Never Glorify Murder or Violence

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In LDS theology, it’s quite common for leaders and teachers to use biblical examples of murder and genocide as example’s of the faithfulness of individuals in scripture[1]. Scriptural stories such as Abraham’s attempted murder of his son, the Levites’ murders at Sinai, Nephi’s murder of Laban, or the Israelite’s genocidal campaign during the conquest of Palestine are constantly used as examples of how obedience to “god” is more important than the sixth commandment or teachings of Jesus.

These types of teaching are common among radicalized Islam and Christian fundamentalist sects. And have served as the basis for numberless heinous acts of violence and brutality from the Mountain Meadows Massacre, to the Crusades and Inquisition to the current violence of Islamic Terrorism.

I believe it should be taught that all such teaching are based on distorted biblical theology. I think instead of properly viewing Old Testament violence as part of a “lower law” given to ancient Israel according to their own desires for wickedness, and done away with by Christ and the higher law of love and mercy— LDS have too often supported or even glorified the violence and brutality of the Old Testament as a way to promote obedience to religious authority at all costs.

Reasoning

Stories from the Old Testament should not be used to justify violent, archaic and conscionably wrong practices. The Old Covenant, according to most LDS and New Testament theology, was a lower law given to individuals too evil and selfish to live the higher law brought by Christ. Thus it is not to be followed by those professing Christ’s higher law.

D&C 84:23–27 teaches that because of the wickedness of the ancient Israelites, God took the Higher law away from them, and “in his wrath and anger” gave them a lower, preparatory gospel that they might actually be able to live. Christ echoes this same principle when he tells the Pharisees that certain dictates of the Mosaic law were given “because of the hardness of your hearts” (Matt 19:8, Mark 10:5). David puts forward this same logic in Psalms 81:10–12, stating that because the ancient Israelites “would not harken to my voice”, “I gave them up to their own hearts lust: and they walked in their own counsels”. Stephan went as far as to say that “God turned, and gave [Israel] up to worship the hosts of heaven” after their sin at Sinai (Acts 7:42). Paul echos the same teaching saying that after Israel “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man”, God “gave them up to uncleanness though the lusts of their own hearts” (Romans 1:21–25).

The Book of Mormon states that because the ancient Jews were such a “stiffnecked”, “blind” and murdering people, God took “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)

Instead of glorifying Old Testament acts of violence, or using them as examples of righteousness, these acts should be seen as examples of how Old Testament prophets and people’s were given instructions to help them accomplish “their own heart’s lusts” (psalms 81:12). Instead of pretending that Old Testament Jews were blessed for their murders and genocide, we should look for ways that they were cursed.

 

Nephi’s Murder as a Curse

Nephi’s murder of Laban is a perfect example. If we are to hold to the historicity of this account, instead of using this murder of an unconscious man as an example of how Nephi was obedient, heroic, righteous and made the best choice, we should consider that “the Lord delivering Laban into [Nephi’s] hands” (1 Ne 3:29) was either an instruction from a lower angel (see D&C 76:86–88) or a test which Nephi failed.

Even though the text suggests Laban was a murderous thief who not only stole Nephi’s family property, but sent his servants to kill Nephi and his brothers; Nephi should have supposed that if his God was strong enough deliver Israel from the army of the Egyptians by miracles, he would be strong enough to deliver Nephi and the plates to the promised land in a way that did not require cold-blooded murder of a pathetic wicked man as a sign of obedience. If God’s Justice called for the death of Laban, God could have accomplished this himself by illness or any one of many divine means. Does it not make more sense to teach that Nephi was being tested as to whether he would obey God’s law which says, “Vengeance is mine, and I will repay?” (Deut 32:35, Romans 12:19,  Mormon 3:15; 8:20,  D&C 82: 23.) What does the following scripture say about Nephi’s murder or Israel’s genocidal takeover of the promised land?

But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; (Mormon 4:5)

Christ’s higher law given to deal with those who seek our lives is this. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matt 5:38–39)  Perhaps had Nephi passed this text he may have won the hearts of his brothers instead of simply exacerbating the already growing divide between them. A valid case can be made in the Book of Mormon text that continual warfare between the people of Nephi and the Lamanites was a curse or karmaic retribution that may have been avoided had Nephi been progressed enough to live the higher law and show an example of love to his brothers. Nephi murdered Laban and then his brother’s sought to murder him. Nephi’s murder is the start of long cycle of violence perpetuated in his posterity. Nephi goes to great lengths in his text to justify his killing of Laban, suggesting it was an act which constantly pricked his conscience.  And it is certainly conceivable to imagine the destruction and curse which comes upon Nephi’s people as a result of the divide between him and his brothers, was a lesson which God used to try and show Nephi the fruits of the lower law of justice verses the higher law of mercy and love. Nephi’s focus on God’s justice instead of his mercy comes back to bite him as it proves the complete destruction of his seed.

