Monday, May 30, 2016

Hidden Wisdom

JST Luke 6:31 Therefore give to every man who asketh of thee; and of him who taketh away thy goods, ask them not again.

JST Matt 5:44 Give to him that asketh of thee; and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.

3 Nephi 12:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away.

Repeated three times.

Those who love God, who trust God, who believe the scriptures, who believe God asks this of his disciples, and who desire to be the disciples of God that they may become even as God is, will keep God's word.

Objection: By giving everyone who asks what they ask for you potentially facilitate their bad choices and reinforce maladaptive behavior. Those are bad things that shouldn't be done for the good of the recipient.

Answer: Here is hidden wisdom. We learn by experience - indeed, experience is how we become persuaded of what is good and what is evil. When we give someone what they ask for, we are merely accelerating them down their freely chosen path that they may gain experience. If one should hit the end of one's chosen path and observe that one doesn't like where one has ended up, or if one discovers the end of that path is not what they want before hitting the end, then one may change one's mind and choose a different path - repent, in other words. On the other hand, if one is only prevented from travelling a path by lack of means, then one cannot understand why one might not want to travel down that path, and will still desire to take that path; it is by our desires and our works that we are judged. Therefore you haven't done them any favors by withholding from them, and you have not gained the experience that you otherwise would have if you had been obedient to Jesus's commandment.

Recall the parable of the prodigal son. The father represents God.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Don't Get Me Wrong

Let us assume you, the reader, have been through the LDS endowments and take them seriously. You would have been told that you had covenanted before God, angels, and witnesses that you would obey the law of God and keep his commandments.

Alternatively, let us assume you, the reader, have at some point in the past repented of all your sins and cried mightily unto the Lord until you received a remission of them and were visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost. You would have had a covenant of obedience to God impressed upon your soul at that time, howsoever that was phrased to you as an individual.

Now comes the test: do you take these covenants seriously? Will you actually do it?

God's not going to hound you or nag you. He will simply wait to see if you will do it. And here's how you may be tested.

Say you give alms, as Jesus taught, and the beggar asks for your phone number. If you keep the law of God, you'll give it to him - for Jesus said to give to everyone who asks you to. And they start calling you and asking for money or other services. And if you keep the law of God, you fulfill their requests according to their desires. And, if you do better than me, you won't murmur or complain at them about it, for you will remember that your enemies can have no power over you save it were given them by God, just as it was for Jesus.

Of course they'll mistreat you. But so also did they mistreat Jesus and the prophets. Why would you expect to fare differently? And that is also part of the test. Will you honor God's commandments even under duress? Possibly even to the loss of every worldly thing, even your life? Will you love your enemies, do good to them who hate you, and bless them who despitefully use you and persecute you?

If you don't, then God may have to look elsewhere for his saints and prophets, who ofttimes are sent to testify to the wicked that their deeds are evil, and be tortured and killed for it.

You see that you are, if you take the law of God seriously, a servant to all, a willing slave to all, by your own obedience to the commandments of God. After all, you're asking to be made a God, and what do Gods do? Examine Jesus's ministry and the teachings of the prophets for the answer.

So I'm not whining about how bad I have it, nor am I asking for help. My point was to invite you to likewise willingly enter the refiner's crucible and begin the process of having your impurities burned from your soul by the trials and affliction that shall be visited upon you if you take your covenants seriously and keep the commandments of Jesus, as foolish as they may seem, so that you may be able to offer an acceptable offering to the Lord.

It would suck if at the end one was found merely honorable, or not valiant in the testimony of Jesus, don't you think? I mean, if we, with our worldly wisdom, prudently avoided the tests and trials that were intended to prove our mettle and strengthen our souls and make of us pillars in the house of God, but were, you know, "good" people who never did "bad" things, and occasionally gave a beggar a dollar.

If - and this is a pure hypothetical - we keep coming back until we are either saved or lost, and if we desire to be saved, why not do it now? Why not drop the world's ways of abuse and control and manipulation, confess and make restitution, and cry mightily for forgiveness and to recieve the Spirit of God, and keep the commandments with all our might, mind, and strength?

