Monson and Hinckley, Optimists or Pessimists?

October 5, 2011

I am often told that I am a pessimist rather than an optimist.   They could not be more wrong.  I see a wonderful future for the righteous and a horrible future for the wicked.  Is that being a pessimist?  I don’t think so.  I am not a glass half full person.  I am a glass half full and half empty person, you know, reality.  But I am not alone in this.  I am in good company indeed.  Consider these three short scriptural passages.

19 And wo is me because of their wickedness; for my heart has been filled with sorrow because of their wickedness, all my days; nevertheless, I know that I shall be lifted up at the last day. (Mormon 2:19)

Is this pessimism? Was Moroni a pessimist here? No, he just understood the situation. He knew it was impossible for bad behavior to lead to a good outcome.  Here is an interesting passage from the teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley:

I do not know that things were worse in the times of Sodom and Gomorrah. –President Gordon B. Hinckley, January 10, 2004

Was President Gordon B. Hinckley being a pessimist here? No, of course not. He just understood the situation, maybe because he read the scriptures alot over his 95 years in mortality.

So what does President Thomas S. Monson think of all this? Does he disagree with President Hinckley? Here is a passage from October general conference, the one we just had three days ago:

“Behaviors, which once were considered inappropriate and immoral, are now not only tolerated but viewed by ever so many as acceptable,” […] “The message is that morality is passe, conscience is for wimps and the single overriding command is ‘Thou shalt not be found out.'” –Thomas S.Monson, October 2, 2011

I don’t believe that President Monson is being a pessimist or that he is being judgemental. He is just stating facts. He understands the situation. He knows from reading the scriptures,  just as anyone does that the future is bright for those who love the Lord and follow him, but it is dark indeed, for those who don’t. An evil tree always brings forth evil fruit. But it is impossible for a good tree to bring forth evil fruit.

I am not a pessimist.  I am a realist.  And I know what the prophets have said about the wages of sin.

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Mormons, Jews, Christians and Future Holocausts

September 19, 2011

For years I have watched a change of attitude in the Church towards traditional Christianity.  I haven’t understood the reason for it, nor have I been comfortable with it.  I joined the Church from a Baptist background, and if I had wanted to be a Protestant, I would have just remained a Baptist.  After all, we are the true Church, the only true Church.  A true church strongly implies false churches.  Sure, there is truth in all of them, but so what?  Even Satan worshippers have some truth.  They believe there is a Satan, just as we do.  They believe in keeping the commandments even though they are the devil’s commandments rather than the Lord’s.  They have scriptures just as we do.  And my guess is that their scriptures are just as inspired as ours even though the inspiration is from below.  There is truth in Buddhism, Islam, the Hindu faith, and Judaism.  There is even some truth in atheism.  I do not see how the denominations of traditional Christianity can be justified merely by asserting that they contain some truth.  They do not have the priesthood, revelation or prophets.  They teach copious amounts of false doctrine.  Perhaps of greatest importance is the undeniable fact that without the priesthood, they are unable to perform those essential ordinances without which it is impossible to obtain eternal life.  In the denominations of traditional Christianity there is no salvation.

But of greater significance to me, is the fact that the attitude of the Prophet Joseph Smith was negative concerning the “sectarians.” That was his term for the many denominations of traditional Christianity.  Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie, the primary inspiration of this blog, did not use the term “sectarian” so much as they referred to “apostate Christendom.”  But although the terms they used were not the same, their negative view of the Protestant and Catholic denominations were in the tradition of Joseph Smith as was my own because of the reasons for which I joined the Church.  I had obtained a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

After all, is not this a passage from our scripture?

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all awrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those bprofessors were all ccorrupt; that: “they ddraw near to me with their lips, but their ehearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the fcommandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the gpower thereof.” (Joseph Smith–History)

If traditional Christianity had not gone astray, there would have been no Great Apostasy and no need for a Restoration. Because of this teaching, and the attitudes of Joseph Smith and the early latter-day prophets, this change in LDS understanding and attitude towards the false churches has been a puzzle to me to me and a source of no small amount of distress.  Are these changes from God, or are they just false attitudes creeping into the Church?

