The “After-Life”

According to the evidence I have observed, first hand, and from people I personally know and trust, we have always existed and will continue to exist.

“Afterlife” is a misnomer, as is “pre-existence”. They both beg the question. If life and existence always IS, there is no such thing as a “before” or an “after”. So, in that respect, I don’t believe in an afterlife, or a pre-existence, either. And, I don’t believe in “fairy stories”, either.

For me, it’s not a belief, and I cannot present evidence to others if they have not, cannot, or will not observe the evidence for themselves.

But, I can point out a couple of things that could point in that direction.

(1) On the TV show Brain Games, a bunch of children are busily skipping rope and doing some very incredible maneuvers. The announcer tells us that in the background, unobserved by most, a man comes on the scene wearing a chicken costume. He promptly leaves. Some people saw him. Some didn’t. We could argue all day and even get religious about whether or not there was a man in a chicken costume.

The question is one of attention and observation. If we are so focused on grubbing our way through the things of material world, we may not spare a little attention to focus on what’s BETWEEN those things, and though we might assume that there is nothing in that empty space we might assume that if we didn’t see it, it doesn’t exist. But, that’s not really scientific. We can’t see germs, but they exist.

(2) We have all heard about ultrasound. I read just last week that ultrasound can stimulate the brains of mice and reverse the effects of Alzheimers disease. Who would have believed 100 years ago that a vibration that we can’t even sense could have a physical affect on the brain. What if there were even higher vibrations, so high we cannot detect or measure that also have an affect on the human brain, perhaps causing the mind to perceive people and things of an even high vibration, which we cannot measure or detect with present technology.

I offer these two points, not as proof, but as possibilities.

Ordaining Women

I, together with others, ordained the first woman to the Melchizedek Priesthood in this dispensation with the possible exception that Joseph Smith ordained Emma and other women of the Relief Society in Nauvoo. So, I know a little bit of which I am speaking.

Prople on the Internet are asking God for guidance. Sometimes, when those who should be listening close their ears and refuse to listen, God resorts to speaking through a jackass, or a little child, or through a “renegade” rabbi who is not part of the Jewish hierarchy. If God can speak through Balaam’s ass, through Samuel, or through Jesus the son of a poor carpenter, or Amos who was not a prophet, nor a prophet’s son, or through Nephi, whose father Lehi was the authority, he can probably speak through a FB friend.

The lack of ordaining women is not the problem. No, the problem is much larger, and it starts with the lack of understanding of what the Priesthood really is. We all hold the Priesthood – men and women – LDS and non-LDS. The Priesthood is simply the power to act in the name of God. We are all Gods in embryo. We are as God was and are in the process of fully becoming what God is. There is no attribute that God can give us that we don’t already have. (If you don’t believe this, just look at a new-born baby. You helped create the body, but the mind and spirit were already there. Neither you nor God created it. Now, God is entrusting you to develop it.)

What we don’t have is the knowledge and experience to use what we are already have. This is the purpose of mortality. The purpose of the church is to teach us how to properly develop what we have. The reason there are so many churches and religions is because we are all a different places in our development. We have different cultures and understandings. Each of us perceives God according to our own understanding and culture. But, God is greater than all of this because he is too big to fit in any one church or any one culture.

To ordain somebody to the Priesthood is simply to acknowledge that they posses the power and authority of God. And, to allow them to act, using that authority, in some capacity in the church. That is all.

When seen from this angle, there is no reason why some women can’t be ordained, and, this is the point everybody misses, why all men MUST be ordained. To exercise the priesthood in the church, a person must be called of God. He or she must not demand it, but they can feel a sense of calling and seek it out. Nobody takes this honor (not really the word I would use) unto themselves. Some men just do not feel this calling, while some women may feel such a calling.

The prophet of the RLDS church a number of years ago received a revelation wherein the Lord effectively said don’t be surprised if you see a number of women being called to positions within the church that required that they be ordained to the Priesthood. As I said, Joseph was instructed to ordain Emma in D&C 25. Early writings of church history indicate that Joseph ordained women in the Relief Society.

In the RLDS church (now Community of Christ), husbands and wives who both hold the priesthood, can exercise it together, by going to the hospital and jointly anointing the sick. I could see a father and mother, thus, blessing their children in the home.

Once, in the LDS church, I had to do my home teaching, but couldn’t find a male to go with me. I was recently married, and I asked my new bride to go with me. It was a wonderful, spiritual experience for all. She enjoyed it and appreciated the opportunity, and God didn’t fall off his throne in the process.

Church authorities need to revisit this whole issue of the meaning of Priesthood and its role in the church. They need to start using inspiration to call both men and women to these callings. They should not be automatic at a certain age. They should also prepare people to accept and understand these callings. We didn’t prepare our women properly and the results of their ordinations were not as smooth as they should have been.

Church authorities also need to look at the roles of the partners in marriage. If same-sex marriage has anything to teach society and the church is that there is greater strength and power in a marriage when the partners are equal. The church already recognizes this in their change the the Endowment in the 90’s. We need to be less focused on gender, and more focused on role.

