Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2009, June 21

“Career Change in the Book of Mormon”

“Career Change in the Book of Mormon”
by grego
(c) 2009

It just hit me tonight—nothing new, but a clarity and touching I haven’t felt before—about the ironic switch that occurs in the books of Mosiah and Alma, in the Book of Mormon.

Aaron and Ammon, future king(s) of the Nephites and sons of the king, become missionaries; Alma the younger, preacher and son of the head of the church, becomes a ruler.

Later, Alma returns to preaching, and Ammon becomes chief judge over the Anti-Nephi-Lehites (double-check that!).

Their reasons for doing so? They loved the people and wanted to serve them.


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2009, June 19

Swallows, Sparrows, and Covenants

Swallows, Sparrows, and Covenants
by grego
(c) 2009

I saw some swallows starting to build a nest next door to us. They were also pooping all over our area, including the car and the screen door (like dive bombing…). So, I tore the nest down.

Afterward, I felt bad. As I was thinking about it, I remembered this verse:

Luke 12: 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

And this:
3 Nephi 13:26 Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Sparrows, swallows…

I felt moved to covenant, so I covenanted then: if the sparrows would stop pooping all over us, at least as if they weren’t there, I wouldn’t touch their nest again if they built, nor bother them.

Interestingly, they started building again the next day, AND… they stopped pooping on us, and there are now five or six little chicks! (They are still flying all over and around us.) We’ve all won!!


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2009, June 16

If 12-Step Addiction Recovery Programs Aren’t as Good as Other Addiction Recovery Methods, Why Is ‘LDS [Mormon] Social Services’ Relying on It instead of Better Methods (Like Energy Work and More)?

If 12-Step Addiction Recovery Programs Aren’t as Good as Other Addiction Recovery Methods, Why Is ‘LDS [Mormon] Social Services’ Relying on It instead of Better Methods (Like Energy Work and More)?

by grego
(c) 2009

In the June 2009 Ensign, there is an article called “Addiction Recovery: Healing One Step at a Time” (p. 61-65). Oh, LDS Social Services, what is going on?

I know that maybe a year ago or so, LDS Social Services was notified about new addiction recovery methods that had a much better recovery rate than 12-step programs, and also took a lot less time, stress, and money to use. It seems LDSSS weren’t interested, and preferred their 12-step program, and that was that.

Let me ask you, what do you think the main point of an addiction recovery program is? Do you think it is to recover from addiction? Is that what you would hope for?

I noticed, in the Ensign article, that there was no “recovery rate” or “success rate” given for the Church’s addiction recovery program. I would be very interested in knowing what it is; LDS Social Services, can you tell us the rate? Hopefully it is above the about seven percent (7%) recovery rate for other 12-step programs!

That’s right, about 93 out of 100 people will likely *fail* using this addiction recovery method. How much hope does that bring you?

Ok, perhaps those 93 people’s willpower wasn’t strong enough, perhaps they didn’t desire “the good” enough, perhaps they lacked faith… PERHAPS.

But if *your own spouse or child* were addicted, and there were much better ways to recover from addiction, would you settle for a 7% recovery chance? I sure as heck wouldn’t, and I hope you don’t, either.

(More about 12-step addiction recovery:
Here’s a list of some studies done on the effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effectiveness_of_Alcoholics_Anonymous.

Many 12-step programs treat addiction as a disease that people are powerless to overcome on their own. I understand the Atonement and all that, but I wonder how the disease and powerlessness model matches up with the gospel?

Many also identify as “an [addict]” (of whatever they are addicted to), which only reinforces their addiction (“I’m Joseph, I’m an alcoholic.”). Why don’t they identify as “I am a child of God who currently has a problem with [whatever addiction] control”? I hope the LDS Church support groups don’t ever use the typical identity statements.

Notwithstanding the muddiness of the conclusions of many of the studies, on the referenced page (above) it says: “In the sample of 100 severe alcoholics from his clinic, 48% of the 29 alcoholics who eventually achieved sobriety attended 300 or more AA meetings”. Whoa! Only 29% eventually (after how many years or decades would that be?) achieved sobriety, and of those, almost half attended 300 (that’s basically once a week for six years) or more (400, 600, 1000+—how many more??) meetings. So 12-step programs seem to be this never-ending cycle of meetings with sponsors and sponsees, which seems to show that in order to overcome an addiction, they must become addicted—to addiction recovery meetings!

Some studies show that no intervention actually had a better recovery rate. These meetings could re-enliven and reinforce the bad choices, the pain, the fear, the guilt, and the shame. I figured part of recovery (and the Atonement) was getting past all that…?

Ok, this isn’t a research paper on AA or 12-step addiction recovery, and this isn’t my specialty… I just wanted to point out a few things. On to the important and exciting part!)

Here are some other things that will be better than most 12-step addiction recovery programs:
1. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and other meridian energy therapies. I cannot stress enough, ***DO THIS FIRST!!!!!***
Using EFT, I have put multiple years-old phobias to rest in one session (less than two hours every time, no matter how complex they have been). EFT has cured addictions of alcohol, cigarette, coffee, cocaine, inhalants, caffeine, soft drinks, sugar, and even chocolate—often in one session. (Follow-up home “maintenance” was often recommended and done “just in case”, to ensure permanent success.) If you prefer a one-hour addiction recovery, at a cost of maybe $40-$120–instead of the I’ve-abstained-for-20-years-but-I’m-not-quite-really-fully-ever-recovered-from-my-disease-but-I-attend-12-step-meetings scenario, try EFT. Check it out at http://www.eftuniverse.com. (Search “addiction” for a few case examples.) Find a practitioner, and do it. Period.

