Posts Tagged ‘Scribes’


aAnd why beholdest thou the bmote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the cbeam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou ahypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7:3-5

I return, today, to one of my most beloved idols.  Beloved in the fact that it has been a part of every waking moment since I was born.  Beloved in the fact that it was the same for my parents, and my parents parents.  We’re going on several generations now, and we all know that false traditions never happen within my family (or yours) – it’s always in someone elses family that those false traditions manifest themselves.  Remember, the application isn’t about how it effects me, but rather how it effects and manifests itself in your life.

I jest, but certainly there’s some truth in those statements.  It’s much easier to acknowledge and witness faults in others – be it your spouse, friend, relative, church, business, etc. – than it is to witness in ourselves.  Frequently, we’re impervious to just how deep the rabbit holes go in our own lives, and there may be a valuable lesson therein.  Such was the experience I had today.

Christ, in giving one of his many great lessons (aren’t they all great, though?), discussed this in a well known scripture:

aAnd why beholdest thou the bmote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the cbeam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou ahypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. [1]

Though this is well known, and even more ritualized than most scriptures, I thought I’d at least raise the Greek interpretations of two of the most important words in these verses.  These words, mote and beam, aren’t terribly accurate descriptors in our modern day lexicon, or at least my lexicon.  In truth, these words probably couldn’t be more different.  Mote, for example, comes from the Greek word karphos, which means a “dry stalk” or “twig” and comes from the original Greek word karpho which means “to wither.”[2] Little more than an inconsequential twig one could find in any field, growing nearly everywhere.  Growing up in rural America, it wouldn’t be hard to walk into any random field and find a mote.  Beam, by contrast, comes from the greek dokos, which literally means, “a beam[3]” and originates from the idea of “holding up” (i.e. a beam of support, etc).

The visual you should be picturing is one of another person with a tiny, inconsequential twig poking out of his/eye, while you’re parading around with a beam whacking everyone upside the head as you walk around.   But, that’s not all, when you think of “eye” in this scripture, don’t think of your physical eyeball, but rather your “faculty of knowing,” or your “eyes of the mind.”[4] It seems, therefore, that the message of this parable is one where we’re judging the beliefs, actions or personal quirks of another, when in reality our own quirks are much more important because Christ would change us (if we let Him), but doesn’t want to change another through us.  The great lesson of religion is that God wants us to have a personal interaction with Him, not some other.  When Adam was praying, after having been kicked out of the Garden of Eden, along pranced Satan and replied, “so, you want religion, do you?”  It would seem, therefore, that religion is the bastardization of our personal relationship with God and Christ and, pray tell, who brought along that “religion”?  Religion and creeds, therefore, as Joseph Smith stated, are those things which have prevented man from approaching Christ and the Father individually, instead forcing man to jump through hoops, observances, rituals, classes, advancements, seasoning, etc.  Joseph stated it this way:

“I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes, and say, “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further”; which I cannot subscribe to.”[5]

It makes me wonder if Joseph, or anyone in his situation of searching for the unadulterated truth, would receive the same answer today that he received in 1820, namely that all churches (yes, ALL of them)  and creeds “[are] an abomination in his sight; that those professors [are] all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”[6]

Jesus’ words on this subject ring loud and clear in the scriptures, if only we paid more attention to them.  The Book of Luke contains one such instance of his words on this subject and teaches us a great lesson (that we haven’t  yet come to grips with):  “Woe unto you, alawyers! for ye have taken away the bkey of cknowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye dhindered.”[7] Frequently we think this applies to others, that the “law-yers” or “pharisee” title couldn’t apply to us.  Or, could it?

If we really want to come up “into the presence of God, and learn all things,” then we’d be wise to note and avoid those creeds which “set up stakes” and say (or infer, the result is the same), “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further.”  The question arises…do we have any examples of this “no further” indoctrination today?  In a discourse given by Joseph Smith on 13 August 1843, Smith discussed the importance of knowing what happened in the Grand Council prior to our coming to earth to gain a physical body.  During that sermon, he stated that “it is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes & set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty.”[8] Not only do we, within organizational religious structures, set up limits for others and what they can do, but in our personal lives we also limit ourselves in what we think God can do, or what God has already done or is doing for us.  We limit what we believe because either we’re too scared, too jealous or too ignorant.

Hugh Nibley discussed this in one of his articles[9] and stated:

“…the Latter-day Saints, who lean too far in the other direction, giving their young and old awards for zeal alone, zeal without knowledge-for sitting in endless meetings, for dedicated conformity and unlimited capacity for suffering boredom. We think it more commendable to get up at five a.m. to write a bad book than to get up at nine o’clock to write a good one; that is pure zeal that tends to breed a race of insufferable, self-righteous prigs, and barren minds. One has only to consider the present outpouring of “inspirational” books in the Church that bring little new in the way of knowledge: truisms and platitudes, kitsch and clichés have become our everyday diet. The Prophet would never settle for that.”

