Honesty: The Worth of a Peso

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What is the worth of a peso? How much would one be worth to you? A peso is not worth much to most people but there is one in particular that is worth a lot to me.

When I was young my family and I visited an old Spanish mission in Arizona. There were a lot of coins in the fountain. Many of the coins were pennies, nickels, and dimes; all glittered and sparkled in the sunshine and through the water. But some of the coins were different, some were from Mexico, which was not unexpected because we no more than an hour from the Mexican border. I liked one of the pesos and took it. I remember looking at it in the car on the way home. Within the next couple days my parents discovered I had the coin and asked where I got it. I told them I had taken it from the fountain. I guess I knew what I had done was wrong because I remember hiding the coin from my parents but it also did not seem like a big deal. However, my father sat down with me and had me send the coin back to the director of the mission. Sometime later I received a letter from the director of the mission. In the letter he thanked me for my honesty in returning the coin. Within the envelope and in addition to the letter he included a few coins – including the one I returned – from around the world that had been tossed into that fountain. I was rewarded for my honesty (or at least the honesty of my parents). This was the start of my small collection of coins from around the world.

What is the worth of this coin to me? It is worth a lesson of the importance of honesty. It was a powerful lesson at the time and still is. The Lord blesses and loves those with honest hearts: “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” (Psalm 32:2). Jesus was heartened (and still is) by those who were without guile and lies, in part because He faced so many who were full of deceit: “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47). This was a man to be trusted! This was a pure man. Jesus loves the pure in heart. Honesty is a building block of purity.

I love this description of the honest in heart: “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). The honest are like good gardeners who watch with patience until their efforts bring forth good fruit. Honest hearts are good hearts; honesty and integrity imply a lack of spiritual cardiac disease. For those who do suffer from spiritual cardiac disease, there is hope – the Lord promises a heart transplant to those who need it: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekial 36:26). Continued honesty and integrity bring the Spirit, which serves as anti-rejection medicine for this new heart.

The Lord expects His people to be honest and upright in their dealings with Him, others, and themselves. Of one group of righteous people in the Book of Mormon it is written: “And they were among the people of Nephi, and also numbered among the people who were of the church of God. And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end” (Alma 27:27). These were the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi, those whom were converted by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the sons of Mosiah, rebellious and wicked youth turned righteous and powerful missionaries to the Lamanites. So righteous were these new church members that they were described as “perfectly honest…even unto the end.” They lived their lives in righteousness and holiness because they were perfectly honest.

We can similarly be perfectly honest in all we do and inspire honesty in others. Elder James E. Faust told the following story of the power of honesty:

“I wish to speak to you frankly about being honest. Honesty is a moral compass to guide us in our lives. You young men are under great pressure to learn the technology that is expanding and will continue to expand so rapidly. However, the tremendous push to excel in secular learning sometimes tempts people to compromise that which is more important—their honesty and integrity.Cheating in school is a form of self-deception. We go to school to learn. We cheat ourselves when we coast on the efforts and scholarship of someone else.
A friend related this experience her husband had while attending medical school. ‘Getting into medical school is pretty competitive, and the desire to do well and be successful puts a great deal of pressure on the new incoming freshmen. My husband had worked hard on his studies and went to attend his first examination. The honor system was expected behavior at the medical school. The professor passed out the examination and left the room. Within a short time, students started to pull little cheat papers out from under their papers or from their pockets. My husband recalled his heart beginning to pound as he realized it is pretty hard to compete against cheaters. About that time a tall, lanky student stood up in the back of the room and stated: ‘I left my hometown and put my wife and three little babies in an upstairs apartment and worked very hard to get into medical school. And I’ll turn in the first one of you who cheats, and you better believe it!’ They believed it. There were many sheepish expressions, and those cheat papers started to disappear as fast as they had appeared. He set a standard for the class which eventually graduated the largest group in the school’s history.’

The young, lanky medical student who challenged the cheaters was J Ballard Washburn, who became a respected physician and in later years received special recognition from the Utah Medical Association for his outstanding service as a medical doctor. He also served as a General Authority and is now the president of the Las Vegas Nevada Temple.” (Ensign, Nov. 1996).

What courage that man had to stand up to his classmates and demand their honesty! What integrity and honor! There were blessings because of this honesty – more medical students graduated in that class than previous classes had graduated. Without cheating, the students had to work harder, which meant they learned more and could do better. The world would be a much better place if more people were like that man. The pain and suffering caused by dishonesty in our world is great.

The summer after my mission I needed a summer job before I went back to BYU to resume school. I got a job as a car jockey at a dealership. I drove cars that people brought in for repairs from one lot to another and back. It was not hard work but I was out in the sweltering Arizona heat much of the day and it seemed like most of the cars needed air conditioning repairs. One car I got in was a 1980s minivan with a mattress on its side in the back, which meant I could not see out the back on the passenger side of the car. As I backed up I heard and felt a crunch. I thought, “Oh no! What did I hit?” as I pulled forward back into the parking space and got out of the car. There was a new gray Corvette with a gash in its front driver’s side wheel well. Corvettes (at least this 2001 one) have fiberglass bodies, which means the car body tore instead of denting. The minivan was not even scratched (not that it was really possible to tell anyway – it was old and a bit beat up). I thought of my options: I could go tell my boss or I could drive away and not tell anyone. The second choice was not an option so I went and found my boss. When I told him about the accident his first question was, “What color was [the Corvette]?” I said, “Gray, it wasn’t the yellow one [a fancy Z06 in for a tune-up].” “Oh, that’s good then. Thanks for letting me know.” And that was it. I went back to work driving cars around. Later that same boss went out of his way to find me as a driver for his wife’s car (a BMW) that was in for repairs because he trusted me. I am always glad I told the truth. It is always better to tell the truth, regardless of consequences.

