Posts Tagged ‘Holy Ghost’


Walker Lake, Nevada

“It’s easy to cry when you realize that everyone you love will reject you or die.”  –

Chuck Palahniuk

A while back I did a good bit of reading on Wilford Woodruff and the signing of the Manifesto.  I was asked by a good friend, while studying the topic and digging up some of the information, what direction I was going and why.  My immediate response was that, in so many words, I wasn’t sure where it was leading or why it was leading there – let alone my interest, at the time, in studying it.  Then, in thinking what to add to this blog, I realized that perhaps this might be a good place to put some of that information.  In the course of my studies I both hit a wall where additional information became more and more difficult to locate and lost some interest in the nuts and bolts of the conversation.  As a result, the progress stopped and I moved on to other topics of interest.

The genesis for studying this topic was introduced to me following a conversation I had with a friend, wherein he related a conversation he had had with Kevin Kraut.  During the course of this conversation Kraut told my friend about Lorenzo Snow’s vision in the SLC temple, and how there was a very specific reason why the Lord appeared to Snow in the hallway of the temple and not in the Holy of Holies.  Intrigued by the concept, I, one day, called up Kevin Kraut out of the blue to ask him for more details on the conversation.  Kevin graciously accepted my call and we proceeded to talk about a variety of subjects for over an hour. Ogden Kraut[1], in one of his many books, had originally shared this story of Lorenzo Snow’s vision in the temple.

Many know of Snow’s vision, but most only seem to know the “official” story as related in “official” church documents.  The official church story reads this way[2]:

“Lorenzo Snow was still at work in his office in the Salt Lake Temple. It was dark outside, and the stars had come out. He was the fifth President of the Church, but he was also serving as the first president of the Salt Lake Temple at the time. He often stayed late into the evening to finish his work.

President Snow’s granddaughter Allie Young loved to visit him at his office. In those days, family members of the temple president were allowed to visit him there. They were not allowed to go through the entire temple, however, until they were old enough and had been found worthy and ready to make the sacred temple covenants.

This special evening Allie was with her grandfather in his office. The doorkeepers had gone home and the night watchmen had not yet come in, so they were alone. When Allie was ready to leave, President Snow went to a dresser and took a large bunch of keys from the drawer so that he could let her out the main entrance. Together they walked down a large corridor near the celestial room.

President Snow suddenly stopped and said, “Wait a moment, Allie. I want to tell you something.” Allie listened intently as her grandfather told her of an unforgettable experience he had once had at that place in the temple: “It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as had been done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff [as President of the Church].”

President Snow held out his left hand and said, “He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though he stood on a plate of solid gold.”

Still speaking in hushed, reverent tones, President Snow told Allie that the Savior’s appearance was so glorious and bright that he could hardly look at Him.

President Snow put his right hand on Allie’s head and said, “Now granddaughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grandfather, that he told you with his own lips that he actually saw the Savior, here in the temple, and talked with him face to face.”

Allie listened to every word of this sacred experience and never forgot that precious moment but shared it many times later in her life with her family and friends.

The account I heard from a friend, and then reiterated by Kevin Kraut, differs no small amount from this account.  While some of the details above are indeed accurate, some other parts of the conversation are left out and mostly scrubbed from church history.  The scrubbing assumes that others know about the dream and what happened, and according to Ogden Kraut very few people actually heard the whole story, other than what we find in modern day Church magazines and manuals.  Now, admittedly, we’re starting to creep into a territory that is filled with hearsay, and there are certain, if not many, pitfalls which come from indulging in hearsay.  Such is the nature of what I studied.  According to what Kraut wrote, and was related to him by Lorenzo Snow’s granddaughter, we learn the following:

(a)    At the time of his vision, Lorenzo was fully expecting a manifestation.  He fully expected a vision of sorts as he went through the true order of prayer in the SLC temple.  Some suggest that such visions were common when one went through the true order of prayer back in the day.  That may or may not be true, but Snow most certainly was looking for an answer to his prayers.

To this point, Lorenzo Snow once noted:

“It will be recollected that this Gospel message proposed to give us divine manifestations through our doing certain specified acts; we have performed those acts in precisely the manner indicated. None but ourselves have attempted to conform to this arrangement; consequently, no other people are prepared to be witnesses either for or against this system. … That principle imparts the knowledge or the rock of revelation upon which the Savior declared His people should be established; and we constitute the only religious community which dares assume this Scriptural position; and our realization of the Savior’s promise, “that hell shall not prevail against” a people thus established, affords us peace, tranquility, unshaken confidence, and a cheering and happy assurance of security in the midst of all kinds of threatened ruin and overthrow. It is the people, the masses–not exclusively their leaders, who possess this knowledge, and boldly testify to its possession. (Lorenzo Snow, JD 26:378)

(b)   Anthon H. Lund told LeRoi C. Snow, Lorenzo’s son, “a number of times of the Savior’s appearance to [Lorenzo Snow], after he had dressed in his Temple robes, presented himself before the Lord and offered up the signs of the priesthood.” Church News, Apr. 2, 1938.)[3]

(c)    After going through the signs and tokens of the true order of prayer, even though he was fully expecting a manifestation, nothing happened.  This shocked Lorenzo, who thought that the non-response was due to his unworthiness.  He allegedly went and asked for forgiveness from those people he thought he had wronged, or could have wronged, in some way.  He then returned to the temple and performed the signs and tokens a second time, again fully expecting a manifestation (presumably because anciently the signs and tokens were the key words which brought revelation; several journal accounts of others indicate that once they gathered around the altar, prayed and performed the signs and tokens, answers came post haste).  Again, though, nothing happened.  No vision, no revelation, nothing.  Snow waited for some time there in front of the altar hoping for a manifestation but finally got up to leave the altar and left the Holy of Holies, distraught by the lack of an answer and not fully sure what the non-response meant.

(d)   After leaving the Holy of Holies, in this distraught state, he enters a hallway.  There in the hallway he receives an unexpected vision of Christ, the same vision noted in the “official” church account.  The “official” church records suggest that the purpose of the vision was merely to communicate how Lorenzo should direct and set-up the first presidency.  According to Kraut, however, Lorenzo was told – among other things – that the Lord could not (or would not) appear to him there in the Holy of Holies, over the altar.  As Snow was now the presiding High Priest, the common protocol (if we’re even to assume that Christ cares about protocol, and there’s enough evidence to suggest that he doesn’t) would be for Him to appear to Snow in his official capacity.  There, however, in the hallway Christ proceeds to tell Lorenze that the vision was not happening as the result of becoming the presiding High Priest of the Church, with the passing of Wilford Woodruff, rather, this “meeting” had nothing to do with him being in that position.  Lorenzo is then told that the Lord would not appear him in that capacity, and mostly because the church had rejected Him.  Given that the Church had rejected the Savior, the Savior could no longer appear to the Church, or so the “unofficial” story goes.  The Savior appeared to Lorenzo as an individual, and only as an individual.

There are a couple of interesting tidbits to take away from the above story.

Firstly, the issue of the true order of prayer.  If we consider that members are currently prohibited from practicing the “true order of prayer” outside the home, as Snow stated would bring about divine manifestations, can we, as the “masses,” then “boldly testify” that we’ve received such manifestations?  That answer should be self-evident.  Secondly, if the True Order of Prayer was to be performed only by church leaders or only by a temple officiator, then why teach “the people–the masses” how to pray in the True Order, as is taught in the temples?

The true order of prayer was effectively banned from public practice in 1978 by President Kimball.  The official letter stated,

“The Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve has decided that all such prayer circles, whether held in the temples or outside the temples, be discontinued immediately.”

The same letter suggested that the purposes of the true order of prayer could be satisfied by “stake leaders and their wives” attending a temple session, and “stake leaders and their companions” could hold a special meeting to “express … testimony or exhortation.”[4]

So, instead of every member being able to offer up the True Order of Prayer over their family altars in their homes, the practice is axed and replaced with instructions for “stake leaders” and their “wives” and “companions” to substitute the prayer with a broken shell of itself.  It’s no wonder that we don’t expect “divine manifestations” any more.  Not only are we discouraged from practicing the gospel within the privacy of our own home, but we’re then instructed to rely on “leaders” to “recognize the value of [those] prayer circles” in our stead.  Interesting, and telling, switch.  Interestingly, some even state that, “I assume that the second gift you are referring to is to KNOW that Jesus is the Son of God… ie, to have the same testimony that Joseph and Sidney had… to have the heavens opened and to gain a perfect knowledge by SEEING and By HEARING.  I personally don’t believe there is any living mortal on the earth at this time that has that testimony.”

So, not only do we not believe that these manifestations are possible, but also that no other “living mortal on the earth” can or has (at this time) that sort of testimony.

Secondly, we are also confronted with the issue of the church rejecting the Lord.  If what we’re reading and finding out is correct, and given the hearsay I wouldn’t blame you for doubting parts of the story, then sometime prior to 1898 was when the church officially rejected Christ.  I originally believed it to be over the issue of polygamy, though I’m not sure if that was the straw that broke the back, or something else, or everything in unison.[5]

Several of the sources I originally read lead back to meetings Wilford Woodruff had with power brokers and financiers in San Francisco just prior to his death, though the meetings with these power brokers started a decade or so prior to his death.  The meetings were precipitated by the dire financial condition the church was in and due to the issue of statehood.  In his journal, Woodruff notes,

“I am worked altogether to hard.  I don’t sleep nights and am weary by day” (8 Aug 1894).

“It looks as though the Presidency would be ruined unless God opens the way.  Our affairs are in a desperate condition in a temporal point of view” (17 Sept 1896).

“We the Presidency of the Church are so overwhelmed in financial matters it seems as though we should never live to get through with it unless the Lord opens the way in a marvelous manner.  It looks as though we should never pay our debts” (30 Dec. 1896).

Some even go so far as to suggest that Woodruff, as president of the Church, signed an official document (a “covenant of death”) with these same power brokers in order to usher in some financial help to stave off the financial collapse of the church.  And, given the circumstances of his death, I can’t find fault with anyone who chooses to look at things that way.  A conspiracy theory of the best kind.  Certainly, given some of his journal entries, the church was in dire need of financial help.  Would they cave in to the power brokers for an influx of cash, or would they continue to wait on the Lord?  We know how that story turns out, but even then many of the details are missing.

