Some people, who misunderstand my motives, have accused me of attacking the church. I suppose I see why they might feel this way, because I understand we come from an LDS culture in which questioning is taboo.
Furthermore, the unbelief that we cannot be led astray is lent lavishly to all parts of the church at all levels. Therefore, questioning "the church" or "the brethren" is viewed as rebellion.
So it's time I clarified what I'm trying to do, and why I'm trying to do it. As you can see from the index at the right, I haven't been blogging for long. But that doesn't mean I haven't already been accused of mal-intent and called a few choice names. Therefore, I need to make myself and my motives perfectly clear.
Keep in mind, I am not important. Frankly, what people think of me is of little consequence. I'm far more concerned with what the Lord thinks of me. But what I'm writing is important, and why I'm writing is important. So I'll begin with a short, fictional story:
"Stop it!" screamed the tenant as he ran out of the building to confront the man with the powerful hose. "Why are you spraying water all over the building?"
"Because it's on fire," replied the firefighter.
"What? You're crazy! You need to stop spraying or you're going to cause damage."
"But look! Don't you see the flames? And the smoke? The roof is going to cave in!"
"You're misinterpreting what you're seeing. Those can't be flames because this building is fireproof. You need to stop attacking it!"
"What? It's clearly on fire!"
"No, I have the architect's personal promise that this building can never burn."
"Seriously? The architect actually promised that?"
"Well, no, but one of the sub-contractors said it somewhere along the line. He seemed serious about it. In fact, he was so confident, he even removed the fire sprinklers. So clearly, this building is not, and cannot be burning."
"But it is!"
"That's ridiculous! If the building were to ever catch fire, the building manager would tell us. Now stop spraying or I'll have you removed from the property! You're damaging the building! Don't you care about the building? Why won't you stop?"
"Because there are people inside."
The posts on this blog are about one thing only: Teaching truth.
In the process of doing that, long-held traditions and false beliefs will come under attack. But attacking falsehood is NOT the same thing as attacking the church, any more than attacking flames is the same as attacking the building they are burning.
Only if you believe the ridiculous assertion that the church is error free would you ever conflate attacking falsehood with attacking the church. By the way, if you do believe this outlandish assertion, Elder Uchtdorf disagrees with you:
And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine. (Come, Join With Us. October 2013 General Conference.)
The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. (D&C 93:36)
And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; (D&C 93:24)Therefore, to receive the glory of God, we must receive truth. And to receive truth, we must receive correct knowledge. There is no salvation in falsehoods, no matter how compelling, how well accepted, how comfortable or how flattering they are. It doesn't matter who believes a proposition, or who teaches it. If it is false, it has no saving power.
Even if it is partially false, it will damn you. You cannot come unto Christ through falsehoods. He is a God of truth.
As I wrote in a previous post, you can't even have faith until you have a correct understanding of God's character, perfections and attributes. (Lectures on Faith, 3:4) And without faith, you cannot be saved.
Therefore, this is a matter of life and death for all of us. You and I MUST acquire correct knowledge so we can be filled with light and truth, or the glory of God. The alternative is damnation.
Said Joseph Smith:
"As far as we degenerate from God, we descend to the devil and lose knowledge, and without knowledge we cannot be saved, and while our hearts are filled with evil, and we are studying evil, there is no room in our hearts for good, or studying good. Is not God good? Then you be good; if He is faithful, then you be faithful. Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, and seek for every good thing.
The Church must be cleansed, and I proclaim against all iniquity. A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God. (TPJS, 217)Seeking truth is NOT optional if we want salvation. As I have said before, God actually expects to us expend some effort to gain knowledge of Him by study and by faith.
I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness. (TPJS 364)Discovering the mysteries of Godliness requires not only a diligent search, but also a soft heart:
And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.Ultimately, eternal life itself depends upon gaining the right kind of knowledge:
And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell. (Alma 12:10-11)
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)Unfortunately, truth is not particularly welcome in this fallen world, where he who was a deceiver from the beginning would fain claim lordship by his deception.
Even among the religious--especially among the religious--truth is an unwelcome intruder. Joseph Smith had no end of trouble trying to teach true principles to the early Saints:
But there has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots [tough logs] with a corn-dodger [cornbread] for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle [hammer]. Even the Saints are slow to understand.
I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen. (TPJS 331)Sources of Truth
In this information-saturated world, the sheer volume of what's available for study can easily overwhelm our ability to learn and process what we need. Since there's no way to study it all, I have a personal hierarchy I use to prioritize when choosing sources in my search for gospel truth. I've organized it into the following three tiers:
Tier One: God
In God the Father and in his Son, Jesus Christ, reside the fulness of all truth.
