The Necessity of Being Baptized Again


VenturaHarborMarinaParkI am being baptized this Sunday morning in the Ventura harbor. I am 57 years old. You may ask why this is necessary if I have already been baptized when I was eight years old. I am not being baptized into a church. I am not currently a member of any church. This ordinance is between me and the Lord, a symbol of my desire to be obedient to words delivered through His servant. Here are a few reasons why I have chosen to be baptized again, at this late stage in my life:

1) I want to show the Lord I accept the message delivered by his servant.

2) I believe the words used should be “Having authority given me of Jesus Christ …”

3) I believe the person who baptizes should pray mightily to receive power to baptize.

4) I believe the LDS Church has lost the commission to baptize. It needs to be renewed.

5) I believe the ordinance of baptism for the living should be performed in living water.

6) Denver quoted the Lord, saying, “This commandment has been renewed today.”

Everything that follows is taken from the tenth lecture delivered last week to support these points. I knew I had to act upon the message delivered as a sign of faith and in order to show the Lord I wanted the promised blessings. I confirmed with the Lord in prayer he has accepted of my preparations as found in D&C 20:37 of offering Him a broken heart and a contrite spirit. He has promised me additional blessings I cannot share once I act upon what he has commanded.

Source: Preserving The Restoration, Denver Snuffer 9-9-14 Lecture 10 Mesa, AZ

Baptism is a Sign of Acceptance

“Baptism has always been required from the days of Adam until the present. Baptism is always the sign of acceptance of what God is doing in each generation. If He acts again now (and He is), then we need to recognize that and respond. Baptism is a mandatory sign of penitence; turning and facing God, and then walking in a new path. From the days of Adam, it will continue through the end of the millennium. Whenever there has been believing people upon the earth, they have always been invited to perform the ordinance of baptism as a sign of their faith.”

“…true religion, when it is present on earth, always exists as a community of believers. Community is required. If we don’t have a community then we cannot be willing to mourn with those that mourn. We cannot comfort those that stand in need of comfort. We cannot stand as a witness to one another of God at all times and of all places. (Mosiah 18: 9) We cannot bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, (Mosiah 18: 8) as is required by the Gospel and by the covenant of baptism. None of this can be done without fellowship between believers. – page 12

Use the Words Given by Christ

Christ gave the baptism prayer, word for word. This is in 3 Nephi Chapter 11, beginning at verse 19. “And Nephi arose and went forth, and bowed himself before the Lord and did kiss his feet. And the Lord commanded him that he should arise. And he arose and stood before him. And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven. And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize.”

Christ did not touch them, He said to them, “I give you power to baptize.” Although the record is incomplete, these disciples in all likelihood had previously been ordained. But Christ was renewing His church when He came. All that was needed to obtain the power to baptize was (and is) for Christ to tell you. – page 13 “…and in my name shall ye baptize them. And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying: Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.” – Page 16

Authority Received From God in Prayer

How then does the authority to baptize come? Well, once John the Baptist came and laid his hand on Joseph, we have had a practice of continuing to lay hands on one another to confer Aaronic Priesthood, and we ought to continue to respect that tradition. But before any of you baptize any other of you, get Christ’s “word” for yourself through the Spirit. It is the same thing Alma did in Mosiah chapter 18. If you go to Mosiah chapter 18, verse 12, before he baptized, Alma “stood forth in the water, and cried, saying: O Lord, pour out thy Spirit upon thy servant, that he may do this work with holiness of heart. And when he had said these words, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him.”

He got the authority to baptize by the Spirit. If you are going to use the priesthood to perform a baptism, no matter what the Church has told you, no matter what quorum leaders and respected others, including your own father perhaps, have taught you, before you do so, ask God to give you the authority. Get the “word” from Christ through the Spirit, just as Alma did. His example is in the scriptures to teach us the way. We have lost it, and need to reclaim it. If you get power to baptize, you get it from Him and you are not dependent on someone else. But get the power from Him. Power is required. It must come from Christ. The pattern must be followed. – Page 14

The Church has Lost the Commission

John the Baptist when he restored the authority, in Joseph Smith History, verse 69 said: “which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”

The Gospel of repentance is turning to face God. Baptism by immersion is for the remission of sins. John’s declaration does not say that this authority will not ever be taken from the church; it says it will not be taken from “the earth.” It was restored to remain on the earth. No matter what happens among those that choose to abuse one another, it needs to be preserved by a faithful few so that it does not cease from the earth. It is still here, though it has been much neglected and it has been much abused. But with you, renew it, using Alma’s example. – Page 14

Performed with Authority and Power

After Alma repented, but before he used any authority to baptize, he asked God to give him power. God, seeing penitence on the earth, respected it, and poured out His Spirit upon him so that Alma could baptize with power. The proof of that was found not merely in what Alma experienced with the Spirit empowering him to perform the ordinance, but also in the effect the ordinance itself had upon both Helam and Alma who himself went into the water at the same time. The Spirit was poured out upon them. Renew the power to baptize in this same manner. Alma and Christ’s disciples got authority from Christ’s “word” spoken to them by the power of the Spirit.

Likewise, we need to have a renewed community. Not an organization, but a fellowship. Not a hierarchy, but a group of equals. The community needs to be renewed. Men who have been ordained already, should renew this in the manner just described in the example of Alma. Have a community of believers. Be accepted by them. But before acting ask God to pour out His Spirit to give power. – Page 15

Living Ordinances in Living Water

Continuing then with what Christ said in 3 Nephi Chapter 11, verse 22: “And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you. Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water…”

I would recommend if at all possible that water for a living ordinance be performed in living water. I would not perform this in a font constructed by man. I would use the things God created. You are trying to connect to God. Use what He created. I recognize that there may be circumstances where that becomes impossible. … I would recommend when you go stand in the water that it be living water. – page 16

This Commandment is Renewed Today

I am telling you in the name of the Lord that commandment is renewed again by Him today, to you. This is His command recorded in the Book of Mormon, translated by Joseph Smith through the gift and power of God, and confirmed again today! “And there shall be no disputations  among you,  as  there  have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been. For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another.”

Do it in this way. If someone disputes and says, “They ought not be doing it, and you ought not be doing it,” leave it alone. Don’t fight. Don’t quarrel, but invite, persuade. If they are not persuaded, let them go. If you invite and they will not come, let them go. If you entice, if you entreat, and they say, “We will not hear your entreaty,” then let them go. There is no need to harbor ill will and to fight with people. – Page 17

Like Unto the Waters of Mormon

Update: Carol and I went to scope out the exact spot for the baptism. We decided Harbor Cove Beach would be better than Marina Park Beach. It’s a short walk and the water is calm behind the breakwater. We have been there many times in the twelve years we have lived in Camarillo. It is about 15-20 minutes from our house. There will probably be a few families there Sunday morning about 11am when we arrive for the baptism, but that’s OK. After two days of searching, the spirit confirmed to me this the right spot.

