Thursday, December 14, 2017

Disputations

And there shall be no disputations among you as there hath hitherto been, neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine as there hath hitherto been. For verily, verily I say unto you, He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger one against another, but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away. (3 Nephi 5:8 RE)


I’ve been thinking more about the Lord’s definition of mutual agreement: “As between one another, you choose to not dispute.”

The use of the imperative “shall” in the above scripture makes “no disputations” a commandment, not a suggestion. And Christ’s own words here make this commandment a part of His doctrine. Therefore, choosing not to dispute is required of those who wish to obey the Doctrine of Christ.

I marvel at how consistent our Lord has been in His view of what matters, and I likewise marvel at how blind we can be to His words.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mutual Agreement and Dispute


In the ongoing Guide and Standard effort, I realize people have been offended, disappointed, angered, and hurt, in some cases by me, though this has never been my intent. If you fall into this category, I acknowledge my contribution to your pain, even if unintended, and ask your forgiveness. I also pray you’ll indulge me a more personal story to begin today’s post:

To be honest, I never expected to get involved in the Guide and Standard issue at all. Though I observed everything that happened from the beginning, and heard many points of view, I avoided taking a side or expressing an opinion. When I inquired of the Lord, I obtained no answer, so I concluded I had no more obligation to act than anyone else. 

That’s why I was so surprised, when the voting began, to hear the Lord request that I get more involved than merely casting my vote. So I wrote an explanatory statement regarding the importance of this effort, and encouraged all to vote. I cast my vote in the initial runoff and thought that was enough. 

I found myself surprised again when the August vote came and the Lord again urged me to do more. I carefully studied the document then up for vote, formed an opinion about it, took it to the Lord, and with a great deal of trepidation, both voted against it and wrote a 6-page, 17-point statement of my concerns with it, which I submitted privately, and with great trepidation, to the scripture committee.

My trepidation came because I’m generally an advocate and promoter of all efforts to obey the Lord’s direction. I’ve publicly promoted a number of initiatives and groups on this blog, attempting to offer encouragement, support, and even defense. I was shocked and heartbroken to find myself now opposing what many hoped would be the conclusion of the G&S effort. I wanted to second guess my motives, to back down, or to at least remain silent, and I agonized over the direction the Lord gave me.

As I struggled with the situation, I studied the Answer and Covenant, looking for direction, or at least solace, in the Lord’s words. The more I read, the more disheartened I became, fearing that I had gotten it wrong, and had offended God, that I had become an accuser. I struggled continuously with anxiety about my own standing before Him, and the efforts I was then making to promote a different approach to the Guide and Standard.

In the midst of this very real anguish, I was led to ponder the phrasing from the Lord’s command:

“You are not excused from writing a statement of principles that I have required at your hands…But I require a statement of principles to be adopted by the mutual agreement of my people”

That specific wording, “mutual agreement” struck my interest, so I studied the definitions of these words, still quite doubtful that true mutual agreement would even be possible among so many independent personalities. I wore myself out in prayer, thought, study and anguished discussion with my wife. I asked the Lord to help me understand His requirement, while I felt truly lost and mostly hopeless as others began to attack me personally for my opinions.

That particular night, I lay in bed a long time, seeking sleep that refused to come. At some point in the early hours of the morning, I finally drifted off, and that was when the Lord spoke to me in a dream. I did not see Him, but rather heard Him. He spoke in a voice that pierced my very being, consuming and surmounting every part of my body and spirit, and the message He shared filled me with such indescribable comfort, that even now, months later, I can’t reflect upon it without weeping. 

As He spoke, He showed me a picture I did not understand, and can only describe with difficulty. It involved geometric arrangements that moved, came together, and ultimately culminated, in part, with this:




I didn’t understand, at the time, what the arrangements themselves meant, but He did speak to me about the final version of the picture, and that it pleased Him. The dream was brief, powerful, and caused me to awaken with a jolt. After a prayer of gratitude, I lay in bed and wept as all the fear, anxiety, doubt and sorrow left—having been immediately swept away by His words. From that point until now, I’ve labored, attempted to persuade, suffered personal attacks, scorn, and accusation—and have only been able to bear it all because of what He told me that night. His word alone has been enough to get me through what has easily been the most difficult period I’ve faced in my life. 

Mutual Agreement

Not long after this happened, I needed to explain my understating of mutual agreement, which task I didn’t find easy. As I prayed for the words to write, the pictures from the dream immediately came to mind, along with a flash of sudden, particular understanding of what they meant, and how to explain them.

I’ve written at length about mutual agreement, and that it involves every person being in agreement with every other person, and not merely rule by a majority. I stand by that definition; it is accurate, and it is a high standard indeed. More on that in a moment—after we talk about the Nephites.

Nephite Zion

When you study the period of Nephite peace that followed the Lord’s ministry, you encounter three statements regarding the level of unity among the people, as follows:

  1. 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.
  2. And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people in all the land, but there were mighty miracles wrought among the disciples of Jesus.
  3. 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. 
These statements represent three increasing levels of unity among the followers of Christ. In the first, they dropped their contentions and disputations—which is to say, having been converted to the Lord, they stopped trying to kill each other, both literally and figuratively. As followers of Christ, they dwelt in righteousness and took care of their poor.

