Saturday, November 29, 2014

Straying on the "Old Ship Zion"

And Enoch and all his people walked with God, and he dwelt in the midst of Zion; and it came to pass that Zion was not, for God received it up into his own bosom; and from thence went forth the saying, Zion is Fled. 
—Moses 7:69

What is Zion?

We Mormons like to throw around the word "Zion" quite a bit. It's been a touchstone of our religious belief ever since the early days of the Restoration. Today we use the term in lots of general ways to refer to the Church, the Latter-day Saints, or things that we consider good.

When I visited Utah for the first time, a relative shook my hand and told me, "Welcome to Zion." It was a sincere welcome, without a hint of the irony it should have held, especially considering the fact that I was visiting from Missouri.

But I can't blame my relative. There's been a tendency to call Utah "Zion" ever since the first Mormon pioneers arrived there after multiple failed attempts to establish Zion elsewhere.

The too-commonly held idea that Utah is Zion may be most reflected by business names. A quick search reveals over a thousand Utah businesses registered with Zion in the name, including a bank, brewery, trucking company, carpet cleaner, chiropractor, pawn shop, real estate company, massage parlor, motel, collection agency, book store, spa, counseling office, cactus jelly manufacturer, landscaper, limousine service, and gun shop, just to name a few.

Whatever Zion is, it's well-stocked with every business and service imaginable. It even has a beautiful National Park. There's not yet a Zion casino, but you can legally gamble in stocks and investments through several Zion investment firms. There's apparently no shortage of ways to make money in Zion.

An Old Tale about an Old Ship

Obviously, Zion seems to mean a lot of things to a lot of people.

In October's General Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard channeled Brigham Young in speaking of the "Old Ship Zion," referring to the LDS Church. The message was that as long as we stay in the ship, we will be carried, through no effort of our own, safely to the waiting harbor.

The reason we need expend no effort of our own is that church leaders will do all that is necessary to steer the ship to safety. In fact, Elder Ballard made a point to remind us to keep our focus squarely on the leaders:
The experienced river guides today can be likened to the Church’s apostles and prophets and inspired local priesthood and auxiliary leaders. They help us arrive safely to our final destination. 
Recently, I spoke at the new mission presidents’ seminar and counseled these leaders: 
“Keep the eyes of the mission on the leaders of the Church. … We will not and … cannot lead [you] astray. 
“And as you teach your missionaries to focus their eyes on us, teach them to never follow those who think they know more about how to administer the affairs of the Church than … Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ do” through the priesthood leaders who have the keys to preside.
And, lest we should think the church leaders are mere fallen mortals, like ourselves, we are reminded:
“I have heard that some people think the Church leaders live in a ‘bubble.’ What they forget is that we are men and women of experience, and we have lived our lives in so many places and worked with many people from different backgrounds. Our current assignments literally take us around the globe, where we meet the political, religious, business, and humanitarian leaders of the world. Although we have visited [leaders in] the White House in Washington, D.C., and leaders of nations [and religions] throughout the world, we have also visited the most humble [families and people] on earth. …

“When you thoughtfully consider our lives and ministry, you will most likely agree that we see and experience the world in ways few others do. You will realize that we live less in a ‘bubble’ than most people. … 
“… There is something about the individual and combined wisdom of the [Church leaders] that should provide some comfort. We have experienced it all, including the consequences of different public laws and policies, disappointments, tragedies, and deaths in our own families. We are not out of touch with your lives.”
I won't take up the myriad doctrinal and logical issues with the above statements. These statements are appealing to the carnal mind because it's good to know we can take comfort in our wise leaders and be at ease in the "Old Ship Zion."

But scripture disagrees:
Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion! (2 Nephi 28:24)
But then, again, scripture never defines Zion as a ship, or any other means of transport for that matter. Nor does scripture define Zion as a church or earthly organization. Rather, Zion is most often defined as either a location, or as a group of people with certain attributes, sometimes inhabiting such a location.

Given that Zion people have certain recognizable attributes defined in scripture, we should expect that the inhabitants of the "Old Ship Zion" have such attributes:
Therefore, verily, thus saith the Lord, let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—the pure in heart; therefore, let Zion rejoice, while all the wicked shall mourn. (D&C 97:21) 
When we look around the Old Ship, do we find the pure in heart? How would we know them if we saw them? Christ told us:
And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (3 Nephi 12:8)
Therefore, the Old Ship should be stocked with people who have seen God, because "all" the pure in heart are privileged to do so. This should not surprise us a bit, because the Lord taught:
Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am; (D&C 93:1)
There is, therefore, a path to becoming pure in heart. But there's no mention of church leaders or organizations on that path or in that list of requirements.

Have those on the ship seen God? Do they speak of it? Can we call ourselves "Zion" people when we are not prepared for God's presence?

The "Old Ship Zion" should also be filled with those who the Lord claims as "His" people because they are united in heart, mind and righteousness. One evidence of this unity will be the complete lack of poor among them.
And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. (Moses 7:18)
So where can we find such people? When we look around Zion's limousine service, bank, brewery, or gun shop, do we encounter such unity and righteousness? Does Zion's collection agency lift the poor and administer to their needs? When we look around the ship, who do we see?

