Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Question About High Priests

I received the following email: 

"I was just reading an article about the ancient temple, and I was thinking about the office of high priest. Though we had discussed that our modern-day designation of that privilege was different from its historical significance, it seems to me that they (before and during Christ's day) had made a similar change. They had high priests working in the temple. Were all these people real High Priests, or was this an administrative office that was created? Were these men righteous? Did they know the Lord? Did they influence the sinful changes that were made over time in the temple rites and symbols?"

My response is this: 

I think the same thing happened then, as happened in our day.  Some of those "high priests"  may have come to know God, and others not.  Those levitical high priests, though, were office holders in an earthly order that was intended to initiate them or invite them to receive more.  This tradition or order was passed down even until the time of Christ.  It was tragically the high priest, Caiaphas, to whom Christ was delivered for judgment as a part of his sufferings.  Caiaphas' "high priesthood" meant nothing, except perhaps added responsibility to serve others, and added condemnation for his hypocrisy and rejection of the true High Priest when He was presented before him.  His office gave him no priesthood.  He sought to control others and the heavens had withdrawn themselves (D&C 121:37).    

As our Old Testament presently stands, Leviticus 21 is the first time the office of high priest shows up in Moses' writings.  It is a good example of a holy man (Moses) receiving instructions from God about the "priests" and "high priests."  It is an example of an High Priest after the Holy Order, receiving instructions about the men who were to hold offices in the church, or "congregation."  These were offices, and were not "real" high priests, as you put it.  They were real only in the sense of what they really were - i.e. offices established as part of the law.  Moses was an High Priest who spoke with God, but the others were men who'd refused to receive what Moses did.  They were given a lesser law (D&C 84:22-27).  

David Whitmer thought it was wrong to introduce the office of high priest in the Church.  He said:

"High Priests were only in the church before Christ; and to have this office in the "Church of Christ" is not according to the teachings of Christ in either of the sacred books: Christ himself is our great and last High Priest" (An Address to All Believers in Christ, 1887, p. 62).
David Whitmer assumed God's intent was to establish the kind of church we find outlined in the New Testament.  This was not the Lord's intent, however.  He also failed to realize that Joseph was trying to do something more than merely mimic the offices found in the Old Testament church.  He didn't understand that there was something more ancient and holy that God intended to restore in the end of the world (Moses 6:7).

We're now left with an Old Testament office in a New Testament church.  The revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, however, seem to indicate this is how the Lord desired the church structure to be established.  

The high priests in the Old Testament church were offices intended to pre-figure the great High Priest who was the Messiah.  Their instructions, which were established by the Lord, were all intended to testify of His role as Christ.  If you look at the patterns in their rituals and rites you see Christ.  That is why when the Lord walked on the road to Emmaus with Luke and Cleopas he expounded the scriptures unto them concerning himself, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets" (Luke 24:27).  He wanted to make clear to them what they could not see before.  He wanted to show that all of the symbols, rituals, and offices that had been put in place were to point to Him and His great sacrifice.   

The High Priests God intended to restore in our day will be established before the return of Zion.  Those High Priests are not made by the Church, nor is it an office within the Church (D&C 77:11).  The High Priests made by God become members of the church of the Firstborn (ibid.).  This is the way it was anciently and the way it is today.  That priesthood cannot be perpetuated by men from generation to generation in a church.  It comes from God.  

We live in a telestial world.  The Church is intended to bring us out of this telestial world, but it, too, belongs to the telestial world.  Its ordinations and rites are intended to invite us to receive more, to elevate our minds and inspire our hearts to search after the things of another world.  

There are different priesthoods.  What we receive from man, or in or from the Church, is telestial.  Though the term "high priest" could be used to describe both Moses and the Old Testament's presiding officers in the levitical priesthood, they are priesthoods after different orders, worlds, and glories - they are tied to different Gods.  There are three members of the Godhead, three degrees of glory, and three priesthoods.  

History has repeated itself.  The Israelites forgot they never had what Moses had, but they persisted in a course of action suggesting they thought they were to be heirs of the same salvation.  They wanted to be brought to Abraham's bosom, but not to become like Abraham.  They were given a carnal law, or a law of this world, but ended up believing that it would bring them salvation (Mosiah 12:32).

Nephi Saw Our Day

"Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost" (2 Ne. 28:26).

Nephi ties together "hearkening to the precepts of men," and "denying" the "gift of the Holy Ghost."  By "denying," he means rejecting or putting off.

Do you think it is possible to receive this "unspeakable gift" by pursuing any other course than "cleaving" unto God (Jacob 6:5, D&C 121:26)?  

You cannot have it both ways.  If you choose to hearken unto the precepts of men, you are choosing to put off God.  You have set up for yourself an idol.  You have put men in the place of God.  A man or woman who does this cannot receive "the gift of the Holy Ghost."  You cannot do it.  You are, in essence, "denying" that gift.  This has all kinds of implications.

Satan has set up a system wherein the philosophies of men are taught mingled with scripture.  These teachings are very cleverly couched.  They are received very well.  But you should not believe what is being taught.  God has promised you further light and knowledge.  You should be looking for that.  Look for true messengers.

Hugh Nibley seemed to understand this:

"Have faith that there is more than you know; repent of all your present shallowness and silliness; wash off everything of this world in the waters of baptism, and be a course of action requiring perpetual, progressive repentance...until you are full of grace and truth, which is nowhere in the foreseeable future....Then 'ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost' and get the guidance you need (Acts 2:37-38)" (Nibley, Approaching Zion, p. 283).

How effective have we been at receiving this "gift of the Holy Ghost?"  What was given to you when you were commanded to "receive the Holy Ghost?"  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Prophets, Churchmen, and the Testimony of Jesus

Joseph Smith was asked if he believed himself "to be a Prophet?"  His reply was:

"Yes, and every other man who has the testimony of Jesus.  For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (TPJS, p. 119; also Rev. 19:10).

Possessing "the testimony of Jesus" is more than we think it is.  "Testimony" is so common a thing among us we think we understand the phrase "testimony of Jesus."  Merely saying you know Christ lives or loves you, doesn't mean you possess the testimony of Jesus spoken of by John and Joseph.  We read that even the devils possess that testimony (James 2:19Matt. 8:29).  Therefore, declaring that Jesus is Christ, even if you know such is the case, is not what is meant - though that may be where it begins.

