Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Board Of Directors

The idea that continuity of organization determines the validity of the church is further propounded when Hunt describes the manner in which popes are selected.  When he makes mention of "authority" he means the priesthood.  He is fixed on the idea that priesthood comes with office.  On the selection of popes father Hunt says:

"The organization of the Church, as already noted, resembles a board of directors, one of whom is chairman or president.  When the chairman dies, the office does not die with him.  It remains to be filled by the other directors, most of whom continue to live.  They may act quicky or they may procrastinate. They may agree among themselves or disagree.  They may split into factions; they may indulge in quarrels.  They may lose prestige and influence.  But the one and all-important fact is that the organization continues to exist.  In time a new chairman is chosen, at which moment he acquires all the authority belonging to the office" (Ibid, p. 21).

The process Hunt describes for the selection of a new president is devoid of the voice of God.  He admits the process works more like a company, with its key leaders engaged in cordial discussion until a verdict is agreed upon.  If God is not found interceding, then their decisions are considered to be His will.  This is the logical way to work through a problem when the voice of the Lord cannot be obtained.  It is the very way in which the First Councils of Nicea and Constantinople proceeded and concluded, and is how all ecumenical and provincial councils have thereafter functioned.  As it turns out, their creeds are an abomination (JSH 1:19).  This is how the commandments of men become doctrine.   

Because we live in a telestial world, there is a tendency among even very good men to slide into darkness and away from the light of truth.  Without perpetual communion with God men resort to their own devices to resolve issues of organization and matters of doctrine.  Comparison to a board of directors is I think an apt description of how the process actually works

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Continuity Of Organization

Duane Hunt was a Catholic priest in Salt Lake City for many decades.  His continuous interaction with the Church and its members led him to write a pamphlet refuting our claims of a great apostasy, and attempting to demonstrate that the continuity of the Catholic Church is the measure of its validity.  

Hunt argued that because of "continuity of organization," from the time of Christ until the present day, the Catholic Church is the sole repository of keys and priesthood.  Though his work is not supported by the scriptures, his reasoning is an understandable attempt to justify his own faith.  The crux of his argument is as follows: 

"The continuity of the Church means, for one thing, institutional continuity, a continuous organization, linking in physical contact the officials of each generation with those of the preceding one and back finally to the Apostles themselves" (Hunt, The Continuity of the Catholic Church, p. 4).

As he continues, Hunt makes the tempting mistake of tying perpetuity of priesthood to the perpetuity of church office, and not to righteousness.  He assumes that because a man holds office he thereby holds priesthood.  He presumes the church lives on because there is a perpetuity of office holders.  To him, priesthood can only be lost from the church when all of the office holders cease to exist.  

Latter-day Saints understand that rights to priesthood are inseparably connected to the powers of heaven, and that a man connects to that power through righteousness (D&C 121:36).  Office in the church, in fact, has nothing to do with it.  When priesthood is lost the kingdom of God is not (HC 5:256-259). 

Hunt explains to his readers that being a Catholic provides comfort and assurance that no other church can provide:

"Every Catholic is sure that no matter what occurs, no matter how much the Church is maligned and persecuted, no matter how many mistakes are made by her own representatives, even by her clergy and higher officials, the Church will continue to live.  With this no other assurance known to man can be compared.  It is unique in all all human history; it is solid beyond all dispute" (Ibid, p. 10).

If it is the apparent continuity of an institution that matters to the Lord, then Hunt has a foundation upon which to build his argument.  However, devoid of priesthood, revelation, and the Holy Ghost, continuity of organization has only been crippling and blinding to mankind.  For it has been in the comforting assurance of continuous organizations that many have found themselves at ease, and lulled away into carnal security (2 Ne. 28:21-25). 

If the priesthood of God is indeed predicated upon connecting with the powers of heaven, continuity of organization is not the comforting link the priest was hoping it was.  Indeed, continuity of organization may not be the proper standard by which any man should attempt to measure the validity of a church that claims to be the Lord's own.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Christmas Quest

“Latter-day Saints have always been the greatest advocates of the Christmas spirit; nay, they have shocked and alarmed the world by insisting on recognizing as a real power what the world prefers to regard as a pretty sentiment. Where the seasonal and formal aspect of Christmas is everything, it becomes a hollow mockery. If men really want what they say they do, we have it; but faced with accepting a real Savior who has really spoken with men, they draw back, nervous and ill at ease.
“In the end, lights, tinsel, and sentimentality are safer, but a sense of possibilities still rankles, so to that we all continue to appeal. For by celebrating Christmas the world serves notice that it is still looking for the gospel.” (Hugh Nibley, “The Christmas Quest”)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On The Ministry Of Angels

Not all who have seen angels are saved, or even good men (1 Ne. 3:29-31).  But the scriptural pattern indicates all saved men have been ministered to by angels.  

