Posts Tagged ‘Alma’


O Lord, I have atrusted in thee, and I will btrust in thee forever. I will not put my ctrust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his dtrust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.

– 2 Nephi 4:34

It was an interesting day today.  I was, like usual, late to church.  There are times I feel like a fish out of water, not fully understanding the movie that is playing before my eyes.  This was never more certain than during Elder’s Quorum.

A Dream Foretold

The night prior (last night) I had a dream where I was in some church meeting and some brother was commenting on how he didn’t believe what the Church was teaching in a number of areas – be it correlation, the role of prophets in the modern church, tithing, etc.  The teacher was a brother from the ward I had been attending in Utah, though I’m uncertain of his role in the dream other than as an instructor.  I never spoke much to him while in Utah – he was a doctor and only present occasionally, I was the father of a young boy not yet in nursery and thereby prone to walking the halls instead of in meetings.

No one really said anything to dissuade the original commenter from what he was “struggling” with, at least that I remember from the dream.  Toward the end of the dream I remember feeling the pressure or squeeze on this brother and stated something along the following lines:  “We should be free to worship as we choose.”  The premise of my comment was to let this brother believe as he wants, and not suffocate him for going outside the mainstream beliefs and, dare I say, idolatry.

Prophets

Then, I step into Elder’s Quorum just in time to hear the announcement of the days lesson:  Prophets of God.  Joy of joys, what was I doing there and what was I about to get into?  I was doing pretty good, in spite of the corrections from the Elder’s Quorum president to a couple of the comments other Elder’s had made.  For instance, in response to a statement from the teacher on how a prophet must be both righteous and a man of God, one brother brought up the examples of Paul (from the New Testament) and Alma the Elder (from the Book of Mormon) and how these men were anything but righteous prior to their calls from God.  In response to this comment, mysteriously (in my opinion), the Elder’s Quorum president redirected the conversation by stating, “Just to be clear, we’re talking about the prophet and president of the church, not just a prophet.”  The comment didn’t make much sense, to me, given the direction of the lesson, but nevertheless served to redirect and refocus the lesson on the hierarchy of the LDS church (and certainly what others have called, and for good reason, idolatry) as opposed to the gift of prophecy.

I seemed to be alright with this, content to keep my thoughts to myself.  That is until the teacher shared one of the favorite quotes from LDS history:

“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place.”

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff [2004], 199.

Removed from My Place

Perhaps, upon hearing my comment, the Lord should have removed me from my place.  Perhaps the teacher and Elder’s Quorum president would have hoped to remove me from my place…but there I remained to spread some false doctrine among the mainstream church.

My comment was basically my analysis of the only meaning one can really take from this statement:  that (a) the Lord doesn’t strike down and kill all those who attempt to lead the children of men astray and (b) what the Lord would remove, if the statement were true, is the prophet’s authority and priesthood.  If the contact with heaven is ever severed through unrighteous dominion, no matter the degree, then our authority and priesthood is removed.  That’s the only way I can interpret that statement and am at a point where I simply cannot adhere to the beliefs promulgated by the mainstream (i.e. the prophets and apostles cannot lead us astray, etc).

Such was my comment.  There I sat, silent, for the rest of the lesson.  Then, right about closing time, another elder made a comment which I feel was probably meant to rebuke me for my “lack of faith” or something along those lines.  The comment can be summed up as this:  the prophet is called of God.  If the prophet is called of God, then all the apostles are called of God, then all the Generic Authorities are called of God, then all the area authorities, stake presidents, bishops, young men’s presidents, elder’s quorums teachers and every single decision is of God. End of story.  Curtain call.

There the meeting ended, and there I walked out feeling as though I was living a surreal life.  I proceeded to go to the store, buy a large Mountain Dew, violate one of the 613 laws and wonder where I was in my life and asking myself:  where does this highway lead?  Same as it ever was, it seems.  No doubt the next lesson on Scriptures will likely be just as fun, at least if it focuses (like most of the meetings I attend usually do) on modern scripture.

So, with that, I mulled my life, my beliefs and wondered what it is that draws people to believe in the ultimate infallibility of leaders, even if they don’t admit such infallibility.  Really, what does it matter any more?

The Mind and Will of the Lord

The ending comment of this class put me squarely back in the dream I had the night before, only no one was telling people to lay off and let me believe what I want.  Though, perhaps the dream had more to do with preparing me for the days journey and laying the groundwork for me to feel ‘OK’ with what others believe, and what I believe.  So as I gulped down the large Mountain Dew and thought back to a wise Native American I know.  He’s currently participating in some sun dancing down near the Four Corners area and his article was one of many that helped clarify my life’s pathway and this article really gets to the heart of the discussion forced upon me today in Elder’s Quorum.  The following are his words, though I wholeheartedly agree with what he lays out.  To him goes all the credit.  His website can be found here, where more articles of a like nature can be read:

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The Mind and Will of the Lord

When you see any document, any address, any letter, any instruction that is issued by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, it should be recognized for what it surely is — the mind and the will of the Lord to his people in this day. (L. Aldin Porter, October 1994 General Conference)

“The mind and will of the Lord,” that for which all the righteous children of our Father in Heaven seek. But is it so easy to find as to follow men that have been sustained by other men, as prophets, seers and revelators?

