How Our Attitude Toward Knowledge Can Affect Endurance

There scriptures in our standard works offer great insights on the subject of knowledge. Nephi wrote that God would “give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little,” and for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, we have enough . . . shall be taken away even that which they have” (2Nephi 28:30). Clearly the more knowledge we are willing to receive, the more the Lord will bestow upon us, and if we refuse more—thereby choosing to remain on a lower spiritual level—He will take from us what we have.

Alma taught that this second choice of opting to be ignorant to more truth constitutes wrapping the chains of hell around our neck. “They that will harden their hears, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell” (Alma 12:11).

Evidently, a doubting, disinterested, or indifferent view of knowledge can have an adverse effect on our spiritual welfare. However, on the other hand, the scriptures also make it clear that a faithful, interested, and proactive approach can have a very favorable impact. Our attitude toward knowledge thus plays an essential role in our spiritual development and maturity—which are both determining factors when it comes to our ability to endure hardship.

D&C 82:3 reads: “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.” For some, who fear greater knowledge because of the accompanying accountability, this scripture serves as a deterrent. Yet for others, the same principle functions as a catalyst—inspiring them not only to obtain greater light and truth, but leading them to consistently remain faithful to what is revealed and entrusted to them. In this regard, the Apostle Paul is one of our best examples.

In Acts chapter 16 we read of Paul and Silas being beaten and cast in prison in Philippi for casting an evil spirit out of a woman. After a miraculous earthquake the magistrates let them go. Despite the persecution and sufferings, they continued diligently and faithfully on to Thessalonica to preach. Their reason for doing so, described by Paul in his later epistle to the Thessalonians, is instructive. “”But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. . . But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1Thes 2:2-4). They viewed their knowledge of the gospel as a stewardship from God—something sacred they had been entrusted with. It was this sense of responsibility that came with feeling trusted by God that led them to speak things that were not pleasing to men, regardless of the consequence; it was this feeling of accountability that led them to endure well their sufferings for Christ’s name and stay faithful by pressing forward and continuing on their mission.

Paul and Silas could have viewed their knowledge as something God owed them, rather than something they earned by their faith and were given a stewardship over. This view does not stress accountability, and creates distance between us and God. Then, as Elder Dale G. Renlund recently noted: “The more we distance ourselves . . . the more entitled we feel. We begin to think that we deserve grace and are owed blessings. We are more prone to look around, identify inequities, and feel aggrieved—even offended—by the unfairness we perceive” (April 2016 Conference). If they had held this view, they would have given up rather than pressed forward.

President Spencer W. Kimball taught that “The Lord’s teachings have always been to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear,” further declaring that “to become a ‘hearer’ is not simply to stand idly by and wait for chance bits of information; it is to seek out and study and pray and comprehend” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 1982, p. 127). To seek out knowledge and study is to take a faithful, interested, proactive approach as an agent who acts. To stand idly by and wait for bits of information from others is to choose an apathetic, disinterested, and indifferent approach as an object that is waiting to be acted upon. To have been given knowledge to the point of greater trust and responsibility being required, Paul and Silas must have been ‘hearers,’ classed among those disciples who were anxiously engaged in building their faith and increasing their testimony. This approach is vital in obtaining the spiritual perspective to keep going. As Elder Maxwell observed, “Is it too much otherwise to expect mortals to have such perspective? Yes, it is if we are left to ourselves to endure” (If Thou Endure It Well, p. 89).

If we will continually open our hearts and minds to receive knowledge from God, He will bestow it. “Ye call upon my name for revelations, and I give them unto you” (D&C 82:4). As He does so, having received the greater light we will stand more accountable, and will have more required of us. But if we will look at the amount of light and truth that has been revealed to us as a stewardship—something we are entrusted with—we will feel more obligated and empowered to meet whatever challenges come our way. More obligated because we will recognize the need to stay true to what we know, and more empowered because the knowledge will provide the perspective and understanding necessary to “endure the crosses of the world, and despise the shame of it” (2Nephi 9:18).

Crutches and Training Wheels: The Role of a Teacher

A crutch is a staff or support used to assist a person in walking, usually used when a bone in the leg or foot has been broken, or seriously injured. It relieves someone of the burden of putting pressure on their own limb, and essentially serves as a substitute leg. Without the crutch, it is difficult for the individual to walk at all.

Training wheels are small supporting wheels attached to both sides of the rear wheel of a child’s bicycle. They are used by kids who want to ride a bike, but have not yet developed the ability to fully balance. Ideally the wheels are eventually removed and the child, having fostered confidence and competence, rides on his own. I believe much can be learned in regard to teaching by examining the contrast between crutches and training wheels.

Not long after being called as an Area Authority Elder David A. Bednar attended a training meeting where he received instruction from President Boyd K. Packer. He recounts that he has “never forgotten one question that was directed specifically to President Packer and the answer he gave.”

            “President Packer, would you please teach us about the Atonement of Jesus Christ?”

President Packer then gave the following response:

            “Thank you for your excellent question. Read the Book of Mormon as many times as you reasonably can in the next several months. When you are finished reading, write a one-page summary of what you learned about the Atonement. Next question.”

After much reflection, and putting the answer into practice, Elder Bednar came to understand that President Packer “gave us much more than an answer to a single question. In that training session he did not tell us what he knew; rather, he taught us how he had come to know. If any of us truly desired to know what he knew, we absolutely could—if we were willing to pay the price and obtain the knowledge for ourselves. President Packer’s answer emphasized the importance of procuring for ourselves the oil of conversion; it cannot be borrowed or conveyed from one person to another” (Bednar, Act In Doctrine, p. 122).

Occasionally, with good intentions and misplaced zeal, we figuratively try to convey, or transfer, the oil of conversion from our own lamp to the lamp of another by spoon feeding them the knowledge we ourselves have studied and worked for. They ask a question, and we take it upon ourselves to relay all that we have learned in a lifetime of study on the subject through a one-way lecture. We thus place ourselves in the crutch category, relieving them of any responsibility to put pressure on their own intellect, allowing them to lean on us in a way that stunts their spiritual growth and, in all reality, undermining their free agency by turning them into an object that we act upon.

We must remember this truth: “Knowledge cannot be given or borrowed; it must be obtained” (Bednar, Act in Doctrine, p. 122). As teachers in any capacity, we must allow the questioner to obtain knowledge, rather than trying to bestow it. We should permit the learner to learn by their faith. This can be done by enabling them to be a participant in the learning process—telling them where to receive their own answer, or, in a classroom setting, taking them to where the answer is, and then inviting them to read, reflect, and apply.

When we give our consent to being used as a crutch, we are, in a sense, exercising unrighteous dominion over those whom the Lord has entrusted to us with the sacred responsibility of teaching and influencing, because we act upon them. This is a slippery slope that can quickly lead to priestcraft, defined as men preaching and setting “themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion” (2Nephi 26:29). Offering ourselves as a crutch by supplying impressive answers will likely receive praise, however, it will be done at the selfish expense of the welfare of Zion, including the spiritual welfare of the learner(s).

Another danger of the crutch approach is it begets fertile grounds for pride to swell up within the instructor by creating enmity between him and the Lord. The enmity comes from getting in the way of the Holy Ghost, and preventing Him from doing His assigned labor in the learning process—teaching. We read in section 50 of the Doctrine and Covenants: Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained? To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.” We preach, He teaches. When we give too much information outright, and absolve learners of the obligation to seek and knock, we are bringing too much attention to ourselves. This may lead others to believe that we are the teacher, instead of merely a facilitator.

Elder Bednar puts it this way:

“We must be careful to remember in our service that we are conduits and channels; we are not the light. . . This work is never about me and it is never about you. We need to do all in our power to fulfill our teaching responsibilities and simultaneously “get out of the way” so the Holy Ghost can perform His sacred work. In fact, anything you or I do as representatives of the Savior that knowingly and intentionally draws attention to self—in the messages we present, in the methods we use, or in our personal demeanor—is a form of priestcraft that inhibits the teaching effectiveness of the Holy Ghost.” (Bednar, Act in Doctrine, p. 130-131)

On the other hand, one of the best examples of the training wheel style of teaching is found in the interaction between the Lord and the brother of Jared in Ether chapter two.The brother of Jared, lacking a way to light the barges he and his company were to use in crossing the sea, appeals to the Lord for an answer to his problem:

“I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?” (Ether 2: 22)

In other words, to parallel the question posed to President Packer:

Jesus, would you please teach me about the best way to get light into my barges?

The Lord could easily give the brother of Jared a discourse on the greatest and most efficient way to produce light, or He could even reveal all he knows on the subject. However, this could stunt the brother of Jared’s growth by giving him a crutch when he is perfectly capable of walking.

“The Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? For behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire . . . . Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea? (Ether 2: 23, 25)

The Lord delivers the perfect training wheel response. He presents His questioner with just enough support and guidance to get him going, and an invitation to act in faith and try to find the answer for himself. He allows the learner to learn by faith. Well Mahonri, that’s an excellent question. I will tell you that windows won’t work, nor will fire, can you come up with another solution? The brother of Jared then exercises his faith and does his best to ride the bike by molting small stones out of a rock and asking the Lord to touch them.

If the Lord had not followed the proper teaching pattern, He would not have been able to take the veil “from off the eyes of the brother of Jared” or to say to him “never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast”, or to fully show Himself to him. If he had used the crutch technique, the brother of Jared could not have earned true knowledge and reached the point of riding on his own: “And he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.” (Ether 3:19) Are we missing out on results in students, ward members, and children by using the crutch method instead of training wheels? As Elder Bednar has asked, “Are you and I encouraging and helping those we serve to seek learning by faith?” (Seek Learning by Faith).

I have found in my own life that the teachers who have had the most profound impact on me have done so in the same way–by setting an example of faith and diligence in study, or riding their own bike, and then giving me training wheels in the form of advice or recommendation on where to find for myself, the same knowledge they had secured. I have learned for myself, as Elder Bednar has taught, “that an answer given by another person usually is not remembered for very long, if at all. But an answer we discover or obtain through the exercise of faith is typically retained for a lifetime. The most important learnings of life are caught–not taught.” (Bednar, Act in Doctrine, p. 127)

Now, this is not to say that direct answers to questions should never be rendered, nor that helpful instruction is completely unnecessary. What is meant in what has been presented is that we are not obligated to tell anyone everything we know, nor should we inhibit real spiritual growth by giving easy answers to someone who is fully capable of finding them on their own. We should avoid the tendency to make ourselves available as a crutch, and strive to discern the difference between providing someone enough assistance to enable them to act, and acting upon them. We should, in short, take the training wheel approach. To do so, is to put a check on priestcraft, pride, and narcissism.  Less attention may be acquired, but the pure in heart, who intend to eventually ride the gospel bike on their own, will recognize the Savior’s true pattern of teaching, and will be grateful their agency was respected, and even enlarged, in the learning process.

