Monday, December 24, 2018

Spring 2019 Conference Details Announced

Spring 2019 Conference – A Hope in Christ: The Temple

I'm looking forward to the Spring General Conference held on Passover/Easter weekend April 20th-21st in the Western Colorado/Grand Mesa area. The title is “A hope in Christ: the Temple.”

Highlights include speakers, music, worship, a passover meal, breakout sessions, and more. I'm pleased to see some new ideas and approaches being tried for the first time. The conference organizers have requested attendees RSVP so numbers can be planned. 

Please visit this link to learn more about the conference, and RSVP if you are attending:

Friday, December 21, 2018

Gaining Light

GREAT is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, the mountain of his holiness—beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, Mount Zion, the sides of the north, the city of the great King. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. 
—Psalms 48:1 OC

Tonight is the Winter Solstice, featuring the longest night and shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Starting tomorrow, light increases.

The return of light always reminds me of the restoration of the gospel—for several reasons, not the least of which is Joseph Smith’s birthday, coming in two days on the 23rd. This event often also includes a display of the Ursids Meteor Shower, and this year will be no exception.

The Ursids are so named because they appear close to the star Beta Ursae Minoris in Ursa Minor, also known as Kochab. In antiquity, this star was the northern pole star, near the center point about which the heavens rotate. Of course, due to the precession of the equinoxes, this is no longer the case, and the current pole star is Polaris.

Kochab (Kokob) is also the word the Lord used for “star” while explaining the heavens to Abraham, face to face. (See Abraham 5:3, NC) I have no proof, but I like to think the star to which the Lord pointed (his hand was stretched out) was the polar star, Kochab, at the center of the heavens. The Ursids, therefore, can be seen as flashes or streaks of light, coming from the center point, the “Sides of the North” (Isaiah 6:6, Psalms 48:1 OC), the “bosom of eternity,” or “midst of all things” where God dwells. (T&C 86:1) Light returns to the world.

This year’s Solstice also features the conjunction of Mercury and Jupiter, less than one degree apart in the sky. They approach each other as Mercury, mythical god of commerce and communication falls, and Jupiter, mythical sovereign god of sky and thunder, rises. Take from that what you will. On an unrelated note, the stock market blood bath continues.

Their conjunction occurs in the constellation Scorpius. In Greek mythology, the great scorpion was sent to kill the mighty hunter, Orion, who boasted he would kill every animal on earth. Orion died from the scorpion’s sting and was placed in the heavens as a reminder of the need to curb excessive pride. 

This year’s Solstice is unique in that it will occur during a full moon, which in this circumstance, was historically called a “cold moon” by Native Americans. As light withdraws from the world, and the love of men waxes cold, this solstice full moon serves as a stark reminder of our need for the light and warmth of God’s spirit. The moon, representing the Holy Mother, yet urges us forward, showing us light is yet available to those who will seek it, even on the longest, darkest night. 

One month from today, instead of a cold moon, we will see a blood moon, during the total lunar eclipse on January 21, 2019. This will be a “supermoon” blood moon as the moon will be at its orbital perigee, its closest point to earth, and will therefore appear exceptionally large. Cold moon followed by blood moon. Light yet remains, but ominous signs continue.

In the coming dark days and years, each of us must be filled with the warmth and light of God’s spirit if we hope to overcome the increasing wickedness, instability, antagonism, violence and destruction that will come. Ultimately, we each, individually, control the amount of light we have, and therefore, the amount of protection we receive in coming dark days. The opportunity has never been greater, nor the light more plentiful since Joseph and Hyrum were killed. We can choose to obtain oil for our lamps now, while the opportunity yet remains, or we will find ourselves shut out of the wedding feast, mourning in the darkness. Don’t come unprepared to “that long night of darkness, wherein there can be no labor performed.” (Alma 16:37 NC)

And the light which now shines, which gives you light, is through him who enlightens your eyes, which is the same light that quickens your understandings, which light proceeds forth from the presence of God, to fill the immensity of space: the light which is in all things, which gives life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God, who sits upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.
—T&C 86:1

During the daylight a man can see to walk and does not stumble and fall because the daylight informs him. But at night, without the light, a man stumbles because of the darkness surrounding him.
—Testimony of Saint John 8:2

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Leather Bound Scriptures Survey

There's a survey up at the Scriptures Project Blog regarding leather-bound scriptures. If you have any interest in a leather-bound, thin-paper set, please click over and give your input.

Leather-bound scriptures survey

Sunday, December 9, 2018

You Might Be Listening to a Deceiver if...

Examine me, O Lord, and prove me. Try my reins and my heart, for your loving kindness is before my eyes and I have walked in your truth. I have not sat with vain people, neither will I go in with deceivers.
—Psalms 26:1, OC

A good friend brought me a bottle of wine from a 5th-generation winery, located in Nauvoo, Illinois. I opened that bottle for sacrament today. Now, I’m no wine expert, nor am I particularly a wine lover, but I do know enough about wine that I can tell good from bad. And I can unequivocally say this wine was the worst I have ever tasted. It smelled like a mixture of cleaning products and petroleum lubricant. It tasted even worse than it smelled, with a distinct acetone nose and kerosene finish. A few other brave souls at the sacrament meeting tasted it, made faces, and agreed it was ghastly. It was so much worse than other wine that some were concerned it might even be dangerous to drink. 

