What Is Our Doctrine?

September 12, 2011
I ran across this today.  It is not from Bruce R. McConkie but from his son, Joseph Fielding McConkie.  It says in a far more eloquent way something I have been saying for years, something that I testify is true:

IT IS NOT UNCOMMON IN gospel discussions for someone to challenge what is being said with the question, “Is that official Church doctrine?” This question often means the one asking it does not like what is being said and is seeking a reason not to be bound by it. The question is generally successful in putting the one being challenged on the defensive because of the difficulties associated with defining “official Church doctrine.” In telling the story of the Creation, for instance, teachers are commonly challenged with the question, “Does the Church have an official position on the theory of evolution?” The answer is no, it does not. On the other hand, and this is certainly very important in such a discussion, the Church does have an official position on the doctrine of the origin of man. The way questions are framed is very important. On the one hand, the Church is not in the business of evaluating scientific theories; on the other, it is in the business of teaching that all humankind are the offspring of divine parents and thus not the product of an evolutionary process. The knowledge that we obtain in the temple, knowledge required for us to enter into the presence of the Lord, and the ordinances performed there do not permit the notion that our blood line traces to animals.

If the body of “official doctrine” is to be limited to formal declarations by the First Presidency, the Church has precious little doctrine. From the time of its organization in the spring of 1830 to the present, there have been very few instances in which the First Presidency has issued “official” doctrinal declarations. These have included the statement on the origin of man, a doctrinal exposition on the Father and the Son, and most recently the proclamation on the family. Each of these declarations is marvelous in its own right, but if our definition of “official doctrines” is defined so narrowly that it is limited to these declarations and the few others we have received, we could not even declare faith, repentance, and baptism as doctrines of the Church. Indeed, most of what we understand to be the doctrine of the Church finds no mention in such documents. Certainly the standard works, the temple ceremony, and much instruction that has come to us by those whom we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators is also “official doctrine.”

I was only 16 when I first learned from the Holy Ghost that the Church is true, but prior to that I had been engaged in a desperate search for something, anything that I could believe in.  It certainly wasn’t the teachings of the churches I grew up in.  When the missionaries first began giving me the lessons, I quickly realized that they were speaking the truth, something that one does not hear very often.  I did not join the Church because these teachings were and were not “official Church doctrine.”  I joined because I knew it was true, and I loved it because it was true.

I am not and never have been interested in what is or is not “official Church doctrine.”  I am interested in truth if I can find it.  Thank heaven I found some of it in the summer of 1962.  The official Church doctrines are true, but not all that is true is official Church doctrine.  If we limit our understanding of truth to official Church doctrine, we are limited indeed.  After all, what is truth anyway?  The Savior said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)  The truth is Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ is the truth.  Really, in sense he is all there is in the universe.  He created it.


Book of Mormon Foretells The End Of The United States

September 9, 2011

Today my post will be brief because I am working on a project that I have not finished.  I plan to post on those passages in the Book of Mormon that seem to prophesy the end of the United States if we become ripe in wickedness.  I will show from the scriptures the Lord’s promise that he will allow this nation to be “swept” off” if we fail to repent as a nation.

What does “swept off” mean in this context?  What does “ripe” mean?   How we understand that word determines how much time we have left.  Here is a passage from Mosiah 29.  I recommend it to you as food for thought as we approach another national election:

And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land. (Mosiah 29:27)

It will be a while before I  finish this project.   I will post it here when I am done.

 


Can A Latter-day Saint Be Too Patriotic Or Defend The Constitution Too Much?

September 7, 2011

My wife and I try with limited success to study the scriptures together every morning.  We usually read the Book of Mormon, but today we were thinking about Elder Oaks famous talks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” so we read that for our scripture study.  It is truly a great talk from a true prophet.

