Archive for August 2008
In the early days of the LDS church, there was much excitement about the idea of the imminent return of the Savior. The brethren spoke often about the signs of the times and the fulfillment of prophecy in the last days. Those who listened to their speeches would go home to discuss what they had learned, expecting that the second coming would surely be just around the corner now.
For example, on Christmas day in 1832, the prophet Joseph Smith was pondering the troubles facing the nations of the world at that time. Events in the United States were leading toward civil war and outbreaks of deadly diseases were widespread throughout the world. While he was praying earnestly on the subject, the prophet received the following in revelation:
Warning to the world
“…with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightening also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations.
“Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord.” Now, that was 176 years ago and the Lord hasn’t come yet. Perhaps the Savior had a different meaning in mind when he expressed through the prophet Joseph that the day of the Lord would come quickly. What is the day of the Lord?
The day of the Lord
This is also known as the great and dreadful day. It will be great for those who are prepared and are looking forward to it. For those who are not prepared and are not pure and worthy before the Lord, it will be a dreadful day. They will wish that the rocks could fall upon them so they can hide from what they see coming towards them. Everyone will see the sign of the Son of Man.
The Savior has always referred to this day as being “at the doors” and that it will come upon us quickly. Even in Old Testament times the Lord places special emphasis on the day of his return as being one that will come suddenly. There will be many; in fact, most of the world will not be prepared for that day. They will not recognize the many warning signs that precede that day.
The sign of the Son of Man
“…then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east.” In other words, everyone will see something like a large planet coming towards the earth for many days.
Perhaps this coming planet will come between us and the sun, thus fulfilling the promise that the sun will be darkened just before the return of the Lord. Accompanying this planet will be many other celestial objects, such as comets and meteoroids. They will bring with them much space debris that will reign down upon the wicked. The Lord will fight his own battles in the last days.
Pieces of the earth to return
The Lord revealed in scripture that he took the City of Enoch unto his bosom. The prophets have taught that Zion shall descend from above. The entire city; yes, a physical city, and not just the people of that city, will come down and be joined to the earth once again. There will be some land or earth that will come with that city which will take its place from where it was once taken.
The return of the lost ten tribes is also not symbolic or figurative but a literal event that has yet to transpire. These lost tribes shall come forth from their hiding place. The Rocky Mountains will tremble when the Lord brings the lost tribes back. What could cause mountains to tremble more than the approach of a great planetary body that will come alongside and overtake the earth?
Catastrophic events foretold
The events that are prophesied to occur at the return of the Lord are not without precedent but are hidden in ancient records that most scholars and scientists do not accept. The idea of pieces of the earth being broken off and returning is scoffed at by many. Nevertheless it has been foretold and will take place. That’s why ancient prophets told us to look to the heavens for coming signs.
“The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: and the Lord shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?” Look to the heavens for the sign of his coming.
The Battle of Armageddon
One of the events of the very last days is that all nations will be gathered in battle to destroy the people of Israel. Israel will do something that will cause the whole world to hate them and unite in a tremendous battle. Perhaps they will force the people of Palestine out and build the temple as has been foretold. Maybe they will take some sort of action to not allow Iran to go nuclear.
So for some reason, millions of people from all nations will besiege Israel for several years while marvelous and miraculous events occur on both sides. In the end, the two prophets who have been holding their enemies at bay will be killed and it will seem that the destruction of Israel is near. At that moment, the Lord will appear in a great earthquake and provide them an escape.
Several appearances of the Lord
Apparently, when the Lord sets his foot on the Mount of Olives and saves Israel from imminent destruction, this is not his final appearance in which he comes with all the angels and in which the righteous are caught up. Those who have studied out the chronological clues in scripture have concluded that there is some time between this appearance and his final coming in glory.
What many people don’t know is that there is even another prior appearance to the servants of the Lord at Adam-ondi-Ahman in Missouri. This is to be a grand council that is held under the direction of Adam. There will be a vast congregation in attendance, but the majority of them will be from beyond the veil. The Savior will appear and accept the keys of all dispensations.
The Lord will descend
After the resurrection of the Savior, he appeared unto his disciples and many others for many days. He then left them in a miraculous manner. He was taken up and a cloud received him out of their sight. Two angels then came and said, “Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” He will descend from above.
We also know that the Lord will come with the angels, who are the faithful who have believed and loved him throughout the history of the world. In addition, those who are alive and are pure shall be caught up to meet him. Why? Because the earth will be burned at his coming when he descends. Those who are not caught up will be destroyed by the fire that descends from heaven.
The Second Advent
“He comes! The earth shakes, and the tall mountains tremble, the mighty deep rolls back to the north in fear, and the rent skies glow like molten brass. He comes! The dead saints burst forth from their tombs, and those who are alive and remain are caught up with them to meet him. He comes! With all the hosts of the righteous glorified.” What a great and dreadful day!
This is the time of the first resurrection and the ushering in of the millennium. The devil will be bound for a thousand years and the great work of the temples will begin in earnest. All families must be linked together through the sealing power of the priesthood back to father Adam. It will be a glorious time when mortals will receive help from beyond the veil like never before.
The end of the world
And yet, even this glorious period will come to an end when Satan gathers his forces for the last great battle of Gog and Magog. This will not be a battle of mortals only but will include all who have ever lived upon this earth. This is the final deciding moment when the fate of the wicked are sealed. Either you fight with Michael and the Lord or you fight as one possessed by Satan.
Once again, the hordes that follow the devil will be vanquished by fire from heaven, which will completely envelop the earth, baptizing it, cleansing it and bringing it into celestial glory. Then comes the second resurrection and the final judgment before Christ. The cities of old and new Jerusalem will descend to the celestial earth which will then be inherited by the righteous saints.
Summary and conclusion
All this may seem incredible and unbelievable if you have never studied it before. But it has all been foretold and will come to pass, some of it in our lifetime. Many people have studied and written about these things and some have tried to place them in chronological order. That is a most difficult prospect and there is much disagreement about which events will occur when.
However, there is no disagreement among those who have studied the words of the prophets that these events will indeed take place. Because they will be so catastrophic, the Lord has given us ample warning and has always been clear that they will come suddenly when most of the world is not expecting them. For those who heed the words of the prophets, we know what to expect.