There is an interesting scripture in the book of Moses. It reads, “Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.” (Moses 4: 3-4). The interesting thing is Satan is called “the father of all lies”; he could have been called many other things (and he can be called many things) but the Lord chose to call him the father of all lies. Satan’s self-proclaimed work is to deceive and blind men and lead them down to captivity, pawns to his will and whims. All lies come from Satan; he is their creator. Those who lie preach the devil’s gospel and spread his bad word. Those who are dishonest become Satan’s children. Is not it better to become sons and daughters of God?

Continuing on in Moses 4 we read the following (I will add some commentary in brackets):

“6 And Satan put it into the heart of the serpent, (for he had drawn away many after him,) and he sought also to beguile Eve, for he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world. [Satan thought his lying to Eve would frustrate God’s plan when in fact it furthered God’s plan].
7 And he said unto the woman: Yea, hath God said—Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (And he spake by the mouth of the serpent.)
8 And the woman said unto the serpent: We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden;
9 But of the fruit of the tree which thou beholdest in the midst of the garden, God hath said—Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
10 And the serpent said unto the woman: Ye shall not surely die; [a lie].
11 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. [This is true].
12 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.
13 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they had been naked. And they sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves aprons.
14 And they heard the voice of the Lord God, as they were walking in the garden, in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife went to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.
15 And I, the Lord God, called unto Adam, and said unto him: Where goest thou?
16 And he said: I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I beheld that I was naked, and I hid myself.
17 And I, the Lord God, said unto Adam: Who told thee thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, if so thou shouldst surely die?
18 And the man said: The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat.
19 And I, the Lord God, said unto the woman: What is this thing which thou hast done? And the woman said: The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
20 And I, the Lord God, said unto the serpent: Because thou hast done this thou shalt be cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life;
21 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; and he shall [crush] thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Moses 4:6-21).

Satan tried to lie to Eve. He tried to destroy God’s plan but he didn’t know that he was actually furthering God’s plan; what Satan did was without authority or permission but Adam and Eve partaking of the fruit was part of God’s plan – whether they eventually partook of it by themselves, or someone else gave it to them. In any case, when Satan realized that he was cursed for what he had done (he already was cursed but in this case he was upset he had not actually frustrated God’s plans but furthered them). Satan became very angry and has been ever since. He rages against God and all of us. He tries to cause the nations to rage furiously together, brother against brother, father against son, daughter against mother, neighbor against neighbor, and people against people. I do not believe that Satan is so angry that He cannot think properly – to the contrary, he thinks very clearly – but he is angry because of what he lost and angry at us mortals on earth who have opportunities for progression he will never have. And so Satan lies and deceives and encourages dishonesty in others. He knows that when we are dishonest we are not godlike or godly. He knows the pain and suffering lies cause and so he encourages them and laughs at the suffering of others. He rejoices in our failures and sins and sorrows. God does not.

[The image at the top of the post is the coin I took from the fountain].

Master Mahan

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“Wherefore Lamech, being angry, slew [Irad], not like unto Cain, his brother Abel, for the sake of getting gain, but he slew him for the oath’s sake. For, from the days of Cain, there was a secret combination, and their works were in the dark, and they knew every man his brother.” (Moses 5:50-51).

This murder is best understood in the context of Cain. Cain was one of the sons of Adam and Eve. He was the older brother of Abel. By the time Cain and Abel were born there were many people on the earth – many children and descendants of Adam and Eve – but by this point many were wicked. It does not take people long to fall away from the truth and to become wicked, even degenerate. Here is the story as found in the book of Moses:

“And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters. And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God; and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish. And the Lord God called upon men by the Holy Ghost everywhere and commanded them that they should repent; And as many as believed in the Son, and repented of their sins, should be saved; and as many as believed not and repented not, should be damned; and the words went forth out of the mouth of God in a firm decree; wherefore they must be fulfilled. And Adam and Eve, his wife, ceased not to call upon God. And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare Cain, and said: I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words. But behold, Cain hearkened not, saying: Who is the Lord that I should know him? And she again conceived and bare his brother Abel. And Abel hearkened unto the voice of the Lord. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” (Moses 5:12-17).

It is clear that many of Adam and Eve’s children followed Satan. They had more children, hoping that they would follow their counsels and teachings. Many did not. Cain was not the first of the wicked children but he became one of the most wicked. Cain was a farmer, his brother Abel was a shepherd. Abel followed after the statutes and commandments of God. He was a righteous man who performed his sacrifices with exactness and honor.

Continuing with the story:

“18 And Cain loved Satan more than God. And Satan commanded him, saying: Make an offering unto the Lord.
19 And in process of time it came to pass that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
20 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering;
21 But unto Cain, and to his offering, he had not respect. Now Satan knew this, and it pleased him. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
22 And the Lord said unto Cain: Why art thou wroth? Why is thy countenance fallen?
23 If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted. And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and Satan desireth to have thee; and except thou shalt hearken unto my commandments, I will deliver thee up, and it shall be unto thee according to his desire. And thou shalt rule over him;
24 For from this time forth thou shalt be the father of his lies; thou shalt be called Perdition; for thou wast also before the world.
25 And it shall be said in time to come—That these abominations were had from Cain; for he rejected the greater counsel which was had from God; and this is a cursing which I will put upon thee, except thou repent.
26 And Cain was wroth, and listened not any more to the voice of the Lord, neither to Abel, his brother, who walked in holiness before the Lord.
27 And Adam and his wife mourned before the Lord, because of Cain and his brethren.” (Moses 5:18-27).

The commandment and covenant Adam and Eve and their children had received was to offer up animal sacrifices in the similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of God. It was a blood sacrifice in expectation of the Atonement of the Son of God. Abel offered up a blood sacrifice, Cain did not. Cain listened to Satan and tried to offer up the fruit of the ground – whatever he farmed – instead of offering up an animal sacrifice. He offered a sacrifice but not the sacrifice the Lord required; Cain offered up the sacrifice Satan wanted him to. Satan knew the sacrifice would be rejected. Satan knew how Cain would react – he knew he would be upset and curse God. He was and he did.