And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie. (Ether 3:12)In practicality, this means I believe in God's ability to reveal truth to the honest seeker. Just as James 1:5 opened the restoration, the promise is still just as valid to anyone who will ask of God.
Tier Two: Those who know God
People who have learned first-hand from God and share what they have learned are my second-tier sources.
Such sources include ancient and modern scripture, angelic ministers, and the teachings and accounts of those who have been in the presence of the Lord or his divine messengers. Such people have an obligation to testify so that the rest of us can eventually exercise the required faith to receive similar blessings.
And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men. For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness. And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him. And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men. (Moroni 7:29-32)
I only include those in tier two who will openly declare and testify of their experiences with God or his messengers, as prophets always do. Here are a few examples from the Book of Mormon:
Lehi: And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. (1 Nephi 1:8)
Nephi: And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof—for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another. (1 Nephi 11:11)
Jacob: And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words. (2 Nephi 11:3)
Enos: And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. (Enos 1:5)
Benjamin:And the things which I shall tell you are made known unto me by an angel from God. And he said unto me: Awake; and I awoke, and behold he stood before me. (Mosiah 3:2)
Alma: Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there. (Alma 36:22)
Amulek: And the angel said unto me he is a holy man; wherefore I know he is a holy man because it was said by an angel of God. (Alma 10:9)
Nephi (Son of Nephi): And it came to pass that Nephi—having been visited by angels and also the voice of the Lord, therefore having seen angels, and being eye-witness, and having had power given unto him that he might know concerning the ministry of Christ, and also being eye-witness to their quick return from righteousness unto their wickedness and abominations; (3 Nephi 7:15)
Mormon: And I, being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus. (Mormon 1:15)
Moroni: And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things; (Ether 12:39)There are, of course, more examples than this. The point is that those who have received such knowledge will testify of it.
Tier Three: All Other Sources
In this tier, I include other resources like books, general conference talks, teaching manuals, scriptural commentary, scholarly works, etc. Many of these can be very valuable and full of truth, but many are not. These tier-three sources are all "arm of flesh" sources unless they are explicitly claimed to be otherwise. There is great danger in uncritically accepting teachings from these sources.
Judging a Message
It's easy to succumb to the temptation to judge the message by the messenger. In our LDS culture, we've come to expect certain behavior from those called of God. For example, we expect church leaders to dress a certain way, speak a certain way, behave in certain ways, and generally fit a mold we have cast.
But in reality, God is not nearly so predictable. Joseph Smith wrestled, pulled sticks, and ran foot races. John the baptist dressed roughly, criticized leaders, and failed to follow expected cultural patterns. Even Christ himself used guttural language, broke man-made rules, and drove the money changers from the temple with a whip. None of these men would be readily accepted as leaders today.
Just as we expect our leaders to fit a certain mold, we expect their messages to conform as well. We will not tolerate a message, for example, that might be viewed as negative, harsh, or offensive. And yet, scripture is replete with true messages that were all that and more. Rather than give a long list of scriptural illustrations, I'll just give a summary:
Signs of a False Message:
- Flattery (Mosiah 11:7)
- Allows you to take comfort in sinfulness (2 Nephi 28:8)
- Informs you that you are in the right way (Alma 30:17)
- Tries to convince you that you are special, even chosen, and uniquely favored of God (Alma 31:17)
- Appeals to your pride and vanity (Mosiah 17:12)
- Tells you all is well (2 Nephi 28:25)
Signs of a True Message:
- Calls you to repentance (Alma 5:32)
- Causes the fear of the Lord to come upon you (Mosiah 4:1)
- Brings you down into the depths of humility, even desperation (Mosiah 4:2)
- Does not flatter you (Jacob 2:8)
- Causes anger among the unrepentant (Mosiah 11:26)
- Often grieves the one who must deliver the message (Jacob 2:6)
Therefore, it's wise to remember that if we don't like the "tone" of a message, this ought to be a warning to search our hearts and ask why.
In my search for truth, and in what I present here, there are certain foundational truths that are, for me, non-negotiable. They include the following:
- Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Savior of the world, and my Lord. I invite all to come unto Him and be saved. This is my primary purpose in blogging. Anything that prevents people from coming unto Christ must be challenged.
- Joseph Smith was called of God, was a true prophet, and taught God's truth. If you want to dispute that, go find another blog. This issue is settled in my mind to the degree that there is nothing any mortal can say or do to convince me otherwise. Yes, I'm familiar with your arguments to the contrary. There's no need to repeat them.
