In the Church we're taught that priesthood "authority" is separate from priesthood "power."
For example, Boyd K. Packer taught:
"We have done very well at distributing the authority of the priesthood. We have priesthood authority planted nearly everywhere. But distributing the authority of the priesthood has raced, I think, ahead of distributing the power of the priesthood."
(Boyd K. Packer, "The Power of the Priesthood," General Conference, April 2010.)
This has always been somewhat of a puzzle to me. How are authority and power different? Can you have one without the other?
And when did we start splitting the baby, dividing God's authority from his power, and vice versa?
Let's consider the classic example of a young 16 year old teenager blessing the sacrament:
I remember being a priest and hearing that if I blessed the sacrament on Sunday morning, but had sinned the previous night (rendering me unworthy) and went ahead and blessed the sacrament anyway (which we were told not to do), then in this worst-case scenario God would still honor the ordinance for all of the people in the ward partaking of the emblems (who probably suspected all along what a lousy sinner I was) because we had the "authority."
In other words, my unworthiness would not be transferred to the bread and water based on invoking God's "authority."
But . . . but, but. Let's say I needed to give someone a blessing to heal the sick, or perform some sort of miracle, then I was in real trouble.
Because as a sinner, I would have no power. I would be an unplugged lightbulb unable to draw on a power source to give light; unable to draw on the powers of heaven because I had cut the connection with my knifelike sin.
And so we've created this odd dichotomy between authority and power.
(As an adult, I've been told not to give priesthood blessings to people "by the power of the Melchizedek priesthood," but to always say "by the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood.")
And so, from the twisted reasoning of young men's minds everywhere, we conclude that:
1. Priesthood authority is institutional and inseverable. Thus no matter how awful we are, if we are properly ordained then God has to respect the actions we take in his name under our allotted authority; but
2.Power in the priesthood is personal and severable, dependent on our individual worthiness.
Well, how convenient! But is this what the scriptures teach?
No Purse, No Scrip . . . No Service
When Jesus called 12 Apostles, He gave them both power and authority.
Are they a packaged deal?
Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power AND authority [2-for-1] over devils, and to cure diseases.
And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
And he said, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, nor money; neither have two coats.
This whole notion of authority surviving on life support when we lack power is quite strange, considering we are told:
And it came to pass that whosoever was baptized by the power AND authority of God was added to his church.
According to this scripture, it looks like authority alone ain't gonna do it.
Let's look at two of the greatest prophets of all time, Nephi and Lehi (not those ones, I'm talking about the ones in the Book of Helaman), of whom it was said:
Nephi and Lehi did preach unto the Lamanites with such great power AND authority, for they had power AND authority GIVENunto them that they might speak.
Here again we see that power and authority are gifts given to us by God, not something we get from ecclesiastical office.
The point I am trying to make is authority is a spiritual gift, not an institutional endowment.
For example, Jesus taught with "authority," shocking his listeners because he held no ecclesiastical office.
When authority comes from God (as opposed to from an institution) it is always accompanied by power.
Let's not forget Nephi, son of Nephi, son of Helaman, son of Helaman, son of Alma, son of Alma, who raised his brother Timothy from the dead.
Did bringing Timothy back to life require authority and/or power?
And Nephi did minister with power AND with great authority.
(3 Nephi 7:17)
Well, looks like he needed both.
The question we should be asking ourselves is:
- Why did we create this sophisticated explanation about authority being separate from power?
Is it because we needed an explanation for having a "form of godliness (i.e. authority) but denying the power thereof" (2 Tim. 3:5)?
The Callings of God
If power and authority do not arise from ecclesiastical office, but are actually gifts from God, then this explains a lot.
It might explain, for example, the scripture in D&C 20:60 (the "Articles and Covenants of the Church" when it was revealed), that says:
Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon
What percentage is "every?"
is to be ordained
Okay, ordination is important. After all, we have an Article of Faith that talks about the "laying on of hands." So let's see how ordination works:
according to the gifts and callings of God unto him;
Well, this is where things start to go off the rails.
It looks like we're supposed to be ordained in relation to our gifts and callings that have been bestowed upon us by God, so that the body of Christ on earth is constituted as God wills it in heaven.
But we've sort of put the cart before the horse, haven't we? Nowadays we don't ordain people based on their gifts and callings of God, but based on their age.
and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost,
That's unexpected. Who ordains us? Not a man or men. But a member of the Godhead: the Holy Ghost.
which is in the one who ordains him.
Question: If this verse is teaching that the person who ordains another by the power of the Holy Ghost must first have the power of the Holy Ghost "in" him, what happens if he does not actually have the power of the Holy Ghost in him when he performs the ordination?
Sons of Mosiah Slayin' It
Clark Burt, the author of Given by the Finger of God, commented on the last entry in this Series, and his comment was the inspiration behind this post.
I love the way Clark teaches because he doesn't sugarcoat things. (What is the opposite of flattery?)
If I am like Honey Nut Cheerios, Clark is a bowl of Kellogg's All-Bran; and the older I get, the more my spirit craves the fiber found in his pure testimony of Christ.
"The spirit of revelation (knowing what has been revealed is true) and the spirit of prophecy (the testimony of Jesus), while different, always go hand in hand, and a prophet must have both."
As I searched the scriptures for Revelation and Prophecy, I discovered something Mormon wrote about the Sons of Mosiah, who:
had the spirit of prophecy, [so they were Prophets] and the spirit of revelation, [so they were Revelators] and when they taught, they taught with power ANDauthority of God.
What made their teaching "powerful" and "authoritative?"
Well, it tells us right there in the verse ― they had the spirit of prophecy and revelation.
My point is this: prophets are not "powerful" at all ― their "power" all stems from the Word they preach (and not from themselves), like Samson's strength bound to his long hair.
Likewise, their authority comes from the Word they preach, not their titles or office.
In fact, most often we find prophets to be quite odd human beings, don't we? Wild men and locust-eating weirdos.
So don't focus on their haircuts or clothing or smells or accents.
"Yourself a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost — cast behind you all conformity, and acquaint men at first hand with Deity."