Just before the above quote, L. Aldin Porter commented:

The Lord God of Israel will direct them, and they will not lead us astray. (November 1994 Ensign, pg. 65)

He asked the question: “What is our response when the living prophets declare the mind and will of the Lord?” After which he quoted President Joseph Fielding Smith as saying:

There is one thing in which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord. (November 1994 Ensign, pg. 63, Conference Report, April 1972, pg. 99)

President Hunter added to this line of thinking:

The answer lies in following the direction received from those we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators, and others of the General Authorities. Let us study their words, spoken under the Spirit of inspiration, and refer to them often. The Lord has revealed his will to the Saints in this conference. (November 1994 Ensign, pg. 87)

Even the Salt Lake Tribune proclaimed in headline and subtitle as the message to Church members:

Be Faithful — Be Followers / We Will Guide You to God, LDS Leaders Tell Members (October 3, 1994, Salt Lake Tribune, pg. A1)

Where was it that this concept that these men speak for the “mind and will of God” and could not lead us astray? It was probably first stated by Wilford Woodruff, not surprisingly, just after the Manifesto was issued which went contrary to previous revelation and admonition by those who by the witness of God had been proven true prophets. His words still exist to this day in the Doctrine and Covenants as comments following what is called “Official Proclamation — 1.” It states:

The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so he will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (D&C pg. 292, Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah)

In this statement Wilford Woodruff would have us believe that not only the “President of the Church” but “any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray” would be “remove[d]… out of [his] place.” In this statement there are some obvious inconsistencies.

First — the Lord will not allow one to lead others astray, but – if he does attempt, the Lord will remove him. Thus the attempt must be unsuccessful followed by his immediate removal. Somewhere along here we have short-circuited the process of free agency and assured that men will never fall to such circumstances.

Second — any other man attempting to lead astray will be removed and thus eliminate from us all temptation, because after all, we will see the immediate effect of sin and be swayed from its commission. Another part of Satan’s plan in opposition to free agency. Can we find the evidence in today’s world that all who attempt to lead astray will be removed before their attempts are successful?
It is clear that Wilford Woodruff obviously went contrary to previous revelation as well as statements by previously ordained prophets, as well as his own words, when signing the Manifesto. Paul in his letter to the Galatians wrote:

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1: 8-9)

To this scripture the Prophet Joseph Smith must have been thinking when he said:

…and if any man preach any other gospel than that which I have preached, he shall be cursed… (Historical Record 7:548)

If any man writes to you or preaches to you, doctrines contrary to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, set him down as an imposter. (Times & Seasons, Apr. 1, 1844)

So as Wilford Woodruff had gone contrary to previous revelation so he had begun the error that the leaders cannot lead the people astray. This was further admonished by Heber J. Grant:

Brethren, keep your eye on the president of this Church. If he tells you to do anything and it is wrong and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it. But you don’t need to worry; the Lord will never let His mouthpiece lead this people astray. (Harold B. Lee quoting Heber J. Grant in address at BYU, April 19, 1961; requoted in Ensign, October 1972, Pg. 7)

Latter, in one of those “documents” issued by the General Authorities it was stated in part:

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

When an official from the First Unitarian Church saw the above, he fired off a letter to President George Albert Smith who had just become the new president of the Church in November that same year. Quoting earlier Church brethren he pointed out as to why this was not the doctrine in times past of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that he was very concerned as to the spiritual well being of Church members from such a statement, especially as some had come to him expressing their concern. To be corrected by an official of another church with quotes of earlier Church brethren was enough to cause the President George Albert Smith to go against his predecessor and admit in reply that it was not Church doctrine then or now and that it would be corrected. He said:

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

He cited Joseph Smith’s statement:

If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for the truth will cut its own way. (History of the Church, 5:498)

A later president, Joseph Fielding Smith stated:

No man ever went astray by following the counsel of the authorities of the Church. No man who ever followed the teachings or took advice or counsel from the one who stands as the representative of the Lord ever went astray…it behooves us, as Latter-day Saints to put our trust in the presiding authorities of the Church. (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:243)

However, Joseph Fielding Smith stated in a later volume of the same series:

My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them….We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine. (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:203)

If we were to just search the scriptures we might find examples to the contrary of the above philosophy that our leaders cannot lead us astray. A very poignant illustration against this doctrine is found in the 1st Book of Kings, Chapter 3, describing the story of the man of God, described by some as the junior or “younger” prophet and the old prophet described by some as the senior or “older” prophet or “file leader.” The older prophet said:

…Come home with me, and eat bread. (verse 15)

The younger prophet replied:

For it was said to me by the word of the Lord, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest. (verse 17)

The older prophet or “file leader” said:

…I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he mat eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.  (verse 18)

After the young prophet returned with him and ate and drank, the old prophet chastised him for disobeying the word of the Lord that he, himself had received. As true to the Lord’s word, the young prophet was killed by a lion upon leaving the very place the Lord had commanded him not to go, because of his disobedience and trusting in the arm of flesh in the form of his “file leader.” Interestingly enough the “file leader” is not reported to have been “removed” and his attempt to lead astray was evidently successful.
The thought that we should ever unreservedly trust in the arm of flesh and not take it upon ourselves to personally ask of our Heavenly Father, in whom we have a right to receive the truth of all things, should be reprehensible to every child of light.

