Wednesday, August 26, 2015


The Lord has warned against judging unrighteously (JST Matthew 7:1-2). He has exclusive claim to perceiving—and therefore correctly judging—the heart (1 Samuel 16:7; Alma 18:32), which means we cannot judge a heart righteously.  When we attempt to judge a heart, it is based on actions or words or beliefs, which fails to account for a serious component of the mortal experience: deception.

Our words and actions are offspring of our beliefs.  We choose our beliefs based on the information we have at a given point.  But if any of the information is bad, or our reasoning that builds our beliefs on that information is bad, then we are deceived.  Whether the deception is caused by another, or only ourselves, or both jointly, the effect is the same.

Deception is like an infectious and highly contagious disease.  It harms directly, but also does splash damage to any others who would turn their disagreement with the deception itself into judgments of its victims; they are fooled into thinking they can judge a heart stricken with deception, thereby contracting it themselves.

When we disagree with the ideas, words and actions of others, we need to account for the possibility that the person actually has a good heart, but has a perspective that is warped by the deceptions under which they suffer.  So long as deception is within the world with us, there will be those who have good hearts but are fooled by incorrect ideas (Joseph Smith–Matthew 1:22; 2 Nephi 28:14).  They will speak and act in accordance with those false notions until corrected.

We should also consider that they may actually be more correct, and that perhaps it is we who are looking through a lens warped by deception.  Or perhaps even both parties are deceived with different deceptions, and the proper truth is yet undiscovered by either party.

All truth can ultimately be circumscribed into one great whole.  We hope to eventually understand it in its fullness.  Perhaps in that day when we understand all truth with perfect clarity, we can judge one another’s hearts by what we can perceive.  Until then, we should recognize that we’ve all changed our minds at some point in time, realizing that something we once believed was actually incorrect.  This means that until those epiphanies, we were victims of deception.  It is a condition worthy of lamentation and compassion, not mere condemnation.

That said, ideas, words and actions can certainly be separated from people’s hearts, and measured against standards of truth.  I believe it is wise and even necessary to do so, for the purpose of learning.  But we tend to fail hard at this. We choose instead to take criticisms of those things as criticisms of our hearts and respond defensively and emotionally, rather than looking at them objectively or dispassionately to see what they might teach us.  I’d like to explore that more sometime in another post.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

For Ever and Ever

There are a couple phrases that crop up in the scriptures which I find interesting, especially if they are more related than we realize.


This phrase appears mostly in the Book of Mormon and D&C.  At first blush, our instinct is to simply take that as an emphatic way of saying "forever," or continuing through time in infinite perpetuity.  We don't give it another thought.

What if there's more to it?

The word "forever" is a compounding of two words which were once kept separate:  "Fo" and "rever."  (Ba dum tss...)  If you separate the word back to its two root words, the phrase becomes "for ever and ever," which is how it generally appears in the Bible.

Written this way, the word "ever" appears twice, separately.  That would make it a finite term, not infinite.  Whatever is being spoken of carries on first for "ever," and then after ever, it carries on for a second round of "ever."  So is "ever" actually a finite period with a beginning and end?  With transitions from one "ever" to another?  What would constitute a period of "ever"?

There are scriptures which further make this point, for example:
"And I said unto them that our father also saw that the justice of God did also divide the wicked from the righteous; and the brightness thereof was like unto the brightness of a flaming fire, which ascendeth up unto God forever and ever, and hath no end." -- 1 Nephi 15:30
That final statement is exactly how we would define the term "forever," which term it just followed.  If the phrase "forever and ever" is simply to be understood as having "no end," then the phrase "forever and ever, and hath no end" must be one of the most redundant lines of scripture.  Considering this line is found in the Book of Mormon, from etched metal plates with limited space, it seems unlikely that redundancy is going to be occurring much.  So perhaps "forever and ever" means something different from "hath no end"?

If we consider the idea that "forever and ever" (for "ever" and "ever") is speaking of finite periods, with transition and progression from period to period, then perhaps that connects with the other phrase of interest...


