Thursday, October 30, 2014

Meeting the devil

"Falling in love" really ought to be "choosing to love".

Men seem to "fall in love" while women seem to "choose to love". I think that's because women tend to be more biologically invested in any affair. They force themselves to be rational about it because, after all, they bear the children! Most men -- in matters of love, at least -- regard children only as an after-thought. In this day of "the pill", that is certainly truer than ever. Many men -- and, unfortunately, many women now -- are choosing to do without children altogether. After making the choice to forego (or postpone) motherhood, women are no longer "bound" to "choose to love"; they can now "fall in love" with reckless abandon! (The welfare state and an accommodating, condoning, corrupt culture likewise promote such poor decision-making.)

No wonder the world is going to hell.


That reminds me...

I've met the devil precisely once (that I know of).

As usual, it was in a dream.

I was standing against the wall of a brilliantly lit room, with several others like myself. All were dressed in gleaming white. (This was surely a temple.) It was announced that the Savior would soon be joining us.  The next few moments were filled with anxiety! I looked at all those who waited with me. We were trepidatious!

I could see from my position near the doorway that three personages approached! One in the middle wore red. I turned away as soon as I saw the hem of his robe.

Surely this is the Christ! I imagined.

When the red-clad entity entered the room, I dropped to my knees, head bowed. Overwhelming sensations of unworthiness enveloped me! I could remember all of my failures, all of my transgressions, all of my sins and abuses. I felt utterly unworthy to be in his presence! I did not dare to look up at him, but wept uncontrollably, pleading for mercy.

He was more than willing to grant it.

He placed his hands upon my head, ostensibly to give me a blessing. As he spoke, I was startled by what I heard. It wasn't what he said...or how he said it...or even the tenor of his voice. It was that his voice wasn't the voice I recognized. It wasn't the voice I knew.

I looked up.

The personage in red placed his hands over my eyes, preventing me from clearly seeing him. I struggled with him, moving my head and pushing his hands away. When I finally caught a glimpse of his face, I was surprised!

It was a woman.

This entity I endeavored to worship was, in fact, a woman.

I stood up.

The personage in red protested, demanding that I kneel again before him (her). I would not. The personage said "I am Jesus Christ!" I accused him (her) of being an imposter.

Before my eyes this woman transformed into a very handsome man -- a George Clooney-esque fellow with a toothy grin and well coifed, jet-black hair. In his power he commanded me to worship him, but I refused. Instead (as one who has witnessed such things should know), I commanded him to depart and the wall behind him vanished. He trotted off, in his anger and malice and hatred for me, ranting and raving as he went.


What did I learn from this?

That my "god" was a woman. I had made woman my god.

I worshipped "her". (I doubt that I am the only man to ever do this!) I placed my love for her above all else, even above my love for the true God. I wanted woman more than anything else.

I am keenly susceptible to placing this "idol", this "false god" upon the altar of my heart. She is woven, as it were, into the fabric of the "natural man". If I ever let him gain control again, she will manifest herself, no doubt.

My love for Jesus precludes me from letting that happen. I cannot...I must not...allow it.


There were times in my youth when I wanted to be "good" even when everyone else, it seemed, was bad.

There were times in my youth when I desperately wanted to be "bad", but others, seeing my "goodness", determined to keep me that way. (I really should be grateful to them!)

I'm grateful for such people today.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Casting out devils

I've had two experiences with casting out devils.

The first occurred during my mission. I had a new companion -- a "greenie" we'll call Elder Smith. He was tall and lanky and spoke English with a western drawl...and barely understood a word of Spanish. His family owned a huge ranch in Idaho. He was very proud of that. He had a girl waiting for him back home and a bright future ahead of him. His patriarchal blessing promised (he said) that he would serve as a zone leader on his mission. I never was a zone leader. (I barely made senior companion!) I didn't have a girl back home. I didn't know what tomorrow would bring.

One day I walked the streets of Valparaiso, Chile, with this elder while I whistled The Star Spangled Banner.

"Stop that, elder!" he said. "You're trunky!"

"I'm not trunky" I said. ("Trunky" means you're thinking of going home, not staying focused on missionary work.) "I'm just thinking about all of the blessings we have back home that we don't have here in Chile." (At that time, the Chilean government was a repressive, impoverished regime. Today Chileans enjoy many "freedoms" and "blessings" older Americans only vaguely remember now!)

"Stop it!" he said "or I'll punch you in the face!" He hovered over me, with his fist raised high in the air.

"Are you going to hit me right here [in the street] front of all of these people?"

He looked at me with disgust and lowered his hand.

"I hate your guts," he said and stormed away. He seemed to be going back to our pension (where we lived), but didn't wait for me to catch up to him. I followed him, taking a parallel route. At each intersection I looked south to the adjoining block to ensure that we crossed the street "together". We arrived at our destination (from different directions) almost exactly at the same moment.

Lunch was already on the table: a bowl of stew. We ate in silence.

After lunch I did something I rarely did: I took a nap. (We were not supposed to "nap" in Chile. Only "slackers" took naps. I was now a "slacker", apparently, as many of my "slacker" senior companions had been before me.) My companion took a shower. I laid my head on my pillow and fell instantly to sleep.

I awoke to a terrible ruckus. The woman who lived with us, who cooked our meals and washed our clothes, was banging on the bedroom door.

"Elder Carter! Elder Carter! Elder Smith needs you!"

I tumbled out of my bunk. Hideous screams could be heard in the bathroom! I turned the knob to the door, but it was locked. It sounded like someone was being butchered in there! I told the woman to get me a knife (to jimmy open the door).

As I entered the bathroom, the screaming stopped.

I closed and locked the door behind me.

It was a large bathroom -- a laundry room, really -- with a full tub / shower enclosure, a toilet and sink, a window, and extra space to wash and hang clothes. The room felt utterly "empty". The shower curtain was drawn shut. The water was running, but I heard no one.

"Elder Smith? Elder Smith? Are you alright?"

No answer.

Perhaps intuitively, perhaps by inspiration, I concluded that Elder Smith was either dead or unconscious, was having a seizure, or was possessed.

