Enlightened Obedience — Proving the Existence of a Loving God

Why Adam Always Believed

In his King Follett Discourse Joseph Smith stated, “If a man learns nothing more than to eat, drink, and sleep and does not comprehend any of the designs of God, he is equal only to the beast, who comprehends the same things…”

These blunt words by the Prophet underscore the importance of understanding God’s purpose for our mortal existence. However, we cannot even come to an understanding if we do not ask the most basic question: “Does God Exist?”

There are several ways in unearthing an answer to this question. One approach is a philosophical method.

Alma, a prophet from the Book of Mormon, wrote, “All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44).

Gazing into the night sky illuminates exactly what Alma was teaching. We can see millions of dazzling stars and planets organized in such a manner that allows for life on Earth. Even the existence of our beautiful moon offers heavenly proof of God’s existence. Without the moon the ebb and flow of ocean tides would cease and oceanic life, an essential element in sustaining existence on earth, would quickly die. A plant’s transition of carbon dioxide to oxygen, known as photosynthesis, not only keeps carbon dioxide at healthy levels, but also gives us the needed oxygen to survive. This earthly balance and order did not happen by simple chance—truly “All things denote there is a God.”

When we see an airplane, automobile, or locomotive, we do not believe that it was created by a random act of nature. Instead, we understand that a pocket watch has a designer; a painting has a painter; and that order—such as ten paperclips lined up on a desk—has an “order-er.”

When we look at the earth and out into the universe we see creation, design, art, and order. It is not difficult to see that if all things temporal are associated to a creator, designer, artist, and order-er, than behind this incredibly complex universe all things eternal would also have a marvelous Creator, Designer, Artist, and Order-er.

The lack of being able to see the divine Creator doesn’t negate His existence. Just as the fact of not being able to see gravity, energy, or even love negates that these forces exist. It is the evidence of these phenomenas that make us aware of their existence (as an apple falling helped Newton formulate the law of gravity). The old adage “seeing is believing” is still true even if the seeing comes from beholding the created instead of the creator.

This philosophical approach on deciding whether God exists offers a logical base but, simply deducing that God exists doesn’t mean He cares. Utilizing the example of the painting can show that just because the artist exists doesn’t mean he has tender feelings for his painting. In fact, he may very well hate it.

Therefore, it is more important to not only know God exists, but to also know He loves and cares for us. If there was a means in discovering the existence of an all caring and loving God then this method would be superior to the philosophical approach. In order for this to happen though, we must go beyond the question of God’s existence and examine His evidence.

In speaking about faith and works the apostle James wrote, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” James sarcastically points out that even the devils believe, so how does our belief make us any different from them.

Having more than just a superficial knowledge of God requires us to know His promises and to prove the validity of them. The apostle Paul teaches in Hebrews 11:1 that, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

The last part of this verse, “…the evidence of things not seen,” shows that faith in God is built by receiving evidence of unseen things. Much like we know when we turn a light switch on that we receive light. Obviously though, we do not see the electricity surging from the light switch to the light bulb.

This same principle is true with God and His promises. He gives promises, and then the fulfillment of these promises are evidence of His existence. He remains unseen, but His actions—evidence—pulls into focus His existence.

Woven through the scriptures are promises that God has given to us. Promises that offer evidence of His existence. Promises such as:

  • Exodus 20:12 – Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
  • Proverbs 3:5–8 – Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
  • Malachi 3:10 – Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
  • Matthew 7:8 – For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
  • Matthew 6:30;33 – Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
  • Mark 9:23 – Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
  • John 14:12 – Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
  • Romans 8:6 – For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
  • 1 Peter 4:13–14 – But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
  • 1 Nephi 1:20 – …I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.
  • 2 Nephi 31:12–13 – And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.
  • Jacob 3:1 – But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.
  • Mosiah 7:33 – But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.
  • Alma 15:8 – …If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed.
  • Moroni 10:4–5 – And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
  • D&C 9:8 – But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
  • D&C 89:18–21 [In reference to keeping the Word of the Wisdom] – And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

An important aspect to all of these promises is an obligation on our side. To have the light bulb turn on we must move the switch. Entering a dark room and saying light doesn’t exist because the light doesn’t instantaneously come on is ridiculous.

The significance of this effort on our part cannot be underscored. D&C 82:10 shows why this is the case when it states, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” The Lord is clear, no promises are in place when we choose not to follow His direction.

Alma offers the analogy of a seed, which shows how we should begin to exert our efforts in testing the promises of the Lord, “Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me” (Alma 32:28).

What a simple but beautiful example. If we are promised that a tree will sprout from a rock, we simply need to plant, cultivate, and watch the rock to see what transpires. When nothing happens, we can know that the rock was not a good seed. However, if, like Alma shares, we plant, cultivate and watch a seed of faith, and if it “is a good seed” we quickly learn of its goodness. We begin to feel how it enlarges and enlightens our soul.

