Archive for February, 2010


I recently took a weekend and headed over to California to attend a small conference on brick ovens.  While there in California I took some time to explore the Big Sur Coastway and State Route 1 that runs north and south along the Pacific Ocean.  While there, I snapped this photo of a bee exploring a flower outside of the Hearst Castle.

You can see more of the pictures I took here and here.

The reason for posting this specific picture is because I followed a link at the WfZ blog.  That link takes you to a small powerpoint presentation which talks about the importance of individuality, uniqueness and personalities with respect to our children.  Within that powerpoint is a discussion on bees and the living miracle they are.  Bees, it seems, are unique in that their wing structure, to us humans, is odd, seemingly too small and, at least to earlier views on the laws of aviation, too small to support the body of the bee in the air.  The bee, nevertheless, defied our human understanding for many years, carrying on in it’s ability to fly and pollinate the world.  Only recently, it seems, humans have caught up and begun to understand that the bee is able to create a vortex with it’s small wings which allows it to fly.  Nevertheless, for decades (centuries?) humans have seen the bee as an anomaly.  A living, flying miracle which defied our finite understanding.

The application of this idea should not be lost on you, the reader, or me.  How often do we decry something as impossible if we haven’t seen it happen in person?  Worse, how often do we decry something as impossible, even though it happens in front of our eyes?  In discussing these impossibilities, it is important to note that there are many miracles that happen in front of our eyes every day.  From the unseen – photosynthesis – to the seen – a child learning to walk.  While it is important to note these everyday miracles, the miracles of which I speak are of a different variety.  The creation of the earth, the creation of man, the healing of the sick, the raising of the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to see, etc.  These are the miracles of which I speak in this article.

The book of Fourth Nephi, chapter 1 verse 5, describes these miracles as follows:

5 And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did aheal the sick, and braise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of cmiracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.

Moroni, among others, also spoke powerfully about miracles in the closing chapters of the Book of Mormon. What he wrote, though, was not written from an historical viewpoint.  It was not written about a people which had already lived when he wrote it.  It was written, as most of his stuff was written, about a people who would live in the distant future.  A people who would live to see the “great and marvelous work” come to pass.  A people who would be led to err by power hungry churches and leaders.  In fine, he was speaking directly to us in our day and, more specifically, us of the LDS faith who have been given the record on which his words are written.

Specifically, Mormon chapter 9 contains the following lecture about miracles:

10 And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles.

11 But behold, I will show unto you a God of amiracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same bGod who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.

•  •  •

15 And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do ano miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.

•  •  •

17 Who shall say that it was not a miracle that by his aword the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was bcreated of the cdust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought?

18 And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty amiracles? And there were many bmighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles.

19 And if there were amiracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he bchangeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.

20 And the reason why he ceaseth to do amiracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should btrust.

The Book of Ether (12:12) contains a similar cry:

12 For if there be no afaith among the children of men God can do no bmiracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith.

Later, again, Moroni adds some more information on miracles in Moroni, chapter 7:

27 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have amiracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to bclaim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?

•  •  •

29 And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have aangels ceased to minister unto the children of men.

•  •  •

35 And now, my beloved brethren, if this be the case that these things are true which I have spoken unto you, and God will show unto you, with apower and great glory at the last bday, that they are true, and if they are true has the day of miracles ceased?

•  •  •

37 Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that amiracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of bunbelief, and all is vain.

What do these verses have to do with us?  I’d argue that they have everything to do with us.  I have frequently heard some (myself included) lament about the lack of spiritual gifts in today’s world, generally, and the LDS church, specifically.  We rarely, if ever, see people being raised from the dead, the blind having their sight restored to them, the deaf being able to hear, angelic visitations, and on and on.  In its place, members of all shapes and sizes simply reply that the lack of these gifts is merely the result of God’s will.  Since it doesn’t happen, it must be God’s will that it doesn’t happen.

In the place of faith based priesthood blessings, we give blessings with convenient “outs.”  We tell the recipient of the blessing that it’s contingent on their faith and the will of God.  We do this for many reasons, but mostly because (a) we’re scared that we don’t truly hold the Priesthood, (b) we’re scared that we’re not speaking inspired words, (c) we’re scared that we don’t have adequate faith and (c) we’re scared of miracles.  It may actually be a combination of all of the above, or something entirely different, but the following story may help relate it somewhat.

A year or so ago I had the privilege of listening to Parley P. Pratt’s autobiography for the first time as I commuted to and from work.  One particular passage from his authobiography still sticks with me, in my feeble memory.  It has to do with this very idea and I feel it will teach the principle better than I ever could:

When we first arrived we lived in the open air, with out any other shelter whatever. Here I met brother Joseph Smith, from whom I had been separated since the close of the mock trial in Richmond the year previous. Neither of us could refrain from tears as we embraced each other once more as free men. We felt like shouting hosannah in the highest, and giving glory to that God who had delivered us in fulfillment of His word to

His servant Joseph the previous autumn, when we were being carried into captivity in Jackson County, Missouri. He blessed me with a warmth of sympathy and brotherly kindness which I shall never forget. Here also I met with Hyrum Smith and many others of my fellow prisoners with a glow of mutual joy and satisfaction which language will never reveal. Father and Mother Smith, the parents of our Prophet and President, were also overwhelmed with tears of joy and congratulation; they wept like children as they took me by the hand; but, O, how different from the tears of bitter sorrow which were pouring down their cheeks as they gave us the parting hand in Far West, and saw us dragged away by fiends in human form.

After the gush of feelings consequent on our happy meeting had subsided, I accompanied Joseph Smith over the Mississippi in a skiff to visit some friends in Montrose. Here many were lying sick and at the point of death. Among these was my old friend and fellow servant, Elijah Fordham, who had been with me in that extraordinary work in New York City in 1837. He was now in the last stage of a deadly fever. He lay prostrate and nearly speechless, with his feet poulticed; his eyes were sunk in their sockets; his flesh was gone; the paleness of death was upon him; and he was hardly to be distinguished from a corpse. His wife was weeping over him, and preparing clothes for his burial.

