Archive for August, 2010

With the release of “To The Rescue,’ I will be interested in whether the following story is included in the bio and what version is used. Here are two versions of a story. One found in the Ensign and the other recited in a meeting. Can you spot some of the differences between the two versions? Are they significant in your opinion? It certainly isn’t to the level of a Dunn’ism but where is the line?

The Lighthouse of the Lord by President Thomas S. Monson, February, 2001 Ensign

September 9, 2000 Regional Conference, Priesthood Session, Sandy, Utah

Many years ago, on my first visit to the fabled village of Sauniatu in Samoa, so loved by President David O. McKay, my wife and I met with a large gathering of small children – nearly 200 in number. At the conclusion of our messages to these shy yet beautiful youngsters, I suggested to the native Samoan teacher that we go forward with the closing exercises. As he announced the final hymn, I suddenly felt compelled to greet personally each of these children. My watch revealed that the time was too short for such a privilege, for we were scheduled on a flight out of the country, so I discounted the impression. Before the benediction was to be spoken, I again felt that I should shake the hand of each child. I made the desire known to the instructor, who displayed a broad and beautiful Samoan smile. In Samoan, he announced this to the children. They beamed their approval.

The instructor then revealed to me the reason for his and their joy. He said, “When we learned that a member of the Council of the Twelve was to visit us here in Samoa, so far away from Church headquarters, I told the children if they would earnestly and sincerely pray and exert faith like the Bible accounts of old, that the Apostle would visit our tiny village at Sauniatu and through their faith he would be impressed to greet each child with a personal handclasp.” Tear could not be constrained as the precious boys and girls walked shyly by an whispered softly to us the sweet Samoan greeting “talofa lava.”

We had an opportunity to go up to the little village of Sauniatu where President McKay spoke and lifted their sights on what they could do once they embraced the gospel. There is a little monument to President McKay’s visit…

(story about Bro. Longdon eating a dessert with ants in it)

I attended a little school there, little tiny children. They are handsome children. They like to sing, they can sing in four parts. And as they were singing, I remember the school teacher had a great big smile. And they introduced me and I stood at the pulpit, you know, I couldn’t say a word. I said, “First, I would like to shake hands with each boy and girl here today. And then they all had a smile and I turned to the teacher and said, “Why are they all smiling? He said, “I told them that an apostle was coming to Samoa and while they usually stay at Papias(?) that if they prayed, this one would come up to Sauniatu, the little village. And if they really prayed, if they really prayed, he would shake the hands of each boy and each girl. I had no knowledge of that. It was a beautiful experience for me to speak to them. I remember the old piano in the corner of the room and the teacher who played as the little children sang and marched up to shake my hand or me to shake theirs. And the song they played was one you all know, In the shade of the old apple tree. It was hot in Samoa, an apple tree would be nice, so would the shade. They sang with gusto. None of them, they had never seen an apple tree, but they knew it must be a very fine tree to give the shade.

I have been in several meetings where President Monson spoke, each time, at the conclusion of the meeting, he quickly departed out a side door and did not linger to greet members or shake hands. I guess you need to be Samoan to deserve that level of attention.

The blog Weeping for Zion has a clip from KSL news regarding the new Monson biography being released and a clear message of similar  concern. Please swing by there if you get a chance.

There is a display of Monson’s life from his earliest years recounting the decades of service at Deseret Book. As I listened to the news clip, I had a mental image of a similar panorama I recall in the visitors center of the life of Christ. I wonder how many of those who call themselves saints have shifted their adoration to this man and away from Him who is the true head of the church

What think ye?

The question I have been pondering recently has been: What should our relationship be with the world? Perhaps I should define what I mean by ‘world.’ We have around us political, cultural, and religious entities with which we must interact on a daily basis. We have a worldly government that dictates compliance with a set of laws intended to ‘provide for the common good.’ We must deal with worldly cultural pressures that seem to strike at our values of home and family. We encounter, on a daily basis, displays of behavior that are not in line with our values and standards by the media and by people around us. We are confronted by other world religious groups who do not accept our institutional or personal revelation regarding the dictates of the ‘One True God.’ It is this last relationship that is of interest to me this day. How should we deal with other churches?

