Saturday, May 19, 2018

Introductory Handout Available

Someone has noticed the need for a small, introductory handout for the restoration movement, to provide a basic introduction and background to any who may be interested. Ideally, it should be compact enough to be conveniently carried in a mobile phone case or checkbook, so it's available when needed. 

The good news is someone has created just such a handout. They have printed some and will mail a few at no charge to anyone who sends their name and address to john@utahtt.org. I had nothing to do with this effort, but I think it is worthwhile and helpful, so I agreed to publicize it here. 

This handout attempts to show the pattern throughout history of truth being revealed and then repeatedly corrupted so that there must be a movement, like the Protestant Reformation, to return to the original.  It attempts to be non-offensive to both Christians and LDS and yet it also points out some of the problems that cause the need to preserve the restoration.

You can download a PDF of the document here. It is designed to be printed on 8.5 x 14 inch paper, cut down, and multi-folded. The numbered panels are to be read in order. 

NOTE: This document is not, and has nothing to do with, the Guide & Standard/Statement of Principles project. This is not a statement of principles, nor is it a guide and standard; rather it is merely a historical introduction to the Lord's work, useful as an introduction. 


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Joseph Smith Restoration Conference

If you are associated with one of the various branches of the restoration, or know people who are, please take a look at this important announcement. (click to download a PDF version.)


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Volunteer Miracles

But the record thereof is of great worth, and whoso shall bring it to light, him will the Lord bless. For none can have power to bring it to light save it be given him of God. For God will that it shall be done with an eye single to his glory, or the welfare of the ancient and long dispersed covenant people of the Lord, and blessed be him that shall bring this thing to light, for it shall be brought out of darkness unto light according to the word of God. Yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness and come unto the knowledge of the people, and it shall be done by the power of God. And if there be faults, they be the faults of a man.
—Mormon 4:3 RE


The volunteer project to produce a more correct and true-to-original set of scriptures has born wonderful fruit. All three volumes are now available on Amazon and as PDF downloads.

Volume 1: The Old Covenants contains the Joseph Smith translation of the Old Testament, including the work formerly published as the Book of Moses, which has been properly placed where it belongs in the book of Genesis. It is the most exhaustively accurate version of Joseph Smith’s Old Testament work ever printed, and the only version to contain every correction that can be shown to have come from Joseph.

Volume 2: The New Covenants includes both the New Testament and The Book of Mormon, published together in one volume, as Joseph Smith intended. As with Volume 1, the Joseph Smith translation of the New Testament is the first ever printed to include all the changes Joseph made. Likewise, this is the most textually accurate version of The Book of Mormon ever printed, having been exhaustively reviewed and compared with the original manuscript, the printer’s manuscript, and all versions personally edited by Joseph Smith.

Volume 3: Teachings and Commandments contains works formerly included in the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, as well as revelations to Joseph Smith not previously published, and recent revelations given through Denver Snuffer. One of the most remarkable new revelations published is The Testimony of St. John, which I have written about previously.

I’ve been carefully searching John’s testimony and leading group studies on it over most of the last year. After a year of exhaustive study, I believe this testimony is—thus far—unparalleled among scripture. Its light can only be described as brilliant.

One of the hidden gems of the scripture project is the 71-page Glossary of Terms, featuring outstanding explanations of numerous gospel terms and concepts. Not only does it stand on its own as an incredible resource of higher understanding, but it also adds immense richness as a vital companion to scripture study.

Because the Glossary is in the back of a lengthy volume, I’ve found it very useful to have a separate, printed copy for ready reference during study. Here’s a link where you can download PDF copies in various sizes and printing configurations:

http://scripturesproject.blogspot.com/p/glossary.html

The dozens of volunteers who spent thousands of combined hours laboring on this project deserve our gratitude. I’m amazed and delighted that they have accomplished what much larger, better staffed, and wealthier organizations have never bothered to do, despite having  access to expert scholars, original texts, and vast financial resources. Apparently desire and willingness trump all those other resources on God’s balance sheet.

Never underestimate the miraculous potential of scrappy volunteers, inspired by God, and willing to work.

