A Forum for Latter-day Commentary

approaching-the-heavenly-giftThere is an interesting discussion taking place over at the LDS Freedom Forum. For those who aren’t members of the “Approaching the Heavenly Gift” sub-forum, here are the details below (removed).

I have been asked to consider turning on the forum feature on this WordPress blog. It’s an easy thing to do and a relatively easy thing to administer, but is it worth it? Will people participate? Comments are open for discussion.

Update: The LDC Forums are up: http://latterdaycommentary.com/forums/

<Contents of the post removed at request of owner>

Here is the link to the LDS Freedom Forum in general: http://www.ldsfreedomforum.com/

The Power of Wise Communication

Small Christ teachingThe opportunity to communicate has increased a thousand fold in recent years. The power of the internet has made it possible to reach one individual at a time or thousands at one time. We live in a magnificent age.

Whether we communicate face to face or online, apparently the ability to communicate effectively has diminished. In a recent poll by Dan Jones & Associates, it was found that Utah based companies complained that people coming into the present workforce are lacking some serious skills, one being communication.

A common complaint was that companies are having to spend a lot of time and money training people in “sensitivities and cultures and how to do business.” My son, an attorney, has difficulty hiring front desk personnel that know how to communicate effectively. “Sometimes they are abrupt, blunt and discourteous without even recognizing it,” he said. It does not speak well of our education or culture.

Online communication has made it much easier to get away with “blunt and discourteous” communication. Perhaps online “bullying” has contributed to the face to face intimidation we are witnessing in our schools today.

No matter the mode used, ineffective communication stunts the opportunity to be heard or be considered a credible terminal for information.

Point of View

Beliefs are determined by our education and our experience. Beliefs form our point of view. Our views change as we learn and experience new things. Our view of life is “Our Truth” and may or may not be in line with anyone else, let alone eternal truths. We hold them dear.

We, spend a lot of time defending our point of view and trying to get others to change theirs. Various tactics of persuasion are used to give authority to our “Truths” such as polls, research, higher degree of education, the priesthood, the scriptures, the Ensign and “The Lord told me”. There is nothing wrong with this, however, some methods of communicating our message is more effective than others. The question is, does my method of communication “Work” to persuade or do I set myself up to be rejected and even persecuted?

Sound Relationships

Years ago I found this helpful model which helped me to understand how relationships work. It’s called the ARC triangle. The bottom corners of the pyramid are “Affinity” and “Reality.” The top of the pyramid is “Communication”. A break in any side of the triangle is a break in the relationship. If not handled, the relationship will suffer and may not last.arc

Affinity: closeness, harmony, bond, in accord. Do you like the person? Do you want to be near them, have a bond with them?  Do they have affinity toward you?

Reality: actuality, truth, realism, real life. Do you see eye to eye?  Are your beliefs and values the same? Is your view point on how to execute those values alike, compatible or at least workable?

Most relationship breaks comes within the “Reality” arena. Points of view have changed and are no longer compatible. The further apart your “Reality” is, the less “Affinity” you will feel for each other. You no longer want to be in the other persons presence because you don’t have anything in common.

Communication: When effective communication occurs, you have the opportunity come to understand the other person’s reality, or “point of view” and it make it a lot easier to be around each other. This does not mean you have to agree on everything. When the relationship allows for some differences and has mutual respect for variation of reality, the relationship has a better chance of lasting.

However, when we stand firmly in our ”Point of View”, with intent of making the other party “Wrong”, walls go up and we become the offensive party which forces defensive tactics by the other party and “War” begins. It seems that nothing brings out strong positions like politics and religion do. Look at the death and destruction that both of these topics have caused within the human family. Under certain circumstances, it may be wise to use caution and constraint when addressing these two issues.

Effective Communication

Effective communication is “Wise” communication. It is knowing who your audience is and staying within a framework that does not “Shoot” others down by our actions, words, or tone before we have a change to persuade them to consider a new way of thinking about any subject.

Sometimes “Wise” communication is “No” communication. There are some people and organizations that will never see another view point. Often, it is because they have so much time and energy invested in it to concede.To even entertain different ideas would be too embarrassing, hurtful or literally cause their death.

Christ was the ultimate “Wise” person when it came to communication. He understood his audience and acted accordingly.

  1. In some groups, he spoke in parables. Those who had ears and hearts to hear would get the message. Those who were not ready or in tune would leave, perhaps a little confused, but no worse for wear.

  2. With his enemies, he was discreet and answered questions with questions rather than cause open contention. His followers were always watching to see how He would handle sensitive subjects.

  3. He gave credit where credit was due… giving recognition to Ceasar that which was Ceasar’s and that which was God’s to God. In other words, he acknowledged authority.

  4. There were times when Christ did not speak or respond to his accusers. He knew their intent was to “Make Wrong” or entrap.This was especially true after his arrest. “And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.” When confronted by Pilate, he did not speak. “And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marveled greatly.” He knew when it was futile to try and change hearts and minds.

  5. However, in other groups, those who were like minded, such as his apostles and His people on the American continent, he was more direct and open, yet sensitive.

He was “The Master” in the way he taught and communicated. He was effective in each situation he was in, careful not to openly cause contention. He was a wise teacher. He understood the power of “Wise” communication.

We Have a Little Problem

This blog, as well as many others online, have a “Point of View” on the restoration of the gospel, how the gospel is taught, how scriptures are interpreted, and how the LDS church is managed, which often runs contrary to traditional thinking. These blogs have attracted many like minded people who desire to discuss gospel issues in light of new information and a new understanding of gospel matters.

Even though we seem to have much in common, there is often much contention when issues are discussed. The “I Am Right” attitude often disrupts meaningful dialogue. That is not to say that opposing points of view should not be discussed. It is more often the manner in which issues are discussed, not the subject matter.

So often, the “I Am Right” heels are firmly dug in and the war begins. In the end, everyone goes back to their corner, with no change of thought. This happens when persuasive methods, as taught in D&C 121 (persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, kindness, without hypocrisy), have not been applied. There often is a tendency to jump to verse 43: “Reproving betimes with sharpness…” assuming the Holy Ghost will uphold this strategy before all else has been tried.

