I’m going to go scripture-heavy today, because on this subject I think it best if the scriptures do most of the talking. Moving along!
So if there is no such thing as immunity to apostasy (Mosiah 27:13; D&C 20:32-34), what are the symptoms one could watch for to avoid succumbing to such a disease, as it were, as a people? Here are some ideas from the scriptures:
“The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24:5).
“Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted. Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men” (2 Nephi 28:11-14).
"And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell…Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion! Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well! Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost! Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!…Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!” (2 Nephi 28:21-29)
“If a prophet come among you and and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him…yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil. But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer;…ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him…How long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides?” (Helaman 13:26-29)
There’s a small sampling, but it offers an introduction to things we were warned to look for in the last days. We have a hard time reading scripture, even the Book of Mormon, as if it’s talking to us as Mormons. There are so many verses (as in the majority of the Book of Mormon in particular) that talk about the sins of the world and of the Gentiles. We read those verses as if we, as Members Of The Lord’s Church, are not part of that group, and are therefore not the people God is ever displeased with. But I’d like to ask you to do a small experiment right now and read the following verses with the assumption that God is talking to you, a Mormon (or heck, if you’re not Mormon and reading this anyway, then yes! Assume God might be talking to YOU, too!), or in other words, one of the few people he knew would ever actually read this book he provided. Maybe, as we can read in the book’s title page and in the Kirtland Temple’s dedicatory prayer that is preserved as Section 109 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Church IS identified with the Gentiles, and this book is written specifically for us. Maybe we would be well served to take it and its warnings seriously and personally. Let’s try it out:
"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" (3 Nephi 16:10).
“O ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people, why have ye built up churches unto yourselves to get gain? Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God, that ye might bring damnation upon your souls? Behold, look ye unto the revelations of God…Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted. O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world? Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not? Yea, why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans to mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads? Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer” (Mormon 8:33, 35-41).
If that one raised any objections, I’d like to remind you that Elder Stevenson quoted the same scripture last October and affirmed that Moroni was, in fact, talking about US when he said that, even if we may differ in opinion about what exactly Moroni thought when he saw us (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/10/look-to-the-book-look-to-the-lord?lang=eng).
“And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues; Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them” (Mormon 9:7-8).
From the Old Testament, but likened unto ourselves, perhaps:
“For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered…Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?” (Isaiah 29:10, 13-15)
“All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest. His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter. Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant” (Isaiah 56:9-12).
“For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:13-14).
What people besides Mormons even claims to be led by prophets and watchmen? Not many churches exist that take authority claims of priesthood seriously, either. Understandably, however, we argue that Old Testament prophets were necessarily talking about Old Testament people. So here are a couple from our modern scriptures:
“And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received— Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written” (D&C 84:54-57).
“Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord. And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord; First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord” (D&C 112:24-26).
These offer the most cursory overview of some of the things we find in our scriptures that are very possibly written to us. If reading these verses and imagining that they described you and your people made you feel defensive or even bemused at the suggestion, I would ask you why. God has told us that he will chasten those he loves, that we should welcome any opportunity to receive correction. So why do we bristle at the thought that these things could describe us? Are we so proud as to be certain none of these failings are among us? Is it worth the risk to make that comforting assumption? What does the Book of Mormon actually say is going to happen prior to the Second Coming of Christ? Are we sufficiently prepared with the knowledge we need? Is it possible that we might not understand all things as they really are? Could we be misunderstanding things that seem obvious to us now?
I know most of my posts focus on God’s unconditional and soul-smashing love for each and every one of us and other things that make us feel rosy in our hearts. I prefer writing about those truths, because who wants to contend them? And I know that those things are truer than true. But the time has come to ask if there is only one side to God and only one side to his words. Do we limit what we’re willing to accept as truth to only those things that leave us feeling like we’re pretty awesome? Is there a chance he has other things he’s trying to tell us?
Exploring the spiritual side of things. Brevity is not my forte.