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Monday, January 30, 2012

26: The Cunning Methods of the Adversary

Saturday night, my wife and I went to the stage adaptation of C.S. Lewis’, The Screwtape Letters. For those not familiar with this book, it is based on a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior “tempter” named Wormwood. The letters contain “professional” advise on methods of securing damnation of a man known only as “the Patient”.
Here are a few of the methods as outlined in the letters that we might see being used on us today.

• “Indeed the safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

• “If you can once get him (the Patient)  to the point of thinking that 'religion is all very well up to a point,' you can feel quite happy about his soul."

• "watering down the faith to make it easier for a supposedly incredulous and hardheaded congregation”

Despite Wormwood valiant attempts of implementing methods to tempt and lead the Patient astray,  the man remains valiant to Christ and is taken up into heaven.

In thinking about what to share from the Screwtape Letters, I just received an email that I felt was very important to send out for others to read. The author of the following would prefer to remain anonymous. I think the adversary and his minions are alive and well in using his tactics on us, the “patients” in this world.  Nephi prophesies of us in these latter days when he says, “they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men. 2 Nephi 28:14.

Follow the Savior:

Culturally we’ve been molded in recent generations to fasten our eyes and eternal hope upon mere men rather than upon God and upon His Son who paid the price of salvational acquittal, and ransomed our freedom Himself. Somehow these singular and cosmically profound salvational acts have been given perfunctory position and superficial status, set off to the side, or reserved for closing remarks, in favor of clichĂ© platitudes of men for other men.

Popular, though ill conceived cultural rhymes which are taught to our children, ingrain such erroneous thinking at an early age, and unless checked, these can form lifelong habits unmerited by scripture or doctrine or reason. One family’s course correction attuned the hearts of their children to the proper polestar of our lives as they would sing, “Follow the Savior.”
Those of us living in these times where mankind has lost its direction and cannot see afar off, would do well to check our own course and adjust our compass as necessary. We live in a time of mortal hero worship where men are placed upon pedestals and podiums, lauded for their seeming extraordinary service, forgetting that the servant of all spoke of Himself in the lowliest of terms.
These sacramental words come to mind; “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”

Why then do we not talk of Christ, rejoice in Christ, preach of Christ, prophesy of Christ, and write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins? Rather, we hear more and more insipid banality of men and the acts of men.

One of the greatest caveats of caution ever spoken were these words: “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but few are chosen.”

Few choose in indeed. As for me and my house, we will follow the Savior!


—Anonymous
January 29, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

25: A FINE SANCTUARY: The Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Last year marked the 100 year anniversary of this elegant  LDS Church Memorial Building that is located east of and overlooks the Salt Lake Temple. This prominent location was previously the site of the Bishop’s Tithing Office. In 1911, the tithing office was moved, and the finest hotel in the Intermountain West, known as the “the Grande Dame of Hotels” was built. After two years of construction and a 2 million dollar price tag, the building was completed on June 9, 2011 with the cooperative effort of church and business leaders.   

Most are unaware that the largest and finest bar in the West was built in the basement of the Hotel to pay off the $2M construction loan. The financing was secured by Presiding Bishop Charles W. Nibley from New York financier Charles Baruch.  The terms of financing  required the sales of hard liquor. When informed of the need to sell alcoholic beverages, “President Joseph F Smith went through the ceiling. Which was it to be? the word of Wisdom or fiscal soundness?”…. The dollar won.” (Hugh Nibley, "Approaching Zion", p. 470. Deseret Book 1989). An unfortunate compromise.



In order to maintain the eloquence and beauty, the Hotel Utah underwent a massive remodeling in the 1970’s that was projected to cost $6 million, but actually exceeded $15 million at completion. Two and half times overbudget.  In the late 80’s and early 90’s, the Church undertook another major remodeling project to change the hotel into a retail and multi-use church building including adding an LDS meeting house and chapel.  The cost was undisclosed.  On the anniversary of the martyrdom of the Prophet, The Joseph Smith Memorial Building was rededicated on June 27, 1993. It was President Gordon B Hinckley who chose the name of the building when he observed that there were many monuments to pioneer leader and Utah founder Brigham Young but none to Joseph Smith.

