Wednesday, August 6, 2014

We, the Idolatrous LDS: Part 3, Conclusion and My Witness

If you have come to this post without first reading the previous 2, you can find them here and here. In this one I'll be going over how keys & authority & callings can become our idols. I'll also be revisiting the church portion that I began in the first post, along with my witness.

Keys, authority, and callings as idols:
In our lovely church, our claim to being the only true church is that we have the keys restored and still intact. Along with those keys is mingled the word authority as well, which is why I have included them both here. I felt that callings fit here as well, so I have included it.

First, if we suppose we have the keys and can never lose them, then we idolize them, and will not be aware of when/if they are lost to this church. This goes along with the first post about idolizing the church.

Second, if we idolize authority and seek it out for ourselves then we "exercise to gain ambition" and have no authority in the priesthood. This goes along with the second post, or Part 2.

Also, if we idolize those with authority, we are placing them between ourselves and God. If we think that because we do not hold any authority that we are not also invited to converse with the Lord, receive revelation, see the face of Jesus, and be ministered to by angels (And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also. Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned. Alma 32:23), then we are idolizing authority. God is no respecter of persons. The first person the Savior appeared to after His resurrection was a woman, Mary Magdalene (John 20:14-17, Mark 16:9), not His 12 disciples.

Third, if we idolize callings, keys, and perceived authority, then we miss the messages the Lord sends us outside of that paradigm.

What authority in the institution of his time did John the Baptist possess? They had presiding high priests that led them already (Caiaphas and Annas). Shouldn't the authority with which John baptized and preached have belonged to one of them?

So, why was it John?

With what authority did Joseph Smith restore the church?

With what authority did Samuel the Lamanite prophesy to the wicked Nephites when they already had Nephi to do that?

We try to put God within our own box of expectations, and we set up idols for ourselves and miss some wonderful things when we do.

There are other ways in which callings, particularly ours become idols to us, but I don't feel it's necessary to get into that here.

Why I am writing this stuff:
It has been a long time coming, but specifically it has been made clear to me that I am no longer justified in saying nothing.

I could have put it off forever because I did not feel it was my place, but I've been guided to do otherwise.

I'm not saying that I'm better than anyone. I know that I am not. I'm not saying that I haven't been guilty of idolizing things within the church and without. I have. And this is why I see it now. Over the past year, I have felt the Lord has been shaking me bit by bit so I can see the error of my idolatries as they fall away one by one, and having learned that, I point it out to those who still don't see it.

The church revisited and its rejection:

3 Nephi 28:34
And wo be unto him that will not hearken unto the words of Jesus, and also to them whom he hath chosen and sent among them; for whoso receiveth not the words of Jesus and the words of those whom he hath sent receiveth not him; and therefore he will not receive them at the last day;

I've talked a little bit about this subject in my very first post on this blog. What is so interesting (and frightening) about this scripture to me is that rejecting someone sent by Jesus with His message is the same as rejecting Him.

The even more frightening thing is that I have seen the church do just that.

I am another witness to this happening, not just because I noticed it, but because I was given a specific witness of it back in December of last year, in the temple, as I sat pondering the scriptures. You can read of another witness here: Latter-Day Commentary.

Yes, there is one sent with the Lord's message, who has been rejected by the church. The Spirit spoke in clarity to me that night in the temple, that by doing so, we were rejecting the fullness of the gospel and the Lord Himself.

There will be those, I'm sure, who will assume that I have lost it, who will assume that I have been deceived.

It's nothing that I haven't feared and considered myself.

I have questioned and doubted this over and over, because it is not what I was taught to expect, and each time I have petitioned Heavenly Father with this, He has led me gently back to this answer: The message delivered by this man is His. I have heard it. I testify of it. I recognize the Lord in it, more direct and pure than I have ever encountered before in my lifetime. It teaches of Christ and brings us to Christ, and as I have mentioned in this post, I have been blessed and been closer to the Lord because of it (although the opposition has increased as well). And there are others who have come into the presence of the Lord themselves because of this message.

I am not saying to follow this man, worship, or think of him any more than we ought. I am saying you should heed the message, and then go on and receive all that you are offered from God.

But at least, investigate what is being said, and judge for yourself, and with prayer and humility before God, ask whether or not it is true.

There are a series of ten talks being given. Only eight are currently transcribed. I'm attaching the links to the ones currently available below (Update: all lectures have been made available since I posted this, so all are available below):

Coming to Christ: a Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit
Marriage and Family
Preserving the Restoration

2 Nephi 9:44-45
O, my beloved brethren, remember my words. Behold, I take off my garments, and I shake them before you; I pray the God of my salvation that he view me with his all-searching eye; wherefore, ye shall know at the last day, when all men shall be judged of their works, that the God of Israel did witness that I shook your iniquities from my soul, and that I stand with brightness before him, and am rid of your blood.

O, my beloved brethren, turn away from your sins; shake off the chains of him that would bind you fast; come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation.

We, the Idolatrous LDS: Part 2, Dead Works

If you have somehow come to this post before reading the first one, you can find that here. In the first post I discussed how the church and how the brethren can become idols that come between us and knowing the Lord.

