The most joy in one’s wife

Each married man is faced at all times with two doors. Through one comes the joy of his wife. The other is the door through which one might allow the many provocative things that the adversary has to offer, ranging from the least to the most serious. These all involve someone other than our wife. It is comprised of gratification either independent of one’s spouse, or of gratification that in any way involves someone who isn’t one’s spouse. In my opinion it is a fundamental, unalterable, part of the nature of these two doors than if one allows the adversary’s door of gratification through others to be open even the least bit, then the door of joy in one’s wife swings to be almost entirely closed. It doesn’t close entirely if one doesn’t do anything outside the bounds of chastity – a crack will remain open and how wide that crack is depends upon how seriously one has opened the other door. The important thing is that opening the adversary’s door even a little largely closes the door of joy in one’s wife so it doesn’t take much to close the door of joy in one’s wife almost to a crack. It will, by and large, stay open that much as long as one doesn’t go so far as to cut off oneself from one’s wife completely through serious sin. The great secret to opening the door of joy in one’s wife fully is to make the extra effort needed to keep the adversary’s door completely closed. Other aspects related to the divinely appointed use of one’s body almost certainly come into play, like submitting fully to the Lord’s counsel to multiply and replenish the earth.

If you don’t believe me. Try it. Not just for a day, give it some time. Put aside any pretense that you can look at an image that is provocative and that it doesn’t affect you for whatever reason you have rationalized. I am not talking about pornography addictions. I am talking about the small things we nickel and dime ourselves to death with. I am talking about the sleaze that surrounds us that we are “big enough” to look at without thinking about, or to say “it doesn’t bother me” or to say that we can “ignore” it. And don’t do it half way. Do it 100%. Doing so might mean turning off a lot of television, movies, and closing a lot of books. But it is my believe that if you will delight the Lord in your respect for his daughters, he will magnify your delight in your wife.

Though, yes, if you aren’t submitting to the purpose for which the fountains of life were given, if you are intentionally damming them up, I can’t say that I think it is still true in that case at all.

The Doctrine of Christ, Revelation, and The Gift of the Holy Ghost

I recently read the claim made in a well circulated article that the reason Nephi saw Lehi’s dream was because he would write it down for the rest of us. This is part of a common group of misunderstandings. It is a group of ideas that goes something like this:

God calls prophets (not based on their virtue per se, it is a calling, like Sunday School teacher)
They receive revelation because they have been called as prophets. (Being a prophet merits them the right to revelation)
Regular people don’t receive revelation, because they aren’t called as prophets.

Ugh.

Ugh, ugh, ugh.

The great revelations in the scriptures were:
(1) generally given primarily as a means of saving the individual to whom they were given, and not as a means of communicating information to the masses. As evidence of that I would point out that
(2) almost all were kept completely private, we have only a glimpse of what a few of them contained, except those that were specifically direction from the Lord addressed to a person or group of people other than the revelator,
(3) They were not given based on someone’s calling but on someone’s proper preparation – if you can receive revelation on the basis of your calling rather than on the basis of proper preparation then the apostacy should never have happened, because genuine revelation could continue in a priesthood made up of apostates.
(4) The world has revelation through the Lord not because he arbitrarily called some as revelators, but because some were so good that they were able to obtain revelations. That is the way things work. The Lord didn’t need Joseph Smith to give the first vision. But he did need someone as good as Joseph Smith to receive the first vision. We weren’t benefited by the Lord’s arbitrarily calling one person, instead we were benefited by one person being so faithful that the Lord could speak to him. And that is why the Lord chose to call him. And thus it is with all revelation. We obtain it not because the Lord bestows it capriciously, but because men sincerely seeking him learn to hear his voice. And of course it is such men that he chooses. It is the same way we obtain salvation. One person, Jesus Christ, was so faithful that he could redeem us from sin. It was by the virtues of an individual that we can be redeemed. It is by the virtues of an individual that the door to revelation is opened. Without sufficient faith to open the heavens, God could do no such miracle among them.

Are most of the great manifestations in the scriptures primarily for the sake of the individual receiving it, or for some other group? They were mostly for the salvation of the person actually receiving the revelation at the time.  And in fact, we don’t even have the vast bulk of the contents of them. That is because they were for the salvation of the person experiencing them. Take Joseph Smith in the sacred grove who only gives us a tiny glimpse of what he experienced, stating only that he was told a great many other things. His main account doesn’t even inform of the many angels that participated, which he mentions elsewhere. Or take Moroni’s nighttime appearance to Joseph Smith. One can read all that is recorded and referenced there three times without staying up the entire night long, or even without getting to bed late – the vast bulk of the instruction he received isn’t passed on to us because it wasn’t for us that it was given. In both cases it was for Joseph Smith’s own salvation that he was seeking in prayer, and the vast bulk of what was received was given for exactly that purpose and for no other, and hence was passed on to no other individual.