There are times when the wise response is “No” response. It is best to let them have their way, especially when you know they want to contend or entrap.

Above all, we are guests of the blog owner and that should be respected. A sour tone may repel readers, and that is not fair.

Caution To Be Considered

Another caution should be considered. It is not appropriate to be combative in private territory, whether it is in a home, an LDS meeting house, temple, or privately owned grounds. They are not a place to openly oppose their beliefs, interpretation and standards, whether we believe their understanding is correct or not. By the nature of the LDS organization, we are not their advisers and they can run things any way they please. Like it or not, those who serve as officers in that organization have the duty to abide and defend the traditional standards whether we concur with the model or not. If they disagree, they should not be holding such positions because they represent the organization.

There may be unintended consequences in digging in our heals to defend our point of view. If we choose that course, one must be willing to risk rejection. The Corporate Church has a right to cut loose anyone they feel have views which are contrary or threaten their system. That is the nature of a corporation. Unfortunately, we have recently seen much fallout for those who have openly not seen eye to eye with the traditional thinking.

An Example

For example, whether one agrees with the “Ordain Women” cause or not, marching on Church property and appearing at the door of a traditionally held “Men Only” meeting was not the way to persuade, influence, or convince the Brethren of the validity of their mission.Their forceful approach did not work and their tactics turned against them. Now they spend much time “kicking against the pricks” still loudly defending their point of view. Are many still listening or care?

On the other hand, my personal opinion is, the Brethren did not handle the situation very well either. It may have been much more productive to have given Kate Kelly an audience with one of the Apostles rather than having their position related to her through a PR department. After all, the impetus for asking them to “Ask God” if women could received the priesthood came from a review of the Joseph Smith papers. Their public response to her appeared rude and disrespectful in light of her request.

Simply put, both sides dug in their “Point of View” heels and neither side faired very well in the end.

When comments or instructions are given in a class, one must examine intent. Is it to “Make Wrong” or to teach and inform? “Make Wrong” never works and care must be given when teaching others concepts which are contrary to traditional beliefs. Like Christ’s example, understanding your audience is paramount in knowing what technique of persuasion should be used and when to be quiet. Communication can be powerful if conducted wisely.

A Communication Blunder

About six months ago, I got caught using unsuccessful communication methods when I was “Defending my Point of View” on the subject of “Follow The Prophet.” My attempt to persuade a sister that we should “Follow Christ First” was anything but successful. It caused contention. Even though we are still friends, there is an element of discomfort when we see each other. My tactic simply did not “Work”.

whats-wrong-with-this-pictureSome time later, I found this photo on Facebook and sent it to a group of friends via e-mail.The title of the e-mail was, “What Is Wrong With This Picture.” There was no more dialog concerning the photo. Several did not respond at all, while four others did. “Sorry, I can’t see anything wrong”.

This was my reply: “Where is Christ? I have a concern that through this bulletin board, children may not understand that we “Follow Christ.” We listen to the wise counsel of our leaders as they point us to Christ, but we follow Christ first. Having Christ acknowledge first on the bulletin would have be more correct.

The response was positive and met with no resistance. “Oh my, you are right. I see it now.” Seeds were planted to think differently about the subject. When the issue comes up again, perhaps they will remember our dialog. My approach was much more successful the second time around.

This is certainly a subject I would not bring up in a class. By the very nature of the subject, it would cause contention and the chances of effectively changing any point of view would be practically nil. For this subject, a one on one conversation is probably more appropriate, but not in the Church building.

May We Do Likewise

Whether we are dealing with friends, co-workers, family or members of the LDS church, how we communicate is as important or more important than the message we are trying to deliver. Broken relationships are much harder to repair than to prevent a break by using good communication skills that “Work”.

When communicating, ask yourself… “What is the fruit of my “Point of View?”  “Do I cause repeated contention?”  Also, “Do I want it to “Work” or would I rather be “Right”.

Christ is our example for using all of the qualities of influence as described in D&C 121: 40-46 and in other scriptures.

May we do likewise.

A Conversation You Don’t Want to Have

SamAndRalph“I can’t see you, but I can feel your presence,” I said.

“That’s the way it was meant to be, “he said. “Besides, it gives me the advantage. But you already know that.”

“What do you want? Why are you here?”

“My job is to keep you from doing anything good. That’s all you need to know. Whatever it takes, I have the power to do it. You know I’m not here alone. Others are nearby ready to help. I only have to call out and they’re here before you can imagine it. I have as many as I need – specialists of all kinds to do the job. You get an idea, and I call them over to suck it out of you. You must be an important one. Or maybe I am. I’ve never had this kind of power before. Must be that promotion he promised if I took care of my last assignment quick like that.”

“Why is it I can feel your presence and talk with you this way?” I said. I’m fairly certain I already knew the answers but I wanted to get the basics out of the way. I know I’m dealing with a liar but I’ve had enough experience I know he must answer me, no matter what the question.

“I’ve been kind of wondering that myself. All I can figure is you’ve been given some sort of gift,” he said “I don’t think it’s particularly fair, but it’s not going to make any difference, I can promise you that.”

“What’s you name.”

“You can call me whatever you want. I’ve been called lots of things over the years.”

“So you’ve obviously done this before.”

“You can say that.”

“I know you have to answer me, so tell me how many times you’ve done this before.”

“It all depends on what we’re talking about. Do you mean have a conversation or go all the way and put someone in the loony bin?” There was something sadistic in the way he said it, as if he was remembering something with particular delight.

“Let’s start with the basics, “I said. “How many times have you had a conversation where the other person could hear and record you?”

“You’re the first.”

“I’m not the first you talked to…” I said.

“No, but you’re the first who doesn’t seem to be afraid of me.”

“Oh, but I am afraid. I have great fear and respect for what you can do. I know who you are and what you can do. Don’t put yourself down. I know your power. You put me in the hospital twice, in case you don’t remember.”

“I sensed a smile and a rubbing of the hands together if he had any. “I had some help back then. It was my first time. You almost had us.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, come on, do I have to explain everything to you?”

“From what I understand, yes, you do have to answer every question I put to you. I’ve been told that’s a rule.” I said.

“Fine. Johnson kept your son and his friend busy. It wasn’t hard. A little weed will do wonders.”