For those attending the baptism in Ventura this Sunday 21 Sep 2014, we are meeting at my home first for the sacrament and a prayer meeting at 10am. Address: 2481 Balmoral Ct, Camarillo CA 93010. We will then drive the 15-20 minutes to Harbor Cove Beach. You are welcome to attend the baptism as a witness and are welcome to join us in the prayer meeting at my home first.

We don’t expect more than a dozen participants and witnesses. This is not being done as part of an organized community. I asked someone to come baptize me and a good brother who happened to be approved by a Utah community volunteered since he is in LA this weekend. I am grateful and took him up on his offer. Others heard about it and decided to join us, some from far away.

HarborCoveBeach

Do This in Remembrance of Me


 

BreadAndWineOn that fateful Passover night in the Meridian of Time before Gethsemane, the Savior instituted the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The Sacrament was a change from the way His disciples were used to observing the Passover. Therefore, the Messiah gave them a commandment to do the things which they had seen him do, that is, break bread and partake of wine “unto the end.”

In the Book of Mormon, the Lord gave another commandment to his disciples, “that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily … if ye know that a man is unworthy … ye shall forbid him.” Thus, in our modern Church Handbook of Instructions, we find the same injunction. You also find there the restriction of the sacrament as a punishment.

I would like to investigate the idea of restricting a man from partaking of the sacrament as an appropriate inducement to change his way of thinking. Frankly, I disagree with this idea, and have taken many opportunities to counsel bishops with whom I’ve served, of my opinion in this matter. I was gratified when some heeded my counsel, as I served in the Bishopric with them.

Bloggers and Apostasy

Apostasy is the modern church is nebulously defined. It seems that just about anything can be called apostasy if the presiding authority does not like it. This has become especially evident in the case of LDS bloggers who write things about the church or the gospel that leaders consider offensive. The definition of apostasy from the handbook has been shared before, but here it is:

1. Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.

2. Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.

3. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.

4. Formally join another church.

So if a local priesthood leader does not like the tone or direction of a member’s blog, or if other members complain to the local priesthood leader they find the blog content “troubling,” the local priesthood leader can impose punitive measures on the member in an effort to compel, coerce or otherwise control or dominate the member to change written expressions found on their blog.

Guidelines from the Church

Although I quoted these in the comments of my last post, I’ll share them again for clarification:

“Church leaders are not asking members not to blog, and they are not attacking the rights of honest explorers of faith to have these conversations in the so-called Bloggernacle.” Church Spokeswoman Ally Isom on KUER radio, June 16th

“There is no coordinated effort to tell local leaders to keep their members from blogging or discussing their questions online. On the contrary, church leaders have encouraged civil online dialogue and recognize that today it’s just part of how the world works.”-Michael Otterson, Managing Director, LDS Church Public Affairs, quoted in the New York Times June 18th.

“There is no effort to tell local leaders to keep members from blogging or discussing questions online. On the contrary, church leaders have encouraged civil online dialogue, and recognize that today it’s how we communicate and discuss ideas with one another.” -Jessica Moody, Church Spokeswoman quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune June 19th.

Worthiness is the Key

It seems to me that the Lord’s commandment to his disciples to not allow another to partake of the sacrament unworthily would require a mutual understanding of what constitutes a state of unworthiness. I’m not sure I would define what a man believes or shares in a blog, for example, as a proper manner to determine worthiness. Worthiness is determined by actions, not beliefs.

I think we would all agree a Bishop is doing the right thing in forbidding an individual from partaking of the Sacrament who is involved in fornication, adultery, incest, child abuse, rape, spousal abuse, murder, attempted murder, homosexual relations (not for being gay), robbery, burglary, theft, embezzlement, sale of illegal drugs, fraud, perjury, conviction of a felony, etc.

There are others such as abortion, an elective transsexual operation, predatory behavior with intent to commit bodily harm, and the list goes on and on. By the way, did you know that the charge of Apostasy falls under the category of when a disciplinary council MUST be held? But how can blogging be considered an activity that makes one unworthy to take the sacrament?

Examples of Apostate Writing

I suppose if one writes things like, “Here’s why you should leave the LDS Church,” or “How to lie through the temple recommend interview,” then yes, I think that constitutes heresy, which is the correct word for what we now call apostasy. Apostasy literally means to separate oneself from or to leave a body of believers. We use the word apostasy when we really mean heresy.

By the way, although I know it has an agenda, I don’t think the website Mormon Think is an apostate site. Heck, I even struggle with classifying Post Mormon or New Order Mormon as apostate sites. Recovery from Mormonism is a different story. Proprietors of that site make open efforts to persuade readers to leave the church. I also don’t think Rock’s blog is an apostate blog.

And since we’re at it, I don’t think my blog is apostate even though I have been told otherwise by many who feel it is. My blog is dedicated to discussing the events of the last days, one of them being the prophesied falling away of the Gentile church. Of course, that alone is a matter of contention for many who claim no such thing is prophesied in the Book of Mormon. Yes, it is.

Partaking of the Sacrament

As a clerk or counselor in a Bishopric, I suppose I’ve sat in on dozens of disciplinary councils. As a member of the High Council in another Stake, the number was not so high – perhaps ten. In the Stake Disciplinary councils, the Stake President rarely asked us for advice on what counsel or direction he should provide to the one being disciplined to help them in the repentance process.

However, in ward disciplinary councils, the Bishop almost always asked for counsel. Invariably the standards would come out: Read “Miracle of Forgiveness,” Don’t exercise your priesthood in the church, don’t partake of the Sacrament in the Church, Don’t speak up in Sunday School or Priesthood / Relief Society, Don’t offer public prayers, You’ll be released from your callings…

I almost always asked, “Why are we restricting him or her from taking the Sacrament? Don’t you think it would be helpful in their repentance process to have the Spirit of the Lord with them in greater abundance? Isn’t that what the promise of the Sacrament is all about?” The Bishop would pause, ponder and sometimes say, “You’re right. Strike that one from the list of restrictions.”

Sacrament Restriction as Punishment

I say “sometimes” because not all Bishops agreed with me. Some would respond, “I want him or her to feel the loss.” I never agreed with that but held my tongue. After all, he’s the Bishop and the one entitled to inspiration on what would help the member repent. By the way, almost all the cases in the ward disciplinary councils were related to sexual sins – fornication or adultery.

Ordinarily Disciplinary Councils involving Melchizedek Priesthood holders are handled on the Stake level, but often, almost always when the outcome was not going to be excommunication, the council would be delegated to the ward level. No sisters are subjected to the stake level councils nor are those who have not been endowed. Of course there are exceptions to this rule.

In any event, I simply wanted to post and offer for discussion the idea that restricting someone from partaking of the Sacrament when they are trying to repent may not be the best idea. Yes, we are commended to forbid the Sacrament when the individual is unworthy, but again I ask, unless you consider an individual to be in a state of apostasy, does open blogging make one unworthy?