2. Contact John Wingert (now goes by the name of Twenty Twenty) about his addiction recovery program. When his son got addicted and he was supporting him, he saw problems with the 12-step program his son was in, and tried for something better. He has worked and works with addicts, and is not/ will not be offended by your spouse or child’s language, thoughts, etc. He can be found at www.2020unleashed.com, www.exhostage.com, and other websites.

3. Kinesiology, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnotherapy are also useful tools for addiction recovery. Search for practitioners in these areas on the internet and ask them about treatment.

4. Certain addiction recovery programs and centers do much better than others, and many therapies do better than 12-step programs. Go for the successful ones. They might cost more, but it might be worth it, right? Search on the internet. Ask for detailed success rates and about how they are arrived at.

5. Special drugs—such as ibogaine, for example (see http://www.relfe.com/ibogaine.html)—or methods can be used; unfortunately, they might be illegal in the USA. You’ll have to search for the drugs and methods, and go out of country, but some people might prefer it to what’s happening.

The 12-step addiction recovery programs seem to not include other things about addiction must usually be understood and addressed for a fuller recovery, including:
*dopamine addiction (the true cause of most addictions);
*emotional, spiritual, mental, and social reasons for addiction;
*influence of other disorders/ syndromes/ etc. on addiction;
*stress control;
*replacing negative addictive behaviors with others;
*social reorientation;
*the role of the environment and about controlling it;
*filling the emptiness inside;
*life purpose;
*communication;
*education;
*learning (and learning problems);
*dealing with problems and problem solving;
*etc.

Though these things might be talked about at meetings, 12-step recovery programs don’t directly deal with these things. At least a few of these subjects will be helpful
and maybe even essential for every person recovering from addiction.

I hope LDS Social Services will reconsider their limited traditional programs and counseling and bring more true hope and recovery into people’s lives.

Solutions to LDS/ Mormon Missionary Work Problems, Part 6

Solutions to LDS/ Mormon Missionary Work Problems, Part 6
by grego
(c) 2009

Part 1

Part 5

Interestingly, something similar has already been done, and with pretty good results.

I believe that Elders Oak and Holland were sent to the Philippines and Chile, respectively, to get first-hand experience with this type of situation. Those two countries are probably the highest in baptisms, yet worst in retention.

I don’t know about Elder Holland and Chile, but I have heard that Elder Oaks brought the Philippines from below 10% retention to over 85%, and in at least one district, to 100%. I wish I had the details.

That has been over two years ago or so.

I hope the Church will expand the program to other countries, as quickly as possible. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s much better than what we have right now, and I really, really wish we had it!!

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Solutions to LDS/ Mormon Missionary Work Problems, Part 5 by grego

Solutions to LDS/ Mormon Missionary Work Problems, Part 5
by grego

Part 1

Part 4

If I were in charge of missionary work, I would contemplate the following changes:
1. missionaries should refrain from making any types of promises to investigators about their getting baptized, when, etc.
2. raise the bar—for baptizees! (If one admits it worked for missionaries, one has to at least admit it might work for baptizees, and give it a chance.) I would concentrate on the following, *before* baptism: instilling habits (21 straight days, minimum) of daily scripture reading, prayer, weekly three-hour attendance, and a time limit (at least two weeks, maybe more?) for abstinence for Word of Wisdom, chastity problems, etc. before baptism.
3. lengthen the baptismal preparation time for the average investigator to at least one month, and involve members. No one gets baptized in less than a month. This would allow time for stronger faith and desire for repentance, actual conversion, correlation between missionaries and members (including home teachers/ visiting teachers assignments going both ways), baptismal planning, baptismal finding, opportunities for attendance at service projects and activities, etc., and especially a witness of fruits of repentance.
4. make the baptismal interview different; a mere whiff of belief or a “I feel the church is good” feeling would not be sufficient. People lacking in spiritual knowledge should have a strong desire to discover the truth by exercising faith by living according to the commandments. This should be done at least a week before the baptism.
5. make missionaries responsible for all previous new members (one year after baptism), especially reteaching lessons 1-4 and teaching lesson 5. (This is in “Proclaim My Gospel”, but I don’t know of any missionaries here that do this.)
6. investigators should clearly know they will be expected to serve others, have callings, be called on to pray and give talks and comment in class, etc. This will take their time, money, effort, and obedience.
7. baptisms would be held twice a month. Investigators should get baptized at a scheduled baptism.

Part 6


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Solutions to LDS/ Mormon Missionary Work Problems, Part 4

Solutions to LDS/ Mormon Missionary Work Problems, Part 4
by grego
(c) 2009

Part 1

Part 3

Here are some other possible reasons new members might become inactive/ stop believing:
1. their heart isn’t, and likely never was, in it. They got baptized because they felt pressured to get baptized–either directly from the missionaries, or themselves wanting to please the missionaries/ friends/ family/ etc., or as a sign of friendship towards the missionaries. Getting baptized was a big step for them to take, but it was worth it to them to escape the situation/ pressure/ get others off their backs/ show their friendship. Certainly they could and should have spoken up; but because they didn’t, both sides combine to give the result of an immediately inactive new member. In fact, a few don’t even show up to get confirmed, or they come one Sunday to be confirmed and that’s the last time they’re ever seen.
2. they never really got it in the first place; they didn’t really understand what they were getting into/ the commitments they were making. It felt good, but didn’t make much sense.
3. they aren’t in a firm mental state.
4. it is too quick, the pressure is too great, the change is too fast (especially if they’re fighting it inside), they feel overwhelmed, they panic.
5. not enough support, from family, friends, and yes, especially church members.
6. they thought they could __ (“stop drinking coffee”, “pay tithing”, “come to church”, “break family tradition”, etc.), but they didn’t/ can’t, whether by choice or by situation to some degree (think of pre-adults whose parents don’t allow them to come). Unfortunately, it’s often the case that they never had the actual experience of doing many of those things before they got baptized.
7. *they never established habits needed to continue to give them spiritual nourishment after stopping meeting with the missionaries so much*. The spirituality and companionship of the missionaries is a big help, and when it stops after baptism, for many people it’s like a rug got pulled out from under them.

