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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”.

Nehor: “Have Your Cake and Eat It Too.”

A popular object lesson in Latter-day Saint Sunday school instruction involves a stick that looks like this.

consequences stick

It’s called the consequence stick, we’ve all heard of it. Every time you pick up the stick (make a decision) you get a fixed 2 for 1 deal where the choice comes with a complementary side of consequence. This is immutable, yet we still hear of many “well-wishing” proponents of entrepreneurial deals that involve the stick being snapped in half. In the one hand is the choice, while the other side wondrously transforms from consequence into a wand that allows you to whip up whatever outcome you wish, all depending on which spell you select. Once such campaigner is found in chapter 1 of Alma in the Book of Mormon. He is the infamous Nehor.  He is honored and his doctrines are endorsed through the rest of the entire book by those who wish not only to justify any act that would be considered by most to be out of line, but be financially supported in said acts as well.

“After the order of Nehor,” the way Mormon usually words it, becomes a synonym for priestcraft throughout the book. Nephi defined this art in this way, “for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set 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) The praise and gain follow the preaching because it feels good to have our ears tickled. “Yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for they neighbor; there is no harm in this. . . if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” (2Nephi 28:8) Life is more fun with a choice and a wand then an over-sized stick.

Our narrative begins in verse 2

And it came to pass that in the first year of the reign of Alma in the judgment-seat, there was a man brought before him to be judged, a man who was large, and was noted for his much strength.

Now that we have a visual, let’s examine what he’s preaching.

And he had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people.

And he also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.

Here we have the word of God according to Nehor, or to put it more accurately, the word of his god. He essentially advances four principles with the wave of his wand, each more enchanting than the one before it. However, when analyzed carefully through spiritual lenses, they can be seen for what they really are, delusive and untrue. For at the very root of each is an attempt to destroy agency and accountability.

  1. “Every priest and teacher ought to become popular. . . and they . . . ought to be supported by the people.”

How vain and prideful is this? President Hinckley taught, “Being humble means recognizing that we are not on earth to see how important we can become, but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others.” All Nehor seems to be focused on is how famous he can become, and the amount of difference others can make in his life with their applause and money. In his fairyland, those lucky enough to be designated as priests are not accountable for their own temporal well being, but are supported by the people. This is in direct defiance of the law set forth by King Mosiah, that “every man should esteem his neighbor as himself, laboring with their own hands for their support. Yea, and all their priests and teachers should labor with their own hands for their support.” (Mosiah 27:4-5) Perhaps Mosiah understood that the crowd-pleasing, attractive doctrines put forward by Nehor often come as a result of a paid ministry. He likely also understood that agency is thwarted when the responsibility over our own temporal well-being is taken away.

2. “All mankind should be saved. . .”

In this context should means the same thing as will, as in all mankind will be saved. In other words, not just those who live certain principles, but everybody. There are no requirements, everybody graduates! As pleasant as that sounds, it lacks purpose. Watch what happens when we change one word and quote an article of faith. . . “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” All mankind will be saved, or all mankind may be saved, how do we know which one is right? We simply check the effect it has on agency. ‘May be saved,’ preserves accountability by virtue of obedience to laws and ordinances that provide progression. Here is a stick with choice and consequence connected. ‘Will be saved,’ relieves accountability by eliminating the idea that the Lord has requirements. Here is a choice in the one hand, and a wand in the other.

3. “the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men.”

Here is a lie covered in truth. Forget about the inherent change in the nature of the individual who embraces the Gospel and applies the Atonement. He’s redeeming all men, just the way they are. This precept lacks the validating addition of repentance, which involves change and improvement, and preserves agency and accountability. “Heaven will not be heaven for those who have not chosen to become heavenly.” (Brad Wilcox) If Jesus redeemed everyone on this earth in their sins, without requiring repentance, then the Celestial Kingdom would be no different than the telestial world we are living in right now. It wouldn’t be heaven. Aside from the fact that fallen, unworthy beings could not abide the light of a higher world, they wouldn’t even want to, it would be terribly uncomfortable. We can be redeemed from our sins, but not in them, just as Amulek taught. (Alma 11:37)

4. “all men should have eternal life.”

Here Nehor is promising the same reward for varying degrees of faithfulness and morality. How is that fair? Some work harder than others, and yet all receive the same reward. There would be no motivation whatsoever to change from bad to good or to be a genuine and trustworthy person. This philosophy is always accompanied by apathy which will quell any desire to learn and grow. Without different consequences for different choices, agency would be frustrated. Promising everyone eternal life has the same effect on freedom as promising nobody eternal life. “If our freedom is destroyed by having a situation that brings only penalty and no reward, then the reverse situation must destroy freedom as well. If we eliminate the option of penalty and thus have only rewards as the result of every choice, then different results would not exist and freedom would also be lost. This is the key to Satan’s plan. By this means comes the destruction of freedom, and therefore the destruction of the agency of man. We must be free to lose or we cannot be free to choose.” (Greg Wright)

How did the people respond to these teachings?

And it came to pass that he did teach these things so much that many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money.

They jumped on the bandwagon, as if frequency conferred respectability. “Have your cake and eat it too,” says Nehor, the Dean of Students at Carte Blanche Academy where the banners of immunity, indulgence, and equality are waved shamelessly. Where the school choir, with respect to Bruno Mars, sings: “He will redeem you just the way you are!” As thousands of cheering profligates sing along.

What does Nehor do when the credentials of his “spiritual” university are questioned? Or when someone looks for a bibliography in his textbooks? He takes the life of the naysayer.

Now, because Gideon withstood him with the words of God he was wroth with Gideon, and drew his sword and began to smite him. Now Gideon being stricken with many years, therefore he was not able to withstand his blows, therefore he was slain by the sword.

There is an easy three step process to identify whether a principle is true or false. First, ask what would happen if everyone did that? Second, check what the motivation for the teaching of the principle is. And third, observe if it is being practiced voluntarily or by force. So step one – if everyone embraced Nehor’s magically delicious ideas, nobody would provide for themselves because they would be relying on others for support. But then who would be offering the support? Hmm. . . Not to mention if everyone was to be redeemed and have eternal life, that would eventually lead to nobody holding themselves accountable to any law whatsoever. Step two – the inspiration for his tenets came from fame and wealth. And step three, we turn to Alma the chief judge, “behold, thou art not only guilty of priestcraft, but hast endeavored to enforce it by the sword.” Three strikes, you’re out.

As a type of what will ultimately happen to all who follow the path he laid out, Nehor eventually had to pay the price. Attached to his choice to “shed the blood of a righteous man,” he received his consequence of capital punishment, and was “condemned to die, according to the law,” which was given by Mosiah.

15 And it came to pass that they took him; and his name was Nehor; and they carried him upon the top of the hill Manti, and there he was caused, or rather did acknowledge, between the heavens and the earth, that what he had taught to the people was contrary to the word of God; and there he suffered an ignominious death.

Unfortunately for the Nephites, professors had been trained and students acquired, and Carte Blanche academy moved forward.

16 Nevertheless, this did not put an end to the spreading of priestcraft through the land; for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor.

These same doctrines continue in one form or another down to the present day. But what we learn from this story, is that God “will render to every man according to his deeds.” (Romans 2:6) We can “be not deceived. . . for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galations 6:7) Every choice has a consequence attached, we cannot have our cake and eat it too.

An Approach to the Sacrament

In chapter 11 of Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians we read of his charge for them to “keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you.” Their lack of ability to adhere to this counsel can be observed in their approach to the ordinance of the sacrament. The correction offered by Paul can in large part be attributed to their perversion of four simple concepts in regards to this ordinance. Their approach was not in the right state of mind, it was not in remembrance of the Savior, they were not partaking worthily,  nor for the right reason. If in our lives all four of those principles are not in place, then we ourselves are guilty of corrupting the sacrament just like the Saints at Corinth.

1. The Right State of Mind

“When ye come together therefore into one place, is it not to eat the Lord’s supper? . . . and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the Church of God. . . Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.” (1Corinthians 11:20-22)

They were clearly not in the right state of mind. Maybe we are not intoxicated by a strong drink, but could we be intoxicated, when participating in the sacrament, by thoughts that are not conducive to the Spirit or centered on the Lord? President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “Every thought that one permits through his mind leaves its trace. Thoughts are things. Our lives are governed a great deal by our thoughts.” The easiest time for God to help us in governing our lives is during the reflection and repentance that takes place throughout the ordinance of the sacrament. If our thoughts are elsewhere, we are doing ourselves a disservice.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell pointedly asserted that, “some of the best sermons we will ever hear will be thus prompted from the pulpit of memory, to audience of one.” The sacrament provides a great opportunity for the Holy Ghost to bring to our remembrance our improper conduct from the previous week and then preach personalized corrective sermons. While the emblems are passed. . . . Are we thinking about His advice or thinking about sports? Are we focusing on leveling up on the game on our phone or reaching a higher spiritual level? Are we seeking out spiritual media like the scriptures or hymns with the intention of strengthening our spiritual status? Or are we seeking out social media like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hopes of strengthening our social status?