Well, yesterday I had a thought that may have been from the Lord because I never thought it before, and it answered all my questions and set my heart at rest on this matter.  A young and brilliant attorney in my ward spoke in Sacrament Meeting, and at one point he spoke about the claim some sectarians make that we are not Christians.  I thought his remarks excellent.  Whether we are Christian or not depends on how one defines the term “Christian.”  If in the course of conversation with a Gentile we are using different definitions, of course there will be little or no true communication or understanding.

Whenever this topic of who is and is not Christian comes up, a nagging question comes up in my mind.  Why do we care what the they think?  There is a sense in which we are not Christians.  We are not heirs to the false doctrines and philosophies of traditional Christianity.   On the other hand, there is a sense in which they are not Christians.  How can one follow Jesus Christ while rejecting his prophets? That is exactly what the Protestants and Catholics do.  There is a sense in which we are the only Christians.  So why do we care what they think?  Joseph Smith didn’t.  He denounced those denominations as false churches all the days of his short life.  So did his successors until recently.

After the meeting I went up to this fellow and asked, “Why do we care?  Why do we care whether or not the false churches consider us to be Christian?  We are in this life to please God, not man.  His are the only opinions that matter.  He told me what I thought he would, something I have heard from dozens of other saints when I pose this question.  “We want the other churches to accepts us as Christians because of our missionary work.”  But that makes no sense.  When others join us from a Catholic or Protestant background as I did, we are ripe to become members of the Church because we have begun to doubt the teachings of the church in which we grew up.   Do our missionaries have a lot of success in baptizing nonmembers who are still convinced their church is right?  I doubt it very much.

Then during the Sunday School part of the block, I thought something I have never thought before.  We are living in a very difficult time for people of all faiths.  Just as the other churches are being persecuted on all sides by the atheists, agnostics and secularists, so are we.  The gays are mad at us, as are those who believe there can be a legitimate “choice” to kill an unborn child.  Others hate us because we love and defend our God-inspired Constitution.  Many despise religious tea party people because they remind the wicked that there is a difference between right and wrong.  The government controlled media portray those who believe in a far more negative light than those who keep their mouths shut about God.

But more importantly, this intolerance for those who are religious is increasing rapidly.  What will happen in the future?  Does persecution lie ahead, not only for the Mormons but for all those who believe in God?  Could there ever be another holocaust or genocide, this time not just targeting Jews but all who believe? I think it could happen.  There are a couple of reasons.

First, our scriptures proclaim that when Christ comes at the Second Coming, there will be few left upon the earth.

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall akill you: and ye shall be bhated of all nations cfor my name’s sake.

And then shall many be aoffended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

And many afalse prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

And because ainiquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax bcold. (Matthew 24:9-12)

[…]

For then shall be great atribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those adays shall be shortened. (Matthew 24:21-22)

Also, the latter-day Prophet Bruce R. McConkie and others have said that the saints will endure greater persecutions ahead than those they have known in the past:

Nor are the days of our greatest sorrows and our deepest sufferings all behind us. They too lie ahead. We shall yet face greater perils, we shall yet be tested with more severe trials, and we shall yet weep more tears of sorrow than we have ever known before. (Bruce R. McConkie.  The Coming Tests and Trials and Glory.  General Conference, April 1980)

If these prophecies are true, and I believe they are.  Then all we who believe in God must stick together.  We need to forget our differences and focus on our mutual belief in God and his love for us.  For only his love and our faith in him will get us through the difficult times ahead.  Those who have taken the part of Satan, with or without realizing it,  can persecute all of us regardless of religious persuasion.  And they can persecute us with a great persecution, possibly unto death.  But as long as we remain faithful, we need not worry.  As long as we keep the promises we have made to God, he will protect us and sustain us in this life and in the life to come.

The bottom line for me, and what I learned from my contemplation is that because very difficult times lie ahead for all of us, we Latter-day Saints do not want to be alone against the terrors that evil men seek to inflict upon us.  We are all children of the same Heavenly Father, brothers and sisters.  And we need to love and care for each other amidst all the machinations of the secular world, the crusading atheists, and the worldly.

But not only that, the Latter-day Saints are very well organized.  They can do much for those of other faiths if they will let us and need our help.  In some cases we can provide some of the leadership that is needed for our spiritual and temporal survival.  We are strong in the Lord and can use that strength to love and serve others.

In any case, I am no longer puzzled or distressed that we are reaching out to the other churches.  We need friends both inside and outside of the Church.  We can help each other.  And we are going to need it.


