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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/

Is The LDS Church the Only True Church? Understanding Religion and Truth.

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I hope in this article to try to share some things that have helped me figure out how my religion fits with all the other religions in the world (pluralism); thoughts which have helped to break down barriers that inhibited my abilities to accept, love and learn from aspects of humanity not sharing my faith. Ideas that made me afraid of learning and seeking for truth. In a way I am trying to stand between believers and unbelievers and help them see eye to eye. As an active member of the LDS Church, I hope that by reading and thinking about this article, other active members will also be able to break down barriers that might inhibiting their love of others, as well as gaining a different perspective which may better allow you to learn about conflicting ideas or worldviews and still keep your ‘testimony’ and fellowship. For those who have left the church and are unable to find the language to explain your differing views to orthodox Mormons, I hope this article might give you some ideas on how to approach the difficult topics you may have wrestled with. I hope it serves as an authentic apology for our pride and often unChrist-like behaviors or as helpful verbiage to help LDS acquaintances identify possibly selfish aspects of their worldview. I hope that if you are a truth seeker the ideas I perhaps poorly try to explain will help you as they’ve helped me.

 

Personal Introduction

As a preamble I’d like to share an experience that changed my perceptions on truth. On my LDS mission I met a christian man who was strangely inquisitive, kind, polite and had love for me in his eyes with everything he said. After talking to him for only a short time it was obvious by his questions and love that he knew Christ more than me, even though he wasn’t interested in converting to my religion. That stood as a stark contrast to most of the religious and unreligious people I talked to. As an ignorant 19 year old, I could still tell by the poor way most people treated me that they obviously cared more about themselves than me or my truth. Most weren’t very interested in knowing me or in listening to what I had to say. Many of them believed they already had the “truth”, and that what I had was false. In that missionary environment of trying to convince others of my truth, it didn’t take me too long to begin to search myself for hypocrisy. Was I more like that loving inquisitive man or like most others who did not want to talk to me, caring more about their truth than knowing about my truth? What really was truth? How could I know that what I had was better than what they had if I did not really understand what they had? From that time I resolved to be like that kind man and seek and accept truth regardless of its source or my preconceived biases. This was a surprisingly scary endeavor and required more bravery and honesty than one might suppose—because at that time I still saw religious truth in black and white terms, I thought it meant that if I found out that my church “wasn’t true” I would have to leave my mission and likely be ostracized to some degree when I came home to Utah. Really confronting that possibility was difficult, but I really wanted to show myself that I was willing to do what I was asking many others to do—what I think few cultural Mormons or mainstream religious “believers” would do—search out and give up our own pride for “truth”.

From that early point in my mission I began to hungrily eat up all the information on religion I could find. I quickly read ALL the LDS scriptures (including the entire Old Testament in less than a month). I read any anti-Mormon information I could get my hands on (which wasn’t hard to find in the evangelically populated areas of southern California). I read a great deal of classic Mormon scriptural commentary and apologetic material. As a young teen I had a very profound metaphysical experience when I first read the Book of Mormon (which I finished in less than a week). My “testimony” had always been based on that extraordinary classic “burning heart” experience which I had several times while I read it; however I met numerous people on my mission who had very similar spiritual experiences which formed the basis on their belief in their differing religions. That knowledge always unsettled me a bit. But I pressed on learning, determined to find truth regardless of its source or packaging.

Continuing my search for truth after my mission, over the last 15 years I’ve read or delved deeply into many of the world’s most popular religious works; such as the Koran, the Tao Te Ching, The Avesta, The Vedas, The Apocrypha, Baha’i Scripture, The Zohar, The Kolbrin, and a wealth of new age and channeled material such as Oahspe, Emanuel Swedenborg, J.S. Ward, The Urantia Bible, The Theosophical movement, The Gospel of the Holy Twelve, the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Seth Material and The Law of One. And perhaps most interestingly, I’ve read through hundreds and hundreds of Near Death Experiences. Through all of this I would have to say my “testimony” of the LDS Gospel has been seriously challenged. In fact I could honestly say it has repeatedly been shattered–but in a good way which forced me to rebuild it with increased understanding, faith and love (For my own LDS Faith and all others). I’ve learned over this period that in my youth, my circle of Mormon culture taught me a very limited and childish understanding of both testimony and truth. We hear these words repeated and passed around so much in Mormonism that I think few ever even stop to think what they mean. We say things like “I have a testimony that the Church is true”; but what does that even mean? Imagine someone saying “I have a testimony that my school is the true school or their country is the true country”. Wouldn’t your response be something like “what do you mean?”… “that really doesn’t make any sense, and seems a bit prideful.” Or if they said “I have a testimony that Thomas Jefferson was a true president”, wouldn’t you think it was kind of a confused thing to say? And yet through repetition we LDS members teach our children these couplets and get them to recite them in church even though they kind of distort the meaning of the word or concept of truth.

 

What is truth?

The idea of whether a church, an individual or an organization is “true” is a convoluted one. Truth as an absolute, is essentially a complete knowledge of things as they really ARE from all possible perspectives. Its not the purpose of this article to go into too much detail on philosophical definitions on truth, (called epistemology) but hopefully all readers can agree that the above secular definition agrees with the LDS definition of truth given in D&C 93:24, and that given this definition it is impossible for any mortal or organization to really be “true” in the full sense of the word because every human has only their own unique limited and biased perspective. When most religions try and claim to be the “true one”, they are actually saying “our views on eternity and our interpretation of ancient scripture is the only one that is right“. But at best, each religion in this world obviously teaches but shadows of the greater unseen spiritual realities of the heavens. I would ask Mormons, what do we mean by our truth claims anyway? Really ask yourself that and you will see how arrogant and misleading these types of statements actually are. Perhaps we should more rightly say that we believe that the church is true in the sense that it is legitimately authorized. And that “only God is true” or knows all truth or knows the real truth of a matter since we suppose he is the only being who can be conscious of all things from every possible perspective, fully understanding all the details and contradictions. To most non-Mormons and youth, calling oneself “the only true church” is actually paramount to making that church and its hierarchy into a God. As Mormons we believe that Joseph Smith had many amazing supernatural experiences and that through him, God restored a great amount of truth which had been lost to mainstream Christianity. We also believe He gave our Church a great restorative work to do and that He restored certain priesthoods and authorities to aid in that work. But misinterpreting D&C 1:30 to suggest that we are the “only true church” suggests many things to the world and our youth which actually go against our goal of proving to the world that the heavens are still open and that Higher Beings speak truth individually to mankind through his Spirit as well as collectively through 19th century farm boys and assorted modern prophets.

I believe the cultural idea and practice of claiming to be the “only true church” has created an environment where our members are actually more closed to God’s truths (which instead of coming through accepted cultural Mormon channels, might come through science or other religious leaders) than the average person in the world in general. In a religion founded on the principles of religious pluralism and continuing revelation this should not be. In the following pages I will attempt to show through LDS scripture the sources and error of this doctrine. And make a case for the idea that if one really wants to know truth, one needs to gain as many perspectives on a thing as possible. Which requires loving and empathizing with others enough to see things the way they do. And that as we go through this process of loving others and adding their perspective to our own we get closer to the ever illusive real all-truth which is only known by God (more on the definition of “god” later).

 

The Key to Truth: The Proverbs of the Elephant & Mountain

There is a sage Hindu proverb about six blind men and an elephant who each feel different parts of the same animal but each have completely different ideas about what they are experiencing because of their limited perspectives. One thinks it’s a rope, another a pillar, the other a fan, etc, but all are wrong because they can’t see the whole picture. The Gospel of the Holy Twelve shares a similar parable which Jesus supposedly gave to Thomas and his Twelve Apostles in order to illustrate this concept about truth. I think it’s one of the most profound Christian discourses on truth I have read….

2. And as they were speaking Jesus appeared in their midst and said, Truth, one and absolute, is in God alone, for no man, neither any body of men, knoweth that which God alone knoweth, who is the All in All. To men is Truth revealed, according to their capacity to understand and receive.
3. The One Truth hath many sides, and one seeth one side only, another seeth another, and some see more than others, according as it is given to them.
4. Behold this crystal: how the one light is manifest in twelve faces, yea four times twelve, and each face reflecteth one ray of light, and one regardeth one face, and another another, but it is the one crystal and the one light that shineth in all.
5. Behold again, When one climbeth a mountain and attaining one height, he saith, This is the top of the mountain, let us reach it, and when they have reached that height, lo, they see another beyond it until they come to that height from which no other height is to be seen, if so be they can attain it.
6. So it is with Truth. I am the Truth and the Way and the Life, and have given to you the Truth I have received from above. And that which is seen and received by one, is not seen and received by another. That which appeareth true to some, seemeth not true to others. They who are in the valley see not as they who are on the hill top.
7. But to each, it is the Truth as the one mind seeth it, and for that time, till a higher Truth shall be revealed unto the same: and to the soul which receiveth higher light, shall be given more light. Wherefore condemn not others, that ye be not condemned.
8. As ye keep the holy Law of Love, which I have given unto you, so shall the Truth be revealed more and more unto you, and the Spirit of Truth which cometh from above shall guide you, albeit through many wanderings, into all Truth, even as the fiery cloud guided the children of Israel through the wilderness.
9. Be faithful to the light ye have, till a higher light is given to you. Seek more light, and ye shall have abundantly; rest not, till ye find.
10. God giveth you all Truth, as a ladder with many steps, for the salvation and perfection of the soul, and the truth which seemeth today, ye will abandon for the higher truth of the morrow. Press ye unto Perfection.

Full truth is a view of the whole mountain from every angle, which can only be seen looking down from the highest peak (which is infinite and impossible for mortals to reach). It is to see all of eternal creation as it really is. Thus for man truth is a process as much as a destination, and the only way to head toward it is love. Because love is the unifying principle, and truth is a journey to perfect unity of perspective or at-one-ness with all sentient life in the universe. The same is true for perfection and righteousness, they are journeys heading toward unity and wholeness, which is accomplished through harmony and balance.

I believe we must traverse the lower foothills in order to progress toward higher perspectives. The lower foothills are full of moral and ideological absolutism because they are not yet aware other paths exist, nor are they really even aware of their own real goal. But the higher we climb, the more we see the higher peaks, and that we are only on a foothill, and that there are other foothills, and that there are other people on those foothills headed toward the same goal.

The pride of imperfect men and organizations are always trying to turn complex concepts into black and white, true or false dogmas. I think in Mormonism we too often get stuck into that narrow mindset instead of following a more pluralistic approach such as exemplified in this quote from Joseph Smith,

 “I never thought it was right to call up a man and try him because he erred in doctrine, it looks too much like Methodism and not like Latter day Saintism. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be tramelled.” (The Words of Joseph Smith, pp. 183-184)

Full Truth is a composite of all knowledge. Religion is a “schoolmaster” designed to help us gain the mind of god.

Another Story

When I was younger, I put Joseph Smith way up on a pedestal and interpreted scripture and history through what I felt was the true worldview which he restored. I saw only one narrow interpretation of his experience which was that the Most-High God of the infinite universe appeared to Joseph in person, because of his worthiness/forordination, and started His One and Only True Church on earth through him. That this Most High God picked Earth of all the gazillions of planets in the infinite universe to bare His ONLY True Son in the flesh, and this royal heir to the throne started His ONLY true church with the keys to eternal exaltation. That essentially every thought, action and aspect of human existence was ruled by the devil except for the things the Bible, Joseph or my Church leaders sanctioned. I was taught to attribute every personal spiritual experience or powerful emotional reaction to truth, as proof that this worldview was the true one.

But the older I get and the more I look outside myself, experiencing God, studying history, scripture and human experience — the more the rigid aspects of this definitive worldview break down. Why earth? Why Israel? Why Joseph? Why a church hierarchy? What about China? Who’s this Buddha guy? Why was Joseph so good and Warren Jeffs Bad? Why was Moses & Joshua true but Mohammed false? Why is the Bible/Book of Mormon the true word of God but the Bhagavad Gita, Rigveda or Oahspe not? Just like the Book of Mormon I have strong spiritual feelings when I read them. But I also have strong spiritual feelings when I hold my children or kiss my wife–does this mean they are the only truth? Just like Joseph I am a thinker and have continually asked God for wisdom; but much like Buddha or Mohammed my visions from God have been uniquely different than Joseph’s (although with many commonalities as well).

To further illustrate the point of pluralism, I recently talked to an LDS youth who had an experience seeing a “being of light” (as he described it). He told me about how in an altered state of consciousness induced by fasting, this being had appeared to him and told him to start his own church. I have talked to others who have seen visions and light beings as well. I have had my own wild metaphysical experiences. I have read the experiences of scores of others. Some resonated with me (ie. I felt the Spirit) and some did not. But the more I explore these the more I see that whether or not I “feel the Spirit” in someone elses experience has more to do with my own worldview and biases than anything else.

I think that this is a really important point and a major key to pluralistic understanding, empathy and love. The world of truth is not black and white. We are all running about this huge mountain trying to figure out what it is. Trying to decide what our own as well as others’ experiences and perspectives mean.When one runs into a differing perspective, the question is not whether it is true or false but what are you going to do with it? Will you use it to unify or divide? To help people climb up the mountain or to hold them down? My goal in this article is to unify, and to show LDS people ways which some of our prideful traditions or scriptural interpretations might be polarizing people into division and unbelief. How some of our reactions to other perspectives might force people further and further out of the Church. As an example, I offer this pretty typical reaction of an (LDS?) mother’s reacting to her son when he tells her he’s decided to be an atheist. (warning: profanity alert!)

