God and Man

God and man exist upon the same principles. There never was a father without there first being a son, meaning that the being that we consider God the father, was first a son to another father, just as Christ showed us how we could become sons to him as our father.

One thing the endowment teaches so plainly and so up front that most miss it. The players in the drama are playing ROLES. They are acting in certain offices, just as the patrons are to consider themselves in the roles of Adam and Eve. The art of the drama imitates the life of the reality.

God is our god and our father, not only because he demonstrated a superior intelligence, but because we all sustained him/her as such. Satan demanded God’s honor, which is his power. God’s power comes as much from our faith and support as from his/her ability to marshal, command, and channel that faith and support.

We are really much more powerful beings than we give ourselves credit for. And the path to full godhood is as much learning how to become a god as it is to unlearn that which us prevents us from being a god.

Joseph Smith said that “man will be punished for his own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression”.

93:38 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.

93:39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.

If we find ourselves out of the presence of God, as Adam and Eve were, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. We have an awful lot to unlearn, and churches do us no favor by forcing us to conform and avoid sin, rather than taking responsibility for it, learning from it, as we are supposed to do. Your church that preaches against damnation is actually damning or condemning you by holding back your progress.

But the course of God is one eternal round, and I don’t mean “God” in the sense that most religious people think of it. In fact, I can’t find an English word or words the corresponds to what I mean. I guess the closest I could come is the concept of god, not as a being, but as a principle, a pattern, or an order which is repeated throughout eternity.

We we say “in the beginning”, or we talk about God surrounded by intelligences, we are taking the ring of eternity that Joseph Smith spoke of, and cutting it at an arbitrary point, for the same of explaining an eternal principle to finite minds. In the book Dune, Herbert had in mind a huge back story leading up to the Saga of Paul. This is why he said, and why the historian Irulan said “beginnings are such delicate times”. Where to begin? Where to begin?

Just think about it and see if it doesn’t make more sense to you.

What is Perfection, Anyway?

Let’s start with the definition of “perfection”. The word is mistranslated from a Greek word meaning to be whole, complete, finished. It has nothing to do with moral exactitude or following authority. Christ commanded to all to be perfect, and the famous scripture in Nephi says that the Lord will not give us a commandment without showing us a way that we can fulfill it. Therefore, if a person finds themselves constantly striving, but never achieving, then the thing to do is to to stop beating themselves over the head and look at what perfection really looks like.

This attitude might make the present-day general authorities mad, and your bishop might not like you telling him this, but I actually got a knowledge of this principle from an old stake president, and from Steven R Covey, in a class at BYU. We don’t achieve perfection over night, but we gain perfection in one area at a time, and we do that by making a promise to ourselves and the Lord that we know we can keep, and we keep it. To that extent, we build up our personal integrity, or our wholeness in that one area. Then, when we have mastered it, we go on to another area.

This is not striving. This is achieving. And, when you have mastered even a small area, instead of feeling discouraged, you get a sweet feeling of success and accomplishment like nothing else. This is a great feeling, and there is nothing wrong with getting addicted to this.

I didn’t get this from listening to church leaders, alone. I study the scriptures a lot, and that’s where I get a lot of my spiritual nourishment. There is a passage in the D&C that says if your eye be single to God, your whole body will be filled with light. And in the NT, Christ taught us to love God with ALL our heart, might, mind, and strength. These are just other ways of saying that we need to be whole, have integrity, be without hypocrisy and without guile.

For my own life, after fitting all this stuff together, I felt like I finally really understood what the Gospel was all about. The Gospel is doable, and a joy, not a job. It’s really not all that difficult, but the only hard part is to strictly follow it, not try to live up to some impossible, arbitrary code.

Quotes from Boyd K Packer

“You seminary teachers and some of you institute and BYU men will be teaching the history of the Church this school year. This is an unparalleled opportunity in the lives of your students to increase their faith and testimony of the divinity of this work. Your objective should be that they will see the hand of the Lord in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now.”

“Church history can be so interesting and so inspiring as to be a very powerful tool indeed for building faith. If not properly written or properly taught, it may be a faith destroyer.”

“There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not.”

“Some things that are true are not very useful.”

“That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weaknesses and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer of faith — particularly one within the Church, and more particularly one who is employed specifically to build faith — places himself in great spiritual jeopardy. He is serving the wrong master, and unless he repents, he will not be among the faithful in the eternities. … Do not spread disease germs!”

– Apostle Boyd K. Packer, “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect”, 1981, BYU Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 259-271

Proof of a Prophet

Here’s proof that you can demonstrate for yourself.

