Archive for the ‘mysteries’ Category

THERE was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old?  can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:1-5)

I remember very little about my water baptism when I was eight years old. The ward we recently moved into, at the time, was located in a small farming and ranching community with members scattered across a wide area. In my recollection, the ward had a monthly baptismal ceremony for all the BIC, born in the covenant, candidates to be presented for the ordinance. There was a preparation class for all the seven-year-olds in which I recall my teacher warning me that I needed to know all the Articles of Faith because I had to have an interview with the bishop. He would ask me to recite an Article of Faith at random, so I needed to be prepared. I apparently passed the interview.

My father was not active when I was growing up, so the duty of performing the ordinance fell to someone I did not know since we did not have any family in the area. I don’t have any specific recollection of the event other than being embarrassed getting dressed in the locker room following the ordinance.

The next day, I was confirmed a member of the church. Again, I remember little of the event other than I had many ‘heavy’ hands placed on my head. The duty of voice for the confirmation fell to a stranger.

I surmise that my baptism would have meant much more to me had I been a ‘real’ convert. Someone who had to make a serious choice on the matter, rather than simply reaching some specific age. The event, my being born of water, followed by my confirmation was sufficient to classify me as a member in full fellowship.

My baptism of the Spirit is a different matter. I have, in a past post, recited my recollection of the event. In that post, I told of the circumstances that led to the event. I talked of the marvelous feeling and ‘cleansing’ I received when I was nineteen years old.

It still stands today as the most significant event of my six decades in mortality. As I reflected on this event in light of the recent activity on this blog on the topic, my mind went back to that time and a portion of that same peace returned. At the time, I did not understand what had happened to me. I transitioned, in a matter of seconds, from being enveloped in despair and gloom, carrying a heavy burden to an incredible feeling of joy, peace, and lightness.

In my case, I had never been instructed as to the meaning of the second birth. I simply assumed that I had received an incredible answer to a prayer. My life, however, had changed. I had not been contemplating a mission before the event. Several days after the experience, I returned home to my ward and asked to begin the process to serve a mission. After a couple weeks, I no longer felt I was walking on air and the peace and joy subsided, but I was changed. I was a different person. I just didn’t know why.

And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not. (3 Nephi 9:20)

It was not until many years later that I came to understand what had happened to me. This scripture from Third Nephi, spoke to me, There were others who were similarly blessed with this baptism and did not understand what had happened. They had to be instructed as to what had happened to them. In my case, the scriptures were the medium. This learning didn’t happen until many years later.

As I write this today, there are fundamental nuggets of knowledge that my experience instilled in my world view. The first was an unshakable knowledge of the existence of a Supreme Being. What happened to me that night, so many years ago, could not have been generated by my distressed mind. I knew that what I experienced had come from God. I had, and have to this day, no doubt in His existence. The spiritual world had invaded my physical world and left an indelible mark on my soul. I could no more disregard my experience as I could deny my own existence.

I also came away from my experience with a new perspective on the character of this spiritual world. I had never before, nor since, experienced such an overwhelming infusion of love and acceptance. So much of our physical world demonstrates conditional love. I will love you if you do these things. The church presents a similar message. You are not acceptable unless you do the checklist.

My takeaway, however, was just the opposite. I felt, through the experience, and many days after, an unconditional love beyond anything in this material world. While I have fallen short, at times, I have never lost that feeling. As my miserable self was accepted through that event, so does God accept us for who we are. We are the ones who wish to distance ourselves from Him.

I also learned that we can hear a spiritual voice, just as we can hear a physical voice. Since that time, I have had the incredible experience of ‘hearing’ the voice of the spirit direct me on several other occasions. Again, I don’t know how my physical mind could have manufactured this.

So, why do I bring these things to this blog? It is not to boast or attempt to set myself apart. I do this, as prompted by the Spirit, to give others hope in things spiritual. I wish I had someone, when I was truly seeking, help me understand what is available from God and where one can go for guidance in the scriptures.

This second birth is offered to all who come with a ‘broken heart and a contrite spirit’ to Christ. It can be for anyone, as it was for myself, the pinnacle of a life experience.

What think ye?