“7 O the pain, and the anguish of my soul for the loss of the slain of my people! For I, Nephi, have seen it, and it well nigh consumeth me before the presence of the Lord; but I must cry unto my God: Thy ways are just…. 10 And when these things have passed away a speedy destruction cometh unto my people; for, notwithstanding the pains of my soul, I have seen it” (2 Ne 26:1–10)

Contrast Nephi’s story with that of Jesus and the people of Ammon, who chose the higher law of laying down their own lives instead of lifting the sword to defend themselves.  As a result of these individual’s self-sacrifices, divides are healed and unified. While those who seek justice instead of mercy, tend to simply exacerbate growing divides.

 

The Murder of the Levites & Conquest of Palestine (Genocide)

Take as another example the account of murder associated with the Golden Calf in Exodus 32. After coming down from Mount Sinai with the law from God which commands Israel not to kill or to make and worship human-conceived gods, Moses finds his brother Aaron is already making the people an Egyptian calf idol to worship. The text then states, that Moses in his anger “threw the stone tablets to the ground, smashing them at the foot of the mountain”. After this he takes the calf they made “and burned it, then ground it into powder… and forces the people to drink it” (v. 20). Finally he commands his tribe of Levites to,

Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.”  (Ex 32:27)

Moses was likely so angry because he had just finished pleading for mercy on behalf of his people to a Lord who was threatening to destroy them (Ex 32:11–14; Deut 9:9–14, Num 16:43). In his wrath, Moses’ commands Aaron and the Levites to mercilessly slaughter everyone involved in making the calf (even though Aaron and the Levites were apparently just as at fault for the episode), after which he ordains Aaron and the Levites to the “service of the Lord” because they “obeyed him even though it meant killing your own sons and brothers. [for which] Today you have earned a blessing.” (Exodus 32:29)

This story serves as a segue to the conquest of Palestine, wherein Israel’s “god” essentially “commands” his people to racially cleanse the land in a genocidal conquest for territory. (Deut 20:16–18; Deut 13:7–12; Num 31:17–21; Ezekiel 9:5–6 )

For those looking for a scriptural excuse to be violent, or for leaders looking for ways to teach unquestioning obedience, these violent murders & conquests can be used as examples of obedient, righteous desirable behavior. (As it is used by LDS Apostle Jeffery R Holland in #3 of this article for instance). But for those who subscribe to Christ’s higher law of mercy, there are more consistent explanations.

We’ve already gone over how Jacob 4:14, D&C 84:23–27, Matt 19:8, Mark 10:5, Romans 1:21–25, Acts 7:42 and other scriptures paint Old Testament acts which conflict with Christ’s higher law NOT as examples of righteousness, or obedience to a violent god who later “changes” because of Christ’s atonement, but as examples of an ancient people who rejected the higher law and were thus allowed to build for themselves a god largely of their own creation (a temple or idol fashioned by human hands. see Acts 17:24, Heb 9:11,24). Twice in the New Testament, God and His revelations are compared to a mirror (see 1 Cor 13:12, James 1:23) which somehow reflect only the “part” of God’s glory that we are currenly ready for according to our own desires for wickedness or righteousness (see also Jacob 4:14).  Is it not likely that Moses and Aaron were not allowed to enter the “promised land” as a symbolic gesture showing how they, like Israel itself, failed God’s tests and reflected their own wickedness and thirst for vengeance on God? In fact the scriptures suggest that ONLY JESUS passed all of God’s tests— symbolized by the three temptations of Jesus for food, religious prestige and political power (Matt 4:1–11).  Christ teaches the higher law by passing up ALL THREE OF THESE, choosing martyrdom before all worldly rewards.

Is it not possible that the God’s of human religion and the archetypes of religious scripture are mirrors which reveal what lies in our own human hearts more than the actual councils of an omnipresent superuniversal being?

 

Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac

In closing, consider Oahspe’s version of the story of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Issac, and think of it in relation to Joseph Smith’s indefensible fall into polygamy because he believed God had sent and angel with a drawn sword to force him to begin marrying and sleeping with other women behind his wife’s back. (see reform #2, disavow Joseph’s polygamy)

