Archive for December, 2009

May You Have … A Motto for 2010

Posted: December 31, 2009 in Uncategorized

A good friend of mine just put this up on YouTube, and I thought it was worthwhile to share as we start a new year, a new decade…:

2010 … As we start a new year a new decade;
May you have enough happiness to keep you smiling;
May you have enough trials to keep you strong;
May you have enough faith to look to God for guidance with answers to your prayers;
May you have enough hope to overcome despair;
May you have enough courage to fight personal battles;
May you have enough patriotism to defend the constitution;
May you have enough failure to keep you humble;
May you have enough love to share with others;
May you have enough peace to give you solace;
May you have enough determination to achieve your goals;
May you have enough friends to give you comfort;
May you gave enough light to shine in a darkening world…

2009 Year End Goal Review

Posted: December 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

Goals are a tricky thing.  Some people love them – needing the goals to motivate themselves to do and accomplish things that otherwise would have slipped through the cracks – while some avoid them because they can get in the way of living in the moment and achieving a state of mindfulness.  Others, still, make no plans either way.

Myself, I typically fall in the latter category…making no plans either way.  Late 2008 was different for some reason.  It probably had to do with a birthdate (one which ended in 0), marking a new phase of my life and my wanting to get something out of it.  As such, I laid down some goals, the number which matched my age, and broke them into 3 categories:  (1) Spiritual, (2) Intellectual and (3) Physical.  This post has to do with some of the goals in categories 1 and 2.  Category 3 has nothing to do with this blog, though it’s worth mentioning.

Mostly, in looking over those goals, I fell way short of what I wanted to see happen.  That is partially related life changing situations, but also partly because I went a different direction.  In the end, I’m happy that things improved (personally) from a year ago.  In speaking of specifics, one goal which overlapped between my spiritual and intellectual growth was one to read a number of books in 2009.  I chose to read 12 books by the end of 2009 (1 per month) if only because I had gone a number of years without devoting myself to learning and growing.  Life gets busy.  Work gets busy.  Family gets busy.  I was content to sit down and watch the corpgov media outlets and neglected some good reading.  Twelve per month seemed like an achievable goal and one I’d enjoy doing.

As the year draws to a close, I’m happy to report that I did finish the year having read a number of books and having exceeded my goal.  Below is a list of the books I read during 2009, my “grade” (in hindsight) of the book.  I’ll save the synopsis for others, or you can find them on Amazon.com or other websites.

  1. Hiding in Plain Sight – Ken Bowers – (A)
  2. Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt – Parley P. Pratt (Audiobook) – (A)
  3. The Secret Garden – (B)
  4. The Regime – Tim LaHaye (Audiobook) – (C)
  5. The Rising – Tim LaHaye (Audiobook) – (C-)
  6. The Rapture – Tim LaHaye (Audiobook) – (D+)
  7. Patriots – John Wesley Rawles – (B+)
  8. Hidden Politics of the Crucifixion – Glenn Kimball – (B+)
  9. The Second Comforter – Conversing With the Lord through the Veil – Denver Snuffer – (A)
  10. Homopoliticus – Dana Milbank (Audiobook) – (D+)
  11. Angels & Demons – Dan Brown (Audiobook) – (B)
  12. The Enoch Letters – Neal A. Maxwell – (A-)
  13. The PeacegiverJames Ferrell (Audiobook) – (A+)
  14. Satan’s War on Free Agency – Greg Wright – (B)
  15. Following the Light of Christ into His Presence – John Pontius – (B+)
  16. Dumbing Us Down – The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Education – John Taylor Gatto – (B)
  17. The Celestine Prophecy – James Redfield – (A-)
  18. The Tenth Insight – James Redfield – (B+)
  19. The Secret of Shambhala – In Search of the Eleventh Insight – James Redfield – (B+)
  20. Come, Let Us Adore Him – Denver Snuffer – (A+)

Far and away, Come, Let Us Adore Him and The Peacegiver were my favorite books.  Not so coincidentally, both speak of the Lord Jesus Christ and his mission and some of his teachings.  Many other books were started, only to have been shelved for other projects and books.

I’m not sure what the new year (2010) will bring in terms of new books and reading material, but certainly reading and studying books has proven time and again to both enlighten the mind and expand understanding.  This is generally true, though I largely miss out on those benefits.   Odds are quite high that a couple of the above books will be found on my reading list for next year in hopes of deepening my understanding (those in bold print above).


Post #3 (Originally written for weepingforzion.com):

False Traditions – Authority

by Guest Author (Tom)

Mostly posting this because I’m tired at looking at my other post while waiting for Mr. WFZ to update his blog, but also because I think it’s an interesting subject worthy of some study and debate.  In reading a quote recently about the perils of “false traditions” and in reading the scriptures which tell us “false traditions” take away our light and knowledge, I began to think about it in relation to something I’ve been studying and reading in my free time.

D&C 93:39 says it this way, without using the word “false”, though clearly it’s referring to “false” traditions:

39 And that awicked one cometh and btaketh away light and truth, through cdisobedience, from the children of men, and because of the dtradition of their fathers.

