Thursday, May 30, 2013

Skousen vs. Nibley: Personal vs. Social Responsibility

If you are not a Later-day Saint, you may not know the names W Cleon Skousen or Hugh Nibley. Then again, if you are a student of ancient scripture or the US Constitution you might.  Skousen and Nibley were prolific LDS writers.  

Skousen wrote a variety of US Constitution-based books that Glenn Beck has recommended everyone read.  Skousen's books include "5000-year Leap", "Cleansing of America", "Naked Communist", "Naked Capitalist", and "The Making of America".

Hugh Nibley, an LDS apologist, wrote on Ancient Scripture and Religion. However, one particular book "Approaching Zion" discusses the issues of social justice.

Very Briefly, the point of this blog is in response to a question about how LDS should rectify conservative vs. liberal thought? On one hand we have the Conservative Skousen whose writings talk about personal responsibility and limited government.  On the other hand we have Nibley's book "Approaching Zion" that stresses our social responsibility to care for the poor. Zion is a religious ideal of a society were there is "no poor among [us]" (Deut 15:4) (Moses 7:18). 

So, the question is how do we rectify personal responsibility with social responsibility?

Personal vs. social responsibility can be rectified when we realize that helping the poor is a personal responsibility and should not be a government program. Helping the poor is best administered through families and the church and NOT the state. When the state doles out welfare there is little accountabity. In many cases there just is a check in the mail.  State-directed welfare often enables slothful and destructive behavior. However, when individuals, families and the church help the poor there is more accountability and those thst help and those who are helped rejoice together.   There is nothing better than helping your fellow being and seeing them progress via that assistance.  With state-directed welfare there is very little if any progression and no joy for the giver or receiver.

It is a less well-known and unfortunate fact that building orphanages creates more ophans.  But this fact doesn't mean individuals don't have a personal responsibility to help the fatherless.   Helping the widow and the fatherless in their affliction is "pure religion" according to James in the Bible (James 1:27).  Unfortunately, the US has turned welfare (the business of religion) into a government program. Government needs to get out of the business of religion.  

On the flip side of the coin, religion needs to do its job better.  First, religion needs to teach and expect virtue from its adherants.  Virtuous behavior like chastity, honesty and sobriety would prevent much of the need for welfare in the first place.  Second, churches can strengthen and support families in taking care of their own members and caring for those individuals who would otherwise fall through the cracks.

Again, when it comes to rectifying personal and social responsibility, helping the poor is a personal responsibility.  Each of us have a sacred duty to serve and care for each other. However, this assistance is best administered through families, religious, and private organization and not by the state where enemies of the state can use welfare programs as a political weapon to buy votes, create dependance, expand the power of the state, and finally bankrupt the whole institution.

But until the poor are taken care of by individuals, families, and churches; they will, of necessity, rely upon the state.  It is my opinion that our best hope is not to cut the poor off but to care for the poor in such a way that they no longer need the state. 

We can best rectify conservative personal responsibility with liberal social justice when we realize that helping the poor is a personal, family and religious responsibility (pure religion) and not to be a government program administered by the state.  Religions need to better do the work of religion (charity and virtue). Only then can the state get out of the business of religion.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New Convert Vaccinations

"And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost." (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi, Chapter 8:28)

I have one of the best callings in the LDS Church to assist our full-time missionaries as they assist the members of our ward do our duty to share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with our friends and neighbors.

Our missionaries are and have been excellent. They are virtuous, committed, dedicated and hardworking and have been very successful in bringing many souls to Christ . Our ward is the top baptizing ward (congregation) in our  stake and one of the top in the mission.

However, I think we can do better at retention. The retention issue has nothing to do with the excellent teaching process.  Investigators are plainly taught a wonderful, and inspirational message of how Christ restored His kingdom to the Earth in the Last Days.  New converts hear and understand the message, they make and keep commitments, they give up harmful vices and sins that separate them from the presence of God, and then they pray to Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ to know if the LDS message is true.  

