Can you imagine going to the Spirit World and finding yourself in the cosmic-version of the Drivers License Division? (It makes me wonder if Douglas Adams was a prophet when he wrote his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.)
Picture the angels behind the counter giving us a number and telling us to wait to be called. We pass the time in boredom (no cell phones, apparently) and watch others during the Resurrection of the Just and the second resurrection get called up, one by one, before us.
There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the order we're called; many who entered the waiting room after us are the first to go (see, Matt. 20:1-16). How unfair!
Finally, after what seems an eternity, we see our number start to blink on the screen and excitedly approach the desk.
"Do you wear glasses or contacts?"
"Put your face against the viewer and tell me the letters you see."
Me: Umm. I don't see anything.
"Interesting [marking notes on a scroll]. Do you have any medical conditions that would render you incapable of safely operating heavy equipment, such as the weightier matters of the law?"
Me: I don't think so.
"Your expired license needs to be renewed; do you have the required reinstatement fee?"
Me: [Searching my empty pockets]. I seem to have misplaced my wallet.
"I see [marking more notes]. Do you know of any person who would want your heart as part of an organ donation?"
Me: Well, I lived a pretty hard-and-rough life, so my heart is mostly made of pig-parts now after the surgery.
*** Have you ever wondered what it will be like when we pass beyond the veil into another kingdom?
And if we're lucky enough to make it to God's own kingdom, will there be dentists for our resurrected teeth?
"The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see."
– Alexandra K. Trenfor This Post will take us on a journey; stay hydrated while reading. Take a deep breath and . . . .
It's funny, as I look back on my college years, that I chose to major in History instead of Political Science.
Why? Because I am really interested in group-decision making. I care about the ways authority and power are administered and how to protect minorities from oppression.
I've pondered how to hold those in power accountable (it's scary to see what happens to the rule of law when a powerful leader can disregard, revoke, or change the law without the consent of those governed). Perhaps this is why I went to law school.
Anyway, lest you think I am an egg-head, I want to assure you these subjects are NOT academic.
They impact our day-to-day lives, both inside and outside of the Church; life is the story of how we navigate the cultural, religious, social, political and legal systems we're faced with while sojourning here on earth.
So the reason I think it would be proper to spend a great deal of time pondering on what constitutes "good government" is because wewant to understand how the government of God operates (and, while we're at it, try to improve the world we currently inhabit).
A New Earth Indeed
Would heaven be heaven if it had courts and jail cells; slums and homelessness; crime and punishment?
If those things don't exist in heaven, then do they belong here?
(If you're scratching your head, please read the two posts I've linked above for a fuller explanation).
So are we in heaven or hell? The answer is: Yes.
Once we understand the lay of the land, so to speak, it changes everything.
Sorry to spoil the surprise, but we aren't "going" to heaven in the strictest sense; we are going to create it. Here. On this earth that presently hosts the hosts of hell.
What did we think "Zion" was all about?
"Government is Force"
If we are to create heaven-on-earth, preparatory for the Lord's millennial reign and the Father's celestializing Presence (see D&C 130), then we have work to do.
It gives new meaning to making the desert blossom as a rose; Christ's followers are called to turn hell into heaven with a dash of love and pinch of mercy. And a lot of patience.
The first order of business is to create a kingdom; one "cut out of the mountain without hands" (so it isn't organized by human design; it will not have a Board of Directors or Knesset).
This kingdom will be unlike anything we've seen before. It will be a dwelling place for God's glory, which no one down here wants because you can't bottle and sell it.
Zion is called to unfurl God's love as an Ensign to the nations, populated by sons and daughters who are equals and governed according to the law of God.
Joseph Smith proffered just such a kingdom when he described a priesthood government that is the exact opposite of the kinds of civil government we see today.
When we undertake. . . to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of men . . . the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or authority of that man.
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion.
(D&C 121:37, 41)
In order to understand how revolutionary Joseph's description of the kingdom of God was, we need to understand that for millennia the kingdoms of this world (whether civic or religious) were ruled through the sword and the might of Mammon: by fear and force.
As George Washington said so eloquently, "Government is force" (which is true, and the opposite of God's kingdom).
In other words (speaking as a lawyer now), government is the ability to compel people; to force them to pay taxes, behave lawfully, send their kids to school, and so on.
Or in religious terms, government is the power to grant or rescind a person's privileges within the organization; and also to patrol the pearly gates to ensure no one gets in unless they're paid-up (like going to the temple or taking the sacrament).
Where does the government's power come from? How does a government get us to obey?
Do We Govern like Christ or Constantine?
If I asked members of my LDS ward where the leaders get their authority, they'd probably say, "From the Lord."
Ah, but there's the rub. Can authority (power) that derives from force ever come from Christ (D&C 121)?
If we find, then, certain Church policies or practices relying on "force" to secure our obedience, then we can logically infer their power does not come from God, but from another source.
What is fascinating (and here's where my historian hat comes in handy) is the way the Church has chosen to structure itself. In the great galactic tug-of-war between force/and/submission, which side have we chosen?
Wouldn't it be devastatingly ironic if we, who fought for freedom in the War in Heaven, now switched to the other team, using Satan's tactics and tools to create inequality and pride, competing against God's own kingdom while invoking His name?
(Why do we think the devils are always laughing? What do they find so funny?)
