I am the True Vine

Like many of you, I believe I am well-connected, at least electronically. I have accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Parler, Pinterest, YouTube, GoodReads, WordPress, Blogger, Indeed, Skype, Zoom, Ancestry, Family Search and some I don’t remember creating. I’ve had a continual website presence since the web became popular. I’ve shared observations, thoughts and opinions online here on LDC for many years and like to think I’ve contributed a few helpful things and provided a way for like-minded individuals to connect.

Yet, despite thousands of connections on LinkedIn and FaceBook, thousands of followers on Twitter and thousands of subscribers to my blog, there are very few people I interact with every day or even every week: My family, my co-workers, and a few select individuals with whom I have running email or text dialog. That’s it. Especially with the now nine-month lockdown here in California, I’ve had very little face-to-face contact with anyone recently.

I dislike that. We are social beings. I miss going to church each week. I especially miss the singing. I always felt connected to the other members of the choir when we practiced and performed together. We had a common bond that strengthened us, raising our voices in song to worship the Lord. Of all the terrible things that have come out of this pandemic, cutting us off from our places of worship has been the hardest to bear for so many of us. A Zoom meeting is nice to see familiar faces but is just not the same as worshiping together.

Keeping Connected in an Online World

In order to keep in touch, and feel less isolated, I subscribe to the feeds of some of my favorite bloggers. I also have a list of about 170 conservative news sites I check regularly. The ones I visit most frequently are owned by a faith-based media company from here in my hometown of Camarillo CA – Salem Media Group: Twitchy, Red State, Town Hall, PJ Media, HotAir and a few others. I have a lot of respect for the owners of Salem, who I think are pretty gutsy in promoting Christian themes in their media assets. I say God bless them.

Reading and analyzing what others have to say about current events helps me keep in touch with the hot issues of the day. It also helps me understand who among the thought influencers of our day are aligned with the core conservative values I espouse. In case you were wondering, I also have a list of about 70 left-leaning sites that I check on occasion just to see what the other side is saying about topics in the news. Almost always infuriating, but it helps me understand what criticisms are being leveled at conservatives in the world.

I know it’s an unfair generalization to put certain news and commentary sites into the category of faithless, but I can’t think of a better word. Reading some of these sites that seem to be filled with disrespect for conservatives and Christians can be depressing, leaving one with a feeling of little to no hope in the future of this nation or the world. Headlines like “The Darkest Days are Ahead” are a stark contrast to how I actually feel about life in general. If all you read are sites like these, you might have a hard time generating hope for the future.

Public Gatherings are Forbidden

Growing up in Southern California, I enjoyed the beach, Disneyland, concerts at various venues, church services, Dodger ball games, lots of movies in theaters, hiking in the local mountains, Griffith Observatory, Universal Studios and a whole bunch of other places that are now closed because of the pandemic. Because someone came into work this week and reported a member of their family had tested positive, it looks like half the workers on the manufacturing floor must now self-isolate through at least the end of the year. Bummer.

Carol and I both disagree with the lockdown. We continue to track the daily numbers here in LA and Ventura county. They are on the rise. The front page of the LA Times is dire (as always) in announcing how desperate things are in our hospitals right now. Of the eight deaths in Ventura county Thursday, all were over 65 and all had co-morbidities. Facts like these continue to reaffirm our belief that this is a normal part of life. People who are old get the flu and die. Yes, I know it’s not all elderly folks who die, but it is the majority.

Preach and Teach in Spite of Rejection

Carol and I just finished the Book of Mormon once again. We just went through the last chapters where both Mormon and Moroni exhorted us to have faith and hope (as well as charity) in spite of what may be going on in the world around us. They both certainly dealt with some very discouraging circumstances in that both their enemies were trying to destroy them and their own people had lost faith and turned against the Lord. They were described as a people without hope, but they didn’t have to be in this terrible situation.

Perhaps there was not much they could do about the efforts of their enemies. Most of those who identified as Lamanites in these ending chapters had chosen a life that did not include faith in God or in the Savior. In other words, they had willfully rebelled and were fighting to destroy those who professed faith. Sadly, even the Nephites, who, just a few years before had received praise from Mormon as being peaceable followers of Christ had now departed from the faith. They now delighted in everything save that which is good.

Mormon expressed dismay that Satan stirred the people up continually to anger one with another. In response, he labored with them diligently. When he spoke the word of God with sharpness, they trembled and angered against him. When he used no sharpness, they would harden their hearts and reject his words. What more could he do? Both Mormon and Moroni had been called of God to preach the word. They were able to rid their garments of the blood of the people because they fulfilled the commandments of God to preach.

