Monday, November 23, 2015

What C.S. Lewis Knew

Yesterday was the 52nd anniversary of the death of a literary giant, and a wise man, C.S. Lewis. His story is a fascinating one. After becoming an atheist as a 15-year-old, he later, in his adulthood, converted to christianity, and became an open proponent for it. When the day ended on November 22, 1963, it was more than just the light of the sun that left, the light that this man brought to the world also left. And so, it is fitting that he passed from this life near sunset.

In memory of him, I'm going to share a quote taken from The Screwtape Letters. For those unfamiliar with this book, it's written as a collection of letters from one of the devil's high ranking minions (Screwtape) to his likewise minion nephew (Wormwood), giving him pointers and education on how to win targets over to their master's side. Here is one such example:
The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills.  When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment.
There is truth in this statement, that can be found in the scriptures as well.
But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backwards, and not forward. Jeremiah 7:24
Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put up the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them? Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel 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. Ezekiel 14:1-5
When we expect a certain answer or outcome in prayer, and aren't willing to wait on the Lord for these things in truth, we are actually denying the Holy Spirit. We're not allowing it to speak to us. We're not willing to face the possibility that the answer we expect is the wrong one. We're setting up idols in our hearts that keep us from God, rather than helping us get to know Him, rather than allowing us to understand Him.

God calls these "evil hearts."

Your intentions may be good, but you have not allowed the Holy Spirit to give utterance.

The result of this is that you have committed that scriptural no-no of trusting in your own flesh. You are giving yourself your own outcome, your own answer.

Joseph Smith once said, "There are two comforters spoken of. One is the Holy Ghost, the same as given on the day of Pentecost, and that all Saints receive after faith, repentance, and baptism. This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.149)

That other comforter, as we know, is Christ Himself.

Back to the first comforter... all the other emotions and physical reactions that we attribute to the Holy Ghost as answers... What are those if the Holy Ghost only answers in pure intelligence?

What about this scripture?
Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God? D&C 6:22-23
And this one?
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. And behold others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto the: I am no devil, for there is none--and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps the with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. 2 Nephi 28:21-22 
Is your peace from God? Or are you being pacified?

Learning the difference is important for all of us. It is an excuse to pray and seek out the truth for ourselves. It's a vital experience in discerning that all faithful followers of Christ must undergo.

I highly recommend Feeling, and Fooling, the Spirit for a more thorough examination of what is and is not the Spirit.

Along with us blocking the Spirit with our own feeling and own answers, there are always people who will encourage that. People who will exploit (whether knowingly or unknowingly) this tendency in devout people.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still unto thee that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. Jeremiah 23:16-17
This is another example of how we are pacified and lulled into carnal security.

Furthermore, not waiting and allowing God to answer us, filling ourselves with the answers of our own expectations and understanding, is that not despising the Lord?

It certainly is not putting our trust in Him.

This tendency that C.S. Lewis pinpointed is an example of arrogancy, vanity. It is trusting in ourselves over God. We put our own wisdom and knowledge before that of God's.

And we do it unknowingly.

Admit to yourself and God that you don't know the answer. You have a guess, but you're willing to cast aside that assumption for the truth that God has to give you. You even have a lot riding on the answer you want being the correct one, but you're willing to give up all that entails to follow Him. Have this in your heart, then wait on His answer. This is humility. This will get you more answers. You can't learn something different than what you already supposedly know. You can't gain real charity by fabricating it yourself. You can't gain real forgiveness by fabricating it yourself.

Wait on Him.

You'll be happy you did.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Women and Gifts of the Spirit: Read All About It

Recently, the church came out with this article, titled Joseph Smith's Teachings about Priesthood, Temple, and Women. I was glad to see them address this topic. It is something I have been familiar with since combing through the Relief Society Minutes in preparation for a Relief Society activity a year and a half ago.

