Gender may not be what we think it is.

Who says that a god family consists of one male and one or more females, and that spirits are procreated the same way we conceive babies? Adam was first made in the image of God: male AND female and told to multiply. How does that happen? If he (they) were in the image of God, then God is also both male AND female. If true, we can’t make any assumptions about “eternal procreation”.

This is difficult to talk about because our language can’t avoid gender-based references, but I’ll try. This is all according to the Bible, which fundamentalists love to interpret literally, but they love to interpret this part figuratively. I am going to use the same words as the Bible, but try to get you to see them in a different way. It is supposed to be all symbolic, but let’s interpret the symbols a bit more literally. The first human person on the earth, according to the Bible, was called “man”. The Hebrew word is “adam”, which means something like “red clay” or “formed from the dust of the earth”. It was also be a male proper noun, but forget the proper name “Adam” for the time being and just think “adam” as any generic human. God, (“elohim”, again not a proper name, but the Hebrew word for “god”, and a plural word and a combination of male AND female), formed “adam” in his/her/their own image, male AND female. Then “elohim” breathed (a symbolic word) into “adam”, the spirit of “adam”. If the body of “adam” was male AND female, and if the body is formed in the likeness of God, and in the likeness of its spirit, then would not the spirit of “adam”, likewise be male AND female?

So, we have two compound beings, each of them both male AND female, standing and facing one another. The creator and the created. The created being is sentient and able to receive, understand, and fulfill commands. The first command given is: “Multiply and replenish the earth.” Remember this was one compound being saying this to another compound being. I hate the word “queer”, but this would be one way to describe each of the two beings.

It is important to understand where this was said, who said it, and to whom it was said. This was not in the garden, and “adam” was not yet split into separate male and female beings. So, how could this “multiply and replenish” be accomplished? 1 Nephi 3:7 says that God will give no commandment save “he” provide a way to accomplish that commandment. A little “mind-bending” suggests that it was not to be done the same way as heterosexual human procreation. To “multiply” is to make more of yourself, and somehow this was possible even in a body which is both male AND female. And if this applies to “adam”, then it seems logical that it also applies to the male-female unit “elohim”. And what if it’s not really “procreation”? What if it’s simply scooping up or attracting other intelligences and somehow stimulating them to acquire the characteristics of what we might call “a spirit”, and this action being a step in becoming like the newly-organized “adam”, and his/her/its progenitor/creator “elohim”? This could be done without billions of years of pregnancy and gestation.

We don’t know how long before “adam” was placed in the garden, and is now “alone”. Was he/she/it truly “alone” or were there similar companions? This is a new world, and a new situation. Personally, I believe it was a step down. “adam” condescended or fell from a celestial world to a terrestial world, and sensed the aloneness, and in order to fulfill the “prime directive” and cure the “aloneness”, Adam was divided into two separate beings: one male (Adam) and the other one female (Eve).

I suppose just the companionship of “elohim” was not sufficient, so “elohim” split “adam” into separate male and female elements and took away their memory of ever having been together, in the bargain. But, even after losing his memory, Adam looked at Eve and recognized her as having come from him, and spoke about the two becoming “one flesh” again.

If you are going to interpret the symbolism literally, you have to be consistent, but this is where some of the symbolism falls away and we begin to pick up the story in a more relatable form: one man and one woman, yeah, we finally understand that, but in our ignorance, we suppose that this is the way that it always was.

All of creation is a series of divisions: light from dark, heavens from earth, day from night, dry land from seas, etc. So, why not also a division of woman from man? This is to me the first “fall”. The second was when the couple got kicked out of the garden, and began the heterosexual procreation process we are familiar with. But my point is we can’t compare procreation of human bodies on a telestial level with “procreation” of spirits on a celestial level. Brigham Young said it was the same, but how did he know? Sometimes he claimed to have revelation, and sometimes he admitted to not even being a prophet.

