Anything but Pacifist
Jesus is made to authorize monarchical absolutism. Submission to the powers that be the king insists is the will of God [divine right of kings]. And most translators meekly followed this path until this very day. Jesus is not telling us to submit to evil, but to refuse to oppose it on its own terms. He is urging us to transcend both passivity and violence by finding a third way. One that is assertive and yet, nonviolent. (Transcript of video)
With that introduction let's examine these three injunctions. The first is found in Matthew 5:39:
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
What is the significance of the right cheek? To understand the context of this verse we have to know something about Jewish culture. To the Jews there were two ways to hit someone: with a fist or with a backhand. If you hit someone with a fist you were in a fight with an equal, if the backhand was used you were humiliating an inferior. Two people facing each other have only two choices for striking the right cheek: a backhanded right hand blow, or a fist or slap from the left hand. But in Jewish culture the left hand was used for unclean tasks, so no one would be caught dead using it to strike a servant or a slave. This would've been humiliating to the master. So we know right off the bat that Jesus is speaking to the downtrodden, not the elite. Now, after someone hits you on the right cheek, if you offer them the left they have two more choices: they can hit you with a right-handed fist or slap, or a left-handed backhand. Now they are in a conundrum; if they choose the left hand they face humiliation from their peers, if they choose the right hand they are forced to acknowledge that the victim is an equal. This is beautiful poetic justice. In classic Jesus style, the abuse is deflected and the abuser is confounded. Without saying a single word, the victim is communicating that they are a fellow human, a child of God endowed with inalienable rights. The perpetrator realizes that the victim is standing up for themselves and is forced to acknowledge their humanity, if only for a moment. In the best case scenario, the victim regains their dignity and the abuser's heart is softened. This is the power of the "third way."
The next injunction is found in the subsequent verse:
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away they coat, let him have thy cloak also. (Matthew 5:40)
This one is loaded with meaning. In Jewish culture there were only two garments: the outer and the inner. The coat was the outer and the cloak was the inner. They didn't wear boxer briefs or "tighty whiteys." What Jesus was saying is that if you can’t pay your debts and someone takes your outer garment for compensation, than also give them the shirt off your back, and once that was off you were literally standing there stark naked. And being naked was considered taboo, not to the person who is naked, but to the onlookers. In a public court of law, every person who is part of the corrupt system, i.e., judge, lawyer, and plaintiff, would be absolutely humiliated and shamed by seeing a naked person. The entire system would be exposed for the fraud that it is. The debtor, by stripping naked, would be unmasking the injustice of the entire political structure, in essence declaring that the emperor has no clothes.
But to really grasp the message here, we have to understand why the debtor can't pay his bills in the first place. Remember this is a Roman tribunal, and what did the Roman's practice? Maritime Admiralty Law. Yes folks, Mystery Babylon controlled ancient Jewish society just as they do American society today. This was a monetary system based upon debt and feudalism. The Romans appointed certain men to be the equivalent of "lords" and "nobles" who were granted special privilege and tax collection power; some of them were Jewish. These received the inflated money first (kind of like Haliburton, IBM, and Black Rock), and lent the money out as hedge funds. This was crony capitalism. The poor debtor was using devalued currency to pay his bills, he was paying feudal rents on his land, and he was forced to go into debt just to merely survive. This verse is not about one man owing another man some money. This is a revolutionary statement against corrupt banking systems; against corrupt government and cronyism. Debtors had no rights in these military tribunals, they were considered personas, not flesh and blood Jews. So Jesus’ admonition to strip naked would force the elites to see that they did have flesh and blood; that the maritime system was so corrupt and ridiculous that it took everything from them, even their last piece of clothing. Can you imagine someone doing this today in a courtroom? Can you imagine the absurdity, the shrieks from the onlookers? This is the type of revolutionary language that Jesus is speaking; this is a declaration of human rights against tyranny and usury. Now when you re-read Jesus' words, "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's," you can clearly see that he was being sarcastic and facetious. You can begin to see his true personality coming through the glass through which we see darkly.