The scriptures recite stories of both success and triumph as well as failure and futility. One such contrast is described in Matthew, chapter 17 where Peter, James and John are taken by Christ up a high mountain where Jesus was ‘transfigured before them.’ They were then presented with Moses and Elias conversing with the Savior and heard the testimony of the Father, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” (Matt. 17:5). I can only imagine what these men thought as this scene was rolled out before them. They fell down and were ‘sore afraid.’ To me, this kind of experience would bolster my faith and eradicate any fear yet upon their success, their return from the mountain, these disciples were presented with their own futility, as found in the same chapter

14  And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,

15  Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.

16  And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

17  Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?  how long shall I suffer you?  bring him hither to me.

18  And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

19  Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?

20  And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

21  Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

The disciples, including Peter, James, and John,  found that their lack of faith prevented them from healing the child. That faith would give them the power to move mountains and make it possible for them to do anything. What is this faith and how does one obtain the power to be a conduit of heavenly power?

After the last supper, Christ told Peter that he was sought as a prize by Satan. He was given the assurance by the Lord in Luke, chapter 22,

31  And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:

32  But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

Here again, the necessity of faith was brought to the forefront in the discussion between Christ and Peter, who was told that he had not yet been converted. We know, of course, that Peter still had to pass through the trial of denying his relationship with the Savior, one that caused him to weep. The question, in my mind, is how this conversion and the acquisition of faith to transpire? How does Peter become ‘converted?’

One can, of course, point to the day of Pentecost, where the disciples were baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost, as described in Acts, chapter 2,

3  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

4  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The narrative continues with the following statement, “And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.” Of particular note, found at the beginning of Acts, chapter 3, was the following,

1  NOW Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.

2  And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;

3  Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.

4  And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.

5  And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.

6  Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

7  And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.

8  And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.

9  And all the people saw him walking and praising God:

As I pondered this specific miracle, among the many miracles done by the apostles, the questions were formed: How did the lack of faith demonstrated by these disciples of Christ give way to the faith and demonstration of priesthood power following their baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost? What is the linkage between the two? What did Peter’s baptism of fire unleash that then allowed him to be successful in healing the lame when before He could not heal the lunatik?

I would suggest that the conversion of Peter, the second baptism, the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, unlocked his ability to exercise the priesthood power in healing the lame man. The remission of sins and the sanctification of that experience allowed Peter to become a conduit for the powers of heaven in strengthening his brethren. Likewise, it was the collective event of the baptism of fire that preceded the demonstration of ‘wonders and signs’ by the apostles documented in the description of the day of Pentecost.

This same baptism of fire was experienced by the disciples of Christ during His visit to the Nephites following his resurrection, as described in 3 Nephi chapter 19:

7  And the disciples did pray unto the Father also in the name of Jesus.  And it came to pass that they arose and ministered unto the people.

8  And when they had ministered those same words which Jesus had spoken—nothing varying from the words which Jesus had spoken—behold, they knelt again and prayed to the Father in the name of Jesus.

9  And they did pray for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them.

10  And when they had thus prayed they went down unto the water’s edge, and the multitude followed them.

11  And it came to pass that Nephi went down into the water and was baptized.

12  And he came up out of the water and began to baptize.  And he baptized all those whom Jesus had chosen.

13  And it came to pass when they were all baptized and had come up out of the water, the Holy Ghost did fall upon them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

14  And behold, they were encircled about as if it were by fire; and it came down from heaven, and the multitude did witness it, and did bear record; and angels did come down out of heaven and did minister unto them.

The disciples that Jesus had chosen were the first to be re-baptized with water and were then baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost. They were also part of the miracle of the sacrament where the multitude was filled by the few loaves brought by the disciples. These same disciples were responsible for greater works of God as described in 4 Nephi,

5  And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.

Did this baptism of fire unlock the disciples’ ability to perform the works of God? I would suggest that the answer is ‘yes.’ In some incomprehensible way, the second baptism was a prerequisite to the apostles’ ability to heal the sick and perform the other miracles recorded in the scriptures. The baptism of fire carries with it the sanctification of the body, all sins are put in remission, and the person is clean. It is then, in this sanctified condition, that the apostles were able to channel the powers of heaven in the performance of miracles.