- The Latter-day Restoration of the gospel began with Joseph Smith and continues today. There is much yet left to be accomplished before the work is complete. God is moving that work forward in our day.
- The Scriptures are true. This is settled in my mind as well. If you want to attack the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, or even the Bible for that matter, as works of falsehood or fiction, you can do that elsewhere. Not here.
Why I Blog
I'll summarize it succinctly. I don't enjoy doing this. It's difficult, time consuming, challenging and disheartening. I don't care for the persecution that comes to me and my family because of this blog. And I don't like attention. I don't get any reward from this world for these efforts.
I'm not attacking anything or anyone except falsehood. To the degree an institution, publication or person teaches unbelief, they will be challenged by what I write. This is not an act of belligerence or rebellion on my part, but rather an act of utmost love and devotion to truth, and even to those who think themselves attacked. I don't expect many will understand this, but it is nevertheless true.
I write these things because the Lord has asked me to. I don't know why He chose such an unworthy servant for this work, but I try to be willing, and he magnifies my poor abilities. I believe the truth matters enough that if all my efforts only result in one person overcoming unbelief and finding the Lord, it will have been worth it.
I have much more to write in the future, but I thought it important to lay this foundation clearly, so there is no question about my motives or intentions going forward.
I started with a fictional story, so I'll end with a true one:
Years ago I was driving home from work one day when something in the corner of my eye caught my attention. I did a double take, then screeched to a stop on the side of the road.
I was driving past a burning house.
The fire was inside the house, and not visible from the outside. I don't even know how I noticed it in passing, but through the kitchen window, which faced the road, I could clearly see the entire kitchen was engulfed in flames.
When I jumped from my truck and ran across the busy road to get to the house, I darted directly in front of a fire battalion commander's car that just happened to be driving past. (I could tell by the emergency lights on top.) I flagged down the car and pointed out the fire to the vehicle's two occupants.
And that's when it got crazy.
The two men jumped from the car and started shouting orders--at me!
"Get that garden hose and turn it on full blast!"
"What?" I thought to myself. "You're actually going to try to fight this fire yourselves? With a garden hose? Are you nuts? Shouldn't we wait for the fire department?"
"Find a rock and throw it through the kitchen window!"
"Seriously?" I thought. "You want me to start breaking windows in a burning house?"
I ran and did what they asked while the men began checking the front and back doors. Finding them locked, they pounded on the doors to see if there was anyone inside.
Then one of the men took the garden hose from me, climbed up on the air conditioner, and began spraying the flames through the kitchen window I had just broken out.
The other man yelled at me to kick open the back door, as he ran to his car and opened the trunk. I was still shocked at the actions of these two men, but I did as requested.
No sooner had I kicked open the door, than I saw that same man charging toward me and strapping an air tank on his back as he ran.
He didn't even break stride, but ran straight through the back door and into the burning house. Through a wall of thick smoke, I saw him charge up the stairs.
My first thought was that he was going the wrong way! He should be heading toward the kitchen, shouldn't he? My second thought was that the upstairs wasn't safe with the kitchen below engulfed in flames.
Only when I heard him shouting did I realize why he did what he did. He wasn't there for the kitchen, or even for the house. He was calling out, looking for people trapped in the burning building, and willing to risk his life to find them.
Well, the story had a happy ending. The house was unoccupied at the time; with the help of an additional garden hose, and much to my surprise, the fire was actually extinguished; and though the kitchen was a total loss, the house was saved.
Now, I don't know why I noticed the flames when hundreds of others were driving by, oblivious, on a busy road. But for whatever reason, I saw the flames in time, and by divine providence, was in a position to help.
Something changed for me that day as I watched two courageous men--who knew more than me--take actions that made no sense within my existing paradigm. Over and over, they did things I did not expect and could not agree with. Only after it was all over did I see the wisdom of their actions and realize they were right all along. I was the one who was ignorant that day as I stood outside a burning house, wondering when the authorities would arrive and do something about it, oblivious to the possibility that there might be people dying inside.
But a brave man showed me a better way as he taught me a lesson in courage that day. It's no exaggeration to say my life was forever changed when I watched that man--with no more protection than a pair of jeans and a face mask--charge into a burning house--in case there were lives to be saved.
When Moroni visited Joseph Smith in his bedroom, he quoted a prophecy from Malachi that is so important it is now found in all four of our standard works:
For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
—Malachi 4:1There is yet time to save some few from what lies ahead. We must make the effort.