Latter-day Saints aren't the only churchgoers who have such a testimony.  There are believing Christians everywhere that believe in and serve the same Christ we proclaim we know.  Yet, Jesus said:

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  

"Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?  and in thy name have cast out devils?  and in thy name done many wonderful works?   

"And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt 7:21-23).

Those Christ spoke of, who thus testified, had not the "testimony of Jesus," and will not "enter into the kingdom of heaven."  Though they believed they pleased him with their "wonderful works," they were workers of "iniquity" according to Christ.  These are the churchmen, not the prophets.  These are those who are religious, but who know not the mind and will of God.  They are "professors," and are all corrupt (JSH 1:19).  Their creeds are an abomination to God (ibid.).  They are led in masses to believe they are correct, but their hearts are far from God.  They have entered in at the "broad gate," and many there be that go in thereat (Matt. 7:13).  They belong to the telestial kingdom (D&C 76:99-101).

We should pause to consider what the Lord is saying here.  How is it that those Christ spoke of believed they did "wonderful works" but did not "the will of the Father?"  How is it that they thought they "prophesied in [his] name" but weren't found pleasing to God?  How is it that they "cast out devils" but were called workers of "iniquity?"  What is this "testimony of Jesus," and how does it differ from testifying that you have done "wonderful works" and saying "Lord, Lord."  

Prophets and prophetesses are a different type of people than the religious who only profess to know Christ.  They are unlike the masses.  Historically, the prophets did not please the majority.  Words like "anger," and "offended" are used in scripture to denote the reaction of the people to their message (3 Ne. 6:20-21Matt. 15:12).  "Mad," and "wild" are used by the religious to describe their demeanor (Mosiah 13:1; Moses 6:38).  And yet, these are they who possessed the "testimony of Jesus."  How could this be?

The testimony of Jesus is more than just your testimony.  It is His testimony.  It is you receiving Jesus' testimony to you.  What is it that Jesus would testify of were he to give you his testimony?  Do we begin to learn about this at all in the temple?

What is it about what Christ makes of these men that is so offensive to those who consider themselves God's chosen people?  Why is Zion so rarely established, when God has given men opportunities to establish it?

Salvation requires revelation.  This is not only true for every individual that is to be saved, but also for those who preach the gospel of salvation.  It is vain for a man to attempt to minister without it (TPJS, p. 160).  Prophets preach Christ's gospel, and minister to others with power because of the revelations they receive (ibid.).  Prophets have the testimony of Jesus, and possess the gift of the spirit of prophecy.  They encourage others to receive the same.  

Our revelations indicate that there are those who claim to be apostles and prophets, but whose falseness and hypocrisy shall be uncovered when Zion is established (D&C 64:38-39).  What does that mean?  The Prophet taught that false prophets will testify of heaven and hell, but they have seen neither (ibid.).  True prophets, who receive their message from God, always point to Christ and never set themselves up for a light unto others.  They teach that unless men repent and come unto Christ, they are lost (1 Ne. 10:5-6).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Prophets and Churchmen

“Unlike prophets, churchmen are the product of institutions.  In the safety and permanence of institutions they put their trust.  They resolutely oppose the prophets whom they accuse of disturbing their repose and rocking the boat” (Nibley, The World and the Prophets, p. 175).

The Book of Mormon depicts differences between religious church-goers and prophets of God.  Though there are times in which a righteous people are led by a righteous prophet or King, those periods are the exception rather than the rule.  They are otherwise strictly juxtaposed throughout the book, and really, throughout all scripture; the holy prophets are usually sent among the unbelieving, church-going mass with a message from God that is a call to repentance.    

In each of the examples given throughout the Book of Mormon the stories are different but there are common underlying themes.  One of the most striking examples is found in the story of King Noah and his Kingdom.  Yet there are other examples. 

These religious bodies of people experience cycles of belief and unbelief.  If they prosper they typically become proud.  They boast in their accomplishments, and indicate it is a sign of God's favor, but they forget God, set their hearts upon their riches, and become slothful.  When they become proud they are forced to be humble by war, famine, and pestilence.  It is very consistent that the Lord would warn his latter-day church of these things by providing the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 38:39, D&C 112:23-26, D&C 101:43-62).  

The Zoramites, for example, had descended and "dissented" from a group of people that had an understanding of the gospel (Alma 31:8).  Along the way they began to err in doctrine (Alma 31:9).  Though they thought they were pleasing to God, these errors caused them to fail in keeping the commandments of God and the law of Moses (ibid.).  They failed to pray daily, and sought not to avoid temptation (Alma 31:10).  They nevertheless "built synagogues" and gathered together "one day of the week, which day they did call the day of the Lord" (Alma 31:12).  That was the day of their worship and devotion.  They had a pulpit that admitted one at a time.  These religious parrots would take turns approaching the elevated, "holy" stand only to speak forth vain recitations, and untruths.  They accepted the philosophies of men and devils, mingled with scripture (Alma 31:15-18).  Though they failed to pray in private, they loved to pray to be heard of men (Alma 31:21-23).  Their prayer was putrid, but not to them.  They took the name of God in vain.

Though they were in error, the Zoramites were unable to perceive the gravity of their situation because of the institutional, religious culture they chose to build for themselves, and in which they allowed their hearts and minds to be enveloped.  They were pleased with what they made for themselves because they spake only that which was pleasing to hear.  They praised God for their own "holiness" (Alma 31:17).     

Alma went among the Zoramites to preach repentance.  He was astonished at their behavior (Alma 31:19).  He noticed that the people were religious in public, and full of babylon in private (Alma 31:23-25).  After pleading with God for the people, he then set out to preach salvation in Christ who should come (see Alma 32-34).  He "clapped his hands" upon his brethren who were to go with him to preach, and they were "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Alma 31:36).

The response of the Zoramites to Alma's message of Christ is interesting.  The "popular" Zoramites, those who were "their rulers and their priests and their teachers," held a council to discuss the words of this prophet and his brethren (Alma 35:3, 5).  They had become "angry" at Alma's words, because his words "destroyed their craft" (ibid.).  They themselves chose not to hearken to his words.  But they also wanted to know what the people thought of Alma's teachings.  They sent for and gathered together the people to inquire concerning their thoughts  (Alma 35:5-6).  The fact that they found out "privily" the minds of the people is another way of saying they conducted polls.  Their inquiries were "confidential" or "secret."  The "rulers and priests" didn't want the people to know their own thoughts concerning the very teachings about which they were polling the people.  They wanted to get at the truth of the hearts of the people, but felt they nevertheless could not reveal the truth of their own hearts.  Those who were found to believe in this prophet's words were "cast out" or cut off from among the Zoramites (Alma 35:6).