I would contemplate the following changes, in Part 5.


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2009, June 13

“Solutions to LDS/ Mormon Missionary Work Problems, Part 3” by grego

Solutions to LDS/ Mormon Missionary Work Problems, Part 3
by grego

Part 1

Part 2

So why do new members get stuck? I think it mostly has to do with the pre-baptismal situation.

Let’s first talk about an important part of this: MISSIONARY MYTHS.

Myths about Missionary Work

*”Don’t worry too much about the lack of success, don’t try to make a better program, don’t change the system, the Lord and the prophets and very wise men are in charge.”
—>It’s true that the Lord et. al. are in charge. Ammon wasn’t the prophet, but he was a much better missionary than most. Abish wasn’t a prophet, but without her, would the work have gone as well? Missionary work is full of miracles, but the Lord most always expects us to put in our part. Besides, why would we expect miracles to find and baptize people, but then not have miracles to retain them/ keep them active? And if we’re only at 20% retention, where are those miracles? If they aren’t happening, why is it? Is that the way God just wants a 20% retention rate? Maybe God is powerful and can work miracles to get them in, but not to keep them in? Is it because of our obedience or lack of knowledge and skills about how to do missionary work? Does God expect us to let bad situations remain bad, or does He expect us to make bad situations better? Do we need to be specifically commanded to do so, or should we look at 20% retention and decide it might be worth it to try for something higher? Do we keep a broken system? If we “have the Spirit”, will everything that we do succeed, or are we something of a factor, too? If we have the Spirit but aren’t succeeding, might it have to do with the quality of the program/ procedure?

*”The faster someone gets baptized, the better; otherwise, Satan will tempt them and we’ll lose them.”
We read of many examples in the scriptures of people who listen, pray, are converted, and get baptized—in one discussion, it seems! Well, as with other examples, real life for most people doesn’t always follow the same pattern, especially when the people don’t have the same understanding and especially desire and commitment to learn and live the gospel.
—Note that Alma the elder was required to listen to Abinadi and hear strong preaching by the Spirit, witnessed miracles over a few days, and was going to put him to death unless he chose to stand up right then.
—Alma the younger saw an angel and received some pretty strong words, was out of it for a few days, suffering sins to the point he couldn’t stand it any longer, cried for mercy, then had a vision of God.
—Zeezrom got caught lying a few times and got an incredible object lesson, and was responsible for Alma and Amulek’s problems, thinking they had died because of him. He had maybe a month or two to think about what he had done, too.
—Lamoni saw all the arms, heard the testimonies, was scared he was going to be killed, knew that Ammon knew his thoughts, thought Ammon was the Great Spirit, listened to Ammon and the scriptures for a long time, and prayed. Then he was out of it for three days, during which time he saw visions.
—Abish was converted because of the dream of her father, and she had remained faithful for years, among the Lamanites.
—Lamoni’s father had listened to his son’s conversion and everything around it, had his life threatened and then given back, was astonished at what had happened, had had a while to think it all over, listened to the discussions, prayed and asked to be converted, and been overcome.
—The three hundred Lamanites saw a miracle, heard a heavenly voice more than once, were scared, couldn’t escape due to trembling and darkness and fear, asked what to do, an inactive/ apostate Nephite told them to remember the words that had been preached to them long before, they prayed and prayed, and were converted.
Look, I haven’t had experiences like these! These converts, and others, truly show fruits worthy of baptism—I have no doubts about that. Are all quickly-baptized investigators having these types of experiences? Are all new members so strong in their commitment to live and share the gospel? If not, maybe they should wait until they show fruits worthy of baptism.
If it’s so easy for Satan to get them that you worry, are they really committed and ready? Have you no faith that the Lord’s sheep hear his voice, and will follow? Have you no faith that the Lord has power over Satan? Do you think that once a person is baptized, Satan will suddenly stop trying to overcome them? Or does this have to do with the next myth?

*”If we can just get them baptized, they will be much better off, because then they’ll have the Spirit, and it will be easier for them to feel the Spirit, learn, understand, know the truth, permanently change for the better, etc.”
If this were true, why do most of the people who get baptized go inactive—did the Spirit tell them to go inactive? Or did they fight the Spirit and its influence? Maybe neither? Does giving someone the gift of the Holy Ghost mean they’ll have the Holy Ghost? The results after years and years show that this thinking is WRONG. If investigators aren’t ready to be baptized but are baptized anyway, will it make things better or worse for them and others? While giving people time to develop might make a missionary see that this unripe fruit isn’t going to turn out to be a good fruit, picking it while it is still unripe because you’re scared it might be bad fruit makes it impossible to have good fruit anyway!! People need to make their *own* decisions. Getting people to accept the ordinances of baptism and the receiving of the gift of the Holy Ghost are not magical occurrences that will force people to feel the Spirit or His fruits.

*”The lower the standards, the more people will get baptized.”
Probably so, as one can see right now; the problem is with them staying around. Price/ value also plays a part in spiritual things, too. If people feel that baptism and living the commitments aren’t important, they will treat it all as something unimportant. What happened with Bro. Fang: nonchalantly going through the conversion process, conveniently deciding when he might get baptized, when someone told him he might not pass the interview or be ready. That really spurned him to do everything required and gave him the spirit of true conversion. (He was ready for his baptism.) Quickly ready for leadership!
“B and C” is another problem here. Many missionaries beg and coerce investigators. (I witnessed this by a vendor in a market the other day.) When investigators feel that (and they do feel it), it throws up many red flags, especially: if this is so good, why are they begging and coercing me to get baptized?

