27 May 2015

Baptism Q&A

(I've gotten a lot of questions about our baptisms, so I thought I'd collect them, and their answers, in one place.)

Q: I thought this is why we partake of the Sacrament each week, to renew our baptismal convents? I still not understanding the WHY you did this when repentance and partaking the Sacrament has the same desired effect.

A: There is no support in scripture for the idea that sacrament is renewing of baptismal covenants. Baptism and the sacrament are separate ordinances. There are several instances in scripture, most notably in 3 Nephi and Acts 19, where faithful believers are baptized again to show their repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. This is not taught currently in the LDS Church, which is really sad to me. It was a common practice in the early church. I don't know why rebaptism has been discouraged. Additionally, Jesus instructed us to eat and drink the emblems of His flesh and blood "in remembrance of Me". Baptism is to show we have repentant hearts and have begun a new phase in our lives.

Q:I'm confused. We're you baptized into a different church? Was this something you did on your own? The post was unclear to me.

A: The LDS Church does not consider someone a member of the church until confirmed, after baptism. An investigator could be baptized, and then walk out of the building before confirmation, and that person would not be put on the records of the church.

Baptism has never conferred membership, but is a sign of repentance and faith.

This was done on our own, in accordance with the 11th Article of Faith, which allows all the same privilege of worshipping God according to the dictates of our own conscience. We have been super-prayerful about this, the scriptures clearly show this is a pattern that goes back to before the time of Christ, and we have a deep confidence that this was pleasing to God, for we felt His approval.

Q: If you no longer believe in the principles and ordinances and priesthood authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, why do you care if you're excommunicated? Aren't your actions confirmation of your desire to leave the Church?

A: The LDS Church is MY church. I am a member. It has been the bedrock of my own personal community for my entire life. It taught me to live a good, clean, upright life, to love God, and gave me beautiful and powerful scripture.

The leadership's shifting policies and procedures, some of which I've watched change dramatically in the last six months, as well as over my own lifetime's memory, have changed things for the worse, and not in accordance to the teachings of Joseph Smith.

My baptism is proof that I fully believe in the principles and ordinances of the gospel (4th Article of Faith). I have full faith and confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ. Priesthood existed before the LDS Church was organized. The LDS Church does not own or control priesthood--quite the contrary. The church itself is dependent upon continuing priesthood authority from God in order to have any efficacy at all. (Remember Elder Packer's talk on priesthood a few years ago, where he lamented that we have done a great job at distributing the authority of the priesthood the world over, but lag far behind that in those so ordained actually receiving the *power* of the priesthood?)

A church isn't about worshipping and obeying the leadership. Contrary to modern idiom, a church ISN'T its leadership. We say "the church" the same way we say "the white house", meaning the leadership. But the rest of Christendom, when they say "church", they mean all believers in the Body of Christ. "Church" is used to denote buildings and denominations . . . but the word itself harks back to Greek, and to a word used to denote a group of people: ekklesia, meaning "the ones called out". The "church" is those who are believers in Jesus Christ.

I want this to be absolutely clear: I have NO DESIRE to NOT be a member the LDS Church. It is still MY church, and part of my community.

Q:Just curious, who performed the re baptisms. Vern? For himself? And where?
Like · Reply · May 24 at 9:22am

A: Vern was baptized by a good friend, and Vern baptized me, in a lovely creek local to us.

Q: We must be careful about innovating and deciding on new doctrine. I'm worried you're going astray . . . 

A:We aren't proclaiming new doctrine. Simply following the words of Christ in scripture. D&C 1:38 reminds us that God's words do not decay or die, but are eternal and permanent. His doctrine is that we repent and be baptized. So we are doing just that.

Q: Is this something you will continue too do often as a part of your repentance process?

A: Yes, as moved upon by the Holy Ghost. Repentance is turning to Christ because you see things differently, or you want to see things differently. It's not a five-step process for every item on a list of wrongdoing. It's a joyous, hope-filled way of life.