Then Cain started off the deep end – he made a pact with Satan; it was a pact of secrets and murder for gain. “And it came to pass that Cain took one of his brothers’ daughters to wife, and they loved Satan more than God. And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die; and swear thy brethren by their heads, and by the living God, that they tell it not; for if they tell it, they shall surely die; and this that thy father may not know it; and this day I will deliver thy brother Abel into thine hands. And Satan sware unto Cain that he would do according to his commands. And all these things were done in secret. And Cain said: Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain. Wherefore Cain was called Master Mahan, and he gloried in his wickedness.” (Moses 5:28-31).

Cain dealt with Satan in secrecy. Cain became Perdition – a destroyer (Latin: perdere – to destroyof truth; one who gave away his covenants for new ones with the devil. Cain was promised that he would rule over Satan – Cain had at least kept his first estate whereas Lucifer did not. From God Cain received the title Perdition, from himself (and possibly from Satan) he received the title of Mahan, which is of unclear meaning but based on context probably means something close to “master [owner, holder, keeper] of [a] secret.” (This interpretation agrees with what Hugh Nibley believed the title meant. See Hugh Nibley, Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price, p.12. In this document Dr. Nibley suggests that the word Master is not the English word master, but derives from Arabic word Mustirr (“keeper of secret”) and Mahan is related to the Sanskrit word maha (“great”); source). Cain’s covenant with Satan included a penalty of death for those who revealed it (this was a covenant that Cain’s friends, some of his brothers and sisters and their families, made too). Satan promised to deliver Abel into the hands of Cain. Cain would also reap the riches of his brother – his flocks.

“32 And Cain went into the field, and Cain talked with Abel, his brother. And it came to pass that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him.
33 And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands.
34 And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper?
35 And the Lord said: What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood cries unto me from the ground.
36 And now thou shalt be cursed from the earth which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.
37 When thou tillest the ground it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength. A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
38 And Cain said unto the Lord: Satan tempted me because of my brother’s flocks. And I was wroth also; for his offering thou didst accept and not mine; my punishment is greater than I can bear.” (Moses 5:32-38).

This was not a crime of passion, it was calculated murder. Cain’s purpose in seeking out his brother Abel was to kill him, to deprive Able of his life. In his post-murder phase Cain gloried in his power. He had power over life – like God. He could take Abel’s flocks and be rich. Then the Lord came to Cain asking him where his brother was. Cain’s reply? “I don’t know. Am I supposed to baby sit him? Am I his shepherd? Am I his keeper? I am a keeper of secrets, not my brother.” Then when the Lord exposes Cain for what he is, a murderer, Cain starts blaming Satan, the temptation of riches, and anger. “Satan made me do it. I was blinded by the rich, white coats of my brother’s sheep. I wasn’t myself, I was in a fit of rage.” These are all common excuses people still give when they get in trouble. It’s always someone (or something) else’s fault. Cain did murder for money but for a number of years before this he had loved Satan more than God. He did not just see Abel’s flocks one day and decide to kill him, Cain was wicked already, had covenants with Satan, and already had a plan to kill Abel.

What I want to focus on though is Cain’s question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain was not simply answering in annoyance – “I don’t know where my brother is!” – he was revealing his callousness towards his family and other people. Cain revealed his self-centeredness and his selfishness. He was Satan’s protege and as the protege he adopted some of Satan’s characteristics, most predominantly, pride. Cain thought he could hide his sin from the Lord – that was a manifestation of his pride. He thought that he was not responsible for his brother, especially because Abel’s sacrifices were accepted but Cain’s were not; Cain felt offended by the Lord and by Abel. Cain took every opportunity of aggrandizement. He sought power and glory and riches (sound familiar? Satan sought the same things in heaven) at the expense of all else. No one would stand in Cain’s way, especially not his brother, who was the favored son.

In some ways this sounds much like the story of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by his brothers. His brothers were jealous of Joseph’s favored status (which was based in part on his righteousness); they wanted to kill Joseph but were convinced not to by Reuben, the oldest son. Maybe the brothers hoped to gain Jacob’s favored status; maybe they just wanted to kill Joseph because they were evil people and not necessarily just to get gain. In any case, there are repetitions of themes throughout the scriptures – wickedness and righteousness are found in cycles in the Book of Mormon and Bible. Cain was only the first of many murderers. But because he was the first he became Perdition and (future) lord over Satan.

Note: Image by Tintoretto circ. 1552. In public domain: http://www.wikiart.org/en/tintoretto/the-murder-of-abel-1552

Path to the Temple

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At the start of His ministry, Jesus went out to the desert to fast. He spent 40 days fasting. After He finished His fast “he…hungered” (Luke 4:2). I would have been hungry before the end of the 40 day fasting period, but that’s just me. After His fast, the Savior had an interesting experience with Satan. It’s interesting not so much because of Satan’s intrusions but rather because of what Jesus experienced in spite of Satan.

At the end of His fast, while Jesus was still in the desert, Satan tempted Him to turn stones into bread. He who created the earth, turned water to wine, and walked upon water could have turned stone to bread. Doing so would not have been a sin. What He did not do – what would have been a sin – is follow Satan’s command. After the desert, Jesus went up to a high mountain. There He was again assailed by Satan, who this time wanted Jesus to worship him. Lastly, Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem. There Satan tried again to tempt Him, this time quoting scripture. Jesus again cast Satan aside.

The progression of these three experiences and locations is interesting. In the first, Jesus wandered in the desert, much like the children of Israel being led by Moses out of Egypt. They searched for the promised land, a land where they could grow and prosper and build a temple. The children of Israel wandered for 40 years in similitude of the Savior’s 40 days.

In the second experience, Jesus went on top of a high mountain, as Moses did to speak with the Lord. There, like the Savior, Moses was confronted by Satan (see Moses 1:12-16) who commanded him to worship him. Moses cast Satan away, just as Jesus did.

