Monday, August 17, 2015

"Yes, Lord, I Will Follow Thee", by Elder Eduardo Gavarret

Find this talk here.

  • The analogy in the "follow the voice" game is kinda silly, because there are no concrete criteria for distinguishing between the correct voice and other voices. He says he "felt confident" he was following the right voice, and his experience demonstrates perfectly that we can't rely on that confidence.
    • That said, it's helpful to promise the Lord, concretely, that we will follow Him.
    • Later he says the Lord's voice "cannot be confused".  Does that mean the Lord won't get confused, or we can't possibly confuse the Lord's voice with something else? Certainly the former is true, but it sounds like he's saying the latter, which is provably wrong. The scriptures never tell us we'll recognize Christ by some unmistakable voice we automatically recognize; they tell us to recognize Him by His fruits. Joseph Smith gives us keys in D&C 129 to test angelic visitors by shaking their hands; if Christ's message were unmistakable there, we wouldn't need those keys.
  • Elder Gavarret tells us non-members will receive the invitation to come unto Christ through the missionaries' invitation to be baptized, but he over-simplifies the situation. Many reject that invitation because they simply don't care about Christ, whether He lives or not, but many do care about Christ yet don't see His connection to the Church.
  • These days, the Church talks far more about following the prophet than about following Christ. Certainly most, if not all, members would agree they're following the prophet in order to better follow Christ, but Christ didn't tell us to find some proxy by which to follow Him; in fact He told us we'd be cursed by accepting someone else as our intermediary for Him.
    • "and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate;" 2 Ne 9:41
  • "As you strive to come to Him, you will gain the power to relieve life’s burdens, whether physical or spiritual, and experience a positive inner change that will help you be happier." This is exactly the sort of looking for Christ's fruits that we should be engaged in. It's not until we see that fruit that we can be confident we're doing the right thing.
  • The Lord's invitation to Enoch was far more than "walk with me." It included promises of great power, and the blessing of becoming a seer.
  • The change generated within a person such that they no longer want to do evil is related to following Christ, but it's the specific fruit of the baptism of fire, an experience few claim to have had anymore, and a doctrine about which the Church no longer allows itself to preach specifically. The Correlation committee requires all Church materials -- including General Conference talks -- to remain within a specific list of about 70 topics, and the baptism of fire is not on that list. I think I've mentioned this essay in earlier notes, but refer to it for more details, specifically chapter 13.
  • His list of steps to walk with Christ differs from the scriptural pattern. Alma 32 tells us to experiment upon the word, and check its fruits. Abraham, we're told, sought after the priesthood by following righteousness (Abraham 1:2). We can't find someone's message, assume it's from Christ, and follow it bull-headed to wherever it leads; we must find evidence that a message really is from Christ.

Friday, August 14, 2015

"Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence" by Elder Jörg Klebingat

Find this talk here.