Prior to whatever happened in 1898 when Woodruff visited San Francisco and mysteriously died, he received the following revelation that counseled him on making any promises with the “enemies”:

“Thus saith the Lord … I the Lord hold the destiny of … this nation, and all other nations of the earth in mine own hands … Place not yourselves in jeopardy to your enemies by promise.  Your enemies seek your destruction and the destruction of my people.  If the Saints will hearken unto my voice, and the counsel of my Servants, the wicked shall not prevail.”[6]

Less than a year later, and in spite of the tone of the above revelation, Woodruff wrote the Manifesto and signed it under the guises of acting “I am under the necessity of acting for the temporal salvation of the church.”  Interesting language, if you ask me.  “A more personal register of language captured Wilford’s journal on this day.  He writes of the “History of my life as President” rather than the history of the church.  “I have issued the Proclamation,” he writes, employing the first person pronoun, whereas only a year before it had been “I, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.”  Faced with federal confiscation of church property – including the sacred and secret temples – and no supernatural help in sight, Wilford was forced to act himself “for the Temporal Salvation of the Church.”[7] In fact, Susan Staker argues that, “it is finally Wilford’s capacity for human time not God’s promised world on the other side of human history which moves me.  His talent for waiting made of him the leader who could teach the church to change and compromise and thus to live in the 20th century.  Like Moses, this 19th century prophet did not enter the new land, but he brought the Saints to its border and made possible the conditions which allowed his people to accommodate the daily, the temporal, the natural, and thus to go on waiting for the supernatural, for God’s promises and God’s ends, sometime in the distant latter days.”[8] Truth be told, I don’t agree with Staker’s conclusions, but I do see how she gets there.  Many members see things that way, thinking that “change and compromise” are the way we are to meet and join our modern Babylonian society.

Concerning Woodruff’s death, there are more than a few question marks that rise to the surface. Not only was Woodruff the main speaker at the Bohemian Club a few nights before his death, but several newspaper articles note his relative good health, even at his advanced age.  One such article noted how inexplicably became sick following his speech at the Bohemian Club.  For those unfamiliar with the Bohemian Club (or the better known Bohemian Grove), I’d suggest starting here and here.

The September 2, 1898 edition of the Salt Lake Herald reads:

“President Wilford Woodruff of the Mormon church arrived [in San Francisco] on August 14, the guest of Colonel Isaac Trumbo.  From that time until Thursday he was active and his health was … good.  Last Saturday night [Woodruff] attended an octogenarians dinner given by the Bohemian Club … At night he became seriously ill with a sharp attack of kidney trouble.  Dr. Winslow Anderson, Dr. McNutt and Dr. Buckley were called in consultation at 1 o’clock this morning.  President Woodruff did not think of death, and soon after the medical consultation he fell asleep.  In that sleep he died at 6:40 o’clock.”[9]

While Woodruff was meeting with, and seemingly dying at the hands of the Bohemians, and signing the Manifesto, numerous reports – from the Deseret News to the New York Times – suggest that a “Messiah Craze” was happening in Walker Lake, Nevada, amongst a dozen or more Indian tribes.  The Deseret News noted that it received “wide attention” in the nation’s press.

Sitting Bull, in an article dated November 8, 1890, stated:

“The Messiah said He had come to save the White Man, but they had persecuted Him, and now He had come to deliver the long tormented Indians. All day Christ instructed them and gave them evidence of His powers.  He, Sitting Bull, told his people His story, and asked that Porcupine (one of the Twelve) be sent for to verify it.  He (Porcupine) returned with the same tale and presumably all were convinced.”

A New York Times article from November 20, 1890 reports:

“…the present widespread delusion is that a so-called Messiah of the red men is now somewhere in the mountains of Nevada … the idea, which seems to have originated about a year ago, and to have attracted the attention of army officers … has been steadily spreading, until now it has taken possession of tribes hundreds of miles apart. … it is true that those who have seen the Indian Messiah say that he expressly commands not only industry and sobriety, but living at peace with the whites.  … Kicking Horse, having heard about visiting the Messiah in the woods, improves on the story, and makes his pilgrimage through a hole in the sky.”[10]

The U.S. Army published this official letter, through the United States Indian Service, in a letter dated June 25, 1890:

“Then I went to the agency at Walker Lake and they told us Christ would be there in two days.  At the end of two days, on the third morning, hundreds of people gathered at this place.  They cleared off a place near the agency in the form of a circus ring and we all gathered there. … We waited there till late in the evening anxious to see Christ.  Just before sundown I saw a great many people, mostly Indians, coming dressed in white men’s clothes.  The Christ was with them.  They all formed in this ring around it.  … I looked for him, and finally saw him sitting on one side of the ring.  They all started toward him to see him.  They made a big fire to throw light on him. I never looked around, but went forward, and when I saw him I bent my head I had always thought the Great Father was a white man, but this man looked like an Indian.  … He sat with his head bowed all the time.”[11]

About the only official Mormon reaction comes from one Susa Young Gates, editor of the “Young Women’s Journal”[12]:

“Few, if any, of our leading Brethren doubt the probability, of a certain, if exaggerated, foundation for these stories. Our Lord is evidently setting His hand to prepare the scattered remnants of Israel for the great events about to take place.’

The Millenial Star also reported on what happened, noting:

“Eye-witness account of F.K. Upham “It tells how a very righteous young Indian by the name of Porcupine from the Cheyennes was, like certain wise men of the East, inspired to make this long pilgrimage to Walker Lake, Nevada, to see their Messiah.  He was accompanied by his wife and two other Indians, and, like the wise men of the East, they were very content with the high reward of their journey, for they had seen the Christ! … At sundown the Indians collected in large numbers, and after it became dark He appeared to them, – a large fire being built to throw the light on him.  He was not as dark as an Indian nor as light as a white man, and his dress was partly like each. He sat for a long time in perfect silence, with his head bowed, during which time the Indians never moved nor spoke.  They were told that if they even whispered, the Christ would know it and be displeased.  After a time He raised His head, and then Porcupine saw that he was fair to look upon, that His face had no beard, and was youthful, and that His bright hair extended to His waist.  Porcupine had heard that the Christ of the white man had been nailed to the cross, and looking he was able to see the scars of the nails in the hands of the Indian’s Christ when he raised them.  In His feet he could not see the marks of the nails by reason of the moccasins, but he was told they were there, and that in His side were spear marks which were concealed by the shirt He wore.”[13]

There are other sources to information on this alleged appearance by Christ at Walker Lake, Nevada.  Whether or not they are true is left to you, the reader, to decide.  What I find interesting is the date of all of this.  The summer and fall of the year 1890 was an active time.  The Mormon church was off signing and publishing the Manifesto, and presenting it for a vote (sustained).  The Indian tribes, meanwhile, were off visiting with the “Indian Messiah” who allegedly proclaimed that the “white man” had “rejected” Him.

Joseph Smith, incidentally, was born in the year 1805.  According to D&C section 130, Joseph Smith was promised that had he lived to be 85 years old, He would see the “face of the Son of Man.”

“I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the acoming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following: Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore alet this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter. I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face.”[14]

Had he lived to be 85, he would have been alive in the year 1890.  Does this reference in D&C 130 allude to this “Messiah Craze” that was sweeping the nation in 1890?  Perhaps, and certainly it’s an interesting nugget to chew on.

Christ’s appearance to these Indians (again, if true) happened at precisely the same time that Woodruff was acting for the “temporal salvation of the church” (notably, as opposed to the “spiritual salvation” of the church).  Whether or not this act by Woodruff signaled the “official” rejection of the Lord, or something else, these reports of an “Indian Messiah” leave little doubt that the “white man” had rejected Him.

Now, if we return to Lorenzo Snow’s vision and the supposed statement by the Lord that the church had “rejected” Him, and join that with these Indian statements of the Christ saying that the “white man” had rejected Him, then some rather dubious points of rejection seem to line up.    This vision to Snow, in both the timing and content of the vision, coincides with the changes in “apostolic charges” – the official apostolic charges given new apostles.  Up until 1900, when Reed Smoot was called to be an apostle, the original charge given the apostles in 1835 by Oliver Cowdery stated:

“Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face.  Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God.  Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid His hand upon you.  We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same.  If the Savior in former days laid His hands upon His disciples, why not in latter days?” (DHC 2:195-196. 1835.)

This charge continued until 1890 (funny/odd how these dates all match up) when Lorenzo Snow stated that the apostles, “should, if we sought it, live to see the Savior in the flesh.” This charge changed in 1900 (less than 2 years after Snow’s vision of the Savior) with Smoot and has continued ever since.  No longer are apostles charged with striving until they see God “face to face”, but rather their witness now is much, much less.

D. Michael Quinn discussed the chronology of these changes in one of his books:

“The change in apostolic “charge” apparently began with the appointment of Reed Smoot as an apostle in 1900.  General church authorities had long regarded him as “reliable in business, but [he] has little or no faith.” (Francis M. Lyman to Joseph F. Smith, 17 Apr. 1888, fd 7, box 6, Scott G. Kenny papers, Marriott Library).  President Lorenzo Snow blessed him to receive “the light of the Holy Ghost” so that he could bear testimony of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith.  That was an extraordinary departure from the apostolic charge as given since 1835.

“The lessening of charismatic obligation continued during Joseph F. Smith’s administration.  In 1902 the “charge” to new apostle George Albert Smith spoke of his obligations to attend quorum meetings, to sustain the First Presidency and Twelve’s leadership, to express his views “boldly” in quorum meetings, and to lead an exemplary life.  There was no mention of visions.  In 1907 Francis M. Lyman instructed newly ordained Anthony W. Ivins:  “The Twelve are the Special witnesses of Jesus Christ and should be able to testify that he lives even as if he had been seen by them” (emphasis original in text).”

From a charge to strive until you see God face-to-face, to a charge and counsel to receive “the light of the Holy Ghost”, this change in apostolic charges coincides almost perfectly with the dates of the Manifesto and Lorenzo Snow’s vision of the Savior and certainly verify – if only through the de-emphasizing of seeking face-to-face meetings with the Savior – what Snow was told during his vision, namely that the church had rejected Him and that we are still rejecting Him, all the while claiming to be His “only true church.”  Funny how that is.

