Highlighting the best of the best.

Why did Joseph Smith have to return the plates?

Visitor Sunde asked a question on the post “Why do Mormons believe in works?“, that I think deserves broader attention.  It’s a very good question that many looking at the Mormon faith might ask.  I thought I’d make a dedicated post out of it, allowing us to carry on the conversation in it’s own area.

Question:  “Why did Joseph Smith have to return the
gold plates to MORONi? If the Book of
Mormon is true, wouldn’t the continued
availability of the gold plates help the cause
of “truth.”

My original answer:

Thanks for asking!

Joseph Smith had to return the plates because God asked him to.

I assume he was asked to return them because God’s approach is seldom one of providing irrefutable proof for “sign seekers”. He has nothing to prove, so proof is not his goal. Instead, his goal is to try our faith, to distinguish the believers.

Consequently, he continues to architect means whereby man is given the opportunity to encounter truth and choose to believe or not.

So, throughout time, he has sent prophets to teach his word (Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing save he reveal his secrets unto his servants the prophets”).

The same is true in our day, from Joseph Smith down to the current prophet. Whether men choose to believe them, is what he wants to see.

And so, with His goal being to try our faith, it seems to make sense that he would ask for the plates return. They’d served their purpose, bringing to our knowledge the scriptural record of the ancient inhabitants of America (the “Other sheep” who “must hear my voice”).

Having served their purpose, it fits within the template of precedence to leave the rest to faith.

It would likely convince many if the tablet containing the ten commandments were on display in some Museum, having been verified of their authenticity. But that too would destroy the purpose – to try our faith.

Reply from Sunde:

Thanks for the reply. I must say that a thoughtful,
inquiring skeptic can better understand the missing
Ten Commandments from thousands of years
ago. Rational thinkers do, and ought to, have a harder
time accepting the “missing” gold plates right after the
publication of their supposed contents to the world in 1830.
Especially, since so much of what Mr. Smith claimed the gold
plates revealed would seem to fly in the face of Scripture.
Is my thinking somehow logically flawed on this point?

See my answer in the comments below…

Rusty

What religion can learn from science

Appetite.  That’s what seems so prevalent in the world of science and so often lacking in religion, the appetite to constantly learn more, to not be satisfied with what we have, to continuously search, ponder, and strive to increase our knowledge and understanding.

It’s clearly not always the case- there are true spiritual giants among us, who set the example for the rest of us.  But by in large, it seems that more often than not, religion is often taken for granted, as though it’s a side-note to our lives.  As though it’s something that we think about on Sunday, or at Christmas and Easter, and not something that constantly occupies our minds, as we yearn for more.

But the world of science is constantly asking questions, trying to understand why, trying to get to the fundamental principles that lie behind the things that they observe.  They experiment, observe, take notes, draw conclusions, and then test those conclusions with more experiments. 

How often do we experiment upon the word of God?  How often do we take those experiments so seriously that we make a study of them?  How often do we strive to test our knowledge, and how unquenchable is our desire to further our understanding?

It’s so easy to let the urgent aspects of our life dominate our thoughts and monopolize our time, as the more important and everlasting side of us, that spiritual side, suffers the pains of disuse and apathy.

But we must learn, we must engage ourselves, we must seek learning, we must grow in knowledge and understanding.  Only then, will we be truly ready for the trials of life, and ready to stand firm amidst the buffetings, and the fiery darts of the adversary.  Only then shall our confidence wax strong in the presence of God, and shall the doctrines of the priesthood distill upon our souls as the dew from heaven.  Only then shall our foundation be so firm as to withstand the cunning craftiness of the adversary as he seeks to shake us from our testimony.

Joseph Smith once said “Thy mind, oh man, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into, and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanses of eternity.  Thou must commune with God… None but fools will trifle with the souls of man”.

Truth is light, and if it be in you it shall abound, and if your eye be single to the Glory of god your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.  (D&C 88:67)  What a glorious promise. 

As leaders, as parents, as friends, and as individuals, let us all find ourselves a bit more engrossed in the gospel of Christ, and a bit more anxiously engaged in our study.