Now onto the third injunction:
And whosoever compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. (Matthew 5:41)
This one has been the source of the all too-often repeated platitude "go the extra mile." It has a certain ring of nicety and religious piety. Yes bishop, I did some extra good works this week, I went to the temple twice, I served in the soup kitchen, I led the music in primary, I held FHE with my family and did scripture study morning and evening, I magnified my calling, I... you get the point. But this verse has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with standing up against tyranny. What Jesus was suggesting was a clever way to love your enemy and get him into a hell of a lot of trouble at the same time. Remember when Jesus told his apostles to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves"? Well this a perfect way to do just that. Who was compelling the Jews to a go a mile? Remember this was a Roman military occupation, and as I stated above the Jews were under Roman martial law. In that law there was a caveat that a Roman soldier could compel a conquered civilian to carry his pack for a mile, but no further. Why? The Roman authorities did not want the Jews to be too brutalized because that could incite a rebellion. They were a world military empire, they had to keep their fighting resources out in the front lines of new territories they were conquering. They did not want to have to deal with insurrections of locals who were already conquered.
So when a Roman soldier compelled a Jew to carry his pack more than a mile this was an infraction of military code. Here is what Wink said were the penalties for such a violation:
With few exceptions, minor infractions were left to the disciplinary control of the centurion, head of 100 men. He might fine the offending soldier, or flog him, or put him on a ration of barely instead of wheat, or make him camp outside the fortifications, or force him to stand all day before the general's tent holding a clod of dirt in his hands. (Transcript of video)
Can you see the genius behind Jesus' words? After the mile is up the Roman soldier motions for the Jew to give his pack back. The Jew says, "no, I don't mind going further, you look really tired and I insist." Can you imagine the bafflement of the soldier? He thinks to himself, huh, that sounds nice, but what is this Jew's angle? Why is he being nice? They usually scatter like roaches when we enter a new city. Is he being genuine or trying to get me in trouble? The soldier is backed into another logical conundrum. He doesn't know what to do. But at the same time, the downtrodden Jew is once again declaring his humanity and his disdain for the tyrannical system. He is using peaceful and nonviolent means to stand up against the most powerful military in the world. Can you imagine such a courageous sentiment? Again, Christ is admonishing his disciples to stand up for themselves against tyranny. This is his nonviolent revolutionary way. Don't fight evil on its own terms, do it in the way that heaven does. A way that touches the hearts of both victim and perpetrator.
I have only covered three short verses of the Sermon on the Mount. Can you see how Jesus loads every word with meaning? Next we will examine what Jesus meant by swearing oaths.
Do Not Swear At All
Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair black or white. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. (Matthew 5: 33-37)
In everything Jesus teaches there are dual meanings and implications: the more general or superficial meaning, and the deeper or more intrinsic meaning. There are layers of meaning in scripture, and what level you comprehend depends on how much of the mysteries of God are imparted to you. And whatever you think you understand, there is always a deeper level.
The more obvious meaning of these verses in Matthew is that Jesus is teaching us that we should keep our word. The word forswear means to break an oath or lie under oath. He's telling you not to get yourself in situations where you have to lie or break a promise, or in other words, don't make promises you can't keep. He is also imploring you not to swear (which is a word that came from the old English word swerian, meaning to "take on oath") to inanimate objects like the heavens or the earth. In the Old Testament it was explicitly taught that a man should only swear by the name of God, not to "them that are no gods." By the phrase you can't "make one hair black or white," Jesus is saying that you as a mortal are powerless to change things you have no control over, so don't promise the world when you can't deliver it. And keep meaningless phrases like "I swear to God, or I swear by all I hold dear, or I swear on my mother's grave," out of your daily conversions. In other words, don't be full of it and be a straight shooter. If something is true say "yes," if something is false, say "no." Straightforward enough right?