Brother Joseph took him by the hand, and in a voice and energy which would seemingly have raised the dead, he cried: “BROTHER FORDHAM, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, ARISE AND WALK.” It was a voice which could be heard from house to house and nearly through the neighborhood. It was like the roaring of a lion, or the heavy thunderbolt. Brother Fordham leaped from his dying bed in an instant, shook the poultices and bandages from his feet, put on his clothes so quick that none got a chance to assist him, and taking a cup of tea and a little refreshment, he walked with us from house to house visiting other sick beds, and joining in prayer and ministrations for them, while the people followed us, and with joy and amazement gave glory to God. Several more were called up in a similar manner and were healed.

Brother Joseph, while in the Spirit, rebuked the Elders who would continue to lay hands on the sick from day to day without the power to heal them. Said he: “It is time that such things ended. Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick or let them cease to minister the forms without the power.”

What stuck with me is that last paragraph.  There were Elders in Montrose who were giving blessings to the sick, in an effort to heal them, “day to day” without the power to heal them.  Why were they lacking in the power which Joseph so boldly possessed?  What made them different?  Were the sick not being healed because it was God’s will that they remain sick and dying, or were the sick not being healed because the Elder’s giving the blessings were lacking in power?  I will let the reader decide how they interpret what happened.

I postulate, at the end of the day, that we, as members of the Church, are so afraid of seeing miracles, so afraid of making a mistake, so afraid of being looked at as odd, weird or different, that we all run from the calling Christ has for us.

D&C, Section 121, describes this as follows:

34 Behold, there are many acalled, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

35 Because their ahearts are set so much upon the things of this bworld, and caspire to the dhonors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

36 That the arights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be bcontrolled nor handled only upon the cprinciples of righteousness.

37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to acover our bsins, or to gratify our cpride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or ddominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens ewithdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to akick against the pricks, to bpersecute the saints, and to cfight against God.

39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the anature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little bauthority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise cunrighteous dominion.

40 Hence many are called, but afew are chosen.

We are scared, perhaps rightfully so, because (a) our hearts are set on the things of the world and (b) we want men to honor us.  The Priesthood, as laid out above, can only be handled “upon principles of righteousness.”  When we lack a connection with heaven, when we lack the ability to receive revelation, when we attempt to control, in any way, another we are left to “kick against the pricks.”  Why?  Because in so doing we’ve become an enemy to God (verse 38).  We struggle so much to see and witness these miracles because we’re too busy asserting authority, clamoring for others to believe, listen and follow us.  We want so much for the “honors of men.”  We want our wives, our friends, our associates and everyone in between to listen and give heed to our words.  When they don’t, all too often we start messing around with what’s found in verses 35-39 above and, as a result, we fail to “self select.”  We’re not chosen, because we’ve failed to give all the glory to Christ.  We’ve failed to realize exactly how reliant we are upon Him, and Him alone.

Others have also recently discussed this topic.  On another blog, we read the following opinion on why miracles seem to happen less now than they did in 1835-1840 and other time periods:

I think there is a tendency to avoid discussing any contemporary occurrence of the miraculous in our individuals lives within the Church because of the frequent association of such things with deceivers and the deceived.  In contrast to that fear, Moroni affirms that angels appear only to those with “a firm mind.”  (Moroni 7: 30.)  How odd it is that we have this juxtaposition:  On the one hand, in our day it is viewed as being evidence of a weak mind, or dubious character, and on the other Moroni asserts it is evidence of a “firm mind.”  One or the other has to be incorrect.
I think such things are experienced less because we talk of them less.  As we talk of them less, we increase our doubts about such things.  Doubt and faith cannot coincide. So was Christ weak-minded or of “a firm mind?”  Was Saul of Tarsus deceived or a deceiver, or instead a godly man who received notice from heaven?  What of Joseph, Alma, Moses, Peter, Mary, Elizabeth, Agabus, and John?

Today we prefer our miracles at a distance.  When we do accept the occasional miracle, we want it to be separated by culture, time and reduced to written accounts from the deceased.  We think it’s safer that way.  Society trusts that when the miraculous has been reduced to history alone it can then safely be the stuff from which PhD’s and theologians extract the real meanings.  After all, our scientific society only trusts education, certification and licensing; not revelation, visitation and ministering of angels.  Well, even if that is not as it should be, it is at least as Nephi said it would be: “They deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men.  Behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.”  (2 Nephi 28: 5-6.)

I think, in my interpretation of this response, is that fear of the miraculous is still prevalent.  We “prefer our miracles at a distance” because it is “safer that way.”  It’s less troublesome, less intrusive.  We’re less likely to be ridiculed by the outside world (both in and outside the church), we’re less likely to be viewed as crazy lunatics.  You put the certification of recognized scholars behind it, when they’re able to interpret it through their educated paradigms, and only then will it become comfortable.  Only then will we be able to say how great a miracle it was.

At the end of the day, do we view miracles as wings that are way too small for a creature to use?  Or, do we view them as enablers?   Do we view our ability to witness and see miracles as a likelihood that we aspire to, or as something relegated to other societies, other peoples, other centuries?  Do we have the faith necessary, “for it is by faith that miracles are wrought?”

Those are good questions.  Questions I admittedly do not have the answer to and questions which are very troubling to me.  Nevertheless, I hope to find positive answers for these questions.  At the end of the day, the gospel is all about us.  Do we, as individuals, view it as much?  Do we seek after the gifts we need, or are we content to let others do it for us?

Let us not forget, though, that:

“When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.” – Eckhart Tolle


Amateur Hour

The other day, reading a few random talks from random individuals, I came across a very short essay written by Hugh Nibley.  This essay discussed the idea of a paid clergy within the church and the pros and cons of a paid clergy.  What is so interesting about many of Nibley’s essays is how they discuss history and how that applies to a modern context.  That essay, entitled “The Day of the Amateur,”[1] is still as applicable today, if not more so, than it was then.

The article, as the title alludes to, is little more than a discussion and contrast of professionals on the one hand, and amateurs on the other.  Professionalism is, as Nibley states, “the child of the universities.”[2] Before there were professionals, there was what is called the Sophoi, “ancient traveling teachers who gave the modern world its moral and intellectual foundations.  They were, to a man, amateurs.”  Professionals, as we all well know, are paid for their opinions, works and teachings.  Amateurs, like Olympian athletes, are not.  They simply do what they do either out of charity or because they feel compelled to do so out of some duty to the human race.