*Numbers and especially baptisms are all about faith and righteousness; low numbers = low faith and righteousness of the missionaries.*
So in other words, do whatever you can to baptize people and rack up numbers, otherwise your colleagues and leaders will think you don’t have faith and love the Lord! This is called pride; don’t be proud. If your colleagues and leaders can’t handle it, don’t worry, it’s their problem, not yours. You’re not on a mission to “get numbers” or “get baptisms” any way you can. You won’t ever find that “doctrine” anywhere in the standard works, because it’s not a gospel doctrine, it never has been, and it never will be. Missionaries are to preach, teach, convert, baptize, etc., that is correct; but it must be done in the right way! How can you expect the help of the Lord to do His work, if you use Satan’s methods to try to do His work??
What do the scriptures say, about numbers in general?
What numbers did Adam have? Noah? Moses? Peter? Paul? Nephi? Alma? Ammon? Can you find anyone, anywhere, talking about “baptismal goals”?
We read that while Ammon had great success, Aaron didn’t; but it was likely due to reasons other than faith (Alma 20:30).
When Ammon and the others went to preach to the missionaries, they weren’t expecting many to convert (Alma 17:9, 16; 26:26, 30). They did, however, have a great desire to share the gospel, and they opened their mouths, and they met fear with faith and with giving it their their best.
Are missionaries still setting incorrect “numbers” goals, years after a talk saying not to (see Elder Oaks’ article on “Timing”)?

*”We missionaries are to teach and baptize investigators. After that, they’re your (the members’) problem.”
First of all, reread that last sentence. I’ve essentially heard that statement many times from missionaries. What is that telling? “Problem”? First, are new members seen as “problems”? Then, why do they have so many problems after having just been taught by the missionaries and baptized?
The Book of Mormon says this about Ammon:
Alma 21:23 And Ammon did preach unto the people of king Lamoni; and it came to pass that he did *teach them all things concerning things pertaining to righteousness*. And he did *exhort them daily*, with all diligence; and they gave heed unto his word, and they were zealous for keeping the commandments of God.
Alma 22:1 Now, as Ammon was thus teaching the people of Lamoni *continually*, we will return to the account of Aaron and his brethren…
Ammon, *after* baptizing the investigators, taught them all about the gospel, and he taught them daily, and continually. He did not worry that there were thousands of other Lamanites who hadn’t been baptized yet and maybe he wouldn’t make zone leader if he didn’t rush; he concentrated on strengthening his converts so they would stay. Interestingly, the result of this was that more and more Lamanites joined–sometimes even miraculously. Ammon understood that the goal for the people he was teaching the gospel to was eternal life, not baptism.
Luckily, “Proclaim the Gospel” clears this myth up by basically saying missionaries are to teach five new member discussions and see that the new members receive all their ordinances; does that include TEMPLE ordinances?

*”I can’t change the way I do missionary work because I need to obey my leaders.”
Brigham Young was a great example of obedience to the commandments of God and especially to the prophet, and yet he was a great thinker, too. It took him two years to study the gospel and join the church. Without his brain power (and body power and spirit power), the Saints would have had many more trials and problems of greater proportion than they had getting to Utah and establishing the Church and themselves as a people. Remember, the Lord gave you a brain to not only obey with, but to think with, too. Most leaders don’t have much to say about these myths, and in fact, I don’t know of any leaders that have said otherwise. It seems more or less to be a culture, a tradition, a carry-over from years back, a mindset that actually conflicts largely with what the scriptures say. If you see anything here that seems to tell you do disobey your leaders, I would wonder, “Have you asked your leader?” Are you really doing missionary work in this way to obey your leader, or for the selfish reason of racking up baptisms?

*If a new member goes inactive, it’s because the members didn’t do their part.
I think most new members with a decent testimony will at least come for a few weeks or months, even if they don’t know many people or don’t feel really comfortable. When the majority of new members stop coming within one week or one or two months at most, it’s likely that they never were really committed, much less converted. They likely showed few if any fruits for baptism.
And if it’s the members fault, what did they do, or not? Is it that they didn’t friendship the new members? Or is it that the new members didn’t really know anyone before they got baptized? True, if they don’t, it’s the unit’s problem—partly. Haven’t talks, manuals, and standards mentioned the need for investigators to meet members and have friends in the church—*before* they are baptized? Does this responsibility of meeting and friendshipping just lie with the members? Are the missionaries introducing the investigators to church members? If you tell the Elder Quorum president that someone will get baptized this week, how likely is it that the new member will have a home teacher?

*Commitment is the key.
Unfortunately, most “commitment” for the missionaries is little more than pressuring and compulsion, and as such, it is *not* the key to quality conversion; in fact, it’s the key to why people get baptized and never show up again, or why a missionary moves and the new member immediately cuts contact with the church.
Do you see any place in the Book of Mormon where someone makes a baptismal/ spiritual commitment unnaturally at someone’s behest? Investigators/ uncommitted people in the Book of Mormon who are desirous to receive the blessings of the gospel, willingly and naturally commit, often without invitation. Not all investigators will have this faith; commitments and invitations are still very useful and even needed.
I know many investigators who have quit an addiction for *one day* and still get baptized. Is that enough time to see commitment, to see the fruits of repentance? I don’t think so.

