Posts Tagged ‘Paramahansa Yogananda’


Thought this might be worth sharing:

Driving the Moneychangers Out of the Temple

After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his abrethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days. And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of amoney sitting: And when he had made a ascourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.

John 2:12-16

The following interpretation of these scriptures comes from Paramahansa Yogananda:

“Meekness is not weakness.  A true exemplar of peace is centered in his divine Self.  All actions arising there from are imbued with the soul’s nonpareil vibratory power – whether issuing forth as a calm command or a strong volition.  Nonunderstanding minds might critique Jesus’ confronting the temple mercenaries with a scourge as contradicting his teaching:  “Resist not evil:  but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”[1] The forceful use of a whip to drive the merchants and money changers out of the house of worship may not seem wholly in keeping with the propagated lamblike image of Jesus, who taught forbearance and love.  The actions of divine personalities, however, are sometimes willfully startling to shake complacent minds out of their vacuous acceptance of the commonplace.  An accurate sense of spiritual propriety in a world of relativity requires a ready wit and a steady wisdom.  The proper course of behavior is not always discerned by scripture-quoting dogmatists whose literal dependence on inflexible dictums may pay homage to the letter rather than the spirit of spirituality in action.

“Jesus responded to an untenable situation, not from an emotional compulsion to wrath, but from a divine, righteous indignation in reverence for the immanence of God in His holy place of worship.  Inwardly, Jesus did not succumb to anger.  Great sons of God possess the qualities and attributes of the ever tranquil Spirit.  By their perfected self-control and divine union, they have mastered every nuance of spiritual discipline.  Such masters participate fully and empathetically in the events of man, yet maintain a transcendental soul freedom from the delusions of anger, greed, or any other form of slavery to the senses.  Spirit manifests Itself in creation through a multiplicity of elevating, activating, and darkening forces, yet remains simultaneously in Uncreated Bliss beyond the teeming vibrations of the cosmos.  Similarly, the Lord’s liberated sons act purposefully and effectively in the world of relativity, adopting any characteristic necessary to accomplish the Divine Will, without deviation from inner attunement with the unruffled calmness, love, and bliss of Spirit.

“The meekness of divine personalities is very strong in the infinity power behind their gentleness.  They may use this power in a forceful dramatization to admonish those who are stubbornly irresponsive to gentler vibrations.  Even as a loving father may resort to firm discipline to deter his child from harmful actions, so Jesus put on a show of spiritual ire to dissuade these grown-up children of God from ignorant acts of desecration, the effects of which would surely be spiritually harmful to themselves as well as to the sanctity of the temple of God.

“Divinely guided actions may command extraordinary means to right a wrong; but they are never activated by wanton rage.  The Bhagavad Gita, the revered Hindu Bible, teaches that anger is an evil enveloping one in a delusion that obscures discriminative intelligence, with consequent annihilation of proper behavior.[2]

“If Jesus had been motivated by a real spate of anger, he might have used his divine powers to destroy utterly these desecrators.  With his little bundle of cords he could not have seriously hurt anyone.  In fact, it was not the whip but the vibration of colossal spiritual force expressing through his personality that routed the merchants and moneychangers.  The spirit of God was with him, a power that was irresistible, causing throng of able-bodied men to flee before the intensely persuasive vibration of a single paragon of meekness.

“Spirituality abhors spinelessness.  One should always have the moral courage and backbone to show strength when the occasion calls for it.  This is well illustrated by an old Hindu story.

“Once upon a time, a vicious cobra lived on a rocky hill on the outskirts of a village.  This serpent extremely resented any noise around his dwelling, and did not hesitate to attack any of the village children who disturbed him by playing thereabout.  Numerous fatalities resulted.  The villagers tried their utmost to kill the venomous reptile, but met with no success.  Finally, they went in a body to a holy hermit who lived nearby, and asked him to sue his spiritual powers to stop the death-dealing work of the serpent.

