A Quote

The quote:

“Although the Lord invites all to come to Him, only a few will accept the invitation
to come. You may wonder why; but it is because men are unwilling to accept
what is offered. They want authority in this world. They want praise and honor
from men. They cannot accept His invitation until they lay all such things aside
and realize that any honor, any authority, any power comes only from heaven.
Without a connection to heaven there is no power, no authority and no honor.
Heavenly power or authority can only be exercised by fully mirroring the will of
heaven, and never by acting independent of that will. Man’s own will cannot,
does not, and never will be allowed to govern. Even though someone may be
ordained to hold priesthood, called to an office, or given the right to decide
matters in the Church, that does not empower them to contradict the will of
heaven. Men cannot substitute their desire for heaven’s; because whenever
they do that, the acts they perform while only pretending to follow heaven will
condemn them. They use the name of God in vain anytime they follow their own
desire, while falsely claiming they are doing heaven’s will. Men who try to
conceal their sins, who in their pride claim authority over others, who claim the
right to control or manipulate others, whose ambitions set their agenda, cannot
and do not conform to heaven’s will. Heaven itself withdraws from such men,
and when it does they have absolutely no priesthood authority or power. Such
men are left to themselves, and oftentimes they seek to exercise yet more
control, more authority, and more feigned priesthood rights over the humble
who suffer under their claimed presiding authority. When such ambitious men
subjugate these humble Saints, they are fighting against God. They will come
to learn too late for their own salvation that they have been on their own errand
all along, and not the Lord’s. Unfortunately almost all men fall victim to this false
illusion of control over others. As soon as someone believes they have been
given the authority of heaven, they almost immediately begin to abuse their
fellow man with claims about the right to control, manipulate or coerce them.
This is why so very few have ever really accepted His invitation to come unto
Him. There really is no authority in the priesthood He gives to men. The
priesthood is an invitation to come and learn to persuade others by the power
of example, to convince others by the things which you will endure for their
sake, to show love without pretense and without calling attention to yourself. It
is an invitation to service. It is an invitation to seek after heaven itself. When
someone accepts that invitation, and meekly submits to the gentle influence of
the Holy Spirit, they will learn more by showing kindness to their fellow man
than they can ever learn through any other means. Such men will rebuke
others only on those occasions when heaven would rebuke; but even then they
will immediately show increased love. They will not fail to show unceasing love,
even to those who required a sharp word. Such men always show love to
others as the most important part of their example. Such men will convince
those to whom they minister that they would give their lives to save them
because their love is so strong. Anyone who is in contact with heaven will love
all their fellow men. They will meditate night and day upon the things of heaven.
They will be able to enter into God’s own presence because their lives are so
lived that heaven willingly accompanies them. They will deserve residence in
heaven, and therefore heaven will take up residence with them. God will be
their companion. Love will be theirs because they will never try to control,
dominate or subdue others. Because of their love, the power of heaven (which
is love) will be with them forever and ever.” 

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Saying some things: Race and the Priesthood

Those who know me have heard me open my mouth about some things already.  I have been writing some stuff on this blog that upsets people.  I am not super courageous, and pretty much every time I write something on here, I get some pushback that hurts me.  But that’s just too bad for me, because I need to just suck it up and be brave 🙂 . And if people say things back to me, it is important for me to listen to those things and try to understand and learn from what others think and feel.

There is much misunderstanding between people.  Language is so imperfect, and experiences are so different.  And sometimes we won’t fully understand, but that is where love has to come in and cover it all, and pride has to go away.

For several months now, I am feeling over and over that it is important to speak what I see as true, particularly when it is speaking truth to what I see as tyranny (paraphrasing Jordan Peterson there).  So I have to gather my courage.  I just have to try to be sure that what I am saying is OK with the Lord for me to say.  And I try to always do that.

So, some of this is about me, because in my soul I have some things I want to say, and none of us know how long we have to say things.  And the reason I want to say some things at this point is because when we see things that are just wrong, that are harmful, we need to be brave and open our mouths.

I have also talked about so many things which are so beautiful to me!  But I have learned to my sorrow that some things that are beautiful to me, when the Lord shows me truth, are distressing and seem awful to others.  It is true that many things that are true are ugly.   But truth itself is not.

Being a member of the Mormon Church for most of my life, I was taught to spread good things that I believe.  Mormons believe in missionary work.  They believe that when you learn truth, you have an obligation to share that truth.  I have said a lot of stuff in my life that was what I understood as truth at the time that I now see differently.  We all see truth a bit differently, even people within the same religion.  That’s ok.  And we all evolve and grow in our understandings.  When we don’t do that, that is what I believe is the definition of being damned – being stopped in our progression.

When we are super sure we have the truth, and are not willing to listen to others, we have surely damned ourselves.  I believe that is what it means to be hard hearted.  We may end up being those who stone the prophets without even realizing it, those who shoot the arrows at Samuel on the wall.

We are often sure we wouldn’t ever do that.  We either are sure what we know is right, so we see no reason to listen to some stranger on the wall; or else what that stranger on the wall is saying doesn’t feel good to us.  It upsets us.

And anyway, that’s not our Prophet on the wall.  That guy on the wall is clearly ignorant, or crazy, or angry, or disgruntled, or uninspired, or not speaking soft words, or a tare, or maybe even apostate.  That guy on the wall is dangerous to listen to.  Maybe that guy has already said stuff we don’t think is true, so we aren’t going to listen to any more.  We have been warned about guys on walls, or guys who write blogs or certain books, or guys who might possibly say anything that we deem to not be exactly in line with those we have already designated as ones through which truth will come.