Christ communed with God for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness, but we hear nothing except that it happened. Why not? Wasn’t he out getting revelation for us?

Joseph Smith taught that:

All men know that they must die. And it is important that we should understand the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life and of death, and the designs and purposes of God in our coming into the world, our suffering here, and our departure hence. What is the object of our coming into existence, then dying and falling away, to be here no more? It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other. We ought to study it day and night, for the world is ignorant in reference to their true condition and relation. If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject. Could we read and comprehend all that has been written from the days of Adam, on the relation of man to God and angels in a future state, we should know very little about it. Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose. Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 324).

Notice what this is teaching. The first half is that there is critical knowledge that we need to gain, and that if we have any claim on our God it is for that knowledge. But the second half tells us that while we ought to study it day and night, still “reading the experience of others, or the revelation given the them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God.” Put differently, the knowledge that we need and have a claim on God for in the first half is also knowledge that cannot be gained by reading about other’s experiences and revelations. He concludes that “Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.” And that is the whole point. You can’t gain the knowledge promised in the first half by reading about it. You have to gaze into heaven five minutes on your own.

Do men get revelations because of their calling, or because of their worthiness? Take Enoch, who had no calling that we can tell when the Lord spake to him from heaven, then showed him visions of things to come. Take Deborah. Take Nephi, who had no calling. On what basis did Nephi believe he could see visions?

1 Nephi 11:1 “For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart…”

Wait, it had nothing to do with a calling to preside over millions of people? What a weirdo. Only a weirdo would think that the reason we have the gift of the Holy Ghost is because:

John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things

and that the very purpose of receiving the Holy Ghost is so we can come to know God through personal revelation:

No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator. (Teachings page 328)

If the Holy Ghost is only to confirm the occasional question, and warn of occasional danger, then it seems like pretty serious overkill to give us companionship of which we read:

Moses 6:61 Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.

Can’t one see by looking at this that this isn’t just the Holy Ghost’s resume’? It is a description of the reason we are given his companionship.

Joseph Smith said:

“But I am learned, and know more than all the world put together. The Holy Ghost does, anyhow, and He is within me, and comprehends more than all the world: and I will associate myself with Him.” (Teachings page 350)

The point is for us to get the Holy Ghost. To get it powerfully enough that we know more than all the world put together because we have associated ourselves with him, the truth of all things, which has all power. We can tell when we are beginning to get the Holy Ghost because it always comes with revelation. The Holy Ghost is a revelator and no man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelation.

One of the the things we learn through the Holy Ghost is just what kind of a being Jesus Christ and God the Father are. We learn their character. We kind of assume we all already know that. But I would defy that notion, because Joseph Smith said.

When we begin to learn this way, we begin to learn the only true God, and what kind of a being we have got to worship. Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer. When we understand the character of God, and how to come to him, he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to him, he is ready to come to us. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 349)

Put differently, when we really do understand the character of God and how to come to him, he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. If  God isn’t unfolding the heaven’s and telling us all about it as he did to Moses in Moses 1, then we should step back and realize that, according to Joseph Smith, we don’t yet know the character of God and how to come to him. I am in that boat myself. But it is far better to be in that boat, and recognize it, than to be in the boat, and assume the opposite is true.

Revelation is not received outside of one’s own worthiness and preparation. Whom you can instruct by a statement of revelation depends upon your calling. But you cannot receive revelation above your general worthiness and preparedness just because you got a calling. Callings made by the priesthood do not and cannot substitute in place of the virtue and spiritual preparation of the recipient. If they could, there would have been no great apostacy. They could have just kept on going, worthy or not because they had a certain calling. A calling may inspire a person to take his responsibilities more seriously, or get him doing work that will prepare his mind for revelation, but the calling itself does not grant revelation outside of one’s own worthiness and preparation.

Having covered this, we are in a position to clearly understand what is being taught in the last half of 3 Nephi 11. So let’s go ahead since we are in a position to.

We learn the Christ’s doctrine is not to stir up the hearts of men, but to do such things away.

3 Nephi 11:30 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.
31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.

