Monday, December 2, 2013

Women and priesthood

An article addressing institutionalized racism within the LDS Church was referenced by Steve Bloor, a (barefoot) former Mormon and bishop. (Obviously, his goal was to denigrate the faith he formerly believed in.)

I appended my own comment to the article referenced:

The rationale that God determines the “times and seasons” men and women enter the world (fore-ordination) was not disputed or debunked by this article. What was once a “curse” (to be born dark-skinned) in earlier days clearly may not be today. The posterity of Adam entering this world in former times may have been “blessed” to be born in certain families and cultures (the Jewish faith, for example) while being born into those same families and cultures today might constitute a “curse”.

The seed of Adam has begun to “mix” inextricably. As the author wrote, there are no “pure” races remaining.

Clearly we are in “transition” to a one-flock and one-Shepherd world.

This article misstates the fundamental concept of priesthood, mistaking TRUE priesthood for something that can be conferred by man upon men (or women). In a ritualistic, Aaronic priesthood sense, this is true. Men (and churches) can ordain men (or women) to perform these functions as they see fit, with divine approbation.

But TRUE priesthood comes from entering into the presence of God (or His angels, hearing His own voice) and receiving authority and power from Him by nature of one’s knowledge gained in association therewith. This domain is NOT exclusive either to men or women. ALL may come unto Him: male and female, black and white, bond and free. All are alike unto God.

The question is not “Who can be ordained?” but “Who has (and can) come unto God?”

The Church’s fallacy is in supposing that the priesthood received by Joseph Smith (and others) by divine interaction could be adequately transferred to others WITHOUT said divine interaction. The form replaced the substance. The Church now virtually refuses to acknowledge that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood”. Rather, Church policy is that ALL power or influence can and ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood! They have stood the doctrine on its head and turned it inside out.

Church authority is NOT priesthood authority. The priesthood can exist (and has existed) WITHOUT the LDS Church. But the LDS Church — organized and established as it is, having made itself DEPENDENT upon priesthood ordination and authority — CANNOT exist now without “priesthood ordination”.

It was not always so. In the early days of the LDS Church, Church leaders were selected and elected, not ordained. A cultural remnant of that “election” process persists in the raising of the right hand to “sustain” the now designated (no longer elected) leadership. Church leaders formerly didn’t have to hold “priesthood”. But Church POLICY was changed to mandate that only ORDAINED PRIESTHOOD HOLDERS have authority in the Church. This relegated sisters to “second-class” status and deluded men into thinking they possessed divine power (or authority) simply because they were ordained to an office or calling, rather than because they had ACTUALLY entered into God’s presence and received divine knowledge and a commission from Him. This was a grave mistake.

Thus the “Priesthood” in the Church today is only a glimmer of what it was (or could be), it now “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”

Such was explained recently in Passing the Heavenly Gift, a book by Denver Snuffer, the publishing of which got him excommunicated from the LDS Church a few months ago.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Faith in a Feather

Daniel Peterson wrote an article in the Deseret News (published September 5, 2013) tacitly refuting Denver Snuffer's claim that the “transfiguration” of Brigham Young into Joseph Smith was exaggerated or contrived. I was impressed with Bro. Peterson rendition of the event.
However, digging deeper into the sources he cited, I was saddened to discover Bro. Snuffer's account, more than likely, is the more honest, accurate one. This morning I wrote a “rebuttal” to Bro. Peterson's article in the “comment” section of the Church-owned Deseret News, but, apparently, my submission was not “accepted”. (I was constrained, coincidentally, to two hundred words or less!)

Thank you, Bro. Peterson, for your well-written piece. Very inspiring!

However, Sis. Jorgensen's paper deserves careful scrutiny. It glosses over many damning discrepancies in the "faith-promoting witnesses" she cites. Richard S. Von Wagoner's paper "The Making of a Mormon Myth: The 1844 Transfiguration of Brigham Young" reveals that several LDS leaders -- including Elder Orson Hyde, as president of the Quorum of the Twelve -- claimed to be an "eye witness" to this event and spoke of the "transfiguration" in glowing terms, when, in fact, these leaders weren't even there! Their "testimonies", quite frankly, are nothing short of lies and embellishments, akin to the stories told by Elder Paul H. Dunn.

How very sad.

It seems the tale simply "grew" organically from the collective sentiments, personal impressions, heart-felt yearnings and -- perhaps -- even spiritual sensitivities of those present (and, apparently, even of those who weren't!). Could several people have simply "seen" (or "remembered") what they "wanted" to see or remember?