In response to earnest prayer, new LDS Converts feel and recognize the confirming power of the Holy Ghost testify to their heart and mind that the LDS message is true.  LDS Investigators become LDS Converts not because of pressure tactics but because they receive a personal spiritual manifestation from God that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true Church on the Earth and is the Kingdom of God. 

The amazing miracle of conversion is that, In my experience, this conversion occurs when the missionaries aren't even there but during or after a private, and sincere prayer by the investigator after reading in the Book of Mormon; asking God if it is His word.  As missionaries, we hear about the moment of conversion after-the-fact.

So, knowing that new LDS converts have truly experienced and recognized the Holy Spirit, miraculously repented, forsaken sin, and changed their lives, how and why do some new converts fall away?  

President Hinkley taught that the key to retention was to recognize that every new convert needed 3 things: 1. a friend, 2. an assignment, and 3. continued nourishment by the "good word of God".  Additionally, we know that new converts who have an LDS temple experience soon after baptism are much more likely to be retained.

Unfortunately, despite doing our best in these areas, too often, our new converts are falling away for a very specify and I think preventable reason.  The missionaries call it "getting anti'ed". What "getting anti'ed" means is the barrage of anti-mormon literature, lies, misinformation, and false criticisms spread by the media and other religions about the LDS Church, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon.  

Most often, most people already aware of the LDS Church have already been "anti'ed"  even before meeting the missionaries.  Consequently, most of my friends and neighbors refuse to hear and consider anything about our message. They have already made up their mind that the LDS Church is false.  Many other people who may have not heard of the LDS Church before get "anti-ed" during their investigation of the LDS Church.  The most tragic is those new converts who get "anti'ed" soon after their baptism.  

Anti-Mormon literature is seductive because, lets face it; changing religion and religious culture is difficult and often painful.  There comes a point when a person feels the spirit of the message for the first time and has the "Ah Oh" moment when they realize they may need to take this message seriously and  make a more formal investigation.  It is not hard to see how Satan's planting of a little false information attacking the credibility of Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon can cause someone to think "phew, now because of what I heard I don't have to make the effort to investigate and test the message further".  People tend to want to believe something, even if it's a lie, if it means that they don't have to change what they do or what they believe.  This kind of thinking is sometimes referred to as "conservatism", "status quo", "emotional" and "confirmation bias".

When new converts are "anti'ed, what usually happens is that family member, friend, neighbor, or a former pastor comes makes a visit with a stack of pamphlets containing anti-mormon literature or a list of talking-points off an anti-mormon website.  This misinformation may cause the new convert to feel ashamed at their decision. The family member might say,  "I can't believe you were suckered into joining that racist cult".  "Didn't you know that Joseph Smith ...." or "didn't you know that the DNA evidence proves..." or "Didn't they tell you what they really believe?"

The consequence of this is that many once enthusiastic new members fall away, quite attending church, and begin avoiding both missionaries and members. Oft times, they may not answer the door or phone calls. This makes resolving concerns nearly impossible. Then some of these new members backslide into their former bad habits, sins, addictions,  and vices and then may feel added embarrassment.  Worst of all, new converts who backside into sin become separated from the presence of the Lord and the Gift of the Holy Ghost which they have received which was the power that converted them in the first place. 

So, what to do about it,  Well, I am not suggesting we "give heed" to the publishers of the various anti-mormon websites or literature, or give attention to their criticisms. What I am suggesting is that we may do better to pre-empt some of this by "immunizing" our new converts and investigators against anti-mormon literature.

In medicine, vaccination it is a well-established, safe and effective method to protect against disease (except if squalene is added). In a spiritual sense. the same kind of immunization could be done by missionaries to fore-warn and protect their investigators and new converts against spiritual attack.  