If a man’s words ring true to you, speak to your soul, edify you, call forth your own intuition, or induce the spirit of revelation in you, then you can safely assume that, at that particular moment in time, the man is in touch with God and is speaking truth.

In that brief moment in time, he is a prophet, as are we all, given similar circumstances. But, to automatically and unconditionally proclaim a man to be a prophet in every circumstance, and because of that, to follow him unconditionally, is idolatry of the worst kind.

There are certain passages in the D&C and certain speeches like Joseph Smith’s address to the Twelve, Oliver Cowdery’s address to the twelve, and Joseph Smith’s final two addresses that stir me to the very depths and make my bones to quake. There are other occasions when he was a blustering fool. He created drama and crisis wherever he went, and seemed to thrive on it, by stirring up jealousy, suspicion, and keeping everybody else off balance, to his advantage.

When did you first begin to lose your “Mormon faith”?

Question: When did you first begin to lose your “Mormon faith”?

Don’t put words in my mouth. No church is the proper object of anybody’s faith, but I’ll play your game.

It started for me when one of my religion profs at BYU planted the idea in my mind that the church and the gospel were not the same thing.

I started noting a disconnect between what the scriptures taught, what the church taught, and how church members lived.

I grew up in small towns in the Pacific Northwest, where the members were all faithful and stuck together. I was shocked when I first visited Utah and Idaho and saw the lack of reverence and respect for the temple and how the supposedly “good” church members of Provo preyed upon the BYU students.

I also noticed that after sitting through long, boring sessions of General Conference, I could go back to our little student ward where our bishop addressed us and feel more Spirit there than I had in all the sessions of Conference put together.

Over the years, I stayed close to God and the scriptures, and mostly ignored the church. When I was excommunicated, it felt more like a graduation than a condemnation.

What I eventually discovered about the real Gospel, the true God, and about reality and existence in general completely eclipsed the meager understanding and limited world-view of Mormonism. Yes, Mormonism is pretty mind-blowing, when compared to the other Christian sectarians, of which Mormonism is quickly becoming a part. But, what I found is even more mind-blowing.

Yet, I can fit the fundamental teachings of Joseph Smith completely within this greater view. He was onto something. Maybe he was just concocting a bunch of fairy tales to captivate a frontier audience, but along the way he stumbled onto some profound truths, and in tapping into the “ethers” to pick up some of his ideas, God saw an opportunity to work in an idea or two, edgewise. And what ideas!

As true Mormons, we are supposed to keep searching for truth wherever we find it, and not get so stuck in something we think we have found that we that we are afraid to progress beyond that point.

I’m not bitter toward the church. I think it is a great upbringing for young kids, but they need to be taught to move THROUGH it and BEYOND it.

You don’t stay stuck in the 4th grade all your life, unless you keep flunking out. But, what if you discovered that you were stuck in the 4th grade and realized that you weren’t learning anything new, but were repeating the same boring stuff over and over? Then, the teacher figures out that you know this, and instead of pointing you toward more advanced educational opportunities, she condemns you and kicks you out of the class to fend for yourself?

This is what I see happening with so many people either leaving or questioning the church today. At its core, there are some fantastic ideas. But the leaders lack the vision to execute on them. Further, they lack the vision to harness the drive and talent and instead drive it from the church.

So, my advice to everybody is to realize that the church and the gospel are not the same thing, and to make a clear distinction between the two. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

A comment from Steven B Stew:

One word. Epistemology. The moment I realized that people use “know” language for things they can’t possibly know, everything started making so much more sense. Mormons will tell you themselves. If you don’t trust your feelings (the spirit) more than the apparently observable facts, if you don’t put faith over science, Mormonism doesn’t work. So for me, it doesn’t work anymore.

Steven B Stew, I agree with you. People who say they “know” when they merely believe are liars and bearers of false witness. To me, belief is a poor imitation of faith. Faith is a tool with which to obtain knowledge. Knowledge is obtained by experience and observation.

But, experience and observation take in far more than just the dense physical plane. There are higher and more refined spiritual realities, and more senses than just the five that we acknowledge.

Heavenly Mother

I recently read a book which made reference to “a vision about a mother in heaven” that was had by Joseph Smith. Since this is not widely known, I did some research, and this is what I found. There are actually two accounts of this, and they differ slightly in their details.

