These words from Joseph Fielding Smith have been a key guide to my own studies over the years:
“STANDARD WORKS JUDGE TEACHINGS OF ALL MEN. It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine.
You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works.
Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it.
If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3:203–204. italics in original)
Personally, I expand the scope of President Smith’s words here to include the writings, speeches, or ideologies of everyone out there and not just church authorities.
There are many philosophies and precepts of men (2 Nephi 28:14,26,30-31) that burst into our awareness through a variety of channels with cheerleaders that demand that these new ideas be recognized immediately by everyone as absolute truths.
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There are 3 things that Jesus taught that enable one to build upon what he called his “rock.”
Building upon his rock is critical to find safety from the floods and winds that cause one to fall and be received into “the gates of hell.” (3 Nephi 11:39-40,14:27,18:13)
The fact that Jesus mentions building upon his rock 3 times in his visit to the ancient American survivors soon after his resurrection should catch our attention. The number 3 is associated with themes such as divine influence or emphasis and structure. When things come in threes, take note because something important is being shared!
1. The Rock of His Doctrine
The first way to build upon the rock of Christ is mentioned in 3 Nephi 11 and is part of the first things that he taught the gathered survivors in Bountiful. Jesus expresses his concern about disputations and contention (3 Nephi 11:29-30) among the people and desires to abolish it by clearly defining what his doctrine is and mentions the phrase “my doctrine” 8 times and “this is my doctrine” 4 times.Read Full Post
Stefan Molyneux is someone that I enjoy listening to for his perspectives on various topics. This was an interesting conversation between Stefan and Dr. Duke Pesta where they are discussing the 10 Commandments and I thought that there were some really interesting points made that Latter-day Saints might find useful.
One of my favorite lines from the video: “When you get rid of the big rules we end up with the tyranny of little rules.”
What is the priesthood? What is the power of the priesthood and how does that work? What is the difference between authority and power?
I come across questions like these regularly from friends, family, at church, and in online forums; I’ve asked myself similar questions throughout the years. After many years of gathering up pieces here and there, I’d like to share some of the things that I have learned thus far.
The answers that I have found are simple in principle, but therein lies the challenge.Read Full Post
On December 31, 2019, the LDS Church will officially unplug from the Boy Scouts of America. Wow, this is pretty historic and something that I wholeheartedly endorse and I’m sure we all saw coming from miles away. I am an Eagle Scout myself and while I acknowledge the tremendous impact for good that the organization has had in the world, I’ve believed for a long time that we could do better for our own people.
Since the changing of the guard, we have the consolidation of the high priests and elders and the discarding Read Full Post
The following is reposted from JRGanymede.com
The Lovely One brought up the idea that Jacob getting the birthright from Isaac by deception was a type of us and Christ. We inherit all that our father hath by assuming our older brother’s identity just like Isaac. Of course what Jacob did was squirrelly and we were discussing whether even the unsavory could be types of Christ. So I brought up Laban. He is a type of Christ too, though wicked.
Bing! The light bulb went on.Read Full Post
One of the most annoying phrases I hear from my kids is “but I thought…” I don’t know where they get these crazy assumptions from like “but I thought we were going to stay up late and eat ice cream,” or “but I thought we were going to have pizza for dinner.” My wife and I usually respond with something like, “Well, why on earth would you think that?”
The sad reality is that I often think it’s like that with us and God. Here’s my favorite example of this “but I thought” mentality from the scriptures:
“Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.” But Naaman was furious and went away and said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:10-13)
Naaman had preconceived ideas that clouded his vision, so much so that he became angry and “went away in a rage.” Do we do the same kind of thing? How about when we pray, what do we expect? Or how about when receiving a blessing, or talking with the Bishop? What about when listening to General Conference talks or studying things past leaders have done/taught/said?
What do we expect? Where did that expectation come from? Is it legitimate or is there another way to see things? I think much of life’s purpose is wrestling with these ideas and finding that sweet spot where light and truth materialize in the most unlikely of places and in the most unlikely of ways; that’s where God seems to like to do his work.
Namaan’s attitude was way off base, but he did the right thing in the end by putting his own ideas aside and trusting God; we can do the same.
I’ve always assumed that this covering of the mouth was referencing abstaining from food or drink. However, a recent reading of Isaiah 58 led me to another potential meaning that I think has important implications.
In Isaiah’s words, we discover God’s people desiring to draw close to him and say, “Why, when we fast, do you not notice? We afflict our bodies and you remain indifferent!” (vs.3*)
They assumed that making themselves hungry and thirsty would earn them God’s attention. Are we the same in that we feel like enduring a lack of food and water is pleasing to God in and of itself? While I do think that strength can be found in the denial of food and water for a time to help build the mind’s ability to subdue the natural man, I think there are other aspects of the principle that we may be ignoring.