2. In Remembrance

“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you, this do in remembrance of me.” (1Corinthians 11:23-24)

“When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is? It could be ‘remember.’ Because all of you have made covenants – you know what to do and you know how to do it – our greatest need is to remember. That is why everyone goes to sacrament meeting every Sabbath day, to take the sacrament and listen to the priests pray that ‘they always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them.’ ‘Remember’ is the word. ‘Remember’ is the program.” (President Kimball)

This principle of remembrance was effectively taught in an address by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. “Christ suffered for the sins and sorrows and pains of all the rest of the human family, providing remission for all of our sins as well, upon conditions of obedience to the principles and ordinances of the gospel he taught. . . That is why every ordinance of the gospel focuses in one way or another on the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, and surely that is why this particular ordinance with all its symbolism and imagery comes to us more readily and more repeatedly than any other in our life. It comes in what has been called “the most sacred, the most holy, of all the meetings of the Church”. . . Perhaps we do not always attach that kind of meaning to our weekly sacramental service. How “sacred” and how “holy” is it? Do we see it as our passover, remembrance of our safety and deliverance and redemption?

The ancient Israelites celebrated the passover, and would offer an unblemished lamb from the firstlings of their flocks looking forward to the Atonement of Jesus Christ. For us, “Remember is the word. Remember is the program.” We remember Him, and memorialize our escape from the angel of darkness, each week as we partake of the sacrament.

3. Worthily

“Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” (1Corinthians 11:27)

How do we know if we are worthy to partake of the sacrament?

John H. Groberg expressed these thoughts on the subject: “What does it mean to partake of the sacrament worthily? Or how do we know if we are unworthy?If we desire to improve (which is to repent) and are not under priesthood restriction, then, in my opinion, we are worthy . . . If, however, we refuse to repent and improve, if we do not remember him and keep his commandments, then we have stopped our growth, and that is damnation to our souls. The sacrament is an intensely personal experience, and we are the ones who knowingly are worthy or otherwise.”

As long as we are not under priesthood restriction, we are worthy when we offer a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Truman G. Madsen expanded on these two requirements, “We use the word broken heart to mean radically frustrated in a romance. It may very well mean that, but in the scriptural usage a broken heart is a malleable, meltable, moveable art, and a contrite spirit is an honest acknowledging spirit that says I am in fact dependent on what I am in fact dependent on, there is no self-deprecation here, only honesty. I need help. When that is acknowledged it comes.”

If we humbly recognize that we have done wrong and need help, and couple that admittance with a desire to improve, shown by our efforts the next week, then we are worthy. We should also understand that worthiness and perfection are not the same thing. Cecil O. Samuelson taught, “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 on your current direction than on your final destination.” We do not have to be perfect to use the sacrament, that would defeat the purpose. It is all about the direction we are headed in.

4. The Right Reason

“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”

The sacrament provides an opportunity for us to hold ourselves accountable each week, for every one to “examine himself.” It is a chance to look at what we are doing right and what we could improve on. A look at a little bit of Old Testament symbolism can give a greater understanding of the reason for the sacrament.

Brother Chad H. Webb taught that in Leviticus chapter 1, “the Lord teaches the children of Israel to voluntarily bring an offering unto the Lord. The offering was an animal which was to be a male without blemish, which would be accepted to make atonement for the person who came to worship. The person then killed the animal, and the priests would sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar. . . Next, the offering was cut into pieces—the head, the inwards, the legs, and the fat. The head represented our thoughts; the inwards our heart, our feelings; and the legs, our actions. The symbolism reminds us of the sacrament as we commit to love God “with all [our] heart, might, mind and strength.”

This typification can be very insightful when considering the words of Neal A. Maxwell. “So it is that real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed! Such is the “sacrifice unto the Lord … of a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” a prerequisite to taking up the cross, while giving “away all [our] sins” in order to “know God” for the denial of self precedes the full acceptance of Him.”

What does it mean to place the animal in us upon the altar and let it be consumed? And how do we do that?

The animal in us is the natural man. It is any thoughts, desires (or feelings), and actions that are not in line with God’s. The ancient Israelites placed animals upon the altar, we offer up the natural man in us. Every week when we partake of the sacrament we have an opportunity to place our inappropriate thoughts, desires, and actions on the altar and let them be consumed. Doing this consistently allows a developmental change in our very nature to take place.

This elimination of the natural man within us, made possible by Christ’s grace, allows us to have the capacity to change our own circumstances.  “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ would take the slums out of people, and then they would take themselves out of the slums.” (Ezra Taft Benson) Brad Wilcox worded it this way, “Christ’s grace does not just correct; it endows. It does not just cleanse and console; it transforms – and not just in a narrow way from smoker to nonsmoker, drinker to nondrinker, but from unholy to holy, from justified to sanctified, from human to divine.”

It is imperative that this process takes place often. Because as Boyd K. Packer declared, “We all live on spiritual credit. In one way or another, the account builds and builds. If you pay it off as you go, you have little need to worry. Soon you begin to learn discipline and know that there is a day of reckoning ahead. Learn to keep your spiritual account paid off at regular intervals rather than allowing it to collect interest and penalties.” Luckily for us, the regular intervals are every week. But we must not get caught in the trap of just paying off the interest on our spiritual debt and never actually removing the credit. That would be the equivalent of repenting of the same things every week and never actually making any long term changes, or offering up the same thoughts, desires, and actions without ever giving them up and letting them be consumed. The purpose of the sacrament is not just for Jesus to correct and cleanse the same things each week, (get rid of the interest) it is to endow us with power, to strengthen, transform, and sanctify us. Not to merely take us out of the slums every week, but to take the slums out of us!

In conclusion I’d like to share one last thought. “As Latter-day Saints, we covenant in the waters of baptism and during the sacrament to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ. On such occasions, do we take his name in vain? There are ways we can use the name of Deity insincerely.” (Brad Wilcox) Having taken upon ourselves His name, we are required to live so that those who know us know Him. I look at it as if I am figuratively wearing a jersey with His name on the back of it. In a way, every week when we renew our covenants, the Savor asks us: Did your performance bring honor or shame to my name?

I like to look at the sacrament as a weekly interview with the Savior. I try to ask myself questions that I feel like He would ask me. Here is a list of those questions, provided with the hope that your approach to the sacrament from now on will be more personal and productive.

Weekly Review: Sacrament Interview Questions

How hard did I work on my own imperfections this week?

How did I react to the imperfections and potentially offensive acts of others?

In what ways did I rely on the Lord this week?

How was I delivered from a “prison” this week?

Am I seeking to build God’s kingdom or my kingdom?

How did I share the gospel this week?

How did I influence my family or friends for good this week?

How did I seek to climb up the spiritual truth ladder this week?

In what ways did I act as a Christ Figure?

In what ways could I try a little harder to be a little better?

What am I doing that I need to stop doing?

What am I not doing that I need to start doing?

Moral Relativism: 2 Thumbs Down

In a recent New York Times article entitled “If It Feels Right…” columnist David Brooks reviewed a study performed in 2008 by Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith. The research consisted of interviews with 230 young adults from across America concerning their morals. The results paint a clear, yet dejecting picture of the moral degeneration going on in our society.

“The interviewers asked open-ended questions about right and wrong, moral dilemmas and the meaning of life. In the rambling answers, … you see the young people groping to say anything sensible on these matters. But they just don’t have the categories or vocabulary to do so.

“When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.”

“The default position, which most of them came back to again and again, is that moral choices are just a matter of individual taste. ‘It’s personal,’ the respondents typically said. ‘It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say?’

“Rejecting blind deference to authority, many of the young people have gone off to the other extreme [saying]: ‘I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.’”

Many were quick to talk about their moral feelings but hesitant to link these feelings to any broader thinking about a shared moral framework or obligation. As one put it, “I mean, I guess what makes something right is how I feel about it. But different people feel different ways, so I couldn’t speak on behalf of anyone else as to what’s right and wrong.”

Brooks sums it up in this sentence:

Smith and company found an atmosphere of extreme moral individualism – of relativism and nonjudgmentalism.