Hope is a By-Product of Faith

It was in these most discouraging of circumstances of fighting battles against their enemies and fighting the loss of faith among their own people that both Mormon and Moroni gave us some of the most uplifting and inspiring encouragement to be faithful. Perhaps we can take a lesson from these chapters and remember that hope comes as a natural by-product of exercising faith in Christ. The greatest hope is that we shall overcome death, be raised up unto life eternal, and be resurrected and saved in the Kingdom of God.

Carol shared something interesting the other day. She has a writer friend who, shall we say, is very much influenced by the all the negativity she feeds off of from some of the sites in my second image above. Every time the subject of the current pandemic would come up, Carol’s friend would parrot all the doom and gloom of the lefty media commentators. And now, of course, from the man who will apparently soon occupy the seat of the commander in chief. Are the worst days really ahead of us? Maybe, but why can’t we focus on hope?

Do these people really have no hope? Do they really only see the doom and gloom? What a way to live. I could not possibly live like that, which is why I try not to read much from these sources. I prefer the words of those who believe in Christ, who believe we shall overcome, who are seeking to end the lockdowns, which don’t seem to do any good. The damage done by the lockdowns is so much worse than the deaths that are occurring among the elderly. There is nothing man can do to prevent our eventual death. It’s arrogant to think otherwise.

Connect to the True Vine

Carol shared that she went to bed one evening in a state of quiet discouragement after another chat with her writer friend. She approached our Father in prayer and expressed this discouragement. Carol is a very private person and doesn’t often share with me what she hears from the Lord in prayer. In this case, she felt so relieved she let me know that she had heard the voice of the Lord tell her that she had nothing to worry about, that she had a promise of coming quickly to God in His kingdom. She was at peace and content again.

I thanked her for sharing that special, sacred experience. I told her it was remarkable, that she had a promise I did not currently feel as strongly and as perfectly as she had received. I confess I am a little concerned that the effects of this pandemic, the lockdowns imposed by man, may in some way be hindering the work of the Lord in these last days. I also feel I have been somewhat negligent in responding to the promptings of the Lord in regards to my participation in that work. In short, my own connection to the true vine feels weak right now.

I have need of repentance, which as we all know, simply means to turn from an incorrect way of thinking or acting and turning to the Lord in response to his invitations to act. Like me, I’ll bet if you stop a moment and think about it, something will come to your mind that you know you could be doing, should be doing, or could be dong better than you are now. One that comes to my mind is my neglect or lack of participation in preparation for the next conference scheduled for this coming spring somewhere south of St. George, Utah.

Seeking the Faith and Religion of our Fathers

The conference will be held 27 March to 4 April 2021 in “Sunny Southern Nevada.” There is a lot of material found on the Presentations page, that I have missed, mainly because I have been putting so much time and energy into my work, something I hope to correct in the upcoming new year. One recent presentation that isn’t found there but can be found on the Restoration Archives is a Christmas fireside recorded last Sunday and posted this week. In a sense, the conference has already started and has been ongoing through the website.

I think the reason I have been losing myself in my secular / temporal work is because it is easy to do. I’m good at my job and it doesn’t take a lot of thought to keep it going. I know the purpose of my worldly labor is simply to produce income, to provide a living, and to pay the bills. Because of the easiness of the way, I have allowed myself to become complacent about my part in assisting the work of the restoration to move forward. There’s not much I can do from here in California, but I can encourage those who are engaged in that work.

On the other hand, when I invest time in reading, studying, contemplating and praying about the work of the restoration, such as what is being presented in this video, I find I am subjected to greater opposition. There is so much in that video I want to explore, to come to understand better and to write about. I learn best by writing about what I am studying and that video series in particular, The Heavens are Open Again, is bold in proclaiming truth that is in stark contrast to the truth claims of the LDS Church, especially about the temple.

Come, Follow Me Program

And therein lies the difficulty. I sit right next to Carol most days that I work from home and most evenings as we work together on our laptops. It’s comfortable and convenient. Carol enjoys Christmas shows on Hallmark while she communicates with friends, family and church members on Facebook or in Zoom meetings. I usually have my headphones on, listening to music (I especially like movie music) while I work on my servers and office network via Remote Desktop. I couldn’t do my job from home without Remote Desktop.

