Archive for May, 2010


And the aMessiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may bredeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are credeemed from the fall they have become dfree forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon

2 Nephi 2:26


Do I Have to go to Church?

I’m a lucky man tonight.  I’m sitting out on my parents back porch.  That’s not why I’m lucky, but it’s a setting.  I, like many young former-“professionals” have moved back in (temporarily, I hope) with my parents as I both search for, and start a job.  I’ve been unemployed going on 14 months now, officially a bum in the eyes of most people.  When I was living in Utah, with my in-laws, I was the recipient of more than a few odd looks.  Though most people seemed, on the exterior at least, to be understanding and empathetic with my family’s situation, I couldn’t help but wonder if some of those odd looks had to do with my mooching off of my in-laws and the free rent we received for a full year.

Certainly, within my wife’s own family, her siblings (and parents, to a lesser degree) presented a trial as they, too, questioned what we were doing and were more than eager to throw us out.  Such is the plight of an unemployed bum.  13 full months of job searching later, I’m no closer to finding a job than when I begin.  Hundreds of applications have been sent, less than a handful (literally) of callbacks or email responses have come back my way.

Such it is, in this context, that I find myself a lucky man.  I’m sitting on my parents back porch, watching the fire glow in the portable brick oven I just finished building less than a week ago.  It’s in the curing process, right now, as I try to get the thing acclimated to temperatures approaching 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  Currently, it’s sitting right about 400 degrees.  Tomorrow it will be slightly hotter.  The next day even hotter than that.  Then, some Saturday, our first pizza party will take place here at my parents house.  This project has been more than 6 months in planning, and I’ve taken more than my fair share of bumps and bruises in my feeble attempt to start a fledgling business.  Cost overruns, time overruns and broken parts have hampered the process, but at last there is some semblance of success at the doorstep.

That, in truth, is only part of the reason why I’m lucky.  While more than a few people here in Wisconsin complained of the heat (93 degrees with a fair amount of humidity), my wife and kids were suffering through a day in the low 30s with a nice slushy snowfall.  When I spoke with my wife earlier this morning, there was a 65 degree difference (literally) according to accuweather.com.  I chuckled, as we’ve often lamented the fact that Wisconsin seems so cold, and Utah typically the more temperate climate, and I was more than willing to point out the temperature difference to my wife as she suffered through a chilly late May day.

Definitions

As I did a little bit of reading, this morning, I was again reminded of a common theme among some LDS members as it relates to church.  I preface these comments with the clause that I am not terribly certain that our modern day interpretation of “church” is anywhere near accurate, and certainly has deviated from the scriptural definition in more than a few ways.  Church, as it’s referred to today, means little more than a religious body that meets on a weekly basis, with other meetings sprinkled in for good measure.  Church, as it’s referred to today, consists of meetings, programs, and hourly blocks of (mostly) scriptural discussions that repeat themselves at least every four years.  If you ask a member of the LDS faith what church is, they’ll likely reply that it’s their set of beliefs and more or less synonymous with the term “gospel.”

The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines church as “a house consecrated to the worship of God,” or “the collective body of Christians, or of those who profess to believe in Christ.”[1] The original Greek word for church is Ekklesia which means “a gathering” who could be “united into one body.”[2] The most likely New Testament definition, from what I’ve been able to gather, is that church was described or defined as any meeting where “two or three [were] gathered together,”[3] and could literally have been a group that small.  Any meeting consisting of two or three people which discussed spiritual principles or ideas or speculation, therefore, could have been labeled “church.”  The most succinct definition of church as contained in scripture is likely found in D&C 10:67-69, which reads, “Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and acometh unto me, the same is my bchurch. Whosoever adeclareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is bagainst me; therefore he is not of my church. And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and aendureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my brock, and the cgates of hell shall not prevail against them.”

The term “gospel,” by contrast, is defined by the same 1828 Webster’s dictionary as “the history of the birth, life, actions, death, resurrection, ascension and doctrines of Jesus Christ,” and “a revelation of the grace of God to fallen man through a mediatory … the whole scheme of salvation, as revealed by Christ.”[4] D&C 39:6 states and defines the gospel as, “repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the bbaptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and cteacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.”  3 Nephi 17:21 follows similar lines and states, “aRepent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be bbaptized in my name, that ye may be csanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand dspotless before me at the last day. Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my agospel … .”

The Difference Between the Church and the Gospel – 1984

Though many of you may be familiar with Ronald Poleman’s talk, given in 1984[5], on the gospel and the church, the differences highlighted therein likely give the best definition of the mainstream view of each, especially when one considers the changes and redactions that occurred to that discourse.  The original discourse defined the church as “a divine institution administered by the priesthood of God.  The church has authority to teach correctly the principles and doctrines of the gospel and to administer its essential ordinances.”  The gospel, as defined in this same talk, is “the divine plan for personal, individual salvation and exaltation.”

Following these brief definitions, the church is an institution which is charged with teaching the gospel, or the “plan” that leads us to individual salvation and exaltation.  They are, and were, two distinct and different entities.  Immediately after the original talk was given in general conference, Poleman was required to re-do the talk and give a similar, though distinctly different version which was then published in the Ensign and elsewhere.  In this second version, the church is redefined to be, “the Kingdom of God on Earth” and “divinely commissioned to provide the means and resources to implement this plan [the gospel] in each individual’s life.”  The remainder of the talk, as presented throughout changed version continue to highlight, continues to highlight how the church, and only the church, is divinely inspired and commissioned to implement, teach and administer the gospel.

The original talk, which I find to be a fantastic discussion on important and well defined differences, contains this instructive thought:

“Sometimes traditions, customs, social practices and personal preferences of individual Church members may, through repeated or common usage, be misconstrued as Church procedures or policies.  Occasionally, such traditions, customs and practices may even be regarded by some as eternal gospel principles.  Under such circumstances those who do not conform to these cultural standards may mistakenly be regarded as unorthodox or even unworthy.  In fact, the eternal principles of the gospel and the divinely inspired Church do accommodate a broad spectrum of individual uniqueness and cultural diversity.” – Ronald Poleman, October 1984 General Conference (original version)

The changed version removes this entire paragraph and replaces it with an entirely different line of thought, “the eternal principles of the gospel implemented through the divinely inspired Church apply to a wide variety of individuals in diverse cultures.”  You can be the judge of the similarities and differences of these two statements, juxtaposed against each other.  Suffice it to say, the redone version is geared and directed to a mostly hierarchical definition that strengthens and supports an ever increasing bureaucracy.  If what Polemen said was true in 1984, how much more true is it today?  The traditions – false and otherwise – are even more ingrained and popular than they were then and even more likely to hold sway in any given lesson or discussion.  The only way these can be adequately rejected or refuted is by knowing (a) what they are and (b) knowing the true form of the principle behind the tradition.  That, I’m afraid, is our task.