In the meridian of time, both among the Jews and the Nephites, the twelve were shown to experience the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost prior to their miracles and healings. Could it be that, just as the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is the gate to the strait and narrow path (2 Nephi 31:17-18), that the same baptism of fire is the gate to the demonstration of the works of God by His apostles?

What does our modern leadership say about the second baptism? Here is one example from the general conference address by Boyd K. Packer in October 2007:

To my great surprise, I was called to meet with President David O. McKay. He took both of my hands in his and called me to be one of the General Authorities, an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

A few days later, I came to Salt Lake City to meet with the First Presidency to be set apart as one of the General Authorities of the Church. This was the first time I had met with the First Presidency—President David O. McKay and his counselors, President Hugh B. Brown and President Henry D. Moyle.

President McKay explained that one of the responsibilities of an Assistant to the Twelve was to stand with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as a special witness and to bear testimony that Jesus is the Christ. What he said next overwhelmed me: “Before we proceed to set you apart, I ask you to bear your testimony to us. We want to know if you have that witness.”

I did the best I could. I bore my testimony the same as I might have in a fast and testimony meeting in my ward. To my surprise, the Brethren of the Presidency seemed pleased and proceeded to confer the office upon me.

That puzzled me greatly, for I had supposed that someone called to such an office would have an unusual, different, and greatly enlarged testimony and spiritual power.

It puzzled me for a long time until finally I could see that I already had what was required: an abiding testimony in my heart of the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith, that we have a Heavenly Father, and that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. I may not have known all about it, but I did have a testimony, and I was willing to learn.

I was perhaps no different from those spoken of in the Book of Mormon: “And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9:20; emphasis added).

Over the years, I have come to see how powerfully important that simple testimony is. I have come to understand that our Heavenly Father is the Father of our spirits (see Numbers 16:22; Hebrews 12:9; D&C 93:29). He is a father with all the tender love of a father. Jesus said, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God” (John 16:27).

Next year, in the General Conference held in April 2008, Christofferson added this clarification:

You should remember that the remarkable examples of King Benjamin’s people, Alma, and some others in scripture are just that—remarkable and not typical.  For most of us, the changes are more gradual and occur over time. Being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event. And engaging in that process is the central purpose of mortality.

As I read and re-read these recitation of the church’s apostles experience, I came away with several points of his presentation. One, a simple testimony is all that Packer believes is needed to be an apostle. Apostles shouldn’t expect any great, unusual, or different spiritual power. Two, Packer has wrested the scriptures in 3 Nephi to support an incorrect conclusion. The 300 Lamanites, as referenced in 3 Nephi 9:20, weren’t the recipients of some long term imperceptible change as suggested by Packer and Cristofferson, rather they could not understand what was happening around them and had to be instructed as to what they were experiencing. The event is recorded in Helaman, chapter five. I would note that in the footnotes associated with verse 45, there is a pointer to 3 Nephi 9:20. This reinforces the point that the idea that “they knew it not” should not be used to support the idea that the baptism of fire is a process rather than event. Rather, they needed to be ‘coached’ as to what was happening. They knew it not because they understood it not.

If our modern apostles don’t believe that the baptism of fire is integral to the gospel, and what I would consider a prerequisite to extending the power of the priesthood, how can we expect them to perform the miracles attendant to this position? If the church is a ‘true’ restoration of the past organization, should we not expect the apostles to exhibit the same attributes as those twelve selected by Christ among the Jews and the Nephites? Should they not be the conduit through which the powers of heaven rain down miracles upon the members?

I believe that we all can have faith work in our lives. We each can be the recipient of miracles based on our individual faith. However, I believe that the scriptures puts a specific emphasis on the performance of miracles by those twelve who are called to serve in the position of apostle. They are to demonstrate the works of God rather than the works of men.

Following His exposition of the gospel in 3 Nephi, chapter 27, verse 21,  Christ told the twelve what should be done in His church:

…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;

What works was Christ referring to? According to 3 Nephi 26, verse 15, He ”healed all their sick, and their lame, and opened the eyes of their blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf, and even had done all manner of cures among them, and raised a man from the dead, and had shown forth his power unto them…”

These are the works of God. These are the miracles and wonders performed by Peter and the apostles among the Jews. These are the healings performed by the twelve apostles among the Nephites. These are the works of God that should be demonstrated by those who are called to the same position in the modern church.