I would have said much more. (But, alas, 200 words is not enough!) Both Jorgensen's paper and Von Wagoner's research reveal that Snuffer is indeed correct: there will always be opposing “witnesses”. Two sides to every story. Differing accounts. Reasons to believe and disbelieve. It is given to us to choose. We have agency.
Joseph Smith was so “believing”, he even believed in things that weren't true. (Was this a defect in his character?) He also believed in things that were true, even when they could not be seen except with the “eye of faith”.
We tend to err on the side of not believing. We don't believe until we see. (And, even then, we sometimes still don't believe!) So which is worse? To disbelieve until we see (and since we cannot see everything that truly is), therefore not believe all that could and should be believed? Or to believe all that is true (and even some that isn't) because we are willing to believe even what we cannot see?
One practice leads to greater knowledge, even by faith. The other doesn't. One is preferred by God. The other isn't. One will make you (sometimes) look like a fool. The other will make you, in fact, a fool.

Dumbo's misplaced belief in a feather inspired him to fly. So was his faith misplaced? Christ mixed dirt with saliva and anointed a blind man's eyes with the salve, allowing him to see. Was this earthy ointment what healed him? Or was it the power of Christ? Was the man's faith misplaced?

Sometimes believing in something that isn't allows (or enables) us to have faith in something that is. It is better to err on the side of “believing”, like a child, even in fairy tales.

Otherwise, the whole world might remain blind.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Snuffing Out the Heavenly Gift

This is perhaps a first: last week in Utah a stake high council of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints excommunicated Brother Denver C. Snuffer, Jr., a member of the church who purportedly held a temple recommend and faithfully answered all of the recommend interview questions appropriately. His “crime”? Two years ago he published a book (one of eight he has written) arguing that the Saints, as a body, rejected the “fullness of the priesthood” offered to them in the early 1840s. Consequently the Saints now possess less priesthood power and authority than current LDS Church leaders presume or portray themselves as having. While seemingly deleterious to the message and mission of the Church, Snuffer's thesis is supported by historical documents, statements made by LDS leaders, and LDS scriptures. Bro. Snuffer's explanation also happens to be the only one (I've encountered) that makes sense!

The original indictment against him reads, in part, as follows:

“...[Passing the Heavenly Gift] is not constructive to [the] work of salvation or the promotion of faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The book's thesis is in direct conflict with church doctrine. In your effort to defend the restoration, you have mischaracterized doctrine, denigrated virtually every prophet since Joseph Smith, and placed the church in a negative light. The book is a misguided effort to attempt to bridge the gap between the church and its dissidents. PTHG will never be the solution to hard questions that you believe it is. Like every other such effort, it will attract only the attention of those whose spiritual eyes, ears and hearts are obscured from the truth. Your work pits you against the institution of the church and will lead to the spiritual demise of you and your family.”

The above statement is problematic for several reasons. Firstly, the high council apparently never considered the truthfulness of PTHG's thesis, only the effects. If the book's claims are true, then every other consideration is irrelevant (unless suppressing truth and upholding falsehood has become the LDS Church's mission). Ironically, Snuffer's book explains how truth has been suppressed. Apparently the book's truthfulness was never examined or considered, much less refuted.

Secondly, what is “church doctrine”? (Apostle Bruce R. McConkie once published a book titled “Mormon Doctrine”, but that book was deemed "flawed" and has since been withdrawn from publication.) PTHG does critically examine several teachings of past and present LDS leaders and does challenge the Church's “traditional narrative”. But so what? Mormons aren't required to have a “testimony” of Church history. Neither do they covenant to uphold “church doctrine”. Latter-day Saints covenant to uphold Christ's doctrine and to exercise faith in Him.

Unlike Christ's doctrine (which never changes), LDS doctrine has changed (and continues to change at an accelerating pace, according to Snuffer's book). What LDS leaders teach today is very different from the faith restored by Joseph Smith. Excommunicating Snuffer because of his interpretation of Church history – which he wrote relying upon LDS Church documents, statements made by LDS Church leaders, and LDS scriptures – smacks of “killing the messenger”.

I found PTHG to be very constructive to the work of salvation, largely because I found it to be true. Reading the book very strongly promoted my faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ (even if it did weaken – no, destroy! – any confidence I had in the unblemished virtue or abject truthfulness of the leadership now controlling the corporation known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). I was driven to my knees in fervent prayer, acknowledging my sins and “awful state” before God, recognizing that I had been led to embrace a false and foolish hope that any mere man (or group of men) could "save" me. Denver Snuffer awakened me to my dire need to repent and to rely, once again, upon Jesus Christ and His power to save, not on some (great and spacious) institution, symbolic physical ordinance, or the “arm of flesh”.

I now know (what I, before, only suspected) that many Latter-day Saints embrace a “gospel” tainted by myth, corrupted by damning false doctrines, and adulterated with folklore and the teachings and commandments of men passed off as “truth” and "revelation". Our “gospel” and “official” Church history have been compromised and changed, again and again. PTHG is an exposé on those compromises and changes, how they came to pass, and what we can (and must) do in response to them. Thus, I continue to have hope (even as I have lost faith in the church I once thought to be "true"). My faith is now properly grounded in Jesus Christ and His gospel (again), not in the “sand” of institutional salvation or the commandments and teachings of men.

