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Needed Reformation in the LDS Church – Specific Actions

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I’m an active Mormon, and I care quite a bit about my faith (maybe too much!). As I’ve looked deeply at Mormon history over the last decade, it seems to me that Mormonism has changed doctrine and practice about as fast as the members overwhelmingly desired it (or social pressure required it) —and to me, this seems just as one would hope of a religion that professes to follow ‘the plan of moral agency’ (D&C 101:78; 93:31; Moses 4:3). I believe scriptures supports the idea that divinity gives a lot more leniency for religious leaders to make decisions than those leaders typically dare admit. And looking at the history of Judaism, Mormonism or Catholicism, it seems that major divisions and schisms occur when church leaders do not recognize growing demand for change in the people–or leaders refuse to govern according the agency of the people (or the dictates of the Spirit as given individually to the vast majority).

Thus I offer the following as topics to think about. I don’t say any of these things to be divisive—to the contrary, as I read through LDS blogs and forums, I see way too much division and way too many people leaving the Church with very ill feelings.  Its something I’ve given a lot of thought and study to, and as I’ve searched through the scriptures for answers I’ve come up with the following list of divisive traditions and practices which seem to go against our own founding revelations.

In my opinion, basically every major problem in the church boils down to this first two or three Reform Actions.  I believe, power which has become too centralized and lofty for the progression of seasoned members, is at the root of every other imbalance mentioned in this article. (autocratic institutionalization can be great for coverts and new areas of the church, but it’s death to the 5th generational central stakes of Zion)

 

Note

These items now have their own section… and each Reform Action, its own post. See “needed reformation” menu.

 

Reform Action #1:

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Remove the doctrine of muted prophetic infallibility from our scripture and teachings. Church leaders and members often use the following excerpt from Wilford Woodruff’s Official declaration 1 (which aimed to end the church practice of polygamy) to suggest that God would never allow the church leadership to lead the church contrary to the will of God.  Read More>>

 

Reform Action #2:

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Decentralize and pull down the power, which has become too lofty and autocratic for seasoned members. Church hierarchy needs to humble themselves monetarily and authoritatively. Restore the balance of power between Stake and central church priesthood hierarchy, according to the principles delineated in D&C 107, by bolstering stake influence and reducing centralization & institutionalization efforts from SLC for seasoned regions, and expanding the influence of the patriarchal order of the priesthood. D&C 107 describes a perfect balance of power between the Stake government and the central church government, this balance needs to be reestablished. Read More>>

 

 

Reform Action #3:

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Reform governance in seasoned regions of the church, working to eliminate autocracy/unrighteous dominion and more properly balance agency and consensus rule (common voice). Restore the law of Common Voice where possible in the selection of many congregational-level callings. Do better at respecting difference of opinion and re-instituting the vote as a major form of decision making. (this does not necessarily apply in regions where the church is new). Read More>>

 

Reform Action #4:

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Reform the church’s unscriptural exclusive truth & priesthood claims.  Stop promoting false dichotomies in our truth claims. Maintain the multidimensional scriptural metaphors without imposing rigid church-wide interpretations for them. Read More>>

 

 

Reform Action #5:

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Be completely transparent about church history. (we’re making huge progress on this!)   Read More>>

 

 

Reform Action #6:

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Teach and encourage the practice of economic equality through the Law of Consecration in its proper framework under the United Order (essentially a hybrid form of free-will socialism). Completely ingnoring this law separates the church from the heavenly organizations which helped to found it. Failing to even teach (let alone practice) this system makes the church just another religious faction preaching supposed religiousness but not practicing a system which remedies social inequality—the single largest cause of social instability & collapse.  See D&C sections 42, 51, 78, 82, 104. see also Enrichment L.

Read More>>

 

 

The Rest is Trivial.

Every other action in this article is trivial. Giving this author or any small group of people control to create “reforms” would be just as ineffective as the current status quo if it comes from an over-centralized bureaucracy.  Most the below issues revolve around the institutionalization of the Church which has come as a result of its over centralization and autocratic power structure. They are just random ideas, and not actual dictates of how I think the church should be.

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Reform Action:

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

Read More>>

 

 

Reform Action:

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LDS Apostles need to stop being dishonest concerning their witness of Jesus Christ. Read More>>

 

 

 

Reform Action:

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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.

Read More>>

 

 

Reform Action:

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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.

Read More>>

 

 

Reform Action:

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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) is morally wrong, and highly detrimental.

There are a lot of aspects of temple worship which need to change… Read More>>

 

 

Reform Action:

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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.

Read More>>

 

 

Reform Action:

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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”.

Read More>>

 

 

Reform Action:

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

Read More>>

 

 

 

 

Other Possible Points

-do not make the same mistakes concerning pushes for gender equality in the church as were made in regard to the issue of black and the priesthood. (suggesting doctrine supports the idea that God is against it or that it will never happen etc…)

-slowly expand women’s roles until full gender equality is achieved. Start with missionaries (done!), move to Ward Council (equal number of men & women). Then to church wide general auxiliaries. Then to issues of priesthood (see GOHT). Have Bishops/Stake Presidents and General Authorities wives assist in their callings and speak at meetings and General Conferences. Show in word and action that these are shared gender callings… that men are not called, couples who have achieved true oneness are.

-encourage original music and art in more church settings. (Ensign and Deseret Book are doing a good job!)  Allow original and faith building modern music in sacrament meetings according to common consent.

-rename “worthiness interviews” to bishop “counsel sessions” or something similar. Do not ask yes/no inquisition-like questions, instead create an outline bishops can follow to rightly judge the ideas of the member’s understanding on certain topics. He can then give counsel and guidance according to their knowledge. Always holding the agency and personal revelation of the individual preeminent.

 

See also My reformational article dealing with more abstract doctrinal issues here….   http://mormonuniversalism.com/2613/needed-reformation-in-the-lds-church/

My Testimony of the LDS Church & Religion (Part 1. Supernatural Experiences)

All religions fit together in my worldview. Each seems to be a different perspective on pieces of the big picture.

I believe that “all truth can be circumscribed into one whole”.  All religions fit together in my worldview. To me each seems to be just a different perspective or piece of the grand picture of human perception.

As I explain in my ‘What is Truth‘ article, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy in my life trying to figure out how all truth in this world fits together into one cohesive whole. To me, that seems to be the highest idea LDS people learn in our church, taught to us in our highest temple ordinance just before we symbolically pass through the “veil” into the presence of God. I’ve read a good amount of most of the world’s religious works. I’ve had visions of spirits, I’ve heard voices, I’ve battled demons, I’ve dabbled in the hidden mysteries, and I’ve done my best to investigate and integrate into my worldview the best parts of the world’s religions. I was raised in the LDS Church and always considered myself an “orthodox” Mormon, and bought into a subtly condescending attitude toward those with views dissenting from the mainstream. Like much of the world’s religious faithful, I always had a strong “testimony” that our way was not only the best way, but the only true way. But after the death of my father, I gained an insatiable appetite for information relating to religion and the afterworld… and after years of asking—and getting answers, I gained a picture of reality that turned out to be quite different than what I thought growing up. I think my understanding and “testimony” now is in many ways very different from most Mormons, but still similar in many respects.

My testimony now (the LDS term for one’s belief system) is complicated. It’s certainly not black and white and doesn’t correspond to the sound bites of any particular church. (Despite considering myself LDS, and loving the truths in our church). Although this entire site is basically my religious thoughts that I am laying out for my kids or anyone interested, I want to use this article to try and summarize and prioritize my beliefs in a way that might help people better understand me.

 

Unity As The Highest Ideal

I believe the highest ideal is unity. As I explain in detail in my article What is Truth, Is the LDS Church the Only True Church? article, I believe ultimate truth is an understanding of a thing from every possible perspective, and so statements of testimony like “I know my Church is True” distort the very concept of truth. Because to most people such a statement is paramount to making one’s church into an errorless organization free from the lies, half-truths, misunderstandings, issues and limited perspective which are an inevitable part of anything run by fallible humans. I believe the tenets of all religions contain both truth and error, and are perceived differently by every member. Rather than taking sides in debates concerning truth, epistemology or ontology, I love to see what others believe and figure out how their beliefs fit into the big picture. I haven’t met a lot of people that I can’t see the truth’s in their perspective.  I like to talk to people from their perspective as much as possible. I love to try and enlarge the perspectives of others.

