Falling in love is easy. It's the falling out of love that is messy.
A well'a bless my soul what'sa wrong with me? I'm itchin' like a man in a fuzzy tree.
Elvis Presley met his future wife, Priscilla, when she was 14 years old. He was 10 years older.
Well, my hands are shaky and my knees are weak I can't seem to stand on my own two feet.
Elvis and Priscilla didn't see each other for another three years but kept in contact. Priscilla's parents finally allowed her to visit Graceland for two weeks under chaperoned care.
Well, please don't ask me what'sa on my mind I'm a little mixed up, but I'm feelin' fine.
Despite the precautions, Priscilla began to take amphetamines to keep up with Elvis's lifestyle.
Well she touched my hand what a chill I got Her lips are like a volcano when it's hot.
They married in 1967, but the marriage ended six years later.
There's only one cure for this body of mine That's to have that girl that I love so fine!
“I did not divorce him because I didn’t love him,” Priscilla said. “He was the love of my life, but I had to find out about the world.”
I'm proud to say that she's my buttercup. I'm in love, I'm all shook up!
Imagine what it is like when a Church gets divorced.
1. The Great Schism.
What caused Christianity ― the religion all about love ― to break up? How did we become so splintered, so fractured?
Well, the Great Schism was about power, control, and authority.
In 1054, the Pope in Rome excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople. And so, of course, the Patriarch in turn excommunicated the Pope.
The eastern Church recognized the authority of the Patriarch; the western Church recognized the authority of the Pope.
And the Church split into two: the Greek Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
2. The Reformation.
The western Church further broke up in 1517, when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses exposing many of the pastoral and doctrinal abuses of Rome.
At the heart of the Reformation was the issue of power, control and authority. (Sound familiar?)
Was the Pope, or scriptura sola, the ultimate authority?
And the western Church split up into Catholicism and Protestantism.
3. The Church of England.
What caused the formation of the Anglican Church (the Church of England, or the British version of Catholicism)?
You guessed it! It was about power, control and authority.
King Henry VIII wanted a divorce and the Pope in Rome refused to grant it.
So Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy in 1534 stating the King was the Supreme Head of the Church in England, not the Pope.
4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Reorganized Church of Christ.
In 1844, what caused the Church that Joseph Smith had created to split into two main divisions upon his death?
(This is starting to sound like a broken record.)
Yup: power, control and authority.
Some followed Brigham Young's claims to authority, and others followed the claims of Joseph's family.
With thousands of different sects and branches and remnants in Christianity, we have to ask ourselves:
Why are there so many different churches when Jesus said "there shall be one fold, and one shepherd?" (John 10:16).
With all of the Patriarchs, Popes, Pastors and Presidents running around, there are literally thousands who are vying for the title.
Nephi wrote that an angel told him:
There are save two churches only; the one is (1) the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is (2) the church of the devil.
(1 Nephi 14:10)
This is one of the plainest teaching we find in the Book of Mormon, but what does it mean?
For context, in Part 8 of the series, "Complications of Temple Worthiness," I said:
1. "It's time we stop thinking of Babylon as a drunk john lying in a pool of vomit in some back alley in Amsterdam strewn with dirty needles and STDs. Because Babylon is beautiful."
2. "All the worst sins, the devil knows, are gilt with gold. They shimmer like silver. They repose on scarlet cushions in the image of respectability and religiosity."
3. "The best way to deceive the "very elect" (if possible) is to make them feel at home: in comfortable chapels that serve as prisons ― in religions that draw away from the pure gospel of Christ ― manifesting a form of godliness without the power thereof ― promoting a form of righteousness shaped by status."
The Great and Abominable Church
Jesus has a Church. Not to be outdone, the devil has one, too.
He really is competitive.
The devil loves religion and all its trappings; he styles himself as our "great" high priest; he craves to have people "fall down and worship [him]" (Matthew 4:9).
Can't you just hear him:
Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.
Instead of directing us to the Father, Satan wants us to focus on him. On his office; on his authority.
And being the prideful type he is, you can bet the devil wants his Church to be the awesomest place of all.
What a big budget Babylon has!
So we should expect the Church of the devil to be something remarkable and marvelous and (in the eyes of the world) wonderfully grand.
I beheld this great and abominable church; and I saw the devil that he was the founder of it.
(1 Nephi 13:6)
So what makes the G&A so "great?"
Signs of the G&A Church
Just as we are watching for signs of Christ's return, we can watch for signs of the Great and Abominable Church.
Right now. On full display. In living color.
Probably a good thing to be keeping an eye on. Nephi, in his characteristic plainness, gave us several clues to look for:
1. Yoke of iron (i.e., "captivity").
Nobody wants to work for that boss. The demanding, self-important guy who makes you get him coffee on the way to work. And pay for it out of your own pocket.
What're you gonna do? Say no, and get latrine duty, or passed over for a promotion, or fired?
Inequalities of power always create inequalities of social interaction.
Nephi warned us that the G&A Church
Bindeth [the saints] down, and yoketh them with a yoke of iron, and bringeth them down into captivity.
(1 Nephi 13:5)
Okay, so right out of the gate Nephi wants us to understand something about the devil's plan. He wants to "yoke" us to anything or anyone other than Christ.
