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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.

12 Responses to “Where Do We Go From Here?”

  • Steve:

    I am one of those who suffered/suffers from this malady. At the time of my awakening I guess I figured that those who had recognized this before me were right as to their means of resolving it in their own lives, which for many of them was to embrace Mormon fundamentalism. I rejoiced in the doctrines that they had sustained — Adam-God just made so much sense to me — and I started looking at them. However, more recently I’ve come across the testimony of a member of the Church by the name of Denver Snuffer. He states that he has received his calling and election made sure and has been commanded of the Lord to teach others by books at least how to obtain the same for themselves. In this he relies heavily on the Book of Mormon and the teachings of Joseph. I really did not want to leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nor did I feel much of a prompting to do so. Just trying to relieve the dissonance. Of course the idea that one could receive such in the Church, as it is, at one level did not make sense. How could one do such without living all of the laws, such as plural marriage, law of consecration, etc? However, if it was remotely possible, should I not investigate it?

    He has a book called “The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil”, which describes the process. Perhaps this can help with such conflict, along with going to the Lord directly. This and his other books — most recently one on how to make sense and resolve Church history versus the facts — have been a great source of light and comfort to me.

    Steve

  • Jack:

    I invite you to follow the logical path of your analogy: The Cycle of Apostasy. What we see in the Book of Mormon from the beginning until the complete destruction of the Nephite civilization is the unrelenting efforts of the Lords servants to keep the people in the fold. There were always people coming and going from the church. But the church itself remained established in some form until the final destruction. And so it is today. You won’t find the keys of salvation outside the jurisdiction of the brethren.

  • Spektator:

    Jack,
    We see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. Unfortunately, I don’t believe your comment about “the church itself remaining established in some form until the final destruction” is accurate. When King Noah thrust out the righteous priests chosen by his father, he replaced them with men of his own kind. The formal church was corrupted and the spiritual church, in the form of Alma, had to flee into the wilderness. The formal organization carrying the banner of the church of God has become so corrupt that it killed the messenger of God. And God had to start over again with a cast-off.

    I believe this is analogous to what is happening today. The latter-day church has attempted to silence those who speak out against the materialism and pride that inhabits the hearts of those in charge. The formal church has become corrupt and has caused a ‘few’ to flee into the wilderness.

    Mosiah 18 tells us that Alma had the spirit of God come upon him and he baptized Helam. Later, in the chapter, Alma states that he received his authority from God. So much for the ‘keys’ that Noah received from his father…

    NO, you will not find the keys of salvation with the brethren. The only key to salvation is Jesus Christ and Him alone. No priest, apostle or prophet can save you. If you believe that you will be safe if you ‘follow the prophet,’ you will discover that you have sought safety in the arm of flesh.

  • Not to mention that Brigham Young’s(an thus the entire Brighamite sect’s) claim to be Joseph Smith’s true successor is dubious at best. The thing people need to realize is that after 1844 the church shattered. Each peiece has some claim that ties it back to the original organization. Each sect is part of the whole. There is no ONE true successor.

    Add to that corporatism which has made the sects slaves to the government. This has pretty much eliminated all leadership from being true leaders of the church since they are leaders of the corporation. The church still exists as the people and we must eventually gather out of these corporate shells and unite together again as the church.

  • Or, to be clearer in writing, perhaps I should say,

    Spek, I finally have an understanding of what “the fulness of the gospel” is and according to that understanding, we both have it and do not have it, or, in other words, there are two fulnesses spoken of in the scriptures. Both are called “the fulness of the gospel” but one refers to the gospel which we have now, and the other refers to a gospel which will be coming later, which encompasses everything or all things.

    Uh, was that clearer in writing or did I just confuse the heck out of you?

  • Spektator:

    LDSA,
    I took your first comment out. Not sure if you wanted both.

    I will have to wrap my feeble brain around this idea of two meanings to the fulness. Joseph Smith – History 1:23 says that the fulness of the gospel is found in the writings of the ministry of Jesus Christ among the Nephites. That is what I have used to refine my view of the meaning of the fulness. 3 Nephi 10:16 tells us that it will be taken from the Gentile church and returned to the remnant of the house of Israel. We, Gentiles, given that scenario, have to repent and be numbered with the house of Israel if we are to partake of the fulness of the gospel.