This rebaptism was prompted by a renewal & strengthening of our own relationships with Jesus Christ. I can see this happening many times throughout the rest of my life.

Q: So by what authority? And I'm guessing you skip the confirmation?

A: The authority comes through the voice of Jesus Christ, same as Nephi received it during Christ's visit to the Americas.

Q: First off I do love the family picture. And I'm glad your family is happy, but if you believe in Joseph Smith and the scriptures which talk about prophet's since the beginning of time do you not believe that president Monson is prophet? And if you do why aren't you heading his advice? I'm not trying to be rude just wondering.

The gospel and it leaders have taught me to love others as Jesus did no matter what, who or where you are in life. Church is a hospital for the sick and weary. And sometimes we do get excommunicated but it is for our own good and then we can come back and be baptized again. And I've been able to witness that as a youth and I will never forget. I trust the Lord and his leaders that guide and direct me and sometimes they may make mistakes for we are all human but we will be blessed for our obedience. And I testify of that.

Anyway I wish the best for you all and miss seeing you guys. Hopefully we will see you around this summer

A: I continue to pray for President Monson, and hope that he someday shows the same behavior and fruits as prophets in the scriptures . . . but knowing that Joseph Smith is a prophet, seer and revelator that brought forth a tremendous work for the benefit of a portion of God's people, does not automatically make Thomas Monson a prophet. I have watched and looked, and while I believe Pres. Monson is a good and decent man, often inspired of God and who has devoted his life to serving others within the organization of the LDS Church, his life does not bear the fruit of the gifts of prophecy (knowing God's will in a specific situation, or bringing a message from God), revelation (learning things which no one can know without God showing them), or seership (seeing things as they are, were, and are yet to come). Contrary to common believe, a prophet truly MUST say "Thus saith the Lord" to identify the words of God to the people. That's the pattern set out in scripture, and no matter how well-meaning any General Conference talks have been that say otherwise, God has always done that, and continues to do so now. He opens with identifying Himself, and closes in the same way, often entreating us to hear and receive what He says.

President Monson has given so much really wonderful advice. Be kind to others. Serve. Love. Give selflessly. Read your scriptures. Care for the needy. Love God. I'm following all of that to my best ability, because I'm following Jesus Christ.

If the church is a hospital for the sick and weary, then it's the strangest hospital I've ever seen. Some wards (pun intended) do really well at caring for those who are in desperate need, while others do not. Some leadership nurture along those with serious crises of faith, and others shun them. Some allow people to learn at their own pace and work through things as they need to, while others excommunicate people for questioning or teaching their children things the leadership doesn't agree with. (That happened to a good friend of mine from back east. He was excommunicated for "teaching false doctrine, primarily in the home".) There are SO MANY wonderful things about Mormonism, but there is an illness in the hospital staff and doctors themselves that must be cured.

Excommunication can be a good thing, but only if it's done in cases of serious sin. So many people I know have been excommunicated because they had the gall to do what the scriptures teach, instead of honoring a leader's contradictory instruction. Between the word of man and Word of God, they chose the Word of God, and were cast out. No sin involved-- most were worthy of temple recommends when they were excommunicated.

I love the members of the LDS Church. Dearly. That hasn't changed. It never will.

And lastly, the only obedience that brings blessings is obedience to the will of the Father, as Christ submitted Himself throughout His entire life. Obedience to men only brings positive feedback from the institution, which is powerful and heady stuff. But it won't bring salvation, because you're binding yourself to a mortal, instead of God.

Thanks so much for asking questions. I know you, and I only heard curiosity and earnest concern. Thank you so much.

Q:I have to be blunt. I worry about you. I worry that you are falling away from the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints. So I have to ask, are you? Are you desiring other religions? What is it about the LDS faith you are scared or worried about? Have you gone to your leaders with your questions and concerns or better yet, God? Heavenly Father has all your answers, but have you listened for them? 
I really have no clue why I am writing this but maybe it's meant to be. 
I love the picture and love to see smiles on your families faces. 

