Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I May Have Picked The Wrong Weekend To Make That Announcement

Okay, I admit my timing could have been better.

This past Saturday morning, the first day of April Conference, I posted an entry on this blog wherein I announced that I would no longer be tuning in for LDS General Conference. (If you missed it, you can read that entry here.)

I concluded in that article that for me, conference had become dull and tedious, and had failed consistently to provide what most of us assume was its primary purpose; that is, the provision of new revelation directly from the heart and mind of God.

I felt it was time to admit that after some fifty years of watching General Conference, I have never heard nor witnessed a prophet or apostle deliver to the Saints anything resembling an actual revelation. What I felt I was getting was mostly pedantic lectures on the same recycled topics.

Apparently these musings of mine hit on something a lot of other latter-day Saints had been thinking. The comment section at Pure Mormonism began receiving letters expressing agreement, and my email box filled with notes from others similarly dissatisfied with their conference experience. Strangers re-posted my article on Facebook and RSS feeds, and it was discussed on other Mormon-themed message boards. By late that night more than a thousand people had visited this site.

That was on Saturday. By Sunday afternoon I was beginning to hear rumbles of disapproval over what was being seen by some as a blasphemous screed.

So what had happened between Saturday and Sunday?

Easter. That’s what happened. This year general conference fell on Easter.

By all reports (I wasn’t watching, remember), the Easter Sunday sessions were filled with inspiring testimonies of love and appreciation for the atoning sacrifice of the Savior. Any faithful member coming off of that emotional high and then faced with my flippant philippic would be understandably unsettled.

So before you begin selecting stones to lob my way, I’d like the opportunity to confront my accusers.

Allow me once more to clarify: I do not oppose general conference. I don’t wish it to disappear or to have it done away with. I thought I made clear that I think conference still contains much that is valid and useful. I do not deny that at times the speakers are inspired, especially when they are testifying of the Messiah.

I take a back seat to no one in my love and admiration for Jesus, and yes, I can tell when the spirit is communicating to me through another person. I fully appreciate when Church leaders remind me of the infinite love of Christ. I am as inspired and moved by such sermons as you are.


How I Spent My Easter Vacation

As on Christmas eve, Easter Sunday at our home is a day devoted to remembrance of the Lord. Connie and I long ago forswore the sugary trappings of the holiday. We don’t wake up to chocolate bunnies or marshmallow peeps at our house Easter morning.

We usually like to get in a devotional mood by watching one of the classic movies on the life of Christ, and in recent years we have been particularly moved by Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ. (Incidentally, if you are one of those Mormons who refuses to see this inspiring picture only because it is rated R, I encourage you to use the brain God gave you and stop living in a world of rumor and illusion.)

As I stated previously, Easter is a perfect time to listen to Cleon Skousen’s classic talk on The Atonement, and Connie and I listened to it together.

It isn’t often that general conference falls directly on Easter Sunday, and I rather regret that we did not tune in to hear the talks about the Savior. I’m sure it would have enhanced our Easter experience.

However, none of this diminishes my assertion that in a general sense, general conference is no longer what we long expected it to be. I still don’t see any reason to look forward to conference with breathless anticipation as if that event provides us with something we can get nowhere else. It is still bloated with filler.

A friend of mine who goes by the name of Infinite Bob wrote to caution me about being prideful and dropped this unreferenced bombshell: “Thus Saith the Lord: ‘The current leadership of the church IS divinely inspired.’”

I wish that when he wrote that, he had provided the source of that quote. I have been looking for such an affirmation from God for many, many years.



Let Me Say This About That

Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t dispute anyone’s belief that the leadership is often inspired. I have witnessed inspiration in some of these men myself. What I was lamenting in my article had nothing to do with inspiration; I was lamenting the dearth of revelation of the kind that as a missionary, I taught my investigators was inherent in our Church. Revelation is an entirely different thing from inspiration. To borrow a phrase from Mark Twain, it is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

To be sure, revelation is alive and well within the broad church membership. The Holy Ghost still operates within us all individually.

But amidst the plethora of personal revelation among the members of Christ's body, there is a clear paucity of institutional revelation, by which I mean any direct message from God to the body of the church as a whole, or even to the nation and world as was common with prophets of old.

To insist that this kind of revelation occurs all around us is to deny reality as well as the words of the ancient Prophets -and of Christ Himself- who sent us these warnings in an attempt to wake us to the possibility that all may not be particularly well in Zion. If something is amiss, the first step in restoring ourselves to God's good graces is to recognize that the Church as a people, and as an institution, may be in need of repentance.

This recognition of our collective failings requires humility. Humility does not come from continuing to insist we follow blind authority. That would be a definition of prideful traditions.

There are some who have insisted that listening carefully to every conference session results in substantial gains for them personally. I do not doubt that, and I appreciate such testimonies. I would never presume to question how others derive their spiritual sustenance. It’s certainly not my desire to steer anyone away from watching conference if that is their pleasure.

My position was simply that conference no longer works for me as a vessel for the promised meat of the gospel, and that it hasn't met those needs for some time. I further went on to posit some of the reasons why I thought that might be so.

Your experience may be entirely different from mine. But you ought not to claim that everything is the same as it always has been in the Church when it actually isn’t.

