Posts Tagged ‘Finding Truth’


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


Here’s the last part of the Small Miracles series.  The first entry focused on the Liahona and how Alma spoke of the slothfulness Lehi and his family showed towards the Liahona.  Part II was an excellent article by Hugh Nibley which speaks about the Liahona and a potential predecessor, arrow divination.  We live in a world where the “casting of lots” and “arrow divinations” are very much frowned upon as either being superstitious or being too “new age-y.”  Whatever the reasons, we should get back to the gospel and do away with the shackles that bind us down, shackles which increase our reliance on the “Arm of Flesh.”

Though I frequently quote from only a few authors, this should only be seen as one thing:  it’s what I’m currently reading.  And, perhaps a second: they are some of the few who speak and write on topics that interest me and inspire me to turn to Christ.  This brief preface paves the way for the following essay, taken from Nephi’s Isaiah.  From it, I will copy and paste a portion of Chapter 18 on Finding Truths.  This book was written by Denver Snuffer and all credit should be given to him.  As he may likely say in return, if you find any truth in it, all credit should be given to Christ.

Here are his words:

==================================

Finding Truths – Chapter 18, Nephi’s Isaiah, Denver Snuffer

As we saw earlier in this book, Nephi took the four final chapters at the end of his record to address a final summary warning to us.  In it he told us all that was weighing on his mind about our day.  These warnings are the product of the visions in which he saw our day and beyond.  We have already looked at these summaries in the opening chapters of this book.  In this chapter, we are going to look at how you, too, can gather truth through the same revelatory process as Nephi.

Though Nephi was not permitted to share the visions in his own words, he was able to describe them using Isaiah’s words.  As we have seen in our interpretation of the Isaiah text, Nephi’s use of Isaiah tells the story of Christ’s mission, our day, the Second Coming, and the Millennium.

As Nephi summarized his final warnings, he was troubled about our struggles in latter-day Zion.  Although the ultimate outcome of this season will vindicate those who follow the Lord, there are going to be challenges in our day which vex and perplex the Saints.  In particular, he cites our tendency to rely upon the “arm of flesh” instead of the “Spirit.”  Unfortunately, there are Latter-day Saint authors advocating the Spirit is an unreliable guide to truth.  Grant Palmer writes in An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins (Signature Books, 2002), on page 130-131; 133:  “When faced with this evidence, our first impulse is often to resort to personal inspiration as our defense of the Book of Mormon.  This is a higher means of substantiating the book’s antiquity, we assume. … Most of us have felt this spiritual feeling when reading the Book of Mormon or hearing about Joseph Smith’s epiphanies.  What we interpret this to mean is that we have therefore encountered the truth, and we then base subsequent religious commitments on these feelings.  The question I will pose is whether this is an unfailing guide to truth?  … The evangelical position of identifying and verifying truth by emotional feelings, which the Book of Mormon advocates, is therefore not always dependable … abundant evidence also demonstrates that is an unreliable means of proving truth.  Those who advocate the witness of the Holy Spirit as the foundation for determining the truthfulness of a given religious text need to honestly deal with these epistemological contradictions. … When a person experiences the Spirit at a Protestant revival meeting or when reading the Book of Mormon, it is not my belief that this feeling proves the truthfulness of the doctrines taught, or read.”  (Emphasis added.)  In this criticism, Palmer presumes “emotional feelings” are the same thing as being enlightened by the Spirit.  Of course, they are not.  However, it is understandable how he makes this error, for many people do associate emotional feelings as the sine qua non[1] of the Holy Ghost and fail to realize what is before us in scripture.

The scriptures do not either advocate reliance on emotions or give us examples of any prophetic figures doing so.  They tell a much different story.  They tell us of people who have faith sufficient to receive “the word of the Lord” and then seek for and obtain some confirmation of the veracity of that word.  They seek for a witness, not through emotions, but from objectively observable, demonstrable signs confirming the truth of the words they have been given.  Faith is required to receive the word in the first instance.  And faith is required to obtain objective confirmation.  They do this repeatedly in scripture, in a pattern which is commended to us to follow.

For those who have been raised as Latter-day Saints, the process of becoming acquainted with the Sprit can be a difficult one.[2] Palmer’s struggle and failure here is not atypical of some lifelong members’ frustrations in this area.  We are now going to consider the process described in scriptures for receiving an answer from the Holy Ghost and confirming it through faith.  Though it would require an entire book in its own right,[3] this subject will be addressed briefly here, because this book would be incomplete without it.