A: Thank you so much for asking. That says more to me about the genuine concern of your heart than a courteous silence ever could.

The only religion I desire is what the Lord Jesus Christ has given us: to be in relationship with Him because of His Victory. The LDS church has made it increasingly clear that it expects its members to go through their leaders in order to have access to Christ. (Elder Oaks' talk on Priesthood, Elder Nelson's talk on sustaining leaders, and Sister McConkie's talk that followed Elder Nelson's all come to mind.) According to current practice, without church approval, you have no hope of salvation or exaltation. But that's not what God said. He said "Come unto Me".

I have most definitely asked my questions of both leadership and God. My leadership has been utterly unhelpful (my bishop going so far as to openly reject scripture, declaring that the handbook supersedes it when the two disagree). I have had so many answers given through personal revelation--all of which have been ratified by scripture, and many of which have come by reading scripture.

It wasn't until I began consciously choosing what God has said in scripture over what men now preach that my own faith began to grow . . . like the good seed in Alma 32. A lifetime of the most faithful of faithful Molly Mormon living didn't do that--it gave me tremendous discipline and character development, the Book of Mormon & associated scripture, and so much more. But the promised fruit (such as in D&C 21, where we're promised that darkness will flee before us and the heavens & earth will shake for our good and God's glory) never could be produced by faith in men.

Our words MATTER. Our praise must be for God alone, and we should not honor one man (or woman) above another. HIS name should be lifted high, His glory extolled, His righteousness and mercy to us shouted aloud every day, and especially on when we meet together to worship Him.

Mormonism has forgotten what it even means to worship...and even the precious and sweet meaning of the simple phrase "God is good".

Those smiles on our faces were put there by the incredible joy we all felt from our baptisms. We have had an increase of love & joy in our family, and a significant increase in the presence of the Holy Spirit in our home & our hearts.

We are not attacking the LDS church, or anyone in it. I've made a conscious choice to not be ashamed to own my God, to worship Him in truth (both scriptural accuracy and in agreement with His nature as the Way, the Truth and the Life), and to not fear what man might do, but follow the Lord God. And finally, scripture's promised blessings--God's own promised blessings--flow.

Q: In these last days, people will start to stray from the gospel and its teachings. I just worry that, that is what is happening.

A: I have a question for this person and any others here... how is being baptized according to the commandments of Christ in the Book of Mormon indicative of one "straying from the gospel and its teachings"? (Vern answered this one.)

Q: It's not just that... It's other comments that have been made that go against what the LDS church teaches. I'm not one to judge, but I am one to worry about my fellow members. I have met Annalea, and think she is a great person. But that doesn't mean that Satan won't work his damnedest on her either. He knows us so well that he knows what to plant into our minds or what to plant into others minds to stray people. It's his goal... To destroy us all!

A: I guess the best and really only way to know if one is not bring deceived is to ask the Father in the name of Christ. This IS the only way. The scriptures are full of people who trusted in men more than God for truth. We aren't exempt from this even though we've been taught we are. (This one a FB friend answered.)

Q: I hope the best for you and that you don't lose faith in God (I'm sure you won't) And that you will not diss the LDS faith or people that do believe and practice it... or preach that it's teachings are wrong. 
I feel that religion and politics are a very bad subjects to discuss with a lot of people. The debate can get ugly real fast. I don't like that. I was merely showing concern for you when reading these things you've been posting. I hope nothing but the best for you.

A:I don't ever want to diss anyone . . . that's not the heart of God, to attack His children.

I will continue to write about what God teaches me through scripture and the Holy Ghost, and some of that might shed light on issues that various churches have (not just the LDS). I've felt consistently led to point to Christ and write about the amazingly good news of His victory. This will still mostly happen at my blog, too. I don't like to bring up hot-button topics on facebook . . . this announcement was one I felt distinctly prompted to make, and I've been blessed for doing it.