(Emerson, "Address to Divinity School," 1838)
Who doesn't want to know God first-hand?
We are on a journey of spiritual self-reclamation, taking the Holy Spirit for our guide, trusting in Christ's light to lead us beyond the veil of darkness through the mists of manmade commandments, into the holy-of-holies that is God's word dwelling in us.
This journey is the greatest adventure of our lifetimes.
The Road Less Traveled
I've mentioned before that I miss the age of exploration, when the corners of the globe were still covered in mystery and before videos and satellites removed the suspense of the unknown.
Perhaps that is why I have always been fascinated by the Lewis and Clark expedition. If we think of life as a spiritual expedition, then are we Lewis and Clark? Thomas Jefferson? Sacagawea? One of the nameless enlisted officers loitering about camp?
Sometimes I wonder what part we are playing in the story that is happening today in 2022.
Are we blazing new spiritual trails or are we drifting along in our canoe?
Change is Coming
If you're wondering why I have written this Series about trusting our inner Compass, allowing the light of Christ to illuminate the way forward, the reason is simple:
Zion is not going to come from more of the same. Zion will never arise from business-as-usual. Or from a hierarchy.
The status quo has to change. Or nothing will change.
I know it can be scary exploring uncharted terrain, relying on the word of God and leaving behind the creature-comforts of settled civilization (i.e. "religion").
But Joseph Smith did it, and so can we.
Joseph walked away from all of the established religions of his day in search of greater light and knowledge from his Father.
I sometimes think it is ironic that those of us who have inherited the legacy of Joseph Smith's Great Experiment have turned it into another . . . religion.
Joseph abandoned the very thing we have become.
And so at night, as I listen to the quiet hum of the refrigerator and the occasional bark of my neighbor's dog, I ask myself if the reason we're incapable of building Zion is because we are unwilling to leave behind the trappings of the Great and Abominable Church, which we keep creating anew and giving a new name.
Authority. Wealth. And status.
Pride Goeth Before the Fall
Perhaps the greatest creature comfort of all is certainty.
How wonderful to be in God's true Church, as we are told in Fast and Testimony meeting, assured of salvation because of our rites and covenants ― as if the Catholic Church did not write the book on saving sacraments 1700 years ago!
The spirit of Sectarianism is alive and well today.
Which is funny when you think about it, because we're so pleased to have "the truth" while viewing others as being on the wrong path ― when we are all squished into the same, cramped crowd; when we are enjoying Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale, marching along the broad way.
For wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.
Why does Christ refer to it as the "broad" way?
(Doesn't he like musical theater?)
Is it because so many of us are packed into the Interstate at rush hour in a sort of spiritual traffic jam, rushing out of town on Labor Day weekend, all using the same highway the devil built to be 40 lanes wide to accommodate as many travelers as possible, and yet we're still stuck in traffic?!
At a Crossroads
What I like about the 'Broad Way' is that the trail is clearly marked.
While hiking, there's no getting lost because all the foot traffic has created a well-worn path where no vegetation grows.
I also like how Broad Way has large, comfortable trail heads with restrooms and picnic areas. It was considerate of the forest rangers to install park benches along the way so we can take frequent breaks.
But do you know what I hate about the Straight and Narrow Way? How poorly maintained it is! I mean, it's like no one pays any taxes to upkeep the trail.
And why does no one tell us that the Straight and Narrow Path lies in a jungle where we have to use a machete to hack through the dense rainforest, walking into cobwebs and tarantulas and poisonous lizards?
But the Broad Way? Safe as can be. No danger. No flesh-eating insects . . .
. . . just friendly tour guides wearing name badges telling us to stick with the tour group, follow them, and enjoy the sights.
While it is scary to cast off on our own, following the dictates of our own conscience, seeking God without a safety net, there is hope.
Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.
My kids finished the school year yesterday. Now they are on summer vacation, lounging in the grass with popsicles and watching the clouds cross the sky, nary a care in the world.
They brought home their Yearbooks signed by friends with little bits of advice from their teaches.
It reminded me of one of the best pieces of advice I ever received from a guy who lived 2000 years ago whose name was Paul:
Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
(1 Cor. 14:1)
Well, isn't that just peachy. Does Paul tell us to follow the prophet?
No, he tells us to follow the love.
Then, after we're filled with love, we will desire spiritual gifts for the right reasons (at the top of the list is to glorify God).
But what's interesting is after we have charity, there is one particular gift which Paul says we should seek earnestly: the gift to prophesy.
Why? What makes prophecy so special? (I've always been partial to the diversity of operations, myself.)
Nephi explains the worth of prophecy:
We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, [WHY?] and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.
(2 Nephi 25:26)
In this way, we can all be prophets.
Angels and Prophets, What's the Difference?
There is no great difference between prophets and angels.
Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.
(2 Nephi 32:3)
The same could be said of prophets.
While prophets and angels reveal the word of God generally, their special purpose is to witness of Christ.
All the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have testified of me.
(3 Nephi 20:24)
In other words, a prophet or angel will tell you to follow Christ and not to follow him or her.
Lehi describes the consequences of following someone other than God in a cryptic passage, showing how he was deceived:
I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; [looks can be deceiving] and he came and stood before me.
And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him. [Oh oh. Big red flag, Lehi. This is like every horror movie I have ever seen, yelling at the teenagers to not go in there.]
And it came to pass that as I followed him [Lehi, please, wake up!] I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste. [Not a good place to be. And yet, here we are.]
And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord. [Finally!]
(1 Nephi 8:5-8)
And when he prayed (i.e. turned to God) Lehi was delivered at last.
Angels in the Outfield
We learn this same lesson from the vision of John the Revelator, where he was speaking to an angel on the Isle of Patmos:
And I fell at [the angel's] feet to worship him.
And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God.
So the angel here was a good angel because he directed John's attention to God.
And what do we see a true messenger from Father saying?
1. Don't worship me, idiot.
2. I am just your brother in the work of the Lord, of thy fellow knucklehads.
All the searching, hoping, time spent padding my resume, crafting cover letters, networking, interviewing . . .