Not everyone has the same spiritual “gifts” given them.  However, spiritual gifts can be increased, and can be sought after.[4] Each person has some gift which comes naturally as a part of their makeup.  God has gone to great lengths to make everything in His creation unique.  Every person who has ever lived is one-of-a-kind.  Even identical twins are dissimilar.  No tree is alike, no flower is alike, no snowflake is alike; all to help remind us that we are unique.[5] In all time and eternity, there has never been another you.  Nor will there ever be a duplicate of you, science and cloning notwithstanding.  You can “hear” God’s voice, but how it comes to you may be different from how it comes to anyone else.  Frequently the description we get in scripture is merely “the word of the Lord came” to the prophets.[6] It comes to the mind, or it is “heard” in the mind, or it is sensed in the impressions, or it is dreamt; or it is a conviction which comes with palpable certitude.  However it comes, and in any individual case it may do so in an altogether unique way, it comes from a source outside of you.  Often it is surprising, not at all what was expected.  It can be inconvenient, requiring from you what you would not voluntarily seek.  These are not just “emotions” or “feelings” as Palmer would put it.  Rather there is an intelligence to it, which originates from outside of you, and which delivers a message to you; not feelings, but a message.

After receiving the “word,” confirmation follows.  The confirmation allows a person of faith to see evidence or support for their belief and trust in God.[7] Again, when it comes to the confirming sign which follows faith,[8] the variety of forms is unique to the person.  In a moment, we will look at a few examples to show the pattern.

First, however, remember you are unique, and will have unique experiences in relating to God.  Given the care with which you have been organized as an individual creation, how can you expect communication with the Lord to be standardized?  Why would the way in which He speaks with you be identical to the way in which He speaks to all others?  Why wouldn’t He carry on a conversation with each of His children in ways adapted to the individual child?  Do not expect your experience to be like that of another.  You are not, and never will be, a duplication of any other person.

We turn then to scriptural examples illustrating confirming proofs God has given to His people:  His confirming appearance in the “burning bush” to Moses was singular.[9] In all of history, no one else recounts such an appearance.  So, ask yourself why God employed such a matchless form of introduction to the person many believe to be history’s greatest single Prophet.  Was it driven by something unique in Moses?  Was this how God could reach into Moses’ perceptions, and therefore was the method chosen?  Here, a physical object, commonly seen, has an unusual aspect which appeals directly to Moses.  It is not “emotional” or a “feeling” but is a visible, physical event, observed by Moses and from which he encounters God.  Moses sees this thing, but then must “hear” the Lord’s voice in the same way in which all others “hear” Him.  It is recorded:  “And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, ‘Moses, Moses.’  And he said, ‘Here am I.’ “ (Exo. 3:4.)

This encounter was not so unequivocal that Moses did not require faith.  This “voice” which he encountered from the “burning bush” was not audible.[10] Moses sensed it, and had to develop the faith then to “hear” it.  His faith was assisted somewhat by the sign he was witnessing.  But there was nothing automatic here.  There was nothing without effort.  It comes to every man, woman and child the same way, and requires effort and faith to understand.  Throughout Moses’ struggles to liberate a captive people, the words often came easy into his mind because of his faith.  That was a result of a growing capacity.  But even then, the signs which followed required great faith on his part as well.  He had to reach out in faith, in the court of Pharaoh, to speak the words given to him, and then trust he heard the Lord and was speaking on His behalf.  This was a difficult, trying ordeal for him.  Over time it resulted in him, Pharaoh, Israel and Egypt all knowing Moses had spoken with and was speaking to mankind for the only living and true God.  But as it was happening with him, Moses exerted effort and faith.

Gideon was another prophet with a unique method for receiving confirmation he could hear the voice of God.  In an unremarkable encounter, Gideon is met by a man whom he does not immediately recognize for his true identity.  The account states:

“And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor. And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord[11], if the Lord[12] be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his amiracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy amight, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” (Judges 6:12-14).  A perfectly ordinary event, non-miraculous in any way, begins the process for Gideon.  He views this conversation in hindsight as something more than what it was at the first.  He finally sees this as an encounter with the Lord.  It is the beginning of the prophet’s call.  This man who spoke to him may have been a friend, neighbor or even Levite whom Gideon respected.  He was referred to by a term of respect, so Gideon must have respected the man.  It is only through hindsight however, the Divine nature of the communication is recognized by Gideon.[13]

You, too, may be able to see in hindsight how advice from someone else was really the “voice” of God to you.  God speaks to individuals sometimes through the voices in General Conference.  His voice is heard in the words of your Patriarchal Blessing.  Sometimes His words come from an inspirational song, or poem, or from literature.  But as you see His “voice” through the eyes of faith, you begin to realize it comes from Him.  The ordinary contains the extraordinary.  You must see the extraordinary in the ordinary before the truly extraordinary opens up to you.[14] You must have faith before you are shown signs.  “But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow them that believe.” (D&C 63:9; emphasis added.)

