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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Repentance

Quotes from the podcast on repentance linked below:

“Take a look at Doctrine and Covenants section 93:36: ‘The glory of God is intelligence, or in other words light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one’ [D&C 93:36-37]. What if instead of repentance being related to your misdeeds, which are so plentiful and persistent and will continue– what if instead it is related to the acquisition of light and truth, that is intelligence? What if repentance requires you to take whatever it is that you have that is a foolish error, a vain tradition, a false notion, and replace it with the truth?

My suspicion is that whatever it is that is troubling you, it will trouble you considerably less if you begin to fill yourself with light and truth, until at last you arrive at a point where you look back upon your sins and you say ‘I have no more disposition for that, because I frankly know enough not to do that anymore, and because I prefer the light and because I prefer God’s intelligence and glory over that which I used to trade, to substitute for it.’

You see, repentance may have a whole lot more to do with your own feeble education in the things of God than it does have to do with the time you spend wasted looking at some vile picture or other. People struggle with some very difficult, very challenging things. You need to try and overcome that by the light within you.

‘The glory of God is intelligence.’ Be intelligent. The fact of the matter is that you can fill yourself with the mind of God. And if you fill yourself with the mind of God, you’re going to find yourself in a position where you, like the scriptures recite, have no more disposition to do evil, but to only do good continually. That repentance is as a consequence of the things that you know. That repentance comes as a consequence of the light and truth within you. . . .  And that requires you to exercise your effort to learn and obtain glory from God which is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth– not darkness, dimness, error, missteps, incomplete and inadequate information. You’re going to have to face it, and you’re going to have to face it with some amount of courage. Because we all labor with a good deal of tradition that had been inflicted upon our minds and upon our hearts. And things that we may love, if they don’t conform to the glory of God, intelligence or light and truth, they have to be discarded, too. Because what God wants to do is to bring you back into a state of reconciliation with Him, which comes only from bravely facing light and truth– the glory of God, the power of Godliness, if you will. . . . 

When He appears, you need to be like Him. Lay down the burden of guilt. Lay down the burden of sin. Stop focusing on that stuff and become like Him. And you become like Him by doing His works. And you do His works by serving others, by ministering to the needs of others. And when you do that, it is a natural byproduct of that process, ordained by laws established before the foundation of the world, that light and truth will grow within you. You will have compassion when you minister with compassion to the needs of others. Your heart will open to, and receive within it, light and truth. When your conduct reflects the same conduct as a merciful, and holy, and just God whom you claim to worship, worship Him by imitating Him. Worship Him by doing His works. Worship Him by making a living sacrifice. Set aside the junk that occupies you and go do something that is holy for someone else.

However mundane and trivial it may seem to you, when you relieve the suffering of other people, something changes in you. You become different. You become better. You become more like our Lord. Because when you give– whatever it is you give away– you get more in return. But make sure that what you give goes to relieve the suffering of others. Relieve the suffering of others.”

Repentance Podcast

 

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What Kind of God?

(Warning: This is a very autobiographical post and therefore may only be of interest to family and very, very close friends. 🙂 )

Lately when I have been praying and pondering many, many things, I keep getting this question coming to my mind as an answer to my thoughts and prayers: “What kind of God do you believe in?”

Having recently turned 60 years old (which actually stuns me, but seems a much younger age from the perspective of actually being it than it ever did when I was actually young 🙂 ), I have done a lot of looking back over my life and thinking about what the Lord has taught me all along, and what beautiful, although difficult, roads He has guided me through all my life to get me to realize things He wants me to learn this time around.

So, here is some of what I have been thinking.

I think I was born loving Jesus.

From my birth until the age of about 10, I lived a fairly sheltered life surrounded by people who I knew adored me. In my memories of those years there is some angst from periodic sickness, and emotional trauma from empathic sharing of others’ agonies, and self inflicted pain when I perceived I might have hurt someone else in some way (I was super sensitive).  And when I was grown I learned that the adults around me were actually suffering things I can hardly imagine, and I consider them heroic for trying to keep me and others safe through that, but mainly it was a time of peace for me to grow and learn in.