Apostle George Q. Cannon stated:

Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle or a president, if you do, they will fail you at some time or place… (Millennial Star 53:674)

Apostle Moses Thatcher said it this way:

So long therefore as the people rely upon their leaders they are not manifesting that degree of faith, they are not in a position to think and reflect for themselves as they should. (JD 26:328)

Brigham Young had several statements in this regard:

How easy it would be for your leaders to lead you to destruction, unless you actually know the mind and will of the Spirit yourselves. (JD 4:368)

How often has it been taught that if you depend entirely upon the voice, judgement, and sagacity of those appointed to lead you, and neglect to enjoy the Spirit for yourselves, how easily you may be led into error, and finally cast off to the left hand? (JD 8:59)

I have often said to the Latter-day Saints — “Live so that you will know whether I teach you truth or not.” Suppose you are careless and unconcerned, and give way to the spirit of the world, and I am led likewise, to preach the things of this world and to accept things that are not of God, how easy it would be for me to lead you astray! But I say to you, live so that you will know for yourselves whether I tell the truth or not. That is the way we want all the Saints to live. Will you do it? Yes I hope you will, every one of you. (JD 18:248)

What a pity it would be if we were lead by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually. (JD 9:150)

That the present doctrine is certainly contrary to that taught above, I will let the reader decide. However, when this writer was taught the discussions some twenty plus years ago, it was brought forth in these teachings that of all the similarities with the Catholic church regarding a claim to divine authority, the one big difference was that where the Catholic church claimed infallibility for its leader, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made no such claim, but that its President and Prophet, just as Joseph Smith before them, claimed to be but a fallible man, subject to all the like weaknesses of the flesh. Being raised in a heavily Catholic community it impressed me as truth and was one of the main turning points in my conversion and subsequent baptism into the Church. Latter as National Executive Director of the American Party, I had opportunity to talk with a young man, who with his family had to flee Nicaragua and the Sandanistas. He told me that in the discussions he received from the Mormon missionaries he was told that the great similarity between his Catholic church and that of the Mormons was that they too believed in the infallibility of their leader. A grave change from previous teachings.

What ready acceptance the doctrine of infallibility has. So much easier it is to accept the concept that we should put the responsibility for our salvation upon the shoulders of another thus divesting ourselves of accountability for our own actions. A philosophy existent since the very beginning as Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, the serpent blamed Lucifer, and Lucifer blamed it on what all those others had done on other worlds. Satan’s pre-mortal plan was to short-circuit free agency and save everyone. This doctrine of following the brethren blindly assures all adherents of salvation and “blessings” with the opportunity of placing the sins of any wrong doings by thus following, upon the leaders with the promise that “we will lead you to God.”

Any true prophet of God would teach that which Brigham Young taught above, that for the people to not blindly follow, but seek the Lords will in all matters would both further add the power of God to the leaders and strengthen the people in their own salvation. To teach otherwise would obviously do just the opposite and make for only unrighteous dominion in the form of tyrants and blind slaves, all destined for Satan’s kingdom, not the Lord’s.

To say that we will be blessed for following unrighteous teachings and that the leader takes full responsibility is the fallacy of that leader taking upon himself our sins. We all know that only One has been upon this earth to do that, even our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. That the leader will suffer the consequences of leading astray is without doubt, but any that follow blindly when they obviously had it within their power to find out the “mind and will of the Lord” themselves through personal revelation will also suffer for their own unrighteous acts. We thus read in the Second Article of Faith:

“We believe that men will be punished for their own sins…”

It is clear! We cannot possibly expect exaltation unless we, in this mortal probation, can come to stand on our own two feet and receive ourselves the Spirit of Truth, whereby we may make the right and eternal choices required of us. Brigham Young gave an eloquent explanation of this very important principle:

I am the only person that can possibly save myself… There are those among this people who are influenced, controlled, and biased in their thoughts, actions and feelings by some other individual or family, on whom they place their dependence for spiritual and temporal instruction, and for salvation in the end. These persons do not depend upon themselves for salvation, but upon another of their poor, weak, fellow mortals. “I do not depend upon any inherent goodness of my own,’ say they, ‘to introduce me into the kingdom of glory, but I depend upon you, brother Brigham, upon you, brother Heber, or upon you, brother James; I believe your judgement is superior to mine, and consequently I let you judge for me; I will submit myself wholly to you, and place in you all my confidence for life and salvation; where you will go I will go, and where you tarry there I will stay; expecting that you will introduce me through the gates into the heavenly Jerusalem.”