The lawyers spoken of in Luke 11:52 are not the lawyers we’re accustomed to today.  These lawyers weren’t the ambulance chasers we know, weren’t the injury or corporate lawyers who run much of our society and government.  Now, these were men (and possibly women) who taught the Mosaic law, those who clung to the law as their savior, those who felt the law could perfect them.  These were men and women who clung to “anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law…”[10] and, this usage of the word “lawyer” comes from the Greek word, Nomos, meaning to divide, or parcel out.  Law-yers, it would seem, were those focused on established traditions, customs, laws and found satisfaction in “parceling out” or “dividing” the gospel into checklists and programs we need to complete.  The completion of which, naturally, produces the “self righteous prigs” Nibley referred to.   Everything is eventually sequestered into nice, neat boxes and checklists.  The “righteous” can check of their respective lists, while the “apostates” walk out the back door and burn their list in the nearest garbage can, or forget about it altogether.

We like to think that, today, we’re different than those law-yers or Pharisees, but, are we?  Do we focus on the “law” as a way to perfect and save ourselves?  Do we focus on religion – the method whereby we think we can prove our worthiness above others – to seek exaltation?  In my last post, on “Finding Grace,” I shared a link on 2 Nephi 25 and the now infamous “after all we can do” statement Nephi made.  Mormonism teaches that this scripture implies that there is much work for us to do before we can ever hope to receive grace and that is the most unfortunate of interpretations as it forces us into ever more ritualized “works” as we try to perfect ourselves, never fully realizing that the more we try to perfect ourselves through our works, the further we fall.  As a result, we cling to rituals and obligations as a way to prove our worth.

Christ taught us that “this is life eternal, that they might cknow [personally] thee the only true dGod, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast esent.”[11] It’s not enough to simply “know” of them, but we must get to know them, be taught by them, to gain an understanding and “feel” them.[12] Indeed, the word “know” in this instance can also be used as a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, meaning that we must come to know who God and Christ are at an intimate level and not just the “brotherly kindness” way that Peter admitted to when Christ inquired, “Peter … lovest thou me?” (See John 21:15).  In the original Greek, Peter answered Christ using a different form of love.  Christ used the word “love” which meant to “love dearly,” whereas Peter responded using a different form of the word love, meaning as a friend.  Finally, on the third try, Christ switches to the same form of the word Peter used.  In spite of Peter’s reluctance to accept and love Christ, Christ still loved Peter.  In spite of Peter’s failings, Christ was still there and worked with Peter in the only way Peter knew how.

Instead of this coming to know Christ in the way mentioned in John 17:3, we’ve seemingly replaced this personal knowledge[13] with organizations, structures and programs.  Instead of a relationship driven experience, the same experience both Adam and Christ exemplified (among some others), we’ve introduced religious based systems (the same systems which Satan suggested Adam was really looking for, “religion”) which tell us that we have to go through something in order to access God and Christ.  Richard Scott once stated that too many within the LDS church seemingly instruct people to “Come unto Church” at the expense of “Com[ing] unto Christ.”

To the astute observer, it appears as though we’ve regressed to a point where we could aptly fit the description Joseph Smith gave when he stated, “I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes, and say, “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further”; which I cannot subscribe to.”[14]

I find it interesting how often the terms “priests” and “lawyers” are used together throughout scripture, especially in conjunction with apostasy and oppressive religion.  Priests being the recognized leaders of the oppressive religion and lawyers, presumably, being their sidekicks who enforce the law, the tradition, the rituals and the ultimate oppressors.  Our God, then, is the law, for that is what we preach. Perfecting ourselves by the law is what we set our hearts upon and what we think is going to earn eternal life for us, and make us a “god”.

Because we’re so addicted to being “law-yers,” we forbid people from gaining intelligence and understanding through our law based performance religions.  Because we’re so addicted to being “law-yers” we prevent others from passing us up on their trip to God.  We do this through age-based classes for our youth, “worthiness” interviews for anyone and everyone and programs of all shapes and sizes.  We do this through our correlated curriculum, correlated manuals and correlated beliefs.  Instead of stretching “as high as the heavens” and searching “into and contemplate[ing] the darkest abyss,” we turn to the correlated doctrine of the church contained in manuals which are written at a 3rd or 4th grade level, at best, and tell each other we have to study it over and over every 4 years because we need “refresher” courses.  We never advance beyond the things we learn in primary.  The result, seemingly, is little more than a “hitherto shalt thou come, and no further” mindset.

Returning, in conclusion, to the “mote” and “beam” discussion, it’s our choice to either listen and obey these governors, or it’s our choice to recognize teaching for what it is – a false and terribly troubling one that we must go beyond in our search to “come up into the presence of God, and learn all things.”  The “mote,” the problem, we cannot fix.  The “beam,” the application of how we personally fix the problems in our own lives, we can and must fix.

That, I think, is where we are today.

“Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on.”
– Winston Churchill


[1] See Matthew 7:3-5

[2] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2595&t=KJV

[3] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1385&t=KJV

[4] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3788&t=KJV

[5] The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 327.

