What best gifts do you have?

I’m going to take up my (electronic) pen and start addressing the spiritual best gifts given to the church, starting with the gifts of healing. But before I do, I’d like to take a poll. We are told by the Lord that “to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of the Lord.” So, of the list of best gifts found in D&C 46, which do you, dear reader, have?

Here is the list:

#1: To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

#2: To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.

#3: And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.

#4: And again, it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal.

#5: And again, verily I say unto you, to some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom.

#6: To another is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.

#7: And again, to some it is given to have faith to be healed;

#8: And to others it is given to have faith to heal.

#9: And again, to some is given the working of miracles;

#10: And to others it is given to prophesy;

#11: And to others the discerning of spirits.

#12: And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues;

#13: And to another is given the interpretation of tongues. And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.

#14: And unto the bishop of the church, and unto such as God shall appoint and ordain to watch over the church and to be elders unto the church, are to have it given unto them to discern all those gifts lest there shall be any among you professing and yet be not of God.

Now, if you have more than one of these gifts, tell all that you have (or think you have.) Also, which ones do you want to have?

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The faith of God, part eight: the Atonement is the word

Continued from part seven.

The Zoramites understood the message, sort of…

After expounding the doctrine of faith to the Zoramites, including breaking it down into its component ingredients (the word of God, belief on that word and the Holy Spirit), the Zoramites were eager to start the process and get themselves saved. Yet, their next question to Alma indicated they still didn’t quite get it.

Now after Alma had spoken these words, they sent forth unto him desiring to know whether they should believe in one God, that they might obtain this fruit of which he had spoken, or how they should plant the seed, or the word of which he had spoken, which he said must be planted in their hearts; or in what manner they should begin to exercise their faith. (Alma 33: 1)

Essentially, they wanted to know what the word was that they should believe in order to have it planted in their hearts so that the Holy Spirit could generate faith unto salvation in them. Alma then proceeded to appeal to the scriptures to show that the word is in Christ. He completed his sermon with these words:

Cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works. And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen. (Alma 33: 22-23)

It is the Atonement of Christ that we plant

The great, grand secret to exceedingly great faith is that we plant this word in our hearts through belief and allow it to grow via the action of the Holy Ghost, with no resistance on our part and no doubts concerning it. It is this word that brings all of the manifestations of the Holy Ghost to us. It is this word that overcomes the world and makes our calling and election sure. It is this word that generates eternal life (exaltation) and immortality in us. Christ is the Word and the more centered on Him and his atonement, the greater and faster our faith will grow.

For this reason, after Alma sat down, Amulek got up (recorded in Alma 34) and started expounding the doctrine of the Atonement of Christ to the Zoramites, that they might have the seed of faith they needed to plant in their hearts.

My brethren, I think that it is impossible that ye should be ignorant of the things which have been spoken concerning the coming of Christ, who is taught by us to be the Son of God; yea, I know that these things were taught unto you bountifully before your dissension from among us. And as ye have desired of my beloved brother that he should make known unto you what ye should do, because of your afflictions; and he hath spoken somewhat unto you to prepare your minds; yea, and he hath exhorted you unto faith and to patience—yea, even that ye would have so much faith as even to plant the word in your hearts, that ye may try the experiment of its goodness. And we have beheld that the great question which is in your minds is whether the word be in the Son of God, or whether there shall be no Christ. And ye also beheld that my brother has proved unto you, in many instances, that the word is in Christ unto salvation. (Alma 34: 2-6)

As the word is in Christ unto salvation, true saints of God center their whole lives on him. This is why Nephi stated:

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (2 Nephi 25: 26)

Jesus and his atonement is the seed of faith that needs to be planted in the hearts of man. By keeping this seed, and this seed only, planted by our belief in our hearts, which is our soil, with no resistance towards the Spirit, the seed grows exceedingly fast, tall and strong by the action of the Spirit. By focusing our mind, hearts, words and actions on the atonement of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit remains with us. This is why the ordinance of the sacrament was instituted, to remind us of the atonement, to point our minds to it and teach us that it is the atonement that is the key to faith, which faith is necessary for our salvation. Jesus, when he visited the Nephites and instituted the sacrament among them, emphasized this point:

And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.…And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you. (3 Nephi 18: 7, 11)

It is the atonement that allows people to have faith unto salvation and it is faith that allows people to be able to repent and receive forgiveness. Remember the words of the Lord to Enos, when he asked how it was done that his sins were forgiven. He did not receive as a response that the atonement caused him to be forgiven, in other words, he wasn’t told that it was Christ that caused it to happen. Instead he received the response that it was his faith that caused him to receive forgiveness!

And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away. And I said: Lord, how is it done? And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole. (Enos 1: 5-8 )

So, it wasn’t Christ that made him whole, but Enos’ faith. Faith in Christ accomplishes all things. Amulek also taught this doctrine that we are saved by our faith in Christ, and the atonement is what allows us to have faith unto salvation:

And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption. (Alma 34: 15-16)

So, it is faith that saves mankind, which is why it is imperative that we understand the doctrine of faith, both what it is, how to get it and how to increase it to the salvation point, which is the point of justification, purification and sanctification and of miracles (manifestations of the powers and gifts of the Holy Ghost.)

The meaning of “hard hearts”

The comparison of the word to a seed and our hearts to the soil into which that seed needs to be planted brings up more farmer terms: the type of soil (heart). Although not all of us are farmers, pretty much everyone has come across, at one time or another, hard ground that won’t budge when you try to dig into it. Nothing can be planted in hard soil. The dirt needs to be broken up and prepared to receive a seed. All the talk, therefore, in the scriptures concerning hard hearts refers to hearts that will not plant the seed of faith (the word of God that is in Christ and his atonement) through belief on that word. A hard-hearted person, then, is a person who will not believe the word of God when presented with it, nor even do they desire to believe it. If you will not believe, you cannot obtain faith. If you never obtain faith, you cannot be saved.