Well, chances are, we see a bunch of people just like us. Many of them good and striving to serve God, some even seeking to know Him. Some very rich, some very poor, and some LDS children, literally, starving. Some place all their faith in the ship, some in the river guides, and some in the Lord. Some understand much of the gospel, some very little, and some cannot even tell you what the gospel is. Many think the ship IS the gospel. Few can define the Doctrine of Christ or tell you where to find it. There's a wide variety of good and bad, diversions and distractions, but there's not yet unity with the mind of God. This explains why the Lord does not come to dwell there.

The inhabitants of the "Old Ship Zion" bear more resemblance to Plato's Ship of Fools than to Enoch's city of Faith.

What Ship is This?

So does the Ship you're on meet the Lord's definition of Zion? Does the Lord Himself dwell there? Look at the two verses before the definition of Zion I just quoted:
...but the Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness. The fear of the Lord was upon all nations, so great was the glory of the Lord, which was upon his people. And the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish. (Moses 7:16-17)
This does not describe any ship, church, or organization with which I'm familiar. Therefore, I'm left to conclude that, just as with a hardware store, barber shop, or bowling alley, painting "Zion" on the side of a ship does not make it so.

It's preposterous for us to delude ourselves that this ship, or the people on it, are Zion when the scriptures so clearly teach otherwise. Only a fool would cling to such a ship as a substitute, when the Master clearly calls us to come to Him.

What's your Vector, Victor?

The next question to consider is where the ship is headed. There are certainly many who realize the ship isn't exactly Zion, but are nonetheless hoping to arrive at a safe harbor by staying aboard, closing their eyes, and holding on for dear life. Therefore, it's important to know where the ship is headed.

Fortunately, we have a wonderful scriptural illustration of how to properly steer a ship toward safe harbor in Nephi's record. As you recall, the Lord prepared a director, called Liahona, to guide Nephi's family to the promised land.
And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day. (Alma 37:40)
So they had to walk by faith every single day, and only when faith was present would the Liahona point the way. Proof of their faith also came in the form of daily miracles.

When faith and obedience were not present, the Liahona ceased to function, as did the miracles:
They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey; Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions. (Alma 37:41-42)
Perhaps the best illustration of this failure was aboard the ship when Laman and Lemuel rebelled against Nephi's leadership:
And it came to pass that after they had bound me insomuch that I could not move, the compass, which had been prepared of the Lord, did cease to work. Wherefore, they knew not whither they should steer the ship...(1 Nephi 18:12-13)
There's a lesson here for us, about steering ships and steering our lives.
For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land. And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise. (Alma 37:44-45)
We must pay heed to Christ's word, and His word alone. Remember, the Lord's course is straight (2 Nephi 9:41, D&C 3:2), and we wander at our peril. If the ship is wandering, changing course from time to time, doubling back on itself, telling us to focus on the river guides rather than the Lord, ignoring scripture, altering doctrine, and teaching for commandments the precepts of men, we are in grave peril of being swallowed up in the depths of the sea. (1 Nephi 18:20) Such a ship is not safe, and neither will be whatever harbor it may reach.

Abandon Ship!

So if you find you've placed your faith where it doesn't belong, in a ship that is both old and wandering, tossed with waves in a contrary wind, what do you do? Just jump over the side?

Yes. That's exactly what you do.
But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. (Matthew 14:27-29)
Peter heeded the Lord's word, against all other distractions and even common sense, and went right over the side—only to find that when he did, if he kept his focus on Christ, he could walk on the water! He, himself, could come unto Christ! Was Peter's faith perfect? No, it flagged. But Christ was there to lift him up and walk with him in the way.

And so it is with us.

The point of Peter's story is NOT to show us what a cool guy Peter was, or that his faith failed when he feared. No, I think the point is that Peter was a man just like all of us, and represents each of us. Only by leaving the perceived comfort and safety of the ship was he able to exercise true faith, work miracles, and be lifted up by the Savior. He could NOT have come unto Christ by remaining in the ship. The Master bid him come, and so he came.

We are in precisely, exactly the same situation as Peter. 

Now, I'm not suggesting you need to leave the LDS church. But you may need to change your focus away from the ship, no matter what is painted on the side, and away from the river guides, no matter what they claim about themselves. Your focus should be ONLY on the Savior, where it belongs. Anyone and anything else will fail, and cannot save you. Christ bids you come unto him. Will you?

But I can't Walk on Water...I can't even Swim!

That may be so, but it's not particularly relevant. You'll never to do either if you're clinging to the boat. Only by exercising faith will you ever come unto Christ, and that requires taking the first step. Some will step over the side themselves; some will be thrown overboard for rocking the boat. And like Peter, you and I, and all of us will most certainly fail. But remember, Christ, who never fails, is there to lift us:
Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. (Mosiah 23:22)
Your trust must be in Christ. Meanwhile, any mortal who teaches you to focus on him, rather than on your Lord, is practicing priestcraft and will damn you if you listen to him.
He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion. (2 Nephi 26:29)
Such leaders may, indeed, be concerned about a ship. They may call for your support in money, time and labor. They may require you to consecrate everything for the "establishment of Zion." But after 184 years, that ship is no closer to harbor and we're no closer to Zion. Staying in the ship and holding on will never bring Zion as long as the focus remains on the men who steer the ship in a crooked course.

When such men claim to speak for the Lord, while contradicting scripture, they take the Lord's name in vain. He will not own their words when the words don't originate with Him. In the same talk Elder Ballard lifts a portion of D&C 1:38 to make the point that the leaders speak for Christ. Allow me to quote the whole verse:
What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens 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. (D&C 1:38)
Note that the Lord says it is HIS word that shall all be fulfilled, no matter who speaks it. He does not say that whatever someone in authority says is automatically Christ's word. If it didn't originate with Christ, it is not His word. For a more thorough discussion of this misused scripture, see this blog post.