24/9.10. Now after Abraham and his people had returned to Jireh, his camp, and it was night, God said to Abraham: Be steadfast, and show your people so that they may understand my words.
24/9.11. And while they were still praying before the altar, God withdrew from Abraham, and allowed the evil angels, who had followed them from Sodom and Gomorrah, to draw near the altar. And one of the angels clothed himself in a great light, and, adorned with sparkling gems and a crown, he appeared, so all the multitude of people could look upon him.
24/9.12. Abraham said: Who are you? And the spirit said: I am your God, ruler of heaven and earth! Abraham said: I am your servant; what may I do for you? And the spirit said: You shall take your only son, Isaac, and your hosts who were with you at Sodom and Gomorrah, and go with me where I will lead you, for I have a great work for you.
24/9.13. Abraham said: I will do whatever you put upon me to do.
24/9.14. So in the morning Abraham and his son Isaac, and the hosts who had been with Abraham to Sodom and Gomorrah, assembled together. And Abraham spoke, saying: Where to, O God?
24/9.15. The spirit answered, saying: Take sticks and a firebrand (torch) and come to the summit of the hill over there, for you shall restore the rites of burnt offerings. || Abraham told the people what God had said, so they began, and Isaac carried the bundle of willows, such as basket-makers use, saying: This will light the large pieces; but what will you burn for an offering, O father? And Abraham said: God will provide.
24/9.16. And when they ascended to the place, Abraham gathered logs and heaped them up, and Isaac placed the willows.
24/9.17. Then the spirit spoke, saying: What shall a man love above all things in the world? And Abraham said: God. And the spirit said: For which reason you shall offer your only son, Isaac, as a burnt offering. And it shall be testimony before your people that you will obey God even to the sacrifice of your own flesh and kin.
24/9.18. Abraham said: Show me that you are God, so that I may not err; for I have been commanded not to kill!
24/9.19. And the spirit departed away from Abraham, perceiving that he knew the higher law. And Isaac was grieved at heart, for he desired to witness what a sacrifice was. And the people, seeing a ram near at hand, went and caught it, and slaughtered it, and sprinkled the blood on the sacrifice, and they lit the fire, roasted the flesh, then took it and gave it to the poor.
24/9.20. And Abraham called the place Jehovah-Jireh, and they returned to the camp; and Abraham, being moved by God, spoke before the people.

24/10.1. Abraham said: This testimony I declare to you, regarding which, your own brethren are witnesses, that even the chosen of God can be deceived by evil angels; for they can take any name and form; and, having no fear of God before them, declare falsehood for truth and darkness for light.
24/10.2. And also, as you have seen, the evilest of cities, even as well as the purest, may be the abiding place of angels.
24/10.3. For which reason you shall not seek signs and miracles, for these may be from evil spirits, even though they show their bodies or converse learnedly. It is not in the power of man to know by words and signs, or by oaths or promises, what is truth.
24/10.4. But the Father has created one thing besides, which is His Own Light. For which reason be believing toward men and angels; and when they teach you according to Jehovah, which is life to all, and happiness to all, without sacrifice to any, they are holy.
24/10.5. If man or angel says: Visit the sick, and administer to the distressed, || follow his advice, for it is of the Father.
24/10.6. But if man or angel says: Do this, and you shall have profit, or glory, or applause, || do not obey him, for he advises for yourself and not for the brotherhood of man. He is not of God.
24/10.7. For spirits will come disguised as your fathers and mothers who are dead, professing love and profit to you. Do not believe them, except when they teach you to sacrifice self for the good of others.
24/10.8. The wicked in heart, having profited in herds, and in gold and silver, say: Behold, God has blessed me! But I say to you, they are cursed, and not of God. Has he gathered you together here because you were rich? You were slaves, and in poverty; sick, and in bondage. And he came and delivered you. Be like him, and he will abide with you.
24/10.9. If a man comes to you, saying: Behold, this is my coat; give it to me! You shall say: Prove yourself as to who you are. But if a man comes to you, saying: Your herd has gone astray; you shall not say to him: Prove yourself as to who you are. But go, and see after your herd.
24/10.10. If a spirit says: Behold, I am your father, say to him: It is well; what do you want? And when he answers you, consider if his words are of God, which are for the glory of the Creator. And if his words are not of God, you shall challenge him to prove himself.
24/10.11. As God is captain of heaven and earth to all righteous souls, so is there a satan who is captain over evil spirits.
24/10.12. And to the extent that the kings’ peoples do not have faith in the Father, so do their souls fall prey to satan and his hosts.
24/10.13. Yet, neither shall man flatter himself by saying: Behold, I have joined the Believers; my soul shall escape hell. || For in that day and hour God may be putting him to the test, to see if his heart is for good works and holiness. || For, because you profess God, you are doubly bound to practice godliness in your behavior toward men and angels. (Oahspe 24/9:10 – 10:13)

 

 

Disavow Priesthood Racism

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With the recent Church Essay regarding Blacks and the Priesthood, this reform is now done!

The LDS Church needs to completely disavow it’s historically preached doctrines concerning priesthood racism. Excluding “Blacks” from the priesthood is based on several very faulty assumptions.

  1. That Blacks of African decent are descended directly from the biblical Cain, Ham or Egyptus.
  2. That Christ did not open the doors for the priesthood to be given to all the worthy races of the earth instead of just the tribe of Levi.

 

The official position and doctrine of the church going from Brigham Young to Spencer W. Kimball, can be summed up in the following letter from the First Presidency in the 1960’s.

LDS first presidency letter and policy concerning blacks and the priesthood.

LDS first presidency letter and policy concerning blacks and the priesthood.

 

This attitude was based on a particular interpretation of both LDS, Christian and Jewish Scripture.  It was the official “doctrine” of the church, and was based on many quotes spoken “as a prophet” such as this one from Brigham Young.