I mention this because the scriptures emphasize belief, not knowledge, whereas modern LDS emphasize knowledge, not belief. “I know the Church is true,” is a common statement made by many modern LDS. The scriptures also emphasize Christ and his atonement, not the Church, whereas modern LDS emphasize the Church, not Christ. To a great extent, we have missed the message and meaning of the Book of Mormon and Bible, as well as other scriptures, despite the words being written in clarity and plainness. Just as Amulek says “the whole meaning of the law [of Moses]” points to the atonement of Jesus Christ, so does the more excellent law of Christ. (See Alma 34: 14.)

Saints are centered on the atonement

Every saint I have ever met was fixated on the atonement. They spoke constantly of Christ and his atonement. They viewed everything through the lens of Christ and his gospel. And they had the gifts and powers of the Holy Ghost attending them. They were true saints, meaning, they were sanctified people who had received the second baptism, even that of fire and of the Holy Ghost. In almost every aspect, these true saints were similar to professed saints. They went to their church meetings, they attended the temple, they paid their tithing, they obeyed the law of chastity and kept the word of wisdom, etc., like other members. The only difference that I could see between these sanctified people and other members of the church was their fixation on Christ and his atonement. They didn’t talk of the Church or programs or peripherals, they talked of the core doctrine, the atonement, upon which everything else hangs. They tied everything to Christ and viewed everything through him. As a result, they spoke often of visions and dreams and angels and prophecies and revelations that they had had, not some ancient or distant prophet. The difference between the true saint and the saint in name only was that the true saint had the Spirit’s powers, gifts, fruits and signs in attendance, whereas the others claimed to have the Spirit without manifesting these powers, gifts, fruits and signs. Again, the only reason why one group possessed more than the other group was that the empowered or endowed group understood that the Atonement was the word that must be planted in their hearts and they grew that seed carefully, by their belief and faith, until it manifested the blessings of heaven in their lives.

Next Faith of God article: The faith of God, part nine: The ingredients of faith

Previous Faith of God article: The faith of God, part seven: prayer and fasting

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The faith of God, part seven: prayer and fasting

Continued from part six.

The Holy Spirit, which is the third ingredient of faith, is given in portions:

And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. (2 Kings 2: 9)

And it came to pass that they journeyed many days in the wilderness, and they fasted much and prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of his Spirit to go with them, and abide with them, that they might be an instrument in the hands of God to bring, if it were possible, their brethren, the Lamanites, to the knowledge of the truth, to the knowledge of the baseness of the traditions of their fathers, which were not correct. (Alma 17: 9)

And a portion of that Spirit dwelleth in me, which giveth me knowledge, and also power according to my faith and desires which are in God. (Alma 18: 35)

And behold, I thank my great God that he has given us a portion of his Spirit to soften our hearts, that we have opened a correspondence with these brethren, the Nephites. (Alma 24: 8 )

And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil. (Alma 40: 13)

Behold, thus saith the Lord unto you my servants Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon, that the time has verily come that it is necessary and expedient in me that you should open your mouths in proclaiming my gospel, the things of the kingdom, expounding the mysteries thereof out of the scriptures, according to that portion of Spirit and power which shall be given unto you, even as I will. (D&C 71: 1)

As any increase in the amount of any of the three ingredients that make up faith (the word of God, belief on that word and the Holy Spirit) will increase the amount of faith possessed by the individual, all an individual need do to possess exceedingly great faith is obtain as much of the word of God as possible, believe all of it and obtain the greatest portion of the Spirit possible.

The above scriptures indicate that the amount of a portion varies. It can be small or it can be great, even double that of the portion given to Elijah. Mercifully, the Lord has given us the means to increase our portion of the Spirit: fasting and prayer.

Obtaining a Greater Portion Through Prayer

And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach. (D&C 42: 14)

And it shall come to pass that he that asketh in Spirit shall receive in Spirit; that unto some it may be given to have all those gifts, that there may be a head, in order that every member may be profited thereby. He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh. And again, I say unto you, all things must be done in the name of Christ, whatsoever you do in the Spirit; and ye must give thanks unto God in the Spirit for whatsoever blessing ye are blessed with. And ye must practise virtue and holiness before me continually. Even so. Amen. (D&C 46: 28-33)

Prayer is one of the tools of the saint, whereby faith is increased. Now, here is the tricky part: only prayers of faith increase the portion. A prayer in which doubt is present or in which there is no real belief that what is prayed for will be received is ineffective and has no result except to waste time and breath. Mormon gave the formula of effective prayers:

Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth. (Mormon 9:21)

Then Mormon quoted Jesus:

For behold, thus said Jesus Christ, the Son of God, unto his disciples who should tarry, yea, and also to all his disciples, in the hearing of the multitude: Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature; and he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned; and these signs shall follow them that believe—in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover; and whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth. (Mormon 9: 22-25)

A “prayer of faith” (D&C 42: 14), “asking in Spirit” (D&C 46: 28 ) and “asking the Father in the name of Christ” while “believing in Christ, doubting nothing” (Mormon 9: 21) are all the same thing. As faith is a combination of the word of God, belief on that word and the Holy Spirit, all prayers of faith will conform to the word of God, will manifest belief on that word and will be accompanied by the presence and action of the Holy Spirit.

I wish to emphasize that there are only three variables to a prayer of faith. One is conformity to the word of God. In other words, a prayer of faith can only be for something in which it is possible to have faith. You cannot pray in faith that unrepentant sin be forgiven. You cannot pray in faith that Satan be converted to the Lord. You cannot pray in faith that God lie. Prayers of faith, then, must be of things in which it is possible to have faith.

The second variable is belief. As mentioned in a previous article of this series on the faith of God, belief must be present. There must be no doubts whatsoever that you are going to get what you pray for. However, if belief is not present, the Lord has provided a way for us to obtain belief. You simply allow a desire to believe work in you until the Spirit deposits the gift of belief in you, sufficient for your prayer to become a prayer of faith. It is as simple at that.