I poured the rest of the bottle down the sink and hoped it didn’t destroy the plumbing. We ended up using different wine for the sacrament.

Afterwards, we had a group discussion on the Savior’s warning about false Christs and false prophets. “By their fruits ye shall know them,” said our Lord, teaching us to expect and discern deceivers. Only at the end of the discussion did the irony of the wine hit me. The worst fruits I’ve ever encountered, at least in wine, descended from Nauvoo through five generations. By their fruits indeed…

Here We Go Again

Though I’ve written about this many times before, current events have convinced me a timely reminder is in order, regarding false prophets, false Christs and deceiving teachers. Because I’ve already written about this topic, I’ll keep this kind of short and direct. Fuller discussions can be found in the following, previous posts: 

I also highly recommend these posts from Denver Snuffer:

Now, for some general reminders. Let’s start with Christ’s words:
For in those days there shall also arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch, that if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant. (Mark 6:4 NC)
From our Lord’s statements, we know the following with absolute surety:
  1. There ARE false Christs and false prophets in our day. If you can’t identify them you will most certainly be deceived by them.
  2. They show great signs and wonders, and thereby deceive, if possible, the elect according to the covenant. 
  3. Therefore, if you’ve accepted the covenant, you will be targeted. You should expect it. (I’m aware of those who actually do, specifically, seek out those who have accepted the covenant—and then seek to lead them away, down other paths. I believe this directly fulfills Christ’s prophecy.)
  4. The Lord taught us to know the deceivers by their fruits. (Matthew 3:46 NC) This means we both CAN and MUST discern truth from error. We must judge in the Light of Christ (Moroni 7:3 NC) We should rely on scripture as a standard to measure all gospel truth. (Jacob 5:8 NC, Alma 10:5 NC)
Now, with those things in mind, here are a few reminders about judging the fruits of those who claim to speak for God. In the style of Jeff Foxworthy, we’ll go with, “You might be listening to a deceiver if…”

You might be listening to a deceiver if…
They convince you to listen to them by telling you that you’re special, chosen, more spiritually in tune than others, more intelligent, better prepared, or any other flattery that makes you worthy of their message when others aren’t.
You might be listening to a deceiver if…
Their message then gratifies your pride and convinces you they were correct about you.
You might be listening to a deceiver if…
They preach in secret, perhaps in the middle of the night, rather than declaring their message  openly and publicly as true prophets generally do.
You might be listening to a deceiver if…
They produce signs and wonders based on feelings and emotions, then tell you these are proof they are telling the truth. Even powerful feelings are NOT necessarily a sign of truth. Remember, the Devil has power to produce signs to deceive you. 
You might be listening to a deceiver if…
Their message is based more on their private revelations, spiritual experiences, and ideas than on scripture. If their claims of secret “higher” knowledge or power cannot be tested by scripture, or if they teach a body of knowledge that is outside scripture, beware.
And whoever treasures up my word shall not be deceived. (Mark 6:8 NC)
You might be listening to a deceiver if…
They are quick to share detailed and intimate descriptions of the content of their visions, revelations, or visitations.
You might be listening to a deceiver if…
What they offer merely imitates what has already been offered by true prophets. This includes ordinances, covenants, and ordinations. Lucifer is capable and effective at imitating truth. 
You might be listening to a deceiver if…
Their message allows them to make claims about themselves or their importance, or to accumulate gratification, money, power, control, followers, or any other lust common to the natural man. 
You might be listening to a deceiver if…
They claim true prophets who came before were merely preparing the way for the allegedly greater ministry of the new claimant (who has yet to accomplish anything close to prior, true prophets.) Likewise, if they claim a true messenger of God secretly vouches for them, approves of their ministry, or works with them behind the scenes, but the true messenger will not admit as much publicly, beware. Remember, John the Baptist (who was a true messenger) vouched for, testified of, and pointed his followers to, the greater prophet, Christ, and he did it publicly. 
You might be listening to a deceiver if…
Their claims of power, authority, or knowledge are based only on visitation with beings beyond the veil or knowledge from a supernatural oracle to which they are privy. Remember, Sherem acknowledged being misled by the Devil, who also appeared to, and deceived Korihor. Lucifer came to Moses, claiming to be Christ, but Moses was not deceived. Scripture is the reliable source. Angels and spiritual gifts are ALL subject to corruption and deception.
You might be listening to a deceiver if…
They claim they can offer you another, special, covenant from Christ. (There is only one valid covenant active on earth right now. All else is imitation and deception.)
You might be listening to a deceiver if…
They claim they can give you in one night what generally takes years of devotion, sacrifice, and growth to obtain from God. 
You might be listening to a deceiver if…
Rather than bringing you to repentance and humility, their message convinces you that you’ve arrived, are worthy, or will definitely receive God’s favor.
You might be listening to a deceiver if…
They encourage you to accept the teachings of other, known deceivers. 
And finally, you might be listening to a deceiver if…
They have no fruit of their own to show. Anyone can go about making claims and preaching whatever they want. But very few have made the kind of consistent effort and sacrifice that produces fruit. 
As Examples: 

Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon, inspired corrections to the Bible, hundreds of written revelations, the Book of Abraham, the Lectures on Faith, and 14 years of teaching, preaching, living what he taught, and sacrificing for it. He ultimately sacrificed his life for it.