Inside the building are the following features:
  • Three dining restaurants: Two upscale restaurants, The Roof (range of $30-60 dollars a plate) and The Garden which are both on the top floor, providing views of the Temple; and the Nauvoo CafĂ© on the main floor.
  • Many banquet and conference rooms that can be rented out for wedding receptions or dinners.
  • A gift shop.
  • Church Meetinghouse and Chapel for LDS church services on Sunday.
  • Offices for the bishops and other church leaders.
  • The Legacy Theater,  a 500 seat theatre with an IMAX sized screen where the public can enjoy inspirational church-produced movies including the Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration.  
  • The Family Search center, where the public can use the provided computers and materials to do family history research and genealogy.
  • Church headquarters office for Public Affairs and Family History.



      This week I took my family to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building to see the new version of the Joseph Smith movie playing in the Legacy Theatre. This new release is expected to help those unfamiliar with Smith's story understand it better than the original did. The revisions to the film included a new narration given by Smith's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, and 40 percent of the film is new content. The revised film is available online, on the Church's YouTube channel—Mormon Messages—and is available for download on their radio service website, the Mormon Channel.
      At the beginning of the movie has a disclaimer. “The historical events represented in this story are true.” As to leave no doubt in the viewers mind that everything they will see is truth.  The church has done an amazing job at creating an emotional and an inspirational  movie. Media is very powerful at convening information and events in our minds as truth.  There are interesting subtleties that are put into the movie;  for example, when Lucy bears her testimony at the end of the film, we see Brigham Young putting his arm around her, and kindly helping her back to her seat. Even if certain events did not exactly happen, subconsciously they have a huge impact on us. Nothing that was put in the new movie is on accident, there is a reason. The movie ends with a fly-by of the Salt Lake Temple with the following statement: The Church Jesus Christ re-established in 1830 is today a global faith.  
      Interesting choice of words… re-established, global, Church.
      I think I would prefer:  restored, personal, and Gospel
      …………………………..
      Addendum:

      Just an interesting quote from President Gordon B Hinckley’s given at dedication of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in 1993:

      “This is a wonderful day—the completion of a tremendous project, which I am confident was inspired by the Lord,” remarked President Hinckley during the dedication ceremonies. “I am satisfied He wanted it this way. I am satisfied that the time had come when the Church should no longer be in the business of running the Hotel Utah as a hotel. ..Some people may feel in their hearts that we have been extravagant,” he observed. “We hope there won’t be any feelings of that kind. … Nothing is too good to remember the Prophet Joseph Smith, called and ordained of God to open this, the dispensation of the fulness of time.”

      Tuesday, January 17, 2012

      24: CLOSER TO BUILDING ZION?

      This is a re-post of an email I sent out. A friend needed to reference for a quote, so I am posting it on this blog.

      Are we getting closer to building Zion city? or Babylon?Having been born and raised in Utah, I have always considered my hometown of Salt Lake to be the premiere place to live and raise a family. Our city was to be the Ensign to all nations, a city built on a hill, the headquarters of the LDS church, the residence of our living prophet . It is easy to become prideful in thinking that our city is more righteous than all of the other cities… especially when we compare ourselves to other cities like Las Vegas or Los Angeles.Here is a photo that I took today of the Salt Lake Valley from Ensign Peak. (Interesting to note that you have to look carefully to see the temple amongst the tall business buildings, banks, and high rise apartments and hotels.)





      While compared to more Babylonian cities, we might look good.. but what if we compare ourselves to a true Zion, the city the Lord will dwell in His Glory at His Second Coming? Are we getting closer to that ideal or are we moving farther away…closer to Babylon? My daughter asked me the other day.. where is Jesus going to live when He comes back? I told her that we need to build a place where Holy people live that love Him. She told me that she didn’t think that was possible because there is so many bad people. Is she right?.. is it possible for us to create such a place in our current state and our love for material and temporal things?

      So are we getting closer to building a Zion City? If possible, one of the best people to ask for advice would be ENOCH, the greatest city builders in the world. If only we could see his master plans of his city. I have always been curious to know what he did to build his translated city? Did he build luxurious apartment buildings, high-end retail space with fine dining and upscale department store shopping malls? Would he invest and spend billions of dollars on an extravagant city center in order to attract the world to come to his city? Are we getting closer to that ideal or are we moving farther away…are we moving closer to Zion or Babylon?”