I was more than a little discomforted by any of those prospects. But I had to do something! I slowly pulled the shower curtain aside.

There stood Elder Smith, in the middle of the bath tub, almost facing me, swishing his backside back and forth against the tile wall. He had an utterly blank look upon his face.

"Elder Smith, are you alright?"

He didn't answer. I waved my hand in front of his eyes. There was no response.

"Can you hear me?"

No response.

He wasn't dead or unconscious, and he didn't appear to be having a seizure. (I had seen a student at BYU have an epileptic seizure in class. This was very different.) I concluded, for whatever reason, that Elder Smith must be possessed.

I remembered the account of the man possessed by devils who were cast out by Jesus, but I still didn't know what to do. Jesus asked the man what his name was, but the devils responded "Legion: because many devils were entered into him". I recalled something being taught about casting out the devil in the temple, but it had been a year or more since I had reviewed that lesson and I didn't remember what to do.

So I asked the elder: "What is your name?"

What came out of his mouth was something I will never forget. It was almost unhuman. It was the most guttural, animalistic, even horrifying sound I have ever heard someone speak...except in horror movies (which I don't watch). It was exactly like that!

He said (with the greatest difficulty, contorting his body as he did so): "Noooooooo saaaaaaaaaay". (I'm sorry. The written word simply cannot do that sound justice.) I understood him to say: "No sé", which, in Spanish, means "I don't know".

I thought "newbie" Elder Smith wouldn't speak in Spanish at a time like this, so I concluded he was possessed by a (Spanish-speaking!) devil (or devils). Still I didn't know how to cast a devil out!

"Elder Smith, would you like me to give you a blessing?"

"Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!" he squeezed out, in the most unnatural (almost cartoonish), low, "evil villain" sound you can imagine.

I turned off the shower.

"Get on your knees" I told him. But the naked elder didn't move. I put my hands on his tall shoulders and forced him to the tub floor. (I don't know why I did that. I didn't know what I was doing.) I placed my hands on his head and, in the name of Jesus Christ, commanded the devil or devils possessing Elder Smith to depart.

Instantly Elder Smith threw his arms around me, clutching me tightly -- like a drowning man holding on for dear life! -- still kneeling in the shower. "I love you, Elder Carter! Thank you!!" he gushed, surprising me. "I can see now!" he said. Apparently, he had been blinded by the influence that had overpowered him.

He rose from his knees his "normal" self again, but clearly quite weak. Before he could dry himself off, however, he doubled over and vomited, again and again, completely covering the bathtub floor with our previous lunch. It would not go down the drain, so I had to scoop it out with my hands and flush it down the toilet.

After rinsing and drying himself, Elder Smith asked me: "Would you please hand me my garments?"

"They're right there," I said, pointing to the rack beside the shower (where his towel had been). They were not two feet from where he stood.

"I know" he said, "but when I try to reach them, I can't touch them."

"You can't touch them?" He assured me he couldn't.

I took his garments off the rack and handed them to him. I helped him put them on. I then escorted him to bed, where he fell asleep.

Hours later we traveled to the mission home where Elder Smith spoke with the mission president in private. The mission president asked Elder Smith if he could share with me what happened. He said Elder Smith had been pleasuring himself sexually in the shower when he was overpowered by a supernatural force. He was possessed by a devil, in other words. Elder Smith said he never wanted to experience anything like that again.

Our companionship was different after that. There was no more contention, only love and mutual respect. I admired Elder Smith...and almost envied him. He had something happen to him that absolutely, positively turned him away from doing wrong. He experienced hell on a personal level that most of us can never know without completely ruining our lives. This was his "wake up call", his "Alma the younger" experience. Only the angel Elder Smith encountered was not of God, but of the devil himself.

I don't know if Elder Smith ever abused himself again. But I often wished that I had had "something" like that to help me turn away from wanting to do wrong. Something "big", something "momentous", something that would scare the hell out of me -- like Elder Smith was "blessed" with.

But I didn't.

I almost wished that I, too, had been possessed.

I didn't realize that I already was.

The scriptures speak of "the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men". Have you ever had an evil spirit in your heart? Have you ever wanted something -- or ever wanted to do something --- that you knew was wrong, but still you wanted to do it anyway, so badly that you almost couldn't help yourself? You could hardly stand it! Have you ever coveted something with almost uncontrollable desire?

Oh, heck, let's go all the way! Have you ever been out of control? Have you ever done something that you knew to be terribly wrong, but you did it anyway, because the desire just wouldn't stop?

I have.

And I know now that I was possessed.

I'll tell you how I know.

I've made no secret of the fact that, years ago, when I was a freshman at BYU, I was ministered to by the Lord Himself, by the power of the Holy Ghost. I saw Him. I heard His voice. I saw Him interact with others. It was a life-changing experience for me. I "walked in the clouds" after that, for weeks thereafter. I was consumed with love for Him!

Just seeing Jesus, or knowing intellectually that He lives (or that He lived) is no big feat. Thousands knew Him during His mortal sojourn and that had little (or no) effect on most of them. Few recognized Him for who He really is. His friends -- even members of His own family -- thought He was a good, though perhaps irrational, even delusional man. His mother knew He had special gifts...and a mission from God. But few others did. Even knowing "Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God" is of little use to us -- as "useless" as knowing that Pluto slowly circles the Sun -- if we have no interaction with Him. "What's that to me?" one might ask. "Jesus doesn't speak with me. I know not the man!"

What is needed is a spiritual witness. Melvin J. Ballard related his experience "meeting" the Savior in a dream just prior to his being called to the LDS apostleship. My experience was similar to his. As I've related elsewhere, I saw golden undulating beams of light emanate from His body as He sat teaching a gathered crowd outside the walls of Jerusalem. I saw His light fill the immensity of space and pierce a poor, wretched, filthy, sickly boy who stood beside Him. That boy wrapped his arms around Jesus' neck and kissed Him! I saw Jesus' light pierce that boy's body. And, more importantly, I saw and felt it pierce mine. I was filled with perfect love! It was the most awe-inspiring, rapturous, exhilarating experience of my entire existence, to this day, bar none.

