Friday, January 29, 2016

FORBIDDEN PATHS - a risk for every true Christian

Lehi's dream is a well known piece of scripture. As I've been studying it the last couple of days, some new things has emerged.

Wandering off and being lost vs. forbidden paths

In his dream, Lehi said that he saw
"numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood. And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree. And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost." (1 Ne. 8:21-23)
Lehi goes on to describe another group of people who
"came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree. And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed. And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth. And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit. And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost." (v. 24-28)
The first group never got to the tree. They "just" lost their way and wandered off. Nephi relates his father's words rather matter-of-factly. But when he talks about those who actually reached the tree and ate of the fruit, he states that they "fell away into forbidden paths". Both groups were lost, but I dare to say that those who fell away into forbidden paths after having had a bite of the fruit were worse off in the eternal scheme of things.

Partaking vs. tasting

Words matter, and they have different meanings. If it were not so, we wouldn't have so many different  words. The words "partaking" and "tasting" denote two different ways to ingest fruit.

Lehi partook of the fruit, as did others. The common theme for those who did is that they didn't get lost. But hey, didn't we just read that...? Well, yes, we did. But note that Nephi says that "after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost." I believe this is significant.

Partaking denotes a thorough consuming, a feasting, whereas tasting is halfhearted and uncommitted. Think about the implication of the difference between fully consuming and feasting on the fruit of the tree of life and merely tasting it. One who has tasted the fruit knows what they are walking away from when they go lost (that is, they will walk in paths that God has forbidden), but those who didn't even taste the fruit, aren't held to the same standard (D&C 82:3).

What does partaking of the fruit symbolize?

Nephi later told his older brothers that, "the [fruit of tree of life] is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits; yea, and it is the greatest of all the gifts of God." (1 Ne. 15:36) Later on, through Joseph Smith, we are taught that "eternal life […] is the greatest of all the gifts of God." (D&C 14:7) Fully partaking of the fruit could be seen as a symbol of having received eternal life. This begs the question–how many of the members of the Church are actually partaking of the fruit? I know what I believe, but what about you?

Knowing vs. denying Jesus

Nephi taught the following:
"After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me." (2 Ne. 31:14)
What could, from God's perspective, be more forbidden than to leave him after we've gotten to know him? I can't think of anything. That's why I believe that the forbidden path is leaving and denying Jesus after we've gotten to know him. 

We partake of the fruit when we:
  • repent of our sins,
  • witness unto the Father that we are wiling to keep the commandments of Jesus by being baptized by water,
  • have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and
  • can speak with the tongue of angels.
When we experience this, we "shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise." (Moroni 7:41) In this position, we will get to know the Son, and it's definitely forbidden to leave him once there.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


"You take the red pill, and I'll show you how deep the
rabbit hole goes."
When I first saw "The Matrix" back in 1999, I was blown away! It was a great movie–thougtprovoking, symbolically rich, deep and packed with great action. I loved it! 

Just a few days ago, approximately ten years after my latest viewing, I saw the movie once more. In these ten years, the movie hasn't changed, but I have. The movie, in my mind, used to be about people waking up to the truths of mormonism and shedding the blindfolds of unbelief. For quite a few years, that was a functioning paradigm for me. Now, it's completely reversed.

In the movie, Mr. Anderson goes about his daily business as a software engineer, while committing computer crimes on his spare time under the name of Neo. Mr. Anderson/Neo has this splinter in his mind, a feeling that he's in a dream which he can't wake up from, that something is wrong with the world.

Eventually, he is given the choice of the blue and red pill–blue and he will wake up in his bed believing whatever he want to believe, and red for the chance to see how deep the rabbit hole goes. Before the choice is made, Mr. Anderson/Neo, is told that he's only offered the truth. He chooses the red pill.

When Mr. Anderson/Neo is shown and has the chance to witness that the world, as he knows it, "has been pulled over your eyes to blind [him] from the truth." The cognitive dissonance makes him throw up and wish to return. Soon, he realizes that he can't, and doesn't really want to return to the state of blissful ignorance.

"The Matrix" is a movie about waking up to the state of modern Mormonism. I can't remember that I've had a splinter in my mind about it for my whole life, but when I finally got to see that there even existed a rabbit hole, I wasn't scared to tumble down it. Now, I sometimes wish that I could go back, but deep down I don't want to, and I understand that I can't–the sense of freedom, purpose, direction, understanding and clarity is something to cherish and something heretofore unknown. Today, it's more certain that there's no way back, than what lies ahead.

