Posts Tagged ‘Book of Mormon’


Why do thy disciples transgress the atradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.  But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your atradition?

Mark 15:2-3

Are You Correlated?

The past couple of weeks I’ve been reading a fair amount of stuff either written by, or of, Daymon Smith, PhD.  Daymon Smith, for those of you who don’t know him, is the author of a book called “The Book of Mammon:  A Book About A Book About the Corporation that Owns the Mormons,” as well as a lengthy dissertation (here’s a link to the .pdf version, for those interested in an in-depth look at Smith’s take on the correlation process) on the correlation process that has defined the LDS church over the past few decades, more on that later.  I am currently knee deep in the Book of Mammon and have briefly skimmed over and through the dissertation, with hopes of reading it more in depth as I make time to do so.  I have listened to his 4-part interview on Mormon Stories, read an interview he had with Main Street Plaza and finished reading his 9-part interview over at By Common Consent just yesterday.  In short, I have become semi-engrossed in the topic, though certainly there is so much more to read.

The reason I add the above preface is because other, outside sources are proving to provide some small degree of synchronicity with what I’ve read about Smith’s work, and the whole process of correlation.  A more appropriate title for this entry may be, How Correlated Are You?, but nevertheless, as you’ll see, it’s not a measure of how much anymore than it is as simple as checking a box, yes or no.

There are many other topics on my radar which I hope to journalize in the coming weeks, but I wanted to get this all in one post for reference later in my life.  I find it much easier to have convenient access to a topic (as I hope to do here) than to have 100 moving parts on 100 different sites which take time, energy and diligence to pursue – and I run short on all points.  My mind, it appears, is as limited by cognitive chunking as the rest of you.  This chunking, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), plays hand-in-hand with this discussion on correlation, as will hopefully be clear by the end of this entry.

It really is interesting to note the congruence between several different people, all saying the same or similar things, in different venues, surrounded by different audiences and working against (or within) the same system.  Over the past few weeks, these sources include a Mormon anthropologist, an author/attorney, an time monk/urban survivalist and some dude writing to the people over at the CIA.  Talk about a bizarre collection of people.

Returning to correlation, one of my chief beliefs on this topic is that it is (and was) something that was happening regularly and frequently (i.e., there was some behemoth behind the scenes running a correlation committee which felt their imperative duty was to align everything with officialdom).  That was my view and belief, until I started synthesizing some of the information coming in from the four horsemen.

Daymon Smith on Correlation

In his 9-part interview with BCC, the overall message I seemed to get from Daymon was that of the correlated Mormon.  I realize others may have (and likely did) get a different gist – and judging from the comments to each section, that largely appears to be the case – but that was the underlying theme.  Correlated Mormons.  Within this framework, Daymon stated the following:

“So this is the alignment of the Correlated Church, which really makes something like opposition impossible, because if you are different from the correlated or ideal congregation or Mormon, what you really are is just someone who is not yet fully realized as a Correlated Mormon. You can’t oppose it, you can just be situated along a continuum which will eventually lead you into it. You’re just somewhere along the Phase-1-2-3 gradient. … There certainly is a Correlation Committee, but it does very little today. It does very minor things like fact checking. One committee member crossed out the word “love” when it was applied to the Book of Mormon, because you’re only supposed to love living beings. It might regulate the use of certain stock phrases, but this is all very minor. … Another way to say this is that what becomes public Mormonism are those things which are correlatable or are already under the productive gaze of this correlation process that goes back, maybe all the way to the Underground. … And they give you the privilege of going back and reading, say, Plato and restructure his entire arguments around these correlated categories and thus discover for yourself that Plato indeed taught the Eternal and Unchanging Gospel, which in some sense maybe he did, but not necessarily the Gospel of Correlation. My concern with the entire dissertation was to explain how historical processes such as the Underground, or some … theological changes, and political changes, relate to the ways in which we tell our histories. What I argue ultimately is that it changes the way we approach the texts, all texts. …  So history, here, becomes another space for colonization, just like Native America or Latin America. But it’s a very subtle kind of reconstruction, in which we only allow certain things to exist within certain Mormon properties. … It’s almost impossible to resist because you don’t ever confront it, you can’t even see it. It’s the way modern power works. It’s distributed across every point of your interaction, and thus constitutes its own reality, which you could never see, any more than a fish could ever really see water.”

