The Tradition of General Conference


Continuing the tradition of holding regular General Conferences, a new conference for the Spring of 2019 has been proposed and the website construction has begun. Each General Conference has historical significance and typically, a theme. This one is no different. The theme is “A Hope in Christ: The Temple.” By now, you’ve probably figured out I’m not referring to General Conferences of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Note, I’m being careful to refer to the Church by the full name as requested by President Nelson. And although I’m not a lawyer, I did some due diligence checking to ensure the phrase “General Conference” is not copyrighted by Intellectual Reserve Inc. It’s not.

Fall 2018 General Conference

I don’t want to take away from the focus on the upcoming Fall 2018 General Conference to be held at the end of this month, September 28th through the 30th, in Layton, Utah. A lot of planning and preparation has gone into this upcoming conference. I invite you to visit that website to get more information about this also historic event. I consider it historic because, as far as I know, other than a few Regional Conferences, this is the first General Conference to be held in the heart of the Mormon Corridor. Yes, there have been General Conferences in Boise Idaho and in Phoenix Arizona, but those are at the top and bottom of the corridor. This one is organized by the combined Wasatch Fellowships and will take place in the Davis Conference Center.

The Covenant of Christ: One Year Later

Someone made a video commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Covenant of Christ Conference held last September (2017) in Boise. I’ve expressed it previously, but I want to share again how grateful I am to have been able to participate in the conference from my own home via the Internet broadcast. I have reviewed many times the covenant I took upon myself on that Sunday over a year ago. The Prayer for the Covenant touched me deeply as did the Answer and Covenant itself. I’ve thought often how I can best keep that covenant. “Do the Work” comes to mind every time I re-read the promised blessings of that covenant. I have felt a distinct change in my heart as I seek to be more Christ-like in my daily interactions with others. I have found the Lord sends people to me with whom I can share His love and help them come unto Christ.

The Tradition Continues

A General Conference is more than a tradition. It is a commandment to “meet in conference … from time to time” for the purpose of conducting business and, more importantly, to edify, instruct and uplift one another as directed by the spirit of the Lord. I have fond memories of attending the Cedaredge Colorado regional conference back in May of 2015. I suppose, for me, it was more of a reunion as I met once again with friends I first met online and then at some of the lectures from the 40 Years in Mormonism Lectures of 2013 and 2014. I had been baptized less than a year earlier and felt it important to resign my membership from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Being in California, where there are few who believe as I do, the year after my resignation and baptism was difficult. At the Cedaredge conference, I spent much time in the home of a friend where I was greatly uplifted and edified by the kindness and shared moments of worship in the presence of the Comforter. I hope I can make it back there next year.

Looking Forward With Faith

I remained convinced, through many years of study and personal revelation that Denver is telling the truth and teaching what the Lord wants us to hear in our day. I studied the teachings he shared for many years before I took action by being baptized. On September 21st, four years will have passed since I was baptized. I continue to be amazed at what the Lord is willing to reveal and share with those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. Tradition can be a good thing, but it can also stand in the way of moving forward in faith. I will never agree with those who judged me as “looking beyond the mark.” That mark is Christ. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, NOT of Denver Snuffer. Yet, the Lord has made it clear, at least to me, He is conducting His strange work of the Last Days through His Servant. Our work is to study the teachings being shared and to then ask the Lord what He would have us do about what we are learning. I’ve shared it before, but perhaps my story will help:

The Tim Malone Story – a short video answering questions about why I took the course of action I did after a lifetime in the LDS Church (with apologies to President Nelson for not using the full name of the Mormon Church) – oops, I did it again.

Looking Beyond the Mark


HebrewTav1It the LDS Church today, we often hear the phrase, “Looking Beyond the Mark.” Those who read the scriptures know this comes from the book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon. This is a uniquely LDS phrase, not found in the Bible. Jacob was teaching the people about Christ, who, of course, is the mark in question. Keep that in mind. Christ is the mark, not the LDS Church.

Anything that causes you to look past Christ for salvation is looking beyond the mark. Anything that takes you away from coming unto Christ is looking beyond the mark. Anyone who stands in between you and your Savior can cause you to look beyond the mark. Anything, any system, any person or any church that purports to be able to save you is deflecting your view from the mark.

From this verse, sermons have been preached, lessons have been written, actions have been justified and individuals have been condemned. Ironically, when someone focuses on coming unto Christ, and doing all within their power to respond to the promptings of the spirit, others may perceive them as engaging in a gospel hobby, accusing them of looking beyond the mark.