One of the things Elder Oaks does is point out how an excessive strength in patriotism, freedom and patriotism can be our spiritual downfall.  As we read, I had a curious thought, something I have never thought before: God who already knows the future may know that the American people are doomed by their wickedness and the wickedness they allow, and he may have other plans for the minority of righteous that remain.  After all, as the scriptures assure us, the Holy Ghost will not always strive with us.  If we persist in our wickedness He will withdraw his protection and leave us to ourselves.  If this is actually the case, we ought to be more balanced in our efforts by spending less time agonizing over the fate of freedom and the USA, and spend more time building for our glorious future.

If the Constitution cannot be saved in the present situation, maybe it can be saved by resurrecting it in a new country, Zion or the New Jerusalem.  The Church has been buying up property in Jackson County on a major scale and doing the same in Daviess County, Missouri at Adam-ondi-ahman.  Maybe there are things we could do to aid that effort by improving the order and righteousness in our families, attending the temple more often, and preparing ourselves to be good citizens in a new land.

Many have said that there is no wilderness to flee to as the saints fled from Nauvoo to the Great Basin.  That may be true now, but that could change.  Hugh Nibley in teaching his Book of Mormon class said that wildernesses are man-made.  Almost all of them were peopled and prosperous at one time.  We see ruins of the ancient Anasazi in the wilderness of our desert southwest.  The wilderness of Arabia and the land once referred to as the Fertile Crescent was not alway barren.  There are evidences of high civilization in the Amazon jungle and in portions of Central America.  All over the world we see evidences of wilderness that was not always wilderness.  Maybe Missouri will be such a place in some future day.

If the Lord wants us to focus our efforts on building up a future Zion in some future wilderness, perhaps he has already written off the USA as a free country.   The Book of Mormon repeatedly cautions us that the American Gentile will be “swept off” if it becomes ripe in wickedness.  Perhaps we are seeing the beginning of that.  How wicked do the people of this nation have to be before it is ripe in wickedness?  President Hinckley said that he did not know that we were less wicked than Sodom and Gomorrah. I don’t see how the collapse of freedom and the USA could be far away.

Here are a couple of passages from Elder Oaks talk that inspired me in these new ideas:

1. My first example concerns Satan’s efforts to corrupt a person who has an unusual commitment to one particular doctrine or commandment of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This could be an unusual talent for family history work, an extraordinary commitment to constitutional government, a special gift in the acquisition of knowledge, or any other special talent or commitment.

[…]

17. Leaving the list of dangers peculiar to students, I come to the subject of patriotism. Love of country is surely a strength, but carried to excess it can become the cause of spiritual downfall. There are some citizens whose patriotism (as they define it) is so intense and so all-consuming that it seems to override every other responsibility, including family and church. For example, I caution those patriots who are participating in or provisioning private armies and making private preparations for armed conflict. Their excessive zeal for one aspect of patriotism is causing them to risk spiritual downfall as they withdraw from the society of the Church and from the governance of those civil authorities to whom our article of faith makes all of us subject.

I feel that keeping a proper balance in this matter is part of living the gospel.  We should not altogether neglect patriotism and a desire to defend the Constitution any more than we should neglect family history work, missionary work, or improving our families.  Our scriptures and the gospel that proceeds from them contains all of these elements, and none should be neglected.  We must exercise these strengths in a balanced way that avoids gospel hobbies.

What do you think?


The Doctrine of Jesus Christ And The Faith To Keep His Commandments

September 6, 2011

Many years ago after his resurrection in the Old World, Jesus Christ visited the Americas and taught this simple but amazing doctrine recorded in the eleventh chapter of 3rd Nephi:

32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

Easy to say. Not so easy to do.

A little further in the chapter the Savior says:

40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

Simple isn’t it? Believe and be saved. Don’t believe and be damned. But I was at first puzzled by verse 40. How could this be? The Church of Jesus Christ teaches a great deal more than this simple doctrine, doesn’t it? Does that mean it “cometh of evil?” I just cannot believe that. Is not this Church the one that brought forth the Book of Mormon and these words in the first place? What would we know about the Savior’s teachings in ancient America if it were not for this Church?

