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?”

“No.”

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

“Whatever.”

“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.”

“Hypno-what?”

“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.

Moving Toward Gospel Promises


All my life in the church I have heard the promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  These are held out as motivating ideas that are intended to help us resist the pull and attraction of worldly pleasures.  In this short essay, I would like to consider just one of those promises and the power for good that it should have in our lives.

Of course, the attraction of promises pre-supposes that you are the kind of person that is motivated by the “moving-toward” model.  If you’re not familiar with the idea, it comes from the book Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins.  He states, “All human behavior revolves around the urge to gain pleasure or avoid pain.”

Tony’s shorthand for this is “pain or gain.”  Which one drives you?  Of course the concept is not original with Tony but he made it a focus of his seminars and books.  The idea has been around forever and stated in different ways by various thinkers.  The process is not absolute.  We move toward some things and away from others.

However, most of us live our lives predominantly either moving toward a goal or moving away from an unpleasant situation, either past, present or future.  You can easily determine your predominant model by describing something you desire.  Do you express it in terms of what it is or what it isn’t, what you want or don’t want?

For example, think about and describe your ideal home or family.  How about your ideal job?  I was surprised to note that I described my ideal home in terms of what I want, but my ideal job in terms of what I don’t want.  Maybe that’s because I am towards the end of my career and have seen plenty of negatives I want to avoid.

The greatest gift

What are the most important gospel promises that we should consider?  Let’s start with the big one – eternal life.  I’m not talking about being resurrected; that’s a given and a free gift from the Savior as part of the gospel plan.  I’m talking about being able to live the kind of life that God lives, with complete joy and fulfillment.

In modern revelation it is recorded that “there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.” (D&C 6:13)  We are also told that “if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7)  Salvation in the fullest sense is defined as eternal life.

So just what is eternal life and how can we relate to it since we have nothing to which we can compare it in this life?  In order for something to be desirable and worthy of sacrifice, we must have at least some sense of its attractiveness.  In fact, it is up to the Lord to make us fully aware of what really comprises eternal life.

Salvation without exaltation

In the LDS Church, we commonly refer to exaltation as the kind of life that God lives, and consider it to be synonymous with eternal life.  We also consider it to be the fullness of salvation.  If we want to get a little more precise, let’s consider one common aphorism used to describe it: “Salvation without exaltation is damnation.”

This is a saying that engenders intense debate even among LDS scholars because I have read it online many times over the years.  I agree with that adage because for me, it appeals to my predominant “moving away from” model.  Yes, I confess that I am more inclined to make life choices in order to avoid unpleasant possibilities.

I consider the moving-away from model of thinking to be very mortal; not weak, just mortal.  But I’m grateful to know that the Lord is fully aware of this approach.  This is evidenced by the twofold promise of the Book of Mormon:  If you keep the commandments of God you will be blessed.  If you don’t, then you will be cursed.

Yes, tell me more about the negatives of a behavior and I will do my best to avoid it because I can see the results such behavior has produced in others.  The only way I am motivated by a promise of eventual reward is if I have experienced something similar, even if it is in a small degree.  My mortal mind doesn’t “get” eternal life.

Yet, in my heart I know that there is life after death.  I have had too many personal evidences presented for my consideration to feel otherwise.  I am satisfied that the concept of a spirit world is real; that there are unseen beings operating in a plane of existence just outside my mortal perception; and many times acting on my behalf.

Learning from opposition

So how does the Lord reach people like me who need a more solid understanding of eternal life in order to be motivated by the promise?  I guess I’m kind of like the child that hears from a parent, “if you work hard in school, you’ll have an easier life when you get older.”  It’s true, but it didn’t work for me when I was a child.

An easy life to a child is loving acceptance, lots of playtime, a warm, comfortable home, lots of food to eat and that safe, secure feeling that comes from knowing that dangers are far, far away, or even better, being oblivious to the concept of danger.  But such a life doesn’t work as we get older because we experience opposition.

