I have really enjoyed writing this Series, and am a little sad to see it end.
This is My Doctrine
When we boil the gospel down to its core, and after all of the religious fluff evaporates away as steam into nothingness, we find at its heart something pure.
1. Supremacy of Christ
There are a lot of wonderful ideas, precepts, teachings, rules, policies, and principles all around us. BUT ALL OF THEM yield the floor to the Constitution of Christ's Word that lives in us: the inviolate conscience true followers of Jesus Christ have.
2. Universality of Christ
We all possess the Light of Christ. Every. Last. One. of Us (see, Moroni 7:16).
What does it mean that Christ "is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever" (D&C 88:41).
How is Jesus, who is the life and the light of the world, the Spark that quickens our intelligences?
(You see, when we create rank, status and hierarchy here on earth, we denigrate the inherent divine light of those who aren't in leadership roles by not allowing God to speak through them.)
3. Power of Christ
With the gift of the Holy Ghost we can speak with the tongue of angels (!) the very words of Christ (!!!), which are given by the power of the Holy Ghost. This is how we minister to one another. This is how we bring comfort to those who need comfort. This is how we administer the gospel and the key of knowledge.
4. Words of Christ
We are all seeking our burning bush.
Once we are "in the gate," then we are to follow whatever the Lord tells us Personally."The words of Christ will tell youall things what ye should do" (2 Nephi 32:3).
Yes, it's great to listen to teachers, prophets, and apostles ―but it is even better to listen to God. The test is not who is speaking; the test is whose words are being spoken?
Maya Angelou said, "Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God."
"Trusting in the Lord" means we follow that divine voice within us over the competing calls of authority around us.
5. Truth of Christ
God can tell us the truth of all things (Moroni 10:5). The standard of truth lies within us (not outside of us) and is an unfailing anchor when others try to tug us toward something other than Christ.
While the path to God is the same for everyone (through Christ), we find that Christ Himself tailors each of our journeys along that path, thereby rendering each path utterly unique.
We need to trust in that Spirit, or voice, that witnesses of Christ and brings us to all things good.
We must never let others ― no matter who they are or what they say ― lessen the light in us by allowing their bushels to smother the Word of Christ burning brightly in our hearts.
The Gospel of Tim
In 3 Nephi 27, we have a wonderful explanation of the gospel. Given by the Lord himself.
This is the gospel which I have given unto you — that I came into the world to do the will of my Father.
(2 Nephi 27:13)
See how simple? When we're talking about the Capital "G" Gospel of Jesus Christ, there are specific things the Father asked Him to do.
- Be lifted up on the cross - Atone for our sins - Draw all men unto Him - Judge all men according to their works
Lower Case "g" gospel
But I want us to look at it in a new way. Let's repeat these same words, but apply them to us:
I came into the world to do the will of my Father.
That's it. That's the plan. That's the gospel for each of us.
It's the same for us as it was for Christ. The things that change are the things that God wants each of us to do here on earth. (That's different for each of us.)
Thus we see the futility of telling others, who have entered into the gate, how to live the "gospel" ― because they should be doing the things that Christ has told them to do!
Seek the Lord.
Find your burning bush.
Engrave His words upon the tablets of your heart.
As Moroni wrote in his Final Farewell:
Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead?
And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ.
If you "triangulate" something, you find a distance or location using two points and measure the angles between them to find a third unknown point.
For example, when we use our cell phones, satellites triangulate our location.
The Doctrine of Christ allows us to triangulate, or navigate, our way back to God.
Defining the Doctrine One of our challenges is figuring out what, exactly, is the Doctrine of Christ. What are the "known points" that will point us toward heaven?
1. DEFINITION OF CHRIST'S DOCTRINE #1
Behold, this is my doctrine― whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me.
This is what the Lord told Joseph Smith in our modern vernacular. But in order to triangulate this Doctrine, let's get another data point.
2. DEFINITION OF CHRIST'S DOCTRINE #2
I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine.