Now for the deeper, more revolutionary meaning. Jesus declares that them of old were to swear only to God, but now he's telling his followers to swear not all all. We know that the word swear means to take on oath, so Jesus is proscribing oaths. Why would he do that? Who else takes oaths? Secret societies, mystery school initiates, government officials, religious authorities, fraternal organizations, etc. The first oath goes back to Cain and Satan. Satan told Cain and his brethren to swear by their heads, their throats, and by the living God, to keep the murder of Able a secret. This event documents the beginning of secret combinations, which became the model for corrupt government: theft and murder for gain. Remember what Lysander Spooner called government? A secret band of robbers and murderers.
The word oath appears in the Book of Mormon 37 times, most of which are in condemnation of it. Oath came from an old English word (oth), originally meaning "judicial swearing or solemn appeal to deities or sacred relics." A related term is the word huguenot, which means "comrade," or "he with whom one shares possessions." Huguenot was interchangeable with oath, and was a political, not a religious term. With that in mind let's re-read part of Giddianhi's epistle to Lachoneus:
Or in other words, yield yourselves up unto us, and unite with us and become acquainted with our secret works, and become our brethren that ye may be like unto us--not our slaves, but our brethren and partners of all our substance. And behold, I swear unto you, if ye will do this, with an oath, ye shall not be destroyed... I am Giddianhi; and I am the governor of the secret society of Gadianton; which society and the works thereof I know to be good; and they are of ancient date and they have been handed down unto us. (3 Nephi 3:7-9, Emphases added)
An oath is a promise and appeal to some type of organization or society, political in nature. Notice that in scripture God calls his promises to Israel covenants, not oaths. A covenant is a mutual compact between two parties, an oath is an appeal to some authority, not an actual agreement. It is an acquiescence that someone or something has power over you, which implies duties and obligations. Now do you see what Jesus is really saying? Don't make oaths to political organizations that want to enslave you. Or, if you are an elite, don't make oaths to secret societies so you can be a partner of their stolen substance, stolen through taxation, which is what Giddianhi was offering to Lachoneus.
One way the modern American State has gotten everyone to agree to have it be their master is through the Pledge of Allegiance. Yes, I know this is a sacred cow; many consider it to be a grandiose declaration of their American citizenry. But I'm telling you, and so is Jesus, that it is nothing but good old fashioned idolatry and self-imposed slavery. It is an oath made to "them that are no gods." To those who defend this vain repetition as somehow divine and required by God, I would ask if they know what the word pledge actually means? It comes from the Old French word plege, which means "hostage, security, or bail." And in Old English from the 14th century, pleon meant "a person who gives surety or gives bail for another." And another form of the word, pleggen, meant "promise," or "to give something as security or repayment," or "promise faith to."
But it gets worse. The word allegiance comes from the French-Anglo leguance, meaning "loyalty of a liege-man to his lord." And the root word liege literally means "entitled to feudal allegiance and service." So, when you recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which by the way was written by a self-proclaimed socialist by the name of Francis Bellamy in the early 1900s, you are really pledging yourself as financial security to your feudal lords. Oh but I can hear your rebuttal. You don't pledge to feudal lords, you pledge to a flag. Sorry, but a flag is an inanimate object, and as such cannot be pledged to. Instead of a piece of cloth, you are really pledging to the abstraction that the flag represents, i.e., the State. And since there is no such thing as a State, or since the State is a fiction, you can only be pledging to those who run the State; Spooner's secret band of robbers and murderers. And besides, how can you pledge yourself as financial security to a flag or an abstraction? Only real people deal in money, not pieces of cloth or ideas. Don't be fooled folks. Jesus was just trying to open your eyes. The only agreements, or covenants, that mean anything are the ones that God makes to his people. You can read all about them in Isaiah. Everything else is man-made nonsense.