The third variable is the Holy Spirit. We don’t, technically, have any control over the Spirit, however, using the first two variables in conjunction with prayer (and later fasting), the portion of the Spirit given to us can be increased.

Obtaining a Greater Portion Through Fasting

Fasting, combined with the prayer of faith, changes the soul’s priorities from Physical-spiritual or physical-spiritual to physical-Spiritual, meaning that the soul is caused to rely upon the spiritual aspect of our beings more than the physical. This humbles us, or, in other words, suppresses the physical aspects of us somewhat, allowing us to more fully experience the spiritual. As the Holy Spirit is fully capable of sustaining life, reliance upon the Spirit for sustenance doesn’t not weaken an individual spiritually or physically, but, in fact, strengthens both corresponding set of organs.

All of the greatest individuals who ever lived on the planet, and all true saints, engage in extended fasts. 40 days is the “magic” number used in the scriptures, but fasts can be sustained indefinitely as long as the Holy Spirit is present. Alma, whose greatness is plainly demonstrated by the fact that he never tasted of death, but was translated, often used the words “many days” or “much fasting” to describe the duration of the fasting he engaged in.

The current practice among LDS of fasting one day a month, skipping two meals or a 24-hour fast, although beneficial to the poor through donated fast offerings, is marginally beneficial to the one who fasts, compared to an extended fast, as practiced by saints of the past and present.

Because extended fasting is something of an obstacle to the gluttonous generation we are living in, in which all physical appetites must be satiated immediately, it becomes a litmus test of a true saint. Nevertheless, to those who engage in much and extended fasting and prayers of faith, fasting is one of the quickest ways to obtain exceedingly great faith, as it pulls down from heaven the Holy Spirit in ever greater and greater portions, which brings with it visions, dreams, revelations, prophecies, gifts, powers, fruits, angels and all other manifestations of faith, allowing the individual to progress even more rapidly towards the goal of overcoming the world and making his or her calling and election sure.

A Modern Example

I will use a woman I met on my mission as an example. Her name was Cori Rubio and she was a latter-day saint, meaning that she was a sanctified, baptized, member of the church. Cori engaged in fasting and prayers of faith, scripture study and all other aspects of a true saint and each time my companion and I met with her, we were presented with her accounts of the manifestations she was daily receiving. As I possess the gift of discerning of spirits, I was able to confirm that her accounts were true. I understood, with her, what the saying “the joy of the saints” meant and also what it meant to have two saints meet and rejoice in the Lord. Each time my companion and I met her, it was a spiritual feast. Yet, she was not blessed financially, though she had sufficient for her needs. She was one of the few people I’ve met in the church whose roots were firmly implanted in gospel sod and who manifested that they had received of the Spirit of Christ by the powers, gifts and signs of the Holy Ghost attending her. It was easy to recognize that she was a saint.

Nevertheless, such a portion of the Spirit would not have been possible without great faith on her part, which she received through fasting and prayers of faith.

Next Faith of God article: The faith of God, part eight: the Atonement is the word

Previous Faith of God article: The faith of God, part six: the Holy Spirit

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Is Molly right?

Following the referrals to this blog tonight, I came across Molly’s Blog, dedicated to all things, and blogs, anarchist. Apparently, on the 17th of February, 2008, Molly posted a blog entry entitled, “Weird Stuff: Bakunin Goes To Salt Lake City?

In her article, here is what Molly had to say about the LDS Anarchy blog:

But then we find….”Mormon anarchism” ! No, that’s not a misnomer nor an insult. Molly found one site, LDS Anarchy, which stands for, you guessed it, Latter Day Saints Anarchy. Yup, brought to you by the same sort of clean cut youngersters who show up at your door at 9:00 am on a Sunday morning, just when you are out of bullets and too hungover to aim anyways. Exploring the site I found that there was a lot on Mormon doctrine and precious little on anarchism, and that the brand of “anarchism” that the author(s) seemed to favour was more anarcho-capitalism than the sort of socialist anarchism that the word has stood for through much of its history. Maybe the author still has intent to present more anarchy in future posts, but what was there seems to be very much of a light snack as opposed to the 12 course meal of Mormonism so far on the table.

In the very next paragraph, Molly had this to say about The Mormon Worker publication

A fish of a different colour can be seen at The Mormon Worker, obviously named in imitation of the Christian anarchist ‘The Catholic Worker’. The anarchism there is quite obviuos and in the tradition of Christian anarcho-pacifism. Now I know that there are those who deny the Mormons the label of “Christian”, especially because of their rather unique position of the Trinity, but the orthodox trinitarian position that most of us learned at an early age is hardly the only one that Christians have adopted in the past or even adopt today. The orthodox are merely the most numerous. The Mormon position of “extended monothelism” in which there are three distinct gods with one will might have been the orthodox one today if then accidents of history had been different. The position of the Mormon Worker is clearly on the socialist side of the anarchist spectrum, just as that of the Catholic Worker and the Jesus Radicals is. What Molly found to be one of the site’s most interesting aspects is the name of the author, a professor at Brigham Young University. He is…wait for it… “Warner Woodworth”. This may be rather an incomprehensible in-joke to many younger anarchists, but for those of us who have been around for awhile the name Woodworth, as in Fred Woodworth, the publisher of The Match ! and long time hater of all things religious, especially the Mormons, strike us as more than slightly out of place in such company. Would Fred go ballistic or what if he found this coincidence out.

I wonder how many other visitors to this blog come away with the same assessment as Molly. So I ask the visitor these questions:

Does the LDS Anarchy blog really have “a lot on Mormon doctrine and precious little on anarchism?” I’ve posted 89 articles so far, 18 of which dealt specifically with anarchy, the most of any category. I suppose Molly is comparing the 18 anarchy articles to the 71 other articles (lumping their categories together and calling it Mormon doctrine), but the anarchy articles were also on Mormon doctrine. I used Mormon scripture to back those articles up. You can’t get more Mormony than Mormon scripture. In fact, if you peruse this blog, you’ll notice that I pretty much only use Mormon scripture as my material, whether the topic is anarchy or anything else.