We tend to assume that what Christ is saying is that we are never to contend in any way. But then, there is captain Moroni, and the Lord’s own commandment to content for the gospel truth in the doctrine and covenants.

The Lord’s doctrine is that such things shall be done away. But his method of arriving there is not that we just all decide to be one with everybody. His method for achieving that is critical. Otherwise, we have reduced Christ’s doctrine to the hippy chorus “all you need is love” which President Monson spoke so demeaningly of not long ago in General Conference.

 32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
 33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
 34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

The phrase “beareth record” does not mean that they each will verbally speak in favor of the other two. It means that each one is in every way like the other as far as what they would choose to do in any matter involving good and evil. It means, as Christ put it, that if his disciple’s had seen him, they had seen the Father. If they knew what Christ would do, then they knew precisely what his Father would do, not one bit more or less. It means that each is a complete and perfect representative of the other in every matter that touches on good and evil. Christ’s doctrine is one in which the member’s of the Godhead each bear record of each other in that sense.

But then he goes on that his Father commands everyone to repent, believe in Christ, and be baptized. Why? Because that is the path to becoming one with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in the same way that they are one with each other.

 35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
 36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.

So here we have it more clearly. He again calls it his doctrine, just as above when he said his doctrine was to do away with contention. But here, he has gone further and given us a fuller statement of his doctrine that says HOW he will do away with contention.

His doctrine is that the Father bears record of Christ by visiting those who are baptized with the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost then bears record of the Father and the Son. How? Well, because the more we have the Holy Ghost, the more we know the true character of God far above and beyond what we could learn by simply reading about Christ. To whatever degree we can get the Holy Ghost, to that degree we know who the Father and the Son are. If we can get the Spirit, then we know what they would do, and to that degree, we become one with the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Christ’s doctrine is that we repent, are baptized, and must really grow into the gift of the Holy Ghost. Insofar as we do then we are following his doctrine. Insofar as mankind does, there will be no contentions among them, because they will individually bear record of the Father and the Son, and will thereby become one. His plan is that we repent, are baptized, and really get the Holy Ghost into our lives. And to whatever degree we do, to that degree we begin to become one with the Father and the Son.

 37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
 38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

We cannot inherit the kingdom of God without being baptized and receiving the kingdom of God, because we cannot inherit the kingdom of God without becoming one with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost as they are one with each other, and we cannot do that unless we have the gift of the Holy Ghost.

And there is much more to it than that. Growing into the gift of the Holy Ghost is growing into the principle of revelation. A man cannot receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. As we get the Holy Ghost we get to know the character of God, and it is only after that he can begin to unfold the heavens and tell us all about it. Somewhere in there maybe we can show forth faith more like a Nephi who simply stated:

1 Nephi 11:For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord …

Back to 3 Nephi 11 we next read

39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
 40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

So apparently this doctrine matters. If we are trying to teach this doctrine and build on it, then we are in a good place. But if we are teaching that revelation is only for prophets, we aren’t building on a good foundation. Our foundation needs to be the doctrine of Christ: repentance, baptism, and then becoming one with the Godhead as we get the Holy Ghost in our lives and he bears record of them to us.

Where is wisdom

Recently I have seen a number of people testify online one way or another to how Christlike the homosexual and lesbian people they have known were. Has our notion of “Christlike” really deteriorated that completely? Is politeness the main measuring stick we use to determine whether someone should be taken as a model of the Savior? Sadly, the testators in this case were otherwise sane members of the church.

How have we forgotten so completely what everyone used to know?

Why is it that homosexuality is no longer a perversion, and now people just can’t get in line fast enough to praise those involved in it?

Ishmael traded his birthright for a mess of pottage. We recognize how irrational that was, and yet turn around and trade ours for nothing more than a well told story: an exciting movie, an intriguing television series, a titillating book, or an engaging piece of music. There is nothing that our music, our movies, our television offers that is worth trading our basic notions of good and evil for.

First we decided that adultery and fornication were not terribly offensive. We even determined that having a woman and a man engage in sex on our television screen wasn’t offensive as long as the movie was otherwise “worth it”, and didn’t show “too much”, and as long as everyone watching it was at least 13 years old. Can we not step back and look at that and recognize that we sold some of our own fundamental understanding of good and evil when we made that decision?

Now we have moved on to homosexuality and lesbianism. They used to be recognized as perversion, but now the only really horrible thing to do is to say that such things are evil. Did we not trade some of our basic knowledge of good and evil to get to this point?