Then it struck me. The gospel as taught by the Savior’s only true Church is 1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, 2) Repentance, 3) Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and 4) receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Isn’t this just another way of saying the same thing. I think it is.

The Savior said “believe” and ye shall be saved. But what did he mean by believe? He said to be baptized. Could it be that the word “believe” means “believe enough to be baptized?” I have noticed that in the scriptures the word “believe” is sometimes used differently than we use it in 21st century English. The word “believe” carries with it the connotation of having faith. And faith by nature demands action, in this case the action to be baptized. The Savior might just as well have been saying “Have faith in me” and be saved. If a man says he has faith in Christ or that he believes in Christ and then refuses to keep the Savior’s commandments, does he really believe or is he merely giving lip service?

I don’t believe a man has faith in Christ unless he makes his best effort to keep the Savior’s commandments. And the first of those commandments is to be baptized. If a man does not have enough faith in Christ to be baptized, he doesn’t have enough faith to be saved because he doesn’t really believe in Christ. “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” the Savior said in the 14th chapter of John. If we do not do our best to keep his commandments we are proving that we do not love him, that we do not have faith in him, and that we do not believe in him.

The Savior has made his doctrine clear. We cannot deny it or we will be damned by His own words.


Following Jesus Christ

March 13, 2011

It is impossible to follow Jesus Christ while rejecting his prophets.


Soaking Up the Spirit

March 13, 2011

My wife speaks Spanish. I don’t.  The two of us have been asked by the stake to serve as a “shepherding couple” to the singles branch in the stake and to the single people in two other wards including the Spanish branch.  Today I attended the Spanish branch with her and didn’t understand of word in Sacrament Meeting, Gospel Doctrine class and priesthood meeting.  But I was surprised by how much you can learn from the tone of voice and facial expressions.  But more than that, the Spirit speaks to our hearts in a language anyone can understand.  The meetings were full of the Spirit, and I just soaked it up.  I had a wonderful Sabbath today.  That doesn’t always happen.


Treasures in Heaven

December 3, 2010

19 ¶Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: (Matt. 6:19-20)

For nearly all my life this has been my favorite scriptural passage.  Early on I realized that one of the greatest failings of our Anglo-American culture here in the USA is the worship of money.  If we list the things that are the most important to us, whatever is at the top is our God.  That is what we worship.  And for many or perhaps most of us, that is money and the things that money can buy.   And money worship is a form of idolatry, a false God.

When I was a young man, I made a conscious decision to become successful, whatever that means.  So I went to the Salt Lake City public library and looked up “success” in the card catalog.  Then, after choosing the book I wanted, I went into the stacks and found Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.  After reading that book I realized that anyone can become as rich as he wants to be by applying the principles taught in that book.

So I set a goal for my life to become rich, to get a lot of money, a rather immodest sum.  Then I went to work.  Almost overnight my income multiplied by many times.  I bought a new car, and got an expensive suit and pair of shoes.  I started studying to become a stock broker, and worked over eighty hours a week.  Soon I was living in expensive hotels and eating in the finest restaurants.  My pocket filled up with a multitude of credit cards that had large credit limits.  I maxed them out, but had no trouble making the monthly payments.  I got married to a woman who wanted all these thing just as much as I did.

Then I lost my job.  But my income didn’t drop.  I just started working two full-time jobs.  Then I started to itch so horribly that I had to go see a doctor.  He told me I had a condition he had seen many times before.  I had executive itch.  I was working so hard that my nervous system was rebelling and my body was falling apart because of the stress of my workaholic behavior.  I decided to quit one of my jobs, and the moment I made the decision, even before I quit the second job, my itching stopped.  And of course my income was cut in half.  I lost my car.  Then I lost my wife for whom a high standard of living was very important along with the money needed to pay for it.  From this I learned a valuable lesson:

It is better to get married when you are poor and then get rich than it is to get rich and then get married.