But, where, lacking revelation, did Brigham get the idea that God was nothing more than an exalted man? Maybe from King Follett. But, the Lectures on Faith say that the Father is a personage of spirit, and the Son is a personage of tabernacle. People justify this discrepancy by saying Joseph “evolved”. But maybe it is God who evolved and not Joseph. Joseph and Brigham both taught that there are generations of gods. The endowment even teaches it. But maybe there is some point at which one of these gods, at a certain higher level, of which we know nothing about, is able to evolve into something even higher than just a glorified man, and becomes some different kind of being that we would only understand as a spirit, but is really merged in his/her consciousness with many other gods, also at that same level. Deuteronomy teaches that the Lord God (Elohim Jehovah) is “one”. The Hebrew word used here and translated “one” is echad meaning “unity”, and Christ said they we are to be one with Him, even as He is one with the Father. So, maybe there is something more to all of this than we think or imagine.

Joseph Smith taught that if the Father could make himself visible, and if we could see him, we would see Him as a man, like us. This kind of begs the question. If He didn’t appear to us, in a form like us, would we even recognize Him? And another question: What does God look like when we don’t see him?

Let’s face it, God the Father, doesn’t show up too often on the earth, and when He does, He appears in a vision, a waking dream, which means He’s not physically present, but projecting an image. This is called a theophany. In other times, such as the baptism of Jesus, or on the Mount of Transfiguration, or speaking from the heavens when Christ made His triumphant ride back into Jerusalem, or in speaking to the Nephites before Christ descended, we just hear a disembodied voice speaking out of a cloud. When people see Christ, they see a flesh and blood being who touches stones, eats and drinks, and lets people touch Him. We never see the Father doing any of this.

Response to John Dehlin and John Larsen on the Mormon “Plan of Salvation”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEtCMHkpG-M

No apologetics. I’m not going to preach to you or quote a lot of scripture because that’s not the point. I’m not trying to justify, rationalize, or apologize for Mormon doctrine because it is a mess. John Larsen is right. All I want to do is suggest that with a correct understanding of the scriptures and a little “mind-bending”, there is a possible way out. I wouldn’t be saying this to a traditional Mormon audience because they would freak out. I’m only saying this to you because you probably won’t believe it anyway, but hopefully are open to a new perspective.

What do atheists have to offer that’s any better? Before death: war after bloody war. After death: oblivion.

Do you think Satan’s plan is any better? Force people to be good. Reign with blood and horror on the earth. What do you think religion is doing if not forcing people to be good? What’s behind the bloodshed and horror on this earth if not religion’s desire to control and manipulate?

At least the Mormon plan offers something better. At least it offers a glimmer of hope for a few. But read on, there’s more.

Facing reality. John Larsen, I believe, accurately described the Mormon interpretation of the plan of salvation as currently taught and understood. He carried it out to its logical conclusion, thus “illustrating the absurd by the absurd”. As it is taught and understood, it is clearly not feasible, not sustainable, and ultimately as damning as the Mormon description of Satan’s plan. Einstein said in order to solve a problem we have to solve it from a higher level of thinking than what created the problem in the first place. Einstein could have called it “mind-bending”.

Why the Mormon plan is unworkable and unsustainable. The Mormon plan is based on several flawed assumptions, misunderstanding of scripture, and some false religious traditions.

Flawed understanding of God. God is not mean, jealous, petty, or vengeful. God is not arbitrary. He doesn’t get to just make up stuff. He is also subject to eternal law, otherwise He would cease to be God.

The gods do not just endlessly create. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35). “There will be a new heaven and a new earth and the first earth were passed away.” (Rev. 21:1-3). The course of God is one eternal round (cycle). And there are cycles of creation, change, and destruction. This is a fundamental principle of Eastern religions. Eastern religions believe that the universe is one great consciousness, and we as individuals are living under the illusion that we are separate consciousnesses, and that eventually, we will all merge back into a single consciousness, then the grand cycle will begin again.

Spirits are made from intelligences, which already exist. We are already co-eternal with God. So, the multiple billions of spirits, Gods, “breeders”, and “servants” that John Larsen discussed already exist.

You can’t assume that everything in heaven or eternity is just like earth. To Brigham, God is just a great big powerful man in the sky with the same abilities and goals that men have, only carried to a super level. He builds kingdoms and adds to his glory by acquiring more wives and ruling over his posterity with an iron fist. This may not be true at all.