“Touched by the earnestness of the villagers, the hermit proceeded to the dwelling place of the cobra, and by the magnetic vibration of his love coaxed the creature to come forth.  The master told the snake it was wrong to kill innocent children, and instructed him never to bit again, but to practice loving his enemies.  Under the saint’s uplifting influence, the serpent humbly promised to reform and practice nonviolence.

“Soon thereafter, the hermit left the village for a year-long pilgrimage.  Upon his return, as he was passing the hill he thought:  ‘Let me see how my friend the serpent is behaving.’  Approaching the hole where the serpent dwelt, he was startled to find the hapless reptile lying outside, half dead with several festering wounds on his back.

“The hermit said:  ‘Hello, Mr. Serpent, what is all this?’  The serpent dolefully whispered:  ‘Master, this is the result of practicing your teachings!  Whine I came out of my hole in quest of food, minding my own business, at first the children fled at the sight of me.  But before long the boys noticed my docility, and began to throw stones at me.  When they found that I would run away rather than attack them, they made a sport of trying to stone me to death each time I came out in search of sustenance to appease my hunger.  Master, I dodged many times, but also got badly hurt many times, and now I am lying here with these terrible wounds in my back because I have been trying to love my enemies.”

The saint gently caressed the cobra, instantly healing his hurts.  Then he lovingly corrected him, saying:  ‘Little fool, I told you not to bite, but why didn’t you hiss!’

“Although meekness is a virtue to be cultivated, no one should not abandon common sense nor become a doormat for others to tread over with their misconduct.  When provoked or unfairly attacked, one should show noninjurious strength in support of one’s just convictions.  But even a pseudo display of anger should not be attempted by anyone who has the tendency to lose his temper and self-control in violent behavior.

“Jesus ‘hissed’ at the merchants and money changers because he was not willing that the house of God be demeaned by worldly vibrations of selling and individual profit.  His words and actions signified to the people:  ‘Remove this crass commerciality from God’s temple, for materialistic vibrations quite obscure the subtle presence of the Lord.  In the temple of God the singular thought should be to possess, not worldly profit, but the imperishable treasure of the Infinite.’

“The subtle law of magnetism is that each object or person or action radiates a characteristic vibration that engenders specific thoughts in the consciousness of one who enters its sphere of influence.  The vibration of a candle or oil lamp in the temple induces thoughts of unruffled peace or of the illumination of wisdom – light being the first manifestation of Spirit – whereas any form of commerciality involving worldly goods stirs restlessness and sensory desires.  … The selling of … merchandise in the house of God, and marketing goods for individual profit, set up derogatory vibrations contrary to the purpose and spiritual consciousness of the holy place.”


[1] Matthew 5:39

[2] “Anger breeds delusion; delusion breeds loss of memory (of who you are).  Loss of right memory causes decay of the discriminating faculty.  From decay of discrimination, annihilation (of spiritual life) follows” (God Talks With Arjuna:  The Bhagavad Gita II:63).  This particular verse of the Bhagavad Gita meshes nearly perfectly with the original Hebrew translation of the 10 commandments in Exodus 20.  Whereas the modern bible we typically read (i.e. King James version, etc) don’t get to the true heart of the matter, the original Hebrew is based entirely off of what will “mar” you inside.  According to the Chronicle Project, the most correct definition of the latter commandments specifically link up to the following meaning:  “Don’t let your desire for things mar you.  … It is wrong to want things so badly that you will twist who you are to obtain them.”  This definition works particularly well with the commandments on “coveting” other things – it’s not the things that are the issue so much as our twisting and changing who we really are to get them.

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

Mark 15:2-3

Are You Correlated?

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

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

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

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

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

Daymon Smith on Correlation

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

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

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

The CIA on Correlation

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

A centipede was happy quite.

Until a frog in fun

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

This raised its mind to such a pitch

It lay distracted in a ditch

Considering how to run.

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

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

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

George Ure on Correlation

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

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

Denver Snuffer on Correlation

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

In Packer’s talk, he stated the following:

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

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

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

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


“The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up.” – Psalms 69:9

This scripture is referenced, by the apostles, in the account contained in John 2 where Christ chased out the moneychangers from the temple.  When the apostles saw Jesus chase them out with such emotion, they were left few words to say, but “the zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up.”