I think one of the biggest “false traditions”, passed on down through the generations, and one we lean heavily upon is our claims to “authority”.  Whether it be through our blessings, our preachings, missionary work, general conference talks or whatever…we’re taught to rely heavily on the fact that, thanks to Joseph Smith, God’s “authority” had been restored.  That, in turn, serves to imply that our arguments, whatever they may be, are superior and the “right” ones, no matter what.  No matter the logic, it ends with one side of an debate professing to hold “authority” and if that entity holds “authority”, or a person within that entity holds the right “title”, then their argument is correct.  The truth of the matter is the cacophony of our appeals to authority are shooting beyond the mark…

“Well intentioned and devout followers of a false tradition rejected Him [Christ] solely because they trusted in the traditions handed down to them.  They wrongly believed God would never send someone to tell them anything important unless he were to occupy a position of authority among them.  And so they rejected our Lord because He was not in the hierarchy.  With that rejection they also forfeited their own salvation.”

Take, for instance, John 8:9 and Matthew 21:23-27.  These are examples of the way authority was championed and used as a support and buttress used to control and grant support to the scribes and Pharisees in their attempts to control the church of their day.

Today, we’re not much different.  We give more weight to a comment from a general authority than we do a regular, inspired man, and certainly rarely find ourselves quoting from that regular guy…especially because that person will hold much less sway with the person we’re talking with, if only because he/she isn’t a household name.  Instead, we read talks from general authorities and take them as scripture – regardless of a witness from the spirit – and use them to buttress and prove our points.  If something hasn’t been uttered by a prophet or apostle in this dispensation, then, as the argument goes, it’s either something that “isn’t important to your salvation” or something that borders on the fringes of the gospel…an area best avoided at all times…or too mysterious for us to seek after.

If, however, an apostle (a “favorite” apostle is even better) says X or Y, then we automatically accept X or Y and use it – especially if it’s the most recent proclamation on that topic – to prove our points and discussions.  Instead of relying on truth from wherever it comes, we rely on positions, callings and an institution to tell us what truth is.

“(Matt 21:23-27) … ‘by what authority doest thou these things?’ For those who have no connection with heaven, authority is always everything.  Once they establish they have ‘authority’ the debate is over, so far as such people are concerned.  They never learn that the rights of the priestly authority are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven; and when they have no connection to heaven they have no authority.”

To show this point from a scriptural point of view, we have Joseph Smith who described himself as one who “frequently fell into errors, and displayed … the foibles of human nature” (JS-H 1:28), Enoch who described himself as “but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?” (Moses 6:31).  We also have the examples of relative unknowns – Abinadi, Samuel the Lamanite, etc., and many others.  Simple, average men striving individually to find their path of truth, coming from outside the hierarchies of the church to call the people to repentance.

“(Numbers 12:6) … This foreshadowed the many chosen prophets sent between the time of Moses and the coming of Jesus Christ.  During that time very few of the prophets came as presiding authorities, and were often not form the priestly tribe of Levi.  The New Testament account begins with a lone, obscure priest, cycling through his duties at the Temple, and to his surprise, encountering a vision of the Lord’s angel, Gabriel.  It wasn’t Annas, nor Caiaphus, nor any of the Chief Priests or notable scribes or lawyers.  Rather it was an obscure, elderly priest chosen from outside the hierarchy to whom the Lord “made Himself known.”  Mortal man is here to be tested.  The test is not whether they can conform to the expectations of a broad, mainstream, self-congratulating “chosen” people.  The test is far more individual than that.  It is a lonely quest to find the Chosen One of Israel.  Those who really find Him, not an imaginary version of the Living God, but actually meet the Risen Lord, the Savior of mankind, generally do not rely at all upon their chosen status.  Rather they are usually somewhat at odds with the chosen mainstream.”

The more I reflect on the matter, the more I think that we, as a body, are trending towards the same proclivities, weaknesses, traits and personalities of the scribes and Pharisees.  One of their great “false traditions” was assuming that the hierarchy was an end-all – all debates and matters of scriptural, or any for that matter, significance originated from within this hierarchy.  The scribes and Pharisees loved the attention, their high seats in the synagogues, being greeted in the market, the bests seats at the feasts and certainly loved the power they had at being the policy makers and scriptural wizards to whom everyone would come for a doctrinal interpretation…are we really any different than they were (see Luke 11:43; Luke 20:46)?