  • This topic is incredibly important. Lectures on Faith makes clear that we must know God approves of the direction we're taking in life.
    • "we ... proceed to treat of the knowledge which persons must have, that the course of life which they pursue is according to the will of God, in order that they may be enabled to exercise faith in him unto life and salvation." (Lectures on Faith 6:1, emphasis added)
    • In other words, we can't have faith "unto life and salvation" without a knowledge that we're following the will of God.
    • In verse 3, the lecture talks about "knowing, (not merely believing,)" which makes clear there's a difference.
    • Quoting verse 4: "nothing short of an actual knowledge of their being the favorites of heaven, and of their having embraced that order of things which God has established for the redemption of man, will enable them to exercise that confidence in him necessary for them to overcome the world, and obtain that crown of glory which is laid up for them that fear God."
    • Rephrased for brevity, the only way to be saved is to know ("more than mere belief, or supposition", v. 5) you're doing what God wants.
  • He asks if we were to have an interview with the Savior, "Would sins, regrets, and shortcomings dominate your self-image, or would you simply experience joyful anticipation?" It's unfortunate that we tend to think "sins, regrets, and shortcomings" generally would make us hesitant to speak with the Lord. Scripturally, the ones the Lord chastised were those who were prideful and hard hearted, but so long as people were teachable, He was willing to work with them no matter their sins.
    • Elder Klebingat points this out nicely in his own words: "The adversary knows that faith in Christ—the kind of faith that produces a steady stream of tender mercies and even mighty miracles—goes hand in hand with a personal confidence that you are striving to choose the right. For that reason he will seek access to your heart to tell you lies—lies that Heavenly Father is disappointed in you, that the Atonement is beyond your reach, that there is no point in even trying, that everyone else is better than you, that you are unworthy, and a thousand variations of that same evil theme."
  • "the kind of peaceful assurance and spiritual confidence that is yours to have if you only want it. "  The assurance our ways are right before heaven, as described in Lectures on Faith, may differ from the assurance he's talking about here. But the Lectures on Faith variety requires more than just wanting; it requires sacrifice. See, for instance, v. 9, which begins by saying, "It was in offering sacrifices that Abel, the first martyr, obtained knowledge that he was accepted of God".
  • "Take responsibility for your own spiritual well-being" Yes! That includes not pegging the leaders of the church with the responsibility to get you saved, by saying, "If I just follow the prophet, I'll be exalted."
  • Physical well-being is important, but I'm not sure it's of the same importance. D&C 123:13 says "we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness", which obviously is interesting wording and could probably be taken many different ways. Be that all as it may, personal experience has taught me that taking responsibility for our physical selves opens the door for God to teach us what's really important, even if physical well being isn't it.
  • "If ye love me, keep my commandments" is important, but let's remember that many of the commandments we see as so very important are the commandments of men. For instance, because of prohibition, the Church went through a phase where the fact that we didn't drink alcohol was no longer sufficient to demonstrate to the world that we were proper Christians, so we started coming up with all kinds of other rules we'd live by, such as not using face cards. The scriptures say nothing about having a year's supply of food, and the "if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear" statements talk about other things entirely. So yes, let's be obedient, but to God's commandments, including those that come directly to us through the Spirit, and not to the commandments of various men.
  • "Make the Church and the restored gospel your whole life, not just a part of your outward or social life. Choosing this day whom you will serve is lip service only—until you actually live accordingly." This statement presupposes "the Church and the restored gospel" are synonymous with the Lord whom Joshua said his house would serve. Rather than choosing the Church as a proxy for Christ (you could also call it an "idol"), let's just make Christ the center of our whole life, and see what happens.
  • Repentance is important, but I'm not sure it means what we think it means. We sometimes think we're supposed to pray for forgiveness for every misdeed we've ever done, but that obviously doesn't work because we can't remember 'em all. Moreover, the Lord regularly forgave people the entirety of their sins, wholesale. To "repent" means to turn to God, and to "sin" means to miss the mark, so "repenting of your sins" essentially means to focus on God, not to pray daily for forgiveness for each of the day's specific sins.
    • Repentance in any form is essential, even if we've gotten the general idea a bit wrong, because it encourages the humility and teachability the Lord looks for.
  • I have nothing to add to his comments on forgiving.
  • Speaking of trials he seems again to channel Lectures on Faith #6.
  • "Yours is the privilege, if you want it, to come to know for yourself, today or soon, that you are pleasing God in spite of your shortcomings." Here again, he figures you get the knowledge just by wanting it, and whereas last time he used the word "confidence", now he uses "knowledge." We only get that from the Lord when He tells us in His voice that we'll be exalted.
    • "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 shall 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.' To receive the other Comforter is to have Christ appear to him and to see the visions of eternity." (TPJS p. 149-151, quoted in Mormon Doctrine)

Saturday, August 8, 2015

"Parents: The Prime Gospel Teachers of Their Children", by Tad R. Callister

This talk can be found here.

  • Hooray for homeschooling :)
  • Not much to say about this talk; it's mostly storytelling and philosophies of men he doesn't even try to justify.
  • "No doubt most of our youth have their evening prayers, but perhaps many of them struggle with the habit of personal morning prayer." Rather than adopt a schedule of prayer, perhaps we'd do well to learn to pray always (Ephesians 6, D&C 10:5)
  • "That is one reason it is so important to honor our responsibilities as parents here on earth so we can prepare for those even greater, but similar, responsibilities in the life to come." How does he know they're greater? Can he offer any proof? Joseph Smith made clear that we don't know much about the afterlife.

"Joseph Smith", by Elder Neil L. Andersen

Find this talk here. I was excited about this one, because from the title it sounded like it would share details of actual history. Unfortunately it was all apologetics, and not particularly well reasoned apologetics at that.