Hearken diligently unto me and remember the words which I have spoken, and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness. Behold, my beloved brethren, remember the words of your God.
—2 Nephi 6:13 RE

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Invitation for Prayer on the Statement of Principles Effort

Friends of mine wrote the following and asked me to post it here: 

The Freedom to Disagree

In the many genuine efforts by the body to move forward with the instruction to write a statement of principles to be adopted by the mutual agreement of the Lord’s people, and then to be added as a guide and standard for His people to follow, there is a common theme. The common theme, or understanding, is that we need to reach agreement to complete the task.  We have discussed this “agreement” in terms of either a majority agreeing, or in some cases complete unanimity of the covenant body. This suggests all or a majority need to agree on a specific statement for it to be added to the scriptures. Without agreement, we cannot move forward, a statement cannot be included in the scriptures, and our efforts seem frustrated. We believe until we can convince those responsible for the scriptures being published to include a statement in the publishing process, or convince those dissenting from a statement to agree with the prevailing statement of choice by the body, completion of this task seems unreachable at present. Why is this happening? What are we to understand by this process? Have you noticed that it seems to be in the apparent contradictions we face that the Lord can provide greater understanding?

What if we as a people cannot see what the Lord’s definition of “mutual agreement” is really about? Is it possible we don’t understand or know how to apply it? Possibly because there is nothing to compare it to here. What if His definition of mutual agreement has nothing to do with agreement at all? What if it has to do with the freedom to disagree, and yet remain together as His people, as brothers and sisters in deed? We should reconsider our definition of mutual agreement and replace it with His words. If we did, we may realize something. The Lord has given us His meaning of the term:

“As between one another, you choose to not dispute.”

Where is the word “agree” in the above definition? There is no agreement found there, because it’s not required. Why do we think agreement is required? Where does the idea come from? Which being wants to force, or require others to agree? What if it has nothing to do with agreement, and everything to do with the freedom of choice? The freedom to choose for ourselves. What if it simply is describing a choice made by the individual, that they choose to not dispute. According to recent teachings and light provided to us, it takes strength of character to make this personal choice. It takes the strength that is reflected in our Mother. It required great strength of character for Christ, being in possession of the truth, to make this personal choice during His mortal life—to not dispute, although He was right all along.

Given this idea, why couldn’t we disagree respectfully about a statement of principles and yet have the Lord’s definition of mutual agreement with one another? We do not need to agree. The Lord has provided the freedom for everyone to disagree respectfully, by maintaining our unique views and understanding. Perhaps over time, individuals can be persuaded one way or another. Persuading others to our view is not required to obtain mutual agreement. All that’s required is for a certain number of individuals to make the choice to not dispute concerning their disagreements. At that point, for those individuals, they’ll have mutual agreement with everyone that they’ve chosen not to dispute with. As others make this choice, they’ll also have mutual agreement with everyone else. No percentage or vote of agreement is needed for that group of individuals, large or small, to take action based on their belief and faith.  Disagreement is ok, it’s good to have and maintain the freedom to disagree respectfully about many things, including a statement of principles. It’s our right and freedom to have independent thought. That comes from God. Our uniqueness comes from Them. If others believe a certain statement of principles has been accepted by God, even though you may disagree with it, as long as you have made the choice that it’s not worth disputing over, then you have met the Lord’s definition of mutual agreement with them. Everyone will have the freedom to continue to persuade each other while having respectful disagreement. The Lord’s “mutual agreement” protects respectful disagreement, it allows for the freedom to disagree. We believe respectful disagreement can go all the way into heaven.

There is a second theme within the effort to write and add the statement of principles to our scriptures. It is not as prevalent as the idea that we must agree in order to move forward, but it’s just as powerful in sowing fear. That theme is that if you disagree, or even dispute a statement of principles that is acceptable to the majority, then you are not abiding in the covenant and risk being excommunicated from the covenant body. At times this theme has not been stated directly, although it has been implied. It’s a powerfully false idea in our view. It suggests that, even as a body of equals, some have power over others. If this idea is true, then we ask: who has the authority to excommunicate another covenant brother or sister with who they are equal? What organization will they be tossed out of? Which permission slip granting access to a place of worship, signed by a presiding brother, will they be stripped of? There is none.