I was a complete mess thereafter. Like Lehi, I fell upon my bed "being overcome with the Spirit and the things which [I] had seen." It was not the last time the Lord ministered to me, but it was the most powerful. My memory of that experience has suffused everything I have done since. It has even moderated my sins. I have never been able to claim "I don't know that He lives" or that "He doesn't love me". I've never been able to "excuse away" my sins saying "There is no sin" or "there is no God". For I know He lives. I know He loves me. I am absolutely sure of that.

That doesn't always make it "easy" to keep His commandments. However, it does make it possible.

The years rolled by and I took the blows of life, again and again. (Some were delivered to me by accident, unfairly. But most were delivered "right on time", after I "put in my order" myself!) The devil slowly chipped away at my faith. He knew he couldn't wrest from my soul the knowledge that Christ lives or that He is the personification of perfect love. Rather, he concentrated on distancing me from Him by casting doubts in my own mind about myself. He would say to me: "You are not perfect. You cannot be trusted. You are sinful. Jesus may still love you, but surely you don't love Jesus enough for Him to answer your prayers. You are not 'worthy'. You should just give up now."

By the time I was old, married, and with children, I was, for the most part, estranged from Jesus. I was, by then, more than ever, fully "active" in His Church, but Jesus and I were no longer on "speaking" terms. I offered my prayers to Him, for sure, and, so far as I knew, He answered them. All of them! (All of the "right" ones, at least.) But, still, we were anything but "best buds". I offered my prayers in the hope that they would someday be received. That's the best faith I could muster at that time.

I was still plagued with temptation. I wanted something very badly. (I won't tell you what it was.) During my life, I wanted this thing more than (almost) anything else, again and again. I had seldom, if ever, had it, but still, I lusted for it with (almost) all my heart. (I say "almost" because of what happened next.)

The alcoholic stares at his god in the bottom of a bottle and hopes to be refilled with the spirit. The drug addict awaits for angels to dance at the end of a needle or for god to appear in a pill. The sex addict craves an unobtainable, euphoric embrace with his deity. The glutton cannot be sated but by a temple-full of food and, by that, not for long. The craven poor lust for unacquired gold even as the truly weak lust for undeserved power. All worship false gods. All have welcomed demons into their hearts.

I had my chance to have what I wanted at last. It was in my grasp! I could have taken it (had I chosen to do so). I knew that choosing to do so would have destroyed me. (And it would have destroyed my family, as well.) But I was -- almost -- willing to do that, anyway, so badly I wanted this thing I did not (and could not) have! I was at my wits' end. I was, indeed, captivated by a devil. I felt it was only a matter of time before I did his bidding.

I went to my knees in prayer, shaking, agonized by unfed hunger, anguished with unslaked thirst. My lust was overwhelming! "God help me! Take away from me this desire to do wrong!" I cried.

"Lovest thou me less than these?"

"You know that I love You, Lord!" I knew the Lord loved me and I knew His love surpasses all understanding. I remembered His love. I remembered feeling His love. And I felt it again.

"Lord, I love You! I love you more than this!" I honestly confessed. "Please take away from me this cup!" I poured out my soul to Him in prayer. I willfully, earnestly, whole-heartedly "gave away all my sins to know" Him. I made my choice. I wanted to be with Him -- more than anything in the world! With all my heart.

At that moment, at that very instant, my body shook. It shook violently! I felt an entity leave me and, with its departure, so too fled any desire I once had to do wrong.

I was delivered. My soul was delivered! I had no more desire to do evil, but to do good continually (in that thing)! In fact, I have never been tempted by its like again. The evil spirit that possessed me was cast out of me by God. And my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, delivered me by His love.

I have ever after remembered my former "captivity" and am careful to "not go there" lest I reawaken and "reinvite" that demon that once possessed my soul.

Other demons inhabit my heart besides that one that left. One causes me to feel intense anger. (I am working on casting him out, too!) Treating others like Jesus -- even the unjust and cruel -- will cast him out. He feeds on injustice. He yearns to be offended, to find justification for his anger! But one who submits willingly to God or to any other being (but not to sin), even to one who is unjust and cruel, as a child willfully submits to his father, offers no recreation to a spirit consumed with hatred and malice and an unwillingness to forgive -- and be forgiven -- for wrongs done to him or her. That spirit is looking for retribution, for vengeance, and will captivate any soul who will allow it to do so. The submissive offers no refuge for him.

When we "give up" and "give in" and willingly submit to all things, whatsoever the Lord sees fit to inflict upon us, there is no cause for anger.

The hostage held captive with his feet in chains, hung upside down, who is mercilessly tortured, beaten, starved and abused without respite, is delivered in the very moment he says "Lord, I am willing to submit to all things, whatsoever thou seest fit to inflict upon me." So, too, the cancer "victim". The "ugly" person. The handicapped. The poor. The broken, the lonely and the mournful.

All shall be comforted, even delivered.

God sees us. And He knows our suffering. Acutely. He has been there. He has experienced all things, including our pain. He has descended below all things that He might know how to lift us up. He is willing to deliver us -- not necessarily from our circumstances (though He does that, too, on occasion), but from our lusts and our own self-will, from the things which damn us.

When we change ourselves, we change our circumstances (even when our circumstances don't change!). When we change ourselves, it is impossible for our circumstances not to change. We simply can't "fit" into them like we did before. It's a "new world" for us.

It has been said: "Joy is not found in having what you want, but in wanting what you have."

But I say: "Joy is found in wanting only to please God by making one's eye single to His glory...and finding Him."

Blessed is the man (or woman) who does so.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Meeting Jesus

A poor, wayfaring Man of grief
Hath often crossed me on my way,
Who sued so humbly for relief
That I could never answer nay.
I had not pow'r to ask his name,
Whereto he went, or whence he came;
Yet there was something in his eye
That won my love; I knew not why.