I won’t tell you this is the word of God and threaten you with excommunication or damnation if you don’t believe it. That is your choice and your choice, alone.

But, if it touches your emotions, believe it.

If if makes logical sense to you, teach it.

If it touches you in the innermost being, testify of it.

When are people going to learn? You can’t pour new wine in old bottles. When are you going to recognize that this church has apostatized. The Restoration did not begin with Joseph Smith, and it will not end with Joseph Smith. If true Apostles and Prophets with the revelation and direction from God for us today are not coming forth from the LDS church, then, they must then come from somewhere else.

If all you are looking for is political change, and a voice for your activism, and if you want to continue to play Mouse to the church’s Cat, then by all means, continue to do so, but please stop mourning and thinking your lot is hard.

If, on the other way, you are truly interested in furthering the cause of Christ and the Restoration and bringing about a true Zion, where everyone is welcome and everyone wants to live peaceably with their neighbors, then pray with all the energy of your soul that God will send you true Apostles and Prophets, who understand their callings and fulfill those callings. But, don’t expect these true leaders to do your thinking for you. Zion will only come about because of the shared vision of all, not imposed by the few.

New major writing available

The Foundation of Zion Volume 2

I haven’t been active with this blog because I have been busy for months getting this ready for publication. This is the result. This document gathers together in one place all that I am about. If you don’t read anything else on this website, you should download and read this.

Articles of Faith Countdown

Articles of Faith Countdown

The Articles of Faith is a generally accepted statement of belief among all the Restoration churches. Joseph Smith originally wrote 14 articles, but I’m sticking with 13 in this article as they are the most familiar to most people.

Let me take a slight tangent here. I like the number thirteen. It has always been lucky for me. In Hebrew, the letters are also numbers, and each word is a number obtained by adding up its letters. If two words have the same number, then the words are related. This has been shown time and time again to be true. Take for instance the number thirteen: the Hebrew word AChD unity (1+8+4) = 13 and the word AHBH love (1+5+2+5) = 13. Christ and His 12 apostles make 13. This number is also sacred to the Mayas.

Whether or not you believe in numerology, you have to admit that that when we look at old things in a new way, we can sometimes discover new concepts and new relationships between ideas. I tried this once by reciting the Articles of Faith backwards and discovered a logical progression from one to the other. They progress from the most basic and mundane to the most spiritual.

Here is a quick summary of the Gospel and the plan of salvation as understood by many LDS people. They usually think more in terms of compartments or different worlds (pre-existence, earth, spirit world, spirit prison, outer darkness, three degrees of glory, divisions within the Celestial Kingdom, etc). We seem to be more concerned with where we are going than with what we should know and do in the here and now. In short: don’t confuse the PLANET of salvation with the PLAN of salvation.

13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul–We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

Honesty is the beginning of all things. God can’t work with us unless we are honest with ourselves, with our spouses, and our fellow men and women.

We need a sense of humility and an honest evaluation of who we are and where we stand. Earth’s creation took six days. Our own personal development could be termed our six days of spiritual creation. What day are you on? There is no shame is being a day 1 person. However, if you think you are on day 6 when you are really on day one you are deceiving yourself. Jacob, the brother of Nephi in the Book of Mormon taught that in order to come to God, we must cast away all our pretentions of knowledge and our reliance on knowledge of the flesh. We must cast these things aside and consider ourselves fools before God. This is the starting point for gaining true knowledge — of our nature and of the nature of God.

Christ condemned the sin of hypocrisy more than any other. What is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is not judgment. The word hypocrisy means “playacting”. Hypocrisy is pretending to be one thing and actually being something else. Jesus could work with all other sinners. He could accept them for who and what they were. And, more important, the people could accept themselves for who and what they were, and let Jesus raise them to a higher level of knowledge and righteousness. The hypocrites had so much ego and energy invested in a certain identity that they couldn’t change or grow.

When Christ called Nathaniel to his side as a disciple, He stated: “Behold an Israelite in whom there is no guile.” The original Greek word here means “deceit”. Apparently for Jesus to find an honest man who was not deceitful was so rare that He had to cry out in exclamation.

12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

The scriptures teach us to keep the laws of the land, for he that keeps the laws of God has no need to break the laws of the land. And also to be subject to the powers that be until He reigns whose right it is to reign.

What are laws other than the covenants (or agreements) that society had agreed to obey? If we are going to be a member of this society, and if we are going to be honest, then we must obey the laws of society even while we seek to change the existing laws.

11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege. Let them worship how, where, or what they may.

I find it surprising that one’s conscience would dictate to a person that they must return to the same place with the same people week after week. Follow the same program week after week. Speak the same words week after week. Think the same thoughts week after week. Jesus said we must worship God in “spirit and truth”. Rather than a fixed ceremony, worship should be a spontaneous outburst of gratitude, praise, and acknowledgement. It should come from within the individual or a group, not a ritualistic order of performances imposed by an outside institution. True worship should also involve communication. One-way communication is not communication at all. Communication should be two-way. We should pray and listen to the answer.