Is the brand of “anarchism” that I seem to favour on this blog more anarcho-capitalism than the sort of socialist anarchism that the word has stood for through much of its history? I had no idea that I was favoring a brand of anarchism with this blog. In fact, I don’t believe I even mentioned a brand, other than tribal anarchism, which is scriptural anarchism. Is tribal anarchism anarcho-capitalism or is it socialist anarchism? I find the assessment of Molly, based upon what I’ve written so far, intriguing, as I haven’t put forth or even mentioned, that I know of, the principles of, or even the word, anarcho-captitalism. Does the blog have this flavor? Do I really seem to favor this brand?

Is there really too little anarchy on this blog? Molly says, “maybe the author still has intent to present more anarchy in future posts,” and that is correct. I do intend to present more anarchy in future posts. But are not the 18 anarchy posts food enough for thought for now? Aren’t these articles difficult enough for the average LDS to swallow? Should not I give them a little breathing room? Even Molly has a hard time processing what I wrote. Molly says, “What does Molly think about all this ? Well, I am somewhat taken aback by the strangeness of it.”

Is the LDS Anarchy blog an oxymoron? Does anyone who has read the 18 articles truly believe my anarchism comes from outside of Mormonism, outside of the scriptures? Molly makes this assumption when she says, “I guess that it is a tribute to the gradual percolation of anarchist ideas through society that some would try and synthesize these two seemingly incompatible ways of thought.” I find it a funny statement because it is an incorrect assumption. I learned anarchy through the scriptures. I don’t even know who Bakunin is. In fact, if I were to talk to any non-LDS anarchist about anarchy, chances are they would start citing this person or that person as the anarchist who taught them anarchy. All I could cite is Alma, Moses and other prophets. For example, The Mormon Worker founder learned anarchy from other sources then went to the scriptures and realized it was scriptural, whereas I went to the scriptures and learned it but gave it no name until the term and concept of anarchy and anarchism was brought to my attention, at which point I recognized it as the scriptural principle I had learned.

Lastly, is there really a difference in the anarchism found on this blog and the anarchism found at The Mormon Worker? Is the anarchism there “quite obvious” and the anarchism here not so obvious? Is the anarchism espoused here not in the “tradition of Christian anarcho-pacifism,” like The Mormon Worker? I’m just curious of what the readers think. I wonder if Molly is right by saying that the LDS Anarchy blog and The Mormon Worker are two fish of different colors. After all, Molly did say, “A fish of a different colour can be seen at The Mormon Worker, obviously named in imitation of the Christian anarchist ‘The Catholic Worker’. The anarchism there is quite obvious and in the tradition of Christian anarcho-pacifism.”

So, is Molly right?

Next Anarchism/Anarchy article: The role of agency in political systems

Previous Anarchism/Anarchy article: The tribal nature of the gospel

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The faith of God, part six: the Holy Spirit

Continued from part five.

The last ingredient of faith is the Holy Spirit.

Alma said, “Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” (Alma 32: 28 )

The Holy Spirit is the ingredient that comes when there is belief on the word of God (the seed of faith) and it is the action of the Holy Spirit on that seed that starts it growing, allowing it to take root in the individual’s heart and begin its upward sprout. The seed of faith (the word of God), once planted by belief in the heart of man, germinates (or, as Alma says, swells) by the action of the Spirit and in this growing state is now called FAITH.

We LDS are often quick to point out, at least among ourselves, that the god that the Christian world worships—and the god I refer to is the one without body, parts or passions—is not really God, but one of the creations of God. In other words, they actually worship the creature, and not the Creator. ( The creature that they worship is actually the Light of Christ. See D&C 88: 12.) But we often make the same mistake when it comes to faith (as do they.) Many people of the world equate belief with faith, yet they are not the same. One is an ingredient of the other. Also, belief must be centered on the word of God before genuine faith can be generated. Believing in falsehoods does not generate faith.

Likewise, although the Holy Spirit germinates the seed of faith, it also is not faith. It is but an ingredient. Nevertheless, as the Spirit brings more of the word of God along with it, if that word is believed, it can immediately generate faith in the individual by action upon the newly planted seed.

In fact, as the Spirit does bring the word of God along with it, it is even equated in the scriptures as the word of God:

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: (Ephesians 6: 17)

For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ. (D&C 84: 45)

Although both the Holy Spirit and belief in the scriptures are associated with, and often even equated with, faith, only the word of God can rightly be called faith. When it is in its unplanted, unswelled state, it is dormant faith, or the seed of faith. When it is planted by belief and swelling by the action of the Holy Spirit, it is faith.

The action of the Holy Spirit upon the seed of faith planted in the heart of man by belief is immediate and instantaneous. No action need be taken by man to bring it into the heart or to cause it to do its job. The Holy Spirit automatically goes to every believer’s heart and swells the seed. Jesus taught this plainly:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one. (3 Nephi 11: 35-36)

As with everything in the gospel of Jesus Christ, all that is required of us is that we don’t resist the Holy Spirit, in other words, passive action. The gospel is set up to easily obtain salvation, so that none of us are left with the excuse that the way was too hard.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11: 29-30)

And he did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished. (1 Nephi 17: 41)

A common misconception we LDS fall into is that something other than passive action is required of us. If you were to sit in any three hour block of church on Sunday with a pencil and notepad, you could record many instances of words being spoken that indicate the difficulty of the gospel, words like hard, difficult, not easy, struggle, fight, battle, effort, etc., and you’d hardly hear of an instance of the gospel being referred to as easy.

