Modern-Day Polytheism

Anciently, many civilizations believed in worshipped a pantheon of gods. There were different gods for love, anger, death, war, hunting, agriculture, weather, parties, childbirth, travel, etc.

People payed homage to the gods from whom they sought blessings. If they wanted to be successful in war, they supplicated the god of war; if they experienced a drought or famine, they’d make offerings to the gods of agriculture and weather, and so on.

Furthermore, the ancient gentiles did not believe there was any inherent unity among the gods; one god might come along one day and thump another one on the head, and that would be that – no more hunting. It made for a pretty fickle and arbitrary world.

What made the God of Israel unique is that He was all powerful, and unified in purpose. He was kind, but also severe. He was strong, but also longsuffering. He empowered His people in war, but also commanded them to not murder. In short, the gentile worldview believed that all of the elements of life worked independently of one another, while the Israelite’s believed that they all fit together inside of one great whole.

Hence, we have Moses’ unique declaration to a people who just came out of a polytheistic culture: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; emphasis added). (As a side note, all of the heavenly host were still referred to as “gods,” but unlike the polytheistic gods, they all worked together in harmony under the Most High God).

Because Jehovah’s attributes encompassed all other “gods,” the ancients naturally wanted to understand how He balanced many (seemingly) contradictory characteristics. How could He support both love and war? How could He sanction one thing in one instance, but not in another? Just who is this “Most High God”, and what is He like?

The divisive thing about Jehovah is that His character and attributes are an all-or-nothing package deal. There’s no picking and choosing the parts you like while discarding the rest. You must take Him as He is.

The tendency of many people today is to decide upfront what they believe is right and moral, and then make a God in their own image. Every single person who believes in God is going to believe He aligns with their political ideology, personal philosophy, etc. While these things absolutely should be aligned, most people take it upon themselves to decide what they think is right and wrong before consulting God, and then assume He must agree with their beliefs. You may find that most of the time, the “God” people have created in their own image doesn’t require them to really change, either. Our behavior reflects our beliefs, our beliefs reflect our values, and our values reflect our image of God.

This is really just a shade of polytheism. When people do this, they aren’t worshipping Jehovah, they’re worshipping “the god of niceness,” and “the god of parties,” and “the god of church-attendance,” and so on.

A Correct Idea of His Character, Perfections, and Attributes

In the Lectures on Faith we read that in order for men and women to exercise faith unto life and salvation, they must have “a correct idea of [God’s] character, perfections and attributes” (Lectures on Faith 3:4).

God is salvation, and Christ is a saved being. His name (order, pattern, character, attributes) is the only name whereby we can be saved from the state of death common to us all.

There is an order to all creation. Inasmuch as we depart from that order, we will die. We are all branches dislodged from the tree of life, projected to decay forever and ever. Only by being reclaimed by one willing to pay the price, and thereafter living in harmony with the order of creation, can we have hope for salvation. The life, ministry, and atonement of Jesus Christ makes both of these things possible; not only has He paid the price to reclaim us, but He has shown us the way whereby we can remain with Him. His life and example are the essence of heaven itself, and He lends His grace to purify those who follow Him.

Continuing in the Lectures on Faith, we read:

“But to be a little more particular, let us ask, where shall we find a prototype into whose likeness we may be assimilated, in order that we may be made partakers of life and salvation? or in other words, where shall we find a saved being? for if we can find a saved being, we may ascertain, without much difficulty, what all others must be, in order to be saved—they must be like that individual or they cannot be saved: we think, that it will not be a matter of dispute, that two beings, who are unlike each other, cannot both be saved; for whatever constitutes the salvation of one, will constitute the salvation of every creature which will be saved: and if we find one saved being in all existence, we may see what all others must be, or else not be saved. We ask, then, where is the prototype? or where is the saved being? We conclude as to the answer of this question there will be no dispute among those who believe the bible, that it is Christ: all will agree in this that he is the prototype or standard of salvation, or in other words, that he is a saved being.

“And if we should continue our interrogation, and ask how it is that he is saved, the answer would be, because he is a just and holy being; and if he were any thing different from what he is he would not be saved; for his salvation depends on his being precisely what he is and nothing else; for if it were possible for him to change in the least degree, so sure he would fail of salvation and lose all his dominion, power, authority and glory, which constitutes salvation; for salvation consists in the glory, authority, majesty, power and dominion which Jehovah possesses, and in nothing else; and no being can possess it but himself or one like him: Thus says John, in his first epistle, 3:2 and 3: ‘Behold, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And any man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.’—Why purify himself as he is pure? because, if they do not they cannot be like him.” (Lectures on Faith 7:9; emphasis added)

Christ needed to be exactly what He was in order to be a “saved being.” Hence, He is the way, the truth, and the life. He emulated the various attributes of God in a perfectly balanced way – balance being the key word.

When we’re developing any skill, whether it’s riding a bike, singing, cooking, or hitting a baseball, we must find balance between several principles in order to find mastery. Too much of one thing (or too little of another) can be enough to prevent good results. So it is with the character of Christ. To worship Him is not to love one of His attributes at the expense of all others, but to find the balance between them all. He is merciful, but He is also just. He is meek, but He is also bold.

Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Lord.

