I have two very wise mothers. My own mother will often be heard to say, “We’re all a mess,” which is meant to be a graceful equalizer, not a criticism, to remind herself and me to cut other people some slack. As well, my mother-in-law will often be heard to say, “We’re all doing the best we can,” which is also a graceful equalizer. She uses it to remind herself and others (including me) that though we may want more from others, (or sometimes ourselves) that we should understand that with few exceptions, we are all doing the best we can—or all that we’re presently capable of. And I would add my mother’s phrase…because we’re all a mess.

It’s the truth. Even those of us who look put together on the outside are a mess on the inside due to weakness, trials, past hurts and future fears. Even those of us who seem to do the outward commandments well struggle to bat .500 on the more internal commandments. And it goes the other way. People who seem to be a mess on the outside are not always the mess we assume them to be on the inside. Even those who may not seem to do all the outward commandments well may be much better than we could ever be on the internal commandments.

We’re all a mess—in some way. We’re all—with few exceptions—doing the best we can, or all that we’re presently capable of, despite the fact that we’re a mess.

We all sin differently. We all try differently. Most of keep trying even when we struggle or fail.

My very wise mother and I recently talked in detail about a very popular scripture.

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to be believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Ne 25:23)

The problem with this scripture in the conversation of grace, is that it is horribly misunderstood and falsely interpreted. So many people beat themselves up day in and day out trying to earn grace by doing their “best,” hoping that it will be enough for God to accept so that He’ll do “the rest.” As if it’s solely a cause/effect relationship. It’s not.

This is not an accurate interpretation of this scripture—in this limited sense. The reason it is so inaccurately interpreted is because it is so often quoted out of context. Nephi goes on to talk about how he and his people keep “the law,” because it points them to Christ, “For this end was the law given…[to point us to Christ]” and “we keep the law because of the commandments” (2 Nephi 25:24-25, brackets added).

Two key doctrines here:

  1. The law of ordinances and covenants brings us to Christ and points us toward Him
  2. The commandments of God point us to Christ and help us obtain ordinances and covenants with God

Nowhere in these verses in the implication made that the law, or commandments, save us. Paul was right. The law, by itself, is dead (Galatians 2:21). It is Christ who saves us through grace. It is the law, ordinances, covenants, and commandments that bring us to Christ, point us toward Him, and help us become like Him—through grace. They have a purpose, just not the one we often think.

Do you keep your covenants perfectly? No, you’re a mess, remember? We all are. Do you keep every commandment perfectly? Of course you don’t. But, you are pretty much doing the best you can within your present capability, most of the time. So, if we had to do the “law” and “commandments” perfectly before God would save us or even help us, there would be no purpose to this life, or the atonement of Jesus Christ. It would be a silly system because there would be no chance for ultimate salvation and exaltation.

So, why did God allow us all to be such messes and yet give us a law asking us to not be a mess?

I take you to another frequently misquoted and possibly misunderstood scripture:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. (Ether 12:27)

When most people read this scripture they say, “weaknesses.” And yet, it doesn’t say that. So, what’s the difference between the possible interpretations and doctrines to be found in this scripture by ensuring we read it as weakness and not weaknesses? Here’s one that I suggest may be helpful, after many years of discussions with my wise mother and husband.

In comparison to God, what is our greatest weakness? My answer to that is mortality. And, by mortality I mean the conditions necessary for us to have and maintain agency in this life. These mortal conditions are:

  1. Mother nature acts independently and indifferently to us. No mortal can control or gain favoritism from Mother nature.
  2. We can be hurt, or killed, (mentally, emotionally, and physically) by everything and everyone, including ourselves. The actions and reactions of every person on the earth impacts us (and nature).

Now, if we read this scripture with the word mortality in the place of weakness it reads quite a bit more powerfully (in my opinion):

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their mortality. I give unto men mortality that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make mortal things become strong unto them.

So, what’s the big deal?

Well, we’re all a mess because we’re mortal. God didn’t give us specific weaknesses. He didn’t make some people blind and some lame and some short and some fat. But, He did give us mortality, which in its indifferent state (which is necessary to maintain our agency and power to choose and be fully accountable) brought about the individual weaknesses we all suffer. Did God know which weaknesses mortality would bring upon us? Yes. But that is not the same thing as handpicking weaknesses for us. And for me, that has incredible impact on my ability to trust and have faith in God. And to understand both His plan for me and His over-arching plan for us all.

God didn’t purposefully choose for me to bust out my two front teeth in fourth grade (right after getting my permanent teeth). But, He did make me mortal which meant my teeth were capable of being busted out by sufficient impact with asphalt. Will I get them back someday in the resurrection? Yes. But that moment is not now and so it’s a huge physical weakness. I’m always worried about my dental work. That song All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth is often one I sing in my head. No joke.

God gave us mortality so that we could progress in His ultimate plan for us to become like Him. Mortality is a gift. But, it is also our primary weakness. We can’t prevent eventual death. We can’t prevent natural disasters. We can’t prevent all the symptoms and results of most diseases. We can’t predict genetic mutations (due to nature and our independently functioning DNA). We can’t go in and reprogram our bodies. There is so much about mortality that leaves us weak. It is in this weak state that mortal things, mortal problems bring about myriads of weaknesses (plural here). Thus, we are all a mess so that we can humble ourselves and submit to the godly learning process.

No matter our mortal things, we can become strong in Christ—through grace. That is what God is saying—at least to me.

Now, the last thing my mother and I talked about recently, was what has come to her. And, for her, she words 2 Nephi 25:23 a little bit differently to reflect this understanding about the grace we all constantly receive because we really all are doing the best we can. She words that final phrase like this:

It’s by grace we are saved after all the obedience we are capable of.

This really rings true as we consider God’s own words about the innocence of children. He does not say they cannot be taught to repent and to keep His commandments, but He is very clear that their accountability is dependent upon their ability to commit sin.

So it goes with us all. Each of us has differing levels of capability, knowledge, instruction, etc. God, through grace, not only enables us to obey Him—when we desire to do so—He slowly perfects us and increases our capability to obey as we try. This is what some people misunderstand. They procrastinate obeying or only partially obey because they don’t feel they can, or can’t maintain it. Not knowing that the effort made will be amplified by grace and increase their capacity to obey over time. Covenants and obedience to God are how we receive more grace and power to become like Him. It’s a beautiful system…all powered by grace.

Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin… Behold baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins… For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent… (Moroni 8:10-11, 22)

People forget that sin is rebellion. I’m not saying we shouldn’t repent of transgressions, omissions, or mistakes. But it is quite a different thing to truly desire goodness and react unfavorably to stress, provocation, and trials than it is to purposefully and knowingly act out against God and others. Obviously, we still need to recognize these transgression and work to be more godly. But because we are all a mess, God accepts even our weakest efforts. He knows we are always doing pretty much the best we can, or what we are presently capable of. And He consistently offers to increase that capability through His grace.

Now, lest anyone panic and think that people can become like God without ever becoming accountable. Simply remember God’s mandate to preach the gospel to both the living and the dead. Eventually all must be taught and become accountable, because we cannot be saved in ignorance (D&C 131:6; 136:32).

Double exposure of beautiful thoughtful girl portrait and colorful flowers

My final thought on this scripture (2 Nephi 25:23) is tearing apart the word AFTER.

Some definitions of the word AFTER that I particularly like to place in this scripture are:

In pursuit of or in quest of; behind; next to or following in order of importance.

Now, let’s put this all together:

It is by grace that we are saved in pursuit of or in quest of all the obedience that we are capable of.

OR

It is by grace that we are saved following in order of importance of all the obedience we are capable of

Aren’t these cool! We are all in pursuit (or have been given the opportunity to pursue) godhood. To be even as He is, joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17). Grace saves us while we are in this pursuit of learning to reach the level of obedience of God!

Or, grace follows in importance our obedience. Why is obedience first? Because it is an act of will, of agency. God won’t force anything on us—not even His grace. We must choose it. Obedience points us to Christ, as Nephi so clearly points out in 2 Nephi 25:24-25. Obedience is not how we earn grace. It’s how we say “Yes,” to increasing portions and levels of grace. God has far more grace to offer, more power to offer, as we desire to increase our capability to obey—and become godly. Thus, we must first accept—through the obedience we are capable of—before we can receive more grace, and more grace, until our capability to obey reaches that godly fullness, or perfect day (D&C 93:19-20; 50:24).

So, yes, we’re all a mess. But, if we really are all doing the best we can, or offering all the obedience we are presently capable of, then God will not only remit our sins, He will give us more grace and increase our power and  capability to obey. It’s such a beautiful thing.

BT

Doctrine: If you are Christian, than the witness of God’s Holy Spirit should carry more weight than the witness of “flesh and blood.” The Book of Mormon supports and validates the witness of the Bible. To disprove the Book of Mormon is also to disprove the Bible. Bible Prophets have the same human characteristics and weaknesses of Joseph Smith. To discount Joseph Smith as a prophet because of His humanity is to discount all prophets. The wisdom and witness of men is the god of atheists. The wisdom and witness of God and His Holy Spirit is the god of Christians.

If you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and your testimony is struggling in the current societal environment, buckling under growing church transparency, and stifling under a list of ordinances, covenants and commandments: what are your options?

You basically have only three options.

  1. You can hang on to what you believe even though it’s a struggle. You can trust the spiritual experiences you’ve had. You can turn to God with your questions and to His word for your answers. You can keep trying to come unto Christ as you wait to see more clearly through the all the worldly fuzz and your own personal confusion, struggles, and issues.
  2. You can leave the Church. You can decide that God isn’t real. You can become an atheist.
  3. You can pretend that the only things about God and religion that bug you are inside the Mormon Faith. You can try to join another Christian faith (with all its accompanying issues). You can try, for a while, to hold onto the logic you used to leave the LDS church until you realize it applies to all Christian faiths. Then, you either have to stick to your decision in pride to prove a point and avoid embarrassment, or you have to become agnostic or atheist (option 2), or you have to come back to your original faith and embrace option one.

If you are considering option one, then hopefully this blog will help you hold strong. If you are considering option two, then hopefully this blog will help you find belief in God again. If you are considering option three, then I hope this blog will encourage you to put your trust in the witnesses and information you have received “from God” through the Holy Spirit over the witnesses that come from “flesh and blood.”

The Book of Mormon

A lot of people leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because they become convinced that the Book of Mormon has some inconsistencies. From a misspelled word to some minute perceived educational or historical discrepancy touted by some anti-Mormon religionist (i.e. a person whose religion is to prove Mormonism wrong). These inconsistencies overwhelm any spiritual experiences or witnesses they have received of the book and cause them to fear. After all, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and our witness of Christ. If it’s got issues, then the whole Church must be wrong, right?

First, let me take the apologetic argumentative approach to this. If you are discounting the Book of Mormon because of an inconsistency, then you must also discount the Bible for the same reasons. Or perhaps you feel you can safely discount the Book of Mormon because only 15 million+ people believe in it while 2.2 billion+ hold some respect for the Bible. But, if your comfort level believing in the Bible is only due to the number of people who accept its validity, then that’s not really a very good reason to believe in it at all.

Man under threat of failure

Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth and that a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book (Introduction to the Book of Mormon). When Joseph Smith said “most correct,” I don’t think he meant without flaws or issues. I think he meant that it is the “most correct” in its witness of Christ and Christ’s doctrines. The fact that its authors in their individual records may have written in a way that is contrary to what our modern society recognizes as historically accurate for that time, or that there are simple or minor errors in the translation from Joseph who translated it by the gift and power of God and those who were scribes for him is not surprising. If that is the case, we could discount any book on earth that contains any human error whatsoever–especially the Bible.

For the modern Christian, or for any Christian, the Bible is so full of perceived and real inconsistencies. And if we are to base its usefulness in leading us to Christ on its lack of inconsistencies, then we might rather be atheist.

Here is one, and only one example (or I would spend the whole blog on simply the Bible’s inconsistencies, or any religious text’s inconsistencies). The Bible says that God is the same (Ps. 102:27) and that He changes not (Mal. 3:6). If that’s true, then when God says in Amos 3:7 that He doesn’t do anything “except He reveals His secrets  to His servants the prophets,” then, it stands to reason that God should always have prophets on the earth to whom He can reveal His will. But, all modern Christian religions believe that “God has done His work,” that “there are no prophets today.”