Is it any wonder, in retrospect, that this talk was both given, censored, changed and rebranded in 1984?[6] From Orwell’s 1984, I found a couple of insightful quotes as it pertains to this discussion:

“If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say this or that even, it never happened—that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death.” – Book 1, Chapter 3

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” – Book 1, Chapter 3

“Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.” – Book 1, Chapter 3

The Universality of Revelation

So, why this discussion on church, the gospel and whether I have to attend church?  Well, one of my pet peeves (but only recently) is the idea of the universality of revelation.  My definition of the universality of revelation would be broken down by a rather simple statement:  “Since I received a revelation/witness that I need to be doing this or that, that means that you (all of you) should also be doing this or that”  In essence, the universality of revelation suggests that all the individual insights we receive are also applicable to everyone else, regardless of their station, their situation and their own individual lives.

Case in point:  if I were to believe (tacitly, because we never admit it) in the universality of revelation, then my thoughts on Marijuana and the Word of Wisdom must be followed by everyone.  In that discussion, I outlined why I think marijuana is not only kosher with the word of wisdom, but is perhaps one of the things our Heavenly Father has given us to use and enjoy, both for its effects on the conscious and its effects on our overall well-being.  Following this universality of revelation premise, my thoughts on Marijuana must thereby be the required protocol not only for me, but also for everyone else.  If it’s good for the goose, well, it’s good for the gander as well.

Now, as I stated in that previous paragraph, the belief in universality of revelation is one which is only given tacit approval.  Anyone reading the above paragraph will recognize the inherent weaknesses of my argument, not only because it falls on its face under closer inspection, but also because it bypasses the idea of everyone having their God-given right to lead their lives in concordance with the principles of revelation and free agency.

Guilting Me into Going to Church

So, how does this universality of revelation apply to this discussion?  Well, there are those around me who continually profess that leaving the church simply isn’t an option.  Not that I have any intentions of leaving, but the whole idea that (a) “the Lord is going to hold us all accountable” (to our “support” of church leaders and programs of the church), (b) “those who are sensitive to the troubles which beset the church need to be there, faithfully serving,” (c) Zion and her redemption are the same thing, and same cause, as serving in the church, (d) “withdraw[ing] from the church [will] cut yourself off from necessary ordinances, including the sacrament” and “imperil your capacity to keep the Sabbath day holy” and “limit your capacity to serve others,” and other similar thoughts[7], all related to the discussion of leaving or staying in the church, leave me beside myself.  Probably for good reason.  I probably need the reminding, but at the same time, I can’t come to an agreement on any of those items listed above.

If we step back and analyze the state of affairs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some things might come into focus, and rather quickly.  The first few things to enter our view would probably be (a) all is not well in Zion, (b) staying in or outside the church is an individual decision, (c) once ordinances are performed, all saints have the ability and right to practice those ordinances in their own homes, especially the Sacrament, no matter what any leader says, (d) leaving church will not imperil anyone from keeping the Sabbath day holy nor limit my (or anyone’s) capacity to serve and (e) the universality of revelation is alive and well in the LDS community.

Programs

My biggest bone of contention – and perhaps I’m wrong in this assessment – is that LDS members are so addicted to their own definition of church that they can’t really step outside the box and realize that “church” can be defined as broadly as we want it.  It really can be a meeting where you and I discuss spiritual principles.  That is church.  That is where we’re striving to grow closer to Christ.  Instead, for some reason, we define church in the most narrow version we can – a place we go and attend one time per week, with three hour blocks where we’re fed the same regurgitated vomit week in and week out.  We maintain incredibly narrow mindsets by thinking that service is to be rendered solely within the church, that we must attend a building 1x per week in order to even hope of keeping the Sabbath day holy, that we must support a system that is predicated on blind obedience to a pile of programs, lectures and leaders, and that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

I am so fed up with “programs” that I can’t even see straight.  Literally, the following is the list of “programs” we currently maintain (and I may be missing some):

  1. Primary program
  2. Young men’s program
  3. Young women’s program
  4. Sunday school program
  5. Duty to God program
  6. Personal progress program
  7. Scouting program
  8. Missionary program
  9. Home teaching program

10.  Visiting teaching program

11.  Provident living program

12.  Welfare program

13.  Temple attendance program

14.  Temple building program

15.  Humanitarian program

16.  Distribution center program

17.  Seminary program

18.  Activity Days program

19.  Young Single Adults program

20.  Activities program

And, from there, I could probably continue and re-label other organizations programs, because that’s all they really are.  The High Priests group is really about a program for old men, because you can only become a High Priest with age and seasoning, nothing to do with revelation.  The Elders Quorum is really a program for newly married people who aren’t spiritually sound enough to graduate to a special calling (i.e. their bishopric or the high council).  The relief socity is really just a program to keep the sister’s from backbiting and keep them engaged in various activities.  Programs, programs, programs.  Programs are little more than “a plan of action to accomplish a specified end,”[8] apparently.  And that “specified plan?”  To raise people who blindly follow leaders?  To raise people who pay a “full tithe”?  To depersonalize the gospel to such an extent that we think we need checklists, programs, graduations, certificates and prizes to suggest that we’ve arrived as “saints”?  Just what is the “specified plan”?  Interestingly, the word “program” only existed in the 1800s as a way to define a letter, advertisement or proclamation.[9] It had nothing to do with our “programmatic” learning that we’re now convinced we need.

And yet, in all these programs, our main focus is on three things:  (1) the church, (2) the prophet, and (3) the apostles.  If programs are the focus of the church, and I submit they are, then the result can best be seen in the beliefs (at least those publicly available to the average listener) of the average member.  The best place, it would seem, to hear these beliefs would be at your local “fast & testimony” meeting.  And, true to form, the results are rather predictable.  The next fast and testimony meeting you attend, take a pad of paper and a pen with you.  Make two columns.  The first column should have the header “Church / Prophet”, and the second column should have the header “Christ.”  Tally up the number of times someone testifies of either.  If someone testifies of the Church, or the Prophet, add the marks accordingly.  Likewise for Christ.  I did this over a several month time frame and the results were typically in favor of the Church / Prophet, at a rate of near 6:1 or 7:1.  I remember one meeting, only one person bore testimony of Christ, and that someone was a kid of 7 or 8 years old.  Everyone else bore testimony of either the prophet, or the church, or some other tale having little to do with the gospel.  That, I am afraid, is the result of the programs.  That, I am afraid, is what we have as a result of supporting these programs.  And, yet, I’m to believe that God will hold me accountable for not supporting these programs?  Well, if that’s the case, then I hope I can find a different God in the afterlife than the one I profess to believe in, because I can’t fathom how my God would expect me to believe in and support programs that run contrary to what I read in the scriptures.

Can one find good in these programs?  Of course they can, and probably do.  There’s no doubt there is some good, but the vomit that gets included in these programs (whether it’s the teaching of fear to our youth (i.e. “God’s great, you’re bad, try harder”), inculcating our primary aged children with a chant to “Follow the Prophet,” or the predictable “The Prophet cannot lead you astray” comments, or our adherence to a “uniform of the priesthood”) oftentimes more than outweighs the positives I see and witness.