Responses like this, “moral choices are just a matter of individual taste”, or “I couldn’t speak on behalf of anyone else as to what’s right and wrong”, are very telling. These answers are moral relativism at its finest. Each gives the impression that what is moral, what is right or wrong, is relative to each individual and what they choose to believe. In this scenario each person becomes his or her highest authority to appeal to. The Lord worded it this way,  “Every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god.” (D&C 1:16)

What’s the problem here? Well, the problem is morals are not relative, the truth is absolute and unchangeable. The clearest definition of truth I have found is D&C 93:24, “And truth is a knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.” A synonym would be reality, the truth is reality – things as they really are. We are each responsible to choose what we believe, but regardless of our choice, that does not change reality. Truth is independent of belief and acceptance. Elder D. Todd Christofferson said, “Resenting the law of gravity won’t keep a person from falling if he steps off a cliff. The same is true for eternal law and justice.” The fact is, there are in existence natural laws of justice, laws that not even God can break. If he did, Alma teaches us that “God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:25)

With that in mind, we might ask: why are so many people, particularly youth and young adults, embracing this idea that morals are relative? Where did this surge of spiritual stupor come from? I believe the answer to those questions is found in evaluating principles.

Brigham Young once declared, “If I do not learn what is in the world, from first to last, somebody will be wiser than I am. I intend to know the whole of it, both good and bad. Shall I practice evil? No; neither have I told you to practice it, but to learn by the light of truth every principle there is in existence in the world.”

So, if we are to learn “every principle there is in existence in the world”, we have a responsibility to examine what the principles are that would lead someone to believe in a doctrine such as moral relativism. For me, the Book of Mormon is the most effective tool when considering the verity of a principle. It was given not only to testify of Christ and teach true principles, but also to expose Satan and the principles he endorses. For the subject at hand, we look no further than Alma chapter 30, where we find an account of Korihor the Anti-Christ. In an Ensign article from February 2014 Professor Daniel L. Belnap of Brigham Young University presents eight conclusions pronounced by Korihor that in my view, form the very foundation of the movement we are discussing.

“Korihor. . . established a moral relativism that challenged the Nephites for years to come. His assertions, many of which may be familiar to a modern audience, contain the following:

a. There is no God (Alma 30:28, 37-38)

b. Belief in Christ is “a foolish and a vain hope” (Alma 30:13)

c. Those who believe in a remission of sins are under the effects of a frenzied or deranged mind (Alma 30:16)

d. Their derangement is caused by following the traditions of their fathers and the whims of corrupt leaders (Alma 30:14, 23-28, 31)

e. Man is a creature (Alma 30:17)

f. One “fares in this life according to the management of the creature; and whatsoever a man does is no crime” (Alma 30:17)

g. There is no sin and no need for a Savior (Alma 30:17-18)

h. Those who encourage people to keep God’s commandments are stripping away an individual’s “rights and privileges” (Alma 30:27)”

Now, lets analyze these falsehoods one by one and observe how each one can be used to initiate moral relativism.

a. There is no God

This one may at first be startling to someone who doesn’t believe in God but still rejects morals being relative. But this principle is the cornerstone of the foundation. Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “living without God in the world brings a functional lack of consistent perspective. If there were no eternal truths, to what principles would mortals look for guidance? If not accountable to God, to whom are we ultimately accountable? Furthermore, if nothing is ever really wrong, then no one is ever really responsible.” If we remove God from the picture, and morals are not appealing to absolute truth that comes from what God has said, then we have moral relativism in every case. The objection will then be made, “that’s not true because we are held accountable to the laws we make through legislation.” This might seem reasonable, but it presents a dilemma. Laws of the land are subject to those who make them, and can easily become corrupted.  Frederic Bastiat stated,”But the law is made, generally, by one man, or by one class of men. And as law cannot exist without the sanction and the support of a preponderating force, it must finally place this force in the hands of those who legislate.” He goes on, “This inevitable phenomenon, combined with the fatal tendency which, exists in the heart of man [to engage in plunder], explains the almost universal perversion of law. It is easy to conceive that, instead of being a check upon injustice, it [can become] its most invincible instrument.” Cicero boldly taught the dangers of using man-made laws as a standard: “The most foolish notion of all is the belief that everything is just which is found in the customs or laws of nations. . .What of the many deadly, the many pestilential statutes which nations put in force? These no more deserve to be called laws than the rules a band of robbers might pass in their assembly.” If morals are not based on God’s laws as revealed through his prophets, and are relative to worldly governments or laws, that is still moral relativism, no matter what type of government is used. In a monarchy, the morals are relative to the king or ruler. In a democracy, the morals are relative to the people as a body.

b. Belief in Christ is “a foolish and a vain hope”

Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) King Benjamin taught, “And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ.” (Mosiah 3:17) The Apostle Paul testified, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) If we dethrone Jesus as the only way to receive salvation and return to God, and declare a belief in him to be “a foolish and a vain hope”, what follows is religious relativism. Now the door is open to any other idea of how to be saved. You choose.  This principle generates responses like this, “I don’t think I could say that Hinduism is wrong or Catholicism is wrong or being Episcopalian is wrong – I think it just depends on what you believe . . . I don’t think that there’s a right and wrong.” (Christian Smith 2009) A God who is himself bound by invariable natural laws, cannot be the author of confusion – leading each living soul down a different path with contrasting ideologies, and offering the same reward.

c. Those who believe in a remission of sins are under the effects of a frenzied or deranged mind

Sin is the violation of a moral or religious principle. Remitting is to give pardon or forgiveness. What advantage does one gain by teaching that the belief that moral violations need to be remitted or paid for is the effect of a frenzied mind? He is no longer held accountable for violations! Paying whatever price it takes to have an offense pardoned is no longer necessary. So much for putting a child in time-out, or sending a criminal to prison, for both of those involve someone doing something wrong and then doing what it takes to receive a remission. It is the same principle.  If no remission is required, the individual is left to hold himself accountable. He conveniently becomes his own highest authority.

d. Their derangement is caused by following the traditions of their fathers and the whims of corrupt leaders

This principle breeds relativism because if this is true, then no moral can be passed down from one generation to the next through the channel of the family. Whatever God revealed as truth to one group of people is in the past, and is now, in the present, considered “a foolish tradition of their fathers.” Definitions of right and wrong would then be derived from what had not already been taught, or from the agendas of public figures or the “whims” of celebrities rather than what religious leaders teach.

e. Man is a creature

An effortless way to establish a basis for moral relativism is to teach that man is a creature, having evolved from animals we are nothing more than a species of brute. Here is an example from Benjamin Wiker of where a principle like this takes us. “Sexual revolutionary Alfred Kinsey pulled off his normalizing of sexual deviancy by arguing that homosexuality and “inter-specific matings” (i.e., sex between members of two distinct species, the equivalent of bestiality) regularly occur among animals. Since we are merely animals too, so he argued, then homosexuality and bestiality must be natural—and hence not immoral.” Identifying the dilemma he further states,  “But on this logic, anything that appeared with fair frequency among animals—such as cannibalism and sexual brutality—would be natural, and hence moral, for human beings.”

f. One “fares in this life according to the management of the creature; . . . and whatsoever a man does is no crime.”

Believing that we experience good fortune in this life according to our own management, that we prosper according to our own genius, that we conquer according to our own strength will naturally extinguish the flame of faith in God,  and dismantle the idea that there are laws “irrevocably decreed in heaven. . . upon which all blessings are predicated.” (D&C 130:20) With such beliefs, a sense of individualistic pride would be instinctive. However, “In spite of its outward, worldly swagger, such indulgent individualism is actually provincial, like goldfish in a bowl congratulating themselves on their self-sufficiency, never mind the food pellets or changes of water.” (Neal A. Maxwell) Eliminating the idea of a God who figuratively puts in our pellets and changes our water leads us to become ignorant goldfish, whose morals are up to individual taste and preference.

g. There is no sin and no need for a Savior

The only way we wouldn’t need a Savior is if there is no sin. This creates a paradox though. If nothing we do is really wrong, then nothing can be right either. Everything is relative. We wouldn’t need any sort of law to keep us to a level of ‘good’ behavior because there is no ‘bad’. Lehi worded it this way, “if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if those things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon.” (2Nephi 2:13)

h. Those who encourage people to keep God’s commandments are stripping away an individual’s “rights and privileges”

Professor Belnap notes, “This last point is particularly dangerous, for it elevates one’s rights while avoiding any discussion of one’s responsibilities. In purporting to be in favor of individual liberty, moral relativism actually threatens one’s privilege to exercise agency by ignoring the negative consequences of one’s responsibilities to others.” He continues, “In fact, Korihor’s emphasis on “rights” is nothing more than a revised version of Satan’s premortal gambit to strip us of agency. By focusing on perceived loss of rights, we do not hold ourselves accountable, particularly in our relationship with one another, and therefore lose agency, exactly as the adversary wishes.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks offers a similar claim, “One of the consequences of shifting from moral absolutes to moral relativism. . . is that this produces a corresponding shift of emphasis from responsibilities to rights. Responsibilities originate in moral absolutes. In contrast, rights find their origin in legal principles, which are easily manipulated by moral relativism.”