For more Information:
1. The Coming of the Lord by Gerald N. Lund
2. Prophecy, Key to the Future by Duane S. Crowther
3. Behold, I come Quickly by Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr.
4. And the Moon Shall Turn to Blood by Anthony E. Larson
5. And the Earth Shall Reel To and Fro by Anthony E. Larson
6. And There Shall be a New Heaven and a New Earth
by Anthony E. Larson
7. The Plainest Book: Revelation by Anthony E. Larson
8. The Millennial Messiah by Bruce R. McConkie
9. The Second Coming and the Millennium, chapter 21,
Teachings of the Presidents of the Church – Joseph Smith
10. Toward the New Jerusalem by Alma P. Burton
Experimental reading of this essay on YouTube deleted.
The Mormon missionary experience has always been described as a rite of passage. It is a growing experience for most who serve. I learned that being a junior companion does not always mean submissive support. Our full participation and thoughtful contributions are needed for the success of the work of the Lord.
I shared the following as a comment on Dr. B’s missionary website, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, but felt it deserved a place on my own blog as well. It describes a life-changing moment for me that occurred early on my mission. The Lord blesses his missionaries when they try to do things the way he has asked, with full purpose of heart.
A missionary in Honduras
La Colonia Kennedy in Tegucigalpa had been worked over for many, many years before we got there in 1976. It was a world of dirt roads an no cars back then. Yet the field was still white and ready to harvest. My first companion, Elder DJ Webb had lined up a half dozen baptisms the first few weeks I was there.
We taught at least three or four discussions on my very first day and every day thereafter. I think we baptized a dozen or more in the six short weeks we were together. Obviously Elder Webb was a hard worker and trying to do what the Lord wanted. Being a senior companion can be hard, but I didn’t know anything about that.
Tracting builds character
One day we were tracting and came to a corner, wondering what to do next. Elder Webb looked at me and asked, “What do you think we should do, Elder Malone?” Up until that moment my focus had been on memorizing the discussions and conjugating verbs.
It was all I could do to keep up with Elder Webb, especially since he seemed so fluent in Spanish and I was still struggling with the language so much. I said, “I don’t know. You’re the senior companion. You tell me.”
Leaders make decisions
I don’t think I could have hurt him more if I had cut him with a knife. Poor guy! He was exercising so much faith and working so hard to make sure that I had a good start to my mission and I couldn’t see that he could have used a friend at that moment.
Patiently, but with some emotion betrayed in his voice, Elder Webb chastised me for not responding favorably to his request to share the burden of leadership. I was surprised by his lecture and listened closely, apologizing when he was through.
The Lord can teach us
“No problem,” he said and shrugged it off. He smiled and we went on our way, down the next row of close-packed houses that I remember so well in the Kennedy. But I continued to think about what he said and just for a moment, as I did, the spirit touched the eyes of my understanding and I saw Elder Webb in a different light.
From then on I did everything I could to be his friend and show him that we were on the same team. He seemed to mellow a bit after that and I noticed an increase in the spirit of our teaching and the tenor of our prayers. He was asking for help in his duty to lead the work in our area.
A great missionary companion
I later learned to appreciate what a great companion Elder Webb was as I gained experience in the mission and was able to compare him to other companions who didn’t work as hard and to a junior companion who gave me the same treatment once that I gave to him.
I can say without a doubt that Elder Webb was the hardest working companion I had and exactly the kind of first senior comp I needed to get my mission started off right. He taught me to think straight with one simple question, “What do you think we should do, Elder Malone?” I have been forever grateful.
Think for ourselves
He taught me to think straight and not be just a mindless, yet submissive missionary. I have been able to use this lesson many times over the years as I served in similar situations with bishops who were called because of their faithfulness and humility but could use some straight thinking from their counselors.
“What do you think?” might be the smartest words a bishop can ask of those who are called to assist him. It takes a humble man to solicit and accept counsel. And it is a wise counselor who has done some thinking and can offer sage advice in a spirit of love and encouragement.
The death of a loved one is always a time of tender feelings and reflection. We think upon the accomplishments of those who we have known but have now passed on. We marvel at their tremendous influence upon us, so constant, patient and kind.
The difficult times are forgotten, the cherished memories of sweet moments together are stirred up once again. Feelings of love are brought to our bosom as we think of the excitement of joys shared, beauty appreciated and sorrows overcome together.
We miss our loved ones. We miss their companionship and contributions to our lives. We wonder what they are doing now – who they are visiting and how they are feeling. We know the trials and pains of mortal life are over for them and are grateful.
I have finished my day’s work
Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserables, penned these words that I find comforting. “For half a century I have been writing my thoughts in prose and in verse – history, philosophy, drama, romance, tradition, satire, ode and song. I have tried it all.
“But I feel I have not said the thousandth part of what is in me. When I go down to the grave I can say, like many others, ‘I have finished my day’s work! But I cannot say, ‘I have finished my life.’ My day’s work will begin again the next morning.”
Harold B. Lee said, “Death of a loved one is the most severe test that you will ever face, and if you can rise above your griefs and if you will trust in God, then you will be able to surmount any other difficulty with which you may be faced.”
Death is but a door
Death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity. Death and love are the two wings that bear the good man or woman into heaven. Each departed loved one is a magnet that attracts us to the next world. We long to be with them once again.
For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity. Is death the last sleep? No, it is the last and final awakening. Your mother closed her eyes in peaceful slumber, and awakened with loved ones.
Death is a graduation day and a time of assessment to see what we have become. It is a mere comma, not an exclamation point! Let us remember that death is a form of life which we do not yet understand. Those who leave us are welcomed by others there.
We live on the other side
When God sends forth a tiny soul to learn the ways of earth, a mother’s love is waiting here – we call this wonder birth. When God calls home a fleeting breath, a Father’s love is waiting there. This too is birth – not death.
Death, though bitter to observe, is not the end, but is, rather, only another graduation from which we go on to a better life. While mortals mourn, “A good woman has died,” the angels proclaim, “A beautiful child is born.”
She is not dead, this friend; not dead, but, in the path we mortals tread, gone some few trifling steps ahead, and nearer to the end; so that you, too, once past the bend, shall meet again, as face to face, this friend you fancy dead.
Everyone must die
Everyone must die. Death is an important part of life. Of course, we are never quite ready for the change. Not knowing when it should come, we properly fight to retain our life. Yet we ought not be afraid of death.