Persuasion

Now, even amidst all this, I’m not saying that we should leave church.  Though I staunchly disagree with the comments enumerated above about our obligation to attend church, I am persuaded by some more wise than I that there are still reasons to attend church.  In a recent comment here (comment #2 and #4 are both pertinent), the following was added, which persuades me that there may be a better way:

I do believe that one individual can effect a great deal of change in a congregation. If the Lord has only one, inspired agent among every ward/branch, I believe that that is sufficient for Him to turn things upside-down. He could probably do it even with only one agent per stake/district. The masses, in my opinion, are not on as solid a foundation as they claim. I think it is more appearance and wishful thinking than actual fact.

The current status quo is one of continual unanimity, conformity, etc. A single person acting alone, but under the inspiration of God, can change the entire scene.

For example, if each week there is a single vote against, no longer can the claim to unanimity be made. Even closed-minded people are naturally curious, so although the leadership may discount that one, single vote against, eventually certain members of the congregation will approach the individual and ask why the hand was raised against. That is a teaching opportunity which may lead to two, or more, inspired agents of the Lord in the congregation.

Another example, a fixation on Christ in conversation can prove devastating to one’s idolatrous worship of prophets. Every LDS knows that although Nephi and people talked of Christ and preached of Christ, etc., the LDS do not do this. They talk and preach of prophets and apostles. An inspired agent of the Lord, forcing each conversation with another LDS back to Christ has an unnerving effect on that LDS, because they immediately recognize the scripture being lived and their own non-conformity to the word of God. So, even without preaching repentance, by doing certain things in a non-confrontational way, the population can be quickly brought around.

I can’t say that I’m as confident as the writer that things will improve “quickly,” but I note the wisdom in trying.  The difference between this comment, and the post referring to our “obligation” to stay, as I see it, is one of focus.  One chooses to focus on fear (i.e. we may “imperil” our ability to keep the Sabbath day holy, we will be held “accountable” for how we support and uphold “programs,” etc.), while one chooses to focus on hope and love.  For that, persuasion works wonders for me.

Returning, finally, to the universality of revelation, we simply can’t assume that everyone must follow the same course of action as we take.  While some may find wisdom and inspiration in staying in the church, others will find wisdom and revelation in leaving.  That is how it should be.  Everyone is on an individual journey and we must allow each individual the opportunity to individualize their journey as they and the Lord counsel together.  Sure, many may err in their judgments about what God is doing or not doing in their lives, but so long as they are trying and finding their individual path, I wish them all the luck in the world.

In spite of my misgivings about the way we interpret church in the modern context and how so many of the programs in the church are built around obligation, fear and guilt, I recognize what the commenter noted previously, that we are agents of change charged with acting, and not being acted upon.[10]

1984 Revisited

In the end, your decision to go to church is your choice.  Guilt should never be the primary motivating factor to do anything, and yet it’s one of the most popular methods used to get someone to do something, especially in the context of religion (i.e. if you don’t go to church, you can’t take the Sacrament and you’ll likely be breaking the Sabbath day, etc).  The universality of revelation is as false a doctrine or tradition, as Ron Poleman discussed previously, as there is on this earth.   Don’t believe it.  Do believe, however, in your ability to commune with your God and in your ability to receive divine counsel from on high (pun intended).

So, perhaps it is as Orwell stated, and as Poleman started back in 1984.  Perhaps, just perhaps, those of us who haven’t yet even learned to think are storing up inside of us the power that may, one day, overturn the tide of our idolatrous fornications with the “church.”

“It was curious to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or Eastasia as well as here. And the people under the sky were also very much the same–everywhere, all over the world, hundreds or thousands of millions of people just like this, people ignorant of one another’s existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and yet almost exactly the same–people who had never learned to think but were storing up in their hearts and bellies and muscles the power that would one day overturn the world.”  George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 10


[1] http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,church

[2] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1577&t=KJV

[3] See Matthew 18:20

[4] http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,gospel

[5] http://loydo38.blogspot.com/2006/04/1984.html

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four

[7] http://denversnuffer.blogspot.com/2010/05/be-firm-and-steadfast.html

[8] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/program

[9] http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,program

[10] See 2 Nephi 2:13-16, 26


For, behold, the abeasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is bordained for the use of man for food and for craiment, and that he might have in abundance. But it is not given that one man should apossess that which is above another, wherefore the bworld lieth in csin.

D&C 49:19-20

There’s an interesting argument going on over at BCC (By Common Consent) about money, salaries and what qualifies as too much for a “good” Mormon.  The vast majority of the comments to the article, predictably (not because of the blog, as it’s a thought provoking place to go, but rather the visitors and those who comment because they generally come from Mormon stock and are prone to justification as they search for “prosperity”) are all about justifying income, expenditures, this or that and excuses where needed.  Not that this is inherently bad, because we all do it, but I thought a more inviting discussion would be on exactly what we’re supporting when we go to the schools and universities, work the jobs and do everything else in the one giant “system” that’s all around us.

This may come off overly trite, perhaps it is, but why do we remain to prop up a dying system, one whose fall could easily be described as “great” or “biblical” or “apocalyptic” or whatever word you might choose to use.  If we really broke it down, we spend the majority of our first 20-30 years of our life in an education system that is built around creating machines, usable parts to fit easily in a system which is predicated on little more than power and/or greed.  We go to school – elementary and high school – and by the time we’re ready to graduate the vast majority of us are thinking about college and obtaining that influential “degree” which certifies that we’re ready to make the big money.  Some continue on to master’s and doctorate programs, 90% of which have a significant financial reward attached to them.  Some suggest they pursue this or that degree for altruistic reasons, and that may be the case, but most people choose a career or profession which will remunerate them for the rest of their life and, if all goes well, set them up for a good pension or retirement.  Money is a very significant and driving force in these decisions.  Many of these people, and many others who bypass the University system, go on to jobs (either working for themselves or someone else) and do make good money.

If we return to the system in which all of this plays out, it’s really none other than Babylon.  Babylon rules the day.  We work to “earn” money.  With this “earned” income, we buy clothes, cars, electronics, goods, services, housing and all sorts of other “dainties” which were produced in Babylon.  Many of us justify these purchases as “needs,” arguing that we need that car to get to work, we need those clothes to hide our nakedness, we need those electronics to create efficiencies and we need that housing to protect us and our families.  We justify every purchase in one way or another.  All of us do.  Babylon, as a system, is set almost entirely on a “consumption” based economy, one whose growth is predicated on continued consumption.  And consume we do.  We buy groceries which were either grown in a mass-agriculture field, or produced in a factory owned by an unfathomably large conglomerate whose sole goal is money and, if it is a publicly traded company, it really is all about the money.  We buy clothes that were probably built in a sweatshop or some factory where the workers are paid $0.10/hour and where they work 12 hour days, 7 days each week, just to get buy and feed their families.  We buy cars whose inputs come from dozens of smaller countries where the labor conditions are likely the same, or worse.  It’s an endlessly painful process which we’re conditioned to both ignore and crave at the same time.  We’re conditioned to ignore the inputs and process by which good X wound up on some store shelf in front of my eyes while at the same time being convinced that this very product is both a “need” and a “right,” a right because I work hard, dang it, and deserve to be able to buy these things.