“So it was you I saw when I was waking up.”

“If you say so. It was my job to watch you and keep you away if you moved.”

“I’m going to call you Sam.”

“Call me whatever you want.” He seemed a little annoyed.

“Want to know why?”


“It must be part of the gift. I can always tell when you’re lying,” I said.


“You remind me of that cartoon character, Sam Sheepdog, from when I was a kid. It was his job to watch the sheep and keep the wolf away. Ralph E. Wolf was always plotting a way to get at the sheep. He came up with all kinds of plans. That’s what made it funny each time.”

“You’re beginning to annoy me,” Sam said.

“You should be flattered,” I said.

“Why is that?”

“Sam was actually the smart one. He had it all figured out. In spite of his eyes covered with red hair, he knew exactly where the wolf was. He always had a plan on how to keep him away from the sheep. Remember that. Sam was the smart one.”

I sensed Sam mulling this over.

“OK, whatever. Like I say, you can call me Sam if it makes you feel better. But it’s not going to help. Nobody’s ever been able to talk to me like this before without me scaring the crap out if them. Don’t I scare you?”

“Oh, you scared me alright. Remember, the hospital.”

He brightened up. Yeah, you were a mess. You’d think you didn’t know anything about devils. Twice in one week. The boss was especially proud.”

“But you were just doing your job, weren’t you Sam? You say you’ve done this many times before.”

“I didn’t say.”

“Well, give. I want to know.”

“I don’t keep exact records. Let’s just say a couple thousand.” He was gloating, that was obvious.

“You must be pretty good, then.”

“One of the best. I don’t need much help. I’ve done this so many times I’ve got it down to a science. I specialize in drugs.”

“But not the hard stuff,” I said.

“Weed works better. It keeps the guy going, sometimes for a lifetime, but he never really accomplishes anything. What more could you ask for? He wastes his whole life and doesn’t even know it.” I could almost see a big smile cross his face.

“And your victims never notice that they’re slowly losing their edge – their desire to accomplish anything in life, their ability to remember things, their creative talents…”

“They don’t care. All they know is they feel good. Hey, that’s what drugs are all about. I told you I was an expert.”

“So why was I able to see you back then but can only sense your presence now?

“Hypnopompic Hallucination.”


“Just look it up.”

“You wanted to be in there, didn’t you? You wanted to be getting high too. I could tell by the way you looked over there.”

“Whatever. What do you want?”

“I just want to tell you thank you.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah, I mean it. I’m still in pain. The migraines and the anxiety are there but over time, they’ll go away. You know they will.”

“Yeah, so what.”

“You’ve been sent to me.”

“Say what?”

“Since you can’t lie, if you’re going to insist on hanging around, I’m going to use you. You been assigned to me, which means you can’t leave until either you defeat me or I defeat you. It’s a fight to the finish. I’m going to use you. You’re going to tell me things you don’t want to.” Now I felt like rubbing my hands together. “You know my gift helps me know when you’re lying. I think someone made a major mistake. They sent me one of the smartest and best. How does it make you feel knowing you’re going to be used?”

“Well, good luck. I can lie all I want,” Sam said. “That’s still mine. I can lead you on wild goose chases that completely waste your time. If you want to chance it, then more power to you. I don’t know what you think you can get out of this, but I can tell you I’m deadly serious. I will not give up until you’re dead, crazy or have been totally incapacitated. Even then, I’ll keep you out of commission. You’ll be no good to anybody.”

“Fine – it’s good to have it out in the open. We know where each other stands. You want to drive me crazy and I want to use you to get tactical information that’s going to help in this last great battle. You’re going to be sorry you decided to accept this assignment. Oh, sorry. I forgot. You have no power to choose, do you? You go where you’re told and do or die, isn’t that true?”

“You’re a jerk.”

“And you’re damned to hell. Don’t ever forget it.”

Update (Thur 11-7-13): I sent Sam to the light where he was met by a loving family member ready to teach him the gospel. Sam will no longer be visiting with us. He says the light is too bright here.

Broken Things to Mend – Part One

Genealogy 002

These are my mother’s family history worksheets – her life’s work. Each book (and there are a couple dozen) contains hundreds of family history worksheets all filled out by hand or on her special typewriter with the wide carriage. What a labor of love.

This is not a review of Elder Holland’s excellent book, but I have borrowed the title. This is a journal entry that may or may not be of any interest to you. It’s about mental illness in an LDS family – mine. Some may feel it is too personal to share on a public blog. Tough. Don’t read it. I’m not asking for feedback. It’s just my formal preparation to meet with a few doctors over the next two weeks. It consists of two parts I’m trying to fix – 1) The influence of a mother with mental illness and 2) the influence of the 60’s and 70’s drug culture which was so prevalent in my life at one time.

Mental Illness in the LDS Church

A few years ago on this blog, I wrote an article about mental illness (Nov 3, 2007 – Psychiatric Disorders in Mormon Theology). It was based on an Ensign article from Elder Alexander Morrison, who, if I remember correctly has a daughter who suffers from mental illness. It was entitled, “Myths About Mental Illness.” He also published a 2003 book on the subject: Valley of Sorrow: A Layman’s Guide to Understanding Mental Illness for Latter-day Saints.

Like a Broken Vessel

I mentioned in a recent post here on this blog how pleased I was to see, hear and read a discourse in our last General Conference on the same subject from Elder Holland, entitled, “Like a Broken Vessel.” Many of you know Elder Holland has published a book entitled “Broken Things to Mend (Deseret Book, 2008). If we didn’t know it before, we know now the depth of Elder Holland’s feelings towards those who suffer from mental illness and especially from depression.

The Savior Wants to Heal Us

I cried as I watched and listened to his words. For the first time since Elder Morrison’s address ten years ago, a General Authority addressed what must surely be one of the Savior’s most heart-felt desires – to heal those who suffer from the effects of this mortality. If you have not yet read both talks, I highly recommend you do so. Elder Morrison teaches us some basics we all need to know and Elder Holland helps us understand how much this malady still concerns our Savior.