Like the War in Heaven, the devil wants to destroy our agency by bringing us "down into captivity."
And how does he do it? How in the world does the devil get us to serve him?
Well, by deceiving us. By making us serve in his Church (!) while thinking we are actually on God's errand.
Joseph Smith said:
[N]othing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit, when they think they have the spirit of God.
(Joseph Smith, "Times and Seasons, 1 April 1842," p. 744, The Joseph Smith Papers)
Is this not the "yoke of iron?" To be under the influence of a false spirit and yet believe we are following God?
Who Wears a Yoke of Iron?
Who do you put a yoke on? I guess a good answer is a dumb beast. A work animal. A tool used for labor to produce profit for its owner.
Now, because this is Nephi, we know that he is Head-of-the-Class in his Old Testament Studies. So I would bet he is drawing on OT symbolism for "yoke of iron."
Yup. He takes us right to the Law of Moses (which, of course, is dead unto him).
There, in Deuteronomy 28, we find the promises God made with Israel in the Sinaitic Covenant (lots of blessings and lots of cursings) and, sure enough, smack dab in the middle of the chapter we find a "yoke of iron."
Take a look:
Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee:
And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever.
Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness . . . therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.
Hmmm. According to this text, if we aren't serving the Lord, we must have found someone else to serve (guess who?).
Service rendered in the Great and Abominable Church is like a "yoke of iron" ― it is oppressive. It is unequal because it creates division between masters and beasts of burden.
But Wait! It Gets Better
If that isn't enough for us, Jeremiah issues an amazing prophecy that references a "yoke of iron" in Jeremiah 28. (Nephi tells us his father was a contemporary of Jeremiah, but I don't know how much of Jeremiah's writings he had access to.)
Anyway, what's going on in Jeremiah 28? Well, the prophet Hananiah falsely prophesies that Israel will be delivered from Nebuchadnezzar.
Oh yes, you heard that right. A prophet dished out false hope to the people.
Thou hast broken the yokes of wood; but thou shalt make for them yokes of iron.
. . . Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah; The Lord hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. (Jeremiah 28:13, 15)
Prophets in the Church of the devil provide "carnal security" to the people by claiming "all is well" (when it is not).
And just what is the great lie of the G&A Church?
It is believing we are free whilst we are encircled about in chains of darkness; that salvation can be found outside of Christ; that trusting in God means in fact the opposite: to trust in the arm of flesh.
What Does "Captivity" Look like?
Don't you love Creedal Orthodoxy?
Yeah, me neither.
Why do religions draw lines in the sand with indelible marker, creating categories of "us" vs. "them," treating truth as if it belonged to them instead of God, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men?
(Pharisees always draw with Sharpies. No eraser is necessary when you're always right.)
And why do they chastise us when we color outside of the lines they've drawn, when we're only expressing the gifts God has given us?
Finally, why do authoritarians punish those who (in the words of Taco Bell) like to "think outside the bun."
Sure, there are good reasons for religions to behave this way. Religions need stability and steady membership to survive (or, in other words, they need to retain their 'market share').
But why is it that religion trains its adherents to act like limp lettuce hanging onto the bun (by "bun" I mean the rules established by those at the top of the hierarchy)?
Why would religions rather deal with popes and presidents than with 14-year-old upstarts who claim to have revelation from heaven, like Joseph Smith?
Rule # 1: Oh no you don't! You gotta shut them down.
It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?
The first order of business (by which I mean religion) is to restrict access to heaven. Consolidate and monopolize authority. Trademark God's name. Place authority at the feet of the Holy See.
In Catholic and LDS traditions we call it "holding keys."
(By the way, I have nothing against keys. I love keys. God bestows keys.)
BUT . . . when keys are used to rule and reign over others it creates a system of status and power wherein those that have authority (cardinals/apostles; bishops/priests) exercise unrighteous dominion over those who do not.
You see, those without keys are dispossessed of the ability to effect meaningful change and are therefore disenfranchised.
Keyless members do not get a say on the course of things, or the policies and practices which are handed down from above.
(After all, we call them "LAYmembers" because they have laid at the feet of those WITH keys the responsibility to shepherd their souls.)
In other words, religions want us to out-source our salvation to a professional priestly class.
(Talk about Un-American! Where is the indomitable spirit of American independence?)
Maybe this is what we want. Maybe we all want to live in the shadow of a king or queen. Is this a bad thing?
What if, instead of being forced into captivity, we freely choose it? We choose to be acted upon (not because we want to be slaves, but because the system has made us dependent on it).
It's sorta like priesthcraft, which is spiritual Nimbyism.
(You've heard of NIMBY-ism? 'Not-In-My-Back-Yard.' Under Nimbyism, a person moves into a nice neighborhood and then they don't want anything new to be built around them. They want to slam the door to future growth, which they view as detrimental to their property values and quality of life. I mean, who wants an apartment complex to go up, for heaven's sake, next to their mansion?!)
Once the ruling class has consolidated its authority it will move to secure and safeguard that power.
The Church breaks up when God sends an Abinadi, an Elijah, or a Joseph Smith.
Because the establishment must reject them OR LOSE THEIR POWER.
Just ask King Noah. Just ask King Ahab. Just ask . . . whoever's in charge.
Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for . . . the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men.