Recall the "only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (2 Nephi 31:21)?
Well, it must be pretty darn important if it is the Only. True. Doctrine, right?
In fact, this doctrine deserves an upper case "D." I'd expect that we'd find this Doctrine everywhere in our meetings, our preaching, and in our lessons, since it is so primary to what we believe.
After all, Nephi said that this Doctrine "is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God" (2 Nephi 31:21).
Wow! It's almost like our eternal soul rests on this Doctrine.
Now that I've put this Doctrine on a pedestal, can anyone tell me what it is?
Come on. If it is the central, core, essential Doctrine of our faith . . . then what is it?
It has to be.
Because tithing is the only thing that we are required to meet with and report annually to the Bishop (during tithing settlement).
No other commandment, law, doctrine, or practice in the Church receives that kind of attention. It gets top billing.
Among all of the commandments, tithing is the one that has a way of always rising to the top.
Tithing is required to enter the temple. Without tithing, we fall off the Covenant Path.
An army marches on its stomach, and I guess a royal army marches on its tithing (if only we'd been around during the Crusades, we could have financed King Richard so the Sheriff of Nottingham wouldn't have had to extort taxes from the poor).
And what is ironic is that the practice of tithing settlement is antiquated ― having started during a time when people paid their tithing in kind: chicken eggs and hay.
Yet today, when we all pay in cash, the practice remains.
Why? What's there to "settle" anymore?
Mammon: The Fruit of our Faith?
Ask yourself: surly we'd give preeminence to the greatest, highest, holiest Doctrine, right?
So we just have to see what the Church cares most about. What are the fruits of our religion?
Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount (or, in other words, Christianity 101):
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
I think we sometimes read this backwards. Jesus didn't say that where our hearts are, there will be our treasure also. No, our hearts invariably follow our treasure.
If our heart is where our treasure is, then we have certainly created a religion based on what's truly important to us, even the fundamental of our faith . . .
But, you know, money for a good cause.
Second Opinion: Satan
Am I exaggerating? Let's get a second opinion.
If you remember the temple drama pre-1990, you'll recall the vignette where a Sectarian Preacher converses with Satan. (I first went through the temple in 1998, and learned about this scene from my mission president who quoted it in a Zone Conference while I was serving in Paris.)
[A preacher enters.]
LUCIFER: Good morning, sir!
PREACHER: Good morning! [Looking out over the initiates.] A fine congregation!
LUCIFER: Yes, they are a very good people. They are concerned about religion. Are you a preacher?
PREACHER: I am.
LUCIFER: Have you been to college and received training for the ministry?
PREACHER: Certainly! A man cannot preach unless he has been trained for the ministry.
LUCIFER: Do you preach the orthodox religion?
PREACHER: Yes, that is what I preach.
LUCIFER: If you will preach your orthodox religion to these people and convert them, I will pay you well.
Well, who wants Satan for a boss?
I suppose religion likes working for Satan because, you know, he pays well.
Why Does Satan Love "Orthodox Religion?"
Well, here's a mystery.
There are two important things we learn from this exchange:
1. Satan loves religion; and
2. Satan is partial to Orthodox Religion.
Isn't that topsy-turvy? We would expect Satan to be anti-religious, right? But in fact, Satan is the Ultimate Religionist.
Christ, on the other hand (surprise!) is the one who is anti-religion.
Christ is the one that condemns the religious hypocrisy and pride of all of the religious systems out there ― you know, all the churches that oppress the poor and promote inequality.
Case in point: Christ told Joseph Smith that all religions were corrupt. Think about that! Why were they "all" corrupt? Because:
1. "All their creeds were an abomination"; and
2. The professors of religion "were all corrupt" because
3. "They teach for doctrines [here it is!] the commandments of men" (JS-H 1:19).
Ah, now we see it: the eternal contest between Christ's singular Doctrine and all of the doctrines of men which stink up religion.
The gospel, on the other hand (we're talking about the "only and true doctrine of the Father"), has nothing to do with men seeking to control and profit from one another.
Lesson Learned: The "only and true doctrine of the Father" is not something we find in religion.
It exists, and lives, elsewhere.
