Confessions of a Mormon Blogger


MembersFacingDisciplineI thought about entitling this “Lessons Learned from Church Discipline,” but I don’t want that to be the main focus of this post. First, to be clear: In spite of rumors to the contrary, I am not under any restrictions or church discipline. I turned in my temple recommend because I felt I no longer qualified – all based on my understanding of the way I thought a question had to be answered.

So Easy to Be Judged and Misunderstood

One of the things I learned is how offensive this action is to some people. I was truly shocked by the number of private and public emails, blog comments and Facebook comments from people who expressed disappointment, shock and even anger at what I had done. To them, it was as if I had turned my back on the church and was declaring myself a non-believer or even an apostate.

Wisdom in Keeping Some Things Private

I also learned the wisdom of following counsel to keep some things private. I am now certain I misinterpreted my priesthood leader’s request to not write about this on my blog or Facebook. I thought he meant to not share the private details of the conversations, which I haven’t. I believe now he meant to not share *anything* about the process. Too many people have misunderstood.

Yet Open Dialog Helped and Persuaded

OK, so I’m a fool. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for the conversations that ensued with wonderful input from some of my friends who helped me understand what that temple recommend question really means. As they have shared, just because you read material from individuals who have now been excommunicated, it does not mean you are no longer worthy of a temple recommend.

Come to Understand Certain Key Words

You’d think I would know better. I’ve probably conducted hundreds of recommend interviews over the years but never had anyone say anything other than “no” when asked the affiliation question. I thought deeply about those three words: a) support, b) affiliate, and c) agree. They refer to “teachings or practices that are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the church.”

Stigma of Being Labeled an Apostate

I have spent two and a half years reading, studying and trying to understand the writings of one LDS author who has now been excommunicated. In spite of this, I am more confident to answer that last temple recommend question “yes.” There are many, many things in his writings which caused my heart to burn and with which I agreed as I studied them. I found much truth in them.

Support, Affiliation and Agreement

Once this author was excommunicated, I had to answer the question for myself if I supported, affiliated or agreed with his teachings. I made up my mind he was not teaching new things, he was simply offering his interpretations of key scripture. I happen to agree with many of those interpretations. Did that make me an apostate, especially since I intended to go to his lectures?

Responses Based on Both Love and Fear

I discovered the idea of reading the material of a now-excommunicated author and especially my intention of attending a couple of his lectures was particularly offensive to some of the people I know and with whom I keep in touch on Facebook. It confused me. What motivated such words of condemnation? How had I threatened them by my intentions? Were they really that insecure?

Seek Learning by Study and Also by Faith

This particular author is presenting a series of lectures along the Wasatch Front. I purchase the recordings, study the transcripts and write blog posts about them. I do this because I have asked the Lord in prayer for knowledge on opening the heavens, which is the subject being addressed. I have learned answers to private, individual prayer are difficult to explain to those not involved.

Must Experience It Yourself to Relate

It reminded me of my missionary days and the salt analogy from President Packer. I had tasted salt. In my personal and private prayers, I received undeniable witnesses I was on the right path for me. The Lord was pleased with my studies, my efforts to understand the truth and my future intentions to deepen that understanding through attending lectures discussing profound doctrines.

Takes Time to Understand Deep Doctrine

After many discussions, Carol has agreed to attend two of the lectures with me in July, although I know it is not something she really wants to do. As part of my “due diligence” in forming my opinion and ascertaining truth for myself, I felt it important to experience the lectures in person. There’s nothing like hearing someone teach in order to get a better understanding of their spirit.

Continue to Invest in Close Relationships

That brings up another thing I learned – the importance of lots of open conversations with others in your family who are invested in your spiritual standing with the Lord and the church. I tried to reassure Carol over and over that my many hours of studying this material – along with studying the scriptures – will NOT lead me away from her, from the LDS church or from our Savior.

United as a Family in This Challenge

I believe Carol has a right to participate in my upcoming counseling session with the Bishop and Stake President this week. I intend to ask them if she can attend the meeting. Ordinarily, such interviews and counseling about temple worthiness are conducted separately, even when husband and wife are being interviewed for the recommend renewal process. That’s just the way it is.

Surprise at the Rapid Growth of the BlogGrowthOfBlog

I am extremely appreciative of the thousands of people who read my blog. Each time I write a post, it goes into the news feeds or email boxes of people all around the world. I know because I have reviewed the list of subscribers. There are many additional thousands who come to read my blog each time I post something new. Hundreds have joined the dialog to share their comments.

Thoughtful Comments From Blog Readers

For the most part, readers and commenters on the blog are civil and respectful toward each other, even though my subjects tend to cause strong feelings. There are those who are supportive of the conclusions I have reached in my studies and those who see them as heretical or false doctrine. I am constantly reminding my readers I am not teaching doctrine – only expressing my opinions.

Facebook Readers are a Different Breed

On the other hand, I notice the dialog on Facebook has a different tone. It seems more combative with occasional personal attacks. For a while I disconnected my Facebook connection to the blog until I saw how many hundreds of readers came from Facebook. Every blogger seeks readership and I am no different. I write to be read with the hope of being understood, otherwise why write?

Grossly Uninformed but Still Opinionated

Many of my readers have taken the time to read, study or otherwise come to an understanding of some of Denver Snuffer’s commentary on the scriptures. Others have a cursory comprehension based on the summaries of others. That’s unfortunate. They come across as misinformed and even bigoted because they have missed the wonderful depth of doctrine that he has explicated.

A Closed Mind is a Dangerous Thing

It never ceases to amaze me that people want to talk about Denver as opposed to my desire to discuss the scriptures he has opened to unorthodox interpretation. It also surprises me how many people are adamant they know such interpretations are wrong because they do not fit what we have taught in the standard historical narrative over the years. Their minds are closed – period.

Equally Yoked – Both Love to Write

Carol and I have discussed this often with specific examples of individual cases from my blog. Since Carol is a writer with some experience and skill, having invested thousands of hours in her craft, I know she can relate when people are dismissive of her ideas about superior ways to get a story across. I am grateful for my dear wife who accepts the importance of continually learning.

Edifying Content Can be Controversial

When I first started sharing my study notes, observations and commentary on the things I was learning from this writer, I was surprised at the polarity in the feedback. One of the best tools of a writer is persuasion. Everyone should learn to write persuasively. Writing with passion is also a skill that helps get your point across. But there is a difference between passion and ad hominem.

Persuasion Part of Power in the Priesthood

As I have attempted to share what I have learned about certain uplifting subjects such as power in the priesthood, it became clear even long-time members of the church do not understand the source of that power and the only authorized way the Lord endorses our exercise of that power. They seem to be confused between authority and power even though it’s such a basic doctrine.

LDS Bloggers Being Excommunicated

Because I have written so much about what I have learned by studying the scriptures behind the doctrines expounded by this particular writer, I became concerned as I was made aware of others who were being excommunicated for what appeared to be simply reading and commenting on the same books I was studying. My fellow bloggers were excommunicated for endorsing a book.

Practices of Fear and Control in the Church

I knew about the Strengthening Church Members Committee from the excommunications of the September Six back in 1993. I remember those days. It put a real damper on intellectual pursuit of the doctrines of the gospel. It initiated a period of time where nobody dared to ask questions anymore for fear of being reported by the SCMC committee to their local priesthood leaders.