In the second, the level of unity among all the people was such that mighty miracles became possible as they received an increasing measure of faith and connection to the Holy Ghost. They became one in mind, connected to the mind of God.

In the third, the love of God knit their very hearts together, such that envying, strife, tumults, and all sin had no place among them. They became one in heart, filled with the pure love of Christ. 

These three progressive levels of unity form a pathway—a ladder, if you will—to becoming Zion. It appears to have taken the people about two years after Christ’s ministry to reach the first level of unity—at which point they dropped their disputations. 

Now consider this statement regarding Enoch’s Zion:
And the Lord called his people, Zion, because they were of one heart and of one mind, and dwelt in righteousness, and there were no poor among them. (Genesis 4:10 RE)
There they are—all the elements, shown as a progression, but in reverse order, because the statement is retrospective, looking backward from the state of being Zion, along the path that led to that point. We see the same progression in this path:
  • First, they dwelt in righteousness and took care of their poor.
  • Second, they had one mind.
  • Third, they had one heart.
And thus, they became Zion.

In reflection, it seems much like three degrees of glory, doesn’t it? And the highest degree of unity—a Celestial unity—is required for Zion to exist:
But behold they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I require at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them, and are not united according to the union required by the law of the Celestial kingdom, and Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the Celestial kingdom, otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself. And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be by the things which they suffer. (D&C 40:1 RE)
As always, it begins with caring for the poor, and ultimately leads to a Celestial unity of hearts, minds, and righteousness.

Disputations

Given these increasing levels of unity leading to Zion, let us now consider the issue of mutual agreement. Ideally, and in its fullest sense, at its highest, Celestial level, mutual agreement means we’re all of the same mind and heart in embracing the same truths. Being only of the same mind, without our hearts in it, is still a form of mutual agreement, though inferior to the highest. And at its lowest level, even in disagreement, when we make the choice not to dispute, we yet have a level of mutual agreement. 

I’ve written in favor of the highest level. But it’s clear we’re not there yet. The Lord, in His wisdom and mercy, has offered to meet us where we currently are, by providing the level of mutual agreement He requires at this time:


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

It appears this is the lowest standard He can offer His covenant people—with the expectation that we’ll yet improve and rise to higher levels of unity. On the other hand, if we can’t meet even this low standard, all that remains is for the Lord to take away the covenant and give us a lower law—as He did with ancient Israel, as He did with the saints of Joseph Smith’s day. 

Hopefully, we can learn from the past, and choose not to dispute.

The Current Document

So, with that in mind, let’s discuss the current situation, starting with the document written by the seven chosen by lots. Among all the proposed documents, this one is unique in the following ways:


  • The process to create it was established by the voice of the Lord’s covenant people, as the Lord required in the Answer and Covenant. He laid this responsibility on us all, and this effort started with the voice of the people. 
  • The entire process and the path to completion were explained PRIOR to ANY action being taken. The plan was presented to the covenant body as a complete beginning-to-end idea on how to move forward. 
  • The process was voted on and overwhelmingly accepted by the Lord’s covenant people, based on the presented plan
  • The rules never changed, and the plan, as approved by the people, was followed exactly.
  • ALL covenant holders were invited to contribute their names to be drawn
  • ALL covenant holders were invited to submit documents and ideas for consideration, including the Aug 5 document, and any other documents anyone wished to submit.
  • The Lot drawing was done publicly and in complete equality. 
  • The Lord’s hand was undeniably involved in the drawing process. Other signs followed as the process continued.
  • The document consists ENTIRELY of the Lord’s words from scripture and His recognized servants, using the ideas submitted by the people as the foundational basis for the principles expressed. It demonstrates our understanding and acceptance of the Lord’s word as a covenant people.
  • The document is free of doctrinal error.
  • The document doesn’t contain opinion, advice, cultural overlay, or ambiguity. It teaches principles, as the Lord requires.
  • Every statement is footnoted and traceable to scripture or direct revelation. This is a kindness to those who will follow later and seek deeper understanding.
  • Every principle is rooted in the covenant we have already agreed to. We have mutual agreement by virtue of that fact alone. Every covenant holder agrees that the principles it teaches are true. 
  • The document was presented to the Lord on behalf of the people, by those the Lord selected and the people sustained.
  • The document was approved by the Lord by direct revelation to the group.
  • The Lord said “At this point, you have a unity with the body. They agree with these words, and this document will suffice.” He said this PRIOR TO THE VOTE OF THE PEOPLE. We agree with the words because they are HIS words.
  • The document was presented to the covenant people for acceptance AFTER the Lord accepted it and said “It is enough”. 
  • The document received 93% approval initially, and has since received more as people have changed their “no” votes to “yes.” 
  • To fulfill their final obligation, the Lots committee presented the completed, written, accepted document to the scripture committee to format and publish, per the Lord’s instructions that this statement be added as a guide and standard.