I wish to notice this. We read in the Bible, that there is one glory of the stars. In the Doctrine and Covenants, these glories are called telestial, terrestrial, and celestial, which is the highest. These are worlds, different departments, or mansions, in our Father’s house. Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influence of the of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold scepters of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. (JD 1:312)

As emphasized above, those who put their dependence in control of another’s judgment, even, as Brigham Young said, himself as President, or his counselors, placing in them all confidence for life and salvation, suspending their own understanding to be led entirely by another person, because they cannot rule themselves, but must be dictated to in every trifle, will not receive celestial glory. Yet this is precisely what we are told to do by today’s leaders. In other words, even though the very purpose of the Church in an individual’s life should be to prepare him for celestial glory, since even non-Church members can achieve the others, we are being instructed to do that above and not seek exaltation and eternal lives. While “those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind beside should take the opposite course,” including their leaders, are labeled as apostates, malcontents and sinners, because they refuse to accept the doctrine of blind obedience, infallibility, and faithfully following their “file leaders.” Have we finally reached the day of Isaiah’s prophetic warning when he said:

Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)

Is not striving for celestial glory and exaltation good, light and sweet? Brigham Young referred to this section of the Doctrine and Covenants in the above discourse in regard to the otherwise good people that would fall short of exaltation.

These are those who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men. These are they who receive of his glory, but not of his fullness. These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not the fulness of the Father. … These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God. (D&C 76:75-79)

Being valiant and thinking, and most importantly praying for ourselves is of the utmost consequence. A record of the Prophet’s remarks tells us of his thinking in this regards:

President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel – said the Lord had declared by the Prophet that the people should each 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… (T.P.J.S., pg. 237-238)

The Prophet makes it clear, as Brigham did after, that we must stand on our own two feet or else we will lose the light necessary to choose good over evil. To think or believe for ourselves was one of those things pointed out in the Articles of Faith to be our right, and as it follows with all rights, responsibility:

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. (11th Article of Faith)

It is obvious, however, that as we are admonished to follow the brethren and sustain them, and believe that they cannot lead us astray, that, contrary to the 11th Article of Faith, that we should not think or worship according to the dictates of our own conscience. This is truly antithetic to what Joseph taught in this Article of Faith as well as another instance in which a elder by the name of Pelatiah Brown was brought before the High Council for believing and even teaching incorrect doctrine:

Elder Pelatiah Brown, one of the wisest old heads we have among us, and whom I now see before me, has been preaching concerning the beast which was full of eyes before and behind; and for this he was hauled up for trial before the High Council.  I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine. (History of the Church, Vol. 5, Ch. 17, pg. 340)

To have the liberty of thinking and believing as he pleases, that is truly what was taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Even the right to believe that the leaders are not infallible. Nowhere even is there any evidence that the Prophet required anyone to sustain him, or they would be cast out from the Church. There were many, even his closest associates, that did not always sustain him, without fear of punishment. But in today’s Church, by word and by action, that philosophy is not held. By ego or pride, it is held as a sin worthy of losing one’s membership if he/she cannot sustain the leaders in every action. Standing for himself, inspired with the true independence of heaven, determined to do right, though all mankind, including Church leaders, should take the opposite course, brings no surer way of retribution. Indeed true sins, of lying, adultery, even murder (abortion) will bring little more than a slap on the wrist if not praise, while the evil sin of independence will not be countenanced under any circumstances.

The real question seems to be if the Lord has Himself ever deemed it impossible for the established leaders to fall or lead others astray? From Cain, who had authority to offer sacrifices, but sought to change the ordinance, all the way through the history of Israel, to Aaron who permitted the molting of the golden calf, thus denying Israel of the higher law. To Saul, David and Solomon, who all were not taken from their positions of authority before they themselves could sin or lead others astray with them. To the recognized religious leaders of Israel and the church once established by the Lord, in the days of Jeremiah and Lehi, who changed the law and the ordinances and rejected the words of warning by these two strange prophets that refused to follow their “file leaders.” Yet we know that they were the “righteous” leaders for did not Laman and Lemuel say of those leaders:

…we know that the people who were in Jerusalem were a righteous people for they kept the statutes and judgements of the Lord and all his commandments…(1 Nephi 17:22)

And later, these men of the same authority, cast the Saviour out of the synagogues, persecuted and finally crucified Him, all without being removed out of their place. While across the ocean the wicked King Noah and his priests, the legitimate heads of a church once established by the Lord, burned the rebel Abinadi and then persecuted Alma, for their speaking out about “the lord’s anointed” and their teachings.

We see the falling of the Apostle Judas Iscariot, chosen by the Lord himself. Later the Church of Jesus Christ, established by the Saviour during His earthly ministry apostatized and become the Catholic church with the very same doctrine emphasized by the Church leaders today:

Catholics believe the Pope, be he saint or sinner, is preserved by God from leading the church into doctrinal error. This is referred to as his infallibility. (Religions of America, Catholic Confession of Belief, pg. 43)

At least they have not extended this quality beyond the confines of a single person. To the above examples, we have those in our own dispensation. The likes of Frederick G. Williams, William Law, John C. Bennett, Sidney Rigdon, all sat at the side of Joseph Smith as counselors and advisers, even members of the First Presidency at one time or another, and all ultimately fell and led others astray.

