God the Father; CEO of Heaven and Earth

heaven and earth

Several months ago on a Friday, I prepared to board an early morning flight in San Jose heading home from a work trip. As luck would have it, I received notification for a free upgrade to first class. These occur on occasion, but not too frequently. I would imagine that first class is usually sold out or people with higher airline status than I receive an upgrade, but when it’s not, I get bumped up.

As I settled into my seat, I was greeted with a complimentary pre-flight water, as the rest of the plane is boarded. After all passengers boarded, some guy named, Brad, who had been chatting with the flight attendants, started shaking hands beginning with the first class passengers.  His greeting was warm, and was occasionally accompanied with a pleasant handshake and a “Thanks for flying with us today.” .  This continued past first class and into coach as Brad made his way to his seat.   Clearly, Brad was an Alaska Airlines employee, but low enough on the totem pole to warrant a coach class seat.  As he sat down, I realized that he ended up very close to where my seat used to be. Curiosity took over as I attempted to Google “Brad Alaska Airlines.”  My search produced a Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines, with a nice picture of the Brad that boarded our flight. For a minute, I concluded that CEO Brad may have given up his first class seat in order to upgrade one of his customers. My opinion of Brad was quite high as I realized this possibility.  After speaking with a flight attendant, it turns out this wasn’t the case though, and Brad had always been assigned his coach class seat.  My opinion of CEO Brad was even higher now.

alaska airlines - water

A few things I learned from Brad:

  1. If anyone had a rightful claim to a first class seat, it was Brad. Not only did he not go for an upgrade, but he didn’t purchase a first class seat to begin with.
  2. Brad didn’t approach us with fancy titles or assumed authority. It wasn’t, “Hi, I’m CEO Mr. Brad Tilden, or the Honorable Mr. Tilden, or our Beloved Brad.  It was just Brad.
  3. He was genuinely kind and appreciative. I get that his job is to be that way to his staff and customers, but I felt Brad was genuine in his kindness. Fake or pompous CEO Brad would have shown through, I suspect.  With great power comes great responsibility.  I like the idea of humble leaders that serve.

I think our society might have a skewed view of effective leadership, which is quite evident in today’s world. Do people really want a leader lording over them, making rules and decisions for them, claiming titles and accolades and superior knowledge, sitting in the chief seats looking down upon their people for adoration?  I would suspect that deep down, people don’t want that. They want to be guided perhaps, or pointed in the right direction, but ultimately be left alone, and more importantly be allowed to make decisions for themselves.  It’s unfortunate maybe that people have become too reliant upon leadership.  I think this is one of the ways cults are formed.

God is probably the perfect leader, or one that we should look to for a more perfect study of leadership. I don’t believe that God is an interventionist.  I would describe God more as a suggestionist. It seems as though he generally lets us do our own thing. We learn from the garden of Eden story that agency was ultimately preserved.   He doesn’t sit around forcing us to do things that please him. I think he’s there as a guide, but ultimately allows us to make our own decisions and respects those decisions we make.  Agency seems to always be preserved, which makes God a good leader.  I suspect he’s less like CEO Mr. Brad Tilden, President of Alaska Airlines, and more like regular Brad than we think he is. From the scriptural and other accounts we have of God appearing to people, God forgives when he shows up. The accounts show that the people cower or are ashamed, so God forgives them. He tries to make you comfortable in his presence so you can have a conversation without focusing on the massive divide between God(s) and humans.  It seems difficult to have an authentic relationship with someone who is unapproachable or critical or who we think is constantly looking down at us for our shortcomings.  Even the angels have taken a page out of his playbook.  “Fear not,” is a common first utterance we read in the scripture available to us.

Side bar, but not so far off the topic.  Maybe it is the topic.  This guy’s idea of God floors me.  What’s up my dude?!?  I love it!