From these dates and events I see evidence where truth and light is slowly given away, both as a body and as individuals, all the while we maintain our claim to superiority over others.  The church, through Woodruff and others, sought an easier way to “temporal salvation,” while individuals no longer wanted to live under the obligation of seeking the Lord’s face.  We wanted good business men (Smoot), good “images” to present to the public, even if they were someone of “little or no faith.”

Today, I wonder if that’s not what we still want.  Do we want to maintain a good “image,” a good “figure face,” in spite of all that it means, or do we want something more?  Are we content to think that no one on this earth can or does commune with the divine, or do we yearn for that contact ourselves?  Seems as though we’re dealing with personal rejections now.

“Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do.” – 2 Ne. 32:6



[1] See www.ogdenkraut.com for more information on the books Ogden Kraut wrote and some more information on some of the stories he shared throughout his life.  This website is operated and run by, if I’m not mistaken, Kevin Kraut, one of his sons.

[2] Madsen, Susan Arrington.  Lorenzo Snow and the Sacred VisionFriend, August 1993, 14.

[3] See Church News, Apr. 2, 1938.

[4] Letter from the First Presidency, dated May 3, 1978.

[5] See this:  http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2010/06/why-im-abandoning-polygamy.html for an interesting discussion on the issue of polygamy in general.

[6] See Wilford Woodruff’s journal entry 24 November 1889.

[7] Staker, Susan.  Waiting the World’s End:  The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff, pages viii-xxi.  1993.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Church Leader Passes Away.  The Salt Lake Herald.  2 September 1898.

[10] The Indian Messiah Delusion.  New York Times.  November 20, 1890.  November 1890 NY Times PDF File.

[11] S.C. Robertson, 1 Lieut. 1st Calvary.  Statement of the Cheyenne “Porcupine” of Meeting with the New “Christ.” June 15, 1890.  Here is a link to the actual file.  Walker Lake – Porcupine Report

[12] Gates, Susa Young.  Young Women’s Journal, Vol. 1:477.

[13] See Millenial Star, August 18, 1890.  Volume 52:532-535.

[14] See D&C 130:14-16.

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

Advertisements

“Illusion has more to do with what we act out than it does with what others do.

In overcoming illusion, we will be the ones who have changed.” —  Po Tai

Disclaimer:  I am posting this without permission.  This is the work of someone else, whose name I do not know, but whose writings I have appreciated.  I found it some year(s) ago in a few of my searchings and was reminded of it this evening.  I’m posting this in response to something asked of me.  You may find this article, as well as others by the same author, by following this link.  I do think what is put forth in this write-up is compelling enough to merit a wider audience and readership.  Whether or not you think so is entirely up to you.  😉  I reached out to the author some many months ago, and only briefly maintained contact with him.

His response to my email inquiry stated the following:

“I’m not participating in any blogs, nor do I have a facebook, twitter, or other social networking site.   These days, I am trying to find what I desire by simplifying my life rather than running with the herd.  Sometimes I feel an obligation to network more than I do.  I wonder if it has to do with my own growth or possibly helping others.

You might have already realized that when we try to get out of the box, there is a lot of pull from others on the inside of the box to keep us there.  So, why isn’t there some helping hand to help a struggling being to get out of the box?  It might be because we wouldn’t survive on the outside unless we struggle greatly in the process of hatching out.  So, those on the inside pull on us to keep us in while those on the outside let us struggle for our own good.  It’s a tough process.  Try to take courage if that is where you are.  The struggle brings strength which one needs at the next step and there is always a helping hand that emerges before we succumb in despair.  If you don’t already know, the hand will come out of nowhere when you least expect it.”

If anyone is interested in contacting him, please email me and I’ll pass along his email address.
Read on and enjoy:

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


The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the LDS Endowment

By Eleazar, 2004

This narrative is written to those who are struggling to understand meanings behind the LDS temple endowment. The endowment ritual is a highly symbolic act about which patrons generally admit they have little understanding.  This narrative will focus on the symbolic meaning of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  The intention is to stimulate further thought by presenting possible ways that the symbols of the endowment might be understood.  Other parts of the endowment ceremony will not be discussed, except where they are relevant to understanding the meaning of the Tree of Knowledge symbol.

As in other narratives written by this author, what follows comes with no claims of completeness, correctness, or authority.  Readers are free to disregard any or all of the ideas that follow and there is no expectation by the author that any of it be accepted as wisdom.  The author does not belong to any religion and the ideas presented in this narrative are not meant to be part of a belief system of any church, philosophical group, organization, or dogma.

In the simplest of terms, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil symbolizes illusion. Partaking of the fruit of the Tree represents losing oneself in the illusion.  Man consumes the illusion and is, in turn, consumed by it, so to speak, becoming carnal, sensual, and devilish.  Partaking of the fruit brings us under an illusion of knowledge.  This knowledge includes an illusionary belief in the opposition of all things that, in turn, brings about an experience of opposition, an unreal journey into the world of disharmony, bitterness, sorrow, and death.

As a result of carnal man’s (Adam’s) belief in the reality of opposites, illusions of death and hell become as real to him as does the illusion itself.  This illusory knowledge brings Adam under the curse (given for his sake) of the Fall of having to sweat (work) for his bread (bread symbolizing love of God) and he (as Eve) brings forth children (symbolizing his creations) in sorrow.  He continues in this bitter existence as one who is oblivious to what is truly going on, though he thinks he knows.  The illusion is as a veil that covers the mind of Adam. It prevents him from seeing things as they truly are.

The LDS endowment tells patrons what is really happening through its symbols.  These symbols tell patrons that they are the ones spoken of in the characters of the endowment.  The story of the Fall brought about by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is about the present time.  Moreover, the creation parable is meaningfully symbolic of a process that is ongoing rather than part of our past.

Ultimately, carnal man is destined to pass from the curses of the Fall. In doing so, he will have achieved nothing because it was never about achievement. It was always about being. Adam was always doing that perfectly, notwithstanding having partaken of an illusion that had him thinking otherwise.  Adam chooses, rightly.  Notice the comma before rightly.  Adam will come to realize that what he has been doing underlies the very purpose for his existence, to re-create himself and then discover by experience what that means.  He will understand that his journey was not about achievement at all, but that it was about living, despite the experience of suffering, fear, and spiritual death that he has brought upon himself by choosing to partake of the illusion.

Meaning and symbolism. Although the subject of symbolism is covered in other narratives by this author, it may be helpful to make a brief statement on symbolism before proceeding with a discussion of what is symbolized by the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Few people notice the profound symbolic meanings in the world surrounding them and this is also true in regard to the symbolism in the LDS endowment ceremony.  To come to understand the meanings, one must first come to notice that the symbols exist.  Next, one comes to ask what the symbols mean.  Looking at the meaning of symbols is where we presently are with this narrative.  Discovering the meaning of symbols is important because the endowment is filled with symbolic meaning.

Later, one will need to look beyond symbols and their meaning and begin to ask whence the symbols come.  When one begins to comprehend the answer to this last question, one finds the doorway that leads to understanding the mystery of all of creation.  Only then will carnal man come to discover himself and why he exists in the first place, notwithstanding he has been unknowingly discovering himself all along.  In his understanding of whence the symbols come, he will finally be able to comprehend what it means to believe all things.  As this occurs, such a person will no longer be bound by the illusion because he will be able to see beyond the lie to know what it is really about.

All is happening now. One of the barriers to comprehending the deeper meaning of symbols is misleading ourselves into believing symbols are about other times and places rather than here and now.  During the enactment of the LDS temple endowment ceremony, patrons are explicitly told that they are to ‘consider themselves as Adam and Eve.’ This is an important key to unlocking what the endowment parable means and it may be helpful to consider it further

Among endowment patrons there seems to be a tendency to perceive Adam and Eve as other people who lived in another time rather than see the endowment story being about them, the patrons.  Moreover, when patrons take time to consider the notion that they are Adam and Eve, there is a tendency for male patrons to identify themselves with Adam and female patrons with Eve rather than each patron seeing the meaning of both Adam and Eve in themselves.  A fuller meaning of the endowment will emerge when patrons begin to see the entire ceremony and all of the characters therein as meaningfully symbolic and relevant to themselves as individuals or, more specifically, individual temples.  It is all happening now, ‘in the temple this day’.  Ye are the temple spoken of.

There are several places in the endowment ceremony where the phrase ‘this day’ is used. Each use of this phrase is important.  Patrons may want to take time to notice each of them on their next time through the endowment.  The phrase ‘this day’ is meant to signify (symbolize) the present time and what is happening in the (true) temple by representing it in parallel symbolic names, tokens, signs, and names (all of which constitute parables).

However, the endowment message is not one that is flattering to the ego and it shouldn’t be.  There is a profound reason for this that few come to see until they let go of that which blinds them.  This is part of what the endowment message is about.

In perfect symbolism, the endowment tells patrons what is happening right now in a layer upon layer parallel.  What is going on in the temple this day is perfectly symbolic of what is going on in the temple this day.  That statement may sound foolish at first, but one might take time to notice that there are two temples being spoken of in parallel and one bespeaks the other.  That is, the temple as a symbol bespeaks the meaning of the true temple.  Ultimately, there is only one true temple and ye are the temple (being) spoken of.  What is happening in the temple endowment this day is symbolic of what is happening in you (the true temple) this day or, rather, the present moment of time.  It is a perfect parallel.

This is not without a lot of irony.  Moreover, the irony is profoundly symbolic of itself in what might be called an inside-out manner.  Patrons are truly meant to be ‘in the temple this day’, but few are, notwithstanding they are in a temple (the wrong one).  The entire point of it is missed.  Again, there are two temples and we should remember that we are the true temple, those that are built without hands.

Because we as endowment patrons miss the (true) meaning of temple, the symbolism of the endowment points out our failure and plays us as hypocrites and (spiritually) dead in glorious fashion.  Until the patrons come to understand what is going on and why it is this way, they will be rightly counseled to return to the temple often in to do the work for the dead.  The dead refers correctly to those who are spiritually dead that includes those who are present in the (false) temple this day.  The spiritually dead also includes many who are physically dead.  It should be noticed that the spiritually dead are the ones who are in a position to benefit most from the endowment.  It is all perfect in its symbolism and entirely appropriate, notwithstanding few will understand it at first and others may take offense at such a thought that it is meant for them, the patrons, as opposed to others not present.  For many, such an idea is damaging to the ego.  But, that is part of the problem.  The ego of carnal man keeps him blinded to truth that is right in front of him, or more importantly, in him.