Even a majority of the Quorum of the Twelve have in history fallen. The Prophet Joseph tells us:

Of the Twelve Apostles chosen in Kirtland and ordained under the hands of Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and myself, there have been but two what have lifted their heal against me – namely Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball. (D.H.C. 5: 412)

And even those very same two counselors, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, also proved themselves fallen in time. This happened often, even though Joseph Smith has admittedly been in better communication with the Lord than any since. It was said of him by his body guard and close personal friend, Benjamin F, Johnson:

And no man, seemingly, could make greater mistakes in associates than did the Prophet Joseph; and this, with many other things of which he was accused, his enemies held as evidence that he was a fallen prophet. (Benjamin F. Johnson Letter to First Presidency)

Even with all his seeming mistakes as a Prophet of God, Joseph was not hesitant to publish his fallibility to the world. In harsh words did the Lord reprove him when he disobeyed and lost the 116 pages:

Behold, thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt fall. (D&C 3:9)

In another revelation the Lord warned:

I have sent forth the fullness of my gospel by the hand of my servant, Joseph; and in weakness I blessed him;
I have given unto him the keys of the mystery of those things which were from the foundation of the world, and things which shall come from this time until the time of my coming, if he abide in me, and if not, another will I plant in his stead.
Wherefore, watch over him that his faith fail not, and it shall be given by the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, that knoweth all things. (D&C 35: 17-19)

Knowing that it was possible for Joseph or any others to fall, He provided for his replacement if necessary:

There is not any person belonging to the church who is exempt from this council of the church.  And inasmuch as a President of the High Priesthood shall transgress, he shall be had in remembrance before the common council of the church, who shall be assisted by twelve counselors of the High Priesthood; And their decision upon his head shall be an end of the controversy concerning him. (D&C 107: 81-83)

Even Joseph Smith could fall and be replaced, yet these “brethren” today say that they cannot fall or lead us astray, however they claim their authority through a line that originates in this dispensation from a fallible Joseph Smith. Since when can the creature exceed the creator? They say not to concern ourselves with the doctrines of the early brethren, but accept the changes they have made, yet they claim their right to lead comes from these early brethren. In the case of Brigham Young through whom they claim succession, they say that some of the doctrines he taught were mistaken, yet they themselves can make no mistakes. They say that their words are unchangeable while they change the words of the Lord’s true Prophets before them.

Could it be that their teachings of infallibility are a diversion from the right to exercise the “common council” mentioned above to bring them back into line with the Lord’s will? Few members are aware of the Lord’s provision of a “common council” to make all, even the general authorities, accountable. Would truly honest men teach us that which is contrary to what the founding brethren taught regarding fallibility and have us believe that we should follow blindly without question? These questions and others we must leave to the reader to decide for his or her self.

Yet we must look at the times in which we live and most importantly, the warnings of the scriptures regarding our time. For we see in the times of Joseph Smith there was an element of the adversary in the Church. That element saw to it that Joseph was killed. Brigham Young saw that element move to the valley with the Saints and warned of it. It is obvious that this element has grown in strength in direct proportion to the urging by some to follow blindly that we might not perceive the danger. Yet those who read the scriptures with eyes to see and ears to hear, will know the danger signs. Moroni said:

And it came to pass that they formed a secret combination, even as they of old; which combination is most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God; For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that men should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man. And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking [ed. note: Jaredites], and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.

Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain — and the work, yea, even the work of destruction if ye suffer these things to be.

Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up. For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning.

Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have no power over the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved. (Ether 8: 18-19, 21-26)

For what other reason are we told to follow blindly than that things may be carried forth in secret? Does not the church’s policy regarding abortion in some cases, promote the shedding of innocent blood? Does not the counsel to sustain the government regardless of its disregard for natural rights support the combination that seeks to enslave us all? Ezra Taft Benson quoted J. Reuben Clark in his warning regarding not just this nation but also the Church:

…he stated that if the conspiracy “comes here it will … come in its full vigor and there will be a lot of vacant places among those who guide and direct, not only this government, but also this Church of ours” (CR April 1972, July 1972 Ensign)

Moroni was given to see this day. He spoke to us, the Gentiles, and said that this secret combination would come among us to destroy as it did the Jews, the Nephites, the Jaredites, etc. If there is nothing else we should learn from the scriptures by their experience, it is that the adversary sets up his secret combination to destroy throughout. It has worked every time before. Can we not expect that at the very pinnacle of the great war that started before this earth was, he will do, once again, that which has worked previous without failure? Is it possible that this conspiracy can even come into the Church? Has it happened before? Do secret combinations remain secret where the people do not follow blindly? Are such changes easily seen?

Here we should recall the warning of the late Dean Inge:

“History seems to show that the powers of evil have won their greatest triumphs by capturing the organizations which were formed to defeat them, and that the devil has thus changed the contents of the bottles, he never alter the labels. The fort may have been captured by the enemy, but it still flies the flag of its defenders.” (Admiral Ben Moreel, Talk given Nov. 22, 1963 at BYU, as quoted in Prophet Principles and National Survival, by Jerreld L. Newquist, pg. 339)

The servants of God have seen to our time:

Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people to err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.  Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.  Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God. (Micah 3: 5-7)

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.  They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.  For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.

I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.  Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off?  Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.  I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying I have dreamed, I have dreamed.  How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit if their own heart; Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbor, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.