Now there’s probably more to this particular family issue than shown in the video, but in general why is it that there is so often negative emotional reactions to others who have different religious viewpoints? Why the anger? I believe it usually boils down to power struggles and the concept that most people would rather be right than learn truth; and not understanding that truth is seeing how everyone’s perspective fits into the big picture. Going back to our mountain analogy, if you’ve put a lot of energy hiking up a mountain and someone comes and tells you about their different awesome mountain, it might make you fear that maybe you’ve been hiking the wrong mountain which might piss you off if it threatens your feelings of life-purpose and value. But if you understand that life & truth is a process of exploring every mountain (and finding how they’re connected) and not just a race to reach the top then you can instead listen to the differing perception and see its beauty, instead of being threatened because you were so sure your little hillock was the highest peak and that you had “arrived” at truth. Giving up our pride allows us to love everyone, and see how everyone’s religious or personal viewpoints fit into one big beautiful picture. It is important to realize that “Christ” came to His people, to be rejected of them in order to teach us this very lesson. The fact that Christ is and would be rejected by the mainstream of every religion that thinks they already have the truth is very important to our journey of growing in truth.

 

You have to lose your testimony to truly gain it

At some point in the maturing process everyone has to stop relying on the “testimony” of their parents and find their own light. There is often a similar process wherein we transcend the testimony of our church leaders and find God & truth for ourselves. I believe a major key in this process is remembering the parable of the mountain; we approach the ultimate truth by seeing EVERYONE’S perspective (including those in heavenly realms) and finding how it fits into the big picture. So there is no need to fear information because even “false” information is a part of the truth. The key is releasing our desire to be “right”, to define your truth as the only truth. By assuming your truth is the highest truth you assure that you would have been one who rejected Christ, because he came for the express purpose of testing whether we loved others enough to learn truth even if it conflicted with our deeply held beliefs. By assuming your truth is the highest truth you assure that your truth is falsity because it is fated to remain so partial. It’s like a man who never makes it past the mountain’s first foothill because he’s deluded himself into thinking he’s reached the top. This is taught beautifully in the Book of Mormon in these verses..

7 Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
8 Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another?

Once we learn everyone’s perspective then our religion becomes a matter of choice instead of a matter of force (force and manipulation ruin religion’s power to save anyway). When we realize no church is “true” or “perfect”, but that a church is a vehicle to aid us in our progression then we CHOOSE our religion as we choose our spouse based upon what gives us the best opportunities for growth and service. And this frees us to truly learn truth because we are no longer trapped in the constant fear that if we learn our church isn’t “true”, it might disrupt our comfy world-view and lifestyle. Thus you have to lose your testimony or desire to be “right” in order to gain a true testimony or free yourself to explore all truth. I’m not advocating leaving your church… in fact quite the opposite. I believe God puts us in churches based on certain pre-incarnate lessons we want and need–but that doesn’t mean our wants and needs won’t change. This is really the same concept taught by Christ when he says you have to lose you life in order to gain it. I believe he is teaching the principle of losing our ego, pride or desire to be the center of the world in order to be free from the fear which keeps us from going out and loving people and finding “life”. This is why Christ was excommunicated and found few believers from the orthodox pharisee sect. This is why “new” religions like Mormonism, that make people question their culturally ingrained truths and traditions, have so much of God’s Spirit. This is also why I say cultural “Mormons” need to lose their testimony to gain it. (More on priesthood and prophets later) Have you ever thought that “Gods” purpose in religion and politics is not so much to see if you can chose between mans perspectives of true or false, right or wrong but instead to gain His perspective which is to see through eyes of perfect unconditional love how all things fit into the big picture” (That all truth can be circumscribed into one whole). The point is to enlarge your perspective, and that is what will get you God’s spirit. That despite all people and religions being selfish, egocentric and kind of messed up they are all true and all beautiful when seen in the big picture. The truest religion is the one with the most all-encompassing perspective. A picture of a sunset may have a lot of darkness in it, but when you step back and see how it contrasts with all the hues of light you see that it is all amazingly beautiful and harmonious.

I believe LDS scripture, priesthood and doctrine were all initially revealed as a “schoolmaster” to enlarge humanity’s view of truth, not to restrict it.

Dealing with Troubling Aspects of Religion

Now one of my biggest motivators in writing this is my belief that as a Church, LDS members often set ourselves and others up to truly “lose” our/their testimonies (in the negative sense) by basing them on such polarized and egocentric concepts of truth (often perpetuated by our leaders). On the other hand, the worldview I’ve outlined lays the framework for dealing with troubling aspects of Mormon history or anti-material of any type. If you have a proper understanding of truth (that its not black & white), and love others more than you love yourself; and your testimony or love of the church is not founded on distorted “idyllic” principles— anti-material or the “messed up” aspects of the church will not affect you much. Because of your Christ-like love, you will neither idolize nor demonize the church. Just like with people, you’ll love them regardless of whether they are perfect or imperfect, truthful or self-deceived. If you read some literature that offers a different negative spin on some cherished Mormon belief or history and you find it challenging your testimony, then you can guess perhaps your testimony is built on a distorted “sandy” foundation. That perhaps it is based on an egocentric desire to be right or perfect instead of a Christ-centric desire to learn truth by loving and empathizing with others; built on selfishness instead of unselfishness. I believe a lot of negative traditions have come into the Church which are increasingly dividing cultural Mormons. We idolize our past and present prophets in very egocentric ways. We idolize our religion, pharisaically suggesting we are god’s elite “chosen” people and the only true church in a sea of falsity. Like most orthodox religions we are often full of ourselves in a way that causes division in ourselves, our families and our communities. Our pride and desire to be “right” and “righteous” divides us in a way that you must either “have a testimony that the church is true” or not. It’s either entirely led and directed by “God” or it’s not. You must be one of us, or a gentile apostate. Joseph Smith must have been a great hero and a prophet, or a polyandrous adulterer and false prophet. Brigham Young was either a prophet commanded by God to take 55 wives and lead the people in righteousness, or a ‘bad man’ who was racist, misogynistic, egotistical, philandering and power hungry. Church policies on issues such as polygamy, the priesthood ban on those of African decent, homosexuality, etc are either divine edicts straight from the Most High God Himself or the church isn’t true. It’s my strong opinion that we should seek to stop promoting this attitude in social material, firesides and occasional general conference talks. - Instead of spreading God’s love and good news, it comes across prideful, manipulative, contrary to our own scripture (D&C 121:41–42), and pushes a lot of good people out of the church. Instead we should realize that the whole spectrum of good and bad exists within each of us as well as every organization. We should try to focus on and promote the good without idolizing or demonizing (polarizing) the extremes of the spectrum.

In scripture, God often compares Himself to a groom and the church to his bride. This is because the relationship between a church and their god is the same as the relationship between a married couple. The symbolism runs deep in order to teach us important concepts (especially in the LDS temple ceremony). Until true unity is achieved, God is hidden behind a (bridal) veil. As we come to know God we learn of him/her through the veil. We enter a covenant relationship with him/her in hopes to come to intimately “know” him well enough to really “see” him. Idolatry (adultery) is a sign that we don’t really know god, and eternal life is to know Him and become symbolically one with him (John 17). And just like failed marriages most people leave the church because they had a inappropriate expectations concerning their relationship with the Church. (Often perpetuated from the top down as well as from the bottom up.) In a relationship it is common for people to become disillusioned and fall out of love. This is caused when our partner doesn’t measure up to our idyllic preconceived notions of what we think a spouse or lover should be. So in the courting process we essentially create a mold or idol of what our “perfect” partner should be, and then we often hold them to idea that they must conform with our ideal— and the problems come because that perfect image or ideal is usually a projection of our own selfish desires.

Similarly, the majority of people in the organized religions of this world actually inappropriately worship an idol or a personal perception of a god/church who is a projection of their own ego. And when something happens and they discover that the reality of God or the church doesn’t match their ideal/idol of God or the church, they are disillusioned, fall out of love and end the relationship. (Or on the flip side they self-righteously force some poor brother or sister out of the church because they don’t measure up to orthodox ideals.) Often this has to do with a belief that God or the church or church members should be “better” (according to our perceptions) than it/they are. It all boils down to relationships based on or laced with unwise or distorted expectations. Expectations which are created and fostered by distorted traditions and concepts such as “my church is the only true church”, or “my spouse is my one and only destined partner”. Or “Our prophet is God’s only mouthpiece and every significant decision they make straight from the Most High”. These concepts are flattering because they feed our egos, but they miss the important point that we are all equals and should enter relationships for opportunities to grow and serve, not just to feel comfortable, feel “right” or be served.

All earthly religions are imperfect and frankly a bit messed up, but we should all realize that we enter both marriage and religion for the purpose of progressing toward unity which is the gateway to truth and the true God. If our goal is to serve another, would we leave our spouse or children when we learn they are lazy? If our goal is to learn tolerance would we leave an organization when we find it is intolerant? If our goal is to learn forgiveness would we leave our spouse or church when they wrong us? If our goal is to gain another perspective and enlarge our understanding of truth would we leave an organization when we find that there are far different ways of looking at things than what the majority of the group believes? Or on the flip side, is it right to excommunicate, divorce or belittle those who have widely different views or behaviors? We enter relationships in this life to learn from, and enter into those relationships believing what we choose to believe about our lovers. I think in this life we far too often end relationships when they become painful, not realizing that the only reason they are painful is because of our preconceived egocentric perspectives about other’s behaviors. All people and organizations are composed of positive and negative attributes — good and bad — and the happiest people in this life I believe have learned to love the whole spectrum of attributes between these extremes. Similarly, the most beloved leaders and lasting organizations are careful to be honest about themselves and not make themselves out to be more than they are. They treat others as equals and don’t hide behind propaganda or a forged persona.

Every religion fluctuates on a spectrum of "Good and Bad" depending on how beneficial it is to humanity at the time.

Every religion fluctuates on a spectrum of “Good and Bad” depending on how beneficial it is to humanity at the time.

The only true church?

Many churches through history have taught or believed on some level that they are the only “true” church. It is an idea highly appealing to the ego; in the same way, many people in relationships want to believe they are their partners predestined one and only. I think emphasis of this truism is a distortion of Joseph Smith’s revelations. Leaders have focused on D&C 1:30, patting themselves on the back as it says “to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth”. But I believe they misplace the emphasis and misinterpret what and who this statement is referring to. We overlook that verses 17-18 refer to both Joseph Smith “and others”. We don’t understand that the “true and living church” is a symbolic title/catchphrase much like the “fullness of the Gospel”, not a literal declaration of elitism. We suppose that the ” living Church” is the organization Joseph started and that the “others” are Joseph’s friends and converts, but D&C 10:52–55 makes it pretty clear that God as Joseph Smith revealed Him defined HIS church as one that transcends organizational lines. D&C 10:67–69 says “This is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.” Moroni 7:16–19 combined with 1 Ne 14:10–17 add yet more clarification of how Joseph’s God considers all those do Good, seek his counsel, accept his mystics and believe in love or the archetypal Christ are His Church; and those that fight and hate on others are the devil’s church. Christ’s spiritual Church (The Kingdom of Heaven) was in “obscurity and darkness” because the organizational churches of the era were full of elitist pride and contention (doing more harm than good, JS-H 1:19). I think we look beyond the mark when we do the same and think this revelation gives us right to consider the LDS Church God’s only true and living Church or the only aspect of the “Kingdom of God on earth”. Given other scriptures I do not think the emphasis in the verse is on there being only one true organizational or denominational Church, but Like 1 Ne 14:10, it is saying the attributes in the previous verses can make the LDS movement & priesthood part of the restorational spiritual Church of Christ which is the “only true and living church.., with which I, the Lord, am well pleased“.

I believe High beings direct lower beings to create religion to point the way to eternal progression; which is love through unity.  Man alters true religion to fit his perceptions, cultural & religious biases and ego.  We should not shun or demonize organized religion, but we should see it and use it for what it is– a “schoolmaster” pointing to “Christ” or the archetype of selfless service and love.

We also seem to dismiss the fact that within a decade of this revelation, the Lord was no longer well pleased with the LDS organizational Church. D&C 84:54–57 which states that by 1832 the church was “under condemnation” for unbelief, and that by 1842 the Lord was threatening to withhold the “fulness of the priesthood”, in much the same manner which He did to the children of Israel in Moses’ day (D&C 124:28–48). It should be obvious that the world is God’s so all churches are managed by Him according to their agency. Each is free to choose what degree they are influenced by the agents of harmony and unity, or the agents of disharmony and separation. I believe these scriptures make it clear that God considers Churches “living” and “His” for as long as they follow and lead people to unity in Him (by accepting personal & group inspiration and helping to bring love and unity to humanity). But as soon as they become lifted up in pride, believing they are God’s chosen elite with God’s only authority; but cause more separation and disunity than good through their self-righteousness and narrow-minded creeds, then God effectually disowns them & invalidates their priesthood or authority (ie. withdrawing the mandate of Heaven, as with the Jews at Christ’s time). LDS scripture surely seems to suggest that if the LDS church and other restorational Churches continue leading people into love and unity, doing more good than harm—then they will eventually merge into one “Kingdom of God on earth”, which will occur as they unify with “the Kingdom of Heaven” or spiritual church and everyone but those who willing chose division and separation will be saved in a kingdom of glory when Christ “gathers ALL THINGS together in one”, and presents the kingdom of the brotherhood of man to the Father of all mankind (D&C 27:13, Eph 1:9–10, D&C 128:18, 1 Cor 15:24, 3 Ne 11). It is pride and arrogance that derails organizations from this unifying work and the “orthodox” of organized religions should continually ask themselves whether they would disbelieve or even excommunicate their prophet founders were they to come in disguise a hundred years down the road to their own religions. It is likely that Joseph Smith with is 30+ secret wives and unsanctioned revelations would be excommunicated from modern Mormonism in the same way he was rejected by his contemporary religions. It is less obvious but no less likely that Christ with his unorthodox teachings would also be excommunicated from most modern Christian religions as he was by the Judaic priesthood of his day. Nearly all true prophets are rejected by the mainstream, because most people are more concerned with being right than loving and learning truth.

