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So I was digging around my files this evening, and I found the text of a Sacrament talk I gave, like, a year ago, and always meant to put up here in case anyone was interested:
Good morning, Brothers and Sisters. For those who don't know me, my name is Jeremy - I was born and raised in Hawaii, and I've been a member of this Church since 2009, after investigating for many years. I was asked to speak to you today about one of my very favorite scriptures, on the theme of Charity.
Moroni 7:45 says: "And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail. But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him."
Joseph Smith's 19th-century translation was surely influenced by the 17th-century King James' English rendering of the Greek of 1 Corinthians 13, verses 1 through 11, which reads: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth."
Remember that this is a translation.
Our English word Charity is from Old French, which is derived from the Latin caritatem, meaning esteem, or affection. The Latin is from the root carus, meaning dear, or valued, from the Proto-Indo-European root karo, meaning to like, to desire. Our word for Cherish thus shares the Latin root carus with other important words. For instance, Charity has the same root as the word Cherish, as in ma cherie, as well as the root of the word Caress, from the Italian carezza, meaning endearment.
The root word branches off into separate specialized words. By looking at the related words in many languages, we can see a sort of tree of meanings for Charity begin to grow. For instance, I grew up with divorced parents, and it makes me really happy when I see husbands and wives consciously choosing to give each other Charity every day by Cherishing and Caressing each other. Multiply that by a few billion people, and you'd have peace on earth. It brings to mind how, over and over again in translations of the Qur'an, God is called the Cherisher of the Worlds.
However, if we're meant to have Charity, the question that immediately arises is who are we to give Charity to? That is where Christ, the great Rabbi who we love because He loved us first, comes in to teach us. The word Christ is from the same root as Chrism; the Messiah is the Messiach, and all of the words mean Anointed One. Christ is the teacher who was anointed with olive oil from the Tree of Life, and when we become Christians, when we too take the name of Christ - Chrism - upon ourselves and are anointed with olive oil just as he was, we are symbolizing that we have become part of a community which has covenanted to live the gospel of peace and promised to be charitable. One of the fundamental meanings of Charity is to share; when we will replenish the earth and care for it well enough for it to be redeemed as a Garden of Eden, we will have Charity by sharing fruit with each other, we will become Gardeners of the Tree of Life eager to share our harvest with each other.
So, again, who does Christ teach us to give Charity to? To start with, it's important to recognize one of the great fundamental teachings of the Restoration. Our belief is expressed in Doctrine & Covenants Section 93:29, which states that "Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be."
The simplified version of the traditional Christian view tends to be that God is God because He is the only self-existing Intelligence, a being without body, parts, or passions, and He alone created all things, all matter, from nothing. But to me, that view of God diminishes people, it makes us into mere predestined puppets acting out a morality play. God is God because He is the most powerful and dangerous entity we can comprehend, terrorizing us into groveling submission, and we should believe in Him to the extent that He can save us from the flames of a literal Hell.
But in his last and greatest sermon, The King Follett Discourse, the Prophet Joseph Smith asked the fundamental question: "Is it logical to say that a spirit is immortal and yet have a beginning? [...] I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man - the immortal spirit - because it has no beginning or end. [...] God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God Himself could not create Himself. Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age and there is no creation about it. [...] All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement and improvement. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. God Himself found Himself in the midst of spirits and glory. Because He was greater He saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest, who were less in intelligence, could have a privilege to advance like Himself and be exalted with Him."
In other words, God is God because He is wiser than we are, and we elected Him by the power of Common Consent to become our teacher. God is God because He, having found Himself existing in the midst of other Intelligences just as eternal as He is, decided to give us Charity and teach us how to become like Him. God is God because He is loving, and reaches out to carry light into the darkness of our selfish ignorance. God is God because He is the ultimate caring Gardener, planting Edens for us to care for and giving us the fruit of Charity which, by that very act, teaches us in turn how to become like Him. Genesis 3:5 says "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil."
As Adam says in the Book of Moses, "because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God. And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth."
The Fall was not a terrible mistake; it was a Fortunate Fall, the first step on the road of our eternal progression with each other. Because God cannot create us or destroy us, He uses the principles in D&C 121 to teach us only through persuasion and unfeigned love.