Ultimately, temple patrons will come to see the profound meaning in acting out of the endowment ritual and see that it is much more.  Eventually, there is a realization that it is about them, here and now.  They may also come to realize that is something that has been going on about them in their everyday lives which not only includes the time in the temple (this day), but the ever present continuance of their existence in the (lone and dreary) world. In regard to this, one might take time to notice that the endowment begins with a presentation of the creation parable that includes the Fall of Adam and Eve and being cast into the lone and dreary world that is rightly said to be the one in which we live now.  Adam remains in this fallen condition throughout the ceremony and is said to enter the presence of the Lord only at the end of it, when Adam pierces the veil (of his own misunderstanding; illusion).  Although all patrons take part in this veil ceremony, few ever make it that far in their personal lives outside of the temple.

In a profound sense, patrons enter the temple for their endowment, but return home afterwards in the same state of self-delusion as when they entered, sometimes worse.  This is represented by how the ceremony ends as well as in the new clothing being worn (eg. the garment; a symbolic veil).  The endowment ceremony rightly ends at the veil because of the failure by patrons to pierce the real veil (ie. what it represents: illusion).  As a result, what is merely symbolized by passing the veil in the temple will not occur for them in their personal lives until such a time when they, as individuals, are ready to proceed.  When that occurs in reality, there will not be a need for them to return and do the work for the dead nor will they need to concern themselves with the symbols of the endowment.  They will then be living temples, those made without hands, and the buildings called temples will be seen as for what they truly are: symbols, tokens, names, signs, images, and illusions. In truth, all symbols, tokens, names, and signs are counterfeits.  They are not real, but only symbolize something that is real.

Lying, Lucifer, and illusions. Prior to moving onto a discussion of the meaning of the Tree of Knowledge as illusion, it may be helpful to discuss the idea of the character of Lucifer and lying.  There seems to be a lot of confusion in LDS doctrine about Lucifer being a liar as opposed to Lucifer as a teller of great truth and a being of great insight.  This latter idea is embodied to some extent in a popular LDS aphorism that ‘Lucifer can tell nine truths and one lie’.  One might consider the possibility that this aphorism embodies a lie, especially since it presupposes that Lucifer is a being of great intelligence (glory).  The truth is that Lucifer is just another spiritually dead being who doesn’t understand himself (doesn’t know himself) and is imprisoned by the same illusion that he merchandizes to Adam and Eve.

Adopting the idea that Lucifer tells truth in the temple keeps many from discovering the simplest secrets of the endowment.  It may be helpful to realize that everything that Lucifer says in the temple is a lie.  Another name for Lucifer is devil. It should be noted that in the New Testament, Jesus says of the devil that he “…abode not in the truth because THERE IS NO TRUTH IN HIM …he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar…” (John 8:44) (capitals added for emphasis).

One must be able to see how everything spoken by Lucifer in the temple is a lie in order to begin unraveling what the endowment symbols mean.  With this idea fresh in mind, we might now examine an interesting conversation that occurs between Eve and Lucifer in regard to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil:

“LUCIFER:  Eve, here is some of the fruit of that tree.  It will make you wise.  It is delicious to the taste and very desirable.

EVE:  Who are you?

LUCIFER:  I am your brother.

EVE:  You, my brother, and come here to persuade me to disobey Father?

LUCIFER:  I have said nothing about Father.  I want you to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, that your eyes may be opened, for that is the way Father gained his knowledge.  You must eat of this fruit so as to comprehend that everything has its opposite:  good and evil, virtue and vice, light and darkness, health and sickness, pleasure and pain–thus your eyes will be opened and you will have knowledge.

EVE:  Is there no other way?

LUCIFER:  There is no other way.”

Since everything that Lucifer speaks is a lie, then:  (i) The fruit of the Tree is not delicious to the taste, nor is it desirable;  (ii) Lucifer is not Eve’s brother;  (iii) Lucifer did say something about Father;   (iv) Eating from the Tree will not open Eve’s eyes; (v) Eating the fruit is not how Father gained his knowledge;  (vi) There is no such thing as opposition in all things;  (vii) Eve will not have real knowledge (or wisdom) after eating the fruit; and  (viii) There is another way.

Since an examination of each of these in detail is too unwieldy for the purpose of this narrative, only brief comments will be offered.  However, even brief comments should suffice for those who are having difficulty seeing how all things claimed above by Lucifer are lies.

First, there is the promise (by Lucifer) that the fruit is ‘delicious to the taste and very desirable’.  One might inquire how good fruit would come from a corrupt tree, since corrupt trees should only produce corrupt fruit (see 3Nephi 14:17-18).  Maybe it is not good fruit at all.  Moreover, the  fruits (results) of eating the fruit seem to suggest that it is corrupt fruit.  Eating the fruit brings about the Fall, a sojourn in the lone and dreary world, and curses from God (eg. earning bread by sweat of face; bringing forth children in sorrow).  The true fruits of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge are ignorance, loneliness, fear, sorrow, suffering, nakedness, and death.  These are a part of the experience of the Lone and Dreary World which is characterized by bitterness and misery.  Thus, the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge is not delicious to the taste, but far from it.

The rewards of eating the fruit can hardly be called desirable, despite the fact that Eve later proclaims it to be so in her statement that “It is better for us to pass through sorrow that we might know the good from the evil.” Readers might want to take time to consider what is really going on in this drama.  It should be noticed that Eve is making this statement after she has already partaken of the fruit and is therefore laboring under illusion.  Eve appears to be sincere in her belief that the fruit is desirable (ie. she believes the lie), but that doesn’t make the lie true.  Moreover, it should be noticed that Eve, because of her belief that the fruit is desirable, offers it to Adam in the similar way that Lucifer tempts Eve.  After eating the fruit, Eve, in effect, becomes Lucifer.  But, she is more effective too because she gets Adam to do what Lucifer could not.  In becoming fallen, Eve becomes a liar, so her claim that it is better to eat the fruit should also be taken as a lie.

Eve is not Lucifer’s brother.  Eve was created from the side of Adam, but Lucifer was not, meaning that he cannot be her brother in this regard.  In symbol, Eve represents the tabernacle for the Spirit or, rather, the body creation (as well as creation itself).  This is in contrast to Lucifer who, as a formerly great Spirit cast from heaven, represents the Fallen Spirit, the deceiver, or one who believes in illusion.

But, there’s more.  In LDS doctrine, Lucifer is portrayed as the brother of  Jesus.  The symbol of Jesus and Lucifer as brothers is intricately linked to creation itself, more specifically, the origin of duality (opposition; an illusion) and its subsequent war(s) between good and evil, agency and enslavement, yielding and force, life and death, Christ and anti-Christ.  This is reminiscent of the same in regard to the creation of Adam and Eve and the Fall of man per the creation parable.  In this case, Eve symbolizes the proto-typical Lucifer rather than his sibling.  This is precisely why the representative color for Eve and Lucifer is red, the color of sensual passion and conflict.  It is also why Eve tempts Adam with the fruit in a parallel to Lucifer tempting Eve.

After Eve partakes of the fruit, she looks at Lucifer in apparent recognition and proclaims: “I know thee now. Thou art Lucifer, he who was cast out from Father’s presence for rebellion!” Again, it should be remembered that Eve is speaking after eating the fruit of the Tree, so this accusation she makes towards Lucifer is illusionary.  In truth, Eve hasn’t a clue as to who is Lucifer.  If she did, she might first come to see Lucifer in herself.  There is little question that is the role she was playing in offering the fruit of Knowledge to Adam.  But she is oblivious to that, having been blinded by partaking of the fruit of Knowledge herself.

In telling Eve that he is her brother, Lucifer communicated that they siblings from common parents.  Since Lucifer did not say he was ‘half brother’, Eve could have rightly responded using the phrase ‘our Father’ rather than how she did.  It is interesting that in the statement immediately after Lucifer’s denial of Father, he invokes the name of Father to add credibility to his claims.

Eve is promised that eating the fruit will open her eyes, she will have knowledge, and it will make her wise, but none of these occur.  Rather than find the peace and joy of true knowledge and understanding, Adam and Eve become fearful.  In their fear and lack of understanding, they hide themselves and make aprons to cover their nakedness.  Nakedness is a lie that Adam and Eve are conned into believing and the aprons they create are symbolic veils to use as a covering.  It may be helpful to notice parallels in what happens in the endowment.  Appropriately, endowment patrons are conned into believing that they too are naked.  They return from their work in the temple wearing garments that are meant to cover their nakedness.  This is despite nakedness being a con in the first place.

Lucifer tells Eve that eating the fruit is how Father gained his knowledge and also tells her that there is no other way.  This last statement is interesting in regard to passages in the scriptural cannon that Christ is the only true way to wisdom, understanding, and life eternal.  This stands in direct contrast to the way of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge that Lucifer uses to supplant it.  Thus, eating the fruit of that Tree is not the way to knowledge, but the way to illusion.  The (true) Father could not have gotten his knowledge by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge because it is the wrong way.

The illusion of opposites. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil represents illusion.  This illusion includes an illusory knowledge (a belief) in opposites.  Despite this idea seeming obvious, there seems to be a universal acceptance by temple patrons that a reality of opposition in all things is one of the great and noble truths of the Mormon religion.  To the contrary, believing in the reality of opposition is succumbing to the lies.

Here, it may be helpful to briefly examine the idea of opposition in all things.  In examining proposed opposites, one might notice that opposition to truth can’t be anything except a creation of the mind.  This, in turn, can only manifest itself as more illusion, since what is unreal can never give rise to that which is.

It may be helpful to consider how opposition is an illusion.  One might first accept that truth embodies that which truly exists and always has existed (ie. it is eternal).  That is, truth (reality) comprises ‘everything which is’.  Next one might inquire whether or not there can be an opposite to that.  The answer is (really) no, but (apparently) yes.  That is, there cannot (really) be an opposite to reality (what is), although there can indeed be an apparent (illusory) opposite to reality (what isn’t).  However, opposition in this case (‘that which isn’t’) is illusion (not real) by definition.  Thus, an opposite to truth cannot really exist in reality (since the opposite is illusion).  However, there can be an appearance of opposites.  Moreover, one can become bound (imprisoned) by illusion when one believes it is real.

