When I began my faith journey years ago ― asking difficult questions and poking into dark corners with my stick ― I was quite naïve. Each new discovery sent me further into uncharted waters. Sailing on my little raft, I wondered if I was the only one seeing the sharks circling below.
Being a castaway was lonely.
But I came to realize there was nothing unique or special about me or my experiences: I was traveling the same high seas as countless others before me, seeking a promised land for my faith, one that would anchor me as the waves crashed down.
The funny thing is, the path to Christ was not a horizontal straight line from A to B. The swelling waves took me up and brought me low again, over and over. Anyone who has taken this journey knows about spiritual seasickness.
Now the squall has settled and I have begun to get my sea legs; what surprises me now, looking back, is how little I knew (and to be honest, how little I know still). Pretty much, my entire knowledge of the gospel was limited to the scriptures and the Church's interpretation of them. I also knew some church history. Which was a fine start, sure, but I've had to throw overboard a lot of what I started my journey with in order to continue pressing forward. Meaning, I had to give up some of my previously-held beliefs, ideas, and certainties.
Having lived in a bubble (how I loved that bubble!), when it popped, some of the burden I had been carrying fell away. The best part was no longer having to believe anything that was not true, or good, or loving.
Now traveling light, I have discovered an incredible world out there, packed with rich religious traditions, theology, and profound philosophy ― all of which I had steered clear of, thanks to the Church's cautionary tales about "the Great Apostasy." (Am I the only one in whom the Church bred a distrust of other Christian beliefs?)
You know what I'm talking about: the skepticism and suspicion of "other" Christians (those benighted monks) who inherited corrupt creeds, believing the Dark Ages ruined Christianity.
Because, guess what? I came to a sobering realization: the difficult questions and pressing issues facing the LDS Church in 2023 . . . are not new. In fact, they're old news.
That's right; 500 hundred years ago the Reformation and Counter-Reformation dealt with the big issues The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is wrestling with today: indulgences (tithing and temples); authority (prophetic keys); church wealth (Ensign Peak); whether the Pontiff was infallible (prophet will never lead us astray); and soteriology (how we are saved).
Maybe it's a sign our young faith is growing up. I realized it was not just me who had been living in a bubble, but the Church itself, as if we'd missed the memo half-a-millennium ago.
As they say, there's nothing new under the sun. And here we are, rehashing the same arguments in our little bubble ― a microcosm of modern Luthers and Popes in the 21st Century.
What must the Lord think of us?
It's All About Authority
One of the reasons the LDS Church is in such a pickle is because we have made our bed in the salted earth of papal authority (or what we would call the prerogative of the Prophet).
Martin Luther persuasively argued that when One Man possesses ultimate authority (looking at you, Leo X) it makes eunuchs of the remainder of the body of Christ. Having an administrative President-Prophet-Pope-figure castrates our spiritual endowment (pardon my language).
Whenever a Church structures itself around one (inerrant) man, the rest of us are impotent to effect institutional change because, you know, we don't have "keys."
A One Man Church effectively disenfranchises the faith of all others belonging to it.
Martin Luther said:
"Would it not be an unnatural thing, if a fire broke out in a city, and everybody were to stand by and it burn on and on and consume everything that could burn, for the sole reason that nobody had the authority to put it out?"
You see, the central issue of the Reformation (and Restoration for that matter) was "Who Has God's Authority?"
And right out of the gate, we jumped on the Sectarian bandwagon with gusto, making the Church's claims to authority ― (John the Baptist! Peter, James and John! Moses and Elias and Elijah!) ― our bread-and-butter.
We dispatched missionaries with a particular message: God speaks from heaven again, but only through Our Guy (trademark pending).
Notice it was angelic ministrants ― not faith and charity ― that made the LDS Church exceptional. We doubled-down on having cornered the market on God's authority instead of becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ.
Love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
And so today, thanks to this legacy of legalism and priesthood-pedigrees, we extoll the Prophet's prerogative and his keys as if they make any difference at all whilst we feast at a banquet of unbelief.
Why else do we spend so much time praising the Prophet and declaring 'the Church-is-True' on fast Sunday, but for the fact we have nothing else to say? It is a sign of our spiritual impoverishment, not stewardship, that we profess our faith in the Prophet and Church like one-trick-ponies.
Our insistence on making sure everyone knows how special the Prophet is is our way of distinguishing ourselves from those poor deluded souls who are just "playing" at Church; those lost sectarians at sea without a rudder in the storm (never mind a rudder does absolutely no good when there is no wind in the sails).
I can hear Laban scolding Lehi, "Where do you get off 'playing' at offering burnt sacrifices to the Lord upon an altar when you aren't a Levite? You have no authority!"
I have come to suspect we care more about having God's authority than we care about God Himself, which shows how little of His authority we have.
Priesthood of All Believers?
After Catholicism, the Protestants went to the other extreme. They rejected the authority of One Man (the Pope) to embrace the authority of All Men (what they call "the priesthood of all believers").
That sounds better, right? A step in the right direction, at least? Well, it didn't work, either. Being a believer is great, sure, but it doesn't bestow God's imprimatur.
After all, there are many sincere Christians who believe things that aren't true; and who also don't believe things that are; so how do we know who is anchored in Christ and His truth (His word)?
Some Protestants attempted to solve this dilemma facilely, arguing God's authority is found in scripture alone ("sola scriptura"). That's a nice sentiment, and utterly useless.
Why? Because we all interpret the various passages of scripture differently; there's enough material to support just about anything you want ― and for someone who is expert at proof-texting, they can make the case for all kinds of nonsense.
Think of it: why are there so many sects in Christendom when they all share the same Bible?
For the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.
As Joseph Smith learned as a 14-year-old boy, appealing to the scriptures will not suffice. Not at all.
While the written word found in the scriptures will always inform our faith, it cannot end there. We must appeal to the Father of Lights (James 1:17) and receive instruction from true messengers sent from God.
Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.
The Price of Authority
Question: What happens when a Church makes authority the chief cornerstone of its religion?
