Change is the Heart of Repentance

"I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]. For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him." ~Romans 12:1-3 AMP

Here, Paul urges the Romans to offer to God the whole of themselves, to learn what He would have them do, to learn everything He has to offer, and in so doing, to allow Him to transform them into His likeness, to understand Him and His way of doing things, His reality. 

This passage has been on my mind for a long time, now. As I've mulled it over, meditating on what Paul says here, the principles of repentance keep coming to mind. There are many more things I've learned from this passage, but repentance is the topic for today.

As you may already know, the Greek word for repentance means a change of mind, a fresh new perspective which results in a change of behavior. This only comes about when we learn. Without learning, repentance cannot happen. Repentance is not just feeling really, really guilty or shameful about something, confessing, apologizing and making restitution. Shame and guilt can be taught into someone, trained into them, and then called forth on demand based on behavior, regardless of a person's understanding of right and wrong. Restitution is often not within the bounds of our mortal power to give. We cannot heal broken hearts. We cannot restore innocence lost. No. Repentance has far more to do with God, and our invitation to Him to work in our lives, than it does with any checklist.

What we want to see, when we seek repentance, is gaining understanding that reveals the truth, showing our behavior in the true light of God's teachings. We need to learn, and in learning, to change our minds. To "renew" the way we see things. Right thinking--thoughts and beliefs in alignment with God and His Truth--increase faith. Not just the trust we have in God, but the actions that must follow in order for faith to save. Learning right thinking changes our minds. And when our minds truly change, our behavior follows. Without change, no real learning has happened. Without change, no repentance has happened.

Change is the heart of repentance.

Father God, I thank You so incredibly much for the blessings in my life. For my faculties, for my education and the understanding You have given me, for my children, my husband, my family, my friends. An "abundance of counselors", indeed. Father, as I start into this next stretch of time, teach me please. Renew my mind continually with Your Knowledge and Your Wisdom. Reveal to me Your perspective in every situation, so I may walk in Your paths. Transform me into someone who can serve You, who can serve those in need and pour Your love out into them. Show me the way to walk through this life of mine, that has been turned upside down and inside out. Show me Your will in all things, Father, and show me how You would have me proceed. You are the One Who has all Wisdom, all Knowledge, all Mercy, Grace and Power, Lord. You are the source of every good thing in my life, and the comfort for every ill. You have sought me out, reclaimed me, and instructed me when I thought I had it all figured out, and I will treasure Your teachings, Your redemption, and Your insistent, persistent Love always. In Yeshua's holy name, Amen.

Mercy and Grace

Generally speaking, the acceptance of things as they currently operate in the LDS Church follows a basic premise: "God brought beauty and blessings out of the painful/sad/horrible/difficult/wrong/abusive/sinful thing that happened. Therefore, what happened was His will." That, combined with quotes like this gem from Marion G. Romney, seal the submissive acceptance of whatever does happen:
“I remember years ago when I was a bishop I had President Heber J. Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home. … Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: ‘My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.”
What this well-intentioned brother is talking about is God's mercy. His mercy is what turns trial into testimony, burden into blessing. In His mercy, Jesus holds back the punishment that justice demands, and blesses us, instead, hoping we will turn to Him in our extremity. Mercy happens, and can only happen, when we justly deserve a whole lot more consequences than we're getting . . . i.e. when we do something wrong, or stupid, and our merciful, loving God finds a way to turn that to benefit His work and to bless us.

Now, mercy is a distinctly different animal from grace. Our own LDS leaders define grace very well, in addition to the link I just provided. The church's website states: "grace is an enabling power".

When someone is gracious, they extend favor to someone who does not deserve it. It is the gracious response of a hostess that ignores the mud tracked onto her pristine floor by the shoes of the farmer's daughter who came to her home in town, or passes it off as nothing when it is noticed. It's the civilized response to another's discomfort, embarrassment, or pain. It is unmerited favor.

God's grace becomes active in our lives when we are following Him. His grace makes us more than we ever could be on our own . . . but it takes faith in Him. True faith, faith unto salvation. It takes us hearing God's word for us when we are turned toward Him, and then accepting that He has already provided all we need, will help us where we are weak, and perform amazing things through us--weak vessels though we may be. It takes us stepping out in faith--sometimes into total darkness, sometimes off a precipice into an abyss--for His Grace to become active in us. 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us why:
"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
I'll repeat myself: grace makes more of us than we could ever be on our own. 