In our current state of blindness and ignorance, we’re not convinced we even have the ability to judge one another as to whether we are abiding in the covenant. Only God knows that. Only He has the authority to enforce the covenant. This was to be a “light thing” for us; it certainly should not be worth separating ourselves from the body over, nor should anyone suggest another be cast aside for not coming on board. Our commitment was that we would assist all others taking the covenant to accept the scriptures as the standard to guide their lives, and to lighten their burdens. We are to assist each other to abide in it, not cast each other out. Many of us have passed through the humiliation of being thrown out of our former religious organizations, for simply disagreeing. There was no freedom to disagree in those former institutions. Let’s not bring those false ideas with us. Joseph Smith, Jr., was right when he described the freedom to disagree, “I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be trammeled.”

If you are convinced that these two ideas should be discarded--forced agreement in order to move forward and the threat of being cast out of the body if you disagree, or even dispute a statement--and replaced with the idea that mutual agreement allows for freedom to disagree respectfully and even disputing a statement’s inclusion may have no consequence to someone’s covenant status, then we would like to extend the following invitation.

First, we would like to express our view about one of the statements that have been written. It’s not necessary that you be persuaded by it, this is simply one couple’s view. We would have accepted many of the documents that were written from the start of this assignment. One of us was at the meeting on August 5th, and we accepted that document. It’s our opinion that had the August 5th document or other previous documents been taken to the Lord, He would have also accepted them. He is easy to be entreated. None of those previous documents were taken to Him at the time for various reasons.

On November 21st, 2017, the Lots Group did take their statement to the Lord to seek His word. It’s our belief that He responded to their prayer through Shalyce, the only women in their group, with the following revelation:
“Shalyce, I am here. And I can hear you. I know you’re scared, and it’s ok. But I love you, and I’m grateful for your effort. I am grateful for all of your effort. What I ask of you is not always easy, and sometimes it’s quite a sacrifice. But I will labor with you through all of it, so long as you come unto me, and listen for my words. This document that you’ve presented is sufficient for my needs. You have filled the measure in which I have called you. Your work has been valiant. You are correct in saying that there are many ways in which it could have come about, and there are many ways that it did come about. And I am grateful for all of them. At this point, you have a unity with the body. They agree with these words, and this document will suffice. Heed the words contained in them, heed the words contained and referenced in the footnotes. All of those words were mine. I want you to come to me. I will come to you, and we together can be one.”
We believe and recognize these words as coming from our Lord in response to the prayer of faith by the Lots Group and covenant people. In it, the Lord states that the statement of principles written by the Lots Group is sufficient for [His] needs. It’s not necessary that you agree with this belief. We have the freedom to disagree about this. We can continue to try and persuade each other. For now, we are persuaded this came from Him to the point that we feel impressed to take action to further demonstrate faith—in the belief that He will respond to our attempt in spite of our weakness.

This prayer has been provided online, together with the Lots Group’s statement of principles titled Revised Guide and Standard, for several months now.  The latest version of the Restoration Edition (RE) of the scriptures has also been provided for purchase since March 2018. We believe it is wisdom in the Lord to provide the means for this statement to be “added” to the scriptures by any individual that so chooses. No one would have to wait before proceeding. The power is within each person to take the individual step. This has already been done by some and suggested by the scripture committee. It can be accomplished by simply printing out the Lots Group statement and adding it to your physical set of the RE scriptures.

We believe it is important to take the physical step of adding the statement to your set of scriptures in order to be obedient to His requirement. It’s a small thing, it would be done by very small means. The heavy lifting has already been done by those you produced the RE scriptures and the many individuals that contributed to the effort to produce a statement of principles—about which the Lord said He was grateful.