1. Boxed Faith
One of the casualties is genuine faith. Read this insightful comment made by Todd:
"I have sat through many a-boring Elders quorums and Sunday School lessons where the discussion is clearly more about confirming what has already been decided [than exploring what is true].... If you begin with a desired conclusion, you must ignore contradictory evidence. 'That is not scholarship; it is propaganda.'
"This threatens meaningful Faith. If my faith is pinned, at every turn, to confirming 'The Church is true', then [I am not going to grow in faith].
"Faith is not clinging to what I know; it’s taking the assurance I have and using it to hurl me towards the unknown. It’s exposure to the mystery of what God is and what I am." (Wheat and Tares, "Reading Scriptures," July 20, 2023).
We've all been there. We've all seen how an environment of authority is oppressive and toxic to honest seekers of truth, when questioning becomes something frowned-upon, a sign of doubt and rebellion ― instead of being, you know, the seed of real faith.
For a Church that started with the question, "Which Church is true?", it is ironic we cannot ask that of our own.
2. Stunted Vision
A principle is given in Proverbs which explains the current state-of-affairs:
Where there is no vision, the people perish.
To "perish in unbelief" (1 Nephi 4:13) is a consequence of being without the gift of prophecy. That may be a bit of a leap, so let me explain how I arrived there. As we learn from the Book of Mormon, it was important the Nephites get the Brass Plates so they wouldn't dwindle in unbelief. But the odd thing is, those Brass Plates did nothing for Laban. No, it took a man like Lehi who, having the Brass Plates, "was filled with the Spirit, and began to prophesy" (1 Nephi 5:17-18).
An authority-culture stifles the gift of prophecy by making it the prerogative of one man. This stunts the people's "vision" as they're told to "stay in their lane." But the reality is, God does not limit Himself to one man, but sends "many prophets" in the land. (How many is many? A lot!)
And there came . . . many prophets [who] prophesied.
And it came to pass . . . there came many prophets [who] prophesied.
And in [those] days . . . there also came many prophets [who] prophesied.
Are we getting the idea? Prophets prophesy; it is sort of a packaged deal. Now, many people may wonder why God sends "many prophets" when we're told He needs just one: the President of the Church (or 15 if we're counting the Q12)?
Visions are a byproduct of faith. The history of God's people shows that God works among His children according to their faith. And what is faith, but to hope for things unseen, but are true; to create a brighter future more aligned to God's will; to seek a more excellent way in following the love of Christ; to build a better world than the one we currently live in (see Ether 12:4)?
When we observe the Church falling back on the refrain, "That's not how we do things in the Church," we should ask, "Why not?"
Seeing the Church looking backwards with its hand to the plough shows a lack of vision. I mean, enshrining the values and cultural sentiments of American white-society of the 1950s in the Family Proclamation was not an act of faith, but the opposite, because it wishes to return to an idealized version of how things were rather than how they should be.
What should alarm us all is that the prophets who authored the Family Proclamation seem to believe that heaven resembles an episode of Leave it to Beaver; a chaste studio set with separate beds, like on I Love Lucy (but without the humor and Cuban music). It makes one wonder how familiar they are with heaven.
When we have no "vision" other than whatever the Prophet's is, have we abdicated an active faith for a passive one? Is faith in Jesus Christ the same as faith in our leaders? Is following the Brethren the same as following Christ?
Thus we see there are no "suggestion boxes" at Church. In their place we find arks displaying the sign, "Do Not Steady."
3. Restricted Love
When authority is paramount, those who do not follow the "authority" become unworthy; or more correctly, the wayward souls become worthy . . . of marginalization, dismissal, belittlement, and shunning.
Let's take a current example: authoritative pronouncements against LGBT people by leadership provide justification for parents to show conditional love to their children who "go astray." This is how a parent can rationalize their poor treatment of a child, and call it "loving" while performing boundary maintenance for the Prophet; but really, the parent is merely demonstrating that their love and allegiance to the authority figure is greater than their love for their offspring.
The effect of an authority-culture on love is terminal. Love requires freedom; authority is about control.
Love creates unity through diversity; authority demands obedience to a scripted narrative and the "othering" of those who do not subscribe to it.
Love is demonstrated by becoming equals who are precious to one another; authority is about hierarchy wherein leaders are esteemed above their brothers and sisters.
So the question we have to ask ourselves is, Why have we choosen an authority-culture over a culture of love?
If the Article of Faith were written today
If the Articles of Faith were written today and based on the Handbook, we'd get a different version, I think.
First Article of Faith (2023 ed.)
"We believe in the President of the Church, the living prophet, and his counselors, the First Presidency, and in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles."
Third Article of Faith (2023 ed.)
"We believe that through the Covenant Path, all members may be saved, by obedience to the laws and counsel of the Brethren."
Seventh Article of Faith (2023 ed.)
"We believe in tithing, the wearing of garments, going to the temple, sustaining our leaders, and so forth."
Eighth Article of Faith (2023 ed.)
"We believe the words of past prophets to be the word of God as far as they do not contradict the living prophet; we also believe General Conference to be the word of God."
. . . and we wonder why our young people today, whose hearts yearn for Christ, are failing to find an anchor for their faith at Church?
Wherefore, by faith was the law of Moses given [this is speaking about the law of the prophets, or the Church in which we now live]. But in the gift of his Son hath God prepared a more excellent way.
Joseph's Last Dream
If we think the Great Apostasy wrecked havoc upon Christianity in general, I have some bad news: we need look no further than what we have done with our LDS faith tradition to witness the same kinds of fruits.
Just before he died, Joseph Smith had a remarkable dream in which he saw the future of the Church he founded. It is recorded in the History of the Church, 6:609-610.
I don't know why we don't discuss this vision more (perhaps because it predicts the apostasy of Joseph's followers?); some of you may have never even heard about it. In my opinion, it is a piece of prophecy as great as any Joseph ever received.
I'll share the dream in full and afterwards, my poetic treatment of it that draws upon imagery from Chernobyl to highlight where the Church is today.
"I was back in Kirtland, Ohio, and thought I would take a walk out by myself, and view my old farm, which I found grown up with weeds and brambles, and altogether bearing evidence of neglect and want of culture.