For someone who has written over 900 published pages on the correlation process (and likely much more), it’s likely unfair to pin down Daymon’s topic into a 363 word quote, but that’s just what I’ve done.  And, unfortunately, this may very well be a result of my correlated mind.  By me telling a part of my history, I’m engaging in some of the same abstract logic that he discusses in the other parts of this interview.  This presents an unfortunate obstacle.

The CIA on Correlation

That obstacle is perhaps best summarized in a document on thinking and writing available through the CIA library website and is, itself, a short illustration on mental paralysis:

A centipede was happy quite.

Until a frog in fun

Said, “Pray, which leg comes after which?”

This raised its mind to such a pitch

It lay distracted in a ditch

Considering how to run.

So, how do I proceed, knowing that the obstacle in front of me is no more nor less than a largely correlated mind?  Ah, that’s not really an issue.  We’re all correlated, having grown up in a correlated system, it’s sort of like a crust that’s developed.  Perhaps we can crack out of it, perhaps not.  Why lay distracted in a ditch knowing how correlated I really am?

In this same document, the following quote describes how it is that we process, or try to process, the information that pops into our lives at any given moment and gets back to the chunky discussion (think of the truffle shuffle as you do so):

The heuristic approach is based in part on deeply set mental patterns. “Working memory,” the part of the mind that does our conscious mental work, can handle about seven items at a time. In compensation, it can manipulate those items with extraordinary speed. Cognitive scientists refer to this manipulative capability as the mind’s chunking capacity—our ability to develop conceptual entities or chunks, to build hierarchies of those entities, to alter them, and to bring wildly differing entities together.  We form chunks about any information that interests us, and we tend to believe our chunks are valid until the evidence that they are not is overwhelming. Each new bit of data is evaluated in light of the chunks already on hand; it is much harder to evaluate existing chunks on the basis of new evidence.  When we need to get through large quantities of data, when we do not have to move too far from an experiential reference point, and when a “best possible” solution suffices, heuristics and chunking can be amazingly effective, as Herbert Simon proved in his studies of first-class chess players. Such players are distinguished by the large number of board patterns (50,000, say) they keep in their long-term memories. Talent obviously is important as well, but Simon concluded that no one can become an expert player without such a store of chunks. Developing such a store in any field of mental activity is laborious, and there apparently are no shortcuts: the investment may not pay off for a decade.

George Ure on Correlation

This, in turn, was added upon by a thought by George Ure and his thoughts on choosing your circle of friends.  His thinking, as it were, is to send out an email to your closest friends and ask them where they’d like to spend the rest of their lives, in ideal situations.  If your friends reply with “On a beach loaded with attractive members of the opposite sex and an unlimited bar tab” you might consider a different circle of friends because those bounded worldviews are shared at a deep level.  If, on the other hand, most of your friends would be perfectly happy at the world’s biggest library, or knowledge trapping on the net, well, that would be the mark of the kind of people that tend to be ‘above average’ upstairs.  Or so George thinks.

It’s axiomatic that our thinking is bounded by our inputs.  Although it’s plain as day, most people never quite seem to get around to pushing the envelopes of their thinking in order to expand its boundaries toward unlimited.  When you read certain books on the way people think and how they not only filter what does come into their presence, but also understanding the high level filtering that goes on at the preconscious level such that you don’t even know certain sources exist, it becomes clear that the reason there even is a PowersThatBe class is not so much necessarily because of conspiracy (although it’s a popular notion) but perhaps because so few people have a really burning philosophy of inquiry.

Denver Snuffer on Correlation

Turning, lastly, to yet another discussion I found on this topic.  Though Snuffer has talked extensively on correlation, the following comment was recently made and, in his mind, may have nothing to do (ultimately) with correlation.  Nevertheless, it does to me, at least in the context of the above information.