No Thanks, I'll Walk

And so we come to another early church leader who used ship metaphors. The leader in this case was Joseph Smith, and one of his final dreams featured a steamship. I'll add here that the account was recorded by W. W. Phelps nearly 20 years after the fact, so we can't be certain as to its accuracy. Nevertheless, I find it worth consideration, particularly given the fact that Phelps had no agenda to support and nothing to gain by recounting it.
"I dreamed that myself and my brother Hyrum went on board of a large steamboat, lying in a small bay, near the great ocean. Shortly after we went on board there was an “alarm of fire,” and I discovered that the boat had been anchored some distance from the shore, out in the bay, and that an escape from the fire, in the confusion, appeared hazardous; but, as delay was folly, I and Hyrum jumped overboard, and tried our faith at walking upon the water. 
"At first we sank in the water nearly to our knees, but as we proceeded we increased in faith, and were soon able to walk upon the water. On looking towards the burning boat in the east, we saw that it was drifting towards the wharf and the town, with a great flame and clouds of smoke; and, as if by whirlwind, the town was taking fire, too, so that the scene of destruction and horror of the frightened inhabitants was terrible. 
"We proceeded on the bosom of the mighty deep and were soon out of sight of land. The ocean was still; the rays of the sun were bright, and we forgot all the troubles of our Mother Earth. Just at that moment I heard the sound of a human voice, and, turning round, saw my brother Samuel H. approaching towards us from the east. We stopped and he came up. After a moment’s conversation he informed me that he had been lonesome back, and had made up his mind to go with me across the mighty deep. 
"We all started again, and in a short time were blest with the first sight of a city, whose gold and silver steeples and towers were more beautiful than any I had ever seen or heard of on earth. It stood, as it were, upon the western shore of the mighty deep we were walking on, and its order and glory seemed far beyond the wisdom of man. While we were gazing upon the perfection of the city, a small boat launched off from the port, and, almost as quick as thought, came to us. In an instant they took us on board and saluted us with a welcome, and with music such as is not on earth. The next scene, on landing, was more than I can describe: the greeting of old friends, the music from a thousand towers, and the light of God himself at the return of three of his sons, soothed my soul into a quiet and a joy that I felt as if I was truly in heaven. I gazed upon the splendor; I greeted my friends, I awoke, and lo, it was a dream!"
This account is instructive. Joseph and Hyrum found themselves on a ship in danger. They jumped overboard, exercised faith, and walked on the water, while others stayed behind and perished. Joined by their brother Samuel (who died a month after them) Joseph and Hyrum walked to eternal bliss and the glory of God themselves, without need of a ship, a river guide, or any other mortal. They, quite literally, came unto Christ.

And Peter—the one who walked on water—what happened the next time he found himself in a boat and Christ outside it? He didn't even wait for the invitation:
But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus...Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea. (John 21:4,7)
Whether he walked or swam, he was focused completely on coming unto Christ. Peter was indeed "the Rock."

I testify that you and I are invited by the same Lord to show the same faith and come unto Him. But we'll never walk on water, nor find Christ, nor reach his Holy City as long as we cling to the boat. The Lord doesn't require boats or bars or banks to save us, even if we call them Zion.

Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over? Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
—Isaiah 51:10-11

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Some Clarifications about the Retreat

Therefore, verily I say unto you, my friends, call your solemn assembly, as I have commanded you. And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
—D&C 88:117-118

Since I announced the Remnant Family Retreat in my last post, I've been asked a number of questions. So I thought I'd put together a FAQ list in an effort to help people understand what this retreat is and what it is not. Remember, I'm not the one organizing this event, and I'm not in charge of it.

I have spoken a few times with Bret Corbridge, the organizer of the retreat, and I have a good feel for what Bret is trying to accomplish. But I don't speak for him. So the following questions and answers are based only on my understanding of the retreat.

Frequent Questions Answered:

1. So are you trying to start a new church or group or something?

No. This event is not designed to start any organization or association. It is just an open invitation to whoever is interested in joining together for instruction, worship, and fellowship.

2. Are you trying to start Zion?

No. Only the Lord can bring again Zion. The purpose of this retreat is merely for those interested to join together for a weekend of worship, learning, and camaraderie. Principles concerning Zion will no doubt be taught and discussed, but nobody is laying out a city plat, making assignments, setting up rules, or anything else along those lines. Zion must begin in each individual's heart, not with a gathering or group.

3. Who, or what, is the Remnant? 

In the context of this retreat, the Remnant refers to those who believe in, and want to preserve and continue the restoration started by Joseph Smith. All who share this common desire are welcome.

4. Are we rushing things, rushing the pass, or otherwise doing things in haste? 

I'm not inclined to think so. This retreat is much like any other educational opportunity we all might engage in—like Education Week, or a weekend training seminar, or, dare I say, General Conference (only without teleprompters). I'm not aware of any efforts to do anything other than learn and worship, nor of any efforts to change anything currently happening within or without the LDS church. If I felt otherwise, I would not be publicizing this event.

5. Why gather together just to fail again? Won't the Lord gather His people when the time is right?

This is not a "gathering" like a permanent community, tent city, or relocation. Rather, it is a "gathering" like when all the relatives come for Thanksgiving and leave two days later. Nobody is staying.