The following three statements were entered in my comment section by an anonymous reader. I feel they deserve a response:

First, this member quotes the following scripture as though it settles the question: “D&C 68:4 ‘And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.’"

If we took the meaning from this passage that the writer seems to attribute to it, the Church would be in chaos, for we would have to accept that every guy with the priesthood was the mouthpiece of the Lord at all times.

This early revelation was directed at four specifically named individuals who were about to embark on a mission to proclaim the newly restored gospel before crowds that would almost certainly be hostile. The Lord states in verse 2 that this is to be an example to all who have been ordained to the priesthood. When I was in the Mission Training Center we were taught that this passage could pertain to all of us.

Does this mean that every time I taught a discussion or related the story of the first vision that I would be “the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation?”

I wish.

You simply can’t overlook that qualifying phrase “when moved upon by the Holy Ghost”.

That clause is key.

It has been my observation that when one is moved upon by the Holy Ghost, it is usually sudden, unexpected, and rare. It is a strong and unmistakable experience, and it doesn’t always occur semi-annually on schedule. That term “moved upon” implies that something powerful is taking place beyond one's own control.

So here’s what we get to ask ourselves. Do we believe that every time a Church officeholder reads his talk off the Teleprompter that he is “moved upon by the Holy Ghost”?

More importantly, does God want us to believe that?

It’s possible.

There’s really only one way to know, and that is if the listener is completely in tune with the Holy Ghost himself. It is not enough merely to assume from a man's title that he is speaking “the word of the Lord” in “the voice of the Lord”. It is a lazy latter-day Saint who is content to assume that every heartwarming story and bit of folksy counsel uttered from the pulpit also comes directly from the mouth of the Almighty.

Better we should listen to Nephi’s advice and allow the Holy Ghost confirm it. Constantly. Every single time.

The writer continues: “God's servants do not have to declare their words to be revelation in order for them to be revelation.”

Well, yes they do. They may not necessarily have to use the precise words “thus saith the Lord”, but it’s usually some variant, such as “the Word of the Lord to Amos...” Or “Now hear the word of the Lord...”, or “hearken , O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high...”, or even “here’s something God told me to tell you you good folks.” Without some declaratory preface, how are we supposed to know it’s an actual revelation?

This writer adds, “I'm watching conference right now, and these talks are dripping with inspiration, revelation, and apostolic testimony.”

Inspiration and apostolic testimony, I have no doubt. But I have heard nothing about any new revelation.

Folks, we have to get over this syllogistic thinking. Syllogisms by their very nature lead to false conclusions, and this one is a doozy:

All revelation is inspired.
Conference talks contain inspiration.
Therefore, all conference talks are revelations.

You have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost for a reason, people. Learn to use your powers of discernment.


Is It Or Isn’t It?

In my essay I presented J. J. Dewey defining revelation as “something previously unknown,” a definition which one of my readers flatly rejected.

“That isn't the definition of revelation”, she insisted, “Revelation is communication from God and His spokesmen, regardless of whether or not we already knew it.”

“Find a revelatory source for your definition,” she demanded.

This reader would have done me a favor if she had provided scriptural evidence supporting her own contention rather than demand that I prove the obvious.

The word "revelation" does indeed pertain to making something known that was heretofore unknown or covered up. “By revelation He made known to me the mystery”, Paul told the Church at Ephesus. Revelation is derived from the word "reveal" which comes to us from the Latin word for "unveil", which means "to uncover".

I disagree with the reader’s claim that revelation is "communication from God and his spokesmen". It is communication from God through his spokesmen. All divine revelation originates with God; His spokesmen are not His equals, and cannot make up the revelations they impart to us. If the thoughts are their own they are not revelations, they are opinions. How many times did Paul himself make that clear?

When defining terms commonly used by the Prophet Joseph, I find it helpful to confirm their meanings as they were understood in his day. According to Webster’s 1828 edition (America’s first dictionary, and the prevailing authority in Joseph Smith’s time), revelation is “the act of disclosing or discovering to others what was before unknown to them.

The first English lexicographer, Samuel Johnson, defined revelation in 1755 as “communication of sacred and mysterious truths by a teacher from heaven.” All the major commentaries contain similar descriptions.

If you can read Dewey’s careful explication regarding what is and what is not revelation, and still come away without any understanding of the differences, then I submit that you have chosen to remain in deliberate ignorance. Don't forget that Brigham Young prophesied that the day would come when "this church will be led onto the very brink of hell by the leaders of this people." I wouldn't want to take it all for granted, would you?

How can we boast to the world that modern revelations are everywhere, but when asked for an example we cannot find even one?

“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” (2 Thess 2:11) In other words, “You want to keep fooling yourselves? Have it your way.”

Another reader wrote that I should not be looking for novelty in the words of the leaders and insisted that "revelation can be quite mundane".

I would suggest that if you are hearing something mundane, what you are hearing is not a revelation. You’re probably listening to a conference talk.

27 comments:

Yuukanna said...

Revelation is not something to take lightly or take for granted.
Regarding personal revelation, I know many people who have in the past expressed to me their personal revelations. Those revelations have now been proven false. I never bring them up and I forgive the speaker of such supposed 'revelation' for their ignorance.
I have also seen people easily fall for believing that their feeling over their personal wants are personal revelation. Sometimes this 'revelation' is to the detriment of others... thus proving it false.
There are a few people close to me who invent revelation and visions in their mind and believe their own lies.
It's easy enough believe in false personal revelation. If you must guard so carefully against yourself, how are you to be sure you understand what is gods revelation through his authorities, and what are words coming from the man in that position?
Therefore, revelation from god must be announced as such.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Yup. I've long felt that when somebody gets personal revelation, they should keep it to themselves. A lot of it is wishful thinking.