  • It's interesting to see Elder Andersen talk about a bunch of righteous people who had very difficult lives, shortly after a talk that claimed the Lord doesn't want anyone to be poor.
  • The wise, the pure in heart, and the virtuous will have to be willing to do things others -- including some of their loved ones, presumably -- will disapprove of, in seeking blessings under the hand of someone everyone else holds in derision.
  • "Many of those who dismiss the work of the Restoration simply do not believe that heavenly beings speak to men on earth." My own experience is that actually those who aren't wholly atheist tend mostly to believe God can talk to people.
  • His statement that "we always welcome honest and genuine questions" is frankly false.
  • "We are especially saddened when someone who once revered Joseph retreats from his or her conviction and then maligns the Prophet." This of course is true. It would well serve those of us who claim to revere the Prophet Joseph to gain some idea of what he actually taught. The Book of Mormon is clear that most of those who claim to receive the gospel from Joseph will fall into apostasy. Joseph's teachings also make clear that we must seek to meet the Savior in this life. Unfortunately, that's one of several topics the Church's correlation committee won't allow Church materials to discuss. Joseph made very clear several times, including in D&C 13, that animal sacrifice will be reinstituted, yet Mormons often insist this is false. Joseph Smith tried to teach that temple sealings were to seal people to the head of their dispensation through what was called "adoption" (another topic the correlation committee prohibits), but the modern version of sealing instead comes from Wilford Woodruff, who openly admitted he didn't know anything about "adoption" and invented the current way of doing things in its place. Most importantly, Joseph made clear we need to work to have Christ promise us salvation, while we're in this life. This is yet another topic correlation refuses to countenance, but Joseph's teaching was that those that don't receive that promise in this life won't be saved.
  • "We might remind the sincere inquirer that Internet information does not have a 'truth' filter." Neither do the Church's published materials, which are often hilariously inaccurate.
  • "You may understandably question what you hear on the news, but you need never doubt the testimony of God’s prophets." The scriptures never promise prophets, real or so-called, won't be wrong. 1 Kings 13 and most of Ezekiel make very clear that while prophets are crucial, they can also make mistakes, and people who depend on their prophets to lead them to salvation will be damned.
    • Of course, trusting too heavily on the internet is similarly foolish.
  • Elder Andersen accuses Joseph Smith's detractors of presenting truth without adequate context. That's exactly what the Church's "Gospel Topics" essays do, too, for the most part.
  • His constant refrain of "we might remind" people is awfully defensive.
  • "A sincere inquirer should see the spreading of the restored gospel as the fruit of the Lord’s work through the Prophet." So the simple fact of an idea spreading widely is a sign of truth? I think we can all find contrary examples.
    • 2 Nephi 26:20: the prideful and unrighteous Gentiles have built up many churches. Sounds like an idea spreading to me.
    • By the way, vs 26 ("Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.") doesn't describe the modern LDS church. An acquaintance of mine was excommunicated and presented with a restraining order prohibiting him from entering any Church-owned property. The Church still hasn't told him why he was excommunicated, or given the order.
    • While we're in 2 Nephi, 28:29 says "Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!" So what do we do when Pres. Hinckley in a newspaper interview (San Francisco Chronicle, Apr. 13, 1997) (and our recently released bishop, in his office) claim we don't need much revelation anymore, and Elder Wirthlin tells us everything necessary for our salvation has already been revealed (Gen. Conf., Oct 1994)? We should still pay attention to Joseph, who taught that you can't receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelation, because the Holy Ghost is a revelator. (TPJS p. 328) So if you've not got revelation, you haven't received the Holy Ghost yet.
      • Elder Wirthlin in the same talk tells us to "avoid delving into so-called mysteries", which also flatly contradicts Joseph Smith ("I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness."  HC 6:17)
  • He keeps talking about fruits. That's a good criterion to judge -- it's the one the scriptures recommend, even (Matt 7:20, among others), but our fruits demonstrate only a good and kind people, not "one true church". Joseph and the scriptures taught that true belief leads to much more impressive fruits (Mark 6:17, for instance)
  • "Each believer needs a spiritual confirmation of the divine mission and character of the Prophet Joseph Smith. This is true for every generation. Spiritual questions deserve spiritual answers from God." This is absolutely true. It would be nice if he'd include Joseph's teachings that indicate that the Holy Ghost who will deliver these answers is more than the warm fuzzy feeling by which we often allow ourselves to be guided.
  • "you won’t be of much help to others if your own faith is not securely in place."
    • This is perhaps also true, but it would be helpful if we in the church had any idea what faith is, anymore, or in whom it should be placed. Since Lectures on Faith isn't considered scripture anymore, we have deprived ourselves of probably the best explanation of faith ever written.
  • "The constant water balloon volleys from the sidelines may occasionally get you wet, but they need never, never extinguish your burning fire of faith." So we should assume that everything false comes from "the sidelines", whatever they are, and that truth always comes from whatever isn't the sidelines? Presumably that should mean the Church? So the Church never says anything false?
  • "First, find scriptures in the Book of Mormon that you feel and know are absolutely true." So we're trusting intuition again?
  • "I testify that Joseph Smith was an honest and virtuous man." Ok, so how do you also explain his polygamy and polyandry, historical occurrences the Church openly accepts? There is an explanation for those historical facts, and one which preserves Joseph's virtue and honesty, but it's not the one the Church presents.
  • "In our society beyond the veil of death, we will clearly understand the sacred calling and divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith." The point of revelation is that we don't have to wait until death.