The Gnosis

March 31, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 11:48 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices

It was while reading Hugh Nibley that I first learned that the Greek word gnosis simply meant “knowledge”. Therefore the term Gnostic meant basically “knower” or a person who claimed to have secret knowledge. Among the ancient Gnostics were the various quacks and whatnot that claimed to have the secret knowledge that Jesus imparted to his apostles. After the apostles and priesthood were taken from the earth some Gnostics (so-called) had a field day with the seekers of truth. The reason I bring this up is because until a few years ago I still believed (as I suspect most church members still do) that there was some sort of inner circle in the church of those who had the gnosis — who jointly knew and understood the mysteries of God. I thought there was a sort of club that included lots of folks… temple presidencies, general authorities, religion professors and institute directors, and perhaps other leaders that knew the answers to all those unclear deep doctrinal questions I had. Not only did they know the answers in my mind, but that all agreed on those answers. Boy was I ever wrong!

Over at Splendid Sun they are talking about when is a doctrine an official doctrine. Why would we need to ask such a question? Because apostles and prophets have often totally disagreed on fundamental doctrinal issues. This prophet believes X about the nature of God and this apostle believes Y. Then one prophet teaches Z about the pre-existence and another teaches Q. It turns out there is not really much of an inside club when it comes to some of the mysteries of God. God has given us the current standard works and the temple ceremony and some other data points and has decided that is sufficient for now. If we want to learn more we need to either figure it out ourselves or ask him, or more likely do both.

I have mixed feelings about this reality. Part of me wishes there was an insiders club with all the answers and that I could get in. But another part of me likes the idea that the answers need to come from God himself. I mean what good is it to know about God if we don’t really get to know God? I would rather be acquainted with him through dialogic communication than know all about him because I got in some club that knew the answers.

Of course there is the fact that the truth is pretty much a fixed thing out there. All of the theories are either true or false when it comes down to it. There either is or there isn’t a Mother in Heaven. Our pre-mortal existence really happened somehow. God either has exhaustive foreknowledge or He doesn’t. You get the idea.

So maybe the questions should be: Should we be aggressively investigating the truth of these matters? Are there more important things? And if we feel like we have the answers to one of these questions is there a problem with sharing that with others? Are they obscured because God wants it that way or simply because the truth just isn’t commonly known? (Or is it that the adversary has actively hid the truth on some of these things?)

These are important questions to us bloggers. One school of thought might be “I need to stay well within traditions so I don’t mess up a chance to serve my fellow man later on in leadership capacities”. Another, as exemplified by our own Blake Ostler, is to actively tackle tough doctrinal questions and posit strong opinions on them. I adamantly agree with some of Blake’s opinions on theology and doctrine and adamantly disagree with others. But the point is that because he has been courageous enough to go out on a limb and share his beliefs on some of these things we can all benefit by discussing some of those things openly now.

I, like probably most of you, happen to have pretty strong opinions on several doctrinal issues that are important but are potentially hot potatoes. I have slowly and gingerly been broaching them here for some time. I can tell that a few others around the Bloggernacle are doing the same thing right now. What do you think of this? What of this idea of trying to tactfully and respectfully broach doctrinal possibilities in the Bloggernacle? Is this the best part of the Bloggernacle of the most awful and dangerous part?

33 Comments »

  1. …just keep your mind open to the possibility that following men who designate themselves as authorities, prophets, seers, and revelators are none of the above.

    Don’t follow anyone blindly. Demand accountability for your tithes. And demand that doctrine is focused on spirituality, not conformity to an organization.

    Comment by Gnosticbabe — April 2, 2005 @ 7:38 pm

  2. Gnosticbabe,

    I thank you for your concern and all. Not following anyone blindly is good advice. But since I have received direct and unequivocal personal revelation from God that the Church is indeed led today by prophets, seers, and revelators I suspect you may be barking up the wrong tree.

    I believe our doctrine does focus on spirituality, and thus the topics we discuss here. And regarding tithing, you ought to try the principle. The windows of heaven really do open for those who honestly and faithfully do so.

    BTW — You might want to work on obscuring your agenda a little better… (Although I’m glad someone finally read and responded to this post!)

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 2, 2005 @ 9:57 pm

  3. “But since I have received direct and unequivocal personal revelation from God that the Church is indeed led today by prophets, seers, and revelators…”

    You have a direct connection with God, but He tells you to listen to intermediaries. What revelations or prophesies have those intermediaries given within your lifetime that have revealed the nature of God?

    And do the heavens open up for those who collect the tithes, if they do not spend it openly or wisely? Does God want you to tithe regardless of its use? And is my tithe not worthy of the heavens if I give it directly to help those in need?