Now before anyone starts squabbling over the issues of priesthood lets cover a few more points and then come back to it. What exactly are we saying when LDS people say we are the only true church or that the church is true? Are we saying we have all the truth? Our own scriptures make it clear that is not the case. Are we saying we are free from error? This is also obviously not the case either. Are we saying we are more true than other churches…? Are we really so petty that we need to be like kids at recess saying “my dad loves me more than your dad, and I understand god better than you, and your priesthood authority comes from the devil”. (see here, here and here for a better understanding on how religious and political priesthood or authority works in a broader sense. See this article for a better understanding of the difference between priesthood and prophets.) Hopefully we all see the silliness of such statements and aren’t insinuating them when we talk about the “truthfulness” of the church. This is illustrated well in a story from The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ. In it the young Jesus comments on a self-righteous statement made by one of the chief rabbis about Israel being a “chosen” people.

13 Now, in the evening [the young] Jesus and his mother sat alone, and Jesus said,
14 The rabbi seems to think that God is partial in his treatment of the sons of men; that Jews are favored and are blest above all other men.
15 I do not see how God can have his favorites and be just.
16 Are not Samaritans and Greeks and Romans just as much the children of the Holy One as are the Jews?
17 I think the Jews have built a wall about themselves, and they see nothing on the other side of it.
18 They do not know that flowers are blooming over there; that sowing times and reaping times belong to anybody but the Jews.
19 It surely would be well if we could break these barriers down so that the Jews might see that God has other children that are just as greatly blest.
(see also Romans 3:9–23, JS-H 1:19, for reiterations of the same point)

 

Priesthoods & Zoramiteism

When LDS people and apostles use their priesthood as “reasoning” for why they are God’s elect, they disobey the God they/we are trying to serve. In D&C 121:45–47 Joseph Smith is told

“no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood [!]”

It seems like common sense that we should not attempt to influence people, or legitimize our position by using arguments of priesthood. Instead any power or influence we seek to verbally or physically exercise over others should be gained and maintained solely by christ-like principles such as

“by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile

It’s a bit unwise to teach our children or investigators that they should “follow the prophet” just because he is in our eyes “The Lord’s anointed”. Or that they should be a Mormon because we are God’s chosen people and the only true Church; because the pride inherent in these statements often backfires, and sours or angers people. I think this is why Joseph Smith received this revelation in Liberty Jail after asking “why all the persecution” and “when will you avenge our wrongs?”  Within His consoling response the Lord basically reproves both the persecutors and the saints. The Zoramites of the Book of Mormon are a classic example of a people who went to the opposite extreme of this counsel. The Zoramites as a consequence invented a religious tradition which shares many common characteristics with some Mormon traditions and many other sectarian religions. In their “testimony meetings” they stood upon a pulpit and mechanically repeated the same prayer…

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…
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… 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… 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.

When LDS people and/or leaders assume we are the only ones with God’s prophets, truth or priesthood… well we all know what happens when we assume. This is likely one of the major reasons the Jewish priesthood leaders rejected Jesus as the Messiah, because not being a Levite he did not hold their priesthood, and thus they believed he had no right to the office of High Priest (Hebrews 7 addresses these issues). The same was likely true for many of the Old Testament prophets who were not from the tribe of Levi, and for this and other reasons were seen as not having right to speak in the name of the Lord by the orthodox mainstream. In the Book of Mormon Jesus made it clear that he was commanded NOT to tell his apostles in Jerusalem concerning the specifics of his “other sheep” unless they specifically asked about it. (3 Ne 15:14–18, 16:4-5). The record also suggest than non-Abrahamic branches such as the Jaredites and Israelite offshoots such as the Nephites were somehow given a priesthood even though according to Jewish tradition, they had no right to it because they were not Levites. Mormon’s cannot assume that Buddha or Mohammed or other non-biblical holy men were false prophets or “lesser” holy men on grounds that we think they did not hold priesthoods. We cannot assume that Hindu or Chinese religious founders were not given a priesthood, just as the Brother of Jared must have.

The truth is we just dont know. A thorough reading of scripture shows that as much as LDS people know about religious & political priesthood or governing authority (like the Jews & the Catholics) there is also an awful lot we don’t understand. So likewise we cannot assume that God did not restore additional priesthood to some other unknown eastern Lama or Yogi or other major modern religious players such as the Bab (a contemporary of Joseph Smith who founded the Baha’i Faith). Our own scripture teaches that the immortal John was “ministering” among the 10 tribes of Israel in the Latter-days (D&C 77:14–15). And that at a future point “their prophets” (unknown to Mormons) “shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves” and will come and make themselves known to the children of Ephraim (D&C 133:23–36). Both the Bible and D&C strongly suggest that in addition to restorational work occurring with the “Lost Tribes”, a “parallel restoration” will occur among the Jews of the Holy Land and that a strictly Jewish Priesthood will restore the Jewish Temple which will begin the Jewish restoration and gathering (D&C 133:12–13, D&C 45:24–31, D&C 98:17, JS-M 1:12–32, Revelation of John Ben Kathryn). Scriptures like D&C 107:64–67 and 132:7 do not preclude the idea of parallel restorationism, given that other LDS scripture clearly shows it occurred over and over in the past (Alma in the Book of Mormon being a good example). In fact D&C 49:8 seems to directly infer it. We also do not fully understand the manner in which aspects of priesthood “continue… in [one’s] seed throughout all their generations” regardless of whether it is “reconfirmed” for ceremonial purposes (D&C 84:17–18,48). This is why priesthood is often “confirmed” on holders and not “given”, because priesthood is a right passed hereditarily  and genetically (D&C 107:67–76, see my article The Scattering and Gathering of Israel for more detail on the genetic aspects of priesthood). I believe that pride perpetuated through well meaning LDS leadership has spread a Pharisaical spirit of elitism which not only causes many to leave the church, but also keeps many more from joining our faith (see this general conference address). I am personally grateful for caring friends and family who have kindly pointed out my arrogance and the ways in which I exercise “unrighteous dominion” or unwise influence; and I believe LDS people would do great service to our leaders by meekly advising them of the same. A greater spirit of meekness will aid in the quest of LDS people to aid God in his aim to “gather together in ONE all things” (D&C 27:13). To put down contention instead of causing it (3 Ne 11:28–30). Rearranging our worldview on this issue will also help LDS people to apply 2 Ne 29:11–14 to themselves to prevent rejection of ancient and modern prophets and revelation which don’t originate from our priesthood leaders. (See this article for a better understanding of the difference between priesthood and prophets).

All the major players in the Human Drama have had the choice whether to unite or divide humanity. I believe in this final age, God will favor and sustain only those who unite. All other groups will become extinct. See the article The Scattering and Gathering of Israel for details on gods evolutionary plan for populating, diversifying, civilizing and unifying the planet.

 

Saving Ordinances

Associated with this concept of priesthood pride, is the worldview that some LDS people hold which causes them to believe that only LDS people who have received LDS saving ordinances (performed personally or vicariously) occupy the highest echelons of heaven. Once again I believe it is misunderstanding of our own scripture which causes some to believe this.  At times LDS teachings seem similar to those of Medieval Christianity, which caused popular belief in the doctrine that an individual who was not baptised by a Catholic Priest with Catholic Priesthood goes to purgatory; giving rise to seemingly irrational practices (to reformational Christian standards) such as death-bed rites and infant baptism. I can remember being on my mission and wondering if the people who slammed the doors in my face were relegating themselves to a millennial abode in “Spirit Prison” after death.  The truth is that answers to these difficult questions surrounding post mortem salvation can come only from detailed analysis of all available life after death experiences in conjunction with the revelations of both LDS and non-LDS mystics (revelators).  Even a cursory investigation of the evidence points to the idea that the generally held LDS cultural interpretation of D&C 76 and other scripture concerning life after death has been distorted by medieval christian beliefs of converts and leaders since the time of Joseph Smith. In fact, the principles held in common by so many life after death experiences and religious works are actually vindicated in the revelations of Joseph Smith in teaching that the condition of souls after death has less to do with their religious membership or loyalties and more to do with unity with others as exercised in loving and harmonious communions.  Since explaining the divisions and stratifications of the afterworld are as complex as seeking to delineate the mental and sociological stratifications of our temporal earth this article will not seek to address in detail the specifics of how saving ordinances might relate to one’s afterlife. (For a very detailed article which corrects LDS misunderstandings concerning the afterlife by comparing it to the greater body of available revealed information see my article,  Eternal Progression, Degrees of Glory, and the Resurrection: A Comparative Cosmology.) But the important point to get across is that the principles governing the importance of ordinances are relevant only within the authoritative sphere they are placed. If the United States Government decides you have to hold up your right hand and swear an oath to become a United States citizen in order to enjoy the privileges of our national organization that is their authoritative (priesthood) right. It does not mean that the Mexican government needs to institute the same ordinance for its citizens. And some might argue that the United States of America is the “Highest” or most exalted nation on earth, but that is a matter of opinion.  Many convincing witnesses suggest this is also how heaven operates.  In heaven men inherit the state of mind they built for themselves and their associates on earth. The highest and most exalted realms and states of the afterlife belong to those who gained the most exalted states of mind, love and association here on earth. Ordinances are a means to that end—not an end of themselves. God helped Joseph Smith design LDS ordinances to do a great job of leading people to the Father and manifesting “the power of godliness”.   But if we ever use them pridefully as a reason why “we’re right and you’re wrong” and “Joseph Smith was God’s only prophet” and thus “you must become one of us to get to heaven or paradise”, we miss the mark and distort the good these practices seek to accomplish.

Telestial: The realm of sectarianism (some of Christ, Some of Moses, Some of Brigham. D&C 76:99–101).
Terrestrial: Unified with one of the Son(s) of light, but not the Father of all mankind yet. (D&C 76:77)
Celestial: Equal and One with the Father in ALL things. They are made Perfect or Whole redeemed from all division. (D&C 76:94–95)
See  Eternal Progression, Degrees of Glory, and the Resurrection: A Comparative Cosmology.

 

No mortal’s understanding of God is completely true

No One understands the true nature of God and no mortal’s understanding of God is exactly true. We know only our limited perspectives gained from the limited information we have on the limited ways He has revealed Himself to us. We don’t even really know each other and yet each religion thinks they “know” or have the correct understanding of God? God calls prophets and has them organize religions to teach people about the nature of eternal beings, universal consciousness and reality; and to teach them about themselves. But how do you teach someone who you are with mere words or even repeated short visits? Being married dozens of years, one still doesn’t really exactly “know” who their spouse or family members are. A person can’t explain themselves in words, pictures or even face-to-face conversation. Even living with someone 24/7 we can spend our whole lives really getting to know them; but because most people are so complex you can never properly depict them on canvas, or paper or stone. The problem with religions is that they are like a young infatuated lover who has just got a girlfriend and thinks he “knows” her and is in love with her. Well it doesn’t take long before the magic wears off and the person can see in retrospect that the person isn’t quite what they thought they were. Hopefully they realize that the person is better than they thought, but typically since “infatuation” is really love of self, they find that they were projecting their own hopes and “desires of self” onto their lover. There is good reason why God and Christ compare themselves to a husband and the Church or us to their young bride. God is trying to teach us something about our own psychology.

God wanted Israel to come up to the mount with Moses and personally worship the “true” God (D&C 84:23–27); but they couldn’t comprehend Him, so they had Aaron build them an idol that they could worship. (They needed something beautiful, concrete, visible and agreeing with their notions of god!) Since it was obvious that’s all Israel couldn’t understand that “God” (just like everyone) is to be experienced with your heart not seen with your eyes, as a punishment/reward God appointed Aaron and His posterity as priest to teach people the nature of God. The problem is that Aaron didn’t know God either, so God helped Israel form a religion that was actually predominately a projection of their own ego. That was all they were capable of receiving at that point in their progression. At this point the “God of Abraham” also allowed the management of Israel to be maintained by a group of lower ruling heavenly beings (the lower or Aaronic priesthood- D&C 84:18–21,23–27). The free system of only two great affirmative commandments was replaced with the negative ten commandments, which the priests turned into hundreds of laws and eventually thousands. The priests were appointed to stand between Israel and God, and in a way, give them the idol that they wanted just like Aaron did (Ps. 81:10–12, Acts 7:38–48). They got a rigid religious system based on Egypt’s, a hierarchal priesthood with an elite priestly class based on the Midianites and they got the understanding of God they were ready for (a watered down gospel) which also essentially became egocentric. Those who, like Moses, knew there was more than “what was being taught” and sought for true messengers to teach him a gospel that couldn’t be etched in stone, wasn’t constrained to a temple hewn by man (Acts 17:24–25), and can only be transmitted and understood in the fleshy tablets of the heart got truth as they asked for it. But it was only relatively few, like Elijah, who ever graduated from the lower Aaronic system into the Melchizedekian system of statutory freedom and personal experience with the invisible God (Colossians 1:15–20). The rest press on under the schoolmasters (Gal 3:19,24–29), who are men led by men, led by exalted man-gods.

The biases and egocentric ideals of each culture become projected onto their ideas of God

Who Is The Father?