The red pill I challenge everyone to partake of is Robert Smith's book "Teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men: Tradition in Modern Mormonism." It's a great read! Remember, all that's offered is the truth!

APPROACHING GOD'S WORD - some lessons from 1 Nephi 1-5

Even though I've read the first few chapters of 1 Nephi many times, I've still been taught a few new lessons. This one is about different approaches to the messenger and message of God. Lehi's (by name known) family consists in this part of the narrative, of Lehi and his wife Sariah and his sons Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi.

"In that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed. Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people. And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly." (1 Ne. 1:4-6)
Lehi seems to believe the words of the prophets, for he prays for and in behalf of the wicked people. I would guess that he's been aware of the wickedness of his people, and he might have waited for God's warning to be proclaimed.

It's hard to show from the text that Lehi was seeking for more knowledge than what he had received from the prophets. Still, the Lord showed him great things.

The power of the intercessory prayer can't be underestimated, nor can the power of believing the words of God's real prophets.

Lehi's approach is that of belief in the words of others. A seemingly functional way to approach the word of God.

Laman and Lemuel
"Now this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel; for behold they did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart. And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them. Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father. […] But, behold, Laman and Lemuel would not hearken unto my words; and being grieved because of the hardness of their hearts I cried unto the Lord for them." (1 Ne. 2:11-13, 18)
Laman and Lemuel disbelieves in the words of the prophets, they are stiffnecked and hardhearted, they call Lehi foolish and they murmur (because they knew not God). This is the opposite approach, the one of dis- and unbelief. Despite this, they left Jerusalem (and returned twice without staying there).

"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers." (1 Ne. 2:16)
The text doesn't fully describe Nephi's intents and what he said in his cry unto the Lord, but it seems that he didn't go to the Lord for confirmation that his father spoke the truth. Instead, he went to the Lord to learn of His mysteries for himself. In my mind, there's a big difference in this. Instead of just "feeling good" about the direction his father was leading the family, Nephi gained great knowledge and got his own promises from the Lord. Nephi seeks a first-hand experience!

"And I spake unto Sam, making known unto him the things which the Lord had manifested unto me by his Holy Spirit. And it came to pass that he believed in my words." (1 Ne. 2:17)
Nephi tells Sam about his (Nephi's) experience (which confirms that of Lehi). Sam believes the testimony of Nephi. This experience and this belief seems to have sent Sam on his own journey to the presence of Christ, for later, Lehi blesses Sam with these words (it should also be noted that Sam, later in the Book of Mormon, is called a just and holy man; see Alma 3:6):
"And after he had made an end of speaking unto them, he spake unto Sam, saying: Blessed art thou, and thy seed; for thou shalt inherit the land like unto thy brother Nephi. And thy seed shall be numbered with his seed; and thou shalt be even like unto thy brother, and thy seed like unto his seed; and thou shalt be blessed in all thy days." (2 Ne. 4:11)
"For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness. And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father. And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted. And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak." (1 Ne. 5:2-3, 7-8)
Sariah must have had a hard time leaving Jerusalem and then letting her sons go back to get the plates. It seems that she fully believed once she'd seen physical evidence of the Lord's hand in preserving her sons. Still, she must've had some kind of desire to believe, for she went with her husband into the wilderness.


We choose how to approach the words of God. Either we believe the words of others, we disbelieve, we believe after getting "proof", or we seek our own knowledge of the mysteries of God. Let's choose wisely.

Friday, January 15, 2016

"BLESSED ART THOU" - some thoughts on 1 Nephi chapter 2

The Lord gave Moses these short verses, which are called the "Lord's Prayer of the Old Testament", as a prayer Aaron and his sons were to use when they blessed the children of Israel. 
"The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace."

(Num. 6:24-26)
One of the greatest desires of a believing Christian is to be blessed by God, and know that it is He who blesses you. The understanding of how this blessed state is achieved and what it means to be blessed differs among various Christian denominations and their adherents, even among members of the Church.

There are many definitions of the word "blessed". The definition I believe hits closest to home when we speak about being blessed by God is this: to confer a benefit on.

What are these benefits, and on who are they conferred?

The Book of Mormon, a manual for achieving a state of blessedness

As I've noted in an earlier post, the Book of Mormon opens up with the story of Lehi, a seemingly ordinary man who, in response to prophesyings of real prophets, awaken to the awful state of God's "chosen" people (see also Ether 8:23-25). Later on, he adds his voice to the testimony of the prophets, receives death threats from his peers.

