A witness from God can be relied upon. As you read our thoughts, beliefs, and experiences, we invite you to obtain a witness for yourself. If something we say or imply does not ring true, then you should feel no obligation to accept it. Life is an individual and unique journey with God. Although we can help and encourage each other, we need to be careful not to come between God and another person.


Sunday, March 24, 2019

Do I Have a Choice? . . . Experiments & Equality . . . Scriptures

In Denver Snuffer's recent talk, Signs Follow Faith, he says, “Stop squabbling. Stop disagreeing. Surrender your pride. If you think you're right, if you think someone needs to be corrected, if you think you have a higher, holier, better way, stay and persuade. Be meek. Be humble. Solicit other people and appeal to their heart. (Denver Snuffer, Signs Follow Faith, March 3, 3019, 1:36:01 audio recording) 

I do not believe I have a higher, holier, better way; but I do have a different way of looking at the recent scripture project that is being completed. I am staying, and I will do my best to persuade and present another way.

I have had a witness from God that Denver Snuffer is a true messenger sent from God. So what should I do when I find that I disagree with someone who comes from the presence of God?

I have been guilty of bringing my religious idolatry from my LDS culture and applying it to this new culture where I participate. I understand how it can be dangerous to blindly follow a false prophet, but is there any danger in blindly following a true prophet? Joseph Smith answered this question.

“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves…” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 237-38).

Repenting of my idolatry has not been easy for me, and just when I think I've repented, the Lord shows me more of my idolatrous behavior. If we are ever going to be equals, we each need to stand on our own two feet and lean on no one except the Lord.

Is it Godly to squabble? Is it Godly to disagree?

Squabbling, bickering, jarring, and contention are of the devil.

. . . beware lest there shall arise contentions among you, and ye list to obey the evil spirit . . . (Mosiah 2:32)

And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness. (Mosiah 4:14)

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. (3 Nephi 11:29)

Holy men and women often disagree with those around them. Why would angels and prophets cry repentance if there wasn't something to disagree about? Elijah disagreed with the priests of Baal. Jesus disagreed with the Pharisees. Denver was excommunicated from the LDS church because he wrote a book about LDS history that disagreed with how LDS hierarchy views their history. Disagreement is inevitable in this world. As long as there is opposition, there will be disagreements.

If we find ourselves disagreeing, it would work better if we follow the Lord's pattern while disagreeing. We can stand together in not letting our disagreements degenerate into foolish bickering. Let this law govern our disagreements . . .

. . . only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile— Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; (D&C 121; 41-43)

In the Answer and Covenant it says,

For you to unite I must admonish and instruct you, for my will is to have you love one another. As people you lack the ability to respectfully disagree among one another. You are as Paul and Peter whose disagreements resulted in jarring and sharp contentions. Nevertheless they both loved me and I loved them. You must do better.

I commend your diligent labor, and your desire to repent and recover the scriptures containing the covenant I offer for the last days. For this purpose I caused the Book of Mormon to come forth. I commend those who have participated, as well as those who have offered words of caution, for I weigh the hearts of men and many have intended well, although they have spoken poorly. Wisdom counsels mankind to align their words with their hearts, but mankind refuses to take counsel from Wisdom.

Nevertheless, there have been sharp disputes between you that should have been avoided. I speak these words to reprove you that you may learn, not to upbraid you so that you mourn. I want my people to have understanding.

There is great reason to rejoice because of the work that has been done. There is little reason for any to be angry or to harshly criticize the labor to recover the scriptures, and so my answer to you concerning the scriptures is to guide you in other work to be done hereafter; for recovering the scriptures does not conclude the work to be accomplished by those who will be my people: it is but a beginning.

Here again the Lord confirms there will be disagreements, and then counsels us to love each other and respectfully disagree with one another. Knowing that disagreements are not offensive to the Lord, has relieved me of the unrealistic expectation that unity requires agreement.

Recovering Scriptures

In those same paragraphs, the Lord commends all those who have participated in recovering scripture. I believe it pleases God to see anyone take the word of the Lord seriously no matter how crude and rudimentary the job might be.