And also, if we listen to those guys on the wall, it could be very dangerous for us.  We might be deceived.  We might believe what they say.  We might then be identified with them, and called the same bad things as them, and be punished as them.  So it is scary.  And so we cut ourselves off from so much truth we could get by listening to others.

The thing is, everyone has truth to impart.  We can learn from everyone.  Almost every group has their own view that is valuable for us to know and try to understand.  And we will never know that part of the truth unless we listen with an open heart.  We walk a razor’s edge here in life.  We have to learn to discern.  We have to learn to choose.  We have to learn through looking at and considering various and opposing ideas, and hard and even ugly things.  If we always shield ourselves from everything, we will stunt our own growth.

In my life it has been a very thin thread upon which much growth in my life rests.  I can see many threads I almost missed that have been of vital importance to my whole existence.  I shudder to think how many I may have missed entirely.  I do believe that if we desire to progress we will get other chances, at least at some point in the eternities, but maybe not in this eternal round.  Why wait?  I am sure the Pharisees wanted truth, but they thought they had it, and so they missed Jesus.

It is always a razor’s edge.   Some truth seems beautiful to us.  Some does not, although to me it always has ended up to be good to know even ugly truth.   I do not believe it is OK to cover up even ugly truth.

Yes, we have to forgive.   And we have to apologize.   And we have to try to understand.  And until we understand, we can still express sorrow for having caused hurt.  I have had people who didn’t remember hurting me, but who still apologized because they did not want to have hurt me, and their apology still healed me.  But it is good to try to give people what they need to heal, if you can.

I realize that it is very good to let some things go, particularly things between individuals; forgive and be done with them.  But if people cannot heal, or cannot be kept safe, or cannot progress because they are on a train to destruction, then it is probably not good to keep the things causing that hidden and covered up.

The Savior forgave and atoned for those who crucified Him before they even did it.  But the truth of what happened still got told.  How could we learn if we didn’t even know about it?  We can tell about and learn about truth without even blaming people.  But I believe we still need to know about it to learn not to repeat or perpetuate it, and to know how to repair the damage of bad things.

I believe this quote: “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation.  If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” J. Reuben Clark

Now, if anyone has still hung in there through that whole thing, which was really a preface to this and future posts, here is what I want to talk about today:

The issue of Race and the Priesthood and the Church.  Here is the Church’s essay on Race and the Priesthood.

Since I am a white woman, I am going to mostly let the brothers and sisters of African descent in the Church talk about it (in links below).  But I do have a tiny bit of my own experiences, since I had to try to reconcile it in my mind as a convert, and since I have children of African descent.

When I joined the Church, and for most of my time as a member, I had the mistaken idea that if Joseph Smith had the first vision and if the Book of Mormon was true, that it was all true.  I very much conflated the Church with the Gospel.  The Lord showed me that that is a false way of looking at it.

So, because of what I thought, I had a very hard time with black people not being allowed to have the Priesthood nor Temple blessings.  I didn’t know how to reconcile it with what I believed, which was:

2 Nephi 26:33 For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

There were a couple books I read that helped me deal with my cognitive dissonance over this issue, because even though I was totally overjoyed with the June 1, 1978 change, I still struggled with the fact that it had ever been denied.  Those books were:

A Soul So Rebellious by Mary Sturlaugson Eyre

All Are Alike Unto God by E. Dale Lebaron

I read them a long time ago, so can’t remember lots of what was in them, but they did help me.  Still, it was not quite enough, and so mostly I didn’t think a lot about it.   I was super thankful that the change had happened way before we adopted our children, though.

It took me decades to realize I didn’t have to reconcile it; I could just realize that things went wrong, and that didn’t negate other truth.

One thing I have heard several times over the past week or so is people of African descent in the Church saying that they can’t be the only ones standing up, there have to be white people standing up, too.  And it can’t just be going to their black friends after an “incident” and saying how sorry they are.  White people need to be standing up in the moment.  Speak the truth in the moment.  Point out hurtful things in the moment.  Have your black brothers’ and sisters’ backs in the moment when they need it, even if they aren’t in the room, or even in your ward.  Correct erroneous ideas.

I totally failed at that in one particular instance quite a few years ago.  We had just moved into a new ward, and on our very first Sunday in Gospel Doctrine class the teacher actually told a terribly racist joke during his lesson!  I was totally stunned and horrified.  I had black children.  But I sat there and said nothing.  I could have even done it in a kind, gentle way, but I didn’t.  It was totally out of fear, fear of offending, fear because we didn’t know anyone in the ward yet, fear of not saying the right thing.  I really regret not saying something.  I didn’t stand up for my own children in that moment.

I am sure I have failed at other times, but that is the time I remember.  In trying not to fail now, I am saying something about this, but mostly letting the people it affects most talk about it.  I have shared many of the things I have listened to from Sistas in Zion and others on my Facebook page.  It is dismaying that I know almost no one listens to what I have posted.  Maybe it is because they don’t have time to listen to them, but I do wish people would realize that this is important if you are LDS.  Very important.  These are your brothers and sisters.  Listen to how to help them.  Don’t just ignore them because it is me posting that stuff 🙂 .

A little while ago a fake apology for the Priesthood ban that was supposedly from the Church was posted.  It looked like it did actually come from The First Presidency, and many people believed it.  Many Mormons and others were overjoyed to read this apology, because they thought it was true.  When it was found out that it was a fake, it hurt many, many people.  It hurt some of my personal friends who are black.  That made me very sad.