Life is eternal; and love is immortal; and death is only a horizon; a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. Death is as the foreshadowing of life. We die that we may die no more. This world is the land of the dying; the next is the land of the living.
Who that hath ever been could bear to be no more? Yet who would tread again the scene he trod through life before? To find loved ones waiting on the shore, more beautiful, more precious than before. The only way to take the sorrow out of death is to take the love out of life.
Death is but a farewell
Dearest sister, thou hast left us, and thy loss we deeply feel, yet ‘tis God that has bereft us, He can all our sorrows heal. Yet again we hope to see thee, when death’s gloomy night has fled, in heaven with joy to greet thee, where no bitter tears are shed.
From Cicero, a great orator of ancient Rome, “Do not suppose, my dearest ones, that when I have left you I shall be nowhere and no one. Even when I was with you, you did not see my soul, but knew that it was in this body of mine from what I did.
“Believe then that it is still the same, even though you see it not. Wherefore, preserve my memory by the loyalty of your lives. Death is not a subject for mourning when it is followed by immortality. Beyond this vale of tears, there is life above.”
God saw her getting tired
God saw her getting tired; a cure was not to be. So he wrapped her in his loving arms and whispered, “Come with me.” She suffered much in silence, her spirit did not bend. She faced her pain with courage, until the very end.
She tried so hard to stay with us; her fight was all in vain. God took her to his loving home, and freed her from all the pain. We only really understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one who we love and takes them from us for a time.
Farewell, dear sister, we shall meet no more till we arrive on Canaan’s happy shore; There we shall meet at our Redeemer’s seat and cast our crowns of victory at His feet. For He is the resurrection and the life; giving hope to those who believe.
Death is not final
“Since the creation of man, no fact has been more certain as death with the close of mortality. When the last of life’s breath is drawn, there is a finality comparable to no other finality. Life is sacred, and death is somber. Life is buoyant and hopeful. Death is solemn and dark. It is awesome in its silence and certainty.
“But death is not final. Though it seems so when its dark shroud overshadows mortal life, to those who accept the Christ and His eternal mission there is light and comfort, there is assurance, there is certainty.” – President Gordon B. Hinckley
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
We are immortal beings
We believe that we are immortal beings. We believe in the resurrection of the dead, and that Jesus Christ came forth from the grave to everlasting life, his spirit and body uniting never more to be separated.
So has be opened the way for every son or daughter of Adam, whether living or dead, to come forth from the grave to a newness of life, to become immortal souls, body and spirit united, never to be severed any more. – Joseph F. Smith
In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
The resurrection is real
The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work; hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of the spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings and motions.
When you see men and women in the resurrection, we shall see them in the very bloom of their glorious manhood and womanhood, and he has promised all who would keep his commandments and obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the restoration of their houses, glorified, immortalized, celestialized, fitted to dwell in the presence of God.
“I am sure if we can imagine ourselves at our very best, physically, mentally, spiritually, that is the way we will come back – perhaps not as a child or youth, perhaps in sweet and glorious maturity, but not in age or infirmity or distress or pains or aches.” – Spencer W. Kimball
Let us not fear death
Men fear death as if it were unquestionably the greatest evil; and yet, no man knows that it may not be the greatest good. It is impossible that anything so natural, so necessary, and so universal as death should ever have been designed by Providence as an evil to mankind.
We picture death as coming to destroy; let us rather picture Christ as coming to save. We think of death as an ending; let us rather think of death as a beginning, and that more abundantly. We think of losing; let us think of gaining.
We think of going away; let us think of arriving. No man who is fit to live need fear to die. Death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity. As the voice of death whispers, “You must go from earth,” let us hear the voice of Christ saying…
Come unto Christ
Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter-day upon the earth.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. “All that is, at all, lasts ever, past recall; Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure. What entered into thee, that was, and is and shall be.” – Robert Browning
Very little in this essay is original with me. It is a collection of thoughts, poems and scriptures that I will be using in delivering a funeral sermon this Monday. if you desire to know the source of any of the quotations used, please let me know. I am not plagiarizing, I just don’t usually mention my sources when delivering the address.
Picture: Christ at the Door, Artist, Del Parson
© 2002 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
When considering the signs of the last days, most people are aware that they are all around us. One of the most obvious today is the sign of wars and rumors of wars. I’m sure it comes up every time a lesson on the last days is taught in a Sunday school class. We will probably not be without wars in the world until the time of the Savior’s return.
So also are Paul’s warnings in chapter three of second Timothy about the general state of human behavior. Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good…the list goes on and on.
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilences; and earthquakes in divers places. The Lord tells us to not be troubled as these things come to pass. He has told us in advance that these things must all happen. Can anyone doubt that so many prophesied signs of the last days are here?
Dramatic signs are yet to come
And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. All the inhabitants of the earth shall see this great sign. It will be talked about by everyone.
I have written previously about Joel 2:31 where the moon shall be turned to blood. Joel also mentions wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood and fire, and pillars of smoke. Earlier in the chapter he describes the coming of a great and strong people that come in the day of the Lord and bring with them destruction unlike any other army.
A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth. The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army. This is no mortal army. The Lord fights his battles with his own armies. What shall they be?
The armies of the Lord
Let’s look to the Book of Revelation for a great description of the armies of the Lord. John calls them locusts in chapter 9. These locusts will not hurt the green things of the earth so they are not insects. They swarmed like locusts, or appeared in droves, many hundreds or thousands at a time. When they arrived, the sound would be deafening.
If they are not actual locusts, what could John be describing? They had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. We know that prophets spoke in terms that are both symbolic and metaphoric. They had the appearance of horses prepared for battle and their faces are as the faces of men. And yet, they are not men. What are they?
When the Lord revealed the events of the last days to the ancient prophets, they described what they saw in terms of what they had experienced and seen in their own lifetimes. Perhaps what Joel and John were describing were swarms of meteorites flying in bands and taking various shapes, like horses racing in the sky or hosts of warriors leaping.
Catastrophic events of the last days
We who live in these last days have not yet seen what the prophets of old saw in vision so it seems unimaginable. But in a few short years we will be very familiar with what they were trying to describe. The Lord said that “immediately after those days,” meaning the days in which we now live, shall the prophesied signs of catastrophic proportion begin.