That’s quite a list. I’m not aware of any other document or effort that rises to this level or that matches this rather impressive list of ways it complies with the requirements set by the Lord. In fact, to me the difference is quite stark. This is not to disparage other documents, all of which I believe were necessary precursors to this one; rather it is to point out exactly how strong a case can be made for this Guide and Standard. If this is not a strong enough case, I don’t know what is. 

And yet, we’re not in the clear. We have not met the Lord’s standard, even though the document does. Disputes yet continue—and that’s what I’d like to address. 

What Do You Dispute?

I realize people have strong opinions, hurt feelings, disappointment, even anger. I also realize people prefer other documents. Heck, to be honest, this document, as good as it is, wouldn’t have been my first choice either. I’ve heard the objections based on people, process, and prior efforts, and I honor the valid feelings people have about these things. I don’t feel to call anyone wrong, nor do I feel to criticize the very real struggles people have. 

But I want to look at this from a slightly different perspective—by looking at the document itself. 

If you object to this document being adopted as our guide and standard, I would simply ask the following, in all seriousness and humility, hoping to understand:

Please point to the part of the document you dispute. 

Again, I realize people dispute the process, prior documents, the actions of other people, etc. I get that. But none of that has anything to do with the document in front of us. Regardless of what has already happened in the past, we have in front of us a document consisting of the Lord’s words, and blessed with the Lord’s approval. Regardless of how we ultimately got it, it is here, it is offered, and you either dispute it or you don’t. 

Preferring another document does not mean you dispute this one. Preferring another process to get here does not mean you dispute the things written in this document. I hope we can all see that, regardless of circumstances, the Lord has asked us to adopt a statement. That means words on paper. So, if you dispute these words, please help us understand which ones are the problem.

If You Voted No

I invite anyone who voted against this document to carefully read through it again, and consider whether there is anything within the document itself you dispute. If so, please make your dispute known to the seven so they can consider your persuasion. You can email them at thesevenlotsters@gmail.com.

If you don’t actually dispute anything in the document, even if you don’t like it, we still have at least the lowest level of mutual agreement—and the Lord has stated that’s good enough for now. But again, the seven need to know. So even if your vote remains “no,” but you choose not to dispute, I would invite you to make that known to the seven. Because in the end, if there’s nobody who chooses to dispute, we have mutual agreement, according to the Lord, and we can fulfill His commandment. Until the “no” votes are clarified, there’s no way to tell if such a vote only signifies disagreement, or stands for an actual dispute.

By the way, The Lord said we can respectfully disagree. We don’t all have to be on the same page yet. It’s OK to prefer another document or another approach. That’s all just fine, and doesn’t prevent mutual agreement. All that prevents mutual agreement is disputation.

Therefore, the real question only has to do with anyone who disputes this document. And you can’t dispute this document unless you can point to the words you dispute. 

So, to the handful of “no” votes that remain, please know you are valued, loved, and important to the covenant body. Your insight and opinion are needed. If there is fault with the words in this statement, please make it known so it can be corrected. If you choose not to dispute, please also make that known. The Lord has laid this burden on us all—including you. Each one of us has just as much obligation as all others to come to mutual agreement. If you voted “no” please, please help your covenant brothers and sisters. We need you the most.

Do you still choose to dispute? If so, what would it take to solve your dispute? Please make it known. I believe the Lord is serious in His requirement that we eliminate disputations to have mutual agreement. 

The Lord’s mercy in only requiring the lowest level of mutual agreement of us at this stage in our development, fills me with hope and gratitude. It provides me with another dimension of understanding for the images the Lord showed me in my hour of desperation. Though we may not precisely agree, such is not required. Let us choose not to dispute.

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Sign of Hope and Healing

And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live even unto that life which is eternal. 
—Helaman 3:4 RE

Today is the last day to vote on the Guide and Standard produced by the seven chosen by lots. The purpose is to see if the body deems the document acceptable as a guide and standard.

As I looked at the calendar today, I noticed John Pratt marked two important correlations with this day.


First: Today is a holy day, associated with a star he calls “The Healer” on the star calendar, which is associated with the constellation Ophiuchus, portrayed as a man holding a snake. “The Healer,” of course, points our hearts to Christ, who is the great healer, represented by the brass serpent raised by Moses. 

I pray this day, and its vote, may bring healing to all who have labored, contributed, fasted, prayed, debated, and yearned to complete this work in a way that pleases the Lord. May our hearts be healed through the words of our King, whose word alone “healeth the wounded soul.” (Jacob 2:1 RE)

Second: Today is Enoch’s day of birth. Enoch is Raphael, whose name means “it is God who heals.” Because Enoch, more than any other, is a name we immediately associate with Zion, may today be the day we can commemorate our hearts first coming together in unity, which is one of the primary requirements for Zion. How fitting a day for Zion to be born, and how fitting a day to remember Enoch.

If you have not yet voted, I encourage you to read the document at this link:

Guide and Standard by Lots

And then cast your vote at this link:

Vote Here

I accept this statement because it teaches the important principles of salvation, using the Lord’s own words from scripture and from the servants He sent. These are things all covenant holders already accept, by virtue of the covenant we made. 


