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Thursday, April 28, 2016

How To Not Be A Chicken - About A Parable By A Modern Prophet


President Monson wrote an article in the September 2014 where he said the following:

"In the vicinity where I once lived and served, the Church operated a poultry project, staffed primarily by volunteers from the local wards. Most of the time it was an efficiently operated project, supplying to the bishops’ storehouse thousands of fresh eggs and hundreds of pounds of dressed poultry. On a few occasions, however, being volunteer city farmers meant not only blisters on the hands but also frustration of heart and mind.

For instance, I shall ever remember the time we gathered the Aaronic Priesthood young men to give the project a spring-cleaning. Our enthusiastic and energetic throng assembled at the project and in a speedy fashion uprooted, gathered, and burned large quantities of weeds and debris. By the light of the glowing bonfires, we ate hot dogs and congratulated ourselves on a job well done.

However, there was just one disastrous problem. The noise and the fires so disturbed the fragile population of 5,000 laying hens that most of them went into a sudden molt and ceased laying. Thereafter we tolerated a few weeds so that we might produce more eggs."

Our prophet, like the Savior whom he represents, teaches many times in parables.  The meaning few saw around this comment was that, as one blogger said, "he is caught between the need to warn us  about preparing for the future, and the sensitivity of the saints to be alarmed that something bad is on the horizon. He could use words of “destruction and fire,” but that would be counterproductive; the “fragile population” of members would stop living their lives in a productive, one-egg-a-day kind of way. Once some chickens get it into their minds that the sky is falling, their lives will become unbalanced and fearful."

Many people, when I share these kinds of thoughts, say I'm paranoid, but that's just a word used by those who are uninformed when they finally see something that has been sitting under their very noses for the first time as it truly is.  So, if you're one of those who hasn't clicked out of this article or dismissed me as just some "nutball conspiracy theorist", feel free to to read on for my perspective of how to not be a molting chicken when poo hits the fan in the next few years.

First, President Benson gave us a powerful reminder of why the Book of Mormon was written for our day: "Now undoubtedly Moroni could have pointed out many factors that led to the destruction of the people, but notice how he singled out the secret combinations, just as the Church today could point out many threats to peace, prosperity, and the spread of God’s work, but it has singled out the greatest threat as the godless conspiracy. There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon —it is a conspiracy fact."  There's no doubt about it, evil men have been conspiring for years to destroy the U.S. from within.  There's nothing else that would have or could have brought what I now call the "Divided States" of America to it's currently dismal and putrid state.  A house divided cannot stand on it's own and it's not a question of if  their government and economy completely collapses, but when.

Next, I repeat what prophets and apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ have been saying for several millenia: "come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness...".  If you want to have peace and joy amid the horrors that are to come, they will be readily and easily available if you make the choice to turn full force to the Savior in everything you do.  No, this does not mean sell everything you have right now, go off grid and hide in a bunker until nuclear warfare destroys the rest of the population (that's not even going to happen).  It also does not mean I support getting overly obsessive and becoming the boy who cried wolf.

What I am saying is that there is a poisonous attitude many, even among the Latter-day Saints, of an apathetic "I have my religious life and my regular life and I need to keep balance between the two." Please don't misunderstand.  Balance is a good thing to be sure, but to mentally separate our commitment to Christ from every day activities is not only missing the whole point of Christ's invitation to follow Him, it is deadly to our spiritual progression.  As Elder Holland said, "Never check your religion at the door."  Discipleship is not something we go should be going about casually, thinking that, because perfection doesn't come overnight, we can just "do things at a comfortable pace" and avoid anything that makes us uncomfortable.  Do you think Christ was comfortable when He was in Gethsemane?  When He was on the cross?  When He was rejected and spit upon and betrayed while totally unwilling to do anything contrary to His Father's will?  Not a chance!

While this doesn't mean that we have to look for hard things or pray for trials (although I do know of at least one person who had the courage to try that), I'm just using that thought to emphasize that becoming Christ-like in an ever increasingly evil world means that staying in our comfort zone is never going to cut it.

The divide between true disciples of Christ and those who aren't is getting ever wider.  If we don't want our faith to break with changes like church's recent policy regarding the LGBT community, we had better make sure we are far enough over on Christ's side of that divide that when such a chasm makes a shift to grow wider we not are so close to the edge that we fall in.  Elder Bednar once suggested that we ask ourselves with each trial "Is the load I'm carrying creating sufficient spiritual traction so I can get safely home to my Heavenly Father?" Similarly I would suggest that we also ask ourselves regularly, "Am I far enough over on the Savior's side that changes toward perfection in the church will push me toward Christ?"

It's impossible to be too Christian, so don't worry about that, but please, believe me when I say following the prophet and aligning our hearts with that of the Savior which prophets convey to us is the safest way to stay on His side and have His peace with us always.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Savior and #LDSConf

Upon tweeting about #LDSConf on twitter shortly before the event, a certain twitter user retweeted my link about my article encouraging others to watch live that weekend.  I had used the phrase "feast upon the words of Christ".  This guy who retweeted me was claiming that the Savior wouldn't even be mentioned.  Upon looking at his twitter page to possibly deduce a reason why he would say such a ludicrous thing, it became obvious to me that he had once been a member of the LDS church but had defected from it and was now working twice as hard as he possibly ever had to be faithful to the gospel in his efforts to tear down the church.

