In the last post, we ended with Ralph Waldo Emerson's stunning declaration, "Dare to love God without mediator or veil."
I want to point out that this is how Christ loved the Father, as symbolized when he died and the veil of the temple was torn in two.
Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
And the graves were opened.
So we should be wary of anyone, or any religion, that tries to close the graves and patch the veil back together, right? Because they are undoing the work of Christ.
Isn't this the problem we find among legalistic religions filled with carnal commandments? They tell us: "You can't come unto God except through my authority, my keys, my priesthood, my rules."
These interlopers who place themselves between us and God are stumbling blocks, or obstacles.
Christ warned us to avoid them:
He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
We know that Christ is "the door" because he said, "I am the door of the sheep" (John 10:7).
So that means everyone, and anyone, who tells us the door to heaven is through them, and their authority, as opposed to Christ, is a "hireling."
Flee them. Flee from them as fast as you can.
Why Don't We Need a Mortal Mediator or Veil?
It is challenging to follow Christ when so many people tell you how to do it. How to follow Christ their way.
There's a hidden gem in the Hymnbook called "Jesus, Mighty King of Zion." It's Hymn No. 234.
I don't know if I've ever sung this hymn in Church. The words were written by John Fellows, a poor shoe maker in the 1700s who was Baptist.
Jesus, mighty King in Zion, Thou alone our guide shalt be. Thy commission we rely on; We will follow none but thee.
Nephi saw our day, and warned us that the biggest "stumbling block" we face was the churches we love to build up.
That's right ― the problem is the churches (!), who preach Christ with their lips but whose hearts are far from Him.
2 Nephi 26:20:
And the Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes,
Notice where pride pools as a black pit? In the dilated pupils of our "eyes." We are prideful because we judge after the manner of men, after the outward appearance. We prefer the smooth faced hypocrite over the locust-eating, wild-man of God. We believe respectability and credibility equate with godliness, so we dress religion in fine scarlets and fine sanctuaries and listen to fine, clean-shaven men who wear woolen suits.
and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches;
Here Nephi identifies the reason we stumble: we have built up "many churches" which bring the people into captivity by telling the people to ignore their innate intelligence, or light of truth, and to follow the leaders of the churches (if they want to be in good with God).
nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God,
Because religious leaders are generally (not always, but usually) hypocrites (see, Matthew 23 for examples), religious leaders do not build upon Christ's rock of love unfeigned, equality, and condescension. Instead (since they do not have God's actual power), they focus on their own authority as a substitute. They practice the "forms of godliness without the power." This is what it means to "take the name of the Lord in vain." The result? Churches bereft of miracles.
and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning,
How well did Nephi prophecy our day. How well did Nephi know us! Instead of revealing the mysteries of God, religious leaders develop curriculums of carnal commandments to keep the members dependent upon them and their system. They create churches of captivity, where our divine intelligence is insulted.
that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor.
And here's the big climax: the motivation of all religion. It is to profit, and to get gain, from priestcraft. As opposed to the gospel of Christ, which is to elevate the poor. Instead we elevate those whose loyalty is to the institution rather than to the intelligence of God.
Are All Churches Bad?
Well, this is an interesting question.
The angel told Nephi in 1 Nephi 14:10-11:
Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.
[Why is false religion called a "whore?" It is because she sells that which is sacred for money.]
And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.
[We see that false religion is universal.]
Who Belongs to the Church of the Lamb of God?
The Church of the Lamb of God is not an earthly institution. It is not a church that is incorporated by the laws of New York.
Here are the characteristics of the Church of the Lamb of God:
1. Its members are "few" (1 Nephi 14:12);
2. Its members are called "saints of God" (1 Nephi 14:12);
3. Its members are "scattered" upon all the face of the earth (1 Nephi 14:14);
4. Its members are "armed with righteousness" (1 Nephi 14:14);
5. Its members are possess "the power of God in great glory" (1 Nephi 14:14);
6. Its members are targeted by the churches of the earth (the mother of abominations), who fight against the Lamb (1 Nephi 14:13).
What Does the Church of the Lamb Look Like?
In contrast to the monolithic multi-national corporate interests of modern religion, the Church of the Lamb is starkly humble.
As Jesus summarized so succinctly:
And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine.
(3 Nephi 11:38-39)
So what does it mean to become "like a little child?" What would a ward look like if we were all children?
One of the best descriptions I can find for how the children in the Church of the Lamb operate is found in Moroni 6.
1. They have broken hearts and contrite spirits (Moroni 6:2);
2. They repent of all their sins (Moroni 6:2);
3. They take upon them the name of Christ (Moroni 6:3);
4. They serve Christ (Moroni 6:3);
5. They have the "power of the Holy Ghost" (Moroni 6:2);
6. They are nourished by the good word of God (Moroni 6:4);
7. They are watchful unto prayer (Moroni 6:4);
8. They rely alone upon the merits of Christ (Moroni 6:2);
9. They meet together often to fellowship, to remember and care for each other, looking after the welfare of each other's souls in love (Moroni 6:5);
10. They hold each other accountable as a family to follow God and forgive each other when they sin (Moroni 6:7-8);
11. Their meetings were conducted "after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost" (Moroni 6:9).
Bye-Bye, Stumbling Blocks
Here's the important part I've been excited for:
The Lord promises to take away our stumbling blocks!
Remember what is the stumbling block for the Gentiles? That's right ― their churches (2 Nephi 26:20).
With that in mind, let's read 1 Nephi 14:1:
And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God
The Lord wants us to listen, or "hearken" unto Him. Why are we so eager to listen to wolves when the Lamb is right here? How do we hear His voice?
in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word,
Jesus "manifests himself" to us by conversing with us, by talking to us, by having a discussion with us. We treasure up his "word" and feast upon his "word." Jesus is the Word of God, and we can hear him in our hearts, in our souls, in the intelligence, or light and truth, that is joined with his.
and also in power, in very deed,
The worlds were created by "the Word of my power." Christ is the life, the light, and the truth we need. When he manifests himself to us "in very deed," . . . well, we can talk about another time. But notice: when we choose Christ over religion, then something incredible happens:
unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks.
Christ will free us from churches that practice priestcraft; he will "number [us] among the seed of thy father [Lehi]" and we will be "no more brought down into captivity" (1 Nephi 14:2).
What Happens to All the Churches?
The churches who "lead away the souls of men" and who digged a great pit for men, "shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction, saith the Lamb of God" (1 Nephi 14:3).