In 2016 Camelot came to an end when Clark was abruptly released and our Sunday School presidency dissolved.
Clark's release was honorable; the leadership called him to serve as a High Councilor in a BYU Student Stake where he continued spreading the pleasing word of God to younger hearts and minds. I'm sure the students didn't appreciate what a gift they had been given!
As a parting gift Clark gave me a copy of the book The Blessings of Abraham: Becoming a Zion People.
Becoming a Zion people? Wouldn't that be nice! But remember: during this time in my life I was "waking up" to the fact that all was NOT well in Zion.
What was Clark trying to tell me?
This was a turbulent time for my faith. I was deconstructing my beliefs and struggling and yearning and wrestling with God.
This had been going on for a long time; my faith journey had stretched across several years by this point, seeking answers and wanting to know God's will for me. And for my young family.
And for the Church!
Which Church is True?
Back in 2016 we still had 3 hour Church (remember that?).
But on the clear spring morning of Sunday, April 17, 2016, I felt the need to be alone. So after Sacrament Meeting I begged off Church, making some lame excuse to my wife, and headed home early, skipping Sunday School and Priesthood.
With my kids in Primary at the Church I was able to have the house to myself (which was as close to a Sacred Grove as I could get).
I knelt down and leaned on the greenish/gray couch we used to have in our family room with fabric like corduroy that was worn where we sat on it.
The house was unnaturally quiet.
I poured out my heart unto the Lord and I received two answers ― though not exactly ones I looked for.
The first answer I received was a gentle rebuke. The still small voice said, "You have not relied upon my word enough."
"Enough" (that doesn't sound very God-ish, I know, but it is hard to quote the Lord). I recalled the words the Lord spoke to Oliver Cowdery as if they were given to me personally:
I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written;
For in them are all things written concerning the foundation of my church, my gospel, and my rock.
So I knew I needed to redouble my scripture study because apparently the answers to my questions about the Church would be found there.
The second answer was not so black-and-white.
The Lord said to me, "There is much good, and there is also much error, in the Church. Men do not always follow my will."
What was that supposed to mean?
Well, I understood (not from the words but from the Spirit) that "men do not always follow my will" referred to both the leaders and the members in the Church.
Maybe I wasn't crazy! It was comforting, really, knowing leaders can in fact lead us into error. It explained a lot.
The result of this experience had a big impact on my walk with God. I was no longer agitated in my Spirit.
I was comforted knowing the Lord was aware of what was happening in the Church and that He had things well in hand; and that the Lord was in fact working in and through all churches and faiths and peoples; that "good" and "error" were universal, really, so I should stop thinking in black-and-white of "is the Church true or not?" because it's both and neither; and there are paradoxes of faith I have not yet comprehended; and the Lord is drawing beauty from ashes all over the place as His watchful gaze encompasses all of His children across the world; and this was all long-ago prophesied in scripture.
That's a lot, I know (the Lord can really pack a lot of information into a few words!). But things were proceeding apace. Gives a guy peace to know that.
And now for the part about how Clark played into all of this.
Timing Is Everything
I have learned that the answers we seek are generally in plain view, and have been all along, but we were not prepared to see them.
It must be part of the Lord's sense of humor to leave these things hidden in plain sight. The secret is not discovering something hidden, but to discover a new way of seeing what's right in front of us.
Everything I was "discovering" were things that Clark already knew. He had learned them long before me. After all, they are right there in the scriptures!
This is why I titled this Series, "In the Mouths of Two or Three Witnesses," because the Lord led Clark and me to the same place through our study of His words: Trust the Lord. Place our faith in Christ alone. Love as He does.
Not so complicated, is it?
In his own way, Clark had been telling me these things all along, but I wasn't "hearing" them. My ears weren't tuned to the language he spoke and so I wasn't able to interpret what he was saying.
The language, of course, is the word of God we find in the scriptures and which comes alive in His Spirit.
It's like being colorblind and seeing rainbows in only black-and-white, and then one day you see one in its full-color splendor!
With my ears unstopped, I understood at last what Clark meant when he said:
"Just as the Lord's people Israel suffered the Lord's covenant curses when they were taken by the Assyrians and were captured and taken to Babylon, we too, as the Lord's latter-day people, will suffer the Lord's covenant curses. And it will be for the same reasons. It is always the failure of the Lord's people to repent that is the catalyst for these judgments, and we cannot say that the scriptures have not adequately warned us."
If that statement made any sense to you, then you, too, see what it took me decades to decipher with my spiritual dyslexia.
