Some thoughts on Church History

​I’m still utterly baffled by the idea that the Church deceived or lies to people by presenting the origins of the Restoration and calling of Joseph as a Prophet in somewhat simplistic detail..

Maybe it is just me and maybe I’m projecting the expanded understandings life has given me backwards in time, but I can’t recall ever hearing the material from primary lessons or even seminary, and thinking it represented a complete and comprehensive picture of the people, details, and events involved in those miraculous incidents. 

I feel as though to me they (these lessons) always represented sort of “chapter headings” or “framework outlines”, tools that provide enough information for the user to then ask God for a witness, but that there was obviously more to the story. I feel like that was their purpose and design, and I also feel the Church made that understanding implicit. 

They were giving us the “Reader’s Digest” version so we could ask God and obtain a witness for ourselves, through faith, by the Power of the Holy Ghost. 

Now there are a few reasons that they would want to do this lets explore briefly what some of those might be. 

1. They would want us to then take that witness and learn more on our own and be anxiously engaged, in our own Gospel education

2. They viewed the Living of the Gospel, and Discipleship of more importance than getting caught up and bogged down in the details of history. They wanted to focus to be on what was done with the witness rather than all the info needed to get one. 

3. Many things don’t have good answers or enough detail to reach solid unambiguous conclusion so again the obtaining of a witness and then living accordingly became paramount and of greater value in the Grand Scheme. So the Church operated accordingly. 

4. As has recently been stated the exploration of the full depth complexity and nuance of these events doesn’t appeal the overwhelming majority of the population. So why devote particular time attention and resources to something that benefits a very select few?  The answer is you don’t. 

Thus when I examine things I am left to conclude that the Church felt that the general overview, which it should be noted is the approach Joseph uses in his own history, and makes known there is more to him and his story and the First Vision for that matter than he feels necessary to convey, (let’s not forget this approach comprises pretty much the Total Composition philosophy of the Book of Mormon, from the Small Plates of Nephi ((where only the most important Spiritual Info was given)) to Mormon repeatedly saying he couldn’t tell even the hunderedth part of what had happened) was of greatest value, and the getting of people to obtain a witness and knowledge of the Truth, by the Power of the Holy Ghost was the endeavor that the Brethren saw as most important, and thus the priority that shaped how and what was taught. 

This isn’t nefarious or dastardly or a planned deception. Sure the implicit message that those lessons were just the basics could have been made explicit. But if you accepted such simple stories as comprehensive that is on you, and whether or not you want to accept it that is the reality. 

A Piece of the Puzzle

April is Autism awareness month, I recently ran across this article in the which the author described their reasons for disliking the puzzle piece as the symbol for Autism. While I disagree and have outlined some of that disagreement elsewhere my point here is to explain why I find the puzzle piece fitting, and apt as a symbol for Autism.

Firstly lets look at what a “puzzle” is: something designed to test ingenuity or knowledge. 

Now let’s not get carried away and suppose that I am saying folks with Autism are here to test our ingenuity and knowledge, not so, but Autism does test both the ingenuity and knowledge of not only those of us work with loved ones on the spectrum, but also of those who are on the spectrum.

Superficially this works; however Autism and the full circumstances surrounding it aren’t superficial things so let’s keep looking deeper here. To better illustrate my point I turn to this illustration.

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Yes I picked a puzzle piece shaped puzzle, but there is a reason for that. Because Autism isn’t the puzzle, people on the Spectrum aren’t the puzzle, humanity IS the puzzle. Autism is but one piece.

Now many get upset supposing the idea is that they are supposed to “fit in” to learn how to be like the other pieces.

But that isn’t how puzzles work. Look back at the picture, each piece already has a space where it is supposed to go, it has a purpose, and that place and purpose is connected to other pieces.

Take away a piece and the puzzle or picture it is making, or humanity is incomplete. Try to use that piece somewhere it doesn’t belong and the puzzle picture (humanity) doesn’t take shape the way it is supposed to, try to make one exactly like the one next to it and the puzzle doesn’t work.