The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord.  Is not my word like as fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?  Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbour.  Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.  Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 23: 16-32)

So much for those that falsely claim the “will of the Lord” as a means to cause us to err in following blindly a group of mean who say that they cannot lead astray. Samuel Richards, the European Mission President in 1852 said:

…willing obedience to the laws of God, administered by the Priesthood is indispensable to salvation; but we would further add, that a proper conservative to this power exists for the benefit of all, and none are required to tamely and blindly submit to a man because he has a portion of the Priesthood. We have heard men who hold the Priesthood remark, that they would do anything they were told by those who presided over them, if they knew it was wrong: but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme… (Millennial Star 14: 594)

Is this not the very design of a secret combination, to enslave us? We have been told clearly by the Saviour in scripture to be vigilant in observation of those set to lead and to part ourselves from them if they falter:

And again, if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; for he that is thy standard, by whom thou walkest, if he become a transgressor, he shall be cut off. It is better for thee, to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched. Therefore, let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or trusting another. Seek unto my Father, and it shall be done in that very moment what ye shall ask, if ye ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive. And if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to show thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out. It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God, with one eye, than two eyes to be cast into hell fire. For it is better that thyself should be saved, than to be cast into hell with thy brother, where their worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched. (JST Mark 9: 42-48)

To “stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or trusting another.” This is what Brigham Young referred to as standing on our own two feet not upon the coat-tails of another. It is essential that we develop a personal relationship with our Father in Heaven so that when the winds and rains of confusion descend upon us we will not wash away but shall still be standing. Heber C. Kimball saw this day, as reported by Apostle J. Golden Kimball, his son:

Then is the time to look out for the great sieve, for there will be a great sifting time, and many will fall.  For I say unto you there is a test, a Test, a TEST coming.  This Church has before it many close places through which it will have to pass before the work of God is crowned with glory.  The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess a personal knowledge or witness will fall. If you have not got this testimony, you must live right and call upon the Lord, and cease not until you obtain it.  Remember these sayings: The time will come when no man or woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within themselves. (CR, October 4, 1930, pg. 59)

This is truly “the will of the Lord.”


At what point does a church lose “authority,” per se?  Authority as recognized by heaven, and not man.  Though the “message” is what carries the ultimate authority, nevertheless we’re told that the LDS Church maintains authority to administer the ordinances.  We’re told that because the ordinances are there, that it was at one point established, restored, etc., that because it was so at one point it will remain so indefinitely into the future.  This entry was partially inspired by this blog post, though I have been in no small number of discussions on this very topic.

However, for the sake of discussion, at what point do the teachings and authority become so degenerate that it’s no longer recognized in heaven.  Is that even possible?  Or, are we assured of never apostatizing?  Are we assured of “never be[ing] led astray?”  The link in that “never be[ing] led astray” is by far the best write-up I have seen on the topic and would highly recommend it to anybody looking into the idea the topic.

For example, there’s a compelling story in Mosiah between Zeniff, King Noah, Alma, and Alma the Younger.  Clearly, the story is much longer than I could relate here, but I will attempt to make it brief.  I attempted to discuss this at length once, and would encourage anyone interested to read that write-up as well.

Suffice it to say, and I’d be interested in your thoughts, Zeniff was a “prophet” (especially in today’s terms), leading the then “true” Church.  Indeed, the Lord had referred to them as “my people” when calling on Abinadi to go and preach to them.  Though he was a great, righteous leader, Zeniff yet lacked one thing, it would seem.  That one thing would appear to be discernment.  Discernment because of his dealings with the Lamanites, but most importantly with his selection of King Noah as his replacement.  Of all the people he could have called to fill his position as the presiding High Priest, he calls Noah (now King Noah), who is merely labeled as “one of his sons,” but who turns out to be one of the most wicked people in the BoM.  Noah then replaces his father’s priests with his buddies, calling his friends to the key church callings.  By doing this, he knew he’d have the support to do what he wanted to.  The church under Noah’s reign transitions from one of spiritual guidance and growth to one of physical growth; physical manifestations to blind the eyes of the members as to the veracity and prosperity of the church.  Temples were built, flat taxes/tithings were levied, and Noah and his priests lived lavishly on the proceeds.  As Denver Snuffer mentioned in one of his books, the high priests convinced Noah that all was well, that things were good because they were “prospering.” (See Mosiah 12:15.) To them, physical prosperity was a sign that they were the “authorized” spiritual body of the “true” church.  Have we seen this today, or are we immune to “natural man” tendencies of equating physical structures with spiritual prosperity?

Certainly, it’s something we should ever be mindful and watchful of.  From home teaching reports, to sacrament meeting attendance, to population counts, baptismal counts and on and on.  Denver Snuffer opined, along these same lines:

“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.” (Come, Let Us Adore Him.  Page 205.)

Continuing with the story of Noah and Alma, eventually Abinadi appears on the scene.  There he preaches and the people try to capture him (no one likes being told to repent).  He escapes and stays away for 2 years, only to return once again in disguise (imagine that, a prophet “in disguise“), but no one notices him.  By this point Alma had become convinced of what Abinadi had said, and “knew concerning the iniquity” of the people.  Alma’s conscience gets the better of him and he’s forced to flee and establishes his own church, knowing how far the “official” religion had strayed from the original teachings and the truth.

The majority of the people at this time fully believed that Noah’s leadership and organization was the “true” church, convinced of their “chosen” status.  It had the established hierarchy, history, and faithful stories from the past.  It had the structure, the high priests, the temples, buildings, and all the physical proof of the “true” church.  The people, and the leadership, had both become blinded by prosperity and temporal proof as a replacement for spiritual manifestations, though clearly angels no longer visited this “true” church.

