Posts Tagged ‘New Testament’


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

Article of Faith #4

Re-Baptism

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

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

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

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

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

Scriptural Examples

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

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

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

Doctrine of the Restoration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Curtailment by Default

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

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

Mystery and History

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

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

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

And, later:

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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Blinded by the Light – the Parable of the Moth

This article and write-up had its naissance thanks to an article which was linked to the Huffington Post.  That article, entitled, Anything Beyond the Universe?  New Theory Changes Our Destiny[1], was a thought provoking article on what we view as reality – constructs of time and space – and how that may be changing.  I would encourage all to read it before continuing on here.

There are numerous aspects from that article from which I could create and write an article, though it may not do justice to the true parable of the Moth as it plays itself out in our individual lives.  The paragraph and statement, however, which jumped out on me was a statement on moths.  Moths, as those who have seen them in action can attest, love light.  Turn on a light in the dark of night and a moth will flock to it for reasons I do not understand.  Turn on another light, and the moth will likely float along to that light, trying to penetrate the glass that houses the light.  The moth will likely, then, fly around between the available lights for hours on end.  This will continue until either the person watching the moth will try to free the moth from the madness of the scene, until the moth dies, or until some other unfortunate incident occurs.

To a moth, this scene tells a vastly different story and, although this article will discuss how we humans can learn something from this evolutionary dance, I feel obliged to share some of the studies done on the moths and their attraction to light.  There are, according to the brief research I did on this topic, at least two schools of thought on why moths are attracted to light sources.  One such school of thought is represented by Dr. Henry Hsaio, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of North Carolina, while the other, for the purposes of this article, will be represented by Dr. May Berenbaum, Head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois.

Henry Hsaio has stated in some moth studies that moths exhibit two kinds of behavior:  (1) when they’re distant from a light source they are drawn to the light source and make a beeline straight to it; and, (2) once the moths are in close proximity to the light source, the moth actually tries to avoid the light.[2] In trying to avoid the light, these same moths are seeing in vision the “Mach band.”  The Mach band, which can be seen by all sighted creatures, is the “region surrounding a bright light that seems darker than any other part of the sky.”[3] Hsaio, in his studies, postulated that the moth, in trying to fly within the Mach band, is actually seeking out the darkest part of the sky, which, according to Hsaio, is the safest area for the moths.  This theory also suggests that moths, who try and hide themselves in the daytime from predators, view the light source as a signal of morning light and are trying to seek that light and find a hiding place.

Dr. Berenbaum, in an interview with NPR discussed a slightly different view.[4] The “standard line of explanation,” according to Berenbaum, suggests that moths and other nocturnal insects use “celestial navigation” as a way of orienting themselves in the dark, much the same way man has done for centuries.  The reason moths, supposedly, are attracted to porch lights and the like is because these lights take on a “terrestrial” point source in their minds, much the same way sea turtles can be distracted by porch lights on the beach while they look for the moon to signal when they should head back to sea.[5]

When you step back to consider these schools of thought, they really aren’t that much different.  In essence, the moths are (a) disoriented by the false light, (b) distracted by the false light and (c) nevertheless seeking refuge in the light.  Obviously, taking these results and applying them to ourselves individually, there are potentially many lessons we can learn.  While I do not intend to expound each of these ideas, there is yet a further idea I would like to discuss – namely what we see when we witness this “light dance.”

It could be said, and indeed it has been said, that these moths are completely oblivious to their surroundings when a false light (by false light, I mean any source that isn’t natural – like celestial objects) comes into their view.  They, as mentioned in both of the articles on the two different schools of thought, make a “beeline” for the source of light and use that light to either seek refuge from the predators of the night, or to orient themselves on their travels.  Neither goal is achieved, unfortunately, in this “light dance.”  What is achieved, however, is a complete and total distraction to what is happening all around them.