Here is one of the videos I posted where those feelings are expressed.  I am posting it here because I hope many people will listen to it, so they can help with this issue, but mainly the broader issue, which causes great pain to many.  In this, she talks a lot about the broader issue, and not just the fake apology issue:

(There have been many articles in the media about all of that incident that you can look up, if you had not heard about it.)

Yesterday the Church did a celebration for the 40th anniversary of the June 1, 1978 change.  I was able to watch most of it on the live stream.  I really loved the music and the stories.  If you missed it, you can watch it here.

This is a pretty good article about the Priesthood ban and the history of it.

Today was the Wander No More: 40 years after the LDS Priesthood & Temple Restoration conference.  I have been able to watch some of it on live streaming.  I have really enjoyed it.  Here is the keynote address, which I really liked.  You’ll probably have to turn it way up and listen closely to hear it well, but it is worth it:

 

I have put these links hoping that everyone in the LDS Church will become familiar with these issues and struggles for many members – so that people can be understood, and so that people can have each other’s backs.

There are things to be fixed.  All is not well in Zion.  We have been warned about even saying that.   2 Nephi 28:21 And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

Maybe if we can realize and understand the problems, we can help to fix them.  I think it starts by hearing truth wherever it may come from, and trying to understand each other.  And then love.

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How it began for me

I talked some in an earlier post about how I felt about Jesus and God from a young age, as far back as I can remember.

But there was a huge event which changed my whole life, and I believe my whole future eternally (although I don’t see that as linear any more, but that is another topic).  That event was joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It sort of began when I was twelve, and in 7th Grade in Junior High (that was where we went instead of Middle School back in those olden days 🙂 ), and I met my first friend who was Mormon.  She became my dear friend, and we are still friends today.

It was so long ago, that there are only certain incidents I remember well, but I know she started even at that time talking to me about things about the Gospel and the Church.  One memory, for example, that sticks out that happened early on, I think, is us sitting in a stairwell at school and talking about dinosaurs, and how did they fit into the Genesis story, and Adam and Eve being 6000 years ago, etc.  I loved talking about that kind of cool stuff.

Sometime after I joined the Church, she told me that it was scary for her to bring up Church or Gospel stuff with me because she didn’t know how I would take it.  It’s always high stakes when you are in the Church and truly believe it all, because you want your friends and everyone you love to believe it, too, and you are taught you have a responsibility to tell them about it.  But you also never know if telling someone about it will make them feel pressured and judged, and/or if they will think it is all too weird and not be your friend any more.  Lot’s of stress there always.  I was sad when she told me it had been stressful for her, because even if I had not eventually joined, I would not have even thought of not being her friend because of it.  I learned later that she had a valid fear (although not with me).  I have learned that religion does divide, even people who love each other.  But I was young and naive then and couldn’t see as clearly that it so often does that.

My memory is that until we were 15 or so the talks we had weren’t super often, nor super intense, but somewhere around the time I turned 15, I think, things ramped up 🙂 .

Anyone who knew me for years in the Church has probably heard me talk about this event, and it was huge for me.  My friend invited me to a Church Young Women’s Standard’s Night (I think that was what it was called).  It was held at someone’s house.  I remember we were all sitting around in a circle, and they went around the circle and each young woman bore her testimony.  During their testimonies they talked about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, and I’m sure lots of other stuff.  The things they said struck me to the core.  It was this crystal clear knowing that what they were saying was true, and this was an incredibly huge thing, and I started to cry.  I think I was crying sort of uncontrollably, and I remember going into a bedroom in the house, and my friend and maybe some other girls came in with me.  They were all happy because they figured I was feeling the Spirit and feeling this was true.

So many of the incredibly pivotal spiritual moments in my life are only more fully understood as I look back on them later.  Later I can see so much more of what things mean, or what the Lord was trying to teach me then, and also more of what an eternally important moment that really was.  This was one of those times that was huge even in the moment, but as the years go by, I can look back and see that it was even more vital in my life than I even had an inkling of at that moment.  It is one of those things that almost everything in the future hangs upon.  And I cringe sometimes when I look on those moments and think, “What if I had chosen not to go, or somehow missed what the Lord was trying to tell me?” because my whole existence would be different.  I sometimes wonder if I have missed some of those things.  But the ones I know about, the Lord has usually made pretty clear effort to get me to notice, but there still is always the choice to reject those things.  It certainly is a precarious existence!  It’s a good thing we have the Lord on our side and eternities to go.

The next part of that same experience is something I probably haven’t talked about as much, because it took place when I was alone that night, praying to know if the Book of Mormon was true, if Joseph Smith did have a vision, and if he was a Prophet, and if so, if  I should join this Church.  I still remember lying in my bed and praying those things with all my heart and soul.  My memory is that I was in prayer with the Lord for a really long time that night, and that it was wonderful!  This glorious feeling of light and love stayed with me, from during that meeting and into that night.  It really was that night that I knew I was to join the Church, and that those things were true.

I can’t remember how much my friend had told me about the Church and the Gospel before that night, but I know my interest ramped up after that 🙂 .  My friend was super smart.  She was also very well read and well taught in the scriptures and the doctrines of the Church.  We were probably not your normal 15 year olds.  And certainly she was not the normal 15-16 year old you would generally find in the Church today as far as her broad knowledge base.  And she was very spiritual.  I remember once spending the night at her house, and we were lying in bed for hours talking about angels, and seeing angels, and all the stories and possibilities of that.  I felt angels with us in the room that night.