Though the people, and the official hierarchy of the formerly “true” church maintained their belief in their chosen status, the Lord nevertheless had a different idea of whose church was His.  They were once “[his] people,” but had somewhere along the lines lost that status.  The people were following Noah’s lead, assuming the church he was leading was the Lord’s church, but the Lord sends an astounding statement in Mosiah 27:13.  At this point Alma the Younger was railing against his father’s upstart church, the renegade “apostate” religion which was an offshoot of the official, “recognized” church.  Alma the Younger was risking his own personal salvation doing his personal preachings, but likely did so because he, too, was convinced that Noah’s church was the “true” one and his father’s an “apostate.”  This verse reads:

“Nevertheless [the angel] cried again, saying: Alma, arise … for why persecutest thou the church of God? For the Lord hath said: This is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people.”

So, very long story cut very short, Alma the Younger learns his father’s upstart religion was Christ’s church, the “church of God.”  It had the recognized, by heaven, authority.  Though we have no official declaration of when it happened, this angel confirms what we already knew in reading the account in Mosiah.  What we typically gloss over, though, is that somehow Noah’s church had lost that authority years before.  We’re not told when, how, or what the straw was that broke the back of the spiritually thirsty camel, but this account makes it official.  The renegade, offshoot, “apostate” religion was the “church of God,” while the church that everyone viewed as the “official,” recognized hierarchy was merely a shell, an impostor.

So my question is:  at what point does the authority become lost?  At what point is it removed?  At what point does another church, likely viewed as an “apostate” religion by the main body of the formerly “true” church, receive that authority to be “Christ’s”?  Though we, today, have that recognized status from decades previous when the authority was present, here we have a stark example in the scriptures of a “true” church losing its status and authority to administer.  Where there is a lack of a connection with heaven, the power to administer the ordinances thereof is missing. It was this renegade, apostate religion of Alma the Elder’s which had that power, while the official, recognized institution lacked it.

Perhaps, though, I’m wrong in the above assessments.  If that’s the case, I welcome the correction and would implore it, given the nature of the discussion.


Small Miracles + Promised Lands – Part I

In tackling this topic, I am admittedly venturing into an area with which I do not have much familiarity, knowledge or expertise.  So, as you read, peruse and ponder this topic in your own life, take what I say with a huge grain of pink Himalayan salt.  In fact, come to think of it, everything I write should be taken with an abnormally large grain of salt.

A simple comment over at LDSFreedomForum.com spurred this topic and this article.  In response to a solicitation to add and share thoughts on especially poignant stories from the Book of Mormon, one response simply and matter-of-factly stated:  “There’s also great symbolic significance in Lehi’s journey to a promised land. It signifies the trek each of us must make to acquire our promised lands.”  And, with that in mind, I begin this topic.  I open with a few pertinent questions, such as what is a promised land, how does one qualify for a promised land and why are they important.  Perhaps you already know the answers to these simple questions and, if so, I would hope you would share them.

The terms “promised” and “land” occurs 43 times throughout scripture.  The Bible contains 10 of these references, the Doctrine & Covenants contain 5 of these references and the Book of Mormon contains 27 of these references.  The Book of Mormon, therefore, provides approximately 63% of all the references to a promised land.  One may rightfully ask, therefore, why the focus, relative to the other easily accessible scriptures, on promised lands in the Book of Mormon.  A sampling of the references within the Book of Mormon include a discussion on Moses and the Red Sea[1], the Brother of Jared crossing the ocean[2], and the story of Lehi and his sons leaving Jerusalem[3].  Of these references, if we dissect it even further, there is one reference from Christ while speaking with the Nephites shortly after his resurrection about a future land of promise[4], three references refer to the Brother of Jared[5], two references refer to Moses[6], while the remaining references deal either directly or indirectly with the story of Lehi and his sons, a total of seventeen references.

Hopefully, from that brief and imperfect dissection of these verses we begin to see a pattern on this topic of promised lands.  The story of Lehi and his sons and their journey from Jerusalem to the Americas accounts for almost 40% of the total references to “promised lands” or “lands of promise” in modern day, easily accessible scripture.  I fully acknowledge that there may be other scriptures out there in the world which may discuss this topic in detail, perhaps better than the above references, but this article is focused solely on the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.  These are the sources I am referring to when I say “easily accessible.”

Therefore, almost out of necessity, this essay will focus almost entirely on the story of Lehi and his sons.  Acknowledging that the Book of Mormon was edited and compiled by its namesake, Mormon, one should inquire as to why the focus in the first couple of books (1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob) and the underlying theme of promised lands and the voyage necessary to obtain and find them.