Strengthening Church Members Committee

Now, I don’t think the SCMC is particularly looking to find fault with my material, but I have to wonder at some of the IP addresses in my logs that come from downtown Salt Lake City. I know I have readers in the Church Office Building. Some of them have written and called me. I have enjoyed our discussions. Thousands of readers come from Utah but don’t comment. That’s okay.

Guidelines from the Church PR Department

I’m not paranoid. I’m just concerned, especially after learning of the excommunications of some of my fellow bloggers who write about the same subjects. In light of the disciplinary action for Brent Larsen, Will Carter, John Dehlin, Kate Kelly and Rock Waterman, the church recently responded with some helpful guidelines. My friend Log helped me parse the church statement:

  1. Insisting on changes to “Church” doctrines or structure.
  2. Recruiting others.
  3. Creating organized groups. <—- that’s “affiliate”.
  4. Staging public events.
  5. Creating literature. <—- books and blogs qualify.

Tone of Your Writing Determines Response

Based on these guidelines, there’s no doubt the church IS looking at the blogs of the members, searching for content with the wrong “tone.” Clearly, “How and why one asks is as important as the questions we’re asking.” I hope I’ve made it clear. I have questions but I don’t feel there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t consider them doubts or present them as such to anyone else.

Leave Official Doctrine Up to the Church

Another key for LDS bloggers is to avoid teaching. Leave that up to the church. Pondering and speculation are OK. Some doubt the profitability of speculation. I don’t. I love to consider “what if” scenarios. I guess it’s the computer guy in me. I do that all the time at work. Otherwise, you might find yourself called in by your Bishop or Stake President asking specifics about your blog.

Future Direction of My Blog

To close this post, and hopefully encourage some of my readers who wonder about where I’m going with this, I thought it might be helpful to share my conversation with Carol in our weekly family council this afternoon. Because she loves me and seeks reassurance, she is also concerned about what I am doing with my blog, my studies and what I intend to do with what I am learning.

Reassurance is Always Helpful

We went over the five points of testimony. I assured her I know God lives. We pray together as a couple each morning and night. My personal prayers are rich, rewarding and fulfilling. I know my Savior lives and loves me. I feel His presence during the day. I am certain he walks with me and is very interested in how I respond to the daily challenges I face with work and my blog.

My Testimony and One of my Questions

I know Joseph was a prophet of the Lord and received keys to administer this latter-day work. I know he received the priesthoods – both Aaronic and Melchizedek – and passed on the Aaronic priesthood to the church. The power of the Mechizedek priesthood must be received by each of us individually. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God, translated by the gift of God.

God Bless our Prophets and Apostles

Some have expressed difficulty with my qualifications of the priesthood as I have described it above. That’s one of the questions I am working out in my own mind. I sustain each of the fifteen men to whom we have given the title of “Prophet, Seer and Revelator” in this church by common consent. I pray for them each night. I am happy to pay my tithing to the LDS Church.

Acceptance of Local Priesthood Counsel

I look forward to receiving counsel from my local priesthood leaders this week. I plan to fast all day before our meeting as I seek to be humble before the Lord. I intend to accept and implement any counsel they offer, or any discipline they feel needs to be administered. However, if asked to remove my blog, I will need to talk to the Lord about that as I feel He approves of my blogging.

Need Official Guidelines for LDS Bloggers

Note: I started blogging in 2007 just slightly prior to this invitation from Elder Ballard for LDS Members to get involved in the “online conversations” about the church. It sure has taken a long time for the church to finally start coming up with some guidelines about what is and isn’t acceptable in our blogging efforts.  I wonder what took them so long. Didn’t expect this kind of response?

True Order of Prayer – Part Two


Adam-and-Eve-Kneeling-at-Altar-PrayingLast week, I dedicated an altar in my home and prayed according to the true order of prayer as I have been taught in the temple. It was an amazing experience that opened up a whole new world for me. My only disappointment was that it was not shared with my wife, or at least not until today. This post will be another journal entry, meant to document, not argue merit or propriety.

Tweeting General Conference Together

As suggested by one of my readers, I fasted today for those who would be speaking in General Conference. I was not disappointed. Carol and I had a blast sitting side by side watching the conference on the Internet and adding our comments to Twitter, using the #LDSConf hashtag. I’ve done it for years but this is the first time Carol has done that. The time flew by quickly.

Family Council to Discuss Plans

In between the sessions of conference we held a family council to discuss our plans for the family reunion in June and attending Denver’s St. George lecture (date not yet disclosed). I would say this was the longest family council we have held in thirty-one years of marriage. I am pleased to report there was no arguing or hard feelings, which may be a first for Carol and me.

Developing Talents as Writers

You see, both of us are stubborn and determined about what we believe and what we want to accomplish or achieve with our lives. Carol is determined to be a good writer and has come a long way in the last few years. She amazes me and frankly, has blown me away with the talent she has developed. In our writer’s group meeting Friday, everybody loved her latest chapter.

Sharing My Prayer Experience

While we didn’t start with prayer, we started with the understanding that I would share with her what I had experienced last Sunday. I asked her permission during the morning session of Conference. I know that sounds strange, but she knew what I was asking. I was asking for her time and undivided attention. I knew she hadn’t found time yet to read my post from last week.

Kindness, Patience, Love Unfeigned

I have learned there are only three tools at my disposal to get my message across. Neither I nor the Lord work through force or by demanding. That’s the quickest way to invite the spirit of the adversary into your home. The three tools are 1) Kind words, 2) Patience and long-suffering and 3) Love unfeigned. God has commanded us to love our wives with all our hearts. Think about it.

Carol is a True Believing Mormon

Carol is concerned about being led astray. I don’t blame her. That’s one of the reasons I married her. She is as TBM as you can get (email me if you don’t understand that acronym). For Carol, the mantra to follow the Brethren IS the gospel. She will do whatever she is asked by those who preside over us in the church, both locally and from Salt Lake. She’s an amazing LDS woman.

I am an Uncorrelated Mormon

For me, I have become more and more open and uncorrelated over the years to the point where I am now totally uncorrelated (email me if you don’t understand that concept). Do you see the problem? We are at opposite ends of the spectrum of orthodoxy. I’m the one who has changed. I make no bones about it. I have been led on this journey by the Lord and could not resist His love.

A Mother Who Taught Me

Let me see if I can give you an example to help you understand. In my gospel study and prayer, I had the advantage of not having to go through the shock many of my friends have suffered when they learned the true history of our church. Thanks to a mother who knew and taught me, I also knew all the warts of the church from my youth. I knew I belonged to an imperfect institution.

True and Faithful to the Church

I have been documenting my faith journey online for seven years. Frankly I was shocked at the reaction of some of my readers who kept asking me, “How can you be true and faithful to this church when you know what you know about the history?” My answer has always been, “I love the Lord and know He would not give me more than I could handle.” That has been my secret.

Don’t talk about it at Church

By that I mean this: Because I asked, the Lord led me to material over the years that helped me to understand and be able to explain what happened in our history that was different from what the official narrative of the church has been. He also told me to keep it to myself or limit it to my blog and to NEVER teach what I had discovered within the walls of any LDS Church building.

Wait for the Right Time

By following that direction from the Lord, my testimony has been strengthened and my peace has increased day by day. The focus in my journey has been to draw closer to the Lord, to prove myself obedient to His will and to do the hard things asked of me, which is primarily to keep my mouth shut about the things I was learning until the time was right. Well, that time is now here.