Now, Catholicism adheres to the idea that the Pope communes with God to an extent, but aside from that, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church that believes in modern prophets, apostles, the church organization instituted by God, and constant, on-going revelation. So, people who believe the Bible are saying that God is the same…but He’s not? Or, they are saying that simply because we are such an enlightened world we don’t need God’s dedicated guidance through a prophet anymore? That’s hardly possible. Or, that God doesn’t love us as much as the people in the past and so He doesn’t have prophets for us? But, wait. Doesn’t the Bible say that God loves all His children the same? Hence, I could as easily disprove the Bible the same way people try to disprove the Book of Mormon.

Now, let me be quite clear. I believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. I believe it leads people to Christ as much as it is capable of doing, despite human meddling, human interpretation, and human deletions. As well, I’ve studied the Bible and I know what the God of the OT and the NT was like and it’s the same God that is preached in the Book of Mormon. As well, I have prayed about both books and the Holy Spirit has confirmed to me that they are God’s words.

The Book of Mormon is called “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” So, to discount the Book of Mormon is to say that you “have a Bible and there can’t be any more Bible” (2 Nephi  29:3-8). Except, the Bible you have came from the Jews, who aren’t even Christians (that they are aware of). But, whether you understand the origin of the Bible or not, what you’re saying is that you don’t want another witness—to the whole world—that the God you believe in is real? Or, you don’t want a witness of Christ that is not perfect…even though the Bible isn’t perfect? Or, you don’t believe that God spoke to any of His other children…and only the Jews?

Does not the Bible say:

Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and I will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand. (Ezekiel 37:19)

Now, IF you believe the Bible is true I’m not saying you have to believe the Book of Mormon is the stick of Joseph. But, all “flesh and blood” logic aside, then where is the other stick/record? Is God a liar? Or, perhaps He hasn’t brought forth the stick of Joseph yet. But, either way, when it comes to light (if you don’t believe it’s the Book of Mormon), how will you know if it is indeed the word of God? Because some slick-tonged, educated, anti-Mormon religionist tells you it’s true? A man/woman who is no more than flesh and blood whose breath is in his nostrils (Isaiah 2:22) is going to control how you define where God’s word is?

In Matthew 16:13-18 Christ has a discussion about the authority of the voice of flesh and blood over that of God.

Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias or one of the prophets.

He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Here the entire world said Christ was something else than He was. And I have no doubt that they were convincing. At that time monotheism was a joke (except for the Jewish religion and even they struggled with reverting to idol worship). 2.2 billion+ were polytheists with idols and the like. Yet, Peter had a witness from God that Christ was the Son of the only true and living God. That was how he knew the truth. There were not even a few thousand, that actually believed Christ was the actual Son of God.

If the Bible is true in any sense, the only way to know it—despite its perceived or real contradictions and flaws—is by a witness from God. There is no greater witness. Not from “flesh and blood.” It is the same with the Book of Mormon. For those things that are spiritual are only comprehended by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:11, 14). Not by fact, not by science, not by educated men and women giving their thumbs up.symbol of the house at sunset on the seashore

But, let me continue on with a less apologetic rant (2 Nephi 29:7-8 [3-8]).

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?

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? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.

So, if you want to discount the Book or Mormon—another witness of Jesus Christ, the God to whom you so desperately cling—then you must also, at some point, discount the Bible. Because the Book of Mormon testifies of the Bible and Christ.

But, if your doubts about issues with the Book of Mormon is still strong. I have a few final things to share.

Here is the first. These are scriptures from writers of the Book of Mormon where they are concerned about their human mistakes in writing the record. They are worried that future generations will see these weaknesses and discount the record.

2 Nephi 33:10-11:

And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words (meaning the Book of Mormon) and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.

And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.

Ether 12:23-41:

And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things (meaning the records within the Book of Mormon) because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou has made us mighty in word by faith, but thou has not made us mighty in writing; for thou has made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou has given them;

Thou has also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.

And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness…

Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness…

And I Moroni, after having heard these words was comforted, and said…Wherefore, I know by this thing which thou has said, that if the Gentiles have no charity, because of our weakness, that thou wilt prove them, and take away their talent, yea, even that which they have received, and give unto them who shall have more abundantly.

And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity…

And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood.

And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things: And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing.

Here is my second.

One of my biggest complaints about people that try to discount the Book of Mormon after having once testified of its truth or believing in it is that they never comment about whether or not it is bringing them to Christ or not. That never factors into why they stop disbelieving it or why they leave the Church.

Does reading the Book of Mormon make you better? More Christlike? Or, if you haven’t studied it in a long time (which is often the case), are you discounting it based on a vague memory of what you read? If it’s not true, don’t turn only to the few issues people point out. Read it from cover to cover. Find out if it leads you to Christ or not despite its weaknesses. Isn’t that the true test?

However, if your issue is that it was translated by Joseph Smith through the Urim and Thummim or a seer stone or a rock he found on the ground or through a stained glass window, then again, what really matters is “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:16-20), if you believe the Bible. What is the fruit of the Book of Mormon? Whether it has a million typos or a historical or other discrepancy on every page, what are its fruits?

Young businessman hiding head in the sand

If the Book of Mormon is flawed even though it testifies of Christ then so is the Bible. If you once accepted the Book of Mormon; either it’s from God and so is the Bible, or its not from God and neither is the Bible. It’s impossible to dismiss the Book of Mormon without also dismissing the Bible. If your issue is with how it was translated instead of what its fruits are, then you’re straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel (Matthew 23:24). If your issue is with Joseph Smith, then continue on…

Prophets, Apostles, and Church Leadership

The world and members of the Church have begged for the Church of Jesus Christ to be transparent. So, the Church has worked hard to become more transparent. They have produced as much honest fact and material as they can. And, some of this information doesn’t answer all the questions and issues people have. And, they are upset that there are still some things God hasn’t revealed to “their” pleasure. And, it suddenly becomes the Church’s fault.

As well, people who have only ever studied about Joseph Smith enough to gain a testimony of him and the Book of Mormon are now taking the time to look into the history of the Church, it’s past, and the humanity of its prophets and leadership. What they find shocks them. Joseph was a pretty regular human guy. He was subject to the culture of his time. He was poor with finances and most administrative concepts.

Of course, this delving into the Church’s history and the weaknesses of its leadership leads to all sorts of concerns and questions. Could this man really have been a prophet?