Here is the verse in question:

“But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.” (Jacob 4:14)

Elder Cook spoke about this subject. He said, “Today there is a tendency among some of us to ‘look beyond the mark’ rather than to maintain a testimony of gospel basics. We do this when we substitute the philosophies of men for gospel truths, engage in gospel extremism, seek heroic gestures at the expense of daily consecration, or elevate rules over doctrine. Avoiding these behaviors will help us avoid the theological blindness and stumbling that Jacob described.”

Most Apostles Understand the Doctrine

Elder Cook got it … sort of. I like the phrase “maintain a testimony of gospel basics,” but I’m fairly certain he would not discount these words from Joseph when he said, “I would exhort you to go on and continue to call upon God until you make your calling and election sure for yourselves, by obtaining this more sure word of prophecy, and wait patiently for the promise until you obtain it.” (TPJS, p 299)

Roy Doxy, when he was dean emeritus of Religious Instruction at Brigham Young University taught this important doctrine in the July 1976 Ensign. This one article alone answered so many questions for me back when I preparing for my mission. I have treasured it and wondered why we have not had more articles, talks or lessons like this in our correlated instructional material.

https://www.lds.org/ensign/1976/07/accepted-of-the-lord-the-doctrine-of-making-your-calling-and-election-sure?lang=eng

The reason I think Elder Cook understands this doctrine is because he clearly points out the mark is Christ. It is only the gospel of Christ, the doctrine of Christ that saves. Elder Cook concluded, “One of the great challenges of this life is to accept Christ for who He is: the resurrected Savior of the world, our Redeemer, our Lord and Master, our Advocate with the Father.

“When He is the foundation for all that we do and are, we avoid the theological blindness that results from looking beyond the mark, and we reap the glorious blessings He has promised us. ‘Come unto me, ye blessed,’ He tells those who follow Him; ‘there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father’ (Enos 1:27).”

Source: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2003/03/looking-beyond-the-mark?lang=eng

The Doctrine Has Been Watered Down

Elder Dean Larson spoke on the same subject back in 1987. He used a sports analogy to describe the importance of staying within the circle, which he called the mark. Although He noted the importance of faith in the redeeming role of the Messiah, he said the mark was wisdom and prudence, equating it to a circle of fundamental gospel truths, providing a basis for that faith. I wish he had been as plain as Elder Cook in stating Christ is the mark to whom we should look.

Source: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1987/10/looking-beyond-the-mark?lang=eng

For a good, although lengthy analysis of the phrase, Paul Y. Hoskisson, professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, published an essay in 2007 that includes the classic symbolic themes and metaphors of gospel hobbies, sin, pride, wealth, and strengths that become weakness (see Elder Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” BYU, June 1992). In other words, anything that distracts from the target, or the mark of Christ, is to be avoided.

Source: http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/selected-articles/looking-beyond-mark

From Matthew Faulconer’s blog, “Feast Upon the Word,” we read:

“…looking beyond Christ could mean a number of things. It could imply that one is looking to be saved by actions, ordinances, or even associations with other people, rather than looking to the atonement of Jesus Christ for salvation. One reason it may be easy to look beyond the mark in this sense is that it is easier to gain an assurance of our salvation through a tangible feeling or action rather than a quiet voice or a small feeling that takes time to understand.”

Source: http://feastupontheword.org/Jacob_4:1-18

Some Doctrines Take More Study and Thought

Elder Oaks offered the following in a BYU Idaho devotional 7 Nov 2006:

“My second subject of wisdom concerns looking beyond the mark. In the Book of Mormon the Prophet Jacob described a people who ‘despised the words of plainness, . . . and sought for things . . . they could not understand’ (Jacob 4:14).  He said this caused them to fall because when persons are ‘looking beyond the mark,’ God takes away plainness and gives them what they sought–things they cannot understand.

“We see this today. For example, some persons write General Authorities asking when we will be returning to Missouri or how we should plan to build up the New Jerusalem.  Others want to know details about the Celestial Kingdom, such as the position of a person who lives a good life but never ever marries.

“I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. What I do know is that persons worrying about such things are probably neglecting to seek a firmer understanding and a better practice of the basic principles of the gospel that have been given to them with words of plainness by the scriptures and by the servants of the Lord

“If we neglect the words of plainness and look beyond the mark, we are starting down a path that often leads to a loss of commitment and sometimes to a loss of faith. There is enough difficulty in following the words of plainness, without reaching out for things we have not been given and probably cannot understand.”