Well, it's clear: we've fashioned a church that resembles civil and corporate government more than the priesthood government Joseph described.
For a Church that boasts it has the same organization as the primitive Church, why are we incorporated in the manner of the Catholic Church (as a corporation sole), acting no different than the Coca-Cola company?
Why does the Church Handbook resemble an employee manual given to government bureaucrats by HR?
A New Kind of Kingdom
But wait! Then Jesus traveled down Jacob's Ladder from Kolob (condescends) into the heart of the devil's kingdom (albeit one that inhabits space belonging to God's creations) and marches straight into the Boss's office (that is, Lucifer, the self-proclaimed prince of this world) and says, pointing to us, stuffed in the cubicles behind the water cooler, "These are mine." (John 17:10).
He leads us out of the Great and Spacious (Church) Office Building on strike. We march out of (Church) Headquarters with our Captain, and He shows us a better way; He leads us into His kingdom.
Jesus testified to Pilate:
My kingdom is not of this world.
We might think He meant His kingdom didn't exist on earth yet, and will come sometime in the future (perhaps during the Millennium?) ― but that can't be because when the Pharisees demanded to know when the kingdom of God was going to show up (as if they were waiting for tickets to a Taylor Swift concert to go on sale at Ticketmaster.com before the bots of Gog and Magog snatched them all up) Jesus answered:
The kingdom of God cometh not with observation . . . . The kingdom of God is within you.
Jesus was saying the kingdom of God had already come; it is here! In hell.
Imagine it! Doesn't this blow our mind? Here in the bowels of hell His light shines; in darkness a holy temple erected from wood and iron and blood; and to us, prisoners of death and hell, Christ came! He came! To rescue us out of the pit.
But no one recognized Christ's kingdom because, I guess, in hell we are all seemingly blind; everything around us is organized in the form of the telestial: religions and nations and corporations (things cast in concrete by Babylon's construction crews).
That's our challenge: discerning the kingdom of God in our midst, among us, when it is NOT in our traditional hierarchies and parliaments and councils; all of our churches are "corrupt" in the sense, and to the extent, they exercise unrighteous dominion.
But the kingdom is real. It is only invisible ("cometh not by observation") to those who are looking in the wrong places, thinking God's kingdom will resemble a worldly church (which shows us that we're as misguided as the Jews who looked for a political deliverer in the Messiah rather than the Christ-child who came meek and lowly, to serve and not rule).
If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.
You see, if Jesus's servants behaved like a "kingdom of this world" should, His followers would use force; they would "fight!"
If His kingdom were of this world, then we would take up arms, amassing navies and armies and hundreds of billions of dollars with which to exert our dominion upon this planet, engaged in righteous crusades, trusting in the arm of flesh and in our own strength, sleeping as bedfellows with Mammon and her concubinage.
Why do we pretend we're the same as the primitive Church, when Jesus's word clearly shows we're not?
How Many Members of The Church of Jesus of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Are There? (Surprise: Just one)
Whenever someone quotes membership statistics for the Church, please take it with a grain of salt.
Earlier this month, after the SEC scandal (in which the federal government fined the Church for creating 13 shell corporations to prevent disclosure of its assets), the Church released a new Gospel Topics Essay called "Church Finances."
So I went to Nate Oman's article and read it. And, because I'm the kind of person who reads footnotes, I want to draw your attention to Footnote 164 of Nate's article, which states:
"In 2019, the Corporation of the President was merged into the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop, which has been renamed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Church President Russell M. Nelson became the new incumbent of the corporation.… The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a legal matter remains a corporation sole, meaning that as of 2019 it has but a single member, Church president Russell M. Nelson.”
So officially (legally-speaking) there is only one member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and it isn't us.
The rest of us, I guess, are just Mormons.
Support Your Local Sheriff
During my professional career I've come to believe that in most aspects of civil government, he or she who governs closest to the people governs best.
I mean, you can call up Bobby (your town mayor) and complain about public policy; maybe even effect some change through public service; but I doubt President Joe Biden will take our call (there are way too many Secret Service agents for any of us to get close).
The question we should be asking is does this same principle apply to godly government?
Is the Bishop (who knows our name and sees our situation in real-time, on the ground, and who is animated by personal love for us as his neighbors) or the Prophet (who is able to see the wide-reaching global impact of Church policies but who does not know us personally) better suited to attend to our spiritual shepherding?
The Lord didn't issue executive orders from the heavenly White House; He got out among the people, becoming one of us; He lived His life fully human and knows exactly what it is like to be in our shoes.
This should inform our understanding as to why Christ requires no middle-men (2 Ne. 9:41). Of all the sickening creeds of men, "Return-and-Report" has always struck me as particularly perverse: a form of corporate delegation that removes the Father's personal touch.
Why does God call us by His own voice, by name, and encourage us to approach the throne of grace boldly? Why does God want us to pray and personally speak with Him and receive wisdom from Him, straight from the firehose of eternity's bosom?
You see, once we've put the hierarchy and corporate structure of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints under a microscope, comparing it to God's celestial kingdom, we discover something alarming.
Our kingdom is of man and men, not God. By representing our Church as God's, but acting contrary to His word, it is not only regrettable, but actively mocks God (my patriarchal blessing warns me to not mock God, so I really do take this seriously).