I have one more sacred cow to tip over before moving on the next part of the sermon. This one has to do with the LDS temple endowment. I personally believe that the laws and covenants in the temple endowment originated from Joseph Smith, but the oaths, handshakes, signs, and tokens, came from the Masonic background of Brigham Young and Heber Kimball. How can any truth-seeking person reconcile the Masonic rites that go on in LDS temples, especially the motion of the throat-slashing that was removed after 1990, with the following scripture in the Book of Mormon?:
And it came to pass that they did have their signs, yea, their secret signs, and their secret words; and this that they might distinguish a brother who had entered into the covenant... (Helaman 6:22)
I don't want to get into specifics as this is a touchy subject, but there is one oath that is made in the temple, performed under the auspices of the law of sacrifice, in which the individual covenants to consecrate all that they have, even their very lives if necessary, to the ChurchTM of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. First of all, this is a deception; the person sacrificing is making a promise to an organization but thinks they are making a promise to God. The organization, capitalizing on the promise, lets the person think that such is the case, while at the same time promising nothing in return. Second, this is not a covenant at all, remember that a covenant is a contract and requires two parties, each promising to do something. This then, is an oath, where one party is declaring their loyalty to an authority, in this case the corporate church. Now let's take it a step further. Thirdly, the corporate church is a fictional entity, and just like every other corporation, it does not exist in the real world. Hence, the initiate is covenanting to nothing at all, yet somehow believes that the organization is synonymous with God. In reality, God has nothing to do with the organization, and the person is engaging in yet another form of idolatry. Isaiah saw this future phenomenon:
Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, who swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, yet they swear not in truth or in righteousness. (1 Nephi 20:1, or Isaiah 48:1, Emphasis added)
Who else but those who have been given the truths of the restoration, and who have entered the waters of baptism, could qualify for such an allegation from Isaiah? I'm telling you he's got our number. I don't write this to condemn anyone still active in the church and attending the temple. I'm just saying that Jesus warned us about making oaths to any and all man-made organizations. True covenants come from God and are made to individuals or unorganized groups, not to or through official organizations, especially not fictitious corporations. Interestingly enough, Jesus condemned the Pharisees in the New Testament for falsely swearing by the gold and the altar in the Jewish temple. They were making up their own rules about what what they could and could not swear on:
Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon. (Matthew 23:16-22)
A few verses later Jesus accuses them of straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel. He is pointing out the absurdity of their religious practices, in essence saying, "look guys, it doesn't matter what you swear on, it all belongs to God anyway, so what you're straining at is all nonsense." We do the same thing in the modern church, we pick and choose what rules are important and which are not, and we make certain things commandments like the Word of Wisdom (which never was) and Follow the Prophet (a totally made up doctrine), and move further away from Christ in the process. The commandments become our false gods and we never end up knowing the real Christ, although we draw near unto him with our lips. We judge others by the standards, stakes, and creeds that we have falsely attributed to God, but really come from mortal men running a business... which leads me to the next revolutionary part of Jesus' sermon:
Judge not that ye be not judged.
The Divine Law of Restoration
Judge not that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
How are these words revolutionary? They do not merely address religious folks who think they are better than someone else who doesn't follow their particular brand of piety, these words also condemn those who endeavor to destroy human freedom. The word measure means to "deal out or divide up," and the word mete also means "to measure," or "to allot," or to set up boundaries. This is where it gets interesting. Whatever restrictions, stipulations, caveats, limitations, prerequisites, contingencies, or subordinations we place on others, or even desire to place on others, come back on ourselves. Eastern religions call this karma, the Book of Mormon calls it restoration. Alma taught this to his son Corianton:
If he has desired to do evil, and has not repented in his days, behold, evil shall be done unto him, according to the restoration of God. (Alma 42:28)
And this is from Samuel the Lamanite:
He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you. (Helaman 14:31)
See also, the entire chapter of Alma 41, and D&C 1:10. As you can see, what you "mete," or dish out to others, whether in reality or in our hearts, will always return back to us. God is trying to teach us something about creation here. If God creates something to be free, we cannot alter that intention, and if we try to do so we are kicking against the pricks, and God's justice has claim on us. Those who would curb the freedom of others in this world cannot be allowed to do so in the next world, otherwise God's purposes and his very creation (his work and glory) would be destroyed. He is testing you to see how much freedom you allow to others, and this determines how much freedom you get in the next world. This includes freedom to act in one's own self-interest, freedom to think for oneself, freedom to use the raw materials of the earth to mix with your labor, freedom to put into your body whatever you want, and freedom to believe whatever you want.