Gender may not be what we think it is. Who says that a god family consists of one male and one or more females, and that spirits are procreated the same way we conceive babies? Adam was first made in the image of God: male AND female and told to multiply. How does that happen? If he (they) were in the image of God, then God is also both male AND female. If true, we can’t make any assumptions about “eternal procreation”.

It doesn’t say “1/3 of the hosts of heaven”. It says “a 3rd part”. So, these numbers could be all off.

Don’t rule out “eternal lives”. Speaking of numbers being off, you could make a good case for MMP (multiple mortal probations) using the scriptures. This point freaks people out who claim it denies the atonement, but I think it actually affirms the atonement. To be like God, you actually have to BE like God. There is no magic short cut, but we get lots of chances to make the grade. The atonement allows it. But, MMP could cut down on the billions of people you are talking about. It’s all just us – over and over again.

Not all of God’s judgments are given to man. (D&C 29) So, there is a lot more that we don’t know. For example, perhaps there is a way to come back from outer darkness. We don’t know anything about the two lower sections of the celestial kingdom. Maybe Dallin H. Oaks can explain them to us, but chances are he doesn’t have a clue.

The descriptions of hell and outer darkness are from God’s celestial perspective, not ours. This earth we live in is hell, and probably is, looking from God’s perspective. Samuel the Lamanite describes earthly mortality, outside of God’s Presence as “death”, and inside God’s Presence as “life”.

“Families are forever”. There are many more types of relationships in heaven besides the nuclear family. I can’t remember what John Larsen called it. “Patriarchal something”. I’d call it a multi-level Ponzi scheme. “… All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, …” (D&C 132:7) Just this covers a lot of ground, and according to this section, these various types of relationships between people be sealed in order to endure through eternity. There is a lot more going on up there that the church isn’t telling people about. Why not? Even if they knew, which they don’t, doing so wouldn’t fit their goals of controlling people and keeping them in the dark. (See Satan’s plan, above.)

God communicating with everybody at the same time. How about prayer? Billions of people talking to God at the same time, and he hears them all. This is not a unique Mormon concept. God speaking from heaven to crowds of people on the earth as in the Book of Mormon. It could happen. In heaven, people communicate telepathically. Communication is instantaneous across vast distances with the speed of thought. Travel is instantaneous. The speed of light doesn’t apply there.

Celestial “body parts”. I have often asked myself this question, and I don’t know, but I have a couple of ideas: (1) The body is formed in the image of the spirit, which serves as the blueprint for the body. (2) When angels appear to men, they have to look like men so they are relatable to men.

His Grace is Sufficient

I uploaded an 11-page document about the often-misunderstood principle of Grace. I added links to a classic talk from Brad Wilcox on You Tube, and to another podcast from Mark Curtis of Doctrine of Christ. I took notes during all of these videos and includes them in this document.

https://john144restoration.files.wordpress.com/2022/05/notes-on-grace.pdf

Revelation

I would like to share this post from Robert Smith in its entirety. It contains links to a couple of You Tube videos, which describe how we may come to the Lord and experience Him, heaven, and the angels for ourselves. This knowledge is by no means unique to latter-day saints. This is information that Rob has been using in his own life and is planning to write up in one of the many books he has been working on, and he knows whereof he speaks. The information is simple, practical, Biblically-based, and available to everybody.

While on his blog, check out the many books which he has written, based on information he has received from the Lord. I have read all of them and recommend every one of them. This information must have come from the Lord. It is so clear and succinct, and every paragraph is packed with information. There are no idle words, no feel-good platitudes. Every word in his books is quotable.

Faith and Repentance – Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit

Many people, when they talk about the Doctrine of Christ, rattle of a list of steps from the scriptures. It’s dry and lifeless. This is what you do, but there is no desire or reason to do any of it, but at least you know “correct doctrine”.
I like this passage a lot because it builds up a desire to want to come to Christ. In addition to repentance, it incorporates faith — faith that the Lord will receive you, just as you are, warts and all. You have nothing to hide. Childlike. No pretense.

By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins–behold, he will confess them and forsake them.

(D&C 58:43.)