Why is it not happening? It is because the church is in apostasy. It is because the leadership of the church has changed the everlasting covenant which is the fulness of the gospel (D&C 66:2). Without a correct understanding of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, the gospel is not that which was defined by Christ, and the works of God cannot be demonstrated in His church. This is the message of the 27th chapter of 3 Nephi.

We are all called upon to repent and return. I suggest we get moving in that direction.

What think ye?

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.


I wonder who I should call upon to substitute for me?

The question asked by President Monson in the Saturday morning session of General Conference caused me to ponder upon an answer. What are the markers that one should use to identify those that are called to lead the church of Christ? How do we recognize the true leader versus a ‘substitute?’ What guidance do we find in the scriptures that can assist in our understanding of this role in God’s dealing with man?

There are fifteen men who were sustained on the first day of conference as ‘prophets, seers, and revelators.’ These men, the first presidency and quorum of the twelve apostles, represent the highest leadership of the organization tasked with the care and nurturing of the restored gospel. What have we sustained them to do?

Prophet – “The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will. The message was usually prefaced with the works “Thus saith Jehovah.” (LDS Bible Dictionany) Should a prophet be expected to prophesy? Should we expect those who claim to wear the mantle of a prophet to ‘forthtell’ the events of the future based on our actions today?

Seer – One of the callings of a seer is to bring forth knowledge through the use of translaters. In Mosiah 8 we read:

13  Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God.  And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish.  And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.

14  And behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things, and who has this high gift from God.

15  And the king said that a seer is greater than a prophet.

16  And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.

17  But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.

18  Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings.

 A seer can know of things in the past, as well as the future. It is the greatest gift that God can bestow upon a human. A seer has all things revealed through them and knows secret and hidden things. Have the men who have been sustained to these positions within the Church demonstrated this greatest gift of God – the seership? Should we assume a man is a seer if he is misled by one offering them forged documents? Should we assume a man is a seer if he does not reveal the hidden things of the future?

There is no definition of revelator in the dictionary of our scriptures. A good example of a revelator is found in the Bible. Revelations was given to us through John the Revelator. Should revelations should be the product of a revelator? Should we expect to see the body of scripture expanded by this act?

What of a prophet that does not prophesy, a seer that does not ‘see,’ or a revelator that does not reveal? Are we not to measure a person by their fruits? Is it the expectation that these men deliver on their calling or simply be satisfied that if God needs to say something, these men are ready to provide the conduit?

What other markers of this calling can we find in the scriptures? When Jesus Christ ministered among the Nephites at the meridian of time, He taught the twelve disciples that, in order for the church to be His, it must exhibit certain criteria. Among these we find this direction in 3 Nephi, chapter 27:

10  And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.

11  But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.

12  For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you.

What are the works of the Father, what are the works of men, and what are the works of the devil? Perhaps it is easiest to deal with these in reverse order. The works of the devil could encompass war, bloodshed, anger, strife, and any other action that destroys human life, dignity, or the right to choose. I would suggest that unrighteous dominion is akin to the works of the devil in that it restricts our ability to exercise free agency.

I would suggest that the works of men are represented by the things we can acquire or build with our own hands. Certainly the construction of shopping malls fit in this category, but I would also add the construction of temples and other material structures. The works of men would also encompass the financial ‘kingdom.’ found among men. Are these church leaders relying on the works of men, including the building of temples, to fortify their ‘right and privilege’ as representatives of God? If so, we shall see them enjoy their works for a season and then see them hewn down.