According to Nibley, the amateurs were required by law to be amateurs, “because what they were doing was holy business and not to be contaminated by ulterior motives and ambitions.”[3] In ancient history the Sophists, the great imitators of the Sophoi, eventually overran everything and professionalized it all.  These Sophists were the great professors and the reason why Socrates eventually “advised students to examine prospective teacher’s credentials very carefully and critically.”[4]

As Nibley opines about a day gone by in his usual manner:

“Learning, [now] forgotten in the universities, was revived in academies, salons, societies, courts and coffee houses where amateurs came together to revel in the things of the spirit and make the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the high point of western civilization.  It was the Age of the Amateur.”

Fast forward a few years to the mid-nineteenth century, universities slowly took hold of society and by the twentieth century (and now in the twenty-first century) everyone goes to school for accreditation of some sort.  College teaching, for the most part, offers a “safe birth for mild and mediocre souls who in time, by the sacred role of seniority, [end] up ruling [the] institutions.”[5] Professionals, in this regard, can be boring, inept and lacking of any real inspiration, but the amateur, to get any recognition of any kind, has to be good and inspired.  To maintain the status of an amateur, as the Sophoi of old, the amateur must be honest, dedicated and incorruptible.

Professionals, however, all they need is a certificate, a piece of paper hanging on a wall, a couple of initials after one’s name and, magically (at least in today’s society), they’re granted virtual hero status.  People fawn over them, accept their word as scripture and certainly give much more credence to a professional than some guy with no initials after his name, no degree.

What is particularly troublesome about this essay, to me individually, is that I have often fallen prey to some of the arguments used by the Sophists.  I have been swayed by their opinions, their calls for degrees and certifications.  I went to college because I felt I needed a degree to succeed (financially) in the world, not thinking that there were other ways to succeed, to get by, to live and learn.  I had bought into the following statement, hook, line and sinker:

“You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known.  … You need all the education you can get.  Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify to do the work of the world.  That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.”[6]

I went to school to get a degree in order to get paid from the world “what it thinks [I’m] worth.”  While I appreciate the opportunity to go to school, I nevertheless look back on those years wondering why it was that I fell in line with the crowd and failed to think for myself.  Today, however, I would hope that this statement would raise a few red flags for someone interested in establishing Zion and someone who is, if only slightly, aware of LDS history from the 1800s.   While I agree that education is important, I disagree with the premise of the above statement that implies that education is found only through college and universities, institutions where we may become a “professional” and get a degree, a certification, or whatever it is these days to tell the world that you are now “[qualified] to do the work of the world.”  This quote was restated in the April 2009 New Era, page 19[7], and is juxtaposed between statements of youths from across the United States discussing the importance of attending college and gaining an “education.”  Even more bothersome for me is the urging of the President of the Church imploring the youth of the church to “sacrifice anything that is needed … to qualify to do the work of the world.”  Seems, to me at least, to be a bit too Babylonian in nature, especially when prophets of old have given counsel in direct contradiction to this statement.

According to a discourse given by Brigham Young, Joseph Smith appeared to him in a vision “given right in broad daylight” and gave him a message relating to the building up of Zion.  Young related the following:

“Said [Joseph Smith] – ‘Never spend another day to build up a Gentile city, but spend your days, dollars and dimes for the upbuilding of the Zion of God upon the earth, to promote peace and righteousness, and to prepare for the coming of the Son of Man, and he who does not abide this law will suffer loss.”[8]

Yet, in spite of this statement by Brigham Young, we are much further away from the “upbuilding of the Zion of God upon the earth” today than we ever were then.  Now, in lieu of counsel to build up Zion, we receive counsel which essentially builds up none other than the Great Babylon.  Truly, it is an interesting juxtaposition.  Nevertheless, this quote is used in this article to merely discuss our proclivity to obtain certifications, degrees, and an “education” at the hand of Babylonian professors.  We, naturally, then rely on these certificates to be taken seriously in our personal and professional lives.

Relating this to things of the spirit and the church, some of you may have noticed a certain trend that occurs within the halls of most meeting houses and places of worship, especially among the LDS faith.  Other than the first Sunday of the month, members are asked to prepare and given talks over the pulpit.  This is a way of encouraging mere members of the church to share their experiences, knowledge and spirit with the congregation at large.  It is an inspired practice, it would seem.  It serves as a way for member’s to learn to acquire the spirit, to study the gospel and teach everything by the spirit.

What is an inspired practice, however, has morphed into uniformity of thought.  It’s a true LDS oddity how this could happen.  Pay attention to the next week’s talks, those given by regular members on any given Sunday.  What you will likely find, if your ward or branch is anything like mine, is that most members will simply relay their thoughts in the form of an old Ensign or General Conference talk.  Some of these members will simply read the old Ensign or General Conference talk as if it were their own words, others will re-read the talk word-for-word giving due credit and others still will intersperse their words with the words from the talk.

What makes this unique to the LDS faith is largely the role of general authorities and members of the first presidency and quorum of the twelve apostles in the lives of everyday members.  These men, once called to one of these positions, take on super-human status.  They are no longer capable of error, of giving bad advice or interpreting scriptures to fit a box for which they weren’t meant to fit.  Instead, they become mostly infallible (though no one will admit as much).  Obedience to their words is what is required to be a card-carrying member of the LDS church.  Somehow their words become inspired, their statements become scriptures.  No longer do we, as mere members of the church, filter their words through the spirit to verify whether it is the spirit that is teaching us or whether we’re hearing the man’s opinion.  Instead we rely, word-for-word, on what they say.  Their words then, as a result, become our words.  We quote them, reference them, and repeat them, verbatim, over countless pulpits nearly every week of every year.  Instead of using the scriptures and allowing the spirit to speak through us, we draw on their words to give authority to ours, we rely on their words to justify ours – everything we do is filtered by what “so-and-so” apostle or general authority said.