 

My Spiritual (Metaphysical? Supernatural?) Experiences

I think like many people I had experiences of synchronicity, and answers to prayers in my youth, which really gave me a sense that there was a higher power. A sense that the natural world we typically interact with was only a small part of a larger unseeable reality. But the first truly supernatural experience (from my perspective) I had occurred in about the 7th grade. Being raised in an active LDS family, I learned about Joseph Smith’s first vision growing up, but for some reason, it suddenly really resonated with me. I decided if praying worked for him to see god, it would work for me. I set up a day to go out and pray in a secluded place but ended up falling ill that day— to the point I spent a few days in bed. So I set my mind on another day some time later… and once again I got really sick. It was one of many strange examples of synchronicity which was hard to dismiss. To me, there seemed to be something very real to this God-thing. My apophenic mind found significant meaning in the fact that God or some part of myself did not want me to seek this experience. (More on my views of ancient and modern theophany experiences below…)

Strangely, that experience served as an important backdrop as I’ve talked with multiple people over the years (and read the accounts of many others) who have had visions and interactions with what they felt was deity.

A few years after the above experience I started reading the Book of Mormon for seminary. I got through the book of Second Nephi and became engrossed. I couldn’t put it down and read the rest of the book in a day or two. While reading the story of Ammon & Lamoni I had my strongest feeling-based metaphysical experience ever. A warm/burning feeling overtook me that seemed to originate from my heart and radiate through my whole body. It was a classic kundalini experience. It made me collapse in bed and wonder if I was having a heart attack or something — but it was accompanied by incredible feelings of love unlike anything I had ever felt before. This was not simple emotionalism, it was a whole-body biological reaction to what I read. It was not simply like the warm-fuzzies we all feel when we watch a touching movie. It was more biological, with feelings of ecstasy, warmth and enlargement in my brain and heart area. To put it quite frankly, it was much like having a completely unsexual orgasm (not that I would have had any clue what that even was at that age)–where I was spiritually united with some unseen reality. Feelings associated with that initial powerful biological and emotional outpouring lingered for days. I felt anointed and special. I felt connected to God and to that book, and I subsequently used that experience as an initial basis for a testimony of the LDS church and its living prophets. From that point on, I was a fully committed to Mormonism, yet at the same time I felt a connection to divinity that allowed me to define what Mormonism was to be for me—rather than having it fully defined by Mormon leadership. I felt a true unity with “god” and Mormonism and increasingly felt like whatever issues I saw I could get answers to resolve them.

(I’ve since learned that such biological/spiritual manifestations of spiritual experiences are not exclusive to any particular religion, and have been experienced and described for thousands of years by many different religious traditions. It is also referred to as the sacred anointingbaptism by fire or serpent fire of Jewish traditions & Kabbalah; and the coiled serpent, chakra/endocrine theory of Eastern traditions. see The Biology of Kundalini)

 

 

Seeing Spirits

Two months before my LDS mission, my father was killed in a freak accident, and the seclusion and isolation of my mission became a powerful catylist for me in desiring to really know what lay beyond death. This was the beginning of my dark night of the soul. When my dad died, part of me died. After this, religion no longer remained a cultural and social given in my life. I became a true student of religion, because I wanted to know what lie beyond the grave. And although I really didn’t have many particularly unusual spiritual experiences on my mission (apart from very regularly occurring emotional religious confirmations and a few psychic voices in my mind), soon after my mission I began to have a number of experiences with what scientist have haphazardly termed sleep paralysis (which involve dream-like “thought forms“, or spiritual visionary/dream experiences) as well seeing earth-bound spirits. In my first experience of this sort, I woke up in the twilight hours before dawn to what I thought was my mother (a female individual) sitting on my bedside with her hand on my leg. As I opened my eyes and became conscious of her presence suddenly realizing that this was not anyone I knew, the individual instantly flew on top of me as if trying to enter my body (at least that was my perception). Not that this apparition was really even particularly frightening, but that I was horrified by not being able to move—and at the reality and unfamiliarity of the experience. After a few horrifying moments of me futilely trying to scream and defend myself (but not being able to move or make audible noises), the being left and my biological eyes opened (more on that in a second). This type of experience occurred a number of times from the ages of about 21 – 28, and as time went by I got better not freaking out and appropriately dealing with, or interacting with the experiences until it ended.

As I go through my subsequent experiences in this next section, I think it’s important to note that all but one or two of my experiences with seeing “spirits” have occurred with my biological eyes closed. It’s a difficult phenomena to explain and it’s easy to see why those who haven’t experienced it would suspect all such experiences are just a type of dream (which is certainly one way to look at them).  In most of my experiences I am mentally “woken up” to see some apparition from my bed—only to be bewildered by the fact that afterwards I end up opening my physical eyes to find I was actually still physically “asleep”.  And yet I’m not asleep and these seem to me, far different than lucid dreams— I am totally aware of both my thoughts and surroundings and before opening my eyes, I can somehow see things like the alarm clock and room lighting—which don’t change at all when I open my eyes. In these experiences I am always sure I’m wide awake with eyes open, only to surprisingly find myself later opening my physical eyes to an identical scene & feeling. (There is absolutely no sensation of waking up, only of opening my biological eyes). From my perspective I am somehow “seeing” things through the “eyes” of my spirit (for loss of a better word). I know that sounds hokey and I don’t expect those who have not experienced this phenomena to understand— but that is absolutely the perception I have of the experience. In multiple instances I have looked out the window to see the dawning light on the horizon, and then when my biological eyes open afterwards—there is absolutely no difference to what I perceived of the scene before and after my physical eyes open. In fact, it is absolutely uncanny how often these experience occur exactly as a sliver of light appears on the horizon. Even if I am in a dark room with curtains drawn, they nearly always occur within a short period of twilight.

One instance in particular really solidified my belief that my experiences with seeing spirits are more complicated than dreaming or super-lucid hallucinations. Sometime around age 27 I had an instance where I was awoken by the spirit of a young teenager in my room (my impression was that this individual had died as a teen). He woke me up purposefully by walking up to me and waving his hand repeatedly in my face. I remained semi-conscious and just watched him as he walked through the wall toward the living room where my wife was sleeping that night. I sensed his intent to try and annoy my wife as well, and so as I opened my eyes to get out of bed and start heading toward the living room, my wife popped in the room a bit shaken and asked if I had just snuck up to her and woken her up by loudly whispering “hey!” into her ear. She got up immediately and looked both beneath and around the sofa, fully expecting me to be hiding just out of her view. When she realized it wasn’t me, she was startled and came into the bedroom to see where I was. I have had many experiences with seeing and talking to spirits both before and after this one, but this experience with my wife sticks out as the first which was objectively confirmed by another individual. It is also interesting to note that my wife also had an experience of “hearing spirits” when she was young. It was a strange and frightening experience for her, and had never been repeated until this night. [There is, of coarse, no objectively provable scientific evidence of clairaudience or clairvoyance,so it deserves the skepticism it receives— but the phenomena has been documented for thousands of years, occurring to countless individuals; and my experiences certainly began to make me a believer.]

 

More Interaction with Beings

Since the shared experience with my wife, I’ve had many experiences where I am “woken up” (although my eyes are still closed), to some ethereal being standing near my bed, teaching me. (I can’t move my head and look at them because I’m not physically awake–only mentally awake). This has usually occurred after I’ve read something to make me sincerely ask heaven for answers to questions.  The beings, (or sometimes just a voice) then give me lengthy, profound explanations which give me unbelievably clear visual and conceptual understandings of different topics. But then after I open my eyes and try to write down what was telepathically communicated to me, the vision and understanding fade and I fail to find the words to explain it. It’s a wild experience and in some periods of my life it’s happened with surprising regularity. Often the explanations will include scriptures or concepts which I don’t remember ever reading or learning, but when I wake up and look them up, they seem to be legit.  I’ve repeatedly considered the prevailing scientific explanation that these visions could just be a product of an insanely lucid imagination or a hallucinogenic mind, but as I’ve analyzed these experiences (and those of others) I believe it is more likely the other way around. (I don’t think current psychoanalysis of hallucinations can account for ‘group visions’, the experience where my wife was woken up too, or psychic premonitions that I’ve experienced (and occur regularly to millions of other people around the earth). As I’ve looked for answers, I think it’s more likely that both spiritual and hallucinatory experiences in general are connected to DMT’s ability to allow the brain to enter subjective states of consciousness wherein humanity is more connected to each other or some type of subconscious group memory and perhaps even to an intelligent infinite creation. (see Rick Strassman’s work at New Mexico school of Medicine, on the Pineal gland’s production of DMT, as well as the link between hallucinogenic drugs and higher states of consciousness. — Note, I’ve never taken illicit or hallucinogenic drugs/medications of any kind by the way, nor have I ever had a metaphysical experience I can remember of while taking any type of cold, flu or pain medication).