Joseph Smith said "Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race."
In this view of the universe, the question of Monotheism versus Polytheism is really pretty superficial. We are all uncreated; we all learn line upon line, precept upon precept to become One with each other the way Christ and our Father and the Spirit Of Wisdom are One, that is, unified in intention. Intelligences who are still in the dark are given light and guided by other Charitable Intelligences who are wiser because they have traveled further along the path to the Tree of Life.
If we are to have Charity, then Paul teaches that we must learn how by believing all things - not by being gullible, but by finding the grain of truth, the seed of truth, in whatever we can, even if it is buried in barren soil where it cannot bloom, and nurturing it until it can produce good fruit.
The year that the young Joseph Smith received the Golden Plates, 1827, was the same year that the great poet William Blake died. Blake wrote: "Everything possible to be believ'd is an image of truth." I hope you'll indulge me if I find it useful to make frequent references to Blake; after all, even Paul quoted from pagan poets to teach people that we are the offspring of God, and inasmuch as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, and that instead God hath made of one blood all nations.
In William Blake's time, and then transitioning to Joseph Smith's time, people were struggling under the ascetic Puritanical religion of their time which taught that humans were depraved creatures created from nothing and often doomed to an eternal Hell by a violent and capricious God. They were yearning for a truly charitable religion, one that was living and growing, budding and blossoming, one that taught how to cultivate an Edenic garden so fruitful that it could extend the fruit of charity to all who were hungry. As Blake put it in his famous poem:
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this Chapel were shut
And "Thou shalt not," writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.
This poem reminds me of a quote from Stephen L. Richards, First Counselor to the Presidency of the Church. He said: "I fear dictatorial dogmatism, rigidity of procedure and intolerance [in the Church] even more than I fear [...] other devices the adversary may use to nullify faith and kill religion. Fanaticism and bigotry have been the deadly enemies of true religion in the long past. They have made it forbidding, shut it up in cold grey walls of monastery and nunnery, out of sunlight and fragrance of the growing world. They have garbed it in black and then in white, when in truth it is neither black nor white, any more than life is black or white, for religion is life abundant, glowing life, with all its shades, colors and hues, as the children of men reflect in the patterns of their lives the radiance of the Holy Spirit in varying degrees."
If all Intelligences are self-existing and equally co-eternal with God, then we should be Charitable to the spirits we find ourselves in the midst of. A parent feeds a child from the fruit, and that child goes on to feed their children, and on and on throughout all the ages of the world, so that in a way we create each other.
As Christ asked in the 10th chapter of the Gospel of John, quoting from Psalm 82, "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?"
Because we currently lack a full understanding of wisdom, we uncreated Intelligences are as Children of God, and if children, then heirs of the divine nature once we have chosen to accept the Gospel of Peace and learned to be as charitable to other self-existing Intelligences as God is with us. This is a revolutionary teaching in so many ways, and as Alma 32:23 teaches, God "imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also [and] little children."
Think about that. God teaches men, women, and children equally. No longer should we see each other as depraved, Fallen, hopeless worms who cannot change our predestined Fate. Instead, we are each and every one of us Gods and Goddesses in embryo gradually learning how to take part in the work of Creation, which is gardening and cultivating preexisting material until it ripens into the sweet fruit of joy. We learn through trial and error to garden the earth, just as we learn to cultivate good relationships with our spouses and the children and families and friends which can grow from the fundamental union of a good marriage.
As Elder Parley P. Pratt wrote in his 1855 book Key To The Science Of Theology, "this present probation is the world of preparation for joys eternal. This is the place where family organization is first formed for eternity; and where the kindred sympathies, relationships, and affections take root, spring forth, shoot upward, bud, blossom, and bear fruit to ripen and mature in eternal ages."
Elsewhere he says:
"An intelligent being, in the image of God, possesses every organ, attribute, sense, sympathy, affection, of will, wisdom, love, power and gift, which is possessed by God Himself. But these are possessed by man, in his rudimental state, in a subordinate sense of the word. Or, in other words, these attributes are in embryo; and are to be gradually developed. They resemble a bud -- a germ, which gradually developes into bloom, and then, by progress, produces the mature fruit, after its own kind."