I am, in this regard, no different.  I have used these very same practices to justify my statements both here on this blog and in talks I have given over the pulpit in years past.  My ability to recognize this issue is highlighted mostly by my own experience, day in and day out, practicing this very method to support and uphold my words.  Only recent have I begun to question what it is, exactly, that we are doing by practicing this sort of “idol” worship, if I may say as much.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, the “general authorities” have taken on expert status when it comes to the gospel and the doctrine of the gospel.  Somewhere along the way we gave them what they never (to my knowledge) asked for – doctrinal authority.  Christ, in his interactions with the Scribes and Pharisees, “distinguished between their right to preside over the church (which He did not challenge), and their assumed exclusive right to teach and interpret scripture (which He utterly rejected).”[9] The scribes and Pharisees, as well as the Sanhedrin, jealously guarded their right to claim leadership by asserting their authority.  “Their appointment to leadership offices, … priestly trappings, and possession of the temple were all used to buttress their claimed rights to preside and exercise control and dominion over the Jews.”[10]

I am not prepared to place these same accusations on the LDS hierarchy, though I see striking and troubling similarities.  At this point, it is the members who presume that the LDS leadership has an “exclusive right to teach and interpret scripture,” though certainly the leadership has, in certain instances, declared that to be their right as leaders.  This exclusivity to teach and interpret scripture is the reason why so many talks rely on so many quotes and statements from “professionals” within the LDS church.  By professionals, I mean those who have a title in front of their name, be it Elder or President or something else.  In our private lives we generally rely on the initials which follow someone’s name to know what to do, what to believe and how to act, be it an M.D., a PhD or something else, while in our religious lives we do exactly the same thing, the only difference being how we rely on the title which precedes a general authority’s name.  No longer, as the logic follows, is it the message that is the most important thing, though surely it is important, rather it’s the title in front of the name which lends especial credence to the message.

I am, admittedly, not quite sure why we have such a fascination with quoting others.  As I previously stated, I am as guilty as the next.  It is, indeed, easier to write and share my thoughts when I bring in quotes from outside sources.  That all being said, it is simply not a black and white issue, though the current practice in the LDS church, in my opinion, is overkill.  Members are all too eager to pick up their favorite talk or a talk which has been given either to them by a member of their Bishopric or one on the subject at hand, and regurgitate it for all to hear.  That, to me, does little more than destroy the spirit of the meeting.  It is true that a well placed quote, a poignant thought and outside sources can indeed enhance the message we are trying to convey, but all too often those quotes become paragraphs.  The paragraphs extend into pages and, before you know it, the talk is over and it turned into one giant quotation.  So be it.  I can only change myself – and I aim to – and you can only change yourself.  The change starts at an individual level and hopefully it does.  Let that change begin with you.  Instead of opening the most recent Ensign, open your scriptures and your heart to hear what the Spirit would teach you.

John Taylor Gatto wrote, in his book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, the following, which underscores one of the reasons why we are so quick to look for the expert to lead us, guide us and save us from ourselves:

“We are addicted to dependency; in the current national crisis of maturity we seem to be waiting for the teacher to tell us what to do, but the teacher never comes to do that.  Bridges collapse, men and women sleep on the streets, bankers cheat, good will decays, families betray each other, the government lies as a matter of policy, corruption, shame, sickness, and sensationalism are everywhere.”[11]

In writing this, ironically enough, I was reminded of a book I just started reading.  A friend recommended this book several months back, at which time I bought it, but it’s been sitting on my shelves gathering dust until this past week.  In the introduction to this book, I found a statement that rang true to my spirit and one which I am trying to convey in this article:

“…What I have tried to convey are the thoughts and consciousness of Jesus that were behind his words when he uttered them.  I commune with Christ and ask him:  ‘I don’t want to interpret the Bible from my own views.  Will you interpret it?’”[12]

Encapsulated in this brief sentence is a meaning that is easy to forget:  we are all too often eager to use someone else’s opinion of the scriptures to justify our thoughts, beliefs and intentions.  Rare, indeed, is the man who searches the scriptures and seeks out the only true interpretation from the true source of light and inspiration.  We would do well to seek Christ and His interpretation of the scriptures as opposed to another man’s interpretations, no matter how good that person’s interpretations may be.  The Pure Source is really the only source from which we should drink.[13]

Nibley, in closing his essay, addresses this very issue and states his opinion on the importance of everyone contributing to the dialogue:

“If we have no professional clergy in the Church, it is not because the Church cannot use expert knowledge, but because all members should be experts where the gospel is concerned, and as such they should make their contribution. All the same contribution? Not at all! The Church is structured for eternal progression, and that takes place as we all feel our way forward along a broad front. Seeking and searching are among the most common words in our scriptures; we are all supposed to be seeking all the time. Just as missionaries go forth as an amateur army, searching out the honest in heart in the most scattered and unlikely places, on the widest possible front, so the rest of us increase in knowledge, here a little and there a little, not by trusting a few experts to come up with the answers, but by all of us searching, all along the line, finding out a fact here and a document there, and reporting the discovery to the whole body.  When he was editor of the Times and Seasons, the Prophet Joseph invited all to contribute.”[14]

The next time you give a talk, or assign someone to give a talk, I hope you take these thoughts to heart.  Stop quoting others and start trusting the spirit and your ability to be taught by the spirit.

What is especially interesting is Nibley’s typical retort at the end of one of his lectures, after having discussed similar ideas:

“Just remember — these things we’ve talked about here today aren’t really that important. What is important is that you keep the commandments and pray for the Lord’s guidance.”[15]

Truly, that is what is most important.  Instead of relying on others to tell us what to believe, to interpret the scriptures for us, to give us quotes and statements to justify what the spirit has undoubtedly taught us, we should pray for and then rely on the Lord’s guidance.[16]

**Approximate percentage of this essay which is made up of direct quotes from others:   23.2% – (676 out of 2,916 words)**


[1] Nibley, Hugh.  “The Day of the Amateur.”  New Era.  Volume 1, number 1.  January 1971.  Pages 42-44.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Hinckley, Gordon.  “A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth.”  New Era.  January 2001, Page 8.

[7] “Questions & Answers,” New Era.  April 2009.  Pages 18-19.