These churchmen had trouble retaining truth - it was ever departing them.  They lost focus on what was really important.  

“But which is the reality – the everyday business, or the eternity that waits to receive us all?  Religion should teach that it is the latter, yet conventional Christian doctrine is a denial of that.  It is the apotheosis of institutions and routines, of old established ways, a solid and imposing dike to keep out the sea – to shut off the sight and even the memory of the sea which the Christian soul should be exploring. …When as has happened in every century, groups and individuals within the church have sought the old literalism in normal times, they have been held to display exceedingly bad taste, and vigorously suppressed” (Nibley, p. 178, supra).

The Zoramite apostates made babylon their reality instead of seeking to obey the gospel.  Whatever they thought they were preaching in public, their private lives were the real testimony.  Their prayers perhaps never reached the God of heaven, but their lives were a sacrifice on the altar to the god of this world.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Awake and Arise

The scriptures and prophets are clear in their witness concerning our neglect and indifference to the gospel of salvation.  Something must be done to wake us up.  We are no different from other people who have had the gospel taught to them in ages past, but for some reason we think we are different.  Just as Nephi foresaw, we think that because "Zion prospereth, all is well" (2 Ne. 28:21).  Man remains unchanged, and therefore the message of the prophets has not, and cannot change. 

Lehi warned his posterity:

"awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe.  Awake!  and arise from the dust" (2 Ne. 1:13-14).

Jacob invited his brethren:

"arouse the faculties of your souls; shake yourselves that ye may awake from the slumber of death" (Jacob 3:11).

Orson Pratt taught that the Latter-day Saints

"are the children of light, although many of us will actually be asleep. We shall have to wake up and trim up our lamps, or we shall not be prepared to enter in; for we shall all slumber and sleep in that day, and some will have gone to sleep from which they will not awake until they awake up in darkness without any oil in their lamps" (JD 7:189).

Most often we are unaware when we are sleeping.  When we dream we think we are experiencing reality only to find out the truth once we are awake.  As Hugh Nibley has said, nobody likes to be awakened from a deep sleep.  So we choose to sleep on.

Taking the Book of Mormon seriously, and analyzing its contents honestly, will provide the necessary "shaking" to awaken our souls to the awful situation in which we find ourselves.  Only in this way is it possible to remove the condemnation under which we presently labor (D&C 84:53-58).  

The Book of Mormon is stunningly clear in its identification of the latter-day Gentiles, and has a message for them that should get our attention.  The time in which the Lord has chosen to work with the Gentiles is drawing to a close, and our sin remains.  We ought to realize this, and begin helping others to realize it.

"The Gospel of Jesus Christ is so important a subject that you ought to be thinking deeply about it.  Joseph Smith said:  

"[T]he things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity-thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men." (DHC vol. 3, page 295.)  

"We should not be dealing with the Gospel at a superficial level.  We should be ashamed of how we have been treating it.  Again, Joseph said:

"How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of His will, from before the foundation of the world! We are called to hold the keys of the mysteries of those things that have been kept hid from the foundation of the world until now."  (Id.)

"A religion that allows you to foolishly waste the days of your probation will not save you.  That religion is NOT the faith that Abraham followed or that Jesus Christ taught.  If you are attending "vain and trifling" meetings that are "low, mean, vulgar and condescending" then you must do something about your own education in the faith to obtain exaltation.

"The path trod by the ancients is exactly the same path every saved soul must walk" (Snuffer).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Message of the Book of Mormon

A thought from Hugh Nibley:

“I have always thought in reading the Book of Mormon, ‘Woe to the generation that understands this book!’” (The World and the Prophets, p. 195).

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sorting Through History, Conclusion

"If you can control people's ideas of the past, you control their ideas of the present and hence the future" (Nibley, Of All Things, p. 247).

I have not followed the advice of that visiting Seventy during the last decade.  It would have altered my gospel study dramatically, and I’m grateful it hasn’t.  While I have read, learned from, and enjoyed many of the articles, talks, and books written by leaders in the Church, I have found truth from others sources, too; truth that, in all likelihood, I would never have discovered had I limited my search to the brethren.  This is particularly true of my efforts to learn Church history.

Honest questions about history lead to real answers.  Those who are determined to find answers to their questions cannot be contented with non-answers.  They will very likely persist until they acquire the sources that will deliver the answers they seek.  Those who have earnestly sought an answer know how this feels.  That feeling could be expressed in words like these: “I know there’s got to be an answer to this question.  I know some person or some book or some place has the answer I’m seeking, and I’ll not rest until I find it.”  Fortunately for us, Joseph Smith felt that way in 1820 in his search for which church to join.  In his case, the answer was only to be found by prevailing upon heaven for answers.    

Assistant Church Historian John Jaques put it well:

Yes, say, what is truth? 'Tis the brightest prize
To which mortals or Gods can aspire;
Go search in the depths where it glittering lies
Or ascend in pursuit to the loftiest skies.
'Tis an aim for the noblest desire.
(Hymn 272, “Oh Say, What is Truth”)

David, in his Psalm expressed this eager sentiment:

“Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.

“Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

“Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.

“Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness” (Psalm 119:33-35, 40). 

The Lord does not expect his Church, or any of his children for that matter, to believe in fabrications about the past.  He has always desired from the beginning that we seek further light and knowledge.  This light and knowledge of the truth make a man like his God (D&C 93:36).

Many members have begun asking honest, tough questions, but been disappointed to discover that the answers they’ve been seeking are to be found outside of “approved” channels of dissemination.  In the recent interview done with Elder Marlin Jensen, he acknowledged this and explained the Church is trying to find solutions to this problem.  Some of the brethren are supportive of that effort and others are not. 

While men are trying to decide how much truth is too much, we are meanwhile faced with the challenge of finding true answers to honest inquiries.  But where do you go looking?  You look wherever you need to look to find your answers.  Truth is truth whether it is found here or there.

The historians who authored the recent book on Mountain Meadows provide a good example of diligently searching into history.  Where did they look for answers?  They looked wherever they needed to look to find their answers.  Their project was so comprehensive it really required them to look everywhere. 