*If a new member goes inactive, it’s because they didn’t have faith.
Maybe so. But if that were the case, why were they baptized in the first place? Did they have faith enough to covenant baptism, then a week later, lose faith to come to church and believe?
Many times, though, it could be:
–they weren’t taught well,
–they didn’t understand what was really going on,
–they were pressured into doing something they weren’t ready to do,
–they didn’t have the habits,
–their concerns weren’t resolved,
–it was too much too fast and the change couldn’t last,
–it could have been the missionaries or the members, etc.
In other words, there was no fruit worthy of baptism. And it wasn’t really their fault many times, let’s face it.

On to Part 4.


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2009, June 10

“Solutions to LDS/ Mormon Missionary Work Problems: Part 2” by grego

“Solutions to LDS/ Mormon Missionary Work Problems: Part 2”
by grego

Part 1

I would like to present another look at the problems, the situations, and some proposed solutions (some which are known and even officially published but rarely used).

Here’s a conversation:
A: Help me! I’m bleeding!!
Doctor: Get him a blood transfusion, immediately! (Later, in your hospital bed…) You’re all hooked up, lots of blood coming in, you’re going to make it.
A: Um, my wounds still hurt, and there’s… some blood on my blankets.
D: No worry, I’ll get housekeeping and the orderly in here to help out.
A: But aren’t you a doctor? Can’t you like, sew me up?
D: Yeah, but I like to use blood transfusions better. Habit, I guess. Besides, it costs more and we have money to spend, and it makes us all feel like we’re doing more to save someone’s life. Not every day someone needs a blood transfusion, you know!
A: Um, doc, thanks for saving my life, no doubt about it, but there’s a small pool on the floor, and it seems to be increasing in size.
D: Well, you’ll just have to help clean it up, then! Don’t worry, work is good for you, it makes you appreciate your life having been saved.
A: But if it goes on like this, that’s a lot of wasted blood, time, etc. And I’ll probably have to spend the rest of my life here in the hospital, depending on you for my blood and life.
D: Well, well. Your blood just doesn’t want to stay in your body, you know? Like Jesus said, “If your eye is evil, pluck it out”—your blood is following the words of Jesus, I guess, just fulfilling prophecy.
A: Could you like, try sewing my wound up?
D: I’d love to, but that’s not really my job. That’s for a surgeon.
A: Can you have the surgeon do it?
D: We’re not really great at working together.
A: But you’re on the same team in the same hospital!
D: Yeah, pity, ain’t it? Some like to sew, some like to transfuse—but we have the same goal of saving your life, ya know?
A: (Under breath, watching blood flow out…) Why don’t I believe that?

-=-=-=

Another conversation:
A: Hi, welcome. Here’s some water.
B: Thanks, wow, this is a big glass of water. (Takes a sip.) Whoops, looks like the water’s leaking from a hole in the side of the cup.
A: No problem! We’ll just tell our maids to mop it up.
B: But it’s all over the floor, it’ll get messy and someone might slip.
A: Don’t worry, if the maids were just a little better and faster, there wouldn’t be any problems.
B: Where are they now?
A: Oh, they have a few other jobs first. Want some more water?
B: Sure, but how about pouring me a half-glass.
A: No need! We have plenty of water, we need to drink it all, here’s a full glass again.
B: But it’s just leaking on the floor again…
A: Right. That’s what the maids are for.
B: Any chance of just plugging the holes?
A: Naw. We’re just worried about getting the water all drunk.
B: What about my clothes? My new tie?
A: Part of the job, I guess! Sacrifice draws us closer to God!

-=-=-=

Let’s say there’s a race.
Objective: Move as many balls from box X to box Y within two minutes, by putting the balls from box X in a wheelbarrow, pushing it along a narrow bumpy road on a hill, emptying the balls into box Y on the other end. A point is given for each ball in box Y. There are three penalty points for every ball that is put in the wheelbarrow but doesn’t end up in box B, even the ones that fall out and roll down the hill (however far away they may end up).
Each team has three people: one to put the balls from box X into the wheelbarrow, one to push the wheelbarrow from box X to box Y, one to empty the balls into box Y.

What’s your game plan?
(“My answer” further down)

-=-=-=

Shepherd A: Let’s get the sheep into this fold.
Shepherd B: Rah, rah, rah!
A: Drive them all in!
B: Wait, we just drove a bunch in, how come the number of sheep in the fold is the same?
A: Oh, there’s a big hole in the wall, and the sheep run out the hole.
B: Should we fix the hole?
A: Nah, if the sheep want to go there’s nothing we can do about it.
B: But that hole is really big, it’s tempting to go through it, even if you felt like staying. Maybe we should plug it?
A: Well, if we just keep driving the sheep in, enough will eventually stay to fill the fold right up.
B: What if we get the sheep that want to stay, and fix the hole so it will fill up much faster, and the sheep will be safer?
A: Well, that’s the danger of life, my friend. Some sheep just won’t stay in the fold.
Besides, I don’t know how to fix the hole well, and even then, it would take work. I think I might even sweat. Further, if we took the time to fix the hole, well, no sheep would be coming in!! They might get eaten by a wolf or something!
B: (Watching a nice plump sheep run out the hole…) Oh, ok.

-=-=-=

Have you ever played catch? If someone throws well, it’s easy and even fun to play. But if someone never gets a good grip on the ball and then throws it, it goes all over the place. If they throw ball after ball like this, especially at a fast rate, how long before you get tired of playing and quit?

-=-=-=

(My answer to the game plan:
Put as many balls into the wheelbarrow as can be safely pushed across the hill without having any balls lost. Go quickly, but don’t rush, and be careful. Wait patiently at box X while the wheelbarrow is being loaded, and wait patiently at box Y while the wheelbarrow is being emptied.)