As Charles Darwin wrote in 1859, "The affinities of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree. I believe this simile largely speaks the truth. [...] As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications."
We should give Charity to each other because every single person on the face of the earth - man, woman, and child - is a God or Goddess in embryo! As Blake wrote of the human form: "The head Sublime, the heart Pathos, the genitals Beauty, the hands and feet Proportion."
Blake also said that "a fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees." Instead of realizing that all people, all Divine Intelligences, all Gods and Goddesses and their children in embryo, all of us, are of the same species descended from the same Tree of Life, we fools are constantly dividing and cutting ourselves into Us-es and Thems, those people it is acceptable to give charity to and those ungodly strangers who it is not.
One scripture I like says:
Seest thou not how
God sets forth a parable?
A goodly Word
like a goodly tree,
whose root is firmly fixed,
and its branches reach
to the heavens --
It brings forth its fruit
at all times, by the leave
of its Lord.
So God sets forth parables
for men, in order that
they may receive admonition.
That's from Sura 14 of the Holy Qur'an (Yusuf Ali translation), but it sounds a lot like Alma or Jacob to me.
For instance, Jacob 5:60, which says that:
I have grafted in the natural branches
again into their mother tree,
and have preserved the roots
of their mother tree,
the trees of my vineyard
may bring forth again good fruit;
and that I may have joy again
in the fruit of my vineyard.
In his History, Joseph Smith talks about his distress at seeing all the divisions and fractures and breaking points between people growing on different branches of the one family tree of humanity: "great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist. For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued -- priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions."
Another time, Joseph Smith said "All the religious world is boasting of righteousness; it is the doctrine of the devil to retard the human mind, and hinder our progress, by filling us with self-righteousness. The nearer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs. My talk is intended for all this society; if you would have God have mercy on you, have mercy on one another."
Too often we misunderstand the meaning of the phrase 'true church' and use it as a smug, self-satisfied, reassuring mantra to repeat while standing upon a Rameumpton that we and we alone belong to the proper In-Group. The phrase 'true church' does not appear a single time in the King James Version; it appears only twice in the Book of Mormon. The first appearance of the phrase 'true church' is in 2 Nephi 9:2, which only speaks of how the lost sheep of the House of Israel will be restored to the True Church and fold of God when they are gathered together once more through a covenant. The second place where the phrase 'true church' is found is in 4 Nephi 1:26, and it's very important to take these words in context.
4 Nephi says "And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world. And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them. And they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ."
In other words, the one and only place in scripture where we actually get an explicit description declaring what the True Church of God actually is, we learn that these verses clearly teach us that the True Church is a society which is not proud, wears simple clothing, has all their goods and substance in common, is not divided into classes, and does not use religion as a pretext for personal monetary gain. In a very real way, the True Church is simply a Charitable Society.
At a fundamental level, isn't that what religion is, or at least should be?
James 1:27 says "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction." Matthew 10:8 says to "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead [...] freely ye have received, freely give." Revelation 21:6 says "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." Note the emphasize on freely giving as one of the fundamental aspects of religion; sounds like Charity to me.
The Greek word translated as 'religion' is the feminine thrēskeia, from the root thrēskos, meaning 'to tremble'. The Hebrew word translated as 'religion' is Ioudaismos, meaning simply 'the religion of the Jewish people'. The word 'religion' itself is either from re-legere, meaning to 'go through again' in reading or in thought, or else from re-ligare, meaning to bind fast. The root ligare would then be related to the words ligament, liable, reliable, ally (alligare), and alloy.
So religion is the bond we all share which makes us tremble with sorrow for pain and suffering and death, or tremble with joy in the presence of goodness and life and light. Religion is that unseeable connection which binds people together. Religion is the ligaments we rely on to be reliable allies, melding our wills into an unbreakable alloy of intention in order to give charity to each other.
Speaking of alloy, from ad-ligare, Joseph Smith once said: "We believe in the Great Elohim who sits enthroned in yonder heavens. So do the Presbyterians. If a skilful mechanic, in taking a welding heat, [...] succeeds in welding together iron or steel more perfectly than any other mechanic, is he not deserving of praise? And if by the principles of truth I succeed in uniting men of all denominations in the bonds of love, shall I not have attained a good object?"