It also provides ample references and footnotes to guide and assist any who wish to study and learn more deeply. I believe the Lord approves this document.

May we all have our hearts healed and united by accepting the words of our Lord. May we “look to Christ and live.”

O my brethren, if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief and be slothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish?
—Jacob 16:22 RE

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Driving Test

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed through faith on his name; as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
—Romans 1:2 RE

As I’ve considered the various discussions swirling around the Guide and Standard prepared by the seven chosen by lots, I’ve learned much, and considered things I hadn’t before. I truly appreciate the discussions taking place and the points being presented. I would like to address a couple of thoughts the Lord’s spirit has pressed upon my mind and heart as I’ve pondered and prayed about these things, particularly in light of the current vote taking place.

First, I think it’s important—no, it’s critical—to understand what the Guide and Standard is, and what it is not. Let’s start with what it IS.

The G&S is a statement of universal principles and truths required of ALL who would follow Jesus Christ. It covers the doctrine of Christ, which is mandatory for salvation, including faith, repentance and baptism. It teaches of the Holy Ghost, which leads into all truth. It lays out the correct performance of ordinances, which must not be changed. It describes how to obtain priesthood authority to perform these mandatory ordinances. It teaches the Lord’s requirement to care for the poor and seek Zion.

These things are not optional. If you would be saved, you MUST subscribe to, and do, these very things. Therefore, I view the G&S as a how-to manual, for those interested in following Jesus Christ.

OK, fair enough?

Now, let’s talk about what it is NOT.

The G&S is not a missionary tract. Its purpose is NOT to introduce people to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is most decidedly NOT the first thing you would hand someone when introducing them to the gospel.

Remember, the word “gospel” literally means “good news.” The good news is that Jesus Christ offers salvation and escape from this fallen world of darkness. He offers forgiveness and redemption to all who will come unto Him. He offers eternal glory in His kingdom, and membership in His family to all who are willing. He provides the path and the means to become what He is. That’s the good news. That’s the Gospel. 

And that’s NOT what the G&S teaches—because it’s not supposed to. Like I said, it’s a how-to manual, not a missionary tract.

So, suppose someone becomes interested in following Jesus Christ. Suppose they believe and accept His promises when they hear them preached, and want to know how to get started. Well, THEN the G&S becomes applicable. Because, after all, they “know nothing, as yet, of [His] work now underway, and therefore the guide and standard is to bless, benefit and inform them.” It doesn’t say they know nothing of His gospel; rather it has to do with the requirements of the work now underway. They must know something of the gospel first, before they will ever be interested in participating in the work now underway.



Rules of the Road

I compare it to learning to drive.

Think about it—why does anyone want a driver’s license? Is it because they’re excited to merge? Interested in school zones? Delighted with the idea of stop signs?

No. That’s not it. Heck, I don’t even like speed limits.

No, people seek a driver’s license because it represents freedom, escape, and power. It gives one the right to operate a motor vehicle on public roads, which provides all sorts of benefits and blessings. And that’s what we all really want, after all.

So, once someone has decided to seek a driver’s license, the next step is the “how to” stuff. They get a driver’s manual and study the laws, rules, and requirements to obtain a license. They learn how to go about this “driving” business. The driver’s manual serves as a guide and teaches the standard that is required of all drivers. It shows the way to properly and safely receive all the benefits of driving.

Ultimately, they will be tested to see if they understand and obey the laws and principles of proper driving.



If someone had never experienced automobile travel, and was not interested in obtaining its benefits, would you introduce it to them by handing them a driver’s manual? No way! You might talk about the speed, convenience, comfort and safety of being able to cover large distances quickly and with little effort. You might give them a ride in your car so they can experience the benefits second hand, through you. Only when they decide they really want the benefits for themselves, will they become interested in learning the “how to” stuff and the rules of the road. And then they’ll need the manual, so they can learn the universal principles and laws that apply to all drivers, regardless of what kind of car they drive, or what color.

OK, so do you see where this is going?

We, as covenant holders, have been tasked with taking the gospel to Christ’s other sheep. As such, we will need to preach the gospel—the Good News of Jesus Christ. And if we are smart, we will preach it in meekness, humility, and wisdom, adapting our teaching to the culture, knowledge and traditions of our hearers, giving them the utmost respect. Obviously, this will require deep knowledge of, and respect for, each of the groups being approached.

And one size will NEVER fit all.

There is NO document that can be prepared as an introduction to the Gospel for all the varied cultures and nations where remnant sheep are located. Each will have to be approached individually, uniquely, and respectfully. Should any become convinced and converted to Jesus Christ, only then will the G&S become necessary or appropriate. At that point, it will show them the basic, universal steps ALL must take to follow Jesus Christ, regardless of culture or tradition. And at that point, such a guide will be welcome and gladly received.