As an aside, the slavery motif occurs quite often throughout scripture. Do you suppose that's significant? Remember Alma's people being enslaved by the Lamanites. And Nephi was a servant to his brethren until they sought to slay him - they were his trial. And I wonder if Joseph Smith's trial was being a slave to the Church, ultimately laying down his life at her request? And did not Jesus both serve and die for the sake of all, both his enemies and his friends and family? Can we hope to be what he is by doing less?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Take Ye No Thought for the Morrow

I still sin. Like the Pet Shop Boys sing, "Everything I've ever done, everything I ever do, every place I've ever been, everywhere I'm going to - it's a sin!"

When one knows of the perfection of God - and I don't know it fully - then one sees there's no way to get there from here by one's own efforts. At all. All must necessarily fall short. There's no way not to. I'm just not what he is. I don't think like he thinks, nor feel like he feels, nor know what he knows.

The only way to go, to become what he is, is by honoring his requests, keeping his commandments with all my heart, might, mind, and strength - and then he will change me according to my desires. I haven't got the power to change myself. All I can do is imitate and emulate.

And I just want to be done - finished, completed, perfected. To be full of peace and love and light and joy and truth, no more to be tempted by fear, lust, judgement, or malice. To be exactly what God is. And then it will no more be me: I've felt it. And I'm fine with that - I'm not terribly fond of me as I am, and particularly not with even partial knowledge of the Godly alternative to being what I am.

I committed an actual, though private, sin, for which I afterward made public confession and was publicly rebaptized to witness repentance, according to Moroni 8. Upon committing the sin, I expected to be smitten - if you expect the worst, you can't be disappointed, right? The Lord came to me immediately, unseen, and squatted next to me, and utterly without judgement said "Do you suppose God is unmerciful?" Well, no, I thought, I expect he's all about mercy, actually.

Yet I have had a great many occasions since to ponder that question - what is mercy? Is it, as I think, forbearance and accommodation of one's weaknesses? And what does God's mercy exclude, if anything?

This comes up for me again and again because of a continual trial I undergo. I once gave someone my number who calls me at least weekly and hits me up for cash. This has been going on for several years now. The calls come at inconvenient times, and you may well believe that when that person shows up on caller ID my day has been pretty well ruined. Whatever amount is asked for is changed a few minutes later, and additional inconvenient requests added which add to the overall total and time. I am lied to frequently - honestly, I wish the sob stories just wouldn't be told and that the requests were shorn from all pretense and made into naked demands for set amounts that I could simply dump and be done. The person does not account for my needs neither respects me as a person - why should they? Any mercies or gifts above their requests simply sets expectations that they can take more from me later, confirming to them my perceived weakness and further justifying their conduct towards me in their eyes. They don't wish for my friendship nor companionship; any information about my personal life they have managed to find out is used in efforts to manipulate me into courses more aligned with their values and needs, to be able to take greater advantage of me. They only care about me insomuch as they get something out of me to further their own ends and goals, and no more. I find their goals and ends reprehensible and foolish, but that's not for me to educate them on; my role is simply to serve them. I have tried everything within the law of God to persuade them to alter their course towards me, but all to no avail; I tried once demanding of them why I shouldn't simply cut them off or treat them the way they treat me (because I can't simply say "no" - that breaks the law of God) - and felt the bright, hot, crushing, painful disappointment of heaven for a long time afterwards in response to that effort.

I could go on and on - it's like being trapped in a loveless marriage with a spendthrift adulterer - or, more to the point, it is like how the world treats God: as a slave, a universal cuckold, supporting enemies, false spouses, and children that aren't his. But in the end none of it matters. I know I can't change them, and that they're behaving completely rationally as one might who had found the biggest sucker in existence. The only one in this scenario that can be changed is me, so that I no longer feel the anger, the irritation, the frustration, the fear that I will myself be left without my needs met. I know I can be changed by God to be filled with love and light and joy, to bear my burdens with grace, love, and mercy - hence, what does the mercy of God exclude, if anything?

Yet I have not had my needs unfulfilled, even though I have had to play the beggar to friends and family to meet them. I guess that's why it is written: "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." It doesn't say I will be self-sufficient or even self-sustaining: I will simply be given to, presumably when I ask. And I make sure to ask for the minimum necessary to meet my actual needs, for I resent it mightily right now when someone asks me for more than that which is necessary. Because I fear.

"Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee."

Yet it is still hard, being carnal and therefore an enemy to God. I know, in my mind, that I had ought simply to give without upbraiding, yet in my heart I feel resentment, irritation, frustration, and judgement - fear, in a word - and my mouth follows. I know it does no good, and I had ought to simply shut up. But I don't.

Even so, I wish to be different. I wish to be free from fear. I wish to be merciful and filled with grace. Then may good things come from me.

For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.

For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.

For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.

And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.

Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.

So I chafe under the yoke, but yet I bear it, that I might be made strong and no more feel it.

There are only two possible ways to be, in the end - two ways to think, to feel. We are, in the end, either exactly what God is, or we are exactly what the devil is. There are only two ways to relate to our fellow beings - either we use them to build ourselves up, or we spend ourselves to build them up. I don't suppose the middle ground can be occupied eternally, and I know how I wish to be: a perfect human.

Therefore, to reference the book Dune, by Frank Herbert, I keep my hand in the nerve-induction pain-box of the commandments of God, to prove that I am human, to be made into that perfect being I desire to be. That the work may be completed and I be finished, that I may no longer fear, so that I may no longer need come back, save it be once.

"Perfect love casteth out all fear."

"Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure."

Monday, May 16, 2016

He That Understands and Endures

JST Matthew 13
17 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

18 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart; this is he who received seed by the wayside.

19 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word and readily with joy receiveth it, yet he hath not root in himself, and endureth but for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

20 He also who received seed among the thorns, is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

21 But he that received seed into the good ground, is he that heareth the word and understandeth and endureth; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundred-fold, some sixty, and some thirty.

Go and read the Sermon on the Mount and Isaiah 58 at this point - they are omitted here for space considerations. For the purposes of this post, that is the word of the kingdom.

JST Hebrews 13:2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

JST Genesis 18
1 And the Lord appeared unto Abraham in the plains of Mamre. And he sat in his tent door in the heat of the day;

2 And he lifted up his eyes and looked, and lo, three men stood by him; and when he saw, he ran to meet them from his tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, and said;

3 My brethren, if now I have found favor in your sight, pass not away I pray you from thy servant.

4 Let a little water I pray you be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that you shall pass on; for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.

5 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead, and make cakes upon the hearth.

6 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf, tender and good, and gave it unto a young man, and he hasted to dress it.

7 And he took butter and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set them before them, and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.

Those are the works of Abraham, who knew not that it was the Lord when he received him.

JST Mark 13
52 And what I say unto one, I say unto all men.

53 Watch therefore, for ye know not at what hour your Lord doth come.

54 But know this, if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to have been broken up; but would have been ready.

55 Therefore, be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.

56 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?

57 Blessed is that servant whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing.

58 And verily I say unto you, he shall make him ruler over all his goods.

59 But if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;

60 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and shall appoint him his portion with the hypocrites.

61 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth; and thus cometh the end.

Do you understand? Are you continually imparting to the poor, the homeless, the hitchhikers, the bums, as the Lord has commanded? If he should come in disguise, will he find you so doing?

JST Matthew 25
32 When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he shall sit upon the throne of his glory;

33 And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth sheep from the goats; the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.

34 And he shall sit upon his throne, and the twelve apostles with him.

35 Then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

36 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me;

37 I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

38 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee; or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

39 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in; or naked, and clothed thee?

40 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

41 And the king shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

42 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

43 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink;

44 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

45 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

46 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it not unto me.

47 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.

2 Nephi 31
14 But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: 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.

15 And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.

16 And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.

Friday, May 13, 2016

More on 84

D&C 84
17 [The holy] priesthood continueth in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years.

18 And the Lord confirmed a priesthood also upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations, which priesthood also continueth and abideth forever with the priesthood which is after the holiest order of God.

19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.

20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.

21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;

22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.

23 Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;

24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.

25 Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also;

26 And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;

27 Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb.

28 For he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood, and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power.

29 And again, the offices of elder and bishop are necessary appendages belonging unto the high priesthood.

Question: Once Moses was taken from their midst, along with the Holy Priesthood, was Israel the church of God?