While my wife was pregnant, I had one experience where I believe I saw an apparition of the spirit of my unborn child in the same manner as the other spiritual manifestations I’ve seen; however in this experience when I opened my eyes, I could still faintly “see” (or better put, perceive with an extra-ocular sense) the outline of this infant-sized spirit which floated in front of me blinking her big beautiful eyes. Because of these experiences I believe in an afterlife (or at least a spirit-world or global mental realm of sorts, wherein we can subtly interact with the consciousness of the dead, unborn or extra-dimensional beings). I also believe in supernatural events, and certain extrasensory abilities of the human mind; despite the differences in perspective and obvious fraud and forgery existing in the world’s descriptions of these phenomena. At the same time I fully accept the possible validity of purely psychological explanations for paranormal activity; as long as they accept the idea of some kind of subtle shared global, or infinite consciousness. But at the same time I don’t believe that visions and experiences with this unseen realm are a viewing of an objective reality like our own. Attempts to view it as such run into issues both in my own experiences and in those of the thousands of others I have read of.

I think it’s also noteworthy to mention that I’ve never had any experience with seeing my deceased father in dreams or my night visions.  I was woken once at my grandma’s house by a Spirit who I had the distinct impression was related to me, but I’ve never had anything like that happen with my dad, other than possibly feeling his presence or guidance during normal daytime activities. I would think, that if these experiences had to do with some kind of hallucinatory wishful thinking, that they would most certainly end up revolving around the one person who I always wished to talk with most beyond the grave?  But nothing. Even despite having a small experience with another loved-one shortly after their death, where they told me something of what it was like there, I have never been woken at night by my father.

You can read the near-death and spiritual experiences of thousands of others on the sites I have featured in the After Death portion of this website. Read Part 2 to see possible explanations of these phenomena.

 

Premonition and Foreknowledge

I have also had experiences with premonition and foreknowledge. On my mission I was reading an LDS historical book talking about the Nauvoo Temple, and I had a very distinct impression come to my mind that said “they are going to rebuild that”. It was so distinct and strong that I kept thinking about it for days. Just a few months later, the church announced their plans to rebuild the temple, and I was left to wonder about the psychological mechanism which gave me that knowledge beforehand. I’ve had similar experiences help me avoid major accidents. Similarly, my dad felt “strongly impressed” to get his affairs in order and write a personal letter to each of his children the month before his unexpected death. These letters proved very meaningful, and seemed far from coincidental to me—and seem to be but one of many examples I’ve seen of death premonition.

I once had an experience where after deeply meditating, I strangely kept picturing a specific image in my mind. With this picture in my mind, my wife unexpectedly asked me what I was thinking… I lied and said “nothing”. Then she proceeded to tell me that she was picturing the same wild image (a golden spider) in her mind. I never did tell her that I had the same image in my mind, but it was yet another of many strange experiences where my wife and I synchronously had the same thoughts during times that i was deeply mediating. I’ve had other similar experiences where I’ve been able to influence my own children’s dreams by my own deep meditation–having them recount to me in the morning the very thoughts I sent out in my meditation.

I have had a multitude of other experiences with what LDS people would usually call “the Spirit” (but something I would associate with a global shared unconsciousness and/or a fragmented ability to perceive events across dimensions, space and time). I felt strong spiritual impressions about what the gender of each of my four children would be (which could certainly be coincidence). I had incredibly strong (and correct) impressions that my 1 month old child was going to turn out 100% fine when she lay in the NICU with spinal meningitis, despite doctors giving us only disparaging statistics of the chances of deafness and other lasting complications. I felt while giving her a blessing that I could bless her to be healed with confidence. I have had strong impressions about the location of a lost child (which were later verified) and heard accounts of others far more impressive than mine. After pondering over questions, I have had strong impressions come to mind my concerning internet searches which led me to material which seemed exactly what I was looking for, and connected deeply with. After months of prayer and feeling strong impressions that a new revelation had been given in fulfillment to Biblical prophesy, I was led by a single sentence given to my mind to find The Book of Ben Kathryn (see background info here). Although I understand the power of confirmation bias and human tendency for apophenia, these experiences have led me to believe what ancient religions, books and even modern movies (such as Interstellar) have suggested for ages—that humans occasionally have the ability to peek through small transient holes across space and time, by the use of poorly understood exercises of thought, meditation & spirituality. I don’t pretend to fully understand these experiences, nor am I fully satisfied by the descriptions taught by most modern religions or scientists. I simply realize there is a strong component of unknowableness in this reality we call life.

 

 

My Faith & Beliefs

Because of my experiences I give more weight to channeled or revelatory texts than the average skeptic. But at the same time, my experiences cause me to be more skeptical and less dogmatic about channeled/revealed works than the average religious zealot. The fact that near death and visionary experiences tend to reflect cultural and religious conditioning (Christians see Jesus, Hindu’s sometimes see their Gods, and some cultures see nothing), tells me that there’s something fairly complicated going on in visionary experiences. However, there are millions of examples of scientifically unexplained phenomena which tells me that these spiritual experiences are not just made up imaginations.  Like billions on earth, I sense there is something profound to religious works like The Bible, Koran, The Book of Mormon, or more convincingly, the Law of One or Oahspe, where the revelator/channel repeatedly uses words or speaks of concepts far above the writer’s native abilities. Or texts like the Doctrine & Covenants or Book of Ben Kathryn with thousands of biblical allusions woven together in a manner which seems far more sophisticated than any single author’s native abilities. But at the same time I am highly skeptical of the cultural distortions and dogmatic assertions (concerning absolutist truths) made by any of these works or their religious founders. (And LDS leaders in particular.)  I have spent more time than anyone I know combing through the cosmological sections of channeled texts looking for a cohesive picture of reality, which takes into account all the available evidence from both science and “God’s” many metaphysical witnesses.

In my childhood I let my religious leaders largely define my religious and spiritual experiences for me. As I mentioned, I’ve been a pretty down-the-line, orthodox Mormon. Because of my experience with the Book of Mormon and other experiences with “The Spirit” I believed it meant that the LDS church was precisely what its current leaders made it out to be. As I’ve gotten older and received my own revelation, delved into LDS church history, spent thousands of hours studying LDS scripture and combed through myriads of near-death experiences, revelatory works and other people’s supernatural experiences I’ve come to explanations which more fully harmonize my own experiences with the experiences of spiritual mystics and religious founders. Explanations which harmonize the contradictions. (I’ve found that every major religious tradition tends to develop a branch of mysticism full of visionary individuals or mystics/prophets who overwhelmingly seem to espouse a form of universalism.  While at the same time most mainstream religions eventually come to reject or demonize visionary experience, and become led by individuals with very little visionary or clairvoyant ability.)

My level of faith in LDS leaders is a product of my spiritual experiences. When I first began being woken up by beings and voices who answered my questions, the individuals who answered questions and information they gave was very Mormonesqe (conforming strictly to LDS language, scripture and culture). But as my questions began to push the envelope of what LDS doctrine was able to explain, my nighttime teachers and visions (or whatever you want to call them) became decidedly less Mormon and more Unitarian (With complete love and empathy for the Mormon perspective, but placing it within a larger more profound context). It was like Mormon spirits (my ancestors?) led me as far as there knowledge could take me; but eventually they had to refer me to higher beings which predated Mormonism & its culture. I really felt like I was led by higher, older, more intelligent beings to more pluralistic information that helped to reconcile the contradictions I encountered in Mormonism.  However, I suppose from a non mystical perspective this could also be explained in reverse—that my subjective nighttime experiences were a reflection of what I was consciously learning in my life. Either way, it seemed to me that at night our brain somehow connects to a higher source which allows and helps to organize, harmonize and make sense of all the raw data that is dumped into our senses during the day. To me, the experiences were very real–but at the same time entirely visionary.

I can certainly empathize with atheists and agnostics and see value in their purely humanistic explanations of these phenomena (although their explanations seem quite partial to me— and tend to ignore millions of unexplainable spiritual phenomena— take this impressive proof of reincarnation for instance). I can empathize with the explanations of all organized religions (which also seem partial). But my experiences have suggested to me that there is so much more to this universe than the narrow views held by mainstream religion or science. Like most of the world’s most intelligent scientists, I believe in a non-anthropomorphic Most-High singularity (religions call it/him God), but I could explain him/her/it in a million religious or scientific terms and still not fully capture the immensity of what I perceive He/She/It is. My beliefs increasingly tend to accord more with D&C 88:41,6–13, than traditional/cultural LDS views on God, which I believe confuse psychically-connected Higher Dimensional human beings for the unknowable and omniscient Most High God (A singular intelligence which connects and pervades all creation). Frankly, I suspect most of those who have influenced mankind’s views of the divine have felt the same way as me concerning divinity—that their descriptions are partial, limited perspectives of something so much larger than what the human mind and human words can express (D&C 76:116).