Robert Lanza, in the original article from the Huffington Post, shared something that Loren Eiseley once wrote on this very subject:

“While I was sitting one night with a poet friend watching a great opera performed in a tent under arc lights, the poet took my arm and pointed silently. Far up, blundering out of the night, a huge Cecropia moth swept past from light to light over the posturings of the actors. ‘He doesn’t know,’ my friend whispered excitedly. ‘He’s passing through an alien universe brightly lit but invisible to him. He’s in another play; he doesn’t see us. He doesn’t know. Maybe it’s happening right now to us.”

This statement should, hopefully, elicit some internal yearnings to better understand the universe in which we individually live.  Are we, like the huge Cecropia moth, blundering on in the darkness, oblivious to the universe which is all around us?  Are we ignorant to the realities that present themselves in our everyday lives, simply because we aren’t really paying attention to what is going on around us?  Maybe, just maybe, it is happening right now to us.

This thought, so eloquently set forth by Eiseley, isn’t without scriptural support.  The Doctrine & Covenants discuss, in a veiled way, what it means to walk in darkness – a metaphor which has direct application to this discussion:

For the preparation wherewith I design to prepare mine apostles to aprune my vineyard for the last time, that I may bring to pass my bstrange act, that I may cpour out my Spirit upon all flesh—But behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many who have been ordained among you, whom I have called but few of them are achosen.  They who are not chosen have sinned a very grievous sin, in that they are awalking in bdarkness at noon-day. … If you akeep not my commandments, the blove of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall cwalk in darkness.[6]

The meaning of this scripture may get lost in the cracks of our everyday lives, but it is directly applicable to us, today.  We are those who are walking at “noon-day” in that we fail to see the light shining all around us.  Whereas the moth is distracted from the universe which surrounds it because of false light sources, we are distracted from the universe which surrounds us because we glory in the darkness.  To be fair, we may not “glory” in the darkness, but all too frequently we reject the light because we “per-ceive” it not.  The light, much like the example of the moths, is not hidden from us mortals, but all too often we choose not to “see” that light.  The light which I am referring to, I hope, would be obvious to the reader.  That light is none other than Christ.

For, behold, it is I that speak; behold, I am the alight which shineth in darkness, and by my bpower I give these words unto thee.  … Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the aSon of God. I am the life and the blight of the world.[7]

I am the alight which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not[8].

Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the aSon of God. I am the same that came unto mine bown, and mine own received me not. I am the clight which shineth in ddarkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.[9]

Similarly, Christ reiterates this same idea throughout the New Testament.

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the alight of the world: he that followeth me shall not bwalk in cdarkness, but shall have the light of life[10].

Whereas the moth is attracted to a false light source, mistaking it for a celestial body which it uses to guide itself on its journeys, we tend to mistake darkness for light.  We view our surroundings, the false paradigms of our worlds, the chasing after money, goods, possessions, “that … which doth corrupt the soul,”[11] as the purpose of our existence.  And, if not the purpose, certainly something worth spending the majority of our life chasing after.  If that is not the purpose of our existence, then why do we spend the vast majority of our time laboring after those things which, according to Isaiah, “satisfieth not?”  (see Isaiah 55:2).  It seems nonsensical, when you think about it.  Looking at the things on which we spend our energy and resources, it’s no wonder Christ states that we are “walking in darkness at noon-day.”  We’re so distracted and overwhelmed with “life” that we forget the reasons why we are here on earth.

Christ himself describes this darkness in a separate section of the Doctrine & Covenants, where he says, “…that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.”[12] Centuries earlier, a prophet who had seen and communed with Christ, echoes these words in the concluding chapters of the Book of Mormon where he writes, “…all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil … that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.”[13]

While we may conjecture and postulate what it is about the false light sources which distracts and leads astray the moths in their nocturnal flight patterns, the scriptures have laid out a formula and method whereby we can avoid similar distractions.  According to the scriptures discussed previously, what we must do is find those things which “enticeth to do good” and to serve God.  In so doing, we will find the “light which shineth in the darkness” (which shineth in [us], though we comprehend it not).