Building Blocks and the Atonement of Jesus Christ

In each of our lives, there come times when we feel like crying out as the psalmist did: “Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1)
“How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me? “(Psalm 13:1)

Distance From God/Disunity

In moments like this, what we are experiencing is separation or disconnection from God. This distance from God can arise when we choose to sin, (all too often “Netflix and Chill” leads to “Bishop and Repent”). It can arise when we choose to look at our trials and struggles as if we were all tributes in an arena like the Hunger Games and God is some game maker devising ways for us to suffer in order to entertain the angels around him in the capital. This separation can also come when we fail to realize, as Hugh Nibley has pointed out, that our personal “weaknesses are like dogs…if we walk toward them, they will run away from us. But if we run away from them they’ll chase us.”
Whatever it is, we must recognize that the wedge between us and God is our own doing. “Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men” (D&C 3:3). As President Eyring has pointed out, “The pavilion that seems to intercept divine aid does not cover God but occasionally covers us. God is never hidden, yet sometimes we are.” The fact is, each of us struggle with sins, trials, and weaknesses, but the Savior’s work through His atonement of cleansing us, strengthening us, and empowering us is never frustrated. If we are not feeling his influence, it is because we are not enabling ourselves to do so, not because he standest afar off, is hiding, or has forgotten us. I would like to discuss how taking advantage of His grace can affect our faith, and transform our sins, trials, and weaknesses from stumbling blocks, to building blocks.

Sins—Alma (Forgiving and Redeeming)

Mormon describes Alma the younger as “a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people.” (Mosiah 27:9) After a visit from a heavenly messenger, and a repentance process involving two days of physical paralysis, Alma stood and said, “I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the spirit.” Through the atonement he overcame his sins and was changed from a carnal and fallen state to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, and becoming a new creature. Through the atonement his sins became building blocks that were used to frame his testimony, rather than stumbling blocks that would knock it down.

Trials—Joseph Smith (Comforting and Strengthening)

Doctrine and Covenants section 127 is a letter written by the prophet Joseph Smith to the Saints in Nauvoo while he was in hiding. We can learn much about the relation between the Savior and our trials and tribulations. Joseph wrote, “and as for the perils which I am called to pass through, they seem but a small things to me, as the envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life; and for what cause it seems mysterious, unless I was ordained from before the foundation of the world for some good end. . . But nevertheless, deep water is what I am wont to swim in. it all has become a second nature to me; and I feel, like Paul, to glory in tribulation; (why?) for to this day has the God of my fathers delivered me out of them all, and will deliver me from henceforth; for behold, and lo, I shall triumph over all my enemies, for the Lord God hath spoken it.” (D&C 127:2) The second verse in an oft sung hymn reads, “We doubt not the Lord nor his goodness, we’ve proved him in days that are past.” Through his faith Joseph had proved God to the point that he gloried in tribulation and was accustomed to swimming in deep water, because God had come through every time. Because of his faith in the comforting and strengthening power of the atonement, his perils became building blocks that supported his testimony.

Personal Weaknesses—Enoch (Perfecting and Sustaining)

Enoch was asked by the Lord, as we all are, to do something that required more from him than he felt capable of giving—go prophesy unto the people and tell them to repent. We read his response in Moses 6:31

“And when Enoch had heard these words, he bowed himself to the earth, before the Lord, and spake before the Lord, saying: Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?”

He responded the way we often do, by giving the Lord a list of reasons we aren’t good enough. Whoa man, you’ve got the wrong guy… I’m just a boy, I’m too young, the people hate me, I can’t talk, I’m not ready for that… sorry. What we often fail to realize is that struggling with imperfections or inadequacies is at the very core of life’s purpose, and oftentimes as we move nearer to God, our weaknesses become more detectable. This is because the closer we get to the Lord, the more often he gives us opportunities to have stretching experiences – experiences that require us to do things we’ve never done before, and to become better than we’ve ever been.

“And the Lord said unto Enoch: Go forth and do as I have commanded thee, and no man shall pierce thee. Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance. . .

Behold my Spirit is upon you, wherefore all thy words will I justify; and the mountains shall flee before you, and the rivers shall turn from their course.”

Enoch exercised his faith in the perfecting and sustaining power of the atonement and went forth. His personal weaknesses were transformed from stumbling blocks into building blocks as he became a strange thing in the land. And in the next chapter the earth trembled, the mountains fled, the rivers of water turned out of their course according to his command and armies were fleeing from Enoch in fear. Instead of focusing on his ability or inability, Enoch focused on his availability and by acting in faith proved his dependability, allowing the Lord through his Atonement to take care of his capability, thus turning his weaknesses into strengths.

Believing Christ

In each of these cases–Alma, Joseph, and Enoch–they not only believed in Jesus Christ and His atonement, but they believed Him, and that is what led them to exercise their faith and act, enabling them to feel His influence. Stephen E. Robinson has taught:

“If we believe only in Christ without believing Christ, then we are like people sitting in cold, dark houses surrounded by unused lamps and heaters, people who believe in electricity but who never throw the switch to turn on the power. People like this often pretend to themselves and to others that merely believing in electricity makes them warm and gives them light, but they still shiver in the dark unless they turn on the power. Though the appliances may all work and the wiring may be in good order, until we accept the power itself, beyond merely believing in the theory of power, we cannot enjoy the warmth and light.”

It was because Alma believed Jesus was able to cleanse him, that he cried out, “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness.” It was because Joseph believed Jesus was able to strengthen him that he not only figuratively swam through his trials, but eventually described himself as a rough stone rolling down from a high mountain. It was because Enoch believed Jesus was able to sustain him that we went forth and opened his mouth.

You Can’t Know Something That Isn’t True

Now, all that I’ve said thus far is a precursor for what I’m going to say right now, and if you don’t remember anything else, remember this. You can’t know something that isn’t true! That’s impossible. If someone told you they knew the sky was falling, you would say, “no, you think the sky is falling.” If someone told you they knew chicken was a type of fruit, you might reply, “you can think what you want.”

Cane supposedly knew he was free when he killed Able, but once the spotlight of accountability was shone on him, the light revealed that what he thought he knew was just a thought. Korhior thought there was no God, and could be no Christ. Later admitting that he “always knew there was a God”, and that the Devil had deceived him.

Faith to Knowledge

By not just believing in the concept of seeds growing into trees, but believing the seed can do what its supposed to be able to do and then planting it; by not just believing in the concept of electricity lighting a room but by believing electricity can do what it purports and then turning the switch; by not just believing in the concept of the atonement of Jesus Christ but by believing Jesus can cleanse your sins and then talking to the bishop, by believing Jesus can uplift you and then reading your thin pages thick with meaning and calling out to God in prayer, by believing Jesus can strengthen you and then doing what he asks and making an effort; we can transform our faith from having a desire to believe, to believing, to KNOWING.

“Behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs KNOW that the seed is good. And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you KNOW.” (Alma 32:33-34)

In closing I wish to bear witness not of things that I think, but of things that I have come to know for myself!
I know that God lives, that He loves us, and that he has a deep and personal interest in the salvation of each of his children. I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, the living Son of the living God. I have come to know for myself that through his infinite atonement we can be cleansed of any sin, strengthened in any trial, and overcome any weakness; and that through our faith, those sins, trials, and weaknesses can serve as building blocks used to learn, grow, and progress. I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and I testify that for anyone who is spiritually sitting in a cold dark house, it is full of witnesses that the lights turn on, the heaters work, and the atonement is real. My is that each of us, regardless of past belief, or disbelief, will right now choose to believe Christ, exercise our faith, and take advantage of the blessings of the atonement, using them to close that gap between us and God, thus creating unity. I know that if we will do this, not only will our faith increase, but we will ultimately feel more joy, and gain the understanding and experience we came here to acquire.

So What?

This is important because as the second coming draws nearer, and the Lord’s work hastens, the adversary’s does as well. Temptations will become more intense, trials and persecutions will become more severe, weaknesses will be exposed. Elder Maxwell has said of the rising generations that if we are faithful we “may be a part of some of the winding up scenes for this world, and as participants, not mere spectators, though on later occasions you might prefer the latter.”

We don’t have time to trifle with sacred things, we don’t have time to take the gospel for granted. As we choose to increase our faith through the atonement and transform our transgressions, trials, and struggles from stumbling blocks to building blocks, we will be worthy of, and ready for the tasks ahead.

The Proper Role of Government

The Proper Role of Government—Gospel Doctrine Lesson, Mosiah 29-Alma 1

“People who regard themselves as members of the only true Church have the fatal tendency to consider themselves immune from the disease of deception. Knowing that they belong to the Lord’s Church and have his scriptures and his prophet to guide them, they blindly assume that this adequately protects them against false beliefs. All history teaches the folly of such an assumption, and the scriptures specifically deny its validity.”

  • Verlan Andersen (The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil, p. 186)

“Important in the record of the dispensations is that when men depart from God’s way and substitute their own ways in its place they usually do not admit that that is what they are doing; often they do not deliberately or even consciously substitute their ways for God’s ways; on the contrary, they easily and largely convince themselves that their way is God’s way.”

  • Hugh Nibley (Beyond Politics)

“Men are often asked to express an opinion on a myriad of government proposals and projects. All too often, answers seem to be based, not upon solid principle, but upon the popularity of the specific government program in question. Seldom are men willing to oppose a popular program if they, themselves, wish to be popular. Such an approach to vital political questions of the day can only lead to public confusion and legislative chaos. Decisions of this nature should be based upon and measured against certain basic principles regarding the proper role of government. If principles are correct, then they can be applied to any specific proposal with confidence. Unlike the political opportunist, the true statesman values principle above popularity, and works to create popularity for those political principles which are wise and just.”

  • Ezra Taft Benson (The Proper Role of Government)

D&C 101:78-80

78 That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.

79 Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.

D&C 98:4-10

5 And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

6 Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;

7 And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.

8 I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.

9 Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.

10 Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.

“I am saying to you that to me the Constitution of the United States of America is just as much from my Heavenly Father as the Ten Commandments. When that is my feeling, I am not going to go very far away from the Constitution, and I am going to try to keep it where the Lord started it, and not let anti-Christs come into this country that began because people wanted to serve God.”

  • George Albert Smith (Conference Report, Apr 1948, p. 182)

“I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on the earth,”

  • Joseph Smith. (DHC,  6, p. 56.)

“God provided that in this land of liberty, our political allegiance shall run not to individuals, that is, to government officials, no matter how great or how small they may be. Under His plan our allegiance and the only allegiance we owe as citizens of the United States, runs to our inspired Constitution which God himself set up.”

  • Reuben Clark Jr. (Improvement Era, July 1940, p. 444.)

“How often would I have gathered thy children together, . . . and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37.)

God wants men to do right, but he does not coerce them to it.

“The central issue in the premortal council was: Shall the children of God have untrammeled agency to choose the course they should follow, whether good or evil, or shall they be coerced and forced to be obedient? The war that began in heaven over this issue is not yet over. The conflict continues on the battlefield of mortality. And one of Lucifer’s primary strategies has been to restrict our agency through the power of earthly governments.”

  • Ezra Taft Benson (The Constitution—A Heavenly Banner)

“The position of this church on the subject of Communism has never changed. We consider it the greatest satanical threat to peace, prosperity, and the spread of God’s work among men that exists on the face of the earth.”