Therefore, to those who feel this G&S is not a suitable missionary tool to other cultures—I agree with you! Couldn’t agree more, in fact. I don’t believe this is, or was ever meant to be, anyone’s first introduction to the miracles and marvels of Christ’s Gospel. Those who are called to teach and write will have to tackle the further responsibilities of teaching the Good News to all the various remnants, using the most suitable approach for each audience, much like Paul—who became as a Jew to gain the Jews, and became as the weak to gain the weak, and became all things to all men that by all means he might save some. (1 Corinthians 3:7 RE)

Opposition

Now, as we all ponder and pray about voting this week, I’d like to share a few thoughts about that, as well. And again, I want to focus on what this document IS and ISN’T.

What it IS—is a statement of the universal laws and principles required of all who would follow Jesus Christ. Everything in the statement can be traced back to the covenant we have agreed to. It is a restatement of the things with which we already agree. And it ought to be considered as such.

What it IS NOT is a referendum on who is important, who is not, who gets to write, who doesn’t, how they’re chosen,  other documents previously written, prior votes, prior authors, or anything about winning and losing.

Though we all are tempted to look at this document through the lenses of fear, heartbreak, envy, or even ultimatum, those are not the terms upon which it is offered. It stands alone, independent of whatever has gone on before (though it does rely heavily on the principles espoused and explained in prior documents.) We all ought to consider the document by itself, on its own merits, as it relates to the Lord’s requirements, and independent of ANY other consideration.

Read through the Guide and Standard. Is there anything written there with which you disagree? Is there anything there you have not already covenanted to do, live, and obey? If so, what is it?

Do you disagree with the Doctrine of Christ? Baptism? Caring for the poor? The Sermon on the Mount? Priesthood requirements? Marriage between one man and one woman? Seeking Zion?

Obviously, put in those terms, we all agree. We already have. By agreeing to the covenant, including its requirement to guide our lives by scripture, we have already agreed to these things.

So why do we yet disagree?

What I have to say next may not be comfortable. Please understand these thoughts are offered reluctantly, in humility, and only because the Lord has tasked me with speaking truth, which, sadly, is often uncomfortable. No offense is intended to anyone, so I pray you will not take offense at anything I say next. If something pricks your heart, please consider why it does, and whether there is validity to the point that bothers you. And let’s stay friends. Fair enough?

I find it compelling that this Guide and Standard is assembled entirely from direct quotes. Everything it expresses, it expresses in the Lord’s own words, given through His servants, and vouched for by Him. This follows Christ’s pattern—He who frequently taught from and quoted scripture, and continues to do so.

These are HIS words, and I believe the revelation in which He approved them. I know His voice, and it was our Lord who spoke. If you oppose these things that He has spoken and approved in the G&S, you are opposing the Lord’s words. There’s just no way to soften that truth.

Therefore, consider this:
  • If you oppose the Lord’s words, because you disagree with the process used to create the document, you are still opposing the Lord’s words.
  • If you oppose the Lord’s words, because you have issues with the people who conceived of the process or participated in the writing, you are still opposing the Lord’s words.
  • If you oppose the Lord’s words, because you believe false rumors about secret meetings involving those you envy, you are still opposing the Lord’s words. 
  • If you oppose the Lord’s words, because you couldn’t persuade others to agree with your idea or proposal, you are still opposing the Lord’s words.
  • If you oppose the Lord’s words, because you prefer a worthy prior effort or a different document, you are still opposing the Lord’s words.
  • If you oppose the Lord’s words, because you believe the Lord’s universal commandments, expressed in His own words, are culturally insensitive, or even offensive, you are still opposing the Lord’s words—of which we must not be ashamed.
  • If you oppose the Lord’s words, because they lack polish and skilled writing, you are still opposing the Lord’s words.
  • If you oppose the Lord’s words, because you believe your own idea is the only correct approach, and that any and every other approach is automatically wrong, you are still opposing the Lord’s words.
  • And finally, if you oppose the Lord’s words, because you object to quoting the Lord’s servants when they speak His words, you are still opposing the Lord’s words. (And I covered the validity of quoting the Lord’s servants in my prior blog post. If you accepted the covenant, you accepted the servant who delivered it.)
Therefore, as you consider how to vote, I would urge you to consider ONLY what is written in the document, laying aside history, hurt feelings, and personal preferences. These are the words of Jesus Christ. If you are inclined to reject them, please consider that decision, and your reasons, carefully.

I had no hand in writing this Guide and Standard, and have nothing to gain by promoting it, other than a clear conscience. I say this in love and concern for all my covenant brothers and sisters, and I say it in a desire “to assist all others who covenant to likewise accept this standard to govern their lives to keep the Lord’s will” as I am required to do. 

At the September conference, we heard the following words:
There will be more grafting and further pruning. As more is revealed and therefore more is required, some will find the “digging” and “dunging” too much to bear and will fall away; or in other words will be pruned despite the covenant.
Though the pruning must continue, I despair at the thought that any, having come this far and sacrificed this much, would jeopardize their relationship with Jesus Christ by rejecting His words.