It may as well be a dream.  It involves our collective slumber.  We get pictures in our head when we are taught some truth and presume that the picture is accurate.  Then after we have repeated the “truth” often enough, we go on to believe the picture must be all-inclusive.  Once we’ve arrived at that point, the truth no longer matters. Our minds are made up. We’ve decided the answers, and no further evidence will be considered.  This certainty is reinforced when more people reach the same conclusion because they share the same picture in their head. You get together with others and testify that you are all in possession of the truth; not only the truth, but ALL of the truth. Before long every one of the group can pass a lie-detector test about the truth as they explain it.  As a result, this herd is incapable of ever seeing the picture differently. They cannot open their minds to the idea that their picture is skewed or off. It is most certainly incomplete.  It is, in fact, so far short of the whole story that when any part of the remaining, missing information is shown to them they are certain it is a lie.

Conclusion

It would appear that this idea could be summed up with a simple inquiry:  are you, or are you not, interested in the truth?

If you believe only the correlated truth, or some portion thereof, then it may be time to rethink things.  And, though it be true that we’re all presented with inputs that are written from the perspective from others, we’re still charged with finding truth, or so I think.  In Paramahansa Yogananda’s book that discusses each verse of the four gospels in the New Testament, his premise in writing that book was built around obtaining the truth irrespective of others opinions.  His premise was that truth should come through unfiltered from the source of all truth.

That, at least, is the goal.  Getting to that goal is a goal in itself.  Correlation, it would seem, is an obstacle to that goal.  For example, in Boyd Packer’s most recent General Conference address he speaks of the Church’s ability to correlate authority and priesthood.  Interestingly, Packer played an integral role in getting correlation started and rolling, being one of the original former missionaries who had served with Native Americans who just couldn’t grasp the gospel as taught by those missionaries.  Their apparent inability to grasp the gospel according to those missionaries was the ultimate impetus for the correlation program.  Those former missionaries were, as the logic followed, smarter and thereby they needed to dumb down the curriculum so that everyone could understand it.  I’ve written about this previously (Taking it Easy on New Members), and my feelings are still largely the same.

In Packer’s talk, he stated the following:

“We have done very well at distributing the authority of the priesthood. We have priesthood authority planted nearly everywhere. We have quorums of elders and high priests worldwide. But distributing the authority of the priesthood has raced, I think, ahead of distributing the power of the priesthood. The priesthood does not have the strength that it should have and will not have until the power of the priesthood is firmly fixed in the families as it should be.”  (Emphasis added.)

Some of you may agree with that paragraph and see the logic in it.  Some of you may see no issue in what Packer stated.  And, certainly, given our correlated minds, there may be no need to even question it.  Contrast, however, that above paragraph with what is written in the Book of Alma.  After reading that chapter, how do you personally reconcile the differences, if any, between what Packer stated and what Alma stated?  But, that is only one topic in a very wide cross-section of correlation.  In the end, this whole issue of correlation, comes down (in my opinion) to the idea of how much we allow ourselves to be correlated?  And, is being correlated a bad thing?  And, can the truth set us free if we’re unable to recognize our need for truth?

That, I think, is a good question to end this discussion on correlation with.  So, my fellow correlated minds, which is it?

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” – Galileo


“We believe that the first principles and aordinances of the Gospel are: first, bFaith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, cRepentance; third, dBaptism by eimmersion for the fremission of sins; fourth, Laying on of ghands for the hgift of the Holy Ghost.”

Article of Faith #4

Re-Baptism

Baptism, that act that most of us are at least cursorily familiar with, is one of the seminal acts we are allowed to perform here on earth.  In the LDS faith members are baptized at 8 years of age, an age which is viewed as an age of “accountability,” or the age at which humans become accountable to God for their actions.  Note the wording in that previous sentence because it is important – we are accountable to God for our actions, especially those actions dealing with our spiritual salvation.  We are not in any sense accountable to man for these same actions.