At a risk of being too redundant, it may be helpful to state this again in another way.  The opposite of truth is falsehood and the opposite of ‘that which is’ is ‘that which isn’t’. However, ‘that which isn’t’ doesn’t really exist, except as an illusion.  ‘That which isn’t’ is nothing.  ‘That which isn’t’ doesn’t exist in reality except as an abstraction created in mind and believed.  When ‘that which isn’t’ becomes belief then a lie is born.  Lies are illusions by definition and illusions are lies.  They are not real, but they can be believed, making them appear real.  Thus, there is not really opposition to ‘that which is’, but there can be a belief that there is. Believing in illusion is be-living a lie, which is what the symbol of Lucifer (false light-bearer) is all about.  (Be)-Living in illusion is what is symbolized by partaking of the fruit of Knowledge.

In one sense, Lucifer is symbolically synonymous with the Tree of Knowledge.  Metaphorically, the tree produces (creates) corrupt fruit (lies; illusion) of which others can partake (believe).  If we partake of the corrupt fruit (illusion), then we in turn become corrupt trees bearing our own corrupt fruit.  It is rightly said that we reap the fruits of our labor.  Thus the fruits of eating corrupt (bitter) fruit is more corruption (bitterness) that returns to us as all things return to the creator.  This is why the Lone and Dreary World (in which we live now) is one of bitterness.  When we come to know ourselves, we will see why.  But there is more to this because we will come to know ourselves by our fruits.  Ultimately, we will come to know the world in which we live as our own creation.  Eventually, we will come to see why.

The ideas presented in the above paragraph have everything to do with why illusion exists in the first place.  It has a great purpose and that purpose is a continuing one, despite the appearance of it being divided (opposition).  Belief in illusion can never change reality, notwithstanding it can change the appearance of it.  This may be a difficult concept to fully grasp because one needs to get out of the illusion in order to see (perceive) it (the truth) clearly.  That is, the idea of how illusion fills its purpose will be fully grasped only after one fully emerges from it.  The illusion is not destroyed.  Nor need it be, since it is unreal (illusion) in the first place.  The illusion will continue to fill a purpose after Adam has emerged from it, but it will be a different one because opposition is not what it is really about.  Moreover, what Adam has been doing after becoming lost in the illusion is the same thing that he will do after he emerges from the Fall: Re-creating himself.  The illusion will not change, but Adam’s knowledge of himself will.

One of the great truths to be discovered when emerging from illusion is that things eternal are not obtained by great effort or as a result of achievement.  Anything eternal already exists right now, otherwise it would not be eternal.  This is why (eternal) life is said to be found and also why it is said to be free.  It’s (a) present (ie. a gift) now, notwithstanding few believe it to be so because of the illusion brought about by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge which results in a belief in death.  One might notice the interesting symbolism in the word ‘evil’ which is ‘live’ spelled backwards, signifying death. ‘Devil’ is ‘lived’ spelled in reverse.  These refer to spiritual death as a (Fallen) state of mind that has one not living now.

The illusion of death. An important concept symbolized in the creation parable is the entrance of death into the world.  Death comes as a result of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Since death comes from eating the fruit of Knowledge, it is an illusion.  But how so?  Death is something that people sincerely believe in.  But why?  Where does the idea of death come?

We might rightly consider (the illusion of) death to be something that we have created ourselves.   Carnal man has eaten the bitter fruit and produced bitter fruit of his own.  In a sense, death is a bitter fruit of eating bitter fruit.  But, the good news is that corrupt (bitter) fruit is exactly what it is.  That is, it’s just another illusion (lie) believed by the mind of carnal and fallen man.  Despite the sincere belief in death, it remains an illusion in reality, notwithstanding death takes on all of the pretense of reality in the carnal and Fallen mind which lives the illusion.

It is rightly said that there are two forms of death, physical and spiritual.  Physical death is defined as the separation of the spirit from the physical body (a vehicle) and spiritual death is being separate from God.  True to form, carnal man appears to obsess himself with the wrong form of death by thinking that physical death is his real enemy.  However, this is entirely appropriate because carnal man is lost in the illusion and he thereby gets everything inverted.  Carnal man obsesses himself with his physical body because he lives by the carnal senses that come through the body.  Carnal man tends to judge his entire existence by that which he believes. But the reality of it is that carnal man believes in carnality so he is entrapped by the carnal senses.  He believes in the body and identifies himself with it.  This is the very definition of carnal, sensual, devilish, symbolizing an obsession with the world of the outer (carnal) senses.

The illusionary world of the senses is the only reality that carnal man knows.  It might be noticed that this obsession with the sense-body is redundantly symbolized at many places in the scriptural cannon and is part of the message behind the symbols of man and woman.  Eve symbolizes the flesh (body) which tempts Adam (symbolizing the Spirit) to eat the fruit (of creation).  This entrapment of the Spirit by the material world of the carnal senses is symbolized by Eve enticing Adam to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge . In the creation parable, she resorts to worldly reason as well as enticement.

However, there is something else that might be important to notice.  Eve is fooled into partaking of the fruit, but Adam appears to do it knowing it will bring about a Fall (Spiritual death; illusion).  Here it may be helpful to remember that Adam (Michael) symbolizes the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit cannot be deceived so it must make the choice to partake of illusion willingly.  In looking at parallels in the symbolism, one might notice that the ‘forgetting’ of Michael (ie. forgetting of who he really is) is accompanied by Adam’s entrance into the Terrestrial world and his subsequent uniting with Eve (symbolizing the creation) in marriage.  Here, Eve is Adam’s companion and helpmeet (that he might not be alone).  This coming of Michael to the Terrestrial world is in parallel to Adam willingly eating the fruit of Knowledge and subsequently being cast out into the Lone and Dreary (Telestial) world where he is imprisoned by the senses (carnality; represented by the symbol of the enticing of Eve).

At one level of meaning, there is only one Fall, at another there are two.  But, what is important here is understanding that partaking of the Fall at both levels is an event that is done willingly.  This has more to do with what is going on now than it has to do with what went on in the past.  The point of this story is how it applies to us.  It tells us who we are, where we are at the moment, and what we are doing.  Our obsession with physical death has everything to do with our entrapment in the sense-world of carnality, an illusionary world in the first place.  Physical death releases the Spirit from the tabernacle of the senses, but not necessarily from their bondage because the problem is really in his mind.  One must get out of the carnal mind to see that physical death is illusionary.  Adam will understand it when he starts to remember who he really is (Spirit).  In rising from carnality, Adam will see death as something he willingly buys into.

To the immortal Spirit, physical death is meaningless.  It merely separates from the body and lives on, being immortal.  The only death that can threaten the Spirit is Spiritual death that is brought about by having forgotten who it is.  Again, this is what the Fall is all about, buying into the illusion.  In partaking of the illusion (having forgotten who it is), the Spirit I-dentifies with the body and believes in the reality of (physical) death, oblivious to the Spiritual death that has just been created.  Spiritual death, unlike physical death, is something that is happening to Adam right now, notwithstanding it too is an illusion.

Spiritual death is separation from the Spirit, but is that something that really happens?  No.  It is just imagined to happen and it is Adam’s own (illusionary) creation.  There are two reasons Spiritual death cannot be real:   (i) God is unconditional love and unconditional love never abandons, and  (ii) It is impossible for Adam to not be who he is, despite his pretending.

It might first be noticed that Spiritual death is a one sided event.  That is, Adam cuts himself off from the Spirit, but it is not the other way around.  God continues to speak to Adam in (the symbols of) all of creation.  In reality, everything in creation is meaningfully about him (Adam).    Adam is really Michael who has forgotten that he is the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit cannot cut itself off from itself, notwithstanding it can believe so.

A profound idea that emerges from the endowment parable is that death, although illusionary, is a happening event.  Patrons are told in several different ways that they are dead, which of course, refers to the state of spiritual death (living under illusion).  That is a fundamental message of the endowment ceremony, but is almost universally missed by the patrons who return day after day to do the work for the dead, not realizing who’s work they really do.  The irony is that while the Eternal Spirit is speaking (from beyond the symbols of the endowment), few (patrons; Adam and Eve) appear to be listening.  That by itself is the textbook definition of spiritual death.  Again, it is a one sided event.  Adam cuts himself off from the Spirit when he becomes fallen and carnal.  Because of the illusion, he fails to hear what is really being said to him.  It is as profound as it can be.

Moreover, these same ideas are redundantly found all through LDS teachings for anyone who will take time to notice.  Here one might notice that LDS teachings say  “the Church is for the perfection of the Saints.” Yes, of course it is.   And that is why the church  is perfect;    It is because it fulfills its purpose and the measure of its creation.  But one might see a little more and ask if the Saints were perfect, then why is there a need for the church?   No, there wouldn’t be a need.   This statement about the purpose of the church is, in effect, an admission of spiritual death about those whom it serves.    It should be noted that it is because of (spiritual) death and its concomitant (dead) works that the church is given.  As stated in D&C 22:  “For it is because of your dead works that I have caused this last covenant and this church to be built up unto me, even as in days of old.”

Illusion and veils. In trying to understand the meaning of the fruit of Knowledge, it may help to notice other symbols with similar meanings.  The illusion symbolized by the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is closely tied to the meaning of the veil of the temple.  It might be noticed that there is a redundancy that pervades this symbolism.  In the scriptural record there are a variety of names for the veil, all of which are synonymous in meaning:    the veil of unbelief, the veil of forgetfulness, the veil of darkness, the veil of death, and the veil of the temple.  These symbolize the separation of the bridegroom (Spirit) from the bride (creation), the Spirit from the Temple (which temple ye are), and spiritual death.

When passing through the endowment ceremony, one encounters several veils.  Women (symbolizing the creation) wear a veil to cover their faces (representing a separation from the Spirit; their husbands; Adam), patrons wear aprons and garments (to cover their nakedness), and a curtain (veil) separates the patrons from the Celestial Room.  These are tied together in meaning via symbolic parallel and redundancy.  Although several veils are presented, their meaning is directly relevant to individuals as temples and what is occurring in the present time and place.  Veils represent illusion by symbolizing barriers, coverings, and separation.  Creation of veils, wearing them, or standing at them, are symbolic of the same illusion symbolized by the Tree of Knowledge.