Ironically, Denver Snuffer never encouraged anyone to leave the LDS Church. (He argued against doing that! And still does!) He continues to promote faithful activity in the Church, attendance at meetings, paying tithes to the Church, and doing all that is asked of Latter-day Saints by their current Church leaders. He doesn't advocate establishing another church or replacing the current Magisterium. In fact, he supports and sustains the current LDS hierarchy, prays for them, and encourages others to do likewise.

A very strange “apostate” indeed!

I have read PTHG and am currently reading another Snuffer book, The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil. Both have been very enriching: more inspiring, faith promoting, repentance-inducing and informative than anything I have read from the current crop of LDS leaders (no disrespect intended). True “prophets, seers and revelators” prophesy, see, and reveal! They speak with God personally, stand in His holy presence from time to time, and deliver messages directly from Him (as did Joseph Smith). They are often persecuted by the very people they are called to serve (especially by members of the Church).

Do our current leaders fill the bill? By their fruits ye shall know them.

Today Bro. Snuffer posted (without comment) a second letter he received from his (former) stake president, Truman Hunt. The letter outlines restrictions Bro. Snuffer must endure as a current excommunicant.

In addition to being forbidden to pray, talk or testify in Church, pay tithing or wear the garment, Bro. Snuffer was told to “not engage in activities which require an exercise of priesthood power.”

In modern LDS parlance, attributions of priesthood “power” and “authority” are inextricably conjoined, resulting in almost universal misunderstanding.

One may have "authority" (as one supposes) without exercising (or receiving) any real "power". For example, one may serve as stake president upon being duly sustained by common consent of the membership of the Church of that stake, thereby receiving authority to act in said capacity. But receiving power from On High to righteously discharge the duties of that office is an entirely different matter altogether. Anyone who exercises divine power clearly also possesses divine authority. (Jesus healed the sick and thereby demonstrated His authority to forgive sins. If He only pretended to have authority to forgive, He would not have possessed the divine power to heal.) Manifestations of divine power are signs of actual divine authority.

Likewise, lacking divine power is tantamount to lacking divine authority. The works of God cannot be accomplished without divine power, for God is a God of miracles and works by power. (Anything else is simply the work of men.) "Powerless" authorities "play-act", pretending to act on the Lord's behalf. (The Lord suffers them to do so, inasmuch as we all are learning to "magnify" our offices and callings in the priesthood.) However, the priesthood is not to be trifled with. Those who vainly claim divine power or authority without doing everything in their power to receive such risk committing blasphemy.

Having excommunicated Bro. Snuffer, Pres. Hunt surrendered any claim to "authority" he might have had over Bro. Snuffer. (Pres. Hunt insured that Bro. Snuffer was no longer a member of his stake!) While Pres. Hunt has no more authority over Bro. Snuffer, he still has the responsibility and accountability to seek Bro. Snuffer's welfare. (We all bear such responsibility and accountability for the welfare of those within our sphere of influence.) Pres. Hunt may fulfill this responsibility by exercising priesthood power, but only by the same means the only means! by which priesthood power (or "authority") can or ought to be exercised: by persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned, kindness and pure knowledge. (See Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42.)

By forbidding Bro. Snuffer from engaging in activities “which require an exercise of priesthood power”, does Pres. Hunt think to prevent Bro. Snuffer from being kind, long-suffering, loving, gently persuasive or meek? For those are the only attributes by which priesthood authority (or power) may be handled or maintained. Other forms of behavior – exerting control, dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness – are anathema to the Holy Spirit and to the exercise of true priesthood power (or authority).

Likewise driving away (or restraining) a righteous man (who can honestly obtain a temple recommend) assaults the sensibilities of heaven and is not the work of the Lord.

I have read literally thousands of pages of Bro. Snuffer's writings. In so doing, I have found nothing for which Bro. Snuffer should be condemned, much less found guilty of apostasy. Does Pres. Hunt really think he can command Bro. Snuffer to keep silent or to refrain from doing the Lord's bidding and expect to be obeyed? Can Pres. Hunt not see the repetition of history in the making? (Acts 5:28-29.)

Only a fool would hearken unto man rather than to God.

[T]hrough your actions and claims,” Pres. Hunt wrote, “you have chosen to leave us.” In his first letter to Bro. Snuffer, Pres. Hunt wrote “only the attention of those whose spiritual eyes, ears and hearts are obscured from the truth” will be attracted to his message. Furthermore, Snuffer's efforts, Hunt wrote, would “lead to the spiritual demise of [him] and [his] family.” With regard to each of these statements, I surmise the exact opposite to be true.

Apparently Pres. Hunt has swallowed – hook, line and sinker – the corporate mantra “there is safety in the mainstream of the Church” and “the Brethren will never lead you astray”.

There isn't and they have.

There is safety only in exercising real faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. True faith in Christ produces spiritual power, manifest by the possession and exercise of spiritual gifts (the “gifts of the Spirit”). Thus one may judge the “rightness” of one's course. The possession of spiritual gifts is a living witness, a testimony and a “sign” that one's course is correct. One may “see” the Way, the Truth and the Life only if one's “lamp” (soul) is filled with “oil” (the Holy Ghost). “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:5.)

