Friday, June 27, 2014

Seek Not to Counsel Your God

I am disturbed by several things I am hearing and seeing regarding the degradation of faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I feel compelled to speak up. And again, I am sorry this is long. My posts are always long… we lawyer types must like to talk.

If it sounds like I’m being judgmental, I am. And it’s OK. We SHOULD be judgmental of some things. The scriptures teach us to know people “by their fruits” (Matt 7:20), and how to judge righteously (Moroni 7:16-19). We must judge some things in order to protect ourselves from false doctrines, evil-designing people, and other spiritual hazards. In making these judgments, I am focusing on things, not necessarily people.

Several people, including some who are close to me, are losing their faith over non-spiritual, trivial matters. Others are losing their testimonies of the gospel because they have succumbed to the philosophies of modern liberalism in our society, rather than following God.

As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland so accurately stated, these people are “creating God in [their] own image.” (General Conference, April 2014)

Before discussing the specific issues, I would like to state that the solution to the problem is the same in all cases: People have abandoned the value of spiritual confirmation in deference to worldly evidence. Throughout the scriptures, the Lord has emphasized the importance of receiving a witness of truth by the power of the Holy Ghost, and not by other means alone.

People who were once active and (seemingly) converted members of the church are now seeking for signs to refute the visual evidence they embrace. The Lord taught that faith never follows signs, but that signs follow the exercise of faith.

Faith is wavering for many people. Something about the wisdom of the world has caused people to doubt their beliefs. If that faith had been built on spiritual experiences that cannot be denied, on the trial of our faith followed by the commensurate blessings, I wouldn’t be writing this post.

I read the comment recently that “Ignorance is the prerequisite of faith.” I disagree. That definition is technically impossible. It seems to be an attempt to marginalize and minimize spiritual answers. The scriptural definitions of faith include: ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ (Hebrews 11:1), and ‘not a perfect knowledge of things’, but a ‘hope for things which are not seen which are true (Alma 32:21). A person cannot have faith in anything if they are ignorant of it. They must know what it is they believe in.

The problem is that ‘faith’ is shifting away from spiritual witnesses to tangible, worldly evidence. People are putting their trust the world and its wisdom more than they are trusting God. And because they are losing their sensitivity to spiritual promptings in this way, they move further away from the truth they seek, without even realizing it.

Moroni taught that ‘by the power of the Holy Ghost, [we] may know the truth of all things’ (Moroni 10:5). The Savior taught that the Holy Ghost would testify of Him, and would bring all things to our remembrance that He has commanded us (John 14:26, 15:26).

I feel blessed that I have had a lot of trials in my life. They have given me the opportunity to humble myself before the Lord, do things His way instead of fight him or try to ‘outsmart’ Him with the world’s wisdom. They have given me the chance to try His promises… to exercise my faith in humility, and see the blessings come. And they have come. Plentifully. So many times and so consistently that I could not deny my faith now. I have said I am a lot like Jacob when he was confronted by Sherem. With the exception of seeing angels, I think that Jacob 7:5 describes me pretty well.

Depth of faith is required to withstand the distractions that Satan is bombarding us with. A shallow testimony that is not built on exercise, where we have been tried and tested and blessings have followed, cannot endure long.  

Now down to the nitty gritty:

Either you believe that God is your loving Heavenly Father or you don’t. You believe that Jesus Christ is your Savior, or you don’t. As a Latter-Day Saint, you either believe that the Book of Mormon is a book of scripture along with the Holy Bible, or you don’t. And if you believe that the Book of Mormon is true, then it follows that you believe that Joseph Smith Jr. was God’s instrument (prophet) in translating it and bringing it to the world. If you don’t believe these very basic tenets, then the rest doesn’t matter. We’ve identified the problem. Go no further.

All other issues are ancillary to these core beliefs. If you struggle with women having the priesthood or not, or whether Joseph Smith had multiple wives and was wrong for doing so, or anything else that might imply imperfections in the people of the church, it does not need to shake your entire faith if you have previously developed a solid testimony of the core doctrines. If these issues do shake your faith, then your foundation was weak to begin with. Asking questions and praying about some things is appropriate. We all have questions about things. Having questions about doctrinal issues that bother us is not discouraged in this church. What is important is how we try to obtain an understanding.

Something happened on my mission that really bothered me. I got through it. I got a priesthood blessing, and not long after that I understood. The difference here is that I didn’t run to the world and its secular views, or anti-Mormon sources, to get my satisfaction. I didn’t join a support group full of other people who also refuse to turn directly to the Lord for help but are wanting to do things their own way. I went to the Lord. I prayed. I studied. I got a priesthood blessing to help me understand things through the Spirit. It worked.

I love the example that Nephi set when he struggled with the decision his father Lehi made to leave Jerusalem by commandment from the Lord:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” (1 Nephi 2:16, emphasis added)

Those who will do what Nephi did, with sincerity and humility, will get the same result. Those who look elsewhere because they don’t have the faith to trust the Lord will get their satisfaction elsewhere. That’s a natural result that comes as no surprise.