(3 Nephi 11:32-33, 35)
Here we see the Lord giving the Nephites a similar definition around 2000 years ago. This is starting to sound like Article of Faith 4.
Except, what is still missing?
3. DEFINITION OF CHRIST'S DOCTRINE #3
The voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me.
For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.
(2 Nephi 31:12, 17)
So is the Doctrine of Christ: (1) faith; (2) repentance; (3) baptism; and (4) the Holy Ghost?
Well, those appear to be part of it, but we're not done yet! My favorite part is coming:
I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
(2 Nephi 31:19)
We see something new, or different, now. After we come unto Christ and are cleansed by water and fire, we obtain the Word of Christ, which dwells in us as a fire.
It is the Word of Christ that is given to us that causes our hearts to have "unshaken faith" in Him, for we have become witnesses of His Word and know first-hand that we can trust, or rely, completely (wholly) upon Him forever more.
Why?Because we have heard His promises to us (Personally).
So where do we go from here?
Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
(2 Nephi 31:20)
Stop the Presses!
Did we catch that? Did Nephi just suggest that "eternal life" is having the Word of Christ alive in us?
And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the away; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God.
*PAUSE* Wait a minute. What is the way?
Because this seems awfully important, seeing as there are no other ways into the kingdom of heaven.
Tangent on the Temple
Is it possible that modern-day temple worship is analogous to Old Testament temple worship?
I mean, we know the Jews had a temple, a priesthood, and ordinances that were highly symbolic.
Now, I wish receiving the temple ordinances punched our ticket to heaven. I wish we could guarantee our salvation by attending a two-hour ceremony.
But the temple is a means, not an end.
This is why I worry that our focus on "the covenant path" is actually a detour from "the covenant path."
What do I mean? Well, we seem to see the temple ordinances and covenants as an accomplishment rather than as an initiation.
Do we believe the ordinances save us, or that they show us the way to be saved?
Do we believe people are on "the covenant path" if they've been to the temple? Because that is no indication whatsoever of whether we are on the actual covenant path, anymore than a person who has watched Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on TV has actually starred in the musical on Broadway like Hugh Jackman.
After all, the temple ceremony is an attempt to convey this Doctrine through drama and symbols and ritual: the "way" to heaven by "conversing with the Lord through the veil" (i.e., feasting upon the Word of Christ, as He parts the veil and leads us by the Hand to the Father).
Why is it we spend so much energy on getting people "to the temple" but little-to-no-time on helping those who have been initiated to understand the meaning behind the symbols and rituals?
In the temple we are spectators. If we are wise, we take what we learn and use that knowledge to receive the Word of Christ in very deed.
I suspect we'll be disappointed when we arrive at the door and find it shut ― despite all of our key words and signs and tokens ― if we have not learned to recognize, hear, and follow the Word of Christ that dwells in us.
And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.
(2 Nephi 31:21)
We call it the Doctrine of Christ; but really it is the only true Doctrine of the Father, which Christ showed us how live.
Hi everyone, I am really excited about today's post. Before we dive in, I need to share a few thoughts and clarifications. I really appreciate the comments and the emails and the discussions that this blog generates. However, sometimes I miss the mark and may leave the wrong impression.
What's Wrong With Me?
You've probably noticed that my arguments are lopsided.
There are two sides to every issue. Or three sides, or twenty. In this blog I am not focusing on all of the sides because I am trying to focus on the side that is most neglected.
I am pro-Church and pro-religion. For heaven's sake, I am rushing as a Freshman to become a member of Beta Sigma Firstborn!
But in society today, the popular sentiment is pro-religion already (see, e.g., President Dallin H. Oaks, "The Need for a Church," October 2021 General Conference). So there's little need for me to tell people that religion can, at times, bring us closer to God. If I did that, I would be preaching to the choir. (I mean, even Mafia bosses go to church on Sunday wearing double-breasted striped suits. I suppose they are better off for it.)