  • David O. McKay (Communism: A Statement of the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

“It is time, therefore, that every American, and especially every member of the priesthood, became informed about the aims, tactics, and schemes of socialistic-communism. This becomes particularly important when it is realized that communism is turning out to be the earthly image of the plan which Satan presented in the pre-existence. The whole program of socialistic-communism is essentially a war against God and the plan of salvation—the very plan which we fought to uphold during “the war in heaven” (Rev. 12:7).

  • Ezra Taft Benson (The American Heritage of Freedom—A Plan of God)

“References in the scriptures show that this principle of free agency is (1) essential to man’s salvation; and (2) may become a measuring rod by which the actions of men, of organizations, and of nations may be judged.”

  • David O. McKay (Era, Feb. 1962)

“If all of the “actions of men, of organizations, and of nations,” may be classified as righteous or wicked according to their effect upon freedom, then the only way Satan can deceive us regarding the distinction between his plan and the Lord’s is by confusing us regarding what acts preserve and what acts destroy freedom. This truth provides a single, easily-applied test which may be used to avoid deception.”

  • Verlan Andersen (The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil, p. 29)

The Four Elements of Free Agency

Those four possessions without which it is impossible to exercise freedom or accomplish our purposes here on earth are as follows:

  • Life, with some degree of physical and mental health and strength;
  • Freedom from the restraint or coercion of others;
  • Knowledge of laws;
  • The right and control of property

“Let us consider the origin of those freedoms we have come to know are human rights. There are only two possible sources. Rights are either God-given as part of the Divine Plan, or they are granted by government as part of the political plan. Reason, necessity, tradition and religious convictions all lead me to accept the divine origin of these rights. If we accept the premise that human rights are granted by government, then we must be willing to accept the corollary that they can be denied by government. I, for one, shall never accept that premise.”

  • Ezra Taft Benson (The Proper Role of Government)

“Since God created man with certain unalienable rights, and man, in turn, created government to help secure and safeguard those rights, it follows that man is superior to the creature which he created. Man is superior to government and should remain master over it, not the other way around. Even the non-believer can appreciate the logic of this relationship.”

  • Ezra Taft Benson (The Proper Role of Government)

“It is obvious that a government is nothing more or less than a relatively small group of citizens who have been hired, in a sense, by the rest of us to perform certain functions and discharge certain responsibilities which have been authorized. It stands to reason that the government itself has no innate power or privilege to do anything. Its only source of authority and power is from the people who have created it.”

  • Ezra Taft Benson (The Proper Role of Government)

“The inherent nature of a good or an evil act is unaffected by changing the number of people involved in its commission. An act which is beneficial and virtuous when done by one acting alone, is the same when done in concert, and an act which is evil when done by the individual is equally evil when done by a group; and this is true even though the group is acting in the name of government. Legislatures are as powerless to alter the fundamental laws of good and evil as they are to alter the law of gravity. This being so, the rightness or wrongness of every act performed in the name of government can be determined by using the conscience of the individual. If, because of moral scruples, the individual should refrain from exercising the force called for under the law in question, then he should refuse to consent to the use of that force through government.”

  • Verlan Andersen (The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil, p. 66)

“We are told in 134:1 that he holds us accountable for our acts in relation to government, both in making laws and administering them. How can He do this? Very simply, HE MERELY REQUIRES EACH OF US TO APPLY EXACTLY THAT SAME TEST OF RIGHT AND WRONG TO THE ACTIONS OF GOVERNMENT AS WE DO TO EVERY OTHER ACT FOR WHICH WE ARE RESPONSIBLE. THIS IS THE TEST OF CONSCIENCE. We need only realize that an act performed by public servants which has our approval makes us equally as responsible as if we had done it ourselves, and therefore we should apply the same test of conscience.”

  • Verlan Andersen (Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen, p. 29)

“The necessity of viewing government action and individual action through the same eyes is also observed when we note that the officers of government are mere servants of the people and derive all the power they possess from those they serve. Since a power can rise no higher than its source, unless the people have the moral right to perform an act, they cannot confer that right upon government officials. No person can increase his authority merely by acting through an agent. Therefore anything which would be wrong for citizens to do as individuals, would be equally wrong for them to direct their representatives in government to do on their behalf.”

  • Verlan Andersen (The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil, p. 68)

“The fact that the same moral laws which apply to individual action also apply to government action is easily seen when we note that any given act has exactly the same effect on freedom whether performed by one person or a group. The effect of a deed upon individual freedom is not changed in the slightest by a mere change in the number who undertake it. And once again this is true even though it is committed in the name of government. It will be remembered that every law either commands or forbids human action. Its only purpose is to alter human behavior by compelling people to act in a manner different from the way they would have acted had not the law been passed.”

  • Verlan Andersen (The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil, p. 67)

Mosiah 27: 3-6

Mosiah 29: 33-34, 40

Government can give nothing to one person unless it has first taken something from someone else. This taking is usually in the form of taxes which the taxpayer is compelled to pay at the risk of having his property taken by force. How would you regard compulsory charity if performed without being legalized?”

  • Verlan Andersen (Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen, p. 38)

“Nothing can enter the public treasury for the benefit of one citizen or one class unless other citizens and other classes have been forced to send it in.”

  • Frederic Bastiat (THE LAW, p. 30; P.P.N.S., p. 350)

The only options the government has for funding is to tax (steal from) its citizens, or borrow freshly inflated money from the  Federal Reserve Bank. Either way, the citizens are the ones paying.

taxation 2

“In order for man to prosper, he cannot afford to spend his time constantly guarding his family, his fields, and his property against attach and theft, so he joins together with his neighbors and hires a sheriff. At this precise moment, government is born. The individual citizens delegate to the sheriff their unquestionable right to protect themselves. The sheriff now does for them only what they had a right to do for themselves – nothing more.

So far so good. But now we come to the moment of truth. Suppose pioneer “A” wants another horse for his wagon, He doesn’t have the money to buy one, but since pioneer “B” has an extra horse, he decides that he is entitled to share in his neighbor’s good fortune, Is he entitled to take his neighbor’s horse? Obviously not! If his neighbor wishes to give it or lend it, that is another question. But so long as pioneer “B” wishes to keep his property, pioneer “A” has no just claim to it.

If “A” has no proper power to take “B’s” property, can he delegate any such power to the sheriff? No. Even if everyone in the community desires that “B” give his extra horse to “A”, they have no right individually or collectively to force him to do it. They cannot delegate a power they themselves do not have.

  • Ezra Taft Benson (The Proper Role of Government)

“Suppose it were suggested that you join a group who were going to use force to take part of the property from a wealthy citizen “A” and give it to “B” who had but little, or divide it among your group who were also “poor.” Would it violate your conscience to do that?

Or applying the golden rule, put yourself in “A’s” shoes. He has already given all he desires to charity. Are you not violating his conscience when you compel him to give more? Would you enjoy having someone dictate how much you must give to your church, a hospital or college? Would not this be a plain case of theft? And if you pass a law and legalize the taking and the giving, have you really changed the essential nature of the act? Haven’t you merely legalized stealing? . . . . Is it not an exercise of unrighteous dominion to forcibly take any property from one to whom it belongs and give it to another to whom it does not belong?”

  • Verlan Andersen (Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen, p. 38)

 

“No one has the authority to grant such powers, as welfare programs, schemes for re-distributing the wealth, and activities which coerce people into acting in accordance with a prescribed code of social planning. There is one simple test. Do I as an individual have a right to use force upon my neighbor to accomplish this goal? If I do have such a right, then I may delegate that power to my government to exercise on my behalf. If I do not have that right as an individual, then I cannot delegate it to government, and I cannot ask my government to perform the act for me.

  • Ezra Taft Benson (The Proper Role of Government)

“Most people agree that each person has a moral obligation to be charitable, but is it morally right for us to compel others to be as charitable as we think they should be? Is it not rather our moral obligation to allow them to determine for themselves how much they shall give?

If those who are wealthy fail to voluntarily impart of their substance to the poor, they will be adequately punished by the Lord for their selfishness. (D&C 104:18) But if, through the force of government or otherwise, they are compelled to divide with those in need, how can the Lord either bless them for being charitable or punish them for being uncharitable? The same freedom which permits men to do evil permits them to do good. If you destroy one, you have destroyed both and made freedom of choice, with its consequent rewards and punishments, impossible.”

  • Verlan Andersen (Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen, p. 40)

“Simon Magus then applies his argument against Peter to Peter’s God, bringing out the favorite old chestnut of the schools: either God is vicious because he does not want to prevent evil or weak because he cannot.

“Could not God have made us all good,” he asks, “so that we could not be anything else but virtuous?”

To which Peter replies with a statement of the ancient law of liberty:

“A foolish question,” he says, “for if he made us unchangeably and immovably inclined to good, we would not really be good at all, since we couldn’t be anything else; and it would be no merit on our part that we were good, nor could we be given credit for doing what we did by necessity of nature. How can you call any act good that is not performed intentionally? For this reason the world has existed through the ages, so that the spirits destined to come here might fulfill their number, and here make their choice between the upper and the lower worlds, both of which are represented here, so that when their bodies are resurrected the blessed might go to eternal light and the unrighteous for their impure acts be wrapped in a spiritual flame.”(4)

  • Hugh Nibley (The Ancient Law of Liberty)

“How is the legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime…”

  • Frederic Bastiat (THE LAW, p. 21, 26; P.P.N.S., p. 377)

The government will take from the “haves” and give to the “have nots.” Both have last their freedom. Those who “have,” lost their freedom to give voluntarily of their own free will and in the way they desire. Those who “have not,” lost their freedom because they did not earn what they received. They got “something for nothing,” and they will neither appreciate the gift nor the giver of the gift. Under this climate, people gradually become blind to what has happened and to the vital freedoms which they have lost.”

  • Howard W. Hunter (The Law of the Harvest, Devotional Address, BYU, 1966)

“The distinction between socialism . . . and Communism . . . is one of tactics and strategy rather than of objective. Communism is indeed only socialism pursued by revolutionary means and making its revolutionary method a canon of faith.”

  • Marion G. Romney (Is Socialism the United Order?)

“Assume, for example, that we were farmers, and that we received a letter from the government telling us that we were going to get a thousand dollars this year for plowed up acreage. But rather than the normal method of collection, we were to take this letter and collect $69.71 from Bill Brown, at such and such an address, and $82.47 from Henry Jones, $59.80 from a Bill Smith, and so on down the line; that these men would make up our farm subsidy. “Neither you nor I, nor would 99 percent of the farmers, walk up and ring a man’s doorbell, hold out a hand and say, ‘Give me what you’ve earned even though I have not.’ We simply wouldn’t do it because we would be facing directly the violation of a moral law, ‘Thou shalt not steal.’ In short, we would be held accountable for our actions.”

  • James R. Evans (The Glorious Quest)

“Each person who believes in the golden rule and the divine law of retribution might do well to re-examine his own views on government and ask—Am I using it only for the purpose of punishing evil as the Lord has directed, or am I one of those ‘social engineers’ who believes the common man is too selfish and foolish to be left free to spend his own money, make his own contracts, run his own business, and provide for his own future?