In this post, I will discuss how our ordinances and the priesthood can become idols. This, particularly the ordinances part, is something I've been prompted to mention since a long time ago, which I previously did, just not on my blog. So I will now address it here.

Ordinances as idols:
To begin this one, I'll have to start in the chapter and verses that prompted it.

Moroni 8:20 & 23
And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption.
But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works.

If we think our works and the works alone are what is needed to save people then our works are dead works. If that were the case, then we would have to baptize babies, and others that have challenges that leave them unaccountable. If that were the case, we wouldn't need Christ.

At all.

But we do, and the works only have power through Him, and we are only saved through and by Him. To believe anything else is to deny his mercies. It is to deny the power of His Holy Spirit. It is to deny the power He has to baptize us with fire. Although we have the laying on of hands to give us the gift of the Holy Ghost, until we receive the gift from Him, and allow Him to baptize us with fire we have not even entered the gate to the strait and narrow path.

And therefore, the works performed on us are dead, meaningless. Might as well have been done on a slab of meat.

You'll see here that I've made a distinction between being given a gift and receiving a gift. I believe we should think of all the ordinances in the church as things offered to us that we in turn need to receive.

The endowment ceremony is amazing, and after a while less confusing than that first time. It is not the the ultimate thing we need to receive here in the flesh, but the invitation to go on and receive it: receive true messengers from God in truth, converse with God through the veil, and (in this life!!!) be brought into His presence. This is what we are offered.

Whether we qualify for this or not will depend a lot on whether we buy in to the false teacher who mingles scriptures with the philosophy of men. It will depend on whether we receive true messengers when they come. It will depend on the law of sacrifice, among other things.

If you think that all you need is to be baptized by man and have these other ordinances performed in order to inherit with Jesus Christ, then you have let these ordinances become an idol to you, and these works done to you are dead because you have not received the power in them, which is Him.

The ordinances are important, but they are not the end in and of themselves.

The priesthood as an idol:
Some may be offended that I am even addressing this here, me being a woman, but I hope you will be able to see past that. I've included the priesthood in this post as it goes hand in hand with the ordinances, since one is needed to perform the others (D&C 84).

D&C 121:34-42
Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson--

That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, or gain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile--

So, the right to this priesthood is connected with the powers of heaven.

If men within our church suppose that because they have been ordained to this priesthood they are entitled to certain liberties or authority, then this has become an idol to them, and it holds no power for them. If they try to use it in any unrighteous way, it holds no power for them.

If anyone idolizes another for holding the priesthood, again, it has become an idol to them.

And then there is the question of how one is to know if they have actually received the gift they were ordained to when they were given the Melchizedek priesthood. How does one know their priesthood is personally connected to the powers of heaven, or ever was in the first place?

Some scriptures to consider in the matter:

D&C 84:42
And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens; and even I have given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you.

Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 14:26-29
Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.

And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,

It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;

And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will unto as many as believed on his name.

His own voice... out of the heavens. Hmm... interesting.

In our ordinances and priesthood, do we think like Nephi prophesied we would, that the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men (2 Nephi 28:5)? Do we deny that the power is God's, and not ours at all?

If so, these things have become our idols.

We, the Idolatrous LDS

This is the third time I've tried to write this post in just over a month. Actually, this is the third time I have written it, and I don't feel like I can or should put it off any longer.

I hear a lot of testimony and praise at church for things that stand in our way of recognizing God in our lives. Things that stand in the way of allowing Him to personally guide us. Things that stand in the way for us to personally know Him.

This troubles me.

We, as members, have idols specific to us.

And because they are religious in nature we are blind to them. Because of that we are even more blinded to them than to our idols that are not religious in nature. Because of our idols we are prideful in what we think qualify for.

Because of our religious idols we have become like the Jews of Jesus' time, or like Laman and Lemuel of Nephi's time.

But you know... "All is well in Zion. Zion prospereth..." (And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well--and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. 2 Nephi 28:21)

Our LDS Idols:
 - The church
 - The current president of the church
 - The brethren
 - The priesthood
 - Our ordinances
 - The keys and authority
 - The handbook
 - Callings
 - Our reputations within our ward, stake, etc. (or "to be seen of men" Matthew 23:5)
 - Our pioneer heritage/beginnings
 - The LDS traditions of our fathers

There are probably so many more than that, but this is the list I will work off of for the intents of this post. I'm sure some that will come across this will be wondering how a lot of the things on the list can be a bad thing. I'll explain as best as I can.

The Church as an Idol:
I hear many testimonies of the "living church" or "true church." This is what is concerning about that: if our church was like the church of the Jews at the time of Christ, how would you know it, if all your faith and devotion depends on it being always true and always living (which I take to mean always led by God)?

Bad news: You would have rejected Christ in His day with that mentality, as He was rejected and even sentenced by/because of the church of His day.

Our focus is not supposed to be on the church, or on it being living or always true, but on Christ. He is the one that is living and always true.