Hugh Nibley, in Approaching Zion, spoke of this “consumption” attitude by saying:

“I have spent a lot of time speaking here. It’s insolent for me to speak after the Lord has spoken. We should just go read the written word. What does every civilization leave behind? What is going to be the net product of our civilization? It’s garbage, it’s junk. You can see that, and it’s mounting. It sounds rhetorical: we have to produce things (expand in producing); then we have to increase consumption, so we have to increase desire for things with advertising flim-flam; then we have to consume very fast and discard a great deal, because there is available a new and improved version. So discarding goes on, as Congressman Wright pointed out recently: “The principal exports of the United States today are used packages and scraps.” We are impatient of the slow ways of nature. We have to go faster and faster, and the biggest question has become the dumps. …

“Quite literally, the net contribution of our present society to the history of the world will be a pile of garbage—and that very ugly garbage. Great civilizations like the Egyptian or Greek left magnificent garbage, sometimes great stuff to look at. When Salt Lake City is leveled by a nuclear bomb, what will be left behind? What will future civilizations dig up? What will be worth even looking at or digging up? What will survive? The Lord says, “There is no end to my works or my words” (Moses 1:4). The civilization survives only on its words. That’s what we have from the Greeks, the Egyptians, and the Hebrews. We have the scriptures. We have the Testaments. We have the Book of Mormon. What has survived is a voice from the dust speaking to us; that’s all that has survived. We wouldn’t even know that that civilization ever existed without the voice from the dust. That which survived is the word. At least we will leave that behind. But the nice thing about the order the Lord wishes to establish here is that it is eternally perpetrated, not only in the heavens but here, as long as it needs to be anywhere. We can carry on and have a wonderful time.”

Brigham Young, in supposedly quoting Joseph Smith, stated,

“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.” (JD 12:59).

All the while we’re impervious to the whole Babylonian system that is held up by the work of our hands.  Yes, our hands.  We use her banks, her currency, her government, her churches, her goods and her services.  Neither Zion, nor the law of consecration, are even discussed or viewed as legitimate possibilities today.  No longer do we dream of a Zion-like society, justifying our continued whoring around with the Ultimate Mistress – Babylon.  No longer do we desire to consecrate all of our earnings, all of our goods, all of our possessions, instead justifying our whoring around by paying a flat tax tithing that may not even be scriptural to begin with, and certainly contrary to both D&C 119 – oh wait, I forgot, interest has been redefined as “income” in the modern lexicon – and Alma’s church, where the flat tax (i.e. 10%) would likely be viewed as revolting, having rejected that very system under King Noah, hence their graduated structure discussed in Mosiah.  No, we continue to believe that these things will only come about when some “top down” message is sent from Church Headquarters, when the “real” prophets speak and tell us to start.  We continue to believe that we can’t act as stewards of the goods and energies Christ has given us outside the bounds of some organizational hierarchy, instead believing that some “man” has to tell us what and when to give.  If they say give a flat tax (10%), well that’s what we give.  If they say up our fast offerings, well we up them.  If they say donate generously to other “funds,” so we donate.  It is, as John Taylor Gatto suggests in his diatribe on the results of public schooling, “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.”

All the while the HQ peddles in real estate and investment ventures which, they profess, weren’t built or financed with tithing income, just the “investment income” that came from the tithing funds.  All the while we, as individuals, peddle in stock markets, investments and financial ventures in search of more “investment income,” just like HQ.  And, when we do prosper, we think it’s the Lord who wants us to be rich, who wants us to have all this money.

And, so it is.  Instead of growing closer to Zion, we continue our fornication with Babylon.  Instead of approaching Zion, we distance ourselves from her principles.  Instead of establishing equality where no rich nor poor exist, we establish socio-economic wards and branches where some are rich, some are poor and some are dumbfounded at how amazingly different we are from where we should be.

I hate to borrow so much from another author, but Hugh Nibley has discussed this topic at such great length, and his words generally forgotten, that I thought I should share one more from him:

It is money we love and respect. This week it was announced that judges must have higher pay if lawyers are to respect them, the corollary being that no one respects anyone who has less money than he has. Not that they need it—these old duffers who are tapering off spend all their days in closets, so why do they need more than $125,000 a year? Oh, to make them more respected by the lawyers. You can’t respect a man who is making less than you, can you? That is the sentiment expressed by the late great lawman John Mitchell. The Latter-day Saints reverenced Howard Hughes and resented any criticism of the sickly and unbalanced billionaire; his money sanctified him. On a single day in the newspaper in 1972 the president declared drugs the nation’s number-one problem; along with this is a statement that alcohol is the most dangerous of all drugs, and on the same page United Airlines is announced as the world’s largest purveyor of alcohol by the drink, with W. Marriott in second place.

This week a finance writer is proud to boast the Utah connections of Daniel K. Ludwig, perhaps the world’s richest man, and glowingly praises the purity and simplicity of his way of life—like Mr. Walton’s bringing his lunch to work in a brown bag. We forget that the arrogance of wealth is not in the spending, which is merely foolish, as Veblen showed, but in the acquiring of it. This man by his penurious personal habits simply shows, as did Scrooge, that nothing in the world counts for him but money. The word miser describes one who lives a miserable existence out of reluctance to spend a penny of his ever-growing and zealously watched wealth. It is as if we were to pronounce blessed a man who keeps a thousand expensive suits locked in his closet and proves his humility and modesty by never wearing one of them—or letting anyone else wear one.

This sentiment is marked by an undisguised contempt for anyone without money. My own experience from talking with many transients has shown that nowhere in the nation are tramps more evilly treated than in Utah. So much for the stranger within thy gates.

Let us make a list of the offenses that are darkening the skies of our time. Crime of all sorts—street crime, muggings, rape, white collar crime (the worst in our nation, and worst of all since it is committed against those who trust us), corporate fraud, drug traffic, steroids, corrupt athletes, pornography, prostitution (and the resulting AIDS), wars great and small, brush-fire wars, paramilitary organizations, soldiers of fortune, hit men, terrorism, arson, kidnapping, illegal aliens, armaments sold by all to all—including germ warfare, gas and nuclear weapons, pollution of water and air, poisonous spills, dangerous and inferior products, destruction of the environment, extermination of species, urban decay, educational neglect and fraud, racism, religious fraud, and on and on. Carry on the list for yourself, and ask yourself at each label in the cumulation of horrors, What is the prime motive behind it? Can we deny that money really is the “root of all evil?” Has not Satan carried out the work he threatened to do? You can see it all on the TV.