Likewise, Denver Snuffer has written a dozen books constituting millions of words, well over a thousand blog posts primarily expounding scripture, dozens of public addresses, talks and speeches, numerous lengthy papers with hundreds of footnotes, new revelations, new scripture, and the restoration of a legitimate covenant from Jesus Christ. The movement among those who believe what he has taught has subsequently produced the most correct and complete set of scriptures available on earth, as well as extensive other initiatives and efforts to remember and continue the restoration of the gospel.

Have the other deceivers, who claim to have knowledge and power superior to Joseph Smith or Denver Snuffer, actually done anything even close? Where are their fruits? What have they produced or accomplished, other than making self-aggrandizing claims while circling the flock and picking off unwary sheep? How ironic is it that they rely on the fellowship locator and conferences of this movement to find their targets, rather than inspiring a movement of their own? 

Ultimately, each of us must judge for ourselves. Truth cannot contradict itself, so when contradiction comes, we must make a choice. The gullible and foolish will be enticed away from the rod of iron into forbidden paths, which is unfortunate, but also necessary. Zion cannot be built by people who lack discernment or a “firm mind in every form of godliness.” I can write and try to persuade, as can others, but in the end, the fearsome responsibility of discernment rests individually upon each of us. Eternity hangs in the balance. Be not deceived.

Hearken, O you elders of my church, and give ear to the voice of the Living God, and attend to the words of Wisdom which shall be given unto you, according as you have asked and are agreed, as touching the church, and the spirits which have gone abroad in the earth. Behold, verily I say unto you that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth deceiving the world, and also Satan has sought to deceive you that he might overthrow you.
—T&C 36:1

Monday, December 3, 2018

How Long? Part 4: Envyings

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
—Galatians 1:22, NC

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

I’ll begin with a short story I wrote about a year ago (with apologies to Denver Snuffer, from whom I borrowed the idea):

One Monday morning in the spring, as Cooper Pratum was praying, he asked the Lord what he should do that day. In response, he had the urge to get up and walk outside. He walked out into a beautiful, sunny morning. Flowers bloomed, birds sang, and the grass looked particularly green and lush. 

The grass. It drew his attention, because it needed mowing, and he suddenly realized with surety, he should mow it. “How odd,” he thought. “The Lord sent me out here to mow?” 

Odd or not, he found the mower and got started. When he finished, he noticed his neighbor’s lawn was also looking long, so he went ahead and mowed that one, as well. Then he saw the house next to that, with an overgrown lawn as well. And another, and another. Before he knew it, Cooper had mowed all the lawns on his street. 

People began to take notice, and some graciously thanked him for his labor. He appreciated their gratitude, but also felt an increasing conviction he wasn’t mowing for them. He was mowing for the Lord, who asked him to mow.

The next day, he picked up where he left off, and mowed lawns all day. Then, since he was on a roll, he continued for the rest of the week. And the next. And as it turned out, he had a knack for mowing; he didn’t merely make the grass shorter, but he made it beautiful as well, contributing greatly to the overall beauty of the community.

As Cooper mowed his way through the town, his notoriety spread, and people began to take notice of his efforts, and particularly his ability to make the lawns look exceptionally good. As usual, some appreciated his labor, while others simply considered him odd, but harmless. But not content to let him mow in peace, some began to complain about his work, even hurling insults. 

“Strongman!” one yelled. “Who put you in charge of mowing lawns? Who do you think you are? You can’t just get on a lawnmower and start working, and expect us to simply accept it!”

“Look at him up on that lawnmower!” said another. “He thinks he’s so important. He just wants to be noticed (projecting exactly what was in the complainer’s heart.) We can never live in peace with the likes of him in our town!”

A third insisted, “This just proves there’s a group of elites who run this town and force the rest of us to live under their rule! There will always be a hierarchy.”

And a fourth added, rather ridiculously, “This abridges my agency. Why, it’s just like the town I used to live in, where they mowed grass as well. This is just mowing, 2.0! I thought I left this behind when I came here! How dare he take away my agency by mowing lawns!”

Then, a man who felt unimportant because Cooper was getting the town’s attention said, “I don’t have a lawnmower and I’ve never mowed a lawn in my life, so this is inherently unequal! I demand access to Cooper’s lawnmower so I can mow lawns like him! How can we be equal if I can’t mow lawns?”

Others complained that Cooper was wasting resources cutting grass when he should be helping the poor instead (though those who so complained did nothing extraordinary for the poor themselves, because they didn’t truly care for the poor. They only cared to attack Cooper.)

Soon, a group organized to take action against Cooper. 

“We didn’t vote to let him mow lawns! We didn’t even vote on whether the grass needed to be cut! We need to form a legislative body and send representatives to make these sorts of decisions and legislate grass cutting in this town. It’s the only way to have order!”

Another editorialized in the local paper: “We need to put in place a system whereby we can choose who cuts the grass, how it gets cut, when it gets cut, and the pattern that must be followed. We must have input from everyone before we can all truly agree! We need a large, complicated system for gathering lawn mowing opinions, discussing the issues, breaking ties, and making decisions. This will ensure we all agree on horticultural practices, and nobody gets their feelings trampled ever again by the likes of Cooper Pratum.”