Nephi, who writes about his father's experiences, ends this part of his record with these words: 
"I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance." (1 Ne. 1:20)
This sets the tone for (at least) the part of the Book of Mormon written by Nephi. He invites us to look for how the tender mercies are given and how a person or group of people can become 'chosen' (see D&C 121:34-36 and JST Gen. 14:26-27).

Nephi continues the story this way:
"For behold, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto my father, yea, even in a dream, and said unto him: Blessed art thou Lehi, because of the things which thou hast done; and because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee, behold, they seek to take away thy life." (1 Ne 2:1; emphasis added)
In the same chapter, Nephi is challenged with the Lord's command to his father Lehi that they are to leave Jerusalem and head into the wilderness. We often speak about Nephi like he was this always believing, never doubting, ever faithful guy who's his father's greatest fan. I'm sure he loved his father, but it seems that he did struggle with the new direction his father was heading (that is, heading straight out into the wilderness).

About himself, Nephi wrote:
16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.
17 And I spake unto Sam, making known unto him the things which the Lord had manifested unto me by his Holy Spirit. And it came to pass that he believed in my words.
18 But, behold, Laman and Lemuel would not hearken unto my words; and being grieved because of the hardness of their hearts I cried unto the Lord for them.
19 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart. (2 Ne. 2:16-19; emphasis added)
Later on in the Book of Mormon, Alma the older is faced with handling a transgressor. Since neither he, nor king Mosiah, knew what to do, Alma, as the high priest, sought the Lord in prayer.  We read the following:
14 And it came to pass that after he had poured out his whole soul to God, the voice of the Lord came to him, saying:
15 Blessed art thou, Alma, and blessed are they who were baptized in the waters of Mormon. Thou art blessed because of thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi.
16 And blessed are they because of their exceeding faith in the words alone which thou hast spoken unto them.
17 And blessed art thou because thou hast established a church among this people; and they shall be established, and they shall be my people.
18 Yea, blessed is this people who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine. (Mosiah 26:14-18; emphasis added)
Alma the younger, who saw the wickedness of the church, the great inequality among the people leading to some "turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted, began to be very sorrowful; nevertheless the Spirit of the Lord did not fail him." As a response to this, he left the judgment-seat to Nephihah, so he himself "might go forth among his people, or among the people of Nephi, that he might preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them." He "confined himself wholly to the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to the testimony of the word, according to the spirit of revelation and prophecy." (Alma 4:11-20) Later during his mission tour,  the following happened:
8 And it came to pass that when Alma had come to the city of Ammonihah he began to preach the word of God unto them.
9 Now Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people of the city of Ammonihah; therefore they would not hearken unto the words of Alma.
10 Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance.
11 Nevertheless, they hardened their hearts, [… and] withstood all his words, and reviled him, and spit upon him, and caused that he should be cast out of their city, he departed thence and t
ook his journey towards the city which was called Aaron.

14 And it came to pass that while he was journeying thither, being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, it came to pass while Alma was thus weighed down with sorrow, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying:
15 Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you. (Alma 8:8-15; emphasis added)
In the end of Zenos' allegory of the olive tree, we read these words:
75 And it came to pass that when the Lord of the vineyard saw that his fruit was good, and that his vineyard was no more corrupt, he called up his servants, and said unto them: Behold, for this last time have we nourished my vineyard; and thou beholdest that I have done according to my will; and I have preserved the natural fruit, that it is good, even like as it was in the beginning. And blessed art thou [the servants of the Lord of the vineyard]; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard. (Jacob 5:75; emphasis added)
From these excerpts we can distill a list of attributes of these servants of God, who were proclaimed "blessed". They were blessed because of:
  • "the things which thou hast done; and because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee" (Lehi)
  • "thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart" (Nephi)
  • "thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi; thou hast established a church among this people; and they shall be established, and they shall be my people." (Alma the older)
  • "their exceeding faith in the words alone which thou hast spoken unto them; [they] are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine." (the people of Alma)
  • "thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him" (Alma the younger)
  • "ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away" (the servants of the Lord of the vineyard)
With this said, we shouldn't forget what brought these men to the position of hearing the voice of the Lord/the Angel:
  • be threatened to your life and be mocked for teaching the words of the Lord (Lehi)
  • share the words of the Lord with your neighbor and cry unto the Lord for your hardhearted and stiff-necked brothers (Nephi)
  • pour out your whole soul to God in order to deal with transgressors in the Lord's way (Alma the older)
  • labor much in the spirit, wrestle with God in mighty prayer for the spiritual welfare of apostates  and be weighed down with sorrow, wade through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the apostates (Alma the younger) 
The common theme is that these men received a mission to perform, and they performed it well (not well in regards to numbers, but rather when looking solely on the effort put in; see D&C 117:13)! We, in order to be blessed, first need to qualify for a mission call directly from the Lord.