If there never was a prophet, or apostle of Jesus Christ spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called Negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are, I know that they cannot bear rule in the priesthood, for the curse on them was to remain upon them, until the residue of the posterity of Michal and his wife receive the blessings, the seed of Cain would have received had they not been cursed; and hold the keys of the priesthood, until the times of the restitution shall come, and the curse be wiped off from the earth, and from Michael’s seed. — Brigham Young, Feb, 5, 1852

 

 

After listening to a Brigham Young speech in the Tabernacle, Wilford Woodruff records the following Brigham Young quote in his journal:

“If any man mingles his seed with the seed of Cane the only way he Could get rid of it or have salvation would be to Come forward & have his head Cut off & spill his Blood upon the ground. It would also take the life of his Children.”
-Brigham Young  (1852, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 4, p. 97)

Create a system to promote activism and unsolicited volunteerism

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Create a system of activism and unsolicited volunteerism. Perhaps a system of self appointed callings? (or something to this effect).

Reasoning:

For any free system to work people need to feel like they have a voice, and a system or avenue to effectuate change. There are many people with passion burning inside of them who have not yet decided whether they are going to focus that energy on selfishness, selflessness, unity or division. One of the church’s most important jobs in society is to lead people to focus their energy/passion on selfless work which leads to unity. This is one reason why “every member needs a calling.” But more than this the system must allow for advocacy where people can direct their energy toward the things God puts in their heart.

The evangelical community tends to be more effective at starting non-profit service organizations than Mormonism or Catholicism. I believe this has to do with a culture of activism stemming from the lack of centralized authority. In Mormonism, members often feel like they are not authorized to start a radio ministry or an organization which promotes activism in teaching the public.  Because religious activism has the potential to spur divisive (apostate) groups, church leadership has almost ubiquitously shut down such activities. Forbidding members to meet in their homes and talk about church topics or start organizations that might threaten church authority.  This then create an atmosphere of fear and dependence among church members. I believe such a climate does more harm than good.

Reform Monetary Policy

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Create transparency in Church monetary policy. Take steps to decentralize the monetary system and allow stakes far greater latitude in deciding how much money to spend on structures (meeting houses, temples, etc) & programs. Do a better job of separating “for-profit” arms of the Church. The presiding bishopric, not the traveling twelve should be involved in these “temporal matters”.

Reasoning:

I believe the church looses many members because of what is perceived to be a direct violation of the scriptural warnings in 2 Ne. 28:13

12 Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up.
13 They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. 2 Ne. 28:12-13

We have a whole lot of work to do in this arena. Get members and ex-members together to find solutions. One idea is to make a habit of attaching some type of halfway house, soup kitchens or homeless shelters to ward buildings or temples. If the building is put to true humanitarian use, we won’t lose so many people who sense the inherent wrongness of spending so much money on buildings built exclusively to “worship God”, which are only occupied twice a week and do nothing for the poor. In general we need to stop spending so much money on temples and the “fine or precious things” of the world. There is value in having beautiful and uplifting places of worship which everyone has claim to, but our current temples are often flagrant, exclusive and elitist. Spending 100 million dollars on a structure for only “worthy members”, when there are starving people living around the building is pure wickedness.  Do we apply the words of Jesus to ourselves as an organization?

21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:21–22)

The church must never let the City Creek Center happen again. The traveling twelve and Melchizedek Priesthood of the church is to administer over the “spiritual affairs of the church”.  They must not be intimately involved in the temporal affairs of the Church (ie. for profit arms) which responsibility belongs to the Presiding Bishopric (the lower or Aaronic priesthood). They should not be involved in planning, announcing, building or ribbon cutting ceremonies to shopping malls, etc..  This unscriptural behavior has destroyed literally thousands of testimonies.  It gives the appearence of a church in love with money and prestige…

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10)

Reform the teachings and strictures concerning sexuality, health and substance abuse

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Greatly reform the teachings and strictures concerning sexuality, health and substance abuse in the Church. Leave the specifics to the patriarchal order where they belong.

Reasoning:

The Church has confused the important differentiation between a “standard” and a “commandment”.  A standard is a suggestion. It is goal or ideal toward which all are encouraged to strive. Creating high standards is good for society and good for individuals. But our church has changed religious moral standards into commandments which manipulate, enslave and divide the church more than perhaps any other aspect of our theology. Outside of the abolished Mosaic law, neither Christ nor the scriptures gave many commandments for sexuality. In fact, there are basically two– Do not lust and do not commit adultery. (We must remember that Christ did away with the Mosaic Law, we are no longer bound by the strictures of the old covenant)

In contrast, in the church today there are so many distorted principles concerning LDS morality and cultural strictures which, in my opinion, are the “commandments of men” which have “added to” and “taken away” from God’s law (Deut 4:2, D&C 10:68, read JST Col 2:21-22, NLT Col 2:21-22, Mark 7:7–8, JS-H 1:19 ). Just as occurred with the Catholic Medieval church, the strictures have become commandments because of our over-centralization of authority, and our beliefs that the “brethren” can establish commandments instead of simple non-doctrinal standards under the law of common voice & common consent.