We have largely turned the gospel upside down and desired complicated things, instead of the simple, easy things that the Lord has given us. Instead of easily basking in the light of the Spirit and enjoying the bounty of fruits, gifts and powers of the Holy Ghost, we have made for ourselves a difficult path to perfection, that hardly anyone who walks therein will finish. Even terms like sanctification are now equated as requiring years and years of diligent effort and full church activity, that only the strongest obtain a long time from now, instead of the instantaneous thing it is that can be obtained effortlessly and now. We refer to every part of the gospel as a process, something requiring much time and effort, instead of something that happens instantly and effortlessly. Thus, sanctification becomes a process, conversion becomes a process, and because these things take much time, much effort and great personal sacrifice, and because we are not perfect, daily repentance becomes necessary, too. All of these concepts are the precepts of men and are not part of the gospel of Jesus Christ as found in his holy, revealed writ.

But I digress. Back to the subject at hand: the Holy Spirit.

Like the word of God (the first ingredient) and belief on the word of God (the second ingredient), both of which can be increased,—and, when increased, faith also increases—so the portion of the Holy Spirit obtained can be increased, increasing faith. The Lord has left nothing to chance or randomness. The whole thing is scientifically based. Anyone, anywhere, can obtain faith in Jesus Christ. And anyone, anywhere, can increase that faith by simply increasing the amount of each ingredient. I have already written about how to obtain more of the word of God and more of belief. In the next article of this series, I will expound the principle of how to obtain more of the Holy Spirit.

Next Faith of God article: The faith of God, part seven: prayer and fasting

Previous Faith of God article: The faith of God, part five: belief

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The faith of God, part five: belief

Continued from part four.

In his masterful exposition on faith, Alma gave the second ingredient of faith:

And now, behold, I say unto you, and I would that ye should remember, that God is merciful unto all who believe on his name; therefore he desireth, in the first place, that ye should believe, yea, even on his word. (Alma 32: 22)

The first ingredient is always the word of God and the second is always belief on that word. The word of God is the seed of faith, both according to Alma and according to Jesus (see Matthew 13.) The seed of faith is planted in the hearts of men by the hand of God. God is the sower and he sows (plants) the seed in the soil of men, which is their hearts. (See Matthew 13: 19 which shows that the seed is sown in the hearts of men, and also Alma 32: 28.) Nevertheless, as God doesn’t force his seed of faith into the soil (heart) of men, for he recognizes and respects the free agency of man, it is up to men to open up a place in their hearts (the soil) to receive the seed. This is why Alma says the following:

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. (Alma 32: 27)

Alma is using appropriate farmer analogy, as this is exactly what is happening. It is through belief that we open up a place in our hearts to allow the seed of faith to be planted by God, in much the same manner as a farmer would insert his finger into soil to make a depression into which a seed can be inserted.

Passive belief

It is important to understand that belief is a passive act. We don’t actually have to do anything active. We just have to receive (or allow) the seed into our hearts, or “give place” whereby the seed can be planted by God in our hearts. Belief is never active; it is always passive. Belief is not considered hard work. It is not a mental or mathematical equation that must be figured out or worked out with effort. It is effortless and easy to do. Belief is designed to be easy by God so that we are left without the excuse at the last day that “it was too hard.”

To illustrate the concept of passive belief better, Alma went on to say the following:

Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. (Alma 32: 28 )

Unbelief is equated by Alma with resistance. Resistance requires effort or work. It means to oppose with force. The opposite of resisting would be to bow, to capitulate, to give in, to submit, to succumb, to surrender, to yield. All of these words carry meanings which indicate lack of effort, or a ceasing to work. They are all passive endeavors, or passive “actions.” Notice the angel’s words to King Benjamin:

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3: 19)

So, what do you need to do to believe the word of God? Nothing. You just believe. It’s as simple as that.

As belief is an entirely passive act, any effort whatsoever on our part will stand as an obstacle or impediment to it. It is like if someone pushes you, you simply allow yourself to be pushed. If you are in a torrent of water that is pulling you downriver, instead of resisting, you just allow yourself to be carried along. No effort whatsoever. This is belief. But the moment you resist in the slightest degree that push or that pull, even to just change the direction that you are traveling one iota, this decreases belief, turning it into its opposite, disbelief or doubt, which is a state of resistance.

The desire to believe

Again quoting Alma 32: 27: “If ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.”

Now get this: belief on the word of God is a gift of God! In fact, it is one of the “best gifts” given to the church:

Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;

To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful. (D&C 46: 8, 14)

It is a principle of the gospel that the Lord grants the children of men according to their desires.

But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble. (Jacob 4: 14)

So, if we don’t believe the word of God, but desire to believe it, the Lord sends the Spirit to give us the gift of belief, and if we do not resist the Spirit, we suddenly find ourselves believing the word of God, having accepted the best gift of belief on the word of God.

Belief superior to knowledge

For most LDS who peruse the spiritual gifts listed in D&C 46, the one quoted above about belief (in verse 14) is thought to be inferior to the one found in verse 13: “To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.” To our modern, Babylonian-trained minds, possessing knowledge is better than possessing belief. But the prophets of the scriptures were expounding the actual doctrines of the universe, not the fake rules, concepts and precepts of Satan-inspired Babylon. In the scriptures, belief is always superior to knowledge and those who possess mere belief are always considered more blessed than those who possess knowledge.

Alma said, “And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved. And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word? Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed—yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty. Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe.” (Alma 32: 13-16)

Jesus said, “And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am. And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.” (3 Nephi 12:1-2)

Belief is a foundational ingredient of faith

As an ingredient of faith, the more belief you have, the more faith you will possess. So, to recap, the more of the word of God you have access to, the more seeds of faith you can plant, and the more belief you have, the more places in your heart are open to receive those seeds by the planter, who is God.

Alma also explains in Alma 32: 28 that belief isn’t just the mechanism to get the seed planted in our hearts, but it also the mechanism to keep it there. Only doubt or disbelief can cast the seed out of our hearts, once planted there.