Then in the third experience, Jesus traveled to the pinnacle of the temple, an elevated place upon that elevating building. After His visit to the temple Jesus “returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region roundabout.” (Luke 4:14). Jesus was endowed from on high and began His ministry in earnest and with great power that others now saw and recognized (see Luke 4:15). It is not coincidence that the Savior visited the temple before He started His ministry.

This progression of wandering in the desert, communing with God on the mountain, and gaining great power at the temple is the path we must all take – it is the path from natural man or woman to sanctified man or woman. This path also can be viewed as a priesthood path (I’m not saying this is what Jesus experienced it just mirrors the progression of and through the priesthood). Prior to these experiences, Christ was baptized (Luke 3); then He wandered in the desert like the children of Israel (Aaronic/Levitical priesthood); next He went to the mountain top like many of the prophets of old (Melchizedek priesthood); and lastly, He went to the temple (endowment). Satan, of course, tried to stop Him in this process, but was unsuccessful. Do we respond like the Savior and cast Satan aside when he tries to tempt us to leave to path of salvation? Do we get turned aside by baubles or false idols, or do we follow the Savior to the temple?

Quick Thought – Fears

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Satan tells us lies about the things we fear the most – we are unloved, we have sinned too much to repent, we cannot overcome our genes or our biology, we are failures, there is no hope for the future. Satan tries to hit us and hurt us where we are weakest but through Christ all our weaknesses and our fears can become our strengths.

The Problem of Korihor

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In a time of relative peace, a man called Korihor went among the Nephites in the land of Zarahemla. He started preaching against Christ and the prophecies of the prophets and thus was called Anti-Christ. His being anti-Christ was not just because he preached against Christ and God but also because he did so dishonestly (I’ll expound on this later).

The Nephites were living in a time with considerable political freedom. Instead of kings, the Nephites were ruled by judges who were not appointed with lifetime tenures. They served for a time and then retired. The judges received compensation for their time but it is likely that at least a substantial portion of them worked other jobs (including running their farms) to have the necessary resources for survival. In other words, at this point the judges did not receive outlandish amounts of money for their time. This will be an important point later.

In this society with considerable political freedom, there was the freedom for people to believe and worship what they wanted to. A person was only punished for immoral and otherwise wicked behavior and crimes: “But if he murdered he was punished unto death; and if he robbed he was also punished; and if he stole he was also punished; and if he committed adultery he was also punished; yea, for all this wickedness they were punished. For there was a law that men should be judged according to their crimes. Nevertheless, there was no law against a man’s belief; therefore, a man was punished only for the crimes which he had done; therefore all men were on equal grounds.” (Alma 30:10-11). However, with the freedom of this society came the potential for great abuse. Having the freedom to believe and do wrong gives us the greater responsibility to believe and do right.

Now that we have context, let’s move on to Korihor. I’m going to take Korihor’s arguments and counter them, poking holes in his logic; this is not something that any of the judges to whom Korihor was taken did (and is not usually recommend in similar situations – it can just lead to arguing), although Alma corrected Korihor on one point; Alma responded to everything else by bearing his testimony to Korihor.

Korihor said, “O ye that are bound down under a foolish and a vain hope, why do ye yoke yourselves with such foolish things? Why do ye look for a Christ? For no man can know of anything which is to come.” (Alma 30:13). What’s wrong with this? First, Korihor commits the informal logical fallacy of begging the question when he assumes that hoping for Christ is “foolish”, “vain”, and a “yoke.” He offers no proof that such a hope (faith) is vain, foolish, and a burden. What is worse is that Korihor makes the following statement a foundation of his arguments, “no man can know of anything which is to come.” If this statement is true, the Nephites could not know if Christ would later come but more importantly, Korihor could not state that Christ will not come because that means that he (Korihor) knows of something to come (i.e., that Christ will not come to earth). He destroys his argument himself.

Korihor goes on to attack the prophecies in the scriptures, calling them “foolish traditions” (verse 14). This is not a new argument, just a continuation and restating of his previous one.

His next argument is one of the foundational philosophies of modern science (I’m not attacking science; I am a scientist): “ye cannot know of things which ye do not see; therefore ye cannot know that there shall be a Christ.” (Alma 30:15). This is materialism – if we can’t see (or measure) something, it cannot exist. What about the other senses? They are implied in his statement but not stated. Even so, his statement is still untrue. There are many things we cannot see that still exist (e.g., gravity, atoms, sounds, smells – not all these were known in Korihor’s day but his argument still is not valid). Korihor also makes the assumption that we cannot see Christ (something that we know is not true – we all did see Him before our mortal lives and many people have seen Him at various times). Even if we do not believe that people have seen Christ (or ever will see Him), Korihor’s logic is, at best, incomplete (and that’s being generous).

Next Korihor gives what is a common argument – that faith and religion (seeking for a remission of sins) are nothing but the “effect of a frenzied mind” or the result of the “derangement of your minds” (Alma 30:16). This is a viewpoint that I read frequently in online discussions where religion comes up. Sigmund Freud put it this way, “Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world, in which we are placed, by means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside us as a result of biological and psychological necessities. […] If one attempts to assign to religion its place in man’s evolution, it seems not so much to be a lasting acquisition, as a parallel to the neurosis which the civilized individual must pass through on his way from childhood to maturity.” (Source). In other words, religion is an infantile neurosis that hopefully people will outgrow. Freud believed that if people only understood the world (science, naturalism, and materialism) then they would give up on using religion to explain things they do not understand. Korihor essentially made the same argument – religious beliefs are nothing but a “frenzied mind” – a neurosis. Religious people are therefore deranged. The problem with this argument is that labeling someone as crazy or neurotic or suffering from unresolved psychological problems just because you do not agree with their beliefs does not make your beliefs about others correct. What is worse is that I’ve already shown that the foundation of Korihor’s argument up to this point is fatally flawed so at best he is condemning others for using faulty logic that is different from the faulty logic he uses (although matters of faith do not always rely on logic; I have to add that that being said, I’ve yet to find anything as logically consistent and complete as the gospel of Jesus Christ as found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

I want to interject something Alma taught that counters what Korihor taught. Even though Alma was not responding to Korihor (he was dead at this point), his sermon that we have starting in Alma 32 seems like a general response to Korihor’s teachings. One thing he said is particularly pertinent at this point: “O then, is not this [faith and spiritual knowledge] real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?” (Alma 32:35). Alma directly counters Korihor’s belittling of faith; Alma states that faith is real and it is discernible. While we might not always see faith directly, we can understand it in a way that is at least as good as and usually better than sight.