Now I’m not saying the LDS doctrinal view of God is all wrong, in fact just the opposite. We often boast that our concept of a God with a body is more true than other religion’s concept of a God without a body. But I believe Joseph Smith introduced an amazingly pluralistic concept that actually reconciles monotheism and polytheism as well as the incorporeality and anthropomorphism of God; that earth’s God is just an exalted earth-man operating within a chain of higher eternal beings extending and existing infinitely. This concept is supported and explained in more detail in other restorationist movement texts such as Oahspe (see Chap 7 Book of Jehovah). But few LDS members really think about the implications of this when it comes to understanding God or arguing with other religion’s concepts of God. Joseph Smiths revelations (Facsimile 2D&C 132:17–20) and King Follet discourse suggests that “Christ” who is taking on rule of this planet is following in the footsteps of a “Father” who followed the same pattern and ruled before him. And that this “Father” also had a Father and so on, and so on. But the questions remain, “exactly which God or Gods relate to us”, “who was the first Father” and who is the “Most High God” or the “Eternal God of all other gods” as D&C 121:28–32 puts it? Here we run into the philosophical paradox of first cause and the realization that because of the principle of Divine Investiture of Authority, all “gods” take upon themselves the authority of the Most High God, but it is unknown whether anyone has physically “met” Him. Understanding the micro/macrocosm nature of the universe (see this article) or the “pattern in all things” spoken of in D&C 52:14, and following the succession of God taught by Joseph Smith to its logical conclusion, it seems evident that the “Most High God” must in a way be eternally distant and yet also omnipresent spirit, finitely embodied in all of us (especially his mediator gods), but in fulness comprising ALL THAT IS.  These biblical verses make this clear; Jer. 23:23–24 | 1 Kings 8:27, Acts 17:24–28, John 4:24 | 1 Tim. 1:17 | 1 Tim. 6:16. LDS Scriptures such as D&C 88:6–13 also support this in saying “He is in all things and through all things” including being “in the sun [moon, & stars], and the light of the sun [moon & stars], and the power thereof by which [they were] made”. Thus both Catholic, Christian and eastern views of God are all true in Josephs cosmogony, but use different words to label the different echelons of beings (those who Hindus or who Joseph Smith label as gods in D&C 132, would be labeled archangels by most Christians). So in light of this worldview the question we should be asking when comparing the gods mentioned in scripture is which “Father” was seen in the “visions” of Enoch, Moses or Joseph Smith and relates to us as earthlings, and what language does he speak? (ie. what kind of distortion of the message is occurring because of difficulties of framing Gods image & words into the language, culture and biases of the prophet).  In these transcendental experiences is it the God/Father/Ruler of the House of Israel (ie. Abraham)? Is it the Father of just this Earth (ie. Adam)? Is it the God of Kolob or our small section of the Galaxy? Or of our entire Milky Way galaxy? (see the cosmology of Oahspe and the law of one for more info on this.) Of our supercluster? Our supercluster complex… ad infinitum?

Contemplating infinity, omniscience and omnipresence, the answer I think should be obvious. We just don’t know; but given the differences in global prophetic experiences it seems almost certain that each prophet uses his own language, culture and worldview to interpret what they envision. It is completely possible that in some cases, these appearances are subjective visions, where “God” is working from within the minds of the prophets themselves. And because of this it really shouldn’t matter so much exactly who was envisioned by Joseph Smith, Moses or ourselves anyway because we all relate to the level of beings in heaven of which we are best able to comprehend. And at the highest levels we are all connected and are all part of the ONE God (the idea of the trinity/godhead is trying to esoterically teach us this concept, the three are ONE). Man’s ideas of God are just like the mountain allegory. Each religion’s or person’s view of God is a partial distorted idea based on their limited perspective and are like the individual foothills in Jesus’ allegory on truth.  An understanding of the Most High God includes an understanding of all limited perspectives fit into one great whole. This is part of what I believe was Christ’s first teaching to the Nephites in 3 Ne 11:27–32. He essentially says to his multi-denominational audience, “stop bickering over religious doctrine and gods”. “Don’t you see that my goal is to lead you to unification in the Father, and my doctrine is that you stop fighting and get along?!” Let’s switch back to the illustration of the mountain again and compare it with our understanding of and relationship to God. It is so silly for us all to be sitting on our own peaks in the foothills of eternity arguing over whose hill is the top of the mountain. None of them are. The top of the mountain is eternal, and so even though we are all on different lower extremities of the same mountain none of us fully understands the whole picture because the mountain is never ending. Christ’s teachings of unconditional love and acceptance of all people and all creation are of course the beginning to truly understanding the Most High God. That type of love is the Christ-principle that no man can come to the Father without.  Christ tried to teach everyone the keys to love and unity in the principle that like numberless biological cells in a single body, we are all connected and thus part of God with statements like John 15:1–12 and John 17:11,21

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us

Christ also tries to teach that by overcoming his selfish ego, and being fully conscious of his unity with ALL THAT IS, he is indeed a microcosmic division (son) of God the Father.

8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?
10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me (John 14:8–11).

Yet at the same time he tries to teach that the father is much bigger than us all with statements like “If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28).  Paul makes the same distinction when he says,

“who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.” (NIV 1 Tim. 6:16, see all translations)

Hidden in these types of scriptures are deeply esoteric teachings & understandings concerning the relationship between human unity, group consciousness and the faces/images of God as revealed by His messengers (those who are able to reach into the realm of spirit and put a face to the deepest spiritual needs, faith and yearnings of mankind & creation).

cooexist

The purpose and end game of all divine religious teaching is unity and peaceful coexistence. Differences of opinion on the path to best get there are the cause of religious strife and conflict.

All Earthly Churches are both true and false.

So back to the question, is the church true? As mentioned before, thats a lot like asking whether a person or your nation or government is true; especially since today’s religions are essentially the nations of tomorrow (and of the next life). The children of Israel were given a system of worship that they could understand and relate to. It was what they needed and was “true” for them, because it was created by them in conjunction with a group of both positive and negative higher beings through a process watched over by yet higher beings and so on eternally. It was true, living and often utterly messed up just like them (full of “god ordained” genocide, misogyny, stoning, animal slaughter, idolatry/temple worship, imperialism, xenophobia, bigotry, etc). And so it is with every major culture-changing church in every dispensation. They are all created in a very round-about way by the Most High God through many, many mediators. They almost all claim the mandate of heaven, and perhaps their very success and existence shows they’re getting it.  But we can’t imagine that means there is one universal church run the same way for all forms of life in the infinite number (trillions upon trillions) of inhabited planets in the infinite universe. As explained in more detail in my Eternal Progression, Degrees of Glory, and the Resurrection article. (And not taking into account how progenitors work within this system to rule progeny from beyond the grave). Every religion is led through inspiration by both “good & bad” influences. Religious and political leaders such as those who directed the canonization of the Bible always want to paint the actions of their religious icons as coming ONLY from the Most High God of Goodness, when in fact all mortals (from Moses to Nephi to Joseph Smith) often mistake the direction of their own egos as well as negative higher beings for God. Understanding how both the positive and negative paths and groups work together as ONE harmonic Father is another important aspect of understanding the truth behind the paradoxes of religion such as the monotheistic and polytheistic traditions taught in and symbolized by the Christian Godhead/Trinity; or the God of mercy & love vs the God of justice & violence of the Bible.

Many iconic Israeli, Christian, and LDS church leaders were good intentioned, but hypocritical, well meaning but a bit self righteous, bigoted and sexually indulgent (cough- polygamy) or even flat out murderous to our standards. David & most biblical kings were imperialists with slaves and scores of concubines which the bible says were sanctioned by God (2 Sam 3-5). Judah slept with his daughter-in-law, thinking she was a prostitute (Gen 38) and yet still was chosen as the priesthood line through whom Christ would be born. Moses chose his elite by seeing who would follow his command to kill their “wicked” family members (Exo 32:25–29). Joshua & Aaron just like Muhammad carried out genocidal campaigns which seem criminal to Christian war standards (Joshua 6-11). Many of the nation’s beloved founding fathers also had nontraditional moralities. But it would seem apparent they were led by higher powers to help create idealistic organizations with amazing roles to play in human history. It could be truthfully said that both the LDS Church and United States of America are organizations called of god and led by god to the extent they desire. They both have amazing parts to play in the drama of earth’s History. I truly believe the Mormon Church will eventually become the predominate religion in the Western Hemisphere and follow a history very similar to both Israel and the Catholic Church in Eurasia (see my article on similarities here). They all have parts of their history, people and leadership which are domineering and hypocritical but if we demonize them it only shows our own littleness. If we give them too much control over us the resulting fanaticism will not end well either. Yet if we divorce them it is equally self-destructive. After all, we helped create them in the same way we helped create the earth and bring about its fall. It is far better to focus on all the good and amazing things they have and seek to maintain a loving harmony and balance of power in all things.

I think the pressing problems in the world, the church and our families will be reconciled as we come to realize that we all have to be unified in order to ascend to the higher heavens. LDS Scripture and other texts such as Oashpe make it clear that we can not be exalted in our fallen and divided state. Only large cultural units which have learned to reconcile or atone all their differences ascend (as a group in a circle of harmony). No one gets a free ride, we must ALL loose our pride and reconcile our differences to achieve the unity requisite of the celestial glory (D&C 105:4). A revisit of the movie Megamind might help one to understand how it is most often the self-righteousness and controlling natures of the “righteous” who create the wicked (and vice-versa). Every viable division must be atoned before Christ can present the kingdom spotless before the father. All things must be gathered together in One (Eph 1:10, D&C 27:13). It seems that if we all just realized that we must address each-other’s concerns and reconcile all differences in order to progress along the positive path of selflessness, we would more quickly resolve the issues of organized religion in the same way a couple or family learns to get along when they realize they must in order to be happy.

LDS Theology, like many religious traditions, teach about two fundamental “plans” for Eternal Progression. Historically, organizations always seem to follow a “mixed path” where they seek to use force, manipulation or even violence to achieve peace, unity and harmony.

My Testimony

My testimony of the church is the same as my testimony of my wife. That I have chosen her. That I believe a higher aspect of my consciousness led me to her and urges me to stay bound to her. That we have children with each other that are teaching us unselfishness. That she makes me a better person, and that by better knowing and loving her, I come to better know and love myself. And that by continuing in this course, despite all the imperfections, we will grow and develop faster and better than we would apart.

I also have a testimony that the LDS Church and Christianity in general has a divine origin and purpose foreshadowed by the story of Joseph in the Bible. Its a story of favoritism, jealousy, self-righteousness, separation, enslavement, humility and finally redemption and atonement.

I believe the LDS Church is true in the same sense that I believe all churches are true if they expand people’s views of reality and lead people to the unity of Christ (and other cultural translations of the same living symbol; al-Mahdi/Maitreya/Krishna) & our Father in Heaven. I believe the church is divine and that the deeply conflicting doctrines of the Church create an environment of rapid progression for the sincere seeker who works diligently to reconcile them (ie. loving acceptance vs. discrimination, monotheism vs. polytheism, religious legalism vs. grace, justice vs. mercy, freedom vs. restraint & constraint, God of Old Testament vs. God of the New). I also believe that sadly because of unbelief, there are currently more gifts of the spirit being manifested outside the LDS church than in it (such as the gift of prophesy and revelation; and here’s just a few example’s of their works). I believe that both Moses and Joseph Smith “would that all the Lord’s people were prophets” (Num 11:29) and that “every man might speak in the name of God the Lord” (D&C 1:20), but as in many mainstream religions, I believe that a good deal of the Church’s best adepts, healers, theologians, clairvoyants, clairaudients, or “seers” are excommunicated or driven out. I believe the lower and higher priesthood’s of the Church symbolize a lower and higher aspect of the Church as it exists in heaven; One being a strict and legalistic schoolmaster which leads us to a higher more free & true system. (More true because its view is more all encompassing.) Despite any negativity, I love the church and always want to try and focus on all the good in it. I have faith it will grow up and learn greater levels of humility & humanity. I believe it does far more good than bad. I believe it is young and its future is very bright.

Lastly, I believe in the principle taught in masonic and LDS temple ceremonies, as well as many other religious and popular works such as The Wizard of Oz or The Matrix; that the religions and politics of this world are part of a grand plan of sorts that is purposely concealed behind a curtain or mystery; almost like a layer of clouds hiding the top half of a mountain. I’ve worked hard to get glimpses behind that veil, and what I saw was really beautiful and seemed to reconcile all the divisions and conflict in the world and in my heart, making all the diversity of opinion in this life make sense.

See also: Needed reformation in the LDS Church

 

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Christ as the Only Path to the Father

Does one have to be Christian to be saved?  Did Christ teach that you had to believe in him in order to go to heaven? Could a Buddhist get to heaven through Buddha?

Scriptures such as John 14:6 which says “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” is one example of a verse seeming to suggest that only Christians can go to heaven or that all must go through Jesus to get there. Terms such as “only begotten son” (or monogenēs: John 1:14; 1:18; 3:18; Heb 11:17; 1 Jn 4:9), similarly suggest to many that salvation is only through Jesus.  But is there a deeper symbolic truth hidden in these scriptural expressions?

I believe that Christ came from a realm of the highest, completely unified beings to be a living Symbol or archetype. This is why he is called the Word of God. Words are symbols which are meant to communicate thoughts, and Christ (which is simply the Latin tranliteration for the hebrew Mashiach meaning “anointed one”) was a living symbol sent to communicate the mind of God to man. What he symbolized was a certain character or manner of thought and being which is epitomized by love, self-sacrifice, wisdom and power. Christ, like the offices of Buddha or Lama was and is a title which means Messiah or Anointed One. So when the prophet say that there is no other way to salvation but through Christ, and all the other similar phrases they are saying that redemption from the Fall or Division of Man comes only through the same path he and all the Great Anointed ones prophets came to teach us.

 

 

The “Only Begotten” Son
AUTHOR: Clifton H. Payne, Jr.
As a small boy growing up in Alabama I had a deep love of God and a real hunger to know him better. By the age of eight I had read the entire Bible. But, like most people, I often struggled to understand what the Scriptures were saying. Many verses didn’t seem to make sense.

One of the first verses to puzzle me was the verse that is perhaps the best-known verse in the New Testament, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten [monogenes] Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (NKJV). Why does the text say, “only begotten Son” and not “one and only son” as the NIV renders it? “Only begotten son” is not a term that modern English-speakers normally use.
To begin with, can we say that Jesus is the “one and only son of God”? While many people might at first say, “Yes,” the answer is actually, “Yes and No.” In the Gospel of Luke 3:23–38 the genealogy of Jesus is listed beginning with Joseph and going backward to Adam, “the son of God.” In Biblical terms, we are all children (sons) of God. For example, in John 8:41 the Jewish audience that Jesus was addressing said to him, “We have one Father-God” (NKJV). Also, in Isaiah 43:3–7 God called his people his sons and daughters. So, if we are all sons of God, how can Jesus be the “one and only son,” as the NIV renders the text? And if the text should be properly rendered “only begotten son,” what does this awkward expression mean?
The answer is found in Scripture and an ancient Midrash (Jewish commentary on Scripture). To understand what “only begotten son” means we must look at several ways it is used in Scripture and at the way the term “begot” is used in the Midrash.