Note what the Prophet is saying here. He does not say he wants to bind them to a particular name [nomen, de-nominate]. What he wants to bind them with is an underlying love. Joseph Smith's goal in the Restoration was to unite people of all denominations in love. As Brigham Young taught: "What is the nature of our religion? Why, it is “peace on earth and good will to men” in every particular; and if its precepts be observed it will fill society with peace, joy, wealth, beauty and excellence; it lifts man above the things of earth, gives him the philosophy of eternity."
2 Nephi 29:7 says, "Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth? Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also."
Joseph Smith said, "While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of man. [...] He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, "according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil," or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey, or India."
Let's listen to that again, and examine it more closely: [God] will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, "according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil, or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey, or India."
England, Spain, Turkey, India, the whole of the human family. In England we have the Anglican Church, and earlier the Celtic pagans. In Spain we have the Sephardic Jews and the Moors. In Turkey we have represented a huge swathe of Indo-European religious history, with ties into the steppes of Russia and the ancient Siberian shamans. Moving down through Persia to India we have Hinduism and then Buddhism, which moves us into China and Shintoism, and further on out to the aboriginal Australians and the Pacific Islands of the Sea. Joseph Smith was preaching in part of the Americas, with all the pre-Columbian Native American traditions and the religions which were imported in afterwards. And of course, Jehovah is simply a Jewish name for the living God with endless names who speaks to all people in all lands, which ties in the Middle East and Egypt and the rest of Africa.
In other words, God gives Charity to everyone in the world, and we are meant to be like Him. Too often we search through the scriptures in an effort to dig up the dirt on exactly who God says is the True Church of the Devil, because once we've figured that out, we know exactly who not to give Charity to.
In the April 1906 General Conference address, B. H. Roberts remarked that he had often been asked who the Church of the Devil was. His response was: "I would not like [...] to designate the Catholic church as the church of the devil. Neither would I like to designate any one or all of the various divisions and subdivisions of Protestant Christendom combined as such church; nor the Greek Catholic church; nor the Buddhist sects; nor the followers of Confucius; nor the followers of Mohammed; nor would I like to designate even the societies formed by deists and atheists as constituting the church of the devil. The Book of Mormon text ought to be read in connection with its context [...] then, I think, those who study it in that manner will be forced to the conclusion that the Prophet here has in mind no particular church, no particular division of Christendom."
Again, in February of 1978, the First Presidency stated: "The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God's light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals. [...] We believe that God has given and will give to all peoples sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation."
In the old Journal of Discourses, President John Taylor once said, "Although I was going to say I am not a Universalist, but I am, and I am also a Presbyterian, and a Roman Catholic, and a Methodist, in short, I believe in every true principle that is imbibed by any person or sect, and reject the false. If there is any truth in heaven, earth, or hell, I want to embrace it, I care not what shape it comes in to me, who brings it, or who believes in it, whether it is popular or unpopular. Truth, eternal truth, I wish to float in and enjoy."
Elder Orson Whitney said “There is some truth in all religions, in heathendom as well as in Christendom, and it is the truth in those systems that perpetuates them, not the errors with which the truth is mixed."
As 2 Nephi 26:33 says, "For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."
He remembereth the Heathen! This is a far cry from the war-God who wants us to damn the Heathens and the Pagans for not submitting to Conquistadores.
As Brigham Young said, "Now, suppose that we were to issue our edicts to the whole world of mankind for them to obey the Gospel we preach, and had the power to compel them to obey, could we do it according to the dictates of our religion? We could not. We could invite them, and could tell them how, but we could not say, and maintain the faith that we have embraced, you must bow down and profess our religion and submit to the ordinances of the kingdom of God. [...] If we become Godlike we will be just as full of charity as he is. We would let pagans worship as they please, and to the Christians and Mohammedans, and all sects and parties in the world we would say, "Do just as you please, for your volition is free, and you must act upon it for yourselves before the heavens." Our religion will not permit us to command or force any man or woman to obey the Gospel we have embraced."
