7 Comments

The True Church – Part Duex

 Moroni statueThey wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men. (2 Nephi 28:14)

Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven. (Moroni 7:30) 

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. (Moroni 7:48)

And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.

For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted. (Mormon 8:36-37)

These scriptures clearly lead the sincere reader to ask themselves if they are among the “few only”, or if they will be included, at the last day, among the “humble followers of Christ”.  There are many in the LDS church today who look around at what is happening in the world and in the church and who conclude that all is not well in Zion. 

I honestly count myself among them. 

The entirety of Mormon Chapter 8 is a dire prophecy indeed – filled with warnings that most in the church interpret as being addressed to those outside the true church:

Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.

O ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people, why have ye built up churches unto yourselves to get gain? Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God, that ye might bring damnation upon your souls? Behold, look ye unto the revelations of God; for behold, the time cometh at that day when all these things must be fulfilled. (Mormon 8:32-33)

There are many, however, who subscribe to the theory that these warnings are directed toward us – toward those who consider themselves faithful members of the LDS church.  These sincere students of the scriptures take these warnings as being directed toward them and their brethren in the church.

I count myself among them. 

Sadly, I have seen many who, as an extension of this sincere personal inquiry, begin questioning the church itself.  They begin questioning the brethren; they begin questioning whether the church is truly led by the Lord; they may even begin to question whether they can honestly sustain the brethren and remain members of the church.

I count myself among them.

Even more sadly, I have seen those who, as a result of this questioning, choose to leave or become so vocal with their criticisms that they are disciplined by the church to the point of excommunication.

I DO NOT count myself among them, and I have no intention of joining them.

My blog over the 20 months has contained many posts that document the result of my own sincere personal inquiry.  It has been a struggle – a struggle to reconcile my own observations, my own limited understanding with what I have been taught is the true order of things.  The documentation of this struggle began with the post “Behold the Spirit of Truth”, which I published in December of 2012.

So, why do I not count myself among those whose sincere personal inquiry has come between them and the Lord’s church?  That is the point of this post.  I offer it in hopes that it will help others who might be experiencing a similar struggle.

First, let me say that, if you are experiencing a similar struggle…good for you!  You may well be one of the sincere and humble followers of Christ seen by Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni in these latter days.  I have no doubt the Lord is pleased that you care enough to ask questions.  He, like you, cherishes your spiritual and intellectual integrity.  Such integrity is essential to us if we are to ever find ourselves in His presence.  However the path to greater light and knowledge is strewn with the bodies of those who were not able to avoid the deadly obstacles that will most certainly present themselves as you proceed.  Second, let me say that the vast majority of these obstacles are activated by the great enemy of all humble followers of Christ – Pride.  Therefore, please…beware of pride.

So, again, why do I not count myself among those who can no longer be at peace with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?  There are several reasons:

I Love This Church

I do – I love this church.  I love the people in it.  I love my dear friends.  I love the brethren – they are good men who seek, sometimes in vain, to teach us all to become “humble followers of Christ”.  I love the doctrine – it is delicious to me.  I can get the doctrine nowhere else.  I simply cannot abide the feelings of contention that accompanied my inquiries.  As I mentioned in the “Behold the Spirit of Truth” post linked above, I began to feel slimy and contentious.  I did not like it.  It was at odds with who I have become, and I could not feel the spirit.  I recoiled.  I began seeking answers that others were not providing.  Honestly, one of my prayers today is for the Lord to help cleanse me of the “slime” that worked its way into my heart during this early period.  My prayers, obviously, are being answered.

The Lord’s Church

The Lord created this church.  There is no doubt about that.  He created it for a reason – well, for several reasons, actually.  These reasons are largely revealed through the 4-fold mission of the church:

- The church is charged with “perfecting the saints”.  It is not in His plan that we should seek the fullness of the gospel in a vacuum.  Yes, we each are responsible for working out our own salvation, but we are to lift each other, teach each other, even lead each other to become a Zion people.  I do not believe this can be done without the church – the organization – even if it is a temporal organization and can only take us so far.  I initially shared this concept in my post, “The True Church”.

- The church is charged with “spreading the gospel” to the 4 corners of the earth.  No other church on the earth, with the exception of the Jehovah’s witnesses (whom I respect greatly, by the way) proselytizes as we do.  This takes organization and resources (money).  Let us not forget that this is very much a temporal world, and that the charge must spread the gospel to this temporal world.

- The church is charged to “care for the poor and needy”.  It does so by distributing emergency supplies throughout the world with no strings attached.  However, the law of agency dictates that more personal support – that given to individuals or families but not related to a natural disaster – be given in such a way as to lift the individual, and not in such a way that their neediness is perpetuated.  In other words, people are encouraged to do their part.  As a result, the church’s support includes not only the essentials of food, clothing and shelter, but also a “hand up” in the form of training, jobs placement, actual jobs, etc.

- The church is responsible to “redeem the dead”.  The genealogy efforts supported by the church are unparalleled in the world today.  Temples are built the world over (currently 141 of them) to support this effort.  The fulfillment of this mission represents faith in a doctrine that brings hope and light to Christian doctrine where there was always darkness.  In other words, it answers the age-old question of “What happens to someone who lived in deepest, darkest Africa and never heard of Jesus Christ”.

The Church Must Adapt

I mentioned earlier that the church is responsible for fulfilling its mission in a temporal world.  One of the stumbling blocks that people come across is their belief that, if the Lord is the same today, yesterday and forever, so must the church be.   They bemoan the changes in interpretation of doctrine, changes in policy, changes in how ordinances are performed (especially temple ordinances), changes in the interpretation of tithing, etc.  They ridicule the words of past prophets that have apparently been proven wrong.  They question whether the words of past prophets outweigh the words of current prophets, or vice versa.  What they fail to realize, I think, is that the church must adapt to the world around it.  It must do what it must to survive and to thrive.  The church’s history is filled with examples which I will not detail here in order to avoid distracting from the focus of this post. 

However, I do want to say that this adaptation is, in my mind, consistent with the Lord’s plan for mankind.  I have often asked myself, “Why doesn’t He just protect the church?  Why doesn’t He force the world to adapt to the church, instead of the other way around?”  Ironically, if the Lord were to do so, He would basically be eliminating opposition.  Ironically, this would result in eliminating the need for faith.  It would eliminate struggle. Policies, ordinances (outward expressions of a sacred covenant), focus, even brick and mortar may very well need to change to enable the church to better fulfill its mission.

Revelation

Many complain that the church stopped receiving revelation when Joseph died.  I recently stumbled across a scripture that truly opened my eyes.  It is D&C 70:14, which says:

It is well documented that the early Saints did not succeed in building Zion, and that we today are not equal in temporal things.  Therefore, it follows that we should expect that the abundance of manifestations should be withheld.  However, this is our own fault.  We have no one to blame but ourselves.  We should be grateful that we have not simply been rejected as a church, and stop crying about the fact that revelation has ceased.

I don’t accept the fact that revelation has ceased.  I’m not even going to discuss the tired issues of polygamy and the priesthood ban.  What about the Proclamation on the Family, though, or “The Living Christ”?  I perceive these as manifestations – doctrinal statements – comparable to the best that Joseph Smith ever recorded.  They are especially pertinent to our day and the struggles that will surely face the church in the near future.  Many declare the recent change in the missionary age to be revelation.  Others say “No – it’s only policy”.  I believe both are right.  I believe the change in policy was brought about by revelation.  For years, the brethren have exhorted us to beware of debt and to prepare temporally for disasters, either economic or natural.  These types of warnings were pretty much unheard of in the scriptures.  Joseph certainly did not expound on such things that I remember.  Yet, we heard this for years and years before the pulpit finally fell silent a few years ago.  Was this not revelation?  Perhaps it was not doctrinal revelation, but that doesn’t mean the Brethren have not been receiving revelation to enable them to lead this church, and its members, to fulfill its mission.