A friend of mine, in an email, stated the following in discussing the opening verses of Alma chapter 41 (his words are in the brackets):

3 And it is requisite with the ajustice of God that men should be bjudged according to their cworks; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be drestored unto that which is good. [good = happiness]

4 And if their works are evil they shall be arestored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be brestored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame—cmortality raised to dimmortality, ecorruption to incorruption—raised to fendless happiness to ginherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other—

5 The one raised to ahappiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; [good = happiness] and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.

6 And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.

aThese are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, [of Hell – or our current state of mind] that are delivered from that endless night of darkness [which is in our own minds]; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.

As verse seven describes, those who are redeemed of the Lord, are taken out [of hell – or our current blinded state of mind; our current false paradigms; our current skewed individual universes] and are delivered from that “endless night” of darkness [again, in our own minds].  As we seek the true source of light, discussed in the above scriptures, we will lay hold of every good thing and be led to the:

“…light which shineth, which giveth [us] light, is through Him who enlightened [our] eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth [our] understandings; … which is in all things, which given life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed…for intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light…”[14]

Let us shun the darkness and cleave unto the Light.  It is the only way.  He is the only way.


[1] Robert Lanza, M.D.  Anything Beyond the Universe?  New Theory Changes Our Destinyhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-lanza/anything-beyond-the-unive_b_455260.html.  Retrieved 02/09/2010.

[2] Cecil Adams.  Why are moths attracted to bright lights? http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1071/why-are-moths-attracted-to-bright-lights.  01/27/1989.  Retrieved 02/09/2010.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Why are Moths Attracted to Flame? http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12903572.  08/18/2007.  Retrieved 02/09/2010.

[5] Ibid.

[6] See Doctrine & Covenants 95:4-6, 12.

[7] See Doctrine & Covenants 11:11, 28.

[8] See Doctrine & Covenants 10:58.

[9] See Doctrine & Covenants 6:21.

[10] See John 8:12.

[11] See Mosiah 29:40.

[12] See Doctrine & Covenants 50:23.

[13] See Moroni 7:12-13.

[14] See Doctrine & Covenants 88:11-13, 40.


Post 2 (Originally written for weepingforzion.com):

All We Need is Love  by:  Guest Author (Tom)

What is Love, or in other words, what is Charity?

I’ve been engaged in several conversations over the past couple of weeks regarding the state of today’s LDS Church and have been constantly reminded that “all we need is Love”.  The response to inquiries into the state of the church, church policies, doctrines, leadership, etc., all goes back to this euphemism – “all we need is Love.”  Typically, this “love” is related to the differences between the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life.  The tree of life, symbolizing God’s love, is the tree we’re shooting for.  The tree of knowledge of good and evil, the tree we’re hoping to avoid, is the tree which, supposedly, relates to these inquiries, questions and discussions regarding the brethren, different policies and procedures.

The Nature of Criticism

It seems that the critique of a policy or procedure is inexplicably linked to a critique of the brethren (brethren being the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 Apostles).  No longer can we, as this logic flows, question something the church does without it automatically implicating them.  They, as I suppose, are those who send orders down to various levels of an extremely centralized hierarchy and as such purveyors of information, policy and procedure, they are either glorified or vilified for the results.  Never mind that this logic flow doesn’t truly work in other areas and sectors of our lives, it nevertheless is the apparent case within the LDS Church and its members.

Interestingly, in a talk which has granted members supposed justification to persecute others they view as criticizing, or at the very least a justification and need stifle “apostate” behaviors, Dallin H. Oaks differentiated between two kinds of criticism.  One he defined as “the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything”, and stated that this form of criticism is “inherent in the exercise of agency and freedom.”  Today, however, all criticism of church policies, teachings and programs seemingly fall within the other definition Dallin H. Oaks gave, that of “passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding.”  It’s unfortunate that members would persecute other members, and stifle discussion of issues, because of ignorance between these two definitions of criticism.