. . . and then getting rejected.
(Kind of like dating.)
Anyway, pretend for a moment God has an opening for a Prophet.
In the Celestial Times newspaper, he places an ad in the classifieds:
Help wanted: Prophet. Good boss and benefits. No salary but chance for advancement to ministering angel after probationary period. Qualifications . . .
Hmm, what should we put under "Qualifications?"
Seen God? Does a person have to see God in order to be a prophet? That works if you're Isaiah, who "saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple" (Isaiah 6:1).
Seen Angels? What about angels? "Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips" (Isaiah 6:6-7).
Willing to Travel? "I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me" (Isaiah 6:8).
Willing to Deal with Angry Customers? "Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not" (Isaiah 6:9).
At least if you get the job you won't have to worry about retirement.
After all, you'll either be translated or martyred; so don't bother contributing to your 401(k).
"A Prophet! A Prophet! We have got a prophet, and there cannot be any more prophets!"
One of the criticisms I hear goes something like, "Tim, I don't like how you talk about prophets. We need prophets. They're called of God and you better sustain them or you're going to be in big fat trouble, brother."
Fair point. I would like to explain.
For the record.
My Defense of Prophets
It may surprise you to know that I love prophets.
I mean, haven't you noticed all the quotes I have included in this blog from prophets, both ancient and modern?
You see, the problem is not that I don't like prophets; it's that I like them too much.
That's why I can't play along with the Emperor's New Clothes, believing a person wearing the title "prophet" is one. I look for fruit, for light and truth, for the voice of the Lord in their words.
Another thing that gets me in trouble is I have a habit of viewing prophethood more expansively than most. My definition of a "prophet" is someone who expresses the gifts of God and speaks with the tongue of angels.
That definition would include both men and women.
What's more, I seem to find prophets among all walks and lifestyles and nationalities and religions. Odds are, the less they fit the mold of what we'd expect, the more likely they are to be prophets, and vice-versa.
In other words, you may find prophets with tattoos; of different faiths; attending Pride parades.
Isn't that what got Jesus into hot water? Associating with . . . everyone?
And the Lord God inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.
(2 Nephi 26:33)
When God speaks, I listen.
And what has God said about prophets?
Ye shall know them by their fruits.
So who am I to judge a vessel bearing the gifts of God?
You won't find me steadying the ark by dictating to God who He can, or can't, speak through.
I mean, don't diss a burning bush.
Setting the Record Straight
I want to put a twist on a famous scripture. I think it sums things up nicely.
Know ye not that there are more [prophets] than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word?
Know ye not that the testimony of two [prophets] is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another?
Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one [prophet] like unto another.
And because I have spoken [through] one [prophet] ye need not suppose that I cannot speak [through] another; for my work is not yet finished.
(2 Nephi 29:7-9)
We all know God imparts his word "liberally" (James 1:5), so why are we stingy with it, thinking that 15 men could possibly have a monopoly?
Isn't it odd how possessive of prophets we are in the Church, as if we never learned to share?
For heaven sakes, we only have to read 4 verses into the Book of Mormon before bumping into this:
There came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.
(1 Nephi 1:4)
Lehi was one. But he belonged to a community of prophets whom the Lord raised up before the destruction.
Just like He's doing now.
Holy People or Prophets?
In Mormon's abridgement, he makes an interesting point when discussing King Benjamin restoring peace in the land. He said it was done "with the assistance of the holy prophets who were among his people" (Words of Mormon 1:16).
But in the following verse Mormon characterizes them a bit differently:
And there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority.
(Words of Mormon 1:17)
Did we catch that? Holy prophets are just men (and women) who speak with the power of God's authority.
This reminds me of something said about Jesus, who held no ecclesiastical office in his day:
When Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Religions are always run by scribes.
And scribes have no idea what to do with genuine prophets, do they?
Moses to the Rescue
Don't you love Moses? Now there was my kind of guy: slow-of-speech but willing to spar with the best-of-em in God's name.
What I love about Moses is that he wasn't jealous of his authority.
In fact, the Bible shows him complaining to God all the time about how awful it was to be a prophet.
But do you know who was jealous of his authority?
Let that sink in. I mean, if Moses didn't care if others acted like prophets, manifesting God's gifts without his go-ahead, then why should his followers get all hot-and-bothered about it?
In Numbers 11, we read about the time the Spirit of God descended on some low-level nobodies who prophesied.
You might be thinking: that's Moses's job. These two other guys must be false prophets. They're gonna get in trouble, now!
But these fellows kept on prophesying in the camp of Israel (*gasp*).
How dare they, right? Who were these upstarts Eldad and Medad, anyway?
And of course the first reaction was to shut them up. These two guys were out of line. They weren't observing the unwritten, proper order of things.
They absolutely had no keys.
So Joshua (a good guy himself, but we see that everyone has their faults) goes to Moses and complains:
And Joshua said: My lord Moses, forbid them.
There it is: our desire to quench the spirit in others. To persecute those who color outside the lines. To cast out those whom God has gifted for expressing their God-given gifts.
And Moses must have gotten quite a migraine. He turned to Joshua, this dear lad, and said:
Enviest thou for my sake?
I wish our leaders would say that. I wish they responded to their envious followers this way.
Instead, we're encouraged to behave like Joshua; we circle the wagons around leadership and the Brethren, forbidding anyone from speaking the truth about the spiritual abuses, injustices, and iniquities among us ― even had among those in high places.
Well, Moses, whose heart was meek, must have felt compassion for Joshua. In a fatherly way, he said:
Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets.
Everybody says it is. All my life, I have heard people tell me so in Church.
But can anyone tell me where this idea came from?
I've tried to track down the origin of it. When did this teaching became "a thing?"
And the fact that it has become so popular? What does that say about who we are as a people, enshrining obedience as a virtue above all others?
Well, guess what, it started with a bold assertion made by Bruce R. McConkie in his best-seller Mormon Doctrine:
"Obedience is the first law of heaven, the cornerstone upon which all righteousness and progression rest" (Mormon Doctrine, p. 539).