We also find the term “only begotten son” in Hebrews 11:17: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son” (NKJV). Now, it is clear that Abraham had more than one son. His firstborn son was Ishmael, but the Book of Hebrews calls Isaac his “only begotten” son. Obviously there is a meaning to this term that is different from simply “only son.” However, in Genesis 22:1–2 at the beginning of the story of the Akedah (the binding of Isaac), God told Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering” (NKJV). In this text God referred to Isaac as Abraham’s “only”[yahid] son. Is it possible that God was confused, or that he had forgotten about Ishmael?

One clue is in the way that the term “only”(yahid) is used in the Hebrew Scriptures. Normally yahid meant “only” and referred to an only child (Gen. 22:2, 12, 16; Judg. 11:34; Jer. 6:26; etc.). It also sometimes meant “lonely” or “solitary” (Ps. 25:16; 68:6), or “precious” (Ps. 22:20; 35:17). It is perhaps in this last sense that the Septuagint (the second-century B.C. Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) rendered yahid as agapetos (beloved), instead of the usual monogenes (only begotten) as in Genesis 22:2, 12, 16. The Septuagint’s rendering is significant because this is the word used by God for Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration according to Matthew 17:5: “This is my beloved [agapetos] Son” (NKJV). In these examples we see that “only [one]” is the one who is unique and especially loved.

Another meaning of “only son” [yahid] is found in the story of Abraham and his relationship with Ishmael. Genesis 21:9 states that Sarah saw Ishmael “mocking” [mezahek]. Abraham subsequently expelled Ishmael from his home providing him with nothing but bread and water. Abraham was a rich man. Why would he have sent his firstborn son out of his home with nothing but bread and water? In Exodus Rabbah 1 (on Gen. 21:9), we find the Midrash’s answer:
What did Ishmael do? When he was fifteen years old, he commenced to bring idols from the street, toyed with them and worshipped them as he had seen others do. So “when Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne unto Abraham, making sport” [mocking] (the word mezahek being always used of idolatry as in “And they rose up to make merry” [Ex. 32:6] [i.e., to worship the Golden Calf]….) (trans. Soncino)

The commentary goes on to explain that Abraham expelled Ishmael because Ishmael had fallen into idolatry, and to prevent him from leading Isaac astray, Abraham sent him away. He treated Ishmael as though he had died. Even to this day, in some Orthodox Jewish families if a child becomes an apostate the family holds the son or daughter’s funeral. This is similar to the story of “the prodigal son.” The son had become apostate and upon his return the father said, “For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Lk. 15:11-32). In this sense Isaac was Abraham’s only son since Ishmael was the same as dead, even as God warned Adam and Eve that if they sinned they would die (Gen. 2:17).
Isaac was indeed the “beloved” son of Abraham and Sarah’s old age, and due to Ishmael’s idolatry, their “only” son. Thus, we can understand “only” (yahid) as both unique and especially beloved.

This brings us to the terms “begot” and “begotten.” In Genesis 25:19 it is written: “This is the genealogy of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Abraham begot [holid] Isaac.” Genesis 25:12 reads: “Now this is the genealogy of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maidservant, bore [yaldah] to Abraham.” The Bible records that Abraham “begot” Isaac, but it never says that Abraham “begot” Ishmael. The Bible states that Ishmael was the son of Abraham, but the text never uses “begot” in connection with Abraham and Ishmael. The verb yalad is used in connection with Hagar, but not with Abraham. The commentary to Genesis 25:19 in Exodus Rabbah 1 explains the text in this way: “And it is written: ‘And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham begot Isaac,’ to teach you that he was like his father in all things: in beauty, wisdom, riches, and good deeds” (trans. Soncino).

Accordingly, “begot” means “to have the full nature of and to be exactly like.” This understanding comes from the biblical text itself. In Genesis 5:3 it is written: “And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” Similar are Jesus’ sayings in John 14:9 (“He who has seen me has seen the Father”) and John 8:39–47 (“They answered and said to him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham… You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do'”). In this sense, “begot” and “begotten” convey, “to be the complete image and representation of the father.”

Both Isaac and Jesus can be said to be unique and especially beloved of their father: each was the exact likeness and image of his father, and the full nature of his father was in each. Hence, each was called “the only begotten son” of his father.

In the above sense we could say that Jesus is the only son of God, who is the exact image of God and in whom the full nature of God dwells, as it is written: “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9, NKJV). Although, in one sense, we all are sons of God, only Jesus was God’s unique and especially beloved son who bore the exact image and likeness of God the Father.
Lastly, there is another understanding of the terms “begot” and “begotten.” The terms are used metaphorically where no literal birth is intended, for example in Job 15:34–35: “For the company of hypocrites will be barren, and fire will consume the tents of bribery. They conceive trouble and bring forth [yalad] futility; their womb prepares deceit” (NKJV). Here the meaning of “begot” is “to bring forth.” Again in Psalm 7:14: “Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity; yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood” (NKJV). It is in the sense of “to bring forth” that Psalm 2:7 employs yalad: “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, You are My Son, today I have begotten You” (NKJV), or, as The Complete Biblical Library translates the word, “I have brought you forth.” This is the sense of Hebrews 5:4–5 where Psalm 2:7 is quoted referring to Jesus as called and appointed by God.

In a positive image, the messianic prophesy of Psalm 2:7 speaks of God bringing forth the Messiah. In a kingly sense, the son who was to take over the kingship would be brought forth and presented to the people as a co-regent. In this way, full authority was given, preventing violent struggles for the throne. (The Complete Biblical Library, Hebrew-English Dictionary, p. 564)
Biblical words can have extremely deep meanings. How true it is of the words of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” It appears from the above sources that the writer of John understood “only begotten” in a far deeper sense than simply “only son.” For John, Jesus was proclaimed by God to be the one and only unique and dearly beloved son who alone was the express and exact image of God the Father, in whom dwelt the fullness of God’s nature, and who was the one true and faithful son that was proclaimed by God to be king and co-regent at his baptism (Mt. 3:17).
________________________________
This article, written by Clifton H. Payne, Jr., was first published online with Jerusalem Perspective in 2004. The author has given permission to reprint his original work for the Haverim Study Community where he has been a longtime participant. Clif was a personal friend of Dwight A. Pryor whom he calls rabbi and mentor.

Needed Reformation in the LDS Church- A Rant

Introduction

With both religion and politics in order to create a group that can really make a difference in the world (or as I presume be exalted in the next life), it is often more important to be unified than to be “right” or perfect according to some subjective standard.  Unity should be the ultimate goal, and wisdom, love and power exercised within the framework of free-agency are foundations upon which we build toward that goal. According to numerous scriptural sources, this is actually what allows people after death to raise to higher more blissful levels of heaven. I think perhaps the religious term “eternal life” is even referring to a similar idea that the primary goal of all religious organizations (like those on earth) is to create groups which progress eternally without being destroyed by division, apostasy and revolution. So in that light, I don’t say the following things to be divisive, but instead I say them as things which I believe may eventually need to be addressed in the LDS church if we are to minimize the inevitable division these doctrines and traditions cause, and avoid suffering the same fate as Israel, the primitive church and every earthly religion in recorded history. Reading through LDS blogs and Forums, I see way too much division; way too many people leaving the Church with very ill feelings usually because of misapplication of the following principles by active LDS members and leaders.

 

reformation

The Catholic Church eventually implemented nearly all of Luther’s 95 Theses reforms, because it eventually became self evident to all that he was just one of many, and such reforms were needed to keep the Church sustainable. Had they done it earlier, it might have avoided a lot of division and even war.

 

What the Church Does Right

Before I delineate many of the things I think the Church does to cause unneeded division, I want keep things positive by hitting on some of the things the Church does really well. My experience is that the LDS Church is full of people who are trying to be selfless. I think that on a local level the Church is often irreproachable (aside from inevitable interpersonal relationship difficulties). Every person and ward are different, but for the most part most people in the Church are doing their best to fulfill callings that serve others with little to no reward. This increases the level of love and selflessness of people in general which is the key to unity. The churches uniformity and government structure are highly organized and effective. The organizational structure and oversight programs match time-tested political and organizational structures.  The Church promotes many, many doctrines which are supported by many non-LDS witnesses of the restorationism movement, as being true and beneficial to humanity.  The active growth of the Church encourages people to turn to God and seek personal revelation as they question their culturally ingrained biases and traditions which have become “dead” or void of power to help people progress psychologically and spiritually. Local ward units work hard to help the youth avoid some of the pain and selfishness which are often a product of substance abuse and flagrant promiscuity or immorality (although the way this is done often causes division and selfishness too).  In general I think the church is doing a lot of good in the world, but as I will explain I think there are a lot of things that we could obviously do better.

 

The Purpose of our Religion

In order to really make judgements concerning best practices in religion one needs to know the purpose and goals of religion. Knowing the purpose of our religion is like knowing the purpose of our individual lives. Its a difficult and deeply personal type of knowledge, but once you really can answer this question, your life has purpose and meaning. In my personal quest for answers to this question I have been given answers, parts of which resonate with those given in Mormon theology (and are actually quite similar in all major religions).  That we are born of the creator for many of the same reasons that parents have children. To know oneself. To have duality which makes existence meaningful. That in order to have sentient existence one must create divisions and polarities, which give possibility to drama.  That meaningful existence, and drama are the result of division, separation, conflict and pain which make possible the opposing states of unity, oneness, resolution and pleasure. In Mormonism and other religions we give names and attach stories to individuals who embody these states of being. Satan or the devil is the great divider. The cause of our fall from primordial unity. The primal cause and perpetuator of conflict. The source of all hate & pain. In Christianity, Christ is the living symbol of love and unity. The resolver of conflict, the atonement of fall or separation; the source of joy and happiness.

So my question to Mormonism is who do you want to follow?  All religious leaders have been made free by the Creator to chose whether their religion is a Christ to the world or a Satan; a unifier or a divider. Throughout history, no dispensation or religion has been able to avoid being a little bit of both, but the real question is what do you want to be? What are you going to chose your purpose to be? No one wants to be the villain, we all want to be the hero… but the villain almost always sees himself as a hero. The question is, do you want to unify or divide?  Separate or atone?  Cause people to fall from happiness or redeem them from misery?  The way is open for you to choose… and I think all who feign to follow Christ have already chosen.  Now we just need to check ourselves to see how we are doing.  Look to the apostates, the ex-Mormons, the cast out and divided and ask ourselves did we hurt them or force them out?  And if so… how?

 

Agency as the Preeminent Principle 

The Church teaches the principle that a person’s free-agency is preeminent; that Lucifer’s plan is one of force and Christ’s plan is one of freedom.  But as I talk with and read the message boards of ex-Mormons, the primal underlying reason I find that has caused people to leave is the feeling that they were being forced or manipulated to believe what the church teaches and forced or strong-armed into keeping the church’s strictures. This is a very difficult organizational issue with no easy solution. But I believe simple awareness and discussion could help immensely to prevent division caused by it. How does one promote and maintain standards without some type of administrative or intellectual “force”. When does persuasion become manipulation? How do you keep those with differing opinions from feeling marginalized and undervalued? When does a quest to maintain unity (through agreeableness or acquiescence) actually end up causing disunity? Might it help to put forth a little extra effort to always stress in our persuasions that “we believe God has held forth these standards as the path to happiness and social stability, but we also believe that every person must chose their path according to their own mind and heart.  So we love and accept you regardless of your path… but we hold up these certain standards of what we think is best.” We need to identify what types of talks or practices are causing so many to literally hate Mormonism because they felt so forced, manipulated and/or marginalized when they were believing members. We need to actually follow the last twelve verses of D&C 121.

 

Creeds, Tenets, Strictures and Dogma

The Churches of Joseph Smith’s day had become weighed down in creeds, tenets, strictures and dogma which divided the people instead of unifying them. In Joseph Smith history we are told that

all their creeds were an abomination in His sight; that those professors were all corrupt [distorting the truth]; that: “they draw near to Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof”.  

Unfortunately, following human nature, I think Mormonism has fallen into these same tendencies.  As we are told, “we have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39). That is, the leaders of religious systems draft up overly narrow-minded or manipulative creeds which are defined as “a formal statement of beliefs” or “a set of beliefs or aims that guide someone’s actions”. In Mormonism there are many, many of these, which just like in Joseph Smith’s time are well-meaning, but tend to divide and alienate people into subsets of “good christians/bad christians”. (The for strength of youth pamphlet contains many good examples). Sad experience also shows that religious leaders begin to create strictures or “commandments of men” which expand God’s law into a obligatory burden instead of common-sense, loving counsel. This was true with the Mosaic law and became true again in the early apostolic church. The Judeo-Christian cannon shows that God and Christ gave strict commands/counsel, but always left it to lower mediators to affix earthly penalties to transgression. This is a grave responsibility and history has shown that these earthly mediators have repeatedly used their religious authority (priesthood) to exercise “power, and influence” (D&C 121:41) which seeks to “exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men” (D&C 121:37) in unloving ways. The result of which causes members and non-members alike to “esteem them as their enemy” (D&C 121:43). Might we try harder to hold up a “standard of godliness” without making God’s law or standards a burden? Without so many one-size-fits all righteousness tests and punishments. Without manipulative tactics that make people feel like we’re saying “if you don’t believe or keep these standards, you’re not righteous and don’t love god, because if you loved him, you’d keep these commandments.” 

Every parent must learn the best way to balance their children’s agency with their own responsibility to teach good works without permanent division or estrangement. Each church leader must use these same principles to lead their flock without pushing 25 of the 99 to join the proverbial one.