“They [scribes, Pharisees, etc.] learned to practice fanaticism.  They resented any challenge to their rights and authority.  They learned to defend their claims of righteousness.  … Too many historic indignities had made them resent any trespass onto their remaining turf.  So they resorted to claiming they had “authority” and that was enough.  God “told them” to do what they did.  Their “traditions” were handed down from holy sources and were beyond being subject to any questioning.  However, when a religious leader is one of God’s true messengers, his message will never rely upon a claim of authority as reason to follow him.  Indeed, true messengers always understand that no power or influence can or ought to be asserted because of their authority.  The words of truth alone are sufficient (see D&C 121:41-42).  Their testimony has authority which transcends any institutional trappings.  When there is no Spirit which animates the messenger, then he knows his voice is weak.  Because of an internal recognition of this weakness, these religious leaders always buttress their words with claims to priestly authority.  This claim of priestly authority empowers them to impose their will upon others.  This is one of the reasons it is so abhorrent to “take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain,” which was included as one of the Ten Commandments.  Whenever someone proclaims their own agenda in the name of the Lord they take His name in vain.  It is not swearing, but rather when one claims to speak from the Lord when they do not, that violates the command against vainly using the Lord’s name.”

This last quote encapsulates this idea…of how our false traditions set up stakes around what we accept as truth and inspiration and revelation.  The current mainstream LDS belief is that if an idea doesn’t originate from within the hierarchy, from a calling that has the title flashed across our TV sets 2x/year of “Elder” or “Apostle” or “President”, then it’s not truth and we are to reject it…which is, if I may submit, a false tradition we hold to with everything we have…all we have to do is go to any LDS oriented forum or blog and 99% of the support for any argument is a statement by someone within the LDS institution and with a title of either Elder or President accompanying his name.

“Christ’s message is his authority.  His words are what distinguish His true ministers from false ones He never sent.  Anyone teaching His truth should be recognized as His messenger.  He taught this to Moroni.  Those who will receive Christ in any generation do so because they hear and recognize His words (see Ether 4:12).  Anyone who will not believe in His words, no matter who He sends to speak them, will not believe in Christ or His Father.  Those who trust only institutional sources of truth, whether they are Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, or Latter-day Saint, believe in an institution, and do not believe in Christ.  The ability to individually recognize His words distinguishes those who are saved from those who are lost.”

As with those who were present during Christ’s ministry, our pathways are intersecting even today and our decision is likewise similar with what they had to choose:

“…darkness can take hold of any people.  When it does they are inevitably led to take offense when the Lord (or any messenger sent by Him) walks in the light.  Darkness and light are always two different paths.  They are incompatible.  The people hearing Christ’s sermon at this time were required to choose between everything they had been taught all their lives and what Christ was teaching.  They were God’s chosen people, led by leaders chosen by God.  They were taught respect for the priestly authorities of their society by reading the scriptures, which assured them they were God’s “chosen people,” and by observing the traditions of their fathers.  They were led by recognized leaders, chosen in an established system of succession, on the one hand, and then this Man from Nazareth, lacking any sort of credentials, on the other, asking them to “come follow” Him.  Even though they had shouted “Hosanna!” at His arrival the day before, this sermon (Matt. 23) demanded they reject the established authorities in order to follow Him.”

You may have noticed that none of these quotes (those italicized and indented) have a name, book or reference and you may have wondered why.  This was done on purpose and certainly not in an attempt to deceive.  It should serve as a reminder of our reliance on titles, quotes and “authority.”  Would these quotes and statements mean more to you – and carry more weight in your mind – if it was your favorite author, your favorite general authority, your favorite apostle/prophet, or even if it was just from someone you respected for that matter?  Is the authority in the name and title, or the message?

Or, conversely, do they stand alone as truth…come from whence it may?

As always, corrections, rebukes, comments are appreciated.

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 17th, 2009 at 5:59 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “False Traditions – Authority”

  1. Spektator Says:
    December 17th, 2009 at 8:01 pm tom,
    I appreciated your post as it brought some new dimensions to my thinking regarding authority. As I pondered your message, Alma came to mind. Here is a man who was rejected by the hierarchy and was forced to become an outcast. when he began to collect a following, he did not go to the established authority for permission, rather, he received his authority directly from God.

    Are there true messengers of our father who are deemed outcasts today? do we have ‘excommunicants’ who carry the word of god but are shunned by the mainstream?

    my experience tells me the typical true blue mormon could not conceive of a message from god coming from anywhere but the established hierarchy. What a shame if this indeed leads to their spiritual demise…

  2. dan Says:
    December 18th, 2009 at 11:22 am Well written. You’ve challenged my perspective too, well done. Now your making me antsy about posting again! It ebbs and flows no doubt. Thanks for the post though, I really enjoyed it.
  3. Steve Graham Says:
    December 18th, 2009 at 12:56 pm You know, i see this dependence on authority even in forums which support a pre-1890 or fundamentalist mindset. reliance on authority could fall into the law of witnesses, could it not? if you can find 2-3 prophets who declared a certain thing, then it might just be true. Right? of course the final test is discerning the lord’s view on that thing. but surely “isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. ” is still valid.
  4. Tom Says:
    December 18th, 2009 at 4:12 pm #1: that alma story has some serious layers. i pondered the same thing, about whether there are (and if so, where) messengers outside of the hierarchy who are preaching Christ’s message. If the same pattern emerges, then we should expect to see at least one, and given the population of the earth I’d guess there are many out there acting as “prophets” who aren’t preaching during General conference 2x/year, or who don’t have the “official” title. They just are.