Rusty

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Is there Biblical Precedence for Polygamy?

In the recent post “A quest for spiritual knowledge“, the comments quickly became centered around two distinct topics.  The one being blacks and the priesthood, which was thoroughly covered within the comments on that post.  The other was regarding the practice of polygamy early in the church.  It was to this point that Matt G. asked:

Rusty, I looked up polygamy and polyandry in the Bible and didn’t find any other prophet teaching the practices. Could you show me where the prophets were teaching these as God’s inspired word?

Rather than answering within the already lengthy comments of that post, I’ve decided to address them in a fresh post, so as to allow the natural divergence of comments around these two separate topics, and since the topic is important enough to deserve higher exposure.

In response:

Matt,

Thank you so much for asking.  There are few things I enjoy more than to expose the scriptures, for as we see here, it becomes incredibly problematic that people don’t study the scriptures more thoroughly (which coincidentally was the topic of the originating post).  So many have made such a fuss over polygamy in the early days of the church, either about why it was practiced, or why it was revoked, and then turn around and profess belief in the Bible.  I say to them, you may believe in it, but you don’t understand it.

There are numerous scriptural precedents regarding polygamy taught biblically, and I’ll cover several of them.

There’s no better place to start than with the Lord himself, who in Deuteronomy gives instructions on how to successfully manage a plural marriage… (Deut. 21: 15-17).

15 If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated:

16 Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn:

17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.

The Lord cannot tolerate sin, so if Plural marriage were to be accounted as sin, why then would he here choose to counsel in how to do it successfully, wouldn’t he instead be condemning the practice?  Yet interestingly (but not coincidentally) there are times in the bible where he has said it was not to be, even earlier in Deuteronomy, he said:

Deut. 17: 15, 17

15 Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.

17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.

It could either be that the Lord was unable to make up his mind, or that there is a time and season for all things.  And what he has commanded once, is not necessarily to be for all times.  I find the latter far more likely, which therefore not only provides precedence for His commanding Polygamy in the early days of the church (at a time when this particular commandment served a particular purpose for the Lord to try the saints), but also sets precedence for the commandment of the practice to later be retracted.

At one point in the Bible the Lord told his disciples only to preach to Israelites.  He later told the prophet (Peter) to preach to all people.  Again, was it that the Lord couldn’t make up His mind?  The thought makes reason stare.  Rather, there is a time and a season for all things, and what matters, is that we follow the current set of commandments as clarified by the current, living prophet.  Another sound confirmation of the importance of a living prophet.

But let’s not stop there.  Let’s talk about David.

In  2 Samuel 12:1-27, we find some important scriptures in this regard.  One of which is vs. 7 and 8:

7  And Nathan said to David…Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;

8 And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.

Here the prophet Nathan himself tells David the it was the Lord that “gave thee… thy master’s wives”.  What’s more, the Lord would have given him more of such political power, wives, and wealth.  If plural wives were a sin, why then were they a gift from God, and why would Nathan, who had arrived to condemn David for killing Uriah, not have condemned him then (or earlier) for plural marriage?

Let’s now talk about Solomon.  (1 Kings 11:1-8),

1. BUT king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;

2 Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love…

7 Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.

8 And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.

Here the Lord accuses Solomon not of having plural wives, but of allowing them to turn his heart away from Him.

There are other instances as well, such as when Abraham married Hagar (Genesis 16:3), Keturah (Genesis 25:1) and other unnamed concubines (Genesis 25:6).  Or Jacob (Genesis 29:21-30Genesis 30:3-4Genesis 30:9).  Abijah had fourteen wives (2 Chron. 13:21) and yet he is described as a righteous king of Judah who honored the Lord (2 Chron. 13:8-12) and prosper in battle because of the Lord’s blessing (2 Chron. 13:16-18) to name a few.  It’s also interesting that Hosea was commanded to marry a prostitute as a sign to Israel (Hosea 1:1-3).