The following quote says “at this very moment”, now, “no matter what your spiritual condition is”. This means everybody. I think it’s worth planting the seed and conducting an experiment in faith, as Alma suggests.

Thanks to Julia Wentzell for sharing the following on Facebook today. It comes from Todd McLaughlin. Julia Writes: “These are the words a friend shared today. I absolutely loved what he had to say. They feel like truth.”

Consider with me the following process of repentance. I would like to know how you think it would impact you.

What if at this very moment, no matter what condition of life you are in, you turned to the Lord with all that you are, all that you have been, and all of the desires for your future – and present it to him straightforwardly and in plainness?

What if instead of hiding from the Lord because of your pain, and your weakness, and your sins, and your depression, and your shame, and your fear – you came to him and presented all of it to him.
In other words, you don’t wait until you conquer a bad habit, or “make yourself better”, or overcome something that is weighing you down. You come to him, as is, and fully present everything to him?
If you have sin, bring them to him and show him. If you have weakness, show him those weaknesses. Bring all of them with you and present them. If you have a difficult past. What if you brought it all to him and shared it with him?

If you have fear and desires that you are ashamed of. Why not just bring them to him? Hide nothing from him.

Give everything to him “as is”. Show him everything in its present condition. Do not wait for anything to change. Do not wait to do better first. Do not hold back anything and do all of it right now.
And expose them to the full light of truth. Allow his love and truth and light teach you about each of those things. Allow him to redeem every aspect about you. Every bad experience, every sin, every fear. Allow them all to be exposed to the full light and allow the Lord to do a redemptive work. Allow him to teach you about each thing…Tell him all about it. Ask him to teach you about it and to redeem the experience.

Do you fear the judgments of others? Describe all of it to him and expose it to light.

Do you desire wealth and a kingdom of this world? Tell him all about it and ask that his light and truth may flow through those desires and ambitions and transform into something Holy.
This process of repentance is no small thing. It takes every ounce of energy and attention we have. It takes all of us. Nothing can be hidden nor withheld.

Ultimately, and soon, we ourselves must lay on that alter. Everything about us must be given to the Lord. There is no other way.

And if we do it, the Lord can redeem the darkest and distorted parts of us. He can in a moment heal the most broken parts of us.
But he can’t unless we hold nothing back. No works of darkness. Nothing can be held from his awareness and his light.

This process of repentance will bring the full gift of the Holy Ghost to us. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is that our spirits and nature are transformed to be in complete unity with Christ. Possessing the Gift of the Holy Ghost means we are completely one with Christ. There is no greater gift.

Adam-God

This paper presents an analysis of Adam-God, sometimes called “doctrine”, sometimes called a “mystery”, sometimes called “a theory”, sometimes renounced or condemned as “false doctrine”. Strictly speaking, the Hebrew word Adam means “man”, and we know from the teachings of Joseph Smith, and if we could search deeply within ourselves, we would know that we (as “man” or humankind) have our roots in God, will eventually return to God, and we are manifestation of God in this world. The problem is if we try to do what Brigham did: whenever we find the word “God” anywhere in the Gospel, substitute “Adam”, the name for that specific personality, the husband of Eve, the first flesh upon the earth, in place of the God we worship, and the God which we are trying to become like, we run into a lot of difficulties reconciling the two. Brigham Young saw some of those difficulties and fabricated unsupported, unscriptural, and downright false doctrine on the fly in order to justify his conclusions. The result was a doctrinal disaster and an embarrassment to the church. The church gradually retreated from this doctrine, but the core implications of this doctrine remain and continue to haunt the church today. https://john144restoration.files.wordpress.com/2022/04/adam-god-theory-or-doctrine.pdf

Healing, Thinking out of the Box, Checklists

From https://ldsperfectday.blogspot.com/2021/05/the-gift-of-healing-part-7-gift-of.html

(This is so good I am including the entire post.)