Several times during my youth I tried to get rich by working two full-time jobs.  And every time I did so, my mental health went into the toilet and I had to quit my second job.  Finally I decided that perhaps it would be better if I set a different goal for my life.  And I decided to apply the same goal seeking principles to living my religion.  I decided to Momonize my life, to become a super Mormon.  I began attending Church with a vengeance, repenting of my sins with great drive and ambition, and feasting upon the words of Christ by reading the scriptures as once I had read science fiction, with complete absorption and focus.

As a result, I learned another lesson.  Righteousness can bring more happiness and contentment than money can.  Righteousness can often bring money into ones life, but the reverse is not true.  Money rarely brings one righteousness.

The thought occurred to me that the more money one aims for, the greater the risk of failure and unhappiness.  The less money one needs to be happy, the greater his chances for happiness.

A few years later I got a job driving a log truck.  I hauled logs for the White Mountain Apache in Arizona for one complete logging season.  I drove between fourteen and eighteen hours a day.  I had a lot of time to think while I drove.  A thought came to me that has never left me.  Men are not equal in money.  But they are equal in time.  Every person born under heaven has the same amount of time, twenty-four hours a day.  In this they are equal.  But not every man spends his time in the same way.  All men spend their time on one of three things or a combination of them.  He spends his time on converting time to money, or converting time to learning, or converting time to building relationships.

Most of us spend a little time on each of these three things.  But inevitably we spend most of our time on one of them.  Time really is money if one chooses to devote his life to the making of money.  The more time he spends at this, the more money he makes.  But if he does this, invariably he must neglect the other two investments.  He has to decide what is most important to him.  He only has twenty-four hours a day, and if he shorts learning and building relationships in order to free up time for making money he will impoverish himself.

Why is that?  It is because you can’t take it with you.  Learning remains with you beyond death.  So do your most precious relationships.  But the money and the things money can buy are all stripped from us when we pass through the veil.  Money doesn’t last.  And just as a married man or women loses his sweetheart at death unless he is sealed by the priesthood in the temple, so a man loses his money.  It is not one of those things that is eternal as he is.  Every one of us is an eternal being, but our money is not part of us.  Our learning and our loving relationships are.

One of my all-time favorite cartoons depicts two men dressed in business attire standing beside a casket at a funeral or viewing.  One said to the other, “How much did he leave?”  The other replied, “Everything.”  So true.  So true.

One of the most important things the Savior ever tried to teach us is that some riches are fleeting and do not follow us into the grave.  But the riches that do follow us eternally are the true riches.  They are what bring us lasting joy.


Mormon Prophecy and Secret Combinations

November 30, 2010

11 For all flesh is corrupted before me; and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth, among the children of men, in the presence of all the hosts of heaven—

12 Which causeth silence to reign, and all eternity is pained, and the angels are waiting the great command to reap down the earth, to gather the tares that they may be burned; and, behold, the enemy is combined.

This is taken from the 38th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants. What does it mean? I don’t know, but a have a couple of ideas.

“…all flesh is corrupted”
Could this mean that we are all mortal, living in a telestial world, and all men everywhere are filthy unless they come unto Christ and are sanctified so that they are washed clean in the blood of the Lamb?”

“…the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth”
What does the word “prevail” mean in this context?  It might mean that those who are in seats of power over the nations are in darkness, or in other words they are influenced or controlled by Satan, the great deceiver.

“…Which causeth silence to reign”
This phrase I do not understand at all.  I hope to learn more, by and by.

“…the angels are waiting the great command to reap down the earth”
This phrase is also mysterious.  I believe that it is literal as well as metaphorical.  Apparently angels are going to have a role in the destruction of the wicked at the end of the world.  In other words, it is not going to be entirely a holocaust by the hands of mortal men.  Who will or what will be reaped down?  I hope it will not be me.  It is a frightening verse.  If it is a reference to the wicked and their destruction at the beginning of the Millennium, who are the wicked?  How can I be sure I’m not one of them?  How is “wicked” defined?  It is a word used often throughout scripture.  It must have a meaning beyond those who are not a member of the Church, or those who are merely imperfect and sinners.