"I went into the barn which I found without floor or doors, with the weather boarding off, and was altogether in keeping with the farm. While I viewed the desolation around me, and was contemplating how it might be recovered from the curse upon it, there came rushing into the barn a company of furious men, who commenced to pick a quarrel with me.
"The leader of the party ordered me to leave the barn and <the> farm, stating it was none of mine, and that I must give up all hope of ever possessing it. I told him the farm was given me by the Church, and although I had not had any use of it for some time back, still I had not sold it, and according to righteous principles it belonged to me or the Church.
"He then grew furious, and began to rail upon me and threaten me, and said it never did belong to me nor the Church. I then told him that I did not think it worth contending about; that I had no desire to live upon it in its present state, and if he thought he had a better right I would not quarrel with him about it, but leave; but my assurance that I would not trouble him at present did not seem to satisfy him, as he seemed determined to quarrel with me, and threatened me with the destruction of my body.
"While he was thus engaged, pouring out his bitter words upon me, a rabble rushed in and nearly filled the barn, drew out their knives, and began to quarrel among themselves for the premises; and for a moment forgot me, at which time I took the opportunity to walk out of the barn about up to my ankles in mud.
"When I was a little distance from the barn I heard them screeching and screaming in a very distressed manner, as it appeared they had engaged in a general fight with their knives. While they were thus engaged the dream or vision ended."
I was back in Chernobyl to view my old farm which I found grown up with weeds and brambles and neglect. Nearby control rods sought to control fission, splitting atoms asunder that God had joined. Reactors to be acted upon, chain reactions, numbered isotopes: the same but not the same. I went into the barn which was missing a floor wondering how to remove the curse upon it when a company of furious men rushed in to pick a quarrel. After the exodus they enlarged the Exclusion Zone to include this place. During the aftermath we heard ‘the New Safe Confinement will shelter you.’ But it couldn’t contain everyone. Suspicion of contamination spread. No one really knew because they classified the intelligence after the evacuation. I chose to believe it was an accident. Their leader ordered me to leave the barn but I told him the farm was mine. I had not sold what had been given as a gift. How many ions were free radicals—how many lost to the treatment? At one time, like them, I trusted the promise of potassium iodide. But the stockpiles were empty as sickness deepened. I had no desire to dwell in the barn in its present state as their leader threatened me with the destruction of my body. My body? I cared nothing for it, the cancer gone too far. But here they craved forms of energy: power fueled from rubles, radiation. O Chernobyl, Chernobyl, that briefly shone like lightning: darkness leaves you desolate. Suddenly a rabble filled the barn and drew their knives, sharpening their swords for an execution of some kind. I left the barn listening to their screeching cries as grief grew like mud around my ankles.
There are any number of ways we could improve the Church, but I can think of only one way to save it (which I'll share in a moment).
Of course, this presumes the Church needs saving. Many members believe the Church is doing just fine and is on track to greet the Lord in the clouds at His return.
On the other hand, there are those who think the Church is beyond help and want no part of it.
I stand in the middle. I believe the Church needs saving and I want to help save it. Saying it out loud may sound grandiose; and probably some of you would argue we should leave things to the Brethren or let the Lord handle it on His own. "Better not Steady the Ark, Tim."
How else does the Lord "handle" things but through the grassroots efforts of the weak and simple women and men who follow God's word, animated by His Spirit? Cue Moses. Gideon. Abinadi. Amos. Joseph Smith. Deborah. Tabitha.
Now, it is true that if we were to undertake this endeavor alone, without the Lord's help, it would prove futile. But with God, nothing's impossible.
Jesus said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Together we can melt mountains and turn rivers out of their course, recreating the religious landscape of the Church into a fertile field of faith; making the desert blossom as a rose and bringing forth good fruit.
As you know, for years the "teaching for doctrine the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9) in the Church has created an environment wherein obedience is exalted above discernment, in which loyalty to one's leaders is extolled even when those leaders are wrong (Cue Blacks and the Priesthood; Polygamy; Mammon; Mountain Meadows; November 2015 Policy of Exclusion).
Jesus quoted Isaiah to the Jews, but He could have as easily spoken these words in our day:
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
The Church is neither true nor false, anymore than cheesecake is true or false (I credit Ben for the comparison; my inner-Golden-Girl thanks you).
The word "Church" comes from ecclesia, which means an "assembly" or "gathering." In the Christian context, the Church is just a gathering of people who want to follow Jesus Christ.
The sad reality is, our moral agency permits us to make the Church into (1) a heaven on earth, or (2) a hell on earth. So what kind of Church shall it be?
Murder Most Foul
I once prosecuted a young woman for negligent homicide. It was a tragic case; she ran a red light and crashed into another car, killing the driver.
One day in court at a pretrial conference her family cornered me in the hallway. They were angry with me: "She's a good girl; dismiss the case; it was an accident!"
I responded, "Yes, it was an accident, thankfully ― if it had been intentional, it would be murder."
The English common law defines murder as "the unlawful taking of a human life with malice aforethought." Nowadays we call it homicide (the intentional killing of a person with premeditation). The equivalent of negligent homicide is "manslaughter."
Obviously Alma knew nothing about the English common law when he said:
Yea, and I had murdered many of [God's] children.
What was Alma's master plan to "destroy the church of God" (Mosiah 27:10)? Notice, we're not talking about the Church organization per se (that his father was high priest of) ― but to destroy the "Church" as defined in D&C 10:67, which says, "whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church."
Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction.
You see, the way we destroy the Church is NOT by getting people to leave the organization. Removing our names from the rolls won't stop the Church from building new temples.
No, the only way to destroy the Church of God is to get people IN the organization to not repent. This Satan knows.
Was Alma being dramatic, or hyperbolic? Because how can turning people AWAY from God (Christ) be compared to murder?
Well, the more relevant question for us is: If our policies, precepts, and practices in the Church have the effect of turning us away from Christ (usually by getting us to focus on the Prophet and Church leadership, and to depend on their authority and counsel at the cost of our inner light, thereby sublimating our personal, internal connection to the divine and preventing our faith from blossoming in Christ), what does that make us?