So my purpose is to highlight the other side: the less apparent but very real ways in which religion can become detrimental to our spiritual light. I do so hoping we can learn to navigate our churches in a more healthy manner by avoiding priestcraft.
I am pro-authority. I believe God is the ultimate authority.
I believe that Jesus showed us that authority arises from love, not from a person's rank.
"Jesus earned our loyalty ― not because He was the Firstborn(there are plenty of examples where "firstborns" got passed over, like Cain, Esau, and Judah) ― not because of His status as the Son of God (Satan makes the same claim) ― but because He showed us how much He loves us through His condescension and sacrifice."
So my intent in this blog is to highlight the way authority can lead to spiritual abuse when it is wielded using control, compulsion, guilt, and fear. Obedience squeezed from a turnip cannot save us (see Moroni 7:6).
3. Latter-day Prophets.
I am pro-prophet. I am pro-apostle (I mean, who isn't?!)
But my purpose is to declare, as Moses did, "Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets!" (Num. 11:29). I believe that we all can speak with the tongue of angels and give voice to the Holy Ghost by speaking the Words of Christ.
However, because our religion is so heavily slanted in favor of leadership's authority, I am trying to highlight the self-authority and dignity we each possess as intelligences, which deserve more respect.
I listen to the prophets. I follow Christ. Period.
I am pro-hierarchy. I think it works very well for Ford Motor Company. (Okay, now I am being sarcastic.)
I am pro-equality. I do not believe heaven (or Zion) is structured as a hierarchy like we see in the Catholic Church or in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which resemble the organization of LuLaRoe more than it does the House of God.
Therefore, it is logical to assume that the Lord will need to shake things up in order to bring his children into "oneness" at some point in the future.
Christ's labor of love is bringing forth Zion; it is His to shape as He sees fit, and apparently He sees worth in equality. I am not trying to impose my standards on Him; I am just trying to understand what the scriptures already say, and to prepare.
Connection vs. Control
Well, now that we've cleared all that up, let's get down to business!
I've mentioned before that there is a common misperception out there that Mormons (aka members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) are good at building communities.
Instead, members of the Church are good at building hierarchies.
There's a big difference.
I don't blame anyone; it is just a fact that we're some of the least skilled people on the planet at building authentic communities without the aid of authority figures. That's the rub: all of our training is in hierarchical-based leadership ("Return and Report, underling!").
Creating leadership ranks is simply the only tool we've been given to organize ourselves in the Church. I mean, how else could we do it? We don't know. We've never learned how to let love unite us because we're too accustomed to uniting under leadership's authority.
But if someone took away our hierarchy, what would happen? Would we crumble like a Chips Ahoy cookie?
1.Communities arise from connection. We choose to associate with those who share common interests and values. We feel an affinity to our fellow community members who give us a sense of belonging. They become our "tribe," so-to-speak.
2.Hierarchies, on the other hand, depend on control. They tell us where we belong. Hierarchies provide structure and efficiencies we do not see in organic communities. Hierarchies leverage the control that leadership possesses in order to "make the trains run on time," so-to-speak.
Time For a Joke
I remember reading an anecdote about a past president of the Church in the early 20th century receiving a phone call on his birthday from the President of the United States, who was calling to wish him a happy birthday.
Prophet: "Who's this?"
President: "The President!"
Prophet: "President who?"
President: "The President of the United States!"
Prophet: "Oh, out here we're all presidents."
I like to joke that as soon as the Church moves into a new area it starts ordaining Presidents. Those Presidents call other presidents. And so on. We create a long chain of presidents spreading an hierarchical ecosystem in which the food chain is predetermined by a person's office and rank, stretching all the way up to the Mothership we call "Headquarters."
To paraphrase Abraham 4:11-12:
And the [Leaders] said: Let us prepare [the Church] to bring forth more [Presidents] each after their kind, whose seed in itself yieldeth its own likeness upon [the Church]; and it was so, even as they ordered . . . .
And the [Leaders] saw that they were obeyed.