Ironically, those who make the trade not only give up their own sensibilities, they turn around and preach it to the rest of us as the real gospel. We have traded it so far that there are many who would be offended to hear it called a matter of good and evil. They think in their hearts “Why would we need to know what is good and what is evil? All we need to do is to love everybody.”

But there is a difference between being loving, or even forgiving someone their offenses toward us, and staying away from evil. They are completely different things. If they were not different, then we would not have scriptures that said both:

D&C 64:10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.

and

1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators

Are we to assume Paul was simply unfamiliar with the Lord’s teachings? Or are the two genuinely different matters? If there are scriptures stating both then we know that they are not contradictory principles.

We are becoming terribly well grounded in the teachings of our media, in the ideas of our society, and don’t have more than a minute or two between television, movies, music, books, video games, and websites to read our scriptures.

How can I be sure? Because of the doctrines that are being taken up so wholeheartedly among our members. Even the most stalwart have started singing a song that is completely at odds with the song of redeeming love in these matters because you cannot be calling someone involved in serious sin a model of Christlike behavior without condoning their actions, and Christ never condoned sin, not even once.

Where is wisdom? Should good members really recommend someone as a model of the Christ who is engaging in homosexuality or lesbianism? Should I really even need to ask?

Matthew 12:36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

I hope we can turn around. We were already under the condemnation spoken of in D&C 84 before this. It said our minds were darkened and we would be under condemnation until we would remember the Book of Mormon as well as the Lord’s former commandments (i.e. the other scriptures and revelations). The Lord further said at the time that if we would not repent there remained a scourge that we, the members of his church, would have to undergo. This was true at the time it was given and we still have not changed. We have had that long to repent and return to the scriptures, with an open statement by the Lord that we are under condemnation for neglecting them. Shall we not consider his longstanding question given to us in these same verses, “For shall the children of the kingdom pollute my holy land?” before we go around labeling those committing the sin next to murder continuously as models of Jesus Christ?

The tragedy of Divorce

I wanted to write some articles on the general question “Where are the joys of the gospel?” It seems we are missing so many of the intended joys as the worlds practices press their way more firmly into our midst.

The tragedy of Divorce.
————————————
There is something worth noticing in the fact that the primary scriptures we have about divorce don’t come from just
anybody. They are the words of the Savior. He actively took opportunities to condemn divorce.

The best discussion of divorce begins with his words.

Matthew 5:31 It hath been said, Whosever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her her to
commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Matthew 19:7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away.
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your heartss suffered you to put away your wives but from the beginning it was not so.
9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery;
and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Mark 10:2 And the Pharisees came to him and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.
3 And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?
4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.
5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept
6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and moter, and cleave to his wife;
8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
10 and in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.
11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.
12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she commiteth adultery.

Luke 16:18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another committeth adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

Those are very clear statements.

Certainly the church today, as in the days of Christ, allows one to be divorced. But do we believe that if Christ were here today that he would not still say that, while we were allowed to divorce, that it only because of the hardness of our hearts. Would be point out that from the beginning it was not so.

We can’t imagine what that would have been like, to be there in the days of Adam and Eve when, according to Christ, there was no such thing as divorce except in case of fornication. What immediately comes to mind is how restrictive that would have been if someone’s spouse turned out to be horrible. And goodness sake, those were days when you weren’t stuck with a difficult spouse for 50 years, you were stuck with them for 800 years! But if it was not so from the beginning, and if we have faith in God, then that really was a better way. It may be that there was something in the complete inability to divorce a chaste spouse that brought about a greater seriousness in the minds of those making their choices, and probably more importantly, a willingness to, in time, work out differences because there was simply no alternative. If necessity is the mother of invention then it may be that such necessity was also the mother of inventing ways to get along with each other.

Divorce is always tragic, because it began as the creation of something wonderful – two people are forged into a union which can create a family. It has the potential to grow into eternal posterity together and mutual exaltation in one another. And when that which God has put together is sundered asunder, it is always tragic because it could have become something wonderful and eternal.

The Ox that lived in the Mire

It is interesting to compare the scriptures on the Sabbath to our present day practices.