In short, it is clear from a true study of the bible that polygamy is not only not immoral, but (at times) sanctioned of the Lord, and a blessing from righteous living.  Having studied the scriptures, I do not find it odd that at one time the practice is taught and sanctioned, and at another time it isn’t.  Wasn’t the Law of Moses also done away, in place of something else?  Was the Law of Moses therefore bad, or merely tailored for the specific needs of the specific people alive at the time?

The prophet Joseph Smith once addressed this very issue with tremendous eloquence and inspiration with which I cannot compete.  It is therefore with his quote that I’ll conclude:

This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted-by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed…in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness-and the happiness of all His creatures, he never has-He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances

– Joseph Smith

Rusty

Swimming in the devil’s pool

The Devil’s Pool is a natural rock pool at the top of Victoria Falls in southern Africa near Zimbabwe.   During most months, the water surges down the river, shoots over the edge and slams into the ground 300 feet below, sending mist all the way back up.

But from September to December the water levels decrease, making it possible to swim in the Devil’s Pool, without being washed over the edge.  You can swim up to two inches from the very edge of the pool and peer over into the chasm below.

It’s such an exhilarating experience, that many tourists go there every year, during this time, to try it.

Here are some photos to show you exactly how close you can get to the edge…

 [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVN9KnWy-H8]

 

 

I can only imagine what a stunning and frightening experience this must be. I think the people that do this have got to be far braver (or crazier) than I.

Still, I can’t help but consider the spiritual analogy so strikingly illustrated in these photos.  How it is that we try to get as close to the edge as we can.  Blinded by the exhilaration of the moment and overwhelmed by the emotions of the now, we convince ourselves that we’re only looking, as we ease closer and closer to the brink, and peer into the chasm below.

So I ask you, are you swimming in the devil’s pool? 

Are there aspects of your life where you may be getting too close to the edge?  Are there others in the pool with you?  Are your children too close to the edge?  Are you standing by watching someone swim in the devil’s pool, without exerting any effort to help them out?

If you’ve felt any of these questions striking too close to home, then I exhort you to step back, look hard at your surroundings, and take stock of the precarious nature of your position.  For the floodwaters can come unexpectedly, and when they do, you don’t want to be found in the devil’s pool.

Please, get out now.

Rusty

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It is not the critic who counts

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

You can now find this post here:

http://life-engineering.com/it-is-not-the-critic-who-counts/

What do Mormons believe about works?

Many have asked me what Mormons believe about “works”, and how we reconcile those beliefs with the notion of being saved by grace, through the mercy of Christ and His atonement.

Indeed, Mormons believe that our salvation is made possible by the mercy of Christ, and were it not for his everlasting Atonement, we could not be saved.  For man is carnal, mortal, and imperfect, and as such, will inevitably sin.  But the atonement of Christ makes it possible for us to be forgiven for our sins by paying the demands of justice if we will repent.

For as the scriptures tell us, God is Just, and it is always required that the laws of justice be satisfied, for there are consequences for sin (as we read throughout the scriptures).  But if man will repent, the Lord will intercede with the demands of justice, having paid the price already himself.  Such is mercy. 

But if man will not repent, he cannot be saved, for no unclean thing can dwell with god.  And not only must we repent of our sins, but we must strive to live the gospel and keep the commandments, and there are certain things we must do in order to earn our salvation.

Baptism, for instance, is required for salvation.  So is obedience.  For why would God give men commandments if he did not expect them to be obeyed?  And why would he require men to repent, or why would his servants, the prophets, so continually preach repentance, if repentance were not necessary for salvation, or if obedience were optional and there were no consequence for disobedience?

Hence we believe that through the Atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel (1st article of faith).

The following are just a very few verses I’ve selected from the Bible that help provide the scriptural basis for these beliefs.  But the burden of proof of this doctrine of works is not upon Mormons, for the scriptures I reference here (among many others) are clear and present.  Rather the burden is upon those who believe contrary to this scripture, to come up with some alternative explanation for these and other verses.

Revelation 20:12-15 “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”

Hebrews 5:5-10 “He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”

Romans 2:13-16 “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.”