The Book of Mormon speaks of only two churches in first Nephi, chapter 14:

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

This scripture tells me that, in God’s view, there are only two groups when it comes to His church. The church of Christ contains all those who have fulfilled the requirements of the gospel and have been admitted into His church. His doctrine as found in Doctrine and Covenants, section 10 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.

The path to membership in the church of Christ is found in repentance and the process of coming unto Christ (see Moroni 6:1-4). By default, all those who have not completed the task of ‘coming unto Christ’ do not belong to His church. I would add that those that have loaded more requirements than what is found here do not qualify either – no more or less is acceptable. Further, I am not convinced that only members of the Mormon church can meet this criteria.

But, we have to deal with two planes in this discussion. I would suggest that there has become a clear distinction between the spiritual church defined above and the corporate church – the entity that presents itself to the world as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The corporate church is supposed to overlap and encompass the spiritual church and administer the ordinances associated with the gospel of Jesus Christ. If the corporate church requires more for membership than repentance and the act of coming unto Christ, does it still meet the criteria of being called the church of Christ? If not, has it found residence in that other church?

With that said, let me move on to the topic of this post. If the corporate church is truly the church of Christ, what should be its relationship to other religions? Here is where the dissonance erupts in my mind. The epistle of James, chapter 4, verse 4, tells us the following relative to the world:

…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 it us and them? Are we to isolate ourselves from the world and not participate in their games and business activities? Brigham Young spent most of the last three decades of his life trying to isolate the saints from the world. His efforts to make the church self-sufficient through the United Order and other activities ended without success.

Today, this desire for isolation has been supplanted with a strong desire to be afforded worldly respect and to unite with others who share a common goal. It seems that in today’s environment, ‘the enemy of our enemy is our friend.’ Catholics and Mormons set aside their differences to unite in defense of their views on the family. They have collaborated on the delivery of medicine, supplies, and food to those devastated by the cruel side of nature. In fact, they have shared the podium; this year, Cardinal Francis George, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke at a BYU devotional.

Recently, Elder Quentin L. Cook blogged about our friendship with those of other faiths. His thoughts are found here at www.pantheos.com. He speaks of the value derived from working together for a common goal:

These relationships are not ecumenical; that is, we are not trying to come to an agreement on principles of doctrinal practice, but instead there is a mutual respect for each other’s beliefs and a desire to collaborate on important issues where we find common ground.

So, we seem to have moved away from the position of the source of restored truth to a ‘mutual respect for each other’s beliefs.’ Herein lays the continual struggle. We are told that we are to be a peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9) yet we have, in today’s world, embraced other’s beliefs with respect and united with them in defense of the social issues of the day.

Elder Cook also notes another example of our Christian service in the wider world:

Similarly, when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, members of our Church and other faiths spontaneously rose to the occasion to help relieve the suffering. This was so fittingly illustrated when a United Methodist congregation in Slidell, Louisiana, graciously offered their church as a place to sleep to Mormon volunteers from Houston, Texas. When the congregation arrived for services on Sunday, they found that the Mormons had cleared trees and other debris from their churchyard. As a show of thanks, our members also mounted their hurricane-damaged flag as a keepsake and flew a new banner from the flagpole. During the shared worship service, the pastor voiced a feeling of unity shared by those of both denominations: “The Mormons are now our friends.”

The idea seems to be that we need to show ourselves as good and upright citizens in hopes that we might influence them on the ecumenical side. Isn’t that why the church promotes the worldwide welfare and emergency relief operations it entertains? Do we publicize these examples of giving in order that we may get something in return – the praise of the world and an expectation to be treated as a ‘friend’ rather than be despised? Is it wrong to assume the ends justify the means in our worldwide relief activities?

