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Friday, October 18, 2013

208: A FINE CONGREGATION... YES, THEY ARE A GOOD PEOPLE.


Twice a year, our Church leaders speak to a worldwide congregation and share messages they have felt inspired to give to the members of the Church. I listened intently to each of their talks. It helps me get a pulse on the state of the Church as I hear the current messages that are given.  In the opening remarks in his General Conference address, President Thomas S Monson stated the following,

"It has been just over 183 years since the Church was organized by the Prophet Joseph Smith, under the direction of the Lord.  At that meeting on April 6, 1830, there were six members of the Church present. I am happy to announce that two weeks ago,  the membership of the Church reached 15 million. The Church continues to grow steadily and  to change the lives of more and more people every year."
 
Much has transpired over the course of 183 years, and not just with the membership numbers increasing from six members to 15 million.

While most members of the church are not aware of this, I heard this from a recent talk.  "We [meaning the members of the Church] got off on rather a ragged foot at the beginning of the restoration of the Gospel. How fully we got off on that ragged foot is not well enough appreciated by Latter-day Saints, who choose to see a sort of uniform continuity of progression, from that moment until today, in a rather uninterrupted course of forward momentum. When in fact, Joseph Smith had to fight against terrible opposition inside of the church to get the doctrine he was trying to establish established". Ezekiel chapter 14 was a topic that he raised early. And he raised it again at the time of the Relief Society organization in Nauvoo. Go read Ezekiel chapter 14. Go look at what Joseph Smith was concerned about. He's talking to people who accepted him as a Prophet. And yet they were more interested in getting from him what they wanted, instead of receiving from him what the Lord wanted to give."

What they wanted was a New Testament Church.  Over the past hundred years, the Church has become the focus, after all, it is the only true Church on the face of the earth.

For reference, I created a "word cloud" from the opening session of this past General Conference. I took all of those talks given and compiled them into one document. I then created a word cloud from the text. A 'word cloud' is computer generated and gives greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. For example, the largest word, 'church' was said almost 100 times as compared to one of the smaller words like 'tithing' that was only spoken 18 times. Word clouds are helpful to see in a quick glance what the focus is by the number of times the word was repeated.
 

Word cloud from all of the talks given in the opening session of the October 2013 LDS General Conference 
 

I can't imagine trying to run such a global church. It is quite a responsibility to reach out to all of these 15 million members, many of whom are in need of rescuing. It is particularly difficult when many of the members are struggling with so many problems. Some of these problems were addressed in the Conference talks, problems like depression, addiction, questioning faith, economic and financial difficulties.  Answers to these problems were also given. We are to repent if we are not paying our tithing, keep the commandments, doubt your doubts, and follow the counsel of our living prophet.  Some of you might have noticed that there was a new verse added to the hymn, "Keep the Commandments". Sung by the Mormon Tabernacle choir,  the new words are  "We are his children, and we must be tested to show that we are true, hold to his promises, heeding the prophets, keep the commandments, in this there is safety and peace."  link

In corresponding with a friend of mine, we talked briefly about our thoughts on General Conference. I agreed with what he said and I quote, "As I listened I thought, "a lot of what's being said here is good and wholesome.  So what is the problem?" After some thought I think I was able to pin it down. It's as though there's a train wreck coming and nobody is talking about it. That's the problem. Everything is good, lovely, and happy. Problems are occasionally acknowledged, but overall we are lulled into security. .... they are good men with good advice."



So what is the problem?, what is this train wreck?

In the Priesthood Session, Elder L. Tom Perry made an interesting statement in his talk on the importance of doctrine. Here is the quote:

 "This doctrine is to the Church like a battery is to a cell phone. When you remove the battery from your cell phone, it becomes useless. A church in which true doctrine is no longer taught is similarly useless. It cannot guide us back to our Heavenly Father and our eternal home."

So if  I understand correctly what our apostle is saying is, True Doctrine is power. If true doctrine is no longer taught in a Church.. the Church is useless. Furthermore, the Church which does not teach true doctrine cannot guide us back to our Heavenly Father.

Elder Perry further explained in his talk:

"False teachings come from Satan, the father of all lies. His desire is to pervert, change, and alter revealed truths. He wants to deceive us so some of us will lose our way along the journey back to our heavenly home."

So  again, if  I understand correctly, Satan desires that revealed truth gets changed and altered. He wants us to be deceived. In order for Satan's plan to work, he starts out with revealed truth.. not falsehood. He then changes and alters the revealed truth.

Some of the most important doctrine, if not the most important doctrine, revealed in this dispensation by the prophet Joseph Smith is contained in the Lectures of Faith. It is doctrine that describes the character, nature and attributes of God. I quote,

"correct ideas of the character of God are necessary in order to the exercise of faith in him unto life and salvation, and that without correct ideas of his character, the minds of men could not have sufficient power with God to the exercise of faith necessary to the enjoyment of eternal life, and that correct ideas of his character lay a foundation as far as his character is concerned, for the exercise of faith, so as to enjoy the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Jesus Christ, even that of eternal glory."

Further doctrine contained in the lectures describe how we can hope to inherit the same reward as the Ancients by following the same path as they did. It  teaches that we can't expect to achieve the same glory if we do not make a similar sacrifice as they did. It defines faith as a principle of power through action, in which you put your beliefs into action and thereby acquire power; because  faith is related  to having power. All of this doctrine is contained in the Lectures of Faith.

These lectures were prepared for the School of the Prophets and approved and edited by Joseph Smith. Their presence in the scriptures was the reason for the change in the title from Book of Commandments to Doctrine and Covenants. The "Doctrine" portion of the book was comprised of these lectures.

In the preface of this scripture it states: "The first part of the book will be found to contain a series of Lectures as delivered before a Theological class in this place, and in consequence of their embracing the important doctrine of salvation, we have arranged them into the following work."

 
 
However, all of this Doctrine has been removed from our scriptures. The Lecture on Faith were subsequently removed from the Doctrine and Covenants in 1921, essentially leaving the just the "covenants" since the "doctrine" was removed.


Can we equate the removing of this doctrine from our scriptures like removing a battery from a cell phone? Has misapprehending the character and nature and attributes of God from that date until today, prevented us from acquiring faith? If so, then it's time for us to shake that off  and rise up and lay hold upon faith again.