Endowment patrons first become aware of the veil of the temple that covers the Celestial room, despite that not being the first veil to which they are introduced.  The veil of the temple separates the outer court from the Holy of Holies (Celestial Room) as a symbol of the veil over the heart of the temple.  Since ye are the temple spoken of, it is symbolic of the state of spiritual death and illusion of those in attendance and is meaningfully synonymous with a familiar statement that patrons are prone to apply to others rather than themselves:  “… their hearts are far from me.”

More symbolism of veils is represented by the apron and the garment.  In these, there are some interesting parallels.  Adam and Eve make aprons for themselves after being conned into believing they are naked.  Endowment patrons readily don these aprons upon themselves without question when they are told to do so.  Adam and Eve sincerely believe that they are doing right by being obedient.  This takes another turn when Adam and Eve accept garments of skins that are meant to cover their nakedness, never once questioning the idea that the need for these coverings are founded upon a lie (fear; of being naked).  After all, God gave them the garment, so there is no reason to question that!  In living fully under the illusion, Adam doesn’t appear to have a clue as to what is really happening.

All of this is powerfully symbolic and perfectly appropriate.  To those who might not yet fully comprehend this idea, an important question might be posed:  Who is the God who gave you garments?  The question might be phrased another way:  “Who told you that you are naked?”

It may be helpful to notice that patrons obtain garments in a ceremony that is separate from the main presentation of the endowment.  Patrons afterwards proceed with the main endowment to don aprons that they wear over the top of everything they are given.  These are all profoundly symbolic, but the meaning of these things will not be discussed here because it digresses too far from the topic at hand.  In trying to understand these things, it is important to notice the ties to other parts of the presentation, more specifically, partaking of the fruit of Knowledge and the bondage it brings about.  One might especially notice that the symbols of the endowment are redundantly stacked inside one another in a fashion that is reminiscent of Russian dolls that have one doll stacked inside the other.  There is a lot of repetition by parallels.  As one considers the meanings of the endowment, one might take time to notice these repetitions, parallels, and redundancies.

In looking at the symbolism of the veil, it may help to notice that the many veils are relatively thin or constitute very poor coverings.  This is part of the profound symbolism of the temple . In emerging from his fallen and carnal state of being, Adam is destined to part all veils.  These veils will then fall back where they belong.  When that happens, veils will become as meaningless as all symbols.  It is not the symbols themselves that are meaningful, but what they represent.  What will have changed is Adam, not the veil.  Ultimately, Adam will lift the veil and recognize his own face looking back.  This is part of the symbolic meaning of the veil over the face of the woman (his bride).

The illusion of good versus evil. As previously discussed, the Tree is called Knowledge of Good and Evil symbolizes an illusion of opposition, a lie that is believed.   Carnal man lives under an illusion of having knowledge of good and evil so he doesn’t understand what is going on in the world in which he lives.  As a result of his belief in opposition, carnal man perceives the world about him in a context of conflict between good and evil.

To carnal man, the war between good and evil on earth is but a continuation of a War started long ago in Heaven.  Carnal man needs to consider that he is wrong and that he doesn’t understand the metaphor of a War in Heaven.  Good doesn’t need to war against evil because evil is an illusion in the first place believed to be real by evil.  The wars of carnal man are his own creation;  He made them in heaven.  In reality, these wars are evil versus evil.  The dead always do the work for the dead.

It may be helpful to first notice the premises that one must adopt in order to accept the popular interpretation of a War in Heaven.  A popular view is that good and evil are two opposing forces of near-equal strength meeting in battle.  But what is this premise really saying?  Many who consider themselves true followers of God will proclaim that God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent (ie. all powerful, all knowing, ever present).  The problem is that few will take time to consider that such a God can never be threatened by anything.  In thinking that there is an equal opposing force (evil) to God, then what is one really saying about evil?

Part of the problem lies within carnal man himself.  The blindness that comes from eating the fruit prevents us from seeing what IS in the first place.  Carnal man thinks that since there is a conflict, there must be opposites at work.  One side must be evil, so the other must be good;  Good versus Evil, opposites.  Carnal man has knowledge of opposites at work, or so he thinks.  The truth is that he gets things inverted, putting first for last and last for first.  He really doesn’t have knowledge, as he believes he does, but un-belief (isn’t-belief).

Carnal man’s un-belief is compounded by thinking that he is the one representing good, standing up against evil.  He may even perceive himself as the only thing that prevents evil from overcoming good.  He believes that to win in a conflict, good must overcome evil by meeting it headlong in battle.  Thus good must play the same game as evil to beat it.  The perspective of carnal man might be summed up in the popular saying attributed to Edmond Burke that “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Carnal man’s failure to understand what is going on keeps him in a perpetual state of conflict (which he himself has created).  This state of being is symbolized in the curse upon Eve that she will bring forth children (creations) in sorrow.  The carnal mind is at work and it is under illusion.  Adam is creating the world in which he lives, but he can’t seem to understand what is really happening.  Yes, Adam always chooses, rightly.  Again, be sure to notice the comma before rightly.

As carnal man emerges from his illusion, he will remember the meaning of eternal.  He will realize that whatever is eternal must be a part of him right now.   If life is eternal, then how can it be taken?    The real truth is that eternal life can’t be given up, but it can appear to be.  Adam has nothing to lose, except illusion.  He was never naked in the first place.

The illusion of victim-hood. One of the truths that emerge from the story of eating the fruit is in regard to victim-hood.  The descent of Adam and Eve into the Lone and Dreary World is popularly perceived as being victims of a greater mind (Lucifer) and a con that originates outside of themselves.  Carnal man is always blaming others from what he has done himself.  However, other symbols in the endowment proclaim that the veil which blinds Adam’s mind is his own creation.  This is symbolized at least in three places,  (i) Michael as a creator of the earth,  (ii) Adam and Eve making themselves aprons (veils), and  (iii) Adam knowingly partaking of the fruit.  Endowment patrons are prone to see these events as part of a Divine Plan, a foreordained path that is traveled by those who are destined to meet all they are required to achieve salvation.  Patrons might consider these notions to be a product of the carnal mind that interprets everything in worldly terms.  Adam’s own misconceptions lead him to a feeling of betrayal when he finally comes to realize that the church and its leaders have played the role of Lucifer and his hirelings in the worldly drama erroneously called life (which is really spiritual death).  Adam will eventually stop playing the blame game because he will see that he himself is the originator of the illusion that binds him.

As carnal man begins to tire of the illusion he created, he will begin to remember. What is remembered is not so much as something that has gone on in the past as it is what is going on presently.  Remembering means to put it back together (re-member), re-create, and heal.  The meaning of re-membering has everything to do with the symbol of resurrection and overcoming (the illusion of) death.

As carnal man emerges from illusion, he begins to realize that what he was doing is what he is meant to be doing, notwithstanding his (former) sorrow (suffering).  He will begin to understand the purpose of the illusionary nature of creation and that it is perfect.  Fallen man will emerge from his suffering to find life.  Moreover, he finds that eternal life is not earned as a reward for his great effort, but that it has always been there waiting for him.  Eternal life has always been a present (gift) in the ever-present (now).  Carnal man never needed to descend into illusion.  He chose to.

The face in the mirror. The LDS endowment is a highly symbolic act filled with deep and profound meaning.  In coming to understand the endowment, there is a great truth awaiting:   The endowment is all about you. When patrons fathom the deep meaning of that simple statement, they will come to find true knowledge rather than be bound by an illusion of having knowledge.  As Adam comes to know himself, the creation parable will no longer be viewed as a past event of forgotten history.  It will be seen as a process that is happening right now.

Ultimately, Adam will learn that true knowledge comes from knowing himself.  Moreover, knowing ourselves is not an event as much is it is an ongoing process in which we are continually discovering ourselves.  This is what eternal life is truly about.  Michael, an individualized part of the Eternal Spirit, discovers who he really is through a process of re-creation.  The true glory of the creation (illusion) is that it provides a means by which he can do this.

Metaphorically, creation is as a mirror in which Michael, as Adam, peers so that he can see himself.  What Adam sees in the mirror is a reflection of his own face, which face he cannot see otherwise.  The purpose of the mirror is that Adam may find (see; discover) himself.  Discovering oneself anew doesn’t require getting lost in the mirror’s image, although some may choose to do that to experience what it means.  Eternal life is meant to be an ongoing event of re-creation and discovery.   Michael (God; Spirit) forgets who he is so that he may re-create himself anew and then discover by experience what that means.  It is not about what ‘was’ at all, but about what ‘is’.  Eternal life is not something that is bestowed upon Adam at some future date, but it is something he, as Michael, already had.   It is an ongoing  process of discovery.  Eternal life is happening to you (Adam/Eve) right now, even if it is disbelieved.

As Michael/Adam re-creates himself, the world around him changes.  It is in  similitude of the image in the mirror that moves when we do.  We are faced with what we have created which is a reflection of what we are.  It is not so much about others as it is about us.  When Adam tires of what he has created, he changes (recreates) himself.   There is a surprise in the process that can only be discovered by experiencing it.   In recreating himself anew, Adam always discovers more than he imagines.  This is the life more abundant.


Personal Revelation – Part I

I had a discussion in a class I attended a couple of weeks ago in church.  Being a member of the LDS Church, a member growing more and more at odds with the ‘mainstream’ definitions and teachings, I posed a question in class.  I posed said question to elicit a meager discussion of some sort, having sat through the first half of the lesson with crickets chirping throughout the audience as the teacher went on.  A comment had been made in Sunday school, the hour prior, on a lesson on how to build and sustain Zion, that we “need to be obedient to the brethren.”  This lesson and discussion was followed by a one on the importance of obedience as a pillar of our faith.

Obedience to “what” was the essence of my question.  As the discussion flowed most agreed that we are obedient to Christ, but I was semi-surprised when even more agreed that we should be obedient to the brethren as they are the mouthpiece(s) of the Lord.  No qualifiers were offered, just obedience to the brethren with the tacit understanding that they are teaching – always – what Christ would teach.