And that’s why I am more motivated by an understanding of what eternal life will not be like.  I have experienced opposition, adversity, setbacks, disappointments and many painful shocks brought on by unforeseen and unwanted reality checks.  Because of these experiences, I know what I don’t want eternal life to be like.

Of course, I don’t set the rules when it comes to my quality of life after death.  But I do “get” the idea that I can determine a large part of that life quality by what I do or don’t do and how I respond to the life choices that are presented to me.  There really is a lot of truth to the idea that a man is about as happy as he decides to be.

Disappointments will cease

I don’t want eternal life to be disappointing.  I don’t think God is disappointed.  Even though we believe that his most important work is us, his children, I don’t think he is ever really disappointed in us.  I also don’t believe that his plans for us are ever really frustrated.  We will get out of this life what we came here to get.

What we came here to receive is an understanding and appreciation for eternal life – the kind of life that God lives – that we never could have accomplished without experiencing opposition, adversity, disappointment, trail, heartache, frustration and pain.  So whatever the outcome of our lives, we will appreciate eternal life better.

That appreciation comes by application of the “moving away from” model of life.  Although we may not understand all the promises of peace, happiness, freedom, personal power, contentment and joy that are held out to us, we now know what we don’t want eternal life to be like.  We don’t want it to be like our life here on earth.

Yes, I have experienced happiness in this life.  I have experienced success, some personal power, a measure of peace, plenty of freedom and lots of growth.  But even in achieving these things, I immediately realized that they were temporary and not complete.  They do not last because of the transient nature of mortality.

Moving away from pain

Do you see?  I now understand something about eternal life that I never could have fathomed before and something that I don’t want.  I don’t want good things to end as they do in this life.  I work long and hard to create my home and family life that I do not want to see come to an end.  I don’t want that work to be wasted or to fail.

So for me, moving toward gospel promises is meaningless unless I have something concrete to compare them to.  I am motivated to move away from something that I don’t want.  I don’t want sickness, physical pain and death; therefore I am attracted by the promise of a resurrection, which becomes more attractive the older I get.

I don’t want to be disappointed in myself in the life to come.  Carol has a way of expressing this that I find memorable.  She says, “Do you think God will take away the memory of being married to someone if you don’t live worthy of them?”  How tortuous that would be to see your mortal spouse and not be able to be with them!

So for me, gospel promises are more motivating when I think about what I might lose as opposed to what I might gain.  I don’t want to lose things that I have been given or have earned.  Yes, I believe we must earn or qualify for some blessings in the life to come.  Eternal life is a gift, but we must meet the requirements for it.

Conclusion

I’ll bet there are at least a half dozen theological ideas expressed in this essay with which non-LDS readers will disagree.  In fact, I’m certain that many of my LDS readers will also take exception to some of my statements.  That’s OK.  I welcome the dialog and hope that maybe something I have expressed has been helpful.

I love the Lord’s promises but I confess that I just don’t get some of them because of my weak, limited mortal way of seeing things.  I believe the promises and am certain that they will mean a lot more when I get to the spirit world.  Today, I just want to keep the good things I have gained from my experience with opposition.

Earlier in this essay I wrote that since we have no real concept of eternal life, it is God’s responsibility to make it appear attractive to us.  I mean that.  But how he does that may be different for each one of us.  In my case, I am enticed by the spirit whispering to me that in the next life, I will no longer have to endure temptation.

I love that promise.

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.

A Website for the Average Mormon


I’ve been reading the arguments on MormonThink.com off and on for several years now.  I have a lot of respect for the individuals behind the site, even though most of them choose to be anonymous.  I am confident that I have been visited by several of the contributors there or at least by those who read their site and others like it such as Ex Mormon and Post Mormon.

I am by no means a scholar or intellectual.  I think I’m pretty smart and that I’m pretty good with logic.  After all, I have made a living for thirty years demystifying computers for others.  But I know there are a lot of people out there who are smarter than I am and who have the academic credentials to prove it.  I like to think that I’m just a regular, average, typical Latter-day Saint.