(Speaking of Heathens and Pagans, if I may indulge in a slight tangent, I have to say I feel a little sad every time someone quotes the line from Alma 41 which says "wickedness never was happiness", not because I don't agree with the underlying sentiment, but rather because if we look at the root of the English word 'wicked', it is actually related to wicker, and wicca and willow, which is one of my favorite nice, peaceful trees, and it was only the Medieval post-Apostasy traditional Christian view that turned the word into a synonym for evil because of its connection to supposed 'witches'. I wish Joseph Smith had had better teachers so that when he was translating from the original language of the plates he might have used a different word, but I suppose that's just my linguistic nit-pickery. Either way, I will remind everyone that the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible changes the scripture about 'not suffering a witch to live' and replaces the word 'witch' with something else, so I think I'm on pretty safe ground when I say that all the Wicked Witches of the West in history were probably just misunderstood, and maybe Once Upon A Time wickedness and willowy Trees of Life really were happiness, and we should all be a little more charitable to our grandmas, and not break out the torches and pitchforks to start witch hunts whenever a milk-cow dies of mysterious causes. The myth of witches always sounded a little too much like the misogynistic interpretation of the Garden of Eden story to me: Adam's buddies are huddled up in the locker room gossiping about how some uppity woman takes a poisoned fruit from a poisoned tree and corrupts a poor innocent man, and all of a sudden that's the cause of all the evil and death in the world. As I mentioned before, in our religion, Eve was the one who was first searching for more light and Wisdom, and we're glad she offered the fruit.)
Joseph once said: "Have the Presbyterians any truth? Yes. Have the Baptists, Methodists, etc., any truth? Yes. They all have a little truth mixed with error. We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true “Mormons." "One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth. Let it come from where it may." D&C 90:15 also commands us to "study and learn and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people."
As Brigham Young said: "I want to say to my friends that we believe in all good. If you can find a truth in heaven, earth or hell, it belongs to our doctrine. We believe it; it is ours; we claim it."
On another occasion, Brigham Young taught that "It was the occupation of Jesus Christ and his Apostles to propagate the Gospel of salvation and the principles of eternal life to the world, and it is our duty and calling, as ministers of the same salvation and Gospel, to gather every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with professed infidels, or with the Universalists, or the Church of Rome, or the Methodists, the Church of England, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Quakers, the Shakers, or any other of the various and numerous different sects and parties, all of whom have more or less truth, it is the business of the Elders of this Church (Jesus, their elder brother, being at their head,) to gather up all the truths in the world pertaining to life and salvation, to the Gospel we preach, to mechanism of every kind, to the sciences, and to philosophy, wherever it may be found in every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, and bring it to Zion."
He also said "The people upon this earth have a great many errors, and they have also a great many truths. This statement is not only true of the nations termed civilized-those who profess to worship the true God, but is equally applicable to pagans of all countries, for in their religious rites and ceremonies may be found a great many truths which we will also gather home to Zion. All truth is for the salvation of the children of men-for their benefit and learning -- for their furtherance in the principles of divine knowledge; and divine knowledge is any matter of fact -- truth; and all truth pertains to divinity."
Joseph Smith said "Sectarian priests cry out concerning me, and ask, 'Why is it this babbler gains so many followers, and retains them?' I answer, 'It is because I possess the principle of love. All I can offer the world is a good heart and a good hand.'"
Notice that Joseph and Brigham are trying to dig for a more substantial root than mere sectarianism. In his view, Charity goes beyond political parties:
He said that among the Saints, "party feelings, separate interests, exclusive designs should be lost sight of in the one common cause, in the interest of the whole." As Hugh Nibley writes, when Joseph Smith says, "My feelings revolt at the idea of having anything to do with politics," he is not being high and mighty but putting his priorities in order. "I wish to be let alone," he says, "that I may attend strictly to the spiritual welfare of the church."
In his book Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, Hugh Nibley asks "How could anything as trivial as human politics subvert our minds from the gospel? The danger lies in the fact that nothing is easier than to identify one's own political, economic, dietary, cosmological, aesthetic, etc., ideas with the gospel, both to please one's own vanity and to flatten the opposition. Therefore, our prophet was truly inspired when he told the priesthood at the last General Conference to avoid "even the implication" of associating the Church with any political party, policy, or name."