The book of Moroni describes the worship practices in the ancient Christian church in the Americas. The people would gather once a week to sing, to speak, to pray, to speak with one another concerning the welfare of their souls, or to do whatever the Spirit directed. There was no fixed ceremony. This form of worship puts a lot of responsibility on individual members. When people came to church in those days, they had the responsibility to prepare and to contribute, not just sit and hibernate in a pew for a couple of hours, then go home.

We say we allow all men the same privilege of worshipping God according to the dictates of their own conscience. We need to realize that ultimately, when you take away the names and labels and get rid of all the pomp and circumstance, the outward trappings, we as individual people, all worship more or less the same God. The principles of salvation are the same even though the practices may be differently suited to different times and cultures.

While we are on the subject of law and freedom of religion, we need to discuss the whole issue of freedom. Many people are happy to claim freedom of speech or religion, or freedom to exercise other rights for themselves, while denying them to others. A true test of our understanding of the principle of freedom is that we wish to ensure the freedom of all, not just ourselves. To do this requires great strength of character and spiritual insight in order to maintain and defend our freedoms, and yet restrain ourselves from imposing our favorite beliefs upon others.

10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

Joseph Smith, in an address to the Twelve, said that we ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object. We need to realize that the Church is a temporary institution – a schoolmaster to teach us how to be a Zion people. A church is only as effective as it is able to accomplish this. A church is never supposed to be an end in itself.

If our greatest object is to build Zion, we need to start working toward this goal. We need to start preparing ourselves as individuals and as families to become a Zion people.

People often refer to Utah as Zion, or to the Mormon Church as Zion. This is pure chauvinism. At best, this is empty boasting. At worst, this is a placebo designed to convince people that they already have Zion, when in actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. Here are some personal observations and some scriptural quotes, which describe what Zion really is.

“And there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, which shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made; and for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest.” (Moses 7:64)

Zion will be made of up all creations under heaven (all peoples). The motto on the US currency is “E PLURUBUS UNUM” – “from many, one” or “unity out of diversity”.

“And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18)

“And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even ZION.” (Moses 7:19)

Zion will be both a PEOPLE and a CITY. Today we can create Zion as an ATTITUDE. We can form Zion in our hearts. We need to develop the attitude of one heart (love) and one mind (unity) while at the same time retaining our individual identity and power of choice.

I know of a lady who had a revelation that said that in the City of Enoch – the Zion of that day — everyone was sealed together as one big family. If this was the case, I am sure that this feeling of unity and togetherness and the desire to join together actually originated in the hearts and minds of the people, and the outward sealing was simply an acknowledgement of this.

One of the biggest challenges we face is the question of unity vs. individuality. How can we be of one heart and one mind, yet retain our individual personalities, freedoms, and preferences? This is an issue, which has split up many a family and many an organization. The closest thing we now have to Zion right now is our families: our spouses and children, and this is a good laboratory to learn how to reconcile these seemingly conflicting goals. Just how we can accomplish this is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that societies such as this have existed in the past. The Book of Mormon teaches how our natures can be changed, and how we can develop unity and love by yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.

We often overlook the phrase in this article of faith, which states that “the earth shall be renewed”. D&C 63 tells us that Peter, James, and John were shown the pattern by which the earth would be transfigured. Nephi teaches us that Satan will be bound because of the righteousness of the people. Since God has given the knowledge of transforming the earth to His servants, we can assume that the earth will also be transformed because of the righteousness of the people, when they are prepared, and when the proper Priesthood authority is exercised.

9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

To prepare for the establishment of Zion, we need continual, ongoing revelation from God. Contrary to popular opinion the restoration did not begin and end with Joseph Smith. God has yet to reveal many great and important things pertaining to what? The church? No, the Kingdom of God. Early day leaders of the Church understood that the Church and the Kingdom were not synonymous. It is easy to show this from numerous passages in the Doctrine and Covenants. It is also easier to prove from the scriptures that Jesus Christ, in the Meridian of Time, established a Kingdom, than it is to prove He established a church.

So, the important thing to keep in mind is that we don’t know it all and there is much to be revealed in the future. Even the revelations given to Joseph Smith state that the restoration is not complete, and they place limits on the Priesthood keys and authority given to him and to the Church. See my article “The Redemption of Zion” for more details.

This article of faith was written in the 1840’s, long after the priesthood had been “restored”, according to popular accounts. John the Baptist came in 1819; Peter, James, and John came in 1829-1830 (Isn’t it strange that we don’t have better documentation to support the re-establishment of the Holy Priesthood of God?). Moses, Elias, and Elijah came in 1836, yet Joseph Smith states that God will yet reveal many great and important things. Note also that the things to be revealed pertain to the Kingdom, not to the Church. This raises many questions: Why not the Church? Will the Church cease to be an important factor? Would the Church even listen if God tried to reveal something? Has God stopped revealing things to the Church? If so, when did this occur? Who or what is the Kingdom, if the Church and Kingdom are separate?