Indeed, Dallin H. Oaks further added this recommendation, which we’d do well to understand and implement:

“The counsel to avoid destructive personal criticism does not mean that Latter-day Saints need to be docile or indifferent to defective policies, deficient practices, or wrongful conduct … Our religious philosophy poses no obstacle to constructive criticism of such conditions. The gospel message is a continuing constructive criticism of all that is wretched or sordid in society.  … But Christians who are commanded to be charitable and to “[speak] the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) should avoid personal attacks and shrill denunciations. Our public communications—even those protesting against deficiencies—should be reasoned in content and positive in spirit.” – Dallin H. Oaks

Instead of shying away because of fear of harming the reputation of people – especially when the modern man’s (and woman’s) ego is so fragile and easily harmed – we should engage in constructive criticism to avoid the pitfalls that come through groupthink.  However, within the LDS church today, any tiffs with policy, procedures or the like is automatically tainted because of alleged “evil speaking” or “faultfinding” of the brethren, a bitter fruit of that pesky tree of knowledge of good and evil.  This, to a large extent, serves to smother all discussion of policies, procedures, and matters emanating from the Church Office Building.  It seems to suggest that the teaching from the June 1945 Improvement Era maintains a stronghold on the minds of members at all levels of the hierarchy, especially at the individual level.  This teaching stated:

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

Never mind that President George Albert Smith, the newly called President of the Church at that time, repudiated this teaching in his response to a letter from an official from another church questioning the message taught:

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

Yes, in spite of this repudiation and other teachings from the very leaders members sustain as prophets, seers and revelators, this same line of thinking largely exists inside the Church today.  To compound this problem – getting to the heart of this essay – one of the main reasons why we are to forgo our questioning and discussion into questionable policies, procedures and teachings is because we are to be Love.  “All we need is Love” is something that is frequently reiterated in response to anything that appears controversial.  To show love, it seems, we must show mercy, understanding and, unfortunately, acceptance in the face of contradictory information.  Acceptance as used in the previous sentence can either mean personal acceptance (i.e. agreement) or acceptance in that the church and its teachings are how they should be and to speak up is to partake of the bitter fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the expense of the tree of life.

Personally, I fully agree that we must show mercy and understanding to those who labor for the cause of Zion – wherein they actually labor for that cause and not some other – but I do not agree with the injunction that we must accept and move on from the contradictions as we see them.  The reason why I disagree with this premise is rooted in this very discussion on love and charity.  Both love and charity have many levels of understanding, which magnifies the complexity of the situation.  To say that “all we need is love” is an extremely vague and misleading statement.  What kind of love, one might ask?  Do we show “love” in the permissive sense of the word, letting everyone do what they feel is right, or do we show “love” in the same way which Mormon and Moroni – the last two prophets in the Book of Mormon – and Christ showed love.

In writing this essay, I’m fully cognizant that I’m writing from an extremely flawed perspective and paradigm.  I am but one person and fully hope that my errors in reasoning, judgment and application of the following principles and scriptures will be pointed out to me to prevent further errors down the road.  This I fully accept and realize as truth.  Please correct me in my the rationale I put forth to reach my conclusions.

Mormon & Moroni

Moroni first emerges onto the scene in the Book of Mormon in statements made by his father, Mormon, near he end of the record as he states in a couple of different locations his plan to give some of the plates to his son to finish their writings and seal up the record for a latter day (see Words of Mormon 1:1; Mormon 6:6, 11).  It’s significant, in my flawed opinion, that Moroni’s first words and writings can be found in Mormon 8, a chapter filled with words which are none to pleasant on the ear of those living in the times he described.  Mormon 7 is a record of Mormon’s dying testimony, after which Moroni picks up the record and states, in Mormon 8:1, “I … do finish the record of my father, Mormon.”