I like smart, thinking people and especially people who present logical conclusions well, either in writing or verbally.  Critical thinking is a skill that I am constantly striving to improve.  I confess that I am impressed when someone can speak or write with confidence, especially when it comes to doctrines and practices of the church.  That’s why I continue to take college classes each year.

Choosing to believe

But I’d like to take exception with one of the common threads I find in the essays on sites like MormonThink.com.  It has to do with choosing to believe.  The concept of voluntary or involuntary belief has been discussed by philosophers for millennia.  But it’s such a basic part of how I deal with the sort of intellectual issues on Mormon Think that I want to share it with you.

I disagree with those who contend that beliefs are not voluntary acts of will.  There is no doubt in my mind that I am a voluntarist when it comes to my beliefs about the church and our history.  This is especially true in light of, or in spite of all the fascinating historical facts that I have read over the years that are just not taught to or even known by the majority of the Latter-day Saints.

Invariably I have found that those who label themselves atheists also claim to be involuntarists.  I am coming to the conclusion that those who embrace the title of Ex Mormon, Post Mormon or Former Mormon also see their position as involuntary.  “It was inevitable,” they say, “based on what I have learned, I had no other choice but to now disbelieve what I had formally believed.”

Encouraging Faith

Well, that’s where we differ.  I have spent many years studying the same material that has been so troubling and bothersome to so many of my fellow seekers of knowledge.  I can honestly say that my faith has been strengthened and my belief deepened that Joseph was who he claimed to be – a prophet of God – and that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be – Holy Scripture.

I have no doubt that there are many in the church, who, if they studied the same material we have written about on our blogs and websites, would be absolutely freaked out and would soon leave the church.  They are either social Mormons only or are not strong in their desire to know more about the history of our church.  I don’t think these kinds of people are your typical Mormons.

What’s missing from sites like MormonThink.com, and what you’ll find in abundance on the official church web sites, is the role of faith, and especially encouraging faith.  There is way too much emphasis on the intellect and not enough focus on feelings.  The section on Testimony and Spiritual Witness relegates the role of feelings of faith as something to be dissected and derided.

Announcing new website

That’s reason why I decided to start my own website, LatterdayCommentary.com.  This blog is hosted on that domain, which I registered years ago.  It’s not much to look at today.  In fact, I almost consider it a prototype.  I’ve put together some commentary and links to my essays on some of the same subjects that you will find on MormonThink.com.  It will grow with time.

I know that I’m just one of thousands of LDS members who have a website where they share their beliefs and testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  I like to think that I’m not much different from your average Mormon.  I grew up as a member of the church but I come from a convert family.  And my viewpoint is definitely that of a laid-back California boy.

I’ve been happy as a member of the LDS Church all my life.  I loved my mission and I love going to the temple.  I love General Conference and I love serving in a local Bishopric.  I hope you’ll take a look at my website and then come back here and make some suggestions as to how I can make it better and more useful in promoting the doctrines of our LDS faith to the world.

When prophets need to know


I have a deep personal interest in the anticipated social response to the upcoming movie, 2012.  While it looks to be great entertainment from the fertile mind of Roland Emmerich, I am fascinated by the idea of how our society will react to some sort of a major catastrophic cataclysmic event like that depicted in the film.

I don’t go in for conspiracy theories that the government of the United States has a secret plan for the survival of the race.  I am certain that we have plans in place to ensure the continuity of the government in event of nuclear war or some other disaster, but the survival of the citizens of this country is a whole different matter.

A wise investment

As I get older, I take the idea of having a usable stockpile of food and water much more seriously than when I was younger.  We have dipped into our food storage several times over the past few years as the grip of a tight economy has reached into our personal finances.  But I value my food storage for a different reason.