 

Elitism, Pride of “The Elect of God”

In my opinion many church teachings create an environment and atmosphere of pride and elitism. We stress how “elect” and “true” we are instead of how sinful and ignorant/untrue we are.  We too often hear talks patting ourselves on the back and saying we have no need to apologize for being “the only true church”. See the article “the only true church” for thoughts on this suggesting that our own scripture does not agree with this prideful attitude.

When Joseph Smith began to reform/restore the North American branch of Christianity, his revelations declared that the united group or “Church” which he led was “true and living”, and that God was “well pleased” with them collectively (D&C 1:30).  But by 1832 the “whole church” was “under condemnation” for “unbelief” and not obeying the things taught in the Book of Mormon (D&C 84:54–57). In accordance with the teachings of the Book of Mormon, in 1834 the quintessential doctrine of economic equality (united order) was revealed and the saints were told if they did not live it they would be “cursed with a very sore and grievous curse” and turned over “to the buffetings of satan” (D&C 104:1–10). The saints failed to make it work and because they couldn’t “impart of their substance” and were “not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom”, they were “not redeemed” and were left to be “chastened for a time” in the wilderness (D&C 105:1–7).  Even greater condemnation and cursing occurred later because of abuses of priesthood (especially concerning polygamy) and culminated in the murder of Joseph Smith by defectors and the driving of the Church out of the United States.  Joseph and the Church were repeatedly warned about lust, greed, and self-righteousness in their own revelations.  Is it perhaps time for us to take a step back and collectively take accountability for the church’s part of causing this division?  I believe this is starting to happen, but we have a long way to go.

The following are just a few suggestions, which compared to the whole of LDS doctrine and practices outlined in the Church handbook of Instruction are a very small percentage of the whole. I am also not advocating changing these things to fit solely my views, but that I have read of many, many ex-mormons and active mormons who have issues related to what I have written.  I suggest that if church members were allowed and encouraged to be more involved in determining doctrine and practice (involvement I believe our scriptures advocate), each stake could implement changes according to what the Spirit dictated to them, which best suited their needs and views. And a lot of division could be avoided.

 

The Infallibility of the “Prophet”

-The idea that “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray”, is pure fantasy (official decl 1). It is essentially a Mormon version of Papal Infallibility or the Divine Right of Kings. We don’t need to demonize presidents of the Church for saying this, but it comes from a place of ego, and causes more division than it prevents. I believe the Hebrew or Chinese Mandate of Heaven was a better way to convey the true principle. I think that D&C 68:4 and similar scriptures which teach that a prophet is only a prophet when the Spirit inspires them is similar to the idea of a ‘Mandate of Heaven’. But we need Oaspe 34/9.1-9.22 to help us understand that D&C 50:21–23 is saying that words spoken by the “Spirit” to a prophet are only binding upon a listener if that same “Spirit” testifies to the listener of their truth!  In other words, no one is bound by the dictates of a “prophet” or priesthood leader unless the Spirit testifies to them personally that what the prophet says is true. For an LDS leader to manipulate or ‘guilt’ a member to keeping any moral law (such as polygamy, the word of wisdom or chastity) with reasoning which makes people feel like they “must follow the prophet” or they are unrighteous is wrong. Church leaders speak as common men, until their decisions are ratified by the “common consent of the church” (D&C 26:2, 28:13, 104:71-85); which process establishes that the majority of the church had the Spirit verify the prophet counsel to their hearts–and thus it should be democratically made into binding church policy.

To keep the church or its leaders from leading each other “astray” would be to abridge agency, and contrary to the nature of the redemptive God. Only “Lucifer” would lead an organization this way (not saying he does). There is no scriptural or historical precedence for this statement, in fact all historical evidence is to the contrary. But it does take a large responsibility of self determination off the shoulders of members who believe it and puts it on the poor leaders who perpetuate this philosophy. (Since many accounts suggest they are bound to their zealots in the afterlife.)  Nearly all autocratic systems use this philosophy to keep the populace subservient. In this age are the LDS people really so unruly that such a doctrine is needed to keep social harmony and leadership support? When you abridge the agency of others with manipulative doctrines like this, you will always get considerable backlash.

 

Economic Equality & Money Mismanagement

I believe “God’s people” or the people of the prophets are meant to be a type or microcosmic example of the world in general. Higher beings send prophets to tell people clearly about the requirements and timetables for human progression and evolution. After visionary prophets next comes inspiration to the scholars, musicians and artists which create large cultural movements. If the people and politicians do not respond to these movements the protection and guidance of “the Spirit” is withdrawn, which allows autocratic despots to come to power in order to balance the scales and force progression (usually through revolution/war). After a long stream of prophets from the second great awakening (including Joseph Smith), God inspired many cultural icons to encourage imperialistic Europe & America to progress toward economic & social equality (see new imperialism). When that didn’t work he allowed Marx, Engels and others to ignite the revolutionary fires and let the autocrats do their work in WWI & WWII. I believe America and her churches which profess to be “Christ’s”, are under special responsibility to be an example in living the laws of economic and social equality.

As a church, we might not have the necessary influence to change national or global economic policy, But it might be helpful for us to listen to our detractors and defectors concerning where we put our money. Building multi-million dollar temples which have essentially become a club for our particular ideas of “righteousness” is an organizationally dangerous practice. It is no different than the cathedrals of Medieval Christianity which are denounced in our own scripture (2 Ne 28:13). What are we trying to teach with the lavishness of these structures anyway? That if your keep the law of tithing, chastity and Word of Wisdom you will be rewarded by a posh abode in heaven? I believe the highest blessings of the temple were always in working together to build the building which was symbolic of what true heaven is. That the building itself is simply a symbol of the spiritual condition of those who built it.  It is a bunch of family & friends working together to build an organization of unity and love. Economic equality must take far higher priority than church buildings or our buildings run the risk of becoming “whitewashed sepulchres–shiny on the outside but inside full of dead mens’ bones”.

I think tithing is another issue we should continually reevaluate and revisit. I’ve seen many orthodox Christian believe they are “righteous” by paying their tithing and fast offering but then tend to vehemently fight anything that comes close to resembling socialism. I believe that tithing outside of the context of social economic equality is a distortion of the principle. In my reading of the Old testament, it seems tithing and the “Lord’s storehouse” were always meant to feed the less fortunate and promote economic equality. The LDS “welfare system” is a good start toward economic equality, but just as in Medieval Christianity it serves in some people’s minds as a bandaid that consoles our conscience but miss the whole point of consecration & social equality. I believe 4rth Nephi in the Book of Mormon goes to show that the entire purpose of “pure religion” is to establish a working version of socialism and economic/social equality. That’s not to say that the prevailing liberal views of socialism (which involve a lot of force, idleness & manipulation) are the way to go about social economic equality, but I am saying a working version of “socialism” which maintains economic equality seems to be required for entrance into even the lower sections of the terrestrial kingdom of LDS theology.

 

Word of Wisdom and Law of Chastity & Other Laws

The morality of sexuality and substance abuse/use is a can worms. All of these laws highlight important social problems and seek to curb dangerous human proclivities. However, the counsel and “words of wisdom” which we have turned into strictures and commandments cause massive division in our youth. The current system of chastity is most certainly the largest cause of apostasy among the youth–But how could it not be? I believe the key is in making God’s commandments a standard and not a dogmatic burden–which can only be done by emphasizing free-agency over dogmatic strictures. By appealing to gentle persuasion, wisdom in case studies, and statistics instead of priesthood & commandments. I believe D&C 121:39–46 is the key to properly teaching these complicated lessons. I think the morphing of the word of wisdom from a wonderful suggestion into a half-baked commandment (tea and coffee are evil but meat is fine?) has done more harm than good (although it does have its advantages). A greater living of D&C 121:39–46 would bring more harmony to the saints in regards to these important, but delicate laws and human tendencies. see some ideas in A Bit on Moral Purity Also lessons on pornography.

Once again we have become far too dogmatic and pharisaical just like the religions that God told Joseph Smith were “an abomination in his sight”. Instead of simply being taught the wisdom of sexual purity, youth are manipulated into sexual repression and then often manipulated and pressured into marriage covenants. The Bishop has been turned into an inquisitor instead of a judge and youth counselor. Constant yes or no interviews pretend to establish readiness and righteousness within a context of religious social pressure. If you don’t keep the temporal “law” you are made to feel unrighteous. The true principles of righteousness (unselfishness) become distorted. I believe God’s law is not supposed to be a burden but a guide (BOBK 31:13, 41:4). God expects his people to teach the world the positive and negative effects of sex, drugs, pornography, marriage, church attendance (all aspects of his law), but when we simply demonize certain human behaviors and make people feel “wicked” for doing them instead of lovingly helping them learn the lessons inherent in the behaviors, we become salt that has lost its savor and is ready to be cast away. A light on a hill shows the right Way, it does not demonize the wrong way. Marriage outside the temple does not necessarily make someone “unrighteous”–but that is how our teachings come across. Drugs and alcohol do not necessarily make you unrighteous–but that is how our teachings come across. Sex within marriage is not the only “righteous sex”–but that is how our teachings come across.  I believe the proclivities of youth are most often a result of the habits or repressed desires of their parents, ancestors or culture passed through the group consciousness. It is best to help them work through their desires and slowly turn them to paths of unselfishness. To teach by demonizing them or labeling their behaviors as “wicked” simply shows your own unrighteousness.  Everyone is here on earth to learn the fruits of our desires, and that cannot happen unless we are given freedom to learn from trial and error in a frank and open teaching environment.

 

Sexual Morality

In my experience, sexuality (although often unspoken) is the number one reason for division and apostasy in the youth of the church. I believe most people would agree that sexual morality is a very important part of personal and social health and balance. The problem is that every Joe or religious priesthood leader has their own ideas on the details of how that morality should be defined. The LDS standard works contain the whole spectrum of relativism, universalism, monogamy, polygamy, polygyny and polyandry. Perhaps more than any other human function sex can be used to unite or used to divide— as a archetypical Christ or Satan. There are baser aspects of the human sex drive which like a fire desire only to burn all available materials it can get its hands on, without care for the overall well-being of the forest. To take only for oneself without any thought of what is best for others. But because of its deeply personal nature, there are also few things which can divide and destroy a group more than the systematized demonization or proscription of its functions. The more selfish a people, the more strict and legalistic priesthood and political administrators seem to feel they need to be. The Mosaic law attempted to define every detail of sexual morality; but Christ did away with that law. Not surprisingly His few veiled words on sexual morality seem to suggest that the most important principle is that it be used to unite people, and that neither priests nor prostitutes were justified in practices which promoted division or divorce of any kind (Matt 19:3–12, Mark 10:2–12, John 8:3–11). Paul had quite a bit to say about sexual morality, but Peter, James and John say very little. Medieval Christianity also became full of legalistic strictures, but Joseph Smith did his best to do away with those. Like Christ, he attempted to break people free of the traditional medieval religious dogma and strictures and institute a system which honored both people’s sexual proclivities and the necessity for law, order, godliness and priesthood (read his letter to Nancy Rigdon for some insight into this). However, I believe his system failed because it caused too much jealousy and division (women were marginalized and made unequal, young women were coerced into being taken in marriages and mature men were manipulated into taking them, polygyny was institutionalized within a patriarchy without any balancing polyandry or matriarchy).

My belief is that there is no easy answer for this, but the more you use practices of force and manipulation to control sexuality, the more you will actually give rise to the kind of selfishness and disdain which all godly people are trying to avoid. I believe parents should hold the primary responsibility of teaching sexual morality. The Church should assure it is taught and give aid, but take care not to get too specific on moral strictures. It should not manipulate parents into giving their children one-size-fits-all rules that might not be best for their particular circumstances. It should do its best not to demonize human sexuality. Regardless of the standard the church decides to hold as “the best way”, it should not be made a burden to those not ready to live it. Those who let their light of a godly life shine to all men will naturally attract people toward that light. Those who “exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men” are inevitably simply going to cause division and animosity. In my opinion the Church’s entire current system of sexual morality as taught in the for strength of youth pamphlet, worthiness interviews, youth curriculum and temple marriage system is targeted too much toward controlling our children, instead of teaching our children—and just as in the polygamous environment of Joseph Smith’s day, the animosity and polarization of our apostates shows it is not working very well.

 

The Most High God as the Head of our Religion

-God is the “Father” of all intelligent life in the universe and is no respecter of persons.  Both Christian and Restorationism texts suggest that mortal organizations are led through a line of super-human and human mediators according to their agency. When we portray every or most acts of our leaders or “prophets” as coming straight from the mouth of the Most High God (or even Jesus Christ), we doom ourselves to inevitable internal and external division. When we claim special privilege to Jesus Christ, as if he is the head of our Church and not other people’s church we pridefully invite division. This idea is contrary to our own theology, and people intuitively know it is not the case especially when someone gets to studying Mormon history. The idea that earth is ruled through a hierarchy or “chain” of higher beings and not by the “most high God” himself (Telestial through ministrations of the terrestrial D&C 76:88) is one of the most profound doctrines taught in LDS theology. Intertwined in this theology is the principle that man can become a God and that the “God” or higher beings who direct us are exalted men. (see TPJS, as well as detailed descriptions of how this works in Oahspe)  When we shy away from these important doctrines (which are integral aspects of the restorationism movement) in order to cater to the biases of Medieval Christianity, we invite the division that was inherent in their belief systems. Whether it is the Pope or LDS prophet, it is scripturally and morally wrong to pretend that all your religious actions are direct consequences of direction given by the Most High God. This is the true meaning of “taking the Name of the Lord in vain” and we do it in earnest.  The LDS temple endowment teaches with incredible simplicity and beauty this principle that revelation comes down through the kingdoms or dimensions (celestial “Father” to terrestrial “Son”, to telestial Peter, James & John and finally to mortal man), and that these higher beings always wait for a time to see if the earthly recipients obey, before they give more knowledge and guidance.  During this waiting period we are taught by lower angels and deceivers symbolized by Lucifer.  So during the waiting periods, all higher Gods give lower gods, archangels (whatever terminology you want to use) and earthly prophets and organizational leaders almost universal agency to run things according to what people seem to want and need; and much of the “revelation” during these periods ends up coming from lower and even “earthly” sources.  When we don’t fully understand these principle (taught plainly and beautifully in many other sources), it is natural to fall into the errors delineated in the next paragraphs.  When organizations feign power and authority that their history and works show are not valid, they lose the faith of their of populace and fall.  Teaching principles of authority more like Hindu thought and less like medieval Christianity and Catholicism would go a long way toward preventing apostasy and division.