The question remains: how does this play out in our lives?  As one of my friends likes to say, the importance of this passage is in its application.  The following comes from Paramahansa Yogananda and can be found in the first volume of his work, The Second Coming of Christ:  The Resurrection of the Christ Within You

“The subjective admonition to be drawn from this action of Jesus in the temple is that the sincere worshiper of God must reverentially observe the law of devoted concentration.  To give superficial attention to one’s prayers, while entertaining in the background of the mind thoughts of one’s life enterprises – getting and having, planning and doing – is to take the name of God in vain.  The manifesting power of concentration comes from centering the mind upon one thing at a time.  “Buying and selling” – the unending “busy-ness” of material life – should be carried on in the marketplace of one’s duties; whereas it is distractingly intrusive in the temple of prayer – just as an altar and preaching in a shop would be an unwelcome imposition on the legitimate conduct of commerce.  Halfhearted, unconcentrated mental rambling during the time of prayer brings neither a response from God nor the focused power of attention necessary for material success.

“Though God tries to respond to the earnest prayers of His children, His voice resonating in intuition-felt peace is wholly distorted by restlessness-producing transactions between the senses and the outer world, and by the aroused attention-demanding associated thoughts.  The Lord recedes humbly into a remote silence when the temple of His devotee’s concentration becomes a noisy marketplace desecrated by these mercenaries of material consciousness.  Soul intuition – the inner Christlike preceptor and guide of man’s sublime thoughts and feelings – must come and wield with will power the whip of spiritual discipline and self-control to drive out the intruders.  Repeated practice of scientific techniques of meditation fully concentrates the attention within, blessing the temple of inner communion with a tranquil surcease of sensory commerce.  The devotee’s consciousness is thereby restored to a sanctuary of silence, wherein alone is possible true worship of God.[1]


[1] Meditation – concentration upon God – is the portal through which every seeker of every faith must pass in order to contact God.  Withdrawal of the consciousness from the world and the senses for the purpose of communing with God was taught by Christ in these words:  “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet [draw the mind within], and when thou hast shut thy door [the door of the body and senses], pray to thy Father which is in secret [within you]” (Matthew 6:6; see Discourse 28).


Amateur Hour

The other day, reading a few random talks from random individuals, I came across a very short essay written by Hugh Nibley.  This essay discussed the idea of a paid clergy within the church and the pros and cons of a paid clergy.  What is so interesting about many of Nibley’s essays is how they discuss history and how that applies to a modern context.  That essay, entitled “The Day of the Amateur,”[1] is still as applicable today, if not more so, than it was then.

The article, as the title alludes to, is little more than a discussion and contrast of professionals on the one hand, and amateurs on the other.  Professionalism is, as Nibley states, “the child of the universities.”[2] Before there were professionals, there was what is called the Sophoi, “ancient traveling teachers who gave the modern world its moral and intellectual foundations.  They were, to a man, amateurs.”  Professionals, as we all well know, are paid for their opinions, works and teachings.  Amateurs, like Olympian athletes, are not.  They simply do what they do either out of charity or because they feel compelled to do so out of some duty to the human race.

According to Nibley, the amateurs were required by law to be amateurs, “because what they were doing was holy business and not to be contaminated by ulterior motives and ambitions.”[3] In ancient history the Sophists, the great imitators of the Sophoi, eventually overran everything and professionalized it all.  These Sophists were the great professors and the reason why Socrates eventually “advised students to examine prospective teacher’s credentials very carefully and critically.”[4]

As Nibley opines about a day gone by in his usual manner:

“Learning, [now] forgotten in the universities, was revived in academies, salons, societies, courts and coffee houses where amateurs came together to revel in the things of the spirit and make the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the high point of western civilization.  It was the Age of the Amateur.”

