Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Condemnation and Forgiveness

Condemnation is the opposite of being forgiven. Forgiveness is the act of “giving as before” and cancelling a debt or punishment owed, thereby restoring the status of the offender to what it was before the offense occurred (D&C 58:42). Condemnation is the lack of forgiveness. Both are states of being before God (Luke 6:37, D&C 64:9). In other words, a person can be "condemned" for a long period of time, and conversely can remain in a "forgiven" state for a long period of time, as well.

Being forgiven is connected with the privilege of receiving more light and truth from God through the mediums of the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost (D&C 39:6, Moroni 10:5). Whenever a covenant people of the Lord abide in His love and forgiveness by keeping the commandments, it is their right to receive the blessings and knowledge of God.

People come under condemnation because of a refusal to receive the light that is offered to them (D&C 93:31-32). The way to remove the condemnation is to repent (D&C 58:42), otherwise there is a punishment that must be inflicted on the condemned person (2 Nephi 9:25). The way to remove condemnation that was brought about by refusing light and truth is to repent and accept the light and truth originally offered. A person is not condemned for not having received a fullness of the glory of God (or receiving all light and truth), but is only condemned for refusing light and truth that is specifically offered to them (2 Nephi 9:25, 27).

The results of condemnation and forgiveness are the opposite. Condemnation (‘condemn’ has its roots in the latin ‘damnere’, which means to ‘inflict loss on’) results of a loss of light and truth. A person under condemnation is disobedient to God’s commandments, and as a result of that disobedience Satan “taketh away light and truth” (D&C 93:39). Unless the person repents, he will eventually lose so much light and truth that he will be taken captive by Satan. Conversely, someone who continues to repent will receive more light and truth until he knows the mysteries of God “in full” (Alma 12:10-11).

The Lord is merciful and loving, and prefers to forgive us insead of condemn us. We are not condemned for our weaknesses or imperfections, but only for our sins (D&C 9:12). These are all principles upon which individual souls operate, and the Church operates by similar principles. It is the “body of Christ” and is led by the principle of common consent. Therefore if the whole church is under condemnation then the Church, as a whole, will continue to lose light and truth until it, as an institution, is taken captive by the devil (or Babylon, the world).

The Church is in the process of losing light, truth, and knowledge, as evidenced by the narrowing and loss of doctrine since the Prophet Joseph Smith’s day and the shifting nature of the temple endowment. While certain wording and minor parts may be changed without changing the overall ordinance, the removal of the penalties in 1990 resulted in a significant loss from the nature of the covenant being made. There is no real covenant without a warning of the penalties inflicted for breaking it, which was signalized by a specific type of ritual sacrifice in Biblical times (see here for more details). By taking the penalties out of the endowment, a significant alteration to the endowment was made. The penalties allowed the one making the covenant to make it in a way that hearkened back to the time of the Patriarchs. These penalties testify of Christ, who took our rightful punishment for breaking the Law in our stead to answer the ends of the law (Alma 41:21-22, 2 Nephi 2:10).

There are currently two distinct spirits in the Church: one is seeking to reestablish the religion that Joseph Smith restored by repenting and living the teachings restored through him. The other prefers to become more like the world, more like mainstream Christianity, and is glad to jettison the doctrines, ordinances, and policies that made Mormonism “peculiar”. This second spirit seeks to redefine LDS scriptures and reshape the religion to be more harmonious with popular ideological trends. The Lord promised that there was a needed cleansing that would befall the whole world, and that it would begin with the Church (D&C 112:23-26).

The condemnation the Lord declared the Church was under in 1832 was significant. It resulted from rejecting the message of both the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s other teachings. Essentially, it resulted from rejecting what the Lord really wanted the early Church members to believe and do.

In his first General Conference address as the President, Ezra Taft Benson reaffirmed that the condemnation of the Church was still, in his day, in effect ("Cleansing the Inner Vessel", Ensign, May 1986). In a CES Fireside given June 6, 1993, Dallin H. Oaks reaffirmed the fact that the condemnation still remained in effect ("Another Testament of Jesus Christ", Ensign, March 1994). Because no church president since then has contradicted those messages, if we are to honor and follow the living prophets we must conclude that the condemnation still exists, and behave accordingly.