But what about you?  Are you allowed to do that?  Are you allowed to seek out matters in that kind of depth?  What if the source is Jerald and Sandra Tanner, or Ogden Kraut?  They’re the bad folks, right?  If they present a true doctrine, or provide credible information about our history that cannot be found in Deseret Book publications, should it not be accepted?  Or must the facts provided by their research first be acknowledged by the brethren before you can accept them as truth?  What if the information they provided even helped somebody find faith in Christ, or find the determination to stay in the Church?  Would you be justified in judging a woman as "on the fringe" because she finally found a helpful, straight-forward answer but it happened to come from them?

Ogden Kraut was a fundamentalist and I’m not.  Though I don't agree with some of his views, much of his work is superb.  There are few authors I’ve read who seemed so bent on understanding and living what he believed the scriptures were teaching.  He and his research are respectable to me. 

From his writings I could give examples where history is presented in a more faithful manner by a fundamentalist than by our own church’s portrayals.  I could give examples that demonstrate a more clear understanding of and faithful devotion to Joseph Smith’s teachings than our own practices do.  I could show a man who studied, understood, and lived the doctrines in the scriptures better than many Mormons would ever contemplate trying.  I didn’t know the man, but I like what he wrote.  He seems to me to have cared very little about popularity, the praise of men, the lusts of the flesh, or Babylon.  I'm not suggesting you need to read his books though.  He's only a useful example in making a point.  There are others I could have chosen.            

The Tanners are anti-Mormon and I’m pro-Mormon.  They have come to a very different conclusion about Mormonism than I have, but their research has sometimes been helpful to me.  To be clear, I’m not recommending their work to you either.  But, when I’ve needed to get to the bottom of a matter in the Joseph Smith History, for instance, they’ve been happy to oblige.  Their work is well documented.  I'll provide only one example: 

In what has become accepted as an official record we now read this:

“Dr. Richards was taken sick, when Joseph said, ‘Brother Markham,…go and get the doctor something he needs to settle his stomach,’ and Markham went out for medicine.  When he had got the remedies desired, and was returning to jail,…” (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 614).

The Millennial Star, where the account was originally published, read like this:

“Dr. Richards was taken sick, when Joseph said, ‘Brother Markham,…go and get the Doctor a pipe and some tobacco to settle his stomach,’ and Markham went out for them.  When he had got the pipe and tobacco, and was returning to jail,…” (Millennial Star, vol. 24, p. 471).

Now, some might ask: So what?  What is the big deal that these changes have been made?  This really isn't a big deal.  These are just small things.  

The big deal is this: These aren’t the only changes that have been made.  These aren’t the only things that have been covered up.  There are more changes and cover-ups than any one of us could find or want to count.  Some of them seem harmless, as does the change just mentioned.  But when a man or woman who’s been raised in the Church finds one or two of these changes for the first time in their 30s or 40s, they begin to wonder what other changes have been made.  They wonder what other information has been withheld from them.  In rapid succession, they go uncover a heaping pile of history and teachings that smothers them.  They are unprepared and often too tender for the cruel manner in which much of the information has been portrayed by enemies to the Church.  They wonder whether the leaders knew about these things, and if so, why they have not been honest with the members.  They are deciding to leave the Church over these “small things.”  It's happened to people I know.

To me, these are all small things.  Probably no harm was intended when changes were made, but harm is being done.  Nobody who made decisions to edit the texts probably ever foresaw the kind of trouble it would get folks into years down the road.  These are unintended consequences of hiding the truth, but consequences nonetheless.  Folks are struggling because of this stuff.      

J. Reuben Clark, who was a councilor in the first presidency of the Church for 27 years said: 

"One of the reasons why the so-called 'Fundamentalists' had made such inroads among our young people was because we had failed to teach them the truth" (Elder Statesman: A Biography of J. Ruben Clark, p.249).

Where do you look for answers?  Look wherever you need to look to find your answers.  "Thy mind, o man, ..." et cetera; remember that quote from Joseph Smith?

At the root of all of this seeking, of course, is a personal attempt at coming unto Christ.  That is why you should be seeking answers.  That is ultimately what you should be seeking for.  

Piecing together the puzzle pieces to get an accurate view of Mormon history will help you understand the scriptures.  The reverse is also true.  You cannot properly understand Mormon history without first considering and believing in the prophecies in the scriptures.  Understanding and believing the warnings of the Book of Mormon will help you interpret our history more accurately.  In fact, it is impossible to accurately interpret the whole of our history independent of those prophecies and warnings.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sources in Sorting Through History

A few weeks ago a Seventy visited the ward where my wife and I attend.  He delivered a beautiful sermon on Joseph Smith and the Savior.  It wasn’t ward or stake conference, so our meeting attendance was average-size.  After the meeting was over we had occasion to talk with him for just a few minutes. 

We talked about the sacrament meeting, my profession, and golf (I don’t golf, but he and the Stake President did).  The conversation later turned to gospel study.  I inquired whether or not he had heard of a particular author.  He replied that he had not, and then felt it was important to “caution” me against reading things “not written by the brethren.”  I could sense his honest concern about the matter, and I was grateful for his kindness.  Our conversation ended on that note of counsel, and we exchanged hands and goodbyes.
It seems the brethren themselves don’t follow that counsel.  If they had, we wouldn’t have Talmage’s Jesus the Christ, which was written by comprehensively studying a non-Mormon’s writings.  We wouldn’t have many of President Monson’s poems, stories, and anecdotes were it not for William James, Charles Swindoll, Thomas Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and William Shakespeare (“Living the Abundant Life,” Ensign Jan. 2o12).  President Benson’s famous “Beware of Pride” address would never have been produced had not C.S. Lewis first written The Screwtape Letters, and Mere Christianity

Church historians Ronald Walker, Richard Turley, and Glen Leonard recently wrote the most extensively documented account of the Mountain Meadows Massacre yet.  Their work has been applauded by some of the brethren.  There are over 1,600 footnotes in the book.  They researched and cited not only Mormon authors, but excommunicated-Mormon authors, anti-Mormon authors, and never-Mormon authors from both the 19th and 20th centuries.  

Why would they do that?  Don’t they know better?  

They did it because the information they needed in order to put together honest history wasn’t found in church manuals, the writings of the brethren, or  They did it because they were interested in finding out the truth of the matter.  They exhausted all the resources available to them and decided what was valuable in piecing together a true picture.