And it was so much about Jesus. I really trusted Him. I knew He loved me. I loved Him, and I loved everyone around me. Love was just the norm of life. And although there was so much cool stuff I looked forward to in life, like becoming a famous horseback rider (nope), Olympic swimmer (nope), doctor (became an occasional actor/writer/teacher/director/farmer and other stuff instead), a wife (did that), and a mother (did that), I knew in my child’s soul it was all really about love, every bit of it. And it was an intense, total willingness to sacrifice everything for others type of love that I knew was what we all wanted and needed. Jesus type love.

Here are some of my main memories from that time. When I was tiny I loved the song “Jesus Loves Me.” In my baby book (which my Mom kept quite extensively, since I was the first child 🙂 ), it says that when I was 3, that was my favorite song. And I remember that I loved it. I know lots and lots of other songs about Jesus and God that I love. But recently, in agony in the night, that is the song I still have sung to myself for comfort.

“Jesus loves me, this I know

For the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to Him belong.

They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me.

Yes, Jesus loves me.

Yes, Jesus loves me.

The Bible tells me so.”

Be like a little child. “Jesus Loves Me” is what I sang, and sing, in the dark nights.

This might give you the impression that my family was especially religious. They weren’t. We were Baptist, and I remember going to church, but don’t remember if we did every Sunday when I was very young. I remember being baptized when I was 10, and that the nice Reverend Klingbeil (don’t know how his name was actually spelled) came to our house and asked me to read the Gospel of Mark (because it was the shortest gospel) in preparation for that. And then I remember him baptizing me in a font at the church wearing hip boot waders, which was cool. But all of that was what you did. It was just the expected thing. When I was a teen and lived in a different place with my Mom and Stepfather, I rode a bus to church that the local Baptist church sent around to take kids whose parents didn’t go to church.

But my Mom did believe in God. I think my Dad did too, when I was little at least. But I don’t remember talking a lot about God or anything like that in the home. It was accepted that we believed in Him, but there was not a lot of talk about it. I did say a rote prayer at night, mostly with my Mom, as I remember. Something like this:

“Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the Lord my soul to keep

God be with me through the night

And bless me with the morning light

God bless . . . . . . . . . . . . .”

And then I would list all my family, including extended family. Then Mom would tuck me in and leave, and then I would pray in my mind to God about whatever I was concerned with.

I always saw God (Heavenly Father) and Jesus as two different people. I didn’t realize until I was much older that I was supposed to believe they were the same Being. I had missed that teaching somehow :). I remember arguing with my Stepfather (who was Catholic) when I was maybe 12 or so that it was ridiculous to think they were the same Being, since Jesus wouldn’t have been praying to Himself, etc. But the nature of them is the same, I believe. So what kind of god Jesus is, and what kind of god Heavenly Father is would be the same, as far as answering the question.

I have also thought a lot about the literature I read, sometimes over and over, and loved the most in my life. The Secret Garden and Jane Eyre (about learning to open your heart and love, even after and through adversity) and Little Women (I wanted to be Beth because she was so totally good, but I was more like Jo) were probably my most favorite when I was young. I loved fantasy and sci-fi in my teens and adulthood – like the incredible The Lord of the Rings, the story of struggling through everything impossible and being willing to sacrifice anything for good and others. I loved Ender’s Game, but the sequel, Speaker for the Dead, blew me away – speaking the dead person’s truth, every bit of it, the good and the bad, and really seeing them and all their struggles and reasons for their choices. Such an amazing way to learn about non-judgement and love, and how to see people as God does. I remember reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as I was sitting in a light booth doing lights for a play, and almost not being able to do my cues in time because of my tears from reading the truths about Christ in that book. And then the miraculous Les Miserables, which is all about non-judgement and love and God. And A Christmas Carol! What a beautiful story about redemption. The Lord certainly used those books and others to illustrate to me in a very inspired way what the scriptures are saying about His nature.

So, let’s jump back to my early Christmas times, a very big deal to me. My Mom was a brilliant and “magical” sort of person. She believed in so much cool stuff: angels, aliens (she and Dad totally saw a UFO along with lots of other people at the same time), Bigfoot, maybe even fairies, etc. She kind of believed in almost everything. There were times in my life when I saw that as a negative thing, but I have come to believe it was positive, for many reasons (which is another topic and too much of a tangent to go into now).