Personal Confessions in a Personal Blog

May I get personal for a moment? “Well, of course, Tim, it’s your blog, please, go right ahead.” I suffer from mental illness. I don’t think I’ve made a secret of it before but I have not been as direct as I am going to be in this post. Let me make it clear I am not looking for sympathy or pity, but do want it bring it to the attention of my readers in a personal way as never before. I am simply asking for your patience as I lay some groundwork that perhaps you may recognize. In sharing this, I am not confessing some great sin, but I’ll tell you what I’m doing about it today.

Part One – The Influence of a Loving Mother

Mother was a schoolteacher. Anybody who has read my background or has been with me for any length of time on my blog knows this. I adored my mother. She was smart. She was competent. She always seemed to know what to do and she could teach the gospel better than anybody I had ever heard, and I mean anybody. I loved to sit in her classes. I got kicked out of my own school district many times specifically because I knew I would get to spend a week in my mother’s fourth grade class on California history. I loved her stories of Romona and of the Rancheros. Mother made life exciting for this student who hates lecture and learns best through kinesthetic means. In other words, I have to do something with my hands before I can say I understand it.

Mother’s Advice Made a Lasting Impression

One Sunday, an incompetent high councilor was bumbling through his talk – basically reading it out of the Ensign. Mother quietly asked me to promise if I was ever called as a High Counselor I would practice to be a better sacrament speaker. She made me promise to prepare well, present well and make sure the congregation was fed by the spirit of the Lord. When I was called as a High Counselor, I tried to keep that promise. How I prayed each time for the gift of feeding the Lord’s sheep. Except for one thing, mother would have made a great priesthood leader if she hadn’t been a woman: Although she tried to keep it from us, mother also suffered from mental illness.

Mental Illness Seen as a Weakness

She didn’t share it with us – all the psychiatric visits, the uncontrollable crying spells alone in her room or the deep, dark depression hanging over her some weeks affecting our entire household. My older sisters did not see it as much as my youngest sister and I saw and felt it in our teenage years. How I felt for my mother, wishing there was something I could do for her, wanting to know what to say, anything, that would cheer her up and help her through this miserable time in her life. Later I discovered that just talking to her helped. She and I had many, many talks about the gospel and about life in general. How I loved and appreciated my mother and her wisdom. I learned so much from her about church history, the life of the Savior and the Bible in general.

A Short Bio and Learning to Read

You can read more about her in a post I wrote shortly after her death but it doesn’t do justice to the intellectual power of this woman who carried nine children, seven to full term. She devoted her life to teaching California school children the joys of learning literature and reading. That was her specialty and oh, she was good at it. I’ve related before how I learned to read the Book of Mormon at my mother’s knee at the age of five. This is one of my most sacred memories that made me the man I am today. I love that book because we read it together when I was so young.

Book Stores are Special Places

I love books because of my mother. She used to take us to all the exotic bookstores in Southern California and allow us to pick out anything we wanted. How I loved Vromans in Pasadena, because every time we went, I got to pick out another Peter Rabbit book and figurine. The Bodhi Tree Bookstore in Hollywood is closed now but holds precious memories of hours looking for books. We mostly went to the local libraries – a lot cheaper of course – but bookstores were a special occasion – someone’s birthday or holiday to be remembered with a special gift – a book.

An Early Love of Science Fiction

Most of the books I received as gifts were on the Caldecott and Newbery lists. I won’t bore you with the names of some of those classics from the 60’s when I was growing up but I will tell you that mother was so willing to help me keep my reading habit that when I turned to science fiction in high school, she continued to fund my purchases. How I wish I still had those classics today: Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Jules Verne, Michael Crichton, H.G. Wells, and especially J.R.R Tolkien. She knew I loved Tolkien and I knew she loved me.

20,000 Ordinances performed

When mother became an older convert at age 35, two things dominated the rest of her life as far as I was concerned. First was her love of genealogy or family history. I’ve included a picture of the dozens of old family history books she compiled over forty plus years. I inherited her library and much of her correspondence. My sister has an equal amount and is a professional librarian / researcher. Mother knew more about how the family history department worked in Salt Lake then some specialists did. When she moved there she would teach classes. Sadly, her legacy of more than 20,000 names researched with each of the ordinances performed is only appreciated today by me and my two active sisters. Well, I suppose those for whom the ordinances were performed also appreciate it, at least I hope they do.

A Love of History – Religious and Secular

The other thing that dominated my mother’s life was studying the history of the church and sharing it with her children, at least her two youngest children who would listen. Her library of church books was huge. She would get so excited about learning some new facet of our history she would call just to tell me about it. This was long after I was married and moved out. While I served my mission in 1976-1978, she took it upon herself to graduate from institute. She made me promise to never share her papers but the older I get the more I feel she would approve of publishing what she learned through the CES program about the Book or Mormon, the Life of Christ, details of the history of Joseph Smith I have never read elsewhere and so many other papers she composed. She would even go to the Huntington Library to research early Mormon California history. I’ve always said it and I’ll always be grateful to be the son of an intellectual giant. Mother blessed me so much.

A Sliver of Darkness Amidst the Light

Why is it that so many of those who are blessed with the ability to construct wonderful research papers, or great works of art or inventions that bless and serve mankind, are considered eccentric, lacking in people skills or suffer from depression, mental illness or some other mental malady? I won’t share details, but mother could ruin a family get together quicker than anyone I have ever known with a single word or phrase, followed by sulking in her room until someone would come get her and help her understand she had not been personally insulted or that nobody had tried to embarrass her on purpose. How can such an intellectual giant be so emotionally sensitive?

Living With a Perfectionist

Mother’s mental illness was somehow related to self-consciousness. She was a perfectionist, oh, how she was a perfectionist. She would express her frustration on anyone who happened to be around her, usually my dad, but sometimes me, and we would encourage her to start again on whatever project which she was currently working. It usually had something to do with her Gospel Doctrine lesson. The Bishop took a real chance in calling her to that position, but as long as I can remember she either taught Gospel Doctrine or Family History during the years she and dad were active. As I related in her life story, she didn’t last long in Utah, meaning she could not relate to farmers and ranchers who served in priesthood leadership positions. She didn’t get that. Please don’t take offense. Mother thought a priesthood leader should be trained in the ministry.

