While America’s academic scores are well below the top averages of the world, America is ranked first in their confidence. They simply believe that they are “…better than the rest.” We have created a tradition of …taking up stakes, while remaining uncertain.
Approaching Scriptures: The first rule to the approach to any scripture is: Never oversimplify. The wealth offered within it will always escape the casual reader. Only laziness and vanity will lead casual readers to claim confidence, causing them to believe themselves “…better than the rest.” Rather than oversimplifying, the best approach to the scriptures is to wipe your mind clear, and let the words and the spirit fill it back up. That’s what Ether 12:27 is directing all to do:
“27. And if men come unto me [clearing your mind is allowing God to fill it, which is how you come to God] I will show unto them their weakness [with a clear mind, God can show you your weakness. Otherwise he cannot]. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humblethemselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weakthings become strong unto them.”
We would be fools to approach God to teach him a thing or to. If anyone were to come unto God, they do so so that God can better instruct them. A full cup cannot receive more, so when a person approaches God, he must empty his cup.
But, observing all apostasies of record, it can be seen than men try to fit God into their understanding, rather than “reconciling” to God’s. The LDS population are no different.
Taking Up Stakes: Taking up stakes causes the seed of overconfidence to swell and sprout good Latter-day Saint members into tares. Joseph Smith lamented the mindset of believing ourselves to be “better than the rest,” rejecting to be added upon God by taking up stakes. He said:
“It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty. Why be so certain that you comprehend the things of God, when all things with you are so uncertain?“
Joseph tried to teach the saints more, but it was clear, even in the days of the early saints, that the early saints could not receive more information (being added upon), when some tradition already occupied that space in their minds. The early saints were unable to let the doctrine dictate to them the characteristics, attributes and perfections of the true God. New information was received by the early saints, only when it did not conflict with their foundational traditions. So, restraining himself to avoid injuring the early saints, Joseph Smith was forced to restrain his teachings and stick to the Bible:
“I suppose I am not allowed to go into an investigation of anything that is not contained in the Bible. If I do, I think there are so many over-wise men here, that they would cry ‘treason’ and put me to death. So I will go to the old Bible and turn commentator today.”
Whenever the saints could not let go of traditions, the reaction to the truth became hostile. Joseph clearly feared for his life and resisted teaching more doctrine, so men would not put him to death. The saints rejected more than they received, and Joseph was killed six months after he stated:
“I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions.”
What traditions is Joseph referring to? It wasn’t infant baptisms, baptism by sprinkling, or a trinitarian God. It was the teachings of the eternities, eternal lives (plural), even the idea of the Godhead. It was for that last stated conflict of Joseph’s description of the Godhead, that the council of 1921 removed the lectures on faith from our scriptures, once called “The Book of Commandments.” The council simplified the record to fit their understanding, rather than raising their understanding to fit the record. To this day that record has not been reinstated as doctrine. It remains extracurricular reading material, when Joseph taught exclusively from it in the school of the prophets.
Conclusion: Everyone who comes to the gospel of Christ is a convert! Being born within a covenant only provides and advantage, it doesn’t remove the necessity for the individual to choose to act or be acted upon. No matter your upbringing, good or bad, …all men, when the invitation is extended to receive the words of Christ, must choose which master whom they will serve. Those who have faith will receive the words of Christ to let them tell you all things what you should do.
There are only two groups of people on this earth: those with faith, and those without. That is the foundation of what the ancients called the gospel of two ways: God’s way, and everything else. Your choice cannot be deferred to a current prophet. You will be judged as the foolish man who buried his talent if you choose to defer your choice. The plan is fair, but it requires an active mind that cares to reconcile to the words of the Master.
Zeal does not make up for ignorance. Resist taking up stakes in uncertainty. Clear the slate of your mind from your traditions so that you can come unto God. Then God will show you your weakness. And through His grace, you (the weak) may become strong!