Once, when my scanty meal was spread,

He entered; not a word he spake,
Just perishing for want of bread.
I gave him all; he blessed it, brake,
And ate, but gave me part again.
Mine was an angel's portion then,
For while I fed with eager haste,
The crust was manna to my taste.

I spied him where a fountain burst

Clear from the rock; his strength was gone.
The heedless water mocked his thirst;
He heard it, saw it hurrying on.
I ran and raised the suff'rer up;
Thrice from the stream he drained my cup,
Dipped and returned it running o'er;
I drank and never thirsted more.

'Twas night; the floods were out; it blew

A winter hurricane aloof.
I heard his voice abroad and flew
To bid him welcome to my roof.
I warmed and clothed and cheered my guest
And laid him on my couch to rest,
Then made the earth my bed and seemed
In Eden's garden while I dreamed.

Stript, wounded, beaten nigh to death,

I found him by the highway side.
I roused his pulse, brought back his breath,
Revived his spirit, and supplied
Wine, oil, refreshment—he was healed.
I had myself a wound concealed,
But from that hour forgot the smart,
And peace bound up my broken heart.

In pris'n I saw him next, condemned

To meet a traitor's doom at morn.
The tide of lying tongues I stemmed,
And honored him 'mid shame and scorn.
My friendship's utmost zeal to try,
He asked if I for him would die.
The flesh was weak; my blood ran chill,
But my free spirit cried, "I will!"

Then in a moment to my view

The stranger started from disguise.
The tokens in his hands I knew;
The Savior stood before mine eyes.
He spake, and my poor name he named,
"Of me thou hast not been ashamed.
These deeds shall thy memorial be;
Fear not, thou didst them unto me."

This happens to be my favorite hymn.

It also happens to be the last song Joseph and Hyrum heard before they died.

John Taylor sang it to his friends to cheer them up in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844. But, doing so, John still felt melancholy, so, though entreated to sing it again, he declined. Then Hyrum said, "Oh, never mind: commence singing and you will get the spirit of it."

So John sang the song again.

Moments later an armed mob stormed the poorly guarded jailhouse and shot Joseph and Hyrum dead. John, too, was wounded nigh to death.

I invite you to try an experiment upon the word with me. Today ... tomorrow ... the next day ... and every day hereafter ... for the rest of our lives ... let us try to interact with others, with everyone we meet, as if they were Jesus. Whether it's our spouse, our child, our parent, our teacher, our friend, our employee, our boss, our enemy, or the guy on the street begging for money...let us treat him or her as if they were Jesus.

How would you treat Jesus?

I am confident He appears...that He has appeared...many, many times, pretending to be a mere mortal. He has been known to walk in resurrected form, incognito, on a road to Emmaus. He was seen as though an ordinary man, yet He was the Immortal Messiah, who gathered fish and hot coals to cheer His tired, hungry friends by the seashore.

He can appear to us.

He said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40.) I think He meant that literally. We have the chance to "meet" Him every day. In every encounter.

How we treat others is how we would treat Him.

When we habitually interact with others as we imagine we would like to interact with Him, then we will be welcomed into His presence. Then He will unveil His signs and tokens to us: the marks in His side, hands and feet. Only then we will know what to say and do.

For we will have had much practice.

Only then will we see Him as He truly is. Or, in other words, only then will we see Him as He truly sees us. For we will, at last, in some small way, be like Him, seeing others as He sees others.

That's why we seek Him. That's why we seek His face continually. To become like Him. To be with Him.

To be like Jesus.

I'm trying to be like Jesus; I'm following in his ways.
I'm trying to love as he did, in all that I do and say.
At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice,
But I try to listen as the still small voice whispers, 
Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught. 
I'm trying to love my neighbor; I'm learning to serve my friends.
I watch for the day of gladness when Jesus will come again.
I try to remember the lessons he taught.
Then the Holy Spirit enters into my thoughts, saying: 
Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught.
I invite you to join with me. Let us "commence singing and", I believe, we "will get the spirit of it."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Telestial Church

Last night in the foyer of the LDS stake center I spoke with a high priest -- the only person "foolish" enough (from the Church leadership's standpoint) to "engage" me in doctrinal discussion (and I'm grateful he was willing!) since no one has spoken with me (about LDS doctrine) since my excommunication six months ago...not my former bishop, not my former stake president, not my former elders quorum president, not even my former hometeacher (as if I ever had one!)...just this guy -- who told me six months ago that I must learn to "bow and kneel to the scepter of their authority". He asked me, sincerely, what it would take to "get me back" in the Church. 

I told him, flatly, "I'm never coming back. What would I 'come back' to?"

To rejoin the Church I would need to "repent". And what would I repent of? (I held a valid, current temple recommend at the time of my excommunication.)

[I want to point out here -- again -- that I am not a "righteous" man. I stumble and fall almost instantly. No sooner do I offer a prayer to God, pledging to unfailingly do His will, then one or more of my children does something that displeases me, disobeys me or destroys something -- in other words, they do unto me what I, undoubtedly, do unto God! -- and I lose my temper, demonstrate selfishness, and what have you. While I am free of gross sins and temptations, I am an utter fool and novice when it comes to living by celestial law. I'm working on it. And in every temple recommend interview I ever had I confessed my utter "unworthiness". I am no "saint". Nevertheless, I look forward to the day when the Lord shall say to me: "Thou art my son. This day have I begotten thee." Anyway, back to my story....]

"Well, I don't know why they excommunicated you," he said. "I wasn't there."

Perhaps by divine design, a man who was there joined us. I stood and greeted him warmly. (I love that man!) He sat nearby, mutely attending to our conversation. 

"Bro. [So-and-so] was there," I said, pointing to the man. "He knows why they excommunicated me. That's what's so amazing about it." I described to my friend the confusion evident at that hearing. I said, "This man" (sitting quietly nearby) "heard one high priest ask me 'Do you believe that Jesus saves us personally?' to which I responded 'Absolutely!' and he (the inquisitor) replied, 'That's false doctrine!' And no matter how many times I said 'I support and sustain the Brethren', they would not believe me!" This man's silence was deafening affirmation to the truthfulness of my words.

