Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Awake and Arise: Obtaining Promised Priesthood Blessings

"..the bringing in of a better hope; by the which we draw nigh unto God..."

An individual whose heart is hardened cannot make the necessary sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit that will enable him/her to lay hold upon the promised blessings.

Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness (probation), and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God (the purpose of the gospel-reconnecting directly to God, which Moses had already experienced) even the Father, and live. Notice that Moses plainly taught them. The problem wasn't their misunderstanding of doctrine, but in Israel's unwillingness to be sanctified and ascend the mount to meet God face to face. The fiery mount frightened them-they could not endure God's presence because of their hardened condition, voluntarily cutting themselves off from further light and knowledge, and the opportunity of entering into his rest, or the fulness of his glory.

One of the underlying messages gleaned from this account is that God intends that every individual ascends for a personal experience, personal knowledge, personal reconnection and communion with the divine.."by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil.." (Hebrews 10:20).

Partaking of the Heavenly Gift: Faith Transitions to Knowledge

The Lord's visit to the Nephites included a one on one opportunity for each person that was present to feel the prints of the nails in his hands and feet. The brother of Jared also received this personal ministration-that this man might know that he was God. A kingdom of priests is not comprised of one man's connection to heaven but of each individual's connection to heaven.."for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, know ye the Lord; for all shall know Him from the least to the greatest.."

Section 84 reminds us that "the Father teacheth him of the covenant" of sonship. "The Lord hath sworn..thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Psalm 110:4). Consider these following steps:
  • Holding fast our profession (obedience)
  • Come boldly to the throne of grace (sacrifice)
  • Enter into his rest, obtain saving knowledge (being redeemed from the fall)
  • Oath and covenant of the priesthood (obtained from the Father)

Moroni's Discourse on Knowledge, Grace, and Miracles

" faith all things are fulfilled..."

Like Paul, Moroni touches on multiple doctrinal concepts while elaborating on the heavenly gift. Chief among these is the power of faith. He uses some key words that help us understand what he is teaching: surety (in the promises given by God), a more excellent hope (received by actual knowledge that God has extended eternal promises to you, i.e., calling and election.
  • believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, even at the right hand of God
  • an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast
  • prepared a way that thereby others might be partakers of the heavenly gift
  • In the gift of his Son hath God prepared a more excellent way

Monday, April 21, 2014

Categorizing Mormons: A Review of Richard Poll's Thesis on Membership Grouping


Richard Poll, a former history professor at BYU, gave a talk in August of 1967 entitled "What the Church Means to People Like Me" in which he outlines his thesis which categorizes church members into one of two groups called "Iron Rods" (IR) and "Liahonas" (LH). He describes these groups as "two distinct types of active and dedicated Latter-day Saints..deeply committed to the gospel but also prone to misgivings about the legitimacy, adequacy, or serviceability of the commitment of the other."

Iron Rods and Liahonas

He defines IR as members characterized by having a hand on the rod in which "each step of the journey to the tree of life is plainly defined.." and by holding on they would move forward..."the way is not easy, but it is clear." Let me here interject by adding that this is already a faulty framework that he continues to use, namely, that the group accepts the journey as being difficult but at least it is "clear." I'm willing to entertain the metaphor and not take it too literally, but Poll makes a point of emphasizing clarity as a distinct feature of this group. Moreover, I'm unsure if he is suggesting that this is also the same for the group described in Lehi's vision, which in the scriptural account nowhere mentions that the group saw clearly while holding to the rod. Quite the contrary, they safely navigated and remained on the strait and narrow path by holding (faith) to the rod (the Word of God) precisely because they weren't able to see clearly through the mist of darkness. (1 Nephi 8:30) The strait and narrow path is not a moving walkway or auto-walk where all that is required is to get on and then expect to travel expeditiously. Coming to know God is a life long pursuit of consecrated discipleship.

This is also reminiscent of the parable of the ten virgins: "for they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived.."(D&C 45:57) Please notice that they didn't take their bishop or any man for their guide. Those who worship (in one form or another) their leaders are missing the mark in concentrating their efforts in praising the ones who merely teach and point to the One who truly saves. Worshiping church leaders, whether local or at a general level is one of the most pervasive idolatries of our time. God is a personal being. He will answer. The question is whether or not we have the faith and patience to wait. Those who partook of the fruit relied upon the sure Word of God (Christ), being able to trust and exercise faith in Him because of His integrity and perfections. There's no hidden agenda with the Lord to exploit us, but He will refine us. His express purpose, plan, and work is centered in glorifying the Father by exalting mankind. We can rely on His grace and power and not the "arm of flesh." (This coincidently is troublesome for some members of the church who misinterpret institutional worship, traditions, and observance with a personal relationship with the Savior, i.e., worshiping the institution and its leaders versus Christ-centered discipleship.