You see, that's why I'm NOT worried about our detractors and critics; no, the thing that is concerning to me is seeing Anti-Christ doctrines and precepts creep into our Church curriculum and pulpit-preaching.
I believe the Church is shrinking not because we are under attack (or because society is wicked), but because our meetings and councils and conferences have atrophied from the inside, due to the absence of being "nourished by the good word of God" (Moroni 6:4).
In place of God's oracles and cloven tongues of fire that make a Church living (living because it is quickened by and in His word of truth), we get . . . the covenant path.
"Covenant Path, meet Astroid."
I've reached an age where I have started to think about the world we are leaving behind for our children.
It crept up on me, this growing sense of my own mortality; how we must all take our bows at some point and exit this life, stage-left or stage-right. Who will take our place? The show, after all, must go on.
My progress is perhaps best illustrated by the fact I used to be the boy in Sacrament Meeting who, when the tray of bread of was passed down the pew, searched for the biggest chunk of bread on the tray; I snatched it up as a prize, focused on getting the most for myself.
Now in middle-age, as the tray is passed to me I search for the smallest piece, saving the big ones for the boys and girls I once was, who will one day become shepherds in Israel. (For the record, although no one has asked me, I would make the pieces as large as possible; why be stingy with that which symbolizes the Lord's grace, by offering crumbs?)
Sitting in Sacrament meeting, watching the young children taking the bread and water, the question that weighs on me is, "What sort of Church will our children inherit from us?"
I live in Utah (which some call the "breadbasket" of the Church) and from where I stand at the heart of Mormondom, I can report: Something is going on.
Something is very wrong. (Or, as Bill and Ted so aptly observed, "Strange things are afoot at the Circle K"). We'd have to live under a rock, or have our heads stuck in the sand, not to feel the seismic shifts rumbling beneath our feet. We are living in a season of spiritual upheaval; we find ourselves at a crossroads.
And whatever "it" is, it seems to have accelerated under President Russell M. Nelson.
The antique piano was a lovely piece of polished mahogany, a symbol of the parents' good taste presiding in the parlor, expensively displayed for guests to admire and moreso its owners, a testament of fine breeding and culture, the piano bespoke promise.
No one played it of course.
Refinement, though, did not describe the children of the house, much to their parents’ dismay. So unlike the instrument, smudged and disorderly, the children never behaved as an instrument should, finely tuned. They lacked the decorum of an etude; their labors fell short of a concerto’s grace.
No one was allowed near it of course.
"You’re too close. This is a priceless piece." "You might scratch the wood and mar its beauty." "You might chip one of the keys. Do please be careful." "Someday it will be yours," the parents promised.
No one disputed it was a precious heirloom of course.
Years yawned while the piano sat untouched, a source of pride for the parents and their guests, while the children grew and moved away. The parents died and now the piano gathers dust in the backroom of a second-hand music store downtown.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has experienced slowing growth and high attrition. These trends have arisen from a combination of institutional and societal factors, resulting in losing the large majority of its international converts over the past fifty years.
"Among the Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the LDS Church, the latter has fallen to a distant third in active membership.
"In 2020, the LDS membership growth rate fell below the world population growth rate. Aggregate trends suggest that the LDS Church is likely to experience meager growth in congregations and active membership over the next forty years.
"Contemporary trends offer no major developments that appear likely to reverse these dynamics outside of modest growth prospects in Africa.
"Based on the current trajectory, active LDS membership may peak at or below six million.
"In the United States, the influence of the LDS Church is likely approaching its zenith. Gradual plateauing is likely to be followed by some decline. This may already be occurring, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The faith’s traditional competitive advantages of high fertility, youth retention, and a large full-time missionary force continue to erode."
To summarize: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as an organization) is dying.
Except, perhaps, in Africa.
But as the body dies, will the Spirit emerge?
"The Soil of this World has corrupted my Seed"
Many members remain unconcerned. "Who cares if the Church shrinks? Demographics aren't destiny; just follow the prophet and don't go astray."
But their tune often changes when it hits closer to home (such as when they attend a family gathering and see a large percentage of their grandchildren with tattoos, drinking coffee, and LGBT); then they begin to take notice. What happened, they wonder?
On Reddit, I read yesterday:
"My cousin told his mother he would not serve a mission. My grandfather has not taken this news well. Today, he sent out an ominous text message to the entire family, saying "The soil of this world has corrupted my seed."
The reddit poster went on to describe how judgmental and "ugly" their grandfather was about the life choices of "his posterity." They concluded:
"The group text that my grandfather started 10 hours ago lies quiet. For a man whose tenet is eternal families, he seems to be the one who has decided he does not want to be with his family."
I grew up under the administrations of Spencer W. Kimball, Ezra Taft Benson, and Gordon B. Hinckley. It was a kind of golden age for the Church (that began with David O. McKay in the post-World-War-II era); a time when the Church became the darling of American religious movements, growing in numbers and shining in the public spotlight. Remember it? When President Hinckley joked with Larry King on national television; when the Conference Center was built as a monument to our expanding faith that could no longer fit in the Tabernacle; when we sent missionaries to the former Soviet Block and thought China would be next? The future was bright.
But based on data and projections we're now seeing, it appears our children will live to see the Church contract and fade into irrelevance.
I hope I am wrong, but there is cause to be worried. How did this happen? Can we reverse course? Is it too late?
There's a bit of irony in comparing the Church to the Titanic, as we seem to be following the same legacy ― yes, the ship people claimed was "unsinkable" while wearing tuxedos as the piano played, eating lobster and filet mignon ― just as people today boast that the Church will never be again taken from the earth. "Church, meet iceberg."
It often feels like we're straightening deck chairs on the Titanic ("Women can be witnesses at baptismal services, yay!" "Two hour Church, yay!"). But these administrative changes are not the answer; they haven't solved the underlying problem.
Changing the name of "Home Teaching" to Ministering accomplished nothing.
Eat Your Broccoli
Abby Hansen, a blogger on Exponent II, posed the question on my mind: "Why are people leaving the LDS church?" Why are they leaving in spite of their love for the Church and their ward family? In spite of their heritage and happy memories of road shows and summer socials in the Cultural Hall?