I'm not saying missionaries or members need to review or address all the anti-mormon criticism out there.  Rather, we just need to tell our new converts that these lies are out there, they can expect a well-meaning family member, friend, neighbor, or former pastor to come around with this sort of false criticism. We are happy to address any concern, but they best do what other active members in the Church do with regard to anti-mormon literature.  What active LDS members do with regard to false criticism, misinformation, lies, scoffing and mocking is what the Book of Mormon instructs; which is to "[heed] them not".

And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not. These are the words of my father: For as many as heeded them, had fallen away. (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi, Chapter 8:33-34)

I think I would tell my new converts after reading "Lehi's Dream" in the Book of Mormon something like, "look, you have just repented of your sins and joined the true Church of Christ" based on a personal witness and spiritual manifestation by God."  "Do you think Satan is happy about that"?  "Do you think Satan is just going to give up in trying to destroy you and your happiness now that you are baptized"?  "No way!"  (Satan didn't stop tempting Christ, or Peter or Job) "Well-meaning people may approach you: family, neighbors, pastors with negative and critical disinformation to try and undermine your new faith and testimony of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon or the LDS Church". 

The best thing to do would be to avoid listening to it, but if you can't avoid it, then know this stuff is lies, misinformation, half-truths presented in the worst terms possible (framer's bias) all designed for the purpose to destroy your faith and to get you to cast aside what you know by the Holy Ghost to be true.  

Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. (New Testament, Hebrews, Chapter 10:35)

There is no "secret doctrine" we are not telling you. There is no embarrassing history that the LDS Church is sweeping  under the rug. Of course certain individuals in the church have some embarrassing, tragic, and regrettable  instances.  Who doesn't.  The Church is filled with imperfect people. Our leaders do not claim to be infallible.  However, when our leaders are inspired and directed by Jesus Christ you can know that they are acting and speaking in accordance with the will of God.  The doctrine of the LDS Church is simple and beautiful and exactly the way the missionaries presented it and what is covered in Sunday in the scriptures and lesson manuals.

Finally, if you have doubts because of something  you have heard or been told, do not cast aside your faith but be patient and continue on living clean, praying, reading the scriptures and God will answer these questions in His time (shelve questions to be answered later).  LDS faith is not blind.  

Also, feel free to ask missionaries or other members to resolve any concerns. These anti-mormon criticism are old and have been addressed and proven to be false, negatively biased, and misleading time and again.  Beware not to waste time studying the criticisms.  It's much better to study the truth and what actually is LDS Doctrine then to spend all your time studying falsehood, and what critics claim is our doctrine, but isn't .  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

LDS Church: Restored Christianity

A friend at work said my posts were too "wordy". So, I made some videos.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Many people wonder how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fits in among all the other Christian denominations.  The simple picture above illustrates the differences between many of the Christian churches. 

The Catholic Church is represented by the solid line at the top. Catholics believe that their church maintains an unbroken line of authority from Peter to Pope Francis today. Christ in the New Testament bestowed upon Peter the "keys of the kingdom" and Catholics believe these keys and the authority to administer the kingdom of God have been passed down through the Popes to the present day. Accordingly, only the Catholic Church possesses the proper authority to administer the gospel and sacraments of Christ.

The second 'tree-looking' graph represents Christian Protestantism. When Catholics talk about the "primacy" of Peter and the Bishop of Rome, My Eastern Orthodox friend says that during the first thousand years of the Christian Church, there were many Christian capitals such as Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Rome and each of these capitals had ordained bishops who were equal in authority.  

Authorized Version
When Rome realized they couldn't burn enough Christians or feed enough of them to the lions to stop the spread of truth, Rome decided to take the Church over.  If Rome couldn't stop the Christian movement, they would control it by giving believers an 'authorized version'.  Rome took sole control over Christianity after the other Christian capitals were destroyed by the Muslims.  Remaining Christians were forced by the Roman Empire to join the authorized State-Sponsored Christian Church.  In Rome's New State-Sponsored Church, doctrine was decided by ecumenical councils of scholars, apologists and theologians and not by revelation by the Lord's anointed.