Often, folks get revelations that they think apply to others, such as a wife who tells her husband that God told her he's supposed to treat her better.

My opinion is that the Lord might advise the wife on how she is to behave toward her husband, but God isn't going to give her a message to give him. That ain't personal.

I'm no expert, but I'm guessing one way to tell if a revelation is for real is when you hear what you DON'T want to hear, like a rebuke.

You've got to hand it to Joseph for publishing all those incidents where the Lord called him on the carpet and gave him what for.

Dave P. said...

I can't seem to post the comment I wrote up giving a "lesson" on how to receive and recognize personal revelation. I'm posting this as a test and will keep trying.

Dave P. said...

Good morning, class. It's time for another lesson from Brother Paradise about Boolean Algebra and the scriptures. Today's topic: How we know that what we've received is from God via the Holy Ghost and know that it is personal revelation.

To set the premise, open your scriptures up to D&C Section 8. Brother Joe, please read verse 1.

1. "Oliver Cowdery, verily, verily, I say unto you, that assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive a knowledge concerning the engravings of old records, which are ancient, which contain those parts of my scripture of which has been spoken by the manifestation of my Spirit."

While the Lord is speaking to Oliver Cowdery about the engravings of old records, the part of receiving a knowledge of whatsoever things was ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing we shall receive knowledge applies to us about any of our concerns as much as it did Brother Cowdery at the time.

Let us take a closer look at the conditions while keeping the phrase grammatically correct by removing the commas and replacing them with the word "and." "...even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith AND with an honest heart AND believing that you shall receive a knowledge..." Brother Bill, please come to the board and write the three things we need in order to first receive the personal revelation:

1. We must ask in faith.
2. We must ask with an honest heart. This because-
3. We must believe that we will receive an answer from the Lord according to His will, even if it's not what we want to hear.

Those commas or the words "AND" that we substituted for the commas are key, because we must meet all three conditions before the Lord will give us personal revelation. Not conditions 1 and 3, not conditions 1 and 2, but all three.

Dave P. said...

Now that we've discussed what we must do in order to receive personal revelation, how will we know that our answer comes from the Lord. Sister Anne, please read verse 2.

"2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart."

Hmm... God will tell us in our minds AND in our hearts. There's that key word "AND" again. Why do you suppose that is? Brother Al? Sister Ceci?

The reason is simple, because either we ourselves or influences from the adversary can mimic thoughts in our minds or feelings in our hearts, but NEVER both at the same time. The Holy Ghost, however, can and the reason why is in the second half of the verse: "...by the power of the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you AND which shall dwell in your heart." When the Holy Ghost comes upon us, where is the most logical point for it to enter in order to dwell in our hearts? It's coming from above so that and the belief of some cultures that our spirit dwells in our brains implies that the Holy Ghost enters in through our minds, or the highest point of our bodies.

Now that we know the process by which we can ask for and receive personal revelation, I challenge each and every one of you to plead with the Lord to gain an understanding of this process and, most especially, to be able to recognize those feelings. This will help you to keep an open channel between you and Heavenly Father while preventing interruptions from our own minds or the influences of Satan from disrupting that communication. To be able to understand the language of the spirit, we must first be able to recognize it and only the spirit itself can teach us how.

For further knowledge on the subject, cross-reference this with Moroni 10:4-8 and James 1:5-8 for confirmation via the law of witnesses in the scriptures. Sister Sally, please offer a word of prayer to close this lesson and may the Lord pour out His love and spirit upon all of you. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

(Cutting it in half and posting it in separate comments seems to have worked.)

Yuukanna said...

Rock - I like what you said about rebukes, it adds a good deal of perspective. Many of the people I know with false revelations are fairly egotistical, and a rebuke would be an unbearable humbling. If god will not test you with more than you can handle, these are people that surely could not handle such a rebuke.

Dave P. - Interesting analysis. I agree that it is important for people to understand revelation before accepting it. Without being able to discern true revelation, I believe that people are more subject to false revelation than any true. I've seen this hurt individuals and families deeply. Which is why I generally disbelieve any 'revelation' I hear come from any peers. Revelation to others is not for me to take, because I cannot weigh it's origins in my own heart and mind.
This is also why I have a difficult time with believing that revelation is constantly coming from the general authorities. They are men after all, not simply mouthpieces. How am I to know what is supposed to be revelation, what is advice, what is general conversation and what is banter?
This is why I believe that revelation must be named as such, so that it be possible for personal revelation to verify the truth of it.
If I were to believe every word spoken by the general authorities were revelation from god, I would have to believe that god himself gave fashion advice to young men and young women regarding ear piercings and hair styles (My dad once tried to use President Hinkley's suggestion that spikey hair was undesirable for an Aaronic Priesthood holder against me, as if it were a direct commandment). While such advice is good, it is much to trivial to be revelation. I may pray about my spikey hair and receive personal revelation that I ought to change my appearance, but it is by no means a commandment to the church as a whole.
There have even been general authorities with differing opinions on certain trivial matters, we cannot believe both are revelation or we would have a contradiction, which is something true revelation cannot do. In these cases, it is simply a man speaking; a man in a position of high authority, but still a man.
This is why I believe Rock to be spot on when he says that there has been no recent revelation for the general church body. What we have instead, is a long sermon and discussion of previous revelation. Such sermons can be uplifting and bring joy to many people. But that uplifting spirit is not the same as revelation.
For myself, I did not watch general conference, but I did add three of the talks to my youtube playlist (from the church's official 'Mormon Messages' account) to watch when I find the time, they are a select number of sermons on subjects I'm interested in hearing about. I believe this to be much more beneficial to me that sitting through the entire conference gaining nothing, due to tired ears and a sore bottom.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Wow, Dave and Yuukanna, I gotta tell you, I'm learning a lot from the both of you. Thank you both for your very cogent comments. I can tell you they are very helpful to me personally in better understanding this subject.