Although there are actually three ingredients to faith, and only three ingredients, the first two ingredients activate the third ingredient and can be looked upon as the foundational ingredients of faith. Of the first two, it is belief that is man’s main part in this process. The more belief, meaning the more passive acceptance of all the word of God obtained, the greater faith will be obtained. If you passively accept every word of God he sends your way, you will quickly obtain tremendous faith, even exceeding faith. That faith grows because God then sends you even more of his word, which, together with your continued belief, produces even greater levels of faith, in an eternal cycle until you obtain the final prize.

The word of God plus belief on that word causes the word of God, which is the seed of faith, to instantaneously start to grow. When the dormant seed of faith (the word of God) starts growing, it is known as, or called, faith. Thus, a definition of faith is the word of God, planted and growing in the hearts of man. As soon as belief occurs on that word, the third ingredient comes along and generates faith in the individual. There is no waiting period. There is no germination time. It happens immediately and suddenly and continues to grow as long as belief keeps the faith planted firmly in the heart of the person.

The Zoramites apparently understood Alma’s words because they ended up asking him the following:

Now after Alma had spoken these words, they sent forth unto him desiring to know whether they should believe in one God, that they might obtain this fruit of which he had spoken, or how they should plant the seed, or the word of which he had spoken, which he said must be planted in their hearts; or in what manner they should begin to exercise their faith. (Alma 32: 1)

They understood that belief caused the word of God to be planted in their hearts and to start growing, meaning that the seed of faith would become faith, and this “faith plant” or “faith tree” would become a tree of life to them, whose fruit would give them eternal life. So, they wanted to know what they had to believe in order to get this seed planted in their hearts.

Mind you, they didn’t want to know what they had to do, but what they had to believe. Modern LDS don’t get Alma’s words because we associate work with salvation. We think that effort is required to be saved. So, modern LDS want to know what they must do to be saved, whereas the Zoramites wanted to know what they must believe to be saved. The Book of Mormon concept of passive belief as a requirement of salvation is lost to many LDS.

The scriptures emphasis belief because belief is a necessary component or ingredient of faith and no man can be saved unless he has faith in Christ. That is why we read of King Benjamin pleading with his people to believe in God (see Mosiah 4: 9) or of Moroni urging the readers to believe the Book of Mormon (see The real meaning of the promise in Moroni 10: 3-5) or of Jesus saying that if one doubted not but believed, a mountain could be removed (see Mark 11: 33.) Although belief in and of itself is not faith, when belief is centered on the word of God, the third ingredient comes along and generates faith.

Next Faith of God article: The faith of God, part six: the Holy Spirit

Previous Faith of God article: The faith of God, part four: the word of God

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The faith of God, part four: the word of God

Continued from part three.

Of all the prophets of scripture, Alma in his discourse to the Zoramites gave the absolute best understanding of faith possible. He correctly broke down faith into its component ingredients so that the Zoramites would not only understand what faith was, but how to obtain an unlimited quantity of it (explained by Amulek later). This is important as many people seem confused as to how to obtain more faith. Even we LDS, who should know better, as we possess the writings of Alma and Amulek who explain faith in the plainest possible way, are generally clueless on how to obtain faith to perform any of the miracles of scripture.

Remember, there are signs that follow them that believe (possess faith): casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, no harm from snake bites, no harm from deadly drinks, healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, opening the ears of the deaf, causing the dumb to speak, etc. These signs are largely absent from the church today. This is remarkable, given that we LDS have the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, while others have but a part. As signs (and gifts of the Spirit) come by faith, the lack of signs and best gifts indicate a lack of faith in the general membership.

My own estimation is that Alma and Amulek’s words have been misunderstood by the LDS. Those Zoramites who listened to them, though, understood their words and converted to the Lord. Why the Book of Mormon, the plainest of the four books of canonized scripture, is misunderstood by LDS is intriguing. We seem to have been caught in the ancient Jewish trap of looking beyond the mark, so that plain things become confusing and confusing things become plain. Evidence of this confusion was addressed in the second part of this series, where it was shown that most LDS erroneously believe faith to be hope.

Another error made is to believe that faith is obtained by works. In other words, that if you want to obtain more faith, you must engage in more service, more church callings, do your home and visiting teaching, pay your tithing, etc. This theory isn’t just had among the general membership, but is routinely preached over the pulpit. Because of this continual reinforcement, it is understandable that LDS believe that faith is hope and that faith is obtained by works. It is also equally understandable that the LDS do not manifest all of the 14 best gifts mentioned in D&C 46, nor the signs that follow them that believe, except in the most exceptional and rare cases, as these concepts, widely held by LDS, are scripturally unsound.

Alma and Amulek gave the three ingredients to faith, as well as the key to obtain as much of it as we want. Such an idea is foreign to most LDS. Yet, when you really think about it, why would God reveal the principle of faith in a vague manner, so vague that no one is really sure what it is exactly, nor exactly how to obtain it, when faith is the one thing that saves us and gets us the gifts that God offers to us? If faith was such a grand mystery and the obtainment of it entirely in the hands of God, salvation would be more hit and miss and luck than an informed choice of free agency.

But it is not. We are free agents and we decide how much faith we obtain and when we obtain it. We can get as much or as little faith as we desire to get. We can obtain faith to do all things miraculous, or discard it and live a life with no supernatural occurrences. However, unless we have a correct understanding of faith, and how to obtain it, all our attempts to get more faith will be met with failure.

This appears to be the state of the LDS currently. As LDS, we are generally very good people, desirous to do the will of the Lord and “win the prize.” But our understandings of the very first principle of the gospel, the one principle that actually saves us, is fundamentally flawed. Not that the scriptures are flawed, but that we have substituted fairy tales and traditions (Mark 7: 13) for faith, instead of the definitions found in the word of God itself.

So, let’s open up the Book of Alma and examine the first ingredient of faith.