I’m not sure if the issues people have with past and present Church leadership is more a question of their unrealistic expectations versus reality. But, a lot of them seem to have this idea that God calls only perfect people to do His work. Some of them seem to think that once a person is called to God’s service that they won’t make any mistakes or that God will keep them from making certain mistakes and that all will be easy and well.

Just as so many religions claim “God has done His work,” we modern Latter-day Saints seem to also believe that God somehow was only meant to ask hard and difficult things of past people, not us present ones. Heaven forbid we are ever asked to do anything that teaches us the depth of our own faith. God is too nice for that now… He won’t ask me to do anything as difficult as Abraham” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:4).

I honestly haven’t been able to figure out what the real basis is of people’s complaint against Joseph Smith, but it boils down to a lack of faith. It has nothing to do with Joseph Smith—not really

But, I have found that most people who leave the church still like to fall back on Christianity (in a general sense) and therefore the Bible. They think there, in the Bible, they will find prophets who are “true prophets.”

So, let’s make a comparison of Bible prophets and Joseph Smith. For the sake of brevity, I’m not going to quote every scriptural reference that validates these lists. If you don’t believe the lists then I put it to you to search the Bible, both OT and NT, and prove my list wrong. It’s not hard, but it will take time. But, I had to put in the time, so it’s clearly possible.

Bible Prophets and Leadership Joseph Smith
·         Were previous sinners who reformed

·         Were doubted and betrayed by family and close associates

·         Became stronger, better, and more refined in God’s service

·         Lost privileges when they forgot to put God first

·         Regained privileges when they repented

·         Were often the “least” of their brethren and associates

·         Often had weaknesses that would have made them a surprise pick for prophet

·         Received a mission and commandments from God

·         Commanded to dispense God’s plan, ordinances, commands, and covenants

·         Saw the Lord Jesus Christ

·         Accepted their prophetic call despite their self-doubts

·         Were asked to do things by God that the rest of the world (at the time) didn’t understand

·         Were prone to the superstitions and culture of their day

·         Were often poor administrators or parents

·         Doubted the Lord’s requests and commands

·         Allowed others to lead them astray for a time

·         Made mistakes

·         Sometimes got direct instructions and revelations, and other times the Lord didn’t give the information freely and so they had to seek the Lord for guidance and information

·         Had annoying human personality traits

·         Had marriages that were disliked or questioned

·         Had multiple wives as commanded by God

·         Was a previous sinner in some normal human aspects and reformed

·         Was doubted and betrayed by close associates and friends

·         Became stronger, better, and more refined in God’s service

·         Lost privileges when he forgot to put God first

·         Was the “least” of the people of his time

·         Had weaknesses that made people doubt God would call him as a prophet

·         Received a mission and commandments from God

·         Was commanded to restore God’s church (dispense His full plan), ordinances, commands, and covenants

·         Saw the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father

·         Accepted his prophetic call despite his doubts

·         Was asked to do things by God that the rest of the world (then and now) often don’t understand

·         Was prone to superstitions and culture of his day

·         Was well known to be a poor administrator as well as poor at most organization and finances

·         Struggled with some of the Lord’s requests and commands

·         Allowed Martin Harris, and others, to lead him astray on some issues

·         Made mistakes day to day like all humans do

·         Sometimes got direct instructions and revelations, and other times the Lord didn’t give the information freely and so he had to seek the Lord for guidance and information

·         Had a natural playfulness that many people of his time thought was unbefitting a prophet, and irreverent of a holy man

·         Had marriages that were disliked or questioned

·         Had multiple wives as commanded by God

I’m sure there are more things to list on both sides. I’m not trying to present a comprehensive list. I’m merely trying to point out that Joseph Smith was no different than any other prophet called by God. In fact, most of the prophets had some or most of the items on the list, but not all. Joseph was proven and tried with everything past prophets had been tried with. What a burden! And people don’t even give him any credit.

So, Joseph Smith is Joseph Smith. A good man, not a perfect man, who became a great man, but who nonetheless was human. Was he a prophet? That’s for you to decide. But, it’s very senseless to take any part of his humanity and use it as a data point to say he couldn’t have been a prophet. God can and will use whomever He wishes to fulfill His work. If we want to sit around and entertain and hiccup over complexities and doubts based on a person’s imperfections and humanity rather than to trust the fruits of the person’s labors, that’s our business. But, it will never bring us peace.

If we are willing to serve God and we love Him, it matters not how imperfect or weird we are. God can use us to do His work. And, He will. The only time God can’t use someone to do His work is if that person isn’t willing, and doesn’t love God. It has nothing to do with perfection or talents or charisma or experience. If God chooses someone, then they are chosen until they become unwilling to do God’s will. End of story. That’s GRACE! Grace is about doing God’s will imperfectly and still being accepted because we are trying. I know we like to put people on pedestals, but it applies as much to prophets and apostles as it does to us.

So, on a final note, people like to pick and pry and complain about all of Joseph Smith’s (and other Church leaders issues, policies, etc.). And, yet, they can solve all of the little doubts and complexities with sincere prayer (2 Nephi 32:8) offered with real intent to follow the answer: “God, was Joseph Smith a prophet despite his humanity?” Or, if you’re issue is with modern prophets and leadership: “God, is <current prophet> your chosen vessel for dispensing revelation and guidance today?”

We can pray about individual policies too, but in reality, it’s much simpler than that. If Joseph Smith was a prophet then the Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on earth and will bring us closer to God than any other book. If <current prophet> is God’s current chosen vessel for dispensing revelation and guidance, then God is behind whatever he is doing whether we understand it or not. Don’t trust man! Ask God!

Indeed the Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). The Book of Mormon says, “Ask God if these things are true and the Holy Ghost will reveal the truth of it unto you” (Moroni 10:3-5).

“Flesh and blood” is no good for a foundation of faith. If you want to believe in God and not be an atheist, then you must place the witness of the Holy Ghost above the witness of men. Men’s wisdom is the god of the atheist. Godly wisdom is the god of the Christian. If you claim to trust God’s word then you must study it and “by its fruits” and a witness of the Holy Ghost know if it is true.

Close up on hands holding Home made from sand. House on seashore. Summer holiday, vacation, postcard, background.  Real estate investment concept

Most of the time, in my life, I have found that seasons of doubt—which are often fueled by the doubts of others—are most often caused by a shock to our religious expectations. The only way to overcome this romantic, incorrect view of God and His plan is to study His word, listen to His prophets, and seek the witness of His Holy Spirit—not the factual, data-driven witness of men. We must come to know Him, not our version of Him. Then, we can stand with surety in our faith. Until then, we have merely built our spiritual house (testimony) on sand.