As an aside, about a decade ago I went back to Missouri where I served my mission to visit with some close friends who I'd known since those days. They related to me that every now and then some new family would move into the ward from Utah or California and bear their testimony that the Lord had inspired them to just pick up and move out here to Missouri. Invariably the speaker would announce confidently that they didn't know what they would do or how they would make a living, but they were certain the Lord would provide a way.

The oldtimers in the ward would silently roll their eyes and shake their heads. This kind of thing happened over and over, and in every case the family fell into poverty and couldn't survive in those rural Missouri small towns.

Eventually many of these people would slink back to where they had come from, renting a U-Haul with the help of the the Bishop and the ward's fast offering contributions, not able to understand how God could have given them that revelation and not allow it to work out.

That story stayed with me, because at the time I was stagnant in my career and had also entertained the idea of moving my own family back to Missouri to start anew. Since hearing those sad tales, I knew that anytime I got a hankering for some major life change that I though MIGHT be the will of the Lord, I had better be absolutely moved on by the spirit, and not simply go forward on a hunch with no preparation and no prospects.

Dave P. said...

Oh yes, and for those who would like to disregard Section 8 because it was specifically given to Oliver Cowdery-

"What I say unto one I say unto all;" -D&C 93:49

Dave P. said...

Rock, your story also reminded me of what happened pretty much right after my family moved to West Jordan. On our very first Sunday, we held a special Stake Priesthood Meeting to vote on a change in the stake presidency. The counselor who was being replaced told the story of how he received the distinct impression to move from West Jordan down to the Orem area. He made especially sure to spend all the time necessary, both he and his wife and both inside and outside of the temple, to make sure that that feeling was true. He said that he received confirmation a few months later.

The stake president, while he of course couldn't actually enforce such an idea, had also told him that he would release him on the condition that, once he found out why he'd been prompted to move, he would call and tell him. I'm no longer in that stake but your story did remind me of that.

I'm also reminded of yet another something I learned in my D&C class at BYU. We're told that an adulterous and wicked generation will seek after a sign because they're the ones who will say "I won't believe unless I see a sign." However, after we've received the trial of our faith (Ether 12:6), is it wrong to ask for a sign for confirmation purposes? No.

The reason for this is because, in D&C 1:24, the Lord says, "Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding." Meaning that He gave the previous revelations to Joseph Smith in his native English language and at the level in which he understood. And since the Lord speaks unto all, we're basically being told that, if we are to hear the voice of God speak to us, it will be in our native language and in a way that we will be able to understand. Part of learning how to understand the language of the spirit is asking to be taught how to understand. And if confirmation requires asking for some kind of sign, then it's up to the person to acknowledge and act on it upon receiving it.

One great church history story involves one man telling Joseph Smith that he would believe in Mormonism if Joseph gave him a sign. Joseph asked what he would prefer: being struck blind, deaf, dumb, or having a hand wither.

152 said...

One question, not as a contradion to your claims Rock, because I think you're probably right, but this is just another way of looking at it:
If Webster defined revelation: "the act of disclosing or discovering to others what was before unknown to them." then there is a qualifier to "unknown" - being "to them". So using this definition, what is revelation to me, may not be revelation to you. If you have studied more than me, some things that the GAs share may be revelation to me, but just a reminder to you. Given that many of our congregation don't read a great deal more than the correlated manuals (IF they even read those), they could quite possibly be receiving a plethora of revelations.
That being said, I really do agree with the bulk of your commentary. I think that the spigot may very well be running drier than in years past, and the most likely reason is unworthiness of Latter Day Saints. Since most scriptural precedent for the closing of the heavens is unworthiness of the people. Unrighteousness of the Lord's Anointed is a much less common (although it did happen at least once while Joseph was translating) reason.

152 said...

Now, a couple thoughts on Personal Revelation:

When I was on the mission, I had a companion who was/is in just about every way superior to me spiritually. We were talking about personal revelation and he had an idea: that before every day's work we would pray for revelation about who specifically the Lord wanted us to visit that day. We would pray seperately and strive to find an answer. It could be member, investigator, or just a place in our area to find someone. We didn't have any emotional connection to the outcome, so very low likelihood of projecting our desires, but we felt it was still sufficiently important that the Lord would answer our prayers. If we came to different conclusions then we could easily assume that we didn't get an answer (or didn't understand the answer) and would then return to pray seperately and try to receive an answer. Like exercising a muscle, it worked. I learned more about how the Lord answers prayers with that companion than I had before or have since.