That is why the prophets of old warned us to look to the skies for these signs. We should not doubt or dismiss that the signs will appear. I am convinced that it will not be long before it becomes obvious to all the world that something unusual is about to happen. Then we will see the false prophets come out while the whole world pays attention.
However, the prophets of old and the Savior foretold all these things many, many years ago. The signs of the last days include more than the problems among the people of the earth. The heavens themselves will be in commotion. We will see amazing things that we have never seen before. They will be frightening and yes, some will be catastrophic.
Look to the past to understand the future
Some have interpreted locusts of Joel and John to be descriptions of modern warfare. Perhaps the hair of women they were seeing is really contrails of high altitude jets or ballistic missiles. The sound they described fits perfectly with modern jets and rockets. And yet the Lord says that the coming destructions will be sent by God and not by man.
The Lord said in D&C 29:9 that “the hour is nigh and the day soon at hand when the earth is ripe; and all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that wickedness shall not be upon the earth.” It is clear that the coming burning of the world will not be caused by man but by God.
The Lord will use what appears to man to be natural events. Oh sure, “A few comets and a few meteorites,” they will say. “It’s no big deal. These things happen all the time.” They also explained away the great fires of Peshtigo in 1871 as being nothing other than just really hot and dry conditions. Falling, burning sand is common? I don’t think so.
Summary and conclusion
I just want to go on record in advance before the heavens start to heat up and then drop burning things on us that the Lord foretold all these catastrophic events in advance. Let’s not act surprised and wonder why the prophets didn’t warn us. They have warned us over and over. Most people are ignorant or have dismissed it as nonsense from fools.
When the Lord speaks of the burning of the earth he is not kidding. The kind of burning we’re talking about is not your Al Gore, politically correct, give me money so we can do something about this man-made global warming. This burning will not be man made and it will not be a slow or gradual thing. It will come upon us suddenly, as if in an instant.
Call me a crackpot but I’m convinced that we are going to see events on a cataclysmic scale in just a few short years. All the signs point to it. The Lord is patient and there is much work to do in taking the gospel to all the world. But the time is not far distant that we will see the hand of the Lord fulfilled as signs in the heavens become frequent again.
Image of ancient comet swarm by permission of Don Dixon
Some of my past essays on Signs of the Times in the Last Days:
1. The Last Days are upon us
2. Signs of the Times and the Second Coming
3. There shall be greater signs in heaven
4. Just where exactly are the lost ten tribes?
5. And the stars shall fall from heaven
6. Has the prophecy in Joel 2:31 been fulfilled?
7. What kind of warnings do we prefer?
8. Eschatology – The study of what?
9. Miracles and natural laws
10. The desolation of abomination
11. Mormon Doctrine – Prophecy and the Last Days
Last week The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted a position paper in the online Newsroom entitled, “The Divine Institution of Marriage.” In the section on Tolerance an attempt is made to define the word and contrast it with the way the world uses it today – to condone – acceptance of wrongful behavior as the price of friendship.
Tolerance does not mean condone. As a gospel principle, tolerance means love and forgiveness of one another, not tolerating transgression. Just because someone practices tolerance does not imply that they accept sinful behavior. Acceptance of an individual does not necessarily mean that we approve of their behavior. We do not accept sin.
The definition of tolerance has changed over the years by those who use it in their efforts to change attitudes and prohibit practices that they define as discrimination. It has come to mean acceptance of sexual practices and orientations that are contrary to fundamental beliefs of society. We can be a tolerant people and yet not accept certain behavior.
Prophets have helped define tolerance
Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained, “Tolerance obviously requires a non-contentious manner of relating toward one another’s differences. But tolerance does not require abandoning one’s standards or one’s opinions on political or public policy choices. Tolerance is a way of reacting to diversity, not a command to insulate it from examination.”
Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “…there is a difference between tolerance and tolerate. Your gracious tolerance for an individual does not grant him or her license to do wrong, nor does your tolerance obligate you to tolerate his or her misdeed. That distinction is fundamental to an understanding of this vital virtue.” We do not tolerate wrongdoing.
“An erroneous assumption could be made that if a little of something is good, a lot must be better. Not so! Overdoses of needed medication can be toxic. Boundless mercy could oppose justice. So tolerance, without limit, could lead to spineless permissiveness. The Lord drew boundary lines to define acceptable limits of tolerance.” He made the rules.
Certain behavior is prohibited as sin
Many who advocate tolerance also declare that there is no sin. We as a church believe and teach otherwise. We disagree and speak out against both homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage on moral grounds. We also do not believe that it can be considered “hate speech” to make our position known. We are simply teaching God’s laws.
We have a right to identify and clearly teach what God has defined as sin. God has made it clear that marriage is to be between a man and a woman. We teach that marriage is ordained of God, that it is sacred, with the purpose being to bring children into the world. What God has ordained in marriage, man does not have the right to redefine or change.
We do not condemn those who feel the pull of same-sex attraction. We do not know why some struggle with this temptation. But we do teach that it is just that – a temptation. The Lord clearly identifies adultery and fornication as sin, so too is homosexual behavior. The inclination or temptation itself it not sin. It is only the behavior that becomes sin.
God judges behavior and so do we
In addition to being accused of intolerance and discrimination, we are often accused of judging, as if it is something wrong. God is the judge of all human behavior and has made it clear that he will not accept certain kinds of behavior in his kingdom. We follow his example and make judgments on behavior. There is nothing wrong with doing this.
We all must judge for ourselves what is good and what is evil. In fact, God commanded it. In John 7:24 he told us to judge righteous judgment. Nowhere in scripture does it say, “Thou shalt not judge.” The Joseph Smith translation of Matthew 7:1 reads, “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged: but judge righteous judgment.” What a difference.
“I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ…But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil…” (Moroni 7:16-17)
Opposition to same-sex marriage
The opposition of our church to same-sex marriage is not hostility toward homosexual men and women. Our objective is to protect the definition of marriage as only being between a man and a woman. We do not condone any kind of hostility towards those who identify themselves as homosexual. We love them as sons and daughters of God.
We feel that the recent court decisions in Massachusetts and California to allow same-sex marriage constitutes a serious threat to marriage and the family. Such a trend weakens the institution of marriage and will result in negative consequences for both adults and children. Traditional marriage is essential to society and especially to our children.