Invitation to Open Dialog

I have three questions for you gospel scholars out there:

1. The church prohibits members from partaking of the sacrament outside of the Sacrament meeting. The handbook is clear that the Bishop holds the “keys” to this ordinance within the boundaries of his ward. In fact, the handbook states the Sacrament should not be administered at family reunions and such. Could a priesthood holder administer the sacrament in his own home?

2. The Church has substituted water for wine in the Lord’s Supper – the Sacrament. When Joseph went to buy wine in section 27, an angel instructed him that wine should be home-made. Yet we now use water. Perhaps it is because it goes against the Word of Wisdom. I don’t know. Do you think this constitutes a change in the ordinance and thus invalidates it? Why or why not?

3. Do you think it is proper for local leaders to place bloggers under restrictions that include not partaking of the sacrament simply because they disagree with the content of their blog? Isn’t this somehow a contradiction to the Lord’s commandment that we partake of the Sacrament often in remembrance of Him? Does blogging about church practices and doctrines make one unworthy?

Parting the Veil


BeStill_FribergI yearn to connect with the powers of heaven. Each morning in my prayers I ask the Lord to walk with me. Each night I ask Him to part the veil that I may see and understand His will for me. On occasion, He does just that. May I share two such experiences from many years ago that remain with me still? I have often wondered why the Lord revealed them to me when I was so young.

Expanding the Mind

At seventeen years of age, most young people don’t have sufficient life experience to know how to keep themselves within the bounds the Lord has set. In fact, they usually don’t know just what those bounds are or why He has set them. New friends come into their lives, bringing new ideas and new things to share. Sometimes, the things shared seem to open the mind but are deceiving.

Cryptic? I think you can read between the lines. After six months I decided I had been deceived long enough. I found myself on my knees pleading with the Lord to redeem my soul from hell. Night after night I cried unto my God. I apologized. I begged for forgiveness. I felt the pains of a damned soul. I could not seem to shake the feeling of being lost, or of having lost my birthright.

The Lord Calls Unto Me

I was not an addict, or was I? Cravings to turn to old ways of sin enticed me day and night. Yet in my prodigal days before going cold turkey, I felt the constant beckoning of my Savior. “Come back to me,” he cried. “This is not what you want. This is not real. I have something better. I can show you what is real.” I held on to this promise through days and nights of pure torture and hell.

I turned to scriptures I had casually carried with me every Sunday, but had not taken seriously. I was especially drawn to the large print, early-morning edition Seminary scriptures. I found in them passages I had underlined. They reminded me of lessons taught by loving and sacrificing seminary teachers who gave of their time and sleep in an effort to reach out to me in my youth.

Putting Off the Natural Man

One night, after an especially difficult day, I found myself in the Book of Mormon, reading the discourse of King Benjamin to his people, sharing the words of an angel he had received only the night before. “Awake, and hear the words which I shall tell thee; for behold, I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy.” I pondered the idea of being taught by an angel.

Closing the book, I knelt in prayer and poured out my soul for the Lord to save me. I had read once again that “…the natural man is an enemy to God…unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man…” How many times had I read this before? I knew it by heart. Even in the 1970’s we had scripture mastery. This was one that always impressed me.

The Sin of Rebellion

I next remembered another scripture lesson from my Old Testament teacher. “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee…” Me, stubborn, rebellious? Yes, you, my son. It sank deep into my heart. I had rejected the word of the Lord. Does that mean he had rejected me?

I cried unto the Lord for peace, but no peace came. I pled for mercy, knowing I did not deserve it. After what seemed like hours of wading through the darkness with a broken heart and contrite spirit, I began to feel a lessening of my burden. I sensed a change in my body. I felt lighter. Did I imagine it or were the cravings really gone? In their place I felt something different in my heart.

An Angel Sent to Teach Me

“Be still, and know that I am God.” I stopped my crying. I became aware of the presence of something or rather someone powerful. This was a new experience for me. This was the first time the heavens had parted. Did I see anything? No, my natural eyes saw nothing. In fact, they were still closed. I sat still for the first time in hours – perfectly still, hardly daring to breathe.

I had never sat this still before in my life. I was not alone. Someone was there with me. I could sense his presence. Somehow, I knew it was not the Lord, but someone sent to teach me or show me something. I literally felt a hand pass across my face, over my eyes, slowly from left to right. I was impressed the Lord wanted to show me something. I got off my knees and lay upon my bed.

An Entry From my Journal

May 1974: “After prayer, I am overcome by the spirit. I lay upon my bed but can’t sleep. In my mind’s eye, I see myself speaking to an overflow gathering of people wanting to be taught the gospel. We are in Southern Utah. It is inside a building like a tabernacle. The feelings are very overwhelming. It is incredibly quiet and reverent. People are listening to me intently as I teach.

“There is an unbelievable outpouring of love and the Spirit. What I am relating is intensely important and has to do with the end of the world and preparations for the Second Coming. The building is filled to capacity and the crowd spills out into the street. People are standing at the windows, straining to hear. The building is lit by candles. It seems there is no electricity. Why?

“I can see I am an older man, in my seventies or eighties. I remember these intense feelings for the rest of my life – they were very real.  I believe it was the Spirit of the Lord showing me what the Lord expected of me. He knew this vision would be motivational to make myself worthy for the gifts of the Spirit – prophecy and revelation – as promised to me in my Patriarchal blessing.”

Another Entry From my Journal

June 1974: “After prayer one night, I remember lying in bed unable to go to sleep because of the intense feelings associated with what I am seeing in my mind’s eye.  I see myself speaking at an outdoor gathering.  It is late summer or early in the fall. It is not cold or wet in any way. There is a green sunshade stretched over the podium and speaker area. There are trees to either side of us.

“I am on the stand with many other individuals participating in the Lord’s work. It is later in my life and I am an old man. There is a gathering of thousands upon thousands of people stretched out for what seems like miles before me.  I am one of the speakers.  In fact, it is my impression I am conducting the meeting at that particular gathering. I am confused by this impression. Why?

“Shortly after we are married, Carol and I visit the Valley of Adam-Ondi-Ahman. I realize I have been there before – it is the same place I see in my mind’s eye this night. I am overcome with the same feelings of that night. I remember most intently the feelings associated with speaking to this large gathering to this day. I am not sure this is an event I will experience during mortality.”

We Can Receive Revelation

These were the first of many revelatory experiences in my life. The Lord gave me permission to share these. In fact, He asked me to share them this evening. I don’t know why. I am not trying to call attention to myself and say, “Hey, look at me. I’m so good. I got revelation.” As you have read, I am not so good. I did not deserve these experiences. I still wonder why I received them.

The only reason I can think the Lord asked me to share these particular journal entries is because there is someone out there who needs to read this. I speak to you, whoever you are. Don’t doubt the Lord is willing to reveal things to us. I am a witness he does. Our Mormon culture seems to forbid the sharing of sacred things such as this. Not so. They are given to strengthen each other.