I don’t necessarily disagree with that as it is proving increasing difficult to assume that what they teach is what Christ would teach were he were here on earth leading His church.  For one such reference, one can look at the April 2009 New Era magazine, a magazine geared for 12-18 year olds.  The focus of that month’s articles is, from the cover, “Learning and Earning.”  Therein one finds a quote by Gordon B. Hinckley, when he was President of the Church, which reads:

“You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known.  All around you is competition.  You need all the education you can get.  Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world.  That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.[1]” (emphasis added.)

While this article is not about how divergent current counsel is from what Christ may have taught, it is nevertheless worth noting in this context of whether we follow what a mortal man is telling us or what Christ through the Holy Ghost may be telling us.  After all, we were not sent to this earth to obedient to a man or men.  We were sent here to learn to be obedient to the Lord.  It can and does happen that He sends a servant who preaches His message, and in these instances we must be obedient to that message.  Nevertheless, it is incontrovertible that we are obedient to the One who sent the servant who preached the message, not the messenger.  This is true regardless of whether the messenger is inside or outside the Church.

By this point you may have begun wondering how this relates to personal revelation, and why I am discussing it here.  During the conversation I discussed previously I made a comment regarding our need to be “prophets” – as Moses indicated (see Numbers 11:29) – and that we needed to follow personal revelation in our own lives.  It is my opinion that the Iron Rod, the rod which leads unfailingly towards Christ, is personal revelation, coupled with the scriptures and inspired teachings.  I probably could have phrased it better and introduced the topic better during this class period, but it nevertheless provided the prelude to this write-up.  Both during and after class, one member of the class stated a few things along the lines of our individual personal revelations are all too often tainted by personal wants, desires, and ideas.  These tainting then corrupt our divine personal revelation, leaving us disjointed and unable to rely on this revelation.  As a result, we should look to the “brethren” to teach us and lead us to Christ because their revelation is untainted.  Therein lays the issue I would like to discuss.  Do we look to someone else to teach us and lead us to Christ because we are prone to relying on our own desires, wants and ideas?  If so, in what ways do we do it and in what ways should we not do it?

The difficulty of addressing this topic is underscored by the fact that modern day leaders have repeatedly said that we do not need much additional revelation, at least at the upper echelons of the Church and as an institution.  Gordon B. Hinckley, while acting as President of the Church, rather infamously stated in an interview that, “Now we don’t need a lot of continuing revelation.  We have a great, basic reservoir of revelation[2],” as well as reiterating in a separate occasion, “…we have a great body of revelation, the vast majority of which came from the prophet Joseph Smith.  We don’t need much revelation.[3]

Jeffrey R. Holland also declared something along similar lines when he said, “To help us make our way through these experiences, these important junctures in our lives, let me draw from another scriptural reference to Moses. It was given in the early days of this dispensation when revelation was needed, when a true course was being set and had to be continued[4](emphasis added).  Lest we think this is a modern development in the Church, we turn to Joseph F. Smith when he was also President of the Church.  During the Reed Smoot Senate Confirmation Hearings Joseph F. Smith was asked by the confirmation committee, “Have you received any individual revelations yourself, since you became president of the church …?,” to which Joseph F. Smith responded, “I cannot say that I have.[5]

With a body of leadership stating that there is a less of a need to have and receive revelation today, it’s no wonder that individual members may be at odds with the need for personal revelation.  Even if they see a need for personal revelation, all too often this need is given to general authorities of the church to whom members look for guidance.  This is further compounded when personal revelation is viewed as being tainted by personal wants and desires, all the while the hierarchy of the church is seemingly protected from these tainting aspects of revelation.

Author Denver Snuffer dedicated an entire chapter of his book Eighteen Verses to this idea taught by Gordon B. Hinckley and Jeffrey R. Holland regarding the time we find ourselves and the revelation we should or should not expect to receive.  This chapter in his book is based off an obscure verse of scripture found in an obscure book in the Book of Mormon.  Omni 1:11 states:

“And behold, the record of this people is engraven upon plates which is had by the kings, according to the generations; and I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written.  And I make an end.”

As a response to this proclamation by Omni, Snuffer offers this poignant thought:

“The writer confirms “that which is sufficient is written” and sincerely believed this to be true.  This thought illustrates what his ancestor, Nephi, condemned when he warned against any who should say:  “We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!” (2 Nephi 28:29).  This is an illustration of the kind of religion which endlessly repeats old inspirational stories while failing to add any new ones.  Having faith in what others did long ago, when events in their lives caused their faith to be tested, is no substitute for having faith to see the miraculous in your own life.  Joseph Smith had this to say:  “Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation with God ….” (TPJS 324).[6]

One may be led to ask why revelation ceases, or why some feel that “we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!”  Whatever the answer to that question, it may also provide insight into why some are afraid to seek personal revelation, or are afraid of being misled by personal revelation, and instead rely on others to show them the way.  This is discussed at length in Eighteen Verses, from which I quote only a tiny portion:

“The reason revelation ceased among the direct descendants of Nephi’s line, who originally maintained the plates, is not explained in full.  Nor is the reason for the word of the Lord abandoning the Israelite leadership at the time of Eli.  It seems likely the reasons had more to do with the inclinations of the leaders to seek revelation than the Lord’s willingness to give it.  It may well be those former leaders did not seek revelation because they thought they already had a great store of existing truths which were not being lived fully.[7]

This statement describes Gordon B. Hinckley’s statement perfectly.  In the Book of Mormon we find many, many examples of people using their agency to both pursue and seek for personal revelation, as well as examples of those who turn from it.  The Book of Jacob contains one such instance.  In the opening chapter of book of Jacob we read:

“For because of faith and great anxiety, it truly had been made manifest unto us concerning our people, what things should happen to them.  And we also had many revelations, and the spirit of much prophecy; wherefore, we knew of Christ and his kingdom, which should come.[8]

Here, in contrast to what is mentioned by Omni, is a group of people who received “many” revelations, possessed the spirit of prophecy, and were greatly blessed because of their desire to seek after these things.  They were not content merely with past revelation that was written and given to people of a day gone by.  They exhibited a level of faith sufficient to receive answers and it is noted that they had a “great anxiety” to be taught and instructed.  They acknowledged that they did not have all the answers and, instead, they actively sought for revelations and the gift of prophecy.  Christ instructs throughout modern scripture that if we ask, we shall receive (see Matt. 21:22; John 16:24; 1 Ne. 15:11; Enos 1:15; among many others).  The use of the world “shall” in scripture, especially in this context of asking and receiving, “implies a promise, command or determination … when shall is uttered with emphasis in such phrases, it expresses determination in the speaker, and implies an authority to enforce the act.[9]

This is no empty promise.  Christ wants us to ask and, indeed, is imploring us to ask.  He wants to give us light, knowledge and truth.  He wants us to grow.  He is not content with us merely surviving this mortal experience, simply going through the motions.  It should also be noted that Christ is disappointed when we do not ask and do not search out things we do not know.  Christ mentioned as much when he visited the Nephite disciples at the time of his appearance on the American continent.  While teaching these disciples about the meaning of the “other sheep I have which are not of this fold” statement he had told to the apostles who were at Jerusalem[10].  Christ specifically mentions in 3 Nephi 16:4 that “if it so be that my people at Jerusalem … do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, …,” implying that there is knowledge and insight to be gained from asking questions, especially questions on topics for which Christ has left a trail of breadcrumbs.  It is interesting to note, then, in this context that Christ was troubled “because of the wickedness of the House of Israel” (3 Nephi 17:14), wickedness which can be related to this very discussion of not seeking for further light and knowledge and having an inquiring mind.[11]

As quoted above, the inclination to ask seems to be lacking in our day, most importantly at the individual level, but also at the institutional level.  To say that the odds of receiving something we do not ask for are slim would be an understatement.  While it is true that we do, on occasion, receive blessings for which we have not specifically asked, many blessings await us and are only given once we ask and petition the Lord.  We are a complacent people, content to let others teach us and tell us what we should be doing, what we should be taught, how it should be taught and how to think and act.  From media pundits who tell us what to think to books telling us how to improve ourselves, from radio personalities informing us of our opinion to uninspired leaders interpreting life’s important truths[12], we find it much easier to turn to someone else than we find it to develop our relationship with the Divine.

Accessing the airwaves of personal revelation is no easy feat.  It is one that must be fine tuned and understood.  It is not like turning on a television set to our favorite news show or the radio to our favorite station.  While personal revelation can happen much more frequently than it probably does in our individual lives, God will still try our patience.  It is perhaps this line of thinking which led Neal A. Maxwell to declare:

“One’s life … cannot be both faith-filled and stress-free … how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, ‘Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art!  Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy! … Real faith…is required to endure this necessary but painful developmental process.[13]

In our quest to acquire more constant personal revelation we will still be led, nevertheless, through times of trial, doubt, uncertainty and difficulty.  Yet in this process of fine-tuning and in viewing those instances of personal revelation, we should view the instances of personal revelation which we receive as gifts from God as we try to walk the path which He would have us follow.  In thinking over this topic I was reminded of an experience Edgar Cayce, who some call either the “sleeping prophet” or the “sleeping (false) prophet,” had.  Before sharing that story; however, this scripture in the Doctrine & Covenants is applicable to this conversation:

“For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift?  Behold, he rejoices not in that which was given to him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (D&C 88:33).

Complement this verse with this dream Edgar Cayce supposedly had, as related by Jess Stearn:

“Cayce was literally a dreamer, and he felt people could learn about themselves and the world about them by studying their own dreams. “Consciousness is sought by man for his own diversion. In sleep, the soul seeks the real diversion or the real activity of self.”  If he didn’t understand a dream, he would lie down and interpret it in trance.