Unless we want to continue to labor under that condemnation--and continue to lose precious light and truth--we must repent and return to the root of the Restoration. We must turn away from some of the additions to and subtractions from the religion that, like too much weight on one side of a ship, threatens to capsize the "Old Ship Zion". If the ship capsizes, then those left holding onto it for dear life will drown.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Idolatry is never about the actual idols. It's about what putting those idols on a pedestal does to a person's heart. You put something up on a pedestal by believing that it will never (or indeed, can never) deceive or hurt you. You claim that it is worthy of your praise, adoration, and devotion. Doing that with anything other than God damns you, because you'll eventually hit a point where you can't progress past the bounds set by your relationship with your idol. God doesn't set these false boundaries.

Ezekiel 14 speaks to this, and Joseph lamented in his day that the members were "depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves". Even if you belong to an organization headed by a true prophet, you can be an idolater because you "idolize" that prophet. That's how someone can be "of Paul, of Apollos, of Cephas" or even "of Christ" (D&C 76:99-100) and inherit Terrestrial glory. The same principle applies here: if you depend on your leader and the keys he holds for life and salvation, you can be "of Hinckley" or "of Monson" or of the idea of "the living prophet", but still inherit Telestial glory, because you don't receive "the gospel, or the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant" (D&C 73:101). The mandate is to "receive" the prophets (by receiving their testimony and message), not to "follow" or idolize them.

Your duty is to approach Christ directly, through the means of true worship according to "spirit and truth" (John 4:24). Do not let any man tell you that they have the keys that either unlock your ability to worship Christ and receive salvation, or that bars you from doing so. Men can hold some keys, but no one holds the keys to life and eternal salvation except for Christ Himself, and He employs no servant to do the work for Him (2 Nephi 9:41).

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Reasons I Opposed the Vote

I opposed the vote to sustain the President, First Presidency, and 12 Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the 185th General Conference yesterday. I wouldn't be making this public, except for the fact that I fear that the published reason that the group Any Opposed gave for their opposing votes will unduly influence the discussion about what happened from hereon out because it opened and ended with discussions of LGBT issues, therefore emphasizing them. While I don't claim that LGBT issues are unimportant (especially the suicides of LGBT individuals, which is truly tragic), I believe that these other issues are more pressing, and hence need more discussion and exposure. I wasn't in any way affiliated with the actions of Any Opposed, although I was aware of their intentions to oppose before Conference. My decision to oppose wasn't connected to their actions, but was instead something that I felt needed to happen for my own reasons.

For me and hundreds of people I know, our issues with the Church have almost nothing to do with LGBT issues. We are not political or social crusaders trying to force a discussion on social issues or push the Church into changing doctrine or policies to align with a progressive philosophy. What we would like to see, what we believe is mandated in the scriptures that are given as "a law unto [the] Church" (D&C 42:49), is a return to the original doctrine as taught by Joseph Smith, and the more pure, Gospel-centered practices contained in the scriptures. Many of those who share my take on these issues have been excommunicated for their beliefs (you can read a partial list here), but undoubtedly they would have voted in opposition given the chance. My hope is that any faithful member coming across this will take time to read for understanding: even if you don't agree, try to understand where I and many, many others like me are coming from. I personally don't like contention; I eschew confrontation in my own life and, despite my failings and imperfections, want all members to come to a unity of the faith delivered to us by Christ, and restored through Joseph Smith. I am afraid that, if the Church doesn't correct its course soon, the Church will do things that will lead to a loss of that faith, and the fullness of the Gospel will be given to another people.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I can list the reasons that I personally couldn't, in good conscience, either support or abstain from the sustaining vote of the leaders. I believe that every single one of those men are spiritual men. I believe they can be, and very often are, inspired. I believe many of them are honest. I believe many of them do the best, according to the traditions of their fathers and the Church, to be Christlike, and I believe that many of them succeed in becoming very Christlike. However, there is a difference: being spiritual, inspired, honest, and partially Christlike, is not the same as acting in full harmony with the requirements of your appointed station.

I will not engage in the idolatrous notion that "they know more than me", and that therefore the problem lies with me, and that I should keep my thoughts to myself and get back in line. I don't claim to know more than the leaders; I claim that God knows more than us all, that His will is revealed in the scriptures, and that it is the duty devolving on every single member to know His will and use the light and truth that God gives us to judge whether our leaders are leading according to His will. If they're not, it is our duty to oppose the vote to sustain them, that the problems may be brought to light and fixed or, in the worst case, remove the leaders from their office. I don't have any illusions that the latter is going to happen, nor would I want to see it happen; I do, however, hope that the former will.