There you have it. Ever since, people have taken that check to the bank as good-as-gold.
Bank Teller: "I am sorry, sir, but there are insufficient funds in your account."
You don't have to tell me.
Ah, The Plot Thickens . . .
Hold on! Bruce R. McConkie did not coin the phrase, after all.
Elder McConkie was simply the one who gave it long, smooth legs, stretching all the way from the 20th century into the 21st.
It appears the credit belongs to his grandfather-in-law, Elder Joseph F. Smith, who first taught this principle back in October 1873.
Now, grab your seats. You ARE GOING TO GET SUCH A KICK OUT OF THIS.
The context for Elder Joseph F. Smith's famous quote, "Obedience is the first law of heaven," is . . . wait for it . . .
"So sisters, do not flatter yourselves that you have nothing to answer for so long as you may have a good husband. You must be obedient. Obedience is the first law of heaven."
(Joseph F. Smith, October 1873 General Conference, published in Deseret News, Nov. 12, 1873, 644.)
Wow! So obedience to our husbands is the first law of heaven?
Telephone Game Strikes Again
This is the gift that keeps on giving.
Back in 2013, President Thomas B. Monson told the saints in General Conference:
"Declared President Joseph F. Smith in October 1873, 'Obedience is the first law of heaven.'"
(Thomas B. Monson, "Obedience Brings Blessings," April 2013 General Conference)
First of all, in 1873 Joseph F. Smith was not "President" ― Brigham Young was.
But did you notice how President Monson completely removed the context of the quote?
For decades, leaders have used this quote to teach us to be obedient to . . . who?
President Monson is not alone. Many others have joined the marching band, trumpeting the virtues of obedience as heaven's primordial law, including David A. Bednar, who was President of BYU-Idaho before being called as an apostle, and he told the students in a devotional in January 2004 that "obedience frequently is referred to as the first law of heaven; it is also the key which opens the door to the happiness."
But why are really smart people repeating something so stupid?
The Case Against Obedience
Well, this looks like an example of the way incorrect traditions take root in the Church.
Things don't just survive for generations on their own: they need to be regularly nursed and fed.
To gain enough traction to stick around for decades (even centuries), incorrect teachings need a political purpose; in this case, it serves the interests of leadership.
If you think I am being cynical, forgive me; I didn't mean it that way. I am not trying to be critical, either: I am just explaining the reason why some ideas have such a long shelf-life.
In this case, the reason is obvious: obedience is the meat-and-potatoes of a hierarchy.
Emphasizing obedience is a way of creating and maintaining boundaries around the authority of those in charge.
So I would like to make a case to prove that obedience is an IMPOSTER.
Point 1. Lucifer was someone's priesthood leader.
If obedience is the first law of heaven (meaning we're supposed to obey our priesthood leaders), then I feel sorry for those who were under Lucifer's "keys" in the First Estate.
After all, Lucifer was "an angel in authority in the presence of God" (D&C 76:25) who bore many priesthoods.
If someone as exalted as Lucifer could lead us astray, then how is it an octogenarian man whom we honor as prophet ― in failing mental health, whose day-to-day consists of Solitaire and root beer floats ― can't lead us astray?
Okay, if you say so.
There's a reason that Peter (who was intimately acquainted with the mysteries of God's kingdom) warned us:
Jesus Christ who is gone into heaven and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.
(1 Peter 3:21-22)
You see, angels, spiritual authorities and even the powers of heaven can lead us astray.
That's right: be careful even with angels! (I mean, why do you think they're angels and not gods?)
Christ alone is our Head.
So all this talk about rank-and-file leadership and following the lines of authority really means nothing once we understand that anyone can deceive us, including Lucifer.
Let's follow Christ. Full stop.
Two Laws that Precede Obedience
Let's approach this from a purely logical perspective.
Why is believing obedience to be the first law of heaven a non-sequitur?
2. Agency Comes Before Obedience.
Before God asks anyone to obey Him, we first need a couple of things.
Like agency. Just ask Adam and Eve.
I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency.
That's pretty cut-and-dry. You can't obey without agency.
So maybe the first law of heaven is agency?
3. We must be able to discern good from evil before obeying.
Before we obey, we have to figure out whether the thing we are told to obey is of God, or someone else.
It seems backwards to teach people to obey per se. Don't we need to equip them with the tools to discern whether to obey, first? Otherwise, we're asking for their blind, unthinking obedience.
In other words, before obey, we have to make sure the source of the commandment is Christ.
So maybe the first law of heaven is knowledge of good and evil (discernment)?
4. There is absolutely no reason to obey anyone other than God.
What benefit comes from obeying those who are not in tune with the Spirit of Christ?
What good is it to teach obedience to medical professionals and government leaders if they are not inspired by God? Why would we follow elites over Christ, when the two disagree?
Because God is not interested in our obeying the arm of flesh, which happens when we "lean unto thine own understanding."
If we make the gospel about obedience, then we risk making people's worth dependent upon their obedience.
Obedience, then, becomes weaponized, allowing us to righteously marginalize those who are "disobedient."
5. Obedience, when given from a doubtful heart, damns us as much as disobedience.
If obedience is the first law of heaven, then we're all in trouble.
Because our unhealthy attitude towards obedience creates a community of slothful servants.
He that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
Does the Lord prefer innovation and initiative to obedience?
After all, the Lord says we are to be "anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will" (D&C 58:27).
Focusing on obedience creates a stagnant spiritual culture because it divests us from personal initiative as we wait upon leadership (since we don't want to "get ahead of the Brethren").
It reminds me of a story my brother-in-law shared several years ago after some severe flooding in his stake in Texas. The destruction was devastating (the sort where people are sitting on their roofs to get above the waterline).
Anyway, Texas is a state with lots of wonderful, go-get-em types. And so, while other Christian churches pulled up their overalls and went to work, my brother-in-law said that in his LDS stake and in the neighboring stakes, they . . . held lots of meetings to get organized to help.
(Yes, we're good at convening meetings, and conferences, and trainings; we are trained to identify the presiding authority while blindfolded with two hands tied behind our backs; so if heaven has lots of meetings we'll be well-prepared.)