-=-=-=

Making Cake
Let’s say that your bakery has a daily limit of 20 wonderfully-done cakes. So, how many will you cook? 21? No–just 20.
If 100 people usually call in to order, what do you do?
A. Shout “yes, yes, yes!” and tell everyone: “Ok, no problem.”
B. Get more trained workers and equipment, find the bottlenecks, etc.
C. Say: “Thanks for calling, we appreciate it, but sorry–we cannot do it this time. We already have too many orders. Would tomorrow or another time still suitable?”

If you choose A, you’ll be extremely tired and running all over the place. You’ll also have 80 dissatisfied customers. Whoops–you’ll actually have even more, because those 20 wonderful cakes won’t be so wonderful, either!

Unless you know who these customers are, apologize profusely, and offer them a free cake, they will probably never buy from you again. (However, as long as you’re not ready to make good on your offer, don’t offer.) They’ll also likely tell their family and friends. Or, even more likely, they won’t have to, because their family and friends will have eaten your cake, and learned for themselves…

If you choose C, you’ll have 80 disappointed customers that day who might wanted to have ordered but couldn’t get a cake from you anyway, but they will still be able to order later without having had a negative experience of having bought something horrible from you the first time. (Also, it might be that only those who are really willing and make the effort will be joining, which means member quality might go up.) Those 80 people will also have realized, hey, they must make really good cakes! I had better order a few days ahead of time next time to make sure I get in. Your reputation goes up, business does well, word of mouth spreads… There will also be a very good chance that 20 customers who bought will be very satisfied and be willing to buy from you again, and willingly refer you to others.

B, of course, would be the best, if you could. So, we stay at C until you could increase production by the amount of + P; then, you could cook “20 + P” cakes every day.

-=-=-=

The Olive Tree (Jacob 5)
This allegory can be likened to many things, one of which is the following:
Branches and roots must be balanced and both nurtured to have the ability to produce good fruit.

Tree=ward; tree branches=new members; tree roots=old members.

If there are too many new branches, they either draw all the strength out of the roots and the tree dies, or they (and the tree) produce evil fruit (v.37, 48).

If there aren’t enough branches, the tree will not produce fruit, the roots don’t serve their purpose, and the tree dies anyway.

In verse 18, the addition of new members actually strengthens the old members; the tree is in balance; both are nourished; the tree produces good fruit.

-=-=-=

The Leaning Tower of Pisa
If a structure is built on an unsure foundation, the higher and bigger it gets, the more chance it will fall, and how much of the work will be wasted!

-=-=-=

Playing Stacking Blocks
How do you win? Start out with a good, strong, wide base. If you stack too fast, it will fall. Wait until it’s balanced well and stopped swinging around, then stack another block on top. Keep going. Steadily stack as fast as you can.

-=-=-=

Do you know of anyone who has had eight babies in three years (twins each time, 9 months apart!)? Too fast, you say? Too taxing on the mother’s body, you say? Too much work for the mother, you say? Too much work for the father, you say? Too little attention for the children, you say? I agree!

-=-=-=

Ok… President Monson spoke about damming the pond wall before taking water from it, if you want to empty it. While he was talking about helping prospective elders who are already members instead of looking for new ones, I suggest concentrating on one step before that—never letting new members even get stuck at “prospective elders”!

-=-=-=

So why do they get stuck? On to Part 3.


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2009, June 8

“Solutions to LDS/ Mormon Missionary Work Problems: Part 1” by grego

Solutions to LDS/ Mormon Missionary Work Problems: Part 1
by grego
(c) 2009

[Ever since being very dissatisfied with the way missionary work was done on my mission (including how I did it), I’ve had a few thoughts about missionary work, and they’ve grown a little over the years. A little background, for those who just *have* to know before they’ll even consider the ideas: I’ve had the callings of called missionary, ward mission leader (twice, in different wards), member of bishopric working with missionaries (twice), Gospel Essentials teacher (twice), etc.]

We had about 80 baptisms last year in our ward. Of those, there are currently about 20 that at least fit the “once-a-month” “active” definition, and about 10 that come regularly. Since the year just ended, these numbers don’t reflect true activity rate, because it hasn’t been a year since their baptism (which is when retention rate is measured, I believe). I do not know what those numbers will be a year after their baptism, but I can’t imagine them being higher.

Over the year, our ward sacrament meeting attendance has increased by 10-20 on average. I think we’re doing a little better than average for our stake.

Out of those who were baptized, some felt pressured by the missionaries, some have mental (and comprehension) problems, some have only belief, and a few seem to… well, have little or no testimony at all. (A few leaders have been surprised, shocked, and even appalled that it seems anyone who wants to get baptized, can. I don’t believe that’s the way it was ever intended to be. We invite all people to attend, even long-term, but only those who meet the requirements for baptism should be baptized.)

So, what are the consequences of our last year’s baptismal situation and retention?

*Many members (including me) don’t want to meet and help investigators, or especially attend baptisms. If I haven’t seen the person at church a few times, or seen them volunteer to help out or seen them at a service project, or heard them bear testimony, I wouldn’t go to their baptism even if it were convenient. It’s 40 minutes travel, minimum (unless it’s on Sundays, in which case–if I don’t have interviews, meetings, etc.–I can and have attended). Yeah, I know, sucky attitude, but that’s what I feel.

*One, two, maybe three at the most remain active (at least partially) out of every 10 who are baptized.

*Probably eight or nine go on church records and “to home teach” lists but are mostly inactive. Assuming baptisms are equal between males and females, each time two brethren stay active and begin home teaching, there are already 18 new people on their home teaching list [the 16 inactives (8+8) and two active sisters]. I get really uncomfortable when I hear “we should sacrifice and be hometeaching a plethora of people” comments; it would be great if everyone were active and we could teach two other brothers’ families, and a few sisters–that’s much more manageable for every month, I think.