[8] Young, Brigham.  “The Priesthood, Etc.” JD 12:59.

[9] Snuffer, Denver.  Come, Let Us Adore Him.  Page 97.

[10] Ibid.  Page 60-61.

[11] Gatto, John Taylor.  Dumbing Us Down:  The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.  1993, page 99.

[12] Yogananda, Paramahansa.  The Second Coming of Christ:  The Resurrection of the Christ Within You.  2004, page XXX.

[13] See John 4:10.

[14] Nibley.

[15] See http://www.zionsbest.com/amateur.html and the “About the Author” section.

[16] See Jeremiah 31:31-34 for a better discussion on this principle and idea.


Blinded by the Light – the Parable of the Moth

This article and write-up had its naissance thanks to an article which was linked to the Huffington Post.  That article, entitled, Anything Beyond the Universe?  New Theory Changes Our Destiny[1], was a thought provoking article on what we view as reality – constructs of time and space – and how that may be changing.  I would encourage all to read it before continuing on here.

There are numerous aspects from that article from which I could create and write an article, though it may not do justice to the true parable of the Moth as it plays itself out in our individual lives.  The paragraph and statement, however, which jumped out on me was a statement on moths.  Moths, as those who have seen them in action can attest, love light.  Turn on a light in the dark of night and a moth will flock to it for reasons I do not understand.  Turn on another light, and the moth will likely float along to that light, trying to penetrate the glass that houses the light.  The moth will likely, then, fly around between the available lights for hours on end.  This will continue until either the person watching the moth will try to free the moth from the madness of the scene, until the moth dies, or until some other unfortunate incident occurs.

To a moth, this scene tells a vastly different story and, although this article will discuss how we humans can learn something from this evolutionary dance, I feel obliged to share some of the studies done on the moths and their attraction to light.  There are, according to the brief research I did on this topic, at least two schools of thought on why moths are attracted to light sources.  One such school of thought is represented by Dr. Henry Hsaio, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of North Carolina, while the other, for the purposes of this article, will be represented by Dr. May Berenbaum, Head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois.

Henry Hsaio has stated in some moth studies that moths exhibit two kinds of behavior:  (1) when they’re distant from a light source they are drawn to the light source and make a beeline straight to it; and, (2) once the moths are in close proximity to the light source, the moth actually tries to avoid the light.[2] In trying to avoid the light, these same moths are seeing in vision the “Mach band.”  The Mach band, which can be seen by all sighted creatures, is the “region surrounding a bright light that seems darker than any other part of the sky.”[3] Hsaio, in his studies, postulated that the moth, in trying to fly within the Mach band, is actually seeking out the darkest part of the sky, which, according to Hsaio, is the safest area for the moths.  This theory also suggests that moths, who try and hide themselves in the daytime from predators, view the light source as a signal of morning light and are trying to seek that light and find a hiding place.

Dr. Berenbaum, in an interview with NPR discussed a slightly different view.[4] The “standard line of explanation,” according to Berenbaum, suggests that moths and other nocturnal insects use “celestial navigation” as a way of orienting themselves in the dark, much the same way man has done for centuries.  The reason moths, supposedly, are attracted to porch lights and the like is because these lights take on a “terrestrial” point source in their minds, much the same way sea turtles can be distracted by porch lights on the beach while they look for the moon to signal when they should head back to sea.[5]

When you step back to consider these schools of thought, they really aren’t that much different.  In essence, the moths are (a) disoriented by the false light, (b) distracted by the false light and (c) nevertheless seeking refuge in the light.  Obviously, taking these results and applying them to ourselves individually, there are potentially many lessons we can learn.  While I do not intend to expound each of these ideas, there is yet a further idea I would like to discuss – namely what we see when we witness this “light dance.”

It could be said, and indeed it has been said, that these moths are completely oblivious to their surroundings when a false light (by false light, I mean any source that isn’t natural – like celestial objects) comes into their view.  They, as mentioned in both of the articles on the two different schools of thought, make a “beeline” for the source of light and use that light to either seek refuge from the predators of the night, or to orient themselves on their travels.  Neither goal is achieved, unfortunately, in this “light dance.”  What is achieved, however, is a complete and total distraction to what is happening all around them.

Robert Lanza, in the original article from the Huffington Post, shared something that Loren Eiseley once wrote on this very subject:

“While I was sitting one night with a poet friend watching a great opera performed in a tent under arc lights, the poet took my arm and pointed silently. Far up, blundering out of the night, a huge Cecropia moth swept past from light to light over the posturings of the actors. ‘He doesn’t know,’ my friend whispered excitedly. ‘He’s passing through an alien universe brightly lit but invisible to him. He’s in another play; he doesn’t see us. He doesn’t know. Maybe it’s happening right now to us.”

This statement should, hopefully, elicit some internal yearnings to better understand the universe in which we individually live.  Are we, like the huge Cecropia moth, blundering on in the darkness, oblivious to the universe which is all around us?  Are we ignorant to the realities that present themselves in our everyday lives, simply because we aren’t really paying attention to what is going on around us?  Maybe, just maybe, it is happening right now to us.

This thought, so eloquently set forth by Eiseley, isn’t without scriptural support.  The Doctrine & Covenants discuss, in a veiled way, what it means to walk in darkness – a metaphor which has direct application to this discussion:

For the preparation wherewith I design to prepare mine apostles to aprune my vineyard for the last time, that I may bring to pass my bstrange act, that I may cpour out my Spirit upon all flesh—But behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many who have been ordained among you, whom I have called but few of them are achosen.  They who are not chosen have sinned a very grievous sin, in that they are awalking in bdarkness at noon-day. … If you akeep not my commandments, the blove of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall cwalk in darkness.[6]

The meaning of this scripture may get lost in the cracks of our everyday lives, but it is directly applicable to us, today.  We are those who are walking at “noon-day” in that we fail to see the light shining all around us.  Whereas the moth is distracted from the universe which surrounds it because of false light sources, we are distracted from the universe which surrounds us because we glory in the darkness.  To be fair, we may not “glory” in the darkness, but all too frequently we reject the light because we “per-ceive” it not.  The light, much like the example of the moths, is not hidden from us mortals, but all too often we choose not to “see” that light.  The light which I am referring to, I hope, would be obvious to the reader.  That light is none other than Christ.