      I find that highly unlikely, then so why do we?

      From the LDS church website: http://www.downtownrising.com/

      “In October of 2006 the LDS Church announced major plans to invest in huge development on two blocks in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. The investment includes a destination retail development, along with high quality housing and office space. . Nearly $2 billion will be invested in the project during the next five years.” "Some of the most sacred ground for the church ... is immediately adjacent to this project and part of the reason we are proceeding with it," Bishop Burton said.. A mix of condominiums, townhouses and apartments will provide a "wide variety of accommodations for people who desire to live, work, shop and worship downtown," Bishop Burton said.


      Is this building Zion? Shopping? Fine Dining? Expensive and luxurious apartments for the wealthy?... What happened to the sharing all things in common? No rich.. no poor among us?


      Now available for sale are these million dollar apartment/condos called City Creek Apartments an LDS real estate venture overlooking the temple . Here is a view of this upscale apartment for sale. Beautiful. Make you want to envy those who live there…. Wait we are not to envy, covet etc in Zion.





      Here is a picture I took today of the progress of the shopping mall,, next to LDS church dedicated Zion’s Bank across from the Salt Lake Temple. Would this have been approved by the city planners in the City of Enoch?





      We all rationalize in thinking that it is not time for us to build Zion. We believe that the Lord will direct the prophet to tell us when it is time. Plus, all of the billions of dollars spent on building this shopping center next to the temple will help convert members when they come visit downtown Salt Lake. Money well spent instead of helping those in need… Do we seriously believe this? Do we really want to attract and receive the praise of the world? Have we read the Book of Mormon lately and read the warnings that are directed to us? How about Mormon 8: 37-39

      “For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted. O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?”

      Addendum:

      When the Church was only a year old, the Prophet Joseph observed that “God has often sealed up the heavens because of covetousness in the Church.” Three years later, God revoked that “united order” by which along Zion could exist on earth (D&C 104:52-53) – in their desire for wealth, the Saints had tried to embrace both Babylon and Zion. We have the word of the Prophet Joseph that Zion is not to be built up by using the methods of Babylon. He says,

      ‘Here are those who begin to spread out buying up all the land they are able to do, to the exclusion of the poorer ones who are not so much blessed with this worlds goods, thinking to lay foundations for themselves only, looking to their own individual families and those who are to follow them….Now I want to tell you that Zion cannot be built up in any such way.”

      Brigham Young explains: “I am sorry that this people are worldly-minded…Their affections are upon…their farms, upon their property, their houses and possessions, and in the same ratio that this is the case, the Holy Spirit of God – the spirit of their calling – forsakes them, and they are overcome with the spirit of the evil one.”

      From Hugh Nibley’s “Approaching Zion”

      “So money is the name of the game by which the devil cleverly decoys the minds of the Saints from God’s work to his. “What does the Lord want us up here in the tops of these mountains?” Brigham asked twenty years after the first settling of the Valley. “He wishes us to build up Zion. What are the people doing? They are merchandizing, trafficking and trading.”…”Instead of reflecting upon and searching for hidden things of the greatest value to them, [the Latter-day Saints] rather wish to learn how to secure their way through this world as easily and as comfortably as possible.

      “In Zion you labor, to be sure, but not for money, and not for yourself, which is the exact opposite of our present version of the work ethic.

      nd lastly from President Spencer W Kimball.

      “If we lust…for the riches of the world, and spare no pains [hard work] to obtain and retain them, and feel ‘these are mine,’ then the spirit of the anti-Christ comes upon us. This is the danger…[we] are in.”Many people spend most of their time working in the service of a self-image that includes sufficient money, stocks, bonds, investment portfolios, property, credit cards, furnishings, automobiles, and the like to guarantee carnal security throughout, it is hoped, a long and happy life.