Cuz here is the thing, you and I, us Neurotypicals (as if we all didn’t have some level of idiosynchratic abnormality) we are puzzle pieces too.

And we need each other to help discover our place and purpose, and only by working together do we really get to see the whole picture, and reach our greatest potential.

A puzzle piece is a specific set part of a whole, with a purpose and place all its own, you don’t make a puzzle piece “fit in” it already has a place where it belongs, the point is to work together with those pieces it touches so that all of them find their right place.

Autism hasn’t been easy, but it has taught me my place and purpose, it has shown me what is important, it has shown me what matters, and what the picture ought to be, and caused me to shift and move and discover where I really fit, and how I can best help those connected to me become their part of the whole.

There is a fantastic Book & Documentary called “Life Animated“.  It follows the adventures of the Suskind family and their journey with Autism.

I want you to read it and see the movie so I won’t give away much about it, other than to say, seeing the doc at Sundance was legitimately one of the highlights of my life, especially as it relates to my life relative to Autism.

Lastly to me the puzzle piece is about finding out meaning, about finding our spot and purpose. Part of that purpose is contributing something worthwhile, something of value, something that we learn and something others we connect with teach us.

I’ll leave you with this from Ron Suskind author of Life Animated, and I hope it helps you understand why I think the puzzle piece remains a worthwhile symbol for Autism

#incitefullyinsightful

Life as a Proving Ground.

Life as a proving ground has always made sense to me. Especially in light of what awaits if we prove faithful or worthy (equal to) the opportunity that awaits us (Eternal Life)

When a craftsman creates something, they have a purpose in mind, everything that is selected for the manufacture of the end product no matter what it is, is selected because of the attributes and properties it will bring to the finished product.

In our modern world where the creation of something, passes through different stages and hands, this understanding and concept can get lost on us, unless we are willing to look deeper and see what is hidden.

But anciently where the maker began with the raw material, and saw the process through from start to finish, this concept would have been far more apparent and easy to see.

We are each a raw material, and God must refine and purify, and strip away that which would lessen the final product. And depending on the material this is done in different ways. The process for getting the most out of metal ore is vastly different from that of raw lumber, which in turn differs, from earthenware, which again differs from masonry, which still differs from Gemstones.

Further the finished product is not brought to market, or public view until it has been tested, and the maker knows it will meet the task for which it is advertised to accomplish. Additionally no craftsman tests a tool or even the raw material without intention to use it.

Therefore if you find yourself in the midst of a trial, it is because He has a plan and purpose for you in mind. And has placed in you a Divine Trust

Each of us is a slightly different raw material, in slightly different conditions and circumstances, though we are each at the same time utilized as instruments in His hands, we are also Apprenticing and learning His craft (Bringing to pass immortality and Eternal Life)

He seeks to utilize our unique attributes, and uses the process best suited to our character and attributes as well. Using us as instruments of His work and Kingdom, for the benefit of His other children, and at the same time is teaching us about Himself, and His ways, and how we are to act to be like Him.

Our objective in this life is to through practice, error and repentance, learn what it takes to be unyielding, unchangeable beings, that even the very elements can have faith in.

I echo the words of Jacob “O how great the Wisdom and Mercy of our God” for we have been granted a space and time to live to learn and grow, and the gift of repentance. In Alma 42 repentance, is presented as an opposite and contrast to the just, and eternal punishments of THE LAW.

Thus what great joy and opportunity it is to declare repentance, and faith in Christ, and the reason why His Gospel, is simplified in 5 steps

1 Faith
2 Repentance
3 Baptism
4 Gift of Holy Ghost
5 Endure to the End

I think of the timeless meanings of trial, and proving, and testing and more and more see just how apt they are.

Lastly He is not proving us to Him. He is proving us to ourselves, seeking to show us who and what we really are and are capable of, and what we were born to do and become.

Revelation and policy.

I came across something today on Facebook by one Lisa Downing that has brought to the forefront of my attention, something I have seen frequently by those advocating for the acceptance of sin in the Church.

