02 March 2024

Deflecting Blame

Many people today don't like ideas to be challenged. If it is a strongly-held idea, a challenge may be see as if it were a personal attack and that the person making the challenge must be a bad person by nature. Too often, the principle of "love" is invoked as an accusation against any who would dare challenge an idea, especially those espoused by easily-offended people - "you aren't showing love."

The Book of Mormon contains many warnings that are unpleasant to hear. Its prophetic writers foretold many of the abominations of our day and the wicked who God will punish for their violations of commandments. Many people become angry at such words and writing, feeling that they should not be punished for much enjoyed and celebrated sins.

Everyone can act in whatever way they please. However, they cannot alter the just result of their actions, either good and bad. God through his prophets and their warnings work to make plain the mortal and eternal consequences for our works so that we cannot claim either ignorance or abandonment.

In other words, prophets and apostles work to rid themselves of the blame for the sins of others. They have warned us of this:

Mormon 9:35

And these things are written that we may rid our garments of the blood of our brethren, who have dwindled in unbelief.

I am writing this right now. People will be punished for the sins as written in holy writ and the fleshy pages of our conscious. I am often pointed, to the chagrin of the guilty. I do this so that those facing the fires of hell cannot turn back on me with the accusation "You didn't warn me!"  Here I am - warning you.  We must all turn to better ways!


11 February 2024

The Love of the Golden Rule


I think we conflate “love” into something resembling an emotional cudgel. My definition of “love thy neighbor” currently reads as the Golden Rule as my effort at self-preservation.

This is an interesting time when the concept of love is shifting and ill-defined. I thought I knew what it meant to love someone as God commands, but I am floundering in some unfamiliar territory. Recently, I have begun to reflect on my relationship with my “neighbors” and how the use of the term love might apply to such relationships.

As an example, some years ago, my daughter informed me that she would feel more authentic being a man. She knew that I adhere to biblical teachings on these things, so I thought I was being diplomatic in saying that I couldn't go to such places with her. I learned in the few subsequent interactions that this child allowed us to have that she rejected holy writ, no longer believed in my judeo-christian God (if she ever did), that I had always been an abusive father, and that my “misgendering” references were deeply offensive to her and evil-spirited. At the root of these attitudes was the revelation that my “sin” was that I did not really love this child, not only in her eyes, but in the eyes of many others, including those who I thought shared my religious stance. In a matter of five years of decent moral consistency, I went from being an upright family man to being a hateful trans-phobe, mostly over the shifting sands of “love”.

The commonly referenced commandments regarding love are here for your consideration:

Matthew 22

34 ¶ But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.
35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

I have written on other occasions on what it means to love God, so I will only say that obedience to his commandments is how God recognizes one's love according to other scriptures. It seems pragmatic to me with no smiles or hugs or such - he likes those who obey.

Since these two commandments are so proximate to each other, I am prepared to say that the very short quip “love thy neighbor as thyself” meaningfully doesn't include “with all thy heart” or soul or mind. It looks like God wants to reserve this sort of multi-faceted and “all”-consuming love to himself, to the exclusion of all others. To put love of anyone on a equal footing to your devotion to God, much less before it, would constitute a sin, for the mass of believers that seem practically ready to elevate spouse or child or random stranger above God. I only bring this up as it so that we don't seek to project our demanded love of God onto others.

In reference to the example of my daughter above, I put my “love the Lord thy God” above the love for my child. It seems that is unacceptable for most, who would tell us to jettison a belief in (much less obedience to) God any time it might jeopardize my child's selfish desire of all-embracing love toward them - “Love me more than God or you don't really love me, so you are a terrible father.”

So, how should we show love for our neighbors that is consistent with Christ's command?

The fragment “as thyself” isn't very useful at first blush. My first thought is that we should be humble, as opposed to the more current self-loving narcissism that we see on such flagrant display in social media and increasingly everywhere else. It would seem nearly impossible to love others the same as the modern person loves themselves, often to the exclusion of all else. Needed self-sacrifice is a dirty word these days, but this love for neighbor seems to require at least putting others on equal footing with ourselves.

I choose to add the following verse to the fray, something you may have read before as “the golden rule”:

Matthew 7

12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

As “the law and the prophets” are mentioned in both references, it seems that the Lord is talking about basically the same thing. If we want a standard by which we put ourselves and others on the same status, it works very well that one will do to a neighbor the same things that we would want done to us - kindness and consideration.

I recall to myself that this is not an expectation for particularly good treatment from others. This is not “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” sort of “I'll do to you what you did to me” turn-about. The Lord's statement isn't a call for social reciprocity - one must treat the neighbor well, likely better than you would treat yourself if you are anything close to as self-effacing as I can be.