Hugh Nibley once stated that the story of the Liahona and Lehi’s journey out of Jerusalem, into the wilderness and on towards the promised land was nothing more than a metaphor for what we should all be pursuing while on this ephemeral earth:

“It was a “type and shadow” of man’s relationship to God during his earthly journey.”[7]

One of the great discussions on this topic within the Book of Mormon is a rather small section within the Book of Alma.  Within this section[8] we read of Alma the Elder instructing his sons, specifically his son Helaman.  Alma explains to Helaman the purposes of the Liahona, the “compass” of such a “curious…workmanship.”[9] The Liahona was specifically designed as a temporal tool, a tangible, physical tool to be used by Lehi’s family in their journey to the promised land.  What it was is precisely what it was not.  The Liahona was not an intangible, untouchable, easily mistaken “voice” or “whispering” they would occasionally hear.  Though it worked in concordance with their faith and how well they followed its directions, it nevertheless was a tangible reminder of who was helping them on their voyage.[10] Hugh Nibley describes the Liahona as being the following:

Listing the salient features of the report we get the following:  The Liahona was a gift of God, the manner of its delivery causing great astonishment.  It was neither mechanical nor self-operating, but worked solely by the power of God.  It functioned only in response to the faith, diligence, and heed of those who followed it.  And yet there was something ordinary and familiar about it. The thing itself was the “small means” through which God worked; it was not a mysterious or untouchable object but strictly a “temporal thing.” It was so ordinary that the constant tendency of Lehi’s people was to take it for granted—in fact, they spent most of their time ignoring it: hence, according to Alma their needless, years-long wanderings in the desert.  The working parts of the device were two spindles or pointers.  On these a special writing would appear from time to time, clarifying and amplifying the message of the pointers.  The specific purpose of the traversing indicators was “to point the way they should go.”[11]

The scriptures note that Lehi’s journey towards their promised land was directed by many, many miracles.  It was truly a divinely inspired trip of immense proportions.  The scriptures describe these miracles, and the response to these miracles, as follows:

…therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day. Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by asmall means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were bslothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey…[12]

Though the Liahona was none other than a temporal reminder of spiritual things, those who held the Liahona, saw its workings and were intimately aware of how it worked, nevertheless were “slothful” and “forgot to exercise their faith and diligence.”  As I read this, I am forced to wonder how this could happen.  How could these people so easily forget how the Liahona magically appeared outside of Lehi’s tent?[13] Though verse 10 mentions Lehi’s honest surprise at finding such an instrument in front of his tent, I’m still left to wonder whether these “miracles” began to lose their luster over time.  Lehi had been commanded in a dream the night prior that it was time, once again, to take up their journey the next day.  He presumably woke up from this dream, walked out into the sunlight of the morning and there, for the first time, sees this brass compass.  Had they become so familiar with, and expectant of, miracles that these same miraculous events began to lose their luster?  Clearly, Alma described these “miracles” as “small means” occurring “day by day.”  How can, as the text describes, something be both of “small means” and capable of showing “marvelous works?”

Perhaps, on our expectant voyages to our own promised lands we’re also witnesses to “small [miracles]” which occur “day by day” and we also are slothful in that we don’t notice them, don’t take them for what they’re worth, and fail to exercise our faith and diligence toward God’s ends.

Continuing on with the story as contained in the Book of Alma, Alma describes and relates to the reader exactly what the type and shadow of this Liahona was:

And now I say, is there not a atype in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.  O my son, do not let us be aslothful because of the beasiness of the cway; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would dlook they might elive; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.   And now, my son, see that ye take acare of these sacred things, yea, see that ye blook to God and live.[14]

Taking these verses to heart, a couple of questions immediately arise which necessitate an answer.

Q1:  Who or what is our director?

Q2:  Where is our promised land?

Q3:  Where must we look?

The answers to these questions may be self-evident to you, the reader, but to me they are both complex and loaded.  Alma provides answers to all these questions in a very short section of modern day scriptures, though the answers, in practice, are far from easy to implement.  Or, are they?

A1:  Our director is the words of Christ [personal revelation].

A2:  Our promised land is “beyond the vale of sorrow,” and a “far better land of promise.”[15]

A3:  We must look to God … and live.

In counseling us to “look to God,” Alma is saying something that no other prophet, prophetess, or anyone else in modern day scripture has said.  There is simply no other verse of scripture which contains this same language.  Though it is true that others have said, and will said, something similar to what Alma here stated, the simplicity with which Alma spoke and wrote is worth mentioning.  In order to obtain our land of promise, which land of promise is “beyond the vale of sorrow,” one must come to grips with both what “look[ing] to God” means and how one can “look to God.”

With that in mind, I will end this essay and pick up, in the next one, on the topic of “look[ing] to God.”  These words of Alma and necessarily important, necessarily poignant and, for me at least, not easily understood.  Though Alma describes the practicality of looking to God as easy and the only way to “live” and advance beyond the vale of sorrow into a “far better land,” I nevertheless am stuck on its easiness.

To be continued…


[1] See Alma 36:28.

[2] See Ether 7:27; Ether 6:5-16; and Ether 2:7-9.

[3] See 1 Nephi 5:5, 22; 1 Nephi 7:1, 13; among many others.

[4] See 3 Nephi 20:29.

[5] See Ether 7:27; Ether 6:5-16; and Ether 2:7-9.

[6] See Alma 36:28 and 1 Nephi 17:13-42.

[7] Nibley, Hugh.  The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Volume 17.  Page 254.

[8] See Alma 37:38-46.

[9] See Alma 37:38-39.

[10] See Alma 37:43

[11] Nibley, Hugh.  Page 254.

[12] See Alma 37:40-41.

[13] See 1 Nephi 16:10.

[14] See Alma 37:45-47.

[15] See Alma 37:45.


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.