The price to pay in order to "be blessed" by God can be summed up in these words: cultivate a sincere desire for the well being of others and being willing to intercede on their behalf, whatever it may exact from you; and when you receive a mission from the Lord–act!

When we've seen that the price to pay for this blessedness is high, what can possibly motivate us to want to pay it?

What it means to "be blessed"

The words ("Blessed art thou...") of the Lord are, in my view, not pointing to the future. Instead, they are they a statement of a present condition. In other words, this state of blessedness is something that we can, and I believe, should attain in this life.

Enos, the grandson of Lehi, is oftentimes, unlike his uncle Nephi, depicted as this deeply sinful man who are just harrowed up by the memory of his many sins and needs to pray for days on end to be forgiven. Just like Nephi initially wasn't the Peter Priesthood we imagine, Enos was no Apostate Andersen! I believe that the words from the Book of Abraham, describing Abraham himself, can be used to help us understand the inner workings of Enos. We read:
And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers [not his own apostate ancestors, but rather the righteous patriarchs from Adam and Set to Melchizedek; see verse 3 and 5], and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers. (Abraham 1:2)
Enos' story is well known. I want to point your focus to the emphasized words.
1 Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it—
2 And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.
3 Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.
4 And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
5 And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
6 And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away. (Enos 1:1-6; emphasis added)
The Book of Enos is short, but extremely dense with meaning (check out Denver Snuffer's "Beloved Enos" if you'd like to read more on this). We read about Enos going forth preaching with exceeding harshness in order to keep his people in the fear of the Lord (v. 22-23). He ends his record with these words:
26 And I saw that I must soon go down to my grave, having been wrought upon by the power of God that I must preach and prophesy unto this people, and declare the word according to the truth which is in Christ. And I have declared it in all my days, and have rejoiced in it above that of the world.
27 And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest. And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansionsof my Father. Amen.
Between the time of his prayer in the woods and his impending death, Enos was indeed blessed by God. The essence of the state of blessedness we (hopefully) seek is found in this list, distilled from these two verses.
  • been wrought upon by the power of God to
  • preach and prophesy and
  • declare the word according to the truth which is in Christ 
  • declare it all my days
  • rejoiced in it above that of the world
  • my rest is with my Redeemer 
  • know that in him I shall rest  
  • rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality
  • shall stand before him
  • shall see his face with pleasure 
  • he will say unto me: "Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father. Amen."
The meaning of hearing the Lord's voice stating that you are blessed is succinctly expressed by the Lord to Alma the older. We read:
Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep. (Mosiah 26:20)
This verse sums up the whole matter! Become His servant, and serve Him!

(Nephi's experience in Helaman chapter 10 can also be studied in this context!)


Let us have faith, repent, be humble and keep the commandments (through the power of Him who strengthens you) so well that we can be trusted with a personal commission from the Lord.

Then, let us perform the task without shrinking from it, not even if our life is threatened. Let us be aware of the fact, and receive with thankfulness, that we will be called to fall on our knees and pour out our whole soul in intercessory prayer for those we are called to serve. This will require a genuine and guileless love.

When we are called by the Lord to go a few rounds in an intercessory wrestling match with Him, let's give it all we've got. When this happens, it's important to keep in mind that wrestlers get to know each other well.

When we are called to labor much in the spirit, when we are weighed down with sorrow and wade through much tribulation and anguish of our soul, we do well to remember that, no matter how hard it is, our "adversity and […] afflictions shall be but a small moment" and the Lord has descended below it all (D&C 121:7; 122:8)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

BOOKS - A TEST OF FAITH - some thoughts on 1 Nephi chapter 1

The Book of Mormon narrative opens with the story of Lehi, a seemingly ordinary Jew living at Jerusalem at 600 B.C. In this same year "there came many prophets [who prophesied] unto the people that they must repent" or be destroyed (1 Ne. 1:4; all verses cited are from this same chapter unless otherwise noted). Who these prophets were, we don't know for sure, (one of them might have been Jeremiah; see 1 Ne. 7:14) but they performed their mission, and Lehi listened and went to the Lord in prayer.

It's interesting to note that Lehi did pray "in behalf of his people" (v. 5) and not to know if the prophets were indeed prophets or that the message they carried was true; Lehi seems to have received that confirmation already. While engaged in this intercessory prayer, Lehi was shown things that made him "quake and tremble exceedingly" (v. 6). Lying on his bed, overcome by the severity of the pending judgments, Lehi was "carried away in a vision" (v. 8).