Members today seem to have this image of revelation always being received in a flash, from a ministering angel in vision, or some other such heavenly manifestation.  I think many think of revelation as an authorized form of magic.  Any who have experienced personal revelation understand that revelation is not an exact science.  It requires years of practice, and must be mixed with a healthy prescription of faith and trust.  It can be manifested in various ways and interpreted according to the individual’s own desires, experiences, fears and prejudices.  Then, IF the revelation is shared with others, it is subject to their own interpretation.   Then, let us not forget that, according to the Lord’s own commandment as detailed in D&C 107 – the first presidency and the quorum of the twelve are required to be unanimous in all decisions of doctrine or policy.  The history of the revelation on the priesthood provides an excellent example of the impact this policy has on the workings of the church and how change or adaptation are brought to pass.  Even Joseph Smith’s revelations were almost exclusively given in response to inquiry.  My personal experience is the same.  I have no reason to doubt that this same pattern exists throughout the church today.  Not every revelation received by me, by the bishop or by the prophet is intended to be shared with the public.  In other words, I don’t understand how the issue of continuing revelation can even be a question, except that we are trying to fit the Lord’s interaction with His prophets into our paradigm of how it should be done.  Did I mention earlier that many of the pitfalls we run into are activated by pride?  Ah, yes – it seems I did.

The Lord Runs His Church

It is easy to say “the Lord runs His church” and leave it at that.  That may work for some, but not so much for me.  Do we ever ask ourselves “How” he runs His church.  “By revelation, of course” is ready answer,  but is that really it?  I believe that the Lord created this world, that He put the mechanics (the laws of the universe) in place, and that He pretty much leaves it alone.  I believe there are occasions when He actively intervenes, but I have no idea what the rules are for such interventions.  Is it possible that the same is true in His church?  Is it possible that He has largely set things in motion with the scriptures, with the organization, and with the policies, and that He largely leaves things in the hands of His stewards as long as they don’t lead HIS church “astray”?  Is it possible, then, that we, in our pride, are a little too quick to “steady the ark” when we seek to fit the “running of His church” into our own paradigm of how it should be done?  I suggest that any who would criticize should ask themselves with great objectivity the question, “What would I do differently if I were the prophet?”

On the Bus

I am on the bus.  I want to be part of the fulfilling the Lord’s plan for the church and for the world.  I want to help build Zion – if not with my hand, then with my heart, my mind, and my talents.  I do not believe I can do that effectively if I am on the fringes, if I alienate myself from His church and its members (remember, it is HIS church). 

The Temple

The temple is the House of the Lord.  The ordinances that are performed therein testify of the Love of God greater than anything I’ve ever experienced.  These ordinances point us toward exaltation, and they do it in a way that is uniquely “of the Lord”.  Furthermore, the feeling that I get when I walk into the temple is undeniable.  The simple fact that the church builds and maintains temples is a testimony to me that, in spite of any perceived imperfections, it IS the Lord’s church, HE is running it, and I am to remain loyal.

There is no Alternative

There is no other church that even approaches teaching correct doctrine as I understand it – the doctrine that, as I mentioned, has become delicious to me.  If I am not a member of this church – what is the alternative?  Would I form my own church – one that teaches things that I think should be taught, in the way I think they should be taught?  Well, that’s been tried, and the names of Ervil Lebaron and Warren Jeffs come to mind.  This church holds the priesthood keys that act as a safeguard against another great apostasy and descent into chaos. 

In Summary

I have thought, pondered, and prayed diligently upon the subject of the Church.  I have seen many things that made me go “Hmmmm”.  I have faced pressure from friends and family pulling me away.  I have navigated the minefield that has caused many to leave the church – either by choice or by excommunication.  I have had to do these things, because I have recognized that great reward comes only with great risk.  Our testimony, if not our own – if not built upon sincere questioning and searching – is useless to us, and is as a house built upon the sand.  There may be many who do not question.  There may be those who do not need to question.  Their lot is not for me to question.  I, like many others I know, when presented with the questions, found that I had to take them head on and seek answers from the Lord.  These are the answers I received.  They were given mercifully and received gratefully in a manner tailored specifically for me.  I hope and pray that, in sharing them, I can help others understand those who might be questioning, or – if you are questioning – that you might be able to benefit from the answers I received.  I hope that, as a result of my sharing, there might be a few more tools in your tool chest, with which you can build your own house – upon the rock.  I hope, above all, that you will find your way into the Lord’s presence, to be bathed in the light of His love forevermore.  I pray for this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Leave a comment

Seeking Exaltation – Part 3 – The Second Comforter

This series was prompted by the following statement from a new friend:
“I’ve been endowed, I’ve been married in the temple. What now?……Enduring to the end sounds so…….grim!”
I think far too many of us – good, faithful members of the church – kind of go into a spiritual holding pattern after we’ve been sealed in the Temple. If we’re not careful, we can slip into a pattern of waiting for our exaltation. In doing so, I believe we are shutting ourselves off from the greatest blessings that the gospel offers.

Part 1 dealt with receiving the Holy Ghost.
Part 2 discussed seeking one’s Calling and Election
In part 3, I wish to discuss seeking the second comforter – even the face of the Lord Himself.

Seeking the Second Comforter

In John 14:16-18,21,23 during the Last Supper, after Judas had left, but before the great intercessory prayer, Christ is recorded as saying to His apostles:

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

The Prophet Joseph said in reference to these verses:

The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses.
Note the 16, 17, 18, 21, 23 verses: [quoted].
Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a prefect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions —Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Pgs 149-151)

Bruce R. McConkie, in answer to the question, “Is having one’s calling and election made sure the same as receiving the Second Comforter?” said:

It is the privilege of those who have their calling and election made sure, meaning those who are sealed up unto eternal life, meaning those who are “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:13), to receive the Second Comforter. “There are two Comforters spoken of,” says the Prophet in one of his most profound and enlightening discourses. “One of these is the Holy Ghost, the same as given on the day of Pentecost, and that all saints receive after faith, repentance, and baptism. The first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. (Bruce R. McConkie , Doctrinal New Testament Commentary)

Elder McConkie further states in the chapter “Seek the Face of the Lord Always” of his book “The Promised Messiah” (pg 584):

It is the privilege of all those who have made their calling and election sure to see God; to talk with him face to face; to commune with him on a personal basis from time to time. These are the ones upon whom the Lord sends the Second Comforter. Their inheritance of exaltation and eternal life is assured, and so it becomes with them here and now in this life as it will be with all exalted beings in the life to come. They become the friends of God and converse with him on a friendly basis as one man speaks to another.

I was first introduced to the concept of the Second Comforter when I read the book, “The Second Comforter” by Denver Snuffer. I referred in part 2 of this series to the friend who told me to never ask for my calling and election to be made sure unless I was prepared to endure the trials. Denver Snuffer made a similar point – that the Lord will only grant the Second Comforter after your faith has been proven through trials:

You can’t get to heaven without passing through hell. (pg 80)

Because of these things the path to heaven runs through hell. You don’t get the epiphany without confronting Satan. There is always a balance, because agency and the right (or obligation) to choose is part of God’s plan. (pg 348)

Concerning the purpose of these trials:

In the end, Goliaths (trials) are merely opportunities for you to demonstrate your faith. They will be swept away when they no longer serve any purpose………
Take an inventory of your life. Look again at your challenges. Those Goliaths you face are opportunities and blessings, not difficulties. They are mere illusions; here to test your faith……
These things are not optional. They lie at the heart of this process. Faith and trust in God must precede development into the fully prepared man or woman of faith…..
Until your faith allows you to see things in this light, you are not prepared to see beyond the veil. (pgs 75-76)

The defining point for me was when, after reading this book, I decided that I wanted to receive this blessing so badly that I overcame the fears of any trials that may be required. I went before the Lord in prayer, and told Him, in effect, “I trust you. If I must undergo trials to come unto you, then so be it. I trust your judgment, wisdom, mercy and love”.

Shortly thereafter, while in the process of internalizing the possibility that I (yes, ME) could actually see the face of the Lord, I was reading with new eyes the story of the brother of Jared seeing first the finger of the Lord (Ether 3:6), then seeing the Lord Himself as recorded in verses 9, 13, and 15:

And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this? (verse 9)

And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you .(verse 13)

And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. (verse 15)

The faith of the brother of Jared was so great that the veil was rent! The record (verse 9) almost makes it seem that the Lord was surprised by the faith of the brother of Jared: ….”Sawest thou more than this?” Later scriptures confirm that the man’s faith was simply so great that he could not be kept from within the veil:

And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting. (Ether 3:19)

And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad. (Ether 12:19)

And after the brother of Jared had beheld the finger of the Lord, because of the promise which the brother of Jared had obtained by faith, the Lord could not withhold anything from his sight; wherefore he showed him all things, for he could no longer be kept without the veil. (Ether 12:21)

I had begun praying daily to receive this blessing. It became clear to me that the Lord was hearing my prayers, and that I was being prepared. Other scriptures began to take on new and added significance:

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. (Psalm 27:8)

Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am; (D&C 93:1)

The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not; nevertheless, the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in him and by him.
Then shall ye know that ye have seen me, that I am, and that I am the true light that is in you, and that you are in me; otherwise ye could not abound. (D&C 88:49-50)

But there was one scripture that impacted me more than any other. D&C 67:10 says:

And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual. (emphasis added)

“…strip yourselves from jealousies and fears…” As I have pondered this simple phrase, it has taken on a significance and depth rivaled only by D&C 121:34-46. It has become even more obvious that the Lord is leading me in His path. As a result, I have recently come to the following realizations:

1) I have no tolerance for contention. The spirit leaves and I feel empty….empty!