 

Rejecting the Living Prophets

I believe that probably the most damning (or something that stops or impedes our progression) aspect of modern Mormonism is our rejection if the living prophets. This is pretty ironic, considering that we pride ourselves in being the “only true church” who has living prophets and apostles. But we as LDS Church members should stop and think about this for a minute… Israel and the world in general have nearly ALWAYS rejected the prophets, and yet Israel and every church in the world has nearly ALWAYS accepted and supported their priesthood/religious leaders  as the “mouthpieces” of God. We completely forget that the gift of prophesy (a gift of the spirit) is not the same as priesthood authority! Very few of the biblical prophets were priests or even held the priesthood for that matter (ie. being Levites). Instead most seem to have come from eccentric cults, and because they were not “mainstream” (either weird or nobodies or do strange things like walk around naked and barefoot) they were rejected. Jesus himself was excommunicated or “thrown out” because his teachings were too radical for the jewish religious establishment, and the President of the High Priesthood (a title we misleadingly label the “prophet”), was actually a main player in plotting his death “for the good of the fold”. God continually gives varying degrees of the gift of prophecy to people of every religion and decade. The “restoration texts” and “prophesy” sections of the this website house just a few of the many modern prophets (or those exercising the gift of prophecy, and gift of revelation). In my experience, just like a Catholic or any other religion, LDS church members fear anything that doesn’t come from their leaders. They do not support or seek out truth or continuing revelation in the world.

 

A Theocratic Autocracy instead of Rule by “Common Consent”

As I already mentioned, no advice, decree or edict of the “prophet” or church’s priesthood is binding upon any individual in the church unless the Spirit testifies the truth of it to that individual, causing them to covenant to obey.  (See D&C 68:4 contrasted with D&C 50:21–22 & Oaspe 34/9.1-9.22)  When leaders really understand this, it forces them to both understand and follow the principles of D&C 121:41–45. When you can no longer maintain “power or influence by virtue of the priesthood [hierarchy]” (D&C 121:41), you realize your only real recourse is using positive attributes like “persuasion, gentleness and meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, and pure knowledge” (D&C 121:42).  Which lays the groundwork for the democratic system of “common consent” revealed by Joseph Smith. That every policy and edict given “by the Spirit” to church leaders can only be binding if a majority of members (and in some cases unanimously without objection; D&C 107:27–29) also felt the spirit verify the truth of the policy change to them so that the policy can be instituted by the common consent of the church.

In my experience, the number two reason for people leaving the church is the perception that there is very little “common consent in the church” (Despite the scriptural mandate to rule this way: D&C 26:2, 28:13, 104:71-85). To most objective non-members, our form of “common consent” is like calling China or the USSR a democracy. It’s like saying the People’s Republic of North Korea is actually ruled by the people. It’s understandable why the church has been so secretive and autocratic from the time we were chased out of Missouri, might it be time to change. I believe that in recent years the Church has been making strides to change, but I believe it might need to happen a bit more quickly if we are to keep from losing half of the next generation (they are already losing more than a quarter of the current one). Below are some ways in which I believe we could better live up to our doctrinal mandate for equality and common consent.

 

The Proper Balance of Power in the Priesthood.

-The church’s balance of power between “federal” and “local” authority is all wacked up right now.  It has also completely distorted the principle of common consent (D&C 26:2, 28:13, 104:71, 104:72, 104:85). D&C 107 makes it clear that stake presiding councils are to be equal in authority to the general councils or authorities of the church.  Currently, the church membership has given WAY too much personal authority to the general or “federal” councils of the church in the same way that the United States government has whittled away local and states rights, foolishly giving too much power to the federal and upper executive branch of government.  This imbalance of power is dividing and destroying our nation and the same imbalance of power is causing great problems in the church. It is this imbalance, caused largely by Brigham Young, that has caused the church to become far too, robotic, authoritarian and pharisaical.  Centralized power serves its purpose in the early stages of a nation or organization, but as the group forms a self identity and matures this power structure must relax or it will bread division.   The church is commanded in all things, when history as well as D&C 58:26–29 and D&C 121:41 make it clear that this type of governance leads to a poor outcome (a robot populace, bondage and division).  Doctrine and covenants 107 makes it clear that the “three presidents” or first presidency (D&C 107:22) form a quorum that is equal in power and authority with the “twelve traveling councilors” or quorum of the twelve apostles (D&C 107:23–24), which is also to be equal in authority to both the seventy or “traveling ministers” and the “standing high council” or or stake high councils (D&C 107:36).

Does any Mormon (especially Mormon youth) give equal weight to the counsel of our celebrity apostles during general conference as they do for the discourses of a high counselor on “dry council Sunday”?  Does any High Councilor dare contradict an apostle? If they did they would be excommunicated, because of repeated systematic apostolic abuse of priesthood (D&C 121:41) has destroyed this balance of power in the Church. The imbalance caused by our disobedience to the proper emphasis on authority structure explained to us in our own scripture causes many to fall away from the church.  When through preaching, general conference and fan-fare, we make the general councils of the church into God-ordained celebrities, the populace of the church gains improper expectations and understandings of the role of the differing levels of government in the church. They come to believe the “apostles” are more righteous than themselves. It creates a class structure of a ruling elite and subservient “unworthy” proletariat which is a strictly service-to-self practice. It causes members to lose the understanding of the difference between priesthood and prophets. They come to believe the general authorities are more worthy of revelation to rule a member’s life than that member or that member’s parents.  This is emphatically not so, and the imbalance caused by this abuse of priesthood power and authority (D&C 121:41) causes imbalances in the hearts of the members… which in turn leads to their leaving the church. This is a difficult issue, because it is born out of good intent, but I fear our church’s organizational emphasis now so closely resembles that of Catholic Church which Joseph and his father so despised, that we are beginning to see more and more like-minded members repulsed and apostatizing.

36 The standing high councils, at the stakes of Zion, form a quorum equal in authority in the affairs of the church, in all their decisions, to the quorum of the presidency, or to the traveling high council.
37 The high council in Zion form a quorum equal in authority in the affairs of the church, in all their decisions, to the councils of the Twelve at the stakes of Zion.

A good start to a solution might be to give equal time to Stake High Councilors in General Conference as is given the apostles. Certainly we need to do far, far more things “by the common consent of the church” (D&C 26:2, 28:13, 104:71, 104:72, 104:85) . But more importantly the apostles need to greatly humble themselves, and explain by word and policy that they are no higher nor more righteous than the stake high councils. Many people wrongly crave a celebrity to worship, and I very rarely see the LDS Church celebrities doing much to reverse the trend. In fact, just as with the Catholic Church before Pope francis, I see mostly the opposite.

 

The Only True Church

-Teaching that the church is the “only true church” is foolish and egocentric. we should find a better way to teach this complicated topic of what it means to be “true”. I think this leads more people out of Mormonism than any other doctrine. And worse, it creates great anger in many of the apostates for having believed it. It is understood that this idea helps build pride and polarize people with a desire to serve God by serving the church, but this type of zealousness inevitably leads to disillusionment and anger. I understand the perceived need and effectiveness of this doctrine when a religion is young, but at what point do you give it up?  Both Israel and Catholicism were essentially destroyed by the pride created and inherent to this doctrine.  It distorts the very meaning of the word true, and is a gross distortion of the “truth”.  I cant even begin to explain how unscriptural and how riddles with issues this claim is. Read Is The LDS Church The Only True Church? What Really is Truth? for a detailed explanation of a more correct view of truth and priesthood.

 

 

Ordinances & Assembly-line Salvation

Part of the “creeds” and corrupted aspect of medieval Christianity had to do with their distorted idea of ordinances.  Distorted and manipulative beliefs such as that sprinkling a baby meant the difference between being saved or damned. The idea that saying a sinners prayer meant the difference between salvation and damnation.  My observance is that we have become so very similar our use of “dead” ordinances.  Our idea that our dead must have “saving ordinances” in order to gain salvation is often used in frighteningly similar manipulative ways when I believe it was actually instituted to achieve the opposite. I believe that vicarious ordinances were largely instituted to console and give hope to those entrenched in the belief that their dead were damned because they were not baptised. By instituting the doctrine that everyone who ever lived will at some point (presumably “during the millennium”) have ordinances vicariously performed, ordinances as a requirement for “salvation” becomes a mute point. A child or acquaintance who is not baptised or “married in the temple” is no reason for sorrow or manipulation because conformity based on unity can be achieved just as easily after death.

Many things I read from disillusioned Mormons, as well as my own experience suggest imbalanced views exist on these topics. Ordinances certainly have their place, as does ancestor worship and redemptive work, but it must be kept in perspective. But do ordinances feed the poor?  Do ordinances do one bit to alleviate the ills of human society? Can ordinances even really make you part of a group at heart? I believe ordinances were instituted as a means to an end (a teaching tool & symbolic gesture), not an end in themselves.  I think the oft taught idea that the “sacrament” is the most important part of Church causes people to look beyond the mark. I think not stressing that ordinances for the dead are as much for the living as anything causes people to look beyond the mark. I think advancing pupils through levels of priesthood office or performing ordinances such as baptism by AGE instead of by an individuals showing a willing desire and readiness for the responsibilities and covenants ordinances symbolizes (devoid of family or social pressure) is also problematic. (but then again so is ordination by “readiness” & invitation such as the office of High Priest. There is power and efficiency in the present system, but how can the ills it causes be better illuminated and the good it accomplishes accentuated?

 

The Gifts of the Spirit vs. Priesthood Authority

-There needs to be better understanding of how righteousness and priesthood relate to miracle work and adepthood (one who has mastered a miraculous spiritual gift). We need to better understand the difference between priesthood and prophets. You do not have to be “righteous” (in the sense of keeping strictures or mosaic-like commandments) to be a healer or exercise other spiritual or miraculous gifts. Both Mormon and general Christian doctrine teach that Lucifer and his angels hold priesthood and can perform miracles (and they obviously dont keep our commandments). Clairvoyance, Clairaudience, seership and prophecy are “gifts of the Spirit” available to all men who learn the principles of faith and consciousness governing these abilities. (3 Ne 8:1 is highly misunderstood.)  Seems sad to me that in some ways Star Wars seems to do a better job of teaching how to access God’s power or “force” than most Mormon handbooks.  Our way of teaching these principles has destroyed our faith in them (Ether 12:12). We have countless talks and videos suggesting that “if you don’t keep the mormon strictures/commandments, you wont be able to exercise your priesthood to heal someone when the time comes”. The gift of healing is a gift of the Spirit, not solely a priesthood ordinance, and the gifts of the Spirit are not dependant upon the keeping of religious law. They are dependant upon the spiritual faith and balance of the individual seeking to tap into God’s power. The ‘law of one’ does a really good job of explaining how these supernatural powers are obtained and developed. The ritualistic “temporal ordinances” associated with healing are powerful psychological aids, and can be effectively utilized by both men and women, members and non-members.  The distorted Mormon views on this are tragedies, because it forces many natural adepts (healers, prophets, clairvoyants, and clairaudients) out of the Church.  They generally go join eastern or new age movements because those movements have a more correct free philosophy concerning faith and the gifts of the spirit.  However, our church has a lot of really good teaching concerning these abilities as well.

 

Mechanics of Prophecy, Revelation and Channeling

-As mentioned before, most prophets, revelators or god’s “channels” exist outside of the Church because of our distorted views on these gifts of the Spirit has destroyed our faith in them. Thats not to say our “Prophet” (president of the High Priesthood) or bishops or members don’t receive revelation, because they most certainly do. But most revelation to the world (both positive and negative) is presently coming primarily through the new-age movement (and Hindu based religions). Our distorted views range from an idea that only the Apostles can receive revelation for the world or Church (they have overstepped their priesthood by teaching this), to an idea that only men can prophesy or receive revelation, to preconceived ideas on what what revelation should sound like (17th century english) .  This keeps us from understanding the true nature of revelation, and keeps us from believing much of the modern revelation that comes from the spirit world and keeps us often from exercising the gifts of the spirit. A prophet is a channel or mystic. Revelation is channeling. The question is “who is it coming from?”, and this is the bishop’s job to decide and regulate. (D&C 46:27) Once again, the ‘law of one’ explains this as well. Its sad that so many have issues with the translation of the Abraham papyrus/book of the dead and Isaiah sections of the Book of Mormon because of not understanding these principles. Channelling always sounds a little hokey (like much of the D&C) and adepts are often a bit weird frankly (Joseph putting his face in a hat and using “props” to enter the needed trance state which makes communication possible). An adepts “righteousness” (selflessness/balance) dictate what “spirits” or levels of heaven the adept can/will connect to, and more importantly the distortion that he/she will introduce to the revealed/channeled material. Revelation is far more like connecting to a mainframe full of information in binary code than reading english words on a computer screen. Oahspe talks about the “line of light” but Seth Material explains better the “Jacobs ladder” of spirits needed to relay and translate data/revelation from the higher planes. Each step of the relay has the possibility for distortion. Crystals (Urim & Thumim) are used to train, focus and enhance the abilities of the adept. The piezoelectric effects and holographic storage properties of crystals were far better understood by the ancients; as well as techniques for using them to interface with human consciousness. I suspect this issue will be addressed as the millennial age progresses, and channeling (revelation with God/gods through the veil) will become a regular part of the temple ceremony.  Our culture probably just isn’t ready for this stuff because of the negative stigmas attached to the occult and mysticism.  Unfortunately, modern negatively oriented groups which have mastered these principles (secret combinations) are gaining the upper hand in many social and political arenas because they understand these principles better than most Christians and Mormons.