It is within the family that traditional moral values are propagated and protected. There is very strong agreement across America on what marriage is. The people in California voted on this issue just eight years ago. Over 61% of the voters decided that marriage should be defined as only between a man and a woman. This is a great moral issue.
Summary and conclusion
The statements in this essay were either taken from the position paper of the church or are derived from teachings of modern day apostles and prophets. We contend that this is a moral issue, which is why the church has taken a position and had asked the membership to become involved in advocating that position. I agree with the position of the church.
We do not accept the definition that some use for the word tolerance to mean approval or acceptance of behavior. We love and accept all individuals as children of God, regardless of their actions, but we do not condone certain kinds of behavior that God has defined as sin. Our opposition to same-sex marriage should not be construed as discrimination.
Despite my authoritative tone in this essay, please remember that I do not speak for the church, but have attempted here to restate the position of the church on this issue as I understand it. This is simply an attempt to use my best efforts to support the coalition of churches and other organizations to preserve and protect traditional marriage – Yes on 8.
Disclaimer and warning: This essay is very different from my usual theological discourse. It describes a somewhat personal and difficult problem for me. It is written from a male ‘blue’ point of view. I suspect that it is not something with which my readers of the fairer sex will sympathize. I post this essay in much fear and trepidation as I am revealing a problem without a solution, at least not one that I have been able to discover.
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When I was a young man, I used to dream about being the best computer tech support person in the world. I knew what I wanted and knew the path to get it. I was confident in what I was seeking. I had a plan and I could see myself in the position that I wanted. It was my goal to have the kind of job where I knew all the answers and could be paid to dispense knowledge.
I knew I wanted to study and work in computers. I was passionate about them. I knew that I would be using them all my life and wanted to be an expert. So I became one. I kept moving up the ladder until I now have a dream job as an IT Manager, a technical support guru. I am well paid to be the answer man for all technical problems at a very profitable company.
I achieved the dream. I accomplished what I set out to do. Now what? In earlier days I would seek for a better job, which invariably would include a better salary. I would find it, negotiate for it and land the job. But I can’t do that now because I already have the ultimate job for a techie like me. What do you do when you have accomplished and realized your dream?
The highest need in a man
Emerson Eggerichs identified the problem well for me when he postulated that the highest need in a man is the need for conquest. He identifies conquest as the desire to work and to achieve. He also teaches that men desire respect and honor more than anything else. I fully identify with that. In my experience, such thinking has been totally foreign to the women in my life.
The first time men meet each other in a social setting, invariably one will say to the other, “So, what do you do?” That implies of course, what the other man does for a living. It’s how men identify themselves – by their work. It’s as if they are saying to one another, “So, what have you accomplished with your life?” Most men want others to respond with respect.
I’m at that age where I want to be able to say that I’ve done more with my life than that I became an alpha geek. Sure, there are others who are geekier than me and many who are paid more than I am for the same kind of work, but it’s not about the money. Frankly, the technology is boring. I’m more excited by the challenge of helping others feel comfortable with technology.
Men do what they do for admiration
Before I was married, the formation of my dreams and aspirations were motivated by the love of one woman – my mother. I wanted to please her. I wanted her to admire and respect what I had become. A big part of my early success in my life and career I attribute to my mother. I could tell that she was proud of me and my chosen line of work. She told me so many times.
I used to change jobs very often when I was single. I used my jobs as stepping stones to get experience for better jobs. I wasn’t interested in longevity or long-term commitments. I sought the jobs that were a little bit of a stretch for me, won them and then discarded them after I had conquered them. My need for conquest was being met big time early in my career.
Once I married, I could no longer manage my life in this selfish manner. I had to learn to think for two instead of one. The first time I quit a job after we were married, I quickly realized that things were different. Health insurance had never been a concern. As we were expecting our first child, it became evident that I had made a very costly and a very selfish mistake.
Responsibility requires sacrifice
I still quit jobs in search of new challenges. But over time, I have stayed with jobs longer and longer, mainly to provide a sense of stability for my family. I think I have become responsible and reliable. I hope I provide my wife some foundation of security. I know that’s important to her. I don’t have that need. I have very little attachment to the material things of this life.
In order to provide security and stability I have had to suppress my need for conquest. I usually can master a new job within the first few months. It doesn’t take long to accomplish most of the objectives outlined in the job interview. Once that is done, the job becomes maintenance work and that’s not something I enjoy. I need the thrill of mastering something difficult.
About six months into every new job, I experience a crisis as the urge to move on comes upon me once again. But being the responsible man that I have become, I stick it out and keep trying to come up with new ideas to make the job interesting and exciting. It is a sacrifice to stick with the unfulfilling job in order to provide something better – the security that our family needs.
Defining the undefined dream
I have reached the pinnacle of my career. I have a cushy job that most men envy. I get to work from home most of the time and can set my own hours. In a sense I am self-employed yet I have the security of a steady paycheck, great health insurance as well as a regular bonus and a raise each year. What more could a man ask? I should be very happy and contented, right? Wrong.
There is something nagging at me. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I call it the undefined dream. There is this deep sense that there is something I am supposed to do with my life and that I am not yet doing it. I sense that it is waiting there for me, just out of reach, beckoning me and making its presence known. I haven’t yet been able to identify it or discover what it is.
I ponder about it. I pray about it. I go to the temple and ask the Lord to reveal it to me. I think about it constantly. I dream about it. I write about it. I wonder what it is. I ask myself why I can’t define it. I think about connecting the dots of all the things that have brought me to this place in my life. Surely the Lord had a hand in all this. I am not where I am just by chance.
Summary and conclusion
If you have been a regular reader of my essays you know that I am very formulaic. I like to write in sections of three paragraphs each. I like my sentences short. I like my paragraphs to be only four of five sentences. And I always have a summary and conclusion. Today, I can summarize but I have not come to a conclusion. I am stuck and am in need of wisdom from others.
Am I the only man who has experienced this kind of mid-life crisis? Carol calls it my mid-year crisis. Do you see the problem? Have I identified it clearly? I know I am blessed beyond measure compared to most people in this world. Yet I struggle to find fulfillment. Am I just being selfish? Do I just need to forget about me and lose myself in the service of others?
Lest you get the wrong impression, let me clarify that this is not about my service in the kingdom or my testimony. That is very rewarding and fulfilling. It is about my day-to-day work, which is where I spend the majority of my time. Perhaps I should look elsewhere for fulfillment and see the job for what it is – just a way to pay the bills. What would you do in my situation?