Answer: Clearly not, since the Holy Priesthood continues in the church of God in all generations. When it ceases, so does the church of God. From that fact, at this point in D&C 84, it appears that the Holy Priesthood is the defining characteristic of the church of God; those who are not members of the Holy Priesthood are not the church of God. Therefore, Israel was never the church of God, but they were his covenant people - God's wife, as he repeatedly characterizes her throughout scripture. Like a wife, Israel could be true in the sense of faithful to her God, or false in the sense of adulterous, itself in the sense of lusting after and pursuing and obeying things other than her spouse. In modern LDS terms, Israel was a false church, lacking power to administer salvation, though she had a legitimate priesthood and temple rites to point the people up towards the heavens. Yet she remained a focus of God's efforts for the duration of Biblical history.

Question: If elder and bishop are offices belonging to the high priesthood, then were Israel's bishops and elders really bishops and elders?

Answer: Well, men were certainly called elders and bishops in Israel.

NET Jeremiah 5:31 The prophets prophesy lies. The priests exercise power by their own authority. And my people love to have it this way. But they will not be able to help you when the time of judgment comes!

You'll notice that they were "called of God" prophets and priests. Isn't that curious? Of what significance is it, then, to be "called of God"? Apparently, being "called of God" is of absolutely no help in distinguishing true, faithful, wise, just, diligent, or good servants from false, faithless, foolish, wicked, slothful, or evil servants. The real issue is whether they are chosen of God, and God alone can reveal whether any particular individual is chosen, instead of merely titled or labelled - "called," in a word.

D&C 84
33 For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.

34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.

It is as we thought from earlier - the holy priesthood constitutes the church of God.

D&C 84
35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;

36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;

37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;

38 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.

39 And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.

40 Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.

Question: How do we "receive this priesthood?"

Answer: Words matter - "receive this priesthood" can mean either to "obtain these two priesthoods," as per verse 33 (leaving the shift from the plural unexplained), OR it means to receive one who has obtained these two priesthoods, one of the servants of the Lord, as verse 36 says, into your home; for a member of the priesthood on the Lord's errand represents the body of the priests, or, in other words, the priesthood. As we learn later on in D&C 84, the Lord has, as an enduring policy, sent out his servants as itinerant street preachers, homeless bums, vagrants, to find them who would receive them. To receive them means to take them into your home as the Lord has asked his disciples to do for strangers - for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

D&C 84
89 Whoso receiveth you receiveth me; and the same will feed you, and clothe you, and give you money.

90 And he who feeds you, or clothes you, or gives you money, shall in nowise lose his reward.

91 And he that doeth not these things is not my disciple; by this you may know my disciples.

You see, it's not the creeds or doctrines or prophets we claim to believe, but what we do that reveals us. Priesthood is received - in both possible senses - by keeping the commandments and working righteousness.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Does God Lie?

The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him. - Leo Tolstoy

The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text
2 Nephi 9
27 But woe unto him that hath the law given,
yea, that hath all the commandments of God, like unto us,
and that transgresseth them and that wasteth the days of his probation,
for awful is his state.

28 O that cunning plan of the evil one!
O the vainness and the frailties and the foolishness of men!
When they are learned they think they are wise,
and they hearken not unto the counsel of God,
for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves.
Wherefore their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not;
wherefore they shall perish.
29 But to be learned is good
if it so be that they hearken unto the counsels of God.

One who has attained learning hearkening unto the counsels of God doesn't happen very often, which is why what came before and what comes after is uniformly negative towards worldly learning. After all, those who think they already know stuff can't be instructed.

42 ... [T]he wise and the learned and they that are rich
which are puffed up because of their learning and their wisdom and their riches,
yea, they are they whom he despiseth.
And save they shall cast these things away
and consider themselves fools before God
and come down in the depths of humility,
he will not open unto them.
43 But the things of the wise and the prudent shall be hid from them forever,
yea, that happiness which is prepared for the saints.