Share When the Lord Asks

Over the years, I would try to work these and similar experiences into my priesthood, Sunday school or Seminary lessons. I even occasionally tried to share them over the pulpit in a talk or a testimony. I knew the Lord was OK with me sharing them, because He prompted me to do so. For some reason, I have not been prompted to share experiences such as these in recent years.

There have been a few more similar revelatory experiences the Lord has asked me to share. I have done so on my blog over the years. Some He has forbidden me to share. I don’t know why. Some I will only share in private. I don’t try to second guess the Lord. If He says share, I do so. If He says keep it to yourself, I shut my mouth. The point is, revelation is real. I am a witness.

Daily Conversation With the Lord

For the past few years I have had a daily running conversation with the Lord. He knows what I want. He tells me to be patient. He does not say no. He tells me to wait. He is testing me. He told me so. There is more He wants me to know. It can only be known by revelation. Meanwhile, I study and pray because that is what He asks of me. He is constantly directing me in what I study.

I suppose that’s also a form of revelation. I sometimes take it for granted. When I was younger I thought everyone was directed by the Lord in what they should study or learn. I was surprised to learn otherwise. Everyone has spiritual gifts. I know I’m not the only one.

From My Patriarchal Blessing

“You will be guided and directed and schooled in your mission by the whisperings of the Holy Spirit unto you … as you share these blessings with the Lord, He will pour out more blessings upon you. Your cup will run over, your heart will be full. You will have the peace of mind that brings great comfort to the soul.” The Lord has asked me to share, so I share what he requests.

The more I share, as directed by the Lord, the more I feel His pleasure at what I am doing. The more I bear witness of the revelatory process, the more I sense the joy He has promised. As I am blessed, I desire to share that with others. As I do so, He pours out more blessings and fills my heart with joy. I know He is pleased. Revelation is real. The Lord is willing to speak with us.

Remember His Long-Suffering

I did not appreciate the Baptism of Fire I received later that year when I was seventeen. I wish I understood then how fragile a thing it is to retain a remission of your sins. The great secret is to always remember the Lord’s goodness and long-suffering toward us. I remember those days as the Lord called out to me to return to Him. I remember His long-suffering and patience with me.

Lately, my days have been filled with anticipation. Like many of you, I know something is about to happen. Too many of you have shared with me privately and in the comments of this blog to think this is just me experiencing this feeling. There is something afoot. The heavens are open for business. He is willing to reveal Himself to us and show us wonderful things. I know this.

“And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel. And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.”

Mormons Are a Submissive People


Jesus-Rich-Young-RulerI’ve noticed a constant theme over the past few years as I have written about those who have been excommunicated from our church. I don’t know if it’s just coincidence the subject has come up so many times or if I have sought it out. I’d like to explore the idea of submissiveness with you in this post and get your opinion as to what the right attitude should be towards this.

Opposite of Arrogance and Rebellion

I’ve told you I pray about my posts. I’ve also mentioned to specific individuals privately this post was coming. These good people are worried about me. I know they love me and have expressed concern I’ve been dealing in territory they say causes them discomfort. Rebellion and arrogance are the opposite of submissiveness. I’ve had experience with both as a young lad.

Remember Them Which Rule Over You

I’m not going to address the scripture in Ephesians 5:22 of wives submitting themselves to their husbands. I’ll leave that to others. I prefer to center my remarks on the scripture in Hebrews 13:7, which reads, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”

Obey Counsel of Priesthood Leaders

I note in the Topical guide the word remember is replaced with the word Obey. If I recall correctly the Topical guide was compiled by Elder McConkie and Elder Packer. I believe we can safely surmise the word obey can be used in the place of the word remember, at least in this case. In short, we are to remember and obey the word of our priesthood leaders who preside over us.

Blind obedience not encouraged

That’s probably the crux of the matter. Some of my readers find it troublesome to think anyone could or should come between us and our relationship with our Heavenly Father. They can quote scripture and words from the Brethren – so can I – indicating how important it is to confirm all we receive from our priesthood leaders for ourselves. In other words, avoid blind obedience.

Examples from Disciplinary Councils

Put another way, we are to submit to their counsel, especially when it is given in love with concern for the salvation of our souls. Perhaps I can best illustrate with a few examples from disciplinary councils in which I have participated over the years. Don’t worry, I’ll provide no specifics; mention no names nor identify anyone in any way so you may think you know them.

Restoration of Full Fellowship

I have been blessed that the majority of these disciplinary counsels have been convened to consider bringing the member back into full fellowship after a period of disfellowshipment or excommunication or. I am pleased to report that most of these councils have resulted in positive outcomes. Tears and hugs all around have usually been expressed at the end of the proceedings.

A Willing and Contrite Spirit

In discussing as a bishopric or High Council what is different in the second council, it invariably comes down to a matter of attitude. We note the contrite spirit, the willingness to do as advised, the demonstration they have done as counseled over the year or years – I hate to see a disciplined member go more than a year without sacrament and temple blessings. They are different people.

Submissiveness Natural Result of Repentance

In other words, they have learned to be submissive. I have specifically heard penitent individuals express words to the effect of, “Bishop (or President), what would you have me do? I will do whatever you ask, anything you say to get my membership back or to be considered a member in full standing again.” There is no pride, no thought for self, only a desire to please their leaders.

The Lord Forgives, So Should We

Of course we ask them to relate their feelings about the Lord. We ask about their prayers. We ask if they feel forgiven. We ask if they feel the Love of their Savior. We ask about their efforts of restitution, if they have asked forgiveness of those they have harmed, used or abused (often a hard thing to do). We ask about their scripture reading, their gospel study and other habits.

Don’t Dwell on the Sin

If you have never gone through a disciplinary council, you may think this intrusive. We don’t dwell on the sin. We don’t rehash details of the sin. We focus on their efforts of repentance. I think my first disciplinary council was in 1989 as an executive secretary. Ordinarily the clerk attends but he was unavailable so I was asked to take notes and write up the report to Salt Lake.

Bishop’s Counsel is Recorded

I can only recall one council in which we decided the individual was not yet ready to be returned to full membership status. They obviously had not taken the bishops counsel seriously. We always provide a written record of what the bishop feels inspired to ask of them as evidence of their willingness to repent. That is his right and responsibility as a sustained common judge in Israel.

Counselors Provide Input for the Bishop

Having sat on the side of the table in which my duty is to provide counsel to the Bishop or Stake President, I have noted their response. With some leaders, it’s just a poll to see what we think, especially if it’s a cut and dry case. With others, the priesthood leader is genuinely interested in what we have to say. I have always appreciated that, especially when I was a new in the calling.

