The Fall of Churches

Doctrine and Covenants 10:67-68 – “Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.”

It is easier to prove from the Bible that Christ established the kingdom of God than to prove that he founded a church.

Same with the LDS church. Nowhere do you find in revelations. prior to the actual legal organization of the church that God commanded JS to organize the church as a legal entity, but God does acknowledge it after the fact.

Now my own experience. In the 80’s a group of gay excommunicated Mormons decided to start meeting together in homes and partaking of the Sacrament. While we were praying for directions from the Lord, he instructed us by revelation to organize ourselves into a Priesthood body. He mentioned NOTHING about a church, only the Priesthood. And, the revelations came not just to one of us, but two. There was a true second witness. Sometimes the revelations came to us simultaneously, even though we were in different physical locations. I take all of this to mean that the Lord was serious about us knowing that he approved of what we were doing.

As we grew larger, and into multiple locations, we organized ourselves into families. The impression came to me that since we had, in many cases, been disenfranchised from our biological families and couldn’t marry at the time, we should gather into de facto families and seek out committed relationships.

But, somewhere along the line, we stopped listening to the Lord and started imitating the LDS church. We sought legal recognition, organized a “First Presidency”, and formed branches. One revelation warned us that we had “followed the arm of flesh in organizing branches”.

The group ceased to grow, and more and more internal strife ensued. Certain individuals began seeking for power and position and staged a political coup, ousting the original leadership. After the takeover, the group began to take on more and more of the LDS characteristics and become a closed organization.

By this time, I was out of the group and pondered for years where we went wrong, with a group of friends, turning out to be enemies. I came to the conclusion that the exact point where we went astray was when we switched focus from being a group of families, united by the Priesthood, and turned into a group of branches, organized into a church.

There was a church founded in 1985, called The Church of Jesus Christ of ALL Latter-day Saints. It wasn’t a break-off. It was founded by revelation and a new dispensation of priesthood. We received all the keys, the same as Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

The LDS church sued us over the name, so we changed it to The Restoration Church of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t just a church for gays and lesbians, but was intended to be a home for all those thinkers, activists, dissidents, feminists, intellectuals, etc. We ordained women. We conducted temple ordinances. We married couples for time and eternity. And, all of this, with keys and authorization from God.

But, just stop and think about this for a minute. God loves and values all of us so much and doesn’t want any of us to miss out on the blessings that flow through the Priesthood. There were people who loved God and wanted to serve Him, but the church, supposedly set up in His name, prevented them from doing so. Therefore, God had to make an end run.

We followed the open model of common consent used by the Community of Christ, which meant that in Conference, any member could discuss and disagree with any proposed revelation of leadership change, without consequences. After a couple of years, the entire presidency was voted out, and the church was reorganized after more traditional LDS lines, so that such a leadership coup could never happen again. Following that, the church limped along and eventually lost most of its members, finally disbanding in 2011, after a 25-year run.

If necessary, and if and only if directed by God, I could re-establish such a group, but I feel no need for it, no demand for it, and most of all, no direction from God to do so. In fact, I am under the same direction as Joseph Smith when God told him: “Join none of them!”

The idea of churches and organized religion is a failed model, and is failing us as an institution. I am praying that God will reveal something better, going forward, and frankly, I don’t care whether direction come through me or through somebody else. But, I don’t see anything like that happening until more people are sick and tired of tolerating and denying failure, and trying to fix what isn’t working, and are hungering and thirsting after something better.

In the meantime, there are many enlightened and motivated individuals, each following their conscience and working to achieve progress on many different fronts. I consider these my co-workers, though I have to keep reminding myself that, even though we don’t always see eye-to-eye, each of us is following his or her highest light.

Where are the Oracles

When the Holy Ghost leaves, it simply leaves without fanfare or flurry. There is no pronouncement. No drama. The still small voice just goes silent.
 
However, for those with ears to hear and the humility to receive, The Holy Ghost rushes in.
 
God pouring down knowledge upon the heads of the saints has been compared to the mighty rushing waters of the Missouri. But, times have changed since then. Man can attempt to dam the waters for a time, but the relentless waters will find a way to break through somewhere else. And, when men attempt to dam up the living waters, they only damn themselves.
 
In 1960, a group of saints who dared to refuse to follow the leadership of Brigham Young, reorganized themselves, sustained a prophet, and in the intervening time has received nearly a hundred oracles in their D&C, including instructions regarding the proper duty of evangelists, women being called to positions which require priesthood authority, and gay men and women being accepted as equals within the body of Christ.
 