(Abraham 4:11-12, New Hierarchical Translation)
Perhaps the problem we have with the priesthood is that we're producing fruit after our "own likeness" rather than Christ's.
Infinite Regression of Gods
This morning I read something interesting in a Facebook comment by Paul Toscano. He said, referencing the diagram, above, which was published after Joseph's death:
[I]n my view, this chart constitutes a graphic illustration of the greatest heresy in Mormonism.
Christ did not call us to a place on this chart. He calls us to love and joint heirship with Him in the godhead.
Equality not hierarchy is the heart of the gospel and the purpose behind justification, sanctification, glorification, and ultimate theosis.
This ridiculous chart suggests the very opposite—that Jesus died on the cross to resurrect us into a chain of command—an eternal bureaucracy of servitude based on which of us was first to be embodied in space and time.
The chart is a fascist distortion of what J[oseph] S[mith] meant in his final godhead discourses. It is preposterous. It manages in a single diagram to contradict the meaning of the gospel by turning the good news into bad news. It invalidates every utterance and every vignette of the Lord in the New Testament. It mocks his incarnation and his personal suffering with us on earth. It cheapens his crucifixion. It insults his infinite sacrifice.
Who Are We?
In order to understand Christ's doctrine, I think we need to remember who we are. I mean, it makes a difference who Jesus is talking to, doesn't it? Who he is preaching divine truths to, in order for them to progress? Jesus wasn't preaching to a trombone or tuna fish.
Christ's Doctrine only makes sense in the context of the audience he gave it to: a group of people with whom he desired to share community; with whom he yearned for celestial union, that we may be One with him.
So let's start with this fact: we are "gnolaum."
Two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.
God is eternal. And so are we.
In the King Follett discourse, Joseph Smith taught, "The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal with God himself."
So the way we interact with each other should reflect this reality, right?
We should treat each other in a manner that respects the divine nature we all possess? Isn't this how we comprehend God?
The day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in him and by him.
Then shall ye know that ye have seen me, that I am, and that I am the true light that is in you, and that you are in me.
God is in each of us. We get to know Him by discovering Him in each other.
When we seek and nourish the divine intelligence in each other we come to know Him.
In the last post, we ended with Ralph Waldo Emerson's stunning declaration, "Dare to love God without mediator or veil."
I want to point out that this is how Christ loved the Father, as symbolized when he died and the veil of the temple was torn in two.
Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
And the graves were opened.
So we should be wary of anyone, or any religion, that tries to close the graves and patch the veil back together, right? Because they are undoing the work of Christ.
Isn't this the problem we find among legalistic religions filled with carnal commandments? They tell us: "You can't come unto God except through my authority, my keys, my priesthood, my rules."
These interlopers who place themselves between us and God are stumbling blocks, or obstacles.
Christ warned us to avoid them:
He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
We know that Christ is "the door" because he said, "I am the door of the sheep" (John 10:7).
So that means everyone, and anyone, who tells us the door to heaven is through them, and their authority, as opposed to Christ, is a "hireling."
Flee them. Flee from them as fast as you can.
Why Don't We Need a Mortal Mediator or Veil?
It is challenging to follow Christ when so many people tell you how to do it. How to follow Christ their way.
There's a hidden gem in the Hymnbook called "Jesus, Mighty King of Zion." It's Hymn No. 234.
I don't know if I've ever sung this hymn in Church. The words were written by John Fellows, a poor shoe maker in the 1700s who was Baptist.
Jesus, mighty King in Zion, Thou alone our guide shalt be. Thy commission we rely on; We will follow none but thee.
Nephi saw our day, and warned us that the biggest "stumbling block" we face was the churches we love to build up.
That's right ― the problem is the churches (!), who preach Christ with their lips but whose hearts are far from Him.