I have so much gratitude for the LDS Church and what it gave me. It was my entire life for nearly all my life, and taught me so much. Things have changed drastically in the last two years, including a lot of things that openly flout the plain words of Jesus Christ. It's my testimony of the prophetic call and ministry of Joseph Smith and the beauty in the things he gave us that precipitated recent events. I'll never ridicule or mock, and will always honor another's choice to worship how, where and what they may, with only one caveat: that there is no abuse involved. I will always decry abuse, and the oppression of the children of God in the name of religion.

Thank you so much for your questions, and for caring. It means a lot to me. God bless you and your family!


23 May 2015

Baptism Day


So much JOY.

So much.

Choosing to dig into and adhere to the words of Jesus Christ is the best decision I've ever made.

There is a movement, within the membership of the LDS Church (and increasingly outside of it, as members otherwise in full good standing are excommunicated for "apostasy"), to once again rely on the scriptures as the definitive Word of God. To trust the words of Jesus Christ over anything contradictory spoken by man. Thousands have been baptized according to the Doctrine of Christ, and it's not slowing down, despite heavy-handed disciplinary actions and top-down ordered excommunications by LDS leadership, in direct contradiction to their own press releases and scripture. (There's a whole rat's nest of plausible deniability, due to Area Authority 70's not necessarily being considered "general authorities", but I won't go into that here.)

This is the stone cut out of the mountain without hands . . . all believers, everywhere, seeking God on His terms, and seeking to do His will. It is happening in all denominations, all over the world. The LDS Church is no exception.

Yesterday was an incredible day . . . and I will treat it as the celebratory occasion it was. Hallelujah for Jesus Christ, our Lord, and His wonder, glory, and love for us!

I welcome questions, concerns, and freak-outs . . . once again, this blog is a platform for open discussion, and an earnest and simple offer to seek understanding, instead of take refuge in gossip and hearsay.

Peace be to you Reader, whoever you are, in Jesus' name, so be it.

22 May 2015

Baptism

Today, Vern and I will be rebaptized to show our renewed commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ, to demonstrate our renewed repentance, and our full trust and belief in His Word, both in scripture and to us individually.
Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. ~2 Nephi 31:17
Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? ~Acts 10:47
For about three years I have longed to be baptized again to show my God I am willing to do all He asks. I knew it was common in the LDS church in the first few decades. The only answer I could ever get from current LDS church members was "We just don't do that anymore". And so I was left, wistful and unsatisfied. No one could show me where God said He didn't want me to be baptized again. It was a church policy decision, and that was that. Then I came across some interesting passages in the Book of Mormon:
For behold, Nephi was baptizing, and prophesying, and preaching, crying repentance unto the people, showing signs and wonders, working miracles among the people, that they might know that the Christ must shortly come ~Helaman 16:4
Shortly thereafter when Christ was ministering to the Nephites & Lamanites, Nephi, who had been baptizing (which meant he had already been baptized, himself), was again baptized:
And it came to pass that Nephi went down into the water and was baptized. And he came up out of the water and began to baptize. And he baptized all those whom Jesus had chosen. ~3 Nephi 19:11-12
Those present at the temple in Bountiful, for the Savior's ministry, were the "more righteous" (3 Ne 10:12) . . . presumably many, if not all, of them had already been baptized. Nephi had just been going around baptizing many, and Helaman 3 talks about tens of thousands being baptized just 28 years earlier. Even the New Testament talks about rebaptism: those who were baptized by John the Baptist were rebaptized by the apostles of Jesus Christ (Acts 19).

Baptism was part of Jewish practice during Jesus' childhood. He had already been baptized long before He entered the Jordan with John.