This concept has several different wordings in scripture, but there is a specific facet I want to explore, and that is when the Lord speaks of one condition found in this world, which will remain the same in the world to come.  The most pointed example that comes to mind is when one commits a grave enough offense, they will not be forgiven for that offense in this world, nor in the world to come.
"And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." -- Matthew 12:32
"They are they who are the sons of perdition, of whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born; For they are vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity; Concerning whom I have said there is no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come—" -- D&C 76:32-34
 "But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come." -- D&C 84:41
A couple things interest me about this phrasing.  One, the Lord never makes any effort to give "the world to come" a different context than "this world," and in fact the condition being spoken of in both worlds remains identical.  It begs the question "How different is 'the world to come' from the current world?"

Is He speaking of the spirit world, where we reside until we are resurrected?  Is He speaking of something else?  Is He speaking of once the earth has passed away, and there is a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1; D&C 29:23)?  Interestingly, in the Book of Mormon the new heaven and earth is described as being "like unto the old save the old have passed away, and all things have become new." (Ether 13:9)  If "the world to come" is this new earth which will replace the current one, once it passes away, then we have some interesting perspective given to what is coming.  It seems to fit some of what is taught in both the endowment, as well as in D&C 76, and perhaps the scriptures concerning the war in heaven and Armageddon.

Secondly, to use the same terminology for both this "world" the coming one creates a sense of patterned sequence, which naturally leads me to ask "if not in this world, or in the world to come, what about the one after that?"  This opens up whole avenues for interesting thought, but such things would be too speculative for me to dive into here.

Whether or not these ideas are all connected, or even understood correctly on their own, I find them interesting.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Church of [Insert Name] of Latter-Day Saints

We are not required to believe in Jesus Christ anymore once we become members.  You may not be able to secure a temple recommend, but if you do not believe in Jesus anymore, the home teachers and missionaries will still be sent to try and work to reclaim you.

However, if you wholly believe in Christ but are not convinced of His present guidance, empowerment or involvement with the church's human leadership–whether it is due to a lack of evidence of their proclaimed spiritual gifts, or due to them make doctrinal and policy changes which contradict, deny or set at naught the gospel of Jesus Christ–then you will probably be excommunicated, and likely ASAP.

To contrast, in Joseph's day, if he were to learn of someone who truly believed in Christ but was yet unconvinced of his divine gifts or calling as a prophet, I think that rather than excommunicate or ostracize them, Joseph would have invited them to come hear him prophesy and determine for themselves whether the words he spoke were of God or of himself.  Even then, if they remained unconvinced of Joseph, he would still be happy to welcome the fellow believer in Christ among the ranks of his congregation, believing a true seeker of Christ will always be led to the truth.  I think Joseph amply demonstrated that he respected the supremacy of the Supreme, the inconsequence of himself in comparison, and the agency of man in their choice of beliefs.

Because Christ is now of definitively less consequence than the Brethren to a person's membership in the Church, it necessarily takes his name in vain to place it in the Church's title as though the Church is His.  I think the leadership has unwittingly confessed this to a degree, as the Church is legally a subsidiary trademark--a lesser subdivision--of The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It is the President who is supreme, he is the literal owner of the Church rather than Christ, with Jesus Christ serving only as the namesake of what the President owns.

Therefore, to alleviate taking the Lord's name in vain, I submit that the Church should officially change its name to "The Church of [Insert Senior Apostle] of Latter-Day Saints."

That should fix things.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Desire: Bait for the Snare

Buddha expressed that “Desire is the root cause of all evil.”  I agree with his assessment, but I don’t think that is to say that desire exclusively leads to evil.  Rather, I think that when you find evil, there is desire at its core.  Desire for power, for money, for pleasure, for things which do not lead a person to light.  Our natural man is filled with ungodly desires, and the adversary and his minions seek to tempt us through the same.  Whether these desires come from within, or are imposed upon us in a way that only appears to come within (an interesting topic), the fact remains that these desires find place within us and they absolutely affect us.

On the other hand, the scriptures teach us that we should in fact desire and seek after certain things, things which will bless us both in this life and in the eternities.  We are taught to seek after gifts, some of them earnestly (Matthew 6:33; D&C 46:7-9).  We are taught to seek having our calling and election made sure (2 Peter 1:10), and to return into the presence of Christ (D&C 93:1; Ether 3:9-13; Abraham 2:12).  These are good desires, and can lead us to true goodness.