Mormon 8 is a chapter that pulls on the heartstrings of anyone wanting to know the truth and willing to understand the context of Moroni’s words.  He, Moroni, is noticeably distraught over the destruction of his people, lamenting that:

“…and I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people.  But behold, they are gone, and I fulfil the commandment of my father.  And whether they will slay me, I know not. … wither I go it mattereth not … for I am alone.  My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor wither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I may live I know not.” (Mormon 8:3-5, emphasis added)

Moroni and Mormon, like Christ, were men acquainted with grief, sorrow, pain and death.  Their lives were lived in an era of constant war, destruction and death, Moroni even stated that “…the whole face of this land is one continual round of murder and bloodshed; and no one knoweth the end of the war.”  With this information as a pretext, we jump into the meat of Moroni’s teachings, but before doing so I must comment on love and charity.  In spite of all his afflictions, in spite of all that he had seen and lived through, Moroni nevertheless had a firm testimony of love and charity, because he had been gifted that pure love of Christ.

“34 And now I [Moroni] know that this alove which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father.

“35 Wherefore, I [Moroni] know by this thing which thou hast said, that if the Gentiles have not acharity, because of our weakness, that thou wilt prove them, and btake away their ctalent, yea, even that which they have received, and give unto them who shall have more abundantly.

“36 And it came to pass that I [Moroni] prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles agrace, that they might have charity.

“37 And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made aclean. And because thou hast seen thy bweakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. (Ether 12:34-37)

In these verses I see a story of a man fighting within himself, wanting to be filled with charity in spite of all that is going on around him.  He grew up in a world filled with hate, murder, destruction and cynicism.  He grew up and lived a life which saw everything taken from him – his friends, kinsfolk, his father, the disciples who ministered to him and his father, and any semblance of a home.  Yet, in spite of all these struggles, we see a man who nevertheless was blessed with the gift of charity.  A gift he must have desired, a gift he must have asked for.  In pondering over verse 37, I wonder whether his weakness was a lack of charity during a portion of his earlier life.  In verse 36 he’s praying for others that they may receive grace, which would lead to charity.  In verse 37, the Lord tells him it does not matter whether they have charity (at least it did not matter to Moroni), but what did matter was that Moroni did see “[his] weakness” (verse 37), which the Lord, as promised, made into his strength.

It became such a strength to him that he felt, in spite of the lack of room he had on the plates (Mormon 8:5), the need to include a letter from his father on the topic of charity.  Within this letter Mormon states emphatically:

“Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear…I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love…” (Moroni 8:16-17; emphasis added)

This particular verse is enlightening in how it deals with the discussion of love and charity because these verses immediately follow a stinging rebuke of those who believe in infant baptism, stating that such people are “pervert[ing] the ways of the Lord”, that they shall “perish” absent repentance, that they are in “the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity”, and that they neither have “faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go to hell.”  Those are some pretty strong words for a man, a prophet, who is filled with “everlasting love” and “with charity” and takes time to testify of his being filled with it, but only after reproving those who believe in a fallacious doctrine.

This chapter follows the beautiful writings of Mormon in Moroni 7 which discuss the “pure love of Christ.”  Moroni, likewise filled with such charity, stated throughout his short writings the need for charity, faith and hope and that all things will fail, excepting charity, and that “if ye have not charity, ye are nothing.”  These two men, father and son – Moroni and Mormon – knew like few others what it was like to have charity in the face of a life filled with unimaginable pain, suffering and sorrow.  This undoubtedly was one of the main reasons why they felt the need to share those words with us on the last few remaining pages of their written record, to us who may also witness similar sufferings and afflictions.

Later, Moroni, like his father, also issued a rebuke to us in the last days who pollute the holy church of God and prostitute ourselves for that which is of no worth.  His stinking rebuke was, nevertheless, a result of his love and charity towards us, as strange as that may seem.  He wasted no space in writing what he did, precisely and accurately describing what he needed and was inspired to say.  Some of his rebukes included the following language, in describing the time in which his record [the Book of Mormon] would come forth from out of the ground:

“…it shall come forth in a day when … the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts…”

“…it shall come forth in a day when … there shall be churches built up that shall say:  Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.”