Many smaller groups all over the U.S. are doing this same sort of gathering each week for worship, study and fellowship. This is an opportunity for the smaller groups to get to know one another.

6. Why this location? 

The location was chosen by Bret Corbridge because he finds it enjoyable and sacred. Having never been there myself, I'm looking forward to visiting the Mesa.

7. So who is speaking? 

Bret informs me the speaker list will not be announced in advance. This is specifically so that people who are coming to the retreat will come because they feel the Lord directs them to come—not because they are a fan of any particular speaker.

8. Is Bret trying to be a strongman? 

No, Bret is only doing the work to organize the retreat. He will not even be speaking at this event. He is not seeking to be any kind of leader.

9. So should I go? 

Well that really depends on whether the Lord is directing you to go. There's no reason you should attend this event unless the Lord directs you to.

10. Should I bring my kids?

Great question. I'm told Bret and others are working to find a way to accommodate children at events that will otherwise be more geared toward teens and adults. Got any suggestions how to make that work?

OK, those are the best answers I can give with what I know so far. I'm sure there will be more information available as things come together. The logistics and mechanics of the weekend are being worked on and are not yet settled. But I hope the above information addresses concerns about the motivation for, and purpose of the retreat.

Response so far has been very good. I want to remind you that if you're planning to attend, please drop Bret a line to let him know so that he can keep a headcount. It's important that the locations and events be planned to accommodate the right numbers. Click Here to download a PDF with contact information. 

I'm looking forward to attending, learning, worshiping and associating with all those who attend.

Meanwhile, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We, who are the beneficiaries of the Restoration have so much for which to be thankful!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Who's Up for a Family Reunion?

And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. 
—Moses 7:18

If Zion is ever going to be reared, it will require a people who are of one heart and one mind. They will be such, because they are one with the Holy Spirit, which Joseph Smith defined as the mind of God. (Lectures on Faith 5:2)

Such people, united in the mind of God, will have no poor among them because they will be of a mind to care for the poor.

But this unity won't happen by magic. It will take much effort, time, study, patience, and thought to gain the necessary familiarity with the Holy Spirit and commune with God, both individually and as groups. There will be personal and group efforts, study, and experimentation. Said Joseph Smith:
...the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. (TPJS 137)
And so, to this end, I'm delighted to announce an upcoming opportunity for like-minded individuals and groups to come together in faith, worship, and communion with God.

Bret Corbridge (author of 77 Truths) has selflessly been working very hard behind the scenes to plan a retreat/reunion for those who are seeking to commune with God and prepare themselves to one day be Zion.

This will be a wonderful event, and I'm looking forward to attending and participating. I've never been to the Grand Mesa in Colorado, though I've heard great things about it, both as it is now, and as it will one day be.

But even better than the location will be the opportunity to rub shoulders with so many of you as we learn, worship, and praise together this May.

I hope to see you there!


Click to download the PDF.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Apostates and Broken Brooms

And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not.
—1 Nephi 8:33

Mr. C. destroyed the broom, and you need to know why. (He would have destroyed the vacuum too, but it was just too tough for him.) He fought a brave crusade against any floor-cleaning device, even at the risk of life and limb. It was a foolish crusade that he ultimately lost. He had no idea how silly he looked, lashing out and attacking what he didn't understand.

But we understand, you and I, or at least I hope we will by the end of this blog post.

Nevertheless, before we discuss broom attacks, let me first lay a foundation, of apostates and Saints and beliefs.

When you're LDS, being labeled an "apostate" brings all sorts of interesting consequences and responses. Mostly, some of our brothers and sisters in the LDS church aren't quite sure how to deal with one who has been thus labeled. Responses span the range from love and friendship, through indifference, discomfort, distaste, and even white-hot hatred.

I've experienced all these responses since starting this blog, and so, speaking from experience, I'd like to offer some insights and advice designed to help those who are struggling to know how to deal with "apostates."

I offer the following information in the spirit of concern, friendship and love. Whether or not you and I agree on matters of doctrine, there's no reason we can't be friends. As in all of life's situations, the words of the Master apply to this one as well. Let's talk about how Jesus Christ taught us to treat one another and why Mr. C. destroyed the broom.

The Labels we Apply

First, we need to address the labeling that goes on. There is a tendency among the LDS people to use the term "apostate" to generally apply to all those who don't believe, or no longer believe, what is deemed acceptable by the one applying the label. Regardless of what someone may believe, or the reasons why they believe it, the label gets applied as a condemnation and warning.

There are those who believe and study the scriptures deeply; who hunger and thirst after righteousness; who seek and receive personal revelation; who lay it all on the line and make untold sacrifices for the truth as they understand it; who are judged, condemned, cast out, mocked, derided, and scorned for doing so; who nevertheless continue to seek the Savior, placing His will above personal comfort, reputation, worldly praise, success, and family acceptance; who ultimately are asked to prove they love the Lord above all else, and are hated by men for doing so.

Such people, we call apostates, and we number them with others who are indifferent or even hostile to God, who seek to oppose His purposes, or who deny His existence or His goodness. Though they are at completely opposite ends of the belief spectrum, devoted believers and non-believers alike wear the "apostate" label.

Therefore, if you label me "apostate" it only  signifies that you disagree with me.

And so I have a sincere question: if you and I disagree in matters of faith, why do you get to label me "apostate?" Does this make you "right" and make me "wrong?"