I’ve taken some liberties here, but nothing outside of my belief system.  The point is that God is trying to be like normal God and we approach him like CEO God, originator of death and destruction and famine and hardship.  We look at him as sitting in first class God with his headphones on, not acknowledging all the people walking back to coach class, with limited elbow and leg room and no complimentary pre-flight water bottle. We don’t expect God to go around shaking hands with the people, saying, “Hi, I’m God. It’s really nice to know you,” on his way back to his seat among the people. We set him up as unknowable and unapproachable. “He’s God of both heaven and earth.  Why would he bother with me?”

Lest I be accused of blasphemy by some who believe I should get back in the box of a correlated belief system, I do believe that God has earned all the name titles and accolades and is indeed the God of both heaven and earth, but I don’t think he wants that to stop us from being able to carry on a conversation with him while seated together in coach class. Sure, if anyone deserves the first class seat, it’s God, but God also descended to be with the people. He gives us life and is in us, which is to say He is right there beside us sharing a flight to wherever we want to go, and he’s giving us the armrest too. He will allow us to throw on our headphones and ignore him during the flight, but if we decide to take them off, I think he’s right there ready to have a conversation.

I’m not to the point where I fully understand “how” God communicates with me so it’s a little misleading to claim I’m having conversations with him.  However, his words are becoming more clear to me and I do hear him speak, and suggest, and persuade when I decide to stop talking and start listening.  The purpose of this post, I guess, is to put forth my idea of what I believe a significant part of God’s character is.  And without understanding God’s character, how can you have faith?


The Search for Truth Amid lies

Sitting here on a Friday night, and I realized that the kids (ages 2-12) have yet again chosen “The Truman Show” for their movie night.  This makes at least 3 times in the last 6 weeks or so.  A bit of a surprising request for a movie with such a theme.  It’s mature, but it’s an absolutely essential theme for them to learn.

There is a point near the end when his boat pierces the edge of the movie studio wall.  Though he was chasing his suspicions throughout the movie, this is the point where he realizes there have been massive lies framing his existence and his belief system.

The entire movie represents a search for truth amid lies.  A false world was fabricated to keep the truth from Truman.  This is not unlike what we experience in our world.  Everything seems to be trying to keep us from Truth.  It’s an ongoing fight to distinguish the truth from a world full of lies.

The storm at the end of the movie represents just how tumultuous it was to come to that point, where nothing is real and everything has to be questioned.  Very quickly, he went from surprise, to realization, to anger, to sadness and despair.  Truman is devastated, and this is the most poignant part of the movie.  But, there is a beautiful dialogue as he walks along the edge of his fake world and climbs the stairs to an exit door.  You can listen to that dialogue in the above clip.

The realization that something you once believed to be true is devastating.  But the joy from discovering truth or discovering that truth can be discovered is truly liberating.


Polygamy: Who Lied?

“I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives.”

—Joseph Smith (LDS History of the Church 6:411 , 26 May 1844 )

joseph smith - first photograph

173 years ago today, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were murdered in captivity.  It doesn’t really feel like something that should be celebrated, but it’s quite curious the amount of discussion regarding  Joseph’s alleged polygamy that I’ve seen on facebook over the last few days.  Normally, one wouldn’t associate his murder with the practice of polygamy, but there were enough accusations going on at the time regarding a behavior that Joseph adamantly denied, it’s not easily dismissed. For those that don’t have roots tied to the LDS church, polygamy probably doesn’t mean much, but for those of us that belong a church founded by Joseph Smith, and succeeded by Brigham Young, polygamy is a big part of our history.

There is so much that I have NOT read about polygamy as practiced by the LDS church into the 1900s, so my thoughts and conclusions are somewhat fluid.  I will say though, given the implications of the practice and the history put forth, I’m not all that comfortable with the available conclusions to be drawn.

Possibility #1:  Joseph Smith practiced polygamy (as we currently understand the definition of the word).

If this is the case, as the LDS church has claimed, then Joseph spent his entire life lying about being engaged in the practice.  If you weren’t aware, Joseph denied ever taking more than 1 wife, and reiterated this claim all the way up to a month before he was murdered.  If he practiced it, then he lied on many occasions about not practicing it.  Lying for the Lord?  Is that a thing?  If he did take more than 1 wife, we get to grapple with the idea that he had dozens of wives, one as young as 14 years old, and taking others men’s wives as his own (a practice called polyandry).

