MILK OR MEAT
On December 29, 2013, I attended my last 5th Sunday combined Priesthood/Relief Society class as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I also terminated my attendance at any further Gospel Doctrine classes at the same time. I think you will understand why as you read what follows.
On December 29, 2013 the combined 5th Sunday lesson was presented in our Ward by our High Council representative. His topic was on the problems most frequently encountered by bishops in the course of their tenure as such.
Immediately after the lesson our bishop stood up to address the class. He told us that we could see that there would be no purpose in teaching any “meat” in this ward, because of the sinful nature of the majority of the ward members. “Milk” would be the only thing taught in “his” ward from here on.
Immediately after the class I went home and penned the following thoughts, which had pretty much formulated themselves in my mind as the High Councilman spoke, and sent them to the bishopric, and Elder’s Quorum President. All, except one, including the bishop responded by commanding that I remove their names from my email directory immediately. The Elder’s President who is also a practicing attorney went so far as to threaten legal action if I persisted in communicating with him in any fashion.
To get the most out of what follows please consider yourself as one of my ward leaders.
Since it was unanimous in our combined 5th Sunday class, last Sunday, that the most pressing problems bishops deal with, and have been dealing with over the past 25 – 30 years in their callings are, pornography, parallel marriages, (married couples living their own separate lives within a marriage with little or no communication) and illicit sexual relations, it seemed really quite logical that the consensus in the class be that our ward members, in such a state of sinfulness, should only be fed the milk and not the meat of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The meat, it would seem, should be reserved for that time when bishops and stake presidents rein in this epidemic of sin, which seems to be so prevalent throughout our ward and church.
But, in just our combined class alone, we identified four bishops spanning at least 30 years in their service; and, for each, the consensus was, in his own time frame, each bishop had the same list of sins with which he dealt; and yet today we seem to be no closer to the solution with which to rein in this plague of evil.
I wonder, with such a seemingly logical and widespread solution, why it is there has been no progress made over at least this span of 30 years? Did each bishop arrive at the same conclusion that milk and not meat must be taught? If so, and if that was the correct solution to the problem, shouldn’t there have been at least some headway toward solving the problems that consistently comprised each bishop’s “list of the top three?”
One thing we can be sure of, if each bishop did reach that same conclusion, there has been no meat taught in the Church of Jesus Christ for the past 30 years.
And bishop, you wonder why I study the gospel outside the correlated curriculum of the Church manuals?
Well, as our instructor so aptly directed us, perhaps we can turn to the Book of Mormon to see if it might contain a solution for these persistent plagues of our day. As the topic progressed Sunday, my mind was repeatedly drawn to Alma chapters 10 – 13. Here we have some of the deepest doctrine which can be taught in our church. And who is the audience Alma chooses to teach it to?
It is to a group of apostates in the city of Ammonihah. The chief “accuser of the brethren” is a lawyer named Zeezrom. The doctrines which Alma and Amulek teach this wicked man are:
1. The nature of God. Zeezrom asks: Is there more than one God? Amulek answers: “No.”
2. Amulek continues to teach, however, that the Son of God (Hummm?) will come to redeem His people. Actually this doctrine sounds a lot like the doctrine taught to King Noah and his wicked priests, by Abinadi.
3. The remainder of Alma 11 & 12 is devoted to teaching the people the true nature of the resurrection and redemption, way beyond that which most of us can articulate today. Also taught are the intricacies of temporal and spiritual death which lay the foundation for a powerful call to repentance by Alma.
4. Chapter 13 teaches doctrines of a priesthood which is given in another state; people coming to earth with privileges granted because of faith developed previously, before the foundation of the earth. It teaches doctrines of a preparatory redemption, and then the entering into the rest of the Lord. It teaches sanctification, and having your garments washed white through the blood of the Lamb. And many other doctrines does it teach, the nature of which, are hardly comprehended by the average Latter-day Saint.
The amazing thing is that these doctrines were coupled with a cry by Alma and Amulek for these wicked people to repent which many did; particularly Zeezrom, but also many others who because of their increased faith, and subsequent repentance consequently lost their lives by being cast into a fire made by their leaders.
Previously a mention was made of the teachings of Abinadi to the wicked king Noah. This preaching was of the same order as this in Alma. It was the meat of the gospel coupled with a call to repentance. In this case only one man was initially converted, or should we say re-converted. This was Alma the father of this Alma using the same teachings as did Abinadi, which laid the foundation for faith and then repentance of the people.
The problem with teaching only Home Teaching, and showing up for our assignments, as the only “milk” you understand the term to mean, is that it doesn’t lay a sufficient groundwork of faith in Jesus Christ upon which to provide a bulwark for repentance. Sometimes we get the order confused. We think that repentance comes first, then we can proceed to teach the doctrines of Christ, when all the scriptures as well as Article of Faith #4 by Joseph Smith have it the other way.
Well, don’t you think this has gone on long enough? It would seem to me that if the same plan has been tried over and over and over for at least the past thirty years without much success, it is time to look to an example where we can see success, and what caused it. The Book of Mormon is that place. Perhaps only one at a time, as with Alma the elder, will be saved, but that has been the way since the beginning. One saved in the Kingdom of God will add glory upon glory to our Heavenly Father forever and forever through all eternity to come.