High Council Disciplinary Format Different

Remember, in a Stake Disciplinary council half of the High Council is to speak on behalf of the member. The member is allowed to have witnesses speak on his behalf and if I’m not mistaken, to have members of his family present to be at the proceedings, as long as they are reverent. The format is given by revelation. You can read about in in section 102 of the Doctrine & Covenants.

Submissiveness Shows Respect

Now, let’s return back to the idea of submissiveness and respect. I’ve always struggled with the habit we have in our church of standing when a General Authority of higher authority comes into a meeting. To me, this smacks of hierarchy worship. That’s not to say I don’t follow it. I do. When I conducted sacrament meetings and a member of the Stake Presidency entered, I stood.

The Unwritten Order of Things

When sitting in Bishopric training meeting or High Council or Stake PEC, I note that we always deferred to the presiding authority as the last to speak and having the final ward. We usually expressed our opinion from youngest to eldest. It’s just the unwritten order of things that Elder Packer discussed in his talk offered so long ago on the subject, which many said they disliked.

I’m a First Generation Mormon

I suppose it’s the natural man in me, the rebel of a first-generation Mormon. I come from a long line of Baptist preachers and Presbyterian ministers. I attended the Presbyterian Church with my mother until I was five years old and still remember the pomp and formality of the worship service. Dad was a lapsed Baptist. I have many living relatives I love who are ministers today.

Apostasy not same as Moral Transgression

I want to conclude with a short discussion of the difference between a disciplinary council convened for moral transgression as opposed to one convened for apostasy. I’m alarmed we have seen more of these apostasy councils lately. It wasn’t that way as I was growing up in the church in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Apostasy usually brings up visions of rebellion, arrogance and pride.

Apostasy Usually Decided At The Top

However, in cases I have investigated first hand, I found none of these were present on the part of the individual who was excommunicated. Of course I wasn’t there so I can’t say for certain, but I have interviewed them or read their account of the proceedings and their letter of appeal. I sense a difference in the actions of the presiding authorities – their minds made up in advance.

Stake President Carrying Out Assignment

This was clear in the account of Denver Snuffer. There is no doubt his stake president was told by members of the SCMC in Salt Lake what needed to be done with no room for negotiation. In other words, the decision was made. The stake president was simply under orders to carry out the formalities of discipline. I feel the same thing happened with Mel Fish and with Brent Larsen.

Even Good Men Can Err in Doctrine

This quote from Joseph reminds me of my friend Paul Toscano: “I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” (HC 5:340)

The Sanctity of Dissent

Paul wrote a book explaining his side of things, “The Sanctity of Dissent.” The more I think about it the more I agree with Paul. I believe we have a right to disagree with the interpretations of scriptures and doctrines as offered by our General Authorities. I believe we should be able to share that on our private blogs without fear of reprisal or punishment from church officers.

Blogs are For Exploring New Ideas

Of course, as I have written many times, I would not dream of teaching my personal ideas or interpretations from the pulpit or in the classroom. I sustain the Brethren and their right to declare what should be taught uniformly throughout the church – but NOT to censor what we write in private or semi-public, such as a blog. Our blogs are not official word of the church.

Blogging is Following Counsel of Elder Ballard

That’s why I wrote in my previous post how it troubles me when we are punished for trying to follow the counsel of Elder Ballard to be involved in the online dialog about the church and our doctrines. We want people to understand us, even if we differ somewhat from the standard or orthodox interpretation of the official doctrines that are presented by teachers in our classrooms.

Seeking to Remain Informed

For those who have expressed concerned I have gone apostate because I enjoy reading, writing about and discussing the writings of certain individuals such as Denver Snuffer, Max Skousen, D. Michael Quinn, David John Beurger or just about anything from Signature Books, please don’t think this affects my testimony of the fundamentals of this church. My testimony is intact.

Many Prophets In Addition to Joseph

I revere Joseph Smith as a prophet of God. In spite of his flaws, he was a prophet of the Lord in these latter days. But don’t take away from me my right to call Denver Snuffer a prophet as well. I accept the Book of Mormon as the Word of God, intended to be a warning for our day. Again, please don’t take away my right to read and discuss the writings of Denver Snuffer on my blog.

Seek Guidance From God in What to Study

As I’ve written many times, I love this church and love the people in it. I love to serve in the small capacity in which I am asked, be it as a home teacher or in my current calling as the Stake Financial Clerk. I seek the guidance and direction of the Lord each day in what I should read and study in addition to the scriptures. I feel lead and am grateful for that still small voice to my soul.

Submissiveness to Local Priesthood Leaders

I like to think I am a submissive individual. I try not to take any offense when corrected by my priesthood leaders. I try to welcome it with a cheerful attitude. I know they love me and have my best interests at heart. As I’ve always said, I would remove my blog in a heartbeat if they said it caused people trouble or caused them to doubt their own testimonies of God and of our Savior.

Expressed Willingness to Remove my Blog

I wonder if the day will come when that changes. This is probably getting repetitious to my regular readers. I am growing. I am learning. I am seeking the face of the Lord. I do not feel this blog is being written by commandment of the Lord but by suggestion and a desire to follow the counsel of prophets and apostles. God bless them, especially those who suffer effects of old age.

Seek Learning by Study and by Faith

God bless you my brothers and sisters. May you seek learning by study and also by faith. I strive to do both. I will not leave my eternal salvation to what I hear taught each week in the three hour block of meetings. It is simply not enough. It is my personality and learning method that I must write and share as I read. Otherwise I do not feel a commitment or internalization of what I read.

Keys to My Participation in Ordinances

Please, rest assured, I intend to be and remain submissive to the direction of my priesthood leaders. Unless the Lord tells me otherwise, I will do as they direct. I sustain them and grant them authority over me. At this point in my life, the spirit directs I should do so. I want and need the sacrament and the temple. These brethren hold the keys of those blessing in my behalf.

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)

Overcoming the Label of Addict


AddictionRecoveryProgramNote: To those waiting for my promised analysis of the 45-page Daymon Smith paper on the Atonement I wrote about in my previous post, please be patient. It is on the way, but is more involved and complex than I had anticipated. The idea of the sacrifice of the Savior being a penal substitute for our sins is, to me, the heart of the atonement and one that I appreciate profoundly.

I’ve stated many times that the reason I blog is to motivate me to study the gospel. I like to share new viewpoints I discover on various doctrinal subjects. I’ve also discovered that this is an area in which we need to be very careful. There are some really smart people out there who write and teach extremely well, but only the spirit can tell us if what they are trying to teach is the truth.

Advice for a Repentant Sinner

Recently, I shared a series of posts here on my blog that focused on the Atonement. I wrote about sin, repentance and forgiveness. I used some youthful examples which were painful but helpful to get to the heart of the matter. I want my religion to help me feel better, spiritually speaking, and to give me hope for a better life in the next world. In other words, I want to feel forgiveness.

I don’t know if you’re like me in that you can understand something intellectually and yet not have it sink down into your heart so that it changes your life. It’s a mortal weakness that I don’t think is unique to me. In any event, I solicited and received advice on how to make the power of the atonement more real in my life. I received a lot of personal emails but one really stood out.