“What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.

—Joseph Smith (LDS History of the Church 6:411, May 26, 1844 ) Spoken just 1 month before he was killed

Possibility #2:  Joseph didn’t practice polygamy.  His claims to having only 1 wife, Emma, throughout his life would be true, and others that followed after his death were not honest in their accounts.  If he didn’t practice it, then many lied, including those closest to him.  If he didn’t practice it, documents, journals, and spoken accounts were edited and doctored after Joseph died (yes there is evidence of this).

In either of these 2 possibilities, someone or multiple someones lied.  This cannot be denied.  And, at least one of these persons was a past president of the LDS church.

Though I haven’t read all the accounts and evidence, I’m inclined to think that something entirely different was going on. I don’t think he was collecting wives.  I don’t believe he was marrying girls and other men’s wives.  I think there was something bigger and more fantastic going on.  Something we don’t really address or even understand.  This certainly flies in the face of the traditional narrative put forth since Joseph’s death, and I readily acknowledge the difficulty of not only trying to prove this, but also really even adopting this as a legitimate view.  But, there’s something in me though, that isn’t ready to convict the man as a liar and a creep.   The history is just too suspect.

edit:  I’m posting a link to a paper I think  is one of the better documents I’ve read that questions the traditional narrative in favor of Joseph only being married to Emma.  Not a smoking gun, but compelling nonetheless.  I did not write it.

Joseph Smith’s Monogamy


A Covenant to Know the Lord

Jeremiah 31

31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:

33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

The Parable of the Wall with a Gate

The Parable of the Wall with a Gate

There was a boy who was young and was beginning to mature into a young man.  He lived in a home on a large, expansive piece of land.  This land was beautiful, with trees, hills, and running water, with a large area to plant and grow food.  There was also a tall and thick wall that surrounded the land.  Having lived on this land his entire life, there was no reason to believe anything existed on the other side of the wall, and thus he was content with his surroundings.

As the young man continued to mature, he started exploring the land and understanding its capabilities.  He discovered new ways to grow food, and developed novel ways of gathering water and supplies.  It pleased the young man that his mind was expanding, and he was coming to understand the land in different ways.
One day, as he was surveying the land, he noticed a precious gem sitting on top of the grass.  He had never seen something so beautiful before.  It was the most precious stone he had ever seen, for up to that point, he had only discovered rocks.  The young man wondered why he hadn’t seen the gem before, even though he had traveled this path many times.  He picked up the gem, carried it back to his home, and spent the next several weeks observing his new gem and marveling at its capabilities.  There were many uses for this gem and he quickly realized that if he had more of these gems, they would enhance his understanding of the land more than he had ever realized.

As he set off in search of more gems, he found them everywhere, all similar in size and in color and in brightness.  There were some that were sitting on top of the land and others he had to dig up out of the ground.  The more gems he found, the more his understanding of the land grew and the more determined he was to locate all of the gems in the land.

Several years passed, and the fully matured man had searched every area in the land in search of gems.  He climbed in the trees, dug up the soil, and panned the water, and after many decades of searching, he determined that he had located every gem that existed in his world.  He was pleased with his accomplishments and labors.  Tired and worn from his efforts of laboring in the land, he decided to rest for a time.  The gems were found and their capabilities understood, and he felt his work was complete.  Now he would rest and enjoy the land and the results of his labors.

After 7 years of resting, the man was taking a casual stroll in the hills when he encountered an older man.  The older man identified himself as a teacher and a wanderer and said,

“Friend, I see that you have made good progress with your land and in the use of your gems.  I wonder if you have found and used gems from outside of the walls of your land?”

The man responded to the teacher saying, “I am not aware of a world outside of these walls.  They are tall and thick, but I have not attempted to pass to the other side, for I was content with my world.”

The teacher then grabbed a satchel and pulled out a few gems to show.  The man marveled at the different sizes, colors and varying degrees of brightness that he saw.  They were all different than his gems.  The teacher taught him briefly about these gems and the man’s mind was immediately filled with how these gems could be used to expand his labors of the land.