For, behold, it is I that speak; behold, I am the alight which shineth in darkness, and by my bpower I give these words unto thee.  … Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the aSon of God. I am the life and the blight of the world.[7]

I am the alight which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not[8].

Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the aSon of God. I am the same that came unto mine bown, and mine own received me not. I am the clight which shineth in ddarkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.[9]

Similarly, Christ reiterates this same idea throughout the New Testament.

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the alight of the world: he that followeth me shall not bwalk in cdarkness, but shall have the light of life[10].

Whereas the moth is attracted to a false light source, mistaking it for a celestial body which it uses to guide itself on its journeys, we tend to mistake darkness for light.  We view our surroundings, the false paradigms of our worlds, the chasing after money, goods, possessions, “that … which doth corrupt the soul,”[11] as the purpose of our existence.  And, if not the purpose, certainly something worth spending the majority of our life chasing after.  If that is not the purpose of our existence, then why do we spend the vast majority of our time laboring after those things which, according to Isaiah, “satisfieth not?”  (see Isaiah 55:2).  It seems nonsensical, when you think about it.  Looking at the things on which we spend our energy and resources, it’s no wonder Christ states that we are “walking in darkness at noon-day.”  We’re so distracted and overwhelmed with “life” that we forget the reasons why we are here on earth.

Christ himself describes this darkness in a separate section of the Doctrine & Covenants, where he says, “…that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.”[12] Centuries earlier, a prophet who had seen and communed with Christ, echoes these words in the concluding chapters of the Book of Mormon where he writes, “…all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil … that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.”[13]

While we may conjecture and postulate what it is about the false light sources which distracts and leads astray the moths in their nocturnal flight patterns, the scriptures have laid out a formula and method whereby we can avoid similar distractions.  According to the scriptures discussed previously, what we must do is find those things which “enticeth to do good” and to serve God.  In so doing, we will find the “light which shineth in the darkness” (which shineth in [us], though we comprehend it not).

A friend of mine, in an email, stated the following in discussing the opening verses of Alma chapter 41 (his words are in the brackets):

3 And it is requisite with the ajustice of God that men should be bjudged according to their cworks; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be drestored unto that which is good. [good = happiness]

4 And if their works are evil they shall be arestored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be brestored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame—cmortality raised to dimmortality, ecorruption to incorruption—raised to fendless happiness to ginherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other—

5 The one raised to ahappiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; [good = happiness] and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.

6 And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.

aThese are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, [of Hell – or our current state of mind] that are delivered from that endless night of darkness [which is in our own minds]; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.

As verse seven describes, those who are redeemed of the Lord, are taken out [of hell – or our current blinded state of mind; our current false paradigms; our current skewed individual universes] and are delivered from that “endless night” of darkness [again, in our own minds].  As we seek the true source of light, discussed in the above scriptures, we will lay hold of every good thing and be led to the:

“…light which shineth, which giveth [us] light, is through Him who enlightened [our] eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth [our] understandings; … which is in all things, which given life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed…for intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light…”[14]

Let us shun the darkness and cleave unto the Light.  It is the only way.  He is the only way.


[1] Robert Lanza, M.D.  Anything Beyond the Universe?  New Theory Changes Our Destinyhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-lanza/anything-beyond-the-unive_b_455260.html.  Retrieved 02/09/2010.

[2] Cecil Adams.  Why are moths attracted to bright lights? http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1071/why-are-moths-attracted-to-bright-lights.  01/27/1989.  Retrieved 02/09/2010.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Why are Moths Attracted to Flame? http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12903572.  08/18/2007.  Retrieved 02/09/2010.

[5] Ibid.

[6] See Doctrine & Covenants 95:4-6, 12.

[7] See Doctrine & Covenants 11:11, 28.

[8] See Doctrine & Covenants 10:58.

[9] See Doctrine & Covenants 6:21.

[10] See John 8:12.

[11] See Mosiah 29:40.

[12] See Doctrine & Covenants 50:23.

[13] See Moroni 7:12-13.

[14] See Doctrine & Covenants 88:11-13, 40.


The topic of idolatry has been on my mind recently, spurred in part by an email conversation with one of my brothers and the conversation going on between a number of acquaintances regarding a recent change in focus for the LDS church.  I touched this issue briefly a while back in one of my posts, which I’ll bring back here, but it’s still a “live” issue for me at the moment.

In order to properly preface this post, it might be useful to define a few of the terms inherent in this discussion, namely “worship” and “idolatry.”  The 1828 Webster’s Dictionary defines idolatry[1] as, “The worship of idols, images, or any thing made by hands, or which is not God.  Excessive attachment or veneration for any thing, or that which borders on adoration.”  It also defines worship[2] as, “honor; respect; civil deference; obsequious or submissive respect.”  It may also be useful to add veneration[3] to this list, which is defined as being, “The highest degree of respect and reverence; respect mingled with some degree of awe; a feeling or sentiment excited by the dignity and superiority of a person… .”

Now, in turning to these two discussions to which I was privy, I will share a few details.  In the discussion my brother and I had, he had posed a couple of questions regarding the new “Gospel Principles”[4] manual.  The issues raised tie into the post I did on new members, as well as his general questioning of this manual.  This post isn’t about the manual, it’s good and bad points, but rather about a greater issue which has become visible in this discussion.  In his questioning, he made the following point:

“It’s weird, that the restoration was brought about by a question over some confusing topics and young Joseph found solace in James 1:5. Asking is not weird nor is Joseph’s quest for the truth, but today, it seems odd that when one individual questions a policy or a program it is viewed as heresy or apostate for questioning the brethren, when in fact, we are truly on a quest for answers just as Joseph was.  It is also weird because it becomes hard to confide in anyone.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not questioning my testimony or my faith, but I feel alive and feel vigor when searching for these answers and for asking these questions.”