At the end of the day, the Lord's desire in “love thy neighbor” seems to be to treat everyone well, which doesn't match up with a modern definition of love that often wants the lion's-share for oneself. In a world of demands and “fairness”, Christ demands that we put God and his interests first and others ahead of ourselves with a humility that many folks choose not to have.

06 February 2024

Still Liberal and Utopia-Chasing


Before it even begins, I'm not some radicalized leftist rabble-rouser. The term “liberal” has been co-opted by the evil and the lazy and if you want to see me mad, bring it up. My liberalism is primarily in service to the terrestrial world that is coming, the world that comes when lower motivations and actions and (frankly) people are swept away.

Even the crazy social justice types think that the world would work a lot better if we just had the right people running things, and in a way, I think they're right - it will work much better, but only when the “wrong” people are gone and those who are left are “running” their own things. It won't work the way they envision it today and everyone will have to be far more responsible than anyone would prefer, but the vision of a kinder and less anxious world is actually on the way.

The key ingredient for the better world is the one least considered - Jesus Christ.

I believe it has to do with standards. Christ has some pretty high standards compared to society right now and most people are all aglow in either violating such standards or deciding they shouldn't exist at all, hoping that the glorious day that rids us of guilt and pain for our actions will dawn. However, the avoidance of consequences doesn't work, we find ourselves in a constant existential morning-after hang-over, and we seem stuck forever in the dark night of the soul, our hearts empty and vaguely aching.

I watched the 80s movie “Footloose” recently and I sympathized with the poor preacher man, watching his congregants, his own daughter, and even himself sliding down into depravity, all over the enforcement of standards. I didn't care so much about the music or the dancing (sorry fans), I saw a good person getting torn apart because he was working so hard to force other people to not do potentially harmful things. As a result, kids were going absolutely batty and becoming destructive, to themselves and everything else. From my perspective forty years in the future, the allowance of something like dancing seems to pale in the face of the ruin so many have made of their lives and the movie itself becomes excruciatingly dated.

Luckily, the answer to the '80s problems of dancing and the 2020s problems of unfulfilling sensuality or warmongering or any number of other perplexities is quite simple: Jesus Christ and his standards, as expressed in his commandments.

It may seem that I am working at cross-purposes. Wasn't the “Footloose” preacher establishing Christian standards and they didn't work? How can Christ be the answer then? In my mind, it is all about how the standards are applied and how people feel about that application. I know, after a statement like that, I'd better explain myself before I lose you readers completely!

I am an old-school liberal, all about liberty of action. I actually don't believe that you can successfully legislate morality. If you notice above, I highlighted references to the idea of force - that something powerful can compel the less powerful to obey. The “Footloose” kids were playing chicken with tractors, listening to “demon” music, and sneaking into the next county to get drunk, keeping the local police too busy to force everyone to obey the local morality laws.

There is never enough force necessary to get people to stop doing what they really want to do.

Actually, I have seen that force ends up encouraging disobedience and rebellion more than anything else. People are far more interested in exercising their liberty than being pushed into something, even if the result will be something good in the end. Not only do “the means not justify the ends”, often draconian “means” don't bring about anything like the “ends”.

Even God understands this and sets up post-mortal “rewards” for people who really don't want to be good and keep his rules. These rewards keep trouble-makers far from him and his followers! The one being who should be able to force everyone to behave doesn't choose to do so. If I were God (pesky mormonisms), I wouldn't want to spend all of my glorious eternity crushing rebelliousness either - I like lounging on the beach way more!

So, I still haven't described a workable system that will usher in the socialist utopia that my left-leaning tub-thumping friends crave. How can not enforcing standards compliance possibly be part of the solution?

The secret is in the other part of the solution: the trouble-makers are gone! I mean “gone” as in “not around”, vanished, somewhere else. If you read about the end times as described in the Bible, one of the elements is the separation of the “righteous” from the “wicked”. Earth life, mortality, whatever you want to call it, is really effective at revealing whether you really are a righteous person or if you just act virtuous when others are looking - a lifetime is too long to keep up pretenses and your true self will reveal itself. The wicked are the people who choose to disobey the standards/rules/commandments and never get around to correcting themselves. Sometime very soon, the wicked will not be living among the good folks, by whatever method God chooses to employ - war works well, so does famine, prison continents are effective, and pestilence is always a trusty tool. Regardless, the disobedient are out of the picture and everything that depends on people keeping the rules begins to work the way we always dreamed!

My liberal self understands one more very important part of the secret to the better world: we have to really make the daily choice to be among Christ's “righteous” by learning to be obedient and correcting ourselves when we come up short. Also, please don't get weird about “screwing up” - Christ created repentance so righteous people don't end up in the “wicked” camp through our present shortcomings - righteous people get around to personal change and obedience sooner than later and God takes note of it. It is not just about NOT being demonstrably wicked, righteousness is about actively doing good by helping those in need, for one example.