Now back to Korihor. Korihor then moved into the realm of philosophy called humanism and its cousin relativism (not relativity): “And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men [again, what an interesting statement to make given that Korihor said that we cannot know the future], but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength [humanism]; and whatsoever a man did was no crime [relativism].” (Alma 30:17). While there is much to commend about humanism – it’s a philosophy that people can and should improve themselves – the problem of humanism is that there is no room for God in it. People do well because they do well on their own, not because they have a Father in Heaven who blesses them. Humanism is found in many other philosophies and fields – psychology, political science, sociology, literature, business. For example, a particularly extreme form of humanism is Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. The problem of humanism is that it is ultimately self-centered and selfish. Korihor also taught relativism (this could also be a form of moral nihilism) – that there is no sin, there are no set rights and wrongs – “whatsoever a man [or woman] did was no crime.” How common both these philosophies are today!

Then Korihor (who was particularly a hit with women – see verse 18) continued with his form of nihilism: “when a man was dead, that was the end thereof” (Alma 30:18). Korihor preached against morality and meaning in life. People were to live life however they wanted to and then die, which was the end of their existence. Korihor would have got along splendidly with some of the major philosophers of the 20th century.

We’ll skip ahead a bit. Korihor finds some successes in his preachings but he is taken before local judges in a couple of the lands (the Anti-Nephi-Lehis would have none of his teachings nor would most of the people in the land of Gideon). Then Korihor, before the judge Giddonah, just becomes confrontational, saying essentially, “You say this but I say this instead. You say you are free, I say you are in bondage” and so forth. He also shows his conceit: “Ye say that those ancient prophecies are true. Behold, I say that ye do not know that they are true.” (Alma 30:24). He said, “You think you know this but you really don’t.” He had the audacity to tell Giddonah what he did or did not believe.

Korihor then goes back to one of his favorite arguments (it’s getting old by this point): “[You believe in] God—a being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be.”(Alma 30:28). So much for not being able to know of things to come! That’s quite a prophecy that Korihor makes: “No one has ever or could ever see God and no one ever will. In fact, He doesn’t exist!” It’s impossible to defend a universal negative categorical proposition like that though. So Korihor demonstrated that at no point in the universe is there a being who exists who we refer to as God? Of course he didn’t! That’s one of the problems with universal negatives of that nature.

Eventually Korihor is taken before Alma because no one else knows what to do with him. Korihor starts getting angry, going on and on about how the judges and priests “glut themselves” upon the labors of the people; he basically says they are like the wicked king Noah (who really did that). But they are nothing like Noah, especially Alma. Korihor starts blaspheming and then verbally abusing Alma and the other political and religious leaders. This is where Alma directly refutes what Korihor is saying. Korihor says that Alma and the other religious leaders are becoming wealthy by living off the people. Further, those who are judges are also doing the same.

Alma replies: “Thou knowest that we do not glut ourselves upon the labors of this people; for behold I have labored even from the commencement of the reign of the judges until now, with mine own hands for my support, notwithstanding my many travels round about the land to declare the word of God unto my people. And notwithstanding the many labors which I have performed in the church, I have never received so much as even one senine for my labor; neither has any of my brethren, save it were in the judgment-seat; and then we have received only according to law for our time. And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren? Then why sayest thou that we preach unto this people to get gain, when thou, of thyself, knowest that we receive no gain?” (Alma 30:32-35).

There is not much to say more than this. Korihor was lying about Alma (and other church leaders) – it was an obvious lie – so Alma countered Korihor on this point.

After this, Alma and Korihor go back and forth a bit. Korihor denies there is a God. Alma doubts his assertion and bears his testimony of God and Christ (which is the best thing to do in circumstances like this). Korihor remits a bit, stating that he will believe Alma if Alma shows him a sign. Alma states that God gives enough signs if only we take the time and effort to see them.

Now we start to see changes in Korihor. He goes from being atheist to agnostic (he’s still lying though, as we will discover): “Now Korihor said unto him: I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe that there is a God; and I say also, that ye do not know that there is a God; and except ye show me a sign, I will not believe.” (Alma 30:48).

So Alma consents; he’ll give Korihor a sign: “This will I give unto thee for a sign, that thou shalt be struck dumb, according to my words; and I say, that in the name of God, ye shall be struck dumb, that ye shall no more have utterance.” (Alma 30:49). It’s not usually wise to ask for a sign because you might just get one and you might not like it! Korihor was struck dumb, not being able to speak any more (thus also not being able to lead away more people in wickedness).

Now comes the great confession from Korihor – the confession that shows why he is called Anti-Christ. In writing or sign, Korihor admitted: “Yea, and I always knew that there was a God. But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.” (Alma 30:52-53). So Korihor always knew there was a God. He deliberately preached against this knowledge. He stood out in the light of the sun and denied its existence. That is why he was Anti-Christ. He preached against God and Christ. He saw Satan and listened to him, teaching what he said instead of what he knew was right. After teaching it enough, Korihor started believing it himself but he had gone against the light.

Korihor then begs the curse be taken from him. Alma refuses saying that he brought it upon himself and that Korihor had not repented. Korihor was cast out and went house to house begging for food. People took care of him until he wandered over to the land of the Zoramites, who it turns out had apostatized from the church. The righteous Nephites treated Korihor well; the wicked, not so much: “As [Korihor] went forth amongst them, behold, he was run upon and trodden down, even until he was dead. And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.” (Alma 30:59-60).