2 Thessalonians 1:1-10 “When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

James 1:22-25 “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

Romans 2:5-11 “And revelation of the righteous judgment of God: Who will render to every man according to his deeds…”

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

Matthew 16:27 and Revelation 22:12-15 “For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father, with His angels, and then He shall reward every man according to his works.”

Luke 6:46-49 “And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”

John 7:16-17 “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine…”

John 14:15-21 “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

Acts 1-:34-36 “But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

Titus 3:8 “That they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.”

1 John 1:6 “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments.”

Revelation 22:14-15 “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life.”

1 Samuel 15:22 “To obey is better than to sacrifice”

Matthew 7:15-20 “Ye shall no them by their fruits”

Matthew 24:13 “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved”.

Galations 5:20-23 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest…of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

James 2:14-26 “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have no works? Can faith save him?… For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

Rusty

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I love to see the temple, I’m going there someday

We just recently had a Stake Conference.  For Mormon’s, stake conference is when the whole area gets together for one large-scale meeting where we often hear from a general authority and the stake presidency.  During this conference one of the counselors in our stake presidency (President Green), made a comment that really resonated with me.

He stood up and said “I love to see the temple, I’m going there someday”, quoting the words to one of the popular Mormon Primary songs.

But, he added, why is it always “someday”?  Why isn’t it “I love to see the temple, I’m going there today”… or tomorrow, or next month, or something specific?

The problem is that we too often procrastinate things in our life that are important.  Going to the temple is only one example, but it could just as easily be seeing the bishop, repenting, forsaking that favorite sin, apologizing to someone, forgiving someone, serving someone, etc.

There are all kinds of things in our lives that press for our attention, and we tend to focus the most on those things that are most urgent, not necessarily most important.  Because of this, we end up convincing ourselves that we’ll do it “someday”.

How about today?  If not today, then set a date.  Make it real.  Get it done.  You’ll be happier once you do.

Life is often about momentum, and momentum is nothing more than the accumulated effect of lots of little steps.  So take a little step, set a date, and do it.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in “The builders” presents this case well.  He also readdresses it in his poem “A Psalm of Life” when he says”

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Rusty

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Staying in tune

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

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A quest for spiritual knowledge

Lehi’s landmark vision of the Tree of Life is one of the most well known revelations from the Book of Mormon.  It’s a beautiful depiction of life, and embodies numerous eternal principles with profound depth.  One of which is the importance of pursuing spiritual knowledge.

The Tree of Life, a synopsis:

Since many of my readers are new to the Book of Mormon, here’s a brief synopsis of Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life.

In it, the prophet Lehi finds himself in a “dark and dreary wilderness”.  He travels for a time, and upon praying for assistance, beholds a large and spacious field, on the other side of which, stands a tree, whose fruit was exceedingly white, sweet beyond all other fruit, and caused his soul to be filled with exceedingly great joy.

Compelled to share this joy, he looks up to find his family, and notices the rest of his surroundings.

He sees a river of water, and next to it, a rod of iron with a “strait and narrow path” leading along the bank of the river, so as to protect one who held onto it from falling prey to the current and being swept away.

This path led through the great and spacious field, wherein “numerous concourses of people” were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path, which led to the tree. But in the field, there arose a mist of darkness, so that those who would not cling to the rod of iron, would lose their way, some drowning in the depths of the river, and others becoming lost along forbidden paths.

He spoke also of a great and spacious building on the other side of the river, which seemed, as it were, to float in the air, and in which there were many people who were pointing their fingers at, and mocking those who were partaking of the fruit. There were many who partook of the fruit of the tree, and feeling ashamed, left in search of the building, and were lost. After a time, the building, which lacked a foundation, fell to the earth, causing the destruction of all who were within.

The tree of Life, an interpretation:

Upon hearing his father speak of his vision of the Tree of Life, Nephi, a soon-to-be prophet, sought the Lord for understanding. He too was then given the same vision, but in expanded form, complete with interpretation of its symbolic meaning.