    #2: Mr. wfz…just giving you a hard time, though I was sick of looking at my old post. do you think the same pattern will play out with the OMS? As in, from the scriptures noted above, neither John (the forerunner) nor christ were members of the “official” hierarchy, and were constantly questioned about whether they had the official “authority”. As the same pattern plays out in the last days what role in the “official” hierarchy will the OMS play, if any, or will they be a complete outsider with not connections to the church or hierarchy?

    #3: I see your point on the “law of witnesses” and agree. that certainly does apply. the point of this post would be that the “authority” doesn’t necessarily reside within the walls of the LDS church and its official hierarchy. truth is truth. whether that truth comes from an inspired hobo living in the middle of a 3rd world country, or from a man in a tailored suit, wearing cufflinks and preaching to us over the pulpit at general conference. the “authority” doesn’t necessarily reside with the calling, or institution or title, but rather comes directly from above. therefore, if this rationale is correct, there’s a difference between the authority to “administer” the ordinances, and the authority to teach and interpret scripture. The hierarchy would have us believe, and indeed most members do believe, that both areas are under the specific direction of the hierarchy.

    The best example of this (that I can think of, though there may be better ones) is Matthew 23. Verses 1-3 start the chapter…

    1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
    2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
    3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

    then, throughout chapter 23 (and elsewhere in the 4 gospels) Christ clearly distinguishes “between the scribes and pharisees right to preside (which He did not challenge), and their assumed exclusive right to teach and interpret scripture (which He utterly rejected).”

    This is, once again, from the same source as the quotes in the original post, but nevertheless in keeping with this idea. There’s a clear difference between the right to preside and the right to teach and interpret scripture. Today, it’s assumed that the prophets and apostles and other “general authorities” are those principally responsible for “teaching” and “interpreting” the scriptures. This goes back to our reliance on quotes and statements from within the hierarchy, wherein we rely on someone in an official position of responsibility to establish the truthfulness of a given topic.

    as always, correction is appreciated.

  5. Dan Says:
    December 21st, 2009 at 11:27 pm another point on the authority thing.
    No I don’t think he will be the walls of the church hierarchy. I get a strong feeling that this is part of the “test”. Though he will enter in by the Gate, Which is Christ.

    The priesthood existed and operated before and without the church, not vice versa.

  6. Brand Thornton Says:
    December 23rd, 2009 at 9:46 pm I was very much pleased to read your remarks, you are right on. The present day church leaders for the most part are a pathetic bunch! case in point there are so many things happening right now and they on the tower give no warning. The new world order bunch just pulled off the biggest bank heist and they never said a word. Now some will say that is not their place however if and when you undestand the great evil that will come out of this you will be compelled to say they should have sounded a great warning! And their are so many other things to many to mention at this time. I can’t remembr the last time I actually heard anything new from them i mean any thing that would actually take me to higher a level of spirituality its just he same thing year after year. So i have been on my own for some time just me and the spirit of god, it is the best thing that i ever did! i will tell you this if you don’t have a testimony of the fullness of the gospel and i do mean the fullness even the same gospel that joseph taught then you have missed the mark and i will debate any one on these points and triumph.
  7. dan Says:
    December 25th, 2009 at 12:15 am Thanks for the input and especially sharing your thoughts here. Continue to stop by! Good to have you, you are much welcome here.
  8. mIKE JENSEN Says:
    December 26th, 2009 at 10:35 pm I can also testify that the world hates the truth. The more you cling to it, the more you find yourself alone. glad others are waking up and finding the same.

Post 2 (Originally written for weepingforzion.com):

All We Need is Love  by:  Guest Author (Tom)

What is Love, or in other words, what is Charity?

I’ve been engaged in several conversations over the past couple of weeks regarding the state of today’s LDS Church and have been constantly reminded that “all we need is Love”.  The response to inquiries into the state of the church, church policies, doctrines, leadership, etc., all goes back to this euphemism – “all we need is Love.”  Typically, this “love” is related to the differences between the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life.  The tree of life, symbolizing God’s love, is the tree we’re shooting for.  The tree of knowledge of good and evil, the tree we’re hoping to avoid, is the tree which, supposedly, relates to these inquiries, questions and discussions regarding the brethren, different policies and procedures.

The Nature of Criticism

It seems that the critique of a policy or procedure is inexplicably linked to a critique of the brethren (brethren being the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 Apostles).  No longer can we, as this logic flows, question something the church does without it automatically implicating them.  They, as I suppose, are those who send orders down to various levels of an extremely centralized hierarchy and as such purveyors of information, policy and procedure, they are either glorified or vilified for the results.  Never mind that this logic flow doesn’t truly work in other areas and sectors of our lives, it nevertheless is the apparent case within the LDS Church and its members.