When everyone is good and obedient to God's laws, we are generous and kind and no one takes advantage of anyone else. People like that don't defraud the healthcare system, or insurance companies, or the government, and don't dig metaphorical pits to trip up others. In the coming Terrestrial world, everyone here will have proven themselves obedient to the standards that Christ has set for us, which makes everything work better all-around!

I'm still not a left-winger and I remain a bad enforcement-socialist. Marching around with signs and screaming in people's faces won't get us to the blessed utopian place - God and the people who obey him will make it happen. I want to be part of Christ's group and if you want to be a part of the millennial wonders to come, you should obey and join his group as well. It's the best investment for the future that you can make!

01 February 2024

The Love of the Golden Rule

I think we conflate “love” into something resembling an emotional cudgel. My definition of “love thy neighbor” currently reads as the Golden Rule as my effort at self-preservation.

This is an interesting time when the concept of love is shifting and ill-defined. I thought I knew what it meant to love someone as God commands, but I am floundering in some unfamiliar territory. Recently, I have begun to reflect on my relationship with my “neighbors” and how the use of the term love might apply to such relationships.

As an example, some years ago, my daughter informed me that she would feel more authentic being a man. She knew that I adhere to biblical teachings on these things, so I thought I was being diplomatic in saying that I couldn't go to such places with her. I learned in the few subsequent interactions that this child allowed us to have that she rejected holy writ, no longer believed in my judeo-christian God (if she ever did), that I had always been an abusive father, and that my “misgendering” references were deeply offensive to her and evil-spirited. At the root of these attitudes was the revelation that my “sin” was that I did not really love this child, not only in her eyes, but in the eyes of many others, including those who I thought shared my religious stance. In a matter of five years of decent moral consistency, I went from being an upright family man to being a hateful trans-phobe, mostly over the shifting sands of “love”.

The commonly referenced commandments regarding love are here for your consideration:

Matthew 22

34 ¶ But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.
35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

I have written on other occasions on what it means to love God, so I will only say that obedience to his commandments is how God recognizes one's love according to other scriptures. It seems pragmatic to me with no smiles or hugs or such - he likes those who obey.

Since these two commandments are so proximate to each other, I am prepared to say that the very short quip “love thy neighbor as thyself” meaningfully doesn't include “with all thy heart” or soul or mind. It looks like God wants to reserve this sort of multi-faceted and “all”-consuming love to himself, to the exclusion of all others. To put love of anyone on a equal footing to your devotion to God, much less before it, would constitute a sin, for the mass of believers that seem practically ready to elevate spouse or child or random stranger above God. I only bring this up so that we don't seek to project our demanded love of God onto others.

In reference to the example of my daughter above, I put my “love the Lord thy God” above the love for my child. It seems that is unacceptable for most, who would tell us to jettison a belief in (much less obedience to) God any time it might jeopardize my child's selfish desire of all-embracing love toward them - “Love me more than God or you don't really love me, so you are a terrible father.”

So, how should we show love for our neighbors that is consistent with Christ's command?

The fragment “as thyself” isn't very useful at first blush. My first thought is that we should be humble, as opposed to the more current self-loving narcissism that we see on such flagrant display in social media and increasingly everywhere else. It would seem nearly impossible to love others the same as the modern person loves themselves, often to the exclusion of all else. Needed self-sacrifice is a dirty word these days, but this love for neighbor seems to require at least putting others on equal footing with ourselves.

I choose to add the following verse to the fray, something you may have read before as “the golden rule”:

Matthew 7

12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

As “the law and the prophets” are mentioned in both references, it seems that the Lord is talking about basically the same thing. If we want a standard by which we put ourselves and others on the same status, it works very well that one will do to a neighbor the same things that we would want done to us - kindness and consideration.

I recall to myself that this is not an expectation for particularly good treatment from others. This is not “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” sort of “I'll do to you what you did to me” turn-about. The Lord's statement isn't a call for social reciprocity - one must treat the neighbor well, likely better than you would treat yourself if you are anything close to as self-effacing as I can be.

At the end of the day, the Lord's desire in “love thy neighbor” seems to be to treat everyone well, which doesn't match up with a modern definition of love that often wants the lion's-share for oneself. In a world of demands and “fairness”, Christ demands that we put God and his interests first and others ahead of ourselves with a humility that many folks choose not to have.

27 January 2024

"Ye Know Me Not" and the Lord's Judgement


I have been drawn to Christ's teachings as found in Matthew 25. Not that there aren't other things to learn in the writings of prophets and apostles, but the concepts written here are so central to how we must conduct ourselves if we truly desire heaven and God's praise.