The Church’s “Come, Follow Me” program has been a hit with the adult Family Home Evening group we participate in, especially during this time of lockdown and Zoom. I am grateful to see how diligently Carol has been in studying the material and preparing her comments to share each week. She does such a good job she has been asked to lead the discussion many weeks. Like me, Carol loves to teach. She was a good missionary, a great seminary teacher and I have benefited from her many hours of study and preparation.

We spend most Sunday afternoons watching Tyler and Taylor on Book of Mormon Central, along with Jared Halverson’s “Unshaken” on You Tube. There is no doubt these men are contributing a lot to our collective knowledge of and our insights into the Book of Mormon. I look forward to learning more about Church History and the Doctrine and Covenants next year. Of course, there are things they teach that I disagree with, but for the most part, they are right on. I especially appreciate how Carol has become even more knowledgeable.

The Work of the Restoration

If there is anything that has brought us together more in these difficult times, caused both by the lockdown and by my leaving the church back in 2014, it’s our study of the scriptures together. However, we are both a little frustrated in that we can’t share some of the things that are really in our hearts about the LDS Church, prophets and modern revelation. I believe the work of the restoration ceased with the death of Joseph Smith. On the other hand, Carol finds great comfort in believing and following the words of “The Brethren.”

Sometimes it comes down to “your prophet” versus “my prophet.” That’s not cool. I don’t like that. It seems that just like the name of Joseph Smith is had for good and evil through all the world, the name of Denver Snuffer causes the same response. Sometimes when I try to share something profound I have learned from Denver, such as the teachings found in “Our Divine Parents” Carol immediately recognizes what I am sharing goes beyond what the Brethren have taught and challenges it, making it difficult to really study the gospel.

I suppose I could go into our office in the evenings to study there, but that kind of defeats the purpose of growing together, which is what a marriage is all about. I love Carol and don’t want to hinder the growth she is experiencing as she immerses herself in the scriptures. But I am concerned the course of study this next year has the potential to be the most divergent in terms of interpretation of events. I am convinced the church was cursed and lost the fullness of the gospel as well as the fulness of the priesthood with Joseph’s death.

The Covenant Path

On the other hand, it seems the main focus of the LDS Church today is to “Follow the Brethren” and stay on “The Covenant Path.” I get it. You can see a good summary in this four-minute video from Taylor Halverson. One of the most influential men in our stake, who will probably be our next Stake President, is a man who focuses on this message every time he gets up to speak or bear his testimony. If you are not echoing and parroting the words of “The Brethren” (as he does) you are not on the covenant path. I could not disagree more.

I felt so strongly about what I was learning from the writings and teachings of Denver Snuffer back in 2012-2014 that I knew I must show the Lord I recognized the message he caused to be sent forth through Denver at that time. I was baptized, and because I knew it would eventually result in my excommunication, I resigned my membership in the LDS Church. In addition, when the Book of Mormon was presented in the Covenant of Christ conference in the fall of 2017, I stood and accepted that covenant which you can read here,

So, to me, the covenant path means something entirely different from what most LDS folks think when they hear it mentioned by President Nelson or as taught in General Conference. I think we both have the same end-result in mind – the temple. The LDS Church currently teaches they have the fulness of the temple ordinances and all that God intended to reveal on the subject. Again, I totally disagree. The LDS Church did not previously believe or teach they had the fulness of the temple teachings. That is a recent claim and is simply not true.

History of the LDS Church

It will be interesting to see how our study of the Doctrine and Covenants and of LDS Church History shakes out this year. We experienced little disagreement in interpretation of events in the Book of Mormon. Carol put in hundreds of hours as she taught the Doctrine and Covenants in Seminary a few years back. My study of LDS Church History has taken a divergent path from the standard approved curriculum. The argument is often made by defenders of the official narrative that they should be the only ones allowed to tell that story. I disagree. There are simply too many instances where the history has been doctored.

I close my post with a reference to the title – the True Vine. All we can do going forward is act in faith that the Lord will bless us as we seek to be guided by Him in our studies and our discussion of the revelations of Joseph Smith. There are a few controversial sections in the early part of the year, but the big test will be in the study of sections 110 and 132, both of which were significantly altered after the death of Joseph Smith. And I know I don’t stand any chance of bringing up the additional revelations I have voted on to have canonized.

I am grateful for the prayers of my Covenant friends who reach out to check up on me regularly. I enjoy our discussions and especially appreciate that we arrange to chat on the days I am in the office so as to not upset Carol. While I have not yet made a commitment to attend the upcoming conference in person, I hope to do so. I have not felt so inclined in regards to past conferences, but world events are causing me to think the Lord is indeed hastening his work. The days when we will want to gather to the safety of Zion are at hand.

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