“In one dream, he saw himself climbing to a heavenly chapel to pray. A celestial custodian showed him a large room crammed with packages, beautifully wrapped and addressed to different people. They had not been delivered, and the custodian sorrowfully explained why, “These are gifts for which people have been praying, but they lost their faith just before the date of delivery.[14]

Of the many gifts our Heavenly Father and Christ would give us, surely personal revelation is one of the greatest for in receiving it we are receiving pure knowledge, inspiration and guidance from the pure source.  Indeed, personal revelation is a very real connection with the Divine.  Do we, on occasion (more frequently?), fail to view personal revelation as both a gift and guidance from the Divine?  Do we reject the gift if we are afraid to utilize it, or prefer to hear someone else tell us what guidance we’re seeking?  To be sure, church leaders and inspired individuals do provide words of counsel which can bless and uplift, but there’s a greater goal to be gained and a greater gift to be received than merely listening to the experience of others.  As quoted previously, Joseph Smith stated this very thing when he said, “Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation with God ….[15]”  It is only in establishing our own connection, our own familiarity with God that we can begin to grasp a complete view of our condition and our true relation with God.  Anything else is inferior.

Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, as well as others, forewarned us about our tendency to rely on other men, especially leaders.  Brigham Young once stated, during a conference at the Utah Bowery in 1867, that, “Brethren, this Church will be led onto the very brink of hell by the leaders of this people. ….”  Joseph Smith similarly addressed the saints, though in a different context, whereupon he was expounded the meaning of the fourteenth chapter of Ezekial in the Old Testament.

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

“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel – said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church – that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls – APPLIED IT TO THE PRESENT STATE OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS – SAID IF THE PEOPLE DEPARTED FROM THE LORD, THEY MUST FALL – THAT THEY WERE DEPENDING ON THE PROPHET, HENCE WERE DARKENED IN THEIR MINDS, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy.[16]

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

Ultimately, the Savior did what He did for us as individuals.  The relationship we need to be nurturing and cultivating is that relationship with Him, on an individual level.  To suggest that we need a mediator for THE mediator is rightly preposterous, and yet that’s what we largely believe today – that the knowledge of the Savior is best obtained through other “inspired” men.  We forego drinking water from the Pure Source for water from another source.

The problem we have, as I see it, is that we have been instructed by leaders of the Church that they (the leaders) simply cannot lead us astray.  Even if they wanted to, they are somehow prevented from so doing because of their position in the Church.  This teaching seemingly originated with Wilford Woodruff and the now famous Manifesto that did away with the practice (at least publicly) of polygamy in 1890.  Since his statement those many years ago there has been an increasing clarion call by the leaders reiterating this very same line of thinking.  Perhaps Joseph Fielding Smith summed this feeling up best when he stated:

“There is one thing in which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds.  Neither the President of the Church, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.[17]

To be sure, Joseph Fielding Smith is not alone in this belief.  Whatever the original intent of this statement, or the current meaning, many members rely on this teaching and is even shared in the form of a testimony during numerous church meetings.  This teaching only serves to promote the idea that all we really need to do is trust the brethren, trust the leaders of the church and do, ultimately, whatever they instruct us to do over the pulpit, in magazines or in manuals.  Given that they profess that their unified voice always represents the “mind and will of the Lord,” all we, as lay members, need to do is follow them and what they say.

As attractive as this teaching is to the natural man and the idea that there is some mortal being that we can trust at all times, in all places and no matter what, it simply is not scriptural.  The Lord, in the Doctrine & Covenants, instructs us that:

“… man bshould not counsel his fellow man, neither ctrust in the arm of flesh – But that every man might aspeak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world…[18]

In a couple of different scriptures in the Book of Mormon, Nephi spoke of trusting in what he called the “arm of flesh”.  The arm of flesh, quite literally, is trusting in man to teach and preach and lead the way to God and Christ.  It is trusting in man to protect, guide and instruct us.  It is trusting in man – any man – for our salvation and spiritual education.  Some may argue that a “prophet” is not a “man” in this definition, but I have yet to find any example which qualifies “man” to exclude someone holding a certain calling in a Church, no matter how elevated.  Clearly trusting in the arm of flesh has other ancillary definitions, but trusting in the arm of flesh has a direct correlation with our ability to receive and obtain personal revelation.  When we seek to be taught from men, we will obtain men’s understanding.  When we seek to be taught from the Spirit, we will obtain divine understanding.  These two are not the same and no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, we are still left alone with the intimate decision of who we follow.

Nephi makes these two statements in regard to trusting in the arm of flesh:

“O Lord, I have atrusted in thee, and I will btrust in thee forever. I will not put my ctrust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his dtrust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.[19]

“Cursed is he that putteth his atrust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the bprecepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.[20]

The second statement contains a very appropriate and important exemption for trusting in man, that being when the precepts taught by a man are “given by the power of the Holy Ghost.”  How, then, can we know when something taught to us is given by this power, or if it’s merely given without the power?  It would seem that personal revelation is what is needed to interpret discourses, articles, lessons, teachings, preaching and any idea put forth which claims to be from God.  Truth is not confined to an institution, to a calling, or to a specific group of men leading a specific religious institution.  Truth transcends the boxes we create for it.[21]

Christ specifically told us that He, personally, will teach any and all willing to listen; all we have to do is “open the door[22]” and ask God who “gives liberally.[23]”  Sometimes this teaching does come from a messenger He sends, but mostly it comes while we are on our solitary road, when we ask and seek for the knowledge and truth only He can provide.  Christ also taught, elsewhere, that we should all stand or fall by ourselves, trusting in no other person than Him alone[24].

Indeed, it’s an individual journey and process which we must undertake in our own solitary way.  The end goal, the only goal, after all, of personal revelation is to create and gain an intimate relationship with our Savior.  Without that personal relationship life loses its meaning and we are left alone, man/woman, in this lone and dreary world.  On speaking of this individual journey contrasted with the seeming comfort we may find in a collectivist view of being a “chosen” person, Denver Snuffer opined:

“Each of us must find Christ for ourselves.  Popular opinion and the collective view of who are God’s “chosen people” cannot be trusted.  There has never been a safe, broad mainstream which reliably prepared or can prepare anyone to receive Him.  It has never happened this way.  We delude ourselves into thinking it will be otherwise for us.  It was always designed that the Gospel of Christ requires you to find Him in His solitary way.  His way is that of a “thief” who comes without credentials, without trappings and without public acclaim.  His only sign of authority may be that your heart will burn within you as He speaks to you while in the way.  Often times He will require you to first accept the unlikely truths which save, originating from unlikely sources, before He will permit you to come to the Throne of Grace.[25]

Of all the scriptures which discuss the nurturing of this vital relationship with Christ, I think this scripture in Jeremiah clarifies it best:

31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a anew bcovenant with the house of cIsrael, and with the house of Judah:

32 Not according to the acovenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:

33 But this shall be the acovenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my blaw in their inward parts, and write it in their chearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all aknow me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their biniquity, and I will remember their sin no more[26].

In all likelihood God is speaking to us far more often than we realize.  Christ stated that He was the “light and life of the world – a light that shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.[27]” This is the same light of Christ that has been given to every man, woman and child on this earth[28].  Unfortunately, most of us are walking in darkness at noonday and fail to recognize the light that is within[29].  In order to hear the voice of God and receive revelation, all we really need to do is to begin listening.

It would seem, then, that the ultimate goal that both God the Father and Christ have for us here in mortality, as the verses in Jeremiah indicate, is to come to know them for ourselves.  To establish a connection and relationship with them, a connection and relationship that transcends all other relationships and experiences we might otherwise have here in mortality.  That goal would include having his “law” written in our hearts and being numbered among “[His] people.”  In the movie The Other Side of Heaven, a dramatization of John H. Groberg’s missionary experiences, we hear this quote, which reiterates this very point:

“There is a connection between heaven and earth; finding that connection gives meaning to everything, including death; missing it makes everything meaningless, including life.[30]

We must find that connection, open that door, and seek for the Holy One of Israel ourselves.  That connection is the Holy One of Israel through revelation that He is waiting to give us, if we would but answer His call and knock.  That connection is what will open the doors of eternity to us.  He will write His law upon our hearts and we will become His people, but only if we trust in Him and no other.  We must approach the Mediator Himself, not some substitute, in order to be taught on an individual level from the Master teacher.


[1] Hinckley, Gordon B.  “A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for the Youth.”  New Era, January 2001, page 8.

[2] Hinckley, Gordon B.  Compass Interview.  9 November 1997.

[3] Hinckley, Gordon B.  San Francisco Chronicle interview with Don Lattin.  13 April 1997.

[4] Holland, Jeffrey R.  Cast Not Away Therefore Thy Confidence.  June 2000 Liahona.

[5] Reed Smoot Case, Volume 1, pages 483-484.

[6] Snuffer, Denver.  Eighteen Verses.  Pages 104-105.

[7] Id. Page 122.

[8] See Jacob 1:5-6.

[9] Definition of shall, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.  http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,shall

[10] See 3 Nephi 15:11-24; 3 Nephi 16:1-4; and 3 Nephi 17.

[11] See Doctrine & Covenants 93:24.

[12] See Mosiah 23:14; 2 Nephi 28:31.

[13] Maxwell, Neal A.  “Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds.” Ensign, May 1991.

[14] Stearn, Jess.  Edgar Cayce – The Sleeping Prophet, page 22.

[15] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 324.

[16] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Section Five.  Pages 237-238.

[17] Smith, Joseph Fielding.  Conference Report, April 1972.  Page 99.

[18] Doctrine & Covenants 1:19-20.

[19] 2 Nephi 4:34.

[20] 2 Nephi 28:31.

[21] In Come, Let Us Adore Him, Denver Snuffer discusses this idea.  On pages 70-71 of his book, he states, “Christ’s message is his authority.  His words are what distinguish His true ministers from false ones He never sent.  Anyone teaching His truth should be recognized as His messenger.  He taught this to Moroni.  Those who will receive Christ in any generation do so because they hear and recognize His words (see Ether 4:12).  Anyone who will not believe in His words, no matter who He sends to speak them, will not believe in Christ or His Father.  Those who trust only institutional sources of truth, whether they are Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, or Latter-day Saint, believe in an institution, and do not believe in Christ.  The ability to individually recognize His words distinguishes those who are saved from those who are lost.”

[22] Revelation 3:20.

[23] James 1:5.

[24] Mark 9:40-48 (JST)

[25] Snuffer, Denver.  Come, Let Us Adore Him.  Pages 68-69.  2009.

[26] Jeremiah 31:31-34.

[27] Doctrine & Covenants 45:7.

[28] Doctrine & Covenants 84:44-47.

[29] Doctrine & Covenants 95:5-6.

[30] Groberg, John H.  The Other Side of Heaven.