    Comment by Gnosticbabe — April 3, 2005 @ 10:31 am

  4. G-babe: The problem with gnosticism since its inception is that it is an individualistic, self-absorbed and self-enclosed way of spirituality. That is why it really didn’t survive — except as an individualistic way of spirituality for isolated individuals. But is that consistent with the type of love we have beem commanded to manfiest in our lives? In truth, gnosticism is a form of self-deception that one can be in relation with God without being a part of a community and sharing the spiritual life with others.

    You know that not all inspiration and revelation must reveal the “nature of God.” What God has revealed to his prophet recently is how to build the kingdom of God. You are correct, we don’t need an intermediary to teach us of God because we can go directly to him. What you miss is that the Church and the gospel are necessarily not a self-sufficient endeavor because Christ includes the body and community of Christ and building of a kingdom in common love. You cannot make a community of Christ all by yourself. The purpose of the a prophet is to give guidance to the community as a whole — and the purpose of the priesthood is to give order and service to the community as a whole.

    Do you have some basis for you suggestion that tithing is not spent well? Are you engaging in a self-deceived rationalization to avoid paying tithing to build the kingdom of God on earth?

    Comment by Blake — April 3, 2005 @ 1:57 pm

  5. Blake

    “What God has revealed to his prophet recently is how to build the kingdom of God.” – and how many earrings a woman should wear. I am enlightened.

    “The purpose of the prophet is to give guidance to the community as a whole-and the purpose of the priesthood is to give order and service to the community as a whole.” Like Joseph’s Everlasting Covenant?

    “Do you have some basis for you suggestion that tithing is not spent well?” – the fact that you don’t know or question how it’s spent answers my question.

    “Are you engaging in a self-deceived rationalization to avoid paying tithing to build the kingdom of God on earth?” – Like God’s shopping malls, life insurance companies, radio chains, beef and citrus farms,and billions more in commercial real estate? Is Jesus returning as a corporate tax attorney?

    Comment by Gnosticbabe — April 3, 2005 @ 2:58 pm

  6. G-babe — Sustaining the kingdom of God when the community has been driven from its temporal basis takes real capital and real-world engagement. As a self-professed gnostic, I don’t expect you to grasp that. I don’t expect you to grasp anything about living with real people in a real community that might require real life engagement. Did you catch all of what I said about a self-absorbed way of being in life? Such a self-absorbed way of being is, BTW, my idea of hell. You can live in your own world without any real grasp of a world that involves others – that is your choice. The great thing about hell is that the people there are so clueless they don’t know how miserably alone they are.

    So yes, revelations about how many earrings a woman should wear (I don’t expect you to be enlightened because you are full enough of yourself that learning from a prophet is clearly beneath and beyond you). Further, get a clue — no tithing money goes to any of the captalistic endeavors you mentioned. I know, I was an attorney with the firm that represented the Church. Perhaps you could re-read what Jesus had to say about judging others unrighteously — oh, I forgot, you don’t need Jesus to tell you anything either because he is merely a mediator.

    Comment by Blake — April 3, 2005 @ 3:32 pm

  7. “no tithing money goes to any of the captalistic endeavors you mentioned.”

    The Mormon church has $30 billion in assets and annual gross income of $6 billion. And no accounting to the members. The suggestion that tithing doesn’t flow both directly and indirectly to the corporation is laughable on its face. Meanwhile Utah ranks #1 in family bankruptcies. You won’t see a connection; I do.

    “The great thing about hell is that the people there are so clueless they don’t know how miserably alone they are.” Those who don’t recognize your leader as a prophet are by your definition either in Hell or destined to be. And therein is my point.

    Comment by Gnosticbabe — April 3, 2005 @ 8:17 pm

  8. Exactly what is the connection? It seems to me that many studies suggest that the #1 reason for bankruptcy is having fixed expenses and then suffering some major expense – typically unemployment or health costs. In Utah we marry young and have families young with a corresponding young age for home ownership. Those are fixed costs that then lead to more bankruptcies. There was a discussion of this over on Common Consent just prior to Christmas as I recall. Lots of discussion of that actual economics.

    Even if things are more complex, it isn’t at all clear to me how tithing contributes to this. Further there are studies that the majority of those filing for bankruptcies aren’t tithe payers.

    So it seems to me that your claim needs some empirical evidence beyond just “seeing a connection.”

    Comment by Clarkl — April 3, 2005 @ 8:27 pm

  9. BTW – what is this bit about God demanding we only listen to intermediaries? I think the LDS position is far from that. However if you are getting revelation that seems quite at odds with his intermediaries it is a nice check to put up warning flags, just in case it isn’t God you are listening to. Sort of like a religious version of checks and balances.

