Tuesday, February 2, 2016

051. You Want Religion, Do You?

A few posts ago I commented on the great stumbling block of the gentiles as mentioned in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 26:20): "And the Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches; nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor." Apparently, there is something drastically amiss in our attempt to establish and promulgate "many churches", because they are easily derailed and overthrown by the adversary.

In the temple drama Lucifer tempts Adam by asking him what he wants. Adam dismisses Lucifer's question altogether and responds that he is looking for true messengers. Lucifer's reaction to Adam's answer is quite interesting: "Oh, you want someone to preach to you. You want religion, do you?" Lucifer twists what Adam was seeking for and turns it into a want, a desire, and tries to offer him a religion with a preacher man supposedly possessing all the answers.

Unfortunately, the portion of the temple drama featuring the preacher was removed in the 1990 revision as it was deemed no longer politically correct. This segment seemed to take on sort of a folksy humor that perhaps became too melodramatic or irreverent to be included in the ceremony any longer. You can find it on the internet. Anyway, there is a dialogue between Lucifer and the Preacher wherein Lucifer vets the Preacher according to his religious training and his preaching of an "orthodox religion". The Preacher is then offered money by Lucifer to teach. The Preacher says to Adam: "I understand that you are inquiring after religion," to which Adam reiterates: "I was calling upon Father." After some non-sensical teaching and questioning by the Preacher, Adam unflinchingly stays right on target and doesn't miss a beat in his response: "I am looking for messengers from my Father." To one of the true messengers who later appeared, Adam sums up the whole interaction with the Preacher as a "mass of confusion" (pun intended?). Indeed. Total chaos.

I find it interesting that Lucifer offered Adam "religion" when Adam was only seeking for truth.

I find it interesting that Adam was not interested in a paid preacher man with college training to teach him an orthodox religion.

I find it interesting that Adam sought for truth directly from God through one of God's promised and appointed servants, instead of a well-trained, paid clergyman.

Are there true messengers today?

How will you know that they are true messengers and not trained clergymen who are salaried employees of an orthodox religion?

What is the difference between the religion offered to Adam through Lucifer and the truth Adam sought from God Himself?

Many people have been hurt by the church, by the religion, and have decided to leave. Because for many, the religion is concomitant with God (similar to how many do not differentiate between the church and the gospel), they have not only walked away from the church/religion/institution that did them harm, but they have also left behind or suspended their belief in God, Christ, the restoration, the scriptures, and other truths.

I find these people to be strangely valiant and curiously noble. They, like Adam, do not want a religion, they reject it. They are not seeking a preacher strongman to guide them anymore or for an orthodox religion to feed them answers. They are more like Adam than they may ever realize. They don't want to be deceived or lied to. They don't want to be hurt or manipulated by a trained preacher who is paid to teach and convert them. They want the truth. They want answers. They want understanding. They are tired of listening to a "mass of confusion".

Yet, where many of these individuals are unlike Adam is that they have temporarily halted the quest to find the truth of God for themselves directly from God Himself. Commentaries on religious orthodoxy or historical analyses will always be incomplete shards of a beautiful stained-glass window. The complete whole can only be obtained from God Himself. Joseph was restoring the truth of how to approach God so that all could get it for themselves, just as he had, and not through a trained preacher or an orthodox religion.

I would humbly plea with those who have had their fill of religion to continue to recognize the hand of God in their lives, to turn to Him in faith for answers, and to seek the further light and knowledge that God has promised to send you. He will.

Monday, February 1, 2016

050. Prelude to 1832 Account of the 1st Vision

The 1832 account of Joseph Smith's 1st Vision records:

"I pondered many things in my heart
concerning the situation of the world of mankind:
the contentions and divisions,
the wickedness and abominations,
and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind.

My mind became exceedingly distressed
for I became convicted of my sins.
And by searching the scriptures
I found that mankind
did not come unto the Lord
but that they had apostatized
from the true and living faith
and there was no society or denomination
that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ
as recorded in the New Testament.

And I felt to mourn for my own sins
and for the sins of the world.
For I learned in the scriptures
that God was the same yesterday, today, and forever.
That He was no respecter to persons,
for He was God.

For I looked upon the sun -
the glorious luminary of the earth -
and also the moon rolling in their majesty through the heavens,
and also the stars shining in their courses,
and the earth also upon which I stood,
and the beast of the field
and the fowls of heaven,
and the fish of the waters,
and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth
in majesty and in the strength of beauty -
whose power and intelligence in governing the things
which are so exceeding great and marvelous,
even in the likeness of Him who created them.

And when I considered upon these things
my heart exclaimed, "Well hath the wise man said,
'It is a fool that saith in his heart there is no God.'"
My heart exclaimed, "All all these bear testimony
and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power;
a Being who maketh laws and decreeeth
and bindeth all things in their bounds;
who filleth eternity;
who was, and is, and will be from all eternity to eternity."

And when I considered all these things
and that that Being seeketh such to worship Him
as worship Him in spirit and in truth,
therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy
for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy."

Joseph Smith, History 1832, pp. 1–2; 
Letter Book 1, 1829–35, 
Joseph Smith, Collection, LDS Church Archives.