In May of 1993 I was working as an editor and publisher in the computer industry. My job required a lot of research and sourcing of material on the Internet. This was in the very earliest days of the World Wide Web. In fact, most of the material I obtained did not come from web pages but from mailing lists and online databases or FTP archives.
Although my job did not require it, I subscribed to a couple of LDS mailing lists. Part of my daily routine was to participate in the discussion that took place on Mormon-L. It is one of the oldest LDS lists, established in 1988 on one of the list servers at BYU. The discussions there were very similar to what we blog about today but mostly tamer.
One exception was a blow-up over an address given by Boyd K. Packer to the All-Church Coordinating Council. It can be found on several locations on the Internet. I prefer the formatting of the talk as presented on Light Planet. Without a doubt, it has been one of the most discussed and argued about addresses by a General Authority even to this day.
Background of the address
Early in his assignment to supervise Seminaries and Institutes, Elder Packer received counsel from President Harold B Lee who said, “You must decide now which way you face. Either you represent the teachers and students and champion their causes or you represent the Brethren who appointed you. You need to decide now which way you face.”
Elder Packer then gave a few examples demonstrating the concept of being corrected or even reproved by those presiding over him in the leadership of the Church. He describes how difficult it is to be submissive to changes requested, even to the point of accepting changes in talks given in General Conference. I love Elder Packer’s conference talks.
In his talk he mentions the worldwide evaporation of values and standards within politics, government, society, entertainment and education. He then briefly discusses drift taking place even within the church and points out how critical it is that we recognize and take corrective action. He reminds us that these are signs of danger foretold for the last days.
The three areas of danger
Elder Packer did not speak in generalities that day. He was very specific and direct in his remarks. He clearly identified that, “There are three areas where members of the Church, influenced by social and political unrest, are being caught up and led away. I chose these three because they have made major invasions into the membership of the Church.
“In each, the temptation is for us to turn about and face the wrong way, and it is hard to resist, for doing it seems so reasonable and right. The dangers I speak of come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.
“Our local leaders must deal with all three of them with ever-increasing frequency. In each case, the members who are hurting have the conviction that the Church somehow is doing something wrong to members or that the Church is not doing enough for them.” He then mentions a recent conference address by President Benson on working mothers.
Counsel from a prophet
After reading excerpts of letters from members of the church demonstrating that each of these three areas are troubling to some, Elder Packer then offers the following counsel. Without diminishing the validity of the concerns expressed in the letters, he points out that without a true understanding of the plan of salvation, life will always seem unfair.
“That young man with gender disorientation needs to know that gender was not assigned at mortal birth, that we were sons and daughters of God in the premortal state. The woman pleading for help needs to see the eternal nature of things and to know that…she will find no enduring peace in the feminist movement. There she will have no hope.
Referring to an individual who offered to mediate between the scholarly community and the direction from the prophets he says, “The one who supposes that he ‘understands the mind-set of both groups’ needs to understand that the doctrines of the gospel are revealed through the Spirit to prophets, not through the intellect to scholars.”
Fifteen years later
Elder Packer was roundly criticized by many on the list for his perceived insensitivity to individuals and groups he mentioned in his talk. The criticism was so bad that it came to the attention of the leading councils of the church. The distribution of the list was kicked off the BYU servers. To many, this seemed like an attempt to squelch intellectual dialog.
You probably remember what happened to some within the scholarly community later that year. The plights of the September Six have been written up and discussed many times since then. I wonder if the same thing would have happened today. I can assure you that the dialog on LDS forums today is so much worse than what happened then.
The point of my essay is not to comment on President Packer’s condemnation of these three groups. I am not a member of any one of the groups so I can’t understand how it must have felt to have been identified as a grave threat and danger to the church. I only want to point out that today I believe we are more tolerant of dialog and even dissent.
Summary and conclusion
I love Elder Packer. He is one of my favorite apostles. His counsel over the years has helped and strengthened me tremendously. His health these days is not the best. I would not be surprised if he is called home soon. My wife’s family knows many of Elder Packer’s family as they are from Brigham City. I feel that he is like a distant relative.
I did not really understand the violent reaction to his talk back in 1993. Most members of the church were not even aware of what had transpired and most still don’t today. I felt bad for him. I know he was trying to be helpful. I have always felt that Elder Packer is one who, like Elder McConkie, has always tried to keep the caravan on the right path.
My apologies to those who read this post based on the title expecting to find some essay condemning gays, feminists and intellectuals. I hope you have not come away with that idea at all. I sincerely hope that we have become more tolerant over the years. I also hope that we have learned not to take offense when a prophet tries to give us counsel.
There are many levels of faith and testimony within members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some are lifelong members that have been recently exposed to anti-Mormon literature or have discovered an Ex-Mormon website. Others are new members that have been asked questions by their friends from their former faith.
FAIR, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research can provide answers to some of those disturbing questions that are not always answered on the official LDS websites. It is an all volunteer organization of researchers and writers who have dealt with these age-old questions over the years in various formats and from multiple sources.
When I started blogging last year, I almost immediately began to get objecting comments from readers about some of my essay topics that they found difficult to accept. For example, I wrote about a discussion in a marriage group that Carol and I enjoyed as presented by our friends from the Church of the Nazarene in our neighborhood.
The question of marriage in heaven
The subject was marriage in heaven, which came up in one of the concluding lessons of the wonderful seminar from Emerson Eggerichs entitled Love and Respect. As I did then, I still heartily endorse it as one of the best marriage enrichment experiences of my life. Learning about pink and blue communication methods has changed so much for me.
In my essay I described the LDS view of marriage, especially how it relates to our marriage relationship in the eternities. Emerson had pointed out the scripture in Matthew 22:30 and said that we are not married in heaven but are angels to God. Of course we believe that we are married in heaven and I gave some scriptural justification for it.
An anonymous commenter decided to take exception to my explanation and began to berate me for believing in a false prophet and belonging to a church that taught false doctrines. It seems that every time I have brought up the subject of marriage in my blog I get someone objecting to some aspect of our beliefs. Why is it such a difficult subject?
