Wisdom of Men

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O That I Could Just Fix Everything in the Whole World

I was reading Alma chapter 29 recently and I thought I’d share some observations that I think are particularly relevant to today’s world.

I love how you can keep coming back to scripture to find new things. As we age, mirrors reveal changes, but the mirror does not change, we do.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed that one cannot step twice into the same river [1], so perhaps one cannot read the same scripture twice. Additional knowledge, insights and understanding gained through time and experience cause previously bland verses to come to life in new and exciting ways.

Alma 29 begins with a ponderous Alma wishing that he could change the world in a dramatic way.

1 O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!

2 Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

Remember that this is the Alma who was called to repentance by an angel who spoke with a voice that shook the earth [2]. Alma had this incredible experience and feels that perhaps others would respond in the same way if they experienced the same thing. In a way, we do the same thing when we Read Full Post

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Korihor, Elsa, Cain, and Karl

What if we modernized Korihor’s philosophies and compared them to the kinds of things we hear people saying today?

For morning study a couple days ago, I started off reading about the sons of Mosiah but then felt like reading about Korihor. As I read, I had my trusty 1828 Dictionary app out to further analyze the words Joseph Smith used to translate Korihor’s ideas. Then, I looked in a modern dictionary to discern how his theories might be composed by someone presenting the same arguments today.

This exercise revealed a very familiar-sounding rhetoric. I also began to think about song lyrics from the movie Frozen (because I have 3 daughters) that reminded me of some words Cain spoke, and then all of it together reminded me of something Karl Marx wrote; all from pondering Korihor’s doctrines.

As for my modernized version of Korihor’s ideas, I claim ownership of my interpretations and any errors that I might have made. This is merely a personal exercise, so feel free to go back to the original text in Alma 30 and try this out yourself.

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Lies and Testimony

Every fast and testimony meeting I can’t help but ponder what people mean by what they say. I suppose that only the person themselves really understands what they are trying to do by going up to the stand and speaking. One person might be speaking of real experiences and using better words to express themselves, while another person might be trying to express real yearning and feelings but using the wrong words.

It’s easy to judge the latter person and dismiss their attempts to express themselves. While one could easily point out the errors in their expressions, even to the point of calling them lies, maybe the judgers should take a deep breath and relax a little. I don’t think those people are necessarily lying or deceiving, let’s take a look at what a lie is: Read Full Post

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“They think they are wise…”

“When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves…” 2 Nephi 9:28

  • Does knowledge equal wisdom?
  • When we think we have things figured out on our own, do we pray less or more and for what reasons?
  • What knowledge in this world is worth setting aside a relationship with the one who holds your life in his hands moment to moment?
  • Why would one put more trust in the learning of man versus the wisdom of the revelations of God?

We live in a world where quick answers and quick results are demanded. If a website on a phone takes more than 5 seconds to load we groan with frustration. If traffic slows a little or one person slides in front of us, we are angry. We stare into microwaves waiting the excruciating 60 seconds for our food to cook. Not only do we want things fast, we want them cheaply, we want to obtain them with as little effort on our part as possible. Perhaps a “good deal” seems more valuable than a quality product.

Endurance is overshadowed by convenience; it is cheaper to replace things than to fix them. Rather than reconcile, repair and renew, we discard, destroy and dissolve. How deeply have these cultural philosophies that we practice daily bleed into our spiritual life? Is is any wonder that so many people give up trying to communicate with God and make dramatic life decisions based on what they think or suppose they “know of themselves?”

“Have ye inquired of the Lord?…We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” 1 Nephi 15:8-9

  • What does it mean to “inquire” of the Lord?
  • What are the requirements for “inquiring of the Lord” and how are they different from how we inquire for information in temporal matters?
  • How well do we really know and understand the scriptural pattern for inquiring, asking, seeking and knocking?
  • Do the things of God come as cheaply as the things of this world?
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The Shelf vs. The Garden

shelf-vs-garden

There is a phrase I hear repeated every now and then among members of the church. Typically when there is an issue they come across that challenges their faith, they are able to either reconcile that issue one way or another or remain undecided.

Without the necessary information to arrive at a satisfactory understanding, the person says that, for now, they will put the issue “on the shelf”.

“The shelf” is the proverbial repository for issues that you no longer want to deal with at the moment for whatever reason. You don’t have the time, resources, information or desire to pursue an answer to the question so you “shelf” it.

Here’s why I really dislike this metaphor.

When you put things on shelves all they do is

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Questioning the Comma in Verse 13 of the Word of Wisdom by A. Jane Birch

The following article was published at Mormon Interpreter. I’ve been waiting for someone to do the research and put together some good information on this subject and I think Jane did a great job. She’s the author of the book Discovering the Word of Wisdom which she wrote following her own personal journey toward health and wellness by seeking to follow the principles in D&C 89.

Of all the things going on in the world, the Word of Wisdom might not seem to be very significant, but when the revelation itself states that it is “showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days” and that “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation”, it sounds pretty relevant to us today.

I don’t personally feel like it is my duty or obligation to tell people how they should live the principles of the gospel, but I do believe that giving people as much information as possible so that they can make their own decisions as guided by the spirit is my duty and obligation.


Abstract: The 1921 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants included an additional comma, which was inserted after the word “used” in D&C 89:13: “And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” Later authors have speculated that the addition of the comma was a mistake that fundamentally changed the meaning of the verse. This article examines this “errant comma theory” and demonstrates why this particular interpretation of D&C 89:13 is without merit.