Deleted Scene: Part 2
PREACHER: I will do my best.
LUCIFER: [Indicating Adam.] Here is a man who desires religion. He is very much exercised and seems to be sincere.
PREACHER: I understand that you are inquiring after religion.
ADAM: I was calling upon Father.
PREACHER: I am glad to know that you were calling upon Father.
Do you believe in a God who is without body, parts, or passions; who sits on the top of a topless throne; whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere; who fills the universe, and yet is so small that he can dwell in your heart; who is surrounded by myriads of beings who have been saved by grace, not for any act of theirs, but by his good pleasure? Do you believe in such a great being?
ADAM: I do not. I cannot comprehend such a being.
PREACHER: That is the beauty of it. Perhaps you do not believe in a devil, and in that great hell, the bottomless pit, where there is a lake of fire and brimstone into which the wicked are cast, and where they are continually burning but are never consumed?
ADAM: I do not believe in any such place.
PREACHER: My dear friend, I am sorry for you.
LUCIFER: I am sorry, very very sorry! What is it you want?
ADAM: I am looking for messengers from my Father.
Messengers From My Father
Well this is interesting. Notice that Adam doesn't want religion?
Instead, all Adam wants is to commune with messengers from his Father.
This all begs the question: has The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints become the very thing it was set up to oppose? Has the Church joined the throngs of Creedal Christianity? Do we preach for doctrine the commandments of men?
Have we listened to General Conference lately?
In 1839, while a prisoner in Liberty Jail, Joseph Smith wrote that we owe a duty to "God, to angels, with whom we shall be brought to stand" to oppose the evils of orthodoxy, of tyranny and oppression, which are generated and upheld
by the influence of that spirit which hath so strongly riveted the creeds of the fathers, who have inherited lies, upon the hearts of the children, and filled the world with confusion, and has been growing stronger and stronger, and is now the very mainspring of all corruption, and the whole earth groans under the weight of its iniquity.
It is an iron yoke, it is a strong band; they are handcuffs, and chains and shackles, and fetters of hell.
[Let me point out: this is what the devil wants religion to be. This bondage or "captivity" is what religion is all about. This is the very snare the Church has fallen into.]
And also it is an imperative duty that we owe to all the rising generation, and to all the pure in heart―
For there are many yet on earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are kept from the truth because they do not know where to find it―
Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness.
(D&C 123:7-8, 11-13)
You ask, why do I write this blog? Why do I bother? Because it is within my power to do so, and the Lord has asked us all to bring to light the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them.
Deleted Scene: Part 3
PREACHER: Shall we ever have any apostles or prophets?
LUCIFER: No. However, there may be some who will profess revelation or apostleship. If so, just test them by asking that they perform a great miracle, such as cutting off an arm or some other member of the body and restoring it, so that the people may know that they have come with power . . . .
PETER: We do not satisfy men’s curiosity in that manner. It is a wicked and an adulterous generation that seeks for a sign. Do you know who that man is? He is Satan.
PREACHER: What? The devil?
PETER: That is one of his names.
PREACHER: He is quite a different person from what he told me the devil is. He said the devil has claws like a bear’s on his hands, horns on his head, and a cloven foot, and that when he speaks he has the roar of a lion.
PETER: He has said this to deceive you, and I would advise you to get out of his employ.
The best advice any of us could receive is this: "I would advise you to get out of his employ."
I read in Hugh Nibley's Approaching Zion:
"Students ask me in despair, “If we leave his employ, what will become of us?” The answer is simple. Don’t you trust the Lord? Satan wants to get us in the position where we desire wealth (which is the root of all evil). If you are resigned or dedicated to a regime that you do not really like, or that wastes your talents, then you are a prisoner indeed—in Satan’s power. In short, when you say, “I have to live in the world and play by his rules,” then he has won and you have lost."
Is it time we get out of Satan's employ?
Is it time the Church stops using the tools of the devil to build the kingdom of God? It cannot work.
Mammon cannot serve God.
Or, you know, we could go on building a hierarchy that mocks God, preaching a religion that brings bondage, and substituting the "only and true doctrine of the Father" with the doctrines of men mingled with scripture.