Gideon through faith has “heard” the voice of God in this ordinary conversation.  As he realizes it is from God, he asks for a sign:  “And he said unto him, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.” (Judges 6:17.)  A sign is given which confirms momentarily, Gideon’s faith that this is a message from God to him.  However, he is being asked to organize an army, and then lead them into battle.  As his faith in this divine commission is budding, Gideon receives another message from God in a dream, that same night.[15]

For this kind of an undertaking, Gideon would like greater certitude from God to give him the confidence to lead an army into battle against a superior host.  He would like to see confirming evidence from the Lord sufficient to make certain this is no mere flight of imagination, and he as the faith to believe God will provide that to him.  In this respect, he has faith like Joseph Smith, as he awaited Moroni’s visit to answer his inquiry about his standing before God.[16] Gideon was certain in his faith the Lord would provide him a confirming sign.  The sign was not to produce faith, but was to confirm already existing faith.

He used the morning dew, and a sheepskin to confirm God’s will for him.  “And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine aanger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me bprove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.” (Judges 6:36-40.)  Perfectly ordinary objects (sheepskin, ground, morning dew), get arranged in a way which allows Gideon to confirm the accuracy of his understanding God’s communication with him.  This is not “emotion” or a “feeling.”  It is drawing God’s communication into the physical world and seeing Him speaking there.

To Elijah, as he watched the unfolding physical signs of wind, earthquake and fire, these signs were not where he found God’s will.[17] These were physical events, observable by anyone who would have been present.  They were not “emotional” or “feeling,” but were outward events.  They were used to confirm the truthfulness of the inner “voice” which spoke to him.  That inner voice, speaking intelligence to the mind, was the voice of God; to him and to you as well.

Nebuchadnezzar[18] heard God speak to Him through a dream.  Likewise, Joseph of Egypt[19] heard God speak many times in dreams containing symbols from which God’s “voice” was “heard.”  Joseph, Christ’s earthly foster-father, was also warned repeatedly through dreams.[20] It is more likely the lack of faith than the absence of communication which accounts for the apparent “silence” of God in most lives.  We just do not believe or trust in Him enough to experience what is available to us all.  The great difference between prophets and others is not in God’s willingness to speak, but in the refusal to listen.  Some listen; and they are prophets.  Others do not; and struggle to believe the prophets.  God, however, has and does speak to us all.

In choosing a replacement Apostle for the deceased and apostate Judas, the method employed by the surviving Apostles was to “cast lots.”  It is written:  “And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all mean, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.  And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:24-26.)  The same method is used here by Apostles as had been used by the Lord’s crucifiers to divide up His clothing, as He was ganging on the cross in the last throes of dying.[21] When we think of the Roman guards using it to divide Christ’s clothing, it becomes less inspired-looking and more homely.  It looks more like expediency than revelation as a tool for choosing an Apostle.  Yet, at the same time, this same process is built into the scriptures for the Church today, and is used in every disciplinary council to assign roles to the High Council.[22] Without regard to feeling, emotion or desire, the lots are drawn and the assignments are made.  These physical objects contain within them the Lord’s mind for organizing a council before whom the hearing takes place.

From Nephi’s casting lots to decide who would go to address Laban,[23] to choosing a scapegoat,[24] to choosing an Apostle, to choosing roles in a disciplinary court, casting of lots has been the way people of faith have determined God’s will for millennia.  Through it God “speaks.”  But it requires faith to see it in that light.  For these are ordinary, even commonplace ways of making a decision.  Only through faith does it acquire the “voice of God” in it.

We are unique, and God’s ways of speaking to each of us is as unique as each of us.  We do ourselves a great disservice when we attempt to fit ourselves into a singular, stereotypical persona seeking only a singular way for God to talk with and to us.  We make ourselves into something we aren’t, in the search to find what cannot be found that way.  If we demand only the extraordinary before we will recognize His voice, we run the risk of looking in the wrong way for Him.  His voice is there.  He speaks to all of us.  But we can miss it if we are not attuned to listen.