We can see the callousness of the Zoramites – they trampled him to death. Our faith in God is manifest in how we treat others – the Zoramites were wicked. But Korihor’s ignominious death at the feet of the Zoramites served as an object lesson of Satan’s character. He’ll have someone help him with his work and then will cut them off as soon as they are no longer useful. All he wants is for more people to be miserable with him. He will do whatever it takes to hurt others in the worst way possible – to get them to knowingly sin against God. Satan is a coward and without loyalty. He doesn’t even care that his arguments are often so full of holes that if they were buckets, we’d call them colanders. He only needs to get people to believe him as mindless followers (which is not what God wants – mindless followers; God wants faithful followers but not mindless). Korihor’s tragic death shows that Satan does not care for his supporters, all he cares about is how to do the most harm to the most people.

Thus ended Korihor! A long chapter is devoted to him, which might indicate its importance for us to understand. His teachings are alive and well in our day. We need to recognize the Korihors around us and not follow their insidious doctrines. We need to recognize these philosophies of men (and Satan) for what they are and listen to and heed the living prophets of God.

Two Brothers

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A farmer and his wife had two sons. They lived in a modest home on a modest parcel of land. They worked hard from first light to dusk, clearing their land, plowing, planting, watering, and harvesting. As the sons grew older, their eyes started searching beyond their farm fences. There was a whole world out there that they longed to see and experience. They enjoyed the farm but both were curious and inquisitive. By the time they were old enough to strike out on their own, the elder brother staying around longer to help their parents, the father had many workers to help on the farm. The parents encouraged the brothers to go off and gain experience in the world, to get an education, and to learn and grow. The sons, while caring of their parents, knew that their parents would be able to manage the farm without them. So one day they struck off for the nearest big city.

The two brothers decided to rent a house in the city together. The elder brother found employment in a hospital during the day and went to school during the evening. The younger brother was restless. He bounced from job to job and had a difficult time holding on to his money. He began to become involved in risky behavior and began to interact with questionable people. The younger brother soon began drinking, using drugs, and dealing drugs. He knew what he was doing was wrong, and his older brother counseled with him about his choices, but he felt he was having too much fun. He felt like he was finally breaking free from the shackles of his parents and their prudish ways. He felt that he found a fast track to success – in dealing and using drugs.

For a time, the younger brother enjoyed his riches; he drove fast cars and wore fancy clothes. He still visited home on occasion, hoping, in his twisted view, that his success would please his parents; he found them only grieved. His older brother still lived with him because he hoped he could be an influence for good. One day, the younger brother did not come home. This was not unexpected, but the older brother began to worry. He called the police and asked them to search for his brother. They had dealt with the younger brother many times but said that they did not know where he was.

The next day, the brother still did not come home. After a week of searching, the elder brother began to give up hope of seeing his brother again; though he did not agree with his brother’s lifestyle, he still loved him. Then one day the police showed up at his home; no, they had not seen his brother but they announced that they were there to arrest the elder brother.

He was shocked; why arrest him? He kept every law and always did what was right. The police put him in a room and interrogated him, wanting to know where his brother was. They stated that his brother had beaten and murdered a whole family – parents and children; they assumed the motive was related to drugs and they had unimpeachable evidence that his brother had murdered the family. After the interrogation they locked the older brother away, declaring that because they could not find the younger brother, they were going to hold the older brother in his stead. The police said this was only fair because the two were brothers. They said the guilt of the younger brother would be placed on the elder brother because the younger could not be found. Even though the elder brother protested stating that it was not fair to punish him for the sins of his brother, the police would hear none of his arguments and, working with the courts, they sentenced the older brother to death for the crimes of his brother. The sentence was only reversed when the voices of many pointed out the injustice of guilt by association and a higher court overturned the charges.

A common complaint I hear about Mormons is that they believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers. Some even casually remark this fact to others, eliciting the obvious response, “What!? Jesus and Satan are brothers? That’s heresy! Mormons believe in a different Jesus; one who is the brother of Satan!” While the statement (that Jesus and Satan are brothers) is strictly true, the use of it is often for nefarious reasons. We read in LDS scripture:

“And there stood one among them [spirit children of God] that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever. And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him.” (Abraham 3:24-28).

The first who stood up was Jehovah, our Savior Jesus Christ. The second was Lucifer, who wanted to God’s glory but on Lucifer’s terms. We read in 2 Nephi 24 (quoting Isaiah 14):

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! Art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and shall consider thee, and shall say: Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms? And made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof, and opened not the house of his prisoners? All the kings of the nations, yea, all of them, lie in glory, every one of them in his own house. But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and the remnant of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcass trodden under feet. Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land and slain thy people; the seed of evil-doers shall never be renowned.” (2 Ne. 24:12-20).

One interesting aside from these verses: Satan does not let his prisoners go free (“opened not the house of his prisoners”) but Christ does. Christ provided a way for the captive to go free.

Lucifer had a lot of pride and lust for power. He was cast out of God’s presence and became Satan. Lucifer is brother to Christ and every human on the earth for that matter but Satan is the antithesis of Christ. He sold his birthright, whatever birthright he might have had, for a mess of prideful pottage. He sinned great unpardonable sins against God.

Do his actions diminish the glory of his Father or elder Brother? Are the sins of the siblings answered upon the heads of their siblings? Is it just or right to condemn the elder brother for the murders of the younger brother?

My allegory at the start of this post was meant to drive home the point that we are not responsible for the actions of our siblings. We are not guilty simply by association. Yet, when individuals ask or declare the seemingly innocent question or statement about Mormons believing that Jesus and Satan are brothers (which again, is strictly correct; however, Lucifer has also been disinherited; he gave up his family membership through his evil choices and is left without root or branch) are usually trying to imply guilt by association.