*Members might spend lots of time contacting and visiting these inactive members trying to bring them back to activity. Missionaries sometimes also spend lots of time visiting these inactive members and trying to bring them back to activity.

*Of those that go inactive, many don’t want much (or anything) to do with the LDS Church—it’s just a bitter taste in their mouth. So, for every one-three people helping missionary work, there are now many people who hurt it.

Are there success stories with this scenario? Absolutely!

Is this the best way to do it?

On to Part 2.


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2009, June 3

“If the LDS/ Mormon Prophets Were Wrong on THAT, Then I Just Can’t Have Faith in ANY of Their Words: Truths Are Not the Same” by grego

If the LDS/ Mormon Prophets Were Wrong on THAT, Then I Just Can’t Have Faith in ANY of Their Words: Truths Are Not the Same
by grego
(c)d 2009

In somewhat contrary position to my last post…

On http://www.mormoncurtain.com/topic_lamanites.html, I found the following, which has some great insight into a typical argument many people use with regards to modern prophets and the LDS Church:

-=-=-=
“Church defenders, I believe, do not quite grasp that simply suggesting that none of this was “official church doctrine”, itself a difficult claim to sustain, doesn’t really do anything other than raise other more devastating questions, like:

If church leaders could get stuff THIS BASIC wrong – like, who is their founding scripture about, and who are their blood descendants, etc.? – what ELSE could they have gotten wrong? Why should we credit them at all, if as you say, they all missed something that basic, and which was so easily revealed to Matthew Roper and John Sorenson? And anyway, why should Mormons disbelieve prophets and apostles, and believe instead a marginalized set of scholars who keep saying the prophets and apostles are wrong are incorrect on the most basic religious claim imaginable?

Defenders sometimes imply that arguments should be accepted because those making them possess superior authority; but they have far less “authority” in the minds of most members than do GA’s; and certainly, there are far more prominent “authorities” in all of their fields, who probably to a man would dismiss most Mormon apologetic arguments as not much more than rubbish. So, arguments to authority just don’t work for FARMS guys: because the authorities ABOVE them, whether ecclesiastical or secular, nearly all have disagreed with them!

But all this raises another question: since defenders are in contradiction with many leaders past and present, why are those apostles funding and promoting those scholars’ work? And how can that NOT raise questions about whether the church is really being run by an omniscient mind, who presumably values internal coherence? How can “‘A’ equal ‘Not A'”, even for God? If, as Alma says, God could not violate free agency without ceasing to be God, and as Joseph and Brigham said (and D&C), is bound by laws, and is more of a supreme engineer or architect rather than a magician, I don’t see any warrant anywhere for presuming that even God could make two plus two equal five, or that he could make one thing, and its oppposite, identical, just by divine decree. Once again, this approach seems to not amount to much of an argument for the church at all.

Why should anyone doubt that the shifting explanations for the Book of Mormon are being provoked not by increased revelation, but by “the arm of the flesh” as it expresses itself in the very earthy disciplines of anthropology, linguistics, archaeology, zoology, etc.? To believe otherwise, would be to believe that Sorenson et al would be coming up with these scenarios, EVEN IF all those disciplines had CORROBORATED Joseph’s own pronunciations on BOM geography and anthropology, rather than create difficulties for them – and this is NOT BELIEVABLE. Would John Sorenson really still be disagreeing with Joseph Smith if all the evidence was in Joseph’s favour?

And, if the goalposts are being shifted not because of revelation, but from, as Joseph Fielding Smith once noted of the LGT, of necessity due to the evidence yielded by human disciplines and the understanding yielded by human minds – why should members then NOT (following the precedent established by FARMS themselves) likewise allow on to the table things like physical evidence and allow their own minds to do their jobs, in trying to evaluate and understand the BOM? If one piece of evidence is laid on the table by FARMS, it opens the door to all of them being laid on the table; and it just won’t do to claim, as GBH did in The Ensign a couple of years ago, that only confirming evidence counts. It is no wonder there is something of a hermorrhaging. The church has done all this to itself, and still doesn’t even seem to realize it.

Back to one church argument: if it was not ever “official church doctrine” (despite “Jesus'” support in the D&C) that the Lamanites were the “principal ancestors” of the American Indian, and that they are descended from BOM leaders, etc., why was it preached from the pulpit by presidents and apostles, and then placed in official church manuals, and included in the introduction the church’s own edition of the BOM? Why does Jesus think it was?

In other words, another problem with this line of defense is that if THIS was not “official church doctrine”, then NOTHING is (with one exception). And if the church has no doctrine other than “obey your file leader”, it is difficult to see how it can live up to its own claims about itself, and rather, how it seems to endorse all of the worst characterizations made of it.

I continue to be unable to see why any “anti-Mormon” should ever be a concern to the church; all the most devastating questions are raised by the church’s own manuals, website, scriptures, leaders, and defenders.

-=-=-=

So, is it true?

Well, I agree with the last sentence, the true “most devastating questions” are raised by members of the LDS Church. If you look at Mormon apologetics, the apologists themselves come up with and even bring to light much more difficult questions and problems than the con-LDS groups, which are often stuck on very old questions that were answered many years ago.

Before getting into the message here, note that many things, changed just a little, can be very important to arguments and the overall scene. For example, take this sentence:
“(despite ‘Jesus’s’ support in the D&C) that the Lamanites were the ‘principal ancestors’ of the American Indian, and that they are descended from BOM leaders,”
Where in the Doctrine and Covenants does Jesus give support that the Lamanites are the principal ancestors? Or that they are descended from Book of Mormon leaders? Nowhere.
Or, is the LDS Church’s one doctrine “obey your file leader”? Hardly, lol.
There are others, but I can still get the jist of it all, right?