The best possible summary of the situation is the inspired First Presidency message given by President Kimball on the solemn occasion of the bicentennial of the nation. When he viewed the condition of the Church and the country, his reaction was not one of glowing admiration and praise. On the contrary: “The Lord gave us a choice world and expects righteousness and obedience to his commandments in return.” This is the principle stated a hundred times in the scriptures: Notice the old law of Moses: “I have given you this land and I expect obedience.” President Kimball continued, “But when I review the performance of this people in comparison of what is expected, I am appalled and frightened.”55 What appalls and frightens him? He views the prime evils of the time under three headings: (1) deterioration of the environment, (2) quest for affluence, and (3) trust in force of arms. Massive documentation will show that in the enjoyment of each of these three vices, the people of Utah are second to none. At the first meeting of Congress under the present administration, it was declared that the delegation from Utah were the most anti-environmentalist in the nation. Ecology and environment are dirty words in Utah. As we have seen, more people are dedicated to the quest for wealth and none more trusting in military solutions to all problems.

And whatever became of President Kimball’s remarkable address to the Church? It was given the instant deep-freeze, the most effective of censorship, a resounding silence. In 1969 an even more painful silence greeted another voice, that of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that year was reproduced in the pages of the BYU Studies the earliest known and fullest account of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, written in the hand of Warren Parrish in the winter of 1831-32 at the dictation of the Prophet. When I heard the news, which was just before general conference, I declared that there would be dancing in the streets when this document came out. Instead I have heard not a mention of it from that day to this. How is that possible that we should censor the words of the Lord himself? Well, those words began with unflattering picture of all us of: “Behold the world at this time lieth in sin, and there is none that doeth good, no not one, and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the world to visit them according to their ungodliness.”

“The world lieth in sin.” Why? we ask. The answer is loud and clear in Doctrine and Covenants 49: “For behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance. But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need” (D&C 49:19-21).

Brigham Young said it this way:

The doctrine of uniting together in our temporal labors, and all working for the good of all is from the beginning, from everlasting, and it will be for ever and ever. No one supposes for one moment that in heaven the angels are speculating, that they are building railroads and factories, taking advantage one of another, gathering up the substance there is in heaven to aggrandize themselves, and that they live on the same principle that we are in the habit of doing. No Christian, no sectarian Christian, in the world believes this; they believe that the inhabitants of heaven live as a family [Deuteronomy 31:12 and 12:6-7 say that offerings should always be made in a family group—the individual is the one responsible, but he must always bring his family], that their faith, interests, and pursuits have one end in view—the glory of God and their own salvation, they may receive more and more. . . . We all believe this, and suppose we go to work and imitate them as far as we can. (JD 17:117-18.)

In the end, we wake up 5-6 mornings each week to go to a job to make money and, if we’re lucky, enjoy our time there.  All the while propping up the same system which so contrasts the Zion we should want to be establishing.  All the while supporting the same system which makes us little more than slave labor.  All the while supporting the same paradigm which strives to mold us into machines and parts that are easily replaced, so that the next guy or gal can pick up and continue the charade without causing too much disruption.  All the while propping up a dying system, a system that will collapse.

What about we flip this argument on its head?  For instance, inherent in the title, “Can a Good Mormon Make Over $100k a Year?,” is a subtle indicator of exactly where we are.

This may come off overly trite, perhaps it is, but why do we remain to prop up a dying system, one whose fall could easily be described as “great” or “biblical” or “apocalyptic” or whatever word you might choose to use.  If we really broke it down, we spend the majority of our first 20-30 years of our life in an education system that is built around creating machines, usable parts to fit easily in a system which is predicated on little more than power and/or greed.  We go to school – elementary and high school – and by the time we’re ready to graduate the vast majority of us are thinking about college and obtaining that influential “degree” which certifies that we’re ready to make the big money.  Some continue on to master’s and doctorate programs, 90% of which have a significant financial reward attached to them.  Some suggest they pursue this or that degree for altruistic reasons, and that may be the case, but most people choose a career or profession which will remunerate them for the rest of their life and, if all goes well, set them up for a good pension or retirement.  Money is a very significant and driving force in these decisions.  Many of these people, and many others who bypass the University system, go on to jobs (either working for themselves or someone else) and do make good money.

If we return to the system in which all of this plays out, it’s really none other than Babylon.  Babylon rules the day.  We work to “earn” money.  With this “earned” income, we buy clothes, cars, electronics, goods, services, housing and all sorts of other “dainties” which were produced in Babylon.  Many of us justify these purchases as “needs,” arguing that we need that car to get to work, we need those clothes to hide our nakedness, we need those electronics to create efficiencies and we need that housing to protect us and our families.  We justify every purchase in one way or another.  All of us do.  Babylon, as a system, is set almost entirely on a “consumption” based economy, one whose growth is predicated on continued consumption.  And consume we do.  We buy groceries which were either grown in a mass-agriculture field, or produced in a factory owned by an unfathomably large conglomerate whose sole goal is money and, if it is a publicly traded company, it really is all about the money.  We buy clothes that were probably built in a sweatshop or some factory where the workers are paid $0.10/hour and where they work 12 hour days, 7 days each week, just to get buy and feed their families.  We buy cars whose inputs come from dozens of smaller countries where the labor conditions are likely the same, or worse.  It’s an endlessly painful process which we’re conditioned to both ignore and crave at the same time.  We’re conditioned to ignore the inputs and process by which good X wound up on some store shelf in front of my eyes while at the same time being convinced that this very product is both a “need” and a “right,” a right because I work hard, dang it, and deserve to be able to buy these things.

Hugh Nibley, in Approaching Zion, spoke of this “consumption” attitude by saying:

“I have spent a lot of time speaking here. It’s insolent for me to speak after the Lord has spoken. We should just go read the written word. What does every civilization leave behind? What is going to be the net product of our civilization? It’s garbage, it’s junk. You can see that, and it’s mounting. It sounds rhetorical: we have to produce things (expand in producing); then we have to increase consumption, so we have to increase desire for things with advertising flim-flam; then we have to consume very fast and discard a great deal, because there is available a new and improved version. So discarding goes on, as Congressman Wright pointed out recently: “The principal exports of the United States today are used packages and scraps.” We are impatient of the slow ways of nature. We have to go faster and faster, and the biggest question has become the dumps. …

“Quite literally, the net contribution of our present society to the history of the world will be a pile of garbage—and that very ugly garbage. Great civilizations like the Egyptian or Greek left magnificent garbage, sometimes great stuff to look at. When Salt Lake City is leveled by a nuclear bomb, what will be left behind? What will future civilizations dig up? What will be worth even looking at or digging up? What will survive? The Lord says, “There is no end to my works or my words” (Moses 1:4). The civilization survives only on its words. That’s what we have from the Greeks, the Egyptians, and the Hebrews. We have the scriptures. We have the Testaments. We have the Book of Mormon. What has survived is a voice from the dust speaking to us; that’s all that has survived. We wouldn’t even know that that civilization ever existed without the voice from the dust. That which survived is the word. At least we will leave that behind. But the nice thing about the order the Lord wishes to establish here is that it is eternally perpetrated, not only in the heavens but here, as long as it needs to be anywhere. We can carry on and have a wonderful time.”

Brigham Young, in supposedly quoting Joseph Smith, stated, ““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.” (JD 12:59).