The teacher explained, “There are infinite possibilities of gems, each serving a purpose in their size, color and brightness.  But, you must venture outside of these walls to find them.  You are welcome to stay in your land within these walls and live out the rest of your days.  Indeed you have done a good work with your gems and your land.  You have yet to master your type of gem, but you have done well. If you desire, there is a great deal to learn about your gems inside your land, and you have not yet begun to learn of the gems outside of your land.  It is and always has been your choice, though.”

The teacher bid him farewell and left through a large gate in the wall that the man had not known existed before.

Exhausted from the encounter with the teacher and his expanded understanding, the man returned to his home to rest.  He spent the next several weeks pondering his life, his land, and his gems.  He marveled at his wall that now had an open gate.   The man was at a crossroads.  Indeed, the wall with no gate had provided a comfort over the years, and it provided an area within to labor.  The possibility of further discovering and laboring and learning was exciting, but it would require venturing into a land he was not familiar with.  However, the man had a desire to continue laboring.  He was reminded of his discovery of the first gem on his land and the learning that it provided.  The man was also reminded of the learning from the teacher about the possibility of new land in which to labor with new gems and new understanding.

The choice was an easy one to make.  The discovery of the gems and the laboring in the land was what filled the man with purpose, and so he determined to continue.  The now older and wiser man made a choice to leave through the new gate, and a new world without walls appeared to him, within which he chose to labor the rest of his days.

“I was a stranger, and ye took me in.”

This blogpost was originally written and posted on my former blog on 7/9/2015, but it feels relevant again, so I’m reposting it here.  There seems to be a renewed discussion about ignoring the least of our community, as if this is a new development brought on by a new president.  Well, I hate to be the bringer of bad news, but we have been ignoring the least of our communities for much longer than our collective outrage suggests.  If we are truly committed, as a people and as a community, to relieving the suffering of some among us, perhaps we start with food, water, and shelter.

Originally written and posted on 7/9/2015

I was in Seattle on a business trip this week and decided to wander around the downtown area to look for a place to eat dinner.  I stumbled upon Westlake park and got sidetracked when I saw some people playing ping pong on some outdoor tables next to a Foosball table and several tables of active chess matches.  Normally, one would pass right through, but something caught my eye at one particular ping pong table.

There was an intense ping pong game going on between this little boy and a homeless man.  I sat and watched them for 30 minutes and then got roped into my own game of ping pong by some tourists from Indonesia.  The 60+ year old lady schooled me.  I have a feeling she may have been a professional at one point in her life.

I left 3 hours later humbled, grateful, and full, though I had not eaten anything.

As it turns out, the City of Seattle has dropped in ping pong tables throughout the city to try and clean up their parks and rid them of the “creepy people” (their words, not mine).  It appears from the photo above that they succeeded in giving people something to do during the day, homeless or not.  Did it not occur to them that a homeless guy would enjoy a game of ping pong just as much as the next guy?

What is it about homeless people in a park that deems it unclean or unfit for the “regular” folk.  Why are we so intent on limiting any contact or exposure we might have with these people?  I wonder what the reaction would be if a homeless guy decided to park himself on a sidewalk in my neighborhood?  How long before the police were called and asked to move him to another part of town or to another town altogether?  We like to think of ourselves as lovely people when we give a buck or two to the guy standing at the end of the off ramp to a freeway.  “Hey, I’m doing my part to end homelessness in my community!”

Perhaps you’ve seen these around your town.

Armrests?  Nope.  They are there to prevent people from sleeping on the bench.

 “Not welcome.”

Our disdain for the least among us is not subtle at all.  Perhaps change will occur when we realize that homelessness isn’t a disease we can catch, but actual human beings that need a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs and a way to succeed as members of a community.

Maybe they just want someone to play ping pong with.

The little boy in the picture above taught me a lesson this week.  It’s the same lesson that Jesus teaches.