One of the major tasks typically undertaken through apologetics is persuading the world that the religious moderate also disbelieves in and disapproves of the naive and literalistic faith of his fundamentalist brethren, while simultaneously pointing the finger of scorn at the literalists with greater ferocity than even the unbelievers, thus signalling his virtue (and wisdom and learning and enlightenment). That's an exercise in status-seeking.

Thus we see staunch defenses of evolutionary theory, weak references to intelligent design, and condescending derision aimed at literalistic readings of the scriptures in apologetic venues. Yet if the scriptures are literally false on any substantial claim, then on what consistent principle do we accept any of it as literally true? Is a literally resurrected Christ any more acceptable to naturalism, the reigning philosophy of our age, than a literally 6000-year-old Earth, or a literal worldwide flood?

But here's a more interesting question: does God lie? If God has never lied to you, and if you believe the scriptures are, indeed, inspired of God, then why not believe him? What changes in your life, functionally, if you should choose to believe the Earth entered temporality around 6000 years ago, or that Jonah was really swallowed by a whale and was vomited out three days later? It's not like what you believe alters reality, even if it does alter your perception of your proper relationship to others.

The narratives we spin to explain the current state of affairs are necessarily distinct from the current state of affairs. These stories do, however, make a difference in how we perceive our relationships with others and the world around us, and what course we ought to take into the future. Most claims to rule begin with "I know the way things really are!" After all, who would knowingly follow a fool or an ignoramus?

But what can we really know? Strictly speaking, one only knows what one is directly experiencing, and nothing else - that's a definition. For ease of communication, we may also extend the label of "knowledge" to one's memories of one's experiences, though memories may be flawed in several respects, both in forgetting, embellishing, or perhaps even invention. Interpretation of experience, however, constitutes a narrative - a story we tell to explain the meaning of our experiences, constructed using philosophical assumptions about the way things really are, applied to our experiences. Interpretation of knowledge is not properly knowledge because of those assumptions, which can't be known to be true (if experienced, then they'd be knowledge and not assumptions). An example of a narrative is "I am rich because I worked hard." The assumption is that the hard work resulted in becoming rich; the knowledge is that one worked hard and that one is rich. Everything else we think we know consists of reports of knowledge - claims to experience - made by others, intermingled with their assumptions and narratives, which claims, assumptions, or narratives we have assumed are true or false. Needless to say, people have been known to lie or be mistaken.

Assuming there exists no human alive whose age currently exceeds 150 years, there is nobody with knowledge of a 4.5 billion year-old earth. The claim is actually a narrative intended to explain a certain set of experiences in conjunction with some philosophical assumptions about the way things really are. Those assumptions are not value-neutral. Without guiding assumptions, one does not arrive at the ancient-earth narrative from the experiences.

So, you face a real and consequential choice as to whom to believe, and what assumptions you will make. You can choose the world's assumptions, accept the world's narrative, and play the world's game, or you can assume God is telling the truth, choose God's story, and play his game. Which game pays off? After all, in both scenarios, you're dead at the end. In the world's version, that's the end of the game and your story, forever. In God's version, your story never ends.

Imagine a God so gentle and protective of your freedom to choose your own path, according to your desires, that he provides the bare bones, if you will, that can be interpreted to support a plausible alternative narrative that you can choose to believe instead of the story he tells you. Has he ever lied to you?

The "Keystone" of Our Religion

If, then, Abel was a righteous man he had to become so by keeping the commandments[.] - Joseph Smith

To be righteous is to be just and merciful. - Joseph Smith

The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text
2 Nephi 9
41 O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One.
Remember that his paths are righteousness.
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.
42 And whoso knocketh to him will he open.
And the wise and the learned and they that are rich
which are puffed up because of their learning and their wisdom and their riches,
yea, they are they whom he despiseth.
And save they shall cast these things away
and consider themselves fools before God
and come down in the depths of humility,
he will not open unto them.
43 But the things of the wise and the prudent shall be hid from them forever,
yea, that happiness which is prepared for the saints.

"And save they shall cast these things away..."

It is taught that we should hoard money and supplies (riches), and get as much worldly credentialing (learning, wisdom) as possible - the very things it seems we must divest ourselves of to enter the presence of God. It is an interesting exercise to go through the Book of Mormon and see how many of its precepts are exactly contradicted by our paid ministry.