We latter-day saints are used to numbered to-do lists, bullet points, checklists and other formulaic methods to accomplish a goal. For example, we pay our tithing, don’t drink tea, faithfully go to church, work on genealogy, and check off all the boxes we can so we can be perceived as being perfectly obedient. Here’s what my friend John Pontius said about this:

“It is not uncommon for someone to make a list of everything they feel they should be doing in their lives, then select a few to begin working on. As wholesome as this sounds, it will only create feelings of impotence and frustration. Read all the scriptures, and nowhere is there an account of someone achieving spiritual power by making lists of needed improvements, and then working the list! They all did it by obedience to the voice of the Lord. You must also, there is no other way. Why is it more desirable to be obedient to a list than to the voice of God? Why would we try to accomplish a divine task without divine assistance?

The Lord knows the exact course our lives should take, which sin should be eliminated first, which weakness should be addressed first, and which blessings, we will need to accomplish these things. There is no need for us to create a list He already possesses. Ours could never be as complete as His, or as gentle and caring. If we yield ourselves to His direction He will show us what to do first, and give us the power to do it. He will direct us, step by step, all along the way home.

What is it you must obey? It is every word which proceeds forth from the mouth of God. It is the voice of the Spirit, which constitutes the words which are proceeding forth from the mouth of God unto you. Notice that I didn’t say the commandments? This is not because the commandments are to be ignored. Obedience to the commandments by sheer determination and willpower has its reward, but it can be overwhelming. When you set your life in obedience to the voice of God, you will naturally, joyfully, almost without notice, be obeying all the commandments-every single one of them.

How many commandments are there? If you include instructions to grow a garden, repair your fences, and paint your barn, then add all the written commandments-there are thousands. You won’t live long enough to obey them all. There are just too many barns that need painting in your life. So how do you ever become totally obedient when you can’t possibly get to every barn? It is simple, really. Listen to the voice of the Lord, and He will direct you. When you are totally obedient to the will of God, you are totally obedient-even if a barn or two remains unpainted. The reason you are totally obedient, even when a few things remain undone, is because you have an obedient spirit. If, and when, He sends you out to paint the barn you will obey. If He never sends you to paint the barn, you will also obey. You simply are obedient. In the end, the Lord will not judge us according to our barns, He will judge us according to our heart. When our heart is flawlessly obedient, we are judged as being flawlessly obedient, even if some obvious things never get done.” (John Pontius, “Following the Light of Christ”)

Thus, being obedient and faithful (and especially “exercising faith”) isn’t necessarily a matter of checking off boxes. Instead, it involves being obedient to what the Lord is telling you in our mind and heart:

“Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation;” (D&C 8:2-3)

This is where many get tripped up. Many are so single-mindedly focused on their checkboxes that they don’t hear the voice of the Lord. Not only do they not hear His voice, but they don’t even have a relationship with Him. Ask them when the last time was when the Savior made them laugh, or moved them to say an encouraging word to a stranger, or inspired them to say a prayer for someone suffering right there on the spot (as opposed to just saying you’ll do so later on), and they get quiet pretty darn fast.

“It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with Him as one man converses with another, and that He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.” (Joseph Smith, Nauvoo, IL Conference, April 7, 1844)

“Verily, I say unto you, It is not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, that shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.

For the day soon cometh that men shall come before me to judgment, to be judged according to their works.

And many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name; and in thy name cast out devils; and in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I say, Ye never knew me; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:30-33 JST; emphasis mine)

In my opinion, 99.9% of “exercising faith” involves hearkening to God — in other words, hearing God and immediately acting on what you’re told.

“OK, great! What boxes do I check off to do that,” you ask?

Arrrrrggghhhh!  ??

To see God in action, you gotta step out of the box

A friend recently messaged me about how they corresponded with another well-known blogger about a spiritual experience. The blogger discounted the validity of my friend’s experience, saying they didn’t believe that kind of thing happened anymore.

And yet my friend’s experience was real.

Quite a few people (even accomplished bloggers / authors) often get this notion in their heads that something can only happen one way, or the way they’ve read in the scriptures, or the way that they themselves experienced.

“Receiving personal revelation can only happen a certain way, and if it didn’t, it’s invalid.”

“Baptism of Fire can only happen a certain way, and if it didn’t, it’s invalid.”

“The Second Comforter can only happen a certain way, and if it didn’t, it’s invalid.”

“The Gift of Healing can only happen a certain way, and if it didn’t, it’s invalid.”