Someone started a petition in favor of long grass. Others hadn’t even noticed the grass was long, because they liked things shabby and unkempt. Some placed “No trespassing” signs to keep Cooper away. 

A group formed a competing lawn mowing operation, in hopes of capturing the popularity they thought Cooper enjoyed. But they didnt seem to have Cooper’s gift for trimming, and their results simply weren’t as good, which only made them resent Cooper all the more.

The local Rabbi weighed in: “Wrong pattern! Wrong equipment! The Toro says you have to mow by hand. Using a machine offends God! And besides, you need to wear a hat.”

And so it went, day after day.

Cooper endured their insults in sadness as people mischaracterized his heart, impugned his motives, and complained about receiving the gift he freely gave. He wondered why they treated him this way. He wondered if he was crazy, or if the Lord really had asked him to perform this labor. He wondered if there might be a different town where he could simply mow in peace. 

He didn’t want their notice; he didn’t want their attention; he didn’t even particularly want their gratitude. He simply wanted to serve in the way he was good at: by making lawns look lovely. He wished he could do it quietly and anonymously, but that’s not how lawnmowers work. So, with a heavy heart, he continued to mow, even against opposition and attacks… 


The saints in Joseph’s day faced the very opportunity we now face. A servant, sent by Christ, offered them a legitimate covenant, a functional temple, and the opportunity to become Zion. As we know, they ultimately failed to receive what was offered, leaving us a legacy and a lesson. We are well served to learn from their errors, and recognize to our horror, we are no better than they were, and perhaps worse in significant ways.

As you no doubt recall, after the Saints’ expulsion from Jackson County, the Lord explained why He had suffered such terrible afflictions to come upon them:
Behold, I say unto you, There were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them, therefore, by these things they polluted their inheritances. They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God, therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble. In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel, but in the day of their trouble, of necessity, they feel after me. (T&C 101:2)
Along with being “slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God,” which brings to mind the verbs “hinder” and “delay,” they also suffered from a number of related faults, enumerated as “jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires.” These vices all spring from the universal human condition of pride, and represent its manifestations in different forms.


“Envyings” is a curious word, rarely used outside scripture. Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines its root, “envy,” as follows:
Envy (verb transitive): To feel uneasiness, mortification or discontent, at the sight of superior excellence, reputation or happiness enjoyed by another; to repine at another's prosperity; to fret or grieve one's self at the real or supposed superiority of another, and to hate him on that account.
The sin of envy is unique in that it can only exist by comparison—meaning you cannot envy if you cannot compare yourself to another. Further, though you blame the one to whom you compare yourself, it is, in fact, you who commits the sin. The one you envy is innocent, and you are guilty, though in your mind it is exactly the opposite. You are the innocent victim, and the one you envy is the perpetrator of evil upon you. What a clever deception of the adversary of our souls!
Wrath is cruel, and anger is overwhelming; but who is able to stand before envy? (Proverbs 4:51)
Like the adversary, the one who envies becomes Satan, acting as the accuser, opponent, and adversary to those he envies. (T&C 157:8)

Driven by lustful and covetous desires, envy contributes to the other sins listed by the Lord, including jarrings, contentions, and strifes. In fact, if you search the scriptures, you’ll find envying is almost never mentioned without its twin sin, strife.
Strife (noun): Exertion or contention for superiority; contest of emulation, either by intellectual or physical efforts. (Webster, 1828)
The hallmark of strife is a contest or contention; the desire to win, to be vindicated, to be right, to press your point of view and conquer all others—blaming, of course, your adversary for the contest, though it is really your own envy that drives the strife.

Envy is therefore toxic to Zion, because it is her antithesis. While Zion requires unity, envy and strife divide. The “us” becomes “us vs. them,” always with an enemy who is in the wrong, the wicked Goliath pitted against you, the righteous David, the innocent victim. But surely God is on your side, and if you sling enough stones, you’ll eventually triumph, won’t you?

Victimhood and Power

Envy, of course, implies victimhood. It’s easy to claim you are the victim of those you envy, while simultaneously claiming to be powerless against them, because you feel inferior to them. In another paradoxical turn of events, playing the victim card may actually end up giving you power over those you claim are victimizing you, because they actually do care about your claims of mistreatment, so they attempt to bend to your wishes, and satisfy your complaints.

This is another great irony. If your “superiors” were actually such awful people, they wouldn’t give a lick about your feelings or your victimhood, and there would be no point in complaining. On the other hand, if they cater to the feelings and needs of their alleged victims, this demonstrates they aren’t so terrible after all, which destroys the whole narrative you’ve constructed, leaving you in a tough position: You have to admit you were wrong about them, or you have to double down on your dissatisfaction to keep the narrative alive and continue to be right. Guess which tends to happen?

And thus, we have perpetual complaints, classes and divisions, but never Zion. Envy protects its own existence above all else.

“By these things, they polluted their inheritances.”

Among Us?

As a people, we suffer from crippling envy, as well as the flotsam of sins that travel in its wake. Here are some examples I’ve noticed over the past couple of years. Hopefully, these examples are all in our past, and we (myself included) have learned to do better. I hesitate to even point these out, and I only do so with full recognition of my own sins and weakness, in hopes these examples will be instructive toward a better way. Please consider these items carefully, and if they offend you, ponder why that is.