Though it goes unsaid, he is experiencing what many experience – namely criticism for even questioning the decision of the hierarchy or body of the church.   Far too often, the mere act of the questioning of a decision made by the church or, perhaps more appropriately, by the correlation committee, is viewed as inherently weak, made by one who is wavering in their testimony and a sure sign of “apostasy,” whatever that means in the general LDS lexicon.  The only “real” apostasy that can happen is apostasy from Christ, but instead it’s viewed as apostasy from the church as an institution.

The second issue was brought forth in an email discussion of a group that I take part in.  The discussion was largely around the LDS church adding a “new emphasis” to the threefold mission of the church, namely caring for the poor and needy.  This pronouncement was largely heralded by various media outlets as being “a dramatic move and very important message,” “a move that tells the world that Mormonism is Christian more effectively than changing the logo to make the words ‘Jesus Christ’ stand out,” and one reflecting the life and service of the President of the LDS Church, Thomas Monson, “giving to and helping others is just a natural part of his life.  He is saying to every single member:  ‘You, too can … make a difference.”[5] Other news organizations repeated these same statements almost word-for-word.[6] There was no official press release through the LDS.org Newsroom.

In both of the above examples, there were two sides to the story.  One side firmly believing the “official” explanation (i.e. never question a decision that comes down through the approved church channels; the “new emphasis” of caring for the poor and needy is honorable and deserving of the praise given to the church); one side (of which I, myself, am a part) questioning the logic, reasoning and motives behind such pronouncements and programs.  It is, truthfully, interesting to see the differing sides talk and discuss, though sometimes there’s less talking and discussing (as in my brother’s situation).

How, you might be asking yourself, does this play into the topic of this post – idolatry?  Good question.  The answer to which I will try to give as best as I can.

Taking the first example, how might idolatry be perceived?  Taking the definition from the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, can those who adhere to the “no questioning” side of the argument be viewed as being excessively attached, submissively respectful, and paying more respect and reverence than needed?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  Mostly, this is an individual application.  I have personally witnessed such “obsequious respect” and have been left wanting.  Anytime, as the definition suggests, we lay down and accept something without thinking it through, it would seem this would fall in the definition of “worship” and “idolatry.”  If we think and presume that everything that comes from an individual, organization or any thing or body else, then we’re bordering on idolatry, if not already being idolatrous.

Taking the second example, could this be perceived as idolatry?  I think this example is further proof of our idolatrous nature.  In reading over the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News articles, as well as searching the LDS.org newsroom site, I was struck by the language used to describe the addition of this new addition to the threefold mission of the church.  All of the references to why this decision was made either had to do with the Church itself, or Thomas Monson, as President of the Church.  In the group discussion on this, the point was made, by at least one person, that we take these announcements at face value because we believe the Church to be the Lord’s church, and Thomas Monson to be the Lord’s prophet here on the earth.  As such, what they do and support are evidences of the Lord’s hand guiding them.

In thinking on this, it was made known to me that the language contained in the available quotes from church leadership on this topic and the newspaper articles previously mentioned neither contained any references to this being what the Lord actually wanted, nor the Lord’s hand in this decision, nor the example of the Lord in His teachings about caring for the poor and needy.  Instead, the focus was on the Church and the President of the Church.  My question, then, is if the Lord is indeed guiding the USS LDS Church on its journey, and if this is being implemented through the President of the USS LDS Church, the Lord’s prophet, then why are there no references to Christ, His teachings, or His example?  Christ has effectively been removed from the conversation and has been replaced by the Church itself and the President of the Church.  Some may say that this is of little importance given the name of the Church and given the titles that follow the “President” of the Church.  I argue the opposite.  Replacing Christ with an organization and a man is the essence of idolatry.  All true prophet s point back to Christ in all they do.  They teach what Christ would have taught and they inspire those they teach to seek Christ and Christ alone.  They deflect attention away from themselves and onto Christ.

To his credit, Bishop Richard Edgley stated, in an article at Mormon Times, “”All we’re trying to do is fulfill what he (Christ) has taught us.  We’ve been trying to do it forever, and we’ll continue to do it.”  That statement, however, was the only mention of Christ in that article before refocusing the attention on the President of the Church, “The principle coincides with the strongly held sentiments of the LDS Church’s current leader, President Thomas S. Monson.  ‘Anyone who knows President Monson knows his wonderful experiences and the wonderful example that he’s set for the rest of us,” said Bishop Edgley, adding “he has by example led us in how we can reach out and help with those who are suffering.’”[7]

In thinking this topic over I returned (once again) to the words contained in Come, Let Us Adore Him, a book written by Denver Snuffer on the importance of seeking Christ.  In this book, he offers the following insights:

“How easy it is to become distracted by the things of this world.  How easy it is for ministers claiming to be on God’s errand to stray into being on their own errand.  How easy it is for those who handle tithes and property to lose sight of the Lord and His house, and come to value only the property.  Measurable things – numbers, growth charts, revenues collected, statistics on attendance, numbers of buildings built – everything which could evidence prosperity, overwhelms those who think succeeding in their stewardship depends on increasing that which can be measured.  Nephi warned that we would also succumb to this number-crunching mentality.  And as we do, we will conclude, just like the scribes and Pharisees, that all is well (see 2 Nephi 28:21).  Magnifying a calling has never been statistics-driven.”

“After losing the Spirit, the mind runs wild.  It substitutes rationally developed theology for inspired direction.  Indeed, after becoming blind, they believe their conclusions are inspired.  All their followers fall in line once “authority” and “inspiration” have become conflated.  The people then find it easy to “strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”  Everything is disproportionate.  Since the light of the Spirit is gone, there is no way for them to tell the difference between the gnat and the camel.”

“…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.”

“(Matt 23:27-28)…The hypocrisy and iniquity of these religious teachers was so toxic, so wrong, and so dark that it made others unclean.  This forced the audience to choose.  There could be no middle ground.  Either we trust in the traditions of our fathers, or we follow Christ.  This choice has always been required of God’s people.  Nephi assures us (2 Nephi 28:14) this will also be the case for our day.  Only a very few will find the way, and it will require them to overcome bad teachings; “because of pride, an wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are le, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.”[8]

Part of the reason why I feel these words relate to this topic of idolatry is because I think the Church and the President of the Church have replaced Christ in most member’s lives.  I highly doubt that this has happened purposefully, but rather through a serious of decisions and changes made over the course of the past 150+ years, the church has slowly been led away from Christ and led to Church.  Instead of confirming truth with and through Christ, we confirm truth by what the Church does.  If the Church does something, anything, then it must be what Christ would do, or so most members think.