This post will focus on one aspect of this vision.

What's up with books?

Lehi saw "One descending out of the midst of heaven" with a luster "above that of the sun at noon-day". This individual, which I believe what Jesus himself, "gave unto [Lehi] a book, and bade him that he should read." (v. 9, 11)

Why did He do it this way? He was there and could've delivered the message himself with words that cut through bot joint and marrow? Whys use a book?

We shouldn't doubt that God is able to speak to man nor that man is able to receive divine communication. I believe that this has happened and will happen. I'm trying to put myself in a position where I have faith enough, am humble and righteous enough, to be the recipient of God's revelations. But why does God use books?

Books could be seen as a telestial way of trying to capture celestial concepts, and therefore will never be able to accurately and perfectly convey the truth.  That is, what's written in books by man are explanations, and we should never settle for explanations when we can have the experience. (In other words: "No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself!" - Morpheus) Books could be seen as the moon, a reflector of light which will help you navigate during the dark of night, but is nothing compared to the "sun at noon-day".

On the other hand, God employs the use of a heavenly book of life (i.e. Rev. 22:19), which implies that books possess abilities that we haven't tapped into yet.

Whatever we think about the importance of books, God seems to be fond of them.

Why was Lehi given a book?

There are several books (books other than the ones that the Book of Mormon consists of) spoken of in the Book of Mormon. We read about the book of life (alma 5:58), the book of the Lamb of God (1 Ne. 13:28) and the book of remembrance (3 Ne. 24:16). Jesus taught the Nephites many things which are not recorded in the Book of Mormon we have (3 Ne. 26:6). The parts that we do have, "which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people" were written by Nephi "to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken."

Nephi then gives the key to understand why God uses books in his dealings with man. He said:

And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation. (3 Ne. 26:8-10) 
Lehi was given a book as a test. He could have chosen not to read it, and he could have disbelieved what he read. Lehi did believe. An accurate description of the belief that Lehi held comes from Merriam Webster 1828 Dictionary: "an assent of the mind, a yielding of the will and affections, accompanied with a humble reliance on Christ for salvation."

The Spirit of the Lord was able to touch Lehi's heart. We read:

And he read, saying: Wo, wo, unto Jerusalem, for I have seen thine abominations! Yea, and many things did my father read concerning Jerusalem—that it should be destroyed, and the inhabitants thereof; many should perish by the sword, and many should be carried awaycaptive into Babylon. And it came to pass that when my father had read and seen many great and marvelous things, he did exclaim many things unto the Lord; such as: Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty! Thy throne is high in the heavens, and thy power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth; and, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish! (v. 13-14)
Lehi got to read some disturbing things about a people he truly cared about. He didn't shrink at this prospect, nor did he curse God. Instead, he believed. The turning point for Lehi was that he got to "read and see many great and marvelous things". After this, he praised the Lord for His power, goodness and mercy over all the inhabitants of the earth and for the fact that the Lord won't let those who come unto Him to perish (note that they aren't spared from suffering, only perishing!).

Nephi explained that his father praised his God and that his soul did rejoice and that "his whole heart was filled, because of the things which he had seen, yea, which the Lord had shown unto him." (v . 15)

The test Lehi faced and passed was the same that brought the brother of Jared into the presence of the Lord. After the brother of Jared had seen the finger of the Lord, but before the Lord showed himself to him, the Lord asked: "Believest thou the words which I shall speak?" (Ether 3:11) The response was affirmative, and thus the brother of Jared was given "all my revelations". (Ether 4:7)

These "greater things" seems to carry with them great power to console the human soul.

What, then, are "the greater things"?

Lehi seems to have been shown a vision over God's dealings with the inhabitants of the earth and how God, through his power, goodness and mercy, bless the human family. It also seems like Lehi was shown the blessed state of those who come unto Christ.

In the scriptures we read of Enoch. He's another example of a man who was consoled by God. Enoch saw God weep, and he was amazed that that was even possible. The Lord then "spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook." (Moses 7:41)

The account continues:
42 And Enoch also saw Noah, and his family; that the posterity of all the sons of Noah should be saved with a temporal salvation;
43 Wherefore Enoch saw that Noah built an ark; and that the Lord smiled upon it, and held it in his own hand; but upon the residue of the wicked the floods came and swallowed them up.
44 And as Enoch saw this, he had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be comforted; but the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look.
45 And it came to pass that Enoch looked; and from Noah, he beheld all the families of the earth; and he cried unto the Lord, saying: When shall the day of the Lord come? When shall the blood of the Righteous be shed, that all they that mourn may be sanctified and have eternal life?
46 And the Lord said: It shall be in the meridian of time, in the days of wickedness and vengeance.
47 And behold, Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced, saying: The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world; and through faith I am in the bosom of the Father, and behold, Zion is with me.
What Enoch saw made his heart swell, and his bowels yearn. He even refused to be comforted.  Until, until he was shown the day of the Lord and the coming of the Son of Man, that the Righteous was lifted up and that the Lamb was slain. Then, His soul rejoiced! Just like Lehi's!