In their zeal to find any little nugget to justify their position, they have squared in on the concepts of “what is policy” and “ongoing revelation” 

Because if something is a policy It is subject to change in their minds, and to a degree, also becomes (again in their minds) no binding on them to comply with. Nevermind that this is a grave error, policy and adherence to policy is every bit as important as adherence to “Doctrine”, but those seeking justification are prone to feeling different about these things.

Those looking to confuse the issue so as to make their justification for the acceptance of sin palatable, utilise a number of tools, one of which is a sloppiness of language, and obscuring of meanings and realities, in doing this it is easier to sway the similarly emotive mind to their causes.

Remaining level headed and rational, is key to

1. Seeing through the smokescreen
2. Responding in a calm non emotional manner, that utilizes the real details, rather than attempts to snare heart strings.

With that in mind consider the following

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Ms. Downing has in her overwrought emotive posting, made a grave error in logic, and deductive reasoning.

For reasons beyond the rational mind to comprehend she supposes that because Elder Oaks referenced the policy as a policy (hint it IS a policy) that means Pres. Nelson either mischaracterized it in saying it came by revelation, (not so) misspoke (also not so) or he and Elder Oaks disagree as to the nature of the change.

Somewhere in her handwringing, she seems to forget that policy change can and does, and should come by way of revelation, in fact that is realistically the ONLY way I want policy change to occur within the Church.

She presents a false dichotomy, seeks to make a binary situation where one does not exist. There is no dissonance, between Pres. Nelson saying it came by revelation, and Oaks rightly calling this a policy. It IS BOTH.

Here are some other policies that came by way of revelation just so we don’t confuse what is occurring.

Circumsion, Law of Moses, Passover observance, different Sabbath commemorations, restriction of priesthood to Levites, restriction of Gospel to gentiles, opening of Gospel to all, end of dietary restriction on clean and unclean, priesthood open to all Israel, blacks restricted from priesthood, blacks not restricted, United Order, tithing, Plural Marriage.

Now the causal observer might say wait you just listed a host of “Doctrines” but called them policy, that is semantic word games.

While you would be within reason to do so, it highlights what I mentioned earlier regarding sloppiness of language, it is something almost no one avoids at one point or another.

Additionally such imprecise language, and using terms interchangeably that aren’t really interchangeable is something Church leaders both past and present have been guilty of, however such is to be expected after all we are but mere fallible mortals, and we can be careless in speech, especially when speaking in a high contextual manner like you have in General Conference, and Sacrament meetings etc, where the speaker assumes a certain level of base knowledge in the audience.

But back to the topic at hand, often what we’ve called “Doctrine” was simply the current policy, so Law of Moses, no gentiles, Plural Marriage etc, these were all policies governing daily practice of the Gospel at different times, they were all instituted and rescinded by revelation in various dispensations.

And again let’s be honest here, don’t we want policy established by revelation?

We consistently mention ongoing revelation, but as soon as we have an example of it that contradicts our personal proclivities, we seek to diminish and dismiss it as mere “policy”, in fact that is the only recourse for those opposing ongoing revelation, they need it be something other than by way of revelation, otherwise they are actively fighting against God. They need it to be mancrafted policy, any hint of inspiration and divine influence puts them squarely on the wrong side, so it must be mere policy, if nowhere else but in their mind and purview.

It doesn’t work like that though we either have ongoing revelation influencing policy, or we are simply making policy based in whimsy?

Do we really want to assume whimsy is the reason for a policy, or do we really sustain or leaders and trust God, humble ourselves, and assume they seek His will, and He provides it, and directs them in forming Gospel policy for our day?

I know what I’m choosing, I encourage you to cease halting between the two options as Elijah said if the Lord be God, serve us Him.

To suppose it is either policy or revelation is pure silliness, and like trying to cram 20 lbs of crap in a 5 lbs bag.

A someone once said God cannot pour 1 gallon of revelation into a 1 cup mind.

Oh the vainness and foolishness, and frailties of man, when they have a little knowledge they think they are wise.