We have to venture into territory where we are unequipped--not because we have no talent or ability, but because our mortal nature and intelligence falls short of the task at hand. It takes us trusting God enough to move forward despite Him calling us into areas of our weakness. Our weaknesses are what allow us to even SEE God's strength. In my 35 years of Molly Mormonhood, I felt such deep devotion to God, and would cry regularly as I shared my testimony. And yet, I never let Him fill my weakness. I gave Him no quarter in which to show forth His power, because I did it all myself.

Do we deserve either mercy or grace? Definitely not. Christ's sacrifice and victory give Him the right to extend them to us. The question is, which power do you invite into your life?

Can we grow in situations where God's mercy is alone manifest? Absolutely. Can we learn deep truths, beautiful things, and be changed for the better through His mercy? Absolutely. But can we learn as much through the operation of God's mercy as we could through the operation of His grace? 

No.

Can we rise up as on wings of eagles, be made into new creatures in Christ Jesus through the baptism of fire that precipitates receiving the Holy Ghost, can we prophesy, heal, cast out devils, move mountains, or work any other work of the Lord Jesus Christ through mercy alone? 

No.

That takes faith, which calls down God's grace.

It's nothing special for a group of people to claim blessings have come to them from God. It's no different from any other group of people anywhere--believer or not. He blesses all people, as often and as richly as He can. He makes the rain to fall, the sun to shine, on the evil as well as the good. The wheat and tares grow up together, and He blesses them all with what they need to survive, and even thrive.

But Mormon gave us a key to know when a people have true faith in Jesus Christ:
"[H]as the day of miracles ceased? Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has He withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will He, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved? Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain. For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in His name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made."
Contrast that with what Jesus Himself told His disciples:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."
Please. Take a look at your life. Are you doing the works that we "see", recorded in scripture, that Jesus did? Are you empowered by His grace, and His Spirit, to do even greater works than He did?

Or are you instead living according to this gem from N. Eldon Tanner?
"When the prophet speaks the debate is over."

The view from where I stand.

This post has been a long time in the making.

I've been publicly silent on matters of the LDS Church for the last couple of years, as my world has been rocked, my faith challenged, pummeled and put through fire.

I'm not offended.

I'm heartbroken.

Throughout my entire life, both in my church and in my parents' home, I was taught that agency ruled supreme. A war in heaven was fought for that freedom to choose. Jesus Christ lived, died, and conquered death so not only could we choose, but He could save us from our inevitable, and sometimes tragic, failings.

I was taught that the priesthood can only be exercised through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned.

I was taught that leaders should and would honor, obey, and teach scripture. That the "standard works" are the standard by which ALL other teachings, doctrines, policies and procedures must be judged.

I was taught that we are to love one another, as Jesus did. Not as Lucifer sought to "love" his brothers and sisters by compelling them to choose as he wished.

I was taught to love and serve Jesus Christ.

But I didn't realize how much I depended upon and trusted in my leadership until this whole experience began. Having leaders that don't trust you puts an entirely new spin on things. On everything.

I had to find Jesus. Really and truly find Him, for myself. I no longer had the approval of those that I had relied on my entire life for validation and identity. I had to learn who Jesus thought I was. For real.

He was found.

In fire.

And overwhelming love.

That changed me, fundamentally. Totally. From the inside out. I KNEW. I know. And I couldn't hide it, not in my demeanor, not in my smile, not in my voice. I had a confidence in certain things that felt like a lion roaring in my chest. And even though I didn't feel as though I formed my words differently, and I didn't speak any louder, my comments in Sunday School were suddenly received very, very differently. Others heard it. And the overall response was discomfort. Distance. Uneasy silence in the very room in which I had taught and participated in lessons for years, with full acceptance and respect.