No matter the degeneration and the decadence, the wickedness and the wrongfulness, the glory and righteousness of Jesus is enough to comfort the afflicted soul and give hope for the future.

Those who have been shown the greater things have had this become a reality in their lives: "And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son." (Alma 33:23)


Just like Lehi, we are given books that test or willingness to be spiritually persuaded and to believe. If we believe, the promises are great. If we don't believe, we have no other promise than condemnation. In this scientific age, belief is hard, irrational, illogical and, as it may seem for some, impossible. But, we need to remember that "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matt: 19:26)

The Book of Mormon is a test. Let's believe, and receive the greater things!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

THE RESTORATION AND HOW TO RECLAIM IT - "taking the power back"

The quest for truth has to begin in the realization that there is more truth to be had, either to complement the amount of truth currently possessed or to replace untruth and false tradition. This is surely necessary, for why would anyone search for something they don't know that they've lost (or, never had in the first place)? How could I possibly acquire more truth, if I'm so confident that I have all the truth I need? This is the reason I've spent time discussing some of the false traditions that the Church espouses and teaches for doctrines. We need to see it for what it is if we are to progress on the path of truth.

The name of this blog is "Reclaiming the Restoration", and that's what I will be doing from now on. What then, do I mean with "reclaiming" and what is "the Restoration"? What does it imply and how would one go about doing it? 


The work that God started through Joseph Smith belongs to you and me–as long as we yearn for truth (and nothing but the truth) and want to come unto Christ. According to my understanding, this was how it was during the early years of the Restoration. In one sense, what once belonged to each and every member of the Church has (since the Correlation-effort) been annexed by the institution. We, the members, are expected to uphold the institution's definition of the Gospel, instead of rooting ourselves firmly in the scriptures and the revelations from God. True religion, which according to Joseph, "was one of individual participation in revelation from God" (The Words of Joseph Smith, p. 21) has been reduced to following men, who say they receive revelation but never add to the canon nor care to disclose how, when, what and where they receive nor present it for sustaining vote during General Conference (an example is the 'direct revelation' about the renewed focus on the Sabbath day; anyone who has seen this revelation is more than welcome to present it to the world, or maybe just the Church).

We reclaim the Restoration by not letting anyone else be the keeper of our consciences, by not sending a modern-day Moses to 
talk to God, but instead to venture up the mountain side ourselves according to the workings of the Holy Ghost within us. We, as it's been said, "take the power back".

This shouldn't be a foreign concept for members of the Church, for as the Lord said, "the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves." (D&C 58:28) Some things just can't be done by proxy!

"The Restoration"

The Lord, "knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon [his] servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments." (D&C 1:17)

God is love and would, if he could, save all of his children. His hand is stretched out still, but he knows that only a few are really interested in what he's offering (Matt. 7:14). Nevertheless, he cares about us all and has given us the tools that we need to navigate our way through the coming (spiritual) calamities. This is, in essence what the Restoration is all about.

From D&C 1 (v. 18-23) we can extract a list of intended outcomes of the Restoration:
  • that the words written by the prophets might be fulfilled (v. 18) 
  • that the weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, 
  • that man should not counsel his fellow man, 
  • that man should not trust in the arm of flesh (v. 19) 
  • that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world (v. 20) 
  • that faith also might increase in the earth  (v. 21)
  • that mine everlasting covenant might be established (v. 22) 
  • that the fulness of [his] gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers (v. 23)
This list of the fruits of the Restoration reveal the fact that it's not done yet. Against the backdrop of this list, we can evaluate how successful the Church is in preserving and perpetuating the Restoration. And we can gain a vision of what the Lord would have happen in our lives.

Each of these points deserve a blog post of its own. In this post, I will focus on faith.

That faith also might increase in the earth 

If there is something we lack, it's faith. We believe in quite many things, but faith is something totally different. As part of my awakening, I've become aware of my lack of faith. When I pray, I can sense the lack of power. An increase of faith is something I continually pray about and for.