This exposition, however, seemed to have no effect upon my friend's opinion of the LDS Church. 

"But don't you need the priesthood?" the high priest asked.

"What is priesthood?" I responded. "Doctrine and Covenants 84 says that a man must have priesthood to behold the face of God. Did Joseph Smith 'have the priesthood' when he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ as a 14-year-old boy? Was he ordained to the priesthood by the laying on of hands before his first vision? The priesthood predates the LDS Church!" I said.

My friend didn't understand I still have priesthood. We spoke about the perdurability of the Aaronic or "lesser" priesthood, that even wicked priests -- like the sons of Eli, or Caiaphas -- sit in Moses' seat and the ordinances they perform are yet valid, whereas the Holy Priesthood -- which we call Melchizedek or "higher" priesthood -- is utterly dependent upon righteousness for its possession and exercise. Without righteousness, said priesthood, even if conferred, is void. (See Doctrine and Covenants 121:36-42.)

Members of the LDS Church today, even "high priests", are amazingly ignorant of the most basic tenets of the gospel. (A beloved stake president I knew once confessed that he had not even read the Book of Mormon all the way through before he was ordained to be stake president! These are the men we are "required" to follow in all things as if their words are the words of God Himself?) People simply don't understand Doctrine and Covenants 64:8:

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.
I invited my friend to read 77 Truths. (I presented him a copy.) It's an astounding volume of inspired gospel insight and LDS utterances, beckoning men and women to come unto Christ in the flesh. My friend even spent a few minutes perusing several of its pages and concluded that it was "all true" (as much as he had read). But he said he wouldn't be inclined to read it or get a copy (even if it were freely given to him) because it wasn't published or endorsed by the LDS Church. Coincidently, I offered the same deal to several people at church yesterday, but none were interested in reading what one friend called my "anti-Mormon" book. But I digress (again), pondering the words of Nephi....

"I am free to exercise any priesthood I have as God directs," I told my friend. "I'm just not permitted to do anything in the LDS Church anymore. All they've done to me is take my name off their membership rolls and limit my activity in the Church. I can no longer go into their temples -- temples I helped pay for and erect, by the way. It's all very 'Zoramitish'."

I explained to my friend how Heber J. Grant, as LDS Church president, so confounded "priesthood authority" and "Church offices" during his administration that he ended the practice of ordaining men to the priesthood and merely called and set them apart to their respective offices in the Church, leading to much confusion. (This practice was later "undone" by a subsequent administration.) Apparently, not even the "key holder" -- the President of the LDS Church -- seems to know how all those "keys" work. Yet we're expected to "follow" him, under all circumstances, like a bunch of "key holes"? (I'm sorry, Denver Snuffer. I will never be able to forget what you said in St. George, even if you wish we would!)

"While men can confer, by the laying on of hands, lesser priesthood to perform outward ordinance -- including temple ordinances -- and ordain men (and women) to offices in the Church" I told my friend, "only God can confer greater priesthood. The Church does not control that."

26 Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.
27 And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,
28 It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;
29 And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name. (JST 14:26-29.)
"Oh, so it's just dormant," he said. (No, my priesthood is not dormant. But I wasn't going to argue with him.)

"But don't you need the gift of the Holy Ghost?" he asked.

"I still have the Holy Ghost. You don't need to be a member of the LDS Church to have the Holy Ghost."

He disputed that point somewhat, but I reminded him that Moroni admonished everyone -- mostly non-members of the LDS Church -- to confirm the truth of all things by the power of the Holy Ghost. This they are expected to do even before they get baptized, join the Church, or receive any special ordinance. 

He had no response.

The LDS Church has transmogrified the gift of the Holy Ghost into a binding ligature upon God, suggesting that only those who receive the laying on of hands (an outward ordinance) by "Mormon" priesthood authority may enjoy the continuing ministrations of God by His Holy Spirit. That is patently untrue! As happened anciently, those full of the Holy Ghost and duly authorized may lay hands on others and have them receive the Holy Ghost instantly, with its attendant gifts and ministrations, to fulfill the Lord's purposes (and as a "sign" that the one so administrating is, indeed, on the Lord's true errand). But this has become the extreme exception, not the "norm" today. Now, it's just a perfunctory ordinance administered after baptism, seldom followed by any attendant gift of prophecy, revelation, speaking in tongues, healing, etc., as was frequently evident when the gift was once administered by one having true authority to confer it. (Elders of the LDS Church are ordained to this power now, but how many of them receive it? Many are called, but few are chosen.)

And that leads me off onto another tangent. I don't want to go too far astray here -- but the gift is always available to all who would receive it. Go ahead. Read your Book of Mormon and, perchance, see where multitudes, even wicked people, have received the gift and ministration of the Holy Ghost -- by which they saw angels and testified of God! -- without so much as the laying on of hands by anyone! (In fact, the "laying on of hands" is shown, at times, to break the spiritual "spell" that holds the one so receiving the gift from being under its influence.) There is no evidence whatsoever that one is denied the Holy Spirit's continuing ministrations solely for failure to receive this ordinance; rather, it is wickedness and disbelief, losing faith in Jesus Christ and departing from living His gospel, that separates one from the gift of God.

There are many ways to lose the gift and influence of the Holy Ghost, but failing to follow "wicked" priests is not one of them!

Adrian Larsen's experience was apparently almost identical to mine. He met with his bishop and stake president a few times over a month, was told to "take down your blog, resign or be excommunicated", followed by summary "execution" for non-compliance with this authoritarian (if not somewhat confusing) directive, without so much as a quote of scripture.

In my case, I got to hear two quotes: Doctrine and Covenants 1:38 and 68:4, which they used to suggest that whatsoever they said was equivalent to God saying it.

In fact, my friend quoted Doctrine and Covenants 1:38 to me several times last night. It's the ultimate "trump card", apparently, for everything now. (As Denver pointed out, there's only one LDS doctrine left.)

"So whatever those 15 men agree upon unanimously is the truth?" I asked. "Whatever they say? Even if they're mistaken?" 