But what if the quality of our desires isn’t sufficient to safeguard us against deception?  What if it isn’t enough for us to desire good gifts?  What if, as part of the process of laying hold onto the good gifts, we are also necessarily offered bad imitations to try and throw us off the scent, which we must discern and reject before we can receive the true gift?

Consider Adam in the temple drama.  We are all to see ourselves represented in him.  Once Adam was removed from the Garden and found himself in the lone and dreary world, he turned to God and sought communication from Him, in the form of true messengers.  This is a good desire, Adam was doing right in this.  But think about Adam at the altar.  He petitioned repeatedly, not just once, perhaps alluding to time passing and the need for both patience and diligence in pursuing his desire.  When Adam finally received a response, it was initially not from the Lord.  It was the deceiver, specifically offering Adam a mockery of what Adam sought, a true messenger with a true message from heaven.  

What if Adam allowed his desperation for a messenger to cloud his judgment, and he accepted Satan’s mockery without discernment?  What if Adam failed to put in the due diligence and discover the deception, and simply bought the lie and sought to convince Eve to do the same?  Would he have been open to the voice of the true messengers later telling him he’d been misled?  Would he even allow the messengers to approach him?


Regardless of whether a desire is good or evil, desire itself has side effects.  For example, desire fosters biases.  We become biased toward believing and embracing things which support and manifest our desires, and rejecting things which disagree with or prevent our desires from being fulfilled.  This is a vulnerability that requires acknowledgement for it to be addressed.  

Desire also opens a back door for deception to creep in.  Desire makes us more vulnerable to accept a lie as truth, or to accept something as being from God when it may not be, because we want it to be true or God-given.  We may be deceived into buying an imitation—whether illegitimate (mockeries, pleasing lies, philosophies, etc.) or legitimate (types, rituals, symbols, etc.)—as the actuality, and stop seeking for the real thing.  We might even forego the process of discerning a deception, ignoring the tiny alarm ringing out in the back of our minds.

Desire can also instill fear in us, which in turn affects our perception.  When we are afraid of something being other than the way we want it to be, we avoid even considering the possibility, and instead measure truth against the standard of our desires.  If the deceiver knows of such a thing in you, then he knows a back door that you’ve propped wide open for him.

It is on this backbone of desire that Satan's great tool of temptation is built.  The whole idea behind a temptation is to bait a snare with something you desire.  If you don’t desire a thing, then we would not consider it “tempting.”  For a tempter to be successful at what they do, they must understand what their target desires, what YOU desire.

When Christ was tempted by Satan, it may not have been such an easily handled series of “temptations” as the scriptures make it sound.  Satan may have in fact been well aware of the desires within Christ’s natural man, and spoken calculatingly and directly to those, rather than just spitballing and hoping something would stick.  It may have wrenched at Christ’s very heartstrings to have to turn down what was offered and rebuke Satan with the necessary truths.  If Christ never faced such a trial, how could He hope to understand and succor us when we face our own Siren songs?


Others were not so successful in resisting Satan's calculated temptings.  In the Book of Mormon, we have the story of Korihor the anti-Christ in Alma 30.  Look at his confession in verses 52-53:
And Korihor put forth his hand and wrote, saying: I know that I am dumb, for I cannot speak; and I know that nothing save it were the power of God could bring this upon me; yea, and I always knew that there was a God.  But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.
Like Adam, Korihor was approached by the devil in an effort to deceive.  The message Korihor was given to relay was destructive, intended to frustrate the purposes of God.  But to convince Korihor not to evaluate the toxicity of the message, the devil packaged it with things which were “pleasing unto [his] carnal mind.”  He spoke to Korihor’s desires, as these things would not have been “pleasing” to him if he did not desire them.  

Korihor essentially had a choice:

 A)  Allow himself to be bribed through his desires into buying and selling lies.


B)  Discern the red flags in the message and reject the liar, but at the expense of losing the “pleasing” things he desired.