To those who are persuaded to choose to not dispute this statement, whether you agree or disagree with the statement, we invite you to join together with others in approaching our Lord in prayer and fasting on April 14th, 2018 to seek His word in determining if He accepts this step as fulfilling His requirements. To those who choose to dispute this invitation, we only ask that you also add your faith in prayer to ours that day, that our Lord will provide us with more light, or correction, to better understand His will for us. If we are wrong, perhaps approaching the Lord together in humility, as a covenant body, will persuade Him to tell us His part. It is our belief and hope that He will respond.

Russ & Teryn Ellersick

Monday, April 2, 2018

Identity

Therefore I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. 
—Mosiah 3:2, RE


You’ve heard the term, “Identity Politics,” haven’t you? It generally refers to the conformity of someone’s political positions based on the interests and perspectives of social groups with which that person identifies. It also applies to those politicians who lump people together, based on such groupings, and attempt to pander to group priorities. 


For example, politicians may view voters as racial groups, courting the Black vote, the Jewish vote, the Hispanic vote, or others. They may divide people by special interests, focusing on the environmental lobby, the anti-gun lobby, or the priorities of big business. They divide by sex, expecting women to vote for women, or at least vote for the man that courts the female vote. The political parties carry the expectation of monolithic thought and voting, counting on those who identify as Republican or Democrat to vote based on party alone. 


This exercise in grouping and labeling completely dominates the political landscape during every election cycle. Politicians and their handlers calculate every statement, every speech, every appearance, to appeal to some specific group or another, presuming people only vote based on their group identity. Blacks vote a certain way. Gun nuts vote in a block. The poor vote for whoever promises them free stuff. And don’t forget to mention God frequently, so you can capture those Jesus freaks in the Midwest and South. Or that’s how the story goes, anyhow.

Humans, by nature, like to divide, categorize, compare and group; it is how we understand and interpret our world. Shared identity and common experience bind us together with others who understand our journey and struggles. Savvy institutions of all types use this “need to belong” as a marketing tool and a means of controlling behavior. The LDS church, for instance, capitalizes on the “us against the world” dynamic, combined with the “pioneer forefathers” shared history to forge a common identity among adherents. This is why LDS teenagers drag handcarts around the wilderness in costumes every summer. 

The issue of identity politics has likely existed as long as politics in general. James Madison focused on it in Federalist Number Ten, where he wrestled with the question of “faction.” The problem he discussed was how to prevent any particular faction from dominating government and forcing through laws that served their interests while harming others. This is a very real threat in any free society, as any who manage to aggregate power or a majority vote will end up in charge and act in their own self interest. Madison anticipated this threat as our Constitution came into being, and argued for a constitutional solution to the problem. 

He addressed two approaches to prevent damage from faction: either remove the causes of faction, or limit the possible effects. Ultimately, he concluded freedom itself is the cause of faction and must not be removed. Therefore, he proposed a republican form of government as a way of tempering faction’s effects. Elected representatives, he reasoned, would provide a layer of insulation between the control inherent in a majority of the populace, and the actual laws to be made. His solution isn’t perfect, however, and has become less so, as elected representatives have become increasingly immoral, corrupt, and unfit for office. Faction is now the name of the game, and identity politics continue unabated. 


Click to Enlarge

So what’s the point of all this? 

Those who have made a covenant with God must also grapple with the issue of identity. In the current assignment to write and adopt a single statement of priniciples, factions yet divide us and prevent the unity required for Zion. Writing yet another document is not the solution, because the document is not the problem. So let’s consider the issues of faction, division and identity. Fortunately, the Lord has a much better solution than even James Madison could offer. 

A New Name

As it turns out, God places high importance on identity. Throughout history, those who enter into a relationship with God invariably receive a new identity as a result, often accompanied by a new name. 