We are not Forced to Believe

Now, let’s return to the family council. My objective was to convince Carol to go with me to Denver’s lecture in St. George. I knew the only way I could do that was if the Lord revealed it to her. She needed to know she was safe and that I was on her side. This is such a serious issue that it could easily cause marriage partners to go their separate ways. I will not allow that to happen.

My Responsibility to Teach My Wife

I also know I cannot be exalted without Carol. She is my queen. I cannot go before the Lord in the world to come without my sweetheart. If I have not taught her the truth, it is my own fault and the Lord will hold me responsible. And she must be willing of her own free will and choice to come forth when I call. She doesn’t have to unless she wants to. I want her to be by my side.

Afraid of Denver Snuffer

So I taught her and addressed her concerns with love and patience. The Lord put words in my mouth. I knew what to say and the right way to say it. This is a gift I appreciate and have always attributed to the Lord. It is one of the functions of the Holy Ghost to help us know what to say in difficult situations. This was one of those situations. Carol is afraid of Denver Snuffer.

Denver Snuffer labeled an Apostate

From the day we read together the first chapter of his book, Passing the Heavenly Gift, she made up her mind that he was an apostate and was going to get excommunicated. She wanted to have nothing to do with him. It only made it more difficult to talk about him and what he has shared when he was excommunicated last year. The phrase, “See, I told you so” was heard in our home.

Sealing Power in LDS Church

I’ve done my best to share with her what I was learning. It has always been difficult because of the poor first experience she had. You can read about it in my first post about Denver in 2012. She is convinced Denver has taught the Church does not have the sealing power. My mistake – I misunderstood the message of his book until later, and because he clarified it for me online.

Sealing Power Key to Exaltation

This is a touchy subject. Imagine what that does to a woman who relies on the reality of that sealing power to give her everything for which she has ever hoped and dreamed – to be united with her family for the eternities. This has been the main thing we have discussed over the years as we have talked about Denver’s books, which of course I have done in our home for two years.

How Sealing Power is Received

I am still not sure I can fully explain how it works. All I know it is different from the official narrative. I also know the higher sealing power cannot be passed from one man to another. Sealing power is received ONLY the way Nephi received it – by hearing the voice of the Lord. This is a hard concept and goes contrary to the fundamental core of what the Brethren teach.

Apostasy for What you Believe

In other words, if you teach this, you are an apostate and can be excommunicated. I have never and will never teach it inside an LDS church or while on an assignment such as home teaching. I also will not share it with anyone unless I am asked. When I met with the Bishop three times over the last few months he didn’t ask if I believed what is found in Passing the Heavenly Gift.

Grounds for Excommunication

He knows I won’t teach it in the church. I don’t want to get excommunicated. The Lord has allowed me to share it only on my blog and it still brings out the worst in people as we discuss it. The big question is: can a man be excommunicated for believing this doctrine even though it is clearly taught in our scriptures? He can be and men are being excommunicated more and more.

Excommunicated for Reading a Book

Only today I received yet another private email in which one of my readers told me he received a call from his bishop after the first session of Conference informing him he was to appear before a stake disciplinary council this Wednesday at 7pm. What is his sin? He was excommunicated for simply reading and sharing on his blog what he has read of Denver Snuffer, Daymon Smith and Rock Waterman.

Private Discussion Groups

Why do you think most who read Denver’s works and want to discuss them stay in members-only discussion groups? It’s sad. I told the Lord I wasn’t going to do that and that’s what I finally got his authorization on last week – to openly teach this doctrine more clearly on my blog in the months to come. Yes, I will probably be excommunicated. I am at peace with that. Carol isn’t.

Teaching With Love Unfeigned

This is getting long. Let me wrap up. For two hours I taught Carol. For two hours she listened to me. She was upset several times. I did not reciprocate because I understood her fear. With love unfeigned I continued to teach her. She had her back to me for a while. That’s never a good sign. Finally she turned to me, trusting me and listening with her heart. I knew it was time to pray.

True Order of Prayer with Carol

The last session of conference started, preventing us from doing so. As soon as it was over, we went to our home family altar, offered the signs of the priesthood together then knelt down to pray. Well, I prayed, she listened. I again used the second sign of the Aaronic priesthood as I prayed. I told her it would be a short prayer and it was. It was specifically about Denver Snuffer.

We Don’t Want to be Deceived

I told the Lord WE didn’t want to be deceived. I asked the Lord to make it known to Carol if it was alright that we attended his St George lecture together. I already had my answer. The prayer was specifically for Carol. As I related in my post last week, the answer doesn’t have to come right away. I asked for the Lord to answer Carol’s prayers. She says she has been struggling.

Gospel of Jesus Christ in Action

I know I have shared a personal and what many might consider a private story, not appropriate for a blog post. I disagree. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ in action. The purpose of my post is to share my witness that the True Order of Prayer can and should be used in our homes. It is also intended to be practiced as a family, or at least as husband and wife who have been endowed.

If Ye Are Not One Ye Are Not Mine

We arose from our prayer and hugged, then went downstairs. I broke my fast with a wonderful meal Carol prepared. I then tried to answer some more of the emails that have been flooding my inbox over the past week. I know the Lord will answer our prayer when Carol is ready. It may be months. But I am so pleased we are doing this the way the Lord directed me. We must be united.

The Stupor of Thought


scripturesAbout twenty years ago I served in a unique position in the church. My calling was “Melchizedek Priesthood Leader.” Because our little ward was so small, the Stake President had placed all priesthood holders in the ward into one group. In effect, he combined the Elder’s Quorum and the High Priests Group and put me in charge.

I also served as the de facto ward mission leader because we had none. As you can imagine I felt a little overwhelmed. I often prayed for inspiration to know what to do to help our little ward grow, but it was to no avail. We lived in an older part of town with many transients. Older members kept retiring and moving away to Utah.

On one occasion I attended a stake meeting where I had decided to speak up about the problems we were experiencing in our little ward. I thought about and prayed about what I wanted to say. But for some reason I didn’t pay attention to the fact that this particular stake meeting was not the right place to bring up my concerns.

Preparation for Prayer

Now in order to understand what I’m about to share, I’ve got to tell you a little bit about how I receive revelation. When I pray and ask the Lord to help me with a problem or to guide me through a difficult situation, I know I’ve got to do two things first. I’ve got to study it out and make a decision about a course of action.

Then I present my decision to the Lord in prayer. I tell Him about the problem. I tell Him what I’ve studied. Then I tell Him what I’ve decided. Finally, I ask for a confirming witness of the spirit to know if what I’ve decided to do is good or best. It’s a time-tested formula that has worked for me as long as I have been praying.

After praying, I then wait and listen carefully. Sometimes I know immediately one way or the other about what I have discussed with the Lord. But often, my prayer is not answered right away. This was one of those occasions where I did not feel that confirming witness of the spirit that what I wanted to do was the right thing.

The Mind’s Eye

A little more detail might be helpful to understand how revelation works for me. When I ask the Lord for help to know if a certain course of action is the correct one, He will often answer my prayer by allowing me to see myself engaged in that particular activity. In fact, I can often hear as well as see some things in advance.

When I was young I wondered if I should go on a mission. I followed the formula. I studied it out. I made a decision and I asked the Lord for a confirming witness. I was then overwhelmed with what the Lord revealed to me about my mission. I saw myself helping people understand the truth. I heard myself preaching the gospel.

Over the years, this gift of seeing myself perform specific actions in advance of actually doing them has been repeated. There are times when I can hear the words I say as I am performing the task, such as teaching or speaking. There are also times where the Lord inspires me with specific words or phrases so I will write them out.