How I answered the challenge
Although I was familiar with FAIR, I decided to answer my commenter from my own experience, using a technique from my missionary days. I am convinced that almost all objections to our doctrine can be answered by one simple question. Does the Book of Mormon contain revelation from God? If so, then Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet.
Of course if Joseph was a prophet then the church he established is the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days. To me, that always leads to the importance of authority to act in the name of God and therefore, keys of the priesthood. With these keys, families can be sealed together for eternity. Hence we are assured that there is marriage in heaven.
There is a wealth of material on this subject on the FAIR site that I could have added to the dialog that perhaps would have helped my anonymous friend. There are answers there to difficult questions and beliefs of the restored gospel unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Eternal marriage is a difficult one for many people.
How FAIR can help with these challenges
For example, this one-page response from Marc A. Schindler says it so much better than I can. This challenge comes up so often in blogging that every LDS blogger should be familiar with the contents. It would almost seem to me that some who like to question our faith cruise the LDS blogs just looking for this subject so they can quote Matt 22:30.
The FAIR website is easy to use. Besides providing material that is original to FAIR, they are also kind enough to point to other outside sources that have additional helps. In this case, a link to an Ensign article from Feb 1986 and a link to an entry on Light Planet by W. John Walsh are both extremely helpful. This particular objection is very common.
When you refer your friends or readers to these essays on FAIR, you are engaging in what is called Apologetics. If you are not familiar with the term, it might be helpful to read this essay by Gary Bowler. No, we are not apologizing for what we believe. We are defending our faith. We strengthen our own knowledge and testimonies at the same time.
Additional resources available on FAIR
I have been engaging in email dialogs and frequenting online message boards that deal with the topic of religion for many years. FAIR began as a group of individuals like me, who love to discuss religion, got together to create a central repository for their resources and shared articles that they had written. FAIR has been around now for about ten years.
The site has grown over the years and become more and more useful. Besides the topical guide, they recently created a Wiki, that is easy to navigate and fairly comprehensive. If you are not familiar with a wiki, think Wikipedia, one of the most popular sites on the Internet. The real advantage of a wiki is the community contributions with hyperlinks.
The FAIR journal is a monthly email newsletter that contains news of changes to the FAIR websites and lists of new material that has been published in the last month. I highly recommend this free service. You can join FAIR as a member on several different levels. Content providers are welcome as the wiki is constantly in need of additions.
Summary and conclusion
Perhaps you have no intention of engaging in apologetics. I feel the same way. I like to present uplifting and faith-promoting essays on my blog. Most of the subjects I deal with include some aspect of LDS doctrine that is not common to my readers who do not share my faith. Because of this, I often find myself defending my viewpoints in the comments.
I love blogging about the church and the restored gospel. It has blessed my life so much and in so many ways. I am completely convinced that living the restored gospel of Jesus Christ can solve all the problems of the world. I have often said that we have so much more to offer than other churches. Of course, we don’t say this arrogantly, but it is true.
FAIR can help explain and defend the parts of our religion that are not familiar to people. Of course, our own personal explanations and witness are the best. But we may not always be familiar with all the scriptures and quotes from prophets and apostles that can back up our claims. That’s where FAIR can help. It is an easy to use online resource.
My sister works for an apostle. Obviously she sees and knows quite a lot about the men who lead this church. She has a lot of respect for their privacy and is a trusted employee. Because of that trust, she is very careful about what she shares with family members.
Oh sure, we’ll hear about family vacations and where an apostle is visiting, but really nothing other than that. I appreciate that. I don’t ask her to share more than she does. I know she appreciates that. The only thing I’ll occasionally ask for are conference tickets.
I’ve often thought about how hard it must be to serve as an apostle these days. They seem to be the lightning rod for a lot of criticism by disaffected church members. I’m not quite sure why that is. Perhaps they are looking for someone to blame for their unhappiness.
Apostles I have known
Think about the apostles you have known. Perhaps you have met one in a stake conference. Perhaps one visited your mission. Maybe one is your neighbor. Most members of the church will never meet an apostle. That’s sad in some ways. I know they wish it were otherwise.
I claim no special insights into the lives of our current apostles. I miss the old apostles from my youth and childhood. I enjoy the counsel and leadership of our current quorum of the twelve. They are mortal men and some are very old. We will probably lose one or two in the near future.
I’ve often wondered what kind of preparation these men received to serve in the callings they now enjoy. I am convinced that the majority of their preparation was in the pre-earth life. They just seem to have something about them that exudes authority and confidence in spiritual things.
The Lord’s anointed
You can read the biographies of most of the apostles of this dispensation somewhere online. If you dig enough you can find some interesting stories about them that you won’t hear in General Conference. Like you and me, these men are imperfect and pass through trials and tests of life.
These men did not place themselves in the positions they are in. They were also not voted in by a popularity contest. They served faithfully in every calling they were given and were noticed by other priesthood leaders for their faithfulness, diligence, love of the Lord and their fellow man.
If you have ever met an apostle, I’m sure you can appreciate that they have something special about them. They are the Lord’s anointed, meaning that they have been ordained and set apart in the priesthood to represent the Lord as special witnesses. That’s a very significant term.
Representing the Lord
I wonder how many people really understand what an awesome responsibility it is to represent the Lord. Priesthood holders have a taste for it every time they act in an official capacity to bless or to counsel, especially as a bishop. But to be a special witness – what does that mean?
I’ve read many things over the years about this phrase – special witness. Many have written that a requirement is to have received an open vision of the Savior. Oliver Cowdery taught that the ordination to the Apostleship is not complete until God has laid his hand upon them.
In other words, there are some things that can be and are received by revelation that are too sacred to reveal. They are too personal to share because they are between you and the Lord. I have written about this previously, but my witness is not that of an apostle or special witness.
Acting on behalf of the Lord
It hurts me when I read some of the things disaffected members of the church write about the current leadership of the church. I wonder how many of them really know what these men are like. I know that they have your best interests at heart. They want only what the Lord wants.
I think that’s a hard concept for some people to understand, especially disaffected members. They want only what the Lord wants. Think about that. I promise you there is no desire for personal gain or recognition in their hearts. All they do is motivated by a love of the Lord.
If they are physically able, I know they are happiest when they are out among the people in some capacity to carry on the Lord’s work – a large conference of some sort or a leadership meeting. Most of them are great orators but their words in private are filled with just as much love.