I stole the subheading above, The Divine Law of Restoration, from a chapter of H. Verlan Andersen's book, Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen. He has a way of laying this stuff out that is easy to understand. I'll let him do the talking on the following point:
Why is it that the justice of God demands that those who have committed evil must have evil restored to them? Or, defining evil as the destruction of freedom, why is it that those who have undertaken to destroy the freedom of others must lose their own? Is this merely an act of divine revenge, or is there some fundamental reason which requires the execution of this law?
Let us first consider the problem from the viewpoint of those who would be the victims. If those who desire to use their freedom to destroy the freedom of others were to have their powers and opportunities to do so continually increased, then joy, the object of existence, would be unattainable. In its place misery would prevail because, as we have seen above, the denial of freedom is the very essence of unhappiness.
Now let us consider the problem from the viewpoint of those who are punished with a loss of their freedom. Are their interests best served by having their freedom taken from them; or must we conclude that the interests of men are basically antagonistic so that the evil-doer must be harmed to prevent unjust suffering by those whose freedom he would destroy?
In trying to answer this question, let us first recall that we have defined evil as the motivating force which causes people to destroy freedom. But those motivated by evil are themselves miserable. No one has ever seen a person motivated exclusively by hate, envy, lust, etc. who was happy. The more intense the hate and the desire to destroy others, the greater the misery. Wickedness never was happiness. (Alma 41:10) For the good of such a person, his capacity to destroy freedom should be decreased. (p.13)
Do you see the problem that God has to deal with? He simply cannot allow someone to continue in wickedness, i.e., destroying the freedom of others, after they die and have moved on to the next world. So they have to be restored to that which they were and are. Let me give you a few examples:
- Church leaders who shut up the kingdom of God against their followers will have the kingdom of God shut up against them.
- Church leaders who restrict members access to knowledge or try to cover up church history will have their own knowledge restricted.
- Church leaders who wrongly assert their self-perceived authority and use it to exercise unrighteous dominion against those "under" them will be placed in similarly subordinated positions in the next world. They will lose their priesthood and be subject to the devil and his angels.
- Those who vote for, support, or believe in laws that curtail or restrict free agency, in any form or degree, will lose those freedoms in the next world.
- Those who do not believe in self-government will not be allowed self-government in the next world.
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
Here is part of Andersen's conclusion for this chapter:
Thus, while we are permitted to exercise the Priesthood here on earth, though still afflicted with a weakness to abuse authority, the powers of heaven and the Priesthood which is inseparably connected therewith, cannot be controlled by one with such a disposition.
If, at the end of this life, we are still inclined to exercise unrighteous dominion and thereby deny others that freedom to which they are entitled, the divine law of retribution will demand that our power and opportunity to affect the freedom of others be restricted. The Lord will have no alternative but to assign us a place in the hereafter with that great majority who cannot be trusted to use authority only for the increase of freedom. God's power cannot be used to defeat God's purposes. (p.18)
Whatever we mete comes back to us in full. If we mete evil, then evil is returned. If we mete goodness, then goodness is returned. One thing to understand here is that goodness is devoid of coercion, which can only be justified when it is preceded by the law of restoration. This is why in righteous societies only crime (the kind involving a victim) is punished. Force can only be used against those who employ it to steal, murder, rape, or otherwise assault others. For all other situations, God has only given us the following tools of persuasion:
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy and without guile--Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou has reproved, let he esteem thee to be his enemy. (D&C 121:41-43)
The other thing to consider here is that almost all men fall to the temptation to "mete" out injustice, or in other words, to abuse authority. And the reason that the law of restoration is so revolutionary is because all the laws of men are unjust. Remember only God's laws are just. So in this one line Jesus is obliterating and calling out as absurd all of the laws that men build societies on. If there is the least amount of oppression in society, and we support any level of it, we become subject to the law of restoration. Even if we are not the ones physically oppressing others, if we allow our agent, the government, to do it for us, then the intention is the same and it is counted as wickedness. Most laws, policies, and programs are designed to have one party that benefits at the expense of a party that loses. Politicians use these laws to garner votes from certain groups of people. Similarly, most policies in organized religions are designed to keep one group of people, the leaders, in positions of authority over the members. Anytime measures are meted out in such fashion, it is often to cover up the sins of those who are behind them, just as Joseph Smith said:
... when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that men. (D&C 121:37)
Once again, in this one line, Jesus is reducing the laws of men to the oppression that they are. He is declaring that the emperor has no clothes, and neither do those that support him.