Revelation is Rehearsal

For me, revelation is kind of like a rehearsal. It gives me confidence and makes it easier to do the difficult tasks of life because I have already seen myself complete them successfully. I greatly appreciate this gift and have come to rely on it more and more as I go through my life. It’s like the spiritual creation before the physical.

Now back to my story. I had studied the problem out. I had made a decision. I had prayed about it. But I did not receive that confirming witness. I did not see myself sharing my thoughts in the meeting. I knew I had done my homework. I had done my part. The problem was clear in my mind. I felt confident I could explain it.

And indeed I could, but it wasn’t what the Lord wanted expressed at that time in that meeting. The problem was real, my proposed solution was good, although not best as I later found out. In another setting, the discussion I wanted to have would have been appropriate. This meeting was not the time or place for my comments.

The Moment of Truth

I went to that meeting prepared, or so I thought. The meeting progressed to the point where the problems were being discussed. The Stake President solicited discussion. A sister shared her concerns. I raised my hand, was called on and began to speak. No sooner had I opened my mouth then I knew I had made a mistake.

A feeling came over me that I knew I was wrong in what I was trying to share. I should have stopped right then and graciously said something like, “What I’m sharing right now doesn’t feel right. Although I thought it was earlier, it doesn’t seem so now. Forgive me.” The discussion could have continued from there.

Instead, I foolishly continued to speak, reaching into my mind for the things I had studied out and thought about as I prepared to present my solution to the Lord. To my amazement and eventual embarrassment, what was once clear and concise was now a jumbled mess in my mind. I could not recall my points to make any sense.

The Stupor of Thought

And that, my friends, is how I learned that the stupor of thought is a real thing. I could not explain myself. My words weren’t making sense. My fellow brothers and sisters in the meeting were looking at me funny. Finally, the Stake President had to interrupt me to keep me from blathering on. My face burned with embarrassment.

The Lord had answered my prayer. I just hadn’t understood. There was nothing really wrong with my proposed solution, given a different set of circumstances. I didn’t have all the information the Stake President had. I didn’t have the whole picture. My ideas were fine, just not relevant or pertinent in the current situation.

I sat quiet the remainder of the meeting and reflected on what had just happened. I was chagrined and a little confused. It was then I realized I had not been careful in listening to the Lord as I prayed. I had not seen or heard myself sharing what I had studied out so carefully. There was no rehearsal, no advance spiritual creation.

Summary and Conclusion

I learned that the stupor of thought can last as long as it needs to in order to work. I had been given a stupor of thought and should have kept it to myself in my prayer. Instead, I took it with me to a public meeting where it was made evident to all. The stupor of thought God gave me caused me to forget my erroneous conclusions.

I have since learned to be more careful in my prayer rehearsals. If I am unable to see myself sharing my conclusions or performing my intended course of action with success first in my mind’s eye, then I know it would be better to seek another solution. I have come to greatly appreciate this wonderful gift of prayer.

I now know how to use the stupor of thought to refine my path through life without making embarrassing mistakes like I experienced in that stake meeting so long ago. In essence, I have learned to keep quiet unless the Lord distinctly inspires me to say something at the right time and in the right place. This has taught me patience.

Reference: D&C 9:7-9

The Uncorrelated Church


PriesthoodCorrelationFrom a reader: I have a question; I was curious what you meant by “those still in the uncorrelated church.” Are there LDS churches not correlated? Thanks! My response: Ah yes, was wondering if someone would ask about that. Glad to know someone’s reading and thinking about my stuff.

Tightly Structured Teaching

The uncorrelated church (Google it) is a phrase made popular by John Dehlin a few years ago. It refers to the idea of a church being a body of believers, not necessarily a specific congregation, who are not too fond of the direction from Salt Lake that “you shall” present, study and discuss specific topics within tight constraints each Sunday in the block of meetings. They object to the idea of correlation as being a tactic or practice that kills the spirit because, the impression is, you are only allowed to bring up specific “approved” quotes and specific scriptures when discussing the assigned topic. The people who see the church as being too tightly correlated do not seem to enjoy teaching methods where one individual stands at the front of the class and spews forth everything they have studied during the past week.

New Youth Curriculum

The church recognizes this and is doing something about it. Beginning with the youth this year, the classes are designed to be less formal and structured, encouraging more involvement and discussion by the participants and less rigid in what can be shared or discussed in that specific class. The problem is that we are a church of lay teachers, so many of whom struggle with the confidence needed to effectively lead a class or to even present a decent sacrament talk without strong and tight direction from the priesthood leaders. It has even come to the point where ward and stake leaders hand out, in writing, specific rules of what you shall and shall not say when standing in front of the congregation. As President Lee opined when correlation was just beginning, he was afraid it would kill the spirit of revelation. I believe it has.

Sharing Sacred Experiences

Everybody is afraid to share any kind of personal or sacred spiritual experience that may be misunderstood because it hasn’t been run through correlation, the committee that approves everything that goes into our manuals. We are repeatedly warned in priesthood bulletins and directives to prevent or not allow individuals to teach unauthorized and unapproved doctrine from the pulpit and in the classrooms. I get that. I have seen the result of false doctrine being taught. A well-meaning brother or sister may share a beautiful, uplifting story that touches the heart and stirs the emotions but unfortunately, is based on a false premise or belief. It does more harm than good. So the church has cracked down over the years, beginning back in the 1950’s and reaching the zenith in the last decade. I have watched this happen firsthand.

Approved Stories Only

But again, the problem is that correlation has created an environment of fear in our church. Members are so afraid to say or share anything that is not in the official approved curriculum that they just keep their mouths shut. Very few people know what’s approved and what’s not so they don’t say what the spirit puts into their heart to say for fear of incurring the wrath of someone who says, “Where did you read that? Are you sure that’s approved by the Brethren?” Then they turn to whatever priesthood leader is sitting in the class and wait for him to respond. It puts the poor priesthood leader on the spot. I have seen this over and over in Gospel Doctrine classes. The pendulum has swung too far. I remember hearing all kinds of wild things when I was growing up but at least people felt they could share among their fellow saints.

Unique Spiritual Feelings

One specific example that really rankles me is the idea of discussing what happens during prayer. You and I have dialoged about this in our recent emails. Can you imagine bringing up your question when the subject is being taught in a priesthood quorum about the vibrational feelings you and I have both experienced in prayer? We would get blank stares or worse. Unless you can put what you have experienced into the proper words that one of our apostles has recently used (can’t use words of old apostles) then your brethren in the quorum will feel uncomfortable with what you have shared. Perhaps if you use the phrase “feeling in tune” or “in harmony with the spirit” you might get some heads nodding. But what if what happened to you in prayer went beyond the vibrational phase or being in tune with God?

Visited by an Angel

What if, to use your example, while deep in prayer one night, feeling happy and loved, at peace with the universe, you poured out your heart in devotion and felt the love of God descend upon you in great power and abundance? You were so happy and filled with joy that you felt your heart might burst. Just at that moment your spirit leaves your body and you find yourself in the spirit world with a guide there to meet you and show you a few things that the Lord wanted you to know. You are wrapped in the spirit. You see and hear things that are unimaginable to anyone in this world who has never experienced such things for themselves. When you return, and are still filled with the spirit, you write these things in your journal as a great treasure. You taste the joy of the Lord with you for days, weeks and months to come.