Churches are staffed, led, manned by men, and men err. Men fail to recognize their own God before them ...Unless that church happens to be the Church of the Firstborn, which is NOT an earthly institution.

Now the gospel... Christ's gospel... that is always true. That does not change, and remains the same, though men misunderstand and alter their records and teachings of it.

How did the disciples recognize that the church they had been born into, the church of their fathers, erred? Because they recognized truth. They recognized the gospel. They recognized the Lord. They trusted the Spirit and what it testified to them, despite the fact that the authorities of the church were saying something completely different. If their focus had been entirely and unrelentingly on being the chosen people of God, and on the church, would they have recognized what was before them?

(There is more to be said about this and I will revisit it later)

The Prophet and the Brethren as Idols:
I think we should be wary whenever calling someone a prophet when it is by inherited title, and not by evidences, because then we run the risk of making a good person into a false prophet simply by fault of the inherited title. Prophets used to be called prophets because the people could see from their works, and from their messages that they were prophets.

Why was Joseph Smith called a prophet?

Because he prophetically translated the Book of Mormon. Because he received revelation from God. Because he prophesied. Because he called the people to repentance as prophets are supposed to do. Because he spoke with and was visited by God, and he proclaimed that. He also encouraged everyone else to receive God as he had, in the flesh, as one man speaks to another. He did not covet these experiences only for himself.

For some reason, because we always have a president of the church, whom we call prophet, we now expect him to see God for us. We expect to follow him no matter what, and that doing this will ensure we will receive eternal life. We testify of him. We adore and fawn over him.

...But this is trusting in the arm of flesh, which we are warned repeatedly in scriptures NOT to do (O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm. 2 Nephi 4:34)

Interestingly enough Ezekiel 14 is a chapter Joseph read to the newly organized relief society (I had heard about it before, but I came across this and some other interesting things he said in the Nauvoo Relief Society Minutes when preparing a trivia game for a R.S. activity)

Here are the relevant notes taken about what Joseph said about depending on the prophet for your salvation:

"Prest. J. Smith rose, read the 14th Chap. of Ezekiel— said the Lord had declar’d by the prophet  that the people should each one stand for himself and depend on no man or men in that state of  corruption of the Jewish church— that righteous persons  could only deliver their own souls— app[l]ied it to the present state of the church of Latter-Day Saints— said  if the people departed from the Lord, they must  fall— that they were depending on the prophet hence were darkened in their minds from neglect of themselves— envious toward the innocent, while  they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy."

Ezekiel 14:4-6
Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Isreal that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;

That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart because they are all estranged from me through their idols.

Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.

Ezekiel 14:14, 16, 18, and 20
Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.

Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate.

Though these three men were in it, as I live saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves.

Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.

Though we may be led by good and righteous men, our salvation is only achieved through our own righteousness. Setting good men like this up as idols will hinder us, not help us. We need to have a relationship with God for ourselves. We need to go to Him with our questions, and look to Him for our answers.

Also along this note: read D&C Section 76 and study all the different kinds of people that will be in the Telestial Kingdom. Notice that the first things mentioned are those who are "of" the prophets, or you could say those who "Followed the Prophets." This is Telestial behavior.

In the Lectures on Faith it says we first believe on the testimony of another (like those of the prophets), but after that we must achieve faith and then knowledge. These last two are not things that we get through others. They are things we gain and achieve as individuals, leading to knowledge given to us by God, just as the prophets received for themselves.

Joseph Smith again :

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p. 149
"...God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye the Lord; for all shall know Him (who remain) from the least to the greatest. How is this to be done? It is to be done by this sealing power, and the other Comforter spoken of, which will be manifest by revelation."

If you are not familiar with this blog or what the other Comforter is, it is Christ appearing to you Himself. I have spoken more about that in other posts, particularly here, as have many others who know about it more personally than I do myself.

Back to my point: this isn't achieved by following the prophet (because if we are relying on that, we are not moving beyond the first stage of faith which is belief). It is achieved by following Christ as individuals. Then we can all know Him for ourselves. It is an invitation to all.

I have seen scripture being ignored in favor of general conference talks. If one contradicts the other, what do we do? We favor the current brethren's words over scripture because the scriptures were for those other people that lived a long time ago, right? And this is today. We're different than they were. We aren't as faithless as they were, so their problems and counsel don't apply to us. We can't be led astray because we always have a prophet who can't be led astray. (Please tell me you are catching on to my sarcasm, and can see our latter-day pride for what it really is.)

...And yet, the Book of Mormon prophets directed specific comments to us. We have all of these records that show the pitfalls of different groups of God's chosen people that have gone before us. The cautionary tales of how they strayed, of how they rejected His messengers, of how they lost the wonderful things that were given to them. We ignore them at our peril. We honor the word of our day over what has always been true at our peril.

We shouldn't idolize men, no matter what their role. After all, God is no respecter of persons, so why are we? God and His Son are the only ones worthy of our worship.

To be Continued...
This is already very long, and I've only begun to scratch the surface. I will be continuing this later with other things on the list and how we turn them into idols. Click here for Part 2, Dead Works.