I brought up polygamy and racial discrimination as just two of many "truths" that, apparently, are no longer truths in the LDS Church. "God cannot lie," I said. "He is never mistaken."

What was my friend going to say to that?

"Well, men make mistakes," he said. But before he could launch into paroxysms of circular logic and rationalization, I cut him off:

"That's why we don't follow men! We follow Christ!"

Mine wasn't a convincing argument, however, since my friend was so well indoctrinated to believe that following men -- at least "authorized" men in the LDS Church -- is following Christ.

I opened Doctrine and Covenants 76:99-101 for him and asked him to explain what it meant, to no avail. 

When I got up this morning, I talked with my wife. She said, "You know...many of these people would be simply lost without the Church. They wouldn't know what to do." And, I admit, the Church provides a great benefit for them. 

The LDS Church serves a divine purpose. It was intended to be a "schoolmaster" to bring us unto Christ. It was patterned after the family of Abraham (3 presidents at its head, representing the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel); 12 apostles, representing the 12 sons of Jacob; 70 elders, representing the household of Abraham, etc.). Joseph Smith was very susceptible to impressions and suggestions. If Sidney Rigdon asked him to approach the Lord, and Joseph did so, saying "We need a church! How do we organize a church?", the pattern given would resemble the LDS Church today. I suspect that's what happened.

I believe the Lord never intended the LDS Church to replace the patriarchal order or The Church of the Firstborn, merely to "stand in" while the gospel of Jesus Christ was being given to the Gentiles (who are accustomed to "Babylonish" enterprises). The times of the Gentiles is now at an end. The gospel is to be taken to the remnant of the house of Israel.

The Lord will raise up prophets among His lost and fallen people. They will bring forth records to establish the truth of their people's ancient faith in Jesus Christ, the Eternal God. They will look to those records -- and to the Book of Mormon -- to confirm their faith, even as the Gentiles (and the main body of the LDS Church, apparently) reject these things, not allowing or permitting there to be any more prophets but what they pretend to be. The remnant will be gathered, even as the Jews begin to believe in Jesus Christ, while the remaining world rejects the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and fights against Zion.

I told my friend last night, "The Church gets us to the gate. We are not expected to stay at the gate, however. We must press forward!"

41 O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name. (2 Nephi 9:41.)
We spoke briefly on the doctrine of Christ and this high priest agreed it is very plain and simple: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, repent, be baptized, and receive the remission of sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

But, after that, I reiterated, we are to press forward, feasting on the word of Christ and endure to the end. This is the doctrine of Christ. It doesn't requiring bowing and kneeling to the scepter of any man's authority. In fact, those who require that we so do practice priestcraft and pervert the right ways of the Lord.

The Lord is merciful. He knows we stumble and fall in darkness, making mistakes. He knows, because of the fall, our natures are evil continually. Thus He has provided for us a way to repent and be redeemed. But it involves looking to Him and not to any man! 

The LDS Church can go to hell. Enoch (successfully) taught his people to follow Christ, not follow Enoch! Noah (unsuccessfully) taught his people to follow Christ, not follow Noah! Moses (unsuccessfully) taught his people to follow Christ, not follow Moses! Joseph (unsuccessfully) taught his people to follow Christ, not follow Joseph!

With few exceptions, the people have wanted to follow a prophet (or no prophet at all) rather than do the "heavy lifting" required to follow Christ

So be it. Those who refuse to come unto and follow Christ can enjoy the ministrations of the Holy Ghost in a telestial existence, guided by prophets and ministering angels, worlds without end.

Edit: A flurry of blogger activity addresses this topic. I urge readers to peruse the posts at Rock Waterman's Pure Mormonism and Tim Malone's Latter-day Commentary.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A "quickie"

The following is my response to a comment posted in response to "Mormon Sex" by "Anonymous". (Always anonymous!) I thought it deserved treatment here.


I confess to being ignorant and misinformed, as you inferred. I was not there and did, in fact, misunderstand what my wife told me after the fact. Only after I posted the above did I find out from her that the bishop's comments were made in private, to parents only. I was concerned about being mistake­­n, but relieved nonetheless to know that I was in error.

That being said, my wife went away from that meeting feeling "obligated" to talk to our children about the topic at hand, at the bishop's urging, so the effect was the same. (If I have still misunderstood the circumstances, I apologize.) The point is that this issue is, apparently, an issue in the ward and with LDS youth in general and that is very unfortunate and distressing indeed.

As for the questions the bishop feels obliged to ask...I am torn (as I said). I did not accuse him of wrong-doing. I have to say, I see great wisdom in the words of sfort below. However, at the same time, any loving father (or minister) would feel inclined to "interject" himself in social matters as serious and "contagious" as sexual immorality. Our scriptures practically demand his involvement. I'm gratified to see that parents were included, even recruited, to be at the "front lines" of this "fight".

I have no doubt my former bishop serves prayerfully, with good will, sincerity, selfless devotion and with the best interests of those in his flock at heart. I have no doubt that he wishes that everyone -- especially every youth in his charge -- should live pure and virtuous lives. I am confident that he sets a sterling example of all the LDS Church expects of its membership and leadership.

Jeffrey R. Holland's talk, as you pointed out, was, indeed, a "high water mark", one that greatly inspired me. His remarks are one of the many reasons I have for believing that he is a true servant of God. And I love him dearly.

While you may find my "treatment" of the subject "casual, careless, and sensational", I assure you, my intentions were anything but. I was sickened and saddened that the subject ever came up. But inasmuch as it was foisted upon my family, despite our best efforts to avoid it, I wasn't going to mince words -- just as the bishop didn't (apparently) in closed session with parents. Only the title of my post was "sensational" -- but certainly not misleading. You somehow found fault with what I wrote anyway. 

As for driving traffic to my blog, anyone searching for "Mormon Sex" is the least likely candidate to be interested in or benefit from anything I have to say. (The negative comments and personal attacks condemning me in this post confirm that.) I have no interest in self-promotion. This blog only serves as "bread crumbs" for my children and interested others, to mark the way, that they may know what their father (and friend) thought, said and did. It is my personal, public testimony to the world. Take it or leave it. (I have a friend who says "Unless God commands you to write it, keep it to yourself." But I think God already has commanded us to warn our neighbors, once we have been warned. This is my warning.)