Jesus’s prayed for His followers, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art  in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21). His desire is that we share in His character, perfections, and attributes – as He is one with the Father, so may we be one with Him. On this oneness hangs life and salvation: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

The Lies That Resonate

As we are all quickened by a portion of the Lord’s Spirit, we have an inherent ability to recognize truth. Satan combats this through temptation and false traditions, both of which obscure our view and make truth harder to detect (D&C 93:39). The average person will not readily embrace darkness and evil. Instead, Satan crafts lies that have some sort of basis in truth (for which the soul yearns). However, like salt water to the dehydrated, the more they buy into the lie, the more devastating its effects become.

For example, the increasing desire some people have to treat all people’s beliefs as equally valid is rooted in humility. However, it begins to find itself less balanced as it emphasizes this one virtue at the expense of all others. Moral relativism leads to nihilism, depression, and worse. The fruit is not good. Hence life eternal is to know God; salvation is found, not by worshipping “the god of humility,” but by worshipping the Father in the name of Christ.

Every popular belief system, ideology, and social movement is based on some true principle or attribute of Deity. Unfortunately, they’re almost all short-sighted, imbalanced, and destructive. They have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. Like trying to survive by drinking ocean water, people are drawn in by the forms and depraved by the content. It’s salt water to the soul.

Seeking God

The only way we can only guard against these clever deceptions is through a firm desire to know God. Seeking Him must be our highest priority. He’s promised that those who do so in our day will find Him:

And the Lord shall scatter you [Israel] among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead you. And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 4:27-29).

We can seek Him by letting go of our pre-determined beliefs of what’s right and wrong – letting go of any position, paying any price, and being completely open to receiving and obeying the truth He reveals. We can allow God to teach us about Himself without reservations, willing to change our political views, doctrinal views, or social views to align with what His word. As Jacob taught, “seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand” (Jacob 4:10). This takes faith that He knows better than we do.

We can seek Him by aligning ourselves to all we know to be right. We can commit, here and now, to obey every prompting and live by every truth that He reveals to us in the day-to-day moments of our lives. We can live in the light of what our conscience currently tells us is right and wrong. One repentant person in the scriptures exemplified this attitude in prayer: “O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day” (Alma 22:18).

As you’re reading this, you may be able to think of something awry in your life that you know needs fixing; there’s the starting point. Privately seek to set your life in order; do the things you know you should be doing.

We can seek Him by diligently seeking further light and knowledge from the Lord directly. We can allow the scriptures and (more importantly) revelation to inform our understanding of right and wrong. We can allow the scriptures to tell us what they say instead of us telling them what they say. We can search the scriptures diligently for a deeper and clearer understanding of God’s will, generally and for our own lives.

As we do these things, giving greater heed (obedience) and diligence (searching) to His word, He will open up and reveal to us greater and greater truths about Himself, His character, perfections, and attributes. We will come to know Him, and thus be partakers of eternal life (John 17:3 cf. Matthew 7:21-23; 25:11-12; Alma 12:9-15).

The Parable of the Lion

There was a certain tribe who lived peaceably in nature. They understood and lived in harmony with the laws of nature to such a degree that the surrounding plants and animals assisted the tribe in their efforts. The land yielded its fruit, the trees grew into home-like structures, and birds even attended and sang at special events. All benefited from the perfect harmony that followed the tribe’s lifestyle.

Foremost among these was a great lion who defended the tribe against foreign invaders. The lion was loyal to the tribe, showing no aggression towards anyone. He protected those who fed and cared for him. Never was a single enemy successful in killing the lion or hurting any member of the tribe, and never did the lion fail at what he sought to do.

The tribe became known abroad for the lion that was with them.

Outsiders feared and hated the lion. They could not understand why it regarded them as enemies while giving allegiance to the tribe. They generally lived outside of nature in cities they had built by their own wit, using technology to gather resources for their survival and progress, though they never achieved the harmony or prosperity of the tribe.

With time, the tribe gradually grew in its wealth and prosperity, having more than sufficient for their needs. They considered such abundant prosperity nature’s reward for their lifestyle. As generations passed, the tribe grew proud of its inheritance and lived off the excess produced by previous generations. They lost sight of what it took to produce all that was before them, and considering their own needs were taken care of, saw less reason to do so.

They took pride that the lion made its abode with them and not their enemies, but began to forget why he did so. Considering themselves invulnerable, they had little regard for outsiders. As their pride grew, their understanding of how to maintain their way of life waned.

Their attitude towards outsiders created a feeling of hostility and resentment abroad for the tribe. It had been some time since they had heard of any great thing done by the lion, and questioned whether or not their power was as myth.

The increasing tension between the tribe and the outsiders grew until at last, the tribe declared war on its enemies. They rallied troops and marshaled themselves for battle. They prepared their champion the lion, confident they could not fail with him at their side.

At last, it began. At the tribe’s battle cry the lion, who had not been properly fed or cared for in many years, turned on and devoured his own people. And he did not fail at what he sought to do.

Post Script

“The gifts of God are all useful in their place, but when they are applied to that which God does not intend, they prove an injury, a snare, and a curse instead of a blessing.” (Joseph Smith, TPJS p. 248).

“Verily, I say unto you, I am the stone, and those wicked ones reject me. I am the head of the corner. These Jews shall fall upon me, and shall be broken. And the kingdom of God shall be taken from them, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof (meaning the Gentiles); wherefore, on whomsoever this stone shall fall, it shall grind him to powder.