I was allowed by my parents to go to Young Women’s meetings with her during the week.  It was arranged that I would take the discussions from the missionaries on those nights, since I had to take those before I was allowed to be baptized.  The missionaries thought I was “golden” and that I was really smart, because I already knew all the stuff they were teaching me.  I already knew it all because my friend was teaching it to me before the missionaries did 🙂 .

The group of youth in that ward at that time were pretty much amazing.  There were at least two others who joined the Church shortly before or near the time I did.  And it seemed to me all the youth were incredibly interested in really learning and understanding the gospel.  We had youth leaders and teachers who would talk to us about anything.  We could ask any questions, no matter how far out.  This was back in 1973, and things weren’t nearly so correlated then, and people really seemed to study a lot, and asking questions about off topic or weird stuff was not shut down.  So, I learned a lot pretty quickly.

I was baptized on March 24, 1973.  That summer I decided I would read the whole D&C while I was visiting my Dad’s in NY for several weeks.  So, I did.  I learned a lot from that, too.  I read lots of the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and I don’t remember when I read the Book of Mormon all the way through the first time, but I was reading it, too.  I read some, maybe all, of the Lectures on Faith early on, and I remember older members of the Church saying they were sad it had been removed from the scriptures. I knew about having your Calling and Election made sure, and having the Second Comforter early in my membership (maybe before I was baptized, but I can’t remember) because of things I read and things I was taught.

Anyway, the other day I was thinking about all the doctrines and teachings that I remember as being reasons why I wanted to join the Church and why I loved it so much from the beginning.  I joined because it was really clear the Lord was telling me to, but I had certain things I loved the most that were my most important reasons.  Quite a few of them were things that I already believed, or had inklings of before I even knew about the Mormon Church.  (When I met my friend, literally all I knew about Mormons was that there was a guy named Brigham Young who had lots of wives, and who was the leader of the Mormons, and he went out to Utah and settled there.  I had never even heard the name Joseph Smith and knew nothing of what they believed.)  These are the main things I remember trying to tell everyone around me in my family and my other friends who were not Mormons when I was a new member, because I was very naive, and I thought, “if they know these things, they will surely also see that this is true”:

The Book of Mormon is a true book, and it tells about Christ visiting America after His resurrection.

We lived a pre-mortal existence.  We existed with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and our family and friends before we were born on this earth.

It’s not just heaven or hell after we die.  There’s lots more to it.  And we can still be with our family there.

The Lord didn’t just quit talking to people at the end of the Bible.  There are living Prophets who literally talk to God and tell people what He says.

It is possible for anyone to see Angels and Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father in mortality.  And Jesus Christ and His Heavenly Father aren’t the same guy.

There should be no paid clergy. (I was a bit distressed when the D&C said something about Bishops being paid, but they weren’t anymore, and I didn’t know about that until I read the D&C, I don’t think.)

There are other things I learned and believed, and lots of nuance to those things I listed, too.  But those are generally the main points I remember telling people about because they were the main important and beautiful things to me.

The very interesting thing, to me, is that I realize that all of the things that were the big things for me then are still things I believe now.  It is so amazing to me to look back and see the Lord teaching me aspects of these things from my childhood until now.  Of course, I have a broader or shifted view of these things, but the concepts are things I have been being taught pieces of all my life.  I am very grateful.

I am incredibly grateful for the path the Lord has taken me on.  I have to say, “Wow!  This has been HARD!”  But I wouldn’t trade the knowledge of truth for an “easier” time.

I am so thankful that I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1973 when I was 15 years old.  I am so thankful to my friend for teaching me about it and about the gospel.

Many know I am on a different path now than they think I should be on.  Many friends and some family are sad or confused by what I believe.  Generally, I think, the people who feel that way don’t actually know what I believe, even though I have tried to write some of it on this blog.  Still, it is such a small sliver of the journey I have been on that gets written about on this blog, that the whole picture is not seen at all.  And that causes a lack of understanding.  And I keep being taught new things, too.  And human beings always misunderstand each other anyway 🙂 .

And it’s Ok if people are on a different path.  If you think I have gone astray, you don’t have to fear that if you hear, or read, or know the same stuff I know, that you will fling off and do something you don’t want to do!  You don’t ever have to do or believe anything you don’t want to.  Another thing the Church teaches is that agency is paramount.  The Lord won’t take your agency away.  Others will, though.  Almost everyone will try to, even unconsciously.  We all do here in this telestial state.  Even the best of us often try to save each other through inappropriate means.

But searching out knowledge is important.  I would say to be incredibly wary if people tell you not to seek certain knowledge, or not to read or learn certain stuff.  Teaching and learning discernment is vital, but controlling others is not.

So, this post is to tell some of the beginning of my journey, for my children and grandchildren and anyone else who has any desire to know it.  It has been a cool ride, and that is how it started!  In another post I think I will write about what I believed about those topics above even before I learned about the Church, and a broader view of what I believe about them now.

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An aside and 2 Nephi 28:3

By chance, I was reading over a blog post again today about 2 Nephi 28:3, which I think I haven’t read in a few years.  It pertains to some things I have been thinking about, so I will link to it here.