When I had asked my now-wife to marry me, her mom didn't like me at all. She (her mom) prayed about whether we should get married and felt that she received an answer . . . We've been very happily married for five years now, so I guess I'm not a believer in receiving revelation for someone else. Yeah, not so much.

Anonymous said...

Why do you trust Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, but not Thomas S. Monson? Anything said of living prophets is equally of any.

Anonymous said...

Alan is a rebel, and has a voice of a apostasy.

If you wish to learn from the true and living spokesmen of God, visit www.lds.org.

If you wish to learn from a man, with no such prophetic calling, who has expressed his disapproval of the living spokesmen of God, then stay here.

152 said...

But then we'd have to follow the voice of an "Anonymous" to that website. I'm sorry, I don't think I can trust you. I think that your website link might be a trap of Satan.

Tom said...

To the anonymouses (I like the plural of that, even if it's not grammatically correct):

Define "living prophets" for me. Not the contemporary definition, but the actual scriptural definition. I'm not saying that any of those set apart as "prophets" aren't indeed prophets, but the scriptures have a slightly different twist on things.

Whether we look at Numbers 11:29, or Revelations 19:10 or whatever else we choose to look at, it would seem (to me at least) that we're all to be prophets. I'm not saying Rock is a prophet, but I would hope he's striving to be one ("seek ye earnestly the best gifts" D&C 46:8).

The problem I see with this topic is that the institutionalization of the gospel has produced a rather subtle effect that suggests that the general authorities are those to whom the Lord has divested all power on the earth. As in an "expert/elite" class of brethren, and an "amateur/common" class of common members. The general membership seems to think that they (the leaders) are the only ones from whom scriptural interpretations can be given.

If anything, Rock is a free thinker. No one has to agree with everything he says, or I say, but to suggest that he can't be a "living spokesman of God" or a "living prophet" is as erroneous in thinking as the idea that pervades Mormondom that the brethren will "never lead us astray." Neither is scriptural - at least to me.

Nibley wrote a very persuasive article on this back in the early 1970s entitled, "The Day of the Amateur." I would suggest reading that: http://www.zionsbest.com/amateur.html

Other authors have also written on this subject, which seems to float over most of our heads:

"Anytime men try to control others, invariably the endeavor for control involves stifling dissent and criticism. Those who claim the right to rule over others try to reduce all disputes to a question of authority. The discussion about who has “the” authority makes the question of whether an idea is right or wrong inconsequential. If authority determines everything, then all you need to “win” is to control authority. [Christ] distinguished between their [scribes, Pharisees] right to preside (which He did not challenge), and their assumed exclusive right to teach and interpret scripture (which He utterly rejected).” – Denver Snuffer, Come, Let Us Adore Him, p. 197

Just my thoughts...I think we should be very careful about our adoration of the modern "brethren" and our assumption that everything they teach is doctrine or, worse, that they are the sole interpreters of scripture.

Tom said...

In thinking over what I wrote (I'm thinking too much, and that's largely the problem), I am not terribly comfortable with the language and wording I used.

What I meant to imply is that we, as Mormons, tend to discredit and tear down anyone who doesn't have either the title "President" or "Elder" in front of his name and/or doesn't speak to us semi-annually from a pulpit. I'm hesitant to suggest or perpetuate the idea of "spokesmen for God" given the strange corporate structure under which the church operates (and the history under which it was adopted), and given our universal propensity to stray from Christ and the Gospel (including the leaders idolized by members across the world).

I do maintain that we are directed to be prophets in our own spheres, to receive and have the gift of prophecy, and certainly Moses and John both suggest this in their writings, among many others. D&C 130 is perhaps the most pertinent description on this topic.

Here's an interesting discussion on the topic, though very short: http://denversnuffer.blogspot.com/2010/02/who-can-be-seer.html

Anyway, my apologies for the wording.

A Mormon and a Marine said...

Brother Waterman,

I stumbled onto your website today in between sessions of conference. I've had a chance to read a couple of your posts, the one on When Mormon's Take the Name of the Lord in Vain and one about Toby Keith from a year ago really caught my attention.

First, let me say thank you for your thoughts. I myself find that I share many similar view points. I also happen to be a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. About five years ago, you might say that I awoke to our awful situation. Since that time I have devoted a lot of time to studying the scriptures and the words of our prophets. I am still learning and constantly amazed at how clear the Book of Mormon is on the subject of warfare, and how clear our prophets have been and continue to be. I was recently surprised when I reread the First Presidency message from the August 2005 Ensign magazine. Most people know this message from President Hinckley's statement that "the Book of Mormon in its descriptions of the problems of today's society, it is more current than the morning paper and much more definitive and inspired." Immediately following that remark, President Hinckley stated in quite clear terms that in the Book of Mormon, scheming leaders oppressed the people with burdensome taxes and led them to evil wars, which ultimately led to the final and total extinction of two great civilizations in two different eras.

I don't believe it can be misunderstood that President Hinckley was saying that those scheming leaders who oppressed the Nephites and Jaredites in Book of Mormon times, exist in our time and that the warnings contained in those scriptures apply directly to us as Latter Day Saints today.