Uncontacted primitive tribe living in Brazilian rain forest photographed in 2010

Uncontacted primitive tribes like this one currently living in Brazilian rainforest help us to consider how our world might also be just like these groups which are totally unaware of the advanced civilizations which dwell around and above them. Just as international laws are being drafted to protect the self-determination of these groups, it is logical to consider that higher dimensional groups are also constrained by law in the manners they are allowed to subtly influence human culture, through the imaginations, thoughts and visions of our cultural icons. (see Zoo Hypothesis & Fermi Paradox)

I believe in the perception of spirits and visions because I have experienced them. I believe in a tiered or multi-level system of universal consciousness that mystics, prophets, or revelators are able to access to gain information above that which they’ve cognitively learned. Whether this realm is a subjective internal shared human memory psychically accessed through poorly understood psychological mechanisms or whether it is truly an objective higher dimensional realm inhabited by the dead matters little to me. (I tend to think it is actually a combination of the two.) I believe in angels and extra-planetary rulers (or ruling extra-dimensional beings) even though I really have no personal objective proof that they exist. Higher dimensions and higher dimensional beings seem logically necessary to me. I find it easy to believe that many of the accounts of angels & gods in the Old Testament & religious scripture (such as Elijah’s flying “chariot of fire” and Moses’s encounter with the “God of Israel” standing on “a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli”) were likely encounters with higher-dimensional beings, possibly even utilizing technologically advanced spacecraft.  I believe (as many text describe) that these beings are bound by laws on non-intervention—which gives equal chance for multiple ideologically opposing groups to influence those who are able to pierce through the veils—so that the people these beings interact with almost always culturally distort the given messages. (Similar to the Zoo Hypothesis)  I do not believe any one religion or philosophy has exclusive access to the highest beings who watch our planet — but instead they are spiritually led by their dead ancestors. (see The only true church).  And I believe those religions who substantially claim exclusive access to God, are either misunderstanding their own revelations, or are allowing themselves to be influenced by manipulative or ignorant spiritual beings. (The channeled text Oahspe has A LOT to say about that). I believe that a large part of most religion and religious experience, is a projection of existing beliefs and biases on the part of the “seer” or adherent. I think this is what 1 Cor 13:9–12/1 John 3:2  is trying to say in a veiled sort of way.

I believe the “Most high God” is synonymous with light, love and creation (D&C 88:41); and is a passive universal unity which does not directly interfere with the self-determination of humanity or individuals (despite it’s indwelling within us). I believe that religious prophets and mystics usually interact with extra-dimensional beings (or god’s mediators) subjectively through their minds and imaginations, wherein information is exposed to heavy distortion and cultural bias (Both the LDS ‘Father & Son’ from Joseph’s visions being examples of these different classes of mediator gods seen in a subjective vision and biased by the prophet’s cultural expectations). I believe that religion and science are divinely guided (in a very laissez-faire manner) by wise spiritual and inter-dimensional beings and have the ability to better my life and make me a better person.  I believe that like religion and science, my understanding is constantly changing and expanding and my faith is that man’s destiny is headed back toward the complete unity of intelligence from which we originated.

 

Continued at My Testimony of the LDS Church & Religion (Part 2. My Beliefs)

 

 

Related Articles

Needed Reform in the LDS Church

Is The LDS Church The Only True Church? What Really is Truth?

 

 

 

The Priesthood of God & Its Relationship to the Only True Church Doctrine

The true priesthood is not meant to be like Sauron's ring of power

45 “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood…” (D&C 121:45).

 

Like many modern books and movies I believe Lord of the Rings teaches an important gospel message. One of its central themes revolves around the idea that power corrupts—so it’s up to the strong and wise to keep it in the hands of the weak and humble until the time that it can be “cast down” by perfect equality and fellowship. I believe this message is very important when it comes to understanding Christian priesthood, and is a theme that runs throughout LDS scripture. In this article I would like to try and show that LDS scripture teaches religious priesthood is not so much a ‘power of God’ but a preparatory symbolic authority given to man by divine beings to test who will stay “humble as a hobbit” like Frodo and Samwise, verses who will be corrupted by its influence like Boromir, Theoden, and Saruman.

I love the LDS Church, but I believe that since the days of the earliest Saints there has often been fundamental misunderstandings and misapplications of priesthood in the church which lies at the root of the division this topic has caused—whether it be the use of priesthood authority to to support our exclusive truth claims, or using arguments of priesthood to pressure people into doing things they don’t really feel good about… or even instances of using priesthood arguments to marginalize blacks, women or other groups.

On one hand, misunderstanding and misapplication seems to have has caused people to want a burden and obligation which no person should really desire. On the other hand, privilege and abuse have sometimes caused a thing designed to maintain equality — to promote exclusivity, elitism, inequality and division. Misunderstood principles like “the one true church” and “only true priesthood” doctrines have often turned an equality promoting symbolic responsibility into an inequality promoting honor & privilege. But assuming priesthood really has been given to man by higher beings, I believe all of this must be part of the test given to religious leaders to find out who might be worthy of true authority in our next rounds of progression.

 

Common LDS misunderstandings regarding priesthood—as defined in our own scriptures
-Scripture makes it clear that the priesthood is not the power to do miracles or create worlds and should not be confused with that ‘power’ of God.
-The priesthood is not, and never was, needed to be a prophet, seer or revelator—otherwise how could you explain biblical prophetesses and the many non-levitical prophets?
-The priesthood is not, and never was, needed to heal; or perform any other skills said to be ‘Gifts of the Spirit’, given freely to all.
-The priesthood was never entirely lost during apostacy. (see D&C 86:8–10; D&C 84:17–18, Abr 1:4, 2:11. ‘keys’ were simply taken from Israel and transferred to the Gentiles; now they’re being restored to Israel.)
-The higher priesthood has never been exclusive to one religion or people. (only the lower priesthood is fundamentally exclusive)
-The priesthood should never be used to support or legitimize the only true church doctrine.
-The lower priesthood IS a symbolic authority to administer the offices, ordinances and symbols of salvation.
-The higher spiritual priesthood invisibly governs all the religious and political affairs of the earth while maintaining equality and mankind’s self determination..
-The lower, temporal or religious priesthood should not be confused with the higher universal spiritual priesthood it is was created to symbolize, copy and prepare for.
-ALL priesthood IS a responsibility to active servitude in order to equalize inequalities. It’s proper use NEVER guarantees any special privilege, special standing, special respect, authoritative legitimacy, reward or power simply by virtue of its possession.  If people desire this burden, then it is a sign that it is being misused, misunderstood and misapplied.

 

Sauron, Satan, and the Corrupting Influence of Power

In the book/movie The Lord of the Rings, J.R. Tolkien walks us through a story which illustrates the corrupting influence of power. The story begins with the forging of the Great Rings of power. Nineteen of these rings are given to the leaders of earth to give them “the strength and will to govern each race”.  But Tolkien teaches that in accepting these rings the leaders…

“were all of them deceived, for another ring was made. In the land of Mordor, in the fires of Mount Doom, the Dark Lord Sauron forged, in secret, a Master Ring to control all others. And into this Ring he poured his cruelty, his malice and his will to dominate all life. One Ring to rule them all.”

With this master ring, Sauron begins to enslave the people of earth bringing about an apocalyptic war for freedom. In the quest to destroy this “Ring of Power”, Frodo and the fellowship are tested and tried as they battle not only the evil followers of Sauron, but the evil that the ring creates in the hearts of the heroes by its very essence. Gandalf summarizes Tolkien’s view of power with his words concerning the ring,

“I dare not take it. Not even to keep it safe. Understand Frodo, I would use this Ring from a desire to do good. But through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.”

To Mormon’s & Christians this plot and what it teaches about power and authority might sound eerily familiar to the Biblical concept of Satan’s fall and plan for worldly dominion. In LDS and even general Christian theology it was the lust for power which caused the archetypical Satan to become a “the fallen archangel”—warring against all that is good. In Joseph Smith’s book of Moses (ch.4), it is explained that in the beginning Satan wanted the honor of redeeming mankind. As opposed to Christ’s plan of self sacrifice and equality— Satan’s plan was to use God’s power to “destroy the agency of man”, redeeming “all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost”. We can only assume from the context given in Moses 4:1–4, as well as subsequent biblical history that his plan was one of using God’s honor & authority to create a global totalitarian autocracy to coercively exalt all mankind (but especially himself and his cronies).