“…gather the tares that they may be burned”
I assume this does not mean literal weeds growing among literal wheat.  But how far does the metaphor go?  Does it mean that the wicked will be literally burned at the beginning of the Millennium?”  Or does it mean that something else will happen to them that is represented by this metaphorical reference?  If the latter, what could it be referring to?”

“…behold, the enemy is combined.”
Who is the enemy? I suppose it is a reference to the enemies of Jesus Christ and his covenant people, but could it mean something else too?   And what does the word “combined” mean?  I believe it is a reference to secret combinations, those who intentionally or unwittingly follow Satan in opposition to Christ and his covenant people.  They are undoubtedly organized into syndicates, cartels, and other criminal organizations.  Are these the combinations spoken of?  Is this what “combined” means in this context?  I think so, but what else could it mean?”

I find these two verses fascinating precisely because I am not certain what they mean.  I am sure there are others who understand them better.  It is my hope that such a one will find this blog post and enlighten me in the comments.


Mormon Prophecy and Calamities to Come

November 10, 2010

In the General Priesthood Session of October 1972 I sat in the Marriot Center on the campus of Brigham Young University and listened to Harold B. Lee, the President of the Church, speak of the horrors to come.  He spoke of the need for priesthood holders to learn their prophecy from reliable, scriptural sources and the dangers of learning of these things from popular, “loose” writings which had become a problem in the Church at that time largely because of a book by Duane Crowther entitled Prophecy: Key to the Future which included the notorious White Horse Prophecy as an appendix.

These words from President Lee had a great impact upon my gospel education as I have been afflicted with a great anxiety about nuclear war ever since I was a three year old boy in 1948.  Here is what President Lee said.  Some years later I typed it up and keep it in my scripture case:

One more matter: There are among us many loose writings predicting the calamities which are about to overtake us. Some of these have been publicized as though they were necessary to wake up the world to the horrors about to overtake us. Many of these are from sources upon which there cannot be unquestioned reliance.

Are you priesthood bearers aware of the fact that we need no such publications to be forewarned, if we were only conversant with what the scriptures have already spoken to us in plainness?

Let me give you the sure word of prophecy on which you should rely for your guide instead of these strange sources which may have great political implications.

Read the 24th chapter of Matthew—particularly that inspired version as contained in the Pearl of Great Price. (JS—M 1.)

Then read the 45th section of the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord, not man, has documented the signs of the times. [D&C 45]

Now turn to section 101 and section 133 of the Doctrine and Covenants and hear the step-by-step recounting of events leading up to the coming of the Savior. [D&C 101; D&C 133]

Finally, turn to the promises the Lord makes to those who keep the commandments when these judgments descend upon the wicked, as set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 38. [D&C 38]

Brethren, these are some of the writings with which you should concern yourselves, rather than commentaries that may come from those whose information may not be the most reliable and whose motives may be subject to question. And may I say, parenthetically, most of such writers are not handicapped by having any authentic information on their writings.

Counsel like this from the living prophet of God is a blessing beyond measure to the faithful saints. In every age the covenant people of the Lord have enjoyed such guidance from his oracles. I recommend these words and testify to you that they are true.


The Revelation of John, Comets and the Second Coming

August 26, 2010

In General Conference on April 6th of 1843 the Prophet Joseph Smith made a prediction about the fulfillment of a prophecy in the Revelation of John.  He said that when the Lord returns at the time of the Second Coming, his coming would be mistaken as a comet by much of the world.  Here are the exact words of Joseph Smith as recorded in the Documentary History of the Church:

Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, Etc.; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make his appearance. There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes in divers places, the seas heaving beyond their bounds; then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east. (April 6, 1843.) DHC 5:336-337.

Often comets are visible and their orbits known by astronomers long before they arrive in the vicinity of Earth and are visible to the naked eye. Is such a comet known and coming? Could the arrival of such a comet be one of the signs of the time?

I am not making a statement here. I am asking a question.