This is for you, retweeter.  I won't mention who you are because you don't need attention for lambasting someone's faith, but in case you ever read this and remember your retweet of @LattrDayWarrior's link, just so you know there were over 900 references to the Lord Jesus Christ throughout General Conference April 2016.  I counted 100 references in President Eyring's sunday morning talk alone!

Let me clarify something first, then I'll offer you an invitation.

According to Stephen H. Webb (professor of religion and philosophy at Wabash College) back in Feb 2012, "...what gives Christianity its identity is its commitment to the divinity of Jesus Christ. And on that ground Mormons are more Christian than many mainstream Christians who do not take seriously the astounding claim that Jesus is the Son of God. Mormonism is obsessed with Christ, and everything that it teaches is meant to awaken, encourage, and expand faith in him. It adds to the plural but coherent portrait of Jesus that emerges from the four gospels in a way, I am convinced, that does not significantly damage or deface that portrait. I came to this conclusion when I read through the Book of Mormon for the first time ... When I actually read this book, however, I was utterly surprised ... There are many characters in this book, but they change as little as the plot. Nobody stands out but him. “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). And not just Jesus: A whole gospel in all of its theological details—right down to debates about baptism, the relationship of law to grace, and the problem of divine foreknowledge—is taught to the people of the New World centuries before Jesus was even born."

He continues later in his article: "Still, the Book of Mormon raises a question for Christians. Can you believe too much about Jesus? Can you go too far in conceiving his glory? Let me answer that question by posing another. Isn’t the whole point of affirming his divinity the idea that one can never say enough about him?"

Perhaps, [Mr. Retweeter], if we were to consider your claim that Christ wouldn't be mentioned from the face value or possibly even just the mood of the word "mentioned", which in the American Heritage Dictionary (4th edition) defines the noun as "The act of referring to something briefly or casually", I think you'd be right.  Christ is in no way mentioned briefly or casually in LDS General Conference.  Instead, He is glorified, worshiped and revered in ways you won't see in any other church on earth.  Professor Webb seems to agree, "Mormonism is obsessed with Christ, and everything that it teaches is meant to awaken, encourage, and expand faith in him."

Seriously, my friend, Joseph Smith taught faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the very first principle of the gospel.  The prime purpose of the Church's missionaries is to "invite others to come unto Christ...".  The "primary responsibility" of the Church's prophet is "to bear witness of Christ".  Joseph Smith declared "The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it".  The LDS author Tad R. Callister wrote about Jesus, "He has mastered each and every law.  He is polylingual; there is no such thing as a foreign language to him.  He knows the cure for every virus, every disease, and every ailment.  He has created worlds without number.  Nothing escapes his grasp."  Of the depth of the Savior's atonement he wrote, "There need be no equivocation, no back-pedaling, no apologizing - the Atonement is infinite in its depth..." of the challenges of mortality he wrote "the scriptures are replete with evidence that the Savior did not exempt himself from any of these but rather faced each of them 'square on.'"  The LDS Church has an entire subdomain of lds.org, jesuschrist.lds.org, dedicated entirely to Him.

Would you like more?  We are so blessed in our day with revelation from God that I have more quantity, depth and quality of evidence of the love and worship of the Savior in the Mormon Church than I even know what do with.  If you actually meant the word "mentioned" to be that He wouldn't even be spoken of in any way, my testimony and personal witness to you is as follows.

You are mistaken.

Go back and read every talk from every General Authority.  You won't find a single talk (possibly excluding  two very brief technical reports) that does anything but teach something about our Lord.

I know from my own personal experience that this is His church.  I have felt the Holy Ghost testify powerfully and unmistakably to me on many occasions that this is where His gospel is preached in it's fullness, where His priesthood power and authority lies, where His atonement can truly be accessed in all it's infinite, joyful, glorious power, and where the souls of mankind can find His way to "happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come." (last paragraph of The Living Christ).  I know from my own personal education from on high that He is the force behind The LDS Church, it's Captain, it's "Chief Corner stone" (Ephesians 2:20).

Lastly, I would like to offer my own thoughts of consolation and hope for you.  The parable of the prodigal son goes a long way here.  You have had the blessings of the gospel in your life.  You have felt the Spirit confirm to you the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  Otherwise you likely never would have joined the church in the first place.  No matter your membership status now, think back to those times when you first felt the Holy Ghost teach you something that only faith could explain, that time(s) when you had a question that no earthly source could help you understand.  Think back to the peace you felt when you got the answer you needed.  Remember the joy you had in your heart, that incomparable, totally consuming and ever satisfying completeness you felt in a moment(s) where you knew the truth of our Savior, not because someone had proved it to you by mortal means (not to say that that's always a bad thing), but by the intelligence and power of God.

I invite you to follow the Lord's counsel, "Return unto me" (Malachi 3:7), to seek for "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding..." (Philippians 4:7)

I promise you that the negativity and resentment you feel in your heart towards any church that even tries to be Christian will be totally dissipated by the light of Christ, should you choose that road.  Besides, the Savior said that contention is of the devil and encouraged us to "revil[e] not against revilers" (Doctrine and Covenants 19:30).

"Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free." (Doctrine and Covenants 128:22)

Come back brother.  Come back and be free again.