This list isn't as well-sourced as I'd like it to be. There's a narrow window of time with which I can publish this and have it be even slightly effective. I wrote this up to solidify, in my own mind and heart, the concrete reasons for opposing. I didn't expect it to be published and, so, didn't source it when I first wrote it. I've tried to do what I can but, because it's Easter and I'm not a regular blogger, this is going to be somewhat hasty.  I'm not going to explain the background or give a lot of support for a some of these claims for the same reason. During the editing process, some text has shrunk, and I can't figure out the reason for that, although I tried to fix it. That's life, I guess.

These are the reasons--shared in part by hundreds, if not thousands, of God-fearing members--that I cannot sustain Thomas S. Monson as a prophet, seer, or revelator, and why I cannot sustain him as the President of the Church. By virtue of their connection to, and sustaining of, President Monson, I cannot sustain the rest of the First Presidency or those consisting of the Quorum of the 12, who meet so regularly with the First Presidency and form a united front on these issues. I abstained from sustaining the other general authorities of the Church, and am able to sustain the local leaders because, through interaction with them, I am enabled to partially judge their character and hearts, and I believe them to be sincere. I also believe that my local leaders lead according to both the scriptures and the Spirit, and trust that whenever there was a conflict between the Church Handbook of Instructions and the dictates of the Spirit, they would choose to follow the Spirit. I cannot say the same for the general authorities of the Church, because I do not know them.