Notice how with this analogy we are required to plant and cultivate the seed. To know if God exists requires work on our end. Work which must be continual exertion and not just a one time, wait-and-see approach. Planting the seed, but not cultivating brings less than an optimal outcome. The seed may possibly sprout but it won’t reach its glorious potential without continual assistance.

Our efforts in proving God’s promises translate into obedience to His commandments. The more we obey what He has promised the more we are able to see fruition of these promises. In turn, His existence becomes known. From this we learn that strict obedience to God’s commandments is not blind obedience, but rather enlightened obedience.

Adam’s diligence in Moses 5:5–6 shows his understanding of enlightened obedience, “And he [the Lord] gave unto them [Adam and Eve] commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord. And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.”

Adam not understanding a commandment didn’t stop him from obeying it. What Adam knew made what he didn’t know insignificant. He had sound evidence that God existed and that God fulfilled His promises—no matter the outcome.

It is not enough for us to know if there is a God. Simple logic can give us a shallow assurance of His reality. Rather we must have an intimate understanding of God’s existence. Such an understanding comes only when we know His promises can stand the scrutiny of our obedience. If we do this we will quickly learn that “…this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:25).

Stop the FCC change in Explicit Langue and Nudity Standards

Elder M. Russell Ballard said; “Members of the Church need to influence more than we are influenced. We should work to stem the tide of sin and evil instead of passively being swept along by it. We each need to help solve the problem rather than avoid or ignore it.”

Everyday we have an opportunity to stand up for our beliefs, but sometimes the event becomes more than turning down a cup of coffee at the office, or saying, “I’m a Mormon”. I saw one opportunity come by today and now that your reading this, you have too.

On April 1st the FCC proposed to make some changes to the current standards for radio and television:

(I have highlighted the changes)

“We now seek comment on whether the full Commission should make changes to its current broadcast indecency policies or maintain them as they are. For example, should the Commission treat isolated expletives in a manner consistent with our decision in Pacifica Foundation, Inc., Memorandum Opinion and Order, 2 FCC Rcd 2698, 2699 (1987) (“If a complaint focuses solely on the use of expletives, we believe that . . . deliberate and repetitive use in a patently offensive manner is a requisite to a finding of indecency.”)? Should the Commission instead maintain the approach to isolated expletives set forth in its decision in Complaints Against Various Broadcast Licensees Regarding Their Airing of the “Golden Globe Awards” Program, Memorandum Opinion and Order, 19 FCC Rcd 4975 (2004)? As another example, should the Commission treat isolated (non-sexual) nudity the same as or differently than isolated expletives? Commenters are invited to address these issues as well as any other aspect of the Commission’s substantive indecency policies.”

According to the people at the American Family Association, this translates to “Specifically, if enacted, the new FCC policy would allow network television and local radio stations to air the f-word, the s-word and to allow programs to show frontal female nudity, even during hours when they know children will be watching and listening.”

By allowing these words and images into our homes we start even the youngest of children on a path of regret and hardship. By viewing even the simplest form of nudity taken outside natural viewing (i.e. marriage) the addiction centers of the mind get triggered and the connection starts.  In 2005 Elder Dallin H. Oaks stated; “Pornography is also addictive. It impairs decision-making capacities and it “hooks” its users, drawing them back obsessively for more and more. A man who had been addicted to pornography and to hard drugs wrote me this comparison: “In my eyes cocaine doesn’t hold a candle to this. I have done both. … Quitting even the hardest drugs was nothing compared to [trying to quit pornography]” (letter of Mar. 20, 2005).”

This is an opportunity to “hook” you and other’s to the terrible pornography addiction. And to those who say that it is not sexual in nature, read on in the same talk given by Elder Oaks; “Some seek to justify their indulgence by arguing that they are only viewing “soft,” not “hard,” porn. A wise bishop called this refusing to see evil as evil. He quoted men seeking to justify their viewing choices by comparisons such as “not as bad as” or “only one bad scene.” But the test of what is evil is not its degree but its effect. When persons entertain evil thoughts long enough for the Spirit to withdraw, they lose their spiritual protection and they are subject to the power and direction of the evil one. When they use Internet or other pornography for what this bishop described as “arousal on demand” (letter of Mar. 13, 2005), they are deeply soiled by sin.”

A person at this point can throw out their televisions. John Bytheway once said in a talk to youth, starting with a question given to him; “But John, aren’t you throwing out the baby with the bath water. Which he answered, “There seems to be less and less baby.”

You could follow the advice for President Rosemary M. Wixom who suggested turning off electronic devices for an hour. However, that leaves 23 hours left.