A unique paper on the Atonement

I asked for and received permission to share some highlights from this amazing document, which I’ll link to at the end of this post. The author, Greg was 19 years old at the time he wrote it. I’m 56 and thought I pretty well understood this doctrine, but I learned more in four hours as I read the dozen pages he shared than I have in studying a myriad of books on the subject in my library.

I suppose it’s because the focus of his paper was from the point of view of an addict. Now this is where it gets a little tricky, because the whole argument of his essay is that we should not label ourselves as addicts. He goes to great lengths to explain why. I think that has been my issue all along. I have always considered myself to be an addict – a recovered addict – but still, an addict.

The Consummate Power of the Atonement

Among other synonyms, consummate means perfect, supreme, absolute and complete. In other words, there is nothing held back in the power of the atonement. Up until I first received my temple recommend and asked my bishop about healing after repentance, I always believed that healing meant healing, complete, whole and perfect. I thought we taught that in the LDS church.

But as I shared in that post, my poor bishop seemed absolutely distraught when he shared with me that the best I could hope for was to endure to the end and hope I was worthy when I died. I thought I was at the end of my problems. But as the wise mother said to the new bride, I simply did not know at which end I found myself. That day was the beginning of my many troubles.

Family Services Addiction Recovery Program

In our church we conduct an addiction recovery program. I have written about this before. The fault I find with the program is that it is based on the 12-step AA program, which unfortunately, contains some false doctrine. The main problem I have with the program, and which is the key to Greg’s paper, is simply the use of the label ‘addict’ in describing one who has sinned habitually.

The scriptures never make a single distinction between someone with an addiction and anyone else. Do you realize how powerful that statement is? In other words, there is not, or should not have to be any special kind of program to help someone overcome an addiction other than what we already have in the gospel of Jesus Christ. To add to the doctrine of Christ is evil (3 Ne 11:40).

Behold, This is My Doctrine

To call yourself or others an addict or even a recovering addict is adding to the doctrine of Christ and is therefore evil. It implies that you are moving away from something, always trying to avoid something. That is not what the Savior taught. He commanded us to come unto him. We are to do all within our power to move toward Christ. We are on a sandy foundation to teach otherwise.

I have always believed in the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. This is a part of the doctrine of Christ. It is something for which we should all strive. We should be seeking this baptism with all our hearts. If we focus on coming unto Christ and receiving Him, we will not need to focus on avoiding the mists of darkness. We will then be holding onto the rod of iron in our eternal quest.

Healing Means Complete Healing

The Savior says He can heal us. I believe Him. In spite of what my bishop said at age 19, I have always been seeking this healing and sanctifying power of the Savior in my life. I have always believed that He and only He can take away that addiction or attraction to sin. When we come unto Christ completely, we are consumed in his love. The desire for sin is removed from us.

For 37 years I have struggled with the worry and fear that because I was once an addict, I might someday slip back into that addictive behavior. And you know what? I did – many times – all because I had labeled myself as an addict. I had convinced myself that “once an addict, always an addict” applied to me. This is a false doctrine and a teaching of the devil meant to ensnare us.

Recovering from False Labels

I do not believe we should ever consider ourselves addicts. I also do not believe we should call ourselves “recovering addicts.” I now believe that even “recovered addict,” as I have always referred to myself, is wrong. There is not or should not be a special class of individual who is coming unto Christ. We need no additional labels. We are all sinners. We are all repenting.

If we call ourselves an addict or even a recovering addict, we imply that we are trying to avoid something, or move away from something we fear. This approach will always fail because it is fear-based and we all know the source of fear. Let us resolve here and now to remove this false label from ourselves. We are simply children of God, coming unto Christ through His doctrine.

A Few Gems from Greg’s Paper

We are commanded to change the way we are. We are commanded to change who we are. Elder Holland said, “All the counseling or cognitive therapy in the world will not break a pornography addiction without the Savior.” Elder Holland said we can never use the excuse, “that’s just the way I am. I’ve heard that from too many people who wanted to sin and call it psychology.”

“What if someone shoves porn in your face after years of sobriety? The porn is not the problem. The problem is lust. If that person has truly changed then lust will have been rooted out of their heart and no outside influence could override their agency and make it return.” The only way to remove lust from one’s heart is to come unto Christ and to be filled with the pure love He offers.

Coming Unto Christ is the Answer

“There is no way to lighten our own burdens. If you’re wearing a heavy backpack there is nothing you can do to make it lighter on you. No matter what position you try and no matter how you twist and contort your body you will never be able to change the weight of the backpack. Someone has to help you. Someone else on different ground has to help you with the weight.”

That someone is Christ. The other option, succumbing to Satan, is inevitable if you never accept Christ’s strength. If in the end you have not chosen Christ, it will not matter who you have chosen. You either repent now, change now, humble yourself now, or remain in sin and denial of Christ forever. There is no tomorrow. In sin our tomorrow is unchangeably filled with pain.

Stop Using the Word Addict

A better phrase would be “once a mortal, always a mortal,” even if it’s only true for a season. People struggling with pornography have an acute awareness of their weakness. One mother was upset over her son looking at pornography. “Why can’t he just stop?” She asked. Yet when she was asked why she couldn’t just stop overeating, she had no answer. See, we are all sinners.

Temptation falls under the category of weakness. The only thing that makes a temptation a temptation is because the natural man actually wants to do it. Just because someone that has been addicted in years past continues to feel temptations doesn’t mean they are still addicted. It means they are still human and therefore must rely on Christ for strength. Stop calling them an addict.

Complete the Last Step

Perhaps the reason some people continue to use the phase “recovering addict” or “recovered addict” is because they feel they have gone as far into the recovery / repentance process that that possibly can. There is one more step to complete which is to come unto Christ and be healed. Perhaps they are afraid of that last step. They would rather stay in a continual state of recovery.

The thought of having to do a bit more and reach a little further into themselves is daunting and discouraging. Perhaps they are afraid that if they are fully recovered or healed then they will no longer have the kind of fraternity found in a recovery group. This need can be filled with a strong ward family and reaching out to others to help them complete that last step to come unto Christ.

It’s Easier Than it Seems

Could it be this simple? Is it true that all we must do is continually focus on the Savior and come unto Him in all we think, say and do? Yes, it is that easy. It is work, but it is easy. We must forget man-made programs, science and psychology, look to the Savior to live. Does that sound too good to be true? It does, but it is nevertheless, the only way – to come unto Christ and live.

The healing power of the Atonement is real, but one must seek it and ask for it. Forgiveness is easy. We can know we are forgiven simply by repenting and asking the Lord to forgive us. But there is more to be done after that if we want the change to be permanent. We must ask to be healed. We must do whatever He requires of us to receive this gift and blessing, but it is real.