“And when the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, he will destroy those miserable, wicked men, and will let again his vineyard unto other husbandmen, even in the last days, who shall render him the fruits in their seasons. And then understood they the parable which he spake unto them, that the Gentiles should be destroyed also, when the Lord should descend out of heaven to reign in his vineyard, which is the earth and the inhabitants thereof” (JST Matthew 21:51-56; emphasis added).

“And [the Gentiles] shall be a scourge unto the people of this land. Nevertheless, when they shall have received the fulness of my gospel, then if they shall harden their hearts against me I will return their iniquities upon their own heads, saith the Father. And I will remember the covenant which I have made with my people; and I have covenanted with them that I would gather them together in mine own due time, that I would give unto them again the land of their fathers for their inheritance, which is the land of Jerusalem, which is the promised land unto them forever, saith the Father” (3 Nephi 20:28-29; emphasis added).

“And the time cometh that he shall manifest himself unto all nations,
both unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles;
and after he has manifested himself unto the Jews
and also unto the Gentiles,
then he shall manifest himself unto the Gentiles
and also unto the Jews,
and the last shall be first,
and the first shall be last” (1 Nephi 13:42).

Two Churches Only

This post will build on ideas set forth in previous posts entitled, Life and Death, and “Or, Are They All Wrong Together?”.

Nephi was shown in vision that in the last days there would be a great division among all people – “either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction…” (1 Nephi 14:7). Jesus referred to this division using several parables, namely: the wheat and the tares, the wise and the foolish virgins, and the sheep and the goats (divided on his right hand and on his left).

Though we see increasing political division today, the division prophesied of is not strictly political; it is a spiritual matter, split between those on the side of life, and those on the side of death. Ironically, those on the side of death are always split amongst themselves – whether it be politically, religiously, or otherwise. There is only one narrow way that leads to life, while the ways leading to death are nearly infinite (Matthew 7:13-14). Unity is only to be found in the truth; everything else is just chaos.

The angel described this great division using the imagery of two churches, “And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth” (1 Nephi 14:10).

One of the reasons the church of the devil is referred to as the whore of all the earth is because she is indiscriminate in her values. Whereas the church of the Lamb has only one husband (the Lord), the church of the devil subscribes to every idea, philosophy, and practice that leads to death (and there are many).

Those who make up the church of the Lamb are His “saints,” or sanctified ones (1 Nephi 14:12). These are saints by Book of Mormon definition – those who yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and are changed through the atonement of Christ (Mosiah 3:19). Membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not alone make one a saint. We must literally be transformed by Christ’s atonement from desiring death to desiring life (Mosiah 5:2), otherwise we’re not saints – we’re just ‘ain’ts.’ One can be a member of the Church and still belong to the church of the devil; this division is a lifestyle and a culture, not a title. The great division will take place among all people, including the Church. As has been shown previously, there are many Latter-day Saints who will end up fighting against the work of Zion.

The Gentiles Go Two Ways

As Nephi was taught in vision, everything is about whether or not the Gentiles will harden their hearts. If they don’t, they will be sifted with the wheat; if they do, then with the tares. Latter-day Saints are not yet exempt from being “identified with the gentiles” (D&C 109:60). When the scriptures speak of a great division taking place among the Gentiles, that division happens on all levels. The only difference is that those of the Church will be held to a higher standard; with the greater light comes the greater condemnation (D&C 82:3). The Lord Himself indicates that the destruction and calamities of the last days will begin first upon His own house, and from thence go forth to the rest of the world (D&C 112:25-26).

Speaking of the Church, the Lord said, “For they were set to be a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men; and inasmuch as they are not the saviors of men, they are as salt that has lost its savor, and is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men” (D&C 103:9-10). We have been given too much to not do anything about it. If we do not become a light unto the world, and saviors of men, we will one day find ourselves cut off from the Lord’s covenant people.

The Savior prophesied the day the Gentiles would sin against His gospel. As you read this statement of the Lord’s carefully, you’ll see how it applies not only to the Gentiles of America, but of the Church as well:

“And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.

“And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them. And I will show unto thee, O house of Israel, that the Gentiles shall not have power over you; but I will remember my covenant unto you, O house of Israel, and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fulness of my gospel.

“But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel. And I will not suffer my people, who are of the house of Israel, to go through among them, and tread them down, saith the Father.

“But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel” (3 Nephi 16:10-15).

Now, there is a positive side to this, which is that the Gentiles have the opportunity to perform the greatest task ever assigned to mankind. The opportunity to be a light to the Gentiles and saviors to the house of Israel will include ministering with miraculous power hardly conceivable to us now. These will be the 144,000 high priests seen by John (Revelation 14:1), the Gentile kings and queens seen by Isaiah (Isaiah 49:21-22), the saviors on Mount Zion mentioned in Obadiah (Obadiah 1:21), and the fulness of the Gentiles spoken of by Lehi and others (1 Nephi 15:13-14, 3 Nephi 16:4, Romans 11:25-26). These will gather in the lost tribes of Israel in the greatest missionary effort the world has ever seen.

The Three Nephites serve as a type of these servants, not only as translated beings, but as being a few of the only surviving Nephites (a covenant people that hardened their hearts). The ratio of the righteous and wicked is never split 50/50; it is always the few and the many.