I suggest you follow the spirit to do as what is right for you and those who look to your for guidance. Also, here is another tool to pursue while the FCC is still accepting public comment: Send yours to them! Here are the instructions that the American Family Association has given:

1. Go to http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/upload/begin?procName=&filedFrom=X.
2. Enter the code “13-86” in the “Proceeding Number” box and fill out the few remaining required fields.
3. Enter your comment in the text box provided and click “Continue.”
4. From there, review your comment and click “Confirm

At the AFA’s site they give you some  suggestions on what to say if your not great with words.

I urge you to do something about this! Remember the words of Edmund Burke; “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

-Tyler

 

Who do your children belong to?

I saw this video early this morning and thought that is was interesting how it seemed to directly contradict these teachings of Brigham Young:

“We are the guardians of our children; their training and education are committed to our care, and if we do not ourselves pursue a course which will save them from the influence of evil, when we are weighed in the balance we shall be found wanting (LBY, xxiv).

Parents are responsible before the Lord for the way in which they educate and train their children, for “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is his reward. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed [Psalm 127:3–5]” (DNW, 7 Dec. 1864, 2).

Parents, seek to honor your children; bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Teach them truth and not error, teach them to love and serve God [see Deuteronomy 6:5]; teach them to believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God and the Saviour of the world” (DNSW, 8 Aug. 1877, 1).

Read more on parental responsibility from Brigham Young here.

What do you think. Am I missing the point of the video, or is this a way the world is taking small and simple truths from us?

He created His Government, Not man

Here is a quote, from the Joseph Smith Papers, Speaking to the Relief Society:

“Said all difficulties which might & would cross our  way must be surmounted, though the soul be tried, the  heart faint, and hands hang down— must not retrace our  steps— that there must be decision of character aside from  sympathy— that when instructed we must obey that  voice, observe the Constitution that the blessings of heaven may  rest down upon us— all must act in concert or nothing can  be done— that the Society should move according to the  ancient Priesthood, hence there should be a select Society  separate from all the evils of the world, choice, virtuous and holy— Said he was going to make of this Society a  kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day— as in Pauls day — that it is the privilege of each member to live long.” Joseph Smith Papers

When you read this, what is your reaction? If you are a woman, do you feel proud of your ability to belong to this organization? Do you feel a large amount of responsibility in belonging to the Relief Society? Do you feel like you can do better, feel blessed or think that you need to reread it because your not quite sure what you just read? There is one organization that is sure that what they are reading is a prophesy that has not been fulfilled. They call themselves “Ordain Women”, and they are a movement which seeks to petition the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints to allow female members of the church to be ordained to the same priesthood as the males members who are worthy. This group of people is made up of both women and men.

On their webpage they state that “Mormons” are resistant to allowing women to hold the priesthood because of “Lingering patriarchal patterns, though increasingly contested, still inform Mormon policies with regard to familial and institutional governance. Priesthood has become so associated with maleness that it is difficult for Mormons to see it apart from gender. For many LDS women, asking them if they want to be ordained is like asking them if they want to be men. This was not always so, however. According to the 1842 minutes of the Nauvoo Female Relief Society, Joseph Smith’s original intent was to “make of this Society a kingdom of Priests . . . “ Unfortunately, this vision for the women of the Church was never fully realized. Ordain Women asserts that priesthood must be re-envisioned as a power that transcends gender and is exercised by both men and women for the benefit of all.”

In an article entitled The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: Priesthood, the Word of God, and the Temple, we are taught:

1842, the women of the Relief Society learned of the vital role they would play in the kingdom.  Joseph Smith further taught that there existed “certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages may be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed.” 

By 1843, the temple’s full import and design seem to have crystallized in the Prophet’s teachings. The doctrines of sealing and of becoming kings and queens, priests and priestesses were often discussed. Joseph Smith taught that “except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity, while in this probation, by the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood, they will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children after the resurrection,” 31 nor can they obtain the highest degree of the celestial glory. (See D&C 131:1–4.)”

When viewed in this context is it safe to assume that women have already been given the authority of the Priesthood as promised in the 1842 meeting?

I have heard all of the excuses such as “Men need the priesthood, so they have to serve, where as to a woman it comes natural”, and” Woman have the babies…” and so forth, but is there a doctrine that states that woman cannot baptize? Is the priesthood a chauvinistic power? I don’t believe that women are incapable of baptismal abilities just as not all men cannot serve as a woman. I have seen more women take advantage of blessings and priesthood blessings and temple attendance more than men.  I see the women of the church honoring and being faithful to the present state of the priesthood order. So why the constant push of mortals to chance and “progress” the Gospel?

I do not know the mind of the Lord. I know that I can find the teachings and decide if I will follow or not. I can decide if I agree or not. I know that I can petition the Lord for answers to his will. But as for changes to His gospel all I can say is it is his. And as a person studies and ponders this and any otehr aspect questions by members and non alike I suggest you gain testimony of this simple principle as taught by President Hinkley:

“Now may I say a word concerning loyalty to the Church.

We see much indifference. There are those who say, “The Church won’t dictate to me how to think about this, that, or the other, or how to live my life.”

