Are we the same person today if our cells are different from those we had 20 years ago?
Well, it's a little more complicated than that. The cells in our body are constantly splitting up. Through cellular division, the DNA from one cell is replicated into a second cell. Those two cells are identical but are also distinct from each other.
And then, in time, they die off (but newer cells remain). And the cycle goes on and on.
But free radicals (unstable atoms) damage our cells as we age. Over time our cells begin to degenerate (at a rate that accelerates as we get older).
Biologically, then, we are the same person in the sense there is a continuity of our genetic code; but we are also composed of new and different material than when we were born.
So we are, and we are not, the same person.
Cell Division in Religious Bodies
My mother converted to the Church over 50 years ago as a student at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho).
Many times I have heard her say, "The Church today is not the same Church I joined in college."
Is the Church today the same Church as it was in 1840? Or in 1970?
Of course not.
Churches constantly evolve, change, and degenerate as they age (just like our bodies).
The "free radicals" of politics, cultural trends, shifting social systems, etc., are constantly reshaping the organization.
So while there may be doctrinal continuity and shared heritage, this is not the same Church Joseph built; or that Brigham built; or that Spencer W. Kimball presided over.
They are dead and have been replaced by "new" cells (us).
Who Are We?
In Part 1 of "The Church Began to Be Broken Up," I asked the question:
"Why are there so many different churches when Jesus said 'there shall be one fold, and one shepherd?' (John 10:16)."
Well, the answer is not a mystery. Divisions in religion arise inevitably over issues of control, authority and power.
Which is why, if you want your religion to survive, the best way is to make the members dependent upon your authority before they jump ship and chase authority elsewhere.
And who perfected this practice and made it an art form? The Great and Abominable Church, of course. History shows that the most enduring religion of all time is the Church of the devil.
Whoa! That claim needs some explanation. But let me repeat it: history shows the most enduring religion is the Church of the devil.
Going back to Adam and Eve, Cain learned there was enormous power and authority in becoming Master Mahan (which allowed him to profit from secret combinations, wielding the power over life and death for his followers).
While the truth is "hard" (see,1 Nephi 16:2), the Church of the devil has found a way to add a little sugar to its medicine (which is in fact poison) to make their "authority" go down easier:
1. There is no sin (Alma 30:17); 2. Or, if there is sin, God will save us in our sins (Alma 11:37); 3. Or, at worst, God will beat us with a few stripes for our sins and save us in His kingdom anyway (2 Nephi 28:8).
The reason the pews are packed in the Church of the devil is because we have chosen the "broad way" toward heaven: the path of ease (carnal security). The broad way to heaven ends at the gates of hell, of course. But who's counting?
Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!
Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.
(2 Nephi 28:24, 31)
The most enduring religions are those that practice priestcraft, because priestcraft ensures respectability and profitability, which ultimately attracts steady membership.
(Whereas, the Church of the Lamb promises neither.)
Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world. (2 Nephi 26:29)
Now, getting gain and praise seems a lot more fun than belonging to a religion that "requires the sacrifice of all things." I mean, who in their right mind wants to "lose his life?"
And thus we see how fragile a thing like Zion is; how rare a people who honor truth instead of man's authority; who seek freedom in Christ rather than the captivity of carnal security.
O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!
Foolish? Vain? (You know, like claiming that a nest egg of $130 Billion will come in handy during the apocalypse when riches will be slippery and worthless?)
In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold . . . to the moles and to the bats.
What does Isaiah have against moles and bats? Why is he picking on those two animals? Why not horses and penguins?
Well, what do moles and bats have in common? That's right! They are both blind and live in darkness.
Who else would trust in riches?
Samuel the Lamanite tells us some interesting things:
An angel of the Lord . . . did bring glad tidings to my soul. And behold, I was sent unto you to declare it unto you also, that ye might have glad tidings; but behold ye would not receive me.
Why did the people reject Samuel? Well, because he destroyed their priestcraft.
Yea, in that day ye shall say: O that we had remembered the Lord our God in the day that he gave us our riches, and then they would not have become slippery that we should lose them; for behold, our riches are gone from us.
Why Do We Resist God's Messengers?
Churches are broken up when the ruling establishment rejects messengers from God because they have to protect the narrative that they, themselves, are the only authorized messengers.
Example No. 1. Moses
Then Pharaoh called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt (i.e., priests) they also did in like manner with their enchantments.
For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.
And Pharaoh hardened his heart, that he hearkened not unto them.
One of the dangers of look-a-like, false religion is that it hardens our hearts against that which is authentic and genuine.
We come to prefer the empty calories of carnal security over the life-giving forces of the gospel.
(We see this today in our discourses which teach that faith in the absence of miracles is superior to the faith that produces miracles.)
Example:Alma the Younger
When Alma had come to the city of Ammonihah he began to preach the word of God unto them.
Now Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people of the city of Ammonihah; therefore they would not hearken unto the words of Alma.
Notice that the definition of "Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people" is they refused to listen to a messenger sent by God.
Anytime someone says, "Don't listen to them," we should be wary lest we miss something important. (Shutting our ears is the equivalent to hardening our hearts.)
The danger is not that we listen to false doctrine (we do that all the time); the real danger is we ignore the messages that are coming from God all around us.
And why were the people of Ammonihah so hardened? Just look at what they told Alma:
We are not of thy church [so they were insular]; we know that thou hast no power over us [so they are all about "proper authority"].
When did we become The Church of Proper Authority?
When did we stop being the Church that sought "anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy?"