Someone I know said that ‘a testimony helps people look past the facts.’ I disagree. A testimony doesn’t ‘help us look past facts’, assuming those statements referred to are even facts at all.  A lot of false information is posed as ‘fact’. A real testimony built on diligently seeking the truth for oneself, through study, prayer and obedience to God’s commandments, and then seeing the blessings after the trial of our faith, does allow us to consider issues and information without it having to shake the very foundation of our beliefs. That is part of what I believe Christ referred to when he gave the parable of the sower:

“5 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.
6 And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.
8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
9 And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be?
10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.
11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches andpleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:5-15)

Where we are personally on this spectrum is up to us to determine, but if we are questioning our entire faith and abandoning core values over things like women and the priesthood or gay marriage or anthropology, and unable to hold onto spiritual witnesses given to us by God, then we certainly are not ‘those that fell on good ground’ according to this parable. Those that fell on good ground reconciled their concerns the way Nephi did… directly and humbly with the Lord, and not with worldly statistics, secondary literature or outside support groups. Those who follow Nephi’s example are the ones I would say fell on ‘good ground’.

I am hearing of attempts to ‘prove’ the validity of the LDS faith through census statistics, books written by independent authors, scientific evidence of unproven theories, and the like. A spiritual reality such as the existence of God or the truthfulness of the LDS faith cannot be proven through worldly means. It’s a total waste of time, and those who attempt this get further away from it as they get wrapped up in the wisdom of the world. They get further away from believing they can trust God to provide their answers. So they continue to look elsewhere… census data, support groups, or whatever. Instead of going to their Heavenly Father, they look to other sources. And they have their reward… the wisdom of the world instead of Him who created all things. The more they search the world for answers about God and His kingdom without first putting their trust in a divine witness, the weaker they become spiritually.

Spiritual things cannot be understand by worldly pursuit without including God and the witness of the Holy Ghost.

"11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:11-14)

So when we don’t get the answers we want… what do we do? Do we keep looking for what we want? Or do we finally humble ourselves and turn back to the Lord? The latter is apparently very hard to do once a person has traveled the worldly path for a while.

We cannot obtain spiritual knowledge on our own terms. It is always on God’s terms. But that knowledge will come to all who will humble themselves and do things the Lord’s way. I am sure of that. I believe those blessings will come dependably and consistently as we do it His way. It is no different than a scientific experiment. If a nuclear physicist wants to split an atom, he cannot dictate the terms of the experiment and expect success. He cannot say he’ll only accelerate the atom to a certain speed, etc. Likewise, we cannot dictate the terms upon which the Lord reveals spiritual knowledge to us, or blesses us according to our obedience. We’ll be disappointed if we assume such foolishness.

“ 31 Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled?
32 I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing.
33 Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above.” (D&C 58:31-33)

The ‘Ordain Women’ movement is nothing short of apostasy by those who want God to recreate His divine, eternal governing structure to fit their fleeting liberal feelings. To hear some of these supporters proclaim that they are active, committed LDS members is preposterous.

One of two things must be true here: Either these supporters believe that the women/priesthood issue is a policy created by the church itself, and that it is not of God, and that He is not in charge. Or they believe that they can persuade God to change His eternal structure for the salvation of His children, something that has been working beautifully for eternity.

If they are trying to get God to change his eternal doctrine, may I refer all to the last verse in D&C 22:

Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your God. Amen.” (D&C 22:4)


It is clear that followers of the Ordain Women movement do not accept the Lord’s revealed doctrine as it now exists. They apparently don’t accept the president of the Church as a prophet, seer and revelator, because he’s not revealing to them what they want to hear. They side with an organization that is diametrically opposed to the divine nature and calling of women, not just in the church but in the eternities. Therefore, they have distanced themselves from the influence of the Holy Ghost and from worthiness to enter the temple and receive those additional blessings. Perhaps in their state of being influenced by worldly views, they no longer value the Gift of the Holy Ghost or temple attendance.

Kate Kelly (the organizer behind the Ordain Women movement) is not a martyr because she got excommunicated. She is an apostate. And she’s trying to take others down with her. And sadly, many people who should know better are following her.  She has since expressed her determination to keep up her effort to change the Lord’s eternal system of family and government. Ms. Kelly might be a fine person in all other aspects. But in this context, she is an adversary to the truth of God. Satan is using her to dismantle the faith of some, and to destroy families. The destructive power she is exercising needs to be recognized for what it is.

This is not an issue of the Church being unrighteously oppressive toward women or anyone else. This is an issue of God’s eternal family and government structure, one that has been proven to work since the beginning of His kingdom, and people wanting Him to change it to fit their own philosophies.

Isaiah was right on:

“9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord:
10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
11 Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” (Isaiah 30:9-11)

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was also right on:

“Sadly enough, my young friends, it is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds.