One day the Prophet Joseph Smith asked him (Zebedee Coltrin) and Sidney Rigdon to accompany him into the woods to pray. When they had reached a secluded spot Joseph laid down on his back and stretched out his arms. He told the brethren to lie one on each arm and then shut their eyes. After they had prayed he told them to open their eyes. They did so and they saw a brilliant light surrounding a pedestal which seemed to rest on the ground. They closed their eyes and again prayed. They then saw, on opening them, the Father seated upon a throne; they prayed again and on looking saw the Mother also; after praying and looking the fourth time they saw the Savior added to the group. He had auburn brown, rather long, wavy hair and appeared quite young.” Abraham H. Cannon Journal, 25 Aug. 1880, LDS archives

Zebedee Coltrin’s journal records the event two years before Abraham Cannon’s journal did. Coltrin said the man and woman were Adam and Eve. The following comes comes from my book that will be published soon:

According to Coltrin, he and Oliver Cowdery were walking with Joseph Smith outside one day when Smith stopped by some wild grape vines and said, “Let us kneel down here and pray.” After the completion of the prayer, “Joseph stretched himself on his back upon a grassy spot with his arms extended like one upon a cross. He told me to lie by his side with my head resting upon his arm, and Oliver in like manner upon the other side”…. “We did so,” said Coltrin, “all three looking heavenwards. As I looked I saw the blue sky open. I beheld a throne, and upon the throne sat a man and a woman. Joseph asked us if we knew who they were. We answered ‘no’, Joseph said, ‘That is father Adam and mother Eve.’” Zebedee Coltrin, Diary Excerpts of Zebedee Coltrin (1878); as quoted in my book Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo (John Whitmer Books). (Mike Reed)

Cannon says it happened with Rigdon, while Coltrin (who allegedly had the experience) says Cowdery. Cannon also says Father and Mother in Heaven and Coltrin reported Adam and Eve. Cannon evidently conflated two of Coltrin’s visions into one. And in the context of the Adam God doctrine there is even less contradiction.

As you may know… Zebedee Coltrin reported all sorts of visions, another being of Jesus crucified on the cross in the Kirtland Temple.

HC 2:50 reports that Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Zebedee Coltrin were all present on this occasion.

Once after returning from a mission, he [Zebedee Coltrin] met Brother Joseph in Kirtland, who asked him if he did not wish to go with him to a conference at New Portage. The party consisted of Presidents Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery and myself [Zebedee Coltrin]. Next morning at New Portage, he noticed that Joseph seemed to have a far off look in his eyes, or was looking at a distance and presently he, Joseph, stepped between Brothers Cowdery and Coltrin and taking them by the arm, said, “Let’s take a walk.” They went to a place where there was some beautiful grass and grapevines and swamp beech interlaced. President Joseph Smith then said, “Let us pray.” They all three prayed in turn—Joseph, Oliver, and Zebedee. Brother Joseph then said, “Now brethren, we will see some visions.” Joseph lay down on the ground on his back and stretched out his arms and the two brethren lay on them. The heavens gradually opened, and they saw a golden throne, on a circular foundation, something like a light house, and on the throne were two aged personages, having white hair, and clothed in white garments. They were the two most beautiful and perfect specimens of mankind he ever saw. Joseph said, “They are our first parents, Adam and Eve.” Adam was a large, broad-shouldered man, and Eve as a woman, was large in proportion. (“Statement of Zebedee Coltrin.” Minutes, 3 October 1883, Salt Lake School of Prophets, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah, 66-67 ?)

Note: In a different account of this same vision, Coltrin said of Adam and Eve that “their heads were white as snow, and their faces shone with youth” (See “The Papers of Zebedee Coltrin,” in E. Cecil McGavin, The Record of the Spanish Fork Branch [29 April 1866 to 1 December 1898], LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah, 251 ?)

The Truth

Here is a recent conversation on Facebook

Comment 1: I Know that, but i still believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints still moving and no one can stop it.

John Crane: The fundamental ideas (like eternal progression, knowing the truth, seeking wisdom through study and faith, direct human experience with God, building a society where each person esteems his brother as himself, a person is saved no faster than they gain knowledge, etc.) behind the church will keep moving and no one can stop them. These are ideas that appeal to everybody, once they hear them explained. However, it seems to many people that the church, as now constituted, is no longer the vehicle for spreading and supporting these ideas, but has degenerated into a conservative, reactionary relic of the 19th century.

Read this quote from Joseph Smith. He doesn’t say a thing about the church:

“The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

Rob Lauer said: “The truth of God will go forth boldly…” As soon as anyone reduces the truth of God to nothing more than an organization, or one particular creed or nation or program or group of people–then amen to the priesthood of that person. The Spirit–the Light of Truth that is in ALL things and through ALL things; the same Light that is in ALL people, that quickens the understanding of ALL people–this Spirit is grieved and withdraws.