As Nephi wrote of our day, “I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw” (1 Nephi 14:12; cf. 2 Nephi 28:8). This is always the case in scriptural history (e.g. Noah’s family vs. the world, Abraham’s family vs. Sodom & Gomorrah, Lehi’s family vs. Jerusalem, etc.).

Furthermore, the wicked Nephites and the Three Disciples were both at opposite extremes of the spectrum; one side so filled with life that it could not be taken from them (3 Nephi 28:7), and the other so captive to death that it was celebrated (Moroni 9:9-10). Such is the prophesied division of our day; everyone will essentially end up at one end or the other.

When Will These Things Come to Pass?

The Lord indicates that this great division takes place as the result of a great and marvelous work He will perform. Those who love life and truth will be polarized to one side, while those who harden their hearts and love a lie will be polarized to the other. These things are beginning to happen now, but when the Lord “makes bare” His arm in the eyes of all nations, they will amplify until “the consumption decreed has made a full end of all nations.”

The most notable catalyst to these things will be the arrival of the Lord’s end time servant. He is prophesied to come with a greater portion of the words of Christ, which the Gentiles will summarily reject:

But behold, the life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil. Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant” (3 Nephi 21:10-11).

As there is an opposition in all things, the outpouring of light in that day will be accompanied by an increase in darkness. We will see both greater truths and greater deceptions; both greater peace and greater war. The increased opposition will propel those who love God further than they could get otherwise. We read of such a precedent among the Nephites:

“And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren. Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction. Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God” (Helaman 3:34-35; emphasis added).

The opposition and persecution from the wicked will be a catalyst for the righteous to obtain more power with God. As Nephi wrote, “And it came to pass that I beheld that the great mother of abominations did gather together multitudes upon the face of all the earth, among all the nations of the Gentiles, to fight against the Lamb of God. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” (1 Nephi 14:13-14).

Hence, when the Lord’s servant is “marred because of them,” the Lord will heal him (which in Isaiah’s context, refers to being made a translated being). It will be in that day when the prophecy of Joel will be fulfilled, which says, “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28).

To the Right or the Left?

How can we ensure we will ripen with the wheat and not the tares? Considering even the Church will be divided, how can we make certain we are not among the wicked?

The most important thing we can do now is take honest inventory of our own hearts. Do we embrace a culture of life, or a culture of death? Are our individual actions in harmony with life? Do we seek for the welfare of others? Do we love truth? Are we striving to understand greater truth and live accordingly? Are we inquiring of the Lord to learn from Him personally, or are we hardening our hearts by expecting others to do so for us?

One of the most vital indicators is how we approach religion. If religion is the search for truth, revelation and repentance will serve us well. On the other hand, if we view religion as short list of beliefs or creeds, “Mormonism” (so-called) is no different than any other ideology.

Ideology and other forms of dead religion have a fixed set of beliefs. You can study their tenets for a few months and have a comprehensive understanding of the belief system. It’s limited. It’s finite. It has an end. It’s a worldview that teaches you the “right answers” to every circumstance and question, but only offers a shallow understanding of fundamental issues and doctrines. For this reason, an ideologue is very predictable. A conversation with any number of individuals who wholesale subscribe to the same ideology will always be the same; there is no thinking left to be done.

We typically speak of a dead vs. living religion in terms of continuing revelation – and that idea is true enough – however, instead of waiting on continuing revelation from others, we ought to be seeking it ourselves. If our search for truth does not result in continuing revelation, we do not have a living religion. What the restored gospel offers is keys to an infinitely deep wealth of knowledge. If we limit the truths that have been restored to revised bullet points, it is no different than the rest of Christianity.

For example, if the value we find in the plan of salvation (as we commonly refer to our flow chart) is that instead of believing we die and just go to heaven or hell, we actually go some place else and then eventually are sorted into one of three buckets, our religion is just as dead as any other. The value is in understanding why these things are so (for starters, that they act like rungs on a ladder of progression).

Most Christians put God in a box, and many Latter-day Saints just put Him in a slightly bigger one. Revealed truth is not intended to act as a fence, but rather as a gateway to greater understanding and further truth. True principles are infinitely profound; you can always take them deeper. False precepts that are not aligned to the order of heaven will put a dam in truth’s logical and eternal flow. Truth expands into eternity, and fits inside a larger pattern of life and creation. You can see fractals of true principles on infinitely smaller and larger scales. False principles are typically limited to one arbitrary explanation; the question “why,” is usually answered with, “that’s just how God made it.”

Our love for truth over ideology will be a distinguishing factor between the two churches in days to come. We must love truth above all else. If this idea doesn’t make sense, please let me know and I’ll try to find a clearer way to articulate it. There’s an enjoyable block from the Teachings of the Presidents: Joseph Smith manual that’s worth reading here.

To love truth is to love the order of life and creation. It is to have a desire to uphold it, maintain it, and promote it. It is to care for the welfare of others, individually and collectively. No matter how much truth someone possess today, this is what matters most.

There are those now who love life, but have not yet been sanctified in truth to the end that Christ desires. They have drawn lines in the sand and put some limits on God. I believe men like Jordan Peterson fall in this camp. He has extracted greater value and truth from the scriptures than have most Christians. He apparently cares deeply for the life and welfare of others, but currently seems hesitant to accept that most scripture is more than myth. These kinds of people are generally reconciled to the truth they have, and live accordingly. When the Lord sets His hand again, they will be given the opportunity to embrace greater truth, or will find their sacred cows become stumbling blocks.