Fact is, you and I likely agree on much more than we might differ upon. We both believe in God the Father, Christ the Savior and the Holy Ghost. We believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, called of God to bring about the restoration of the Gospel. We believe the Book of Mormon is holy scripture, written by prophets and translated by the gift and power of God. We believe the Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price and Bible are holy scripture as well. We believe in salvation through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We believe the same gospel principles, ordinances and doctrine.

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, if we happen to differ on a few points about the modern church and our religious practices, is it really necessary to start name calling?
Joseph Smith lamented other faiths that “have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty to believe as I please, it feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” (DHC 5: 340.) 
By labeling somebody as "apostate" to make them "wrong" and therefore marginalize them and their opinions, do we take comfort in our conformity with a large group? Is there safety or guaranteed truth in large numbers?
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
Of course since I'm the one so labeled, it would be laughable for me to likewise call you and your large group apostate, because, after all, there are more of you. And incidentally, laughter is exactly how the Jews at Jerusalem responded to Lehi, because, after all, he was an "apostate" too. (1 Nephi 1:19)

(Easy there, I'm not comparing myself to Lehi. But I am comparing similar groups of very religious folks who like to use derogatory labels to marginalize others with whom they disagree.)

There's no need to name call, but if we must have names, let's use Brother and Sister.

I find it both amusing and sad that some who formerly called me "Brother Larsen" now insist on calling me "Mister Larsen" because I'm evidently no longer a child of God, or their brother. It's also curious that those who judge me most harshly are invariably those who hold the most beliefs in common with me. It's not my Baptist and Jewish friends calling me names. It's my Mormon friends (or former friends, as they seem to prefer.)

Leveling Accusations

One of Satan's titles is "accuser of our brethren" (Rev. 12:10) because he plays the role of accuser before God, condemning those so accused.

Joseph Smith said:
I charged the Saints not to follow the example of the adversary in accusing the brethren, and said, "If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven, and if you will follow the revelations and instructions which God gives you through me, I will take you into heaven as my back load. If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you. If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours—for charity covereth a multitude of sins." (DHC 4:445) 
I think there's value in discussing ideas, beliefs and doctrine. But there's no need to personally accuse others of sin. When we play the role of accuser, we serve Satan.

All of us sin. All of us desperately need Christ's grace. What is the virtue in calling each other sinners simply because when you read the scriptures and when I read the scriptures, we each understand things differently?

Judging and Forgiving

Faced with the fact that we all sin, the Lord has carefully taught how we must respond.
I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. (D&C 64:10)
The Lord's standard for how we treat one another demands forgiveness. In fact it is an absolute prerequisite of our own forgiveness that we first forgive all others.
For, if ye forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you; But if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (3 Nephi 13:14-15)
It seems pretty black and white. Jesus said we must forgive one another if we ever hope to obtain forgiveness.

Similarly, when we undertake to judge the righteousness of another, we actually set the terms of our own judgment.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (3 Nephi 14:1-2; Matt 7:1-2)
Therefore, since I hope for mercy and wide latitude when I am judged of God, I must similarly offer mercy and wide latitude to all my brothers and sisters. Said our Lord, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." (3 Nephi 12:7) Forgiveness and mercy are our only safe course and our only hope.

Christ made an interesting observation about those who are inclined to judge the righteousness of another. Said he:
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother: Let me pull the mote out of thine eye—and behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (3 Nephi 14:3-5; Matt 7:3-5)
Note the size difference between the objects in the eyes. Christ said those who tend to judge others suffer from the much larger obstruction. This ought to cause us each to stop and reflect. I believe the Lord is serious. I believe he means it.

From a practical standpoint, I (and other "apostates" like me) tend to get accused of all sorts of sins, condemned as wicked, and given prescriptions about what is lacking or what must change for repentance to be granted. I don't know the hearts of those who thus accuse and condemn me, and I readily forgive them for their hasty conclusions. I would urge them to forgive me as well for whatever they perceive my sins to be. It's the only safe course.

Meanwhile, I'll take up my repentance with the One who can actually remit sins, not with men who cannot.


There's no point in arguing about beliefs. Such argument produces more heat than light. Said the Savior:
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. (3 Nephi 11:29)
I have good reasons to believe what I believe, and I assume you have good reasons to believe what you believe. As fellow seekers of truth, we can certainly discuss ideas, scripture and doctrine without the need to contend or be angry. I welcome such discussions. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it's a standard to which we all should aspire.

I'll be the first to admit, this is sometimes difficult for me. My natural man wants to defend myself and my beliefs when I am attacked. But gradually, bit by bit, by the grace of Christ, I'm learning to let go of my need to contend. If we must disagree, I hope I can disagree with you in the spirit of love and meekness; likewise, I hope you can with me. I believe we can disagree without anger or accusation, and even learn from each other.

"I'm Telling Mom!!"

This one perplexes me.

While I was still a member of the LDS church, various people who thought they knew various things about me or my beliefs took it upon themselves to call my bishop or stake president and "report" me.

Now that I'm not a member of the LDS church, it's still taking place, as if my former church leaders still hold authority over me.

Let's examine the Lord's word on such matters:
And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled. (D&C 42:88)
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. (Matthew 18:15) 
The Lord is very clear. He expects us to settle such matters first with one another, privately, in the spirit of reconciliation. Any other course is against the Lord's word.