What a bunch of horse manure! Who are we to determine the validity of others’ experiences, or that God does things ONLY in a certain way?

The fact is, God can do whatever He wants however He wants whenever He wants.

Case in point: The New Testament is filled with stories of how Yeshua did the unorthodox, the unanticipated, and was even considered not only a maverick, but also a rebel. When you read the archeological accounts of Yeshua, you’ll see that behavior exhibited in even more ways. I mean c’mon, seriously? A Jewish rabbi? Speaking with a Samaritan woman? ALONE? And she’s had five husbands? You wanna talk about doing something off the beaten path! How about a Jewish rabbi forgiving a woman caught in adultery? Changing water into wine? Feeding 5,000+ with a few loaves and fishes? Telling church authorities that they’re vipers? Healing a Centurion’s child from long distance? Raising the dead???!!!

Do you see my point?

Yeshua is THE Beautiful Outlaw! And if you’re intending to be His disciple, then should you be any different? No.

If you want to be in sync with Yeshua, then you better get used to different. The unorthodox. Even the rebellious. If you let Him, He WILL challenge many things you’ve long considered fact.

And to many people, those facts, those truths, can be considered unfamiliar, weird, unorthodox and yes, even dangerous.

Let me make myself crystal clear: God lives out of the box. So should you. Wanna find God? Wanna see God in action? Then identify the traditions of men, then say bye-bye to them

Many avenues to healing which the Lord will introduce to you can and will be considered unorthodox. Keep yourself in a box, and you may not be healing very much at all.

When you start putting God in a box, the only person you’re really boxing up is yourself.

My Comments

“There is no need for us to create a list He already possesses. Ours could never be as complete as His, or as gentle and caring. If we yield ourselves to His direction He will show us what to do first, and give us the power to do it. He will direct us, step by step, all along the way home.”

Yes, He does have a list. Sin is an entanglement.

Gal 5:1  Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

D&C 88:86 Abide ye in the liberty wherewith ye are made free; entangle not yourselves in sin, but let your hands be clean, until the Lord comes.

Spring is the time to think about getting the old yard in shape, getting that old hose out of the garage and getting it untangled and getting all the kinks out, so the water can flow freely.

If you are going to untangle a garden hose, you have to know where to start. If you don’t start in the right place, the tangle gets worse. It takes the Lord to see the entire hose of your life and get those tangles out one at a time. Then, get those kinks out that are blocking the flow of the living water.

Grace

I just finished the book Journey to the Veil II, by John Pontius. I want to post a couple of the great quotes from this book. Grace is not a concept that the LDS understand well. Frankly, I used to get the “creeps” when I heard people talk about it, because it sounded so “protestant”. But, the truth is, once you see that grace is mentioned throughout the Book of Mormon, and come to understand it, grace is really a beautiful principle.

There is a certain mindset among us in the Church that is hostile to our spiritual growth. This is that we must by our own discipline work out our own salvation—and then “after all we can do,” somewhere at the end of our lives, Jesus Christ will get involved and make up for what we were not able to do during our lifetime, and in the end we will be “saved by grace.”

The flaw in this thinking is that it places upon us mere mortals a burden we cannot hope to carry. We feel that we must keep every commandment, do every good thing, raise perfect families, pay our tithing, and fulfill a thousand other laws and rules, all by obedience and self-discipline, as best we can. We toil and toil and wait for the day when it is finally enough, and Jesus Christ at lasts steps in and fills in our blanks. This false belief sets us up for a lifetime of struggle that isn’t going to take us where we are anticipating. The truth of how this works is that we are given choices. We know right and wrong because of the Light of Christ, which we receive throughout our lives by grace. So, it is by grace that we even know what is good and bad. It is by grace that we know what to do. Thus it is by grace that we receive faith, truth, insight, inspiration, direction, guidance, truth, and power from the beginning to the end of our lives. Then, when we make a right choice, such as to say we’re sorry, go to church, or forgive someone who doesn’t seem to deserve it, Christ dispenses more grace and we are changed. We become more like Him by His grace. We receive “grace for grace”—our grace for His grace—and we are changed in our inner man by a small degree every time we obey Christ’s voice.