How do we stay apart from the world and, at the same time, help those in need as found in Luke, chapter 6:

30  Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

31  And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

32  For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye?  for sinners also love those that love them.

33  And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye?  for sinners also do even the same.

34  And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye?  for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

35  But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

I read this to mean that we are not to help with some ulterior motive. We are to help without expecting anything in return. Do we expect something when the help is rendered? Do we expect the world to recognize and applaud us for our service? Is this done to open doors for the message of the restored gospel? Do we, by simply publishing our efforts, indicate we desire something in return?

Nephi provides us a definition of priestcraft In second Nephi, chapter 26:

29  He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.

Can the church leadership be guilty of priestcraft when they engage in worldwide relief efforts that are promoted widely and that are not contributing to the welfare of Zion? Or is it just the publicity department of the church that expects a value for the time and goods dispersed?

From my perspective, the true church of Christ cannot be ‘friends’ with the world. As a peculiar people, we cannot expect them to treat us with anything but contempt. If we are indeed the true church of Jesus Christ, what can we expect to gain by participating in these worldly relief efforts if even a minor component of our intent is to gain the praise of the world? At what price is our recognition that we are able to out-Christian the other Christian sects?

What think ye?

I have been a subscriber to the Church News for a long time. Living out in the so-called mission field, it was a weekly touch point with my roots and the heritage I claimed. On occasion, I would see a name or a place that brought back memories of my younger days and the somewhat idyllic visage I held of the dry, dusty desert in which I was born.

For many years, the Church News was delivered  wrapped in plastic and folded such that the religious content was not easily recognizable. Now things are different. The Church News comes wrapped in Mormon Times; a weekly periodical that not only expands the coverage of events of the church but also carries within its pages the proper Mormon-sanitized advertisements from places like LDS Travel and The Missionary Depot.

This week’s (August 7th, 2010) front page ad from Mr. Mac touts “Testimony tested, Wool and Wool Blends, Solids and Stripes, Stretch arm holes, Reinforced seat and crotch.”

In another prominent position, the half page advertisement on the back page encourages you to “start saving today” at Zions Bank.  I am not sure what their tag line means: “We haven’t forgotten who keep us in business.” Does this refer to the bank’s origin as a ‘sacred’ institution or to its care of the riches of modern-day Mormons? Inside you can find more advertisements encouraging you to buy genealogy software, or expand your years supply, even your very own ‘title of liberty.’

As I pondered the situation, the weekly arrival seemed to speak in symbolism. Much like the Church News is now wrapped by the messages of buying and selling, so was the temple at the time of Christ where convenient merchants ringed the facility proffering their ‘church approved’ doves, lambs and other emblems required in religious acts.

Have we fallen victim to the same rationalization as the moneychangers in the temple? Have we deemed it acceptable to wrap the ‘good news’ of the church with tempting offers of merchandise? Many of you will scoff and scorn at this idea. Why shouldn’t the Church News be wrapped in an ad for Zions Bank? It’s simply how we operate in these modern days. This serves as a reminder to me that there may be many rites and rituals we perform today that may not be acceptable to the Lord.

Should we be concerned by the continual encroachment on the sacred by that which is profane and worldly? Should we be concerned when the message of the church is wrapped by the message entwining testimony and a reinforced crotch?

And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

2 Nephi 28:21

What are the warning signs of ‘carnal security?’ Should we be concerned when Zions Bank prospereth? Carnal can be defined as temporal and worldly just as easily as being defined as marked by passions and sensuality. Does Mormon Times represent that worldly security that encloses the words of the church?

The message here is that the gradual and imperceptible slippage into the world has been underway for many years. The latest issue of Mormon Times is simply a weekly reminder.

What think ye?

The Confession by Pietro Longhi

The Confession by Pietro Longhi

In this painting by Pietro Longhi, we see the penitent waiting patiently for a turn at the confessional. Confession is a component in our spiritual development and is the topic of my random thoughts in this post. Perhaps a good place to start is the Church Handbook of Instruction, the authoritative guide  to church management:


Two types of confession are identified here. We are to confess our sins to the Lord. The second, reserved for more serious sin, is confession to their presiding church leader. In my study of the scriptures, however, I came upon a third version of confession – confessing our sins to each other or to the church.