2) I have to lose the selfishness that forms the pavilion (read President Eyring’s talk here) that stands between me and the Lord. I understand that I cannot do this myself – I can only be cleansed through the power of the atonement.

3) If I can truly strip myself of jealousies and fears, if I can develop a consuming gratitude, charity, and trust in the Lord, I will, like the brother of Jared, develop faith unto knowledge, to the point that the Lord cannot withhold me from within the veil.

4) It is not from the attainment of these 3 blessings, but from the passionate pursuit of them, that my life will be truly blessed.

In summary, my life has changed forever. Having knowledge of these principles, I can never look back; I can never again settle for “waiting for my exaltation”. I must continue seeking the gifts of the spirit, including but not limited to the revelations of the Comforter. I must continue to ask the Lord what I must do to have my calling and election made sure. I must learn to be more obedient, more humble and to become sanctified to the will of my Lord, that I may be blessed to see the face of the Lord.  This is a life-long, completely fulfilling, and ultimately exalting endeavor;and I must be anxiously engaged in this good cause. “Waiting for exaltation” is no longer an option, and enduring to the end promises to be anything but “grim”.

3 Comments

Seeking Exhaltation Part 1 – Receiving the Holy Ghost

My new friend, a delightful young mother from Lehi, said, “I found myself thinking, ‘Well, I’ve been endowed, I’ve been married in the temple.  What now?  I mean, enduring to the end sounds so….grim!

All around the table laughed, but not because it was funny – rather because it rang so true.  For example, when I was first baptized, the gospel was exciting – a whole new world of possibilities and promises lay ahead of me.  The Lord blessed me tremendously, making sure that I was able to recognize just often enough that He was keeping those promises and that I was being blessed with insight, knowledge, understanding and opportunities to serve and grow.

 

I cruised along for more than a decade, enduring spiritual highs and lows and the occasional plateau.  I read, I acted, and I learned.  I took out my endowments, and after a few years was able to be sealed.  My wife and I served a part time service mission.  I taught at a local jail, and truly learned to feel the spirit as I taught.  I learned to recognize the insidious influence of pride in my life; I learned the importance of humility, obedience, and unselfish service.  Then, when we stepped way out on a limb and volunteered for a full-time mission, even though I was not retired and had to quit my job during one of the worst recessions in decades, I learned that the two of us together had the faith to follow the Lord’s prompting in the face of worldly wisdom.  By most standards we were an ideal LDS couple, highly committed to the faith and to keeping the covenants that we had made to each other and to the Lord.

 

Life was good.  It still is.  We were progressing, although I didn’t realize how slowly, and I had no idea at the time how much more the Lord was offering us.

 

I return now to my new friend’s statement – “I’ve been endowed, I’ve been married in the temple.  What now?”  I think far too many of us – good, faithful members of the church – kind of go into a spiritual holding pattern after we’ve been sealed in the Temple.  If we’re not careful, we can slip into a pattern of waiting for our exaltation.  In doing so, I believe we are shutting ourselves off from the greatest blessings that the gospel offers. 

 

Let me offer a quote from George Q. Cannon, (Millennial Star, Apr. 1894, pp. 260–61.) courtesy of my dear friend, Kristine Marble:

 

This has come in our day. Yet we find, even among those who have embraced the Gospel, hearts of unbelief. How many of you, my brethren and sisters, are seeking for these gifts that God has promised to bestow? How many of you, when you bow before your Heavenly Father in your family circle or in your secret places, contend for these gifts to be bestowed upon you? How many of you ask the Father, in the name of Jesus, to manifest Himself to you through these powers and these gifts? Or do you go along day by day like a door turning on its hinges, without having any feeling upon the subject, without exercising any faith whatever; content to be baptized and be members of the Church, and to rest there, thinking that your salvation is secure because you have done this?

I say to you, in the name of the Lord, as one of His servants, that you have need to repent of this. You have need to repent of your hardness of heart, of your indifference, and of your carelessness. There is not that diligence, there is not that faith, there is not that seeking for the power of God that there should be among a people who have received the precious promises we have. Instead of the sick being healed, why, it is as much as you can do to get faith to believe that the administration of an elder will be attended with effect. There is not that seeking for the gift of healing and for the gift to be healed that there ought to be among the Saints. And so with other gifts and graces that God has placed in His Church for His people.

I say to you that it is our duty to avail ourselves of the privileges which God has placed within our reach. If we have done wrong, repent of our wrong and feel after God, and not be satisfied till we have found Him, and He hears and answers us, and He speaks by His divine power in our hearts, bearing testimony to us in such a manner as cannot be doubted that He hears us, that He is near to us, and that He is watching over us and ready to bestow upon us all the blessings that are necessary for our happiness here and hereafter.

 

Our Duty!!!!  That sounds an awful lot like a commandment!  

 

There are three things that I have learned of recently that serve as beacons, as goals, for my own spiritual progression.  I speak specifically of:

 

Receiving the Holy Ghost / Baptism by Fire

Seeking and receiving our Calling and Election

Seeking and receiving the Second Comforter

 

I propose to discuss these separately in 3 articles.  Since I began discovering the true depth of these doctrines, my spiritual progression has increased exponentially.   I have personally experienced things that I thought were reserved only for others, or for the next life.  I know the Lord is leading me step by step toward the realization of these blessings.  I hope they bring as much joy and wonder to your life as they are bringing to mine.

 

 

Part 1 – Receiving the Holy Ghost / Baptism by Fire

 

Elder David A. Bednar offered the following in his 2010 Conference talk, which you can read here: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/receive-the-holy-ghost?lang=eng

 

These four words—“Receive the Holy Ghost”—are not a passive pronouncement; rather, they constitute a priesthood injunction—an authoritative admonition to act and not simply to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26). The Holy Ghost does not become operative in our lives merely because hands are placed upon our heads and those four important words are spoken. As we receive this ordinance, each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to so live that we indeed “receive the Holy Ghost” and its attendant spiritual gifts. “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift” (D&C 88:33.

 

He goes on to counsel 3 things that must be part of our quest:

Sincerely Desire

Appropriately Invite

Faithfully Obey

 

Put simply, when we are confirmed into the church, we accept a life-long responsibility to actively seek the gifts of the Holy Ghost – the Lord’s teacher, comforter, protector, the source of all intelligence.  Moroni Chapter 10, the final chapter in the Book of Mormon, reads very much like a capstone, a summary, of the most important messages of this marvelous book of scripture.  We are all familiar with the standard of scripture mastery that is verse 4:

 

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

 

Here we can easily detect the same pattern that Elder Bednar spoke of – Sincerely desire, appropriately invite, and faithfully obey.

 

The next verse, however, is potentially even more significant:

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

 

Ye may know the truth of all things!!   To know the truth of all things sounds like omniscience, doesn’t it?  So, by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may become omniscient?  I’ll let the reader figure out where that leads next.

 

I now quote Ether 3:19:

 

And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, doubting nothing.

 

The Bible Dictionary’s section on Faith includes the following:

 

Although faith is a gift, it must be cultured and sought after until it grows from a tiny seed to a great tree. The effects of true faith in Jesus Christ include (1) an actual knowledge that the course of life one is pursuing is acceptable to the Lord (see Heb. 11:4); (2) a reception of the blessings of the Lord that are available to man in this life; and (3) an assurance of personal salvation in the world to come. These things involve individual and personal testimony, guidance, revelation, and spiritual knowledge. Where there is true faith there are miracles, visions, dreams, healings, and all the gifts of God that he gives to his saints. Jesus pointed out some obstacles to faith in John 5:44 and 12:39–42 (cf. James 1:6–8).

