I feel a desire in my heart to express gratitude for many things, especially at this time of year. First and foremost, I am grateful for a Savior who took away my sin. That phrase has been ringing in my mind lately as I have been listening to Christmas hymns. It has come to mean more than ever before. Somehow, the idea of taking away sin has changed in my mind from something that the Lord does to remove the effects of sin, but now, more so than ever, that He has power to take away even the desire to sin. I think I’m beginning to understand how Satan can be bound for a season. He is bound in that while we may still have the ability to sin, the desire to do so is swallowed up by the constant extension of mercy from a loving Savior who has real power to save.
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
I have also been pondering much the idea of being connected to the Powers of Heaven. They are constantly on my mind. It’s as if I am aware that they are aware of my every thought. I know the scriptures teach that only God is aware of our thoughts, but I also remember Joseph taught that loved ones are nearby and are often pained by our thoughts. That idea has caused me to give greater heed to the words of King Benjamin, “But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe to keep the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish.” (Mosiah 2:6 RE)
Gratitude for Good People
We find in life what we look for. If we look for and fill our minds with the terrible and stupid things people do that we can read about in social media commentary every day, we will find ourselves distressed and discouraged, wondering if there is anyone left who thinks deeply and ponders the things of God. There are. I am blessed to associate with a congregation of them each week. I have shared this many times before, but I want to say again how grateful I am for the good people of our local ward and stake, especially the local leadership. Maybe I’m the exception, but I’ve never encountered any Bishop, Stake President or High Councilor among whom I’ve served who has not been sincere in their desire to serve the Lord and bless their fellow saints.
Never mind that I haven’t been a member of the LDS Church for over eight years now. These good people still reach out to me and my family in love and kindness. We have a new Bishop and less than two weeks after he was sustained, he visited our home, bringing food and good wishes for the Christmas season even though Carol and I are currently sick with COVID. It’s funny, we went for three years without getting sick and somehow, perhaps from other members of the Stake Choir (who knows), we both catch a very mild case and have spent the last two weeks at home. That’s another thing for which I am very grateful – that I am able to perform the work of my chosen career from home – supporting and helping my coworkers with computer issues.
I imagine our new bishop will want to meet with me once he gets settled into the routine of his calling. I’m happy to do so and am always pleased when I’m asked sincerely about what it would take for me to come back into agreement with the LDS Church and be baptized again. I love to hear the sincerity of testimonies of the ward members and local leaders expressed in our fast and testimony meetings. I’ve noticed over the last seven or eight years there is a greater focus on the redeeming love of the Savior experienced and shared in our meetings. It’s actually rare when I hear someone bear down on the idea of how important it is to the salvation of our soul that we “follow the brethren” or that the prophet will not lead us astray. Maybe that’s a Utah thing?
The Blessings of Church Membership
Nevertheless, I remain adamant in my belief that I have done the right thing in disassociating myself from formal membership in the LDS Church. What I have done is not for everyone. I have found there are not many people who are bothered by the few things that keep me from saying to those who ask, “Yes, we could be reconciled if you can answer this question or show why my conclusion in this matter is wrong.” I have no desire to weaken anyone’s testimony. If they are happy with the doctrine and current practices of the LDS Church, then far be it from me to cause them to find any reason to interrupt their rejoicings. I am happy for those who share how pleased they are that their sons and daughters serve missions and marry in the temple. I say God bless.
Hey, I served a mission. I married in the temple. I served in various leadership positions for nearly forty years, in Bishoprics for almost twenty. None of that matters. What matters is how we express love to one another and encourage each other to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, to bear one another’s burdens and lift up the hands that hang down. The Lord doesn’t care about the callings I’ve tried to fulfill, nor does He care about how much tithing I’ve paid. He does care about how I’ve treated those who are outcast or shunned, and He does care about the money we’ve given in fast offerings. That’s one area, as a Stake Financial Clerk I’ve always been pleased to see as I compiled the reports for review by the Stake Presidency – the amount of fast offerings.
There are really only three things I feel strongly about when it comes to why I don’t believe I can ever be reconciled to the LDS Church. The first two can be found in the official narrative of certain aspects of the history of the LDS Church: 1) What the church teaches Joseph was doing when it comes to the sealing power, 2) What the church teaches about what heavenly gifts were passed from Joseph when he was martyred and 3) The idea that the church has power to withhold the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper from someone just because they question certain things. The last one is very personal to me. I hold intensely strong feelings about this practice. It is anti-Christ and any leader in the LDS Church who employs it is denying the power of Jesus Christ.
Another Dispensation is Necessary
In 2014, the LDS Church came under condemnation from the Lord. Now that’s a strong statement, one that you certainly won’t find anywhere on the LDS Church website. You can find it here. How did this happen? The Lord gave a warning to all leaders in the LDS Church about being very careful not to exercise control or compulsion in any degree upon the souls of the children of men (D&C 121:36-37). In the General Handbook of the Church you can read about restrictions in partaking of the Sacrament. I’m grateful to see that the wording has changed over the years. It seems to have been softened a little bit. The emphasis is made that the Sacrament is an important part of repentance.
I believe asking questions about the official narrative of LDS church history should not be defined as apostasy. However, in my case, that is exactly what my bishop decided – that I was in a state of apostasy. So he placed me under informal probation and forbid me from partaking the sacrament. I was not teaching others that they needed to believe as I did about what I was learning and sharing on my blog. I was simply reading and commenting on what I was learning from a book, Passing the Heavenly Gift, which I highly recommend. But the informal action taken against me for my blogging activities was nothing compared to what was done to the author of the book. He was excommunicated for presenting an alternative interpretation of the official LDS narrative or discussion of events that happened in Nauvoo.
Because the leadership of the LDS Church, at the highest level, sought to enforce their will upon a faithful member of the church, they failed to heed the warning in section 121 about exercising control or compulsion. Yes, you can find all kinds of essays and dissertations defending what the leadership of the church did, and yes, you should be familiar with them if you are in any way serious about understanding how the church came under condemnation in 2014. I guess it all depends on what you want to believe. I want to believe the Lord is serious about gathering a people who will build a city where the people of the Zion of Enoch’s day will want to come and associate with a people prepared for them in our day. That’s why a new dispensation is necessary. The LDS Church is not serious about gathering in preparation for the return of the Lord.