And finally, what are the works of God? When Christ spoke the words quoted above, he was only speaking to the twelve disciples; not the general membership. After defining His gospel in 3 Nephi, chapter 27, He gave the twelve this direction:

21  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;

The twelve disciples were to do the same things that they saw Christ do. Not only did Christ minister and preach to the congregation at large, but he healed the sick, caused the lame to walk and the deaf to hear. He healed many of their afflictions as recorded in 3 Nephi, chapter 26:

15  And it came to pass that after he had ascended into heaven—the second time that he showed himself unto them, and had gone unto the Father, after having healed all their sick, and their lame, and opened the eyes of their blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf, and even had done all manner of cures among them, and raised a man from the dead, and had shown forth his power unto them, and had ascended unto the Father—

These works of God continued after Christ ascended into heaven. The twelve continued to bless the people with miracles as recorded in 4 Nephi:

5  And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.

The marker of the true church of Christ and the true leadership of that body is the presence of miracles, of healings, and the other gifts of the spirit. If these things are not present and not demonstrated by those who lead the church, it is NOT the true church of Christ as defined in the scriptures.

Should a substitute be sought for the president of the Church? If so, I would hope that the designate can demonstrate seership. I would expect this person to exhibit the works of God in healing. I would rejoice as this person revealed the hidden things of the kingdom and not be duped by forgers and imposters.

The sad truth is that none of these markers are exhibited by the leadership of the church today. My only solace is that the apostasy of the restored church was prophesied by men who truly held the position of prophet, seer, and revelator. They recorded the prophecies of such an apostasy in the Book of Mormon, in the Doctrine and Covenants, and in the inspired translation of the Bible.

We are in the midst of apostasy and are generally oblivious of the fact. We go about our routines and rituals ignoring the core message of the gospel and pointing confidently at the works of our own hands as our validation. We shall enjoy our works for a season and then suffer the consequences.

As President Monson asked: “Who should I call upon to substitute for me?” One who demonstrates the calling of a seer. One who demonstrates the works of God. That would be a good place to start.

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.

Should our testimony of the spiritual aspects of our lives be an ‘all or nothing’ situation? As a missionary many years ago, I challenged investigators engage in the promise of Moroni 10:4-5 and pray about ‘these things’ to arrive at a testimony of the truthfulness of the message; not just the Book of Mormon, but the whole package. Is that how things should work? Here is a similar comment from a recent conference:

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)

Does a testimony that Joseph Smith is a prophet automatically give us the knowledge that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet? In a similar vein, does a knowledge that Peter, the apostle, was called to lead the church in the meridian of time automatically lead to the conclusion that the keys were passed down to Pope Benedict XVI?

I think not.

Paul taught the Thessalonians:

Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good. (1 Thess. 5:21)

According to Strong’s Concordance, the word ‘prove’ could also be translated as ‘test’ or ‘examine.’ The message here is that we should examine all aspects of what is presented as truth and only keep what is validated.

In the 28th chapter of second Nephi, we read a series of ‘woes’ starting with ‘wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion. Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well.’ What I find that is pertinent to this topic is the following warning:

Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!

For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. (2 Nephi 28:29-31)

I would suggest that one should read this scripture from an individual perspective in consideration of the development of a testimony. The word of God, just as it was used by Lehi (1 Nephi 2:3), is most appropriately considered as personal revelation. God will give us answers ‘line by line, precept by precept.’ We should ‘prove’ all things and not assume that one answer applies to all. In other words, the development of a testimony should require us to test each and every concept or idea presented, not just assume that because part of the message is true, it all must be true.

I think it is also important to note that God promises us in 2 Nephi that if we continue to seek knowledge and testimony, He will give us more. If we deem that we have enough, that which we think we have will be taken away. Wo be unto him that assumes he needs no more revelation.

This is the same message that is found in Alma:

And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction.  Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell. (Alma 9:9-12)

Here the Lord refers to those who no longer seek revelation as having ‘hard hearts.’ We must break our hard hearts and exhibit a spirit of contrition in order to receive the word of God. This must happen line upon line, precept upon precept; we are called upon to examine all things, not blindly assume that A equals B equals C.

While this is very important on the way in to a testimony, I feel that it is equally important when our testimony is challenged. Stories abound of good members of the church who, upon being presented with aspects of uncorrelated church history, lose their testimony and walk away. I sincerely believe that having an ‘all or nothing’ testimony as proposed by Carlos Costa, increases the chances of a person rejecting ‘the church’ when difficulties arise. On the other hand, building a testimony line by line, allowing the person to reject aspects that are not revealed as true should preserve those aspects of revealed truth.