Fast forward a few years to the mid-nineteenth century, universities slowly took hold of society and by the twentieth century (and now in the twenty-first century) everyone goes to school for accreditation of some sort.  College teaching, for the most part, offers a “safe birth for mild and mediocre souls who in time, by the sacred role of seniority, [end] up ruling [the] institutions.”[5] Professionals, in this regard, can be boring, inept and lacking of any real inspiration, but the amateur, to get any recognition of any kind, has to be good and inspired.  To maintain the status of an amateur, as the Sophoi of old, the amateur must be honest, dedicated and incorruptible.

Professionals, however, all they need is a certificate, a piece of paper hanging on a wall, a couple of initials after one’s name and, magically (at least in today’s society), they’re granted virtual hero status.  People fawn over them, accept their word as scripture and certainly give much more credence to a professional than some guy with no initials after his name, no degree.

What is particularly troublesome about this essay, to me individually, is that I have often fallen prey to some of the arguments used by the Sophists.  I have been swayed by their opinions, their calls for degrees and certifications.  I went to college because I felt I needed a degree to succeed (financially) in the world, not thinking that there were other ways to succeed, to get by, to live and learn.  I had bought into the following statement, hook, line and sinker:

“You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known.  … You need all the education you can get.  Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify 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.”[6]

I went to school to get a degree in order to get paid from the world “what it thinks [I’m] worth.”  While I appreciate the opportunity to go to school, I nevertheless look back on those years wondering why it was that I fell in line with the crowd and failed to think for myself.  Today, however, I would hope that this statement would raise a few red flags for someone interested in establishing Zion and someone who is, if only slightly, aware of LDS history from the 1800s.   While I agree that education is important, I disagree with the premise of the above statement that implies that education is found only through college and universities, institutions where we may become a “professional” and get a degree, a certification, or whatever it is these days to tell the world that you are now “[qualified] to do the work of the world.”  This quote was restated in the April 2009 New Era, page 19[7], and is juxtaposed between statements of youths from across the United States discussing the importance of attending college and gaining an “education.”  Even more bothersome for me is the urging of the President of the Church imploring the youth of the church to “sacrifice anything that is needed … to qualify to do the work of the world.”  Seems, to me at least, to be a bit too Babylonian in nature, especially when prophets of old have given counsel in direct contradiction to this statement.

According to a discourse given by Brigham Young, Joseph Smith appeared to him in a vision “given right in broad daylight” and gave him a message relating to the building up of Zion.  Young related the following:

“Said [Joseph Smith] – ‘Never spend another day to build up a Gentile city, but spend your days, dollars and dimes for the upbuilding of the Zion of God upon the earth, to promote peace and righteousness, and to prepare for the coming of the Son of Man, and he who does not abide this law will suffer loss.”[8]

Yet, in spite of this statement by Brigham Young, we are much further away from the “upbuilding of the Zion of God upon the earth” today than we ever were then.  Now, in lieu of counsel to build up Zion, we receive counsel which essentially builds up none other than the Great Babylon.  Truly, it is an interesting juxtaposition.  Nevertheless, this quote is used in this article to merely discuss our proclivity to obtain certifications, degrees, and an “education” at the hand of Babylonian professors.  We, naturally, then rely on these certificates to be taken seriously in our personal and professional lives.

Relating this to things of the spirit and the church, some of you may have noticed a certain trend that occurs within the halls of most meeting houses and places of worship, especially among the LDS faith.  Other than the first Sunday of the month, members are asked to prepare and given talks over the pulpit.  This is a way of encouraging mere members of the church to share their experiences, knowledge and spirit with the congregation at large.  It is an inspired practice, it would seem.  It serves as a way for member’s to learn to acquire the spirit, to study the gospel and teach everything by the spirit.

What is an inspired practice, however, has morphed into uniformity of thought.  It’s a true LDS oddity how this could happen.  Pay attention to the next week’s talks, those given by regular members on any given Sunday.  What you will likely find, if your ward or branch is anything like mine, is that most members will simply relay their thoughts in the form of an old Ensign or General Conference talk.  Some of these members will simply read the old Ensign or General Conference talk as if it were their own words, others will re-read the talk word-for-word giving due credit and others still will intersperse their words with the words from the talk.