 

Among the several distinct sections in Chapter 10 is one in which Moroni  further exhorts us that we “deny not the gifts of God, for they are many” (verse 8); after which he proceeds to list the gifts of the spirit (verses 9-16).  Moroni closes this section in verses 17-21:

 

And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will.

And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ.

And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men.

Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith, there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity.

And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope.

 

From these quotes we learn that as a result of fully receiving the Holy Ghost, we may:

  • gain a knowledge of all things
  • exercise the myriad gifts of the spirit (a reception of the blessings of the Lord that are available to man in this life)
  • gain “an assurance of personal salvation” (Calling and Election)
  • see the Lord and be in His presence (receive the Second Comforter).

 

Furthermore, there are many scriptures that refer to baptism by fire, a.k.a. Baptism of the Holy Ghost (D&C 20:41, D&C 33:11, D&C 19:31, D&C 39:6, 2 Nephi 31:14, 15, 17), but what exactly is “Baptism by fire”?   3 Nephi  9:20 says:

 

And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.

 

This is one of the greatest conversion stories in the Book of Mormon – that of the Lamanites in Helaman Chapter 5.  http://scottstover.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/as-current-as-the-morning-newspaper/  They received baptism by fire, yet they knew it not!  So, if they knew it not, after being surrounded by fire and taught by angels, how can we know if we have received the baptism by fire?

 

Bruce R. McConkie, in his Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, says, under the heading  “What is the relationship between baptism and having one’s calling and election made sure:

 

Baptism is the beginning of personal righteousness; it opens the door to celestial exaltation; it puts us on the path leading to eternal life. As Nephi expressed it, when we enter “the gate” of “repentance and baptism” and receive “a remission” of our sins “by fire and by the Holy Ghost,” we are then on the “straight and narrow path which leads to eternal life.”

 

This clearly implies that receiving a baptism by fire indicates that we have received a remission of our sins.  Is this remission an “event” that occurs when we are confirmed and are comanded to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, or is this again a process as indicated by Elder Bednar?  I would suggest that it can be both.  The result, though, of baptism by fire, is a remission of sins, and a cleansing of the desire to do evil.  It also represents a stepping stone toward having one’s Calling and Election made sure…….Part 2 –  next week: “Seeking our Calling and Election”

Leave a comment

Of Ministering Angels 3 – Doug and Suzanne

Conifer_forestThis is part 3 of the story or our mini-vacation to Goodyear’s Bar in Sierra County, California. It is the story of 4 couples – 8 ministering angels – who live, each in their own way, by the light of Christ, and who touched each other’s hearts as only His angels can.

For I remember the word of God which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also. (Moroni 7:5)

Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God…(Moroni 7:12)

In a way, it is the story of Kate Wolf, whose spirit and music continues to bring joy to the hearts of her “fans”, and whose ministry, I am convinced, is blessed by the Lord himself.  Songs like “Eyes of a Painter”, “Emma Rose”, and “Picture Puzzle” continue to portray the best and most beautiful of mankind and nature, as well as the trials, joys, and heartbreaks that we all must face in our attempt to return to God.

It is also the story of a unique guitar, one not quite like the rest, which was given loving birth by a kind “old soul” luthier in an out-of-the way place, and then adopted into a loving home by a kind, “old soul” artist.  Furthermore, it is the story of how this guitar became an instrument in the hands of a loving God to bring these couples together, to provide an evening filled with love, with hope, and with faith that no matter how dark things get, there are many things to be thankful for, and that, truly, “…men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25)

In the first two posts in this series, I told about our friends Mark and Tammy, and Mike and Katie.  At the end of the last post, Mike had told Diana to take the guitar back to the St Charles Inn for the night to see if she liked it well enough to buy it, and that he would “makes us a deal”.  Diana and I did take the guitar with us as he offered.  We practiced a few of our old songs, and the bond grew between the girl and her guitar.  After breakfast and a walk with Tammy, we went over to Mike and Katie’s to pay them for the guitar.  We came across Mike and his friend, Doug, in the garden (along with a matched pair of Katie’s “Garden Folk”).  Doug immediately impressed me as a person with 75 years’ worth of stories to tell.  He was dressed in worn trousers, a t-shirt, suspenders, and an old ascot cap.  His eyes twinkled as he removed the pipe from his mouth, shook our hands, and introduced himself.  I could tell immediately that he was a good man, but, like me, had likely grown to be that way.  In other words, he had known a bit of mischief in his life, but had learned along the way the true value of love, fidelity and faith.Downieville2

Mike needed to put a truss rod plate and strap pins on Diana’s new guitar, so I asked Doug if he would like to go inside and chat.  He said, “Sure, let’s go”.  We moseyed into Mike’s living room and began to swap stories.  We learned that Doug had been a veterinarian in Half-Moon Bay – just south of San Francisco – before it had become “Half-Moon Bay” – the ritzy resort area.  He had never graduated from High School, but had worked his way through veterinarian school – a fact that he shared with a touch of pride.  We learned that he had promised his wife, Suzanne, to be with her for 45 years.  35 of that had passed, so he still had 10 years to go, and he was determined to keep his promise.  I muttered something about Diana and me working on eternity, but I don’t think he heard, and I didn’t belabor the point.  I was more interested in hearing more about him.

We also learned that Doug was a gourmet cook, and that he and Suzanne divided their household duties accordingly – he cooks, she cleans.  His eyes, of course, were twinkling again.  He told us about their home – 20 acres or so with a 4 acre garden, a large, red classic barn, horses, goats, and 1500 foot forested peaks surrounding it.  Then we learned the rest of the story.  It seems that the resort whose property was between him and the river had sued him over a decades-old survey line, claiming two acres of Doug’s property as their own, and then driving him into bankruptcy when he lost the case and was forced to pay the resort’s attorney’s fees.  In other words, they were going to lose ALL of the property.  The more he told us about it, the clearer it became that he was putting up a brave front, because that’s what men do.  As he talked, I could feel that inside he was suppressing a cauldron of resentment, disbelief, and incredulity while nurturing a sincere desire not to let this experience ruin his life and happiness.  He was refusing to allow the cesspool of greed and materialism to pollute the values he had worked so hard all his life to develop.  I mentioned that obviously, in hind sight, he should have just surrendered the 2 acres, to which he responded, “Yeah, but I was in the right.  I couldn’t let them get away with it”.  Then he said, “I just take comfort knowing that, even though they can take away my property, there’s still one thing they can’t take away…”  He paused just long enough for me to know exactly what he was going to say: “…my integrity”.  I knew at that moment that we were going to become fast friends.

We had become well acquainted by the time Mike came back with the guitar.  He handed it to Diana and said, “Why don’t you play something for us?”  He handed me another of his guitars, and Diana and I played our signature song, the one we always open performances with, “Welcome Home”.  Despite our being a tad rusty, we managed a credible performance.   As Diana’s last harmonic chord faded away, Doug literally leapt off the couch, gleefully clapping his hands and yelling, “Wonderful!  That was wonderful!”  Diana and I had received our first ever standing ovation!  We played another song – this one a Kate Wolf tune, after which Doug suggested that the 6 of us – Mike and Katie, he and Suzanne, and Diana and I, come to their house for dinner.  We accepted his invitation, worked out the logistics, and parted until evening.

Oh – I almost forgot the guitar.  Yes, this little guitar that had captured Diana’s heart and was soon to capture mine, although in an entirely different way, was sold to us for half of what I would have paid for it!   I would remind my readers that this was a solid wood, hand-made, one-of-a-kind guitar, so it could have easily been worth twice as much.  Yet, as I’ve said, this was not the biggest bargain of the day.  Not yet.

Mike and Katie picked us up for our 6:00 dinner appointment.  We found the turnoff, crossed the bridge over the river, and wound our way up to their home.  There were several switchbacks and a gate that required one of us to get out and open it.  As we continued up the road, we passed out of the trees into a clearing, past the large red barn, a couple of corrals, some old mining equipment, and up to the house.   When we arrived, Suzanne was on the small landing outside the entrance to their home, and we were greeted simultaneously by her and “noodle-head” – the less intelligent, according to her, of their two border collies.  She welcomed us warmly and led us into a home already filled with the unmistakable smell of garlic sautéing in olive oil.  Doug was hard at work – in his element.