In 1921, a committee of five apostles who had recently completed a new edition of the Book of Mormon began preparing a new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C). Elder James E. Talmage, a member of the committee, noted that previous editions of the D&C contained “many errors by way of omission.”1 The most significant change in this new edition was the removal of the “Lectures on Faith,” but the committee also expanded the headnotes, revised the footnotes, and divided the pages into double columns.2 Numerous smaller changes were also made. As one of the many changes published in the revised 1921 edition, a new comma appeared in verse 13 of section 89, [Page 134]also known as the Word of Wisdom. This comma was inserted between the words used and only:

Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;

And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine. (D&C 89:12–13)

In his detailed analysis of the textual changes throughout the history of the D&C, Robert J. Woodford relates the following interesting story:

It [the comma] was never found in any text prior to the 1921 edition of the D&C. According to T. Edgar Lyon [prominent LDS historian and educator], [Apostle] Joseph Fielding Smith, when shown this addition to the text, said: “Who put that in there?” This is a significant statement since Elder Smith served on the committee to publish that edition of the D&C. Thus, the comma may have been inserted by the printer and has been retained ever since.3

This story supports what has become a very popular interpretation of verse 13, namely, that the inserted comma is a mistake that reverses the meaning of the text and that the true meaning is understood only Read Full Post

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“In this Church, you don’t have to believe anything that isn’t true.”

“I dunno why you always have to be judging me because I only believe in science.” – Esqueleto, Nacho Libre

I love this video, I came across it the other day and it is awesome on so many levels. It was put up on YouTube by Interpreter and if you give it a chance, you’ll hear some really great perspective from some prominent LDS scientists of the day offering some counsel that just as fresh today as it was then.

Accompanying the serious dialogue are a few dramatizations that look like they were right out of an episode of “Leave it to Beaver” which makes the whole thing that much better. I appreciate the fact that this film from around 60 years ago makes more sense than most of what I hear out there today.

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Overcoming Traditions and Preconceived Ideas

“The Latter-day Saints are in many respects like other people who are not Latter-day Saints. We are apt to entertain views which are not very correct, and which may be the result of our traditions and preconceived ideas. This is a peculiarity that pertains to mankind generally, that whenever they deal with the things of God, or speak about them, or contemplate them, and especially when they read the predictions made by the servants of God concerning future events, or events that may transpire right before their eyes, they are apt to get, sometimes, erroneous ideas, or, at least, exaggerated ideas, in relation to them.” – George Q. Cannon, JD 21:264

I have seen the impact of traditions and preconceived ideas in my own experience, and overcoming them has been necessary to growing closer to God. One might assume that we are safe in just sticking with whatever we learn at Church and are taught by our leaders, but Ezra Taft Benson warned:

“Not only are there apostates within our midst, but there are also apostate doctrines that are sometimes taught in our classes and from our pulpits and that appear in our publications. And these apostate precepts of men cause our people to stumble…” (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1949, p. 163, Apr. 1969, p. 11)

Now don’t go throwing the baby out with the bath water, remember that George Q. Cannon observed that this is a peculiarity that pertains to mankind generally. Sometimes we are exposed to false ideas intentionally or unintentionally, but this shouldn’t concern us that much. Part of our mortal experience is seeing whether or not we will put forth the effort to discern light from darkness.

While we should never take lightly the instruction given by the apostles and prophets sent to us, we should remember that the Holy Spirit works in tandem with their words. The key here is a personal relationship with God and eyes and ears that can hear the voice of the Spirit. Everything you put your trust in should be examined in light of the Holy Scriptures and by much pondering and feedback from on high.

Without the Spirit, even Jesus’ preaching is reduced to simple stories about plants, debtors, pearls, lamps, thieves, weddings and sheep.

Personal conversion to actual doctrines of the Gospel and a correct understanding of true principles of the Gospel will bring us closer to God. All ideas should be held up to the light of the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. Some may err in their delivery of the message, we may err in what we thought we heard or in how we interpreted what we heard, but the Spirit transcends the limitations of our language and the deficiency of our perceptions.

Blindly trusting in the philosophies of men, traditions and preconceived ideas, without seeking understanding, will sustain the chasm that stands between us and God making us ripe for extremes and apostasy.

Let’s be honest with ourselves about what we only believe versus what we truly know and have the courage and faith to invest in the path that leads to knowledge. It may require us to confess to ourselves that we only really believe what we merely assumed that we “knew” because we grew up and based our lives upon a tradition.

Put it all to the test; purging your life of erroneous traditions and preconceived ideas is a humbling experience but it is completely worth it!

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The Greater and Lesser Arches

greater-lesser-arches

This week, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published a new gospel topic titled Becoming Like God. Personally, I thought they did a great job with this piece, hit all the right scripture verses, and explained the doctrine very well. Then, down in footnote 22, I found this fantastic observation:

In “The Place of Theosis in Orthodox Theology,” Andrew Louth describes Eastern Orthodoxy as focused on a “greater arch, leading from creation to deification” and feels that Catholic and Protestant theologies have focused on a partial “lesser arch, from Fall to redemption” to the exclusion of that whole (in Christensen and Wittung, Partakers of the Divine Nature, 35).

This observation fits so well with my recent studies concerning salvation vs. exaltation and how these to doctrines Read Full Post

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I know the _______ is true.

Fill in the blank.

Say it back to yourself.

What does it mean?

Traditions are things we repeat; sometimes they’re great, other times they aren’t. It seems to me that as Latter-day Saints, we have a settled into a tradition of using a phrase that has come to embody everything from a blazing witness of truth to an assuring affirmation of belief. On any given 1st Sunday of the month at an LDS Sacrament meeting, you might hear a dozen small children courageously march up to the stand and all say “I know the church is true” – whether they do or not.

We don’t intentionally train them to do this, it just seems to be something that gets passed on. They mimic adults and other kids because they like what they see and want to participate. Maybe because we are unsure of how to explain to children the difference between belief and knowledge, so we just cross our fingers and Read Full Post

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