I've been amazed somewhat as I ask fellow members of the church precisely what caused the destruction of the Nephites and Jaredites. Mormon and Moroni both testify quite clearly as to how these two civilizations were destroyed, as did President Hinckley ever so recently in our time. If this is the case, how is it that so few members of our church can cite precisely the cause of their destruction. If you are thinking wickedness and pride right now, you are close, but not correct. According to Mormon and Moroni, and even President Hinckley, their destruction was caused by secret combinations. Ether 8:21 and Helaman 2:13-14 make this quite clear. As to the nature of the secret combination, it is also clear that President Hinckley was not referring to the Mafia, or even Al Qaeda, as those organizations are neither that secret or capable of oppressing the people with burdensome taxes. Of course, they hardly fit the description of "scheming leaders" either. It might also be good to read Helaman 6:38 to see how the righteous Nephites were seduced into believing in the works of the secret combination and what happened as a result. If the Book of Mormon is as current as the morning paper, how can we apply that scripture to us today?

A Mormon and a Marine said...

(Continued)

Though I felt inspired to join the military, I'd never ever counsel anyone to do likewise. In fact, I'd suggest the opposite, stay out. I've seen first hand that our current actions are leading us to destruction, as President Hinckley described, rather than somehow defending our freedom. Although, I am truly grateful for my experiences as I know that I wouldn't have the knowledge and experiences that were necessary to my current understanding of the Gospel were it not for my being in the military. I know that Heavenly Father guided me to take this step, as I know He is guiding me now.

Brother Waterman, thank you again for your words. It pains me to hear so many members of the church cling to such a mainstream, neo-conservative point of view. Nothing seems to cause me such angst as those LDS who profess to love liberty and free agency, yet embrace leaders and policies who seek to destroy it. How amazing that Helaman 6:38 states that righteous Nephites were seduced into believing the works of the secret combination. How sad that we seem to be in that very same place now.

Cap'n Moroni said...

Anonymous asked "Why do you trust Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, but not Thomas S. Monson?"

I've read everything on this blog, and I don't remember anywhere where Rock claims not to trust Thomas S. Monson. He seems to be wondering why Heavenly Father doesn't seem to want to communicate much through the President right now, and from what I gather, he calls people like you to repentance for the kind of idolatry that you seem to have. I did not see him blaming the leaders for YOUR idolotry. If anything, Heavenly father is waiting for YOU to come to your senses so that he can continue to pour out his word upon the church.

In his blog about idolatry he seems to believe that the prophet still holds the keys as prophet, seer and revelator, but he wrote that "any...keys they hold are conditional upon the whim of the Lord; He alone decides whether, or when, or even if he will communicate through them".

Anyway, are we really supposed to "trust" Joseph smith or Brigham Young or Thomas S. Monson? Heavenly Father warns us not to "trust" in any of them because they represent the arm of flesh. We are only to trust in God's word, and only when he reveals himself THROUGH them are we to trust in HIS words. We are not supposed to "trust" in them. No, not even Joseph Smith. The D&C is full examples of the lord chastising Joseph Smith for screwing up.

Jonas said...

Once again Rock you make me smile . . . and think.

I laugh at the people who so vehemntly oppose you and call you to repentance. They would be better served to stop and look at what they believe and why they believe it. It's a pretty scarry idea, because after all, what if they find that something they have believed all their life doesn't look the way it's supposed to? Now that would be scarry! And in their ignorance they would reject the information they were given.

Then again, questioning ones beliefs will either solidify the belief, which could be good news, or it could dismiss the belief, but not without replacing it with a higher truth, which is also good news.

The problem is not what you write here. The problem is people living in ignorance and following blindly without question. If your blog does nothing than make them THINK then you have done the world a favor.

Thinking doesn't have to mean giving up what they believe. It means pondering on their beliefs. The problem with most people in any church is that they are willing to ponder their beliefs, but only to the extent that the end result of their pondering is that the beliefs are validated. God forbid that they have a personal revelation that says there is more to know, but that the "more" looks different than what they have been taught.

What would have happened if Joseph had stuck to what he had been taught? What if he had said, "Gee, I just had a revelation (yeah, like God Himself appeared to me!) but what the revelation tells me is that everything I have been taught and believed is wrong. Well, better play it safe."

Rock, you know that I no lonoger subscribe to the church and you know why - it has to do with my own personal revelations. Does that make the church wrong? No. It means there is more and the "more" is available now, but the church as it stands serves the people who subscribe to it. That can only be good, but it doesn't mean it is the end-all of religious beliefs.

A person who subscribes to a particular set of beliefs should do so because those beliefs serve the person, but to think that any church or religion is the end-all, is to live in ignorance.

I love ya Rock! Keep making them THINK!!!

Dave P. said...

Jonas,

Re-reading your comment led me to realize something. So many people keep asking, "When are we going to receive the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon? When are we going to receive the brass plates?" And we're consistently told that we won't be ready to receive them until we can learn to accept and live by what we already have.

I want to take an "outside the box" approach to looking at this in, rather than not being ready to accept such additional scripture, what if the church membership doesn't want to receive it? Brigham Young once said that his greatest worry was that the church membership would face the trials of living lives full of ease and luxury that would make them complacent in their living the gospel. In looking around where I live today, many people are nicely settled in their comfort zones and are afraid to step out of it despite the potential for receiving additional knowledge (something I also noticed when speaking to people of other faiths on my mission in North Carolina). The people who become complacent and expect to be spoon-fed new revelations and scripture are going to be the ones who have the hardest time making the necessary changes to live according to the principles that the additional knowledge will teach us.