While Doug cooked, the rest of us, including the dogs, went onto the back deck where we could fully take in the scenery and majesty of this property that they were about to lose.  The view from the deck showed a pastoral view of the hollow, with the red barn, corrals, fields, etc. surrounded by the afore-mentioned peaks.  One could count the trees that had to be removed before the house could be built, because the stumps were still there.  Overlooking the property just made me feel even worse, even angry, about their plight, and about the mechanisms – legal, psychological, and temporal – that brought about such an unjust tragedy.

lure2After we had talked for about 45 minutes, dinner was ready – breaded & sautéed chicken over fettuccini with salad, steamed garden vegetables and fresh home-made sourdough.   Doug’s reputation as a gourmet cook suffered no damage as the result of his offering!  Dinner conversation was stimulating, gentle, and thoughtful, as you would expect from half a dozen people who had all lived good lives and had as many stories to tell, philosophies to share, and truths to expound as we did.

After about an hour, Suzanne suggested that we go listen to some music – meaning our music.  I need to share at this point something that is highly pertinent to this tale…Diana and I are “hams”.  We love playing in front of people – perhaps me more than Diana, but she is certainly not innocent of this charge.  So, it’s not like we felt we were performing some great service by playing for our new friends.  We love performing, and there was not an ounce of altruism involved.

We performed 6 songs that night in the very place where Kate Wolf herself had played some 30 years before.  It should be understood that, prior to the night before, Diana and I had not played together in almost 2 years.  We should have been sloppy, but we weren’t.  It was as if our fingers were guided.  Our second song was a Kate Wolf song, “Carolina Pines”, and when they all started singing the chorus along with us, I felt like Kate herself must have been there.  Then, on our fifth song, “Leavin’ Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” by Rodney Crowell and Donivan Cowart, Doug jumped up, grabbed Suzanne by the hand, and they began swing dancing.  Here was a 75-year-old man who had recently had heart surgery dancing with his wife of 35 years!  This was at least a temporary release of 2 years of legal, emotional and spiritual burdens.  For this short time, they were able to let go.  This, my friends, was a moment of pure joy for the little company sitting in Doug and Suzanne’s living room – a moment that will not soon be forgotten, at least not by Diana and me.

After we had finished, Doug thanked us and said, “You cannot possibly understand how much this has meant to us.  You have taken us back to that happier time, a time of good friends and good music; a time when Kate and her husband, Don, had sat here in this very room and played very much like you just did.  You have helped us forget our troubles, even if for just this short while.  Thank you so much”.

The next day, as we were driving home, we stopped in Sierra City to visit an art gallery where Katie’s paintings were featured.  We also hoped to see a quilt that was on display from the Mountain Harvest co-op, where we had met Peggy, whom I mentioned in the second post.  We spoke with Lynn, who was minding the gallery, for a few minutes and told her about our experience the night before.  When I told her that Doug and Suzanne were dancing together, she visibly “clouded up”.  Her eyes began to water, and she said, “You don’t have any idea how happy that makes me.  They have been under such a burden, and you gave them just one evening when they could forget this whole mess, and remember what life is all about”.

It probably wasn’t until that moment that I began to understand what had truly happened the night before.  Here was a complete stranger, who obviously hadn’t been at Doug and Suzanne’s home with us, repeating essentially what Doug himself had said.  It was then that I also realized how close-knit this community was, how good were the people we had met, and how they loved and cared about each other.  It was then that I realized that all of us, all 8 of us, had served as ministering angels in the Lord’s hands.  We were all just going about being ourselves, living the lives we had developed over the years – loving, enjoying and respecting each other for those very lives lived – yet the Lord, seeing us through His eyes, took the best in each of us and brought us together to create this magical moment of joy, Heaven-style.  Using us, He poured out His love and compassion as if to say, “This is the way it’s supposed to be.  This is how I want you to live.  This is what I meant when I said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself”.

Diana's GuitarSo, this little “red-headed step-child” of a guitar became an instrument in the Lord’s hands for doing His work – the work of love.  This inanimate object of wood, glue, bronze, and stainless steel, assembled with love by an old-soul artisan, and valued as priceless by an old-soul artist, came alive that Friday night in July, 2014.  It brought people together in a way that only the Lord Himself could have orchestrated.  It was the central prop in a 3-act play illustrating His unconditional love for his beloved children.  It will forever have a place in my heart.  It will forever remind me that perhaps, on occasion, love can be bought – in this case for the price of lovely little hand-made guitar.

Post Script:

I talked to Doug and Suzanne yesterday.  It took me a while, but I found their phone number through the internet.  We discussed how the community was changing – how people were coming into the area from the big cities of California with a “big fish in a small pond” attitude, looking for money, making life more difficult for the people around them, and basically missing the whole point of living in such a place. We discussed how, in a city, you can survive on the city – on the infrastructure, on the legal system, on the commerce, on the entertainment.  You can survive quite nicely while being totally alone.  You really don’t need relationships.  In a small community like this, though, people need each other.  It’s a different world, and it is the relationships that hold it together.  Mark and Tammy spent Friday manually unloading cement bags for a neighbor who needed to pour a concrete slab.  They got paid, yes – but there was no concrete contractor who was going to do it for them.  If they didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done.  Doug said, “When the water supply goes out, we have to fix it.  There’s no water company to call.  We have to help each other – because we all depend on each other.  Our lives are all intertwined, and none of us can survive alone.”  Lynn cried when I told her about Doug and Suzanne’s dance.  The newcomers don’t get this, and it threatens to destroy what is so special about the community.Downieville2

I think this is an example of the tension that exists between Zion and babylon.  In Zion, people exist on relationships.  In babylon, people exist on the structure, and when that is gone, to whom will they turn – to the Lord?  No, they will turn to either greed and/or force – which is what the infrastructure is based on today.  The individual is unnecessary and of no value, except as the fuel on which the structure survives.  In Zion, the individual is everything.  The love and the experiences that we shared with the people of Goodyear’s Bar was a type for Zion – a place for the pure in heart.

2 Comments

Of Ministering Angels 2 – Mike and Katie

Garden Folk Scarecrow

Garden Folk Scarecrow

Katewolf

Kate Wolf

In my last post, Of Ministering Angels – Mark and Tammy, I talked briefly about the peaks, valleys and plateaus that we often go through as we make our spiritual journey back into the presence of our Heavenly Father.  I wrote of a recent plateau that I had been experiencing, and of how the Lord had sent me angels to remind me of the beauty and goodness that surrounds us.  I shared the story of our relationship with Mark and Tammy, the proprietors of the Helms St. Charles Inn in Goodyear’s Bar, CA and how I was inspired by their courage, love, and devotion to their family, neighbors, and to making the world a better place.  I talked about Kate Wolf, who, through songs like “Carolina Pines”, serves as a ministering angel to all those with ears to hear her story; whose non-traditional witness of the true love of Christ and of the beauty of this world that He created continues to be heard long after her untimely death.  I also mentioned that I had other inspiring and comforting stories that I wanted to share.  This is the story, then, of our first meeting with Mike and Katie Kelly.

Diana and I had gone into Downieville, the next, larger village in Sierra County, on Friday to cruise the shops and see the sights.  Downieville was a classic gold mining town, founded in 1849 during the height of the California Gold Rush.  It is nestled along the banks of the same Yuba River as Goodyear’s Bar (a stunningly beautiful river, by the way, especially if you’re a fisherman), and couldn’t grow if it wanted to without climbing up the sides of the mountains that surround it.  Gold mining is not very profitable in California these days, so the town survives on tourism.  We got there before noon, and not much was open, but we chatted with Peggy in the quilt co-op for a while, sharing life stories for about 45 minutes.  She told us about how she and her husband bought their home about 20 years ago and how they – mostly her because her husband travelled for his job – had to share it with mice and raccoons for the first months because it hadn’t been lived in for so long.  She described the challenges of the first couple of years and how she basically had to become strong or die (not literally, but you know what I mean).  Over the years, she said, she had gained a strong faith that, if you’re doing the right thing, things just work out.  Toward the end of our time there I mentioned playing some Kate Wolf songs, and she in turn mentioned that her husband played the guitar and that he was “really good”.  I thought initially to find out just how good he was, but quickly realized that was just my pride talking (the whole pride and competition thing is revealing itself to be my personal spiritual “thorn”) and would thus be a fruitless pursuit.  I asked her what kind of guitar he had, though, and she said he had a hand-made guitar from a luthier in Goodyear’s Bar.  We then mentioned that we were staying with Mark and Tammy in Goodyear’s Bar and she said, “Well, he’s right next door!  You should go by – I know they’d love to have you come and visit”.

