Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Automotivism: Detours on the Drive to Heaven

And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. 
—2 Nephi 31:21

Before we can move on with the Name of Jesus Christ series, we need to get clear on something, which is best conveyed through allegory. Therefore I’ll liken the plan of salvation to the process of learning to drive a car.

Becoming a Driver

Before you can learn to drive, you must reach a certain age. The idea is that your cognitive ability, decision making, self-control, understanding and maturity must all reach a certain level before you can become a responsible driver. This growth process takes many years.

Next, you must be trained by those who already know how to drive. You will study in a classroom setting, becoming versed in the laws that govern driving. You will learn from the experiences of others and analyze the decisions made in various situations. And you will study a manual of laws and procedures that apply to driving.

But it’s not just about study. At some point you must receive not only knowledge, but also skill. You will need to practice in various settings, with increasing levels of autonomy and responsibility until you've mastered the nuances of driving in any situation that may arise. You won’t just need to know how to operate the car, but you must internalize the “big picture” of how the laws of driving, the laws of physics, the feel of the vehicle, the actions of other drivers, road and weather conditions, safety measures, and routes and obstacles all unify in the driving experience.

Ultimately, you must not merely learn about driving; rather you must become a driver yourself, mastering all that driving entails.

At a certain point, you will reach a level of mastery at which you are ready to be tested. You will be tested for your knowledge of the laws, mastery of the skills, and competence in various driving situations. During your testing, a qualified tester will observe you closely and give you direction. Having passed the tests, you will be awarded a license—which also serves as your new identity—and you will join the ranks of the drivers who have gone before you.

This process is important, of course, and proven to produce qualified drivers. It has been refined over many years, and improved by experience with many millions of drivers. Though some take longer than others to succeed, the process can be trusted to eventually produce the correct results.

Putting someone behind the wheel of a car without first requiring this process would only produce imitation drivers, with all the power of an automobile, but none of the knowledge and skills in place to make them safe. Such imitation drivers, with power but no knowledge, would be dangerous to themselves and others.

None of the above surprises any of us. It’s completely familiar and expected. We’re all comfortable with the process, and don’t even question it. Becoming a driver is a normal goal and nearly all achieve it.

But what if it weren’t so familiar? What if the whole idea of driving was perceived very differently?

The Religions of Automotivism

Imagine for a moment, a world in which people don’t drive, or even understand much about driving, though many claim to “believe” in it. What if driving were considered some imaginary, magical mode of transportation with various legends, myths, folk tales and fables surrounding it. What power! What magic! What a mystical experience it must be to move about with such speed, freedom and power!

Perhaps some would believe they might one day qualify to be passengers in a car, though they could never be drivers themselves.

Others may deny the existence of drivers or cars altogether.

Some might say that people used to drive in the old days, but nobody can drive today because those days are over, and anyone who claims to drive is a liar.

Others might teach that you already are a driver and that you’re already driving—if you just believe it sincerely enough. There’s no need to learn, study or practice, and certainly no need to become anything other than what you already are. (Try not to notice you’re still walking, not driving.)

Yet others might form a driving club and say they have the only true path to one day become a driver. They will require you to study road maps and gas prices, read fanciful stories about legendary drivers, and keep a variety of rules that aren't related to driving. They will seek to control all the following (as recently stated by one of the club leaders):
Where you go, where you don't go.
What you think, what you don't think. 

What you speak, what you don't speak. 

What you eat, what you drink, what you wear.
Further, you must attend all your club meetings, where you’ll learn approved lessons about driver-ish things like pumping gas and installing wiper blades. And you must pay your dues, and believe the club president is a driver, though you’ve never seen him drive. If you do these things faithfully, they say, you’ll one day become a driver yourself and have your own car—though most of what they teach has little to do with driving, and their rules are made up.

Their club president, they say, has keys you’ll need to start the car you’ll one day receive. Without his keys, nobody will ever drive—or that’s how the story goes. Then, oddly, they’ll insist that to learn to drive, you must stay in a boat and wear a life jacket while somebody else does the sailing.

Driven to Distraction

Suppose that in this imaginary world, all the various driving clubs and interest groups have different driver’s manuals from which they hope to learn something about driving. Though the manuals were written by those who have, indeed, become drivers, you might notice that some pages are missing and others are changed, with whole sections crossed out, and extra explanations written in the margins. And even then, few actually study the manuals or take them seriously at all, preferring instead to talk about how to better keep the club rules and recruit more club members.

Occasionally, though, someone might quote a sentence from the manual, just to lend some authority to what they say.

Eventually, you’ll find that many driving clubs become so busy with other pursuits, interests, and businesses that driving is almost never even mentioned.

Would such a society produce any actual drivers? No, quite the opposite. It would tend to prevent people from ever learning to drive or becoming drivers themselves.