When the Son of man comes again, this time in all His glory, there will be a judgment.  It’s not a judgment on how Republican or Democrat we are, or how we reacted or stood up for or against a particular social issue.  We are not going to be asked for our financial statements to determine how successful we have been, or how many things we have acquired.  It couldn’t be laid out any more clearly than in Matthew 25.

31 ¶When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

 34 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:

 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

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

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

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

 40 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.

 41 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:

 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

 43 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.

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

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

 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.


Guiding Principles

Since relocating our family to a small town in northern Idaho, Tracy and I have often pondered why people are so friendly. I was recently convinced it’s because they spend the entirety of their winters digging each other out when their cars get stuck in the snow.   Sacrifice changes people.


Life seems complicated sometimes, but I think a simple way to approach life is to be able to look back and not have a slew of victims in my wake; people I have wronged, people I have failed to care for; people I have judged, people who I have ignored. To leave this life without any accusers would be a great way to go out. This is the primary message we have recorded from Jesus to us. The Ten Commandments, focusing primarily on not creating victims, are fairly limited in scope. Jesus clarified when he summarized everything into the two great commandments; just love God and love your neighbors. It was important to be a good person before Jesus was born and showed us how. He was opposed by those that just couldn’t understand why he acted and spoke contrary to their traditions. The organized religion at the time, with a line of authority reckoning back to Moses, charged him with blasphemy for following the two great commandments.

The charges and condemnations levied against us latter-day gentiles, as prophesied in the Book of Mormon (see 2 Nephi 28 and Mormon 8), can be traced back to our behavior that creates victims in some way.

  • Robbing the poor and our contempt for the poor, needy, sick, and afflicted (2 Nephi 28:13; Mormon 8:37)
  • Ignoring the hungry (Mormon 8:39)
  • Preaching false doctrines (2 Nephi 28:9, 12, and 15)
  • Persecuting the meek and the poor in heart (2 Nephi 28:13)
  • Committing whoredoms (2 Nephi 28:14-15; Mormon 8:31)
  • Murders (Mormon 8:31)
  • Lying and deceiving (Mormon 8:31)
  • Our many abominations.*  (2 Nephi 28:14, 17; Mormon 8:31, 40)

Each of these charges has a victim involved.  Each charge only occurs by the action or inaction of another (in the case of ignoring the hungry, inaction is still an action against that person).  You cannot lie or steal or murder or hate without creating a victim.  Makes you wonder about applying the word “sin” to behaviors that do no harm. If a person is alone in the forest and profanes and no one is around to be hear it, is it wrong?

What are those principles that each of us follow, which shape our behavior in a given situation?  Do we self-preserve?  Are we focused on asserting dominance?  Are we easy-going?  Do we want to appear intelligent or funny?  Are we interested in seeing the world be met with justice or with mercy?  Do we want to serve and love and sacrifice?  I’m not quite sure how to identify your guiding principles.  Perhaps look at what your default reaction is when presented with choices; which reaction comes up most often.  It may take some self-reflection, some honesty, and some time.  I think self-awareness is a valuable thing to work towards.

Here’s an example.  If I’m hungry and I have a sandwich, but someone approaches me who is also hungry and asks for a some money for food, how should I approach that situation?  It’s not a trick question, but sometimes we treat it like one.   I promise you that 2 different people can approach this scenario from antithetical points of view, and both will consider themselves righteous while condemning the other. One will call the other selfish and the other will accuse of contributing to a potential drug or alcohol habit.  What is the right answer to this situation?  Is there a right answer?  There is if we are to believe the words of Jesus as contained in the scriptures.

Matthew 5:42 KJV

“Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

While boarding a plane from Anchorage  this morning, I witnessed 2 things that prompted this writing.

First, I sat down in my aisle seat and a couple minutes later a young man/woman couple approached and indicated they would occupy the middle and window seat next to me. Initially, the woman offered the window seat and told her partner that he would have more arm room. He was tall, fit, and had broad shoulders. He said he would be fine  and told her to take the window seat. She asked again and he insisted again, so for the 3+ hour flight, he chose to sit next to me (not a small dude) and studied up for a firefighter exam, while she slept seemingly comfortably, resting against the inside of the plane. I spent the flight leaning a little extra into the aisle to reward this guy for his selflessness.

