I have had some time and insight since my last writing – immersing myself in friends that have become family, church, and reacquainting myself with his revelations and promises to me as an individual. In that time I have recommitted myself to Christ and He invited me to let go of a lot of my previous plans – not only for coping with the relative loss of all of you to distance and your mother to our divorce – but also as to how I teach you through these writings.
It was a bit unsettling; He erased all of my plans, leaving nothing but a blank, white future directly before me where I had hastily written in my own plans. So it is step by step, writing each moment, and giving me a different template for my future. With that understanding, I hope I do a good job of teaching you not to fear or worry, because I know you are as much in His hands as I am.
On the other hand, I pose this question to you: “What understanding, revelation, and gifts from God are you yearning for, seeking now, and receiving that God will use to guide you in your life decades from now?”
But – as a result of this new direction, at my new start – God isn’t interested in me laying out my history and rehearsing all of the spiritual and intellectual roads that made my decision so clear. There are so many reasons why this new direction is wisdom in God. The largest of which is that teaching truth is sufficient – and perhaps more helpful than getting into great personal detail. So let me begin.
No Other Gods
In my first letter to you, I mentioned the first of the ten commandments: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” It is a simple enough of a scripture and a simple enough of a statement, but it seems that we tend to really convolute or totally screw up what it actually means. But above and beyond common things we talk about as being false Gods (I’ll spare you the Sunday School rehash), it surprises me how quickly monotheistic followers of Christ can so easily turn various aspects of Christian living into false Gods themselves.
For you, now, expecting you will have grown up in my hometown, and being brought up in the same faith that I was, there are some false gods that I encountered during my LDS (Mormon) life that I don’t think are the slightest bit unique:
- Orthodoxy – living beliefs and values as deemed “right” by your peer group, rather than seeking believe and live according to what is right before God.
- Tradition and ritual – Placing form over function (or purpose) by prioritizing common patterns, practices, and customs above the spiritual experiences and purposes they are intended to facilitate or support.
- Pride or praise of your world – being concerned about one’s own standing in the eyes of other people, or those in authority, rather than focusing on one’s standing before God.
- Law – living a life centered around powerful rules and punishment without a knowledge, understanding, or experience of powerful mercy, redemption, spiritual life, and personal salvation. With out these you’re only worshipping a portion of God.
But the real surprise to me and disappointment to God is that the LDS church has lifted itself up and exalted itself beyond its place. Historically we have lied ourselves into a perceived position of infallibility. The position itself isn’t as problematic for me as the fact it simply isn’t tenable and our leadership and people perpetuate it. So, collectively we play the role of Aaron who created a golden calf for the people to worship while Moses was in the presence of the Lord on Mount Sanai. The bottom line – in my heart – is how many people are in the presence of the Lord communing with Him? Everything else seems so shallow and shortsighted. However, while the paraded role of our leadership is to preach of Christ and direct people to Him, I hear too much of the church bearing testimony of itself while life is in Christ.
My change in faith has been a great source of peace. I don’t need to fall down and worship the golden image when the music plays – or even feel out of place when everybody else does so inappropriately. It seemed and felt as if I was the only one that could recognize that the image palls in comparison to the glory, truth, and perfection that is in the living God. I know who my God is; He is worthy of my every devotion and He has never failed me. The scripture says “no man can serve two masters,” but when you know God… it is my experience that there really is no other master. Everything else becomes a bit of a joke.
Why does it matter?
I bring this up because it caused me pain and unnecessary difficulty in life – I relied on the fallible that postured itself infallible. The difficulty and pain was a direct result of false teaching; it left me spiritually starved rather than filled with the abundance promised in Christ. I simply don’t want that for you. I wish I had been more aware as a child that there are a lot of different voices in the LDS Church – as there are a lot of different voices everywhere. They’re not all godly or even helpful and next to nobody who attends church is really comfortable saying that, let alone standing by it, presenting its factual basis, and exploring the origin and motivators of those voices. The biggest and simplest question is: “why is that?”
God has commanded everyone to seek and love Him with all their might, mind and strength. Joseph Smith described the blessings to those who “serve [God] at all hazard.” So tell me what boundaries we are to observe in seeking Him? What parts of ourselves does He want us to under-utilize in our pursuit of truth and righteousness? In Jeremiah, there is the promise: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” These teachings are true. As is the truth that it is life eternal to know the only true God and Jesus Christ.
So explain to me: where will your heart, might, mind and strength not go to find Him? Are you willing to go where our leadership has failed and where our people have fallen short? Joseph Smith is reported to have said: “You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God. . . . God will feel after you, and he will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.” Is this the theology we believe in? Or do we prefer filling pews, performing certain assignments, and resting in minimal standards of worthiness? There’s a stark difference: “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.” So, what then is it the Lord will not expect of you in the rearranging of your priorities? It is also understood that Joseph Smith taught that “if God had known any other way whereby he could have touched Abraham’s feelings more acutely and more keenly he would have done so.”
So how much do you love God and trust in Him? Or, alternatively, is your trust in something else? If it is, good luck loving Him to the extent He is worthy of while loving that something else. He states, Himself, that He is a jealous god.
The ‘God above Church’ mode of religious practice poses some very serious questions for our people. Truthfully such a shift would be revolutionary. Refocusing our people’s gaze on the will of God – beyond the interests of the church and its communities – would better enable our people to focus on the two great commandments, eliminating a fearful us vs. them attitude that has prevailed in our congregations and empowering individuals to really become the salt of the earth, and lights to the world. It would be a church more focused on creating members who are servants of all rather than being a church that was created to be served. It would be a shift that respects personal freewill, identity, and growth over conformity, cohesiveness, and control. And sure, if ye are not one, ye are not mine, but there is only one “head whereby ye can be made free.”
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
So, to you, especially my kids, are you content serving the gods of your fathers, or will you actually serve the Lord. The golden calf fashioned over generations is readily available, hearing its voice takes no gifting from God, and this golden calf will ask for all that you have in God’s stead. Nevertheless you can only put your whole soul on one altar or none at all; choose wisely.
Now, to you, the rest of you, there is a General Conference coming up. I invite you to discern the teachings that you hear. There are other things to observe, sure. Still, I invite you to discern whether the teachings directly and powerfully glorify God for who He is in His perfection and goodness, or if they more closely resemble the backhanded glorification of God in the fashion of Rameumptom. How much of the efforts are spent maintaining a “holy stand” thanking God that He we are different from our brethren? Thanking Him for our chosen status? Ultimately: does the church point the entirety of humanity to Christ or does redirect all of humanity to the church? And, to you, does it make any difference?