Dear Reader,

A Latter-day Saint who believes that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leaders are authorized of God doesn’t necessarily accept whatever the church puts forth as “gospel.” On the contrary, anyone who wants a better church tomorrow really ought to speak up today. We aren’t potted plants. Let's face it: Theological malarkey will continue to thrive in the church if members say “amen” to it all.

That is the main reason this site exists.

It also exists because I want to encourage wavering Latter-day Saints not to leave the Lord's restored church merely because of its flaws and the errors of its leaders.

Each article is listed below with a title, short synopsis and a link. They were written by Steve Warren (bio below). Articles by others may be added.

Keep the faith.

Steve Warren
West Valley City, Utah

“God is actually trying to create a much more profound relationship with us. We can only do that if we are actually wrestling with issues at hand.”
--Fiona Givens

Christ moves closer to us as we move from dogma toward truth.

Steve Warren was raised in Heppner, Oregon, and has lived in Utah for 44 years. He attended Ricks College for two years, served a mission to Colombia and Venezuela, and graduated from BYU in 1973 with a degree in communications. He and his wife, JaNiece, have two sons and a daughter. He wrote and published Drat! Mythed Again, Second Thoughts on Utah in 1986 and was a copy editor at the Deseret News from 1988-2008. He wrote and printed 100 copies of a novel, Beyond the Finish Line, but has yet to find a real publisher. (2018)
Knowing, believing, seeing Insights into our borderline dysfunctional LDS relationship with the word “know.”

Pathway to heaven The Scriptures show one sure way to return to God’s presence: possess a heart that pleases him.

Obedience gone awry Strictly following the prophet is an excellent idea—at least as long as he’s right.

Falling short, staying put Living prophets constantly err, but that’s not a good reason to leave the Lord’s church.

What in the world? Certain strange features of the Book of Mormon add to its credibility.

Some kind of miracle Fiction. An invitation to speak in sacrament meeting begins a Utah couple’s wild ride.

The cross = victory The cross is a worthy, positive symbol because it reminds us that it is the dying Christ who saves us.

Pilate tried Jewish religious leaders sought to kill Jesus; Pontius Pilate sought to set him free, so let’s give the man a break.

Father, Father, Father Why do we repeat the name of Deity so often in prayers these days?

Witnesses Multiple witnesses provide a compelling reason for anyone to ponder the claims of Mormonism.

Who is God? The Book of Mormon and other scriptures clearly teach that Jesus Christ is God and that Heavenly Father is God the Father.

In the beginning If we didn't allow speculation and guesswork in lessons on the Creation and Adam and Eve, classes would be really short.

Short takes Brief quotes, comments and reflections on a variety of gospel topics.
A few heresies... that would make for a more interesting sacrament meeting.
Oopsy-daisy 40 foul-ups by top LDS authorities.
Appreciating Christ

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pathway to heaven

We Latter-day Saints fear that if a family member isn't baptized—or if a baptized family member loses interest in the church and fails to return to activity—he may become forever separated from “faithful” family members in the next life.

On the other hand, when all family members are active in the church, a parent or grandparent may proudly observe that there are “no empty chairs” in the family circle. (This can become annoying to those of us with empty chairs.)  Not surprisingly, an unbaptized or inactive family member (or friend or neighbor) may find himself the object of concentrated efforts—including prayer, fasting and friendshipping—aimed at bringing him into the fold.  These well-meaning efforts tend to follow guidelines presented in Sunday meetings but may seem insincere to those who are targeted.

Perhaps we need to lighten up.  The Book of Mormon and other scriptures offer hope for all—even for covenant-making Latter-day Saints who have lost interest in Mormonism.  They teach that whether a person lives his mortal life as an agnostic, an atheist, a believer who is indifferent toward involvement in any church, or as a believer who is active in the restored church or another church, a path exists for returning to dwell with God the Father.

The key ingredient: A heart that is pleasing to God.  That's it.  It isn't about active/inactive, gay/straight, agnostic/atheist, single/married.  It's the heart. And it is quite clear in the Scriptures that a person can change quickly from not believing in God—even from being an enemy to God—into someone who is pleasing to God.

To illustrate, in an often-referenced Book of Mormon story, the four sons of Mosiah were “the very vilest of sinners,” and their accomplice, Alma, was apparently at least as bad.  They not only were unreligious, they enjoyed persecuting believers.  Yet, so swiftly did their hearts turn to Christ that at the end of three transformative days, Alma testified, “And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:20)

We see a similar change in Saul on the road to Damascus.

We also see whole multitudes of Nephites changing quickly from a “carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth” and from a “worthless and fallen state” to being “filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience” (Mosiah 4:2,3,5). Other large groups who were guilty of “many sins and murders” but who had a sudden change of heart were the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and numerous other Lamanites (Alma 24:10,24,25).  [For those who wonder who came up with the pitiful name of Anti-Nephi-Lehies, suffice it to say that it was the work of a committee of prominent leaders. See Alma 23:16,17. The people later had the good sense to permanently get rid of the name. Alma 27:26.]