Walking in this new life, this life in Christ, is such a radical departure from the stoic, quiet desperation of my orthodox LDS life. I praise God that He came and nurtured me when I was sinking in hopelessness, wondering where He was, and why His promises were not bearing the sweet fruit He promised. Receiving Jesus Christ and being born again is something I will never reject, never deny.
And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; 
And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. ~Mosiah 27:25-26
We will forever be grateful for our LDS foundation, our upbringing that developed strong character, that sowed in our hearts a devotion to the Godhead, and that pointed our lives in directions that placed us where we are today: Vern and I walking through life together, and raising our family that we love so very much.

Joseph Smith was an honorable, righteous man of God, faithful to his wife Emma always, called to start something that has been almost completely abandoned today. The Book of Mormon is precious and true, and God has not left us comfortless.

The heavens are open for business, my friends.

21 May 2015

Too many words, but not sufficient.

Last weekend I had the pleasure and privilege to go to a reunion, getting together with people I have grown to love greatly for their honesty, their earnestness, their humility and their love of our Lord Jesus Christ. I don't think I've ever been hugged so many times by so many people in one weekend. It was amazing. The open-heartedness, the lack of fear, utter lack of pretension, the willingness to forgive and be brought together by the love of God all combined to make something that felt much like I've heard heaven described: as the best family reunion ever, where no one has to do the dishes.

The talks were only a part of the experience. I wish I could've bottled up the closing potluck's vibe to carry in my pocket always. But the talks weren't shabby at all, and provide ample food for thought. You can listen to them here:

http://reunion.totheremnant.com

I can report that in actuality, and contrary to the many fears and concerns some anxious few aired publically, the reunion was exceedingly tame. I, with my Pentecostal leanings, was the most vocal there, with my participatory amen's and generous cheering of God's praise. (Oh, how good it was to be where utterance is not constrained!) There was nothing strange or weird, and I saw so much of the uncomplicated love of God for His children on display in the interactions we all had one with one another.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and sound judgement. Praise the Lord! 😊

10 May 2015

Moses' Thoughts on Tithing

5 But you shall seek the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His Name and make His dwelling place, and there shall you come;6 And there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the offering of your hands, and your vows and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herd and of your flock.7 And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you. ~Deuteronomy 12:5-7 AMP
Throughout Deuteronomy 12, 13 & 14, Moses recorded instructions for the Israelites about where & how they sacrifice, and what they may eat. He mentions that there will come a time when they can no longer sacrifice wherever the mood strikes them, but the Lord will choose one place where they will have to visit. The verses above are just a little snippet of the whole discourse, and shows the underlying premise that the Israelites' sacrifices wouldn't, as I had always thought, been wholly given to the Levites or the poor. Moses talks about sacrifices of grain, fruits of the ground, wine, oil and animals in the context of feasting; it's clearly understood that the children of Israel would eat, themselves, the things which they brought to sacrifice.

Sacrifice is supposed to be a feast. Not a God-inflicted famine.

For those who, when the time came, had to travel too far to the temple to bring their tithe, they were to sell their tithe, bring the money to the temple, "And you may spend that money for whatever your appetite craves, for oxen, or sheep, or new wine or strong[er] drink, or whatever you desire; and you shall eat there before the Lord your God and you shall rejoice, you and your household" (14:26).

Verses 28-29 of 14 set forth the way to care for the poor, the stranger, and the fatherless and the widow. Those who either did not have land which would yield support for them, or those who had not the strength to do so. That was a triennial tithe of the increase (i.e. what the farms & enterprises brought in over and above what was put into them at the beginning of the year; what we now call profit, or "net gain"); that tithe was to provide for the poor. The annual tithe of all produce (14:22) was to be sacrificed: feasted upon before the Lord, in the place where He would designate.

There's so much to meditate on here . . . on the way the Lord provided for His own, and how He has asked us to provide for one another. For, more than once through these chapters, the Israelites were reminded that they were not to neglect the Levite, the poor, or the stranger, who had no inheritance among them. I have the distinct feeling that the triennial tithe was not the upper limit of the help available to those in need--it was the "savings account" for the needy, for when those immediately around them were unable to help.