To Nephi it was revealed that the Tree of Life, and the fruit thereon was representative of the Love of God, which fills the soul with joy. The Rod of Iron was the word of god, the great and spacious field was the world, and the great and spacious building was the pride of the world.

The pursuit of spiritual knowledge

Amongst the many lessons taught in this vision, one of those that stands strongest for me is that of the rod of iron. Often within the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints (the Mormons), the phrase “hold to the rod” has become cliché. It has sort of come to represent the vague notion of righteous living, our need to “choose the right”.

But while these too are good, the specific, inspired translation of that symbol, as revealed to the prophet Nephi, is that the rod of iron, that thing to which we are to “cling” is specifically… the “word of God”. And cling to it we must.

There’s nothing casual about the word cling. It is defined as “to hold tightly, to grasp or embrace, to cleave”. It is an active word that depicts active behavior.

It’s no mystery where we can FIND the word of God. It is to be had in abundance, in the scriptures, in inspired teachings by the prophets today as well as in times past. And it is to be had by direct revelation to you, as an individual, according to your faith and effort.

In the chapter preceding Nephi’s vision of interpretation, he comments:

“And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father… was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men. For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever… For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them by the power of the Holy Ghost…” (1 Nephi 10:17-19)

Here Nephi communicates the primary ingredient for receiving revelation: diligent seeking. This is how we cling to the word of God. By diligently seeking it. We must become singularly focused on obtaining, understanding, and internalizing the word of God.

We are told through modern revelation to do “all things with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 82:19). And what is the Glory of God? “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93:36).

The prophet Joseph said “No man can be saved in ignorance”. We must therefore reflect upon the urgency with which we search the scriptures, seek divine revelation, and work to obtain the word of God. For this is how we cling to the iron rod, this is how we obtain the fruit of the tree… the Love of God, this is how we plunge through the mists of darkness (confusion of the world and the adversary).

Only by clinging to the word of God can we obtain the tree. As the angel told Nephi of the Great and Spacious building “behold the wisdom of the world”. Great was the fall thereof, for it was founded upon the pride of men. But our foundations must be built upon the solid ground of true doctrine, entrenched in the fertile soul of divine revelation, from which eternal lives may grow.

So cling to the rod, and begin your own quest for spiritual knowledge, that the fruit of the tree, or the love of God, will be yours.

Rusty

Ask a Mormon a Question

As I posted here “Researching Mormonism – a Lutheran Bishop’s advice“, Krister Stendahl gives us three rules for examining another religion.  The first and foremost rule is that when you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion, and not its enemies.

His words inspired me to create this page – allowing you to ask me any question you might, so that you can hear an answer directly from a Mormon.

As you’ll see by the disclaimer at the top of my blog, everything I say is simply my opinion and interpretation of doctrine, for official doctrine you can visit www.lds.org.  But, I will give you my honest opinions, and I will base them on scripture and doctrine to the best of my ability.

If I don’t know the answer to your question, then I’ll endeavor to get you an answer. 

Since I intend to keep this present at all times, I’ve created an “Ask a Mormon” page (click here).  All you have to do is type in your question in the comments at the bottom of the page.  I don’t moderate them.  If the question seems genuine, I’ll answer it in a dedicated post.  If it’s not genuine, or if your purpose seems to simply be to argue, disrupt, or be disrespectful, don’t bother – I’ll delete it and move on.

But if you’re someone who genuinely wants to know what Mormons believe about something, just ask.  But don’t ask here – go to the page.  Please reserve comments on this post to the endeavor as a whole, and not for specific questions.

Thanks,
Rusty

The commercialization of religion

In my first post in the miracles of Mormonism series, I touched briefly on something that needs further exploration.

Like it or not, we humans are economically driven.  From the very moment that Adam was cast out of the Garden of Eden and told that he would eat his bread only by the sweat of his brow, we became dependent upon the need for compensation.  Compensation allows us to live, survive, to feed and support our families, and to maintain a particular lifestyle.  We became inexorably tied to the laws of economics.

As mankind progressed, societies progressed.  Soon we outgrew hunting and gathering, began to farm and store our own food, trade, and specialize.  In the course of this specialization man began to look for all kinds of opportunities to make money.