Joseph taught that "three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God, unto life and salvation: 
  • First, the idea that he actually exists. 
  • Second, a correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes. 
  • Third, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his God’s will. For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive, but with this understanding, it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Lectures on Faith, Lecture third, 3-5; emphasis in original)
Honestly, how well do you know God and Jesus? Few of us, when we make an honest assessment and look beyond the shiny veneer of (self-)righteousness, can say that we know God and Jesus well. Sure, we may have some sort of perception to what kind of being God is, but oftentimes it's based upon the testimony of others. There's nothing wrong with starting with belief in the testimonies of others (see Lecture 2, 54-56), but it has to be a start. The more we interact with God, the better we will get to know him. Our knowledge about his character, perfections and attributes, will expand and be corrected by and by. 

Jesus challenged us again and again to follow him and do the things that he did. We were told to build a foundation and a house on the rock. And we were told that he who hears Jesus' words without complying with them is foolish and won't be able to stand when calamities come rushing in. James told us to be doers of the word, and not hearers only (Jam. 1:22). The life of a disciple revolves around doing the will of the Master, which will help us get to know him (Mosiah 5:13), which is eternal life. 

I lack certainty that I live my life like he would have me live it. If I were to make New Year's resolutions, this would be one of them. In this, I believe that "Lectures on Faith" isn't only useful, but also designed to help us reach this level of confidence before the Lord. I invite you to study it, and abide by its precepts.

Removing the condemnation

Shortly after the Church was proclaimed to be living and true, it was put under condemnation (D&C 84:54-58). There are no revelations existing which tells us that this condemnation has been lifted. Since this is an uncomfortable truth, I don't expect it to be dealt with in a responsible manner by the Church. Therefore, it devolves upon you and me to take care of it by ourselves.

According to my understanding, the condemnation can't be lifted without a renewed emphasis on the Book of Mormon, and what it teaches about the character, perfections and attributes of God and what he would have us do. Joseph said that a man would get nearer to God by abiding by the precepts of the Book of Mormon than any other book. We should therefore find out for ourselves what these precepts are and then abide by them. It's a grand task, but, I believe, the Restoration can't be reclaimed by us if we don't get to it.

I invite you to, together with me, study the Book of Mormon from a new copy (it's a good idea to not let old insights block the way for new revelation) during the coming year and participate in Sunday School and share your insights (that hopefully will challenge any- and everyone present). When I study, I will ask myself what I'm taught about the character, perfections and attributes of God and I will seek to know what he would have me do with what I read and learn. Hereby, I hope to reclaim the Restoration and work towards being restored into the presence of the Lord.

Friday, January 1, 2016


What's the role of the Church for someone who's waking up to our awful situation? In the disappointment and disillusionment, it's easy to throw it all away. From my point of view, I believe it would be a mistake. In my mind, at this point there is (at least for me) no better place for service and further development into truth and light. So I stick with it and try to help other members focus on Jesus Christ. One of the main challenges for helping people come to Jesus is the Church that is standing in our way. We need to get the Church out of the way, without getting rid of the chances for love, compassion, service, insight, forgiveness and humility that it offers. How we do this is an individual task, but I will share a few thoughts that might help you on your way to a reconciliation.

Elsewhere, I wrote about "Breaking up with the Church" and getting back together with it. That post is still relevant, and hard to live by. It's so easy for me to look down upon others and consider them proud for not wanting to open their eyes and sit in spiritual darkness. But, the Lord tells me that I won't be better off with this attitude. So, I realize that I'm no closer to salvation than anyone else. It's clear that if I don't have Jesus, I have nothing.

Stages of faith and the Church

I recently heard about the suggestion that one ward's theme for next year should be "the Church has the truth". While this is partly true, it's still disconcerting that the Church is allowed to take a front seat in the quest for truth. How has the Church been raised to such preeminence and become such a focus of faith and trust. Part of the answer may be expressed by James Fowler in his 1981 book  "Stages of Faith".