  • Some who labor, sacrifice, and serve are falsely accused of lusting for power, notoriety, or importance—by those who actually lust after these things and project their lusts in the form of envy. The Lord knows this, and warned us, “Nor is it enough to say you love your fellow man while you, as Satan, divide, contend and dispute against any person who labors on an errand seeking to do my will.”
  • Accusations fly against those labeled as “elite” who “secretly control” the movement as part of some alleged “inner circle.” Oddly, anyone who actually steps up, labors, sacrifices, and accomplishes anything to help the movement, gets automatically thrown in and accused with the “elite” movers and shakers. Thus, actually doing the Lord’s work with alacrity gets condemned as a sin, while passiveness and being “slow to hearken” are preached as virtues.
  • Those who have been sent by God with a mission to teach are labeled as “big” voices and accused of thinking themselves important, when the true situation may well be exactly the opposite. Enoch was such a man, tasked with a very uncomfortable responsibility, who suffered anguish over the attention brought by his assignment. He neither wanted nor sought notice or attention, but was rather thrust into it by God’s calling to him. “And [not surprisingly] all men were offended because of him.” (Genesis 4:4 OC)
  • Some who claim to have no voice, no influence, and no power in this movement (they are victims, after all) actually exercise great influence and power over others by their claims. It seems nobody wants to be accused of trampling the little guy, so others go to great lengths to patiently accommodate those who complain. Of course, this removes the basis of the complaints, requiring complainers to double down. Who actually has the power and the voice in such a situation?
  • Some, who do not adequately study or inform themselves, complain when events take place of which they were not aware. Likewise, some complain when meetings happen without their involvement, or even their awareness. The accusation is that others “operate in secret” and leave the “little people” out, as if their permission and involvement are required for others to act, or even meet together.
  • The poor who do not get their needs met by their own fellowships rail against the perceived “wealthy” in other fellowships who aren’t doing enough for them, regardless of the true situation or their ignorance of it. They also accuse “the wealthy” of wasting money on conferences, the temple, or other endeavors, when they have no idea what people have been asked by the Lord to accomplish, nor of the sacrifices made by such people in His service.
  • Those who step up, organize, sacrifice, labor, and serve have been accused of exercising control and unrighteous dominion, while “trampling the agency” of those being served, simply because those being served would have organized things differently, had they actually stepped up to do something. Sadly, this attitude demonstrates a very poor understanding of agency, but this is a topic for a different blog post. 

Well, none of these are pleasant, and perhaps some of them sting. I truly dislike even bringing them up, but frankly, time is short, the opportunity we’re squandering is immense, and the time for idle pleasantries has passed. We MUST take a good, hard look at ourselves and eradicate our envy before it’s too late.

I also fully realize there are counter arguments that have been, and will be, advanced to justify every situation I’ve highlighted. Some of these counter arguments are long, loud, and well worded. But since the very nature of envy is, like a computer virus, to disguise and perpetuate itself, is it worth considering that the true root of the continuing arguments may be envy? (And if you claim you are immune to envy, that is the surest sign it has taken over your thoughts and emotions.) ALL of us are susceptible and in peril every hour from this pernicious evil.

The Solution

Recognizing envy in ourselves may be difficult, but the solution is simple; it is repentance. And by that, I mean “repent” in the sense of “turn away from.” This was exactly the prescription given to us specifically, by Mormon:
Turn, all ye gentiles, from your wicked ways, and repent of your evil doings—of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations—and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins and be filled with the holy ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel. (3 Nephi 14:1 NC)
Interestingly, this is the VERY SAME language used by the Lord in the Covenant:
All you who have turned from your wicked ways and repented of your evil doings, of lying and deceiving, and of all whoredoms, and of secret abominations, idolatries, murders, priestcrafts, envying, and strife, and from all wickedness and abominations, and have come unto me, and been baptized in my name, and have received a remission of your sins, and received the Holy Ghost, are now numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel. (T&C 158:10)
If those who have turned from these things and received what is offered are now numbered with His people who are the house of Israel, it follows that any who have NOT turned from these things can claim no such blessing. Sobering indeed.

Envy requires comparison. Perhaps an important way to turn from envy is by refusing to compare. We ought to be grateful for what the Lord has allotted us (Alma 15:12 RE), and likewise rejoice in the gifts He has given others. The Lord cheers on every runner in this race of life, while we who run are tempted to view other runners as our competition. Only by focusing on the Lord who waits at the finish line, can we shift our attention away from everyone else.
Wherefore, seeing we are also encompassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which does so easily beset, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus (the author and finisher of faith) who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds. (Hebrews 1:51 NC)
We all hail from a competitive, striving, comparative culture. Contests are our livelihoods, entertainment, recreation, and worldview. It seems envy is part of our very nature—a nature which must be put off and made holy. Such change is not easy, but is possible through Christ. We must defeat the scourge of envy in our own hearts if we would claim to be His.

As the weeks went by, Cooper Pratum followed the long grass and mowed inexorably toward the center of town. One day he mowed right to the center of the town, where he came to the Lord’s house. (They called it the Lord’s house, anyway, because it had been built for the Lord. But nobody had ever actually seen Him there.)