It was frustrating for my brother-in-law. While the members waited for the leaders to plan the rescue effort, waiting by the phone for the elder's quorum president to call and make assignments and distribute the yellow t-shirts, so much time passed that by the time the members of the Church finally mobilized and started helping . . . the other Christians had pretty much taken care of things.
That, my friends, sums up all we need to know about a hierarchy.
Whereas Christ, it seems, is looking for us to do many good things of "our own free will."
God is not interested in creating well-behaved, trained, bureaucratic middle-managers for heaven; Christ needs us to put on our big-boy pants and to stop waiting for the "grown-ups" to decide how we dress, act, speak, walk, work, serve, teach, pray and everything else the Handbook says.
But isn't that the problem? While we're busy "looking to the Brethren," all around us people are perishing, sitting on their rooftops, as we stand by, waiting for a coordinated council to come up with a solution or to authorize us to do something.
6. If obedience is the first law of heaven, then the apostle Paul was a false teacher.
Finally, obedience to the law of works cannot save or exalt any of us.
In fact, our fixation on obedience produces pride and self-righteousness with the intensity of a Rolling Stones groupie on crack cocaine.
Paul spent his whole life trying to convince us to stop being Pharisees. If anyone was a good Pharisee, it was Saul; but then he saw the light of Christ and became Paul.
None of us can be as "obedient" as the Pharisees were to the law. But our hope does not lie in the works of obedience.
If we want to see the light, too, then shouldn't we focus on the love of Christ, which Jesus said WAS the greatest of all the commandments, upon which all the laws of heaven hang?
So if we're wondering what the first law of heaven is, maybe it's love?
Our hope lies not in the First Law, but in the Firstborn.
The idea of God-as-Father is so simple. Yet we make it so complicated!
The Jews sought to kill [Christ] because he . . . said that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
See, the Jews had created a God who was far removed and superior to them, to the point that it was blasphemy for Jesus to claim an intimate relationship with Him.
The Pharisees seemed to prefer a God who stayed on Mt. Olympus (or Sinai) ― far away on his high and mighty (and unreachable) pedestal.
Sure, the Jews believed God was their Father, but maybe the sort of Father who lives in Florida and sends you a birthday card once a year and, if you're lucky, some child support.
But a God who acts like a young father?
One who plays catch and jokes with you at dinner and helps you with your math homework? A God who is active and energetic and athletic and, worst of all, involved?
Just send a postcard.
Open Book Test
2. The second point I was trying to make: we are little children in our present spiritual development.
That may sound bizarre considering we are eternal beings who have lived . . . always.
It has taken us untold "time" to progress to the state we find ourselves in at present.
Joseph F. Smith taught:
"The spirits of our children are immortal before they come to us, and their spirits, after bodily death, are like they were before they came. They are as they would have appeared if they had lived in the flesh, to grow to maturity, or to develop their physical bodies to the full stature of their spirits."
(Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Deseret Book Company, 1939, p. 455.)
It's funny, because Joseph F. Smith is saying there are no child-sized spirits, but all spirit bodies are adults; while I like to think of us as little children, spiritually, placed into adult-sized physical bodies.
(Excepting, of course, those of you who are known as the noble and great ones, who condescended in the beginning, coming down to organize this earth, even the gods, helping the rest of us along our spiritual journey as Good Samaritans. If you are one of them, thank you, by the way.)
Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
This all gives an interesting flavor to what Christ taught, when he said:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you; and ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along.
I said last time that life is not a test.
But if it were, I can see Christ saying, "Don't worry, you don't have to take this test alone. I'll help you on every question."
Who could possibly fail that test, if He is taking it with us?
Who is Worthy?
Everything I have written in this Series has been to show our God is worthy.
He is good.
He is deserving of all our love.
The thing I am trying to drive home is the fact our Father has spent an eternity ― we're talking our entire spiritual existence, in fact ― nurturing us until we have arrived at this moment.
And He is not done!
God will spend the rest of eternity helping us progress, enduring by our side as we journey to the end of our spiritual destiny, becoming as He is.
That is the pure love of Christ.
And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy?
And I wept much, because no man was found worthy.
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed!
And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb!
(Revelation 5:2-12, excerpted)
Do we believe He is worthy?
First Day of School
I can't help but stand in awe of God's loving kindness, who as a father dressed us up in new clothes for our first day of Kindergarten, kissing us goodbye and watching our frightened expression as we boarded the bus, feeling scared, kneeling on the bench seat to see over the window so we could wave to him as the bus turned the corner and he . . . was gone.
But we did not know he followed behind the bus in his truck, and watched us timidly exit the bus and enter the playground before the bell rang, never taking his eyes off us as the bigger boys made fun of us and pushed us to the ground, making us cry.
We did not see his heart weep watching us wipe the tears from our face, praying we'd find a friend, and when we had an accident in our underwear because the teacher wouldn't give us a hall pass to the bathroom, and how humiliated we felt as the other children jeered.
We did not recognize the boost of courage he planted in our hearts when we saw a group of children playing Four Square during recess and we shyly approach them and asked if we could join, and they say, "Sure," and pass the ball and we feel happy again.
And suddenly, there he is, waiting for us on the street corner as we fly off that bus into his arms, sweeping us up into an embrace and asking us to tell him every little detail about our day, and we give him a crayon drawing we made in art class of the family dog, and it makes him laugh.
And that night we sit down to dinner, feeling safe as he says grace on the meatloaf and broccoli, and loves us even when we feed the broccoli to the dog, and he tucks us into bed, knowing in the morning he'll have to change our sheets because we still wet the bed.
Over the ensuing years, despite all of our faults and failings and struggles, he will be there at our side during football practice and at the Senior Prom which we go to alone, standing in the corner and hoping someone will ask us to dance, though none will.