Interestingly, in a talk which has granted members supposed justification to persecute others they view as criticizing, or at the very least a justification and need stifle “apostate” behaviors, Dallin H. Oaks differentiated between two kinds of criticism.  One he defined as “the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything”, and stated that this form of criticism is “inherent in the exercise of agency and freedom.”  Today, however, all criticism of church policies, teachings and programs seemingly fall within the other definition Dallin H. Oaks gave, that of “passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding.”  It’s unfortunate that members would persecute other members, and stifle discussion of issues, because of ignorance between these two definitions of criticism.

Indeed, Dallin H. Oaks further added this recommendation, which we’d do well to understand and implement:

“The counsel to avoid destructive personal criticism does not mean that Latter-day Saints need to be docile or indifferent to defective policies, deficient practices, or wrongful conduct … Our religious philosophy poses no obstacle to constructive criticism of such conditions. The gospel message is a continuing constructive criticism of all that is wretched or sordid in society.  … But Christians who are commanded to be charitable and to “[speak] the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) should avoid personal attacks and shrill denunciations. Our public communications—even those protesting against deficiencies—should be reasoned in content and positive in spirit.” – Dallin H. Oaks

Instead of shying away because of fear of harming the reputation of people – especially when the modern man’s (and woman’s) ego is so fragile and easily harmed – we should engage in constructive criticism to avoid the pitfalls that come through groupthink.  However, within the LDS church today, any tiffs with policy, procedures or the like is automatically tainted because of alleged “evil speaking” or “faultfinding” of the brethren, a bitter fruit of that pesky tree of knowledge of good and evil.  This, to a large extent, serves to smother all discussion of policies, procedures, and matters emanating from the Church Office Building.  It seems to suggest that the teaching from the June 1945 Improvement Era maintains a stronghold on the minds of members at all levels of the hierarchy, especially at the individual level.  This teaching stated:

“…He [Lucifer] wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and to “do their own thinking.”… When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan — it is God’s plan.   When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy…. (June 1945 Ward Teaching Lesson, Improvement Era 48:354)

Never mind that President George Albert Smith, the newly called President of the Church at that time, repudiated this teaching in his response to a letter from an official from another church questioning the message taught:

“…that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to his Maker for his individual acts…. (George Albert Smith Letter to Dr. J. Raymond Cope, Dec. 7,1945)

Yes, in spite of this repudiation and other teachings from the very leaders members sustain as prophets, seers and revelators, this same line of thinking largely exists inside the Church today.  To compound this problem – getting to the heart of this essay – one of the main reasons why we are to forgo our questioning and discussion into questionable policies, procedures and teachings is because we are to be Love.  “All we need is Love” is something that is frequently reiterated in response to anything that appears controversial.  To show love, it seems, we must show mercy, understanding and, unfortunately, acceptance in the face of contradictory information.  Acceptance as used in the previous sentence can either mean personal acceptance (i.e. agreement) or acceptance in that the church and its teachings are how they should be and to speak up is to partake of the bitter fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the expense of the tree of life.

Personally, I fully agree that we must show mercy and understanding to those who labor for the cause of Zion – wherein they actually labor for that cause and not some other – but I do not agree with the injunction that we must accept and move on from the contradictions as we see them.  The reason why I disagree with this premise is rooted in this very discussion on love and charity.  Both love and charity have many levels of understanding, which magnifies the complexity of the situation.  To say that “all we need is love” is an extremely vague and misleading statement.  What kind of love, one might ask?  Do we show “love” in the permissive sense of the word, letting everyone do what they feel is right, or do we show “love” in the same way which Mormon and Moroni – the last two prophets in the Book of Mormon – and Christ showed love.

In writing this essay, I’m fully cognizant that I’m writing from an extremely flawed perspective and paradigm.  I am but one person and fully hope that my errors in reasoning, judgment and application of the following principles and scriptures will be pointed out to me to prevent further errors down the road.  This I fully accept and realize as truth.  Please correct me in my the rationale I put forth to reach my conclusions.

Mormon & Moroni

Moroni first emerges onto the scene in the Book of Mormon in statements made by his father, Mormon, near he end of the record as he states in a couple of different locations his plan to give some of the plates to his son to finish their writings and seal up the record for a latter day (see Words of Mormon 1:1; Mormon 6:6, 11).  It’s significant, in my flawed opinion, that Moroni’s first words and writings can be found in Mormon 8, a chapter filled with words which are none to pleasant on the ear of those living in the times he described.  Mormon 7 is a record of Mormon’s dying testimony, after which Moroni picks up the record and states, in Mormon 8:1, “I … do finish the record of my father, Mormon.”

Mormon 8 is a chapter that pulls on the heartstrings of anyone wanting to know the truth and willing to understand the context of Moroni’s words.  He, Moroni, is noticeably distraught over the destruction of his people, lamenting that:

“…and I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people.  But behold, they are gone, and I fulfil the commandment of my father.  And whether they will slay me, I know not. … wither I go it mattereth not … for I am alone.  My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor wither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I may live I know not.” (Mormon 8:3-5, emphasis added)

Moroni and Mormon, like Christ, were men acquainted with grief, sorrow, pain and death.  Their lives were lived in an era of constant war, destruction and death, Moroni even stated that “…the whole face of this land is one continual round of murder and bloodshed; and no one knoweth the end of the war.”  With this information as a pretext, we jump into the meat of Moroni’s teachings, but before doing so I must comment on love and charity.  In spite of all his afflictions, in spite of all that he had seen and lived through, Moroni nevertheless had a firm testimony of love and charity, because he had been gifted that pure love of Christ.