After his totalitarian plan is rejected, Satan rebels and comes to earth to carry out his plan anyway. Without the true secret to God’s political power or authority (self-sacrifice) he comes to earth and creates a false priesthood, which like Sauron’s rings of power, he uses to subtly manipulate, “deceive, blind and lead [people] captive to his will” (Moses 4:4). Satan’s goal seems to have been to either manipulate or trick people into obedience to his autocratic system through false pretenses, or as a last resort to do what the ancient Jews and many Christians still hope of their false Messiah. To come in power and glory dyed in blood, ready to force every knee to bow to his own egocentric concept of truth, order and righteousness (Moses 1:19–22, Rev 13, Dan 7). Just as Tolkien’s book details the corruption of earthly authority into what could be considered Sauron’s ‘false priesthood’, the Bible is–cover to cover–a story of the continual corruption of Jewish and earthly priesthoods into ‘Satan’s false priesthood’ of idolotry and autocratic domination.

In this article I hope to show that by upholding the only true church and only legitimate priesthood doctrines, Mormonism has unwittingly gone contrary to the democratic agency-promoting principles given in our own scriptures—and sometimes used the same manipulative tactics of Satan’s false priesthood to uphold autocratic power and authority. Something that we must eradicate if we are to play our key part in Christ’s true spiritual church.

 

The Difference Between Priesthood and The Powers of Heaven or Spiritual Gifts

Before going into other aspects of the priesthood I believe it’s important to cover what LDS scripture says the priesthood is, and is not. There are many traditional LDS beliefs and teachings which have contributed to the general pride that’s developed around priesthood in LDS culture. Some of this stems from the nearly ubiquitous misunderstanding that priesthood is the supernatural power of God [1a] used to create the world or do miraculous or supernatural acts, or that the priesthood is needed in order to be a prophet (one with the gift of prophecy), exercise divine power or be a religious icon like those idolized in Christian scripture. So why wouldn’t everyone lust after it, right?!  If like a magical ring, it gives the power to to heal or to prophesy or to cast out devils or move mountains or split seas or be a leader, prophet, seer or revelator of course it would become a source of pride to those lucky enough to have it, and a source of envy to groups forbidden from it!

A careful examination of the scripture show that priesthood is neither needed nor uniquely gives people power to do ANY of these things. The scriptures instead teach that Judeo Christian priesthood was simply a symbolic religious order, authority and responsibility which obligates the powerful aspects of society to be a metaphor of the heavenly church, and use one’s attained power for good, and to establish the level of equality needed for group exaltation. The scriptures make it clear that all the supernatural powers of God are given equally to ALL WORTHY MANKIND (humankind) as “gifts of the Spirit” and are available “by faith” to all people regardless of gender, religion, color or priesthood ordination (see D&C 45, Moroni 7, and 2 Cor 12, 2 Ne 26:33, Lectures on Faith #1).

To confuse the priesthood (which is accessed only by ordination into a specific religious order) WITH the ‘powers of heaven’ or ‘power of God’ or gifts of the Spirit which are accessed by faith is like confusing the force of George Lucas’ star wars with the order of the Jedi who are trained to use it or Tolkien’s wizards/Istari order with the power or magic they have learned to access. After all, Christian scripture teaches that even Satan and his followers have learned by faith to use the miraculous divine powers, and his power is obviously not the same as the priesthood or order of God. Although mixing these definitions may seem a trivial debate in semantics — by perpetuating these unscriptural misunderstandings we inadvertently cause many to covet or feel excluded from a burdensome obligation of sacrifice that no one should desire.

There is simply no scriptural support for the ubiquitous traditional LDS doctrine that the “priesthood” is the supernatural power God used to create the world and universe. There is no scriptural support suggesting priesthood has exclusive claim to any of God’s miraculous powers, except an authority or burden of responsibility to religious administration (servitude), to officiate in symbolic ecclesiastical ordinances and seal and symbolically bring a people into God’s presence. D&C 121:45 makes it clear that “That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven”, but the priesthood should not be confused for the “powers of heaven” or the “power of God” which D&C 88 teaches is “is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed”.

There are literally hundreds of verses of scripture proving these points, but I trust the average LDS reader can be convinced by reading just a handful. (see footnote [a] for more scriptural examples comparing priesthood with the power of God accessed through faith. see also The Difference Between Priesthood and Prophets , and Ether 12, Heb 11, TG; faith, D&C 88:7–13, 84:45-46, Moses 1:32, Jacob 4:9, Morm 9:17, D&C 29:30–31).

 

The priesthood is primarily a metaphor or symbol of a heavenly or spiritual system

Technically, priesthood does not even give people a right to authority or rule, per se. Much like Israel and the Christian Church in general, the scriptures teach that the priesthood was created to be an order of servitude and symbol or type of a heavenly spiritual system. A light to show the world how heaven operates. The true priesthood is not like Sauron’s ring, or some imaginary crown which mystically gives individuals God’s authority to rule over others — or to be God’s only revelatory mouthpieces or political regents. [1] Even Tolkien understood that such a system could only come from, and lead to evil. Joseph Smith echoed this sentiment that religious priesthood was never meant to give men true power or authority over others. He wrote in revelation,

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, long suffering, meekness… [and other Christlike attributes]” (D&C 121:45)

This was fairly clear in the Jewish religious system, as the priesthood was held only by Levites, and authorized its holders ONLY to work as priests in the temple. Prophets, Rabbis and many other Jewish political and religious leaders had no need for the priesthood. It was clearly only a responsibility to administer the symbolic outward ordinances of the religious system. With the advent of Christianity, the Church or congregation became the temple, and the symbolic managerial duties of the temple priests moved to ordained men of the congregation (1 Cor 3:16; Eph 2:21; 1 Peter 2:5) . With the new covenant, instead of sacrificing animals and performing ordinances on behalf of the people, the priesthood was now to follow Christ’s example of sacrificing themselves and performing symbolic ordinances on behalf of the congregation and world (Romans 12:1–2; 15:16; Philip 2:17; 4:18; Heb 13:15–16). So even though early church records show a clear hierarchical administrative system [2] which was associated with priesthood, Christ’s teachings were clear that the Church was not to follow the world’s model of using that priesthood position to support and maintain the organizational hierarchy.

The system of heaven which Jesus came to teach was that power and authority came not from position but from self-sacrifice. Ordination to an office was never meant to prove one’s legitimacy or give one person authoritative control over another. He taught that only by humbly serving others can we righteously create a hierarchy or gain privilege over the will of another. That no ordinance can truly give authority, the ordinance and priesthood office is symbol pointing to the type of character and level of service which earns true power and authority over others while completely preserving agency. Take the words of Christ to his apostles in Matthew 20 for instance.

25 But Jesus called [his disciples] to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life… (Matt 20:20–28 ESV) [2b]

The entire system of Jewish temple worship & sacrifice, culminating with Jesus coming to be judged and executed by the Jewish priesthood & Roman authorities can be seen as a clear symbolic teaching and example to show both the right way (by humble example) and the wrong way (by religious or political authority) to lead man. The Christian priesthood was not meant to give man the right or legitimacy to rule over others.  It was instituted to give mankind a symbol of a heavenly system—and to teach mankind that true authority over others comes only through self-sacrifice. Heavenly authority is meant to maintain equality through the self-sacrifice and subservience of the leadership. This is why this responsibility of servitude is often only given to the most assertive and domineering (masculine) aspects of humanity and withheld from the humble or subjugated (feminine) aspects of humanity. [2c]

In fact other revealed texts such as Oahspe 32/ch. 30 (God judges dominions) teach the scripturally supported idea that the cost of human leadership is that no leader can ascend to the higher realms of existence, until he has exalted or risen up all those who had become physically or mentally subjected to them! (see Matt 23:12) That is, that the responsibility and burden of both righteous ecclesiastical leaders or wicked despots was that they could not gain an exalted resurrection until they helped every one of their willing subjects ascend with or ahead of them! In Christ’s words, the first will be made last and the last will be made first. (Matt 19:30; 20:1-16, D&C 29:30)

… I show man not only the way of liberty, but the way of bondage. He shall know understandingly the ways of my dominions, and the judgment that is upon him. 32/30.20. And the same rules shall apply to every king, queen, emperor, and every other ruler in the world. 32/30.21. The resurrection in heaven of each and every one of them shall be with, and no faster than, those they ruled over on earth.  32/30.22. And they shall be responsible to all their subjects[2d]

LDS teachings commonly use arguments of priesthood to legitimize LDS authority as the only true church, and our General Authorities as Christ’s only true living prophets and apostles on earth. Our entire cultural system of giving General Authorities and priesthood holders the “chief seats in the synagogues” or always insisting “to be called of men Rabbi, Rabbi” [President or Bishop in our case] is directly contrary to Christ’s teachings (see Matt 23:6–12; Luke 23:6, 11:43). Like the Pharisees of Jesus time, I believe we have slowly come to focus too much on priesthood as an eternal authority and honor to be desired instead of merely a responsibility to be shouldered. It has become a way to legitimize dominion and exert one’s own will upon others, instead of being a responsibility of public service. We forget that God respects self determination above all, and will never force compliance contrary to the voice and conscience of the majority. We too often seek to ‘talk up’ the priesthood when we should instead be focusing on the fact that earthly priesthood is a symbolic responsibility and burden that gives assertive individuals an obligation to service that prepares them to be worthy of the real power that comes only from heaven. (A power open to ALL worthy humankind.)  Paul tries repeatedly in his New Testament letters to show the Jews that the Old Testament system and priesthood were types, symbols or schoolmasters pointing to heavenly systems and spiritual truths—not to be confused with the real thing.