I Never Knew You
And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which is just--yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them--therefore Alma thought it expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God. (Alma 31:5, Emphasis added)
Even though Jesus was a nonviolent warrior, he was also a loving friend. In fact, he is just waiting for all of us to let him into our lives. He stands at the door and knocks, but we have to let him in. If we never take that step, but rather rely on our perspective religions to paint his image for us, we will be among those whom he professes he never knew. Can you imagine standing on the other side of a door and hearing everything spoken on the inside and it was all about you? But everything being said and assumed about you was wrong? That would be infuriating. And even though you were right there, inches away from your friends, they don't acknowledge your presence or give you a chance to show them your real personality. Instead they rely on some paid priest or minister, once a week, to bray like a jackass about your life, spreading falsehoods and assumptions about you while they collect tithes from your friends. Jesus has to deal with modern Pharisees all over again, who are robbing you of the chance to create a beautiful friendship with the God of all creation. This is what Jesus said about people who won't open the door and let him in:
Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23)
These are religious people he is talking about. They do "wonderful works" in his name. They cast out devils by his authority, and they prophesy. They go to church and Sunday school, they study doctrine, they know the Gospel, they outwardly keep the commandments, but they do not know him. They have created a version of him in their own image, they have set up boundaries, stakes and creeds for him in their own minds. They draw lines in the sand and say he can be this and no more. They are not interested in getting to know the real him, but have become infatuated with their own idea of him. This is not life eternal. Life eternal is knowing the real God and becoming his friend.
I have only begun to opened up to Jesus. My entire life growing up in the ChurchTM I believed that only church leadership got to be close to the Lord. I assumed that the prophet and apostles met with Jesus weekly in the holy of holies in the Salt Lake temple and personally directed the church. To me Christ was merely an abstraction, so far out of my reach that I only needed to look to the leaders to get tiny glimpses of him. But one day when I was 19 years old, I got a small taste of his love. I was just about to leave for my mission and was having incredible self-doubts about my abilities as a missionary. I did not think I was good enough to serve. I had serious self-esteem issues back then. Just days before I left for the MTC, I poured my heart out in my room, begging God to help me with my weakness. I got an answer. It had nothing to do with missionary service. God spoke to me, he said, "I love you, my son." That was all I needed to hear. For the next few hours I literally felt his arms around me, and to this day I cannot deny what I experienced.