On 11 September 2007, before the book’s publication, President Eyring spoke at the Sesquicentennial of that horrific event.  In his address he said this about the work of these three historians:

“Although no event in history can fully be known, the work of these three authors has enabled us to know more than we ever have known about this unspeakable episode. The truth, as we have come to know it, saddens us deeply. The gospel of Jesus Christ that we espouse, abhors the cold-blooded killing of men, women, and children. Indeed, it advocates peace and forgiveness. What was done here long ago by members of our Church represents a terrible and inexcusable departure from Christian teaching and conduct. We cannot change what happened, but we can remember and honor those who were killed here” (see Newsroom).

More and more folks are discovering, at times to their dismay, that if you want to find out the whole truth about matters of Mormon history you're going to have to start traveling and turning over rocks outside city limits.  There's not enough information available in Church manuals to satisfy the spiritual needs of those seeking to know the truth about history.  


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Historians' Attempts at Sorting Through History

For about ten years, from 1972 to 1982, Leonard Arrington served faithfully as LDS Church Historian and Recorder.  During that time he was granted extensive access to Church archives and made an effort to make information available to Mormons and non-Mormons alike.  He was the first professional historian to be called to that position. 

In 1982 the History Division that Arrington oversaw was transferred to BYU, and liberal access to Church archives came to a halt.  Arrington was privately released from both his calling as Church Historian and head of the History Division, and in the April 1982 General Conference the standard public announcement of release and vote of thanks was absent.

In the minds of at least some of the leaders, the degree of transparency Arrington desired for Mormon history turned out to be too much for the Saints  and the world to handle. 

Arrington felt that our “authenticity” as Latter-day Saints depended on members confronting history with complete honesty.  He apparently felt we hadn’t done a stand-up job with that.  As Church Historian and Recorder he was motivated by a desire to see a change in the way we handled and presented our history.  Quoting a Jewish novelist, Arrington makes this point:

“In his autobiographical recollections and reflections, Little Did I Know, the great Jewish novelist and Zionist Maurice Samuel asserts that the ‘authentic Jew’ is ‘the one who understands and is faithful to his own personal and social identity.  One who, in short, accepts his history.’  May we not make an analogous definition of the Latter-day Saint?  Are we authentic Latter-day Saints (i.e., real Mormons) unless we receive messages from our collective past? …Our individual and collective authenticity as Latter-day Saints depends on the historians telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about our past.  This includes the failures as well as the achievements, the weaknesses as well as the strengths, the individual derelictions as well as the heroism and self-sacrifice” (Arrington, “The Search for Truth and Meaning in Mormon History,” Dialogue 3:56-66).

Though some members share Arrington’s approach to history, as a people we tend to be oddly touchy about controversial issues from our past.  This leaves us in no real good position to help others who are struggling to understand our faith.  In Arrington's view we are, to some degree, not "authentic" Mormons.  We are often uncomfortable subjecting our own history to critical analysis.  

Polly Aird, Jeff Nichols, and Will Bagley pointed this out in the preface of a book they recently coauthored: 

"An odd defensiveness still characterizes the “faithful” version of Mormon history, which occasionally borders on paranoia: the mildest critical analysis is often condemned as yet another example of the faith’s long-sanctified history of persecution. To this day, the religion’s protectors paint the motives of those who do not subscribe to their faith-promoting version of history as suspect. …At times it seems that any scholar not thumping a tub for the restored Gospel is untrustworthy and relegated to an enemies’ list dating all the way back to the 1830’s" (quoted in Snuffer's recent paper on Brigham Young).

You don't have to like, agree with, or have a testimony of everything that has transpired in Mormon history.  Not everything is beautiful, not everything is praiseworthy, and not everything is true.  Arrington's Assistant Church Historian Davis Bitton said as much (see his article, "I Don't Have a Testimony of the History of the Church").  In that article, he expressed the view that it was not the truth of history that is ever the problem that troubles members, but their own expectations being conflicted that can tear them apart:

"What's potentially damaging or challenging to faith depends entirely, I think, on one's expectations, and not necessarily history. Any kind of experience can be shattering to faith if the expectation is such that one is not prepared for the experience. . . . A person can be converted to the Church in a distant part of the globe and have great pictures of Salt Lake City, the temple looming large in the center of the city. Here we have our home teaching in nice little blocks and we all go to church on Sunday, they believe. It won't take very many hours or days before the reality of experiencing Salt Lake City can be devastating to a person with those expectations. The problem is not the religion; the problem is the incongruity between the expectation and the reality.

"History is similar. One moves into the land of history, so to speak, and finds shattering incongruities which can be devastating to faith. But the problem is with the expectation, not with the history. One of the jobs of the historians and of educators in the Church, who teach people growing up in the Church and people coming into the Church, is to try to see to it that expectations are realistic. The Lord does not expect us to believe lies. We believe in being honest and true, as well as chaste and benevolent. My experience, like that of Leonard, has not been one of having my faith destroyed. I think my faith has changed and deepened and become richer and more consistent with the complexities of human experience. . . . Perhaps the only answer to a question about faith and history is to say that we are examples of people who know a fair amount about Mormon history and still have strong testimonies of the gospel" (Bitton, ibid.). 

The Church encourages its members to seek individual “spiritual confirmation” of the things they are taught (see Newsroom).  Would it be unacceptable, given that invitation, to decide at some point that there is some idea with which you disagree, because the Spirit of the Lord is not in it?  Or because you've done a little bit of research and discovered an alternative view of part of our history?  If the invitation is extended in the hope that members will take it seriously, then the outcome of some members choosing to act upon it should be pleasing to those who lead the Church, even if it results in some members coming to alternative views about a matter.

After decades of extensive digging into Mormon history, Leonard Arrington observed that not all theological and organizational changes were made in response to "explicit instructions from on High."  Many times, he continued, these changes were introduced "by people - by learned scripturists, talented organizers, and energetic innovators.  They may have operated individually or in groups; they may have been motivated by ambition, prestige, or the good of the Church" (Arrington, ibid., emphasis mine).

Discovering that a faithful Church Historian came to those conclusions, I feel at liberty to come to what I consider to be honest conclusions about issues from our past.  I am grateful for the work of honest historians like Leonard Arrington.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Contentions in Sorting Through History

In the last post we looked at the importance of being able to discern between what is true and false in our history.  By looking at historical context, by comparing and exhausting various available sources, and by considering scriptural prophecies we can build the most accurate view. 