Cooper thought he might as well mow this lawn too, comforted by the hope that the at least the homeowner wouldn’t abuse him. As this thought of simple mercy took hold after so much sacrifice and adversity, he stood by his lawnmower and wept at the bitterness of what he had endured, grateful that this might be the only place in town where he wouldn’t be mistreated. He wept and prayed to the only one who would understand, not for himself, but in behalf of those who had mistreated him. He asked the Lord to forgive them. 

After a few minutes, Cooper wiped his eyes, started his lawnmower, and prepared to mow the Lord’s lawn, when, very much to Cooper’s surprise, the front door of the house opened, and the Lord walked out. He walked right up to Cooper and embraced him, then took him by the hands. As realization swept over Cooper, he was utterly overcome with embarrassment at his sweaty, filthy mowing clothes, his grass odor, and most of all, his own inadequacy, which caused him to fall to his knees with his face toward the ground. But the Lord stood him back up, looked at him earnestly, and thanked him for mowing His lawn. 

“But I haven’t even mowed your lawn yet…” stammered Cooper, still looking down. 

“They were all my lawns,” said the Lord. “If you did it unto the least of these, you did it unto me.”

“The people don’t see it that way,” said Cooper, at last able to look his Lord in the face. They mostly hate and reject me. They say I have no right to mow lawns at all.”

“Yes, but they also claim they built this city as a place for me to dwell, and I like order and beauty. I saw the lawns needed to be mowed, and I saw that your heart was willing. It was me that spoke to your heart and asked you to mow. I knew you would be abused for your service, because I was abused for mine. But I also knew that through this struggle, you would come to know me.” 

“I would come to know you by mowing lawns?” Cooper uttered in confusion.

The Lord replied kindly. “It was never about the lawns. It was about redeeming you, Cooper. I knew that as you mowed across the town, you would eventually come to my house, and you would arrive with a broken heart. Mowing lawns brought you to me, and so the grass has served its purpose. Well done, my good and faithful servant! You are now my friend; come into my house and rejoice with me.”

And Cooper Pratum rejoiced, content to be the Lord’s gardener and friend.

Who is a wise man, and endowed with knowledge among you? Let him show out of good conduct his works with meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish; for where envying and strife are, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. 
—Epistle of Jacob 1:14 NC

Monday, November 5, 2018

Getting Things Done

As I have said before, I say again, Love one another, labor willingly alongside each other. Learn what you ought, and when I ask you to labor, do so wisely even if you know not beforehand what you will find. I do not ask what you cannot do. Trust my words and proceed always in faith, believing that with me all things are possible. 
—Revelation in response to Statement of Principles

In the wake of the Statement of Principles adoption and the Lord’s acceptance and explanatory parable, many people have understandable concerns about how the covenant body should go about getting things done in the future. Some envision future group assignments or projects, and contemplate various mechanisms for coming to agreement and accomplishing them. As I’ve pondered such future possibilities, I’ve come up with a few thoughts I’d like to share.

First, it’s important to consider the issues in the guide and standard effort that complicated its completion. The Lord  consistently identified the problem as our hearts, both in the Answer to Prayer for Covenant, and in the Parable of the Master’s House.

In the Answer, the Lord said the following:
As a people you honor with your lips, but your hearts are corrupt, filled with envy and malice, returning evil for good, sparing none — even those with pure hearts among you — from your unjustified accusations and unkind backbiting.
But remember that without the fruit of repentance, and a broken heart and a contrite spirit, you cannot keep my covenant; for I, your Lord, am meek and lowly of heart. Be like me.
Do not murmur saying, Too much has been required at our hands in too short a time. If your hearts were right it was a light thing I have asked. You hinder and delay and then you say I require too much of you and do not allow you time, when, if your hearts were right and you prepared yourselves, you could have finished this work long ago. Do you indeed desire to be my people? Then accept and do as I have required.
Notice how many times the Lord addresses the state of our hearts. Likewise, in His analysis of the early Saints’ failure in Missouri, our Lord speaks of matters of the heart:
Behold, I say unto you, There were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them, therefore, by these things they polluted their inheritances. (T&C 101:2)
Jarrings, contentions, envyings, strifes, lust, covetous desires…all these dwell in the heart of mankind, and they all prevent Zion. It’s always about the heart.

With that in mind, let’s consider the Parable of the Master’s House. Remember, three groups with three different approaches initially set out to obey the Master’s command.
  • The wood cutters quickly found their plan unworkable, gave up, and supported what they viewed as the next best option.
  • The stone haulers labored and struggled under ponderous loads in a work based on their assumptions, rather than the Master’s plans.
  • The brick group strictly obeyed the Master’s commands, neither adding to, nor taking away from what the Master had asked. When they arrived at the Master’s chosen spot and found no way to build a house, they didn’t immediately give up, but instead pondered the place and the command. They gained insight by doing so, and exercised faith by trusting their Master.
But even among this third group who had strictly kept the Master’s command, and who had exercised faith and received further light and knowledge, the solution did not readily appear. Only some of them had the idea to clear an area of brush and grass, and acted on this idea. By so doing, they discovered the Master’s plans and the clay at hand to use in making bricks.

What I take from this is that, even among the faithful whose eyes are open, in any given assignment, not all will immediately understand what must be done. The fact that it was only some, implying a rather small group, speaks volumes.