We must pray for Pres. Hunt.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Greatest Love

When you dry out your hanky, here's another:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sadly, a voice of reason

Michael S. Rozeff crystallizes America's political, economic and social woes. His essay distills a lifetime of lessons in American history:
"America is a very sick patient with a curable cancer that, if left alone, will cause death. The cancer is the Union or the state known as the U.S.A. More commonly, the Union and the U.S.A. are referred to as the U.S. government, the federal government or simply the government. It is the body established by the Constitution that administers the powers described in that Constitution. Phasing out and dissolving the U.S. government, which can be done by constitutional means, will remove the cancer and restore a degree of health. 
Ending the Union will certainly not cure all of America’s ills, because they trace back to wrong and false ideas. These are like bad habits, genetic and environmental factors that cause cancer. If they are not changed, the cancer will come back. The search for non-destructive politics is as never-ending as the search for health and longevity. 
The main reason why Americans should dissolve the Union is that it is a failed state. For those who believe in the efficacy and goodness of states, their most essential, central and important task is to keep the peace within their domain. This goal entails protecting the lives and property of the citizens under its protection, the people of the United States."
It would appear America's fate is death. The era of the Gentiles draws to a close as God's wrath proposes to consume all nations.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Gates of Hell

Yesterday we discovered that, for the past month, some of our older children have been accessing online pornography via their "school" laptop computers. These were not just pictures of naked bodies found in Playboy that my father hid in his bedroom or that others passed around the school yard. (The stuff of my youth.) These were sights and sounds of hard-core, sometimes violent, sexual depravity and unrestrained debauchery, worse than any movie ever offered at any XXX theater. My children saw everything -- every "golden calf" "graven image" or "dumb idol" that fallen man has ever devised or imagined, every perversion of sexuality that humankind can conjure and perform. My children spent hours and days captivated by the images and seductions flowing from the internet sewers.

Many years ago we "sacrificed" cable and satellite television in our home so that our children would have a "safe haven", a chance to have a "proper" childhood. We wanted to protect their innocence. We put "blocks" (or so we thought) on the internet and on each of our computers. We even homeschooled!

But we discovered that, despite our efforts, our castle walls have, nonetheless, been breached. Our own children brought into our home, into their minds, into their lives, the very garbage and demons we were trying to keep out! Our children let it all in through the "front gate". They didn't just open the door. They invited it in!

We recently noticed among our older children a certain "fascination" with "nasty" words. They sometimes asked us how to spell this word or what does that mean. (We tried to avoid these conversations.) I told them there were no "bad" words, per se, only words used very inappropriately. (I didn't want to suggest to my children that any words possessed intrinsic powers, like special incantations or evil spells, able to overpower and captivate the victimized user thereof.) We avoid using "bad" words, but we don't obsess over them. The world is filled with filthy language. We cannot allow ourselves to be vexed and perturbed by it. We would hardly be able to go outside! I didn't want to give "nasty words" undeserved importance, like they were bullets or bombs themselves, from which everyone must run and hide.

I was wrong. Words mean something. Words are powerful. We reverence and protect the name of Deity, do we not? Have not the lame walked and the blind received their sight by the power of faith in His name? Words indeed can be powerful things! They can quicken and inspire and they can defile and destroy.

Ought we not to cast out and eschew even the thought of certain words, banishing them forever from our existence? Wouldn't the acts associated with those words themselves then cease to exist? 

But what if we had no word for rape? Would rape cease to exist? Can anyone ban snow by simply refusing to give it a name?

The fact is evil exists. And if evil didn't exist, it would exist. And if it can, it will. Satan is quietly (and not so quietly) doing what has been done in other worlds: peddling the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil to those who will partake. His intent is to make those who will listen to him just like him. He aims to poison and destroy the souls of men. In his mind, if he cannot have some holy, wonderful thing, then no one can. That which he cannot claim and enjoy for himself, he ruins and deprives from others. If he cannot take something good away, then he perverts, subverts and corrupts it. That is his way. That is why he peddles pornography.

My wife asked me last night: "What do we do now that our children have opened the gates of hell?"

The answer is to be found in a word, even a name, the only name under heaven by which mankind can be saved.

When I confronted my children with the facts, they first denied them, feigning "innocence". (How ironic!) Then I reminded them that nothing they do "online" -- whatever is searched, viewed or communicated via the internet, telephone or tv -- is ever forgotten. Someone, somehow, somewhere (even in Utah!) is recording every website, every image, every word, every keystroke. There are no "hidden works of darkness" that shall not ultimately be revealed. Our phones and computers now have tiny cameras pointed at us to capture even our expressions as we "surf the web" of worldly wonders, both good and evil.