I sat in on the youth program yesterday in church, invited by a good friend who was presenting the lesson.  Prior to his lesson I was mourning the prayers which had been audibilized throughout the day on how thankful everyone was for our freedom, and for our soldiers who were fighting to defend freedom throughout the world and how great and blessed we are to live in a land of freedom that is so admirably “defended” by troops throughout the worldWhat they view as freedom, I view as oppressionWhat they view as freedom, I view as idolatry. What they view as a “blessed nation,” I view as a cursed nation which will soon (and already is) being visited with numerous scourges as a result of both her and her citizen’s idolatrous ways.

The lesson was on moral agency and our ability to choose while in the flesh.  It was a good lesson, and a topic which generally produces thoughts and insights into life.  In this discussion, the teacher made an astute comment about how we come to this earth as a way to prove to ourselves what we want to believe and follow in this life.  We don’t come here prove ourselves to God (He is God, after all, and can see the beginning from the end), we don’t come here to prove ourselves to our friends, relatives, acquaintances or any other person (including church authorities).  The only reason we come here is to prove ourselves to ourselves.

With that in mind, I had made it a point to print off and read a 20-someodd page write-up on the topic of re-baptism and its history throughout the years as a way to pass the time at church.  I read it here and there during my lapses into boredom during sacrament meeting and elsewhere.  This write-up comes from Ogden Kraut and what I admire most about it, in hindsight, is the legwork that this man must have gone to in order to research the topic.  I’m not sure when it was first written, but I do know it was completed long before the advent of the internet and the ability to research the Journal of Discourses or other diaries online, at the touch of the button.  The legwork and research that would have gone into this write-up is beyond my abilities and I thank both the author and his son (Kevin Kraut) for making this information available on the internet for others to read at their leisure.

And so it is with that in mind that I broach this subject, at least initially.  My first introduction with the topic of re-baptism occurred sometime last year (2009) in some discussions I had with another good friend, which likely occurred shortly after a post on re-baptism (go here for that discussion) or at least that’s where I think this information initially came from.  Though I have read the scriptures which discuss this information on more than one occasion, I have evidently done so without the requisite understanding or insight I needed to grasp what it was that I was reading.  I was, and still largely am, the epitome of ignorance in this and may other regards.  Much of what I write will be a re-hash of Kraut’s beautiful work, but written from my viewpoint and opinion.  The benefit I see in these write-ups is that (a) I gain a better understanding of the idea through the mental give and take and (b) it may, peradventure, reach the screen of some other wanderer on this journey for truth who may need and yearn for the information.  Such was my case several months back.  I guess this is a form of “pay it forward,” if you will.

Scriptural Examples

The best place to start, with any discussion, is in the scriptures.  This topic of re-baptism is discussed in the Book of Mormon, the New Testament and through the annals of Church History up until the late 1890s and early 1900s.  Only then did this idea and doctrine become entirely lost to later generations and that because of, in my opinion, a misinterpretation of one statement.

In the Book of Mormon we read of elders, priests and teachers being baptized.  Though the scripture doesn’t explicitly state that these people were re-baptized, one is left to interpret the scripture as an example of re-baptism.  Else, how could these people already be “elders, priests, and teachers”?  Likewise, Alma, upon leaving his perch in the chief seats of King Noah’s court, was re-baptized along with 200+ others.  Additionally, there are examples in 3 Nephi which evidence such a practice.

In the New Testament, the book of Revelations contains an account of the saints at Ephesus.  The saints at Ephesus were known for their diligence at keeping the word pure, at being able to recognize false teachers and apostles from miles away.  In chapter 2 of Revelations, we read of these saints being reprimanded for leaving their first love (Christ) because of their diligence and attention to the law.  They were so preoccupied with pointing out falsities, that they lost their love of Christ.  In so doing, they were called to repentance and admonished to “repent, and do the first works… .”  What are the first works, if not faith, repentance and baptism, as shown in the 4th Article of Faith?