It was only a matter of time before some would realize that religion, or the desire to believe in something, was a pretty fundamental need of mankind.  Where there is demand there will also be supply.  That’s how economics works; people will pay you for giving them what they want.

But there are lots of problems with this kind of commercialization when it comes to religion, and just as one could have predicted the emergence of the occupation of “preaching for money”, economics can also forecast some of the consequences of this model.

When you receive regular compensation for something, that something becomes your product.  If you are going to make a living off selling that product, then now you have to market that product.  In a very real way, you’re simply in business, and the basic rules of business and product marketing and management can now be extrapolated to you – even if what you’re selling is religion.

As a product manager myself, I can testify that once you start selling a product, you become very interested in selling more of that product.  After all, your sustenance depends upon it.  So you begin to naturally see how your product is received.  Over time, your product evolves. 

Soon you start carving out the portions that people don’t care for, or that are too “expensive”, and don’t offer sufficient return.  At the same time you start adding to your product things that you know your consumers want, things that will keep them buying your product, and things that will make your product more enticing to others.  You start to look at ways to expand your customer base and reach new market segments.

This kind of product evolution is inevitable and inescapable, and the economics are undeniable.  As long as one derives their sustenance from the customers they serve, they’re interests will be naturally shaped by their customer satisfaction.

A business cannot survive, after all, selling a product that nobody wants.

But when we’re talking about the commercialization of religion, where doctrine and teachings are the product being sold, then the evolution of that product becomes a scary thing, for the longer time goes by, the more that product begins to represent the will of the people, and not the purer, original version.

The commercialization of religion is a large part of what led to the great apostasy, or falling away, where the truth of the gospel could not be had in its fullness upon the face of the earth.  For the doctrines of man began to intercede with the will of the Father, and the original product of Christ – his true church, began to evolve.  Over time, unpopular principles began to fade away until they were gone entirely.  In their place came new principles that made the product more enticing to the people.  This evolution was sustained and propelled by leaders seeking increasingly to protect their own power and wealth than to maintain the purity of the gospel despite its difficulty.

The Bible tells us that straight is the way unto salvation, and few there be that find it, but broad is the way that leads to damnation.  But the commercialization of the doctrines of the church forced the opposite – they evolved to become widely popular, to appeal to the masses.  For the more customers purchasing the product, the larger the organization could grow, the more wealth could flow in, and the more power would be given to those who were already in authority.  Soon it would become an organization led by the profit of the world, and not by a prophet of God.

These evolutionary changes in doctrine over time are readily apparent to one who truly studies and understands the Bible.

Think for instance, on the doctrine that man is saved by grace alone, in spite of what works they do on earth.  If I derived my sustenance from my congregation, and my ability to appeal to the masses, what better doctrine is there!  Come to my church.  Be baptized.  Then, it doesn’t matter what you do, at least not in terms of your eternal salvation.  Act as you will, sin, it’s okay.  Just come to church!  What a marketable concept, even if the references in the Bible that speak to the contrary are clear, plain, and readily available (which I cover here). 

Does that sound like the path of God that is supposed to be straight and narrow, with few there be that find it (as described in scripture), or some man-made highway, manufactured to accommodate and capitalize on the greatest possible traffic?

What about baptizing infants.  Marketers today are learning more and more that they need to start early, marketing to toddlers, for if you can sell them on a brand while they’re young, you exponentially increase the likelihood that they will remain your customers as they grow older.  Is this a practice supported by doctrine, or by the commercialization of religion?

Is it heresy, or wisdom to ask such questions?  I submit that it’s our eternal salvation that’s at stake, and no matter how unpopular the question, if it needs to be asked, it should be, for none should trifle with the souls of man.

But such commercialization was not necessary, it was chosen.