My children crumbled with awareness that their activities were surveiled and, thus, indelibly traceable. We did not make them rehearse the matter entirely. Once they acknowledged what they had done, we urged them to go to their rooms and closets and offer up their prayers to God for forgiveness. We demanded that they never bring such influences into our homes (and their lives) again. We adjured them to consider "What Would Jesus Do?" (WWJD) and to do that in all situations. There is no limit, I told them, to the evil one may imagine. No one can, or ought to, list all the ways one may sin, do evil, or harm. To try to do so only invites more evil as it "gives ideas" to the uninitiated.

One may always ask, however, "What would Jesus do?" and, by the voice of the Spirit, one may receive the answer. No one can do much evil or walk for long in error so long as one strives to comport one's life and actions to the pattern and example of the Savior, seeking to do Christ's will in all things. Nephi counseled us (I told my children) to first pray to God before undertaking any activity, asking God to consecrate our performance to the welfare of our souls (2 Nephi 32:8-9). That was Nephi's way of asking "What would Jesus do?" He counseled us to pray, "feasting upon the word of Christ" (2 Nephi 31:20; 32:3) and then to do whatsoever Christ tells us.

Faith in Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion in water (demonstrating obedience) and continuing in prayer thus invites the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, whereby one may be cleansed with light and love, pure knowledge and sanctification of the Spirit. This is the process by which one may be redeemed and brought back into the presence of God. Only He can save, restore and redeem us from the Fall.

Taking upon one's self His name -- the name of Jesus Christ -- is the only means by which one may prevail against the gates of hell.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Latter-day Korihor

A few months ago I learned of a man, Steve Bloor (and his brother, David) who fell away from the LDS Church. (Steve used to be a bishop!) He denounced his former belief in Christ, became an atheist, and embraced secular humanism. I've written several comments on Steve Bloor's blog, but you will not find my last comment there, only the words that preceded it. To prevent those words from "dying", I have recorded them below:
David, I don’t see how that has any relevance to what we’re discussing here. Steve’s “authority” as your bishop no more validates (or invalidates) his teachings than my lack of supposed “authority”. Nor is my alleged narcissism at issue.What matters is the truth.
(I recognize the limitations of putting words in Steve’s mouth. I hope I’m not misrepresenting him.) 
Steve has opted to believe in the “five senses” definition of reality. If you can hear it, see it, touch it, taste it or smell it (or some extension thereof), it may be real and true. Otherwise, it’s probably just imagination, delusion, subconscious mind, etc. (Steve’s probably still open to the idea that there could be a God; he would just have to have some pretty strong evidence!) Steve is a “realist”. “This life” is all there is — as far as we can know (by our five senses and our “natural man” reasoning) — barring any “revelation”. And Steve (for now) doesn’t believe in revelation…unless, of course, some space alien were to appear and “reveal” something new. (And we don’t have any evidence of aliens.) Even if we did, why should we trust them? And who’s to say “God” isn’t an alien? And even if this “alien” could be right in some things, it’s not reasonable to suppose he could be right in everything, etc, etc. The doubting and disbelieving never stops! One can always find excuse to disbelieve. 
15 Nevertheless, the people began to harden their hearts, all save it were the most believing part of them…and began to depend upon their own strength and upon their own wisdom, saying: 
16 Some things they may have guessed right, among so many; but behold, we know that all these great and marvelous works cannot come to pass, of which has been spoken. 
17 And they began to reason and to contend among themselves, saying: 
18 That it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come; if so, and he be the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, as it has been spoken, why will he not show himself unto us as well as unto them…? 
19 Yea, why will he not show himself…? 
20 But behold, we know that this is a wicked tradition, which has been handed down unto us by our fathers, to cause us that we should believe in some great and marvelous thing which should come to pass, but not among us…therefore they can keep us in ignorance, for we cannot witness with our own eyes that they are true. 
21 And they will, by the cunning and the mysterious arts of the evil one, work some great mystery which we cannot understand, which will keep us down to be servants to their words, and also servants unto them, for we depend upon them to teach us the word; and thus will they keep us in ignorance if we will yield ourselves unto them, all the days of our lives. 
22 And many more things did the people imagine up in their hearts, which were foolish and vain; and they were much disturbed, for Satan did stir them up to do iniquity continually; yea, he did go about spreading rumors and contentions upon all the face of the land, that he might harden the hearts of the people against that which was good and against that which should come.” (Helaman 16:15-22.)
This is precisely what is happening here. And you don’t think the Book of Mormon is true? 
I’m not sure I made my point clearly. Or, if I did, you didn’t understand it. 
You don’t have to take my word for it. You don’t have to only trust others. You don’t have to rely wholly upon feelings. You can have real evidence.
When I say “come unto Christ” and you will feel His love — I’m not implying that “love” itself is the only or ultimate manifestation of Christ’s reality (even though a good philosophical argument could be made that that’s the case; that, in the end, “God’s love” is all that really matters!). I’m saying that when you come unto Christ, He manifests Himself to you — by all the ways known: to Father Lehi and his son, Nephi (by open visions and dreams); to Alma and Mosiah’s four sons (spiritual epiphanies and “out-of-body” experiences); to the missionaries Nephi and Lehi (being enveloped in fire, receiving angels and hearing voices); to receiving the Lord Himself in the flesh (as did the people in Bountiful). The manifestations of God are many and varied. Both the wicked and the righteous — from prophets to murderers — have received this gift. One needn’t by “holy” to receive the witness of the Holy Ghost. (Alma Jr., the king Lamoni and his father, the 300 Lamanites coming to murder Nephi and Lehi certainly weren’t “worthy”.) You don’t have to be “worthy”. You simply have to receive when the Spirit testifies to you…and continue to receive ever afterward. The moment you stop receiving, you stop progressing. In fact, you start moving backward, losing even that which you have. (See 2 Nephi 28:30; Luke 19:26.)
Until the point is reached of which it is spoken:
“And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:32.)
Nephi warned of this: 
“But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught.” (2 Nephi 33:2.)
Nephi said that, if you receive the Holy Ghost (which testifies of Christ), you can prophesy and speak with the tongue of angels (see 2 Nephi 32). Now if you can prophesy and receive power to speak beyond mortal means, how can you deny the power of God? And if you haven’t done these things, how can you claim to have received the Holy Ghost, when clearly you have not? 
As I said, you didn’t “press forward” far enough.
That’s the great fallacy and downfall of modern Mormonism. Mormons have failed to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and the baptism of fire. 
“7 And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be. 
8 And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.” (2 Nephi32:7-8.)
Now, Steve, this may shock you, but I’m going to concede that you are right. You speak of “subconscious mind” being the active force that guides all belief in religion. You are right.
I do not doubt that the entire human collective of intelligence — even every living thing — is an expression of the glory and intelligence of God and that when we receive and act upon that intelligence, we are magnified and perfected and when we don’t, we are diminished. The “oneness” Christ spoke of, in part, reflects that commonality of intelligence, even subconscious thought. It is imagined that a chorus of nations all clamoring for peace, justice, mercy, harmony, forgiveness, truth and goodness could, in fact, create a heaven on earth. And, indeed, they shall, by the collective force of their subconscious minds bending to the light and will of God.
Our thoughts bear “fruit” in our words and deeds. (Alma 12:13-14.)
You are right, Steve. Most of what Mormons — yea, even all believers in “religion” — believe consists of thoughts and feelings, yearnings and desires, hopes and dreams. It is the “stuff” of the Spirit (or spirits).
But that spirit gives birth to physical fruit, for good or ill. The religion of Muhammad, being corrupted, is a current example of that process gone awry. Mormons, too, at Mountain Meadows and elsewhere, have harvested the bitter fruit of false faith.
Whatever is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” (Article of Faith 13) we seek after because that is how heaven will be created — by gods-in-embryo, learning to do “on earth as it is in heaven”.