However, after Rome was weakened, a few Catholic clergy and members had the courage to protest against the doctrine and practices of the Catholic Church.  These courageous reformers broke away from the Catholic Church forming their own alternative deniminations which were established based on their understanding of the Bible. 

Some Christian denominations were formed because Christians believed: 1. baptism should be by immersion and not sprinkling, 2. clergy need not be celibate, 3. you cannot pay indulgance money for forgiveness of sins, 4. the Bible should be printed in the language of the people. Consequently, because of the many differing  interpretations of the Bible, we see the many Christian denominations and non-denominations today. 

Doctrines of Authority
All the denominations who have broken off from the Catholic Church also disagree with the Catholic doctrine of authority. Protestants believe that authority in the Catholic sense is not necessary because of the doctrine of the "priesthood of all believers" or that a person can become qualified to be ordained after earning a theological degree.  

The third broken line in the illustration depicts Evangelicalism.  Evangelicalism is the most popular religion in America.  In reality, a person can be Catholic, Protestant or non-denominational and still be Evangelical.  Evangelicals believe that the Kingdom of God is not a literal physical reality but a figurative spiritual reality.  Evangelicals believe that it doesn't matter what Christian denomination or non-denomination you belong to; as long as a person accepts Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, they will be saved.  Issues about authority and specific doctrine is secondary.

The fourth line describes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.   The LDS Church recognizes that God the Son came to Earth as Jesus Christ and established His covenant with Peter. And formed a physical church with ordained Prophets, Apostles, Seventies, Bishops and Deacons.  

However, because of the persecution of the Roman Empire, those with the keys and authority were killed.  Without authority to receive revelation from God the gates of Hell did prevail against the Church and without revelation, the physical church soon strayed away from the truth and the Entire Christian world decended into the Dark Ages.  

Despite the fall of the physical Church of Christ into Apostasy, the Evangelical fires of spiritual belief still burned.  And when the hearts of mankind were sufficently prepared through the Reformation and the creation of a Constitutional Government in America, God was merciful and again restored His covenant, His Priesthood, His Church, and His Kingdom upon the Earth in these Last Days.

A young boy of 14 named Joseph Smith grew up in a Christian home in rural upstate New York.  When the opportunity to join several Christian denominations arose, the Smith home was divided in which to choose.  Joseph Smith Sr was disillusioned by organized religion, Joseph Smith's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, was drawn to the Presbyterian faith. Joseph liked the Methodists.  When it came time to decide, the young Joseph Smith searched thr Bible for direction. 

First Vision
Joseph read James 1:5 which saiys "If ant man lack wisdom, let him ask of God".  Joseph Smith said that the Spirit of God filled his heart upon reading these words.  In the Spring of 1820, Joseph went to a secluded grove of trees to offer a verbal prayer and ask God which Church he should join.  In response to Joseph's humble prayer, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith and called Joseph as the prophet of this last disoensation before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Joseph's theophany is called the "First Vision" because it was only the first of many visitations by Christ and heavenly  messengers who appeared to Joseph Smith and other Church Founders and revealed to them new and lost scripture, bestowed by the laying on of hands the proper keys and authority of Christ's Priesthood as well as restoring the doctrines of the Kingdom.

Now, when you consider the different patterns above of the Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, and LDS Church.  We need to then ask, which of these patterns fits the pattern given to us and foretold in the Bible? 