In the old testament the Lord tells the Israelites that they are not to work on the Sabbath, nor to allow those who are strangers staying with them to work on the Sabbath, nor to allow their maid servant nor any one else to work on the Sabbath.
Then along come the Pharisees, who turn the Sabbath, tithing, and a handful of other virtues into extreme overcompensations for rationalizing away their own misbehavior in the serious matters such as justice, judgement, mercy, faith, and sexual purity.
When someone takes something good so far that it becomes a vice, one of the bad side effects is that onlookers may determine that the good thing wasn’t of any particular value. And the Pharisees do seem to have had that effect on us. We don’t really look at any of the scriptures on the Sabbath previous to them. It is as if the Pharisee’s over compensation with that commandment had rendered the previous discussions null and void.
Previous to the Pharisees the Lord told the Israelites that if they would not keep his Sabbath day holy then he would give them into the hands of their enemies and leave the land desolate, so that the land could rest during its Sabbaths.
Now Christ pointed out that when our ox is in the mire, we pull it out, even on the Sabbath. But his counsel seems to have been twisted out of all common sense as to what he intended by it given the other scriptures on the matter. Christ’s example endorses the need to handle unanticipated emergencies. But that is very different than feeling like you can’t insist that your religion forbids you from working on the Sabbath day at any whim that your boss might have. An employer that likes to keep its doors open on Sunday is not an unanticipated ox in the mire.

It was in a culture of individuals insisting one’s religion prohibited working on the Sabbath that most businesses were closed on Sunday a century ago.

Instead we have taken the scripture to mean: As long as an employer doesn’t actually like having you take Sundays off, you should not work on the Sabbath.

Why can’t we just say “that is against my religion”, or “it is against my religion to work on sunday”? Is the Lord’s hand shortened at all that he cannot make up for whatever troubles standing up for his commandments will bring about? Would we not find ourselves enjoying greater blessings, not fewer, if we determined to keep the Sabbath day holy?

We must not corrupt Christ’s counsel about unanticipated emergencies into a personal parable of the ox that lives in the mire.

In the LDS faith our devotion to this principle has become so watered down that it approaches a statement of “My religion is that I can only work on Sunday if my boss suggests that it might be a good idea, or if it would be beneficial to the company, or if I really have a lot to do, ….”

Can we really say our situations are more desperate than the third world people of Israel trying to raise crops for their families? For those people the financial questions were not about keeping up with the Jones’s. Their constant financial question was “will we starve to death, or will we have enough food to make it through winter”? Have any of us really ever faced that kind of financial question, i.e. will I watch my family starve to death? No, we have not. We are fooling ourselves if we pretend that we have faced any financial troubles that touch on the daily burden of poverty among the truly poor. And yet it was precisely to those sort of people that the Lord initially said “Ye shall not work on my holy day”. It was clearly a significant sacrifice he required of them.

Whatever the cost is initially of determining to keep the Sabbath day holy, we will be blessed for keeping those commandments far more than we will for rationalizing them away to almost nothing.

Now, in the tradition of making any advocacy for a commandment into a straw man, I will go ahead and say it for those of you that wanted to: “But what about hospitals and other emergency personel, and what about electricity, and ….?”. Yes, you must be right, the Lord wants everyone to be spineless about working on Sunday if there are women having babies on Sunday, or even if there may be oxes that are stuck in the mire. You are right. If there are emergency exceptions, there can’t possibly be a rule.

Book draft excerpt – Satan’s missionary program – The Modern Media

This is an excerpt from my book on the atonement.

We live in a day when we are surrounded by many, many opportunities to make small, but consistent moral mistakes. The billboards, the grocery store checkout isle magazines are blatant examples but far more insidious is the media we bring home: books, movies, magazines, websites and music. Like David who looked from his rooftop and chanced to see something he should have turned away from, we seem surrounded by temptation lurking around every corner of day to day life. My family was disappointed when a google image search for “car” returned results that included some scantily clad women with cars, but when a similar search for “horse” turned up a sleazily dressed woman with a horse, we were downright surprised. Thus we live in a day where there is a constant flow of temptation to look, read and listen where we ought not. We are perpetually on David’s rooftop. We can hardly escape in our own living room.