Korihor went with option A, allowing desire to shut down discernment which might have exposed that he was being deceived.  No further reason is given for him buying the bullshit other than “becausethe lies were “pleasing.”  We don’t have to know exactly what his desires were to know they were his Achilles Heel.

Could we be susceptible to such a thing?  Could a person desire God to be a certain way, or that His plan be a certain way, or desire to view themselves in a certain way, or desire some philosophy to be true; and then have a deceiver come to them, speaking precisely to those desires and simultaneously packaging them with toxic elements, thereby forcing the person to choose between accepting poison and losing the supposed fulfillment of their desires?

We should be honest with ourselves both about our desires (the good and the bad), and the vulnerabilities those desires create within us.  The greater a desire, the greater our vulnerability to being deceived or misled in relation to it.  When we receive something according to our desires, regardless of our confidence in our ability to discern, it would probably still be wise to faithfully confirm with God that it came from Him and isn’t an imitation.  It may take time, we may have to invest effort like comparing it against the scriptures, we may even need to obtain a sign from heaven.  But we are commanded to be wary of deceiving spirits, and our desires are a lynchpin of most their efforts.


The reason Satan mingles scripture in with the philosophies of men is because he's playing the odds.  He knows most people choose easy, and he knows it's easier to accept a message as true because it has scripture in it, than to recognize it isn’t wholly true because it has men’s philosophies in it.

Monday, August 3, 2015

By the Power of Greyskull...

In the LDS church, there are a number of rites and ordinances performed in which the Priesthood holder acting as voice declares “by the power (and/or authority) of the Melchizedek priesthood…” as part of the performance.  But here is a fundamental question:  Should we be doing this?

It is assumed that because the LDS church is the only church “authorized” to perform these acts as the hand of God, that we need to declare that fact openly, and that the procedure used is the best way to make sure this is done.  That way both man and the heavens can acknowledge their witness that this was an authorized act.  
But here are the problems with that argument.

1.  There is no scriptural injunction for us to do this.  The scriptures only teach to perform acts in Christ’s behalf by declaring that you are doing such things in His name, or with His authority.  There is no mention of any priesthood declarations as part of any ordinance.

2.  There is no record of Joseph Smith—or any prophet before him—performing any of these same things with a statement of priesthood authority.  They only performed them in the name of Jesus Christ, with His authority, in accordance with the scriptures.

3.  The very fact that you declare that you are performing some function in the name of Jesus Christ IS in and of itself declaring your authority.  You are naming the source of your authority, and it is understood that the acts you are performing as a faithful servant are precisely what was authorized by that authoritative source.  No more, no less.  Therefore, declaring “by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood” is at best an unnecessary redundancy, and at worst, an incorrect assessment and declaration of what power you think you have when perhaps you do not.

4.  If the scriptures and the Lord have never required of us to begin declaring our priesthood as a part of performing ordinances, then every instance of us mingling this tradition into our ordinances is a violation of Isaiah 24:5, and Joseph Smith’s declarations concerning ordinances:
And again, God purposed in Himself that there should not be an eternal fullness until every dispensation should be fulfilled and gathered together in one, and that all things whatsoever, that should be gathered together in one in those dispensations unto the same fullness and eternal glory, should be in Christ Jesus; therefore He set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever, and set Adam to watch over them, to reveal them from heaven to man, or to send angels to reveal them… 
The power, glory and blessings of the Priesthood could not continue with those who received ordination only as their righteousness continued; for Cain also being authorized to offer sacrifice, but not offering it in righteousness, was cursed. It signifies, then, that the ordinances must be kept in the very way God has appointed; otherwise their Priesthood will prove a cursing instead of a blessing.” — Joseph Smith, October 1840 Conference
Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed.” — Joseph Smith, June 11, 1843

Whether you choose to include this added declaration of priesthood authority in your performance of ordinances or not, you will be faced with potentially offending somebody.  So, who would you rather risk offending?  The God of Heaven, by performing what He has authorized with unauthorized alterations, thereby taking His name in vain, losing His authoritative backing, and becoming a pretender?  Or the men who seek by their supposed authority to require that you offend God in this manner, and have thereby perhaps offended Him and lost His endorsement themselves?