of the restoration as preached in church meetings today? How does one rationalize the potential change in worldview prompted by this new information that can no longer stay on the shelf?

At a high level, I would characterize this as moving to another quadrant identified above. Let’s take a look at the options.

False then, False now

This seems to be, by far, the largest recipient of the “cognitive dissified.” (This is a clinical term defined as those who suffer from a chronic attack of cognitive dissonance.) The baby gets thrown out with the bath water. If the church isn’t telling the truth about its past, then it can’t be the true church. If it isn’t true now, it probably never was. The outcome is the exact opposite of the intended purpose of comments such as this by Carlos Costa in a recent general conference and cited in my recent blog titled “All Or Nothing.”

After I read, pondered, and prayed, the Lord gave me the assurance that Joseph Smith was His prophet. I testify to you that Joseph Smith is a prophet, and because I have received this answer from the Lord, I know that all of his successors are prophets too. (Carlos Costa, Oct 2010 General Conference)

Because of the view that it is all or nothing, some people facing these challenges are prone to choose ‘nothing.’ and walk away. Some seek solace in the confines of other denominations and find that love and charity abound. Some give up on God and adopt atheism or agnosticism in response to the view that God/Religion caused this problem. Those who had a ‘testimony’ of the core items of the church foundational aspects such as Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon attribute these spiritual experiences to emotion as opposed to true communication from God. It can be easy to rationalize this experience. Some are angry that they had been duped, they ‘leave the church but can’t leave it alone.’ These people are typically vocal in public and in the internet on the errors and discordance in the church message. Others capitulate and continue in minimal church activity to placate family and loved ones rather than move to a new box.

False then, True now

I have had members express the opinion that some rudimentary aspects of the gospel were not accurately defined in the beginning but were changed as a result of ‘further light and knowledge.’ The idea, for example, that the prohibition of blacks holding the priesthood was a policy rather than a doctrine suggests that there were things that were in error and  needed to be corrected. The topic of polygamy could also be included. The question certainly can be asked, Why would God allow this to happen?

I can see where the agency of man could be used as an answer. We are humans are prone to take a concept and run with it before completely understanding the implications. Overall, I would consider this a weak argument since we are the recipients of the ‘fulness of the gospel.’  The definition that I would apply to ‘fulness’ would be – all that there is. There is no more. In this light, it is hard for me to consider a church maintaining its ‘trueness’ while at the same time abandoning early principles preached from the frontier pulpit as critical to salvation.

True then, False now

The final bucket, and unabashedly, my selection as the one most appropriate is that the restoration of the gospel was true and complete in the onset. Man, however, screwed things up along the way. This ‘cycle of apostasy’ clearly illuminated in the Book of Mormon, for some reason, is not applicable for many to the modern day LDS Church. It is an undocumented ‘truth’ that the church cannot fail. However, I have not found scriptural justification for that statement.

In fact, the opposite seems to be the case. Most members are aware that President Ezra Taft Benson warned us that the condemnation called out in D&C 84 was still in effect.

54  And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—

55  Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.

56  And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.

57  And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—

Not much has been said on this topic since President Benson was taken from us. Perhaps this condemnation was lifted with his death and God didn’t deem it important to tell his prophet…

There is scriptural support for the idea that the church is facing a cleansing as one reads in D&C 112.

23  Verily, verily, I say unto you, darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people, and all flesh has become corrupt before my face.

24  Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord.

25  And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;

26  First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.

The ‘correction’ defined here seems to be targeted at those who claimed to be God’s instruments but were not. Are there clear indications that God’s ‘house’ needs to be the benefactor of God’s vengeance? If we, collectively as members, have not maintained the purity of the gospel; if we have allowed the precepts of man mingled with scripture to infest our teachings and programs, would that rate a correction? What program, doctrines, and policies are being taught as critical for salvation but are not found in the scriptural definition of the fulness of the gospel?

In 3 Nephi, chapter 16, we read the Lord’s perspective of those who accept the gospel in the last days:

6  And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father.

7  Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them.

Are we not the Gentiles that are recipients of the truth and the fulness of the gospel? Do we not profess to have received our testimonies of the gospel ‘in and of the Holy Ghost’ in these latter days?

So what comes of us Gentiles? Here is what the Lord said would happen continuing in chapter 16 of 3rd Nephi:

10  And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.

The Gentiles of the latter day church will sin against the gospel and reject the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What better way is there to define apostasy?

So we of the latter day church  are under condemnation, we face the vengeance of the Lord, and will ultimately, as the latter day Gentile church, will lose the fulness of the Gospel.

In the end, it is only our personal apostasy that should be of concern.  Christ has extended the invitation to us regardless of what has happened or is happening to the church in general.

13  But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.

What are we to repent of? I would suggest that it is the same as any other group throughout history mired in apostasy. Stop doing what man would have you do and start doing what God is asking us to do.

It doesn’t matter if we are Jew or Gentile, what matters is where our heart is.