To give an ancient example, look at the Law of Moses. The JST teaches us that the original stone tablets contained the Lord's celestial law as Jesus taught during His ministry, but because the Israelites were complete ingrates, they were downgraded to the Law of Moses: a law that, so long as they lived it according to its purpose, that would prepare them to return to the higher law. When Christ came and gave that higher law, they'd become so complacent in the Law of Moses and had forgotten its original purpose that they had no clue.

A modern example is the church's own law of tithing. The saints were not living the law of consecration so the church members received the law of tithing as a step down in order to better prepare them to live the law of consecration when the Lord says it's time to return to it. How many members today view the law of tithing as a preparatory law? Or do they view it with an "This is all I will ever need to do" attitude?

Nowadays the Sunday School answer of "Read the scriptures" isn't enough. We're supposed to be studying, pondering, likening them unto ourselves, allowing them to open our minds and hearts to better understand the mysteries of God. To "feast upon the words of Christ" doesn't simply mean to spend more time reading, it means to dive in, analyze, ponder, pray, and always want more because a true feast will always have more food than a person can fit into his stomach.

In Ether 4:4-7 Moroni tells us that wrote all the things that the Brother of Jared saw (which implies that he saw it all too), but that it would be sealed away until the people repent of their iniquities and have faith even as the Brother of Jared did. To get to that point, we need to progress with an open mind. We may make mistakes and come up with some incorrect theories, but that's why we're here on this earth to begin with.

Jonas said...

Part 1 of 2

Dave P.
Your comments are very insightful.

I don't think the Israelites were ingrates. Rather I think they were ignorant and incredibly superstitious. More succinctly, it appears to me that they were very "young" in their spiritual development and were not ready for higher laws. It was easier to have a very simple, base law with a rule for everything than to think a little further out and figure things out for themselves. That's how I see the law that Jesus brought - it gives us the opportunity to think and choose for ourselves than to be governed by a thick book of rules regulating every aspect of life.

Today we have the same freedom that Jesus gave, and that includes the freedom to explore spirituality outside the box or outside the book of rules.

I am reminded of a letter written to a mission president when I was a missionary. The elder asked if he was supposed to wear pajamas to bed each night. The answer came back quoting, "It is not meet that I should command you in all things." A wise answer to a seemingly stupid question. It seems this elder wanted everything laid out for him without regard to using some common sense or better yet, following his natural knowing. In the end, does it really matter if one wears pajamas or not?

I see so many people wanting a set of rules, which they have, by the way - it's called the Church and includes things like the Bishop's handbook, etc. Rules are not liberating, they are confining. This is one reason I can no longer subscribe to the church. Many of the teachings are wonderful and seem pure, but who says we can't have more and know more? That is not a teaching of the church; it is people afraid to look at what they believe.

What if an angel actually appeared to you (an open question for anyone reading)? Would you recognize it for what it is, or would you discount it? I suspect that it has happened for many of us more often than most of us know, but we discount the experience as being our imagination playing games with us or finding some other way of playing it off.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and teach something. If you want an angel to appear there are two things you need to d . . . no, 3 things you need to do: First - ask ("it shall be given"). Second - imagine what it would be like. See it in your mind, hear the sounds, feel the feelings, smell the smells (does it smell like fresh baked cookies? Sorry, I couldn't resist a little movie humor). Did the angel laugh or smile? Did he or she just stop in to deliver a message, or did you get to ask some questions? Third – (this is the toughie) accept the experience as real. Believe it. Know that it is. Folks, sometimes these things start out as imaginations. The angels are talking, but we don't believe the experience is real because "it must be my imagination running wild."

The only reason you're not receiving revelation is because you don't trust yourself. You have been taught that things have to be a certain way and if an angel tells you something different, then it cannot be true. If that's true then Dave's comment about the original commandments being the full gospel (is that a correct summation Dave?) is the perfect example of this principle, namely that the information on the tablet didn't look right so the Israelites rejected it. The problem is that what didn't look right was a higher law. And so I rest my case.

Jonas said...

Part 2 of 2

What I can tell you is that if you really set out to commune with angels, you'd better be prepared to be taught things that do not coincide with what you presently believe (take Joseph’s experience, for example). You will be taught higher truths.

This does not discount the lower law; the lower law still applies, but only within the band of vibration, or the realm in which it was given. Think of it this way, "Line upon line, precept upon precept."

Are you open to an experiment? Okay, here’s a challenge. First a tiny bit of background, though. Do you believe that you have one or more angels (often called guardian angels) “assigned” to you? Whether you believe that or not, I assure you, you have a company of them and they are always with you whether you think so or not, but you’re welcome to believe as you will.

Okay, now go to a place where you can be quiet and just think for awhile without being disturbed. There’s no magic time limit here, just take some time away from the kids, the TV and especially the damn cell phone. Now, imagine what it would be like if you could see, hear or feel the presence of this team of angels. Who would be there? What would they say? What would it feel like?