The Lord continues: “Your present fasts are not such as to make your voice heard on high. Is this the manner of fasting I have required, just a time for men to torment themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and making one’s bed of sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, a day of Jehovah’s good graces?” (vs.5)
If your fasting is filled with sorrow and self-deprivation then the Lord seems to indicate that you’re doing it wrong. Read Full Post
In Alma 37, Alma the Younger describes the meaning of certain relics to his son, Helaman who is about to come into possession of them.
The Liahona, Interpreters, and Gold Plates were among the items placed in Moroni’s box that was later unearthed by Joseph Smith. Missing from this list is the sword of Laban which I think the Nephites probably possessed their entire history up until Moroni. Why is it not mentioned? I’m not sure but this led me to wonder if the items that were listed had any significance or were related in any way.
Personally, I find Alma to be a very sharp individual and it isn’t uncommon to find many complex layers of meaning in his writings. He presents three particular kinds of relics to Helaman, three sets of metal plates, the Interpreters, and the Liahona. What I took from my latest reading of Alma 37 is the idea that these relics are representative of three essential elements that are necessary to make the best use of scripture: information, interpretation, and inclination.
In his list of items, the Liahona is key because it is a prime illustration of how our own inclinations determine the efficacy of scripture in our lives.
Alma had many records in his possession and he highlighted the plates of Nephi, the plates of brass, and the Jaredite record which consisted of 24 plates of gold. Alma emphasized that it was important to keep a general record of their people for a sacred and wise purpose. The brass plates contained their scripture and genealogy. Not only did the brass plates Read Full Post
“If it hasn’t happened to you—it should.”  That’s what President Ezra Taft Benson had to say about the changing of the human heart and being born of God.
I would argue that if this has not happened in your life, then it should rise immediately to the top of your priority list. You may shrug this off thinking that you have been born of God, but have you? You may shrug this off because deep down you know you have not been but admitting it may make you feel foolish.
Maybe you have been an active member of the LDS church all of your life and you thought you had your bases covered because you’ve participated in all of the ordinances of the gospel. You take your covenant seriously and honestly seek to align your will with God’s.
“…behold, I ask of you, my brethren [and sisters] of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” 
I don’t ask this question to draw out doubts but to increase faith. I’ve observed my fellow saints for years and I have met many that have been born of God and many more who have not. I see people struggle with faith crisis and all manner of difficulties in this world that would be eased or erased if they had been born of God and known of his love and power.
The Lectures on Faith teach clearly that unless members of God’s church “…have an actual knowledge that the course that they are pursuing is according to the will of God, they will grow weary in their minds and faint; … for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty is, there faith is not, nor can it be.” 
If you have not yet been born of God, then your sins have not been forgiven and you have no salvation; that’s not my opinion.Read Full Post
“I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.
This is exactly how I feel about my study of the gospel. It typically goes: simplicity > complexity > simplicity, which I think also correlates with Fowler’s stages of faith, namely: stage 3 > stage 4 > stage 5. I’m thrilled now when I discover complexity because it means that there is something really cool along and at the end of that path. When your simple box falls apart into a complex jumble of pieces, don’t despair, you’ve discovered a path to treasure!
This happened last night when I realized that there were multiple connections between Alma 33 and 37. My brain started going nuts and I took down many notes. It was late though and so I reluctantly put it on hold because I knew I’d be there for hours, I needed my sleep, and because I’ve learned to not trust any of my decisions past 10 pm.
That will be a future blog post for sure – as soon as I navigate through all the complexity I’ve discovered; I can’t wait!
“The claim that “belief aims at truth” was first coined by Bernard Williams (1973)” link
“We are in a very real sense called to support, sustain, teach, and preach the ideal, even when our lives don’t match it, because that ideal is a way God protects all of His children — especially those who would have no way to find it because their lives are so very not-ideal … sometimes for generations on end.” (mormonwoman.org)
Found this quote in my journal and it still rings true. The word “ideal” is a little problematic to me though and strikes me as a little vague.
Whatever we preach as the ideal must be God’s ideals clearly identified as revealed doctrine as principles. LDS cultural norms and popular practices are applications and not doctrines and principles binding upon God’s people. I think that’s an important distinction to make, but I still like the quote.
It is cruel to not teach the truth, even when stones and arrows come flying your way from doing so.
As I pondered the word meaning this morning the phrase “The Power and Paradox of Meaning” popped into my head as a summation of my thoughts.
Our lives each unfold in both expected and unexpected ways. Some things we desired, intended and forced into being while others were undesirable, unintended and nothing could stop them from materializing. These are simple facts about life that we have all observed and experienced in our mortal sojourn.