My message here is: Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. When I had my ‘crisis of faith,’ I went through a process of evaluating my options. Do I reject all of my testimony because one part of it turned sour? Or, do I attempt to reconstruct my testimony based on ‘line by line’ of those items where I did receive revelation?

I chose the latter. At the beginning of my journey, I began asking simple questions and seeking simple answers. Because of past experiences, I knew that God was there; mainly from my second baptism event cataloged earlier in this blog. I also had a revelation on the truth of the message of the gospel in the Book of Mormon (this last sentence was carefully constructed). I made sure that each step I took, each precept I considered, was stripped of any assumptions and preconceived notions. As I read and studied the scriptures, new perspectives developed that I had not previously considered. These were taken to the Lord through prayer and meditation.

Today, my ‘testimony’ is significantly different from what I held a decade ago. I have tried to build my belief system line by line, proving each item through study and meditation. My testimony is no longer ‘all or nothing;’ I hold fast to that which is good and look to continue the path in understanding the mysteries of God.

What think ye?

We shall soon again sit at the feet of the prophets, seers, and revelators to receive inspiration. According to Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, the word inspiring means “having an animating or exalting effect.” I take this to mean we should feel good as we listen to the conference talks. We talk of being uplifted by the messages and stories. I have to say that in most cases, this is true. We are uplifted by the words of inspiration. The talks are well prepared and delivered with the seasoned experience of a master elocutionist.

The question lingers in my mind. Is this what we are supposed to gain from conference weekend? Are we simply spending the time to be elevated in our minds and commit to being a better person?

I want to draw a distinction between ‘inspiration’ and “prophecy and revelation.” When King Limhi sought Ammon’s advice on how to translate the record that his people found, Ammon expounded on this topic. We read in Mosiah, chapter 8:

16  And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.

17  But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.

18  Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings.

I would suggest that a seer should be able to tell us what happened in the past, reveal hidden secrets in the present, and speak of the things in the future. Ammon concludes by telling us that it is through revelation that man can benefit others.

Have we, as a church, traded revelation for inspiration? Do we choose to hear things that make us feel good as opposed to the things that are true yesterday, today, and tomorrow?

Regarding the children of Israel, Isaiah has weighed in on the matter in chapter 30:

9  That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:

10  Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:

Are we in danger of having the same pronouncement placed upon us? Do we, as a people, choose to avoid the mysteries in favor of hearing what wonderful condition the church is in? Do our leaders fill the lack of revelation with smooth things that are simply inspiring?

Next week, keep a tally of these things:

  • What was delivered that can be defined as prophecy?

  • What was delivered that can be defined as a vision?

  • What did we hear that can be defined as revelation?

  • What words did we receive that can be considered inspiring or uplifting?

  • How many times are we called to repentance and for what reason?

As I see it, we are either moving in the right direction or not. Are we closer to having the sealed portion (for real) delivered for translation? Are we closer to living the law of consecration? Are we moving toward a Zion community?

Are we choosing inspiration or revelation?

What think ye?

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the graduation ceremony for the UC Berkeley school of Molecular and Cell Biology. The invited speaker was Dr. Bruce Ames, a noted scientist, who for decades has produced ground breaking work in genetics and how various substances impact our health at the molecular level. Dr. Ames provided a concise review of his most recent research into nutrition. According to his research, there are 40 micro-nutrients that are essential for our health and continued existence. Remove any of these 40 substances from our diet and we will weaken and die. His research points to the damage at the cellular level that occurs when any of these nutrients are missing.

He also noted that the body, when confronted with a deficiency of one of these critical nutrients, would direct its application to areas that benefit short-term performance while other body functions are deprived. This restriction leads to cellular damage that presages diseases like cancer. He cited statistics suggesting that a significant percentage of the population is deficient in some of these necessary nutrients. More information is available on Dr. Ames’ website:

As I pondered the words of this esteemed scientist, I was struck by the thought that this idea could just as easily be applied to our spiritual health. Are there micro-nutrients that are necessary for our spiritual health? Do we, by ignoring the consumption of the proper spiritual foods, weaken our faith and set the stage for damage induced spiritual death?