A love for light and truth will matter more and more in the coming years. Ideology creates the illusion that we possess greater knowledge than we really do. Without being grounded in a genuine knowledge of the truth, we will be swept up in the wave of deception to come.

It’s hard for many of us now to perceive a world like the end of the Nephite civilization. It’s even harder to imagine ourselves being polarized to such a dark extreme. Yet, every historical instance where evil rules, whether it be Sodom, Jerusalem, or Nazi Germany, ordinary people find it surprisingly easy to gradually tolerate and permit greater wickedness. Only those ever vigilant for life and truth can avoid moral decline. As G.K. Chesterson put it, “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” Or, as the Savior put it, “ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him” (3 Nephi 18:15).

Here is a thought provoking quote from a German who experienced the rise of the Nazis:

“If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

“And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jewish swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed.” (Milton Sanford Mayer, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-45)

On the same topic, this short clip from Jordan Peterson illustrates this idea:

Of course, these examples are just a sample of all that could be said on this subject. The findings of the Stanford Prison and Milgram Shock experiments are also noteworthy, and worth taking the time to look into.

The little things are the big things.

We want to ensure, above all else, our hearts remain pure through all that is to come. Those on the side of life (who belong to the church of the Lamb) are those who have been sanctified and made pure.

We are sanctified through truth, which is the word of God (John 17:17). As we yield to truth by looking to God in every thought, our hearts will be purified and preserved. The light within us will grow brighter while the Spirit withdraws from the world around us. Truth will be made plainer and clearer to us everyday amidst a nation dwindling in unbelief.

What is unique about the righteous portion in Jesus’ parables? They are full of the Holy Ghost (having been sanctified in truth) and desire the life and welfare of others (see Matthew 25). They love light rather than darkness, truth rather than lies, and life rather than death.

There are only two churches. Though both options will require everything that we have, it is that simple. Light or darkness? Truth or lie? Life or death? Creation or destruction? Love or fear? Good or evil? “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

The Purpose of Prophets

As Latter-day Saints, we love prophets. We love the idea of God speaking to mankind through visions and revelations currently just as He did anciently. We rejoice that the heavens are open, and stand tall on the truth that mankind can know the will of God in any age. However, our unique claim to prophethood has provoked many relevant questions about their role and nature such as: “are prophets infallible?,” “how do we know when they’re speaking as prophets, or are just expressing a personal view/opinion?,” or “if the prophet doesn’t talk about it, is it even necessary for my salvation?” etc.

Though many classes, lectures, and articles have been dedicated to this topic, I actually don’t think it needs to be as complicated as we make it out to be. As with other gospel concepts, this one fits neatly inside a larger pattern of life and creation. When correctly understood, the questions we frequently ask lose their intrigue as they’re replaced by the simplicity of the bigger picture.

This post will hopefully be a chance to reframe and refine our understanding of prophets in light of the Lord’s larger plan of salvation.

Restoring Heaven to Earth

As noted here, all gospel concepts fall into their proper place when viewed through the lens of God trying to restore heaven to earth. In the beginning there was some overlap, as Adam and Eve could dwell in God’s presence. Because of the fall, they were cut off from His presence, and the world was no longer a place fit for the garden of Eden. Since that day, God has sent messengers (in the form of both angels and prophets) to declare His word so that a people might be prepared to again live in His presence.

The first people we have record of who attained such a state of holiness are those of the Zion, the city of Enoch. Enoch declared repentance, and because the people turned to the Lord in perfect faith and humility, they were made pure. The Lord dwelt with them as a result, and when the world became too wicked to hold them, they too were taken from the earth (Moses 7:69).

The second we have record of was the people of Salem, governed by a king named Melchizedek. They too, “wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken” (JST Genesis 14:34). They too ascended into heaven, the world not being prepared to keep them.

When God redeemed Israel from captivity in Egypt, He sought to establish the same thing among them. However, they hardened their hearts and rejected the Lord’s invitation. We read that Moses “sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God; but they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory” (D&C 84:23-24; emphasis added).

The Lord’s highest priority is that His people enter into His rest (or presence; the fulness of His glory). He has sought this from the days of Adam onward, and has never deviated from this goal. This is how He plans to restore heaven to earth; first among individuals, then a people, then the world.

When Alma taught the Nephites, He recounted these same motives from the Lord: “Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest. And whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest” (Alma 12:34-35; emphasis added).

Regarding those after the same order of Melchizedek/Enoch, Alma said, “Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God. And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest” (Alma 13:12-13; cf. D&C 76:57).

This has been the Lord’s continual invitation ever since. He wants Israel to become a holy nation, the same the city of Enoch was. The way back to His presence follows a narrow course, and only by following His voice back to the source will we find it.

Example or Proxy?

The role of messengers, angels or otherwise, is to declare the word of God. It is to bring to the people the words that they cannot obtain from God on their own. If they receive those words, they are prepared for more. These messengers can be both seen and unseen, as the Holy Ghost is essentially conveyed by the ministering of angels (D&C 76:86-88). When they live by every word that proceeds forth from the mouth of God, they are prepared to enter into His rest. “Therefore he sent angels to converse with them, who caused men to behold of his glory” (Alma 12:29).