There's a great deal left to be done. And there is no one seriously entertaining the possibility of constructing a city of holiness, a city of peace, a people that are fruit worthy to be laid up against the harvest. No one has made the effort until now. And while you may look at us and say, “You've done a crude job, you've done a rudimentary job, it needs improvement. Then help us improve it. Stop sitting back and throwing rocks. This is a time to gather, not to disperse. The same garbage that existed at the beginning when Joseph looked around and saw confusion and disharmony, wants to creep in among us. Recognize that's a false spirit. If you'll cast it out of yourself, and if you'll look at the words of the covenant that was offered in September of 2017. What you'll find is that Christ wants us, like the Book of Mormon explains, to be meek, to be humble, and to be easily entreated, and therefore entreat one another to honor God, and recognize that all of us aspire to be equal, whether you're at the top or at the root, the aspiration is the same, to be equal. (Denver Snuffer, Signs Follow Faith, March 3, 3019, 1:39:13 audio recording) 

There is much to be done, and it is not necessary to contend as we labor along side each other. I believe it pleases the Lord that the Bible was preserved even though it has many mistakes and errors. I believe it pleases the Lord that the sects of Mormonism preserved the Book of Mormon and the words of Joseph Smith even though mistakes and errors have been added to Joseph's words. Whenever a people seek to recover and preserve God's words, I believe it pleases God.

We have also set out to recover scripture, and we have had some contentions among us in the process. While our efforts please the Lord, our contentions do not. If a group of God loving people with good intentions cannot accomplish so small of task, how are we ever going to create Zion? I have observed and experienced one missing element in our endeavors. That is the element of choice. When people have a choice, tension and anxiety dramatically decrease.

Let's look at how the public school, private school, home school, charter school movement is evolving to give people the freedom to choose.

The Schooling Experiment

I have been interested in educational freedom for most of my adult life. I've noticed that there has been some discomfort between people who educate their children differently. Sometimes this results in people criticizing or looking down their noses at each other. Maybe people feel threatened that someone thinks differently. I've also observed that as educational choices have increased, the discomfort around what educational system the neighbor is choosing has decreased. When charter schools began to spring up, they offered another choice. People who didn't want to home school or did not have the money for a private school, began to send their children to a different school than their neighbors. The charter school movement made the public schools even better. People had a choice, and multiple options promoted improvement.

When we first started to home school, people thought it a little strange. Now, we have many home schools in our town, and it is pretty normal. In our neighborhood, we have people attending a variety of schools. The children play together, and the adults are friends. Our children have attended private school, home school, charter school, and are currently in public school. All of the different schooling methods have their upsides and downsides. There is no perfect system. But because I had choice, I'm okay with the flaws and errors of the school of my choice. If I don't like one schooling experiment, I can choose a different one, or create another option. Having served on two governing boards of start up charter schools, I will tell you that it is very challenging to start something new, and the product seems inferior to all other options in the initial start up stages.

Just as we have many different educational systems, is it possible to have have many different sets of scriptures compiled by many different committees? Would it work if we let people choose which scriptures they feel most inclined toward? If none of them work for an individual, would they feel free to create their own collection of sacred writings? Would they learn a lot in the process? Would God be pleased with all of these efforts to reach upward and understand God's words? Would this process help each individual stand for themselves and connect with God.

An Experiment in Sovereignty and Freedom

Denver gave a talk on Constitutional Apostasy. Toward the end of his talk, he talked about how the 50 states of the United States were intended to be 50 different experiments in sovereignty and freedom. 

“Independent sovereign and equal states could experiment (56:29 minute mark) . . . Every state was intended to be an experiment in sovereignty and in freedom (57:54) . . . We should be so diverse. We should be so dissimilar. We should be so non uniform. That growing out of the United States, there should be, at this moment, 50 different experiments underway using the freedom that people have to choose, to design for themselves the way in which they would like to be governed, and those 50 different ways will ultimately - some fail, some succeed, some turn into nirvana. And the states are going to look around and say, “Hey that's good.” And they're going to inform their own experiment in democracy by what they see working, and they're going to inform their own experiment in democracy by seeing what's failing and saying, “Well that didn't work. Well look at that mess. Instead what you have is a national uniformity in which when we make a mistake . . . (59:37)

Can we have Zion without having uniformity and conformity? In this new society, will people be free to experiment and discover what works best? Would they learn from each other's experiments? Would it be hard to corrupt a society that was united but not uniform?

False Spirits and Corruption

In his recent talk, Denver talked about False Spirits and corruption. “In addition to vary forms of ignorance and study, diligence and sloth, interest and indifference that separate each of us in our religious beliefs, there are also False Spirits that mislead and confuse.