I use the three main modalities of feeling, hearing and seeing because we each have a prominent modality, so be open to the one that works for you. You might describe your experience as a “sensing” rather than seeing, hearing or feeling; although sensing and feeling seem to be very closely related.

Know this: what you experience is real. Now you just have to learn to trust that you are actually communing with angels. I know, many you doubt me. It’s okay – I know what I know. It takes time to learn the difference between my own thoughts and those of the angels, or God. I still wonder sometimes about who is talking, me or them, but I’m getting better at recognizing which is which.

By the way, have fun with this. Angels are not somber, stick-in-the-mud beings who never have fun. They are playful and love to laugh – especially when they watch us! So if you experience some humor, laugh with them. The more you do this, the closer you get to them and the more experiences you will have with them.

I have used the term “angels” a lot. It’s used generically. You may end up talking directly to Jesus or even God and they will talk back to you.

Now – who are the disbelievers in what I have said about communing with the angels and gods? And what did I say earlier about things looking a certain way? Do my words look different than you thought it was supposed to be? Hmm.

Do not believe anything I say. BUT . . . DO NOT discount anything I say.

Goodnight.

Jonas

Dave P. said...

Hopefully I sound more like I'm responding to than rebutting your last comments.

I'd have to say it was a mix of ingratitude and suspicion on the part of the Israelites. They were looking forward to and praying for deliverance to be taken to their land of promise full of milk and honey. But how many of them had the mindset of "All our troubles will be over," at that time? When they realized their lives weren't going to become all ease and luxury, they rebelled and eventually had to wander for 40 years until the entire older generation died out.

Fast forward to the meridian of time and you'll see that many of the Jews were looking for a physical Messiah to deliver them from Rome, crush their enemies and, I'm sure in some cases of radical thinking, form an empire of their own. Didn't happen and the Jews still haven't been forgiven for crucifying their God (something they explicitly took responsibility for).

In the case of being visited by angels, I definitely agree that it's entirely possible, but only under the proper conditions. First, is it necessary in the sense that someone already on earth could help or teach us in the way that an angel could? Second, would we be prepared for such a spiritual experience. Section 129 gives instruction on how to receive an apparently heavenly messenger while the end of Section 76 tells us that anyone would have the chance to see the same vision if conditions are met.

Alongside the condition to have the "necessary" faith to see such marvelous things goes back to something I was taught in my D&C class at school. Referring to the D&C verse "Where much is given, much is required," my professor highlighted a new meaning for that in the sense that Satan would have more and more to tempt us to deny/disbelieve, hence his theory in the "equal and opposite temptation" that comes about after we learn/receive something new. The larger it is, the more difficult it is to overcome. Hence why if we were to receive some spiritual manifestation that we weren't ready for, we would then receive an equal and opposite temptation that we would not be ready to resist. But because the Lord has promised that we would never be tempted above that which we would be able to resist, such a thing won't happen.

You won't find me denying the existence of guardian angels, either. Not only did Joseph Smith write several accounts of visiting with his own, but mine saved my life once. I was about to cross the street at school once when I suddenly heard a loud, "STOP!" and someone held me back by the shoulder just before a red light runner barreled through the intersection right where I was about to step. When I turned around, no one visible was there.

The best advice found in the scriptures on how to commune with God, spirits and angels is in both Psalms and the D&C wherein the Lord says, "Be still and know that I am God." It fits right in with your advice on finding a secluded space and reaching out.

Tom said...

I would just like to add a contrary thought to what you wrote, Dave P., about our temptations growing to match our spirituality, an "equal and opposite temptation" as you wrote.

Couldn't it also be written, that the more holy we become, the more we seek the face of Christ, that the less the temptations become? The temptation is still an "equal and opposite temptation," but is equal and opposite to a lower standard.

That may sound contrarian, but if you think about it, when we're the vilest of sinners, the temptations we're faced with will challenge the vilest in our natures, seeking to push the envelope just a little further each time. In this sense, the temptations are "equal and opposite," but equal and opposite to an increasingly difficult standard.

Flip that scenario to one like John the Baptist, or John the Disciple, or Nephi or whoever it might be, where their tolerance for sin is much lower, where their "vilest" sin, for example, is cussing under their breath (I kid, but only for an example). The next temptation they receive wouldn't be for them to murder their wife, but rather to stretch that cussing into something out loud...an extension of the previous issue.

So, in that sense, their tolerance is lowered and their openness to that next temptation is equally lowered.

But, it's a dynamic tolerance, ever changing. We're either increasing or decreasing our tolerance for it by what we do and who we seek. If we seek Christ in all things, then I believe our temptations will be measured accordingly. If we seek His opposite, then those temptations will be measured accordingly.

Now, I need to sit and think on temptations to get us to disbelieve or deny a truth. I'm not ready to apply that standard to what I wrote above...I actually think that issue revolves around where we are on the scale of what we seek. The dynamics are always changing, it's just a matter of which way we're going. Let me stew on this one...

This is what I believe Alma 41:13, 15 are saying. We get that which we seek - it's restored unto us.

Anonymous said...

Something occurred to me a few days after reading this that I thought I would share. The lord is known to teach us line upon line, precept on precept, here a little, there a little. God gives us a small amount that we then must master. Once we are ready He will share a little more for us to master. If the church as a whole is not receiving any new revelation than it's logical to assume that we haven't yet mastered His previous teachings.

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