The restoration won’t be complete until Zion is once again established on the earth when the Lord brings up Zion from below and brings down Zion from above. “The Lord hath redeemed his people; And Satan is bound and time is no longer. The Lord hath gathered all things in one. The Lord hath brought down Zion from above. The Lord hath brought up Zion from beneath.”(D & C 84:100.)

8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

These books are treasure troves. We ought to read all good books, but we need to especially go back to these books time and again. The Lord states that these books contain the “fullness of the everlasting Gospel” (D&C 27:5). He also tells us that He won’t reveal the fullness of certain other records (9th Article of Faith) until we believe and understand these works (see Ether). When you study these books, ignore what you’ve been taught before. Don’t read the marginal notes; they only tell you what to think. Get rid of your preconceived ideas and read these books as if you were reading them for the first time. Ask God to reveal the truth of these writings to you.

You may want to consider reading other translations of the Bible, such as The Concordant Version of the New Testament. My website contains modern translations of several New Testament books. You might also want to consider looking up Biblical words on an online Strong’s concordance. There are many key words in the King James Bible which are grossly mistranslated. A correct understanding of these words and the principles behind them is vital to our personal salvation and obtaining a knowledge of and a personal relationship with Christ. Isaiah, in Chapter 29, compares true vision to trying to read a sealed book. Never mind waiting for a sealed portion of the Book of Mormon to come forth, or for other writings to be discovered. If the words in our common, everyday Bible are mistranslated, then we don’t have a correct understanding of the teachings of Christ, and we might as well be trying to read a sealed book.

Here are some examples of key words in the New Testament that have been mistranslated: faith, belief, sin, perfection, knowledge, and love. In my translation, I have attempted to incorporate the correct translation of these words.

7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

The priesthood as it works in the body of believers or within the Church is a practical channel for the gifts of the Spirit to flow. The Spirit does not flow from us, nor does it flow to us. We can only effectively use the Gifts of the Spirit when they flow through us. We are a channel for the blessings and power of God to flow from God, through us to others. This is what is meant to “glorify God”, or to worship God. This is all Christ did. He came in the Father’s Name, teaching what the Father taught him, doing the works the Father did before Him, and thus glorifying His Father in Heaven. The Holy Ghost works by the same principle. The Holy Ghost partakes of the nature and knowledge of God and is available to channel this through us, if we are in tune and allow ourselves to be used in this manner.

When we grieve the Spirit by denying these gifts (Moroni), or by boasting of them, or by using them to get gain, or by wielding them to obtain unrighteous dominion (D & C 121), or neglect to use them in our teaching (D&C 50), the heavens grieve with us, and the Holy Ghost quietly withdraws her gifts.

Yes, I said HER. The Hebrews believed that the Spirit or the Presence of the Lord was a female, mothering, or nurturing entity. Traditionally, the woman of the Jewish house is the one to offer the prayer, which invites the Presence of the Lord into the home at the beginning of the Sabbath celebration. Sbekhinah, as she is called is also believed to hover over the marriage bed and blesses the union. Personally, I believe that the Holy Ghost is our Heavenly Mother, or stated another way, performs the function or office of a heavenly mother. The reason why I do not pray to a Mother in Heaven (although She is heavenly) is because I do not believe that She is in heaven. She is where every good mother should be – with her children, here on the earth.

The psalms in the Bible speak of Wisdom and personify her as an individual who was the first creation of God in the heavens. The Gnostic Christians called her Sophia — wisdom. The Holy Ghost is the comforter that Jesus left us, and promised would abide with us and teach us all things. Instead of praying to Her, I honor Her by listening to Her still small voice as She teaches me how to pray (Romans 8) – how to importune our Father, and how to receive answers.

Consider these quotations from a book called Zohar, a medieval Kabalistic writing.

“We possess part of God’s own being: His feminine half; this is the ultimate guarantee. Cf. Zobar Hadash, Shir ba-Shirim 65b: ‘Come and see: The Blessed Holy One placed His Sbekhinah among Israel to sit over them like a mother over her children and to protect them on every side. As long as the Holy Mother sits over them, the Blessed Holy One comes to dwell with them because He never leaves Her. All supreme love is directed toward Her. Therefore He gave Her as a pledge in the midst of Israel, to make it known that He will never forget them or leave them. Why? Because that pledge is in their midst.'”

“A parable:

One person loved another, and said

‘My love for you is so high I want to live with you!’

The other said, ‘How can I be sure that you will stay with me?’

So he took all his most precious belongings

and brought them to the other, saying

‘Here is a pledge to you that I will never part from you.'”

6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

Again this is the organization for administering the gifts of the Spirit and for channeling them out in an organized effort. The various functions of offices within the Priesthood (presiding, blessing, teaching, testifying, administering ordinances, administering to material needs) all show forth the differences in administration of the Spirit.

When speaking of the “primitive church”, again we need to go back to the correct Greek word, which was ecclesia. This word denotes a group of people who were “called out” or gathered for a specific purpose. In the Greek city-states, an ecclesia was like a town hall meeting. Our English word church has its roots, not in a gathering of people, but refers to a building from which religious authorities issued orders and pronouncements, and came to refer to a legal institution. We need to return to the original meaning of this word. When Christ referred to building his “church” upon the rock of the testimony of the Apostles, he was not referring to a legal institution, but to a gathering of disciples. And these disciples were to be known, not for having a correct organization, but because of their love one toward another (John 13:35). Also, referring back to article 7, in the early days, the true church of Christ was recognized by the presence of the gifts of the Spirit.