Source: http://www2.byui.edu/Presentations/Transcripts/Devotionals/2006_11_07_Oaks.htm

Seeking the Second Comforter IS the Mark

I think that’s enough detail from words of prophets, apostles, general authorities and scriptural commentary to make a point. I won’t get into the other common definition of the mark, as found in Ezekiel 9:4-6. It is the mark or anointing placed in the forehead of suffering saints who sigh and cry for the sins of those in their cities. The mark is placed there by their attending angels.

The point is this: Seeking to enter into the presence of the Lord in this mortal life is NOT looking beyond the mark. It is NOT a gospel hobby. It is NOT gospel extremism. Seeking to receive the Second Comforter is NOT something of which we need to repent. It is something we need to do. It is not spiritual blindness. It is having one’s eyes opened. The Lord is not saddened by our efforts in this area, even when they are misunderstood and result in being disciplined by others.

I suspect when scriptures or doctrines are understood differently by individuals, the tendency is to say the other person is suffering from “blindness [that] came from looking beyond the mark.” It’s a polite way of throwing one’s hands up in the air, saying, “You don’t get it, do you? Why can’t you see it the same way I do? Oh, I get it. You’re blinded. You refuse to see the truth.” With such thinking, they go on their way, feeling secure and justified in their own conclusions.

Discussion versus Contention

That’s a sad way of relating to others. Wouldn’t it be a better idea to try to understand the other’s point of view? I confess I have been guilty of impatience in relating to others, both in person and here on my blog. For that I apologize. I love discussion, but abhor contention. I am a witness that contention causes the spirit to withdraw. So does taking offense. I’m preaching to myself here.

Most of my readers know I have withdrawn my membership from the LDS Church. I’ve tried to share my reasons why. I’ve had my share of public and private dialogs and conversations about my decision. Most have tried to be understanding and kind. I appreciate that. I don’t endorse my path for anyone unless God tells you. I received that confirmation as the best for my situation.

If I come to regret my decision, feel I’ve made a mistake and desire to be readmitted by baptism to the LDS Church, I must receive approval of a representative of the First Presidency, this even though I was not placed under formal probation before I resigned. This is understandable. In my blog, I have been clear I felt the Lord sent a servant with a message from outside the hierarchy.

Concluding Thoughts Going Forward

I seek to come unto Christ. I made a decision to be baptized in a manner that is slightly different from the way it is done in the LDS Church today. I also decided to participate in the sacrament in a slightly different manner from the way it is administered in the LDS Church today. Finally, I practice an order of prayer learned in a sacred place that I feel brings more power into my life.

I like to think I have kept all the good things I had in the LDS Church. I have disagreements with the manner in which the church is trying to control those who blog as a way of learning things. I am certain of the path I have chosen. Much like Brigham Young, I studied it for years before I acted. I take that back. I acted the first night I read the message. I prayed and asked God about it.

I recognize what I have done is unusual, different, unorthodox and certainly not the path that is accepted by the LDS Church. Thus, I resigned, knowing I would eventually be excommunicated. Why? Because I will not, I cannot deny what I have learned through study and prayer. Many claim I have been deceived. Perhaps. We shall see. I thank you for your prayers in my behalf.

 

Max Skousen Excommunicated Twice


MaxSkousen2Please don’t take offense at the title. It is sensational on purpose but I think factual. Read on to see why. Note: I changed the title from the original because so many people wrote to say they found it offensive. It was not my intention to offend. The original title was: “The LDS Church Excommunicates those who Know Christ” The next week Denver Snuffer was summoned to a disciplinary counsel and was eventually excommunicated. He was one who wrote a book about the Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil.”

Some Controversial Writers

I have been reading Max Skousen. You know, the Max Skousen who was excommunicated twice for writing about Christ. It made me think about Mel Fish, my friend from Cedar City who was excommunicated for writing about Christ. As I pondered further, I thought of my LTM branch president, George Pace, who was released as a Stake President for writing about Christ, Finally, I thought of Denver Snuffer, who is under church investigation for his recent books on the Savior.