Talk about man creating God in his own image! Sometimes—and this seems the greatest irony of all—these folks invoke the name of Jesus as one who was this kind of “comfortable” God. Really? He who said not only should we not break commandments, but we should not even think about breaking them. And if we do think about breaking them, we have already broken them in our heart. Does that sound like “comfortable” doctrine, easy on the ear and popular down at the village love-in?” (General Conference, April 2014)

When we embrace the liberal philosophies of the world, whether it be about women and the priesthood, or gay marriage, or women wearing pants to church to be equal to men (remember that one?), or all worthy male members of the church receiving the priesthood, we are showing that we care more about those philosophies than pleasing God. We show that we trust the world more than we trust God. In effect, we are choosing another god in place of the One who created us and who is our Father.

Satan can make worldly philosophies appear to be sensible. That is where the Gift of the Holy Ghost is so important. The power of discernment that is part of that gift is critical to our being able to avoid pitfalls like this.

The ‘support’ websites for people who struggle with their faith are not helpful in genuinely returning to the church. Rather, they manufacture even more justifications for dissident views, and a latent further distancing from the influence of the Holy Ghost. They are populated by others who lack the faith to approach God, and the desire and humility to do things His way.  

In the book of First Nephi in the Book of Mormon, when Lehi was taking his family out of Jerusalem in 600 B.C. and going… they didn’t yet know where… Laman and Lemuel rebelled… they whined and sniveled. They questioned their authority figure, their father, who happened to be a prophet of God. They beat up their younger brother (Nephi) who didn’t agree with their rebellion. They even threatened their own parents on the ship if they even verbalized support for Nephi.

But what did Nephi do during this time? He went to the Lord for his answers. He didn’t rebel. He didn’t go find a support group of fellow strugglers who were trying to find a sugar-coated, roundabout way to reconcile instead of doing what they should have and turn directly to their God. He didn’t publicly whine and murmur and criticize. He did it right. He went right to the source. Again I quote:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” (1 Ne. 2:16)

I remember reading an article right after the 2012 general election entitled “Nine Mormon Women who Voted for Obama.” Before I share my summary of this article, I want to reiterate the Church’s position at election time. They do not support a particular party or candidate. But the Church must, and does, take positions with moral issues, including political issues that are at odds with God’s will for His children. There are good people in all political parties, and some good ideas in all. But modern moral conservatism and modern liberalism blur their boundaries between the parties. It is a usual practice for the Church to send a letter to each ward and branch in the United States to be read at election time, basically reminding the members to do their civic duty and vote for those candidates and propositions/laws that will aid in righteousness and in furthering the Lord’s kingdom on earth. So why were these nine LDS women so proud that they voted against a former church missionary, former stake president, a deeply spiritual man in the Lord’s kingdom, and a proven financial success both in business and in government, who clearly puts family first and has Church principles at his core… and instead voted for someone who clearly opposes financial responsibility, personal accountability, liberty, morality, the sanctity of human life at birth, and the pure rights granted under our God-ordained Constitution? My simple answer is because they followed the ‘wisdom’ of the world rather than God. They believed what they heard in the mainstream media rather than understanding that through the power of the Holy Ghost they could know  the truth of what each candidate stood for and who would be best according to the Lord’s desires for the people of this nation, and particularly members of the LDS church. In short, they demonstrated their spiritual weakness, and they seem to be proud of it. Another example of abandoning a spiritual witness, and instead trusting the world and its wisdom.

President Boyd K. Packer said:
“Enos, who was “struggling in the spirit,” said, “Behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind.” (Enos 1:10; italics added.) While this spiritual communication comes into the mind, it comes more as a feeling, an impression, than simply as a thought. Unless you have experienced it, it is very difficult to describe that delicate process.
The witness is not communicated through the intellect alone, however bright the intellect may be.
“The natural man,” Paul told us, “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:13–14.)
Recently the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles issued a statement alerting members of the Church to the dangers of participating in circles which concentrate on doctrine and ordinances and measure them by the intellect alone.
If doctrines and behavior are measured by the intellect alone, the essential spiritual ingredient is missing, and we will be misled.
Personal testimony is confirmed to us initially and is reaffirmed and enlarged thereafter through a harmonious combining of both the intellect and the spirit.” (General Conference, October 1991)

In summary, there is no other way to gain and keep a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with all that goes along with it, without the witness of the Holy Ghost. I believe it is impossible to maintain that testimony without continued exercise of it, by putting the Lord to the test. We need to exercise that faith and see the blessings come. All the wisdom in the world will not convince anyone of the truthfulness of God’s work. But when a person has been through the “refiner’s fire” and has seen the blessings time and again, perhaps hundreds of times, there is a spiritual witness with depth that all the wisdom in the world cannot refute. And there are millions of people in the world who have such depth because of the exercise of their faith, who will not succumb to the absurdity that is at the core of the Ordain Women movement and other satanic attempts to incite apostasy. I wonder what will come next… Satan is clever.