The Bible (2 Tim. 3:5) speaks about having “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” It is not enough just to have the correct form. A dead body looks like a human and has the form of a human, but there is no life or power in it. The life and power of a true church of Christ, or in other words, a group of disciples gathered in the name of Christ is the power that flows through them in the form of love and through the other gifts of the Spirit.

The organization administers (or delivers) the gospel, but the organization is not the gospel. I don’t believe in “salvation by organization”. I could set up a hospital and call some doctors, some nurses, some specialists, and some lab technicians. I could visit all the hospitals and watch all the reruns of St. Elsewhere and copy everything I saw. However, nobody in his right mind would come to this hospital expecting to get better unless all my people were trained, licensed, and experienced professionals. Claiming to be a doctor doesn’t make you a doctor, any more than calling yourself an apostle makes you an apostle. A doctor administers medicine to the end that the patient gets better. An apostle administers salvation acting for and in behalf of Jesus Christ to the end that people receive salvation. “The Apostleship, whenever it is upon the earth, possesses the right and privilege of constant communion with the Savior of the world and thereby knows how to mete out salvation to all men; and there is no other office, independent of this, that holds this right, or can exercise this power.” (Millennial Star 14:690). Salvation isn’t just an abstract concept of something that happens in the sweet bye and bye. It is real it is something that happens now. It is something that changes peoples’ lives.

In the medical world, the government imposes all kind of standards to protect the public from quacks and diploma mills. In the world of religion, how can we tell if somebody is a true messenger of God? The endowment ceremony proposes two sets of tests. Satan wanted to test the apostles by having them perform a great miracle in the sight of all the people. When Adam and Eve questioned the authenticity of the apostles, Peter, James, and John invited Adam and Eve to use the test, which God showed them. The Apostles then showed them the outward signs by which they could recognize true servants sent from Father.

An outward sign or token is not enough to ensure proper recognition and could be easily faked by an impostor. Taking the endowment as a symbolic message we must learn to look beyond the symbols and see the real message behind the symbols. In D&C 18, the Lord commissions the Three Witnesses to search out and find the Twelve Apostles. The Lord tells us, in this passage, how to recognize true Apostles: “And by their desires and their works you shall know them.”

Further in 18:27:

“Yea, even twelve; and the Twelve shall be my disciples, and they shall take upon them my name; and the Twelve are they who shall desire to take upon them my name with full purpose of heart.”

How can we know someone’s “desires and works”? The same way the Lord expected Oliver Cowdery and the other two witnesses to know it, by the whisperings of the Spirit. (See D&C 18:18.)

“Ask the Father in my name, in faith believing that you shall receive, and you shall have the Holy Ghost, which manifesteth all things which are expedient unto the children of men.”

5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

Those who truly have Priesthood keys can not only legally administer them, but they can teach about keys and covenants. Elijah was promised to come and reveal the priesthood and teach the ancient covenants. Because Christ held certain keys of knowledge, He was able to teach the two disciples journeying together to Emaus. He opened the scriptures and taught the disciples things they had never heard or considered before yet they were right under their noses in their own scriptures. He was able to do this because he held those keys.

The efficacy of ordinances performed in our behalf depends on our faith in the one performing the ordinance. We need assurance that the person is called of God and has the necessary authority.

If a person comes to you claiming to possess certain keys, but cannot even clearly explain what these keys are or teach you how to use them or explain how they relate to the rest of the Restoration, much less to the total world around us, what kind of keys do they really have? How much authority can they legally lay claim do? And how much faith should we lay upon them to lead us along the road to salvation?

4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

These are not only FIRST principles and ordinances, they are principles we should practice continually. They are very simple yet very advanced principles, and are the essence of every phase of the Gospel.

A wise man builds his house on ROCK not on SAND. These principles and ordinances are the four foundation stones of the Gospel, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.

The first principle is not just faith. It is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament uses faith in two ways. Paul used it as a noun. John used it as a verb. But since English has no direct verb form of this word, it is rendered “to believe”, a much weaker form of the action word which the Greek uses. To John, “faithing” was a positive action. James makes the distinction clear: “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith BY my works.” Salvation comes by faith, not dead works. Showing forth works does not prove faith, but is evidence that faith may be present. Somebody can have works without faith, but if somebody claims to have faith, then the works must be present because they are the fruit of faith. If a man say he loves God (has faith) and does not keep His commandments, then he is a liar and the truth is not in him. (1 John.)

Repentance means to choose again or to turn again. We need to repent and improve every day of our lives. The atonement makes this ongoing experience possible.

Baptism is an outward sign of inward faith and repentance. (D&C 20). We need to continually renew our individual covenants with the Lord. We promise to take His Name upon us and keep His commandments, and He promises eternal life and that His Spirit will always be with us. (See the baptismal covenant in Mosiah 18 in the Book of Mormon.)