A Mother Who Loved Doctrine

OK, enough about mother. I hope you get the impression I have deep and grateful feelings for my mother. I was the youngest child who was both spoiled and ignored, if you know what I mean. I’m afraid I also inherited whatever ran in mother’s family. I too am a perfectionist, although I hope and believe I have learned to deal with it better by watching her example of how not to respond. Like my mother, I love to teach. I love to study church history. I would prefer to attend a seminar on the life of some historical character or the influence of some organization on the development of a city or community than just about anything else. I love history, especially as it relates to our church. My bookcase is filled with biographies and doctrine. If you can believe it, mother also loved doctrine. We went to Education Weeks and Know Your Religion.

Utah Culture Was a Shock to Mother

Something happened to mother when she moved to Utah. She and Dad went there to work full time on family history after they retired. It didn’t work out. They stayed less than ten years then came back to California to spend the rest of their days in a city mainly known for retirement. Once they got to Hemet, they stopped going to church. Well, actually, I think they stopped going to church before they left Utah. Let’s just say that Mother’s feelings about Utah culture were the cause of their leaving the church. There was nobody in particular that caused them to leave. They did not lose their testimonies really, especially of Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon. But I can tell you there was something about the way Utah folks taught church history that rankled my mother. I won’t get into it. It’s not important to the story I’m trying to tell here. She was still involved in family history research, but she no longer attended church or the temple. I had so many conversations with her trying to convince her at least go and partake of the sacrament.

Dealing with Evil Spirits – a Little More Background

OK, now it’s my turn. This is my blog, and this is another personal blog entry, not meant to be a doctrinal dissertation or religious thesis. But I’m hoping maybe it will do someone some good. I have suffered migraines for seven months now. I’m not sure if the migraines are a result of the anxiety and panic attacks that started then or the other way around. I suspect the latter. I’ll let the doctors decide. I think my body, my mind, my spirit, my intelligence or whatever you want to say directs the body, has caused my migraines and the associated pain treatment. The body is pretty smart. I think my subconscious is doing whatever it needs to do to keep me from going through the panic and anxiety attacks I went through back on that night last February that sent me to the hospital twice in the same week for being out of control mentally and emotionally. If you don’t know to what I’m referring, email me and I’ll send you the document (see below).

Getting Professional Help is OK

Believe it or not, I have five appointments with five different psychiatrists and psychologists over the next two weeks. I’ve got to get my story down so I can tell it without coming across with a psychotic or neurotic outlook on life. Actually, I don’t care. Psychotic means a loss of contact with reality while neurotic, although no longer really in use, means fearful or worried about something – tending to worry in a way that is not healthy or reasonable. Let me see if I can give an example that will help. A psychotic is someone who sees evil spirits. OK, you can put that label on me. I’ve related it in several posts. If you haven’t read the document I wrote up to describe the events that sent me to the hospital back in February, I’m happy to share it. Just email me at tmalonemcse @ gmail.com. I sincerely think I fit more into the neurotic category: I am worried or anxious I will have an encounter with an evil spirit if I do not keep myself sedated, which I have done for the last seven months with the doctor’s help – lots of kinds of prescription medicine. That’s not such a good idea. We really need to face our fears, not hide from them.

Choose a Doctor Who Can Help You

By the way, the five different appointments are to see which one I like best. That’s the beauty of the American way: we have a choice, at least for now. Of course, I could decide not to bring up the real story of why I think I’m having these migraines. One of the first things I was asked by one of the doctors was if I was looking to go on disability. I can’t believe how easy it is. Maybe it’s just California. I’m not sure how long it lasts. All I’m trying to do is figure out what’s wrong with me, get it fixed and get the joy back in my life that I once felt before this thing happened. Maybe I do need to go on disability while I figure this out with these psychiatric visits (or to the psychologist as the case may be). Do you know the difference? Psychiatrists can prescribe drugs. Anyway, one could be on disability for many months while they figure things out and get fixed.

A Few Last Words About Mother’s Mental Illness

Can we ever really be fixed from the influence of the adversary? To her dying day, members of our family would not bring up certain events around our mother for fear of “setting her off” into one of her episodes. Even through gentle probing she would deny them in later years, I am an eye-witness to her attempted suicides, which all seemed to occur just before my mission. I know it was a coincidence but 1976 was both the best year and the worst year for mother. This is the year we went to many Know Your Religion and BYU Education Week Seminars as well as the same year she tried to commit suicide by overdose and by sticking her head in an unlit oven. I’m sorry to be so graphic. I remember one passionate discussion about confession that set her off. We had just come from a KYR lecture on the subject of repentance. I could tell something was wrong. She exploded when we got home exclaiming we should never tell a priesthood leader about something we had done involving the law of chastity, obviously a sensitive subject for her. I tried to discuss with her what we had just learned in KYR but it was not a good experience. I think that’s the occasion she said “the priesthood is just the men’s club of the church.” She was obviously distressed at the time.

Long Discussions With a Struggling Mother

As the youngest, I had a great desire to please my mother and make her proud of me. I did my best to serve a good mission, especially since my parents paid my expense. Central America was probably the least expensive mission in the world. We lived on less than $200 a month, but I knew my dad came off disability and got a job again just so he could support me on my mission. I was grateful they allowed me to continue to live at home while at school after my mission but by this time my mother’s episodes became so dramatic I had to move out. I saw and heard things my brother and sisters never heard since they were all married or in my brother’s case, in the military. Mother had a love / hate affair with the church that seemed to set her off into these difficult and very deep gospel discussions way over my father’s head. I hope that doesn’t sound disrespectful, but things that bothered my mother were simply not an issue for my easy-going father. So it was usually she and I that hashed things out, sometimes until early morning hours.

Mother Was Inactive when she Died – So What?

Not having grown up with a father or brothers, mother was still trying to come to grips with the idea of priesthood hierarchy. She was an intelligent, competent school teacher with a Master’s degree who had a real problem with men telling her how to teach a Sunday school class. I have her childhood journal in which she discusses helping her own mother teach Sunday school all during her teenage years. Trust me, mother knew how to teach, how to control a class and how to keep the class interested. They would ask her to teach the in-service lessons we later called the teacher improvement classes. To her dying day, I think what kept mother away was anger or disappointment at the men of this church who tried to tell her how to do a job for which she was eminently qualified. Humility -if only mother had learned humility. She always said that was her downfall in this life.