“…ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people … why have ye transfigured the word of God?”

“…ye do walk in the pride of your hearts … unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts…”

“…ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God?”

“…why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans…”  (Mormon 8:28-41).

I would recommend a thorough reading of the entire chapter with the thought in mind of how his charity and love for us, the very people he saw and was writing to, comes through in his words.  Surely, if we look at the words of both Mormon and Moroni we can see that charity and love include a level which can and must be described as either hard, tough, or a rebuking love.  Love is much more than a platitude we add to letters, conversations and discourses about positive messages, it’s also a willingness to say the hard things that sting and cut through the fluff all too present in our current dialogues and conversations.  In writing this they were no doubt partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life, God’s love, in that they were laboring to bring men unto repentance and laboring to get men, across centuries of time, to turn back to God and Christ.

Truly, these men emulated Christ, and truly received “the pure love of Christ”, which required that they, at times, teach truth which is hard to receive (at least, for those who reject truth because it’s uncomfortable).

Christ

Turning, then, to Christ, who needs neither introduction nor preface, especially from me, and some of the ways he showed charity and love to those around him.  I will not attempt to create an exhaustive list of some of his stinging rebukes, but have selected some which show several different ways he used and taught love and charity to those around him:

“And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. … Woe unto you, Pharisees! For ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and the greetings in the market.  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For yea re as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them. … Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! For ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.  … Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge; the fullness of the scriptures; ye enter not in yourselves into the kingdom, and those who were entering in ye hindered” – Luke 11:39-52 (emphasis added)

“And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation …” – Luke 9:41 (emphasis added)

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My ahouse shall be called the house of bprayer; but ye have made it a cden of thieves.” – Matthew 21:12-13 (emphasis added)

“The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from aheaven.  He aanswered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.  And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and alowring, O ye bhypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the csigns of the dtimes?  A wicked and aadulterous generation seeketh after a bsign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the csign of the prophet dJonas. And he left them, and departed.  ¶ Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the aleaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.  aWhich when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?  Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?  Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?  How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?  Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the adoctrine of the Pharisees and of the bSadducees. – Matthew 16:1-12

And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall asin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be blifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and cmurders, and dpriestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall ereject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.” – 3 Nephi 16:10 (emphasis added)

“And while they were at variance one with another they became very aslothful, and they hearkened not unto the commandments of their lord.  And the enemy came by night, and broke down the ahedge; and the servants of the nobleman arose and were affrighted, and fled; and the enemy destroyed their works, and broke down the olive-trees.  Now, behold, the nobleman, the lord of the avineyard, called upon his servants, and said unto them, Why! what is the cause of this great evil?  Ought ye not to have done even as I commanded you, and—after ye had planted the vineyard, and built the hedge round about, and set watchmen upon the walls thereof—built the tower also, and set a awatchman upon the tower, and watched for my vineyard, and not have fallen asleep, lest the enemy should come upon you?  And behold, the watchman upon the tower would have seen the enemy while he was yet afar off; and then ye could have made ready and kept the enemy from breaking down the hedge thereof, and saved my vineyard from the hands of the destroyer. – D&C 101:43-62 (50-54)

There are likewise hundreds of other scriptures in the same vein, uttered, written or spoken by Christ (or his authorized servants) throughout our standard works.  The number of times that Christ has called us wicked, perverse, faithless, adulterous, hypocrites, murderers, full of priestcrafts and wickedness, materialistic, rotten on the inside, and other names and insinuations is almost without number.  Are his rebukes and criticism examples of his partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, a bitter fruit, an example of him not showing forth the very charity of which He himself is the definition?  Did he ever partake of that bitter fruit?  I think the answer to these questions is self-evident.  In all of this Christ provided the perfect example of one who was all about love, whose every action was motivated by pure love for those around him, including the Pharisees and scribes and including us, perhaps the most perverse and wicked generation yet to live on this green earth.  Indeed, Christ is the very definition of charity, especially when it meant rebuking and calling out those who were preaching false doctrines, following false traditions and professing to know his name and gospel.