No, I reply, the Church will not dictate to any man how he should think or what he should do. The Church will point out the way and invite every member to live the gospel and enjoy the blessings that come of such living. The Church will not dictate to any man, but it will counsel, it will persuade, it will urge, and it will expect loyalty from those who profess membership therein.

When I was a university student, I said to my father on one occasion that I felt the General Authorities had overstepped their prerogatives when they advocated a certain thing. He was a very wise and good man. He said, “The President of the Church has instructed us, and I sustain him as prophet, seer, and revelator and intend to follow his counsel.”

I have now served in the general councils of this Church for 45 years. I have served as an Assistant to the Twelve, as a member of the Twelve, as a Counselor in the First Presidency, and now for eight years as President. I want to give you my testimony that although I have sat in literally thousands of meetings where Church policies and programs have been discussed, I have never been in one where the guidance of the Lord was not sought nor where there was any desire on the part of anyone present to advocate or do anything which would be injurious or coercive to anyone.

The book of Revelation declares: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15–16).

I make you a promise, my dear brethren, that while I am serving in my present responsibility I will never consent to nor advocate any policy, any program, any doctrine which will be otherwise than beneficial to the membership of this, the Lord’s Church.

This is His work. He established it. He has revealed its doctrine. He has outlined its practices. He created its government. It is His work and His kingdom, and He has said, “They who are not for me are against me” (2 Ne. 10:16).”

The Blessings that come from Daily Scripture Study

For the last year my Church calling has been teaching Sunday school for the 14 to 18 year olds. At the beginning of this year I felt strongly to share with my class the many blessings that come from being diligent in our daily scripture study. As I prepared my lesson I came to see two specific promises that the Lord has for all of His children who desire to seek after him. I shared these promises with my class and encouraged them to take on the challenge of reading their scriptures for an entire year.

I don’t know whether my students took to heart my lesson, but it had a profound impact on me. We are four months into the year, and I have missed but one day. Sadly, on February 26th I waited to read my scriptures in the evening and fell asleep early due to the exhaustion of the day. I woke abruptly at 3 am the next morning and the first thought that came to me was that I had failed in my goal to not miss a day. I was upset at myself and it was a hard lesson I had to learn. Yet, now I know I need to read in the morning, so not to take any chances.

It may sound trite, but I am thankful for failing at my goal to read this entire year. My mistake allows me to further understand repentance, and not just give up because I didn’t achieve what I set out to do.  The Lord is well aware of our imperfections and that we will stumble, hence why he provided us a Savior who suffered much so that we could pick ourselves up and continue on.

I’ve transcribed my lesson below for any that want to further understand the promises and power that comes from daily and diligent scripture study. Hopefully, it will move you to take up the challenge of daily reading so that you can witness, more fully, the Lord’s great power in your own life! ~Paul

THE POWER OF YOUR SPIRITUAL OIL

The Lamp of Spiritual OilIn Matthew 25 the Savior shares a story about ten virgins (or bridesmaids) who were given the honor of attending a wedding. Each carried a lamp as they awaited the coming of the bridegroom. Five of the virgins were wise and had brought sufficient oil for their lamps. Five were foolish and had not.

The bridegroom was delayed until late into the night; when it was announced that he would arrive shortly the foolish virgins asked the wise ones for oil. However, the wise virgins could not, stating that there would not be enough for both if they did so. While the foolish virgins left to find more oil, the bridegroom arrived. The wise virgins were there to welcome him and the foolish ones returned too late to be accepted into the wedding.

Just as the five wise virgins had oil for their lamps for the coming of the bridegroom, we can have spiritual oil to prepare us for when we meet the Lord. There are many ways to fill our lamps with spiritual oil, such as saying our prayers; providing service to others; and following the commandments. The more we strive to provide oil for our lamps the more our oil wells are filled with the richness of righteousness, and the brighter our light will shine.

One powerful way to fill our lamps with oil is by having daily scriptures study. Meaningful scripture study will not only prepare us to meet the Lord, but it will exalt our lives with love and beauty.

Therefore, creating a habit of daily scripture study, which persists throughout our lives, should be one of our highest priorities. By striving to make scripture study a daily concern, the Lord will endow us with his Spirit and we will be able to call upon the powers of heaven. Jacob from the Book of Mormon shares that “we search the prophets. . . and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.” (Jacob 4:6; Hel. 10:4–5.)

Jacob understood the celestial power that comes from “search[ing] the prophets,” as have all prophets, both ancient and modern, who boldly testified of the strength and peace found within the words of the Lord. From these prophetic testimonies, I provide you the following two promises: 1) If you strive to prayerfully read your scriptures the Lord will be a continual guide throughout your life, and 2) If you study the scriptures every day the Lord will bless you with the spiritual and temporal desires of your heart.