  • President Monson has given no indication that he is a prophet, seer, or revelator (PSR) by producing the fruits required to be one (the fruits of being a prophet are prophesies and expounding the scriptures in a prophetic manner; the fruits of being a seer is visions; the fruits of being a revelator, published revelations). To my knowledge he has never made these claims for himself, but he has allowed others to make these claims about him without any sort of correction. Therefore, he is content to let the Church view him as a PSR. Because there are no fruits of his being a PSR, I am under no obligation to accept him as such, although if it were clear it is only in title or aspiration alone he is a PSR, I could do so. However, because he is willing to allow others to sustain him as a PSR (not in aspiration only, but in actuality) without bringing forth the fruits of being one, I cannot in good conscience sustain him, because I believe that is dishonest, even if it is well-intended. The same principles apply to the other presiding Brethren of the Church, none of which (to my knowledge) have brought forth the required fruits to be true PSR's.
  • Under the assumed approbation of President Monson, multiple leaders, including Russell M. Nelson, Henry B. Eyring, Carol F. McConkie, and M. Russell Ballard all gave iterations of an intense "follow the prophet (and us), because he (and we) can't lead you astray" message at the October 2014 General Conference of the Church. The promises offered by these speakers regarding "following the prophet" are not well rooted in scripture. I believe that this message is spiritually toxic to anyone who will heed it, because it takes the emphasis off of God and claims, in a fashion, that "he hath given his power unto men" (2 Nephi 28:5). I believe that this de-emphasis of God will damn anyone who heeds this message because, according to the Lectures on Faith, it is on God and God alone where we must center our faith for life and salvation (LoF 2:2, 3:1, 3:19). The focus on prophets as spiritual luminaries, while de-emphasizing the importance of approaching God for one's self, seeing His face, and receiving one's calling and election, et al. serves to move the center of our faith to man, or somewhere between God and man, and therefore cannot produce faith unto life and salvation. Indeed, there is talk about "personal revelation", but more and more the kind of personal revelation we're encouraged to seek is a confirming witness that "the Prophet" is God's spokesman on Earth, and that we should follow him. There is no longer any substantive general discussion about receiving the mysteries of godliness, how to do so, and why we should do so. We are also told, implicitly, that if we don't receive the confirming revelation that "the Prophet" isn't actually a prophet, to just keep trying and believing and we'll get it one day, and if we don't, the problem is with us. Moreover, the psychological ramifications of encouraging an entrenched "follow the leader, even if you must do so blindly" mentality are serious, and Christ condemned this kind of thing as the blind leading the blind. I cannot in good conscience agree to perpetuating such a system when it is my duty as a priest and elder of the Church to preach, teach, warn, and exhort using the scriptures and the truths of God (D&C 20:38-59), which warn against this kind of trusting in the "arm of flesh" (2 Ne. 28:31). Joseph taught that, in his day, the Saints were "depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves". This kind of dependence on the prophet is now explicitly encouraged by Church leaders.
  • Under the direction of previous leaders, the curriculum of the Church has been increasingly simplified, and critical doctrine has been de-emphasized or ignored. While President Monson and other leaders aren't directly responsible for this, they continue the trend, and it is getting to the point where deep study into Gospel topics is implicitly or, in some cases, explicitly discouraged. Study is encouraged to a certain point but there is an uncomfortable silence about certain topics, such as having one's calling and election made sure, the doctrine of the Second Comforter, the coming forth of Zion and the abomination of desolation, and other similar topics that are involved with the fullness of the Gospel.
    • For instance, True to the Faith, which was released in 2004 (when President Monson was the First Counselor to President Hinckley) contained the following message from the First Presidency: "This book is designed as a companion to [one's] study of the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets. We encourage you to refer to it as you study and apply gospel principles. Use it as a resource... [to] answer questions about the Church. As you learn gospel truths, you will increase in your understanding of Heavenly Father’s eternal plan." Despite being a resource to answer questions, learn gospel truths, and increase understanding of Heavenly Father's "eternal plan", the topics of "Second Comforter" and "Calling and Election" are not mentioned at all; the topic of "Zion" is briefly mentioned and primarily seen as being "the pure in heart", with no meaningful discussion about it being a physical place we hope to one day build. All three topics are critical pieces of the Restoration that Joseph Smith died to bring about, and we have neglected and forgotten them and their implications.
  • President Monson signed a great deal of control of Church financial decisions to 3 relatively unknown bureaucrats (Robert Cantwell, Douglas Martin, and Steven Penrose)**. I have never been asked to sustain or acknowledge them in any way, but they have been given incredible amounts of power to deal with the financial assets of the Church, which are ostensibly undergirded by tithing donations, which belong to the Lord. This is continuing a trend that seems to have been established or continued by President Hinckley. While this may be for purely legal reasons, to my knowledge these actions aren't comprehended in the rules and regulations of the Church as found in the scriptures, which are a “law unto [God's] church” (D&C 42:59). All things are to be done “by common consent, by much prayer and faith” (D&C 26:2), including financial matters (D&C 104:71). The nature of the Church's legal structure (the fact that it exists as a corporate sole in Utah, for instance) is not widely disseminated information, and the Church does not do its part to make that information known to the average member. This allows ignorance, confusion, and obfuscation to reign in the minds of the Saints. The leaders ask us to take it all as a matter of faith that everything is all right, and the general message is that “all is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth” (2 Nephi 28:21). In that vein, we are given only a general assurance that the Church uses tithing money correctly, according to "approved Church budgets, policies, and accounting practices", which at this point include a great deal of extra-scriptural (and possibly anti-scriptural) instructions. I believe this is dangerous and against the principles that God founded the Church upon. I believe President Monson and the rest are failing in their responsibility to be open and honest about Church finances and structure and to follow the revealed will of the Lord for the Church. If they have received revelation justifying their actions, they have neglected their duty as revelators to let the Church know the will of the Lord on the matter. Either way, they are neglecting the fullness of their duty. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that failing to release a more detailed budget to the members, to ensure that the tithing money is honestly used, is also something that should be fixed, although the failure to disclose the budget is another tradition President Monson inherited and didn't start.
  • President Monson has allowed the Strengthening the Church Member Committee (SCMC), currently headed by Elder Nelson, to continue their work. In my opinion, their work is akin to the Danites in the early Church, which Joseph condemned as a secret combination. The SCMC is responsible for finding and “weeding out” undesirables, and has been a critical cog in the machine of modern Church discipline in at least a few high-profile instances (probably including, but not limited to, Denver Snuffer, Kate Kelly, and John Dehlin). The fact that such a group exists, contrary to the principles found in the D&C and Book of Mormon, is disturbing. The Lord God worketh not in darkness” (2 Nephi 26:23) and the Church isn't supposed to, either. The principles of common consent cannot operate correctly when a large degree of what happens is obfuscated by shadow. Indeed, if we are being lied to or if the truth is being withheld, the principles upon which common consent rest are rendered obsolete, and the sustaining vote becomes a sham and completely meaningless.
  • The Correlation Department's operation and existence continues to harm the Church. Although the motives may have originally been good, I believe it is not of God and continues to direct doctrinal shift by choosing which doctrines are acceptable for member consumption. At this time, it is impossible to determine exactly who's on the committee because that's not public knowledge, yet their power is immense. Even General Conference talks must go through the committee before they are given, according to rumors (again, there isn't much information known about this very important, but secretive, organization).
  • SB 296, the Utah “Antidiscrimination and Religious Freedom” bill. The Church openly endorsed this bill, which I feel goes against the natural right to freedom of association. Based on how the Church has modified its stance on gay marriage in the past 5-6 years, I believe this is a shrewd political move to try to curry favor with the world and the millenials who are leaving the Church over issues like gay marriage. The Church puts a great amount of pressure on the legislature of Utah, and thereby wields undue influence in its politics and policy. The bill would keep the Church exempt from its requirements, but force Church members to abide by its requirements. While I don't disagree with the idea that people shouldn't be fired for sexual orientation or gender identity, I do believe it is wrong to force people to do what I think is right. The Church is wielding unrighteous dominion for the sake of a public relations move that will prove to be noneffective and will probably backfire in the future. As the leaders of the Church President Monson, the First Presidency, and the other Apostles should be held accountable. Perhaps more than any other social issue in the world right now, we need more light and truth from God on the subject of same-sex attraction. However, Church leaders continue to take stances that are a combination of LDS scripture, past policies and doctrinal declarations, and the philosophies and practices of men. Those stances are changing, and will undoubtedly continue to change.