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?


Plain and Precious Parts Removed… Is It Happening Today?

April 5, 2009

No, it is not happening today.  But what we leave out is always as important as what we include.  And Satan is not just a tempter.  He also lulls and deceives.  We know what not to reveal or divulge.  At least we think we do.  Do we know as well what must be said?  Or are we in danger of leaving out “plain and precious parts?”  The conference talks of today are the scriptures of tomorrow.

I love Priesthood Correlation and I have a testimony that it is inspired by God. Ever since Priesthood Correlation became a bigger part of the Kingdom of God we are abused less and less by false doctrine and personal opinions being promoted as Church doctrine by some members and occasionally even by some leaders.

With that said, is it possible for Priesthood Correlation to be misused or even abused? Is Priesthood Correlation appropriate in all situations? If not, then when it is appropriate and when is it inappropriate? I am making no statement here. This is not a rhetorical question. I am genuinely ignorant in this matter, and I am hoping for some answers eventually.

I noticed years ago that books written by named authors are generally much better books than those written by committees. I’m not referring to Church books in particular, but to books in general. Textbooks are usually authored by committees and they are almost never as informative, interesting and inspiring as books covering the same material written by an authority in the field. The Encyclopedia Britannica, for an example, is considered by many to be the best encyclopedia in the world. But its individual articles are written by acknowledged experts and authorities in the field. And they sign their work so that if anything is wrong, the reader knows who to blame for the error. The short bibliography at the end of each article is also compiled by a specific scholar who has signed his work.

Now this doesn’t mean that individually signed articles are appropriate in every situation. Obviously when the Church is putting together a lesson manual or a book such as True to the Faith for new members, it needs to speak with one voice. We must not confuse new members with a multitude of conflicting opinions on the subject of doctrine. But does that mean that all Church books should be homogenized and pasteurized until they read like a shop manual or a textbook? Could the works of James E. Talmage or Spencer W. Kimball’s The Miracle of Forgiveness have been widely read in the Church if they had been written today in our correlated environment rather than years ago?

And what about General Conference? Have you ever heard a General Conference talk that so carefully avoids offending anyone, or sticks so closely to saying things that could not remotely be disagreed with doctrinally that the talk seems to have been homogenized and pasteurized until what is left is true only in some vague and indiscernible way? Some without the spirit, including myself on occasion, find such talks boring and good only for encouraging sleep.

And when we take too much truth out of a talk or Church manual for the sake of correlation, if that ever happens, is it possible to do what the “great and abominable church” did with the scriptures as described in 1 Nephi 13?

I love the truth, whatever it is. I love the truth if I can find out what it is. I love and fervently believe the restoration prophets including those living today, especially those living today. They are true successors to Joseph Smith. They are true prophets.

But truth is more than what is said. It is also what is left out. And if too many “plain and precious” parts are left out of the truth, it is not true anymore. It becomes like a textbook, a book written by a committee. Nearly all of the scriptures, both ancient and modern, were written by individual prophets, not by groups and conclaves gathered to homogenize and pasteurize prophetic material until there is little truth left in it but just the dried husks and dead forms such as mentioned by John Wesley, the first Methodist:

“It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit were common in the church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the emperor Constantine called himself a Christian, and from a vain imagination of promoting the Christian cause thereby, heaped riches and power and honor upon Christians in general, but in particular upon the Christian clergy. From this time they almost totally ceased; very few instances of the kind were found. The cause of this was not as has been supposed because there was no more occasion for them because all the world was become Christians. This is a miserable mistake; not a twentieth part of it was then nominally Christian. The real cause of it was the love of many, almost all Christians, so called, was waxed cold. The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other heathens. The Son of Man, when he came to examine His Church, could hardly find faith upon the earth. This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church because the Christians were turned heathens again, and only had a dead form left.” (Wesley’s Works, vol. 7, 89:26, 27)

Correlation is good. It is from the Lord. Used correctly it can prevent confusion and certain apostasy. But we need to seek the help of the Holy Ghost and the counsel of the Savior’s true prophets in deciding how to use it. And we need to take care that we do not abuse correlation and in doing so serve the devil by leaving out “plain and precious” parts. Someday, our General Conference talks may become scripture.  After all, for us the canon is open, thanks to the miracle of continuing revelation from our Savior.  May it always be so.