“The term “False Spirits” is not limited to the idea of a devil, imp, or mischievous personage, but includes the much broader attitude, outlook or cultural assumptions that people superimpose atop religion. False Spirits in the form of ignorant, incomplete, or incorrect ideas are easily conveyed from one person to another.

“People convey False Spirits every time they teach a false idea and the student accepts the idea.

“False Spirits infect every religious tradition on earth. This is not limited to eastern religions that deny Christ, but also include Christianity and Mormonism. So long as there is anything false, or any error, a False Spirit prevails.

“Different religious structures lend themselves to be overtaken by False Spirits through different means: If you have a hierarchy, only the top needs to be taken captive by a False Spirit. If it is a diffused religion, then all you have to do is take captive the theological seminaries in order to spread the False Spirit. But if the religion is individual, and each person is standing on their own, accountable for their relation to God, accountable to learn, to pray, to reach upward and have God connect with them individually. Then the only way to corrupt a diffused religion is to corrupt every single believer, every single practitioner.” (Denver Snuffer, Signs Follow Faith, March 3, 3019, 8:25 audio recording) 

If a group only accepts one official set of scripture, then all you have to do is take captive the scriptures in order to spread the False spirit. But if each individual is accountable to study the original words of holy men and women, and make their own collection of sacred writings, then the only way to corrupt what these believers read and study is to corrupt every single volume of sacred writings.

Is there a need for canonized scriptures?

I appreciate the efforts made to preserve the Bible over the years. But when a committee came together to decide which sacred writings to include and which ones to exclude, God's words were limited and controlled by that committee. It has led to scripture idolatry. There are many Christians who say, “A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.” (2 Nephi 29:3) They think the Bible includes all of God's words, and they are closed to accepting new scripture.

Mormonism has embraced many additional scriptural works, but they are not immune to this same scripture idolatry. Although they accept the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, they too say, “Now we don’t need a lot of continuing revelation. We have a great, basic reservoir of revelation.”

David Rasmussen: As the world leader of the the Church, how are you in touch with God? Can you explain that for me?

Gordon B. Hinckley: I pray. I pray to Him. Night and morning. I speak with Him. I think He hears my prayers. As He hears the prayers of others. I think He answers them.

DR: But more than that, because you’re leader of the Church. Do you have a special connection?

Gordon B. Hinckley: I have a special relationship in terms of the Church as an institution. Yes.

DR: And you receive........

Gordon B. Hinckley: For the entire Church.

DR: You receive?

Gordon B. Hinckley: Now we don’t need a lot of continuing revelation. We have a great, basic reservoir of revelation. But if a problem arises, as it does occasionally, a vexatious thing with which we have to deal, we go to the Lord in prayer. We discuss it as a First Presidency and as a Council of the Twelve Apostles. We pray about it and then comes the whisperings of a still small voice. And we know the direction we should take and we proceed accordingly.

DR: And this is a Revelation?

Gordon B. Hinckley: This is a Revelation. 
(Interview with President Gordon B. Hinckley Aired:November 09, 1997 by David Rasmussen)

Is there a need for canonized scriptures? Does it create religious dogmatism? Do people become closed to continuing revelation when the group accepts one Standardized Volume of scripture?

Can they really bring their faith with them?

Gordon B. Hinckley said this on the Larry King Live Show 

Larry King: And you're saying to them, bring your faith with you, right?

Gordon B. Hinckley: Sure.

Larry King: You're not saying, leave your Catholicism.

Gordon B. Hinckley: I say this to other people: you develop all the good you can. We have no animosity toward any other church. We do not oppose other churches. We never speak negatively of other churches. We say to people: you bring all the good that you have, and let us see if we can add to it. (Larry King Live, Gordon Hinckley, Distinguished Religious Leader of the Mormons, Aired September 8, 1998 - 9:00 p.m. ET)

But is this true? Are people really free to bring their faith with them if it contradicts what the LDS church teaches?

We should welcome everyone. We should welcome Latter Day Saints. We should welcome Community of Christ. We should welcome Catholics. We should welcome Presbyterians. We should welcome every kind of person, and then treat them with respect and kindness and understanding. Let them bring their ideas and let you teach them those truths that you presently understand. The religion of Joseph Smith which is – It's in that video that was shown just before the opening prayer. The religion of Joseph Smith is to accept all truth. (Denver Snuffer, Signs FollowFaith, March 3, 3019, 1:36:34 audio recording) 

As people come, can they bring their own scriptures? Are we going to expect them to leave their sacred writings behind and accept ours? If we have one standardize set of scriptures accepted by the group, how easy will it be for the newcomers to feel like they can bring their truths? Will we be willing to reason with one another while teaching each other the truths we have come to cherish and live? Or will we expect people to believe just because it is in our scriptures?