I am convinced that the day will come, in my lifetime, that we will not be able to leave our homes for extended periods of time in order to go out and buy food.  It could be due to a flu pandemic or perhaps social unrest, but I am more inclined to think that it will be from some sort of a plague that will keep us indoors for weeks.

A prophecy of plagues

Now there’s a word that you don’t hear thrown around much these days.  Do I mean a plague like the kind that decimated Europe during the middle ages?  No.  How about a plague like the kind that caused so many deaths at the end of World War I – the 1918 flu pandemic?  No, I’m thinking of a different kind of plague.

Perhaps turning to the scriptures will bring it to a better light.  Let’s take a look at Revelations chapter eight. There are several references to plagues contained in the next few chapters but verse seven describes the beginning of the plague to which I refer now.  What things fall to the earth when the first angel sounds his trumpet?

Hail and fire and blood

I’ve written about this previously, but my interpretation of the phrase, “hail and fire mingled with blood” is this:  The hail is actually small stones or meteorites.  The fire is a sticky, burning petroleum-like fluid found in the tail of comets. It is also known as naphtha, a volatile and flammable liquid mixture of hydrocarbons.

The blood is a description of water of the earth mixed with a red dust that is some form of ferric oxide.  This red dust is water soluble, looks just like blood when it hits the water, and is highly toxic to life.  In addition, it is irritating to the skin and can cause a plague of microbes, insects and vermin to rapidly propagate in heat.

Writings of Anthony Larson

If this all sounds familiar, then you have read either the works of David Talbott, Immanuel Velikovsky or my friend and fellow blogger, Anthony Larson.  My wife and I met with Anthony last week to talk about collaborating on a book idea that has been brewing in my head over the past little while as my wife has been recovering.

I like Anthony because he’s a bit of a controversial figure in the church.  He has written and published five books on the subject of the events of the very last days.  His explanations of the scriptures pertaining to the last days are not the orthodox and standard answers you will find in the commentaries of today’s LDS scholars.

The prophecy trilogy

In fact, his writings have been denounced by scientists at our religious institutions of higher learning, such as BYU.  That doesn’t deter me.  I’m grateful for the gift of agency and the fact that the Lord allows us to choose what we want to believe about the scriptures, even if they don’t jive with conventional accepted teachings.

Is this a dangerous approach to learning?  I don’t think so.  The Lord tells us to prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.  I have been pondering what I have read in Anthony’s books for about twenty-five years since I first read his prophecy trilogy back in the 1980’s.  I have also prayed about what he has written.

Other inspired men

Now that may seem a little odd, different or downright dangerous in our LDS culture.  Why would you pray about what someone has written who is not a general authority?  Why, that’s unthinkable, preposterous even! Don’t you know that you are on the road to apostasy if you listen to someone besides an apostle?

Yes, men can be deceived and we can all point to examples throughout history where good people have been proven fools to follow after the interpretations of the scriptures by men who were not authorized to speak on behalf of the Lord.  But that brings up an interesting question that I wonder if you have ever considered.

Some prophets are experts

Where do prophets turn when they need to know something about which they are not experts?  For example, when our apostles want to know facts about something in the medical world, I’ll bet they consult with Russell M. Nelson, another of our apostles who just happens to be a medical doctor and renowned heart surgeon.

When they want to know something about the interpretation of law, there are several excellent choices among Elder Oaks, Elder Cook or Elder Christofferson.  For nuclear physics, they turn to Elder Scott.  For managing a university, we have President Eyring, Elder Oaks, Elder Holland and Elder Bednar, all great educators.

Turning to the experts

But what do they do when they want to understand astrophysics?  To whom do the Brethren turn when they need help interpreting and explaining the events that are starting to concern and even frighten more and more of the world’s population, as the end times draw to a close?  Who will help our leaders explain all these things?

Why, they turn to the professors of astronomy at BYU of course.  Or, if they’re not particularly fans of that institution – gasp! – then they turn to the smaller faculty at the University of Utah.  I’m sure there are a myriad of faithful LDS scientists who can provide the needed background to explain meteorites and other scary things.