The first four stages (there are six stages altogether) are summarized in this way:
Stage 1:
This is the stage of preschool children in which fantasy and reality often get mixed together. However, during this stage, our most basic ideas about God are usually picked up from our parents and/or society. 
Stage 2:
When children become school-age, they start understanding the world in more logical ways. They generally accept the stories told to them by their faith community but tend to understand them in very literal ways. [A few people remain in this stage through adulthood.] 
Stage 3:
Most people move on to this stage as teenagers. At this point, their life has grown to include several different social circles and there is a need to pull it all together. When this happens, a person usually adopts some sort of all-encompassing belief system. However, at this stage, people tend to have a hard time seeing outside their box and don't recognize that they are "inside" a belief system. At this stage, authority is usually placed in individuals or groups that represent one's beliefs. [This is the stage in which many people remain.] 
Stage 4:
This is the tough stage, often begun in young adulthood, when people start seeing outside the box and realizing that there are other "boxes". They begin to critically examine their beliefs on their own and often become disillusioned with their former faith. Ironically, the Stage 3 people usually think that Stage 4 people have become "backsliders" when in reality they have actually moved forward.
We live in an interesting period of time when those who take the step from stage 3 to stage 4 can share their insights, their struggles and their new testimony. This provides a challenge for those still in stage 3, and for the Church itself, while it also comforts and creates community for those going through the same kind of transition.

Any institution with a sense of self-preservation is afraid of people taking their power back.  Institutions gets their right to exist through its members who place authority in the institution and its leaders. Therefore, the Church has to be aware of and oppose members efforts to take back authority from the Church and its leaders.

From this perspective, it's understandable that Dallin Oaks, during the Boise Rescue, taught the following:
“In determining on who’s on the Lord’s side on these latter-days, there are two major questions. First, for most non-Mormons, and for some Mormons, the key question is how they feel about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. For most Mormons, the key question on who’s on the Lord’s side is how they feel about the church’s current prophetic leadership. If those feelings are sufficiently negative, they take members into what we call apostasy."
It's detrimental to the institutional Church that members question the validity and the authority of its leaders. How can they control us and maintain the fidelity of the organisation, when we don't do what they say or when we question the direction they are leading the Church, what they are teaching and what they do with tithing funds.

A side note: Some say that we can never question what the leaders do, giving the reason that we've covenanted to not speak evil of the Lord's anointed. It's true that we should avoid speaking evil of anyone. The question needs to be asked: is questioning the same as 'speaking evil of' and have these men (and women) really been anointed by the Lord? (If they have, they sure keep it a secret.) Answer: Of course questioning someone's actions and motives isn't the same thing as speaking evil of them. Claiming otherwise could easily be seen as a domination technique.

Those who equate the "current prophetic leadership" with God himself, believe that Dallin Oaks is speaking the truth and nothing but the truth. I believe that Dallin Oaks is teaching false doctrine (at least in the quote above. ) And this should be clear for everyone who have read the scriptures and understand that, those who came to meet God for real never settled with following a prophet, but rather sought to be one themselves. God wants to raise up a people full of prophets, whereas the Church wants us to follow one. A true prophet wants no followers, for his role is to point people to the Son of God. And only Him should we follow.

Throughout my years in the Church, I haven't felt encouraged to strive for stage 4 in my spiritual development. Now, when I'm there, it's hard to handle. It's true as it was written, "the Stage 3 people usually think that Stage 4 people have become "backsliders" when in reality they have actually moved forward."

What is the Church, and can it be led astray?

For many members of the Church, it's very important that the Church is true. They point to the words of the Lord in D&C 1 ("the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth"; v. 30) and take courage that the Church will never be led astray. We've talked about this belief and made a solid case that the leader's aren't to be trusted (unless their words square with the scriptures and God's will for you). But, this belief that the Church can't be led astray is still somewhat true.

First of, we need to redefine the meaning of the Church. As I've used it, it means the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. But that is the organisation, the corporate church. The real church, the one that can't be led astray, is defined by Jesus. He said:
"Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. " (D&C 10:67)
The church of Christ are comprised of people who have come to Him, no one else. These people are everywhere and of no specific denomination. Instead, they are a group with a common denominator - they worship and love God above everything else and are not involved in idolatry (especially the  worship of the institution to which they might belong and the leaders thereof).

Membership in an organization doesn't equate membership in His church. And the Church of Christ is the church that cannot be led astray, for the members thereof follow no one but Jesus. Despite this, they are cautioned about the arising of "false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant." (JST Matt. 24:22) We are also taught how not to be deceived: " whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived" (v. 37)

God has never bound himself to perform his work and his glory through only one group of people (see D&C 49:8 and Alma 29:8). I guess it's a consequence of human nature, that each of the groups employed in the work of God, would like to consider themselves the only true and living group of believers. In my view, that's an attitude filled with pride. It's one that you'd hear from a Rameumptom in your local chapel.

Conclusion: What if the Church were to be true?

It doesn't matter if the Church is true, unless you also are true. If the Church is true and you are not, then damned be you. If the Church isn't true, and you aren't true, the damned be both of you. Against this backdrop, what is most important: your standing before God or the truthfulness of the Church?