And one day, feeling scared like we did that first day of Kindergarten, he'll walk us down the aisle on our wedding day and he'll be there for our first miscarriage and through our first and second rounds of cancer, and finally, after a lifetime, when our body is old and broken and we take our last breath, he will be there to receive us into his arms as we cross over, just like when we flew off the bus into his embrace so long ago, and he'll squeeze us and we'll show him our crayon drawings and he'll laugh and we'll be glad to be home again, where we are safe at last.
“I missed you so much,” we’ll say.
“I know,” he says, tears streaming down his cheek. “I'm so glad you're home."
Yesterday as I rode the train home from work I began pondering the goodness of God (since I had spent my lunchtime blogging about it), and I became emotional (which is unusual for me) and suddenly I couldn't stop the tears from falling down my cheeks (which was incredibly awkward, as the gentleman seated across from me wearing headphones politely pretended not to notice).
I guess I was experiencing a 'my-heart-is-full' moment. (Or I need to have my hormones checked?)
As I sat on the train, I thought how ironic it is that I am writing this Series about God's love trying to persuade Christians that God is not an angry, distant, alien, judgmental, arbitrary Being.
I mean, of all people, Christians should know how good God is (!), how easily entreated he is, and how meek and lowly of heart and unpretentious and good-humored he is.
Would You Want God on a Road Trip?
Why don't we think of Christ as the kind of person we'd want to invite on a long distance road trip, who would sing along with our music and just talk with us the whole time about anything and everything, who would pay for gas without asking and never try to condemn or judge us, who would share a plate of halibut with a honey reduction sauce at the roadside diner and smile at us when we burp?
Instead, we treat God as if he were our boss from work, the one you watch yourself around and never feel comfortable with when you go out to lunch.
And so that road trip?
We leave God off the invite-list.
Time to Unfriend an Angry God
Isn't it time we stop clinging to an old-fashioned, archaic (even pagan) view of God ― like he's some sort of cosmic judge, jealous, who sternly sends his children to hell if they don't shape up?
When in reality, Christ is our Friend. Our truest, longest, and best friend.
You know, it has always astounded me that the Lord (who is the greatest of all) would consider us his friends?!
Ye are they whom my Father hath given me; ye are my friends.
What Are Friends For?
One night, a group of drunk, angry men dragged Joseph Smith out of his home in Hiram, Ohio.
They beat up Joseph, choking him, and stripped off his clothes. Then they tried to force poison into his mouth, chipping one of Joseph's teeth as he fought back.
The men took hot tar and covered Joseph's bare skin with it, then covered him with feathers and left him all but dead.
That's the backstory. Here's the part I find so memorable: in the dead of night, summoned by a friend's need, Joseph's friends spent the rest of the night cleaning off the tar from his body, an excruciating ordeal as they removed the awful stuff.
Jesus is that kind of friend: one who spends the night removing tar from our bodies.
Life is a Test?
I know, I know: the word "test" does not appear in the scriptures.
So why do we keep calling this life a test?
Because life is not a test!
We talk about this test as if we're high schoolers and our score on the final exam will dictate where we go to college (i.e., spend eternity).
As a father of young children, they will ask me when I am done tucking them into bed at night to close their closet doors.
For some reason, having closet doors ajar in the dark is creepy.
Can you blame them? Once in college I saw a scary movie and was uneasy when I returned to my apartment.
My roommates were gone, so I was alone.
But I didn't feel alone.
I opened doors, I checked under the bed, wanting to be sure. Silly, I know, but I couldn't shake that spooky feeling.
Somewhere out there is someone, right now, who is losing sleep, unable to shake the feeling that God is watching them from the shadows, holding a big stick and keeping track of our sins.
Is God an umpire, keeping score?
"You ran that red light! Foul ball."
"You went to a rated-R movie? Strike!"
"You made a missionary TikTok video telling people to come to Church for the chili cook-off. Home run!"
Why would we view God as our adversary, as if we were on opposing teams?
I once heard someone say that if life were a baseball game, God is not the umpire. No, God is like our father cheering us from the stands.
That analogy may not be perfect, but I like the idea.
Can You Feel the Love Tonight?
Speaking of fathers, can we talk about Father Lehi?
While caught up in the spirit, Lehi prophesied some amazing things.
I don't know about you, but I consider Lehi one of the greatest doctrinal teachers of all time ― right up there with Paul.
In 2 Nephi 1, Lehi shines brightly in his role as a prophet, but I think what's cool is that he is speaking to his sons from the heart of a parent.
I know we typically quote from Chapter 2 ("opposition in all things"), but there are some incredible things in Chapter 1.
Among them is Lehi's testimony of Jesus's "infinite goodness" (2 Nephi 1:10).
Wait. God's goodness is "infinite?" How can that be?
Is there a ceiling to Christ's love? Does his mercy ever reach a bottom, as a well in a drought runs dry?
Because if we can figure out the limits to His love, then we'll know when we've crossed that line, right?
Tell me, please, at what point does God stop loving us? How much sinfulness does it take to disqualify me from his eternal, perfect love?
Is there anything I can do, or add-to-the-mix of his love, to detract from or diminish it?
Let's ask Paul:
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Well, that's pretty comprehensive. Except, did you notice the one thing not on that list?
The one person who can shut Christ out of my life, with power to walk away from Him, turning my back and refusing his overtures, who can shove infinity into a corner and pretend He's not there . . .
. . . is me.
Why is God Called "Good?"
Is everything God does good?
I've read some pretty disturbing stuff in the Old Testament. How am I supposed to make sense of it?
Oh! Are we defining good in one of those *wink-wink* "your ways are higher than my ways" kinda way?
Or can we trust the plain meaning of the word?
In March 1841, Joseph Smith declared:
"God is good and all his acts are for the benefit of inferior intelligences."
This is an interesting way of defining good. God is "good" because everything he does is to benefit us.
"God saw that those intelligences had not power to defend themselves against those that had a tabernacle."
Wow. This is starting to sound like science fiction. Apparently, those of us who were spirits were vulnerable. We couldn't defend ourselves against those with bodies. (Why is it significant that those with bodies were trying to subjugate us? What were those evil, embodied entities trying to do?)
"For it is a natural thing with those spirits that have the most power to bear down on those of lesser power. So we see the devil is without a tabernacle."