Steve Bloor maintains his blog to “gain personal insight into [his] own neurology in the context of previous Mormon thinking and [his] evolving belief system”. He claims to “not wish to deconvert anyone”, but to “reach out to others who are going through a similar transition, to offer hope and inspire courage to other disaffected and questioning Mormons”. Transition to what? Courage to do what? Steve may not wish to “deconvert” anyone, but he sure hopes to inspire others to follow him out the door!

Steve claims he welcomes “contrary” comments on his blog, but apparently does not dialogue with those who are “absolutely sure of their testimonies and committed to unquestioning adherence to their belief system.” Why? I presume he wishes to avoid unnecessary contention. The adherent, he presumes, isn't going to change his views because of Steve's ruminations and Steve is hereby announcing to the world that he will not be persuaded differently by anything such an individual might have to say. Steve is so certain of the superiority of his trajectory that he can even afford to dismiss contrary claims on the basis that they violate his genteel rules of manners and propriety. No pauline proclamations that “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall”! (See Acts 23:3.) Such would be considered a “personal attack”. Steve warns: “[I]f you feel inclined to comment in an emotionally defensive and argumentative tone I will not argue with you!” Comments he deems not “respectful” are also disallowed. Neither does he tolerate “attempts at character assassination.” “I will instead wish you well in your journey and bid you farewell”.

In any case, Steve may not want to clutter up his blog with opposing arguments he disdains but cannot refute. (Irrefutable claims are not necessarily true or false, but they can be irritating – and even embarrassing to debate, a futile exercise.) Steve knows he's right, after all. His “evolving belief system” is only evolving away from the Church. To Steve, the Church is “evil” inasmuch as it is “false”. There will be no “bearing testimony” of Mormonism allowed on Steve's blog.

His “rules for comments” end with these words:
Instead of emotion-driven thinking and comments, I value rational thought and well-considered argument. 
Please feel free to join a philosophical debate.
So he welcomes debate! With that encouragement, I submitted my last comment (see above), but Steve refused (to post) it. Wasn't it “rational” and “well considered”? It certainly contributed to the “philosophical debate”, did it not?