Whatever transpires, we each do something quite interesting, we assign a meaning to those things; we crave a meaning. When something happens we want to take responsibility or assign responsibility. We want to frame the events in some kind of paradigm so that it fits into our worldview. Ultimately, whatever happens, we want to feel that we have at least some kind of control and we can exercise control by assigning meaning.
Something good happens and we say that God blessed us, something bad happens and we say that God is punishing us. Both could be true in different cases but what is the meaning we decided upon and why? What influences the meaning we assign? An optimist tends to prefer more positive meanings where a pessimist may look for the opposite. This is what I find paradoxical about meaning, it is difficult to nail down. How do we determine what something means? When the ability to assign a meaning escapes us, I think it can cause stress and incredible frustration. An example of this may be the unexpected loss of a loved one or a natural disaster. Why did that happen? Was there a reason for it and who is responsible?
I think that the difficulty in assigning meaning appears to reveal something intriguing about the power of meaning. Could it be that the power to assign meaning is related to our agency and the purpose of life? Perhaps the meaning that we choose to give things is a reflection of our knowledge and intelligence. Or on another level, our ability to assign meaning can be a source of comfort in an otherwise devastating situation.
We can find meaning in our own reasoning, in the world around us, it in the scriptures, and meaning can be revealed to us by God. Still thinking about this. What do you think?
“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)
Great ideas in this presentation, reminds me of Alma 31:5
My friend, Richard N. shared this image with me, and I thought it was fantastic. What is lacking in artistic skill is made up for in composition and message which I will attempt to break down as intricately as I can. The artist is Sr Grace Remington OCSO, a Cistercian Sister of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, Dubuque, Iowa.
Moroni chapter 10 is just excellent in many ways, but I wonder if we are too quick to gloss over some important points.
We love Moroni 10:3-5 and even call it “Moroni’s promise,” and indeed it is a kind of promise. Note that Moroni wrote chapter 10 to a specific audience: “I write unto my brethren, the Lamanites…” (vs.1) The title page of the Book of Mormon says that it is “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile…” so I think this ‘promise’ can also apply to anyone else in that same sense.
Typically, I see people focusing on verses 4 and 5 which deal with praying and receiving an answer.
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
What they tend to gloss over is the importance of verse 3 which contains additional conditions that must be met to ‘know the truth’ of the Book of Mormon.
“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.”
The first line is interesting, and I think I’ve read it wrong forever. Typically when I readRead Full Post
My father asked me to put a video together for their ward to help get people into the Christmas spirit and turn their thoughts to the Savior. As I was assembling images, I thought to myself how important it is to consider who exactly was born.
I decided to start the video with some edited clips from the beautiful creation sequence from the movie The Tree of Life. Then, I looked for unique images that I had never seen before (along with some familiar ones). There is some fantastic artwork out there, and this is a unique way to enjoy and share it. The music is Stille Nacht (Silent Night), a classic from Mannheim Steamroller. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!
I was reading the words that Helaman taught to his sons, Nephi and Lehi and noticed some potential patterns. Helaman appears to have taught many things to his sons but we only have a few of these words recorded in Helaman 5:6-12. Whether these patterns were intended or not is unknown. Literary patterns breathe life into mere words by incorporating techniques that produce vivid imagery and emotional effects. Chiasmus is a tool used to draw attention to a particular point or theme and there appears to be some use of it by Helaman.
Usually when I see a word repeated many times or patterns of identical or contrasting text I stop and widen my scope to see if there is a pattern and how far it extends. It certainly causes me to spend more time with a particular section of text whether or not any legitimate literary patterns are being used or not. We don’t know for sure what the author was thinking and some of these patterns may just be coincidental. Nevertheless, they can provide an interesting way of playing with the text and examining the message.Read Full Post
A few quotes have been on my mind lately. The first is from Hugh Nibley:
“History is all hindsight; it is a sizing up, a way of looking at things. It is not what happened or how things really were, but an evaluation. . . . The modern college teaches us, if nothing else, to accept history on authority. Yet at the end of his life the great [historian] Eduard Meyer . . . marveled that he had always been most wrong where he thought he was most right, and vice versa.” (Temple and Cosmos, 440)
The second from Confucius:
“If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”
The third from Joseph Smith:
“Oh Lord God deliver us in thy due time from the little narrow prison almost as it were [total] darkness of paper pen and ink and a crooked broken scattered and imperfect language.” JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, p. 4.
The fourth is from Brigham Young:
“I do not believe that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fulness. The revelations of God contain correct doctrine and principle, so far as they go; but it is impossible for the poor, weak, low, grovelling, sinful inhabitants of the earth to receive a revelation from the Almighty in all its perfections. He has to speak to us in a manner to meet the extent of our capacities.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:314)
If revelations are not perfect, then what does that say about what we call “history?” I believe that many of the problems we encounter with history, scripture, and the written or spoken word, in general, is the inabilityRead Full Post