Conversely, that same Saul who became Paul and who changed from persecuting Christians to leading them, offers a stern warning to “religious” people whose hearts are not pleasing to God: 

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1,2)

We believe that various ordinances such as baptism are indeed necessary to dwell with God.  But to those  of us who have received ordinances, Paul's words appear to say, “Only if you have charity do the ordinances have power.” To the person who possesses charity but lacks ordinances, his message becomes “charity qualifies you for any necessary ordinances” or as Mormon says, speaking of anyone who possesses charity: “it shall be well with him” at the last day. (Moroni 7:47)

To “religious” people whose hearts are not pleasing to God, Christ offers a stern warning in the parable of the Good Samaritan wherein the priest and the Levite, perhaps on their way to fulfill seemingly important religious responsibilities, pass by an injured man, whereas the man from the wrong church (Samaritans were universally despised by the Jews) acts in a way that shows his heart is right with God.

So what kind of a heart pleases God?  It’s a question that may best be answered by trying to discern what motivated God the Father to become our parent.

In LDS theology, we were once intelligences that existed forever.  We know little about intelligences, although in a “Ghostbusters” universe, they might be described as free-roaming semi-conscious vapors.  In any event, God the Father turned these intelligences into his spirit children. 

Apparently, we had been doing fine and were experiencing no pain as intelligences, so why didn’t the Father just leave us alone?

The answer perhaps is connected to the idea that our heavenly parent may feel toward intelligences—and toward you and me—a lot like our parents feel toward us or how we feel toward our children.

Let's suppose that long ago and far away, God the Father looked out, beheld a host of intelligences floating around, and for the first time turned a few of them into spirit children. As he nurtured these children and they eventually became like him, he found that having a family and sharing everything with them pleased him immensely. In other words, his universe became a more joyful place.

Just as earthly parents find joy in their children, I believe that loving, serving and being generous to his children is a primary source—perhaps the primary source—of the Father’s happiness.  Obviously, if he had allowed us to remain as intelligences, he couldn't have loved and served us, and there’d have been less joy and love in his universe.  That’s why I believe the words of Fiona Givens: “We worship a God who chose to love us, and by so doing made himself vulnerable to our suffering.”  It’s also why I believe “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25), “this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39), and “endless ages roll around perfected by his love” (from Come All Ye Saints Who Dwell on Earth, by William W. Phelps).

God’s motive for turning intelligences into his spirit children may best be expressed by words from a Kris Kristofferson song: “Love is the reason we happened at all.”  It bears repeating: “Love is the reason we happened at all.”

(Note: Kristofferson's words are not expressed in the context of couples falling in love and having children. They are expressed in a Plan of Salvation context: “Love is the reason we happened at all/And it paid for the damage we done/And it bought us the freedom to fall into grace/On our way to our place in the sun.”)

Therefore, the answer to the question “what kind of a heart pleases God?” may well be a heart filled with love. As noted earlier, it isn't about active/inactive, gay/straight, etc. God looks upon the heart.

If a person is becoming like God, he practices the Golden Rule and Love One Another not because he has been repeatedly told to do so or because he hopes to receive a dividend or because “God’s gonna getcha” if he doesnt.  Instead, he loves because that’s where his heart guides him.  I believe that hearts change and become pleasing to God when a person heeds the Holy Spirit, even though he may not be aware that the Spirit is guiding him and even though he may not be “religious.”

The following Scriptures are among those that suggest that pleasing God is possible regardless of whether one affiliates with a church:

“the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”
--Psalms 84:11

“Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved.” 
--Proverbs 28:18

“what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
--Micah 6:8

“whoso is found possessed of it [charity] at the last day, it shall be well with him.”                                         
--Moroni 7:47

“And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God.”                      
--Moroni 10:21

“If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?”  
--Genesis 4:7

“he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come.”
--Doctrine and Covenants 59:23

I also like words from a First Presidency statement of Feb. 15, 1978: “We believe that God has given and will give to all people sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation either in this life or the life to come.” (italics added)

Let's consider more closely the situation of baptized members of the Lord’s church who fall into inactivity and stay that way. The words of Christ offer great hope for them, too.

“I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.”  (3 Nephi 11:38,39)

Many in the church point to teachings that say baptized members must take the sacrament regularly, pay tithing, accept callings, receive higher ordinances, go to the temple often, attend meetings, etc., or the Lord may cease to fellowship them.  Although those things may indeed please the Lord, a case can be made that he requires only baptism and becoming as a little child.  Referring to the need to be baptized  and become as a little child, Christ says:

“And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.”  (3 Nephi 11:40)  In verse 40, the Lord is referring to a point he made in verse 33: “And whoso believeth in me and is baptized, the same shall be saved.”