BT

Doctrine: The Light of Christ is our basic conscience, but it can be dulled or altered. The Power of the Holy Ghost is a momentary burst or intense “glow of truth” that is temporary so that we can choose to act upon it, but not be compelled. However, the GIFT of the Holy Ghost is an endowment of POWER that makes our imperfect efforts and sincere righteous desires effective in actually changing us into a godly beings.

For many Christians, there is a clear deficit in understanding the role of the GIFT of the Holy Ghost. I think this is because there are so many ways in which the Holy Spirit functions that most of us fail to see the distinctions between His several functions AND how we are supposed to take advantage of those functions for our own journey back to God. In fact, most people don’t understand and can’t differentiate between the Light of Christ, the Power of the Holy Ghost, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

The Light of Christ is something that comes with us when we are born into this world (Doctrine and Covenants 93:2; St. John 1:9). It is in our flesh, blood and spirit. In fact, it cannot be separated from us because it is tied directly to the power by which we were organized and made. Christ created the earth. Every particle of it is under His command and is given life and purpose by His divine influence. God, our Heavenly Father organized our spirits. Therefore, the innate goodness and godliness from which we originate has been preserved in our very nature. It is a part of who we are, eternally. Which, is why every person that comes into this world has a basic understanding of right and wrong and a sense of guilt. The Light of Christ is our basic conscience.

However, the Light of Christ is not sufficient to perfect us. It is an innate sense but not an active source for help. It can be warped or altered by our environment and life experiences as we actively choose to override it. Alone it is insufficient to help us become like God.

Unlike the Light of Christ, the Holy Spirit is an active source of guidance. The Holy Ghost is a member of the godhead. He is omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly loving, perfectly just, and so forth. He is exactly like God the Father and Jesus Christ. The only difference between Him and Them is that the Holy Ghost does not have a body of flesh and bone (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22-23). This bodily difference is necessary so that He can communicate directly with our spirits.

So, how is the Power of the Holy Ghost different from the Light of Christ?

Before we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost through confirmation (after the ordinance of baptism), the Power of the Holy Ghost can descend upon us and give us what I like to call an intense “glow of truth.” This glow may be an injection of pure reason or logic that connects some spiritual and intellectual dots for our life. It can be a feeling of comfort or peace that something we have been taught or that we have read is true. It can be an unmistakable feeling of love or assurance that God is with us. But, the key to all of these things is that they are significant moments. We know during this intense “glow of truth” that something is God’s will, or that something is true, or that we need to make a little, significant, or a big change in our life.

But, while the glow is intense and something we are infinitely sure of while we feel it, it doesn’t stay with us. Why not? We’d certainly like it to, wouldn’t we? Because often when the glow is gone we doubt or lose sight of what we felt. But, the glow can’t be permanent. This is because once we know something God isn’t going to attach strings to our arms and legs and make us act on that knowledge. And, having a permanent intense “glow of truth” is akin to doing just that. No matter how great it feels when we feel it, to make the glow remain with us at that intensity is an act of compulsion.

Once the Holy Ghost has given us a clear witness, He has to step back to allow us to use our free will to follow it. The glow was an obvious and blatant invite to recognize and follow God’s truth and will. But, after the invitation has been delivered, we have to be free to choose (2 Nephi 2:27). God will not act upon us (2 Nephi 2:14-16).

So, what about the Gift of the Holy Ghost? If the Power of the Holy Ghost teaches us truth with an intense glow, what does the Gift of the Holy Ghost do?

Both before and after confirmation by the laying on of hands (see 4th Article of Faith), we experience the Power of the Holy Ghost (the glow) which is like a shot of veritaserum for our mind and heart (pardon the Harry Potter reference). But, it doesn’t last. However, the Gift of the Holy Ghost is a much more subtle experience. Rather than a sporadic shot it is a consistent, subtle flow of direction.

For those who want the “constant glow,” they can get something even better through the Gift of the Holy Ghost by accepting the covenant of baptism and being confirmed by the laying on of hands (see 4th Article of Faith). This is because they have exercised their agency/free will to enter into a covenant to serve God and keep His commandments. Covenants are how God protects and dispenses His power (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33-36). Meaning, we can’t get access to certain aspects of His power without making a covenant with Him. Therefore, a condition of the baptismal covenant—wherein we agree to give our will to God and keep His commandments and take His name upon us—is that God provides us with the constant guidance (not compulsion) we want.

However, this constant guidance isn’t a gigantic glow. It is more like a trickle of constant truth that will aid us in our designs to become godly. It also doesn’t compel us to be godly. But, it puts forth subtle invitations that alter our path a little at a time toward a godly end. This trickle is meted out to us in greater or lesser degrees as we continue to exercise our agency in keeping commandments, seeking for more knowledge and understanding, becoming Christlike, and receiving and entering into more covenants. If we don’t keep our end of the covenants the trickle is slowed to an occasional drop and eventually will leave us if we fail to repent and keep trying. We don’t have to be perfect to have the guidance of the Holy Ghost. We only have to be sincerely trying.

So, what good is a constant trickle of truth? How do we use it? What does it do?

Now, I don’t wish to diminish the experiences of those who claim to have been preserved physically by the Holy Ghost’s promptings. And yet, the fact is that those inexperienced with the Gift of the Holy Ghost often seem to preach about such physical-saving experiences as if this is the most common and important purpose the Holy Ghost serves. It is not. In fact, if indeed the Holy Ghost prompts us to take an action that will preserve us physically (which He can and has done at times but certainly doesn’t do often), it is the least important function to hope for. And, if we are not preserved from physical accidents and calamities, it rarely has anything to do with our ability to listen to the Holy Ghost.

Consider this, Christ overcame death with His Atonement for all of us, regardless of how we choose to live in this life. Therefore, no matter what happens to our physical bodies, they are guaranteed to become perfected and resurrected. However, though Christ overcame sin for all of us with His Atonement, access to that portion of grace is guarded and protected by covenants and conditions, like all the rest of God’s power. We can’t be forgiven without sincere action on our part. To offer it otherwise would be a grand mockery of the sacrifice Christ gave. Therefore, in order to receive the spiritually perfecting power of the Atonement we have to use our agency to choose to repent, keep God’s commands, and follow the nudges we get from the Holy Ghost.

