My world has been repeatedly rocked the last few weeks by articles that have threatened every paradigm that I have of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. One article even went so far as to have my wife and I question why we were paying tithing and whether we should continue. This didn’t last very long – only a few minutes – but it is illustrative of how serious a test this period was for me. I found myself accepting what people said without research and allowing it to shake the very foundations of my faith in the church. I understand that my faith should be in the Savior and in my Heavenly Father, (rely not on the arm of flesh) but the church is an extension of their will, and if it’s not, well…….you get the idea – all things come into question.
I spent this past weekend with my sister, and we spent Saturday in the LA Temple doing the ordinance work for our step-mother and then sealing her to our father. It was a memorable day, and a special weekend. I started bouncing some of these things off her, and she basically recoiled….. “What ARE you doing? You’re heading toward apostasy, and you don’t even know why”. That gave me pause, of course, but it didn’t really stop me. However, on Monday morning, I re-read D&C section 50, of which verses 17-25 read:
Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
And if it be by some other way it is not of God.
And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
If it be some other way it is not of God.
Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?
Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.
And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness
That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you.
At this point, the light came on. I realized that not one of these articles that had caused me so much distress was written to edify – each one was written to tear down. They did not carry forth the spirit of God. They may have spoken true facts – although I suspect much of it was out of context or incomplete – but they did not have the “Spirit of truth”. I was in no way lifted up. The teacher was not teaching by the Spirit and I did not receive it in the spirit of truth. Those who wrote these articles were certainly not “ordained of me” and preaching the “word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth”. And since I did not “receive it by the spirit of truth”, it was by “some other way”, and therefore was “not of God”.
I have heard many who justify their harshness by claiming “the truth to be hard”. They think it justifies them in hammering away at whatever is the object of their scorn. However, the spirit of truth is much more than presenting facts, and presenting facts does not give one license to denigrate, cast aspersions, and question the integrity of their subject. The spirit of truth is a spirit which invokes the Holy Ghost, promotes peace, comfort and understanding, and brings all closer to God. It fills the heart, and leaves one yearning to learn more.
I’m not saying there is no place for exploring our past and seeking greater understanding – such is the source of all progress and growth. We may be enlightened and have our understanding, our expectations, our perspective enhanced by different interpretations of history, scripture, and the words of the prophets, but we will only be enlightened if these things are presented in the spirit of truth; with an eye toward building up, not toward tearing down. Just today I read another article, an article about tithing, and the moment I started reading, I could feel the spirit, and it was a spirit of destruction and condemnation. Those who would bring about Zion will never do so by indulging in or surrendering to such things. If such questions were to be addressed in the spirit of improving understanding and promoting faith rather than one of suspicion and animosity, they might actually lead somewhere positive, but the articles I am speaking of do not uphold that standard.
I attended some lectures a few months ago where the presenter repeatedly invoked the spirit, only to drive the spirit away by constantly reviling those who were the targets of the lectures. It became clear after a while that it was forbidden to criticize the prophets or the idols of liberty, but anybody who was perceived to be the enemy of liberty – rightfully or wrongfully – was fair game for any degree of ridicule. This cleverly veiled hypocrisy finally became too much for me and I divorced myself from the situation. I might have learned my lesson then, but my instruction was not yet complete.
Even now I have to call myself out on the practice of ridiculing government, secret combinations, crooked politicians, etc. I recognize that to rail against them has become something of a sport, a very serious sport, but this type of activity is just as offensive to the spirit of truth as attacking the church or the temples or the prophets. It is poison to the soul. These are very serious issues, but there must be a way to approach such things in a constructive, loving manner. It is certainly not easy, but to do otherwise is to further promote the darkness that is the trademark of the adversary himself. To fight Him with anything other than the spirit of truth and righteousness is to play right into his hands. A Zion people must rise above such things. We must love above all, and if criticism is necessary, it must be offered in the real Spirit of truth, with hope, compassion and understanding. If we do not do this, we poison ourselves, and drive a wedge between us and the Lord. Even the most outspoken prophets such as Ezra Taft Benson, David O. McKay, Spencer W. Kimball and Brigham Young spoke the truth with directness, but not in a demeaning way. They pointed the way toward a higher plane – not by tearing down, but by building up.
I suspect there will be those who say that I am just not ready for the truth or that I am trusting too much in the arm of flesh. Be that as it may, I have been feeling a darkness and confusion that was unsettling and disturbing. A good friend recently told me, “God is not a God of confusion.” (Thanks, Kristine) I am so thankful for the way the Lord brought me back from this darkness into the realm where He wants me to be, and where I feel comfortable and at peace. It was a test, a very personal test, and I was on the verge of failing it. I forgot that “….that which does not edify is not of God, and is darkness”. That’s how those things made me feel – dark. I found myself dwelling on my uncertainty and questioning the very things that have brought me this far in my quest for truth. I testify that truth – if it is truth – can be presented in such a way as to not violate the “Spirit of Truth”; that it can be presented in such a way that it is truly “of God”. When that is done, we all benefit. When it is not, we all suffer
I feel compelled at this time to testify that I know that God Lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that they will bless us with all things if we will but obey them. The passion that I spoke of in an earlier post continues to grow as the Lord continues to reward my entreaties with love and knowledge. I have come to realize that I truly have no desire to do evil. Like two magnets opposing each other, I have developed an abhorrence for sin that grows stronger every day. For every step that I draw closer to the Lord, He takes two towards me; for every milestone of obedience that I conquer, He showers me with love and increased wisdom and understanding. My sins have been forgiven, and I step out each day cleaner than the day before.
My wife is the most precious person in the world to me. It may sound trite to say it, but there just aren’t words to adequately express my constantly deepening love for her. Sometime I just want to sweep her up into my arms and squeeze until we are one – melded together – body and soul. I know that this, of all things, is most pleasing to God.
The temple is a sacred place – a place like no other where we can truly draw close to Him. I have never had such a testimony of the temple as I do today – and I find myself craving its warm embrace. It is a particularly crude and chaffing manifestation of this telestial existence that I cannot attend the temple every day.
The Gospel is true and it is love, and I so testify, with love and rejoicing, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.