Clark's Prophetic Warning
"In Nephi's endtime scenario the Mormon Gentiles' final fate hangs in the balance depending on whether or not they harden their hearts against His words by setting their hearts upon the things of the world and putting their trust in men.
"Mormon Gentiles carrying on as if a lesser law constituted the whole law has led to their 'ever learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth' (2 Timothy 3:7). It is the word of God we do not heed that will condemn us (2 Nephi 33:14).
"This raises a specter of something Mormons may never have imagined of themselves, only of others, that this time around we are the ones whom God warns and calls to repentance lest we perish from the earth.
"In Jacob 5 we read that when 'the end soon cometh' the Lord of the vineyard directs his servant to call other servants to assist him in grafting branches from the three daughter trees (the house of Israel comprised of the Jews, the 10 Tribes, and Lehi's descendants) back into their own olive tree.
"What triggers that event, however, is that the mother tree has brought forth much fruit but 'none of it is good' because of the wild branches 'overrunning the roots' and 'taking strength unto themselves' (Jacob 5:29–69).
"That being so, why is no one today inquiring into the tree’s 'much evil fruit' (Jacob 5:37)?
"The great and marvelous work began with the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon. There are an additional fourteen events associated with the Lord's great and marvelous work that have not yet happened and are indeed endtime events which will take place in domino fashion before the Lord's second coming.
(1) God's "setting his hand the second time" to restore the house of Israel.
(2) God's "baring his arm" in the eyes of all nations.
(3) God's servant fulfilling a mission to the nations.
(4) The Gentiles, including so-called believers, reject the fulness of the gospel after having received it.
(5) God's performing his "great and marvelous work" among the nations.
(6) Gentiles, including so-called believers "fighting against Zion."
(7) The spiritual kings and queens of the Gentiles shall nurture the house of Israel.
(8) The house of Israel (Jews, 10 Tribes & Lehi's Descendants) will receive the fulness of the gospel.
(9) God's righteous people will be endowed with power.
(10) The House of Israel returns from the four directions of the earth.
(11) The destruction of the wicked.
(12) The deliverance of the righteous.
(13) The house of Israel receives lands of inheritance.
(14) The Father fulfills His covenants with the house of Israel.
You will discover, as I have, a teacher come from God. _____________
I just need to say, after reading that list, if any of us are feeling exhausted, drink some caffeine because the Lord has a lot (!) of exciting things in store for us. There are adventures coming our way we never dreamed of. Buckle up!
It's Us, Not Them
Now Clark has moved out of state to Arizona but we stay in touch. One of the things I love is how he continues to teach me.
For example, anyone who has read my poetry and this blog know I give the leaders a hard time.
But Clark has been helping me to understand it's not the leaders' fault.
He's shown me that our leaders are merely a reflection of ourselves; the Lord gives us exactly the leaders we deserve.
In other words, we prop up prophets who teach the commandments of men because that's what we as a people truly want. Our leaders are a manifestation of our hearts.
Clark taught me:
"I don't see this particularly as a 'top down problem,' but as a result of the members' apostasy. It becomes 'top down' because we like it that way and abdicate our responsibility to the leadership.
"We get the type of prophets we want and therefore we have the prophets you describe. We become disciples of Moses, or whoever the current prophet is, because that's who we want. If we wanted Samuel the Lamanite or King Benjamin we would have them.
"The irony is that we do have them and still prefer the church prophets. They (the members) choose this because it is easier than searching the scriptures to know for themselves. Just like the children of Israel not wanting to see God (send Moses instead), we choose the hierarchical system over the word of God.
"Everything you warn us about in your blog existed with Israel’s ecclesiastical leaders anciently and is the same, as prophesied, today. It was a sad time for me during the early 90s [seeing the unrighteous dominion of leadership] but I remembered what Jeremiah said, 'My people love to have it so.'"
So now I have tempered my views and have begun to exercise more charity towards our leaders.
I can see how we've put them in a tough position.
So today I ask you to pray for the Brethren. They really do need our prayers and love.
Charity is the greatest of all. Some time ago Clark shared with me a poem he wrote that teaches an important principle about love.
The excerpt I quote below reminded me of the sacrifice Eve made by partaking the fruit (as a type and shadow of the sacrifice we all made by coming to earth) and being cut off from God as a condition of the Fall so that we might be added upon; but what I had not considered before was how Eve is a type of Christ himself. Think of Him as you read these words:
If everything is everything who would risk it all? Only those who love know love is risking all.
As a tribute to Clark, I would like to continue the poem by adding my own stanzas and testimony to his (this is something I've not done before, but they say the sincerest form of flattery is imitation).