When men resort to the use of the force of government to solve all social problems, they demonstrate a loss of faith in God. In place of that faith they have substituted reliance on the “arm of flesh.”

The more completely one believes in the omnipotence, omniscience, and justice of God, the more willing he is to accept Christ’s philosophy of freedom. Such a believer knows—nothing doubting—that no matter what he, or any other man does, every person will receive exactly what he deserves.

On the other hand, those who deny the existence of God tend to judge everything from a materialistic viewpoint. Their idea of justice consists of an equal distribution of the material comforts and bodily needs of the world—food, clothing, shelter, medicine, education, etc. They assume that since there is no divine law of justice in operation, they must use force to bring about equality. They would use government force for this purpose.”

  • Verlan Andersen (Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen, p. 47)

The solution to the welfare problem…. Alma 1:27, 30-31

Mosiah 29: 16-17; You do not want an oligarchy, which is all power vested in a few people. (A king and his priests.)

Mosiah 29: 25-29; Type of Government: A Republic, not a Democracy

Alma 1:3, 12; Priestcraft—Nehor

“In this passage Alma points out that there are two types of priestcraft—the type which is enforced and the type which is not. Nehor was trying to establish the enforced type which, according to Alma, was so evil in its consequences that it would have caused the entire destruction of the people had they adopted it.

What did Alma mean by “enforced” priestcraft? All of the evidence indicates that he meant the enforcement of the practice by the police power of government…

The enforcement of this system would require that taxes be imposed for the support of the priestly class just as Noah had done. The unenforced type would exist where the teachers and priests receive their pay from voluntary contributions. In reality there is only one way to enforce priestcraft and that is through the police power. Government has an exclusive monopoly on the use of force and anyone who attempts to use compulsion outside its framework to support a movement as did Nehor, is treated as a criminal and punished.”

  • Verlan Andersen (The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil, p. 126)

“It is veritably true that there is no principle of the Communist Manifesto more essential to the success of Satan’s plan than that of socialized education. If all children can be forcibly taken from their homes where the Lord intended they be trained, and during the innocence of youth their unsuspecting and defenseless minds are indoctrinated with a belief in organic evolution, atheism, materialism, and socialism, the perpetuation of these satanic doctrines is systematized and imposed uniformly upon each succeeding generation.”

  • Verlan Andersen (The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil, p. 122)

Election… Alma 2: 1-8

In Closing/ So What?

“Our political desires are an extremely accurate index of what we would do if the Lord made us a king, a judge, or a ruler with the power to govern others. If we would exercise “control or dominion or compulsion,” unrighteously, then our support of laws which regiment and control the business and private affairs of our neighbors and deprive them of their stewardships would clearly indicate this. If we would steal except for the fear of being punished or exposed, then our approval of laws which forcibly take property from its rightful owner and give it to those to whom it does not belong would demonstrate this trait. We must expect the Lord to use our political beliefs as a measure of our moral or immoral character.”

  • Verlan Andersen (The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil, p. 53)

“If during this life we have been persuaded to believe that the force of government, or any other agency, should be used to deny our fellow men the stewardships which God has given them over their families, their property, and their private affairs, we can be very certain that we will be placed with a group in the hereafter who will hold similar views. With such an attitude we cannot expect to have stewardships or dominions of our own because we do not believe in them for others and neither will those with whom we will dwell believe in them for us. The poetic justice of God decrees that if we deprive fellow men of those unalienable rights which, according to the Declaration of Independence, they have been endowed by their Creator, we will lose our free agency to the same extent.”

  • Verlan Andersen (The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil, p. 72)

“If you wish to go where God is, you must be like God, or possess the principles which God possesses.”

  • Joseph Smith (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Ch. 5)

Jesus is not a Jedi that magically waves us into the Celestial Kingdom of God the way we are, we cannot go there if we think any degree of unrighteous dominion is acceptable. We cannot go there if we think it is okay for a government to infringe on the free agency of its citizens in any way. We must possess the principles God possesses, and that includes political principles. How can he trust us with the authority and responsibility attached with being a king and a priest, or queen and priestess if He can’t even trust us to vote for a constitutionally sound candidate that respects freedom?

Recommended talks/articles:

By Ezra Taft Benson:

“Civic Standards for the Faithful Saints,” “The Proper Role of Government,” “Freedom and Free Enterprise,” “Secret Combinations,” “The Book of Mormon Warns America,” “The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner,” “God’s Hand in Our Nation’s History,” “Stand Up For Freedom,” “The American Heritage of Freedom—A Plan of God,” “Our Immediate Responsibility,” “United States Foreign Policy.”

“The Constitution” by J. Reuben Clark Jr., “Demand For Proper Respect of Human Life” by J. Reuben Clark Jr., “Is Socialism the United Order?” by Marion G. Romney, “Moral Agency” by D. Todd Christofferson, “Meeting the Challenges of Today” by Neal A. Maxwell, “But Watchman, What of the Night?” by Vaughn J. Featherstone, “Beyond Politics” by Hugh Nibley, “The Ancient Law of Liberty” by Hugh Nibley, “Origins of the Federal Reserve” by Murray Rothbard, Louis T. McFadden’s Speech in the House of Representatives June 10 1932, George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address.

Recommended Books:

“None Dare Call it Conspiracy” by Gary Allen; “Hiding in Plain Sight” by Ken Bowers; “Awakening to Our Awful Situation: Warnings From the Nephite Prophets” by Jack Monnett; “Awakening to Our Awful Situation: Responding to Satan’s War on Agency” by Jack Monnett; “Economics In One Lesson” by Henry Hazlitt; “A Witness and a Warning” by Ezra Taft Benson; “An Enemy Hath Done This” by Ezra Taft Benson; “Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen” by H. Verlan Andersen; “The Great And Abominable Church of the Devil” by H. Verlan Andersen; “The Book of Mormon and the Constitution” by H. Verlan Andersen; “The Making of America” by W. Cleon Skousen; “The Naked Communist” by W. Cleon Skousen; “The Majesty of God’s Law” by W. Cleon Skousen; “The Five Thousand Year Leap” by W. Cleon Skousen; “The Cleansing of America” by W. Cleon Skousen; “Socialism” by Ludwig von Mises; “The Law” by Frederic Bastiat.

Communism, by any other name is still communism, and is destructive to the individual and to the society.

The 10 PLANKS stated in the Communist Manifesto and some of their American counterparts are…

  1. Abolition of private property and the application of all rents of land to public purposes.

Americans do these with actions such as the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (1868), and various zoning, school & property taxes. Also the Bureau of Land Management (Zoning laws are the first step to government property ownership)

  1. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

Americans know this as the 16th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, 1913, The Social Security Act of 1936.; Joint House Resolution 192 of 1933; and various State “income” taxes.

  1. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

Americans call it Federal & State estate Tax (1916); or reformed Probate Laws, and limited inheritance via arbitrary inheritance tax statutes.

  1. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

Americans call it government seizures, tax liens, Public “law” 99-570 (1986); Executive order 11490, sections 1205, 2002 which gives private land to the Department of Urban Development; the imprisonment of “terrorists” and those who speak out or write against the “government” (1997 Crime/Terrorist Bill); or the IRS confiscation of property without due process. Asset forfeiture laws are used by DEA, IRS, ATF etc…).

  1. Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

Americans call it the Federal Reserve which is a privately-owned credit/debt system allowed by the Federal Reserve act of 1913. All local banks are members of the Fed system, and are regulated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) another privately-owned corporation. The Federal Reserve Banks issue Fiat Paper Money and practice economically destructive fractional reserve banking.

  1. Centralization of the means of communications and transportation in the hands of the State.

Americans call it the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Department of Transportation (DOT) mandated through the ICC act of 1887, the Commissions Act of 1934, The Interstate Commerce Commission established in 1938, The Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Executive orders 11490, 10999, as well as State mandated driver’s licenses and Department of Transportation regulations.

  1. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state, the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

Americans call it corporate capacity, The Desert Entry Act and The Department of Agriculture… Thus read “controlled or subsidized” rather than “owned”… This is also seen in these as well as the Department of Commerce and Labor, Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Mines, National Park Service, and the IRS control of business through corporate regulations.

  1. Equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

Americans call it Minimum Wage and slave labor like dealing with our Most Favored Nation trade partner; i.e. Communist China. We see it in practice via the Social Security Administration and The Department of Labor. The National debt and inflation caused by the communal bank has caused the need for a two “income” family. Woman in the workplace since the 1920’s, the 19th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, assorted Socialist Unions, affirmative action, the Federal Public Works Program and of course Executive order 11000.

  1. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries, gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of population over the country.

Americans call it the Planning Reorganization act of 1949 , zoning (Title 17 1910-1990) and Super Corporate Farms, as well as Executive orders 11647, 11731 (ten regions) and Public “law” 89-136. These provide for forced relocations and forced sterilization programs, like in China.

  1. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production.

Americans are being taxed to support what we call ‘public’ schools, but are actually “government force-tax-funded schools” The purpose is to train the young to work for the communal debt system. We also call it the Department of Education, the NEA and Outcome Based “Education”.

Joseph Smith: Astronomer and Scientist

For our final paper in my Cultural Astronomy class we were asked to write about an individual who we feel has greatly impacted the field of astronomy.  I chose a farm boy from Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont.

Joseph Smith: Astronomer and Scientist

            Upon considering which astronomer and culture to write about, my mind was drawn to the constant ongoing discord between science and religion. This disagreement has been serious enough to lead many Christians—who conclude that one or the other must come out conqueror—to choose to abandon their faith, and embrace the doctrines of so-called science. Modern astronomy has its own reserved front row parking space, right next to evolution, inside the protected “academic” garage for faith destroying ideologies, and hence finds direct relevance in this discussion. In observing this continuous debate, I find great satisfaction and reassurance in belonging to a Church that not only embraces all truth, but whose founder has so beautifully harmonized religion and science that they have become circumscribed into the same circle of truth. Joseph Smith has done this by teaching scientific principles, gained by the farm boy not through experiments or observations, but, according to him, by direct revelation from God. I would like to focus on three of these concepts, and their impact on the school of astronomy in light of the science vs. religion debate—the indestructibility of matter, our sun gets its light from Kolob, and the indestructibility of energy.

Indestructibility of Matter

In his 1908 work Joseph Smith as Scientist Apostle John A. Widtsoe noted, “It was believed by the philosophers of ancient and medieval times, especially by those devoted to the study of alchemy, that it was possible through mystical powers, often of a supernatural order, to annihilate matter or to create it from nothing. . . Naturally enough, the systems of religion became colored with the philosophical doctrines of the times; and it was held to be a fundamental religious truth that God created the world from nothing” (Widtsoe, p.10). He then contrasts this observation with the radical, conflicting teaching of the Mormon prophet: “No doctrine taught by Joseph Smith is better understood by his followers than that matter in its elementary condition is eternal, and that it can neither be increased nor diminished. As early as May, 1833, the Prophet declared that “the elements are eternal,” and in a sermon delivered in April, 1844, he said ‘Element had an existence from the time God had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end’” (Widtsoe, p.12). While a theory such as the big bang may have fit in to the religious doctrine of churches in medieval times, Joseph Smith left no room in his doctrine for such a notion. In the same 1844 sermon quoted by Elder Widtsoe, the Prophet said that the supposed biblical support for the idea of God creating the world out of nothing was due to a mistranslation, stating that “the word create came from the word baurau, which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as man would organize materials and build a ship” (HC 6:302-317). So, according to Joseph Smith, God did not create the world, he organized it.