  • Shem became Melchizedek
  • Abram became Abraham
  • Jacob became Israel
  • Enos was called Blessed

An excellent group illustration comes from King Benjamin’s sermon at the temple. As his life came to an end, Benjamin commanded his son to gather all the people to the temple so Benjamin could address them one last time, to give them a new identity. He told his son, Mosiah: 
For on the morrow I shall proclaim unto this my people out of mine own mouth that thou art a king and a ruler over this people, whom the Lord our God hath given us. And moreover I shall give this people a name that thereby they may be distinguished above all the people which the Lord God hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem. And this I do because they have been a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord. And I give unto them a name that never shall be blotted out except it be through transgression. (Mosiah 1:2 RE)
During his sermon, which was given him by an angel, Benjamin taught his people of Jesus Christ with such power that they all fell to the earth, overcome by God’s spirit. With changed hearts and exceeding joy, they entered into a covenant to do God’s will and keep His commandments. Said Benjamin:
And now because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you, for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. And under this head, ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free; there is no other name given whereby salvation cometh. Therefore I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. 
And now it shall come to pass that whosoever shall not take upon them the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore he findeth himself on the left hand of God. And I would that ye should remember also that this is the name that I said I should give unto you that never should be blotted out except it be through transgression; therefore take heed that ye do not transgress that the name be not blotted out of your hearts. I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called and also the name by which he shall call you. (Mosiah 3:2-3 RE)
Note that Benjamin asked them to retain this new identity written in their hearts because it is the only name by which Christ will call His children; it is the only name by which they can be saved. All other names, groups, factions, associations and identities are subordinate to the name of Jesus Christ. And this is as it should be. God does not practice identity politics. 
And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness, and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female and he remembereth the heathen, and all are alike unto God, both Jew and gentile. (2 Nephi 11:17)
This brings us now to the Book of Mormon period we mislabel as “the Nephite Zion.” We mislabel it because there were NO Nephites in that blessed assembly. 

Wait, what? No Nephites whatsoever?

Yes, that’s correct. We’ll get there. But first, let’s note what happened. It started with the people’s conversion to the Lord, which eliminated factions from the start:
And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them and every man did deal justly one with another and they had all things common among them. Therefore, there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free and partakers of the heavenly gift. (4 Nephi 1:1 RE)
Having given up their desire to contend, they also gave up the factions and identities of rich and poor, bond and free, with all equally partaking of the heavenly gift, regardless of former identity. The absence of contention allowed such love to dwell among the people, they even laid down their ethnic and lineage identities:
And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people, and there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness, and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites or any manner of -ites, but they were in one the children of Christ and heirs to the kingdom of God. (4 Nephi 1:3 RE)
And there you have it. There were no Nephites in the “Nephite Zion.” Nor were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites. They valued their identity as children of Christ far above their previous, divisive labels. 


We should here note that when this society collapsed, it did so under the weight of divisions, factions and labels. It started with economic division of rich and poor factions, followed by many churches causing religious divisions, and finally the full reclaiming of ancestral enmity by re-application of the labels Nephite, Lamanite, and others. Having thus divided into factions, and re-embraced identities other than “children of Christ,” the people again had something over which they could contend, and ultimately fight to the deaths of millions, in a war of extinction. 

It all came down to identity; and because of identity, it all came tumbling down. The moment any of them recognized “my people” vs. “your people” the seeds of destruction took root.

Faction or Covenant?

Those who entered into the covenant offered by the Lord last September received a new identity. Said the Lord:


Hear therefore my words: Repent and bring forth fruit showing repentance, and I will establish my covenant with you and claim you as mine. 
……………
Then by my law and my word they will be mine and I will be with and lead my people onward through the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, the Record of Heaven, the peaceable things of immortal glory, even the Holy Ghost which will abide with them, and you will be children of the Most High God, fellow servants and numbered with the congregation of the just. Therefore rejoice!
……………
All you who have turned from your wicked ways and repented of your evil doings, of lying and deceiving, and of all whoredoms, and of secret abominations, idolatries, murders, priestcrafts, envying, and strife, and from all wickedness and abominations, and have come unto me, and been baptized in my name, and have received a remission of your sins, and received the Holy Ghost, are now numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel.
……………
And you shall be called the children of the Most High God, and I will preserve you against the harvest. 