Part Two deals with the influence of the drug culture of the 60’s and 70’s (This will be a link when it is posted)

In the Tops of the Mountains

IndependenceTempleSignAs I was preparing my talk for sacrament meeting next week I thought I would look up and see what Denver Snuffer had to say on the subject. Oh boy. There’s no way I could share some of that stuff from the pulpit. It simply goes against what prophets and apostles have taught over the years on the same subject. Yet, as I read it, the majority of it made sense. See if you agree.

The subject is Becoming the Pure in Heart. Of course, that has to do with preparing for Zion. I suppose it doesn’t really matter where Zion is to be located. That’s not the essential point of the talk. But it is a matter of history that we believe Zion is to be located in Independence, Missouri. In fact, we have it in the scriptures. In the heading to section 57, we read that Joseph asked:

Independence Missouri is Zion

“When will the wilderness blossom as the rose? When will Zion be built up in her glory, and where will Thy temple stand, unto which all nations shall come in the last days?” The Lord’s response in verses 1-3 was “…the land of Missouri, which is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints.

“Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion. And thus saith the Lord your God, if you will receive wisdom here is wisdom. Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse.”

Zion Shall Not Be Moved

After the saints were expelled from Jackson county, the Lord revealed in section 101:17-19: “Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered. They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion — And all these things that the prophets might be fulfilled.”

And yet from Denver (23 Feb 2012) we read: “I do not think Zion will initially be where people think it will. I do not think Zion will be at all what people think it will be. … I do not think Zion will be an institutional enterprise. …there is reason to suspect that our presumption that the New Jerusalem will be in Independence Missouri is somewhat misplaced.

A Preliminary Gathering Place

“I am persuaded it will not be there until after the Lord’s return. There will be a location elsewhere, in the Rocky Mountains, where the preliminary gathering to a Holy City to be built will occur before the Lord’s return. Then, following His return, activities will also involve Jackson County. … The initial gathering before the Lord’s return will be in the Rocky Mountains.”

And from an entry dated 12 Sep 2010, we read: “…when it [Zion] is built, it will be at the place always prophesied for its construction. Zion was to be located on the top of the high mountains.  (Isa. 40: 9.) Jackson County has no mountains, no mountain range, no possibility of fulfilling the promised environs for establishing Zion. (Isa. 2: 3.)

Fulfillment of Ancient Scripture

“Make the descriptions ‘spiritual’ if you want, but a mountain setting is clearly required for the prophesied Zion. … Zion was always intended to be built upon the mountain top. (Isa. 30: 17.) Even a valley location in Salt Lake cannot answer to the description given in prophecy. A valley floor is not the “top of the mountain” upon which the beacon will be set. Zion has never been moved. Nor will it.”

Continuing a little in that entry: “There is no doubt a glorious future for Jackson County. But that will be by and by. There is a gathering in the tops of the mountains which must precede that. If there is not a gathering in the mountains first, then ancient and modern prophecy will fail. There is to be a gathering within the boundaries of the everlasting hills. (D&C 133: 31-32.) Zion will flourish upon the mountains. (D&C 49:25.) There aren’t any places in Missouri that qualify for this preliminary gathering.”

What do you Think?

I think Denver is right. The initial gathering of Zion will be somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Which makes me wonder about the visions of Spencer in Visions of Glory who wrote very specifically about being involved in the building of the temples in Independence and his activities there as a “base of operations” so to speak. Will there be a temple in the tops of the mountains or is that reserved for Missouri? What are your thoughts?

By the way, here are the talks I was given as resources, and from which I will quote from the pulpit (only):

Come to Zion! Come to Zion!” (Keith B. McMullin, Ensign, November 2002)
Come to Zion” (D. Todd Christofferson, Ensign, November 2008)
Becoming the Pure in Heart” (Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, May 1978)
Stand Ye in Holy Places” (Lance B. Wickman, Ensign, November 1994)

Loss of the Sealing Power

While in a sacred place a month ago a friend asked what I thought about “Passing the Heavenly Gift.” I confess that I had not heard of the book or the author, Denver Snuffer. I assume he asked my opinion because he knows that I have reviewed similar books on my blog that focus on controversial issues facing the LDS Church. Denver’s books are not advertised. People learn about them only by word of mouth or through online reviews on sites like mine.

I purchased the book and posted on Facebook that I had done so. Several of my blogging buddies noted it and expressed interest in what I thought. A few days later after my first quick read-through, I wrote “I speed read the first half. Finding no major faults, I devoured the second half (pages 240 to 499) in about four hours. I haven’t stayed up until 2:30 in the morning to read a book in years.” There is something dramatically different about this book.

Don’t leave the church

I also reported that “My focus in reading was to find anything smacking of disloyalty to the brethren or encouraging the members to leave. He came close on the first point but completely negated my concern on the second.” Before I write anything else I want to focus on that second point. I am convinced that Denver Snuffer has his reader’s best interest at heart. I cannot say that about the authors of any other recent book of LDS History I have read. Denver wants us to stay in the Church.

However, Denver Snuffer has caused me to do something no other recent writer of Mormon history has been able to do. He has produced in me a desire to read his book again and again. I want to study it, to research it, to look up many of the quotes, to read what others have said about those quotes. In other words, I am taking seriously Denver’s claims which, although not all unique to his book, are argued more precisely and effectively than any other author I have encountered.

Receive the Second Comforter

I have just completed the second reading of the book and am starting on the third, this time with pen and highlighter in hand. I have read his first book, “The Second Comforter” twice and have purchased each of the intervening six books. I have invested hours reading Denver’s blog from start to finish and have contemplated each of the points he has made there over the years. Other than the scriptures, I have never invested this much time in trying to understand an author’s message.

Everything I have learned about Denver has caused me to contemplate his message more and more. He has asked that we not focus on him, his life or his background. He has asked that we pay attention more to the process he is trying to get us to pass through – a process that if we follow through to completion will have us receive The Second Comforter for ourselves. I like that. I want that. I endorse that. How can you fault a man for wanting to help you come unto Christ? I don’t.