    I would like to understand how you got to the two fulness idea. We could continue the dialog here, email, or Skype.

  • Steve:

    LDSA: I was just discussing the fulness with a son. I’d be interested in your thoughts on it.

    Steve

  • Jack:

    Spektator,

    C’mon. What about the folks in Zarahemla — and the fact that Mosiah was a seer? Don’t you think there’s anything to be gained (with regard to this analogy) by considering the idea that Alma and his followers were led to back to their brethen?

    • Spektator:

      Jack,
      Why didn’t the Lord just lead Alma back to Zarahemla to begin with? There must be a good reason.

      I find it interesting that Mosiah “granted unto Alma that he might establish churches throughout all the land of Zarahemla; and gave him power to ordain priests and teached over every church.” (Mos. 25:19) Why would Mosiah allow Alma to establish churches in the land if there were already a community of believers and an organization in that area? For whatever reason, it was Alma that reorganized the church in Zarahemla and baptized the people of Limhi, not Mosiah.

      Why is it almost 30 years from the time that Alma reunites with the people of Zarahemla and the time the Mosiah translates the plates. We do not know why that length of time occurred or why Alma was put in charge of the church if Mosiah were the ‘true’ leader of the church and the government.

      Needless to say, it was Alma who carried forward the righteous branch of the Nephites, not Mosiah.

  • TL:

    It appears that the Church that Joseph Smith restored was true & contained the fulness of the Gospel, but the people in his day rejected it & wanted whoredoms & wickedness instead of living the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ that Joseph taught.

    Joseph continually warned the Saints that if anyone came preaching polygamy or anything like it or contrary to what he has taught them or what the scriptures say, (as polygamy goes against them), then to know for sure that they are an imposter & a false prophet & to not fall for them or their accusations that he was preaching or practicing it secretly.

    But the people did not follow Joseph’s warnings & teachings & instead easily fell for Brigham Young & his teachings of polygamy.

    It seems incredible that they could listen to Joseph preach against it for years & then fall so easy for it. That would be worse than if we today fell for the lie that pornography was a righteous thing just because the next Prophet preached it.

    Thus, because of polygamy & other false doctrines preached & practiced by Brigham Young & all who followed him, that particular group immediately lost any Priesthood or Keys or Spirit of Revelation that they may have had & were thus allowed to dwindle in unbelief in the wilderness up until today.

    Many in the Church today are waking up to the fact that the Church leaders through the years have taught doctrines that are contrary to what Joseph Smith & Christ taught & contrary to the scriptures.

    And if we believe the rumors, (that Joseph Smith warned us not to believe) & thus believe that he preached & practiced polygamy secretly, then it is ridiculous to think Joseph could have ever expected anyone to accept polygamy from anyone preaching it & for they would immediately prove themselves as imposters according to Joseph. And if Joseph tried to teach polygamy to anyone after preaching against it & bringing forth scriptures that condemned it, everyone would know that he was a fallen Prophet for lying & deceiving them so long & for preaching a revolting whoredom, which the Spirit confirms is abusive & degrading to women.

    Plus, the way to know if Joseph Smith is even a true Prophet or not, is to compare his teachings & practices against what Christ taught & Christ clearly taught against polygamy, (even the BoM is clear that polygamy is a whoredom in every age) so even if Joseph had preached & practiced polygamy it still would only ‘prove’ him a false or fallen prophet.

    For true Prophets always teach what Christ taught.

    The only thing we can do at this point is become Prophets & Prophetesses ourselves & be lead by Heavenly Father in all we do & to live according to Christ’s law & wait until Christ returns to restore all that was lost, so we can be worthy of Zion & the fulness of the Gospel yet again.

    • Even the Least Saint:

      TL, I might be posting a few months too late to get a response but I would like to know where you found that Joseph Smith warned the church not to believe rumors that he secretly practiced polygamy. I thought it was pretty well documented that Joseph took other wives. However, I would really like to see the references on Joseph warning against polygamy and against people conspiring to implicate him.

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