Sharing Your Testimony

Now, what if, during a lesson on prayer and revelation, such as the one we’re going to receive in Gospel Doctrine class tomorrow, the teacher has you read D&C 42:61, which reads, “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal,” and then asks, Brother Jones, (this is right out of the manual), “How have these promises been fulfilled in your life?” How would you respond? Remember, you have just received a marvelous manifestation from the Lord a few nights ago in which he showed you joyous things about the world to come. You have received revelation. You have received knowledge. You have beheld the mysteries of God which bring joy.

I Have Seen a Vision

Do you share that? What if you feel impressed to stand and say to the class (and not just to the teacher), slowly and distinctly, “I have asked for and have received revelation from God. I have been shown things in vision that have given me knowledge of the spirit world. I have been visited by angels. I have been taught the mysteries and peaceable things of God. I have felt his joy and understand better what eternal life is going to be like.” You then sit down. What do you think would happen? How would the teacher respond? How would the members in the class around you respond? Would they whisper to their neighbor, “Did he say he had seen an angel?” Would someone in next week’s Ward Council meeting say, “Did you hear what Brother Jones said in Gospel Doctrine class last week?” Could this happen?

Ward Council Meetings

You bet it could and it has. I have sat in those ward council meetings over the years. There is great concern expressed about what some members say in class. Because of this they are not asked to teach or to speak in church. In essence, they are ostracized for sharing their spiritual experience, when they felt prompted by the spirit to do so. They are shunned and looked upon as being weird or different. “Why, he said he’s seen an angel. He said he had a vision,” implying that such things are only for the prophet or the apostles. “I’ve never seen an angel or had a vision. What makes him special? I know Brother Jones. He’s a sinner. There’s no way the Lord would send him an angel. He must have been deceived.” Yes, I know this last part is fictional but it is based on real leadership meeting conversations.

Church-Approved Answers

All this is the result of correlation, where the members feel that unless something has been approved of the correlation committee in advance, you had better not share it in church. Correlation causes us to feel we must keep our spiritual experiences to ourselves and only share approved or authorized stuff from church history. Go take a look at lds.org under Resources, Manuals, Melchizedek Priesthood and note the wording, “will study,” and “are to be taught,” from “church-approved resources.” Do you get it? Isn’t that pretty tightly controlled and correlated, even to the point of what you will study or read? And that’s why I say I am still in the uncorrelated church. I am old school, an old man who grew up studying whatever I felt the Lord wanted me to study, not necessarily what Salt Lake told me to read and study.

I Sustain the Brethren

I’ll bet that was a lot more than you asked for wasn’t it? Thanks for asking. Hope you don’t mind if I post my response on my blog. I won’t reference you other than in passing as a reader. It might get me into trouble. I love this church and I love the people in it but we have a problem in that people who don’t know, understand, teach and answer with the “official church-approved answers” are made to feel that they don’t quite fit in. I’m one of those and always have been. Because I have made it a matter of great effort in personal study over the years I can teach and speak at the pulpit in the way the church wants. I am OK with that. I sustain the Brethren in the direction they have taken the Church through correlation. That doesn’t mean I agree with the results of correlation that I have seen firsthand in our church today.

Miracles and Angels


A car lurched from the Oklahoma country road into the highway. The driver didn’t stop at the stop sign. Instead, he stalled on the road a hundred yards in front of us.

“Why doesn’t he get out of the way?” I asked from the middle of the front seat.

Dad didn’t respond. He locked up the brakes and laid on the horn. Our late 1960’s American Rambler slid down the hill on screeching tires.

Mother stopped talking mid-sentence in the back seat. She had just changed places with my sister and me a few miles back to talk with grandmother.

I was in the middle of the front seat. My sister was to my right. Seatbelts? I can’t remember. Shoulder belts became law in 1968. I can tell you I wasn’t wearing one.

Our California car probably crested the hill before the intersection doing 65 mph. Best guess from the photos looks like we hit the other car going 35 or 40. The impact pushed him into the ditch twenty to thirty feet past the crossing. Our car ended up on top of the stop sign.

I remember dad throwing his right arm out in an effort to protect me. I don’t remember the impact. Gingerly, I pulled my broken left arm out of the circular air conditioning vent. My sister was already out the right door. She held her left wrist. I followed quick as I could.

Dad came over to see if we were alright. The look in his and my sister’s face told me I wasn’t. I glanced down to see what they were looking at. The blood dripped profusely from the cut over my eye. It was hard to see.

“I’m OK, I’m OK,” I tried to assure them. I hopped about in an effort to deny the pain. The hopping didn’t help. The abnormal angle of my left arm frightened me.

“Son, didn’t you see that stop sign?” my dad asked the driver of the other car. Dad’s calmness amazed me. He then knelt next to the car in an effort to comfort my mother.

A low moan came from the back seat. Mother didn’t get out. She couldn’t. X-rays later revealed a broken pelvis and ruptured spleen. She had been sitting sideways when we hit.

Two ambulances took us to the hospital. Grandmother went with mother in the first. My sister and I went in the second. In spite of broken ribs, dad stayed behind to talk to the trooper.

I wasn’t prepared for surgery. I broke my finger in a skateboarding accident years earlier. The doctor reset the bone then and put a splint on it. My arm was in much worse shape.

“You sure swore a blue streak when you came out of the anesthesia,” the orderly said as he wheeled me to my room. Embarrassed, I made a mental note to clean up my language.

“Are you sure?” the nurse asked again on the third day. She asked the same thing every day. I had no idea what a bowel movement was. Why did she keep asking me that? My sister finally explained what she meant. I was glad we didn’t stay more than a week in the hospital.

The trip home to California was my first airline flight. I don’t remember if mother came with us then or travelled later. I know she had a difficult recovery. She lay on the couch at home for several weeks. As far as I know she started teaching school on time again in September.

It’s funny how everyone’s injuries were on the left side. Dad’s broken left ribs; my sister’s broken left wrist and my broken left arm. To this day I have the scars from the pins in my elbow. Occasionally my arm locks up, a reminder of that painful day.

In a quiet reflective moment with my dad years later, I asked him about the accident. He expressed the concern he felt for us at the time and then shared something sacred.

“You know your mother was hurt pretty bad,” he said.

“We were all messed up. She had surgery like me, didn’t she?”

“She did. I sat by her side all that night and every night for a week.” He struggled to go on. I could tell it was difficult for him to talk about this.

“I didn’t think she was going to make it. I can tell you I never prayed so hard in my life.” He was crying. Dad never cried. “It was a miracle we weren’t hurt worse.”

“I know. I still can’t remember the impact. It’s like I blanked out,” I said.

“We were protected by an angel, especially you.” Dad never talked about angels. I didn’t even know he believed in them. “It was a miracle.”

“What do you mean?”

“That night your mother lay close to death, I pled with the Lord to preserve her life. I didn’t think I could go on without her.” This was my invincible, invulnerable dad.

“I must have dozed off. When I woke, someone was sitting on the other side of the bed, looking at your mother.” Dad was serious in a way I had never seen before.

“Was it a doctor?”

“No. He had on a white robe that sort of glowed. His face shone. He looked up, smiled at me and then disappeared. I knew everything was going to be alright.”

“Who do you think it was?”

He looked at me long and hard before responding.

“I think it was the same person that kept you from going through the windshield of that car. Maybe it was your brother who died just after he was born.”