Mosiah 23:14 And also trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments.

Imagine if we actually applied that standard in our voting to sustain people in their callings in all things and at all levels in the Church, and particularly at the level where they take money for their labors.

2 Nephi 26:31 But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.

Those who accept paid callings are not to be trusted, apparently.

I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book. - Joseph Smith

Sunday, May 8, 2016

D&C 84

When Jesus sent forth his disciples to the cities in Israel he would come to, he gave them to go without money nor scrip nor staves nor shoes nor two coats. They were to go from house to house, teaching the sayings and commandments of Jesus. See JST Matthew chapters 5-7 and 10.

Their words to the Pharisees weren't "you believe in incorrect doctrines and creeds and historical narratives, and here, I'll tend to THOSE motes in your eyes," and then to argue them into submission, but "why do you teach the law and commandments when you are yourselves the children of corruption? You fake believers - first cast the beam out from your own eye and then you will be able to tend the motes in your brother's eye." That is to say, "repent and keep all the commandments and then you will be able to see clearly to help others." The disciples were instructed to keep the mysteries of the kingdom of God to themselves, telling their unbelieving opposers to ask of God that they may receive for themselves, for what father wouldn't hear his children's pleas? If the disciples were not received, they went on to the next house and after all the houses to the next city. "Whoever receives you receives me," said Jesus, as he sent forth his army of homeless, stinking, broke, religiously-zealous bums to a self-righteously religious, judgemental, and wicked people to find the few who would receive them.

Who would receive such messengers?

Why, those who would receive such messengers are those who were already keeping the word delivered through Moses and the prophets, who were of a kind to take in the homeless, the hungry, the poor, the sick, the afflicted, visiting the imprisoned, clothing the naked, and so forth. To them would be preached the Sermon on the Mount, the meaning of the law which had come before, that by obedience thereto they would be prepared to receive Jesus.

They weren't proselyting so much as sounding the word of God in the ears of all, and letting all handle it howsoever they may, leaving the contentious and the unbelieving to themselves.

It is written that God doesn't change.

In this light, read D&C 84.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

On Obtaining Priesthood

If priesthood is defined as association with angels, then how do we obtain priesthood, or, in other words, associate with angels?

Hebrews 13:2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

We might say, in modern English: don't forget to bring strangers - homeless, hitchhikers, and so on - into your home, to feed them, to minister to their needs, and give them place to rest, for by so doing some have brought in angels though they didn't know it.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Things Which Ye Have Seen Me Do

1 Nephi 10
7 And [Lehi] spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord--

8 Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.

9 And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan; and he also said he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water.

10 And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world.

John, the Baptist, played a critical role, and warranted being much spoken of, apparently. If we accept that Jesus is our exemplar, then might it be of note that Jesus, himself, had to recognize a prophet from outside of the leadership hierarchy of the Jewish Church, and submit to the proffered baptism?

The Jews also offered baptism.

JST Matthew 9
18 Then said the Pharisees unto him, Why will ye not receive us with our baptism, seeing we keep the whole law?

"Ye" is plural. "You" is singular. They weren't acknowledging Jesus as Lord. They were asking why Jesus and his disciples did not accept the Pharisees as being in the right way with their baptism and observance of the law of Moses, as their traditions construed it.

19 But Jesus said unto them, Ye keep not the law. If ye had kept the law, ye would have received me, for I am he who gave the law.

20 I receive not you with your baptism, because it profiteth you nothing.

21 For when that which is new is come, the old is ready to be put away.

22 For no man putteth a piece of new cloth on an old garment; for that which is put in to fill it up, taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.

23 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles; else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish; but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.

As an aside, does one reform - in the sense of "returning the article to the original condition" - an aging garment? And if, as Jesus is here saying, whatever they were using for wine-bottles back in the day could not be re-used for winemaking, what does this imply about the activities of reformers?[1]

2 Nephi 31
4 Wherefore, I would that ye should remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world.

5 And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!

6 And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?

7 Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.

8 Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.

9 And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.

10 And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?

11 And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.

12 And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.

[1] They're both futile and not of God.

The Gospel According to Luke Movie

Something worthwhile to watch.