As the months passed, things continued to deteriorate. Well-intentioned ward members said the expected phrases, and I knew well the tone they used . . . I had used it before, many times. It was the sincere feeling of one who had absolutely no idea what the other person is going through, and the chasm is so great between the speaker and the hearer that the hearer feels powerless to speak out, to speak up, to actually say what is going on and to be heard. And, for the first time, I was not the speaker of those phrases. I was the hearer. And I had so little hope of actually being heard, of being understood, that I couldn't speak.

And I can tell you this: the number of active, faithful, true-believing Mormons that have any idea of what actually goes on in the hearts and minds of those who go "less active" is so small as to be statistically insignificant. "Oh, they were offended," is the most common response. I wasn't offended, unless you consider the word in light of how Matthew 18:6 in the King James Version was translated:
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Children have no pride to offend. But you can definitely hurt them.

I have had to work through some pride . . . after all, I'm no longer a child. But I'm not where I am right now because my pride was offended. I am where I am because I, along with my family members, have been hurt and betrayed. Not just by some members of our ward--those supposed to be as family to us--but also by leadership of the church at every level, leadership that actively teaches and preaches contrary to the Word of God.

Leaders who say, "you will do this my way, because I am your priesthood leader", when their opinion or personal preference varies from the directions I have received directly from the Lord, or even scripture.

Leaders who say, "if I hear you have talked to anyone about your beliefs, you will be excommunicated".

Leaders who, in response to scripture that contradicts the position they hold, say "Let's see what our current prophets have to say about that".

Leaders who say, sustaining is like an oath that binds us to obey, who say "look to us", and "we cannot lead you astray".

Leaders who hold up the basic business leadership practices of Babylon and call them continuing revelation. Leaders who preach a leadership-based version of vox populi, vox dei

In response to leaders who stand in agreement with those things listed above, at whatever level they serve, I say:

  • The man we revere as the founding prophet of the LDS Church said, "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves."
  • The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that correction is to be done clearly, early, through teaching and persuasion, with love.
  • God will never contradict Himself. When He says something, He means it. He knows the end from the beginning, and doesn't need to correct Himself or take "do-overs". He gets it right. The first time.
  • Oaths to follow men began with Master Mahan, and have only wreaked havoc since then.
  • Setting oneself up as a light is the very definition of priestcraft.
  • The wisdom of the corporate world, the checks and balances their boards use to amass wealth, are no substitute for the unmistakable, ringing truth of the Word of God.
  • Unanimity never has, and never will, be a sure way to determine God's will.

What "sustaining" now means.

On September 23rd, Vern and I met with our bishop, at the bishop's request. This is the email we received two days before:


We met in the bishop's office, and he clarified that he wanted to discuss the fourth question in the temple recommend interview, because Vern had made a couple of comments in Gospel Doctrine just before that which weren't in agreement with the instructor's views. The question he wanted to discuss was this:
#4 Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church? 
I'll leave Vern's story for him to tell. Mine is simple. After he was done talking with Vern about this question, the bishop asked me if I sustained the leaders of the church as prophets, seers and revelators. I opened my mouth to answer that I sustained them with my prayers and faith, as the Doctrine and Covenants encourages, when he cut me off and asked:
"If you lived in the time of Brigham Young, and he said the saints were going west, would you have gone?"
 My answer was straightforward and simple:
"If God said "Go", I'd go. If He said "Stay", I'd stay.
I left that office without a recommend, because, according to my bishop, my answer did not satisfy the current requirements of sustaining leaders.

It has been strange, not being a "card carrying Mormon" for the first time in my life. It's even more strange, having run afoul of this strangely-morphed version of the faith I have loved my whole life. And yet, I'm grateful for the overt insanity of the last couple of years' interaction with my leadership, as it has revealed a great deal of the traditions of my fathers.

His Word Does Not Return Void

39 For it shall come to pass, that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled; for I will consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles unto the poor of my people who are of the house of Israel. (D&C 42)
What true prophets have spoken and written, before this passage was given in 1831, WILL be fulfilled. No one now, regardless of the claims they make, can contradict what God has declared in scripture.

We can also know by this passage that those who contradict, wrest, or transform the Holy Word of God, no matter how kind-hearted, well-intentioned, earnestly lovable, or seemingly harmless, are by God's own statement not true prophets.

Any questions?