Remove the Condemnation

What is going on in our church? Why are we forcing men out who want to bring us to Christ? I have read the works of these men and can say without reservation that each of them have been sincere and have gone to great lengths in their labors to teach us how we can come unto Christ. It is not an easy thing to write a book, let alone several of them as some have done, in their efforts to help us remove the condemnation we are under for esteeming lightly the Book of Mormon.

Church Teaches Come Unto Christ

This concerns me. On the one hand, I have been taught all my life from General Authorities, Bishops, Stake Presidents, Gospel Doctrine Teachers, and just about anyone who teaches in this church that if we will but come to know, love, follow and emulate Christ, we will be blessed, we will be happy, and we will be able to help the rest of the world by our example. I have tried to live this principle all my life. My number one goal is to come unto Christ. Always has been.

We Need to Know The Savior

Something is wrong here, or so it seems to me. Have I simply chosen a few poor examples in my list above? These are men whose writings have affected me deeply. I have met and interviewed some, and have prayed about each of them and their writings. Now, to be sure, I am also affected by the words of the men we sustain in this church as prophets, seers and revelators, sometimes very deeply, especially when they teach of the Savior. Aren’t we all supposed to know Christ?

Looking Beyond the Mark

I think the problem is that these men I mentioned above, and you can read about each of them in the links I have provided as I have written about them previously, have gone beyond what the Brethren felt comfortable in letting them share. Does that sound strange? It does to me. It seems to smack of controlling or restraining in some way, something I find distasteful. It makes me ask, of what are they afraid? What do they fear these men have taught or are trying to teach us?

A Blessing Hitherto Unknown

Take Max Skousen for example. He passed away in 2002, but you can read his books on the blog dedicated to his works, with links to Scribed, where they are stored. I have only read a few of his essays and the first few chapters of Looking Beyond the Mark, the first in his series of books, A Blessing Hitherto Unknown. In it he describes how he was inspired by President Benson who invited us to remove the condemnation of pride and unbelief from ignoring the Book of Mormon.

Disciplined for Doctrinal Writings

Max simply expounded that. I read no further than a few pages before I had to know about the man and what motivated him. That’s when I discovered he had been excommunicated twice for writing his books. The pattern became obvious. Each time the Lord has led me to read the works of someone who teaches about the Savior in greater depth than what we find in our curriculum, I discover they have been disciplined in some way or form. Thus I write this post, wondering why.

Tree of Life not Tree of Knowledge

From what I have been able to discover so far, Max teaches us about the differences between the tree of knowledge and the tree of life. Oh, how quickly I was able to relate. I have been seeking new and revelatory experiences every day at the tree of knowledge, when all along, I should have been pursuing my way to the tree of life, clinging to the iron rod until I fell down at the presence of the tree to partake of the fruit, which the Lord promises we can taste and even have in this life.

Investment in Denver Snuffer Books

I have only just started reading Max’s works. I am so pleased that someone has gone to great trouble to place them on the Internet where I can find and read them for free. I do not have to buy them like I did when I wanted to read what Denver Snuffer has written. I don’t mind. I suppose I have invested well over $200 in Denver’s books, but I wanted to have them in my library. Some I have read multiple times, and others I am still reading, like Removing the Condemnation.

I Remember a Great Teacher George Pace

I read George Pace’s book many, many years ago, went to many of his lectures, and received personal counsel from him just as I was starting my mission. I’ll always remember his focus on the Savior, and how he KNEW we could have a personal, sacred, and sustaining relationship with him that would give us strength throughout our lives. I was devastated when I later read what happened to him and his family all because he dared teach what he taught about Christ.

Learn About Mel and Gwena Fish

I’ve written previously how I was led to meet with Mel Fish, a man who I am convinced knows the Savior better than anyone I have ever met. If someone were to ask me if I knew anyone who had their calling and election made sure, Mel and Gwena Fish would be the first couple to come to mind. The sprit witnessed to my soul how much the Lord loved Mel and Gwena and just how much he appreciated what they were doing to help people cast off the influence of the adversary.

Conquering Spiritual Evil

By the way, two other other individuals come to mind who have done so much to help people free themselves from the adversary and were persecuted by their church leaders for doing so. One is Doug Mendenhall, who wrote Conquering Spiritual Evil, and my friend Jan Graf who was somewhat of a mentor to me in first learning about communicating with our subconscious mind, although I learned his techniques second-hand and modified through one of his students.