Rejection

Of course, neither I, nor any other mortal, can judge anyone’s heart. Your covenant and your standing, are strictly between you and the Lord. You accept or reject Him yourself, and no man has power to cast you out. But I do know He is a man of laws, that He sets standards, and that He can only guide us when we’re humble and repentant, soft hearted and willing to sacrifice, “relying wholly upon the merits of Him who is mighty to save.” In the end, Christ must dispense justice to all who will not receive His mercy:
Wherefore, the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God or to be cast out because of that justice of which I have spoken. Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous and also from that tree of life whose fruit is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits: yea, and it is the greatest of all the gifts of God. (1 Nephi 4:5 RE)
It’s my prayer that we can ALL, and yes, I mean all of us, recognize this Guide and Standard as an accurate representation of what the Lord requires of those who would follow Him, and that these principles cannot and will not change. I pray we can be of one heart in this thing, desiring only to receive and obey “commandments not a few.” I pray we can put an end to our disunity and unite in Christ’s doctrine and law.

Yea, blessed are they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion who have obeyed my gospel, for they shall receive for their reward the good things of the Earth and it shall bring forth in her strength. And they also shall be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few and with revelations in their time, they that are faithful and diligent before me. 
—D&C 71:1 RE

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gratitude and Encouragement


Behold, will ye reject these words? Will ye reject the words of the prophets? And will ye reject all the words which have been spoken concerning Christ, after so many have spoken concerning him, and deny the good word of Christ, and the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and quench the Holy Spirit, and make a mock of the great plan of redemption which hath been laid for you? Know ye not that if ye will do these things, that the power of the redemption and the resurrection which is in Christ will bring you to stand with shame and awful guilt before the bar of God? 
—Jacob 4:1 RE


On this day of Thanksgiving, we find ourselves filled with gratitude beyond measure. How is it possible that we’re even alive to witness such days as these—prophesied and anticipated for thousands of years, and now happening before us, and to us? 


All that remains is for us, as His people, to adopt this statement by mutual agreement as our guide and standard. After so many months of so much hard work, and heartache, by so many, we are finally to the point of having an accepted document! What a happy day this is!

We realize some still have broken hearts. We know, and love, people who do not approve of the process used to create this document. We recognize some of our brothers and sisters yet prefer some other statement or statements. We have even seen ultimatums advanced by those who will refuse to accept anything other than their preferred document, no matter what.

In the spirit of love, unity, and humility, we hope to persuade all our brothers and sisters to consider agreeing with the adoption of the Guide and Standard written by the seven chosen by lots. We believe there are good reasons to do so, and that doing so will please the Lord. Here is some of our thinking.

  • The Guide and Standard statement is true. We find nothing false or misleading in it whatsoever. Having looked at numerous statements, this is honestly the first one we’ve read that didn’t give us any cause, at any point, for concern about the accuracy of the information presented.
  • The statement consists 100% of the Lord’s words, spoken by prophets, both ancient and modern. 
  • The Lord Himself has spoken and claimed the words as His own. Therefore, rejecting these words is, in the end, rejecting Him. We hope to persuade any who feel to reject these words that they ought to reconsider. 
  • The Lord didn’t say we had to approve of the process by which the document came about, or the people who did the work. It’s probably safe to say every covenant holder would have preferred a different process and a more direct route. But the condition of our hearts required a lengthy period of struggle before some of us would be willing to humble ourselves. Some still are not willing, though we’re delighted to see that number shrinking daily.

Now, having covered these few, general notions about the Guide and Standard, we’d like to address a couple of specific ideas that are still causing disagreement.

Idolatry

Some have expressed concern about including words written by men, or specifically by Denver Snuffer. They’ve suggested that the inclusion of such words constitutes idolatry and makes Denver a strongman. 

But we believe such a view demonstrates an incorrect understanding of both idolatry and the actual definition of a strongman.

Every word of scripture, and frankly every written word of Jesus Christ, came through a mortal. Every word we accept as coming from Christ is, in the end, the word of a man. We certainly do not idolize Alma, Matthew, Abraham, Paul or Enos by quoting the words of Christ they recorded. Why should it be different when it comes to the words of a witness who is still in mortality? 

Did the Lord make any distinction regarding His words recorded anciently versus those recorded recently?

It seems that He lumped together ALL His words when he spoke the following:
What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself. And though the heaven and the Earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants it is the same. For behold and lo, the Lord is God and the Spirit bears Record, and the Record is true, and the Truth abides for ever and ever. Amen.  (D&C 53:7 RE)
All who accepted the covenant accepted the following statement:
Do you believe all the words of the Lord which have been read to you this day, and know them to be true and from the Lord Jesus Christ who has condescended to provide them to you?
If you said Yes, think about the implications. Every one of those words came through Denver Snuffer. And yet you covenanted to accept them as the Lord’s own words. Was that an act of idolatry toward Denver Snuffer? It is not logically consistent to claim those words from Denver are not only Christ’s words, but also scripture received by covenant, but then turn and claim we must not include other words of Christ, delivered through Denver, in the Guide and Standard. If you accepted the covenant, you accepted Denver as a suitable vehicle to deliver Christ’s words. 

This does not mean anyone worships, idolizes, or looks to Denver Snuffer as a strongman. (Nor could they, since he refuses to accept the role of a strongman.) But it does mean we, as covenant holders, accept Christ’s words, as delivered by one Christ sent.