We slowly made our way back to the inn after talking with several other people in the various shops and the Downieville museum, and asked Tammy to call “Mike” to see if we could come over for a visit.  His response, as Peggy predicted, was “Sure – come on over”.  We were invited to come in the back door, which led to a screened-in porch where we saw a couple of newly varnished guitars drying in the warm summer air.  We were greeted first by Buster, one of the cutest little dogs I’ve ever met.  Buster is some sort of poodle mix, and has a face that just says, “I love you!  Can I trust you, and will you love me back?” but somehow says it without being needy.  He’s a dog who is happy and comfortable in his own skin, and therefore quite willing to be your friend on your terms.  It is often said that dogs take after their masters (or vice versa), and that proved to be true when Mike Kelly introduced himself.  His openness and trust was immediately obvious.  It was as if he said, “I know you and trust you and welcome to my home” before he even opened his mouth.  He was slight of build, mid-50’s to 60 years old, and he projected a wise, gentle soul.  We introduced ourselves and said, “We were talking to Peggy at Mountain Home and she told us that you make guitars and we wanted to come by and get to know you”.  He had about 8-10 of his guitars sitting around the living room and I asked, “Which one is your favorite”.  Without a moment’s hesitation, he picked up one of the guitars – I believe it was standing behind all the others – and said, “Oh, this one.”

Please indulge me now as I share a mini-lesson on guitars – it is necessary, I think, for the rest of the story to make sense.  Cheaper acoustic guitars– $100 to $800 – are typically made of various qualities of laminate or expensive ply-wood.  They can be very nice, sound good, and play well. However, the better guitars, the kind that professionals would be interested in playing, are made of solid woods such as mahogany, rosewood or maple (or more exotic woods such as Koa) and can sell for from anywhere from $1000 to $10,000 easily.  The tops are almost always made of spruce or cedar.  My own Martin D-28, one of the most popular guitar models in the history of music, is made of rosewood with a spruce top.  Diana’s Breedlove is made of mahogany and spruce.  This guitar was, of course, solid wood – the back and sides made of mahogany – but the top was redwood.  I had never seen a guitar with a redwood top before, and this really surprised me.

Diana's Guitar

The New Baby

So, Mike handed me the guitar and I started to play, and immediately felt a warmth and balance that I recognized as very unusual.  It was almost spiritual, the way it felt – one of those things you can’t really describe or explain, but which you simply feel.  I handed it to Diana, and she loved it even more than I did.  He told us that he had taken it to a couple of music stores to see if they wanted it, fully expecting them to say, “Oh – we love it – can you make more just like it?”   He said he was completely baffled that they didn’t really seem very interested.  Of course, we agreed with him that it was a very special guitar; a very solid, balanced, sweet-sounding instrument  – perhaps the proverbial “one of a kind” that guitar players are always looking for.  That may have been the problem; it’s entirely possible that from a commercial standpoint they were instinctively afraid that he had somehow captured lightning in a bottle, and would not be able to readily recreate the artistry that was that guitar.  Well, their loss was our gain.  Enough of guitars, though.  This post is really about people.

We hadn’t visited for long when Katie appeared from upstairs.  Katie was a perfect match for Mike – slight of build, graying hair, attractive and energetic, but still gentle in a strong, confident way.  She made us smile appreciatively, even knowingly, because she appeared to come down initially to be polite, then she said, “I’m sorry – I need to go back up, I have scarecrows to finish”.  She would be gone for 5 or 10 minutes, and then pop up again, offering her guests a glass of water or tea.  She repeated this about 3 times – like she was torn between wanting to visit and needing to finish her scarecrows.  “Scarecrows”, you ask?  Yes, scarecrows, or “Gardenfolk” as she calls them.  She sells them all over the country.  She’s also an artist, and the pastel paintings she Katie Kellyshowed us were very nice.  Diana being a pastel artist herself, we know of what we speak.  I actually told Katie that I have learned that if I don’t like someone’s work, I just pretty much don’t say anything.  This was not a problem – as her art actually was very appealing and accomplished.  In short, Katie – like Diana – was “an artist”.

Mike was likewise pre-occupied, but that hadn’t prevented him, or Katie, from being gracious and welcoming.  He had just received a request from a local TV station to interview him in his shop, and he didn’t know exactly when they were going to come, so he was very self-conscious about getting his shop “presentable”.  With their attention being pulled in multiple directions, there came a point when they both left us in their living room, playing Mike’s guitars.  We had known them for less than an hour, and they left us in their home all alone!  Of course, WE knew we were trustworthy, but they didn’t!  Or did they?  I mentioned this to Mike later, and he just said, “Oh – I can tell what kind of people you are.”  His trust extended even farther when he told Diana, “You like that guitar?  Well, you take it with you for the night.  Play it some more.  Take it outside, play it in the open air.  It may sound different out there.  We’ll get together tomorrow and, if you still like it, I’ll make you a deal.”

So, Mike and Katie (and Buster) accommodated us dropping by on the spur of the moment, welcomed us into their home, left us playing music in their living room while they respectively made scarecrows upstairs and cleaned up the guitar shop out back, and loaned us a guitar that, for all we knew, could be worth thousands of dollars, so that we could play it overnight.  I got the distinct impression that Mike and Katie were made for each other, and if not, had made themselves for each other over the years.  The three of them (can’t forget Buster, the master of the house) were a matched pair, kind of like the Gardenfolk that Katie so lovingly fashioned.  They had found their Zion – no, they had built their Zion – a place for the pure in heart and where all things were had in common.  They obviously valued people and relationships more than they did material things.  We felt their love, charity, and lack of pretense from the minute we walked in the back door.  Like Mark and Tammy, they loved those around them through their art, their trust, and their service.  I have no doubt that, when the Lord calls his people home to Zion, these ministering angels will receive their call, will recognize His voice, and will answer it.

Did Mike make us a deal on the guitar?  Boy, did he!  However, there was a lot more that changed hands around that little double-00 redwood top guitar than just money.  It actually became the center of a sweet little drama that touched several lives.  In “Of Ministering Angels 3 – Doug and Suzanne”, I’ll tell you how that guitar became an instrument in the Lord’s hands that July day of 2014.

6 Comments

Of Ministering Angels – Mark and Tammy

St Charles Inn

St Charles Inn

LDS author John Pontius pointed out in his book “Following the Light of Christ into His Presence” that we all go through periods in our spiritual growth where we seem to plateau out, and sometimes even digress. These periods of relative depression typically follow periods of intense growth, and are most certainly followed by another period of more rapid progression. He wisely pointed out that we need to be careful during these periods of stagnant growth not to be too concerned, as this is simply part of the way we grow – part of the way we create, and are created. Even the Lord rested after 6 days of creation. I believe these periods help us to solidify our gains, so to speak, and perhaps rest up for a growth spurt to come.

Even though I read this book twice, I recently had to be reminded of the principle by my friend, Liesl Elmer. Her comment brought me a measure of comfort, and perhaps even signaled the end of the recent plateau. I had been growing concerned and frustrated by the fact that I was not inspired to write, that the heavens seemed silent, and that I was constantly questioning myself and the things I had already learned and experienced. Perhaps this feels familiar to you.

One of the blessings of the spirit that I have never knowingly experienced, but which I long for, is the ministering of angels. Such ministering is featured prominently in the scriptures:

And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men. (Moroni 7:29)

Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain. (Moroni 7:37)

And it came to pass that while the angels were ministering unto the disciples, behold, Jesus came and stood in the midst and ministered unto them. (3 Nephi 19:15)

There are, of course, many other mentions of this ministering – over which the Aaronic priesthood holds the keys. (D&C 84:26) I don’t mean to wallow in self-pity, but I sure could have used a ministering angel over the past few weeks. I prayed one time “Lord, this is hard!” He said, “It’s not supposed to be easy right now”. “Sheesh”, I said, “that doesn’t really help now, does it?”

However, sometimes we need to be willing to recognize when the Lord does send us angels in a form other than a heavenly visitation, and we need to be thankful for them. I said above that I had “never knowingly” experienced the ministering of angels. During the week of July 23, I knowingly experienced the ministering of angels, and only one of them – my dear wife, Diana, who is the brightest angel any man could ever ask for – was even a member of the LDS church. Their words and their actions pierced my heart in a unique, confirming and warming way. I would like to tell the story of these visitations in my next few posts.