President George Albert Smith observed, “There is nothing in the world more deleterious or harmful to the human family than hatred, prejudice, suspicion, and the attitude that some people have toward their fellows, of unkindness.” In matters of politics, he warned, “Whenever your politics cause you to speak unkindly of your brethren, know this, that you are upon dangerous ground."
Above all, though our religion is meant to change the world, Joseph Smith says "I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world [but] It will not be by sword or gun that this kingdom will roll on." Joseph Smith said that "When you find a spirit that wants bloodshed -- murder -- the same is not of God.
In Elder Dallin H. Oaks' important talk in the October 2014 General Conference 'Loving Others and Living with Differences', he says "We encourage all of us to practice the Savior’s Golden Rule: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them”. When our positions do not prevail, we should accept unfavorable results graciously and practice civility with our adversaries. In any event, we should be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or nonbelief, and differences in sexual orientation."
Elder Quentin L. Cook says that "As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender."
In the 2001 General Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard taught that "[The Savior's] deliberate use of Jews and Samaritans clearly teaches that we are all neighbors and that we should love, esteem, respect, and serve one another despite our deepest differences -- including religious, political, and cultural differences. That instruction continues today to be part of the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints […] Parents, please teach your children and practice yourselves the principle of inclusion of others and not exclusion because of religious, political, or cultural differences."
Elder Oaks continues: "Too often non-Mormons [...] have been offended and alienated by some of our members who will not allow their children to be friends with children of other faiths. Surely we can teach our children values and standards of behavior without having them distance themselves or show disrespect to any who are different. Many teachers in church and school have grieved at the way some teenagers, including LDS youth, treat one another. The commandment to love one another surely includes love and respect across religious lines and also across racial, cultural, and economic lines. We challenge all youth to avoid bullying, insults, or language and practices that deliberately inflict pain on others. All of these violate the Savior’s command to love one another."
After all, we're all human, even the Gods.
D&C Section 130 says, "When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves. And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory.
As Brigham Young taught: "We say to the whole world that He is a tangible Being. We have a God with ears, eyes, nose, mouth; He can and does speak. He has arms, hands, body, legs and feet; He talks and walks; and we are formed after His likeness. [...] He created man in His own image and likeness; and if He created Adam and Eve in His own image, the whole human family are like Him. [...] That is the God we serve and believe in. He is a God of system, order, law, science, and art; a God of knowledge and of power."
Think about that: God is a God of art and science!
It reminds me of how this past October the BYU Museum of Art opened an exhibit titled Loving Devotion, which showcased centuries-old paintings of Hindu deities Vishnu and Krishna from India. As the exhibit says, “For many Hindus, bhakti -- the practice of fervent, impassioned devotion to Deity -- is at the heart of life’s purpose, provides a path to salvation, and transforms acts of worship into joyful experiences of immense love.” Art, in its many forms, is merely a vehicle used by devotees to celebrate their sacred connection to their Creator. Another BYU art exhibit focusing on Islamic art quotes one of the Islamic prophet Muhammad’s sayings: “God is beautiful, and He loves beauty."
Beauty is peace. As Russell M. Nelson wrote in the October 2002 Ensign article "Blessed Are The Peacemakers": "Peace Is Possible. Because of the long history of hostility upon the earth, many feel that peace is beyond hope. I disagree. Peace is possible. We can learn to love our fellow human beings throughout the world. Whether they be Jewish, Islamic, or fellow Christians, whether Hindu, Buddhist, or other, we can live together with mutual admiration and respect, without forsaking our religious convictions. Things we have in common are greater than are our differences. Peace is a prime priority that pleads for our pursuit. Old Testament prophets held out hope and so should we. The Psalmist said, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” “He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth.”
Instead of beautiful Art and Science, of course, we tend to concentrate on warfare and death. As we listen to the teachings of the Adversary, we think to ourselves: "I will take the treasures of the earth, and with gold and silver I will buy up armies and navies, false priests who oppress and tyrants who destroy, and reign with blood and horror on the earth!"
Note again: instead of giving freely and only acting through persuasion, we use gold and silver to try to buy -- that is, coerce -- power over life and death.