What makes this unique to the LDS faith is largely the role of general authorities and members of the first presidency and quorum of the twelve apostles in the lives of everyday members.  These men, once called to one of these positions, take on super-human status.  They are no longer capable of error, of giving bad advice or interpreting scriptures to fit a box for which they weren’t meant to fit.  Instead, they become mostly infallible (though no one will admit as much).  Obedience to their words is what is required to be a card-carrying member of the LDS church.  Somehow their words become inspired, their statements become scriptures.  No longer do we, as mere members of the church, filter their words through the spirit to verify whether it is the spirit that is teaching us or whether we’re hearing the man’s opinion.  Instead we rely, word-for-word, on what they say.  Their words then, as a result, become our words.  We quote them, reference them, and repeat them, verbatim, over countless pulpits nearly every week of every year.  Instead of using the scriptures and allowing the spirit to speak through us, we draw on their words to give authority to ours, we rely on their words to justify ours – everything we do is filtered by what “so-and-so” apostle or general authority said.

I am, in this regard, no different.  I have used these very same practices to justify my statements both here on this blog and in talks I have given over the pulpit in years past.  My ability to recognize this issue is highlighted mostly by my own experience, day in and day out, practicing this very method to support and uphold my words.  Only recent have I begun to question what it is, exactly, that we are doing by practicing this sort of “idol” worship, if I may say as much.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, the “general authorities” have taken on expert status when it comes to the gospel and the doctrine of the gospel.  Somewhere along the way we gave them what they never (to my knowledge) asked for – doctrinal authority.  Christ, in his interactions with the Scribes and Pharisees, “distinguished between their right to preside over the church (which He did not challenge), and their assumed exclusive right to teach and interpret scripture (which He utterly rejected).”[9] The scribes and Pharisees, as well as the Sanhedrin, jealously guarded their right to claim leadership by asserting their authority.  “Their appointment to leadership offices, … priestly trappings, and possession of the temple were all used to buttress their claimed rights to preside and exercise control and dominion over the Jews.”[10]

I am not prepared to place these same accusations on the LDS hierarchy, though I see striking and troubling similarities.  At this point, it is the members who presume that the LDS leadership has an “exclusive right to teach and interpret scripture,” though certainly the leadership has, in certain instances, declared that to be their right as leaders.  This exclusivity to teach and interpret scripture is the reason why so many talks rely on so many quotes and statements from “professionals” within the LDS church.  By professionals, I mean those who have a title in front of their name, be it Elder or President or something else.  In our private lives we generally rely on the initials which follow someone’s name to know what to do, what to believe and how to act, be it an M.D., a PhD or something else, while in our religious lives we do exactly the same thing, the only difference being how we rely on the title which precedes a general authority’s name.  No longer, as the logic follows, is it the message that is the most important thing, though surely it is important, rather it’s the title in front of the name which lends especial credence to the message.

I am, admittedly, not quite sure why we have such a fascination with quoting others.  As I previously stated, I am as guilty as the next.  It is, indeed, easier to write and share my thoughts when I bring in quotes from outside sources.  That all being said, it is simply not a black and white issue, though the current practice in the LDS church, in my opinion, is overkill.  Members are all too eager to pick up their favorite talk or a talk which has been given either to them by a member of their Bishopric or one on the subject at hand, and regurgitate it for all to hear.  That, to me, does little more than destroy the spirit of the meeting.  It is true that a well placed quote, a poignant thought and outside sources can indeed enhance the message we are trying to convey, but all too often those quotes become paragraphs.  The paragraphs extend into pages and, before you know it, the talk is over and it turned into one giant quotation.  So be it.  I can only change myself – and I aim to – and you can only change yourself.  The change starts at an individual level and hopefully it does.  Let that change begin with you.  Instead of opening the most recent Ensign, open your scriptures and your heart to hear what the Spirit would teach you.