The Gift of the Holy Ghost differs from the Light of Christ and the Power of the Holy Ghost in that the Gift of the Holy Ghost has POWER to enact permanent changes in our very emotional, mental, spiritual, and psychological selves. This is what Christ was referring to when He said that we must be born, not only of water, but of the Spirit (St. John 3:5). Baptism is an ordinance and takes place in a moment. But, being slowly changed by the Holy Ghost over time is baptism by fire.

For example, if we have a temper problem but we desire to be better and exercise our agency to try to be slower to anger and more quick to listen and love; over time, the POWER of the GIFT of the Holy Ghost can take our sincere intent and make it powerful enough to actually change our innate nature. If we take any temptation or weakness and exercise our agency to change it or overcome it, the GIFT of the Holy Ghost has the POWER to help us to actually overcome and change.

It doesn’t matter if we have a very debilitating psychological or physical addiction. It doesn’t matter if we are encountered with something that isn’t very tempting to us at all. The amount of temptation or the level of the weakness doesn’t matter. In order to be released from that temptation or addiction we must exercise our agency to overcome it. That act, combined with the POWER of the GIFT of the Holy Ghost, is what gives us the power to change and overcome. It may take one time of saying no and steering away from a temptation. It may take thousands of attempts to say no and steer away from a temptation. Depending on who we are different struggles and temptations will be harder for us. But, a sincere effort, over time, combined with the Gift of the Holy Ghost is what actually purifies and SANCTIFIES us and helps us become more like our Father in Heaven.

This is the amazing role of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. And, combined with our basic conscience and occasional glowing bursts of the Power of the Holy Ghost, each of us is capable of using our agency to become like God. However, without the Gift of the Holy Ghost, even the Power of the Holy Ghost testifying of truth cannot make us godly. We need the POWER of the GIFT to enact real spiritual change in our very beings.

Because of the sacredness and the power of the GIFT of the Holy Ghost, it is guarded by covenant. So, the Gift of the Holy Ghost is not a power to trifle with. He is a member of the godhead. We can’t take His companionship and help for granted.

So, the Light of Christ is basic and beneficial. But, it can’t change our very beings. The occasional bursts and intense glows of truth we get from the Power of the Holy Ghost can help us know God’s will for us and help us recognize His truths. But this burst of truth is an isolated experience that abates in time so that we can exercise our agency to accept or reject it. But, the GIFT of the Holy Ghost is a gift of POWER to become better, until someday we can become perfect. This GIFT is the power by which we become sanctified and holy. And, it is guarded by sacred covenant and only dispensed to those who try to keep that covenant.

BT

Doctrine: Politics has never been about picking the perfect leader. There is only one perfect leader, and that is Jesus Christ. Therefore, national and world politics has always been about our responsibility to seek to support good, honest, and wise candidates, and to uphold moral agency in the land that all may be accountable for their own sins in the day of judgment.

I have always loathed politics, and I’ll tell you why. Politics seem to breed contention, back-biting, slander, dissension—even among friends—and a long list of other negatives. In fact, I struggle so much with the political “environment” that I often check out completely. When it is time to vote, I seek out the least biased material I can find and research the issues and the candidates for myself. Then, I make my selections based on some very clear gospel doctrines—which will follow.

Politics, however, are not completely bad. In a very real way, government is a godly institution. God is our King. He is a perfect ruler, but He does expect us to be subject to His laws if we are to gain the glory of His divine leadership both now and in eternity. Learning to be subject to law is something we must to do learn to become like God, and to live with Him.

So, though earthly government is a poor substitute, it is indeed an actual substitute, therefore it is godly-instituted. God has said, “Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land. Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:22)

However, though government is a form or substitute of being subject to God, it is intended to be enacted and carried off in such a way that moral agency is preserved. Moral agency is our right to choose between opposing choices of all kinds and to be accountable, as an individual, for our choice. That accountability includes consequences, whether positive or negative.

God “raised up men” to design our current constitution and He has commanded that the constitution: “should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles; that every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment…And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land…” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77-80).

God has also said in Doctrine and Covenants 98:6-11:

Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land: and as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this [constitution], cometh of evil.

I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free. Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.

Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.

And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.

In the scriptures, God always tried to set up governments that preserved moral agency and allowed for as much individual choice and accountability as possible. That’s because, ultimately, in God’s plan, we do not approach Him as a nation, state, city, or town. We approach Him as individual children. Every choice we make is, in the end, individual.

So, in the scriptures, laws and consequence were dispensed from God through His prophets. God intended to have His people governed by prophets, apostles, pastors, teachers, etc. However, almost without fail God’s people always wanted to be “like everyone else.” They begged for kings and monarchs—absolute rulers. They wanted governments led by men. Not God.

In the Old Testament and Book of Mormon there are several accounts where the righteousness or wickedness of the ruling monarch often caused, by default, the subjected people to be righteous and or wicked. That’s because if a wicked king said something wicked in God’s eyes was okay, people could engage in it and avoid godly consequences (for the present), and the rest of the people had to bear with it. Therefore, as well, the king or ruler carried the majority of the accountability for the righteousness or wickedness of the people. There was still individual accountability, of course, but not quite full accountability.

In the Old Testament God tried to give the Israelites what they wanted through a compromise. He instituted judges. The judges were public intermediaries (similar to a democratic system) and unlike prophets were not always as righteous or as fair or as helpful as they could have been. And because of this they often failed in saving Israel and were often destroyed themselves. In the Book of Mormon, during a particularly righteous period the Nephites had a very righteous king, Benjamin. When he died his son Mosiah became king. He was also very righteous. The people enjoyed both righteousness, peace, and prosperity. Then, when Mosiah was dying there was contention about who should be the next king. To avoid the political turmoil, Mosiah encouraged the people to elect a system of judges instead.

“And I command you to do these things in the fear of the Lord; and I command you to do these things, and that ye have no king; that if these people commit sins and iniquities they shall be answered upon their own heads.

For behold I say unto you, the sins of many people have been caused by the iniquities of their kings; therefore their iniquities are answered upon the heads of their king. And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land…but I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike…that the burden should come upon all the people, that every man might bear his part.