2 Nephi 26:20:
And the Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes,
Notice where pride pools as a black pit? In the dilated pupils of our "eyes." We are prideful because we judge after the manner of men, after the outward appearance. We prefer the smooth faced hypocrite over the locust-eating, wild-man of God. We believe respectability and credibility equate with godliness, so we dress religion in fine scarlets and fine sanctuaries and listen to fine, clean-shaven men who wear woolen suits.
and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches;
Here Nephi identifies the reason we stumble: we have built up "many churches" which bring the people into captivity by telling the people to ignore their innate intelligence, or light of truth, and to follow the leaders of the churches (if they want to be in good with God).
nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God,
Because religious leaders are generally (not always, but usually) hypocrites (see, Matthew 23 for examples), religious leaders do not build upon Christ's rock of love unfeigned, equality, and condescension. Instead (since they do not have God's actual power), they focus on their own authority as a substitute. They practice the "forms of godliness without the power." This is what it means to "take the name of the Lord in vain." The result? Churches bereft of miracles.
and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning,
How well did Nephi prophecy our day. How well did Nephi know us! Instead of revealing the mysteries of God, religious leaders develop curriculums of carnal commandments to keep the members dependent upon them and their system. They create churches of captivity, where our divine intelligence is insulted.
that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor.
And here's the big climax: the motivation of all religion. It is to profit, and to get gain, from priestcraft. As opposed to the gospel of Christ, which is to elevate the poor. Instead we elevate those whose loyalty is to the institution rather than to the intelligence of God.
Are All Churches Bad?
Well, this is an interesting question.
The angel told Nephi in 1 Nephi 14:10-11:
Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.
[Why is false religion called a "whore?" It is because she sells that which is sacred for money.]
And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.
[We see that false religion is universal.]
Who Belongs to the Church of the Lamb of God?
The Church of the Lamb of God is not an earthly institution. It is not a church that is incorporated by the laws of New York.
Here are the characteristics of the Church of the Lamb of God:
1. Its members are "few" (1 Nephi 14:12);
2. Its members are called "saints of God" (1 Nephi 14:12);
3. Its members are "scattered" upon all the face of the earth (1 Nephi 14:14);
4. Its members are "armed with righteousness" (1 Nephi 14:14);
5. Its members are possess "the power of God in great glory" (1 Nephi 14:14);
6. Its members are targeted by the churches of the earth (the mother of abominations), who fight against the Lamb (1 Nephi 14:13).
What Does the Church of the Lamb Look Like?
In contrast to the monolithic multi-national corporate interests of modern religion, the Church of the Lamb is starkly humble.
As Jesus summarized so succinctly:
And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine.
(3 Nephi 11:38-39)
So what does it mean to become "like a little child?" What would a ward look like if we were all children?
One of the best descriptions I can find for how the children in the Church of the Lamb operate is found in Moroni 6.
1. They have broken hearts and contrite spirits (Moroni 6:2);
2. They repent of all their sins (Moroni 6:2);
3. They take upon them the name of Christ (Moroni 6:3);
4. They serve Christ (Moroni 6:3);
5. They have the "power of the Holy Ghost" (Moroni 6:2);
6. They are nourished by the good word of God (Moroni 6:4);
7. They are watchful unto prayer (Moroni 6:4);
8. They rely alone upon the merits of Christ (Moroni 6:2);
9. They meet together often to fellowship, to remember and care for each other, looking after the welfare of each other's souls in love (Moroni 6:5);
10. They hold each other accountable as a family to follow God and forgive each other when they sin (Moroni 6:7-8);
11. Their meetings were conducted "after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost" (Moroni 6:9).
Bye-Bye, Stumbling Blocks
Here's the important part I've been excited for:
The Lord promises to take away our stumbling blocks!
Remember what is the stumbling block for the Gentiles? That's right ― their churches (2 Nephi 26:20).