Because of this, my Mom made Christmas magical when I was little. Santa Claus was so fun, and I never regretted “believing” in him, because of the good things it actually taught me (which is a sort of long philosophical discussion that I will leave aside).  I know lots of people think it is wrong to teach of Santa Claus as being “real,” and even that Christmas is too rooted in Pagan stuff to even celebrate it at all. I totally respect those feelings. We are all differently situated.  My friend, Jeff, would say everything is perfect as it is for each of us.  And, for me, Santa Claus and Christmas have only been positive. I liked getting presents, of course. But I absolutely loved giving presents, and I loved the idea that miracles can and do happen. Christmas is the spirit of love and giving and the miraculous to me.

I remember being super sick one Christmas Eve. I had this terrible pain thing in my intestinal tract that plagued me periodically for years when I was young. It was happening on that Christmas Eve, and I could not sleep from the pain, and it was a panicking thing because no one knew yet what was wrong with me, or how to stop the pain. I remember my Mom standing with me at the window of my bedroom, looking out at the snow on the ground and trees, sparkling in the moonlight. She had her arm around me and was talking about the beauty we were looking at and magical things that I don’t remember. What I do remember from her is a feeling of joy and love and the spirit of the miraculous that should be felt on that particular night. I don’t remember what gifts I got that year. But I remember that time with Mom and the great comfort it gave me in my pain.

I also remember our little Nativity set. I loved that set! I loved to set it up every year. I had a certain way it needed to be. My younger brother also apparently had a certain way it needed to be, because my Mom said every time one of us would go past it, it would be rearranged :). I especially loved the sheep. There were two individual sheep in the set, and a shepherd with a lamb carried around his neck. Maybe that is what made me love my real sheep so much when I was grown and had a farm. Sheep really are gentle souls, and a great symbol for the Lamb of God.

And the music! Christmas music is, and always has been, such a joy to me! It needs to start in September. My birthday is Sept. 20th, and I always thought Christmas music should start just after my birthday. My first 10 years were spent living mostly in New York, so by my birthday it was getting cold, and that meant I needed to think about Christmas, of course :). My favorite Christmas songs have always been the Jesus and Angel songs. I loved “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” when I was little. I knew it was true that those Angels came and announced Jesus to the shepherds. Miraculous! Right now this is probably my favorite Christmas song (except maybe for the Hallelujah Chorus):

The point this is leading to is that my earliest memories are very much inundated with Jesus. And to me, from my experience with Him back then, He is love and joy and miracles. He is also freedom.

When I was a teen the Lord wanted me to learn some more great stuff. He blessed me with a whole lot more truth, and a whole lot more experience – a lot of experience in the Telestial Kingdom, or the world in which we now live. And that experience has to come through that Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that got us in this place originally. For many years I learned that way, and I learned lots of super great stuff, until it was clear I was insane – insanity being doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Okay, that’s a tiny bit of a joke :), but not totally.

Joseph Smith talked about teaching correct principles and letting people govern themselves. God does the same. He follows what He teaches us to do, by using persuasion Himself, and not force. We teach that free will is paramount, that Satan is the one who wanted to take that from us, and yet we often perpetuate Satan’s agenda without even realizing it. We become unintentional Pharisees. God presents light and truth to us, and then we choose to implement it, or not. And so, by our own choices and experience we learn what we want, we learn what is really good for us. And if we continue on, we also come to learn that what we want is to return to the Tree of Life after the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil has beaten us :).

So, for several decades I was working for Tree of Life stuff using Telestial means – thinking if I just did everything a little better, or just did more of the good stuff, just worked harder and harder, and on and on, and did more and more of what people told me I should, I would get there. At one point, towards the end of those decades of learning, I accepted a calling that was literally killing me in almost every way and which I finally came to realize was not at all something the Lord had asked of me. I did it because I was very used to following people, even when it overrode what God was telling me. With that experience, and also a miraculous moment when I made a small step towards following the Lord over the “arm of flesh” and the Lord literally changing in an instant how I understood that concept (of not relying on the arm of flesh or following men), I began another phase of learning what kind of God I believe in.

But I already knew some of the possibilities available in this life. That was one thing I learned as a teen, that Celestial possibilities actually exist here. And I had studied everything I could find about those possibilities and prayed about them, and for them, for decades.

So then, after decades, the Lord apparently felt I had been in roughly the same situation long enough for what needed to be learned there, and he began to gently show me what I was believing and doing that was wrong. And that was when a whole wider view of what God is began to open up to me.  And I learned that I needed to learn to totally listen to Him, and let no one get in between me and Him.