      Monday, January 9, 2012

      23: KEEP UP THE FULL ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH, SO THAT THE DEVIL COULD TAKE NO ADVANTAGE OF US

      “It was necessary to keep up a full organization of the Church all through time as far as could be.
      At least the three First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, Seventies,
      and Patriarch over the whole Church
      so that the devil could take no advantage of us.”
      Brigham Young

      Today, January 9, 2012 is the birthday of Eldred G Smith. He is 105 years old. Eldred Smith is a great-great-grandson to Hyrum Smith, Joseph Smith’s brother. He is the Emeritus Patriarch of the Church.

      He is the oldest living General Authority in the history of the Church. Last year in 2011, he surpassed David O. McKay as the longest-serving general authority in LDS Church history. He deserves more attention than he receives.  The Church has undergone tremendous changes since Joseph Smith, including the gradual dissolving in importance of the office of Patriarch of the Church.

      Most do not know that Joseph Smith, by revelation, established two presiding offices: The President of the High Priesthood and the Patriarch of the Church. The President (Joseph Smith) presided. But the Patriarch stood by with keys to ordain the next President and provide for orderly transition from one President to the next. The Patriarchal office is by lineage or descent, thus avoiding the possibility of men seeking for power, position and/or control. The Lord’s checks and balances.

      Eldred Gee Smith should have become Patriarch in 1932, at the death of his father. However, Pres. Heber J. Grant was "evidently reticent" to have him be the new Patriarch, so the important ecclesiastical office was left vacant for a decade.  Apparently President Grant was conflicted about the Patriarch because he considered himself a descendant of Joseph Smith by sealing and the Patriarch was competition to that; and therefore he did not want the Patriarch to ordain him president. He had the Twelve ordain him.  However, 10 years later, President Grant disregarded the patrilineage and ordained Joseph Fielding Smith to the office. President Grant also had the name change from "Presiding Patriarch" to "Patriarch to the Church."

      After the serving for only 4 years,  Patriarch Joseph Fielding Smith was discovered to have had homosexual relations and was released by President George Albert Smith.  Eldred G Smith was then rightly selected as the next Presiding Patriarch and served in that position for the next 32 years. Eldred regularly spoke in General Conferences; hhowever, in 1979, he was placed on emeritus status by the First Presidency and no new Patriarch was called to replace him. At his death, the office of Patriarch to the Church, which once rivaled that of the President of the Church, will cease to exist.

      Most don’t even know Eldred G Smith exists as a 105 year old living man today. However, I think we all should sent out a Happy 105th Birthday Wish to him.

      …………………………..

      Sidenote:

      “Whenever a patriarch after 1844 tried to magnify his presiding office, the Twelve and First Presidency recoiled in apprehension. However, when individual patriarchs seemed to lack administrative vigor, the Twelve and First Presidency criticized them for not magnifying their office. Few men could walk such an ecclesiastical tightrope. For various reasons the First Presidency and Twelve were in conflict with seven out of eight successors of the original Presiding Patriarch, Joseph Smith, Sr. The hierarchy finally resolved the situation on 6 Oct 1979 by making Eldred G. Smith an “emeritus” general authority without replacing him. This permanently “discontinued” the office of Patriarch to the Church. … Vacating the office in 1979 ended the conflicts. However, according to Brigham Young’s instructions, the 1979 action made the church vulnerable: “It was necessary to keep up a full organization of the Church all through time as far as could be. At least the three first Presidency, quorum of the Twelve, Seventies, and Patriarch over the whole Church … so that the devil could take no advantage of us.[15]” It is beyond the scope of this analysis to assess such metaphysical vulnerability. Administratively, however, the decision to leave the patriarch’s office vacant after 1979 streamlined the hierarchy and removed a source of nearly constant tension." Quinn, Extensions of Power, p. 131

      Addendum:
      Interestingly the term "Prophet" was not applied to a living man holding the office of "President of the Church" until 1955, during the administration of David O. McKay. The term "Prophet" until that time always meant exclusively Joseph Smith, and not the office holder of President. Before then it was "President Young" and "President Taylor" and "President Woodruff" and so on. However, in 1955 the Church News began a new practice of referring to the living President McKay as a "Prophet." It was felt that changing the reference to the living President would result in quicker acceptance of direction from him, and less criticism of the President. (President Grant was the most unpopular Church President in the Church's history, and that was something they hoped to avoid happening again.) It worked. No-one wants to reject counsel from a living prophet of God.