Here are some of the scriptures in support these three confessional choices:

Confession to the Lord

From Romans, chapter 14:

11  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

12  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

From Alma, chapter 17

4  And they had been teaching the word of God for the space of fourteen years among the Lamanites, having had much success in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth; yea, by the power of their words many were brought before the altar of God, to call on his name and confess their sins before him.

From Doctrine and Covenants, section 64:

7  Nevertheless, he has sinned; but verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, forgive sins unto those who confess their sins before me and ask forgiveness, who have not sinned unto death.

We receive, through the blood of Jesus Christ, a cleansing and sanctification that we cannot do for ourselves. No matter how we try to live and no matter how much good we do in the world, it will not wash away our sinly stains. Confessing our errors to the Lord can bring a peace to the heart. The prompting can also help us understand what we can do to protect us from further attacks.

Confession to an ecclesiastical leader

From Helaman, chapter 16

1  AND now, it came to pass that there were many who heard the words of Samuel, the Lamanite, which he spake upon the walls of the city.  And as many as believed on his word went forth and sought for Nephi; and when they had come forth and found him they confessed unto him their sins and denied not, desiring that they might be baptized unto the Lord.

From Doctrine and Covenants, section 42

88  And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled.

89  And if he or she confess not thou shalt deliver him or her up unto the church, not to the members, but to the elders.  And it shall be done in a meeting, and that not before the world.

90  And if thy brother or sister offend many, he or she shall be chastened before many.

91  And if any one offend openly, he or she shall be rebuked openly, that he or she may be ashamed.  And if he or she confess not, he or she shall be delivered up unto the law of God.

92  If any shall offend in secret, he or she shall be rebuked in secret, that he or she may have opportunity to confess in secret to him or her whom he or she has offended, and to God, that the church may not speak reproachfully of him or her.

93  And thus shall ye conduct in all things.

I couldn’t find a good scripture supporting confession to a leader in the New Testament but one probably exists. We are told to first take our offense to the person that was involved. If there is not penitence, the complaint should be taken to the elders (that should spice up quorum meetings). This is done to apparently avoid embarrassment on the part of the parties involved which seems to run counter to the need for humility and a broken heart.

It is interesting to read in verse 90 regarding what audience is involved in the chastening. A crime against the community should be dealt with in front of the community. While this may take place in the community at large, it doesn’t seem to be the process within the church. When was the last time you heard someone chastised from the pulpit? I guess we are now much more socially correct than in the past.

Confession to the members

From James, chapter 5

16  Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

From Moroni, chapter 6

2  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.

From Doctrine and Covenants, section 59:

12  But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.

This last option of confession to others seems to have lost favor within church today. As is stated in Moroni, chapter 6 above, there is an expectation of new members to witness before the church regarding their repentance. This practice has not been implemented in the church today. Perhaps this is too much of a shock to the system for new members, especially when one is more concerned with the numbers rather than the salvation of the individual.

We, as James indicates, should confess our weaknesses to each other. This idea seems somewhat contrary to the direction given in D&C, section 42, where we are to deal with offenses in secret so that the person involved does not suffer from the scorn of the other members.

Confessing our faults one to another can be a real blow to the ego. One who comes forward with a broken heart and a contrite spirit would likely be humble enough to be willing to witness to their fellow saints of their repentance.

Confession is good for the soul. It gives us the opportunity to lighten the burden that sins bring. Christ has offered to make our burdens light if we but give them to Him. I believe we, in our confessions to the Lord, can achieve that soul cleansing benefit.

When we have dealt wrongly with our friends or neighbors, we should expect to be confronted and use the opportunity to seek forgiveness. Some day, I would expect the confessions to be shared among ourselves as we strive to establish that which was lost – Zion.

What think ye?