In fact, if your goals are to attract loyalty, money, and power, you might use the idea of driving to obtain these things from others. You could sell them on the freedom, speed, and power of driving, while ensuring nobody would ever actually drive. They merely must believe in the idea, you see, and they can be controlled by means of fear, guilt, shame, or threats. You could become wealthy and powerful with such tools.

You Mean You’re Actually Supposed to Become a Driver?

And now we reach the point of the allegory.

There is a real, actual plan of salvation, and it involves gaining knowledge and ability, and eventually becoming something quite different than you are. Unfortunately, that plan has been ignored, distorted, altered and rejected to the point that what is taught bears little resemblance to anything that will save you.

This fact becomes readily apparent when you study scripture. Our understanding has become so distorted and superficial that we fail to comprehend what is written in God’s word. There are many, many examples but I’ll just use a single one to illustrate this point.

After Alma the younger was born again, he taught the following, which he received directly from the Lord:
And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. (Mosiah 27:25-26)
Let’s take a moment to digest this incredible statement. 

And the Lord said unto me: This is the word of the Lord—not merely Alma’s opinion. He is quoting God. Therefore, what follows is both true and vitally important. We gainsay it at our peril.

Marvel not: Don’t be surprised by what I’m about to say, though you may find it surprising. “Marvel” also means to wonder. Don’t wonder about what follows. It is definite, and I’m stating it as clearly as possible.

that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people: What follows applies to everyone. There are absolutely no exceptions. It applies to YOU.

must be born again; yea, born of God: A birth is a definite event, at which a separate existence begins, born of a mother’s womb. But this passage speaks of a new event that MUST happen in which one is born not of a mortal woman, but of God. One thus born becomes not merely the offspring of a mother, but the offspring of God. More on this in a moment.

changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness: All of us are born into this Telestial world in a carnal and fallen state, separated from God, sinful in our natures, and subject to death. This must change. Something fundamental must take place to rescue us from the fall and change our natures into what the Lord can pronounce “righteous.” We cannot change this ourselves, but rather must BE changed.

being redeemed of God: Note that this also refers to a new state of being. To be redeemed is to be returned to the literal, actual presence of God. This is the definition Jesus Christ gave to the brother of Jared on the mountain, as follows:
And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you. (Ether 3:13)
Christ, as the Redeemer, is the one qualified to define redemption. You are not redeemed until you are returned to God’s presence. The gospel is the path to redemption, or the road map back to God’s presence while in the flesh.

becoming his sons and daughters: As I mentioned above, to be born of God is to literally become His child—part of His family. Therefore, according to the Lord, you are NOT a child of God in the fullest sense, until this event takes place—regardless of what the Primary song says. This is a new identity for you, because it is something you “become.”

And thus they become new creatures: You literally become a new creation through this process. You have a new identity, a new relationship with God, a new nature, a new status, and a new family. This is between you and God—not between you and an organization. Only God can make you a new creature.

and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. There is no other way. If you do not participate in this process and event, if you do not BECOME what is described here, you CANNOT inherit the kingdom of God. What is an inheritance? That which is bequeathed to a son or daughter by a parent. What is the kingdom of God? That which is owned and governed by the King. Ultimately, it is His family members who will inherit what he offers.

Now, with that understanding, please bear with me as I try to put these same ideas in new language for purposes of discussion.

You were born into a dangerous, sinful state of separation from God, which will end in death and permanent separation. The only escape from this outcome requires following a path that leads to an event best termed a “second birth.” This second birth involves returning to the presence of God, being pronounced righteous, being formally accepted as His son or daughter, and therefore His heir, and becoming a member of His family in heaven. If you don’t do this, you will remain in the fallen, Telestial state of your first birth. You will be damned. 

But if you do follow this path, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, and return to the presence of God, you will be redeemed. This event is designed to happen during mortality. And there is no other way.

The plan of salvation, the Gospel, the good news, is that there is a path back. A way for our escape is prepared! But much like my driving allegory above, almost nobody believes it, or even knows anything about it. The world is filled with religions claiming to offer salvation on some other terms, while insisting the idea that we must literally speak with God, face to face, is heresy. Most of these religions are really about money, power, and control—universally using religion as the tool to achieve these ends.