Biblical Pattern
I just recently was reading the Old Testament, and I was amazed at the pattern of history that the Bible illustrates.  
The Bible starts out in Genesis telling us that after The Fall, Jehovah (Jesus Christ) established His covenant with Adam.  Mankind went along okay for awhile until we fell away from the truth of God into apostasy. Consequently, God sent the Great Flood to wipe the slate clean and start over.  
God then re-establishes His covenant with Noah and things go good for awhile until mankind again falls away into error and we have the scattering of the people and the confounding of the langages at the tower of Babel. 
God then finds a true and honest man Abraham and again re-establishes His covenant.  Mankind goes along okay for awhile in Egypt but soon fell away from God again and were allowed to be enslaved by the Egyptians.
When the Israelites in Egypt were sufficiently chastened and humbled, God raised up Moses to deliver the Israelites from bondage and re-establish His covenant. Israel was led to their promised land and did okay for awhile until mankind yet again fell away from the truth of God and Israel was permitted to be conquered, scattered, and enslaved  by Assyria and then Babylon. 
In the meridian of time, God the Son (Jehovah) came down personally to Earth as Jesus Christ and re-established the Abrahamic covenant with Peter.  Christ formed His Church for the perfecting of the Saints and called, ordained and commanded His servants to preach His truth to all nations, baptizing repentant believers in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  

Christ promised if the Church stayed with the revelatory authority of Peter, Hell would never prevail against them.  However, it wasn't long after the martyrdom of Peter and the Church Fathers that the Church again strayed away from true doctrine to creeds by ecumenical councils. History testifies that the entire Christian world fell into the depths of the Dark Ages. 
Joseph Smith
Then, in the Last Days in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, God has promised to prune His vineyard one last time, to gather together scattered and lost branches of Israel from the four corners of the Earth and perform what Isaiah calls "a marvelous work and a wonder".  Peter described this last dispensation when he spoke of a future  "restoration of all things" and a future "dispensation of the fullness of times."  

Joseph Smith was called by God to re-establish His covenant with man for the final time and restore the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Earth.  The Church of Christ is organized with the doctrines, ordinances, priesthood authority, and offices of Prophets, Apostles, Seventies, Bishops and Deacons identical to the original. 

Daniel Chapter 2 relates a great prophecy about the Last Days.  The Book of Daniel recounts the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. The Jews were in captivity to Babylon and  Daniel was a member of the King's court. Only Daniel through the power of the Spirit of God was able to interpret the King's prophetic dream.

Daniel 2 tells us that God showed the King a great statue with a head of gold, shoulders of silver, belly of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron mixed with clay.  The King then was shown a small stone cut out of the mountain without hands that rolled forth and struck the idol at its feet, knocking the idol over and completely destroying the idol forever. Daniel told the King that the stone after striking the image would then become a great mountain (temple) and fill the whole Earth.

Daniel told the King that the Babylon Empire represented the head of God, and the arms of silver represented the Persian Empire that would follow.  The Bronze was Greece that would conquer and replace Persia and the Legs of Iron represented a future Roman Empire that would be stronger and greater than all the previous Empires combined.  However, the Roman Empire wouldn't last and would eventually be broken up.  This division was represented by the feet of iron and clay. 

Feet of Iron and Clay
Then Daniel gives one of the most important prophecies in scripture when he says:  

44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. (Old Testament, Daniel, Chapter 2)

Follows Rome
God reveals through Daniel that in the Last Days, the days of the feet of the kings represented by the feet of iron and clay, that God would establish a kingdom   that would never fail or be destroyed.  This everlasting Kingdom would start as a small stone cut out of a mountain without  hands.  This kingdom cannot be the Church given to Peter.  The Christian Church  given by Christ to Peter was established in the days of the Roman Empire represented by the legs of iron. 

Precedes the Second Coming
This great and final kingdom is established before the Second Coming of Christ and not at His Coming or afterwards.  Daniel clearly says the Kingdom would start out small during the days following the breakup of the Roman Empire and then after rolling forth and gaining some momentum would strike the great idol and completely destroy it.  Only then after the idol is destroyed, will the stone grow into a great mountain and fill the Earth.  The little stone cut out of the mountain is not Christ at His coming in glory but precedes it and prepares Christ's people for the Great Day of the Lord.

End of Holy Roman Empire
Like Greece, Rome started out as a free and democratic republic.  However, this great nation was infiltrated by evil men who conspired together and transformed this free nation into an oppressive Empire. The aim of the conspiracy was not to maintain the Empire but to destroy it and subjugate the people under a feudal system where a ruling elite rule over surfs too weak, coarse, illiterate, and ignorant to ever oppose them.  We see the same neo-feudalist game plan being carried our today which has transformed the West into a kind of Romanesque, oppressive, war-mongering Empire.