Turning to the Lord

You may ask, “Can’t they just turn to the Lord in prayer and receive the necessary knowledge to guide the people when the catastrophes that are prophesied to happen begin to come to pass in earnest?”  Of course you know they can.  The Lord can and will “do nothing but he revealeth his secret to his servants the prophets.”

But we are taught and believe that the Lord requires us to do our homework before he confirms to our hearts and minds that what we have studied and determined on a given subject is correct.  The apostles are no different from you and me when it comes to the right to receive revelation, though they understand the process better.

Experts can be wrong

The problem with turning to the experts in Astrophysics is that the most of them do not subscribe to the views of ancient prophets on the subject of how the planets and stars behave.  Things were different back then and there is no written record of how things really were.  They prefer to use current observations for their facts.

Yes, the idea that the heavens have always been the way we see them now is very much in vogue even among our LDS scientists.  The idea that the planets in our solar system could have once been in a different configuration sometime within the last four thousand years even is unthinkable and has no scientific basis for proof.

Summary and conclusion

Yep, Tim’s gone off his rocker.  He is claiming that scientists are wrong.  He’s gone off the deep end and thrown his cap in with the crowd of crazies who believe in planet X and that 2012 is the end of the world.  No, I don’t believe that, but I do believe that Anthony Larson has made more sense of things than most scientists.

So until an apostle or prophet comes out and says that Anthony Larson is wrong in his interpretation of the scriptures, I have decided to join forces with him and have committed to write and publish a work of fiction based on his research.  Call me crazy but I’m looking forward to the ride.  Stay tuned for the exciting adventures.

There is no middle ground


In the priesthood session of the April 2003 General Conference, President Hinckley delivered a landmark address on the subject of loyalty.   In his remarks he said, “Each of us has to face the truth of the matter—either the church is true, or it is a fraud.  There is no middle ground.  It is the Church and kingdom of God or it is nothing.”

An earlier prophet, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote something similar in the Doctrines of Salvation:Mormonism, as it is called, must stand on the story of Joseph Smith.  He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen.  There is no middle ground.”

There can be no gray area

Referring to the historical events of the area around Palmyra, New York, President Hinckley said: “They either happened or they did not. There can be no gray area, no middle ground.”   In a similar manner, Apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “Joseph Smith must be accepted either as a prophet of God or else as a charlatan of the first order.”

President Benson endorsed this all or nothing view.  He said, “Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon…if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church.”

They were all wrong

Such black and white statements go all the way back to the beginnings of the LDS church.  When the prophet Joseph asked God which church he should join, he “was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong.”  If all the churches of Joseph’s day were wrong, what does that say about the numerous churches of our day?

The Lord later said to Joseph in Section one of the Doctrine and Covenants that the church Joseph organized was “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.”  If you look, you can find dozens of similar statements by prophets and apostles throughout the history of our church, all very bold in their declarations.

Divisive and exclusivist

Of course, statements like these are labeled divisive and exclusivist by many people outside our church, but also, increasingly by members on the fringe of the church, also known as the disaffected Mormon underground.  The DAMU is nothing new.  There have been cultural Mormons and Jack Mormons throughout the history of our church.

Of all the objections to the church that I have encountered over the past few years I have been blogging, this one seems to be the most common and the most offensive.  For some, it is an extremely difficult proposition to accept this black or white, all or nothing approach to truth in religion.  I have spent considerable time pondering why this is so.

Good and truth in all religions

Joseph Smith taught that we accept truth from whatever source it may come.  Joseph F. Smith said, “We are willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth will stand, truth will endure…”  Modern prophets have said that there is much good and truth in all churches and religions.  This statement doesn’t seem too limiting.

President Hinckley: “We recognize the good in all churches. We recognize the value of religion generally. We say to everyone: live the teachings which you have received from your church. We invite you to come and learn from us, to see if we can add to those teachings and enhance your life and your understanding of things sacred and divine.”