While angels declare repentance, they are not the source of one's conversion.  That is the primary function of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Moroni Finishes His Record, Conclusion

Moroni's last recorded words include an exhortation to deny not the power or gifts of God.  God worketh by power according to the faith of the children of men (Moro. 10:7).  The gifts of God are given for the profit of man (Moro. 10:8).  Among these gifts, he once again mentions the necessity of the ministry of angels (Moro. 10:14).

These gifts will never be done away as long as the earth shall stand, for the Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever (Moro. 10:19).  Unbelief will be the only cause for their ceasing (Moro. 10:19, 24).  If the gifts and power of God have ceased then there shall be none that doeth good, no not one (Moro. 10:25).

The Book of Mormon begins and ends with visions, angels, and the voice of God.  These bookends reveal a primary theme that runs throughout its story.  It is this: those who seek salvation, seek to know God and his Holy Son Jesus.  A part of that search for God is that true messengers come to instruct in the way of life and salvation.  They help prepare men for Christ.  They provide the sought after further light and knowledge.  They often declare repentance.  It has ever been thus.  The Book of Mormon is a witness that this is true.  It is an invitation for all men to come unto Christ.  It is a record of men who have walked the path.

Moroni spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, and with the tongue of angels.  If we cannot understand his words it will be because we seek not, nor ask.  If we reject his message we cannot be brought into the light, but must perish in the dark (2 Ne. 32:1-4).  He exhorts us to seek for every good gift, not excluding the ministry of angels (Moro. 10:30).  

To these angels is given power to seal men in their foreheads against the season which is to come (D&C 77:11).  They have power to prepeare men and women for the church of the Firstborn (ibid.).  They are a part of the process of sanctification.  You cannot be sanctified except it be by the grace of God, and unless you partake of His power (Moro. 10:33).  

The visitation of angels often seems unlikely and unbelievable to those who've not experienced them, and the messages shared by those taught by angels are often unpopular (Alma 21:5-6).  The religious who are proud are inescapably found fighting against God's messengers.  They would rather pride themselves in their sanctuaries, in their rites and culture (ibid).  They are angered by the truth.  This has been the pattern throughout history, anyway.  It's remarkably similar in our day. 

Eventually, God will show unto us all that the things this great prophet wrote are verily true (Moro. 10:29).

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Moroni Finishes His Record, Part 7

Mormon's sermon on faith, included in Moroni 7, enters the topic of the ministry of angels (Moro. 7:22).  Angels were sent to minister "unto the children of men" to teach them about Christ.  This statement about angels ministering unto men is general, not limited to a small group of leaders.  All men and women may and should receive angels, or true messengers.  These messengers are sent from the presence of God to teach them how to "begin" to exercise faith in Christ (Moro. 7:25).  This is the beginning of revealed religion.

It is by this faith that men are saved, and "become the sons of God" (Moro 7:26).  Mormon tries to convince his audience that miracles haven't ceased because Christ left and ascended into heaven.  Miracles haven't ceased, and angels haven't ceased to minister unto the children of men (Moro. 7:29).  They are subject unto Christ and are sent by him unto men (Moro. 7:30).

As long as there is one man left upon the earth to be saved, so long as time shall last, angels will be sent to minister unto that man (Moro. 7:36).  Does this not imply that the ministry of angels is in some way inescapably tied to your salvation?  Can you be saved without the ministry of angels?  In other words, can you be prepared in all things, and be brought to the veil to meet your Lord without the guidance of true messengers?  What does the temple teach about this?  Do the teachings of the temple validate Mormon's testimony?

It is by faith that angels come to minister unto man (Moro. 7:37).  If angels have ceased to minister unto men, it is because of unbelief, and their religion is vain (ibid.).  "For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name (Moro. 7:38).

Both Mormon and Moroni speak unto you as if you were present (Morm. 8:35).  In order for their message to have the intended impact, you must actually believe the text is speaking to you personally.  Many in the Church insist passages like this are not meant to be taken personally.  You should read the text carefully and ask yourself if you're willing to believe that.

Remember that you cannot justify your standing before God by a reference to Joseph Smith's own experiences with angels.  Joseph Smith's personal experiences are no more a fair assessment of your own standing before God than Moses' experiences were a reflection of the righteousness of the children of Israel.  Nor are Joseph's personal experiences a good determinant of the Church's present condition.  In fact, Mormon said our churches "have become polluted" because of our pride (Morm. 8:36).  "The holy church of God" has been polluted from the inside out (Morm. 8:38).  Hugh Nibley always said it was an inside job.