And now it came to pass, after king Mosiah had sent these things forth among the people they were convinced of the truth of his words. Therefore they relinquished their desires for a king, and became exceedingly anxious that every man should have an equal chance throughout all the land; yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins.”

So, politics and the type of government we choose are something God certainly cares about. However, He can counsel us on what to seek for and then the accountability for our choices is left up to us. He will allow nations to fall or rise based on the consequences of our political choices.

However, it seems in our country, that we long ago forgot about what was most important in choosing a candidate. We have gotten caught up in financial concerns, welfare concerns, and many other worthwhile and interesting issues. And these issues are critical and important. And yet, in the concern for these issues we have cast aside the importance of individual moral agency. We still talk about it and preach it, but we sidestep it when something else we want for our city, state, or nation takes precedence in our mind. We place some other objective in the line of importance over agency when agency is the one objective/right God will never breach.

C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, Book 1, Chapter 2 Some Objections, roughly paragraph 5:

“…The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs.  There is not one of them which will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide.  You might think love of humanity in general was safe, but it is not.  If you leave out Justice you will find yourself breaking agreements and faking evidence in trials ‘for the sake of humanity’, and become in the end a cruel and treacherous man.”

In the place of “man” I might insert “nation.”

While our nation and its main political candidates preach equality and opportunity and the love of humanity, they absolutely and unequivocally leave out the need for honesty, justice, and personal moral agency and personal accountability. In fact, much of the legislation in the past years has been about protecting people from the power and the personal effects of moral agency.

Currently, we have a very strong two-party system—though it seems to be weakening a bit based on this most recent presidential election. People are afraid to step outside this two-party system. In fact, people limit themselves to two choices because any other choice, they argue, won’t matter. Why vote for someone I like who won’t actually have a chance to get elected? So, people justify voting for a candidate they really don’t like because they feel that their vote has to change the election outcome in order to matter. But, what people have forgotten is that the vote is about trying to elect a good and honest person to office—as God commanded. It’s about doing our part to support moral agency—as God has commanded—for “more or less than this cometh of evil.” In fact, we are to “forsake all evil.” We are not to support a lesser evil.

So, if there is no good or honest person to elect, do we simply pick the best of the worst? Do we vote for someone who is not good or honest and wise simply because that’s all there is to pick from? Do we vote for someone to keep someone else who is less terrible out of office? What motivation are we placing as the justification for our vote?

Each person must answer these questions for themselves. I can’t tell anyone how to vote and I would never dare. I can only state the doctrine. That God has commanded us to seek good, honest, and wise men (and or women). He has commanded that we forsake all evil, not just some of it. He has never suggested that we settle for evil simply because good can’t be found. He has asked us to uphold moral agency. He has said that if the majority uphold evil (even a small bit of it), then we will individually, and as a nation, mourn.

Finally, as a last note. Popular vote is not what elects our president. It is the electoral college. And even though those who sit in the electoral college are supposed to uphold the popular vote, they don’t have to. We have elected them to uphold our best interests and if they don’t agree with what we’ve chosen, they can choose differently. So, does our vote matter if it doesn’t actually contribute to or effect who gets elected?

Yes. And I’ll tell you why.

Each of us is accountable for our political choices to the same being for which we are accountable for everything else: God. God has given clear guidance on how His people are to act politically. Whether our vote contributes to the election of an official we like or dislike; whether our vote keeps the greater of two evils out of office, won’t matter in the eternal scheme of things. What will matter is our intent behind our votes. Did we seek to uphold good and honest candidates who would also maintain the doctrine of moral agency? Did we uphold God’s laws? This is what matters about our votes. This is a hard doctrine to swallow, but it is nonetheless true.

Our votes are about our souls. Our votes are about our willingness to follow God. We are commanded to make these votes. We are encouraged to choose honesty and goodness. When honesty and goodness cannot be found, our votes still are a part of our individual eternal makeup. If we make them so that we are in good conscience with our God, then we can have peace that He will manage the rest. Nations come and go under His all-seeing eye, and yet we know that the Kingdom of God will break down and absorb all the rest (Daniel 2:44). So, what are we so afraid of?

Though politics make me upset and frustrated and frankly, I can’t stand them. I know my role as a citizen of this country, and more importantly as a child of God. That is how I make peace with the current political environment. That is how I weigh what matters most in my individual political contribution. I do what I feel is right in my standing before God; and I don’t just hope He’ll take care of the rest. I know He will.

BT

This is a 4-Part Blog. At the end of each part, if you want to continue you’ll be able to click on a link that will take you to the next part.

Doctrine(s): #1) The witness we receive from the Holy Spirit is more valid than any other source.

I learned long ago that everyone has their own path to truth and joy and that they must take it. The whole purpose of agency is not about preventing people from taking paths you think they shouldn’t take. It’s about sharing what you know to be true, in love, and then letting them exercise their will to find out what’s true for themselves. This is how we all arrive at a witness of truth.

So often we think what we know, if said in the perfect way, will fix other’s issues and doubts. So often we believe that we can micromanage or even help people with the perfect paragraph of proof. We will try persuasion. Then, if that doesn’t work, we try compulsion. Then, if that doesn’t work, we move on to other ways where we try to make/force others to see what we see. And it seems so simple. It seems that it should work. But, it doesn’t. In fact, if it was that easy, then I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

There is only one source that can teach people absolute truth—the truth of all things (Moroni 10:5). That source is the Holy Ghost. And, the Holy Ghost can only teach people things if they want to be taught. If we want to believe something that is not true, or that is only partially true, the Holy Ghost will not force us to believe the actual truth. Our agency is so sacred and personal that it is like an impenetrable block in our minds and hearts that God, nor His Holy Spirit, will attempt to break—unless we invite Him to break it (1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Nephi 33:1). A witness from the Holy Ghost is also so special and sacred that it can only be received when we want it and when we are willing to believe, and receive it. And, it is not a witness that comes without significant effort (Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-33).

Each and every person has personality traits, psychological characteristics, life experiences, and ways of reasoning that only God knows and that only God can fix or change for those willing to follow His guidance. And only God knows what path will best lead each of us to the full measure of what blessings and truths He wishes to give us. Consequently, there is no choice that we make or path we can take that God can’t turn to our glory in our discovery of joy—if we let Him.