At the end of that blog post is an aside which also pertains to things I have been thinking about.  Here is the aside:

“Now, as a complete aside, I want to address the misapplication and overreaching misinterpretation of the idea one is “evil speaking” when a person explains something that concerns them. First, we are dealing with the souls of men. We are addressing salvation itself. If there is an error in doctrine or practice, everyone has an obligation to speak up, from the least to the greatest. (D&C 20:42, 46-47, 50-51,59,among other places.)Second, the “truth” cannot ever be “evil.” Though the truth may cut with a two edged sword, truth is not and cannot be “evil.” Therefore, if someone should say something that is untrue or in error, then correct their doctrine, show the error, but do not claim what is good to be evil, nor support what is evil by calling it good. (2 Nephi 15:20.) Using a broad generalization to stifle a discussion of the truth is a trick of the devil, who is an enemy to your soul. It is not the way of our Lord. He was always open to questions, always willing to answer questions, ever willing to speak the truth even when it caused those with authority over Him to be pained by His words. We must follow Him, and not men, in that example. Even if we would personally prefer to not endure insults but remain silent. So, rather than condemn something as “evil speaking” that you believe to be wrong, explain the error and bring us all into greater understanding. But if something is true, then even if it disturbs your peace of mind, it cannot be evil.”

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Spiritual Accountability

I suppose it goes without saying that since this is my blog, these are just my thoughts and opinions.  But I also want to say that the more I learn, the more I realize that I don’t know much :). I do feel a deep need to “speak my truth,” and so I am trying to do that.  But the Lord keeps teaching me and refining my understanding (thankfully), so hopefully I will understand things better tomorrow than I do today.  And I am not perfect in expressing myself, of course.  But here we go with what I understand now about a few things, hoping you will be patient with my weakness of expression:

Several days ago I posted something about the Protect LDS Children March and their cause.  In the course of some discussion that ensued, I was asked a question.  I didn’t answer it directly on that Facebook thread, because I didn’t want my answer to the question to take away from the point of the thread, but also because I didn’t want to only give a one word answer, without explaining that answer a little bit.

Here is the question I was asked: “. . . you think its inconsistent with gospel principles for saints to have spiritual accountability with ecclesiastical leaders?”

My one word answer is “Yes.”  I do believe it is inconsistent with gospel principles for anyone to have spiritual accountability to any other human being.

Here are a few reasons why:

2 Nephi 9:41 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.

D&C 1:19 The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh

2 Nephi 4:34 O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.

I think that it is clear from scripture that it is the Lord that forgives sin, and not any man.  I know that people in most any Christian Church would say they believe that, but I do fear that this prophecy is currently being fulfilled:

2 Nephi 28: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

The reason this question came up is because of the Protect LDS Children movement, which is asking for the LDS Church to conduct no one on one interviews with children anymore, and that no sexually explicit questions be asked of children, ever.

I believe that the word “church” with a small “c” means a body or group of believers.  When that word is used in scripture, that is almost always what it means – just a group of people who have a common belief.  The way we think of a Church with a capital “C” today is usually quite different, because we are usually thinking of a legal entity, an institutional organization with a legal structure.  Our modern institutions were not what was meant by “church” in ancient scripture.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a trademark name of CORPORATION OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS, which is a legal entity, a Corporation Sole, set up under the laws of the USA.  As such, this Corporation (which actually legally consists of only the President of the Church) has the right to make rules about who can do what within its organization.  It can and does make rules as to who can participate in its ordinances and who can enter its temples.  The question is, should it have the right to harm people in the process of verifying and ensuring compliance with those rules.  And that is why Protect LDS Children began.  Not to change what the Church says is doctrine, but to ask for policy and procedural changes.

So the issue of how things are decided and how they are done in this world, even within a Church (capital C) organization is, to me, a very different thing than what the Lord requires and how He wants things done.  It would be good if it were the same, but it is often not.  That is why I did not want to say what I thought about spiritual things when the topic was not really about that.

Back to the question: “. . . you think its inconsistent with gospel principles for saints to have spiritual accountability with ecclesiastical leaders?”

I think there are many people we should have accountability to in this world.  But to me the words “spiritual accountability” mean my relationship with God, and I believe that is between me and God.

I do think that if we have harmed another person it is good to “reconcile with thy brother.”

3 Nephi 12:23 Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee—

24 Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you.

There are many times when I believe it is appropriate to confess things to those we have wronged, and that is as an equal reconciling to an equal, or equals, whom we have harmed. I guess one question is, what does the Lord require as far as confession is concerned.

There are many scriptures about confessing to the Lord.  Since God knows everything we have done, this confession seems to be our acknowledgement to God that we recognize we have done something wrong, something that has separated us from Him.  I think that confession/acknowledgement to God would clearly be required for forgiveness from Him.

There are a few other times when confession to others is mentioned in scripture – mainly confessing to those people we have wronged.  I think that can be an important step in obtaining their forgiveness, as I mentioned earlier, and we may need to do that in addition to going to the Lord for His forgiveness.

One of the most memorable examples of forgiveness in scripture is Alma the Younger.  His experience of recognition of His sin, crying to the Lord for forgiveness, and being forgiven all took place while he was unconscious to the world.  Not while, or because, he was confessing to an ecclesiastical leader, or to anyone else.

And that brings me to the part of the question mentioning “ecclesiastical leaders.”  That implies hierarchy, one above another here in this world, in spiritual things.  I believe we were never meant to be unequal.  I believe we have lost much because of our extreme hierarchy.  We give lip service to equality, but in practice, we do not act that way.  We Gentiles love our supposed benefactors.

Luke 22:25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.

26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

Alma 1:26 And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.

27 And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.

3 Nephi 12:1 . . . Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants

Alma 30:32 Now Alma said unto him: Thou knowest that we do not glut ourselves upon the labors of this people; for behold I have labored even from the commencement of the reign of the judges until now, with mine own hands for my support, notwithstanding my many travels round about the land to declare the word of God unto my people.

33 And notwithstanding the many labors which I have performed in the church, I have never received so much as even one senine for my labor; neither has any of my brethren, save it were in the judgment-seat; and then we have received only according to law for our time.