With both of these promises you will find great blessings that will enrich your life. In regards to the first promise the Lord promises us that He will always be there for us. Even in our darkest times, when we desire to not be near the Lord, He is there. David of the Old Testament learned this after his serious transgression with Bathsheba:

“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”

We can see that even when we have made our “bed in hell” that Lord is with us. Therefore imagine the great power that will come when we try to become one with Him!  In Jesus’s intercessory prayer in John 17 we learn his desires that we be like him and be one with his Father:

“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.”

Later in his prayer we learn the blessing that comes by being one with God:

“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”

By prayerfully studying the gospel and coming closer to our Father we are protected from the evil the world. Obviously, we still reside in the world and may witness much wrong, but by filling our lamps with the spiritual oil of the scriptures we will be protected and be given a light to guide us through the darkness of this world.

With consideration to the second promise—your spiritual and temporal desires—I want to show just how the Lord will bless you. Our Father in Heaven is not a God of ambiguity, rather He longs to bless you with the specific desires of your heart.

We learn the truthfulness of the Lord’s desire to bless us by first reading in the Book of Mormon in 3 Nephi 14: 7:

“Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

We find this same sentiment also in the Bible in 1 John 5:14–15:

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.”

To unearth the desires of your heart I encourage you to ponder on the different spiritual and physical changes you want in your life. Write down each of these desires and then prayerfully decide on the greatest spiritual and the greatest temporal change you want to see in the upcoming year. I testify that if you will do this and then faithfully study your scriptures each day for an entire year that the Lord will bless you with the fulfillment of these specific desires.

These promises are not mere words contrived from my own mind, but rather we can find both these promises in the scriptures:

Promise 1: “. . .Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3).

Promise 1: “. . . [the iron rod] was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction” (1 Nephi 15:24).

Promise 2: “O my sons, I would that ye should remember that these records are true. . . and we can know of their surety because we have them before our eyes. And now, my sons, I would that ye should remember to search them diligently, that ye may profit thereby; and I would that ye should keep the commandments of God, that ye may prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers” (Mosiah 1:6–7).

Promise 2: “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Psalms 37:3–5).

Both Promises: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).

Furthermore, the Doctrine and Covenants teaches us, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (D&C 82:10). When you live a life of meaningful study and prayer the Lord is bound to keep the promises he has made to you.

Your life will be deeply blessed, much like the five wise virgins, if you allow your spiritual oil to accumulate day-by-day, drop-by-drop, until your lamp is burning bright with the words of Christ. In so doing, you will not only uncover the many blessings the Lord wants for you to have, but you will begin to understand the deep love He has for you personally.

Another Interpretation on Why the Mormon Church Banned Blacks from the Priesthood

This morning I read an article by Mahonri Stewart (I’ve copy and pasted it below as well). I am moved by his honest and exposed stance on why he believes the LDS (Mormon) Church instituted a Priesthood ban on the black people.

I am not certain if I entirely subscribe to his position, but I am open to it. There were two passages (one in the actual article and one in the comments after the post) that really stood out to me:

‎”If he hadn’t had a false world constructed around him, he would have been able to endure the real one.”

“True openness, true vulnerability to God (especially amidst an imperfect world) is really scary. Sometimes it requires a lack of surety as to what tomorrow will look like– more plainly, it really does take faith in something beyond your own understanding or the understanding of any man or woman.”

Having a mindset that your world may be false, or at least the construction of it, helps to be open to other possibilities of truth. For me, I have had sacred experiences that have grounded me to the teachings that are found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, with that said, it doesn’t mean I understand the many nooks and crannys found within our history and doctrine.

For many this may be scary (and at times it is for me), but I believe this is okay. I sincerely believe that not knowing in an uncertain and imperfect world doesn’t influence my salvation. It is important for me to continually seek and grow and let go of false assumptions, but regardless of my success in this endeavor I believe in a loving God that will save all those who diligently pursue Him, no matter what their religion, gender, or race may be. ~Paul

False Constructions Upon a True Church: A Response to a Friend by Mahonri Stewart

Blacks & The Priesthood (LDS)One of my dear fellow Mormon friends lately has called me out for posting an article by BYU professor, author, and Mormon race relations scholar Margaret Blair Young. The substance of the article by Professor Young (who I very much admire on a personal level and whose scholarship and literary contributions I think are a blessing to the Church) was celebrating the fact that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have recently updated their scripture headings in the Doctrine and Covenants, a couple of which are very important, including this one about at the top of Official Declaration Two (which was the statement made by the Church in 1978 rescinding its previous policy of denying black people the blessings of the priesthood and the higher ordinances of the temple):

The Book of Mormon teaches that ‘all are alike unto God,’ including ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female’ (2 Nephi 26:33). Throughout the history of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity in many countries have been baptized and have lived as faithful members of the Church. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. The revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978. The revelation removed all restrictions with regards to race that once applied to the priesthood.