My Interview with Mormon.org


On this Pioneer day, I decided to answer all the personal questions that you are asked when you fill out the profile on Mormon.org.  There are a whole lot more under the FAQ section (about 80) but that will have to wait for another day when I have more time.  I thoroughly enjoyed the process of answering these questions and felt like I was being interviewed, thus the title of this blog post.

01. Please explain the part prayer plays in your life?

Having grown up with daily prayer, I can’t imagine a day go by in which I don’t communicate with my Heavenly Father in prayer.  We start the day in prayer as a family asking for the Lord’s blessing upon us as we work.  We end the day in prayer the same way, usually kneeling by the bed, reporting our activities to God and thanking him for his help.  We give thanks for the food we eat at mealtimes and participate in public prayers in our weekly worship service.  It is through prayer and reading scriptures that I feel close to God and directed in my life.

02. Which of the Savior’s teachings have influenced you in your life?

The most powerful admonition of the Lord that has helped me find happiness in this life is his commandment that we love one another.  I remember this whenever I feel that I have been misunderstood or hurt by someone else, either intentionally or not.  It is so easy to take offense in this world but the end result is that we only hurt ourselves when we do that.  To love others is to trust in the Lord that he will help make everything all right, even if it doesn’t appear that way at first.  He also requires us to forgive others since we all make mistakes and errors in judgment. We show our love by forgiving.

03. Please share your feelings/testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel.

Even though I grew up hearing the Joseph Smith story I am still amazed as an adult to realize just how powerful his history really is.  Think about it!  Angels, gold plates, visits from God, Jesus Christ and ancient apostles and prophets – these are all miraculous events that we just don’t hear about everyday.  It is truly a marvelous thing to learn all that the Lord did through Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God.  I am especially grateful for revealed doctrines that clarified and corrected the errors of man in the many religions of the world.

04. Please share your feelings/testimony of Joseph Smith.

I have read at least a dozen biographies of the life of Joseph Smith, and continue to be amazed that the Lord was able to accomplish so much through this one man.  He was a prophet in every sense of the word in that the Lord revealed his will for us through him and continues to do so through the prophets that have followed.  But it was Joseph who paid so dearly with his life even though he did what the Lord told him to do in bringing forth the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  I hold Joseph Smith in high regard and look forward to meeting him in the world to come.  I want to thank him for his faithfulness in translating the Book of Mormon.

05. Why do Mormons go on missions?

I went on a mission because I watched a video of the prophet asking all worthy young men to serve the Lord as missionaries.  As he shared his vision of how the gospel would go to all the world, I deeply felt a desire stirring within my soul to be a part of that great army of missionaries.  It was a major sacrifice for me to leave my studies and spend two years in Central America seeking out those who would respond to the Lord’s invitation to come unto him through baptism.  I loved my mission experience and found joy in testifying to the world that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  We go on missions because we are commanded to share the gospel and feel the desire to seek out and bring the message of the truth to all who will receive it.

06. Why do Mormons do family history or genealogy work?

Besides being a commandment to seek out our ancestors, we do family history research because we feel a desire to know and appreciate the story of those to whom we are indebted for our very lives.  I am a product of all those who came before me.  My parents were influenced by their parents and they were who they were because of their parents and so on back as far as we can discover.  Once we have the basic facts of their lives such as names and dates, we are privileged to go to the temple and perform proxy ordinances for them so that they too may meet the commandments of the Lord to be baptized and enter into covenants of exaltation.  We do family history work so we can be saviors on Mt Zion (Obadiah 1:21).

07. How has attending Church services helped you?

One of the highlights of my week is to attend church services each Sunday.  I serve in a leadership capacity in my church, and attend a few more meetings besides the regular three-hour block of Sacrament, Sunday school and Priesthood meetings.  I love the interaction with others who believe as I do and feel as I do about trying to follow the teachings of the Savior.  I say try because nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes each week.  That’s another reason why I love to go to church each Sunday – I get to renew my baptism covenants by taking the Sacrament each week.  I learn more of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these church services and feel a unity with God and with my fellow saints as we worship God and Jesus Christ together.

08. What has helped develop greater harmony in your home?

Like everyone else, I have experienced moments of argument and disharmony in my home which leave me feeling frustrated, resentful, hurt or angry.  I do not like such feelings, especially in my home where I want to relax and feel happy, safe and secure.  So over the years, I have made a greater effort each day to promote harmony and unity by not arguing and not finding fault with my family members.  I was not very good at this as a youth and so I appreciate the blessings that have come to me as an adult as I try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to love others, especially members of my own family, who need and deserve my love the most.  We can have a harmonious home by practicing kindness and forgiveness.

09. What have you done successfully to shield your family from unwanted influences?

Of all the teachings of the church about family, this idea of keeping out the world has been the most difficult but the most rewarding.  Television and the Internet are two of the most challenging types of media to monitor and control.  We believe in freedom so we encourage each other to seek after virtuous and uplifting material.  So the shield we put into place is not anything controlling such as “thou shalt not!”  It is more of making sure that we understand the differences that certain material, music or entertainment can produce, compared to the results of worthy content.  We seek out and support worthy entertainment and uplifting media content and pray constantly that we will each desire such material over the worldly offerings.

10. Could you talk about your baptism?

I was eight years old when I was baptized and for me, that is a long time ago.  My father, who was a recent convert, had to work the evening of my baptism, so he was unable to perform the ordinance.  I was baptized by a young man who was preparing to serve a mission.  My father was able to confirm me a member of the church the next day and I remember the special feelings that came to me as he conferred upon me the gift of the Holy Ghost.  I remember my primary teacher was there and gave me a picture of the Savior mounted on a small piece of wood.  I still treasure that memento and the words of encouragement that she penned on the back.  I’m sure I did not understand all the implications of the covenants I was making at eight years old, but I have come to appreciate the blessings of this ordinance more and more each Sunday as I take the Sacrament and remember what the Savior miraculously did for me in taking upon himself the effects of my sins upon conditions of repentance.  It is baptism that makes my repentance possible.

11. Why/How do you share the gospel with your friends?

I am not a very outgoing person so I believe that the best way I can share the gospel with others is through providing a good example of following the teachings of the Savior.  I have been amazed over the years as I see the influence that my behavior has on others.  I feel it brings respect and a kind of trust that can come in no other way.  I am sometimes surprised that people, including co-workers, will unsolicited confide in me details of problems they are working out and seek my advice and opinion.  I am then able to share my beliefs that following the teachings of Jesus Christ can and does help me deal with problems and that it can help them too.  Because I am shy, I find great comfort in sharing my feelings about the gospel online and am an active LDS blogger.  I also use modern technology like Facebook and Twitter to share my life.  The gospel comes up in the natural course of sharing things online and results in online dialogs in non-threatening and informative way.

12. How does making right choices help us make more right choices?

When we choose the right even when it is hard to do, we strengthen our character and develop integrity.  Deciding to do the right thing one time makes it easier to do the right thing the next time.  Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the added advantage of the gift of the Holy Ghost.  This gift helps us understand what the right thing to do is in difficult situations.  When we decide to follow the impressions of the Holy Ghost in making life’s choices, we show God that we value and appreciate this gift.  The impressions of the spirit will then become stronger or easier to recognize and we can grow in always making right choices.  Of course, being mortal, we will all make mistakes.  The Holy Ghost can also help us repent and make better choices in the future.