34 And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren?

A King, in the Lord’s definition, is a Servant of all the people.  We have made them oppressors.  Almost no one manages to be a righteous King, or even a righteous leader, at all. We give lip service to equality, but in practice, we do not act that way.  We give scant heed to this scripture, to our great detriment:

D&C 121:39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

Do we really believe it is almost all, like the scripture says?  We don’t seem to.  We actually say it is very few.  I see people saying all the time (especially now with the Protect LDS Children movement calling for change and exposing abuse, and with all the terrible scandals recently of sexual assault, and worse, perpetrated and covered up by high Church leadership) that it is only a very few.  People use that as a reason to keep anything that seems negative quiet.  They don’t want to harm the good name of the Church, because, they say, it is so very few doing anything wrong.  I do believe the most heinous crimes are only perpetrated by a few, but I believe the cover-ups are endemic.  And I believe much lesser “unrighteous dominion” is clearly a malady of “almost all.”

We seem to have forgotten what we often say is our core belief, that agency is paramount.  We believe that Satan is the one who wants to take away agency, and that it is what the whole war in heaven was fought over.  Perhaps we just really have very little idea of what it actually means to allow agency.  That is one thing that the Lord keeps trying to show me over and over, and at deeper and deeper levels.  It is clear I am only beginning to understand the ramifications of how to actually allow others their agency.  And yet, I can already see that removing agency has become ingrained in most all aspects of our lives, including religion.  Satan is a subtle beast.

I will give this aside that relates a bit: I do believe that the Lord sends us messengers and prophets, and people with other gifts, to tell us things from the Lord, and to teach us, and to help us in many ways.  I believe they are equal to us.  It is always about service and love.  The greatest to ever live among us was the greatest Servant.  I believe it is good to heed any words that are from the Lord, whatever the source.  Throughout scripture, over and over, the Lord’s words come from sources that people living at the time don’t expect, nor generally recognize.  And I do not believe that a position in an institutional Church, no matter what that position is called, means that someone in that position has any authority to deliver a message from God, or to prophesy, or do anything else in God’s name, unless the Lord Himself gives them that authority.  There are great cautions given by the Savior in Matthew 23.

It would be too much to get into everything I think about interviews in the LDS Church, and requiring confessing to leaders, and leaders having the power to declare your worthiness and act as gatekeepers of ordinances and temples, because there are a lot of ramifications and nuance to all of that. But let me mention a couple of things that I think are problems.

To be baptized by someone in the LDS Church, you have to be interviewed and asked quite a few questions and be judged worthy by the man asking the questions.  In the scriptures the requirements for baptism are repentance and belief in Christ.  Much more than that is required in these interviews.  To obtain a temple recommend there are several questions to be answered.  These questions have changed many times.  For the temple some are essentially the same, but some are not.  For example: In 1856 you had to not swear, in 1877 you had to have been rebaptized, in 1966 you couldn’t work at a casino, etc.  When we can look at these things, as well as many policies and doctrines even, that have changed over the years, then it is hard to believe we can, or should trust in the arm of flesh to decide things of eternal consequence for us..  And when we see abuse that has happened and been covered up, that makes it even more clear.  Maybe we trust that God will make it all right in the end, but I believe we have been warned over and over in scripture not to put our trust in man.

I will just reiterate that I do not believe any mortal has spiritual authority (although they may have other types of authority) over me or anyone else, and I will end with something that happened to me many years ago, but which I recognize as one of the times when the Lord was trying to teach me something extremely important, and it relates to all of this.

Decades ago I was meeting with a member of our Stake Presidency for the second interview for my temple recommend.  This man was a friend of mine.  I knew him quite well, liked him a lot, and felt comfortable with him.  I knew I could answer all the temple recommend questions honestly with answers that would qualify me to go to the temple.  This man started by telling me that I should consider the things he was about to ask as though Christ were asking me the questions, because he was Christ’s representative, etc.  I believe other leaders had said something similar at the beginning of other temple recommend interviews I had had, but when he said this, I was overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings that had not happened before.  I had a thought that was so strong, it was hard not to say it out loud.  I thought substantially these words, “I wish it was Jesus sitting here asking me these questions, because He knows me!”  Suddenly everything in me wanted it to be Jesus there, and not this man.  I felt extremely sad that it was this man (or any man) and not Jesus Himself.  I felt like crying.  I have thought about that a lot since. That moment has remained strongly in my memory all these years.  I believe the Lord was trying to teach me in that moment that maybe it should have been Jesus Himself.  That I needed to come to realize that it is only Jesus Himself who is the Keeper of the Gate.  He is my advocate, because only He, through the atonement, KNOWS me.  He knows me better than I know me, and I am, and want to be, spiritually accountable to Him.

(In this post, often I have used the word “we” when I am talking about myself and members of the LDS Church, but also any other organization that has a similar structure.  I include myself in the “we” because 41 years of my life were wrapped up in the LDS Church, with me often saying it was my life.  Under this definition by Joseph Smith, Mormonism is still my life: “The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same.”  Also, bolded words in this post were made bold by me for emphasis.)

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Easter and Resurrection Morning

An excerpt from the podcast, Resurrection Morning (podcast is linked below):

“Roughly – a little over 2,000 years ago – something happened that changed the course of history. Christ was resurrected. We have in one generation of people a series of testimonies about Christ and His life, death, and resurrection. The authors of those testimonies do not spare themselves from their embarrassing behavior. Christ was taken captive in the Garden and many of those who followed Him fled immediately. Peter took a little time to knock off a servant’s ear, which Christ healed, and rebuked Peter and told him to put away his sword.