Details lacking in faith-promoting history

In the meantime, you are going to have to pass through some very difficult realizations that, depending on the strength of your relationship with the things of the spirit, may leave you gasping and reaching for help and understanding. If you are not already familiar with things our detractors have written about us you will have a challenging time reading this book. It will make you angry. It will cause you to think of Mr. Snuffer as an apostate and wonder why he hasn’t been excommunicated.

This book is not for everybody. If you are a casual member of the church you will not be interested. If you are not familiar with some of the controversies about our history being discussed on the Internet today, you will be a little shocked at what you read. You may not understand why some of the issues are problems at all if all you have ever learned about our history is what you were taught in Sunday school, Primary, Seminary or even Institute. This is an alternative view of our history.

Sealing power has been lost

I wish I was at the point where I could say that I can vouch for Denver’s accuracy or that I agree with his interpretations. I am not there yet. I suspect it will take me years to arrive at that level. In the meantime, if you have already read Denver’s works, I want to hear from you. I am especially interested in discussion about the two most controversial arguments in his book – the idea that the sealing power is not on the earth at this time and Denver’s interpretation of the fullness of the priesthood.

<Update 4-29-12> Denver has posted on his blog that “I have never said the church does not have the sealing power.” This obviously is in direct conflict with the thesis of this essay and my (and my wife’s) interpretation of the first chapter of his book, especially this line: “The church and its ordinations and ordinances does not confer power.” (p 36) He’s right. He did not say the church does not have the sealing power. Carol and I did not clearly understand the message of his first chapter. <end of update>

I kept looking for Denver to address the implications of the position he is advocating in regards to the work we are doing in the temples. I confess I have so far been disappointed by the lack of a sympathetic discussion of what this means to the thousands, if not millions of members who have spent so much of their time and energy over the years in researching and performing proxy ordinances in the temples for their ancestors. I am one of those individuals and want to know his response.

The work in the temples

In other words, if the sealing power is not on the earth then what hope do my wife and I have that we will be united in the eternities? If the sealing power is not on the earth, then what in the world have I and my mother and sisters been doing for these past forty years in digging and corresponding and compiling the thousands and thousands of family names ensuring that their work was done in the temples? I see this as the single most important issue to be answered.

Because I am so intrigued by what I have learned so far, I am going to give Denver the benefit of the doubt that he has already answered this question satisfactorily and I have simply not yet found it. I am not like some of my online friends who have become disaffected and left the church then complain about how much they resented the loss of their tithing money or that they felt duped when they learned they had been teaching a “sanitized” version of our history.

Section 110 misinterpreted

This idea of the sealing power is central to my feelings about the church and core to the reason why I have spent so many thousands of hours in the temple over the past thirty-five years. No, I don’t feel that my time was wasted if what Denver claims about section 110 is true. Of all the things that could strike at the heart and soul of Mormonism this is it. If you want to hurt a whole lot of good people, tell them that the the work they have been doing in the temples is not valid.

There is one question I would like to ask Denver, but I won’t because I don’t know him and he has made it clear that he gets far too many requests to answer directly. Because I felt strongly about sharing what I was learning from Denver’s books, I asked Carol to read the fist chapter of “Passing the Heavenly Gift” to me as we drove to Southern Utah for a family vacation this weekend. We had one of the most deep and enjoyable gospel discussions we have ever had over the course of several hours.

Exaltation is a family affair

Carol came away from the reading with the distinct impression that Denver was saying that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is today no different than any other good Christian church. She read that Brigham Young was only elected to be the President of the Church and that there was no ordination that passed the keys of the kingdom to him or to any of the rest of the twelve. She related her feelings while as a missionary she was taught by her mission president that Joseph ordained and passed the keys of the kingdom on to the twelve before they left on their missions.

Denver, what would you say to my wife, who related while she stood at the Far West temple site with dozens of other missionaries how she felt the spirit bear witness to her soul that Joseph successfully passed the keys of the kingdom on to the apostles before he sent them away on their missions and went on to Carthage jail to seal his testimony with his blood? Would you say that Joseph wasn’t referring to the council of the twelve, but to the council of fifty?

An incomplete ordination

What Denver is writing about is serious business. He is apparently all about getting people to question what they have been taught and what they believe about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He says he wants to bring us to Christ but in the process he wants us to rethink what we have been taught and what we believe about the power of priesthood and how it is manifested in our lives. He says the temple will point us to Christ yet says the sealing power is not there.

Am I the first to see the implications of what he is teaching? I don’t think so. Tell me I’m wrong or that I’ve missed the point completely. Tell me that all the thousands of temple workers, so many of them my good friends, are not wasting their time laboring in temples that have been rejected. Tell me that the blessings I have given to my wife and so many others over the years are efficacious even though I have not had my ordination completed by having the Lord lay his hands upon my head.

Receiving the Heavenly Gift

I am not a lawyer, so I can never argue as well as Denver has done. I am a simple member of the church, happy in my faith and grateful to have lived my life in the orthodox manner as taught by my leaders. I have served a mission, been married in the temple, served in bishoprics and high councils for the past twenty-five years and generally loved my time associating with saints of the Lord, who Denver is now calling a fallen and proud people, members of an apostate gentile church.

What do you think? Has Denver taught the truth in his book, “Passing the Heavenly Gift” or is he an apostate like some have declared him to be? Is it worth my time to read the rest of his books? Is there a whole lot more that I don’t see yet that will prove Denver to be right? Perhaps I need to re-read his first book again and put the process to the test as he is asking us to do. Is Denver teaching that we need to do in our homes what we are taught in the temple to converse with the Lord through the veil?

I would love to read your opinions.

Changing Requirements of Perfection

After reviewing one of my previous essays, a thoughtful reader asked my opinion about the idea of perfection and if the requirements for salvation had changed.  He said, “Open just about any page of the book of Leviticus and you’ll see laws that were of life and death importance to the early church, but not today. In contrast, there is no mention of baptism or confirmation in the Old Testament as a requirement for salvation, yet today, they are taught as essential.”

He also asked about the need for the Word of Wisdom, temple ordinances, plural marriage and the second anointing. He concluded, “If God is eternal, and heaven doesn’t change, shouldn’t the requirements to get into heaven be the same, no matter when you were born or what culture you lived in?” Although his email was private, great questions like these deserve a response that can be shared in my blog so others who might be interested can benefit from the dialog.