In answer to God’s question to me about “What kind of God do you believe in?” I have had to look back at what I have learned so far about what I believe His nature is and how I believe He works with us.

So, here are some of those things I have learned so far and believe about God (and when I say God, I actually believe God is Father and Mother together, but that is another post, too) and how He (they) works:

God is not trifling with us. Joseph Smith said that, and I believe it. Life is hard and intense. He doesn’t let us put ourselves through this stuff lightly. I word it that way (“put ourselves through”) because I believe we came here to learn, and that for agency to be preserved, that we don’t get put through rough stuff in order to learn without having agreed at some point in our existence to learn it in whatever ways necessary.

God does not force us, ever. He persuades us with gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned.  He helps us when we ask, and gives us what we want, although He prepares us for it first, if need be.

God cares about our hearts being right first, more than our minds (although eventually the goal is to be of one heart AND one mind). I believe this scripture:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

The Lord recently said this: “Be of one heart, and regard one another with charity. Measure your words before giving voice to them, and consider the hearts of others. Although a man may err in understanding concerning many things, yet he can view his brother with charity, and come unto me and through me he can with patience overcome the world. I can bring him to understanding and knowledge. Therefore if you regard one another with charity then your brother’s error in understanding will not divide you. I lead to all truth. I will lead all who come to me to the truth of all things. The fullness is to receive the truth of all things, and this too from me, in power, by my word and in very deed. For I will come to you if you will come unto me.” 

God does not want us to add to or take away from His doctrine, and according to Him, this is all that is:

3 Nephi 11: 30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.
32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.
37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

As soon as we start enforcing other teachings or tenets, etc. (even if they are good, and we are sure the Lord thinks they are good to do, or not do) as our requirements for people to be “allowed” to do the things the Lord asks them to do (like being baptized), then we are “adding to” and have overstepped our bounds.  We are to be equals.  “Equals govern themselves, not others.”

God is quick to forgive. Men are not able to forgive us, or delay our forgiveness, in place of God. We are absolutely required to forgive each other, but we are not the arbiters of God’s forgiveness. The best scriptural example I know of this is Alma the younger:

“And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart, O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who art in the gall of bitterness and art encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And O, what joy and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain.”

God (Jesus) wants us to live the Sermon on the Mount (and the Sermon at Bountiful in the Book of Mormon where He reiterated the same things), a small portion of which says this:

“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”

There is lots of other stuff in the Sermon that seems impossible to live while we are here in “Babylon.” Even a long time ago I used to wonder why religious institutions didn’t model this. I thought if they would model it, I could learn how to do it, but they don’t. I was sad about that and just figured it must be impossible living in this world. But now I believe until some few do begin to do it, we will always live in this harsh and terribly fallen world.

God wants us to be like a little child. That is why I think when He has asked me what kind of God I believe in, He has taken my mind back a lot to what I already knew when I was a little child, and have sometimes since forgotten and made complicated by the burdensome requirements of what was actually a “false” God that I didn’t really believe in.

There are a lot of things He has reminded me of, but mainly He has reminded me of this:

God is love. It all does come back to this. And though this seems a simple statement, people who all think they believe this can arrive at different interpretations of what that means they should do. Often we believe that control of others is love. We will “make” people be good because we love them. But even when we look at this Telestial world, not even thinking about God, we can see that human beings do not do well when their freedom is taken away, nor when they take away the freedom of others. I think that is because it is an eternal truth that the type of beings we are, are harmed and diminished by lack of freedom to choose for ourselves.

Another thing I have learned in my life is that I don’t know much.  The more expanded my view becomes, the less I realize I know and understand in the vast scope of things.  In fact, it seems that often whenever I have felt most sure of my great knowledge and understanding is the very time when I have actually been possibly the furthest from really understanding God, so I pray to always be teachable, and not hard hearted and full of unbelief (believing things that are wrong).

But these things that I do believe God is, are what I have been thinking about when I wonder what He thinks about things, or what He wants me to do. Because I need to be like Him. Because God is love, and all that encompasses, and I want to be that, too.

Merry Christmas to all!

God bless us every one!

And as Bill and Ted said: “Be excellent to each other!”

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