One of the miracles of Mormonism is in its lay ministry.  It’s in the fact that none of the local or area leaders are paid for their work.  Missionaries aren’t paid for their time and labor.  They take two years out of their lives to teach the gospel, travel to foreign lands, learn foreign languages, and all at their own expense.  Bishops, teachers, priests, stake presidents, primary, Sunday school, and all those who are called to directly preside over and administer to their local congregations are entirely volunteer.  They did not ask for their positions, nor did they aspire to them.  They were simply asked to serve, and being willing, were called to sacrifice their own time and effort as the needs demand.  Such a notion gives even more context to the Mormon miracle I describe here.

So when the bishop gives guidance or counsel, or when missionaries exhort someone to pray and ask the Lord if the Church is true, if Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God, and if the Book of Mormon is true, there is no financial motive.  They have nothing to gain, save only an eternal friendship and the blessings that come to those who so unselfishly serve.

But in spite of a lay ministry, of an organization made up of volunteers, and not paid professionals, and in spite of the difficulty around being a Mormon, and being required to live and abide by the commandments of God, the church is flourishing.  The work of the Lord rolls forth, free from the grasp of economic principles that do not apply, and free from the evolutionary changes that corrupted the true gospel of Christ so long ago.  The church today has been restored in its fullness, back to the blessed “version 1.0” of the gospel of Christ, led not by the profit of man, but by a prophet of God.

I extend an invitation to all to ask such critical questions, to read the Book of Mormon, and to pray and ask God if it is not true.  I invite all to read and learn of Joseph Smith, the great latter day prophet who restored the church of Christ.  I invite all to discover for themselves the miracles of Mormonism.

[digg=http://digg.com/world_news/The_commercialization_of_religion]

Rusty

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Don’t stare in your rear-view mirror

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

You can now find this post here:

http://life-engineering.com/beware-the-rear-view-mirror/

It is what you make of it

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

You can now find this post here:

http://life-engineering.com/it-is-what-you-make-of-it/

Do you want a donut? A lesson on the atonement.

The following story came to me in email today.  If you happen to know who originally wrote it, please let me know so I can give them credit.  Until then, thanks… somebody.

Do you want a donut?

There was a boy by the name of Steve who was attending Seminary in Utah. In this Seminary classes are held during school hours. Brother Christianson taught Seminary at this particular school. He had an open-door policy and would take in any student that had been thrown out of another class as long as they would abide by his rules. Steve had been kicked out of his sixth period and no other teacher wanted him, so he went into Brother Christianson’s Seminary class.
 
 Steve was told that he could not be late, so he arrived just seconds before the bell rang and he would sit in the very back of the room. He would also be the first to leave after the class was over.
 
 One day, Brother Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him. After class, Bro.
 Christianson pulled Steve aside and said, ‘You think you’re pretty tough, don’t you?’
 
 Steve’s answer was, ‘Yeah, I do.’
 
 Then Brother Christianson asked, ‘How many push-ups can you do?’
 
 Steve said, ‘I do about 200 every night.’
 
 ‘200? That’s pretty good, Steve,’ Brother Christianson said. ‘Do you think you could do 300?’
 
 Steve replied, ‘I don’t know… I’ve never done 300 at a time.’
 
 ‘Do you think you could?’ Again asked Brother Christianson.
 
 ‘Well, I can try,’ said Steve.
 
 ‘Can you do 300 in sets of 10? I need you to do 300 in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it,’ Brother Christianson said. Steve said, ‘Well… I think I can… yeah, I can do it.’
 
 Brother Christianson said, ‘Good! I need you to do this on Friday.’
 
 Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the ro om. When class started, Brother Christianson pulled out a big box of donuts. Now these weren’t the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited-it was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend.
 
 Bro. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, ‘Cynthia, do you want a donut?’
 
 Cynthia said, ‘Yes.’
 
 Bro. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, ‘Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?’
 
 Steve said, ‘Sure,’ and jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk. Bro. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia’s desk.
 
 Bro. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, ‘Joe do you want a donut?’
 
 Joe said, ‘Yes.’ Bro. Christianson asked, ‘Steve would you do ten push- ups so Joe can have a donut?’ Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut.
 
 And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten pushups for every person before they got their donut. And down the second aisle, till Bro. Christianson came to Scott.
 