With that in mind, let's read 1 Nephi 14:1:
And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God
The Lord wants us to listen, or "hearken" unto Him. Why are we so eager to listen to wolves when the Lamb is right here? How do we hear His voice?
in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word,
Jesus "manifests himself" to us by conversing with us, by talking to us, by having a discussion with us. We treasure up his "word" and feast upon his "word." Jesus is the Word of God, and we can hear him in our hearts, in our souls, in the intelligence, or light and truth, that is joined with his.
and also in power, in very deed,
The worlds were created by "the Word of my power." Christ is the life, the light, and the truth we need. When he manifests himself to us "in very deed," . . . well, we can talk about another time. But notice: when we choose Christ over religion, then something incredible happens:
unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks.
Christ will free us from churches that practice priestcraft; he will "number [us] among the seed of thy father [Lehi]" and we will be "no more brought down into captivity" (1 Nephi 14:2).
What Happens to All the Churches?
The churches who "lead away the souls of men" and who digged a great pit for men, "shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction, saith the Lamb of God" (1 Nephi 14:3).
On July 15, 1838, American poet and prophet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, gave a speech to the graduating class of the Harvard Divinity School. It is known as the "Divinity School Address."
It was one of the most inspired speeches in American history.
Ralph Waldo Emerson and Joseph Smith
You might remember Mr. Emerson from high school English class. He was born two years before Joseph Smith in 1803. The lives of these two shapers of American society had some interesting parallels and striking contrasts.
1. Both Emerson and Joseph Smith viewed Christianity as corrupt.
2. Emerson was a Unitarian minister and was refined. Joseph was a frontier preacher and was rough.
3. Emerson's legacy was picked up by Henry David Thoreau; Joseph's by Brigham Young.
4. In 1837-39, Joseph Smith had completed the Kirtland Temple and was navigating the fallout of the Kirtland Safety Society. He abandoned Kirtland and settled in Far West.
5. By 1838, Emerson, a widower, had remarried and had financial woes of his own. He prevailed in a lawsuit to inherit after his first wife's death, and was awarded over $22,000 (which would be around $500,000 today).
6. In the 1840s, while Joseph went on to be the editor of the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo, Emerson and his transcendentalist disciples published a journal called The Dial.
So what's the point of all of this history mumbo-jumbo?
I am glad you asked!
"God is, not was."
Did you know that Joseph Smith was a poet himself?
Joseph wrote a poem-version of his Vision that he received with Sidney Ridgon in 1832 (Doctrine and Covenants 76).
And now after all of the proofs made of him, By witnesses truly, by whom he was known, This is mine, last of all, that he lives; yea he lives! And sits at the right hand of God, on his throne.
And I heard a great voice, bearing record from heav'n, He's the Saviour, and only begotten of God-- By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made, Even all that career in the heavens so broad,
Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last, Are sav'd by the very same Saviour of ours; And, of course, are begotten God's daughters and sons, By the very same truths, and the very same pow'rs.
(Joseph Smith, "A Vision," stanzas 18 - 20; see, https://faculty.cs.byu.edu/~clement/rel325/vision-poem.pdf)
Here was a witness of a man who communed with God. Joseph Smith gave languishing Christianity a renewed hope in a God that lives and speaks TODAY; in a heaven whose windows are open; in a scriptural canon ripe for more revelation raining from above.
As Emerson put it in his Harvard Divinity School Address:
It is the office of a true teacher to show us that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake. The true Christianity, -- a faith like Christ's in the infinitude of man, — is lost.
Is it lost? Have we lost God's voice?
In 2022, where is the word of God to be found? Where can we hear Him speak? Where do we find God at work? Where can we find messengers sent by Father to teach us?
You know, something Emerson said nearly 200 years ago is just as relevant TODAY than it was then:
"It is my duty to say to you, that the need was never greater of new revelation than now."
Infinite Regression of Religions
The state of religion in 2022 is not great. We read in the newspaper about the plummeting membership rolls of churches; of multitudes fleeing organized religion for a variety of reasons.
But the problem is not people leaving religion. The problem is religions that cripple people's intelligence, or in other words, light and truth ― or in other words, their authentic, divine selves.