You may never be able to hear God speak to you in the way in which others hear Him.  If you determine He must speak to you in a specific way, you can go a lifetime without ever having a conversation with Him.  He longs to speak with each of us.  Within each of us there is something uniquely attuned to Him.  How He reaches out to you may be as singular and unique as you are and you can be assured He is reaching out.  In fact, God is rather noisy, if you will allow Him to be.  We were never intended to live without a direct connection to Him.  Instead, we should hear His voice, and in time discover He is our “friend.”[25]

Christ’s use of the example of a living “vine”[26] or “branch”[27] or description of His Father as a “husbandman”[28] suggests you should have a living connection to God.  A living connection implies you are in contact with Him.  You hear from and listen to Him.  He is a part of you and an active part of your life and growth.  His Holy Spirit should nourish you.

Don’t try to mimic what you think others are.  Don’t make yourself a caricature instead of the unique Child of God, which you truly are.  The viciousness with which we seek to be the same stereotypic “Mormon” is no less offensive nor slavish than the way in which modern fashion-seekers make themselves silly replicas of rock-stars, movie stars, and ‘gangsta’s.”  Wearing gang colors to show you “belong” is very akin to our own efforts to dress alike, talk alike, sound alike, and think alike.  One has to wonder how either can contain any virtue as an end.  We should all feel comfortable being ourselves.  As Brigham Young once remarked:  “There is too much of a sameness among our people.  … I do not like stereotyped Mormons – away with stereotyped Mormons!” (JD 8:185; quoted by Vaughn J. Featherstone in The Incomparable Christ:  Our Master and Model, page 119.)

How each of us receives contact with God, how we hear His voice, and what gifts we possess are unique.  There is no single universal way for one to “hear [His] voice and know that [He] is.” (D&C 50:45.)  And so it is a mistake to ignore your own unique talent of “hearing” your Father in Heaven.  He did not send you here powerless to hear Him.  But it will require you to develop the capacity.  Relying merely upon your “feeling” or “emotions” alone is insufficient; you must learn to hear His voice.  All of the prophets referred to above, from Moses, to Gideon, to Elijah, received contact form God.  They were certain Who it was that spoke to them.  They obtained intelligence, heard His voice, and learned from Him.  None of them relied upon mere “feeling,” but instead “heard” words from Him.  He spoke with them just as He did with Nephi.[29]

There is no permanency to men’s lives, nor to the work of men’s hands.  There are only two things which will endure here with any permanency:  posterity and our words.  Buildings do not endure, as history has proven.  Today there is only one building from the Roman Empire still in use.  The rest are gone, except a few remaining relics which are in ruins.  But the words of Cato, Cicero, Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny, Livy, Sallust, Virgil, Caesar, Terrance, Polybius, Suetonius, and Seneca, to name only a few, endure.  Even more importantly, the words of Paul, Origen, Tertullian, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, and the other ante-Nicean fathers are timely even today.  These writers’ words dealt with the struggle to maintain the truth delivered to the Saints through Christ and His Apostles.  So important do these words remain even now that the recent work of Barry Robert Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church, Joseph Smith and Early Christianity, (Ben Lomond:  Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research; 1999), continues the repeated study of their works.  Words endure; buildings, even temples, do not.  The closer the words are to the will of God, the more likely they are to endure.  Revelations are the most enduring of all.  But all expressions of faith and hope endure long beyond words of opposition, faithlessness and anger.  For the most part, the great critics of Christianity have been preserved only through the words of the apologists who oppose them.  History settles into patterns which repeat themselves, and so we should expect the critics of the Lord’s great latter-day work will also fade into neglect, as the works of faith and hope endure.

Get yourself in harmony with God, call upon Him and record His voice to you and you will leave something eternal behind for your posterity.  The record of your own testimony, and your posterity, will alone endure.  It is one of the reasons for the inspired instruction to us through the Latter-day Prophets to ‘keep a journal’ of our lives.  After all, “angels may quote from” your journal.[30]

We need to forget conforming to an imaginary pattern, and allow the unique gifts each of us have been given to mature.  Becoming “one” does not require us to become the “same.”  There is a great difference between the “oneness” God asks us to acquire, on the one hand, and uniformity on the other.

That having been said, there is nothing wrong with the development of a separate style, as the Saints have done.  This style is intended to distinguish us form the world.  It serves that purpose, and it reminds us we ought to behave differently than the world.  However, accepting such style is not the end in itself.  It does not confer any superiority upon us.  Its only function is to remind us we are different form the world.  But to receive revelation and “hear” God’s voice is a different challenge.  That challenge is not met through slavish conformity to what you think someone else thinks you should be.  Find out what God wants you to be.  Be that.  It is “one of a kind.”  It will make you free.[31]


[1] This Latin phrase is common among lawyers.  It means the “single best proof” of something.