However, I believe it’s important because part of the problem of why there is confusion in the first place, is the inability to understand exactly what is being communicated. I wonder if many people get angry not because of the illogicity of something, but because of frustration at trying to understand it. Too many times our personal filters really skew or rearrange the heck out of messages and communications. When that happens, there will always be problems with prophets and prophecies—whether someone is not LDS, or is. And when there’s lots of emotion, there’s often a gap in the logic… Anyway, on…

In the post, I sense a questioning of what really is a prophet, how is it possible that they can lead us down wrong paths, and how do we/ why would we follow the prophets if they just lead us down wrong paths?

(My “Moroni the Man, Pahoran the Propagandist”, “Three Spirits”, and “Ether 12:27” articles talk about this type of thing, and show that there are times, I believe, that prophets might not see it or might have reason to not let others see it unless it’s personally revealed to them.)

This might seem a little out of order here, but I’ll start with the biggest principle I use to deal with these questions myself: that of different “grades” of truths.

There are saving truths, which are essential for one’s salvation and exaltation, and non-saving truths, which are nonessential for one’s salvation; even these truths can be further distinguished, both as to need and to degree. Where the Book of Mormon occurred, for example—while it does have value in the gospel, prophecy, and the future—is not a saving truth. Therefore, I see less need for God to reveal that to a prophet than, say, how a person is to be baptized (interesting connection to 3 Nephi 11 here…). Just think—the apostles in Jerusalem didn’t know about the Nephites; but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been/ won’t be saved (3 Nephi 15:14-23).

Prophets, as men, are still required to grow and learn (see the article about “Ether 12:27” on this site about that).

Even Jesus, the greatest prophet ever (and God, son of God the Father), went through the same process other prophets go through:

Luke 2:40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Doctrine and Covenants 93:11 And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.
12 And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;
13 And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;
14 And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first.
15 And I, John, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my beloved Son.
16 And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father;
17 And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.

Jesus didn’t “know it all” from the moment he was born. He progressed as a mortal, as we all do. He did know, however, the things He needed to know, at the times He needed to know them, and He did them perfectly. He also knew those things because he wanted to know them and did all that was required to know them.

Church members have been commanded (official church doctrine!) to not just rely on revelation for everything, including doctrinal truths. “What?! You mean God wants me to learn other than by pure revelation?” Yes, that’s what He has said:

D&C 90: 15 And set in order the churches, and STUDY AND LEARN, and BECOME ACQUAINTED WITH ALL GOOD BOOKS, AND WITH LANGUAGES, TONGUES, AND PEOPLE.

D&C 88:118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, SEEK YE OUT OF THE BEST BOOKS words of wisdom; SEEK LEARNING, EVEN BY STUDY AND ALSO BY FAITH.

D&C 109:7, 14 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, SEEK YE OUT OF THE BEST BOOKS words of wisdom, SEEK LEARNING EVEN BY STUDY AND ALSO BY FAITH;
And do thou grant, Holy Father, that all those who shall worship in this house may be taught words of wisdom OUT OF THE BEST BOOKS, and that they may SEEK LEARNING EVEN BY STUDY, AND ALSO BY FAITH, as thou hast said;

(This ties in well with the writers writing the plates and Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon.)

Not only that, if you try to live your life only by pure revelation, you’ll probably fail.

When “a man speaks as a prophet”, what does that mean? It means someone speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Prophets are people. They can make mistakes. They will make mistakes. They have made mistakes. Scary, eh?

But if they are men and can make mistakes, how can we trust the prophets?

Let me ask you… how can you trust anything or anyone? Can you even trust God?

Let me ask you… how can anyone trust you? Can you even trust yourself?

What does the Book of Mormon say?

Here are a few scriptures that come to mind:

Alma 5:45 And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?
Alma 5:46 Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.
Alma 5:47 And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true, even so according to the spirit of prophecy which is in me, which is also by the manifestation of the Spirit of God.

Moroni 10:4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Moroni 10:5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

The Book of Mormon is full of stories of people seeking revelation and receiving it. The Book of Mormon tells us to pray, fast, experiment, see if the words of the prophets are true.

All in all, it seems that the Book of Mormon teaches that we do not need to accept the words of the prophets just on their word!

Does this help with “trust”? In essence, it comes down to, “Do you trust *yourself*? Because in the end, that is who will answer to God for your own behavior.

Blessings come to those who obey the prophets. Try it, experiment on that. If you don’t know or aren’t sure, pray.

I don’t believe everything prophets say, just because they say it. I definitely note it, make myself open to believing it, and make myself responsible for finding it out.

As a principle, I am wary of generalizations, unclear things, remarks made in passing, canned responses, etc.

Doctrine is like truth (explained above)—there are grades of it. “Official church doctrine” really is what it claims to be—it’s not a bunch of teachings, no matter who has taught it, for how long, how many others have agreed with it, whether it has been spoken of in general conference or printed in the Church News or Ensign, etc. It is possible to know and preach a truth without it being “official church doctrine”. It is possible to receive a revelation for the Church that is not “official church doctrine”.

People have their places and gifts. Anyone who looks to a prophet for all things, is a slothful and foolish person. (That “by faith and by study” fits in nicely here, too.)

Can it be frustrating? Absolutely, almost guaranteed. Probably very similar to your child trying to understand you, their parent!

When I lose focus that God really is my heavenly Father and I am His child, it’s easy to get things bent all out of whack and proportion and importance. I just need to remember my relationship with my child and correlate it to that, just many degrees beyond, and it’s not *as* frustrating anymore. I also need to have faith. You know, many things really aren’t like we think they are.

It’s imperative to prioritize things; God has.


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