Doctrine of the Restoration

The examples of re-baptism in the early annals of church history are nearly limitless.  It would be impossible, to lay them all out in this short write-up.  As such, I will focus on only a few.  Returning to the New Testament, there is an account in the Millenial Star of some of the early saints using Revelations 2 to advocate the practice of re-baptism.  Martin Harris, once upon a time, was taught the doctrine and upon hearing it, stated that it was “new doctrine” to him.  The full account reads:

“Brother Harris was taught the necessity of being re-baptized. He said that was new doctrine to him. Revelations 2nd Chapter was explained, that those who had lost their first love and had fallen into evils and snares, were called on to “repent and do their first works,” and that re-baptism was a part of the gospel. He claimed that he had not been cut off from the Church, but said if that was required of him it would be manifest to him by the Spirit. Soon after his arrival in Utah he applied for baptism, saying that the Spirit had made known to him that it was his duty to renew his covenant before the Lord.” (Life of Martin Harris, Millenial Star 44:87)

In May 1829 Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were visited by John the Baptist.  Joseph Smith wrote that the following happened during that visit:

…he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me. Accordingly we went and were baptized. I abaptized him first, and afterwards he baptized me—after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and afterwards he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same Priesthood—for so we were commanded.* (JS-H 1:70-71)

Later, in 1830, the church was officially organized and those first members were baptized.  Among these people (nine in all) was Joseph Smith.  The Desert News states:

…Joseph Smith and those who had been baptized prior to April 6, 1830, were again baptized on the day of the organization of the Church. (Deseret News, March 30, 1935, page 6.)

Funny, don’t you think, that in spite of already having been baptized at the request/commandment of John the Baptist, Joseph goes ahead and gets baptized a 2nd time in less than a year without much statement or fanfare.  He had been baptized at the request of John the Baptist – the same who was described in Luke as “there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” – of all people.  And there he was, getting re-baptized 11 months later.  It just happened.  And yet, as a speaker in church mentioned that the practice of getting re-baptized “twice” was just something that happen.  As history overwhelmingly presents, this was a practice that is much more than something that just happened “twice,” or was restricted to fringe groups.  It was as mainstream as the young men or women program is today in the LDS church.

Indeed, with the example of Joseph Smith getting rebaptized from the get-go, so began a history of re-baptism that lasted for nearly 70 years.  During these 70 years, rebaptisms were completed as a way to renew covenants, to heal the sick, to initiate the “Reformation” of 1856-57, to enter into the United Order, to get married, to accept church leadership positions (i.e. bishops, stake presidents, apostles, etc.), to obtain a remission of sins and several other ways.  Indeed, the reasons for re-baptism were many and certainly not limited.  That is until 1897.

Curtailment by Default

By the late 1890s, no doubt re-baptism was a “mainstream” doctrine and practice among most of the church.  As our “mainstream” beliefs and practices evidence, these beliefs and practices can and do lack the “power” they once had.  People take advantage of the practice, forget its intended meaning and over time the practice loses it’s meaning in the “mainstream.”  Today, this can be seen in many ways.  Then, there is no better example than the doctrine of re-baptism.

For some reason that I have not yet been able to hammer down, the church leadership began to debate the efficacy of the practice and the continued “approval” from the hierarchy.  In 1897, during the October general conference, George Q. Cannon stated, “We hear a good deal of talk about re-baptism, and the First Presidency and Twelve have felt that so much re-baptism ought to be stopped.”  Why such a decision was reached is unknown to me.  Nevertheless, because of a feeling (“have felt”), the hierarchy ends the practice of a sublime doctrine.  Perhaps the intention was not to curtail the practice entirely, as evidenced by the wording, “so much re-baptism ought to be stopped,” but rather to slow the practice and re-focus on the meaning of the doctrine.  Temple records of 1896 allegedly show “thousands of rebaptisms for renewal of covenants and for health reasons.” Whatever the reason for slowing the process, the effect was one of a total curtailment.  And here we stand, some 110 years later, with little to no knowledge or understanding of the subject.  It is amazing how so much insight can be lost in the span of less than 4 generations.