John Taylor Gatto wrote, in his book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, the following, which underscores one of the reasons why we are so quick to look for the expert to lead us, guide us and save us from ourselves:

“We are addicted to dependency; in the current national crisis of maturity we seem to be waiting for the teacher to tell us what to do, but the teacher never comes to do that.  Bridges collapse, men and women sleep on the streets, bankers cheat, good will decays, families betray each other, the government lies as a matter of policy, corruption, shame, sickness, and sensationalism are everywhere.”[11]

In writing this, ironically enough, I was reminded of a book I just started reading.  A friend recommended this book several months back, at which time I bought it, but it’s been sitting on my shelves gathering dust until this past week.  In the introduction to this book, I found a statement that rang true to my spirit and one which I am trying to convey in this article:

“…What I have tried to convey are the thoughts and consciousness of Jesus that were behind his words when he uttered them.  I commune with Christ and ask him:  ‘I don’t want to interpret the Bible from my own views.  Will you interpret it?’”[12]

Encapsulated in this brief sentence is a meaning that is easy to forget:  we are all too often eager to use someone else’s opinion of the scriptures to justify our thoughts, beliefs and intentions.  Rare, indeed, is the man who searches the scriptures and seeks out the only true interpretation from the true source of light and inspiration.  We would do well to seek Christ and His interpretation of the scriptures as opposed to another man’s interpretations, no matter how good that person’s interpretations may be.  The Pure Source is really the only source from which we should drink.[13]

Nibley, in closing his essay, addresses this very issue and states his opinion on the importance of everyone contributing to the dialogue:

“If we have no professional clergy in the Church, it is not because the Church cannot use expert knowledge, but because all members should be experts where the gospel is concerned, and as such they should make their contribution. All the same contribution? Not at all! The Church is structured for eternal progression, and that takes place as we all feel our way forward along a broad front. Seeking and searching are among the most common words in our scriptures; we are all supposed to be seeking all the time. Just as missionaries go forth as an amateur army, searching out the honest in heart in the most scattered and unlikely places, on the widest possible front, so the rest of us increase in knowledge, here a little and there a little, not by trusting a few experts to come up with the answers, but by all of us searching, all along the line, finding out a fact here and a document there, and reporting the discovery to the whole body.  When he was editor of the Times and Seasons, the Prophet Joseph invited all to contribute.”[14]

The next time you give a talk, or assign someone to give a talk, I hope you take these thoughts to heart.  Stop quoting others and start trusting the spirit and your ability to be taught by the spirit.

What is especially interesting is Nibley’s typical retort at the end of one of his lectures, after having discussed similar ideas:

“Just remember — these things we’ve talked about here today aren’t really that important. What is important is that you keep the commandments and pray for the Lord’s guidance.”[15]

Truly, that is what is most important.  Instead of relying on others to tell us what to believe, to interpret the scriptures for us, to give us quotes and statements to justify what the spirit has undoubtedly taught us, we should pray for and then rely on the Lord’s guidance.[16]

**Approximate percentage of this essay which is made up of direct quotes from others:   23.2% – (676 out of 2,916 words)**


[1] Nibley, Hugh.  “The Day of the Amateur.”  New Era.  Volume 1, number 1.  January 1971.  Pages 42-44.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Hinckley, Gordon.  “A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth.”  New Era.  January 2001, Page 8.

[7] “Questions & Answers,” New Era.  April 2009.  Pages 18-19.

[8] Young, Brigham.  “The Priesthood, Etc.” JD 12:59.

[9] Snuffer, Denver.  Come, Let Us Adore Him.  Page 97.

[10] Ibid.  Page 60-61.

[11] Gatto, John Taylor.  Dumbing Us Down:  The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.  1993, page 99.

[12] Yogananda, Paramahansa.  The Second Coming of Christ:  The Resurrection of the Christ Within You.  2004, page XXX.

[13] See John 4:10.

[14] Nibley.

[15] See http://www.zionsbest.com/amateur.html and the “About the Author” section.

[16] See Jeremiah 31:31-34 for a better discussion on this principle and idea.