Always Move Towards Christ

It is not enough to stay away from the great and spacious building because surrounding it is an exceedingly great mist of darkness. The point is not to avoid the great and spacious building. It is to hold to the iron rod and to go toward the tree of life. There are no fences around the great and spacious building. We must cling to the iron rod and keep our eyes fixed on the tree of life.

The point is not to defeat Satan. We could never do that. We must instead embrace Christ. He has already conquered. An attitude of recovery is good. It moves us away from sin. Eventually something must take that place, for there will be space and unless we fill it with Christ, sin and relapse are sure to return. We must become fully recovered by filling that space with Christ.

The Change Can Be Instantaneous

This may be the hardest thing to accept, especially if you have been hanging onto the false label of recovering or recovered addict for many years. I know if was for me. According to science it may take months and years for the brain to change. But according to the gospel we believe, it can happen instantaneously. Elder Holland said, “You can change anything you want to change, and you can do it very fast.

“It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say, ‘I’ll change’- and mean it. Of course there will be problems to work out and restitutions to be made. You may well spend – indeed you had better spend – the rest of your life proving your repentance by its permanence. But change, growth, renewal, and repentance can come for you as instantaneously as for Alma and the sons of Mosiah.”

The Lord’s Healing is Complete

No one is strong enough to overcome addiction on their own. By living a Christ-centered life, we qualify for His strength. But when the Lord heals, it is without reservation or limit. Christ is 100% trustworthy and will, through our humility, maintain our purity. The Savior can effectively break the chains of addiction in a lasting way – with permanence and without scars.

The Lord will give us a new heart and a new spirit. We will no longer desire evil. Our struggle will cease. He can and will free the addicted individual from their bondage but they must come unto Him with full completeness of heart, nothing held back, no reservations. We must truly desire it and be willing to do whatever the Lord requires of us to obtain the gift of healing.

We Must Become Great

The only way to truly overcome addiction is to become great. The person who gives up addiction and turns to Christ can never return to a normal life. They can no longer be a normal person, because the normal person gives in to temptation. Instead, they must become great. They must become a disciple, a true follower of Jesus Christ with an eye single to the glory of God.

We can’t just give Him our addiction, we must give Him everything. Addictions can be erased. The effects of addictions, even long-held addictions can he healed. We can be restored to perfect spiritual health, but it comes at a price. We must complete the steps the Lord outlined when He taught His gospel. We must be baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost. We must receive the Lord.

To Contact the Author

Greg Nelson is the author of the paper I have reviewed in this blog post. The contact information listed at the end of the paper states that he resides in Providence Utah and can be reached via his email at itstimetopowerup @ gmail.com. If you click on this link, you can open the paper in Google Docs and find his information if you wish to contact him. He was very amenable with me.

As I noted he was 19 when he wrote this paper. He is now 22. I think you can tell I am obviously impressed with what he wrote. As I told Greg, his paper was an answer to my many years of prayer. He said he felt compelled to share it with me after spending a few hours on my blog. I will be forever grateful for the insight he has added to my understanding of complete repentance.

Books about the Savior in my Library

Come, Let Us Adore Him by Denver Snuffer (2009) – recently read this
The Second Comforter by Denver Snuffer (2006) – Have read this several times
Trusting Jesus by Jeffrey R. Holland (2003)
The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister (2000)
The Redeemer – Reflections of the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ, compilation (2000)
Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King by Duane S. Crowther (1999)
Following the Light of Christ Into His Presence by John M Pontius (1997)
Following Christ by Stephen E. Robinson (1995)
Believing Christ by Stephen E. Robinson (1992)
Jesus Christ, Key to the Plan of Salvation by Gerald Lund (1991)
In the Arms of His Love by Steven A. Cramer (1991)
I Know That My Redeemer Lives, Deseret Book compilation (1990)
Life in Christ – Discovering the transforming power of the Savior by Robert L. Millet (1990)
Come Unto Christ by President Ezra Taft Benson (1983)
What it Means to Know Christ by George W. Pace (1981)
The Mortal Messiah series by Bruce R. McConkie (1979)
Come Unto Christ by Duane S. Crowther ( 1971)
Jesus the Christ by James Talmage (1915) – read this back on my mission

False Understanding of the Atonement


JesusInGardenI have some special feelings in my heart about the Savior. I have been taught all my life about Jesus Christ and have come to look to Him as one who will save me. From what, you ask? Well, the answers are obvious for those raised in the church – from death and hell. Those are Book of Mormon phrases. I have had some experience with both and frankly, I find them frightening.

I have documented my experience with death in several previous essays, but most clearly in my post on Dealing with Evil and Unclean Spirits written 6 Aug 2012. I suppose that is also the post that most clearly documents my experiences with evil as well. Since that time, I have had more recent experiences that caused me to feel the closeness of death and hell in my life once more.

My point is, like most men as they age, I think more and more about what the next life will be like and if I will enjoy it. My encounters with evil and feelings of death in this life convince me that there are parts of the next life – the spirit world – of which I do not want to be associated. In other words, I am a prime candidate for one of the purposes of religion – to prepare to meet God.

Spiritual Counsel from My Youth

In a recent post here on my blog, I wrote about some advice I was given by my Bishop as a youth nearly thirty-seven years ago as I prepared for my mission. I confessed sins common to many young men and hinted that perhaps the advice given by my bishop may have been unsound, or at least less than perfect. I shared that any mention of this particular sin continues to bother me.

In other words, I was expressing that I was perhaps not yet fully healed from youthful mistakes and wondered if any of my readers might have some advice for me to bring me greater peace. In particular, I discussed the process of being born of the spirit, of a book I had read on the subject that greatly influenced me and then included some troubling quotes from Miracle of Forgiveness.

Frankly, I was both delighted and surprised by the number and type of answers I received, both public and private. Some brethren expressed their gratitude that I had said something publically that they also felt – the ongoing sense of guilt when priesthood leaders mention the need to be free from this common indiscretion of youth, confess the sin to get counsel on how to proceed.

Duty to Call Others to Repent

I’ve never been a Bishop or Stake President, but I know I would say the same thing were I in their position. I’ve worked closely with such men over the past twenty-five years and sat in many disciplinary councils where I have seen the results of sin, especially sexual sin, in the lives of our members. Many of the brethren, and one sister, noted their problems began with pornography.

My point is I’m not finding fault with the over-the-pulpit call from the Stake President to the brethren of the priesthood to free themselves from these sins (pornography and masturbation). The point of my essay was how to deal with the twinge of guilt that one feels if one has been a past participant in such sins but has now repented and should feel clean and forgiven by God.

I’d like to offer some additional thoughts on the subject that I hope will be more uplifting and helpful to those who find themselves in a similar situation. I think I was under the mistaken impression that I was supposed to be perfect in regards to this particular sin once I had taken care of it with the Bishop of my youth. This was confirmed by many of you in the advice you offered.