Let us not pretend these temptations are not strong. The body is the great gift of mortality, the grand prize given to all who kept their first estate. But to a great degree “the test” we experience in this life revolves around what we will do with that gift. I am not sure anyone is as frank as Christ is in the matter. Christ stated that for a man to not look upon a woman to lust after her is to “take up [his] cross”. Referring to this as a man’s cross could come from no more compelling source than the Savior who would literally carry his own. Thus Christ Himself is extremely frank that for a man to look on a woman to lust after her is a serious and compelling temptation.
Our media provides a bountiful feast of interesting music, movies, books and video games. It is natural to love stories and music, but our media’s many intriguing offerings quickly turn out to be a maze where almost every turn seems to lead us down a dark corridor of innuendo, filth and sleaze. I have heard it said that Satan doesn’t tell only lies, as then people wouldn’t believe him. He instead tells lies mixed with truth, making the overall effect of his message a lie. Thus it is with our media. It pulls us constantly into small moral compromises we would never have allowed by themselves. It is a steady diet of the philosophies of men mingled with scripture. Only now days it is mixed with more adultery and less with scripture.
If we decide that we are big enough to watch shows or listen to music with innuendo, or with sleaze, or immodesty, or that portray immorality or perversions like homosexuality as normal then our media drains us, and makes us lukewarm instead of hot. It makes us a pale imitation of ourselves, spiritually. It saps even an otherwise good church member’s interest in family, fills one’s mouth with spite toward one’s spouse, divides parents and children, it drains one of an interest in good meaningful gospel doctrine. When we partake of an evil scene in a film, or even of the running milder sleaze that taints some entire film it gives that being who so tempts us some degree of power over that aspect of our lives – over intimacy, family, fatherhood, parenthood,  and childhood.
Why are so many, many members of the church unwilling to listen to the commandment to “multiply and replenish”? This was the first commandment, the great objective the fall was undertaken to obtain. I suspect it is largely because we allow ourselves be nickeled and dimed to disaster, giving Satan power to blind and influence us by partaking of the moral degeneration in our media here a little and there a little until with flaxen ties the devil has bound such a firm grip around us that, while we may stay away from moral disasters, we can hardly expect to be sensitive to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost or even the plain word of the Lord regarding the sacred gift of intimacy – that we are to “multiply”, that children need a mother in the home, that men should, if at all possible, bear the burden of providing the necessities of life for a family, and that a fancy home, a nice TV and a second car are not those “necessities”. That we should partake of the joy offered us in the gift of having children freely. If Jesus, though weary, still said “suffer the little children to come unto [me]” what other path can those who seek to follow him reasonably take?
We have, in some ways, backed away from a serious study of our doctrine because we are so used to hearing the voice of the adversary’s missionary program: the many forms of bad media ranging from the borderline media that gets us to just soften our views, to the movie that has “just a scene”, to downright pornography. With this loud and insistent message drowning out all that is good and virtuous it isn’t surprising that the result is a dulled interest in marriage, in family, in children, in mothers that stay home, as well as in the doctrines of the gospel, which are so intimately connected to family it is difficult to see where one starts and the other ends.
The popular actors, actresses, musicians and other entertainers of our day are notorious for not being able to make a marriage last even a few years. Many of our youth’s ideas about love, romance and choosing a spouse are learned directly from the romance they see in their entertainment. It should be pointed out that from even a purely practical standpoint listening to Hollywood, popular music and popular literature on the topics of love, romance, marriage, family and children is like going into a restaurant that serves the most intolerably disgusting food and then having the chef come out and offer heavy handed advice about how to cook. An industry rife with people who can’t stay married four years, much less forty should not be where our youth learn about what romance and love are. It should not be where they learn what to look for in a spouse. Our youth need these false teachings frankly rebutted. They also need true teachings about these great topics. But they can’t have them, not even from us, if we are indulging in the constant moral compromises that we make when we partake of the vast, vast bulk of modern media. If we choose to blind ourselves with these things then we can be no better than blind guides to our children in these essential matters.

The important point here is that Hollywood and our music and book industry offer a constant stream of very interesting and enjoyable media which regular people enjoy – but that it comes poisoned with seductive scenes, innuendo, a constant flow of immodesty, of portraying immorality as acceptable, and a constant stream of vile ideas. When we participate constantly in what we justify as being only a little wrong it gives the adversary power over us to a degree and that constant flow can sum up to a large effect one little bit at a time. Thus this is Satan’s great missionary program through which he has converted many to his ideas and through which he ties down members to apathy and harms their sense of family, spouse, the joy of children, keeps mothers in the workplace and divides parents from children.  Through this means he leads the bulk of the nation by the nose in all matters related to intimacy, family, morality, virtue, the role of parents, the role of children, and everything related to intimacy and family.

The value of knowing our temple covenants

We all realize that when we are baptized we are making covenants.

A covenant is a promise between us and God. If we keep our part of the promise, then we will gain the promised blessings. If we do not keep our part of the promise, then we will not obtain the promised blessings. That seems pretty straight forward.