10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. (Hebr 10:1 NIV)
5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” (Hebr 8:5 NIV)
23 That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven, had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things in heaven had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals.
24 For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. (Hebr 9:23-24 NLT)
6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter [type/symbol] kills, but the Spirit [meaning behind the symbol] gives life. (2 Cor 3:6 NIV, compare NLT)

Latter day LDS scripture echoes the same sentiment,

16 Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order… (Alma 13:16)
13 …that all things may have their likeness, and that they may accord one with another—that which is earthly conforming to that which is heavenly… (D&C 128:13)

According to the LDS worldview, the ancient Jews looked “beyond the mark”, and twisted their religious system into an organization satanic enough to excommunicate and execute their own heavenly King (Jacob 4:14, 2 Ne 10:3). We also hold that the Catholics have their own record of priesthood abuse stemming from their belief that their priesthood is what makes them elected or chosen of God. Certainly, when a religion or mankind misunderstands temporal symbols given by heaven and creates an organization that manipulates people into a leadership hierarchy fostering feelings of pride, subservience and inequality the true priesthood is corrupted. Just as declaring one’s self “the only true church” makes a religion run the risk of being part of the church of the devil, using any arguments of priesthood to justify our authority over others runs the risk of losing the true spiritual priesthood (D&C 121:37). Paradoxically, if Mormonism wants to be part of the True Church of God, it must never boast of being the only true church. If it wants to be worthy of the true priesthood, it must hide the tokens of that priesthood by never using priesthood as a reason for its authority or legitimacy. (For example: repeated talks on being the only true church or priesthood, talking up church apostles or leadership, or excommunicating those who challenge authority or repeated talks on “obedience to priesthood”, talks suggesting leaders, the “prophet” or General Authorities are unequal or superior to regular members, or manipulatively teaching that their priesthood “mantle of authority” deserves special respect and thus shouldn’t be questioned or challenged (ie. talks on not “steadying the ark”), instead of letting obedience, respect and submission to authority be a natural outgrowth of people wanting to follow their leaders because of the leadership’s humility, service and sacrifice).

 

The Two branches of Mormon Priesthood and what they symbolize

I believe LDS scriptures teach that the two branches of Mormon/Biblical ecclesiastical priesthood are a type or metaphor of two larger types of priesthood used by Higher Beings in the management of our world— The Aaronic or temporal priesthood and the Melchizedek or spiritual priesthood. In a way, I believe LDS scriptural teachings on these priesthoods are meant to reconcile the Catholic views on ministerial priesthood with the Protestant views of universal priesthood. The Mormon Aaronic or lower priesthood being a type or symbol pointing to the “temporal” priesthood or earthly authority of the earth’s religions & political organizations. The Mormon Melchizedek, higher or “spiritual” priesthood being a symbol of the “invisible” spiritual or universal priesthood which is used by heavenly/spiritual beings to rule ALL earthy political and religious affairs according to their agency.  The earthly temporal lower priesthood like the temporal church, is supposed to copy that higher perfect heavenly system. Its primary purpose is to be a type, symbol or example and schoolmaster to the world.

 

Re-examining what LDS scriptures say about the ‘Only True Church’ doctrine

67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
68 Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church (D&C 10:67–68).

Introduction

In this article I hope to show from numerous scriptures in the Book of Mormon, the New Testament & the Doctrine & Covenants that the “one true church” of Jesus Christ mentioned in most of our scriptures is a non-denominational “spiritual church” or heavenly church which manifests as a cultural movement and NOT strictly the LDS ecclesiastical organization as has been established in LDS tradition.[defs] I also hope to show in this and other articles in this series that Judaism, Christianity and Mormonism were created to be a symbol, or type/archetype of the heavenly church, but by failing to establish Zion the early saints also failed to establish & gather the temporal “true and living church” spoken of in D&C 1:30. The “only true church”, or Kingdom of god/heaven is something earthly churches aspire to and lead people to, not an inherent right that comes with priesthood keys. The scriptures toward the end of this article hit the point home, and show that like Peter and other apostle’s constant misunderstanding of Jesus teachings—Joseph and modern church leaders have also misunderstood and overlooked LDS scriptures which clearly teach that the “only true church” is a heavenly church instead of specific religious sect or denomination.

 

Outline of points covered in the article
-The cultural overuse of the only true church concept in LDS testimonies too often follows the example of the Book of Mormon Zoramites. (see Alma 31:12–21)
-The Book of Mormon, Bible and Doctrine and Covenants teach that Christ’s one true church (as well as the church of the devil) are spiritual churches which transcend organizational and priesthood lines. (D&C 10:67–68, 1 Ne 14:10Moroni 7:16–17, Mark 9:38–402 Nephi 10:16Matt 12:30, etc)
-The Doctrine & Covenants (D&C 10:67–68) clearly teaches the condition required to be part of Christ’s Spiritual Church. Declaring more or less than that definition threatens Mormonisms’ membership in Christ’s one true spiritual church.
-A temporal sect or religion’s “trueness” or whether they can be classified as part of the “one true church”, depends on how well they copy, obey or “come unto” the spiritual church in heaven. (D&C 10:53–69)
-The separation of the wheat and the tares at the end of the age is synonymous with Christ’s separation of the Church of God and Church of the devil. The point of the parable revolves around the difficulty for humans to distinguish between the two. (see Matt 13:37–43, D&C 86:1–3, D&C 88:94)
-D&C 10:52–54 makes it clear that Christ’s spiritual church existed on earth before the restoration of the LDS sect. Joseph Smith’s church & priesthood were meant to “build up” and correct the already existing spiritual church on earth. And to be a symbol and archetype of the end-epoch separating and gathering process (see Heb 8:5;9:23-24;10:1; Alma 13:16).
-Mormonism should never boast of being the only true church until Messiah’s final gathering of all people and churches in One Body, and that universal brotherhood or kingdom is ready to “present to the Father”.
-Interpreting D&C 1:30 to suggest the LDS church is ‘the ONLY true church’, contradicts other scriptural evidence concerning the matter. We LDS people need to relook at the conditional nature of what the verse actually says. (see exegesis of D&C 1:30)

Zoramitism in the LDS Church

It seems to me that many Mormons have misunderstood D&C 1:30, and discount an abundance of scriptural information to the contrary, in order to support the tradition of being “the only true church”. Like the biblical Pharisees and Zoramites in the Book of Mormon, we sometimes twist the scriptures in a manner that makes us think that God has “separated us” and “elected us to be saved”, while “all around us are elected to be cast by [his] wrath down to hell” (or lower kingdoms until we do their temple work). Understanding the pride inherent in our doctrines is the first step in unraveling what I believe to be the incorrect traditions and scriptural interpretations which crept into the church from its earliest days. The similarities between the Book of Mormon account of the Zoramites and the average Mormon testimony in Fast & Testimony Meeting should be enough to convict us and open our hearts to the need to look closer at what the scriptures teach concerning the only true church doctrine. For those unfamiliar with the story of the Zoramites, let’s read through Alma’s experience for some insight into this extremely prideful sect—one that LDS people don’t want to be like!

12 Now, when they had come into the land, behold, to their astonishment they found that the Zoramites had built synagogues, and that they did gather themselves together on one day of the week, which day they did call the day of the Lord; and they did worship after a manner which Alma and his brethren had never beheld;
13 For they had a place built up in the center of their synagogue, a place for standing, which was high above the head; and the top thereof would only admit one person.
14 Therefore, whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand upon the top thereof, and stretch forth his hands towards heaven, and cry with a loud voice, saying:
15 Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever.
16 Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ.
17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.
18 And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.
19 Now it came to pass that after Alma and his brethren and his sons had heard these prayers, they were astonished beyond all measure.
20 For behold, every man did go forth and offer up these same prayers.
21 Now the place was called by them Rameumptom, which, being interpreted, is the holy stand. (Alma 31:12–21)

Although the beliefs of the Zoramites concerning the nature of God and Christ were different than our own, we sometimes share some of the same pride concerning salvation. Like all fundamentalist sects, the Zoramites saw themselves as a “chosen and holy people”. Like us, the Zoramites truly believed that their doctrines, divine election, (and likely priesthood & ordinances)  made them the only true church, “elected by God to be saved”. They did not understand the following concepts taught by Nephi, and reiterated by Moroni, Jesus and other prophets—that until Zion is fully established & redeemed, the only true church is a spiritual church which transcends cultural and organizational lines.