Notice that the offense must be personal. The trespass must be against you. Therefore if you happen to eavesdrop on my conversations that don't involve you, and you don't like what I say, or if you believe I err in my understanding of scripture, or even if you believe me to be guilty of various sins in my own life or religious practices, I have not trespassed against you. You therefore have no cause to take action against me.

We would all do well to mind our own business in such matters. I see no need to persecute you for your beliefs, and hope you see no need to persecute me for mine.

If you choose to call my bishop or stake president, your act of cowardice in running to an authority figure says far more about you than it does about me. It is a sign of emotional immaturity to depend upon authority figures for validation when you find fault with others in personal matters. "I'm telling Mom" is the common resort of five-year-old children, not emotionally mature and rational adults. "I'm calling your bishop" is no different, and is expressly against the Savior's teachings. What is against Christ is Anti-Christ.

There is—still—entirely too much tattle-taling taking place among us. If you feel you must pick up the phone and make the call, please be aware that in so doing you will in fact invoke all of the laws we have discussed so far. You will become the accuser and thus set the terms of your own judgment. You will answer to the Lord for ignoring his word and refusing to handle your issue the way He said to. You will do no harm to me, but you risk doing great harm to yourself.

I cannot and will not condemn you. But God can and will. Please don't pursue a course leading to that unfortunate end. I'm not worth it. Don't risk your own soul over the need to correct me or anyone else who believes differently than you. I cannot emphasize enough how dangerous such a course is to your soul. If you proceed to knowingly act against Christ's word, you will invoke his condemnation. Unless you believe he is a liar, that is.


My dad used to tell me "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." I didn't know it at the time, but he was quoting Eleanor Roosavelt.

Since starting this blog, I've heard all sorts of amazing things about myself through the grapevine. Some are so absurd as to be laughable. Some are merely unkind. Some are foul and angry. I've been falsely accused of all sorts of strange practices, wickedness and evil by those who want to accuse me behind my back.

You know what? I'm not worth talking about. Really. I don't matter at all. The gospel matters. Doctrine matters. Jesus Christ matters. Why not spend your time talking about those things? And if you have a personal issue with me, why not come to me? I would welcome the opportunity to hear your concerns and be reconciled. We don't have to agree, but we can still shake hands and be friends. And perhaps you'll rest easier once you've discovered first hand that I'm not guilty of the malignancy you supposed.

It really doesn't hurt my feelings if you hold a negative opinion of me. It doesn't bother me if you want to spread false rumors about me. What hurts me is the damage you're doing to yourself on my account. 

Said Joseph Smith:
The Savior has the words of Eternal life—nothing else can profit us—there is no salvation in believing an evil report against our neighbor. (May 12, 1844, reported by Thomas Bullock)
If you do decide to waste your time in gossip about me, please don't be surprised if I reach out to you in the spirit of reconciliation, as the Lord has commanded:
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)
I have a divinely imposed obligation to seek reconciliation with you, just as you do with me. Only then can I go to the Lord with my offering and you can with yours.

Control, Dominion and Compulsion

In explaining priesthood rights to Joseph Smith, the Lord said,
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. (D&C 121:37)
It's most interesting that this word came from the Lord to Joseph while he was incarcerated in Liberty Jail—under the unrighteous control, dominion and compulsion of wicked men.

Of course, we don't throw people in jail just because we disagree with their doctrine. But we do issue commands and ultimatums, insisting on controlling the behavior and beliefs of others. Is there a difference in the Lord's eyes?

I have witnessed such behavior first hand, and it is tragic. I know of those who are, right now, commanding and seeking to control others, issuing ultimatums and deadlines, with threatened consequences for failure to comply. They view themselves as defenders of the faith, yet exert themselves not in defending Christ, but in angrily attacking those whose focus is on Christ. And these attempts are NOT all coming from church leaders. I've watched those who have ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS doing so, nevertheless attempt to change the gospel beliefs and behaviors of others by force and threat.

This is wickedness. Amen to the priesthood or authority of such men.
Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. (D&C 121:38)
With the Spirit of the Lord withdrawn, such are left to play the role they have adopted for themselves: Persecutor of the Saints. And persecute they do.

This is stern stuff, spoken by the Lord, to protect us from ourselves. We ought to heed His counsel.


If you are playing the role of persecutor, you are fulfilling prophecy.
And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake; For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you. (3 Nephi 12:11-12)
As Christ plainly said, those who follow Him will be persecuted. This is a given. And since persecution must needs come, the question we must each answer for ourselves is which role we are playing. Do we persecute others for their beliefs? Or do we seek to do what Joseph advised is a better way, speaking of those who persecuted him:
[I was] persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me...(JSH 28)
Christ's teachings in the parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son teach us how the Lord deals with those who stray and are lost. He does, indeed, endeavor in a proper and affectionate manner to reclaim them.

According to D&C 121, such an endeavor is to be undertaken "by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge..." Never by virtue of priesthood, by control, dominion, or compulsion.

Who Gets Attacked?

As LDS people, whom do we tend to persecute? Is it Jews? Muslims? Other Christians? Generally speaking, no. We teach respect for all God's children, and seek to build bridges and cooperate with those of other faiths.

Unless they are LDS "apostates," that is.

Then, all bets are off, and the veneer of love and mutual respect drops like a lead balloon. Try this: Post something on Facebook that supports the general positive ideas of another faith. You'll get likes, kind comments from other LDS people, and a reputation for being broad minded.

Now try posting something scriptural on Facebook that challenges the LDS status quo, raises a question about our practices, or contradicts a church manual. You'll be reported, challenged, corrected, named and shamed, and outright attacked. And it will be your fellow Saints who attack you.