Emerson cautioned us that the fault lies not in man, but in religion. He said (and while reading this quote, think of our modern worship services):
It seemed strange that the people should come to church.
It seemed as if their houses were very unentertaining, that they should prefer this thoughtless clamor. It shows that there is a commanding attraction in the moral sentiment, that can lend a faint tint of light to dullness and ignorance, coming in its name and place.
[Emerson is implying that our preaching of platitudes and trite 'moral sentiment' is a far cry from the light God has planted within us. Our spirits leave Church unedified because we are taught dull and ignorant doctrines.]
The good hearer is sure he has been touched sometimes . . . when he listens to these vain words, he comforts himself by their relation to his remembrance of better hours, and so they clatter and echo unchallenged.
[Here Emerson is saying that we are content with "vain words" and the emotional appeal they have, and do not challenge what we hear from the pulpit.]
Why is religion incapable of satisfying our innate desire for God?
Because God is not "out there. " God is "in here." This is the essence of the Doctrine of Christ (!)
The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: [meaning, you can't see it] Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! [meaning, we won't find it here or there] for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Yes, yes Jesus really said that.
Did he mean it?
"You. Yes, you!" He's saying the kingdom of God is within YOU.
It's there! His word, the words of eternal life, are IN YOU and can grow into life everlasting.
Carnal Commandments are a Sign of Condemnation
Why do people view the Law of Moses as the gold standard for religion?
I mean, often in Church I hear people expressing their faith in terms of whether they are keeping the commandments like it was 1200 B.C.
To put another way, why do we place Old Testament Religion on a pedestal?
After all, the Law of Moses was given to the Israelites because they rejected the higher law! The Lord gave them a lesser law to their "condemnation."
Why would we want to emulate a religion that was given when God was angry (or, as it says in the scriptures, "in his wrath")?
The law of Christ, on the other hand, is not written on stone tablets but upon the fleshy tablets of our hearts and inward parts.
Be Like Christ, Not Moses
Emerson celebrated Christ as the "greatest Man." He said:
Alone in all history, [Christ] estimated the greatness of man; One man was true to what is in you and me.
He saw that God incarnates himself in man, and evermore goes forth anew to take possession of his world....
That which shows God in me, fortifies me. That which shows God out of me, makes me [weak].
Question: What attempts to "show God out of us?" Answer: Religion.
Question: What attempts to "show God in us?" Answer: The gospel, or the Word of God.
Alma, Tell It Like It Is
Let's break down just a single verse from our friend Alma in Chapter 32:28, to help us understand the Doctrine of Christ a little better:
Now, we will compare the word unto a seed.
Well, this is already interesting: we've got to start from scratch. We can't transplant a rhododendron bush from our neighbor's yard to ours. The word of God is not something that can be grown outside of us. It has to be incubated within from its simplest state.
Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart,
[FAITH] Okay, this tells us where this seed has to go. It has to go inside us, in our heart, which circulates spiritual blood to all of our limbs. Notice how this is all voluntary ("if ye give place"). No one can force-feed us this seed. No one can cram it down our throats.
behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord,
Ahhh. [REPENTANCE] That is the most interesting definition of "unbelief" I have found: "to resist the Spirit of Lord." It doesn't say anything about whether we believe the truth propositions of our Churches; it doesn't say anything about obedience to our leaders; no, the test is entirely different from what religion teaches: will we receive, or resist, the Spirit of the Lord? A person who receives the Spirit of the Lord will always, invariably, repent.
behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts;
When a seed germinates, it becomes bigger. How? The seed starts to retain water. Remember what comes next? [BAPTISM]
and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding,
[HOLY GHOST] The Spirit is a revelator. Remember what Joseph said happened after he and Oliver were baptized? "We were filled with the Holy Ghost.... Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings" (JS-H 1:73-74). This is the manifesting of the Spirit, to have the Word of God magnified in our minds.
yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
[FEAST] You know what I do when something is so delicious? Like cherry cobbler with vanilla ice cream? I devour it. I feast on it.
Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.