Most members of the Church do not do this well at all.  The small (but growing) body of members who do, though their conclusions may be varied, typically develop views that are not welcome by the larger body of Latter-day Saints.  Why is this true?  Why can’t we have open dialogue with each other about these things?  Is it fear?  Who planted that fear in our hearts (2 Tim 1:7; Moro 8:16)?

So now, there’s a growing disparity among the body of those claiming a belief in the restoration.  There is a gap that has grown larger now than it has ever been before in the history of Mormonism.  This gap gives rise to contentions, and neither side is innocent of fueling them.  If it were for no other reason but this, we are far from being Zion (4 Ne. 1:15).  

There are those who choose to maintain a casual disinterest in our history, and those who have undertaken an aggressive mining effort to dig up every last detail.  Within both of these groups you will find faithful members of the Church.  Within both of these groups you have folks trying to follow the counsel of the leaders, and trying to serve God and his children.  In both of these groups you will find those who are kind, as well as those who are unpleasant.     

Members of the Church have varied interests, motives, and comfort levels.  You should recognize this and be slow to pass judgment upon others, regardless of the path you’ve personally chosen to pursue. 

If you’ve chosen, say, in the past two years to become interested in Church history, your views about most things Mormon have almost definitely developed into something they were not before your undertaking.  You will, at some point in this discovery, find that it is easy to look at others in your ward, family, or work place as uninformed, and uninterested.  It will be easy for you to pass judgment.  Your discoveries in Mormon history, though a blessing to you, will also put you on trial.  Your tendency may be to revert to the same wretched, impatient, non-charitable fool you used to be before you worked on overcoming those natural tendencies the first time around, years ago.  Your new understanding has made you proud (2 Ne. 9:28-29, 42).  Like all trials past, you must learn to become more like Christ.  Serve others and teach them with patience.  Teach those who will hear your testimony (Mosiah 18:3).     

On the other hand are those who have no interest in studying Mormon history.  If you’re not interested in Church history, realize that there are other people who study it and know it better than you do. 

You may consider how foolish it is that your Christian friend from work insists upon defending his ill-founded claims and creeds with an appeal to the Bible he’s hardly read.  You should choose to be different than him.  What you’ve learned about Church history in Sunday school manuals is often times only part of the story, and is certainly not as thorough a treatment as can be received through diligent personal study.  Don’t proudly and angrily defend something you know nothing about.  If you think you understand an issue, share your understanding. Help others come to a true understanding through persuasion, and long-suffering.  You may choose to believe as you do, but there’s no need to fuel contentions.  There’s no need to pass unwise judgment upon others, or to harbor ill feelings toward them.        

Don’t judge harshly those who are interested in what you are not.  Don’t view them as faithless because they temporarily entertain doubts about some of the difficult issues they have chosen to confront in their honest search for the truth of a matter, and because you find those certain aspects of history easy to believe.  If you knew what they knew, you may be worse off than them – and you may find them coming to your rescue.  Be kind, and seek to understand.

With the onslaught of information becoming available on the internet and elsewhere, you must realize that you are going to be confronted with issues that have heretofore been unknown to you.  Others will face this challenge too.  Your parents, children, and ward members are currently having this experience.  The First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve are aware there are many people presently leaving the Church over matters of history (see Marlin K. Jensen interview).  They are struggling to find a way to help present history in a more forthright manner.  It shouldn't be from enemies to the Church that we get some of our most accurate retellings of events from our past.  

Everybody reacts differently to the discovery of events that challenge their present assumptions, traditions, and beliefs.  Some will fold and retreat into a private, lonely recess.  Others will become highly critical, and vocal, and even mean spirited in their efforts to expose their discovery.  Your acceptance of the truth will put you in a position to support the hands that hang down.  You will be capable of providing comfort to those who stand in need of comfort (Mosiah 18:9).  You’ve covenanted to do so.

As you see these things going on around you, remember that "we believe" God is going to continue to reveal "many great and important things," and you have an obligation to discover the truth of these matters (AofF1:9).  The gospel of Jesus Christ welcomes ALL truth.  Some truths will hurt your heart, and initially confuse you, because they will come into conflict with your present assertions, and expectations.  People you love and respect will reject the truth, and will attempt to persuade you of their own views.  Take the Spirit as your guide.  Choose to not be destroyed by the truth, but to welcome it in humility. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sorting Through History

“And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.”

“And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning” (D&C 93:24).

Honest students of history have the dilemma of sorting through what is true and what is false.  This is true of the history of any subject, but becomes particularly important in matters of religion.

At times, this is easy to do.  Blatant lies are often easy to detect, especially when not substantiated by other contemporaneous accounts.  But when the perpetrator of an historical event is himself misinformed, or wittingly or unwittingly exaggerates or leaves out important details, it becomes rather difficult for the reader to sort through the data and develop an accurate picture.

Latter-day Saint history is filled with the miraculous, and with accounts of God’s dealings with men in our own day.  Many of the accounts are both faithful and faith-promoting.  These recorded events, like ancient scripture, invite you to improve upon your time and to obtain from God what others have received.  It is appropriate for us to be excited about and delight in the retelling of these accounts.

Some events in our history are ugly and alarming.  Plenty of Mormons refuse to acknowledge this.  Other folks, however, may be constituted so as to acknowledge nothing but the ugly.  Some go to great lengths to point out discrepancies, errors, failings, and lies.  Various authors may or may not choose to confront certain events from our past.  Both sides are inevitably criticized by the others who disagree with the approach they’ve taken to the study of the faith.

Much of the time, reaching a sound conclusion about a matter requires you to exhaust the resources available to you.  Adding up the details, while considering the pertinent context, paints the true picture.  At times you will be forced to choose between sources, as one may present a different view of the events than another.  You may choose to believe one man’s witness as credible and honest, for instance, while putting off ten other witnesses who all agree with one another, but who propound a contrary view to the one.  That is every man’s prerogative.  You may not know about the ten other witnesses at all.  Perhaps you will choose to suspend judgment on a matter for now.  Whatever the case, these things take work. 

We need context to truly understand people and events.  Ignoring some aspects of the overall context could cause us to miss out on some truth.  Without understanding the cultural context surrounding the massacre at Mountain Meadows, for example, it is impossible to begin to understand the event.  The culture of violent rhetoric that preceded the massacre helps you not only understand how such an event could have transpired, but provides a lens through which to discern varying contemporaneous accounts that were given of it.    