Richard Scott, member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles of the LDS Church, discussed this very topic in a stake leadership meeting.  In that meeting he discussed what was being taught to the members and openly questioned whether the members of the church were being taught to Come Unto Church or to Come Unto Christ.  He stated it this way:

“Most the problems you are dealing with such as divorce, spouse abuse, child abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, anger, contention, fighting, immorality, many financial problems, many emotional and physical health problems, lack of temple attendance, lack of desire to go home teaching, lack of convert retention, lack of commitment – are merely symptoms of a root problem and what is that root problem?  Lack of a conversion to Christ!  Most of these painful symptoms could be vanished by what?  A personal conversion to and a personal relationship with Christ.  We have a serious problem within the Church in that we have been teaching one another to Come unto Church when we should have been teaching one another to Come unto Christ! It’s as if we actually think the Church can save or exalt us.  If we would spend more of our time teaching one another about Jesus and His Infinite Atonement, we would see most of our painful symptoms go away and we would find greater desire to serve Him and love others.”[9] (Layton Northridge Stake Conference 1995)

Both Denver Snuffer and Richard Scott teach that we, as individuals, must somehow find and, with the help of the Lord, establish a personal relationship with Him.  If we blindly follow what the Church does, if we give all the accolades and praise to the Church and the President (or presiding authorities) of the Church, then we are practicing idolatry.

As I alluded to before, I shared a quote from The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith which discuss this very issue and can, in my opinion, be applied to our idolatrous relationships with the Church and the leaders of the Church.  From that, I quote:

Joseph Smith similarly addressed the saints, though in a different context, whereupon he was expounded the meaning of the fourteenth chapter of Ezekial in the Old Testament.

As found in The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, we read:

“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel – said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church – that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls – applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall – that they were depending on the prophet, hence were darkened in their minds – in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy.”[10]

The idolatry evidenced in Ezekiel 14 was that the people went to the prophet for their knowledge of God, not to God himself. They set up a stumbling block, a mediator for THE mediator (our Lord and Savior).  That is to say that instead of approaching God through prayer, supplication, fasting or whatever method, for knowledge of Him and his Son, we tend to approach a man.  No matter how inspired that man may be, the gospel is an individual gospel meant for “the one.”  That one, to me, is me.  That one, to you, is you.  As mentioned above, it is an imperative duty we have to seek an individual relationship and connection with God and when we do not undertake to fulfill that duty our minds must become “darkened.”

If we apply that to this topic – idolatry – what Joseph Smith is saying is that anytime we replace Christ with something else, either the President/Prophet or the Church itself (or anything else) – we are being idolatrous and the end result of that idolatry is a darkened mind.  This darkening of the mind is even more poignant when we consider the quote shared above from Denver Snuffer on how “darkness can take hold of any people.”[11] Instead of solely linking idolatry to a golden calf, or money, or cars, we should also be willing to admit when the Church and its leadership become the essence of idolatry in our own lives.  Making that connection, though, is much easier said than done.

Instead of ostracizing or ridiculing those who question programs, policies, procedures or whatever it may be that comes down through the centralized hierarchy of the Church, we should invite the open-minded inquiry.  Instead of assuming that all that happens and is published by or through the Church has the stamp of approval of the Lord, we should seek out Christ and obtain our witness through Him and Him alone.  When we replace the Lord with the Church or the President of the Church, blindly following what they say and do, then our own minds are necessarily darkened because of the true light which we reject.

In closing, the following passages are especially applicable to our day and time and may indeed provide a very compelling parallel to what we, personally, are witnessing.  Pay special attention to verse seven, and what follows:

5 For he put down all the priests that had been consecrated by his father, and consecrated new aones in their stead, such as were lifted up in the pride of their hearts.

6 Yea, and thus they were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people; thus did the people labor exceedingly to support iniquity.

7 Yea, and they [the people] also became idolatrous, because they were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests; for they did speak flattering things unto them.

8 And it came to pass that king Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of aprecious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper;

9 And he also built him a spacious palace, and a throne in the midst thereof, all of which was of fine wood and was ornamented with gold and silver and with precious things.

10 And he also caused that his workmen should work all manner of fine work within the walls of the atemple, of fine wood, and of copper, and of brass.

11 And the seats which were set apart for the ahigh priests, which were above all the other seats, he did ornament with pure gold; and he caused a breastwork to be built before them, that they might rest their bodies and their arms upon while they should speak lying and vain words to his people.

12 And it came to pass that he built a atower near the temple; yea, a very high tower, even so high that he could stand upon the top thereof and overlook the land of bShilom, and also the land of cShemlon, which was possessed by the Lamanites; and he could even look over all the land round about. [12]


[1] http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,idolatry.  Retrieved 2/6/2010.

[2] http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,worship.  Retrieved 2/6/2010.

[3] http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,veneration.  Retrieved 2/6/2010.

[4] http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,8865-1-4828-2,00.html.  Retrieved 2/6/2010.

[5]New LDS Emphasis:  Care for the needy.”  http://www.sltrib.com/lds/ci_13965607.  10 December 2009.  Retrieved 02/06/2010.

[6]LDS to boost emphasis on helping the needy.”  http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705350795/LDS-to-boost-emphasis-on-helping-the-needy-Salt-Lake-Temple-not-closing.html?pg=2.  10 December 2009. Retrieved 02/06/2010.

[7] Care for Needy is Ongoing Charge for Mormon Church.  Mormon Times.  12 December 2009.  http://www.mormontimes.com/around_church/general_authority/?id=12237.  Retrieved 02/06/2010.

[8] Snuffer, Denver.  Come, Let Us Adore Him.  Pages 205-210.

[9] Scott, Richard.  Layton Northridge Stake Conference.  1995.

[10] Smith, Joseph.  The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Pages 237-238.

[11] Snuffer, Denver.  Come, Let Us Adore Him.  Page 209.

[12][12] See Mosiah 11.