Now on to a contrasting example. A woman and her son were seated across the aisle from me. Her approximately 8 year old son had the window seat and she sat in the middle.  When the flight was nearly filled, a flight attendant  approached the mother and asked if she would be willing to move 15 rows up further in the plane and occupy a different set of window and middle seats.  The flight attendant was looking to relocate a couple with a baby in a car seat and I guess this aisle seat was the only aisle seat open on the plane. The woman claimed that her son had a friend with a family sitting in the window seat in the row behind them and she didn’t want to separate the friends.  During the entire flight, the friends spent their time playing games in their individual iPads and, to my observation, did not interact once, except for the few minutes at the end while we were deplaning.  In one of these scenarios, love and selflessness were shown; in the other, a victim was potentially created. Sacrifice is at the very heart of love.


Occasionally I succeed and occasionally I fail.  I have enough victims lying in my wake that I ought not be concerned about the behavior of others, but I do have a stake in the society I was thrust into and regularly partake of.  Can you imagine a place where no one accuses and everyone forgives?  Where love and selflessness are the guiding principles upon which all behavior is based?  Where sacrifice is the default?  Where forgiveness rules the land?  Where NO ONE passes a car stuck in snow on the side of the road regardless of what item in our schedule we could use to justify not slowing down?  That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

*Think we know what the word “abominations” means?  We should take a closer look, because I don’t think it means what we think it does.  Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their abominations.  We should be sure we understand why that happened.

The Deletion of the Lectures on Faith

On this day in Mormon History 95 years ago, a new edition of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants was accepted as the newest version of the scripture.  Perhaps most remarkable about this new 1921 version is not what it contained, but rather what it no longer contained.

Since the first publication of the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835 (not including the 1833 Book of Commandments), the book contained both the doctrine and the covenants.  The “doctrine” section was the Lectures on Faith, which were a series of 7 lectures given to the School of the Prophets in Kirtland, and the “covenants” section contained the revelations given through Joseph Smith up to 1835.  In 1844, another edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was printed, which contained all the revelations received up to that point.  This edition also contained the “doctrine” portion, and though Joseph Smith approved a version prior to his death in June of 1844, this edition did not print until later that year.  Editions were produced over the next 50 years, and they all contained the doctrine portion of the book.  In 1921, a church committee edited and approved the first version where the Lectures on Faith were deleted.

In any case, I have found these lectures immensely valuable and I consider them a necessary part of my studies into the nature of God and the developing of faith.

You can purchase the lectures, but free versions can be found online as well.  If you want a copy, let me know and I can email a pdf version.

The Apparently Not-So-Obvious Audience of the Book of Mormon

This Sunday in church, we spent 45 minutes in gospel doctrine class studying Mormon chapter 8.  If your not familiar with the chapter, open up your Book of Mormon and take a look.  If you are prone to heartburn, might I suggest taking an antacid beforehand?  Anyway, 45 minutes and yet we managed to avoid even skimming the surface of one of the most damning set of verses in the entire book.

How we did that, I’m not sure.  Is there a fundamental misunderstanding of who the audience of the Book of Mormon is?  Is it written for some other group of people that received the fullness of the gospel in the latter-days?

I believe there is a multi-faceted assumption promoted within the LDS church that directs most of the belief system of active, believing LDS Mormons.

Assumption:  We, as a church, can never apostatize..  God’s true church was established in the latter-days never to be removed.  It will roll forth and fill the earth.  We have prophets that can never lead us astray, so the idea of falling into apostasy is not possible.  Because we can’t apostatize, all the scriptures in the Book of Mormon that refer to the latter-day Gentiles rejecting the gospel, must be referring to some other group, and we’re in the clear.

How deep these assumptions go into LDS church membership is unknown to me, but if this gospel doctrine class is any indication, I would say they run quite deep.  When we ignore the fact that the Book of Mormon was written specifically for us, it becomes little more than a history book of a people we don’t really have any historical evidence of.