This requirement is found throughout scripture. For example:
Behold I say unto you that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord, I say unto you that all those who have hearkened unto their words and believed that the Lord would redeem his people and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you that these are his seed; or they are heirs of the kingdom of God. For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now are they not his seed? Yea, and are not the prophets, every one that has opened his mouth to prophesy that has not fallen into transgressions — I mean all the holy prophets ever since the world began — I say unto you that they are his seed. And these are they who have published peace, who have brought good tidings of good, who have published salvation, and said unto Zion, Thy God reigneth. (Mosiah 8:7 RE)
Rejecting living messengers in favor of dead ones is nothing new. The Jews did it to both John and Jesus. The Christians did it to Joseph Smith. The Lord even addressed this rejection in a revelation to Joseph and Oliver:
Verily, verily I say unto you, If they reject my words and this part of my gospel and ministry, blessed are ye, for they can do no more unto you than unto me; and if they do unto you even as they have done unto me, blessed are ye, for you shall dwell with me in glory. But if they reject not my words which shall be established by the testimony which shall be given, blessed are they, and then shall ye have joy in the fruit of your labors. (JSH, April, 1829:7)
Fortunately, we have the Book of Mormon to inform us of a better way:
And again my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children. And I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people. And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption. (Alma 9:9 RE)
When a priest of the Holy Order is sent to teach, it is ALWAYS for the purpose of pointing to Christ. Accepting the words of such a priest is not only required, but actually VITAL to salvation. 

When the angel visited Joseph Smith in his bedroom, “He quoted also the third chapter of Acts, twenty-second and twenty-third verses, precisely as they stand in our New Testament. He said that that prophet was Christ, but the day had not yet come when They who would not hear his voice should be cut off from among the people, but soon would come. (JSH Sept 1823:4)

That didn’t mean Christ would come here to speak again; rather it meant in a day “soon to come” Christ’s voice would be heard again, spoken by a messenger He sent. That day is now upon us. If you refuse to hear Christ’s words spoken by one He sent, you will be cut off from among the people. (And please don’t shoot the messengers; we’re only quoting scripture. If you have issue with this statement, take it up with Nephi, Luke and Moses. Better yet, take it up with the Lord.) 

Denver taught this concept as well. Because one sent by Christ is among us, the kingdom of God is among us: 
In the talk given about Priesthood in Orem I read a quote from Joseph Smith about what is needed for the kingdom of God. Joseph said, "Whenever men can find out the will of God and find an administrator legally authorized from God, there is the kingdom of God; but where these are not, the kingdom of God is not.” If you can find anyone sent by God, there is the kingdom of God. It was good doctrine when Joseph declared it. It is good doctrine when Abinadi declared it in the Book of Mosiah. It is still good doctrine when I declare it. 
Any of you who will hear, and then hearken to their words will become His seed. Someone must be sent. Then you must hear it. Even then it does you no good if you will not hearken to it by acting in faith. It is by harkening you obtain faith, and faith permits you to meet God. You will find redemption, you will hear His voice, and you will become a holy vessel because His word will reside in you. (Lecture 7, p. 66)


I recognize that I am not the best messenger. I wish I had the voice of an archangel. I wish I could do something to soften the hearts of you all. Some of you will never respond to the Lord because you cannot overcome your preoccupation with me. That saddens me and I regret that deeply. But that is your choice, and you can choose differently. (Lecture 7, p. 74) 


Woe unto all those who say, If you really are who you say you are, when the voice of God is sounding in their ears. They would have rejected the Lord as well. They would have crucified the Lord as well. They are not His sheep because they do not hear His voice. If they were His sheep they would hear His voice. If we are required to develop the attributes of Christ, how is it possible for us to do so, unless God patiently tries to persuade us to voluntarily be like Him? How can you hope to be like Him, if you refuse to be persuaded? 
God came as one of the weak things of this world. The only way He is ever going to invite you is through one of the weak things of this world, speaking in weakness, asking you to be persuaded. It doesn't matter how earnest I am, I know my standing before God. What matters is your willingness to be persuaded. Over that I have no control, and want no control. I simply put the case as the Lord has put it to me, in the hopes that what He has to offer, and what He says need to be said will get through to you. Your relationship and your accountability is not to me, it's to Him. Therefore, be persuaded. Please, for your own sake, be persuaded. (Lecture 8, p. 33)

As Joseph put it: “His word will go forth, in these last days, in purity; for if Zion will not purify herself, so as to be approved in all things, in His sight, He will seek another people; for His work will go on until Israel is gathered, and they who will not hear His voice, must expect to feel His wrath.” (TPJS, p. 18)

Copy and Paste

Some have criticized this statement because it consists exclusively of direct quotes, copied and pasted from elsewhere. This is a valid point and ought to be considered. 

When you think about it, such an approach is not ideal. Obviously, getting such a collection of pull quotes to flow properly and read well is nearly impossible. Certainly a polished, well-worded essay would be more pleasing to read. 