So we’ve looked at just two verses from the Book of Mormon, examining the required results of effective religion. Having done so, here are some important questions to ask yourself:
  1. Were you surprised by any of what was taught in those two verses? Or were you already fully aware of all these things?
  2. Since you must be born again or be damned, how much does your religion focus on helping you become born again? Do they teach you what it means to be born again? Is it the primary focus of everything in your church?
  3. Do they teach you a definite path that leads to this event?
  4. Does being “born again” entail something more than merely accepting Christ as your personal Savior? 
  5. Does it entail something more than just getting baptized and receiving confirmation? Or another list of ordinances?
  6. How, exactly, do the required changes in your state of being come about?
  7. What else is required? Do you have a definite idea of exactly what you must do?
  8. Will keeping a list of rules lead you to this event? In other words will perfect home teaching, tithing, word of wisdom observance, meeting attendance, temple work, or any other rule keeping cause you to entertain angels or be caught up to meet Christ in the flesh?
  9. How many people do you know who have had this experience? Are there many in your church? Is it a common result of following your chosen religion? Is your driving club producing actual drivers? Do they teach from experience?
  10. How many religions and ministers will absolutely deny what is laid out in Jesus’s own words in these verses? Will yours? And will they ask for your money and obedience while they deny Christ’s own words?

I hope these questions were instructive. I hope they led you to see that what you’ve been told all your life is the “gospel” has almost nothing to do with the Gospel. I hope you realize we’re not here to talk about cars; we’re here to become drivers. There’s a definite, proven process to do this. There are specific skills and knowledge to gain. There must be growth and change. There are specific tests to pass. There is a new identity to receive. Power and freedom await at the end of the process.

And yet, even the most religious tend to deny that cars exist or that you can ever become a driver. Some religions will cast you out for even suggesting as much.

So here’s my point: The gospel likely isn’t what you think it is. It may not even be close. The plan of salvation isn’t circles on a chalkboard and a list of rules to keep. You cannot passively sit in a boat and expect others to sail it there. The Lord Himself has informed you of that in His own words above.

How desperately do you want to to escape from Hell? How relentlessly will you search for what He offers? How carefully will you consider His words? What price is too high to pay? At what point will you humble yourself as a little child—realizing your complete and utter ignorance when it comes to the things of God?

When will you start the ascent?

O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.
—2 Nephi 9:41


  1. 1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
    I love to study the scriptures and see what I am suppose to learn everyday. After reading your post early this morning I just now finished my morning scripture study. Can you believe my study lead me to 1 John 4:7 when I was reading Moses Ch. 7

    I keep telling my children .... He speaks to us and teaches us from our scriptures.

    But unless you are reading and studying them, asking for him to teach you, and allowing him to take the lead what good does it do? Why count the number of times you have read the Book of Mormon if you don't believe it and haven't learned what it is all about?

    How will you ever learn to drive yourself?
    Thanks for the great post today. I will share this with my children.

  2. Very recently I was teaching a group of teenagers in the LDS Church. I shared the following idea with the class: that if we are praying to Heavenly Father but only talking TO him, and not WITH Him, in other words, if we aren't having a give-and-take conversation with him like we would talk to another person here on earth, then what kind of relationship are we developing with Him? I asked them, Imagine if you haven't met your earthly father since you were born, and then one day you were suddenly introduced to him. You're 17 years old, let's say, and you're now standing in the same room with your father. Would the conversation be a bit awkward? The kids agreed it would be.

    Now imagine that your body dies, after a lifetime of having one-sided monologues in your prayers, just you talking to Him and not really listening to Him or having conversations with Him. Imagine how strange it would be when you see Him and try to initiate a dialogue with Him. He might say something like, "Hi there Suzy, nice to meet you. I've heard from you almost daily for many years, but did you hear from me? I tried to speak to you, but you weren't even listening to my still, small voice, and besides you seemed to be in a hurry to finish your prayer anyway. It's a shame. I was always there. I wanted to talk. I wanted to help you and give you direction, and answers, but you didn't listen. What do you know about me? Yes, I know tons about you, but what do you know about me, about my personality, about how much I cared about you, about how much I wanted to be a part of your life? How would you rate our relationship? Are we close, do we KNOW each other?"

    This was the gist of the scenario I described when one of the youth said the following with what I sensed was a hint of a rebuking tone in her voice at worst and at least a dash of a condescending attitude, "I've been taught that because we lived with God for eternity before we were born, and because this earth life is just a "blink of the eye" in eternity, that when we return to His presence, we will know Him just like before, and all will be like it was before."

    I was a bit horrified by the certainty in her voice, and the look of, "What are you talking about? I ALREADY know Heavenly Father, but I just don't remember, and returning to His presence will be quite natural. There's nothing to worry about."

    She continued, "It's like leaving home and going away to college for 4 years. When I return, I'll still know my father and mother. We'll still have our relationship like before." To which I ran with her analogy and asked, "So would you not call your father or mother on the phone, and check in with them from time to time, or would you choose to not call and wait till you returned home after graduation?" To this, she did reply that she'd call home to talk with her parents, so I was able to connect with her a little, but what I learned is that this particular LDS youth's brain is wired up to think that there is not even a need to develop a relationship by prayer with Heavenly Father, and that there is NO NEED to "know" Him in an intimate way now because, she believes, that once she returns to the other side of the veil that all will be like it was before.