“34 And now I [Moroni] know that this alove which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father.

“35 Wherefore, I [Moroni] know by this thing which thou hast said, that if the Gentiles have not acharity, because of our weakness, that thou wilt prove them, and btake away their ctalent, yea, even that which they have received, and give unto them who shall have more abundantly.

“36 And it came to pass that I [Moroni] prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles agrace, that they might have charity.

“37 And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made aclean. And because thou hast seen thy bweakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. (Ether 12:34-37)

In these verses I see a story of a man fighting within himself, wanting to be filled with charity in spite of all that is going on around him.  He grew up in a world filled with hate, murder, destruction and cynicism.  He grew up and lived a life which saw everything taken from him – his friends, kinsfolk, his father, the disciples who ministered to him and his father, and any semblance of a home.  Yet, in spite of all these struggles, we see a man who nevertheless was blessed with the gift of charity.  A gift he must have desired, a gift he must have asked for.  In pondering over verse 37, I wonder whether his weakness was a lack of charity during a portion of his earlier life.  In verse 36 he’s praying for others that they may receive grace, which would lead to charity.  In verse 37, the Lord tells him it does not matter whether they have charity (at least it did not matter to Moroni), but what did matter was that Moroni did see “[his] weakness” (verse 37), which the Lord, as promised, made into his strength.

It became such a strength to him that he felt, in spite of the lack of room he had on the plates (Mormon 8:5), the need to include a letter from his father on the topic of charity.  Within this letter Mormon states emphatically:

“Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear…I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love…” (Moroni 8:16-17; emphasis added)

This particular verse is enlightening in how it deals with the discussion of love and charity because these verses immediately follow a stinging rebuke of those who believe in infant baptism, stating that such people are “pervert[ing] the ways of the Lord”, that they shall “perish” absent repentance, that they are in “the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity”, and that they neither have “faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go to hell.”  Those are some pretty strong words for a man, a prophet, who is filled with “everlasting love” and “with charity” and takes time to testify of his being filled with it, but only after reproving those who believe in a fallacious doctrine.

This chapter follows the beautiful writings of Mormon in Moroni 7 which discuss the “pure love of Christ.”  Moroni, likewise filled with such charity, stated throughout his short writings the need for charity, faith and hope and that all things will fail, excepting charity, and that “if ye have not charity, ye are nothing.”  These two men, father and son – Moroni and Mormon – knew like few others what it was like to have charity in the face of a life filled with unimaginable pain, suffering and sorrow.  This undoubtedly was one of the main reasons why they felt the need to share those words with us on the last few remaining pages of their written record, to us who may also witness similar sufferings and afflictions.

Later, Moroni, like his father, also issued a rebuke to us in the last days who pollute the holy church of God and prostitute ourselves for that which is of no worth.  His stinking rebuke was, nevertheless, a result of his love and charity towards us, as strange as that may seem.  He wasted no space in writing what he did, precisely and accurately describing what he needed and was inspired to say.  Some of his rebukes included the following language, in describing the time in which his record [the Book of Mormon] would come forth from out of the ground:

“…it shall come forth in a day when … the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts…”

“…it shall come forth in a day when … there shall be churches built up that shall say:  Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.”

“…ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people … why have ye transfigured the word of God?”

“…ye do walk in the pride of your hearts … unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts…”

“…ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God?”

“…why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans…”  (Mormon 8:28-41).

I would recommend a thorough reading of the entire chapter with the thought in mind of how his charity and love for us, the very people he saw and was writing to, comes through in his words.  Surely, if we look at the words of both Mormon and Moroni we can see that charity and love include a level which can and must be described as either hard, tough, or a rebuking love.  Love is much more than a platitude we add to letters, conversations and discourses about positive messages, it’s also a willingness to say the hard things that sting and cut through the fluff all too present in our current dialogues and conversations.  In writing this they were no doubt partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life, God’s love, in that they were laboring to bring men unto repentance and laboring to get men, across centuries of time, to turn back to God and Christ.

Truly, these men emulated Christ, and truly received “the pure love of Christ”, which required that they, at times, teach truth which is hard to receive (at least, for those who reject truth because it’s uncomfortable).