The things Moroni included for us as he finished his record should be more helpful to us than we tend to allow them to be.  His words are corroborated by the testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith.  In the vision of the telestial world he saw that those who were to be heirs of salvation would be ministered to by angels (D&C 76:88).  They receive instruction from true messengers if they seek redemption from the fall.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Moroni Finishes His Record, Part 6

"And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.

"And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done" (Moro. 6:5, 9).

My wife and I watched a news report from a Salt Lake City news station last night that discussed the growing number of discontents within the Mormon faith.  The reporter quoted the recent Marlin Jensen interview in which he stated that more members are falling away today than any time in the past 175 years.  Of our total reported church membership, there are as few as one-third that are active.  

As I considered why this was taking place, a number of reasons came to mind.  Among those reasons, my mind turned to the spirit of our meetings.  While it is not the root cause of this falling away, the dullness of our meetings is a reflection upon and outgrowth of Mormon culture at large.   

The ancient church met together oft to speak one with another about the "welfare of their souls."  Think on that for a moment.  What is the purpose of such a discussion?  What are you trying to figure out?  Does this mean they were actually concerned about the welfare of their souls?  Is the purpose of such a discussion to reassure one another that everything is going alright?  Did they wonder if their souls were acceptable before God?  Is it possible that they could have at times discovered that the welfare of their souls was in jeopardy?  What, otherwise, would be the purpose of speaking one with another about the welfare of their souls?

Do we discuss the "welfare of our souls" as much as we discuss our testimonies of the things we know to be true?  Is pontificating about everything that you know to be true the same as discussing the "welfare or your soul?"  What if a discussion of the welfare of souls requires more than soft words and messages of reassurance?  What did it mean to Nephi's brother Jacob to speak unto the people concerning the welfare of their souls (Jacob 2:3-11)?  What about Nephi with his brothers (2 Ne. 1:24-26).  My experience is that if the welfare of souls is mentioned in a meaningful manner in our congregations today, speaking plainly about our current situation, it leads to unease and resentment.  Yet it may just be what is needed to jump-start the waning spirituality of the many members who long for more.  Members need to hear about the awful situation they find themselves in if it's to be fixed.  We may ultimately discover that folks aren't interested in idle words after all.  And many shall discover they weren't as grateful for the message that 'all is well' as they once thought they were.  

We've been instructed to conduct our meetings as directed by the Spirit, just as was done anciently (D&C 20:45).  Yet, our meetings are often rote and unenthusiastic.  What if the church (locally) felt at liberty to conduct meetings after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, as is directed in the scriptures?  What if the power of the Holy Ghost led them to pray?  Would that be unacceptable?  What if the power of the Holy Ghost led them to sing?  Would this disrupt good order in the Church?  Would a Bishop feel at liberty to have his congregation pray and sing the entire meeting if directed by the Spirit?  Would the gifts of the Spirit be more greatly manifested if we were more sensitive to the Spirit's direction? 

The fact that the Church is "the same no matter where you go in the world" isn't necessarily complimentary.  If by "the same" we meant that all meetings were "conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit" then it may be worth mentioning.  Though it's always mentioned excitedly as a testimony booster by those who've traveled, to me it is evidence of strict adherence to the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1, that institutionalizes our culture.  Though Moroni 6:9 is mentioned there as a "general guideline" for meetings, a template follows illustrating how meetings should look and run, as well as other shoulds and should nots.  It is quite organized, and I'm sure very helpful in our worldwide church.  That template is followed with virtually no deviation, and perhaps to our handicapping.  It seems those who preside at our meetings have a challenging responsibility to seek after and act upon the guidance of the Spirit while honoring the intent of general leadership. 

There are those who would say I need to fix my attitude and then I might find fulfillment in boring meetings.  I don't believe that anymore.  If a meeting is boring, I have no problem feeling bored to death by it.  If a meeting is not edifying there's no sense in me wishing it lasted longer.  If the speaker doesn't care much for the gospel that I've come to love, or speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, I'm frankly not edified.  It doesn't mean I don't like that person anymore.  We've all got different feelings about the gospel, what it is and how it works.  We're the Church, after all, not Zion.    

Don't think for a moment that Joseph Smith would pretend to be edified by some of the drivel you sit and listen to.  I don't believe he'd much enjoy our regimented culture or our stale lessons.  He's actually been to meetings and firesides that were conducted "after the manner of the workings of the Spirit," and knows the difference between dull templates and the breathings of the Spirit of God.  

I still find satisfaction in my church experience.  I understand there are others who no longer do.  Where else can I meet and worship with a group of good people who believe in the restoration?  Though our views may diverge upon numerous issues (most often never voiced), they consider me a friend, and I them.  For those who increasingly consider themselves aliens in the Lord's church, my invitation is for you to seek the Spirit of God and bless the Church, and not to abandon it.