All the while we’re impervious to the whole Babylonian system that is held up by the work of our hands.  Yes, our hands.  We use her banks, her currency, her government, her churches, her goods and her services.  Neither Zion, nor the law of consecration, are even discussed or viewed as legitimate possibilities today.  No longer do we dream of a Zion-like society, justifying our continued whoring around with the Ultimate Mistress – Babylon.  No longer do we desire to consecrate all of our earnings, all of our goods, all of our possessions, instead justifying our whoring around by paying a flat tax tithing that may not even be scriptural to begin with, and certainly contrary to both D&C 89 and Alma’s church.  No, we continue to believe that these things will only come about when some “top down” message is sent from Church Headquarters, when the “real” prophets speak and tell us to start.  We continue to believe that we can’t act as stewards of the goods and energies Christ has given us outside the bounds of some organizational hierarchy, instead believing that some “man” has to tell us what and when to give.  If they say give a flat tax (10%), well that’s what we give.  If they say up our fast offerings, well we up them.  If they say donate generously to other “funds,” so we donate.  It is, as John Taylor Gatto suggests in his diatribe on the results of public schooling, “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.”

All the while the HQ peddles in real estate and investment ventures which, they profess, weren’t built or financed with tithing income, just the “investment income” that came from the tithing funds.  All the while we, as individuals, peddle in stock markets, investments and financial ventures in search of more “investment income,” just like HQ.

And, so it is.  Instead of growing closer to Zion, we continue our fornication with Babylon.  Instead of approaching Zion, we distance ourselves from her principles.  Instead of establishing equality where no rich nor poor exist, we establish socio-economic wards and branches where some are rich, some are poor and some are dumbfounded at how amazingly different we are from where we should be.

I hate to borrow so much from another author, but Hugh Nibley has discussed this topic at such great length, and his words generally forgotten, that I thought I should share one more from him:

It is money we love and respect. This week it was announced that judges must have higher pay if lawyers are to respect them, the corollary being that no one respects anyone who has less money than he has. Not that they need it—these old duffers who are tapering off spend all their days in closets, so why do they need more than $125,000 a year? Oh, to make them more respected by the lawyers. You can’t respect a man who is making less than you, can you? That is the sentiment expressed by the late great lawman John Mitchell. The Latter-day Saints reverenced Howard Hughes and resented any criticism of the sickly and unbalanced billionaire; his money sanctified him. On a single day in the newspaper in 1972 the president declared drugs the nation’s number-one problem; along with this is a statement that alcohol is the most dangerous of all drugs, and on the same page United Airlines is announced as the world’s largest purveyor of alcohol by the drink, with W. Marriott in second place.

This week a finance writer is proud to boast the Utah connections of Daniel K. Ludwig, perhaps the world’s richest man, and glowingly praises the purity and simplicity of his way of life—like Mr. Walton’s bringing his lunch to work in a brown bag. We forget that the arrogance of wealth is not in the spending, which is merely foolish, as Veblen showed, but in the acquiring of it. This man by his penurious personal habits simply shows, as did Scrooge, that nothing in the world counts for him but money. The word miser describes one who lives a miserable existence out of reluctance to spend a penny of his ever-growing and zealously watched wealth. It is as if we were to pronounce blessed a man who keeps a thousand expensive suits locked in his closet and proves his humility and modesty by never wearing one of them—or letting anyone else wear one.

This sentiment is marked by an undisguised contempt for anyone without money. My own experience from talking with many transients has shown that nowhere in the nation are tramps more evilly treated than in Utah. So much for the stranger within thy gates.

Let us make a list of the offenses that are darkening the skies of our time. Crime of all sorts—street crime, muggings, rape, white collar crime (the worst in our nation, and worst of all since it is committed against those who trust us), corporate fraud, drug traffic, steroids, corrupt athletes, pornography, prostitution (and the resulting AIDS), wars great and small, brush-fire wars, paramilitary organizations, soldiers of fortune, hit men, terrorism, arson, kidnapping, illegal aliens, armaments sold by all to all—including germ warfare, gas and nuclear weapons, pollution of water and air, poisonous spills, dangerous and inferior products, destruction of the environment, extermination of species, urban decay, educational neglect and fraud, racism, religious fraud, and on and on. Carry on the list for yourself, and ask yourself at each label in the cumulation of horrors, What is the prime motive behind it? Can we deny that money really is the “root of all evil?” Has not Satan carried out the work he threatened to do? You can see it all on the TV.

The best possible summary of the situation is the inspired First Presidency message given by President Kimball on the solemn occasion of the bicentennial of the nation. When he viewed the condition of the Church and the country, his reaction was not one of glowing admiration and praise. On the contrary: “The Lord gave us a choice world and expects righteousness and obedience to his commandments in return.” This is the principle stated a hundred times in the scriptures: Notice the old law of Moses: “I have given you this land and I expect obedience.” President Kimball continued, “But when I review the performance of this people in comparison of what is expected, I am appalled and frightened.”55 What appalls and frightens him? He views the prime evils of the time under three headings: (1) deterioration of the environment, (2) quest for affluence, and (3) trust in force of arms. Massive documentation will show that in the enjoyment of each of these three vices, the people of Utah are second to none. At the first meeting of Congress under the present administration, it was declared that the delegation from Utah were the most anti-environmentalist in the nation. Ecology and environment are dirty words in Utah. As we have seen, more people are dedicated to the quest for wealth and none more trusting in military solutions to all problems.

And whatever became of President Kimball’s remarkable address to the Church? It was given the instant deep-freeze, the most effective of censorship, a resounding silence. In 1969 an even more painful silence greeted another voice, that of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that year was reproduced in the pages of the BYU Studies the earliest known and fullest account of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, written in the hand of Warren Parrish in the winter of 1831-32 at the dictation of the Prophet. When I heard the news, which was just before general conference, I declared that there would be dancing in the streets when this document came out. Instead I have heard not a mention of it from that day to this. How is that possible that we should censor the words of the Lord himself? Well, those words began with unflattering picture of all us of: “Behold the world at this time lieth in sin, and there is none that doeth good, no not one, and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the world to visit them according to their ungodliness.”

“The world lieth in sin.” Why? we ask. The answer is loud and clear in Doctrine and Covenants 49: “For behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance. But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need” (D&C 49:19-21).

Brigham Young said it this way:

The doctrine of uniting together in our temporal labors, and all working for the good of all is from the beginning, from everlasting, and it will be for ever and ever. No one supposes for one moment that in heaven the angels are speculating, that they are building railroads and factories, taking advantage one of another, gathering up the substance there is in heaven to aggrandize themselves, and that they live on the same principle that we are in the habit of doing. No Christian, no sectarian Christian, in the world believes this; they believe that the inhabitants of heaven live as a family [Deuteronomy 31:12 and 12:6-7 say that offerings should always be made in a family group—the individual is the one responsible, but he must always bring his family], that their faith, interests, and pursuits have one end in view—the glory of God and their own salvation, they may receive more and more. . . . We all believe this, and suppose we go to work and imitate them as far as we can. (JD 17:117-18.)