Poll also states that IR do "not look for questions, but for answers, and in the gospel as they understand it, they find or are finding the answer to every important question." In contrast, LH are "preoccupied with questions and skeptical of answers..they find in the gospel, as they understand it, answers to enough important questions so they can function purposefully without answers to the rest..the fundamental difference between them [IR and LH] lies is the concept of the relation of man to the word of is a difference in meaning assigned to the concept of the fulness of the gospel..does God give us a handrail or a compass?" Poll goes on to describe LH as members who are symbolically characterized by the imagery of a compass which "points to the destination, but does not fully mark out the path..not an infallible delineator of their course.." He also states that IR view a "questioning attitude "as suggestive of "imperfect faith." Again, I'm unsure of what Poll is actually suggesting. It seems that he views IR as having perfect faith (which is actual knowledge) or that they condescendingly view the "questioning" as a debilitating weakness in the other group. The specification of what is being questioned would help to fully understand what he is attempting to convey. He adds that LH see "an unquestioning spirit" as indicative of or "betokens a closed mind." This again is somewhat vague.

I get the feeling that Poll is reluctant to say all that he wants to say, however, he does mention that IR might say that the problem with LH is that they are "so preoccupied with certain problems..and attribute that preoccupation to an insufficiency of faith." He continues, "as a LH I must resist the attribution, though I cannot deny the preoccupation." Has God said there is condemnation for those that struggle with their faith? Is he not aware of the problems that false traditions have caused over the course of the unfolding restoration? Would God tell you to disregard your questions, keep quiet, and get in line with the rest? He answers prayers and is willing to address all our concerns in his own timing. He does not want us to be a product off the assembly line, but he will change our hearts (Alma 5:12-15) if we allow him to. He also relates that "some of the most prominent IR in the church are on the BYU faculty." One senses that perhaps Poll felt ostracized at BYU because he didn't conform or share the same views held by his colleagues. That would indeed be difficult, and perhaps he feels marginalized or even guilty for not sharing the same sentiment or gospel perspective. One group is NOT better than the other for "..he inviteth all to come unto him and partake of his goodness..and he denieth none that come unto him.." for "all are alike unto God.."(2 Nephi 26:33) Many members of the church may feel guilty, ashamed, or marginalized because they do not share some of the opinions or views held by others, but are nevertheless strong in testimony, equally converted, and just as committed to living the gospel as their counterparts. 

Conversion and the Quest for Christ

Doctrine does not change, unlike church policies. How do we reconcile discrepancies in the faith we espouse? We must have a correct perspective as to what the purpose of the church is. The church is the starting point in which we're introduced to the ordinances of salvation. It has a purpose in preparing the mind and heart for further light and knowledge, but is not an end in and of itself. It prepares the disciple for the saving knowledge made possible through the Holy Ghost that leads to knowing the Savior. No, not knowing about him, but knowing him personally. He desires this. That is the ultimate purpose. Christ is at the end of the strait and narrow path, he is "the keeper of the gate"and he "employeth no servant there." (2 Nephi 9:41) Choosing institutional intermediaries over God himself is a recurring spiritual malady that prevents access to the One who saves. The children of Israel forfeited priesthood power and the opportunity of entering into the rest of the Lord because they refused the invitation to know the Lord by choosing to keep Moses as an intermediary. Consequently, they were left with limitations in only having the preparatory gospel. The church provides the introductory lessons and then it is incumbent upon the individual rise up. It also has the authoritative rites that enable us to be born again through the ordinances and to come to know Christ, that at last we may be "clasped in the arms of Jesus.." (Mormon 5:11) That eventually He "may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven.." (Mosiah 5:15) Through temple worship we have the honor of redeeming the dead and learning the process of re-entering into the presence of the Father. The church also grants us as a body of believers the opportunity to serve and strengthen each other. When an individual is "redeemed from the fall" (Ether 3:13) they are enlisted to help others come and partake of the fruit of the tree of life also. Christ is the tree of life, who's fruit (blessings of the atonement) is the most "joyous to the soul."
Moroni extends this invitation: "..I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written.." (Ether 12:41)