A Lesson from the Buddha

In September 2018 I attended a Buddhist meditation retreat. My daughter took the course in June and it sounded interesting. I've never meditated in my life, and my daughter did not think I would like meditating for 10 days, but still I went. After one day, I wanted out of there. So why did I stay and complete the course? Each evening we listened to a recorded discourse from Satya Narayan Goenka. I heard truth. I felt love. I stayed and participated and observed. For 10 days I lived among a peaceful, giving, loving people. I brought with me my dogma and traditions, but when I listened with an open heart, I realized I believe many of the same things as the Buddha. Not only did I see our similarities, but they were able to teach me in a way that traditional Christianity has not. I am grateful for the paradigms that shifted for me as the Buddha served and taught me truth.

So how does my Buddhist experience relate to a scripture project. How can we invite the Buddha to seriously consider our scriptures if we do not seriously consider their sacred writings? What if the members in our group each had their own collection of sacred writings? What if we were to fellowship with people who were carrying a different set of scriptures under their arm? Would it force us to be open to truth we had not yet considered? Would we be required to use persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, and pure knowledge as we discussed what we think is true? Would it open a space for others to come with their scriptures and not feel out of place because their scriptures don't look like “the group's accepted scriptures”? Would the adversary be able to easily corrupt the scriptures of such a diverse group? What would happen if we did it differently than the Christians and the Mormons?

What would I choose?

In my set of scriptures, I would like to include Doctrine and Covenants Section 20. I have learned that having a hierarchy doesn't work too well, but I want to retain that section so my children will have a record of what doesn't work. I'm okay with someone else excluding that section because they think the information is irrelevant.

Some might discard Doctrine and Covenants 130 because it has some doctrine that contradicts the Lectures on Faith, but it also has teachings like “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated— And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” I think I would rather deal with the contradiction “the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” and retain some of these other precious truths.

Some people might like to read the Bible like a story book, others want to read it like a reference book and retain standard chapter and verses so they can communicate more easily with their Christian friends.

Some might like to edit all the punctuation and old English language in the Book of Mormon, others like the old English and are fine with printing, spelling, and punctuation errors.

Would Contention Cease?

There are so many styles and preferences. We don't have to agree on how the sacred books are compiled. If the book serves as a manual to lead us to God, it has done its purpose.

If someone has revelation about words that need to be corrected in the Book of Mormon text, then publish it on a public blog and make the knowledge available to all.

If a group carefully adds the Joseph Smith Translations to the Bible, have them document their work and publish it to the world so others have it available to use.

If several groups have done a similar work, let them each publish it, and then let the people choose which work they would like to include in their family scripture set. And it is okay if everyone doesn't agree.

If people are really free to choose, would contention cease? Would I look down my nose at people who make a different choice than me? Or would I be open to spend the time to talk with them to see why they made the choice they did? It is not evil to disagree. It is evil to contend. It doesn't make someone hard hearted or closed minded when they do not understand the same truth I do. The highest aspiration is to connect with God.

Just because it hasn't entered into your hard heart and your closed mind yet, doesn't make it untrue. There are truths in rich abundance that hail from all corners of the earth. As religions have dis-guarded truth, many of them have sought and fought to retain the most important core. And most important core of many faiths and the highest aspiration and the highest ideal. It doesn't matter if your talking of the Cherokee tradition, the Hindu tradition, the Islamic tradition, the Polynesian, the Hawaiian tradition. It doesn't matter. (1:37:22)

The highest aspiration remains for the individual to connect to God, and for God to recognize and connect with the individual. There's really no difference. If we welcome one another, and we treat each other kindly, someone that may have a religion that is very strange to us, if they bring with them the aspiration to know God, and we can persuade them that God has done a work among us, through Joseph Smith, through the labor that has been done to recover that restoration, maybe they'll labor along side us as the restoration wraps up. (Denver Snuffer, Signs Follow Faith, March 3, 3019, 1:38:21 audio recording) 

If our scriptures become so personal that we not only say but do what is written in them, they will have served their purpose in all their varied forms.

1 comment:

  1. Good thoughts reminded me of this Joseph Smith quote.

    "If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way." TPJS


Thank you for posting