Best advice – Lighten up

The most common advice I received was “Lighten up. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Nobody’s perfect.” Right next to that was the point made that even after being born of the spirit or for that matter, having one’s calling and election sure, man is going to sin, just because he is mortal. I guess I knew that intellectually but I think it has now sunk much deeper into my hard heart.

By hard heart – I mean towards myself. I was being overly tough on myself. I’ve related on this blog how I’ve had some wonderful spiritual experiences. I have felt like Nephi, “Oh wretched man that I am. When I want to rejoice, I remember my sins. (I’m paraphrasing).” The idea that a man can reach spiritual heights then fall back into weakness was a difficult one for me to accept.

Let’s be clear. I’m not advocating that one go indulging in all kinds of lasciviousness, but if one, in a moment of melancholy or loneliness, engages in this sin, the idea is to not beat yourself up about it to the point of becoming discouraged and losing hope. That’s what Satan wants. The idea is to pick yourself up (repent), ask for forgiveness, take the sacrament and try, try again.

Still Seeking Baptism of Fire

I know this is common sense and something I should understand and have dealt with long time ago. After all, I’ve been a member of this church for most of my 56 years, but for some reason, I have been laboring under the impression that one must be perfectly clean and pure in order to feel the spirit of the Lord. No so. One must simply be humble and willing to make greater effort.

Yes, I mean make a greater effort. We grow line upon line. Each time we pick ourselves up from some sin – and we all have sin – we must commit ourselves to dig a little deeper into the gospel, to understand it better. We must be willing to pray with more intensity and heartfelt sincerity, and find the strength the Lord has promised to those who turn unto him in spite of a sinful nature.

I am still on a quest. This blog will continue to document that journey. I intend to either receive the baptism of fire – perhaps I already have and don’t know it – or receive an audience with the Lord. I intend to receive angels, be taught what I must do to prepare for this interview and then to go and do. I readily confess I am deeply influenced by the writings of Denver Snuffer here.

Scholarly Approach to the Gospel

Now I’d like to move on the real point of this post. One good brother who responded to my previous post invited me to engage in a private dialog on the doctrine of the atonement. He indicated that I do not really understand the atonement and because of that, I am laboring under a false impression about the nature of sin, how repentance works and what the atonement is all about.

In order to educate me, he has proposed that I read a private document on the subject authored by Daymon M. Smith. You may be familiar with the man. He self-published a humorous book a few years back about working in the Church Office Building called The Book of Mammon. I thought about purchasing and reading it but reviews indicated my conservative side might not enjoy it.

I’ve read some of Daymon’s blog and frankly, he is way over my head. I like to think of myself as a pretty smart guy, but I’m no PhD. Put me in a room full of Microsoft networking equipment and I’m right at home. Ask me to write a scholarly paper that contributes a greater understanding to the commonly accepted literature on a subject like the atonement and I’m out of my league.

False Understanding of Atonement

However, I promised I would accept his challenge so I have committed to read this 45-page paper and write my response. My point is that the Book of Mormon teaches that God offered His Son as a sacrifice for sin. We call that the atonement. He contends that this is a false teaching called penal substitution that comes from Sidney Rigdon, Alexander Campbell and Calvinites.

He says it is a teaching of the Great and Abominable Church and that it binds men down and brings them into captivity with a yoke of iron. He indicates that this false teaching needs to be purged in order to see clearly and understand the mission of Jesus Christ. I told him I could offer quite a few Book of Mormon scriptures that teach Heavenly Father sacrificed His Son for us.

Perhaps I can share a few of them here as a start to my gospel study this week but it just seems a little ludicrous. I’ve been teaching the doctrine of the Atonement since I was seventeen years old and was first called to teach a Sunday school class. So I’ve been teaching false doctrine for the past forty years? Maybe you can join in and tell me what you think of a few of these scriptures.

A Few Scriptures on Sacrifice

2 Ne 2:7 – “Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” OK, this doesn’t say the Father offered the Son. It says the Son offered Himself. Score one for Daymon and my unnamed friend. This is only the first scripture that came to mine.

Jacob 4:5 – “…it was accounted unto Abraham in the wilderness to be obedient unto the commands of God in offering up his son Isaac, which is a similitude of God and his Only Begotten Son.” OK, this one to me seems pretty clear. It says Abraham offering Isaac is a similitude of God offering his Son. I believe the point should go to me on that one. What say ye?

Alma 34:10 – “For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice.” Score two for Daymon. This scripture does not specifically say that the Father shall offer the son as a sacrifice for sin as I thought.

Alma 34:14 – “And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.” This one is debatable. It refers to the Son of God being the great and last sacrifice, but doesn’t specifically say that it is the Father that sacrifices the son. So I’ll call this one a draw.

Melvin J Ballard on Father’s sacrifice

In the case of our Father, the knife was not stayed, but it fell, and the life’s blood of his Beloved Son went out. His Father looked on with great grief and agony over his Beloved Son, until there seems to have come a moment when even our Savior cried out in despair: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

In that hour I think I can see our dear Father behind the veil looking upon these dying struggles until even he could not endure it any longer; and, like the mother who bids farewell to her dying child, has to be taken out of the room, so as not to look upon the last struggles, so he bowed his head, and hid in some part of his universe, his great heart almost breaking for the love that he had for his Son.

Oh, in that moment when he might have saved his Son, I thank him and praise him that he did not fail us, for he had not only the love of his Son in mind, but he also had love for us. I rejoice that he did not interfere, and that his love for us made it possible for him to endure to look upon the sufferings of his Son and give him finally to us, our Savior and our Redeemer.

Without him, without his sacrifice, we would have remained, and we would never have come glorified into his presence. And so this is what it cost, in part, for our Father in Heaven to give the gift of his Son unto men.

Source: New Era Jan 76 Classic Discourses, Sacramental Covenant

Penal Substitution is the Difficulty

I’m not quite sure what my friend is trying to teach me or why he wanted to point out that my / our understanding of the atonement is wrong or false doctrine. I will read Daymon’s essay on the atonement and see what points I can derive that will help draw me closer to my Savior. I desire a true understanding of what He has done for me and what exactly it is that He requires of me.

From our email dialog I think he is trying to say that the Atonement has nothing to do with paying a debt, but that did not enter into the dialog from my side. I wanted to focus on the idea of the Atonement being a sacrifice – both on the part of the Son and from the Father. That’s why I included Elder Ballard’s classic talk on the feelings of the Father as he watched His son’s death.

The paper seems to focus on the idea of penal substitution. Yes, I get that. It seems to be part of our doctrine that Christ paid for our sins. In other words he suffered things such as guilt and shame so we would not have to. For some reason, if I understand the paper correctly from a quick review, this is supposedly a false doctrine. I’ll write my summary when I complete it.

By the way, I’ve been asked if this 45-page PDF draft paper is available for sharing. My source has indicated that it will be published later this year but asked that I not share it for now. Sorry about that..

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