By the time He gets to being tried there are only two who hung around for the trial, and on the cross the only ones who followed Him, who remained, were women, and they stood at the feet of the cross until He passed. Upon His death there is no mention of a disciple being involved in His burial. They were cowering. They were hiding. And these were they who spent their time with Him as His chosen disciples.

Everything changed on the first day of the week when something turned cowards into men who would be willing to die for the testimony that they had that He is risen! That testimony changed the world, it changed their lives. They no longer lived as though their master had been defeated in death. They lived as though their master had triumphed over death, because He had. Multiple witnesses telling the same story: Abject defeat, fear, and cowardice, followed by triumphant, confident, defiant belief in a risen Lord, many of whom would go to their own deaths rather than to deny their testimony that Christ lives.

You have every reason to have confidence in the fact of the resurrection of the Lord. The lives of those disciples are abundant testimony of the fact of His resurrection.”

An eyewitness account of the morning of the resurrection (from the podcast):

“Following Christ’s death He was buried and rose on the third day. I know He lives for I have seen Him. He showed me the morning of His resurrection. I testify as a witness that He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, as the Gospels declare. Like those who wrote the New Testament, I am also a living witness the Lord rose from the dead:
 When I saw His resurrection, I was surprised to see it was still dark. I had always thought it occurred at sun up, as the return of daylight symbolized the return of life. But it was dark. The Gospel of John is the only one that mentions the darkness of that morning. Even so, it never registered with me that Christ rose in the darkness of that early morning. … He did rise from the dead. We rejoice because it is true. As so many others have done before, I can add my own witness that He rose from the dead. I was shown it. It happened. He who died on the cross rose from the dead and He lives still.’
 . . . 

John’s account records that Christ told Mary: ‘Touch me not.’ In the Joseph Smith Translation the words are changed to read: ‘Hold me not.’ (JST-John 20: 17.) Joseph’s change of the text was warranted. I tell you that when Mary realized it was Jesus, she embraced Him joyfully. She did not timidly reach out her hand, but she readily greeted Him with open arms, and He, in turn, embraced her.

It is difficult to describe what I saw of the incident, apart from saying the Lord was triumphant, exultant, overjoyed at His return from the grave! She shared His joy.

I was shown the scene and do not have words to adequately communicate how complete the feelings of joy and gratitude were which were felt by our Lord that morning. As dark and terrible as were the sufferings through which He passed, the magnitude of which is impossible for man to put into words, these feelings of triumph were, on the other hand, of equal magnitude in their joy and gratitude. He had attained to the resurrection of the dead! Just as He had seen His Father do, He likewise held the keys of death and hell! I do not think it possible for a mortal to feel a fullness of either. And, having felt some of what He shares with His witnesses, I know words are inadequate to capture His feelings on the morning of His resurrection.

He had the deep satisfaction of having accomplished the most difficult assignment to be given by the Father, knowing it was a benefit to all of His Father’s children, and it had been done perfectly.

Mary and Christ embraced. There was nothing timid about the warm encounter she had with Him. Then He said to her, ‘Hold me not’ because He had to ascend, return and report to His Father. Joseph Smith was correct when he revised this language.

I then saw Him ascend to heaven. I saw the golden heavenly light glowing down upon Mary as she watched His ascent. All this happened while it was yet dark on the morning He rose from the dead. He has shown this to me and I can testify to it as a witness.'”

Another excerpt:

“I would rather understate than overstate the case but let me end by telling you Christ lives. He died and He was resurrected. I know this to be true because, like Paul, I have seen Him. I don’t tell you that to make this seem sensational. I tell you that to give you cause to believe in Him. He is real.

Encountering Him as a resurrected being changed the course of history. It turned cowards into courageous, willing, and enthusiastic witnesses who faced down the Roman empire to their death. They died willingly. They died as evidence of the truth that they were testifying to. That kind of faith needs to return again to the earth. That kind of faith is possible again in our day. “

We can see from scripture, and from this podcast, that those who have actually seen the risen Lord testify plainly of that, and are willing to sacrifice mightily for their testimony.

Here is the complete podcast.

It is approximately 18 minutes long and well worth listening to.  The podcast itself is excerpts from longer talks.  If you are interested in hearing or reading those, they can be found at these links:

Video of Christian Talk 1, Cerritos CA
Transcript of Christian Talk 1, Cerritos CA

Audio of the Doctrine of Christ, Boise, ID
Transcript of the Doctrine of Christ, Boise, ID

Audio of The Road to Emmaus, Fairview, UT
Transcript of The Road to Emmaus, Fairview, UT
Paper on The Road to Emmaus, Fairview, UT

Audio of Talk 7 Christ, Ephraim, UT
Audio on Youtube of Talk 7 Christ, Ephraim, UT
Paper on Talk 7 Christ, Ephraim, UT

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Protect the Children

This is so important. And I have been afraid to write about it for fear of not approaching it in a way that many of the people I know and love will actually read it. Many of them have probably sworn off reading what I write :).

But please do continue and read about it. It matters a lot. Maybe read this first if you are thinking of not reading my post further.

On Friday, March 30, 2018 beginning at 12:00 PM MDT the March for the Children will take place in Salt Lake City. Here is what will happen:

“We will gather at the park adjacent to the Salt Lake City/County Building, then march five blocks to the LDS Church Office Building. There, we will deliver the signatures recorded on the Protect the Children Petition. We will also present the Sacred Stories of Sacred Children — childhoods destroyed behind closed doors in worthiness interviews.”