    Comment by Clarkl — April 3, 2005 @ 8:31 pm

  10. Gnosticbabe,

    Interesting discussion you are inciting here. I assume you are not a member of the Church, but if you are please correct me. I’ll respond to a few of your comments below.

    You have a direct connection with God, but He tells you to listen to intermediaries.

    Yes.
    (When has the true Church ever worked differently on the planet?)

    What revelations or prophesies have those intermediaries given within your lifetime that have revealed the nature of God?

    I’m not sure who you are comparing them to here. Very few prophets throughout history have been tasked to reveal new things about the nature of God. How many can prophets can you name that have done so? They have clearly received direct and clear revelation in my lifetime on how to take a Church with a couple of million members (mostly in North America) and transform it into a beautifully functioning worldwide church with more than 12 million members. How many prophets can you name that have done something as colossal as that throughout history?

    And do the heavens open up for those who collect the tithes, if they do not spend it openly or wisely?

    The scripture in question makes no mention of the tithe gatherers. Certainly there are other blessings for proper handling and distribution of sacred funds though.

    Does God want you to tithe regardless of its use?

    Yes.

    And is my tithe not worthy of the heavens if I give it directly to help those in need?

    That depends largely on what covenants you have made or not. If you are a member of the church and have taken those covenants then you will only receive the blessings of tithing reserved for those who pay tithing in the proscribed manner. If you are not a member of the church then your donations to good causes will certainly have blessings attached. I should note that many, many in the church give a full tithe on top of giving to those in need. The Malachi scripture does require tithes and offerings after all.

    If you belong to another church I hope you are giving a full tithe to your church separately from your offerings to the poor as well. I can assure you that the windows of heaven will open for you too if you faithfully do so.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 4, 2005 @ 12:29 am

  11. A quick post before I head out to work at my job stoking the fires of hell (per Blake):

    “to take a Church with a couple of million members (mostly in North America) and transform it into a beautifully functioning worldwide church with more than 12 million members.”

    Mormon statistics are notorious for not netting out those who are inactive and resigned. There are statistics showing Mormonism with one of the highest churn rates – I’ll have to dig out the citation.

    Objective estimates that I’ve seen range from 25%-35% active. You can do the math against the 12 million members.

    With Africa now a focus, expect that churn rate to increase. With the internet, and “milk before meat” approaches to conversion, expect that inactive rate and retention rate to rise further.

    The problems in the Philippines, Chile, and South America in general are prime examples of this phenomenon. Europe is dead. Assemblies of God, 7th Day Adventists, and other Protestant sects are outpacing Mormon growth worldwide, especially in Latin America. Mormonism is a Utah, Idaho, and Arizona regional religion.

    Comment by Gnosticbabe — April 4, 2005 @ 7:32 am

  12. Gnosticbabe,

    Uhhh, what’s your point? Are you implying that because lots of members of the true church don’t remain faithful that the church is not led by a prophet of God? By that standard most prophets throughout history, including Moses, are out. In fact, by that standard Jesus is out too. Are you anti-Jesus as well as anti-Mormon?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 4, 2005 @ 9:25 am

  13. Geoff

    You cited your perception of growth of the Mormon Church, and its membership of 12 million, as evidence of the providence of your leader as a prophet.

    I pointed out that the Mormon church does not have 12 million members, it has a fraction of that, maybe 25%-35%, who are active. So your belief in a flourishing church being tended by a successful prophet are not accurate.

    “Are you anti-Jesus as well as anti-Mormon?” – I am neither, but since you have used the anti-Mormon designation you can now comfortably dismiss my comments and shut off your mind. That is how you’ve been taught. Not all who question the church want it to die, and nurturing feelings of persecution won’t help you in the long run either.

    The principle thrust of my comments on this thread is that the term “prophet” has been used from time immemorial for charismatic people and organizations to shut down dissent, extract money, close minds, and abuse their followers (“when the Brethren have spoken, the thinking has been done.”) I find this concept frightening, hence my participation in this thread.

    Comment by Gnosticbabe — April 4, 2005 @ 7:59 pm

  14. Gbabe: It is clear to me that you don’t know what you are talking about. I assure you that the accounting for the various corporate holdings is separate from tithing and that tithing only goes to charitable or spiritual pursuits. What I want to know is who appointed you as judge? Your point about bankruptcies is another instance of judging without knowing a darn thing. The statistics show that they are directly related to credit card debt and that non-members far outnumber members in the debt department. You don’t have a clue about what the “Church” has in assets, you numbers are pulled out of the air without any foundation in reality. The Church as no gross annual income — it has charitable donations that are used for the purposes of building the kingdom. Why don’t you speak about something you actually know something about instead of pretending to know so that you can act as judge, jury and executioner of God’s prophets?

