30 June 2021

My Thoughts on the CES Letter

 "Yes, Virginia, I have read the CES Letter..." and my response follows.

I have had spiritual experiences for decades in relation to scripture and God's hand in my life. These experiences satisfy me that God exists, that God speaks to prophets who record their experiences in whatever way they deem fitting, whether through speeches or writing or videos, and that God continues to work for the exaltation of men and women. 

Through divine intervention in my own life and years of reading and reflection, I am satisfied that the Book of Mormon was written and translated by those who were acting on God's influence and instruction. I am satisfied that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the structure through which Christ effects his promises and authorized priesthood toward God's purposes. It is an organization founded and run by rather ordinary people with faults and shortcomings. I am also satisfied that there is no intent to deceive or profiteer among Church leadership and any success that the Church enjoys, financial or otherwise, comes from proper stewardship and heavenly inspiration. I am further satisfied that malfeasance within the Church is resolved in a manner consistent with justice and upon its discovery.

I respect those with great experience, especially God, who I revere as the Father of all, in sharing their wisdom with me as they will. Just as any parent produces a sheltered environment in which children learn and grow into maturity and adulthood, I trust that a Heavenly Father set that same standard for me. I realize that I am still a child in many ways and trust that God will reveal greater knowledge when I am mature enough to understand and put such wisdom to righteous uses. Like any responsible parent, I reject juvenile calls for "full disclosure", especially from those who prefer to use such information destructively or ignorantly. Countries carefully guard "nuclear secrets" from "bad actors" to prevent global destruction - the same principle applies to sharing our more "sacred" beliefs with those who are bent on our personal destruction. 

There will always be detractors and dissenters from every point of view, from every culture and nation, and from every faith. Nothing on this earth is of a perfect nature and faults, real or contrived, will always surface for those resolved to dredging up such. I have always found that any endeavor or fact is made better by the influence of sincere and forthright people with good hearts. I have also come to know that any endeavor or fact can be defaced by the evil acts and accusations of those who seek only to destroy and denigrate. One's "facts" and intentions can be evaluated by the demeanor and vitriol of those who proclaim them - people are usually neither as good or as bad as their supporters or their critics purport them to be.

In relation to Joseph Smith, I find that the Book of Mormon has been a great benefit to me and I am grateful to the man who produced it, no matter how it was done.  My esteem for Joseph Smith and his associates in the church he founded is based upon the positive influence that the Book of Mormon and other writings have had upon my life. The Holy Bible and my reading of it have also been of great worth to me and I honor both Jew and Gentile that brought it into my family, faults notwithstanding.  I am willing to set human foibles aside to better appreciate the value I find in these remarkable texts and those associated with them.

It is useful for me to evaluate people or groups by their "fruits". In my estimation, those associated with Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are doing good and becoming better, both individually and collectively. I have found that these good and better results are direct reflections on the summed life of the man, the stories and lessons in the book, and teachings and purposes of the church. God's ultimate goal of the exaltation of men and women is far better accomplished through the efforts of faithful Latter-day Saints than through the doubt and dissension promulgated through "the CES Letter", which I recommend to none. 

Understanding the Voice of the Lord

Increasing numbers of people ignore established sources of wisdom that God provides through prophets. The world is becoming more tumultuous and the "experts" to whom many turn for answers are often revealed as vacuous and unreliable, more often wrong than right. The need for wise guidance has never been greater and those who know how to hear God will get the peace and direction that each of us desires in these confusing times.

I am grateful yet again for the writings of inspired prophets of God that we have today from the Book of Mormon:

 3 Nephi 11:4-6

And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not.

And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.

And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard;

In this instance, God was speaking to the people but they could not understand. We may very well sit in a church or read from scriptures and thus hear the messages from God, but we may not actually understand what God is telling us.  In these verses, a prophet helps us to better understand what God has to tell us:

  1. We have to "open our ears to hear it". So many times, God has already provided answers, but we are too distracted by our own cares to "hear" them. As we set aside quiet time to put the responsibilities of life on hold, we will be more ready to hear what God wants to tell us.  I recall being in places far from the bustle of life that are quiet enough that you can hear the breeze and distant rustle of trees and the occassional bird. In such circumstances, where the buzz of our busy lives is far away, we have a better situation to "open our ears" to what God is saying.
  2. We must focus on God, the true source of wisdom. In the verses above, "their eyes were towards the sound". I recall how often my children would talk to me and I obviously wasn't listening - I wasn't looking at them and paying real attention to what they said.  How often do we also hear from God yet are not similarly paying attention?
  3. We can get answers directly from God. "...they did look steadfastly toward heaven...". It is good to listen to pastors, priests, and teachers, but it is better still to listen more to God who knows you and what you need far better. True prophets will always encourage a better and more direct access to God, so that we can "understand the voice".
I will be bold here and say that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints points me to scripture and prophets that put me on a direct path to a better understanding of God and Jesus Christ.  I am grateful for the Prophet Joseph Smith who translated the Book of Mormon so that we could have that better understanding of God and Christ's labors on our behalf. I am grateful for prophets that speak to us today, continuously pointing us toward God and what he is saying.  