Contrary to God’s law or standard, Mormon’s are “commanded in all things” more than perhaps any other global religion (which is why so many consider us a cult… we act too much like Jews who haven’t been redeemed from the old covenant by Christ). The Church hand-book of instruction has created an environment of commandment dictating every aspect of the average church members lives. Words of Wisdom have become commandment (D&C 89:2, 28:4-5). Our youth worthiness interviews and temple recommend interview process have “added to” God’s commandments in virtually every aspect of members lives, from our food, our dress, our income, to the minutia of our sexuality. Many of these standards can be good for society, but only if they are not pushed as the will of god or something that makes individuals feel spiritually damned for “transgressing”.

There is very, very little by way of specific commandments concerning these topics in the scriptures for a reason. The specifics of how to be sexually “chaste” or physically healthy are highly personal and difficult to define with blanket prohibitions (see this article on moral purity). Much like dietary fads, cultural religious proscription on sexuality rarely take into account the uniqueness of each individual’s different physical background and spiritual makeup. Priesthood overreach has caused many “words of wisdom” to become strictures, dogma, and commandments. Unwisely “adding to and taking away from” the standards of righteousness God has given to men. God’s loving standard has been made into a self-righteous burden.

Only very generalized dietary guidelines of balance can be made to apply to both a 350 lb Samoan and a 90 lb Tibetan. Likewise only very generalized guidelines of sexuality can be made to apply to individuals along the diverse spectrum of human sexuality and passion. It is unreasonable and unrighteous to create overly-specific and idealistic strictures concerning masturbation, self-stimulation, gender identity, minutiae in sexual media consumption, kissing, dress and many aspects of sex (again, standards are good for society, strictures are highly divisive). To take God’s name and draw a line which says if you do X, you are righteous and approved by God but if you do Y, you are wicked and condemned by God is the most solemn and awful of responsibilities. Any individual who does this becomes karmically responsibility for those they make to feel evil and demonized. There are far too many who leave the church because the churches blanket prescriptions on sexual practice are unreasonable and demonizing because they often are. When they realize how unreasonable they are… they then lose faith in God because how could “god” make a commandment that they are literally incapable of keeping?  When in truth it wasn’t god, it was a man unjustly using god’s name to make a needed social standard into a divine commandment. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ himself chastised Israel for turning the trivial standards and minutia of the Mosaic “law” into divine commandments.

Almost universally, everyone understands that cheating on a committed relationship (adultery) is wrong–this is why it is specifically forbidden in scripture. God didn’t just write this law on stone, he wrote it in the human heart. Everyone is capable of keeping this divine law which is written in human conscience by God. But nothing is said in scripture of dating, kissing, masturbation for a reason, and little is said of fornication for the same reason—because the “rightness or wrongness” of these things is complex. God’s goal is the happiness of each individual—and when religious prohibitions & demonization cause more pain than the personal & social consequences of the “sin” itself, then you know something is wrong. “Sin” is by definition a thing which has negative or destructive consequences for an individual and society, and strictures tend to befuddle that principle and turn people into pharisees who call good evil and evil good.

Whenever possible, specific regulations should be withheld in lieu of words of wisdom which point to “scientific” studies and examples which teach people which actions most often lead to which consequences without generalizing, demonizing or spiritualizing the matter. Avoiding as much as possible taking the name of God in vain. (wrongly speaking by God’s authority.)

Continue to greatly reform the for strength of youth pamphlet to teach principles and not proscriptions. Standards, not commandments.  Great division comes from trying to “add” to the scriptures or law on matters of sexual morality. Great evil comes from demonizing sexuality. It is better to teach people how to pray and how to listen to their heart and mind (emotions and logic) on details of sexual morality. Hold up the standard, which is healthy lasting marriage between a husband and wife, but be more careful about telling people how to achieve that standard. Never insinuate a person is “evil” for inability or lack of desire to live the standard. Focus on what is right and desired, instead on what is wrong, bad or “contrary to God’s will”.

Sexual morality should be handled locally. First by parents, then by Bishops/Stake Presidents, and seldom by General Authorities. Give correct “principles” (not rules) and let people govern themselves. Create and sustain forums where parents can get and exchange information. Religious dogma and over-controlling strictures surrounding sexual morality and the Word of Wisdom are in my estimation among the number one reason for apostasy and division. Members have not been allowed to follow the Spirit in this highly personal issue because of the priesthood overstepping its bounds. Youth are inundated with rules and individually unrealistic standards but rarely actually get taught meaningful information about human sexuality. Demonizing human sexuality in any degree is the surest way to divide & destroy the Church. As warned in D&C 121, it creates many “anti-Mormons” who esteem the church “as their enemy” (D&C 121:43), as well as creating a class of religiously active hypocrites and self-righteous sycophants.