There is a common thread among every one of these principles – the desire to remove accountability. If this can be done, the rest of the dominoes will fall. “Removing accountability destroys agency, which destroys the need for law, which destroys the idea of God.” (Bob Canning)

In regard to eternal law and justice, Elder Christofferson explained, “Freedom comes not from resisting it but from applying it.” We cannot gain any freedom by holding off against the idea that definitions of right and wrong are unalterable. We are born with this knowledge. “For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil.” (Moroni 7:16) All of us are given a conscience with the awareness of moral law. To visualize this concept we refer to C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on quarreling. “They say things like this: ‘How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?’ – ‘That’s my seat, I was there first’ – ‘Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm’ – ‘Why should you shove in first?’ – ‘Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine’ – ‘Come on, you promised.’ Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: ‘To hell with your standard.’ Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse.”

The determination of this post is that morals are not relative, and to subscribe to any of the eight principles taught by Korihor that have been mentioned, is to advocate moral relativism. Agency is the name of the game, the means to progression. And you cannot have agency without accountability. And you cannot have accountability if morals are relative. Thus, the solution to changing a rising generation of moral relativists to a society of moral absolutists, can be summarized in the words of Elder Christofferson: “Personal accountability becomes both a right and a duty that we must constantly defend; it has been under assault since before the Creation. We must defend accountability against persons and programs that would make us dependent. And we must defend against our own inclinations to avoid the work that is required to cultivate talents, abilities, and Christlike character.”

Are You an Eagle or a Hog?

‘People can be either eagles or hogs in their leisure time.’

My subject is derived from an experience of Eugene L. Roberts’ originally shared by himself, and repeated by Gordon B. Hinckley. With a backdrop of warning us “against the misuse of our time, especially our idle time,” he relates this story:

At Brigham Young University we have had some great athletic coaches. We have them now and we have had them in the past. One of these of long ago was Eugene L. Roberts. He grew up in Provo and drifted aimlessly with the wrong kind of friends. Then something remarkable happened. I read you his own words. He wrote:

“Several years ago when Provo City was scarred with unsightly saloons and other questionable forms of amusement, I was standing one evening on the street, waiting for my gang to show up, when I noticed that the [Provo] tabernacle was lighted up and that a large crowd was moving in that direction. I had nothing to do so I drifted over there and went in. I thought I might find some of my gang, or at least some of the girls that I was interested in. Upon entering, I ran across three or four of the fellows and we placed ourselves under the gallery where there was a crowd of young ladies, who seemed to promise entertainment. We were not interested in what came from the pulpit. We knew that the people on the rostrum were all old fogies. They didn’t know anything about life, and they certainly couldn’t tell us anything, for we knew it all. So we settled down to have a good time. Right in the midst of our disturbance there thundered from the pulpit the following [statement]:

“‘You can’t tell the character of an individual by the way he does his daily work. Watch him when his work is done. See where he goes. Note the companions he seeks, and the things he does when he may do as he pleases. Then you can tell his true character.’

“I looked up toward the rostrum,” Roberts continued, “because I was struck with this powerful statement. I saw there a slim, dark-haired fierce-eyed fighting-man whom I knew and feared; but didn’t have any particular love for.”

As he continued, “[The speaker] went on to make a comparison. He said: ‘Let us take the eagle, for example. This bird works as hard and as efficiently as any other animal or bird in doing its daily work. It provides for itself and its young by the sweat of its brow, so to speak; but when its daily work is over and the eagle has time of its own to do just as it pleases, note how it spends its recreational moments. It flies in the highest realms of heaven, spreads its wings and bathes in the upper air, for it loves the pure, clean atmosphere and the lofty heights.

“‘On the other hand, let us consider the hog. This animal grunts and grubs and provides for its young just as well as the eagle; but when its working hours are over and it has some recreational moments, observe where it goes and what it does. The hog will seek out the muddiest hole in the pasture and will roll and soak itself in filth, for this is the thing it loves. People can be either eagles or hogs in their leisure time.’

“Now when I heard this short speech,” said Gene Roberts, “I was dumbfounded. I turned to my companions abashed for I was ashamed to be caught listening. What was my surprise to find everyone of the gang with his attention fixed upon the speaker and his eyes containing a far-away expression.

“We went out of the tabernacle that evening rather quiet and we separated from each other unusually early. I thought of that speech all the way home. I classified myself immediately as of the hog family. I thought of that speech for years. That night there was implanted within me the faintest beginnings of ambition to lift myself out of the hog group and to rise to that of the eagle. …

“There was instilled within me that same evening, the urge to help fill up the mud holes in the social pasture so that those people with hog tendencies would find it difficult to wallow in recreational filth. As a result of constant thinking about that speech, I was stirred to devote my whole life and my profession toward developing wholesome recreational activities for the young people, so that it would be natural and easy for them to indulge in the eagle-type of leisure.

“The man who made that speech which affected my life more than any other speech I ever heard, was President George H. Brimhall. May God bless him!” (Raymond Brimhall Holbrook and Esther Hamilton Holbrook, The Tall Pine Tree, n.p., 1988, pp. 111–13).

That simple story, told by a great teacher, turned around the life of a drifter and made of him an able and gifted leader. I repeat it tonight because I think that most of us are constantly faced with a choice of whether we wallow in the mire or fly to lofty heights.

What we do in our leisure time can make such a tremendous difference. Pity the poor man or boy of low purpose and weak ambition who, after a day of work, finishes his evening meal and then turns to the television screen for the rest of the evening to watch pornographic videotapes or sleazy late-night programs. Can you think of any picture which more nearly approaches President Brimhall’s description of the hog that seeks the mudhole in the pasture and wallows in the mire?

The question we might pose to ourselves is simply this: am I an eagle or a hog?

You can learn a lot about someone by observing how they use their leisure time. Why is that? Well, the word leisure means “time free from the demands of work or duty,” it is our time to do what we want! One of the most “self-evident characteristics of the conscious mind . . . [is that] . . . the mind attends to one thing at a time.” (Nigel Calder) If, as humans, it is only physically possible to think of one thing at a time, it would seem logical that we therefore can really only do one thing at a time as well. In considering the reason for this condition, Hugh Nibley says, “But why this crippling limitation on our thoughts if we are God’s children? It is precisely this limitation that is the essence of our mortal existence. If every choice I make expresses a preference, if the world I build up is the world I really love and want, then with every choice I am judging myself, proclaiming all the day long to God, angels, and my fellowmen where my real values lie, where my treasure is, the things to which I give supreme importance. Hence, in this life every moment [especially every leisure moment] provides a perfect and foolproof test of your real character, making this life a time of testing and probation.”

That is the test – how we will choose to think and act in the time given, all the while proclaiming what is important to us, and revealing what our hearts are really set upon. This is where sin comes in, we again turn to Nibley, “Sin is waste, it is doing one thing when you should be doing other and better things for which you have the capacity.” The sin may not be found in the nature of the thought or act itself, but can be found in the fact that we have the capacity to think and act on a higher moral and righteous level, and yet choose not to do so. President Hinckley said we are “constantly faced with a choice of whether we wallow in the mire or fly to lofty heights” We are led to conclude that we have the capacity to do either, the choice is up to us. We may feel like we have been placed in a circumstantial mire, but it is our choice to wallow in it. The Lord can deliver us from a mire just as well as a prison. (See earlier post) He did so with the Israelites, “Ye have seen . . . how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.” (Exodus 19:3-3)

Brigham Young said, “What have we? Our time. Spend it as you will. Time is given to you; and when this is spent to the best possible advantage for promoting truth upon the earth, it is placed to our account, and blessed are you; but when we spend our time in idleness and folly it will be placed against us.”

Will we spend our free time as an eagle “promoting truth upon the earth”, spreading our wings and flying higher into the “clean atmosphere and the lofty heights”? Or  will we spend it as the hog in “idleness and folly”, rolling and soaking ourselves in filth?