    **Note: The link is to mormondisclosures, which contains a great deal of content I disagree with. However, it is the best source I know of to support the claims made here, because it has facsimiles of the legal document in question. I know the document in question is expired, but it did happen, and I'm sure there's been another drafted to take its place.

How Men (and Women) are Equal

The beauty of the Gospel is that, when fully understood, it allows us to exercise the faith required to rend the veil that separates us from God. Everyone who lives in this world while seeking for a better one encounters the challenge that the veil of unbelief (Ether 4:15, Alma 19:6) poses. The mystery, then, is how to commune with the Lord through the veil, pierce it, and receive His presence. While there is a great veil of unbelief that keeps you from seeing and communing with the heavenly hosts, there are also smaller "veils of unbelief" that keep you trapped in bad habits, downward addictive cycles, immoral practices, and other negative patterns of behavior. All these principles apply to breaking through the lesser veils of unbelief in your life, too.

The canon of LDS scripture is a strong resource for understanding those things. We learn how we are to attain glory and intelligence in this life, to see the face of God, and to have our calling and election made sure. Uniquely Mormon scripture (the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) and teachings (sermons and teachings from Joseph Smith, covenants and temple rites, and the Lectures on Faith) make the following very clear: those great spiritual gifts and events aren't a privilege reserved only for a spiritual elite; they are something that the Lord desires all to receive. All that is needed is to: forsake your sins, come unto Christ, call on His name, and obey His voice (D&C 93:1). You don't have to be a spiritual, intellectual, or doctrinal giant to have your calling and election made sure or to see the face of the Lord, for the Lord is no respecter of persons (D&C 1:35, 38:16). Receiving one's calling and election made sure and seeing His face is one of the final spiritual milestones we receive in this life; therefore, because there is no limitations upon who can receive those things, there is no limitations on who can receive any number of spiritual gifts, depending on the diligence a person gives unto the Lord and His spirit.

Man is spirit (D&C 93:33) and was in the beginning with God (D&C 93:29), whose glory is intelligence, or the light of truth (D&C 93:36). All truth and intelligence are independent in that sphere in which God has placed them, to "act for itself... otherwise there is no existence" (D&C 93:30). We are intelligent beings; our glory, to the degree that we have any, is intelligence as well. The Lord described the spirits of men as "intelligences" to Abraham (Abraham 3:21), therefore, when the Lord states that all intelligence is independent to act for itself in the sphere in which God places it, it describes us: we are put into a sphere, designated by God, to act for ourselves, and by those actions either gain or lose intelligence. The degree to which we can act is determined by our faith, which is the principle of action in all intelligent beings (LoF 1:9).