    I wonder how widespread this notion is with Mormons? Comments?

    In conclusion, this real-life example I just shared is a perfect illustration of your driver analogy above, where religions today are totally missing the point of what redemption is. In Matthew 23:13, the Savior says, "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in."

    1. You make an incredible point. I'm blown away thinking about how the philosophy of this girl is one I had adopted for years myself. My entire family have adopted this same philosophy. There is no need to "know" God since we already know him.

      Thanks for the eye-opening comment. I believe this thinking is widespread in the LDS church membership, and I need to do some thinking about the implications of it, or any way around it.

  3. Replies
    1. From above, Adrian said, "You were born into a dangerous, sinful state of separation from God, which will end in death and permanent separation."

      From DC 76:

      109 But behold, and lo, we saw the glory and the inhabitants of the telestial world, that they were as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore;

      110 And heard the voice of the Lord saying: These all shall bow the knee, and every tongue shall confess to him who sits upon the throne forever and ever;

      111 For they shall be judged according to their works, and every man shall receive according to his own works, his own dominion, in the mansions which are prepared;

      112 And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end.

      113 This is the end of the vision which we saw, which we were commanded to write while we were yet in the Spirit.


      It appears here the Scripture clearly describes and defines "permanent separation" from God, "but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end."

  4. I this powerful and thought provoking lesson from Adrian and Underdog.. seriously...

    I think it is valid to bring up that it isn't about us knowing Him as much as it is about Him knowing us. Consider the scripture reference in Matthew 7 ..21 ¶Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

    22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

    23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    or here in Matthew 25: 11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.

    12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not

    For Him to 'know' us is for Him to be invited into our lives to take our sins and to be intimately involved and that means He takes up His abode with us... John 14. Joseph Smith taught it this way..The Second Comforter

    The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted.

    When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses.

    Note the 16, 17, 18, 21, 23 verses: [Quoted.]

    Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions--Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.

    The Spirit of Revelation

    The Spirit of Revelation is in connection with these blessings. A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.,) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.

    Sandra Harper

  5. “Priestcraft is toxic, not just to the listeners, but to the practitioners. If what you are preaching is greeted with wild enthusiasm and doesn’t get you shunned, then you are probably not saying anything that God would agree with.” (Denver Snuffer, Moab talk, p 15)

    Having grown up in the cult of the holy car club myself, as I’ve read and pondered this essay I’ve had a nagging sense of waking from a dream not unlike Neo in The Matrix. The grand challenge is not to become a perfect member of some club but to remove the obstacles we pose to God in his quest to claim us as his own. Your post fleshes out one of the most disturbing ideas I have ever run across, Adrian. Well done. This would have gotten you shunned, tarred and feathered had not some of the grand poobahs of the club already insisted on a junior functionary expelling you. Some poor drone working for the LDS Strengthening Church Members Committee is reading this, thinking, “It’s a pity we’ve already excommunicated this guy—he needs a good thumping.”

    Love and forgiveness for them all. The actual plan of the gospel is about loving and forgiving everyone, starting with the club’s self-important paper tigers. God will gladly claim them too, when and if they choose to actually learn to drive.

    1. "junior functionary" LOL!!! Good one Patty.

  6. The commandments of Jesus Christ are foolishness to men. This is because men know that it will lead to destitution.

    The ideas of men are foolishness to God. This is because God knows they will lead to destitution.

    It turns out part of becoming a driver in the next life is being a fool in this one.

  7. While on the fathers and sons campout this weekend I was reading in Mosiah 18 when Alma baptized Helam.

    A unique phrase popped out at me in verse 9.

    "Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—"

    It's seems from a simple reading that the covenant of baptism (fire included) leads to eternal life (see D&C 88:3-5).

    Yet when reading Elder Bednar's latest conference talk this evening with my wife he implies that the process of "baptism provides a necessary initial cleansing" (original emphasis his). And the. Goes on to explain its promised blessing.

    "The baptismal covenant includes three fundamental commitments: (1) to be willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, (2) to always remember Him, and (3) to keep His commandments. The promised blessing for honoring this covenant is “that [we] may always have his Spirit to be with [us].” Thus, baptism is the essential preparation to receive the authorized opportunity for the constant companionship of the third member of the Godhead."

    Sometimes we see that the LDS church will downplay the significance of baptism in order to highlight and aggrandize the importance of the temple covenants made there.

    The gospel truly is simple, yet over time the church has distorted it.

  8. Hi, just checking in. Good thoughts on living in truth and love. Being born again is a very vital and healthy growth pattern to nourish. So thankful to my dear Savior for the chance at daily even hourly renewal. I cherish my connection with my Father in heaven and with Christ. So thankful for simple sweet personal prayer. Thankful for my parents and their examples and teachings. We are blessed to have the Book of Mormon. Bless it and bless you and yours in your travels


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