In the LDS Church, the ordinance of laying on of hands following baptism performs two functions: (1) We are confirmed a member of the Church, and (2) We are commanded by Priesthood authority to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The second function is described in this article of faith. The first function is not.

To truly receive the Gift of Holy Ghost, we need to listen to it, and live by every word from the mouth of God. Nephi (in 2 Nephi 31, 32) teaches that after we have received the Holy Ghost, that this is not the end-all be-all. We must continue to feast on the words of Christ as we receive them from the scriptures, from the teachings of others, and most importantly, for the specific instructions and commandments delivered to us through the Spirit. We often neglect this exercise as the peril of our salvation and eternal progression, even though Nephi laments the fact that he had made his point as plain as words can be.

3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

The atonement is two-way covenant between an individual and the Lord. Think about it! We can deal with God on a one-to-one equal basis. There is no gatekeeper; there is no middleman. We are equal partners in working out our own salvation. Christ has provided the atonement. Our part is to accept it, and actively exercise faith in it. (This is not mere belief. See definition of faith in Article 4, above.)

Joseph Smith taught that salvation is for a man to triumph over all his enemies. Salvation consists in following Christ’s example. We are saved no faster than we gain knowledge. We need faith in order to obtain power and knowledge. We also need charity because without charity we are nothing. When we unite with a body of saints where all possess the same knowledge and possess charity, we develop a society with “one heart” (charity), and “one mind” (unity). This brings us back to the opening of this article and how the number 13 relates to these to two words, and to the description of a Zion society in Article 10.

Joseph Smith said that being born again comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances. The laws and ordinances are only MEANS to another MEANS. They lead us to increased faith and charity. Faith in turn leads to increased knowledge and power, which in turn lead to salvation. An ordinance is only as useful as does these things. Whether an ordinance actually does this depends on several things:

  • The nature of the ordinance
  • Our attitude while receiving it
  • Our faith in the sincerity of the person performing it
  • Our faith in the authority of the person performing it

If any of the above are lacking, then the ordinance will not have the desired effect, no matter how “holy” it is. An ordinance is just an arbitrary practice instituted to teach something, to help us learn by DOING. What we should be learning is love and faith. If we do not learn these things, then we should go back to Article 13 and check our honesty, check Articles 5 and 6 for authority, Article 7 for the presence of the Holy Ghost, Article 4 for faith and repentance. This article depends on all previous articles, as taken in this reverse order.

2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

Every Mormon Primary child can recite this Article of Faith. Unfortunately, we are so unknowingly steeped in the Catholic tradition of original sin that we really don’t understand what this article and latter-day scriptures are really saying. To understand this article, we need to take a clear look at what Adam’s transgression was, what his punishment was, what our own sins are, and what the punishment is for our sins.

Adam’s transgression was to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam’s punishment was to be shut out of the presence of God. Prior to this incident, Adam and Eve literally walked and talked with God. After this event they were cast out of the garden. They had no contact with God or even angels until “after many days”, as the temple endowment ceremony informs us. We have no idea how long this was, but we can guess that Adam and Eve were given plenty of time to consider what they had done and to repent. During the intervening time, the couple learned to deal with life in the “lone and dreary world”. And they offered sacrifices which, as was explained to them, were in similitude of the Great Sacrifice of the Savior who was to die for their sins and redeem Adam and Eve and all mankind from the effects of the fall.

In time, Adam was redeemed from the fall and men became innocent before God again:

“Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God. (D&C 93:38.)

The consequence of the fall is to be shut out from the presence of God. It follows then that because of the redemption from the fall, a free gift to all mankind, we should all have a right to enjoy the presence of God, here on the earth; here in the flesh.

We know this is possible because there were ancient peoples in Adam’s day who walked and talked with God. Entire cities as well as individuals were caught up:

“And Enoch and all his people walked with God, and he dwelt in the midst of Zion; and it came to pass that Zion was not, for God received it up into his own bosom; and from thence went forth the saying, ZION IS FLED.” (Moses 7:69.)

“And Enoch beheld angels descending out of heaven, bearing testimony of the Father and Son; and the Holy Ghost fell on many, and they were caught up by the powers of heaven into Zion.” (Moses 7:27.)

“Now this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also.” (Moses 6:7.)

If we are not today in the presence of God, walking and talking with the Savior, and communing with the General Assembly of the Church of the Firstborn, it is because of our OWN sins, not those of Adam.

This is an important fact, which has been lost somewhere down through the ages, and is one of those blockbuster ideas which has been restored again: The only things separating of from the presence of God right here and right now are our own personal sins and shortcomings.

In a revelation to the prophet of the RLDS church, the Lord stated that: “[Zion] is no nearer or farther than the spiritual condition of my saints justifies.”

1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

This article or faith does not attempt to define God; it simply asserts a belief in the three Beings who comprise the godhead. This leaves plenty of room for diversity of opinion and views. Almost all religions believe in some kind of god or cosmic force and try to explain god in terms of their own culture and experience. Even atheists who accept the theory of evolution have to admit that the forces driving evolution upward to more complexity and diversity, tend to work in the opposite direction of the physical universe which tends to wind downward to a state of equilibrium.