Perfection means completed

The savior taught in 3 Ne 12:48, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” Perfection to me has always meant complete or completed as in finished or fulfilled, certainly not something we will achieve in this life and not in the spirit world to come. Perfection is a state that is achieved only after we have learned all there is to know about becoming like God. And that can’t happen until we are resurrected beings because we will never understand what God is like until we have the same type of body that he has.

The Prophet Joseph said, “…go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”

Joseph F. Smith said, “Salvation does not come all at once; we are commanded to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect. It will take us ages to accomplish this end, for there will be greater progress beyond the grave, and it will be there that the faithful will overcome all things … for we will have to go even beyond the grave before we reach that perfection and shall be like God. But here we lay the foundation.”

Flaws and errors removed

I have never equated perfection as meaning without flaw or error, rather as having flaws and errors removed.  That of course can only come through the atonement of the Savior.  It is not something that I can accomplish on my own.  That is my understanding of perfection – having flaws and errors removed by the Savior.  Therefore, it is my desire to meet the requirements for the atonement to be effective in my life as set forth by the savior and as revealed to his prophets.  I’m not talking about temporal salvation. The resurrection is a free gift to all.  We will all live again with immortal bodies.  But the quality of our life in the hereafter depends entirely upon us and our efforts to be worthy and prepared for the greatest of all the gifts of God – eternal life.

Requirements of Salvation

So that brings us to the second point – meeting the requirements of salvation.  I guess I’m not so concerned about what the people of the Old Testament had to do to please the Lord.  I’m glad I don’t live in the harsh conditions of those days when a man could be stoned for what today would seem to be a minor infraction.  They had a different law back then and the Lord taught us clearly that he fulfilled that law.  The Mosaic Law was to bring them to Christ, even though most of the Israelites who lived back then did not understand that.  The Lord described them as a hard-hearted and stiff-necked people.  I would hope that we are not like some of those early Israelites.  Someday, they must receive the ordinances of the higher priesthood just as it is required of us.

Baptism in ancient times

We are taught in Moses 6 that Adam was baptized.  When Peter said on the day of Pentecost that they must repent and be baptized, the people obviously had a clear understanding of the concept.  John the Baptist did not practice something that was new and unknown.  I am confident that baptism was practiced in the old world.  We know that Alma baptized in the Waters of Mormon. I think we can be certain that the Book of Mormon people brought the practice with them from the Old World.  Baptism is a priesthood ordinance and is one of the requirements of salvation.  The laying on of hands was a common practice as evidenced by priesthood blessings given by the early patriarchs to their children as well as by many references in the New Testament.

Temple ordinances required

I think there is ample evidence that temple ordinances were a part of the religious practice of the ancient people of Israel.  The Lord has always commanded his people to build temples where they are gathered in numbers of sufficient strength.  Where they were not, his saints were endowed with power from on high on the tops of mountains.  No, the majority of the Israelites did not receive the endowment as they lived the Mosaic Law.  But yes, all must be endowed and sealed someday.  That is one of the purposes of the Millennium.

Word of Wisdom for our day

Even though it is based on eternal principles such as moderation and self-control, the Word of Wisdom is a modern revelation given for our benefit in our day. As the Lord said, it was given “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days.”  Just as the Israelites were given a law of health with many specific things to not do, we have been given a few guidelines for our health in our day. Isn’t that part of the principle of ongoing revelation – specifics suited for our times? No, it’s true that Jesus didn’t teach the Word of Wisdom when he came in the Meridian of Time, but he did reveal it for us in our day.  Thank God for living prophets and modern revelation that gives us that direction we need now.

Plural Marriage not required

Let’s consider why we no longer participate in the Second Anointing or Plural Marriage. Both of those subjects are fascinating to study and can produce a lot of fruitful discovery if we choose to get into them. I have always considered plural marriage to be optional, while entering into the law of celestial marriage to be a requirement.  We must receive that sealing ordinance to make progress according to section 131.  But plural marriage is not a requirement of exaltation.  You can read that in section 132, verse 61.  It says that if a man “desire to espouse another,” and the first wife consents and she is given or sealed unto him by the prophet then he does not commit adultery.  It is never worded that a man must take another wife.  Only certain brethren were commanded in the early days of the church to do so as part of the restoration of all things.

Timing of the Second Anointing

We don’t know much about the Second Anointing, do we?  We certainly aren’t taught about it in our standard Sunday curriculum or even in any of the CES curriculum as far as I can determine.  To be honest, I like the Wikipedia article.  It’s a pretty good summary of everything I have read over the years.  I know it bothers some people that this is not openly taught, but I guess they feel the same way that the temple ceremony is not openly taught.  Of course you can read the whole thing today on the Internet.  I like the fact that we work harder in the church today to ensure that people are more prepared for the first anointing.  To me, it is a lifetime of faithful service in the Lord’s church that prepares us for the second anointing, either in this life or in the resurrection.

Dormant religious practices

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if these things have really changed or are just dormant.  I am one who believes that those two practices in particular will once again be a part of our worship.  Yes, I am convinced that the day will come when even the “regular” member of the church will be able to receive the second anointing just as soon as he is ready and can participate in plural marriage if he so chooses and his wives are given to him under the direction of the prophet.  Of course, that’s not going to happen while we live under the laws of the government of the United States, but as we all know, the government of the United States will not stand forever.  Yes, the constitution is an inspired document, but when the Savior comes, we will enter a theocracy.

Be Faithful to Joseph

I guess the reason I’m not bothered by a lot of things that I read out there on the Internet about the church, including some very convincing arguments that make you think, is that I like to think of myself more like Hyrum Smith than Joseph.  I don’t see visions or hear the voice of the Lord like Joseph, but I have been blessed with the gift of believing.  That’s what I meant when I said that I choose to believe.  After many years of experience, I can tell you that feel happiest when I exercise faith and choose to believe what was revealed through Joseph Smith.  I believe Joseph.  I trust the brethren who lead this church today.  I have listened to them and studied their words for all my life.  I have never been disappointed nor had cause to doubt their spiritual leadership.  Like Hyrum, I want to remain faithful and supportive of their direction to the end of my days.


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