I state usually because I have heard people ask the question honestly because they had heard it from a preacher or from someone else and thus they were simply wondering if we Mormons do believe that. But I have had people condemn me because I believe that Jesus and Lucifer are both spirit children of God (as are all of us). They view this as heresy because in their minds they create a link of guilt by association. They believe that if Lucifer is Jesus’ brother, that that somehow reflects on the Savior and even means that He could no longer be who He is and have the power He does. Who Lucifer is no more reflects on Jesus than who Stalin was reflects on you or me or any other person. Just because one individual is perfectly good and the other perfectly evil does not mean that either are responsible for the actions of the other.

Those who declare such things, even if they are true, are creating straw men and attacking them with rubber arrows of logical fallacy. They misuse LDS theology – with or without malice – to scare people away from what they view as the cult of Mormonism. I say again, the sins of the brother do not diminish the glory of another. Christ is not tainted by Satan.

C.S. Lewis Quote du Jour

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“Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled…. It follows that this Bad Power…must have things to want and then to pursue in the wrong way: he must have impulses which were originally good in order to be able to pervert them…. To be bad, he must exist and have intelligence and will. But existence, intelligence and will are in themselves good. Therefore he must be getting them from the Good Power: even to be bad he must borrow or steal from his opponent. And do you now begin to see why Christianity has always said the devil is a fallen angel? That is not a mere story for the children. It is a real recognition of the fact that evil is a parasite, not an original thing. The powers which enable evil to carry on are powers given it by goodness. All the things which enable a bad man to be effectively bad are in themselves good things – resolution, cleverness, good looks, existence itself…. Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.” (Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity. HarperCollins, 2001, pp.44-45).

There was a war in Heaven between Jesus Christ and Lucifer. Satan rebelled against God and God’s plan of salvation. At one point, as C. S. Lewis pointed out, Lucifer was good. He had intelligence, light, knowledge, and free will. He had the moral agency to choose right from wrong. These are the good things Lucifer received from God. He took these gifts and used them to become evil. It is only in this manner that God created evil. There are eternal principles – God’s laws – that are not breakable. Agency is one of them. God gave Lucifer – and all of us – agency, which agency Lucifer used for evil. Lucifer rebelled and was exiled to the earth. “Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down” (Moses 4:3).

With this agency we all have been given comes the responsibility to choose that which is right. “That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.” (D&C; 101:78). With this agency – the same gift that made Lucifer’s fall possible – we can choose good or evil. Do you choose good?

False Temples – Part 3

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Are we building up false temples in our lives? Are we worshiping at unholy altars? Are we letting the good crowd out the best? Do we make even token sacrifices to gilded calves? What are we allowing in our lives to take precedence over the gospel and the things of God? Do we wander on side-roads when we should be traveling on God’s heavenly highway, which takes us to the temple and eternal life?
The prophet Isaiah wrote of God’s highway, “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” (Isaiah 35:8).

This highway leads through the deserts: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3); it leads to the exalted heights: “And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.” (Isaiah 49:11). On God’s exalted roads, we are in the path to peace; we are on the temple road, a road for the clean and holy. Those who wander on strange roads find themselves on the way to false temples and worshiping false gods – maybe not always on purpose but nonetheless worshiping at false altars.

Our worshiping in false temples could range from shirking church responsibilities to spending too much time pursuing work or recreation (or even family) that other necessary activities are left undone. Our worship of false gods could range from obsessively following the latest trends or technologies or celebrities to dishonoring the Sabbath day to worshiping the self. All that is good is not exalting and too much of a good thing can at times be damning. I do not mean to imply that all our focus should be on the gospel and family – although those should be our primary foci – we can and should spend time doing other things, like working to support a family or developing our talents or even taking some time to relax and enjoy ourselves. The problem occurs when our devotion to these other activities because religious to the point of interference with what matters most.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke on this at a recent General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said,

“A childhood experience introduced me to the idea that some choices are good but others are better. I lived for two years on a farm. We rarely went to town. Our Christmas shopping was done in the Sears, Roebuck catalog. I spent hours poring over its pages. For the rural families of that day, catalog pages were like the shopping mall or the Internet of our time.

Something about some displays of merchandise in the catalog fixed itself in my mind. There were three degrees of quality: good, better, and best. For example, some men’s shoes were labeled good ($1.84), some better ($2.98), and some best ($3.45).
As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all.

Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best. When the Lord told us to seek learning, He said, ‘Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom’ (D&C; 88:118; emphasis added)” (Ensign, Nov. 2007).

Many things, people, and causes clamor for our attention. We can run around exhibiting a kind of attentional disorder trying to do everything (or conversely, doing far too little or focusing on far too narrow a thing) or we can wisely use and improve our time by choosing to spend the most effort on the best things. The kingdom of God and our Lord Jesus Christ come first, so does family (that is not contradictory to say that both God and family come first), everything else should fall somewhere on down the hierarchy of activities. Anything that takes away from the centrality of God and family (specifically family as God and Christ-centered) is a false god. We should work to purge this polytheism from our lives.

Lessons from Life: Cockroaches – Part 1

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I live in Florida, which is great if you like warm winters, beaches, rain, and no snow. The downside is the number of insects and other critters. Occasionally we will see a cockroach in our home. There are only a few insects I do not like – cockroaches are one of them. Here in Florida, even in spite of deterrents and poisons, cockroaches can creep into our homes. They fit through small cracks and are virtually indestructible, as far as animals go; cockroaches have been known to live for at least a week without a head! Cockroaches live all over the world – even in Antarctica – but most are harmless to humans. Regardless of that, the cockroaches that invade homes can contribute to asthma and allergies. They are not clean insects and can spread their filth around as they scurry around. “They are also capable of mechanically transmitting disease organisms such as the bacteria which cause food poisoning. Recently, cockroaches have been found to be an important source of allergy in people, second only to house dust.” (Source). It is never enough to kill a single cockroach if we want to eliminate them from our homes – nests of cockroaches can live in our walls, reproducing rapidly.