Her insight: They're leaving because they cannot reconcile the Church's polices and doctrines "with their personal moral compass. You see, despite preaching free agency and personal revelation, members and leaders talk badly at church about those who use their agency to choose a different path than theirs." ("A Church that Breaks People," July 17, 2023).
The Church is like a family ― with all of its messiness. To minimize the messiness, I think, we see the Church operating with parental (paternalistic) authority as the leaders govern their small children (the members).
But the problem, of course, is we aren't small children to be given bedtimes and curfews. We are mature, grown men and women who have become parents ourselves, who crave a meaningful faith and forum to fellowship and worship in; when instead we get Tithing Settlement (whoops, I meant Tithing Declaration ― see? Another of those "administrative changes" that changed nothing).
Our parents don't get to force us to eat our broccoli at the dinner table anymore because, as adults, we can choose to eat brussels sprouts or carrots or candy. But when the Prophet proclaims, "Eat your broccoli and don't touch eggplant," then it deputizes the members into being judgmental lunch ladies, whacking the hand of those reaching for the cauliflower with their large wooden spoons.
We have become a Church of broccoli in a garden of squash, and legumes, and root vegetables.
At least, that is the analogy Paul used when he spoke about the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12). Imagine if our body had only kidneys ― but no hearts or stomachs? We'd be in bad shape!
The Church is in bad shape because they're telling us to all act like "kidneys" ― to function as organs that are not aligned with our authentic spiritual natures and which waste our diverse gifts.
We've got system failure all over the place because there's not space for us to be . . . ourselves. If I am a small intestine, why would you tell me to follow the operating manual for ovaries? No matter how much I try, the stomach can't produce eggs! (Although I've got a nice tapeworm I can introduce you to.)
- What if the foot told the hands to behave more like feet?
- What if the eye chastised the eardrum to stop listening to all that noise, for heaven's sake?
- What if our gall bladder told our liver to abandon the job it was designed to do?
Doesn’t anyone else see how we effectively deny the gifts of God by stamping out the diversity of operations?
So . . . hear me out here . . . what if the solution to our problem was counter-intuitive? What if the way we become "one" was not through a corporate governance structure (i.e., hierarchy)? Not by appealing to an authority figure to settle our differences?
After all, we all know that outward conformity (external control) doesn't lead to real unity; it leads to white shirts, white smiles, and whited sepulchers.
As long as the Church functions as a daycare, in which we are not equal, putting us all down for naps at the same time and giving us all the same Goldfish crackers to eat, we will continue to dwindle.
A daycare will never bring about Zion.
"Here's a Story of a Lovely Lady"
The puzzling thing to me is why members of the Church have such a high opinion of it, when the scriptures teach us that the history of Israel is a story of a family who rarely follows the Lord's will.
And so it is today with us.
But thankfully God does not confine Himself to one group or family; He is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). Anyone willing to "listen" to Him is invited to the party ("No admittance except on party business").
Janey, a blogger at Wheat and Tares, wrote about the way she found her connection to God:
"Imagine a world in which the canonized scriptures were just a jumping off point, rather than a fence, for ideas about God. I came to accept my journals as my own personal scripture. They are a record of my dealings with God, my ponderings and my understandings. Some of my insights were sparked by reading what prophets said about their dealings with God; some came as I prayed about situations I couldn’t find in the scriptures. My scriptures aren’t canonized. No one else has to accept my records as guidance for their lives, but they are scripture to me.
"The nature of God includes our interactions with him. God is not an inanimate object, like a rock, that can be factually described in absolute terms. 'The rock weighs a certain amount, is a certain color, is made up of certain minerals.' But to know a living being, we incorporate our relationship with that being. Your knowledge of your child is based on interactions with your child, not just objective facts about them. Interactions are individual experiences. You can’t let someone else dictate the terms of your interactions.
"For me, there is more religious freedom outside of the Church than inside it. My experiences with God are not limited by what prophets think is appropriate."
While the Church emphasizes the objectivity of truth, it neglects the fact that truth is also relational.
When we divorce the truth from our relationships (with God and with each other), the result is a sterile and commercial environment where truth takes a backseat to the bottom-line.
So how can we save the Church?
I'm glad you asked!
This is How to Save the Church The way to save the Church is to forget this nonsense about having a monopoly on God's divine authority, pretending we're the Coach's favorite high school quarterback and everyone else is second-string.
Why? Because we have been led to believe that authority is found in the priesthood, in its titles and offices and keys (hence: its leaders); but in reality, authority resides in the truth of God.
Jesus told us this, so why do we keep moving the targets?
I am the way, the truth, and the life.
You see, the Church is "living" only when it is filled with Christ's life (His truth).
Remember, Christ's authority did not come from running the Sanhedrin as if it were the Coca Cola company and Christ its president; no, Christ said his authority stemmed from speaking the words of His Father.
Only the truth will set us free; our slavish devotion to authority holds us captive.
The Church is true only insofar as it lives in God's TRUTH.
The good news is, the Church has a lot of truth (although not all of it). The portion of truth the Church has to offer the rest of the world is largely found in the Book of Mormon and writings of Joseph Smith.
In other words, if we reoriented our message away from, "We're the only ones with authority" to "We have a pearl of great price that God has given us, and we want to share it with you," we could avoid all the tomfoolery about keys and the Last Charge Meeting.
This will not be an easy transition. Our challenge is to reverse decades of conditioning that the Church has a monopoly on God's authority, which has produced pride, unrighteous dominion, and the abomination of putting shredded carrots in Jell-O.
As we've discussed at length in this blog, any priesthood "authority" the Church claims hails through Joseph Smith (as the Popes' authority-claims come through Peter).
Alas, Joseph never laid hands on and ordained Brigham Young to be his successor (as either an apostle or high priest). Brigham's claim to authority derived from the common consent of the those he led; for what other authority did he uniquely have but their willing obedience?
The Restoration stumbled right out of the gate by taking a page out of the Pope's playbook, by exalting authority over truth, to the detriment of both.
Some might argue, "But Tim! Can't you have both? Must truth and authority be separate?"
See, they've misunderstood me. Truth and authority are never separate: for authority inheres in God's word (see D&C 132:12-14).