Ingredient #1: the word of God

Alma said, “Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” (Alma 32: 28 )

When Alma is talking about comparing the word to a seed, the word he is referring to is the word of God. Jesus himself also referred to the word of God as a seed. (See Luke 8: 11.) It is the word of God that is the first and chief ingredient to faith. This is why Paul states that faith cometh by hearing the word of God (Romans 10: 17). Without the word of God, there is no faith.

The word of God is found in the scriptures and in every utterance by man or angel speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost. It is also found in visions, dreams and other revelations from the Holy Ghost. It consists of the words communicated by the Father, by Jesus the Son, or by the Holy Ghost, “which is one God” (Testimony of the Three Witness).

It is important to understand that the word of God is different than the words of man. These words of God are words of power, meaning that they have power to create faith. In fact, the whole purpose of the word of God is that men might have faith (D&C 1: 21). It is faith that accomplishes everything and that has accomplished everything, as explained by Paul in Hebrews 11 and by Moroni in Ether 12, therefore, faith is what we need for salvation, hence God giving us his word so that it might be generated in us.

Men have a tendency to look upon printed words as just words, but the word of God is eternal and alive and calculated to overcome all things, including Satan. In its initial reception, when someone hands us a book of scripture, for example, it is just a seed, dormant but ready to quickly grow. The seed (word) grows faith and when growing faith is present, the gifts, fruits, signs and manifestations of the Spirit are present, thus it becomes very easy to determine whether the seed is growing or wilting.

Unlike other seeds from mortal plants, the word of God, requires no germination time.

Amulek said, “Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.” (Alma 34: 31)

King Benjamin said, “And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?” (Mosiah 2: 24)

In fact, the word of God does not have a set growing time, at all. It generates and grows faith as fast as the individual in whose heart it is planted desires or wills it to grow. With proper care and nourishment, it quickly attains maturity, as a “tree of life,” giving eternal life to the individual in question. As it is entirely in the hands of the individual whether faith grows or not, or how fast or slow it grows, it is imperative that an individual have a proper understanding about this particular seed and how to nourish it so that it grows instantly and rapidly, to obtain the fruit thereof in the shortest amount of time possible.

As I said above, the word of God has power to overcome Satan.

Nephi said, “And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Nephi 15: 24)

Many of us tend to think of Satan’s temptations as a constant battle to resist. In other words, we often use the words “hard,” “resist”, “fight” “battle” and other descriptive words that show great effort involved. But life was never intended to have us pitted against Satan. In a fight between him and us alone, we would lose every single time. So how do we win? Through the word of God.

Satan has limitations and bounds set, that he cannot pass. One of those limitations is that whosoever uses the word of God (which is the seed of faith, meaning that it is faith in a dormant state) instantly has power over Satan. It neutralizes him. It makes it impossible for him to tempt you or for him to deceive you or for him to destroy you. This is why Nephi categorically states that whosoever holds fast to the word of God would never perish. It is an impossibility. As the word of God generates faith, whoever is activating it, meaning using it, is generating faith, and faith overpowers Satan. It is instructive that Nephi says that the word of God stops the fiery darts of the adversary, because the Lord also said the same thing, but in a different way:

The Lord said, “Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked;” (D&C 27: 17)

The shield of faith and the word of God are both said to quench the fiery darts of the wicked. This is because the word of God is faith, in a dormant state (the state of a seed.) When activated by the other two ingredients, it becomes active, or growing faith. This is why the scriptures speak of the word of God as growing:

“But the word of God grew and multiplied.” (Acts 12: 24)

“So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” (Acts 19: 20)

As the word of God is one of the three ingredients of faith, the more of it you possess or have access to, the more faith you may be able to generate. That is why LDS especially are in a unique position to acquire tremendous faith and demonstrate marvelous miracles among themselves and the people of the world. We have more of the words of God than anyone else we know of. Additionally, we know that there are other words of God found in other records which are prophesied to be revealed when we exercise the same faith that the brother of Jared did. So, we have both more than others and are promised that we can receive even more if we so desire it, meaning that we can obtain even greater faith that that possible with the records we have now.

Next Faith of God article: The faith of God, part five: belief

Previous Faith of God article: The faith of God, part three

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Confidential annotations on membership records

One day what4anarchy told me that every membership record has a place for a bishop’s eyes only, in which a bishop can put comments about the member for other bishops to read. In this way, the thoughts of the bishop can be passed on to the next bishop. This means that if a certain bishop didn’t like you or had suspicions about you, he could put those suspicions in the annotations of your membership record so that when you get to your next ward and bishop, the new bishop can then look upon you with the same suspicions that the previous bishop had. In other words, you became blacklisted.

Now, I’ve never seen such an annotation, never having been a bishop, nor have I confirmed this with other people, but I did ask my own bishop about it and he said that it’s not really a place to write remarks about the member, but a check box to call the previous bishop for concerns about the person.

Who did I believe? Well, to be honest, my bishop was young and brand-spanking new when I asked him, so I assumed that he still didn’t know all about it. My trust remained with what4anarchy, but also expanded to believe that there was also such a check-box that my bishop described. I left it at that, as I still didn’t have confirmation of what4anarchy’s assertion.

That is until tonight. I just came across an LDS Newsroom – Child Abuse article, in which two paragraphs in particular caught my attention:

Since 1995 the Church has placed a confidential annotation on the membership record of members who previously abused children. These records follow them to any congregation where they move, thereby alerting bishops not to place them in situations with children. As far as we know, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the first religious institution to create such a tracking mechanism. We hold the family sacred and protect its children. This explains why the Church is one of the few denominations that imposes formal ecclesiastical discipline on mere members (as opposed to official clergy) for sexually abusive conduct.

Our Church applies this tracking system because of our core beliefs. No court in the United States has held a religious institution responsible for failing to protect its members from abuse by other members. To do so would turn religious institutions into police instruments, its leadership into law enforcement officers. The Church voluntarily tracks its membership, not because of the law or fear of lawsuits, but out of its own concern for families and children.