    Further, who are you to determine how God’s direction will be given? You have a box that revelation and divine guidance must fit into and if it doesn’t fit inside your box you dismiss it. Revelation and divine inspiration come in manhy forms — more than are dreamt of in your philosophy for sure. But as a self-professed gnostic I suppose that these forms of divine guidance are outside your purview.

    Comment by Blake — April 4, 2005 @ 8:31 pm

  15. Gnosticbabe,

    I’m sorry if you misunderstood my intent in citing the management of a the church as it has grown over my lifetime. I can understand why you would assume that I was pointing to growth as an indicator of the truth of the message. I was not. I was pointing to the management skills displayed in the face of such tremendous growth. As a businessman by trade I have seen how difficult it is to effectively manage a growing organization. My point is that a primary role of prophets in my lifetime has been to manage this explosively growing church and that the job they have done is evidence to me of divine guidance in the process. I liken it to Nephi or the Brother of Jared building ships to cross the ocean (that’s in the Book of Mormon if it sounds unfamiliar to you). They were great prophets with specific leadership tasks to fulfill as well. They needed God’s guidance to accomplish their tasks as well.

    I’m glad to hear you are neither anti-Mormon nor anti-Jesus. Are you pro Mormon then? You might want to work on your messaging if so.

    I also must repeat that activity numbers among the members of the church today (By the way what is the source of your data? My understanding is that activity levels have increased in in the last 35 years) is really no indication of a prophetic calling. May I remind you of what happened to the Savior in his minstry:

    From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. (John 6:66)

    If you mean to imply that followers falling away is an indication of a false prophet then you are indicting Jesus Christ as well as modern prophets.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 4, 2005 @ 9:29 pm

  16. Mormon Church Assets and Income: Source – Time Magazine

    Here.

    Mormon Retention Rates: Source – Cumorah Project (LDS Sponsored)

    Here.

    Quote:

    “When one accounts for actual activity and retention rates, with the great majority of LDS convert growth occurring in Latin America and other areas with low retention and only 20-25% of convert growth occurring in North America, one finds that of the 4.6 persons baptized by the average missionary each year, approximately 1.3 will remain active.”

    As for what am I? A former Mormon. With some family members still in the church. I left when I discovered the truth as I see it. You won’t see it that way. That’s why these discussions can be enlightening, if both sides are willing to give their reasons and evidences.

    Comment by Gnosticbabe — April 4, 2005 @ 9:49 pm

  17. Thanks. I’m glad to see you aren’t making numbers up.

    I don’t think those retention numbers will come as much of a surprise to anyone. It is hard to remain active in the true church in any dispensation (see my comment #15). Also, I will note that those numbers in that Time article were “guesstimations” and not real numbers, and if I remember correctly the church actually said they were quite a bit higher than reality.

    Former Mormons and non-Mormons are as welcome as practicing Mormons here. I only ask that commentors refrain from attacking our religion, doctrines, or leaders. Honest questions and respectful comments are always welcome, though.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 4, 2005 @ 10:24 pm

  18. I have a question for you Gnosticbabe,

    You seem very concerned about the money the Church gathers and how it is dispersed. I can assure you that nobody is getting rich glutting themselves on the sacred funds gathered throughout the world. The Church does have a lay ministry you know. If getting rich was someone’s goal they they should never go into full-time service in this church. So if no one is glutting themselves on those funds what is your concern? Are you unhappy that the church is placing excess funds into places that yield a return on investment? Would you prefer they put it all in the church’s proverbial mattress and receive no interest? I’m not understanding your concern on that subject.

    (Yes I know this is a self threadjack but no one really responded to my original thread anyway…)

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 5, 2005 @ 12:29 am

  19. My concerns are in both the financial and spiritual spheres; and they are connected. In the spirit of your comment policy I will refrain from attacks, but they are criticisms, and you may view my comments as attacks which is your obvious right.

    1) In the church, exaltation is obtained through the temple ordinances. To get the temple ordinances, you must have a recommend. To get a recommend, you must be a full tithe payer. 10% is a price for the CK. 10% is also required to see loved ones get married in the temple, etc.

    2) The church funnels all of its tithing through Salt Lake. Local wards are given no accounting, and no accountability of how their money is spent. This is unusual in the mainstream religious community.

    3) I find the Law of Consecration extremely troubling, both in its origins and its message. It underlies 1) and 2). I believe the church organization should serve the individual, not the other way around.

    4) Of the $6 Billion or so yearly income, only $60 million per year goes to humanitarian causes (per Pres. Hinckley, source GC).

    5) The social evidences of this culture are not positive. As I pointed out earlier, Utah is #1 in family bankruptcies, and members have been taught that to question how it is spent, or how much to give is going against God. Meanwhile buildings keep going up, and the corporation keeps growing. Custodians are laid off, ward budgets are slashed and correlated, and members just obey.

    6) After 9/11, In his first address about the calamity, Pres. Hinckley said that we were facing a conflict about which he did not know the outcome. But he did know that he was thankful for the law of tithing. This spoke volumes.

    Comment by Gnosticbabe — April 5, 2005 @ 8:30 am

  20. GB: 10% is a price for the CK.

    Actually it is worse than you think. While 10% might get us in to the temple, exaltation requires 100%. It has always been this way though, even in the New Testament. But people didn’t like it then either. I’ve written before that money is the most difficult and dangerous temptation we will face on this world. They are some of my favorite posts. See the first one here. And the better-written follow up here.

    GB: This is unusual in the mainstream religious community.

    Uhh, yeah. Being the true Church of Jesus Christ is even more unusual…

    GB: I believe the church organization should serve the individual, not the other way around.

    The goal of the church is to accomplish God’s mission: To bring to pass our eternal life (aka exaltation). I see nothing in the monetary complaints you have mentioned that is out of harmony with our working toward exaltation.

    GB: The social evidences of this culture are not positive.

    Come on, this is just false and ridiculous. Please think about your comments before writing them. And please don’t go spouting problems with Utah to me. I don’t live ih Utah ad there are a lot more stats to crow about in Utah than to cringe about anyway. I could just as easily say that being a believing Mormon is statistically good for your health, education, and finances. Let’s not get into some facile stats contest here though.

    GB: Of the $6 Billion or so yearly income, only $60 million per year goes to humanitarian causes. But he did know that he was thankful for the law of tithing. This spoke volumes.

    It speaks volume to me about your views on money. Don’t you think you are getting a little obsessive about the stuff? I mean no one is making you or me donate. You don’t do it freely and I do donate freely. (BTW — I still recommend you take the Lord up on his promise and give a full tithe plus offerings to a church of your choice. Having the windows of heaven open is well worth the investment.)

    And you still haven’t answered my questions in the last comment. Are you insinuating that leaders of the church are stealing our money and glutting themselves on it? That is not the case. So if not, then what is the problem? In my town here in AZ they have ELEVEN new buildings on tap to be built. Do you think those are cheap? What is your real complaint regarding tithing? Where is the sin?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 5, 2005 @ 9:44 am

  21. Gnosticbabe, you are disappointing me. I had high hopes that you could coherently express and defend some complaints you have against the church. You have expressed a few opinions, I have responded and asked some questions, but rather than answer my questions you respond with a unrelated list of new accusations (which I deleted). What gives?

    I’ve asked you the same question twice about your gripe with tithing. You have not yet answered it. Please make your next response an answer to that question (see #18 and the last paragraph of #20)

    BTW — As I said, this is not the place to take pot shots at the church with lists of accusations and complaints. We can talk through all of your complaints one at a time if you would like. But only if you are willing to do so in a civil and intelligent/coherent manner.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 5, 2005 @ 8:17 pm

  22. “Are you insinuating that leaders of the church are stealing our money and glutting themselves on it? That is not the case.” – You have no idea where your money is going, no accounting, no transparency, no reporting, no P&L, no %breakdown, and you say this definitively? Competitive bidding? You don’t know. Money flowing overseas? You don’t know. Money used as collateral against other investments? You don’t know. Nepotism in construction? You don’t know. Sweetheart deals? You don’t know. Lined pockets? You don’t know. % going to administration? You don’t know. % to humanitarian causes? You don’t know.

    The church is secret about its money, its doctrine, its temple rites, and its history. Not a good track record.

    “In my town here in AZ they have ELEVEN new buildings on tap to be built. Do you think those are cheap?” I don’t know. Neither do you.

    You should reinstate my previous post. If not, then you are not an honest broker of comments.

    Comment by Gnosticbabe — April 5, 2005 @ 8:51 pm

  23. That sounds like what I thought you would come back with. You assume someone must be glutting themselves somewhere and because the church does not leave all of its books open to the public, correct?

    The most obvious next question is why the top leaders in the church live modest lifestyles? If this is all some scam (like a televangelism thing or something) why isn’t it working out for the bigwigs in the church? I know only one current general authority and he was making more the a million dollars a year when he was called to the seventy. He quit his job and now works for the church for free. I understand that some GAs get living expenses paid, but if money was the motivator of the church leaders then something has gone horribly wrong in the plan…

    It is very naive to assume that open books are to be expected. This is not some public company traded on the NASDAQ or something. Are you implying that no private non-profit institution ever keeps all accounting details private? Is it morally wrong for any church not to open its books to the public for perusal? Your complaint is more against US accounting laws than the church I think.

    And yes I do know that building what land and buildings costs are in my area. It ain’t cheap. Not only that, I know the bidding process the church goes through on its purchases and it is a tightly run ship. The church does get audited by outside auditors from time to time you know. There have been no Enron-like scandals. Do you know some inside dirt? Perhaps you could be the whistle-blower if so.

    Regarding secrets: Church doctrine is not secret, though many doctrines are not settled yet (the theme of this post). Some portions of temple rituals are kept secret, just as they were anciently. Remember that quote by Jesus about casting pearls before swine? The history of the Church is anything but secret. This is the favorite attacking point of enemies of the church. It is always easier to attack dead people who can’t defend themselves I guess. Yet the Book of Mormon is hardly talked about by the enemies of the church even though we call it the keystone of our religion. (Not so easy to find holes in real scripture I guess.)

    Regarding what comments I let through… Have I been dishonest with you? If so I would like to remedy that.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 5, 2005 @ 9:22 pm

  24. Why do you suppose the church doesn’t open its books like a good custodian of its flocks’ sweat and toil?

    The church chooses to hide its finances, just as it chooses to hide its doctrine, ref. Hinckley on Larry King: “I don’t know that we teach that (men become Gods doctrine)”… – I was taught that!

    “The history of the Church is anything but secret.” – I suggest you retract this statement which you know is not true, and is too rich a target.

    “Yet the Book of Mormon is hardly talked about by the enemies of the church” – I will talk about it. Ready?

    Comment by Gnosticbabe — April 5, 2005 @ 10:45 pm

  25. Why do you suppose the church doesn’t open its books like a good custodian of its flocks’ sweat and toil?

    It sounds like you have a theory of some nefarious use of the Church’s sacred funds. Why don’t you just come out and share it rather than continue making veiled insinuations?

    I was taught that!

    I’m not surprised to hear that. The general concept of becoming like or unified with God is openly taught. That concept is in all of our scriptures (including the Bible). Details are not, and I believe this is what is being pointed out in that quote. For instance, Blake and I have very different ideas about the details of what exaltation really means. Don’t worry though, exaltation won’t happen to you or anyone else by accident or anything…

    I suggest you retract this statement which you know is not true, and is too rich a target.

    Wow. You have proof of previously undocumented secrets regarding church history? Why are you wasting time here? Why not go get rich with your new book? (I know money is a big concern with you.)

    If not then save it. There are plenty of professional anti-Mormons out there who are working on this front and there are professional Mormon defenders proving them wrong. Besides you told me you aren’t an anti-Mormon… have you changed your mind?

    (Re: the BoM) I will talk about it. Ready?

    Absolutely. But only if you have something that is new and not the same old warmed over anti-Mormon tripe. But again, why unveil your primary research at my little site? If you are wondering what has been covered already try the FARMS site, or FAIR. Based on our conversation so far I suspect those may be sites better suited for your needs anyway.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 6, 2005 @ 8:25 am

  26. Gnosticbabe,
    “Are you anti-Jesus as well as anti-Mormon?” – I am neither . . .
    the term “prophet” has been used from time immemorial for charismatic people and organizations to shut down dissent, extract money, close minds, and abuse their followers (“when the Brethren have spoken, the thinking has been done.”) I find this concept frightening, hence my participation in this thread.

    Members of the church believe in the words of the prophets. If you are anti-prophets, then you are anti-mormon. You can’t have it both ways.

    Local wards are given no accounting, and no accountability of how their money is spent.
    Certainly we don’t get a statement each month, though we do see how much money is being spent on our electricity, building maintenance, materials, etc. That’s what happens when you have a lay ministry doing the clerking. We see the blessings of the gospel being sent to everyone possible through the building of temples all over the world. My amazement is that they are able to build as much as they do. I see individual ward members being entrusted to buy what individual wards need. I see bishops that have control of funds–I’m not sure these funds are included in humanitarian funds–that help individuals when they are in need. I see a church that supplies materials to its members at cost and is continually trying to ake materials more inexpensively. In fact, distribution picks up the shipping on materials. What I don’t see is anyone glutting themselves on the labors of the membership. You are, in effect, slandering good men, men that we respect. As you have no evidence, you should stop.

    Alma 30: 32-34
    Now Alma siad unto him: thou knowest that we do not glut ourselves upon the labors of this people; for behold I have labored even from the comencement 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 I have performed in the church, I have never recieved so much as a senine for my labor; neither has any of my brethren, save it were in the judgment seat; and then we have recieved only according to law for our time.
    And now, if we do not recieve anything for our labors in the church, what does it profit us to labor int he church save it were to declare the truth that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren?
    Then why sayest thou htat we preach unto this people to get gain when thou, of thyself, knowest that we receive no gain?

    Comment by Steve H. — April 6, 2005 @ 7:39 pm

  27. (Apparently Gnosticbabe was not entirely truthful with me. She really is an anti Mormon. Not only that but she has no new things to offer — just the same tired old tripe that others have regurgitated ad nauseum. I saw that Blake had already written a pretty good respone to this so I’ll keep it up. But since it’s my site I’ll do a little commentary on her most recent comment in italics– GFJ)

    Steve H.

    “Members of the church believe in the words of the prophets.”

    Frightening. (Ah yes, it always has frightened the wicked that the righteous believe the words of prophets.) You accept everything that you’re told without thought or question. (Of course this is totally incorrect. We accept the things modern prophets tell us because we have received unequivocal revelation from God that the men leading us do so under His direction and with His full approval. Just as Peter, Moses, and all other prophets have throughout history). This isn’t commitment to religious principle, or celebration of Jesus Christ, it is madness, and an affront to your maker. (Members of the true church have always been mocked for being a peculiar people. Gnosticbabe sounds very much like the Book of Mormon anti-Christ Korihor with this line. He said:

    Ye look forward and say that ye see a remission of your sins. But behold, it is the effect of a afrenzied• mind; and this derangement of your minds comes because of the traditions of your fathers, which lead you away into a belief of things which are not so. (Alma 30:16)

    Following true prophets is always seen as madness to the unfaithful. They made all the very same accusations of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth as well.) I might mention that as Steve pointed out, she has been doing an excellent Korihor impression all along here.

    The Book of Abraham came from a prophet, do you believe it? (Yes. Absolutely) Nibley gave up trying to defend it (This is false. Nibley believed and defended it to the end as true and powerful scripture from God) ; I don’t even think Hinckley believes it is revelation from God (You think incorrectly then) (he has given tepid defenses of it, and hasn’t contradicted the fact that these common funeral papyrii have nothing to do with its content, although Joseph “translated” these scrolls).
    (See these articles on the book of Abraham at FARMS and FAIR. You are misinformed again.)

    Joseph also translated the Kinderhook plates. Except they were phony, exposing him as someone less than ethical. And we’ll have to save a discussion of the BofM for its own thread. (Again you are just plain wrong. The only question is if you are aware of that yet of not. See here and here for articles on it.)

    And what of D&C 132? (What of it? It is scripture if that is what you are wondering…) God sure was worked up about Emma not wanting Joseph to take other wives; it’s still in the D&C – do you believe in the everlasting covenant? (Yes. In fact I recommend tht all my readers go re-read section 132. It’s an amazing bit of scripture)

    And what revelations has the current prophet given you? What has been his divine proclamations? (Haven’t we already covered this? See response #10. And why does it matter? You already said it is “madness” to follow a living prophet) Listening to Hinckley’s interviews, he doesn’t even consider himself a prophet – he won’t take responsibility for the title (“I am sustained as such”) and routinely denies basic doctrine in public. This isn’t a prophet; what I see is a caretaker who wants to do well for the church organization, but who himself knows that the status conferred upon him by the members is false. (You are misreading the man. He was humbly demurring. He knows his calling and we do too.) And then there’s the little matter of being conned by Hoffman. (That is wishful thinking on your part. )

    And speaking of prophets, a once-through of the Journal of Discourses will disabuse you of this notion forthwith.
    (This is the best comment here. I agree with this advice. We ought to spend more time in the Journal of Discourses. The 19th century brethren had lots of interesting ideas and theories. Some have been dismissed now but many are worthy of our consideration. If nothing else it will disabuse the minds of some saints that all prophets have the same opinion on all doctrines. That was the original point of the post before I let a poorly disguised anti-Mormon hijack the thread. Oh, well. It was marginally interesting at least.

    Because Gnosticbabe blatantly disregarded my repeated requests to write intelligently, coherently, and respectfully she will be banned from the site going forward. With any luck I won’t attract any more antis in the future. -GFJ)

    Comment by Gnosticbabe — April 7, 2005 @ 10:52 pm

  28. g-b said: “Frightening. You accept everything that you’re told without thought or question. This isn’t commitment to religious principle, or celebration of Jesus Christ, it is madness, and an affront to your maker.” Of course, it is the non-sequitur of g-babe here that is frightening. It doesn’t follow from believing in a prophet that we don’t think for ourselves. However, what g-babe spews as rational thought is mere venomous judgment — and it is not logically sound. This isn’t sound reasoning g-babe, so I wouldn’t rely too much on your reasoning if I were you. Of course, that is the problem, isn’t it? You think you are superior and know something the rest of us don’t know. I’ve found every superiority complex (and yours is a doozy) is really an inferiority complex hiding behind a mask.