So, what is my goal with this blog post? My goal is to show what things I think about when I see those I care about, or who I have known well, leave the church. I can’t change them. But, I mean, let’s be real. Anytime anyone we love or respect has a crisis of faith—of any kind—it makes us question our own faith, or at least ponder and solidify it. So, here is the thought process (more or less) that I often go through when I see others struggle with their belief, their faithfulness, their activity, and who eventually make an exit from the church.

The first thing I think of is that the church doesn’t want people to accept things without asking questions or receiving their own witness of truth from the Holy Ghost. On the whole, a fundamental doctrine of Mormonism is seeking a personal witness and not only of the church being true as a whole—but a witness of each and every principle and doctrine we teach (Alma 32, St. John 7:17). That is the greatest strength of the church. We don’t live as we do and believe as we do because it’s nice, or good, or easy. Because it’s not. We don’t do it because some old men have threatened us. We rarely do it as a social thing, though some do. Even if someone has been born into the family tradition of being a Latter-day Saint we still encourage and expect them to gain their own witness.instagramquotes2

So, in general, we are in this church because we were invited to seek a personal witness of The Book of Mormon, of Joseph Smith, and of current Living Prophets and on-going revelation, of God’s specific and powerful plan for us, and of a Living Christ who is active in our lives. And, we received that witness from the Holy Ghost. That’s why we joined, and most often why we stay. The Holy Spirit said, “Yes, this is true.”

If a person’s witness from the Holy Spirit is called into question by fear, doubt, trials, offenses, mid-life crisis or other crisis of faith, or the philosophies of the world mingled with half-truths, by persuasive and well-meaning friends who don’t have our same witness, or other concerns or issues; then this is when many people leave the church or, minimally, become inactive.

 

I have had many times in my life where I had the opportunity to question my witnesses of truth. Whether it was a trial or struggle I was facing personally, or whether I saw others whom I respected struggling, I have had many opportunities to fear, doubt, to take offense, or to grab hold of worldly philosophies that, at the time, seemed to make much more sense and would lead me to happiness. So, why did I stay?

Well, I had one clear and unshakeable witness that held the glue together on all my other witnesses. What was that witness? That there is no more powerful witness than that which comes from the Holy Ghost. He is a member of the Godhead and as such He is omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly kind, loving, etc. He sees better than any mortal, no matter how intelligent, informed, or educated that mortal claims to be. So, if the Holy Spirit has told me something is true, then how can I let some mortal person or some worldly commentary undo it?

I have studied the doctrine (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118). I have lived the gospel. And, I know the doctrine to be true in the same way I know the church itself is true. The Holy Spirit has witnessed to me that it is true. I know this independent of my own struggles, doubts, and trials. And, I have had my share.

Click here to go to PART TWO

I told myself I would never write a religious blog…

I’ve had requests to do it, but I always turned them down. Why? I’m a non-confrontational person. I don’t like arguing and when you put yourself out there and write a blog it’s an invitation to put oneself in the public light. To do this is to say, “Hey, I have something to say and I want people to read it.” Now, you might say, “Well, hey, you write books. That’s an invitation to put oneself in the public light. So, what’s the big deal about a blog?” My answer would be: books don’t have an online comment option, books have links to buy and books have general feedback comments, but they aren’t dynamically available and they allow me the time to ponder a topic for months (sometimes years) before I open my big mouth. Conversely, blogs are much more “in the moment.”

In consequence, writing a blog also invites arguing and confrontation. People want to disagree with you. They want to give you heck for being bold enough to speak out, especially if they don’t agree. They want to silence you and make you appear the fool. They want to turn life into a battle of who’s right and who’s wrong and there can only be a victory if they’re the ones who come out on top and their opinion rules. People—in general—are rarely sincere seekers of truth. Some people are humble enough to see truth outside their own and make compromises. A few want to find hope, belief, doctrine, and peace.

People will almost always think what they want to think and do what they want to do, so to offer something that I think will help them when they don’t even want it is another invitation to get mud thrown in my face. In fact, my view has always been, that “I know what I know to be true. I know why I know it’s true. I know who I am and I’ve worked long and hard, studied long and hard, to get to this point. That’s all that matters to me.” As well, I respect other people’s right to believe what they want. I don’t want to force anyone to think like I think, to believe what I believe, or to do what I do. Do you all hear that? Think how you want to think. Do what you want to do. It’s not my goal to discount or belittle what mores you hold dear.

So, why am I writing a blog? Because, like Jeremiah (20:9) said, “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” I’m writing this blog because life is not about who’s right and who’s wrong. This life is about God’s will. It’s His world, His plan, and we can all fuss and fight and bicker. But, in the long run, when all is said and done, it’s His rights and His wrongs that matter, whether we understand them or not; whether we like them or not; whether we believe them or not. He’s either real or He’s not. And if He’s real, then His will is real. If His will is real, then what more is there to argue about? Who are we, as mere mortals, to fight over things we have no true authority to change?

So, I’ve decided to make my moniker The Doctrine Lady because I hope to back up everything I write, as much as possible, with good sound doctrine i.e. core truths. However, if ever doctrine fails or if people discount it, I will fall back on personal testimony because people can complain and argue and persecute me, but “so persecuted they the prophets” before me (Matthew 5:12; Acts 7:52), and they can’t change my own personal witness of truth. They can’t tell me I haven’t seen what I’ve seen. They can’t tell me I haven’t felt what I’ve felt. And they certainly can’t do anything to make me pretend otherwise.

If credentials matter, then let me just say I’ve been reading and studying my scriptures (the Bible, Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price) since I was fourteen years old—along with multitudinous other resources and manuals. I have completed four years of Seminary—equivalent to what a trained, professional preacher would attend. I have taught the same Seminary for six years as a volunteer. I have been teaching in volunteer capacities the very doctrines I will use since January 1999. I have been writing books, both fiction and non-fiction, since the year 2000. I have a BA in Business Administration, an MA in Curriculum and Instructional Design, and I have been working in business, finance, marketing, and retail since 1998. But, my biggest credential, the one I count of greatest worth, is my personal testimony of Jesus Christ.

Well, I’m going to make mistakes. There are going to be typos. I may not explain something in the way that best suits every person. I may fail to include something… So, for those who might seek to ridicule or persecute I simply quote the following (The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 33:10-11):

“And now my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye shall believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.”

“And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.”

So, there’s my intro, for what’s it’s worth.

Now, onto the doctrine.

BT