Now, consider this application to our current, and future, situation:

Everything I can think of that has been accomplished thus far in this movement, has started with a single person or small group directed by the Lord. Whether the task was to establish an archive, call a conference, build a website, start a podcast, recover more accurate scriptures, write a statement of principles, or even give the 10 talks themselves, in every case, the effort and action were undertaken by a single individual, or at most, a small group, consisting of those inspired and directed by the Lord. (And these are just a few examples of many other valuable works in this movement I could cite.)

From a practical standpoint, this makes a great deal of sense. Most things are accomplished by individuals or small groups for a simple reason: As the size of any group grows, the interpersonal complications multiply exponentially. Working through issues and coming to agreement in a small group is far more possible than attempting to do the same in a group of hundreds, particularly if every voice must give vent to every thought and opinion they may have.

Bad Solution 1: The World’s Way

The world deals with the group-size problem by making people unequal—that is, appointing hierarchies of leaders who make the decisions for the group, and more or less forcing the rest of the group, or organization, to submit. We do it in business, in education, in government, in religion; we establish hierarchies to govern larger groups. In the end, all worldly progress comes as a result of decisions and actions of very few, who rule or govern the masses.

But such cannot be the case in Zion.

Bad Solution 2: Everyone’s In Charge

Among us, it’s been proposed that in any group undertaking, the entire group of hundreds must all be heard, all have a voice, all value every opinion equally, and all somehow come to agreement on any action before it is taken, so the entire group can act unitedly. This is the only way to preserve equality, as the argument goes. But it is a practical impossibility to do such a thing in our current state, as we demonstrated by multiple efforts to do exactly that in the G&S effort. Attempts to make decisions or act as a united group of hundreds, without any leader or hierarchy to direct the group, fall flat when hearts are not right. Hence the worldly tendency to establish mechanisms and governments to make the decisions and take the responsibility.

I believe this is precisely why the Lord forbade his servant David from participating. We would have all expected him to tell us what to do, and had he done so, we would have complied. By eliminating a leader, the Lord forced us to confront the deficiencies in our own hearts, that could only be manifest when we had to act without a hierarchy.

Additionally, we should remember everybody has different gifts and abilities. Some are more qualified than others to accomplish certain tasks, and putting everyone in charge of everything simply means those who are most insistent will end up in control, though they may be utterly unqualified. Aren’t we better served to let those with the appropriate gifts and abilities exercise them on behalf of the group?

So what’s the solution?

Well, first, we have to define the actual problem.

Each of the fruitful efforts I listed when we started this discussion (like the temple fund, scriptures project, conferences, and more) have encountered opposition from those in the greater covenant body who see things differently. Likewise, each effort has enjoyed support from many quarters. In the end, worthy efforts have accomplished much good, even prepared the way for new revelations, the covenant, and the coming temple, all because individuals or small groups acted, often against opposition, criticism and even accusations from parts of the larger group. Ask the scripture committee, the temple fund representatives, conference organizers, or practically any other group that has acted to accomplish something good, how much opposition they had to deal with from fellow believers. I know first hand how this goes; the unfounded accusations are destructive and heart wrenching.

The Lord made several statements regarding this very issue in the Answer, but I’ll quote just one of them here:
Nor is it enough to say you love your fellow man while you, as Satan, divide, contend and dispute against any person who labors on an errand seeking to do my will.
So…this brings us to the heart of the matter, and a third way to accomplish things as a united group. Let’s turn back to the Parable of the Master’s House.

Recall that in the parable, the small group who discovered the way forward, had no trouble convincing their fellow laborers to join them (referring to the fellow laborers who were waiting and pondering at the place the Master had chosen.) But when they attempted to convince the stone haulers, who had different ideas, things didn’t go so well. Some were willing to support the brick effort, while others demanded that ALL labor stop (not just their own), so they could go complain to the Master. Some wanted to argue and dispute, while refusing to abandon their misguided stone-hauling effort, and wasted much time and effort in argument.

As you recall, after all the disputations, more lent their support to the construction project already underway, but in the end, some were never persuaded, and they completely missed the opportunity to labor on the Master’s house. Though their efforts were eventually salvaged for a lesser purpose, the exercise served to hopefully soften their hearts to prepare them for the future. The house reached completion, and their opportunity ended with them still opposed to any approach but their own failed effort.

The upshot of all this is quite practical.

First, the problem wasn’t that the people in the parable lacked a mechanism by which they could make and enforce group decisions. It’s not about a mechanism at all. A government, hierarchy or ruler was not the solution. Nor was it practical for all to gather and discuss, contemplate and contend until they at last all came to agreement before ever starting on the labor. When hundreds of people insist on being in charge, nothing gets accomplished. (This is, in effect, substituting a single ruler for many rulers.) The rest of the parable demonstrates there were some who would never be persuaded, regardless of what mechanism was tried, or how many joined the effort, even as the house reached completion.

No, in reality, the problem was hard hearts, as I discussed above. This is, of course, what the Lord told us all along, despite our unwillingness to believe Him. The three groups in the parable all tried their own ideas, but in the end, it was a small group, a subset of the whole, who found the solution. This seems to always be the case. The Lord inspires an individual or a small group to begin a labor, and the rest of the body is free to support or oppose.