Conclusion

In the aforementioned examples of Moroni, Mormon and Christ, we have direct and scriptural examples of both love and charity through the use of words and criticism which we typically associate with partaking of the bitter fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This association, as we can see, is largely false.  Charity and love occasionally require us to “[reprove] betimes with sharpness” (D&C 121:43).

One of the definitions for “betimes”, according to the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, is “before it is late” or in “good time”.  In Hebrew, the word for “betimes” is shachar which means to “seek early”, “look early for”, etc.  The reproof needed, then, as directed by the Holy Ghost, must be done before something gets out of hand, while there’s still time to correct the erroneous path and well before the errors take hold within the individual, quorum, class or wherever it’s found.  For those members of the church who hold the priesthood, if they’ve attained the office of teacher or higher (in either the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthoods), then they have a scriptural duty to “teach, expound, exhort, baptize and watch over the church” (D&C 20:42, 53).  To watch over something implies observation, vigilance and providing protection from harm (see Nehemiah 4:7-9; Luke 2:8; D&C 61:38; D&C 82:5; among many others).

To what end do we, or should we, “watch over the church” and how does this relate to charity and love?  I believe that watching over and protecting both flocks and individual sheep (including myself) from harm, error and evil (where we see it and where we are in position to say something) is perhaps the epitome of charity and love that Christ, Mormon and Moroni were showing.  They said and did the things they did because they truly cared for us, were concerned for our spiritual welfare and had special responsibilities and callings to “watch” over us.  Indeed, the Lord is our Shepherd.  His utmost concern is to watch over us and provide us protection from the storms of life where we need it.  If one fails in their watch, as those responsible for building the watchtower in D&C 101, then that person has no charity and must fail.  Christ has charity because he is the very definition of charity and love.  Sometimes that charity and love is soft and meek, sometimes that charity and love is hard and reproves us because of our wickedness.

Questioning a policy, practice or teaching within the church can be, depending on the method, the epitome of love and charity, serving to correct error and lift everyone to higher planes of understanding.  In a world which has grown soft to criticism, where anything relating to “negativity” is viewed as a personal attack or, worse, “evil speaking” and “faultfinding”, and where we in the church are told to avoid all forms of criticism for fear of partaking of that bitter fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, this lesson gets lost in the mud of life and buried deep beneath the surface.

No matter the result, if we deceive ourselves into believing that the only duty we have is to profess allegiance to a form of love which ignores the very love which Jesus and the Lord’s authorized servants have employed since Adam was first on the earth, and if we imply that we have no duty to “watch” over our respective flocks, to speak up and confront error when so impressed by the Holy Ghost, indicates nothing more than the sad fact that we have no understanding of love, nor charity, and must fail.  To suggest that any critique or criticism of policies, practices (false or otherwise), teachings and traditions is partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil at the expense of partaking of God’s love is to promote a perverted version of the truth.  For it is true that at the end of the day all we really do need is love…Christ’s true love, not a misleading definition that promotes both the ignoring and continuation of fallacies wherever they may be found.

Your thoughts, critiques and rebukes are encouraged.  :)

8 Responses to “All We Need is Love”

  1. anonymous Says:
    December 3rd, 2009 at 9:50 pm Best post I have read in a while.

    While admonishing the Thessalonian Saints, Paul encouraged them to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good”.

    Although that scripture is a great one for missionaries to use in getting Christians of other denominations to become critical thinkers and investigate the restoration, it is interesting to note that Paul was not speaking to investigators. He was speaking to his fellow Saints.