Well. So the reason for depriving Satan of a body was because he could do a lot more damage with one. Those with bodies have power over those who don't, right?
And we learn that it is not just men, but also spirits in general, who exercise unrighteous dominion, where those with a little authority, as they suppose, bear down on those with lesser power.
What this means to me: how incredible that God, who has a body, did not become a tyrant! How singular He is.
"Therefore, the Lord called them together in council and agreed to form them tabernacles so that he might gender the spirit and the tabernacle together so as to create sympathy for their fellow man."
(William McIntire Minute Book, March 1841)
Oh boy, did you see that? Blink and you might miss it. What was the purpose of God in giving us bodies? To "create sympathy" for one another.
Literally, our bodies are love-vehicles.
It's "Good" to Repent
The goodness of God is made manifest in repentance.
Which might sound strange, since repentance is often associated with rent sackcloth and ashes in our hair, godly sorrow and shame.
But am I the only one that thinks repentance is . . . joyful?
The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.
Or, as Jacob phrased it:
O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.
(2 Nephi 9:10)
Rescue me from the awful monster hiding under my bed?
Exactly what I'd expect from a loving Parent.
There's a Good Boy
Is there a difference between "good works" and "the law of works?"
On the one hand, we perform good works in Christ's spirit and in his name.
The "law of works," on the other hand, is taking credit for all the nice things we've done.
Which category would home teaching / ministering fall under?
For if Abraham were justified by the law of works, he hath to glory in himself; but not of God.
Now to him who is justified by the law of works, is the reward reckoned, not of grace, but of debt.
But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
(Romans 42:2-5, JST)
Well THAT'S not we've been taught in Sunday School, is it?
And I'm quoting from the Joseph Smith Translation, so this is as Mormon as it gets.
And here we find that true religion is NOT based upon the law of works (NEWS FLASH) but upon the law of grace in Christ.
1. If everythingGod does is good, meaning for our benefit, and
2. If every good thing comes from Christ, as Moroni tell us (Moroni 10:18), then
3. Any "good" we accomplish is in and through and by the power of God . . .
. . . so WHO ultimately gets the credit?
For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work bythe power and gifts of God.
So a good work is not defined by the action itself, but the spirit in which the action is taken (that of Christ's).
Whereas I could do something that appears to be a "good work," like praying, but if I am not praying in Christ's spirit, is it actually "good?"
If a man prayeth unto God except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.
If God is the wellspring of our goodness in the first place, shouldn't he get the glory? I mean, isn't our goodness derivative of His?
Who among us is a sovereign island of goodness, out in the middle of international waters, beyond the reach of God's loving embrace?
We swim in an ocean of God's goodness, kept afloat in his infinite mercy, despite all of our doggie paddling.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.
Good works, then, do not make us righteous ― they are not the currency we pay St. Peter to gain admission into heaven.
Taking credit for our good works is like counterfeiting money and saying to the store clerk, "No, no, believe me, it's real!"
Good works, though, are a reflection that we have Christ in us.
But the glory is, and was, and always will be, God's.
I recognize that this Post deals with a sensitive topic, and so please proceed gently.
What About Cancer?
The first person in my life who died was my grandmother. She died of colon cancer.
I recall being a young boy and seeing my father break down in tears, crying on my mother's shoulder, in the kitchen of our home, great sobs of grief rocking his shoulders.
Because of that family history, I had my first colonoscopy at 40.
Did God give my grandmother cancer in order to take her out of this world?
I've heard a famous atheist argue that the proof for No God is the fact that innocent children get leukemia and die.
What kind of God would do that? he asked.
That is certainly an emotional argument, but I think it makes some big assumptions.
In order to make this argument, the man believes either:
1. God gave the child cancer, which he finds unforgiveable; or
2. God stands by when He has the power to cure the child, and chooses not to, which the atheist finds equally immoral.
The problem? Neither of those assumptions are correct.
The Problem of Evil
I think the most common "explanation" I hear in Church for the problem of evil ("bad things happen to good people") goes something like this:
God loves me, but really bad things are happening to me and my loved ones, and even though God could fix it, He chooses not to because this trial is helping me grow and become better and stronger, like when a doctor breaks a bone so it will heal right, is the reason God is letting me suffer through this trial so I can learn the lessons he sent me to earth to learn.
From this line of reasoning, we get the curious teaching in General Conference nowadays that if you're sick it takes even greater faith not to be healed than to be healed.
I would never presume to lecture another person about their pain.
Don't ask me why President Spencer W. Kimball suffered from painful boils, especially around his midsection where his belt rubbed against them as he sat on the stand, causing him intense agony despite his prayers to be healed.
We are called to bear one another's burdens, not to berate another for their burdens.
Inasmuch as they break not my laws thou shalt bear their infirmities.
That's good. But you know what's even better? Going the extra mile, as Jesus invited us to do in the Sermon on the Mount.
Inasmuch as they break my laws thou shalt bear their infirmities anyway.
(D&C 42:52, BPV: Brownie-Points Version)
We know Job's friends did their best.
But really, deep down, we know that Job's friends suspected all along that Job's suffering was . . . his own fault and God's just punishment.
"You know Job, it takes greater faith to sit here in your ash heap than to be healed, so be grateful, I guess, that your family died horrifically and you lost your job and camels and that you get to endure this misery unto death. You're lucky, when you think about it that way, because God must really love you. After all, God chastens those he loves."
My Own Experience
It's tough to compare people's trials because we're comparing apples-and-oranges.
For example, my wife can take returns back to the store without flinching; but for me, store returns are worse than having my toenails pulled out.
See? We're all different.
So it wouldn't do any good for me to spell out for you my list of trials and tribulations. I might get some pity (that's always nice), but I don't want to be defined by my burdens.
So instead of itemizing out my trials and tribulations as though I were filling out deductions on my Celestial Tax Return ("I'm going to get such a big refund when I die!"), I just want to share one thing that has helped me to carry on.
1. God has never contributed one ounce or inch to my pain. I know this may offend those who lean on fatalism and/or determinism to make sense of their suffering.