Given the information we have on Joseph Smith’s sexual difficulties and the law of Polygamy given to the saints (because they wanted it), the current proscriptive tenets which rule LDS sexuality are completely hypocritical, contradictory and idolatrous.

-use the patriarchal order as much as possible in matters of legalism and discipline. Fathers (unified with their wives), should be in charge of interviewing and determining the righteousness of their children. For priesthood advancement, marriage worthiness, and sexual conduct. Bishops can counsel with parents and take the place of them when none are available or trustworthy.

Reform institutionalized temple worship & especially temple preparation

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Reform institutionalized temple worship. The current system of pressuring youth into temple initiation, and covenant making, without even knowing beforehand the full idea of what covenants they will be making, can be highly detrimental.

There are a lot of aspects of temple worship which need to change

Reasoning:

Simply put, the LDS temple rites have been turned into an assembly line ritual. Take a number, and “next“….

From what I’ve studied of masonry and other systems of ancient spiritual initiation, the temple is meant to be highly esoteric.  Spiritual initiation literally leads a person through the veils, so they can commune with the spirit world. The key in this process is desire.  The candidate must desire initiation or no change in consciousness can occur.  The current system places social pressure for people to go through the temple to be “initiated” when, in many cases, they couldn’t care less about the outcome. The current system is no better than a club, and no different than the base aspect of our religion itself.

Initiation should not be done assembly-line style at 14 or 19 before a mission, but instead it should be a completely a personal matter. Like a Buddhist system of apprentice/pupil and master/guide, an applicant should desire these spiritual rituals and seek them out without social pressure. They should be assigned a permanent escort who has proven they “see” the truth behind the symbolism. The apprentice should interview with parents (according to the patriarchal order) as well as with Bishops & Stake Presidents. Each applicant or apprentice should have specific “masters” and these adepts should be the temple escorts who guide them through the initiation process. There should not be set “interview” questions but an open discussion where each applicant’s understanding & readiness (not so much “worthiness”—as we are all unworthy) is assessed. If they grasp through word & deed the spiritual meaning behind each ordinance, they are ready to receive the spiritual ordinance. Once an adult is a high priest there should be no “readiness” discussion at all. If members are “unworthy” let them be accused according to the system given in D&C 102.

Once initiation has taken place, candidates can enter a school of the prophets. Here they learn to hone spiritual gifts such as the gift of prophecy, gift of revelation, gift of healing, power of group consciousness/true order of prayer, mediumship, this includes communion with the righteous dead through the veil.

Used properly, the temple ceremony is meant to teach mature members the true order of the priesthood (patriarchal order), the true order of prayer (group consciousness), and the true order of organized religion (as a lower man-made law pointing to the higher natural law). Practiced effectively, it will keep mature spiritualists from apostatizing, withdrawing or going inactive from church participation. It is meant to be a personal experience where those who “see”, lead those who are blind. The current system is broken. It is the blind leading the blind. It needs work.

Stop excommunicating or marginalizing dissidents

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Stop excommunicating or marginalizing dissidents. Excommunication should conform strictly with the principles delineated in D&C 42:20–28 and D&C 102. Public or private differences of opinion are not grounds for excommunication. Witch-hunts should be avoided at all costs. The church is meant to be a ‘type’ or example of perfect government, there must be effective channels for group secession and re-absorption to and from the ecumenical union.

Reasoning:

Jesus did not excommunicate Judas, even though he knew he would betray him to be murdered. The excommunication of the September Six and countless other dissidents in the LDS church is among the greatest causes of division.  When we as a church excommunicate those with strong dissenting opinion we crucify Christ afresh (Heb 6:6). This cult-like behavior only restricts and shows the inadequacy of our own priesthood. Strong differences of opinion are an opportunity for leadership to show their superior wisdom. Excommunication simply shows members that the priesthood lacks the superior wisdom needed to harmonize the difference of opinion or false conception. D&C 42:20–28 and D&C 102 delineate that excommunication must follow an accusation of breaking major moral commandments (see Alma 1:17).

Having channels for willing group secession when differences of opinion cannot be reconciled (and later re-absorption) is subtly taught in the LDS temple endowment as the order of heaven. Nearly all popular religion, nations and scientific breakthroughs are started by ego filled humans who are influenced by both good/unselfish and bad/selfish forces to branch off from the mainstream. Whether it be Peter or Paul, Joseph Smith, John Calvin, Martin Luther or John Wesley– reformers and apostates need to be free to create offshoots and righteous branches. It is a dangerous practice for priesthood hierarchy to reject these stones (Matt 21:42). It is not the place of Church hierarchy to use their “position, power or influence” to prevent branches of thought. It is their job to maintain the unity of the faith (Eph 4:11–14) through loving & Christ-like wisdom & persuasion (D&C 121). We might take a lesson from the academic community which has learned how to deal with rogue ideas; dissident thought is not forcefully expelled by the institution, but combatted with truth and evidence. (Even wrongly sometimes, but eventually truth prevails!) We should follow the examples of the scientific community, which has learned branches of thought are healthy to the pursuit of truth, even if they come across a bit antagonistic. They do not need to be shunned or thrown out, because consensus will eventually prove whose views “have God’s Spirit” or are best at describing and mimicking God and his natural law (Acts 5:38–39).