We also make covenants in the temple, and we very much want to receive the promised blessings.

So I think it is important as we go back to the temple to put forth the effort to learn, and be able to recall outside the temple, what it is we covenanted to do while we were in the temple. A thought can change an action, and if our temple covenants are far from our minds they cannot intercede in the moments when we might have kept them, had we remembered what they were.

Both works and faith are to be required of potential converts

I recently ran into a scripture that corrects some of what I have seen advocated for missionary work. I have heard various people boldly claim at times that as soon as someone says they are ready to be baptized, then they are ready, no matter how they had been living beforehand. I didn’t realize there were relevant scriptures.

D&C 20:68 The duty of the members after they are received by baptism—The elders or priests are to have a sufficient time to expound all things concerning the church of Christ to their understanding, previous to their partaking of the sacrament and being confirmed by the laying on of the hands of the elders, so that all things may be done in order.
 69 And the members shall manifest before the church, and also before the elders, by a godly walk and conversation, that they are worthy of it, that there may be works and faith agreeable to the holy scriptures—walking in holiness before the Lord.

Now these verses dictate a practice that we have changed, and that is fine as we believe in modern prophets. But let us look at what they say, and then apply the principles to the modern practice.

It is clear from these verses that being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost were not done together. This dictates that before being confirmed and also before being able to partake of the sacrament (I would never have guessed those went together in the Lord’s mind) the members needed to complete the following duties:

Before being confirmed, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and partaking of the sacrament, members have a duty to:
1. Give sufficient time by which all things concerning the church can be expounded to their understnading
2. Prove by a godly walk and conversation that they are worthy of it. The “it” they need to prove they are worthy of is confirmation and gift of the Holy Ghost, which apparently gives them the right to partake of the sacrament. The reasoning here is that faith alone is not sufficient, they need prove that they will both have faith and also do the work of walking in holiness before the Lord.

These days we do baptism and confirmation together. How would these scriptures apply to the modern practice?

Well, they still say that before someone can be confirmed, get the gift of the Holy Ghost, and partake of the sacrament they need to have all things concerning the church expounded to them, and that they must prove by a godly walk and conversation that they are worthy of it so that the requirement of works and faith are both satisfied.

Thus this dictates that potential converts are to have time to prove that they will do the works required of the gospel covenants. For those who already are, or essentially are, doing the works required of the gospel covenants this is easy and it would take very little time. The point is that the church requires both “works and faith”, not just faith, and this requirement proves they will do the works. The only way they can “dictate by a godly walk and conversation” is by having time to demonstrate that, or by having already been demonstrating it before they were converted. Otherwise, they cannot “manifest” a “godly walk and conversation” before the church.

For those who not already living close to the gospel standards, this says they should not be confirmed until they have had time to manifest not only by their faith, but by their actual works that they really will walk in holiness before the Lord. Otherwise they have not done what was necessary to prove that they were worthy to be confirmed and get the gift of the Holy Ghost. Since we now do baptism and confirmation together, and we still need people to be worthy of confirmation in the Lord’s eyes before doing a confirmation, then to adapt this to the modern practice they need to be given this time before baptism as well.

A profound, if suprising response from my wife

One of my children asked Diane the question “Who is your favorite child?”

Diane responded, “I really don’t feel more love for one of you than another, but I am closer to the ones that spend more time with me.”

Diane explained further that, at that time, she felt particularly close to Ruth because Ruth would seek out opportunities to talk to her. Ruth would go with Diane to pick up the kids from school just so Ruth could tell Diane about her day. And Diane said that because Ruth was doing that, she felt particularly close to Ruth at that time.

Now this is definitely not the expected answer, especially because it wasn’t Ruth that was asking. The expected answer is “I love all of you the same.” But Diane’s answer is probably a more complete, and more true answer than that. When I spend time with Ruth on a contest, I feel closer to Ruth. When I spend consistent time on family history with Kate, I feel closer to Kate. When I play games frequently with Johnny, I feel closer to Johnny. When I get home and Adam, or Rachel, or Anya, or Joseph, is waiting at the door saying “What are we going to do together today?”, especially when they do it for a few days in a row, I feel all glowy inside about that little one who wants to do something with their dad. When Joshua snuggles up next to me, or builds Legos with me, I am closer to Joshua. When Arwen comes up to me to tell me she loves me, or climbs silently onto my shoulders and just stays for a long time, I feel a particular closeness to that little girl. Particular if she does it over a few days. When Susan is just excited to see me and look at me, my heart is all aglow over Susan. I don’t suddenly love other children less, but there is a closeness that comes from their love and desires as well as from consistent time spent doing something together.