In verses 1 and 14, variations on "...the kingdom of heaven be likened unto..." let us know that the Savior is teaching who will get the celestial reward - This is how things will work in Heaven.  If you don't like the workings of the Lord's precincts, then you will not like a celestial glory and will be placed in one of the lower glories.

Two very well-known parables are contained in this chapter. I will be taking what may seem a very unorthodox examination of what these parables are trying to tell us. I don't want to discount the other interpretations, but I hope to teach principles that are important but often go unnoticed.

Don't Be Late to the Feast (versus 1-13)

Many people focus on numbers and oil and perhaps even the rudeness of some of the virgins in not sharing their oil with the others. I'm more interested in the fact that the Lord gives this as a comparison with the kingdom of heaven and how our readiness will be treated there.

  • In heaven, there are no loans or borrowing or gifting outside of Christ's atonement. We cannot give ourselves to make up for the shortcomings of others - only the Savior can do that and he has already established the conditions (commandments) that motivate him in this way. Each person must come under their own efforts through the Lord's atonement ("buy [oil] for yourselves") before judgement's "door was shut."
  • In heaven, there will be no entry for the unproven. Many want a lack of sufficient preparation for judgement and celestial glory to be basically excused ("Lord, Lord, open to us"). Rather, one must present themselves as a faithful and dutiful follower of the Savior when called to account
  • The propet Joseph Smith corrected the bridegroom's statement to the latecomers at the door:  "I know you not." becomes "ye know me not", or you don't know the nature of God. Christ knows you and he sees into your very soul. Your final judgement is an appointment that you will keep, ready or not. Once "the door [is] shut", the Lord becomes the dutiful judge - not letting the unproven into celestial glory and also not excusing the laggard.
  • "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." We are constantly warned that death and judgement and reckoning are God's realities and that these will happen. There is no excuse for the procrastinator.

Making Best Use of Your Opportunity (14-30)

"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors." (Alma 32:34)

Although weighing the value of talents and the actions of the Lord's servants in this parable is interesting, I will focus on the Lord's actions and sayings, as we continue to investigate "the kingdom of heaven".

The two parables in this chapter were taught together by Christ to inform us on the coming judgement. Just as the virgins didn't know when the bridegroom would come to the wedding feast and some were judged unprepared, the servants in the story of the talents didn't know when their Lord would return to make an accounting for his goods.

  • The Lord left "his goods" in the hands of his servants and upon his return, he "reckoneth with them". We learn that God gives us this earth and our mortal bodies and will judge us based on our use (or misuse or disuse) of the things he has provided for us.
  • The profitable servants were rewarded very handsomely. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." 
    • It is interesting that the same reward was given to the servants that doubled the goods, no matter what how much they were entrusted with. We should not concern ourselves with the foolish idea of "fairness". People come to earth with more or less, but what you do with whatever you get seems to be what matters in the economy of heaven. 
  • The "slothful servant" knew about his lord, often better than we seem to do: "thou art a hard man". Christ sets the criteria of his rewards and we must meet the requirements to get them. The Lord in the parable confirms to the "wicked" servant that "thou knewst that I..." 
    • There is something to notice about the Lord.  It sure sounds like the Lord is very black and white; there seems no middle ground with him. "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:16).
This story is about trust: we (the servants) are entrusted with relatively small things (our lives on earth) and based upon our ability to make better of what we have been given, we will either be rewarded ("I will make thee ruler over many things") or punished ("cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness").

A theme is developing with the two parables - Christ is very firm when the moment comes for judgement, probably more firm than many people would prefer. This time of our mortal lives is the opportunity to take advantage of the Savior's generosity and power for repentance and change.

"Right-hand" Sheep and "Left-hand" Goats (31-46)

After teaching us about the limited time that we have to prove ourselves worthy of the Lord's trust and rewards, he immediately provides the central works that we need to do to prove ourselves "his sheep" and to "be on his right hand". This is the final judgement of our lives.

The Savior gives strict instructions how to treat others in order to get on the Lord's right hand - if you find them...

  • hungry? give meat (which could be food or knowledge).
  • thirsty? give drink (which could be water or knowledge).
  • stranger? take them in (don't "other" people).
  • naked? clothe them. (don't leave others exposed to evil)
  • sick or in prison? visit them.
If we attend to these needs in others, these are the descriptors of our nature and reward - "sheep", "right hand", "righteous", "life eternal". 

If we fail to do these things, our nature and reward are these - "goats", "left hand", "cursed", "everlasting fire", "everlasting punishment".

"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened..."

Christ is a very straight-forward and "hard man". There are things we need to do during our mortal lives that make us into what we may become. Our mortal lives are finite and we don't know when they will end. We will be judged on how we care for others in need while in life. We will receive either rewards for our ultimate righteousness or punishment for our ultimate wickedness. As prophets and apostles continually tell us, we need to prepare for our reckoning with God now.