My point, though, is truth does NOT arise from one's authority. This means a leader can teach falsehood. A thing is "authoritative" not because of who said it, but because it possesses God's truth.
For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
The principle of truth trumping priesthood offices and titles should be apparent to anyone who has attended Sunday School, because Jesus taught:
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
The reason the Church is being destroyed from within is because we have a pretty loose relationship with the truth.
For the past several months I've wanted to discuss one of the most important doctrines of the gospel: God's character (His divine nature).
No biggie, right?
It's easy for me to write about temporal matters and to critique the world we live in, but when I try to say something meaningful about the unseen (higher) reality of our spiritual world, I get tongue-tied.
Why? Because I don't want to serve you a metaphysical-word-salad. That's why I try to tie things back to the scriptures (which is our common, universal spiritual language) ― but hoping to see them in a new light.
So after several attempts at writing this Post, I scrapped the whole thing. Feeling my inadequacy, I turned to the Lord (thinking about it now, I probably should have started there) and threw my hands up in the air like Moroni:
I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words. And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands.
Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared.
(Ether 12:25, 24, 26)
I agree: Mahonri Moriancumer was lucky. He had a urim and thummim (Ether 3:23)!
So here we are: words are inadequate (and so am I); but I trust your intuition and soul-sight to fill-in-the-blanks.
What is God?
Who is God? Or should I ask, What is God? I don't mean to be impersonal, but the Lord said:
I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship.
So "what" do we worship?
This question is important because Joseph Smith taught that saving-faith requires "a correct idea (that's a relief: an "idea" means we don't need a perfect knowledge) of God's character, perfections and attributes." (See, Lectures on Faith, Third Lecture.)
The scriptures describe God's Spirit (i.e., His character, perfections and attributes) in a variety of ways:
- as a mind (Rom. 8:27) - as light (D&C 88:11) - as grace (D&C 93:11) - as power (D&C 88:13) - as 'the way' (John 14:6) - as truth (Ether 4:12) - as love (Moroni 7:47) - as life (John 14:6) - as priesthood (JST Hebrews 7:3) - as law (Romans 8:2) - as intelligence (Abr. 3:19) - as eternal (Alma 13:9) - as the Father (3 Nephi 1:14) - as the Holy Ghost (1 Nephi 10:17) - as glory (Psalm 24:10) - as fire (3 Nephi 17:24)
Phew! And that is just scratching the surface. How can God's Spirit be described using so many different things? Why do we give it so many names? What do they all have in common? And most importantly, what is it? Can we put a finger on it?
All of these terms appear to refer to God's essence ― His nature or being ― which infuses all of creation (my friend Ben calls it "the divine matrix").
I think they're summed up by the phrase "the word of God" ― which is a pretty good descriptor since all these things are explicitly situated in the Personage of Jesus Christ (who is the Word of God).
For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
So whenever we talk of Christ, we might mean the Man or we might mean the Spirit. How are they different? What is Christ's Spirit actually composed of? Look at how He describes Himself:
I am the Father, I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world.
But is He referring to abstractions, or is "Truth" actually something material (made of matter)? Does "Light" have heft and substance?
Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
You see, all these things I've described about God . . . also describe you.
Man was also in the beginning with God. For man is spirit. The elements are the tabernacle of God. Man is the tabernacle of God.
(D&C 93:29, 33, 35)
Notice it says the "elements" are God's tabernacle (or dwelling place)? What elements are we referring to? Hydrogen and Nickel and Beryllium?
This reminds me of something Joseph Smith taught:
"Chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory."
That's odd, isn't it? Why does the glory ("all" of it) dwell in elemental matter? Joseph continued, "Element had an existence from the time he [God] had. The pure principles of element, are principles that can never be destroyed. They may be organized and re-organized; but not destroyed."
But was Joseph Smith preaching pantheism? Pantheism is the idea that the whole universe is God; that God is the combined substance, forces and laws that exist across the cosmos.
That doesn't sound quite right. Or does it? Let's dig deeper.
Peeping Into Eternity
How does God's personal aspect (His Spiritual Being or Body) extend beyond His incarnate form (His perfected physical body) to "fill the immensity of space" (D&C 88:12)?
If we peered through heaven's microscope (seer stone - D&C 130:9) down to the molecular and subatomic levels, would we find the nanoparticles that compose our Savior's Spirit that reach into the nethermost parts of the universe?
Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the Spirit of God.
How does one "discern" every particle of the earth, unless one's awareness (consciousness) expands to encompass all of it? Are we able to discern all things because the Spirit of God is in all and through all?
(And we want to use it to just find our lost car keys.) Look at how this principle is emphasized a second time:
And Moses beheld also the inhabitants thereof, [this is us] and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God.
Twice we're told the reason Moses was able to "discern" all of creation through the Spirit of God is because God's Spirit is in all of creation: "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" (D&C 88:49-50).
So what does it actually mean for men and women to be called the "tabernacles" or "temples" of God? What does this say about our divine nature? What makes us "gods"?
Temporal/Natural vs. Spiritual
The scriptures spend an inordinate amount of ink on the creation of this earth. Which is fascinating, considering the fact that our "intelligence" was not created at all (D&C 93:29).
The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.
Were our individual intelligences, in the beginning, separate from God (needing to unite with Him), or were they part of God's own intelligence originally, and spun off to become discrete intelligences, the way a tree casts its fruit?
Let us go to the beginning and see how this "thing" we're calling the "Spirit of God" created the earth:
And darkness reigned [what is "darkness"? Is it merely the absence of "light"? Or is it something material, too?] upon the face of the deep, [where are we? What is this "deep"?] and the Spirit of the Gods [ah, so we see the Spirit of God is also "the Spirit of the Gods" = plural] was brooding ["brooding"? Like Edward Cullen, the vampire in the Twilight series?] upon the face of the waters.
I've heard people say that the creation account in the Book of Abraham is a spiritual creation (prior to the temporal creation) because the Gods say: "We will do everything that we have said" (Abraham 4:31), suggesting a future work. Even the chapter headings say "the Gods plan the creation."