If we "open our ears" and look to him, we too will understand what he is saying to us.

16 June 2021

The Messiah is not LazyJesus

There is much hyperventilating over the new-age concept of God's "unconditional love" for all.  You can likely hear my attitude about it - I think it is a bad road to take.  In so many scriptures, we are told of the conditional nature of salvation and the Lord's favor comes to us if we repent.  I just tripped over another one this morning:

3 Nephi 9:22

Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.

I may look like Jesus, but I can't save you.
Many years ago, I created a fake diety called "LazyJesus" and really should have trademarked it. LazyJesus lounges on a theological couch, engrossed in some TV program or such, and dismissively forgives everyone so he is not interrupted from something more interesting to him. LazyJesus saves everyone because he is too busy to make distinctions between good and bad. LazyJesus is that distant dad that isn't paying attention and lets the kids do whatever they please and never disciplines anybody and provides needed cover for any behavior.  The love of LazyJesus is measured by his ability to ignore what is happening and provide a never-ending stream of things free of any requirement. LazyJesus sadly seems to be the God of many modern "Christians".

The idea that Christ has "unconditional" love is yet another indicator that a person worships LazyJesus as opposed to the Christ found in scripture. From the scripture above, we see that "whoso repenteth" will be received in the kingdom of God. In the next phrase is the focus of my thoughts here:  "for such".  This is Christ himself speaking and he says that the act of laying down his life and taking it up again was "for such". One of the central acts of the atonement of Christ was done for "whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child", not for others (not unconditional). Then, another powerful word - therefore - which is to say "based on everything I said before".  It can be confusing because everyone is given immortality freely by the Lord, but that is not the greatest gift available to us.  Because of the fact that only those who repent and become as little children in obedience to Christ get the kingdom of God and Jesus' sin-erasing
sacrifice was done only for them, he reinforces the need for repentance and coming unto him and that this is salvation.

What is the point of the followers of LazyJesus referencing "unconditional love" so much?  It seems to be the inappropriate co-mingling of "love" and "salvation" - such people must think that all people are saved because Jesus loves everyone.  Does the true Christ love you? Yes. Does the fact that he loves you mean that you will be "saved"? No. A large expression of Christ's love is in providing the opportunity to be saved.  Everyone can be saved, but only under the conditions of repentance.  At least in this case, love doesn't conquer all - you must still repent and turn to righteousness.  That is why I constantly bring up repentance - I am just echoing what Christ says all the time throughout scripture!

I advise you against being a devotee of the fictional LazyJesus.  LazyJesus can't save and certainly cannot exalt. The true Christ that constantly preaches repentance - he can and does save, if you repent.

15 June 2021

Today's Word of Wisdom

 Many people know Latter-Day Saints best by the health code to which most adhere:  The Word of Wisdom.  It has been interpreted to proscribe the use of coffee, tea, tobacco, and harmful drugs, along with encouraging the eating of vegetables and fruits, grains, and a little meat. Though triggered by Emma, the wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith, in relation to having to clean up tobacco use after church leadership meetings, the Lord gave this as his justification for revealing the Word of Wisdom:

Doctrine and Covenants 89:4

Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation-

 In the tradition of recent study guides produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I will ask a few "open-ended" questions and let you readers answer for yourselves.

  • Given the realities of the modern world and consumption habits, what proscriptions and encouragements do you think the Lord would give today as a "word of wisdom"?
  • Relative to the phrasing "evils and designs", beyond what goes into our bodies, what "conspiring" do you think the Lord would "forewarn" us about?
Verse 4 is a broad statement of the realities of life. There have always been evil people and they have always had designs and conspiracies toward us, no matter what naysayers shout - God himself says such things exist.  I recall as a youngster that tobacco advertising on all media was a design by "evil" people to profit from unhealthy products.  The US National Security Agency (NSA), now a very public public part of government, was a secretive organization in the past and those who spoke of it were labeled "conspiracy theorists".  It can readily be seen that what was once the hidden "designs" of "conspiring men" are now out in the open and affecting our lives just as strongly as what we consume.

You may take some time to consider what an updated Word of Wisdom from God would "forewarn" us about today.  Nutrition and health were the subject in the early 19th century, but perhaps there are other matters more potentially damaging about which the Lord would be concerned for us. It is important to study the words of our modern church leaders to know the warnings that have been revealed in our time, just as the Lord revealed knowledge to Joseph Smith in the past.