Jesus said, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matthew 7:6) Muddy hogs or swine, do not appreciate shiny pearls. If we find our self in the hog group, how could we expect any pearls of knowledge to be given to us if we spend our time viewing pornography or “spending endless hours scoring meaningless points on pointless video games”? (Elder Pearson) Points are a counterfeit to pearls, one provides a real sense of spiritual progression leading to the upper air of wisdom while the other offers a false sense of progression to higher levels in a fake reality. Along the same theme, President Hinckley pities the “poor man [or woman] of low purpose and weak ambition who, after a day of work, finishes his [her] evening meal then turns to the television screen for the rest of the evening.” Ezra Taft Benson said, “too much television viewing can be destructive.” We are looking for packets of pearls, not buckets of hogwash.

Spencer W. Kimball has given counsel on how spare time could be used flying “in the highest realms” , “Read in spare time. Numerous leisure hours have been available to men. It is noticeable that many use these extra hours for fun and pleasure. Certainly an increased part of it could profitably be used for gaining knowledge and culture through the reading of good books.” Quoting Brigham again, “After suitable rest and relaxation there is not a day, hour or minute that we should spend in idleness [in the muddiest hole in the pasture], but every minute of every day of our lives we should strive to improve our minds and to increase the faith of the holy Gospel.”

We have been counseled by the Lord, “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118, 109:7) “Will we be meek and listen to Him? Or will we be like the Gadarene swine, that pathetic example of totus porcus – going whole hog after the trends of the moment?” (Neal A. Maxwell) Do we value the trends of the moment or the things of eternity? A recent report from GlobalWebIndex  reveals that adults in the U.S. spend approximately 1.72 hours per day on social media. Inciting a doleful comparison to the spiritual swine-like Athenians in Greece who found no interest in the words of the Apostle Paul because their time was to be spent “in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” (Acts 17:21) Unfortunately after a while, the world runs out of “new things” to tell, and then we reach the point where sadly, as Nibley puts it, “For our age the message is the medium because we have run out of message.” On the other hand, Elder Maxwell calls the Gospel inexhaustible.

Now more than ever, our society is in need of eagles who will soar above the cultural conditioning Satan has applied to our generation, and spend their time on meaningful things – like treasuring up the truth, no matter what kind of glares or snorts are being received from hogs below. Otherwise we are in danger of becoming as the ancient Romans. Aaron Stern observed, “The Roman Empire provides a richly detailed description of the decline of a great society. The symptoms of its fall centered around a critical schism between the older and younger generations. It was reflected among the young by an increase in drug usage, by a growing experimentation in homosexuality and bi-sexuality, and, perhaps most symptomatic of all, by a strident demand for more leisure that was accompanied by an unwillingness to accept responsibility for government, family, and other institutions.” Eagles allow their leisure time to be accompanied by responsibility, hogs do not.

One final note, President Henry B. Eyring once related a striking experience that has stuck with me, he said “I’ve come to understand something that happened to me in my early teens. I was in a hurry when I felt, not heard, a voice, an impression, which I knew then was from God. It was close to these words: ‘Someday, when you know who you really are, you will be sorry that you didn’t use your time better.’ I thought then that the impression was odd, since I thought I was using my time pretty well and I thought I knew who I was. Now, years later, I am beginning to know who I am.” I think if we all knew who we really are, and if we recognized that every moment of this life is a test and with every choice we are judging ourselves, we would strive everyday to become more like the eagle and less like the hog.

Soaring Bald Eagle

“They Took Upon Themselves the Name of Nephi”

Relying on the theme presented in a previous post that all scriptures denote there is a Christ, and every story is really about you, me, and Jesus Christ and his Atonement, I would like to share an approach to a short and simple event recorded in The Book of Mormon.

The episode mentioned occurs in the 25th chapter of the book of Mosiah.  As a backdrop to our story, in chapter 24 we read of Alma and his people being persecuted by Amulon and his brethren, pouring out their hearts to God for deliverance, and being led away in the night out of bondage into the wilderness, and eventually to the land of Zarahemla where they found King Mosiah and the Mulekites. Some of the children, or people, of Amulon must have left with Alma and his followers; and they are the subject of chapter 25 we will focus on.

In verse 12 we read:

“And it came to pass that those who were the children of Amulon and his brethren, who had taken to wife the daughters of the Lamanites, were displeased with the conduct of their fathers, and they would no longer be called by the names of their fathers, therefore they took upon themselves the name of Nephi, that they might be called the children of Nephi and be numbered among those who were called Nephites.”

Why are we told this? In the abridgment of the record, why would Mormon find this worth including?

Let’s generalize just a smidgen. These individuals were not proud of who they were associated with, they “were displeased with the conduct of their fathers”, so they no longer connected themselves with those people, and “would no longer be called by the names of their fathers.” They then “took upon themselves the name of Nephi” so they could from  now on be associated with, and remembered as, Nephites. In other words, they didn’t like the group of people (who happened to be their forebears) they were hanging around with, [or grew up with] and they wanted to make a change in their lives and be affiliated with, or “numbered among”, new people.

Alright, now we ask the question, where is Jesus Christ in this scripture and how do you, me, and his Atonement tie in?

The central message of this passage is that of change, which is a testament to the Atonement. It is a type and a foreshadow. These “children” of Amulon changed their identity, and took upon themselves a new name. Does that sound familiar at all? It should, because we do the exact same thing. We change our lives in the necessary ways, and take upon ourselves the name of Christ. We read in Mosiah 5:7 “And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” Just as the people of Amulon took upon the name of Nephi and were called the children of Nephi, we take upon the name of Christ and we become his children.

There are powerful lessons to be found in the framework of this scripture, and to be learned from the children of Amulon.

It is wise to choose carefully with whom we spend our time, and who we allow ourselves to become associated with. Jim Rohn has noted, “You are the average of the five people you hang around with. . . You must constantly ask yourself these questions. Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? Where do they have me going? What do they have me thinking? And most importantly, what do they have me becoming?” However, the children of Amulon understood a valuable truth. Namely, that our life is not defined by those who went before us, or by those we are associated with, or by the things that any of them have done. We are responsible for ourselves, and we are in charge of what name we will be known by, and who we will be numbered among. And we can change that at any time.

How easy would it have been for them to lazily conclude, “Well our parents were unrighteous power hungry blockheads, so I guess that in the future we can look forward to becoming unrighteous power hungry blockheads too.” Or, “Everyone else in our community persecuted Alma and his weirdo friends, we might as well do the same, even if we don’t understand why.” It would have been very easy, but they didn’t do that. They recognized their experiences with growing up in such an environment for what they really were – malignant and destructive. They understood that “bad experiences are an expensive school that only fools keep going to.” (Ezra Taft Benson) They chose to learn from the mistakes of those around them and change so they wouldn’t have the same bad experiences. These people grasped the principle taught by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you [or those you have been associated with] have been as He does about where you are and, with His help, where you are willing to go.” They were “willing to go” to the land of Zarahemla with Alma and his people, and leave their old life and situation behind. And because of the sacrifices they made, they then had the opportunity to be “called the children of Nephi.”

Maybe it is your “fathers” conduct that you’re displeased with at this time, maybe it isn’t. Maybe it is your friends or a specific group of people that you no longer want to be a part of. Or maybe it is the negative experiences that you have had because of the individuals you were “numbered among” that is frustrating you. Whatever it is, the message of this story, and my message to you, is that you can change and you can overcome.

Here is why they did it, and why you should too…

13 “And now all the people of Zarahemla were numbered with the Nephites, and this because the kingdom had been conferred upon none but those who were descendants of Nephi.”

They wanted the blessings of the kingdom! We find here another type and pattern. The spiritual blessings of the Kingdom of God only come to the family of Abraham, the House of Israel. That is who the promises have been made to. But anyone that is not a member can be adopted in and become the seed of Abraham. Just as the children of Amulon were adopted into the family of Nephi and called Nephites.

You’re thinking so what does that have to do with me? Well, whether you are a descendant of Abraham or not, the so what is the principle itself. We, like the people of Amulon, and all the people of Zarahemla can remove our association with those whose conduct displeases us, and can change our identity to become numbered among the children of the family whose descendants the kingdom, or blessings, shall be conferred upon. We must look at ourselves as having this potential to conquer and learn from bad experiences of the past, whether they be others’ or our own. Then after we do this, let us also look at others the same way, and see them for who they have the potential to become, and help them change their identity and take upon a new name as well.