Obviously, such messengers must first be pure enough themselves to stand in God’s presence. It’s vain to try and bring someone to a point beyond where you are yourself. Once you’ve walked the narrow path, you can declare the way. Joseph Smith said,

“Salvation cannot come without revelation; it is in vain for anyone to minister without it. … No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy. Whenever salvation has been administered, it has been by testimony. Men of the present time testify of heaven and hell, and have never seen either; and I will say that no man knows these things without this.”

The goal of these messengers (and the goal of any missionary on any level), is to bring others up to the point that they’re at. The same way a father seeks to bring his son up to adulthood, so the role of a prophet is to make other prophets. Hence, it was not enough for Enoch to be a seer; he sought to bring his entire people into the presence of the Lord. It was not sufficient for Moses to have communed with God, the Lord wanted all Israel to be a holy nation.

I believe the relationship between Lehi and Nephi is the perfect prototype for how these things are intended to work.

Lehi received revelation for himself and his family. Nephi prayed to know whether or not it was true, and the Lord softened his heart (1 Nephi 2:16). As Nephi persisted in the truth he had, the Lord revealed things to him directly. When Lehi told his sons that the Lord commanded them to retrieve the brass plates, Nephi knew it came from God. When Lehi shared his vision about the tree of life, Nephi sought to know and see those things for himself. That vision was not on reserve for Lehi alone, and as Nephi experimented on the word presented by his father, he obtained the same fruits.

Laman and Lemuel, on the other hand, did not seek to know for themselves, believing that “the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us” (1 Nephi 15:9). As they continually hardened their hearts, they received a lesser portion of His word, until they eventually knew nothing regarding His will (Alma 12:11; cf. 2 Nephi 28:30).

Laman and Lemuel hardened their hearts in the same manner that the children of Israel did at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Because they would not receive what Moses had, they received a lesser portion of the word (a lesser law). Specifically, they wanted Moses to stay as their go-between before God: “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Exodus 20:18-19; emphasis added).

The middle-man arrangement proposed by the children of Israel was not what the Lord had in mind for His people. Moses’s primary role as a prophet was to lead them in an exodus from “the world” and into the presence of God. That was Plan A. Instead of becoming prophets and high priests themselves by rising up to the invitation to enter the Lord’s presence, they were content to have someone go on their behalf.

Make no mistake, in neither their day nor ours did God intend for His people to stay at an arm’s length. The reason the higher (Melchizedek) order of the priesthood was restored to the earth was to renew the invitation to Israel to come into the Lord’s immediate presence. In D&C 107, we read:

“The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (D&C 107:18-19).

Are we, as the covenant people of the Lord, embracing the invitation to flee “the world” and come into the rest of the Lord, that we might enjoy communion with Him? Are we seeking the very thing to which the temple endowment points? Are we following the pattern so that we too may be found true and faithful in all things, and pass through the veil into God’s presence?

Many of us in the Church rejoice at the idea of modern prophets; do we rejoice because we desire to be led into the presence of the Lord, or rather because the pressure of obtaining personal revelation has been “alleviated?” Don’t we frequently hear people dismiss the need to give greater diligence to learning the mysteries of God, assuming that if it was in fact necessary, they’d hear about it at General Conference? Are we outsourcing our need to learn from God directly? Are we depending on the prophet for revelation rather than inquiring of the Lord for ourselves? Do we assume, like Laman and Lemuel, that “the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us?”

From the minutes of a Relief Society address in 1842, we read: “President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves…” (TPJS p. 238).

I get slightly concerned when I hear catchphrases like “follow the prophet,” because I believe it reinforces a wrong idea. For one, it’s not a phrase or concept to be found anywhere in the scriptures. We certainly “give heed” to the words of the prophets and apostles (D&C 1:14), but to say we “follow the prophet,” I’m afraid overstates the case (at least it seems many take this to an extreme). The emphasis ought not be on the messenger, but on the message. Nephi didn’t follow Lehi, he followed the Lord (1 Nephi 2:16-20). Laman and Lemuel did follow Lehi because they didn’t go and inquire for themselves.

We are each expected, like Nephi, to go and learn these things for ourselves. Men like Lehi are sent to declare the word of God – to shine light on the path – but none of us are exempt from going and doing the exact same thing ourselves. We must live the way the prophets live; we must know the things the prophets know. “…for God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them…” (TPJS p. 150).

When the Spirit fell on two men in the Israelite camp who went about prophesying, a young man ran to Moses expecting he would be outraged and would put a stop to what was happening. His response? “Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29).

Dealing with Falliability

There’s a joke that Catholics say the Pope is infallible, but they don’t actually believe it – and that Mormons say the President of the Church is fallible, but they don’t actually believe it.

People spend far too much time trying to dissect what’s opinion and what’s doctrine so they can know what to lean on. The truth is, you shouldn’t be “leaning” on any of it until the Lord has revealed or confirmed it to you himself. Brigham Young and Orson Pratt disagreed on a variety of doctrinal issues. How do you know who to trust? You seek the Spirit of revelation, like Joseph Smith did, and humble yourself so that the Lord can reveal it to you directly. It’s the Lehi-Nephi model.

Brigham Young counseled, “I have often said to the Latter-day Saints – ‘Live so that you will know where I teach you the truth or not.’ Suppose you are careless and unconcerned, and give way to the spirit of the world, and I am led, likewise, to preach the things of this world and to accept things that are NOT of God, how easy it would be for me to lead you astray! But I say to you, live so that you will know for yourselves where I tell the truth or not. That is the way we want all Saints to live” (JD: 18:248).

From J. Rueben Clark: “We can tell when the speakers are moved upon by the Holy Ghost only when we, ourselves, are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak” (CN-7/31/54).

One important principle to note is that leadership positions in the Church do not magically change a person. Just as a missionary or bishop being set-apart does not guarantee they will exercise power in their assignments, so the same applies to every calling in the church, apostleship included. Being called and set-apart is an invitation to the individual to rise up and become what the calling requires of them.

In D&C 107, we read, “And again, the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses—Behold, here is wisdom; yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church” (D&C 107:91-92). It is the responsibility of the Presiding High Priest to preside over the Church like Moses did (like a prophet, seer, and revelator).

When Joseph called twelve apostles, they were all charged to seek the face of Christ, and were assured that their ordination was incomplete until Christ Himself laid hands on the them. The following conference, Joseph in turn sustained them as “prophets, seers, and revelators,” although none of them had necessarily attained those things yet. His sustaining vote (and ours) is an acknowledgment to God and the Church that we are going to assist them in their efforts to become what their callings require of them.

It should be no concern to our faith if those called to any position in the Church should stumble. There came a time when even Lehi complained against the Lord for want of food (1 Nephi 16:20). Though I’m sure those who put their trust in Lehi were shaken by his weakness, Nephi had properly been inquiring of the Lord for himself all along. He knew, independent of his father, that the Lord would provide for them if they exercised faith.

Seeking to support his father in the responsibilities of his calling, Nephi fashioned tools for hunting and asked him, “Whither shall I go to obtain food?” This inspired Lehi enough to inquire of the Lord on his behalf (1 Nephi 16:23-24). Having spoken many things “in the energy of my soul,” his family humbled themselves before God, and were chastened by Him as He saw fit.

We see this attitude reflected in George Q. Cannon’s words: “Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop; an apostle, or a president; if you do, they will fail you at some time or place, they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone; but if we lean on God, He never will fail us. When men and women depend on God alone, and trust in Him alone, their faith will not be shaken if the highest in the Church should step aside” (“Need For Personal Testimonies,” 2/15/1891).

The only reason we spend any time trying to draw careful lines around what’s “opinion,” “policy,” or “doctrine,” etc., is because we are hardening our hearts by not inquiring of the Lord ourselves. He has promised, “If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you” (1 Nephi 15:11). Because Nephi inquired of the Lord for himself, he could explain to his brothers the things his father taught. Because he had the same vision, he even picked up on things Lehi didn’t notice (1 Nephi 15:27). The only one who could truly sustain and support Lehi at any point in their journey (including Lehi’s own hour of weakness) was the son who didn’t rely on his father’s faith, but rather used it as a catalyst to develop his own.

Now, as a final thought on fallibility, it’s important to note that the Lord allows those he calls in any capacity to apostatize or walk away from their ordained path. This is not something uncommon in scriptural history, or even the history of our dispensation – nor is it unprecedented for someone to apostatize while maintaining their calling (Isaiah 28:7; Jeremiah 23). Though I do believe such characters will eventually come to naught, the Lord makes no indication that He will intervene to prevent them from using their agency. As He told the Nephites, “if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return” (3 Nephi 27:11). He allows them to have “joy” in their works for a season; He allows them to test and try His people, but “by and by” something that is contrary to truth will die (see King Noah &co; cf. Mosiah 12:10). Even Judas was permitted to remain among the twelve up until the very moment He gave Christ into the hands of Rome.

This isn’t something that should be of great concern. If we are continuing to lean upon and inquire of the Lord for ourselves, He will direct our paths. There is a profound quote from Ezra Taft Benson on the subject of fallibility:

“Six of the original twelve apostles selected by Joseph Smith were excommunicated. The three witnesses to the Book of Mormon left the Church. Three of Joseph Smith’s counselors fell–one even helped plot the Prophet’s death. A natural question that might arise would be, if the Lord knew in advance that these men would fall, as he undoubtedly did, why did he have his prophet call them to such high office? The answer is, to fill the Lord’s purposes. For even the Master followed the will of the Father by selecting Judas. President George Q. Cannon suggested an explanation, too, when he stated, ‘Perhaps it is His own design that faults and weaknesses should appear in high places IN ORDER THAT HIS SAINTS MAY LEARN TO TRUST IN HIM and NOT in ANY man or men.’ And this would parallel [Nephi’s] warning: ‘put not your trust in the arm of flesh’ (2 Nephi 4:35)… It is from WITHIN the church that the greatest hindrance comes. And so, it seems, it has been.

“Now the question arises, WILL WE STICK WITH THE KINGDOM AND CAN WE AVOID BEING DECEIVED?… Brigham Young said: ‘The Adversary presents his principles and arguments in the most approved style, and in the most winning tone, attended with the most graceful attitudes; and he is very careful to ingratiate himself into the favour of the powerful and influential of mankind…Such characters put on the manners of an angel, appearing as nigh like angels of light as they possibly can… The good which they do, they do it to bring to pass an evil purpose’…

“Those of us who think ‘all is well in Zion’ in spite of Book of Mormon warnings might ponder the words of Heber C. Kimball, who said:… ‘the time is coming when we will be mixed up in these now peaceful valleys to that extent that it will be difficult to tell the face of a Saint from the face of an enemy to the people of God. Then, brethren look out for the great sieve, for there will be a great sifting time, and many will fall; for I say unto you there is a test, a Test, a TEST coming.'” (Ezra Taft Benson: God, Family, Country p. 335 – 337)


The presence of a prophet has never relieved our personal responsibility to receive revelation; we must inquire of the Lord for ourselves. Prophets are intended to show the way – to shine light on the path – but we must each learn for ourselves, by revelation, the truths that they declare. Moses, like the prophets before him, sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God. This is the role and goal of any prophet. As stated clearly in the Lectures on Faith:

“…the extent of their knowledge, respecting [God’s] character and glory, will depend upon their diligence and faithfulness in seeking after him, until like Enoch, the brother of Jared, and Moses, they shall obtain faith in God, and power with him to behold him face to face.

“We have now clearly set forth how it is, and how it was, that God became an object of faith for rational beings; and also, upon what foundation the testimony was based, which excited the enquiry and diligent search of the ancient saints, to seek after and obtain a knowledge of the glory of God: and we have seen that it was human testimony, and human testimony only, that excited this enquiry, in the first instance in their minds—it was the credence they gave to the testimony of their fathers—this testimony having aroused their minds to enquire after the knowledge of God, the enquiry frequently terminated, indeed, always terminated, when rightly pursued, in the most glorious discoveries, and eternal certainty” (Lectures on Faith 2:55-56; emphasis added).

The role of a prophet is to make other prophets. Hence Joseph’s creating “the school of the prophets” for the early Elders of this dispensation. Hence the pattern of the Temple endowment today. Hence the building up of Zion, the second coming of the Lord, and the millennial day wherein He reigns personally upon the earth. Hence at the day, all shall know Him from the least to the greatest (Jeremiah 31:34).

If or when a leader is not fulfilling their role, whether it be a bishop, a stake president, or an apostle, it should not be something that causes us to stumble. As was suggested by Elder Cannon, the very reason the Lord allows such people to occupy those roles is to teach us not to idolize the men who fill them. Whether God’s children are in a position like Nephi’s, with a prophet to declare the path in righteousness, or like Samuel’s, in a day with “no open vision” (1 Samuel 3:1), the responsibility is the same. As we humble ourselves before God, He will soften our hearts and reveal the truth to us personally (1 Nephi 2:16).

Should we begin to live as the prophets live, and seek to know all the prophets know, we would become a holy nation and a kingdom of priests; we would rise to accept the invitation our ancestors rejected and enter into the Lord’s rest.

Reframing Everything

If there was only one thing I could share with the world, and I could inscribe it in the hearts of every person alive, I think it would be this: The gospel isn’t about dying and going to heaven; it’s about bringing heaven down to earth.

That single paradigm shift will begin to open the scriptures in new ways.

Everything that seems arbitrary and unconnected about the gospel begins to fall into place. The ideas of priesthood, commandments, agency, degrees of glory, a temple, the justice of God, sealing power, the gathering of Israel, Zion, the second coming, the need for an atonement, exaltation, and many others all naturally fit together when understood properly.

Truly, nothing about the gospel is arbitrary; every concept is the natural extension of another. When understood properly, you will see that it all fits together inside a beautiful mosaic.

I can’t help but smile when people suggest Joseph changed his doctrine over time. Obviously certain truths were revealed to him line upon line, but everything he taught from New York to Nauvoo is beautifully consistent. These concepts only seem random or contradictory if you can’t see the larger pattern that they all fit into.

By reframing our understanding of the gospel in this way (namely, that Christ is trying to bring heaven down to earth), we allow the Spirit to reveal the doctrines of the gospel to us in greater clarity.

For too long, Christians have been asking the wrong questions. “How do I get to heaven?,” is not nearly as important as “how do I become heavenly?” The gospel isn’t a matter of securing a train ticket to a pleasant destination; it’s about fundamentally transforming who we are. When our hearts are inclined towards life and love, heaven will be the natural by-product.

As Ezra Taft Benson said on one occasion, “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of the people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature . . . Christ changes men, and changed men can change the world.”

The law and commandments are more than an arbitrary list of do’s and dont’s: they’re the essence of heaven itself. The Lord seeks to bless us through the truths and commandments He teaches us; hence it has been said, we are not earning heaven, we are learning heaven. It is a lifestyle – the most optimal lifestyle in existence. There is no reason to debate what boxes you must check before you’re legally (technically) saved from a subterranean torture chamber. Christ offers us a better way, and through His grace and Spirit, can enable us to live it.

Everything functions according to eternal law because God is eternally just.

Because He respects our agency, the Lord will not force something upon us that we do not want (good or bad). Alma the Younger observed, “he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience” (Alma 29:5). He will allow us to do whatever we want to do, but He (and His ministers) frequently assume responsibility for the consequences of our actions to provide us an opportunity to repent and live.

Making this paradigm shift also gives us insight into the heart and motive of God. We begin to understand where suffering fits into the picture, and why the world must be cleansed (and its inhabitants be thus made pure) before the millennial day. We understand how and why we must repent of our sins.

In short, I think this shift in our thinking is the most essential one we can make to begin understanding the proper context for gospel truths.