Christ

Turning, then, to Christ, who needs neither introduction nor preface, especially from me, and some of the ways he showed charity and love to those around him.  I will not attempt to create an exhaustive list of some of his stinging rebukes, but have selected some which show several different ways he used and taught love and charity to those around him:

“And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. … Woe unto you, Pharisees! For ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and the greetings in the market.  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For yea re as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them. … Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! For ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.  … Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge; the fullness of the scriptures; ye enter not in yourselves into the kingdom, and those who were entering in ye hindered” – Luke 11:39-52 (emphasis added)

“And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation …” – Luke 9:41 (emphasis added)

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My ahouse shall be called the house of bprayer; but ye have made it a cden of thieves.” – Matthew 21:12-13 (emphasis added)

“The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from aheaven.  He aanswered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.  And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and alowring, O ye bhypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the csigns of the dtimes?  A wicked and aadulterous generation seeketh after a bsign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the csign of the prophet dJonas. And he left them, and departed.  ¶ Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the aleaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.  aWhich when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?  Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?  Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?  How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?  Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the adoctrine of the Pharisees and of the bSadducees. – Matthew 16:1-12

And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall asin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be blifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and cmurders, and dpriestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall ereject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.” – 3 Nephi 16:10 (emphasis added)

“And while they were at variance one with another they became very aslothful, and they hearkened not unto the commandments of their lord.  And the enemy came by night, and broke down the ahedge; and the servants of the nobleman arose and were affrighted, and fled; and the enemy destroyed their works, and broke down the olive-trees.  Now, behold, the nobleman, the lord of the avineyard, called upon his servants, and said unto them, Why! what is the cause of this great evil?  Ought ye not to have done even as I commanded you, and—after ye had planted the vineyard, and built the hedge round about, and set watchmen upon the walls thereof—built the tower also, and set a awatchman upon the tower, and watched for my vineyard, and not have fallen asleep, lest the enemy should come upon you?  And behold, the watchman upon the tower would have seen the enemy while he was yet afar off; and then ye could have made ready and kept the enemy from breaking down the hedge thereof, and saved my vineyard from the hands of the destroyer. – D&C 101:43-62 (50-54)

There are likewise hundreds of other scriptures in the same vein, uttered, written or spoken by Christ (or his authorized servants) throughout our standard works.  The number of times that Christ has called us wicked, perverse, faithless, adulterous, hypocrites, murderers, full of priestcrafts and wickedness, materialistic, rotten on the inside, and other names and insinuations is almost without number.  Are his rebukes and criticism examples of his partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, a bitter fruit, an example of him not showing forth the very charity of which He himself is the definition?  Did he ever partake of that bitter fruit?  I think the answer to these questions is self-evident.  In all of this Christ provided the perfect example of one who was all about love, whose every action was motivated by pure love for those around him, including the Pharisees and scribes and including us, perhaps the most perverse and wicked generation yet to live on this green earth.  Indeed, Christ is the very definition of charity, especially when it meant rebuking and calling out those who were preaching false doctrines, following false traditions and professing to know his name and gospel.

Conclusion

In the aforementioned examples of Moroni, Mormon and Christ, we have direct and scriptural examples of both love and charity through the use of words and criticism which we typically associate with partaking of the bitter fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This association, as we can see, is largely false.  Charity and love occasionally require us to “[reprove] betimes with sharpness” (D&C 121:43).

One of the definitions for “betimes”, according to the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, is “before it is late” or in “good time”.  In Hebrew, the word for “betimes” is shachar which means to “seek early”, “look early for”, etc.  The reproof needed, then, as directed by the Holy Ghost, must be done before something gets out of hand, while there’s still time to correct the erroneous path and well before the errors take hold within the individual, quorum, class or wherever it’s found.  For those members of the church who hold the priesthood, if they’ve attained the office of teacher or higher (in either the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthoods), then they have a scriptural duty to “teach, expound, exhort, baptize and watch over the church” (D&C 20:42, 53).  To watch over something implies observation, vigilance and providing protection from harm (see Nehemiah 4:7-9; Luke 2:8; D&C 61:38; D&C 82:5; among many others).

To what end do we, or should we, “watch over the church” and how does this relate to charity and love?  I believe that watching over and protecting both flocks and individual sheep (including myself) from harm, error and evil (where we see it and where we are in position to say something) is perhaps the epitome of charity and love that Christ, Mormon and Moroni were showing.  They said and did the things they did because they truly cared for us, were concerned for our spiritual welfare and had special responsibilities and callings to “watch” over us.  Indeed, the Lord is our Shepherd.  His utmost concern is to watch over us and provide us protection from the storms of life where we need it.  If one fails in their watch, as those responsible for building the watchtower in D&C 101, then that person has no charity and must fail.  Christ has charity because he is the very definition of charity and love.  Sometimes that charity and love is soft and meek, sometimes that charity and love is hard and reproves us because of our wickedness.

Questioning a policy, practice or teaching within the church can be, depending on the method, the epitome of love and charity, serving to correct error and lift everyone to higher planes of understanding.  In a world which has grown soft to criticism, where anything relating to “negativity” is viewed as a personal attack or, worse, “evil speaking” and “faultfinding”, and where we in the church are told to avoid all forms of criticism for fear of partaking of that bitter fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, this lesson gets lost in the mud of life and buried deep beneath the surface.