Mystery and History

Much as resurrection was a mystery to Alma, rebaptism (and, no doubt, many other “lost” doctrines) is a mystery to us in the year 2010.  With that very brief history in mind, I want to go back and share some of the more “precious” insights into this doctrine, as shared by early church members.

Though the following statements have been rewritten in history – which is eerily similar to George Orwell’s statements in his book, 1984, on the re-writing of history to reflect the view you want others to have – Brigham Young once shared an interesting insight into rebaptism:

“In the first place, if you were re-baptized for the remission of sins, peradventure you may receive again the Spirit of the Gospel in its glory, light and beauty; but if your hearts are so engrossed in the things of this world, that you do not know whether you want to be re-baptized or not, you had better shut yourselves up in some canyon or closet, to repent of your sins, and call upon the name of the Lord, until you get His spirit.” (Brigham Young, J.D. 1:324)

And, later:

“I know that in my traveling and preaching, many a time I have stopped by beautiful streams of clear, pure water, and have said to myself, “How delightful it would be to me to go into this, to be baptized for the remission of my sins.” When I got home, Joseph told me it was my privilege. At this time, came a revelation, that the Saints could be baptized and re-baptized when they chose, and then that we could be baptized for our dear friends.” (Brigham Young, J.D. 18:241)

It’s amusing, if not saddening, to note the contrast in language between what Young stated and what Cannon professed in the 1897 general conference.  Whereas Cannon and the first presidency “felt” that so much re-baptism should be stopped, Young claimed “revelation” that members of the church “could be baptized and re-baptized when they chose.”  A revelation versus a feeling?  Tough choice.  Perhaps it’s mere differences in lexicon and they mean the same thing, or, perhaps, one group of people were too caught up in curtailing a practice which was being abused by some.  No matter the result, the main question is how does this affect me, or you, or us, today?

In a day that desperately needs another Reformation, no doubt much more than the change that was needed during the Reformation of 1856-57 (a mere 25 years after 1830), this practice and doctrine of re-baptism is one way to bring about the needed change.  Indeed, with this thought in mind, perhaps it is best to again turn to Brigham Young’s words on the subject:

“I have heard some of you cursing and swearing, even some of the Elders of Israel. I would be baptized seven times, were I in your place; I would not stop teasing some good Elder to baptize me again and again, until I could think my sins forgiven. I would not live over another night until I was baptized enough to satisfy me that my sins were forgiven. Then go and be confirmed, as you were when you first embraced the religion of Jesus. That is my counsel.” (Brigham Young, J.D. 2:8-9, emphasis added.)

Think long and hard on that statement.  There is light and truth contained therein.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I was reminded of a conversation I had with another friend on this subject.  In it, this friend was discussing the “false doctrine” that states how when we partake of the sacrament we’re “renewing” our baptismal covenants.  Turns out this is false.  We don’t renew our baptismal covenants when we partake of the Sacrament.

In reality, what we’re doing in partaking of the Sacrament is its own covenant separate and apart from baptism.  To further study this idea, research the covenants the people make in both Mosiah 18 and Alma 7.  In those examples, the act of re-baptism is a witness on behalf the person getting re-baptized that they’re making a covenant.  The baptism itself isn’t the covenant, but a simple witness of a separate covenant.  This simply means that instead of placating yourself by professing to change and follow a new course in life (words/intentions only), in this instance you also do an act, a physical act which demonstrates in deed those words you’re intending to live by. With the act, the words are not empty (as so many of our words tend to be).  The baptismal (and re-baptismal) covenants we make, therefore, are to (a) keep the commandments and (b) serve God.  The covenant occurs when we turn around and repent.  We then prove our willingness to actually give more than lip service by walking down in the water and re-entering the waters of baptism.

It is June 1st, 2010.  The weather is generally warm across America and in many other places.  Read Kraut’s work on this topic, and take advantage of the good weather to seek a remission of sins and utilize the beautiful simplicities of the gospel that are in front of us.


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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•  •  •

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

•  •  •

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•  •  •

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

•  •  •

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

•  •  •

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

40 Hence many are called, but afew are chosen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us not forget, though, that:

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