One effective way to eliminate cockroaches is to use cockroach bait. When one cockroach eats the bait, which is poisonous to it, it is able to walk back to its nest (hopefully) where it will then die. “Cockroach baits contain a slow-acting insecticide incorporated into a food attractant. Roaches locate and feed on the bait, typically contained in small, plastic bait trays, and crawl away to die. Bait carried back to the nesting area also kills other roaches after being expelled in the sputum and feces” (source). In this manner, instead of simply killing one cockroach, you are able to get to the root of the problem and allow the nature of cockroaches to lead to their demise. Using bait, it is possible to take out entire colonies of cockroaches over a short period of time. Even so, most preventative methods need to be reapplied frequently in order to prevent or minimize further encroaches of cockroaches.

Just as we can have physical cockroaches enter our homes, so too can we have spiritual roaches invade our homes. What are we allowing into our homes? Do we allow filthiness or do we prevent it? If some filthiness finds its way into our homes do we do all we can to purge it from our homes or do we ignore the problem and let it grow? Like cockroaches, evil is pervasive; it is worldwide. Satan looks for any crack or crease or crevice to invade. He looks for chinks in our armor – any part of our lives that seem weak. However, Satan is not limited to sneaking in back doors; his brazen influence is seen as he mocks all that is sacred. Satan roams about the earth with an openness rarely seen in the history of the earth.

Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “We live in a season when fierce men do terrible and despicable things. We live in a season of war. We live in a season of arrogance. We live in a season of wickedness, pornography, immorality. All of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah haunt our society. Our young people have never faced a greater challenge. We have never seen more clearly the lecherous face of evil” (Ensign, Nov. 2001). Yet, there is hope against this evil. Pres. Hinckley continued,

“And so, my brothers and sisters, we are met together in this great conference to fortify and strengthen one another, to help and lift one another, to give encouragement and build faith, to reflect on the wonderful things the Lord has made available to us, and to strengthen our resolve to oppose evil in whatever form it may take.

“We have become as a great army. We are now a people of consequence. Our voice is heard when we speak up. We have demonstrated our strength in meeting adversity. Our strength is our faith in the Almighty. No cause under the heavens can stop the work of God. Adversity may raise its ugly head. The world may be troubled with wars and rumors of wars, but this cause will go forward.

“You are familiar with these great words written by the Prophet Joseph: ‘No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done’ (History of the Church, 4:540).

The Lord has given us the goal toward which we work. That goal is to build His kingdom, which is a mighty cause of great numbers of men and women of faith, of integrity, of love and concern for mankind, marching forward to create a better society, bringing blessings upon ourselves and upon the heads of others” (Ensign, Nov. 2001).

Good and Evil – Part 3

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Since the beginning, God has called prophets. The first man – Adam – was a prophet, a holy man of God, and one authorized to act in God’s name. Other prophets were called after Adam, men such as Enoch, whose city Zion fled, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. Then came prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lehi, Alma, Mormon, and many others. Finally came the greatest prophet – John – and Jesus Christ. Jesus established His church after His resurrection with Peter as president and James and John as counselors. This establishment of the Lord’s church did not last long. The vineyard became corrupted and the priesthood authority and keys were taken from the earth. For about 1800 years, the Lord’s authority was not found on the earth (at least in the Old World; the priesthood lasted until about 400 AD in the Americas). One spring morning a boy sought an answer to a question about which church to join. He retired to a secluded grove of trees near his home and tried to pray vocally to God. As mentioned previously, Joseph’s prayer was interrupted by Satan, who sought to kill him. Joseph was saved by the appearance of God, the Father, and then Jesus Christ. They spoke with Joseph. He was called as the Lord’s prophet – a modern Abraham – father to a new dispensation. Over time, Joseph received the authority and keys necessary to administer the Lord’s affairs on earth through His church. Once again the Lord’s authority and church were found on the earth.

It has always been the Lord’s will and work to use prophets. Amos wrote, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). This is the Lord’s pattern. Moroni wrote: “O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles…. And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles. And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.” (Mormon 9:15, 19-20).

God is a God of miracles. God changes not. He appeared to Joseph Smith in our day just as He did to prophets of old. He does mighty wonders today, just as He did in ancient times.

For those who might not believe that we need prophets let me ask a hypothetical question. What if we needed someone like Noah today? Would God call someone to be a prophet or would he simply allow all of us, proverbially, to drown? Why if God called prophets in Biblical times would He not call them today? Do prophets become unnecessary with the times? We live in a modern society so there is no need for prophets? Did God speak all He needed to speak unto us in the past so there is no need for Him to reveal more to humankind?

I find all those explanations insufficient. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He continues to speak to prophets today. Their words and revelations provide direction and comfort. However, they are more than just comforters and tour guides – they hold the Lord’s priesthood and the keys that authorize the use of that priesthood. They administer the affairs of the Lord here on earth. They are in charge of His church and are responsible not just for the members of the church but also for all humankind. They are responsible to oversee and direct the missionary efforts of the church. They are as laborers in the vineyard or shepherds to a flock. The roles of prophets (and seers and revelators) and apostles are not honors taken by those with those responsibilities. All were called of God as was Aaron (see Hebrews 5:4). The honor and glory of the callings all belongs to God, for they direct His church.

Again I ask, what if the Lord needed to tell us something important today like He told the world through Noah or Jonah or Moses? Would He leave us to our own devices or would He call a prophet who would speak His words and do His work? I testify that God does speak to prophets today. He does not lead us without a guide. He does love us as much as He loved His children in ancient days. Satan is real and God is real. Prophets of God have been called to counter the prophets of Satan. The prophets of Satan are myriad, the prophets of God are few but the Lord’s prophets have His power and His authority. They direct His church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Christ’s church is on the earth. We can know God’s will and plan for us by listening to His prophets.