Thus we live by grace every moment of every day. The falsehood is that we must be perfect, even as God is perfect, in order to be saved in the end and at last be exalted. The truth is that we are not able to self-perfect ourselves for any part of the journey. The real requirement is that we become obedient to Christ’s guiding voice, and then He changes, upgrades, and purifies us until we are like Him—until we become “perfect in Christ.” When we come to the end of our lives, having walked in His grace, having partaken of His upgrading and empowering Atonement, we will be “saved by grace”—not in that moment alone but throughout our entire lives.

Pontius, John; Pontius, Terri. Journey to the Veil II (pp. 150-151). Cedar Fort, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Revelation in a Group Setting

The following, taken from a book by John Pontius, is a beautiful example of how revelation works in a group setting. This is something you saw in the early days of the Church. I also saw it in the early days of the little church we organized. I believe that in Zion this principle will be fully operative in the councils that govern Zion. Note how the two counselors teach and support the bishop and how they teach him the principle of revelation, while still allowing him his agency. Not how the bishop prayed and asked the Lord to teach him how to receive revelation. But that wasn’t his problem. His problem was how to recognize the revelation he was already receiving.

Not quite ten years ago I was called as a counselor in a bishopric. Prior to that time I had served in many capacities but never in a bishopric. The stake had just created the ward and called our new bishop and his new counselors. I will remember our first bishopric meeting for a long time. We didn’t have a single teacher or Young Men or Young Women leader. We didn’t have Primary people, piano players, quorums, or anything else. We just sat there waiting for our poor new bishop to give us a direction. His opening statement was something like, “Don’t look at me!”

We laughed and talked about many things. Finally, a thought came into my mind. “Call Brother Stevens as the Young Men president.”

I opened my mouth to propose this calling when the bishop said, “What about Brother Stevens as the Young Men’s President?”

I wondered at this, and said, “I feel the rightness of that calling, Bishop.”

Our other counselor agreed, and the bishop assigned himself to make the calling. While he was writing, I had another thought. “Call Sister Wilson as the Young Women president.”

I was just about to propose this name, when the additional thought came to me to keep quiet for a moment. After the bishop was done writing he tapped his pen on the desktop for a moment. “What do you brethren think about Sister Wilson as the Young Women president?”

I nodded and tried to say, “I was just going to propose her name,” but the Spirit put on my lips, “I agree. I think she would be wonderful.”

This process went on in our meetings for about a month, until the ward was fully functioning. It really didn’t seem to matter how big or small the calling was or what the challenge was; I almost always heard the same prompting the bishop heard. Maybe the angels were just talking loudly in the room and I was allowed to eavesdrop.

Not long after the initial organization of the ward, we were talking about a potential calling for a ward member. I had not felt a prompting as before and for that reason doubted it was the right thing to do. My mind suddenly went back to a dozen years prior, when I had sat on a disciplinary council as a high councilor. I said, “I don’t think Brother Black is ready for this calling. A dozen years ago I sat on a disciplinary council for him . . .” and the Spirit told me to shut up. It was an interesting prompting. “Stop! Be quiet!”

I closed my mouth mid-sentence. The bishop looked at me funny. I said, “I shouldn’t have said that. It has no bearing on the present.”

The Bishop frowned. “You know, as you said the word ‘disciplinary council’ I had the thought, ‘He shouldn’t have said that. It has no bearing on the present.’ They were the same words you just used. I think the Holy Ghost just talked to me!” He seemed amazed.

I looked at him with different eyes. I realized that recognizing promptings was not what this brand new bishop had been doing these last few weeks. He had been receiving promptings and attributing them to his own intellect. He thought he was just a good organizer. The whole idea that the Holy Ghost would talk directly to him was astounding to him.

A new, fully developed thought came into my mind. I suddenly knew that teaching our humble new bishop to identify the revelation he already had was one of the reasons I was called to this bishopric. I waited a moment while the Holy Spirit warmed my soul. I said, “These last few weeks, as we organized the ward, just a few seconds before you would propose each new name, I would have the same name pop into my head. I knew it was from the Holy Spirit, and when you came up with the same name, it just confirmed that I had heard it correctly. This has happened consistently.”