In the parable, once the small group had found the solution and begun to build the house, all others were invited to support the effort, but also free to respond as they saw fit. Some readily joined and supported, some argued and opposed, and some refused to ever be persuaded. I believe there’s a great lesson there regarding our hearts.

The notion of coming to agreement requires that there’s something with which to agree. Had the three groups spent days, weeks, or months hashing out a plan, arguing, compromising, making sure “all voices were heard,” dealing with intractable opposition and stubbornness…well, you get the picture. They never would have even started the labor, much less discovered the hidden cache of clay.

No, what happened is that a small group, inspired by the Master, actually started the labor. They learned His will and did what He expected them to do. They invited others to support the effort, which clearly manifested the Master’s will, and some did. All were equal in the opportunity; all were equal in the invitation. Thus, equality was preserved.

Consider what might have happened if the entire body had decided they must all be united before any work could commence. They might have argued for months or years, and perhaps even settled on a plan. But what are the chances the plan on which they settled would have included the clay and the bricks? Zero. This is because the only way to discover the clay was to actually begin the work! It’s clear, therefore, that the key is being easily persuaded when someone has discovered a workable solution, rather than attempting to get the entire group on the same page before any work can start. When concurrent projects aim for the same goal, but one becomes clearly more effective, it’s time to abandon the competing efforts.

Now, speaking to the Statement of Principles effort: many individuals and groups attempted to obey the Lord and write the statement. EVERY individual and group effort encountered opposition from other covenant holders. Some opposition was based on legitimate questions about scriptural accuracy or truth, and some opposition was based on many other factors like emotion, participation, process, perceived intent, ego, inclusion, and so on. Many of these might well have met the Lord’s requirements, but continued opposition kept any of them from succeeding.

Ultimately, most of the larger group agreed to let the Lord choose whom He would, by lots, to do the work, on behalf of the larger covenant body. That small group of seven worked together in a miraculous manner to create a remarkable result, as is possible in a small group. Even then, that smaller group encountered unfounded accusation and opposition from fellow covenant holders.

The Third Way

And so, this brings us to the lessons of the parable and our actual experience. I expect there will be many more efforts and projects our Lord requires; there remains much work to be done. And I expect, in every case, He will speak to and guide individuals, or small groups to perform the labor He requires. If there happens to be an assignment to the whole body, we will, as a matter of practicality, need to allow a small group to actually perform or direct the labor. Of course, such a labor is temporary, limited only to the task at hand, and ends when the work is completed. (See the scripture committee and the lots group for good examples.)

A movement-wide governing body that must be obeyed, or official process that must be followed in every case, are both ill advised and fraught with danger. The Lord has plainly illustrated these are not effective.

In future projects, our hearts will be on trial, to see if we have yet learned what we should have learned from the Statement of Principles effort and the Parable.
Nor is it enough to say you love your fellow man while you, as Satan, divide, contend and dispute against any person who labors on an errand seeking to do my will.
Will we employ envy, malice, strife, and accusation against those who labor? Or will we have learned from this experience to trust those with an errand from the Lord and allow them to act according to His will? What if we believe we know the Lord’s will better than they do? Will we still uphold and support them, joining our hearts and prayers to their effort, or will we envy them because of the perceived importance of their temporary position as servants? Will we criticize, contend, or demand they stop? Will we insist it must be our way? Most of all, do we seriously believe the Lord will look kindly upon us if we continue to make the same mistakes, after His clear correction?

To summarize, lest there should be any misunderstanding, these are the points I hope we will remember in future efforts.
  • The entire group of hundreds cannot, and should not, directly participate in every decision or effort. Insisting on such leads to intractable gridlock.
  • The Lord has shown His pattern time and time again in calling an individual or small group to a labor, and directing them in that labor. The effort that succeeded with the Statement of Principles consisted of the larger body intentionally submitting to the Lord’s will by allowing Him to appoint whom He would to a small group. In the parable, a small group discovered the Master’s will and invited the Larger group to support it.
  • Anyone called to labor on behalf of the larger body should be very open to input and constructive suggestions from the larger body in their labor. Likewise, they should go to every length to ensure they understand and act on the Lord’s will.
  • Those who have different opinions about how to perform the labor must be free to express those opinions, but should also avoid intractable insistence on getting their own way. If you can’t persuade, digging in won’t help. 
  • In future labors, our hearts will be on trial to see what we have learned. Will we criticize, oppose, accuse, envy, or threaten? How much of this will the Lord tolerate, now that He has gone to such lengths to teach us?
In the parable, all those who laid down their own preferred approaches to join the brick effort, equally succeeded in accomplishing the commandment together, regardless of who actually discovered the clay and started the labor. When there is more work to be done, will we lay down our own wills to be united? Have our hearts changed from our experiences thus far?

What ought we to have learned?

But among these servants some began to prepare the ground, clearing a place to build the house. As they moved away the grass and brush, they found there was clay suitable to make bricks with which to build a house. They told their companions, See, there is clay here. Let us make bricks and build the master a house from what we have found here on his chosen spot. And so they made bricks, laboring, digging, shaping, and drying. 
—Revelation in response to Statement of Principles

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Master’s House

I set out to discuss the parable of the Master’s House, but there’s just too much to write. So I’m doing it by video. Here’s part one:

Part Two Coming Soon