Dr. Ames assailed the ‘modern’ foods made to look attractive in our day such as carbonated sugar water that contains no meaningful value and represents ‘empty calories.’ Are there activities or rituals in which we engage that represent no meaningful spiritual value yet consume a significant component of our faith diet? What represents the empty calories in our spiritual diet as a ‘soda pop saint?’

As I look around me, I see many members who are busily engaged in various activities such as home teaching, genealogy, and fulfilling their callings. While these activities can be perceived as worthwhile, do they represent the equivalent of ‘empty calories’ in a spiritual sense? Yes, it is important that we strengthen one another and perform activities that support the greater good of the congregation, but what do these activities to do our own spiritual metabolism? Are we feeding our spiritual selves the necessary nutritional elements through these activities? In many cases, I think not.

What are the essential nutrients for a healthy spirit?

First, we must seek to understand what the gospel is and apply it in our lives. I believe these nutrients are found in places like 3 Nephi, chapter 27 and D&C 33:11-12. It is not enough to simply recite that faith, repentance, baptism by water, and the sanctification through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is sufficient. One must dig deeply into the meaning and substance of these spiritual concepts. We must ingest these concepts and make them available to every segment of our spirituality.

Second, we must strive to comprehend the mysteries of God. We read the following from Alma, chapter 12:

[9] And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

[10] And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

[11] And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.

 What else is spiritual death than the ‘chains of hell?’ One should continually strive for the essential nutrients found in the mysteries of God if they are to avoid the spiritual destruction cited in this scripture.

A great example of a mystery is, in my opinion, found in Alma 40: 3:

Now, I unfold unto you a mystery; nevertheless, there are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself. But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know — that is concerning the resurrection.


The mystery that Alma then began to expound upon, the resurrection, isn’t normally considered a mystery of God. It was to Alma. How many spiritual concepts that we take for granted are truly mysteries inside? The mysteries of God are obtained through the application of diligent study and prayer. This same Alma speaks of his efforts in Alma 5:46:

Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.

Our spiritual health depends on our continual acquisition of the essential spiritual nutrients. We must continually strive to feed our spirits, not with the empty calories of the works of man but of the bounty of the wisdom of God bestowed through the Holy Ghost

We ‘modern day Mormons’ seem to be starving our spiritual side by filling them with empty calories. The rich feast of the knowledge and wisdom of God awaits them who diligently seek these principles and strive to ingest the mysteries.

What think ye?

The scene is the courtroom. A witness takes the stand and, under oath, recites their story. The court process allows the witness to speak specifically to events that they personally viewed or participated in. There is a quick objection launched when the discussion strays into areas that do not represent fact but may represent personal opinion or second hand conversation. The testimony of the person on the stand is constrained only to those aspects of the examination that are personally experienced by the witness. There is no room for supposition or nuance or the words of others. As such, a testimony is considered valid only for those things that were experienced. No extension is to be allowed.

If our personal testimony were to be called upon in a court of law, what would we be able to say? How much of our ‘testimony’ of things spiritual is based on only the facts, not on opinion or the words of others?

As parents, we take pride in our children’s participation in the Sunday testimony meeting ritual. These children and youth line up and speak of knowledge of the truth of the church, or of the knowledge of the prophet, and other socially correct statements. Would these be accepted in a court of law? I think not. Are they potentially damaging when the child is old enough to see through the pageantry of testimony meeting? Does it represent a mockery when one speaks of knowledge of elements of our religion when there is no basis for that so-called knowledge?

I equate this misdirected practice to the somewhat insidious misrepresentation of the social characters touted around Christmas and Easter. How many children log the information regarding the validity of a person called Santa Claus when the truth is known and later, perhaps unconsciously, question the truth of other ‘characters’ spoken of by their parents and others.

Would a testimony of the Book of Mormon automatically define validity of the current church?

It has been preached from the pulpit and used by missionaries for decades – the idea that sets our faith up as a row of dominoes. If we gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon, it automatically means the church is true. Since the church is true, then President Monson is a prophet, etc.