Mere belief in God is a starting point. True faith exercised toward a worthy end should eventually result in knowledge. Article 2 states that a direct knowledge of God is possible here in mortality. Jesus taught that it was eternal life to know God.

Taking the concepts taught in D&C 19 and tweaking them a little: if “eternal punishment is God’s punishment”, then eternal life if God’s life, or the kind or quality of life that God is living now.

God is not an object to be worshipped. God is an experience to be received. To know God, you have to be God. When we purify ourselves, even as He is pure, we shall see him as he is. This is eternal life.

Here is the Article of Faith that Joseph Smith forgot to write. Without this article, all the rest are meaningless.

0. We believe in ourselves.

The biggest lies ever taught by Satan are (1) man is a created being with no individual agency and (2) man is basically evil. Satan and his followers declared war on God in the pre-existence. Nobody ever said that this war was over. The book of Revelation states that Satan (meaning: “the accuser”) and his followers were cast down to earth, and the battle continues even to this day. Even today we find churches and political philosophies which want to force us to do “good”, while at the same time absolving us from all individual responsibility and protecting us from all the risks of life. The price of this devil’s bargain: surrender your freedom to the government and leave your brain on the doorstep of the church.

The truth of the matter is clearly taught in the Gospel of John and in D&C 93, an extract from the sealed writings of John.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3.)

This scripture tells me that not everything was created, that some things cannot be created, but whatever was created was created by the power of the Word of God. What could not be created? Read the following:

“And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn; And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn. Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth; And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning. … Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light. And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.” (D&C 93:21-32)

Summary

The Articles of Faith are statements of belief. The correct way to teach the Gospel is not to persuade or convince a person to believe, but to invite a person to try it. I hope this essay will persuade you to try living the Gospel more fully.

Try the Spirits



Testing Those Who Claim to be Special Teachers or Messengers Sent from God

 

In the Revelation of St. John, in the Bible, John wrote to the church at Ephesus, commending them that they had tested and detected the false teachers that came among them. Most of the following comes from a commentary about the Revelation of St. John, written by JJ Dewey with some of my own comments and observations.

“Thou canst not bear them which are evil.”

This is awkward to interpret in isolation. Many people have different definitions of what is “evil.”  We are clearly told though that the aspiring disciple does not embrace that which he sees as evil or destructive, but is repulsed by it. Apparently he sees true evil for the inner voice acknowledges his intolerance as a good thing.

The next part of the verse identifies a particular evil that must be confronted:

“And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:”

A particular evil faced by the aspiring disciple are those who say they are apostles and are not. Who are such people? The word “apostle” is generally linked with the twelve disciples of Jesus, but at the time of this writing all of them were dead except for John. Obviously many people surfaced with the claim of being the true successors of the original twelve.

Another possibility, and I emphasize possibility, is Paul or one of his associates could have been the “false apostles”. Paul said that he was an apostle, but was not recognized as such by the Twelve Apostles at Jerusalem. He was never numbered with the Twelve, never sat in council with them, and only met with them briefly. Paul didn’t meet Peter until 3 years after his “conversion” (Gal. 1:18), and he never met with any of the other apostles, except “James, the Lord’s brother” (Gal. 1:19). He never returned the Jerusalem again for another fourteen years (Gal. 2:1). Paul visited Ephesus, taught there, and wrote a letter to the Ephesians. He was in the city for over 2 years — from the autumn is AD 52 to spring of AD 55. (http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/ephesus-paul.htm.) Paul claims to have been called as an apostle, not “of man”, but “of God”.

When the position of the fallen disciple Judas Iscariot was filled, the other eleven met in council and sought the guidance of God so that through their act of casting lots, God might act through them, to fill the vacancy with the man whom God had called. (Acts 1:20-26). Thus, Matthias was chosen by God, acting through the other Apostles. Paul makes no such claim, other than that he was called of God, and not of men. Paul also has a number of associates whom he terms “apostles”. Paul warns his readers about believing any other gospel other than that which he has taught, yet Paul teaches many unique precepts, which are not anywhere else in the New Testament. There have been volumes written by Biblical scholars, detailing the differences between the teachings of Paul and the teachings of John. And, churches have wrangled for years over the question of “faith and works”, pitting Paul and James against each other. Perhaps, there were deep splits in Christianity even back then, and Paul was seen by the main body of saints as a lone, self-styled renegade, going off on his own and teaching his own brand of gospel. And, perhaps, for this reason, John and the citizens of Ephesus considered him to be one who claimed to be an apostle, but turned out to be a liar.

Regardless of who those who claimed to be apostles were, let’s continue with the commentary.

The problem goes beyond this, however.  “Apostle” comes from the Greek APOSTOLOS and means “one sent forth with orders.”  This implies that such a person has strong authority.