Men are born on a level playing field. In the beginning men were innocent and become, upon birth, innocent again in Christ, who redeemed all mankind from the Fall (D&C 93:38). All men are then left to grow according to the natural intelligence they come into the world with, following their great exemplar, Christ, who "received grace for grace; and he received not the fullness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fullness" (D&C 93:12-13). Christ underwent this process perfectly, but we experience something different: we fall. When we fall from grace, and thereafter whenever we sin, "that wicked one taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the traditions of their fathers" (D&C 93:39). Remember that "light and truth" is intelligence, the glory of God. Therefore, the result of our own personal sins is a loss of crucial God-like intelligence, and God-like glory. We lose a critical part of us that was once ours. The story of Adam and Eve is meant to be projected into our own lives, and serves as an allegory of our own fall from grace, and the temple endowment and ceremonies designate a path to return to the Lord. By disobedience to God, we lose intelligence, but through repentance and returning to God, we gain intelligence, and can even regain all the intelligence we once lost.

One of the results of the Fall is that we are cut off from the direct presence of the Lord and His goodness. Regaining the intelligence we first lost due to our personal Fall requires us to re-learn some things about God that we knew in the beginning, but forgot (LoF 2:2-5, see also LoF 2-7). Regaining that knowledge and intelligence redeems us from the Fall and allows us to be brought back into the presence of the Lord (Ether 3:13).

In Christ's Sermon on the Mount, which he delivered almost verbatim to the Nephites as well, he gave them a commandment: "Ye are therefore commanded to be perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect" (JST Matthew 5:48, see also 3 Nephi 12:48). The root of the Greek word translated as "perfect" denotes being "complete, finished, [or] fully developed" (see Matthew 5:48, footnote B, in the current edition of the LDS KJV Bible).

If we are to understand this idea of being "perfect", we would do well to understand in which way we are supposed to be perfect. There is a difference between "perfection" and "fullness". The Father is a being of "spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness" (LoF 5:2). How are we to understand that the Father has a "fulness"? If His glory is intelligence, and he contains a fullness of that intelligence, then He contains all intelligence that exists, as is evidenced by His statement to Abraham, that "I am the Lord they God, I am more intelligent than [all other intelligences]" (Abraham 3:19). In other words, the Father possesses all intelligence and glory, and He is complete, finished, and fully developed in the sphere of existence in which He resides because of it. That makes Him more intelligent than all other intelligent beings.

How, then, are we to follow the commandment of Christ and to become perfect, even as our Heavenly Father? If the Father is "perfect" by obtaining the degree of intelligence required to be fully complete in His own sphere, then it stands to reason that we become perfect by obtaining the degree of intelligence required to be fully complete in the sphere in which God has placed us. By doing so, we, like the Earth, abide a Celestial law, because we fulfill the measure of our creation and don't transgress the law (D&C 88:25-26). D&C 93:11-19 helps us understand the measure of our own creation: we become like God by doing the things Christ did, and we worship God by growing from grace to grace and attaining more light and truth.

The difficulty that arises in that journey is that no man or earthly source can tell us what we yet lack. To obtain that information, we need to go directly to God, learn how to discern the voice of His Holy Spirit to us, and learn how to be obedient to that spirit. That is why the wise virgins of the last days are those who have "taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived" (D&C 45:57). To truly follow the Gospel of Christ, you must use, as your primary guide, the Holy Spirit of God. We must make the Holy Ghost our guide, allow it to inform us of our mistakes, and follow its dictations to us. That is a lifelong quest, and cannot be completed in a day or a week, or even a year. If we fail to undertake that quest, however, we will be unable to cultivate enough faith to receive salvation, and will receive, as our eternal inheritance, a Telestial glory; those who are "liars... [and] love and make a lie...", and are "some of one [prophet], and some of another [prophet]... but receive not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant" (D&C 76:99-103). The unwise fail to "receive" the testimony of Jesus, to receive the prophets, and to receive the everlasting covenant, because they failed to receive the Holy Spirit. Without setting their primary guide as the Holy Spirit, a person cannot understand or receive the message of a true prophet, because instead of receiving the message as it's intended, they will become "of" that prophet and follow the prophet instead of following whom the prophet testifies of: Christ. Those who set up idols in their hearts and then go to a true prophet for guidance will be misled according to the idols of their hearts (see Ezekiel 14, which Joseph Smith preached from at the first conference of the Church, and recited to the Relief Society at the end of the Church, saying that it applied both to the corrupt state of the ancient Jewish church, as well as to the then-current state of the LDS Church). Therefore, finding and following a true prophet will do a person no good unless they seek to follow God through the Spirit.