I believe the LDS Church is (still) the best organization this telestial world has to offer. It is not without its virtues...or its vices. I still bring investigators to Church and actively encourage them to join (if they so choose). One of my neighbors (who I introduced to the faith) is currently meeting with the missionaries (whom we gladly feed in our home) and is scheduled to be baptized on the 8th of next month. (We'll see.)

That being said, I do not foresee a day when I would ever be invited or allowed to participate in Mormon ceremonies again -- nor would I want to, under the present circumstances. The Mormon Church is rapidly drifting toward a "Zoramite" position, supplanting Christ with the prophet (whomever happens to fill that position, regardless), dispensing with the need -- the absolute requirement -- of coming unto Christ personally. Indeed, every single man involved in my excommunication, including your beloved bishop and stake president, consented to the statement voiced by one of them at my excommunication that "Christ does not save us personally."

I believe them. Everyone one of them. By their own mouths they have spoken it and by the raising of the right hand they consented to it. It pains me to know that, despite my best efforts, this is the case. I sorrow for their wives and children.

And for my own. (For I do not yet view myself as one having been "received" of the Lord...but I'm working on it!)

Even so, my family and I have greatly benefited by our association with the LDS Church. I encourage my children to remain active in the Church. I hope my sons will serve missions. (I know for a fact that one of my sons was sent from heaven to do so.) Until I was kicked out, I considered myself among the Church's most faithful adherents and ardent defenders (despite my many failings, sins and weaknesses). I hope you never experience the betrayal and confusion I felt when the people I trusted to point to Christ demanded that I either pledge allegiance and unquestioning fealty to a man or get out. Because I retained the right to speak with God for myself and get answers from Him outside of some alleged "chain of authority" they claimed to control exclusively, with the power to dictate my behavior, even beliefs, on every issue -- they felt threatened...and kicked me out -- for the good of the saints.

So be it.

The irony of it all is: I never disagreed with anything that man ever taught! Nor did I fail to abide his counsel. The mere fact that I said he could be wrong, that he might make mistakes, that he doesn't always speak on the Lord's behalf, that he may not possess the "fulness of the priesthood" lost or taken away from the Church as of January 19, 1841 (see D&C 124:28)...all that got me kicked out. And, yet, is anyone willing to stand up and tell the truth: that leaders of the LDS Church have made mistakes, taught false doctrine, led the Church astray, etc.?

Dieter F. Uchtdorf did. In General Conference! Using some of the very words I used! (See "Come, Join With Us". Search keyword "mistakes".)

But because I said those things (and I'm a "nobody", even a "bad guy" in the Church), I'm an "apostate". Oh, I guess I should add, I said it publicly on my blog...and in church. (But he said it in General Conference!) Yes, but I said it with more "meat". (He just said "There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.")

Talk about understatement.

I believe the men who excommunicated me are, first and foremost, loyal to an organization rather than to the truth. (As far as I know, I only spoke the truth. They would quash the truth if it served the organization. I've seen them do it, again and again.) They follow a man. I have been privileged to know for myself, personally, that Being we call Jesus Christ. Fortunately, I have heard His own voice for myself. (It is beautiful!) I am not enthralled with any man. (And the more I know of these men, the less I am enthralled.)

Don't tell me I need to "follow the prophet". If the Holy Ghost bears witness to me of the truthfulness of another man's (or woman's) words, I will gladly follow those words. Heck, I would gladly follow any leader of the LDS Church (and I did!) unless the Holy Ghost commanded otherwise. (And when has that ever happened?) If I had known then what I know now -- that it is, perhaps, more important to be submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, etc., rather than right -- I probably would have taken down my blog and still be in the Church today.

But, for whatever reason, I didn't do that. And I got to see another side of the Church that made their decision to excommunicate me seem all that more "palatable", appropriate and "necessary" to me. I probably should thank them.

"But what if your Holy Ghost is different from my Holy Ghost?" one of the Mormon high priests who excommunicated me asked me, when I told him we ought to follow the Holy Ghost rather than a man.

"We don't really even need the Holy Ghost", he said, "because we have a living prophet."

That man's words left me speechless. What could I say to that? Such gross ignorance, such falsehood, spoken by one who presumes to lead the Church and even excommunicate those who will not follow him, demonstrates apostasy on a scale my online musings could never approach.

Thank you for your appropriate criticism. I welcome your insights, corrections and commentary here. I hope you'll return and contribute more to this dialogue.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Enough of that

Within 72 hours "Mormon Sex" surpassed -- in number of hits received -- all other posts on this blog, including "Adieu", which I posted last summer, during the height of media attention, when this blog was mentioned in the Salt Lake Tribune and linked by other bloggers. "Mormon Sex" outpaced, in total traffic, even "Beware of false prophets" (a common phrase), posted on the day I was excommunicated almost six months ago. (Curiously, six times more people were interested in "Mormon Sex" this week than "Preparing for General Conference"...on Conference Weekend!As a result of posting "Mormon Sex", my web traffic increased five fold. Take from that what you will.

I promised to let you know.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mormon Sex

Forgive the title. (I'm just wondering how many more "hits" I'll get because of it! I'll let you know.)

I'm "backing into" this post because of something that happened last Sunday. But more on that later.

To observe that America is fascinated, even captivated, by sex requires no special insight, instrument, or skill, merely eyes to see and ears to hear. Our media is saturated with it; our culture obsessed by it. Soft porn is as ubiquitous as buying a hamburger. (All the links in this post are "safe", by the way. If that "disappoints" you, you've proven my point!) Fornication and adultery, once viewed as limits few would cross, have become peculiar "norms" for our time. Giving condoms to kids in school doesn't encourage more sexual activity, "experts" tell us. (Just like parachutes don't encourage jumping off buildings!) Chaste thoughts and unblemished virtue are about as rare as open prayer in public schools, it seems.