I thought they were thorough in their summary of what Joseph Smith actually taught, but less thorough on why we don't do it that way today. Frankly, the logic explaining it was lacking. For example a quote from the article:
The second aspect of Joseph Smith’s teachings to the Relief Society that may be unfamiliar today is his endorsement of women’s participation in giving blessings of healing. “Respecting the female laying on hands,” the Nauvoo Relief Society minutes record, Joseph said that “it is no sin for any body to do it that has faith,” and admonished, “if the sisters should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold their tongues, and let every thing roll on.”30 Some women had performed such blessings since the early days of the Church. At that time, Latter-day Saints understood the gift of healing primarily in terms of the New Testament’s teaching that it was one of the gifts of the Spirit available to believers through faith. Joseph Smith taught that the gift of healing was a sign that would follow “all that believe whether male or female.”31
During the 19th century, women frequently blessed the sick by the prayer of faith, and many women received priesthood blessings promising that they would have the gift of healing.32 “I have seen many demonstrations of the power and blessing of God through the administration of the sisters,” testified Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney, who was, by her own account, blessed by Joseph Smith to exercise this gift.33 In reference to these healing blessings, Relief Society general president Eliza R. Snow explained in 1883, “Women can administer in the name of JESUS, but not by virtue of the Priesthood.”34
I can verify that Joseph is quoted correctly here, as this is what I came across and read as well. The next quote is from the next paragraph in the article:
Women’s participation in healing blessings gradually declined in the early 20th century as Church leaders taught that it was preferable to follow the New Testament directive to “call for the elders.”35 By 1926, Church President Heber J. Grant affirmed that the First Presidency “do not encourage calling in the sisters to administer to the sick, as the scriptures tell us to call in the Elders, who hold the priesthood of God and have the power and authority to administer to the sick in the name of Jesus Christ.”36 The current Handbook of Instructions directs that “only Melchizedek Priesthood holders may administer to the sick or afflicted.”37 
I find this explanation for our current practices woefully lacking. Yes, the priesthood can administer to the sick, but to deny woman to do so in faith, is denying the gifts of the spirit.
And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them. Moroni 10:8

Parable of the talents

In Matthew 25:14-30 is the parable of the talents. Because of the similarity of the word talent as we use it, and talent (a form of currency), as used in this parable, it’s easy to get stuck on a particular meaning. But talent doesn’t necessarily mean talent, meaning it doesn't mean your physical or mental abilities. The talents the Lord wants you to multiply in this parable are not your talents of singing, dancing, acting, instrument playing, poetry, or car mechanics. A talent in this parable has monetary value. It’s something of value that God gives to His servants. This could be spiritual gifts, spiritual knowledge, or as it is described in a section of D&C the right to pursue priesthood (meaning that one has been ordained of man and has to opportunity to receive power in it through God). Once you are given something of value from God, He means you to use it.

As mentioned in the scriptures, Joseph Smith (quoted in the article above), and the Lectures on Faith (Lecture 3, paragraph 23), God is no respecter of persons. The gifts of the spirit are freely given. Many of which are manifest (as with the day of Pentecost and Christ’s original 12 disciples) during an outpouring of the Spirit. These are actual occurrences known as baptisms of fire. As I described in my Baptism of Fire post, I dreamt visionary dreams after such an occurrence.

Gifts of the Spirit as found in Moroni 10:9-16, include these: that he may teach the word of wisdom, teach the word of knowledge, exceedingly great faith, healing, work mighty miracles, prophecy concerning all things, beholding of angels and ministering spirits, all kinds of tongues, interpretation of languages & diverse kinds of tongues.
All these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will.
And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ. 
And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men. Moroni 10:17-19
There were women testified of in the Old and New Testaments who had the spiritual gift of prophecy.  Likewise Joel and Moroni prophesied of the same occurrence/s:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. Joel 2:28-29
Your gender and your skin color do not prevent you from receiving any of these gifts. These are not, and cannot be given by man. These are given from God, and He is no respecter of persons.

So if you are a woman with the gift of healing, or at some point in your life you find that you are blessed with it, you are left with a choice… Do you obey the men who suppose they have the authority over the gift of healing, and that you do not? Or do you obey the God who gave you a gift and use it as He intended, in His service, rather than hiding it where it does neither you nor anybody else any good?

My advice is to use it freely in His service, without gain. This is my advice for those with any of the spiritual gifts. Heal. Prophesy. Teach. Work mighty miracles. But do not be afraid to use it.

And if you do not possess these gifts? You may seek after them. As we know from modern revelation given to the church in D&C 46:8-9, we are encouraged to “seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given… they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.”(D&C 46:8-9)

So seek spiritual gifts, but not for a sign, not to be seen of men, not for praise, worldly gain, or worldly glory, but for the benefit of others.

Ask for the gifts that the Spirit directs you towards.

And we are promised that, “He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.” (D&C 46:30)

A Common Mistake

Whenever we make the assumption that the way we’re doing things now is the right way, we run the risk of misunderstanding what the way is. To do this is presumptuous, vain, and proud. If you already believe you have it figured out, there is no room and no opportunity for you to learn what God would teach you in the matter. You kill the opportunity to gain knowledge through the Spirit. You hamper and handicap yourself, effectively setting up a stumbling block you can’t see around.