The ‘Only Two Churches’ are ‘Spiritual Churches’ or Social Movements

I suggest the LDS concept of being the ‘only true church’ comes from a small handful of misunderstood scriptures. One example is Nephi’s vision of the two churches. In his vision given in 1 Nephi of the Book of Mormon, Nephi was taught that there are only two churches, the church of the Lamb of God (or the true church), and the church of the devil (the false church). This vision is often used to support the idea that there is only one true church on earth — however, since Nephi specifies that everyone on earth belongs to one of these two churches— it should be obvious that term “church” here is referring to a “spiritual” church or ideological allegiance and not just a temporal sect or ecclesiastical organization.

10 And [The angel of the Lord] said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth. (1 Ne 14:10)

It should be apparent from the context of this verse, that the term “church” in this scripture, can not be referring to the most popular modern definition of the word church (which is a specific religious denomination). Since the verse says “there are save two churches only”, defining “church” as a denomination would mean there could only be two religious denominations in existence, and everyone on earth would have to be a member of one or the other.

As implied by the context and noted by other authors, the word church anciently had a much broader meaning than it does now (Hebrew qahal or edah; Greek ekklesia). For instance, in Greek texts it referred more broadly to a general assembly, or association of people who bonded together and shared the same beliefs or loyalties. Scholars have noted that the modern concept of a church as a single organization or religious denomination, didn’t exist among Jews of the first and second temple periods. Instead the differing religious groups or sects of late Judaism were forced to work together to manage the Jewish theocratic state.

In regards to Nephi’s vision of two churches, LDS apostles and church leaders have often misunderstood the scriptural use of the word “church” by arguing an inconsistent definition-— suggesting on one hand that the “church of the lamb of God” refers to a literal ecclesiastical organization (the LDS church and its ancient equivalent), but yet that the “church of the devil” refers to a figurative or spiritual church that transcends organizational lines. Others have tried to define the Church of the Devil in Nephi’s vision as the Catholic or American Evangelical Churches. However any interpretation to make either “the church of the Lamb of God” OR “the church of the devil” into literal Christian organizations or sects, contradicts the principle taught in Moroni 7 where he teaches that “every thing which inviteth to do good… is of God” and “whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil… is of the devil”.

16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. (Moroni 7:16–17)

12 And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leadeth men to all good… (Ether 4:12)

The idea sometimes pushed by early church leaders that every other Christian denomination BUT the LDS church was the Church of the devil would be a complete contradiction to Moroni’s words. How could Catholicism or protestantism for instance be the “church of the devil” when the devil “persuadeth no man to do good[0], no not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him“! The idea is prideful and contradictory and has subsequently been abandoned by most modern LDS teachers. But at the same time, how could the LDS church be the “only true church” when according to Nephi and other scriptures THERE ARE ONLY TWO CHURCHES? According to Nephi’s vision, holding that the LDS denomination is the only true church requires all others to be part of the church of the devil, which as we will see in this article goes contrary to the words of Moroni, Christ’s and the Joseph’s Doctrine and Covenants. The answer to this apparent contradiction is that Both Moroni and Nephi understood the broad spiritual nature of Christ’s true church. [1]

Is it any wonder that we are scorned as being a cult by other churches when we repeatedly infer that they are part of the church of the devil? (Perhaps some LDS members don’t realize it, but our insistence that we are the ONLY true church infers by definition that unlike us, all others are false!).

To make either the Church of God OR the Church of the Devil into one particular organization is to twist the scriptures on the matter.

Early LDS Church leaders were not alone in their misunderstanding of the spiritual nature of Christ’s true church.  In the New Testament John and other apostles make this same mistake when they forbid a man who would not follow them, from casting out demons by Christ’s name and authority. Jesus rebuked them and teaches the same principle as Nephi and Moroni. No-one who does good in Christ’s name is of the devil—and the apostolic followers weren’t the only one’s allowed to act with Christ’s authority. Because all who do good in Christ’s name are part of Christ’s spiritual church.

38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone forcing demons out of a person by using the power and authority of your name. We tried to stop him because he was not one of us.”
39 Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! No one who works a miracle in my name can turn around and speak evil of me.
40 Whoever isn’t against us is for us. (Mark 9:38–40 GWT)

Nephi makes essentially the same statement using reverse logic later in his writings as he explains the nature of both the true church of Christ and the False church of the devil. (Christ also says almost the exact thing in Matt 12:30)

“Wherefore, he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish; for they are they who are the whore of all the earth; for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God.” (2 Nephi 10:16, see also Matt 12:30)

So Christ in one place says “whoever is not against us–is for us”, but in another place says (along with Nephi) “whoever is not for us–is against us” (see Matt 12:30). These statements are a complete contradictions if you try to define Christ’s church as a closed ecclesiastical organization. (see footnote 4) They can only be harmonized if you see them as a restatement of the same forced spiritual dichotomy used over and over in scripture which teaches that those who do good and are heading toward love are part of the spiritual church of God, and those who do evil and are fighting good are part of the church of the devil. And that every ecclesiastical church, sect, denomination, religion, person or nation is constantly aligning themselves with one or the other in everything they do–and will eventually have to chose allegiances in the heavenly or spiritual battle.

good-vs-evil

The Good vs. Evil Dichotomy in Scripture

The binary or dichotomy of good vs. evil is taught throughout the scriptures. And perhaps nowhere is the idea that these terms transcend organizational lines taught better than in the parable of the wheat and the tares. In the parable the Master commands his servants to plant wheat in a field— but when it grows he find tares MIXED WITHIN the wheat. He tells his servants to allow them to grow together, least pulling out the tares, “ye root up also the wheat with them”.  The meaning of this parable is explained not only in the New Testament but also in D&C 86 & 88, where we learn that that “the field was the world, and the apostles were the sowers of the seed” (D&C 86:2), the good seed are the children of Christ’s kingdom (true church), and the tares are the church of the devil or bad people and bad works that come from twisted doctrine (Matt 13:38, D&C 88:94).

37 …He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom [Christ’s true church]; but the tares are the children of the wicked one [ie. devil’s church, see D&C 88:94];
39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matt 13:37–43, see also D&C 86:1–3)

Verse 38 (clarified in D&C 88:94) makes it clear that in this parable the wheat are the kingdom or church of Christ, and the tares are the ‘kingdom or church of the devil’. And the whole point of the parable is that it is hard to tell the difference between the two because they look so similar and grow together within each organization! Both the wheat and the tares exist within every religion, culture and kingdom. There are tares in “Christ’s Kingdom”, and wheat among the Gentiles. But it is not until “the end of the world” (end or close of the age in most translations) that Christ and his angels (not mortal servants) will separate the two; gathering the wheat into heaven and burning the tares with the stubble to prepare a new crop cycle. [2].

On the Great Whore & Counterfeits in the Church.

counterfeits-in-the-church



I don’t like to label things as evil. I like the detached scientific view where everything on earth is working together in a balanced ecosystem according to natural laws– to “God’s” laws if you will. Each plant and animal follows the natural laws of instinct, and the fittest survive maintaining the balance. The lion is certainly the lamb’s enemy when the lion is hungry, but calling one of them good and the other evil is simply a matter of perspective. The fly would certainly be justified in teaching its children that the venus flytrap is a bad evil thing… but an intelligent human observer would likely not take sides.

In the ecosystem of people there are also Lions and Lambs, predator and prey, those acting and those being acted upon. It is a common thing for both these groups to use camouflage or deceptive and counterfeit tactics to fulfill their desires.

Call it what you will. I would like to draw two short parallels to counterfeits in sexuality and religion. Perhaps different than most articles on this topic, I would specifically like to use counterfeits in sexuality to make some points about counterfeits in religious orthodoxy and priesthood.

 

Sexual Counterfeits 

There is a natural instinct for people to be attracted to each other, to explore that attraction, to eventually fall in love, to build a family together, to perpetuate the species and find self-fulfillment in serving and protecting offspring. Although there are exceptions, this is a fairly ubiquitous human instinct and emotional desire.

In that quest for each individual to fulfill the natural law (god given instinct), they often come across “predators” who are following their desires and instinct to manipulate others for their own gain. In terms of sexuality, we often hear the term “whore” (correctly or wrongly) used in religious contexts to describe aspects of this phenomena.