An effective method of dealing with these issues can come from an understanding of the way the “lower” and “higher” priesthoods work in heaven. (see this article)

Create a process where apostates or reformers are allowed to gain converts and form their own church “branches”, schools of thought/monasteries or congregations. By the same process, these groups need an avenue to be reabsorbed or grafted back into the mother church’s priesthood structure, once the leaders have achieved their dissenting egoic desires to lead others according to their own understanding. Almost like a combination and harmonization of Catholic & Protestant Christian systems. A rigid “by ordination only” Catholic-like priesthood and hierarchical structure exists, but a “self-ordained” or ordination by the Spirit system is also allowed. The travelling twelve constantly and actively court these “priesthood of all believers” types systems for reabsorption back into the central communion.

Emphasize that ordinances are symbols, not ends of themselves

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Stop teaching that LDS temple and ordinances are required to make it to the Celestial Kingdom and start emphasizing that these things are important symbols which aid in salvation and eternal union but are not a requirement for it per se.

Reasoning:

In Joseph Smith’s vision of the Celestial Kingdom given in D&C 137:1–10, Joseph sees his brother Alvin (who was never baptized) in the celestial kingdom, with Adam, Abraham, Christ, God and Joseph’s parents. He marvels how his brother could be in the Celestial Kingdom seeing he was not baptised— and is told essentially that God knows people’s hearts and that all with good works and desires go to the Celestial Kingdom regardless of religion or ordinances.  D&C 128:13–18 teaches that temple ordinances (specifically baptisms for the dead are made in “similitude” or symbols of heavenly things, “that which is earthly conforming to that which is heavenly” (v.15).  My article Eternal Progression, Degrees of Glory, and the Resurrection: A Comparative Cosmology, correlates the work of many modern mystics who give similar descriptions of the afterlife/resurrection and detail how our placement is not dependant on physical ordinances. Common sense & conscience dictate that D&C 76:51 & John 3:5 are speaking of the principles of which baptism symbolizes as a necesity to entering the kingdom of God. (Death of the Mortal Body and carnal nature are needed to enter the kingdom of God. See the gnostic pearl for insight into the deep symbolism involved in the “water” of immersion, as a symbol of cleansing and re-entering the womb of creation.)  Nowhere in our scripture is it taught that temple sealings are needed to exclusively save our dead, but that a “welding link of some kind or other” (or sealing) is needed in order for us to be perfected as a group. (“For we without them cannot be made perfect, neither them without us” v.18).  Our current teachings have created a multitude of conference talks, songs, plays and anecdotal experiences which suggest that God keeps the righteous (and all non-mormons) out of the celestial kingdom until Mormon’s do their temple work. They also often senselessly believe that God somehow keeps families and couples apart in heaven. (As if some invisible being or force restricts them from being together or forbids them from being considered a couple or family?)  This irrational and unscriptural belief drives many from Mormonism. Our traditions also lead people to believe that baptizing infants is blasphemy, but yet baptising 8 year olds (who are also quite ignorant and innocent compared to an adult) is the difference between being able to enter the Celestial Kingdom (unless temple work is done for them). These silly beliefs and practices come from the inability of the lower (temporal) priesthood to see the deep symbolic principles of the higher (spiritual) priesthood which these “outward ordinances” point to.

Most religions have some sort of ancestor veneration and worship. Most religions as well as LDS scripture teaches that the dead are aware of the living and in fact influenced by our actions. LDS temple worship provides a venue for deeply spiritual ancestor veneration. LDS people believe our family history work aids in identifying and tying family lines together for both this life and the next. This richly rewarding spiritual experience is what should be taught and emphasized. Teachings which suggest temple sealings are “required” for heavenly reward go against scripture and conscience and should be eradicated.

Stop being dishonest concerning their witness of Jesus Christ

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LDS members and Apostles need to stop bearing false witness by being dishonest concerning their witness of Jesus Christ, God and the truth of the church. (Even though most simply don’t understand that this is what they are doing)

Reasoning:

The purpose and calling of an Apostle was according to the Bible, and is according to modern scripture, to be a special witness of the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ to all the earth. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdary were given this title early in church history, because they witnessed that they saw Christ in vision (see D&C 76). In the case of our present “apostles”, if that witness is a first hand visual witness as was the case for Christ’s original apostles they need to proclaim that witness clearly and honestly.