But on the other hand, with so much contention about WHO would do the writing, rather than the content, it became, literally, impossible for anyone to write a statement and get it accepted. The pride, jealousy and hard hearts among us ruined the possibility that someone could write a beautiful essay and get it accepted by the body.

Given such a difficult situation, the cut-and-paste solution is nothing short of brilliant. By using the direct words of Christ, acknowledged by Him as His own, the seven have all but eliminated any possibility of anyone arguing against the actual words themselves. Yes, the document could flow more smoothly; but it couldn’t be better sourced or more true. The Lord admonished us to be wise in word. These words are the His, and therefore the wisest words of all.

And by pulling relevant quotes from other sources, the document provides ready access, as well as reference, to vital issues, most important for all Christ’s followers to understand. Yes, we could expect new converts to search through thousands of unfamiliar pages seeking these things themselves. But providing this direction is a helpful kindness. The Lord commanded us to be kind in deed, and this document fulfills that commandment. 

The Issue of Lots

We’ll be honest: we would have preferred another method of selecting who would prepare the statement. If all our hearts had been more humble, perhaps we could have accepted the efforts of someone who stepped forward with a commission from the Lord to complete the labor. Perhaps we all could have focused on the message and not the messenger. Perhaps we could have put away jealousy, jarrings, and contentions from among us. 

But the fact is so many chose to contend, rather than unify. In such a situation, choosing by lot is a scripturally sanctioned option for breaking a deadlock and removing emphasis from WHO does the writing. And in this case, the results of the lots were not only remarkable because of their improbability, but also have proven to be inspired by the Lord, who led the chosen group to success and approval.

Ideally, we will all grow spiritually to the point that we won’t need to draw lots in the future to break an impasse. But for now, at least, the method was successful. We ought to thank God. 

Acceptance

As we each consider whether we can personally accept the document as the guide and a standard of our faith, we just want to offer a few reminders: 

  • Remember, this has nothing to do with whether you would prefer another document, different content, or a better-written statement. It only has to do with the document in front of us.
  • Likewise, it has nothing to do with what went on before in this effort. Some may still have hurt feelings, or may still prefer another approach. But those are other issues and have no bearing on the document before us. 
  • As you read through the Guide and Standard, is there anything there you cannot agree to live by? In fact, is there anything there you have not already agreed to live by? Aren’t ALL these principles already contained in the covenant?
  • Is there anything there that is untrue, or that will lead someone away from Jesus Christ? 
  • And if these are Christ’s words, both claimed and approved by Him, can you safely reject them? Will your logic hold up at the bar of God when you confront the Lord who mercifully, kindly condescended to offer you membership in His household, only to be rejected because you did not value His words, or did not like the one he sent?
  • If these are Christ’s words, rejecting them is a supreme act of ingratitude. On this day of all days, don’t we all hope to demonstrate our gratitude to our Lord?

We believe these are the words of Christ. We believe He has approved them. We have heard His voice, both in the document, and in His words of approval. We plead with all our covenant brothers and sisters to accept this effort and adopt it by mutual agreement. 

In closing, we express our gratitude and thanksgiving to our Lord, who has provided the means for all of us broken, but newly grafted, people, to yet accomplish the works he has asked of us. We rejoice that He speaks! We receive His words with gladness, and pray that they will take root deeply in our hearts. We pray the grafts will take nourishment from the roots, and yet bear much fruit.

With love and gratitude to all,

Adrian and Tausha Larsen


And if ye shall believe in Christ, ye will believe in these words for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me, and they teach all men that they should do good. And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye, for Christ will show unto you with power and great glory that they are his words at the last day. And you and I shall stand face to face before his bar and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness. And I pray the Father in the name of Christ that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day. 


—2 Nephi 15:2 RE

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Guide and Standard Progress: Taking it to the Lord

The Lord’s requirement that we adopt, by mutual consent, a statement of principles still stands. This requirement is so vital that the Lord has made future assignments and blessings conditional upon successful completion of this first command to His covenant people. Nothing more will come until we complete this task.

Fortunately, completion is looking increasingly possible. The seven chosen by lots have posted an update on their efforts, and we're very pleased to see the progress they are making. We also appreciate the humble, serious and inspired way they have approached this work. 

The document they produced contains principles all covenant holders have already agreed to, expressed in the Lords own words from scripture and His authorized servants. We think it therefore likely that all covenant holders can adopt this document as a guide and standard for our faith.

As the seven prepare to take the fruit of their labors to the Lord for His input, they have extended an invitation for us all to join them in fasting and prayer that the Lord will answer. We intend to unite with all others who wish to fast, pray, and exercise faith in the Lord to provide His part.

If you are so inclined, please join in fasting and prayer on Wednesday, November 22. (Which is very appropriately the day before Thanksgiving!).

Here’s the link to the update posted by the seven.

If you have not yet read their document, please take a few minutes and do so. We believe you’ll find it is a beautiful, inspired expression of true principles; that it is wise and kind; that it is faithful to truth; and that it is expressed in the Lord’s own words. We support this document and hope to see it adopted by mutual agreement.

Adrian and Tausha Larsen