13. In what ways have your prayers been answered?

There are so many countless examples over the years that it is hard to share just one or two.  Perhaps the most dramatic for me was on the day that I proposed to my wife.  After I returned home from my mission, I had been praying for quite some time to find a woman who believed as I did and with whom I could be happy.  I was dating my wife’s best friend but the chemistry was just not there.  One day my wife invited me to a ball game and I told her about my troubles getting her friend to like me.  I could see that her feelings were hurt. The next day I visited her in her home and had a long conversation about life and marriage and family.  I had some very powerful spiritual feelings as I was talking to her that I knew were an answer to my prayers.  I proposed on the spot and we were married a few months later.  The Lord helped me with one of the most important decisions of my life.

14. What are you doing to help strengthen your family and make it successful?

My role in the family is to provide security and stability – both financial and spiritual.  I enjoy my responsibility to work and earn the money that we need to have a home, food, clothing and other necessities of life.  But more importantly, I enjoy my responsibility to provide spiritual direction for my family.  We are strengthened by attending church together, by praying and reading the scriptures together and by pursuing worthwhile family goals.  For example, my wife and I take classes at the local community college in the evenings in an effort to improve ourselves and keep our minds active.  We are strengthened as we work together as a family to accomplish good things with our lives and to provide service in our church and our community.  The gospel of Jesus Christ helps us in this endeavor.

15. How has your knowledge of the Plan of Happiness changed/benefited your life?

Sometimes this life can be a drag on the spirit because of all the disappointments and setbacks that come as a natural part of living in this world.  Understanding the Plan of Happiness helps me to realize that such setbacks are temporary.  I remain convinced that the Lord is very involved in my life and wants to help me through my journey until I am ready to return to his presence in the life to come.  Knowing that I lived before I came to this world to experience mortality helps me to have a bigger picture of things.  Knowing that I will live in the world to come and that I will someday be resurrected with a glorious and eternal body give me hope that goes beyond the drudgery and dullness that this life can sometimes be.  The Plan of Happiness is just that – a plan for me to find and achieve happiness through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance and enduring to the end of mortality true to what I know.

16. What is hope and what do you hope for?

Hope is the belief and conviction that there is purpose and meaning to this life.  Hope is the understanding that even though we pass through trials and troubles, we can have the assurance that our experiences are for our good and will cause us to grow.  I hope for a glorious resurrection.  I know that this is dependant upon my personal righteousness and my works of faith in this life.  Yes, the resurrection is a free gift to all men, but we believe that the quality of our lives in the hereafter is very much dependant on our actions here.  This life is a time of testing and proving and we can hope that our efforts in struggling against opposition in this world will be rewarded by a just and merciful God who wants to bless and help us through it.

17. How has the Book of Mormon helped you understand the purpose of life?

In the Book of Mormon we read that “men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).  I can’t think of any more concise and explicit scriptural reference that helps us understand the purpose of life.  Of course, the Book of Mormon provides a lot more insight into how we go about finding that joy and even helps us to understand what true joy is.  One of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon is the prophet Lehi’s dream about the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8).  In his dream he partakes of the fruit of the tree which is desirable to make one happy and is sweet above all that he had ever before tasted.  Eating of the fruit fills our soul with exceedingly great joy.  The fruit of course is the love of God and we obtain it by holding fast to the Word of God that is represented by the Rod of Iron in Lehi’s dream.  What a great story!

18. How has the Holy Ghost helped you?

I consider the Gift of the Holy Ghost one of the greatest blessings in my life.  There have been so many instances in which I have been helped by the Holy Ghost that it is hard to imagine getting through this life without this wonderful gift.  The Holy Ghost inspires me and encourages me to do things that are hard to do but that result in happiness for me and for others in my life.  The Holy Ghost has warned me of danger many times, prompting me to stay away from certain things and places.  The Holy Ghost has helped me by prompting me to a certain course of action that I otherwise might not have considered.  The Holy Ghost has been my constant companion in my work, helping me to remember things that, if forgotten, could have been the cause of much distress or pain.  The Holy Ghost has comforted me in times of sorrow and distress, helping me to feel the love of my Heavenly Father and my Savior even when I do not feel worthy of their love.

19. What blessings have come through your faith in Jesus Christ?

It is because of my faith in Jesus Christ that I am able to get through some of the more difficult aspects of my life.  For example, it is hard for me to do things in a public setting.  But I have been taught and believe that it will be for my good.  The Lord has promised me through the scriptures that he will help me through these difficult circumstances as I exercise faith in him.  And like everyone in this world, I am no stranger to making mistakes and poor choices, even when I know better.  It is through my faith in Jesus Christ that I put into practice one of my favorite little sayings that helps me keep going: “Success is not in never falling, but in getting up each and every time we fall.”  I know that I can be a better person than my fallen human nature would dictate, and it is through faith in Jesus Christ that I am willing to make greater effort each day to be the man that I know he would have me be.

20. How can we develop greater harmony in our homes?

One of the best ways I know of to live in harmony as a family is to do all within our power to avoid criticism, cutting remarks or any attempt to make another family member feel less than loved.  We do this by sharing the same ideals and goals – to seek happiness in living the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Where some family members may not have fully accepted the vision of the gospel, we can provide an example of tolerance and patience with them, just as our Heavenly Father and our Savior do with us.  Fighting, arguing, bickering and contemptuous behavior toward any family member is not the way to have peace and harmony in our homes.  Thus, we pray each day that such undesirable activities are mitigated by expressing love and kindness in all that we do.  We are each at differing levels of maturity in our understanding of this concept, so it is up to those who do, to live it better each day.

21. Can you think of a specific challenge in your family that Gospel Principles helped overcome?

Like most families, we have experienced our share of challenges that have tested our faith and caused us to lean deeply on our understanding of the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ to overcome.  For example, my wife and I have both lost parents to death, have had our share of serious health problems, including cancer, and have suffered through multiple seasons of financial stress due to unexpected unemployment.  In addition, we have been pained as not all family members have accepted our faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  But it is because of the teachings of Christ that we are encouraged to be patient, that we are comforted when discouraged, that we are inspired when distressed and that we are given strength when we feel weak.  We go on and we press forward, believing that it will all work out for our good, either in this life or in the life to come.  We meet those challenges with strength knowing that we are not alone and that God has promised to help us through them if we will but exercise our faith in Jesus Christ and remain true and faithful to him.

22. How can your talents and gifts bless others?

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that God gives gifts to each member for the purpose of blessing and supporting each other in this life.  Some of those gifts and talents are more obvious, such as singing, musical ability, acting, performing or even a talent to be able to speak with confidence in front of the congregation (trust me, not all members have this talent).  But the scriptures teach that God gives some gift or talent to every member.  Perhaps one is blessed with the ability to be a good listener, another to share heart-felt testimony of how they know the church to be true, others with the gift of teaching children or even just the talent of being able to live peacefully among their neighbors.  When we share our talents and gifts with others, God blesses us and we are “magnified” or made more effective so that others can receive the same benefits that we enjoy.

23. Think about your everyday activities. What are things you act upon each day where you cannot see the end results? How does faith move you to action?

A very simple everyday activity for me that is an act of faith is prayer.  I have never seen an angel or heard a voice in response to my prayers, but I continue to pray each day, believing that God does hear and answer my prayers.  And indeed he has – by sending the comforting feelings of the Holy Ghost to bless and confirm to me that he loves me and wants me to know the truth for myself.  My faith in God and my trust in the words of his prophets as found in the scriptures causes me to continue to pray both as an individual, with my family, in my congregation and in the homes of other members of the church that I visit.  The end results of my prayers are not always evident right way but are just as certain as if I had seen the effects at the time of the prayer.  I am confident; yes I can say that I know, that God hears and answers our prayers that are offered in faith and with real intent.