This is the link to the Protect the Children petition. As of the moment I write this, there are 18,398 signatures on it. Vaughn and I have signed it. We are numbers 984 and 985.

Many of the people who signed it are anonymous. Many of them cannot risk the persecution they would face from some family, friends, and community for signing this vital petition. What a shame that they have to fear.

Here is the website with the explanation of why this must be done, and the stories of the terrible damage done to so many children because of the practice of conducting one on one closed door interviews between a grown man and a child where sexually explicit questions are often asked. At the moment I write this, there are 422 stories on that site about the damage done from these interviews. Sam Young, who has been the force behind this cause, has read over 2500 of these stories, but many people could not share their stories publicly for various reasons.

If you have not heard of any of this before, you can read all about it on the links above.

I have seen many strong, active members of the LDS Church support this. I have also seen many strong, active members of the LDS Church take extreme offense that this practice of children being interviewed one on one behind closed doors, and often being asked sexually explicit questions, would be questioned in any way.

Many of them say that nothing like these stories of damage ever happened to them, or their children, and that there is no reason for all this furor.

To that I would say, you are disregarding and disrespecting what has happened to so many other children! Terrible things have happened. Sometimes horrific abuse has been enabled because of these interviews. Other trauma, humiliation, shame, depression, and lifelong sexual issues have also occurred because of this practice – even when the Bishops are well meaning and good men, which, of course, most of them are. Still, the nature of these interviews, even the most well meaning of them, have harmed children. They have harmed at least some of my own children, and the children of friends of mine, and my friends themselves.  And I would suggest that if you do think the interviews have not harmed your children in any way, that you ask them their experiences and how they have felt because of them.  I did not know until I asked.

Many say that since these interviews happen at all, they must necessarily be a good and required thing, because the Brethren know what they are doing. Since the Prophet cannot be lead astray, they believe, then these interviews must be OK.

To that I would say that some of the highest leaders themselves have said that they are not perfect, that mistakes have been made in the past. For example, the Priesthood ban. That ban stood from when it was instituted, during Brigham Young’s tenure, until 1978. Here is what the Church’s own essay says about that: “Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church. . . . Soon after the revelation, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle, spoke of new ‘light and knowledge’ that had erased previously ‘limited understanding.’ . . . Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”  Many, many other changes have been made over the years in the Church, to revelations as well as policies. A change can be made here.

Many say that we must have these interviews because people cannot be baptized or advance in the Priesthood unworthily, and the sanctity of the temple must be protected.

To that I would say there are other ways to do the same thing, without the one on one private interviews between a child and an untrained adult man talking about, and asking about, sexually explicit issues. Two-deep policies, where at least two adults must be in the room, so that no one can isolate a child are part of that. Also, making sure that certain explicit questions are not asked and not discussed would help. There are many suggestions for modifications to the current process that would still allow for the same result – LDS Church standards of worthiness to be upheld.

Many say that this should not have ever been brought up at all, or at least not brought up publicly, because it makes the Church look bad.

To that I say a few things. Why in the world is it OK to protect the “good name” of an institution over protecting the safety, mental health, and even lives of children (there have been children who have died by suicide because of these interviews and the attendant humiliation and judgement and hopelessness they feel)? It is also clear that this is a time in our world when hidden things are coming to light. Secret works of darkness are being exposed. A change in the policies surrounding these interviews would actually help the good name of the LDS Church. It would actually protect Bishops, too. If the Church would say they have realized the problems inherent in the current procedures, and change them for the good of the children, they would be lauded for doing that.

Continuing to hide these things, to not deal with them, is starting to backfire terribly. Cases of abuse have already happened many times, but the membership of the Church in general, and the public at large do not hear of them for several reasons. Sometimes they are ignored, and the people who were abused have no idea what to do, because they love the Church and don’t want to make it look bad, so they do nothing. Sometimes the victims are blamed. Sometimes leaders tell people to let it go, and the people do because they believe in following their leaders. Sometimes legal cases are brought and people are paid and NDA’s put in place, and people are silenced that way.

There are scriptures that talk about the hidden things being brought to light in the last days. Certainly in the world we are seeing some of the hidden things of abuse and assault coming to light recently. The internet age has also added to all of this. It is so much harder to keep things secret now.  Policies of secrecy and hiding away anything that seems nefarious or even a little damaging to the reputation of the Church are going to have to change. Truth will eventually out.

That was certainly evidenced by the recent leak of the knowledge that a former President of the MTC, who held many other very important callings in the Church throughout his life, has been at the least molesting women for decades. High Church leaders knew and did nothing. The cover-up of his terrible deeds for decades not only hurt all the women he molested, it also hurt him. He got very little help over his lifetime for what he admits was a sexual addiction. He does not deny his deeds, although he says he doesn’t remember some of them. He, as well as the women, have continued in agony. He is now an old man, and he fears he and his family will now be destroyed, and that he cannot be forgiven. The damage done by the cover-up by the Church of this man’s deeds has done incalculable harm. And this is just one instance, and I know it is not a lone instance. The only reason I can think of for this cover-up was to “protect the good name of the Church.” It has backfired. It certainly seems to me it is time to become transparent about these and many other things.

I think this is ultimately about what our hearts are set on and what we love. The Savior surely loved children.

If I am feeling well enough, I hope to be at the March for the Children on March 30th. I hope any of you who read this and live close enough will also come and support this cause.

This is an excellent article pertaining to this issue. It is written by Dr. Ben Salazar, licensed psychologist in private practice, and assistant clinical professor at Brigham Young University’s Counseling and Psychological Services.

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