In 1985, a group of gay men and women in Los Angeles dared risk excommunication from the church and ostracism from the the gay Mormon group Affirmation, and dared to ask God for further light and knowledge concerning teaching the Gospel to Gays and Lesbians. What followed was a complete dispensation of Priesthood and dozens of revelations concerning how the Gospel functions in a same-sex environment.
 
Revelation isn’t dead. Not as long as there is at least one Priesthood holder left on earth.

Looking past ordaining women — The true meaning of the Sacrament

Sacrament

Look at this picture. How many people in this picture really see Christ? You see people concerned with the formalities of the ordinances, people lost in their own thoughts. And, now add to that, people who are concerned about the gender of the person passing the Sacrament or staring at his crotch.

Or, they now are concerned that the young man has privately confessed that he has attraction for men, and they won’t accept the Sacrament from him. Or, if he’s a handicapped kid who just got out of surgery and wants to pass the Sacrament, but people laugh at him as he hobbles down the aisle with his crutches and cast on his legs.

I’m for giving young girls the opportunity to pass the Sacrament, not for political reasons, but for no reasons at all. There are no reasons why she shouldn’t be allowed to pass.

While I realize that you have to start someplace, let’s at least start with a much larger goal in mind than just ordaining women and welcoming gays, but otherwise preserve the same old status quo.

I’m praying that either the members of this church will either start to demand more and better from their leaders, or enough people will realize that they are being denied the opportunity to hear and live the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, or will ask God to show them how they can authoritatively organize anew and form a body of Saints dedicated to serving God and building Zion, not serving either some liberal or conservative political goals.

The people clamor to have a church, just like all the other churches. Guess what, that’s what they have. The apostasy is alive and flourishing. The lady in Revelations gave birth to the kingdom, but the dragon came along, swallowed it up, and took over.

The song says “Teach me all that I must do…” Well, there really isn’t a whole lot of “doing” is there? There’s a lot of believing, and a lot of demanding, but very little doing.

Books of Moses and Enoch

I agree, too. I don’t go along with the explanation of the facsimiles, but the contents of the books are revelation. If we are going to have a true Restoration of all things, and I believe the Restoration is an unfolding process that didn’t begin or end with Joseph Smith, we need to consider, not just going back to the primitive Christian church from the time of Christ, but all the way back to Adam and the Patriarchs.

Enoch actually succeeded in building Zion. He gathered a people. He taught them true principles of righteousness, because he and the other patriarchs were preachers of righteousness (the LDS don’t even know what that means, but the CofC have their Evangelists who come a little closer); Enoch’s people obtained the Presence of God, and Christ came down and dwelt among them. The Book of Moses finishes with the promise that when we build a similar society in the latter-days, Enoch and his community will descend from heaven and join us. And Christ will also join us.

THIS dream or vision is, to me, the most exciting thing about Mormonism, and the religion that has the beginnings of a practical plan to bring this about — a plan that was never quite realized.

Every effort since that time has been a failure. Righteous men and women down through the ages sought for that land, but were unable to obtain it, and they had to confess that they were strangers and pilgrims wandering the earth.

What is the secret that Enoch knew that seemed to escape everybody since? Christ probably knew it, but because of the stiffneckedness of the Jews was unable to implement it. Joseph Smith revealed these two books and tried to implement it, but even he was so caught up in imitating the failed religions of his time, and his followers had no inkling of what he was trying to tell them, and the whole thing degenerated into polygamy.

I know that’s a radical statement to say that Joseph Smith tried to imitate the religions of the day, but if you really step back 1,000 miles and look at the Mormons, the Jews, the Catholics, and the Protestants from a distance, they share most of the same spiritual DNA. Like humans and chimps.

What we need to do is to revisit those books and use the aid of modern revelation — both modern revelation from the days of Joseph Smith and modern revelation from today — meaning the 20th and 21st centuries. We need to see what is missing and try to recreate it.

No, it’s not just buying a plot of land in Timbuktu, Missouri, putting on your overalls and taking up farming. If we build an autonomous community without changing our fundamental nature or mindset, all we do is export our problems to a new locale and start another failed church.

You might want to check out the references at https://john144.com/blog/?page_id=62, with particular attention to The Foundation of Zion Volume 2, and the revelations to John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff.

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.