But the God we worship, the Living God, is a God with a human body, who takes upon Himself mortal flesh in order to know exactly what we experience. He has a body, and so He can weep.
In John it is said that "when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see."
Which leads us to John 11:35, one of the most powerful verses in scripture, which is just two words long: "Jesus wept."
God is so Charitable He weeps for the death of a single human! Not one sparrow is forgotten before God.
The Book of Abraham 4:27 says "the Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them. And the Gods said: We will bless them. And the Gods said: We will cause them to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth."
Men and women are in the image of the Gods, and are of equally divine worth. A Ezekiel 18 quotes God asking: "Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?" If we are all Gods and Goddesses in embryo, then husbands and wives, who are meant to become so close and loving to each other that it is like they become one flesh, should be especially careful to give each other Charity. When you're that close to someone, when you know each other that well, it's easy to take each other for granted and hurt each other, intentionally or unintentionally, and so we should give Charity to each other, we should be Adams and Eves to each other, sharing our love like fruit.
Blake once asked "Does a firm persuasion that a thing is so, make it so?" and his Dream of Isaiah replied: "All Poets believe that it does, and in ages of imagination this firm persuasion removed mountains; but many are not capable of a firm persuasion of anything." It is my hope that we learn to be worse fighters and better persuaders.
In a 1989 Ensign, President Howard W. Hunter pointed out the Lord's approach to influencing others: "God's chief way of acting is by persuasion and patience and long-suffering, not by coercion and stark confrontation. He acts by gentle solicitation and by sweet enticement. He always acts with unfailing respect for the freedom and independence that we possess."
D&C 88:40 says "intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy."
One meaning of the word 'cleave' is to separate. We use knives called cleavers to slice things apart. But the other meaning of the word 'cleave' is to embrace and unite. In Genesis, it is a translation of the Hebrew dabaq, meaning 'to cling'; in the New Testament, it is a translation of pro-skollao, from kolla, meaning glue. To cleave to each other means to stick together; men and women should stick together, through good times and bad.
And as I said, if we have Charity, then I think we should be Cherishing and Caressing each other as often as possible. As Erastus Snow said in the Journal of Discourses, "We know there are some professing Christians who regard the union of the sexes as an evil, as a sin, as the result of our fallen natures, and as a form of the gratification of fleshly lusts which is offensive before God." But our philosophy is different; he goes on to say, "The lusts and desires of the flesh are not of themselves [...] evils. On the contrary they are implanted in us as a stimulus to noble deeds [...] These affections and loves that are planted in us are the nobler qualities that emanate from God."
If men have charity, they are not afraid to honor women; if women have charity, they are not afraid to honor men; if adults have charity, they are not afraid to honor children.
Eliza R. Snow wrote in her hymn:
Truth is reason - truth eternal
tells me I've a mother there.
When I leave this frail existence -
when I lay this mortal by
Father, mother, may I meet you
in your royal courts on high?
In 1909, the First Presidency of the Church wrote: "All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother" and Elder B. H. Roberts, of the First Council of the Seventy, once challenged the rest of Christianity to offer a doctrine that presents a "conception of the nobility of woman and of motherhood and of wifehood -- placing her side by side with the Divine Father" as does our doctrine of Heavenly Mother.
Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote "The glorious vision of life hereafter [...] is given radiant warmth by the thought that [we have] a mother who possesses the attributes of Godhood," and Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Quorum of the Twelve asked, "What is this but a virtual recognition of the feminine principle as well as the masculine principle of Deity?"
As President Rudger Clawson of the Quorum of the Twelve taught: "It doesn't take from our worship of the Eternal Father, to adore our Eternal Mother, any more than it diminishes the love we bear our earthly fathers, to include our earthly mothers in our affections." Rather, "we honor woman when we acknowledge Godhood in her eternal prototype."
Elder Erastus Snow of the Quorum of the Twelve said "If I believe anything that God has ever said about Himself [...] I must believe that deity consists of man and woman [...] There can be no God except He is composed of the man and woman united." Edward W. Tullidge, in his book Women of Mormondom, writes: “Henceforth shall the mother half of creation be worshipped with that of the God-Father; and in that worship woman, by the very association of ideas, shall be exalted in the coming civilization.”