But over the years I still assumed that incidents like that were isolated and only leaders were entitled to receive direct revelation from God. I could have the Holy Ghost, but they got to talk to him. How wrong I was to assume this. Now we know, from admissions from Brigham Young, Heber J. Grant, and Dallin Oaks, that leaders don't talk to Jesus. They rely on the Spirit and run the church by "inspiration," which they later call "revelation" after this or that policy comes out. But the scriptures paint a different picture. Jesus spoke face to face with all his prophets, which were common people, not wealthy leaders. We were never supposed to follow a man. As Nephi said, cursed is he that puts his trust in the arm of flesh. He also said that the Lord employs no servant to stand between us and him. Without the spiritual interference of a religious authority, Christ is free to work with you personally, to offer you his friendship and genuine personality. He is jovial, compassionate, rebellious, affable, funny, witty, and real. He wants you to know who he really is, not the image of him that has been painted by the pretentious strokes of institutional lackeys. This is his promise to you:
Verily, thus sayeth the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am. (D&C 93:1, Emphasis added)
This promise is literal. When leaders tell you that we shouldn't seek for such experiences now-a-days they are wrong. When they say such things they are being anti-Christ. Nephi warned us about them:
And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us ["we will not and cannot lead you astray"], and hear ye our precept; for there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men. (2 Nephi 28:5)
When I started this blog a few months ago I was introduced to a new friend that helped me through some of the technical stuff on blogger. I never got to meet him personally but talked to him on the phone and through email. He would always talk about Jesus, whom he referred to as Yeshua, as if they were friends. I was intrigued. I asked him how someone can become closer to Christ. He offered the following advice:
If you try to draw near to him, he will draw near to you.
Then he told me that one way to draw near to him was to read the book Beautiful Outlaw, by John Eldridge. I just finished a week or so ago and have a whole new perception of Jesus. The subtitle explains a lot of the book: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus. I learned in the book that Jesus (this is also in the Bible but I never paid attention) made the equivalent of 908 bottles of wine for the wedding in Cana... all because his mother asked him to because the host dropped the ball on the wine order. Keep in mind the wine was provided for nothing else but the entertainment of the guests. Is God really ok with people having some alcoholic drinks to celebrate a life event? You bet, God loves to have fun too. He was the one who invented wine.
Eldridge points out that we can see God's sense of humor and his fun personality all around us. He tells a story about how Jesus used to send him hearts in everyday items like clouds, seashells, dinner rolls, and even stains on his jeans. But John began to grow impatient with the hearts because he was asking God for answers to some harder questions about trials he was going through. Eventually the hearts stopped coming, and one day, when he was out hunting in the Fall, he asked the Lord why he stopped sending them. At that exact moment he looked down and saw a cow-pie heart on the ground. That is so Jesus, he thought. Take it from John, our Lord has quite the personality. Here is quote from the book on the revolutionary magnitude of the Sermon on the Mount:
In the Sermon on the Mount he completely overhauled their understanding of goodness. In a sort of moral Copernican revolution, he moves the concept of righteousness from the external to the internal. It is a far, far more demanding holiness, but one that will overturn legalism like a fruit cart. (p. 83)
Getting back to my friend who recommended the book. I said I never got to meet him, that's because he recently passed away, but from what I hear he was always helping people grow closer to Jesus. Well, he helped me tremendously. I feel like having a relationship with the Lord is actually within reach, even to someone like me. That feeling of inadequacy comes straight from the adversary, like I said before, Jesus is waiting just outside the door, it's up to us to open it. As much as I loved reading the book Beautiful Outlaw, it can never replace the Book of Mormon as a road map to ascension theology.
What I mean by ascension theology is the step by step process laid out in the Book of Mormon whereby a person can come into the fullness of God's presence, while still in this mortal life. Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Alma, Mormon, Moroni, Ether, the brother of Jared and others have been included in the record so we can learn this very thing. For Nephi this happened when he was a teenager:
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers. (1 Nephi 2:16, Emphasis added)
Mormon also tasted of the goodness of Jesus as a teenager, Jacob urged his people to enter into the rest of the Lord, Enos was told his sins were forgiven, Moroni saw Jesus and spoke to him face to face, Alma saw God on his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, Nephi, son of Helaman, was given the sealing power by the voice of God, the brother of Jared had so much faith that he could not be kept from beholding within the veil, and saw the Lord's spirit body, and was brought back into his presence, and Moses spoke with God face to face and was quickened to endure his presence. Are you noticing a pattern?