But my gem for today is the concept of sacrifice as feast. When we set something aside as holy, which is the purpose and meaning of the word, it's a beautiful symmetry of meaning that we should rejoice, be filled, and remember the Lord our God (14:23-24, 26).

And looking at the modern English meaning of sacrifice, to give something up, to voluntarily turn over something you love or desire, the mystery deepens further: for just as if I tried to wash my clothing in blood it would not come out pristinely white, the idea that giving up something dear to me should mean I feast and rejoice is equally as strange.

But we have a mysterious, powerful, miraculous God, Who not only washes us clean in His blood, but brings bounteous feasting, an overflowing filling, when we offer up to Him what He has asked.

Father in Heaven, I'm just filled with gratitude today. I'm not even sure where to start. Thank You. Just . . . thank You. You have my love, my best efforts (pathetic though they may be), and my deeply repentant heart. Thank You, for everything. In Jesus' name, amen.

09 May 2015

Resist the devil, and he will flee.

7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. ~James 4:7-8 NASB 
14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; ~Ephesians 4:14 NASB 

08 May 2015

On Contradicting God

Be watchful that you are not ensnared into following them after they have been destroyed before you and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? We will do likewise. You shall not do so to the Lord your God, for every abominable thing which the Lord hates they have done for their gods. For even their sons and their daughters they have burned in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be watchful to do it; you shall not add to it or diminish it.   
If a prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder he foretells to you comes to pass, and if he says, Let us go after other gods—gods you have not known—and let us serve them, you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your [mind and] heart and with your entire being. You shall walk after the Lord your God and [reverently] fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and cling to Him. ~Deut 12:30-13:4 AMP
God knew, has always known, human nature. Moses understood this, as well. As Moses wrote these verses, he laid out such a clear set of instructions to the Israelites. First, they are NOT, under any circumstance, to follow after the idols of the people whose land they live in.

Next, Moses tells the Israelites straight up that even if a prophet or visionary passes the test specified by God, the moment that person contradicts the Living God, FOR THE LOVE OF PETE DON'T DO WHAT THEY SAY!!! In the following verses of Deuteronomy 13, the death penalty is decreed for false prophets who would lead Israel into idolatry. This is a seriously big deal to God.

These verses caught my attention sharply this morning. First, it was the incredibly plain instruction to not follow anyone who contradicts God. And then, I began to wonder why on earth we humans are so eager to run after idols, so prone to abandon the One who has faithfully betrothed Himself to His church.

We should cling to, devote ourselves to, the Living God. To what He has said, and what He has asked. To following in His footsteps. It's so easy to get caught up in the demands of modern life, of our culture, of the common practice of our day. There are alluring things everywhere--beautiful, good, lovely things--that quickly take the place of our GOD in this time. He should be first--always. He should be in our mind & hearts constantly. We should speak of His words and His hand in our lives with one another. There are riches, feasting, healing, renewal of life, joy and rejoicing to be had at the table of the Lamb of God . . . why are we so eager to settle for McD's? There is so much more that God is eager to give us . . . so much more that He holds out before us. So much more than a pleasant warmth or faint goosebumps. We have records in scripture, showing how God has interacted with and blessed and poured out upon others. He is no respecter of persons: every one of us can and should seek after everything He will give. And He has told us that He will give us everything that He has. And then He did--on the cross.

Father in Heaven, I don't know how I can ever thank you enough for all that You do, constantly, continually, for all of Your children. I praise You for Your patience, Your mercy, Your lovingkindness that draws us to repentance, Your Spirit and the power that rests upon those who follow You the way You have set forth. Your yoke truly IS easy, and Your burden light. I will walk therein, rejoicing all the way, seeking always to learn Your Word and Your will, so I may keep them, in Jesus' name, amen.