Denver Snuffer Lecture Series

Anyone who has read my blog for the last year and half knows how I was introduced to Denver Snuffer and his writings, as well as the subsequent change in my life as a result of what I learned, and am still learning, from his books. I still hope to make it to one of his seminars in Utah next year. I’m certain I won’t be able to go to his Idaho or Northern Utah lectures anytime this year. I have some very specific questions I want to ask Denver why some teach evil spirits can repent.

Men Persecuted for Publishing Truth

The point of this post is this, and it’s more of a question for those who are my regular readers, if I have any left after being dropped by most LDS blog aggregators for being too controversial. I have felt led to read the works of these men I have mentioned. Their books have thrilled me. They have fed my soul. Reading them have been spiritual experiences, akin to reading scripture. Why is it that these men are persecuted by our church when their writings ring so true with me?

Go Where the Spirit Leads

I have to ask: Am I out of touch? Am I out of line with the General Authorities? Are we or are we not taught by our leaders to seek after Christ, to learn of Him, to come to know him and to emulate Him? Why do I feel that the Lord has lead me to the writings of these brethren I have mentioned in this blog? Is it because the writings of these men represent the meat of the gospel? Is what they write too much, too controversial for the general membership of the church today?

Just Your Basic Everyday Mormon

I don’t feel I’m anybody special. I’ve always said, “I’m just a regular member of the church.” I have no special influence. I am a lowly assistant stake clerk. I like to stay behind the scenes. I gladly accept speaking or teaching in church when asked but I ALWAYS teach ONLY what is in the approved curriculum. I do not deviate unless the spirit directs. I like to think I serve faithfully. I love this church. I love my brethren and sisters. I am your basic everyday common Mormon.

An Effort to Control Publishing

I’ll leave it at that. Some will respond that I have been and am being misled. It happens almost every time I write about Denver Snuffer. My counter is always, “That’s not what the spirit has been whispering to my soul.” Is it at all possible that there is some sort of cover-up or rather an attempt to control, to constrain and to tightly correlate what private members write and publish? If so, how can they expect to do that in today’s Internet world? We can publish anything today.

My Faith Discovery Journey

I’ve been blogging and working on an LDS-themed book for years. My wife just beat me to the punch and published her first book. I’ve watched her journey go in an entirely different direction than where she thought she wanted to go. I can say the same thing for me. I started out wanting to ONLY write faith-promoting, toe-the-line LDS explanations that mirrored the official line of reasoning for every controversial and questionable doctrine or practice. I feel like John Dehlin.

Finding Spiritual Fulfillment

John is much smarter and much more prominent in the LDS blogging world than I am but where I am today is not at all where I expected to be six years ago when I started thinking about adding my voice to the LDS blogging community. I don’t question the right of the leaders of our church to lead. I sustain them. I pray for them. I love them. But for the first time in my life, I’ve come to a point where I have to say, I’m not getting the spiritual food that fulfills my soul in my church.

Controversy Always Gets Attention

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not leaving. Where would I go? I also fully recognize feeding my soul is my own responsibility. That’s why I seek out and feel led to the writings of the men I mention at the top of this post. I just can’t figure out why these same men, whose writings I find so very rewarding and fulfilling, can be at odds with those who lead our church today. Is it a made-up controversy? Everyone knows strong opinions and debate generate interest. Maybe that’s it.

General Membership Don’t Read

Maybe the brethren are disciplining and excommunicating these men in order to bring attention to their works, so the members will sit up, take notice and make some effort to find out what all the hullabaloo is all about. Yeah, that’s it, isn’t it? I’m kidding. I really doubt that. But if you can tell me why I am led to find such spiritual satisfaction from the writings of these men who are or have been disciplined for what they have written, I would greatly appreciate you clueing me in.

Looking for Informed Opinions

That is, of course, if you know what you’re talking about, have read some of their works and can advise me with an educated opinion. I dislike reading some of the comments that start out, “I’ve never read a thing Denver Snuffer has written, but I can tell you if you don’t stop reading what he has published, you’re going to lose your church membership and then you’ll be sorry.” But I have a much higher opinion of my readers than that. Send me a private email if you prefer.

You can Reach me Privately

And, as always, thanks for reading my blog. I hope what I share is helpful and gets us thinking. I can be reached privately at tmalonemcse @ gmail.com if you prefer, but why not share your insights with others in the comments? I always respond to private emails, even if it sometimes takes me a few weeks. I appreciate the hundreds of readers who have reached out to me privately for help or discussion. I welcome all, public or private and ask only for thoughtful discourse. God bless.