 

 

 

The Nature of God

Teaching that the Most High God has a body, and that this “restored truth” is what makes our church more true than others. This is a touchy and complicated topic because it involves reconciling the monotheistic and polytheistic aspects of Joseph Smith’s revelations and restorationism. But I fear our concept of God has become just as much an idol or creed as the rigid concepts that Joseph Smith sought to escape. We seem to define our view of God exclusively by contrasting it with that of Medieval Christianity’s trinity (and claim our view is the only true one) but we fail to see the complexities of abstract polytheism which are woven into our doctrine. Like hinduism or Buddhism, Mormon’s should understand the semantic difficulties in defining the different levels of beings we call “God” or “gods” and be less prideful in our supposed ownership of them.  Mormon’s generally know that in the “One True God”,  “there are god’s many” (D&C 121:28) who are one in purpose but separate entities, but we should teach the unique aspects of each level of the being/beings we call God and admit that we just don’t know much about “The Most High God” (D&C 121:28–32). It’s a difficult concept and history will show which religion’s approach was the most effective, but given our concepts of divine investiture of authority it just doesn’t fit logic or our doctrine to teach that the “Father” who appeared to Joseph Smith was the one and only form of the Most High God in the universe. And it is especially silly for it to ever be a source of pride or contention. Based on our own cosmology we could speculate as to which level of mediator god is being described in most accounts & appearances of God in LDS scripture (think of Rev 22:7–9); as well as speculate as to the nature of the Unity which makes them all One God. Can we at least agree that God may seem to reveal himself as a human at times and but that we only know of Him what he chooses to reveal? Perhaps when the church begins to grow in India the time will be right to release our view of God from the strict idol it has become?  Joseph Smith’s revelations really do hold the key in reconciling the extremes of Hindu polytheism and Islamic extreme monotheism; I think its time we are more intelligent and less prideful in our teaching of those doctrines.

 

Book of Mormon Historical, Archaeological and DNA Evidence (& other scriptural issues)

There are a lot of scriptural issues which cause people to leave the church. Many of these are resolved by interpreting the facts with a broader understanding of revelation. If people believe, as the Church often suggests, that the Book of Mormon or Doctrine & Covenants are the exact words of Mormon or The Most High God or an omniscient Jesus Christ as he spoke directly to Joseph Smith in King James English; then once the facts are known it is difficult for any rational Mormon NOT to lose their testimony. But instead if we stress the obvious fact that revelation and visions are more like an individual subjectively tapping into a mainframe of information, and consciousness; and that the revelator uses his own judgement to formulate the ideas contained in the mainframe into words and ideas as interpreted through his own cultural and language biases, then inconsistencies suddenly start to make sense. At the same time we should stress that that current scientific and cultural biases are likely clouding our own judgement as we point out supposed inconsistencies. In my perspective, I believe archaeologists have found every major city mentioned in the book of Mormon, and Mormon/Moroni did really good jobs describing things; but it is minor geographic changes and skewed radiometric dating methods which lead to the apparent inconsistencies (in both Book of Mormon and DNA testing). In my worldview, the same is true with the apparent inconsistencies with the biblical story and geological/archaeological evidence. In my opinion, it seems hurtful to our cause to say “this is how it is, and the world is wrong”.  And better to say, “this is what our scriptures say, and we’re trying to get the truth things just like anyone else… ”  That just because something is considered “The word of God” it doesn’t mean its not a jumble of principles completely distorted by the messengers, but we do not wish to be so presumptuous or judgmental as to accuse it of being so. We instead want to get all the truth out of it we can. And there’s a lot we just aren’t able to understand, but lets all work together to find the truth of the matter.

 

Effective encouragement of the Arts
In my perspective the LDS view of appropriate outlets for the arts needs work.  In my experience the thought of having “non-approved” music in church (which these days is only the 19th century hymns) was anathema. Essentially, It can not be underestimated how important music, literature, dance and art are in shaping society and in worship.  Currently the evangelical Christian community is doing the best job in combating moral decay in our society by music, etc…      [finish this later]

 

 

See the article Needed Reformation in the LDS Church – Specific Actions

 

Commentary on the LDS Articles of Faith

LDS Articles of Faith with my commentary

1 We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

All of these are profound esoteric symbols of which volumes could be written. They are not simplistic dogmatic statements of one sided mortal-like individuals. God is the Creator and the Creation . He is a composite of all that is . He is in the Sun, moon and stars and the power by which they were made. He is in the Galaxy and the power by which it was made and so forth. He is all of creation. We are His “members” and a part of him much like a body is formed of many cells (D&C 88:6–13, Acts 17:28–29, Col. 1:16–19, Romans 12:5, John 15:1–7, John 17:11,21). All descriptions of Him end in paradox. All descriptions of him are partial and distorted by human perception. He is Father/Mother because he is Creator. He is Eternal because He dwells apart from time or relative mortal dimensions. Mankind knows Him only through what they can perceive of him… what He has revealed of himself to us. The Creation & Creator reveals itself through the symbol of the Son (Hebrews 1:1–3). The Son is Created yet also contains the power to Create, yet the Son is also Eternal. The Son is less than the Father (John 14:28) and yet since the Father is a composite of all that exists, the Son is part of the Father and thus One with and equal with the Father (John 14:8–11). The Son (created thing) reveals the Father (creator/creation). Jesus Christ is a living archetype or symbol sent by the Creator to teach us about creation and ourselves. Christ means Messiah or Anointed One. Jesus (or better translated Joshua) means loosely Jehovah is Savior. The Lord God is Jehovah Elohim. Jehovah is the Name given to the creator by the ancients because it contained the most three fundamental sounds Ye-Ho-Vih (see Oahspe). Elohim is a plural form of the Word “El” meaning God. Yet despite its plural form it is always used in a singular context showing the paradox of God’s Singularity and Plurality. A concept the GodHead also is trying to teach. Since God the Creator is a composite of all that exists, He is many. Yet since all his Creation is a part of Him just as cells in an organism or Members/limbs in our body He is One. Since the God’s who deal with our earth in the galactic scheme are perfect microcosms of the God’s above them and They presumably act in unison and form a chain which leads through infinity to the Most High God, we wrap them all into a term which is both singular and plural. El-ohim. Jesus was one of many mediators sent to help us relate to the Creator. To save us from the darkness of ignorance by revealing the creator. Just like all of us, He was the Son of God and yet he was God because like all of us He is a part of creation. Thus like the Elohim he is both Father and Son (Mosiah 15:1–5). To truly understand God and our full relationship to God is impossible for mortal man with his limited perceptions. But by understanding the microcosm of human parent and child we better understand macrocosm of eternity and our relationship with it.

2 We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

In other words we believe the concept of original sin as taught by the Medieval Christian churches is a convoluted and corrupted version of a true principle. Much like the “God-Head”, the creation drama taught in Exodus 1-3 is a historical allegory meant to teach us very profound philosophical concepts concerning the purpose and destiny of mankind. (By historical allegory I mean we believe it really happened in some place at some time, but its historical accuracy or reality were not important to the writer, as the revelator’s goal was to teach eternal philosophical concepts which play out again and again throughout history, not to give details of some one-time historical incident). Go into detail about how the creation drama relates to original sin, that mankind is lost because we have been veiled from a knowledge of our true character as part of god, so we need to be redeemed or saved from our own ignorance. Salvation comes form seeing our relation to all of creation. Redeemed from our pride and ego that suggests we are gods or the most or only intelligent life in our planet, solar system or galaxy; and thus not accountable to the rest of creation for ways our actions effect others/the creation. Redeemed from ignorance which allows us to be oppressed by more powerful individuals and beings. Redeemed from the veil which hides the knowledge of our unity with creation which makes us part of God and indeed “a god”. So the concept that we are a lost and fallen people is true, and in need of the truth of our reality which brings redemption from ignorance. But the Medieval Christian churches convoluted these profound philosophical truths into practices which suggested that if a person dies without baptism, they are damned to some tortuous Hell. They did not see that the ritual of baptism had no power to save us from ignorance (which is essentially the meaning of and reason for “Hell”), but that baptism was a symbol pointing us to the idea that we can be “raised” from the death slumber which is ignorant mortal life. More on this later.

3 We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

We believed mankind may be saved, but saved from what? Saved from separation. It is separation which causes all negative aspects of mortal life.

4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The ritual of baptism had no power to save us from ignorance (which is essentially the meaning of and reason for “Hell”), but that baptism was a symbol pointing us to the idea that we can be “raised” from the death slumber which is ignorant mortal life. It is the redemption from the grave which is a symbol of mortal life. As

5 We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

6 We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

7 We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

8 We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

13 We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

My Articles of Faith
If I was going to write out my personal beliefs or my personal articles of my faith, I think this is what they would be (at least at the time of writing this… I would image they change from year to year).

1. Agency or preserving the ability of all men to exercise free will is the first principle of the gospel. All other doctrines and principles are inferior appendages to this.

2. Unity in selfless service or love is our goal & desire. We wish to convince all men to use their agency to choose good; which we define as unity through selfless service or love of others. It is the central theme of our religion.

3. Wisdom, light and knowledge of truth are the prize and outcome of unity through selfless service. One day I believe these principles will unites us with even those who seek to progress through the illusory path of selfishness or putting love of self before love of others.

4. I believe in the ONE God. A God who is Father and Creator to the earth and all mankind. I believe God creates through repeating processes of separation and unification, which makes existence possible and meaningful. I believe division of mankind has been the prevailing system of creation on earth for many thousands of years, but our hope is in the Good News sent by God through many messengers teaching that the age of prevailing global unification is upon us. We seek to serve with God toward this global unity through selfless service.

5. I believe the ONE creator to the Human Race has played a part in revealing ALL religion and science to mankind. I believe his purposes were sometimes to unite and other times to divide. I believe as the prophesied era of unification unfolds, He is now maintaining and upholding those religions and sciences which show they can unify mankind through selfless service. We seek the maintenance of the Creator through His active force.

6. I believe in direct communion with the ONE creator of all that exists. We also believe in many mediators who stand between the ONE creator and the MANY creations, attempting to explain Him in concepts people can understand. I believe Christ was the quintessential mediator of this epoch in teaching the ways of love. We also believe that Buddha, Mohammed and all other great religious leaders were mediators of the Creator. We also believe in chains of higher mediators not of this world. I believe all mediators point the way to unity with the Father or ONE creator. I believe communion takes place through God’s Holy Spirit and Divine Energy/Light.

7. I believe mankind has an innate desire to know his Creator. I believe in this quest the pride of mankind leads him to idolize, rigidly define and depict their Creator and HIS will. I believe the desire of a child to pretend he can accurately explain his Parent most often leads to division. I believe that the best way to know the creator is through selflessly serving each other. I believe that by truly understanding each other and the creation we come to better understand the Creator God. We call upon all scientific and religious institutions to put selflessly serving and understanding others before, above and ahead of trying to prove the correctness of their own perspectives. I believe it is this attitude which enabled the Creator’s messengers and prophets to be so successful in creating lasting ideological systems which teach mankind of their Creator.

8. I believe Creeds, tenants and rules have a tendency to divide even as they seek to unite. For those who find these words divisive, we invite you to rewrite them in your minds in a way that becomes unifying instead of selfishly interpreting them in a way that divides. I believe that through the Spirit all mankind can find the truth which unifies in all things. Again I believe the key is selfless service in love.

9. I believe that all social norms and commandments given through the Creator’s unifying Mediators were calculated to encourage the practice of unity through selflessness. I believe the selfishness of mankind tends to distort the original goal of these regulations, adding to them and turning them into practices and traditions which foster self-righteousness, oppression, disharmony and division. I believe this is why new mediators must be sent from time to time to overturn traditional political and religious organizations when they no longer fulfill their intended unifying purposes. I believe it is a best practice to keep rigid rules and regulations to a minimum. To preserve free will at all costs. To keep religious and political regulatory bodies as close to a local level as possible. To teach selfless principles and truly let local polities govern themselves as much as possible; in matters of worship, assembly, sexual practices & marriage, food & substance consumption, commerce and speech.

10. No mortal can really understand God because God IS creation of which we are only a minuscule part. God is the creator of all that is, and in fact IS ALL creation. We are but a tiny cell of his body. To understand him would be to understand all that exists which is not possible for a mortal mind. But we can see patterns in creation which help us to see a part of creation much larger than ourselves. The microcosm or fractal nature of matter.

11. We believe the purpose and destiny of the LDS Church was foreshadowed by story of Joseph and the Twelve Tribes of Israel in the Bible. We believe some aspect of the LDS Church will have the privilege if worthy and desiring of gathering and aiding the twelve tribes of Israel, just as Joseph gathered his brothers and gave them bread, saving them from famine. As God blesses us with power and influence it is our desire to use these things to bless the world and save them from disaster even as Joseph saved Egypt. We believe in the equality and brotherhood of all man, and that those who are abused and weakest are destined to become the most powerful and strong, while those who esteem themselves as greatest and most powerful are destined to become weak and humbled.

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-care for the poor and needy, perfect the saints, redeem the dead, preach the gospel.

-allow for more agency. less division and more unification. The world divides enough, Christ united. It is the age of unity. If it was HIS church for the millennium it would be about universal principles. Not about HIM, not about Christianity, not about rules that divide, but principles that unite.

-Christ’s church would actually teach every religion. It would utilize ALL the worlds scripture and prophets to bring people together into one organization that promoted unity. Exaltation would depend on unity.

-Should it not teach the two paths? No. As this religion is trying to bring the world into becoming a positive terrestrial realm it would teach the left hand selfish path as undesirable. It would allow its existence within limits. It would seek to convert those following this path to the positive. A celestial understanding cannot abide in a terrestrial glory. We are bringing people into the terrestrial glory.