The Lord asks us to be one in our new identity and rejoice together, rather than valuing our old, Babylonian unbeliefs, sins, cares and longings inherent in the factions that used to identify us. Here are some of His statements: 
Rejoice in me, and rejoice with your brethren and sisters who are mine also. Be one. 
……………
 
Flee from the cares and longings that belong to Babylon, obtain a new heart, for you have all been wounded. In me you will find peace and through me will come Zion, a place of peace and safety.
……………
 
I have given to you the means to understand the conditions you must abide. I came and lived in the world to be the light of the world. I have sent others who have testified of me and taught you. I have sent my light into the world. Let not your hearts remain divided from one another and divided from me. 
……………
 
Be of one heart, and regard one another with charity.
……………
 
Study to learn how to respect your brothers and sisters and to come together by precept, reason and persuasion rather than sharply disputing and wrongly condemning each other, causing anger. Take care how you invoke my name. Mankind has been controlled by the adversary through anger and jealously which has led to bloodshed and the misery of many souls. Even strong disagreements should not provoke anger nor to invoke my name in vain as if I had part in your every dispute.
Abide in the Covenant

The Lord not only asks us to relinquish our old disputes and factions and come together in our new identity as His children, but He also asks us to eliminate division completely. He then commands us to “abide” in the covenant: 
Receive my covenant and abide in it, not as in the former time when jarring, jealousy, contention and backbiting caused anger, broke hearts and hardened the souls of those claiming to be my saints. 
To “abide” means to dwell, tarry, and continue permanently; to remain and continue.
It is not enough to receive my covenant, but you must also abide it. And all who abide it, whether on this land or any other land, will be mine and I will watch over them and protect them in the day of harvest, and gather them in as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. I will number you among the remnant of Jacob, no longer outcasts, and you will inherit the promises of Israel. You shall be my people and I will be your God and the sword will not devour you.
Along with obeying ALL Christ’s words, abiding in the covenant also means abiding in the new identity given us by Christ, and preferring it above all others. 

Because the gospel is designed for internal application, I’ll use myself as a case study. I’m sure any politician looking at me would label me as white, American of English, Irish, French and Danish in extraction, middle class, college educated, Idaho resident, married, Christian, ex-LDS, return missionary, British car enthusiast, Mac user, blogger, business owner, alternative health practitioner, frequent flyer, pet owner, and dozens of other, possibly less-flattering, labels meant to categorize me and divide me from other people, so as to better appeal to my assumed biases.

And you know what? There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those labels or identities. I’m fine with them all, as far as they go, and freely admit they apply to me. But I’d trade away the whole lot of them in favor of “child of Christ.” And in fact I have. Though I may be all those things in that list, I hope to value my covenant identity above all others. Therefore, I’m wiling to lay down whatever history, biases, and prejudices that may come from my prior factions and labels, in favor of unity with Christ and his family. To the degree I put any other interest or identity above that one—that is the degree to which I do not abide in the covenant. Those other identities only bring “jarring, jealousy, contention and backbiting.”


And though I aspire to value my covenant identity above all others, I’m certainly not there yet. I’m trying every day to let go of my biases and seek to be of one heart with my fellow covenant holders. This does not require me to lose my individuality nor suppress my unique gifts. Unity does not require uniformity. It simply requires a shared common purpose and elimination of the desire to fight about it. Unique, God-given gifts and diversity of expression will yet exist, and be required, to establish Zion. 

I still disagree with my brothers and sisters on some points, so I attempt to persuade kindly. If I cannot persuade, I am unwilling to contend. I have the Book of Mormon to inform me where the route of contention leads. 

Among those who made the covenant, we can find every label under the sun, if we want to. We can divide ourselves as Jews and gentiles, black and white, bond and free, male and female, rich and poor, well known and unknown, teachers and learners, free spirits and rigid rule followers, and so on, ad nauseam. But the Lord has asked us to drop those factions, stop viewing and treating each other according to those Babylonian labels, and be “in one the children of Christ and heirs to the kingdom of God.”