Now let us look again at who the aspirant is dealing with. It is those “which say they are apostles.”  In other words, as the seeker begins the path of liberation one of the first great evils he must confront and overcome are those who seek authority over him to give him marching orders. Where do they get their authority? They only seem to have it because they (or their followers) “say” so.

In order to make his first step of granting himself “permission” [The name Ephesus in Greek means “permission”.] to listen to the inner voice he must free himself from false unearned outer authorities. But note that he does not mindlessly reject an outer authority just because it is there and attempting to instruct or order him about. What does he do?

The Master gives him praise for testing such people and John himself in another scripture talks about the importance of such tests:

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

Speaking personally of myself, I am interesting in finding true messengers from God, especially one who is a true apostle, sent from Christ. Brigham Young, who was one of the first apostles of the LDS church, once said something to the effect that he would walk anywhere, anytime to hear an Apostle of Christ speak on any subject. I agree. But, how do you find such a person, and how do you verify that such a person is who and what they claim to be? The answer is simple: test them.

However, it is difficult to find a person these days who teaches and bears the kind of apostolic witness that one would expect to hear from a modern-day Peter or John, let alone Paul. There are those who claim the title “apostles”, but rather than bear personal eye-witness to the resurrection of Christ, they speak about the evils of the lottery and the importance of active church membership. There are others who appear to speak or write with the power of an “apostle”, but they, too, fail to stand up under the kind of testing that John proposes.

Now the question arises as to how the seeker is to test such people. The next verse seems to give a simplistic answer:

2 “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:

3 “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”

(1 John 4:2-3)

Here is another translation of this passage, given in modern English:

1 Beloved, there are many false prophets going out in the world, and there are many false spirits guiding them and would gladly guide you if they could. Do not believe every spirit or every teacher who comes to you, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God.

2 Here’s the test to determine the true Spirit of God: Every spirit that teaches the words of Christ which you have already received and who testifies that Jesus Christ, (who came and who will come in the flesh), is of God, is a true Spirit sent from God.

3 But, any spirit which does not bring you these same words and does not bear this same testimony is the spirit of antichrist, a substitute for Christ, which you have heard should come; and even now already is in the world.

4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome these evil spirits and false teachers: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

5 They who are of the world have been overcome of the world: therefore they speak about the world and the things in the world, and the world gladly listens to them.

6 We are of God. He who knows God listens to our message, but he who is not of God will not listen to us. And this is the way to tell the difference between the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

(1 John 4:1-6)

We return to the commentary.

So is that all there is to the test? If they confess that Jesus came in the flesh then we know they are of God, right?

I need to interject that “confession” is more than mere profession of belief, but to confess is speak from a deep personal knowledge and conviction. The word “confess” comes from the Greek homologeō. This is a legal term, used to describe testimony or witness in court. To testify falsely, which is to testify of the truth of a thing without actual knowledge of a thing, is subject to the crime of perjury. There are many who profess “belief” in Christ, but do not exercise faith (belief in action) in the works or words of Christ. Still, others commit an even greater error when they profess to having received knowledge through the Spirit, when they have received no such knowledge, and are merely parroting a popular mantra in order to gain social acceptance in some religious circle.

Not quite. First we know this is not correct based on observation alone. Many tyrants and people of great evil have confessed such things. Cortez and other Conquistadors confessed the coming of Jesus in the flesh and forced thousands of Native Americans to also make such a confession or die.

If this common interpretation is not correct then what is? To understand let us examine the verse more carefully. The key to the meaning is found in the phrase:  “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.”  We have previously covered that the name Jesus Christ means “anointed to deliver” and applies not only to the Master in Galilee, but to all who successfully follow in his footsteps and seek to assist those who tread the path of deliverance.

“Is come” is from the Greek ERCHOMAI and is the middle voice of a primary verb used only in the present and imperfect tenses. Here it is used in the imperfect tense which implies a thing that is in the state of progress or happening in the now, whenever that now is occurring. If we take this into consideration then what is the verse really telling us? Who are those that pass the test?

The orthodox version reads:  “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:”

A more accurate rendering as far as the meaning is concerned would be:

“Everyone who confesses in spirit that the name of Jesus Christ is manifesting in the flesh of all who will receive is of God.”

This agrees with another scripture written by John:

“And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.” (Revelation 14:1)

The name given of the Father is Jesus Christ and is written in the minds and hearts of all true followers.

What then is the test of the true apostle? The seeker must search him out and discover this one thing. Does he see himself as a representative of Jesus Christ in a way that you are not or could not be if you so chose? Or does he see you and himself as equals in the opportunity of manifesting the Christ within our fleshly tabernacles? Does he allow you to speak the words of your innermost soul and allow you to follow them without trying to place his outer authority over you, above your own inner authority?

If he respects your inner voice as he does his own and if he allows you to manifest Christ with the same authority that he does for himself then he is of God. But if he seeks authority over you for the sake of glorifying his ego then he is not of God — no matter what words of support he gives to Jesus.

The seeker at this stage is thus praised by the Master’s voice. He has seen the deceit behind those who sought to control him and direct him toward their own ideal rather than that of the inner Christ.

http://www.freeread.com/archives/3526.html