In the context of this article I would redefine a “whore” as male or female sexual counterfeit who tricks another into thinking they are following the natural law which would lead to long term sexual fulfillment, when in reality they are not. Not so much a prostitute, but an intentional or unintentional counterfeit; a deceit.

I think in the religious context of Latter Day Saints this definition is sorely needed. I hear so many voices calling attractive women a whore or “walking porn” or calling anything which leads to sexual thoughts, porn. Each person holding their own imaginary line of moral “correctness”. An outfit which would be overly modest at a beach becomes “walking porn” if it is in the mall. Or an outfit that would be considered puritanical in Western society becoming “walking porn” if it were in the Muslim world. Michelangelo’s “David” or the “Venus de Milo” are art to one and porn to another. I see it as inherently wrong to negatively label as whorish or “evil porn”, human bodies which nature has created.  In my opinion the whore or porn stigma should not be attached to a person or object, but to a state of mind. Similarly scriptural “lust” should not be considered the emotion of sexual desire (a God-given desire), but the act of desiring a counterfeit which will never fulfill the natural impulse to fall in love, find sexual fulfillment or procreate and raise and protect offspring. Over-sexualized depictions in media are not “evil porn” because there is something inherently evil about the people, their bodies or even their behavior. But they often bring negative consequences when the voyeur is deceived into thinking they will achieve their desires of companionship and long term sexual fulfillment from people they will almost certainly never be able to court, love or have fulfilling relationships with. The deceptive illusion can cause people to habitually consume a substance which never actually fulfills their basic needs because it is an unobtainable illusion.

(I am not trying so much to speak to the morality of this issue, as much as I wish to use it to make my next point.)

 

Lust or “whorishness” can not be defined by dress standards. It is better defined as a male or female sexual counterfeit who tricks another into thinking they are following the natural desire for love, unity and family creation… when in reality they are not.

 

Religious Counterfeits

In certain LDS scripture the term “whore” is also used to describe “false” religion.

I think this term in light of the definition discussed above is incredibly important to LDS people, and in fact people of all faiths.

Just as a whore in a sexual context is one who deceives another into thinking they will help them fulfill their true sexual desires (but doesn’t), a whore in a religious context is one who deceives another into thinking they will achieve their spiritual desires but never fulfills. A religious “whore” is a spiritual counterfeit. An institution which feigns to be God’s bride, but isn’t.

Now this is where it gets tricky, because even more than with sexuality, everyone’s spiritual needs are different. Spirituality is deeply personal and is defined & fulfilled differently for everyone. Using the porn analogy, U.S. pornographers have institutionalized sex and sought to manipulate the world into thinking a certain body type and sexual style is superior. They have deceived many into thinking their sexual desires as dictated by the natural law can only be fulfilled with the sexual icons and behaviors they promote. Many fall for this deception and continually try to find sexual fulfillment by following their program. For some it works. For most it does not. The test is whether it brings long term joy and happiness to one’s life or leaves one feeling hollow, empty and unfulfilled.

In terms of religion this is something religious leaders must be careful not to do in a religious sense. Every person is unique and different, so when we institutionalize spirituality and suggest to people that our rigidly defined program is the one and only way for people to fulfill their deeply personal spiritual needs–we run the risk of becoming religious whores or part of the scriptural “whore of all the earth” who manipulates and captivates those who are just trying to be “good people”.

Every person is unique, but there are common spiritual yearnings within most people. Psychological and emotional needs which cause a yearning for and enjoyment of things like a sunset or beautiful vista. Holding a new baby. Walking through a forest. Connecting with people. The enjoyment of music. Having structure and bounds in one’s life. Connecting with books, ancient wisdom and the ideas of others. Religion is divinely given to mankind to fulfill these instinctual yearnings. But we must take care that in the institutionalization of religion, we do not allow priests or prophets, temples or templates to become porn or prostitutes who give the appearance of satisfying the spiritual yearnings of the people, but by their rigidity and dogmatism actually keep them from that fulfillment.

I dont say this to demonize religious activity or religious leaders any more than I would demonize a lion for doing what it does. But I do think this is an vital scriptural principle that all us Christians should be aware of.

Religious things can also become counterfeits, which

Religious institutionalism can also become counterfeit, and trick a people into thinking they are satiating their natural desire for spirituality… when in reality they are not.

 

The Example of Stephen

Just before Stephen was stoned by the orthodox Jews for denouncing their condition he made many profound statements. One of which was,

David found favor with God and asked for the privilege of building a permanent Temple for the God of Jacob… However, the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. As the prophet says
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Could you build me a temple as good as that?” (acts 7)

 

Stephen wasn’t just saying that the Spirit of God had left the Jewish temple, he was saying it had left their religion and that their temple and all their ordinances had become man-made counterfeits. They had become porn and part of the “whore of all the earth”. They had allowed their symbols and rituals to morph from teaching tools into deceptive representations of the True God and His true temple—which are composed of the earth, a loving human heart and other natural creations built “without human hands”.

You see religion, ordinances and temple worship are all symbols (or schoolmasters) meant to point us to God and true spirituality. True spirituality is a state of being which is deeply personal and can not be universally taught with words or attained by human ordinances or sophistry. It’s like one’s natural instinct to join with another person and procreate an infant life. It’s a natural instinct to join with creation and co-create something special— your life.

No one can tell you exactly how to do that best. Hopefully loving parents, priests, prophets and leaders can point the way and use symbols and ordinances to help you build connections with the greater unseen reality outside our narrow human perception. But for some these sacramental powers which connect us to God and goodness might not come through church. They might not come through the temples built with human hands. Instead, they might come through God’s temple of the natural world. They might come through solace. They might come through the true natural sacraments of a kiss, a hug or holding a new baby. They might come through loving relationships. I believe these truths are woven throughout Christian scripture and ritual.

The Christian Religion is made to free the captives, not to make them feel enslaved.

Christ’s gospel was to preach freedom to the captives, not captivity to the free. Both sexual and religious counterfeits cause captivity by tricking our God-given instincts.

 

Conclusion

I write this because I see far too much whoring in the church.  Not so much from those making mistakes in the areas of human sexuality… but from those who have made the church into an idol—those believing personal salvation lies in correlated institutionalism instead of through the common sense principles of goodness defined by “God” to everyone on earth individually though His Spirit. Those who mistake symbols, idealism and counterfeit-things for the greater reality these emblems are trying to convey. Those who think the Spirit of God dwells more fully in prophets and temples than in the stillness of each individual’s heart. I see far too many people leaving the church not for their own selfish reasons, but for the egocentric ideals and selfishness they feel coming from the increasingly institutionalized church.

Nephi suggests that the crowning attribute of the counterfeit “whorish” church is control over others. Those of the false church “bind”, “yoke” and “bring into captivity” the peaceable followers of God” (those just trying to be good people). In biblical times that control over others was maintained by literal stones thrown by the orthodoxy, but for us it may be metaphorical ones. It can be control maintained by self-righteous and manipulative comments or talks given by those in authority. It can be religious doctrines which threaten damnation for those who do not follow one denomination’s specific practices or ordinances. It can be lessons which involve manipulative “wickedness bashing” or demonization of groups or human tendencies or making standards into heavy burdens. It can be insensitivity to each person’s unique situation, or promotion of faith in a vengeful dictator Messiah or a totalitarian millennial kingdom. It can leaders and members who feel they need to bad-talk or use church discipline on other members who see things a little different from the mainstream. We need more Jesus in the Church. We need less phariseeism and less dogma. We need to give each other more freedom to personally work through what’s real and what’s counterfeit in this world. We need to allow ourselves and others the freedom to try to identify things from the church’s youth which may have been manipulative, misleading or more human than divine. We need to emphasize the divinity and prophetic abilities in all men—not just institutional leaders or religious founders. We need to realize that if in religious zeal we cast stones of dogmatic moral judgement it might be us that God labels the whore at the judgement bar. We need to identify the counterfeits in our lives and the counterfeits in our religion which pretend to give fulfillment but just aren’t doing the trick. We need to be understanding of the fact that for some people there is very little of God’s spirit in the symbolism of temples, scriptures or church ordinances–because Creation speaks to them in the truer thing these symbols typify. We need to hold preeminent the undefiled “pure religion” of selfless service mentioned by James. We need to find the Spirit in all of us and work together toward a communion thats real, genuine and fulfilling for all.

 

References: John 1:29/Rev 5:5, Acts 6:8–15, 7:1-60 (NLT), Jer. 23:23–24 | 1 Kings 8:27, Acts 17:24–28, John 4:24 | 1 Tim. 1:17 | 1 Tim. 6:16, D&C 88:6–13, 2 Ne 2:13–14,261 Ne 13:5, 1 Ne 14:10–11, James 1:27, Gal 3:24–25, Heb 7:5–28, Heb 10:1–16