The Root of the Problem

And now we can finally get to the root of the problem.

In all the examples I've cited above, the root cause is the same. Labeling, persecution, gossip, compulsion, accusation, contention—all of these branch from the same stem.

So let's talk about Mr. C. and the broom.

Mr. C. was my cocker spaniel, Chewey. I took him to a professional trainer because, whenever we would sweep the floor, Chewey would attack the broom. Snarling, growling and biting, he went after the broom with vigor and malice. I had no idea why.

The dog trainer told me something interesting: dogs attack what they fear. 

Somehow, as a puppy, Chewey had been scared by the broom, and now he attacked it every time we got it out. It was a foolish, destructive fight, ill-conceived and wrong-headed, but Chewey couldn't let go of his fear. All he knew to do was attack even though there was no threat to him whatsoever.

The thing is, it's really no different with humans. We tend to attack what we fear. 

As LDS believers, we really don't fear other religions, or those who believe differently, unless, of course, they are LDS "apostates." Such are attacked because they are feared.

Let's consider why:

As Latter-day Saints, we place a lot of stock in being "right" while everybody else must be "wrong." It is our tenet that the LDS church is the only true church, that it's impossible for us to be led astray, ever, about anything. Therefore, if we do what we're told, we'll go to the Celestial Kingdom while everybody else goes to Hell. We've got a LOT of religious belief, and hope, and devotion, and even money tied up in the idea that we absolutely must be right.

Therefore, when someone comes along and starts pointing out things in our own scriptures that we're not doing and should be, or that we're ignoring, or that flatly contradict our current practice, the first reaction is fear that we may be wrong, and that the scriptures may be right.

But such an idea is unthinkable, because if there's anything—anything at all—wrong with our belief and practice, the sand upon which we have built our foundation begins to shift, and we fear that we will fall.

No, we cannot, we must not, entertain ANYTHING that contradicts our current views, because we might find out we got some things wrong, and that's simply unthinkable.

The Devil's Tool

When you fear ideas, you can NEVER grow in light and knowledge. When you fear truth, you are absolutely guaranteed to never obtain more of it. You can plug your ears, close your eyes, and pretend there are no contradictions, no historical issues, no errors whatsoever; but in so doing, you also let in no light, no revelation, and no means to grow.

Such a response is born of fear that the crazy apostate over there in the corner, reading from the scriptures you claim to believe, might, just possibly, be right. And if that's the case, and you believe the scriptures, you might end up just like that crazy apostate! Then you might lose your reputation, good name, family relationships, worldly honors, and possibly even church membership! (See Lectures on Faith, 6:5) Furthermore, you'll end up being persecuted by your former friends and church leaders. It's a formidable sacrifice to contemplate.

It takes courage to open yourself to new ideas. It takes courage to seek truth. Because of fear, very few will ever undertake an unflinching search for truth. The only path that overcomes this fear is Love:
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
Sadly, few love the Lord enough to put all else on the altar. And when they don't, they end up persecuting those who do. Joseph Smith taught what sort of sacrifice is entailed in the search for truth:
Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things...It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him. (Lectures on Faith 6:7-8)
And the fear that keeps us from putting all things on the altar ultimately is what destroys us:
But those who have not made this sacrifice to God, do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty is, there faith is not, nor can it be. For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time. So that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence, and where unshaken confidence is not, there faith is weak, and where faith is weak, the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them. (Lectures on Faith 6:12)
Sadly, I'm personally acquainted with those who actually refuse to even open their scriptures for fear they might learn something that contradicts what they already think they know. I wish I were exaggerating, but I'm not. For the same reason, some fear to study history, doctrine, Joseph Smith's teachings, or the foundations of our faith.

And thus, we damn ourselves.

Fear is a powerful tool of the adversary; it is not of God. 
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
The Remedy

If you are so insecure in your beliefs that you cannot defend them, or even allow yourself to be exposed to anything you don't already believe, you should study and seek until you have gained enough light and knowledge for yourself that you no longer fear being exposed to new ideas. Study your beliefs until you know why you believe them and can defend them against contrary views. And please, do it now, before it's too late.

As the last days progress, challenges will come for which you are utterly unprepared if you don't have a deep and sound understanding of the Gospel. Your foundation will be destroyed and you will fall if you're not built firmly on the rock of Christ. Build now, while you still can.

Building such a foundation requires removal of unbelief, false tradition, superstition, and the philosophies of men. Joseph Smith spent his life in this pursuit:
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. DHC 6:183-185.
What many people call sin is not sin; I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down (TPJS 193) 
When you have given up your unbelief and built on the sure foundation of Christ, you have nothing to fear from "apostates." They cannot harm you. And if you believe they can harm you, you yet doubt your foundation.

When your foundation is secure, you feel no need to label or exclude others, to point the finger of scorn, to accuse and deride. When your foundation is the rock of our Redeemer, you will only seek to do what He would do. And in doing so, you will come to know Him.