No matter the result, if we deceive ourselves into believing that the only duty we have is to profess allegiance to a form of love which ignores the very love which Jesus and the Lord’s authorized servants have employed since Adam was first on the earth, and if we imply that we have no duty to “watch” over our respective flocks, to speak up and confront error when so impressed by the Holy Ghost, indicates nothing more than the sad fact that we have no understanding of love, nor charity, and must fail.  To suggest that any critique or criticism of policies, practices (false or otherwise), teachings and traditions is partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil at the expense of partaking of God’s love is to promote a perverted version of the truth.  For it is true that at the end of the day all we really do need is love…Christ’s true love, not a misleading definition that promotes both the ignoring and continuation of fallacies wherever they may be found.

Your thoughts, critiques and rebukes are encouraged.  :)

8 Responses to “All We Need is Love”

  1. anonymous Says:
    December 3rd, 2009 at 9:50 pm Best post I have read in a while.

    While admonishing the Thessalonian Saints, Paul encouraged them to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good”.

    Although that scripture is a great one for missionaries to use in getting Christians of other denominations to become critical thinkers and investigate the restoration, it is interesting to note that Paul was not speaking to investigators. He was speaking to his fellow Saints.

    As a general authority, Paul was not as threatened about having his teachings critically analyzed by fellow Saints as he was concerned that the Saints would become complacent and mindless followers, setting themselves up to be taken advantage of by the eventually infiltration of false teachers into the flock.

    Being a critical thinker whilst under the influence of the spirit is how we avoid being deceived and/or avoid getting too far off the path.

    Baptism is not the finish line, it is the starting gate. There is still much to learn and experience after that and much discernment is needed in keeping us on the right path.

    Paul was one of the exceptions to the rule who did not find his way into the fold via the “proving” process. Rather, his paradigm change had to be brought about by divine intervention. It appears as though he had been stuck in the traditions of his fathers and refused to question those in authority… including himself. It appears he refused to be a critical thinker, discerning the fruits of the existing church and its members and leaders.

    This makes his counsel all the more poignant, coming from one who had failed to prove all things and hold fast to that which is good…. he learned the hard way .

    If “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” certainly the edifying act of continuing to prove all things and discerning truth and holding fast to that which is good is a very important function of charity.

    In that context, I agree with your friends…

    all we need is love…

    even if it appears at times to be “tough love”

  1. TuNeCedeMalis Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 12:50 pm My thoughts… A great writeup.

    I have had very similar thoughts recently and appreciate your concise and direct focus on the truth.

    Disagreeing is not lacking love, we simply must pray to have charity for those that we are disagreeing with.

    TuNeCedeMalis

  2. Tom Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 2:35 pm Thanks for the comments…

    Disagreeing is not lacking love, though I’ve heard direct assertions (to me personally) that questioning and disagreeing are automatically linked to both apostasy (from what I might ask?) and to leaving the church, or trying to find your way out of the church on purpose. The flow in logic baffles me – as if to say we can’t question ANYTHING church related without wanting to apostatize or leave the church.

  3. dan Says:
    December 5th, 2009 at 12:58 am It could be viewed that the most Charitable act the Lord ever did to this point was to baptize the earth by water. And he sent a prophet to tell them all they needed to repent first. The next big charitable event is soon on the table. If men could only see as he sees.

    Though in reality the most charitable acts ever performed involved giving up celestial nature that we may live and putting sin on a perfect and sinless mortal body for our sake. Both, if I could do them now, would be seen as evil by the skeptics looking on.

  4. Jeff R. Day Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 6:42 am I think there is a true Love (of Christ), and a false Love (of Paul, in my opinion). Be careful which you apply.

    The topics upon which you have been blogging on here are close to my heart. I was ultimately driven out of the church as a result of going down these paths. But, I would make the same choice again if given the option. Truth will prevail.

    I am just so very glad to see that at least one other person out there cares about some of these topics enough to study them out. Pray, study, hold fast to that which is true, and do not the group-think of the society within the Church to convince you otherwise.

  5. Jake The Ant Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 10:01 am and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.

    Elaborate, ye wise ones.

  6. dan Says:
    December 9th, 2009 at 1:46 am After the resurrection of christ, three days and night in the heart of the earth (hollow earth?) as Jonah in the fish, the people of the south who accepted Jonas words will be given to destroy the Israelites who do not accepted the new covenant or Jonah, Christ.

    This is of course also a last days type. When the servant is marred, he will later be healed and receive power. Than, with all Israel safe, the Gentiles (who had originally accepted Jonah) will reject this new prophet and Israel will not. The last may be first and the first last.

  7. Tom Says:
    December 10th, 2009 at 2:12 am Curious as to why paul’s love was referred to as “false love” (comment #5)…and would love to hear your point of view.

    as to the discussion on “proving all things”, the greek word used in this verse (1 Thess 5:21) is dokimazo, which comes from the root word dokeo. Dokeo means to judge something or have an opinion of something. dokimazo means to “recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy”, and is synonymous with “discern[ing]“. Thanks for pointing this verse, in context, out. Truly we should “prove all things”, but hopefully with the goal of taking what we’ve been given, and improving upon it by taking the good and rejecting the false in favor of better.

    If that makes sense…