First, some background. There is a singer/songwriter who gained a cult following from about 1975 to 1985 named Kate Wolf. Diana and I both love her music – it is as

Cemetery where Kate Wolf is buried.

Cemetery where Kate Wolf is buried.

heavenly and spiritual as any music I have ever heard. Her songs are sweet, poignant, happy, sad, loving and so very, very real. They testify of Christ in so many ways, even though she doesn’t mention His name even once. I’m sure the Lord is a fan. One of my favorite Kate Wolf songs is one that Diana and I play ourselves called “Green Eyes”. We have the opening line of this song engraved on the inside of our wedding rings. Kate’s career was cut short in 1986 by leukemia. In about 2001 we were in the area of Grass Valley, CA and decided we would go find Goodyear’s Bar, CA, where Kate was reportedly buried. Well, we found the town, found the grave, and also found a bed and breakfast – the only business in this village of about 50-60 people. A couple of years later we came back for the first of our three stays at the “Helms St. Charles Inn”.

That was when we met Mark and Tammy Helms. They had bought the St. Charles Hotel in the mid 90’s, and brought courage, modest skills, and a beautiful vision to the town of Goodyear’s Bar and to the dilapidated hotel. There were no guarantees that they could make a go of it but they came anyway. And they stayed.

St Charles Inn

St Charles Inn

We found that Tammy would typically sit and chat with us while we ate the breakfast she had crafted for us. On our first visit, they invited us to share dogs and burgers with them and their family on a Sunday afternoon. The next visit, after playing a few of our songs for them, we sat around with some of the family members, including the patriarch Cy, and listened to stories about Goodyear’s Bar, the rowdy history of the St. Charles Hotel and Saloon, the resurrection of the St. Charles Inn, and Kate Wolf, who was, for a brief time, their neighbor and friend. They pointed out bullet holes in the ceiling and regaled us with stories of the family of highwaymen who, led by their 5’ tall mother, terrorized the loggers and miners back in the late 1800’s. We heard about the flood of 1997 when the Yuba river flooded their basement with 5 feet of water, took out the bridge to Highway 49, and basically wreaked havoc throughout Sierra County. Mostly, though, we heard about a family who loved each other, stood by each other, and worked together to make the world a better place.

New bridge after old one was washed out in 1997

New bridge after old one was washed out in 1997

This past week, we were chatting as usual at breakfast about a variety of topics, including religion and politics (I guess people have become true, trusted friends when they can openly discuss religion and politics), when the topic of marriage came up. Tammy said at one point, “Well, I just can’t imagine life without Mark.” Something in the way she said it – her tone, her mannerisms, the timing and context – told me how much she really meant it. My heart was simply and sweetly touched. Her unassuming, heart-felt declaration made it clear to me that she understood, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the doctrine of eternal marriage, even though it had never been formally taught to her in any other way.

The next morning, as I was praying, I felt prompted, even commanded, to offer to pronounce a blessing on the inn, upon their family, and upon all who stay there. As we walked into the dining room for breakfast, I asked Mark if they would allow me to do just that. They quickly said, “Sure!” We went into the living room and I asked if we could kneel. I raised my arm to the square and was given a beautiful, almost tearful blessing to pronounce. I blessed them – actually, the Lord blessed them – that, as long as they continued serving their family, their community, and Jesus Christ as they currently are, then their home would be protected from the influence of a sinful world, from the forces of nature, and from economic hardship. I blessed them that all who entered their home would feel the spirit of peace and be comforted. I was greatly touched by their humility – by their willingness to get on their knees and trust me to pronounce this blessing, in the name of Jesus Christ, upon them. Most people who are not members of the LDS church would consider me to be rather audacious for even suggesting such a thing, but not them. They were simply appreciative. Their love, humility and kindness shined brightly in Goodyear’s Bar that morning.

Mark and Tammy Helms were angels sent to remind me of the importance of humility, of courage, of loyalty and devotion, and of the true meaning of love. Only the most pure, the most humble, and the most virtuous can be used by the Lord to accomplish His purposes. They continue their ministry each day among the people of Goodyear’s Bar and Sierra County, building Zion as they understand it, and they do so with knowledge that, as long as they do, they will be protected and lifted by the Lord.

The next day, on Friday, we learned of a luthier (a guitar craftsman) who lived next door to Mark and Tammy. My next post will tell the story of another pair of angels that we met during our vacation of July, 2014.

4 Comments

Priesthood Keys – And Blessed are Ye if Ye have no Disputations Among You

Thorvaldsen christusIn Helaman 10:4-5, the Lord told Nephi, the son of Helaman – and father of Nephi the Nephite disciple – the following:

Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I Thorvald Peterhave given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.

 And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.

This is one of my favorite scriptures.  I dream of someday being so trusted of the Lord that he says, “…all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.”  Looking a little deeper, though, it appears that the Lord actually granted unto His servant Nephi the keys of the priesthood – all the keys of the priesthood – at least all of those granted unto men in that time and place.  In verses 7-10, the Lord says:

Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.

 And thus, if ye shall say unto this temple it shall be rent in twain, it shall be done.

 And if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou cast down and become smooth, it shall be done.

 And behold, if ye shall say that God shall smite this people, it shall come to pass.

The Lord granted unto Nephi power over the elements, mountains, and “this people”…but only “among this people”.  Apparently, Nephi held the keys to the priesthood over this church.  With this power, of course, came great responsibility.  Nephi not only had power and authority – he had “stewardship”.

Stewardship

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines stewardship as, “the activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something”.  So, what was Nephi responsible for?  Obviously, he was not responsible for anyone’s individual salvation – or was he?  And what about the salvation of the people as a whole – what about the church among the people of Nephi?  Later in the story, in Chapter 11, Nephi saw what was going on around him and cried unto the Lord:

O Lord, do not suffer that this people shall be destroyed by the sword; but O Lord, rather let there be a famine in the land, to stir them up in remembrance of the Lord their God, and perhaps they will repent and turn unto thee. (verse 4)

A few verses later, of course, Nephi asked that the famine be lifted as a result of the repentance of the people.  Chapters 10 and 11 of the book of Helaman are the story of Nephi receiving and exercising the priesthood keys and his stewardship which were delegated to him by Jehovah. His stewardship was apparently over the people and everything required for their salvation.

Keys Unlock the Power – but is that all?

A traditional explanation of priesthood keys is that they “unlock” the power of the priesthood, primarily through the ordinances of the gospel. I acknowledge that this is part of the definition.  Nephi certainly had unlocked the power of the priesthood – he commanded the weather, for Heaven’s sake!  However, it was quite recently, in my blog post on Church Discipline, that I first mentioned the idea of priesthood keys representing a stewardship.  I’ve continued thinking about this, and as a result I think I have a more clear understanding of the mysterious (at least to me) topic of “priesthood keys”.  I don’t want to upstage or critique Elder Oaks’ talk from this past conference.  I’ve heard that it enhanced the understanding of many, but it really didn’t help me understand the concept any better than I did before.  Allow me, however, to explain why I think the concept of a “stewardship” makes this so much clearer, and thus why the keys to the priesthood are so important.

As I said in my earlier post:

 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has a stewardship from the Lord.  I think the keys of the priesthood represent that stewardship – in other words, “stewardship” is a great way to look at the keys of the priesthood.  Those who hold priesthood keys have stewardship over the ordinances to ensure that they are administered consistently by those who have authority from God to do so.  (I have authority to administer many ordinances, but I have no keys.) They have stewardship over the finances of the church.  They have stewardship over the welfare of the membership.  Their attempts to honor this stewardship manifest themselves in many, many ways.  I think these manifestations are actually what we have come to call “The Church”.  Church policies, temples, curriculum, buildings, commercial investments, missionary work, the welfare system, humanitarian aid…these are all manifestations of that stewardship.

Manifestations of the Priesthood Stewardship – Baptism

We can witness this stewardship, as I suggested, in many ways.  One very familiar example is with the sacrament.  The Nephite disciples were given the keys to the ordinance of baptism in 3 Nephi11:18-30:

And it came to pass that he spake unto Nephi (for Nephi was among the multitude) and he commanded him that he should come forth.

And Nephi arose and went forth, and bowed himself before the Lord and did kiss his feet.

And the Lord commanded him that he should arise. And he arose and stood before him.

And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven.

And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you.

Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.

And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying:

Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.

And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one.

And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.