This idea of matter never being created or destroyed leaves no room for the big bang, because the big bang requires a beginning, a time when the universe suddenly came into existence by expanding from a singularity. If matter has always existed, there can be no beginning or end. Moreover, matter cannot act for itself, it is inert and can only be acted upon. It requires energy for it to be put in motion, and someone or something to apply that energy. Consider the wristwatch; when functioning properly with a charged battery, the hour, minute, and second hands on this device move in a set motion to tell time. But without the energy from the battery, the watch is nothing more than a collection of inanimate raw materials—which could not have organized themselves into a watch.  And the battery itself did not provide the energy, it had to be collected and harnessed by someone, then put inside the battery, thus allowing it to be applied to the watch. It is inconceivable for the watch to have suddenly expanded out of a singularity into a fully organized and functioning tool to wear on our wrist, complete with charged battery and all. Clearly, there must be an orchestrator in this process—the same with the universe. Inert matter cannot organize itself into galaxies and solar systems, to be moved it requires energy, and energy must be harnessed and applied by someone or something.

Joseph Smith’s teachings in this field of creation—or rather organization—are simple, easy to understand, and respect laws of physics. On the contrary, the big bang is confusing, illogical, and mysterious. Engineer Wallace Thornhill posits that “the big bang was not ‘discovered’ but contrived by mathematicians following the proposal of a Belgian Roman Catholic priest and astronomer, George Lemaitre, for the origin of the universe from a ‘primeval atom’ or ‘Cosmic Egg exploding at the moment of the creation.’ The theory defies physics principles and is unrealistic, needing most of the matter in the universe to be invisible (not even dark) and a mysterious ‘dark’ energy…… when you believe in theories like the big bang, logic has no dominion and any observation can be accommodated” (Thornhill, 2009).  Similarly, the plasma cosmologist Eric Lerner, author of The Big Bang Never Happened, says: “one of the most destructive features of the methodology of the big bang is that it conveys the idea that only people versed in extremely complicated mathematics can understand the universe… This is, of course, the argument of the emperor’s new clothes. If you can’t see the emperor’s new clothes you must be either stupid or incompetent” (Thornhill, 2009). With ex nihilo creation being disqualified by physics, many people, including many Christians, submit in this argument; admitting—by virtue of having no other explanation—that they can’t see the clothes, and therefore are incompetent in debating creation. On the other hand, we have the harmonizing voice of Joseph Smith which comes thundering through that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes—there never was a beginning, God’s course is one eternal round.

Our Sun Receives its Light from Kolob

            The following picture is Facsimile No. 2 from the Book of Abraham. In his explanations of this hieroglyphic, Joseph Smith taught much about the structure of the galaxies. facsimile 2Perhaps most intriguing is his description of Figure 5: “Called in Egyptian Enish-go-on-dosh; this is one of the governing planets also, and is said by the Egyptians to be the Sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or, in other words, the governing power, which governs fifteen other fixed planets or stars, as also Floeese or the Moon, the Earth and the Sun in their annual revolutions. This planet receives its power through the medium of Kli-flos-is-es, or Hah-ko-kau-beam, the stars represented by numbers 22 and 23, receiving light from the revolutions of Kolob.” (Kolob represented by number 1 in the center)

Mainstream science teaches that the sun is a giant self-sustaining body of gas that generates energy by nuclear fusion reactions in its core. On the other hand, Joseph Smith taught that our sun, which the Egyptians called Enish-go-on-dosh, is not self-sustaining. Rather it borrows its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is a governing body that receives its light from two other stars, who in turn receive their light directly from Kolob. What Joseph described is a connected circuit, where each star does not produce its own power, but receives power, or light, through the medium of another star, all the way back to Kolob, which J. Reuben Clark Jr., an apostle in the Church’s first presidency, taught in 1951 was the center, or hub, of our galaxy (Clark, 1951).

This system of lighting stars through a series of power lines described by the prophet squares well with an idea that many plasma cosmologists subscribe to called The Electric Universe. In this structure stars are charged by a series of continually flowing electrical currents called “Birkeland currents,” named after the Norwegian scientist Kristian Birkeland who associated the magnetic effects of aurorae with electrical currents flowing between the sun and the earth. “The Electric Universe recognizes that charged particles permeate all of space as electrically conductive plasma. Unlike the protons and electrons that make up neutral atoms, the charged particles in plasma are not bound by atomic structure. These freely moving charged particles are much more strongly affected by electric fields than by gravity. The aggregate movement of charged particles is an electric current” (thunderboltsinfo). Wallace Thornhill notes, “Engineers find it easy to light our cities with electrical power generated at some distance from the city. It never occurs to astronomers that Nature uses the same simple method of lighting galaxies. They have never considered that stars might be a cosmic electrical phenomenon, like streetlights tracing the path of power lines” (Thornhill, 2009).

This is relevant to the science vs. religion discussion because we have Jesus telling us in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John, “I am the light of the world.” And Latter-day Saints read in the Book of Mormon account of Christ’s visit to America, “I am the light and the life of the world” (3Nephi 11:11). Scientists would tell us that the light and life of the world come from the sun, not from Jesus. However, if the universe is electric and the sun receives its light through a series of mediums that lead back to the throne of God, then Jesus truly is capable of being the literal light and life of the world. Which leads to our final concept taught by Joseph Smith.

The Indestructibility of Energy

Elder Widtsoe stated, “Joseph Smith taught, and the Church now teaches, that all space is filled with a subtle, though material substance of wonderful properties, by which all natural phenomena are controlled. This substance is known as the Holy Spirit” (Widtsoe, p.16). What he is referring to by the words ‘Holy Spirit’ is not the personage of the Holy Ghost, but rather the Light of Christ; which is defined as “the divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives life and light to all things” (Guide to the Scriptures). The Mormon prophet taught in as early as May 1833 that this divine energy, the Light of Christ, also known as the Light of Truth, was indestructible. We read in the 93rd section of the Doctrine and Covenants “… the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.” Elder Widtsoe observes that “Joseph Smith taught the doctrine that the energy of the universe can in nowise be increased or diminished, though, it may manifest itself in various forms.” He also notes that Smith did so “ten years before Dr. Joule published his famous papers on energy relations, and fifteen or twenty years before the doctrine was clearly understood and generally accepted by the learned men of the world” (Widtsoe, p.18).

Joseph Smith taught that the Light of Christ, which “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space,” is “the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God” (D&C 88:12-13) He also explained that it is manifested in the light of the sun, the moon, the stars, and the earth, and is the power by which they were made. (D&C 88:7-10) Elder Bruce R. McConkie, a Mormon apostle, further expounded Joseph’s doctrine of the Light of Christ in this way: “There is a spirit—the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of Christ, the light of truth, the light of Christ—that defies description and is beyond mortal comprehension. It is in us and in all things; it is around us and around all things; it fills the earth and the heavens and the universe. It is everywhere, in all immensity, without exception; it is an indwelling, immanent, ever-present, never-absent spirit. It has neither shape nor form nor personality. It is not an entity nor a person nor a personage. It has no agency, does not act independently, and exists not to act but to be acted upon” (McConkie, p. 257).

These teachings coincide nicely with Wallace Thornhill’s description of plasma: “Almost the entire visible universe is composed of plasma. . . However, unlike the gases we are familiar with on Earth, plasma reacts strongly to the presence of electromagnetic fields and is a better conductor than copper. Its behavior has been described as complex and “life-like.” That should be a clue! The universe is principally an electrical plasma phenomenon” (Thornhill, 2009). These agreements lead one to a faith-promoting conclusion that what Joseph Smith identified as the Light of Christ, very well could be the same thing identified by cosmologists as plasma. Leading one to further conclude that those who put forward the idea of an electric universe, could really be onto something, which should grab every Latter-day Saint’s attention.

This concurrence is not so much an indicator that Joseph Smith lined up his religious teachings with principles of science and astronomy so that people could find a compromise and get along, but rather it signifies that scientists and cosmologists many years later are finally beginning to catch up with the Mormon Prophet. The big takeaway here for Latter-day Saints is, that if something in the field of science destroys faith and contradicts the word of God, it more than likely isn’t true; and if we wait faithfully for further understanding, trusting in that which has been revealed, eventually the truth will come forward; and we will observe, as many have before us, that time always vindicates the prophets.

 

Works Cited

Widtsoe, John A. Joseph Smith as Scientist: A Contribution to Mormon Philosophy. Salt Lake City: General Board, Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Associations, 1908. Print.

Roberts, B. H. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Vol. 6. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret News, 1902. Print.

Thornhill, Wallace. “The Simple Electric Universe.” Holosciencecom The Electric Universe. 6 Sept. 2009. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Clark, J. Reuben, Jr. “What Was This Jesus.” BYU Selected Speeches (1951). BYU Extension Publications. Web.

“Chapter 3 — What’s Different about the Electric Universe?” Thunderboltsinfo. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Guide to the Scriptures. “Light, Light of Christ.” Light, Light of Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <https://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/light-light-of-christ?lang=eng>.

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Pearl of Great Price. Salt Lake City, UT, U.S.A.: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981. Print.

McConkie, Bruce R. A New Witness for the Articles of Faith. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1985. Print.

The Waterfall: A Short Story

Once there was a ship with a full crew sailing out in a sea, renowned for its unforgiving waters. The edge of this sea led into a large river whose end split into two smaller rivers. At the end of one of these smaller rivers there was a giant calamitous waterfall, which, if sailed into, would lead to the death of all the sailors and the destruction of the ship. At the end of the other one was a beautiful lake surrounded by a tropical paradise with a town full of friendly welcoming occupants. The crew had heard much concerning the calm and peaceful scene of the paradise, and reaching it was their objective, yea, even the whole reason for their travel. When they left they knew that this goal would be best accomplished if they listened to their guide.

In the upper part of the main mast of the ship, known as the crow’s nest, was a wise yet scruffy old grey haired man who served as the lookout. Up there in the nest is where he stayed for the whole voyage, because he could see everything. He was the ship’s guide, and it was his responsibility to keep the crew safe and lead them to the paradise they were searching for.

While out at sea the old man was loud and diligent in his duty to warn the shipmates of danger, repeatedly alerting them of treacherous storms and menacing waves ahead. Sometimes he would advise them to steer clear, other times to drop their anchor and stay put and wait. When the crew followed the admonitions of the old man, their journey oftentimes was slightly longer and required more effort on their part, however they always enjoyed security, and after following it, were left with a more confident hope of reaching the paradise they set out to find.

However, the crew eventually became impatient with the time it was taking to reach their destination, and grew tired of the continual exertion it required from them. At length, many in the crew forgot all the times the old man’s warnings had saved them, and the ones that did remember, attributed it to luck, instead of his ability to see. Finally, rather than appreciating the faithfulness of the old man in the crow’s nest, they became annoyed by his constant cautioning and stopped listening to him.

Luckily for them this didn’t bring any immediate consequences because the waters at the edge of the sea leading into the river were calm and full of smooth sailing. This only fueled the idea that they no longer needed a guide, and they promptly ceased paying any attention to him at all. When they noticed their rations were beginning to run low, his were the first to be cut. The old man understandably became frustrated with the crew, but still resolved to fulfill his responsibility of warning them.

After a while the ship drew near the point where the river diverged with two options of courses you could take. The divide was not close enough for the crew to see yet, although it was easily visible to the old man. He watched anxiously as two ships who had set sail before them each took the left route. He peered further ahead through his old brass monocular in disbelief. The left course led straight into the terrible waterfall. Helplessly he cried out, “No! What are you doing?!” Astonished, he thought to himself, why did their guides tell them to go left? To his horror, as he looked through his telescope at the crow’s nest of both of the ships ahead, he saw their guides’ dead—one surrounded by a pool of blood had been shot with a musket, the other, curled up in the corner, lifeless as a rock, had been starved to death.

At this point the water his own ship was sailing in began to flow in a soft current toward the left route. Quickly, he warned his own crew, telling them everything he had seen, encouraging them with all the energy he had left to steer the boat out of the current and onto the course that led to the right, but they wouldn’t listen. He couldn’t believe it. Even after telling them exactly what he had seen, his own crew, still would not listen to him. In fact, they mocked him, and angrily shouted up to him that if he said another word, they would kill him. They wanted nothing more to do with him.

Disheartened, and left with nothing else to do, the old man looked woefully ahead through his monocular and watched as each of the other boats sailed right into the waterfall. Coming to a full realization that he was also going to sail into the waterfall and die just as those before him, he decided to take the roll of parchment that he had been detailing his ship’s voyage in and complete their story. He described what he had seen, and his attempts to get his crew to listen to him in vain, then included a solemn warning not to take the left route, and to listen to the guide, clearly laying forth what the consequences would be if this counsel was ignored. When he was done, he took the roll and stuffed it in his canteen, then closed the lid. He threw it back in the direction of the sea as far as he could, hoping that maybe, just maybe, someone would find it and learn from his crew’s mistakes.

An Elevator Ride In the Tower of Babel

An Elevator Ride in the Tower of Babel

In case you’ve ever wondered

What it might be like to travel

Up and down the corridors

Of the great Tower of Babel.

 

I’ll tell you what you’ll find there

In hopes that you won’t bother

To make the needless visit

For it has nothing to offer.

 

Masses upon masses of people

Not knowing what they’re after

By friends surrounded in fool’s paradise

Loneliness disguised as laughter

 

Because their true identity

A mystery remains

Their work to attain a higher sphere

Will all be done in vain.

 

In the ballroom we find them busy

Eating, drinking, and being merry

Frantically worshiping individuality

Their morals arbitrary.

 

The library is full of sophists

Who in their minds, are ever learning

Yet never able to come to knowledge

For the truth they’ll always be yearning.

 

Aimless concepts are the focus

Straightening deck chairs on the titanic

No messages just mediums

Nothing remotely messianic.

 

The walls are covered in paintings

Glorifying the confusing and abstract

Don’t try to deduce any meaning

Their purpose is to distract.

 

You’ll find plenty of entertainment

Geared to embed false satisfaction

Bread and circuses for everyone

Inviting tragic moral contraction.

 

By their own strength they strive for heaven

In this desperate spiritual heist

Rather than put their faith in the justice,

And mercy of Jesus Christ.

 

Please don’t be fooled by its size

Nor by its esteemed popularity

For soon this great tower will fall

Unmatched will be the severity.

Enduring Instructive Waiting

I recently found an article online that caught my attention. A pop-culture site was giving their ranking of the twenty most common pet peeves. A few of them may have been a little out there, but for the most part I thought they were notably common. A few of the things the list included were open mouthed chewers,  people who don’t return things, foot tappers, pen clickers, being interrupted, and getting your headphones caught on things. I thought this was interesting, but I felt they left out what, to me, may be the biggest, most common pet peeve in our society, and in the Church today – waiting.

We all have things in our life that we are presently waiting for. These things can  be spiritual or temporal, they can range anywhere from waiting to get married, waiting for an opportunities or a promotion, waiting for direction or peace, waiting for answers to prayers, or waiting to receive promised blessings from God. Whatever it is, each of us  likely struggles with waiting for something, and this can be difficult. As President Uchtdorf has said, “Waiting can be hard. We live in a world offering fast food, instant messaging, on-demand movies, and immediate answers to the most trivial or profound questions.” Hence the observation, “We don’t like to wait. Patience—the ability to put our desires on hold for a time—is a precious and rare virtue. We want what we want, and we want it now. Therefore, the very idea of patience may seem unpleasant and, at times, bitter.” He goes on to note that as rare and unpleasant as this virtue may be, it is a necessity. “Nevertheless, without patience, we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect. Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace.”

Elder Neal A. Maxwell plainly stated, “When you and I are unduly impatient, we are suggesting that we like our timetable better than God’s.” Sometimes in the moment it can look as if our timetable makes more sense. President Uchtdorf noted, “We wait for things which at the time may appear so right and so good to us that we can’t possibly imagine why Heavenly Father would delay the answer.” We convince ourselves that if we could control the lever that unlocks the blessings of heaven, and pull it at a time that we deem suitable to our needs, we’d have greater happiness, alleviated suffering, and less discomfort. This just isn’t true. God, who knows all things, has our best eternal interests in mind. In fact, he knows and understands those interests better than we do, which is why he instructively requires us to wait. There are reasons for this, but usually “the deep valleys of our present will be understood only by looking back on them from the mountains of our future experience. Often we can’t see the Lord’s hand in our lives until long after the trials have passed.” (Uchtdorf) In the meantime we can look for lessons from the experiences of others. The scriptures are replete with examples of people who had to wait. As we examine their stories, we find apparent reasons behind their waiting, and considerable blessings that were gained as they were patient.

Jacob had to wait seven years before he could marry Rachel as he served her father. “And they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.” (Gen 29:20) Along with a greater capacity to love, he likely gained a greater work ethic than he had before, and greater appreciation for the marriage when the time came. These things would lead him to be a better husband and father to his own family.

The Israelites had to wait 40 years before they could inhabit the promised land. It did not take long for the Lord to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt, but expunging the Egypt out of the Israelites was another, much longer, story. They were put through a character development process in the form of tests and tutorials that led them to change. Perhaps during the waiting periods of our lives the Lord is trying to remove the false ideologies, habits, and practices that represent the Egypt in us, preparing us for our own future ‘promised land.’ Elder Maxwell remarked, “Faith likewise includes faith in God’s developmental purposes. . . Still, some of us have trouble when God’s tutoring is applied to us! We plead for exemption more than we do for sanctification, don’t we, brothers and sisters?” If we can bring ourselves to humbly plead for sanctification and knowledge rather than exemption, waiting will begin to be instructive, and even edifying.

In Alma chapter 52 we read of a time when patience worked out in Teancum’s favor.

16 And it came to pass that Teancum had received orders to make an attack upon the city of Mulek, and retake it if it were possible.

17 And it came to pass that Teancum made preparations to make an attack upon the city of Mulek, and march forth with his army against the Lamanites; but he saw that it was impossible that he could overpower them while they were in their fortifications; therefore he abandoned his designs and returned again to the city Bountiful, to wait for the coming of Moroni, that he might receive strength to his army.

18 And it came to pass that Moroni did arrive with his army at the land of Bountiful.

Teancum was asked to do something, and had to wait because it wouldn’t work at that specific time. His patience for the correct circumstances led him to receive additional strength beyond his own army’s capacity. With the help of Moroni and the reinforcements they took the city of Mulek by stratagem. It may be that the timing and circumstance for the blessing we seek are not yet right. We may not be spiritually or emotionally strong enough to figuratively retake the city of Mulek.

Helaman and his stripling warriors faced a similar dilemma in Alma chapter 58 when they were directed to take the city of Manti.

And they were so much more numerous than was our army that we durst not go forth and attack them in their strongholds.

Yea, and it became expedient that we should employ our men to the maintaining those parts of the land which we had regained of our possessions; therefore it became expedient that we should wait, that we might receive more strength from the land of Zarahemla and also a new supply of provisions.

And it came to pass that I thus did send an embassy to the governor of our land, to acquaint him concerning the affairs of our people. And it came to pass that we did wait to receive provisions and strength from the land of Zarahemla.

And it came to pass that we did wait in these difficult circumstances for the space of many months, even until we were about to perish for the want of food.

They waited until they couldn’t wait any longer, and finally received provisions accompanied by an army of a mere 2,000 men, which they felt was inadequate “to contend with an army which was innumerable.”

And now the cause of these our embarrassments, or the cause why they did not send more strength unto us, we knew not; therefore we were grieved and also filled with fear, lest by any means the judgments of God should come upon our land, to our overthrow and utter destruction.

The trial of waiting, and not receiving the assistance they felt they needed and deserved, caused them to feel embarrassed. However, this led them to pray and receive assurance from the Lord.

10 Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength that we might retain our cities, and our lands, and our possessions, for the support of our people.

11 Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.

What Helaman and his men ultimately gained by waiting longer than they thought they could wait, and receiving less than they felt they should have received, was increased faith in the Lord. They learned that they could rely on Him. Helaman records: “And we did take courage with our small force which we had received, and were fixed with a determination to conquer our enemies.” This result came because they chose to pray. Perhaps we have been waiting for reinforcements and provisions in the form of a specific blessing or answer, even to the point of embarrassment, and what finally came was less than we felt we deserved. The Lord may be trying to teach us, as with the stripling warriors, not to rely so much on the reinforcements, whatever they may represent for us, but to rely on Him and to have faith in Him.

Joseph Smith had to wait three years after his first vision before being visited by Moroni, and another four years before he was allowed to obtain the plates. This instructive waiting period was likely given for him to overcome his weaknesses and sufficiently mature. He recorded that between 1820 and 1823, “I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God.” Admittedly, one of the weaknesses or foibles he was guilty of was levity, defined as “lightness of mind, character, or behavior; lack of appropriate seriousness or earnestness.” He repented, and eventually grew into his prophetic calling. But it took time. It is true, as Elder Maxwell taught, that “so many spiritual outcomes require saving truths to be mixed with time, forming the elixir of experience, that sovereign remedy for so many things.” It may be that we, like Joseph, just aren’t ready to receive what we’re waiting for yet. We may be guilty of levity and need to repent and grow, this requires time.

The following is an excerpt from a speech given by then Elder Gordon B. Hinckley to students at Brigham Young University in 1977. The comments are specifically addressed to young adults waiting to get married, but the principles that are taught apply to everyone.