I don’t think it is supposed to work that way. We should strive to gain a testimony of every aspect of our religion that is important to us. From my personal experience, a testimony of the Book of Mormon is just that, a testimony that God inspired Joseph Smith to re-introduce the fulness of the gospel in written form. I do not draw any extension from that confirmation to the circumstances we find ourselves in today. In fact, if the Book of Mormon is the inspired word of God, then we should be asking some strong questions about the church. Does ‘all is well’ ring a bell?

Each step we take on our spiritual journey should be done with purpose and commitment. Confirmation of the precepts and practices of the religion the restoration has become should be sought by each of the adherents. As Paul stated in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 6:

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”

I do not wish to build my testimony on an ice berg, where I can only see 10% of what is going on. There is much more below the surface that must be discovered. I continue to ‘prove all things.’ I strive to subject each aspect of my spiritual path to analysis and cross-examination. I must build my testimony brick by brick as they have been formed in the furnace of the personal revelation I desire to receive from God. Not all these ‘bricks” make it into the structure of my faith but those that do have withstood the challenge.

What think ye?

Both talks by Pres. Uchtdorf and Elder Scott continued with the focus on Jesus Christ; a message appropriate for a sacred holiday that has been hijacked by the pagens and the shopkeepers.

As I listened to the talk by Dieter Uchtdorf, there was a segment that again led my thoughts to a scripture. As he described the discouragement felt by some members who are made to feel that they don’t belong among those of the church, I was reminded of the Zoramites who boasted of being ‘a chosen and a holy people.’ These misguided souls believed that they were saved, ‘whilest all around us are elected to be cast by [God’s] wrath down to hell.’ Those that labored to construct the meeting places were cast out because of their ‘exceeding poverty.’

Pres. Uchtdorf reminded us that we are called to support and heal, not to condemn. Could he be addressing those who call themselves saints with the same warning that Alma delivered to the Zoramites? The pride and vanity is easily detected among a good segment of those who view church attendance as a way to establish their ‘rank’ and to appear in the ‘right’ places at the right time.

Unfortunately, the message is likely to go right over the heads of those who need to hear it.

Elder Hallstrom

The great plan of salvation is one that requires both good and evil, joy and pain. This opposition is needed to provide a complete lesson. At the same time, we are to act and not be acted upon. I had an earlier blog on that topic

I was particularly struck by Elder Hallstrom’s statement that the work of the Savior was to deliver us out of bondage; it was as if I had heard it for the first time. As I have grown older, I have been able to experience, firsthand, the bondage that comes from allowing our physical, emotional, and temporal needs to supplant the spiritual. There are no lower lows than that brought on by actions that attempt to fulfill our selfish needs. There are no higher highs than those that come to us through the spirit.

Sister Lant

We must seek the face God. I have oft called upon God for the help of ministering angels. Sister Lant talked of the events during the visit of the Savior to the Nephites where the children were blessed to be ministered to by angels from on high. I am saddened that we were now told that we are the angels to help those around us. Yet another spiritual gift has been redefined for our modern church.

Elder Cook

The quote from Joseph Smith reminded us that all things of spiritual merit are an appendage to the atonement. Given the clear definition of the gospel in the latter day scriptures, I heartily agree.

Much was said about reverence for the sacrament. The ordinance of the sacrament began as a miracle where all were filled with the associated bread and wine. This sacred ordinance was to be performed only by one of the twelve disciples at the time of Christ’s visit to the Nephites. Today, we allow teenagers to conduct a distribution of Wonder Bread and water. Are we truly reverencing one of the most sacred ordinances established by the Savior when we replace both the emblems and the conductor?

Pres. Monson

As President Monson began his address on the Savior and His atonement, I was struck by his comment that the words he was to speak were based on thoughtful consideration and the scriptures. Should this be all that the prophet and president of the church should use in his testimony of the Savior?

When I was growing up, it was oft quoted that the apostles were to receive a personal witness of the Savior. These men were to be visited from on high and endowed with power to prophesy, act as seers, and to reveal things sacred. Perhaps not, thoughtful consideration is the same thing that President Hinckley indicated was the process of decision making in the highest levels of the church. When will be see the highest leaders of the church speak of the things that will happen, to see that which we cannot see, and reveal those things that are hidden? Not this week….

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