Something unique to add

What can the LDS faith add that is unique and will bless the lives of those who accept its teachings?  The most unique thing we offer can be found in the temples.  It is the sealing power that is exercised to unite families in an eternal bond that will remain in effect after this life is over.  That is an amazing claim that no other church can make.

We teach that the sealing power is a part of the priesthood authority that we claim was delivered to Joseph Smith via angelic messengers.  I don’t know of any other church that asserts that angels have come and ordained their leaders or conferred upon them keys and powers that will bind on earth and in heaven.  That is a fantastic declaration!

Our eternal nature

The older I get, the more important that claim becomes to me.  If I know nothing else, I know that there is a spiritual side of my existence.  I have had too many experiences of a spiritual nature that have helped me to understand this truth.  Others may claim that there is nothing more to man than skin, muscle and bones, but I believe differently.

Because of that very basic and core fundamental belief about myself, I am concerned about what my purpose is in life and what happens after death.  I am so grateful to be a part of a community of faith, a church that believes as I do that life is eternal and that what we do with our lives will have a significant impact on the quality of life hereafter.

Importance of the temples

That belief in life eternal is not unique, but the idea that we can do something to ensure that the relationships we enjoy here continue in the hereafter is very unique indeed.  I have had dialog with visitors to my blog who claim that God would never be so mean as to separate a loving couple who cherished and served each other all their mortal lives.

I’m not going to point you to any statements from church leaders that teach otherwise but I will say this: before you go making claims about how God should behave, you might want to be absolutely sure of what God has said on the subject.  I can’t think of anything about which I would want to be surer.  My eternal happiness depends on it.

Book of Mormon is still the key

Back to the point of the essay and why prophets have said that there can be no middle ground when it comes to things like authority and revelation and Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.  My mother, who was a convert to the church, once said to me that as an investigator, she could accept everything about it except the Book of Mormon.

It wasn’t until much later in life when she took an Institute class on the subject that she really began to understand just how important it is to our claims of divine origin.  I love the fact that we do not have the plates to “prove” the historicity of the book.  Prophets have taught that the Book of Mormon is a great sifter of those who are honest in heart.

The power of a divine witness

I know there are those who have said that they have tried and failed to obtain a witness of the veracity of the Book of Mormon.  I have had dialog with people both inside and outside the church who have struggled with this.  I confess that I cannot offer a perfect empathy because I received a witness of the truthfulness of the book many years ago.

Because of that divine manifestation to me, not just once but on several occasions, I have never doubted the Book of Mormon, or the claims of the prophet Joseph Smith. I understand why the prophets have said that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion and why our claims of divinity rest upon the veracity of that book.  I also agree with the statement that the strength of this church is in the testimony of each member.

The promise of personal revelation

One of my evangelical visitors once called this security that I feel, the Mormon bubble.  He says it is not logical but it makes perfect sense to me.  You can throw out all kinds of arguments about the Book of Abraham, Polyandry, Post-manifesto plural marriage, the Kinderhook Plates or any one a few dozen other things that can be found on the Internet.

None of them bothered me when I first learned about them and none of them do now.  I have written essays on dozens of these objections and have come to the conclusion that they really aren’t the real problem with why people doubt or leave the church.  In my opinion, those who struggle with these doubts have not received personal revelation.

Summary and conclusion

I know that a testimony is a very sacred and personal subject.  I also know that making a generalization like I just did will bring all kinds of protests.  But I stand by it as truth.  If a man has received a witness from God that the Book of Mormon is true then God has a responsibility to help that man as he goes through the ensuing trials of that testimony.

I know that God will help the honest in heart keep their testimonies strong and vibrant.  If we study we are going to find out things that will test our witness.  We will then have the opportunity to strengthen and deepen it.  That’s what opposition is for.  We do not have to wallow in doubt.  But those who doubt are welcome while they work things out.

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