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.

Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

Here, Christ gave them the keys to the ordinance, then told them how to do it, then made a point that part of His purpose was that there should be no disputations among them.  In other words, He didn’t want any arguments about how the ordinance should be carried out.

Sacrament

Christ later instituted the sacrament among the Nephites in 3 Nephi, chapter 18, and in verse 34 he said:

And I give you these commandments because of the disputations which have been among you. And blessed are ye if ye have no disputations among you.

He had now made this point pertaining to both baptism and the sacrament.  How to best ensure that this injunction of “no disputations” is carried out?  That would be through priesthood keys, of course – through trusted “stewards”.  The Bishop, who holds the keys in the ward over these ordinances, is responsible to make sure that they  are performed the same way every time.  How many times have you heard the bishop asked the nervous young priest to repeat the words of the prayer?  The bishop holds the keys to that ordinance – he has the stewardship to ensure that the prayers, the emblems, etc. are given within the bounds the Lord has set.  The priests have authority to administer both the baptism and the sacrament, but the Bishop has the stewardship.

Temple Ordinances

I have mentioned before that I am an ordinance worker in the Salt Lake Temple.  We are responsible for learning the words of the endowment so that we can deliver them “word-perfect” in the live endowment sessions.  We also, of course, administer the initiatories, the name issue, etc.  Our studying and memorizing can only be done in the temple – we cannot take things out to study at home.  Now these sessions are rarely delivered perfectly, simply because people are imperfect, but the temple presidency has the keys – the stewardship – to ensure that the presentation of these sacred ordinances do not start to diverge, and they do exercise them.  With hundreds of ordinance workers delivering hundreds of ordinances each week, this is a sobering task, one of eternal import.

Keys of Creation

A fourth example of priesthood keys – one that is frankly beyond my comprehension, but which follows the same pattern – is that of creation.  The keys to creation – the organization of matter – were delegated to Jehovah by Elohim (interestingly, except for the creation of man).  The power which is “unlocked” by these priesthood keys is pretty obvious to us – at least on the surface – but what about the stewardship?  If the laws of creation, of the organization of matter, were to be diluted or violated, our whole universe would likely disintegrate into chaos.  The universe maintains its order because creation chooses to obey God, in turn because they know that God is always perfectly righteous.  If the stewardship were not maintained; if the keys were not exercised; their obedience would not be insured, and we would have no order. (Intelligence Theory of the Atonement from Cleon Skousen).  This is a very speculative theory, but I like it.  It rings true and it strengthens my discussion, although it is not essential.)

Chaos vs. A House of Order

Given this perception of the keys of the priesthood, it’s not difficult to make a case for how essential they are to maintaining the “order” that the Lord declares is characteristic of His house (D&C 88:119, D&C 109:8, D&C 132:8), as well as to avoiding the disputations and contention that Christ commanded should not be allowed among us.  We need only take the ordinance of baptism as an example.  In the absence of priesthood keys, this saving ordinance did in fact descend into chaos, with sprinkling reportedly being introduced in the 14th century. (I have not validated the historical accuracy of this source – but only the date is arguable.  The fact that sprinkling is a common practice in both Catholic and Protestant churches today is indisputable). The baptizing of infants is another abomination that was allowed to develop in the absence of priesthood keys. The sacrament itself is performed differently among different churches, so much that the Catholics introduced the doctrine of transubstantiation, reportedly in the 11th century (again, the timing is not important here).  Temple ordinances completely disappeared in the absence of priesthood keys – nobody had a stewardship over them.  The doctrine of receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost likewise disappeared.  The Great Apostasy itself came about as the result of the absence of priesthood keys – no one had the stewardship to make sure the ordinances and doctrines of the gospel were passed along as they were taught by the Savior. Those who defined doctrine did so without the priesthood keys.

Dispensations

The Great Apostasy was not the first time this happened, either.  The doctrine of dispensations is based on the fact that the gospel, introduced by a dispensational prophet, was allowed to deteriorate over the centuries at the hands of careless men – men without priesthood keys – until it became unrecognizable, requiring a new introduction through the next dispensational prophet.  The most dramatic example, I think, is the dispensation of Noah.  According to the traditional interpretation of the Genesis account, after the flood, Noah and his family were the only people left alive.  Noah held the priesthood, and exercised all the keys that existed on the earth at that time.  Over the millennia, though, men abandoned their stewardship, and the result is the myriad religions that are observed on the earth today.  Today, we live in the last dispensation – the dispensation of the fullness of times – and we have been told that the keys of the priesthood are here to stay:

Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.(D&C 13:1)

And:

Exalt not yourselves; rebel not against my servant Joseph; for verily I say unto you, I am with him, and my hand shall be over him; and the keys which I have given unto him, and also to youward, shall not be taken from him till I come. (D&C 112:15)

We likewise have Oliver Cowdrey’s testimony that the Melchizedek Priesthood shall remain upon the earth as long as the earth stands:

“The channel is here, the priesthood is here, I was present with Joseph when an holy angel from god came down from heaven and confered, or restored the Aronic priesthood. And said at the same time that it should remain upon the earth while the earth stands.  I was also present with Joseph when the melchesideck priesthood was confered by the holy angles of god,—which we then confirmed on each other by the will and commandment of god. This priesthood is also to remain upon the earth untill the Last remnant of time. (Conference Address, Kanesville, OH, October 21, 1848).

Perhaps the most frightening thing about this phenomenon is how long it takes.  It took approximately 1300 years for the ordinance of baptism to devolve into sprinkling.  It took 1000 years for the doctrine of transubstantiation to creep into the sacrament.  It was about 600 years between the dispensation of Abraham and the dispensation of Moses, and 1400 years before the birth of Christ.  These time frames point to the fact that these apostasies developed in tiny, tiny, incremental, barely noticeable steps.  In other words, it sneaks up on us.  Only the greatest diligence in wielding priesthood stewardship can halt the historically repeated descent into chaos.

The Miracle of Order

One of the things that impressed me when I first joined the church was that, no matter where we went to church, everything was recognizable.  I could go to church in a different country – speaking a different language (and I did) – and I could still make it through the meetings with a good understanding of what was going on.  This was a great testimony builder to me that the church was being led by the spirit.  This cannot be said of any other church with the possible exceptions of the Catholic and European Orthodox churches – whose rites and services I understand pretty much follow a set format or script.  I now realize that this consistency in the LDS Church is the result of priesthood keys, and of the diligence and honor with which they are exercised.  It is through the priesthood keys, and the stewardship that accompanies them, handed down from the Lord through the Prophet to every stake president, bishop and elder’s quorum president – that the church will be able to combat the natural or social forces of entropy that have infected every other church since the beginning of time.

Imagine how quickly the ordinances of the gospel would change and “evolve” if we started doing our own baptisms, our own sacrament, etc – each individual adding his or her own twist.  It wouldn’t take very long before these saving ordinances would become grievously altered.  Even worse, it wouldn’t take very long, even, before disputations would arise as to whose version was more accurate and more efficacious.  It wouldn’t take very long before new churches would arise, built around different doctrines and different versions of the ordinances.  The priesthood keys are ultimately what define the Lord’s church.  They are what make it “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5)  Perhaps, in Zion or in the millennium, when we have transcended this telestial existence, such diligence will be less of a requirement because the spirit will have a more direct influence (even though I’m sure the Lord’s house will still be a house of order, and there will still be priesthood keys and ordinances) but the reality is that we live in a telestial world at this time, and it is the priesthood keys that hold the church together.

Looking at priesthood keys in the context of a stewardship is so enlightening and clarifying to me.  Every dispensational apostasy in recorded history was a direct result of the loss of priesthood keys.  Perhaps even more importantly, Christ Himself repeatedly commanded that we must avoid disputations and contention. (The word disputation is used 10 times, and the word contention 81 times in the Book of Mormon alone.)  He emphasized this in direct reference to the ordinances of baptism and the sacrament. Obviously this was important to Him and to us.  This stewardship required to honor these commandments and to stave off the deterioration into disputation and contention is not easy to maintain.  It is a miracle, even with the LDS Church’s inspired hierarchy, that it has been preserved as much as it has – a miracle directly attributable, in my mind, to the power and influence of the Holy Ghost, and to the good intentions of the men who hold the keys.  My testimony has been strengthened as a result of this understanding.  I hope it may serve to “unlock” your understanding as it did mine.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 31 other followers

%d bloggers like this: