Saturday, April 16, 2016

A letter ...

 The text from a letter I recently sent . . .

I love the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am completely inconsistent in my obedience, in my diligence, in my willingness to put the Lord first in all things, but I know there is nothing that brings me greater happiness and peace of mind than studying His word and striving to follow the Spirit and striving to do His will.  I remember when I first felt that “mighty change of heart.”  It was when I was 15 years old and read the Book of Mormon with real intent for the first time.  My life changed during that time (although no one else may have seen it).  I knew undeniably that the Book of Mormon was the word of God and I could testify that it had changed my heart and brought me closer to the Spirit than I had ever been before.  I loved reading it and studying it and the words became delicious to me.  Whenever I pour my heart and soul into studying the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, I feel that change of heart return.  And when I rely on myself and my own wisdom and strength, I find that I do not feel to sing the song of redeeming love, but quickly sink into despair and discouragement. 
And what about my new beliefs and understandings?  How do they fit in with everything that I’ve understood my whole life?  Quite frankly, there is a growing gulf between what I believe and what I’ve been taught from the church.  And yet, my beliefs are in harmony with what I find in the scriptures and in the words of Joseph Smith. 

When in the history of the world has a church been established and remained unchanged through hundreds of years?  After Christ came to the Nephites, they established a Zion-like society that stayed pure and true for generations.  Have we established a Zion-like society where all things are common and there is no contention among us?  I don’t think so.  Most times, in the scriptures, particularly in the Book of Mormon, there are times when the Saints are humble and very righteous for a time and then, usually within a matter of years, they start to develop pride or forget the Lord.  Sometimes circumstances lead them back to humility; sometimes, when things get bad enough, a messenger comes to call them to repentance. 

The church that was established during New Testament times was indeed built on prophets and apostles.  But did it remain strong, pure, and true throughout the next hundred years?  No.  Changes began to take place, little by little.  Instead of being led by revelation, men decided doctrine in councils.  Truths were lost and taken out.  Man’s teachings replaced divine truth.  In that case, a complete apostasy occurred.  Is that what I think has happened today to the church?  No.  But I do believe the Book of Mormon was written for us and that it provides warnings that can help us see where we stand and wherein our hope lies. 

In 3 Nephi 16:10, Christ says:  “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 . . . behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.”  It says ‘when’ not ‘if.’  This is where things are headed for us Gentiles.  But there is hope.  In verse 13, the Lord says, 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 a warning in verse 15:  “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.”

I see a pattern in history and in the scriptures that tells me that pure truth and righteousness are very difficult to hold on to.  Why should it be different for us today?  Isn’t it possible that we as a people and as a church are off-track? Even a little?  Isn’t it possible that the Lord might call someone to deliver a message of repentance and remembrance so that we might get back on track, might return to the pure doctrines of salvation and leave behind the precepts of men?