 Scott was captain of the football team and center of the basketball team. He was very popular and never lacking for female companionship. Then Bro. Christianson asked, ‘Scott do you want a donut?’
 
 Scott’s reply was, ‘Well, can I do my own pushups?’
 
 Bro. Christianson said, ‘No, Steve has to do them.’
 
 Then Scott said, ‘Well, I don’t want one then.’
 
 Bro. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, ‘Steve, would you do ten pushups so Scott can have a donut he doesn’t want?’
 
 Steve started to do ten pushups. Scott said, ‘HEY! I said I didn’t want one!’
 < BR> Bro. Christianson said, ‘Look, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.’ And he put a donut on Scott’s desk.
 
 Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down. You could start to see a little perspiration coming out around his brow. Bro. Christianson started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get a little angry.
 
 Bro. Christianson asked Jenny, ‘Jenny, do you want a donut?’
 
 Jenny said, ‘No.’
 
 Then Bro. Christianson asked Steve, ‘Steve, would you do ten pushups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?’ Steve did ten, Jenny got a donut.
 
 By now, the students were beginning to say ‘No’ and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks. Steve was also having to really put forth a lot of eff ort to get these pushups done for each donut. There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.
 
 Bro. Christianson asked Robert to watch Steve to make sure he did ten pushups in a set because he couldn’t bear to watch all of Steve’s work for all of those uneaten donuts. So Robert began to watch Steve closely. Bro. Christianson started down the fourth row.
 
 During his class, however, some students had wandered in and sat along the heaters along the sides of the room. When Bro. Christianson realized this; he did a quick count and saw 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.
 
 Bro. Christianson went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.
 
 Steve asked Bro. Christianson, ‘Do I have to make my nose touch on each one?’
 
 Bro. Christianson thought for a moment, ‘Well, they’re your pushups. You can do them any way that you want.’ And Bro. Christianson went on.
 
 A few moments later, Jason came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled, ‘NO! Don’t come in! Stay out!’
 
 Jason didn’t know what was going on. Steve picked up his head and said, ‘No, let him come.’
 
 Bro. Christianson said, ‘You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten pushups for him.’
 
 Steve said, ‘Yes, let him come in.’
 
 Bro. Christianson said, ‘Okay, I’ll let you get Jason’s out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?’
 
 ‘Yes.’
 
 ‘Steve, will you do ten pushups so that Jason can have a donut?’ Steve did ten pushups very slowly an d with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.
 
 Bro. Christianson finished the fourth row, then started on those seated on the heaters. Steve’s arms were now shaking with each pushup in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity. Sweat was dropping off of his face and, by this time, there was not a dry eye in the room.
 
 The very last two girls in the room were cheerleaders and very popular. Bro. Christianson went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, ‘Linda, do you want a doughnut?
 
 Linda said, very sadly, ‘No, thank you.’
 
 Bro. Christianson asked Steve, ‘Steve, would you do ten pushups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?’
 
 Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow pushups for Linda. Then Bro. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. ‘Susan, do you want a donut?’
 
 Susan, with tears flowing down her face, asked , ‘Bro. Christianson , can I help him?’
 
 Bro. Christianson, with tears of his own, said, ‘No, he has to do it alone, Steve, would you do ten pushups so Susan can have a donut?’
 
 As Steve very slowly finished his last pushup, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 pushups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.
 
 Brother Christianson turned to the room and said. ‘And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, plead to the Father, ‘Into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, he collapsed on the cross and died. And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten.’ .
 
 When everyone in the classroom heard what the teacher meant by it and realized everything. Steve smiled on the ground where he laid in his own sweat and began to cry.

(Again, thanks for whoever wrote this)
Rusty

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Sister Hinckley’s Challenge

Sister Marjorie Hinckley described the condition in which she hoped to arrive in heaven, and in so doing, offers us a challenge….

I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with grass stains on my shoes from mowing Sister Schenk’s lawn. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.

Doctrine and Covenants 58:27

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

I’m with Sister Hinckley.  Let’s go find some ways to get our hands dirty.

Rusty

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