“But We Do Not Wish to be Peculiar”

In 1Samuel chapter 8 the Israelites gathered themselves together before Samuel, and insisted that a king be appointed over them. We read in verse 5:

“Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”

There are a few dangers here. Obviously the first danger is the fact that they want a king, the threats of such a choice are explicitly outlined in Mosiah chapter 29 in The Book of Mormon. However, what might be even more dangerous than their desire for a king, is the reason they give for why they desire a king. It has nothing to do with politics. They motioned for Samuel to give them a king so they could be “like all the nations”, so they could “be like everybody else.” They did not want to be different. At it’s core, the principle that is guiding this behavior is – it is important to be like other people. Ultimately, beliefs determine desires and desires determine destiny. The root of the problem is the false belief. Because, if they believe it is important to be like all the other nations, they will desire to be as other nations are and behave accordingly. The same is true for us, if we believe it is important to be like other people, we will begin to desire to be as they are and behave as they behave. In contrast, the principle that should take precedence, due to its ability to lead us to spiritual safety, is – it is important to follow the prophet.

Unfortunately, though we may see the folly in the decision of ancient Israel, we find ourselves making the exact same mistake. Spencer W. Kimball said:

“Samuel called the people together and explained to them that the people of the Lord should be different, with higher standards. “We want to be like other peoples,” they demanded. “We do not want to be different”…

Not so different are we today! We want the glamour and frothiness of the world, not always realizing the penalties of our folly…. Others… indulge in their social drinking—“we must have a king like unto other nations.”

Styles are created by the vulgar and the money-mad and run from one extreme to the other to out-date our present wardrobes and create business for merchants. We cannot be different. We would rather die than be “not up to date.” If the dress is knee length, we must go a little above the knee. If shorts are short we must have the shortest…. If bathing suits are skimpy, we must have the skimpiest. “We must have a king like unto other nations!”

The Lord has said that he will have a peculiar people but we do not wish to be peculiar…. If intimate fondling is the pattern of the crowd, we will fondle. “We must have a king like unto other nations!”…

Others have Hollywood marriages with finery and glitter and ostentatious pomposity. We also must have candles, gowns, best men and ladies in waiting, often dangerously near immodestly dressed. “We must have a king like unto other nations!”

The world has a queen in every industry, business, factory, school and social group. She must dress immodestly, display her figure and appear in public places to further the financial interests of business, entertainment and social groups…. Ours, also, must have a beautiful face, a little talent, and a well-formed body for public exhibition. We can do little else for “we must have a queen like unto other nations!”

When oh when, will the Latter-day Saints stand firm on their own feet, establish their own standards, follow proper patterns and live their own glorious lives in accordance with Gospel inspired patterns…. Certainly good times and happy lives and clean fun are not dependent upon the glamorous, the pompous, the extremes. (“Like All the Nations,” Church News, 15 October 1960, 14)

Are we really any different? The sad truth is we as a people do not wish to be peculiar. Yes this statement is from 1960, but we seem to be following the same pattern. “We cannot be different.”

We watch movies and TV shows that glorify violence, immorality, and vulgarity because “we must have a king like unto other nations.” We don’t wan’t to be ‘that guy’ that doesn’t follow the latest hit TV series or is out of the loop as to which movies that have come out lately are the best.

We listen, and sing along to music that celebrates profanity, pride, greed, and sexual sin because “we must have a king like unto other nations.” How embarrassing it would be not to know the words to the top fifteen songs that the radio plays over and over and over again.

We have to look and be dressed according to the latest fad, no matter how expensive the clothes may be because “we must have a king like unto other nations.” We would rather die than be “not up to date.”

We engage in social drinking, social drug abuse, social crude humor, social money spending, social ridicule of the policies and standards of the church because “we must have a king like unto other nations.” We have to fit in and be accepted, to laugh at what others laugh at, we want the “glamour and frothiness of the world”, we have to view things a certain way because its the 21st century and everybody views them that way now.

It often seems the real driving force in taking part in any of these things –  to watch this show, to listen to this music, to play this game, to wear these clothes, to do and say these things –  is not even the things themselves, but the desire to “be like everybody else.”

Elder Neal A. Maxwell has observed, “It’s interesting that those who have eyes single to the glory of God are those who see the most of reality.” In the scriptures we learn “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93:36) “And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.” (D&C 93:24) Reality, is a synonym for truth. Those who have their eyes single to God’s glory can discern between truth and error. The Israelites had their eyes single to the glory of “all the nations.” They were looking at what the other nations had done, rather than what God had done.  Their focus was elsewhere. Sometimes our eyes shift from focusing on the example Jesus has set in all things, to focusing on what the people around us are doing and saying. When we do this, our eyes become single to their glory instead of His. We should remember that He has promised, “If your eyes be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light . . . and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.” (D&C 88:67) We need our eyes to be single to his glory, so we can discern and comprehend all things.

Jesus prayed that we might be “one” or “agreed” with him and the Father. Elder David A. Bednar has taught, “True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God.” Becoming converted to or agreed with someone involves observing, analyzing, applying and practicing their beliefs, desires, and actions. We become converted to the Lord when we align our beliefs, desires, and actions with his. Likewise, we become converted to “all the nations” or the people around us, when we align our beliefs, desires, and actions with theirs. President Kimball boldly declared, “Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his god; and if his god doesn’t also happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in idolatry.” The Israelites in 1Samuel 8 set their hearts and trust in “all the nations”, rather than in Jehovah.  Little wonder in the same chapter, the Lord explains, “they have forsaken me, and served other gods.” Are we setting our hearts and our trust in the people around us and laboring in idolatry by striving to become converted to them? Our actions are always the clearest indicator of our desires and beliefs. Sometimes to find the “other gods” we are serving, or other “nations” we are emulating, we may not need to look any further than our own friends, families, or co-workers.

One other point I would like to make is the Lord will respect our agency and allow us to become what we would like to become. This was taught by President Ezra Taft Benson:

Sometimes [God] temporarily grants to men their unwise requests in order that they might learn from their own sad experiences. Some refer to this as the ‘Samuel principle.’ The children of Israel wanted a king like all the other nations…. So God gave them a king and let them suffer….

Sometimes in our attempts to mimic the world, and contrary to the prophet’s counsel, we run after the world’s false educational, political, musical, and dress ideas. New worldly standards take over, a gradual breakdown occurs, and finally, after much suffering, a humble people are ready to be taught once again a higher law. (“Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” New Era, May 1975, 17–18)

So, why is it important to avoid the belief that being like everybody else is important? Why do we need to understand that being different or peculiar, though difficult, is right?

We are responsible for ourselves, and if our eyes are single to the glory of other people, and we set our hearts on adopting their beliefs, desires, and actions, then we will be allowed to become just like everybody else. The problem with that, as Elder Maxwell has stated, is “we cannot improve the world if we are conformed to the world.” We have been invited by the Lord, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate.” (2Corinthians 6:17) “And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.” (D&C 25:10)

Joseph Smith said “I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down.” Are we willing to do the same? Do we wish to be peculiar?

 

The Relatable Christ

When enduring trials, hardships, or frustrating circumstances I have often found myself pondering two questions. First, why is this happening to me?  And second, does anyone know how I feel right now? In the moment, it can be tempting to fall prey to the belief that there is no purpose to our struggles,  or that we are utterly alone in our despair or grief. Looking through the distorted prism of pessimism may suddenly seem easier and more attractive than the invitation to “look to God and live.” However, I have learned for myself that not only is there always a “wise purpose” for our suffering, there is one who can always relate to how we feel.

There is something consoling about someone being able to relate to you.  To relate is to establish a sympathetic relationship with someone, or to “bring into or establish association, connection, or relation.” Dictionaries define relatable as a word used to describe a “person with whom you feel as if you have something in common.” There is a special bond or relationship created by having something in common and being able to relate. There is no one that the word relatable better describes than The Savior. He is the one with whom we have the greatest opportunity to form a special association, connection, or relationship with in this life. His capacity to relate, and therefore comfort and strengthen, is greater than family, friends, priesthood leaders, and even a spouse.  However, even with that knowledge, I have found myself asking at times, does he really know though? Careful examination of the scriptures brings one to conclude, yes, he really does know.