Said Joseph:
Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race. (DHC 4:227)
In Closing

This has not been an easy post for me to write. I wish those who persecute the humble followers of Christ could rely on ignorance as an excuse for their actions, though I doubt that would help much in the day of judgment. I wish I didn't have to offer this unpleasant warning. I wish there weren't so many to be warned.
And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not. (1 Nephi 8:33)
Please understand that, regardless of what some may think of me, I'm doing my best to love and forgive those who persecute me and my family. I try to use their criticism of me as an opportunity to improve. I hold no animosity toward you, and pray you will hold none toward me. If I've wronged you, please tell me so I can repent. May we all "Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hastening Past the Hastening

And let the work of the gathering be not in haste, nor by flight; but let it be done as it shall be counseled by the elders of the church at the conferences, according to the knowledge which they receive from time to time.
—D&C 58:56

Did you notice anything different at October’s General Conference?

After 18 months of hearing about “Hastening the Work,” I expected to keep hearing about it for some time. What happened? Not a single conference speaker mentioned it even once! What gives?

As I covered in a previous blog post, the Hastening theme was off to a good start, and growing in popularity. It was attributed to President Monson, though he never said it. The Hastening enjoyed increasing mentions at each consecutive General Conference, and got its own Worldwide Leadership Training Broadcast last year. 

Heck, it even got its own website.

But now? Nothing. It crashed even faster than it rose. 

Whatever's up with the Hastening, it's clear nobody at General Conference was interested in talking about it. Of course, I may be reading too much into this, and the Hastening may return in April with renewed vigor (depending, I suspect, on the statistical report.) Anyway, I just thought it was curious.

And Now I would Commend You to Seek this Jesus...

Speaking of curious, you may have also noticed something else: The emphasis on hastening the work was replaced, at least at this conference, by an emphasis on the prophet, and a big one at that.

What do I mean?

Well, look at the titles of the first three talks given at the Sunday morning session:
  • Continuing Revelation
  • Sustaining the Prophets
  • Live according to the Words of the Prophets
It's easy to see the theme develop. While the "Hastening" wasn't mentioned once in the entire conference, the word "prophet" was mentioned 79 times in the first three talks alone of the Sunday morning session; the word "president" was mentioned 55 times, and "church" was said 53 times.
And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. (Mosiah 3:17)
That name—Jesus Christ—the one by which salvation comes and in no other way—it was mentioned 12 times, and most of those in passing.

Here's how it looks visually, when the words of the first three talks are placed in a word cloud with size equaling emphasis on words (thanks to Bare Record of Truth.)
And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written...(Ether 12:41)
See how long it takes you to find "Jesus." Ready, seek:

But the "prophet" emphasis wasn't just in the frequency of mention. It was also in the words spoken about the prophet at conference. Here are a few examples:
My dear brethren, we are continually inspired by the personal example and priesthood service of President Thomas S. Monson. Recently, several deacons were asked, “What do you admire most about President Monson?” One deacon recalled how President Monson, as a child, gave his toys to needy friends. Another mentioned how President Monson cared for the many widows in his ward. A third noted that he was called as an Apostle at a very young age and has blessed people all around the world. Then one young man said, “The thing I admire most about President Monson is his strong testimony.”
—Elder Craig C. Christensen 
In that regard, I pay a personal tribute to President Thomas Spencer Monson. I have been blessed by an association with this man for 47 years now, and the image of him I will cherish until I die is of him flying home from then–economically devastated East Germany in his house slippers because he had given away not only his second suit and his extra shirts but the very shoes from off his feet. “How beautiful upon the mountains [and shuffling through an airline terminal] are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace.” More than any man I know, President Monson has “done all he could” for the widow and the fatherless, the poor and the oppressed.
—Elder Jeffrey R. Holland 
Keep the eyes of the mission on the leaders of the Church. … We will not and … cannot lead [you] astray. 
And as you teach your missionaries to focus their eyes on us, teach them to never follow those who think they know more about how to administer the affairs of the Church than … Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ do through the priesthood leaders who have the keys to preside.
—Elder M. Russell Ballard 
We do not need to see an angel to obtain understanding. We have the scriptures, the temple, living prophets, our patriarchal blessings, inspired leaders, and, above all, the right to receive personal revelation to guide our decisions.
—Elder Carlos A. Godoy
Our sustaining of prophets is a personal commitment that we will do our utmost to uphold their prophetic priorities. Our sustaining is an oath-like indication that we recognize their calling as a prophet to be legitimate and binding upon us. 
—Elder Russell M. Nelson 
From that I draw counsel for us all. Don’t take lightly the feeling you get of love for the prophet of God. Wherever I go in the Church, whoever the prophet is at the time, members will ask, “When you get back to Church headquarters, will you please tell the prophet how much we love him?”
That is far more than hero worship or the feelings we sometimes have of admiring heroic figures. It is a gift from God. With it you will receive more easily the gift of confirming revelation when he speaks in his office as the Lord’s prophet. The love you feel is the love the Lord has for whoever is His spokesman.
—President Henry B. Eyring 
I must say I agree with President Eyring. This is indeed far more than hero worship.

Testifying of Him

It's not at all uncommon for general conference speakers to testify of the Church President's prophetic calling—sometimes at length. It happens multiple times in every conference session, just like it happens in every ward fast and testimony meeting. In fact, the most remarkable situation would be the opposite: a regular conference speaker who never testifies of the prophet.

So I find it curious that President Boyd K. Packer (current president of the Quorum of the Twelve, and next in line to be Church President) despite speaking in every General Conference since President Monson was sustained in 2008, has never yet born testimony that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I've been able to find, in his 14 General Conference addresses, President Packer has never once directly called President Monson a prophet, even when speaking at length about him. And yet it's such a common refrain for other speakers.

Again, I'm not reading anything into this. I just find it odd.

What do you find odd?