I, like Professor Young, think this is a wonderful change for the Church to make in the scripture heading. It’s still not a perfect statement (for example, historical records actually do offer up some insights about where the ban came from, which history authors like Margaret Blair Young and Darius Gray have written a whole series of books about black Mormon pioneer called Standing on the Promises), but I don’t want to quibble too much about that. This is a beautiful thing! This is a wonderful thing! The Church is for the first time officially recognizing some of these complicated aspects of the history behind the former ban (like the fact that Joseph Smith ordained black men like Elijah Abel and Walker Lewis to the priesthood offices of Seventy and Elder and that the ban didn’t come into place until the leadership of Brigham Young). The Church is recognizing that the ban was contradictory to scriptures like 2 Nephi 26:33 which the heading quotes, thus putting into question the racist folk myths that sprang up around the policy.

But in the process of celebrating and congratulating the Church, Professor Young said some things which my friend found disturbing, and which he was very bothered that I was endorsing. In giving context of how the Church could go back on their previous policies Professor Young states in the article:

Finally, let me make a bold suggestion. I suggest that we Mormons have chosen the wrong paradigm to describe how the church functions under prophetic leadership. We seem to have gone with the Wilford Woodruff statement used to defend the manifesto, since he was speaking to people who had suffered and even gone to jail over polygamy:

[T]he Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so he will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty (Official Declaration 1).

Since we have multitudes of instances where one prophet contradicts another, it’s likely that President Woodruff’s statement has a particular context and is confined to that. Armand Mauss, in a comment on February 22 at the Juvenile Instructor blog stated: “[T]his claim seems to have originated as a kind of guarantee from Wilford Woodruff in 1890, as he tried to reassure some of the apostles and others who questioned the legitimacy (or necessity) of the Manifesto. That was a fairly specific context, and no one at the time seemed to take it as a universal gospel principle. I never heard of it as I was growing up during the first half of the 20th century, as I said, but it began to occur (totally out of its original context) with increasing frequency as part of the “retrenchment” era after the 1960s to reinforce the ‘follow the prophet’ mantra that is now so familiar to us.”

Would we not all be better served by acknowledging that the Prophet is exclusively entitled to the mantle of leadership over the Church, and that he will always do the best he can to transcend his own culture and tradition in serving God, though not every utterance he makes will constitute the mind and will of the Lord? I would far prefer President Lorenzo Snow’s description of Church governance:

”Seventy years ago this Church was organized with six members. We commenced, so to speak, as an infant. We had our prejudices to combat. Our ignorance troubled us in regard to what the Lord intended to do and what He wanted us to do … We advanced to boyhood, and still we undoubtedly made some mistakes, which … generally arise from a …lack of experience. We understand very well, when we reflect back upon our own lives, that we did many foolish things when we were boys … Yet as we advanced, the experience of the past materially assisted us to avoid such mistakes as we had made in our boyhood. It has been so with the Church. Our errors have generally arisen from a lack of comprehending what the Lord required of us to do. But now we are pretty well along to manhood … When we examine ourselves, however, we discover that we are still not doing exactly as we ought to do, notwithstanding all our experience. We discern that there are things which we fail to do that the Lord expects us to perform, some of which He requires us to do in our boyhood. … While we congratulate ourselves in this direction, we certainly ought to feel that we have not yet arrived at perfection. There are many things for us to do yet.” 6 April, 1900

Now I find nothing particularly wrong with this statement by Professor Young. In fact, I heartily applaud it. As I’ve written elsewhere, like my post on this blog “Expectations of a Prophet” , I believe not only is it healthy to recognize that prophets are human beings and have fallible beliefs at times, I believe it is vital to a person’s faith. The LDS leaders, from Joseph Smith on, have consistently taught that prophets are imperfect, mortal instruments in the hands of a perfect immortal God. As the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni says on its cover page: “And now if there be fault, it be the mistake of men; wherefore condemn not the things of God…” Elder Jeffrey Holland of the LDS 12 Apostles took it even a step further in discussing the priesthood ban in an interview with PBS. When they asked about the statements of previous Mormon prophets about the ban and the mythology that grew up around it to justify its the policy, Elder Holland said:

One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated. … I have to concede to my earlier colleagues. … They, I’m sure, in their own way, were doing the best they knew to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it. All I can say is however well intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong. …

Elder Holland pretty unequivocally states here that he believes what his “earlier colleagues” (meaning I’m assuming the previous apostles and prophets) said about the priesthood ban to justify it were “wrong,” or at the very least “inadequate.”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said something similar when placed in the awkward position of having to go back on things he had previously written about black people once the Church changed the policy. What he said, I believe was very courageous and insightful:

We have read these passages and their associated passages for many years [speaking of racially inclusive language such as 2 Nephi 26:33 and the book of Acts in the New Testament]. We have seen what the words say and have said to ourselves, “Yes, it says that, but we must read out of it the taking of the gospel and the blessings of the temple to the Negro people, because they are denied certain things.” There are statements in our literature by the early Brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, “You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?” And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.