This is the problem I see with the church’s article. There’s a lot to be learned from it, but this assumption leaves us trying to interpret the scriptures that contradict the articles’ conclusions in a way they were not intended to mean. I imagine a lot of the corruption in our bible comes from this tendency of man. When the word of God from the past didn’t match what God’s people were doing, and they were convinced the way they were doing it at any given time was correct, then they had to make the past narrative fit the current one. This is how knowledge is lost. This is how plain and precious things are removed and later require a restoration.

The article assumes Joseph Smith, knew less about this than we do know. It does not open to the possibility that his knowledge was in line with the scriptures. That he knew MORE about it than we do. Because the way we do it now must be correct…right?

I have had the opportunity (only once) to participate/mostly observe a blessing of healing given by women to another disabled woman. I can honestly say I don’t know the outcome of it, whether she experienced healing or not, but I could see why Joseph saw no harm in it. It was a beautiful experience.

As the church’s article points out, women used to give blessings of healing, but only the men are permitted to now. Joseph said he saw no harm in it. The man through whom we received The Book of Mormon, restoration of priesthood and its ordinances, latter-day revelation, and this church. A man so close to God that God was able to bring this to us through him. More than any subsequent leader of the church. But the one who brought the most knowledge, knew less about spiritual gifts than we do today?

Are you sure?

Would God give you a gift you weren’t supposed to use?

There’s an easy way to know the truth of this matter. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God…

 It doesn’t really matter what I have to say about any of this, but God can give it to you straight.

Go ask Him.

Born of Water

For the last few weeks, perhaps months I've had the Born of Water button along my sidebar. I think now is a good time to talk a little about it.

Like in John the Baptist's time, there is a need now for authoritative baptisms. The Jewish church then didn't recognize him or his authority to do so, though it hailed from a sure authority. As you recall, he was ordained by an angel of God when "he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power." (D&C 84:28) The Jews, though in appearances a very devout people, had ceased to follow or recognize the word of God. They began to follow the philosophies of man mingled with scripture (Satan's favorite brand of religion). "Authority" was a very important thing to them. John the baptist was a descendent of Aaron, and therefore had the right lineage to administrate in the priesthood, but he was not recognized by the Jews of his time as possessing it. Moreover he possessed true authority, when they claimed it and had only the appearance of it. In truth this had become lost to them. You cannot mess with the ordinances of God, reject His voice, and then retain His authority to administer in His name.

Baptism did not begin with John the baptist. Adam was baptized (Moses 6:64-65). At the end of 2 Nephi, Nephi teaches about the importance of the Doctrine of Christ and of baptism. It was known to his family as well. But there was a reason it and the authority to perform it was restored in John the Baptist. Perhaps it was a plain and precious truth that had been lost or twisted into something it wasn't intended to be.

With recent news headlines, and certain policy changes in the church becoming public, it has become obvious that the difference between the Doctrine of Christ as laid out by Christ, and what the church requires for baptism is growing. It should be a wake up call. It should be becoming more and more apparent that the voice requiring the things the church does for it is not God's voice. It is not our Heavenly Father that denies little children, even if their parents do not meet the criteria and they give their permission for their child, the opportunity for a saving ordinance. There are and will be many excuses and explanations for why this is the "right way," explaining away everyone's concerns, luring them back into a carnal sense of security (2 Nephi 28:21-21). But to one that is familiar with the scriptures, it will become clear, this is not God's way.

Because the church has added to the Doctrine of Christ, something we are all warned from doing (3 Nephi 11:40), because their creeds and policies on it are an abomination to God, there is a need for authoritative baptism again. There is a need for ordained priesthood holders who don't count themselves authorized until, like Alma the elder (Mosiah 18:12-13), they have received it from heaven, and know for themselves that they are. Baptism is needed that doesn't require testimony of or obedience to a man, or devotion to an organization. It is an ordinance between the individual and God.

For this and other reasons, I chose to get rebaptized just over a year ago, as I've written about before. I did not join another organization or quit the church when I did, I simply made a witness to God of the change in my heart. I had prayed about the person I ended up asking to baptize me. I had prayed about whether he was authorized, and was assured by the Spirit that he was worthy before the Lord to do so.

God does not deny baptism to those who qualify for it. You can read God's qualifications for baptism as they are given in scripture here: Born of Water, and here: Request Baptism

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so these qualifications have not changed.
For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. 2 Nephi 26:33
Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance. Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden. 2 Nephi 26:27-28
You don't have to believe what I say on the matter, but you should look into your scriptures. You should ask God for the truth of the matter, for yourself, who giveth to all men liberally.