But Steve doesn't really want debate. He wants an echo chamber of disaffected souls he can lead to mean, oblivion. (Steve doesn't believe in hell.) He fancies himself a “savior” of sorts: a savior from Mormonism. He proclaims “this life is it” – “here and now” is all there is. After this life is...nothing. No consciousness. No existence. Only annihilation. So why in hell does Steve care what anyone does or thinks? From his philosophical viewpoint, life if ultimately pointless anyway. What good is it to fill a bag – even with “the very best” – only to rip it open again, losing everything? Truly “all is vain” in Steve's world.

I won't flatter myself by thinking my post “struck a nerve” with Steve or that I gave him pause to reconsider his decision to leave Mormonism. On the contrary, Steve probably pities me and dismisses my arguments with the kind of benign indulgence one exercises toward a child who is worried about leaving cookies for Santa Claus. He doesn't take my words seriously. Steve is nothing if not convinced of the superiority of his wisdom and learning. He has abandoned his “superstitions” of religious faith and now practices a lifestyle that is “free” to “live life to its fullest” (whatever that means).

Apparently Steve was insulted by my comparing him to Korihor – a prominent Book of Mormon critic and secular humanist. But Steve's words mimic that anti-Christ almost perfectly! I think Steve knows it, and that's why he won't post my comment. He doesn't want to give the Book of Mormon any credit for “predicting” his arguments. He certainly doesn't want to publish a half dozen testimonies from others (Nephi, Alma Jr., Mormon, etc.) that testify of Christ manifesting Himself unto those who love Him and keep His commandments. Christ never appeared to Steve.

Steve also never knew the Savior's love. (Or, at least, he won't admit it!) My comments expose the contradiction in Steve's logic. He claims to have known the “Mormon God” only to discover that “He” is a fake, a figment of man's imagination. But the Book of Mormon states that those who receive Christ (and the witness of the Holy Ghost) experience divine power. They can speak with the tongue of angels and experience a remission of their sins by fire (see 2 Nephi 31:17; 32:2-3). If one experiences said power, how then can one claim that God does not exist, since only God's power could bring one “thus far” (2 Nephi 31:19)? And if God doesn't manifest this power, how then can one claim he ever “knew” God (as Steve does)?

Steve can't rationally make both claims simultaneously. Either he must deny ever truly knowing God (for, in Steve's world, God cannot be real) or he must deny ever receiving God's power (for that would be evidence that God exists!). If Steve denies either claim, however, he undercuts his own argument that he is, in any sense, an “authority” on Mormonism.

If anything, Steve's failure to “come unto Christ” and receive of the heavenly gift is evidence of only two things: either Christ isn't real (and the gift of the Holy Ghost is a sham) or Steve fell short.

If Christ isn't real, nothing on earth can prove that fact. One cannot prove a negative. There is always the possibility that somehow, somewhere Christ in His glory may be revealed. (In fact, that is the very claim made by those who say, positively, that they have “come unto Christ”!) If Steve fell short, well...what would be the evidence of that? He claims he didn't receive as promised...and he didn't. So that only proves he did not receive. It doesn't prove God doesn't exist.

But what of all those who claim they have received? Are they all liars? Are they all deceived? (Steve thinks so.) Mormons can't make the claim, however, that "so many 'testimonies' can't be wrong", for don't Mormons also argue that everyone else (a far greater number!) is in error? There is, therefore, no “safety in numbers”. Countless “testimonies” are insufficient to convince. Paul was not persuaded by the many witnesses he imprisoned and put to death. (See Acts 22:19-20.) Only the vision of Christ Himself altered Paul's view.

The only way to know if God is real is to know God. There is no other way.

Steve is, in fact, a base novice, a pretender, who knows nothing whereof he speaks. Like Nicodemus who knew not what it meant to be “born again” (see John 3:10), Steve Bloor never tasted of the “heavenly gift”. He never received the gift of the Holy Ghost or experienced divine manifestations beyond feeling “warm fuzzies” in his heart or “happy thoughts” in his mind. Steve never came unto Christ.

Or if he did, he now denies it. That's why the Savior warned:
After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.” (2 Nephi 31:14.)
Why? Because those who reject the Spirit of God after having received it cut themselves off from the only mechanism by which divine truth may be discovered, the only way an accountable soul may be saved or advanced. All who would come unto God must “enter in” at this gate! (See 2 Nephi 31:16-18.) There is no other way or means by which mankind may be saved. (Alma 38:9.)

I am not convinced that Steve ever received the heavenly gift. I am not convinced that he ever experienced the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, had the heavens opened to him, or communed with God. I don't believe Steve ever knew the Savior personally. I imagine that Steve is much like Aminadab, a man who once dabbled in the faith, who once “knew” the gospel, but never experienced its divine power (see Helaman 5:35, 39).

Such people can be rescued! (Helaman 5:42-50.) Steve's blog may yet become a true beacon of light and hope to the disaffected and disillusioned.

If, on the other hand, Steve received the gift and knows the power of God and has altogether turned therefrom, he is in danger of committing the unpardonable sin.