[6] http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,104-1-3-4,00.html

[7] See Luke 11:52j

[8] http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1843/13Aug43.html

[9] Hugh Nibley, Zeal Without Knowledgehttp://rsc.byu.edu/pubNibleyZeal.php

[10] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3551&t=KJV

[11] See John 17:3

[12] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1097&t=KJV

[13] See Jeremiah 34:31-34

[14] The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 327.


In thinking of casualness, I’m struck by the all too frequent labels members put on others.  We all have (a) either done the labeling ourselves, or (b) been a label to others.  Whether it’s being labeled for being a slacker or casual in church attendance (i.e. not wearing the normal Sunday attire), or being an apostate (i.e. for not buying the hype the corporation is selling), it’s very prevalent.  Indeed, it’s ubiquitous.  It’s everywhere, it happens every week, and we all chime in to say this-or-that person isn’t meeting our standards of devotion (mostly, though, because they don’t dress the part.

I found myself going back to a blog I visited towards the end of 2009.  The discussion was on the “Church of Casual Saints.”  The blog post was fairly benign, by itself, but the comments were not.  If you meander on over there, you’ll find comments lambasting the attire of some, examples of Stake President’s withholding temple recommends from some members who didn’t dress up for their recommend “interview,” and other “unholy and impure practices.”  Pardon the reference to the temple, but that’s the first thought that came to mind as I wrote that sentence and, unfortunately, it fits the bill all too well.  There’s even the mandatory reference to “work[ing] harder.”  As if our effort will do anything in and of itself.  There are a few more rational and even headed comments (at least in my skewed interpretation), but the vast majority reflect the general malaise which afflicts us all:  judging others by their outward appearances and ascribing that to a measurement of one’s spirituality.

I’m in the process of drafting a fairly lengthy post on Polygamy, Wilford Woodruff and some of the events surrounding the Manifesto and, though that’s a post that’s still a couple of weeks away, I thought this discussion on our flawed paradigms was worth exploring.  What follows is my comment – the last one, unfortunately – to that blog entry.  I wish some discussion would have followed, in hopes of coming to a better understanding of the topic, but it appears it only repelled people from the discussion.

Speaking of introspection, are we really any different as individuals and as a church than the Jews at the time of Christ? Comments critiquing people because of their clothing, what they wear, how they dress and implying (if not worse) that somehow this is indicative of a casual relationship with Christ. Can someone please show me where Jesus ever rebuked someone because they weren’t wearing what we’d consider proper Sunday attire (i.e. a business suit, cufflinks, a nice tie and shoes that were shined that morning)? Does anyone really think that the Lord cares if I wear, for example, a tie to church? All clothing, in essence, is little more than an attempt to satisfy our vanity. To have a stake presidency turn someone away from a temple recommend because they didn’t meet their standards of dress is a shame – an act that, in essence, is barring someone from access to the temple NOT because they were unworthy, but because they didn’t dress-up to someone’s standards of Sunday attire.

Matthew 23:27–28 – Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees [Latter Day Saints], hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

In my opinion, the place where we’ve become the most casual is in our acceptance of all that is Babylon. Cars, clothing, houses, electronics of all shapes and sizes (Christmas anyone?)…materialism at its finest. We go to college to become learned in the ways of the world. We then work to pay for this schooling and these material things every day of our lives (not to mention raising another generation fully steeped in increasing materialism), doing our very best to uphold the very society and secret combinations we’ve been told to flee from post haste. Unfortunately, we’ve even been told to uphold this makeshift world and society, despite its apparent disconnect from teachings in our very own standard works:

“You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known. All around you is competition. You need all the education you can get. … Sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world. That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.” – Gordon B. Hinckley, April 2009 New Era, p. 17

Really? Sacrifice “anything that is needed” to do the “work of the [Babylon]?”  Can there be a clearer example of preaching for commandments the “doctrines of men”?  It’s almost unbelievable…

In the end, though, and in spite of our waywardness and general casualness with spiritual things, it’s only our relationship with Christ that matters – the only true way to the Tree of Life. If we’re close to Him and hold to Him, it matters not what others say and tell us to do because we’ll be following our Lord and Master. If we were closer to Him, whatever casualness we felt in our lives would become apparent and quickly changed. That casualness, however, would be an inward casualness…a cleansing from within.

Sorry if I sound preachy…just some things I myself am working on and to suggest that casualness is related to outward appearances is to do a disservice to this discussion when the changes we ALL need come from the inside.

The Hebrew word for “appearance” in the following verse is ‘ayin. This word relates directly to the eye and that which we see with our physical eyes, or, as one Hebrew dictionary states it: “as many passions of the mind, such as envy, pride, pity, desire, are manifest in the eyes…”

1 Sam. 16:7 – But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

Just my $0.04 (adjusted for inflation)

The question really does become one of individuality and how we seek Christ in our own lives.  Expecting others to live up to our skewed expectations is rife with disappointment and will only further promote our Babylonian system of relying on the “outward appearance” as a judge and meter for spirituality.  A meter of spirituality which is dire need of recalibration.


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…