We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more.

Some may find it contradictory for Elder McConkie is using the argument of following a prophet to deny the teachings of other prophets. But I believe the crux of that point is that line when he says that even prophets speak with “limited understanding.” We believe that prophets receive revelations. That is their function. But prophets aren’t receiving revelations all the time and when they’re not, they are liable to error even in official Church business like the priesthood ban. When people, due to the prejudices of their time and culture, ignore the revelations they’ve been given (as Elder McConkie implied they did when ignoring injunctions like 2 Nephi 26:33 and when the New Testament said the Gospel was to go to “all nations”), then mistakes are definitely bound to happen. That’s simply human, that’s simply to be expected. Joseph Smith said: “I told them I was but a man, and they must not expect me to be perfect; if they expected perfection from me, I should expect it from them; but if they would bear with my infirmities and the infirmities of the brethren, I would likewise bear with their infirmities” ( History of the Church 5:181).

However, my dear friend took issue with Professor Young’s and my beliefs here, and has quoted a great deal of other leaders of the Church who refer back to Wilford Woodruff quote. I believe he was doing this out of concern and love for me, and I deeply appreciate that love. He has been a man who has stuck with me through thick and thin, but on this matter he has deep reservations about what I’ve said and what that means about how I’m orienting myself towards the Church.

I understand his concerns, but I think he misunderstood me, just as I on many points have misunderstood my friend. In the end, I actually think as we’ve talked about it, I believe we have very similar beliefs about the Wilford Woodruff quote– that the Church is ultimately leading us to salvation, despite the bumps along the way, and that it is a vehicle towards that goal, not the destination.

But, to be clear, I consider myself an active, believing member of the Church. I don’t think people need to be afraid of the things the Church is currently doing in revising its policies and positions, and I don’t think people need to be afraid of those who recognize those flaws, but celebrate the perfect music of God that comes through imperfect instruments. I have made many sacrifices for my faith, when it would have been easier in my field of study and social context to throw it away and join my more secular peers. I have done this because I am a devout, believing Mormon. True blue, through and through. Mormon and proud. So I recently wrote my friend back this response as a smaller part of our larger discussion (note that this section is much less formal and more of a “shooting from the hip” response, as it was part of a letter to a friend). I include it here as less part of my back and forth with him, but because it states some things which are pretty core to how I see myself and my relationship to my faith. It is in no way to be interpreted as a reflection on him or his beliefs for, again, I think he and I basically believe the same thing in its general sense, and even in most of the particulars. So here is what I wrote him as a kind of personal position:

I actually am very happy with the leadership of the Church. The current First Presidency, in my opinion, is wise, compassionate and very in tune with the Spirit. I sustain them with all my heart. President Ucthdorf, President Eyring, President Monson and apostles like Elder Holland are all personal heroes of mine and I take what they say very seriously and very prayerfully.

But what I do question is when people assume that anything that a prophet does or says in his office of president is and always will be the ultimate doctrine of the Church and that even past policies, such as the priesthood ban, should be seen as divinely instituted and should never be repudiated. That simply can’t be, for prophets have often contradicted each other.

For example, Brigham Young said that the Adam-God theory was DOCTRINE. However, President Kimball said it was FALSE DOCTRINE. With a teaching as important as the identity of God, that’s not small potatoes for a Church to teach either way, and they both felt equally passionate that they were right about their views on the issue, and said hard things to those in the leadership of the Church who opposed them on the issue (it was a major sore point between Brigham Young and Orson Pratt in their day, and Spencer W. Kimball called out Brigham Young on it).

So, if you mean that the Church won’t lead us astray in the sense that the general direction of the good ship Zion is still pointing to God and that it has the priesthood keys and we should cling to the idea of modern revelation (personal and Church wide), I’m totally with you.

But, if you mean that a president of the Church can’t teach something wrong (like the priesthood ban or at least ONE of the sides of the Adam-God theory debate in the Church…), and that we would be wrong to recognize that fact, then that’s where we part ways, opinion wise. For, if one tries to adhere strictly to that rule, then it doesn’t take very long with studying the history of the Church to lose your testimony, if that’s the standard you are trying to measure the prophets by. By not recognizing their true, human nature (despite their ability to receive revelation for the Church), then we set them up for a fall, and that fall is hard and bitter. I’ve seen many people take exactly that hard line view of the faith and then became disenchanted and leave. THAT is what I’m fighting against. THAT is why I do what I do.

I know the Church is true, I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, I know that we have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother, I know Jesus is our Savior, I know the Book of Mormon is a spiritual record of a people striving towards God. I’m not what is called a “New Order Mormon” who just hangs around for the culture of it, or because I feel like I’m some sort of DNA Mormon who doesn’t believe the doctrine, but loves the heritage. Although I know many beautiful people who do qualify under that description and I feel they should have a place in the Church, too. However, my testimony runs long and deep and is rooted deeply in spiritual manifestations that I consider to be very sacred. These are things I’ve had some pretty huge spiritual witnesses about, they’re not things I question in their basics.