 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 
5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,  
6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6.)
I feel nothing but compassion for Steve. He tried so hard. He served as a bishop! His congregation loved him! And Steve was obviously inspired to see the “holes” and flaws inherent in the Mormon faith. (“Mormonism” certainly has them! By contrast, the “fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ” is perfect and complete.)

Ironically, as Steve was sharing his “revelations” about why he left Mormonism, I was experiencing my own “epiphanies” that helped me see the “bigger picture”. The blogs Pure Mormonism and from the desk of Denver Snuffer have hugely impacted my understanding of the gospel and the Church. (They are not the same!) I have more in common with Steve than he probably imagines. The major difference between us (I suppose) is that I have a testimony of Jesus Christ and he doesn't.

If Steve really wants a philosophical "debate" about the reality and nature of God, shouldn't he, at least, be willing to entertain “rational” and “well-considered” arguments from those who claim that God exists?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Our Savior's Love

The following is a revision of a "comment" I submitted at Latter-day Commentary:

Addiction issues (sexual and otherwise) stem, in part, from LACK OF LOVE and LOW SELF-ESTEEM. We talk about our Savior, our Savior’s love, our need to be patient, etc.. What we fail to acknowledge and/or perhaps don't realize is that our Savior’s love can and will WIPE AWAY EVERY DESIRE TO DO WRONG, even deep-seated addictions.

When one receives the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, one is privileged to receive a multitude of blessings. One of those blessings ought to be the opportunity to come back into the Savior’s presence. Upon doing so, one melts in the arms of His redeeming love, as it were. Nephi, Alma, King Lamoni and countless others have experienced this love. Even vile, hardened sinners, upon experiencing it, are transformed, almost overnight. One’ sins (and sinfulness) are literally “burned” out of them and one has no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually, because of it.

We must pray fervently and “without ceasing” to receive this love. And, once receiving it, we must pray without ceasing to retain it. It is charity, the pure love of Christ.

It is possible for one who has been thus “saved” to fall from grace again. Repentance, by the same act of calling upon God in mighty prayer, is then required. We all “fall from grace” to some extent (even in minor offenses).

It is the experience of communing with our Savior and receiving and experiencing His love that gives us the power and persistence to “endure to the end”, despite all hardships. Anything less would be inadequate to motivate one to “take up his cross” and follow Him.

I can testify that, in the course of time, one can be utterly delivered from addiction. In the case of masturbation and pornography, one “drawback” inhibiting one’s “motivation” to repent of these sins is that the “cost” of said sins seems so “slight” in comparison to the pleasures derived. Oh, sure, we recognize that we are “offending the Spirit” and “setting ourselves back” somewhat, spiritually speaking, but “who is without sin” anyway, we reason, and in what real way is anyone hurt? This mindset allows us to continue in sin, forever “short-changing” ourselves.

But what if someone else were hurt by our actions? What if our sin caused us to deeply harm, even kill another soul — preventing them from experiencing virtue or joy or inhibiting them from joining and enjoying the fullness of the gospel? What if our action turned someone else way from the gospel forever? Or caused our otherwise loving wife to leave us? Would we not then be “murderers” (as Alma, Jr.,was), having destroyed souls? Would not then our sin be very great?

Sexual sin is common. Those who persist in it eventually commit corruption that truly destroys lives. Once the person so addicted descends to that level of depravity, the loss is great. And with that loss — the loss of someone truly loved — the addict, perhaps for the first time, senses the enormity of his crime and realizes just how dear the price of his penance is (a price, fortunately, fully paid by Him who bore all things, if we will allow Him to).

I have experienced, in an instant, release from intense, life-long addiction that never returned, even in the slightest. In that moment I felt the departure of numerous evil spirits — the last being far worse than the first — from my body, causing me to shake and tremble. I have wept with sorrow, to the point that I have finally “given up” and said “God, take away from me all my sins, my idols, my demons, my lusts. I give them up. I don’t want them anymore.” And I meant it. I had truly had “enough”. I knew, with perfect knowledge, that I could no longer attempt to love both God and my graven images, my false gods, my idols. I could not love both God and mammon. And my love for God eventually won out. I loved my Savior, my wife, and my children — and I loved the one I would have continued offending had I persisted in sin — more than I loved myself or even my sin. The pleasure just wasn’t worth it anymore. As an expression of my love, I had to give up my sin. And I was willing to do so — out of love for others, not just myself. In fact, “myself” never entered the picture. I did it for love for others.

I pray that all those with addictions may be (like me) overwhelmed with love: love from (and for) wife, love from (and for) children, temporal blessings to overflowing. God knows I suffered years — decades! — without such love and blessings…and sin raged in my heart, forcing me to leave the Church and lose my way.

But God is merciful. My love for Christ — His appearance and witness to me — helped pull me through. And His blessings have cemented my resolve and redeemed me from the Fall. I now live in a state of happiness and peace from which, if I am ever careful to remember my former “captivity” and am mindful to continue in fervent prayer, I hope to never fall. For charity never faileth. If one has charity, one has all things.

It is worth not giving up.