Alma concludes one of the most powerful discourses ever given to man with a formula used by almost all prophets, designed to bring the recalcitrant sinner back to his senses, and thereby back to God. He and Amulek have laid the groundwork for the development of faith, which leads to mighty repentance through the teaching of strong doctrine. Now this kind of faith and repentance if developed in the manner we have seen in the preceding verses of Alma chapters 10 – 13 always leads to what Alma now says is its result:
“Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest.” (Alma 13: 29.)
I’m sure you see in this statement, “faith, hope, and charity (or love).” But do you have even an iota of understanding of these words as Alma meant them? Not unless you have done what Alma has explained throughout this discourse, and experienced it for yourself.
Faith – true faith – is a principle of power. It always brings the person to do something. In its most complete form it will bring a person to stand in the presence of God. True prophets always strive to develop this kind of faith in those they are teaching. Faith was the first principle Joseph Smith restored as part of the beginning of the Restoration of all Things. He explained the true nature of God and Christ as it was shown to him, and his explanation, which was his testimony, gives all men and women a true basis for the development of faith in these characters. With such a faith, based on these correct principles, man could then develop this same power Joseph had, for himself. Where do you see faith taught like this or exercised in this manner today? Is this what you see as the epitome of faith? Or is this too sacred to speak about? Evidently not to Alma.
Hope – particularly the hope that you shall receive eternal life. Please understand here that this is not some insipid, vague, optimism that this might happen. This is certitude! It is knowledge, because you have a promise. The hope spoken of by Alma can only be gained and exercised because of a promise from God directly to yourself that Eternal Life will be yours. This is exactly the meaning of hope that enabled the Brother of Jared to see God and view all his mysteries while yet in the flesh. It says: “…For so great was his faith in God, that when God put forth his finger he could not hide it from the sight of the brother of Jared, because of his word which he had spoken unto him, which word he had obtained by faith. And after the brother of Jared had beheld the finger of the Lord, because of the promise which the brother of Jared had obtained by faith, the Lord could not withhold anything from his sight…”(Ether 12: 20-21.) Is this the strength of your hope?
This is the kind of hope the brother of Jared had, and of which Alma is speaking. It flows out of the kind of faith Alma has been developing in the wicked people of Ammonihah since chapter 10. It is this More Sure Word of Prophecy Joseph Smith speaks of when he teaches the doctrine of having one’s Calling and Election made sure (and which we have accepted by common consent.) “The more sure word of prophecy means a man’s knowing that he is sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood. It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” (D&C 131: 5-6.)
This is to have been called, chosen, and elected by God for Eternal Life. This promise always precedes the actual obtaining of Eternal Life. Without this promise there is no hope for Eternal Life. But with the promise, although you are still mortal and have not yet entered in, you have hope. Is this the type and the strength of your hope? Does this speaking of having your Calling and Election made sure, make you uncomfortable? Why? Do you still think this is to sacred to speak about? Evidently Alma doesn’t.
Charity – having the love of God. This is a pure love; “The pure love of God” for you; because when God has promised you eternal life then you have “the love of God always in your heart.” It is there through the indelible promise He has made. He has changed your status. He has declared through His own voice what great thing you have and will become. Therefore it is by knowledge alone that such love resides in the heart of man.
Faith, hope, and charity. Not exactly what we’ve been taught, is it? In fact these concepts have been completely eliminated from the 52 correlated topics which we discuss over and over ad nauseum. And yet, Alma and Amulek teach these advanced concepts to apostates. And it works! This is what gets people of all kinds excited. This is what drives sinners to righteousness. This is what changes peoples lives. I think Boyd K. Packer was right when he said that doctrine will change behavior faster and more completely that the study of behavior will change behavior. A few chapters later and we see Zeezrom joining this elite cadre of brethren as a notable missionary, and we see many others leaving the company of those who will not believe, and rejoining with the Nephites. We see salvation in action.
Lifted up at the last day and enter into His rest.
For the rest of this I will just quote a good friend. Realizing that truth can be anywhere and we can all know it by the Power of the Holy Ghost, which is in you.
“This life will end. But you will be raised up. You know when you are lifted up in the last day it will be this power of God that raises you. Such power as God employs to lift a man up confers upon such a person eternal life. The promise alone is a power, conferring the right to lay hold on eternal life when the moment comes. No power in earth or hell can rescind God’s word. (D&C 1: 38.) It cannot be done. Therefore, you have knowledge that you will not only be raised from the dead, but “lifted up” as well. Powers, principalities, dominions, exaltations are all promised as yours.
This is how you attain to “rest.” It is the “rest of the Lord” as soon as the promise is made by Him. It is His rest when you inherit it in the last day. The words of the promise are enough to guarantee the inheritance. Therefore once the promise is made it is true enough that you have entered into the rest of the Lord. However, until you depart this life, you remain subject to the difficulties of mortality. Graduation is assured, but you must tarry for a little while here.” (Denver C. Snuffer.) We have no better illustration of this than from Nephi saying: “O wretched man that I am! Yea my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. (2Nephi 4: 17-19.)
Now a word as to why I have sent this to those who received it. You are all the leaders of this people. You have been or are the bishops and shepherds of your flocks. You all have those who look to you. You are charged to teach, not to close your mouths and say “I have received a great truth. I will hold it to myself and not share it.” As one hopefully trying to, or possessing this kind of hope, and thus being filled with faith, hope and charity, it becomes your responsibility to raise up others. Hence the ministry of Alma, and Alma’s exposition on the ministry of Melchizedek. God does send true messengers. They can lead you in the way of life and salvation.