If you are complaining about life, it is because you are thinking only of yourself. There was for many years a sign on the wall of a shoe repair shop I patronized. It read, “I complained because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.” The most effective medicine for the sickness of self-pity is to lose oneself in the service of others.

There are some girls on this campus who are worrying themselves almost sick over the question of whether they will have opportunity for marriage. Of course marriage is desirable; of course it is hoped for and worked for and sought after. But worrying about it will never bring it. In fact, it may have the opposite effect, for there is nothing that dulls a personality so much as a negative outlook. Possibly some of you will not be married; but don’t forget that there are other things in life, other pursuits to be followed. I would like to suggest that you read the story of Dr. Anne G. Osborne in the March issue of the Ensign magazine. Here is a highly trained instructor at the University of Utah medical school, an eminent specialist in her field, and a member of the Sunday School General Board. I like the title of her short article. She calls it, “The Ecstasy of the Agony: How to be Single and Sane at the Same Time.” Speaking candidly of her age as thirty-three, she mentions marriage as a promised blessing, but she soon makes it clear that there is a stimulating and productive life for those single young women who will get interested in serving the needs of others. Says she,

As single Church members we can either engage in morose personal recrimination and self-flagellation, bemoaning our single status and living on the edge of desperation, or we can use this interim period in our lives as a time of active, creative waiting. . . . [She continues,] When discouragement weighs heavily, look around. . . . I have found that a sure cure for depression is to realize someone out there needs me. In blessing someone else, my needs and problems are quickly consumed in the warm glow of knowing that I have brightened another’s life and that what I have done is pleasing to the Lord.

[She concludes with these words:] Let us then rejoice in this precious treasure, time, and thank the Lord for a special gift. We truly have time to become interesting because we are interested.

These thoughts seem to coincide with the remarks of President Uchtdorf, who learned for himself “that patience was far more than simply waiting for something to happen—patience required actively working toward worthwhile goals and not getting discouraged when results didn’t appear instantly or without effort.” He went on to state, “There is an important concept here: patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!”

Just about every time Elder David A. Bednar has spoken in a public setting since being ordained an Apostle, he has taught the principle that “we are agents who act for ourselves and not objects to be acted upon.” For agents who act, waiting can be instructive; for people who allow themselves to become objects that are acted upon, waiting can be irksome, dragging, and even annoying. The responsibility to act as an agent and turn waiting into ‘instructive waiting’ is our own. We can do this by choosing to be patient, choosing to pray for assurance, looking for the lesson, using the time to learn and better ourselves, and losing ourselves in the service of others. This is important because as Elder Maxwell has declared, “Without patient and meek endurance we will learn less, see less, feel less, and hear less. We who are egocentric and impatient shut down so much of our receiving capacity.”

Years down the road, when the necessary building blocks have been put in place, the needed lessons have been learned, and the essential experience has been gained, we will likely feel like crying out to our former selves, as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland did: “Don’t give up boy. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead, a lot of it. You keep your chin up. It will be alright in the end. Trust God, and believe in good things to come.”

In the same address, Elder Holland asserted, “Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. Of that I personally attest.”

I wish to emphasize a final principle here, and it is this – God is never late, His timing is perfect. When we are waiting on the Lord, we are really waiting for Him to be done waiting for us.  If the blessings are late, or seem late, it is not that God is late; it is instead likely that we have not yet been obedient to the necessary commandment upon which the specific blessing is predicated, or we are still yet to learn the lesson(s) found in the waiting process leading up to that blessing. If there is a postponing on His part of the bestowal we seek, no matter how long or how miserable we may feel, it is for our benefit. As President Henry B. Eyring observed, “The Lord’s delays often seem long; some last a lifetime. But they are always calculated to bless. They need never be times of loneliness or sorrow or impatience.” We can press forward with faith in the understanding, as President Uchtdorf taught, that “in your patience you win mastery of your souls. . . knowing that sometimes it is in the waiting rather than in the receiving that we grow the most.”

Smoke Signals and the Grace of God

While traveling on our life’s journey, we all face times of testing and trial; times when things don’t go the way we want or expect them to; times when we find out if our faith and trust in God is real or imagined. In such instances no one is immune to the disappointment, discouragement, and despair that can accompany these things.

A few years ago a dear friend of mine shared a story with me that I have never forgotten. It taught me that not only do I not always know what is best, but that even in my darkest, most trying moments, God is near, and He is at work in my life.

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and everyday he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, alone, and discouraged he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements. He also used the hut to store his few possessions.

But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. The man was stung with grief and anger.

“God, how could you do this to me?!” he cried. Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him.

“How did you know I was here?” the weary man asked of his rescuers.

“We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.

It is easy to get discouraged when things are going bad, but we shouldn’t lose faith. God is at work in our lives. The next time you feel like your little hut is burning to the ground, it may just be the smoke signal that summons the grace of God.

Oscar Wilde wrote, “What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” This was clearly the case for the man in the story. However, like many of us, it was difficult for him to recognize that truth in the midst of his tribulation.

The counsel of President George Q. Cannon is helpful in such situations:

“The saints should always remember that God sees not as man sees; that he does not willingly afflict His children, and that if He requires them to endure present privation and trial, it is that they may escape greater tribulations which would otherwise inevitably overtake them. If He deprives them of any present blessing, it is that He may bestow upon them greater and more glorious ones by and by.”

The man was required to endure the trial of his hut burning to the ground, but that privation allowed him to escape the greater tribulation of trying to stay alive while remaining on the island alone. He was deprived of the blessing of sleeping in the hut that night, but it was that very deprivation that allowed him to receive the greater blessing of being rescued.

The principles put forward by President Cannon represent a theme that can be observed in the scriptures, as well as in our lives. Trials and tribulations serve as smoke signals that summon the grace of God. These smoke signals can invite boats in the form of opportunities, friends, lessons to learn, or greater blessings than we were presently enjoying. Viewing our trials this way gets easier as we remember Heavenly Father’s character and become more familiar with this pattern.

This pattern can be seen in many examples in the scriptures. Ammon may have felt his hut was burning to the ground and all was lost when he was imprisoned for two days upon reaching the land of Nephi, but that trial allowed him to meet and teach King Limhi and his people, as well as lead them out of bondage back to the land of Zarahemla.

Alma was very discouraged after being  withstood, reviled, spit upon, and then cast out of the city of Ammonihah. But this smoke signal summoned a boat in the form of an angel who told him to return to the land of Ammonihah where he met Amulek. If this had never happened, he would not have witnessed God’s hand as “they had power given unto them, insomuch that they could not be confined in dungeons; neither was it possible that any man could slay them.” (Alma 8:31)

Joseph likely felt like his hut was burning to the ground when he was sold into Egypt by his brothers, or when Potiphar’s wife had him put in prison. But these hardships gave him the opportunity to interpret Pharaoh’s dream which led to his promotion, enabling him to temporally save many people, including his own family, from the coming famine.

Brigham Young taught, “If you possess the light of the Holy Spirit, you can see clearly that trials in the flesh are actually necessary.” Perhaps it was his possession of that Spirit, and understanding of the necessity of trials, that led him–after being driven out of Nauvoo, and crossing the plains to the Rocky Mountains–to make this statement: “We are infinitely more blessed by the persecutions and injustice we have suffered, than we could have been if we had remained in our habitations from which we have been driven – than if we had been suffered to occupy our farms, gardens, stores, mills, machinery and everything we had in our former possessions.”

Joseph Smith braved many hardships and tribulations during his life. Possibly the most trying of those experiences was the four months in the middle of winter he spent unlawfully confined in a dungeon, ironically named, Liberty Jail. In his letters he spoke of the jail being a “hell, surrounded with demons. . . where we are compelled to hear nothing but blasphemous oaths, and witness a scene of blasphemy, and drunkenness and hypocrisy, and debaucheries of every description.” He wrote, “We have . . . not blankets sufficient to keep us warm, and when we have a fire, we are obliged to have almost a constant smoke.” “Our souls have been bowed down” “and my nerve trembles from long confinement.” “Pen, or tongue, or angels,” Joseph wrote, could not adequately describe “the malice of hell” that he suffered there. (Holland, Lessons From Liberty Jail)

To make matters worse, in the midst of this imprisonment, the Saints were being driven out of their homes in Missouri via an extermination order signed by Governor Boggs. These conditions drove the prophet to cry out, “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” (D&C 121:1) Surely Joseph could relate to the man watching his hut burn to the ground who cried out “God how could you do this to me?!” But Joseph’s burning hut of adversity sent up a smoke signal that would summon a boat in the form of some of the most powerful lessons ever taught in the scriptures contained in Doctrine and Covenants sections 121-123.

As challenging and profound as each of these stories are, none match the affliction and distress endured by the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross at Calvary. As described by Jesus himself, so great was the suffering it “caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit – and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink.” The culmination of the suffering consisted of the Father withdrawing His Spirit, causing the Savior to cry out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” These flames of anguish burning down Jesus’ hut summoned the greatest gift of grace this world has ever known – the atonement. It is through this figurative rescue boat that we are endowed with the strength to not just pass through our trials, but to allow our trials to “pass through us in ways that sanctify us.” (Elder Maxwell)

President Thomas S. Monson proclaimed:

“There are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were – better than what we were, more understanding than what we were, more empathetic than what we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before.”

Linda S. Reeves has offered this perspective thought, “What will it matter, what we suffered here if, in the end, those trials are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation in the kingdom of God.” In other words, what will it matter how many huts we watch go up in flames if, in the end, those smoke signals are the very things that beckon the rescue boats – the grace of God – to come to our aid and take us to where we need to go.

Whatever the hut that is in flames represents for us, we can rest assured with the knowledge that God is not maliciously burning it to the ground for his own satisfaction, nor will he allow it to burn to the ground without sending a smoke signal summoning a rescue boat. He is at work in our lives orchestrating the experiences, challenges, and trials that will bring us the greatest amount of knowledge, experience, and eternal progression.

As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:

“The tests of life are tailored for our own best interests, and all will face the burdens best suited to their own mortal experience. In the end we will realize that God is merciful as well as just and that all the rules are fair, we can be reassured that our challenges will be the ones we needed, and conquering them will bring blessings we could have received in no other way.”

Whether we recognize it in the moment or not, He does have our best interests in mind. With our limited vision we may be satisfied for the moment with figuratively living in a hut on a deserted island, because it is better than drifting away aimlessly in the ocean. But God sees the bigger picture, and knows that we can accomplish much more if He can rescue us from where we are. Even if it requires us to experience some frustration and despair as our circumstances are altered. So remember, the next time you feel like your little hut is burning to the ground, it may just be the smoke signal that summons the grace of God. In the words of George Q. Cannon “No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, God will never desert us, He never has, and He never will.”