In the end, we wake up 5-6 mornings each week to go to a job to make money and, if we’re lucky, enjoy our time there.  All the while propping up the same system which so contrasts the Zion we should want to be establishing.  All the while supporting the same system which makes us little more than slave labor.  All the while supporting the same paradigm which strives to mold us into machines and parts that are easily replaced, so that the next guy or gal can pick up and continue the charade without causing too much disruption.  All the while propping up a dying system, a system that will collapse.


aAnd why beholdest thou the bmote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the cbeam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou ahypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7:3-5

I return, today, to one of my most beloved idols.  Beloved in the fact that it has been a part of every waking moment since I was born.  Beloved in the fact that it was the same for my parents, and my parents parents.  We’re going on several generations now, and we all know that false traditions never happen within my family (or yours) – it’s always in someone elses family that those false traditions manifest themselves.  Remember, the application isn’t about how it effects me, but rather how it effects and manifests itself in your life.

I jest, but certainly there’s some truth in those statements.  It’s much easier to acknowledge and witness faults in others – be it your spouse, friend, relative, church, business, etc. – than it is to witness in ourselves.  Frequently, we’re impervious to just how deep the rabbit holes go in our own lives, and there may be a valuable lesson therein.  Such was the experience I had today.

Christ, in giving one of his many great lessons (aren’t they all great, though?), discussed this in a well known scripture:

aAnd why beholdest thou the bmote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the cbeam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou ahypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. [1]

Though this is well known, and even more ritualized than most scriptures, I thought I’d at least raise the Greek interpretations of two of the most important words in these verses.  These words, mote and beam, aren’t terribly accurate descriptors in our modern day lexicon, or at least my lexicon.  In truth, these words probably couldn’t be more different.  Mote, for example, comes from the Greek word karphos, which means a “dry stalk” or “twig” and comes from the original Greek word karpho which means “to wither.”[2] Little more than an inconsequential twig one could find in any field, growing nearly everywhere.  Growing up in rural America, it wouldn’t be hard to walk into any random field and find a mote.  Beam, by contrast, comes from the greek dokos, which literally means, “a beam[3]” and originates from the idea of “holding up” (i.e. a beam of support, etc).

The visual you should be picturing is one of another person with a tiny, inconsequential twig poking out of his/eye, while you’re parading around with a beam whacking everyone upside the head as you walk around.   But, that’s not all, when you think of “eye” in this scripture, don’t think of your physical eyeball, but rather your “faculty of knowing,” or your “eyes of the mind.”[4] It seems, therefore, that the message of this parable is one where we’re judging the beliefs, actions or personal quirks of another, when in reality our own quirks are much more important because Christ would change us (if we let Him), but doesn’t want to change another through us.  The great lesson of religion is that God wants us to have a personal interaction with Him, not some other.  When Adam was praying, after having been kicked out of the Garden of Eden, along pranced Satan and replied, “so, you want religion, do you?”  It would seem, therefore, that religion is the bastardization of our personal relationship with God and Christ and, pray tell, who brought along that “religion”?  Religion and creeds, therefore, as Joseph Smith stated, are those things which have prevented man from approaching Christ and the Father individually, instead forcing man to jump through hoops, observances, rituals, classes, advancements, seasoning, etc.  Joseph stated it this way:

“I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes, and say, “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further”; which I cannot subscribe to.”[5]

It makes me wonder if Joseph, or anyone in his situation of searching for the unadulterated truth, would receive the same answer today that he received in 1820, namely that all churches (yes, ALL of them)  and creeds “[are] an abomination in his sight; that those professors [are] all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”[6]

Jesus’ words on this subject ring loud and clear in the scriptures, if only we paid more attention to them.  The Book of Luke contains one such instance of his words on this subject and teaches us a great lesson (that we haven’t  yet come to grips with):  “Woe unto you, alawyers! for ye have taken away the bkey of cknowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye dhindered.”[7] Frequently we think this applies to others, that the “law-yers” or “pharisee” title couldn’t apply to us.  Or, could it?

If we really want to come up “into the presence of God, and learn all things,” then we’d be wise to note and avoid those creeds which “set up stakes” and say (or infer, the result is the same), “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further.”  The question arises…do we have any examples of this “no further” indoctrination today?  In a discourse given by Joseph Smith on 13 August 1843, Smith discussed the importance of knowing what happened in the Grand Council prior to our coming to earth to gain a physical body.  During that sermon, he stated that “it is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes & set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty.”[8] Not only do we, within organizational religious structures, set up limits for others and what they can do, but in our personal lives we also limit ourselves in what we think God can do, or what God has already done or is doing for us.  We limit what we believe because either we’re too scared, too jealous or too ignorant.

Hugh Nibley discussed this in one of his articles[9] and stated:

“…the Latter-day Saints, who lean too far in the other direction, giving their young and old awards for zeal alone, zeal without knowledge-for sitting in endless meetings, for dedicated conformity and unlimited capacity for suffering boredom. We think it more commendable to get up at five a.m. to write a bad book than to get up at nine o’clock to write a good one; that is pure zeal that tends to breed a race of insufferable, self-righteous prigs, and barren minds. One has only to consider the present outpouring of “inspirational” books in the Church that bring little new in the way of knowledge: truisms and platitudes, kitsch and clichés have become our everyday diet. The Prophet would never settle for that.”

The lawyers spoken of in Luke 11:52 are not the lawyers we’re accustomed to today.  These lawyers weren’t the ambulance chasers we know, weren’t the injury or corporate lawyers who run much of our society and government.  Now, these were men (and possibly women) who taught the Mosaic law, those who clung to the law as their savior, those who felt the law could perfect them.  These were men and women who clung to “anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law…”[10] and, this usage of the word “lawyer” comes from the Greek word, Nomos, meaning to divide, or parcel out.  Law-yers, it would seem, were those focused on established traditions, customs, laws and found satisfaction in “parceling out” or “dividing” the gospel into checklists and programs we need to complete.  The completion of which, naturally, produces the “self righteous prigs” Nibley referred to.   Everything is eventually sequestered into nice, neat boxes and checklists.  The “righteous” can check of their respective lists, while the “apostates” walk out the back door and burn their list in the nearest garbage can, or forget about it altogether.

We like to think that, today, we’re different than those law-yers or Pharisees, but, are we?  Do we focus on the “law” as a way to perfect and save ourselves?  Do we focus on religion – the method whereby we think we can prove our worthiness above others – to seek exaltation?  In my last post, on “Finding Grace,” I shared a link on 2 Nephi 25 and the now infamous “after all we can do” statement Nephi made.  Mormonism teaches that this scripture implies that there is much work for us to do before we can ever hope to receive grace and that is the most unfortunate of interpretations as it forces us into ever more ritualized “works” as we try to perfect ourselves, never fully realizing that the more we try to perfect ourselves through our works, the further we fall.  As a result, we cling to rituals and obligations as a way to prove our worth.