I find it interesting that the newsroom article calls it tracking. What makes me wonder is if the tracking system is used for more than just convicted child abusers. Are other convicts also tracked? What about people who have not been found guilty of any crime, civil or religious, but who are held in suspicion by their ecclesiastical leader? Does he write a note in the annotation section to the next bishop concerning his suspicions? The newsroom article doesn’t say. But I find the whole tracking system worrisome. Surely, the potential for such a confidential annotation to be used to blacklist suspected or disliked members is there.

This talk of tracking also brings to my mind a new trend in the church: temple recommends with bar codes. Are we seeing an emerging pattern?

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Gordon B. Hinckley’s scripturally-based legacy

President Hinckley accomplished a whole lot during his years as President of the Church. Many times in elder’s quorum a teacher or elder has testified of his prophetic mission and asked the assembled elders what they considered evidence to his calling. Typical answers have always been the enormous temple building expansion program, or the perpetual education fund, or the building of the conference center, or the change in the missionary discussions, etc.

For me though, of all the many changes that the church has undergone under his leadership, the very first change is the one that has always stuck in my head. On April 1st, 1995, in the Priesthood Session of General Conference, in an address which was later entitled and printed in the Ensign magazine, This Work Is Concerned with People, President Hinckley made the announcement that all Regional Representatives were to be released and a new office was to be created, called an Area Authority.

Here is the portion of that talk that dealt with the announcement of the new office of Area Authority:

Now in the ongoing of this work, administrative changes sometimes occur. The doctrine remains constant. But from time to time there are organizational and administrative changes made under provisions set forth in the revelations.

For instance, twenty-eight years ago the First Presidency was inspired to call men to serve as regional representatives of the Twelve. At the time that was a new calling in the Church. The Presidency stated that this was necessary because of “the ever-increasing growth of the Church” which made “evident a greater need to train our stake and ward leaders in the programs of the Church that they in turn might train the membership in their responsibilities before the Lord.”

At that time there were 69 regional representatives. Today there are 284. The organization has become somewhat unwieldy.

More recently the Presidency were inspired to call men from the Seventy to serve in area presidencies. As the work grows across the world it has become necessary to decentralize administrative authority to keep General Authorities closer to the people. We now have such area presidencies well established and effectively functioning.

It is now felt desirable to tighten up the organization administered by the area presidencies. Accordingly, we announce the release—the honorable release—of all regional representatives effective August 15 of this year. To these devoted and able brethren we express our deep appreciation for the tremendous work you have accomplished, for your loyalty, faithfulness, and devotion in advancing the cause of our Father in Heaven. I cannot say enough of good concerning these men. They have sacrificed their time and their resources. They have gone wherever they have been asked to go, whenever they have been asked to go. They have greatly assisted stake presidents and bishops with wise counsel and direction, with skillful training and instruction. We thank them one and all and pray that through the years to come the Lord will bless them with the satisfying assurance that each of them made a significant contribution to the work and that their labors have been accepted by Him.

Now we announce the call of a new local officer to be known as an area authority. These will be high priests chosen from among past and present experienced Church leaders. They will continue with their current employment, reside in their own homes, and serve on a Church-service basis. The term of their call will be flexible, generally, for a period of approximately six years. They will be closely tied to the area presidencies. They will be fewer in number than have been the regional representatives. We are guided in setting up this new corps of area officers, as were our Brethren before us in the calling of regional representatives, by the provision contained in the revelation on priesthood, section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants. After directions to the Twelve and the Seventy, the revelation states:

“Whereas other officers of the church, who belong not unto the Twelve, neither to the Seventy, are not under the responsibility to travel among all nations, but are to travel as their circumstances shall allow, notwithstanding they may hold as high and responsible offices in the church” (D&C 107:98).

Now, I repeat that these changes will not be effective until August 15 of this year.

All emphasis above is mine. What struck me was that President Hinckley called to our attention that the inspiration behind the calling of the new office of area authority, as well as the previous office of regional representative, never went beyond the bounds set forth in the scriptures.

In my daily or weekly interactions with other LDS, inevitably whenever I bring up that “every member of the church is bound to the scriptures and even the prophet himself is bound to the scriptures, and cannot go beyond what is written there,” meaning that there must be scriptural authorization or provision, as Presidnt Hinckley called it, the idea is generally scoffed at. For most LDS that I’ve talked to, it is believed that a prophet can do what he wants, when he wants, as he is guided by the Lord himself and has no scriptural bounds or limitations.

Nevertheless, any time an action might go beyond the scriptures, an appeal to the law of common consent is made by the prophets. In other words, using the law of common consent, prophets can do what is not in the scriptures themselves. Thus we get the Word of Wisdom becoming a commandment 18 years later by a vote of the church despite it being revealed “not by way of commandment.” But barring the law of common consent, which can authoritze non-scriptural actions and even canonize new scripture, all prophets are bound to the scriptures and are careful both to not go beyond those bounds and to point to the scriptural provisions for justification of what they do.

That is not to say that prophets never go beyond the scriptural bounds, or never attempt to do so without the common consent of the church. We already know 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.” (See D&C 121: 39.) This applies equally to religious authority, as to other types of authority. We also know that the Lord has said:

And inasmuch as a President of the High Priesthood shall transgress, he shall be had in remembrance before the common council of the church, who shall be assisted by twelve counselors of the High Priesthood; and their decision upon his head shall be an end of controversy concerning him. Thus, none shall be exempted from the justice and the laws of God, that all things may be done in order and in solemnity before him, according to truth and righteousness. (D&C 107: 82-84)

And even Abinadi has said::
Yea, and are not the prophets, every one that has opened his mouth to prophesy, that has not fallen into transgression, I mean all the holy prophets ever since the world began? I say unto you that they are his seed. (Mosiah 15: 13)
So, even prophets are not immune to unrighteous dominion, meaning going beyond the bounds set forth in the scriptures. But President Hinckley opened up his administration beautifully, with an appeal to the scriptures as justification for his actions, setting the tone for the coming years, and it made quite the impression on me.

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