      Friday, January 6, 2012

      22: PHILOSOPHIES OF MEN MINGLED WITHOUT SCRIPTURE

      The word "philosophy" comes from the Greek word which literally means “love of wisdom”. To led the posterity of Adam astray, Satan uses philosophies (or wisdom) and mingles it with scripture. Mixing God’s wisdom with man’s wisdom is one of the best devices that the adversary uses.  

      We all seek for wisdom here in mortality as we earnestly try to live an abundant life.  An abundant life means fully sufficient, abounding, and overflowing.  Satan would try to convince us that an “abundant” life is possible without Christ.  Since most will not read the newest 2012 Ensign until the end of the month just prior to going hometeaching, I thought I would give a preview of the First Presidency Message.  The message teaches us how all of us can have and live the abundant life.  Here are a few of some well known philosophers that are quoted:  

      ·         William James:  an American psychologist and philosopher
      ·         Charles Swindoll:  an Evangelical Christian pastor, author, educator and radio preacher
      ·         William Shakespeare: an English poet and playwright
      ·         Thomas Fuller: an English churchman and historian
      ·         Ralph Waldo Emerson: an American essayist, lecturer, and poet

      I could have missed it since the message was fairly short, but I don’t remember reading any scripture  let alone any reference to Jesus Christ. I wonder if we have reached a point that we no longer need to mingle in scripture.
      Here is the entire message written by President Monson:

      Living the Abundant Life

      At the advent of a new year, I challenge Latter-day Saints everywhere to undertake a personal, diligent, significant quest for what I call the abundant life—a life filled with an abundance of success, goodness, and blessings. Just as we learned the ABCs in school, I offer my own ABCs to help us all gain the abundant life.
      Have a Positive Attitude
      A in my ABCs refers to attitude. William James, a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher, wrote, “The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”1
      So much in life depends on our attitude. The way we choose to see things and respond to others makes all the difference. To do the best we can and then to choose to be happy about our circumstances, whatever they may be, can bring peace and contentment.
      Charles Swindoll—author, educator, and Christian pastor—said: “Attitude, to me, is more important than … the past, … than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.”2
      We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. For maximum happiness, peace, and contentment, may we choose a positive attitude.
      Believe in Yourself
      B is for believe—in yourself, in those around you, and in eternal principles.
      Be honest with yourself, with others, and with your Heavenly Father. One who was not honest with God until it was too late was Cardinal Wolsey who, according to Shakespeare, spent a long life in service to three sovereigns and enjoyed wealth and power. Finally, he was shorn of his power and possessions by an impatient king. Cardinal Wolsey cried:
      Had I but served my God with half the zeal
      I served my king, He would not in mine age
      Have left me naked to mine enemies.3
      Thomas Fuller, an English churchman and historian who lived in the 17th century, penned this truth: “He does not believe that does not live according to his belief.”4
      Don’t limit yourself and don’t let others convince you that you are limited in what you can do. Believe in yourself and then live so as to reach your possibilities.
      You can achieve what you believe you can. Trust and believe and have faith.
      Face Challenges with Courage
      C is for courage. Courage becomes a worthwhile and meaningful virtue when it is regarded not so much as a willingness to die manfully but as a determination to live decently.
      Said the American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide on, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”5
      There will be times when you will be frightened and discouraged. You may feel that you are defeated. The odds of obtaining victory may appear overwhelming. At times you may feel like David trying to fight Goliath. But remember—David did win!
      Courage is required to make an initial thrust toward one’s coveted goal, but even greater courage is called for when one stumbles and must make a second effort to achieve.
      Have the determination to make the effort, the single-mindedness to work toward a worthy goal, and the courage not only to face the challenges that inevitably come but also to make a second effort, should such be required. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, “I’ll try again tomorrow.”
      May we remember these ABCs as we begin our journey into the new year, cultivating a positive attitude, a belief that we can achieve our goals and resolutions, and the courage to face whatever challenges may come our way. Then the abundant life will be ours.
      .............................................................

      If this trend continues, maybe we might consider changing our name to "The Church of Great Literature for Latter Day Saints".