The point is that we should all be unified, At-One in an Atonement. Contention is of the Devil; instead of fighting pointless battles between armies, nations, political parties, or genders, we should give charity to each other and teach each other words of Wisdom from the best books and learn the Gospel of Peace.
The word Gospel is composed of the roots god and spel. The root god is not referring to the homophone God, as in our Heavenly Father, but rather the root related to the word 'good', which is from ghedh, meaning 'to unite'. Something is good if it unites, if it persuades light and wisdom and truth and mercy to cleave together like inseparable lovers. The root spel is the same as spelling, or magical spells, and it means 'story'. The Gospel, the God-Spell, is a Good Story, a Uniting Story, a Binding Story, a Plan of Salvation and Atonement so we can be At-One with each other once again by having Charity. The Gospel is meant to be a Gospel of Peace, a Gospel of Gardening, a Gospel of extending the Right Hand of Fellowship, a Gospel of Embracing, a Gospel of giving each other the Kiss of Peace.
As Elder Uchtdorf wrote in a 2009 Ensign, "Because love is the great commandment, it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do in our own family, in our Church callings, and in our livelihood. Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities, and nations. Love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility, and respect. It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate. Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope.”
The question I asked at the beginning was: "Who do we give Charity to?"
The answer is: everyone.
We should give Charity to everyone, and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
I recently read an article about how the Red Cross collected 1/2 a billion dollars for relief in Haiti and the ended up building 6 homes. It got me thinking about the overhead charities have and what percentage of donated dollars actually go toward the intended purpose. With Charities like the United Way, Red Cross, Salvation Army etc, there are reports so contributors can see how their much of their donation goes toward humanitarian efforts.
This got me thinking about the church as a charitable organization. On the lds Charities website we find this about donated funds.
100% of humanitarian aid donations goes toward project expenses which matches what I've always believed and told others. But I'm wondering if there is any documentation to back up this claim. Donations we make to the church are generally counted as charitable donations and receive special tax benefits but of course it would be impossible for the entire church to function at 100% efficiency. I've seen a recent estimate (I can't recall where so don't ask for a CFR) that put the church's payroll at about 60% of income. This seems really high to me but it reminds me that we really have no idea because the church doesn't share it's information.
Or am I wrong about that? Does the church give a verifiable accounting of it's humanitarian effort and donations?
I thought it might be fun to keep a running list of services and outreach that are being done by LDS Charities or members (stakes, wards, youth groups, RS, quorums, etc) working on their own. I think all too often we, as church members, are not aware of what happens. So maybe people here will feel inclined to post links whenever they happen to come across them so that we can all read and be edified (and keep a history).
Wheelchairs delivered in Bangalore, India
So my story is really long, but the short story is... My wife and I were married for 6 years, together a total of 8. I really really messed up, and I was not the man I should have been. She has been through a lot. There was a day this summer, the 'last straw' when my wife decided "Enough, I can't take anymore". And so we aren't together anymore. Divorced. But, an amazing experience happened shortly after, as I hit rock bottom in my life. A true revelation from God, and my eyes were opened to all I did, and what I needed to do. I knew our Savior on a personal level, for the first time ever. I was reborn. I know this sounds completely crazy, even clichéd, but I am not the man I used to be. (Click HERE if you have 15 minutes, you can read about what happened in great detail)
My questions are:
1. Can a marriage be saved?, especially a temple marriage. I love my (ex) wife so much, and I hurt so deeply, knowing the pain I've caused. I understand my covenants I made, finally. I want to be the husband I should have been. But it may be too late.
2. Anyone who has gone through divorce as a Latter-Day Saint, how have you survived? How is it possible to live again? How can a heart heal? Most days, I feel like my heart is literally going to tear itself apart. I go to sacrament (a different ward) and while I love church, I feel alone. All the talk of marriage, and families are forever, and husbands and wives, and I don't belong anywhere anymore. I know we all have trials, but I can't find my way, I'm lost. I don't know who to talk to, I've talked to my bishop, and he's nice, but he has enough to deal with. Who do I turn to (Earthly), I have no family, my kids won't talk to me, I have no friends anymore. Every day I'm on my knees begging the Lord for forgiveness and asking for help.