To better understand this distinction between a spiritual and a physical (natural) creation, let us go to D&C 29:
The first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things
No, this isn't speaking about gospel dispensations and Jews and Gentiles. Here, the Lord is teaching about the creation.
Since Christ was the "firstfruits of of them that slept" (i.e., the resurrection) (1 Cor. 15:20), does that imply He'll be the "last-fruits" of something?
Whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit
What is "the power of my Spirit"? He uses it synonymously with "the word of my power." That helps, because in the Book of Moses we learn that "the word of my power . . . is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth" (Moses 1:32), even Jesus Christ.
"The power of my Spirit" seems to be describing the grace and truth found in Jesus Christ. This is important because grace is a two-way street. If grace is the quality of creative action in-and-through Christ, does this mean being a "Creator" is having spiritual and/or temporal matter "respond" to you as you offer grace?
For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal―
Remember, God does not create "ex nihilo." (TPJS p. 350-351). So when He says He "created them," that doesn't mean they sprang from nothing.
Instead, if we substitute "the power of my Spirit" with "Christ's grace," then we see that all creative (and redemptive) work is manifest in the spiritual and temporal ordering of things that are intrinsically connected to Jesus Christ. We call this the light of Christ (D&C 88:11-13).
This is the "power of God" which gives life to everything, and is the "law by which all things are governed" (D&C 88:13).
Let's pause and clear up a misunderstanding about what it means to "be governed." You know Joseph Smith taught we should "govern ourselves"; but rather than thinking of being "governed" as an oppressive thing, it's just the opposite: God's governance is the means of conferring life to all things. What is it about being "governed" by God that bestows life on us?
Think of gravity: we are governed by God in the way the planets are "governed" by gravity: our respective spiritual masses create life from that union, like the Sun and the Moon blessing the earth with life by welcoming earth into their orbits.
We find this symbolism in the Book of Abraham talking about the planets. That may sound confusing, so let me try again. To be governed, in this context, does not mean to "be ruled." After all, we are intelligences (which are self-organizing) and are independent; to be governed by God is to be placed (organized) in a relationship to Him.
What might surprise us is that we're not just talking about the spiritual world: this specifically identifies our "temporal" reality as being ordered (formed) by this power, too.
First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work;
Notice the sequence, which introduces an element of "time" to creation. A time "before" and a time "after" we've responded to (united with) Christ's Spirit, having received His grace and entered into a relationship (orbit) with Him.
Like the movement of the stars and planets, creation is not one-and-done; creation did not end once the sun and moon were placed in sky. No, creation evolves and continues; it goes on and on and on, cycle after cycle, season after season, year after year, as the sun and moon continue to minister to the earth, giving it life and seasons.
Eternity, then, is a condition of continuous creation as celestial bodies (both kinds) exchange grace in a life-giving cycle.
What boggles the mind is to imagine countless worlds and children being organized in a manner that not only sustains life, but creates new life. For "the heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man" (Moses 1:37). The heavens are innumerable.
and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual,
Now we see the order (the workings of creation) has reversed itself; the sequence has flipped.
which is the last of my work― Speaking unto you that you may naturally understand; but unto myself my works have no end, neither beginning.
Well, that was confusing! At least we can take comfort in the fact that the Lord does not seem worried about being hyper-technical about the mechanics of how this all works; He just wants us to "naturally understand."
But understand what, exactly? What is His point? Well, let me make it as plain as I can: every time the Lord gets philosophical about the creation, it is in relation to our agency.
Adam, your father, whom I created, behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself.
What does it mean for "intelligences" to become agents unto themselves? I thought we were supposed to be "one" with God; and now we're told the purpose of creation is differentiation?
The devil rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency.
Satan wanted to "destroy the agency of man," right? So look at how the Lord defines agency:
Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.
That's curious: remember what we just read in the creation account about the "light"?
And the earth was without form, and void; and I caused darkness to come up upon the face of the deep; and my Spirit moved upon the face of the water; for I am God. [Who is God? WE ARE. At least, if:] And I, God, saw the light.
A God is someone who, having agency, is able to perceive (discern) (see) the light, even the light of truth ― the same light that we call intelligence, which is the glory of God; they are Fathers and Mothers who see the Light not only in themselves, but in others.
That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
Linear Thinking (2D) vs. 3D Thinking
We commonly view ourselves progressing along a continuum of spiritual laws, from a lesser degree to a greater degree (2D thinking).
Now, if we're picturing a straight line and us as a dot on that line, we'd represent advancement (progression) as moving along the line (up or forward vs. going down or backwards).
But that is not quite right; instead of thinking of progression as movement along a linear line (or "ladder") ― going from A to Z (from "one rung" to another) ― what if we imagined progression as a sphere expanding outwards, enveloping all things within itself?
Okay, you're envisioning an all-encompassing sphere ("consciousness"), and I bet you're picturing yourself as a dot somewhere in it. Am I right? Like we're tiny dots, or stars, against the dark night sky?
The problem is we're picturing ourselves as a dot somewhere in the cosmic plan. But what happens if we aren't the dot at all ― but are, in fact, the sphere itself? What if all that was within the sphere, became the sphere?
The apostle Paul taught that God ("the Father of glory") reveals the Lord Jesus Christ unto us (Ephesians 1:17). Well, the scriptures tell us that we see Him "not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual" (D&C 67:10). What does it mean to see God with our "spiritual mind"?
And [Father] set him [Christ] . . . to be the head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Hmmm. How does Christ's "body" and His fulness "filleth all in all"?
He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him, and his 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.
Nobody will argue over the fact God (Christ) has a physical body of flesh and bone (Luke 24:39). He's got two feet and ten toes, wounds in His hands, and weighs maybe 11 stone.
But! What about God's spiritual body? What is it that allows Him to be in all things?
The Mind (Body) of God
In Lecture 5:2 of The Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith (who edited them, if not authored them), said that Jesus Christ "received a fulness of the glory of the Father, possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit that bears record of the Father and the Son."
This statement explains, I think, what Paul meant when he said: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.
Now, I need to go on a brief tangent. Whenever anyone speaks about this passage in Ephesians 4, it is in terms of priesthood officers, used to bolster the authority claims of the Church ("he gave some apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists").