This ideal is represented well in the epigraph to the newly released Teachings and Commandments (Volume 3 of the Restoration Edition Scriptures):
I would rather submit to the decision of the group than insist that my view be followed. For me harmony between brethren is more important than getting what I think best to be followed. I believe harmony can lead to much greater things than can merely enforcement of even a correct view. I know how difficult it is to have a correct view, because of how often I have been corrected by the Lord. Sometimes I am humiliated by my foolishness when the Lord reproves me. Humiliation can lead to humility, but my experience is that the humiliation is accompanied by shame, whereas humility can proceed with a clear conscience.  
My experience with others leads me to conclude that if we can have one heart first, eventually we can likewise come to have one mind. But if we insist on having one mind at the outset, we may never obtain one heart together. 
—Denver Snuffer
Said the Lord in the Answer and Covenant:
For the sake of the promises to the Fathers will I labor with you as a people, and not because of you, for you have not yet become what you must be to live together in peace. If you will hearken to my words I will make you my people and my words will give you peace. Even a single soul who stirs up the hearts of others to anger can destroy the peace of all my people. Each of you must equally walk truly in my path, not only to profess, but also to do as you profess. 
One More Identity

I believe the new identity given us by the Lord actually reflects a prior identity we lost, or temporarily forgot, when we came to this earth. We find ourselves standing at the pinnacle of history, placed to not only see Zion established, but to actually participate in its establishment if we will choose to do so. It’s no mistake or coincidence that YOU are situated where you are. God did not send lead to do what He knew only iron could accomplish. You were most probably sent here with the specific mission to get this done so the world itself could be recovered from its lost and fallen state. 

Do you believe that? I do. 

I believe God knew exactly what would be required and who He could trust to get the work done. I believe we all have a common purpose here that far surpasses our temporary squabbles over the placement of words. There is yet an immense amount of work to be done, and we were sent here to do it. Shouldn’t we be about it? Time is short and the clock is ticking. 

Like mules hitched to a common plow, we can pull together or we can kick against one another. But we can’t do both. As the old farmer saying goes, “You can’t pull if you’re kicking, and you can’t kick if you’re pulling.” 

The trouble we face is amnesia. We have forgotten who we are and why we came. From our very birth here, we obtained labels that divide us into factions and prevent cooperation. Our Lord invites us to drop those labels; to remember; to recover our original and most important identity, to awaken, arise, and accomplish what He sent us here to do. He invites us to abide in His covenant, valuing it above all. 

In the inspired words of Eliza R. Snow:


O my Father, thou that dwellest

In the high and glorious place,

When shall I regain thy presence

And again behold thy face?

In thy holy habitation,

Did my spirit once reside?

In my first primeval childhood

Was I nurtured near thy side?

For a wise and glorious purpose

Thou hast placed me here on earth

And withheld the recollection

Of my former friends and birth;

Yet ofttimes a secret something

Whispered, “You’re a stranger here,”

And I felt that I had wandered

From a more exalted sphere.

I had learned to call thee Father,

Through thy Spirit from on high,

But, until the key of knowledge

Was restored, I knew not why.

In the heav’ns are parents single?

No, the thought makes reason stare!

Truth is reason; truth eternal

Tells me I’ve a mother there.

When I leave this frail existence,

When I lay this mortal by,

Father, Mother, may I meet you

In your royal courts on high?

Then, at length, when I’ve completed

All you sent me forth to do,

With your mutual approbation

Let me come and dwell with you.


Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, but he hath given it free for all men, and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men unto repentance. Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, but all men are privileged, the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden. 
—2 Nephi 11:16 RE

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Letter they Should have Written

I received the following letter from a friend, and found it very worthy of publication. This issue is personal for me, and I invite you to share this letter far and wide as an example of the type of response that is needed:


Sunday, March 25, 2018

To: Members of the Church

(To be read in sacrament meetings worldwide)

Dear Sisters and Brothers throughout the world:

It has come to our attention that a life-long Church leader named Joseph Layton Bishop, has confessed to immoral and inappropriate behavior with women who served under his direction in the Church over the years.

We do not yet have the full details of this man’s confession nor do we know the extent to which his actions have injured others, but because we are so concerned about those things he has already admitted, and because we take sexual abuse so seriously, we choose to share the information we have so that other victims, should there be any, will feel empowered to come forward.