A portion of this same assumption is found among King Noah’s people in the Book of Mosiah.

Mosiah 12  

15 And behold, we are strong, we shall not come into bondage, or be taken captive by our enemies; yea, and thou hast prospered in the land, and thou shalt also prosper.

Unfortunately, this scripture in Mosiah is a quote by the wicked priests of King Noah.  They literally quote scripture to justify their presumed righteous position before God.  Because they prospered both in wealth and safety, they assumed themselves in God’s favor and therefore Abinadi was a false prophet worthy of death.  The root of this assumption is pride.

I’m open to being wrong and to have completely misinterpreted these passages in Mormon 8.  Tell me there is some other church out there that focuses so much on how fine our clothing needs to be on Sunday, to the point where a young man cannot participate in the preparation and administering of the sacrament.  Help me understand what Moroni is saying, “and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts (emphasis mine).”   Is he speaking of everyone EXCEPT the 15 or so million Mormons and our 30,000 + congregations (or churches)?   Is there any other church out there that is building and adorning churches at the pace and price that we are?  Is it at the expense of the “poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted?”  Are there no poor among us?  What percentage of our children across our international church are malnourished?  20%? 30%? 40%?  Does our obligation to help the “least” of our society stop at the front doors of our churches?

Mormon 8

35 Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.

36 And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.

37 For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.

38 O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?

39 Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?

40 Yea, why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans to mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads?

41 Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer.

 A mighty fine sanctuary

Moroni seems to have nailed us?  The vision of the Gentiles was not his alone, however.  Nephi’s was similar.  Let’s look at 2 Nephi 28.  Identical themes as Moroni; pride, corruption, fine clothing, robbing the poor because of our fine sanctuaries.

2 Nephi 28

For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the Lord’s; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord’s; and thus shall every one say that hath built up churches, and not unto the Lord—

And they shall contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance.

And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men;

Behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.

Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us.

And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.

Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark.

10 And the blood of the saints shall cry from the ground against them.

11 Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted.

12 Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up.

13 They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.

14 They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.

What is it about these verses that is so difficult for us to understand?  What good is the word of God if it doesn’t humble us and cause us to turn back to Him?  These verse ought to tear into our hearts.  Why don’t they?

I sat silent in my ward Gospel Doctrine class, mostly because I didn’t know what to say or how to say it.  I can’t be the only one that reads these scriptures this way, can I?  It’s entirely possible that I’m missing something.  But, at the very least, these scriptures cause me to shake and consider my awful state before God.  They make me want to wear jeans and a t-shirt to church.  What these scripture DON’T do is make me want to walk around after the pride of my heart and pat myself on the back because of my righteousness.  They cause me want to throw myself onto the ground, cry unto the Lord, throw off my pride, and humble myself before God that perhaps I may one day find myself as one of the few humble followers of Christ that Nephi mentions in verse 14.  Hopefully, that is the goal of every one of us who claim Jesus as our Savior.

Uncovering Truth

Occasionally, I have things that I want to write.  This seems like a good place to store those things.  A serious blogger, I am not.

I have a few passions in life; family, soccer (the good, European kind), and outdoors stuff.  You are not likely to see many posts on that stuff though.  This blog will be dedicated to my study of truth.  Few things consume my mind, as of late, more than the study of truth.  It is so elusive, yet so available.  My pursuit is to discover truth in any form that it decides to take.

A large part of discovering truth is uncovering that which is not truth.  This can be difficult, unnerving, and can leave one vulnerable.  It is however, necessary.

Most of this discovery will be centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ, whom I believe is the risen Son of God.  “For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” – DC 84:85.  You will certainly notice that I will reference scripture, documents, and quotes that many may not consider a holy source.  It’s ok.  The study of truth has to be broad in scope.  A narrow attempt will likely reveal very little and leave much uncovered.  We ought not reject something just because it is unfamiliar.

The thoughts on this blog are my attempt, and I will no doubt miss the mark.  I’m okay with that though, as this is an honest pursuit.  I would love to take this journey with any and all who have similar desires of discovery.

– Tag