Coming into the Lord's presence during this life is called having the Second Comforter. It is Christ's testimony to you that you've been true and faithful. It is what the entire temple endowment points to; parting the veil and speaking with the Lord face to face. This experience comes in the due time of the Lord, according to his own will, we cannot hasten it. The Book of Mormon shows us how to get started on the ascension path. There is a huge misconception, because of D&C 132 (which was made up by Brigham Young to justify polygamy) that the "new and everlasting covenant" is eternal marriage. That phrase does not appear in the Book of Mormon, but it is introduced in D&C 22 as the new and everlasting covenant of baptism. When it comes to eternal marriage, we hear nothing but crickets from its pages, yet we are told it contains the fulness of the gospel. The Lord told Joseph Smith that the whole church was under condemnation for not remembering the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon. So instead of eternal marriage as a step to ascension, God requires something else.
A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit
And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost... (3 Nephi 9:20)
This is the true law of sacrifice; offered to Christ, rather than to a church. A broken heart and contrite spirit means that you will lay everything upon the altar for the Lord. This is the new covenant. And it is the gate to the straight and narrow path. The baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost is not merely being confirmed after baptism. It is a spiritual re-birth whereby you become the literal sons and daughters of Christ. King Benjamin explained it this way:
And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. (Mosiah 5:7)
After experiencing the baptism of fire, the effect is that one has no more disposition to do evil, which is what it means to be born again. No amount of temple worship, serving in church callings, or outward observances will EVER bring this about. No amount of organized religion will ever equal this experience. This is between you and Christ, and is the gate that leads to the fruit that Lehi saw in the vision of the Tree of Life. The fruit is the love of God and represents entering into his rest, and is more desirable than anything else in this world. But to get it you have to offer up a sacrifice to the Lord. He might ask you to give up the very things that you thought would save you. Like your religion, the false traditions of your fathers, the social and cultural euphoria that organized religion brings, the comfortable complacency that comes from trusting mortal leaders, or the addiction to service and checklists that you think are earning you points in heaven.
But there is more he might ask you to sacrifice. Like your wealth, or your reputation, or friends and family that might reject or shun you for following him, or as in the case of the primitive apostles and so many ancient prophets, your very life. Can you see why Christ is the great revolutionary? Upheaval follows him wherever he goes. And all hell breaks loose against those that follow him. To have an ascension experience, you cannot love anything more than him; this is the meaning of the new and everlasting covenant. You have to lose your life so to speak, for Christ's sake. It is only then that you will find it. To love Christ, is to love the truth.
Isaiah saw our day. And he prophesied that we would break this covenant:
The earth is also defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. (Isaiah 24:5)
What has been the vehicle for the breaking of the covenant? Organized religion. It is a slow poison that drains the life out of the Doctrine of Christ, incrementally corrupting it until it vanishes and has to be restored again. The Pharisees were the religious leaders of Christ's day, and he spent his ministry condemning them, defying them, and confounding them. Are we so foolish to assume that organized religion is any different today? Consider this quote from Beautiful Outlaw:
Thus George MacDonald, that old Scottish prophet, asks, "How have we learned Christ? It ought to be a startling thought, that we may have learned him wrong." It is a startling thought. "That must be far worse than not to have learned him at all: his place is occupied by a false Christ, hard to exorcise!" Hard to exorcise, indeed, because religion gives the impression of having Christ, while it inoculates you from experiencing the real thing. Most wicked. If you want to destroy an economy, flood the market with counterfeit bills. (p. 8)
Mormon also saw our day. He asked a sobering question: "why have ye polluted the holy church of God?" Who else could he be addressing besides the LDS Church and all the other restoration branches that have the fulness, or the Book of Mormon? We are the ones that have the ancient record in our hands, who else could it have been written for? It is the "most correct book on earth" because it literally shows you how to free your mind of the false traditions in organized religion and commune directly with Christ, the source of all truth. There is no need for a middle man.
This post is getting long, so I'll leave you with these words from Nephi, who concisely sums up the doctrine of Christ in the last few chapters he will etch onto the plates:
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism--yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises to the Holy One of Israel...
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.
And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.
And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen. (2 Nephi 31: 13, 17-21, Emphasis added)