From Self-Doubt to Moving Mountains

At some point in our lives we each become acquainted with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Often times these feelings sprout from focusing solely on our personal weaknesses and imperfections. The danger in zooming in exclusively on these, is our strengths and our individual potential can then fade out of sight, causing our self-image to be blurred by negative shadows of self-deprecation.  This can be difficult to avoid though, because life is challenging. When hard things are asked or required of us, our initial response may be to think we are not good enough. To make matters worse, there may even be forces outside of our control that appear to carry our tasks up to a level of seeming impossibility. When such situations arise I find comfort in this truth taught by Elder Richard G. Scott, “Learning, pondering, searching, and memorizing scriptures is like filling a cabinet with friends, values, and truths that can be called upon anytime.” As the characters in the scriptural stories become “stalwart friends that are not limited by geography or calendar,” they can be pulled out of your memory cabinet to teach useful truths in a moment of need. One of my best friends when I need self-worth is Enoch the prophet.

The story of this friend picks up in Moses chapter 6:

26 And it came to pass that Enoch journeyed in the land, among the people; and as he journeyed, the Spirit of God descended out of heaven, and abode upon him.

27 And he heard a voice from heaven, saying: Enoch, my son, prophesy unto this people, and say unto them—Repent, for thus saith the Lord: I am angry with this people, and my fierce anger is kindled against them; for their hearts have waxed hard, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes cannot see afar off.

Enoch was asked by the Lord to go prophesy unto the people and tell them to repent, this was no small task considering how wicked they were. Remember Enoch was the great-grandfather of Noah, so these were some of the darkest days in the Earth’s history. And unfortunately for him, it is very rare that you find people who enjoy being told to repent, especially iniquitous people guilty of grievous sins. Now, we might not be chosen to call a civilization to repentance like Enoch, but just as he was asked to perform this difficult assignment, we are repeatedly asked to do hard things.  These could be things asked of us by God, by our parents, friends, family members, church leaders, teachers and professors, or even employers. These things could range from keeping a certain commandment, fulfilling a demanding calling, going on a mission, forgiving someone, lending a helping hand or listening ear, being overworked at your job, finishing assignments, dating, or enduring irony or loneliness. In short, Enoch’s task may be generalized to include anything that requires more of us than we feel we are capable of giving.

We look now at Enoch’s response:

31 And when Enoch had heard these words, he bowed himself to the earth, before the Lord, and spake before the Lord, saying: Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?

He replied the way we often reply when asked to do something difficult, by reciting a list of every reason we’re not good enough. “I’m just a boy I’m not old enough for that, the people hate me, I can’t talk.” In other words, “Lord, you’ve got the wrong guy! I suggest you find someone else, because I can’t do that.” Similarly overwhelmed with self-doubt, we give this same response to those asking hard things of us, and maybe even worse – to ourselves. The oddest thing is the moment someone tries to convince us to believe in ourselves, we somehow feel obliged to defend our doubts and offer an attack on our self, disguised as a counterargument just like he did. We, like Enoch, often listen to the wrong spirit. Brigham Young candidly advised, “If you have a bad thought about yourself, tell it to go to Hell because that is exactly where it came from.” I don’t believe we come into this life with low confidence and a bad self-image, I believe that comes from letting those thoughts that come from the adversary stay in our mind instead of sending them right back where they belong.

The very fact that God is asking Enoch and not someone else shows that God believes in him. But Enoch is too focused on his weaknesses and imperfections to see that. He is struggling to see himself as God sees him. The words of Elder Bruce C. Hafen offer comfort in such seasons of doubt, “So if you have problems in your life, don’t assume there is something wrong with you. Struggling with those problems is at the very core of life’s purpose. As we draw close to God, He will show us our weaknesses and through them make us wiser, and stronger. If you’re seeing more of your weaknesses, that just might mean you’re moving nearer to God, not farther away.” As Elder Hafen says, struggling with problems in the form of imperfections or inadequacies is at the very core of life’s purpose, and as we move nearer to God, our weaknesses become more detectable. This is because the closer we get to the Lord, the more often he gives us opportunities to have stretching experiences – experiences that require us to do things we’ve never done before, and to become better than we’ve ever been. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell has put it, “God as a loving Father, will stretch our souls at times. The soul is like a violin string: it makes music only when it is stretched.”

So, we are in the business of making spiritual music in the form of progression. However, like Enoch we may not feel good enough or even worthy, to play the song that is requested. Hope can be found in this principle taught by Cecil O. Samuelson, “One can be fully worthy in the gospel sense and yet still be growing while dealing with personal imperfections. . . Worthiness is vital, but it is not the same as perfection. . . It may reflect more upon your current direction than on your final destination.” Enoch might have been under the impression that he needed to be perfect in order to perform the task of calling the people to repentance. If so, that is a troubling conclusion. If perfection was a prerequisite to being worthy of having the opportunity to perform difficult, soul-stretching tasks, not only would Jesus be the only one worthy of doing anything hard, but that would be counterproductive to the very work Jesus himself is engaged in, namely our eternal improvement. Remember, God is more concerned with our direction, we may feel weak as we ascend the upward climb toward him, but at least we know that we are moving up. And as we will learn in the Lord’s response to Enoch, we are not alone in our effort to climb.

32 And the Lord said unto Enoch: Go forth and do as I have commanded thee, and no man shall pierce thee. Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance, for all flesh is in my hands, and I will do as seemeth me good.

33 Say unto this people: Choose ye this day, to serve the Lord God who made you.

34 Behold my Spirit is upon you, wherefore all thy words will I justify; and the mountains shall flee before you, and the rivers shall turn from their course; and thou shalt abide in me, and I in you; therefore walk with me.

How interesting the Lord does not just tell Enoch to walk, but to walk with Him. In essence the Lord is saying here, “Enoch, go forth and try. All I need is your best effort. If you really feel like you can’t talk very well, then I will speak for you. I will justify whatever effort you put forward with my grace. And I will move any outside forces beyond your control, like mountains or rivers, out of your way.”

 As the story of Enoch is pulled out of the memory cabinet, it must be accompanied by this truth taught by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “The Lord does not ask about our ability or inability, but only about our availability. And if we prove our dependability, the Lord will take care of our capability.” The Lord is not asking Enoch if he is able or not able to call the people to repentance. That’s simply not what He is asking. He is asking him if he is available – if he is willing to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands by trying. Then, as Enoch proves his dependability by giving his best effort, the Lord will take care of his capability and make up where he lacks. The Lord did not ask if five loaves and two fishes were able or not able to feed five thousand people, he only asked if they were available for Him to use. And as their dependability was proved by being brought forward and given to the Lord, their capability was taken care of.  Likewise, when we are given soul-stretching opportunities He is not asking us whether we are able or not able to do those hard things. His concern is our availability. And just like Enoch, and the five loaves and two fishes, if we make ourselves available and prove our dependability by trying our best, the promise is the Lord will take care of our capability.

37 And it came to pass that Enoch went forth in the land, among the people, standing upon the hills and the high places, and cried with a loud voice, testifying against their works; and all men were offended because of him.

38 And they came forth to hear him, upon the high places, saying unto the tent-keepers: Tarry ye here and keep the tents, while we go yonder to behold the seer, for he prophesieth, and there is a strange thing in the land; a wild man hath come among us.

39 And it came to pass when they heard him, no man laid hands on him; for fear came on all them that heard him; for he walked with God.

Enoch was endowed with power from on high as he proved his dependability and did as the Lord asked by testifying with boldness. The people feared him because they knew he walked with God. He was referred to as a “wild man” and “a strange thing in the land.” The transformation gets even better in the next chapter when armies are fleeing from Enoch as he moves mountains and bends rivers just as the Lord had promised.

12 And it came to pass that Enoch continued to call upon all the people, save it were the people of Canaan, to repent;

13 And so great was the faith of Enoch that he led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him.

14 There also came up a land out of the depth of the sea, and so great was the fear of the enemies of the people of God, that they fled and stood afar off and went upon the land which came up out of the depth of the sea.

The Lord was true to his word in taking care of Enoch’s capability, but it was more than just effort that made the difference for Enoch in this transformation from self doubt to moving mountains. If we jump back to chapter six we read:

35 And the Lord spake unto Enoch, and said unto him: Anoint thine eyes with clay, and wash them, and thou shalt see. And he did so.

36 And he beheld the spirits that God had created; and he beheld also things which were not visible to the natural eye; and from thenceforth came the saying abroad in the land: A seer hath the Lord raised up unto his people.

What was the result of Enoch anointing his eyes with clay and then washing the clay from them? He was able to see with spiritual eyes rather than just his natural eyes. Seeing things with spiritual eyes included seeing himself as he really was. Surely this allowed Enoch to see that he was foreordained before this life to perform this task. It likely awarded him the ability to see himself as God saw him, which is enough to boost anyone’s self-worth.

What might the anointing the eyes with clay and then washing them represent for us? Each week we have a significant opportunity to anoint and wash our eyes, and be filled with the Holy Spirit as we partake of the sacrament. Over the course of the week our vision of our self and the world around us can become blurred and distorted by many things, but as we take advantage of this ordinance and participate properly, a renewal of the spirit will better enable us to see things as they really are. This will capacitate us not only to change our focus from our weaknesses to our strengths, but to zoom in on the Savior as he converts those weaknesses into strengths.

As our focus is altered, the way we pray will change. We will desire to follow the counsel of President Thomas S. Monson, “Do not pray for tasks equal to your abilities, but pray for abilities equal to your tasks. Then the performance of your tasks will be no miracle, but you will be the miracle.” We will stop praying for tasks that are equal to our abilities, and will begin to pray for our abilities to be made equal to our tasks. Then the progression and growth will occur. As he puts it, we will be the miracle. This is an important adjustment because life will not be full of tasks that are equal to our abilities, remember struggling with problems (hard tasks) is at the very core of life’s purpose. But we agreed to these.

In the gospel reference book True to the Faith we learn:

“In the premortal spirit world, God appointed certain spirits to fulfill specific missions during their mortal lives. This is called foreordination. …

“The doctrine of foreordination applies to all members of the Church, not just to the Savior and His prophets. Before the creation of the earth, faithful women were given certain responsibilities and faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood duties. Although you do not remember that time, you surely agreed to fulfill significant tasks in the service of your Father”

The fact that opportunities to accept responsibility for such significant tasks were offered to us means Heavenly Father believed in us. The fact that we committed to them means we believed in ourselves. It is easy for God to carry on that belief, he does not have a veil placed over him. He never forgets our real identity or our eternal potential. I believe the reason He entrusts us with hard things to do and overcome, and gives other people opportunities to require much from us, is so we can learn things about ourselves that He already knows. Enoch needed to learn something about Enoch. He needed a chance to become who he had committed to become. That never would have happened if he had not been asked to do something he felt overwhelmed by. It is the same for us. Therefore, as we go forward, the encouraging words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell hang before us, “It is extremely important for you to believe in yourselves not only for what you are now but for what you have the power to become. Trust in the Lord as He leads you along. He has things for you to do that you won’t know about now but that will unfold later. If you stay close to Him, you will have some great adventures. You will live in a time where instead of sometimes being fulfilled, many of them will actually be fulfilled. The Lord will unfold your future bit by bit.”

I know that if we will stay close to the Lord, make ourselves available, and continue to faithfully anoint and wash our spiritual eyes every week, we, like Enoch, will go from self-doubt to moving mountains. We will become “a strange thing in the land.”

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