But I do question mine and other people’s assumptions about those important realities and I question how we perceive them in our imperfection and our humanity. And when I see people throw the baby out with the bathwater because they expected the Church and its leaders to be perfect because of something said by Wilford Woodruff or President Hinckley or any other leader in the Church, or because the leaders sometimes contradict and even argue with each other. The unrealistic expectations often set up about the Church has hurt more people’s testimonies than any anti-Mormon tract or apostate’s bitter rant. I have seen that, I have personal loved ones who have left because they discovered prophets weren’t the near perfect demi-gods that we set them up to be.

In my play about Joseph and Emma Smith’s family, The Fading Flower, I have Julia Smith say the following (in the context of the very real mental and spiritual breakdown that Joseph and Emma’s youngest son David went through at the end of his life because of the disillusionment he experienced when he concluded that his father really did practice polygamy, unlike he had been told by his RLDS family): “David did not lose his sanity because he was told the truth in the end, David lost his sanity because he was not told the truth from the beginning. If he hadn’t had a false world constructed around him, he would have been able to endure the real one.”

I do what I do in an effort to find that “real” world, that “real” Church and, most importantly, that “real” God. I make a lot mistakes in that effort, and in that way I, like everyone, occasionally construct that false world. If I keep building up that false world, but somebody knocks it down with some hard facts, then it would be easy for me to be disenchanted and bitter believe that means that none of the things I was trying to understand were real at all and that I was wasting my time, talents and heart on the Church. That would be a mistake, and that mistake costs a lot of people their faith. However, many people are able to step back from what they were building and say, “Wait, sure, those things weren’t quite accurate, and that’s not what I was told, but look… look at this,” and they can see the real thing behind what the false world was trying to build on.

I am convinced one of those “real” things is the priesthood. I am convinced another one of those “real” things is revelation. And so on with the Book of Mormon, theGospels , Christ, repentance, grace, the atonement, Joseph Smith, President Monson, etc. etc.

But what I don’t believe is real, because it has proven false again and again, is that there are people in the world or even in the leadership of the Church who are never wrong, even about important things. That’s simply not true and those who keep insisting it’s true would do us great spiritual harm in the long run, in my opinion. The general direction, sure, we’re headed towards Christ and he’s our salvation. I think that’s the substance and what President Woodruff is trying to say is that the Christ set up the Church one last time and there wasn’t going to be another Great Apostasy. The prophets teach the important principles and the Church administers the saving ordinances. That’s his point, in my opinion. But he saw first hand the flaws of prophets. Wilford Woodruff himself said (I hope I’m not butchering this quote, but this is the essence): “Yes, I saw the flaws in Joseph Smith. I saw them and I rejoiced. For if the Lord could use an imperfect man like him, then there was hope for me.”

I love the prophets. I love them so much and take them so seriously that I’ve devoted hours upon hours upon hours of my life researching, studying and writing about their lives. I have put my private and professional reputation on the line every time I have very publicly written about their history and my fervent love and faith in the religious tradition we are both a part of. It’s high stakes for me, as it is for everyone who puts their shoulder to the wheel. I read book after book about their lives, I study their teachings, I know the controversies surrounding them. And that hasn’t destroyed my testimony, but rather strengthened it.

However, although it was not destroyed, it definitely transformed. I had to change. It’s like that scriptural analogy with the potter’s wheel. My testimony is the clay and the Lord is trying to shape it. If I cling to the way I want it to look, if I cling to the old forms and policies of the Church, even after the Lord has given revelations that have abolished those old forms, then my clay is useless under his hands. The Church isn’t a static thing, it is a living Church. And I am a living soul who needs to progress and grow, just like the Church needs to progress and grow.

Joseph Smith said, “we have the revelation of Jesus, and the knowledge within us is sufficient to organize a righteous government upon the earth, and to give universal peace to all mankind, if they would receive it, but we lack the physical strength, as did our Savior when a child, to defend our principles, and we have of necessity to be afflicted, persecuted and smitten, and to bear it patiently until Jacob is of age, then he will take care of himself.” The Church is still young. It hasn’t “grown up” yet. To not expect it to go through growing pains and the mistakes of childhood is to set up that child for failure, and of course at that point it will certainly fail those kind of unrealistic expectations. But with patience, with love, with the progression of grace upon grace, line upon line, here a little and there a little, our Heavenly Parents are teaching that child, that Church to become an adult, and the time will come, like Joseph Smith said, when it is a child no more. And, frankly, I think the Church is strong and tall and smart for its age.

Posted by Mahonri Stewart at 9:24 AM, Friday, March 15, 2013 on