Consider this case study:  David and Alexis marry in 1927 in Salt Lake City and later are sealed in the temple.  They have several children and an occasionally difficult marriage.  David serves quite prominently in the church and strictly follows the prophet, who he knows well, but Alexis, who also knows the prophet well, sometimes disagrees with David and the church—angrily at times—even on doctrine. When David dies suddenly after 17 years of marriage, she becomes increasingly critical of the new prophet and other leaders, stops attending, stops making financial contributions, decides to settle far away from church headquarters, marries a nonbeliever who has fathered an illegitimate child, and affiliates with another religion.  She remains inactive for 35 years and dies at age 74 in 1979.  So what happens to David and Alexis in the next life?  The answer, of course, is that we don’t know.  But my hunch is that if David and Alexis lived good lives, love each other, and yearn to be together, they will be together.

Although the names and places were changed, the people in the David-Alexis story actually represent Joseph and Emma Smith 100 years after their 1827 marriage.  A son stated that Emma, a few days before her death, had a vision of being reunited with Joseph Smith. Family members said her final words were “Joseph, Joseph.” In any event, if she and Joseph are indeed reunited in heaven, her life story suggests that the key factor in their togetherness may be found in words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “I believe that with God it is such that all who loved each other on earth—genuinely loved each other—will remain together with God, for to love is part of God.” For what it’s worth, I believe that Emma lived a good, generous life and undoubtedly possessed charity.

It is also interesting to note that the Scriptures differ on what happens in the hereafter.  The Doctrine and Covenants speaks of heaven having three degrees of glory, with the highest having three degrees and comparatively few attaining it. The Book of Mormon, however, teaches only that the righteous will dwell in the kingdom of God and that the unrighteous dwell with the devil. (2 Nephi 9:16, 18; see also Matthew 25:31-33,46)  Elsewhere we read of one heaven (“my Father's house”) but with many mansions, presumably not identical, which seems to somewhat combine the two previous concepts.

A fourth view of heaven is offered by LDS poet Emma Lou Thayne, who writes, “How to tell even my closest family that I had died and yes, gone to a heaven so lovely and full of light and great affection? So different from scriptural descriptions and my learned concepts.  So unlike a dream, as real as my mother and father's presence at the table.  There never could be any denying of what I now knew had happened. . . . I had been to the place of knowing and returned with a view as broad as the galaxies and comforting as my mother's hand. . . No judgment.  No echelons, only loving acceptance and that world beyond bliss, beyond joy, beyond ecstasy, a new life—childness.”  (Italics added. From The Place of Knowing, pages 25, 28, 67.)

Our modern prophets embrace the D&C view of heaven, although it should be noted that they also embrace the view that the Book of Mormon, not the D&C, is “the most correct” of any book.  (In any event, the church has taken no official position on whether progression from one glory to another is possible or whether there are generous visiting privileges between kingdoms. Besides, I personally am fond of Emma Lou Thayne's view of heaven.)

Rather than subscribing to a narrow dogma that causes us to agonize over the eternal future of family members and other good people who do not participate in the church, perhaps we simply need to be kind, positive and hopeful, having “a view as broad as the galaxies.”  I'm not saying we should hide our convictions; like other Latter-day Saints, I have come to believe that baptism and activity in the Lord’s church offer the best hope of moving us closer to Christ and to finding peace and happiness in this life.  But a bit less fervor and angst in connecting others to the church might actually be the Lord’s will.  In any case, we could strive not to be obnoxious.

(My belief in baptism stems from my conviction that the God who says “Come, follow me” was himself baptized and that his request for us to be baptized stems from a desire to bless usperhaps the same desire that motivated his Father to turn intelligences into his spirit children.)

If we find ourselves in a setting where faithful Latter-day Saints are sweating bullets over family members who aren't the least bit interested in church activity, we might want to remind them of the words of President Henry B. Eyring in the August 2016 Ensign: “A prophet of God once offered me counsel that gives me peace. I was worried that the choices of others might make it impossible for our family to be together forever. He said. 'You are worrying about the wrong problem. You must live worthy of the celestial kingdom, and the family arrangements will be more wonderful than you can imagine.' ” (And speaking of family arrangements, it's useful to keep in mind that good people who do not marry and who cannot have children sometimes are more pleasing to the Lord than those who do. Speaking of eunuchs, the Lord says, “neither let the eunuch say, Behold I  am a dry tree . . . Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and daughters: I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”  Isaiah 56: 3,5

We who view ourselves as faithful must also remember that, just as we didn't become faithful without lots of help, those who seem unfaithful didn't get that way by themselves.  Indeed, those who seem highly inclined to sin may end up having the greatest love and appreciation for He who is highly inclined to save. (Perhaps that's why I often hear that religious services among prison inmates have a spirit that exceeds that generally found in our regular meetings.)  While acceptance of certain ordinances may be necessary to dwell with God, I believe that the ultimate, most powerful tie that binds us is love, and I intend to dwell in the presence of those I love in the hereafterno matter what.  In the end, whoever said love conquers all knew what he was talking about.

I believe there is a God who loves us, but even if there isn’t a God and we aren’t active in any church, we are still well-advised to heed Marcus Aurelius:

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

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