Does he know what it feels like to be picked last or not at all? “Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barrabas, or Jesus which is called Christ?” “And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barrabas.” (Matt. 27:17, Luke 23:18)

Does he know what it feels like to be alone?  “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

Does he know what it feels like to watch loved ones go astray? “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. . . how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37)

Does he know what it feels like to be betrayed by a friend? “And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus and took him.” (Matt. 26:47,50)

Does he know what it feels like to be made fun of or mocked? “And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him.” (Mark 15:!7-20)

Does he know what it feels like to be taken advantage of? “Herod came from a family of political schemers. He used Jesus to gain favor with the Romans and the powerful Jewish council, the Sanhedrin.” (Jack Zavada)

Does he know what it feels like not to be believed in? “But though he had done many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him.” (John 12:37)

Does he know what it feels like when people won’t trust you or put their faith in you and your abilities? “But every man walketh in his own way, after the image of his own God.” (D&C 1:16)

Does he know what it feels like not to be acknowledged? “Like goldfish in a bowl, some are mindless of who changes the water and puts in the pellets.” (Neal A. Maxwell)

Does he know what it feels like to be confronted with temptations? “And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, and had communed with God, he was afterwards an hungered, and was left to be tempted of the devil.” (JST Matt. 4:2)

Does he know what it feels like to have to forgive, even if it is undeserved? “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Does he know what it feels like to suffer negative consequences because of someone else’s bad decisions? “And his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)

Does he know what it feels like to be weak, sick, or afflicted in any way? “And he shall go forth suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.” (Alma 7:11)

Jesus does know how it feels. And he has commanded us to be as he is, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I.” (3Nephi 12:48) Since he is perfect in every way, this command could be applied specifically to various attributes he possesses. For example, “Be ye therefore charitable”, “Be ye therefore forgiving”, or “Be ye therefore an example”. In times of trial, hardship, or frustration, the call being extended might be, “Be ye therefore relatable”.

We become relatable like him by submissively suffering on our own level the things he suffered; God, of course, being the one who decides what “our level” is. Elder Maxwell has said, “By taking Jesus’ yoke upon us and enduring, we learn most deeply of Him and especially how to be like him. Even though our experiences are micro compared to His, the process is the same.” Thus we are placed in situations that, although difficult, will enable us to become more like Christ. If we are wise like Job, amidst all these things we will avoid charging God foolishly. It should be noted here, that the attitude that God’s tutoring needs to be justified by an immediately discernible reason, will lead a heart to become hardened. Submissiveness comes easier if we understand that we justified his tutoring and stretching when we chose to come down here to this world.

When we pray and ask to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord, or to have our faith increased, or for opportunities to grow or help others, lets not be too alarmed when we are then called to pass through hardships or struggles of some sort. Lets not push the panic button when we are confronted with new personal challenges to overcome. We must allow ourselves to be molded into the instrument that the Lord needs. “How could there be refining fires without enduring some heat?” (Maxwell) We must allow ourselves to become relatable.  President Monson taught, “We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift his children. He is dependent upon each of us.” With that in mind, how can we expect to help someone with depression if we have never been depressed? How can we expect to comfort someone who is lonely if we have never felt alone? How can we truly assist in mending someone’s heart if we have never had our’s broken? How can we help someone feel like they are good enough if we have never felt inadequate? The next time you find yourself struggling, try and be grateful, and learn from it as much as you can. It is very likely that you are being prepared to be an instrument through whom God can work to bless the lives of others. To wade through an icy river of tribulation and then go back and carry someone else through the same figurative river, is to be a Christ figure.

In my life, opportunities for service or influence toward others in various ways have often been accompanied right before or soon thereafter by opportunities to go through something that gives me a taste of what the person I’m meant to serve or influence is feeling or going through. “Some afflictions are physical, others mental, or so begin. Often, however, they are interactive, forming a special pain.” (Maxwell) It may be that the “special pain” is being formed for the purpose of us becoming more relatable, better enabling us to serve with charity or influence with compassion. I have found that the closer I have analyzed what is happening in my life with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, I can see the divine potter trying to mold my soul closer and closer to the shape of the Savior. God is in the details, and we can become as much like Jesus as we allow ourselves to. It is up to us to take advantage of the opportunities given. That involves looking at hardships and trials, big or small, as occasions for learning, growth, and becoming more relatable to others. In short, everything we go through can serve as a chance to become more like the Son of God if we but allow it.

The words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland from his MTC devotional speech for new mission presidents The Atonement, have powerful application to missionaries, but can also be applied to members.

“I am convinced that [living the gospel] is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation was never easy. We are the Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, He is our Great Eternal Head. Why would we believe, why would we think, that it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? In turn, how could we possibly bear any moving, lasting testimony of the Atonement if we have never known or felt anything of such an experience? As [Latter-day Saints] we are proud to say we are disciples of Christ – and we are. But mark my word. That means you must be prepared to walk something of the path He walked, to feel something of the pain He felt, to at least occasionally. . . shed one of the tears of sorrow that He shed.

Now please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying you have to look for suffering, and I’m not saying that we experience anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and frankly, sacrilegious. But I believe that [followers of Christ] to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to come to repentance, to come to know something of the price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price – it will only be a token, but I believe it has to be paid. I don’t believe [living the gospel] has ever been easy. . . I believe it is supposed to require something of our soul. If Jesus could plead in the night, falling on His face, bleeding from every pore and crying, “Abba, Father, (Papa), . . . remove this cup from me.” Well little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or “easy” thing for a [Latter-day Saint]. This is the Living Son of the Living God saying, “Isn’t there some other way?” So, . . . if [you] wonder why this isn’t easy, [you] should remember [you] are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot better asked it a long time ago. He asked if there were not a less excruciating way – and for Him there wasn’t. So perhaps, for us in token symbolism, there won’t be an entirely easy way either.

[Brothers and sisters], if [you] can come to love and appreciate it, the Atonement will carry [you]. . . When [you] struggle, when [you] are rejected, when [you] are spit upon, and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, [you] are standing shoulder to shoulder with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect [person] that ever lived. [You] have every reason to stand tall, and to be grateful that the Savior and Redeemer of the world knows all about [your] sorrows and [your] afflictions, and that for a moment or two in [your] life, [you] will understand what he went through for [you].”

I believe one of the divine purposes for suffering on any level, is to make us more relatable like Jesus. So, as Paul worded it, “that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort herewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2Corinthians 1:4) The more experience we obtain, and the more hardship we bear, the greater instrument in the hands of the Lord we become. The reason Jesus Christ has so much to offer us is because he has been through so much. Likewise, the more we endure, the more we will have to offer others. In the words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

“As with every virtue, Jesus is the exemplar. While shouldering Jesus’ yoke, we , too, can better come to “know according to the flesh how to succor [each other].” Likewise, by seeing life’s experiences through to the end, on our small scale, we can finally say as Jesus did on the cross, “It is finished.” We, too, can then have “finished our preparations,” having done the particular work God has given each of us to do.”

“Therefore, one of the most powerful and searching questions ever asked of all of us in our sufferings hangs in time and space before us: “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” Jesus plumbed the depths and scaled the heights in order to comprehend all things. Jesus, therefore, is not only a fully atoning but He is also a fully comprehending Savior!”

Ether 12:27 Unwrested

Concerning the word wrest, an LDS scripture study manual states, “Dictionaries usually define the word wrest to mean to twist, force, or divert to an unnatural or improper use. To wrest the scriptures is to twist them or force an incorrect interpretation on them.” Alma expressed the heavy consequences of such a practice in his statement, “Behold, the scriptures are before you; if ye will wrest them it shall be to your own destruction.” (Alma 13:20) The danger in forcing an incorrect interpretation on the scriptures is the principles taught are then capable of becoming inverted, and conveying a message they were never meant to convey. This action can blatantly, or even subtly, transform powerful truths into unstable falsities. Often wresting the scriptures is the result of taking them out of context, sometimes this is done innocently by accident, other times purposely in order to support a predetermined conclusion, or even to “justify in committing a little sin”. In my experience, there are few scriptures wrested more often in the church than Ether 12:27.  The unnatural or improper use of this verse is usually due to either forgetting the context of the passage, or confusing the word weakness with the word sin. In verse 23-25 Moroni, worried that his weakness in writing might cause the Gentiles to mock the sacred things he was writing about says:

“Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing. . . And thou hast made us that we could write but little because of the awkwardness of our hands. . . wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness and stumble.”

The Lord then replies in verse 26 and the oft quoted verse 27:

“Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness. And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

With the correct context we can observe that Moroni is talking about lacking the skill of powerful writing we find in the brother of Jared. That is a weakness, not a sin. Distinguishing between the two, while still acknowledging and respecting their consistent similarity and effect on one another, is imperative. Weakness could be exemplified in various ways such as  mortal limitations, mental or physical flaws or illnesses, emotional disorders, lacking skills, strength or wisdom, and the one found in all of us  – being subject and susceptible to temptations. These are all part of our experience in a probationary state and, as we learn from the verse above, can even be given to us by God. An example that comes to mind is John 9:2-3, “And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” Weaknesses can provide God with an opportunity to manifest his works and lead us to him. Meanwhile, sin on the other hand, is a choice to disobey the commandments of God and violate the light and knowledge that has been given to us. It cannot be given to us by God, is instigated and encouraged by Satan, and leads us away from God.