Historians only offer their opinions about what really happened in the past.  They pick and choose their sources according to their motive, and present the data they've gathered.  Some are more honest than others; some more intelligent.  Usually, an eager student of the gospel will find his opinion may change a number of times about a doctrine or historical event depending on which sources he encounters, when, and to which sources he gives credence.  

Having done these things, you also must consider prophetic descriptions of our day - as found in the scriptures - to inform your reading of history.  Without the context of prophecy, events in our history can bend to fit the desired outcome of any historian; or any student.  When we take the prophecies seriously, we begin to see that our traditional telling of some aspects of Mormon history may be off.  We've sorely neglected the prophecies of the Book of Mormon in this regard.    

You should desire to work these things out.  The truth will empower you.  It will make you free, and enable you to forsake the enemy of your soul (John 8:32; D&C 93:37). 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Journals are Helpful

In 1836, just three years after his baptism, Wilford Woodruff was called as a seventy.  The next year he recorded the following prayer in his journal:

"O Lord I ask thee in the name of Jesus Christ thy Son, to look upon thy servant Willford, who now occupies a place in Kirtland, this first Stake of Zion, which thou has appointed in this last Dispensation, & fulness of times for the gathering of thy Saints.  O God of Israel, inspire the heart & pen of thy Servant at this time, & hear & answer the Petition which he will put up unto thee at this time, & remember the Covenant which they servant Willford will make with thee at this time, O mighty God of Jacob.  O Lord thou hast spared my life, to behold the commencem of 1837.  May my life, health, & strength be precious in thy Sight, through the year.  Wilt thou save me by thy grace from all sin, & the Powers of temptation, which try the souls of men.  Wilt thou give me favor during this year, with God & the Saints.  Wilt thou bless me while in school, & in meeting with the quorum of the Seventies, & while attending all other meetings in Kirtland for Divine worship.  O Lord if it be thy will, give me the privilege of recording in this years Journal great blessing, Pronounced upon my head from mine annointing & from under the hands of the Patriarch JOSEPH.  & an account of Great visions, & the opening of the heavens, & and the Revelation of JESUS CHRIST Unto me that I may be a special witness of Thee.  O Lord.  & may I also have the administering of Holy angels, that I may be taught of the Eternal things of the Priesthood.  If I am called to preach thy word this year, may I be bless with souls for my hire.   If I visit my kinsman, wilt thou make me an instrument, of bringing them into thy Celestial Kingdom.  & I Covenant with Thee, Heavenly FATHER, to go & come at thy bidding.  I ask the above blessing, through the Priesthood in the name of JESUS CHRIST AMEN" (Dean C. Jessee; BYU Studies Vol 12; 4:373, emphasis mine).

Is the gospel different today than it was then?  Why do members of the Church not share the same desire for spiritual things today as Wilford Woodruff did then?  What has changed?  Are members less spiritual?  What about our present culture discourages this kind of seeking?  I'm grateful when I read journals of the early Saints.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Men Inspired From Heaven

My mind continues to recall President Benson's warning mentioned last week.

Just four years prior to the death of Christ and his subsequent visit to the people of Nephi, Satan had great power over the people (3 Ne. 6:15).  He stirred them up "to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world."

"And there began to be men inspired from heaven and sent forth" among the people to testify of their sins and iniquities.  These men declared redemption in Christ through repentance (3 Ne. 6:20-21).  This was a message the people were not getting from the chief judges and high priests.  Many people were "exceedingly angry" with these prophets because of their message (ibid.).  However, it was those in authority over the people who were most angry, because they felt their authority challenged.  Some of the prophets were slain because of their testimony (v. 23).

Nephi was one of those prophets.  He was "visited by angels" and "the voice of the Lord" and was an "eye-witness" (3 Ne. 7:15).  He had "power given unto him" that he might know concerning Christ's ministry.  Grieved by the hardness of the people's hearts, and "the blindness of their minds," Nephi went forth preaching "repentance and remission of sins through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 16).  He, and others he ordained, did baptize many (v. 25-26).  He "did minister with power and with great authority" (v. 17).  

The leaders were angry with him because they saw that he had greater power than they did.  They were unable to disbelieve his words because his faith was so great that angels ministered to him daily (v. 18).  Nephi was an Elias to the people of the land, preparing the way of the Lord.  He created quite a stir.  

What would it be like to be taught by such a man today?  Would the message borne by such a faithful messenger be different than Nephi's?  Would it be easy to recognize that he was sent forth from God?  Would we be angry at his message, or receive it with joy?  Would we look inward and analyze our lives to see if there was any truth in his message of repentance, or shun him as an apostate?  Would he be accepted by the leaders?  Would he be one of the leaders?  Should he be?  What does the Book of Mormon teach us about all of this?

President Benson taught that the 3 Nephi account "reveals many parallels to our own day."  He pointed out that the Nephites had been "prosperous and industrious."  He said they "built temples and palaces."  He pointed out that "the people rejected the Lord."  He pointed out that "dishonesty and immorality were widespread."  The people were "distinguished by ranks."  He said these things were "even as today."  

If what President Benson said was true, then we should carefully consider the parallels between those in 3 Nephi and us.  Do these things exist among us today?  Sometimes we need help to see.   

It can be difficult understanding how or of what we are to repent.  Because we compare ourselves to others we are blind, and cannot see our deficiency.  The standard against which we must measure ourselves is the Lord's standard.  That standard is found in the scriptures, in the mouths of prophets who speak for God,  and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  A man will never be capable of full repentance if the standard against which he is comparing himself is sin-ridden Babylon.  Babylon has no instruction for you that will lead you to further light and knowledge.  It will only present you with deception and false security.  Do not trust any image or confidence borne in Babylon.  You can only trust the Lord.  His invitation has always been to repent and come unto Him.      

Like the Nephites who were destroyed before the Lord's coming in the meridian of time, our own "wickedness and evil come from 'lyings and deceivings.'  We prefer the lie that tells us we need no repentance to the truth that we must repent or perish.  We deceive ourselves into believing we are Zion.  The truth is we are far from it, and getting farther away every day.  Our whoredoms are twofold.  We both worship a false image rather than the living God, and we are also sexually impure.  Our secret abominations are the conspiracies that run among us to manipulate, get gain, use religion to promote a cause, obtain commercial advantage, and wield political influence.  We idolize men, rather than Christ.  We claim to hold keys that would allow men filled with sin to forgive sins on earth and in heaven, to grant eternal life, or to bar from the kingdom of God.  Using that false and useless claim, we slay the souls of men, thereby committing murder.  We are riddled with priestcrafts.  Men seek the praise of others rather than to bring again Zion.  We envy those who fill leadership positions because we want the power granted through priestly office and position.  Because we lack the Spirit as a guide, and rather than learning by gaining light through obedience, we engage in strife with one another to settle points of doctrine.  Any voice crying repentance is labeled a dissenter, and their words are condemned and attacked.  They are thought to be 'of the devil.'  By stirring up strife we succeed in making people fear truth.  We close our minds, become deaf and blind.  Christ's words should take precedent over the smooth things we hear from the philosophies of men, but they do not" (Snuffer).