24. How has the Book of Mormon brought you closer to God?

I first read the Book of Mormon when I was very young – probably 5 or 6 years old.  I read it out loud with my mother, who was a schoolteacher.  Our family had recently joined the Mormon Church so this was also my mother’s first time reading the Book of Mormon.  I remember the special feelings I had as we read it together.  I felt a warm and comforting spirit as I read. I have read the Book of Mormon many times in the many years since I first read it.  In fact, there is not a year that goes by in which we do not read from it either individually or as a family.  No matter how many times we read the same passages, we always seem to learn something new or have our faith in the truthfulness of the book reaffirmed.  The same warm feelings always return. But it is by following the principles of the gospel that are written in the Book of Mormon that we draw closer to God.  It is in the pages of the Book of Mormon that we learn more about the purpose of life and God’s plan of happiness for us.  The Book of Mormon teaches us to study things out and to pray about them that we may know of their truthfulness for ourselves.

25. Can you talk about the missions of the Church and your participation in them?

Up until recently, we as members of church recited the mission of the church as follows: to preach the gospel, redeem the dead and to perfect the saints.  Within the past year, a fourth mission has been added: to care for the poor and the needy.  We now call these four areas of focus simply the purposes of the church.  In my life, I have participated in each of these areas by serving a mission and continuing to share the gospel, by doing family history or genealogy work and by magnifying my callings to serve in the church as a teacher, leader or whatever I’m asked to do.  I’m grateful to be able to assist in caring for the poor and the needy by contributing money to the fast offering funds of the church and by volunteering to serve food at the local homeless shelter on a regular basis.  These missions or purposes of the church help me as an individual member focus on what is really important to our Heavenly Father – to save his children, both temporally and spiritually.

The endowment is more than the ordinances


The endowment that we receive in the Lord’s temples today is not the complete endowment that the Savior intends us to have.  The ordinances introduce us but the endowment is not complete until we have come into the heavenly presence and have been instructed in the things of eternity.

You may ask, “If there is more to the endowment than what I have been taught in the temple, then why hasn’t someone explained it to me?”  A careful reading of scripture revealed in these last days contains all we need to know to fully understand that there is more, much more to it.

The redemptive mission of the Savior

In his role as our Redeemer, a primary mission of the Savior is to baptize us with the Holy Ghost and with fire.  He did not complete that mission with his disciples in Jerusalem while he was among them, explaining that he had to go away first in order for them to receive this sacred gift.

He also said that his apostles would do greater works than he did. In other words, they would give the gift of the Holy Ghost, which he had not yet done. It wasn’t until after he was resurrected that he gave them the gift of the Holy Ghost and the authority to give this gift unto others.

Receive the Holy Ghost

This is a major part of the ministry of Jesus that continues to this day as we are confirmed members of the Savior’s church. Interestingly, the wording of the ordinance is in the form of a command, “Receive the Holy Ghost.”  This honors agency and requires us to make an effort.

I think we can safely say that there are millions of people who have been baptized, and have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, but have not yet received it.  Even the apostles were with the Savior forty days after he gave the gift before they finally received it.

Promise of the Father

One can be given a powerful gift, or the right to receive it, but unless it is actually received, it has no real effective power.  The Savior taught that we will receive power after the Holy Ghost has come upon us.  So until we receive this power, the Lord’s mission is not complete for us.

The Savior made it clear several times that the gift of the Holy Ghost is a promise from our Heavenly Father.  Along with the promise of a Savior, this gift was promised before this world was created.  It is the Savior that baptizes us with fire and the Holy Ghost.  This fills us with great power.

We must seek this gift

I wonder how much our missionaries truly understand and teach their investigators that there is another step to their baptism that they must complete on their own after the ordinance is performed.  I sense that too many new converts do not continue on the path to be baptized by fire.

We must ask for it in humble and earnest prayer.  We must hunger and thirst after this gift.  As Paul said, we must covet this gift.  It is a pearl of great price that is worth all that we pay for it and more.  Even if years of effort and sacrifice are required to obtain it, we are commanded to do so.

Temple ordinances part of the process

We strive to ensure that converts receive the ordinances of the temple a year after they are baptized and confirmed.  The temple ordinances serve two purposes.  They give us the promised blessings of the family sealing ordinance and prepare us further to receive baptism with the Holy Ghost.

Being baptized with fire is a requirement of the Lord to enter into his kingdom.  I believe it is analogous to being born again.  It completes the process of baptism when we are immersed in the fire of the Holy Ghost.  The temple endowment helps us to understand and complete that step.

Endowed with power

The translators of the New Testament used the word endue to describe the process of fulfilling the Father’s promise to all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Redeemer and are baptized in his name.  Endue could also have been rendered to clothe, invest or to endow, as in give power.

The Lord used the word endow to Joseph Smith when he commanded him to build a temple in Kirtland so that he could endow the Saints with power from on high.  It was in the Kirtland temple that so many rich and powerful outpourings of the Holy Ghost were received by the faithful.

More than the ordinances

The endowment consists of so much more than the ordinances of the temple.  The ordinances are just the starting point for what the Savior has in mind for us when he promises to endow us with power.  There is great power in the ordinances but there is additional power beyond that.

The additional power is found when we are consumed with the burning of the Holy Spirit within us, strengthening our desire and commitment to submit our will to God’s.  It is found as we strive to be born again and to be visited by fire and the Holy Ghost as were the Lamanites in Hel 5:45.

Pattern found in Third Nephi

In the book of Third Nephi we read the account of the righteous that were spared and visited by the Lord after his resurrection and ascension in Jerusalem.  Towards the end of the year in which great destructions accompanied the Savior’s crucifixion, the saints gathered at the temple.

Some 2,500 people were to become witnesses that day that Jesus Christ is the Savior to the entire world.  They went forth and felt the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and thrust their hands into the wound in his side.  They then knew with personal first-hand knowledge that he lives.

Witnesses know for themselves

Because of this personal knowledge, they were witnesses in a way that nobody could ever dispute.  They had seen him and they had touched him.  No matter what anybody else said, they knew that Jesus lives and is a real being with a resurrected body of flesh and bones like man.

And yet they lacked something.  When the Savior had announced in the darkness of the destruction earlier that year that he would visit them, he promised that he would baptize them with fire and with the Holy Ghost, thus fulfilling his mission as he tried to do among the Jews in Jerusalem.

The endowment begins

It was the end of the first day and the Savior announced that he would leave and come back the next day.  Yet, their faith kept him there and began the events of something extraordinary that he had wanted to do in Jerusalem but which he could not do there because of the lack of faith.

Because of his love for them, the Savior first attended to their physical infirmities and brought their children to the center of attention.  He then led them in mighty prayer, blessed the children and directed the attention of the multitude to the angels that were descending to minister to them.

In the midst of fire

The angels appeared “as it were, in the midst of fire.”  I contend that this is the baptism of fire of which the Lord has tried to teach us many times.  This immersion in the heavenly element constitutes the fullness of the endowment that he promised to them and still promises even to us today.

This is the same experience that the Lamanites enjoyed in Helaman 5:45 when they were encircled about by a pillar of fire.  The Lord said that they were baptized with fire and knew it not.  This is also the process of transfiguration that completes the promises found in the endowment.

To be continued…

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