But Paul wasn't looking down the corridors of time, interested in what President Russell M. Nelson was doing in 2023; Paul was focused on Christ (if Paul knew how we misuse his words to fixate on mortal priesthood leaders, he'd probably have a spiritual stroke).
In Ephesians 4, Paul is telling us to "walk not as other Gentiles, in the vanity of their mind [as opposed to "the mind of God"], having their understanding darkened" (Ephesians 4:17-18).
How do Gentiles "darken" their understanding? Well, Joseph Smith alluded to this passage when he taught the Relief Society:
Prest. J. Smith rose, read the 14th Chap. of Ezekiel -- said the Lord had declar'd by the prophet that the people should each one stand for himself and depend on no man or men... applied it to the present state of the church of Latter-Day Saints, said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall -- that they were depending on the prophet, hence were darkened in their minds.
("Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book," p. 51, The Joseph Smith Papers)
On the other hand, Paul was saying we need to OUTGROW our dependence on others for our spiritual meat ("be no more children" (Ephesians 4:14)), foreseeing a day when the children of Christ would "grow up" (Ephesians 4:15) and receive the mind of Christ who "maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:16).
So bizarrely, we use the passage to focus on the grease monkeys at the pit stop (the prophets and apostles), who are only there to give us a change of oil so we can proceed on our journey to Christ, until we all arrive to become perfected in Him.
Missing Paul's point, we're parked at the lube garage, having forgotten where we were headed, engrossed in the costs of repairs to our car.
End of tangent.
Physics of the Spirit
What are we to make of dark energy (68% of the universe) and dark matter (27% of the universe)? Have we considered the fact that everything science has ever studied makes up only 5% of the known universe?
I mean, the atomic nucleus wasn't even discovered until 1908. Subatomic particles (pions) were discovered in 1947 (that was the year my dad was born; so the entire study of subatomic particles has occurred within his lifetime).
I feel humbled by our ignorance; by how little we know about the workings of the temporal and spiritual universe.
You've heard of Michael Faraday ("faraday cage"), who first realized that electric and magnetic fields are not only fields of force which govern the motion of particles, but also fields having an independent physical reality because they carry energy.
Today we call it the electromagnetic field. Electromagnetism is one of the fundamental forces of nature (a fundamental force is one that cannot be reduced to a more basic interaction).
There are only four fundamental forces that we're currently aware of:
We're all familiar with gravity, and perhaps electromagnetism. But what about weak and strong interactions? What are those?
The strong and weak interactions produce forces at minuscule, subatomic distances and govern nuclear interactions inside atoms.
A gravitational field (thanks Sir Isaac) is produced by any body that has mass (which is why some of us are so "attractive").
According to Wikipedia, a gallon jug of water contains an electrical charge; so if we take a second jug and place it next to the first one, the electrical charges of two jugs will repel each other with the force of:
[1 (2.1 x 10-to-the-eighth x C-squared, divided by 4-pie (1m)-squared = 4.1 x 10-to-the-twenty-sixth x N]
I have no idea what that means, but apparently it is a force many times larger than the weight of the planet earth.
So why don't those two jugs of water blow us to smithereens? Because the atomic nuclei in one jug repels those in the other with the same (proportional) force. They balance each other (no net force).
Anyone who has taken chemistry knows the size of an atom is determined by the electrostatic attraction between the positive nucleus and the valence electrons. The force of this attraction is proportional to the size of charge and inversely proportional to the distance between the charges.
And when atoms interact, they create something new; for example, hydrogen and oxygen will combine to create water (H2O).
The point I want to make is that the universe is comprised of reactions and counter-reactions; of forces and counter-forces. Energy is created from heat, light, motion, electrical fields, chemical reactions, nuclear and gravitational forces.
What's it all for?
Our bodies are bioelectromagnetic (say that three times fast). Every cell in our bodies is bathed in an external and internal environment of fluctuating invisible forces.
Take our heart's electromagnetic field: its energy extends about three feet outside of a person's physical body and can be detected in another person sitting nearby via an electrocardiogram (ECG).
Or consider our nervous system; it is well established by scientific studies that our nervous system acts as an antenna, which is tuned to and responds to the magnetic fields produced around us (including by the hearts of other individuals nearby). Synchronization can even occur between people and their pets!
Today we know DNA is a type of semiconductor. But did you know that DNA generates a longitudinal wave that propagates in the direction of the magnetic field vector? That's why DNA has a double-helix structure, to facilitate the conduction of energy.
But you might be wondering, why does DNA need to transmit energy? Well, waves connect our cells allowing them to "communicate." The cells throughout our bodies are not disconnected and alone; they are part of a beautiful biological network that works together to make . . . you.
Have you ever seen a picture and wondered if it was our brain or an image of the universe? How can two things so vastly different in scale look so similar?
I've introduced a lot of questions in this post, but few answers. But remember this: God is love (1 John 4:8). The loving interactions between God and us exert a force upon the world around us, creating a field to which glory is drawn, and in which glory becomes manifest.
I want you to read the following words in a new light; divorce them from your previous understanding, and do not relate them to the Church organization; do not associate them with the temples of stone and mortar we build with hands; no, instead, pretend these words speak of you: the temple of God.
An house shall be built unto the Lord, [our bodies?] and a cloud shall rest upon it, [our spirits?] which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house. [how does the the Lord's glory, his 'fulness', fill our bodies?]
Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. [we know about outward ordinances, like baptism and the temple rituals; but what sort of inward, spiritual ordinances is this talking about?]
And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, [not the Church's priesthood authority, but instead the power of something which is without beginning of days nor end of years (which sounds a lot like our eternal spirits)] the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; [although this power is ever-present and manifest in the spirit] For without this [what is the antecedent for "this"?] no man can see the face of God, [what exactly does this refer to, to see God's FACE (as opposed to his "back parts" (Exodus 33:23); and what happened for Jacob to say, "I have seen God face to face" (Genesis 32:30)?] even the Father, and live.
Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence.
(D&C 84:5, 19-24)
As Paul said, so will I conclude this post:
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you; my love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen" (1 Cor. 16:23-24).