In the past, it's true that I have used the idea that something I was dealing with came from God, as a crutch, in order to find purpose in my pain.
But I want to testify now that God is not the source of our suffering.
What sort of crazy God pushes us into oncoming traffic so we will be so badly bruised we will have turn to him in our grief?
(Come on, that's the plot of a cheap stalker novel, or Stephen King's Misery.)
The Christ I know restored sight to the blind man and lifted the lame instead of crippling them; he made others whole, not broken; Christ's work of love brought healing to lepers, never telling them to "keep your chin up and make the best of it," but to present themselves to the priest and be declared clean!
"But Tim," someone says. "The way I have found to cope with my grief is to believe that God is using these bad things to make me a better person."
Well, I don't disagree.
I think God can spin gold from the soiled straw we've lined our beds with.
Just don't tell me God soiled the straw in the first place.
The Lord told Joseph Smith:
If the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
Everything in that scripture is true.
But notice what the scripture does not say.
It does not say God caused the heavens to become black; or God hedged up the way; or God opened the jaws of hell.
Taking Upon Us His Name vs. Taking His Name in Vain
What better mockery than to lay at Christ's feet the blame for our pain and suffering when those very feet walked beside us, sharing our distress and discomfort?
Perhaps the most common way we take God's name in vain is ascribing to Him things He is not responsible for.
Do we really believe Christ is cutting us with a dinner knife so, as a parent kissing their child's boo-boo, he can make it better?
He is the antidote, not the venom.
He stands at Ground Zero in Eternity, creating hope and beauty from the rubble left over from our armies and navies that, with blood and horror, salted the fields and burned the crops across heaven and earth.
This is what Paul said:
All things work together for good to them who love God and are called according to his purposes.
Do these words mean God causes bad things to happen so He can turn them to our good?
We dare not turn our Savior into a sadist.
Have you ever wondered why in the scriptures the devil and his angels are always laughing?
What do they find so funny?
Perhaps it is because we credit God for their handiwork.
No matter how much God loves us, and no matter how often He forgives us, He cannot always spare us from the natural consequences of our actions (see Alma 42).
In other words, our sins bear fruit.
In fact, sins have a way of sprouting legs and getting around, causing unintended consequences.
And when, after having sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind, we are left holding the bitterness of our own choices, we turn to God as if he were the cause of our pain and cry out, "Why?"
Well, sometimes our weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth are not a reaction to God punishing us, but the remorse of self-inflicted wounds.
Other times, our weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth are caused by the actions of other people, or the cruel hand of nature.
But whether at our own hand, our neighbor's, or as a consequence of the laws of cause-and-effect . . .
. . . God is not the source of suffering.
Who's Accusing Who?
So, if God is not keeping score, who is?
Who are our accusers?
1. Introducing Accuser #1 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation . . . [how will salvation be defined here?] for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
Who's the "accuser of our brethren" that accuses them all the time before God?
That's right: Satan!
Salvation "is come" when the accuser is cast down.
Why is that?
2. Introducing Accuser #2
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Jesus a woman taken in adultery . . . tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.
But Jesus . . . said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. . . .
And . . . when Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Who are the people who accuse the Lord and the woman taken in adultry?
That's right:Other people!
3. Introducing Accuser #3
The worst accuser of them all is . . . ourselves!
Joseph Smith said:
“A man is his own tormentor and his own condemner . . . ."
Let that sink in. God is not a Jesuit priest keeping score as we hang on the rack. We torture ourselves.
"Hence the saying, 'They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.' The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone.”
(Teachings of the President of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), p. 224).
Guess Who is NOT an Accuser?
Isn't it ironic that the ONE PERSON who is not our accuser is God.
So why do we sometimes paint him as a father taking a belt to his disobedient children?
I guess when there is so much pain and suffering in this world it is natural to apportion some of the blame to God, the way a student might blame a teacher for a poor mark.
It hurts to show up for our final exam after having ignored what the teacher taught all year, skipping class to sip root beer floats down at the corner drugstore with our beau, and now taking a timed-test and realizing we are woefully unprepared, holding our No. 2 pencil in abject misery, knowing we have squandered a semester of learning and now we're going to fail and flunk out of college and when Mom and Dad find out, who paid our tuition and gave us pocket money for all those root beer floats . . .
. . . there's going to be hell to pay.
All About Accusers
Like choosing a favorite ice cream, it is difficult choosing which of Joseph Smith's teachings is my favorite.
But this one makes the Top Ten List:
"If you have no accuser you will enter heaven."
That's . . . simple. So where does God fit into all of this, Joseph?
"If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you."
Okay. So you're saying if Billy doesn't run to God and complain that Bobby gave him a wedgie, then . . .
"If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you."
But if I am justified in accusing someone who has injured me, why would I choose not to?
"If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours—for charity covereth a multitude of sins."
(Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:445, 7 November 1841.)
Where I Kick a Mailman
If I assault my mailman, who is the victim?
There are always at least two: the man I injured AND the Lord who suffered the injury for the mailman.
In addition to these two direct victims, there may also be other indirect victims, such as the mailman's wife who has suffered the loss of consortium with her husband as a consequence of me kicking him in the groin.
Anyway, let's say I feel remorse afterwards and want to repent for assaulting the poor mailman (even if he does always deliver my mail to the neighbor).
I go to the Lord and ask for forgiveness. We know the Lord is quick to forgive. And he says:
First be reconciled to thy brother [the mailman] and then come [back].
Well, I wasn't expecting that! But, I go to the Post Office and search for the mailman.
I tearfully apologize for beating him up and ask him to forgive me, and offer to pay all his medical expenses, plus a little extra, and to name my firstborn son after the Post Master General.
And the mailman, who is the victim in all this, is justifiably angry with me.
His eyes burn hot. "Forget it," he says. "I hope you rot in hell: it's what you deserve."
Well. That didn't go as planned.
I go back to the Lord. "Sorry Lord, I gave it the old college try. He won't forgive me."
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
What the mailman did not recognize when he sent me away was that he was consigning us both to hell.