In 2nd Nephi, chapter 30 we find:

2  For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel.

What matters is that we, individually, turn our face toward God. We are to repent and come unto Christ. Which happens to be the definition of the Church that Christ gives us in D&C10:67-69

67  Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.

68  Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.

69  And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.

Does it help to understand that God expected the wheels to come off the church wagon? Should we let this ongoing collective apostasy impede our personal situation?

I would hope that anyone who is infected with cognitive dissonance will take stock of what are the fundamental questions and answers we should be asking of God. If you have had deep spiritual experiences, then begin with these and reaffirm your belief system line upon line and precept upon precept. Rebuild your belief system without the mantras promoted by any earthly organization.

If you have not had these types of experiences, then use Enos as an example and seek earnestly to hear the voice of God. Seek first to understand what is specifically taught in the scriptures relative to the gospel and doctrine of Christ. Study these thing out and approach God with a humble heart and a contrite spirit.

One piece of guidance I can offer to those in this situation is to be very purposeful in the questions contained in your prayers. Spend the necessary time to meditate and ponder on the core message of the fulness of the gospel as contained in the description of the visit of Jesus Christ to the Nephites for therein is the fulness of the gospel. (see Joseph Smith – History 1:34.

I am a real believer that God can and does answer our prayers. That by asking the right questions we can get the answers we are seeking. That is where we go from here.

What think ye?

P.S. Please join me in remembering on this day all the victims of violence in the name of God.

I have a good friend who shared with me, today, a letter. It was a form letter describing the correct process to have one’s name removed from the records of the church, sent by the Member and Statistical Records Division of the Church. This person was informed that “the Church considers such a request to be an ecclesiastical matter that must be handled by local priesthood leaders before being processed by Church employees.” The recipient of the letter was urged to “reconsider your request and to prayerfully consider the enclosed statement of the First Presidency.”

The enclosed glossy pamphlet is as follows:

Pamphlet from Church Membership Divsion

As viewed from the inside, there are several reasons that are generally attributed to one who leaves the church:

  • Can’t live the standards of the church
  • Sin has removed our ability to partake of the spirit
  • Offended by others in the church.

As you can see, this myth is propagated in this message from the First Presidency. The call is for those who are offended, or for any other reason, “outside the embrace of the Church” to come back. What are the reasons so many people are leaving the church today? I would suggest that, based on my anecdotal analysis, these are the primary reasons:

  • The sanitized history as taught by the church does not accurately represent the  historical facts. (How can the church be true, when it doesn’t accurately represent its history?)
  • The rituals of the church offer no spiritual edification. (The rigors of the Sunday schedule and the demands of the true blue Mormon do not fulfill the innate spiritual needs of the members.)
  • The church has taken positions that are considered contrary to the love and acceptance imbued in the teachings of Christ. (Yesterday, it was the color of one’s skin; today it is the likely genetic disposition toward homosexuality.)

I would suggest that the traditional reasons (sin, smoking, and offense) for leaving the church are more likely to cause one to become inactive. The rationale as to why a person would take the active steps to remove their name from the records of the church are likely more deep seated and motivating (implied deceit, lack of spiritual gifts, and participation on politics.)

Each of us must choose our own path. Jeremiah and Lehi lived under the same circumstances but were led to different roles.  Jeremiah stayed in the midst of an apostate Jewish nation. Lehi became an apparent apostate and left. They were both following the word of God – personal revelation.

In our circumstances today, there may be those who are led to stay within the ’embrace’ of the Church. There may also be those who are led to flee and appear as apostates. While I may have looked with sadness upon those who left the ‘true’ church a decade ago, today I look upon those same people differently. I see them as willing to ‘sacrifice’ their comfort for their conviction. The Church has, in this case, pitted father against son and brother against brother.

But I also believe, that there are those who, as Lehi, are led by their reliance on the word of God to take a different path. There are those believe that there will be a remnant that will come out of this church to carry the true gospel forward. I have posted numerous times about the rejection of the gospel by the modern day Gentile church. (3 Nephi, chapter 16).

To stay in the church regardless of the cognitive dissonance requires patience and long suffering. To leave the church likely means a nearly complete dismantling of your social environment. Neither is easy but either may await those who have come to see the reality gap that exists in today’s church.

The statement here is that the responsibility of the church to each individual is to ensure that all are “remembered and nourished by the good word of God.” Not to beat a dead horse but… how is the construction of a multi-billion dollar mall supporting this responsibility? Will Christ, upon his return, look favorably on the ‘mutual compatibility’ of temple square and Nordstroms?

Finally, I must take issue with the idea that one be in the embrace of the Church and apparently not Christ. The invitation above seems to only, in passing, strike at the core message of the gospel. The church, as has the federal government, gone well beyond that original charter. For the bloated autocracy that is represented in the COB, I would suggest that the original message is found in D&C 19:31

And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.

Another key reference is found in D&C 10:

67  Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.

68  Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.

69  And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.

I would gladly give up the ’embrace of the church’ for coming unto Christ. Unfortunately, I can’t see how one can do both at the same time under the current circumstances.

What think ye?