If this task seems overwhelming, take heart! The Gospel plan is designed to help us navigate the tricky waters of overcoming the world, returning to God, and receiving the eternal prize. It is not requisite that a person should run faster or labor more than they have strength or means, but we do need to be diligent in doing what we have been commanded to do (D&C 10:4). We must follow the law which we have been given through our Lawgiver, Christ. And what is the law that we have been given? The Light of Christ which is in all things is the law which governs all things (D&C 88:13), and the word of the Lord is His law (132:19). Those who die without law will be judged, not according to the law they didn't have, but according to what they did have (D&C 45:54, D&C 76:71-73). Therefore, if the light of God and word of God is His law, and we are sanctified or "made holy" by obeying His law (D&C 88:34), then we are made holy by obeying the word of God to us, which is delivered by the Holy Spirit. Conversely, we are "cursed" by hearkening unto the words, philosophies, and precepts of men, unless those words are delivered by the power of the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 28:31). The key is to learn to discern the voice of the Spirit so that you may know when it speaks to you, so that you may obey its promptings and keep the law, that you may be justified and sanctified by it. Learning how to listen to the Spirit takes time, patience, practice, trial and error, and (most of all) faith, hope, charity, and courage.

We are kept back by unbelief, which can denote either too little faith in the things that are true, or too much faith in things that are untrue. Joseph Smith stated that, regarding the full power of the Melchezidek priesthood, that "angels desire to look into [or understand; achieve] it, but they have set up too many stakes" (History of the Church, 5:554). In another account of the same sermon, Joseph is quoted as saying that "Men will set up stakes and say thus far will we go, and no farther. Did the Savior? No. [He set] up no stake[s], but [came] right up to the mark in all things" (Words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 245). In the next life, angels are differentiated from "gods" because of the degree of obedience to the Gospel they exhibited here, the sacrifices they made while mortal, and the resulting blessings they obtained. Those who will be gods are more obedient and sacrificed more in this life, and therefore they received greater blessings from God in the next (see D&C 76:50-58, D&C 132:18-19, LoF 6:7-10). Notice that, in Joseph Smith's quote, he notes that is the angels themselves that set up too many "stakes". Stakes denote boundaries that are not to be crossed. God doesn't set those kinds of boundaries that kept the angels back; He places a mark that must be reached. The reason, then, that the angels do not receive the blessings that the gods receive is that angels hold themselves back by their own false beliefs of what God is like, and what He will and will not require. The common theme is that those blessings of godhood are reserved for someone else: someone smarter, or seemingly more spiritual, or in an authority position, or better looking, or taller, or whatever. Those who will be angels fail to rise up to the status of gods because they don't believe it possible. They don't have the faith that they can achieve those blessings, therefore they do not cultivate enough faith to put in the required obedience and sacrifice necessary to obtain said blessings.

These false boundaries are set in two ways: we inherit unbelief because of the traditions of our fathers, and we erect our own false boundaries because of our own lack of intelligence. Incorrect "traditions of [one's] fathers" include anything from false religious ideas (such as an inadequate knowledge about the characteristics of God) to false political ideologies; from false philosophical systems to false economic beliefs. The common factor is that they keep a person from accepting the fullness of the Gospel, and so they are held back from having the faith requisite to pierce the veil of their own unbelief. They then fail to obey the commandments of God and to sacrifice for His sake, and are kept back from being gods. False traditions kept the Lamanites from believing the Gospel (Mosiah 10:12, Helaman 15:15, Alma 9:16). Also, when we sin, we lose critical light and truth. Because of that, we forget the fullness of the Lord's promises to us, and we begin to disbelieve that it is possible for us to receive His promises. If we don't repent, we soon begin to erect our own stakes that keep us from understanding and doing the Lord's will. In fact, "priestcraft and iniquities" were the primary reasons that the Jews rejected and crucified Christ (2 Nephi 10:3-5).

Walking away from those stakes and those false beliefs requires repentance, which includes gaining more light and truth from God through receiving and doing the will of the Lord (3 Nephi 14:24-27) and not hardening our hearts against His word (Alma 12:10-11). If we do that, we will grow up to the stature of Christ, and draw ever closer to the perfect day.

Let us be doers and hearers of the Word, that we may pierce through the veil of unbelief in our own lives, and lay hold on the greatest blessings of the Gospel, which the Lord intends for us all to receive.