Nephi was “highly favored of the Lord”. Right there at the beginning of the Book of Mormon we learn that Nephi was “favored”, and not just a little bit, he was “highly favored”. Why? Because he wanted to be a good son. Because he wanted to listen to the Lord and follow his directions. I really think that my wife said something more true and profound than what society dictates parents should say to their children, because it is closer to what the scriptures teach about the Father and his children.

Sin gives the adversary power and influence

This is a topic that I have long thought needed to be addressed. I am hoping to write a few pieces on it in addition to what is covered in my book on the atonement.

It is bound to be an unpopular topic, but I really think it needs to be stated. The point is that when we sin we give the adversary a measure of power and influence in that area of our life in which we sinned.

If we understood that sin gives Satan power over people, the world around us would make a lot more sense. A woman writes a blog about how she has decided not to wear leggings because she has decided they aren’t modest. She gets ridiculed by sources far and sundry. Why? She didn’t say nobody else could do so. She didn’t say it should be a law.

Anyone who honestly sits back and looks at this can tell that it doesn’t make proper sense, and yet it happened. Why?

For just a moment, let’s take a quick look at a brighter side of the picture.
Anyone who does their family history has likely felt tugs at their ideas, pushing them to research for another child, to research a parent, or some such thing. 


Joseph Smith taught that our dead try and gather their descendants to the truth when he said “… angels come down, combine together to gather their children, and gather them.” (Teachings, page 159). Notice that he said the angels gather their children, meaning their descendants. The spirits of our dead ancestors can influence us. We may not physically “hear” their voice, but some measure of what they say enters our thoughts as we grow sensitive to them. The more we hearken, the more we become sensitive to them and are inspired by them our family history research.

But the spirits of our departed ancestors aren’t the only spirits who seek to influence us. We know that an entire third of the host of heaven is here in spirit form tempting us. Just as with the spirits of our departed dead, whose voices we become more sensitive to as we listen, so also the rebellious spirits we hearken to gain influence as we listen to them. They gain a measure of power over us whenever we listen to them instead of to God.

And if we don’t understand that, the world is a different place altogether.

So why does one woman writing that she has decided to be modest whip up such a frenzy, even among people who are otherwise doing good things? Because even if good otherwise, they are not people who believe in modesty. They are used to hearkening to spirits that tell them that modesty is no matter, and while there is no rational reason one other woman’s choice should anger them, it does anger the tempters they are used to paying heed to, and so they turn around and mock and take notice and criticize her.

We all know that Joseph Smith wrote that

JSH 1:23  ..though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.



Why would the claims of an obscure boy of no moment excite such energy to oppose him? If we don’t realize that sin gives the adversary power and influence in people’s lives it makes no sense. But if we do, we are not at all surprised to see such a thing taking place.

We read in the Book of Mormon that:


2 Nephi 28:20 For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.
 21 And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
 22 And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.

Who are these people that the devil flattered, or whispered that all is well to? The prophet? Well the devil could, and surely he tries, but it does him no good. In one who does little wrong, the adversary has little influence. It was the people who were used to listening to the devil’s temptations, who are used to hearkening to his temptations to sin, who the devil can easily flatter and lull, or stir up to anger against good things. And where does this power and influence come from? He gains this power and influence when they hearkened to his temptations to sin and do wrong instead of listening to God’s commandments to the contrary. 
Joseph Smith said “The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power.” (Teachings, page 181) 

How can the devil “rage in the hearts of the children of men”? Can he just do that to anybody? No, that is possibly through the influence and power he gains over those who hearken to his temptations. It is by sin that he gains such power and influence over people, and most dramatically so by the more serious sins,

And we see that in the world around us now. Those who didn’t understand this believed that when the “love and tolerance for perversion” crowd got the upper hand they would bring forth their promised universal love and tolerance for everyone. Those who knew the doctrine better knew that particular crowd was moved by the adversary and that once they got the upper hand, love and tolerance would be the last thing they would show for truth and right.

Now there is a lot more to this whole topic. I address the topic in great detail in my book on the atonement because understanding the nature of sin does a lot to bring the atonement for sin into sharper focus.

But I did think I should at least write a bit or two about it elsewhere. There are so many foolish and dangerous things being said and done because we don’t understand this.