    As a general authority, Paul was not as threatened about having his teachings critically analyzed by fellow Saints as he was concerned that the Saints would become complacent and mindless followers, setting themselves up to be taken advantage of by the eventually infiltration of false teachers into the flock.

    Being a critical thinker whilst under the influence of the spirit is how we avoid being deceived and/or avoid getting too far off the path.

    Baptism is not the finish line, it is the starting gate. There is still much to learn and experience after that and much discernment is needed in keeping us on the right path.

    Paul was one of the exceptions to the rule who did not find his way into the fold via the “proving” process. Rather, his paradigm change had to be brought about by divine intervention. It appears as though he had been stuck in the traditions of his fathers and refused to question those in authority… including himself. It appears he refused to be a critical thinker, discerning the fruits of the existing church and its members and leaders.

    This makes his counsel all the more poignant, coming from one who had failed to prove all things and hold fast to that which is good…. he learned the hard way .

    If “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” certainly the edifying act of continuing to prove all things and discerning truth and holding fast to that which is good is a very important function of charity.

    In that context, I agree with your friends…

    all we need is love…

    even if it appears at times to be “tough love”

  1. TuNeCedeMalis Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 12:50 pm My thoughts… A great writeup.

    I have had very similar thoughts recently and appreciate your concise and direct focus on the truth.

    Disagreeing is not lacking love, we simply must pray to have charity for those that we are disagreeing with.

    TuNeCedeMalis

  2. Tom Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 2:35 pm Thanks for the comments…

    Disagreeing is not lacking love, though I’ve heard direct assertions (to me personally) that questioning and disagreeing are automatically linked to both apostasy (from what I might ask?) and to leaving the church, or trying to find your way out of the church on purpose. The flow in logic baffles me – as if to say we can’t question ANYTHING church related without wanting to apostatize or leave the church.

  3. dan Says:
    December 5th, 2009 at 12:58 am It could be viewed that the most Charitable act the Lord ever did to this point was to baptize the earth by water. And he sent a prophet to tell them all they needed to repent first. The next big charitable event is soon on the table. If men could only see as he sees.

    Though in reality the most charitable acts ever performed involved giving up celestial nature that we may live and putting sin on a perfect and sinless mortal body for our sake. Both, if I could do them now, would be seen as evil by the skeptics looking on.

  4. Jeff R. Day Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 6:42 am I think there is a true Love (of Christ), and a false Love (of Paul, in my opinion). Be careful which you apply.

    The topics upon which you have been blogging on here are close to my heart. I was ultimately driven out of the church as a result of going down these paths. But, I would make the same choice again if given the option. Truth will prevail.

    I am just so very glad to see that at least one other person out there cares about some of these topics enough to study them out. Pray, study, hold fast to that which is true, and do not the group-think of the society within the Church to convince you otherwise.

  5. Jake The Ant Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 10:01 am and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.

    Elaborate, ye wise ones.

  6. dan Says:
    December 9th, 2009 at 1:46 am After the resurrection of christ, three days and night in the heart of the earth (hollow earth?) as Jonah in the fish, the people of the south who accepted Jonas words will be given to destroy the Israelites who do not accepted the new covenant or Jonah, Christ.

    This is of course also a last days type. When the servant is marred, he will later be healed and receive power. Than, with all Israel safe, the Gentiles (who had originally accepted Jonah) will reject this new prophet and Israel will not. The last may be first and the first last.

  7. Tom Says:
    December 10th, 2009 at 2:12 am Curious as to why paul’s love was referred to as “false love” (comment #5)…and would love to hear your point of view.

    as to the discussion on “proving all things”, the greek word used in this verse (1 Thess 5:21) is dokimazo, which comes from the root word dokeo. Dokeo means to judge something or have an opinion of something. dokimazo means to “recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy”, and is synonymous with “discern[ing]“. Thanks for pointing this verse, in context, out. Truly we should “prove all things”, but hopefully with the goal of taking what we’ve been given, and improving upon it by taking the good and rejecting the false in favor of better.

    If that makes sense…