    Yes, I believe the Book of Abraham. Perhaps you could explain how JS was able to provide nearly exact parallels to the Apocalypse of Abraham and duplicate the use of the Book of the Dead to ilustrate Abraham’s visions in the same way as the Testament of Abraham? I’m waiting for an answer to that one.

    The Kinderhook plates? Get a life and look a little closer — you are relying on unreliable sources.

    Polygamy — what’s wrong with it besides your own moral superiority and judgmental attitude?

    As for revelations, you know well that not all revelation has to be written or visionary to constitute revelation — and who are you to judge? The design of temples, the program to educate third-world returned missionaries. Pres. Hinckley has described the promptings that led to these wonderful innovations — what have you done lately? Where are your revelations G-babe? Where is the new scripture you have written? If we hold you to the same standard, your claim to gnosis is found wanting.

    I suggest that you read again what Jesus said about judging others and get a few books on self-deception and self-betrayal and repent. They may be a real and valuable revelation to you.

    Comment by Blake — April 7, 2005 @ 11:09 pm

  29. Great blog, and this is an interesting discussion.

    After reading it all, I can see that there have been many good points made, and I appreciate the overall civility of the conversation; however, I think that Gnosticbabe is being too harshly treated. It is one thing to refute another’s argument or opinion, but why must we come to the ‘you’re just judging me’ or ‘you’re an anti’ position?

    Is this blog not a place to discuss such things? If so, it should be made explicit that only those who hold a certain belief system should comment.

    As for my own opinion, I think that too many members do not question their own beliefs enough; they simply pin their faith on others (prophets included), which, to me, is very detrimental to one’s own spirtiual journey.

    Comment by Mark — April 24, 2005 @ 8:25 pm

  30. Thanks Mark,

    I really tried to elicit an honest converation with GB. We made a little progress but it was impossible to keep things focused and on topic. I wasn’t going to let my blog become a place for someone to make all sorts of allegations without support. Maybe I just got tired of the conversation and the need for constantly monitoring to see if she was going to send another anti-Mormon scud my way. This is really not the right place for that conversation.

    I agree that too many members don’t dig in enough. The problem really lies in pinning one’s beliefs onto their assumptions of what prophets and others believe. I think those assumptions can often be wrong.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 24, 2005 @ 9:02 pm

  31. Very good webpage you have here, and best greetings to all your visitors

    Comment by Anonymous — July 18, 2005 @ 12:31 am

  32. Geoff,

    I would like to respond to your question that began this discussion topic. However, that question is perhaps a bit nebulous, given that you seem to have asked many questions and then given tentative answers to most of them. So, may I take the liberty of divining that your overall question really is something like this: Will I be able to answer my doctrinal questions in this life, and is it even worth trying to doing so, given that my pursuit risks incurring the wrath of some leaders in the church?

    I’ll break this question into parts and respond to each. First, is it worth trying to answer your doctrinal questions, given that your pursuit risks incurring the wrath of some leaders in the church? I’ll answer that with a quote from Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk in the last general conference. He said to the teenaged girls of the church, “When you let people’s opinions make you self-conscious you give away your power …. The key to feeling [confident] is to always listen to your inner self–[the real you]“. Also, I think that many people grow up in Utah falsely believing that the leaders of the church tend to frown on people who ask too many questions. If you aren’t already familiar with it, check out what Hugh B. Brown said about this in An Abundant Life. As to whether it is worth it to look for the answers, you are the only one who can answer that question for you. Different people have different priorities in life, just as different people have different spiritual gifts. And who is to say who’s gifts are more important–asside from what Paul said about charity?

    The second part of your supposed question was, “Will I be able to answer my doctrinal questions in this life?” I’ll respond with three quotes. First, Nephi said, “…I do not know the meaning of all things.” Second, the Savior said, “Seek and ye shall find. Knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Third–and I’m going to leave it as an exercise for you to find the source of this one–“When the student is ready to learn, the teacher will appear.” My analysis of these three quotes is that you will not have all your questions answered, but you will have those answers that you are ready to hear. Your goal should be to find out which those are.

    As I’m sure you already know, but may forget from time to time, the general authorities are not the source of all knowledge. That is the role of the Holy Ghost.

    I hope this helps.

    Comment by Bill B — December 1, 2005 @ 2:39 pm

  33. Thanks for the thoughts Bill. I think you provide some excellent insights. I am pleased to report that in time since I wrote this post I have followed the paths you have suggested and have found them very spiritually rewarding.

    (And I very much appreciate the fact that your comment is on topic for this post. I let this thread get derailed back then…)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 1, 2005 @ 3:08 pm

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