Christ taught us that “this is life eternal, that they might cknow [personally] thee the only true dGod, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast esent.”[11] It’s not enough to simply “know” of them, but we must get to know them, be taught by them, to gain an understanding and “feel” them.[12] Indeed, the word “know” in this instance can also be used as a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, meaning that we must come to know who God and Christ are at an intimate level and not just the “brotherly kindness” way that Peter admitted to when Christ inquired, “Peter … lovest thou me?” (See John 21:15).  In the original Greek, Peter answered Christ using a different form of love.  Christ used the word “love” which meant to “love dearly,” whereas Peter responded using a different form of the word love, meaning as a friend.  Finally, on the third try, Christ switches to the same form of the word Peter used.  In spite of Peter’s reluctance to accept and love Christ, Christ still loved Peter.  In spite of Peter’s failings, Christ was still there and worked with Peter in the only way Peter knew how.

Instead of this coming to know Christ in the way mentioned in John 17:3, we’ve seemingly replaced this personal knowledge[13] with organizations, structures and programs.  Instead of a relationship driven experience, the same experience both Adam and Christ exemplified (among some others), we’ve introduced religious based systems (the same systems which Satan suggested Adam was really looking for, “religion”) which tell us that we have to go through something in order to access God and Christ.  Richard Scott once stated that too many within the LDS church seemingly instruct people to “Come unto Church” at the expense of “Com[ing] unto Christ.”

To the astute observer, it appears as though we’ve regressed to a point where we could aptly fit the description Joseph Smith gave when he stated, “I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes, and say, “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further”; which I cannot subscribe to.”[14]

I find it interesting how often the terms “priests” and “lawyers” are used together throughout scripture, especially in conjunction with apostasy and oppressive religion.  Priests being the recognized leaders of the oppressive religion and lawyers, presumably, being their sidekicks who enforce the law, the tradition, the rituals and the ultimate oppressors.  Our God, then, is the law, for that is what we preach. Perfecting ourselves by the law is what we set our hearts upon and what we think is going to earn eternal life for us, and make us a “god”.

Because we’re so addicted to being “law-yers,” we forbid people from gaining intelligence and understanding through our law based performance religions.  Because we’re so addicted to being “law-yers” we prevent others from passing us up on their trip to God.  We do this through age-based classes for our youth, “worthiness” interviews for anyone and everyone and programs of all shapes and sizes.  We do this through our correlated curriculum, correlated manuals and correlated beliefs.  Instead of stretching “as high as the heavens” and searching “into and contemplate[ing] the darkest abyss,” we turn to the correlated doctrine of the church contained in manuals which are written at a 3rd or 4th grade level, at best, and tell each other we have to study it over and over every 4 years because we need “refresher” courses.  We never advance beyond the things we learn in primary.  The result, seemingly, is little more than a “hitherto shalt thou come, and no further” mindset.

Returning, in conclusion, to the “mote” and “beam” discussion, it’s our choice to either listen and obey these governors, or it’s our choice to recognize teaching for what it is – a false and terribly troubling one that we must go beyond in our search to “come up into the presence of God, and learn all things.”  The “mote,” the problem, we cannot fix.  The “beam,” the application of how we personally fix the problems in our own lives, we can and must fix.

That, I think, is where we are today.

“Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on.”
– Winston Churchill


[1] See Matthew 7:3-5

[2] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2595&t=KJV

[3] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1385&t=KJV

[4] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3788&t=KJV

[5] The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 327.

[6] http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,104-1-3-4,00.html

[7] See Luke 11:52j

[8] http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1843/13Aug43.html

[9] Hugh Nibley, Zeal Without Knowledgehttp://rsc.byu.edu/pubNibleyZeal.php

[10] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3551&t=KJV

[11] See John 17:3

[12] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1097&t=KJV

[13] See Jeremiah 34:31-34

[14] The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 327.


But as many as areceived him, to them gave he bpower to become the csons of God, even to them that believe on his dname

– John 1:12

Read this today and, seeing as how it’s a day for copying others work today, thought I’d share another short / brief discussion on grace.  (Psst.  For those who don’t know, “grace” is a taboo word in the LDS lexicon.)  (Psst.  I didn’t realize how taboo it was until I followed that link and read some of the thoughts shared by those whom members view as “doctrinal authorities.”  Go ahead.  Follow that link, I’ll still be here while you read it.  Yes, it’s that important.)

Just thought I’d give you a few hints before proceeding:

=====

“Steven, do you want to know why you are clueless about you? …Do you?” She stops again and stares. “Honey, I really need a verbal nod of some sort here.”

“Yes,” I say, “Yes, tell me why.”

“It’s because,” she says slowly and dramatically, “you don’t yet know who you really are. And Steven, you don’t know who you are because you haven’t yet learned grace.”

I stop her before she can continue. “Oh, boy. See, there you go. That’s all gibberish to me. I don’t want to be mean, but you and Carlos, you sound like cult members. Grace. Do you have any idea what that sounds like? It’s right up there with fluffy bunnies and unicorns. You’re aware there’s not a lot of grace talk in my board meetings, right? Look, I know you may not understand this, but in places where things get done, there’s accountability, and quotas, and deadlines. You know what I think God wants? He wants all of us to take responsibility for what we’re doing. Sorry, Cynthia. I was tracking with you. But if you wanna make sense to me, throw away the religious buzz words.”

Andy slaps his knee. “Whoo-eee! Yep, you got her there Steven.” He picks up his glass, swirling his ice. “Yep, first you start talking about grace. Next thing you know you’re skipping Sunday school and sleeping in ‘til noon. Then, a couple days later you’re down at the dog track, drinking whiskey out of a paper bag and dating a showgirl named Tiffany!”

“Why do you enjoy making everything I say sound stupid?” I ask.

“I don’t,” he says. “I only enjoy making the stupid things you say sound stupid.”

Cynthia takes over. “Steven, my friend, would you be offended if I told you that you sound to me like the one with the religious platitudes?”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning,” she continues, “You sound like a carnival huckster, promoting to others something he knows doesn’t and hasn’t worked for himself.”

“Meaning?” I repeat.

“Meaning, grace is the gift waiting for the non-religious. They’re the only ones who can get it. They’re the only ones who can use it. Religious folk see grace as soft. So they keep trying to manage their junk with their own will power and tenacity. Nothing defines religion quite as well. People trying to do impossible tasks with weak and limited power, bluffing all the while like it’s working for them.” ” She leans even closer. “I just took in a lot of churches and religious institutions with that last statement.”

“Did you hear that?” Andy laughs. So, who’s the religious one now, my friend? “
Cynthia smiles. “It takes something a whole lot more than will power and tenacity to get anything done in the human heart. You gotta allow yourself to receive something you can’t find on your own, not keep bluffing at being strong enough.”

Andy folds his arms and raises his eyebrows at me.

“You’ll hear this next statement a lot around here Steven,” Cynthia says. ‘What if there was a place safe enough where I could tell the worst about me and discover that I would be loved not less but more in the telling of it?’ Do you know what happens?”

“Carlos says your stuff starts to get fixed.”