If their visionary witness of Christ is from vision as it was with Joseph Smith, Oliver or Paul they should say so. But if their witness is simply a powerful witness given by the Holy Ghost (as many modern LDS apostles have admitted) they need to proclaim that clearly without secrecy, guile or misrepresentation. No more of this mysterious and deceptive language. If God is an honest God, then when he calls someone as witness of Him, he NEVER would then swears them to secrecy or tells them to speak in hushed muted terms concerning the experience. That’s not a witness. It is an absolute contradiction to call oneself a witness of Christ and then not proclaim the specifics of that witness while pretending that somehow the experience was too sacred to talk about or that you are sworn to secrecy after “being called” to be a witness!  The current practices of LDS apostles in this regard tend toward evil and need to be reformed to accord with complete openness and honesty.

The same goes for the testimonies of church members. We have developed a cultural tendency of saying we “know” this or that when in fact we actually only believe or have faith in it.  This actually causes a lot of guilt, shame, confusion and contempt. It is dishonest of us to redefine the word know to mean believe. It is also unscriptural. Alma says in Alma 32:21 “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true”.   If you have not seen God, you should not stand up in front of the congregation and say “I know god lives”, that is a lie, you should say “I have faith and hope that god lives for such and such reasons. The Brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon teaches us how we should differentiate faith and knowledge.

19 And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.
20 Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him. (Ether 3:19–20)

By saying we “know” God lives or we “know” the church is true, we are effectually saying by the definitions in our own scripture that we no longer need faith because we are redeemed from the veil. This is a flat out lie, and it’s time we as a church stop promoting it as a cultural practice of both leadership and members. It’s a cult practice and it has many negative consequences that cultural Mormons seem to be blind to.

 

Also:

Stop manipulating people into thinking every church related spiritual experience or emotional reaction to spirituality is proof that “the LDS church is true”.

Reasoning:

This narrow and manipulative understanding of spirituality often backfires. The “burning heart” or awakening mind is experienced by members of every religion on earth. These experiences typical yield good fruits but can easily be use to manipulate people into cults. When we use manipulation techniques to suggest to youth that these spiritual emotions prove the Mormon church is the only true one, these individuals will likely be bitter when they find people of all religions experience them. (see this youtube video for many such examples)   Many ancient and modern religions promote better systems to explain the phenomena of spiritualism in terms of activated endocrine glands or spiritual centers attached to the human nervous system. (see this wikipedia article on kundalini)

Our current system of gaining a “testimony” is incredibly manipulative. If members or investigators “feel the spirit” during a discussion of Joseph Smith or while reading the book of Mormon, we ask them to accept this as proof that Mormonism is the only true church. If they “feel the spirit” while listening to a general conference address, we ask them to accept this as proof that these men are called of god and essentially everything any of them say is the word of god. This is synonymous with asking people to kiss someone or hold a baby or view a sunset and then asking them to accept these good feelings as testimony that the LDS church is God’s only true church and thus all its tenets are true. We need to stop manipulating people into drawing man-made conclusions which aren’t necessarily true, from their very personal spiritual experiences.  See ‘Is The LDS Church the Only True Church? Understanding Religion and Truth‘, for a detailed exegesis on how religious truth relates to religious pluralism and real truth.

Watch the following video to see how impossible and dangerous it is to believe that spiritual emotional confirmation can serve as the sole basis for testimony.

Put a greater emphasis on service, humanitarian work and giving

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Put a greater emphasis on service, humanitarian work and giving. (I think we’re making progress?!)

Reasoning:

It’s funny how quickly people sense whether you are trying to sell them something. We need to focus a lot more on the newly added 4rth mission of the church “care for the poor and needy“, and realize this is the number one way to “perfect the saints” and “proclaim the gospel”.  Missionaries need to spend a lot more time doing humanitarian work; a FAR greater percentage of tithing money needs to go to humanitarian work; and more of our “worship” needs to revolve around humanitarian work. Each stake should have the authority to decide how to implement this, but there needs to be less preaching and more doing. I believe the successful millennial religion will not be one of belief, creed or preaching, but one of good works which goes out and does the work of civilizing the world.

We spend way too much time preaching about how different we are from Christianity and the world (Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, restoration, our creeds, etc..) instead of just taking our neighbor’s hands and leading them with our amazing organized structure, to serve humanity in meaningful ways.

-One idea is to accompany each “fast sunday” with an activity where the stake gets together to DO something with that fast offering money. Perhaps assemble kits of some kind, perhaps a service project to serve someone in the stake, perhaps volunteering at the local shelter. Whatever it is, if people see something being DONE with the fast offering money, they will give more, and be more spiritually fulfilled.

-Another idea is to change relief society and priesthood from a “lesson” of faith, to a “council” of doing. It should be neighborhood people getting together and counseling on how to improve the neighborhood and the family. After a short message, the meeting could serve as a brainstorming session for the monthly fast offering service project, or ideas on how to serve neighborhood families.

-Another real need to put a far greater percentage of our tithing money into humanitarian work (and disclose what that percentage is).