Despite the turbulence of the Days of the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire continued on for many more centuries. The Holy Roman Empire did not officially end until Emperor Francis 2 lost several wars to Napoleon and was forced to sign the Treaty of Pressburg in December 26, 1805.  Joseph Smith was born December 23, 1805.

Joseph Smith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the little stone cut out of the mountain without hands. Despite all the Satan-controlled media that tells you we are occult and worship another Christ.  The LDS Church is the Kingdom of God and we worship the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost in spirit and in truth.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's church and kingdom and the only true and living Church on the face of the Earth.  

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ and part of the Evangelical spiritual Church of Christ, you are invited to join the physical Church that God has restored in these Last Days.

Losing Faith in Constitutional Government

Susan Collins, Senator from Maine, commented on CNN that the recent revelation that the IRS has been targeting religious and conservative groups "contribut[ing] to the profound distrust that the American people have in government," 

I wanted to highlight this comment because I think this is the big picture. Losing faith in our divinely inspired constitutional government is the adversary's master plan.

There are a good number of very wonderful doctrines that set the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints apart from other Christian churches.   One of the most important and fundamental is our belief that God directly inspired the US Constitution and raised up the American Nation for the restoration of His Church.  

This is not a little thing. Many American's may take it for granted, but for the Mormon's; despite our many persecutions, the LDS Church believes God gave us the US Constitution andwe consider   the document to be akin to scripture.

It may seem surprising that the LDS Church would love the US Constitution like we do.  Unlike most other Christian denominations, The worldwide LDS Church was initially founded in America by Americans.  However, this fact didn't stop early Mormons from being persecuted and mobbed from their homes in Kirkland Ohio, then Jackson County, MO, and Nauvoo, Ill. 

Persecution was so bad, including the infamous extermination order signed by Missouri Gov. Boggs, the Mormons were forced to leave the US and settle the Rocky Mountains in what was then Mexican Territory. However, even after leaving the US, ever distrustful, the US government sent an occupying Johnston's Army to Salt Lake City to keep their thumb on and control the government in the Utah Territory.   

Despite the many wrongs the early LDS Saints were forced to endure, including exposures to all the downwind nuclear fallout from testing in neighboring Nevada,  the LDS have ever been faithful citizens and patriots.

However, the last 20 years, since the advent of the internet in 1993, I have noticed an increasing trend.  With the easy access to information, corruption in government is being revealed at a faster rate.  Not that their wasn't scandals revealed before the internet, but it seems much more difficult  to keep corruption covered up.  With modern mass communication, we are truly seeing all the secret works of darkness "proclaimed upon the housetops"

3 Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. (New Testament, Luke, Chapter 12)

However, with each new revelation of corruption, conspiracy, and scandal cones an increasing lose of faith.  The Book of Mormon warns that Secret Combinations infiltrated the free government of the Nephite nation. When the corruption revealed itself at the top levels of government, in response to a particular shock, the people eventually abandoned their government and separated into tribes.

We have seen, since 1913, a continual slide and encroachment on our individual freedom and usurpation of states rights by the federal government.  However, it seems that there has been a great acceleration in the last 20 years. Americans are now seeing our Constitutional freedoms eroded almost on a daily basis. 

The media loved to fear-monger that electing a Mormon President like Mitt Romney, would give the LDS Church secret control over the US Government. The truth is that the LDS Church doesn't even believe in theocracy. Theocracy is a corrupt Catholic/Vatican belief and NOT an LDS Doctrine. 

Theoretically speaking,  If the US were to hand over all power and control of the US government to the LDS Prophet, the first thing he would do is call for Constitutional elections.

The US Constitution is part of the LDS religion, and despite whatever shock's may come, the LDS people will NEVER abandon the US Constitution and the principles of self government.