In a recent article in the Liahona titled It Isn’t a Sin to be Weak, Wendy Ulrich wisely stated, “We commonly think of sin and weakness as merely different sized black marks on the fabric of our souls, different severities of transgression. But the scriptures imply that sin and weakness are inherently different, require different remedies, and have the potential to produce different results.” “Because we are weak, we may not recognize if we are dealing with sin (calling for an immediate and pervasive change of mind, heart, and behavior) or with weakness (calling for humble, sustained effort, learning, and improvement). How we view these things can depend on our upbringing and maturity. There may even be elements of both sin and weakness in a single behavior.” She goes on to plainly warn, “Saying a sin is really a weakness leads to rationalizing instead of repenting. Saying a weakness is a sin can result in shame, blame, despair, and giving up on God’s promises.” Essentially, confusing the two will lead to the unnatural and improper applications of the laws of justice and mercy.

Mercy ceases to satisfy justice when we justify, to any degree, in committing sin. God can pardon and forgive sin, but never justify it. For he “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” The minute we switch from trying to overcome the less than ideal circumstances we might be placed in, or the weaknesses that beset us, or the desires that have found their way into our hearts, and start using them to justify our actions, we lose the Spirit of the Lord and are not covered by the law of mercy. We all come from different backgrounds and have different opportunities presented to us, and God will be fair in judging us accordingly, but he does expect us to try to live up to the amount of light and truth we’ve been given. I believe like President J. Reuben Clark that, “when the Lord metes out punishment, he will mete out the least possible punishment that it is possible to mete out and satisfy the demands of justice.” But I also believe that we will be held perfectly accountable for the times we choose not to “exercise faith unto repentance”. Giving into sin because we are weak does not prevent us from accessing our Mediator’s mercy. For as Alma testified, “Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent and I will receive you.” The gateway to mercy is covered when we use our susceptibility to weaknesses as a justification and conclude that no repentance is necessary.

While we may be born with weaknesses, sin is ALWAYS a choice. Joseph Smith taught: “The devil has no power over us only as we permit him; the moment we revolt at anything that comes from God, the devil takes power.” He also said, “Satan cannot seduce us by his enticements unless we in our hearts consent and yield. Our organization is such that we can resist the devil; if we were not organized so, we would not be free agents.” We can also extract from these prophetic words that if we were born into sin, or born with an inability to resist temptations or enticements, we would not be free agents. Our second article of faith states “We believe that man will be punished for his own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” The doctrine of “original sin” was invented in the 4th century by St. Augustine and is false (Skousen, pg.199, Majesty of God’s Law). Further, we have this affirmation from President Spencer W. Kimball in October 1980:

“‘God made me that way,’ some say, as they rationalize and excuse themselves for their perversions. ‘I can’t help it,’ they add. This is blasphemy. Is man not made in the image of God, and does he think God to be ‘that way’? Man is responsible for his own sins. It is possible that he may rationalize and excuse himself until the groove is so deep he cannot get out without great difficulty, but this he can do. Temptations come to all people. The difference between the reprobate and the worthy person is generally that one yielded and the other resisted. It is true that one’s background may make the decision and accomplishment easier or more difficult, but if one is mentally alert, he can still control his future. That is the gospel message – personal responsibility.”

With this in mind, the words of Elder Dallin H. Oaks from his Oct. 1995 Ensign article Same-Gender Attraction are instructive:

“We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage. It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior.”

While the issue he is confronting may be specific, the principle is general – we should refrain from using adjectives as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons.  This would include adjectives to describe behavior such as irresponsible, immoral, unethical, or lazy. We are not consigned by birth to a circumstance in which we have no choice in respect to any of those types of behaviors either.

Elder Oaks goes on to say:

“Different persons have different physical characteristics and different susceptibilities to the various physical and emotional pressures we may encounter in our childhood and adult environments. We did not choose these personal susceptibilities either, but we do choose and will be accountable for the attitudes, priorities, behavior, and “lifestyle” we engraft upon them.”

“We all seem to have susceptibilities to one disorder or another, but whatever our susceptibilities, we have the will and the power to control our thoughts and our actions. This must be so. God has said that he holds us accountable for what we do and what we think, so our thoughts and actions must be controllable by our agency. Once we have reached the age or condition of accountability, the claim ‘I was born that way’ does not excuse actions or thoughts that fail to conform to the commandments of God.”

“Whatever our susceptibilities or tendencies [feelings], they cannot subject us to eternal consequences unless we exercise our free agency to do or think the things forbidden by the commandments of God. For example, a susceptibility to alcoholism impairs its victim’s freedom to partake without addiction, but his free agency allows him to abstain and thus escape the physical debilitation of alcohol and the spiritual deterioration of addiction.

… Beware the argument that because a person has strong drives toward a particular act, he has no power of choice and therefore no responsibility for his actions. This contention runs counter to the most fundamental premises of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

A synonym for the word agency is stewardship. Ultimately, the message is that we are all accountable for our stewardship over our own thoughts and actions. Susceptibilities, that in and of themselves are not sins but are weaknesses and may vary in each person based on their circumstances and environments, cannot be used as excuses to justify transgression. Elder Oaks also offers some words of comfort for those who are confusing weakness for sin, leading them to feel disheartened.

“God has promised that he will consecrate our afflictions for our gain (see 2 Ne. 2:2). The efforts we expend in overcoming any inherited [or developed] weakness build a spiritual strength that will serve us throughout eternity. Thus, when Paul prayed thrice that his ‘thorn in the flesh’ would depart from him, the Lord replied, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Obedient, Paul concluded:‘Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong’ (2 Cor. 12:9–10).”

The efforts we expend in overcoming any inherited or developed weakness build a spiritual strength that will serve us throughout eternity. That brings hope to me.  Along these same lines Wendy Ulrich adds:

“We cannot simply repent of being weak—nor does weakness itself make us unclean. We cannot grow spiritually unless we reject sin, but we also do not grow spiritually unless we accept our state of human weakness, respond to it with humility and faith, and learn through our weakness to trust in God. When Moroni fretted about the weakness of his writing, God did not tell him to repent. Instead, the Lord taught him to be humble and to have faith in Christ. As we are meek and faithful, God offers grace—not forgiveness—as the remedy for weakness. Grace is an enabling power from God to do what we cannot do on our own (see Bible Dictionary, “Grace”)—the appropriate godly remedy by which He can “make weak things become strong.”

Now, the points made thus far are not meant to lead one to believe that Ether 12:27 does not apply to sins, nor to believe that sins and weaknesses cannot overlap. As Sister Ulrich mentioned, “There may even be elements of both sin and weakness in a single behavior.” The principle being taught is that if we come unto Christ and have faith in him, he will “make weak things become strong” unto us. “Weak things” can definitely be sins, and weaknesses can become sins and even addictions. The object of this article is to show that the verse says, “I give unto men weakness,” not “I give unto men immoral behavior,” or “I give unto men pornography addiction.” The intent of the article, is to prevent us from using the scripture to make it appear as if God is giving us behavior or addiction leading us to conclude it is therefore justified, while still preserving the testimony in the verse of the Savior’s power to help us overcome all manner of afflictions and be perfected. He does give us weaknesses that may have the potential, if the principle in the passage is not applied, to become inappropriate behaviors or even addictions. It should be noted though, that in such a scenario our moral agency is not being infringed upon because whether they do or do not is up to us. God knows our capacity to withstand temptations and our potential for growth in this life. With his foresight of our ability to overcome, he allows us to be susceptible to opportunities to choose between right and wrong. That is the test of life. Jesus was subjected to powerful, direct temptations from the adversary but gave no heed unto them. As Paul testified, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

The inspiring thing is that whether we have wrested Ether 12:27 by saying that sin is really a weakness in order to rationalize and justify instead of repent, or by saying that weakness is a sin leading us to have feelings of shame, discouragement, and despair which are not of God, or by failing to recognize the power the atonement can have on sins and weaknesses, coming unto Jesus Christ now, is the answer. I submit that upon conditions of sincere repentance and humility, coupled with actively striving to live as we should, we can be forgiven of every sin because of his mercy and strengthened in every weakness because his grace. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)