Sustained by the church
We raised our hands to sustain these Brethren as Prophets, Seers and Revelators. I know they appreciate that. I also know that they need and appreciate our prayers. It is impossible for us to write them individually or to meet with them regularly but we can do something for them.
These men need our prayers. Because they represent the Lord as the visible leadership of His church on the earth, they are often the target of mean and vicious written attacks. It is a sad and very unfortunate thing. It is not a small matter and it seems to be getting worse lately.
I hope that we pray regularly for our apostles and prophets. They have told us often that they feel our prayers on their behalf. When they stand up for things that are unpopular and hard to hear, they are blessed by the Lord because, like Lehi, they asked us to repent or do hard things.
Summary and conclusion
Like many of you have observed lately, we are seeing a distinct separation within the church over the First Presidency’s endorsement of the Marriage Protection amendment in California. The faithful, covenant members are striving to do as the First Presidency has asked.
The disaffected members are complaining, some bitterly, that this is wrong and they will not do it. Fine, just don’t fight against the Lord’s anointed. You don’t want to be on that side when the time comes to explain to the Lord how you stood when the Prophet asked you to do something.
I am confident that we can trust the leadership of our prophets and apostles. I am certain that they represent the Lord well in what they have asked us to do. I don’t believe this is a small matter – it has eternal consequences. It is a difficult matter and for some, it is a hard thing to do.
In our Pearl of Great Price Summer Institute class this evening we studied Joseph Smith History verses one through twenty. You know the story. It’s the First Vision. We had a substitute teacher this evening, a judge from the local divorce court. He’s funny and shoots from the hip so he invited discussion. There were a lot of First Vision stories shared both from the first time hearing and the first time sharing, as a missionary.
There has been much discussion on the Bloggernacle about “The One True Church.” When we got to verse nineteen, I eagerly anticipated some discussion about The Lord’s response to Joseph when he asked which church he should join. I thought someone would bring up, as I have read in so many comments on various LDS blogs, why it is so offensive to claim that we are “The One True Church,” and that all others are wrong.
Nothing. Nobody said anything. So I raised my hand and volunteered that there was a lot of truth in other churches and a lot of good people in other churches. I wondered aloud if anybody had run across this argument before that we are considered arrogant and perhaps downright insulting to others when we make this claim. Nope. Nobody. These are all young adults, most born and raised in the church but a few converts, some recent.
Perhaps it’s just a Bloggernacle thing
I have written about this subject before. Several others have written about it lately and have been taken to task for making such a claim. I am a little puzzled. Is it or is it not an issue to others who consider what we have to offer? I think of the sister in Sacrament meeting sitting next to her husband, who is not a member of our faith, when the speaker bears testimony, “I know that we are the only true and living church on the earth today.”
We discussed the Lord’s response: “…all their creeds were an abomination in his sight.” Creeds of course are statements or professions of belief, in this case religious beliefs. The most well-known are the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed and the Apostles Creed. Many religious groups have and use creeds. Labeling them as abominations is certainly harsh. It means exceptionally detestable, loathsome, hateful, wicked or vile.
The Lord also said that the professors of these creeds were all corrupt; that “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” I wonder if the Lord meant the preachers or the believers when he referred to professors. Either way, it is quite a condemnation to be called corrupt by the Lord, isn’t it?
They were all wrong
But the part of the Lord’s response that seems to have sparked the most debate over the years, and it continues today on the LDS blogs and discussion forums, is the instruction to Joseph that he “must join none of them for they were all wrong…” I think it is the idea of rightness and wrongness that some people find offensive. I can only imagine that they must say to themselves that Joseph made this whole thing up, for how could the Lord say such a thing? All churches are good that teach of God, right?
Why is the concept of rightness and wrongness so important in a religion? This is the thing that bothered Joseph so much as he considered which church to join. He wrote that the people argued with each other about points of doctrine and each claimed to be right. He also pointed out that they lost all good feelings one for another because of their arguments. I see the same thing happening today right here in many of our LDS blogs.
Intelligent discussion on a group blog is one thing but it so often descends to personal attacks that you are right and they are wrong. Yet when I visit the blogs of some of these individuals I note that the contents of their blogs are mostly uplifting and contain essays that are right in line with the “orthodox” views of most members of the church. I really had to laugh the other day when one blogger wrote, “My opinions are orthodox. The rest of you are nuts.”
Religious discussions are healthy
I guess it all depends on what you seek in your religion and in your discussions on the subject. Some are looking for intellectual stimulation and want to explore viewpoints that are perhaps not basic to our revealed theology. Others want to engage in dialog on a subject that has bothered them and are looking for clarification or justification from others. There are probably as many reasons why people discuss religion as there are people who discuss religion. I personally am looking for understanding of the views of others.
I hate arguments. I don’t care to prove my points right or wrong. I believe that truth can stand on its own. There have been so many defenders of the faith before me who have done a masterful job of explaining what we believe. We have a wealth of history and religious discourse over the years. We can draw upon our heritage of published writings to keep us busy for a lifetime if we could find the time to digest and summarize it.
I love most of the blogs I read that are listed on my sidebar. I don’t have the time to comment on all of them but enjoy reading the comments of those who do. There are some incredibly smart and faithful people out there. Thank you all for your lively discussions and for making your points of view understood. Your dialog helps me in my personal efforts to study the gospel. I am drawn to the scriptures over and over again through your remarks.
Summary and conclusion
The claim that we are right has been a central part of our religion from even before the church was organized. It’s not going to go away. It’s also something for which we do not need to apologize. It is based on scripture. This church is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” Yes, the Lord’s statement that all the other churches are all wrong is a bold statement, but it is fundamental to Mormonism.
There is much good in other churches. There are so many good people who do so much good as part of their faith and belief. We do not force people to accept our claim to be the only true church. We simply present the evidence of the revealed word to the prophet Joseph and invite them to decide for themselves if it has credence or not. We can simply add our testimony and witness that we have found it to be true by our own study and prayer. Without arguing, we can discuss the doctrine and enjoy the spirit in our work.
I enjoy the confidence and surety that comes from this personal testimony that I belong to the only true church. I hope that it never becomes a stumbling block to anyone else. It is not something that we wave in the face or rub in the noses of others. I know that others do not enjoy this confidence. In fact, there are some who do not believe the doctrine and yet still associate with our church. They are welcome. I hope they feel that welcome.