Men with prurient ambitions used to frequent "red light" districts, where women of similar moral fiber plied their trade. Where are these districts now? Potentially anywhere. Today's "smart" phone can summon erstwhile "lovers" and anonymous "one-night-stands" to any doorstep, dorm or desk top. I imagine there's more sexual imagery available now  for free (not counting social and spiritual costs) than could be viewed in a thousand lifetimes. You've seen some of it. So have I. So have my children. Apps I wouldn't honor by mentioning here enable curious fifth-graders, desperate housewives and degenerate grandparents to "hook up" whenever, wherever, however, with whomever. Casual sexual relations among mere acquaintances is apparently so commonplace now that an app has been created to walk potential "hookups" through the "politically correct" pitfalls of sobriety and informed consent, hopefully to minimize future allegations of rape.

Really? Is this insanity? Or just the "natural man" trying to negotiate his way around sin?

[Update: Apparently Apple found this app to be so inappropriate, it pulled it from the Apple Store, leading to its demise. So "the end" is a little less nearer!]

We appear to be a nation of whoremongers. (I don't believe that we all are, just yet.) The image of "universal anything goes" is extraordinarily pervasive and captivating to many, however. Case in point: one poor fellow, convinced he was "missing out" -- and being filled with the spirit of envy, lust and hate -- committed mass murder, then suicide. Very sad for all involved.

Recent headlines prompting this post disturbed me. I was appalled that publicly-funded universities now offer courses like these because younger adults want to attend them and older adults want to teach them. Even more astonishing is the fact that anyone would be so foolish as to pay for them, even finance them, with student loans! Or that our society would subsidize them. Or allow them.

What was once unthinkable to any decent person -- and done, if at all, only in the dark, by a few -- is now openly celebrated, marketed, and paraded with pride.

Man! I must be getting really old.

My youth spanned the 60s, 70s and 80s: an era of Playboy Bunnies and Roger Moore as "007" that practically bubbled with sexual effervescence and moral decadence. Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In was the most popular TV show in that year when men first walked on the moon. That show crystalized, maybe even created, the American cultural milieu, with go-go dancers, silly jokes, political satire and almost-raunchy sexual double-entendres. Back then, no television had more than 13 channels -- and only three or four had programming! So when we watched TV, we watched as a nation. Americans were manipulated by the public media then just as much as they are today, for good and ill.

I wanted my children to have a different upbringing than I had. So my wife and I got rid of most mass media...and homeschooled. Our children now occupy their time mostly with football and soccer, water polo and volleyball, choir and piano, chores, homework and family scripture study. We usually start and end each day with family prayer. We also pair up our children with others whose families share our social and moral values.

But how much longer can we keep this up? Sooner or later, our children will discover -- and be immersed in -- the "real" world.

My wife and I are trying to prepare them.

We've endeavored to give them a healthy (if not "understated") understanding and expectation of sex long before they have begun to feel those intense "feelings" associated with it -- that they may be better equipped to handle those feelings what they "arrive". I don't want them to "fixate" on sex. So far, they haven't. But I also want them to expect to feel those feelings and to prepare for the day when they can act on them...hopefully only in marriage.

"Dating" -- not "hooking up" -- was still the norm when I was a kid. People groped in the dark, but there was still affection. Popular music in my youth was often salacious, but at least it conveyed a sense of continuing commitment and attachment: "I'll love you forever" the songs would say. Many of today's tunes bypass anything resembling true love. The "racy" songs of my youth were almost puritanical, by comparison. Many modern lyrics are unfit to print. They depict behavior so vile and vulgar -- so pornographic, so animalistic, so extreme -- as to shock the conscience of any virtuous soul. Every sexual deviancy, including forceable rape, is now lauded in lyrics our children listen toThese lyrics are now played at public middle school dances chaperoned by teachers, promoted by unwitting administrators, and played by all-too-well-knowing DJs and students.  Is this a good thing?

My wife took my older children to LDS "Standards Night" last Sunday. I was dismayed and, frankly, disgusted to learn that she had to explain to them afterward what oral sex was...after the bishop brought it up!

Are you kidding me?!

In his defense, I'm sure the bishop didn't want to discuss this topic. But, apparently everybody's viewing pornography nowadays. He no longer asks the youth coming to his office if they've seen pornography, but when was the last time. (I'm not even sure this is an appropriate question to ask! Why risk giving kids ideas? I guess I'm asking too much. Surely it's impossible to escape this world without being exposed to some form of pornography.)

Even so, some youths are apparently telling the bishop that "oral" is "moral".

Okay?! And these are Mormon kids?!

My wife and I have carefully protected our children from the psycho-sexual abuse and perversion permeating our society by cutting off all unfiltered media. (Maybe we should have "cut off the Church" too!) We didn't watch cable TV, satellite TV, or even Netflix -- because we found the content to be largely vulgar and saturated with gratuitous sensuality. We homeschooled our children and surrounded them with people who (hopefully) shared our values.

We are definitely pleased with how they are turning out. They look away from the scantily clad and turn off shows with "racy" content -- without being asked. They don't listen to vulgar music; they dress modestly; and act appropriately.

But are we able to protect them perfectly from the flood of sexual perversion engulfing our society? No. Our children are human. Last summer some of them googled "nasty" words they'd heard. They saw things no one should ever see. My children broke our rules. But they also repented of what they did and, as far as I know, they have never repeated it.

Even so, I never thought my children would learn about oral sex at church!

Yes, I know it's "out there". Yes, I know our children can (and will) be exposed to it. Yes, we have talked to them about these things. But we haven't told them everything. (We haven't discussed which body parts some people stick into who knows where! Is that really necessary?) Isn't just being "modest" and keeping your "private parts" covered and avoiding "sexual stimulation until you're married" sufficient guidance to give? If you've built and defended the fence well away from the edge of the cliff, is it really necessary to talk about all the nooks and crannies, bushes, vines and hand-holds scattered across its face? Why even look over the edge to the filthy waters below? Doesn't doing that just invite the impulse to jump?