I expect the Lord reaches out to His children in every age of the world in the same manner.  I expect he has and will do so in our day as He has in times past.  Given the awful situation we find ourselves in, and considering the parallels found in 3 Nephi to our own day, I expect to see an Elias who is come to prepare the way of the Lord.  I expect to see "men inspired from heaven and sent forth" among the people to testify of their sins and iniquities.  I expect the people will be angry with them.  These things are all to be expected.     

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Preservation of Scripture

Mormon explained the reason it was expedient that he should make a record upon plates.  He said that God willed it because of the prayers of some who had gone before him, "who were the holy ones" (3 Ne. 5:14).  These records were to be preserved through time.  They were to be used as tools to bring others to Christ.  

Because of their faith, God heard the words of their prayers, and preserved a record that would benefit their posterity.  These "holy ones," like Enos, were promised that whatsoever thing they should ask of God, it should be given them.  This is a promise always extended to those who are saved (Hel. 10:4-10; 2 Chron. 1:7; D&C 7:1-8).  Their faith was unshaken, they knew how to pray and receive answers, and God covenanted with them that the records would be preserved (Enos 1:11-18).

The Gentiles were last, but now are first.  Israel was first, and shall be last.  The Gentiles are called as bearers of the record for the first part of this latter-day winding up scene, and the remnant will soon receive it.  And not just the remnant upon this land, but "all the remnant of the seed of Jacob" shall be gathered in, and shall be restored to a knowledge of Christ (3 Ne. 5:23-26).

Friday, August 3, 2012

Citizens of Clarity

In the small town of Clarity lived a group of people who had perfect vision.  The town was simple, and beautiful.  The townsmen all saw alike.  To them the earth's beauties were abundantly obvious.  They enjoyed the blue sky, and the pink sunsets.  They saw the birds fly between the trees as they heard them sing their songs with joy.  They beheld the green trees, and saw the leaves blown by the rushing wind.  The running rivers, the still lakes, and the majestic mountains were all enjoyed by the townsmen.  During the darkness of night they gazed heavenward, wondering at the meaning of the story told there.  They beheld the signs in the heavens and in the earth and under the earth.  It was said among them their God and Father was the very God of nature.  They saw God moving in His majesty and power.

The children of the citizens of the growing town of Clarity were born blind.  Their parents retained their perfect vision, but were relegated to communicating the beauties of the earth to their children orally, and by touch, and smell.  These children were taught of the blue sky, and the pink sunsets.  They heard the birds fly between the trees and sing their songs with joy.  They learned from their parents about the green trees, and how the leaves were blown by the rushing wind.  They tried to envision the running rivers, the still lakes, and the majestic mountains that were all enjoyed by their parents.  The darkness of day was as real as the darkness of night to these blind children.  They could not gaze heavenward, whether day or night, and wonder at the meaning of the story told there.  They were taught of the signs in the heavens and in the earth and under the earth, and many believed all these things.  It was said among them their God and Father was the very God of nature.  They believed they saw God moving in His majesty and power.

The city of Clarity now grew rapidly and became more complex, and quite noisy.  When the citizens of the first generation had all died, the blind ran the growing city.  Their children, too, were blind.  The new blind children were taught by their blind parents about the blue sky, and the pink sunsets.  They heard the birds fly between the trees and sing their songs with joy.  They learned of green trees, and how the leaves were blown by the rushing wind.  With the eye of faith, these blind children tried to imagine the wonder of all these things.  They tried to envision the running rivers, the still lakes, and the majestic mountains that were told them by their blind parents.

Not having seen these things themselves, the blind parents who were teaching their blind children had varied views.  Some imagined the majestic mountains as they really were, and others not.  Some pictured the running rivers well, having visited the rivers, and though not having seen, had heard, and smelled, and touched them.  Others, who had neither climbed a mountain, nor visited a river, attempted a faithful telling of all these things to their children with less success than those who experienced them to some degree.  Some of the blind children believed, while others found their parents' stories and descriptions unbelievable.  There began to be contentions among them.  

Life continued for many generations in the great city of Clarity.  There were in the city all manner of citizens.  Some who believed, and some who did not.  Some who thought they understood well, and others who did not.  These blind citizens continued in a tradition that had been handed them.  They spoke of the sky, and sunsets.  They spoke of the trees, the leaves, the birds, the rivers, lakes, and mountains.  They contemplated the stars and wondered about the signs in the heavens.  Many forgot they were blind, and presumed to understand all these things as well as those who saw and knew them. Because they forgot they were blind, they were content.  

One day, a young man from another city moved to the great city of Clarity.  He listened to the people describe the sky, and sunsets.  They taught him of the trees, the leaves, the birds, the rivers, lakes, and mountains.  He studied the stars and wondered about the signs in the heavens.  He knew these things were true because he had been blessed with the gift of sight.  He decided to stay with the people.

The man who could see taught the other citizens that he had seen God moving in His majesty and power.  He said that their God and Father was the very God of nature.  He told the people about the signs in the heavens and in the earth and under the earth.  He, like those of the first generation, had gazed heavenward, wondering at the meaning of the story told there.  He visited and saw the running rivers, the still lakes, and the majestic mountains, even Mount Zion, and he had joy therein.  He beheld the green trees, and saw the leaves blown by the rushing wind.  He watched with delight the birds fly between the trees, as the sun was setting in the blue-turned-pink sky.  He desired all to receive the sight he was given.  

The man who could see grew older.  He taught the blind citizens of Clarity that their God and Father was able to cure their blindness.  If they would believe, and wash in living waters, they would begin to see.  A few believed and began to see.  

Many citizens of Clarity despised this man, however.  They believed he was lying.  Though he was able to see clearly, they eventually attacked him and cast him out.  The blind withdrew fellowship from a man who could see.