The Bishop laid down his pen. “Why didn’t you say something? It would have helped me feel more certain about the callings to have known that.”

I replied, “It wasn’t necessary. The Spirit told me in each case to just concur with my bishop. I was never told to say why.”

The bishop let his chair lean back as he considered this. “I think Heavenly Father has been trying to teach me how to hear the Holy Ghost. I have been having these names come into my head. Is this what the Holy Ghost sounds like, just a thought? I mean, can you trust these ideas that just pop into your head to be from the Holy Ghost?”

Our other counselor said at that moment, “I’ve been having some of the names come into my mind, too, but not all of them. I was wondering what was going on. I thought we were just brainstorming or something. Is that really what revelation feels like?”

They were both looking at me, and I was waiting for the Holy Spirit to put words into my mouth. After a long moment I said, “Revelation almost always feels like our own ideas. The difference is that the ideas are usually sudden, probably something or someone you wouldn’t have thought of yourself, and they are accompanied by a feeling of rightness, or truth. Once you learn to recognize this revelatory process, you can identify it every time—and you can trust it every time. It is never wrong.”

Our newly minted bishop wiped tears from his eyes. “I have been praying all my life to receive revelation and never felt that I could, even though I have had sudden ideas like this my whole life. Ever since I was called as the bishop I have been praying with all my heart, with great urgency, that the Lord would teach me how to receive revelation so I could truly be a good bishop and not just someone sitting in this chair.”

I felt a surge of joy. I wiped tears from my eyes, too. “We have had constant revelation in this bishopric ever since the first meeting we held almost a month ago. Almost every decision we have made, I felt the approval of Heavenly Father.” I looked at the bishop intently. “Whether you knew it or not, you are one of the most inspired bishops I have ever known.”

I continued to receive confirmations as the bishop administered to his ward, but he didn’t need me anymore. I would often just nod, and he would smile because he valued my accord, but he didn’t need it. The Lord’s priesthood mantle had settled upon him, and he was “the bishop.” And in a humble, yet powerful way, he knew it.

Pontius, John; Pontius, Terri. Journey to the Veil II (pp. 170-173). Cedar Fort, Inc.. Kindle Edition. (emphasis mine)

Eternal Life, Eternal Punishment, D&C 19 is not an “oops”

D&C 19 clarifies the term “eternal” as the word has been translated in the scriptures. In English “eternal” means “without ending or beginning”, but in Hebrew, the word is “olam”, and in Greek, the word is “eonian”. Those words mean an age, a period of time, a world, a condition of existence, an estate. And in all these cases, there is definitely a beginning and an end.

Alma was “racked with eternal torment”, but after he repented, he “could remember [his] sins no more. So, “eternal” doesn’t mean what we commonly think it means.

Alma 36:12 But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.

Alma 36:13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.

Alma 36:14 Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.

Alma 36:15 Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.

Alma 36:16 And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.

Alma 36:17 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.

Alma 36:18 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 am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

Alma 36:19 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.

I don’t know what Joseph Smith was thinking. He probably had trouble comprehending what the Lord was trying to reveal, but he was really trying to undo centuries of false traditions due to mistranslations of the Bible. Just because you receive revelation doesn’t necessarily you understand what you receive or can easily put it in words. This was probably new to him also.

“Eternal punishment is God’s punishment”, means it’s the kind of punishment ordained by God. And, by the same token “Eternal life is God’s life”, or the kind of life that God lives. We say “eternal life is to know God”, but nobody can truly know God unless he IS God. Then, and only then can you live as God lives.

This is Bruce R. McConkie from A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, page 492:

There is a true doctrine on these points, a doctrine unknown by many and unbelieved by more, a doctrine that is spelled out as specifically and extensively in the revealed word as are any of the other revealed truths. There is no need for uncertainty or misunderstanding. And surely if the Lord reveals a doctrine, we should seek to learn its principles and strive to apply them in our lives. This doctrine is that mortal man, while in the flesh, has it in his power to see the Lord, to stand in His presence, to feel the nail marks in His hands and feet, and to receive from Him such blessings as are reserved for only those who keep all His commandments and who are qualified for that eternal life, which includes being in His presence forever. [Forever means now and always.]