In our continued effort to abolish all such abuses in the Lord’s Church, we invite all victims of church-related sexual abuse, regardless of age or gender, to contact Church Headquarters immediately at (801) 240-1000.

Let it be known that our only objective is to root out predators and their accomplices, find and identify victims, and expend every spiritual and earthly resource at our disposal to counsel, restore, nurture, and heal all those who have been injured.

To this end, we have decided to suspend all temple building projects worldwide until this matter has been fully resolved. It does no good to expend consecrated resources building temples when, at least in this instance, the very leader we believed we were inspired to call, has by his own admission, been defiling the sacred temples of the young women he was entrusted to protect. The sacred funds will be used to make reparations to whatever degree possible, recognizing fully that there is nothing we can do or say to restore that which has been lost.

On a related note, we now wish to address the obvious; we have a problem at the foundation of our Church. We, who have asked you to sustain us as prophets, seers, and revelators, have failed to righteously magnify those sacred titles and callings. This man passed numerous worthiness and temple recommend interviews; he was entrusted to be a mission president not once, but twice; he was allowed to be alone with vulnerable young women, all while having the heart and mind of a sexual predator. How this happened is a most haunting question, we, The First Presidency, must answer. At a minimum, since we cannot guarantee the safety of our youth, we can no longer allow them to be alone with Priesthood leaders, as we have heretofore permitted.

As imperfect men aspiring to be the Lord’s servants, we acknowledge that this unacceptable oversight demonstrates we were not inspired by God in calling this man, and have lacked discernment and revelation, as we have collectively interacted with him over the last 40 years or more. For this error, we are deeply sorry. We take full responsibility for our collective carelessness. We should have discovered this predator sooner, and we are ashamed that these women were placed in a position to be abused because they trusted their priesthood leaders, while ultimately serving the Lord under our care.

Any effort by anyone, especially by Church leaders, to downplay the seriousness of these charges is completely unacceptable. We refuse to focus on protecting ourselves or the Church when we have failed to protect these victims. Repentance requires that we act without hypocrisy and without guile in this matter, so that we may receive forgiveness, and the victims may receive healing from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
 
We acknowledge we have lost your trust, and the only way to earn it back is by uncovering darkness and bringing truth to light. To you who are victims, we express our greatest sorrow and beg for your forgiveness. Please contact us. We promise to protect you this time, and to do everything in our power to assist in your healing.

Sincerely your servants,

________________________________

________________________________

________________________________
The First Presidency

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Spirit of Contention

Near the end of the meeting, my youngest son went outside to walk around. Then he came back in and told my other son to come quickly and see what was outside.

What they saw was a flock of fledgling doves on the lawn outside the auditorium. It was a large, tame flock of very young birds, at least 40 of them, separated into two groups. They let my sons walk right up to them and only flew off at the very last moment.

When the young flock flew off, they saw an old, wounded dove, sitting on the ground and unable to fly. Sick and struggling, the old dove seemed to be dying. Unable to flee, the old dove only had the power to look forlornly and turn its head.

As they looked at the stricken dove, my sons noticed, across the courtyard, another spectacle. Two large black crows fighting, pecking and rolling in the dirt, locked in a mortal battle, violently contending.

These three signs appeared in rapid succession, inside of a few moments, witnessed by many children.

When my sons came back into the auditorium, the vote had commenced, with two large flocks of people, very tame and docile, attempting to work together to find common ground in peace. Midway through the proceedings, however, the dove was stricken, and a spectacle of contention commenced, disturbing the peace of all. Sadly and unfortunately, many left the meeting shocked, dismayed, and disappointed that the spirit of contention took over and held sway. After the meeting I heard from two different people in other states who watched the proceedings on video feed. Both expressed shock and disappointment with the spirit that was manifest.
As people you lack the ability to respectfully disagree among one another. You are as Paul and Peter whose disagreements resulted in jarring and sharp contentions. Nevertheless they both loved me and I loved them. You must do better. (Answer and Covenant, p. 1) 
The Lord does not fault us for disagreeing, but he admonishes that we must disagree respectfully.