[2] If converts have any advantage, it is here.  The process of converting requires some contact with the Spirit, and after baptism the conferral of the Holy Ghost is a distinct experience, usually gained in adulthood.  The contrast this brings allows any convert to know, with clarity, they have encountered the Spirit.  It is therefore easier to use this to build upon.

[3] See, e.g., Matthew B. Brown, Receiving the Gifts of the Spirit, (Covenant Communications, Inc., American Fork; 2005); as just one recent example.

[4] D&C 46:8: “Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given.”

[5] Moses 6:63: “all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, … all things bear record of me.”  The unique identity of everything in nature testifies to our own unique lives.

[6] See, e.g., Jacob 2:11; Alma 43:24; Ether 13:20; Gen. 15:4; 1 Sam. 15:10; 2 Sam. 24:11; and Jer. 1:11, among many others.

[7] “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon.” (TPJS, p. 151).

[8] D&C 63:9: “But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe.” (Emphasis added.)

[9] Exodus 3:1-5:  “Now Moses kept the flock of aJethro his father in law, the bpriest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the cmountain of God, even to dHoreb.   And the aangel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of bfire out of the midst of a cbush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.  And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God acalled unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy ashoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is bholy ground.”

[10] “Hearing” God’s voice is not just automatic or easy.  Even when He is speaking directly to an audience, they must first attune their ears, through faith, before they know it is He and what He is speaking.  We see this in 3 Ne. 11:3-5: “And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a avoice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a bsmall voice it did cpierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn. And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they aunderstood it not. And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did aopen their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.”

[11] The word here denotes a respectful address for a man, not God.

[12] The word here denotes God.

[13] Margaret Barker’s work The Great High Priest (T&T Clark; London, New York; 2003) gives a scholar’s view of how mere humans became “angels” as they communicated God’s words to men.  One passage is quoted here:  “The belief that human beings, as a result of their mystical vision, were transformed into angels, was neither new nor the teaching of an unrepresented minority.  … The Gnostic believer changes from unbelief to faith, then from faith to knowledge and love, and then ‘such an one has already attained the condition of being equal to the angels.” (Id., p. 6.)  The theme of ancient Israel accepting men as angels appears throughout her book.

[14] This was the subject of my earlier work, The Second Comforter.

[15] Judges 6:25:  “And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him …”

[16] JS-H 1:29: “In consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; when, on the evening of the above-mentioned twenty-first of September, after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to aprayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full bconfidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one.”

[17] 1 Kings 19:11-14:  “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a astill small bvoice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very ajealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am bleft; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

[18] See Daniel, Chapter 2.

[19] See Genesis, Chapter 41.

[20] See Matthew, Chapter 2.

[21] Matt. 27:33-36:  “And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of aa skull, They gave him avinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. And they acrucified him, and bparted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my cgarments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there;

[22] See D&C 102:12-17:  “Whenever a high council of the church of Christ is regularly organized, according to the foregoing pattern, it shall be the duty of the twelve councilors to cast lots by numbers, and thereby ascertain who of the twelve shall speak first, commencing with number one and so in succession to number twelve. Whenever this council convenes to act upon any case, the twelve councilors shall consider whether it is a difficult one or not; if it is not, two only of the councilors shall speak upon it, according to the form above written. But if it is thought to be difficult, four shall be appointed; and if more difficult, six; but in no case shall more than six be appointed to speak. The accused, in all cases, has a right to one-half of the council, to prevent insult or ainjustice.  And the councilors appointed to speak before the council are to present the case, after the evidence is examined, in its true light before the council; and every man is to speak according to equity and ajustice. Those councilors who adraw even numbers, that is, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12, are the individuals who are to stand up in behalf of the accused, and prevent insult and binjustice.”

[23] 1 Nephi 3:11.

[24] Leviticus 16:8: “And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.”

[25] See, e.g., D&C 84:77:  “And again I say unto you, my friends, for from henceforth I shall call you friends,” among other places.

[26] John 15:4-5:  “aAbide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the avine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without bme ye can do nothing.”

[27] Id., see also John 15:6: “If a man aabide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”

[28] John 15:1: “I am the true avine, and my Father is the husbandman.”

[29] Three chapters were devoted to discussing Nephi’s progression in communicating with God in my earlier work, The Second Comforter.  Here we only make reference to it.

[30] Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball, p. 351:  “Get a notebook, my young folks, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity.  Begin today and write in it your goings and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies.  Remember, the Savior chastised those who failed to record important events.”

[31] John 8:36:  “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”